Free Online Bible Library | Samuel Clarke

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Samuel Clarke

1675-1729. Philosophical theologian. Son of a British member of Parliament, he was educated at the Norwich Free School and at Caius College, Cambridge. There Rohault's System of Natural Philosophy (in indifferent Latin), a Cartesian work, was in use. While still a student Clarke retranslated this (published 1697) and in footnotes explained how much better Newton's physics explained the facts. As a result, the views of Newton, who became his friend, were quickly accepted in the university. After ordination Clarke wrote several theological texts, including paraphrases of the gospels, and later threw himself, on the Christian side, into the controversies of the day-the immortality of the soul, ethics, the Trinity, natural theology, Locke's empiricism, the materialism of Hobbes, Spinoza's pantheism, etc. He is best known for his Boyle Lectures of 1704 (Being and Attributes of God) and 1705 (Discourse on Natural and Revealed Religion), in which he argued for belief in God and in the Christian religion, in the form of propositions in mathematical style. Learning that Newtonianism was being blamed for the decline of natural theology, Clarke corresponded with Leibnitz,* defending Newtonianism and arguing that it supported rather than endangered the principles of religion. Clarke is said to have had a happy, playful disposition. The level of his thinking was above that of his contemporaries, who occasionally suspected him of heresy; but for this, it is said, he might have become archbishop of Canterbury. His Works (4 vols.) were published in 1738-42.

See also W. Whiston, Historical Memoirs (1730).