A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Hutchinsonians

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HUTCHINSONIANS, the followers of John Hutchinson, Esq. a very learned, ingenious, and laborious layman of Yorkshire, in the last century. After receiving a liberal education, he was appointed successively steward to Mr. Bathurst, the Earl of Scarborough, and the Duke of Somerset. In these situations he paid particular attention to mineralogy and fossils, and formed that fine collection, afterwards bequeathed by Dr. Woodward to the university of Cambridge. He soon, however, confined his attention to scripture philosophy, and from the sacred writings alone formed that system which is usually called by his name. His writings make twelve volumes in octavo, published successively between the years 1724 and 1748.

Mr. Hutchinson begins with discarding what is usually called natural religion, and derives all his science from the Hebrew scriptures, which he considers as the fountain of true knowledge, both in philosophy and religion.

The Hebrew he considers as the primitive language of mankind, and revealed immediately from heaven; but the points and accents he totally discards, considering the Jews as bad guides in the study of the old testament. To every Hebrew root he affixes one radical idea, which he supposes to pervade all its forms; and for this radical idea he trusts more to his own ingenuity and industry in examining the sacred books, than to either lexicographers or translators, as will be seen in the following instances.

The Hebrew name of God, which he calls Aleim, he considers as strictly plural, and referring to the persons of the trinity; and the construction of the noun plural with the verb singular, (which is an hebraism,) he views as referring to the unity of the divine essence.

A considerable point of philosophy is founded on the Hebrew Shemim, or 'http://upload.wikimedia.org/skins/common/images/button_italic.png'names of the celestial fluid, in the three conditions of fire, light, and spirit; these he explains as the primary emblems of the trinity; observing that the Father is called in scripture "a consuming fire," (Deut. iv. 24.) the Son "the true light," (John i. 9.) and the name of third person is the Holy Spirit—the same word in the sacred languages (as in some others) signifying both spirit and wind, or the air in motion.

It should have been remarked that Alue, the participle of Aleim, is by Mr. Hutchinson appropriated to the second person of the trinity; and as he thinks the noun plural means the swearers, or the sacred persons bound by oath in covenant for man's redemption; so by Alue he understands that person on whom the curse of the oath fell, (for he supposes every oath to imply a curse or penalty,) namely, the Son of God incarnate to bear "the curse" for our salvation.

The word berith, usually translated covenant, he supposes to mean strictly the purifier ; and, instead of "making a covenant," he would read "cutting off a purifier," alluding to the Lord Jesus, who is compared to "a refiner's fire," and to "fuller's soap," (Mal. iii. 2.) as being the great purifier of his people.

Another term of mysterious import in this system is that of Cherubim, which he does not refer to the angelic orders; but considers the cherubic form, namely, the ox, the lion, and the eagle, as typical, firstly of the trinity of nature, (as Mr. Hutchinson speaks,) namely, fire, light, and air; and secondly, as referring to the sacred trinity of persons in the godhead; and the junction of the lion and man, in this emblematic figure, he understands as pointing out the union of the human nature to the Son of God, who is called "the lion of the tribe of Judah."

Thus, from these and some few other radical words, Mr. Hutchinson founds, not only a peculiar theology, but a system of philosophy materially different from that of Sir Isaac Newton. Sir Isaac supposes a vacuum in nature, but Mr. Hutchinson a plenum; conceiving the whole system of nature a vast sphere, in the centre of which is placed the sun: this he considers as an orb of fire, emitting light to the extremities of the system, where it is condensed into air, (or material spirit,) and reverting back to the sun, as it approaches its source is melted (or rather ground) into light and fire. In the immense distance of the circumference of this system he places the fixed stars; but admits no other solar system than one, beyond the limits of which he conceives there can he nothing beside outer and utter darkness.

It is an axiom with Mr. Hutchinson, that all our ideas are borrowed from external objects; hence his science is a kind of allegorical philosophy; and he has a peculiar way of spiritualizing the scriptures in reference to scientific objects—as for instance, the cherubim in the tabernacle and temple, as above explained.

It is impossible here to produce (much less examine) the various scriptures on which Mr. Hutchinson and his followers rest their hypothesis; the inquisitive reader will refer to the authorities below. It may be proper to add, that they adopt the copernican (which they esteem the spiritual) system of the heavens, and confirm their notion of the indentity of fire, light, and air, by the modern experiments in electricity.

In expounding the old testament, particularly the psalms, the Hutchinsonians follow the Cacceians, (which see) and consider Jesus Christ and his redemption as the sum and substance of the scriptures.[1]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Hutchinson's Works, vol. iii. p. 10, &c. Spearman's Inquiry, p. 260-273, Hodge's Elihu, p. 35, Lee's Sophron, vol. i. p. 31; vol. ii. p. 663. Jones; Lectures, p. 9, 10. Skinner's Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 673-676. Forbes'Works. Pike's Philosophia Sacra.