Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shipley



Bishop of St. Asaph, 1769-1789


A Sermon Preached Before the Incorporated

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts


At the Anniversary Meeting of the SPGFP in the Parish Church of

St. Mary-Le-Bow, London, February 19, 1773


London: T. Harrison and S. Brooke, 1773.


Jonathan Shipley was the son of a London stationer, and his mother came from the family who owned Twyford House, a residence of much renown in Winchester, England.  Shipley received his education at St. John's College and Christ Church, Oxford, from which he received a B.A., 1735; M.A., 1738; and D.D., 1748.  In 1748 he became Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and in 1760, he became dean of Winchester.  In 1769, he was elevated to Bishop of Llandaff and St. Asaph.


Though not a colleague of Carey's, the role that Shipley played in the Church of England and in British politics bears resemblance to Carey's missiological and republican interests.  Both Carey and Shipley believed that the Christianization of both colonies and British colonizers fulfilled a British duty to share its religion, culture, peace, and happiness.  In different ways, Carey and Shipley were Enlightenment figures, and they both believed that Christian faith, morality, and order were some of the primary motives for and necessary results of colonization.  Carey said,


Can we hear that they are without the gospel, without government, without laws, and without arts, and sciences; and not exert ourselves to introduce amongst them the sentiments of men, and of Christians? Would not the spread of the gospel be the most effectual mean of their civilization? Would not that make them useful members of society?  (An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, 1792, p. 70).


Similarly, Shipley said in regard to the role of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts,


It ought not to be the first object of contemplation, what we are to get by them [i.e., colonies]; but how we can best improve, assist and reward them; by what benefits we may procure their happiness and win their affection. . . . And let us endeavour to wipe away the tears from the poor oppressed natives of India; and suffer them, if possible, to enjoy some taste of the legal security and civil liberty, which renders life dear to ourselves; which are blessings hitherto unknown to those climates (A Sermon Preached Before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1773, pp. xx-xxi).


Though elevated in 1769 to important Church roles that likely involved the approval of the king, Shipley advocated a Whig understanding of monarchy.   In 1774, Shipley so supported the American cause that he wrote in his A Speech Intended to have been spoken on the Bill for Altering the Charters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, "With regard to the people of Boston, I am free to own that I neither approve of their riots nor their punishment . . . My lords, I look upon North America as the only great nursery of freemen left upon the face of the earth."  Later in 1778, Shipley voted against the war on the American colonies.  Of note related to the nonconformists in Britain, Shipley, in 1779, gave a speech in the House of Lords calling for a repeal of all laws against dissenters, and he referred to laws against the dissenters as "the disgrace of the National Church."


Shipley's opposition to George III's oppressive policies toward the American colonies was kindled by a friendship with Benjamin Franklin with whom he exchanged numerous letters.  In 1771, Shipley hosted Franklin at Twyford House, and, there, Franklin wrote much of his autobiography.  Later in the year, Franklin recalled "the sweet Air of Twyford" in contrast to "the Smoke of London" (Franklin to Jonathan Shipley, June 23, 1771).  Franklin repeated his fondness for Twyford and Shipley saying, "How happy I was in the sweet retirement of Twyford, where my only business was a little scribbling in the garden study, and my pleasure of your conversation, with that of your family!" (Franklin to Jonathan Shipley, September 13, 1775).


Near the end of the war, Franklin wrote Shipley saying "that there has never been, nor ever will be, any such thing as a good War, or a bad Peace. . . . The Cause of Liberty and America has been greatly oblig'd to you.  I hope you will live long to see that Country flourish under its new Constitution, which I am sure will give you great Pleasure.  Will you permit me to express another Hope, that, now your Friends are in Power, they will take the first Opportunity of showing the sense they ought to have of your Virtues and your Merit?" (Franklin to Jonathan Shipley, June 10, 1782).


Delivered on February 19, 1773, Shipley's Sermon Preached Before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts became known as an encomium to Franklin and the cause of the American colonies against the Crown.  Franklin grew so fond of Shipley and his bold stance in favor of the Colonies that he referred to Shipley as "America's constant friend, the good Bishop of Asaph" (Franklin to Henry Laurens, May 25, 1782). 


While often read for its political value, Shipley's "Sermon" reveals a much more complex confluence of ideas.  Of direct relation to Carey and the Baptist missionary efforts is Shipley's Christian, Enlightenment view that Christianity is the best way through which to civilize colonies, to bring peace and happiness, and to improve the souls of people.


A Sermon Preached Before the Incorporated

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Shipley



Luke, Chap. ii, Ver. 14



Color Title Page Title Page pp.  ii-iii pp.  iv-v     pp.  vi-vii
pp.  viii-ix  pp.  x-xi pp.  xii-xiii pp.  xiv-xv  pp.  xvi-xvii 
pp.  xviii-xix pp.  xx-xxi pp.  xxii-xxiii pp.  xxiv



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Created:    June 6, 2006                    Updated:    July 25, 2006