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THE SOCINIAN SCHEME OF DIVINITY. Messrs. Editors,
emotions of attachment. Mr. There are many readers of Belsham is now generally regarded the Panoplist to whom it is a as the champion of his party, matter of surprise, that so many and as sitting in the chair of Dr. of its pages are occupied with ar. Priestley. Some time since, this guments in favor of the proper gentleman published a volume of Deity of Christ, or remarks letters addressed to a lady, pur. tending to repel attacks upon this porting to be an answer to Wil. doctrine. The Socinian and berforce's Practical Viewo of Arian controversies are of recent Christianity. In his second date in this country; and well letter he has given us an abridge. informed people in many parts ment of his system of divinity. of New England, have yet to I shall transcribe his own account learn, that in the midst of them a word for word. The public will plan is concerted to silence the not then complain, that the subtongues, which are singing halle. ject is presented before them in a luias to the Redeemer. Chris. false, or partial light by an adtians who have never been con- versary, who misunderstands or versant with books of religious misrepresents his opponent. controversy, and who are unsul. In the first letter, Mr. Belsham lied by the touch of modern phi. professes to have given a summa. losophical divinity, when inform. ry of Mr. Wilberforce's relig. ed that the Deity and atonement ious system. The beginning of of Christ is deemed by any, who the second letter is occupied with profess to regulate their opinions stating his “strong suspicions," by the Scriptures, have manifest. that if Mr. Wilberforce should ed their astonishment at the pos- cast his eye upon the portrait just sibility of such a thing. Many drawn 6 he would deny the re. are anxious to know something semblance, and think it impos. of this new sect, who treat the sible that he should patronize a opinions of our forefathers and theory, the prominent features the priacipal reformers, with so of which are so odious and dis. much disrespect. I conceive it gusting. After making some remay be proper and useful, to marks on Mr. Wilberforce's gratify them.
want of comprehension, in not The Socinians of the present discerning the consequences of day look up to Dr. Priestley, as his own system, he thus proceeds: a kind of doctrinal father, and "I shall now proceed to exhibit the principal intrument of bring a concise view of rational chris. ing their sect into credit, in Great tianity in its connexion with Britain, and this country. This natural religion. pre-eminence he enjoyed until 60f rational religion, the first his death, which happened Feb. and fundamental principle is, 6th 1800. Thomas Belsham of that the Maker of the universe London was a disciple and intin is infinitely powerful, wise, and mate friend of Dr. Priestley, and good, and that it is impossible for preached a funeral sermon, on him to act in contradiction to his the occasion of his death, in which essential attributes. he has expressed bis warmest 66 GOD IS LOVE. Infinite benevolence alone prompted him works, is a weak or a malignant to action. . And infinite benevo. being. The truth is, that al. lence, combined with unerring though the quantity of vice and wisdom, and supported by ir. misery actually existing is very resistable power, will infallibly considerable, there is neverthe. accomplish its purpose in the less, upon the whole, a very great best possible manner. It appears preponderance of good in gener. in fact, that a limited quantity al, and, with few, if any excepof evil, both natural and moral, tions, in every individual in par. was necessary to the production ticular. of the greatest possible good. “The almost universal desire of Whence this necessity arises, we life and dread of dissolution, know not; but that it could amounts to a strong presump. not be avoided in a system upon tion, that life is in general a the whole the best, we are well blessing. And the disgrace uni. assured; for God would not versally attached to flagrant vice, choose evil for its own sake. Evil proves that such vice is not com. therefore is introduced and per mon. Character is the sum tomitted, not because it is approx. tal of moral and intellectual hab. ed, but because it is unavoidable. its, and the proportion of virIt is in its own nature temporary tuous habits, in the worst and self destructive; and in the characters, exceeds that of vicview of the Deity it is absorbed ious ones. But no character and lost in the contemplation of takes the denomination of virtu.. its ultimate beneficial effects, so ous unless all the habits are on! that to Him the whole system the side of virtue: whereas one appears wise, beautiful, and good evil habit is sufficient to stampa
“God is the Former,the Father, character vicious. and Benefactor of the human “God cannot be unjust to any of race whom for wise reasons, un. his creatures. Having brought known to us, but perfectly con. men into existence and placed sistent, no doubt, with his may- them in circumstances of immi. nificent plan of universal order nent peril, though in the nature and happiness, he has been pleas of things misery is necessarily ed to place in circumstances of connected with vice, we may frailty and danger, the natural certainly conclude that none of consequence of which, in their the creatures of God in such, or progress though life, is the con. in any circumstances will ever be traction of a certain degree of made eternally miserable. 10. moral pollution, which, in the deed it is plainly repuguant to nature of things, and by the divine the justice of God, that the ex. appointment, exposes them to a istence to any of his inteligent proportionate degree of misery creatures, should be upon tho here or hereafter.
whole a curse. 6 But this fact by no means "The light of philosophy affords proves a preponderance of vice a few plausible arguments for the and misery in the world ; other. doctrine of a future life: there wise we must conclude that the are some appearances physical Maker of the world, whose char. and moral, which cannot be satacter we learn only from his isfactorily explained upon an!
other supposition. But since ties of the fall,* and that Christ the sentient powers are suspend. shall reign till all things shall be ed by death, and admit of no re. subdued unto him. + vival but by the revival of the “The apostles were commanded man, a fact the expectation of to preach the gospel to the idol. which is entirely unsupported atrous heathen as well as to the both by experience and anal- chosen family of Abraham, and ogy, the speculations of philos. they were authorized to confirm ophy would commonly, and ale their doctrine by miracles. These most necessarily, termipate in the extraordinary powers are in the disbelief of a future existence. Scriptures called the Spirit of
«Here divine revelation offers God, and the Holy Spirit; and the its seasonable and welcome aid, great change which took place God has commissioned his faith in the views, feelings, and char. ful and holy servant, Jesus of acter of pharisaic Jews and idol. Nazareth, to teach the universal atrous heathen, when they sin. resurrection of the dead, and by cerely professed the christian his own resurrection to confirm faith, is called, a new creation, and exemplify his doctrine. regeneration, rising from the
« Jesus hath authoritatively dead, and the like. And as con. taught, that the wicked will be version to christianity was usu. raised to suffering ; nor could it ally produced by the evidence of possibly be otherwise, if they miracles this new creation, regen. are to be raised with the same eration, sanctification, or passing system of habits and feelings from death to life, is in this sense with which they descended to the ascribed to the Spirit of God. grave, and without which their “The Jews, having been chosen identity would be lost. But since by God to peculiar privileges, eternal misery for temporary entertained a very high notion erimes is inconsistent with every of their own dignity, and expressprinciple of justice, and since a ed themselves in the most con. resurrection from previous insen. temptuous language of the idol. sibility to indefinite misery, to atrous gentiles, who were not in be succeeded by absolute annihi. covenant with Jehovah. Of ation, is a harsh supposition, themselves they spoke as a chosen contrary to all analogy, and not and a holy nation, sons of God, to be admitted but upon the clear and heirs of the promises. But est evidence, we are naturally the heathens were represented as led to conclude, that the suffer. sinners, as aliens, as enemies to ings of the wicked will be reme, God, and the like. In allusion dial, and that they will termi. to which forms of expression the nate in a complete purification converted gentiles being entitled from moral disorder, and in their equally with converted Jews, to ultimate restoration to virtue and the blessings of the new dispen. happiness. In this conclusion sation, they are therefore said to We seem to be justified by those be forgiven, reconciled, and passages in the apostolical writ- saved, to be fellow-citizens with ings which declare, that the blessings of the gospel shall be far * Rom. v. t 1 Cor. xv. more extensive than the calami. Vol. II, Nero Series.
the saints, and of the household and our neighbor: and requiring of God.
that all our time should be em. "The death of Jesus is some ployed to the best account, and times called a propitiation, be that every action should be con. cause it put an end to the mosaic secrated to God, lays no stress economy, and introduced a new upon ritual observations, and ex. and more liberal dispensation, pressly abolishes that distinction under which the gentiles, who of days, which formed so conspic. were before regarded as enemies, vous a feature in the mosaic in. are admitted into a state of amity stitute. To a true Christian every and reconciliation; that is, into day is a sabbath, every place is a a state of privilege similar to that temple, and every action of life of the Jews. It is also occasion. an act of devotion. A Christian ·ally called a sacrifice, being the is not required to be more holy, ratification of that new covenant nor permitted to take greater into which God is pleased to en. liberties upon one day than upter with his human offspring, by on another. Whatever is lawful which a resurrection to immortal or expedient upon one day of the life and happiness is promised, week is, under the Christian dis. without distinction, to all who pensation, equally lawful and are truly virtuous. Believers in expedient on any other day. Christ are also said to have re. Public worship, however must demption through his blood, be. be conducted at stated intervals; cause they are released by the and it has been usual from the Christian covenant from the yoke earliest times for Christians to of the ceremonial law, and from assemble together, on the first the bondage of idolatry. Dr. day of the week, to commemor. Taylor has in general well ex. ate the death, and to celebrate the plained these Jewish phrases in resurrection of their Master. his admirable Key to the apostolic 6 This appears to me to be the writings, prefixed to his Commen. true doctrine of reason and revtary on the Epistle to the Ro. elation, in which the God of namans.
tureis not represented as frowning “The Scriptures contain a faith, over his works, and like a merful and credible account of the ciless tyrant dooming his helpless christian doctrine, which is the creatures to eternal misery, with true word of God: but they are the arbitrary exception of a cho. not themselves the word of God, sen few; but as the wise, benev. nor do they ever assume that olent, and impartial parent of his title : and it is highly improper rational offspring, who is training to speak of them as such, as it them all under various processes leads inattentive readers to sup. of intellectual and moral discipose they were written under a pline, to perfect virtue and ever: plenary inspiration, to which they lasting felicity. Such is the God make no pretension, and as such of my faith and adoration, the expressions expose christianity God of nature and of revelation, unnecessarily to the cavils of un. the God and Father of our Lord believers.
Jesus Christ, that God whose ex“Christianity sums up the whole istence, attributes, and governof human duty in the love of God ment are the joy and confider
of every enlightened and virtuous misery, then we must now con. believer."*
clude against the benevolent char. The public have here the mod. acter of the Deity. If it does ern Socinian system, placed fair not, then creatures may be mis. ly before them, by one of its most erable ten thousand years hence, distinguished advocates. I have or at any future period, and God not leisure, nor room, to examine still be benevolent. at any length, the particulars of The whole argument on the this compendium. I shall add Socinian part, is a mere petitio only a few remarks.
principii, a taking for granted 1. The writer admits, that evil the thing in dispute. They say, exists in the world, and that 6a divine benevolence forbids eterlimited quantity of it, both nat. nal misery; and, taking this for ural and moral, was necessary to granted, proceed to build their the production of the greatest system, whereas the very ques. · possible good;" but says, “we tion in dispute is, whether divine
may certainly conclude, that benevolence does forbid eternal none of the creatures of God, in misery? any circumstances, will ever be But the logic employed, is made eternally miserable.” “It worthy of the principles it is deis plainly repugnant to the jus. signed to establish. tice of God, that the gift of ex. 2. This new system in consististence to any of his intelligent ency with one object it has in creatures, should be, upon the view, which is to degrade the whole, a curse.” Yet our character of the Savior, maintains Savior says of Judas, “ It had the state of man to be such, that been good for that man, if there is no need of a Redeemer. he had not been born.” And “If there is a preponderance of if this may be the case with Judas, vice and misery in the world, we it may be with many others. must conclude our Maker is a
It is truly astonishing, to see weak, or a malignant Being. The universalists establishing them. truth is, that upon the whole, selves on this foundation, that there is a very great preponderbecause God is good and just, ance of good in general, and with none of his creatures can be fi. few, if any exceptions, in every nally miserable. If there be any individual in particular. Charforce at all in this reasoning, it acter is the sum total of moral applies equally to the present state and intellectual habits; and the of things. It is as much evi. proportion of virtuous habits, dence of injustice in the Deity, in the worst characters, exceeds that creatures should be misera. that of vicious ones.” ble now, as at any future period. How different is the portrait The greatest good of the universe, of St. Paul. “There is none for aught that we see, may de. that doeth good; no, not one, mand it then, as much as now. By nature we are children of God can no more do little injus. wrath.” And in reasoning res. tice, than great injustice. If pecting the necessity of Christ's benevolence actually forbids any atonement, he says, “Because * See Beisham's Review of Wilber.
we thus judge, if one died for all, force's Treatise, Letter II.
then were all dead."