« AnteriorContinua »
mentioned" (p. 22) “his Arian friend's preface to Mr. Stennet's book of Hymns," in which he had inferred, from Pliny's Epistle to Trajan, that "the Christians of that time sang songs or hymns to Christ as God," laments, in a note, that he should "afterwards renounce that important article, and continue so to his death." I had the curiosity to look into Stennet's "Hymns for the Lord's Supper, 3rd edition, 1713." After an “Advertisement to the Reader," there is "The Preface by another hand," written chiefly in vindication of the practice of singing the praises of God as a part of Christian worship." The writer describes himself as one who "laboured under the prejudices of education to the contrary." At the end of the preface, in which are numerous quotations from the New Testament, all in Greck, there is "a hymn written by the same hand, upon his being convinced that singing is a part of divine worship." The" Country Gentleinan" quotes, incorrectly, not, I hope, with design, his friend's translation of Pliny, whose Latin is in the margin, for, in the preface, the words relied upon are, "to Christ as a God," the proper sense of Pliny, who, familiar with the Pagan deifica tion of heroes, and of favourites of fortune, who were no heroes, would casily misunderstand the language of grateful praise for blessings received through the mediation of Christ, which must, then, have abounded, as it always ought to abound, in the worship of the Christians.
I have observed very little out of the way of modern Arianism in the quotations from the MS., except that the writer appears to have adopted' Biddle's notion respecting the Holy Spirit, as he is said "to take much pains to prove the Holy Ghost to be a creature, though with degrees of ex cellency superior to other creatures." Also, the author of the MS., having put "the doctrine of the Trinity upon a level with Transubstantiation," the " Country Gentleman" describes the latter (p. 17) as a God made by a creature, which," he adds," is downright nonsense, as well as blasphemy, and is very near of kin to that Arian position, that a creature can create principalities; angels and worlds." Yet the "Country Gentle
man" had said, incorrectly, (p. 14,) that "those in the Arian scheme generally triumph when Christ is sometimes spoke of as mere man, as if that bespoke him to be nothing more." Incorrectness should, however, be excused, for "these letters were not designed for the press; the author was far enough from such a thought; but they having been perused by divers gentlemen, that were called good judges in this controversy, the author has been prevailed on, by their importunity, to do violence to his inclinations, and suffer them to come abroad." Having, however, done what he thinks "sufficient to convince gainsayers," as to those “that are fond of engaging in controversies-he does not design to reply to any thing they may object;" having discovered, after disputing through nearly 100 pages, that " disputes are endless, and not his province."
"That Jesus Christ is God by nature, of the same essence with the Father," is " the proposition" which the "Two Letters" are designed to prove. Some of these proofs would, probably, be rejected, as insufficient, by our more cautious Trinitarians. However easily a Country Gentle. man" might be satisfied, a practised polemic would not, I apprehend, venture to argue, as in the conclusion of this preface, that "if there is a God the Fatlier, it necessarily infers, that he has a Son that is God also; or the epithet Father, is impertinent and superfluous;" and again, "that if there is God the Father, there must be God the Son, or he must be a Father without a Son, which would be an absurdity."
Yet if the "Country Gentleman” was no great clerk, he was not a confident and pitiless distributor of divine vengeance on supposed heretical pravity, such as too many great clerks have proved themselves. He was "not one of those who damn to hell all that differ from him in this point, though he would not be one of them, nor choose to take his lot amongst them." He may also put to shame, unless they are shameless, our Christian persecutors, who still "cry havock," though they have already brought an indelible stain upon the character of British freedom, and have done more than infidelity could ever
effect, to dishonour "the worthy name by which they are called." As to "the Arians," (p. vi.,)" who are in a very dangerous mistake," he is for calling for the word to convince them, but not for the sword to destroy them;" because "fire and faggot, fines and imprisonments, are the engines of hell and Rome, but tend nothing to convince any one of the truth as it is in Jesus, who never suffered the least injury to be done to any that rejected his doctrine, except the Gadarenes, who preferred their hogs to heaven and, therefore, he justly suffered the Devil to take possession of them, but did no harm to these vile wretches themselves." In this spirit once argued St. Athanasius; and it were well could he gain the attention of those Christian persecutors, who heard unmoved the dictates of truth and freedom from Hume and the late lamented Ricardo. "The Devil," says the orthodox Saint, when suffering under Arian persecution, "does therefore use violence, because he has a bad cause, and the truth is not in him. Jesus Christ, on the contrary, uses only exhortations, because his cause is good." (See "A Sermon, on Jan. 30, 1732," in Gordon's Tracts, 1751, II. p. 294, Lardner, IV. 281, 282, IX. 212.) Lactantius, as quoted by Lardner, thus concisely settles the question: "Nec potest aut veritas cum vi, aut justitia cum crudelitate conjungi," a decision which may teach us what the Christianity must be, to which a persecutor can successfully appeal as part and parcel of the law of England;" whether that oracular dictum proceed from a Hale or a Jeffries, a Bailey or a Best.
To return, once more, to the author of the MS. and the " Country Gentleman," of whom I wish any of your readers may give a further account. Both the disputants appear to have held a common faith in a supposed natural religion, on which so many pages had been expended, till the necessity of revelation became very fairly a question. Thus, as Dr. Ellis well observes in his "Knowledge of Divine Things," (1771, p. 12,) zeal for natural theology had well nigh destroyed all religion, and Dr. Clarke fell a sacrifice to Tindal by the very weapons he had put into his hands."
I quoted in p. 326, col. 2, President Edwards, as providing for the elect in heaven, as "a relish of their own enjoyments," the sight of their nearest and dearest connexions on earth, writhing in the indescribable torments of their eternal damnation. I have since found that the President was thus anticipated by a divine of the Church of Scotland:
"No pity shall then be shewn to them from their nearest relations. The godly wife shall applaud the justice of the judge, in the condemnation of her ungodly husband: the godly husband shall say amen to the damnation of her who lay in his bosom: the godly parents shall say Hallelujah, at the passing of the sentence against their ungodly child :. and the godly child shall from his heart approve the damnation of his wicked parents, the father who begat him, and the mother who bore him."
Mr. Thomas Boston, who died minister of Etterick, in 1732, is the author of this description, in his celebrated Calvinistic treatise the Fourfold State. (State IV. Head IV. Sec. 9.) Well might my friend Dr. Southwood Smith (from whose Illustrations, p. 381, I have quoted the passage) say of such theologians as Boston and Edwards, that "there are persons in whom system has so completely subdued the feelings of humanity, that they have brought themselves to view this horrid picture with a steady gaze, to contemplate it with complacency, nay, even to affirm that it is beautiful and glorious.”
A description of hell-torments is, I suspect, among the sober-minded of those who believe in the endless misery of the non-elect, no longer a favourite topic as it used to be when that awful subject was treated from the pulpit and the press with horrible minuteness and a most presumptuous confidence. Yet even of those rash intruders on futurity, very few probably can be found, who proposed, like Boston and Edwards, to consummate the bliss of heaven by a contemplation of the torments of hell; and those torments hopelessly endured, perhaps, by
"husband, father, wife, And all the dear companions of our life.” In the same page 326, according to a favourite distinction of the mode
rate Calvinists, I have mentioned he doth predestinate to his children." "preterition or reprobation," though Institution, (1634,) p. 462. it is, indeed, scarcely any thing but a distinction without a difference, or according to Wesley's explanation, "God did not damn them, but decreed,
They never should be saved;"
Though Bishop Burnet, in his Exposition, would prepare the 17th Article for an Arminian subscription ex animo, because "it does not make any mention of reprobation; no not in a hint." Calvin understood this subject better, and maintains the rigorous consistency of his horribile decretum against the moderates of his day; deciding, at the same time, that the non-elect will comprise a large majority of the human race, a decision, against which humanity has revolted in the gentle bosoms of many followers of Calvin, though it was worthy of a Christian persecutor who could conscientiously betray his correspondent Servetus into a prison, glory in his destruction, and insult his memory. Calvin thus writes:
"Multi, ac si invidiam a Deo repellere vellent, electionem ita fatentur, ut negent quemquam reprobari; sed inscitè nimis, et pueriliter. Quando ipsa electio, nisi reprobationi opposita, non staret. Dicetur segregare Deus quos adoptat in salutem: fortuitò alios adipisci, vel sua industria acquirere, quod sola electio paucis confert, plusquam insulsè dicetur. Quos ergo Deus præterit, reprobat: neque alia de causa nisi quòd ab hæreditate quam filiis suis prædestinat, illos vult excludere." Instit. L. iii. C. xxxiii. S. 1.
The old translator thus gives the sense of Calvin: " Many indeed, as though they would drive away the malice from God, do so grant election, that they deny that any man is reprobate but they do too ignorantly and childishly for as much as election itself could not stand unless it were set contrary to reprobation. God is said to sever them whom he adopteth unto salvation: it should be more than foolishly said that other do either by chance, or by their own endeavour obtain that which only election giveth to a few. Therefore whom God passeth over he rejecteth and for none other cause, but for that he will exclude them from the inheritance which
I have been very desirous of noticing, before the conclusion of your present volume, a passage (p. 55, col. 1) in the Obituary of Dr. Aikin.
I was the arbitrator chosen by the other party in 1806, and have still a distinct recollection of Dr. Aikin's patient investigation of the subject in dispute, and of the anxiety he discovered to perform the duties, not indeed of an advocate or a partizan, of which he was incapable, on such an occasion, but of an equitable judge such as an arbitrator should always consider himself, however, on commencing an inquiry, he may be, unavoidably, prejudiced in favour of the party who appointed him. I well remember that when the examinations were closed, and we had met to discuss the merits of the question, Dr. Aikin postponed the discussion, that he might re-examine some alleged fact which he apprehended that he had too hastily admitted.
These representations I have considered as becoming my respect for the memory of Dr. Aikin, though quite unnecessary to sustain, either among his acquaintance, or before the world at large, the reputation of his character for just discernment and strict integrity.
J. T. RUTT.
P. S. I can bear testimony to the eccentricity of character" of Dr. George Edwards, (p. 179, col. 1,) from the recollection of a conversation I held with him in 1792, in company with some literary and political associates. Yet I suspect that you were misled, in imputing to him that very extraordinary dedication.
Mr. George Edwards, the celebrated naturalist, in 1751, prefixed such a dedication to the fourth volume of his " History of Birds." It is quoted, at length, in Biog. Brit. V. 554, where Dr. Kippis remarks, that it
was without doubt, very piously designed, but that the wisdom of it cannot be commended. Such an assumption," he adds, with his usual sense of propriety, "is too great for any human creature, and the few instances of the kind that have occurred in the history of literature have always been justly disapproved."
had the power of death, in Heb. ii. 14,
When your correspondent N. (p. 573,) made inquiries after Dr. John Collet, of Newbury, I expected that ample information would be afforded him from some of your readers in that town. As that has not been done, permit me to offer an extract from the account given of him by his intimate friend the late Rev. David James, in a Sermon preached at Newbury, May 28, 1780; so that my friend Mr. Rutt (p. 650) must have been misinformed respecting the year of the Doctor's death. The widow of Dr. Collet's brother is still living at Newbury, and is I believe in possession of the Doctor's books and MSS.
"Dr. John Collet was descended of a reputable family. He was born on the fifth day of July, 1708, in London Blessed in a father whose reverence for revealed religion was shewn by his diligent study of its dis
Should your correspondent be desirous of obtaining more minute information respecting the Dr., I think it probable I might obtain it from a friend of mine at Newbury, who was accustomed in carly life to accompany her mother and aunt one evening in each week to read and to converse on the prophecies: the Dr. was always the reader on these occasions.
tlements in the East Indies, and whose conduct was an honour to his station; he, in early years, imbibed those sentiments of religion and virtue which laid the foundation for the exercise of that probity and goodness for which he was distinguished through his whole life. In his youth he was tractable and orderly, fond of learning, and rapid in his progress in it. The knowledge of the classics and other branches of literature he acquired under Dr. Ward, afterwards professor at Gresham College; and Mr. Weston, who kept an academy at Greenwich. From the place last mentioned, he went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in April 1725, to finish his classical education. Some time in the year 1727, he went to Leyden, in Holland, to study under the celebrated Boerhaave, and to qua lify himself for the study of physic. After attending the usual course of lectures in that university, and approving himself to his superiors by his application and progress, he took his Doctor's degree on July the fifth, 1731. Quitting Leyden, he visited several cities and towns on the continent: stayed for some time at Paris in order to avail himself of the advantages which that city afforded for improvement in the practical part of dispensing medicine, as he afterwards did in London. Being thus qualified for discharging the duties of a physician, several places were proposed to him by his friends in which his knowledge and skill might be exercised. After some deliberation he fixed upon Newbury, and came here in July 1733, having a few days before been admitted a licentiate by the college of physicians in London. Here he continued from that time till his death, except about six years which he spent at Brentford and Uxbridge. In what manner he has demeaned himself during his residence
* My late esteemed friend Mr. James was a native of Wales; and was not, I am persuaded, related, as supposed in the page above-referred to, to this gentleman, either by consanguinity or affinity.
among us, how virtuously, unblameably, and usefully, most of you are sensible. His skill and success in his profession were indicated by his extensive practice for a great number
argument drawn by Orthodox Churchmen for the Trinity, from the word Elohim?
of years. From the natural benignity GLEANINGS; OR, SELECTIONS AND
of his temper he was ever ready to afford every assistance in his power to relieve the afflicted, and that without regard to distinctions occasioned by outward circumstances. The poor in a thousand instances have experienced his humanity and compassion, not only in removing their pains, but in granting supplies to their indigence." "Exclusive of his peculiar province as a physician, his knowledge was various and his reading extensive." *
"In this example, 'Superos,' though in the plural number, may like the Hebrew ELOHIM,' be rendered in English by a word in the singular number, God. That the sublime poet intended here only that one Spirit, which fills all space, is evident from the words' Dei' and 'JUPITER,' both spoken of the same Divine Being, though in a different number from that of SUPEROS.'"
In the other edition, which is the seventh, 1820, the above observations are omitted. Was it from an apprehension of their militating against the
REFLECTIONS MADE IN A COURSE OF GENERAL READING.
The British Solomon. In the Funeral Sermon preached by Bishop Williams, (Keeper of the Great Seal,) and entitled, "Great Britain's Solomon," we are told, that His Majesty was in hand with a translation of the Psalms, "when God called him to sing Psalms with the angels." This discourse is a comparison of James with Solomon, but to the manifest disadvantage of his Majesty, even in
eloquence. As for cond wisdom and action," (saith the Bishop of Lincoln,) "was a virtue, and a miracle to exempt him from any parallel amongst the modern kings and princes." Now on reading this sermon, the question naturally arises upon the Right Re verend Lord Chancellor's motive for all these praises, since, whatever doubt might exist as to the other particulars in the King's life, one passage was undenied, viz. that he was naturally dead and going to be buried, if not actually under ground at the time. Why then should the Bishop so squanquer his commendations? The next sentence explains it: "Of all Christian kings that ever I read of, he was the most constant patron of churches and church-inen." His successors were therefore to be shewn how it would fare with them in this world after their decease, if they followed his steps; they would be praised for a few weeks, instead of being suddenly forgotten. His Lordship further shews what became of the King's soul: "Severed from the dregs of the body, it doth now enjoy an eternal dreaming (qu. eadem sequitur tellure repostas) in the presence of God, environed no more with lords and knights, but with troupes of angels and the souls of the blessed, his forerunners." (Edinb. Rev. XXXIX. 36, 37, Note.)