Balguy, John

, an eminent divine of the church of England in the last century, was born on the 12th of August 1686, at Sheffield in Yorkshire. His father, Thomas JBalguy, who died in 1696, was master of the free grammarschool in that place, and from him he received the first rudiments of his grammatical education. After his father’s death he was put under the instruction of Mr. Daubuz, author of a commentary on the Revelations, who succeeded to the mastership of the same school, Sept. 23, 1696, for whom he always professed a great respect. In 1702 he was admitted of St. John’s college, Cambridge, under the care of Dr. Edmondson and of Dr. Lambert, afterwards master of that college. He frequent^ lamented, in the succeeding part of his life, that he had wasted nearly two years of his residence there in reading romances. But, at the end of that tinie happening to meet with Livy, he went through him with great delight, and afterwards applied himself to serious studies. In 1705-6, he was admitted to the degree of B. A. and to that of M. A. in 1726. Soon after he had taken his bachelor’s degree, he quitted the university, and was engaged, for a while, in teaching the free school at Sheffield, but whether he was chosen master, oxonly employed during a vacancy, does not appear. On the 15th of July 1708, he was taken into the family of Mr. Banks, as private tutor to his son, Joseph Banks, esq. air terwards of Reresby in the county of Lincoln, and | grandfather of the present sir Joseph Banks, K. B. so eminently distinguished for his skill in natural history, and the expences, labours, and voyages, he has undergone to promote that part of science. Mr. Balguy, in 1710, was admitted to deacon’s orders, and in 1711 to priest’s by Dr. Sharp, archbishop of York. By Mr. Banks’ s means, he was introduced to the acquaintance of Mr. Bright of Badsworth, in the county of York, and was by him recommended to his father, sir Henry Liddel, of llavensworth castle, who in 1711 took Mr. Balguy into his family, and bestowed upon him the donative of Lamesly and Tanfield in that county. For the first four years after he had obtained thissmall preferment, he did not intermit one week without composing a new sermon and desfrous that so excellent an example should be followed by his son, he destroyed almost his whole stock, and committed, at one time, two hundred and fifty to the flames. In July 1715, he married Sarah, daughter of Christopher and Sarah Broomhead of Sheffield. She was born in 1686, and by her he had only a son, the late Dr. Thomas Balguy, archdeacon of Winchester. After his marriage he left sir Henry Liddel‘ s family, and lived at a house not far distant, called Cox close, where he enjoyed, for many years, the friendship of George Liddel, esq. member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, a younger son of sir Henry, who usually resided at Raven sworth castle. The first occasion of Mr. Balguy’s appearance as an author, was afforded by the Bangorian controversy. In 1718 he published, without his name, “Silvius’s examination of certain doctrines lately taught and defended by the. llev. Mr. Stebbing;” and, in the following year, “Silvius’s letter to the Rev. Dr, Sherlock.” Both of these performances were written in vindication of bishop Hoadly. Mr. Stehbing having written against these pamphlets, Mr. Balguy, in 1720, again appeared from the press, in the cause of the-bishop, in a tract entitled “Silvius’s defence of a dialogue between a Papist and a Protestant, in answer to the Rev. Mr. Stebbing; to which are added several remarks and observations upon that author’s manner of writing.” This also being answered by Mr. Stebbing, Mr. Balguy had prepared a farther defence but Dr. Hoadly prevailed Upon him to suppress it, on account of the public’s having grown weary of the controversy, and the unwillingness of the booksellers to venture upon any new works relating to it, at their own risk, For a different reason the bishop | persuaded him, though with difficulty, to abstain from printing another piece which he had written, called “A letter to Dr. Clarke/’ of whom, through his whole life, he was a great admirer. In 1726 he publishedA letter to a deist cocerning the beauty and excellence of Moral Virtue, and the support and improvement which it receives from the Christian revelation.“In this treatise he has attacked, with the greatest politeness, and with equal strength of reason, some of the principles advanced by lord Shaftesbury, in his *' Inquiry concerning Virtue.” On the 25th of January, 1727-8, Mr. Balguy was collated, by bishop Hoadly, to a prebend in the church of Salisbury, among the advantages of which preferment was the right of presenting to four livings, and of presenting alternately to two others. The best of them did not fall in his life-time. But two small livings were disposed of by him one to the Rev. Christopher Robinson, who married his wife’s sister; the other to his own son. In 1727 or 1728, he preached an assize sermon at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the subject of which was party spirit. It was printed by order of the judges, and either inscribed or dedicated to Dr. Talbot, bishop of Durham. “The foundation of Moral Goodness, or a farther inquiry into the original of our idea of Virtue,” was published by him in 1728, This performance, which is written in a very masterly and candid manner, was in, answer to Mr. Hutcheson’s “Inquiry into the original of our ideas of Beauty and Virtue” and its design is to shew that moral goodness does not depend solely upon instincts and affections, but is grounded on the unalterable reason of things. Mr. Balguy acquired, about this time, the friendship of Dr. Talbot, bishop of Durham, for which he was chiefly indebted to Dr. llundle, afterwards bishop of Derry though something, perhaps, might be due to his acquaintance with Dr. Benson, Dr. Seeker, and Dr. Butler. Through the assistance of his friends in the chapter of Durham, supported by the good offices of bishop Talbot, he obtained, on the 12th of August 1729, the vicarage of North-AJlerton in Yorkshire, at that time worth only 270l. a year, on which preferment he continued to his death. This was, in some measure, his own fault, for he neglected all the usual methods of recommending himself to his superiors. He had many invitations from Dr. Blackburne, archbishop of York, and Dr. Chandler, bishop of Durham but he constantly refused to accept of them. In the same year he published | The second part of the foundation of Moral Goodness illustrating and enforcing the principles and reasonings contained in the former being an answer to certain remarks communicated by a gentleman to the author.” The writer of these remarks was lord Darcy. His next publication was “Divine Rectitude or, a brief inquiry concerning the Moral Perfections of the Deity, particularly in respect of Creation and Providence.A question then much agitated was, concerning the first spring of action in the Deity. This is asserted by our author to be rectitude, while Mr. Grove contended that it is wisdom, and Mr. Bayes, a dissenting minister of Tunbridge, that it is benevolence. The difference between Mr. Grove and Mr. Balguy was chiefly verbal but they both differed materially from Mr. Bayes, as they supposed that God might have ends in view, distinct from, and sometimes interfering with the happiness of his creatures. The essay on divine rectitude was followed by “A second letter to a deist, concerning a late book, entitled ‘ Christianity as old as the Creation,’ more particularly that chapter which relates to Dr. Clarke.” To this succeeded “The law of Truth, or the obligations of reason essential to all religion to which are prefixed some remarks supplemental to a late tract entitled” Divine Rectitude.“All the treatises that have been mentioned (excepting the assize sermon, and the pieces which were written in the Bangorian controversy) were collected, after having gone through several separate editions, by Mr. Balguy, into one volume, and published with a dedication to bishop Hoadly. This dedication was reprinted in the late edition of the works of that prelate, together with two letters of the bishop relating to it, one to Mr. Balguy, and the other to lady Sundon. The greatest regard for our author is expressed by Dr. Hoadly in both these letters, and he acknowledges the pleasure it gave him to receive the sincere praises of a man whom he so highly esteemed. In 1741 appeared Mr. Balguy’s” Essay on Redemption,“in which he explains the doctrine of the atonement in a manner similar to that of Dr. Taylor of Norwich, but Hoadly was of opinion he had not succeeded. This, and his volume of sermons, iittluding six which had been published before, were the last pieces committed by him to the press .*

*

"To a person that was praising his Discourses on the Vanity aud Vexation of our pursuits after Knowledge, he replied, ‘I borrowed the whole from ten

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lines of Pope’s Essay on Man, at verse 259, and 1 only enlarged and coinmerited upon what the poet had expressed with such marvellous conciseness, penetration, and precision.“ He particularly admired the line, ”All fear, none aid you, and few understand." Note by Warton, in his edit. of Pope.

A posthumous volume was afterwards | printed, which contained almost the whole of the sermons he left behind him. Mr, Balguy may justly he reckoned among the divines and writers who rank with Clarke and Hoadly, in maintaining what they term the cause of rational religion and Christian liberty. His tracts will be allowed to be masterly in their kind, by those who may not entireJy agree with the philosophical principles advanced in them and his sermons have long been held in esteem, as some of the best in the English language. He was remarkable for his moderation to dissenters of every denomination, not excepting even Roman Catholics, though no man had a greater abhorrence of popery. Among the Presbyterians and Quakers he had a number of friends, whom he loved and valued, and with several of them he kept up a correspondence of letters as well as visits. Among other dissenters of note, he was acquainted with the late lord Barrington, and Philips Glover, esq. of Lincolnshire, author of an” Inquiry concerning Virtue and Happiness,“published after his decease in 1751. With the last gentleman Mr. Balguy had a philosophical correspondence. Having always had a weakly constitution, his want of health induced him, in the decline of life, to withdraw almost totally from company, excepting what he found at Harrogate, a place which he constantly frequented every season, and where at last he died, on the 21st of September, 1748, in the sixtythird year of his age. With regard co the letter to Dr. Clarke, which Hoadiy prevented him from publishing, we have the following information from a note in the Biographia Britannica.” From two letters of bishop Hoadly to Mr. Balguy, it appears that both the bishop and Dr. Clarke were exceedingly fearful of any thing’s being published which might be prejudicial to the doctor’s interest so that he could not then (1720) have come to the resolution which he afterwards formed, of declining farther preferment, rather than repeat his subscription to the thirty-nine articles. The solicitude of Dr. Hoadly and Dr. Clarke to prevent Mr. Balguy’s intended publication, was the more remarkable, as it did not relate to the Trinity, or to any obnoxious point in theology; but to the natural immortality | of the soul, and such philosophical questions as might have been deemed of an innocent and indifferent nature." 1
1

Biog. Brit, communicated by Dr, Thomas Balguy, the subject of the following article.