Horsley, Samuel

, a very learned and highly distinguished prelate, was the son of the rev. John Horsley, M. A. who was many years clerk in orders a$ St. Martin’s in the Fields. His grandfather is said to have been at first a dissenter, but afterwards conformed, and had the living of St. Martin’s in the Fields. This last circumstance, however, must be erroneous, as no such name occurs in the list of the vicars of that church. His father was in 1745 presented to the rectory of Thorley in Hertfordshire, where he resided constantly, and was a considerable benefactor to the parsonage. He also held the rectory of Newington Butts, in Surrey, a peculiar belonging to the bishop of Worcester By his first wife, Anne, daughter of Dr. Hamilton, principal of the college of Edinburgh, he had only one son, the subject of the present article, who was born in his father’s residence in St. Martin’s church-yard, in Oct. 1733. By his second wife, Mary, daughter of George | Leslie, esq. of Kimragie in Scotland, he had three sons and four daughters, who were all born at Thorley. He died in 1777, aged seventy-eight; and his widow in 1787, at Nasing in Essex.

Samuel was educated in his early years chiefly by his father, and we are assured, never was at Westminster school, as has been asserted; but of this and the other transactions of his youth, his studies, and early character, we have very few particulars that can be depended on, and have failed in obtaining information on these subjects from the only quarter whence it could have been expected. It is certain, however, that he was entered of Trinity-hall, Cambridge, where it is easy to conceive that he was an industrious student, applying himself much to the study of mathematics, and storing his mind with the writings of the ancient and modern divines and logicians. Why with such qualifications he took no degree in arts, cannot now be ascertained. We find only that he took that of LL. B. in 1758, and became his father’s curate at Newington, to which living he succeeded, on the resignation of his father, in the following year, and held it till his translation to the see of Rochester in 1793.

In April 1767, he was elected a fellow of the royal society, of which he continued for many years an active member; and in the same year he published a pamphlet, entitled “The power of God, deduced from the computable instantaneous productions of it in the Solar System,” 8vo. This he ajlows to be a “very singular, and perhaps a whimsical speculation,” and says, in language not uncharacteristic of his future style, that in all probability this production would “roll down the gutter of time, forgotten and neglected.” His object was undoubtedly to display the wonderful power of God; but it was thought that he magnified omnipotent power at the expence of omniscient wisdom, and instead of supposing that the planets continue for ever to perform their courses, in consequence of the almighty ^/zfl, and original impulse impressed upon them, when first they were drawn out of chaos, he maintains the necessity of a new force every instant to preserve the system in motion.

In 1768 he went to Christ church, Oxford, as private tutor to Heneage earl of Aylesbury, then lord Guernsey. To this university he appears to have become attached; and his first mathematical publication was elegantly printed | at the Clarendon press, “Apollonii Pergaci inclinationum libri duo. Resthuebat S. Horsley,1770. This work was criticised with some severity at the time, but does not appear to have injured his rising reputation, especially wnh the members of the royal society, who chose him to the office of secretary in November 1773. In 1774 he was incorporated B.C. L. at Oxford, and immediately proceeded to the degree of D. C. L. and was presented by his patron, the earl of Aylesbury, to the rectory of Aldbiiry in. Surrey, with which he obtained a dispensation to hold the rectory of Newington. In the same year he published “Remarks on the Observations made in the late Voyage towards the North Pole, for determining the acceleration, of the Pendulum, in latitude 79 51‘. In a letter to the hon. Constantinefohn Phipps,” 4to. His intention in this pamphlet, which ought ever to be bound up with “Phipps’s Voyage,” is to correct two or three important errors and inaccuracies that had been introduced, by Israel Lyons, the mathematician employed on the voyage, in the numerous mathematical calculations which appear in that valuable work; and this it was acknowledged, was performed by our learned author with equal skill, delicacy, and candour. I>r. Horsley had long meditated a complete edition of the works of sir Isaac Newton, and in 1776 issued proposals for printing it, by subscription, in 5 vote. 4to, having obtained the royal permission to dedicate it to his majesty; but the commencement of it was for a considerable time delayed by severe domestic affliction, arising from the illness of his wife, for whom he had the tenderest regard. She died in the following year, and some time after, the works of Newton were put to press, but were not finally completed until 1785. In the mean time his great diligence and proficiency in various sciences attracted the notice of an excellent judge of literary merit, the late Dr. Lowth, bishop of London, who on his promotion to that see in 1777, appointed Dr. Horsley his domestic chaplain; and collated him to a prebend in St. Paul’s cathedral. He also, by the same interest, succeeded his father as clerk in orders at St. Martin’s in the Fields.

In 1778, during the controversy between Priestley, Price, and others, respecting materialism, and philosophical necessity, Dr. Horsley preached a sermon, on Good Friday, April 17, en-titled “Providence and free Agency,” 4to, in which he drew a very acute distinction between the | philosophical necessity of our subtle moderns, and the predestination of their ancestors. It was evident he had an eye to the writings of Dr. Priestley in this discourse, but that polemic did not take any immediate notice of it. In 1779, Dr. Horsley resigned Aldbury, and in* 1780, bishop Lowth presented him to the living of Thorley, which he held, by dispensation, with Newington, but resigned the former on being appointed archdeacon of Essex, and, in 1782, vicar of South Weald in that county, both which he owed* to the same patron. In 1783, we find him deeply involved in a dispute with some of the members of the royal society, not worth reviving in a regular narrative; it is only to be regretted that it ended in his withdrawing himself from the society.

Dr. Horsley was now about to enter on that controversy with Dr. Priestley, in which he displayed his greatest learning and abilities, and on which his fame is irremoveably founded. In the year 1782 (we use Dr. Horsley’s words), an open and vehement attack was made by Dr. Priestley upon the creeds and established discipline of every church in Christendom, in a work in 2 vols. 8vo, entitled a “History of the Corruptions of Christianity.” At the head of these Dr. Priestley placed both the catholic doctrine of our Lord’s divinity, and the Arian notion of his pre-existence in a nature far superior to the human, representing the Socinian doctrine of his mere humanity, as the unanimous faith of the first Christians. It seemed to Dr. Horsley that the most effectual preservative against the intended mischief would be to destroy the writer’s credit, and the authority of his name, which the fame of certain lucky discoveries in the prosecution of physical experiments had set high in popular esteem, by a proof of his incompetency in every branch of literature connected with his present subject, of which the work itself afforded evident specimens in great abundance. For this declared purpose, a review of the imperfections of his work in the first part, relating to our Lord’s divinity, was made the subject of Dr. Horsley’s Charge, delivered to the clergy of the archdeaconry of St. Alban’s at a visitation held May 22, 1783, the spring next following Dr. Priestley’s publication. The specimens alledged by Dr. Horsley of the imperfections of the work, and the incompetency of the author, may be reduced to six general classes. 1. Instances of reasoning in a circle. 2, Instances of quotations | misapplied through ignorance of the writer’s subject. 3. Instances of testimonies perverted by artful and forced constructions. 4. Instances of passages in the Greek Fathers misinterpreted through ignorance of the Greek language. 5. Instances of passages misinterpreted through the same ignorance, driven further out of the way by an ignorance of the Platonic philosophy; and 6. Instances of ignorance of the phraseology of the earliest ecclesiastical writers. Dr. Horsley concludes this masterly and argumentative Charge, by saying, “I feel no satisfaction in detecting the weaknesses of this learned writer’s argument, but what arises from a consciousness, that it is the discharge of some part of the duty which I owe to the church of God.” The whole of this charge affords a characteristic specimen of Dr. Horsley’s controversial style, with a mixture of temper leading him, perhaps, somewhat nearer the bounds of irony then became the solemnity of an address of this kind. After speaking of many things that may be perfectly obvious to the penetration of such a mind as Dr. Priestley’s, how absurd and contradictory and improbable soever they may appear to persons of plain sense and common understandings, unsubtilized by sophistry and metaphysics, and not stimulated by the love of paradox, he observes, that, to those who want the doctor’s sagacity, the “true meaning of an inspired writer” will not very readily be deemed “to be toe reverse of the natural and obvious sense of the expressions which he employs.

Dr. Priestley, however, felt none of the alarm with which his admirers were affected. He promised an early and satisfactory answer. He predicted that he should rise more illustrious from his supposed defeat; he promised to strengthen the evidence of his favourite opinion by the very objections that had been raised against it; he seemed to flatter himself that he should find a new convert in his antagonist himself, and even hinted in print somewhat concerning the shame and remorse with which he was confident his adversary must be penetrated. From all this it soon became evident that Dr. Priestley, who could not but feel personally what every unprejudiced man felt argumentatively, that Dr. Horsley was an antagonist of no mean stamp, did not profit by this conviction so far as to take sufficient leisure to revise his own writings, but immediately repeated his former assertions respecting the doctrine of the Trinity not having been maintained by the | Christian church in the first three centuries, in a publication entitled “Letters to Dr. Horsley, in answer to his animadversions on the ‘ History of the Corruptions of Christianity:’ with an additional evidence that the primitive Christian church was Unitarian,1783, 8vo. Irt this there are more of the weaknesses of argument, and the errors of haste, than could have been expected from one who had so much at stake, and it was therefore no very difficult task for Dr. Horsley to continue the contest, in the same epistolary form which his antagonist had adopted, by “Letters from the archdeacon of St. Alban’s in Reply to Dr. Priestley, with an Appendix, containing short strictures on Dr. Priestley’s Letters, by an unknown hand,1784, 8vo. These letters are seventeen in number, and their object is to prove that if Dr. Priestley’s mistakes which he pointed out, are few in number, tliey are too considerable in size to be incident to a well-informed writer; that they betray a want of such a general comprehension of the subject as might have enabled Dr. P. to draw the trne conclusions from the passages he cited; that they prove him incompetent in the very language of the writers from whom his proofs should be drawn, and unskilled in the philosophy whose doctrines he pretended to compare with the opinions of the church. These are serious charges, but our author did not confine himself merely to substantiate them, but followed up his numerous proofs by others in behalf 6f the doctrine of the Trinity, drawn from the early fathers of the church, and the best ecclesiastical historians. The display of reading and research in these letters is wonderful. The style also is admirable, and while it assumes the lofty and somewhat dictatorial manner peculiar to Dr. Horsley, and which indeed the high ground on which he stood in this case, seemed to justify, the reader of taste finds himself often charmed with the elegance of the language, and always with the closeness of the reasoning.

Dr. Priestley, in his letters, had expressed a great desire to draw Dr. Horsley into a tedious controversy on the main question, the article of our Lord’s divinity, but our author, knowing that question to have been long since exhausted, and that nothing new was to be said on either side, chose, in his “Letters in Reply,” to adhere closely to his own main question. He, therefore, as we have mentioned, defended his own argument, and collected new | specimens from Dr. Priestley’s new publication, of his utter inability to throw light upon the subject. Thus a useless and endless contention on the main question was avoided but many discussions necessarily arose upon secondary points, which perhaps the learned reader will es- 1 teem the most interesting parts of the controversy, such as, the authority of the writings that go under the name of the apostolical Fathers the rise of the two sects of the Nazarenes and Ebionites; the difference between the two and the difference of both from the orthodox Hebrew Christians; and particularly an article on the accusation of Tritheism, which Dr. Priestley had brought against the Trinitarians of the seventeenth century. The “Short Strictures on Dr. Priestley” in the appendix to these Letters, it is now known, were written by Dr. Townson.

Dr. Priestley (we still use his antagonist’s words), mortified to find that his letters had failed of the expected success; that Dr. Horsley, touched with no shame, with no remorse, remained unshaken in his opinion; and that the authority of his own opinion was still set at nought, his learning disallowed, his ingenuity in argument impeached; and what was least to be borne finding that a haughty churchman ventured incidentally to avow his sentiments of the divine commission of the episcopal ministry, and presumed to question the authority of those teachers who usurp the preacher’s office without any better warrant than their own opinion of their own sufficiency, lost all temper. A second set of “Letters to the archdeacon of St. Alban’s” appeared in the autumn of 1784, in which all profession of personal regard and civility was laid aside. The charge of insufficiency in the subject was warmly retorted, and “the incorrigible dignitary” was taxed with manifest misrepresentation of his adversary’s argument; with injustice to the character of Origen, whose veracity he had called in question; and with the grossest falsification of ancient history. He was stigmatized in short as a “falsifier of history, and a defamer of the character of the dead.

Regardless of this reproach, Dr. Horsley remained silent for eighteen months. A sermon “On the Incarnation,” preached in his parish church of St. Mary Newington, upon ttie feast of the Nativity in 1785, was the prelude to a renewal of the contest on his side, and was followed early in the ensuing spring, by his “Remarks on Dr. Priestley’s second Letters to the archdeacon of Saint | Alban’s, with proofs of certain facts asserted by the archdeacon.” This tract consists of two parts; the first is a collection of new specimens of Dr. Priestley’s temerity in assertion; the second defends the attack upon the character of Origen, and proves the existence of a body of Hebrew Christians at JEYia. after the time of Adrian the fact upon which the author’s good faith had been so loudly arraigned by Dr. Priestley. With this publication Dr. Horsley promised himself that the controversy on his part would be closed. But at last he yielded, as he says, with some reluctance, to collect and republish what he had written in an octavo volume (printed in 1789) and took that opportunity to give Dr. Priestley’s Letters a second perusal, which produced not only many important notes, but some disquisitions of considerable length; and the remarks on Dr. Priestley’s second letters having produced a third set of “Letters” from him, upon the two questions of Origen’s veracity, and the orthodox Hebrews of the church of >Elia these two are partly answered in notes, and partly in two of the disquisitions. Towards the conclusion of Dr. Horsley’ s “Remarks,” after exhibiting specimens of Drr Priestley’s incompetency to write on such subjects as fell within their controversy, he says, “These and many other glaring instances of unfinished criticism, weak argument, and unjustifiable art, to cover the weakness and supply the want of argument, which must strike every one who takes the trouble to look through those second letters, put me quite at ease with respect to the judgment which the public would be apt to form between my antagonist and me, and confirmed me in the resolution of making no reply to him, and of troubling the public no more upon the subject, except so far as might be necessary to establish some facts, which he hath- somewhat too peremptorily denied, and to vindicate my character from aspersions which he hath too inconsiderately thrown out.” It ought not to be forgot, that in this controversy Dr. Horsley derived not a little support from the Rev. Mr. Badcock, whose criticisms on Dr. Priestley’s works in the MonthJy Review left scarcely any thing unfinished that was necessary to prove his errors as a divine, and his incompetency as a historian.

The reputation Dr. Horsley had now acquired, recommended him to the patronage of the lord chancellor Thurlow, who presented him to a prebendal stall in the church of Gloucester; and in 1788, by the same interest, he was made | bishop of St. David’s, and in this character answered the high expectations of eminent usefulness which his elevation, to the mitre so generally excited. As a bishop his conduct was exemplary and very praiseworthy. In this diocese, which was said to exhibit more of ignorance and poverty than that of any other in the kingdom, he carried through a regular system of reform. He regulated the ccndition of the clergy, and proceeded to a stricter course with respect to the candidates for holy orders, admitting none without personally examining them himself, and looking very narrowly into the titles which they produced. With all this vigilance, his lordship acted to them as a tender father, encouraging them to visit him during his stay in the country, which was usually for several months in the year, assisting them with advice, and ministering to their temporal necessities with a liberal hand. In his progress through the diocese, he frequently preached in the parish churches, and bestowed considerable largesses on the poor. He was, in short, a blessing to his people, and they followed him with grateful hearts, and parted from him with infinite reluctance; and this diocese may be congratulated in being again placed under a prelate whose zeal for the promotion of its best interests has seldom been equalled, and cannot easily be exceeded. Bishop Horsley’s first Charge to the clergy of St. David’s, delivered in 1790, was deservedly admired, as was his animated speech in the house of lords on the Catholic bill, May 31, 1791. These occasioned his subsequent promotion to the see of Rochester in 1793, and to the deanery of Westminster, on which he resigned the living of Newington. As dean of Westminster he effected some salutary changes. Finding the salaries of the minor- canons and officers extremely low, he liberally obtained an advance, and at the same time introduced some regulations in the discharge of their office, which were readily adopted.

During the turbulent period of 1793-4-5, &c. when the religion, government, and morals of the country were in imminent danger from the prevalence of democratic principles, the warmth and zeal of his endeavours in parliament to oppose the enemies of the constitution, procured him a considerable share of illiberal censure, which, however, was more than balanced by the general applause which followed the steady uniformity, consistency, and manly decision of his conduct. As a senator he was deservedly | considered in the first class; and there were few important discussions, not only Oh ecclesiastical topics, but on those which concerned the civil interests of the country, in which he did not take an active part. He was not, however, an every-day speaker, nor desirous of adding to the dehates unless he had something original to produce, and he was on that account listened to with eagerness even, by those with whom he could not act, and who found it easier to arraign his manner than his matter. In 1802 he was translated to the bishopric of St. Asaph, and resigned the deanery of Westminster. During all this period his publications were frequent, as we shall notice in a list of them; and his vigour of body and mind was happily preserved until the year 1806, which proved his last. In July of that year he went to his diocese, a part of which he had visited and confirmed, and after two months’ residence intended to visit his patron lord Thurlow at Brighton, where he arrived Sept. 20, after hearing on the road that his noble friend was dead. On the 30th, a slight complaint in his bowels affected him, and very soon brought on a mortification, which proved fatal Oct. 4, in his 73d year. His remains were interred in the parish church of St. Mary Newington, where a monument has since been erected to his memory, with an inscription written by himself.

He was twice married: 6rst to Mary, one of the daughters of the Rev. John Botham, his predecessor at Aldbury, by whom he had one daughter, who died young, and a son, now the rev. Heneage Horsley, rector of Gresford in Denbighshire, prebendary of St. Asaph, and chaplain to the Scotch episcopalian church at Dundee. By his second wife, who died the year before him, he had no children. She is commemorated in the above inscription by the name of Sarah only.

Bishop Horsley’s works not yet mentioned, were, besides various occasional Sermons and Charges, 1. “On the properties of the Greek and Latin languages,1796, 8vo, without his name. 2. “On the acronychal rising of the Pleiades,” a dissertation appended to his friend Dr. Vincent’s “Voyage of Nearchus,1797. 3. “A circular Letter to the diocese of Rochester, on the Scarcity of Corn,1796. 4. Another circular Letter to that diocese, on “the Defence of the Kingdom,1798. 5. Critical Disquisitions on the 18th chapter of Isaiah: in a letter to Edward King, esq. F. R. S. &c.“1799, 4to. Towards the | close of this discussion, in which he applies the words of Isaiah to the aspect of the times, he says, with almost a prophetic spirit,” I see nothing in the progress of the French arms which any nation fearing God, and worshipping the Son, should fear to resist: I see every thing that should rouse all Christendom to a vigorous confederate resistance. I see every thing that should excite this country in particular to resist, and to take the lead in a confederacy of resistance, by all measures which policy can suggest, and the valour and opulence of a great nation can supply.“6.Hosea, translated from the Hebrew; with notes explanatory and critical,“1801, 4to. Archbishop Newcome, in his” Improved Version of the Minor Prophets,“had preceded bishop Horsley in translating Hosea; but our prelate has thought proper in so many instances to reject his emendations, that bishop Horsley’s labours will probably be thought indispensable to a just illustration of the sacred text. This was reprinted with large additions in 1804. 7.” Elementary treatises on the fundamental principles of practical Mathematics; for the use of students,“1801, 8vo. These tracts were at first composed, without any design of publication, for the use of his son, then a student of Christ-church; and the work was to be considered, although then first published, as the third and last in the order of the subject, of three volumes of elementary geometry, to be issued one after another from the university press of Oxford, The first accordingly appeared in 1802, under the title of” Euclidig Elementorum Libri priores XII. ex Commandini et Gregorii versionibus Latinis,“Oxon, 8vo; and the second in J 804,” Euclidis datorum liber, cum additamento, necnon tractatus alii ad geometriam pertinentes," ibid. 8vo.

Since Iris death have appeared, “Sermons,1810 and 1812, 3 vols. 8vo; “Tracts in controversy with Dr. Priestley, upon the historical question of the belief of the first ages in our Lord’s Divinity, originally published in the* years 17S3, 1784, and 1786: afterwards revised and augmented, with a large addition of notes and supplemental disquisitions; by the author. The third edition. To which is added, an Appendix by the rev. Heneage Horsley,1812, 8vo “The Speeches in Parliament of Samuel Horsley, &c.1813, 8vo and lastly, “The Charges delivered at his several visitations of the dioceses of St. David’s, Rochester, and St. Asaph,1813, 8vo. In this | enumeration of his printed works, a few temporary tracts of lesser importance may probably have escaped us, as being published without his name; but a complete edition of his works, for which there is likely to be a demand, will supply this deficiency. His papers in the Philosophical Transactions would form a very necessary part of such a collection. It may also be noticed here, that he occasionally wrote some very elaborate criticisms in the “British Critic,” the plan and principles of which Review he cordially approved.

Dr. Horsley was throughout life an indefatigable student; he indulged no indolence in youth, and amidst an accumulation of preferments, contemplated no time when he might rest from his labours. His mind was constantly intent on some literary pursuit or discovery, and setting a high value on the fame he had acquired, his ambition was to justify the esteem of the public, and the liberality of his patrons. Knowing likewise, how much his fame was indebted to his theological contest, he endeavoured by laborious researches, to acquire that degree of accuracy which renders a controversialist invulnerable. It is evident that in the study of ecclesiastical history, particularly that of the early ages, on which his controversy with Priestley hinged, his range was most extensive, and it is no breach of charity to suppose that he vexed as well as surprized his antagonist, by proving himself more intimate with the minutiae of remote antiquity than himself, who, from a wish to become the re-founder of a sect, had made the subject the study of his whole life. Dr. Horsley, on the contrary, appears to have prepared himself as the exigencies of the times in which he lived demanded, and whether the subject was theological or political, he quickly accumulated a mass of knowledge which his genius enabled him to illustrate with all the charms of novelty. While the ablest champion of orthodoxy which the church has seen for many years, he was so much of an original thinker, and so independent of his predecessors or contemporaries, that his mode of defence was entirely his own, and his style and authoritative manner, like Warburton’s and Johnson’s, however dangerous to imitate, were yet, perhaps, the best that could be devised in the conflict of opinions with which he was surrounded. His writings possessed some of the most prominent features of his personal character, in which there was nothing lukewarm, nothing compromising. He | disdained liberality itself, if it prescribed courtesy to men whose arrogance in matters of faith led by easy steps to more violent measures, and who, while they affected only a calm and impartial inquiry into the doctrines of the church, had nothing less in view than the destruction of her whole fabrick. Such men might expect to encounter with a roughness of temper which was natural to him on more common occasions, although in the latter qualified by much kindness of heart, benevolence, and charity. When he had once detected the ignorance of his opponents, and their misrepresentation of the ancient records to which they appealed,‘ when he found that they had no scruple to bend authorities to pre-conceived theory, and that their only way of prolonging a contest was by repeating the same assertions without additional proofs, he frequently assumed that high tone of contempt or irony which would have been out of place with opponents who had no other object in view than the establishment of truth.

As a preacher, or rather as a writer of sermons, Dr. Horsley might be allowed to stand in the first class, if we knew with whom of that class we can compare him. Some comparisons we have seen, the justice of which we do not think quite obvious. In force, profundity, and erudition, in precision and distinctness of ideas, in“aptitude and felicity of expression, and above all, in selection of ’subjects and original powers of thinking, Dr. Horsley’s Sermons have been very justly termed” compositions sui generis" Upon most of these accounts, or ^rather upon all in the aggregate, they remove him from a comparison with those who may have acquired‘ very just fame as popular preachers. Bishop Horsley ’everywhere addresses himself to scholars, philosophers, and biblical' critics. By these he was heard with delight, and by these his works will continue to be appreciated as the component parts of every theological library, although they may not assent to all his doctrines. 1


From materials collected in Mr. Nichols’s Bowyer. Bishop Horsley’s printed works, and the Reviews and Miisrazines of the period. A minute Life of him would be desirable, but so little seems to be known of his early life and labours, that if now attenapied, it would consist principally of an analysis of his later literary progress, which is still known, and will long be remembered.