Tillotson, John archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Sowerby, Yorkshire, in October, 1630. He entered Clare Hall, Cambridge, April 23, 1647, and, graduating in 1650, was made a fellow in 1651. He left college in 1656, and became tutor to the son of Edmund Prideaux, Cromwell's attorney-general. Receiving his first impression among the Puritans, he was led to conformity by the works of Chillingworth and the influence of scholars with whom he had become intimate. He submitted to the Act of Uniformity in 1662, and became curate of Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire. He was chosen (Dec. 16)
minister of St. Mary's, Aldermanbury; but, declining this, was presented, in June, 1663, to the rectory of Kiddington, Suffolk. His residence there was short, he being made preacher of the Society of Lincoln's Inn on-the 26th of the same month. In 1664 he was appointed Tuesday lecturer at St. Lawrence's, in the Jewry, and was now recognized as a distinguished preacher. He received his degree of D.D. in 1666, and in 1668 preached the sermon at the consecration of Wilkins to the bishopric of Chester. In 1670 he was made a prebendary of Canterbury, in 1672 was advanced to a deanery of that Church, and in 1673 was preferred to a prebend in the Church of St. Paul. When a declaration of liberty of conscience was published in 1672, with a view to indulge the papists, Tillotson and the clergy were directed by their bishops to preach against popery; and when archbishop Sheldon advised with the clergy as to what reply he should make to the king if his majesty should disapprove their course, Dr. Tillotson suggested this answer: "Since his majesty professed the Protestant religion, it would be a thing without precedent that he should forbid his clergy preaching in defense of it." On April 2, 1680, he preached before the king, at Whitehall, a sermon on Jos 24:15, in which he expressed a sentiment of intolerance that exposed him to heavy censure. He was afterwards admitted into a high degree of confidence with king William and queen Mary; was appointed clerk of the closet to the king, March 27, 1689; and was authorized, in August, by the chapter of his cathedral, to exercise archiepiscopal jurisdiction over the province of Canterbury, Sancroft having been suspended for refusing the new oath. His ambition had never extended further than to desire the exchange of his deanery of Canterbury for that of St. Paul's, which was granted him in September. The king, however, nominated him to the archbishopric of Canterbury, April 23, 1691, and he was consecrated (May 31) in Bow Church, The rest of his life was spent in laboring for the good of the Church and the reformation of all abuses among the clergy. He died Nov. 24, 1694. He published, The Rule of Faith (1666, 8vo), and several volumes of Sermons. A collective edition of his works, 254 Sermons, Rule of Faith, and Prayers, composed for his use, etc., was published in 1707 (3 vols. fol.). There have been later editions both of his complete works and of selections there from. His Works, with Life by Thomas Birch, D.D., were published by Ravenet (1752, 3 vols. fol.). See Chalmers, Biog. Dict. s.v.; Allibone, Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.