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immediately from heaven, and confirmed by a variety of miracles, is indeed divine.” This argument hath 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 Thessalonians, 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 facts, 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, Cony beare, &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, 1. " 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 veral 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.
BENSON (WILLIAM), an English critic, once of some fame, the son of sir William Benson, formerly sheriff of London, was born in 1682. After receiving a liberal education, he made a tour on the continent, during which he visited Hanover and some other German courts, and Stock
1 Biog. Brit.
holm. In 1710, he served the office of high sheriff of Wilts; and soon after wrote a celebrated letter to sir Jacob Banks of Minehead, by birth a Swede, but naturalized, in which he represented the miseries of the Swedes, after they had made a surrender of their liberties to arbitrary power; which, according to bis account, was then making great advances at home. When summoned for this letter before the privy council, he avowed himself the author, but no prosecution appears to have followed, as he put his name to the subsequent editions, of which 100,000 are said to have been sold in English, or in translations. He afterwards wrote “ Two letters to sir Jacob Banks, concerning the Minehead doctrine,” 1711, 8vo.
He became member of parliament for Shaftesbury in the first parliament of George I. and in 1718 was made surveyor general, in the place of sir Christopher Wren, on which occasion he vacated his seat in parliament. Why such a disgrace should be inflicted on sir Christopher Wren, now full of years and honours, cannot be ascertained. Benson, however, gained only an opportunity, and that soon, to display his incapacity, and the amazing contrast between him and his predecessor. Being em. ployed to survey the house of lords, he gave in a report that that house and the painted-chamber adjoining were in immediate danger of falling. On this the lords were about to appoint some other place for their meeting, wben it was suggested that it would be proper to take the opinion of some other builders, who reported that the building was in very good condition. The lords, irritated at Benson's ignorance and incapacity, were about to petition
king to remove him, when the earl of Sunderland, then secretary, assured them that his majesty would anticipate their wishes. Benson was accordingly dismissed. He was in some measure consoled, however, by the assignment of a considerable debt due to the crown in Ireland, and by the reversion of one of the two offices of auditor of the imprests, which he enjoyed after the death of Mr. Edward Harley. In 1724, he published “ Virgil's Husbandry, with notes critical and rustic ;” and in 1739, “ Letters concerning poetical translations, and Virgil's and Milton's arts of verse.” This last was followed by an edition of " Arthur Johnston's Psalms,” accompanied with the Psalms of David, according to the translation in the English Bible, printed in 4to, 8vo, and 12mo; with a
" Prefatory discourse,” 1740; in 1741 “A conclusion to his prefatory discourse;" and in the same year, supplement to it, in which is contained, a comparison betwixt Johnston and Buchanan.” In this comparison, given in favour of Johnston, he was so unlucky, or, rather for the sake of taste, so lucky as to excite the indignation of the celebrated Ruddiman, who wrote an elaborate and unanswerable defence of Buchanan, in a letter to Mr. Benson, under the title of“ A Vindication of Mr. George Buchanan's Paraphrase of the Book of Psalms,” Edinburgh, 1745, 8vo.
Benson, although a man who had spent the greater part of his life among books, yet a short time before his death, contracted an unconquerable aversion to them, and perhaps to society likewise, as the latter years of his life were passed in close retirement at his house at Wimbledon, where he died Feb. 1754. His character has been variously represented. It was his misfortune, if not his fault, in the outset, that he was placed in the invidious situation of suc. cessor to sir Christopher Wren, who was most improperly dismissed; and this procured him a place in the Dunciad, which probably served to keep up the remembrance of what he would willingly have forgot. Dr. Warton, however, has endeavoured to do him justice in his, notes on Pope. Benson,” says that amiable critie, “is here spoken of too contemptuously. He translated faithfully, if not very poetically, the second book of the Georgics, with useful notes; he printed elegant editions of Johnston's psalms; he wrote a discourse on versification; he rescued his country from the disgrace of having no monument erected to the memory of Milton in Westminster-abbey ; he encouraged and urged Pitt to translate the Æneid; and he gave
Dobson £.1000 for his Latin translation of Paradise Lost." Another testimony we have of his liberality which ought not to be suppressed. In 1735, a book was published, entitled “The cure of Deism." The author, Mr. Elisha Smith, was at that time confined in the Fleet prison for a debt of £.200. Benson, pleased with the work, inquired who was the author, and having received an account of his unfortunate state, not only sent him a handsome letter, but discharged the whole debt, fees, &c. and set him at liberty.'
1 Nichols's Life of Bowyer.---Chalmers' Life of Ruddiman, p. 176.-Pope's Works, vol. V.
BENTHAM (EDWARD), canon of Christ-church, Oxford, and king's professor of divinity in that university, was born in the college at Ely, July 23, 1707. His father, Mr. Samuel Bentham, was a very worthy clergyman, and vicar of Witchford, a small living near that city; who having a numerous family, his son Edward, on the recommendation of Dr. Smalridge, dean of Christ-church, was sent în 1717 to the school of that college. Having there received the rudiments of classical education, he was in Lent term 1723, when nearly 16 years of age, admitted of the university of Oxford, and placed at Corpus-Christi college under his relation Dr. John Burton. In this situation, his serious and regular deportment, and his great proficiency in all kinds of academical learning, recommended him to the notice of several eminent men; and, among others, to the favour of Dr. Tanner, canon of Christ-church, by whose death he was disappointed of a nomination to a studentship in that society. At CorpusChristi college he formed a strict friendship with Robert Hoblyn, esq. of Nanswydden in Cornwall, afterwards representative for the city of Bristol, whose character, as a scholar and a member of parliament, rendered him deservedly 'esteemed by the lovers of literature and of their country. In company with this gentleman and another intimate friend, Dr. Ratcliff, afterwards master of Pembroke college, Mr. Bentham made, at different times, the tour of part of France, and other countries. Having taken the degree of B. A. he was invited by Dr. Cotes, principal of Magdalen-hall, to be his vice-principal ; and was accordingly admitted to that society, March 6, 1730. Here he continued only a short time, for, on the 23d of April in the year following, he was elected fellow of Oriel college. In act term, 1732, he proceeded to the degree of M. A. and, about the same time, was appointed tutor in the college ; in which capacity he discharged his duty, in the most laborious and conscientious manner, for more than twenty years.
March 26, 1743, Mr. Bentham took the degree of B. D.; and April 22, in the same year, was collated to the prebend of Hundreton, in the cathedral church of Hereford. July 8, 1749, he proceeded to the degree of D. D.; and in April 1754 was promoted to the fifth stall in that cathedral. Here he continued the same active and useful course of life for which he had always been distinguished. He served the offices of sub-dean
and treasurer, for himself and others, above twelve years. The affairs of the treasury, which Dr. Bentham found in great confusion, he entirely new modelled, and put into a train of business in which they have continued ever since, to the great ease of his successors, and benefit of the society. So intent was he upon the regulation and management of the concerns of the college, that he refused several preferments which were offered him, from a conscientious persuasion that the avocations they would produce were incompatible with the proper discharge of the offices he had voluntarily undertaken. Being appointed by the king to fill the divinity chair, vacant by the death of Dr. Fanshawe, Dr. Bentham was, with much reluctance, and after baving repeatedly declined it, persuaded, by archbishop Secker and his other learned friends, to accept of it ; and, on the 9th of May, 1763, he was removed to the Sth stall in the cathedral. His unwillingness to appear in this station was increased by the business he had to transact in his fornier situation, and which he was afraid would be impeded by the accession of new duties : not to say that a life spent in his laborious and sedentary manner had produced some unfavourable effects on his constitution, and rendered a greater attention than he had hitherto shewn to private ease and health, absolutely necessary. Besides, as the duties, when properly discharged, were great and interesting, so the station itself was of that elevated and public nature to which his ambition never inclined him : “ latere maluit atque prodesse.” The diffidence he had of bis abilities had ever! taught him to suspect his own sufficiency; and his inauguratory lecture breathed the same spirit, the text of which was, " Who is sufficient for these things?” But whatever objections Dr. Bentham might have to the professorship before he entered upon it, when once he had accepted of it, he never suffered them to discourage him in the least from exerting his most sincere endeavours to render it both useful and honourable to the university, He set himself immediately to draw out a course of lecțures for the benefit of young students in divinity, which he constantly read at his house at Christ-church, gratis, three times a week during term-time, till his decease. The course took up a year; and he not only exhibited in it a complete system of divinity, but recommended proper books, some of which he generously distributed to his auditors, His intense, application to the pursuit of the plan