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most intimately connected from his earliest years, two are so well known to the world by their immortal writings, and the just applause of contemporary authors, that they need no other memorial. But the name of Benson, being written only on the hearts of those that knew him, deserves some further notice in this place.
* He was educated at the Charter-house, and removed from thence to Christ-church in Oxford, where he had several noble pupils, whose friendship and veneration for him continued to the end of life. His favourite study in early years was the Mathematics, in which he was well skilled, and had also an excellent taste for Painting, Architecture, and the other fine arts. He accompanied the late earl of Pomfret in his travels, and in Italy became acquainted with Mr. Berkeley, as he did at Paris with Mr. Secker. He was, from his youth to his latest age, the delight of all who knew him. His manner and behaviour were the result of great natural humanity, polished by a thorough knowledge of the world, and the most perfect good breeding, mixed with a dignity, which, on occasions that called for it, no one more properly supported. His piety, though awfully strict, was inexpressibly amiable. It diffused such a sweetness through his temper, and such a benevolence over his countenance, as none who were acquainted with him can ever forget. Bad nerves, bad health, and naturally bad spirits were so totally subdued by it, that he not only seemed, but in reality was, the happiest of men. He looked upon all that the world calls important, its pleasures, its riches, its various competitions, with a playful and good-humoured kind of
* This account of Bishop Benson is given in the words of a person who knew him well, and to whom this Narrative is indebted for a few other communications of the same nature.
contempt; and could make persons ashamed of their follies, by a raillery that never gave pain to any human being. Of vice he always spoke with severity and detestation, but looked on the vicious with the tenderness of a pitying angel. His turn was highly sociable, and his acquaintance very extensive. Whereever he went, he carried chearfulness and improvement along with him. As nothing but the interests of Christianity and virtue seemed considerable enough to give him any lasting anxiety; so, on the other hand, there was no incident so trifling from which he could not raise amusement and mirth.
It was much against his will that he was appointed Bishop of Gloucester, and from that See he would
He was however a vigilant and active prelate. He revived the very useful institution of rural Deans, he augmented several livings, he beautified the Church, and greatly improved the palace. It was an act of kindness to his friend which cost him his life. At the request of Dr. Secker he went from Gloucester to Bath to visit Bishop Butler, who lay ill at that place, and he found him almost at the point of death. After one day's stay there, he was obliged to go to the northern extremity of his diocese, to confirm. The fatigue of these journies, (for, according to his constant practice, he travelled on horseback), and his business together, produced an inflammation, and that a mortification, in his bowels, of which he died. The Bishop of Oxford was appointed one of his executors, with a legacy of £300. which he refused to take.
In the beginning of the year 1753, a bill for the Naturalization of the Jews, commonly called the Jew Bill, had passed both Houses of Parliament with little or no opposition. But a great clamour being raised against it without doors, it was thought advisable that
the duke of Newcastle should move for the repeal of it, on the first day of the session in the next winter. And he desiring to be seconded by a Bishop, Dr. Secker was fixed on for that purpose. He accordingly rose up after the Duke, and made a speech, which had the good fortune to be remarkably well received; though Lord Westmorland said, that for some time he thought the Bishop had been speaking against the Repeal, having advanced more in favour of the Bill than he had ever heard before. He spoke afterwards for a clause to disable Jews from being patrons of livings, which some thought they might; but the desire of the House for the simple repeal prevailed, and he was advised not to divide it on the clause. On this occasion it was that he vindicated his friend Dr. Sherlock, with great spirit, against some severe attacks made upon him by a noble lord in relation to this bill; for which generous proceeding he had the Bishop's thanks.
During the whole time that he was Dean of St. Paul's, he attended divine service constantly in that Cathedral twice every day, whether in residence or not; and, in concert with the other three residentiaries, established the custom of always preaching their own turns in the afternoon, or exchanging with each other only; which, excepting the case of illness, or extraordinary accidents, was very punctually observed. The fund, appropriated to the repairs of the Church, having by neglect and wrong management fallen into much confusion, he took great pains in examining the accounts, reducing payments, making a proper division of expence betwixt the Dean and Chapter on one side, and the three Trustees on the other, and prevailing on the latter to agree to that division; by which means the fund was put on such a footing, that it encreased afterwards considerably, and promised to
be sufficient for the purposes it was designed to
In the following year he was engaged in another very troublesome transaction, making an agreement with the inhabitants of St. Faith's parish, concerning their share of St. Paul's church-yard. And he left behind him a great number of papers relative to both these points. He procured the old writings of the Church to be put in order, and an index made to them: He collated a copy of the old Statute-book, as it is called, with that which is used as the original, and corrected a multitude of mistakes in that transcript. He examined also the registers and books in the Chapter-house, extracted out of them what seemed material, and left the extracts in the hands of his successor.
In the summer months he resided constantly at his episcopal house at Cuddesden. The vicinity of that place to the University of Oxford, and the natural connection which his station gave him with the members of that learned body, could not but be very pleasing to a man of his literary turn. Yet his situation, agreeable and honourable as it was to him, had notwithstanding its difficulties. To appear with any considerable degree of credit amongst so many men of the first eminence for genius and erudition, and to preserve the reverence due to the character of a diocesan, amidst such violent party-dissensions as at that time unhappily prevailed there, required no small share of ability and prudence. Dr. Secker however had the good fortune to succeed in both those points. His house was the resort of those who were most distinguished for academical merit, and his conversation such as was worthy of his guests, who always left him with a high esteem of his understanding and learning. And though in the warm contest in 1754, for representatives of the county, (in which it
was scarce possible for any person of eminence to remain neuter), he openly espoused that side which was thought most favourable to the principles of the Revolution; yet it was without bitterness or vehemence, without ever departing from the decency of his profession, the dignity of his station, or the charity prescribed by his religion. On the contrary, along with the truest affection to the government, (though he was then under the displeasure of the Court), he preserved at the same time so much good temper and good will towards the opposite party; took such unwearied pains to soften the violent prejudices conceived against them by the administration; and shewed on all proper occasions so cordial and friendly a concern for the welfare and honour of the whole University ; that they, who most disliked his political tenets, could not help acknowledging his candour and moderation. The same prudent conduct in this respect which he observed himself, he recommended to his clergy in that memorable passage towards the conclusion of his fifth Charge, which struck the hearers by its novelty and propriety at the time in a very remarkable manner, and is well worthy the serious perusal of all who happen to be in similar circumstances. Indeed the whole series of those excellent charges, which he delivered in the course of his governing that diocese, were listened to by a very learned and critical audience with peculiar marks of attention and regard. The first of them, which contains directions for regulating the studies, the temper, and general conduct of the clergy, was printed soon after it was spoken, and passed through several editions. Having in this considered them as ministers of the Gospel at large, in his subsequent ones he proceeded to consider them as ministers of the several parishes in which they officiated; and de