« PreviousContinue »
urging, are in their own nature too absurd to gain any credit, and, therefore, can only shew, that what you want in argument, you are willing to make up some other way. I have completely vindicated the character of Origen, which you have endeavoured to blot; and as to myself, you are quite at liberty to think of me just as you please. I am not conscious of any unfairness whatever in any part of my proceedings, but have a perfect willingness to bring before the public every thing that may enable them to form a true judgment on the subject of this controversy. If I knew of any circumstance favourable to your argument, I would produce it as readily as I should do any thing in favour of my own; and I am as willing to detect my own mistakes as you or any person can be to do it for me. For this I appeal to the tenor of all my writings, and to my general character, which I will venture to say is as fair as yours.
You are pleased, indeed, to balance the account of my wilful misrepresentations, &c., with an allowance for "the general probity of my character," and "a cordial esteem and affection for the virtues of it," which, you say, "I believe to be great and amiable."* What you know of my private character I cannot tell, but I suppose not much; and I shall not attempt to balance your account in the same manner; for really of your private character I know but little, either good or evil; and therefore I presume the former, though the liberties you have taken as a writer are not very favourable to that presumption. But this kind of apology is absurd; and had I thought you or Mr. Badcock capable of the things with which you charge me, I should not say that "your virtues were either great or amiable."
By way of softening those charges, which materially affect my moral character, you sometimes (though it makes a poor compensation for defects of a moral nature) introduce compliments (whether sincerely or ironically is equally indifferent to me) respecting merit of a philosophical kind. These also, for want of information, I am unable to return. For if I were asked what improvements in science the world owes to you, I really could not tell; and I think it is very possible, that, in fact, you are as much a stranger to my pursuits as I am to yours. By this I do not mean to insinuate that you have no merit as a mathematician, to which you make high pretensions; but though for some years I applied pretty closely to the study of pure mathematics, and
• Letters, p. 160. (P.) Tracts, pp. 276, 277.
was thought to have made some proficiency in them, it was when I had not the means of employing my time as I now do, so that I give but little attention to those matters. Whatever may be the case with you, I find that if I particularly cultivate one branch of knowledge, it must be at the expense of others. I have, therefore, made my choice of the different objects of pursuit, and shall hardly change it now, except, as I get older, to circumscribe my studies still more.
If any thing would justify a retort of such charges of unfairness, it would be your readiness, upon every slight occasion, to bring them against me. For we do not easily suspect others of what we feel we are incapable of ourselves. But as I am conscious of the utmost fairness in my own conduct, I cannot lightly believe the contrary of others.
As I observed to Mr. Venn, in the first theological controversy in which I engaged, "It behoves us carefully to distinguish between a latent insincerity," (the nature and causes of which I there explain,) "under the influence of which men deceive themselves, and that direct prevarication, with which those who are engaged in debate are too ready to charge one another, as if their adversaries knowingly concealed or opposed the truth. This is a crime of so heinous a nature, that I should be very unwilling to impute it to any person whatever." I am, therefore, unwilling to charge it on you or Mr. Badcock, notwithstanding some appearances might seem to justify me in it.
I am the most puzzled to account for the strange and improbable history that you, Sir, have given of a church of orthodox Jews at Jerusalem after the time of Adrian, and the series of historical facts, as you have the assurance to call them, for which it is not possible that you should have any authority in ancient or even in modern writers; and yet had you yourself been present at the surrender of the place, and had drawn up the terms of capitulation, you could not have given a more distinct and positive account. But the fact, I believe, was, that, without any examination of your own, you took it for granted from the authority of Mosheim, (who had no authority for it himself,) that one leading circumstance was true, and then concluded that the other circumstances which you have added, and therefore knew that you added, must have been so too. On this you have not hesitated to relate the whole in one continued nar.
* In 1769. See Vol. I. Memoirs, 97.
rative, just as if you had been copying from some historian of the time; and Origen, who lived in those times, and in, the very country, and whose veracity was never questioned before, is treated without ceremony as a wilful liar, because he has given a different account of things.*
As it has been very much my object to trace effects to their causes, and I consider the human mind, and consequently all human actions, to be subject to laws as regular as those which operate in my laboratory, (for want of knowing or attending to which Mr. Gibbon has egregiously failed in his account of the causes of the spread of Christianity, and you in this controversy,) I had framed an hypothesis to account for Mr. Badcock's censure of what I said concerning Eusebius; but not being quite satisfied with it, I rejected it. However, notwithstanding strong appearances, I am still willing to hope that the misrepresentation, though exceedingly gross, was not directly wilful.
I am, &c.
Miscellaneous Articles, and the Conclusion.
DISPOSED as you are to make the most of every trifling oversight that you can discover in my History, and of every concession that I make to you, I still have no objection to acknowledge any real mistake that I haye fallen into, important or unimportant; and I shall certainly correct all such in any future edition of my work; and likewise, as far as I am able, in the translations that are making of it into foreign languages. † I shall now make two acknowledg
* "The learned writer is under a mistake in supposing that Dr. Horsley invented the circumstances relating to the church at Elia. The fact is, and the Archdeacon confesses it in his Reply to these Letters, Part ii. Chap. ii., [Tracts, pp. 362-377,] that he did copy these circumstances from the note in Mosheim's Commentaries, &c. to which he refers. But Dr., Priestley at that time not having access to this work, consulted only Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, in which Mosheim had with great discretion omitted many of those circumstances which he had introduced into his Commentaries, aud which had no foundation but in his own imagination, as the Archdeacon afterwards found to his great disappointment and chagrin. And the remainder of this controversy is occupied chiefly in elaborate and ingenious but unsuccessful efforts to extricate himself from the difficulties in which he had involved himself by hastily adopting the unfounded positions and calumnies of Mosheim." Mr. Belsham's Note. See supra, pp. 169, Note*, 176, Notes * and ‡. ↑ One of these was, probably, the German, as a friend informs me from his recollection of a conversation with the author. The History, burnt at Dort in 1785, (see Vol. V. p. 13, Note,) was, probably, a translation.
ments, and let our readers judge of their importance; and how little my History loses for want of being perfectly correct in those particulars.
I. I had said that "Valesius was of opinion that the history of Hegesippus was neglected and lost, because it was observed to favour the Unitarian doctrine;" whereas I should have said, "on account of the errors which it contained, and that those errors could not be supposed to be any other than those of the Unitarians;"* and if I had consulted the passage at the time, I certainly should have expressed myself in that more cautious manner. But of what consequence is this circumstance to my great argument? Mr. Badcock, having looked for the passage to which I refer, and not being able to find it, seems to have imagined that I had no such passage to produce. He therefore, after his insolent manner, challenges me to produce it, and to put him to shame. That I believe to be impossible, otherwise it would have been effectually done in my Remarks on the Monthly Review; at least, by my notice of his most shameful conduct with respect to my censure of Eusebius, † of which he says nothing at all in his Letter to me.+ I suppose he thought it not to be regarded. However, the passage which I refer to, and which sufficiently answers my purpose, is as follows: " Moreover, those books of Clement contained a short and compendious exposition of both the Testaments, as Photius, in his Bibliotheca, witnesses; but on account of the errors with which they abounded, being negligently kept, they were at length lost; nor was there any other reason, in my opinion, why the books of Papias, Hegesippus, and others of the ancients, are now lost."§
You, Sir, however, have observed this passage, and you say, "Valesius hath indeed expressed an opinion that the work of Hegesippus was neglected by the ancients on account of errors which it contained. But what the errors might be which might occasion this neglect, is a point upon which Valesius is silent. And what right have you to suppose that the Unitarian doctrine was the error which Valesius
* See Vol. V. p. 17, where the passage is amended according to the Author's
See supra, p. 142, Note *.
+ Supra, pp. 135, 136. § "Porro ii Clementis libri continebant brevem et compendiariam utriusque testamenti expositionem, ut testatur Photius in Bibliotheca. Ob errores autem quibus scatebant, negligentius habiti, tandem perierunt. Nec alia, meo quidem judicio, causa est, cur Papiæ et Hegesippi, aliorumque veterum libri, interciderint." In Euseb. Hist. L. v. C. xi. (P.)
ascribed to Hegesippus more than to Clemens Alexandrinus, upon whose last work of the Hypoty poses he passes the same judgment ?"*
I answer, that there were no errors of any consequence ascribed to that early age, besides those of the Gnostics and of the Unitarians. The former certainly were not those that Valesius could allude to with respect to Hegesippus, because this writer mentions the Gnostics very particularly as heretics, but makes no mention of Unitarians at all; though they certainly existed, and I doubt not constituted the great body of unlearned Christians in his time, which is one circumstance that, together with his being a Jewish Christian, (all of whom are expressly said to have been Ebionites, and none of them to have believed the divinity of Christ,) leads me to conclude that he was an Unitarian himself. Though Clemens Alexandrinus was not an Unitarian, yet he never calls Unitarians heretics; and since in his accounts of heretics in general, which are pretty frequent in his works, he evidently means the Gnostics only, and therefore virtually excludes Unitarians from that description of men; it is by no means improbable but that, in those writings of his which are lost, he might have said things directly in favour of Unitarians.
In this passage Valesius also mentions the writings of Papias as having, in his opinion, been lost for the same reason. Now Papias has certainly been supposed to be an Ebionite. Mr. Whiston has made this very probable from a variety of circumstances.† In the same tract he gives his reasons for supposing Hegesippus to have been an Ebionite, and he expresses his wonder," that he should have had the good fortune to be so long esteemed by the learned for a Catholic." In this Mr. Whiston may be supposed to have been sufficiently impartial, as he was an Arian, and expresses great dislike of the Ebionites; as, indeed, Arians always have done.
I also acknowledge that I ought not to have exempted Epiphanius (as you have observed, though with more severity than the case required) from the impropriety of charging Noetus with being a Patripassian.§ But this also is a circumstance of as little consequence to the main argument as the former, though my negligence with respect to it, I
Letters, p. 4. (P.) Tracts, pp. 86, 87.
See his Account of the ceasing of Miracles, p. 18. (P.)
Letters, p. 4. (P.) Tracts, pp. 87, 88.