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kept first at Gloucester, then at Tewkesbury, he laid the foundation of a strict friendship with Mr. Joseph Butler, afterwards bishop of Durham. At the last of those two places it was that Mr. Butler gave the first proof of his great sagacity and depth of thought in the letters which he then wrote to Dr. Samuel Clarke; laying before him the doubts that had arisen in his mind, concerning the conclusiveness of some arguments in the Doctor's Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. These were written with so much candour, modesty, and good sense, that, on the discovery of his name, they immediately procured him the friendship of that eminent man, and were afterwards printed at the end of his Evidences of Natural and Revealed Religion. This correspondence was entrusted in confidence to Mr. Secker, who, in order to keep it private, undertook to convey Mr. Butler's letters to the Post-office at Gloucester, and to bring back Dr. Clark's answers.
Mr. Secker had been destined by his father for orders amongst the Dissenters. With this view, during the last years of his education, his studies were chiefly turned towards divinity; in which he made such quick advances, that, by the time he was threeand-twenty, he had read over carefully a great part of the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament in the original, and the best comments upon it; Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, the Apostolical Fathers, Whiston's Primitive Christianity, and the principal writers for and against ministerial and lay conformity; with many others of the most esteemed treatises in theology. But though the result of these enquiries was (what might naturally be expected) a well-grounded belief of the Christian revelation, yet not being at that time able to decide on some ab
struse speculative doctrines, nor to determine absolutely what communion he should embrace; he resolved, like a wise and honest man, to pursue some profession, which should leave him at liberty to weigh these things more maturely in his thoughts, and not oblige him to declare, or teach publicly, opinions which were not yet thoroughly settled in his own mind. Therefore about the end of the year 1716, he applied himself to the study of physic; and after gaining all the insight into it he could, by reading the usual preparatory books, and attending the best lectures during that and the following winter in London; in order to improve himself still more, in January 1718-19, he went to Paris. There he lodged au Cloitre St. Benoit, Rue des Mathurins, in the same house with Mr. Winslow, the famous anatomist, whose lectures he attended, as he did those of the Materia Medica, Chemistry, and Botany, at the King's gardens. The operations of Surgery he saw at the Hôtel Dieu, and attended also for some time M. Gregoire, the Accoucheur, but without any design of ever practising that or any other branch of surgery. Here he became acquainted with Albinus, afterwards Professor at Leyden, Father Montfaucon, and several other persons of note. Here too was his first knowledge of Mr. Martin Benson, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, one of the most agreeable and virtuous men of his time, with whom he quickly became much connected, and not many years after was united to him by the strongest bonds of affinity, as well as affection.
During the whole of Mr. Secker's continuance at Paris, he kept up a constant correspondence with Mr. Butler, who before this time had taken orders, and on the recommendation of Dr. Clarke, and Mr.
Edward Talbot, son to Bishop Talbot, was appointed by Sir Joseph Jekyll, Preacher at the Rolls. Mr. Butler took occasion to mention his friend Mr. Secker, without his knowledge, to Mr. Talbot; who promised, in case he chose to take orders in the church of England, to engage the Bishop his father to provide for him. This was communicated to Mr. Secker in a letter from Mr. Butler, about the beginning of May, 1720. He had not at that time come to any resolution of quitting the study of physic; but he began to foresee many obstacles to his pursuing that profession; and having never discontinued his application to theology, his former difficulties, both with regard to conformity and some other doubtful points, had gradually lessened, as his judgment became stronger, and his reading and knowledge more extensive. It appears also from two of his letters still in being, written from Paris to a friend in England, (both of them prior to the date of Mr. Butler's abovementioned) that he was greatly dissatisfied with the divisions and disturbances which at that particular period prevailed amongst the Dissenters. In this state of mind Mr. Butler's unexpected proposal found him, which he was therefore very well disposed to take into consideration; and after deliberating carefully on the subject of such a change for upwards of two months, he resolved at length to embrace the offer, and for that purpose quitted France the latter end of July, or beginning of August, 1720.
On his arrival in England he was introduced to Mr. Talbot, with whom he cultivated a close acquaintance. But it was unfortunately of very short duration. For in the month of December that gentleman caught the small pox, and died. This was a great shock to all his friends, who had justly conceived the
highest expectations of him, but especially to an amiable lady whom he had lately married, and who was very near sinking under so sudden and grievous a stroke. Mr. Secker, besides sharing largely in the common grief, had peculiar reason to lament an accident that seemed to put an end at once to all his hopes; but he had taken his resolution, and he determined to persevere. It was some encouragement to him to find that Mr. Talbot had on his death-bed recommended him, together with Mr. Benson and Mr. Butler, to his father's notice. Thus did that excellent young man, (for he was but twenty-nine when he died) by his nice discernment of characters, and his considerate good-nature, provide most effectually in a few solemn moments for the welfare of that Church from which he himself was so prematurely snatched away; and at the same time raised up (when he least thought of it) the truest friend and protector to his wife and unborn daughter; who afterwards found in Mr. Secker all that tender care and assistance which they could have hoped for from the nearest relation.
It being judged necessary by Mr. Secker's friends that he should have a degree at Oxford; and he having been informed that if he should previously take the degree of Doctor in Physic at Leyden, it would probably help him in obtaining the other, he went a little before Christmas from London to Rotterdam, and thence to Leyden. He took his degree there, March 7, 1720-1, and, as part of his exercise for it, composed and printed a dissertation de Medicina Staticà, which is still extant, and is thought by the gentlemen of that profession, a sensible and learned performance. Gorter, in his treatise de Perspiratione Insensibili, printed at Leyden in the year 1736, makes a short but respectful mention of it in his
preface. After paying a visit to Amsterdam he returned by the way of Helvoetsluys and Harwich to London, and on the 1st of April, 1721, entered himself a gentleman commoner of Exeter College in Oxford; about a twelvemonth after which he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts in that University, without any difficulty, in consequence of the Chancellor's recommendatory letter to the convocation.
He now spent a considerable part of his time in London, where he quickly gained the esteem of some of the most learned and ingenious men of those days, particularly of Dr. Clarke, Rector of St. James's, and the celebrated Dean Berkeley, afterwards Bishop of Cloyne, with whom he every day became more delighted and more closely connected. He paid frequent visits of gratitude and friendship to Mrs. Talbot, widow of Mr. Edward Talbot, by whom she had a daughter five months after his decease. With her lived Mrs. Catherine Benson, sister to Bishop Benson, whom in many respects she greatly resembled. She had been for several years Mrs. Talbot's inseparable companion, and was of unspeakable service to her at the time of her husband's death, by exerting all her courage, activity, and good sense, (of which she possessed a large share) to support her friend under so great an affliction : and by afterwards attending her sickly infant with the utmost care and tenderness, to which under Providence, was owing the preservation of a very valuable life.
Bishop Talbot being in November, 1721, appointed to the see of Durham, Mr. Secker was in December, 1722, ordained Deacon by him in St. James's church, and Priest not long after in the same place, where he preached his first Sermon, March 28, 1723. The Bishop's domestic chaplain at that time was Dr.