John Locke, 1632-1704

[Mentioned in Miscellaneous Writings, p. 361, and in Miscellany, p. 349]

John Locke, English philosopher, played an important part in the intellectual development of modern Europe and to a large extent molded the character of Anglo-Saxon philosophy and culture.

The extreme Puritan leadership at Westminster School, and the rigid scholastic philosophy which was taught at Christ Church, Oxford, when Locke attended them, weighed against his following an ecclesiastical career. His reaction against religious dogmatism and his belief in individual freedom were the genesis of his well-known plea for religious toleration and for his rationalistic theology. He argued against Calvin's theory of predestination, saying that men are not responsible for the supposed sin of Adam, since responsibility is always individual. Believing that God's existence could be demonstrated apart from revelation, Locke is known as one of the fathers of English and American deism.

Locke held several government posts, and at one time went into voluntary exile in Holland. Upon his return to England at the time of the bloodless or Glorious Revolution in 1688, when William and Mary took the place of the tyrannical and Catholic James II, Locke began publishing his works on government, education, religion, and philosophy. The Bill of Rights, which William signed, inaugurated a constitutional form of government. In his two Treatises on Government, Locke justified the Glorious Revolution and furnished arguments for the American Revolution in his doctrine that government requires the consent of the governed and may be overthrown by revolution if it violates individual rights.

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Signs of the Times
October 24, 1959

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