Whitby, Daniel

, a learned divine, but of unsteady character, was born in 1638, at Rushden, -or Rusden, in Northamptonshire, and was in 1653 admitted of Trinity college, Oxford, of which he was elected a scholar in June 1655. He took his degree of B. A. in 1657, and that of M. A. in 1660. In 1664, he was elected fellow of his college, and the same year he engaged in controversy with the popish writers, by publishing, 1. “Romish Doctrines not from the beginning: or a Reply to what S. C. (Serenus Cressy), a Roman catholick, hath returned to Dr. Pierce’s Sermon preached before his Majesty at Whitehall, Feb. 1, 1662, in vindication of our Church against the novelties of Rome,” Lond. 4to. This was followed in 1663 by another piece against Serjeant, entitled, 2. “An Answer to Sure Footing, so far as Mr Whitby is concerned in it,” &c. 8vo. 3. “An endeavour to evince the certainty of Christian Faith in general, and of the Resurrection of Christ in particular.Oxford, 1671, 8vo. 4. “A Discourse concern”, ing the idolatry of the Church of Rome; wherein that charge is justified, and the pretended Refutation of Dr. Stillingfleet’s Discourse is answered.“London, 1674, 8vo. 5.” The absurdity and idolatry of Host-Worship proved, by shewing how it answers what is said in Scripture and | the Writings of the Fathers; to shew the folly and idolatry committed in the worship of the Heathen Deities. Also a full answer to all those pleas hy which Papists would wipe off the charge of Idolatry; and an Appendix against Transubstantiation; with some reflections on a late Popish book, called, The Guide of Controversies,“London, 1679, 8vo. 6.A Discourse concerning the Laws Ecclesiastical and Civil made against Heretics by Popes, Emperors, and Kings, Provincial and General Councils, approved by the Church of Rome. Shewing, I. What Protestant subjects may expect to suffer under a Popish Prince acting according to those Laws. II. That no Oath or Promise of such a Prince can give them any just security that he will not execute these laws upon them. With a preface against persecuting and destroying Heretics,“London, 1682, 4to. Reprinted at London, 1723, in 8vo, with an Introduction by bishop Kennet, who ascribes this piece to Dr. Maurice, but it was reclaimed by Dr. Whitby himself in his” Twelve Sermons preached at the Cathedral of Sarum."

Thus far Dr. Whitby had proceeded with credit to himself, and with satisfaction to the church to which he belonged, and the patron who had befriended him. Dr. Seth Ward, bishop of Salisbury, who made him his chaplain, and in Oct. 1668 collated him to the prebend of Yatesbury in that cathedral, and in November following to the prebend of Husborn Tarrant and Burbach. He was also in September 1672 admitted precentor of the same church, about which time he accumulated the degrees of B. D. and D. D. and was preferred to the rectory of St. Edmund’s church in Salisbury. But in 182 he excited general censure by the publication of, “The Protestant Reconciler, humbly pleading for condescension to Dissenting Brethren in things indifferent and unnecessary, for the sake of peace; and shewing how unreasonable it is to make such things the necessary conditions of Communion. By a well-wisher to the Church’s Peace, and a Lamenter of her sad Divisions,” Lond. 1683, in 8vo. What kind of work this was, wili appear most clearly by his own declaration hereafter mentioned. It was published without his name, but he must have been soon discovered. The first opposition made to it was in the way of controversy, by various divines who answered it. Among these were, Laurence Womack, D. D. in his “Suffragium Protestantium: wherein our governors are justified in their impositions and | proceedings against Dissenters, Meisner also, and the Verdict rescued from the cavils and seditious sophistry of the Protestant Reconciler,” Loud. 1683, 8vo; David Jenner, B. D. sometime of Caius college in Cambridge, afterwards rector of Great Wariey in Essex, prebendary of Sarum, and chaplain to his majesty, in his “Bilrons: or a new discovery of Treason under the fair face and mask of Religion, and of Liberty of Conscience, &c.” Lond. 1683, 4to; the author of “An awakening Word to the Grand jury men of the nation,” Lond. 1683, 4to, to which is added, “A brief comparison between Dan. Whitby and Titus Gates: the first protected in his virulence to sacred majesty by one or two of his fautors: the second punished for his abuses of the king’s only brother by the loyal chiefjustice Jefferies. The first saved harmless in many preferments (three of which are in one church of Sarum:) the second fined in mercy no more than 100,Oooz.Samuel Thomas, M. A. in two pieces printed without his name, viz. “Animadversions upon a late treatise, entitled, the Protestant Reconciler,” &c. Lond. 1683, 8vo, and “Remarks on the Preface to the Protestant Reconciler, in a letter to a friend: dated February the 28ih, 1682,” Lond. 1683, 4to. The author of the pamphlet entitled “Three Letters of Thanks to the Protestant Reconciler. 1. From the Anabaptists at Munster. 2. From the Congregations in New England. 3. From the Quakers in Pensylvania.” It does not appear that Dr. Whitby made any reply to these; and the disapprobation of his book increased so much, that at length it was condemned by the university of Oxford in their congregation held July the 21st, 1683, and burnt by the hands of the university-marshal in the Schools Quadrangle. Some passages, likewise, gave such offence to bishop Ward, that he obliged our author to make a retractation, which he did in the following form: “October the 9th, 1683. I Daniel Whitby, doctor of divinity, chantor of the church of Sarum, and rector of the parish church of St. Edmund’s 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 establised by law, or others. And whereas it contained several passages, which I am | confirmed 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 or displeasure of ray superiors. And furthermore, whereas these two propositions have been deduced and concluded from the said book, viz. 1. That it is not lawful for superiors to impose any thing in the worship of God, that is not antecedently necessary; 2. 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 th church for the same.” This retractation is styled by one of his biographers “an instance of human weakness,” but it was of such weakness as seems to have adhered to this divine throughout life, for we shall soon find him voluntarily retracting opinions of far greater consequence. In the mean time he carried the same weakness so far, as to publish a second part of his “Protestant Reconciler, earnestly persuading the Dissenting Laity to join in full Communion with the Church of England; and answering all the objections of Nonconformists against the lawfulness of their submission unto the rights and constitutions of that Church,” Lond. 1683, 8vo. His next publications were two pamphlets in vindication of the revolution, and the oath of allegiance. He also published some more tracts on the popish controversy, and an excellent compendium of ethics. “Ethices compendium in usum academicae juventutis,Oxford, 1684, 12mo, which has often been reprinted and used as a text-book. In 1691 he published “A Discourse concerning the truth and certainty of the Christian faith, from the extraordinary gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost, vouchsafed to the Apostles and primitive professors of that faith.

His most important publication was his “Paraphrase and commentary on the New Testament,” which appeared in 1703, 2 vols. fol. and was the fruit of fifteen years study. He published afterwards the following pieces as a sequel to, or connected with his commentary: “Additional annotations to the New Testament;” with seven discourses; and | an Appendix, entitled “Examen variantium Lectionuni Johannis Millii in Novum Testamentum;” or, “An Examination of the various readings in Dr. Mill’s New Testament;” “The necessity and usefulness of the Christian IleveJation, by reason of the corruptions of the principles of natural religion among Jews and Heathens,London, 1705, 8vo; “Reflections on some assertions and opinions of Mr. Dodweli, contained in a hook entitled ’ An Epistolary discourse proving from the Scripture and first fathers, that the soul is a principle naturally mortal. Shewing the falsehood and the pernicious consequences of them. To which is added an answer to a pamphlet, entitled, some passages in Dr. Whitby’s paraphrase and annotations on the New Testament contrary to Scripture and the received Doctrine of the Church of England,London, 1707, 8vo.

He now published his refutations of Calvinism, first, “Four Discourses, shewing, I. That the Apostle’s words, Romans the ninth, have no relation to any personal Election or Reprobation. II. That the Election mentioned in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Gentiles is only that of the Gentiles to be God’s Church and People. III. That these two assertions of Dr. John Edwards, viz. 1. That God’s foreknowledge of future contingencies depends on his decree, and that he foreknows them, because he decreed them: 2. That God did from all eternity decree the commission of all the sins in the world: are false, blasphemous, and render God the author of sin. IV. Being a Vindication of my Annotations from the Doctor’s cavils. To which is added, as an appendix, a short answer to the Doctor’s discourse concerning the fixed term of human life,London, 1710, 8vo. And secondly, “A Discourse concerning, 1. The true import of the words Election and Reprobation; and the things signified by them in the Holy Scriptures. 2. The Extent of Christ’s ‘Redemption. 3. The Grace of God: where it is inquired, whether it be vouchsafed sufficiently to those who improve it not, and irresistibly to those who do improve it; and whether men be wholly passive in the work of their regeneration? 4. The Liberty of the Will in a State of Trial and Probation. 5. The Perseverance or Defectibility of the Saints: with some reflections on the state of the Heathens, the Providence and Prescience of God,London, 1710, 8vo.

Some extracts from the preface to this work will shew by what process Dr. Whitby was led to those changes of | opinion, which ended at last in a denial of all he had written on many other important points. It is a curious process, and not, we are afraid, peculiar to him only. In this Preface he observes, “That what moved him narrowly to search into the” principal of the Caivinistical Doctrines, especially that of the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, was the strange consequences which attended it. After some years study he met with one who seemed to be a Deist; and telling him, that there were arguments sufficient to prove the truth of the Christian Faith and of the Holy Scriptures, the other scornfully replied, ‘Yes, and you will prove your doctrine of the imputation of original sin from the same Scripture;’ intimating that he thought that doctrine, if contained in it, sufficient to invalidate the truth and authority of the Scripture. The objection of this Deistical person our author reduces into this form: the truth of the Holy Scripture can no otherwise be proved to any one who doubts it, but by reducing him to SDme absurdity, or the denial of some avowed principle of reason; but the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, so as to render them obnoxious to God’s wrath and eternal damnation, seems as contrary to the common reason of mankind as any thing can be, and so contains as strong an argument against the truth of Scripture, if it be contained in it, as any that can be offered for it. Upon this account our author searched farther into the places usually alledged to confirm that doctrine, and upon inquiry found them fairly capable of other interpretations. One doubt remained still, whether antiquity did not give suffrage to this doctrine; and though Vossius roundly asserts this, yet our author upon inquiry found, that all the passages, which he had collected, were either impertinent or at least insufficient to prove his point. And having made a collection of these matters, our author finished a treatise of ‘Original Sin’ in Latin about twenty years before, though he did not think proper to publish it. He tells us likewise, that he discoursed another time with a physician, who was of opinion, that there was some cause to doubt of the truth of Scripture, because it seems plainly to deliver the doctrine of ‘ absolute Election and Reprobation’ in the 9th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans; which doctrine is attended with more absurdities than can be charged on them who question the truth of the Scriptures, and seems as repugnant to the common notions | which mankind have received of the divine justice, goodness, and sincerity, as even the saying, that God considering man * in massa perdita,‘ as lost in Adam, may delude him with false miracles, seems repugnant to his truth. And reading in Mr. Dodweli that bold stroke, that St. Paul being bred a Pharisee, spake in that chapter ’ ex mente Pbarisaeorum,‘ according to the doctrine of the Pharisees concerning fate, which they borrowed from the stoics; this gave our author occasion to set himself to make the best and exactest search he could into the sense of the Apostle in that chapter; and the best help he had to attain to the sense of that chapter, which he has given in his ’ Paraphrase,’ he received from a manuscript of Dr. Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely. Thence he went on to examine all that was urged in favour of tnese doctrines from the Scriptures* It was no small confirmation to him of the places usually produced, and which he rescued from the adversaries of the doctrine he contends for; first, that he found, that he still sailed with the stream of antiquity, seeing only St, Austin with his two boatswains Prosper and Fulgentius tugging hard against it, and often driven back into it by the strong current of Scripture, reason, and common sense: secondly, that he observed, that the heretics of old used many of the same texts of Scripture to the same purposes as the Decretalists do at present. And thirdly, that the Valentinians, Marcionites, Basilidians, Manichees, Priscil*­lianists, and other heretics were condemned by the ancient champions of the church upon the same accounts, and from the same Scriptures and reasons, which he now uses against the Decretalists."

Having proceeded thus far, with the reputation of an orthodox Arminian, and an able opponent of Calvinism, he had one step farther to go. When he wrote his Commentary on the New Testament, the study of fifteen years bestowed on that work had discovered nothing to him to shake his belief in the doctrine of the Trinity; but what fifteen years could not do, as many days were sufficient to eflect in the present fluctuating state of his opinions; for immediately on the appearance of Dr. Clarke’s “Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity,Whitby became a decided Arian, and published, but in Latin, a treatise to prove, “that the controversies raised about the Trinity could not be certainly determined from fathers, councils, or catholic tradition;” and a discourse, shewing, that the exposition | which the ante-Nicene fathers have given of the texts alleged against the Rev. Mr. Clarke by a learned layman (Mr. Nelson), are more agreeable to the interpretation of Dr. Clarke than to the interpretations of that learned layman.“On this subject he had a short controversy with Dr. Waterland. In these sentiments Dr. Whitby remained to the last; as may be seen by the following extract from the preface to his” Last Thoughts.“” An exact scrutiny into things doth often produce conviction, that those things which we once judged to be right, were, after a more diligent inquiry into truth, found to be otherwise; and truly,“says Dr. Whitby,I am not ashamed to say, this is my case; for when I wrote my Commentaries on the New Testament, I went on (too hastily, I own,) in the common beaten road of other reputed orthodox divines; conceiving, that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in one complex notion, were one and the same God, by virtue of the same individual essence communicated from the Father. This confused notion, I am now fully convinced, by the arguments I have offered here, and in the second part of my reply to Dr. Waterland, to be a thing impossible, and full of gross absurdities and contradictions."

After having thus determined, that the majority of his brethren were helievers in “gross absurdities and contradictions,” we are not surprised to find him publishing some pamphlets in defence of Hoadly, in the Bangorian controversy. His last work, but which he did not live to see published, was that just mentioned, under the title of “The last Thoughts of Dr. Whitby, containing his correction of several passages in his Commentary on the New Testament. To which are added five Discourses,” published by his express order; and with an account of his life, drawn up by Dr. Sykes, principally from the ‘Athenae OxoniensesV* It is in this work that he retracts all he had written in support of the doctrine of the Trinity; and appeals “to the searcher of hearts,” and calls God to witness, <c whether he had hastily or rashly departed from the common opinion," &c.

Dr. Whitby died March 24, 1726, aged eighty-eight years. It is said, that he preached the day before, at St. Edmund’s church. How he conducted thie service of the. church, after changing his opinions, we are not told. Wood, who lived till 1695, gives his character in the following words.: “He is a person very welt read in the | fathers, and in polemical divinity, especially as to the main’ part thereof, which is directed against papists. He hath been all along so wholly devoted to his severer studies, that he hath scarcely ever allowed himself leisure to mind any of those mean and trifling worldly concerns, which administer matter of gain, pleasure, reach, and cunning. Also he hath not been in the least tainted with those too much now-a-days practised arts of fraud, cozenage, and deceit.” He was upwards of fifty when Wood gave this good character of him; to which Dr. Sykes adds, “that he was in stature short and very thin, had a tenacious memory, even to the last, and always closely appliecj himself to his studiesthat he was ever strangely ignorant of worldly affairs, even to a degree that is scarcely to be conceived; and that he was easy, affable, pious, devout, and charitable.

He published more pieces than we have enumerated, and some volumes of sermons. Of all his works his “Commentary” only is now in reputation, being generally joined with those of Patrick and Lowth, to form a series of commentaries on the whole of the Bible. His work on the Five Points has likewise been reprinted more than once. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. II. Life prefixed to his “Last Thoughts.” Gen. Dict. Biog. Brit. Burnei’s Own Times. Birch’s Tillotson. Disney’s Life of Sykes, p. 163.