« VorigeDoorgaan »
BRIEF MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
Dr. William Faley was born at Peterborough July 1743. His father was at that time a minor canon of Peterborough; which residence he soon after left on being appointed head master of the school of Giggleswick in Yorkshire.—William was his eldest son, and received the early part of his education at this place under the inspection of his father. His talents were naturally vigorous, and he very early displayed a love of reading. The acquisition of knowledge formed even then his principal delight. In the year 1758 he was admitted a sizer of Christ's College, Cambridge; and in the following year he went to reside permanently at that university, where he very early distinguished himself. His father, at this time, appears to have formed a singularly just appreciation of his character. He is said to have observed : " My son is now gone to college,—he'll turn out a great man —very great indeed,—I am certain of it; for he has by far the clearest head I ever met with in my life."
In mathematics he had already made great progress; logic and moral philosophy now engaged his studies; and although much devoted at the same time to private reading, he was yet dissatisfied with the use of his time. "I spent," says he, " the first two years of my under-graduateship happily, but unprofitably. I was constantly in society, where we were not immoral, but idle and rather expensive. At the commencement of my third year, however, after having left the usual party at rather a late hour in the evening, I was awakened at five in the morning by one of my companions, who stood at my bedside, and said, 'Paley, I have been thinking what a fool you are. I could do nothing probably were I to try, and can afford the life I lead; you Could do every thing, and cannot afford it. I have had no sleep during the whole night on account of these reflections, and am now come solemnly to inform you, that if you persist in your indolence, I must renounce your society.' I was so struck," adds Mr. Paley, " with the visit and the visitor, that I lay in bed great part of the day, and formed.my plan. I ordered my bed-maker to prepare my fire every evening, in order that it might be lighted by myself. I rose at five, react during the whole of the day, except such hours as chapel and hall required, allotting to each portion of time its peculiar branch of study; and just before the closing of the gates (nine o'clock), I went to a neighbouring coffee-house, where I constantly regaled upon a mutton-chop and a dose of milk punch." This is a most pleasing and interesting anecdote, and, it is not unlikely, led to much of that indefatigability of character which belonged ever afterwards to this great and useful man.
In 1762 he obtained his bachelor's degree with great credit to himself, and soon afterwards was appointed second assistant in an academy at Greenwich: here, in a few months, he raised himself to be first assistant, although he had always a repugnance to classical studies. While residing at Greenwich he often visited London, where he frequented the courts of justice, &c. weighing evidence and gaining knowledge,—with which he afterwards benefit**! the world in his works. In 1766, he obtained a fellowship in Christ's College, CamDnctge, worth £1001 a-year, and soon afterwards completed his degree of A. M. In 1767, he went to reside at Cambridge with a pupil, and acted as private tutor; at the end of the same year he was ordained a priest in the Chapel Royal, St. James's, by the then Bishop of London.
In 1768, Dr. Shepherd, sole tutor of the college, engaged Paley, and his intimate friend, Mr. John Law, (afterwards Bishop of Clonfert), as assistant tutors; an appointment which gave great satisfaction. In 1771, Mr. Paley was appointed one of the preachers at Whitehall. In 1775, he was presented to the rectory of Musgrave in Westmoreland. In 1776, he married Miss Jane Hewitt of Carlisle. In 1777, he resigned the rectory of Musgrave, and obtained the vicarage of Appleby, worth about £200 a-year; he now divided his time between this and the vicarage of Dalston in Cumberland, which he also held. In 1780, he obtained the fourth prebendal stall in the church of Carlisle, worth about £400 a-year, and, in 1782, he was appointed Archdeacon of the same place, vacated by the promotion of his friend, Dr. Law.
In 1785, he published his " Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy," in one volume quarto; for the copy-right of which he received £1000: the popularity of it is sufficiently proved by the simple fact, of its having passed through fifteen editions during the author s lifetime. It may be said to be the only work on moral philosophy fitted to be understood by every class of readers. In the same year, Mr. Paley was appointed chancellor of the diocese of Carlisle.
In 1790, he published "Horre Paulinte, or the Truth of the Scripture History of St, Paul, evinced by a comparison of the Epistles which bear his name with the Acts of the Apostles, and with one another;" a work of great merit, and bearing powerful testimony to the authenticity of that part of the sacred Scriptures which it so admirably examines. In 1793, he vacated Dalston, on being appointed to the vicarage of Stanwix near Carlisle.
In 1794, Mr. Paley gave to the world his "View of the Evidences of Christianity;" a work which, although displaying no original genius, is sufficient to hand down his name to future generations as a great benefactor to the cause of Christianity. Such a work would have been invaluable at any time, but at this period it was calculated to be peculiarly useful,—as anarchy and infidelity were then both at work in the civilized worldf Dr. Porteus, Bishop of London, soon after preferred Mr. Paley to the prebend of Pancras in the cathedral of St. Paul's; and he was about the same time appointed sub-dean of Lincoln, which was an addition of about £700 a-year to his income; on this he resigned his prebend in Carlisle, and in the subsequent year took his degree of D. D. at Cambridge. He was soon after appointed rector of Bishop-Wearmouth, where he then came to reside; this was worth about £1200 a-year: all these appointments, however, never made him fail in the discharge of his various clerical duties—in this respect he was always most exemplary. In 1791, he lost his first wife ; and, in December 1795, -named Miss Dobinson of Carlisle, who died in March 1819. In 1800, he was obliged to give up the discharge of his professional duties from ill health.
It was while at Buxton for the recovery of his health, that he composed a considerable art of his Natural Theology, which was the last, though not the least meritorious of is literary efforts. It was published in 1802: he undertook the work at the suggestion of his friend, the Bishop of Durham.
ft has been the peculiar merit of Paley to have produced a series of works which call forth the highest tribute of our veneration and respect, whilst yet they present no claims to great originality or genius;—his has been a higher glory,—he has converted into popular detail those departments of knowledge that are higher and of vastly more importance than all the sciences and arts put together; and this too in such a way as to please at once the common and the most cultivated intellect. It has been well remarked (by an able critic) of this work,—his Natural Theology, that " his inimitable skill in arranging and condensing his matter, his peculiar turn for what may be termed 'animal mechanics,' the aptness and wit of his illustrations, and occasionally the warmth and solemnity of his devotion, which, by a happy and becoming process, became more animated as he drew nearer to the close of life, stamp on this work a character more valuable than originality itself."
About the end of 1804, Dr. Paley's bodily strength was nearly exhausted, but his mental faculties remained unimpaired to the last; he met death with the firmness of a truly religious mind, and quitted this world on the 25th of May, 1805. He was interred in the cathedral of Carlisle. On the stone over his grave there is this simple inscription
HERE LIE INTERRED
THE REMAINS OF
WILLIAM PALEY, D.D.
Who Died May 25, 1805,
In private life, Dr. Paley's character was excellent; he was beloved by all who knew him; he was at once a pious, a cheerful, and even a jocular and witty man. In person, he was above the common size, latterly rather corpulent, "Utility," it has been well said, "seems to have been his great ambition; and it is no light character of his works, that they are all eminently useful"