Judaism in Newton’s Church History

  • Matt Goldish
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 157)


The same government was propagated from the Jews to the converted Gentiles, the name of Synagogues being changed to that of Churches, & the name of chief Rulers & Princes of the Synagogues into that of Presidents & Bishops. (Newton, “Irenicum,” Keynes MS. 3, p. 21)


Church History Biblical Criticism Church Institution Rabbinic Literature Early Church 
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  1. 2.
    On the application of these figures to the Roman church beginning in the sixteenth century, see Christopher Hill,Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1971) and Froom, Prophetic Faith,vol. 2, Ch. 17, pp. 373–394.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    David Castillejo, Expanding Force in Newton’s Cosmos (Madrid, 1981), p. 57.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Catherine Conduitt, Newton’s niece and heiress, wrote in her will that Newton’s “church history compleat” should be considered for publication. This was the cause of the fine copy being sent to Rev. Arthur Ashley Sykes, who was charged with examining the work; he died, according to Castillejo, before returning it, and it was reportedly lost. See Castillejo, ibid and Frank Manuel, Isaac Newton: Historian (Cambridge, 1963 ), p. 57.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Mandelbrote, “`A Duty of the Greatest Moment’,” pp. 281–302.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    See Richard S. Westfall, “Newton’s Theological Manuscripts,” Zev Bechler (ed), Contemporary Newtonian Research (Dordrecht, 1982 ), p. 129.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    The MS. opens with a discussion concerning the history of the Old Testament books, which seems more connected with Newton’s work on prophecy than his church history —it is essentially identical with the beginning of the printed Observations. The introduction comes before the tables of contents, which leads me to believe it might have been haphazardly stuck on to the rest.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    As the MS. editor has noted, the drafts of “Ch. 4” following the first (they are all entitled Of the Workings of the Mystery of Iniquity) seem to be the original basis for the first four chapters as they appear, and therefore not independently relevant.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Here MS. Bodmer’s organization and neatness begin to seriously deteriorate, as the manuscript’s editor has noted on the title page.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Between Ch. 7 and Ch. 8 are a few pages of a chapter entitled, “Of the corruption of the Christian Religion in discipline .and. morality.”Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    See, e.g., J. A. I. Champion, The Pillars ofPriestcraft Shaken: The Church of England and its Enemies, 1660–1730 (Cambridge, 1992), Introduction, Ch. 2, “Ars historica” et passim; John Spurr, The Restoration Church ofEngland, 1646–1689 (New Haven, 1991), pp. 133–5, 139, 144, 153, 161; Gordon Rupp, Religion in England, 1688–1791 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 72, 99; and William M. Lamont, Godly Rule: Politics and Religion 1603–60 (London, 1969), passim.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    See Force, William Whiston: Honest Newtonian,pp. 16–19Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    King’s College, Keynes MS. 3, p. 21. I have put excerpts of this MS. in appendix A below.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Edward Stillingfleet (Bishop of Worcester), Irenicum. A Weapon Salve for the Churches wounds. Or the Divine Right of Particular Forms of Church-Government; Discussed and examined according to the Principles of the Law of Nature, the positive Laws of God, the practice of the Apostles and the Primitive Church, and the judgement of Reformed Divines Whereby a foundation is laid for the Churches peace, and the accommodation of our present differences (2nd edition; London, 1662). This is the edition Newton had in his library (Harrison, .und.1564). I have quoted the title in extenso to clarify the purpose of the tract and its similarity to parts of Of the Church. My colleague Robert John Arias has correctly pointed out that there were dozens of works written in seventeenth-century Europe called Irenicum or Ecclesiastical Polity in various formulations. Nevertheless, by its content and specific title, I ant convinced that Stillingfleet is the most probable direct influence on the name and overall purpose of Newton’s manuscriptGoogle Scholar
  14. 15.
    Newton says as much, in fact, to John Conduits—that he felt such an analysis could solve the problems of religious dispute as the Principia solved those of natural philosophy. (Mandelbrote, “Biblical Criticism,” p. 283, citing from Keynes MS. 130.6, Book 3.)Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    It is noteworthy that in introducing the subject of the synagogue’s precedent for ecclesiastical institutions, Newton cites two very different authorities: Hugo Grotius, the great Remonstrant theologian and Salmasius (Claude de Saumaise, 1588–1653), the Huguenot successor of Scaliger at Leiden, who used Jewish learning to uphold The divine right of monarchs. See Stillingfleet, Irenicum,p. 239.Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    See Stillingfleet, Irenicum,pp. 239–290 and occasionally elsewhere. I discount Hooker as part of the same tradition I am exploring here because of his specifically negative attitude toward the view that Jewish Temple and synagogue polity shaped that of the Church. See Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in The Folger Library Edition of The Works of Richard Hooker,vol. I (Cambridge, MA, 1977), Book IV, Ch. 11 (pp. 308–319). Nevertheless, many of Hooker’s conceptions were undoubtedly taken over by Newton and others in this group.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    For Selden, see Jonathan R. Ziskind, John Selden on Jewish Marriage Law: The Uxor Hebraica (Leiden, 1991), esp. Introduction and p. 1 n. 1 which contains bibliography; Isaac Herzog, “John Selden and Jewish Law,” idem Judaism: Law and Ethics (London, 1974); W.K. Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration in England, vol. II (London, 1936), pp. 479–88; and DNB. Martha Ziskind’s unpublished Ph.D dissertation on Selden (University of Chicago, 1972) has not been available to me. For Selden’s influence on Stubbe, see James R. Jacob, Henry Stubbe: Radical Protestantism and the Early Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1983). For his influence on Toland, see, e.g., Nazarenus, pp. 25, 30.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Harrington was also an Erastian, and he made much use of Selden, particularly in those areas in which Judaism was concerned. He was convinced that the rabbinic tradition was correct in its claim that the laying on of hands to pass along authority was continuous from Moses until Jesus’ time. See W.K. Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration in England,vol. IV (London, 1940), pp. 281–91 and S. B. Liljegren, “Harrington and the Jews,” Bulletin de la Sociéte Royale des Lettres de Lund,vol. 4 (1931–2), pp. 65–92.Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    Jordan, The Development of Religious Toleration,vol. II (London, 1936), pp. 479–88. Note the affinity of Selden’s Erastianism to that of Hobbes, as expressed in Leviathan,Ch. XLII (“Of Power Ecclesiastical”). I take Erastianism in its traditional sense rather than as an expression of Erastus’s true position (see Lamont, Godly Rule,pp. 113–6.)Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    See above, Chapter 3; Jacob, Henry Stubbe,pp. 31–3, 158, 163; Stubbe, Account,pp. 13, 24–5; and Toland, Nazarenus,p. 46 and n. 64 there, Ch. XI—Xiii passim.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    Jordan, Religious Toleration,p. 485 and Haller, Liberty and Reformation,pp. 230–1.23. As my colleague Kalman Neuman has pointed out, it is important to note that the term synagoga is often used simply to indicate any Jewish government; it is a analogous to the Christian ecclesia. However, in Selden’s case, the entire description of the synagogue discussed in De Synedriis and elsewhere, including particular institutions (e.g., the hazan,etc.), refers specifically to the houses of worship found in each community which we still call synagogues,and not to the Temple or Commonwealth. While the synagogue had been discussed and described previously by the Buxtorfs and others, its place in the history of the early church was not developed (to the best of my knowledge) before SeldenGoogle Scholar
  22. 24.
    The importance of the synagogue in Stubbe as an example of non-hierarchic, irenical ecclesiastic government is brought out by Jacob, Henry Stubbe,p. 67 and Stubbe, Account,p. 18.Google Scholar
  23. 25.
    This continuity of offices is also found in Stubbe (Account,p. 19), though he does not develop the parallels. Lightfoot, as has been noted, was also a major source for Newton in this area. It has taken three centuries for scholarship to attain again the level of sophistication in this discussion found among this group, and Newton’s conclusions have been confirmed in many cases by the author who has achieved that level, James Tunstead Buttchaell. See Burthchaell, From Synagogue to Church: Public Services and Offices in the Earliest Christian Communities (Cambridge, 1992). For important correctives of Burtchaell and a more detailed discussion of one aspect of the problem, see R. Alastair Campbell, The Elders: Seniority Within Earliest Christianity (Edinburgh, 1994). Like their seventeenth-century predecessors, these scholars still appear to be arguing from a personal doctrinal position.Google Scholar
  24. 26.
    Harrison, Library, .und.1481–4 (Selden); .und.1561–1565 (Stillingfleet).Google Scholar
  25. 27.
    See Jacob, Henry Stubbe,Ch. 4, pp. 64–77 and Champion, Pillars ofPriestcraft,pp. 120–8.Google Scholar
  26. 28.
    Champion, Pillars ofPriestcraft,p. 125.Google Scholar
  27. 29.
    This is drawn from Selden, who expresses natural religion and law in terms of the seven Noachide commandments in several of his works (see above, Chapter 3), most explicitly in De jure naturali and De synedriis. Selden himself was inspired by a much briefer reference in Grotius’ De iure belli ac pacis.Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    Selden, De Synedriis,vol. I, Ch. 8, quoted in Toland, Nazarenus,p. 30 and n. 49 there.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    Stubbe, Account,pp. 13, 25; Toland, Nazarenus,pp. 46–9. This is a central theme in Selden’s De jure naturali Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    Stubbe, Account,pp. 13, 16–18; Toland, Nazarenus,pp. 36–40, 50–3. Toland’s insistence on the eternity ofthis distinction is related to his famous attitude toward toleration of the Jews—there is no need to wean them away from the law, as most conversionists attempt to do. (Nazarenus,p. 38)Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    Newton’s Erastian position can be seen in appendix A, thesis 8–11.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    Champion, Pillars ofPriestcraft,passim.Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    J. Jacob, Henry Stúbbe; M.C. Jacob, “Toland and Newtonian Ideology”; idem, The Newtonians and the English Revolution,Ch. 6, “The Opposition: Freethinkers,” pp. 201–250; and Robert E. Sullivan, John Toland and the Deist Controversy: A Study in Adaptations (Cambridge, MA, 1982), pp. 194–5, 240–1. It is not surprising that the Jacobs do not deal with Toland’s Nazarenus; its bearing on the Newtonian debate could only be known is after reading Of the Church,to which they had no access.Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    For previous discussion of Newton’s relationship with deism, see Force and Popkin, Essays in the Context, Nature and Influence,Ch. 3 and 4 (the latter really deals only with Newton’s disciples) and the other essays of Force mentioned in Ch. 1 and Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton,pp. 56–7. The debate on Newton’s relationship to deism has centered mainly on his theories of ancient religion found in Yahuda MS. 16. As can be seen in Chapter 3 above, there is a great deal more to be said on the subject in light of Yahuda MS. 41, but Newton’s church histories are an even more fertile source for understanding his relationship with religious doctrines of all sorts.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    Manuel, The Broken Staff; p. 116. On the view of England as the new Israel and London as the new Jerusalem, see Patrick Collinson, The Cohabitation of the Faithful with the Unfaithful,“ O. P. Grell et al. (eds.), From Persecution to Toleration,p. 57. On the variety of church-state issues which occupied England in the seventeenth century, many of which deeply involved Hebraism, see Lamont, Godly Rule.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    Manuel, The Broken Staff,pp. 115–128.Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    This is one of the central themes of Champion Pillars ofPriestcraft.Google Scholar
  38. 40.
    Newton owned Hooker’s Works (Harrison,.und.798), which included his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,but not Harrington’s Art of Lawgiving,though he may well have read it. For some cases of the exemplary use of Hebrew polity in the earlier seventeenth century, see Avraham Melamed, “Jethro’s Advice in Medieval and Early Modem Jewish and Christian Political Thought,” Jewish Political Studies Review 2:1–2 (Spring, 1990), pp. 3–41, which concentrates on James Harrington, who (like Newton) seems to have learned most of what he knew ofrabbinic sources from Selden; see also S. B. Robinson, “The Biblical Hebrew State as an Example of the Ideal Government in the Writings of Political Thinkers of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” idem (ed), Education Between Continuity and Openness (Hebrew; Jerusalem, 1975), Ch. 2 “Biblicism in English Political Thought,” pp. 37–52, concentrating on Hooker, Harrington, and Hobbes.Google Scholar
  39. 41.
    Manuel Broken Staffpp. 116–8, 124.Google Scholar
  40. 42.
    Henry Stubbe points out the gap in primitive church historiography which resulted from the lack of Hebraic awareness:Google Scholar
  41. I must add that our Church Histories of the primitive times seem to be chiefly deduced from the Latin and Greek writers who give no account of the Syriack or Judaizing Churches, so that we hear no news of the latter till Saint krom and Epiphanius come to represent them as Heretickschrw(133). (Account,p. 51)Google Scholar
  42. 43.
    While James Jacob spotted the importance of this aspect of the synagogue for Stubbe (Henry Stubbe,p. 67), he did not note that Stubbe’s example depended upon reference specifically to the synagogue rather than the Temple and Commonwealth governments (which were the usual “Hebrew polities” brought as evidence by Christian authors) nor that Selden was the first person to stress synagogue government as a model.Google Scholar
  43. 44.
    N. von Maltzahn, “Republicanism in the Restoration: Some Trimming Pleas for Limited Monarchy, 1660/1680,” Huntington Library Quarterly,vol. 56, no. 3 (Summer, 1993) p. 281.Google Scholar
  44. 45.
    Appendix A, thesis 7. The italics are mine.Google Scholar
  45. 46.
    King’s College, Keynes MS. 3, p. 21. I have put excerpts of this MS. in appendix A below.Google Scholar
  46. 47.
    Seen. 14 above.Google Scholar
  47. 49.
    See Appendix A, theses 5–6 and Appendix B, paragraph 3. Already in Henry Stubbe’s day he could speak of the continuity from synagogue to church government as a commonplace, but the identity of offices (which he has just supplied) was still unfamiliar:Google Scholar
  48. The whole Constitution of the primitive Church Government related to the Jewish Synagoguechrw(133)But since all learned men do now agree that the Christian Church was govenid according to the pattern of the Jewish Synagogue, there can be little doubt but that every Officer of the Christian Synagogues resembled those of the others as wet in Office as Name, .and. that as they retain’d the Rites .and. Customs of the Jewish Synagogues in all other things, even to structure. (Stubbe, Account,pp. 18–9)Google Scholar
  49. 50.
    See Appendix A, first paragraph. The question of whether one may legitimately equate the biblical judiciary with magistracy was a hotly debated topic at the Westminster Assembly. Newton saw the functions as originally intertwined, but he unceremoniously decoupled them by declaring that, “The Christian kingdoms have other forms of government .and. other courts of judicature for civil causes.” (Appendix B, paragraph 8) For the debate on civil and ecclesiasticlaw in the Westminster Assembly, see, e.g., the speech of Lightfoot and responses of William Price and Lazarus Seaman inMinutes of the Westminster Assembly,pp. 439–441. This was also among the points of Dodwell’s Discourse concerning the one Altar and one Priesthood (1683) and a matter of discussion in many quarters.Google Scholar
  50. 51.
    See Appendix A, paragraphs 2–3 and Appendix B, paragraph 1. On the history of the apprehension of Jethro’s advice to Moses concerning political structure (Exodus 18:13–27 and Deuteronomy 1:12–17), see Melamed, “Jethro’s Advice.” Melamed concentrates on James Harrington, who (like Newton) seems to have learned most of what he knew of rabbinic sources from Selden. Harrington’s conclusions, however, were significantly different from those of Newton; e.g., he concluded against the traditional Jewish interpretation, that Moses’ judges were only judges and not rulers as well, and that the Hebrew commonwealth was finally a democracy. (Melamed, “Jethro’s Advice,” pp. 25–6) For a discussion of the image of the Hebrew state in Hooker, Hobbes and Harrington, see Robinson, “The Biblical Hebrew State.” The articles of both Melamed and Robinson deal with a period considerably earlier than Newton was writing, but the issues are often the same and the influence of Lightfoot and Selden was already being felt by the Civil War.Google Scholar
  51. 52.
    Minutes ofthe Sessions,pp. 439–448. Lightfoot holds, as Newton later would, that there is no distinction in the ancient literature between civil and ecclesiastical government among the Jews, but his conclusions are not Erastian.Google Scholar
  52. 53.
    See Appendix A, theses 2–3; Appendix B, paragraph 1.Google Scholar
  53. 54.
    See Appendix B, paragraphs 1, 4.Google Scholar
  54. 55.
    See Appendix A, theses 2, 11; Appendix B, paragraph 1 (end).Google Scholar
  55. 56.
    See Appendix A, thesis 3; Appendix B, paragraphs 1 (end), 2 (beginning), 6.Google Scholar
  56. 57.
    See Appendix B, paragraph 2 (near beginning).Google Scholar
  57. 58.
    See Appendix B, paragraphs 2 (middle), 4, 7, 8 (beginning). On popular election of officers, see Appendix B, paragraphs 2 (middle), 8 (end). The democratic element is also unusual, though Harrington had suggested it (without requiring unanimous election of bishops).Google Scholar
  58. 59.
    See Appendix B, paragraph 4 (middle). See also Appendix A, thesis 6. Note that the bishop and presbyters are separate officesGoogle Scholar
  59. 60.
    See Appendix B, paragraph 2 (middle).Google Scholar
  60. 61.
    See Appendix B, paragraph 3 (beginning).Google Scholar
  61. 62.
    This fits with the Erastian position of Selden, as Robert Baillie quotes it from his statement at the Westminster Assembly, “that the Jewish State and Church was all one, and that so in England it must be, that the Parliament is the Church.” (Baillie, Letters and Journals,vol. II, pp. 265–6, quoted in Haller, Liberty and Reformation,p. 231.)Google Scholar
  62. 63.
    See Appendix B, paragraph 3 (end). See also Appendix A, thesis 1—new draft; Appendix B, paragraph 3 (passim). The educational and administrative role of presbyters is confirmed in another passage from MS. Bodmer, Ch. 9/10 (p. 9v), wherein Newton claims that the catechized and baptized Christian would be “admitted into some synagogue or other by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery of that Synagoguechrw(133).”Google Scholar
  63. 64.
    This is the first indication that Newton did not envisage the councils’ total reliance on biblical law alone. He will soon elaborate.Google Scholar
  64. 65.
    See Appendix A, lines theses 6–7 and Appendix B, paragraphs 4–6. See also Appendix E, paragraph 1, where Newton says that in the earliest age of Christianity the whole council including the bishop might be called bishops, elders or presbyters. It was only later that the president alone was called bishop and the others presbyters. This again deflates the arguments of these Presbyterians and Episcopalians who wished to show that only presbyters or only bishops can be traced continually to the primitive church.Google Scholar
  65. 66.
    See Appendix B, paragraph 4 (middle).Google Scholar
  66. 67.
    See Appendix B, paragraphs 4 (second half), 8.Google Scholar
  67. 68.
    See Champion, Pillars ofPriestcraft pp. 60–77 and Spurr, The Restoration Church,pp. 132–9Google Scholar
  68. 69.
    See Appendix A, thesis 11; thesis 10 and Appendix E, paragraph 1.Google Scholar
  69. 70.
    See Appendix E, paragraph 1.Google Scholar
  70. 71.
    See Appendix A, thesis 7; Appendix B, paragraph 3 (end); and Appendix E, paragraph 1.Google Scholar
  71. 72.
    MS. Bodmer, Ch. 2, p. 40r and Ch. 3, two pages before end. See also Chapter 3 above.Google Scholar
  72. 73.
    Benedict de Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise ( Elwes translation; New York, 1951 ), p. 237.Google Scholar
  73. 74.
    The debate on adiaphora split the Lutherans in the middle of the sixteenth century. Melanchthon felt the adiaphora were optional, while Flacius and his party argued violently for their necessity. Many of the issues involved in Newton’s discussion of “Milk” and “Meat” (dogma and adiaphora) are the same as they were a century and a half previously, including the question of justification, and that of the king’s role in the church. Newton takes the position of Melanchthon, who decried Flacius’ view as “a new kind of popery, for these violent persons want to compel everyone to hold the opinions they hold, and they fearfully condemn everyone who does not agree withthem.” See Theologische Realenzyklopädie,Band XI (Berlin,1983), p. 207 and Clyde Manschrek, “The Role of Melanchthon in the Adiaphora Controversy,” Archie flr Reformationsgeschichte,vol. 48 (1957), pp. 165–216 (the above quotation comes from p. 172.) Many thanks to Professor Dr. Heiko Oberman for helping me to fmd these references.Google Scholar
  74. 75.
    I do not know how much importance to attach to the fact that Newton requires catechism before baptism, which would seem to make him something like a Baptist. In any case, I have not seen anyone else mention this point so I am doing so here. Newton says explicitly, “Before it Llbaptismllcan be performed the party to be baptized must be taught that there is a father a son .and. a holy Ghost .and. who they are; that is, he must be catechised .and. taught his Creed.” (MS. Bodmer, Additional Chapters, “Chap. Of the .cen.sule of faith, and the schism…cen.,” p. 1r) The same concept is repeated numerous times with different wording.Google Scholar
  75. 76.
    This idea, in various formulations, is found over and over in both manuscripts of Of the Church,in the Irenicum,and numerous other places in the manuscripts. James Force first pointed out and treated the doctrine in his paper, “Newton, The Lord God of Israel and Knowledge of Nature,” Popkin and Weiner (eds.), Jewish Christians and Christian Jews,pp. 140–7. Force’s main point is that Newton’s conception of “Milk” and “Meat” is heavily influenced by his “Jewish” voluntarism. Force also discusses what he describes as the Jewish aspects of Newton’s millenarianism.Google Scholar
  76. 77.
    These are derived from Hebrews, 6:1–2, immediately following the “Milk”/“Meat” passage. One must be careful not to confuse the “Milk” doctrines, which are conditions for communion, with natural religion whose sole tenets are love of God and man as expressed in the Noachide commandments. See Chapter 3.Google Scholar
  77. 78.
    This passage is in fact referring to the damage done by Gnostics, one of the parties guilty of mixing “Meat for Men of Full Age” (the said doctrines) into the “Milk for Babes,” as will be discussed below.Google Scholar
  78. 79.
    Force, “Newton, the Lord God of Israel and Knowledge of Nature,” passim.Google Scholar
  79. 81.
    See Appendices C and D, passim. Much of the same material is found in the Irenicum.Google Scholar
  80. 84.
    Appendix A, thesis 15. See Appendix C, paragraphs 2, 6–8, 13 and Appendix D, paragraphs 1 (middle), 2 (end), 4.Google Scholar
  81. 85.
    See Appendix C, paragraph 4.Google Scholar
  82. 86.
    MS. Bodmer, Ch. 2, p. 42rGoogle Scholar
  83. 87.
    MS. Bodmer, Ch. 5/5a (first full draft), p. 3r.Google Scholar
  84. 88.
    See Appendix C, paragraph 2. For recent scholarship on the Jewish-Christian sects and their relationship withthe early church, see Ray A. Pritz, Nazarene Jewish Christianity (Jerusalem, 1988); Sidney Gabrel, The Nazarenes (New York, 1987); and David Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem, 1988), Ch. 40, “The Jewish Christian Schism,” esp. section v, “The Law,” pp. 630–4.Google Scholar
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    Robert Baillie, Letters and Journals,vol. II, p. 177, quoted in Haller, Liberty and Reformation,p. 111.Google Scholar
  86. 90.
    On Stillingfleet’s sermon and its effects, see Carroll, The Common Sense Philosophy,pp. 25–31. On the problems of schism and dissent in Restoration and Revolutionary England, see, e.g., Carroll, The Common Sense Philosophy,pp. 18–37; Spurr, The Restoration Church,Ch. 3–4; O.P. Grell et al. (eds.), From Persecution to Toleration; Rupp, Religion in England,Ch. 1,2,4; Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters, vol. I: From the Reformation to the French Revolution (Oxford, 1978); George Every, The High Church Party, 1688–1718 (London, 1956), Ch. 2,4,7; and Haller, Liberty and Reformation,Ch. 7.Google Scholar
  87. 91.
    Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton,pp. 61, 65 and Force, “’Man of Wide Swallow’,” p. 125Google Scholar
  88. 92.
    See, e.g., Westfall, “Newton: Theologian,” pp. 228–30; Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton,pp. 62–3 and Mandelbrote, “’A Duty of the Greatest Moment’,” p. 289, who calls Newton a hypocrite for his “outward conformity” to the Anglican Church. Manuel (pp. 6–7) quotes Newton stating that he is quite fond of the clergy of his own time, a most interesting statement!Google Scholar
  89. 93.
    This is one of the themes of Force’s book on Whiston, whom he calls an “honest Newtonian” because Whiston dared to declare publicly the same heretical doctrines Newton kept hidden. Elsewhere Force treats the passages concerning the Church of England from Keynes MS. 3, which will be discussed below, but rather than concluding that this manuscript explains how Newton cleared up objections to the English Church, Force sees it as an attack. “Throughout all the versions of the Irenicum,he argues implicitly that the Church of England is an apostate Church, a `synagogue of Satan.”’ See Force, “Newton, the Lord God of Israel and Knowledge ofNature,” p. 146 and in general pp. 140–7. On Whiston and Haynes’ complaints against Newton’s marrano-style duplicity in religion, see Manuel, The Religion of Isaac Newton,pp. 62–3.Google Scholar
  90. 94.
    McLachlan, Theological Manuscripts,pp. 36–8 and out of MS. Keynes 3, found at the end of Appendix A below. The following discussion and quotations are all from the latter.Google Scholar
  91. 97.
    MS. Bodmer, Ch. 5/5a (first full draft), p. 3r.Google Scholar
  92. 98.
    In 1688–9, two bills were before Parliament: a Toleration Act and a Comprehension Act. It was the former, less revolutionary bill which passed, yet many held out hopes for the church by itself to become more comprehensive. At the political level nobody was thinking of comprehending anti-Trinitarians or even most dissenters but only the Presbyterians and a few of the less revolutionary sects. Yet Newton was one of a not insignificant number of Unitarians, Socinians, Arians and deists (all of whom were anti-Trinitarian), as well as some otherwise conservative low-churchmen, who wished Anglicanism to drop the Athanasian Creed and several of the Thirty-nine Articles pertaining to Jesus’ person, so as to achieve a wider “swallow.” See, e.g., Richard Ashcraft, “Latitudinarianism and Toleration: Historical Myth versus Political History,” R. Kroll et al. (eds.), Philosophy, Science, and Religion in England,pp. 151–177, esp. p. 152 and Every, The High Church Party,Ch 2, “Conflict over Comprehension in 1688–9,” pp. 19–42. On the party associations of these issues, see the next two notes.Google Scholar
  93. 99.
    Roger L. Emerson (“Latitudinarianism and the English Deists,” J. A. L. Lemay [ed], Deism, Masonry, and the Enlightenment: Essays Honoring Alfred Owen Aldridge [Newark, 1987], pp. 19–48) seeks to show how different the religious views of the Latitudinarians were from those of the deists. While this may be true, and I perceive Newton as ultimately much closer to Latitudinarianism than to deism, it is clear that he draws on the historical traditions concerning ancient Jewish Christianity in which Stubbe and Toland participate. Meanwhile, W. M. Spellman has offered the opinion that deists in the late seventeenth century “consciously adopted many ofthe characteristics of the moderate church position.” (Spellman, The Latitudinarians and the Church of England, 1660–1700 [Athens, GA, 1993], p. 148.)Google Scholar
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    Force, “Sir Isaac Newton, `Gentleman of Wide Swallow’?: Newton and the Latitudinarians,” Essays on the Context, Nature and Influence,p.122 and in general pp. 119–41 passim. The most important of the recent literature on Latitudinarianism includes: R. Kroll et al. (eds.), Philosophy, Science and Religion in England; Martin I. J. Griffin, Jr., Latitudinarianism in the Seventeenth-Century Church of England (annotated by Richard H. Popkin, edited by Lila Freedman; Leiden, 1992); and Barbara J. Shapiro, “Latitudinarianism and Science in Seventeenth-Century England,” Charles Webster (ed), The Intellectual Revolution of the Seventeenth Century (London, 1974), pp. 286–316. Barbara Shapiro and Margaret Jacob (The Newtonians and the English Revolution,pp. 29–36, esp. p. 33) describe Newton as essentially a Latitudinarian.Google Scholar
  95. 101.
    I would suggest an addition to this item: support of royal prerogative within the church, and thus some degree of Erastianism.Google Scholar
  96. 102.
    Griffin, Latitudinarianism,pp. 1–48, esp. p. 43.Google Scholar
  97. 106.
    Ashcraft, “Latitudinarianism and Toleration,” passim.Google Scholar
  98. 107.
    See also MS. Yahuda, 15.7, p. 186r, for an almost identical statement. These are, to the best of my knowledge, the only references to Latitudinarians in Newton’s corpus.Google Scholar
  99. 108.
    It must be understood that anti-Trinitarianism was against the law in England during the entire period with which we are dealing. Unitarians were not protected by the Toleration Act and were liable to imprisonment under the Blasphemy Act of 1698 for propagating their beliefs. Yet this was a very widespread heresy in England throughout the later-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. See Watts, The Dissenters, vol. I, pp. 372–5.Google Scholar
  100. 109.
    The difficulty of understanding the Trinity in the Anglican church was so acute that not only antiTrinitarianism, but Tritheism also became a problematic heresy. In the 1690’s, William Sherlock attempted a refutation of the Unitarians with a new way of explaining the Trinity. Robert South accused him of Tritheism, Stephen Nye began accusing everyone of various heresies, and mutual recriminations were bitter. In the end, King William had to issue two orders (1695, 1714) to stifle creative explanations of the Trinity. See Rupp, The English Church, pp. 248–9 and Edward Cardwell (ed), Documentary Annals of the Reformed Church of England, vol. II (Oxford, 1839 ), pp. 339–41, 365–7.Google Scholar
  101. 110.
    Griffin’s statement that Whiston and Clarke were ‘unexceptionable“ Latitudinarians of the eighteenth century has already been noted. On the accusations of Unitarianism in the 1670’s and Gilbert Burnet’s response, see Martin Greig, ”The Reasonableness of Christianity? Gilbert Burnet and the Trinitarian Controversy ofthe 1690’s,“ Journal of Ecclesiastical History,vol. 44, no. 4 (October, 1993), pp. 631–651 and Sullivan, John Toland,pp. 82–3. On the real convergence in the 1690’s and after, see Sullivan, pp. 89, 95, 103.Google Scholar
  102. 111.
    While Newton remains far from the young Stillingfleet’s position on the creeds, he is very close to him in almost all other conceptions. It seems to me Newton is loyal to Stillingfleet’s view that a Christian should remain within his church until it becomes a sin to do so, meaning until errors in fundamental doctrines must “be put into practice in such a way that one cannot avoid becoming implicated” one’s self or one is forced to actively own such errors as a condition of communion. See Paul Avis, Anglicanism and the Christian Church (Minneapolis, 1989 ), p. 130. Following Stillingfleet’s rule, as long as Newton could avoid taking orders to remain in the Lucasian chair he could stay both in his job and in his church. Had he not received an eleventh hour dispensation from taking orders, he would almost certainly have refused to do so, and would have suffered Whiston’s fate. See Westfall, “Newton: Theologian,” pp. 228–30.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matt Goldish
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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