Issac Newton


Samuel Crellius July 1726 to La Croze,

" Newton . . was very well versed not only in mathematics and natural philosophy, but also in theology and ecclesiastical history "




Locke's views on toleration are well known. In these, too, he was the representative thinker of his age.4 Remonstrants and Socinians, as Henry Hedworth had observed, both held 'that conscience ought to be free in matters of faith'.5 Locke was of the same mind. He can hardly have moved in Remonstrant and Socinian circles, as he did, without having been strongly influenced in this direction.1

Sir Issac Newton (1642-1727), an intimate friend of Locke, as we no know, was a Unitarian. Contrary to the popular idea of this great Englishman, recent investigations have shown that his primary interests were religious and theological. Privately he denied the doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Christ as both unintelligible and unscriptural. His views were never made public during his lifetime owing to his natural diffidence and the probable consequences which would have ensued had he published them. Like his friend Locke, he never left the communion of the Church of England, but his posthumous work on Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture and some papers amongst the Portland Manuscripts leave no doubt about his opinions. The first draft of An Historical Account of the Two Notable Corruptions of the Scriptures,2 In a Letter to a Friend was composed between 1687 and 1690. Its author originally intended to publish it anonymously, but then suppressed it. For Newton, as for Locke and the Socinians, the scriptures were the primary and fundamental authority for Christian doctrine, but for him, as for his predecessors, the faculty of reason had its rightful place in the discovery of divine truth. Hence we find Newton remarking, in his examination of the Trinitarian proof-text, i John v. 7:

Let them make good sense of it who are able : for my part, I can make none. If it be said that we are not to determine what is Scripture, and what not, by our private judgement, I confess it in places not controversial, but in disputable places, I love to take up what I can best understand. It is the temper of the hot and superstitious part of mankind, in matters of religion, ever to be fond of mysteries, and for that reason, to like best what they understand least.3


4   Cf. B. Willey, The Seventeenth Century Background (1934), p. 267.

5   Brief History of Unitarians, p. 173.


[page 330]   1   In Holland Locke's closest friends were the Remonstrants, Philip van Limborch and Jean Le Clerc ; in England, Firmin, Hedworth, Nye, and William Popple, the translator into English (1689) of the Epistola de Tolerantia—all Unitarians—were amongst his friends. In the Locke papers recently acquired by the Bodleian is a friendly critique of Nye's Discourse concerning Natural and Revealed Religion (1696).

2   i.e. i John v. 7 and i Tim. iii. 16 The history of the composition of this work may be seen in King's Life of Locke, i. 401, 409, 415, 423-34.

3   Two Letters of Sir Isaac Newton to Mr. Le Clerc . . . (1754), pp. 76-7. For a discussion of the history of this erroneously named work, see. H. McLachlan, The religious opinions of Milton, Locke and Newton (1941), pp. 136 f.

Oxford 1951, pp. 329-30.


From ISAAC NEWTON AND SOCINIANISM, 2003 by Stephen David Snobelen

Nor was the July 1726 meeting the only personal encounter between the two . . . for [Samuel] Crell later related in a letter to his correspondent Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze that while in England, he had "spoken at different times" with Newton. Also critical is the context in which Crell introduces Newton in his letter: after his listing of several English Unitarians, including William Whiston, James Peirce and Daniel Whitby, Crell provides several details that derive from his visits with Newton, including the latter's personal claim to him that he had written a commentary on the Apocalypse. He notes further that Newton "was very well versed not only in mathematics and natural philosophy, but also in theology and ecclesiastical history". De la Croze was also told that Newton had "wished to read my book, and did read it, while it was going through the press, because it seemed to contain new things".    (etc)


Selected ibliographic ( University of California )

Author Brougham and Vaux, Henry Brougham, Baron, 1778-1868. Title Analytical view of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, by Henry Lord Brougham and E. J. Routh. With an introd. by I. Bernard Cohen. Publisher New York : Johnson Reprint Corp., 1972. Description xvi, xxxi, 442 p. illus. 22 cm. Series The Sources of science,no. 116 Language English Note Facsimile reprint of the 1855 edition.

Author De Morgan, Augustus, 1806-1871. Title Essays on the life and work of Newton, by Augustus De Morgan, ed., with notes and appendices, by Philip E. B. Jourdain ... Publisher Chicago, London : The Open court publishing company, 1914. Description xiii, 198 p. front. (port.) 19 cm. Contents I. Newton (Appeared in the Cabinet portrait gallery of British worthies. 1846)--II. A short account of some recent discoveries in England and Germany relating to the controversy on the invention of fluxions (From the Companion to the almanac. 1852) Appendix on the manuscripts and publications of Newton and Leibniz.--III. Review of Brewster's Memoirs of the life, writings, and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (From the North British review. 1855) Appendix I. De Morgan's view of Leibniz's character. Appendix II. Note by De Morgan on the character of Newton and on the actions of the Royal Society, written in 1858.

Author Brougham and Vaux, Henry Brougham, Baron, 1778-1868. Title Analytical view of Sir Isaac Newton's Principia / by Henry Lord Brougham and E.J. Routh. Publisher London : Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855. Description xxxi, [1], 442, [2], 24 p. : ill. ; 23 cm. Language English Note Advertising: p. [1]-24 (5th group). Continues: Landmarks of science. Note Includes bibliographical references.

Author Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727. Title An historical account of two notable corruptions of Scripture : in a letter to a friend : published entire from a ms. in the author's hand-writing in the possession of the Rev. Dr. Ekens, Dean of Carlisle / by Sir Isaac Newton.
Publisher London : Printed by R. Taylor ; and sold by R. Hunter, 1830. Description 2 p.l., 96 p. ; 24 cm.
Note "Exactly reprinted from Bishop Horsley's edition of Sir Isaac Newton's Works, v. 5, 1785."


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Last updated 5 December 2004


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