Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

and the most winning ways with them. She was an unwearied and skilful nurse; maintaining, while she carefully ministered to the bodily wants of the sick, a holy calm of demeanour, that enabled her, in her full-toned, musical voice, to breathe words of lofty hope to the dying, and of triumph even over death and the grave. She was not negligent of the small charities of domestic life. When her brother sailed for America, she accompanied him to Liverpool, where he was to embark, provided a library for the passengers and crew of the vessel in which he was to sail, offered the most fervent supplications in his behalf, and made his cabin comfortable and fragrant with sweet flowers, arranged by her hand, and testifying of her thoughtful affection-her benevolence in trifles. Her love to her family was a strong and abiding feeling. On one occasion, she spoke of her prayers being constant for those she loved; and on being asked how this could be, she said, "It is always in my heart; even in sleep, I think the heart is ever lifted up; it is, if I may venture to say it, living in communion with Christ.”

There is a unity in Mrs. Fry's life amid its manifold relations and engagements. We see in it the power of a predominating idea : the centre of her heart was stirred; and the circles of benevolence, at first embracing family and neighbourhood, enlarged till they reached the ends of the earth. We wonder somewhat, that, tremblingly alive as she was to every call of woe, the appeals of Christendom alone should have reached her. Heathendom seems to have been mute to her ears. One would not know, from the perusal of her life, that millions of our fellow-creatures are enslaved by cruel religions, and bound by iron chains of habit to sin. She always heeded the sighing of the prisoner appointed unto death: but the loud cry of those thousands and tens of thousands, whose lives are passed in the valley of the shadow of death-did that fall upon her ear? We have hesitated to indicate any want in a character so moulded to high and lofty purposes—in a career so affluent in good deeds. The clew to her labours and her success may be found in

one thing," which she said most emphatically to her daughter, during her last illness : “ Since

my heart was touched, at seventeen years old, I believe I never have awakened from sleep, by day or by night, without my first waking thought being, how best I might serve my Lord.” A beautiful pendant to this is the declaration

of our own countrywoman, a lady of fortune, who said that she “never laid her head on the pillow, without thinking in what way she might best bestow her Lord's money.” This earth would soon become a paradise, were such matin and vesper thoughts to rise like incense from the hearts of all Christians.

ART. IV.-BISHOP BUTLER.

1. Memoirs of the Character and Writings of JOSEPH BUTLER, D. C. L. Late Lord

Bishop of Durham. By THOMAS BARTLETT, A. M. Rector of Kingston, Kent.

London : 1839. 2. The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course

of Nature, &c., &c. With a Life of the Author, Copious Notes, and Index. By WILLIAM FITZGERALD, A, M. Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Dublin. Dublin: 1849.

[ocr errors]

MR. BARTLETT, who is connected by marriage with the descendants of Bishop Butler's eldest brother, has collected from family sources a number of interesting facts, illustrative of the life and character of the author of the Analogy. These he has added to the only memoir of Butler previously given to the world, that of Dr. Kippis, first published in the Biographia Britannica, — and has presented the whole as the most complete account of the subject at present attainable. We may therefore suppose that we have now reached the ne plus ultra of our inquiries in this direction. All that affection and tradition had treasured up, has been spread out before us; and we may now sit down, and tell over our scanty store, glad that it is as abundant as it is. Times have greatly altered since Butler's day. Now, no literary notable may fear that the world will know too little of him. Posterity will see to that. Things important, things indifferent; sketches, scraps, careless words, letters, common-place books; in a word, all the indescribable contents of the scholar's desk will be given to that omnivorous eater, the public. Small care for threshing or winnowing either; but straw, chaff, and solid grain will all be thankfully received together. It is to be hoped that the next turn of fashion in writing biography will bring us to the mean between telling nothing and telling everything

Professor Fitzgerald has prefixed to his edition of the Analogy a condensed memoir, (of 95 pages,) from Bartlett, but relieved of Bartlett's irrelevant matter, and interspersed with thoughtful observations of his own upon Butler's writings. He is indeed an editor everyway worthy of his author. We shall endeavour to spread before our readers the new information derived from these sources, using, for the sake of connexion, the facts already known and familiar.

JOSEPH BUTLER was born in the market town of Wantage, in Berkshire, England, on the 18th of May, 1692. He was the youngest of eight children. His father, Thomas Butler, was a respectable and prosperous linen-draper in Wantage, but at the time of Joseph's birth had retired from business, and was residing at the extremity of the town, in a house called the Priory. The house, though since much altered, is yet standing, and the room is still shown, in which Butler is said to have been born. His education was begun in the Grammar School of his native place, under the direction of the Rev. Philip Barton, a clergyman of the Church of England. Here he was grounded in the elements of classical knowledge. But his father, soon perceiving his son's talent and inclination for learning, determined to rear him for the ministry in his own denomination, (the Presbyterian,) and for this purpose removed him to a Dissenting academy at Gloucester, then kept by Mr. Samuel Jones. Mr. Jones is mentioned by Butler's biographer with great honour, as having had in the number of his pupils many distinguished men. Among these we find the names of Lardner, author of the Credibility of the Gospels; Lord Bowes, Chancellor of Ireland; Dr. Edward Chandler; and Secker, Butler's intimate and inseparable friend, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.

Butler was exceedingly happy in his friendships. His intimacy with Secker began in early youth, and lasted without interruption through a long life. Secker outlived Butler, and in his last years gave earnest proof of his affection, by the energy with which he defended the memory of his friend from unjust aspersions. The influence of this, and another intimacy, upon Butler's whole career, will be frequently seen in the course of this sketch.

From a very early period of life, his thoughts were directed to subjects of metaphysical and theological inquiry. At the age of twenty-one, and while yet a pupil in Mr. Jones' academy, he gave astonishing proof of his intellectual vigour, and of his progress in such studies, by his anonymous correspondence with Dr. Samuel Clarke, the author of the celebrated “Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God." The demonstration had just been published, and was attracting universal attention. What Clarke professed to have accomplished, Butler had long been endeavouring to do. In his first letter to the doctor, he writes thus :

“I have made it my business, ever since I thought myself capable of such sort of reasoning, to prove to myself the being and attributes of God. And being sensible that it is a matter of the last consequence, I have endeavoured after a demonstrative proof; not only more fully to satisfy my own mind, but also in order to defend the great truths of natural religion, and those of the Christian revelation which follow from them, against all opposers: but must own, with concern, that hitherto I have been unsuccessful; and though I have got very probable arguments, yet I can go very little way with demonstration in the proof of these things.'

[ocr errors]

He was not able to satisfy himself of the conclusiveness of the reasoning in the sixth and seventh propositions, (on the omnipresence and the unity of the Deity ;) and he states, in the most modest terms, the objections thereto which had arisen in his mind. His diffidence led him to conceal his name; and the correspondence was managed by Secker, who carried the letters to the post-office at Gloucester, and brought back Clarke's replies. His objections show the penetrating metaphysician, and the cautious and solid reasoner, already developed. With Clarke's explanation of the first of the two propositions, he professed himself satisfied: but in removing the objections to the other, the author of the demonstration was not so successful; and the correspondence, after extending to five letters from each closed. In his last letter, the doctor speaks in the highest terms of the candour of his opponent, and afterwards evinced his opinion of the merit of the correspondence, by appending it to the succeeding editions of the Demonstration. Of these letters of Butler's, Sir James Mackintosh says, “He suggested objections to the celebrated demonstration, which are really insuperable, and which are marked by an acuteness which neither he nor any other ever surpassed."*

It is well to observe, that Butler's efforts to obtain demonstrative evidence for the truths of religion seem here to have ceased. Where Clarke ended, Butler began. The remaining years of the author of the Analogy were spent in bringing to bear upon Christianity that evidence of probability which, though less imposing than demonstration, is yet capable of rising to the highest moral certainty; and in tracing out the close resemblance between the light afforded us by revelation, and that which we enjoy in our common and daily life.

Soon after, there occurred a change in his views, which altered! all the outward relations of his life. He became dissatisfied with: the grounds of non-conformity, and resolved to unite with the Established Church. This step was taken after much reflection, and doubtless from conscientious impulses; but it was by no means agreeable to the wishes of his father. Several neighbouring Presbyterian ministers were accordingly summoned to assist in removing the young student's scruples, but without success. And Thomas Butler, finding his son's purpose of conforming was not to be shaken,

* We believe that it is now generally conceded, that attempts to prove the existence of God demonstratively, are more than useless. No matter of fact can be mathematically demonstrated, though it may be proved in such a manner as to leave no doubt on the mind.”-Whateley's Logic, book iv, chap. 2.

FOURTH SERIES, VOL. III.-16.

at length yielded, and entered him as a commoner of Oriel College, Oxford, on the 17th of March, 1714.

At Oxford he formed an intimacy with Mr. Edward Talbot, second son of Dr. Edward Talbot, afterwards Bishop of Durham. This friendship was the means of securing to Butler the patronage of Mr. Talbot's father. Through the influence of his young friend, and that of his former correspondent, Dr. Clarke, he was, in 1718, appointed preacher at the Rolls' Court, London. He was then in his twenty-sixth year, and had not been long ordained. The mind of Secker underwent, though more slowly, the same change as Butler's, on the subject of conformity; and young Mr. Talbot, about this time dying, so effectually commended them both to the favour of his father, that Dr. Talbot, upon his translation to the see of Durham, in 1721, presented Butler with the living of Haughton, and Secker, shortly after, with that of Haughton-le-Spring.

The parsonage at Haughton being in a dilapidated state, Butler determined to repair it. A passion for rebuilding and ornamenting seems to have possessed him throughout the whole of his long life. He was jealous of the external glory of the Church. With but one exception, wherever he resided he either altered, or enlarged, or restored. In his last charge, he quotes, with great approbation, the language of Bishop Fleetwood, that “ unless the good public spirit of building, repairing, and adorning churches prevails a great deal more among us, a hundred years will bring to the ground a huge number of churches." In the after part of his life, having purchased an elegant mansion at Hampstead, he ornamented some of the windows with beautiful painted glass, representing various Scriptural subjects. But in improving the private chapel in the episcopal palace at Bristol, the erection of a cross—though doubtless innocently meant-occasionod great controversy and trouble. Had he executed his contemplated repairs at Haughton, he would have come seriously involved; for the entire sum due from the parish for dilapidations was only sixty pounds. But his friend Secker rescued him from such a prospect of trouble, by prevailing on Bishop Talbot to transfer him, in 1725, to the richer benefice of Stanhope, where, fortunately, there was no occasion for any repairing to be done.

Soon after his translation to Stanhope, he resigned his appointment at the Rolls; but before resigning, he published his “ Fifteen Sermons,dedicating them to Sir Joseph Jekyl, Master of the Rolls, “as a parting mark of gratitude for the favour received during his connexion with that learned society.” We are informed in the preface, that the selection of these sermons "from amongst others

« PredošláPokračovať »