Benson, George

, a learned and eminent dissenting teacher, was born at Great Salkeld, in Cumberland, September 1699. He was early destined by his parents for the ministry, on account of the seriousness of his disposition and his love of learning; which was so strong and successful, that at eleven years of age he was able to read the Greek testament. After finishing his grammar learning, he went to an academy kept by Dr, Dixon at Whitehaven, from whence he removed to Glasgow; where, with great application and success, he pursued his studies until May 1721, when he left the university. Towards the close of the year he came to London; and having been examined and approved by several of the most eminent presbyterian ministers, he began to preach; first at Chertsey, and afterwards in London. The learned Dr. Calamy, who was his great friend, and kindly took him for a time into his family, recommended him to go to Abingdon in Berkshire; where, after preaching as a candidate, he was unanimously chosen their pastor, by the congregation of protestant dissenters in that town. During his stay here, which was about seyen years, he preached and published three serious practical discourses, addressed to young persons, which were well received. But he afterwards suppressed them, as not containing what be thought on further inquiry the exact truth, in relation to some doctrines of Christianity. He had been educated a Calvinist, but was now, like many of his brethren, receding from those principles. In 1729 he received a call from a society of protestant dissenters in Southwark, among whom he laboured with diligence and fidelity for eleven years, and was greatly | beloved by them. In 1740 he was chosen by the congregation at Crutched Friars, colleague to Dr. Lardner; and when infirmities obliged Dr. Lardner to quit the service of the church, the whole care of it devolved on him.

From the time of uis engaging in the ministry, he seems to have proposed to himself the “critical study of the Scriptures, and particularly of the New Testament, as a principal part of his business; and to have pursued the discovery of the sacred truths it contained, with uncommon diligence and fidelity. The first fruit of these studies which he presented to the public was,A defence of the reasonableness of Prayer, with a translation of a discourse of Maximus Tyrius, containing some popular objections against prayer, and an answer to these.“Some time after this, he extracted from the” Memoirs of Literature,“and reprinted, Mr. dela Roche’s account of the persecution and burning of Servetus by Calvin, with reflections on the injustice and inconsistence of this conduct in that reformer. To this he afterwards added,A defence of the account of Servetus; and a brief account of archbishop Laud’s cruel treatment of Dr. Leighton.“About the same time, to guard against the corruptions of popery, and to prevent their being urged by the deists as plausible objections against Christianity; he publishedA dissertation on 2 Thess. ii. ver. 1 12.“Jn illustrating the observations of the learned Joseph Mede, he shewed these gross corruptions of the best religion to have been expressly foretold, and Christians strongly cautioned against them; and that, in this view, they were among the evidences of the divine authority of the scriptures; as they proved the sacred writers to have been inspired by a divine spirit, which could alone clearly foretel events so distant, contingent, and unlikely. The light which Mr. Locke had thrown on the obscurest parts of St. Paul’s epistles, by making him his own expositor, encouraged and determined Mr. Benson to attempt an illustration of the remaining epistles in the same manner. In 1731 he published ‘’ A paraphrase and notes on the epistle to Philemon.” 4to, as a specimen. This was well received, and the author encouraged to proceed in his design. With the epistle to Philemon was pubJished “A short dissertation, to prove from the spirit and sentiments of the apostle, discovered in his epistles, that he was neither an enthusiast nor impostor; and consequently, that the religion which he asserted he received | immediately from heaven, and confirmed by a variety of miracles, is indeed divine.” This argument haih since been improved and illustrated, with great delicacy and strength, in a review of the apostle’s entire conduct and character, by lord Lyttelton. Mr. Benson proceeded with great diligence and reputation to publish paraphrases and notes on the two epistles to the Thessaloniaus, the first and second to Timothy, and the epistle to Titus; adding dissertations on several important subjects, particularly on inspiration.

In 1735 he published a “History of the first planting of Christianity, taken from the Acts of the Apostles and their Epistles,” 2 vols. 4to. In this work, besides illustrating throughout the history of the Acts, and most of the Epistles, by an historical view of the times, the occasion of the several epistles, and the state of the churches to whom they were addressed; he established the truth of the Christian religion on a number of fucts, the most public, important, and incontestable. These works procured him great reputation. One of the universities in Scotland sent him a diploma with a doctor’s degree; and many of high rank in the established church, as Herring, Hoadly, Butler, Benson, Conybeafe, &c. shewed him great marks of favour and regard. He pursued the same studies with great application and success till the time of his death, Which happened 1763, in the 64th year of his age. His works, besides those already mentioned, are, I. “A paraphrase and notes on the seven catholic epistles; to which are annexed, several critical dissertations,” 4to. 2. “The reasonableness of the Christian religion, as delivered in the scriptures,” 2 vols. 8vo. 3. “A collection of tracts against persecution.” 4, “A volume of sermons on several important subjects.” 5. “The history of the life of Jesus Christ, taken from the New Testament; with observations and reflections proper to illustrate the excellence of his character, and the divinity of his mission and religion,1764, 4to. 1


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