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Monday, June 16, 2014Joseph Butler
Bishop of Durham
Lesser Feasts and Fasts describes Joseph Butler's contribution in this way:
Joseph Butler, once called “the greatest of all the thinkers of the English Church,” was born at Wantage, Berkshire, May 18, 1692, into a Presbyterian family. He was educated at dissenting academies; but in his early twenties he decided to become an Anglican. He entered Oriel College, Oxford, in 1715, and was ordained in 1718.
As a preacher at the Rolls Chapel for eight years, he made his mark, especially for his sermons on human nature. He served as rector of Houghton-le-Skerne (1712-25) and of Stanhope (1715-40), and as prebendary of Rochester (1736-38), before his appointment as Bishop of Bristol. He declined the primacy of Canterbury, but accepted the bishopric of Durham in 1750. He died at Bath, June 16, 1752, and was buried in Bristol Cathedral.
Butler’s fame rests chiefly on his acute apology for orthodox Christianity against the Deistic thought prevalent in England in his time, The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, published in 1736. By careful argument, Butler maintained the “reasonable probability” of Christianity, with action upon that probability as a basis for faith. His rationalism was grounded in a deep personal piety, although he had little sympathy for the enthusiasm of the Wesleyan revival movement. Yet, in their different ways, Bishop Butler and John Wesley contributed to the renewal of the Church in eighteenth century England.
O God, who by thy Holy Spirit dost give to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise thy Name for the gifts of grace manifested in thy servant Joseph Butler, and we pray that thy Church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.