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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Thomas Bray

BRAY, Thomas, clergyman, born in Marton, Shropshire, England, in 1656" died in London, 15 February, 1730. He took his bachelor's degree at Oxford in 1678, and through the patronage of Lord Digby, who heard him preach an assize sermon, was given the vicarage of Over-Whiteacre, and in 1690 the rectory of Sheldon. He published a volume of " Catechetical Lectures" that made him well known. About 1691 the colonial government of Maryland determined to divide the province into parishes, and to maintain regular ministers in each parish. In 1695 the governor requested Dr. Compton, bishop of London, to send over a clergyman to fill the judicial office of commissary-general. Bishop Compton recommended Bray, who accepted the post, but remained in England in order to facilitate the enactment of a law establishing the English church in Maryland. Meanwhile he sought for missionaries to take over with him; and as only poor men, unable to buy books, volunteered, he made it a condition of his own going that the bishops should assist in supplying parochial libraries. He projected a scheme for supplying parish libraries in England as well as in America, which was eventually so far successful that he saw eighty established before he died, besides the American libraries and others in foreign countries. In North America thirty-nine were established through his efforts. The first one was founded in Annapolis with the aid of a liberal contribution from Princess Anne, in return for the compliment of naming after her the new capital of Maryland. He afterward proposed a plan for a Protestant congregation pro propaganda fide, which resulted in 1698 in the formation of the society for promoting Christian knowledge. Successive acts of parliament for the establishment of the Church of England in Maryland were passed in 1692 and 1694 ; but in 1695 they were repealed because they met with strong opposition from Roman Catholics and Quakers. In 1696 a new law was passed but, owing to opposition, it was not signed by the king, and in 1699 was annulled by an order in council, on the ground that it declared all the laws of England to be in force in the province of Maryland. Dr. Bray then determined to go to Maryland and affect the passage of a new law by the legislature. On 20 December, 1699, he set sail and arrived in Maryland on 12 March, 1700. He called a convention of the clergy of the western shore, and made his parochial visitation. When the assembly met in May the desired act of religion was passed. It was thought advisable for him to return with the bill to England, in order to resist the opposition to it, and secure, if possible, the royal sanction. He reached England again early in 1701, and there found a powerful Quaker interest enlisted to defeat the establishment of the state church in the colony" but he was successful in overcoming the opposition and obtaining the king's approval for an established maintenance of the Maryland clergy. In June, 1701, he obtained a charter for the incorporation of a separate society for propagating the gospel in British plantations. In 1706 he accepted the living of St. Bartolph, Aldgate, which he had before refused in order to go to America. In 1709 an act was passed by parliament providing for the better preservation of parochial libraries in England. When attacked by a dangerous illness in 1723, Dr. Bray named several persons Who should carry on his work after him. They were called Dr. Bray's associates for founding clerical libraries and supporting Negro schools, which association, with its fund, still exists, and publishes annual reports, each of which is accompanied by a memoir of Bray. He was as active and original in his parish ministrations as in his other undertakings. He became interested in the prisoners in Whitechapel prison, and, coming into relations with Gov. Oglethorpe, he added, at the latter's suggestion, to the two objects of his society the third one of establishing a colony in America to provide homes for the needy and unemployed. Of Dr. Bray's "Course of Lectares upon the Church Catechism," intended to be in four volumes, only one, "Upon the Preliminary Questions and Answers," was published (Oxford, 1696). In 1697 he issued "An Essay toward promoting all Necessary and Useful Knowledge, both Divine and Human, in all Parts of his Majesty's Dominions," and another book, relating to his library project, entitled "Bibliotheca Parochialis, or a Scheme of such Theological Heads as are Requisite to be studied by every Pastor of a Parish." In 1700 and 1701 he published two circular letters to the clergy of Maryland: "A Memorial on the Present State of Religion on the Continent of North America" and "Acts of Visitation at Annapolis." In 1702 appeared Bibliotheca Catechetica, or the Country Curate's Library." In 1708 he issued a sermon entitled "For God or Satan," and in 1712 an anti-papal publication entitled "A Martyrology, or History of the Papal Usurpation," consisting of treatises of celebrated authors digested into a regular history, only one volume of which was published during his lifetime. In 1726 he issued the "Directorium Missionarium," followed by "Primordia Bibliothecaria," containing lists for parochial libraries and a plan for their gradual enlargement. He published also a "Life of Mr. John Rawlet." Dr. Bray, in prosecuting his philanthropic schemes, sacrificed his private interests, refusing valuable livings in order to carry them out" but he was aided in the execution of the projects by munificent donations. See "Public Spirit illustrated in the Life and Designs of Dr. Bray" (1746); "An Account of the Designs of the Associates of the late Dr. Bray" (1769); Anderson's "History of the Colonial Church"; and the annual reports of the association of the late Rev. Dr. Bray and his associates.

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