Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Thomas GatakerPuritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers
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THIS eminent and learned divine was born hi London, on the 4th September 1574, and received the first principles of education in his father’s house. He gave early indications of genius and application, and entirely devoted himself to literature while but a boy. His conversation Was grave, and his manners pleasing, exhibiting literature above his age, and wisdom above his learning. Having passed the classes in the grammar school, his father sent him, in 1590, to St. John’s college, Cambridge, where he prosecuted his studies with unremitting ardor. He was one of those diligent students who constantly attended the Greek lectures of the famous Mr. John Bois, one of king James’ translators of the bible. This celebrated Grecian read a Greek lecture, in his bed, to such scholars as preferred their nightly studies to their rest. Under his instructions Mr. Gataker made amazing improvement in that language; and carefully preserving the notes of these lectures, when visited by Mr. Bois several years after, he produced them, to the great joy of the good old man, who was so much pleased, that he said he thought himself several years younger from the unexpected entertainment they had afforded him. Mr. Gataker continued to prosecute his studies with unrelaxed application, and attained an honorable proficiency in the knowledge of the Hebrew language, having been carefully instructed by Mr. Lively, professor of Hebrew in Cambridge, and eminently qualified for that difficult office. Mr. Gataker had not been long settled at Cambridge till he sustained a heavy loss by the death of his father, who had it not in his power to leave what was sufficient to maintain him through the course of his academical studies. The hopes, however, with which his promising genius, and steady application, had inspired his friends, induced them to contribute to his assistance; and conscious of the tenor by which he held their bounty, he applied himself seriously and successfully to the acquisition of intellectual treasure; and his attainments, together with his good and agreeable disposition, so recommended him, that he was soon chosen a scholar upon the foundation of his college. He took his degree in arts with uncommon applause, and his sentiments were much improved by associating with learned and pious Christians and divines, particularly with that eminent servant of. Christ, Mr. Richard Stock, to whom he was united in the closest ties of friendship and affection.
Mr. Gataker was now held in such estimation for his learning and candor, that the trustees of Sidney college appointed him one of the fellows of that institution even before the building was erected; with an offer, that, till such time as the college was completed, he should live in the house of William Ayloffe, Esq. as tutor to that gentleman’s eldest son, and assistant to himself in studying the Hebrew language. While residing in this family, he read them a portion of scripture every morning, giving the sense from the original languages, and then making practical observations. In this manner he went over the whole of the epistles, the prophecy of Isaiah, and a considerable part of the book of Job. At one of these exercises, Dr. Sterne, suffragan of Colchester, who was nearly related to lady Ayloffe, was present. The doctor was so pleased with Mr. Gataker’s performance, that he pressed him to enter into orders, that his talents might be authoritatively exercised for the good of the church, at the same time offering him what pecuniary or other assistance he stood in need of. After some hesitation on the part of Mr. Gataker, and a renewed solicitation from the doctor, he acquiesced, and was accordingly ordained a preacher.
When Sidney college was finished, and ready for the reception of its society, Mr. Gataker repaired thither to his station, and commenced tutor with great reputation, and had his services rewarded with singular success. While thus employed in Sidney college, he also united with Mr. Abdias Ashton, and Mr. William Bedell, afterwards bishop of Kilmore in Ireland, for the laudable purpose of preaching the gospel in the places lying near to Cambridge, where, owing to different causes, the people were in great want of faithful ministers. In the prosecution of this plan, Mr. Gataker preached every Sabbath, for six months, at Everton, a village on the borders of the counties of Cambridge, Bedford, and Huntingdon.
But some reasons, which have not been given us, induced Mr. Gataker to leave the university, and settle in London, where he became chaplain to Sir William Cooke, near Charingcross. In this situation he had frequent opportunities of being introduced to many persons of eminence, particularly in the profession of the law, many of whom were members of “Lincoln’s Inn, and had occasion to know his ministerial abilities. Accordingly, this honorable society chose him for their preacher; which having accepted, he discharged the duty of this office for ten years, much to the satisfaction of his learned audience, by whom he was caressed and much admired. Here he was particularly active in promoting the reformation of the Sabbath, and succeeded in his pious endeavors beyond all expectation. By accepting this office at Lincoln’s Inn, Mr. Gataker did not dissolve his connection with the family of Sir William Cooke; but during the vacations, he always went down to Sir William’s seat in Northamptonshire, where, during his stay, he preached every Sabbath, either in the domestic chapel, or the parish church. In 1603 he took his degree of bachelor of divinity at Cambridge. The great reputation he had at Lincoln’s Inn occasioned some valuable preferments to be offered him, which he might have held without resigning his present charge. But he stood opposed to all pluralities. He could never be persuaded that one man could, at the same time, discharge his duty to two separate congregations, either to his own or their satisfaction. Mr. Gataker had another reason for holding his place at Lincoln’s Inn, though the salary was much less than that of several places he had in his choice, namely, that it afforded him leisure to prosecute his studies, ‘particularly in the original languages, the ancient fathers, and the best Greek and Roman writers.
In 1611, having entered into the matrimonial state, he accepted the rectory of Rotherhithe, in the county of Surrey, near London bridge, a living of considerable value, together with which he was much importuned to hold his office at Lincoln’s Inn. But this being opposed to his fixed principles with regard to pluralities, he refused. In this new situation, notwithstanding an almost perpetual headache, which had attended him from his youth, he discharged his numerous pastoral duties with unremitting industry, carefully feeding the flock over which he had been appointed pastor. Although he had not as yet committed any of his learned productions to the press, his celebrity was such, that he held, a literary correspondence With some of the greatest men of the age. Some of his letters to Dr. Usher, afterwards the• celebrated primate of Ireland, evince the nature and extent of his studies, as well as his anxiety and care to preserve the unpublished works of some ancient divines. These letters likewise evidence a spirit of modesty and deference, not always observable in men of profound literary acquirements. In a letter, dated from Rotherhithe, 18th March 1616, he informs Usher, that he had, in his possession, a manuscript, containing certain treatises, which he could not learn, and had ever been printed, among which was Guielmus de Sancto Amore de Periculis Novissimorum Temporum, and an Oration, in writing, delivered to the pope at Lyons, by Robert Grosthead, formerly bishop of Lincoln. “Some of these (said he), if they are not already abroad, may not be unworthy of being brought into the light; nor should I be unwilling, if they be so esteemed, to bend my weak endeavors that way. But of that Oration to the pope, certain lines in my copy are paired away; but not so much but the sense may still he guessed and gathered from the context. In the other treatises there are many deficiencies which cannot easily be amended, and some of’ them not without the help of other copies. My desire is to understand from you, Whether, when you were in England, you lighted on any of these; and if so, where, or in whose hands they were?” In answer to the above, Usher informed Mr. Gataker, that one of the treatises was published, and that the other was ready for the press by another hand.
Dr. Usher and Mr. Gataker had both a great predilection for ancient manuscripts, and for publishing the remains of ancient divines; which first introduced them to the acquaintance of one another, and occasioned their friendly correspondence. As Mr. Gataker never wrote upon any subject which he had not thoroughly considered, and examined what had been said upon it by men of all ages and parties, so his penetration in distinguishing truth, and his honest zeal in supporting it, laid him continually open to the clamours of those men, who had nothing in view but the support of those systems to which their interest or education had attached them, or the magnifying of such notions as were popular at the time; the defense of which procured them numerous admirers, though their arguments were ever so weak and inconclusive.
In such disputes, however, these furious opponents were sure to have the worst with Mr. Gataker; and however considerable they might be, either in figure or number, they only served the more effectually to enhance his triumph. For his modesty and natural diffidence prevented him from publishing any thing till he was forty-five years of age; by which time his judgment was so confirmed by extensive reading and hard study, and so supported by an extraordinary and almost incredible memory, that he always carried his point, and effectually baffled every attempt again to spread darkness and obscurity over any subject he had once proposed to enlighten.
The regularity of Mr. Gataker’s life, his unsullied character, together with the general esteem in which he was held by the greatest and best men in the nation, fortified him against the low and little artifices, from which a writer, deficient of such guarantees, must unavoidably have suffered. He had not the smallest tincture of spleen or arrogance in his composition; and though it be true that he gave no quarter to the arguments of his adversaries, no scurrility on their part could provoke him to strike at their persons or character. He knew the prize for which he contended was truth, and that the world was constituted the decisive judges. He was always cautious to say no» thing unbecoming, indecent, or that might prove ungrateful to the intelligent reader, whose object was the discovery of truth. He was not so scrupulous, however, as forbear to dismantle vulgar errors for fear of offending the multitude. His modesty, though it might hinder his promotion, never obstructed his progress in the path of duty. He understood perfectly, how easy it was either to lead the people into profanity, or work them into superstition; and none could be more sensible than himself, that true religion was alike opposed to both. Aware that hypocrisy was calculated to ensnare, as well as libertinism is to seduce, he was jealous lest canting words, and a solemn show of sanctity, might enable presumptuous, or self-interested men, to put a yoke on the necks of Christians very different from that of Jesus Christ (Biog. Britain vol. iv. p. 2160).
Mr. Gataker was always careful, in his pulpit exercises, that his doctrine might be not only sound, but also suitable to the circumstances of his congregation. A desire to unfold the whole counsel of God, induced him, among other subjects, to discourse on one, both curious and critical, namely, the nature and abuse of lots; a subject, in his opinion, but ill understood, and one from which much mistake and inconveniency had arisen. Conceiving that a minute investigation of this ill defined subject, by affording his congregation more correct views of the matter, might prove beneficial, Mr. Gataker was induced to handle it, as he did all other subjects, freely, fully, and fairly, without ever suspecting it would involve him in a long and troublesome controversy. Some ignorant, or ill disposed persons, however, had noised abroad, that he was become the defender of gamesters, and the patronizer of cards and dice, with other groundless stories; which obliged him to publish his opinions on that subject, in a small treatise; in which, says the above author, “It is hard to say, whether the accuracy of the method, the conclusiveness of his reasoning, or the prodigious display of learning, deserve most to be admired?” He dedicated this little work to Sir Henry Hobart, Bart, chief justice of the common pleas, with all the benchers, barristers, and students of Lincoln’s Inn, as a mark of his gratitude and respect for their former favors. The publication of this piece made a great noise in the world, and gained its author great reputation. This learned performance is entitled, Of the Nature and Use of Lots, a treatise historical and theological. In the preface to the judicious and ingenuous reader, he observes, that though he had often been solicited to appear in public, through the medium of the press, he had hitherto declined. “But (says he) a twofold necessity is now imposed upon me to do some thing in this way, partly by the importunity of divers Christian friends, religious and judicious, who, being partakers of my public ministry, have heard, or, upon request, have seen some part of this weak work, or, from the report of others concerning it, have not ceased to solicit the publication thereof; but partly also, and more especially, by the iniquity of some, who, being of a different opinion with regard to certain points therein disputed, have been more forward than was meet, to tax and traduce, with unchristian slanders and uncharitable censures, both the writer and the work.
“Should any, says he, surmise that this kind of writing may occasion too much liberty in this licentious age, I answer, 1st, That it is neither equal nor fair, that, for the looseness of some, the consciences of the godly and circumspect should be entangled and ensnared: and, 2dly, That whosoever shall take no more liberty to themselves than this treatise allows them, shall be sure to keep within the bounds of piety and charity, equity and sobriety; than which I know not what more can he reasonably required. I protest before God’s face, and in his fear, that for no sinister ends undertook I this task; nor have I averred or defended any thing therein, but what, I am verily persuaded, is agreeable to the word of God.”
In the first chapter he describes what a lot is; and treats of lottery in general. In the 2d, Of chance or casualty, and casual events. 3d, Of the several kinds of lots. 4th, Ordinary lots. 5th, Of the lawfulness of such lots, with the cautions necessary in using them. 6th, Of ordinary lusorious lots, and their lawfulness. 7th, An answer to the principal objections to lusorious lots. 8th, An answer to the lesser arguments against them. 9th, Cautions to be observed in the use of them. 10th, Extraordinary or divinitary lots, 11th, Of their unlawfulness. 12th, An admonition to avoid them, with an answer to some arguments used in their defense; with the conclusion. A second edition of this treatise, revised, corrected, and enlarged by the author, was published in 1627.
The publication of the first edition drew the author into a controversy, which lasted many years. A very warm writer, who had been misled by the common report, attacked our author in a publication, which he calls a Refutation of Mr. Gataker’s Doctrine; but his production having had more the appearance of anger than argument, the licensers of the press would not sanction its publication. The enraged author considered this an additional injury; of which he so loudly complained, that Mr. Gataker, whose sole object was the investigation of truth, generously interposed with the licensers, and opened the way for both his antagonist and himself. He was conscious that he could not better defend his own character and sentiments against evil reports, than by affording his virulent adversary the fairest opportunity. This angry piece was accordingly ushered into the world, and Mr. Gataker soon after refuted his conclusions, by exhibiting the absurdity of some of them, and the imbecility of others, clearing, at the same time, the pointsin controversy. About twelve years after this, Mr. Gataker had to contend with Amesius and Voetius, both celebrated for their great learning, who had also written on the same subject; against whom he defended his sentiments, in a Latin performance, conducted with great modesty, and fraught with uncommon erudition.
In 1620 he made a tour into the Low Countries, which gave him a very favorable impression of the Dutch protestant churches, and most probably inclined him to that religious moderation by which, he was so much distinguished. At Middleburg, in Zealand, he preached to the English protestants greatly to ‘their satisfaction; but excited the high displeasure of the English catholics, by disputing with their ablest and most learned priests; and though he could not convert, he. certainly •confounded them; which drew down their keenest resentment. His mother knowing his zeal, and the provocation that his works bad already given, was apprehensive of danger to his person on this occasion, and not altogether without cause, from a party never famous for their moderation. On his return, he applied himself, with his former assiduity, to his beloved studies and the charge of his flock. About this time he addressed a letter to his learned friend Usher, now preferred to a bishopric, wherein he gives a very affecting description of the state of. the protestant churches abroad. In this letter, dated from RatherLithe, September 29th, 162.1, he thus expresses himself:
“My duty to your lordship remembered. This messenger so opportunely offering himself, I could not avoid saluting your lordships alone or two, thereby to signify my continued and deserved remembrance and hearty desire for your welfare. By this time, I presume, your lordship has got settled in your weighty charge, of oversight, wherein I beseech the Lord in mercy to bless your endeavors, to the glory of his own name, and the good of his church, never at any time more opposed and oppressed by mighty and malicious adversaries, both at home and, abroad —Never in foreign parts more generally distressed and distracted than at present. From France there are daily news of murder and massacres.: Towns and cities taken by storm, and without distinction of age, sex, or situation, all put to the sword. Nor, is it likely that those few, who still stand out, having no succours, can long maintain their ground against the power of so great a prince. In the Palatinate all is reported to be likewise going to ruin. Neither, for aught I can see, do the Hollanders sit on surer ground; for the fire that has been heretofore kindled against them, about the transportation of coin, arid the fine imposed thereupon, the East India quarrel, the command of the narrow seas, and the interrupting of the trade into Flanders, are daily more and more fanned; so that the .fire already begins to break out, which I pray God may not consume both them and ourselves.
“I doubt not, worthy sir, but you see as Well, nay, much better than myself and many others, what need the forlorn church of Christ has of hearts and hands to help to repair her ruins, and to fence that part of the fold that has not hitherto been so openly, broken down by the incursion of such ravening wolves as, have so lamentably prevailed against the other parts, and will not, therefore, in all likelihood, leave the rest unassailed; and how much she stands in need of prayers and tears (of old time her principal amour) unto him who hath the hearts and hands of all men at his direction and disposal, and whose help (our only hope as matters now stand) is often nearest when all human aid is unavailing. But these lamentable occurrences carry, me farther than I had intended.
“I shall be right glad to hear of your lordship’s health and welfare; which the Lord vouchsafe to continue, gladder to see the remainder of your former learned and laborious work abroad. The Lord bless and protect you. And thus ready to do your lordship any service I may in these parts. I rest,” etc.
Mr. Gataker, who had not yet finished his writings, on the points of controversy, observing that the papists labored to prove the doctrine of transubstantiation agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, he resolved to shew the absurdity of the attempt, and the utter impossibility of effecting their purpose; and having driven them from this their principal strong hold, by prosecuting his attack, he forced them to quit every other refuge. This work was entitled, Transubstantiation declared by the popish writers to have no necessary foundation in the word of God. He also published a defense of this work; and his learned labors, in the whole of this controversy, proved a seasonable and essential service to the protestant cause, and rendered their author deservedly famous in the estimation of the most worthy characters of the age, who admired his erudition and fortitude, as they also did his humility and readiness to serve the church of Christ. In 1640 he was engaged in a controversy about justification, which added additional luster to his name. In 1643 he was chosen one of the assembly of divines; where his endeavors to promote truth, and suppress error, were strenuous and sincere; yet his anxiety, for maintaining peace and cordiality among the different parties, was such, that when his sentiments, respecting Christ’s obedience in order to our justification, was negatived, and the question carried contrary to his opinion, his pacific disposition induced him to keep silence, and prevented him from publishing his discourses on that subject which be had prepared for the press. In 1644 he was chosen one of the committee for the examination of ministers. He was frequently urged to take the degree of doctor; but always refused; and when he was offered the mastership of Trinity college, Cambridge, by the earl of Manchester, he declined the honorable preferment. Content with his pastoral charge, he was more ambitious to do • good services to others, than exalt himself. Accordingly, he applied himself, during those turbulent times, to his favorite studies; which could give offence to no party, and might entitle him to the gratitude and approbation of all the friends of good literature. With this object in view, he published, in the year 1645, his laborious discourse on the name by which God made himself known to Moses and the children of Israel. In this profound, curious, and instructive performance, he discovered uncommon proficiency in the Hebrew tongue; and the work was so well received in the learned world, that it has passed through many editions. It is entitled, De Nomine Tetragrammato Dissertatio, qua vocis Jehovah apud nostros receptae usus defenditur, et a quoruudam cavil]ationibus iniquis pariter atque inanibus vindicatur. It was reprinted in 1652. It is also inserted in his Opera Critica, and makes one of the ten discourses on the same subject, collected and published by Hadrian Ryland. The first five of these were written by John Drusius, Sextinus Amama, Lewis Capel, John Buxtorff, and James Alting, who opposed the received usage which is strenuously defended in the other five; the first of which was written by Nicholas Fuller, the second by our author, and the other three by John Leusden.
Mr. Gataker was aware, that though the singularities of his opinion neither arose from a luxurious imagination, nor an affectation to oppose commonly received opinions, but were, in reality, the convictions arising from much reading and reflection, yet unless they were clearly and fully demonstrated, they never lessened his reputation. On purpose to prevent this, and show how’ much a thorough knowledge of grammatical learning contributes to the improvement of science, he commenced an undertaking, which some may consider beneath the notice of so great a man, namely, to examine the elementary principles of the Greek language, that he might be enabled the better to vindicate the results of his laborious inquiries.
Notwithstanding Mr. Gataker’s close application to these learned and critical studies, he paid the strictest attention to his pastoral duties, and the business of the assembly of divines, by whom he was appointed to write the Annotations upon Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations, published in their Annotations on the Bible *. Mr. Gataker, though greatly distinguished for his moderation, disapproved of many things in the national church. He was always opposed to the inordinate power of the bishops, and conceived it was requisite to divest them of their pompous titles and seats in parliament. He was of opinion, that a bishop and presbyter were one and the same office; but confined his ideas of reformation to a moderate episcopacy.
As he advanced in years, his incessant labors, both of body and mind, brought upon him infirmities, which, though they did not wholly put a stop to his studies, considerably retarded their progress. But the strength of his constitution, a temperate mode of living, and medical assistance, having restored him to a moderate share of health, he resumed his pulpit exercises; but was soon obliged to relinquish them, though he continued to administer the sacraments, and deliver short discourses at funerals. The chief part of his time was now devoted to study and the composition of several learned works. About this time he employed his pen in refuting the antinomian tenets which were making a considerable noise in the country. Soon after Mr. Gataker published his discourse on the style of the New Testament; in which he opposed the sentiments of Pfochenius, who maintained that there were no Hebraisms in those sacred writings; which be endeavored to prove by authorities, as well as argument (This useful work has been improperly ascribed to the assembly. The divines concerned in the performance were appointed by parliament, by whom each had his portion allotted him. Several of them, however, were members of that assembly.) All this our author undertook to overthrow, and, according to the opinion of the best critics, effectually accomplished; and so clearly and concisely explained the true meaning of many texts, both in the Old and New Testaments, corrected such a number of passages in ancient authors, and discovered such a consummate skill in both the living and dead languages, as justly procured him the reputation of one of the ablest philologists of the age. He tells us, in the first chapter of this work, “That meeting with the treatise of Sebastian Pfoehenius, a German divine, published in 1629, be read it with particular attention, and found it very weighty in matter, and abundantly stored With good literature; but finding many of the author’s sentiments opposed to his own, and, in his opinion, at variance with the truth; observing also that many learned and great men Were censured without cause, and some times represented afc speaking a language very different from what he took to be their real sentiments, these observations induced him to examine a multitude of questions started in that treatise.” In this examination, he shews that his candor was in every respect equal to his critical skill and penetration. He uses no hard names or harsh expressions, but contents himself with pointing out mistakes, and the grounds on which they are founded. In pursuing this method, he opens a field of equally curious and instructive learning, and exhibits such penetration, judgment, and research, as are truly astonishing. He begins by refuting a principle that Pfochenius had assumed, namely, that the Greek, Latin, and German, etc. were original languages. On this point, his opinion is, that it cannot be easily ascertained which are original; but with respect to the Latin, he maintains that it is not. He shews, from the authority of both ancient and modern authors, that it was a compound of several languages spoken by the Sabines, Oscans, and other old inhabitants of Italy, but more especially by the Greeks; and to demonstrate this more effectually, he takes the first five lines of Virgil, one of the purest and most elegant of the Latin poets, and proves that there is scarcely a single word in them that has not been derived from the Greek. In this way he saps the foundation of Pfochenius’ system, by making it evident, that there can be no certain knowledge of the originality of any language in the sense in which that author understands it.
In the fifth chapter he considers Pfochenius’ three principal questions, 1st, Whether the text of the New Testament be truly Greek, and not different from that used by profane authors? 2d, Whether if Homer, Pindar, Plato, Demosthenes, etc. were to rise from the dead, they would be able to understand the New Testament? And, lastly, by what name the language of that book is or ought to be called, whether Grsecanic, Hellenistic, or Grecian? Mr. Gataker replies, “That with regard to the last question, being merely a dispute about words, he will have nothing to do With it; the other two he discusses without reserve, showing, that notwithstanding the words, and even the phrases, in which Cicero, Sallust, Livy, Terence, and others wrote, arc here and there to be found in scholastic writings, he must not only see very indifferently and obscurely, but willfully shut his eyes, who doe§ not perceive the amazing deficiency of these writings, when compared with the purity of the Latin tongue, as exhibited in the works of these celebrated individuals. That the New Testament, originally written in Greek, is subject to the same observations when compared with the writings of Homer, Pindar, Plato, Demosthenes, and other Greek writers. For notwithstanding that the writers of the New Testament scriptures use many words, arid even phrases, used by the above writers, and equally pure; yet, inasmuch as a larger proportion of the words and phrases used in the New Testament are adulterated, and greatly deficient in respect of purity, it follows, of course, that the New Testament Greek differs widely from the Greek used by the above writers.” In confirmation of all this, Mr. Gataker goes on to show, that many Latin words are used by the sacred writers, though written in Greek characters, or disguised by Greek terminations. He also produces abundance of Hebrew and Syriac words introduced in the same manner. From which he concludes, that though Pfochenius could really show (which, however, he has not done) that the sacred writers make use of a multitude of phrases to be met with in profane authors; yet this would not amount to what he has asserted, seeing that the former have also used many words and ‘ phrases employed by authors who are not allowed to have written pure Greek.
With regard to Pfochenius’ second question, Whether Homer, etc. were he to rise from the dead, could understand the New Testament Greek? He tells him, “It can be granted or denied only in part; for though some places might be in a measure understood by these great men, were it possible for them to return from their graves, yet this would go but a short way in proving what he had asserted; because, though they might,’ and no doubt would, understand some passages, others they could not understand. For example, says he, supposing Cicero were to rise from the dead, he would most probably understand the greater part of the writings of Apuleius; but would any competent judge conclude from this, that the Latin of Apuleius can be compared in point of purity with that of Tully, or of the age in which Tully wrote?” “But (says Pfochenius) Paul conversed with the Greeks of his time; and if understood by them, why not by the ancients?” “This I can readily grant (says Mr. Gataker), and at the same time deny the consequence you intend to draw from it. For owing to the admission of many exotic words and phrases borrowed from the Italians. Cecilians, Cyrenians, and Carthagenians, in consequence of their being under one government, and partly also by their commercial intercourse with those nations, it so happened, that the Greek language itself, in the days of the apostles, had suffered a considerable decline. Upon the whole, says he, were Demosthenes ,to live again, he would find, in all probability, considerable obstacles in reading and comprehending the sense of Paul’s writings, and would, no doubt, criticize many of his words and phrases.” Mr. Gataker then proceeds to show, on the authority of Beza, the reasons why the apostles were less careful about the elegance than the perspicuity of their writings.
He proceeds through the rest of Pfochenius’ treatise in the same way, explaining, as they occur, a multitude of passages in sacred and profane authors, correcting some critics, and commending others who had gone before him; but with so much apparent candor, that it is impossible for the reader not to admire his temper. In the fortyfourth chapter Mr. Gataker recapitulates the whole dispute, and shows that the question resolves itself into this—Whether the style of the New Testament Greek be everywhere the same as that which was used by the ancient writers at the time when that language was in its greatest purity? or whether it is not such as admits of Hebraisms and Syriasms? Pfochenius affirms the former, and denies the latter; while Mr. Gataker maintains the opposite opinion, and concludes, by observing, that after all that Pfochenius has advanced on the subject, he (Mr. Gataker) has not a doubt but five or six hundred phrases can be produced from the New Testament, and a much greater number from the Greek version of the Old, in which there are obvious marks of the Hebrew and Syriac tongues, without the smallest resemblance to the ancient Greek, so far as men of the greatest erudition and research have hitherto been able to discover.
The venerable primate of Ireland, than whom there could scarcely be a better judge of these matters, has manifested his respect both for our author and his performance, by sending it, along with his own annals,’ as a present to Dr. Arnold Boate, then residing at Paris.
Although this was a very considerable work and procured for its author the reputation of an excellent critic, it was merely a specimen of a much larger production, on which he had labored for many years, and to which, at one time, he had a mind to have it attached by way of an appendix. But being first ready for the press, and doubtful whether he might live to finish the other, he thought it expedient to publish it by itself, the more especially, as it would enable him, in some measure, to judge what kind of reception his larger work was likely to meet with from the republic of letters. Finding this specimen of his miscellanies universally applauded, he prepared and published the two first books of his larger work, the whole being divided into six. The remaining four, after his death, were published by his son Charles. This work differs in nothing from the nature of the former, only that it has no specific object, but exhibits the author’s opinion on difficult passages both of the Old and New Testaments, on the works of the primitive fathers and modern critics; illustrating, as they fall in his way, a great variety of obscure and perplexed passages both in Greek and Latin authors. He likewise makes some observations on words and phrases in our own language. This work was received with general approbation, and the author highly applauded, particularly by Morhoff, for his singular happiness in distinguishing the true sense of the most difficult passages, and of making it evident, that the sense be defends is the genuine import of the place; and all this, in a few words, without the least appearance of ostentation or severity towards those he corrects, but rather searching after excuses for the mistakes they have made. The natural modesty, as well as the Christian moderation, that distinguished Mr. Gataker, prevented him from that publicity of character which his talents, his labors, and the multitude of his friends, must have otherwise procured him; yet, on important occasions, he was not to be deterred from what he considered his duty. Accordingly, on finding that the army were determined to bring the king to a trial, and were taking their measures for that purpose, he was the first man to oppose them, in a declaration of his sentiments, addressed to the general and his council, and subscribed by forty-seven of the London ministers. In this address, they remind the council of their duty to the parliament, and the obligation they were under, as well as the parliament, to defend his majesty’s person, and all his just rights. That the one could not be injured, or the other invaded, without the manifest breach of many oaths. They taught them to distinguish between God’s permission and his approbation, and exposed the folly of pretending to secret impulses to actions at variance with the written laws of God. They demonstrated, that the plea of necessity was false, having no foundation in fact; and concluded their address, by recommending the rule of John the Baptist—”Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely.”
Mr. Gataker was deeply versed in the controversy about infant baptism; on which he published a small treatise, and afterwards added several other discourses, wherein the main question is treated with much serious and solid argument. Some time after this he likewise published two Latin discourses on the same subject. In 1652 he favored the world with his admirable edition of the Emperor Marcus Antonius’ Meditations; to which he prefixed a Preliminary Discourse on the Stoic Philosophy, This was allowed, by the best critics, both at home and abroad, to be a most complete and correct treatise, as well as an excellent and useful compendium of morality. In some of his former works he had occasionally given specimens of his acquaintance with the works of this imperial philosopher, whose celebrity has always been high in the learned world. By the publication of Mr. Gataker’s edition of this famous production, men’s expectations were considerably raised, and highly gratified. It had been published in Greek by Conrad Gesner, and with a Latin translation by William Hylander; which had passed through several editions. Mr. Gataker found both the text and the translation exceedingly faulty, and spent, nearly forty years in considering how the first could be amended, and a translation given that might do justice to this exquisite performance. He sent a list of his principal difficulties to the celebrated Salmasius, who, in his answer, greatly commended his undertaking; but gave him a dismal prospect of the obstacles that stood in his way—innumerable corruptions, frequent chasms, still more frequent transpositions, and many other misfortunes; for the removal of which he promised him his assistance. His frequent journeys, however, and other circumstances, prevented him from performing his promise. Mr. Gataker, nevertheless, persevered in his design, and by the few helps he could procure, and his own skill and penetration, comparing copies and extracts with incredible labor, at last completed his design, and, to the great satisfaction of the learned world, published his admirable edition of this valuable work about two years before his death.
Mr. Gataker, in the evening of life, when he earnestly desired that repose which his unceasing labors so well merited, and the state of his health so greatly required, was again most furiously attacked by the whole host of astrologers. In commenting on Jeremiah x. 2. where the Jews are warned against listening to the predictions of astrologers, and complying with the practice of idolaters, the two great sins to which they were likely to be tempted in their captivity at Babylon, Mr. Gataker considered it his duty to warn the Christian world against listening to the presumptuous and foolish predictions of this juggling tribe. His exposition is full of good sense and sound learning, and effectually destroys the credit of that delusive art, by which, in all ages and countries, weak and wandering minds have been plundered and misled. These Annotations roused the whole fraternity, from the highest to the lowest, who, finding their craft in danger, and the means by which they procured their wealth rendered doubtful and unproductive, united their endeavors to write him down. William Lilly, John Swan, and Sir Christopher Heyden, enraged at our author, wrote against both himself and his Annotations without either mercy or good manners; but found they had overvalued their own abilities when they commenced a warfare with that eminent philosopher and divine. In vindication of his Annotations, Mr. Gataker was induced to publish” a discourse, in which he also defended his own character, which they had most maliciously attacked, and also what he had for* merely advanced against these illuminated stargazers. In this treatise, our venerable author, in repelling the scandalous misrepresentations of his enemies, runs over the most considerable transactions of his life, relates at large the manner in which he arrived at his several preferments, and completely refutes the idle and malicious charges and insinuations of Lilly and his associates. Amongst other particulars, he mentions his sentiments upon church government, and declares that he never was an advocate for the power and splendor of prelacy, but that, on the contrary, he had always been inclined to a moderate episcopacy. For the sake of being serviceable in his generation, he had submitted to the bishops; and when they were put down, by what he supposed a superior power, he, for the same reason, and with the same intention, also submitted; yet never sought, but even refused, offered preferment from both parties. This treatise, it appears, was written a very short time prior to his death.
Notwithstanding that Mr. Gataker had convinced all judicious and impartial inquirers, that the science of astrology was false and delusive, he could never silence his conceited and obstinate antagonist; whose bread being at stake, defended the system with unaccountable pertinacity, and by his frequent publications, persecuted, and endeavored to vilify our author to the end of his life; and then, in defiance of the dictates of religion or humanity, insulted him even in his grave. As for Mr. Gataker, he pursued the same pious and peaceable course, till his age, his infirmities, and incessant labors, had worn out his constitution.
In his last sickness his faith and patience were strikingly manifest. The day before his departure, when exercised with extreme pain, he cried out, “How long, O Lord, how long? Come, oh! come speedily.” A little before he breathed his last, he called his son, his sister, and his daughter, to each of whom he delivered the charge of a dying Christian. “My heart (said he) fails me, and my strength is gone; but God is the strength of my heart, the rock and fortress of my salvation, and my sure portion. Into thy hands I therefore commit my soul, for thou hast redeemed me, O thou God of truth. My son, said he, you have a great charge, be sure to look after it, and discharge the duties thereof with a conscientious regard to that important day, when you must render an account of your stewardship. Instruct your wife and children in the fear of God, and watch for the welfare of the flock over which you have been appointed pastor. Sister, said he, I thought you might have gone before me; but God wills it otherwise, and I am called to make my appearance first. I hope we shall meet together in heaven; and I pray God to bless you, and be your comfort in your declining years. Daughter, he said, mind the world, and the things of the world, less, and God, and the things that concern your eternal peace, more, than you have hitherto done; and never let it drop out of your memory, that the earth, and all it contains, without the fear of God, and the hopes of eternal life, are of no value, less than nothing, and vanity.” Having thus delivered his dying charge, he desired them to withdraw, and leave him to rest; but the hour of his departure was at hand. He died July 27th, 1654, and in the seventy-ninth year of his age, having been forty-three years pastor of Rotherblthe. His funeral sermon was preached by Mr. Simon Ashe, his much esteemed friend, and afterwards published, with the title, Gray Hairs Crowned with Grace; a sermon preached at the funeral of that reverend and eminently learned and faithful minister of Christ, Mr. Thomas Gataker.
This venerable divine was married four times. His third wife was the sister of Sir George Farwell. He would never condescend to have his picture taken. He is described, however, as a man of middle stature, with a thin and slender body, a lively countenance, and a fresh complexion. He was a temperate liver, free and cheerful in conversation, strongly addicted to study, but by no means averse to mingle in useful company. He possessed a quick apprehension, a solid judgment, and a memory so uncommonly retentive, that though he used no common placebook, he could readily make use of any thing he had read. His house was a private seminary, where both Englishmen and foreigners resorted, and lodged for the benefit of his instructions. His extensive learning and talents were admired by the great men of his time, both at home and abroad, with many of whom he held a regular correspondence. It is said concerning him, “That of all the critics of the age, who have employed their pens in illustrating polite learning, there are few, if indeed any, who deserved to be preferred to Thomas Gataker, for diligence and accuracy in explaining those authors whose writings he has examined.” He is, moreover, styled, “A writer of infinite learning, and accurate judgment, and his name, as a scholar, is paralleled with Usher and Selden. He was an ornament to the university, a light to the church, a loving husband, a discreet parent, a faithful friend, and a modest and kind benefactor, a candid encourager of learning, and an intrepid champion for the truth.” According to Echard, “He was an able master in the Greek and Hebrew languages, and the most celebrated among the assembly of divines. ‘ It is hard, says he, to tell which was the most remarkable in this great man—his exemplary piety and charity, his polite literature, or his humility and modesty in refusing preferment.”
His works, in addition to those which have their titles given in the course of this memoir, are, 1. A Just Defense of certain Passages in a former Treatise concerning the Nature and Use of Lots. 2. Thomse Gatakeri Londinatis Antithesis partim Gulielmi Amesii partim Gisberti Vcetii de Sorte Thesibus Reposita.—3. Transubstantiation declared, by the Popish writers, to have no necessary foundation in God’s word.—4. De Diphthongis sive Bivocalibus Dissertatio Philologica, in qua Literarum quariindam Sonus Germanus, Natura genuina, Figura nova, et Scriptura vetus veraque investigatur.—5. A mistake, or misconstruction, removed with respect to the Antinomians.—6. Shadows without Substance.—7. Mysterious Clouds and Mists. —8. Thornse Gatakeri Londinatis de Novi Testament! Stylo Dissertatio, etc.—9. Thomas Gatakeri Londinatis Cinnus; sive adversaria miscellanea animadversionum verarum libris sex comprehensa: quorum primores duo nunc primitiis prodcunt reliquis deinceps (Deo favente) seorsum insecutaris.—10. Adversaria Miscellanea posthuma in quibus Sacrse Scripturae prima deinde aliorum Scriptorum locis raultis Lux affunditur.— 11. De Baptismatis Infantilis vi et efficacia Disputatio privatim habita inter V. C. Dom. Samuelem Wardum theologia? sacrse doctorem, et in Academia Cantabrigiensi Professorem, ‘et Thomam Gatakerum.—12. Strictures ad Epistolam Joannis Davenantii de Baptismo Infantum.—13. Marci Antonini Imperatoris de rebus suis, sive de iis quse ad se pertinere censebat, Libri XII. cum Versione Latina, et Commentariis Gatakeri.—14. A Vindication of the Annotations on Jeremiah, chap x. ver. 2. against the scurrilous Aspersions of that grand Impostor, William Lilly; also against the various expositions of two of his advocates, Mr. John Swan, and another by him cited, but not named. 15. David’s Instructor.—16. The Christian Man’s Care.— 17. The Spiritual Watch.—18. The Gain of Godliness.—19. The Just Man’s Joy, with signs of sincerity.—20. Jacob’s Thankfulness.—21. David’s Remembrances.—22. Noah’s Obedience.—23. A Memorial of England’s Deliverance from the Spanish Armada.—24. Sorrow for Zion.—25. God’s Parley with Princes, and an appeal from them to him.—26. Prayer, a Marriage Sermon.—27. A good Wife God’s Gift.— 28. A Wife indeed.—29. Marriage Duties—30. Death’s Advantage.—31. The benefit of a good name and a good end.—32. Abraham’s Decease, a Funeral Sermon.—33. Jeroboam’s Son’s Decease.—34. Christian Constancy Crowned by Christ. The above sermons, of which bishop Wilkins gives a high character, were first published separately; but collected and published, in one volume folio, in 1637.—35. Francisci Gomari Disputationis Elencticae de Justificationibus, etc.—36. Mr. Anthony Wotton’s Defense.—37. A true relation of Passages between Mr. Wotton and Mr. Walker.—38. An Answer to Mr. Walker’s Vindication. —39. Stricture in Barth. Wigelini Sangallensis de Obedientia Christ! Disputationem Theologicam.—40. Animadversiones in J. Piscatoris et L. Lucii Scripta Adversaria de causa meritoria Justificationis.—41. Ejusdam Vindicatio adversus Capellum.— 42. The Decease of Lazarus.—43. St. Stephen’s Last Will and Testament.—44. God’s Eye on his Israel.—45. A Defense of Mr. Bradshaw against Mr. J. Canne.—The celebrated Hermanus Witsius collected and published, in one volume, the whole of Mr. Gataker’s critical works in the year 1698, since entitled, Opera Critica; which will serve to perpetuate the memory of his learning, talents, and industry, when monuments of brass and marble shall have resigned their charge, and are themselves forgot.