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THE obliging present of your book reached Durham a few days after your letter. I should have written earlier to thank you for both, if I had not been prevented from reading your very learned work till lately. Single sermons engage so small a share of the public attention, that no apology was necessary for overlooking that of which you speak so kindly. I should certainly have been much pleased to have seen my endeavours to interpret our Saviour's testimony of Himself by the opinions of the Jews, who lived at the same time with him, noticed in your book. But I am much gratified by finding this first, and, as I conceive, most important but neglected branch of the historical evidence of Christ's Divinity so largely and decisively confirmed by you.
I am, Sir, very respectfully,
What the impressions of the public and of learned contemporaries were of this sermon, will appear from the following letters.
Mongewell, June 29. 1790.
YOUR argument, on a second attentive perusal of your sermon, strikes me with its original force. On considering it in every point of view I can dis
cover no weak part. You are armed at all points, and invulnerable; though you must not suppose that an attempt will not soon be made by Dr. Priestley to convince the world to the contrary. If Dr. Price has any real candour belonging to his nature, he will be inclined to re-examine the foundation of his own opinions relative to the appellation of "Son of God," and about the strength of your reasoning.
I am, with true regard,
Your sincere Friend and Brother,
The succeeding letter is from the Reverend G. Huntingford, then Warden of Winchester College, and afterwards, successively, Bishop of Gloucester and Hereford. He was about eight years the senior of Mr. Burgess. Their acquaintance ripened from this time, under the influence of mutual esteem, into warm and affectionate friendship.
Dr. Huntingford united the fame of a scholar to eminence in Christian piety. His amiable and cheerful countenance was the index to a guileless heart. He diffused comfort and happiness around him by his social and domestic virtues, and the sphere which felt the influence of his truly Christian benevolence, was not less illumined by the instruction, vivacity, and anecdote which marked his conversation. He died at Winchester College, in 1832.
TO THE REV. MR. BURGESS.
MY DEAR SIR,
A DISCOURSE on subjects at all times most important, and in the present age most universally examined, must be acceptable to every reader who knows only your name. To me it is doubly valuable, as I am well acquainted with that simplicity and sincerity of heart from whence the thoughts proceeded. I have, indeed, thought long, seriously, conscientiously, anxiously, on the great doctrines of our religion. I have explored, too, the dark and boundless abyss of infidelity. I have stood on the slippery and unbalanced ground of scepticism. I have perilously faced all dangers of the most free inquiry, insomuch that I believe few have searched more diligently for truth, and I trust none will hold it more tenaciously now it is found, than myself. What I mean by truth, is the Gospel religion. In the government of the universe, and more particularly in the scheme of man's redemption, I discover One Divine Power, Miav OεOTηTO, participated from Eternity by Three Eternally Divine Minds, inseparably united in one consciousness. This proposition appears to me perfectly intelligible, and seems to comprise the whole of what need be laid down as the first and grand article of Christianity. Were I called upon for my
second proposition, I would distinguish it by AUTOΘεος, Θεος εκ Θεου, Πνευμα εκπορευομενον.*
These would be followed by Θεος εκ Θεου εφανε ρωθη εν σαρκι, εδικαιωθη εν πνευματι, ώφθη αγγε λοις, εκηρύχθη εν εθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη εν κόσμῳ, ανε ληφθη εν δόξη.
According to these leading and indispensable principles of my religion, I could never join in communion with a Socinian nor with any Arian who denied the Eternal Pre-existence of Christ. With you, therefore, I see the absolute necessity of excluding Socinians from our Establishment; to effect which, our Establishment must be guarded in its chief points; and a considerable defence is provided for its security by the Test Laws. Still, however, I think our Articles may be more simplified; and some parts of our Liturgy, intelligible enough to thinking men, but dark to the generality, might be so framed as to admit more into the congregations of our Church, though not into the ministry. Yet, should you ask me how and when this work might commence, and whether unanimity would probably be found in the very persons who should begin it, I am afraid I should be forced to say, Αλλοι μεν αλλο τι εκραζον ην γαρ ή εκκλησία συγ
* God, God of God, the Proceeding Spirit.
+ God of God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. — Vid. 1 Tim. iii. 16.
in the last century, and perhaps the same would happen in this.
You have rested the Divinity of our Saviour on most sure grounds, the testimony of the Jews themselves, by an interpretation of words explicit and unequivocal. The merit of your Discourse and weight of your argument are not the less, whether the same testimony has or has not been adduced on the same account by preceding writers. Perhaps in so prominent a manner, it has not stood foremost. In a general way, all writers notice it. You will do infinite service at Oxford, by bringing the argument forward in so strong and striking a light; and your Strictures on Priestley and Price will put young men on their guard against such pestiferous empirics in theology.
I have to lament that my situation has hitherto left me no leisure for reading or writing, except when with Mr. Vivian, my pupil. The secular employments of my office call for much attention; and I feel it my duty to discharge every function to the best of my abilities. Still, however, I have the mind of one "multa et præclara minantis." Stobæus is always before my eyes, and often in my thoughts; and I wish you to inform me whether you think labours might usefully be employed on his Fragments? and whether that ground be still unoccupied? This I ask in confidence and secresy;
Some cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was divided.