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Full text of "A vindication of certain passages in a discourse, on occasion of the death of Dr. Priestley, etc."

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A 

VINDICATION 

OF 
CERTAIN PASSAGES 



A DISCOURSE, 

ON OCCASION 

OF THE DEATH OF DR. PRIESTLEY, &c, 



BY THOMAS BELSHAnr. 
TO WHICH IS ANNEXED 

THE DISCOURSE 

ON THE DEATH OF DR. PRIESTLEY. 

BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 



BOSTON : 

I'RINTED AND PUBLISHED BY T. B. \VAIT i)' Co. 
Sold by W. Weil9....Court-stivet. 

1809. 



TO THE AMERICAN READER. 

Soon after the publication of Mr. Belsham's 
Discourse on the death of Dr. Priestley, the Rev. 
John Pye Smith addressed to the author a volume 
of Letters containing animadversions on some pas- 
sages of the Discourse. 

As these Letters have been lately published in 
this country, the public will no doubt be gratified 
by an opportunity of perusing the Discourse which 
occasioned them, and Mr. Belsham's Vindicatory 
reply to Mr. Smith. 



A VINDICATION OF CERTAIN PASSAGES 
IN 

A DISCOURSE, 

ON OCCASION OF THE DEATH OF DR. PRIESTLEY j 

AND 

A DEFENCE 

OF DR. PRIESTLEY'S CHARACTER AND WRITINGS, 
IN 

REPLY TO THE ANIMADVERSIONS 

OF THE 

REV. JOHN PYE SMITH. 



IN LETTERS TO A FRIEND. 



BY THOMAS BELSHAM. 



^»Mii e^yoti ^t;A«T7ejW.£Vjjv. Socrates Hisu Eccl. lib. i. c. 8. 



BOSTON : 

PRINTED BY THOMAS B. WAIT 6- €«. 

COURT-STREET. 

1809!" 



ADVERTISEMENT. 



1 HE substance of these Letters has appeared in the 
Uni\ersal Theological Magazine ; and at the desire of 
some friends, in whose judgment the author places con- 
fidence, they are now re-printed in a separate form, with 
some corrections, and a few additional notes and observa- 
tions. 

The author was the more disposed to comply in this 
instance witli the wishes of his fi-iends, because, notwith- 
standing his extreme disUke to a personal theological 
controversy, he was inclined to hope, that a more general 
circulation of these Letters might contribute to communi- 
cate more correct ideas of the tenets, and to excite a 
greater abhorrence of the spirit of Calvinism, tlie direct 
tendency of which is to generate hatred both of God and 
man, and which represents the character of the Divine 
Being in a liglit more odious than that of the voluptuous 
Jupiter, of tlie sanguinary and ferocious jNIolOch, or even 
of its own imaginary, malignant, and mischievous, bwt not 
altogether omnipotent, and infinite. Devil. 

The author having been educated in the bosom of Cal- 
vinism, knows sonietliiiig of the views and feelings of .r 
genuine Calvinist : and from his own observation and ex- 
perience he is assured, that such persons are more deserv- 
ing of compassion than of censure.* He has also known 

• Sec Dr. Prlistli j's account of his own fi-eliiigs >\Iitn Ik- was a practi- 
cal CaU-inist. D'ni-oiu-se ou Occasion of Dr. Pritstley's Deatli, p. 18, note. 
Hi: tlifre says, " I had occasionally such distress of mind, as it is not in my 
" power to describe, and vhifh I still look back upon v,i\h horror." 



'> ADVERTISEME.Vl. 

among- the Calvinists many persons of great vlety, and 
Worth of character, to wiiich, in his Discourse on the 
lamented deatii of Dr. Priestley, lie was eager to bear his 
testimony, in order to shew, tluvt wiiutever he thought of 
the system, he was no enemy to the persons of tiiose who 
profess it. If, in the warmth of his zeal to manifest his 
cathoUcism, he has inadvertently over-stepped the limits 
of perfect correctness, and has appeared to magnify the 
t.Ucnts, or the virtues, of Calvinists, beyond their due 
proportion, he hopes that they laiU forgive him thit 
"wrong. He can assure them, that it was not his intention to 
assert that Calvinists, as such, were wiser or better than 
others, whose theoi'y of religion approached nearer to truth. 
Much less did h£ mean to represent the excellence of their 
character as owing to the peculiarities of the calvinistic 
system. If Calvinists are (as, no doubt, many of them are) 
pious towards God, and benevolent to men, it must be 
owing to some powerful countervailing influences which 
happily check the baneful tendency of their principles ; 
and particularly to those obvious appearances of nature, 
and those plain declarations of the divine benevolence in 
the scriptures, which excite a hope, even in spite of them- 
selves, that God is not altogether so cruel, nor their fellow- 
creatures quite so detestable, as their gloomy system would 
make them believe. 

Another reason, why the author felt himself disposed 
to give these Letters a more extensive circulation was, 
that it not only afforded him an opportunity of vindicating 
the insulted character of Dr. Priestley, but, wliich he 
apprehends of still more importance to the public, of illus- 
trating distinctly the nature of his new and unanswerable 
argument, in favour of the simple humanity of Christ, 
from the testimony of primitive ecclesiastical writers, as 
stated in his History of Early Opinions, an argument which 
is, generally, either misunderstood, or misrepresented. 



ADVERTISEMEMT. V 

The author of the Letters to which these are intended 
as a reply, has mixed up his severe charges of ignorance, of 
misrepresentation, of gross error, of perfect inadvertence, 
and of asserting things pi'ecisely the reverse of acknow- 
ledged facts, or in other words, of palpable falsehood, 
with much of the forms of personal civility and respect, 
almost even to nausea. In this particular, the author of 
tiiese Letters, indignant as he could not but occasionally 
feel at the groundless charges which were alleged, and 
at the lofty and triumphant tone in which they were 
often pressed, did not think it necessary to imitate his 
correspondent. But while he considered himself as jus- 
tified in stating plainly, strongly, and pointedly, the futility 
of the writer's arguments, he shall regret, if he has in any 
instance been betrayed into expressions which may be 
thought inconsistent with civility and good manners. He 
feels no ill-will against his opponent, for whose character 
he entertains a sincere respect, and who must be allowed, 
in his animadversions, to have discovered no small portion 
of ability, and controversial dexterity. Nevertheless, I do 
not hesitate to avow, that the design of these Letters is 
to shew, that this gentleman has undertaken to write upon 
a subject which he has not sufficiently studied ; that he has 
accumulated charges which he has not been able to sub- 
stantiate ; and that he has, without sufficient ground, 
attacked, I might say defamed, the characters of the 
illustrious and venerable dead. How far this design has 
been accomplished, the judicious and attentive reader 
must decide. 

What impression these animadversions may make upon 
the mind of the gentleman who gave occasion to them, 
it is not for the author to judge. But if that gentleman 
should, upon mature consideration, be convinced, that his 
strictures are erroneous, and his charges unfounded, he 
will, no doubt, feel himself bound in honour and duty to 
retract, and modify his publication accordingly. At any 



VI ADVERTISEMENT. 

rate, the least that can be expected from him is, that lie 
will not, if convinced of his mistake, persistm bearing /alse 
witness against his neighbour. As a young writer, and a 
young' man, it will be no disparagement to him to acknow- 
ledge an error, and to add to his other good qualities a 
proper degree of self-diffidence. This will induce him for 
the future to pause a little, and attentively to survey his 
ground, before he alleges unqualified charges of ignorance, 
and palpable misrepresentations of plain facts, against 
persons whose means of information, and whose character 
for diligence, perseverance, impartiality, and accuracy of 
research, are, at least, equal to his own, and who have, 
perhaps, devoted as great a number of years to the patient 
investigation of truth, as he has lived in the world, 



CONTENTS. 



LETTER I. 

Pago. 
Vindication of the Author's statement of the Calvinis- 

tic systen) 1 

LETTER II. 

Abhorrence of Calvlnlsim, consistent with a favourable 
opinion of many who hold that unscriptural system. — 
Unjust insinuations repelled. — Concerning the per- 
sonal presence of Christ with his Apostles after his 
ascension 10 

LETTER UI. 

Origen's character defended. — Review of the contro- 
versy between Dr. Priestley and Dr. Horsley. — Ter- 
tullian's unequivocal testimony to the Unitarianism of 
the great body of unlearned Christians 25 

LETTER IV. 

Charge of inadvertency and gross misrepresentation 
repelled. — Progress of error concerning the person of 
Christ stated. — Misrepresentation of Dr. Priestley's 
sentiments corrected 40 

LETTER V. 
The charge against Dr. Priestley's character stated and 
repelled. — Dr. Priestley and his accuser equally mis- 
taken in a p.'issage from Chrysostom. — The nature 
and conduct of Dr. I'liest ley's argument represented 
and vindicated. — Conclusion 59 



CONTENTS. 

APPENDIX. 
Containing an Extract from a publication of the Hev. 
Theophilus Lindsey, which expresses the judgment 
of that learned writer, concerning the issue of the 
controversy between Dr. Priestley and Dr. Horsley, 
and concerning the importance of Dr. Priestley's 
History of Early Opinions concerning Jesus Christ... 74 

POSTSCRIPT. 

Remarks upon the alterations and concessions in the 
second edition of the Letters to Mr. B - 79 



A VINDICATION, Set:. 



LETTER I. 

\ indication of the Author's statement of t!ie Calvuiistic system. 
DEAR SIR, 

X HE Rev. John Pye Smith, one of the Tutors of 
the respectable Academical Institution at Homerton, 
has lately addressed to me a volume of Letters, 
containing animadversions upon some passages in 
my late Discourse upon the lamenteu Death of 
Dr. Priestley ; written upon the whole with much 
personal civility, and perhaps with as much candour 
as the spirit of his theological system will admit. 
The truth or falsehood of that system I am not now 
disposed to contest ; but some of the author's obser- 
vations appear to retjuirc a cursoiy notice : especial- 
ly as they are delivered with a tone of authority, an 
air of triumph, and a parade of learning, which has 
a tendency to impose upon ignorant and superficial 
readers. 

This gentleman distinctly charges me with mis- 
representing the calvirjistic system : His words are, 
" 1 never yet heard of the Calvinist who would adopt 
1 



2 LETTER i: 

" your statement as his own creed*." And again, 
" Such men as Voltaire and Paine, or even charac- 
" ters of far more estimable fame, can, with all the 
" ease imaginable, by the combined aid of miscon- 
" ception, perverse mis-statement, and sparkling- 
" witticisms, so twist and entangle a metaphysical or 
" moral subject, and that in a few words, or sentences, 
" as to require many pages of accurate writing, and 
" much labour of patient reading, to unravel the 
" crossing perplexities. This appears to me to be 
" precisely the case with your picture of Calvinismf." 
The reader will smile to see to what expressions 
this pompous description applies. My words are, 
" The doctrine which the apostle taught was the 
" gospel of the grace of God. ^'ery remote indeed 
" from that system which in modern times has been 
•' dignified with the title of Gospel Doctrine ; a 
" system which teaches that all mankind are doomed 
" to eternal misery for Adam's sin, with the excep- 
" tion of a few who are chosen by mere good plca- 
"•' sure to everlasting life|." The reason why my 
name is introduced in connection with those of 
Voltaire and Paine, is sufficiently obvious to all who 
are versed in the arts of theological controversy ; 
but it would require no small portion of intellectual 
perspicacity to discern the iireche resemblance be- 
tween the plain and brief statement which I have 
made of calvinistic doctrine, almost in the words 
of its own symbols, and the wisconcc/itio7i^ perverse 
vns-stateine7it.) mid sparkling ivitticisms^ with which 

* Lettci-s to Mr. B. p. 16. t Ibid. p. 13, 14. 

i Fiiiit'i-al Discourse for Dr. Pi-icsllt y, p. 26. 



LETTER I. o 

these champions of infidelity arc said to uvist mid 
t'ntangle a moral or metajihysiical isubject. 

My generous accuser, however, exculpates me 
from the " charge of intentional misrepresentation," 
and very charitably insinuates, that what he calls my 
caricature of Calvinism is the result of mere igno- 
rance. Unfortunately, I cannot avail myself of this 
obliging apology. Having been educated a Calvinist, 
in the midst of Calvinists, and having been fully 
instructed in the creeds and catechisms, and inodes 
of worship of this " straitest sect of our religion," 
I cannot plead ignorance of the doctrines which I 
and hundreds more were taught, and believed. 

The worthy Remarker next proceeds to correct 
my supposed misconccjition^ by stating, in form, and 
as one having authority, in his second Letter, what 
those " sentiments are, which in their aggregate" 
he is pleased to call " Calvinism," and in which, he- 
pro fesses " to glory*." And truly. Sir, I must 
acknowledge that 1 was not a little surprised at the 
perusal of this singular, prolix, and mysterious con- 
fession. Yet if this reverend gentleman, who does 
not appear to be deficient either in understanding 
or learning, can, at this lime of day, seriously believe 
all that he sets down to be believed, he has my fret- 
consent, and much may it contribute to his edifica- 
tion. Far be it from me to wish to abridge him of 
a single article of his capacious faith, or to deprive 
him of one particle of his glory. The only question 
between us is, whether this faith be truly calvinistir 

* I.cltiis to Mr. B. p. 16. 



*■ LETTER I. 

And to this the worthy author himself has supplied 
the proper answer. « It is acknowledged," says he, 
" that this view of the subject is different from that 
" which most calvinistic writers have given*." This 
concession is sufficient, and precludes all further 
observation upon the subject. 

Now, Sir, as this gentleman has been pleased to 
state that doctrine as Calvinism, which the majority 
of Calvinists do not approve, I will proceed to ex- 
hibit that Calvinism which Calvinists do approve, and 
the belief of which is regarded by most of them as 
essential to salvation. And in order to this I shall 
not, like my learned correspondent, have recourse to 
the writings of the Greek or the Roman classics ; 
nor shall I inquire whether the great philosophers 
and moralists of antiquity, had they been now living, 
wovild or would not have been the disciples of John 
Calvinf. I shall not even make my principal appeal 
to the Institutes of the celebrated reformer himself, 
nor yet to the still more authentic documents of the 
venerable Synod of Dort \. For the sake of brevity, 
I shall bring my proofs from that well-known, and 
highly approved symbol of the calvinistic faith, the 
Assembly's Catechism, which, as a summaiy of 
doctrine, is a model of simplicty, perspicuity, and 

* Letters to Mr. B. p. 22. Note. 

t See Letters, p. 33, 31. Wlietlicr tJic^e pro.it men woiilrl, as my Coi-- 
respomUnt imaffines, lia\e bieii c/mnneil witli the CaUiiiistic system, I 
l^iiuot pi-etend to say; that they would have bi-eii nafuhinlicd at it, I most 
Certainly Ix-lieve. 

X This famous Sj-nod was assembli d A. D. 1619, for the exjiress purpose 
of deciding the celebrated quimmarlicular eontroversy between tlie Cal- 
Tinists and the Anninians, which at iliat time r.iged in Holland. It wa? 
attended by di-puties from most of (he reformed churches. 



LETTER I. 5 

precision ; and which used formerly, and I presume 
still continues, to be taught with great assiduity, 
to children and young persons in the calvinistic 
churches. To this might also be added, if neces- 
sary, the Hymns and Spiritual Songs of Dr. Watts, 
the crude and injudicious compositions of iiis ju- 
"venile years, the publication of which, it is well 
known, was the subject of deep regret in maturer 
life, but Avhich are to this day used in the public 
devotions of many calvinistic churches, and admired 
as the standard of sound doctrine and of a devotional 
spirit : and which in fact have done more to fix the 
taint of Calvinism in young and impressible minds, 
than all the controversial treatises that ever were 
written. I believe that the gentlenran who has done 
me the favour to animadvert upon my Sermon, will 
not object to the authorities to which I appeal. If 
he does, I will tell him plainly, that what I mean 
by Calvinism is not a system of abstruse subtleties, 
which may be maint;vined by a few speculative men, 
and which 77iost Calvinists never heard of, but that 
code of doctrine which thousands and tens of thou- 
sands collect froiTi the catechisms which they learn, 
and from the hymns which they sing, and which 
they ivaturally suppose to be the sincere opinions of 
tliose who instruct them in these symbols, and who 
guide them in their devotions. 

The Assembly's Catechism teaches, in answer 
to the seventh question, that, " the decrees of God 
" are his eternal purpose according to the counsel 
" of his will, whereby for his own glory he hath 
" fore-ordained iv/iatsoever comes to pass." 
* 1 



6 LETTER I. 

From this it evidently follows, that the fall oF 
man is one of those events which was ordained fov 
the glory of God. 

We are further taught, in reply to the sixteenth 
question, " that the covenant being made with Adam, 
" not only for himself, but for his posterity ; all 
" mankind, descending from him by ordinary gene- 
<' ration, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first 
" transgi'ession." Thus, for the glory of God all 
mankind were predestinated to sin in Adam, and to 
fall with him. 

This celebrated symbol of the true calvinistic 
faith proceeds to teach us, in answer to the two 
succeeding questions, " that the fall brought man- 
" kind into an estate of sin and miseiy:" also, that 
" the sinfulness of that estate, whereunto man fell, 
" consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want 
" of original righteousness, and the corruption of 
" the Avhole nature, which is commonly called ori- 
" ginal sin, together with all actual trangressions 
" which flow from it." Hence it follows, that God, 
foi- his own glory, has fore -ordained that all mankind 
shall be gxdlty of Adam's first sin, together with all 
actual transgressions that flow from it. 

Now comes the bojme bouclie. The question next 
proposed is, " What is the misery of that estate, 
*' whereinto man fell r" And the answer to it is in 
these memorable words: ".;/./. mankind by the fall 
*' lost communion vvilh God, are under his wrath 
*' AND CURSE, and so made liable to all the miseries 
" of this life, to death itself, and to the pjiys of 

'• HELL FOR EVER.'' 



LETTER I. 7 

That is, God having from all eternity fore- 
ordained for liis own glory that all mankind shall 
be guilty of Adam's first sin, for his own glory he 
hath further fore-ordained, that by this fall they 
shall lie under his wrath and curse, and be made 
liable to the pains of hell for ever ! ! I 

To add to the horror of the picture, and to 
accumulate insult upon injury, it is further asked 
in the twentieth question, " Did God leave all man- 
" kind to perish in the estate of sin and misery ?" 
To which the answer subjoined is, that " God out 
" of mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected 
" SOME to everlasting life." 

What then is God? It is truly replied, in one 
of the most concise and comprehensive definitions 
which was ever given, in answer to the fourth quesr 
lion of this Catechism : '^ God is a spirit, infinite, 
eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, 
power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. 

Bur what is the God of Calvinism ? A gloomy 
arbitrary tyrant, a malignant onmipotent demon. 

Therefore the God of Calvinism is not the 
TRUE GOD, is not the God of Christians, is not the 
God and Father of Jesus, is not that God whose 
name is love. 

This, Sir, is the system that I am accused of 
having caricatured. It is the system concerning 
which I have pronounced, and 1 now solemnly re- 
peat the charge, that it is " a tremendous doctrine, 
" which, had it really been taught by Christ and his 
" apostles, their gospel might truly have been de- 
" nominated, not the doctrine of peace and good 



» LETTER I. 

" will, but a messat^e of Mrath and injustice, of 
" terror and dispair." I have spoken of it, and 
while life and breath and intellect remain, I shall 
ever speak of it as " a rigorous, a gloomy, and a 
" pernicious system," as " full of horror, as the very 
" extravagance of error," and as " a mischievous 
" compound of impiety and idolatry." 

Predestination, absolute arbitrary predestina- 
tion, the predestination of sovte to eternal life, and 
of the many to eternal misery, from mere good 
pleasure, and for the glory of God, is the very soul 
of Calvinism. To affect to evade the horror of the 
doctrine, by pretending that the non-elect were only 
left^ and not doomed^ Vo perish ; or, that they were 
predestinated to punishment, because they were 
predestinated to sin ; or, that being the descendants 
of a fallen pair, they were born, that is, in other 
words, that God made them with corrupt natures, 
and therefore under his wrath and curse; or lastly, 
but not least remarkable, that sin, like darkness, is 
a mere defect*, that is, a nonentity, and therefore 
meritorious of eternal punishment ; all this is trifling 
and puerile in the extreme. The daring and vigor- 
ous mind of the reformer of Geneva disdained such 
pitiful evasions ; and contends, in the most explicit 
language, for the doctrine of absolute reprobalionf. 

» " All positive e\istcnce must be the oljtct of the creating and sustain- 
" in^ power ol' Goil, the Iramer ofall tilings, and <)y » lioin all tilings consist. 
" Sin is prccisily tlie reverse of this, — it is a fauli, n deUtt, a failiii-e, an 
" inipcrriction." Sic n Sermon on the Divinr Glor\ d;splayeil in the Per- 
mission of Sin, pa^ 6, by the Author of the l.ettrrs to Mr B. 

1" Si noil possumus ralioiiem ass:u;nare cur siios mis; ricordia dig;netur niii 
quoiiinin ila illi placet, iiequc etuuii i" aliis reprobaiulis aliudhabebimu* 
luain ejus voluntateiu.' Calvin, Inst. lib. iii. cap. Jwii. sec. 11. 



LETTER 1. 9 

A man, therefore, who denies arbitraiy predestina- 
tion, iiiay, notwithstanding, be a wise man, a learned 
man, a good man, and a true Christian ; but, it is 
most certain, that he has no right to call himself a 
Calviuist. 

In my next Letter I shall proceed to justify the 
charges which I have alleged against the calvinistic 
system, and likewise to notice some other observa- 
tions of my reverend opponent. 

In the mean time I am, 

Dear Sir, 85c. Sec. 



LETTER II. 



Abliorrence of Cal\ inisni, consistent w iili a favourable upiiiion ofmany wUo 
hold ihat uiisLriiitiival sjsiuii. — U' just iiisimiatious rtpelled.—Coiici ril- 
ing the personal presence of Christ with Lis Apostles after lijs ascension' 

DEAR SIR, 

I FLATTER myself that I stand completely exone- 
rated from the charge of having either intentionally, 
or ignorantly, misrepresented the calvinistic system. 
Calvinism is not a term of indefinite signification, 
like the cant phrase evangelical, which commonly 
means nothing, but the opinions of the men who use 
it. Calvinism expresses a system clearly defined, 
and accurately exhibited in the Institutes of Calvin, 
in the Decrees of the Synod of Dort, and in this 
country, in the Assembly's Catechism, in which the 
children of Calvinists are generally instructed, and 
the sense of which is sufficiently ascertained. 

Calvinism teaches that the great Creator, by an 
arbitrary decree, and for his own glory, dooms mil- 
lions of his creatures to eternal misery for Adam's 
sin. This, if true, would unciuestionably have been 
a message of wrath and injustice, of terror and 
despair. — The fundamental principle of Calvinism 
is, that God is a tyrant. This is impious. — Calvinism 
teaches that God would not save the number, which 



LETTER II. 11 

from mere good pleasure he had elected to everlast- 
ing life, till a person equal to himself in power and 
glory, had satisfied his justice by bearing his wrath. 
This is polytheism and absurdity. — Calvinism, con- 
sistently indeed with itself, renders to this supposed 
second person, a homage equal to the first. This 
is idolatry ; it is Avorshipping as God, a mere crea- 
ture of the imagination. — Cal' inism is a system 
replete with horror: for the -^hance against every 
individual is, that he is in the number of those who, 
for Adam's sin, are doomed to the eternal, inevitable, 
wrath and curse of the Almighty. — Calvinism there- 
fore is a very pernicious system. The natural and 
direct tendency of Calvinism, is to lead men to think 
of their Maker with indignation and abhorrence, and 
to curse their existence : it often generates presump- 
tion, arrogance, and malignity, in those who fancy 
themselves the elect favourites of God : It excites 
much causeless anxiety and painful apprehension 
in the minds of many who are sincerely virtuous, 
and embitters tlieir lives with tormenting terrors. 
In some cases it has driven men to despair, and 
distraction, and, probably, even to suicide. — Cal- 
vinism, therefore, may be justly represented as ex- 
travagant and erroneous in the extreme. 

Th.\t professed Calvinists should approve of this 
representation of their favourite system, is not to be 
expected. If they saw it in the light in which it is 
here stated, they would, no doubt, renounce it with 
abhorrence. To them it seems "these sentiments 
appear the voice of God, and the perfection of rea- 



12 LETTER II. 

" son, harmony, and moral beauty*." Let the im- 
partial reader judge between us. 

In my discourse upon the death of Dr. Priestley, 
I have remarked, that it had been the happiness of 
that eminently great and good man, to meet among 
Christians of the calvinistic denomination, " with 
" some of the wisest and best characters that he 
" had ever known." From hence my worthy Cor- 
respondent infers, that a system approved by such 
persons " must be presumed to have, at least, some 
" inviting colours of evidence and truth," and that 
it would be " strange indeed, if what they held 
■" should be the extravagance of errort." But this 
is an objection of little weight. Nothing is more 
common than for men, in other respects eminently 
learned and wise, to entertain theological opinions, 
the most extravagant and absurd. Pascal, and 
Fenelon, were greatly distinguished, both for their 
talents and their virtues ; and yet, they were both 
zealous for popeiy in its grossest forms. The great 
reformer Luther, was a warm advocate for the real 
presence of Christ in the consecrated elements, in 
the absurdity of which doctrine, there is but a shade 
of difference from that of transubstantialion itself. 
Lxlius ard Faustus Socinus, imd the other Polish 
Unitarians, whose names rank high amongst the 
learned and the liberal cxj)ositors of the scriptures, 
believed that a mere human being, a man like 

• l,(tt( i-s. p. in. >[y CoiT.sporidint applies tliisc epitluis to liU <)\»n 
>iypotli<!«is. The Assembly of Divim s liad the same (rood opinion, no itotiHf, 
of ihcir system, wliicli is tmc Calvinism. 

t Letten. p. 31. 32. 



LETTER 11. i.p 

liiemselves, was exalted to a supremacy over angels 
and arch-angels ; that the government of the uni- 
Aerse was delegated to him, and that he was entitled 
to religious worship as the representative of God 
himself; a notion so irrational-and unscriptural, that 
as Dr. Price justly observes, " Athanasianism itself 
" contains nothing that is more extravagant*." Nor 
do we need to have recourse to former times for 
examples of this kind. Who doubts the talents or 
the learning of the present Bishop of St. Asaph ? 
Yet he gravely teaches us, in a Discourse which he 
has lately published, that hell is a subterraneous 
region divided into two apartments. That one of 
these apartments is indeed a place "of torment for 
wicked spirits : but that the other, which though a 
Jiri-son., is also called a Jiaradisc^ is the receptacle of 
pious souls, who are there in safe kcc^iinc^ till the 
resurrection. This learned prelate further informs 
us, that Jesus, after he had been crucified, descend- 
ed into hell ; not, as we have lately been informed, 
from very high authoi'ity, to shew himself there bodij 
and soul, in order to terrify the devils, caul the 
damned^, but that he might comfort the souls of 
the antediluvian penitents, who, though already in 
paradise, " had peculiar apprehensions of themselves 

* Price's Sermons, p. ISO, 151. 

1" See Freyliiii^liausen's Abstract of the Cliribtian Rilijjion,j). 50. Tliis 
curious Tract, editid, as it is niiiiourtd, h\ a ilistinguislu'il prelate, is asserted 
l)y tlie editor, to stand very liifjli in tlie good 0|iini(>n of the first female per- 
sonage in the kingdom, by v\liosc order it was translated into English foril)^ 
use of lier illustrious daughters. 



14 LETTER II. 

as marked victims of divine vengeance*." What 
can be more extravagant than such suppositions as 
these, or more inconsistent with the scripture doc- 
trine of the state of the dead ? It follows then that 
men may be very wise, veiy learned, and very good, 
and yet, in their theological opinions they may fall 
into the very extravagance of error. 

The reason of this is sufficiently obvious. The 
human intellect is too limited to comprehend every 
thing : and men who are the best informed upon 
subjects to which they have directed their attention, 
may be as ignorant as children upon other questions : 
and in no case are men more liable to err, than in 
their theological opinions. There are many who 
regard religion as a mystery beyond the province of 
reason : there are many who are content with taking 
every thing upon trust : there are many who have 
neither opportunity nor inclination to inquire : there 
are many who are speculativ'e but not practical 
believers, who assent to a form of words but with- 
out examining the ideas : there ai'e many whose 
interest it is to profess the popular system of belief, 
and whose judgments may be more influenced by 
this consideration than they are themselves aware ; 
there ai'e many who think it criminal to doubt or to 
in([uire at all ; and there are many whose prejudices 
are so firmly rivetted, that the most demonstrative 
arguments can make nO impression upon their 
understandings. 

• Bisliopof'St. Asaph's Sermon on the Descent of Christ into Hell. \Wioli 
of the two learned i>relatcs lias the best iiifunnatiou upon this mysterious 
suhject, does not appear. 



LKTTKR II. 15 

I AM not however one of those "who hold, that 
erroi' is a matter of indifTerence. I readily admit, 
that great errors may be consistent with great good- 
ness of heart ; that the mischievous tendency of 
particuhir errors may be in a great degree coun- 
teracted by good principles and virtuous habits ; 
that speculative error, like speculative truth, may 
sometimes lose its proper effect, by practical in- 
attention to it : and that, sometimes, one error may 
counteract the baneful influence of another. Never- 
theless, error, upon subjects of great importance, 
in proportion as it prevails and becomes a practical 
principle, contaminates the mind, and is productive 
of pernicious consequences. This is evident in the 
case of persecutors, who often act under the in- 
fluence of erroneous principles and a misguided 
conscience ; and it is surely sufficiently obvious, that 
the calvinistic system has a very dangerous ten- 
dency. A thorough practical Calvinist, if he be 
not malignant, must inevitably be unhappy. It is 
therefore the indispensable duty of the friends of 
truth and virtue and pure Christianity, to enter their 
grave and firm protest against pernicious errors, 
and to contend earnestly for the purity of the chris- 
tian faith. 

I HAVE said, that to an early education in the 
rigid sect of Calvinists^ Dr. Priestly was indebted 
for some of his best principles, and his most valu- 
able and permanent religious impressions. Here 
my worthy correspondent triumphs in my s\ipposcd 
inconsistency, as if I had maintained that to an early 
education in the extravagance of error, in a mis- 



i6 LETTEK n. 

chicvous compound of impiety and idolatrj', my-' 
revered friend was indebted for some of his best 
principles*. If indeed I had maintained that Dr. 
Priestley owed his best principles and impression's 
to an early education in the pcculun- doctrines of 
Calvinism, the triumph might have been just ; but 
as the case stands, had this gentleman allowed him- 
self to reflect, that the doctrine of a sect is one thing, 
and its didcipUtic another, and that all sects hold 
many important practical /irincijdes in connection 
witii their own peculiar tenets, he would have seen 
that he needed not to have felt the anxiety which 
he expresses, for the credit and consistency of the 
author of the Elements of the Philosophy of the 
Human Mindf. Dr. Priestley, educated among 
serious Calvinists, v/as instructed in many valuable 
religious principles, and formed to many virtuous 
habits ; and to this may be ascribed, in a consider- 
able degree, the distinguished excellence "of his 
iTioral character. All this may be true, and yet the 
peculiar tenets of the calvinistic system may be 
erroneous in the extreme. 

Having thus, I trust, sufficiently justified both 
my censures of the doctrines, and my concessions 
to the talents and virtues of those who maintain the 
gloomy creed of the Geneva reformer ; I shall now 
proceed briefly to notice, Mlliat appears to me parti- 

* Lottcn-s, p. 53, 5-J. 

t " To the autlior of Elcincnts of the Ptiilosoiiliy of the MimI, I spcuk 
•• « itli ilefcivnte : but I confess there .appears to me siicli a want of toni- 
'■ patihilitj in the teniTS of tliis proposition, as totally to dcsti-oy «sscl>'.'' 
I.i iteri, p. 51. 



LETTER n. .17 

cularly worthy of remark, in the remaming stric- 
tures of my respectable correspondent. 

This gentleman judiciously* declines to press 
the favourite argument, of the superior sanctity of 
Calvinism and Calvinists, to Unitarianism and Uni- 
tarians. Had he determined otherwise, he might 
have been assured that I should have left him an 
open and unmolested course. Unitarianism stands 
upon the immoveable foundation of the christian 
scriptures, which teach us explicitly, that Jesus 
was " a MAN, approved of God by miracles, and 
" wonders, and signs," and which never even seem 
to represent him as a being of a superior order, 
except in a few detached and obscure passages, in 
most of which, to give plausibility to the argument, 
figurative expressions are interpreted in a literal 
sense. Here the Unitarians feel themselves upon 
firm ground : they have not a doubt that their faith 
concerning the person of their honoured master, is 
the same with that of Jesus himself, and of his apos- 
tles, who knew and conversed with him. All other 
evidence in this case they regard as trifling, and as 
only tending to divert the attention from the main 
question. To superior saintahiji they make no pre- 
tension. But they trust that their character upon 
the Avhole, will not be found unworthy of their 
christian principles, and that it will not suffer in 
comparison with that of the most sanctimonious of 
their accusers. And in the habitual practice of 
virtue and piety, though conscious of much impcr- 

* I^ettirs. p. S3. 54. 

*3 



18 LETTER ir. 

lection, they humbly and cheei'fuUy rely upon the 
unchangeable mercy of an infinitely wise and bene- 
volent Creator, \yithout any regard to the vniin- 
Iclligible notions of vicarious suffering, or imputed 
righteousness. 

For the reason ^yhich I have assigned above, I 
feel as little inclination to follow my zealous corres- 
pondent through his triumphant argument, in the. 
fifth letter, from the missionary zeal of the Trinita- 
rians, in which Pharisees, Jesuits and Mahometans 
stand at least upon equal ground with them. It is 
an obvious ftxt, that in all ages, there have been 
zealots for error, as well as advocates for truth ; and 
it has too generally happened, that the former have 
been more successful in perverting, than the latter 
in the instruction of mankind. I am, however, far 
from wishing to detract from the merit of those, 
who have exerted themselves in propagating what 
I judge to be a corrupt Christianity. I have no 
doubt that m.uch good has been done ; much valu- 
able practical truth having been mixed with a consi- 
c^.erable portion of speculative error. I'he stupendous 
machinery of a corrupt Christianity is far more likely 
to seize the imagination, and to rouse the feelings 
of a Greenlander or a Ilotlentat, than the beautiful 
simplicity of christian truth. Thus the wisdom of 
Divine Providence brings good out of evil, and gra- 
dually prepares the way for the universal prevalence 
of a pure and rational faith, by adapting the means 
of information among the converted heathen, to their 
growing capacity for intellectual and moral improve- 



LETTER ir.' 19 

mcnts*. Ill ihc mean time, we enter our protest 
agiunst estimating the truth of a doctrine, by the 
zeal which is discovered in the propagation of it. 

Hard indeed is the lot of the unfortunate Uni- 
tarians ! Whatever they do — Avhatcver they omit, 
they are always in the wrong. They are always 
either too hot, or too cold : benumbed in the frigid, 
or scorching in the torrid zone of Christianity. If 
they are active in defending or propagating what 
they believe to be truth, their proselyte zeal exposes 
them to the scorn of the infidel, the censure of the 
timid and the /irudent, and to the fury of the bigot ; 
if they are silent, they are reproached as indifferent 
and lukewarm, and as doing nothings iiothing at all\^ 
to promote the christian doctrine. — " But wisdom 
" will be justified of her children." 

My worthy opponent :j: disapproves of what I have 
said, concerning the spirit of Paul when a pei'secu- 
tor : but I am not conscious that I have advanced any 
thing upon this subject stronger than the apostle's 
own expressions If, that he was exceedingly r,i l 
against them ; or those of his faithful historian, thu 
he breathed out threatening and slaughter against 
the disciples of the Lord II. 

I HAVE also presumed to suppose that the apostle 
James might, like Peter and Barnabas, have given 

• " Tile imjmiity of maiikiuil," says Dr. Haitlty, vol. ii. p. .T72, " is too 
" g:i-oss to unite at once with the sti-ict purity of tlic gospel. The Uoinaii 
" empire lir.t, and the Goths and Vaudals aftenvaitis, i-e«|uircd, as one may 
" say, some supei-slitions and idolatries to be mixed with the christian re- 
"ligion, else they conlil not have been eonvertid at all." 

t '• Unitarians w'.tli all their boast, etc. have dune NO'l'HING, NOTHING 
•'AT ALL." Letters, p. 75. 

\ ieltcTs, p. 61. 5 AcU xxvi. U. \ Acts i.v. 1. 



2& LETTER II. 

rather too much countenance to the zealots, who are 
said to have gone from him*, and to have disturbed 
the peace of the church at Antioch : but I am in- 
formed, no doubt, upon competent authority, that 
the contrary is " the more reasonable conjecturetj" 
and I have no objection to it, for I have no quarrel 
•with St. James. 

" How feebly supported," says my dexterous cor- 
respondent, " or rather how completely destitute of 
" all support is any conclusion from these premises 
" against the infallible certainty of apostolic doc- 
trine |." Now the fact is, that I never did assert, 
or insinuate any thing against the infallible certainty 
of that doctrine, which the apostles were commis- 
sioned to publish, but have always maintained, that 
they were fully informed upon that subject, though 
they might err in other cases. But we polemics 
are fully apprized of the use of a seasonable inuendo. 

The worthy letter-writer has exhausted a pro- 
fusion of leai'ning in the beginning of his sixth 
letter, to prove that the zealots who opposed Paul 
were Jewish believers and Unitarians. The fact is- 
so obvious, that it hardly seems to require so long 
and laboured a proof. That they were Jewish be- 
lievers, is notorious from their zeal for the cere- 
monial law : and that they were Unitarians is highly 
probable, because neither the arian, nor the trinita- 
rian heresies had then been introduced. Besides, 
the only offence with which these zealots are charged 
by the apostle is, their insisting upon the indispensa- 
ble necessity of conformity to tlie ceremonial law : 

* Gal. u. 11, 12. + Lettcj-s, p. 80. t Eetters> p. 87. 



LETTER ir. 21 

but if they had also been guilty of infringing upon 
the fundamental doctrine of the unity of God, which, 
as Jews, they were not likely to do, there can be 
no doubt that the apostle would have animadverted 
upon them with far greater severity. But does this 
gentleman, who favours me with his correspondence, 
" or the judicious arid tenifierate divine.^" whose words 
he quotes*, really think that the modern Unitarians 
are "the obsequious disciples" of judaizing zealots, 
and answerable for all their malignant opposition to 
the apostle, because they agree with them, and with 
him, in the belief of the unity of God, and the proper 
humanity of Jesus Christ ? What the design of these 
gentlemen might be, in this strange and unjust in- 
sinuation, they best can tell ; but I will not affront 
their understandings so far as to suppose, that they 
could themselves give the least credit to it. As 
justly might the modern Baptists be made answer- 
able for the extravagancies and crimes of John of 
Leyden. 

Permit me, sir, before I conclude, to add a few- 
strictures upon a remarkable passage at the close 
of this gentleman's sixth letter. When our Lord 
was about to withdraw his visible, sensible presence, 
and to ascend, as he expresses it, to his Father and 
his Godf, he promised, that he would be with his 
apostles always to the end of the world :t: ; or, as I 
would render it, with Bishop Pearce, and Mr. Wake- 
field, to the end of the age||, that is, of the Jewish 

* Letters, p. 82. f John xx. 17. \ Matt, xxviii. 20. 

|l Matt, xxviii. 20, translated l)y Mr. WakcficliI : " I will be with jon cdii- 
tiimnlly di ihi; end of ibe ac;c." 'I'his learned writer refeiN to the i)aralli ? 



22 LETTER II. 

dispensation. Agreeably to this promise, he not 
only communicated to them the Holy Spirit at the 
day of pentecost*, bvit he seems upon some special 
occasions, more or less frequently, to have appeared 
visibly to them. He was seen by Stephen imme- 
diately before his martyrdomf. He appeared to 
Paul on his way to Damascus |. He afterwards, 
probably in Arabia||, communicated to this apostle, 
a distinct and complete discovery of the nature and 
extent of the gospel dispensation, and gave him a 
commission to preach it to the gentiles. Either 
then, or at some other time, he made known to the 
apostle the institution of the eucharistH. Paul like- 
wise saw and conversed with Christ in the temple 
at Jerusalemft- And it seems probable that he was 
honoured with another interview with his master, 
to which he refers, in his second epistle to the 
Coi'inthians \\. And in many passages in his epis- 
tles, he represents himself as acting in the concerns 
of his mission, under the immediate direction of 
Christ|)||. These considerations appear to me abun- 
dantly to justify the assertion, that Jesus was gene- 
rally present with the apostle, and that he occasion- 
ally appeared to liim. And when Jesus was sensibly 

passage in Mark x\-i. 17, 19. " So then (he adds) our Loi-d would continue 
" with them in working miracles to the end of tlie age." If our Lord was 
with them in working miracles, he must be personally present, as no Being 
tan act where he does not exist. But 1 donbt whether the idea of a per- 
sonal presence of Christ occurred lo this celebrated author. See upon this 
subject of the personal presence and agency of Christ during the apostolii 
age, the venerable TheophiUis Lindsey's Sequel to his Apologj-, p. 72, 85. 

* Acts ii. t Acts vii. 54, 55. t Acts ix. 

U Gal. i. 11, 12, 17. % I Cor. xi. 23. ft Acts xxii. 17,21. 

It 2 Cor. xij. 9, 10. Hn Phil. xi. \9, 24. 1 Tim. i. 13. 1 Thess. iii. ]"!. 



LETTER n. 23 

present, there could be no more impropriety in the 
apostle's stating to him the feelings and desires of 
Ills mind, than there was in conversing with him 
during his personal ministry. What there is either 
mysterious or ridiculous in all this, I am at a loss 
to conceive. My ingenious correspondent, how- 
ever, holds it up as an inexplicable mystery*, and 
is pleased to be very jocular upon the subject. And 
to heighten the joke he propounds some hard ques- 
tions, concerning the locomotive powers of the 
glorified spiritual body of Christ, and the mode of 
its presence and action, to puzzle the poor Unita- 
rianst, and to raise a laugh at their expense. 

For my own part, being too dull to relish a jest 
upon serious subjects, I cannot but think these 
" sparkling witticisms" egregiously misplaced, and 
too much in the style " of Voltaire and Paine." 
Least of all am I disposed to accept of ridicule in 
the place of argument. Upon the authority of an 
evangelist, I believe that Jesus promised to be with 
his disciples till the end of that age, and upon the 
testimony of Luke and Paul, I believe that this 

• Toget ridof the stupendous mysteiy of one person convening with 
another, my coirespondent supposes, that tlie body of Christ is in some dis« 
taut and unknown region of the universe called Heaven, but that his divine 
nature is always present with his cliureli. Tliis, to be sure, is verj' intelligir 
ble and satisfactory. See Letters, p. 89, Note. 

t It may be proper to observe, that the unitarian doctrine is not in the 
•east degree compromised in the siR'Culation concerning the occasional sensi- 
ble intercourse of Jesus with his apostles, after what is called, his ascension. 
To the generality of Unitarians, the question I btlieve has seldom occurred, 
and they have of course formed no opinion about it. For the reasons which I 
have stated above, I am inclined to lielieve, that this personal intercourse, 
■which all allow in the conversion of Paul, was much more frequent than is 
commonly apprehended. To others, a diflerent hypothesis may possibi*- 
appear more plausiblci 



34 LETTER n. 

promise was fulfilled. Against this cvicknce no 
objection can be alleged, but that which arises from 
the puerile and unphilosophical conceit, that heaven 
is some splendid place beyond the skies, where God 
has a throne, and where Jesus stands at his right 
hand : a notion too absurd to need refutation. As 
to the metaphysical presence and powers of Jesus 
Christ in his glorified and exalted state, nothing is 
revealed, and therefore nothing can be known. 

I am, Sec. 



LETTER III. 



Orif^cn's character Offeiultil. — Review of t)n; c^lntl■o^■cl•sy be<",yftii Dr. 
Priestley and Dr. Horsley. — Tertullian's imequivoeal testimony to tlie 
Uiiitarianisin of the great body of unlearned Christians. 



DEAR SIR, 

Ix the Memoir annexed to my Discourse upon the 
death of Dr. Priestley*, I have expressed my opi- 
nion, that in the controversy with Dr. Horsley, Dr. 
Priestley was completely a ictorious : and, in a note, 
I have particularly alluded to the manner in which 
the bishop evades the direct testimony of Origen, 
by a groundless and uncjualified attack upon the 
veracity of that celebrated father, and disparages 
the distinct evidence of Tertullian to the Unita- 
viajiism of the majority of unlearned Christians, 
by representing them " as not only illiterate, but 
ignorant and stupid in the extreme." At the close 
I remark, that " there is an end of all reasoning 
" from the testimony af ancient writers, if, when a 
<' disputant is pressed by authorities which he can- 
" not impugn, he is at liberty to represent men 
" whose characters were never before impeached, 
" as idiots and liars." 

* Page 45. 



26 LEirKH 111. 

jVIy correspondent, as might be expccicd, does 
not agree in this judgment of the case, and in his 
seventh Letter he states his own opinion ; and, after 
liaving retailed some of the archdeacon's arguments, 
■with as much parade as if they had never been 
heard of or answered before, he triumphantly con- 
cludes with great apparent self-complacency, " Such 
then is the complete victory of Dr. Priestley." 
This triumph, however, I hesitate not to say, is 
somewhat premature. 

The question concerning the character of Origen 
has been so thoroughly discussed in the controversy 
between Dr. Priestley and Dr. Horsley, and the 
charge against the character of that virtuous and 
learned father has been so completely repelled, that 
I should have no hesitation in leaving the decision 
to every candid and competent judge of the case, 
who would compare the evidence on both sides. 
But as few are willing to submit to this trouble, I 
shall take the liberty to give a brief review of the 
charge and the defence. 

Du. Priestley* having alleged the unequivocal 
testimony of Origen, to prove that the Jewish Chris- 
tians were called Ebionites, and that they adhered 
to the law ; Dr. Horsley, in reply, taxes Origen in 
this instance with " the wilful and deliberate allega- 
" tion of a notorious falsehoodf." And affirms that 
" whatever Origen may pretend, to serve a purpose, 
" the majority of hebrcw Christians, from the time 

• Dr. Priestley's Letters to Dr. Horsley, p. 18. Origen against Celsus, lilj, 
ii. p. 56. 

t AreUdeacou ol'St. Allians* Lttlcrs in rcpljr to Dr. Priestley, p. 160. 



LKTIEU III. 27 

" of Adrian, forsook their laws, and lived in com- 
" niunion witli the gentile bishops, of the new- 
" modelled church of Jerusalem*." Of this new- 
modelled church, and of the sudden conversion of 
the hebrew Christians, this learned divine details 
the history with as much confidence as if he had 
been a contemporary witness: and for a confirma- 
tion of his account he appeals to the authority of 
Mosheini, concluding with that historian's severe 
and unwarrantable reflection upon Origen, that he 
was not to be believed even upon oathf. 

Never was any charge more completely refuted 
than this attack upon the character of Origen. Dr. 
Priestley, in reply \, first proves that Mosheim had 
not the least authority from antiquity to countenance 
his improbable assertion, that upon the destruction 
of Jerusalem by Adrian, " the greatest part of the 
" Christians, who lived in Palestine, entirely aban- 
" doned the IVIosaic rites :" he then shews that his 
learned opponent had pieced out this improbable 
story of Mosheim's, with certain curious circum- 
.stances of his oAvn invention, that were still more 
improbable : and lastly, he adduces the judgment 
of Tillemont and Fleury, in unison with the testi- 
mony of antiquity, that the church at Jerusalem, 
after the time of Adrian, consisted of gentile Chris- 
tians only. The archdeacon having likewise, with- 
out citing any authority whatever, charged Origen 
with having " defended the practice of using un- 
justifiable means to serve a good end," and with 

• Ibid. p. 6. t Ibid. p. S9—C2. 

t Letters to the Arc)ideacon of St. Albans", Letter 4. 



2S LliTlER III. 

having " employed the art he recommended*," ^i'- 
Priestley allows that Jerome, in a passage to which 
he refersf, says, that Origen adopted the Platonic 
doctrine of the subserviency of truth to utility, but 
denies that there is any evidence whatever of his 
having recourse to it. Dr. Priestley concludes his 
reply with the remark, that unless his reverend 
antagonist " could make a better apology for him- 
" self than he could suggest, he would be considered 
'■' by every iuipartial person as a fahijitr of history 
k' and a dcfa^ncr of the character of the dcad^ in. 
" order to serve his purpose X^ 

Thk archdeacon, in replyll, pleads " the necessity 
of helping out tlie broken accounts of the eccle- 
siastical history of those times by conjecture, in 
order to make out a consistent story," and as he 
might have added, one pertinent to the occasion ; 
and though he finds that Moshcim, upon whose 
authority lie rested, had carried him a little too far, 
he still continues, with more zeal than success, to 
.advocate the existence of an orthodox church of 
hebrew Christians at Jerusalem, after the time of 
Adrian, which had abandoned the law of IMoses. 
Apprehensive, however, that every reader might 
not approve of his method » of helping out a broken 
" story," and convinced that the foundations of his 
newly erected church at Jerusalem were not suf- 
ficiently firm to support the battery which he had 
erected against the impregnable character of Origen, 

' • Arclidtaeon or St. Albans" LeiUrs. p. 160. 
+ Eitist. ad Paiiimacli. Opp. V. I. p. 490. 

X Pritsilcys Lctttrs to the Aicliileaconof St. Albans' Letter, p. 4T. 
II Rtmarks upon Dr. PriestWj's Scconil Letters, p. 39. 



LETTER III. 29 

though this was the only ground from which the 
assault was originally made, this dexterous polemic 
artfully changes his position, and endeavours to make 
good his charge, by pretended self-contradictions 
produced from Origen's own writings. With what 
success, let the impartial reader judge. 

Origen, in his reply to Celsus*, who Avrotc 
against the Christians, under the assumed character 
of a Jew, says, " He v. ho pretends to know every 
" thing, does not know what belongs to the pro- 
" sopopoeia. For what does he say to the Jewish 
" believers ? That they have left the customs of 
" their ancestors, having been ridiculously deceived 
" by Jesus, and have gooe over to another name, 
" and another mode of life : not considering that 
" those Jews who have believed in Jesus, have not 
■•' deserted the customs of their ancestors ; for they 
" live according to them, having a name agreeing 
" with the poverty of their legal observances. For 
" the word Ebion, in the Jewish language, signifies 
" poor, and those of the Jews who believe Jesus to 
'* be the Christ are called Ebionites." 

Three pages afterv/ards Origen addsf, " How 
" confusedly does Celsus's Jew speak upon this sub- 
" ject, when he might have said more plausibly : 
" Some of you have relinquished the old customs, 
" upon pretence of expositions and allegories ; some 
" again, expoimding, as you call it, spiritually, never- 
•' theless observe the institutions of our ancestors. 

* Origt II contra Cclsiiiii, ji. 56. Dr. Piiestlcy's History of Early Opinions. 
r. iii p. 159. 
t Origen contiu Ctlsuni, ^i. 59. 



30 LETTER III. 

" But soTtie, not admitting these expositions, arc 
" willing to receive Jesus as the person foretold by 
" the prophets, and to observe the law of Moses 
" according to the ancient customs, as having in the 
" letter the whole meaning of the spirit*." 

All that the leamied father here maintains is, 
that as the hebrew Christians, in general, adhered 
to the Mosaic law, Celsus's Jew would have argued 
more plausibly., if he had charged only a part of 
them with having deserted the customs of their 
ancestors, while the majority remained attached to 
them. To discover inconsistency in these passages", 
and still more to detect in them any thing like wilful 
and deliberate falsehood, would puzzle a consistory 
of logicians. 

The archdeacon, h.owever, contends that Origen 
confesses, in contradiction to his former assertion, 
that "• he knew of three sorts of Jews professing 
" Christianity; one sort of whom had relinquished 
" the observance of the literal precept." And my 
worthy correspondentf, willing to co-operate with 
liis learned predecessor, in the generous design of 
iixing a stigma upon the character of this great man, 
and being no mean proficient in the useful art of 
helping out a bi'oken story, improves the slendey 
notices which antiquity supplies concerning the his- 
tory and character of Celsus ; first, by supposing that 
Celsus spent some part of his life in Syria ; next by 
asserting^ that he was unquestionably well acquainted 

• Archdeacon of St. Albans' Rrmaiks upon Dr. P. p. 26. To pi'ccludc 
objections, 1 have given Dr. Morslcj's tninslation of the passage from Or> 
^en. 

'• Letters, p. 104,, 105 



LETTER III. 31 

both with Judaism and Christianity, and with the 
persons who adhered to them : Further, not perceiv- 
ing the motive he could have for inA'enting the 
assertion, that the Jews who beUeved had abandoned 
the law of their fathers, he substitutes a fiction 
which would have better answered his purpose : and 
then, as if all these improbable and unauthorised 
assumptions had been established facts, he draws 
the peremptory conclusion : — " Celsus ivas there- 
" fore an early witness ; he had sufficient opporluni- 
" ties of information ; he could have no inducement 
" to falsehood in this instance ; he 7nust have been 
" a fool as well as a knave to have ventured upon 
" this untruth." Such a mode of reasoning may 
puzzle the ignorant, and mislead the unwary, but to 
the reflecting reader it I'equires no comment, and 
needs no reply. 

Presuming likewise upon the unproved assertion 
of Jerome, that Origen had adopted the principle 
of sacrificing truth to victory, my correspondent* 
first maintains that Origen, "though nothing could 
" have been, more easy than to have shev/n the 
" inconclusiveness of Celsus's argument," chose 
rather to reply to it by the assertion of a palpable 
untruth, thus preferring falsehood for falsehood's 
sake ; and then, that a few pages afterwards, as a 
" salvo to his own conscience," and " as a hint only 
" to the initiated reader," he '■^ f dainty contradicts" 
all that has been said : a supposition which would 
make this renowned advocate of the christian cause,. 

* Letters, p. ipt 



32 LETTER III. 

not only a liar unfit to be believed on oath, which 
is the aspersion of Mosheim and Dr. Horslcy, but 
chargeable with a degree of fatuity bordering upon 
idiocy, of which he was never suspected Ipefore*. 

The next passage which the archdeacon produces 
to impeach the veracity of Origcn, immediately 
succeeds what he had cited before. " How should 
" Celsus," he says, " make clear distinctions upon 
" this point, who, in the sequel of his Avork, mcn- 
" tions impious heresies altogether alienated from 
" Christ ; and others which have renounced the 
" Creator? and has not noticed (or kncAv not of) 
" Israelites believing in Jesus, and not relinquish- 
" ing the law of their fathers." In order to lidfi out 
his argument from this passage, the learned writer 
is obliged to conjecture that Celsus, professing to 
give u catalogue of heresies amongst Christians, is 
condemned by his opponent for neglecting to in- 

* Let 110 inadvertent reader, however, apprelR-ml that my worthy cor- 
respondent means any thing uncharitable to iliis venerable father and eon- 
lessor of the primitive church. Though Origen, accoi-ding to his account, 
was so addicted to Ijing, as to love it for its own sake, and to be undeserving 
of credit, even upon oath ; yet we are assured, p. 108, that " his mind was 
wortliy and generally upright.'" And I am pei-siiaded that my correspon- 
dent's Immility and candour would hesitate as much " in forming an opinion 
■' on the future state" ofOrigen, as of (hat great sinner. Dr. Priestley, upon 
whose critical case he gravely oliserves, p. 40, "What pixsumptuoiis mortal 
" would forbid the hope, tliat a most unexpected and monientous ehangc of 
" views and reliance miglit take place, in the few minutes ol'solemn niidita- 
" tion which immediately preceded his dissolution ?" — J-Aalttd charily! Ry 
parity of reason, we maj also hope that Origen himself might be converted 
in his last moments, and may now be a glorilied saint in heaven, though lie 
was a notor:ous liar all his life. Happy Calvinism ! which so liliemlly provides 
for the salvation of the elect, and which so easily finds liolh faith and i-ighte- 
ousnets for those who have so little of (heir own. Who would not wish this 
j^enerous system to be true.' Wlio will henceforth presume to pi-d)iuuncc it, 
she cxti-a>-iigance of enror^r a message of wrath ? 



1.ETTEH III. S3 

elude the Israelites who believed in Jesus, without 
laying aside the law of their ancestors. But as tliis 
conjecture is perfectly gratuitous, we are at liberty 
to regard the conclusion as equally such, though 
the learned writer, whose intrepidity in assertion 
seems to bear an inverse ratio to the cogency of 
his argument, concludes the paragraph with the re- 
petition of Mosheim's calumny, that he would not 
believe such a witness, even upon oath*. Dr. Priest- 
ley maintains, at least with equal plausibility, that 
" the most natural construction of the passage is, 
" that Origen says, " It is no wonder that Celsus 
" should be ignorant of what he was treating, when 
" he classed the Gnostics along with Christians, and 
" did not even know, that there were Israelites who 
" professed Christianity, and adhered to the laws of 
" Mosesf." 

The reverend dignitaryl further charges Origen 
with what he calls a strange instance of prevarica- 
tion in the first book of his Reply to Celsus||. The 
word Alma, he says, which the LXX have translated 
into the Trx^Saoii [a virgin,] but other interpreters 
into the yemm [a young woman] is put too, as they 
SAY, in Deuteronomy, for a virgin. Deut. xxii, 23, 
24. Where is the prevarication here ? In the first 
place, we are told, that the compiler of the Hexapla 
might have known, if he would, what the true read- 
ing was. — Agreed. — But, secondly, that Origen pro- 
bably did know, that the true reading was different 

« Archdeacon of St. Albans' Remarks, p. 27, 28. Bishop of St. David's 
Siippleniciital Disquisitions. Ko. 5. p. 483. 
+ Dr. Priestley's Letters to the Archdeacon, p. 13. 
\ Remarks p. 29. J Ori^eu cout. Celsum, p. 27, 



^* LETTEtt in. 

from Avhat he here insinuates it to have been. — 
Why ? — Because the word Mma is not found in any 
copies which are now extant : from which it is con- 
cluded, that it was not the reading of Drigen's copy, 
although that copy must have been many centuries 
older than any which we possess*. How slender a 
foundation upon which to form an attack upon so 
fair and venerable a character ; and yet, so confident 
is the learned writer in his conclusion, that he again 
declares, he would not credit such a testimony even 
upon oath. 

This is all the evidence produced by the now 
right reverend antagonist of Dr. Priestley, in sup- 
port of his attack upon the character of one of the 
most learned and I'espectable of the ancient eccle- 
siastical writers; how far he has made good his 
charge, and exculpated himself from the counter- 
accusation of Dr. Priestley, as a falsifier of history, 
and a defamer of the dead, must be left to the de- 
cision of the reader. But if the question which 
my correspondent puts in his usual flourishing and 
triumphant manner f, should still be proposed ; 
" Will it be again said, that Dr. Horsley's stric- 
" tures are a groundless and unqualified attack upoiv 
" the veracity of that celebrated father?" I answer, 
without hesitation, Yes. It will be said by every 
honest, candid, and unprejudiced person, who is 
qualified to form a judgment in the case. 

My correspondent adds, " You further argue 
•' from the assumption, that his character was 

* DisquMiious, p. 4S5. t U Iters, p. 108. 



LETTER ill. 35 

*" /never before impeached. Never before impeach- 
« eel ! My dear Sir, your own references would in- 
" form you that Dr. Horsley had only trod in the 
" steps of Mosheim*." Now, Sir, to tell the truth, 
my references did inform me amply upon this head. 
Nor did I ever argue from the date, but from the 
falsehood of the charge against Origen ; nor do the 
words alluded to contain any argument at all, but 
: simply a general observation, equally applicable to 
Mosheim, who first called this venerable father a 
wilful liar, and to Dr. Horsley, who is the first chris- 
tian bishop upon i-ecord that has represented the 
majority of believers as idiots. My words are these : 
" There is an end of all reasoning from the testi- 
" mony of ancient writers, if, when a disputant is 
'' pressed by authorities which he cannot impugn, 
" he is at liberty to represent men, whose charac- 
" ters were never before impeached, as idiots and 
••' liars." After all, the use of language would bear 
me out in the expression, that Origen's character 
was never before impeached ; when the fact is, that 
it had stood the test of fifteen centuries, and that no 
aspersion had been cast upon it, till within the last 
fifty years. 

But it seems I am to be overwhelmed with the 
authority of Jerome, who, in a passage to which 
Dr. Priestley refersf, and which my correspondent 
cites pretty much at large, says, \Miat ! — That 
Origen is a wilful liar, not to be believed upon his 
oath ? — No such thing — But " that Origen had 

• Lcttors, p. 106. t Il"id, 107, 



36 LETTER in. 

" adopted the Platonic doctrine of the subserviency 
" of truth to utility :" and thut he and others "hav- 
" ing written many thousand lines against Celsus 
" and Porphyry, because they are sometimes forced 
" to it in answer to the objections of the heathen, 
" they say, not what they think, but what the case 
" requires." Now, it is a possible case that this 
holy father, who avows and justifies the pious prac- 
tice of lying for the truth, might think that his own 
case required the sanction of Origen's great name 
and example ; and might choose upon this occasion 
to say, not what he thought, but whatrhe wished 
others to think. And is the fair character of Ori- 
gen to be blasted by such an imputation as this ? an 
imputation unsupported even by the pretence of 
pi'oof ? No, no. Dr. Priestley's learned antagonist 
was too wary to appeal to such authority, even when 
it was suggested to him. And they who can give 
credit in such a case, to such evidence, must, to say 
the least, be very willing believers*. 

« My worthy con-cspondent, p. 105, desires nic to " rcroHirt tliat Dr. 
" Priestley himself, on the aiitlioritj- of Jerome, admits that Origen ndnptcd 
'' the Platonic doctrine of the siibservit.n( y of tnilli to utility, as with ix-sptct 
'• to dect;iving enemies." etc. But this iiiptnious gentleman's mm iffirencen 
itfoiild infonn f)h», that Dr. Priestley fi(huils no such thing. He only men- 
tions, Lett, part ii. j). 46. that Jerome, in his Episllo to Pammachius. Opera. 
V. i. p. 49fi, says, that Origen adoi>tcd this doctrine ; which, surely, is vei-j- far 
from admitting it as a fact, though he might reason upon it as a supposition. 
My correspondent is vciy severe upon Dr. Priistley, for adding, in his Lcttc r 
to Dr. HorsUy, "Jerome was far from spying, that Oiigcn reduced his theoi-j 
" to practice; he mentions no instance whatever of his having recoui-se to it."* 
Dr. Priestley's mistake, if any, is very inmialcrial ; Jerome does in genc- 
i-al terms allege the fact, with ivspecf to Origen, as well as others: bui 
he produces no specific proof whatever. M) coiTtspondent can account for 
tlus inadvertence " in no other way, than bj' supposing that the Dr. some- 
•' linns borrowed references, and in the haste of writing, did mU interrupt 



LEriEU HI. o7 

But at any rate, does not Jerome's allegation 
prove that " Mosheim was not the first to impeach 
" the character of Origenr" I answer, that bare 
assertion, unsupported by evidence, is not to im- 
peach, but to calumniate ; and in this honourable 
distinction, Jerome may, perhaps, be allowed to 
take the precedence of Mosheim. At the same 
time, it must be remembered, that the good father 
professes to mention the cii'cumstance to Origen's 
praise ; a plea, which will at least acquit him from 
the malignity of the charge. 

As to the celebrated passage from Tertullian, 1 
am willing to leave it to the judgment of the im- 
partial and well-informed reader, with all the liberal 
expositions of Dr. Horsley,* " the candid and 
" learned investigation of Dr. Jamieson," and the 
authoritative judgment of my correspondent upon its 
head, w ithout any apprehension of its being misun- 
derstood by any, who are not interested to maintain 
that black is ivhite. Words have no meaning, if 
Tei'tuUian does not aver, that the majority of un- 
learned Christians were adverse to the then novel, 
and philosophical notion, of a Trinity in the gotlhead. 
As my learned correspondent has pronounced Dr. 
Priestley's translation of the passage to be maecurate 
and viutUated], but has, at the same time, prudently 
abstained from giving us a complete and correct trans- 

" liinisclfto examine them." Tliis et-nsiire oomes witli an ill pracc fi-om a 
gentleman, wlio, with respect to tliis veiy passiif^c, lias, in the liaslc nf -iirit- 
/n^, coinmittc-il an error wliich completely misnpresents tlie sense of liis 
autlior. But evei-j- mote is ma^iified ir.to a beam, if it is seen iu the cyi of 
Dr. Priestley. 
* lA;tters,p. 110. t Letlei-s, p. 112 

4 



38 LKTTER in. 

lation of his own ; I shall make up for this defect, 
by giving it in the translation of Bishop Horsley*, 
who will, I suppose, be allowed to be as competent 
a judge of the construction of Greek, as Dr. Jamie- 
son, and certainly not too partial to the sentiments 
of Dr. Priestley. It may be proper to premise, 
that the word idiots., should have been rendered 
illiterate^. 

" Simple persons," says Tertullian, " (not to call 
" them ignorant and idiots) who always make the 

* Letters in Reply to Dr. Priestley, p. 74. 

+ Jly worthy torrespontlcnt, wlio, by his numcrouj quotations from tlie 
classical Avriters, seems desirous of being understood to heprtfty much at home 
in classical literature, expresses high gratification that Dr. Priestley, though 
only a dissenting minister, was able to detect Bishop Horsley's gross mis- 
translation of the woitl idiota. His words arc, (Letters, p. 109,) " It nmst be 
" gratifying to mc, to see the mighty Oxonian chastised for this school-boy 
" trick l)y a dissenting minister." That dissenting mitiisters may not, how- 
ever, be too much elated by tlie reputation of so transcendent an exploit, 
performed bj- one of their number, the auOior adds the following extraoitli- 
nar>' remark : " Yet, I would be exceedingly modei-ate in my exultation ; for 
" I fear there are aXmon physical hn/wssibilitics to forbid the hope tliat, as a 
'• body, we shall ever be distinguished for classical learning." AVhat there 
is in the physical constitution of dissenting ministers, which renders their 
brains inaccessible to classical ideas, the ingenious author has not con- 
descended to explain. In the mean time, I woidd take leave to inform him 
for his comfort, that in the circle with which I ha\e the happiness to be 
conversant, classical litii-ature was never in hisjlier repute, cither among 
tile dissf-iitiiig cUrg)" or laity. And that it would not be difficult to men- 
tion the names of Protestant dissenting ministers, who yield in extent, 
copiousness, and accuracy of classical erudition, to none but the Parrs, the 
Poisons, and the Bunieys of the establishment. The name of Mr. Cogan. 
amongst many others, is well known to scholai-s, and was highly eslimateil 
by that eminently compt tent judge of talent and learning, the late cele- 
brated Gilbert Wakefield. Aud while that gentleman, and olhei-s in dil- 
fereiit parts of the kingdom, continue to exert their suptrior talents and 
energies in tha education of our youth, there is no danger that classical 
literature will be lost or undervalued among the Dissenters, or that any 
pretended physical impossibilities will prevent a succession of elegant and 
accomplished scholars to do honour to a cause, most ultimately connected 
with our dearest civil rights, and religious liberties. 



LETTEU III. o9 

" majority of believers ; because the rule of faith 
" itself carries us aAvay from the many gods of the 
" heathen to the one true God, not understanding 
" that one God is indeed to be believed, but with 
" an oeconomy (or arrangement) of the godhead ; 
" startle at the (economy , They take it for granttdy 
" that the number and disposition of the Trinity is a 
" division of the Unity. They fire tend that two, and 
" even three ai'e preached by us, and imagine that 
" they thejnselves are tvorshipjiers of one God. We, 
" they say, hold the monarchy. Latins have caught 
" up the word monarchia. Greeks will not under- 
" stand oeconomia." 

I now conclude, in the words of my correspon- 
dent: Such then is the complete victory of 
Dr. Priestley, 

t And am. Sir, See. 



l.ETTER IN 



Cliai-g-c or inadvertency ami grass niisrepi-esentaton iviiellcct -—Prop-ess of 
(.-rror conet-niin^ the person of Christ stated.-- Misrepresentation of Dr. 
Priestley's seuliments cori-ecttU. 



Understand first, and then rebuke," is tlie 
advice of a very wise writer*, to which my worthy 
correspondent would have done well to have attend- 
ed. It is not necessary that every man should be a 
consummate scholar, or a profound theologian : but 
it may reasonably be expected of one who publicly 
volunteers the office of a critic, and a censor, that 
he should at least know something- of the subject 
of his remarks. 

In the Discourse upon which this gentleman 
unimadvertst, is the following passage : 

" In another most valuable work, he (Dr. Priest- 
'» ley) represented at large, with great compass of 
" thought, acuteness of discrimination, and extent of 
" learning, the rise and progress of those enormous 
""errors, which have prevailed from age to age, 
" concerning the person of Christ, who from the 

* Ecclus. xi. 7. 

t Fivieral Diseoui-se for Dr. Pi ieslky, p. 28. 



J.ETTEK IV. 41 

" condition of a man approved of God by signs and 
" miracles and gifts of the holy spirit*, which is 
" the character under which he is represented by 
" himself and his apostles, has been advanced by 
" the officious zeal of his mistaken followers, first, 
" to the state of an angelic or superangelic being ; 
" a delegated maker and governor of the world and 
" its inhabitants ; and in the end, to a complete 
" equality with God himself." 

This compendious view of the progress of anti- 
christian error concerning the person of Christ, 
as described in the History of Early Opinions, is 
denounced by my correspondent in the beginning 

• Upon this allusion to Acts ii. 22, my corrcspondont, p. 116, is pleased 
to make the I'ollowiiig sins'ilar reinarU — ^^How is this mhiimkr^tood passage 
'^hackneyed by Unitarians !" The apostU-'s words are tliese: "Jesus of 
" Nazareth, a MAN approvi-d of God anionjj you, l>y miracles, and wonders, 
" and sigTis, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also 
" know." How this plain passage can possibly be inisundei-siood , I am at a 
loss to conceive. 'I'he ob\ious meaning to common apprel)en^iolls is, that 
Tesus of Nazarctli was a MAN whose divine mission was publicly and incon- 
irovertibly attested to the Jews, by the miracles which God enabled him to 
perform. If, indeed, this text contains any other more recondite and im- 
portant sense, it would siu-ely have been greater charity to instruct our 
igaorauce, than. to taunt our didlness. Perhaps uiy ingenious cori-espondeut 
may have some inetliod ot'interpii-'tatlon, by w liicli fo shew that the apostle's 
true meaning is, that the man whose mission was publicly attested by God, 
Wiis himstlfthe very God who attested his own mission, and who enabled 
himself to work miracles. At any rate, it would be kind and condescending 
to enlijfhten our darkness ii|)on a subject so much misundeistoud. In the 
mean time, while nolions unscriptin-al, antichristian, and subversive of true 
and rational piety, continue to l)e incessaiitlj' hnchiifytjct as the doctrines of 
the gospel, the Unitarians will not fail (ui the decent phraseolog) of my 
con-espondent) to luiikiiry the scriptm-es in ojjposilinn to them ; and wliethei- 
the r.ea lots for popular opiniims approve it or no, the) will pti-severe to 
demonstrate, without fi ar o( afutation, that sucli doctr'nes are as itpugi-.anc 
to the explicit language of the New Testament, and to the faith of t!je piinii- 
eive ch'irch, as they are contradictory to coniinou sense,, and to the tint 
pnuciples of natural religion, 

4* 



42 LETTER IV. 

of his eighth Letter, as a " singular inaccuracy of 
" statement," originating, is he charitably conceives, 
in " fierfect inadvertency on my part*." And wax- 
ing bolder as he advances, he peremptorily affirms 
that this account " is the precise reverse of acknow- 
" ledged fact." " In the very work," continues he, 
" which you are characterising, Dr. Priestley esta- 
" blishes the direct contrary." Proceeding then 
with great parade to produce his strong reasons, the 
validity of which will be the subject of immediate 
inquiiy, he triumphantly concludes : " Words could 
" hardly be devised more fully contradictory to your 
" inadvertent, though plausible observationf." In 
addition to which, not having the fear of Dr. Priest- 
ley's book before his eyes, he confidently hazards 
the extraordinary assertion, that " according to Dr. 
" Priestley, the very first step of deviation from the 
" simple humanity of Christ, was the ascription to 
*' him of a nature truly and properly divine :t." 

Unfoutunately for this gentleman's theologi- 
cal reputation, he has in this instance, as in most 
uthcrs, sung Te Dcum before the victory. For in 
order to convict me of the heavy charge of " per- 
" feet inadvertency," and of asserting " the precise 
reverse of acknowledged facts," my well-meaning 
correspondent, whose zeal not unfrequently out- 
strips his information, has assumed principles which 
are notoriously erroneous, has alleged arguments 
which are totally irrelevant, and has confounded 

♦ Li ttii-s to Mj-. D. p. llfi. ■•■ l.iU( IS. p. in. t Ltttfvs, Ilii'J. 



LETTER IV. 4>> 

distinctions, which are plain and palpable, to every 
one who is conversant with ecclesiastical antiquity*. 

The basis of this gentleman's argviment, without 
which the whole pompous superstructure falls to 
the ground, is the extraordinary assumption, " that 
the notion of the Logos, or the superior nature of 
" Jesus Christ, pre-existing as an angelic or super- 
" angelic being, is the distinguishing feature of the 
■•' Arian hypothesisf." 

This position being premised, the author further 
presumes, without the shadow of reason, and con- 
trary to fact, that I could have no hypothesis but 
Arianism in view : and having produced from Dr. 
Priestley's History of Early Opinions a collection of 
passages to prove, what I am not at all inclined to 
dispute, that Arianism was a novel doctrine, un- 
known to the church before the age of Arius, and 
that it was not " an intermediate stage by which 
" the comiTion people who were Unitarians were 
" brought to the Trinitarian doctrine ;" he plumes 
himself upon having established his charge, and 
with great self-complacency proclaims his triumph. 

But with this gentleman's good leave, I must 
demur, both to his premises and to his conclusion. 
I am as little satisfied with his arbitrary definition 
of Arianism here, as with his unauthorized detail 
of Calvinism in a former letter. I deny that the 

• My correspondent confounds the tenets of the Gnostics with those of 
the Arians. Indeed his arjjmuont rests upon the strange supx>osition that 
no other distinctions subsisted in the primitive aj^es, but those of Unita- 
rianism, Arianism, and Trinitarian ism, a supposition than which nothing 
tan be more remote from truth. 

t Letters to Mr. B. p. 118. 



44 



LETTER JV. 



notion of the superior nature of Christ, pre-existing 
as an angelic or superangelic being, is the dis- 
tinguishing feature of the Arian hypothesis*. I 
affirm that this is a position which would never have 
been advanced by any one, Avho was moderately 
acquainted with the state of theological doctrine in 
the primitive ages. I contend that this opinion was 
introduced two hundred years before Arianism was 
heard of. And after a mature revision of the sub- 
ject, I persist in asserting the accuracy and fidelity 
of that statement, which my correspondent has 
attacked ; in confirmation of which, I shall now 
proceed briefly to represent the progress of errone- 
ous opinions, concerning the person of Christ in 
the four first centuries of the christian sera. 

That the founder of the christian faith should 
be only a crucified Jew, has ever been, still is, and 
will, I fear, long continue to be, the great stumbling- 
block of the christian religion. It was eminently 
such in the earliest periods of the promulgation of 
the gospel. The philosophers who could not resist 
the evidence of its divine authority, could not, on 
the other hand, endure the disgrace of being called 
'iSn nap Ebde Tolvi, the followers of the man that 
was hanged: and to escape the reproach of the 
cross, they soon began to combine the plain and 
simple truths of the gospel, with the obscure fic- 

• In fruUi, l)ie notion staitd by my corn spondt nt. Is nO' feature of 
Arianism at all. For tin- Arian iloclriiie inaMitains that tlie Logos is the 
soul whitli aiiimatis tlic boiiy of Christ: nor is this hypntlusis enciiiiibtn'd 
with the iiiiiiitelli)^l)If jar^n of two natuns in Christ : the one siipiiior, 
ihf other inferior; the one a prctxistent suiKTangelic spirit, tlie other a 
luimnn sou). 



LETTER IV. 45 

lions of their respective systems ; that so they might 
impart that dignity and lustre to this new sect, and 
to its chief, which they thought essentially requisite 
both to his credit and their own. 

Of these, the Gnostics set the first example : a 
sect which unquestionably existed in the apostolic 
age, and of which Simon Magus was the reputed 
founder. The Gnostics were the professors of the 
oriental philosophy, according to which, the pleroma, 
or place where the Supreme Being i-esided, was 
inhabited by iEons, or emanations from him* ; some 
of superior, others of inferior order, according to the 
degrees of their descent. Matter was regarded by 
them as intrinsically evil ; and the source of all evil, 
natural and moral. These philosophers represented 
Christ as one of the iEons, who was sent from the 
pleroma, to deliver mankind from the tyranny of the 
God of the Jews. All of them maintained, that the 
Christ was incapable of suffering. Some taught, 
that the Christ was united to the man Jesus at his 
baptism, and departed from him at his crucifixion. 
Others, more consistently with their principles, hold- 
ing it to be impossible that a substance intrinsically 
evil, such as matter, should be united to an angelic 
or superangelic spirit, contended that Jesus was a 
man only in appearance ; and that he neither felt, 

• " The ^vfat Iwast of llie Cinoslics," says Dr. Priestley, was thiir pro- 
" fuutul anil intricate doctrine concerning the derivation of various intelli- 
" gencos from the supreme niiiul, which tliey tliought to be done by emana- 
" tion or efllux." H.st. of Opinions, vol. i. p. 154. Valenlinus held, with 
itspect to the superangelic nature of Clu-ist, that he was one of the Mom ; 
and according to his genealogy, Christ and the Holy Spirit were the offspring 
of Monogeiies, which came from Logos and Zoe, as these were the oftspring 
of Noils and Veritas, ami these of Bylhus aud Sige. Ibid. p. 179. 



46 LETTER IV. 

nor suffered, like other men, but only seemed to do 
so. These were called Docetae. This was the 
heresy of the apostolic age*. The apostle Paul 
alludes to it, when he cautions Timothy against the 
illusions of science, falsely so calledf : for the Gnos- 
tics pretended to superior knowledge : and when he 
warns him not to give heed to endless genealogies |, 
there being great disputes among the Gnostics con- 
cerning the pedigrees of the ^ons. The apostle 
John certainly refers to the Docetae, when he repre- 
sents those as Antichrists, who deny that Jesus is 
the Christy, or that Jesus Christ is come in the 
fleshU, or in other words, that he is a real man. 
The Gnostic heresy appears to have been silenced 
by the authority of the apostles, till the time of the 
Emperor Adrian, when it burst out again with in- 
creased violence, was embraced by luultitudes in 
Asia and Egypt, and was split into a great variety 
of subordinate sects**. 

Platonism was the fashionable philosophy of the 
West. Plato had obscurely taught the doctrine of 
three principlesft- The Supreme Being, whom 

* Jerome says, that while the apostles were still living, and when the 
blood of Christ was scarcely told in Judea, there were men who taught that 
his body was no more than a phantom. Lardner's Works, v. iii. p. 542. 
Cotelerius says, that a man may as well dt-ny that the sun gives light ai 
noon, as deny that the lieivsy of the Docetae broke out in the age of the 
apostles. Laitlner ibid. Cotelerius ad Ignat. cp. ad Trail, c. 10. 

t 1 Tim. vi. 20. J 1 Tim. i. 3. Tit. iii. 0. 

II 1 John ii. 22. H 1 John iv. 2, 3. 2 John 7. 

•• See Dr. Priestley's Hist, of Early Opinions, vol. i. book i. chap. i. — v.. 
Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. cent. i. part ii. chap. v. Cent. ii. pait ii. chap. v. Lanl- 
ner's Hist, of Heretics, book i. sect. vi. p. IS. Lartlucr's Works, vol. ix. p. 
233, etc. Vol. iii. p. 541, 542. 

tt Dr. Priestley, ibid, book i. chap. vi. vol. i. p. 320. 



LETTER IV. 47 

he calls the Good ; the Nous, or intellect of the 
Supreme ; and Matter, or the visible world. The 
latter Platonists expounded and improved upon the 
hypothesis of their founder. Porphyry, explaining 
the doctrine of Plato, extends the divine essence to 
three hypostases: the first is the Supreme Being or 
the Good ; the second, the Demiurgus, the Maker 
of the world ; and the third, the Soul of the world*. 
Philo, a platonic Jew of Alexandria, contemporary 
with the apostles, personifies the Nous, or as he 
calls it the Logos, the wisdom or energy of God, 
and represents it as the visible symbol of the divine 
presence ; sometimes appearing in the form of an 
angel, sometimes in that of a man, acting as the 
medium of divine communications, but having no 
permanent separate existence!. This notion was 
eai'ly adopted by some philosophic Christians, in 
order to abate the odium which was entailed upon 
the christian religion, in consequence of the mean 
condition and ignominious sufferings of its founder. 
Justin Martyr, a platonic philosopher, a man 
of great integrity, but of warm feelings, and of 
slender judgment, who embraced Christianity, and 
who suffered martyrdom about A. D. 165, is the 
first ecclesiastical writer, now extant, who repre- 
sents the Logos, or the wisdom of God, as person- 
ally united to the man Christ. Others before him 
had probably held the same doctrine, but had sup- 
posed that the Logos, after the ascension of Christ, 
had been again absorbed into the substance of the 

• Dr. Priestley, ibid book i. chap. vii. sect. i. vol.i. p. 35fi. Vol. ii. p. 41. 
t Dr. Prieit!ey, ibid, biiok i. chap. vjli. vol. ii. p. 1. 



48 



LETTKR IV. 



Father. Justin appears to have been the first writer 
who taught the permanent personality of the divine 
Logos*, which he asserts that he had learned from 
the Jewish scriptures ; for the understanding of 
which, he professes lo have had a special gift from 
Godf. And his great authority, together with the 
increasing desire of exalting the person and dignity 
of Christ, induced the learned Christians who suc- 
ceeded him to adopt his opinion |^. Thus the doc- 
trine of the permanent personal union of the divine 
Logos, with the man Christ, by which he became 
entitled to divine attributes and honours, gradually 
made its way among learned Christians in the 
second and third centuries : and this was the doc- 
trine from which the minds of the great body of 
unlearned believers so vehemently revolted in the 
time of Tcrtullianll, and against which they solemn- 
ly protested, as a direct infringement of the divine 
unity. Nevertheless, as it was an essential part of 
this system, that the Logos which dwelt in Christ 
was merely an attribute of the Father, the abettors 
of it regarded themselves as sufficiently supporting 
the unity of the godhead, by maintaining that the 
divine nature of Christ was the same with that of 
the Father. He was not a God different from the 

• Priestley's Histoi-)- of Eailj- 0|)iiiioiis, hooli ii. ciiap. ii. sect. ii. vol. ii. 
p. 53. 

•f- See tlio venerable Mr. I.inclspy's Second Address to tl;e Yoiiili of tlie 
two Uiiivevsiiies, chap. ii. sect. xiv. — ^xvii. 

t Mr. Lindsey, ibid. sect, xviii. — \xi. Aiignsliiie says, tbat lie rcpirdcd 
Christ only as a man of excellent and incompai-able wisdom, till lie read tlic 
works of Plato. Confess, lib. vii. I*rdner's Worlis, vol. iii. p. 5a\. 

P See p. 48. 



LETTER IV. 49 

I'ather, and equal to him, hut was an cnianalion 
from him, and one with liim. 

The commencement of the fourth century usher- 
ed in a novel doctrine, which astonished and alarmed 
tlie whole christian world, and which the pious 
bishop of Alexandria, in his circular letter to the 
catholic bishops, declares so far to exceed in im- 
piety, every thing which has been heard of before, 
that in comparison with it, the most daring ex- 
travagancies of all former heresies were perfectly 
innocent*. This was Arianismf. T\\g fihilo.sop/iising 
prelate to whom I have just alluded, and whose 
name was Alexander:}^, having upon a certain occa- 
sion asserted the doctrine of a Unity in the Trinity 
in a stricter sense than some of his inferior clergy- 
approved, was accused by Arius, one of his presby- 
ters, a man of learning and subtlety, of favouring 
the Sabejlian heresy. And in the heat of argument, 
this rebellious priest presumed to advance the 
hitherto unheard-of position, that the Logos who 
animated the body of Christ was a m.ere creature, 
formed (f| ovk ofim) out of nothing : that there was 
a time when he had no existence : (o7< j;v ttoIi, ele enx. 
•/)v) and in fine, " that he was Iirought into being for 
" no purpose, but to give existence to the world 

» Soerntes, Hisf. Etcl. lili. i. <liii|). vi. p. 13 liii. 21. Kd. lUnilln^. 

+ Thf cliai-acui-istic «li''tii:ctioii of An;ii;ism is iln- iloetiiiie of a crenrcii 
Lof^is. Tliis was a liypoOit sis pci-T ctly new. iiiscl « hii-li excited llie utmost 
clarm. The Riioslic M >iis, and liit- plaloaif Loiifos, wcri.' t^niniintioiis, not oriM- 
niVfS. He lliat is i.ot apprz d of tliisp disiiiicimis, and of the inniortiince 
attached to iliem, Is loially i|;nMiraiii of lJn siil ji cl. 

I Socrafis ibid. c. 5. <i>tXo:ro(bu¥ e6-0>«>'/ei, h the hi.toiiairs ( \pivs- 
»*>ii i-drifLTii npr the orthodox pivlatc 



50 LETTER IV. 

" and its inhabitants ; so that if God had not chosen 
" that tJie world should be made, the Logos him- 
" self would not have existed*." Notwithstanding 
the novelty of this doctrine, and its contrariety to 
the orthodox creed, it spread with great rapidity, 
and was embraced by multitudes with great eager- 
ness, till the Emperor Constantine, having in vain 
endeavoured, by prudent mediation to reconcile the 
angry priests, summoned a general council of chris- 
tian bishops at Nice, to settle the controversy ; 
who, after much debate, at length decided, that the 
Son was of the same essencef with the Father, and 
denounced anathema upon all who should presume 
to teach, that his essence was | different from that 
of God. 

In the heat of controversy with the Arians, the 
orthodox by degrees lost sight of their original doc- 
trine of the personification of an attribute, and began 
to represent the Son as a distinct intelligent Being, 
derived indeed from the Father by necessary gene- 
ration, but in all other respects equal with him, and 
only united to him as partaking of the same divine 
.nature. To these divine persons, in due time, was 
added a third, called the Holy Ghost, derived by 
procession from the Father only, according to the 
Greek church : but the Latins have decided, that he 

• Socnitisiliid. c. 6. A; >)|M,*« y«f TTSTrotipxi, iy» >)/«.«? oi xvla, 

0:05 r,$eXiV TFOH/tTXl. 

t 0,M.«»s-/«5. 

% E| (le^xi; aricci tpxriciUxi eivxi. Soci-ates Uml. c. 8. p. 2». 
RcadUig. 



LETTER IV. 51 

proceeds from the Father and the Son. At length, 
about a century after the council of Nice, the ortho- 
dox faith Avas finally settled, and the respective 
claims of the three supposed divine persons were 
finally adjusted in that paragon of ingenuity, ab- 
surdity, and impiety, the Creed falsely ascribed to 
St. Athanasius, but which is attributed by many 
learned men, with more probability, to ^"igiiius 
Tapsensis, a notorious writer and forger of ancient 
writings, and records, in the fifth century*. It is 
from this symbol, and not from that of the Nicene 
fathers, who would have been shocked at the novelty 
and blasphemy of the doctrine, that we learn that 
" in this Trinity, none is afore or after the other ; 
" none is gi'eater or less than another ; but the whole 
" three persons are co-eternal together, and co- 

" EQUAL." 

From this brief review of the rise and progress 
of anti-christian errors, concerning the person of 
Christ, I conceive that it will appear to every com- 
petent and impartial judge, that notwithstanding the 
late I'ise of Arianism, the date of what now passes 
for orthodox Trinitarianism is still later: and that 
I was perfectly correct in the assertion, that " from 
" the condition of a man approved of God," which is 
the doctrine of the New Testament, " our Lord has 
" been advanced by the officious zeal of his mistaken 
" followers, first to the state of an angelic or supcr- 
" angelic Being," which was the error of the Gnos- 

• He is supposed to liavt- bei-n tin; iiitcrpolater of the notor'ous lest 
i-elat'n^ to tlie t'irce Ueavcnly witiiesse*. 1 John v. T. Stt Griesbath on 
ihe Tr\t. 



^■i LETTER ly. 

tics ; " then to that of a delegated Maker and Go- 
'' vemor of the world and its inhabitants," which 
was the opinion of Platonists and Arians ; " and in 
" the end to a complete equality with God himself," 
which is the doctrine of the Athanasian Creed, and 
which was not known till the latter end of the 
fourth century. I cannot therefore plead guilty to 
the charge of having affirmed, that which is " the 
" precise reverse of acknowledged fact." But, on 
the contrary, if I were disposed to retaliate, it would 
not be difficult to make good the indictment against, 
the accuser him.self. 

I SHALL now proceed to shew, from Dr. Priestley's 
own words, how very agreeable to " acknowledged 
'' fact'' is my correspondent's confident assertion, 
" that," according to Dr. Priestley, " the -very first 
" ftteji of deviation fiom the simple humanity of 
•' Christ, was the ascription to him of a nature truly 
'' and properly divine*.' 

i'othis purpose I might transcribe the whole four 
volumes of Dr. Priestley's History of Early Opi- 
nions concerning Christ. I might add a very fair 
proportion of his account of the Corruptions of 
C'hribtianity. I might subjoin no inconsiderable 
part of his controversy with Dr. Ilorsley, and might 
bring up the rear with a A"olume .or two of his 
Ecclesiastical History. But as all this could not 
easily be contained in the compass of a Letter, I 
will limit myself to a few extracts from the con- 
clusion of the first-mentioned work, in which the 

♦ Ltttci'sto Mr. B. p.VlO. 



UETTEU IV. 53 

learned writer professes to give a connected view of 
all the principal articles in the preceding Histoiy. 

" All that these philosophers could advance at 
'■^Jirst" says Dr. Priestley, " was, that some great 
" superangelic spirit had been sent down from hca- 
" ven, and was attached to the man Jesus — tliis 
" superangelic Being was properly the Christ. This 
" was the doctrine of the earlier Gnostics*. 

" Bur as it had been the opinion of many, that 
" angels were only temporary and unsubslanlial 
" forms — others of these philosophers thought, that 
" what was called the man Jesus, was nothing 
" more than one of these unsubstantial forms of 
" men ; so that the superangelic spirit or the Christ 
" had no proper body or soul at all. These were 
" called Doceta; ; a7id this progress /lad been made in 
" the time of the ajiostles^." 

" Having been taught by the plalonic philoso- 
" phers that there were three great principles in 
" nature, viz. the Supreme Being or the Good, 
" his Mind (Nous), and the Soul of the world : and 
" the Jewish philosophers having already advanced, 
" that the second of these principles, which they 
" denominated Logos, was an emanation from the 
" Supreme Being, and the cause of all the appear- 
" ances of God, recorded in the C;kl Testament, 
" some of uhich were in the form of men ; and 
" having also taught that it was this Logos that, by 
" order of the Supreme Being, had made the visible 
" world, that he was the image of God, his only 

* Dr. rWi.stU-\ "i Hist, ol" Karly Oiiin'.or.s, vol. iv. p. 276. 
t Ibid. p. 276, 277. 



54 LETTER IV'. 

" begotten Son, and that he was even entitled to the 
" appellation of God in an inferior sense of the 
" word : these christian philosophers imagined that 
" it was this Logos that was united to the man Jesus 
" Christ, and that on this account he might be called 
« God*. 

" For some tiine, however, the more learned 
" Christians contented themselves with supposing, 
" that the union between this divine Logos and the 
" man Christ Jesus was only temporary. For they 
" held this divine efflux, which, like a beam of light 
" from the sun, went out from God, and was attach- 
" ed to the person of Christ, to enable him to work 
" miracles while he was on earth, was drawn into 
" God again when he ascended into heaven, a'M had 
" no more occasion to exert a miraculous powerf. 

" It was afternvards maintained, and Justin Mar- 
'< tyr, who had been a platonic philosopher, was per- 
" haps the first who suggested the idea, that this 
" union of the Logos to the person of Christ was 
*' not temporary, but permanent |. 

" The philosophical Christians acknowledged, that 
" though Christ, on account of the divine Logos 
" luiited to him, might be called God, it was in an 
" inferior sense : also that the divinity, and even the 
" being of the Son, was derived from the Father|). 

" As it had always been maintained by the pla- 
"• ionizing Christians, that the Logos came out of 
" God, just before the creation of the world, and 
" consequently, that there had been a time when 

♦ Dr. Priestley's Hist, of Early Opinions, vol. iv. p. 27S. 

t Uiid. p. 27?. % Ibid. J>. £P0. ^ Ibid. p. IBI 



LETTER IV. 55 

" God was alone, and the Son was not; and as they 
" had always held that when the Son was produced, 
" he was greatly mferior to the Father, t/icTe arose 
" some who said, that he ought to be considered as 
" a mere creature, not derived from the substance 
*' of God, but created out of nothing, as other crea- 
" tures were. These, who were the Arians, consi- 
" dering the Logos as being the intelligent principle 
" in Christ, thought that there was no occasion to 
" suppose that he had any other soul. They there- 
" fore said that Christ was a superangelic Being, 
" united to a human body ; that though he himself 
" was created, he was the Creator of all things under 
" God, and the instrument of all the divine com- 
" munications to the patriarchs*. 

" In opposition to the Arians, the orthodox main- 
" tained the Logos must be of the same substance 
" with the Father, and co-eternal with himf. 

" From this ti?ne, i. e. the time of the council of 
" Nice, those who had distinguished themselves the 
" most by their defence of the doctrine of the con- 
" substantiality of the Son with the Father, did like- 
" wise maintain both the proper personality of the 
" Holy Spirit, and also his consubstantiality with 
" the Father and the Son. This doctrine of the 
" consubstantiality of the three divine persons, soon 
" led to that of their perfect equality with respect 
" to all divine perfections ; and this completed the 
" scheme. According to it, though there is but 
" one God, there are three divine persons, each of 

• Dr. Priestley's Hist, of Early Opinions, p. 282,283. 
t Ibid. p. 283. 



56 tEl'TER IV. 

" which, separately taken, is perfect God, though 
" all together make no more than one perfect God : 
" a proposition not only repugnant to the plainest 
" principles of common sense, but altogether un- 
" known before the council of J\'tce^ as is acknow- 
" ledged by many learned Trinitarians*." 

I SHALL add one paragraph more from Dr. Priest- 
ley's summary view of the evidence for the primitive 
Christians having held the doctrino of the simple 
humanity of Christ, " There is a pretty easy gra- 
•' dation (says he) in the progress of the doctrine 
" of the divinity of Christ ; as he was first thought 
" to be a God in some qualified sense of the word, 
" a distinguished emanation from the supreme 
" mind ; and then the logos^ or the wisdom of God 
" personified : and this logos was first thought to 
" be only occasionally detached from the Deity, and 
" then drawn into his essence again, before it was 
" imagined that it had a permanent personality, dis- 
" tinct from that of the source from whence it 
" sprung, that it ivas not till the fourth century^ that 
" this Logos, or Christ, was thought to be properly 
" equal to the Father. Whereas, on tlie other hand, 
" though it is now pretended, that the apostles 
" taught tjie doctrine of the divinity of Christ ; yet 
" it cannot be denied, that in the very time of the 
" apostles, the Jewish church, and many ol the 
" gentiles also, held the opinion of his being a merg 
" man. Here the transition is quite sudden, with- 
" out any gradation at all. This must naturally havs 

* Dr.Piitstley's Hist. orEarlyOpiiiion?, vol. iv. p. 285, 59?. 



LETTER IV. 57 

<> given the greatest alarm, and yet nothing of this 
" kind can be perceived*." 

From these extracts, the reader will be able to 
form a competent judgment of the reliance which 
is to be placed upon my correspondent's assertion, 
that " according to Dr. Priestley, the very first step 
" of deviation from the simple humanity of Christ, 
" was the ascription to him of a nature truly and 
" p/operly divinef." 

This gentleman has been pleased to affirm, " that 
" implicit reliance cannot be placed on Dr. Priest- 
" ley's representations, even in cases of the plainest 
" fact:^-" How far this charge is applicable to that 
truly venerable character, will be the subject of in- 
quiry in my next letter. In the mean time, my advice 
to my worthy correspondent is, to look well at home. 
Such indeed is his strange misapprehension, and 
consequent mis-statement, of the most obvious facts, 
that V ithout meaning any reflection upon his vera- 
city, I am inclined to think that a cautious reader 
will, for the future, be 7nore disposed to believe what 
he shall firove^ than what he shall say. 

It is, I think, the observation of Montaigne, " Let 
" no man say I will write a little book." I was far 
from expecting, when I began to write, that my 
animadversions would have extended to so great a 
length. But I found it impossible to repel the 
point-blank charges of ignorance, of inadvertency, 
of misrepresentation, and asserting the precise re- 
verse of acknowledged fact, which my zealous cor- 

* Dr. Pi-ieslln's Hist, of Early Opinions, p. 311, 312. 

+ I.ctiiT! to Mr. B. p. 119. \ Letters, p. 130. 



58 LETTER IV. 

respondent has accumulated against me, with an 
unsparing hand, without stating the evidence upon 
which my convictions were founded. If you will 
permit me to trouble you with one letter more, I 
believe I may now explicitly promise, that you shall 
receive no more last words from, 
Dear Sir, 

Your humble Servant, Sec. 



BETTER Y. 



Tin- cliaifje np:ai;iit Dr. Prifstloj 's character stated ami repelled. — Dr. 
Priestley and liis accuser equally mistaken in a passage from Chi-j sostom.— 
Tlie nature and conduct of Dr. Priestley's argument represented and 
\ indicated. — Conclusion. 



DEAR SIR, 

My redoubted opponent having in imagination 
given me the coitfi de grace^ like a valorous knight 
sets out again in quest of new adventures ; and 
elated with presumed success, he hesitates not to 
tilt a lance with the great champion of the theolo- 
gical field : and having, as he thinks, plucked a 
feather from the crest of his mighty antagonist, he 
annexes it to his own as a trophy of victory. How 
far he is entitled to the triumph which he claims, 
it is our present business to inquire. 

The allegation which my correspondent under- 
takes to establish*, is indeed of no inconsiderable 
moment, viz. that " implicit ueliance cannot 

" BE SAFELY PLACED ON DU. PUIESTLEy's REPRE- 
SENTATIONS, EVEN IN CASES OF THE PLAINEST 



U 



" FACTS." 

It is an old and approved maxim amongst us 
•theological disputants, when we do not find it easy 

* Letten to Mr. B. p. 130. 



*0 I.ETTRR V. 

or convenient to reply to our opponent's argument, 
to do all we can to depreciate his work, and to dis- 
suade our readers from looking into it, or troubling 
themselves about it. This manoeuvre has. been 
played off with great industry, and some effect, 
against the writings of Dr. Priestley. The learned 
bishop of St. Asaph, in particular, excelled in this 
species of controversial tactics : and my worthy cor- 
respondent, if not equal in ability, is not at all defi- 
cient in good will. But the armour which was proof 
against the iron mace of the Brobdingnag knight, 
is not likely to be much injured by the brittle reed 
of the Lilliputian squire. 

" Implicit reliance cannot safely be placed upon 
" Dr. Priestley's representations, even in cases of 
" the plainest facts." — To substantiate so grave a 
charge, it would be natural to expect a considerable 
induction of very plain facts, which have been mis- 
represented by Dr. Priestley. Instead of which, 
the gentleman who brings the accusation presents 
us with three passages, out of a collection of nearly 
two thousand from the ancient ecclesiastical writers, 
in which he apprehends that the learned and inde- 
fatigable historian of Early Opinions has, not indeed 
misquoted, nor mistranslated, but merely misunder- 
stood, his author. And this, forsooth, is the evi- 
dence upon which that venerable character is to be 
dragged forth, and arraigned at the tribunal "of the 
public, as unfit to be trusted in representations even 
of tlie plainest facts. 

I AM no advocate for the infallibility of Dr. Priest- 
Icy. His noble and ingenuous spirit pretended to 



I.ETTER V. 61 

no exemption from infirmities incident to human 
nature : and with (rue magnanimity he eagerly soli- 
cited, and gratefully acknowledged, the correction 
of any mistakes into which he had inadvertently 
fallen. I freely admit that Dr. Priestley's accuser 
has, in one instance, detected a singular misappre- 
hension of the connection of an obscure passage, 
which that learned writer has extracted from the 
works of Chrysostom ; though I am far from being 
satisfied that the gentleman, who has with so much 
parade pointed out the error, is himself at all nearer 
to the truth, in his own construction of the passage. 
Dr. Priestley says, that " Chrysostom represents all 
" the fireceding ivriters of the JVew Testament as chil- 
" di'en who heard but did not understand things, and 
" who were busy about cheesecakes and childish 
" sports ; but John taught, what the angels them- 
" selves did not know before he declared it*." My 
correspondent justly observes, that the clause as it 
stands in Chrysostom is " all the rest," and that the 
persons referred to in it, are not " the writers of the 
" New Testament." So far we are obliged to him 
for correcting an inadvertence of the learned author. 
But when he adds that " the antecedent is the 
" effeminate and dissipated spectators of athletic 
*' games, and the auditors of musicians and orato- 
" rical sophists," he errs as widely from the mark 
as the great man whom he so severely censures. If 
my worthy correspondent will have the goodness, 
as he advises me, to take down his Chrysostom 

• Hist, of Karly Opinions, vol. iii. p. 128, 129. 

6 



6"2 LEl'TKU V. 

again, and to re\ise the context with a little more 
attention, he will find, that by the exceptive clause 
" all the rest," the orator intends all men " who not 
" being angels already, nor ambitious of becoming 
" such, do nevertheless occasionally hear the words 
" of the evangelist." This declamatory writer, in 
his preface to John's gospel, representing the evan- 
gelist under the character of one who exhibits 
himself upon the public stage, amongst other cir- 
cumstances, describes his situation in these words : 
" His proscenium, or stage, is the whole heaven, 
" his theatre is the habitable world, his spectators 
" and hearers are all the angels, and of the human 
" race, those who are already angels, or who desire 
" to become such ; for they only can rightly under- 
" stand this harmony, and shew it by their works. 
^' As to all the rest, like little children, who hear, 
" but understand not what they hear, and are cap- 
" tivated with cakes and childish toys, so these like- 
" wise being gay, luxurious, and devoted to wealth, 
" to power, and to pleasure, sometimes indeed hear 
" the words that are sJioke?i, but exhibit nothing 
" great or sublime in their actions, because they 
" have immured themselves in brick and clay*." 

Who were the persons intended by the rhetori- 
cal expression " men who are already angels, or 

* &ecc]xi $e xKt UK^omleii, 7rav7c5 ayytXci, y.u: ay^-^UTruv 
cQ-aiTTt^ ccy/iX'H TV'/^u.i'OVTiv 3v7f«> i} "«' yevsirSxi t^rtS-v- 
fMvo-iv OTTOl TAP MONOI rxvlr.i ccx^toM^ eyrxxovcxt 
evv»ivl' otv Tiii ci^f^victi - ui OirE AAAOI ITANTES x»$oi- 
Ti^ 7«fr TTXleiX K. 7. ^. Clirysostoii) in Joan. Homil. i. 0\>\>. 'loin. li. 
p. 550. Ell. Eton. 1012. 



LtlTER \ . Do 

" Avho are desirous of becoming such," the author 
has not distinctly explained. Possibly, Chrysostom 
might allude to the epistles to the seven churches 
of Asia in the Apocalypse, in which the bishops, or 
pastors of the churches, are styled angelsf and might 
mean the priesthood, and the candidates for holy 
orders, as opposed to the laity. But, more proba- 
bly, the eloquent father intends those speculative 
and philosophising Christians, who \»ere initiated 
into the mysteries of the orthodox faith, and who 
passed their lives in these sublime speculations. It 
is in contradistinction to these angelic personages, 
that unlearned Christians, who contented them- 
selves with plain matters of fact, who understood 
the scriptures in their literal sense, and who en- 
gaged in the usual occupations of life without 
troubling themselves about unintelligible notions, 
or aspiring to the character of ascetics, or philoso- 
phers, arc contemptuously represented as children, 
amusing themselves with cakes and toys, under- 
standing nothing which they heard, and immersed 
in worldly pleasures and pursuits. This interpreta- 
• tion will not appear improbable, to those who know 
in what contempt plain and unlearned Christians 
were held, by men who fancied that they possessed 
a deep insight into the mystical sense of the evan- 
gelical history. Admitting this to be the true 
meaning of this obscure passage, it would not be 
irrelevant to Dr. P.'s piu'pose, though not exactly 
in the sense in which he has cited it : the allusion 
bc!ng, not to the preceding writers of the New 



64 



LETTER V. 



Testament, but, to the mass of unlearned Chris- 
tians*. 

The reverend letter-writer, rightly judging that 
a single instance of erroneous interpretation, select- 
ed from a collection of almost two thousand pas- 
sages, would hardly be thought sufficient to convict 
a person of Dr. Priestley's established reputation of 
the charge alleged, drags in another passage, quoted 
■by Dr. Priestley from the same writer, to bolster 
up the infirm evidence of the first. " Dr. Priestley 
" proceeds. But John, he (i. e. Chrysostom) says, 
" taught what the angels themselves did not know 
" before he declared itf : and he represents them 
" as his most attentive auditors \." It is not pre- 
tended that this sentence is not correctly cited. And, 
as the gentleman who brings the impeachment, has 
not condescended to shew, how a correct quotation 
of an author's words proves that no reliance is to be 
placed upon the I'epresentations of the person who 

* In this way it is easy to nccount for Dr. PncstUy's mistal^e. He l;a(l 
pvobahly noted this as a i>assage which was much to his i)uq)Osc ofillustra^ 
ing the clitrercncc which suhsisted between the learned and uiikanied 
Christians, and the contempt with which the laltt r were (reaieil by tl.e 
former for not adoplinp; their mysterious speculations. But forgetting the 
reference, he understood tlie expression, all the vst, as n lining to ilie pit- 
cedlng evangehsts: in which supposition he wouUl he confirmed by the 
long quotations which immediately succee<l, and in which his author really 
does represent the other evangelists, as having taught litile, or nothing, oi' 
tlie doctrine of the Logos, or divine nature of Christ, in comparison with 
John. At any rate, thi< passage from Chi-ysostom has no more contiectioii 
with the spectators of the games, and the auditors of musicians and sophists, 
than it has with the inhabitants ofChina, or the Moon. I should, however, 
regard it as unpardonable asperity, to charge my coiTespondi lit ai unfit to 
be relied upon in his representations of the plainest facts, merely because he 
haa misapplied an obsctuv passage in Chrvsostom. 

t Chrjsostom Opp. ibid. Tom. ii. p. ?56. Ed. Eton. 1612. 

t Letters, p. 125. 



LETTER \. 65 

makes the quotation, we may safely dismiss this 
evidence without any further questions. It is true 
that the accuser puts the question, " Is it possible 
" that Dr. Priestley could read the above passage 
" so as ever to dream of the interpretation he has 
" put upon it ?*" But as Dr. Priestley has put no 
interpretation whatever upon the passage, and has 
left it to speak for itself, this observation may be 
passed by, as a dream of the ingenious gentleman 
who produces the charge. 

In a situation precisely similar, stands the next 
evidence brought forward to confirm the accusa- 
tion. The passage as cited by Dr. P. is as follows : 
" Leaving the Father (he says) he (John) discoursed 
*' concerning the Son, because the Father was 
" known to all, if not as a Father yet as God ; but 
" the only begotten was unknownf." The correct- 
ness of the quotation from Chrysostom is not ques- 
tioned ; but it is alleged, that the word all is to be 
understood, " of the 7nass of mankind." This is not 
probable : but whether it be, or be not, Dr. Priest- 
ley is not concerned in it, for he only cites the 
passage without any comment. 

Upon such evidence does this very candid writer 
found his conclusion, " that implicit reliance cannot 
" be safely placed on Dr. Priestley's representations, 
" even in cases of the plainest facts." 

Having thus produced passages which Dr. Priest- 
Icy has cited correctly, in order to prove that he is 

» LettciN, p. 126. 

t Chrysostom Opp. Tom. ii. p. SG2. EU. Eton.— History of Early Opi. 
iiioiis, vol. iii. p. 129.— Lettei-s, p, Mf', 127. 



66 LETTER \. 

not to be depended upon, to crown his arguniciu, 
this sagacious critic next brings forward a passage 
which that learned writer has never cited at all, as 
a " proof how totally Dr. Priestley has misunder- 
" stood Chrysostom's extravagant oratory*." Surely 
such criticisms must have been impoi'ted from the 
banks of the Shannon. 

Perhaps my coiTespondcnt may plead, that he 
has qualified the charge with the epithet imjilicit. 
But if he meant no more than that implicit faith is 
not to be placed in man, what occasion was there 
for pompous proofs, and solemn professions of can- 
dour, to introduce so trite a truisin ? But if the 
writer means any thing, he means to insinuate, that 
Dr. Priestley is not to be depended upon eciually 
with other learned authors ; and it cannot be doubt- 
ed that the expression, '' implicit reliance cannot be 
" safely placed on Dr. Priestley," would by super- 
ficial readers be understood to signify, that no con- 
fidence at all was to be placed in his assertions ; an 
insinuation, which if it was intended, is as unfounded, 
as it is illiberal. 

I SCRUPLE not to declare my firm conviction, that 
lightly as this reverend gentleman affects to treat 
Dr. Priestley's testimony, he docs not himself give 

'■ • Letters, p. 127, 123. The piiiiiort of tlieautliOr's qiiolntious from tlie 
tlilixl Homily is (o shew (hat Chrysoilom ttaihes, that " John chd not so 
" confine himself to the Lo^os, as eniirely to negli ct the human naiiiie of 
■' Christ, nor diil tlie other evangelists conCne themselves so entirely to the 
•' human nature, as to l)e silent eoncernin;; his eternal pi-e^.-xistence." This 
Dr. Priestley never denied. See Hist, ol Opiiuons, vol. iii. p 128. But he 
(ruly affirms that Chi-ysoston.'s not:on is, that Join) taught tlearly and ex- 
plicitly, what they only ventured to hint at. And this is evident froni,'lw 
lontext of this vcrj' passage wliieh m\ corrcs]>cndeiU <n:oles. 



LETTER V. &7 

credit to the charge, to the extent in which it will 
naturally and inevitably be understood, by those who 
place implicit confidence in him. If my correspon- 
dent has read that learned work, the authority of 
which he has thought fit to impugn, I will venture 
to assert, that it is not in his power, if he possesses 
a capacity to appreciate moral evidence, to withhold 
his assent from the fact established by Dr. Priest- 
ley, upon the testimony of passages which he pro- 
duces from Chrysostom himself, that this eloquent 
father means to affirm, that John was the first evan- 
gelist, M'ho ventured openly and explicitly to assert 
the divinity of Jesus Christ, a doctrine which the 
other evangelists had with great and commendable 
caution, if not passed over entirely, at most, hinted 
at very obscurely, that they might not give offence 
to their readers. But the object of most of Dr. 
Priestley's opponents is, not to reply to his argu- 
ments, but to make their ignorant admirers believe, 
that his works are not Avorthy of a perusal, by un- 
justly stigmatizing his character, as an inattentive 
and incorrect writer. 

Dr. Priestley's argument for the unitarian 
doctrine, from the testimony of the ancient eccle- 
siastical writers, is original and masterly, and in my 
judgment clear and decisive ; but being new, it has 
been greatly misunderstood and misrepresented. 
Former theologians have appealed to^the fathers, as 
advocates for the doctrines which they themselves 
espoused ; and have endeavoured to support the 
credit of their respective systems, by the authority 
■ of the venerable confessors of tlie primitive church. 



68 LETTER V. 

Dr. Priestley has chosen very different ground : he 
is the first controversial writer who has -scntured 
openly to declare, that his doctrine is in direct 
opposition to that of the great names to whose 
authority he appeals, and who have hitherto been 
generally regarded as the authorized expositors of 
the christian faith. He allows that very few, if any, 
of these eminent men were, properly speaking, 
Unitarians in principle. Nay, that they even held 
the doctrine of the proper humanity of Christ in 
contempt and abhorrence, and that they opposed it 
to the utmost of their power. He nevertheless 
contends, that the great body of Christians, both 
Jews and Heathens, for the three first centuries, 
were strenuous advocates for the proper unity of 
God, and that they zealously opposed the gnostic, 
the platonic, and the arian doctrines as they were 
successively introduced, and all the other wild spe- 
culations of the philosophizing Christians which 
were invented to shelter themselves from the dis- 
grace of being the disciples of a low-born Jew, wlio 
had been ignominiously executed as a common male- 
factor. This alarm of the unlearned Christians was 
so general, and the dislike of the new doctrines 
was so deeply rooted, that it was with very great 
difficulty, and not till after a great length of time, 
that they were brought quietly to acquiesce in them. 
These important facts are established by Dr. 
Priestley upon the testimony of the primitive writers 
of the christian church. Not indeed upon their 
direct assertion : this could hardly be expected, and 
would be liable to suspicion. The evidence which 



l.IiTTEIl V. 



G9 



the learned historian of Early Opinions cluefly pro- 
duces, and upon wliich he lays the principal stress, 
is tiiat of inadvertent concession, of incidental re- 
mark, of complaint, of caution, of affected candour, 
of apology, of inference, which, thougli indirect, is 
at the same time, the most, satisfactory, to the in- 
quisitive and reflecting mind. It is that species of 
evidence which judicious readers so much admire 
in Dr. Paley's Horne Paulina, and similar to that by 
which the rapid progress, and consec^uently the truth 
of the christian religion, is established by the unwil- 
ling testimony of heathen writers. 

But if these facts arc established, the conclusion 
follows immediately. No person of reflection caa 
for a moment maintain, that the apostles believed, 
and distinctly taught, the pre-existcnce and divinity 
of their master, and that the great mass of their 
converts were unbelievers in their testimony. The 
primitive Christians to avoid reproach, were under 
the strongest temptations to exalt the person and 
dignity of their teacher; but surely they could have 
no motive to derogate from, and to reduce it. If 
then the unitarian doctrine was the faith of the 
primitive church, it must have been the faith of 
the apostles themselves, and therefore this doctrine 
must be true. 

In order to establish this important fact, the 
learned historian of Early Opinions has, with won- 
derful industry and sagacity, selected upwards of 
eighteen hundred passages from the early eccle- 
idastical writers, all of which, in his estimation, 
tend in one wav or another, to iflustrate and confirm 



"0 LETTER V. 

the unitaiianism of the great body oi" unlearned 
Christians in the primitive ages* ! 

It would indeed be marvellous in the highest 
degree if, in so great a number of quotations, some 
passages Avcre not misquoted, misunderstood, or 
misapplied, and if there should not, here and there, 
be found some gross and palpable errors. This 
opens an ample held to pedling criticism : and if in 
two, or three, or half a dozen instances, an over- 
sight is discovered, however insignificant, the hue 
and cry is immediately raised, " Dr. Priestley's 
" representations are not to be trusted, even in the 
" plainest facts." 

To offer ai'guments to minds incapable of com- 
prehending them, or indisposed to admit them, 
would be a waste of time and labour. But the judi- 
cious reader will easily perceive that such objections 
are of no weight. Scores, and hundreds, of passages 
may be spared, and yet the argument remain valid. 
It is indeed surprizing that in so great a number of 
quotations, so few material errors should have been 
detected by Dr. Priestley's learned and quick-sight- 
ed antagonists. But I am convinced that the clear, 
though unwilling testimony of Justin Maityr, of 

* See Mr. Lindsiy's Vliuliciic Pricstlciaiisf, p. 3:!5. Tliis excellent writer 
obsen'es, that in a work or such compass and oxteiit as tins History of Early 
Opinions concerning Jtsiis Christ, in which you have tJie woitls of the ori- 
ginal writirs themselves, it was scarcely to he expected that no niist:<kes 
would 1)0 committed. Tlie author foresaw it to he una\<)i<lable, and desired 
all allowance lo be 7nadr, and to be told lii< faults, and he would pladly cor- 
rect lliein. Tliey lia\e, however, turned out much I'ewer than could have 
been imagined, and none of thiiu in the least affectinp; his maiTi propositions 
and conclusions, though lie has been told of them in an unhandsome wav. 
Sec the Appendix. 



Tertullian, of Origcn, of Athanasius, and of Chry- 
sostom, to the unitarianism of the primitive church, 
and to the great caution of the apostles in divulging 
the doctrine of Christ's divinity, can never be resist- 
ed by any fair reasoning. To say that Origcn was 
a liar, and Tertullian in a pet, is a sort of reply 
which considerate persons well know how to appre- 
ciate. 

To press the venerable fathers of the church, (to 
whose authority servile submission has been so often 
challenged, and so abjectly yielded,) to give evidence 
against themselves, and to confute them by their 
own testimony, was an original and happy thought 
of the learned historian of Ancient Opinions con- 
cerning the Person of Christ, and was worthy the 
great and adventurous genius of Dr. Priestley. And 
though minute critics may have discovered minute 
errors in his numerous quotations, yet none of them 
have in the least degree affected his conclusions ; 
and I will venture to predict that they never will. 
The more severely the argument is investigated, 
and the better it is understood, the more luminous, 
the more satisfactory, and the more decisive, it will 
appear. 

Of the opponents of Dr. Priestley, my corres- 
pondent refers to Dr. Williams, "whose objections 
" to the whole structure" of Dr. Priestley's argu- 
ment " wore, in his opinion, worthy of very serious 
attention," but were only " noticed in a wav of 
" private compiiment*." I have never seen Dr. 

* I.clki-s P- 120. 



72 LETTER V. 

Williams's work ; but if his objections are correctly 
stated by his friend, viz. that Dr. Priestley's " mode 
" of argument has long ago been solidly refuted ; 
" that it is plainly reprehended by Jesus Christ ; 
" that it is highly untheological in its just conse- 
" quences," and the like, I confess I do not see what 
other reply Dr. Priestley could with propriety have 
made to such objections, than by a civil bow. 

But it seems the great strength of the cause 
rests upon Dr. Jamieson's " elaborate and learned 
" work," which, we are told, " is the very pcrform- 
" ance which Dr. Priestley had so long desired and 
" challenged," which therefore " had a just chiim 
" on his particular and public notice.*" This much- 
extolled work, by the favour of an eminent and re- 
spectable calvinistic minister in the metropolisf, I 
had an opportunity of seeing when it was first pub- 
lished, and I perused it with a considerable degree 
of attention. But I acknowledge, that the arguments 
and criticisms made very little impression upon my 
mind. Perhaps I was not disposed to rate very 
highly the judgment of a writer, who in his zeal 
for the doctrine of the Trinity, appeals to the testi- 
mony of the devil, as an evidence of its truth. This 
work of Dr. Jamieson's was I believe never seen by 
Dr. Priestley ; and we have abundant evidence, that 
the time of that great philosopher and divine, was 
much better employed during his exile, than in 
writing an answer to it. And indeed, what answer 
does it recjuire ? These learned works are both 

* Letten to Mr. B, p. 121, t Rev. Mr. Towle- 



l.ETTER V. /3 

before the public ; and men of erudition, who are 
competent to judge, and desirous to learn, may 
easily compare them, and draw the conclusion for 
themselves. 

Having thus finished my animadversions upon 
the strictures of my correspondent, and established 
a defence both of my own assertions, and of Dr. 
Priestley's insulted character, which, I trust, will 
prove satisfactory to the judicious, unprejudiced, 
and well-informed reader ; I now willingly take 
leave of the controversy, subscribing myself, 
Dear Sir, 

Very sincerely your's, 

T. BELSHAM 

Hackney, A piil 17, 1805. 



APPENDIX, 

Cgntaining an Extract from a publication of the Rev. Theophilus Lindsej, 
which expresses the judgment of that learned writer, concerning the issue 
of the controvei"sy between Dr. Priestley and Dr. Horslty, and contemiiig 
the importance of Dr. Priestley's Histoi-j- of Early Opinions concerning 
Jesus Christ.* 

This work of Dr. Priestley's, viz. his History of 
the Corruptions of Christianity, was not suflered to 
pass without being controverted by several persons, 
among whom, Dr. Horsley much distinguished him- 
self; though by no means to his credit with learned 
men and judges of the subject. For, perhaps, there 
hardly ever was an instance in which a controversial 
writer was so entirely baffled, and confuted in every 
thing advanced by him, both from scripture, and 
early antiquity, to invalidate Dr. Priestley's posi- 
tions, as has been verified, with respect to Dr. 
Horsley. And this is the opinion of not a few 
among the learned, who are far from favouring Dr. 
Priestley's peculiar sentiments. 

In consequence of this discussion of the subject 
with Dr. Horsley, yet not with a view to add to his 
triumphs over him, but for his own satisfaction, and 
that of others, the learned more especially. Dr. 
Priestley undertook this his herculean work.f In 

• Mr. Lindsey's Address to the Youth of the two Uni vei-sities, p. 337—2-13. 
p.irt i. 1783. 

+ The Hisloi-j- of Early Opinions concerning Jesus Cluist, compiled from 
ori^al wrircrt. proving that the tlni'tian church was at first Unitarian .- 



Vl'PENUlX. '^ 

this he has brouglit to light and displayed a \ ast ac- 
cumulation of evidence,.unknown before, to " prove 
" the truth and untitiuity, as he himself speaks, of 
•' the proper unitarian doctrine, in opposition to the 
" trinitarian and arian hypotheses," deriving his in- 
formation from the first sources only, having perused 
all the original authors from the beginning, and 
produced almost two thousand passages from them, 
and having many others in reserve, equally impor- 
tant, if needed, to establish the facts for which he 
pleads. 

Concerning, however, this lav^cjield, or more 
justly to speak, this overgrown wood of Christian 
antiquity, which our author alone has cleared up, 
and in which he has made such discoveries, I would 
beg leave to observe to you ; 

I. That before he led the way, we were all much 
in confusion, and had no distinct ideas concerning 
that great corruption of the gospel, and of genuine 
Christianity, called Arimiism : I mean the doctrine 
which makes Jesus Christ to have been a great pre- 
existent spirit, next to the eternal God, and deriv- 
ing his being from him ; who condescended to come 
into this world of our's, and to animate a human 
body, shrunk from his original dignity and power, 
first into the state of an embryo, next into that of 
a helpless infant, till by degrees he became rational, 
8cc. &c. 

in Tour vols. 1786. This (says Mr. Lindscy, p. 33S,) is the most curious and 
vahmble of all Dr. Priestlty's works ; and I risk nothing in adding, that it 
couhl only be executed In the manner it has been done, by a superior genius 
like his own. 



f> 



?'6 APPENDIX. 

This doctrine, which has no countenance in the 
scriptures, but in a very few passages of plainly 
Avrong interpretation, Dr. Priestley has proved not 
to have been known in the chiistian church till 
about the time of Arius* : and has likewise shewn 
that the doctrine of the platonic fathers concerning 
Christ, which probably first begun with Justin 
Martyr, or about his time, and has been mistaken 
for it, was quite another thing: Christ, according to 
them, not being a superangelic spirit, animating a 
human body, but the Logos, the wisdom or reason 
of the Divine Being, his attribute, Avhich these philo- 
sophers made a person of, and which, according to 
them, bore the same relation to the Father, that the 
platonic vy?, which was their second principle, bore 
to the first principle, usually called ayec^*?, or rather, 
were the same with them. This they held to be 



» This inipoi'tant fact, wliii'h Mr. Limiscy here niciilions as proved by 
Dr. Priestley, vix. tliat Ariniiisin, or the Joctrine ot'a created Logos animat- 
ing the body of Christ, had no existence before the age of Ariu% a faci 
which is decisi\e of the arian controversy, has been brought forward, and 
pointedly stated, nearly twenty years, and it still remains nnconlradictcd, 
and, indeed, cannot be controvcrttd. Learned Arians have abandontd the 
cause, and seem to give it up as untcnalile. It would surely better become 
them to repel arguments which affect the vitals of tlieir system, flian to 
amuse themselves with verbal controversies about the word Unitarian, 
which, hnjjpily, Ixing a terjn of good repute, is claimed by all parties, and 
w hich, according as it is defined, may be made to include the highest Trini- 
tarian, or to exclude even the lowest Arian, excepting those modern theolo- 
gians who limit themselves to the belief of the simple pre-existence of Christ. 
'J'his hypothesis, the invention of the eighteenth centui7, which has never 
yet had a public advocate, but which is known to be the private opinion of 
some respectable individuals, falls w iiliin tlie limits of Uuitaiianism, even 
accordnig to its most restricted definition: but why its advocates should 
choose to pass themselves off as Ar'ans is difficult to explain, for this liypoi 
thesis is no more .\rianism than it is Mahometisin. 



APPENWX. 5'!' 

intimately united to Jesus Christ, who was still a 
man in their system, with a body and soul like the 
rest of us. 

I MUST own that this wild abstracted perversion 
of the true scripture doctrine concerning Christ, is 
to me less exceptionable, and less repugnant to rea- 
son, than the arian doctrine concerning him : which 
is a heap of incongruous staggering improbabilites 
from beginning to end : whether you suppose the 
great pre-existent spirit, which was shut up in a 
human body of flesh and blood for thirty years, to 
have been the first and principal of created Beings* 
and the subordinate Creator of all things, or one of 
an inferior class with inferior powers. 

II. The distinction of the opinion of the early 
writers from that of the common people, was never 
before observed by any one : and being a thing 
wholly unknown to the first Socinians, they were 
exceedingly embarrassed in defence of their senti- 
inents in point of antiquity. But we here see the 
seeming gap and chasm filled up ; and that the doc- 
trine of the apostles concerning their divine master, 
being altogether one of the human race, was also 
the doctrine of all those that were immediately 
laught by and succeeded them, a few speculative 
men excepted, who would be wise above what is 
written. 

III. The variety of curious knowledge of facts 
and opinions contained in this work ; the illustra*- 
lions of the oriental philosophy ; and the doctrine 
of Platonism in particular, never so well exhibited 

before ; must be pleasing and instructive to all, who 

7 # 



78 APPENDIX.. 

wish to know the historj' of the human mind, au 
interesting history assuredly : so that throwing even 
the question of religion aside, it is a valuable acces- 
sion to the litei'ary world, but connected with that 
important object, it is above all price. 

In a work of such compass and extent as this 
History of Early Opinions concerning Jesus Christ, 
in which you have the words of the original writers 
themselves, it was scarcely to be expected, that no 
mistakes would be committed. The author foresaw 
it to be unavoidable, and desired all allowance to be 
made, and to be told his faults, and he would gladly 
correct them. They have, however, turned out 
much fewer than could have been imagined, and 
none of them in the least affecting his main pro- 
positions and conclusions, though he has been told 
of them in an unhandsome way. 

With respect to the unworthy insinuations of 
some men, all that know any thing of Dr. Priestley 
believe, and are persuaded, that he would as soon 
be guilty of robbing on the highway, as of designedly 
misquoting or misinterpreting any passage in an 
ancient writer to deceive others, and serve the pur- 
pose of a private party or opinion. For he has no 
interest in view, but that of truth, nor any desires, 
but to have that in the best way promoted and 
established. 



POSTSCRIPT. 



Remarks upon the alterations and concessions in tUe second edition of ilit 
Letters to Mr. B. 

Since these sheets were printed off, a second 
edition of the Letters, which are the subject of 
animadversion in them, has made its appearance ; 
upon which, I beg leave to offer a few remarks. 

In the first place, the writer, in his Advertise- 
ment to this edition, has fairly and candidly acknow- 
ledged, " that he had egregiously misapprehended 
" my meaning in the passage animadverted upon 
" in his eighth Letter, the whole of which animad- 
" version is now expunged." This is the passage 
in which my correspondent had charged me with 
asserting, " the reverse of acknowledged facts," and 
is the subject of the fourth Letter of the preceding 
series. 

This gentleman has likewise omitted in his new 
edition, the heavy allegation against Dr. Priestley, 
" that implicit reUance cannot safely be placed on 
" his representations, even in cases of the plainest 
" fact." The reason which he assigns for this 
omission is, that " the paragraph had an aji/iearance 
^' of asperity towards Dr. Priestley." IJe might 



80 POSTSCRIPT. 

with great propriety have added, that the charge 
was both unjust, and unproved. 

These concessions are important, but they are 
not all which I consider myself as entitled to claim. 

This gentleman has charged me with misrepre- 
senting, caricaturing, and calumniating Calvinism ; 
which allegation he has attempted to establish, by 
giving a long detail of his own opinions, which he 
calls Calvinism, and which he thinks entitled to 
more honourable mention. My worthy correspon- 
dent is at full liberty to believe what he likes, and to 
call his creed by what name he pleases. But most 
assuredly, when I spoke of Calvinism, I did not 
I'efer either to his particular system, or to that of 
any other individual. I alluded to the Calvinism 
which is exhibited in the public symbols of the sect, 
which is taught to their children, which is blended 
in their worship. If tins gentleman's sentiments 
do not coincide with those, they were not within 
my contemplation, nor were they the objects of my 
censure. What I hold to be Cah inism, or rather 
what the Calvinists themselves declare to be their 
own principles, I have stated in my first Letter : 
and that statement still remains, and I venture to say, 
that it will i-emain uncontradicted. Whatever there- 
fore my correspondent may think of the opinion 
which I entertain of the tendency of Calvinism, he 
has no right to persist in the charge, that I misre- 
present the system. 

The imputation against the character of Origen 
is not retracted, and nothing further is offered in 
support of it, but a quotation froa-n Daille, which 



POSTSCRIPT. 81 

brings a general allegation of insincerity against the 
fathers in their polemical writings, but does not 
particularly mention Origen. 

I WAS curious to learn how my coiTespondent, 
with the help of Dr. Jamieson, would set aside the 
clear and explicit evidence of Tertullian, to the 
strong prejudices of the great mass of vmlearned 
Christians, against the then novel and offensive doc. 
trine of the Trinity.* Tertullian's words are these. 
Simplices enim quique, ne dixerim imprudentes, 
et idiotac, cjuae major semper credentium pars est 
— expavescunt ad oeconomiam. Tiiis is rendered 
by Dr. Horsley, " Simple persons, not to call them 
" ignorant and idiots, who always make the majority 
" of believers — startle at the oeconomy." Plainly 
meaning, as the bishop has properly represented 
it, that the same persons whom he calls simfilices^ 
might have been denoted by the harsher epithets 
of imprudentes and idiotx,, and that these persons, 
■who made the majority of believers, startled at the 
doctrine of the Trinity. This passage, my inge- 
nious correspondent softens down in the following 
manner, in the new translation with which he haa 
favoured us. " For some simple persons, not to 
" speak of the uninformed and ignorant, who always 
" constitute the greater part of believers, tremble 
" at that oeconomy." To make the good father 
speak to his purpose, he has reduced a universal 
term to a particular one, and has translated a clause 
which was clearly exegetical, and which would admit 
of no other sense, as if it were exceptive. Such is 

* Sep 7,ctt. iii. p. 47' 



82 rosiscRipr. 

this'acute polemic's method of pressing recruits into 
his service ; whether such recruits will pass muster, 
must be left to the decision of impartial criticism. 

I CANNOT avoid expressing extreme surprize, 
that the worthy letter-v/riter has not corrected his 
interpretation of that passage in Chrysostom, in 
which, though he has detected a misconception ot 
Dr. Priestley, he has himself fallen into a similar 
mistake. Had he paid the same respect to my 
advice, which I did to his, and consulted his Chry- 
sostom in the case, he must have discovered his 
error : for it is too palpable to be overlooked. In 
the additional note, in which he appeals to the czxn- 
dour of his English reader, in favour of his own 
interpretation of the clause, he cannot mean to be 
Serious. 

This gentleman complains heavily of " the ex- 
« tremely illiberal and angry spirit of his opponent's 
" remarks," which, he observes, " that he did not 
" provoke; that he does not fear ; and that he shall 
" not imitate." What the meaning of the word 
provocation may be in this gentleman's vocabulary, 
I know not. And there may possibly be some tame 
and gentle souls, who are not in the least degree 
provoked, or moved, at being taxed with solemnly 
asserting the precise reverse of acknov.lcdged facts, 
or by hearing the friend whom they highly revere, 
and who is no longer able to defend himself, accused 
as unworthy of credit in his representations, even 
of the plainest facts ; especially, if these charges 
are ushered in with solemn professions of candour 
and personal regard. I confess I am not quite of 



POSTSCRIPT. 83 

SO milky a temperament. I felt some indignation 
at the unfounded and unprovoked attack upon my 
own character ; and still more, at the illiberal attempt 
to blast the unsullied reputation of my venerable 
departed friend ; and not the less, because of the 
mask of candour, under which the blow was aimed. 
I am not, however, conscious that I have written 
under the influence of an improper spirit. But of 
this, my readers must be better judges than myself. 
And if in any instance I have been betrayed into 
unbecoming warmth and asperity of language ; if I 
have exceeded the limits of true liberality, and of 
what my learned friend Gilbert Wakefield used 
jocosely to style due christian aniitiosity^ I ask for- 
giveness both of my reverend correspondent, and 
of my readers. 

Hackney, May 16, 1805. 



DISCOURSE 



DELIVERKD AT HACENKT, APRIL 8, ]R04. 



OCCASION OF THE DEATH 



REV. JOSEPH PRIESTLEY, 

LLD. F.R.S. &c. 

PUBLISHED AT THE DESIRE OF THE CONGREGATION. 



BY THOMAS BELSHAM. 



BOSTON : 

PRINTED BY THOMAS B. "WAIT ©- CO, 

COURT-STREET. 

1809. 



A SERMON. 



ACTS XX. 24. 
But none of iliese tilings move me, neitlier count I my life dear unto myself, 
so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministiy which I have 
received of the Loi-d Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the Grace of God. 

Nor was this an empty boast : for, if we read the 
history of this eminent apostle, from his first con- 
A'ersion to the christian religion to his imprisonment 
at Rome, as it is related by his friend and fellow- 
labourer Luke, we shall find, 

That it was the great business of his life to tes- 
tify, from place to place, the glorious gospel of the 
grace of God, agreeably to the commission which 
he had received from Jesus Christ for this purpose ; 

That he every where met with opposition and 
persecution, often even to the hazard of his life, 
according to his own declaration that the holy spirit 
forewarned him that in every city bonds and afiiic- 
lions awaited him ; 

That, nevertheless, nothing discouraged him, 
and no danger deterred him from performing the 
duties of his office, and executing his commission 
to the fullest extent ; and finally. 

That he was animated to all his labours, and sup- 
ported under all his sufferings, by the ardent desire 
8 



86 



SERMON. 



and confident expectation of a final and a glorious 
triumph. 

1. That doctrine which the apostle taught was 
the " gospel of the grace of God." Very remote 
indeed from the system which in modern times has 
been dignified with the title of gospel-doctrine, a 
system which teaches that all mankind are doomed 
to eternal misery for Adam's sin, with the exception 
of a few who are chosen by mere good pleasure to 
everlasting life. A tremendous doctrine ! Avhich 
had it really been taught by Jesus and his apostles, 
their gospel might truly have been denominated, 
not the doctrine of peace and good will, but a mes- 
sage of wrath and injustice, of terror and despair. 
The doctrine which Jesus revealed, and which Paul 
preached, was the reverse of this. It was glad 
tidings of great and universal joy ; for it revealed 
the equal and impartial love of God to his whole 
human offspring, unrestrained by any local or cere- 
monial distinction ; the infinite placability of the 
divine character ; the free and unpurchased mercy of 
God to the truly penitent ; the momentous doctrine 
of a vmiversal resurrection of the dead ; the advance- 
ment of the I'ighteous to glory, honour, and immor- 
tality ; and the future condemnation of the wicked to 
a just and necessary, but not to a vindictive, much 
less to an everlasting punishment. 

This was the doctrine which Paul taught; and his 
authority for teaching it was a commission which he 
received from Jesus Christ himself, attested and 
sealed by various extraordinary gifts of the holy 
spirit, and by miraculous powers with vhich the 
apostle was eminently endowed. 



SERMOX. 87 

While " Saul was yet breathing out threatening- 
" and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," 
while he was upon the road to Damascus with au- 
thority from the high-priest to bring those whom he 
should find there in chains to Jerusalem ; in the 
middle of the day, as he approached the city, when 
he was probably enjoying by anticipation the suf- 
ferings and groans of his intended victims, on a 
sudden, the furious and unrelenting persecutor is 
arrested in his way, and, by a miracle of poAver and 
mercy, becomes in an instant the trembling suppliant 
of that Jesus whose name he had blasphemed, whose 
authority he had defied, whose doctrine he had 
scorned, and whose disciples he had imprisoned, 
tormented, and put to death. And when, prostrate 
on the ground in an agony of terror, he requests to 
know the pleasure of the majestic personage who 
had condescended to address him in the language 
of pathetic e::postulation, the merciful Redeemer 
embraces the very instant of contrition and remorse 
to pronounce forgiveness, and to appoint him to the 
office of an apostle and a teacher of the gentiles. 
" Rise," said he, " and stand upon thy feet ; for I 
" have appeared to thee for this purpose, to make 
" thee a minister and a witness both of these things 
" which thou hast seen, and those in which I will 
" appear unto thee, delivering thee from the people, 
" and from the gentiles to whom I now send thee, to 
" open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness 
" to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, 
" that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an 
" inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith 
" which is in mc." 



88 SEIIMON. 

Nor was the humbled penitent " disobedient to 
" the heavenly vision." He arose, and with very dif- 
ferent views from those with which he had entered 
upon his journey, he reached Damascus ; and having 
there been miraculously healed of the blindness with 
which he had been struck by the dazzling splendour 
of the vision, he speedily retired into Arabia*, where 
he resided a considerable time, during which his 
understanding was enlightened in the doctrine, and 
his heart disciplined to the spirit, of the gospel. 
After which returning to Damascus, without any 
communication with the other apostles, and being 
fully instructed in the doctrine of the gospel by 
immediate revelation from Jesus himself, he opened 
his commission of peace and truth in that very city 
to which he had been sent upon a purpose of malice 
and cruelty, and confounded the Jews who dwelt at 
Damascus by the irresistible evidence with which he 
demonstrated, that Jesus, who had been crucifiedj 
was the true Messiah. 

From this time it became the business of his life 
to go from place to place " testifying the gospel of 
" the grace of God." And for this end he left all. 
He forsook his family and friends, and all his former 
honourable and powerful connections ; he resigned 
his prospects of literary reputation, and all his hopes 
of rising to opulence and power ; he even did Avhat is 
still more difficult, he abandoned all his inveterate 
prejudices and all his pharisaic pride, and devoted 
himself wholly and without reserve to the ministry 
of the gospel, and particularly to the conversion of 
the heathen ; glorymg in the character and office ol 
» Gal. i. 17, ts. 



SERMON. §9 

the apostle of those gentiles Avhom he had fomierly 
regarded with disdain. " I shewed," saith he, " iirst 
" to the Jews at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and 
" throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the 
" Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, 
" and do works meet for repentance*." And again, 
" I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Bar- 
•' barians, to the wise and to the unwisef." 

2. That in the course of his apostolic mission 
and labours he encountered constant and malignant 
opposition, and often to the hazard of his Ufe, is 
evident to all who arc in the least acquainted with 
his history. He opened his iTiinistry at Damascus : 
and there the governor, in concert with the Jews, 
endeavoured to seize and to put him to death ; but 
with difficulty he made his escape, and returned to 
Jerusalem ^. Here he expected the most signal 
success, and thought it impossible that the enemies 
of the gospel should be able to resist the arguments 
of one who, having formerly distinguished himself 
as a savage persecutor, was now become the zealous 
advocate of the doctrine which he then blasphemed. 
But he soon discovered his mistake, and in a few 
days he found it necessary to flee for his life ; and 
being warned in a vision||, he employed his suc- 
ceeding laboiu's in the conversion of the gentiles, 
amongst whom, though his success was great, his 
persecutions were proportionable. But time would 
fail iiie to recount all the sufferings of this eminent 
apostle which are recorded by his historians, Avho 

• Acls XXV i. 20. t Rom. i. 14. 

^Acts. is. 23 — 25. 2Cor. si. 32. H Acts, xxiHr—II. 

« * 



90 



SERMON. 



have nevertheless omitted many, and perhaps even 
the greater part of them. « I go to Jerusalem," 
says this christian hero, " not knowing what shall 
" befall me there, save that the holy spirit witnesses 
" in every city, that bonds and afflictions abide 
" me*." " Thou hast fully known," says he to 
Timothy, his pupil, companion, and friend, " my 
" doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suf- 
" fering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions 
" which came upon me at Antioch, at Iconium, at 
" Lystra, what persecutions I endured : but out of 
"them all the Lord delivered met." 

The most malignant opposition which the apostle 
encountered proceeded from those Avho professed, 
indeed, to believe in Christ, but who corrupted the 
simplicity of the gospel by a mixture of Jewish fable 
and pharisaic tradition, who were the determined 
enemies to the liberties of the gentile church, £ind 
were desirous of bowing the necks of the heathen 
converts to the yoke of the ceremonial law. These 
men, to accomplish their sinister purposes, intruded 
themselves into the churches which the apostle had 
planted, and scrupled not to foment divisions among 
them, and to alienate the affections of his converts 
by the grossest calumnies. They represented him 
as an uninfoi'med, unauthorised, and inconsistent 
teacher of Christianity, who preached for the sake 
of gain, and who sacrificed truth to secure popular- 
itv|. And the intemperate zeal of these rash bigots 

» Acts, XX. 22. t 2 Tim. iii. 10, U. 

\ This is t'\i(lciit from the solicitmlo wliicli the apostle iliscovers to cxcul- 
pale himself from thcsf cliarg;is in hi^i t'pistles to the Corinthians and tlie GaU- 
I'.aiu. see 2 Cor. xii. 11, 12. 16-^18. 



' SERHfOX. 91 

was too much countenanced by the equivocal and 
unmanly conduct of some of the other apostles, or, 
at least, by that of Peter, to whom Paul was under 
the necessity of administering a sharp and public 
reproof at Antioch *. But with the leaders of the 
opposing factions the apostle kept no terms what- 
ever ; but upon every proper occasion he exposed 
their ignorance, their selfishness, their ambitious 
views, their vain pretensions, their envy and malice, 
their ungenerous conduct, their daring corruptions 
of the christian doctrine, their rancorous opposition 
to the liberty and the spirit of the gospel. And in 
reply to their vile insinuations agidnst his character, 
juid their attacks upon his authority, he appeals to 
the whole tenor of his public life, and particularly 
rests his defence upon the sufferings which he 
endured in the cause of truth. '< Are they minis- 
" ters of Christ ?" says he, " I am more. In labours 
" more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons 
" more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five 
" times have I received forty stripes, save one. 
" Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, 
" thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have 
" been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of 
" waters, in perils of robbers, in peiils by my own 
" countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in 

« See Gal. ii. 11—17. The .Tpostle ivlates this iiuidfnt to il'^riiul lilmself 
I ram the cliar^e of inconsistency. See v. 18. The persons who introduced 
dissension into tlie church at Antiocli, and who stdnced I'cterand Raniahas 
are said lo ha\e come from James, wlio presided over tlic uhtnch at .Ii rusalnm, 
and who;e prejndices were pi-obaUly as strongs as those of Peter. The ad(ir< s» 
to Peter inds at v- 17. The apostle then resumes his discourse to tiie (Jala- 
ti.uis, .and arjjiies the folly of such incoiisistcnty of conduct as Jmd been iuiput- 
.'d to liin. 



92 StRMON. 

" the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils iu 
" the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weari- 
" ness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger 
" and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness, 
"besides those things that are without, that which 
" Cometh upon me daily, the care of all the 
« churches*." 

3. It is further observable, that notwithstanding 
all these persecutions and dangers, nothing discou- 
raged the apostle, nothing deterred him from per- 
formuig the duties of his oincc, and executing his 
commission to its utmost extent. " None of these 
" things," says he, " inove me." When persecuted 
in one city, he sought refuge in another : and no 
sooner was he silenced in one place, than he opened 
his commission in another. Narrowly escaping from 
Damascus, he begins to preach at Jerusalem : driven 
from Jerusalem, he carries the gospel to Cesarea, 
to Tarsus his native city, and to Antioch, where the 
disciples first obtained the honourable name of Chris- 
tians, And such was his conduct through tht- 
whole of his life and ministry. He reminds the 
Thessalonians, that " after having suffered and been 
"shamefully treated at Philippi, he was bold in his 
« God to speak the gospel to them, though amidst 
" much contentiont." And when it was foretold by 
Agabus, that " he should be bound at Jerusalem 
"and delivered up to the gentiles," while his friends 
were earnestly dissuading him from taking the jour- 
ney, " What mean ye," says he, " to weep and to 
" break my heart ? for I am ready not to be boiuid 

» 2 Cor. xi. 22— 2!i. t 1 TliCis. !i. 2, 



SERMON. 93 

* only, but to die at Jerusalem for the name of the 
" Lord Jesus*." 

4. Finally, the apostle was animated to his la- 
bours, and supported under his sufferings, by the 
ardent desire and confident expectation of ultimate 
success, and of a final glorious triumph. <■ None 
*' of these things move me, neither count I my life 
" dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course 
"with joy." 

Amidst difficulties and dangers he possessed 
many sources of consolation even while he was fulfill- 
ing his ministry. The consciousness of fidelity^ 
disinterestedness and zeal in the cause in which he 
was embarked, was an inexhaustible spring of com- 
fort, and a powerful motive to activity and persever- 
ance. " Our rejoicing," suith he, " is this, the testi- 
*' mony of our conscience, that in simplicity and 
" godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by 
" the grace of God, we have had our conversation 
in the worldf." The apostle also felt the warmest 
emotions of gratitude and delight at the recollection 
of the great mercy that he had experienced, and of 
the high honour which had been conferred upon him 
in his conversion to the christian faith, in his call to 
the apostolic office, and in his mission to the gen- 
tiles. " Unto me," says he, " who am less than the 
" least of all saints, is this grace given, to preach 
' " among the gentiles the unsearchable riches of 
Christ.^." The extraordinary succesa of his apostol- 
ical labours was a continually increasing source of 
joy and triumph. If many rejected his doctrine 

* Acts, xxi. U— 1-1. t 2 Cor. i, 13. } KpU. iiL ». 



94 SERMON. 

as folly or blasphemy, many also received it " as the 
" wisdom of God and the power of God." He sel- 
dom resided in a pk.ce, even for a short time, Avith- 
out collecting a considercbie ciiristian society. And 
if there were some ignorant or maiicious intruders 
who corrupted the doctrine of Christ, disturbed the 
harmony of the church, and calumniated the char- 
acter of the apostle ; there were also many who were 
fully sensible of the value of the gospel, who were 
zealous for purity of doctrine, and for the preserva- 
tion of christian liberty ; whose conduct was an or- 
nament to their profession, who cheerfully and ac- 
tively concurred with the apostle in his schemes of 
usefulness, and who, penetrated with admiration of 
his character and v/ith gratitude for his instructions, 
regarded him with veneration and love, " as a mes- 
" senger of God, or even as Christ Jesus*." Jesus 
had himself appeared in person to the apostle, to 
invest him with the apostolic office, and to qualify 
him for the honovirable and successful discharge of 
it. He was no doubt generally present with him, 
though invisibly, and we know that he occasionally 
appeared to him during the course of his ministiy ; 
and, surely, it must have been an exquisite gratifi- 
cation to the apostle to rellect that he lived and la- 
boured and suffered tmder his inaster^s eye., to whom 
he might at any time have recourse in a season of 
difficulty, and of whose protection he was secure. 
" I can do all things," says he, " through Christ who 
" strengtheneth me : gladly therefore will I glory 
" in my infirmity, that the power of Christ may 
" rest upon me : for when I am weak, then am I 

• Gil. iv. 14. 



SERMON. 95 

" strong*." Nevertheless his chief solicitude was to 
stand approved in the sight of God, and his highest 
consolation >vas a hope of the divine favour. " We 
" are not," says he, " as many who corrupt the word 
<' of God, but as of sincerity, but as of God, as in the 
" presence of God we speak in Jesus Christf." It 
likewise afforded him great satisfaction to observe 
that his sufferings., as well as his labours, tended to 
promote the cause of truth and virtue. He is desir- 
ous that the Philippians " should understand that 
'' the things which had happened to him had fallen 
*' out rather to the furtherance of the gospel, and 
" that many waxing confident by his bonds were 
" much more bold to speak the word without fear|." 
And it was not the least inaportant source of conso- 
lation to reflect, that the cause in which he laboured 
and for which he suffered was a living and a growing 
cause ; and that, whatever might happen to himself, 
christian truth was, like its author immortal, and 
must ultimately and universally prevail. With what 
an air of triumph does he assure the evangelist 
Timothy, " I know in whom I have believed : and I 
" am persuaded that he is able to keep the treasure 
" he has deposited with me until that day||." 

• 2 Cor. xii. Q. 10. Tlie I.onl to whom the apostle prayed, ¥. 8. and who 
promised that his streiif^lh slioulcl bt- made porftct in him, ajipears evidently 
to liave been Christ, v. 9. of whose personal presence with him, thei-efore, at 
that time, the apostle must have bt'en assurc'd : otherwise he would not iiave 
prayed to him. But Jesus liad promised to be with his apo!.tles to the end of 
that age, wliieh authorised those personal addresses to him which in succeed- 
ing ages w ould not be waiTantahle. Sec Matt, xxviii. 20. Also bishop Pearce's 
Corainentaiy, and Mr. Wakefield's excellent note upon the text. 

t 2 Cor. ii. 17. X Phil. i. 12— ll. 

II 2 Tim. i. 12. TotpxiriKtit, evangeliam mihi commissum. Wakefield', 
innnuscript note upon Wvtstein, Conipnrc v. 14. wlicre the same word n 



96 SERMON. 

But the greatest satisfaction of all was the 
confident and joyful expectation which the apostle 
entertained of ?, future e-ver lasting recom/iense. In 
comparison with this, all present sufierings Avere 
light and niomentaiy in his estimation. " I have 
" fought," says he, " the good fight. I have finished 
" my course. I have kept the faith. Henceforth 
" there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, 
« which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give 
" me in that day*." 

And yet he makes comparatively light of his own 
personal reward if it were not to be shared in com- 
mon with his friends and converts. The summit of 
his bliss, the palm of his ambition, is to meet them 
vith satisfaction at the tribunal of Christ, and to be 
united with them in glory and happiness. " What," 
saith he, " is our hope, our joy, our crown of re- 
" joicing? are not even ye in the presence of our 
" Lord Jesus Christ at his coming ? for ye are our 
" gloiy and our joyf." 

Supported by these consolations, and animated 
by these views and hopes, what wonder is it that 
none of the afflictions and persecutions which he 
endured could move the apostle from his faith and 
duty, and that life itself was often exposed, and hi 
the end cheerfully sacrificed, " that so he might 
" finish his course with joy, and that ministry which 

used ill the best manuscripts. Ste Griestoch: Also Mackniglit and Benson 
on t'le text. Dr. Harwood paraplirastically but .justly translates tlie passage 
" I am persuaded that he is able to jireserve in the world till his future torn- 
'• ing that sacred deposit with wliich he has entrusted me." 

» 2 Tun. iv. 7, 8. +1 Thess. ii. IP, 20. 



SERMON. ^7 

" he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the 
*' gospel of the grace of God." 

I AM persuaded, my christian friends, that while 
I have been thus briefly illustrating the short sketch 
which the apostle has given of his own character, 
many of you have been impressed with the striking 
features of resemblance which it bears to that of a 
great and venerable man whose decease has just 
been announced to us, — Dr. Priestley, — a name emi- 
nently dear to science, but still dearer to religion, 
justly celebrated through the w'oi'ld for talents 
and for learning, and particulai-ly for his numerous 
original and important discoveries in the philosophy 
of nature and of man ; but still more estimable, 
more truly renowned, for his zeal and industry, his 
laljours and his sufferings, in the cause of moral 
truth and of pure unsophisticated Christianity : a 
•character dear to every one whois capeible of appre- 
ciating intellectual excellence and moral worth, but 
peculiarly endeared to you, my friends, by the rela- 
tion which he once sustained as the pastor of this 
christian society ; by the extraordinary ability, assi- 
•duity and success with which he discharged the 
•duties of his profession, and by the dignity of his 
character, and the amiable simplicity of his manners 
in private life. 

Of the transcendent talents of this truly great 
man and enlightened philosopher, of the quickness 
of his apprehension, of the soundness of his judg- 
ment, of the comprehension of his views, of tl;e 
activity and versatility of hi« powers, of the ardour 
of liis mind, of his resolute and unwearied applica- 
9 



ys 



SKUMOV. 



lion, of the divevsily and extent of his erudition, of 
his insatiable tliirst after knowledge, of the varietv 
and ingenuity of his contrivances to facilitate in- 
vestigation, and to diversify experiment; of the 
originality, the multiplicity, and the unparalleled 
success of his researches into the phenomena and 
the laws of nature ; of the extent and value of those 
grand discoveries which constitute a new a:ra in the 
progress of experimental philosophy ; of the un- 
common candour and unexampled generosity with 
which he communicated those discoveries for the 
benefit of mankind ; and of the high estimation in 
which he was held by all his contemporaries who 
were capable of appreciating his merits, and who 
were willing to do justice to his talents, much 
might be said and justly, and much will be spoken 
even by those who during his lifetime were most 
jealous of his honours, and most niggardly in his 
praise, and still more by those who knew and ho- 
noured him while he was living, and who now cherish 
his memory with gratitude and veneration. 

In what remains of this discourse I shall limit 
myself to the humbler task of illustrating Dr. Priest- 
ley's character in that view of it which is least 
attractive to the world, and which is held in little 
estimation by many who entertain the highest opi- 
nion of his literary and philosophical talents and 
acquisitions, but upon which he himself, and in my 
apprehension justly; set the highest value, namely, 
his character as a christian minister, and an en- 
lightened, able, and zealous advocate of christian 
truth. In this department he was truly exemplary, 



SERMO.V. 99 

and his conduct in many particulars bore an honour- 
able resemblance to that of the great apostle of the 
gentiles. It was the main object and business of 
his life " to testify the gospel of the grace of God," 
and from this purpose he was not to be diverted by 
any secular consideration whatever. 

The foundation of all the excellencies of this 
great and good man's private and professional charac- 
ter was laid in early, serious, and unaffected piety. 
His faith in the existence of God was clear and un- 
hesitating, his views of the divine character and 
government were rational and sublime, and his 
practical regards to the Divine Being were habitual 
and uniform. His piety was not obtrusive and 
ostentatious, but calm and steady : not obvious to 
the notice of the world, but evident to all who were 
honoured with his society and friendship. It was 
the ruling principle of his conduct, the balm and 
consolation of his life. This habit was of the ear- 
liest growth under the fostering care of a pious and 
benevolent relative, who took the charge of his edu- 
cation, and of whose kindness he retained an affec- 
tionate and grateful sense to the latest hour of life. 
In maturer years, as he acquired more correct con- 
ceptions of the attributes of God, his piety became 
more confirmed, as a principle of action, while it 
was at the same time gradually purified from all 
tincture of irrational and unmanly superstition. 

Another predominant feature in Dr. Priestley's 
official character was a disinterested love of truth, 
indefatigable zeal in the pursuit of it, and resolution 
to adhere to it when found, at all hazards. This 



100 SERMON'. 

virtuous principle was generated in his mind by the 
vigor of his intellect, and by an early intercourse 
with wise and good men of different opinions in re- 
ligion. Having often heard these opinions discussed 
with temper and ability, and being himself pene- 
trated with an impressive sense of the importance 
of christian truth, he soon began to regard it as an 
imperious duty to take nothing upon trust, but to 
think and judge for himself concerning the doctrines 
of cjiristianity, according to the ability and oppor- 
tunity which divine pro\idence had granted him. 

He was educated in the rigorous and gloomy 
system of Calvin, and he felt it in all its horrors*. 
13ut as his mind gradually expanded, he by degrees 
acquired courage to examine the prejudices of his 
education, and to divest himself of some principles 
which were most glaringly absurd and obnoxious, 
even before he commenced a regular course of theo- 
logical studies. He was, when very young, ex- 
cluded from communion with a church in which he 
hud been accustomed to worship, because he hesi- 
tated to acknowledge himself deserving of eternal 
misery for Adam's sin f- And desirous as he was 

» Upon tliis subject he thus expresses hiraself : " Bt- lieviiig that a new 
•• liirth, produceil by the iiunietliiite ajjency of tlie spirit of God, « as necessary 
■' lo salvation, ami not Ixing able lo satisfy myself that I had experienced any 
"thing of the kind, 1 had occasionally such distress t)fiuiiul as it is not in my 
'■ power to descril«>; and which I still look back upon with horror. Notwith- 
'•standing 1 had nothing very material to ivproacli mysilf with, I often con- 
•■ eluded that Goil had liirsakeu me, and that my case was that of Francis 
"Spira, to whom, as he imagiiud. repiiitance and sal\ation were denietl. lu 
'•this state of m. lid I rcniemlxT reading the account of the man in the iron 
'• cage in the Pilgrin/s Progress with thi gi-eatest pertm-balion."' 

t " Not thinking," says he, " that all the human race, supposing them not 
■' to have any sin of their own, wen- liable to the wrath of God, and the 
• painsof hell for erer, for that sin only. Kor such was the question that was 
••put to me." 



SERMOK. 



lOl 



to be educated for the christian ministry, he pe- 
remptorily refused to enter himself as a pupil in an 
institution where subscription to articles of faith was 
an indispensable condition of admission. He I'e- 
solved even at that early age that he would endure 
no fetters upon freedom of inquiry. 

The chi'istian ministry, as exercised among pro- 
testant dissenters, was the profession of his early 
and favourite choice ; and though for a time the 
delicate and precarious state of his health seemed 
likely to prove an insuperable obstacle to the attain- 
ment of his wishes, a favourable change in the state 
of his constitution at length permitted him to enter 
as a student in a respectable institution for the edu- 
cation of ministers, at Daventry in Northampton- 
shire. Dr. Priestley has often been heard to ac- 
knowledge, with great satisfaction, that, at the period 
when he became a member of that college, it hap- 
pened to be in a state peculiarly favourable for the 
investigation of truth. Theological discussion was 
conducted with candour and without any restraint, 
the tutors and students being almost equally divided 
in opinion upon the most important subjects. In 
such a situation his love of truth and his thirst after 
knowledge increased daily : and before he had 
fmishcd his academical course he had divested him- 
self of many early prejudices, though he was far 
from having acquired those clear, distinct, and com- 
prehensive views of christian doctrine which he, 
afterwards attained. It was at this period of his 
life that he first became acquainted with Hartley's 
Observations on Man, an admirable work, whicii 
9 * 



102 SERMON. 

attracted, as indeed it merited, his closest attention, 
which gave him an insight into the true theoiy of 
human nature, a subject in the discussion of which 
he afterwards so greatly excelled. Hartley was his 
favourite author to the close of life: and he freely 
owned that he had derived more instruction and 
more satisfaction from this volume, than from any 
other book which he had ever read, the scriptures 
alone excepted. 

As a public speaker Dr. Priestley was conscious 
that he did not possess popular talents ; and early 
in life he was afflicted with an impediment in his 
speech, which he with great difficulty subdued. This 
led him when he first settled in the world to acqui- 
esce in situations which were very private and ob- 
scure. But wherever he lived, his chief employ- 
ment was to study the scriptures, and to investigate 
their true sense, Avhether it did or did not accord with 
his own preconceived opinions. His, sole object 
was truth : the truth as it is in Jesus, the pure un- 
corrupted doctrine of the christian revelation ; for 
the attuhiment of which he thought no labour too 
great, and no sacrifice too dear. 

The principles of his education were so deeply 
rooted in Dr. Priestley's mind, that it was by a very 
slow process, and in consequence of very laboiious 
and persevering inquiry for many years, that he at 
length disentangled his mind from the web of pre- 
judice, and purified his views of the christian sys- 
tem from those errors which early prepossessions 
liad blended in his mind with the genuine doctrine 
o.f Christ. In the course of his preparatory studies 



« 



SERMON. lOS 

he saw sufficient reason to abandon the unscriptural 
docU'ines of the trinity, of original sin, and of vica- 
rious suffering. He still, however, adhered to the 
Arian notion concerning the pei'son and offices 
of Christ, to a qualified sense of the doctrine of 
atonement, and to other points connected with them. 
Upon further consideration he soon saw reason to 
give up the doctrine of atonement in every sense of 
it, and to hesitate concerning the plenary inspiration 
of the sacred writers. But it was not till upwai'ds 
of ten years afterwards, and when he was settled 
with a respectable congregation at Leeds, that, in 
consequence of reading with great attention Dr. 
Lardner's incomparable letter upon the Logos, he 
became a proper unitarian, and a firm believer in the 
simple humanity of Jesus Christ, of which doctrine 
he contmued ever afterwards a most able and stren- 
uous advocate. It was still later than this that Dr. 
Priestley adopted and avowed his original and in- 
genious hypothesis concerning the homogeneity of 
man, which, though a notion most innocent in 
itself, and supported by all the appearances of na- 
ture, has, in consequence of misapprehension or 
misrepresentation, given more offence than any 
other opinion which he was known to nraintain*. 

» This doctrine, to which Dr. Priestley has unfortuiiatt ly giwn the obnox» 
ioiis name of Materialism, thoiigliit iiii);lit perhaps with gi-eater prnpncty be 
called Immaterialism, has by some been grossly niisimderslood, and bj othen 
wiltully misrepresented. It is commonly l)elieved that Dr. Pritsiley, as a ma- 
terialist, held that the soul of niau is an extended, solid, and inert substance : a 
notion which he expressly disclaims. He even denies the existtnce of solidity 
and inertia in any subsUnce, and adopts the curioirs liypothesis first propos- 
ed by P. Boscovicli, that all that we know of matter itself is active power, and 
slut the only properties which can be prOTcd to belojig to matter are attratr 



104 SERMON. 

liis courage and integrity in avowing what he 
believed to be important truth, was a most conspicu- 
ous and honourable feature in Dr. Priestley's cha- 
racter. Before he appeared as the fearless advocate 
of truth, it was regarded by many of his brethren 
in the ministry as the part, not only of innocence, 
but of wisdom, to disguise their real sentiments in 
ambiguous language, and to impose upon their 
hearers by using terms and phrases in a sense dif- 
ferent from that in which they were commonly un- 
derstood : thus securing a reputation for the ortho- 
doxy which in their hearts they despised. This low 
and secular wisdom, this '• deceitful handling of the 
"word of God," the magnanimous spirit of Dr. Priest- 
ley held in just contempt ; and discountenanced to 
the utmost, both by precept and example. Being 
fully convinced, after mature deliberation, that truth 

tions and repulsions of various kinds. Perception in its sevei-al modes consti- 
tutes mind That matter, i. e. that attraction and repulsion combined, may 
exist witliout p/rceptioi), many pli^nom. na lend us to conclude, and it is a 
fact generally allowed ; but that perci-plion and its modes ever exist, or can 
exist, in created being-s, unconnected with matter, i. e. with certain systems 
of attinction and repulsion, is contrary to all the known pliienomeiia of na- 
ture, and therefore is not to be admitted into trui- philosophy. The only re- 
mainini; question is. whether the vinculiMu which cotinects attraction and re- 
pulsion is tile same with that which connects these properties wiihperception; 
and lo this no specific answer can !k- s;i>vn, Ixn-iiuse it is a subject of which 
we are necessaVily and tot dl\ ifrnorant. This hypothesis of Dr. Pr-estley I 
have ventured to call the doctrne of the ftoiiioi^enfiti/ of man; which woixl 
seems properly to express the idea that man doi s not cot^iit, as is ginenlly 
imaf^iied, of two distinct suhstances ha\in!j no conmion property; ai.d on 
the other hand it precludes tlie miuakes and misrepivseiitaliocs which arise 
from the use of the word matt riatism. It is i.'!.;in th.i'. tiiis is not the hypo- 
thesis which Colli IS siipporti-d, and which Dr. Clarke ofspos^d : and Dr. Price 
himself, in his coiiWoM-ny with Dr. Prieslhy, verj- nearly jields the point to 
his able and acute opponent. See the Comspondeiice lietween Price and 
Priestley, p. 85, 86. 23fi. Priestley on Matter and Spirit, p. 17. This subject 
is stated more at large in the Elements of the Philoscpliy of the Human ^Ilnd , 
chap. xi. 



3EHH0U. ' tOS 

must ultimately be favourable to virtue, and that it 
can only make its way by honest profession and fair 
argument, he regarded it as an indispensable duty 
upon every just occasion to avow, and in a manly 
and honourable manner to defend, what he sincerely 
believed, after fair and diligent inquiry, to be the 
christian truth. He concealed no doctrine which 
he apprehended to be true and important, because 
it was unpopular, or because the profession of it 
might be attended with consequences personally 
disadvantageous : a conduct which in his situation was 
a proof of uncommon vigour of mind and strength 
of principle. Persons of popular talents, or in inde- 
pendent circumstances, m-ay without much incon- 
venience avow opinions obnoxious to vulgar preju- 
dices, or, repugnimt to the popular creed. But 
where the public teacher depends for his bread upon 
the numbers and the liberality of his hearers^ and 
where he is conscious of the want of talents to at- 
tract the crowd, the profession of principles which 
are sure to give offence to many who would other- 
wise be his zealous friends and supporters, is a duty 
of uncommon difficulty, and few have fortitude equal 
to the trial. Such was the situation of Dr. Priest- 
ley when he first entered upon the office of the 
ministry amongst protestant dissenters. But innate 
strength of mind, confidence in the power of truth, 
and a commanding sense of duty, triumphed over all. 
And the doctrines which he embraced from con- 
viction, and avo.wcd from principle, he was well 
prepared to defend with ability and learning, with 
zeal and charity. In all the most important con- 



106 SERMON. 

troversies in which he was engaged, he had studied 
the subject thorouglily, and was a complete master 
of the whole question. In reasoning, his language 
was plidn and simple ; his state of the question was 
impartial ; his arrangement was lucid ; his ideas clear 
and distinct ; his arguments, though often original 
and curious, and sometimes refined, and derived 
from the most grand and comprehensive views of 
things, were nevertherless in general perspicuous 
and forcible, and bearing directly upon the point in 
question. There was nothing artificial and ambi- 
guous ; no design to slur over difficulties and ob- 
jections, or to lay greater stress upon a topic than it 
Avould well bear. All was candid, fair, and gene- 
rous ; and where his arguments failed to convince, 
they nevertheless left a strong impression of in- 
genuousness, of talent, and integrity. 

In the present state of things religious controversy 
is unavoidable, being indispensably requisite to the 
discovery of christian truth, and to disentangle it 
from prevailing error ; but it has a great tendency 
to generate malignant passions in the minds of those 
who enter deeply into it. Nevertheless, of writers 
who have distinguished themselves so much in con- 
troversy as Dr. Priestley, few have preserved their 
temper better. He desired nothing so earnestly as 
calm and temperate discussion of important ques- 
tions ; and those controversies which afforded him 
the most satisfaction, were the few which were 
conducted on both sides with good temper and good 
manners. He seldom adopted harsh and sarcastic 
language till his feelings had been irritated by un- 



SERMOK. 107 

provoked accj^ression. I do not, however, mean to 
contend that his language was always guarded and 
perfectly correct. It sometimes, perhaps, expressed 
a greater degree of animosity than he intended, or 
felt ; and sometimes he used expressions which he 
would wish to have recalled. But who is wise at 
all times ? He has often been charged with making 
use of harsh language concerning the opinions of 
his opponents. But this was done not with a design 
to give offence, but to rouse attention ; and he re- 
garded himself as justified in it by the strong testi- 
mony which the primitive teachers of Christianity 
bore against the superstitions and errors of the 
times in which they lived. Yet, while he entered 
his grave and solemn protest against the popular 
corruptions of the christian doctrine, he was always 
tender to the persons of those who conscientiously 
adhered to them. He viewed Calvinism as the 
extravagance of error, as a mischievous compound 
of impiety and idolatry : but he regarded the sincere 
professors of this pernicious system with compas- 
sion rather than contempt. With regard to many 
of them, he knew their integrity ; he revered their 
piety ; in that denomination of christians it had been 
his happiness to meet with some of the wisest and 
the best characters that he had ever known ; and to 
an early education in that rigid sect he had been 
Indebted for some of his best principles, and his 
most valuable and permanent durable religious im- 
pressions. 

In the discharge of his professsional duties Dr. 
Priestley was eminently assiduous and exemplary. 



108 SEKTkfON. 

His delight was to communicate instruction, and, 
above all, religious instruction. " He led the lambs 
of the flock," and condescended to the capacities of 
little children. His admirable Institutes of Natural 
and Revealed Religion he composed while a student 
at the academy, and used it as a text^book for the 
instruction of youth in the great principles of moral 
and religious truth, in every congregation with 
which he was connected ; and the pains which he 
took for this purpose are, I doubt not, recollected 
with gratitude by many who now hear me. 

His public discourses were, generally speaking, 
plain, simple, instructive and practical. Occasion- 
ally they contained elaborate vindications of natural 
and revealed religion ; and sometimes they were 
replete with beautiful and interesting sentiments 
derived from the principles of a sublime philosophy. 

Exposition of the scriptiu'es, or rather annota- 
tions upon them to illustrate and explain them, 
regularly constituted a part of his public services ; 
and in this method he communicated much informa- 
tion in an easy, iiiteUigible, and entertaining man- 
ner. Upon this subject he took great pains, and he 
regarded it as a very useful part of public instruction. 
There was nothing he more desired than to excite 
the attention of his hearers to the holy scriptures, 
and to induce them to read this inestimable volume, 
not with superstitious awe, but with the spirit of 
liberal and judicious criticism ; not in a careless 
formal routine, but with a solicitous concern to 
understand its important contents. Divine Provi- 
dence spared his life till he had completed his re- 



SERMON'. 109 

marks upon all the books both of the Old and New 
Testament. Of these a considerable part are already 
printed ; and his latest care was to give directions for 
the proper method of proceeding with the remain- 
der of the work after his decease. 

But the labours of this truly great and excellent 
man were by no means confined to the pulpit. He 
published, as is well known, many important theo- 
logical treatises both controversial and practical. Of 
these, some were able vindications of natural and 
revealed religion, from the attacks of unbelievers 
of all descriptions ; others were didactic works, in 
which the doctrines and precepts of true religion 
were stated and established. Some were exposi- 
tions of the scripture, accompanied Avith valuable 
critical remarks, partly for the use of the learned 
and partly of the unlearned reader. Some were 
works of controversy, in which he earnestly con- 
tended for the purity of the christian faith, and raised 
his banner against the corruptions of the .evangelical 
doctrine. In one celebrated work he gave a detailed 
history of the rise and progress of the principal 
corruptions of the christian religion, and with fidelity 
and succinctness traced out the growth of the grand 
apostacy, from the first deviation from the simplicity 
of the apostolic creed, till it pervaded the whole 
professing church, suppressing and almost extin- 
guishing the vital principles of Christianity. In 
another most valuable work, he represented at large, 
with great compass of thought, acuteness of dis- 
crimination, and extent of learning, the rise and 
progress of those enormous errors which have 
■10 



110 SERMON. 

prevailed from age to age concerning the person of 
Christ, who from the condition of " a man approved 
" of God by signs and miracles, and gifts of the holy 
" spirit," which is the character under which he is 
represented by himself and his apostles, has been 
advanced by the officious zeal of his mistaken fol- 
lowers, first to the state of an angelic or superangelic 
being, a delegated maker and governor of the world 
and its inhabitants, and in the end to a complete 
equality with God himself. 

Another great work, in the compilation of which 
he took unv/earied pains, is a History of the Chris- 
tian Church from its commencement to the close of 
the last century ; a work distinguished for the per- 
spicuity, candour, and impartiality of the narration, 
and still more for the wisdom, the originality, and 
the importance of tlie remarks with which it abounds ; 
which tend to reconcile the mind to the conduct of 
Divine Providence in the permission of the great 
apostacy ; which, from the veiy existence of the cor- 
ruptions of christian doctrine, deduce an irrefragable 
argument in favour of the divine origin and au- 
thority of the christian religion ; and which, from 
the slow but irresistible progi'ess of truth, infer the 
approach of a glorious period, when the empire of 
genuine Christianity and undefiled religion shall 
triumph over all opposition, and shall become uni- 
versal and perpetual. 

Dr. Priestley, even in his controversial writ- 
ings, discovers upon all occasions a deep sense of 
piety, and a supreme desire to render every thing he 
wrote subservient to the practice of virtue. And 



SERMON. Ill 

in the practical treatises which he has occasionally 
published, which are not indeed numerous, he has 
shown how well qualified he was to improve the 
heart as well as to enlighten the understanding. His 
" Considerations for the use of young men and the 
" parents of young men" discover a thorough know- 
ledge of the human mind, as well as a most affec- 
tionate regard for the honour and virtue of the rising 
generation : and in a volume of practical discourses 
he illustrates the e^il and danger of vicious habits, 
the duty of not living to ourselves, the importance 
of virtuous superiority to secular considerations, the 
nature and excellence of habitual devotion, and other 
similar topics, in a manner equally original and 
impressive, and which clearly evinces how beauti- 
fully and hoAV forcibly the views suggested by true 
philosophy combine with the principles of rational 
and pure Christianity to form the chai'acter to dignity 
and virtue. 

But to give an analysis, ur even a brief character, 
of all Dr. Priestley's theological writings, would far 
exceed the limits of a sint^le aiscourse : suffice it to 
say, that they all discover an active, an ardent, and a 
truly enlightened mind, a supreme regard to truth, 
an eager thirst after religious knowledge, and a de- 
sire equally predominant to communicate instruction 
and to diffuse christian truth, as the best means of 
promoting christian virtue. Nor is it the least con- 
spicuous of his merits, that, in order to accomplish 
this most important end, he was willing to sacrifice 
that upon which many set the highest value, and to 
the importance of which he was by no means in- 



1 ^2 SERMON. 

sensible, literary reputation. He often observed that 
he wrote too much for literaiy fame : but his object 
was to be useful, and to promote the cause of truth 
and virtue. If this end might be obtained, selfish 
considerations were in his estimation of little weight. 

Upon this ground he regarded the office of a 
christian minister amongst the protestant dissenters 
as a situation of great dignity and importance ; not 
merely as a liberal, and still less as a lucrative pro- 
fession, but solely as affording the best opportunity 
of devoting his time to the investigation of christiiui 
truth, and to the religious instruction of mankind, 
unfettered by subscriptions, liturgies, and creeds, 
and unbiassed by human authority in articles of faith. 
In this view, it may be truly said of him that " he 
" magnified his office," esteeming it a most honour- 
able and useful employment. And though endowed 
with talents to excel in philosophical and literary 
pursuits ; though strongly attached to the investiga- 
tion of the phsenomena and the laws of iiature ; 
though his numerous, original, and most important 
discoveries had actually raised him to the first rank 
of scientific and philosophical renown ; he esteemed 
all hi^ literary honours as of no account in compari- 
son with the acquisition and promulgation of chris- 
tian truth ; and was no further solicitous to acquire 
philosophical disitinction, than as it might be the 
means of attracting greater attention to his theolo- 
gical writings, and thus of rcndermg them more 
extensively useful. 

That in the course of these honourable pursuits 
he sijstaincd much violent opposition is sufficiently 



SKRMOV. 113 

notorious. Having been, from his first setting out 
in life, the undaunted champion of christian trutJi, 
as far as he apprehended it, when he first became a 
public teacher he encountered many difficulties and 
discouragements. He was neglected by the friends 
of his youth who had assisted in his education for 
the ministry, and whose expectations he had dis- 
appointed : he was vehemently opposed by bigots, 
and strongly censured by those who preferred dis- 
simulation and quiet, to integrity and persecution. 
His ministry was deserted ; his company was shun- 
ned; he was even sometimes treated v^ith rudeness 
and disrespect ; his attempts to acquire a decent 
competence by literary industry were opposed and 
thwarted: and notwithstanding the utmost prudence 
and (Economy, he would have been involved in the 
inconveniences of extreme indigence, if his great 
merits had not been discovered and patronized by a 
few pei'sons of discernment and generosity in the 
metropolis. Amongst his earliest friends he often 
mentioned the respectable names of Dr. Lardncr, 
Dr. Benson, and Dr. Kippis, who applauded and 
encourag'ed his theological inquiries, and whose 
kindness to him, when he most needed a friend, he 
recorded with aflcctionate gratitude. And when, by 
the acknowledged superiority of his talents, he had 
forced himself into public notice, and was raised 
to a situation of honourable independence, he still 
encountered the most bitter and malignant opposi- 
tion from the advocates of popular creeds and of 
established errors, who not only endeavoured to 
confute his arguments, to which, if it were in theh- 
10 * 



1 14 SERMOK. 

power, they had an undoubted right, but with un- 
paralleled baseness, and unblushing falsehood, they 
traduced his character ; they depreciated his talents, 
and defamed his motives ; they represented him as 
an atheist and an infidel ; as an enemy to God ; as a 
traitor to his sovereign ; as a foul conspirator against 
the constitution of his country, and unworthy to. 
enjoy the protection of its laws. 

The sad castastrophe which was the natural result 
of these atrocious calumnies is too recent and too 
painful to be insisted upon at large. In characters 
of indelible infamy are recorded those disgraceful 
tumults, by which one of the most celebrated of 
philosophers, of the most learned and exemplary of 
divines, and of the most mild and benevolent of men, 
was driven by violence, and in hazard of his life, 
from his peaceful home, from the scene of his ex- 
ertions and his enjoyments, and from a station of 
great reputation and usefulness : and, ultimately, 
after having obtained an honourable but short asylum 
in this place, was com/ielled, at least in his own es- 
timation, to seek protection on a foreign shore, and 
to retire as an exile to the remotest limit of the civi- 
lized world. Not indeed to sink into oblivion and 
inactivity — that was impossible. For, though perse- 
cuted with uncommon rancour by the emissaries of 
bigotry and malice, even into his silent and remote 
retreat, he lived by the favour of divine providence 
to rise superior to them all. He there found a peace- 
ful and a convenient home. He lived happy and re- 
spected in the bosom of his family. He possessed 
the means of prosecuting philosophical inquiry and 



SERMON. 115 

theological research to a degree beyond what he 
had ever before enjoyed. He was successful beyond 
his utmost expectation in promoting the cause of 
christian truth, and was Uberally supplied with the 
means of composing and publishing works which 
he justly apprehended to be of the greatest utility 
to mankind. He lived in habits of friendship, es- 
teem, and correspondence with persons of eminence 
and respectability, of talent and character, of all 
denominations in religion and politics. And from 
being unjustly, and through malignant wilful mis- 
representation, regarded and treated as an enemy 
to the country where he had sought an asylum, and 
in danger of being banished from it, he lived to 
enjoy the esteem and friendship of the first ma- 
gistrate of the American republic, who invited his 
society, honoured him with his correspondence, so- 
licited his advice, and patronised his pursuits. And 
that he was not forgotten by the friends of truth, 
liberty, science, and religion, in his native country, 
the late munificent exertions for his benefit bear 
ample testimony*. 

His days were shortened by his indefatigable 
application to various important works, which he 
was desirous of completing to serve the cause of 

* A niiiiour liaviiii; been circulated tli.it Dr. Priestley liad sustained some 
losses in his pcciiniiiry concerns, a proposal was siip^gested to supply (he 
Jeticiency : and in a very few weeks an annuity was raised for him amount- 
ing to four hundred and fifty pounds a year. Unfortunately lie did not live 
to reap the iK'nefit of this exertion, or even to hear that such an affair was in 
agitation, 'rhis testimony of afiection and respect would have diffused a ray of 
consolation over the evening of his days. The niaj<nity of the subscribers 
have, however, as a mark of veneration for Dr. Priestli y's memory, and to 
assist ill the publication of his posthumous works, agreed to remit td hi» vm 
ill America the subscription of the fint year. 



116 



SEUMOX. 



rational Christianity, and particularly to fulfil his 
engagements to those kind friends whose liberality 
had enabled him to commit to tlie press two consi- 
derable works, upon the publication of which his 
heart was earnestly set, as his last and most valuable 
legacy to the christian world. 

His health had been for some months in a declin- 
ing state ; but in the beginning of last November 
his disorder assumed a very serious aspect, and the 
accounts which he then wrote of his own case ex- 
cited iahis friends the most alarmmg apprehensions. 
These apprehensions in some degree subsided, in 
consequence of later and more favourable intelli- 
gence, which excited a pleasing expectation that the 
return of spring might in some degree recruit his 
exhausted powers. But these flattering prospects 
suddenly vanished by the arrival of the painful in- 
telligence, that this great and venerable man was no- 
more. 

Dr. Priestley had long foreseen that his end' 
was approaching ; and he looked forward to the 
hour of dissolution with the fortitude of a philoso- 
pher, and the cheerful hope of a christian. The 
prospect only animated him to increasing diligence ; 
and he was desirous of life, only that he might com- 
plete some schemes of usefulness which he had be- 
gun. The vigour and activity of his mind continued 
with him to the last, under the decay of his bodily 
powers. During the three last months of his life 
he wrote and transcribed for the press a considera- 
ble work, comparing the principles of the Grecian 
philosophy with those of revelation, at the desire 



SERMON, 117 

of the President of the United States ; and in the 
same period, in twenty-four hours, he composed and 
transcribed a defence of the proper humanity of Jesus 
Christ, in reply to an American clergyman who 
had engaged in a controversy with him upon that 
subject*^ 

On the sixth of February last, this great man end- 
ed a life of honourable, persevering, and successful 
exertion in the cause of truth and virtue, and without 
pain, without a struggle, and even without a sigh, he 
gently fell asleep, and entered upon the reward of his 
labours. It is pleasing to add, that he died content 
and thankful for all he had enjoyed in life ; gratefully 
acknowledging that his comforts had far exceeded 
his sufferingsf ; rejoicing hi the conviction that he 
had not lived in vain ;. thankful for the calm and 
easy transition with which he was indulged ; and 
triumphing in the glorious hope of the gospel ; the 
hope of a resurrection to immortal Ufe and happi- 
ness. " I am going to sleep," said he to his grand- 

* Dr. Linn, a i>resbyteri:in minister. This is a sufficient refutation of an 
idle rumour wliich has been industriously circulated, and by uninformed pep- 
sons readily believed ; that Dr. Prit-stlcy, after his removal to America, had 
changed his opinions concerning the person of Clirist. 

+ In a letter to a friend, dated Nov. 4, 1803, in which he gives an account 
of the very alarminj^ state of his health, and of his expectation of a speedy 
dissolution, he thus expresses himself: — "But I have abundant reason to he 
'■ satisfied with life, and with the goodness of God in it. Few have had so 
" hnppy a lot as I have had, and I now see reason to be thankful for events 
"which at the time were the most afflicting." After mentioning a severe 
affliction, the intelligence of w liich had lately an-ived, he adds : '' My only 
" source of satisfaction, and it is a never-failing one, is my firm persuasion 
" that every thing, and our oversights among the rest, are parts of the great 
"plan ill which eveiT thing will in time appear to have been ordered and 
'• conducted in the best maimer. When I hear my own children cr>ing, I 
" consider that we who are advanced in life are but children ourselves, and 
" as little judges what is good for ourselves or others." 



118 SERMON. 

children, when brought to his bed-side to take leave 
of hinn the evening before he expired ; " I am go- 
" ing to sleep as well as you ; for death is only a 
" long and a sound sleep in the grave ; but we shall 
" meet again in another and a better world." 

Thus " he finished his course with joy, and ful- 
" filled the ministry," which from the purest mo- 
tives, and with the best dispositions, he had under- 
taken. " Blessed are the dead who thus die in the 
" Lord, for they rest from their labours, and their 
*' works follow them." Happy they who being stim- 
ulated to emulate this great example, shall be admit- 
ted to share with him in his final triumph ! 

THE END. 



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