Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

is to the principles of true and genuine Religion, and by exposing the various arts by which those who are under this delusive influence are daily gaining strength, and weakening the Church. Let their preachings and the pernicious consequences resulting from them, be in this temper, unfolded and explained, and (what is essentially necessary to give due effect to these endeavours to preserve and cherish true Religion among us), let us hope, that the Legislature will, in its wisdom, devise some further means of protecting and strengthening our Church, by the adoption of such measures as shall effectually prevent those practices which the Sectarists employ with so much success in undermining her interests; or, which is the same thing, that the means of defending her shall be at least adequate to those which are employed against her. Dec. 23, 1804.

EUSEBIUS. P.S. I find that I have miscalled the street in which the meeting-house alluded to in my last Letter, (as being the property of a Trustee of Clerkenwell Church, who was one of Mr. Foster's Committee) is situated. The name of it is Hermes-street, and not Ann-street, as I stated it to be; the contiguity to each other occasioned the mistake, which, though of trifling importance, I wish to rectify: Ann-street; however, I find, is not without its conventi. cle ; so that the village of Pentonville has two within a stone's throw of each other.

E.

1. MR. EVANSON'S REPLY TO THE REV. E. P. i Sie, TN your remarks upon my Reflections upon the State of T Religion, '&c. in No. 33 of this Review for August 1803, notwithstanding you accuse me of illiberality, uncharitableness, want of candour, and insanity, you have displayed so much larger a portion of candour and liberality on your part, than I had reason to expect from any gentleman, whose theological opinions, unfortunately for one of us, differ from mine toto cælo ; ibat I am desirous to vindicate inyself to you, if possible, from the guilt of those charges, and to correct the misapprehension which seems to have induced you to allege them against me..

You begin with describing me as belonging to a parti.

cular

cular “ class, or sect of Christians.” But, I assure you, Sir, that though the result of a diligent study of those prophetic parts of the Christian Scriptures, which I have now thought it my duty to endeavour to explain to the Public, together with an attentive perusal of all the most respectable writings of the 2d and 3d centuries, was a conviction of mind, which compelled me, near 30 years ago, to resign my ecclesiastical preferment, and encouraging prospects; and to separate myself from the conmunion of the established church; I have never hitherto been able to find any sect or religious society with whom I could conscientiously classify myself. Those, however, who have adopted the name of Unitarians, by which I understand them to mean Personal Unitarians, which the Trinitarians certainly are not, could never admit your proposed substitution of Antitrinitarians in its place, because all Arians and Sabellians, &c. are equally Antitrinitarians with them. As to myself, whenever I can find any religious society, who having upon rational grounds ascera tained and distinguished the spurious from the authentic books and passages of the canonical scriptures, cease to teach for the infallible word of God the mere fictions and fables of the predicted, early depravers of the gospel preached by Jesus and his Apostles ; and who profess themselves to be faithful members of the new covenant of Christ, and to live in the constant performance of its plain, universally intelligible terms, I will immediately and cordially associate myself to them ; but till then I shall never attach myself to any sect of professed Chris. tians whatsoever. - You rightly conclude that I disapprove of the damna-, tory clauses of the Athanasian creed. But, I do so, because the words containing that unintelligible, contradice' tory definition of the catholic faith, not being to be found in any part of the sacred scriptures; the everlasting perdition denounced against all who do not receive the faith, or rather belief so defined, is not the denunciation of the Deity, but of the arrogant, ignorant, and erring teachers of the Roman catholic church, whose doctrines you yourself allow to be erroneous, and her worship idolatrous. But when you, Sir, from the pulpit or press, denounce the condeinnation of all impenitent sinners, and the everlasting destruction of them who know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am so far froin censuring you as illiberal and uncharitable, that I regard

liig

you

you as only discharging the duty of your office, and exercising the kindest benevolence to your hearers or readers, by timely warning them of that dreadful denunciation of Almighty God himself. Your case, Sir, in this instance, is just the same as mine, except that without deriving, or wishing to derive, the smallest teinporal emolument to myself from the office, I am impelled by the mere motives of Christian benevolence and philanthropy, to regard it as a duty to warn my fellow-creatures to shun the danger of suffering the now speedily approaching accomplishment of the denunciations of the Deity against all those who persist in those doctrines, and that mode. of religious worship, which he has declared to be blaspheming him. · Blasphemy, you well know, in its strict sense, is the crime of speaking abusively, injuriously, or degrading either of God or man. In the two instances which you have quoted from the scriptures, it signifies the crime against our own species alone. But by his prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel God has pronounced all idolatrous worship to be blaspheming him ; evidently because by representing the only proper object of religious adoration as incorporate in some bodily form, it implies ideas of him grossly derogatory from his essential attributes, and degrades him to a level with his own creatures. For the same reason all doctrines and forms of prayer, which have a similar tendency, and are inconsistent with any of his divine attributes, are certainly blasphemous, and must be intended by him, when he tells us by his prophet John, that the supporters of and adherents to the predicted apostate church, would open their mouths in blasphemy against God; and even after suffering many severe inflictions of his displeasure, would continue to blaspheme him. I have no doubt the merciful benignity of the universal parent will make allowance for every error of his human creatures, which it was not in their power to prevent or rectify. Yet still our erroneous opinions cannot alter the nature of right and wrong; and blasphemy will be blasphemy, and murder, murder, whatever our errors or prejudices may lead us to think of them. The Jewish nation, in the reign of Tiberius, were guilty of the murder of Jesus Christ, and suffered the predicted parabolic punishment of being destroyed theinselves, and having their vineyard given to others; although from our Lord himself and his apostles Peter and Paul we learn, that their crime

was

H

was owing to their ignorance, and proceeded from “ a zeal for God, though not according to knowledge." Surely then it behoves the most “ learned and sincerely pious persons” of every religious denomination, strictly to scrutinize the religious tenets in which they have been educated, and assure themselves that their zeal for them be not also a zeal not according to knowledge. But how that can be effected, or with what propriety errors of opinion in any men can be justly called involuntary, so long as they decline attending to, and take no pains to understand those prophetic parts of the scriptures of the new covenant, which alone contain the marks of distinction between the genuine religion of the gospel, and the false and impious doctrines of the apostacy; and which alone can inform them of the future and final decrees of divine providence respecting the human race, it is not in my power to comprehend. I only know that amongst every species of idolaters that hath ever existed upon earth, many of them have been virtuous, and sincerely pious and devout; and that yet the Deity himself calls all idolatrous worship blaspheming him.

In your next paragraph you ask, whether I have yet to learn, what you tell us is true, that the divine authority of the Christian revelation is not capable of any other proof than an accumulation of probabilities in its favour? My answer is, that far from having learned any such thing, after 40 years studious attention to it, and a firm conviction of its truth, if I had not learned the direct contrary, I should have put the gospel upon the same footing as the Koran ; and by the direction of God himself, given in the prior revelation of his will by Moses, have utterly rejected it as an imposture. For since no earthly potentate or statesman would be so foolish as to send an ambassador to negotiate a treaty of great consequence with a distant nation, without furnishing him with credentials proper to assure them of the truth and reality of his legation, it can never be rationally supposed, that the omnipotent source of all wisdom in his creatures should act so unwisely himself as to delegate any person to announce his proffer of a new covenant of infinite importance to all mankind, without enabling him to give them perfect assurance of the truth and divine authority of his mission; so that the greatest aggregate of inere probabilities in proof of a divine revelation, must ever be inore zhan overbalanced by the infinitely greater weight of im

probability

probability that remains in the opposite scale. God himself, as I have fully stated, has referred us to one, and only one sure criterion, by which a revelation from him may always be infallibly distinguished from the presumptuous doctrines of the teachers of a false religion. No man, therefore, veeds be unconvinced of either the truth or falsehood of any religious system, if he will bring it to thạt plain satisfactory test. But the clearest demonstration in Euclid can afford no conviction of the truth of the theorem it teaches, to those wbo, instead of studiously attending to it, from either indifference or prejudice, do not even atteinpt to acquaint themselves with the meaning of the terms in which it is expressed, nor take the lease pains to understand it.

In remarking upon my argument from the passages which I have quoted from several of the apostle Paul's epistles, to prove that the Apocalypse must have been written and well known to Paul before he wrote them, because they evidently refer to it, your are pleased to say, that it caunot be of a convincing nature, for, that it is undoubtedly true that all the similarity of figures and expressions was dictated by the same holy spirit to both Paul and John. But surely, Sir, you will allow, that whether those figurative expressions were dictated by the holy inspiration, or by Paul himself, they were intended to be intelligible. And to instance only in the passage quoted froin i Cor. xv. I defy you or any man in the world to siiew that it has any consistent intelligible meaning of any kind, if it does not refer to the apocalyptic prophecy of the seven eventful wars, figuratively denominated the sounding of seven trumpels. Paul calls the trumpet, at the sounding of which the coming of Christ, and the resurrection of those that are his are to take place, the last trumpet; now the word last necessarily implies, that other trumpets have been sounded before it; but neither in any of Paul's letters, nor in any other scripture whatsoever, except the Apocalypse, is any such series of trampets mentioned. The word trumpet itself also, cannot by any nian of common sense be taken literally, and therefore must be a figurative expression. But if it be considered as having no reference to the trumpets in the Apocalypse, it appears impossible to assign any rational meaning to it. If with Theophylact, you suppose it to be a figure of speech, denoting the Almighty fiat or will of the Deity, by which alone a resurrection of the dead can be effect

ed,

« AnteriorContinuar »