Chilling Worth. William, an English divine and controversial writer, born at Oxford in October, 1602, died at Chichester, Jan. 30, 1644. He was admitted a scholar of Trinity college, Oxford, in 1618, and elected a fellow in 1628. He made great proficiency in divinity and mathematics, and displayed remarkable skill in disputation. The theologians and university scholars in his time were constantly debating the comparative merits of the churches of England and Rome, and Chilling worth, while delighting in ingenious argumentation, became unsettled in his opinions. A Jesuit named Fisher convinced him of the necessity of an infallible rule of faith, whereupon he immediately abjured Protestantism and proceeded to the college of the Jesuits at Douai. He had no sooner taken this step than he "doubted that his new opinion was an error," and by invitation of Laud, then bishop of London, he returned to Oxford to reexamine the whole question. He soon abandoned the Roman church, and in 1634 wrote a refutation of the arguments which had induced him to join it.

Engaging in controversy with several distinguished Jesuits, he published in 1638, in answer to one of them, his "Religion of Protestants a Safe Way to Salvation," which passed to a second edition in live months, was received with general applause, and is still esteemed one of the ablest defences of the Protestant cause. Maintaining that the Protestant's sole judge is the Bible, and its sole interpreter private judgment, he was opposed not only by the Roman Catholics but by the Puritans, who affirmed that he destroyed faith by resolving it into reason. The appellations of Arian and Socinian were applied to him, and he for a time declined preferment on the ground of scruples in regard to subscribing to the thirty-nine articles. In 1638 he subscribed to the articles, regarding them as a basis of peace or union and not of belief or assent, and was promoted to the chancellorship of Salisbury, with the prebend of Brixworth annexed. During the civil war he was zealously attached to the royal party, and at the siege of Gloucester in 1643 he directed the making of some engines in imitation of the Roman testuclines for assaulting the town.

He was taken prisoner a few weeks before his death, and was buried in the cathedral of Chichester. Dr. Cheynell, who was one of his severest antagonists, attended and treated him kindly in his last sickness, but appeared at his funeral, and after an admonitory oration hurled a copy of the "Religion of Protestants" into the grave of its author, exclaiming, "Earth to earth, dust to dust." Cheynell published "Chillingwortli Nomssima, or the Sickness, Heresv, Death, and Burial of William Chilling worth" (1644; 2d ed., 1725), which has been described as "the quintessence of railing, which ought to be kept as the pattern and standard of that sort of writing." The works of Chillingworth have been frequently republished, the earliest complete edition being that of London, 1742, in folio, with a life of the author by Dr. Birch (new ed., 3 vols. 8vo, Oxford, 1838). The constant study of them is recommended by Locke "for attaining the way of right reasoning." Anthony Wood affirms that "it was the current opinion of the university that he and Lucius, Lord Falkland, had such extraordinary clear reason that if the great Turk or the devil could be converted, they were able to do it." His character and ability were admired by his contemporaries, and he was reckoned the most acute logician of his age; yet Lord Clarendon says that he "had contracted such an irresolution and habit of doubting, that at last he was confident of nothing." He has therefore been cited by Dugald Stewart as an instance of the ruinous effects of scholastic logic.