Chubb, Thomas

, once a noted deistical writer, and the idol of that party, was born at East Harnham, a small village near Salisbury, Sept. 29, 1679. His father, a maltster, dying when he was young, and the widow having threte more children to maintain by her labour, he received no other education: than being instructed to read and write ati ordinary hand. At fifteen he was put apprentice to a glover in Salisbury; and when his term was expired, | continued for a time to serve his master as a journeyman, but this trade being prejudicial to his eyes, he was admitted by a tallow-chandler, an intimate friend of his, as companion and sharer with him in his own business. Being endued with considerable natural parts, and fond of reading, he employed all his leisure to gain such knowledge as could be acquired from English books; for of Latin, Greek, or any of the learned languages, he was totally ignorant by dint of perseverance- he also acquired a smatitering of mathematics, geography, aud many other branches of science.

But divinity was, unfortunately for himself, his favourite fitudy and it is said that a little society was formed at Salisbury, under the management and direction of Chubb, for the sake of debating upon religious subjects. Here the scriptures were at first read, under the guidance of some commentator; but in time every man delivered his sentiments freely, and without reserve, and commentators were no longer in favour, the ablest disputant being the man who receded most from established opinions. About this time the controversy upon the Trinity was carried on very warmly between Clarke and Waterland; and falling under the cognizance of this theological assembly, Chubb, at the request of the members, drew up his sentiments about it, in a kind of dissertation which, after it had undergone some correction, and been submitted to Whiston, who saw not much in it averse to his own opinions, published it under the title of “The Supremacy of the Father asserted, &c.A literary production from one of a mean and illiberal education will always create wonder, and a tallow-chandler arbitrating between such men as Clarke and Waterland, could not fail to excite attention. Those who would have thought nothing of the work had it come from the school of Clarke, discovered in this piece of Chubb’s, great talents in reasoning, as well as great perspicuity and correctness in writing; so that he began to be considered as one much above the ordinary size of men. Hence Pppe, in a letter to his friend Gay, was led to ask him if he had seen or conversed with Mr. Chubb, who is a wonderful phenomenon of Wiltshire?“and says, in relation to a quarto volume of tracts, which were printed afterwards, that he had” read through his whole volume with admiration of the writer, though not always with approbation of Jus doctrine." How far Pope, was a judge of | controversial divinity is not now a question, but the friends of Chubb appear to have brought forward his evidence with triumph.

Chubb had no sooner commenced author, than his success in this new capacity introduced him to the personal knowledge of several gentlemen of eminence and letters, from whose generosity he received occasionally presents of money. We are even told that sir Joseph Jekyll, master of the rolls, took him into his family, and used, at his hours of retirement, to refresh himself from the fatigues of business with his conversation; but the value of this patronage is considerably lessened, when it is added that sir Joseph occasionally employed him to wait at table, as a servant out of livery* Chubb, however, as what is called an untaught genius, was generally caressed; for nobody suspected as yet, to what prodigious lengths he would suffer his reasoning faculty to carry him. He did not coptinue many years with sir Joseph Jekyll, though it is said he was tempted to it by the offer of a genteel allowance, but retired to his friend at Salisbury, where he spent his days in reading and writing, and assisting at the trade, which, by the death of his partner, had devolved on a nephew, and was to the last period of his life a coadjutor in it. Yet that this may not appear a degradation, we are gravely told that he only sold candles by weight in the shop, and did not actually make them. In this mixed employment he passed his life, and died suddenly at Salisbury, Feb. 8, 1746-7, in the sixty-eighth year of his age.

He left behind him two volumes of posthumous works, which he calls “A Farewell to his readers,” from which we may fairly form this judgment of his opinions: “that he had little or no belief of revelation; that indeed he plainly rejects the Jewish revelation, and consequently the Christian, which is founded upon it; that he disclaims a future judgment, and is very uncertain as to any future state of existence; that a particular providence is not deducible from the phenomena of the world, and therefore that prayer cannot be proved a duty, &c. &c.” With such a man we may surely part without reluctance. The wonder is that he should have ever drawn any considerable portion of public attention to the reveries of ignorance, presumption, and disingenuous sophistry. Like his legitimate successor, the late Thomas Paine, he was utterly destitute of that learning and critical skill which is necessary to the explanation of the sacred writings, which, however, he tortured | to his meaning without shame and candour, frequently bringing forward the sentiments of his predecessors in scepticism, as the genuine productions of his own unassisted powers of reasoning. His writings are now indeed probably little read, and his memory might long ago have been consigned to oblivion, had not the editors of the last edition of the Biographia Britannica brought forward his history and writings in a strain of prolix and laboured panegyric. By what inducement such a man as Dr. Kippis was persuaded to admit this article, we shall not now inquire, but the perpetual struggle to create respect for Chubb is evidently as impotent as it is inconsistent. While compelled to admit his attacks upon all that the majority of Christians hold sacred, the writer tells us that “Chubb’s views were not inconsistent with a firm belief in our holy religion,” and in another place, he says that “Chubb appears to have had very much at heart the interests of our holy religion.” To his own profound respect for Chubb, this writer also unites the “admiration” of Dr. Samuel Clarke, bishop Hoadly, Dr. John Hoadly, archdeacon Rolleston, and Mr. Harris; but he does not inform us in what way the admiration of these eminent characters was expressed; and the only evidence he brings is surely equivocal. He tells us that “several of his tracts, when in manuscript, were seen by these gentlemen but they never made the least correction in them, even with regard to orthography, in which Chubb was deficient.” Amidst all these efforts to screen Chubb from contempt, his biographer has not suppressed the character of him given by Dr. Law, bishop of Carlisle, in his “Considerations on the theory of religion,” and which, from the well-knowncandour of that prelate, may be adopted with safety. “Chubb,” says Dr. Law, “notwithstanding a tolerably clear head, and strong natural parts, yet, by ever aiming at things far beyond his reach, by attempting a variety of subjects, for which his narrow circumstances, and small compass of reading and knowledge, had in a great measure disqualified him; from a fashionable, but a fallacious kind of philosophy, (with which he set out, and by which one of his education might very easily be misled), fell by degrees to such confusion in divinity, to such low quibbling on some obscure passages in our translation of the Bible, and was reduced to such wretched cavils as to several historical facts and circumstances, wherein a small skill either in the languages or | sciences, might have set him right; or a small share of real modesty would have supplied the want of them, by putting him upon consulting those who could and would have given him proper assistance; that he seems to have fallen at last into an almost universal scepticism; and quitting that former serious and sedate sobriety which gave him credit, contents himself with carrying on a mere farce for some time; acts the part of a solemn grave buffoon; sneers at all things he does not understand; and after all his fair professions, and the caveat he has entered against such a charge, must unavoidably be set down in the seat of the scorner.” Every point in this charge is fully proved in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Dr. Leland’s View of Deistical Writers. 1


Biog. Brit.