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MR. BELSHAM'S STRICTURES UPON MR. B. CARPENTER's DEFENCE OF ARIANISM IN HIS LECTURES.
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. SIR, At the commencement of his sixth Lecture, p. 128, my worthy friend fairly and candidly states his opinion concerning the person and offices of Christ as mediator. “ My ideas, says he,“ respecting the mediation of Christ are extensive. I regard him as the grand agent employed by the Supreme Being, in creating, in governing, and in judging our world, and the immediate dispenser of all things pertaining both to life and godliness."
This is precisely the point concerning which we are at issue. The Unitarians maintain that Jesus of Nazareth was a man, similar in all respects to other human beings, but distinguished from his brethren as the greatest of all the prophets of God, who was commissioned to reveal to mankind the awful doctrine of a future life, and to confirm and exemplify this doctrine by his own resurrection from the dead.
My friend in support of his opinion professes to “ adducé some arguments from analogy, and from the situation of man, as well as from the sacred writings.'
To this argument from analogy, upon which my friend and many other ingenious and learned Arians lay great stress, I demur at the first outset. The question is concerning a simple fact. Is Jesus of Nazareth the delegated creator and governor of the world or not? They who maintain the affirmative, are bound to establish it like all other facts by proper testimony, which in this case must necessarily be that of divine revelation, for it does not admit of any other. Reason teaches us that the world must have a maker and governor. The presumptive proofs that the Creator and Governor of this world and its inhabitants is the Supreme, Original, Infinite Being himself, and not a delegated minister of Omnipotence, are, I think, both numerous and forcible. Yet if a well-attested revelation distinctly teaches that the world was made and is governed by delegated power, and that Jesus of Nazareth is the person to whom that power was intrusted, I must bow to its authority and admit the fact. Because however contrary to all my pre
conceived opinions, however incredible and extravag-ınt this doctrine may appear when considered in the abstract, yet as I do not perceive that it involves a contradiction, it is capable of being proved by competent testimony.
Now therefore I ask, Where is this clear, distinct, unequivocal testinony to be found, which alone can warrant assent to a proposition, antecedently s.) improbable? My worthy friend instead of coming to the point at once, refers us to some remote analogies, and states some disputable facts, which he thinks favourable to his disputable conclusions. We are told, and it is a fact which I readily adinit, and which my friend has illustrated in a very pleasing manner, pp. 129,-131. “ that creatures are made to be the instruments of divine bounty to each other, man to domestic animals, the rich to the poor, &c.” I'rom these facts we are led to infer that superior beings called angels may be benefactors to mankind, and that a still higher being called the Lord of angels, though himself a creature may have been delegated to create and govern the world; and lastly, that this delegated creator is Jesus of Nazareth. A bold conclusion surely from such slender premises ! If others are satisfied with these relined and distant analogies it is very well. I can only say for myself that they do not opcrate conviction upon me.
Another argument which my friend advances is, that the grand doctrines of the providence of God and of a future state of retribution" are not so of themselves sufficient to render men pious and virtugus,” p. 135, something more therefore was necessary for this purpose and as under the Mosaic dispensation sacrifices were appointed and the Shekinah rested visibly upon the ark, so under ihe New Testament God has sent his son as the best representation of himself, p. 140, being the image of the invisible God, of his holiness and goodness, and that his sufferings and death are more efficacious “ in pulling down the strong holds of sin, than all the strength of luman reasoning Also, that Christ is appointed an intercessor in our behalf, “ which impresses us with a sense of our guilt,' &c. see p. 143. But not now to enter into the inquiry what foundation there is in fact for these assertions, I would ask how does this statement prove that Jesus of Nazareth is the creator and governor of the world ? If this reasoning bears at all upon the subject il assumes, it does not establish the fact in question.
My friend lays much stress upon what he ca!!3, p. 144, “ that great and final act of mediation which Christ is to perform as
the judge of mankind.” He tells his readers “ that the Supreme Being will not judge the world in his own person perhaps, lest we should be overcome by his angust majesty." Where did my friend learn this new and strange doctrine He adds “he will not appoint mere man to sustain this arduous office, for every man must be judged himself, and how could a niortal be equal to the mighty task.” And yet our Lord himself tells us, John v. 27, “ That the Father gave him authority to exécute judgment because he is the son of man.” And the Apostle Paul declares to the Athepians, Acts xvii. 31, “ thal he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead.” It is plain therefore that neither Jesus nor Paul felt any difficulty in the supposition that a man should be appointed to judge the world. My friend evades the conclusion by the assumption that Jesus was not a mere man. Let him however recullect, that he here again assumes the very point to be proved. But this argument will not avail him.' For our Lord declares to his apostles who were certainly mere men that they should be assessors with him in judging the world. Matt. xix. 28, “Verily I say unto you, when the son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” And the apostle Paul advances still further, and plainly affirms that the whole body of Christians are constituted to be hereafter judges of the world, and even of angels. I Cor. vi. 2,3,“ Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? Know ye not that we shall judge angels ?” What the exact meaning either of our Lord, or of the apostle in these obscure passages may be, I confess I do not perfectly comprehend. One fact however is sufficiently obvious, that whatever is intended by the office of judging the world, it is an office to which mere human beings may be appointed and for which they may bc qualified : and consequently that the appointment of Jesus of Nazareth to judge the world is by na means inconsistent with bis proper humanity. To pretend that the office of judging the world when predicated of Jesus is one. thing, and when attributed to his apostles and to Christians in general is another, is a mere gratuitous assertion without proof, and brought forward for no purpose but to serve an hypothesis.
The true meaning of the declaration can perhaps only be erplained by the event itself. My friend adopts without hesitaiion the common hypothesis of some splendid appearance and personal agency of Jesus himself. And I pretend not to say
that this is not the true solution, though to me it does not appear the most probable. And it it should prove the right interpretation there can be no doubt that it is in the compass of divine power to qualify our Lord for any office to which he may be appointed. But it appears to me more probable that the expressions are to be understood figuratively. In the language of scripture, prophets are sometimes said to do that which they are only commissioned to denounce. Jer. i. 10, Jehovah saith to the prophet Jeremiah, “ Sce I have this day set thce over the nations, and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, and to build, and to plant.' And Rev. xi. 6, where it is said of the two witnesses, that these “ have power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the carth with all plagues as often as they will,” I believe it is cominonly understood, that nothing inore is intended, thun that those calamities would be predicted by the two witnesses. Also, though the words of the prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, seem naturally calculated to excite an expectation of the personal appearance and proper agency of Jesus in that awful catastrophe, and though this expectation seems in fact 10 have existed, yet there is no evidence upon record of any such appearance, and the prophecy received its proper accomplishment by the event having taken place agreeably to our Lord's distinct prediction of it. In the same manner, in prophetic language, Christ may be represented as the judge of the world, not that he will himself personally bear any part in the final judgment, but because the future state of all mankind will be eventually awarded in exact correspondence to their moral character, agreeably to the solemn and explicit declarations of the gospel, the promulgation of which doctrine was the main object of our Lord's mission and ministry. And upon the same principles, the apostles and professing Christians in general, may be represented as assessors with him in judging the world, as bearing their public and invariable testimony from
age age to the same important fact. Having thus taken all the notice which appears to me to be necessary of my worthy friend's indirect arguments to prove that Jesus of Nazareth' is the delegated creator and governor of the world, I propose, in some future communication, to examine what he states as the direct and proper evidence of this astonishing doctrine: in the mean time, Hackney,
I remain Sir, Yours, &c. Aug. 12, 1807.
WYVILi's EULOGIUM ON DR. PRIESTLEY:
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. S:R, As you have presented your readers with the calogy of 3 learned foreigner on the late Dr. Priestley*, I hope you will with equal pleasure afford room for the following just tribute of esteem from a learncd, upriglit and truly patriotic Englishinan, the her. Mr. Wyvil', who in a note at the foot of a letter which he received from this truly good man, dated Feb. 11, 1789, published in the 'th vol, of his “ Political Papers,” makes the following just and liberal reflections.
“ This letter was the only one which the Editor ever had tho honour to receive from this virtuous and eminently useful philoso. pher, who was then enjoying in peace his well-deserved reputation; but who after this period became the object of latred and animosity to a powerful party in this country, by whose savage outrages he was compelled to quit it. The Editor knows not whether he may yet be permitted to speak what he thinks of him and the persecution he sus. tained, without exciting in some degree, the same barbarous intole. rance against himself. To satisfy his felings he will hazard it.
“ Dr. Priestley was a friend to rational Liberty, and a devoted fol. lower of truth wherever she might lead liim; qualities which in bet. ter times would have secured to him, without his other claims as a philosopher, the general respect of his fellow citizens. But in theo. logy and politics he was too hardy a speculator for the temper of this age. Ilis theology oilended and alarmed the cleruy: his politics ir. ritated the ministry and their adherenis., from the fury of his enc. mies at Birmingham he narrowly escaped with almost nothing but his Jife. The tardiness of an unwilling administration delayed the repa. ration of his losses, and with a most culpable parsimony his just de. mands were disallowed, or inadequately compeusated. Driven from his home at Birmingham and pursued with equal rage in London, he could not trust the laws of his country for the protection of his person and the relics of his property. Ile was forced to look for safety by exile to America. There he found friendship and protection; and his magnanimity under his severe misfortunes commanded general estecm in that country.
“ May the temper of this nation be improved under a milder and more equitable administration than that of Mr. Pitt, and one more liberal and philosophic than that of Mr. Addington! Nay it be one
M. Repos. Vol. 1. p. 215 and 328.