Joseph Butler, an English theologian, born at Wantage, Berkshire, May 18, 1692, died in Bath, June 16, 1752. He was educated in the Presbyterian communion, and in 1713 addressed a series of letters to Dr. Clarke stating two objections to the reasoning in his " Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God." About this time Butler adopted Episcopal views, entered the university of Oxford in 1714, and was soon after admitted into holy orders. On the united recommendation of his college friend Edward Talbot and of Dr. Clarke he was appointed preacher at the Rolls in 1718, and about 1725 was promoted to the wealthy but secluded rectory of Stanhope. Before leaving the Rolls he published a collection of 15 sermons, in which he combats those moralists who make self-interest the only motive of action, and affirms the authority of the moral faculty over both the passions and affections of the soul, and the acts of life; yet he does not pronounce upon the nature of conscience, and it is difficult to say whether he regarded it as a power of sentiment or of reason.
After seven years of retirement at Stanhope, he was appointed chaplain to Lord Chancellor Talbot, and in 1736 became clerk of the closet to Queen Caroline. In that year he published his '• Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature." This work is one of the most profound and original theological studies in the language, and is designed to prove that the principal objections which are raised against Christianity may also be raised against the structure of the universe and the course of nature, and thus to show that they are the work of a single author. It was the fruit of many years' reflection, and is composed in a most compressed and ungraceful style. Sir James Mackintosh says that no other thinker so great was ever so poor a writer. In 1738 Dr. Butler was made bishop of Bristol, whence he was promoted in 1750 to the see of Durham. His death occurred while on a visit to Bath in hope of recovering his health, which had rapidly declined, and he was buried in the cathedral of Bristol, where two monuments are erected to his memory.