Thomas Chubb

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Thomas Chubb
Portrait of Thomas Chubb, by Thomas Gainsborough
Portrait of Thomas Chubb, by Thomas Gainsborough
Born(1679-09-29)September 29, 1679
near Salisbury
DiedFebruary 8, 1747(1747-02-08) (aged 67)
Literary movementDeism

Thomas Chubb (September 29, 1679 – February 8, 1747) was an English lay Deist writer, born near Salisbury. He saw Christ as a divine teacher, but held reason to be sovereign in matters of religion. Although he questioned the morality of religions, he defended Christianity on rational grounds. Despite little formal schooling, Chubb was well up in the religious controversies of the day.[1] His The True Gospel of Jesus Christ, Asserted argues for distinguishing the teaching of Jesus from that of the Evangelists.[2] Chubb's views on free will and determinism, expressed in A Collection of Tracts on Various Subjects (1730), were extensively criticised by Jonathan Edwards in Freedom of the Will (1754).[3]


One of Chubb's published tracts, The Previous Question with Regard to Religion, went through four editions, three in 1725. His tracts were collected in a quarto volume in 1730 and attracted wide notice. (A second, two-volume edition in 1754 included 35 tracts.) Chubb was encouraged to write further tracts. A disciple of Samuel Clarke, he gradually diverged from Arianism into a modified Deism.[4]

In 1731 he published a Discourse concerning Reason... [showing that] reason is, or else that it ought to be, a sufficient guide in matters of Religion. Some "reflections" upon "moral and positive duty" were added, as suggested by Clarke's Exposition of the Catechism. In 1732 The Sufficiency of Reason further considered... was appended to an "enquiry" against a recent sermon by Samuel Croxall, which had urged that celebration of Charles I's martyrdom was inconsistent with celebrating William III's arrival.[4]

In 1734 appeared four tracts, in which he attacks the common theory of inspiration, argues that the resurrection of Christ was not a proof of his divine mission, and criticises the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. The whole argument showed an increasing scepticism, and the argument about Abraham led to some controversy. He returned to the question in 1735 in some "Observations" on Thomas Rundle's nomination to the see of Gloucester, Rundle having been accused of disbelieving the story. Three tracts are added in continuation of the former discussion.[4]

In 1738 Chubb published The True Gospel of Jesus Christ asserted, which provoked various attacks, including one from Ebenezer Hewlett.[5] It was followed by The True Gospel of Jesus vindicated, and An Enquiry into the Ground and Foundation of Religion, wherein it is shown that Religion is founded on Nature. He insisted constantly that true Christianity consists of a belief that morality alone can make men acceptable to God, that repentance for sin will secure God's mercy, and that there will be future retribution. In 1740 appeared Enquiry into the Ground and Foundation of Religion, including a controversy with Henry Stebbing. Chubb, argues against interpreting literally the command to give all to the poor, observing that Stebbing is a pluralist with two livings, a preachership and an archdeaconry, and due to be chancellor of the diocese of Salisbury, so that he can hardly interpret the command literally for himself.[4]

Chubb's 1741 Discourse on Miracles states that they can at most afford a "probable proof" of a revelation. In 1743 his Enquiry concerning Redemption is a defence of himself against some sneers of William Warburton's. In 1745 "The Ground and Foundation of Morality considered" is an attack on Thomas Rutherforth's theory of self-love. The last work that Chubb published himself was Four Dissertations (1746), in which he attacks some Old Testament passages with a freedom that gave wide offence.[4]

Views on prayer[edit]

Joseph Waligore states in a 2012 article, "The Piety of the English Deists", that Chubb discussed prayer more than any other deist.[6] Chubb's longest writing on the subject was a 30-page pamphlet, "An Enquiry Concerning Prayer", where he began by insisting that prayer was a duty God required for achieving a closer relationship with him. The purpose of prayer was to render someone

"a suitable and proper object of God's special care and love. For as prayer is an address or application of a dependent being to his supreme governour, and original benefactor.... It naturally draws forth our souls in filial fear, in hope and trust, in love, delight, and joy in God; and creates in us a just concern to please him, and to approve ourselves in his sight; and consequently to put on that purity and piety, humility and charity which is the spirit and practice of true Christianity."[7]

Chubb said we should pray often and

"it is when we forget God, when God is not in all our thoughts, that we do amiss; then our minds and lives are corrupted and defiled."

He also discussed whom we should pray to. First he said we should not pray to dead human souls, as we have no reason to think they hear our prayers or have any power to help us. Then he discussed whether we should pray to angels. Unlike Morgan – who thought we should pray to both God and angels – Chubb thought we probably should not pray to angels. He said even though they were "ministering spirits", we cannot be sure they hear our prayers, and they may not be at liberty to help us without God's direct guidance. He spent a final ten pages wondering whether we should pray to Jesus or just to God the Father, concluding we should pray to God the Father "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ".[7]

Chubb was sure that God heard all our petitions, but he did not think God answered them all in the way we wished. God answered only if they were for lawful things and people prayed earnestly "with a modest resignation to God's will".[vi] Chubb thought that God sometimes gave us harmful things we had prayed for, but then God acted "in displeasure".[7] In another tract, he was more pessimistic about God's positive response rate to our prayers. He cited evidence that God did not often answer our prayers: over the last two hundred years, millions of sincere, fervent prayers had petitioned God for the defeat of the Antichrist, but the Roman Catholic hierarchy or other interests bent on defeating God's kingdom still existed.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wood 1907.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-09. Retrieved 2008-09-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ See Thuesen, ed., The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 26, p. 324.
  4. ^ a b c d e Stephen 1887.
  5. ^ Levin, Adam Jacob. "Hewlett, Ebenezer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13152. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ Waligore, Joseph (July 2012). "The Piety of the English Deists". Intellectual History Review. 22 (2): 181–197. doi:10.1080/17496977.2012.693742.
  7. ^ a b c Thomas Chubb, "An Enquiry Concerning Prayer", in A Collection of Tracts on Various Subjects, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (London: 1754), 1:277-289, as cited in Waligore, p. 191.
  8. ^ Thomas Chubb, The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Vindicated (London, 1739), pp. 68–70, as cited in Waligore, p. 191.


External links[edit]