Daniel Williams (theologian)

Last updated
Daniel Copper Williams
Daniel Williams (1643-1716).jpg
Died26 January 1716
Religion Christianity (Presbyterianism)
Senior posting
Based in Ireland, England and Wales
For others of this name, see Daniel Williams (disambiguation).

Daniel Williams (c.1643 – 26 January 1716) was a British benefactor, minister and theologian, within the Presbyterian tradition, i.e. a Christian outside the Church of England. He is known largely for the legacy he left which led to the creation of Dr Williams's Library, a centre for research on English Dissenters.

Presbyterianism Branch of Protestant Christianity in which the church is governed by presbyters (elders)

Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism, which traces its origins to Britain, particularly Scotland.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

Dr Williamss Library

Dr Williams's Library is a small research library located in Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, London.


Early ministry

Williams was born in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales, and was a cousin of Stephen Davies, minister at Banbury. He became a preacher by the age of nineteen: details of his education are unknown, though it was probably cut short by his refusing to conform to the state church, Anglicanism, when Charles II was restored to the throne.

Wrexham Town in Wales

Wrexham is the largest town in the north of Wales and an administrative, commercial, retail and educational centre. Wrexham is situated between the Welsh mountains and the lower Dee Valley alongside the border with England. Historically part of Denbighshire, the town became part of Clwyd in 1974 and since 1996 has been the centre of the Wrexham County Borough.

Denbighshire County and Principal area in Wales

Denbighshire is a county in north-east Wales, named after the historic county of Denbighshire, but with substantially different borders. Denbighshire is the longest known inhabited part of Wales. Pontnewydd (Bontnewydd-Llanelwy) Palaeolithic site has Neanderthal remains from 225,000 years ago. Its several castles include Denbigh, Rhuddlan, Ruthin, Castell Dinas Bran and Bodelwyddan. St Asaph, one of the smallest cities in Britain, has one of the smallest Anglican cathedrals. Denbighshire has a length of coast to the north and hill ranges to the east, south and west. In the central part, the River Clwyd has created a broad fertile valley. It is primarily a rural county with little industry. Crops are grown in the Vale of Clwyd and cattle and sheep reared in the uplands. The coast attracts summer tourists, and hikers frequent the Clwydian Range, which forms an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with the upper Dee Valley. Llangollen hosts the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in each July.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

He ministered in Ireland from 1664 to 1687. This posting was a result of his accepting an invitation from the Countess of Meath to be her chaplain. He was a regular preacher to Drogheda's joint Presbyterian–Independent congregation (1664–67) and then became Samuel Marsden's colleague at the congregation at Wood Street, Dublin (1667–87). He acted as a peacemaker amongst the Scottish Presbyterians, fiercely opposed Catholicism and helped to maintain the Presbyterians' union with the other Dissenting congregations in Ireland, as well as exorcising a house by prayer in 1678 (as recounted by Richard Baxter).

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Drogheda Town in Leinster, Ireland

Drogheda is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. It is located on the Dublin–Belfast corridor on the east coast of Ireland, mostly in County Louth but with the south fringes of the town in County Meath, 49 km or 30 miles north of Dublin. Drogheda has a population of approximately 41,000 inhabitants (2016), making it the third largest town by population in all of Ireland. It is the last bridging point on the River Boyne before it enters the Irish Sea. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Newgrange is located 8 km west of the town.

Dublin Capital of, and largest city in, Ireland

Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. Situated on a bay on the east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it lies within the province of Leinster. It is bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region, as of 2016, was 1,347,359, and the population of the Greater Dublin Area was 1,904,806.


On a new outbreak of the Troubles and after being abandoned by Gilbert Rule (a Scottish exile, and Williams' assistant since 1682), Williams left for London in September 1687. There he became an influential Dissenter, becoming friends with the leading ministers Richard Baxter and John Howe and twice being invited to preach before the Lord Mayor of London, the Independent Sir John Shorter. At a meeting at Howe's house in May 1688 as to the making an address of thanks to James II for his Declaration of Indulgence, Williams opposed any such address since (in his words) "it were better for [the Dissenters] to be reduc'd to their former Hardships, than declare for Measures destructive of the Liberties of their Country" and likely to cause an open split with the Church of England. [1] He refused to be convinced to return to Ireland by the Dublin congregation, and spent the rest of his career in London, where he advised William III on Irish matters.

Dr Gilbert Rule was a nonconformist minister and the Principal of Edinburgh University from 1690 to 1701.

A dissenter is one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, and, by extension, Ireland, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the established church or any other kind of Protestant who refuses to recognise the supremacy of the established church in areas where the established church is or was Anglican.

Richard Baxter English Puritan church leader, poet, and hymn-writer

Richard Baxter was an English Puritan church leader, poet, hymnodist, theologian, and controversialist. Dean Stanley called him "the chief of English Protestant Schoolmen". After some false starts, he made his reputation by his ministry at Kidderminster, and at around the same time began a long and prolific career as theological writer. After the Restoration he refused preferment, while retaining a non-separatist Presbyterian approach, and became one of the most influential leaders of the Nonconformists, spending time in prison. His views on justification and sanctification are somewhat controversial and unconventional within the Calvinist tradition because his teachings seem, to some, to undermine salvation by faith, in that he emphasizes the necessity of repentance and faithfulness.

Death and legacy

Dr Williams' Library, Gordon square in 2007 Dr Williams' Library, Gordon square - geograph.org.uk - 463164.jpg
Dr Williams' Library, Gordon square in 2007

Williams died in Hoxton, possibly from asthma, and he was buried in a vault at Bunhill Fields. He left almost his whole estate of £50,000 to charity. He left his books (7600 volumes) and money to establish a library, now known as the Dr Williams's Library, situated in Bloomsbury, London. In addition to its theological holdings, it contains collections of philosophy, history, literature, and other donated collections. The library is known to researchers of history and genealogy for its holdings of pre-19th century material relating to Protestant nonconformity in England.

Hoxton Neighbourhood in the East End of London, England

Hoxton is a district in the London Borough of Hackney, England. Together with the rest of Shoreditch, it is often described as part of the East End, the historic core of wider East London. It was historically in the county of Middlesex until 1889. It lies immediately north of the City of London financial district, and was once part of the Ancient Parish and subsequent Metropolitan Borough of Shoreditch, prior to its incorporation into the London Borough of Hackney.

Asthma long-term disease involving poor airflow in the lungs

Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and easily triggered bronchospasms. Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These may occur a few times a day or a few times per week. Depending on the person, they may become worse at night or with exercise.

Bunhill Fields cemetery

Bunhill Fields is a former burial ground in central London, in the London Borough of Islington, just north of the City of London boundary. The site is managed as a public garden by the City of London Corporation. It is about 1.6 hectares in extent, although historically it was much larger.

He also left money to aid the foundation of seven charity schools in North Wales, and to provide scholarships to the University of Glasgow for candidates to the ministry in the Nonconformist church.

North Wales unofficial region of Wales, United Kingdom

North Wales is an unofficial region of Wales. Retail, transport and educational infrastructure are centred on Wrexham, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Bangor. It is bordered to the rest of Wales with the counties of Ceredigion and Powys, and to the east by the English counties of Shropshire, Merseyside, and Cheshire. People from North Wales are sometimes referred to as "Gogs", derived from "gogledd" - the Welsh for "north".

University of Glasgow University located in Glasgow, Scotland and founded in 1451.

The University of Glasgow is a public research university in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded by papal bull in 1451, it is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Along with the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews, the university was part of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century.

Marriages and issue

Williams married Thomas Juxon's daughter Elizabeth in Ireland in 1675 - she died in 1698, and they had had no children. By his second wife Jane Guill (daughter of a refugee Huguenot merchant), whom he married in 1701, he had one son and two daughters.

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Further reading

Presbyterian Church titles
Preceded by
Samuel Marsden
Minister of Wood Street Presbyterian Church, Dublin
With: Samuel Marsden, 1667-1677
Gilbert Rule,1682-1687
Joseph Boyse,1683-1687
Succeeded by
Joseph Boyse

[2] [3] [4]


  1. J. Evans, A funeral sermon occasion'd by the much lamented death of the late Reverend Daniel Williams, D.D. who deceas'd January the 26th 1715/6 (1716). ‘Some account of the life of Dr Williams’, D. Williams, Practical discourses on several important subjects … by the late Reverend Daniel Williams, D.D. Published singly by himself, and now collected by the appointment of his will (1738), page 43
  2. A history of Presbyterianism in Dublin and the south and west of Ireland, P313
  3. David L. Wykes, ‘Williams, Daniel (c.1643–1716)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009, accessed 4 Dec 2016
  4. Alexander Du Toit, ‘Rule, Gilbert (c.1629–1701)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 4 Dec 2016