Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Benson, Christopher

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BENSON, CHRISTOPHER (1789–1868), prebendary and canon of Worcester, master of the Temple, was born in 1789. He obtained a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1812, and M.A. in 1815. After being ordained he spent some years as a curate at St. John's, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and St. Giles's, London. In 1817 he was select preacher before the university, and delivered a course of sermons on baptism, which he subsequently printed; and two years later he published 'A Chronology of our Saviour's life. Benson rapidly earned a high repute as a preacher, and in the year 1820 he was selected as the first lecturer under Hulse's bequest at Cambridge. Hulse, who died in 1789, had left a considerable sum of money for various purposes connected with the elucidation of the Christian evidences; but as the fund was not held to be adequate for all the objects of the bequest, the appointment of a lecturer was delayed for thirty years. Benson's lectures, which were dedicated to the masters of Downing and St. John's Colleges, went through many editions, and he was again appointed in 1822. The second volume is dedicated to Granville Hastings Wheler, of Otterden Park, Kent, heir to the munificent Lady Betty Hastings, who had presented him to the vicarage of Ledsham. In the meantime he had been elected fellow of Magdalene, and in 1826 he became canon of Worcester. He successively held the livings of Lindridge and Cropthome, and was for several years master of the Temple. At the time of his death, however, which occurred in his eightieth year at Woodfield, near Ross, he held no preferment. Benson belonged to the broader evangelical school; and a series of 'Discourses upon Tradition and Episcopacy,' preached in the Temple Church in 1839, criticised the views of the Oxford tractarians — a term which Benson seems to have been one of the first to attach to Pusey, Newman, and their friends. These discourses, in which he argued against the apostolical authority of the fathers, and condemned the prominence assigned to tradition, led him into a controversy, of great interest at that period, with the Rev. F. Merewether, then rector of Cole Orton. The last of his sermons which attracted general attention was one delivered and printed in 1855, during the Crimean war — apologetic and courtly in its tone, but marked by considerable eloquence and pathos. Amongst his works may also be mentioned a volume on 'The Rubrics and Canons of the Church.' He died in 1868.

[Gent. Mag. 1868; Georgian Era, i. 628.]

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