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Samuel Chandler

one of the most learned and eminent of the liberal divines of the last century, was descended from ancestors distinguished for their attachment to religious liberty, and who, in less fortunate times, had suffered in defence of their principles; bearing cheerfully the spoiling of their goods, that they might better preserve their peace of mind, and maintain inviolate their title to a more enduring substance. He was born in 1693, at Hungerford in Berkshire, where his father, the Rev. Henry Chandler, was then minister to a congregation of Protestant dissenters. Mr. H. Chandler afterwards removed to Bath, where he spent the greater part of his ministerial life. He is said to have been a man very respectable for talents and character, though he was not led by circumstances to present himself prominently to the public notice.

The subject of this memoir discovering at an early age a decided taste for literary pursuits, it was carefully cultivated with a view to the Christian ministry for which he was destined. For this purpose he was sent first to an academy at Bridgewater, under the direction of Mr. Moore; but was afterwards removed to Gloucester, where he became a pupil of Mr. Samuel Jones, a dissenting minister of great learning, and deservedly high reputation as a teacher. Under this gentleman's instructions, at Gloucester, and afterwards at Tewkesbury, many of those were trained who in the succeeding age occupied the most eminent [250] stations in our churches, and two at least of the brightest lights of the establishment received the greater part of the accomplishments which fitted them to adorn and do honour to the elevated stations to which they were afterwards raised. Seeker, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, and Butler, better known to later times as the author of the celebrated treatise on the Analogy of Natural and Revealed Religion, than by the bishopric of Durham, to which his talents and merit alone elevated him, were both fellow-students with Chandler in this humble seminary. The three companions were at that period nearly on a par in condition and expectations, as well as in abilities; and though the very different course which they pursued through life permitted two of them to rise to high stations and take rank with the great ones of the earth, they retained to the last a regard and friendship for their old associate; and perhaps were ready to acknowledge, in the midst of the outward pomp and grandeur of the world, that in the true dignity of the mind he was still their equal. Chandler continued steady to his original principles and profession as a Protestant dissenter, and defended them in several of his publications with no small spirit and success; though it has been stated that he had repeated offers of valuable preferment in the church, perhaps through the influence of these early connexions, who would doubtless have been very ready to tempt him to follow their example.

Mr. Chandler, having made a suitable improvement of the advantages he enjoyed under Mr. Jones in the acquisition of those stores of classical, biblical, and oriental learning, which he [251] extended in after-life, and displayed in numerous and valuable writings, quitted the academy in 1714, and soon distinguished himself by his talents in the pulpit. In 1716 he was chosen minister of the Presbyterian congregation at Peckham, near London, where he continued for some years. Whether he took any active part at this early period in public affairs relating to the dissenters, does not appear; though it is not improbable that his energetic character and powerful talents would lead him to come forward when he had an opportunity, and, if he came forward, he could not fail to distinguish himself. His name occurs in the honourable list of the majority on the celebrated question of subscription at Salters' Hall, in 1719, along with those of Hunt, Lardner, Lowman, and other worthies of that and the coming age. While at Peckham he married; and shortly afterwards had the misfortune to lose a great part of his property in the fatal South Sea scheme of 1720. Becoming thus embarrassed in his circumstances, he engaged for some years in the trade of a bookseller, still retaining, however, his ministerial connexion with his congregation at Peckham. In consequence of this secular occupation, several of his earliest works bear his name in the double capacity of author and publisher; a circumstance which, it seems, misled Archbishop Wake, to whom he had presented one, of them, and who, not knowing that he was ally thing but a bookseller, naturally expressed surprise to find so much good learning and just reasoning in a person of his profession, and regret that one so well able to write good books should occupy his time in selling them. [252]

While Mr. Chandler was minister at Peckham, some gentlemen of different denominations of dissenters came to a resolution to set up and support a weekly evening lecture at the old Old Jewry for the winter half-year. The subjects to be treated of in this lecture were the evidences of natural and revealed religion, with answers to the principal objections against them. Among the ministers to whom the conduct of this lecture was entrusted were Chandler and Lardner; and the discourses delivered by both these eminent men seem to have served as the foundation, or to have suggested the idea, of performances of much greater extent and importance for which they were afterwards deservedly celebrated. After some time Mr. Lardner ceased to have any connexion with the plan, which it was supposed might be conducted with more consistency of reasoning and uniformity of design by a single person; and it was accordingly undertaken by Mr. Chandler, whose talents besides were, doubtless, of a character better adapted to the conduct of a popular lecture.

In the discharge of this duty he preached some sermons on the confirmation which miracles give to the divine mission of Christ and the truth of his religion; and vindicated the argument against the objections advanced by Collins in his ‘Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion.’ These sermons he afterwards enlarged and threw into the form of a regular treatise, which was published in 1725, under the title of ‘A Vindication of the Christian Religion, in two parts; first, a Discourse on the Nature and Use of Miracles; and, secondly, an Answer to a late Book entitled [253] a Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons, &c.’ This is a work of very considerable merit and value, and deserves to be studied by those who wish to obtain a full understanding of the controversy between the Christian advocate and the unbeliever. Mr. Chandler's view of the nature and use of miracles, as stated in the first part of this treatise, is on the whole good and judicious. After defining a miracle to be ‘a work visibly performed by any being, that is really and truly above his natural power and capacity, without the assistance of some superior agent,’ he argues that the performance of such works in support of the authority of a teacher, sent to make known to mankind a dispensation consistent with the views which our reason acknowledges of the perfections of God and the character of the divine moral administration, is probable in itself, and a fit subject of belief, when accredited by the same testimony on which we receive other historical facts. The folly of the demand to see a miracle, in order to be convinced, or the notion that miracles as such are not capable of being attested like other appearances and events, is well and ably exposed. Still he contends that they derive a great part of their own credibility, and consequently of the authority which they can communicate to any message professing to be divine, from the excellence and reasonableness of this message, in itself considered. The assurances of divine grace and mercy as made known in the Gospel, the terms on which they are granted, and the expectations held out in a future life, when published, are such as approve themselves to our understandings as right and good; but it does not, therefore, follow [254] that these expectations are well-founded, unless some proof can be afforded that they were published by a messenger sent from God, and duly authorized for that purpose. On the other hand, no miracles whatever, either seen or attested, could authorize our assent to a doctrine or message inconsistent with just and rational views of the divine attributes, or with other equally express declarations of the divine will. ‘The proper design of every revelation that is really from God must be this,—to lead men into just and becoming sentiments of the Divine being and perfections; to direct and appoint that method of worship which will be acceptable to himself; to recover men from their ignorance, to reform them from their vices, and to lead them into the practice of virtue and true goodness by proper motives and arguments; for the general welfare of societies, for every man's particular happiness in this life, and preparation for a better world hereafter.’ Such a design as this seems to be worthy of the allwise and merciful Governor of the world, and what we may expect from him who knows our infirmities and wishes our happiness. And therefore, whenever the circumstances of mankind become such as to need a particular interposition of his providence for this end, there is nothing ill reason that forbids us to expect it, nor any thing in the nature of the case itself which should hinder him from granting it. But unless miracles are calculated to serve this end, they ought never to be acknowledged as any proof of a divine mission; because we may certainly conclude that God never will interpose in any case where there is no need, or to bring about a design unworthy [255] of himself. ‘It may here possibly be asked, Is this good reasoning, to prove the miracles to be wrought by God, by appealing to the doctrines or end for which they are wrought; and then to prove the doctrines or justify the end by an appeal to the miracles? I answer, that the very doing of the miracle argues the interposition or assistance of some superior agent; and that the end for which such a miracle is done evidently discovers the nature of that being by whose influence it is performed. The doctrines prove, not the existence of a superior power, but whether the assistance be given by a good or a bad power;— the miracles prove, not the goodness of the doctrines, but that he who preaches the doctrines so confirmed acts by an authority superior to his own. They neither of them separately prove the divine mission; but where they both concur, they certainly prove this proposition,—that such a person acts by the authority of some superior, good, and powerful being; or, in other words, that his mission is agreeable to the will of the Supreme; and therefore, in order to such proof, they ought both to concur.’—P. 95.

This argument is just in itself, and well and forcibly stated; but it may be doubted whether the author has not considerably weakened its effect by the concession that works properly miraculous, as far as human agents are concerned, may be performed by the intervention of other subordinate spirits, either good or bad. It is a concession apparently inconsistent with many express declarations of Scripture; it renders the criterion of a genuine divine miracle, such as may be received for a sufficient test of the authority of a [256] teacher or prophet professing to come from God, more complicated, difficult, and uncertain, and checks the confidence with which we are disposed to yield our assent to his declarations.

In the second part of this work, in reply to Collins's argument, founded on the difficulty or impossibility of applying to the Messiah many of the Old Testament prophecies, when literally interpreted, he shews that, even if this were admitted, the other proofs of the divine authority of the Gospel scheme would remain unaffected; that these prophecies were not urged by Christ and his apostles as the sole proof of Christianity; that the difficulty, admitting it to exist, of applying to Christ many of the passages supposed to be cited as prophecies, does not by any means attach to all the passages so cited, many of which are referrible to the Messiah and to him only; and that others, which undoubtedly refer in the first instance to the return from the captivity or other shortly impending event in the Jewish history, may also have a general or mystical reference to that great event in which the whole scheme of the Jewish dispensation was consummated and brought to a close. These grounds of argument are ably urged and illustrated; though there is good reason to think that the author has built on them a heavier superstructure than they will bear, and has extended his conclusion beyond what the facts of the case will fairly warrant. But the work in general shews great acuteness and learning, and is written with a degree of candour and moderation highly creditable. Indeed, there is good reason to think that he and the other able writers among the rational dissenters, who at this [257] period came forward in defence of revelation, by the frankness with which, in the midst of their zealous defence of their own principles, they with equal zeal vindicated the right of others to take the opposite side, and to bring forward whatever arguments appeared to them to be fitted to promote their cause, were mainly instrumental in diffusing more liberal notions of the true grounds on which all such questions should be discussed, by leaving them to be debated on their own merits, without seeking for the unauthorized interference of the civil magistrate.

Soon after the publication of this work in the year 1726, Mr. Chandler received an invitation to settle, as minister, with the Presbyterian congregation in the Old Jewry, one of the most respectable societies among the Dissenters. Here he continued, first as assistant, and afterwards as pastor, for the space of forty years; and discharged the duties of the ministerial office with great assiduity and ability, being much esteemed and regarded by his own congregation, and acquiring a distinguished reputation both as a preacher and a writer. That he was a powerful and popular preacher, much followed and highly estimated in that as in every other capacity connected with his station as a Christian minister, is evident from the frequency of the calls upon him to preach for public institutions, before public bodies and societies, and on other remarkable or extraordinary occasions. His published sermons, however, are distinguished for a strength and clearness of argument addressed to the thinking part of his audience, rather than for any peculiarly [258] ornamental style or flowers of eloquence to captivate the multitude. They shew him, in common indeed with his other publications, to have been, in theological sentiment, an Arian of nearly the same school with Peirce, Benson, and other distinguished ministers of that day in the Presbyterian denomination. But he does not appear to have taken any public part in the Trinitarian controversy, which, in fact, was not brought very prominently forward during the greater part of his active life. The most remarkable of Chandler's controversial writings are his replies to some of the leading Freethinkers of his day, particularly Collins and Morgan. His publications in this controversy are numerous and important; shewing not merely a thorough acquaintance with the subject, but a power of reasoning, and a clearness and force of statement, which rendered him a very formidable opponent. Though not in general displaying in any offensive form the asperity from which so few writers on controversial theology are free, nor disgraced by the unworthy personalities too often substituted in the place of argument, they are frequently remarkable for a keenness of sarcasm, and an authoritative uncompromising dogmatism, proceeding from a consciousness of his own superiority, which he is at no pains to conceal.

In 1727, Mr. Chandler published ‘Reflections on the Conduct of the modern Deists in their late Writings against Christianity, &c.; occasioned chiefly by two Books, entitled “ A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons, &c.” and “The scheme of literal Prophecy considered.” ’ In the following [259] year appeared, in answer to the objections of the same writer, ‘A Vindication of the Antiquity and Authority of Daniel's Prophecies.’

Mr. Chandler, in common with almost all the liberal theologians of his day, was deeply imbued with a horror of Popery, not only from a conviction of the erroneousness of its doctrines, and its baseless claim to spiritual domination over the consciences of men, but from the natural association established by events then fresh and recent, and by the political circumstances of the times, between Popery and the subversion of civil liberty. Under the influence of this feeling he published, in 1731, in two volumes, 4to, a translation of ‘The History of the Inquisition, by Philip a Limborch;’ to which he prefixed a large Introduction, ‘concerning the rise and progress of persecution, and the real and pretended causes of it.’ This Introduction he afterwards extended and published in a separate form, under the title of ‘The History of Persecution, in four Parts:— 1. Among the Heathens; 2. Under the Christian Emperors; 3. Under the Papacy and Inquisition; 4. Among Protestants.’ In this work he endeavours to shew that the points in dispute among Christian sects are of secondary importance when compared with the great principles on which (at least in profession) they are all agreed;—that among the causes of persecution have been spiritual pride, ambition, and, above all, the fatal connexion of the church of Christ with the kingdoms of this world;--that the decrees of councils and synods are of no authority in matters of faith; —that imposing subscriptions to human creeds is unreasonable and pernicious; and that the Christian [260] religion absolutely condemns persecution for conscience' sake.

About this time appeared a valuable tract, written by Mr. Chandler, and published with the sanction and concurrence of some other dissenting ministers, entitled ‘Plain Reasons for being a Christian;’ containing a very distinct and satisfactory general view of the evidences of the Christian revelation, reduced into a small compass, as it appears to have been intended for wide circulation, but drawn up in such a form as to leave unnoticed scarcely any topic of material importance which has a bearing on the question. As is justly observed by Bishop Watson, who has included this essay in his well-known ‘Collection of Theological Tracts,’ the full merit of this piece will not be seen or fully appreciated by a hasty reading;—every article of it contains matter for much consideration, and shews the author to have been well acquainted with his subject. In fact, each article may be considered as comprising a series of topics or suggestions on which a diffuse and popular writer might enlarge at great length, and which he might with great advantage take as his guide in dwelling on these important inquiries, and recommending their results to his readers or hearers.

Mr. Chandler had projected a general Commentary on the Prophets of the Old Testament, and commenced by the publication of a Paraphrase and Critical Commentary on the Prophecy of Joel, which appeared in 1735; with a Dedication to the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, then Speaker of the House of Commons. This is a treatise of considerable merit and authority, [261] and was favourably received. He afterwards made considerable progress in a similar work on Isaiah; but before he had completed it, he met with the Ms. Lexicon and Lectures of the celebrated Arabic Professor Schultens, who recommends studying the Hebrew through the medium of the Arabic, as the means, from its greatly superior extent and copiousness, of throwing light on the obscurities and difficulties of the kindred languages of scripture. Our author was so struck by the importance of this suggestion, that he laid aside his unfinished design until he should have the opportunity of renewing the study of the Hebrew language on this plan; an undertaking which he was unfortunately prevented by other engagements from carrying into effect.

In 1741 appeared ‘a Vindication of the History of the Old Testament, in answer to the Misrepresentations and Calumnies of Thomas Morgan, M. D. and Moral Philosopher.’ To this was added, in the following year, in opposition to the same writer, ‘A Defence of the Prime Ministry, and the Character of Joseph.’ In these works he vindicates the sacred history, and particularly the characters of the ancient patriarchs, from many captious objections, with great spirit and success. It must, however, be added, that they display a greater tendency to asperity and personal satire than had hitherto been visible in our author's controversial performances; a peculiarity which was probably provoked, if not justified, by the writings and character of his antagonist. Dr. Leland observes, that in this work of our author he has clearly proved that Morgan had been guilty of manifest falsehoods, and of the most gross perversions [262] of the scripture history, even in those very instances in which he assures the reader that he has kept close to the account given by the Hebrew historians.

In 1744 Mr. Chandler published an able tract entitled ‘The Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ re-examined, and their Testimony proved entirely consistent.’ In this piece he enumerates the various objections which have been from time to time advanced by sceptical writers against this narrative, and their attempts to place the real or apparent discrepancies between the accounts of the different evangelists in such a light as to discredit their testimony; and he shews much ability and acuteness in comparing and combining the different accounts, so as to make it appear that the variations on which the greatest stress is laid are capable of being reconciled;—that they are, in fact, only different parts of the same story, some of which have been more fully related by one evangelist, and others by another.

In the succeeding years of the ‘unnatural rebellion,’ as it is styled in many of the publications of the time, our author, like most of his brethren, exerted himself with zeal and activity in support of the existing order of things; and both from the pulpit and the press endeavoured to give a desirable direction to the expression of public feeling on the occasion, especially among the dissenting body. At this period, as well as in the former outbreak of 1715, the Dissenters universally came forward with vigour and effect to maintain the parliamentary throne. Their services, perhaps, were not acknowledged and requited to the extent which might reasonably have been expected; [263] they were, however, abundantly sensible that their remaining grievances and disabilities were a trifle compared to the consequences which would probably ensue on the threatened restoration of the Stuart dynasty, and both their public principles and their regard to their own interest and security led them to deprecate so formidable a calamity.

In 1748 Mr. Chandler took a part in the controversy on the questions between the Church and the Dissenters, which were raised into activity at this period by the appearance of Mr. White's Letters to a Dissenting Gentleman. Our author's pamphlet is entitled, ‘The Case of Subscription to explanatory Articles of Faith, as a qualification for Admission into the Christian Ministry, calmly and impartially reviewed.’ It contains an able vindication of the general principles of free inquiry and individual judgment, and a judicious application of these principles to the particular case under discussion. His familiarity with the ancient fathers and with the early history of the church, are exhibited to great advantage in the refutation of an assertion of his opponent, that subscription to articles and creeds was countenanced by the practice of the primitive church. He shews, on the contrary, that no such claim was set up even by the apostles, who, if any, might be supposed to have a plausible right to assert such an authority; that what have been called creeds in the writings of the early fathers are nothing more than voluntary declarations of individual opinion; and that, in fact, the earliest attempts in this manner to lord it over the consciences [264] of men, are subsequent to the ill-omened and mischievous union of church and state.

About this period, on the occasion of a visit to Scotland, in the company of his friend, the Earl of Findlater and Seafield, our author's well established and growing reputation procured for him, from the two Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the unsolicited distinction of a Doctor's degree in Divinity.

In 1760, on occasion of the death of George II., Dr. Chandler preached and published a Sermon containing an eulogy on the deceased monarch, in which he compared him to king David. This gave rise to a pamphlet by some anonymous writer, entitled ‘The History of the Man after God's own Heart;’ placing in the darkest colours all the acts, real or alleged, of oppression, cruelty, lust, and murder, imputed to the Jewish prince; and affecting to represent as a foul libel, and an insult to the memory of a venerated monarch recently committed to the grave, the attempt to draw any parallel between them. Dr. Chandler, in consequence of this attack, wrote a ‘Review of the History of the Man after God's own Heart, in which the Falsehoods and Misrepresentations of the Historian are exposed and corrected.’ In this reply, though it was in vain to attempt to palliate or conceal some of the more flagrant and well-known blots in the character and conduct of David, yet he shewed that many of the charges brought against him were grossly exaggerated, others altogether unfounded, or brought forward in ignorance or disregard of the manners and condition of the people, and the state of society [265] in which he lived; all which should be taken into the account in forming an estimate of the character of a person who lived in a remote age and nation, and under circumstances widely different from any which at present exist. In many instances he also shewed clearly that his opponent had been misled by relying implicitly on the common translation; and here his learning and critical skill were brought into the field to great advantage. It must, however, be admitted that he was not only betrayed into too great a warmth of argument, but was led, as is often the case in the ardour of controversy, to go too far into the opposite extreme, and undertake the defence of many things which are altogether incapable of vindication. This is still more remarkably the case with the more detailed and elaborate work which he afterwards published, entitled, ‘A Critical History of the Life of David, in which the principal Events are ranged in Order of Time;—the chief objections against the character of this prince, and the scripture account of him, and the occurrences of his reign, are examined and refuted, and the Psalms which refer to him explained.’ This is generally considered as one of the ablest of Dr. Chandler's productions, and perhaps with reason; but certainly his panegyric of his hero is far too unmeasured and indiscriminate; and he is betrayed into coming forward as the advocate, both of actions in the life and reign of David, and of sentiments in the Psalms commonly ascribed to him, which it would have been more discreet in a Christian minister to give up as indefensible, or to content himself with offering such an apology as might be suggested by a reference to the ruder [266] state of society and the less perfect dispensation under which he lived. It contains, however, much ingenious historical argument, and several admirable specimens of biblical criticism, applied to some of the most difficult and obscure passages of the Old Testament.

This work was chiefly prepared for the press during the author's last illness, and did not make its appearance till after his decease, which happened on the 8th of May, 1766, in his seventy-third year. During the last year of his life, he was visited with frequent returns of a very painful disorder, which he endured with great resignation and Christian fortitude. He repeatedly declared, that to secure the divine felicity promised by Christ was the principal and almost the only thing that made life desirable; that to attain this end he would gladly die; submitting himself entirely to God, as to the time and manner of his death, whose will was most righteous and good; and being persuaded that all was well that ended well for eternity.

Dr. Chandler was a man of extensive learning and eminent abilities, and both his talents and general character were such as to procure for him a powerful influence in the dissenting body of which he was a member. This influence he exercised on many occasions in a manner highly beneficial to the public interest. In particular the valuable fund for relieving the widows and orphans of poor dissenting ministers was his suggestion, and it was mainly in consequence of his exertions and interest that it was established.

In 1768, four volumes of Dr. Chandler's Sermons were published, according to his own directions [267] in his last will; and in 1777, under the care of the Rev. N. White, his successor at the Old Jewry, ‘A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, with doctrinal and practical observations; together with a critical and practical Commentary on the two Epistles to the Thessalonians.’

In the year 1756, Dr. Chandler promoted the publication of a remarkable posthumous work by Mr. Moses Lowman, one of the most learned divines among the Presbyterian Dissenters of that day; though his retired habits and want of popular talents prevented his arriving at much eminence or distinction. The volume contains three tracts, of which the first is entitled, Remarks on the Question, whether the divine Appearances under the Old Testament were Appearances of the true God himself, or only of some other spiritual being representing the True God, and acting in his name; the second, an Essay on the Schechinah, or considerations on the divine appearances mentioned in the Scripture; and the third contains an examination of various Texts of Scripture relating to the Logos. Dr. Chandler seems to have sanctioned this publication by affixing his name to the preface in conjunction with those of Dr. Lardner and Mr. E. Sandercock, and by so doing certainly evinced his candour to a remarkable degree; for they are particularly directed against the Arian notion of a subordinate agent supposed to have been concerned in the creation of the world and in the conduct of the Old Testament dispensation; and expose the insufficiency of the reasons commonly alleged for this opinion in a manner which no Arian, it is imagined, will find it [268] easy to gainsay. Indeed, one is at a loss to imagine how men of high eminence for learning and acuteness, such as some of those who have espoused this notion certainly were, should have failed to perceive its inconsistency with the whole object and character of the Mosaic economy. For what was this object?—evidently to counteract the prevailing tendency of mankind to idolatry. And how did this tendency originate? To all appearance in an idea that the most High God did not occupy himself with the details of this lower world, but entrusted them to inferior beings, who, by consequence engrossed to themselves the whole attention of those who imagined that the affairs of mankind and the course of events by which they were affected were placed in their hands and at their controul. What more natural, than that they should address their petitions and their worship to those in whose hands their destiny, whether for good or evil, appeared to be placed? This, and this alone, seems for the most part to have been the true origin of all the idolatries of the ancient world. But if the Jewish polity were indeed what some have represented it, far from checking, it would seem only to encourage and promote the very system it is said to have been destined to overthrow.

By the Logos, which dwelt or tabernacled among us, being made flesh, or, as it were, taking up its residence in Jesus as the most glorious and excellent Schechinah, we are therefore to understand, according to this writer, no less a being than the one God, the Father; whose wisdom spake in our Lord's discourses, by whose power his mighty works were performed, and whose [269] spirit was given to him without limit. Mr. Lowman has not formally stated the conclusion deducible from this argument in favour of the simple humanity of Christ; leaving it, we may presume, to the ingenuity of the reader, who could scarcely fail to perceive it as a necessary and unavoidable consequence.

The following allusion to this publication occurs in the preface by Mr. Richard Baron to that curious collection of tracts, entitled ‘A Cordial for Low Spirits;’ which is also remarkable as furnishing the most decisive direct testimony to the Unitarianism of Sir Isaac Newton.

‘The brightest and fullest manifestation of this glorious truth (the humanity of Christ) seems to have been reserved by Providence for the honour of this age, and as a most powerful check to the growth of infidelity; such evidences of the humanity of Christ Jesus having been lately produced as many former ages were unaquainted with. For my meaning I refer the curious reader to Mr. Lowman's Tracts, where he will find the Arians beaten out of the main fort which they had long held; whence, of necessity, they are driven to give up the rest. Mr. Lowman led the way, demolishing the outworks of the enemy. Dr. Lardner followed, and cleared the field. No answer has appeared to their writings on this subject; no answer can be given. Dr. Chandler hath confessed that he cannot answer Mr. Lowman; and if he cannot, who can?’

Mr. Lowman was born in London in 1679. He [270] was originally intended for the bar; but soon abandoning all thoughts of that profession, he went to Holland in 1699, and pursued his studies for the Christian ministry at Utrecht and Leyden. In 1710 he was chosen assistant preacher to a dissenting congregation at Clapham, where he continued for the rest of his life, discharging the duties of his station with constancy and regularity, esteemed and beloved by his flock, and respected by all who knew him.

Mr. Lowman was one of the contributors to the valuable religious periodical called the ‘Occasional Paper,’ set on foot by the leading Presbyterian ministers of London in 1716; and which deserves notice, not merely from the intrinsic merit of many of its articles, but from the remarkable indication it affords of the increasing prevalence of liberal principles among the rational dissenters of that day; a prevalence which it was doubtless mainly instrumental in promoting to a still greater extent.

No. 1 of vol. II is a spirited paper on ‘Orthodoxy,’ by Mr. Lowman. ‘I cannot but dislike,’ says he,

the absurd, narrow, and uncharitable notion of orthodoxy, which has too long set Christtians at variance one with another. It is highly arrogant in the Papists; because, though the church of Rome asserts, she is far from proving herself to be infallible; and, therefore, though she is tolerably consistent in calling herself orthodox, and all that differ from her heretics, yet she may be out; there may be great mistakes in the decrees and catechism of Trent. But still I can write against their imposed canons and traditions with some temper, because they proceed [271] fairly. They say the Bible, without their glosses upon it, is not a sufficient and perfect rule of faith, and that their interpretations of it are as infallibly true as the word of God itself. Grant them these principles on which they go, and then they argue justly, that a man must believe all that their church believes, in order to denominate him orthodox.

But that men who separate from this church on the foot of a private judgment; that pretend to no infallibility, and own the Bible to be a perfect adequate rule, that needs no additions to eke it out and make it a complete directory; that men that live and breathe upon this principle, and can justify their own conduct by nothing else; that they, while they are engaged in a pretended defiance to this implicit faith, should yet make their own sentiments and darling opinions the standard of orthodoxy, is both an iniquity and a folly not to be endured.

I never yet could see a list of fundamentals in Christianity. I have heard Protestants, when upbraided by the Romanists for want of unity, plead agreement in fundamentals; and I have heard the Papists hereupon demand such a list; but I never knew any Protestant hardy enough to produce it. That only, in my notion, is a fundamental mistake in religion, which is inconsistent with a good heart and a religious conversation. If a man give any reasonable evidence of his being impressed with the fear of God, and that he is concerned to know and do his will, however he may err, we are not to seat ourselves in God's throne, and, because he is not religious in our way, reprobate him at once, and conclude [272] him profane and ungodly. It will be kind to use all the proper methods we can to convince and reclaim him; but to condemn, anathematize, and censure him as a heretic, and then cry, Away with him from the earth, this is the very spirit of the Inquisition, and a conduct worthy only of that shameless church who has no bounds to her claims, nor any pity or remorse to those that dispute them.

See Historical proofs and illustrations of the Hewley case, p. 91.

Mr. L. devoted himself with great diligence to all branches of study connected with his profession, but more especially to Jewish learning and antiquities, in which he became a thorough proficient; justly conceiving that the most important light is thus to be thrown on the doctrines of the New Testament, in which there are continual references and allusions to the rites and customs of the Jews, both those which are founded on the Mosaic law, and such as had been added on the authority of human tradition. The result of these studies he laid before the public in several very curious and valuable publications, particularly a dissertation ‘on the Civil Government of the Hebrews,’ in which the true design and nature of their government are explained, and the justice, wisdom, and goodness of the Mosaical constitution are vindicated; in particular from some unfair and false representations of them in the ‘Moral Philosopher,’ 1740. Also, ‘A Rationale of the Ritual of the Hebrew Worship;’ in which the wise designs and usefulness of that Ritual are explained and vindicated from objections, 1748. He published, in 1745, a Paraphrase and Notes [273] on the Revelation of St. John, in which he was, perhaps, as successful as any other writers have been in divining the true intent of that mysterious book. Mr. Lowman died in 1753, in the seventy-third year of his age. By the account of Dr. Chandler, who preached his funeral sermon, he appears to have been a man of genuine and unaffected piety, and moderate and charitable in his religious principles; but firm and decided in exercising himself the same privilege which he was ready to allow to others, of forming his own judgment.

His habits and manners appear to have been retired, and he was averse to the heat and vehemence of public controversy. Difference of opinion in equally worthy men made no difference in his esteem for them; and he knew mankind too well, to think that all honesty, truth, and good sense, were confined to one party, and shut up in the narrow enclosure of any single denomination of Christians. He loved a good man, in whatever communion he could find him; and he was himself respected and esteemed by many worthy members of the established church, and especially by the principal persons of his own neighbourhood, who cultivated his acquaintance and friendship.

Messrs. Bogue and Bennett, in a short biographical notice of Mr. Lowman, after admitting his claim to commendation as a writer, speak of him as a very poor preacher, and add that ‘an intelligent man, who was his constant hearer, declared that he could never understand him.’ The present writer has no means at hand of appealing to other testimony on this subject; but he finds [274] it difficult to imagine that the same person who was correct and perspicuous in his writings could be habitually unintelligible in the pulpit. The ‘intelligent’ person referred to very probably laboured under some strong theological bias, which prevented him from assenting to Mr. Lowman's conclusions, and perhaps, in some cases, even from perceiving the drift of his arguments, and, therefore, it is possible enough that he might sometimes misunderstand him; but we can hardly place much reliance on the testimony of a man who, by his own account of himself, remained a constant hearer of a preacher whose discourses he could never understand.

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