English bishop, moralist and divine
Born at Wantage, Berkshire, England, May 18, 1692
Died in Bath, unmarried, June 16, 1752Education:
First attended King Alfred's Latin school in Wantage, then the dissenting academy in Tewkesbury. Graduated Oriel College, Oxford, 1718.Career:
Preacher at the Rolls Chapel in London (1719-1726). Rector of Stanhope (1725-1740). Chaplain to Lord Chancellor Talbot (1733- ). Clerk of Closet to Queen Caroline (1736-37). Bishop of Bristol (1738- ) Dean of St. Paul's, London (1740-). Clerk of Closet to King George II (1746). Bishop and of Durham (1750-52). Publications:
His letters concerning Samuel Clarke's Boyle Lectures were published with Dr. Clarke's works from 1716. A selection of sermons preached at the Rolls Chapel appeared asFifteen Sermons in 1726, with a preface added for the second edition (1729). His chief work wasThe Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature, 1736. Some of his sermons as Bishop of Bristol were collected asSix Sermons in 17, and hisCharge to the Clergy at Durham was printed in 1751. The first collected edition of his works appeared in 1804, and the standard edition, edited by J.H. Bernard, in 1900. W. E. Gladstone produced an edition of Butler's works with full commentary after retiring from politics (1896). Influence:
TheFifteen Sermons were widely studied by other British moralists, and David Hume named Butler as one of the founders of modern moral philosophy. When theAnalogy of Religion appeared, it quickly rose to the top rank of orthodox Anglican apologetics, and by the early nineteenth century it was required reading throughout the English-speaking world. Butler's work was held in highest regard by Victorian political leaders, historians, literary critics and educators as well as by those working in philosophy and theology. His influence on J. H. Newman and the Oxford movement was profound. After about 1850, the influence of theAnalogy gradually declined, but numerous popular editions appeared in the U.S. and the U.K. up through the early twentieth century, and the sermons on human nature continue to be read by students of ethics and scholars.