« PreviousContinue »
specimen of hierarchical despotism, practised in a Protestant country in the boasted days of Protestant liberty, that it is believed the readers of this article will be glad to see it entire. It not only relates to a remarkable incident in the life of Whitby, but is a prominent feature in the history of the age. The instrument is dated October 9th, 1683, about three months after the burning at Oxford, and is clothed in the following language: “I, Daniel Whitby, doctor of divinity, chaunt in the church of Sarum, and rector of the parish church of St Edmunds in the city, and diocese of Sarum, having been the author of a book called the PROTESTANT RECONCILER, which, through want of prudence, and deference to authority, I have caused to be printed and published, am truly and heartily sorry for the same, and for any evil influence it hath had upon the dissenters from the church of England established by law, or others. And, whereas it containeth several passages, which I am convinced in my conscience are obnoxious to the canons, and do reflect upon the governors of the said church, I do hereby openly revoke and renounce all irreverent and unmeet expressions contained therein, by which I have justly incurred the censure and displeasure of my superiors. And, furthermore, whereas these two propositions have been deduced and concluded from the same book, namely,-first, that it is not lawful for superiors to impose any thing in the worship of God, that is not antecedently necessary; and, secondly, that the duty of not offending a weak brother is inconsistent with all human authority of making laws concerning indifferent things, I do hereby openly renounce both the said propositions, being false, erroneous, and schismatical, and do revoke and disclaim all tenets, positions, and assertions contained in the said book, from whence these positions can be inferred, and, whereinsoever I have offended therein, I do heartily beg pardon of God, and the church, for the same.”
We ought not, however, to judge of the temper of the whole English church at that time by the conduct of Bishop Ward. If report speaks truly, as we have reason to think it does, from this example, his character was not one which the enlightened would praise, or the virtuous envy. As a professor of astronomy at Oxford, and for his mathematical attainments, he was justly eminent; but Anthony Wood—who speaks from personal knowledge-tells us of his shuffling for popular favour, and of his, “cowardly wavering for lucre and honour's sake, his putting in and out, and occupying other men's places for several years.' That such a man should be a tyrant, is not so strange as that a whole church should have looked on without indignation. If the conduct of Ward was reprehensible in the highest degree, the humiliating submission of Whitby is by no means to be commended. He had written what he believed to be the truth, and with the best motives; he had yielded to the impulse of his conscience, and ventured to say what he thought His independence should not have forsaken him at the moment when it was most needed to maintain the honesty of his intentions, and the stability of his character, and thereby to give weight to his writings. The cause in which he had engaged, either did not deserve the labour which he had bestowed, or it was worthy of the noble sacrifice which he was called to make, of all worldly considerations, when brought in competition with truth and right. It was some apology, perhaps, that he had then published only half of his work, and that what remained was calculated to wear off the rough aspect of his remarks on church authority. Had his enemies been patient, they would have had less occasion for violence. It was his object to bring churchmen and dissenters together by mutual concessions, and his plea was, that each party should yield to the other in things indifferent. As yet he had alluded chiefly to the concessions which it became the church to make. The affronted dignity and eager malice of his adversaries found it not convenient to wait till the whole subject should be fairly presented before them.
Shortly after Whitby's mortifying retraction, the author published the second part of the Protestant Reconciler.' This was especially designed for the dissenters, showing reasons why they might join conscientiously with the church of England, and answering the objection of non-conformists against the lawfulness of submission to that church. It has been insinuated, that he wrote this part under the influence of authority, with the purpose of counteracting the tendency of the first. This is an illiberal surmise ; for the work must have been far advanced in printing before his retraction, and is evidently in unison with his original scheme.
Dr William Sherlock undertook to confute the whole work, two years after the second part was published. In his ' Dedicatory Epistle to the Archbishop of Canterbury,' he affects to consider the Protestant Reconciler's' arguments as very weak and inconclusive ; but he condescends to allow, “ that he had managed the cause to as much advantage as a popular and insinuating rhetoric could give it." Whitby made no reply to Sherlock, nor to any other person who wrote against him in this controversy. On the whole, it may be doubted whether this method of reconciling protestants was likely to be of much practical utility. Very important preliminaries must first be settled. What shall be called things indifferent ? This must be debated by both parties, before they can start in the work of reconciliation. And next, which party shall yield first, and in the greatest number of particulars ? Till these preliminaries are adjusted, nothing can be done; and it is idle to suppose that they ever can be adjusted by a mutual compact. Time and reflection, the dominion of reason, and the progress of moral improvement, guided by the light and precepts of the gospel, are the only effectual reconcilers of Christians.
Whitby continued to write occasionally against the church of Rome, and employed much learning in discussing the authority of general councils, the claims of the pope to infallibility, and various other matters then subjects of high debate between the English and Catholic churches. Among his best writings in this controversy is a “Treatise on Traditions.'
His inquiries are first made to bear on the scriptures ; and he satisfies himself, that we have sufficient evidence from tradition that they are what they profess to be, the word of God; and that genuine and authentic copies have been perserved. In prosecuting these inquiries further, he maintains, that the church of Rome places too much confidence in traditions; that many things which have passed for traditions are novelties; and that the heathens used the same argument of traditionary authority in favour of their rites, which has been used by many Christians in support of ceremonies and customs not prescribed in the scriptures.
The work which, more than any other, has raised Whitby's fame, is his · Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament,' first published in 1703, in two volumes, folio. The tenth edition appeared in 1807, in quarto. The author informs us in the preface that this work cost him the labour of fifteen years' study, and it is truly a noble monument of his learning and industry. Another of Whitby's most popular works is that on the · Five Points' of Calvinism, in which he labours to confute those doctrines. In the year 1718, Whitby published his Disquisitiones Modestæ,' being a reply to Bull's defence of the Nicene Creed. Bull had argued that the Antenicene fathers entertained the orthodox faith respecting the person of Christ and his equality with the Father. Whitby combated this theory, and aimed to establish the fact, that it was the prevailing faith of the three first centuries, that Christ was derived from the Father, and subordinate to him. Waterland wrote against the · Disquisitiones Modestæ' on the side of Bull, and Whitby replied at considerable length in two separate answers.
Religious liberty was never without a zealous advocate in Whitby when occasion deinanded one, and it was natural that he should be inlisted as an able supporter of Hoadly in the · Bangorian Controversy.' He wrote an answer to · Dr Snape's Second Letter to the Bishop of Bangor,' and defended in a separate treatise the principles contained in Hoadly's famous sermon on the church or kingdom of Christ.
The work which closed the long and distinguished labours of Whitby as an author, was his · Last Thoughts.' It was first published in 1727, the year after his death ; and, although it was a posthumous work, it was by his own hand entirely prepared for publication. It was designed to correct several mistakes—as he regarded them—in his Commentary. A second edition of the · Last Thoughts' was published the next year after the first, and to this was prefixed a short account of the author, by Dr Sykes. Five Discourses were appended to the original edition.
Besides the publications already mentioned, Whitby was the author of many others, especially on practical and polemical divinity. He published two volumes of Sermons on the attributes of God, and three or four volumes more on various subjects ; a work on “The Necessity and Usefulness of the Christian Revelation,' • A Dissertation in Latin on the Interpretation of the Scriptures,' “A Confutation of Sabellianism,' and · Reflections on Dodwell's Whimsical Notions of the Natural Mortality of the Soul. He, moreover, wrote tracts on politics, was a warm friend of the Revolution, and approved and defended the oath of allegiance required on the accession of William III.
BORN A. D. 1660.-DIED A. D. 1728.
This learned prelate was born at Dover on the 10th of August, 1660. After having acquired the rudiments of education at Eleham and Wye, he was removed to Westminster school, and, in 1678, was entered of St Edmund's-hall, Oxford. In 1680 he gave offence to the whigs by publishing, “A Letter from a Student at Oxford to a Friend in the Country,' and, in the following year, aggravated them farther, by pro ducing a tory ballad on the dissolution of parliament. He took his de gree of B. A. in 1682, and soon afterwards published a translation o Erasmus's · Moriæ Encomium,' or Panegyric upon Folly. In 1684 he printed a Life of Chabrias,' and became curate of Burrester. In 1685 he proceeded M. A., and was presented to the vicarage of Amersden by Sir William Glynne, to whom, in 1686, he dedicated a translation of · Pliny's Panegyric upon Trajan,' which was by some considered as an indirect eulogium on James II.
To the reflections made against this performance, we find the following answer by the author, in a postscript to the translation of his convocation sermon in 1710: “The remarker says, the doctor dedicated • Pliny's Panegyric' to the late King James : And what if he did ? Only it appears he did not. This is an idle tale among the party, who, perhaps, have told it till they believe it: when the truth is there was no such dedication, and the translation itself of Pliny was not designed for any court-address. The young translator's tutor, Mr Allam, directed his pupil, by way of exercise, to turn some Latin tracts into English. The first was a little book of Erasmus, entitled, Moriæ Encomium, which the tutor was pleased to give to a bookseller in Oxford, who put it in the press while the translator was an under-graduate. Another sort of task required by his tutor was this · Panegyric of Pliny upon Trajan,' which he likewise gave to a bookseller in Oxford, before the translator was M. A., designing to have it published in the reign of King Charles; and a small cut of that prince, at full length, was prepared, and afterwards put before several of the books, though the impression happened to be retarded till the death of King Charles, and then the same tutor, not long before his own death, advised a new preface adapted to the then received opinion of King James's being a just and good prince. However, there was no dedication to King James, but to a private person, a worthy baronet, who came in heartily to the beginning of the late happy Revolution.””
In 1689 he received a severe injury from the bursting of a gun, which rendered the operation of trepanning necessary, and occasioned him constantly to wear a black velvet patch over the injured part. In 1691, having previously become tutor and vice-principal of his college, he was chosen lecturer of St Martin's, Oxford ; and, in 1693, he obtained the rectory of Shottesbrook in Berkshire, but still continued to reside at the university, devoting a great portion of his time to antiquarian researches, and the study of Saxon and the northern tongues. About this time he wrote a life of Somers, and subsequently published * Parochial Antiquities,' and. Sir Henry Spelman's History and Fate of Sacrilege,' with additional authorities. Having been admitted B. D. in 1694, he proceeded to the degree of D. D. in 1699. In 1700 he was appointed, without any solicitation on his part, minister of St Botolph, Aldgate. In the following year he became archdeacon of Huntingdon, and acquired great reputation among the low-churchmen, by engaging in a dispute with Atterbury on the rights of convocation. In 1703 he created much clamour by a discourse on clerical privileges; and, two years after, preached Dr Wake's consecration sermon, which chief-justice Holt said, “ had more in it, to the purpose, of the legal and christian constitution of the church, than any volume of discourses.” In
1706, some booksellers having undertaken to print a collection of Eng. lish history as far as to the reign of Charles I., Dr Kennett was employed to carry the history down to the reign of Queen Anne, which he did ; and the whole was published, in 1706, in three folio volumes, under the title of A Complete History of England. In the following year he was appointed a royal chaplain, and preached a funeral sermon on the first duke of Devonshire, of which it was said, that he had " built a bridge to heaven for men of wit and parts, but had excluded the duller part of mankind from any chance of passing it.” This singular charge was grounded on the following passage :-speaking of a late repentance, he says, “ This rarely happens but in men of distinguished sense and judgment. Ordinary abilities may be altogether sunk by a long vicious course of life: the duller flame is easily extinguished. The meaner sinful wretches are commonly given up to a reprobate mind, and die as stupidly as they lived; while the nobler and brighter parts have an advantage of understanding the worth of their souls before they resign them. If they are allowed the benefit of sickness, they commonly awake out of their dream of sin, and reflect, and look upward. They acknowledge an infinite Being; they feel their own immortal part; they recollect and relish the holy scriptures; they call for the elders of the church; they think what to answer at a judgment-seat. Not that God is a respecter of persons, but the difference is in men; and the more intelligent nature is, the inore susceptible of the Divine grace.” Such a passage as this is well calculated to do infinite injury to those whom it may have been originally intended to compliment and soothe.
The new duke of Devonshire now procured for Kennett the deanery of Peterborough. He declined to join in the London clergy's address to the queen in 1710; and surprised and mortified his old tory friends by the part which he took against Sacheverell. Among other offensive expedients adopted by the high-churchmen to render him odious, he was depicted as Judas Iscariot, in an altar-piece, representing the last supper, at Whitechapel church, to which vast crowds were consequently attracted, until the bishop of London properly directed that the painting should be removed.
In 1713, he made a large collection of books and maps, for the purpose of preparing a History of the Propagation of Christianity in English America;' and, about the same time, founded an antiquarian and historical library at Peterborough. In 1715, he published a discourse • On the Witchcraft of the Rebellion ;' and, although his conduct and doctrines were in some respects offensive to the new government, he was promoted, in 1718, to the bishopric of Peterborough, which he held during the remainder of his life. He died on the 19th of December, 1728. The marquess of Lansdowne purchased the whole of his valuable manuscripts, which were, eventually, deposited in the British Museum.