Date of Award

Spring 4-28-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



First Advisor

Dr. Eric Wilson


Bearing in mind Butler’s own council that we are not to “look for any particular reason for the choice of the greatest part [of the sermons]” nor expect “any other connection between them, than the uniformity of thought and design, which will always be found in the writings of the same person, when he writes with simplicity and in earnest” (Preface 15), I contend that a peculiar attention applied to Butler’s sermons reveals a striking unity: namely, a unity of pastoral purpose. Butler’s chief task in Fifteen Sermons is to exhort his audience to cultivate virtue and avoid vice in their actual lives, not merely to present a novel moral theory or make clever psychological observations. With this view in mind, even the most theoretical portions of the sermons are clearly animated by an earnest pastoral concern that shouldn’t be ignored. I argue that, as readers of Butler's sermons, we would do well to recognize his purpose in writing and do so with attention to our own cultivation of virtue.


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