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lish his actual guilt of the crimes which he is accused of, and consequently of his having added thereto the daring sin of perjucy in his solemn adjuration of his innocence, the world must think ayour Lordship's conduct on this occasion absolutely irreconcileable, I will not say to the principles of christianity, (for who alas ! now thiuks of regulating his conduct by them?) but to the principles of that equity, which is supposed peculiarly to influence all the decisions of the court in which your Lordship, presides. , Your Lordship calls your correspondence with Lord F. a confidential one, and complains accordingly of its being divulged. But it seems impossible that his Lordship or any one else should un. derstand it in that light. It began with a letter inclosing a commis-' sion to empo ver his Lordship to perform the functions of a public magistracy, with which pothing of secrecy can be supposed in anywise connected ; and in what your Lordship thought fit to introduce so unnecessarily, respecting the tenets of the Church of Rome in re. gard to horetics, not the slightest hint is given that your Lordship expected it should be kept secret. Indeed if your Lordship at the time you penned those charges against the Roman Catholic Clergy in general did not intend that Lord F. should inform the leading men amongst them of the consequences your Lordship apprehended from their usual manner of instructing the people, that if they appcared to be justly founded, the influence which was reasonably toʻ be expect. ed from a man of his rank, fortune and distinguished worth, might induce them to vary their mode of instruction, at least, to gnard agajost the pernicious tendency suggested by your Lordship, one knows not how to conceive a reason for your introducing such a subject. To suppose your Lordship meant only to disburthen yourself of a secret libel against the Clergy of the Church of Rome by depositing it confidentially in the ears of Lord F. must be too great an ab. surdity, because no worthy, good man, such as your Lordship, acknowledges Lord F. to be, can be silently indifferent to reproaches of such great importance, thrown upon the whole body of the Clergy of that religious society, to which he is seriously and sincerely attached.
(To be concluded in our next.)
MR. BELSHAM'S STRICTURES UPON MR. B. CARPENTER's DEFENCE OF ARIANISM IN HIS LECTURES.
LETTER VI. To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. SIR, To is universally admitted by christians that Christ and his apostles were divinely authorized and amply qualified to teach the christian doctrine: whatever therefore they declare won. this subject must be received as true. And the books of the New Testament are to be regarded as authentic records VOL. II.
of the christian doctrine, as far as they are proved to be the genuine productions of the apostles, or of other wellinformed persons, and as far as we have good reason to believe that they contain correct accounts of the discourses and the actions of Jesus. Much injudicious language has been held, and many extravagant opinions have been advanced, concerning what is called the plenary inspiration of the christian scriptures, which having generated a superstitious reverence for these inestimable volumes, have proved a great obstruction to rational and liberal criticism, and have given an undue advantage to unbelievers.
My worthy friend's ideas upon the inspiration of the New Testament, which is the subject of his fifth lecture, are so singular and curious that it is but justice to let him speak for himself.
In the first place, upon the authority of Mr. Seed, be contends that the inspiration of the books of the New Testainent is universal, because, (p. 97.) “ a partial inspiration is to all intents and purposes no inspiration at all.” Secondly—upon the authority of Dr. Benson, he concludes that the inspiration of the sacred writers was only partial, (p. 102.) that it does not extend to “relating facts of which they were eye-witnesses," nor to “ the language in which they wrote, nor to “ the manner of illustrating and recoinmendiny divine revelation." “ And (p. 109.) that we cannot ascertain how far the evangelists were inspired in writing the gospels, and how far they wrote from their own memories, nor is it a matter of importance.” Thirdly,-Upon his own authority, (for surely he has no other,) my friend informs us, (p. 113.) that the apostle Paul “in one instance” at least “ seems doubtful whether he spoke of himself, or by the suggestion of the spirit of God.” In the case alluded to, probably,, ! Cor. vii. 40. I suspect, not that the apostle doubted of bis inşpiration, but that my worthy friend had forgotten his Greek. Let him compare Gal. ii. 6.9.
Fourthly,-upon the authority of Dr. Lardner, my friend “ acknowledges (p. 115.) that all the books of the New Testament have not equal authority nor exactly the same high pretensions to infallibility.” Nevertheless Fifthly,-on the authority of the first christians*, and, I suppose, to save fur
Who were these for st christians? Does my friend mean the bi hops of the councii of 1.aodicea, A. D. 364, by whom our present canon, with the exception, however, of the Apocalypse was settled ? and whose decrees were not long after received into the body of the canons of the universal church? See Jones on the Canon. v. i. p. 74.
ther trouble, “ we have reason to be satisfied (p. 117.) that the canon of scripture which we now receive, is genuine and of divine authority."
Such is my worthy friend's convenient and accommodating hypothesis concerning the inspiration of the christian scriptures. Like other distinguished personages he has “ two strings to his bow.” If he should be charged with superstitious veneration for the scriptures he may fairly answer, No. I believe, “ that all the books of the New Testament have not equal authority, nor the same pretensions to infallibility." “ Whether the evangelists were inspired, or wrote from their own memories, we cannot ascertain; nor is it a matter of importance. “ In the epistles there are some things which do not constitute a part of the gospel : in these cases the apostle disclaims inspiration, &c." If after this you proceed to compliment my friend upon his rational and discriininating sentiments concerning, inspiration, he turns suddenly about, and contends warmly that the whole scripture is “ the word of God:” that “ every fact is true, that every doctrine is divine, that every precept is of God,” (p. 102.) that “ a partial inspiration is to all intents and purposes no inspiration at all," for « unless the sacred writers had told us what part of the scripture is inspired and what is not, how are we to distinguish what is divine from what is human ?" (p. 98.) Thus my ingenious friend's system of moderation accommodates itself to all parties, and like the bat in the fable he becomes bird or quadruped as it best suits his convenience.
My worthy friend having favoured his readers with this luminous account of the inspiration of the scriptures, and having warily fenced himself against all attacks, now recommences offensive operations, and briskly renews his charge against his old opponents the Unitarians.
« Of late years,” says he, (p. 117.) some christians have called in question the genuineness of the two first chapters of St. Matthew's gospel, and the first chapter of St. Luke's ; principally, I believe, because they contain an account of the miraculous conception of Christ.”. And here I cannot but express my admiration of my friend's charitable construction of the motives of his opponents, and the more so as he seems to plume himself upon being a moderate and candid man : but I suppose that he thinks, there is no rule without an exception: and in this instance he is sure to have the multitude on his side. Besides, it is not to he sup: posed that my worthy friend is so wholly uninstructed in the arts of controversy as not to know how much easier, and how much more effectual it often is, to calumniate an adversary, than to reply to his arguments.
My friend believes that they who reject the two first chapters of Mathew and Luke, reject them principally because they contain an account of the miraculous conception! And whi does he believe it? Would he contend that the mira. culous birth of Jesus is a proof of his pre-existence? Then he must allow, that Adam, and Eve, and Isaac, and Samson, and Samuel, and John the baptist, were all of them “pre-existent beings : for they all came into the world in a supernatural way. But if the conclusion is not admitted in these instances, neither is it to be allowed in the case of Jesus of Nazareth. And in fact the Unitarians have from very early antiquity been divided upon this subject. It is indeed properly' a critical and not a theological question. Upon the subject of the two first chapters of Matthew, the only argument my friend vouchsafes to produce in support of their authenticity is by an appeal to the testimony of Justin Martyr in favour of the first chapter, and to that of Cerinthus for the second. These testiinonics he does not produce, nor even refer to : and they may justly be doubted : for in fact Justin never mentions any one of the evangelists and only quotes from the memoirs of the apostles : and none of the works of Cerinthus are extant. conceding what my friend has not proved, how does he account for the omission of this extraordinary narrative in the copies of the Ebionites, or Hebrew christians, for whom this gospel was originally written, in their native language, and in whose copies it was not found even so late as the time of Jerome. This surely looks as if it was a story which would not bear to be told in the country where it is reported to have happened, and in a language which the inhabitants could understand. How does my friend account for it that a fact so extraordinary, and events of such public notoricty inade no permanent impression, and excited no particular expectation? How came it to pass that our Lord was constantly called Jesus of Nazareth and not Jesus of Bethlehem? How is it to be accounted for that no notice is taken by Josephus and others of the visit of the Magi, or the massacre of the infants? How comes it to pass that no mention is made of these wonderful events, nor the least refesence or appeal to them either by Jesus himself in the course
of his ministry, or by the evangelists and apostles in their histories and epistles? How happens it that our Lord is repeatedly mentioned in the evangelical history as the son of Joseph and Mary, and that the historian never enters any caveat against the mistake nor warns his readers that it is a popular error. And finally, and principally, how could all these things happen in the reign of Herod, when it appears denonstrable from the history of Luke, that Jesus was not born till upwards of two, and probably upwards of three years after the death of that inhuman tyrant? For by the account of Luke, (chap. iii. 23. See Grotius on the place,) Jesus was a little turned of thirty in the fifteenth year of Tiberius: and consequently, was born only fifteen years before the death of Augustus. Whereas it is certain from the history of Josephus, supported by astronomical calculation of a recorded lunar eclipse, that Herod, died at least seventeen years and three quarters, and probably eighteen years and three quarters before Augustus. See Lardner's Dissertation upon the death of Herod in the first volume of his works. I know how expert theologians, and keen disputants wince and struggle in order to disentangle themselves of this chronological dilemma. But dates, as Horace Walpole observes, are a sort of obstinate things: and astronomical phænomena do not easily give way to accommodate a polemic in distress. And though I give no more credit than
friend himself does to the inspiration of Luke when he possessed competent means of information, yet I entertain so high an opinion both of his information and of his correctness as a writer, that I can never believe that he affirmed of Jesus that he was just turned of thirty, meaning thereby, or at least knowing at the same time, that he was thirty-four or thirty-five years of age. All these difficulties, if he ever heard of them, my worthy friend judiciously keeps in the back ground, and gravely tells his readers that the two first chapters of Maithew and Luke are rejected “ principally because they contain an account of the miraculous conception of Christ.”
“ The first chapter of Luke,” says my friend, (p. 118.) “ is rejected merely on the authority of Marcion."" This is not true. I have already shewn that both the first and the second chapter are rejected upon much higher authority : the testimony of Luke himself. But I own that the testimony of Marcion has its weight with me. He, like some learned christians of modern tiines, rejected, but I think without sufficient reason, all the evangelical histories excepting that of Luke. Of this gospel we know that he professed to believe that the copy which