Thomas Gattaker (1574–1654)

A Westminster Puritan and prolific writer.

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“The soul of man bears the image of God; so nothing can satisfy it but He whose image it bears. Our soul, says Augustine, was created as by God, so for God, and is therefore never quiet till it rest in God.”

His Works:

The Works of Thomas Gattaker in old English:

1. Of the Nature and Use of Lots, etc., 1619, 4to; 2nd edit., 1627, 4to.
2. A Just Defence, etc. (of the preceding, against J. Balmford and E. Elton), 1623, 4to.
3. A Discourse of Transubstantiation, etc., 1624, 4to.
4. Certaine Sermons, etc., 1637, fol. (a collection, most having been separately printed).
5. Antithesis, etc., 1638, 4to (in answer to Theses on lots, by William Ames (1571 [not 1576]–1633) [q.v.] and Gisbert Voet).
6. Francisci Gomari Disputationis … Elenchus, etc., 1640, 8vo (on justification).
7. Animadversiones in J. Piscatoris et L. Lucii … de causa … justificationis, etc., 1641, 12mo.
8. Master Anthony Wotton’s Defence, etc., 1641, 12mo (the defence is by Samuel Wotton, son of Anthony; the preface and postscript are by Gataker).
9. A True Relation of Passages between Master Wotton and Master Walker, etc., 1642, 4to.
10. An Answer to Master George Walker’s Vindication, etc., 1642, 4to.
11. De Nomine Tetragrammato, etc., 1645, 8vo.
12. De Diphthongis, etc., 1646, 12mo.
13. A Mistake … removed … answer to … a treatise of Mr. J. Saltmarsh, etc., 1646, 4to; with new title, Arminianism Discovered and Confuted, etc., 1652, 4to. Saltmarsh replied in Reasons for Unitie, etc., 1646, 4to
14. Shadows without Substance, etc., 1646, 4to.
15. De Novi Instrumenti Stylo Dissertatio, etc., 1648, 4to.
16. Mysterious Clouds and Mists, etc. 1648, 4to (answer to J. Simpson).
17. God’s Holy Minde touching Matters Morall, etc., 1648, 4to (on the decalogue; preface signed T. G.).
18. Cinnus, sive Adversaria Miscellanea, etc., 1651, 4to.
19. Marci Antonini De Rebus Suis, etc., 1652, 4to (Greek text, with Latin version and commentary).
20. De Baptismatis Infantilis Vi … disceptatio … inter … S. Wardium … et T. Gatakerum,1652 [i.e. 25 Jan. 1653], 8vo (against justification in baptism).
21. Vindication of the Annotations … against … W. Lillie, J. Swan, and another, etc., 1653, 4to.
22. A Discours Apologetical, wherein Lilies lewd and lowd Lies … are cleerly laid open, etc., 1654 [27 Feb.], 4to (postscript against John Gadbury [q.v.]; valuable for its autobiographical particulars). Posthumous were:
23. Adversaria Miscellanea, etc., 1659, fol. (edited by C. Gataker; prefixed is Gataker’s autobiography in Latin).
24. An Antidote against Errour concerning Justification, etc., 1670, 4to (an unfinished exposition of Rom. iii. 28, begun 19 April 1640; not completed, out of respect to the Westminster assembly).
25. The Life and Death of Master William Bradshaw, in Clarke’s Lives of Thirty-two English Divines,1677, fol. Gataker’s Opera Criticawere collected in two vols. folio, Utrecht, 1697–8. He edited S. Ward’s Balme from Gilead,1617, 8vo, a selection of Galen’s Opuscula,annotated by Theodore Goulston, M.D. [q.v.], 1640, 4to, and other works.


Biography of Thomas Gattaker (1574–1654):

Thomas Gattaker (or Gataker) (1574–1654), puritan divine and critic, was born on Sept. 4, 1574, in the rectory house of St. Edmund’s, Lombard Street. His father was Thomas Gatacre [q.v.]; the son changed the spelling of his name “to prevent miscalling” (Ashe). He was a bookish boy, and subject from childhood to excruciating headaches. In his sixteenth year (1590) he was entered at St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he gained a scholarship and graduated M.A. His zest for Greek learning is shown by his attendance at the extra lecture given by John Bois [q.v.] at four o’clock in the morning “in his bed.” With a fellow-student, Richard Stock, he contracted a close friendship, which riveted his attachment to the puritan principles inculcated by his tutors, Henry Alvey, B.D., and Abdias Ashton. In 1596 Gataker was nominated one of the first fellows of Sidney Sussex College. While the building was in progress he became tutor and chaplain in the household of William Ayloffe of Braxted, Essex, teaching Hebrew to Ayloffe, and preparing his eldest son for the university. From John Stern, suffragan bishop of Colchester, a near relative of Ayloffe’s wife, he received ordination. Coming into residence at Sidney Sussex in 1599, the building being still unfinished, he gave accommodation in his rooms to another fellow, William Bradshaw (1571–1618) [q.v.], an act of courtesy which led to a long friendship. Gataker was successful in training students, but his career as a college tutor was short. A scheme was set on foot by Ashton and the famous William Bedell [q.v.] for providing preachers in neglected parishes round Cambridge. Gataker undertook Sunday duty at Everton, Bedfordshire, where the vicar was reported to be 130 years of age. After half a year of this employment he left the university, on the advice of Ashton. The step seems to have followed the retirement of Bradshaw, who was in trouble through espousing the cause of John Darrel [q.v.], the exorcist (Gataker, Life of Bradshaw, pp. 32 sq.).

Gataker removed to London about the end of 1600, and became tutor in the family of Sir William Cooke at Charing Cross, “to whose lady he was near by blood.” He preached occasionally at St. Martin’s-in-the Fields. An old man-servant to the wife of James Ley (afterwards lord high treasurer) remarked that “he was a prettie pert boy, but he made a reasonable good sermon”(Disc. Apol. p. 34). He obtained the lectureship at Lincoln’s Inn through the good offices of James Montague, master of Sidney Sussex, who had come to London with the intention of bringing him back to fill a Hebrew chair.

When he entered on his duties at Lincoln’s Inn (1601) there was but one Sunday lecture at seven o’clock in the morning; he got this altered to the usual hour, and transferred the Wednesday lecture to the Sunday afternoon. His salary for the first five years was 40l., and never more than 60l. Till he married he continued to live with Cooke, spending his vacations at Cooke’s country seat in Northamptonshire. In 1603 he commenced B.D., when he preached for the only time at St. Mary’s, Cambridge, on 25 March, the day after the death of Elizabeth. The morning preacher had prayed for the queen; the news came down about noon; James had not yet been proclaimed; Gataker prayed “for the present supream governor.” He refused in 1609, and subsequently, to proceed to D.D., giving two reasons, his not being well enough off to maintain the dignity, “and also because, like Cato the censor, he would rather have people ask why he had no statue than why he had one.” He declined the lectureship at the Rolls, with double his existing emolument, besides preferment offered him in Shropshire by Sir Roger Owen, and in Kent by Sir William Sedley.
In 1611 he accepted the rectory of Rotherhithe, Surrey, mainly at the instance of his friend Stock, the alternative being the appointment of an unworthy person. While his health permitted he was assiduous in public and pastoral duty; his Friday catechetical lectures for children were crowded, and “his parlour was one of the best schooles for a young student to learn divinity in.” In 1620 he spent a month (13 July–14 Aug.) in Holland, travelling with a nephew, in order to inform himself of the condition of Dutch protestantism, whose interests he thought imperilled by the foreign policy of England. He found time for close and continuous study, and for learned correspondence with such men as Ussher, but while in active ministerial employment he published little except controversial tracts against popery and on justification. He first appeared as an author (1619) in a pamphlet on the lawfulness of lots when not used for divination, which exposed him to attack as an advocate for games of hazard.

In 1643 Gataker was nominated a member of the Westminster assembly of divines. He was one of those who scrupled at the covenant in its original form, and procured the insertion of an explanatory clause relating to episcopacy. His views on church government tallied with those of Ussher, being in favour of “a dulie bounded and wel regulated prelacie joined with presbyterie.” In 1644 he was put on the committee for examination of ministers. He had declined the mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge, offered him by the Earl of Manchester. On 4 March 1645 he was placed on a committee to select fit persons for translating the directory into Welsh. On 12 May he was elected one of the committee of seven charged with the preparation of the first draft of a confession of faith. In the discussions on this symbol he differed from the majority in the article of justification, and obtained a somewhat less rigid definition, which he accepted for the sake of unity. After 1645 the failure of his health precluded him from attendance either at the assembly or the local classis, as well as from preaching, though he still administered the sacraments, and did some little pastoral work. He signed the first address, 18 Jan. 1649, against the trial and execution of the king. He was reflected on for not resigning his benefice, but there was a difficulty in finding a man to suit patron and people. As for the emoluments, he goes minutely into his receipts and expenditure to prove that he was not “gripple” (grasping). Practically he disbursed the whole net income of his preferment in improvements and the provision of a good curate. As an assembly man he did not receive half the charge of his boat hire.

Gataker in his enforced leisure published his critical labours on subjects both classical and biblical. His best known works are his edition of Marcus Antoninus and his commentaries on Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations in the assembly’s “Annotations”(1645 and 1651). His scholarship was minute and fastidious; a peculiarity of his Latin orthography is the invariable omission of u after q. He had a vast memory, enabling him to dispense with common-place books. From some conventional marks of the puritan he was free; the term “Lord’s day” he preferred to “Sabbath,”and thought even “Sunday”admissible, as sanctioned by Justin Martyr (Disc. Apol. p. 14). He criticised the style of the New Testament against the purists. He has been cited as favouring “Jehovah” as the correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton; in fact he leans to “Jahveh,” but is content to retain the ordinary form, his main point being that any approach to the original is better than the substituted word “Lord.”Shortly before his death he composed “a pious epigram,” consisting of two quaint stanzas, of some power.

Gataker died of fever on July 27, 1654, and was buried in his church; no stone marks his grave. He would never allow his portrait to be taken; he is described as a spare man of medium stature, of fresh complexion, but early grey. He was four times married: first (shortly before 1611) to the widow (having two daughters) of William Cupp or Cupper; she died in childbed, leaving a son, Thomas, who went into trade, and died before his father; secondly, to a daughter of the Rev. Charles Pinner, and cousin of Sir Nicholas Crisp [q.v.]; she also died in childbed, leaving a son Charles [see below]; thirdly, to a sister of Sir George and Sir John Farwell; she died of consumption, having outlived a son and daughter, but leaving a daughter, who married one Draper, and survived her father; fourthly (in 1628), to a citizen’s widow (d. 1652), by whom he had no issue.

[Discours Apologetical, 1654; Autobiog. of Gataker in Adversaria Miscellanea, 1659; Ashe’s Gray Hayres crowned with Grace, a funeral sermon with memoir, 1655; Life in Clarke’s Lives of Thirty-two English Divines, 1677, pp. 248 sq.; Wood’s Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 1257; Middleton’s Biographia Evangelica, 1784, iii. 290 sq.; Brook’s Lives of the Puritans, 1813, iii. 200 sq.; Chalmers’s Gen. Biog. Dict. 1814, xv. 334 sq., 340 sq.; Neal’s Hist. of the Puritans, 1822, iii. 451 sq.; Smith’s Bibliotheca Anti-Quakeriana, 1873, p. 197, Mitchell and Struthers’s Minutes of Westminster Assembly, 1874, pp. 67, 91, etc.; Mitchell’s Westminster Assembly, 1883, pp. 156, 409, etc.]


Bible Verse:

“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts,” (Malachi 2:7).

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