Born in Cambridgeshire, Collier was educated at the University of Cambridge, receiving the BA (1673) and MA (1676). A supporter of James II, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution. In the years following the Revolution he wrote a series of tracts questioning the new legitimacy of the new monarchs and the deprival of the Non-juror bishops. In 1713 he was consecrated a Non-juror bishop by George Hickes and two Scottish bishops, Archibald Campbell and James Gadderar.
He was well known for his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, 1708-1714, which was attacked for its tendentious political and theological comments, but nevertheless widely used.
Collier was the primus of the nonjuring line and a strong supporter of the 4 usages. His Reasons for restoring some prayers and directions, as they stand in the communion-service of the first English reform’d liturgy, 1717 was the first salvo in the usages debate. His Essays were popular in his own day but are now little read.
In the history of English drama, Collier is known for his attack on the comedy of the 1690s in his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), which draws for its ammunition mostly on the plays of William Congreve and John Vanbrugh.
Collier's copious writings included The Great Historical, Geographical, Genealogical and Poetical Dictionary, published in 1688, with a second edition in 1701. This was a precursor to later encyclopedic works, such as that of Ephraim Chambers.