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XXIX, On Joel ii. 13
1 XXX, On Ezekiel xviii. 31.
In a Series of Letters,
BY JOSEPH BENSON.
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.
The reader will easily observe, that the following letters, by the late Rev. Mr. Fletcher, are almost all unfinished, and are here presented to the public in an imperfect state. It is much to be regretted, especially, that the last of them, on the Epistles of St. Paul, is so incomplete, as only two of these Epistles had been considered; and very many passages of great importance upon this subject, and such as afford incontestable proof of our Lord's divinity, are to be found in those that he had not examined. It is true, njany of these passages have been introduced in the former part of this work, and have been there improved, in some measure, in defence of that important doctrine ; yet still, as this was not done by the masterly pen of Mr. Fletcher, the friends of our Lord's Divinity cannot but consider it as a loss to the church of Christ, and therefore as an afflictive providence, that this able and pleasing writer was not spared to finish his work, and fully rescue the Apostle of the Gentiles, as he has done the other Apostles, out of the hands of those who so miserably mangle his writings, and cast so great a stain upon his character.
St. Paul has for many ages been looked up to with respect as an Apostle, as a Christian, as a Scholar, and as a Man of Genius. But this new Socinian doctrine, still more adventurous than the old, dares to strip him of his honour in all these respects. It degrades him as an Apostle, for it denies that he wrote by inspiration ; as a Christian, for it makes him an idolater, and an enconrager of idolatry; as a Scholar, for it affirms that he reasons inconclusively; and as a Man of Genius and
Parts, for, if it is to be credited, he had not even common sense, or at least, did not write as if he had.
This last particular, which, as far as I know, has not yet been touched upon in the present controversy between Dr. Priestley and his antagonists, I have attempted to set in a clear point of view, in some letters which I have annexed to those of Mr. Fletcher. I thought, that, in doing this, I should, perhaps, render a more essential service to the cause of truth, than if, endeavouring to follow Mr. Fletcher's plan, and prosecute the subject in his method, I should make such adaitions to his letters as would be necessary to render them in some degree completc. Indeed, I had two reasons for declining this. The first was, that the former part already published, being enlarged beyond what Mi: Fletcher had intended, had in some measure precluded the necessity of this second part. For instead of being, as he plainly meant it, merely a Rational Vindication of the Catholic Faith, respecting the 'Trinity and the Divinity of our Lord, it now assumes another form, and rather appears as a Scripturul Vindication of these doctrines. The other was, I knew my inability to treat the subject in his masterly manner, and that at best it would seem a very heterogeneous composition. I concluded therefore to let these letters go abroad in their unfinished state, as the imperfect and posthumous works of a great and good man, who hardly ever dropt a word from his lips, or a sentence from his pen, but what was one way or other calculated to do good.
What Dr. Priestley will think of these unfinished letters, should he condescend to cast his eye over them, is easy to see after the judgment he has passed upon the deservedly celebrated writings of Dr. Horsley, now Lord Bishop of St. David's. “We consider (says he, page 1, of his last letters to his Lordship) your publications in this controversy, as contributing, in an eminent manner, to the propagation of that great truth, for which we think it glorious to contend, and which you oppose.” And again, page 2, “ Had I been permitted to choose my own antagonist, by exposing of