We have been favoured by the kindness of the Rev. Samuel Say Toms, of Framingham, with a folio volume of original MS. papers, formerly belonging to his ancestor Mr. Samuel Say, with permission to extract and use them, at discretion, for the Monthly Repository. The collections consists chiefly of letters to and from Mr. Say: his correspondents were men of the first eminence amongst the Dissenters of his day. Some notes are occasionally added by the present owner of the papers. Of Mr. Say's letters, some originals, but more copies are preserved; of those of his friends the originals, which makes them doubly valuable, are pasted into the volume.
Our selections will be given monthly, under the head of THE SAY PAPERS. By way of introduction, we shall begin with a Brief Memoir of — Mr. Say.
MR. SAMUEL SAY, was the second son of Mr. Gyles Say, who was ejected by the act of uniformity, 1662, from the living of St. Michaels, in the town of Southampton; and after the dispensing power assumed by king James II, which set the nonconformists at liberty, was pastor of a dissenting congregation at Guestwick, in Norfolk, to the time of his death, April 7, 1692. His son, the subject of the present memoir, discovered an early inclination for the ministry, and about the time of his father's death, entered himself a student of the Rev. Thomas Rowe's academy, in London, where Dr. Isaac Watts was one of his cotemporaries. When he had finished his studies, he went as chaplain into the family of Thomas Scott, Esq. of Liminge, in the South-East part of Kent; a worthy gentleman, who had a church in his own house, with whom Mr. Say continued three years. At the invitation of some friends who knew his worth, he removed from Liminge to Andover, in Hants; but his stay here was short. His next settlement was at Yarmouth: soon leaving this place, he fixed as a constant preacher at Lowestoff, in Suffolk, where he continued eighteen years; but not being able during all this period, to bring the people into a regular church-order, in 1725, he accepted an invitation from a congregation at Ipswich, to become co-pastor with their minister, the Rev. Samuel Baxter. Here he remained nine years; and in 1734, succeeded Dr. Calamy in Westminster, in which situation he finished his days.
Mr. Say, died after a week's illness, of a mortification in the bowels, April 12, 1743, in the 68th year of his age. His whole life was a transcript of the doctrine he taught; and he left this world with a full conviction of those important truths, which he had so long and so pathetically impressed on the minds of others, and with an entire resignation to the divine will, supported by the hopes of future glory.
About the year 1719, Mr. Say had married Miss Sarah Humby, niece of Mr. Nathaniel Carter, of Yarmouth, who survived him but a short time; for she "fell asleep," dying of a lethargy, without any sensible pain, February 9, 1744, in the 71st year of her age.
They left one child, a daughter, who was afterwards the wife of the Rev. Isaac Toms, a dissenting minister of Hadleigh, in Suffolk, who died a few years ago, and mother of the Rev. Samuel Say Toms, named after his worthy ancestor, who is mentioned in the introduction to this memoir.
Mr. Say appears to have ranked high amongst the Dissenters. His succeeding Dr. Calamy is a proof of the reputation which he enjoyed. He had early in life been strongly importuned to settle at Norwich.
He was well versed in astronomy and natural philosophy, had a taste for music and poetry, was a good critic and master of the classics. For eight and forty years he kept a journal of the alterations of the weather and of remarkable natural occurrences. He was a great observer of nature. Milton was his favourite author. He is said to have been a great admirer, as well as Mr. Addison, of Chevy Chace.
He was a gentleman of great candour and good breeding, without stiffness or formality, and possessed an open countenance and a temper always communicative.
As a divine, he was truly catholic in his principles, and never confined himself to the sentiments of any party, but followed wherever his reason, his conscience, and the scriptures led him.
His modesty prevented him from courting popularity. With all his accomplishments, it is said that his name was scarce known but to a few select friends. Among them however he thought himself happy that he could number Mr. John Hughes, Dr. William Harris, and Dr. Watts. His friend Dr. Hughes preached his funeral sermon.
Mr. Say appeared little in print. He published only three sermons; for the Reformation of Manners, from Isaiah xlix. 4. 1736; another on a Fast-day, February 4, 1740-41, from Isaiah v. 4; and the third, a Charge delivered to Mr. Crookshank, at his ordination, in Swallow Street, Westminster, January 23, 1734-5, printed in connexion with a sermon on the same occasion by James Gordon, A.M. and Mr. C.'s Confession of Faith. After Mr. Say's death, there was published by subscription, in one volume 4to. a collection of his pieces in prose and verse, by Mr. William Duncombe, younger son of Mr. John Duncombe, of Stocks, in Hertfordshire, and the friend of Archbishop Herring. The list of subscribers attests the esteem in which the author was held. Mr. Duncombe prefixed a prefatory memoir. The poems do not rise above mediocrity; but there are two Essays in prose at the end of the volume, which have been generally admired for the taste and critical ingenuity displayed in them. The first is on the harmony, variety, and power of numbers, whether in prose or verse, the second on the numbers of Paradise Lost. The latter, which seems to have given birth to the former, was written at the desire of Mr. Richardson, the painter, who lent the plate etched by himself, of the fine head of Milton, which is prefixed to the Essay.
In the Correspondence of John Hughes, Esq. in 3 vols cr. 8vo. by John Duncombe, M.A. there are preserved several letters of Mr. Say's, and also, drawn up by him, The Character of Mrs. Bridget Bendish, grand-daughter of Oliver Cromwell.