Balguy, John (DNB00)

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BALGUY, JOHN (1686–1748), divine, was born 12 Aug. 1686 at Sheffield. His father, Thomas, who was master of the Sheffield grammar school, died in 1696, and was succeeded by Mr. Daubux, under whom John Balguy studied until admitted at St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1702. He wasted two years in reading romances, but upon meeting with Livy turned to classical studies. He graduated as B.A. in 1705-6 and M.A. in 1726. Upon leaving Cambridge he taught for a time in the Sheffield grammar school, and 15 July 1708 became tutor to Joseph Banks, son of Mr. Banks of Scofton in Nottinghamshire, and grandfather of the famous Sir Joseph Banks. In 1710 he was ordained deacon, and in 1711 priest, by Sharp, archbishop of York; and in the last year entered the family of Sir Henry Liddel of Ravensworth Castle, Durham, who presented him to the small livings of Lamesby and Tanfield. He wrote a new sermon every week for four years, and afterwards burnt 250 sermons in order that his son might be forced to follow the example of original composition. In 1715 he married Sarah, daughter of Christopher Broomhead, of Sheffield, and left Sir H. Liddel to settle in a house of his own, called Cox-Close, in the neighbourhood. In 1718 he took part in the Bangorian controversy, defending Hoadley against Stebbing. Bishop Hoadley and the booksellers — who thought that the public were tired of the subject — induced him to desist after publishing two pamphlets; and Hoadley persuaded him also to suppress in 1720 a letter to the famous Dr. Clarke which it was thought might injure the doctor's chances of preferment, though dealing with the purely philosophical question of natural immortality. Balguy was a disciple and admirer of Clarke, and his chief publications were in defence of Clarke's philosophical and ethical doctrines. They are:—'A Letter to a Deist,' 1726, in which he attacks Shaftesbury ; 'The Foundation of Moral Goodness,' 1728, which is an answer to Shaftesbury's disciple, Hutcheson, and argues, after Clarke, that morality does not depend upon the instincts or affections, but upon the 'unalterable reason of things.' A second part, published in 1729, is a detailed reply to the criticisms of a friend (Lord Darcy, as the younger Balguy tells us), who had defended Hutcheson. In 1730 he published 'Divine Rectitude,' in which he argued that 'the first spring of action in the Deity' was 'rectitude;' whilst Mr. Grove declared it to be 'wisdom,' and Mr. Bayes to be 'benevolence.' It was followed by 'A Second Letter to a Deist,' defending Clarke against Matthew Tindal's 'Christianity as Old as the Creation,' and by a pamphlet called 'The Law of Truth, or the Obligations of Reason essential to all Religion.' These tracts were collected in a volume dedicated to Hoadley. In 1741 appeared 'An Essay on Redemption,' of a rationalising tendency, and considered by Hoadley to be stronger in the 'demolishing' than the 'constructive' part. He also published (1727-8) an essay and sermon upon party spirit. Two volumes of his sermons were published in 1748 and 1750 (Nichols, Anecdotes, iii. 220, and ix. 787).

On 26 Jan. 1727 Balguy was collated by Hoadley to a prebend in Salisbury, and through the friendship of Bishop Talbot obtained from the chapter of Durham (12 Aug. 1729) the vicarage of Northallerton in Yorkshire, worth 270l. a year. He had many friends in all parties, including Bishops Benson, Butler, and Secker, and Lord Barrington. His tracts, which are terse and well written, are all applications of the principles of which Clarke is the chief exponent. He became an invalid, and saw little society except at Harrogate, which he frequented, and where he died, 21 Sept. 1748, leaving an only child, Thomas [see Balguy, Thomas] living.

[Life by son in Biog. Britannica ; Nichols's Anecdotes, iii. 139, 220, ix. 787.]

L. S.