Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ashworth, Caleb

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ASHWORTH, CALEB, D.D. (1722–1775), dissenting tutor, was born at Clough-Fold, Rossendale, Lancashire, in 1722. The date rests on Palmer's statement that he was ‘but fifty-three years of age’ at death, and on the monumental inscription given in Baker's ‘Northamptonshire’ (i. 332). His father, Richard Ashworth, who died in 1751, aged eighty-four, was a lay preacher among the Particular Baptists; he had three sons—Thomas, Particular Baptist minister at Heckmondwike; Caleb; and John, General Baptist minister, colleague of Dr. James Foster (Pope's ‘modest Foster’), who preached his funeral sermon in 1742. Caleb was originally a carpenter; he probably was not in sympathy with his father's views, and thus did not at first turn to the ministry. He was afterwards educated for the independent ministry, under Doddridge, at Northampton, where he first took up his quarters in 1739; and settled at Daventry in 1746, originally as assistant to James Floyd. Under Doddridge's will the management of the academy was left to Ashworth, and, as the Northampton congregation did not elect him their minister, he removed it to Daventry in 1752. He obtained the degree of D.D. from Scotland in 1759. He had married a Miss Hemings, by whom he had three sons and three daughters. His son John entered Daventry academy in 1760, but became a grazier. Ashworth died on 18 July 1775. Under him Daventry academy became a chief seat of culture among the liberal independents and presbyterians, who at that time were closely fused, and partook of the same type of theology and church polity. A list of his students may be found in ‘Monthly Repository,’ 1822. His most distinguished scholar was Priestley, who says that Ashworth took ‘the orthodox side of every question’ in theology and philosophy, the sub-tutor, Samuel Clark, ‘that of heresy.’ Doddridge's plan of referring to authors on all sides of every question, and requiring his students to give an account of them, was faithfully pursued by his successors, with the result of much independence of judgment. A pupil (Rev. T. Thomas, in Month. Rep., 1814, p. 79) says: ‘Under Dr. Doddridge there was a more popular exterior; under Dr. Ashworth a more disciplined interior.’ The defect of the academy was the neglect of languages [see Alexander, John, (1736–1765)], biblical criticism, and ecclesiastical history; its staple was dogmatics and philosophy, including psychology (then called pneumatology), ethics, and physics. Ashworth published for his academy a Hebrew Grammar, and a treatise on ‘Plane Trigonometry;’ for his congregation, a book of ‘Tunes;’ and Funeral Sermons for Dr. Isaac Watts 1749, Rev. James Floyd 1759, and Rev. S. Clark, his coadjutor, 1770.

[Funeral Sermon, by Rev. Samuel Palmer, 1775; Monthly Repository, 1813, 1822; Prietley's Autobiography, incorporated in Rutt's Memoirs and Correspondence of Priestley, 1831.]

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