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HE Church of England has had many
prelates of whose wisdom, piety, and learning she might be justly proud, yet few of these have exhibited at the
same time so much wisdom and so much piety as the subject of our present memoir. Modesty and sober truthfulness were among the chief features of his character. He left the dissenting community in which he was brought up, without
of a convert's rancour. He was a Whig in politics, and yet he stood forward manfully on behalf of comely old Church usages.
Without display or boast of asceticism, he spent most liberally upon Church works, while he was a pattern of moderation in his own style of living.
Very much of the same sobriety and truthfulness mark his published works. There is no display, no showy theorizing. It was said of him that he read every book he could meet with, and the fruits of this extended reading are to be found not in margins overloaded with citations, but in that clear fulness of thought which large and well-digested reading alone can give. The avoidance of some common word, or the mere turn of a phrase will
often show, not only that the author has read and considered the theories of others, but also that his aim is something so much higher than the display of knowledge, that he does not care to exhibit to the multitude how much he knows. His learning enables him to avoid the many sunken rocks that lie around, and thus warned and guided he looks into men's hearts and examines the course of nature, and what he finds there he describes and uses in a manner that would seem cold were it not for its extreme truthfulness. He did not wish to cover those with confusion who were in error, but rather to make the truth so clear that no one should be able to doubt of it. He always speaks with great respect of a priori reasoning, in which, however, he never indulges, thinking it, though a higher and better style of argument, one not so level to the capacities of men in general.
In private life his friends describe him as a most delightful companion, from“ a delicacy of thinking, an extreme politeness, a vast knowledge of the world, and a peculiar something to be met with in no one else.” His retiring modesty, which allowed him to come forward only when he had something really of value to impart, while it gives an additional charm to what we know, almost prevents the com
· The same calmness seems to have distinguished him in spoken controversy. John Byrom, after relating a discussion he had with him on the respect due
to authority in matters of faith, says :-" I wished I had Dr. Butler’s temper and calmness, yet not quite, because I thought him a little too little vigorous." Byrom had maintained the absolute supremacy of authority in all conceivable cases, and perhaps Butler felt that to be equally “vigorous” on the other side would only have been to be equally mistaken. See " John Byrom's Diary,” March 27th, 1737. Butler afterwards invited him to come and see him when in London.
pilation of anything like a complete biography we know so little, where we desire to know so much.
JOSEPH BUTLER was born at Wantage, in Berkshire, on the 18th of May, in the year 1692 He was the youngest of eight children.
Thomas Butler, his father, had been a linendraper in the town, but had for some time retired from business, and then lived in a house, now still standing, called the Priory, where Joseph Butler was born. As a boy he was sent to the grammar-school at Wantage, of which the Rev. Philip Barton was then master. It is a pleasing evidence of the respect with which this teacher impressed his pupil, that some forty years afterwards, when Dean of St. Paul's, Butler presented Mr. Barton to the living of Hutton, in Essex, where he survived his patron by ten years, dying there in 1762.
Thomas Butler was a Presbyterian, and finding that his son made good progress in learning he removed him to a Dissenting Academy at Gloucester, under the charge of Mr. Samuel Jones, that he might be trained for the ministry. Jones was a man of considerable learning, and had amongst his pupils many who were afterwards famous for their attainments and success. Among these Nathaniel Lardner, whose ponderous defence of the New Testament has been the common storehouse whence Paley and so many others have drawn their chief arguments, Jeremiah Jones, who distinguished himself in the same department of controversy, and Samuel Chandler, an acute and copious theological writer, were all celebrated as Dissenting Ministers. Lardner was two years, the others but one year, younger than Butler. There were besides Lord