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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, HAVING experienced your indulgence upon former occasions, I request permission to insert in your valuable Repository a few strictures upon a late publication of a worthy friend, the Rev. Benjamin Carpenter, late of Clapliam, but now of Old Swinford, in Worcestershire, entitled " Lectures on the Doctrines of Revelation *,' in which he has made a severe attack upon the Unitarian doctrine of the proper humanity of Christ, and other doctrines connected with it, not without a mixture of some, I am sorry to say, not very liberal reflections upon those who maintain them, all which are equally unfounded and unjust, as I trust in the sequel abundantly to prove.
My worthy friend begins, in his dedication to the Rev. Hugh Worthington, with complimenting his patron and himself upon the “ stedfastness of their faith," in not having altered their creed since they were fellow-students at the academy-a distinction to which, whether honourable or otherwise, I must confess that I can make no pretensions. On the contrary, I am apprehensive that I can hardly escape the oblique censure which the well-intentioned author passes upon those of his fellow-students, who having been “ brought up in the gloomy system of Calvin, when they began to think for themselves, scarcely knew where to stop.'
To the whole of this charge I must unfortunately plead guilty. I was brought up in what my friend justly calls “the gloomy system of Calvinism ;" and having begun to think, I know not where I shall stop, as I still profess to seek after knowledge, and am very far indeed from flattering myself that I approach the confines of discoverable truth.
But the circumstance which principally moves the indignation of my worthy friend, which has indeed roused him from
* Mr. Carpenter's work consists of two volumes: it is entitled, “ Lectures on the Works of Creation and the Doctrines of Revelation. It is to the second volume only that these strictures are confined. It may be observed, by the way, that the work is printed with a degree of incorrectness which is a disgrace to the Stourbridge press. Errors abound in almost every page, and some are of such a nature as common readers would not easily correct. In p. 120, John v. 17. is cientioned as an interpolated verse, instead of a John v.7.
his nine years' lethargy, and determined him at last tu issne forih, cap-a-pie, into the field of controversy, is, it seems, “ the strong and decisive language which some persons once adopted in favour of the pre-existence and atonement of Chrisi, and the positive manner in which they now reprobate these doctrines as unscriptural ;” and, “ considering the language of Scripture as still the same," he is “ at a loss how to account for this phenomenon in the human inind.”. At any rate, however, the strong and positive language adopted of late, at last induced him to publish those manuscripts,"concerning which he appeals to the knowledge of his respectable patron, that he had adopted Horace's rule,“ nonum prematur in annum."
How far my good friend's reputation, or his cause, would, have suffered by permitting his manuscripts to lie dormant for nine years longer, I leave others to judge: but to this further charge of using decisive language upon certain topics of con troversy, I, for onc, am again constrained to plead guilty, and the only defence which I can offer is, that the language which I am aecustomed to use is that which expresses the genuine, conviction of my own mind. Where I feel confidence, I ex. press myself with decision, and where I feel doubt I express myself accordingly. To do otherwise would be either affectation or falsehood. And that phenomenon which appears to my worthy friend so marvellously mysterious and inexplicable, in my estimation, admits a very easy solution. An ignorant person, who does not understand the phraseology of Scripture, will be confident in error. The same person, when he is better informed, may, with justice, be equally confident in truth.
But my friend says, “ I do not approve of that decisive manner which is adopted, in writing of doctrines, concerning which, pious, learnedy , and consistent Christians have thought differently.” But why not? After a subject has been fully discussed, the evidence, on one side or the other, may be so, clear as to leave no remains of doubt in an impartial and inquisitive mind. Does my good friend himself hesitate in his judgment concerning the doctrine of transubstantiation, the worship of the Virgin Mary, the "gloomy system of Calvin," or the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity? Or, would he scruple to adopt decisive language, when writing upon these subjecis ? Yet these are “ doctrines concerning which pious, Icarned, and judicious Christians have thought differently:" and I can assure iny worthy friend, that he cannot be more firmly convinced of the falsehood of “the gloomy systein of Calvin' than I am, alter much laborious research, of the utter inad
missibility of the unscriptural doctrine of Arius and all its collateral ramifications and consequences; and unless there be one Jaw for Arians, and another for all denominations of Christians besides, he must allow me, and others who think with me, the same liberty of expressing our conviction concerning Arianisni which he himself takes concerning Calvinism or popery,
My worthy friend appears, by the account which he gives of himself, in his sixth and seventh Lectures, to stand (ticklishly enough, indeed) upon the highest pinnacle of Arianism ; and he tells the gentleman to whom he dedicates his book, that “ he wishes to shew, that those which he deems the peculiar doctrines of Christianity are neither irrational nor unscriptural." My friend is by much too serious and solemn to mean any thing resembling a joke: but such is his method of treating the suba ject, such the scantiness of his proofs, and the breadth and liberality of his concessions, that a person who did not know him so well as I do might be excused in suspecting him to be an enemy in disguise-sonic unlucky wag--some Gregory Blunt *, whose true design is to betray the cause which he has undertaken to defend, and like a noted infidel of the last age, 'who attacked Christianity from á masked battery, that his intention is to prove that “ Arianism is not founded on argument." But as this supposition is inadmissible, we may reasonably conclude, that if the system be capable of no better defence than what has been advanced by my worthy friend, the case is perfectly hopeless. Most assuredly, Arianism, after a long slumber of more than twenty years, does not now return to the encounter with the vigour and energy of a giant refreshed: but, with the feeble effort of palsied decrepitude, it launches a pointless weapon against the impenetrable ægis of truth, which drops harmless to the ground; and if nothing more satisfactory can be produced (and I know not that it can), by the remaining advocates of a declining cause, my friend's book might with justice have been entitled “ Arianism at its
In a succeeding letter I shall, with your permission, resume the subject; and, in the mean time, I remain, Sir,
Your humble servant, Hackney, Feb. 12, 1807.
See " Six more Letters to Granville Sharp. Esq. by Gregory Blunt, E«q. Printed for Johnson, in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1803. With an Appendix, cona raining a Table of Evidences of the Divinity of Moses."
DEFENCE OF LOCKE AGAINST LORD ELDON.
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. Sir, I was very sorry to observe, that a learned Peer, during the late debate in the House of Lords on the abolition of the Slave Trade, had employed the authority of Mr. Locke to justify the continuance of such a nefarious traffic. As you devoted several pages of your former volume to his memory, I beg leave to propose to you some " historic doubts” as to the propriety with which Lord. Eldon introduced his name upon that occasion. I am more inclined to this attempt, as, judging from the very short report of the debate in the newspapers, Lord Holland, on whom the philanthropic mantle of his departed relation appears to have descended entire, was not fully informed upon the point. His Lordship seemed to admit that Mr. Locke had given an opinion in favour of the Slave Trade, though he took away the whole weight of his authority, as applying to our times, by shewing the utter ignorance on the subject which, till the late discussions, generally prevailed.
After an attentive examination of Mr. Locke's works, such as he presented them, by his will, to the University of Oxford, and his posthumous works, first added to the folío editions, I cannot find a syllable respecting negro slavery, nor any doctrine maintained which can be even tortured into an approbation of it. The only mention of the subject occurs in an 8vo. volume, published in 1720, sixteen years after his decease, entitled « A Collection of several Pieces of Mr. John Locke, never before printed, or not extant in his Works.” The first of these pieces is, “ The Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina," concerning which the editor of the volume, Mr. Des Maizeaux, says, that “ the other proprietors desired Lord Ashley, afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury, to draw up the laws necessary for the establishment of their new colony ; to which he the more readily consented, because he relied on the assistance of Mr. Locke.” He adds, that the Constitutions are " printed from Mr. Locke's copy, wherein are several amendments made with his own hand, and which he presented as a work of his to one of his friends," from whom Mr. Des Maizeaux professes to have received it.
Two or three of these One-hundred-and-twenty Constitutions, and indeed the spirit of a great part of the whole, are certainly very unworthy of the author of the “ Treatises of Government." We should rather have expected them from the author of the “ Patriarcha," One Constitution declares, that “ all the leet-men shall be under the jurisdiction of the respective lords, without appeal; nor shall any leet-man or leet-woman have liberty to go off from the land of their particular lord
." This Constitution, however rigorous, yet as to the original leet-man who voluntarily entered himself, it is quite cquitable, compared with the following--that “ all the children of leet-men shall be lect-men, and so to all generations !". Thus was a cast to be formed among the Whites-a constitution worthy of Hindoo superstition. As to the Blacks, after providing, what a West-Indian legislator would never have thought of that.“ slaves, as well as others, shall be of what church or profession any of them shall think best, and thereof be as fully members as any freeman”--there follows this truly abominable constitution : « Every freeman of Carolina shall have absolute power and authority over his negro slaves, of what opinion or religion soever.”
This, I am persuaded, must be the passage, and the only one, to which Lord Eldon alluded in the late debate. That his Lordship would seldom refer to such a writer as Locke, except for such a purpose may be easily believed ; nor can we fairly question the learned Lord's sincerity when he advocates the Slave-trade, however we may have suspecied that of the late Premier in behalf of its abolition. To that measure Mr. Pitt afforded his eloquence, his vote, his personal influence; every thing but what it required his influence as a Minister. Mr. Fox, on the contrary, made it almost the first act of his administration to commit the Parliament to an early consideration of a subject which, as we learn from Lord Holland, engaged the solicitude of his last hours,
To return to the learned Peer. After every allowance for a long-formed forensic habit of endeavouring to make "the worse appear the better cause,” when the interest of a client might require it, was it justifiable, even as a ruse de guerre, to make free with such a naine as Locke on such equivocal authority? The only question before the Lords, the traffic in şlaves (including the unavoidable desolation of the African coast, and the horrors of the Middle Passage), did not come at all before the legislator for Carolina, so far as appears by any of the Constitutions: and supposing these to have been framed, not, as is most probable, in concert with Lord Shaftes, bury, but by Mr. Locke alone, it should be covsidered that he was then little more than thirty years of age, and had just lefa the practice of medicine for the study of politics, under the patronage of that Lord, a versatile statesman, to whoin he