Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Samuel Johnson of Stratford in New England, 1696-1772

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Samuel Johnson of Stratford in New England, 1696-1772

Article excerpt

Samuel Johnson of Stratford in New England, 1696-1772. By Don R. Gerlach with George E. DeMiIIe. (Athens, Georgia: Anglican Parishes Association Publications, 2010, Pp. x, 302. $25.00.)

In this readable biographical study, Don Gerlach of the University of Akron and George DeMiIIe, formerly canon of Albany, present an engaging summary of the life of Samuel Johnson, colonial Connecticut clergyman and first president of King's College, New York (later Columbia University). Although sometimes confused with and overshadowed by his near contemporary, the more famous English author and lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), New England's Johnson was a remarkable and interesting figure in an entirely different context.

Gerlach and DeMiIIe describe the young boy's early life in the very strict Calvinist atmosphere of late seventeenth and early eighteenth century Guilford, Connecticut. They follow his life and its early influences including his education at the newly established college in Saybrook, his ordination as a Connecticut Puritan minister, then the college's move to New Haven, where it would eventually be named Yale College with Johnson as a tutor. The authors show clearly how Johnson came to find the Book of Common Prayer and how his study of the early church fathers - particularly Chrysostom, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, and Cyprian - led him, and a group of others around him, to the conviction that Episcopal ordination was a necessity.

Following him tiirough his voyage to England and the laying on of hands in his ordination at the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, the authors describe Johnson's returned to Connecticut where he was called as rector of Christ Church, Stratford, the only organized parish in that colony. He served there for thirty years, making his parish into a nursery for new priests and a center of High Church Anglican evangelism for Connecticut. The authors point out that Johnson's coterie of Yale-educated Anglican clergy became the largest and most distinguished in New England and formed the foundation for the American Episcopal Church's expansion into up-state New York in the early nineteentii century. During his career as a parish priest, Johnson played additional roles as an intellectual who corresponded with Benjamin Franklin in Pennsylvania and George Berkeley in Rhode Island, becoming a notable defender of Berkeley's philosophy. …

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