Mr. Samuel Say was born in 1675. He was the second son of the Rev. Mr. Giles Say, who had been ejected from the vicarage of St. Michael's in Southampton by the Bartholomew act in 1662, and, after king James the Second's liberty of conscience, was chosen pastor of a dissenting congregation at Guestwick in Norfolk, where he continued till his death, April 7, 1692. Some years after, his son (abovementioned) being at Southwark, where he had been at school, and conversing with some of the dissenters of that place, met with a woman of great reputation for piety, who told him, with joy, that a sermon on Ps. cxix. 130, preached by his father thirty years before, was the means of her conversion. Being strongly inclined to the ministry, Mr. Say entered as a pupil in the academy of the Rev. Mr. Thomas Rowe at London about 1692, where he had for his fellow-students Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Isaac Watts, Hughes the poet, and Mr. Josiah Hort, afterwards archbishop of Tuam. When he had finished his studies, he became chaplain to Thomas Scott, esq. of Lyminge in Kent, in whose family he continued three years. Thence he removed to Andover in Hampshire, then to Yarmouth in Norfolk, and soon after to Lowestoff in Suffolk, where he continued labouring in word and doctrine eighteen years. He was afterwards co-pastor with the Rev. Mr. Samuel Baxter at Ipswich nine years; and lastly was called, in 1734, to succeed Dr. Edmund Calamy in Westminster, where he died at his house in James-street, April 12, 1743, of a mortification in his bowels, in the sixty-eighth year of his age.
In his funeral-sermon, preached by Dr. Obadiah Hughes, and afterwards printed, a due elogium is paid to his ministerial abilities; and, soon after his death, a thin quarto volume of his poems, with two essays in prose, On the Harmony, Variety, and Power of Numbers, written at the request of Mr. Richardson the painter, were published for the benefit of his daughter, who married the Rev. Mr. Toms, of Hadleigh in Suffolk. And we are glad to have it in our power to rescue from oblivion the following manuscript remarks, by the same judicious hand, from the margin of a copy of Mr. Auditor Benson's Prefatory Discourse to his Edition of Johnston's Psalms, and the Conclusion of that Discourse, 1741, communicated to us by a correspondent.
In the preface to his Works, we are told that Mr. Say "was a tender husband, an indulgent father, and of a most benevolent, communicative disposition, ever ready to do good, and to distribute. He was well versed in astronomy and natural philosophy; had a taste for music and poetry, was a good critic, and a master of the classics. Yet so great was his modesty, that he was known only to a few select friends, and never published above two or three sermons, which were in a manner extorted from him." Among the modern Latin poets Broukhusius was his favourite; among the English, Milton, whose head, etched by Mr. Richardson, is prefixed to his second essay. A letter from Mr. Say to Mr. Hughes, and two from Mr. Say to Mr. Duncombe, with a Latin translation of the beginning of Paradise Lost, are printed among the Letters of Eminent Persons deceased, vol. I. and vol. II. His characters of Mrs. Bridget Bendysh, grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell, in the appendix to vol. II. first appeared, (without a name) in our volume for 1765, p. 357. In the same volume, p. 423, The Resurrection illustrated by the Changes of the Silkworm is by the same hand. And some of his poetical pieces are in Nichols's Select Collection, vol. VI.
Mr. Say had collected all the forms of prayer on public occasions from the time of archbishop Laud, which after his death were offered to the then archbishop of York (Dr. Herring), but were declined by him as "never likely to be employed in compositions of that sort for the public, that work being in the province of Canterbury."
See Archbishop Herring's Letters, p. 80.