Nye, Stephen (DNB00)
NYE, STEPHEN (1648?–1719), theological writer, elder son of John Nye (d. 1688) [q. v.], was born about 1648. He was educated at a private school in Cambridge, and admitted as a sizar at Magdalene College on 11 March 1662; he graduated B.A. in 1665. On 25 March 1679 he was instituted to the rectory of Little Hormead, Hertfordshire, a poor living with a tiny church dedicated to St. Nicholas, and a parish of about one hundred inhabitants. Nye read the service, and preached ‘once every Lord's day,’ and had ‘an opportunity very seldom lacking of supplying also some neighbouring cure.’
Nye had formed an intimate acquaintance with Thomas Firmin [q. v.], and was thus led to take an important part in the current controversies on the Trinity. His personal influence in modifying Firmin's opinions was considerable (Explication, 1715, pp. 181 seq.) He induced him (and Henry Hedworth, his follower) to abandon the crude anthropomorphism of John Biddle (properly Bidle) [q. v.], and brought him to a position which Nye identified with the teaching of St. Augustine, but which others regarded as Sabellian. Nye wrote several tracts, some of which were published at Firmin's expense. He was very anxious to preserve his anonymity, and indignantly repudiated in 1701, in reply to Peter Allix, D.D. [q. v.], the authorship of a particular tract, ‘The Judgment of the Fathers,’ &c., 1695, 4to, by one Smalbroke. There is no reasonable doubt that he was the writer of the tract in which the term unitarian is first introduced into English literature, ‘A Brief History of the Unitarians, called also Socinians. In Four Letters, written to a Friend,’ &c., 1687, small 8vo; enlarged edition, 1691, 4to. The ‘friend’ is Firmin; an appended letter by ‘a person of excellent learning and worth’ is by Hedworth. A ‘Defence,’ 1691, 4to, of the ‘Brief History,’ by another hand, is ascribed by Nye to Allix. Other tracts, probably by Nye, are enumerated below. His acknowledged publications are those of a clear and able writer.
In 1712 he drew up a manuscript account of the glebe and tithes of Little Hormead, about which there had been disputes. He describes his health as interfering with regular performance of duty. He died at Little Hormead on 6 Jan. 1719, and was buried ‘in woollen only’ on 10 Jan. His wife Mary was buried at Little Hormead on 14 Jan. 1714. An only child, Stephen, was baptised on 15 Feb. 1690.
In addition to the ‘Brief History,’ the anonymous tracts which may with safety be ascribed to Nye are: 1. ‘A Letter of Resolution concerning the Doctrines of the Trinity,’ &c. [1691?], 4to. 2. ‘The Trinitarian Scheme of Religion,’ &c., 1692, 4to. 3. ‘An Accurate Examination … occasioned by a Book of Mr. L. Milbourn,’ &c., 1692, 4to (addressed to Firmin, in reply to ‘Mysteries (in Religion) Vindicated,’ &c., 1692, 8vo, by Luke Milbourne [q. v.]). 4. ‘Reflections on Two Discourses … by Monsieur Lamoth,’ &c., 1693, 4to (addressed to J. S. i.e. John Smith [q. v.], clockmaker and theological writer). 5. ‘Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity. By Dr. Wallis,’ &c., 1693, 4to (addressed to ‘a person of quality’). 6. ‘Considerations on the Explications of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Occasioned by Four Sermons,’ &c., 1694, 4to (addressed to Hedworth). Published with his name, either on the title-page, or in the body of the work, were: 7. ‘A Discourse concerning Natural and Revealed Religion,’ &c., 1696, 8vo. (Some copies have an ‘Epistle Dedicatory’ to Brook Bridges; this was cancelled, and a new title-page substituted, same date); reprinted Glasgow, 1752, 12mo. 8. ‘An Historical Account and Defence of the Canon of the New Testament,’ &c., 1700, 8vo (a letter, dated 29 Sept. 1699, in reply to Toland's ‘Amyntor,’ 1699). 9. ‘The System of Grace and Free-will,’ &c., 1700, 8vo (a visitation Sermon). 10. ‘The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity,’ &c., 1701, 8vo (in reply to Allix and to the ‘Bilibra Veritatis,’ 1700, ascribed to Willem Hendrik Vorst). 11. ‘Institutions concerning the Holy Trinity,’ &c., 1703, 8vo (regarded by himself as his most mature work). 12. ‘The Explication of the Articles of the Divine Unity,’ &c., 1715, 8vo. Criticises the views of Samuel Clarke (1675–1729) [q. v.]
[Grad. Cantabr. 1823; Clutterbuck's Hist. County of Hertford, 1827, iii. 425; Wallace's Antitrinitarian Biog. 1850, i. 313, 331, 371 seq.; Urwick's Nonconformity in Herts, 1884, p. 755; Extract from Admission Book of Magdalene Coll. Cambridge, per F. Pattrick, esq.; extracts from the registers of Little Hormead, per the Rev. George Smith; copies of the so-called ‘Unitarian Tracts,’ with contemporary annotations, some by Nye himself; Nye's works.]