Whitby, Daniel (DNB00)
|←Whitbread, Samuel||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61
WHITBY, DANIEL (1638–1726), polemical divine and commentator, son of Thomas Whitby, rector (1631–7) of Rushden, Northamptonshire, afterwards rector of Barrow-on-Humber, Lincolnshire, was born at Rushden on 24 March 1638 (manuscript note in British Museum copy, 3226 bb., 36, of his Last Thoughts, 1728). After attending school at Caster, Lincolnshire, he became in 1653 a commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, matriculating on 23 July, when his name is written Whitbie. He was elected scholar on 13 June 1655; graduated B.A. on 20 April 1657, M.A. on 10 April 1660, and was elected fellow in 1664. In the same year he came out as a writer, or rather compiler, against Roman catholic doctrine, attacking Hugh Paulinus or Serenus Cressy, D.D. [q. v.] He was answered by John Sergeant [q. v.], to whom he replied in 1666. Seth Ward [q. v.], bishop of Salisbury, made him his chaplain in 1668, giving him on 22 Oct. the prebend of Yatesbury, and on 7 Nov. the prebend of Husborn-Tarrant and Burbage. In 1669 he became perpetual curate of St. Thomas's and rector of St. Edmund's, Salisbury. He next wrote on the evidences (1671). On 11 Sept. 1672 he was installed precentor at Salisbury, and at once accumulated B.D. and D.D. (13 Sept.) He resumed his anti-Romish polemics in 1674, and continued to publish on this topic at intervals till 1689.
Considerable popularity had attended Whitby's earlier controversial efforts; he lost it by putting forth anonymously, late in 1682, 'The Protestant Reconciler,' pleading for concessions to nonconformists, with a view to their comprehension. A fierce paper war followed, in which Lawrence Womock [q. v.], David Jenner [q. v.], and Samuel Thomas [q. v.] took part. In contemporary pamphlets Whitby, nicknamed Whigby, was unfavourably contrasted with Titus Oates; ironical letters of thanks were addressed to him, purporting to come from Minister anabaptists and others. The university of Oxford in convocation (21 July 1683) condemned the proposition 'that the duty of not offending a weak brother is inconsistent with all human authority of making laws concerning indifferent things,' and ordered Whitby's book to be forthwith burned by the university marshal in the schools quadrangle. Seth Ward extorted from Whitby a retractation (9 Oct. 1683) in which he accused himself of 'want of prudence and deference to authority,' revoked 'all irreverent and unmeet expressions,' and renounced the above proposition and another similar one. He further issued a 'second part' of the 'Protestant Reconciler,' urging dissenters to conformity.
In 1684 he published in Latin a compendium of ethics. In 1689 he wrote in favour of taking the oaths to William and Mary. He took a small part in the Socinian controversy [see Sherlock, William, D.D.] by publishing (1691) a Latin tract on the divinity of Christ. On 14 April 1696 he received the prebend of Taunton Regis. His magnum opus, which has retained a certain reputation to the present century, is a 'Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament,' begun in 1688 and published in 1703, fol. 2 vols.; latest edition, 1822, 4to. Doddridge (Works, 1804, v. 472) thought it, with all deductions, 'preferable to any other.' In his commentary he opposes Tillotson's view of hell torments. Faith he defined as mere assent to Gospel facts as true. A Latin appendix (1710) is an unwise attack on the critical labours of John Mill [q. v.] Of this 'Examen' use was made by Anthony Collins [q. v.]; it was reprinted (Leyden, 1724) by Sigebert Haverkamp. A later Latin dissertation (1714) rejects the authority of the fathers as interpreters of Scripture, or as entitled to determine controversies respecting the Trinity. He had been led to this position by his antagonism (1707) to the arguments on which Henry Dodwell the elder [q. v.] based his rejection of the natural immortality of the soul. He made further use of it in criticisms directed (1718) against George Bull [q. v.] and (1720-1) Daniel Waterland [q. v.] His knowledge of the fathers was accurate, but not profound.
Meanwhile his busy pen was engaged (1710-11) in refuting the Calvinistic positions of John Edwards (1637-1716) [q.v.] He is usually ranked as an Arminian, but his strenuous denial of the imputation of Adam's sin soon carried him beyond Arminian lines. In the Bangorian controversy he wrote (1714 and 1718) in defence of Hoadly. On the doctrine of our Lord's deity, which he had defended in 1691 and had firmly upheld throughout his New Testament commentary (1703), he was shaken by the treatise (1712) of Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) [q. v.] Of this there are marked evidences in his criticisms of Bull and Waterland, but the extent of his departure from 'the received opinion' was not revealed till the posthumous publication ('by his express order') in April 1727 of his 'Last Thoughts,' which he calls his 'retractation,' and which 'clearly shows his unitarianism' (letter of 17 July 1727 by Samuel Crellius, in 'Thesaurus Epistolicus La-Crozianus,' quoted in Wallace's Anti-trinitarian Biography, 1850, iii. 471).
Whitby suffered in his later years from failing sight, and employed an amanuensis, otherwise he retained his faculties, including a tenacious memory, to a very advanced age. He was 'very well, and at church [according to Noble he had preached extempore] the day before he died; and returning home was seized with a fainting, and died the night following' (Sykes). He died on 24 March 1725-6, his eighty-eighth birthday. His portrait, painted by E. Knight, was engraved (1709) by Van der Gucht. He was short and very thin; always studious, using no recreation except tobacco, affable in disposition, but utterly ignorant of business matters. To his piety and unselfishness there is full testimony.
Sykes gives a list of thirty-nine publications by Whitby, not counting several separate sermons. The chief are:
I. (against Romanism):
- 'Romish Doctrines not from the Beginning,' 1664, 4to.
- 'An Answer to "Sure Footing,"' Oxford, 1666, 8vo (with appended 'Answer to Five Questions').
- 'A Discourse concerning the Idolatry of … Rome,' 1674, 8vo.
- 'The … Idolatry of Host-Worship,' 1679, 8vo.
- 'A Discourse concerning … Laws … against Heretics … approved by … Rome,' 1682, 4to.
- 'Treatise in confutation of the Latin Service,' 1687, 4to.
- 'The Fallibility of the Roman Church,' 1687, 4to.
- 'A Demonstration that … Rome and her Councils have erred,' 1688,4to.
- 'Treatise of Traditions,' pt. i. 1688, 4to; pt. ii. 1689, 4to.
- 'Irrisio Dei Pannarii Romanensium,' 1716, 8vo (in English).
II. (on the evidences):
- 'Λόγος τῆς πίστεως … the Certainty of Christian Faith,' Oxford, 1671, 8vo.
- 'Discourse concerning the Truth … of the Christian Faith,' 1691, 4to.
- 'The Necessity … of … Revelation,' 1705, 8vo.
- 'Ἡ λογικὴ λατρεία … Reason is to be our guide in … Religion,' 1714, 8vo.
III. (against Calvinism):
- 'A Discourse concerning … Election and Reprobation,' 1710, 8vo.
- 'Four Discourses … Personal Election or Reprobation,' 1710, 8vo (includes replies to Edwards).
- 'Tractatus de Imputatione … Peccati Adami posteris ejus, 1711, 8vo.
IV. (on the fathers):
- 'Reflections on … Dodwell,' 1707, 8vo.
- 'Dissertatio de S. Scripturarum Interpretatione secundum Patrum Commentaries,' 1714, 8vo.
- 'A Discourse, showing that … the Ante-Nicene Fathers … are … agreeable to the Interpretations of Dr. Clarke,' 1714, 8vo (against Robert Nelson [q. v.])
V. (on the Trinity):
- 'Tractatus de vera Christi Deitate adversus Arii et Socini hæreses,' 1691, 4to (shows extensive knowledge of Socinian writers).
- 'A Dissuasive from enquiring into the Doctrine of the Trinity,' 1714, 8vo.
- 'A … Confutation of the Doctrine of the Sabellians,' 1716, 8vo.
- 'Disquisitiones Modestæ in Bulli Defensionem Fidei Nicaenæ,' 1718, 8vo.
- 'A Reply to Dr. Waterland's Objections,' 1720, 8vo; second part 1721, 8vo.
- (posthumous) 'Ὕστεραι Φροντίδες; or … Last Thoughts … added, Five Discourses,' 1727, 8vo (edited by Arthur Ashley Sykes [q.v.]); 2nd ed. 1728, 8vo; reprinted with additions by the Unitarian Association, 1841, 8vo.
Volumes of his sermons were issued in 1710, 1720, 1726.
[Short Account, by Sykes, prefixed to Last Thoughts, 1727; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Tanner), ii. 1068; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 671; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), ii. 198, 223, 332-3; Biographia Britannica, 1763, vi. 4216 (article by 'C.,' i.e. Philip Morant [q. v.]); Noble's Continuation of Granger, 1806, ii. 112; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), 1854, ii. 644, 657, 664; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1612.]