16th Century Philosopherby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
There he lay as a normal infant, red and whimpering. How does the mind of a baby grow to become one of the greatest political philosophers the world has known? From his response to the Puritan upbringing by his father, to “The Reasonableness of Christianity”, which John Locke published just five years before his death, John Locke's life demonstrates how God uses a mind dedicated to honest pursuit of ultimate Truth.
On August 9, 1632 he was born in the village of Wrington in Somercast. His father was a country solicitor and small landowner who fought in the English Civil War on the Puritan side. During his early childhood, the king, Parliament, Protestants, Anglicans and Catholics all were in conflict with each other which lead to the civil war in 1640.
In 1646 Locke attended Westminster School in London and graduated in 1652. That same year he began attending Oxford University. There he learned Latin, logic and metaphysics. Finally in 1656 he completed his B.A.. However he did not leave the school, but tutored there for 3-4 years first a lecturer of Greek in 1658 and then as lecturer of rhetoric in 1663. That year he decided to become a doctor and began studying. During this time, the ideas of Robert Boyle and Descartes heavily impacted him and applied their ideas to philosophy.
As he was working to become a doctor, Locke met Lord Ashley who would later adopt the title of Earl of Shaftsbury. Lord Ashley employed him as a personal physician but he would also serve him as a secretary, political researcher, and political advisor.
Through Lord Ashley, Locke became connected with the king of England, Charles II. When Charles II formed a colony in America, he gave Locke the duty of writing up a constitution. Later this constitution would become known as the Carolina Constitution and would be used by America’s Founding Fathers as a model for their Constitution. In the constitution he included ideas from the Westminster Confession as well as principals such as the Creator-Redeemer distinction (the idea that the government can control men’s outward behavior but should let God rule their hearts) and Liberty of Conscience (the idea that it is wrong for the government to force citizens to act against their consciences). Furthermore he included religious freedom and granted protection of the law to people 18 or older who were members of a church or claimed to be a believer in a higher power. His thinking would have a deep impact on the founding of America.
In 1674 Lord Ashley left the government and involved himself in a conspiracy against the king’s brother. Although Locke had been earning his Bachelor's Degree in medicine, he had departed for France due to health reasons and not returned to England until five years later. Due to Locke's prior friendship with Ashley, suspicion fell on him as a possible co-conspirator and he was forced to flee to Holland in 1683, one year after the death of Lord Ashley.
During his stay in Holland, Locke moved from city to city forming friendships with English revolutionaries who were also in hiding from the government. Finally, the English revolutionaries won out in the Glorious Revolution and William of Orange and Princess Mary replaced the king. During this time Locke authored “Essay Concerning Human Understanding” and returned to England in 1688.
Even after 60 years old, Locke published many books about philosophy, science, and politics. Samuel Rutherford’s book, Lex Rex was one of several works that influenced Locke.
Locke was made Comissionary of Appeal in 1689 and published a “Letter Concerning Toleration”. In 1690 he authored “Two Treatise of Government” and “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” which caused lots of controversy. He wrote large works about the economy and in 1692 he assisted in restoring the board of trade where he served as an influential member until 1700. His book “Some Thoughts Concerning Education” was published in 1693. In 1704 he passed away in his residence in Oates of Essey where he had lived since 1691.
Locke had lived a life that impacted not only his times but our times. He strove to spread biblical ideas and upheld the Bible as ultimate truth, saying, “The holy Scripture is to me and always will be the constant guide of assent; and I shall always hearken to it as containing infallible truth relating to things of highest concernment… and I shall immediately condemn and quit any opinion of mine, as soon as I am shown that it is contrary to any revelation in the holy scripture.” He incorporated teachings of the Bible even within his political outlook and made a lasting impact on our Founding Fathers especially Thomas Jefferson when he penned the Declaration of Independence. His beliefs that God created man to be free from slavery and religious persecution, are seen specifically in the Declaration of Independence.
Above all, he believed that he and all mankind were condemned by God’s law yet had hope in Christ who was the sole link to salvation. With the Bible in one hand and logic in the other, this political philosopher strove to portray Christianity not only as reasonable but as God’s ultimate truth. Yet he did not attempt to force his beliefs on others, but encouraged believers and unbelievers to debate their beliefs. He did this knowing that God’s superior, infallible truth would prevail.
1. John Locke was from:
2. Which cannot be concluded from reading this article?
a. John Locke was a Christian.
b. John Locke was a priest in the Church.
c. John Locke impacted America.
d. John Locke was a boy.
3. Which is true?
a. John Locke founded a major world religion.
b. John Calvin influenced John Locke.
c. John Locke was a big fan of Thomas Jefferson’s and read all his books.
d. John Locke went to Holland every year for some fresh sea air.
4. What is John Locke known for?
a. his military success.
b. his writings and philosophy
c. writing the Carolina Constitution.
d. both b and c
Answers: (1)c, (2)b, (3)b, (4)d
4. Amos, Gary and Gardiner, Richard. Never Before In History: America’s Inspired Birth. Texas, Dallas: Pandas Publications, 1998