Advertisement

‘Behold the fear of the Lord’: The Erastianism of Stillingfleet, Wolseley,and Tillotson

  • Jan W. Wojcik
Chapter
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 148)

Abstract

Fear, according to the thesis expressedin The three impostors, is the origin of religion. The author (if there is a single author) of the treatise goes on to explain that in their ignorance of natural causes, men have been frightened by such apparently inexplicable events as earthquakes and illnesses and have imagined that invisible powers are responsible for these evils. Thinking these powers to have immediate and complete control over nature, men have tried to appease them and gain their favor. Princes and priests have capitalized upon this fear and the hope born of fear by nurturing these seeds of religion, the former to support their own authority and the latter to enrich their own purses. These cunning men have used religion to keep the vulgar in submission and awe, and their cheat has been facilitated by the ambition and avarice of certain individuals (most notably Jesus, Moses, and Mahomet) who have pretended to be friendly with and to have received laws from the invisible powers.2

Keywords

Present Essay Late Sixteenth Manuscript Version State Church Political Origin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 2.
    For The three impostors I have relied upon Stowe MS 47 in the British Library.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Dictionary of national biography, for all three men.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    In his True intellectual system of the universe (London, 1678) Ralph Cudworth included an exposition similar to the ones considered in this essay. I have not discussed it in the present essay because of the excellent treatment given it by Richard H. Popkin, `The crisis of polytheism and the answers of Vossius, Cudworth, and Newton’, in James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin (ed.), Essays on the nature, context, and influence of Isaac Newton’s theology ( Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990 ), 16–20.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    The first published work of Charles Blount, generally considered to be the `Father of English Deism,’ is dated 1679 (Anima round:).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Stillingfleet mentions Hobbes only once in the 1662 edition of Origines sacrae, in a context not directly related to the thesis that religion is a political contrivance. (He argues that imagination—as defined by Hobbes —cannot account for reflective acts of the mind upon itself (pp. 414–18)) In his 1697 revision of the work, however, he does explicitly associate Hobbes with this thesis: Works (London, 1709), v: 41, 63, 66, and passim (differently paginated from the 8th edn. of Origines sacrae).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London, 1651), 51. Hobbes, of course, excludes Moses, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles from any imputation of imposture (p. 54). The question of Hobbes’s personal religious beliefs need not concern us here; in the eyes of the 17th-c. Anglicans with whom we are concerned in this essay he was an `atheist.’Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    The act may be found in G. R. Elton(ed.), The Tudor constitution: Documents and commentaryGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    Claire Cross, The Royal Supremacy in the Elizabethan Church, Historical problems, studies and documents (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1969), Introductory I; John Marshall, `The ecclesiology of the latitude-men, 166o-1689: Stillingfleet, Tillotson and “Hobbism”’, Journal of ecclesiastical history, 36 (1985).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    For an excellent discussion of `atheism’ in early modern England see two essays by Michael Hunter: `The problem of “atheism” in early modern England,’ Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., 35 (1985), covers the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; and `Science and heterodoxy: An early modern problem reconsidered’, in D. C. Lindberg and R. S. Westman (eds.), Reappraisals of the scientific revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 199o), covers the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In the present essay I use the term in the rather loose way (described by Hunter) in which it was used by the apologists themselves, and enclose the word in quotation marks when, in the context, to do so seems appropriate. The study of atheism in early modern France poses similar difficulties; see Alan Charles Kors, Atheism in France,1650–1729: The orthodox sources of disbelief, Vol. i (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 199o).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    This was alleged of Thomas Allen at the Cerne Abbas hearing; quoted in Hunter, `Problem of “atheism”’, 152.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Ibid., 141 and passim. It is possible (and in my opinion likely) that an early manuscript version of The three impostors was circulating in England in the late 159os; certainly the comments of G. Harvey and of Beard (below) seem to be specific references to such a document. What is certain, however, is that the specific thesis expressed in The three impostors was known in England at this early date and that this thesis was associated with a treatise entitled De tribus impostoribus mundi. There is also evidence that such a manuscript was again (or still) in circulation in 1656; see the discussion of Oldenburg and Boreel below and n. 22.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Gabriel Harvey], A nevv letter of notable contents (London, 1593), sig. Dr.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Thomas Beard, The theatre of Gods iudgements; Or, a Collection of histories out of sacred, ecclesiasticall, and prophane authors, concerning the admirable iudgements of God vpon the transgressours of his commandements. Translated ovt of French, and avgmented by more than three hundred examples (London, 1597), 148. 5 G. B. Harrison, Willobie his avisa (London 1926 ), App. 1, p. 256.Google Scholar
  14. 16.
    Richard HookerOf the lawes of ecclesiastical! politie: The fift[h] booke (London, 1597), 6. Hooker has Machiavelli in mind (p. 7, marginal n.).Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    Henry Wright, The first part of the disqvisition of truth, concerning political affaires (London, 1616), 1–2. Machiavelli is listed among the `chief authors’ Wright has followed (sig. B3’). From a marginal n. (p. 2) we learn that the `certain divine’ is Lactantius. Apparently the planned second part of Wright’s Disqvisition was never published. For a discussion of Wright, see Felix Raab, The English face of Machiavelli: A changing interpretation, 1500–1700 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1964), 91–4. As we shall see, orthodox spokesmen argued for the truth of all of Wright’s possibilities, with the exception of the first which was perhaps taken for granted.Google Scholar
  16. 18.
    Hunter, `Problem of “atheism”’, 136, 14o-41, 145.Google Scholar
  17. 19.
    Raab, English face of Machiavelli, chs. 4 and 5.Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    Jerrard [Gerrard] Winstanley,The law of freedom in a platform; or, True magistracy restored (London, 1652), 61. In Winstanley’s account the clergy first used threats of retribution in this life to keep the people in submission to the king; later, this ‘hypocrisie’ being discovered, they preached retribution in an afterlife to keep both the king and the people in submission to them (Ibid., 20–21).Google Scholar
  19. 21.
    Keith Thomas, Religion and the decline of magic: Studies in poplar beliefs in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century England (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1973 ), 159–61.Google Scholar
  20. 22.
    The correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, ed. and trans. by A. Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), is 91. For a discussion of Boreel’s response, see the essay by Robert Iliffe in this volume.Google Scholar
  21. 23.
    Edward Stillingfleet, Origines sacrae; or, A rational account of the grounds of natural and reveal’d religion (London, 1662 ), Preface, sig. b3=. Interestingly, 2 Peter 1:26 appears on the title page: `For we have not followed cunningly devised Fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his Majesty.’Google Scholar
  22. 24.
    Ibid., 382.Google Scholar
  23. 25.
  24. 26.
  25. 27.
    Ibid., 388.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    Ibid., 388–9.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    Stillingfleet does not dismiss the possibility that the stars are responsible for universal consent out of hand but instead argues (among other things) that if the influence of the planets is responsible for men’s belief in God then atheism is impossible (Ibid., 392).Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    Ibid., 392–3.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    Ibid., 394.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    Ibid., 382–3.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    Stillingfleet, Origines Sacrae (1697 revision, cited inn. 6), ch. i; quote from p. 64.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    Hunter, `Problem of “Atheism”’, 149; Kors, Atheism in France.Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    Charles Wolseley, The unreasonableness of atheism made manifest, 2nd edn. (London, 1669; the 1st edn. was also published in 1669), 198. The entire `catechism’ is only three pages long (pp. 1979 ). It is reprinted in its entirety in Samuel I. Mintz, The hunting of Leviathan. Seventeenth-century reactions to the materialism and moral philosophy of Thomas Hobbes ( Cambridge: At the University Press, 1962 ), 39–40.Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    Wolseley, Unreasonableness of atheism: mockery, 18–21; oaths, 21–3; church attendance, 36; philosophical notions, 37–9.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    Ibid.; the reference to Hobbes is on p. 17.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    Ibid., 68, 67.Google Scholar
  37. 39.
  38. 40.
    Ibid., 72–3.Google Scholar
  39. 41.
    Ibid., 75–9; quote from 79.Google Scholar
  40. 42.
    Ibid., 142–3.Google Scholar
  41. 43.
    Ibid., 158–9.Google Scholar
  42. 44.
    Ibid., 37.Google Scholar
  43. 45.
    John Tillotson, Sermons preach’d upon several occasions (London, 1671).Google Scholar
  44. 46.
    Ibid., 45.Google Scholar
  45. 47.
  46. 48.
    Ibid., So.Google Scholar
  47. 49.
    Ibid., 51.Google Scholar
  48. 50.
  49. 51.
  50. 52.
    Ibid., 52.Google Scholar
  51. 53.
    Ibid., 52–3.Google Scholar
  52. 54.
    Ibid., 129.Google Scholar
  53. 55.
    Ibid., 131.Google Scholar
  54. 56.
    Ibid., 144.Google Scholar
  55. 57.
    Ibid., 134.Google Scholar
  56. 58.
    Ibid., 135.Google Scholar
  57. 59.
    Ibid., 136–7Google Scholar
  58. 60.
    Ibid., 140.Google Scholar
  59. 61.
    Ibid., 143.Google Scholar
  60. 62.
    Ibid., 144.Google Scholar
  61. 63.
    Ibid., 146.Google Scholar
  62. 64.
    There can be no doubt of Wolseley’s Erastianism, but it does have limits. In his part], proving, that no prince nor state ought by force, to compel men to any part of the doctrinechrw(133) (London, 1681 [“By a Nameless, yet an Approved Author” appears on the title page; the “Second Part” was written by Francis Bugg]) he argued that subjects must obey a Christian magistrate; indeed, they must obey even a heathen magistrate (25–6). But a Christian magistrate’s power should be `improved’ by the light of Christianity (24), and this improvement precludes the forceful imposition of `any part of the Doctrine, Worship or Discipline of the Gospel’ (So). The Christian magistrate must remove all oppressions to Christianity and must see that the Gospel be preached. But `as Christs chief Officer in the World’ he must do these things `under the Gospel in the manner Christ hath appointed’ (43–6; quote on 46). To use force in religious matters is contrary to the example set by Christ, and therefore the magistrate should not use temporal power to wound liberty of conscience (49–50). Despite these reservations, it should be noted that Wolseley is pleading for toleration on the part of the magistrate, not denying the subject’s duty to obey an intolerant one.Google Scholar
  63. 65.
    Marshall, `Ecclesiology’.Google Scholar
  64. 66.
    Well may we then look upon the power of Magistracy, as the greatest and most transcendant of all humane things, and pay the due tribute of all Soveraign Power of God, exercised in a way of Vicegerency amongst men, and that wherein the peace and quiet of mankind is most necessarily included.’ Wolseley, De christiana libertate, 19.Google Scholar
  65. 67.
    In his first sermon, `The duty and reason of praying for governours’, Tillotson considered the possibility that the state religion is false. Although individuals in the past may have suffered under non-Christian rulers, Tillotson argues that St Paul, realizing that the majority of people benefit from even a non-Christian government (which provides security in interests and possessions), left instructions for those who find themselves in that situation when he urged Christians to pray for `kings and for all that are in authority’ (i Timothy 2:12). We should not forget God’s power and the efficacy of prayer, Tillotson urges. In the case of the early Christians, prayer was answered, and prophecies that kings and princes would `become nursing fathers to the church’ were fulfilled; Works (London, 1728), n: igo. (Hobbes, of course, would have agreed with Tillotson in urging prayer rather than civil disobedience, but Tillotson would have judged Hobbes to be insincere.)Google Scholar
  66. 68.
    Stowe MS 47, fo. 17v.Google Scholar
  67. 69.
    Hunter discusses the significance of `the juxtaposition of an exaggerated “atheist” stereotype with the sense of an inexorable continuum from mild to extreme infidelity’ in `Problem of “Atheism”, pp. 153–4.Google Scholar
  68. 70.
    Tillotson, Sermons preach’d, 192–3.Google Scholar
  69. 71.
    Wolseley, De christiana libertate, 41.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan W. Wojcik
    • 1
  1. 1.Auburn UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations