Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Critical Introduction by A. I. Fitzroy
Benjamin Hoadly (16761761)
[Benjamin Hoadly, D.D., was born at Westerham, Kent, in the year 1676. His father, a schoolmaster, prepared him for College. In 1691 he went to Catherine Hall, Cambridge. In 1697 he was elected a Fellow of his College, and in 1698 took orders. His first step in the Church was the lectureship of St. Mildred in the Poultry, which he held for ten years. He does not appear to have been a popular preacher, for he speaks of preaching it down to £30 a year. From 1704 to 1710 he was Rector of St. Peters Poor in Broad Street. The sermons he here delivered tending to the advancement of Natural and Revealed Religion, and to the justification of the noblest principles of civil liberty, his son and biographer tells us, produced a vote of the House of Commons in his favour, too honourable to be omitted. To this was added in 1710 the Rectory of Streatham in Surrey. In 1715 he was appointed kings chaplain, and in the same year was designated to the bishopric of Bangor, retaining his rectories. In 1717 he preached before the king his celebrated sermon on the Nature of Christs kingdom, which caused great offence, and ultimately gave rise to the celebrated Bangorian controversy. The Lower House of Convocation drew up a representation about it. In this he was accused of impugning the authority of the Church, or in other words, denying Apostolic succession. But before it could be brought into the Upper House the whole assembly was prorogued by special order from the king, nor were they permitted to sit till the resentment entirely subsided. In 1720 Hoadly resigned his London living, and was translated to the See of Hereford. He is said never to have gone near his Welsh Bishopric during the six years he held it. Three years later he became Bishop of Salisbury, resigning Streatham, his most beloved retirement. Finally, in 1734, he was given the See of Winchester, which he held until his death in 1761, at the age of 85.
He was a singularly modest man, writing his own epitaph to prevent overpraise from too zealous friends. His liberal views and conciliatory policy brought the non-conformists to a very low ebb, for want of the opposition and persecution they were too used to experience, many of their dissenting ministers desiring to receive their reordination from his own hands.]
BISHOP HOADLYS writings may be divided under the two headings political and theological. There was, however, no hard and fast line in his mind between things temporal and things spiritual. The general principles of religion were ever before him, whether in his pulpit utterances or in his letters to the papers.
In politics he was a strong anti-Jacobite, believing that freedom in religion was alone secure under a Protestant sovereign. His sermon, preached before the Lord Mayor in 1705, against the doctrine of non-resistance, gave rise to some excitement and controversy.
Besides his sermons, charges, and letters to the papers, he carried on a lengthy but, on his part, temperate controversy with Dr. Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, and others. He wrote also a defence of Hookers Judgment concerning the institution and nature of civil government, in which he argued the rights of subjects to defend themselves against evil princes and governors. His writings, however solid and lengthy, come more under the description of occasional papers than of permanent works. And yet they deserve to be remembered not only for the tone and matter of their contents, but also for the purity of their style.
His works are indeed models of discretion, moderation and good taste. He has none of the broad humour of his contemporaries and predecessors, but often a tinge of delicate irony and satire, notably in his dedication to Pope Clement XI., relieves the solidity of the discourses.
His sermons are well-constructed and lucid. There is in them no tedious splitting of texts nor minute casuistry. He expounds the general principles of religion forcibly and earnestly, without dwelling on doctrinal minutiæ. They are clear, vigorous, and brief. Without being rhetorical or brilliant they are pleasant reading; calm, well-sustained and logical. He attacks the Church of Rome with severity, but without asperity, recognising her as the acme of the ecclesiasticism against which he was constantly at war.
In controversy he is temperate, controlled, and dignified. He never stoops to petty personalities, but holds to the point at issue without flinching. Bishop Hoadly is not a star of the first magnitude. His writings are not among the classics of English literature. He does not rank with Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and Baxter. Nevertheless he deserves an honourable place among English men of letters. Possibly had he been a high churchman like Warburton he would have enjoyed his literary deserts and more. As it is, he suffers, like others of his school of theological thought, and finds himself passed over for inferior writers who better adapted themselves to the dominant views.