Catalogue Entry: OTHE00085

Chapter XXIV

Author: David Brewster

Source: Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: 1855).

[Normalized Text] [Diplomatic Text]


Letter to Conduitt, dated 7th April 1727. See vol. i. Appendix, p. 465.


Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of the Scriptures, 50 pp. quarto.


The papers here alluded to were one on the Scale of Heat, his Reflecting Sextant, and his Solution of the Problem of Quickest Descent. See Bibl. Univ., tom. xxxi. p. 190, and vol. i. pp. 239, and p. 19 of this volume.


See p. 137.


In a book called "Newton's Waste Book," containing his discoveries in mathematics in the years 1664 and 1665, there are many extracts which prove that he had in these years prosecuted the study of theology.


Lord King's Life of Locke, vol. i. p. 402, 2d edit. Lond. 1830.


Dated Cambridge, June 30, 1691.


Cambridge, Feb 16, 16391 2.


"The words of Locke," says Lord King, "stand unaltered in the printed copy," vol. ii. p. 420.


Cambridge, Sept. 28, 1690.


Edition of 1754, pp. 122, 123.


Hist. Critique du Texte du Nouveau Testament. Rotterdam, 1689.


April 11, 1692.


July 15, 1692.


The editor supplied the beginning down to the 13th page, where he mentions in a note, that "thus far is not Sir Isaac's."


I have not found any copy of this manuscript, or any letters relating to it, among the manuscripts of Newton. In his list of the MSS., Dr. Horsley mentions a Latin translation of the Historical Account, and a paper-book entitled Sancti Johannis Apostoli Vindiciæ contra Novaticos et Falcarios.


Lond. 1733. 4to. Pp. 323.


Voltaire, who probably never read this work, has erroneously stated that Sir Isaac explained the Revelations in the same manner as all those that went before him.


Among the writers here referred to, Father Simon was doubtless the most important. In his Hist. Crit. du Texte du Nouv. Test. chap. xviii. p. 203; and in his Hist. Crit. des Versions du Nouv. Test. chap. xiv., Rott. 1690, he has given the same opinion of the text as Newton.


In stating this fact, Sir Charles Lyell omits to mention the re-insertion of the text in the edition of 1522. He is mistaken in saying, after Porson, that Newton's Dissertation was written between 1690 and 1760, (a typographical error for 17OO,) as it was written in 1690, or much earlier, as we have shown.


Clarke's Works, vol. iv. p. 121.


In letters in the Gent. Magazine, re-printed and enlarged in 1784 and 1786.


Five of these letters appeared in the Gent. Magazine for 1788, and were reprinted with some others, and entitled "Letters to Mr. Archdeacon Travis," &c. By R. Porson. Lond. 1790. 8vo. Pp. 406.


Second Visit to the United States, vol. i. p. 122.


Tracts on the Divinity of Christ, pp. xc. 371, 372, Lond. 1820; and Introduction to the Controversy on the disputed verse in St. John, Salisbury, 1835, &c. An able reply to Dr. Burgess, said to be written by the Bishop of Ely, appeared in the Quarterly Review, March 1826, vol. xxxiii. p. 64. See Notes and Queries, vol. i. pp. 399 and 453.


1 Timothy iii. 16.


Historical Account, &c., Art. I. and XXIV., Newtoni Opera, tom. v. pp. 531, 548.


Works, vol. iv. p. 47.


Memoirs, p. 365.


Historical Collections cited by Michaelis, vol. iv. p. 425.


Symbolœ Criticœ, vol. i. p. 8.


The Great Mystery of Godliness incontrovertible, or Sir Isaac Newton and the Socinians Foiled, &c. By E. Henderson, Professor of Divinity in Highbury College. Lond. 1730.


The latest writers on the subject, although not Unitarian, namely, Dr. Davidson in his Treatise on Biblical Criticism, vol. ii. p. 382, Edin. 1852, and Dr. Tregillis in his Account of the Printed Text of the Greek New Testament, p. 226, Lond. 1854, have adopted the views of Sir Isaac.


There are certainly, as Professor De Morgan has shown, two or three expressions in the Dissertation which a believer in the doctrine of the Trinity is not likely to have used; but while I freely make this admission, I think Mr. De Morgan will also admit that they would not justify us in considering Newton as an Antitrinitarian. They warrant us only to suspect his orthodoxy. See Professor De Morgan's Life of Newton, p. 113, note.


Authentic Records, p. 1077. Lond. 1728.


Prolegomena to his edition of the New Testament, p. 185. Amst. 1751.


After 1712. — Memoirs, &c., p. 206.


The Humanitarians believe in the humanity of our Saviour, and that he was not an object of prayer.


"The Unitarian minister, Richard Baron," says Professor De Morgan, "who was a friend of Haynes, states the preceding as having passed in conversation between him and Haynes. The statement is made in the preface of the first volume of his collection of tracts, called 'A Cordial for Low Spirits,' (three vols. Lond. 1763, edit. 3d, 12mo,) published under the name of Thomas Gordon. This is not primary evidence like that of Whiston, and it loses force by the circumstance, that in the posthumous work which Mr. Haynes left on the disputed points, (and which was twice printed,) there is no allusion to it." — Life of Newton, p. 110, note.


The author of the Life of Newton, in the Biographia Britannica, vol. v. p. 3241, says that Newton would not suffer Whiston to be a member of the Royal Society, because he had represented him as an Arian, and, as if to prove this, ho refers to Whiston's Memoirs, which contain no such statement. Whiston himself assigns another "reason of Sir Isaac Newton's unwillingness to have him a member," namely, "that he was afraid of him the last thirteen years of his life;" but the reason which Whiston assigned to Halley, who asked him, "Why he was not a member of the Society?" was, "because they durst not choose a heretick." — See Whiston's Memoirs, edit. 1749, pp. 206, 292, 293.


Act, 1 William and Mary, 1688, chap, xviii., sect. 17.


Act, 9 & 10 William III., 1698, chap. xxxii.


Burnet's History of his own Times, vol. vi. p. 53, 8vo. 1833.


In suppressing these papers, Sir Isaac certainly did not "deliberately suppress his opinions," as Dr. Burgess has stated. See Professor De Morgan's Life of Newton, p . 115. There is abundance of evidence that he never abandoned the opinions maintained in these papers.


"Newton's religious opinions," says Dr. Thomson, "were not orthodox; for example, he did not believe in the Trinity. This gives us the reason why Horsley, the champion of the Trinity, found Newton's papers unfit for publication; but it is much to be regretted that they have never seen the light." — Hist. Royal Society, p. 284.


Dr. Henderson's Great Mystery of Godliness, &c., p. 3.


The Great Mystery of Godliness, &c., p. 2.


M. Biot had previously arrived at the same opinion. "There is absolutely nothing," he says, "in the writings of Newton which can justify, or even authorize the conjecture that he was an Antitrinitarian." — Biog. Univ. tom. xxxi. p. 190.


In order to correct a very grave misrepresentation by Dr. Burgess, Bishop of Salisbury, of the way in which this subject was treated in my former Life of Newton, I am obliged to insert in APPENDIX, No. XXVIII. two letters from the Bishop.


See page 315 of this volume.


The following is a copy of the codicil which the Rev. Jeffery Ekins has been so kind as to communicate to me: — "I, Catherine Conduitt, do make and appoint this a Codicil to my last Will and Testament. Whereas, I have in my custody severall Tracts written by Sir Is. Newton, and which I propose to print if God grant me life; but as I may be snatched away before I can have leisure to undertake so great a work, towards publishing of which I design to ask the help of learned men, I will and appoint, and ordain, that my Executor do lay all the tracts relating to Divinity before Dr. Sykes, and in hopes he will prepare them for the press. There are two critical pieces, one on the three that bear Record in Heaven, and another upon the Text who thought it not robbery, &c., which I will have printed, and there's a piece called Paradoxical Questions concerning Athanasius, another the History of the Creed, or criticism on it, and a Church History compleat, and many more Divinity Tracts, all of them I ordain shall be printed and published, so as they be done with care and exactness; and whatever proffit may arise from the same, my dear Mr. Conduitt has given a bond of £2000, to be responsible to the seven nearest of kin to Sir Is. Newton. Therefore the papers must be carefully kept, that no copys may be taken and printed, and Dr. Sykes desired to peruse them here, otherways if any accident comes to them the penalty of the Bond will be levy'd. As the labour and sincere search of so good a Christian and so great a genius, may not be lost to the world, I do charge my Executor to do as I hereby ordain. Witness my hand and seal, the 26 of Jan. 1737."



In a "Catalogue taken of Sir Isaac Newton's MSS., October 15th and 16th, in the year 1777, by William Mann Godschall, Esq., and the Rev. Dr. Horsley," no such manuscript is mentioned. The only MS. of this kind is one of two pages distinctly written and entitled CHAP. VII. of the Rise of the Roman Catholic Church or Ecclesiastical Dominion.


The manuscript of this work, now before me, is beautifully written in Sir Isaac's own hand, and extends to sixty-two folio pages. It wants the last leaf. I have seen at Hurtsbourne Park a copy in another hand, distinctly written as if for publication. In the Catalogue above mentioned of Newton's MSS. two copies of this MS. are mentioned in one place, and in another part of the Catalogue another copy is mentioned as complete, showing that the other two were not so.


There are four copies of this MS. with the title Irenicum, but only one with the full title given in the text.




In the Catalogue of Newton's MSS. by Dr. Horsley, he mentions a paper "of twelve short paragraphs in English, which seems to have been the beginning of a treatise on the divinity of our Saviour." In the fourth paragraph he adds the Arian interpretation of the word Logos, in St. John's Gospel, is sustained, but the Socinian doctrine is denied." This was probably another copy of the articles given in the text.




This paper, entitled Pacific Christians, and containing eleven articles, is published in King's Life of Locke, vol. ii. pp. 63-67. Edit. 1830.


The writer of the Life of Newton in the Biopraphia Britannica mentions an unfinished work entitled Lexicon Propheticum, to which was subjoined a Latin dissertation On the Sacred Cubit of the Jews, translated and printed in 1737, by Dr. Birch, in vol. ii. of the Miscellaneous Works of Mr. John Greaves. I have not seen any such MS., and it is not mentioned in Dr. Horsleys Catalogue. The paper on the Cubit may be included in "Latin Papers relating to the Jewish Temple," noticed by Dr. Horsley.


I have ventured to state and illustrate views similar to these in the last chapter "On the Future of the Universe," of a little volume entitled More Worlds than One. 1854.


The piety of Newton was so well known and appreciated by his friends, that he was occasionally consulted about their spiritual state. We have already seen, in page 37 of this volume, that an eminent mathematician "thanked God that his soul was extremely quiet, in which Newton had the chief share;" and, in the following letter from Dr. Morland, (the brother, we believe, of Sir Samuel,) who was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1703, we find him acting the same benevolent part: —

"SIR, — I have done, and will do my best while I live, to follow your advice, to repent and believe. I pray often as I am able, that God would make me sincere and change my heart. Pray write me your opinion whether, upon the whole, I may die with comfort. This can do you no harm — written without your name. God knows I am very low and uneasy, and have but little strength.

"Your most humble servant,


"Pray favour me with one line, because when I parted I had not your last word to me, you being in haste.

"Direct for Dr. MORLAND, in Epsom, Surrey."

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