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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a term applied to those divines who, in the seventeenth century, attempted to bring Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Independents, into one communion, by compromising the differences between them. The chief leaders of this party were the great Chillingworth and John Hales; to whom may be added More, Cudworth, Gale, Tillotson, and Whitchcot. They were zealously attached to the church of England, but did not look upon episcopacy as indispensable to the constitution of the Christian church. Hence they maintained that those who adopted other forms of government and worship, were not on that account to be excluded from the communion, or to forfeit the title of brethren. They reduced the fundamental doctrines of Christianity to a few points. By this way of proceeding, they endeavoured to show that neither the Episcopalians, who, generally speaking, were then Arminians, nor the Presbyterians and Independents, who as generally adopted the doctrines of Calvin, had any reason to oppose each other with such animosity and bitterness; since the subjects of their debates were matters non-essential to salvation, and might be variously explained and understood without prejudice to their eternal interests. This plan failing, through the violence of the bishops on one hand, (though sanctioned by the Lord Chancellor Clarendon,) and by the jealousy of the more rigid on the other, the name Latitudinarian became a term of reproach, as implying an indifferency to all religions, and has been generally so used ever since.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Latitudinarians'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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