« Burnet, Gilbert Burnet, Thomas Burnett Prizes and Lectures »

Burnet, Thomas

BURNET, THOMAS: Church of England; b. at Croft (40 m. n. of York), Yorkshire, about 1635; d. in London Sept. 27, 1715. He studied at Clare Hall and Christ's College, Cambridge (fellow of Christ's, 1657; M.A., 1658; LL.D., 1685?); became master of the Charterhouse 1685, and in 1686 incited the first stand made by any society in England against the royal dispensing power in the reign of James II., and thereby prevented the illegal admission of a pensioner at the king's demand. He wrote fine English and excellent Latin, and was the author of several books which created much commotion. The Telluris theoria sacra (part i., London, 1681; Eng, version, revised, The Sacred Theory of the Earth, 1684; part ii. and Eng. version of the entire work, 1689; 7th ed., with life by Ralph Heathcote, 1759) was a fanciful attempt to explain the structure of the earth, and of no scientific value. In the Archeologiæ philosophicæ sive doctrina antiqua de rerum originibus (1692; Eng. transl., 1692) he interpreted the account of the Fall as an allegory, and the work cost him his position as clerk of the closet to William III. and marred his hope of advancement. In later life he wrote De fide et officiis Christianorum, in which "he regards the historical religions as based upon the religion of nature and rejects original sin and the 'magical' theory of the sacraments"; and De statu mortuorum et resurgentium, in which he defended the doctrine of the middle state, the millennium, and the limited duration of future punishment; these works were first authoritatively printed in 1727 (Eng. translations, 1727–28).

Bibliography: R. Heathcote, Life of Thomas Burnet, prefixed to the 7th ed. of The Sacred Theory, 1759; DNB, vii. 408–410.

« Burnet, Gilbert Burnet, Thomas Burnett Prizes and Lectures »
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