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You, Sir, as well as my other adversaries think, I presume, to derive some advantage to your cause, from depreciating my knowledge of the learned languages, which is so necessary in these theological discussions. Dr. Horsley will not allow me to know any thing of Greek. Mr. Badcock makes me ignorant even of Latin; and you say of me, "He appears to have but a slender acquaintance with the original language of the Old Testament, and never to have read the Hebrew Bible with care and attention. If he had, it seems almost impossible that he should have fallen into such palpable errors as he has done."* You even insinuate, that I may not know "that is as truly a plural termination in Hebrew, as is in our language."+
Whether I be ignorant of Hebrew or not, your proofs of my ignorance are not a little curious. One of them is, that "in the section of my Introduction, which professedly relates to the Scriptures in general, I have not produced a single Hebrew word," which I might have done, and yet have known very little of the language. And as to the unpardonable mistake I have fallen into, it is no other than, I dare say, Bishop Lowth would have fallen into as well as myself; for neither of us would probably have thought of inferring the doctrine of the Trinity from the word aleim.
On this subject of the knowledge of Hebrew, I will say, (and you may smile at me if you please,) that as I have said I would not exchange my knowledge of Greek for that of Dr. Horsley, so neither would I exchange my knowledge of Hebrew with even that of Mr. Parkhurst, unseen, and unexamined.
I have, in the course of my life, given very particular attention to the Hebrew language. I began the study of it when I was about fifteen, and remember that, at about eighteen, I read in the historical books of the Old Testament, from Hebrew into English at family prayers. I taught Hebrew to a friend now living, before I was eighteen. Before I was twenty, I had read the Hebrew Bible twice through, once with points, and once without points. I had, likewise, read other books in Hebrew besides the Bible, and had begun the study of other oriental languages. I was then pretty well acquainted with Syriac, and was able to read Arabic.§ After this, though my attention was drawn to other objects, I never wholly laid aside my application to
* Advertisement, p. 6. (P.) ↑ Ibid. p. 6. (P.)
↑ Ibid. p. 3. (P.) § See Vol. I. Memoirs, 17.
Hebrew; and it has happened that, within less than six months of the last year, I read the Hebrew Bible quite through, chiefly in Kennicott's edition, (led to it in some measure, by a present being made me of that noble work by a person unknown, and for which I take this opportunity of returning thanks,) and this I did without considering it as any great addition to my other business. If, after all this, I know so very little of Hebrew as you represent, there must be something very extraordinary in the case; and the story will yield but little encouragement to other persons to apply
But, really, Sir, the important question is not, whether Dr. Horsley or myself know more of Greek, or whether you or I know more of Hebrew, but which of us makes the best use of what we do know.
With real respect,
though with great difference of opinion, I am,
Your very humble servant,
Birmingham, March 7, 1787.
* Of this respect Dr. Priestley's present opponent appears to have been highly deserving, as a clergyman disinterestedly adhering to the Established Church, as a dispenser of church-patronage, which "he was unfashionable enough to consider as a trust rather than a property," and as the possessor" of two considerable estates." Mr. Parkhurst's biographer relates several transactions very honourable to his memory. See his Life, prefixed to the "Greek and English Lexicon," pp. v. viii.
DEFENCES OF UNITARIANISM,
FOR THE YEAR 1787;
THE REV. DR. GEDDES,
REV. DR. PRICE, PART II.
AND TO THE
CANDIDATES FOR ORDERS IN THE TWO UNIVERSITIES, PART II.,
Mr. HOWES'S APPENDIX TO HIS FOURTH VOLUME OF
Observations on Books,
A LETTER BY AN UNDER-GRATUATE OF OXFORD, Dr. Croft's Bampton Lectures, and several other Publications.
As I wish not to trouble the public unnecessarily with the defence of what I have written on the subject of the Divine Unity, and it is become physically impossible for me to make particular replies to each of my opponents, I propose Ι for the future to write one pamphlet annually, in which I shall take notice of every thing that I shall think deserving of it, in such publications in favour of the doctrine of the Trinity (from the state of things in early times) as the preceding year shall produce. If any thing should require more speedy animadversion, I may perhaps be permitted to
make use of the Gentleman's Magazine, as I did with respect to Mr. Howes.*
I have been in expectation of the present year (which is now almost expired) producing treatises of more consequence than it has done; however, I am willing to give all my opponents whatever time they may think necessary to the due perfection of their works. Some time must also be allowed to their waiting for, and complimenting, one another; as each of them seems desirous of shifting the burden to shoulders more able to bear it than his own. Thus Mr. Madant "leaves me for due correction to the superior abilities and erudition of Dr. Horsley, Mr. Howes, and the amiable and reverend Dean of Canterbury."-If I do "not smart under the masterly scourge of Dr. Horsley," he says,
* In the following letter which appeared in Gent. Mag. LVII. p. 462 :*
"MR. URBAN, Birmingham, June 11, 1787. "As your very useful work is particularly calculated to answer the purpose of men of letters, it seems not to be foreign to your plan to make it the channel of occasional notices concerning intended publications. If you have no objection to it, I will, by your means, inform my friends and others, that I have read, with care, Mr. Howes's animadversions on my History of Opinions concerning Christ,' in the Appendix to his fourth volume of 'Observations on Books,' and that I pledge myself to shew that they contain nothing that affects any position of consequence, in my work.
"This I would do immediately; but as Mr. Howes intimates that he has more to produce, which he postpones for the present, and other learned works in defence of the Trinity are expected, I wish (in order to avoid too frequent publications on the same subject) to consider what they may all advance, at the same time. At all events, however, I propose not to defer my Reply (which is now ready for the press) longer than the next winter.
"One assertion of Mr. Howes, as it appears in his title-page and advertisements, may require a more speedy notice. He imputes to me what he calls a curious specimen of romance, in regard to Plotinus being made to instruct the first Christian fathers in the Platonic catechism a whole century before Plotinus was born.' "This, I am obliged to observe, is absolutely false. He might as well have said that I made Julian and Proclus, their instructors, as I have quoted their writings, as well as those of Plotinus, for the same purpose, viz. as evidences of the tenets of the Platonic school, which school, and its tenets, existed before any of the Christian fathers, as is evident from the works of Philo, who was prior to them all, and who has as much of Platonism as any of them.
“Besides, I have not represented any of the Christian fathers as quoting any of the later Platonists, but only as availing themselves of the principles of Platonism in general, such as they imagined to be the doctrines of Plato himself.
"Mr. Howes charges me with an error with respect to the age of Plotinus in my History; whereas, there the date will be found to be right, as he is said to have died A. D. 270, aged 60; and so it will be found in my large Chart of Biography; though by a mistake, perhaps of the engraver, it is placed just a century wrong in the small chart prefixed to the History.
"Mr. Howes represents me as a man destitute of all regard to truth, and aiming at the emoluments of the Established Church. To such charges as those my Reply would be of no avail.
“ J. PRIESTLEY.”
+Rector of St. Philipp's, Birmingham, author of "Letters to Dr. Priestley,"
"it is a bad sign for me." All, however, that I can do is to invite this tremendous scourge, and the production of it is not more sincerely desired by Mr. Madan than it is by myself.
Let Dr. Horsley, then, (now that his period of eighteen months is expired,) appear again in support of his attack on the veracity of Origen, or of his church of orthodox Jewish Christians at Jerusalem, after the time of Adrian. As he has been pretty well comforted for his defeat, he cannot doubt of his being amply rewarded for a complete victory. Let Mr. Howes also proceed with his argument to prove the late origin of Unitarians. The public are willing enough to give them a favourable hearing, aud certainly expect to hear from them. They are also looking for the great work of Dr. Horne,† and something unknown, but something considerable, from Mr. White, as well as from others, whose names, having only been mentioned in discourse, I have no right to call upon here.
Every year (with satisfaction I see it) brings this important controversy nearer to its proper termination; and the attention that is actually given to it, at home and abroad, and which increases continually, shews that the contempt with which some profess to treat it, as if it could have no serious consequences, is only affected; and, that if it was in their power to come forth with any advantage themselves, they would not fail to do it. I am happy to find that the forward zeal of many prevails over the superior discretion of others, and will not suffer the business to sleep; and the publications on one side will be the means of procuring a hearing for those on the other.
As my antagonists in general are very liberal of their compliments to each other, and (in order to encourage others to undertake what they think proper to decline) promise them an easy victory, so some of them combat one another, which will shorten my labour. Thus Dr. Croft makes little account of Mr. Parkhurst's and Mr. Madan's argument from the plural form of the word elohim, and Mr. Howes leaves the character of Origen unimpeached, and Dr. Horsley's Orthodox Jewish Church without defence. Some of them contend for the absolute equality of the Son to the Father, and others plead only for any thing that can, by any construction, be called divinity. I need not mention the
• Dr. Horsley was appointed Bishop of St. David's April 15, 1788.
+ See supra, p. 325, Note §.
In his Bampton Lectures, 1787. See infra.