« PreviousContinue »
book by this title except those which we now characterize in that manner. He quotes no other author, I believe, without either his name, or some title, or circumstance, sufficiently descriptive of him. However, I do not insist upon this, and shall correct the passage.
Tertullian says of this work of Hermas, " Ab omni concilio ecclesiarum inter apocrypha et falsa judicatur."* It is rejected as spurious by all the councils of the churches.
III. With respect to the Alogi, the Reviewer says, "Why should it be doubted that there were heretics in his (Epiphanius's) day who rejected the gospel of St. John? Were there not heretics in his day, and long before, who rejected other books of the New Testament? Dr. Priestley's conjecture will not be easily admitted. The contrary supposition is natural à priori, and it hath the support of history too." t
I ask, of what history before, and in fact, besides that of Epiphanius? It is sufficiently evident that there could not have been any who rejected all the writings of John before the time of Eusebius, who considers very particularly the objections that had been made to the genuineness of the other books; and that the same Alogi should reject these books after the time of Eusebius, and not before, is highly improbable. Epiphanius himself ascribes this rejection to the Alogi in general, and not to those of his time only; and he supposes the heresy of the Alogi to have been an old one, of which that of Theodotus was a branch.
As to the testimony of Epiphanius, especially concerning those against whom he writes with so much inveteracy, I own it weighs no more with me than it did with Le Clerc, whose opinion of this writer may be seen in his Ecclesiastical History. He is certainly the least to be depended upon of any of the fathers.
The Reviewer adds, "Was there not a modern disciple of Artemon (Sam. Crellius) who rejected, if not the whole of St. John's gospel, yet the introduction to it, because it was thought to favour the deity of Christ? It is but proceeding a step farther to pronounce the whole to be spurious."§
Though a Socinian || myself, I do not hold myself obliged to defend what has been advanced by any other Socinian. Like men who think for themselves, we differ as much as
• De Pudicitia, C. x. p. 563. (P.)
+ Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p. 521. A. D. 103. (P.) See Lardner, IX. p. 235. § Mon. Rev. LXVIII. p, 521. See supra, p. 29, Note ||.
others who go by the same common name. But certainly this censure is illiberal and unjust. On what grounds Samuel Crellius rejected the introduction of St. John,† I cannot tell. His grandfather, the famous John Crellius,‡ did not. But it has always been deemed a sufficient objection to the genuineness of any writing, that it contains opinions which, from other evidence, appear not to have been those of the age in which it was supposed to have been written. So far am I from rejecting this introduction, that I think it inexplicable, except upon Socinian principles. However, between rejecting this introduction, and rejecting the whole gospel, there are many more steps, or a much larger step, than my Reviewer seems to imagine. I hope this writer did not mean to insinuate that Socinians in general make so little account of the Gospels, or any part of them, that there is but a small step between them and Unbelievers; though by some he may be so understood.
THUS have I presented my readers with a fair and candid state of the charges which have been brought against my History of the Corruptions of Christianity; and I think I have made it appear, that all the real oversights are of very little consequence, and may be easily rectified without the least injury to my argument in any one place. I therefore leave it with my readers to determine whether there was any just cause for such vehement exclamation as that with which the critic begins his remarks: "When we review the passages we have now transcribed, we are equally. grieved and astonished. Periculosum est in Limine offendere! We are grieved to see a writer of Dr. Priestley's eminence, and who hath long stood very high, even in the opinion of his enemies, for integrity of character, laying himself so open to the charge of perversion and misrepresentation. We are astonished at his rashness, though we know that great zeal doth not always listen to the more scrupulous dictates of prudence. But common sense should at least teach it to preserve a decent appearance; and in matters that fall within the circle of history, and where invention can have no play, a writer should be careful not
* See his acquaintance with Tillotson; Jortin's Remarks in Birch, p. 426; Mon. Repos. V. pp. 49-55, 169.
+ In the critique on this Reply, Daniel Zwicker is substituted, by the Reviewer, for Samuel Crellius. Mon. Rev. LXIX. P. 223.
+ Who died in 1635, aged 42. See Toulmin's Socinus, pp. 408–423.
to give his enemies cause for exultation by positive assertions, which are not only without proof, but in direct opposition to it. We hope that Dr. Priestley will not think that we are become his enemies for speaking the truth. He is the last person that can with any grace complain of a freedom of this sort. He often invites it with an earnestness which shews that he is not afraid of it. We rely on his candour for the freedom we now take with him; and if that should prove to be less in power than it is in form, (which, however, we do not think will be the case,) we shall rest satisfied with the integrity of our own motives."* Such an attempt to alarm the public, and prejudice the minds of their readers against the work, ought certainly to have had some better foundation.
As to this writer's integrity, I do not call it in question; but am very willing to account for his mistakes and misrepresentations on principles similar to those on which, with some degree of candour, he accounts for what he supposed to be mine. Every effect must have an adequate cause, and I cannot account for this writer's very severe and highly unjust treatment of my book without supposing that he looked into it (from what cause I cannot divine) with a very eager desire to find fault with it, and to expose it. A goodnatured critic might have pointed out the same oversights, and have shewn how they might be corrected without any real injury to the work.
It is not easy, in a work of such extent, the materials for which were necessarily collected at different times, to put the whole together (when some of the facts, and the evidence of them, must have been in part obliterated from the mind) without making inconsiderable mistakes. No first edition of any large historical work was ever free from them. All these I shall be as solicitous to rectify as any person can be to find them out; and every intimation of this kind I shall willingly receive, whether it comes from a friend or a foe.
I have already drawn out a list of such corrections and additions as I think of any consequence;† and if there be another edition of the work, I may, perhaps, alter the construction of some other passages which readers of the same turn with this Reviewer may misunderstand. But I cannot pretend to write for such readers. It would be giving a
Mon. Rev. LXVIII. pp. 519, 520.
+ See Vol. V. p. 12. Those corrections and additions were used in preparing that volume.
great deal of time to very little purpose, and after all might not be effectual; for it is no uncommon thing to labour style into obscurity. I write for the bulk of readers, who have some candour as well as good sense. We do not in this country build our houses so as to have nothing to fear from hurricanes or earthquakes. It is enough to guard them against more common accidents.
This History of the Corruptions of Christianity is a work that I have long had in view.' I consider it as the most useful, and therefore I wish to make it the most correct of all my publications. Nothing shall be wanting on my part to make it so, and I hope my enemies will not be wanting on theirs. My object, I trust, is truth. I shall pursue it with fairness, and without fear of consequences, and I shall consider every man as acting with me who shall aid me in the pursuit. Opposition is what I always expected, and in reality do not dislike. Indeed, no person ought to step into the great amphitheatre of the public, who is not willing to take his chance for all accidents, (for treatment fair and unfair,) and who is not prepared to meet them. Few persons have been more disciplined in this way than myself, and therefore I must be made of bad materials indeed, if I be not better prepared than most others for all these events. It will be happy if the discipline of this life in general prepare me as well for the exercises of another.
It may amuse some of my readers to be informed that, excepting a copy of verses prefixed to Peter Annet's short hand, and written when I was a school-boy, my first essay for the press was an article in the Monthly Review; so that when I was twenty I was placed upon the bench, and now at fifty I stand at the bar, and sometimes perhaps before such judges as I myself then was. From this awful tribunal, though my real merit has been nearly the same, I have sometimes received the most virulent censure, and at others the greatest applause, when I have been conscious to myself that I have not been entitled to either. But undue praise may serve to counterbalance undue censure.
As to my literary reputation, I can truly say that, little as it may be, it is quite sufficient to content me, and it ought to be so, for it is something more than I deserve. I can pretend to no such "superior qualifications" as my
* See Vol. V. pp. 8, 10.
+ Sixteen lines signed J. Priestley, one of four copies of commendatory verses, addressed" To Mr. Annet on his New Short Hand." See Vol. I. Memoirs, 24, 78. Peter Annet died in 1769, aged 77. See Gent. Mag. XXXIX. p. 55.
present critic, whether in earnest or not, has thought proper to ascribe to me.* Success in such pursuits as I have been engaged in, I well know, requires no great extent of mental power, but God has been pleased to give me an active, and I hope an honest mind; and when a man is always busily seeking, with his eyes fairly open, and especially in places where others are afraid to go, he will sometimes find things worth looking for, and that had escaped more timid researchers.
It has pleased God, in the course of his providence, to open my own eyes, after having been educated in all the gloom and darkness of Calvinismi, † and I am determined (in conjunction with my philosophical researches) to do all that I can to open the eyes of others. With this object in view, I am ready, with the apostle, to go through evil report as well as good report; and whatever of active life may remain to me, I am resolved to make the most of it; there being, as the saying is, rest enough in the grave. I have no higher wish with respect to this life, than to live and die in the various pursuits in which I am now engaged; and I hope to rise to a scene of equal activity, and of equally pleasurable and useful pursuits, in a future life.‡
* Mon. Rev. LXVIIL p. 521. (P.)
+ See Vol. I. Memoirs, 12-15, 18.
The criticism on this Reply, in the Monthly Review, (LXIX. p. 215,) occasioned the following letter, which appeared in the Correspondence (p. 359):
"To the Editor of the Monthly Review.
Birmingham, 16th Oct. 1783.
"I have read with care the answer to my Reply in your last Review, and though I think I am ready to correct any mistakes that I have fallen into, I see no reason to wish that I had written any thing otherwise than I have done, except that, in the fifth Section of my Reply, I understood the Reviewer too literally.
"With respect to the Answer, I wish only to observe that Suicer draws the same inference that I have done from the passage in Jerome, that both Beausobre, and the Catholic translator of Athanasius, understood him to speak of the believing Jews, in the passage that I quoted from him; and that, in a series of Letters to Dr. Horsley, now in the press, and which will contain additional evidence of the primitive Christian Church having been Unitarian, I shall shew that it will not admit of any other construction.
"I am, Sir, yours, &c.