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Rev. RICHARD PRICE, D.D.* F.R.S.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR, Permit me, as a mark of our friendship, † and of our love of the same studies, to inscribe this work to you. It is not that I wish to screen myself behind your authority, or to make you responsible for what is new, and may be thought too bold or hazardous in the opinions maintained in it; but I wish to have your countenance for the freedom with which I have treated this subject, and especially for what I have said relating to the inspiration of the books of Scripture. This opinion is not only a bar to freedom of inquiry, but has operated in a manner very unfavourable to the credibility of the Gospel history. With respect to other matters of a speculative nature, relating to Christianity, I cannot be more ready to take, than you are to allow and encourage, the greatest freedom of thinking and writing, and, consequently, the most open and avowed difference of sentiment; since what is most essential to the Christian temper and conduct, is perfectly consistent with this difference.
In a variety of articles in metaphysics and speculative theology, it is probable that, having, at an early period, embraced very different general principles, you and I shall continue through life to hold very different opinions, and with respect to their influence in a theoretical system, we may lay considerable stress upon them; but we agree in a firm belief of Christianity, and of the infinite importance of it to the virtue and happiness of mankind.
* See a “ Short Sketch of the Life of Dr. Price," Appendix, No. I. + Dr. Priestley describes himself as having enjoyed Dr. Price's “particular friendship," on his visits to London during his “residence at Leeds."' He had been introduced to his acquaintance some years before by Dr. Benson, about 1761. See Vol. I. Memoirs, 44, 81, 114.
How justly Dr. Priestley estimated such a friendship, the ardour of which no differences of opinion, however important, could abate, has appeared in several of the preceding volumes. See Vol. III. p. 210; IV. pp. 4, 14, 121 ; XV. pp. 499, 441, 444, 451, 474; XVIJI. pp. 370, 416.
Whether Christ was a man like ourselves, or a being of a higher rank, but between which and the Supreme there is still the same infinite distance, the authority of the Gospel precepts, promises, and sanctions, is the same, and the highest possible, viz. that of the great Being by whom Christ spake, who is his God and Father as well as ours; and who, if we obey his will revealed to us in the Gospel, will love and honour us, as he loves and honours him.
I think myself happy in being united with you in the pursuit of natural science, * and in an attachment to the natural rights and liberties of mankind ; t but I trust we shall both of us ever act upon the idea of the inferiority of all the civil rights of men to the privileges of Christians, and of the insignificancy of all things temporal compared with things eternal.*
* On Dr. Price's contributions to the Philosophical Transactions, see Mr. Morgan's Memoirs, 1815, pp. 38, 39. He was one of the four members on whose recommendation Dr. Priestley was introduced "juto the Royal Society,” See Vol. I. Memoirs, 84.
† According to Mr. Morgan, (Memoirs, p. 50,) till the American War, “Dr. Price had taken no active part in political contentions,” though, “ as a friend to liberty, he always felt bimself warmly interested in its support, and freely expressed his abhorrence of every attempt to encroach upon it." In 1776, appeared his “ Observations on Civil Liberty, and the Justice and Policy of the War with America," of which, “ in the course of a few days, several thousands were sold," and, “ by means of the cheap edition, near 60,000 copies," in a few months. In 1777, “ that very equivocal friend of liberty, Mr. Edmund Burke," says Mr. Morgan, “ took occasion, in his letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol, [p. 47,] to censure some of Dr. Price's principles on the origin of goverument.” Ibid. pp. 58, 62.
To the Observations, Dr. Jebb thus referred in his “ Address to the Freeholders of Middlesex," 1779 : “ The arts that have been used to inflame the minds of the people of England against their brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, have hitherto proved but too successful. I trust, however, they now begin to fail, and that a temper, more becoming the ancieut generosity aud humanity of our nation, and more congenial to the spirit of the religion we profess, will actuate our counsels. The great, the good Dr. Price has so ably touched this subject, that it would be presumption in me to add any further reflections of my own. To his sound and catholic doctrine, I subscribe with heart and hand." Dr. Disney's Works of John Jebb, M. D, F.R.S. II. p. 484, Note.
In 1783, Dr. Price joined “ the Earl of Effingham, Major Cartwright, Dr. Jebb, and Mr. Wyvill in giving “ their sentiments” to “ the Volunteers of Ireland, on the proposed reform in the parliament of that kingdom.” Ibid. (Mem.) I.
When I referred to Dr. Price's justly famous discourse, (see Vol. XV. p. 440, Notes,) my memory did not serve me sufficiently, or I should then bave opposed to the calomnies of Burke, the approbation of Sir William Jones, as expressed, on the perusal of that discourse, iu the following letter. On the authority of a friend who had the original in his possession, before it passed into the hands of Sir William Jones's noble biographer, I am now able to restore a passage which I here place between brackets, and which it will be easily believed that Lord Teignmouth was too much of a courtier not to have omitted :
“ Sir William Jones to Dr. Price. “ MY DEAR SIR,
Chrisna-nagur, Sept. 14, 1790. “I give you my warmest thanks for your friendly letter, and acceptable present of an admirable discourse, which I have read with great delight. (Since the late glorious Revolution in France, I canuot help applying to my poor infatuated country the words which Tully formerly applied to Gaul: • Ex omnibus terris Britannia sola communi non ardet incendio.')
“We have twenty millions (I speak with good information) of Indian subjects,
I am, with the greatest esteem,
Your affectionate, humble servant, Calne, Jan. 1776.
whose laws I am now compiling and arranging, in the liope of securing their property to themselves and their heirs. They are pleased with the work; but it makes me a very bad correspondent. I bad flattered myself with a hope of making a visit to our veuerable friend at Philadelphia, before the retreat which I meditate to my humble cottage in Middlesex ; but God's will be done. We shall meet, I devoutly bope, in a happier state." Life, 1806, p. 340. See Vol. XVII. p. 157, Note *
Sir W. Jones's and Dr. Price's “ venerable friend" was, no doubt, Dr. Franklin, of whose death, at Philadelphia, April 17th, this year, (1790,) Sir W. Jones could scarcely have been apprized. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of once more bringing together two names so worthy of perpetual remembrance, by adding, as preserved by Mr. Morgan, the extract of a letter from Sir W. Jones to Dr. Price, dated Chrisna-nagur, 26th September, 1788:
“ I have lately read with delight a book in which all Christians are interested ; a volume of sermons preached by you, and shewing the goodness both of your heart, and of your judgment. I anxiously hope that I shall see you in perfect health some years hence on my return to Europe, where (despairing of public liberty) I shall, by God's blessing, pass the rest of my life in studying those parts of knowledge which are connected with the duty of good citizens, and in conversing with you and a few others who love their country better than their interest." Memoirs, p. 115.
• I well remember to have heard Dr. Price thus eloquently contrast those objects, when preaching on a public occasion, from 2 Peter i. 11, and iii. 13 :
“ The mightiest empires," said the preacher, “ have fallen, and the best formed societies, after enjoying liberty and prosperity for a time, have been ruined either by foreign violence, or the more slow operations of internal corruption.—But that future government in the heavens-will be subject to no calamitous revolutions. It will preserve for ever its order and dignity, without the possibility of being disturbed by any tumults, or shaken by any convulsions
“ Wbat a theatre of tumult and confusion is this world! On one hand the lust of power invading the rights of mankind; on the other, fierce defiance and resistance. lu one country a haughty despot ordering a general carnage to gratify his avarice or pride; in another, a wicked incendiary fomenting discord and disgracing patriotism. Here a body of crouching slaves looking up to a king as a God, alid bowing down that he may go over them; there, a nation of freemen enraged by oppression, flying to arms, and in the conflict giving their oppressors blood to drink.-These are spectacles which are, indeed, enough to make us sick of human affairs. Turu your eyes froin them to brighter scenes. From the din of arms and the triumphs of tyranny; from the shouts of warriors, and the cries of plundered citizens ; from the insolence of courts and the pride of princes, transfer your views to the tranquillity and order of Christ's everlasting kingdom.” See « A Sermon addressed to a Congregation of Protestant Dissenters at Hackney, on February 21, 1781, being the Day appointed for a General Fast.” Pp. 16, 20, 21, Thus did Dr. Price exemplify the parish priest of Dryden :
“ For, letting down the golden chaiu from high,
Ile drew bis audience upward to the sky.”
THE GREEK HARMONY.
WHATEVER may be thought of the work which I now present to the public, I can assure my readers that there is hardly any subject on which I have bestowed more pains, or to which I have given more time : and I never bestowed my labour or time with more satisfaction to myself, whatever may result from it with respect to others.
The harmony of the four Gospels, or the reducing the history of our Saviour, as delivered by the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, to the order of time in which the events really happened, has been a favourite object with critics, even from the very early ages of Christianity; and since the revival of letters in Europe, the number of harmonists has been so great, that the enumeration of them would be tedious.
Nor shall we wonder at the attention that has been given to this subject, when we consider how very important a history that of Christ is, infinitely more so than that of any other man that ever lived on the face of the earth ; in comparison with whom kings, lawgivers, or philosophers, appear as nothing. On this account, those who entertain a just value for the character of Christ, and a proper idea of their obligation to him, are interested in every circumstance relating to his history. They can never be weary of contemplating it, and are not satisfied without viewing it in every possible light, important or not important; as indeed is the case, in some measure, with respect to every person in whose history we take a part. For this I appeal to the feelings of all those who interest themselves in the history of the dead.
What pains have been taken by classical critics to ascertain the exact dates of the most trivial incidents in the life of Cicero, and other persons of eminence in ancient or
* See Introduction to Essays on the Harmony, 1769, Appendix, No. II.
modern history! The motive to all this pains could be nothing but the interest they took, and which they imagined their readers would take, in the lives of those heroes, and the desire that unavoidably results from it, of having as precise and definite an idea as possible of every thing in which they were concerned. This is easily accounted for on the principle of the association of ideas, by means of which unimportant circumstances acquire a degree of importance from their relation to an important character.
But it is not on this account only that we receive this satisfaction from an orderly narrative of the life of Christ : for even the credibility of the history is, in some measure, concerned in it. If the separate histories be all true, they will be found to agree as far as other credible histories of the same transaction are found to do. But if the different histories of the life of Christ be utterly irreconcileable in things of consequence, that is, in things of such a nature, as that persons who lived in those times, could not but have been well acquainted with, and have attended to, they will not be entitled to credit. In a variety of other respects also, the credibility of the Gospel history may be evinced or illustrated, from a comparison of the different accounts of the same transactions; and every circumstance of this kind will give pleasure to a friend of Christianity.
We shall not wonder that the chronological order of events in the life of Christ should have been lost, when we consider that the capital uses of the gospel did not require that the writers of them should adhere strictly to the order of time, and that two of the historians, viz. Mark and Luke, are not supposed to have been present at the transactions, and therefore might never have known, with accuracy, what the order of events was. Still, however, the Gospel history abounds so much with notes of time, which, without an express care to prevent it, could not but mix themselves with the narration, (having been originally and necessarily associated with the particulars of it,) and there is in these, as in all other genuine bistories that are equally full of business, such a constant reference to particular persons, places, and times, so frequent a mention of the seasons of the year, public festivals, &c. &c., that a sagacious reader will find data enow for the orderly arrangement of every thing of much consequence, though there will still be much uncertainty with respect to the disposition of some things, the exact place of which is of little moment.
There would not have been so much difference in the