Charles Chauncy (November 5, 1592 – February 19, 1672) was an Anglo-American clergyman and educator.
He was born at Yardleybury (Ardeley), Hertfordshire, England and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he later was a lecturer in Greek. After serving as a pastor in England at Marston St. Lawrence, Northamptonshire (1633–37), he emigrated to America in 1638. He preached at Plymouth until 1641, then at Scituate where, says Mather, "he remained for three years and three times three years, cultivating the vineyard of the Lord." He was appointed president of Harvard College in 1654. He held that office until his death in 1672. His descendants also include Connecticut Governor and National Baseball Hall of Fame member, Morgan Bulkeley. Besides a number of sermons, Chauncy published The Doctrine of the Sacrament, with the Right Use Thereof (1642); The Plain Doctrine of the Justification of a Sinner in the Sight of God (1659), a collection of 26 sermons; and Antisynodalia Scripta Americana (1662).
During his time at Plymouth and Scituate, Chauncy got into a heated debate with the religious and secular leaders of the Plymouth Colony over the issue of baptism. Chauncy taught that only baptism by full immersion was valid, while the Separatist Elders taught that sprinkling water over the body was just as valid. The sprinkling method of baptism was much preferred in New England due to its cooler and harsher climate. The religious leaders of the Plymouth Colony held public debates, trying to convince Chauncy to change his views. When Chauncy still did not change his views, the Pilgrim leaders wrote to congregations in Boston and New Haven soliciting their views, and all the congregations wrote back that both forms of baptism were valid. Still, Chauncy did not change his teachings. It was because of this issue that Chauncy left Plymouth for Scituate in 1641. A year after arriving in Scituate, Chauncy had a chance to practice what he preached, when he publicly baptized his twin sons by full immersion. The plan backfired when one of his sons passed out due to being dunked in the water. The mother of the child who was supposed be baptized at the same event refused to let it happen, and according to John Winthrop, got a hold of Chauncy and "near pulled him into the water". When Chauncy was hired to be President of Harvard, he had to promise the leaders in Boston that he would keep his views on baptism quiet.
His great-grandson was also named Charles Chauncy (1705–1787), minister of the First Church (Congregational) of Boston 1727–1787, an Old-Light opponent of Jonathan Edwards and the New Light ministers of the Great Awakening, and a precursor of Unitarianism.
- Cotton Mather, Magnalia (London, 1702)
- Fowler, Memorials of the Chaunceys (Boston, 1858)
- William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
- John Winthrop, Journal of John Winthrop
|President of Harvard College