Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/154

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Lardner
Lardner
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lost 'an agreeable situation,' and went to live with his father in Hoxton Square, acting as his assistant (till 1729) at Hoxton Square meeting-house. The death of his pupil Brindley Treby in 1723 greatly affected his spirits and health. He became very deaf; early in 1724 he writes that when at public worship he could neither hear the preacher's voice nor the congregation singing. He was at this time taking part in a course of Tuesday evening lectures at the Old Jewry, instituted in 1723. Late in that year he began a series of lectures on 'The Credibility of the Gospel History,' out of which grew his great work on that subject. He joined two clubs which met at Chew's Coffee-house, Bow Lane: a literary club on Monday evenings, and a small clerical club on Thursday evenings, to which his friend Hunt belonged. By the members of this latter club a subject-index to the bible was projected, the preparation of the first division embracing the topics of scripture; God, his works and providence, was assigned to Lardner, who seems to have made no progress with it.

In February 1727 he published the first two volumes of his 'Credibility,' which at once placed him in the front rank of Christian apologists. He sold the copyright in 1768 for 150l., 'a sum far less than he had laid out,' but this was the only work of which he disposed in like fashion. A dangerous fever attacked him in February 1728; his physicians despaired of his life, but called in Sir Edward Hulse, M.D. [q.v.], who cured him. On 24 Aug. 1729 he preached for William Harris, D.D. [q.v.], at the presbyterian meeting-house in Poor Jewry Lane, Crutched Friars, and was unexpectedly invited to become Harris's assistant as morning preacher. For Harris he had held 'a high esteem from his early youth,' and, accepting the invitation, entered on his duties on 14 Sept. His name henceforth disappears from the lists of congregational ministers, but he declined the pastoral care among presbyterians, and was never ordained. At this period he was in correspondence on theological topics with John Shute Barrington, first viscount Barrington [q.v.], to whom he addressed his letter on the Logos (see below).

Lardner's only brother, Richard, a barrister, died in April 1733. In November 1736 he was again prostrated by fever, and incapacitated for preaching till late in the spring of 1737. The death of his father, with whom he had continued to live, and of his colleague occurred in the same year, 1740. He was now urged to take a share in the pastorate, and consulted Joseph Hallett (1691?–1744) [q.v.], who tried (23 June) to meet his difficulties about ordination, deafness, and literary work. Ultimately he decided to remain as assistant, George Benson, D.D. [q.v.], being elected pastor in November 1740. Hallett's letter makes it probable that Lardner, who elsewhere describes himself as 'not forward to engage in religious disputes,' shrank from the ordeal of a theological examination and a detailed confession of faith. Early in 1745 he received the diploma of D.D. from the Marischal College, Aberdeen, and in June 1746 he was appointed a London correspondent of the Scottish Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He retained his place as assistant till 1751; the smallness of the morning congregation was among his reasons for resigning; he preached his last sermon on 23 June. His want of popularity as a preacher was partly due to indistinct enunciation; he slurred his words and dropped his voice, defects to which his deafness rendered him insensible. From about 1753 'the only method of conversing with him was by writing,' and he amused himself when alone with looking over the sheets covered with the miscellaneous jottings of his visitors.

His old age was lonely. His brother-in-law, Daniel Neal, died in 1743. Hunt, his closest friend, and connection by marriage, who died in 1744, was to some extent replaced in his intimacy by Caleb Fleming, D.D. [q.v.], his neighbour in Hoxton Square. His only sister, Elizabeth, widow of Neal, died in 1748. His family affections were very strong; on his sister's death he writes, 'now all worldly friendships fade, and are worth little.' He lived by himself, and was sometimes 'made unhappy by his servants.' To Hawkhurst, where he kept The Hall House unoccupied, he paid an annual visit of a few days. For works of benevolence he was always ready; in 1756, and again shortly before his death, he exerted himself to procure contributions in aid of foreign protestants. His literary activity was continued to the last. Priestley, who often visited him, called upon him in 1767, and found his memory for persons failing. Letters written in the last year of his life show that he took an interest in liberal politics, but thought it unsafe 'to allow a free toleration to papists.'

In July 1768 he took his annual journey to Hawkhurst, accompanied by one of his nieces and her husband, William Lister (d. 16 March 1778, aged 62), independent minister at Ware. He reached Hawkhurst about 19 July in feeble health, but seemed to revive. On the 22nd an apothecary was called in, but though the end was near he did not take to his bed. He died at The Hall House, Hawkhurst, unmarried, on the even-