1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chauncy, Charles

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CHAUNCY, CHARLES (1592–1672), president of Harvard College, was born at Yardley-Bury, Hertfordshire, England, in November 1592, and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow. He was in turn vicar at Ware, Hertfordshire (1627–1633), and at Marston St Lawrence, Northamptonshire (1633–1637). Refusing to observe the ecclesiastical regulations of Archbishop Laud, he was brought before the court of high commission in 1629, and again in 1634, when, for opposing the placing of a rail around the communion table, he was suspended and imprisoned. His formal recantation in February 1637 caused him lasting self-reproach and humiliation. In 1637 he emigrated to America, and from 1638 until 1641 was an associate pastor at Plymouth, where, however, his advocacy of the baptism of infants by immersion caused dissatisfaction. He was the pastor at Scituate, Massachusetts, from 1641 until 1654, and from 1654 until his death was president of Harvard College, as the successor of the first president Henry Dunster (c. 1612–1659). He died on the 19th of February 1672. By his sermons and his writings he exerted a great influence in colonial Massachusetts, and according to Mather was “a most incomparable scholar.” His writings include: The Plain Doctrine of the Justification of a Sinner in the Sight of God (1659) and Antisynodalia Scripta Americana (1662). His son, Isaac Chauncy (1632–1712), who removed to England, was a voluminous writer on theological subjects.

There are biographical sketches of President Chauncy in Cotton Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana. (London, 1702), and in W. C. Fowler’s Memorials of the Chauncys, including President Chauncy (Boston, 1858).

President Chauncy’s great-grandson, Charles Chauncy (1705–1787), a prominent American theologian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 1st of January 1705, and graduated at Harvard in 1721. In 1727 he was chosen as the colleague of Thomas Foxcroft (1697–1769) in the pastorate of the First Church of Boston, continuing as pastor of this church until his death. At the time of the “Great Awakening” of 1740–1743 and afterwards, Chauncy was the leader of the so-called “Old Light” party in New England, which strongly condemned the Whitefieldian revival as an outbreak of emotional extravagance. His views were ably presented in his sermon Enthusiasm and in his Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England (1743), written in answer to Jonathan Edwards’s Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1742). He also took a leading part in opposition to the projected establishment of an Anglican Episcopate in America, and before and during the American War of Independence he ardently supported the whig or patriot party. Theologically he has been classed as a precursor of the New England Unitarians. He died in Boston on the 10th of February 1787. His publications include: Compleat View of Episcopacy, as Exhibited in the Fathers of the Christian Church, until the close of the Second Century (1771); Salvation of All Men, Illustrated and Vindicated as a Scripture Doctrine (1782); The Mystery Hid from Ages and Generations made manifest by the Gospel-Revelation (1783); and Five Dissertations on the Fall and its Consequences (1785).

See P. L. Ford’s privately printed Bibliotheca Chaunciana (Brooklyn, N.Y., 1884); and Williston Walker’s Ten New England Leaders (New York, 1901).