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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XI. Platonists and Latitudinarians

§ 2. Benjamin Whichcote

A member of a good Shropshire family, Benjamin Whichcote entered as a pensioner at Emmanuel college in October, 1626; but where he received his previous education is not recorded. In 1634, he was elected a tutor of the society, where, as his biographer informs us, “he was famous for the number, rank, and character of his pupils, and the care he took of them.” Two years later, he was appointed afternoon lecturer at Trinity church, Cambridge, an office which he continued to hold for twenty years—from the time, that is to say, when Laud’s administration of ecclesiastical affairs was at its height to that of Cromwell’s Proclamation, whereby equal and complete religious freedom was established throughout the realm—those malcontents alone being excepted whose opinions were avowedly and manifestly prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order. In the preparation of this great measure, Whichcote, together with Cudworth and others of his party, was especially consulted by Cromwell as to the expediency of extending toleration to the Jews. In his discourses at Trinity church, he had made it his chief object, his biographer tells us, to counteract the “fanatic enthusiasm and senseless canting” then in vogue—an expression in which the term “enthusiasm” must be understood in its original sense, as implying the assumption by any individual, whether educated or uneducated, of the right to interpret, at his own discretion, not merely the meaning of Scripture, but, also, to decide upon its applicability to existing social and religious conditions, in short, to be himself inspired.