Rutherforth, Thomas (DNB00)

RUTHERFORTH, THOMAS, D.D. (1712–1771), regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, was the son of Thomas Rutherforth, rector of Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire, who had made large manuscript collections for a history of that county. He was born at Papworth St. Agnes, Cambridgeshire, on 3 Oct. 1712, received his education at Huntingdon school under Mr. Matthews, and was admitted a sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge, 6 April 1726. He proceeded B.A. in 1729, commenced M.A. in 1733, served the office of junior taxor or moderator in the schools in 1736, and graduated B.D. in 1740. On 28 Jan. 1741–2 he was elected a member of the Gentlemen's Society at Spalding, and on 27 Jan. 1742–3 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society (Thomson, Chronological List, p. xliii). He taught physical science privately at Cambridge, and issued in 1743 ‘Ordo Institutionum Physicarum.’ In 1745 he was appointed regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, and created D.D. His dissertation on that occasion, concerning the sacrifice of Isaac as a type of Christ's death, was published in Latin, and elicited a reply from Joseph Edwards, M.A. He became chaplain to Frederick, prince of Wales, and afterwards to the princess dowager. He also became rector of Shenfield, Essex, and was instituted to the rectory of Barley, Hertfordshire, 13 April 1751 (Clutterbuck, Hertfordshire, iii. 387, 388). On 28 Nov. 1752 he was presented to the archdeaconry of Essex (Le Neve, Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 337). He died in the house of his wife's brother, Sir Anthony Abdy, on 5 Oct. 1771, and was buried in the chancel of Barley church; a memorial slab placed over his tomb was removed in 1871 to the west wall of the south aisle.

Cole says that Rutherforth ‘was pitted with the smallpox, and very yellow or sallow complexioned.’ He married Charlotte Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Abdy, bart., and left one son, Thomas Abdy Rutherforth, who became rector of Theydon Garnon, Essex, and died on 14 Oct. 1798.

Besides single sermons, tracts, charges, and a paper read before the Gentlemen's Society at Spalding, on Plutarch's description of the instrument used to renew the Vestal fire (cf. Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 196), Rutherforth published: 1. ‘An Essay on the Nature and Obligations of Virtue,’ Cambridge, 1744, 4to; of this Mrs. Catherine Cockburn wrote a confutation, which Warburton, afterwards bishop of Gloucester, published with a preface of his own as ‘Remarks upon … Dr. Rutherforth's Essay … in Vindication of the contrary Principles and Reasonings inforced in the Writings of the late Dr. Samuel Clarke,’ 1747. 2. ‘A System of Natural Philosophy, being a Course of Lectures in Mechanics, Optics, Hydrostatics, and Astronomy,’ 2 vols. Cambridge, 1748, 4to. 3. ‘A Defence of the Bishop of London [T. Sherlock]'s Discourses concerning the use and intent of Prophecy; in a Letter to Dr. Middleton;’ 2nd edit. London, 1750, 8vo. 4. ‘The Credibility of Miracles defended against [David Hume] the Author of Philosophical Essays,’ Cambridge, 1751, 4to. 5. ‘Institutes of Natural Law; being the substance of a Course of Lectures on Grotius de Jure Belli et Pacis,’ 2 vols. Cambridge, 1754–6, 8vo; second American edit. carefully revised, Baltimore, 1832, 8vo. 6. ‘A Letter to … Mr. Kennicott, in which his Defence of the Samaritan Pentateuch is examined, and his second Dissertation on the State of the printed Hebrew Text of the Old Testament is shewn to be in many instances Injudicious and Inaccurate,’ Cambridge, 1761, 8vo. Kennicott published in 1762 an answer, to which Rutherforth at once retorted in ‘A Second Letter.’ 7. ‘A Vindication of the Right of Protestant Churches to require the Clergy to subscribe to an established Confession of Faith and Doctrines, in a Charge delivered at a Visitation in July 1766,’ Cambridge [1766], 8vo. ‘An Examination’ of this charge ‘by a Clergyman of the Church of England’ [Benjamin Dawson] reached a fifth edition in 1767. 8. ‘A Second Vindication of the Right of Protestant Churches,’ &c., Cambridge, 1766, 8vo. This was also answered anonymously by Dawson. 9. ‘A Defence of a Charge concerning Subscriptions, in a Letter to [F. Blackburne] the Author of the Confessional,’ Cambridge, 1767, 8vo. This caused further controversy.

[Addit. MS. 5879, f. 52; Brydges's Restituta, iii. 224, iv. 230, 233, 401; Butterworth's Law Cat. p. 178; Mrs. Catherine Cockburn's Works, ii. 326, and Life prefixed, p. xlv; Cooke's Preacher's Assistant, ii. 291; Gent. Mag. 1771, p. 475, 1780, p. 226, 1798, ii. 913; Georgian Era, i. 503; Hutton's Philosophical and Mathematical Dict. ii. 344; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), iii. 643, 656; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes, ii. 196–8, 705, vi. 361; Account of the Gentlemen's Society at Spalding (1784), pp. xxxiv, xxxv.]

T. C.