Middleton, Conyers

Middleton, Conyers, 1683–1750, English clergyman, one of the earliest English rationalistic theologians. A fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, he became known through his disputes with Richard Bentley, master of Trinity. Middleton was made principal librarian of Cambridge in 1721. A storm of protest followed his Letter from Rome, Showing an Exact Conformity between Popery and Paganism (1729). It was in his controversy with Daniel Waterland over the historical accuracy of the Bible that doubts about his orthodoxy were raised. The Life of Cicero (1741) brought the author wide recognition, but later critics charged that it owed much to a work by William Bellenden. He was regarded as a latitudinarian (i.e., one who advocates opening the church to a broad spectrum of beliefs), an attitude plainly shown in his Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers (1749), concerning the claims to miraculous powers in the church; his view was severely criticized. His Miscellaneous Works (4 vol., 1752) include many of his writings.

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