A System of Moral Philosophy, by the late Reverend and Learned Mr. Henry Grove, of Taunton. Published from the Author’s Manuscript, with his latest Improvements and Corrections 1747
First published in 1747 by Thomas Amory in two volumes the eight concluding chapters were in fact written by Thomas Amory, Grove’s pupil, assistant and successor. Henry Grove (1683/4-1738), Presbyterian divine, was the youngest of fourteen children of a Taunton upholsterer. From 1706 until his death he was a tutor at the Taunton academy. He was a friend of Isaac Watts, and Grove himself wrote some hymns and verse, but his chief literary contributions are his sermons, some of them ordination addresses and funeral orations. While granting that human opinions are not to be valued above Scripture, Grove strongly affirms the place of reason in religion. Against Ball he argues that Christ himself did not deduce his moral injunctions from an elaborate theological system, and frequently offered reasons for them; and that reason is a necessary component of religious conversion. In all of this, the influence of Richard Baxter, in whose line Grove claims to stand, and of Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity is apparent. Grove is described as “a dissenter at the parting of the ways.” He looks back, not uncritically, to Locke, forward to Price. Schooled in Cartesianism, he stands with Newton. Upholding the priority of Scripture, his assertion of the rights of reason eased the passage of those who would elevate reason above the Bible. While staunchly rooting his ethical system in the divine order, Grove, by introducing a curriculum innovation at Taunton whereby ethics was separated from dogmatics, unwittingly facilitated that divorce of religion from ethics which some, both friends and foes of Christianity, have subsequently welcomed. (With thanks to Alan P.F. Sell).