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here insinuate, it is not easy to say. I was present, as well as he, at the delivery of the sermon, and can bear witness that they did hear him from beginning to end, without interruption, without murmur, without any sign of disgust or impatience, and that after the close of the service, having occasion to con. verse with many friends whom I had not lately seen, several of them spoke of the discourse with great approbation. Not being a member of the assembly, I can give no account of what passed at the meeting for business which followed; but having been present at the dinner--not as professing an attachment to any sect or party, but as a friend of religion and religious men--I think it my duty to say, that the sermon was mentioned in my hearing with applause by many, and with dislike by none; and that, to my certain knowledge, the author is perfectly correct in saying, that it is “ sent into the world at the request of several who heard it.” So little foundation is there for the broad assertion of Mr. M. that it “ gave general dissatisfaction.”
If, however, the conduct of the worthy preacher had been such as it is represented to be by Mr. M. it was not merely calculated to give dissatisfaction, but called loudly for a vote of censure from the venerable assembly to whom it was addressed, for he would have us believe, that it was a “violation of the universally prescribed privileges of female modesty and reserve!” And this charge he endeavours to support by citing several expressions from the sermon, twelve in number, of which seven are literal quotations from the New Testament, and then appealing “ to the good sense of any person, whether the discussion of such a subject was not highly indecorous and improper."
After these heavy accusations against Mr. Bennett it must have excited a smile in the countenances of
readers to find Mr. M. declaring that he has taken up his pen“ merely to exculpate the General Baptist Assembly from the odium so improperly cast upon them;" and it will naturally be asked, who is the real calumniator of the assembly, Mr. M. who de nies that they had the candour to hear with patient attention, a gentleman whom they had invited to preach to them, or your Reviewer, who is “unwilling to believe” that they should be Jess ready than an assembly of the clergy, to manifest their regard to the right of private judgment.
Whether Mr. M. will acknowledge any portion of good sense in a man whose notions of modesty are somewhat different from his own, I cannot tell. For my own part, though I think I feel as profound respect for the “ delicate feelings of the other sex,” as he, or any other person can entertain, so far as they are founded in nature, and connected with virtue; yet I think there may be false delicacy in either sex; and I have no hesitation in saying, that with that measure of understanding which nature has bestowed upon me, and with the utmost attention which I am capable of commanding, in the contemplation of this subject, I am unable to perceive the least indecency or impropriety in attempting to inquire, whether the carpenter of Judea, who was commissioned by the One God and Father of all, to shew men the way of salvation, and who “ left them an example that they might follow his steps," was indeed, according to the scriptures, one“ of the posterity of David,” or whether he was, according to the orthodox faith, the creator of the world in human shape. If there was any indecorum in the proceedings of that day, it was not in Mr. Bennett's exercising his unquestionable right of choosing his own subject, according to immemorial usage upon these occasions, but it consisted in the angry attack which, I am sorry to hear, was made by one or two individuals, at the meeting for business, upon an humble, modest, conscientious minister of Christ, for endeavonring to enlighten the minds of his brethren, and to remove a part of that pagan rubbish by which the Christian Church has been so long disfigured and obscured.
The twelve short passages cited by Mr. M. as having given so much offence, he represents as having been repeated thirty or forty times in the space of half an hour. This statement upon the very face of it, is incredible; and whoever will take the pains to peruse the sermon as carefully as I have done, will find, that nothing can be more distant from the truth; only one of these phrases being used more than four times, and the far greater part of them only once.
The majority of these passages, as I have already said, are taken verbatim from that part of holy scripture which is gene rally considered as most interesting to Christians; and as I hope they need no defence in themselves, so I think the only apology that can be necessary for the preacher's use of them is, that they were the most pertinent to his argument that could be selected, and are indeed so harmless, that many chapters in that book, which are daily read, both in public assemblies and in private families, might much more plausibly be charged with indecency. The passages
wbich are Mr. B.'s own, are still more unexceptionable. Surely, Sir, no human being except your ingeni.
ous correspondent, would ever have thought it an offence to Female modesty to say, that the husband of the mother is the father of the son;" and my concern for the interest of common sense inclines me to hope, that there are very few besides him, who can perceive any indecorum in supposing, that “ Isaiah never intended to say, that an unmarried woman should conceive a son.” But really, Mr. Editor, if this squeamish humour be indulged, there is no saying to what extravagance it may be carried. Should it make farther progress, it may become necessary to have a new edition of the scriptures, in which all words and phrases, which such critics as our delicate friend Mr. Marten may deem improper for the female ear must be omitted; and at no great distance of time perhaps, even in common discourse, the term childbirth may be universally proscribed
highly indecorous," the word marriage may be interdict
violating the privileges of female modesty," and even the simple appellations father and mother, may be discarded, as suggesting ideas offensive to “delicate feelings," and unfit to be tolerated in good company.
But I am afraid to go on, Mr. Editor, lest I should get into a strain of merriment unsuitable to the gravity of the subject. I therefore conclude with my hearty wishes for the removal of overy impediment to the diffusion of Christian knowledge, and the enjoyment of Christian liberty; to which happy issue, the increasing circulation of your truly valuable and impartial miscellany, will, I trust, eminently contribute.
I am, Sir,
as ed as
MR. BELSHAM'S STRICTURES UPON MR. B. CARPENTER's DEFENCE OF ARIANISM IN HIS LECTURES,
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. ŞIR, It will be allowed by all candid persons who are competent to form a judgment in the case, that in our inquiries into the true meaning of the sacred writers, we cannot be too much upon our guard against imposing upon ourselves by what we call natural interpretations : for as words have no natural connexion with ideas, what we intend by the natural meaning of words is commonly nothing more than the sense which we, and the party to which we belong have been accustomed to as. sociate with them, and may be as remote from the true meaning of the speaker, or the writer, as the East is from the West. While, on the contrary, the interpretation which we reject as far-fetched and unnatural, may in fact, be the real meaning of the author. “ The common phraseology of St. Paul's epistles,” says Mr. Locke, in his admirable preface, “ every one uses familiarly, and thinks he understands, but it must be observed, that if he has a distinct meaning, when he uses those words, and phrases, and knows himself what he intends by them, it is always according to the sense of his own system.' So that all this knowledge and understanding which he has in the use of these passages of sacred scripture reaches no further than this, that he knows, (and that is very well), what he himself says, but thereby knows nothing of what St. Paul said in them. The apostle wrote not by that man's system, and so his meaning cannot be known by it." In order therefore to ascertain the true meaning of the apostle's language, we are to consider not merely the sense in which we, and our party have been accustomed to understand it, but the sense which properly belongs to it, according to the established rules of just and legitimate criticism.
My friend concedes without hesitation, p. 172, that, “the pre-existence of Christ is not mentioned by the apostle Paul amongst the first principles and primary articles of the Christian faith, but is commonly mentioned by him incidentally, as a motive to the exercise of some Christian virtue." Surely these evangelists and apostles must have been men of a very singular kind, and very different from men of the present generation, since they could live and converse for months and even years, freely and familiarly, with a personage whom they knew to be the Maker and Governor of the world, without discovering any symptoms of awe or surprise, and in writing the history of his life and doctrine could either omit that stupendous fact altogether, as unworthy of serious notice, or if they mentioned it at all, could mention it merely incidentally, as amongst other topics, a motive to virtue. And this omission of the evangelists isthe more inexcusable, as my worthy friend denies, p. 174, that" a mere man inspired by God, and enabled to work mira. cles would answer all the purposes of an angelic or super-angelic being. For men are influenced, greatly influenced by the messenger and by the arnbassador who is sent to them. It is when we consider Christ as sent from heaven, as more nearly related to God, and dearer to him than any other being, that
we enter into the force of that declaration of him, “ for God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son." How inexcusable then were the evangelists in withholding from their readers a doctrine of such high importance! And how can my friend reconcile it to his feelings, and to his principles to place such a doctrine in his catalogue of secondary truths.
1. The first passage which my friend cites from the writings of Paul in favour of the Arian hypothesis concerning the person of Christy is, 2. Cor. viii. 9. “ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
Upon this my friend remarks, p. 168, “ Surely his being rich must refer to a former state of glory, and his being poor to his abasement when he came into our world.” To this argument it would perhaps be sufficient to reply-Surely not. If indeed it were admitted that the public version gives a correct translation of the apostle's words, which it does not, and if it could be proved from other premises that Jesus existed before he was born into this world, which it cannot, this text might be supposed to contain a remote and figurative allusion to that extraordinary fact. But that a person of my friend's understanding, could think of producing such a passage as this, as containing in itself decisive evidence of the pre-existence of Christ in a state of glory, is one instance amongst many of the great powe er of early prepossessions to warp the judgment even of candid and upright minds.
If huwever he will take the trouble of referring to the origi, nal, he will instantly see that the words of the apostle express two states, not successive, but simultaneous, not that Christ was first rich, and afterwards became poor, but that his riches were contemporary with his poverty. Πλουσιος ων, επτωχευσε, literally, “ being rich he led a life of poverty.” A fact this of frequent occurrence. The rich miser from avarice denies himself common necessaries : and in some rare instances generous opulence will forego the comforts and elegancies of life to graa tify more extensively the feelings of an enlarged and disinte rested benevolence. Thus, being rich, they are at the same time poor. In strict analogy to these instances, our Lord, who possessed voluntary miraculous powers, by which he could have supplied himself with the greatest ease with all the conveniences and luxuries of life, chose to lead a life of indigence, of self-denial and dependence, in order to fulfil the purposes of his mission, Thus, being rich for our sakes, he lived in poverty, and herein