Benjamin Whichcote (1609-1683)
Whichcote was born at Stoke in Shropshire in 1609, entered Emmanuel in 1626 and in due course was elected a Fellow. In 1643 he was presented to the College living of North Cadbury in Somerset, but a year later was appointed by the Parliament to be Provost of King's College, a post he retained until the Restoration. After subscribing to the Act of Uniformity he was appointed in 1662 to St Anne's, Blackfriars, and in 1668 to St Lawrence, Jewry. Whichcote was the leader of the group of theologians known as the Cambridge Platonists, a fundamental principle of whose beliefs was that the rational is not opposed to the spiritual, but rather represents the divine power working in man. Like Plato they believed that man could and should strive to become god-like; they believed in free-will, but also in Grace. Unlike the Calvinists, they stressed rather the love than the justice of God; and taught that true religion must show itself in an active Christian love. Whichcote's own goodwill and charitableness, in an age of much bitterness of theological controversy, were widely known and respected. He died in 1683.
Whichcote is shown holding a scroll inscribed: LUCERNA DOMINI SPIRITUS HOMINIS - "the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord" (Proverbs xx.27), a favourite text of the Cambridge Platonists. Behind are shown King's College, Cambridge, and the church of St Lawrence, Jewry, as it was rebuilt by Wren during Whichcote's incumbency.
Peter Sterry (1614-1672)
Born in Surrey about 1614, Sterry entered Emmanuel in 1629 and was elected a Fellow in 1636. A distinguished theologian and preacher, he was one of the fourteen divines proposed in 1643 by the House of Lords for membership of the Westminster Assembly, the body set up by the long Parliament to reform the Church of England. From 1645 onwards he preached frequently to Parliament in St Margaret's, Westminster, and in 1649 was appointed one of Cromwell's personal Chaplains. After Cromwell's death he retired to Hackney, where he took pupils and devoted himself to writing. Among his more important works is his Discourse of the freedom of the will, printed posthumously in 1675. Several MS volumes of his unpublished meditations and discourses are preserved in the College library. Sterry is often grouped with the Cambridge Platonists, but though he was their friend and contemporary, and shared their reputation for tolerance and Christian charity in an age of religious acrimony, he differed from them about the freedom of the will, and was more of a mystic, influenced by the writing of Jacob Boehmen.
Sterry is shown holding a scroll inscribed: UT SIT DEUS OMNIA IN OMNIBUS - "that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians xv.28). In the background are depicted seventeenth-century Whitehall and St Margaret's Church, Westminster.
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