Barrow, Isaac

Barrow, Isaac D.D., one of the most eminent of English divines, and a distinguished mathematician. He was born in London, October, 1630, and was educated at the Charter House, and at Felsted in Essex. Afterward he went to Cambridge, and became a pensioner of Trinity College in 1645. In 1649 he was elected fellow of his college; but the religious and political troubles of the time greatly checked his progress, and induced him to leave England to travel abroad. He visited France and Italy, and proceeded as far as Smyrna, in the course of which voyage he signalized himself by his courage in a combat with an Algerine pirate. At Constantinople he remained some time, and returned to England, through Germany and Holland, in 1659. He was ordained by Bishop Brownrigg, and in 1660, after the restoration, obtained the Greek chair at Cambridge. In 1662 he was made Gresham Professor of Geometry, and in 1663 Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, in which capacity he had Newton as a pupil. In 1670 he was made D.D., and in February, 1672, was nominated to the mastership of Trinity College. In his later years he gave up mathematics for divinity, feeling himself bound to this course by his ordination vows. He died in London on the 4th of May, 1677, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. His moral character was of the highest type, resting upon true religion. Tillotson says that he "came as near as is possible for human frailty to do to the perfect man of St. James." Barrow's intellect was of the highest order. As a mathematician he was "second only to Newton," according to English writers, though this is rather too high praise. Of his numerous mathematical writings this is not the place to speak; his fame as a theologian rests chiefly upon his Treatise on the Pope's Supremacy, his Exposition of the Creed, and on his Sermons. Of the Supremacy, Tillotson remarks that "no argument of moment, nay, hardly any consideration properly belonging to the subject, has escaped Barrow's comprehensive mind. He has said enough to silence the controversy forever, and to deter all wise men, of both sides, from meddling any farther with it." See Tillotson, preface to the Theological Works of Dr. Barrow (Lond. 1683, 3 vols. fol.). In theology Barrow was an Arminian, and his writings are, in many respects, an illustration of the Arminian system, though not controversially so. "His sermons," as Le Clerc observes, "are rather treatises and dissertations than harangues, and he wrote and rewrote them three or four times. They are always cited as exact and comprehensive arguments, the produce of a grasp which could collect and of a patience which could combine all that was to be said upon the subject in question. But, in addition to this, Barrow was an original thinker. From his desire to set the whole subject before his hearers, he is often prolix, and his style is frequently redundant. But the sermons of Barrow are store-houses of thought, and they are often resorted to as store-houses by popular preachers and writers. Nor are they wanting in passages which, as examples of a somewhat redundant, but grave, powerful, and exhaustive eloquence, it would be difficult to parallel in the whole range of English pulpit literature." The best edition of his theological writings is that published at Cambridge (1859, 8 vols. 8vo); a cheaper and yet good one, with a memoir by Hamilton, London, 1828 (3 vols. 8vo), reprinted N.Y. 1846 (3 vols. 8vo). They include seventy-eight sermons on various topics; an Exposition of the Apostles' Creed, in 34 discourses; expositions of the Lord's Supper, the Decalogue, the Sacraments; the Treatise on the Pope's Supremacy; with his Opuscula Theologica, including a number of Latin dissertations, etc. See Methodist Quarterly Review, 1846, p. 165 sq.; Allibone, Dictionary of Authors, 1:130 sq.; Hook, Eccles. Biography, 1:555.

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