Clarke, Samuel Dd
Clarke, Samuel D.D.,
a celebrated English divine and metaphysician, was born at Norwich, October 11, 1675. He received his first education in the free-school of Norwich, but was entered at 1691 in Caius College, Cambridge. (The following account, so far as the facts of Clarke's life are concerned, is modified from the English Cyclopaedia, which is based on the Biographia Britannica.) At twenty-one, after closely studying and justly appreciating the reasonings of Newton's "Principia," which had then just appeared, he published a new version of the text of Rohault's Physics, with numerous critical notes, added with the view of bringing the Cartesian system into disrepute by exposing its fallacies. After passing through four editions as
the University text-book, it gave place, as Clarke desired, to the adoption of undisguised Newtonian treatises. He now went through a diligent course of Biblical reading in the original languages, in the course of which he carefully studied the early Christian fathers. On his ordination he was introduced to Dr. More, bishop of Norwich, by Whiston, whom he succeeded as domestic chaplain to that bishop for twelve years. In 1699 he published three essays on Confirmation, Baptism, and Repentance, together with Reflections on Toland's Amyntor, concerning the uncanonical Gospels. Two years afterwards followed his Paraphrase on the Four Gospels, which induced Bishop More to present him with the living of Drayton, near Norwich. In 1704 he was appointed to preach the Boyle lecture at Oxford, when he chose for his subject The Being and Attributes of God. The satisfaction which he gave on this occasion led to his reelection the following year, when he read a series of lectures on the Evidences of natural and revealed Religion. These discourses passed through several editions. Clarke's argument for the being of God "rests upon the fact that we have the conceptions of time and space, expressive of certain attributes or qualities-the one eternal, the other illimitable in its nature. But every quality must have a coexistent subject to which it belongs, and therefore, he argues, there must exist a being who possesses these attributes of infinity — that is, there must be a God. The similarity between Clarke's argument and that of Spinoza, in many points, is at once evident. They both started with the idea of necessary existence, showing that if any thing exist now, something must have existed from eternity. The distinction between the two arguments arises from their different determination of the absolute idea from which our reasoning must commence. Clarke affirmed the idea of infinite attributes to be fundamental, and then inferred an infinite substance. Spinoza began with the infinite substance, and inferred the attributes. The result was that the latter rested finally in the notion of substance as identical with God, and reduced the common theism to pantheism; the former, reasoning from the attributes, was open upon other evidence to conceive of them as existing in a divine personality — in the God of Christianity. The clearness, however, with which both grasped the idea of the infinite, as one of the necessary conceptions of the human mind, is in either case abundantly manifest" (Morell, History of Modern Philosophy, chap. 2, § 2).
Numerous replies and objections to this a priori argument appeared at the time of its first publication. (See a list in Kippis's Biog. Britannica, and the correspondence between Butler, afterwards bishop of Durham, and Clarke, printed at the end of Bishop Butler's Works.) One of the principal was 'An Inquiry into the Ideas of Space, Time,' etc., by Bishop Law. The Evidences also met with strong opposition. SEE GOD; SEE NATURAL THEOLOGY. The foundation of morality, according to Clarke, consists in the immutable differences, relations, and eternal fitness of things. The last expression, being of frequent occurrence in this discourse, acquired a fashionable usage in the ethical vocabularies of the day. Regardless of moral sentiment, so fully developed since by Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and Adam Smith, Clarke insists solely upon the principle that the criterion of moral rectitude is in the conformity to, or deviation from, the natural and eternal fitness of things; in other words, that an immoral act is an irrational act-that is, an act in violation of the actual ratios of existent things. The endeavor to reduce moral philosophy to mathematical certainty was characteristic of that age, and led to the formation of theories remarkable perhaps more for their ingenuity than utility. Dr. Price is an apologist for the moral theory of Clarke, and among its oppugners we may instance Sir James Mackintosh, Progress of Ethical Philosophy, p. 78 sq.; see also Whewell, Hist. of Moral Philosophy, lect. 5.
In 1706 Clarke obtained the rectory of St. Bennett's, in London. He published in the same year an answer to the treatise of Dr. Dodwell "On the Soul," in which that divine contends that it is not immortal until made so by baptism. Several rejoinders followed on each side. His patron, Dr. More, next procured for him the rectorship of St. James's and a chaplaincy to Queen Anne, which induced him to take his degree of D.D. In 1712 appeared his Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, a work which involved him for the remainder of his life in a controversy, in which his principal adversary was Dr. Waterland. A full account of the controversy may be found in Van Mildert's Life of Waterland, SEE WATERLAND. The Lower House of Convocation, in 1714, complained to the bishops of the heterodox and dangerous tendency of its Arian tenets, and Clarke was prevailed upon to apologize, and to declare his intention not to write any more upon the Trinity. A circumstantial account of this proceeding is given in the Apology for Dr. Clarke, 1714.
"Clarke's views were, in reality, a reproduction of the Origenistic and High-Arian doctrine of subordination, as distinguished from the Athanasian. His positions were the following: The supreme and only God is the Father — the sole origin of all being, power, and authority.
'Concerning the Father, it would be the highest blasphemy to affirm that he could possibly have become man, or that he could possibly have suffered in any sense, in any supposition, in any capacity, in any circumstance, in any state, or in any nature whatever.' With the Father there has existed 'from the beginning' a second divine Person, who is called his Word or Son; who derives his being or essence, and all his attributes, from the Father, not by mere necessity of nature, but by an act of the Father's optional will. It is not certain whether the Son existed from all eternity, or only before all worlds; neither is it certain whether the Son was begotten from the same essence with the Father or made cut of nothing. 'Both are worthy of censure who, on the one hand, affirm that the Son was made out of nothing, or, on the other, affirm that he is the self-existent substance.' Clarke will not be positive upon these points, because of the danger of presuming to be able to define the particular metaphysical manner of the Son's deriving his essence from the Father. With the Father a third Person has also existed, deriving his essence from him through the Son. This Person has higher titles ascribed to him than to any angel, or other created being whatsoever; but is nowhere called God in Scripture, being subordinate to the Son, both by nature and by the will of the Father. The error of Clarke originated in his failure to discriminate carefully between the essence and the hypostasis. Hence, in quoting from the Scriptures and the fathers, he refers to the essential nature phraseology that implies subordination, and which was intended by those employing it to apply only to the hypostatical character. He even cites such high Trinitarians as Athanasius and Hilary as holding and teaching that the subordination of the Son to the Father relates to the Son's essence. The term 'unbegotten' he also held, as did the Arians, to be a synonym with 'uncreated,' so that the term 'begotten' must necessarily signify 'created.' Thus, misconceiving the Nicene use of these' two terms, he endeavors to prove that the Nicene Trinitarians taught that the Father alone possesses necessary existence, while the Son exists contingently. But both of these terms, as we have seen, were limited by the Council of Nice to the Person, and have no relation to the essence. The essence, as such, neither begets nor is begotten. They merely indicate the peculiar manner in which the first and second hypostasis participate in one and the same eternal substance or nature. In this use of the terms, consequently, 'begotten' signifies 'uncreated' as much as does 'unbegotten.' The Begotten Son is as necessarily existent as the Unbegotten Father, because the essence is the seat and source of necessary existence, and this is possessed alike by both-
in the instance of the first Person by paternity, and of the second by filiation" (Shedd, History of Christian Doctrine, 1, 386-388).
"The point on which Clarke's philosophical fame chiefly rests, and to which he devoted a very considerable portion of his life, was his controversy upon Liberty and Necessity — a controversy in which he stood Opposed to Leibnitz and Collins, and by which he endeavored to overturn, finally, the fatalistic conclusions of Spinozism. Throughout this contest, the victory in which was claimed on both sides, Clarke maintained most powerfully the doctrine of Free-will, and, accordingly, here also manifested his opposition to the philosophy which tends to merge the idea of self either into that of nature or of God. Of the three fundamental conceptions, therefore, from which all philosophy springs, those of finite self and the infinite held in the writings of Clarke by far the most prominent place, so that we may properly regard him as the chief representative of the idealistic tendency during the age immediately succeeding Locke, as Cudworth was during the age that immediately preceded him" (Morell; History of Modern Philosophy, pt. 1, ch. 2, § 2).
In 1724 Clarke obtained the mastership of Wigston Hospital, and published a volume of sermons. He died rather suddenly in May, 1729. His Exposition of the Church Catechism and Sermons were published after his death (London, 1730, 10 vols. 8vo). In the Catechism he teaches that worship should be paid to the Father only, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. The moral character of Clarke is praised by all his biographers. His principal works were translated into German by Semler, and prepared the way for German Rationalism. "He was a wary and very skillful disputant, well disciplined in the scholastic logic. Inferior to Locke in comprehensiveness and originality, he was greatly superior to him in acquirements, being eminent as a divine, a mathematician, a metaphysician, and a philologist" (English Cyclopedia). His Works were published in 1738, in 4 vols. fol., of which the first contains his Life (by Hoadley), and 114 Sermons, published from his MS.; the second contains 76 Sermons and the Boyle Lectures; the third, a paraphrase of the Four Evangelists, with minor pieces; the fourth, the Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, and a number of controversial tracts. Of the separate works numerous editions have been published. See, besides the writers already cited, (especially) Fairbairn's Appendix to Dorner's Person of Christ (Edinburgh translation, div. ii, vol. 3:370 sq.); Hoadley, Life of Clarke (prefixed to Works, 4 vols.); Hook, Ecclesiastes Biography, 4, 88; Watson, Theological Institutes, 1, 331 (N. Y. ed.); Hagenbach, History of Doctrines (ed. by Smith), § 234, § 262.