The Cambridge Platonists: A Brief Introduction. with Eight Letters of Dr. Anthony Tuckney and Dr. Benjamin Whichcote

Article excerpt

TOD E. JONES, ED. The Cambridge Platonists: A Brief Introduction. With Eight Letters of Dr. Anthony Tuckney and Dr. Benjamin Whichcote. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2005. Pp. ix + 156, bibliography, index. $55.00.

Offering the first complete edition of the Letters between the Platonist Benjamin Whichcote (1609-83) and the Puritan scholar Antony Tuckney (1599-?) since the Samuel Salter edition of 1753, Tod Jones sets the exchange within the context of wider seventeenth-century theological debate. The great value of this edition involves the inclusion of English translations of every Greek and Latin passage, and more importantly, a thorough introduction to the fractious mid-century religious conflict. Anchoring Cambridge Platonism in the tradition of Renaissance humanism as exemplified by Colet, Erasmus, and Fisher, Jones deftly surveys the development of broad-church sentiment from Richard Hooker to Jeremy Taylor and John Hales before turning his attention to the members of the Cambridge school of Platonism.

Whichcote has long been considered one of the early leaders of the Cambridge Platonists, and Jones firmly endorses this view. The appeal to reason and a focus on essentials of the faith, together with a moderate skepticism and comprehensive view of the established church, informed Whichcote's preaching at Trinity Church, Cambridge. After he was appointed vice chancellor of Cambridge under the Cromwell government in 1651, Tuckney, who had been one of Whichcote's tutors at the university and who later served as a member of the Westminster Assembly, felt obliged to challenge Whichcote's inclusive view of the church and his generous view of the role of reason in the quest for salvation. The exchange of letters followed, with Whichcote defending his position with modesty and patience, exhibiting the very qualities of toleration and inclusion that prompted the formation of a distinctive movement. …