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relieved by you, Sir, out of this perplexity, into which you have thrown us.'
We are, &c. your obliged,
Postscript. Of Dr. Priestley's history of early opinions
concerning Jesus Christ. HAVING omitted the mention of this work of Dr. Priestley's in its proper place, when recommending to you his theological writings, I shall take the present opportunity of saying something of it, the most curious and valuable of them all: and I risque nothing in adding, that it could only be executed in the manner it has been done, by a superior genius, like his own ; and also one, who to so much patient, unremitted industry, could add so many ingenious devices and mechanical arrangements to abridge his labour in forting the vast materials before him, so as to finish in a few years, what
, would have required very many in the ordinary way, without such invention.
HERE TOfore, many christians, who saw that there was no foundation in the scriptures
for the divinity of Christ, or for his being any thing more than a man with an extraordinary commission and power from God, did not know what to make of some the earliest christian writers embracing a contrary opinion, viz. of his having preexisted, before he was born of his mother Mary, at Bethlehem in Judea.
This difficulty Dr. Priestley solved in a most satisfactory manner, in the former part of his · History of the corruptions of christianity ;' by shewing, that this early unfcriptural doctrine concerning Christ, arose intirely from a few learned heathen converts, who mixed their philosophy with the gospel; and by proving also from authentic history, that the whole body of jewish christians, converted by the apostles themselves, did not believe either the divinity, or the preexistence of Jesus Christ. From which it is indubitably to be inferred, that the apostles never taught such a doctrine concerning Christ; as it is out of every degree and limit of probability, that they who had been taught by them, should have lo immediately deserted their doctrine, upon a
matter so important. And he shewed this opinion to have been at first nearly universal among gentile as well as jewish christians, these few philosophizing men excepted.
He also pointed out by what steps these men were drawn on to make Jesus Christ the supreme God; which, in the space of three centuries, they accomplished : but could not, all the while, bring the bulk of christians to accede to their doctrine, who continued to be unitarians, such as the apostles themselves, and the first converts to the gospel.
This work of Dr. Priestley's, was not fuffered to pass without being controverted by several persons, among whom Dr. Horfley, lately promoted to the fee of St. David's, much distinguished himself; 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 fo intirely baffled, and confuted in every thing advanced by him, both from scripture, and early antiquity, to invalidate Dr. Priestley's positions ; 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: To forin a true judgment yourselves of the case, I would refer you to Dr. Priestley's Letters to Dr. Horsley, Archdeacon of St. Alban's, Part ii. and Part iii : to which, in point of honour, and for the sake of truth, he ought to make a just reply; or to give up
the cause, and own he cannot defend it. 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 fatisfaction, and that of others, the learned more especially, Dr. Priestley undertook this his last herculean work (a). In this he has brought to light, and displayed a vast accumulation of evidence, unknown before, “ to prove the truth and the antiquity, as he himself speaks, of the proper unitarian doctrine, in opposition to the trinitarian and arian hypotheses ;” deriving his information from the first fources only,
« The hi?ory of early opinions concerning Jefus « Chrift, compiled from original writers, proving that the “ chuiftian church was at firstunitarian, in four vols. 1786."
having perused all the original authors from the beginning, and produced almost 2000 passages from them; and having many others in referve, equally important, if needed, to establish the facts for which he pleads.
Concerning however this large field, or more justly to speak, this overgrown wood of christian antiquity, which our author alone hath cleared up, and in which he hath made such discoveries ; I would beg leave to observe to you;
1. 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 Arianism ; I mean the doctrine which makes Jesus Christ to have been a great preexistent spirit, next to the eternal God, and deriving his being from him; who con
.; descended to come into this world of ours, and to animate a human body, shrunk from his original dignity and into the state of an embrio, next into that