South was born at Hackney, Middlesex, and was educated at Westminster School and at Christ Church, Oxford. Before taking orders in 1658 he was a champion of Calvinism against Socianism and Arminianism. He also showed a leaning to Presbyterianism, but on the approach of the Restoration his views on church government underwent a change; he was regarded by many as a time-server, though not necessarily a self-seeker.
In 1660 he was chosen public orator of the university, and in 1661 domestic chaplain to Lord Clarendon. In March 1663 he was made prebendary of Westminster, and shortly afterwards he received from his university the degree of D.D. In 1667 he became chaplain to the Duke of York. A zealous advocate of the doctrine of passive obedience, he strongly opposed the Toleration Act, declaiming in unmeasured terms against the various Nonconformist sects. In 1678 he was presented to the rectory of Islip, Oxfordshire.
During the greater part of the reign of Anne, South remained comparatively quiet, but in 1710 he ranked himself among the partisans of Henry Sacheverell. He declined the see of Rochester and the deanery of Westminster in 1713. He was buried in Westminster Abbbey.
South had a vigorous style and his sermons had homely and humorous appeal. His wit inclines towards sarcasm, and his quarrelsome temperament may have prevented his promotion to a bishopric. He was noted for the extent of his charity. He published a large number of single sermons, and they appeared in a collected form in 1692 in six volumes, reaching a second edition in his lifetime in 1715. There have been several later issues; one in two volumes, with a memoir (Bohn, 1845). His Opera posthuma Latina, including his will, his Latin poems, and his orations while public orator, with memoirs of his life, appeared in 1717. An edition of his works in 7 vols. was published at Oxford in 1823, another in 5 vols in 1842.
Works by Robert South
Includes Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Dr. Robert South and Sermons I-XVI.
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