« EelmineJätka »
names might be subscribed to many of the pages within, notwithstanding this pretended sanction of his own.
Of this sectarian appropriation of the name of Doddridge, I have lately met with an instance in a discourse delivered, Oct. 1818, by the Rev. Dr. Porter, "at the Dedication of a new edifice for the use of the Seminary in Andover;" and I believe you will agree with me, that the very incorrect impression it is caculated to give, ought not to pass unexposed. The passage to which I refer, is found in a most remarkable paragraph, full of fearful forebodings, (in which the author is probably aware that he is not at all singular,) as to the future character of the institution with which he is connected. Neither "the strength of our own powers," nor "the elevated motives of our founders," nor "the safeguards of our constitution," he observes, afford any ground of reliance on its undeviating adherence to the purity of the faith. "Where are other seminaries," he adds, "which wisdom encompassed with its precautions, and piety consecrated to Christ and the church? Have we forgotten-can we forget the awful lesson furnished to mankind by the school of Doddridge ?"
The language of Dr. Porter would lead to the inference, that the character of the school of Doddridge was in the lapse of time revolutionized, and the chair of this pious divine occupied at last by unworthy successors. His hearers and readers may not in general be very minutely acquainted with the history of this seminary; and perhaps, therefore, would receive this statement without suspicion or doubt. To attribute as little acquaintance with it to Dr. Porter, would probably be unjust, certainly uncomplimentary; and to his inconsideration therefore, I must ascribe a reference, which is not merely nothing to his purpose, but, what is more, will be easily shown to have been a most unfortunate example.
It is now more than a century since Wm. Coward, Esq. an eminent merchant of London, bequeathed his large property to pious purposes. In his views of Christianity, he was a decided Calvinist; but it does not appear that his mind was so bigoted to a system as to restrict his wealth to its exclusive support. Certain it is, that the terms of his will left his trustees at full liberty to devote this property to the cause of education among the youth of Protestant dissenters indiscriminately. These trustees consisted of three dissenting ministers and one layman. For many years two respectable and flourishing institutions, having the above object, were supported by this fund; one, in the vicinity of London, successively under the care of Dr. Jennings, Dr. Savage, Dr. Kippis, and Dr. Rees. This list, one would think, was a sufficient an
swer to the supposition that this fund was at any period made subservient to the promotion of a peculiar system. The other seminary was at first established at Northampton, under the care of Dr. Doddridge. It was afterwards removed to Daventry, under Dr. Caleb Ashworth, and in 1785, the trustees, deeming the fund inadequate to the support of two institutions, united the first mentioned with that at Daventry, under the Rev. Thomas Belsham. They who are apt to be deceived by names, will startle probably at Mr. Belsham's, and imagine Dr. Porter's language to have been abundantly justified. Let it be understood, then, that this now well known divine was, at the time of his appointment, of that class of believers commonly called evangelical dissenters; and the circumstances of his resignation are both so interesting, and so accordant with my purpose in these remarks, that the relation of them, I trust, will not be to trespass on the patience of your readers.
During the period of Mr. Belsham's. connexion with this academy, the Unitarian controversy, occasioned by the writings of Lindsey and Priestley, was vehemently agitated in England. To this controversy, the Principal deemed it his duty to direct the attention of his pupils. For their benefit and his own, he prepared, after the manner of Dr. Clarke, a classification of all the texts referring to this great question, and supposed to favour either of the prevailing modes of faith, certainly omitting none, to which the advocates of the highest notions of our Saviour's nature are fond of appealing. He had the most undoubting confidence, that the controversy would soon be decided by the complete discomfiture of the new heresiarchs. But the result was far other than his expectations; for the young minds of his pupils, yet unfettered to a system, were more open to conviction, and many of them at length adopted those opinions they were expected to subvert, much to the grief of their friends, and not least to that of their instructor. His own habits of thinking were more firmly rivetted; and though, from the first of the inquiry, he was surprised to find so few unequivocal proofs of his favourite opinions, yet such was the ascendancy which the associations of education had obtained over his mind, that he does not believe it would have been in the power of argument to have subdued it, had not the nature of his office, which required him to repeat his lectures to successive classes, compelled his attention again and again to the subject. His origi nal prepossessions became thus almost imperceptibly overruled, and he was brought over to a faith, against which his present interest as well as previous opinions alike revolted. Such, however, is the feeling with which the mind watches its vacillations in an inquiry of this high moment, when it is most anx
ious to form a correct decision, when almost every thing rests on that decision, and when it is most unwilling to suspect as error what it has long venerated as truth, that he could at last be convinced of the entire revolution of his views and sentiments, only by the distressing embarrassment occasioned him by the repetition in public of a sermon composed a few years previously, in which the doctrines he had just been examining were assumed as truths. Then it was that he felt it incumbent to resign his charge into the lands by which it had been conferred. To this measure, the peculiar conscientiousness of his own feelings impelled him; for the constitution of the seminary did not necessarily require his separation from it. But however compatible his present views were with the constitution, they were not probably with those of the then governors of the academy; and it was sufficient to determine a mind so open and honest, that the New Testament did not now present to him the same aspect, as when appointed to his office. In giving this account of Mr. Belsham's connexion with this institution, and the particulars of his removal, I have, as far as brevity would admit, used the language of his own recital. In the year 1789, the academy was again removed to Northampton, and subsequently to Wymondely.
But enough of the history of this institution; especially as what remains to be said, has the far more 'important reference to its character. Such a revolution as Dr. Porter intimates, would not have rewarded the slightest exertions it might have required in the friends of heresy, as he accounts them, to effect it. We assure him, that in no state of things could the cause of these men be more kindly fostered, than it was while this seminary remained under the care of its first evangelical instructor; and that, during his life and labours, it was the nursery of ministers to the societies of liberal dissenters throughout the kingdom. Now, if to any this historical fact appear enigmatical, our solution is ready at hand. The course of education pursued by this excellent man was, in deed and in truth, upon those catholic principles of unlimited inquiry and private judgment, with the profession and acknowledgment of which, happily, it is found neither safe nor wise altogether to dispense in "other seminaries ;" and the consequence was, that a large proportion of the students came to conclusions very different from those of their master. Fortunately there is now before me a catalogue cf Doddridge's pupils during the twenty-two years that the academy was under his care (from 1729 to 1751;) in which are to be found many names whose celebrity has reached our own country. I am not a little desirous that your readers should know what names they are; and, to take certain
ly the most distinguished and familiar, they are the Rev. Job Örton, Rev. Hugh Farmer, Dr. John Aikin, Rev. Samuel Merriale, the well-known author of Daily Devotions, Dr. Andrew Kippis, and the pious and eloquent Rev. Newcome Cappe. I do not mean to apply to the first of these the remark just made in regard to the opinions of Doddridge's students. Orton's were probably very similar to those of his master, but he resembled him quite as much in his affectionate and candid temper.* He was a liberal Christian, in the best sense of that term at least. As to the others whom I have named, there will be no dispute where they are to be classed; and I think, that a fairer comment was never given upon the history of an institution, at once orthodox in doctrine and catholic in spirit, than this. Never shall we meet with a more unequivocal test of the natural result of a mode of education, which does indeed allow the "utmost latitude of inquiry." In truth, if there ever was an instructor whose whole character at once silenced doubts and objections as to the justice of such a conclusion, Doddridge surely was the man. Our opponents we have little doubt would indignantly reject the supposition, (and with good cause, who will deny ?) that the "presence of God could be ever withdrawn" from the scenes which he honoured, or that "the spirit of piety could there decline." They will not admit, no, not for a moment, that he could ever suffer the "pure word of God to be adulterated by adventurous and unhallowed speculation.” He was not the man, we are confident, to encourage that spirit of half-learned "pedantry, which produces rash and frivolous criticism on the Scriptures, which always delights in paradox, always believes where others doubt, and doubts where others believe."
In closing these remarks it would be ungrateful not to embrace the opportunity thus presented, of rendering Dr. Porter our thanks for pressing this subject upon our notice. It is impossible not to wish that those who are so eager to claim the name
* Of this, I cannot refrain from giving a specimen alike honourable to the writer, and to that most exemplary christian divine to whom it refers. It is to be found in a letter of Orton to the Rev. S. Palmer of Hackney. "Were I to publish an account of silenced and ejected ministers, I should be strongly tempted to insert Mr. Lindsey in the list, which he mentions in his Apology with so much veneration. He certainly deserves as much respect and honour as any one of them, for the part he has acted. Perhaps few of them exceeded him in learning and piety. I venerate him as I would any of your confessors. As to his particular sentiments, they are nothing to me. An honest pious man, who makes such a sacrifice to truth and conscience as he has done, is a glorious character, and deserves the respect, esteem, and veneration of every true Christian."
of Doddridge, were better acquainted with his real character, and evinced more practically their reverence for its authority. Let them not be too ready to forget the friendly intercourse in which he lived with the amiable and pious Lardner, of his great affection and esteem for whom, his letters contain a striking testimony. Let pastors and congregations alike remember, that when some narrow minds in his society would have excluded from the rights of Christian communion, an Arian believer, it was he who interposed a firm and steady resistance to the attempt, declaring himself ready to sacrifice his place and even his life, rather than suffer such a stigma to be cast upon one whose Christian character none could assail. Let it be impressed on his successors in the schools of the prophets, that no opinions which his pupils found reason to adopt, however remote from his own, produced any diminution of his assistance and kind regard, as his biographer Dr. Kippis has gratefully testified. If the wish were not altogether chimerical, we could desire to see all our schools of sacred instruction, committed to the care of men, if indeed so many could be found, altogether such as Doddridge in temper, character, and, we are willing to add, even opinions. That the interests of piety and charity would triumphantly flourish under such protection, will be readily conceded by all. And after the statement which has now been made, your readers will think it requires no spirit of prophecy, to discern the results which would follow in regard to those also of knowledge and truth.
ON FARMER'S HYPOTHESIS RESPECTING OUR LORD'S TEMP
The following remarks were thrown together upon being requested by a friend to lend him Dr. Farmer's Essay on the Temptation. They are submitted to you with the hope of your approval, by Yours, &c. PHILALETHES.
My Dear Friend,
THOUGH Dr. Farmer's dissertation on our Saviour's Temptation is ingenious, and discovers a sincere desire to attain and support the truth, yet as it does not appear to me to proceed upon just principles, I will suggest some thoughts which occurred to me in the perusal of it, and afterwards mention an exposition of the account of the Temptation, which seems to my judgment less exceptionable.