By Michael Brown
John Toland used to be infamous. Condemned by means of the Middlesex Grand Jury and the Irish parliament for authoring Christianity no longer Mysterious (1696), he used to be to spend a lot of his occupation at the heterodox fringes of highbrow existence in Britain and past. but he used to be additionally an intimate of a sequence of influential politicians and performed a very important half within the Hanoverian succession of 1714. A pamphleteer, a polemicist and a prankster of the 1st order, smooth scholarship has struggled to place his writings in the debates of his day. This research is the 1st to completely recount his notable biography, and to situate his writings absolutely in the controversies that formed them.
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Extra info for A Political Biography of John Toland (Eighteenth-Century Political Biographies)
In forwarding this thesis, Toland was, however, doing more than undermining Catholic claims to interpretive power, or indeed subverting the position of clerics of any theological colouring. 26 In other words, he was guilty of the heresy of Socinianism – the belief that Christ was not divine. It was the heterodox consequence inherent in Toland’s treatment of scripture which prompted the book’s most angered rebuttals. A Letter to J. C. 28 Narcissus Marsh was appalled by the premise of Christianity Not Mysterious.
In other words there is a circle of connections all of whom are actively asserting the connection between political and religious liberty: this implies that the desired audience Christianity Not Mysterious was a low Whig, anti-clerical tolerationist community. This connects the book with its distant cousin Locke’s Reasonableness of Christianity (1695), as well as with Molesworth’s Account of Denmark (1694). This connects also to a political context in which the Licensing Act had just lapsed and the clerics feared a wave of irreligious and licentious texts might come streaming from the presses: Toland’s text was not alone in being highlighted by Middlesex Grand Jury: Locke’s text and A Lady’s Religion were also named in the charge.
VI. Can the two readings be brought together? Was Toland’s pursuit of an Anglican patronage under Methuen and Molesworth compatible with his attack on the sententiousness of the clergy? Was it that his primary target was Presbyterianism, and the Anglican reaction unexpected? Or was Anglican High Church scholasticism very much in Toland’s mind as he scripted the polemic? It is here I think that conspiracy finally comes into play. Much has been made of the opening sections of Christianity Not Mysterious with their exposition of the relationship between reason and faith, but less well commented on is the final section of the treatise – section 3, ‘That there is Nothing Mysterious, or Above Reason, in the Gospel’.