1 January 1734? (bpt. 20 Feb. 1734)–11 February 1820
THE REV. THOMAS HAWEIS, LL.B., M.D., was born at Truro, Cornwall, England, of an ancient and honorable family. His mother, Mrs. Bridgeman (Willyams) Haweis, was the granddaughter of Hester, the eldest sister of the last Baron Sandys, whose husband, Col. Humphrey Noye, was the Attorney General of King Charles I. The family were thorough Jacobites.
Young Haweis was favored with abundant educational advantages; but, being of a gay and jovial disposition, he consorted much with an older scholar, afterwards well known as the comic actor, Samuel Foote. In his fourteenth year (1746) he was brought under the influence of the Rev. Samuel Walker, who at that time became the Curate of St. Mary's Church, Truro; and, in the second year of his curacy, adopted the views, and became an earnest advocate, of the evangelical party in the Church of England. Through the faithful preaching of Mr. Walker, young Haweis became a happy subject of divine grace.
He had chosen, on leaving school, the medical profession, and had been apprenticed to a gentleman in Truro, with whom he remained the required time. He had now developed such oratorical gifts, accompanied with such true religious ardor, that, by Mr. Walker’s advice and encouragement, he abandoned medicine for theology. The consent of his family having been secured, he entered the University of Oxford as a student and gentleman-commoner of Christ Church College, removing afterwards to Magdalen Hall. He associated with a godly band of students, in meetings for prayer and study of the Scriptures, and in evangelical efforts for the conversion of their young companions in study. He maintained, through his whole college course, the strictest habits of piety and devotion.
Shortly after his graduation, he was appointed (1757) the Curate of the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, Oxford, and ordained by Dr. Thomas Secker, then Bishop of Oxford. He soon attracted, by the fervor of his preaching, large and admiring audiences, particularly of collegians, and many were savingly profited by his ministrations. On the other hand, he was reproached and defamed as a Methodist, and at length, after several years of service, deprived of his curacy, by the Rev. Dr. John Hume, who had succeeded Dr. Secker, as Bishop of Oxford. For a short time afterwards, Dr. Haweis became an assistant to the Rev. Martin Madan, then in charge of the Lock Hospital Chapel, London. In 1763, he became the Rector of All Saints’ Church, Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire. The circumstances of the case were quite remarkable.
Mr. Kimpton, the previous incumbent, had, by pecuniary embarrassments, become the inmate of a prison. To prevent the living from lapsing into the hands of the bishop, he was, at the solicitation of Mr. Madan, induced to present it to Dr. Haweis, nothing having been said or intimated about the purchase of the advowson, or any pecuniary compensation. Shortly after, Mr. Kimpton received an offer of a thousand guineas for the advowson, and immediately demanded of Dr. Haweis either to relinquish the presentation, or to render an equivalent compensation. Under the advice of distinguished friends, the demand was declined. A bitter pamphlet war followed, and much scandal ensued. Lady Huntingdon, at length, to put an end to it, sent Mr. Kimpton £1,000, and purchased the perpetual advowson of the living. Dr. Haweis, it was admitted, had acted in good faith and honor, in the whole unhappy affair.
His ministry was attended by the happiest results. The people were attracted to his church from all the country round about. Many of the most profligate characters were reclaimed, and large accessions were made to the number of communicants. He retained the position from the year 1763, to the end of his long life, honored, faithful, and highly useful Lady Huntingdon appointed him one of her chaplains, and he ministered frequently in her chapels. “By birth, education, and habit, a gentleman, his society was courted by the first circles.” By the suavity of his disposition, and the urbanity of his manners, he made himself acceptable and attractive among all classes. He was exceedingly catholic in his principles, and co-operated frequently with evangelical Dissenters, in their benevolent schemes for the spread of the Gospel. He united with them (1795) in the formation of the London Missionary Society, of which he continued a most earnest promoter to the day of his death. He was appointed, by the will of Lady Huntingdon, her executor and one of her Trustees; and he faithfully administered the trust, involving the management of her numerous chapels throughout the kingdom. He took the degree of LL.B. in 1772, at Cambridge University.
His writings are more practical and useful than profound and erudite. He published (1762) Evangelical Principles and Practice, a volume of 14 sermons. While at Oxford, he had delivered a course of Catechetical Lectures, on successive Sunday afternoons, a part of which he published (1764), as The Communicant's Spiritual Companion; or, An Evangelical Preparation for the Lord's Supper. It has been frequently republished both in Great Britain and America. This was followed, in 1765, by his Evangelical Expositor; or, A Commentary on the Holy Bible: Wherein the Sacred Text is inserted at Large, the Sense explained, and the more difficult Passages elucidated—with Practical Observations, etc.; in 1775, by An Improvement of the Church Catechism; and in 1791, by Essays on Christianity, and A Short Account of the Last Days of Lady Huntingdon.
Shortly after the decease of the excellent Countess, he compiled, and published (1792), his Carmina Christo; or Hymns to the Saviour: Designed for the Use and Comfort of Those Who Worship the Lamb that was Slain. It contained 141 original hymns, and was printed in the square form peculiar to Lady Huntingdon’s Collection, so as to form a Supplement to it. A seventh edition, “very considerably enlarged,” containing 256 hymns, was published in 1808. A very few only, less than a score, have become at all popular, or acceptable among the churches.
He ventured (1795), with inadequate qualifications, on A Translation of the New Testament from the Greek. A Life of the Rev. W. Romaine was published in 1797. His Letters and Particulars Relating to the Life of John Newton, appeared in 1799. An Impartial and Succinct History of the Rise, Declension and Revival of the Church of Christ, from the Birth of our Saviour to the Present Time, written in the interests of the London Missionary Society, followed in 1800. This was severely criticised by Dean Isaac Milner, of Cambridge, and an unpleasant pamphlet controversy followed. His latest work (1812) was entitled, A View of the Present State of Evangelical Religion throughout the World.
Several years before his decease, having become somewhat infirm by reason of his advanced age, Dr. Haweis retired from the active duties of his charge, and made his home at Bath, where, full of peace and comfort, he died, February 11, 1820.
by Edwin Hatfield
The Poets of the Church (1884)
Collections of Hymns:
Carmina Christo, or Hymns to the Saviour
The Reality and Power of the Religion of Jesus Christ Exemplified in the Dying Experience of Mr William Browne of Bristol (1791): PDF
State Library of New South Wales, Sydney:
Cheshunt Archives, Westminster College, Cambridge:
Josiah Miller, Singers and Songs of the Church (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1869), pp. 258-259: Archive.org
Charles L. Hutchins, “Thomas Haweis,” Annotations of the Hymnal (Hartford, CT: Church Press, 1872), pp. 46-47.
Edwin F. Hatfield, “Thomas Haweis,” The Poets of the Church (NY: Anson D.F. Randolph, 1884), pp. 304-308: Archive.org
John Julian, “Thomas Haweis,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1892), pp. 498-499: Google Books
Arthur Skevington Wood, “The influence of Thomas Haweis on John Newton,” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, vol. 4, no. 2 (Oct. 1953), pp. 187-202.
Arthur Skevington Wood, Thomas Haweis 1734–1820 (London: SPCK, 1957).
J.R. Watson, “Thomas Haweis,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:
Edwin Welch, “Thomas Haweis,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: