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A Biographical Sketch of Dr Paley


The Rev D S Wayland, MA

Vicar of Kirton in Lindsey, and Perpetual Curate of Thurlby, Lincolnshire


London: George Cowie and Co., 1837




The minister of the Gospel is not taught by his Divine Master to aspire after human distinction, or to court worldly emolument. He is supposed to act upon purer principles, and to be swayed by sublimer hopes, than are to be found among mankind at large. The glory of God, and the promotion of the best interests of his brethren, should be the moving spirit of his exertions; and, in poverty, desertion, and contempt, with these ends constantly in view, there is enough in the religion of Jesus Christ, to animate, support, and cheer.  But when we speak of the complete annihilation of every selfish feeling, and a complete indifference to all which the heart most ardently desires, it is manifest that we speak of such a high advancement in the Christian life as must not be expected from the average even of those who have been solemnly dedicated to God. The teachers of Christianity are men, and men whom their polished education renders peculiarly susceptible to those refinements which can only be found amidst comparative affluence, and those distinctions which can only accompany comparative rank. While therefore there are “greater things than these,” it would not be desirable, even if it were possible, entirely to disunite from the life which is consecrated to religion all that forms the usual stimulus to moral and intellectual exertion. – While some spirits, which are “touched to finer issues,” may find in their sublime self-abandonment all the motive which they need, it would surely be dangerous to make the service of the sanctuary in all instances a course of deprivation and obscurity. He who feels that poverty and neglect must necessarily be his lot, whatever benefit he may confer by his talents on the Church or on the world, if he have not a large portion of disinterested zeal, may be deterred from their exertion, and thus many of those works which have convinced the infidel, or edified the believer, might never have appeared. It is the boast of the Church of England, that, while she has at her disposal respectable emoluments, and honourable distinctions, they are open to all her sons. In the Church of France, before her revenues were plundered, and her honours laid low, the essential requisite of a dignitary was that he should be a noble. It is not so with us.

Every man of distinguished talents, provided these talents are made subservient to the cause of Christianity, may attain to the highest eminence and authority in the Church to which we belong. The Episcopal bench always comprehends much of the scriptural talent and research of the country: and the fathers of our holy religion have often been is most zealous and enlightened defenders. Of the wisdom of our ecclesiastical constitution, in this respect, we need no other proof than the number of learned and valuable works which have proceeded from the ministers of the establishment. He who will take the trouble to enter a Divinity library, or turn over the pages of a Divinity catalogue, will be struck with the vast comparative superiority, not only in talent but in numbers, of the champions of truth and piety who have been trained under the banners of the Church of England. Among these the author of the following most useful and interesting volumes holds a distinguished rank. The preceding observations are far from intending any insinuation against the purity of Paley’s motives, or the disinterestedness of his exertions. There is no reason to doubt that his primary object was to do good. But when we peruse those works which have exercised so beneficial an influence upon the again which he lived, and view the state of comparative dignity and emolument to which they raised him, we are naturally led to reflections honourable to our establishment, and disposed to hold out his success as a stimulus to the exertion of others.

William Paley was born at Peterborough, in July, 1743, and baptised on the 30th of the following month. He was not without some advantages in early life, which are not enjoyed by all, for he was descended from parents who were able to appreciate his opening powers, and to give them a right direction. His mother was a woman of an active and inquiring mind; and he who knows how much may be done, by the kind and judicious care of such a women, to call forth the latent faculties of infancy, will not think lightly of Paley’s privilege in this respect. His father was not only an amiable and benevolent man, but accustomed to the business of tuition, and therefore better adapted to form the qualities of his mind and heart than one who, being exclusively devoted to his own mental cultivation, is often with difficulty drawn from his study to watch over the rising genius of his children.  Perhaps, too, it was of no slight benefit, to the striking and original character of Paley, that, when he was not more than two years old, he was transplanted from the place of his birth to the north, where, in the parish in which his ancestors had long resided, among a people of simple habits and primitive manners, he learnt to despise the factitious modes of artificial life, and to appreciate strong sense and native worth, in whatever rank they might be found. The wild and mountainous district of Craven was probably a more favourable nurse of his genius than Peterborough would have been; and when his father, in 1745, relinquished his minor-canonry in that cathedral, for the head-mastership of the Free Grammar School established at Giggleswick, Paley may have benefited in more ways than one by the change.

It does not always happen that men of superior talent are distinguished by any remarkable precocity of genius. Every one knows that Swift was at first refused his degree, and that the high celebrity to which he afterwards attained was the result of the study and reflection of his riper years. Paley’s early course steered between the two extremes. He was quietly laying in stores of knowledge, and acquiring habits of thought, but with little of that external brilliancy whose promise is often delusive, and whose light daily diminishes in lustre, instead of burning with increasing brightness as it proceeds. His classical education was by no means neglected by his father, but in classical acquirements he was never calculated to excel. The characteristic of his genius was not that of imagination. The discovery of truth, whether scientific or moral, was more interesting to him, even as a boy, than the eloquence of Cicero, or the grace of Horace. He had a strong predilection for mechanics, and in the patient investigation which such subjects demand his accurate and penetrating mind found precisely the culture most congenial to its powers and best adapted to bring them to perfection. Happily for Paley his corporeal indolence never interfered with his mental exertion. It may even be doubted whether it was not upon the whole favourable to the development of his character. The time spent by him in the quiet recreation of angling, which during the whole of his after life formed one of his principal amusements, was probably far from being lost. While others would have given it entirely to vacancy, or at least to unprofitable musings, Paley may have retired within himself for more useful purposes. He may have given to contemplation the time which was lost to exercise, and reviewed in his hours of leisure the stores of sterling information laid up in his hours of business. To a mind thus prompt to dwell principally on what is real, it might be expected that the subject of Law would never be indifferent. Paley’s interest for the study was early awakened by an accidental attendance at the assises in Lancaster before he finally left school, and such was the impression made upon his fancy by the proceedings which he then witnessed that he is known to have instituted, on his return, trials among his school-fellows, over which he himself presided as judge. The taste thus early acquired was never afterwards lost. The practice of the courts of justice continued to be deeply interesting to his maturer faculties, and an attendance upon them one of the chief relaxations in which he habitually indulged.

Paley was entered early at the University. He had not complete his fifteenth year when he was taken by his father to Cambridge, and admitted a sizar of Christ’s College, on the 16th of November, 1758. Part of the journey from Giggleswick was performed on horseback, and that part has been thss ludicrously described by Paley himself. “I was never a good horseman, and when I followed my father on a pony of my own, on my first journey to Cambridge. I fell of seven times. I was lighter then, than I am now, and my falls were not likely to be serious. My father, on hearing a thump, would turn his head half aside and say, ‘Take care of thy money, lad.’” Paley continued all his life an awkward equestrian, and whenever he rode, which he often did for the benefit of the exercise, he never would suffer his companion, whoever he might be, to converse with him. “Pray do not talk to me till we get home,” was his usual expression on such occasions, “I can only do one thing at a time: It is quite enough for me to ride.”

The school of Giggleswick was exclusively a classical one, and the head-master, if he had ability, had not probably leisure, to lead his son forward in that course of mathematical knowledge which was necessary as a previous step to his distinguishing himself at Cambridge. During the year therefore which intervened between his admission at college and his residence there, he studied geometry and algebra with Mr William Howarth, at Dishforth, near Topcliffe, Yorkshire. That he made the most of his time while under this gentleman’s care is abundantly manifest, for though his mathematical studies were taken up thus late, and pursued at college for the first two years with much interruption, he was yet senior wrangler. Parental partiality is not often a safe criterion when an estimate is to be formed of a young man’s powers; but when, in October, 1759, having just entered his seventeenth year, Paley commenced his residence at Cambridge, his father no doubt felt amply justified in the following declaration which he ventured to make to one of his pupils: “My son is now gone to college – he’ll turn out a great man, very great indeed – I’m certain of it; for he has by far the clearest head I ever met with in my life.”

Paley’s first entrance upon a college life was fraught with peril. To a disposition like his, naturally inclined to pleasure, and vividly susceptible of enjoyment, the charms of convivial society were for a time more powerful than the thirst of knowledge, and the delight of amusing and being amused sadly interfered with the serious labours of the study. He was beset with temptations on every side, for his company was courted, not only for his talents, but for his oddities; and his room was filled every day by loungers, who robbed him of that time which to him was so valuable, thought to them it might be the commodity which they were most inclined to space. It cannot however he believed that even this period of his college life passed entirely without improvement. He probably read at hours when he was least suspected, and he had a natural quickness of apprehension and power of selection, which enabled him to gain much in little time. Though he went to Cambridge so well-prepared, that Mr Shepherd, the mathematical tutor, excused his attendance at the college lectures with the students of his own year, he was regularly present at the lectures on logic and metaphysics given by Mr Backhouse. But the time at length came when he was roused effectually from his dream of indolence, and by means as honourable to his friend’s candour, as creditable to his own resolution. This occurrence is related in an interesting manner by Paley himself. “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 part 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 bed-side 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 everything, 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 with the visit and the visitor that I lay in bed great part of the day, and formed my plan. I ordered my bedmaker to prepare my fire every evening, in order that it might be lighted by myself. I arose at five, read 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 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. And thus, on taking my batchelor’s degree, I became senior wrangler.”

It has been considered derogatory to Paley’s character as an ingenuous man, that, hen he kept his first act preparatory to taking his degree, he was about to support an opinion, which the representations of the master of his college induced him afterwards to controvert. But, after all, the technical support of an hypothesis in the schools may prove nothing with respect to a man’s internal convictions. Paley found in Johnson’s Quaestiones Philosophicae, a book commonly used at that time in the University, an aeternitas poenarum contradicit divinis attributis? and it was probably without much reflection on the subject that he proposed to answer the question in the affirmative. He might have defended his thesis without pledging himself to controvert in after life the eternity of future punishment, and thus run counter to the general doctrine of the church. We know that the contrary opinion obtains among some amiable and even pious men, whose minds are overpowered by the awful contemplation of interminable suffering: and it must be confessed that the dogma has been descanted upon in such unqualified terms, by some orthodox believers, as to surround it with supernumerary horrors. They have deepened the appalling representations of Scripture, and brought the scenes of penal woe before us with a minuteness of detail, which may in some instances have excited a salutary alarm in the breast of the determined profligate, but which has, it is to be feared, in minds of a different texture, suggested doubts of the doctrine itself, and even of the revelation from which it proceeds. Perhaps the least obnoxious view of the subject is to be seen in the ‘Memoirs of Dr Watson,’ a man whom no one will feel disposed to accuse of being over-orthodox, or ready to adopt any opinion without due examination, because it happens to be that of the Church. “Paley,” says the Bishop, “had brought me for one of the questions he meant for his act, Aeternitas poenarum contradicit divinis attributes? I had accepted it; and indeed I never refused a question either as moderator or as professor of divinity. A few days afterward, he came to me in a great fright saying, that the master of his college (Dr Thomas, Dean of Ely) had sent to him, and insisted on his not keeping on such a question. I readily permitted him to change it, and told him that, if it would lessen his master’s apprehensions, he might put in non before contradicit, and he did so. Dr Thomas, I had little doubt, was afraid of being looked upon as a heretic at Lambeth, for suffering a member of his college to dispute on such a question, notwithstanding what Tillotson had published on the subject many years before.

“It is however a subject of great difficulty. |t is allowed on all hands that the happiness of the righteous will be, strictly speaking, everlasting; and I cannot see the justness of that criticism which would interpret the same word in the same verse in different senses. ‘And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.’ Matt. xxv. 46. [*The English reader will recollect that, in the authorised version of the ‘New Testament’, the latter clause of the verse runs thus: “but the righteous into life eternal.” The Bishop’s version however is closer to the original, the same epithet being applied in the Greek both to “punishment” and to “life.” (Editor’s note)]  On the other hand, reason is shocked at the idea of God being considered as a relentless tyrant, inflicting everlasting punishment which answers no benevolent end. But how is it proved that the everlasting punishment of the wicked may not answer a benevolent end, may not be the means of keeping the righteous in everlasting holiness and obedience? How is it proved that it may not answer, in some other way unknown to us, a benevolent end, in promoting God’s moral government of the universe?”

In the present day, our senior wranglers are sure of obtaining some situation, either of immediate emolument or of future promise, not unworthy of their talents or their application. But in the year 1763, when Paley obtained the highest honour which a mathematical University can confer, he was only recommended to an academy at Greenwich as second usher. But the time which he spent there was neither without advantage nor pleasure. As classical assistant he had an opportunity of improving his acquaintance with the Latin tongue, in which he was probably not so well versed as he could wish. And the vicinity of Greenwich to the metropolis brought within his reach many sources of enjoyment of which he did not fail to avail himself. His attendance on the courts of justice in particular supplied an inexhaustible fund of amusement and instruction: and such was the contentedness of his disposition, and the moderation of his desire, that, fully satisfied with being constantly and usefully employed, he neither sought nor wished for more.[* This is a gross distortion of the truth, but Wayland was not to know this, having not had access to Paley’s letters to John Law from this time. (Editor’s note)]

If there be one species of composition which we should have supposed most uncongenial to the character of Paley’s mind, it is that which has been given to the world by Macpherson, as the genuine offspring of the Gaelic poet. And yet the first production of his pen was a Poem in the manner of ‘Ossian’. There are probably few imaginative men who have not luxuriated, in early life, amidst the rushing winds, and tumbling billows, and gleaming lakes, and head-long torrents, and blasted heaths, of this northern witchery. But it is not from the future author of the ‘Moral Philosophy,’ and of the Horae Paulinae,’ that we should expect the wild vagaries of fancy, the dim and unreal forms which float around the visionary brain. – Paley, however, soon found a literary occupation more consonant to his genius. In 1765, he entered the lists with the senior bachelors of the year for one of the prizes adjudged by the University to the two best dissertations in Latin prose. The subject was A comparison between the Stoic and Epicurean philosophy, with respect to the influence of each on the morals of a people. Paley too, as might be expected from his social and benevolent disposition, the Epicurean side of the question, disconnected of course from the misrepresentations of the enemies of the doctrine, and held forth in all the purity which was conspicuous in the character of Epicurus himself. The English notes appended to the ‘Essay’ had nearly been fatal to its success. Suspicions were excited that the writer had been assisted, either by his father, or by some other literary friend, who from long disuse had lost the facility of writing Latin, and had therefore completed the work in his native tongue. But the objection was over-ruled. Dr Powell, the master of St John’s, declared that “it contained more matter than was to be found in all the others; that it would be unfair to reject such a dissertation merely on suspicion; since the notes were applicable to the subject, and showed the author to be a young man of the most promising abilities and extensive reading:” and, the majority of the heads of houses coinciding with him in opinion, the prize was finally adjudged to Paley.

He does not seem himself to have indulged very sanguine hopes of success. He was probably aware that his Latinity would not bear a competition with that of the practised sons of our great public schools; and he might have feared that accuracy of thought, and diligence of investigation, would not be considered a sufficient equivalent. His motto, which was equally diffident and tasteful, may only prove the natural anxiety of a competitor for fame:

Non jam peto Mnestheus, neque vincere certo,
Quanquam o ! – Eneid, v 194.

But when he wrote to his friend, Mr Stoddart, the laconic billet : “Io triumphe! Chamberlayne is second:” we see that he estimated his own powers humbly, when entering into a contest with a classical scholar of no common attainments, and one who had obtained the first member’s prize the year before.

The conclusion of Paley’s ‘Essay’ is not less honourable to his feelings as a Christian, than to his talents as a scholar. After saying what could be said in favour of the system of heathen philosophy, for which he contended, he shows its comparative nothingness, when opposed to that faith, of which he was destined to become the public champion.

“Illuxit aliquando religio, cujus auctor est Deus, cujus material veritas, cujus finis est felicitas. Religio aliquando illuxit, quae Stoae paradoxon in principiis vere Epicureis fundari voluit. Sufficit ad felicitatem virtus, virtutis tamen finis est felicitas. Stabile denique quiddam est in quo pedem figamus, patetque nil veterem potuisse disciplinam, nil non perfecisse Christianam.“ – “At length a religion has shone forth, whose author is God, whose material is truth, whose en dis felicity. At length a religion has shone forth, which has decreed that the Stoical paradox should be founded on principles truly Epicurean. Virtue is now sufficient for happiness, yet happiness is the end and recompence of virtue. At last then there is something stable on which we may plant our footsteps, and it is evident that, while ancient philosophy can effect nothing, Christian discipline can do everything.”

Such sentiments as these, springing doubtless from internal conviction, were a proper prelude to undertaking the ministerial office, which he shortly afterwards did, and served the curacy of Greenwich under Dr Hinchcliffe, the future Bishop of Peterborough. Some dispute connected with the distribution of money among the assistants, in which Paley considered himself treated with injustice, dissolved his connexion with the school: and he who know the irksomeness of elementary tuition, the exercise of patience which it requires, the sacrifice of individual improvement which it demands, and the little scope given by it to the higher powers of the mind, will rejoice that his penetration and his genius were no longer confined to its tiresome routine.

When, in 1766, his collegiate honours obtained for his a somewhat more adequate recompence, by his appointment to a fellowship at Christ’s College, Paley returned to the University. Here he was soon induced by Dr Shepherd to undertake, in conjunction with Mr John law, the office of tutor, and for tutor of a college his talents eminently qualified him. He was not only clear in his own perceptions, but able to unfold his ideas to others with perspicuity, and qualified to render them interesting by the force and novelty of his illustrations. His colleague, too, was a man of superior attainments, and the celebrity which the college acquired, by the union of such genius and talent, proved the estimation in which the tutors were held. A foundation was laid at this time for that friendship which subsisted between these distinguished men in after life, a friendship which was soon of solid advantage to Paley, by introducing him to the notice of Mr Law’s father, then master of Peterhouse, who, on his promotion, in 1769, to the see of Carlisle, appointed him his chaplain. But the advantage was not all on the side of Paley. The third son of Dr Edward Law, the late Lord Ellenborough, owed him not a little for the careful cultivation of those splendid talents, which afterwards elevated their possessor to the highest legal honours. The compliment paid by his former tutor to this distinguished nobleman, upon his rapid advancement, is well known: “Your Lordship has risen higher and sooner than any man of whom I have lately heard, except M. Garnerin.”

The advocates of existing institutions, even when they have been the constituted guardians of the public morals, have sometimes been accused of lowering the standard of virtue, when it could not be raised without offending the great and noble. Whether the charge be generally true or false, it is gratifying to perceive that it certainly cannot be brought either against Paley or his friend. In 1771, they both displayed a virtuous intrepidity, which, considering their youth, and the temptation to yield which the opinion of their superior presented, cannot be too warmly eulogised. “When the hall of Christ’s College, which had been promised through the interest of Dr Shepherd, was fitting up for a benefit concert for Ximenes, a Spanish musician, warmly patronised by Lord Sandwich; Mr Paley and Mr Law peremptorily insisted that the promise should be recalled, unless satisfactory assurance was given that a lady, then living with his Lordship, and who had been openly distributing tickets, should not be permitted to attend. At first the senior tutor, who was in habits of intimacy with Lord Sandwich, objected to the idea of excluding any lady from a public concert; but afterwards, when they urged that, standing in a public situation, as the instructors of youth, it was their duty to discountenance every sort of immorality, and threatened to appeal to the society in case of his refusal, the assurance was given, and the arrangements allowed to proceed.[* See Meadley’s ‘Life of Paley’ (Editor’s note.)]

It was in the April of this same year that Paley first came forward in London as a public preacher, in the Royal Chapel at Whitehall. His strong provincial accent, and the broadness of his pronunciation, might seem at first somewhat uncouth to the polished audience of a court; but those who remember, and there are still many who do remember, the earnestness of his manner, and the powerful tones of his impressive voice, will feel that he must even then have thrilled upon the nerves of not a few of his auditors, if his strong sense and native eloquence did not flash conviction upon their souls.

The following year brought to Paley and his friend an equal participation of the emoluments of tuition, of which the exemplary discharge of its duties had made them abundantly deserving. The instance which has been given of their strenuous determination to uphold the cause of morality is a sufficient pledge of the care which they would take to obviate the mischiefs arising from the laxity of college discipline, especially where the junior members of their own society were concerned. The business of tuition was regularly divided between them. The mathematical department was assigned to Mr Law. Paley lectured on ethics, metaphysics, and divinity. His mode of instruction was eminently happy. He was not satisfied with reading a lecture, over which his idle auditors were permitted to sleep. He had the talent to excite attention, and he took the trouble to exercise it. He proposed questions which might be easily solved, by those who had attended to his previous instructions, and whose minds were sufficiently awake to enable them to exercise their reasons; but which puzzled those who had been dreaming over the subject, and exposed them to the ridicule of the lecture-room. Thus the time which, with few exceptions, is often spent in lounging and idleness, without satisfaction to the tutor, or advancement to the pupils, was employed in exciting a spirit of inquiry, and a habit of thought, whose beneficial results might be extended into future years. In metaphysics, Paley commenced with the ‘Essay on the Human Understanding,’ which he followed up with ‘Clarke on the Attributes,’ and ‘Butler’s Analogy.’ His ethics laid the foundation of his own ‘Moral Philosophy,’ and the principles which were afterwards developed so luminously to the world were previously advanced in his private lectures. Twice a week he devoted the evening to divinity. He read and explained the ‘Greek Testament’ to his pupils, and recommended such a course of theological reading as he thought best adapted to impress religious truth upon their minds. Locke’s ‘Reasonableness of Christianity,’ and his work on the ‘Epistles,’ were always warmly eulogised by him, and it would be difficult to substitute treatises of greater excellence. Yet it may be doubted whether, in his divinity lectures, Paley dwelt as much as he might have done on the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. No one would wish to see the lecture-room of a college an arena for polemical disputation, or a school for the discussion of those nice and subtle points which only “engender strife:” [* This is an interesting view of the role of the lecture room in the era. Explicitly not for ideological transmission, but for the quiet formation of minds in debate about ideas which are not orthodox, and not for public discussion (Editor’s note).] but surely those grand and fundamental principles, upon which must depend all the hopes of salvation which can be cherished by a fallen and polluted being, ought never to be kept out of sight, or treated in a mere cursory manner. Of Paley’s own firm belief of these no one can doubt for a moment, who has seen his volume of ‘Posthumous Sermons,’ that most interesting transcript of his mind, which he gave to his own people, at a time when every man speaks the truth, and acts exclusively for eternity. [*The issue of whether there were later evangelical editorial additions to the sermons is significant here. (Editor’s note)] – But his system through life was that of comprehension. He wished to enlarge the boundaries of the Christian Church, and to admit into it many, whom a determination to insist constantly upon what are termed orthodox principles must exclude from its pale. Of the propriety of this mode of acting there will of course be a difference of opinion, which this is not the time to discuss. But, such being the habitual feeling of Paley, we must lament that, on the fist public occasion which was offered him of acting upon the principles which he approved, he should have taken the contrary side, and seemed seriously to verify his sportive declaration, that he “could not afford to keep a conscience.” Nothing indeed can be more unjust, or more cruel, than to judge of a man’s real sentiments by an occasional effusion of jocularity; but when, in 1772, Paley refused, in the face of his known and acknowledged opinion, to sign the clerical petition for relief from subscription to the 39 articles, his warmest friends cannot deny that he acted with a reserve at variance with his habitual openness, and a caution inconsistent with his habitual spirit. We are led more naturally to these reflections, when we find him afterwards coming forward, though anonymously, in defence of a work by the Bishop of Carlisle, entitled ‘Considerations on the propriety of requiring a Subscription to Articles of Faith.’ Paley’s ‘Defence of the Considerations,’ for to him it has been uniformly given, is not unworthy of his name, though it is written in a tone of bold and peremptory haughtiness, which the force of his arguments did not need. His calm and dispassionate judgement of the question, which was then so warmly agitated, is given to the public in the chapter on Subscription contained in the third book of the ‘Moral Philosophy,’ as well as in the chapter on ‘Religious Establishments,’ which will be found in the last.

In 1774, Mr Law resigned his office of tutor at Christ’s College, on his advancement to a prebendal stall in his father’s diocess [sic]; and, in 1775, Paley was instituted by the same Bishop to the small rectory of Musgrove in Westmoreland, worth not more than 80£ a year. His patron, Dr Law, had written a work on the ‘Life and Character of our Saviour,’ to which Paley, in 1776, published what may be considered an Appendix. The ‘Observations upon the Character and Example of Christ, and the Morality of the Gospel,’ which made their first appearance this year at Cambridge, were sufficiently interesting to add to Paley’s reputation in a place where he was already known and appreciated.

The time was now come when our author was to quit the life of the collegian, for that of a parish priest. Small as his preferment was, he married, in the month of June, Miss Jane Hewitt, a lady of Carlisle, pleasing in her person and agreeable in her manners, and retired with her to his rectory in Westmoreland. A college life is not always a desirable prelude to the work of the ministry. Habits of indolence or of abstraction are often generated by the want of external impulse, and the luxury of literary associates is hardly dispensed with in the seclusion of a country village. But Paley had lived for duty, active and laborious duty; and while he could look back on the time spent at the University with the consciousness of having been useful, he could look forward to future exertion without apprehension or distaste. That he missed the intellectual pleasures of Cambridge, it would not perhaps be safe to deny, but he surrounded himself with other sources of pure gratification, and he has often been heard to say that the time which he passed at Musgrove was to be numbered amongst the happiest periods of his life.

The patronage of the Bishop of Carlisle is far from being extensive, but Dr Law gave what he could to the friend of his son. In 1776, Paley added to his former preferment the vicarage of Dalston, in Cumberland, worth about 90£ per annum; and on the 5th of September, 1777, he vacated his rectory of Musgrove, upon his appointment to the vicarage of St Lawrence, Appleby, a living in the gift of the dean and chapter, which brought him an income of about 200£. He now resided half the year at Appleby, and half at Dalston.

Previous to Paley’s appointment to Appleby, he had preached in the cathedral of Carlisle, at an episcopal visitation, a sermon which was afterwards published, on the necessity of caution in the use and application of Scripture language. During his residence in this parish, where, from the extent of the population, he was probably much called upon to visit the sick and dying, he was struck the with utility of compiling a manual of devotion for the assistance of the Parochial Minister, adapted to the several varieties of character which he may have to address, and supplying such topics of reproof or consolation as may not always readily suggest themselves to the mind of every Christian pastor, however anxious to perform this arduous and often painful duty. This manual is before the public, and its excellence is sufficiently attested by its success. The little work in question is valuable, also, as offering an undeniable proof of the sincerity of Paley’s zeal for the best interests of mankind, and his exemplary attention to the quiet duties of his sacred calling. As the book is merely a compilation, it could add nothing to his literary character, and the only motive for its publication must have been the desire of doing good.

In 1781, Paley published an admonitory Sermon to the young Clergy of the Diocess of Carlisle, preached at a general Ordination holden at Rose Castle, July 29th. This is a composition which cannot be studied without benefit by those who have lately assumed the ministerial office, or those who are about to undertake it. He is certainly unqualified for the awfully responsible character of a Christian pastor, who is not fully prepared to receive all the admonitions of Paley upon the subject, and to frame his conduct after the model which he proposes. It is to be lamented that enough is not said in this sermon, of the means by which a devotional spirit must be acquired; and that, while the vices most subversive of ministerial usefulness, and the qualities most conducive to ministerial success, are treated with a minuteness of detail, and a force of application, which leave us nothing to desire, fervent prayer for the Divine blessing, without which the deductions of human reason, and the efforts of human resolution, are equally vain is not pressed upon the hearts and consciences of his hearers. [* A good example of the growing gulf between the more classical mode of encouraging spirituality and the expressive forms of the post-romantic period. (Editor’s note)]

Previously to his publication of this sermon, Paley had been promoted, in June, 1780, by his warm patron, the Bishop of Carlisle, to a prebendal stall in his cathedral, worth about 400£  per annum: and Mr Law being elevated, in 1782, to the Bishopric of Clonfert, his vacant archdeaconry was added to the preferment of his friend. The archdeaconry of Carlisle is a sinecure, the duties of the office being performed by the chancellor, but it augmented Paley’s income by the small living attached to it, and it gave him rank in the church. In 1785, Dr Richard Burn, who had been made chancellor of Carlisle for his well-known work on Ecclesiastical Law, vacated his office by death, and the chancellorship, being then united with the archdeaconry, the labours, as well as the dignity, of the charge devolved upon our author. The annual value of these two pieces of preferment was probably about £300. The living of Appleby had been resigned upon his appointment to the archdeaconry, and his residence was now divided between Dalston and his prebendal house. – In Ireland, whither he accompanied the Bishop of Clonfert, in 1782, he preached at the Castle Chapel at Dublin, at his friend’s consecration, the sermon which was afterwards published, entitled, ‘A Distinction of Orders in the Church defended upon principles of public Utility.

A curious instance of unintentional, or, wilful, exaggeration, may be traced in the following anecdote, which was circulated pretty widely for its wit, without reflecting on the absence of decorum which it would imply, had it been strictly and literally true: “A report had been long in circulation that Mr Paley, being appointed to preach before the University of Cambridge, on the day when Mr Pitt, after his elevation to the premiership, in 1784, made his first appearance at St Mary’s, chose this singular, but appropriate, text, ‘There is a lad here, which hath five barley-loaves and two small fishes; but what are they among so many?’ John vi. 9. A lady, who had seen this story in the newspaper, once asked the facetious divine if it was true. ‘Why no, madam,’ replied he, ‘I certainly never preached such a sermon, I was not at Cambridge at the time; but I remember that one day, when I was riding out with a friend, in the neighbourhood of Carlisle, and we were talking about the bustle and confusion which Mr Pitt’s appearance would then cause in the University, I said, that if I had been there, and asked to preach on the occasion, I would have taken that passage for my text.’” [*See The Life of Paley]

In 1785 commenced the series of those celebrated works which have raised Paley to the height of literary reputation on which he stands. The Bishop of Clonfert estimated his friend’s talents more highly than his own native modesty would suffer him to do; and it was at his Lordship’s suggestion that the Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy appeared before the public. When the work was completed, some hesitation and delay took place, from a difference of opinion with respect to its value. The publisher, Mr Faulder, was unwilling to give more than £250 for the copy-right, while the author insisted upon £300. The circumstance was a fortunate one, for, in the mean time, through the medium of a bookseller from Carlisle, Mr Robinson, of Paternoster-row, offered £1000. The Bishop of Clonfert was in town superintending the sale of the book, and Paley, to whom this liberal offer had been communicated, was in great agitation lest the letter, which he immediately despatched, should not reach London before the treaty was concluded. This, however, it happily did; and Mr Faulder was compelled, either to relinquish the purchase, or quadruple his former offer. He wisely chose the latter alternative, and he had no reason to regret his decision. “Little did I think,” said Paley, when the business was completed, “that I should ever make a thousand pounds by any book of mine.”

The ‘Moral and political Philosophy’ is a standard examining-book in the University of Cambridge. It was first introduced as such by Mr Jones, senior tutor of Trinity, when he was moderator, in the years 1786 and 1787, and it still keeps its ground. It is difficult to imagine any circumstance better calculated than this to confirm the reputation of the author, and stamp the excellence of the work. Yet, in spite of the laudable care which Paley shows never to run counter to Revelation, and never to apply to any source but  Scripture, except when Scripture is silent, he has been thought, by some men of piety and judgment, to be wrong in some of his principles, and inconclusive in some of his reasonings. The doctrine of expedience, in particular, has been warmly censured, as lowering the standard of strict Christian morality, and opening a door to all the deceptions of the unsubdued heart. It may certainly be answered, and with perfect truth, that the doctrine, as taught by Paley, has been greatly misunderstood; that his aim is to estimate actions and institutions by the general consequences; to recommend that only which is universally expedient; and to seek the benefit of the individual, only as far as may be consistent with the welfare of the community. But it may be doubted whether a principle so liable to perversion can be safe; and when we see men of the most depraved habits, and most inveterate selfishness, defending their opinions and their actions by quoting the authority of Paley, we cannot help feeling a sort of undefined suspicion that there must be something wrong

In 1787, the Bishop of Carlisle, who had been for more than twelve years the firm friend, and constant patron, of Paley, died at Rose Castle, on the 14th of August, at the advanced age of eighty-four. As a tribute of grateful respect to the memory of this upright prelate, Paley published some years after, a short Memoir of his Life, which has been introduced into Hutchinson’s ‘History of Cumberland,’ and the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica.’

During Paley’s residence at his prebendal house in Carlisle, in the year 1788, he received a letter from Dr Percival, a physician of Manchester, a man of distinguished talents and of most amiable character, stating his son’s wish to enter into holy orders in the Church of England, he himself being a Dissenter from that Church, and holding doctrines at variance with her authorised creed. The answer returned by the archdeacon, while it shows his laudable desire to include within the pale of the established communion all that he could bring into it of wisdom and of virtue affords at the same time a proof of that laxity of interpretation which his friends cannot but lament. The letters are sufficiently interesting to be suffered to speak for themselves.

From Dr Percival to the Rev Archdeacon Paley
Manchester, June 20, 1788

“What apology shall I offer for the liberty I am now presuming to take with you? The very high respect which I entertain for your talents and character, operates upon me at once as an incitement and restraint; and, whilst I am solicitous to avail myself of your counsel and assistance, I am diffident in requesting them, from a consciousness of having no claim to be honoured with either.  But the occasion requires a sacrifice of feeling to judgment:  and I shall trust to your goodness to excuse, if peculiar reasons do not justify, my present application to you.

“My eldest son, whom I intended for the profession of physic, by his residence at St John's college, and connexions in Cambridge, has had his views changed, and is now strongly inclined to go into the Church. But, previous to his final decision, he wishes to settle his mind on several important topics comprehended in the articles of faith.  The chapter on Religious Establishments, in your excellent ‘System of Moral and Political Philosophy,’ has had great weight with him: and he has this morning expressed to me an earnest desire to have the benefit of your personal instructions, on points so interesting to his future peace, prosperity, and usefulness.  Is it possible for him to enjoy this singular privilege for the space of a few weeks?  I shall cordially acquiesce in any terms that you may prescribe, and with a grateful sense of obligation to you.

“I am a Dissenter, but actuated by the same spirit of catholicism which you possess. An establishment I approve; the Church of England, in many respects, I honour; and should think it my duty to enter instantly into her communion, were the plan which you have proposed in your tenth chapter carried into execution.

From the Rev Archdeacon Paley to Dr Percival
Carlisle, 25 June, 1788

“I desire you to accept my thanks for the many obliging expressions of respect which your letter contains. If the state of my engagements had allowed me to spare a few weeks to a personal conference with your son, upon any subject of doubt which he should chance to propose, it would have been a pleasure to me to have complied with your wishes, from a sense both of private obligation and of public esteem.  As my time is at present very little in my own power, and my being at home very uncertain, I know not how I can contribute to your son's satisfaction in any better way than by sending you a few additional explanatory observations upon what I have written in my chapter, entitled, 'Of Subscription.'

 “1st. If any person understand and believe all the several propositions in the thirty- nine articles, and in the liturgy and homilies which they recognize, there can be no place for doubt.

 “2d.  If a person think that every such proposition is probable, or as probable as the contrary or any other supposition on the subject, there can be no just cause of scruple.

 “3d.  If a person, after using due enquiry, understand some of the propositions in the thirty-nine articles, but not all, and assent to those propositions which he does understand, I think he may safely subscribe.

 “4th. If a person think any part of the discipline, government, rites, or worship of the Church of England to be forbidden, he certainly ought not to subscribe; but certain parts of these being not commanded, or not the best possible, or not good and useful, or not reasonable (for many things may be absurd, and yet very innocent), is not, in my opinion, a sufficient ground of objection.

 “5th. If there be certain particular propositions in the articles which he disbelieves, although he assent to the main part of them, as well as to the lawfulness of the established government and worship of the Church, then arises the case in which the principal difficulty consists. And, as to this case, I find no reason, upon much re-consideration, to question the principle I have laid down, viz. 'that if the intention and view of the legislature, which imposed subscription, be satisfied, it is enough.' But here comes a doubt, whether we can be permitted to go out of the terms of subscription, that is to say, the words of the statute, to collect the intention of the legislature, or not.  If we look to the terms of the subscription, they seem to require a positive assent to each and every proposition contained in the articles, so as that believing any one such proposition to be untrue, is inconsistent with subscription. If we may be allowed to judge of the design and object of the legislature from the nature of the case, and the ordinary maxims of human conduct, it appears likely that they meant to fence out such sects and characters as were hostile and dangerous to the new establishment, viz. Popery, and the tenets of the Continental Anabaptists; rather than expect, what they must have known to be impracticable, the exact agreement of so many minds in such great number of controverted propositions.

“Now, concerning this doubt, viz. whether we may or not go out of the terms of the statute to collect the design of the legislature, (which question I think involves the whole difficulty,) I can only say, that a court of justice, in interpreting written law, certainly could not, and ought not;  for any such liberty would give to courts of justice the power of making laws;  but I do not see that any danger or insecurity will be introduced by allowing this liberty to private persons. I mean, that private persons acting under the direction of a law may be said to do their duty, if they act up to what they believe to be the design of the legislature in making the law; whether their opinion of that design be founded upon the terms of the statute alone, or upon the nature of the subject and the actual probability.

“If I had the pleasure of your son's presence, I know not whether I ought to say any thing more. It is the office of an adviser in such cases to suggest general principles.  The application of these principles to each person's case must be made by the person himself, who alone knows the state of his own thoughts. I have only to add, that Burnet's seems a fair explication of the sense of the Articles.”

He who firmly believes those essential doctrines, which the Church has uniformly held forth as topics of public instruction to her ministers, and of private edification to her people, would lament to see the visible boundaries of that Church enlarged, at the expense of those fundamental principles which form the essence of its invisible consolations. Is this even consistent with Paley’s own published declaration, that, “in every question of conduct, where one side is doubtful, and the other side safe, we are bound to take the safe side:” – and, again, “we assert, that the action concerning which we doubt, whatever it may be in itself, or to another, would, in us, whilst this doubt remains upon our minds, be certainly sinful?” [*Moral Philosophy Book I, chapter 7] How much more ingenuous and manly is the opinion of Bishop Tomline, in the excellent conclusion to his ‘Exposition of the 39 Articles!’ [sic] “’The avoiding of diversities of opinion,’ says his Lordship, ‘and the establishing of consent touching true religion,’ was the professed object of these articles; and, consequently, they lose their effect, if they do not produce a general agreement among such as subscribe them. ‘I do willingly and ex animo subscribe to the 39 articles of the Church of England,’ is the indispensable form of subscription; and, therefore, it behoves every one, before he offers himself a candidate for holy orders, to peruse carefully the articles of our Church, and to compare them with the written word of God. If, upon mature examination, he believes them to be authorised by Scripture, he may conscientiously subscribe them; but if, on the contrary, he thinks that he sees reason to dissent from any of the doctrines asserted in them, no hope of emolument or honour, no dread of inconvenience or disappointment, should induce him to express his solemn assent to propositions which in fact he does not believe. It is not indeed necessary that he should approve every word or expression, but he ought to believe all the fundamental doctrines, of the articles; all those tenets in which our Church differs from other Churches, or from other sects of Christians. He ought to feel that he ca, from his own conviction, maintain the purity of our established religion, and sincerely and zealously enforce those points of faith and practice which our Church declares to be the revealed will of God. This appears to me the only just ground of conscientious subscription to the articles; and let it be ever remembered that, in a business of this serious and important nature, no species whatever of evasion, subterfuge, or reserve, is to be allowed, or can be practised, without imminent danger of incurring the wrath of God. The articles are to be subscribed in their plain and obvious sense, and assent is to be given to them simply and unequivocally. Thus only can a person offer himself at the table of the Lord, as his minister, with safety; thus only can he expect to receive the Divine blessing upon that course of life to which he then solemnly devotes himself.”

Paley’s reasoning, however, certainly induced the son of Dr Percival to become a minister of the Church of England. But if, as a member of the establishment, he continued to hold the Arian principles in which he had been educated; though he might explain away subscription to the articles by reasonings upon the intention of those who framed them; it is difficult to conceive how he could, conscientiously, not only join but lead a worship so opposite to the opinions which, from his earliest infancy, he had held sacred; how he could conscientiously repeat creeds which would never have been composed if Arius had never existed.

In 1789, an opportunity was offered to Paley, by Dr York[e], Bishop of Ely, of returning once more to Cambridge, and filling there an office of present dignity, and probably of future advancement. His reasons for refusing the mastership of Jesus, when it courted his acceptance, have never been given to the world, for he uniformly maintained the strictest reserve upon the subject. [*Ed. Note: This is not strictly true. See Edmund Paley, Life] Whether he repented his decision is not known, but it was on this occasion that his first and best friend declared that he had “missed a mitre.”

In the year 1790, Paley published his second great work, the ‘Horae Paulinae, or the Truth of the Scripture History of Saint Paul, evinced, by a Comparison of the Epistles which bear his name, with the Acts of the Apostles, and with one another.This masterly production, from the nature of the subject, and the manner in which it is necessarily treated, has not obtained the popularity which it deserves; but it may be doubted whether any work which has proceeded from the author’s pen merits more unqualified praise. The keenness of Paley’s researches, and the accuracy of his observation, have enabled him to discover many coincidences of such fine and almost impalpable texture, that, to a cursory reader, some of the individual deductions are disappointing, which the labour of tracing them, even under the guidance of the clear and luminous mind of the writer, is occasionally wearisome. But he who will be at the pains to devote that time and attention to the work which it demands will find the general result to be entire and overpowering conviction: he will see that Paley has completely exhausted the subject, and supplied a species of argument, in favour of the truth of Revelation, which no infidel has even attempted to answer. The ‘Horae Paulinae,’ like ‘Butler’s Analogy,’ may defy the scrutiny of the most learned and critical sceptic, and will only be more satisfactory in proportion as it is more examined.

In this same year, Paley delivered, as chancellor, to the clergy of the archdeaconry of Carlisle, his excellent charge on ‘The Use and Propriety of Local and Occasional Preaching.’ The arguments which he brings forward in this discourse, are such as must immediately approve themselves to the reason and judgment; and there is little doubt that, if the ministers of the Gospel, instead of being satisfied with such an exposition of the doctrines and duties of Christianity, as may be preaching in any church, and before any congregation, would oftener study the religious wants of their own peculiar people, and seize upon every passing occurrence which can rouse attention or excite inquiry, they would be heard with greater interest, and their ministry would be more successful.

Johnson has eulogised Dr Watts for the Christian humility, no less than the versatility of talent, with which, after entering the lists as the antagonist of Locke, he could devote a portion of his time to the composition of hymns for children. At the first introduction of Sunday schools in the city of Carlisle, Paley did not think it unbecoming his ecclesiastical dignities, or beneath his literary reputation, to compile a little tract for their use, which he entitled, ‘The Young Christian instructed in Reading and in the Principles or Religion; compiled for the use of the Sunday Schools in Carlisle.’ It is curious that this humble production should have drawn upon its compiler the charge of plagiarism, in any angry and intemperate attack from the Rev Mr Robertson, which appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine,’ and which Paley thought himself called upon to answer. This squabble is perhaps not unworthy of insertion, from the laughable indignation of the accuser, and the literary celebrity of the accused.

“Thou shalt not steal.”
Catechism by Paley, p 34

“Mr Urban,

“When the press teems with innumerable publications in every department of literature, it is no wonder that many of them are mere compilations; the observations, arguments, and opinions, of preceding writers, thrown together into one general mass, and presented to the public under some new and ostentatious title. We have volumes after volumes, collected from the works of the most eminent authors, filled with heterogenous fragments, which distract and confound the reader’s memory and imagination, and consequently leave no useful impression on the mind. Some dealers in this piratical commerce take every opportunity they can seize for converting the works of others to their own emolument. With this view, they mangle and pillage them in an arbitrary manner, till they have either made the original composition appear to the utmost disadvantage, or devoured it as rapaciously as the harpies devoured the provisions of Aeneas and his companions.

“Though, as the author of two or three humble publications, I did not imagine that I should be exposed to piratical depredations, yet I have found myself deceived. I did not recollect that a petty thief will steal a scraper. ---- Some time after the appearance of ‘An Introduction to the Study of Polite Literature,’ a certain reverend gentleman in the north republished the greatest part of that tract for the use of Sunday Schools, and others in general. To this compilation he has prefixed his name and his titles of honour, William Paley, M.A. Archdeacon of Carlisle. But he has not condescended to make the least acknowledgement, or to offer the least apology for his plagiarism, though it constitutes the first thirty pages of his publication; to which he has subjoined the Catechism, a few pages of Scripture, two or three prayers, some divine songs, and other pious collectanea, which would not have answered his purpose, or been saleable, without the former part.

“I think myself amply justified in thus mentioning the editor of this disingenuous publication, as it continues to be sold (notwithstanding a former remonstrance) by his booksellers in Carlisle and Bond-street! [*This fraudulent publication, entitled ‘The Young Christian instructed in Reading,’ &c. bears some appearance and symptoms of guilt in its front, no London bookseller’s name, though published in the metropolis. [The note appears to have been in the Gentleman’s Magazine, though Wayland does not make this clear.] In his next edition, the conscientious Archdeacon is desired to inform his readers, how such an invasion of private property can be justified on the ‘principles of moral and political philosophy.’ As the ingenious young students of the floating academy are subject to penal statutes, it is but reasonable that all pilferers in the republic of letters should be chastised, in proportion to their demerits. Your impartiality, Mr Urban, and regard for ingenuous learning, will, I hope, induce you to give these strictures a place in your magazine; not for the sake of the writer, but for the most important purposes – the discouragement of plagiarism, and protection of literary property.

“Yours, &c.”
“I Robertson”


“Carlisle, May 18, 1792
“Mr Urban,

“In the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ for February, p 131, I am accused by the Rev Mr Robertson of invading his property in a certain work, published by him under the title of ‘An introduction to the Study of Polite Literature.’ As you have thought proper to admit into your miscellany Mr Robertson’s complaint, I expect, from your regard to justice, that you will find a place for my answer. Your readers, then, must first of all be told, what, from the air of importance which is given to the charge, they would not readily imagine, that this same ‘Introduction to the Study of Polite Literature’ is a spelling-book; that one entire page of the original, for the crime of purloining which I am thus brought before the public, is verbally and literally as follows: --


a bag      a cap     a mat

a nag    a map    a hat

a bun      a nut   a spy

a gun      a hut     a fly

and that, except some short directions for reading, all the pages taken by me are of the same kind with this specimen, proceeding as is the manner of primers and spelling-books, form words of one syllable to words of more, and from polysyllables to sentences of different lengths. I mention this, not to detract from the merits of Mr Robertson’s performance, which is a very good one of the sort, but in order to show that reputation of authorship could hardly be my motive for the theft. The truth and the whole truth of the transaction is this: - about seven years ago, when Sunday schools were first set up in Carlisle, I was desired to prepare some small tracts which might be put into the hands of the children and the masters. The point aimed at was, to afford as much instruction for as little money as possible. With this view, it was necessary to make one part answer the purpose of a spelling-book, and the other to contain the elements of religious knowledge. I executed the office of a compiler in the first part, by marking out to the printer some pages of an anonymous spelling-book, which had accidentally come into my hands as a present to one of my children. In the second part there is nothing of my own except a piece of four pages, entitled ‘A short History of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ.’ The rest is made up of portions of Scripture, selected by me, chiefly form the Gospels, an old tract of Lord Chief Justice Hale’s, two prayers, two hymns of Dr watt’s, a piece of Dr Stonehouse’s, taken from the Society’s tracts, and another of Mr Gilpin’s. These two last-named gentlemen have not complained, probably, indeed, continue ignorant of the injury that has been done them. Should they come to know it, I am persuaded that, instead of resenting the liberty which I have taken with their pious writings, they will rejoice to find them made, in any shape, or by any hand, useful and accessible to the poor. My name as the compiler (for that is the word employed) was placed in the title-page because the book-seller refused to print the book without it; and it is placed there in the manner, so far as I know, commonly adopted by clergymen, for I am conscious of no affectation upon that head.

“Such was the birth of the little compilation which has provoked this angry attack. A few months after it had been printed, Mr Faulder, of Bond-Street, asked my leave to put forth an edition of it in London. I told him that the first part was taken from a work, which, as I now understood, though I did not know it at the time, had been published by Mr Robertson, of Marlborough-Street; and that he must apply to Mr Robertson for permission. Mr Faulder made his application and was refused; and upon that refusal, by my positive injunction, desisted from his design. If it has been printed since that time, it is entirely without my participation or knowledge.

“Mr Robertson says that the collection ‘would not have answered my purpose, or been saleable, without the former part;’ – what purpose had I to be answered but that which is expressed in the title-page, ‘the use of the Sunday schools in Carlisle!’ I never gained a penny by the publication: so much otherwise, that I paid the publisher his full price for every copy that I gave away. I am at this moment ready to convey to Mr Robertson, or his assignee, my title, if he think I have any, to the work, and all interest in it whatsoever.

“Mr Robertson has not said that the sale of one copy of his book has been hindered by the appearance of mine. From the different quality of the articles, I am convinced that no such effect can follow. His is a fair volume, a beautiful type, and a fine paper, adapted in all respects to those of genteel boarding-schools, and the nurseries of genteel families. Of all the low-priced helps to education with which parish-children and charity-schools were ever furnished, mine, in these particulars, is the meanest. The two books, therefore, are calculated for a totally different description of purchasers. They can never meet in the market; no person who would buy his book would be content with mine.

“This is my defence; but a part of my story is yet untold. Not long after this little book was published, and as soon as I knew Mr Robertson’s sentiments about it, the substance of what I have here alleged was drawn up by me in terms as respectful as I could frame them, and, being so drawn up, was communicated to him by a friend to us both. Although I did not believe that I had injured his property, I was truly sorry that I had offended, and that also unknowingly, a gentleman with whom I possessed a slight degree of acquaintance, whose hard fortune in his profession I have often lamented, and whose literary merits entitle him to regard from every scholar. Mr Robertson ought not, therefore, to have said ‘that I have not condescended to make the least acknowledgment, or offer the least apology, for my plagiarism.’ I did offer and apology, not indeed in print, which, I doubt not, is what he means, but by a mode of correspondence which, in my judgment, much better became both the subject and the parties.

“And this, Mr Urban, leads me to express my regret that there should be one column in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ which hath no employment more worthy of it than to convey to the public what the public have no concern in – a beggarly dispute about a few pages of a spelling-book, by the stealing of which (for so let it be called) neither the plagiarist hath gained, nor the proprietor lost, a fraction of a farthing.

“Yours, &c.”
“W Paley”


In 1791, Mrs Paley died, and her husband was left a widower with eight children, four sons and four daughters. In the following year, he was presented by the Dean and Chapter to the living of Addingham, near Great Salkeld, of the annual value of £140. His next publication, which appeared at this time, was intended to stem the torrent of disaffection and discontent which, taking its rise in a neighbouring country, had spread itself far and wide over the kingdoms of Europe, and threatened to lay waste even this favoured land in its devastating course. At the moment when the altar and the throne seemed tottering to their foundations, and the violent commotion of the public mind seemed to threaten in England the political earthquake which had desolated France; when the poor and humble were seduced to believe, by the false assertions of unprincipled demagogues, that plenty and happiness were to be permanently founded on the ruins of existing institutions; the little pamphlet of Paley, entitled ‘Reasons for Contentment, addressed to the labouring part of the British Public,’ deserved the thanks of every friend of social order. But the Archdeacon was not satisfied with this. From the ‘Moral and Political Philosophy,’ he extracted the seventh chapter of the sixth book, which he published in a separate state, for general distribution, under the title of an Essay upon the British Constitution;’ anxious that it should find its way to persons who had neither money to purchase, nor time to peruse, the original work. To this extract the following advertisement was prefixed: -

“What has passed in Europe, under the immediate observation of this country, during the last four years, hath naturally drawn the thoughts of the reflecting part of the English community to the constitution of their government. The conduct also of some principal writers, upon both sides of the question, hath tended to excite, not only the attention, but the passions, of the public, and to force the subject upon the thoughts of the multitudes, whose minds would, otherwise, have been very little disposed to entertain political speculations. I cannot, however, persuade myself that the friends of public tranquillity have anything to fear. The body of the British people appear to me to be satisfied with their condition; to be intent upon their various employments; and to be tasting the sweets of industry and order in the increased and increasing gains of almost every occupation. This state of the country is a strong security for its internal peace. Nevertheless, since these discussions are undoubtedly become very general, it is expedient that whatever anyone has to propose should be proposed in a form fitted for general reading. This reason hath induced me to publish the following apology for the British constitution in a separate pamphlet; as the work, from which it is taken, is hindered by its size and price from finding its way into the hands of many who might receive advantage from the perusal. Some late notice of that work, much too honourable for me to repeat, have procured to it a degree of regard, which will probably obtain readers for this part of it. I trust also that it will be a recommendation of the principles here delivered, that they were not made for the times or the occasion; to serve any purpose or any party; that they were committed to writing ten years ago, and under circumstances which, if they were known, would exclude all suspicion of insincerity or design. The opinions I then formed were formed upon the best consideration I was able to give to the subject of which I treated. Since the publication of the ‘Principles of moral Philosophy,’ I have written nothing, and, to speak the truth, have thought little, upon political questions; for, interesting as they may seem to be, or are, my age, and still more my health and profession, have taught me that there are other studies, in comparison with which even these are unimportant.

Carlisle, June 29th, 1792”

Though by the death of Dr Law, Paley had lost one friend and patron, in his successor to the bishopric of Carlisle he soon found another. Dr Vernon, the present Archbishop of York, offered him the vicarage of Stanwix, which he was happy to receive in exchange for that of Dalston. His reasons for the preference are thus candidly detailed to a clerical friend: “Why, Sir, I had two or three reasons for taking Stanwix in exchange; first, it saved me double house-keeping, as Stanwix was within a twenty-minutes’ walk of my house in Carlisle; secondly, it was fifty pounds a year more in value; and, thirdly, I began to find my stock of sermons coming over again too fast.”

One is sorry that publicity should have been given to the last reason, as it offers the sanction of Paley’s celebrated name to a practice which cannot be too warmly censured – that of a clergyman’s resting satisfied with a stock of sermons already prepared, and thus denying to his hearers the benefit of his own personal improvement; instead of drawing weekly from the augmented sources of his mind and heart. For Paley, whose intellectual powers were kept in constant exercise by the composition of works, which continue to instruct and enlighten the Christian world, it may be less difficult to frame an apology; though even in him we feel that it contradicts his own express advice in the excellent charge which he had given to his clergy: but let not any one, who has only the excuse of indolence to offer, shield himself under the example of a man who has done so much for the defence of our common faith. Every minister of the Gospel, who imitates Paley in this respect, while he bars the religious advancement of his hearers, will often endanger his own. Nothing will conduce more, under the blessing of God, to the spiritual improvement of the pastor than constant private preparation for the public service of the sanctuary; and he who rests satisfied with the sermons which he has already written, may, it is to be feared, rest satisfied also with the degree of piety to which he has attained.

If the ‘Horae Paulinaewas too recondite to suit the popular taste, the View of the Evidences of Christianity,’ which made its first appearance in the year 1794, united the suffrages of all men in its favour. It would perhaps be difficult to point out a work which has been more generally read and admired, or one which has procured for its author more solid marks of approbation. It is certain that, before its publication, in spite of the benefits which Paley had already conferred on the cause of Christianity,, and the warm friendship and unwearied patronage of some distinguished individuals which he enjoyed; there was something of coldness and reserve in the feelings of the episcopal bench towards him, which all his talents and his usefulness were insufficient to dissipate. The freedom of some of his sentiments, the laxity of interpretation upon some points of doctrine or of discipline, which seemed to throw a shade of doubt upon the orthodoxy of his religious opinions, or the sincerity of his attachment to the Church of England, might make the most exemplary prelates consider it unsafe to bestow on him the higher dignities which were at their disposal. But when the ‘Evidenceswere published, their author could no longer be overlooked. Dignities and emoluments were showered upon him from every quarter, and at length, with the single exception of the mitre, his talents procured for him all that clerical ambition could desire. The first prelate who came forward to reward the champion of Christianity was Dr Porteus, the late pious and exemplary Bishop of London. He conferred on Paley a prebendal stall in the cathedral of St Paul’s, and it was that of St Pancras, which is one of the most valuable. This was in August, 1794. In January following, Dr Tomline, the present Bishop of Winchester, presented him to the Sub-deanery of Lincoln, a piece of preferment worth somewhat more than £700 a year: and the venerable Bishop of Durham, Dr Barrington, soon after added to his emoluments the valuable living of Bishop-Wearmouth. The collective amount of these several pieces of preferment was considerably more than £2000 a year. The prebendal stall at Carlisle, and the vicarage at Stanwix, were vacated, and Dr Vernon waived most handsomely his right of presentation to both, in favour of the Bishops of Lincoln and Durham, the recent benefactors of Paley.

The ‘View of the Evidences of Christianity,’ which was thus liberally remunerated, does not profess to be original. Everything which is advanced in this interesting work had previously appeared in the pages of Grotius and Lardner; but to Paley is due the merit of arranging with clearness, and stating with perspicuity, the materials with which they supplied him. Less concise than the one, and less diffuse than the other, he is more convincing than either, and more luminous than both. To say that every infidel, who sits down to peruse the work of Paley, will rise up convinced, is to expect from the arguments of truth an universality of operation, which is contradicted by fact and experience. We know the opposition which the pride of intellect, and the vehemence of passion, have ever offered to the pure and self-denying religion of Jesus Christ. We know that where it is the interest of any individual to disbelieve, unbelief will be often the natural and inevitable consequence. But respect will be commanded for the tenets of Christianity, and admiration for the character of its Divine teacher, even if doubts be still cherished of its truth. In the mean time, the advocates of our holy religion have ample means of ascertaining that the intimate conviction of their own minds is corroborated by the deductions of argument, and the investigations of learning; while they are “ready to give an answer to every that asketh a reason of the hope that is in” them, and prepared to silence, if they cannot “convince, the gainsayers.”

After his installation at Lincoln, Paley proceeded to Cambridge to take his Doctor’s degree. In his concio ad clerum, the original defect of his education unfortunately appeared, and exposed him to the lash of one of the small wits of the University. He was guilty of a false quantity in the word profugus, which occurred in his Latin sermon, and which he pronounced profugus. This sin against the classical muse was destined never to be forgotten, for it was immortalised in the following epigram, which was circulated pretty widely at his expense: -

“Italiam fato profugus Lavinia venit Litora.”
Errat Virgilius – forte profugus erat.

During his visit to Cambridge, he preached before the University his most interesting sermon on the ‘Dangers incidental to the Clerical Character.’ Here he has in some degree supplied the defect of his former discourse, addressed ‘To the Young clergy of the Diocess of Carlisle,’ by calling upon every minister of Christ to examine himself while he exhorts his people to watch the influence of Christianity upon his own mind and heart, to cultivate personal holiness, and to fear lest, “having preached to others,” he may be himself “a cast away.”

When Dr Paley was instituted to Bishop-Wearmouth, in 1795, he relinquished his chancellorship of Carlisle, and his vicarage at Addingham, all in fact which could render his presence in Cumberland necessary, and, with the exception of his three monthly residence at Lincoln, made his new rectory his constant abode. Here he acted up to his own conviction of the evil and mischief of tithes, by granting to his parishioners a lease for life, an don such advantageous terms that they must have been abundantly satisfied. His rectory was worth £1300 per annum, but Paley accepted £700. It would probably be found, on examination, that by far the greater proportion of the beneficed clergy of this kingdom, if they do not demand as little as he did, demand much less than the law allows them. Still, when contentions do and must arise, between persons who grudge to the ministers of religion not only the comforts but even the necessaries of life, and those who, being compelled to “live by the altar,” cannot be expected to give up their rights without a struggle, every true friend to the Church must wish to see the system changed. Somewhat, in this case, must probably be given up of the temporal privileges of the clergy, and of their influence as the resident gentry of the land, but if these advantages can be retained only by the sacrifice of their ministerial usefulness, no one can regret that they should be abandoned.

On the 14th of December, 1795, Dr Paley married again. Miss Dobinson, of Carlisle, was the object of his second choice, a lady whom he had long known, and whose character he had long appreciated. With his increased income he entered, more than he had accustomed to do, into general society, and both at Lincoln and at Bishop-Wearmouth he exercised the rites of hospitality with a liberality which was void of ostentation.

Dr Paley had always been partial to the study of the Law, and we are not surprised to find him, at this time, complying with the request of the Bishop of Durham, and acting in the Commission of the Peace. But it seems that the quickness of his temper was less adapted to the office than the sagacity of his mind, and that the tedious details of the justice-room were sometimes too much for his patience. As he entered upon his function, however, with conscientious motives, he was anxious to perform its duties; and the efforts which he made to decrease the number of public-houses, and to introduce habits of greater caution with respect to licensing these abodes of low profligacy and ruinous self-indulgence, prove his desire to promote the purity of public morals. It would have been well for the neighbourhood in which he resided if his colleagues had possessed the same enlightened views with himself. His plans would not then have been frustrated from the want of their cooperation, nor his zeal neutralised by their supineness. On one occasion, during the exercise of his magisterial office, he was of essential service to an individual, by the happy union of humanity and judgment for which his character was distinguished. “During the cry of invasion, which followed the renewal of hostilities with France, in 1803, a young man, residing in the neighbourhood of Sunderland, without any regular introductions or apparent object, fell under the suspicion of being a spy. The rumour quickly spread, and obtained so much credit that the General of division, commanding in that neighbourhood, became seriously alarmed, and applied to Dr Paley for a warrant to apprehend him, at a very late hour of the night. The prudent magistrate, however, not so easily imposed on by so vague a story, saw at once the indelicacy of arresting, at such an unseasonable hour, a stranger against whom no overt act could be adduced; but, on the following day, when the general and his suite were invited to a conference on the subject, sent him a civil message to attend. The young man immediately appeared, and, by a steady though confidential disclosure of his name and circumstances, soon convinced the whole party that the public had no cause of apprehension, since his present concealment originated solely in a domestic misunderstanding. Dr Paley, indeed, was so much pleased with his good sense and apparent ingenuousness that he immediately offered him any pecuniary or other assistance which he might in his present circumstances require, advising him, at the same time, to a speedy reconciliation with his family. [*See Life of Paley]

It must have been as gratifying to Dr Paley as to his parents that they survived to witness their son’s celebrity, and rejoice at his success. Mrs Paley did not die till March, 1796, at the advanced age of 83. Her husband lived till the month of September, 1799. Mr Paley was considered by his son one of the oldest incumbents in England, for he held the living of Helpstone for sixty-four years. In the Church of Giggleswick, where he died, a plain brass plate is to be seen, on which the following inscription has been engraved: -

Here lie interred,
The Rev William Paley, BA
Fifty-four years
Master of this free school,
Who died Sep. 29, 1799,
Aged 88 years;

Wife of the Rev William Paley,
Who died March 9, 1796,
Aged 83 years


The time was now approaching when the first intimations of a decaying frame reminded Dr Paley how short-lived is all mortal success. In the year 1800, he experienced a severe paroxysm of some nephralgic complaint, which put a period to his ministerial exertions. Medical skill for a time restored him, but the disorder returned every year with increasing violence, and never ceased to torture him at intervals till he died. In 802, he was compelled to give up his residence at Lincoln, and the waters of Buxton being recommended for his complaints, he went thither. We know not whether most to admire his diligence or his patience, when we find him at this time, during the intervals of pains, cheerfully and perseveringly devoting every leisure moment to his last great work, the ‘Natural Theology.’ Though its progress was so often impeded by the paroxysms of his complaint, he was happily enabled to complete it, and such is the cogency of its proofs, the clearness of their elucidation, and the finished style in which they are embodied, that it may be doubted whether his last work is not also his best. The eulogy pronounced upon the author, by Dr Fenwick of Durham, in his Sketch of the professional Life and Character of Dr Clark,’ is so just and apposite that no apology will be necessary for its insertion.

“That truly eminent man was then engaged in finishing his ‘Natural Theology;’ but the completion of that great undertaking was frequently interrupted by severe accessions of a painful disorder, under which he had long laboured, and which has since proved fatal. Dr Clark often expressed his admiration at the fortitude with which he bore the most painful attacks, and at the readiness, and even cheerfulness, with which, on the first respite from pain, he resumed his literary labours. When it is considered that the twenty-sixth chapter of his work was written under these circumstances, what he has said of the alleviation of pain acquires additional weight. It is not a philosopher in the full enjoyment of health who talks lightly of an evil which he may suppose at a distance. When Dr Paley speaks of the power which pain has ‘of shedding a satisfaction over intervals of ease, which few enjoyments exceed;’ and assures us ‘that a man resting from severe pain, is, for the time, in possession of feelings which undisturbed health cannot impart;’ the sentiment flowed from his own feelings. He was himself that man; and it is consolatory, amidst the numerous diseases to which the human frame is liable, to find how compatible they are with a certain degree of comfort, and even enjoyment. Something may indeed be attributed, in Dr Paley, to a vigour of intellect, which is allotted to very few; but it cannot be doubted that resignation in suffering is less the gift of great intellectual powers than of well-regulated religious and moral sentiments.”

The ‘Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, collected from the Appearances of Nature;’ was published in 1802. Paley, himself, considered the work as forming the link that was wanted in the chain of evidence which he had already given to the world. “The following discussion,” says he, in his dedication to the Bishop of Durham, which is prefixed to it, “alone was wanted to make up my works in to a system; in which works, such as they are, the public have now before them the evidences of Natural Religion, the evidences of Revealed Religion, and an account of the duties that result from both.” Every friend of truth will rejoice that he lived to complete his design. ‘Natural theology,’ when it is occupied in illustrating from His works the Being and Perfections of the Great Artificer, can never be uninteresting; and Paley has given us one of the most fascinating books which the English language can boast. That some of his discussions on the mechanism of the human frame might have been more anatomically correct, if he had been acquainted with the more recent discoveries of science, may readily be admitted, without invalidating the truth of his conclusions. The arguments indeed would have been proportionably more powerful, inasmuch as every physical improvement opens a wider field of astonishment and delight; but enough has been done to show that we are indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made;” and even what has been disclosed by him who was not a rigid anatomist, unfolds so much of the curious mechanism of the human frame, as speaks with an audible voice of the finger of God. It is more to be regretted that, in his chapter on the Goodness of the Deity, Paley has confined the discussion to one of his attributes alone, and thus incurred the charge of deficiency on a point where we might have expected him to be most full and complete. Perhaps, too, the proof of the Perfect Goodness of the Divine Being cannot be unanswerably deduced from what we behold in the visible world. Scepticism may point to the existence of physical Evil as inconsistent with the hypothesis, unless eternity be taken into the account. The preponderance of good, even if that preponderance could be always satisfactorily proved, which is perhaps impossible, at least with respect to particular individuals, would not completely solve the difficulty; and it is only by extending our view to the pure abodes of the blessed, that suffering, though but partial or temporary, can be reconciled with Infinite Benevolence. But, in spite of these trifling objections, the work of Paley remains, rich in acute reflections, and pious speculations, on the universe which lies open before us. He who once looked on Nature with a listless and unobservant eye, may now trace the Author of all her wonders in this His elaborate and complex workmanship. Paley is the High-Priest of the Temple, where Natural Religion sits enshrined amidst splendours which are only surpassed by “the glory that excelleth,” and he called to the indolent, the careless, and the sensual, to enter in. Let them not turn a deaf ear to the invitation. They will be led through Nature up to Nature’s God. They will snatch a few hours from the waste of unredeemed time; and, perhaps, go to the study of Revelation itself with an interest and a fervour, which have been lighted up at an inferior altar.

Paley’s useful life was now drawing to its close. After the publication of his ‘Natural Theology,’ his constitution rapidly declined. In the spring of 1805, during his residence at Lincoln, he suffered an acute paroxysm of his disorder, which was destined to hurry him to the grave. He rallied sufficiently to return to Bishop Wearmouth, but he only returned to die. He expired on the 25th of May, at his Rectory-house, with a body exhausted by suffering, but with a mind whose faculties were still unclouded, and a heart full of that composure, which can be found, at such an hour, only in the hopes and promises of the Gospel. He was buried in the Cathedral Church of Carlisle, near the remains of his first wife; and the following simple and unostentatious inscription marks the spot, where all that is mortal of this celebrated man reposes.

Here lie interred,
The remains of
William Paley, DD
Who died May 25, 1805
Aged 62

The best portrait of him, whose memoirs have been thus imperfectly sketched, is the portrait of his mind, as it is developed in those writings which still exert so considerable an influence on the moral and theological opinions of his country. But there is a natural desire of saving from the wreck of things forgotten, even the mortal features of those by whom our understandings have been enlightened, and our hearts ameliorated; and this desire, as far as William Paley is concerned, may be gratified by the picture painted by Romney, of which many engravings have been taken.

A volume appeared, after the death of Dr Paley, which excited a powerful interest, as well from the circumstances of its publication, as from the celebrity of its author. In a codicil to his will he stated his intention, if his life had been spared, of printing five hundred copies of a volume of sermons at Sunderland, to be distributed gratis among his parishioners. Several sermons he had already transcribed and arranged for that purpose, and others he had selected for future transcription; but the whole business was left in an imperfect state, and no arrangement of the materials settled, except that the sermon ‘On Seriousness in Religion’, the most valuable perhaps which he ever composed, should precede the doctrinal discourses, that some repetitions should be omitted, and some sermons consolidated with others. The volume, when corrected and arranged, was to “be printed by Rev Mr Stephenson, at the expense of the testator’s executors, and distributed in the neighbourhood, first to those who frequently Church, then to farmers’ families in the country, then to such as had a person ion the family who could read, and were likely to read them:” [*Advertisement prefixed to the Sermons]  but a general and indiscriminate publication was forbidden. For this injunction there appears no possible reason; but his family studies, as far as was practicable, to comply with the dying request of Paley. The sermons were printed in 1806, at Sunderland, and distributed privately at Bishop Wearmouth; but it soon appeared certain that, of a volume so deeply interesting, and so eagerly sought, surreptitious editions would necessarily be multiplied. His family, therefore, at last, were induced to do themselves what would otherwise have been done by strangers, and the sermons are now included in the catalogue of his published works.

Of the private life of Archdeacon Paley it is not perhaps necessary to say much, when we recollect the high and unblemished character of the distinguished prelates, who, while they bestowed on him their patronage, honoured him with their friendship. We are assured that his intellectual acquirements were accompanied by unassuming manners, and the powers of his mind exalted by the qualities of his heart. Of his zeal for the cause of morality and religion, any more than of his personal purity, there has never been suggested a doubt. One of those who had known him earliest, and valued him most, has declared that he never knew him guilty of a vicious act, nor inattentive to the proprieties of moral conduct: and his earliest patron, Bishop Law, has often pronounced him to be a good man, and a good Christian. At a time when he was most emphatically a private character; engaged in the irksome labours of a school; or in the unostentatious duties of a parish priest, in the obscurity of a northern village, and with the humble remuneration of 80£ per annum; conscious as he must have been of the possession of superior talents, and the capacity of shining in a higher and more conspicuous sphere; he never gave way, for a moment, to the gloom of despondence, or the irritation of discontent. In Paley, this quiescence could not have sprung from indolence or insensibility; it must have originated in a conviction of the benevolence of that Being to whose service he had been consecrated; and in the exercise of that moral discipline, which allays the fever of ambitious desire, no less than the first of unlawful pleasure.

To a mind like Paley’s, which seems to have been deeply imbued with a sense of the Divine goodness, we might expect every humane feeling and kindly impulse to be familiar; and it is pleasing to see this instanced in his conduct, as connected with the public occurrences of the day. He was among the first who reprobated the iniquity of the slave-trade; and not content with holding forth this infamous traffic to the execration of mankind in his ‘Moral Philosophy,’ he assisted with his arguments the efforts of the committee established in London for its extirpation; and even had several interviews with the excellent and indefatigable Clarkson, that he might give every assistance in his power to this “labour of love.” He was not less zealous in his own immediate neighbourhood. When, in 1792, a meeting was convened at Carlisle, for the purpose of drawing up a petition to Parliament upon the subject, the Archdeacon took the chair, and prefaced the resolutions, which were then carried, with a speech that does equal honour to his head and heart.

That Paley was a man of public integrity, no less than of private virtue, may be traced in the conduct which he habitually pursued, with regard to his political opinions. If the instance of his declining to give the sanction of his name to the clerical petition which he approved be adduced in contradiction of this, let it be remembered that it is a solitary exception. Applying his own opinions of the boundaries of rational liberty and rational submission, as developed in the ‘Moral Philosophy,’ to the existing points of dispute, he went no farther than he was borne out by his private conceptions of truth and justice. Neither ministerial influence, nor popular applause, could induce him to compromise his reason or his conscience. He did not, and he would not, go far enough on either side to gain the unqualified approbation of any political party. He deprecated reform in the House of Commons, as leading to consequences of which no one could estimate the danger; while by the freedom of many of his remarks, and the fearless character of many of his opinions, he alarmed the unqualified panegyrist of existing institutions. He who thus stands aloof from the spirit of party, will be often misunderstood, and still oftener misrepresented. But Paley had no doubt stood “counted the cost;” and he found his recompence in the internal feeling of rectitude, and in the approbation of the candid and discerning few.

Of his merits as a writer, though much remains to be said, but little certainly is required. His works have been long before the public in every shape, both singly and collectively, and their success has been unbounded. We have seen that his ‘Moral Philosophy’ has kept its ground as an examination book in one at least o four Universities; and his ‘Evidences’ are generally studied as part of the preparation for holy orders. His ‘Natural Theology’ has contributed delight and edification of persons, to whom the subject, even if it had been presented at all, would have been dry and uninteresting, unless adorned by the magic of his pen: and the ‘Horae Paulinae’ is on the shelf of every man of intellect, who is qualified to appreciate the unanswerable arguments which it contains. We may deny to Paley the possession of extensive learning; we may deny to him the credit of entire originality; but who shall deny him the merit of closely investigating truth, or the power of conveying it clearly and convincingly to his readers? Who shall deny that many a discussion, which would have revolted us in others, has come to us from him so disentangled from its difficulties, so disencumbered of its excrescences, so forcibly illustrated by the powers of his mind, and so brightly adorned by the charms of his genius, that instead of being repelled, we are invited; instead of being disgusted, we are allured? If Paley has culled the sweets of many an author, whose volumes have stood in our libraries untouched, while his own are constantly on our tables or in our hands, shall we impute it to him as a crime, that he has brought what is valuable in their writings within our reach. Or at least given us the interest to peruse it? When we have made the labours of Ray and Derham our own; when we have waded through the nine volumes of the ‘Light of Nature;’ and patiently traced the diffuse, though admirable, pages of Lardner; we may better, than we can now, dispense with the works of Paley; though we shall then be more disposed to praise him for what he has done, than to blame him for not having done more.

If we were required to give a candid opinion of the deficiencies of Paley as a writer, we should say that, in the works which he himself gave to the world, the desideratum was not novelty or genius, but an open avowal of scriptural truth, as exemplified in the surrender of the soul to God, and the preponderating influence of eternity. It may be replied, that the subjects, to which he was led, neither demanded nor admitted any enlargement of these momentous topics. But surely the able defender of the outworks of the citadel, should not entirely neglect the citadel itself; and the powerful champion of Christianity, should tell us what Christianity is. The general impression of their author, which his published works would naturally give us, is that of a man more penetrated with the Divine goodness as exhibited in the works of nature, than with the Divine love as exemplified in the economy of grace: a man who considers Christianity as a code of pure morals, teaching personal correctness and social benevolence, rather than a painful and self-denying discipline by which the soul is rescued from the dominion of sin: a man who view the world as something to be cherished rather than mortified, something to be enjoyed rather than renounced. We know that his own conduct was in unison, in this respect, with his apparent views. His moral character was unimpeachable, and his performance of his religious duties exemplary, but he mixed freely in public amusements, from which, while he stopped short of excess, no religious consideration taught him to refrain. For this defect, both in his writings and in his life, it is impossible not to feel regret. Whatever may be thought of complete separation from the world, with respect to private Christians, as long as Saint Paul’s doctrine of expediency [*“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” 1 Cor. X. 23.] continues to be a portion of holy writ, there seems no doubt with respect to clergymen, and especially clergymen holding high official situations, upon whom the eyes of men are more particularly fixed. “I do not see,” says the Bishop of Limerick, in his excellent primary charge, “how a clergyman, consistently with the sacredness and separation of his character and office, consistently with the edification of the flock committed to his charge, or consistently with the vows which he has made at his ordination, can pursue the sports of the mountain or the field; can resort to the race-ground or the theatre; can be found at the card-table, or in the ball-room. In avowing these sentiments, I avow the sentiments which, from the earliest ages of the church, have been maintained alike by the old Catholic bishops and fathers, and by the most distinguished and illustrious churchmen of modern times. In these sentiments I have lived; in these sentiments I hope to die; and, at the close of life, it will be to me a crown of rejoicing, if, through my humble instrumentality, any of my reverend brethren shall be induced to become like-minded; and to consider, even in their most unguarded hours, what gravity and recollectedness are, at all times, and in all places, demanded of our sacred order.” The advocates of a serious and self-denying system of religion, who, with all their admiration of Paley’s writings, and all their respect for his character, had seen and lamented in both the deficiency to which we have alluded, hailed the volume of his ‘Posthumous Sermons’ as an evidence of better things. Here was a book deeply interesting to the world, not only from the solemn truths which it unfolded, but from the aspect which it bore on the writer’s personal religion. While the most important points of Christian belief, and the most indispensable points of Christian practice, are here brought home to our business and bosoms; while the necessity of spiritual influence, and the efficacy of spiritual prayer, are not superficially introduced, but pressed upon us as absolutely essential to the Christian life; while habits of seriousness and self-denial are shown to be as positively required as moral correctness, and love to God as peremptorily demanded as love to man; while, in short, the need of a complete change of heart as well as life, before we can be considered in a state of salvation, is distinctly stated, and powerfully enforced; everything is set down by the author with such an air of perfect conviction, that we cannot for a moment doubt that he is giving us the result of his own private meditations, the transcript of his own undisguised feelings. Of many published discourses we might hesitate to decide, whether they sprang from the heart of the writer, or not. They are framed after an artificial model; they are composed in a technical manner. But there is nothing of this in Paley. Every disquisition is evidently his own; every sentiment what he has himself experienced. He gives nothing to system./ he does not say such a and such things because they are orthodox, or because they belong to the received doctrine of the Church, but because this is himself satisfied of their reality and importance. It is impossible to rise from the attentive perusal of his posthumous volume, without being convinced that he was really and conscientiously in earnest; that there was in his views an increased and an increasing strictness; that he was powerfully and effectually impressed with the necessity of living for eternity; and that while he will long be admired by the intellectual world as a man of superior talents, he may be hailed by the religious world as a man of sincere piety.

Bassingham Rectory


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