Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

where my sentiments would have been no objection to me, but I was never thought of. Even my next neighbour, whose sentiments were as free as my own, and known to. be

so, declined making exchanges with me, which, when I left that part of the country, he acknowledged was not owing to any dislike his people had to me as heretical, but for other reasons, the more genteel part of his hearers always absenting themselves when they heard I was to preach for him. But. visiting that country some years afterwards, when I had raised myself to some degree of notice in the world, and being invited to preach in that very pulpit, the same people crowded to hear me, though my elocution was not much improved, and they professed to admire one of the same discourses they had formerly despised.

Notwithstanding these unfavourable circumstances, I was far from being unhappy at Needham. I was boarded in a family from which I received much satisfaction, I firmly believed that a wise Providence was disposing every thing for the best, and I applied with great assiduity to my studies, which were classical, mathematical, and theological. These required but few books. As to experimental philosophy, I had always cultivated an acquaintance with it, but I had not the means of prosecuting it.

With respect to miscellaneous reading, I was pretty well supplied by means of a library belonging to Mr. S. Alexander, a quaker, to which I had the freest access. Here it was that I was first acquainted with any person of that persuasion; and I must acknowledge my obligation to many of them in every future stage of my life. I have met with the noblest instances of libe. rality of sentiment, and the truest generosity

among them.

My studies, however, were chiefly theological. Having left the academy, as I have observed, with a qualified belief of the doctrine of atonement, such as is found in Mr. Tomkin's book, entitled “ Jesus Christ the Mediator," I was desirous of getting some more definite ideas on the subject, and with that view set myself to peruse the whole of the “Old and New Testament,” and to collect from them all the texts that appeared to me to have any relation to the subject. This I therefore did with the greatest care, arranging them under a great variety of heads. At the same time I did not fail to note such general considerations as occurred to me while I was thus employed. The consequence of this was, what I had no apprehension of when I began the work, viz. a full persuasion that the doctrine of atonement, even in its most qualified

or reason.

sense, had no countenance either from scripture

Satisfied of this, I proceeded to digest my observations into a regular treatise, wlich a friend of mine, without mentioning my name, submitted to the perusal of Dr. Fleming and Dr. Lardner. In consequence of this, I was urged by them to publish the greater part of what I had written. But being then about to leave Needham, I desired them to do whatever they thought proper with respect to it, and they published about half of my piece, under the title of the “Doctrine of Remission," &c.

This circumstance introduced me to the acquaintance of Dr. Lardner, whom I always called upon when I visited London. The last time I saw him, which was little more than a year before his death, having by letter requested him to give me some assistance with respect to the history I then prepared to write of the corruptions of Christianity, and especially that article of it, he took down a large bundle of pamphlets, and turning them over, at length shewing me my own, said, “ This contains my sentiments on the subject.' He had then forgotten that I wrote it, and on my remarking it, he shook his head, and said that his memory began to fail him; and that he had taken me for another person.

He was then at the advanced age

of ninety-one. This anecdote is trifling in itself, but it relates to a great and good man.

I have observed that Dr. Lardner only wished to publish a part of the treatise which my friend put into his hand. The other part of it contained remarks on the reasoning of the Apostle Paul, which he could not by any means approve. They were, therefore, omitted in this publication. But the attention which I gave to the writings of this Apostle, at the time that I examined them, in crder to collect passages relating to the doctrine of atonement, satisfied me that his reasoning was in many places far from being conclusive; and in a separate work I examined every passage in which his reasoning appeared to me to be defective, or his conclusions ill supported; and I thought them to be pretty numerous.

At that time I had not read any commentary on the Scriptures, except that of Mr. Henry, when I was young. However, seeing so much reason to be dissatisfied with the Apostle Pavl, as a reasoner, I read “Dr. Taylor's Paraphrase on the Epistle to the Romans;” but it gave me no sort of satisfaction; and his general “ Key to the Epistles,” stih less. I therefore at that time wrote some remarks on it, which were long

of iny

time after published in the “ Theological Repository,” vol. iy.

As I found that Dr. Lardner did not at all relish any

observations on the imperfections of the sacred writers, I did not put this treatise into his hands; but I shewed it to some of my younger friends, and also to Dr. Kippis; and he advised me to publish it under the character of an unbeliever, in order to draw the more attention to it. This I did not chuse, having always had a great aversion to assume any character that was not my own, even so much as disputing for the sake of discovering truth. I cannot ever say that I was quite reconciled to the idea of write ing to a fictitious person, as in my“ Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever,” though nothing can be more innocent, or sometimes more proper; our Saviour's parables iinplying a much greater departure from strict truth than those letters do. I therefore wrote the book with great freedom, indeed, but as a Christian, and an admirer of the Apostle Paul, as I always was in other resa pects.

When I was at Nantwich, I sent this treatise to the press-; but when nine sheets were printed off, Dr. Kippis dissuaded me from proceeding, or from publishing any thing of the kind, until I

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »