Page images

union of Deity with manhood, do, in general, also deny his mediation, and consider him merely in the character of “a teacher sent from God," who, by his doctrine and example, directs us in the will of God, and in the way to his kingdom, but who neither made any atonement for our sins, nor intercedes for our souls. Nay; and if they follow Dr. Priestley, they will not put any great confidence in him, even in the character of a prophet, persuaded he was liable to err even in that respect. Thus, every ground of hope being withdrawn, even the hope of a sure guide to heaven, and all intercourse cut off between God and man, they naturally disbelieve all visitations of supernatural grace, all influences of the Spirit of God upon the soul; and therefore deny the Father, Son, and Spirit, in every sense in which they could be profited by them, having, in fact, neither God, nor Saviour, nor Comforter.

16. It being therefore manifestly necessary that we should believe Christ to be “Immanuel, God with us," “God manifest in the flesh," omnipresent, and omniscient, I have the more willingly suffered myself to be prevailed upon to revise the following sheets, and make such additions to them as may afford sufficient proof of that important point of Christian doctrine. I wish the difficult task had been committed to an abler hand. But Mrs. Fletcher and her friends having assigned it to me, I have endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, that the work might not be entirely unworthy of the public eye. As I have made it my care fairly to represent Mr. Fletcher's sentiments on the weighty subject under consideration, so I have, in general, retained his language, rather choosing to let some expressions pass, which probably, had he lived to put the finishing hand to this work, he would have corrected himself, than to alter what he might design to stand. Mr. Fletcher's friends, I knew, would prefer what was his to any thing I could substitute in the place of it: and as I should have thought it a crime to misrepresent his sentiments, so I did not think I could mend his style, which, in general, is most pure and excellent. I have not, indeed, thought myself under an obligation to publish


all the papers he hath left on this part of the subject, some of them being loose and unconnected paragraphs, and not capable of being introduced here: but what I have been able to bring into any proper connexion with the rest, and what seemed calculated to prove or illustrate the doctrine under consideration, I have published ; and the public may be sure they are not mistaken in receiving as Mr. Fletcher's what is presented to them as his.

J. BENSON. HULL, Nov. 15th, 1788.



1. The catholic church is openly attacked in our day by enemies so much the more dangerous, as they are friends to some of her doctrines, and, as to many things, highly commendable in their moral conduct, putting to the blush the loose livers who acknowledge a Trinity. Thus they persuade the world, that their incessant attacks upon

the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity are directed by virtue itself.

2. Those who cordially believe in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Ghost, are publicly treated as gross idolaters, because “at the name of Jesus they bow the knee, and call for salvation upon the only name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Phil. ii. 10; and Acts iv. 12. We are

even invited to come out of the church of England, as if she were mystic Babylon, because she directs us to call upon the Son, as we do on the Father,—an act of worship which the enemies of our Lord's divinity consider as idolizing Christ, if we may judge of them by their learned champion, who says, in his Appeal to the Professors of Christianity, " If the Trinitarians think it a point of conscience not to go to mass in popish churches, because in their opinion it is idolizing a piece of bread, you ought to make a point of conscience not to worship with them, because, in your opinion, it is idolizing a man, who is just as improper an object of worship as a piece of bread." Thus the Lord of glory" is put on a level with a piece of bread; and doing the chief work of a Christian,-calling upon the Lord Jesus for salvation,-is compared to the worshipping of an idol, which hath not so much life and sense as a dog.

3. So incessant have these onsets been of late, that we

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

might fear for the catholic church, if the Lord had not promised, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her," and that “all things shall work together for good to them that love him." But, comforted and encouraged by these promises, we may be confident that even the repeated attacks of Dr. Priestley against our Lord's divinity will show the strength of the Rock of ages; as the billows which incessantly beat upon a rock that breaks them all, show their own weakness, and the solidity of the rock against which they foam and dash themselves.

4. In the mean time, new modes of attack will render new methods of defence necessary; for God forbid that Christ's worshippers should be less ready to confess him as their Lord and their God, than the despisers of his divinity are to degrade him into a mere man. The learned archdeacon of St. Alban's, the Monthly Reviewers, the Rev. Messrs. Ryland and Shepard, &c., have already stood forth in defence of the catholic faith ; and, in the author's judgment, they have done it so effectually, that when he saw their publications, he laid these papers aside as needless ; and if he now resumes them at the desire of some friends, it is merely upon considering, that Dr. Horsley and his judicious allies having chiefly written for the learned, some farther remarks, suited to persons of all ranks and capacities, might have their use also.

5. The Lord needs no man's pen to support his divinity, which supports the pillars of earth and heaven ; nevertheless, as he once used the voice of an ass to check a prophet's madness, and that of a cock to stop an apostle's imprecations, he may, if he condescend to bless these sheets, soften, by them, the prejudices of a philosopher. But the principal end which the author proposes, by sending them to the press, is to confirm his own faith, and that of the unprejudiced reader, by scattering the mists of some growing errors, and by collecting the beams of Christ's divine glory, which lie diffused in the sacred pages.

6. It is humbly hoped, that the friends of the pure gospel will not, under pretence that they hate controversy, be afraid to increase their light, and to warm their devotion,

at a fire made up of coals taken from the altar of sacred truth. No man's time was ever lost, no believer's love was ever injured, by reading St. John's gospel or his epistles, in which our Lord himself and his loving disciple carry on against the scribes and the pharisees, against the Jews and the gnostics, the very same controversy which we now maintain against the unitarians and the philosophers of the present age.

7. In the mean time, let no one be surprised that men, noted for their learning and virtue, should be permitted to enforce their errors so publicly, and with such apparent sincerity : Providence has its wise ends. There must be heresies among us, that they who are approved may be made manifest. Light and darkness, truth and error, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, must be set before us, that we may stretch out our hand according to our choice, and be judged according to the works of our faith, or those of our unbelief. Add to this, that, by God's overruling providence, error often whets the edge of truth, manifests its solidity, and makes its sparkling glories break forth with greater advantage : thus in a picture, the shades heighten the surprising effect of the lights; and truth never appears so transcendently bright, as when the blackness of error, like a foil, sets it off in our sight. What is chaff to the wheat, before the winnowing fan? and what are thorns to the fire ?

8. Truth is a devouring flame, and will one day consume all the bulwarks of wood, hay, and stubble which are raised to stop its progress. Dr. Priestley pictures out this power of truth in the fine frontispiece of his disquisitions. There he sets before us wooden scaffolds all on fire, while a temple of marble, adorned with pillars of silver, gold, and precious stones, stands the conflagration. “The application of this scene," says he, “is sufficiently obvious ;" for he fondly supposes, that his Philosophical and Historical Disquisitions are the fire of truth, burning up the doctrine of the soul's immortality, of the divinity of Christ, and of the Trinity ; which doctrines he compares to wood, hay, and stubble. Far from thinking as he does about his frontispiece, to us it is sufficiently obvious, that the catho

« PreviousContinue »