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it was natural that he should be enlisted as an able supporter of Hoadly in the Bangorian Controversy. He wrote an answer to Dr Snape's Second Letter to the Bishop of Bangor, and defended in a separate treatise the principles contained in Hoadly's famous sermon on the church, or kingdom, of Christ.
The work, which closed the long and distinguished labours of Whitby as an author, was his Last Thoughts. It was first published in 1727, the year after his death; and, although it was a posthumous work, it was by his own hand entirely prepared for publication. It was designed to correct several mistakes in his Commentary, into which mistakes his further reflections and progress in theological knowledge convinced him that he had fallen, while composing that important work.
His language respecting the change of his opinions is noble and ingenuous; it is worthy of his frank and liberal mind; and claims the admiration of every lover of truth and sincerity. After freely acknowledging a conviction of his former errors, he says, “I cannot but think it the most gross hypocrisy, after such conviction, to persist in a mistake;" and adds, “This my retractation, or change of opinion, after all my former endeavours to assert and establish a contrary doctrine, deserves the more to be considered, because it proceeds, and indeed can proceed, from me for no other reason but purely from the strong and irresistible convictions, which
now upon me, that I was mistaken." He furthermore informs us, that his change of sentiments had been gradual, brought about by calm, deliberate inquiry, into the sense both of Scripture and of antiquity, uninfluenced by any other motive than an earnest desire for the success of truth and pure religion.
A second edition of the Last Thoughts was published the next year after the first, and to this was prefixed a short account of the author, by Dr Sykes. This edition is considered the best, and is the one from which the tract is reprinted in the present Collection. It is now for the first time divided into sections with distinct heads. It was thought, that such a division would render the scope of the author's meaning more perspicuous, and more easily apprehended by the generality of readers. A short table of scripture phrases, which was added by the author, has been omitted, as having no essential connexion with the work itself.
Five Discourses were appended to the original edition, which are able and learned, and contain a further proof and illustration of the sentiments advanced in the Last Thoughts. In connexion with these, however, their value is not very great, as there is a close resemblance between the two, and some parts of the Last Thoughts are literal transcripts from the Discourses.
Besides the publications already mentioned, Whitby was the author of many others, especially on practical and polemical divinity. He published two volumes of Sermons on the attributes of God, and three or four volumes more on various subjects; a work on the necessity and usefulness of the christian revelation; a dissertation in Latin on the interpretation of the Scriptures; a confutation of Sabellianism ; and reflections on Dodwell's whimsical notion of the natural mortality of the soul. He, moreover, wrote tracts on politics, was a warm friend of the revolution, and approved and defended the oath of allegiance required on the accession of king William.
He had little to do, however, with politics; his long and useful life was devoted almost exclusively to the interests of religion. He died in the year 1726, at the age of eighty eight. His health was good, and he was able to be abroad, till the day before his death. His memory was uncommonly tenacious, and never forsook him ; he was devoted to his studies to the last ; his eyesight failed near the end of his life, and he was obliged to employ an amanuensis. His learning in theology was very great, more particularly in the history and technics of polemical divinity; and no man, probably, in modern times, has been so well read in the writings of christian antiquity.
He is represented as having been amiable and cheerful in social life, rigorously attentive to his duties, without suspicion, and without guile. Of the world he knew nothing, although he lived in it so long, and took so active a part
many of its concerns. Wood said of him, many years before his death, "he hath been all along so wholly devoted to his severer studies, that he hath scarce ever allowed himself leisure to mind any of those mean and trifling worldly concerns, which minister matter of gain, pleasure, reach, and cunning. Also, he hath not been in the least tainted with those too much now-a-days practised arts of fraud, cousenage and deceit.” Dr Sykes, after his death, added, “ he was ever strangely ignorant of worldly affairs, even to a degree, that is scarce to be conceived. He was easy, affable, pious, devout, and charitable." These traits of character are in harmony with his writings, which, at the same time that they bear testimony to his uncommon talents and learning, prove him to have had the higher merit of being a good man, and a sincere christian.