Gale, Theophilus (DNB00)

GALE, THEOPHILUS (1628–1678), nonconformist tutor, son of Theophilus Gale, D.D., vicar of Kingsteignton, Devonshire, and prebendary of Exeter, was born at Kingsteignton in 1628. He was educated under a private tutor and at a neighbouring grammar school, and in 1647 was entered a commoner at Magdalen Hall, Oxford. At the visitation of 1648 he was made a demy of Magdalen College, and on 17 Dec. 1649 received the degree of B.A., a year earlier than usual, on the ground of his age and parts. In 1650 he was put into the place of one of the ejected fellows; he graduated M.A. on 18 June 1652. He was a successful tutor, among his pupils being Ezekiel Hopkins [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Derry. A hint in Grotius's ‘De Veritate’ (i. 16) gave him the idea of the derivation of all ancient learning and philosophy from the Hebrew scriptures, and to the elaboration of this theory he devoted the studies of his life. In ecclesiastical polity he was an independent, and a member of the church of this order formed by Thomas Goodwin, D.D. [q. v.], when president of Magdalen. He distinguished himself as a university preacher. At the end of 1657 he accepted an appointment as preacher in Winchester Cathedral, still retaining his fellowship. On the restoration of the monarchy (1660) his preferments went back to their former owners.

Unable to conform, Gale became tutor in the family of Philip, fourth baron Wharton. In September 1662 he accompanied his patron's two sons, Thomas (afterwards the first marquis) and Godwin, to the protestant college at Caen in Normandy. Here for two years he enjoyed the friendship of Bochart. Leaving his pupils at Caen, he seems to have spent a year in travel, returning in the autumn of 1665 to Wharton's seat at Quainton, Buckinghamshire. Next year, his tutorial engagement being over, he proceeded to London, where, on his way to France, he had deposited his papers in the counting-house of a friend. He reached the city while the great fire was raging; by a mere chance his manuscripts had been saved. He settled at Newington Green and took pupils; acting also as assistant to John Rowe, minister of an independent congregation which met in St. Andrew's parish, Holborn, in defiance of the first conventicle act, not very operative in the dearth of ministrations caused by the great fire.

Gale now resumed the preparation of his great work. The first part of ‘The Court of the Gentiles’ was ready for the press in 1669; John Fell, D.D. [q. v.], then vice-chancellor, readily granted his license for printing it at Oxford. It was applauded as a marvel of erudition. Gale traces every European language to the Hebrew, and all the theologies, sciences, politics, and literature of pagan antiquity to a Hebrew tradition. A second part deals in a similar way with the origin of all philosophies. A third accounts for the errors of pagan philosophy and popish divinity on the theory of corruption by successive apostasies from a divine original. The fourth and largest part (in three books) is constructive, a reformed Platonism, ending with a powerful endeavour to rescue the Calvinistic doctrine of predetermination from moral difficulties. Excepting an essay on Jansenism, and a few learned sermons, Gale's other writings are mainly reproductions of his system in a Latin dress.

On the death of Rowe (12 Oct. 1677), Gale succeeded him as pastor, having Samuel Lee as a colleague. It would appear that he was now training students for the ministry; Wilson's manuscript list enumerates three, John Ashwood of Peckham, and the two sons of John Rowe, Thomas (who succeeded Gale) and Benoni. After the beginning of 1678 he printed proposals for publishing a ‘Lexicon Græci Testamenti,’ &c., which was ready for the press as far as the letter iota. His plans were cut short by his death, which occurred at the end of February or beginning of March 1678. He was buried at Bunhill Fields. All his real and personal estate he left for the education of poor nonconformist scholars. His library he bequeathed to Harvard College, New England, reserving the philosophical portion of it for the use of students at home.

He published:

  1. ‘The Court of the Gentiles, or a Discourse touching the Original of Humane Literature,’ &c., pt. i. Oxford, 1669, 4to; 2nd edit. Oxford, 1672, 4to; pt. ii. Oxford, 1671, 4to; 2nd edit. London, 1676, 4to; pts. iii. and iv. London, 1677, 4to (bk. iii. of pt. iv. London, 1678, 4to); 2nd edit. London, 1682, 4to.
  2. ‘A True Idea of Jansenisme,’ &c., 1669, 8vo (preface by John Owen, D.D.).
  3. ‘The Life and Death of Mr. Thomas Tregosse,’ &c., 1671, 8vo (who was ‘converted’ by one of his own sermons).
  4. ‘Theophilie … the Saints Amitie with God,’ &c., 1671, 8vo.
  5. ‘The Anatomie of Infidelitie,’ &c., 1672, 8vo.
  6. ‘Idea Theologiæ,’ &c., 1673, 8vo.
  7. ‘A Discourse of Christ's coming,’ &c., 1673, 8vo.
  8. ‘Philosophia Generalis,’ &c., 1676, 8vo.

Also a sermon (1 John ii. 15), 1674, 8vo (reprinted in supplement to ‘Morning Exercise at Cripplegate,’ 1676, 4to); a preface to the ‘Life of Rowe,’ 1673, 12mo; and a summary prefixed to William Strong's ‘Discourse of the Two Covenants,’ 1678, fol. Wood (followed by Watt) assigns to him ‘Ars Sciendi,’ &c., 1681, 12mo; 1682, 8vo, by T. G., but this is the work of Thomas Gowan [q. v.]

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon., 1692, ii. 451, 750, 778; Reynolds's Funeral Sermon for Ashwood, 1706; Calamy's Account, 1713, p. 64 sq.; Continuation, 1727, i. 97 sq.; Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802, i. 239; Wilson's Dissenting Churches in London, 1810, iii. 161 sq.; Wilson's manuscripts in Dr. Williams's Library (Dissenting Records, D*, p. 69); Gale's works.]

A. G.