Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/262

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Benson
Benson
258

in the west or south, or at Edinburgh, or in Wales or Cornwall. Few men have so affected immense audiences by their preaching. He induced smugglers in Newcastle, who were foremost methodists, to abandon their nefarious trade. It is told that frequently such was the excitement in his great gathering that the preacher would pause and engage in prayer or give out a hymn to slacken the tension of the strain. Throughout he himself was calm as John Wesley. His printed sermons, like Whitefield's, do not reveal the secret of his power.

Benson was always on the alert for attacks on methodism. His 'Defence of the Methodists in Five Letters to the Rev. Dr. Tatham' (1793, with its sequel, 'A farther Defence,' in five letters to the Rev. W. Russell, in answer to his 'Hints to the Methodists and Dissenters;' his 'Vindication of the People called Methodists, in answer to a report from the Clergy of a district in the Diocese of Lincoln' (1800), and his 'Inspector of Methodism inspected, and the Christian Observer observed' (1803), a reply to Dr. Hales of Ireland, remain masterly vindications of methodism. Earlier he crossed swords with Priestley—e.g. in his 'Remarks on Dr. Priestley's System of Materialism and Necessity' (1788), and 'A Scriptural Essay towards the Proof of an Immortal Spirit in Man, being a continuation of Remarks' (1788). Of his more practical writings are the following: 'A Demonstration of the Want of Common Sense in the New Testament Writers, on the Supposition of their believing and teaching Socinianism' (1791), which was appended to Fletcher's 'Socinianism Unscriptural;' and the 'Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments ... with Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical,' 2nd edition, 1811-18, 5 vols. 4to. Benson's 'Notes' are held amongst methodists to excel every other commentary, but they are in themselves of little value.

The life of Benson covers, with Wesley's life, nearly the first century of methodism. On the death of John Wesley in 1821, Benson filled his place.

Benson married a Miss Thompson at Leeds, 28 Jan. 1780. They had no issue. He died on 16 Feb. 1821, aged 74. It must be added that to the last he was very much in sympathy with the church of England. He was of the old-fashioned type of methodist. He strenuously opposed the dispensation of the Lord's Supper in methodist chapels. He would have all partake in the church.

[Lives by Macdonald and Treffry; Lives of the Wesleys; Methodist Magazines; Minutes of Conference.]

A. B. G.


BENSON, MARTIN (1689–1752), bishop of Gloucester, was the son of the Rev. J. Benson, rector of Cradley, Herefordshire, and was born there on 23 April 1689. He was educated at the Charterhouse and at Christ Church College, Oxford, of which he became a tutor. He subsequently travelled on the continent, where he met Berkeley, his friend and correspondent for thirty years, and Secker, whose sister he married. Soon after his return he became, in 1721, archdeacon of Berkshire. In 1724 he obtained one of the 'golden' prebends in Durham Cathedral; and in 1726 was made chaplain to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George II. In 1727 he was presented to the rectory of Bletchley, and in 1728, on occasion of a royal visit to Cambridge, received the degree of D.D. In January 1735 he was nominated bishop of Gloucester, probably as amends to his friend and patron Lord Chancellor Talbot, for the mortification he had suffered by the rejection of his nominee Dr. Rundle, whose promotion to Gloucester had been successfully opposed by the Bishop of London (Rundle). On his appointment Benson declared his resolution to accept no higher preferment, and kept his word, though Gloucester was at that time one of the poorest of the bishoprics. He revived the institution of rural deans, and expended considerable sums in repaving the choir of the cathedral, adding pinnacles to the lady chapel, and thoroughly repairing the palace. He personally visited the diocese of York, under commission from Archbishop Blackburne, then advanced in years, who left him a service of plate by his will. Exhausted, as was thought, with the fatigue and anxiety of tending Bishop Butler in his last illness, Benson died, universally beloved and lamented, on 30 Aug. 1752, and was buried in his cathedral. Benson belonged to the best type of English prelate of his time, and was one of the select circle of eminent divines protected and encouraged by Lord Chancellor Talbot, of which Butler was the most distinguished ornament. Berkeley called him 'Titus, the delight of mankind,' and Pope celebrated him along with his illustrious friend in the famous couplet—

Manners with candour are to Benson given,
To Berkeley every virtue under heaven.

His only publications were some separate sermons.

[Rawlinson MSS. fols. 16, 180; Britten's History and Antiquities of Cathedral Churches; Porteus's Life of Secker; Fraser's Life of Berkeley; Lord Hervey's Memoirs; Gent. Mag. 1752.]

R. G.