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in England it is plain that its popularity there has been greater than amongst us, by whom Wakefield's version has been and is almost universally preferred. Mr. Belsham repe: tedly refers in his diary and correspondence to the Translation and Exposition of Paul's Epistles as his “magnum opus”; certainly an extraordinary work, when it is considered that nearly one third of it was added, and nearly two thirds newly arranged and composed by a man over seventy, and, viewed in any light, an important accession to English theological literature. At the same time, we must say that he does not always evince that thorough scholarship, deep philosophy, and moral sympathy with bis subject, which are indispensable to a uniformly successful expositor of the writings and the mind of Paul. It will be seen that Dr. Parr, though a churchman, in the following characteristic letter, could speak of Mr. Belsham's merits as a critic and author in terms of commendation more unqualified and indiscriminate, than we should care to use.
“Hatton, Oct. 13th, 1822. “ DEAR AND EXCELLENT MR. BELSHAM,
“ I heard with satisfaction and even delight, that you have published an Exposition of the Epistles of Paul; and happy I was that a task so arduous and so important had been undertaken by a man so eminently qualified to perform it well. I accept with pleasure and with pride your offer to present me with the work, which I shall consider as the most valuable ad dition to the treasures of theological kuowledge which I have the good fortune to possess.
Mr. Belsham, I am no stranger to your attainments, to your talents, to your virtues; and there is only one subject upon which I felt surprise and sorrow that we differed so widely. I was charmed with your reply to Bishop Magee, and my opinion of his renowned work is the same as yours. Yet he is a man of parts, and from the orthodox he deserved the preferment which has been bestowed upon him. I have read Dr. Carpenter's work; it abounds with good sense and good reasoning, but it wants compression and a more clear arrangement. There is too much repetition, too much boasting, and I am compelled to add, too much acrimony. Yet he is an intelligent and a virtuous man. I have been an attentive reader of the Improved Version of the New Testament, and after making allowance for the zeal of all good men in what they think a good cause, I give them ample credit for a very useful work. Surely, dear Sir, you will not do amiss by republishing without comments the writings of a celebrated
Oxonian, Dr. Wallis, in defence of the Trinity. I have mentioned this to our friend Mr. Yates, who lent me the book. I lent him some rare and curious publications on both sides of the question. I suppose that you are well read, not only in Crellius, but in Curcellæus. I recommend Curcellæus to all inquirers. Bishop Pearce was not heterodox, but there is much learning and much honesty in his Commentary. What are we to say upon the opening of John's Gospel? I find great confusion in the order of the first chapter, and I am not without suspicion upon the authenticity of the introduction. I dare not, however, decide. Every year my mind is enlightened by theological publications from Germany, and I am a diligent student in books, scarcely known even by their titles to my clerical brethren. I take no part in any of the controversies, but I am, and ever shall be, anxious to discover what is most probable. Pray send me your book, and present my besť compliments and best wishes to Dr. Rees, Mr. Cogan, and Mr. Aspland. If I were seated at Lambeth, I should summon these worthies to my table. As to public matters, I am quite in despair. I have the honor to be, dear Sir, with great respect, your faithful friend, and obedient, humble servant,
- pp. 737, 738. The old age of Mr. Belsham was tranquil and happy. When entering on his sixtieth year, he thus expresses himself:
“ It seems to me hardly credible that I can have travelled so far in the journey of life; that I have arrived at an age that I formerly regarded as almost the extreme limits of the human
• To gentle life's descent We shut our eyes, and think it is a plane.' One fact is remarkable ; I find myself happier in the present stage of existence than in that which preceded it. I formerly possessed a more acute sense of pleasure, and many things in which I once took delight would be a fatigue and a burden. But I am more quiet; I am more free from painful contests, from painful feelings, and from painful expectations; and upon the whole, though there is a mixture of painful sensation with pleasurable feeling, yet these feelings are more amalgamated with each other, and I am constrained and thankful to acknowledge, that the excess is pleasurable, and the preponderance is on the side of happiness. Thanks be to the abundant, unmerited, unchangeable goodness of God! One great cause of present satisfaction is, that I see men and things in what ap
pears to me to be their true light. The first thirty years of life was a kind of dream. Nothing appeared in its due proportion ; every object was magnified, and in a considerable degree distorted. I had notions much too exalted of rank, of opulence, of learning, of character. I might be said to be an idolater of the creature; and my religious views were irrational and false in the extreme, and a source of unspeakable pain and misery, especially during my course of studies at the Academy. They completely destroyed the comfort of my life, and made the naturally delightful season of youth an insupportable burden. I will not, however, deny, that this discipline may have been, upon the whole, an advantage. After I took the charge of the Academy at Daventry, and still more since I came to London, I have seen many things. I have conversed with men of learning, with men of opulence, with men of rank, with men of virtue. I have been shown behind the scene, and have seen something of men as they are I have been introduced, as it were, into a new world. The scales have fallen from my eyes, and I have learned to form a more correct, and for that reason a more satisfactory judginent of human characters and human life. I have learned neither to think too highly, nor to expect too much from men ; and in this corrected state of the feelings I experience a considerable degree of satisfaction.”. pp. 585 – 587.
His constitutional dread of dissolution appears also gradually to have given way.
At the age of seventy-six, he writes :
I lately read, that a Dr. Hunter, when he was dying, about half an hour before he expired, said, 'that he wished he had it in his power to write how very easy and pleasant a thing it was to die.' And Dr. Priestley, when he was seized with that suspension of his voice which attacked him a day or two before his death, when he recovered it again, id, 'that he never felt himself more easy and comfortable than during the time that he lost his speech. And the mother of my worthy friend, Mr. Richard Smith, when dying (which event took place between the services of Sunday), inquired of her children, as they stood round her bed-side, what was the subject of the discourse which they had heard at chapel, and who of their friends were present, and who absent, and concluded with expressing how little she felt of pain and uneasiness. Her expression was, 'that dying was nothing, and that she suffered nothing.' Indeed, with regard to myself during this long illness, I consider myself as having more than once suffered all that I could have suffered, had I never recovered from that state
- p. 770.
of insensibility into which I had fallen. So that I do not regard the act of dying as deserving all that dread with which it is usually contemplated, and with which, notwithstanding all the experience that I have had, I cannot avoid contemplating it still. It is our best consolation, that we are in the hands of a merciful and faithful God, who knows our frailty, who pities our infirmity, and who remembers that we are dust." pp. 757, 758.
In his eightieth year he again writes :
“I am as well as fourscore will allow. My breath is impeded : : my articulation is imperfect: and I am entirely laid aside from public service. Here I stand, 'waiting (as Dr. Watts says) God's leave to die,' and suffering no pain. I have kind, very kind attendants.
His biographer adds :
* About this time, in conversation with his very highly esteemed friend, Mr. Thomas Gibson, Mr. Belsham spoke of himself and of his approaching dissolution, and of the great pleasure and satisfaction he enjoyed in reviewing the scenes and events of his past life, particularly as derived from those better views which he had adopted of the character of the Supreme Being, and of his government and providence. These, he said, had been the source of the greatest and purest delight, and were the ground of a fervent and joyful hope, that when that event happened, which happeneth alike to all men, he should, at the appointed time, be united to the sociéty which he loved and valued, and partake with them of that happiness to which his thoughts were so constantly and earnestly directed. Towards the close of the year his health and strength rapidly declined. He was not subjected to any violent or distressing pain, but nature was exhausted, and he sunk to rest, with the tranquillity and peace of one, who had finished his course, who had contended honorably in the games,' and who knew and was assured, that there was laid up for him a crown of glory, which the Lord, the righteous Umpire, would give him in that day,' 'when he should come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe.'»
pp. 772, 773. *
* A writer in the Repository, for 1830, p. 82, informs us that “the Congregational Magazine, for January, has presented its readers with an obituary of Mr. Belsham, in which, amongst sundry errors and misstatements, is the following very insidious paragraph. "Two days of perfect consciousness preceded his dissolution; but it is reported that an ominous silence was maintained upon the opinions of the past, and the
VOL. XV. N. S. VOL. X. NO. I. 15
Mr. Belsham had been subject for the last five years to a series of apoplectic attacks, in consequence of which the public services at Essex Street devolved chiefly on his colleague and successor, the Rev. Thomas Madge. He died, November 11, 1829, and his remains were consigned to the same tomb with those of the much loved and venerated Lindsey.
“ Ossibus ossa meis et nomen nomine tangam. The general remarks, already interspersed with the preceding biographical notices of Mr. Belsham, make it unnecessary to add many words in further explanation of our views of his genius and character. He appears to have been a close and laborious student, an ardent lover of the truth, and eminently dispassionate and single-hearted in its pursuit. As a dialectician also, so far as analysis went, he was ingenious and able ; a qualification which fitted him to excel as a tutor and lecturer, particularly in detecting, tracing, and exposing complicated errors. But he did not possess powers of synthesis in any thing like the same proportion; he could pull down, and take to pieces, but he failed in the higher effort of mind, putting together and building up. Besides, by confession of his greatest admirers, he was singularly deficient in originality, imagination, and the faculty either to understand or move the affections; and to these natural defects are to be added those of his preparatory and aca
prospects of the future. If this be true, it will become the surviving champions of Unitarianism to explain the melancholy fact.' The insinuation is as untrue as the mode of putting it forth is unmanly. For several days before his death, Mr. Belsham had lost the power of distinct articulation; but even in that state, he found means to express, in a way which could not be mistaken, the composure of his mind. During some days previous, he suffered severely, and it was evident that the hand of death was on him; but then, and so long as the power of speech was allowed him, there was no silence upon the opinions of the past,' or the prospect of the future,' but such allusions to both, indicating principles unshaken and hopes undimmed, intermingled with acts of devotion, as became the humble and faithful minister of Christ when about to render up his account to his Lord. The writer has screened himself from the charge of inventing this report; he is, or at least he appears as being, only its propagator. The difference is not material. The existence of a propensity to falsify the death-bed behaviour of Unitarians has not now been manifested for the first time. It will become the surviving champions of Trinitarianism to explain the melancholy fact.'»