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Feast of Samuel Johnson, Timothy Cutler, Daniel Browne, and James Wetmore (August 17)   2 comments

Founders of Yale University

Above:  Founders of Yale University

Image in the Public Domain

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SAMUEL JOHNSON (OCTOBER 14, 1696-JANUARY 6, 1772)

Congregationalist Minister, Anglican Priest, Philosopher, President of King’s College, “Father of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut,” and “Father of American Library Classification”

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TIMOTHY CUTLER (MAY 31, 1684-AUGUST 17, 1765)

Congregationalist Minister, Rector of Yale College, and Anglican Priest

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DANIEL BROWNE (APRIL 26, 1698-APRIL 13, 1723)

Educator, Congregationalist Minister, and Anglican Priest

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JAMES WETMORE (SR.) (DECEMBER 31, 1695-MAY 15, 1760)

Congregationalist Minister and Anglican Priest

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INTRODUCTION

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The Episcopal Church celebrates the lives of Samuel Johnson, Timothy Cutler, and Thomas Bradbury Chandler on August 17.  That is a logical grouping of saints, for they worked toward the goal of the establishment of the Anglican episcopate in North America.  Furthermore, Johnson and Cutler were friends, and Johnson taught and mentored Chandler.  However, I, for other logical reasons, have assigned a Chandler the feast day of May 17 and grouped him with two Episcopal bishops in his family tree.  Furthermore, here at the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I have expanded the grouping of Johnson and Cutler to include Daniel Browne and James Wetmore (Sr.), thereby commemorating the Congregationalist ministers from New England who became Anglican priests in March 1723.

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SAMUEL JOHNSON (1696-1772) I

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The name “Samuel Johnson” is commonplace.  A perusal of entries in old encyclopedias reveals the existence of several prominent Samuel Johnsons over time and on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  One might think first of Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the great English poet, lexicographer, and essayist who noted in 1775 that

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,

thereby condemning false patriotism.  One might also think also of the Reverend Samuel Johnson (1822-1882), an American Transcendentalist, minister, and hymnodist who found the American Unitarian Association (1825-1961) too theologically rigid.  (He would fit in well in the Unitarian Universalist Association today.)  Or one might recall other noteworthy Samuel Johnsons, such as Dr. Samuel William Johnson (1830-1909), a prominent American chemist.  The Samuel Johnson I add to the Ecumenical Calendar today is the American clergyman and educational pioneer, however.

Samuel Johnson

Image in the Public Domain

Samuel Johnson, born on October 14, 1696, was a native of Guilford, Connecticut.  His parents were Samuel Johnson (1670-1726), a fuller and a Congregationalist deacon, and Mary Sage Johnson (1672-1726).  The couple had twelve children, at least five of whom lived to adulthood.  Our saint was the third of their children.  William Johnson (1630-1702), also a Congregationalist deacon, was our saint’s grandfather.  The grandfather taught the grandson how to read English and Hebrew and guided him in committing the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and other portions of scripture to memory.  All this happened through Johnson’s sixth year of life.  The elder Samuel Johnson sought properly challenging educational opportunities for his bookish son.  Some of them proved more helpful than others.  Finally, at age 14, our saint, having mastered both Latin and Greek and having proved to be too much for some teachers, began his studies at the relatively new Collegiate School at Saybrook (founded in 1701), which became Yale College then Yale University.  He graduated four years (in 1714) later with his A.M. degree, having commenced work as a teacher at the grammar school in Guilford in 1713.

Johnson was quite a scholarly young man.  He did, for example, complete the Revised Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1716), unpublished.  Then he became a Yale tutor during a time of schism in the college.  From 1716 to 1718 Johnson was the only faculty member and administrator at New Haven, Connecticut, teaching fifteen students and laboring with the assistance of a minister.  Our saint was also cataloging the 800 books colonial agent Jeremiah Dummer (1681-1739) had donated to the college library in 1714.  This process continued until 1719.  These volumes included works by Enlightenment figures such as Rene Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632-1704), and Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727).  Such material was, according to the dominant Puritan orthodoxy of the college, forbidden, corrupting, and faith-destroying.  The process of cataloging the books expanded Johnson’s mind, and he, without permission, introduced the forbidden knowledge into the curriculum at New Haven.

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DANIEL BROWNE (1698-1723) I

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In 1618 Daniel Browne became the second tutor at New Haven, joining Johnson on the faculty.  He, born at New Haven on April 26, 1698, had been a classmate of Johnson, graduating at the age of 16 1/2 in 1715.  Next Browne had worked as the assistant to Samuel Hopkins, the Rector of the Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, for a year, then as Hopkins’s successor for two years.  Browne worked as a tutor at New Haven for four years.

The Yale schism ended in 1719, with Johnson become the sacrificial victim.  Did he resign or did his superiors fire him?  It was a distinction without a difference.  Timothy Cutler became the new college rector, with Browne as the only other faculty member.  Johnson, ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1720, remained in the immediate vicinity, serving at West Haven.  Cutler, his friend, permitted him to design the college curriculum.

A vital aspect of the context of the Yale-related content in this post is that the intention of Yale’s founders in 1701 was to establish an educational institution which would be a conservative alternative–a bastion of Puritan orthodoxy–in contrast to Harvard College, which many New England Puritans considered to be too liberal.  Yet Yale began to liberalize before the end of its second decade of existence.

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TIMOTHY CUTLER (1684-1765) I

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Timothy Cutler

Image in the Public Domain

Timothy Cutler, born at Charlestown, Massachusetts, on May 31, 1684, was a son of John Cutler (1650-1708) and Martha Wiswall Cutler (b. 1645).  The family had Jacobite sympathies.  Our saint, baptized in 1684,  graduated from Harvard College in 1701, at the age of 17 years.  Four years later he joined the Congregational Church at Charlestown.  Shortly thereafter the Congregational Church at Dartmouth, Massachusetts, invited him to become their minister, but he declined, citing parish dynamics.  In 1709, however, he accepted an offer to become the minister at Stratford, Connecticut; he was especially interested in combating the Anglican presence in the community.  The following year Cutler married Elizabeth Andrew (1690-1771), daughter of the Reverend Samuel Andrew, the Acting Rector of the Collegiate School at Saybrook.  Our saint and his wife had seven children from 1711 to 1724; five of them lived to adulthood.

Circa 1720 seven respected Congregationalist ministers formed a group to study the early church.  They were:

  1. Timothy Cutler;
  2. Samuel Johnson;
  3. Daniel Browne;
  4. Jared Eliot (1685-1763), minister at Killingworth and one of Johnson’s former teachers;
  5. John Hart (1682-1732), minister at East Guilford;
  6. Samuel Whittesley (1686-1752), minister at Wallingsford; and
  7. James Wetmore (Sr.) (1695-1760).

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JAMES WETMORE (SR.) (1695-1760) I

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James Wetmore (Sr.), born on December 31, 1695, was a son of the Reverend Izrahiah Wetmore (Sr.) (1656-1743) and Rachel Stow Wetmore (1666-1722), of Middletown, Connecticut.  Our saint, the third of nine children, at least seven of which lived to adulthood, came from a civic-minded family.  His father was not only a minister but a magistrate and a deputy of the General Court.  Wetmore, a classmate of Johnson at Yale, graduated from the college with his A.B. degree in 1714 and his A.M. degree three years later.  This saint became a Congregationalist minister in 1718 and served at North Haven, Connecticut, for four years.  Also in 1718 he married Anne Dwight (1697-1771).  They had six children from 1727 to 1737.

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THE “GREAT APOSTASY,” SEPTEMBER 13, 1722

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On September 13, 1722, the seven ministers presented the conclusion of their study of the early church in writing to the Trustees of Yale College.  Some of these clergymen were certain of the invalidity of their orders and others merely harbored doubts due to the lack of “visible communion with an Episcopal Church.”  This, the “Great Apostasy” at Yale College, founded as a bulwark of Puritan orthodoxy in contrast to the relatively liberal Harvard College, proved controversial in New England.  Three of the ministers recanted under pressure, but Johnson, Cutler, Browne, and Wetmore (Sr.) lost their positions.  By the end of the year they departed for England, where in March 1723, they became priests of the The Church of England.

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DANIEL BROWNE (1698-1723) II

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Browne, a bachelor, died of smallpox in London on April 13, 1723.  He was 24 years old.  In 1765, the Reverend Ezra Stiles (1722-1795), the President of Yale College from 1778 to 1795, wrote of Browne:

He was a gentleman of the most superior sense and learning of the four.

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TIMOTHY CUTLER (1684-1765) II

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Wetmore (Sr.), Cutler, and Johnson remained in England for much of the year.  Johnson and Cutler received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.  The three men returned to North America under the auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG).

Cutler went to Boston, Massachusetts, where, at the end of 1723, he held the first service at Christ Church, or Old North Church, of Midnight Ride of Paul Revere fame.  He served as the rector of the parish for the reset of his life.  He also founded other congregations, advocated for the advocacy of the Anglican episcopate in North America, criticized revivalism, founded an Anglican library in Boston, and resisted the Puritan theocracy in New England.  In April 1756 Cutler suffered a stroke.  The assistant priest assumed many of his duties.  Our saint died at Boston on August 17, 1765, aged 81 years.

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JAMES WETMORE (SR.) (1695-1760) II

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Wetmore became the Rector of Grace Church, Rye, New York, in 1726.  He served there for the rest of his life, dying on May 15, 1760.

A son, James Wetmore (Jr.), seems to have been a Loyalist, for he, born at Rye in 1727, died in Kings County, New Brunswick, in 1798.

Grace Church, Rye, became Christ’s Church, Rye, in 1795.

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SAMUEL JOHNSON (1696-1772) II

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Johnson returned to Connecticut.  He founded Christ Church, Stratford, the first parish in the colony.  By 1752 he had founded 24 more congregations, becoming the “Father of The Episcopal Church in Connecticut.”  He was an ardent controversialist, engaging in written conflict with Puritans via pamphlets, starting in 1733.  Johnson, like Cutler, resisted the Puritan theocracy in New England, argued against revivalism and the (First) Great Awakening, and lobbied for the establishment of the Anglican episcopate in North America.  The last matter was controversial, for many Congregationalists and Presbyterians considered it contrary to scripture and politically perilous, and many Southern Anglicans enjoyed their relative independence.

Johnson married twice and became a widower as many times.  His first wife was Charity Nicoll (1692-1758), a widow.  Thus our saint became a stepfather on September 26, 1725.  He raised William Nicoll (1715-1780) and Benjamin Nicoll (1718-1760) as if they were his own sons.  Charity and our saint had two sons, William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819) and William Johnson (1730-1760).  The younger son died of smallpox in England.  William Samuel Johnson opposed the Stamp Act (1765) and the Townshend Duty Act (1767) actively and served as the colonial agent for Connecticut from 1767 to 1771.  He became convinced that the U.S. War for Independence was both unnecessary and unwise yet made his peace with the result of the conflict.  He served in the Confederation Congress from 1785 to 1787, was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1787), presided over the drafting of the document, signed the Constitution, served as President of Columbia College, New York, from 1787 to 1800, and was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut from 1789 to 1791.  His wife (from 1749) was Elizabeth Ann Beach (1729-1796), daughter of William Beach (1694-1751), a businessman of Stratford, and his wife, Sarah Hull Beach (1701-1763).  Charity died on June 1, 1758.

Johnson’s second wife (from 1761) was Sarah Hull Beach (1701-1763), who died of smallpox on February 9, 1763.

Johnson continued to be an educator.  He opened a school at Stratford in 1723.  For decades he also operated a home-based seminary for students at Yale, educating and training 63 priests.  He also developed a system of classifying library books, hence his title, “Father of American Library Classification.”  In the early 1700s our saint redefined the curriculum at Yale College again, for it had reverted to an earlier state after the “Great Apostasy” of 1722.  In 1729-1731 Joseph Berkeley (1685-1753), later the Bishop of Cloyne, visited New England.  Johnson met him then and convinced him to donate land, money, and books to Yale College.  Our saint also became enamored of Berkeley’s philosophy, immaterialism.  The two men corresponded for decades.  Johnson, who received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford University in 1743, wrote and revised his textbook of moral philosophy several times.  The basis of his philosophy was the pursuit of happiness rooted in realism with regard to how things are.

Johnson, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), the leaders Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York, and others spent years discussing details of founding a “new model” college.  There would be no religious test for admission.  Instruction would be in English, not Latin.  The study of theology would be optional, but the study of moral philosophy would be mandatory.  There would be a focus on professional preparation, and the curriculum would include the new discipline of English literature.  The result of these conversations was King’s College, later Columbia College then Columbia University, New York.  Some Presbyterians in the colonial government of New York tried to prevent the chartering of the college, labeling it an insidious Anglican plot.  The royal charter came through in 1754, however.  Johnson served as a professor and the first president, retiring in 1763, after the death of his second wife.

Johnson’s retirement (1732-1772) was active.  He returned to the office of Rector of Christ Church, Stratford, and performed his duties faithfully.  He also reopened his home-based seminary for students at Yale College.  Our saint also taught his grandsons William and Charles to read English and Latin, as his grandfather had instructed him.  Johnson wrote the first American grammars of the English and Hebrew languages and dedicated them to his grandsons.

Johnson’s accomplishments caught the attention of his English contemporary, Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the essayist, poet, and lexicographer, who was a friend of William Samuel Johnson (1727-1819).

Samuel Johnson, the American, died on January 6, 1772, the Feast of the Epiphany.  He was 75 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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I realize, O reader, that I have asked you to follow some proverbial bouncing balls, but that is simply the nature of the material.  The legacies of Johnson, Cutler, and Wetmore are obvious.  That of Browne, however, is incomplete, due to circumstances beyond his control.  If he had lived he would have done much for the glory of God and the expansion of The Church of England.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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God of history, science, art, philosophy, and majesty, we thank you for the faithful quests of

Samuel Johnson, Timothy Cutler, Daniel Browne, and James Wetmore (Sr.),

whose intellectual inquisitiveness and fidelity to you led them to pursue Anglican Holy Orders.

May we never fear new knowledge.

May we seek the truths of you wherever we can find them

then pursue paths consistent with them,

for your glory and benefit of your people;

in the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

–Kenneth Randolph Taylor, May 3, 2016 Common Era

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 24:1-8

Psalm 32:8-12

1 Peter 2:1-10

Matthew 16:13-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 531

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Feast of George Berkeley and Joseph Butler (June 16)   1 comment

British Flag 1707-1801

Above:  The British Flag, 1707-1801

Image in the Public Domain

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GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Irish Anglican Bishop and Philosopher

and

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Anglican Bishop and Theologian

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INTRODUCTION

These two men come to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via The Church of England and The Episcopal Church.  Common Worship:  Services and Prayers for the Church of England (2000) lists June 16 as the feast day for Joseph Butler.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010) sets aside June 16 to commemorate the lives of Joseph Butler and George Berkeley.  Celebrating these two saints on the same day makes sense.  Yes, they had some major differences, but they had much more in common than not.  I, after taking notes on both men, have noted the following similarities, among others:

  1. They were contemporaries;
  2. They were great intellectuals;
  3. They, like John Locke, were empiricists;
  4. They criticized aspects of Locke’s philosophy;
  5. They influenced major subsequent philosophers;
  6. They were philosophers and theologians;
  7. They defended the truth of Christianity against assumptions of Deism;
  8. They were published authors;
  9. They were Anglican bishops; and
  10. They rejected speculative philosophy and theology in favor of practical theology.

The God of Deism was a non-interventionist figure.  He was like a watchmaker, for he, to follow the analogy, created the watch, wound it up, then left it alone.  The God of Deism was not the God to whom Psalmists in distress called out for help.  Deism was a theological system grounded in reason, not in reason and revelation or in revelation.  Its existence and prominence in the 1600s and 1700s fed a long-running debate in which our saints participated.  Another debater was the composer George Frederick Handel (1685-1759), whose Messiah (1742) argued against Deism.

I respond favorably to Christian intellectuals.  Christianity has an ancient and venerable tradition of reconciling science, reason, and philosophy with theology.

  1. One might consider, for example, St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215), the “Pioneer of Christian Scholarship,” who melded pagan Platonism with Christianity.  Truth is truth, St. Clement, insisted, regardless of its origin.  His star pupil, Origenes Adamantius (185-254), Origen, for short, carried on the good work.
  2. Pope Sylvester II (lived circa 945-1003; reigned 999-1003), unlike some of his contemporaries, did not fear technology (such as the abacus and the telescope) or classics of Greco-Roman literature and philosophy.  He did not care if valid knowledge and useful technology came from Muslims or ancient pagans.  For this reason many in the anti-intellectual wing of the Roman Catholic Church accused him of being in league with Satan.
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas (circa 1225-1274), who reconciled faith with reason, and Aristotelian philosophy with Christianity.
  4. St. Albert the Great (1200-1280), a Dominican priest and Roman Catholic Bishop, was also a scientist.
  5. The birth of modern science in the 1500s overlapped with the Protestant Reformation, the proper context in which to consider the Church’s shameful treatment of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), a faithful Catholic who preferred good science to bad theology.
  6. The Society of Jesus has a mixed record regarding science, for many Jesuit priests have been scientists yet one of their greatest members, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), labored under a Vatican-imposed gag order because of his synthesis of theology, reason, philosophy, and evolutionary science.
  7. The Roman Catholic Church has, fortunately, been more accepting of science since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), than it was during the period immediately Vatican II.

Unfortunately, anti-intellectualism persists in much of Christianity.  According to an old joke, a fundamentalist says to a liberal,

I will agree to call you a Christian if you agree to call me a scholar.

That witticism is, due to its genre, necessarily an exaggeration, but it contains such truth.  Although some of the greatest Christian scholars have been Evangelicals, Calvinist (with ties to the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Evangelical Presbyterian ChurchMark A. Noll, who has joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, found ample material to research and write The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994).  And Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health since 2009, is an Evangelical Protestant who has led the Human Genome Project.  He wrote The Language of God (2006), in which he criticized Intelligent Design as failing to hold its own under scientific scrutiny.  He as received much condemnation for that last point.

I recall an awkward lunch I ate at home some years ago.  My father was pastor of Warwick United Methodist Church, Warwick, Georgia, U.S.A., in the borderlands of rural Worth and Crisp Counties.  One day I accompanied him to have lunch with two of his parishioners.  One of our hosts, a man I would never mistake for an intellectual, made a much too-broad comment about educational attainment and piety.  Well-educated people, he insisted, had a different (and implicitly inferior) type of faith than did others.  Both my father and I, aside from being well-educated, were also tactful in the moment.  Nobody created an unfortunate scene.

Now, without further ado, I proceed to summarize then lives and part of the thought of two saints who belied that man’s stereotype more than my father and I did.

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Bishop George Berkeley

Above:  Bishop George Berkeley, by John Smybert

Image in the Public Domain

GEORGE BERKELEY (MARCH 12, 1685-JANUARY 14, 1753)

Berkeley, a native of County Kilkenny, Ireland, was an empiricist and a metaphysical philosopher.  Our saint, of English ancestry, studied at Kilkenny school then at Trinity College, Dublin (1700-1704), from which he graduated.  He maintained an association with his alma mater until 1724, serving as a fellow (lecturing in the subjects of Greek, Hebrew, and theology) from 1707 to 1724.  He took some leaves of absence during that time, touring in Europe in 1713-1714 and 1716-1720, as well as spending time in London, where he associated with Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), Alexander Pope, and Joseph Addison.

Berkeley, a clergyman since 1709, served as the Dean of Dromore in 1721-1722.   In 1724 he resigned his fellowship at Trinity College, Dublin, to become the Dean of Derry, a post he held until 1733.  He sought unsuccessfully to found a college for colonists and Native Americans in Bermuda.  He married Anne Forster in 1728 then moved to Newport, Rhode Island.  There he encouraged higher education in North America until he left for Ireland in 1731.  He donated his library to Yale College (now University), New Haven, Connecticut, hence Berkeley College and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.  Another namesake is the city of Berkeley, California.

In 1734 Berkeley became the Bishop of Cloyne.  He retired in late 1752 and retired to Oxford, England.  There he died a few months later, on January 14, 1753, shortly after securing the admission of his son, George, as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford.

Berkeley was a man of his time, responding to issues contemporary to him.  One issue was materialism, meaning not the accumulation of material goods but matter, that is, the stuff of which physical reality consists.  As a student at Trinity College, Dublin, Berkeley had studied the Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), by John Locke (1632-1704).  Locke argued for the following propositions:

Ideas originate in one’s brain because of the influence of the universe, a material system in which the universe’s “bodies” act mechanically, that is, by “impulse,” upon each other and upon human senses.

  1. Ideas are the only things of which people can be directly aware.
  2. Ideas of “primary qualities” represent accurately the real character of material things.
  3. Ideas of “secondary qualities” do not represent accurately the real character of material things.
  4. We humans mistakenly “attribute reality” to smell, taste, sound, and color.
  5. There are also “immaterial substances,” but Locke admitted that he did not know how to prove this point.
  6. Consciousness might be nothing more than a property of matter, one rooted in memory.

Berkeley argued against these points, preferring immaterialism.  He countered that the physical world exists only in experiences of it.  He found no good reason to accept the existence of matter, as Locke understood it.  Rather, the principle of

Esse is percipi,

or

to be is to be perceived,

held sway in Berkeley’s thought.  Ergo:

For the mind of God is present always and everywhere; all ideas are always in the mind of God, and it is by direct communion with His mind that human beings are supplied with the ideas that make up their experience.  It is literally true that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.”  Thus, the reality of the everyday world is secured by being made directly dependent upon the mind of God, and the notion of “matter,” the very foundation of the scientific world view, is simply rejected.

Encyclopedia Americana (1962), Volume 3, Page 554

Berkeley, true to his Anglicanism, rejected abstract speculations in favor of practical theology.  He affirmed one of the core principles of the Law of Moses–complete human dependence upon God.  As for Berkeley’s rejection of the basis of modern science, that point is up for debate.  (I favor science and theology.)

Berkeley’s philosophical theory of immaterialism became influential after he died.  Thomas Reid (1710-1796) criticized it in Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764).  The theory influenced subsequent philosophers such as David Hume (1711-1776), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).  Another critic was John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Berkeley was a varied thinker and an excellent literary stylist.  Major works included the following:

  1. Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) and its counterpart for the mass audience, Three Dialogues Between Hyles and Philonus (1713);
  2. An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision (1709), a work of psychology;
  3. De Motu (1721), a work in Latin on the philosophy of science;
  4. Aleiphron, or the Minute Philosopher (1732), a defense of morality and religion against Deism;
  5. The Analyst (1734), a critique of Isaac Newton’s differential calculus;
  6. The Querist (1735-1737), regarding economic problems in Ireland; and
  7. Sirus (1744), regarding science and philosophy.

The author of the article about Berkeley in the Encyclopedia Britannica (1968), Volume 3, on page 508:

The most patent features of his style are precision, economy and a seemingly inevitable grace; with here and there salty satire and teasing wit; the roots of it are a natural logicality, a rare purity of sentiment and a deep philanthropy.

Archive.org provides copies of Berkeley’s works.  Examples include the following:

  1. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Late Bishop of Cloyne in Ireland; To Which is Added, an Account of His Life; and Several of His Letters to Thomas Prior, Esq., Dean Gervais, Mr. Pope, Etc. (1820)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Formerly Bishop of Cloyne; Including Many of His Writings Hitherto Unpublished; With Prefaces, Annotations, His Life and Letters, and an account of His Philosophy (1871), by Alexander Campbell Fraser–Volumes I, II, III, and IV; and
  3. The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., Bishop of Cloyne (1897), edited by George Sampson–Volumes I, II, and III.

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Joseph Butler

Above:  Bishop Butler

Image in the Public Domain

JOSEPH BUTLER (MAY 18, 1692-JUNE 16, 1752)

Butler, a native of Wantage, Berkshire, England, was an empiricist thinker.  He differed from Berkeley by accepting science.  Butler’s rational orthodoxy stood in contrast to the Methodist enthusiasm of John Wesley (1703-1791), his fellow Anglican.  Our saint understood correctly that we humans act based on probabilities.  He also grasped that actions, not certainties, are the bases of religion.  Thus he rejected the quest for certainty, that idol of fundamentalism, and defended Christianity as a “rational probability.”

Butler, who came from a Presbyterian family, became a great Anglican theologian.  He was the youngest of eight children of a wealthy linen and woolen draper.  Our saint, educated at Gloucester then Tewkesbury, had once intended to become a Presbyterian minister, but he came to prefer Anglicanism instead.  He converted in 1714 and matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, the following year.  He studied philosophy, one of his favorite subjects, if not his favorite subject.  Our saint found himself disenchanted with the conservatism of the course of study, for he noticed defenses of Aristotelian thought against Newtonian physics and the thought of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) and John Locke.  Butler complained:

Our people have never had any doubt in their lives concerning a received opinion.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 48

Butler graduated with his B.A. degree in 1718.  Subsequent degrees from the same institution were Bachelor of Law (1721) and Doctor of Law (1733).

Our saint, ordained in 1719, found his niche in The Church of England.  From 1719 to 1725 he preached at Rolls Chapel, London.  He became the Rector of Stanhoppe in 1725 and maintained that title and received its income for 15 years.  From 1733 to 1736 Butler doubled as the Chaplain to Lord Chancellor Charles Talbot.  In 1736 he became the Clerk of the Closet to Queen Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737), consort of King George II (reigned 1727-1760).  Butler and Queen Caroline became friends and engaged in theological discussions.  She spoke highly of him to King George II and recommended Butler for promotion.  (The monarch was the titular head of The Church of England.)  In 1738 Butler became the Bishop of Bristol, in charge of a poor see.  He remained as Rector of Stanhoppe until 1740, when be began to double as the Dean of St. Paul’s, London.  From 1746 to 1750 he did triple duty as the Clerk of the Closet to King George II.

As the Bishop of Bristol (1738-1750) Butler locked horns with John Wesley.  The founder of Methodism was preaching without authorization to miners in the Diocese of Bristol.  Wesley was not canonically resident in the Diocese of Bristol.  Butler ordered Wesley to go home and stated that he (Wesley) should cease to pretend to have received special revelations from the Holy Spirit.

Butler refused an offer to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1747.  According to an apocryphal story, he said,

It is too late for me to try to support a falling Church.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), page 50

Our saint had complained about the “decay of religion” in England.  Certainly part of that decay was the influence of Deism.  His preferred method of supporting the “falling Church” in his final years was ritualism.  Thus Butler foreshadowed the Oxford Movement of the 1800s.  Critics accused him of having succumbed to Papism, an allegation tantamount to accusing one of being bound for Hell.

Butler, translated to the wealthy Diocese of Durham in 1750, died of stomach and intestinal disorders at Bath, Somerset, England, on June 16, 1752.  He never married, thus he lived in a manner consistent with his opposition to the marriage of the clergy.  He also lived simply and gave away the vast majority of his money.

Ernest Campbell Mossner, author of Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason:  A Study in the History of Thought (1936), wrote:

In the history of eighteenth century English culture, what Locke is to philosophy, what Newton is to physics, what Burke is to politics, Butler is to theology…And the spokesman is by no means unworthy of his distinguished associates.

–Quoted in Gibbs, The Middle Way (1991), pages 47-48

Butler affirmed science, reason, and orthodox Christianity.  He shared many yet by no means all of the points of Deism, for he argued against that system.  Our saint affirmed among other things, miracles, human sinfulness, the Incarnation of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Atonement.  He also accepted scientific developments and knowledge, and had a high opinion of human reason.  Scripture, tradition, and reason–Richard Hooker’s Three-Legged Stool–defined Butler’s theology.

Butler rejected speculative thought in favor of practical theology.  He insisted that religion is a matter of practice, not certainty.  In his theology probability, not certainty, is the grounding of human knowledge and actions.  Furthermore, Butler wrote, nature contains much mystery, perplexity, and obscurity; reason and order do not rule supreme there.  Via experience one can discern facts upon which to infer probable truth.  Ergo, theological and natural forms of knowledge are equally indispensable and probable.  Simply put, the grounding of Christianity is divine revelation, not nature.  One can access much of truth via science and reason, but one cannot perceive other aspects of truth by those methods.  There is more than one way to perceive truth correctly.

Butler also thought deeply about psychology.  He criticized John Locke’s theory of psychological continuity, based in memories.  Our saint opposed blind obedience to “received wisdom,” but he also evaluated alternatives critically, as he should have done.

Butler also critiqued the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who argued that self-love directs all human actions.  That is simplistic, our saint thought.  He countered that benevolence is a second influence, benevolence, is also at work in human nature and in harmony with self-love.  Related to benevolence, Butler wrote, is conscience, which he understood to mean the voice of God inside one’s head.  According to Butler, therefore, the conscience is sovereign, to follow one’s conscience is to behave virtuously, and to obey the will of God, and conscience is consistent with reason.

Lee W. Gibbs wrote of Butler, who, like Berkeley, influenced David Hume and Immanuel Kant, that;

In short, the life and work of Bishop Joseph Butler was thoroughly representative of the middle way.  He exemplified that perennial Anglican openness to the changing historical circumstances of his day, while maintaining at the same time that continuous body of traditional beliefs held to be essential to the Christian faith.

The Middle Way (1991), pages 58-59

Archive.org makes available works by and about Butler.  They include the following:

  1. The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God Joseph Butler, D.C.L., Late Bishop of Durham; To Which is Prefixed, an Account of the Character and Writings of the Author, by Samuel Halifax, D.D. Late Lord Bishop of Gloucester (1828)–Volumes I and II;
  2. The Whole Works of Joseph Butler, LL.D., Late Lord Bishop of Durham (1852);
  3. The Works of Joseph Butler (1897), edited by William Ewart Gladstone (Prime Minister, 1868-1874, 1880-1885, 1886, and 1892-1894)–Volumes I, II, and III;
  4. Bishop Butler (1901), by William Archibald Spooner; and
  5. Bishop Joseph Butler (1923), by Albert Edward Baker.

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CONCLUSION

My Ecumenical Calendar of Saint’s Days and Holy Days recognizes a wide range of saints.  I imagine that, if by means of a time machine, I could gather all of them in one place and, via a universal translator, they could all understand each other, some fascinating discussions–even arguments–would occur.  I would, in such a fanciful and hypothetical situation, engage in some arguments.  If agreeing with me across the board were a criterion for inclusion on my Ecumenical Calendar, it would not exist.

I admit that I disagree with Berkeley and Butler on certain points.  That is fine, for they disagreed with each other.  They also share the same commemoration on the calendar of saints of The Episcopal Church.  Anglican collegiality permits such unity in the midst of differences.

I also admit that despite my attempts to understand that, despite my attempts to understand some of the philosophical arguments of Butler, I remain uncertain regarding the objective definition of what he wrote sometimes.  For example, the contents of his critique of Locke’s theory of personality and consciousness remain a mystery to me.  That is fine, for that fact has no bearing on my opinion of Butler as a saint and a seeker of God.  I still recognize him as one who engaged his intellect vigorously, thought deeply, and did so for the glory of God.  Butler, true to his convictions, avoided the opposite errors of idolizing “received wisdom” on one hand and more recent developments in science and technology on the other hand.  I respect that.

The process of taking notes, processing them, and drafting this post has taken parts of several days and constituted a workout for my intellect and my right hand, for the draft is lengthy.  Typing this post has given my fingers a workout also.  I am better informed for the process of creating this post.  May you, O reader, be better informed after reading it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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Holy God, source of all wisdom:

We give thanks for your servants George Berkeley and Joseph Butler,

who by their life and work strengthened your Church and illumined your world.

Help us, following their examples, to place our hearts and minds in your service,

for the sake of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Isaiah 6:6-10

Psalm 119:89-96

Acts 13:38-44

John 3:11-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 431

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