Thomas Rowe was born in London and died there on 18 August 1705 from injuries sustained following a seizure which threw him from his horse. He was buried at Bunhill Fields. Thomas was the oldest son of John Rowe (1627–77), minister of an Independent church which met in Westminster Abbey, who was ejected at the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and brother of Benoni (c.1658–c.1706), also a minister. Thomas was probably educated under Theophilus Gale, pastor of the Independent church at Holborn, at Newington Green Dissenting Academy. On Gale's death in 1678, Rowe succeeded him as pastor and tutor. The congregation removed to Girdler's Hall, Basinghall Street, the Academy subsequently to Clapham, and thence (c.1687) to Little Britain in the City of London. His students included Isaac Watts, at whose ordination Rowe preached on 18 March 1702. Watts later addressed an ode (not perhaps his best) to his teacher:I love thy gentle influence, Rowe,Thy gentle influence like the Sun,Only dissolves the frozen snow,Then bids our thoughts like rivers flow,And choose the channels where they run.The significance is in the last two lines; for, though himself a Cartesian in philosophy and a Calvinist in theology, Rowe ‘possessed a noble and generous mind, free from the shackles of a party, and utterly averse to all impositions in the concerns of religion. It was this that made him a decided Nonconformist. To his pupils he allowed the most enlarged freedom of enquiry, and it is well known that some of them followed a path in controversy very different to that of their tutor’ (Wilson, 1808–14, p. 171).
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.