Horsley, Samuel One of the most distinguished divines ever produced by the Church of England, was born in London, October 1733. He was the son of the Reverend John Horsley (whose father was originally a Nonconformist), for many years the clerk in orders at St.Martin's-in-the-Fields, and who held two rectories, Thorley in Hertfordshire, and Newington Butts in Surrey. Samuel Horsley was educated at Westminster School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and had the rectory of Newington, which his father resigned to him soon after he had taken orders in 1759. His more public career may be said to have commenced in 1767 when he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, of which body he became secretary in 1773. His earliest publications were tracts on scientific subjects, but in 1776 he projected a complete and uniform edition of the philosophical works of Sir Isaac Newton. This design was not accomplished till 1785, when the fifth and last of the five quarto volumes made its appearance. In the earlier years of his public life he found patrons in the earl of Aylesford, and in Lowth, bishop of London; but we pass over the presentations to his various livings, and the dispensations, which the number of his minor preferments rendered necessary. In 1781 he was appointed archdeacon of St. Albans. It was a little before the date last named that he first appeared in the field of theological controversy, in which, from the great extent of his knowledge and from the vigor of his intellect, he soon showed himself a very powerful combatant. His attacks were chiefly directed against Dr. Joseph Priestley, who in a series of publications defended with great subtlety and skill the doctrines of philosophical necessity, materialism, and Unitarianism. Dr. Horsley began his attack in 1778 on the question of Man's Free Agency; it was continued in a Charge delivered in 1783 to the clergy of his archdeaconry, in which he animadverted on many parts of Dr. Priestley's History of the Corruptions of Christianity. This charge produced a reply from Dr. Priestley, which led to a rejoinder from Dr. Horsley in Seventeen Letters to Dr. Priestley, a masterly defense of the orthodox faith, and the secure foundation of a lasting theological reputation. These writings are believed to have stopped the progress, for that age, of Socinianism in England. The tide of preferment now began to flow in upon him. Thurlow, who was then chancellor, presented him with a prebendal stall in the church of Gloucester, observing, as it is said that "those who defended the Church ought to be supported by the Church;" and in 1788 he was made bishop of St. David's. In Parliament he distinguished himself by the hearty support which he gave to the measures of Pitt's administration. His political conduct gained him the favor of the court: in 1793 he was translated to Rochester, and in 1802 to St. Asaph. He died October 4,1806. Dr. Horsley has been, not inaptly, described as the last of the race of episcopal giants of the Warburtonian school. He was a man of an original and powerful mind, of very extensive learning, and profoundly versed in the subject of ecclesiastical history, of which he gave ample evidence in his controversy with Dr. Priestley, while archdeacon of St. Albans. Even Gibbon says, "His spear pierced the Socinian's shield." His sermons and critical disquisitions frequently display a rich fund of theological acumen, and of successful illustration of the sacred writings. Besides the works named above, his theological writings include Critical Disquisitions on Isaiah 18 (London 1799, 4to) — The Book of Psalms, translated, with Notes (3rd edit.
London, 1833, 8vo) — Hosea, translated, with Notes (2nd edit. London 1804) — Biblical Criticism on the O.Test. (2nd edit. London 1844, 2 vols. 8vo) — Sermons on the Resurrection (3rd edit. London 1822, 8vo); all which, with his tracts in the Priestley controversy, are to be found in his Collected Works (London 1845,6 vols. 8vo). See English Cyclopedia; Quarterly Review (London), vols. 3 and 9; Edinburgh Review, vol. 17; Allibone, Dict. of Authors, 1, 894; Darling, Cyclop. Bibliographica, 1, 1548; Chalmers, Biog. Dictionary; Hook, Ecclesiastes Biog. 6:171 sq.; Skeats, Hist. of the Free Churches of England, p. 513 sq.; Donaldson, Hist. of Christ. Lit. and Doctrines, 1, 72; Ch. Hist. of the 13th Century, p. 445; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, 2, 418,421; Shedd, History of Doctrines 1, 57, 386; General Repository, 1, 22, 229; 2, 7, 257; 3, 13, 250; Quarterly Review, 3, 398; 9:30; Edinburgh Review, 17, 455; Monthly Review, 84, 82; Analytical Magazine, 4, 268.