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MR. WILLIAM WHISTON,
an English Divine of very uncommon parts, and more uncommon learning, but of a singular and extraordinary character, was born Dec. 9, 1667, at Nor. ton near Twycross, in the county of Leicester; of which place his father, Josiah Whiston, was the pious and learned rector from 1661 till his death in 1685.
William was kept at home till he was 17, and trained under his father, and this on two accounts: first, because he was himself a valetudinarian, being greatly subject to the flatus hypocondriaci in various shapes all his life long; secondly, that he might serve his father, who had lost his eye-sight, in the quality of an amanuensis.
In 1684, he was sent to Tamworth school; and two years after admitted of Clare hall in Cambridge, where he pursued his studies, and particularly the Mathematicks, eight hours in a day *, till 1693. In 1689, he took the degree of B. A.; and in 1693 became M.A. and fellow of the College. He soon after set up for a tutor ; when, such was his reputation for learniing and good manners, that Abp. Tillotson sent him
* During this time, and while he was under-graduate, an accident happened to him, which may deserve to be related for a caution and benefit to others in the like circumstances. He observed one summer that his eyes did not see as usual, but dazzled after an awkward manuer; upon which, imagining it arose from too much application, he remitted for a fortnight, and tried to recover his usual sight by walking much in green fields; but found himself no better. At that time he inet with an account of Mr. Boyle's having known a person, who, haring new-whited the wall of his chamber on which the sun shone, and having accustomed himself to read in that glaring light, thereby lost his sight for some time; till, upon hanging the place with green, he recovered it again: and this, he says, was exactly
his own case, in a less degree, both as to the cause and the re, .. medy,
his nephew for a pupil. But his health did not permit him to go on in that way; and therefore, resigning his pupils to Mr. Laughton, he became chaplain (for he had taken orders) to Dr. Moore Bishop of Norwich. During the time of his being chaplain to that Prelate, which was from 1694 to 1698, he published his first Work, intituled, “A new Theory of the Earth, from its Original, to the Consummation of all Things; wherein the Creation of the World in Six Days, the universal Deluge, and the general Conflagration, as laid down in the Holy Scriptures, are shewn to be perfectly agreeable to Reason and Philosophy, 1696," 8vo. *
In 1699, Bishop Moore gave him the vicarages of Lowestoft and Kissingland +, by the sea-side, in Suffolk; upon which he quitted his place of chaplain, and was succeeded by Mr. (afterwards the celebrated Dr.) Clarke, who was then about 24 years of age. He went to reside upon his living, and applied himself most earnestly and conscientiously to the
* Mr. Whiston relates that this book was shown in manu. script to Dr. Bentley, to sir Christopher Wren, and especially to sir Isaac Newton, on whose principles it depended; and though Mr. John Keill soon after wrote against it, to demonstrate that it could not stand the test of Mathematicks and sound Philosophy, yet it brought no small reputation to the allthor. Thus Mr. Locke, mentioning it in a letter to Mr. Molyneux, dated Feb. 22, 1696, says, “ I have not heard any one of my acquaintance speak of it but with great commendations, as I think it deserves; and truly I think it is more to be admired, that he has laid down an hypothesis, whereby he has explained so many wonderful and before inexplicable things in the great changes of this globe, than that some of them should not easily go down with some men; when the whole was entirely new to all. He is one of those sort of writers that I always fancy should be most esteemed and encouraged-I am always for the builders, who bring some addition to our knowledge, or at least some new things to our thoughts." This work of Mr. Whiston has gone through six editions; but no considerable additions, as he informs us, have been made to it since the third.
+ It appears by Kennett's “ Case of Impropriations,” that the vicarage of Kissingland was augmented by several contributions collected by Mr. Whiston.
care care of souls. He kept a curate, yet preached twice a Sunday himself; and, all the summer season at least, read a catechetic lecture at the chapel in the evening, chiefly for the instruction of the adult *.
In 1699 he married Ruth Antrobus, daughter of the Rev. George Antrobus, Master of Tamworth school; by whom he had several children, three of which survived him fi.
In 1701, he was called to be sir Isaac Newton's deputy, and afterwards his successor, in the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematicks ; when he resigned his livings, and went to Cambridge.
In 1702, he published, “ A short View of the Chronology of the Old Testament, and of the Harmony of the Four Evangelists,” in 4to; and in March 1702-3, “ Tacquet's Euclid, with select Theorems of Archimedes, and Practical Corollaries,” in Latin, for the use of young students in the University. This edition of Euclid was re-printed at Cambridge in 1710 ; and afterwards in English at London, under his own inspection. He tells us, that it was the accidental purchase of Tacquet's own Euclid at an auction, which occasioned his first application to mathematical studies. In 1706, he published an “ Essay on the Revelation of St. John;" in 1707, « Prælectiones Astronomicæ;" and sir Isaac Newton's “ Arithmetica Universalis," by the author's permission.
The same year, 1707, he preached Eight Sermons “ Upon the Accomplishment of Scripture Prophecies," at the Lecture founded by the Hon. Mr. Boyle; which he printed the year after, with an appendix to the same purpose. About August 1708, he
* He has recorded an instance or two, which shew how zeal: ous he was for the promotion of piety and good manners, one of which very well deserves to be mentioned here. The parish-officers applied to him once for his hand to a licence, in order to set up a new ale-house ; to whom he answered, “If they would bring him a paper to sign for the pulling an ale-house down, he would certainly sign it; but would never sign one for setting an alehouse up."
[ See p. 505.