Gale, Theophilus

, a learned divine among the nonconformists, was born in 1628, at King’s-Teignton in Devonshire, where his father, Dr. Theophilus Gale, was then vicar, with which he likewise held a prebend in the church of Exeter. Being descended of a very good family in the West of England, his education was begun under a private preceptor, in his father’s house, and he was then sent to a school in the neighbourhood, where he made a great proficiency in classical learning, and was removed to Oxford in 1647. He was entered a commoner in Magdalen college, a little after that city, with the university, had been surrendered to the parliament; and their visitors in the general reformation (as they called it) of the university, had put Dr. Wilkinson into the presidentship of Magdalen college, who took particular notice of young Gale, and procured him to be appointed a demy of his college in 1648. But the current of kindness to him was far from stopping here; he was recommended to the degree of bachelor of arts Dec. 1649, by the commissioners, long before the time appointed for taking that degree by the statutes of the university, viz. four years after admission. Of this departure from the usual term of granting a degree they were so sensible, that care was taken by them to have a particular reason set forth, for conferring it so early upon him; expressing, that he was fully ripe for that honour, both in respect of his age. and the excellence of his abilities. It was probably owing to the countenance of the same patrons that he was chosen fellow of his college in 1650, in preference to many of his seniors, who were set aside to make room for him. It is acknowledged, however, that he deserved those distinctions. He took the degree of M. A. June 18, 1652, and being encouraged to take pupils, soon became an eminent tutor, and had, among other pupils, Ezekiel Hopkins, afterwards bishop of Raphoe, in Ireland.

In the mean time he continued to prosecute his own | studies with vigour; and choosing divinity for his profession, applied himself particularly to that study. On reading Grotius, on the “Truth of the Christian Religion,” he began to think it possible to make it appear, that the wisest of the pagan philosophers borrowed their more sublime contemplations, as well natural and moral, as divine, from the Scriptures; and that, how different soever they might be in their appearance, not only their theology, but their philosophy and philology, were derived from the sacred oracles. Upon this principle he undertook the arduous work, which from this time became the principal object of his theological researches for many years. He did not, however, neglect the duties of the priesthood, an 1 his discourses from the pulpit were conspicuous proofs of his distinguished piety and learning. He was invited to Winchester, and became a stated preacher there in 1657; in this station he continued for some years, generally admired and esteemed, both for his excellent sermons and his exemplary life and conversation. But, being bred up in puritanical principles, he was unalterably devoted to them; so that upon the re-establishment of the church by Charles II. he could not prevail with himself to comply with the act of uniformity in 1661, and, rather than violate his conscience, chose to suffer all the penalties of the law.

Thus excluded from the public service of his function, and deprived of his fellowship at Oxford, he found friends among his own party, and was taken into the family of Philip lord Wharton, in quality of tutor to his two sons. The state of the universities at home being now very discordant to the principles of lord Wharton, he sent his sons, with their tutor, in 1662, to Caen, in Normandy, a seminary which flourished at that time under the direction of the most distinguished professors of the reformed religion in France; among whom was the celebrated Bochart. With this learned divine and several other persons of distinguished erudition Gale became acquainted, and by this intercourse, as well as by travel, greatly improved himself without neglecting his charge.

In 1665 he returned to England with his pupils, and attending them home to their father’s seat at Quainton, in 7>uckinghamshire, continued in the family till 1666 when, bring released from this employ, he set out thence for London, and was struck on the road with the dreadful sight | of the city in flames. The first shock being over, he recollected his own papers, his greatest treasure, which, when he left England, he had committed to the care of a particular friend in London. He soon learnt that the house of this friend was burnt, and gave up his papers as lost, and with them all hopes of completing his great work. They had, however, by a fortunate accident, been preserved, and the “Court of the Gentiles” was destined to receive its completion. At this period he became assistant to Mr. John Rowe, his countryman, who had then a private congregation in Holborn; and continued in that station till the death of his principal, Oct. 12, 1677, when. Mr. Gale was chosen to succeed him, together with Mr. Samuel Lee, his assistant.

In the mean time the publication of his “Court of the Gentiles” had- proceeded gradually, in consequence of the great care he took to complete and digest his collections, and to make the work in all respects a masterly production. The first part was published at Oxford in 1669, and, being received with great applause, was followed by the other three, the last of which came out in 1677, the year when he succeeded Mr. Rowe. But this work, large ’and laborious as it was, did not prove sufficient to employ his spare hours: he wrote also, within the same period, several other works; namely, 2. “The true Idea of Jansenism,1669, 4to; with a large preface by Dr. John Owen. 3. “Theophilus, or a Discourse of the Saints’ amity with God in Christ,1671, 8vo. 4. “The Anatomy of Infidelity, &c.”' 1672, 8vo. 5. “A Discourse of Christ’s coming, &c.1673, 8vo. 6. “Idea Theologiae tarn contemplative quam activoe, ad formam S. S. delineata,1673, 12mo. 7. “A Sermon, entitled, Wherein the Love of the World is inconsistent with the Love of God,1674; printed also in the supplement to the morning exercise at Cripplegate. 8. “Philosophia generalis in duas partes disterminata, &c.1676, 8vo. 9., “A Summary of the two Covenants,” prefixed to a piece published by him, entitled “A Discourse of the two Covenants,” written by William Strong, sometime preacher at the Abbey church at Westminster. “The Life and death of Thomas Tregosse, minister of the gospel at Milar and Mabe in Cbrnwal, with his Character,” was also written by him, and published in 1671, though he seems to have concealed the circumstance as much as possible. | Such were the fruits of our author’s studies; for the sake of prosecuting which, with the privacy requisite, he chose Newington for his retreat; where he instructed a few young persons under his own roof. But he was frequently visited hy persons of distinction, and some of a different opinion from him in religious matters, out of a desire to testify their esteem for unaffected piety and extensive learning. In 1678 he published proposals for printing by subscription, “Lexicon Grreci Testamenti Etymologicon, Synonymum, sive Glossarium Homonymum.” This, as the title imports, was intended by him for a lexicon and concordance together: he finished it as far as the letter Iota, and the most considerable words were also placed under other letters. But he was prevented from carrying it further by his death; which happened in March that year, when he was not quite fifty. As to his character, besides what has been already mentioned, he was a most zealous non-conformist, stedfast in those opinions, and warm in the defence of them. His zeal this way extended itself beyond the grave; he wished, he resolved, to perpetuate them as far as he was able. In that spirit he bequeathed all his estate to young students of his own principles, and appointed trustees to manage it for their support. He bequeathed also his well-chosen library toward promoting useful learning in New England, where those principles universally prevailed. But, notwithstanding this warm concern for supporting and propagating his own communion, he was not without charity for those who differed from him, whom he would labour to convince, but not to compel; being as much an enemy to sedition as he was to persecution. Hence we find even Wood giving him all his just commendations without those abatements and restrictions which are usual in his characters. It was allowed also, that, in hit “Court of the Gentiles,” and other works, he shewed extensive learning, and considerable abilities.

In this work, partly, as we have already noticed, but chiefly in his “Philosophia generalis,” he was induced, says Brucker, to become a zealous advocate for Platonism through a violent antipathy to the Cartesian system, which he thought unfriendly to morals, and contradictory to the doctrine of revelation. He undertook to trace back philosophy to its origin, and maintained, that there was a wonderful agreement between the ancient barbaric | philosophy, and the Jewish and Christian theology. He brought every philosophical tenet to the test of the scriptures, and thought that it would not be a difficult undertaking, to separate from the pagan philosophy those doctrines which originated in divine revelation, and had been transmitted by tradition from the Hebrews to the gentiles. Having persuaded himself that these doctrines had passed in a direct line, and without material corruption, from the Hebrew fountain to Plato, he recommended his philosophical writings as, next to the scriptures, the most valuable remains of ancient wisdom. The chief point which he labours to maintain in his “Philosophia generalis” is, that Plato received his knowledge of theology from the Hebrews, and that the doctrine on this subject taught by him and his followers, for the most part, agrees with that of the holy scriptures. This opinion he implicitly adopts from the ancient fathers, whose authority, with respect to this matter, Brucker thinks there is reason to call in question. His account of other philosophers is given, without much appearance of accurate discrimination, chiefly from Laertius. He divides the Aristotelian philosophy into pure and impure, and supposes, gratuitously enough, that the former passed from Moses to the Stagy rite through the channel of Plato’s instruction. 1


Ath. Ox. vol, II.—Calamy.—Biog. Brit.—Brucker’s Hist. of Philosophy.