« AnteriorContinuar »
EVANGELICAL ALARMS. To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. Sir, I CONGRATULATE those of your readers who are Unitarians, upon a testimony to the success of our late exertions which is peculiarly valuable, as extorted from an adversary. The “ Evangelical Magazine," so distinguished for its hostility to our faith, has just devoted several pages to “ An earnest appeal to Evangelical Ministers and others.” To give more effect to this address, it is introduced by the following motto from the prophet Joel." Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy moun:ain.”
In an appeal from such a quarter Unitarians will expect, according to their former experience, that their religious character and designs should be ipisrepresented without scruple. On this occasion they will not be disappointed. We are very freely classed among “ the adversaries of Jehovah's honour, and inan's best interest,” and described as " affirming the merit of supposed virtue, while at the same time its standard is reduced extremely low," and in short, as "the fves of true religion.” We are informed that as “the poison of infidelity was readily imbibed among the lower orderson the publication of Paine's Age of Reason, it will not appear improbable that many may be attracted by a plausible reprez' sentation of the Unitarian opinions,”
Froin no small acquaintance and some intimacy with zealous professors of Calvinism, I am of opinion that an individual of any respectability among them could not easily be found to indulge, in his private capacity, such unqualified abuse. Yet let him take the pen as the organ of his party, and such a representation of their opponents becomes " the very milk of human kindness," not to call it the Christian charity of Paul which.“ thinketh no evil.” Strange however to say, this unceremonious libeller of Unitarians ventures to complain, I trust unjustly, of the “ extrenje unfairness and unrestrained virulence with which the doctrines and character of those, who are called Calvinists” are assaulted, He conjures “ Evangelical Ministers and others” to “ manifest an amiable con.. trast of temper, and to exercise the purest candour, truh, and impartiality.” Surely the author of this excellent advice in defiance of his own practice, such as I have quoted it, must be a descendant from the ancient family of the Scribes and Pharisees, against whom he who “ knew what
was in man” has warned his disciples, because “ they say and do not.”
But your Unitarian readers will expect to be gratified with a little evangelical commendation. Here again they will not be disappointed. Their tract societies are described as making vigorous exertions. « The public sermons of their ministers have of late been much more doctrinal and controversial than has heretofore been customary among them. In some of their congregations, peculiar pains are taken to confirm the young people in the Unitarian doctrines.-Village and itinerant preaching are objects to which they now give much attention, and which they are endeavouring to introduce and extend in their connexion. They have already obtained some itinerant preachers who manifest both zeal and talents. -To aid in the prosecution of these plans, a fund has been instituted ; and spirited exertions are made for its support and increase.” Such is the representation of our present state of activity, the promotion of which is charged, in a great measure, not I believe without reason, to the circulation of your Magazine.
However Unitarians may value such a testimony to the zeal and success of their exertions, they will derive the most solid satisfaction from another part of this “ Appeal," where very judicious counsel is given to “ Evangelical Ministers," thuugh rather novel, from an Orthodox brother. They are instructed « to make themselves properly acquainted with the true nature, the proper grounds and the due bearings of the points in controversy To study the statements and arguments of their opponents in their own writings”-because " a passage (however literally quoted) broken off from its connexion, will frequently present an aspect widely different from the design of the writer.". This very just remark I hope “ Evangelical Ministers"' ' will not forget when they quote the New Testament. They are further recommended " to possess a more accurate knowledge of ecclesiastical history than most persons on either side are at present furnished with," and as an " object of supreme importance-very insufficiently attended to by many excellent friends of evangelical truth,' to become proficients in “ Biblical learning." “ In this department,” says the writer “lies the principal strength of our adversaries,” a concession which we readily accept as an answer to a thousand misrepresentations by the less informed among the orthodox who are fond of describing Unitarians as better acquainted with any book than with the Bible.
In pursuance of his plan the author of this Appeal recommends "the very important labours" of a numb:r of Biblical Critics. The list might have been considerably.enlarged and -pérhaps it may, in some instances, have been contracted by prejudice. It is however large enough to lead “ Evangelical Ministers" into discussions, with which their publications sufficiently shew that they are at present but little acquainted. They may thus learn to distinguish prophetic -inspiration and revealed doctrine from credible history and -the sincere and respectable, but human and so fallible reasonings of the historians themselves. Nor would it be surprising if they soon discovered that the famous text of the Three Heavenly Witnesses, which has stood for ages a main pillar of the trinity, is nothing better than one of those pious frauds by which Christian simplicity was so early corrupted. It cannot fail I think to alarni sume " Evangelical Ministers" to find an orthodox brother recommending in such unqualified terms the Greek Testament of Griesbach in which that text is freely exploded. On this occasion the author of the Appeal has very properly acknowledged " the munificence of the Noble Person,” long a professor of the Unitarian doctrine, who has rendered that work accessible to theological students.
I have now offered to your readers the substance of a paper which they would hardly have looked for in the Evangelical Magazine, a publication generally calculated to suppress, rather than to promote religious enquiry. As to the misrepresentations of Unitarians in that paper, we have but ill counted the cost of professing opinions unpopular in the modern Christian world, not to esteem it “ a very small thing to be judged of man's judgment," and shall readily forgive the author this wrong for the sake of his endeavours to introduce among his orthodox brethren a new order of things, from which, judging by experience, we should expect the happiest effects. In religious enquiry we must rejoice, even, as Paul : says, of preaching Christ, though it should not always be accompanied with good-will to fellow-enquirers. In the mean time let us provoke one another only " to love and to good works,” and learn even froin a Heathen Moralist how to profit by our enemies. Plutarch in a treatise on the subject has the following passage which may suitably close this letter, as capable of a truly Christian application. “ In the theatre we often find performers indolent and inattentive, while they play or sing alone, but when they strive with each other for the mastery, they not only rouse themselves, but they tune their instruments with extraordinary care, they are more curious in the choice of their strings, and try their notes in frequent and harmonious concerts.-Just so, he
hodor the sakand share
who considers that he has an adversary prepared to dispute with him the reputation of well-ordered life, will examine his principles, regulate his conduct, and form his character with peculiar attention."
I am, Sir, your's, Feb. 17, 1807,
NR. BELSHAM'S STRICTURES UPON MR. B. CARPENTER'S
DEFENCE OF ARIANISM IN HIS LECTURES,
The subject of my worthy friend's first Lecture, is, « Candour, with respect to religious opinions ;” and he introduces it with a remark of Dr. Kippis, in his Life of Dr. Lardner. “ A sentiment,” says this respectable writer, “ which I should wish to be generally impressed is, that the glory of our holy religion stands firm on every scheme.” This is a sentiment which my worthy friend professes “ cordially to embrace." In his estimation, “ it is soothing to the inind, and like oil poured upon the boisterous waves, it calms the angry passions and tumultuous feelings of the soul.” Against this doctrine I must, however, beg leave to enter my deliberate and firm protest. I am unfortunately one of those persons who, in the language of Mr. Wilberforce, are so obstinately dull, as not to be able to see how the glory of our holy religion can be made compatible with the doctrine of transubstantiation, the invocation of the Virgin Mary, the worship of images, the doctrine of indulgences, or the gloomy system of Calvinisin, which dooms infants to eternal misery for Adam's sin. To my beclouded understanding, these and many other doctrines, which might be added, deteriorate and deprave the religion of Jesus, and render it in some of its forms more objectionable, inore incredible, and more derogatory to the divine character than Heathenisip in its grossesi state, from which, indeed, it differs in nothing but the name. Nor can I by any means approve of such a representation of the little importance of the differences which prevail among professing Christians, as it tends to en. courage that indolence and indifference, which precludes discussion, which makes men contented with any system which they may happen to have adopted, and which would for ever prevent the extricating of pure and genuine Christianity from the mass of error in which it has been for ages enveloped and
entangled, and exhibiting the doctrine of Jesus to the world in iis native beautiful simplicity, which is its true glory. ', ; .
My worthy friend professes to give us a lecture upon 6.candour, with respect to religious opinions," and to help his readers. to an axe which culs deep and to the very root of all un-' christian bigotrv ;" but unfortunately he has not defined in what sense he uses either of these very common but very indefinite terms; and I suspect that his ideas upon the subject are not very distinct. The following account, however, of the state of his own mind, will probably convey soine notion of his idea of candour; for whatever sentiments we entertain, we all give ourselves credit for a competent share of candour, and an entire freedom from unchristian bigotry. .
6. Persuaded as I am, (says the worthy author, pp. 14, 15.) that all Christians believe what is sufficient for their salvation, if they do but practise what they know, that those points about which the Calvinists and the Arminians, the Trinitarians, and Unitarians differ are not the primary, doctrines of religion, and that each may have selected the motives from the Seriptures, which are best adapted to promote their own edification, I cntertain the most pleasing views of the Divine Being, and am disposed to give the right band of fellowship to every one who names the name of Christ. With these sentiments I cannot be very, solicitous to make proselytes to my own system."
Candour, therefore, according to my worthy friend, consists 1. In being persuaded that all Christians believe what is suffi. cient for salvation.—2. In allowing that Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Unitarians, may have selected those motives froin Scripture which are best adapted to promote their own edification.-And, 3. In not feeling very solicitous to make proselytes to our own system. The contrary to this must of course be unchristian bigotry.
To the first of these propositions I cordially subscribe. The grand essential doctrine of the Christian revelation, the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, never has been mistaken by any who have professed themselves Christians, and never ca. Puod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, is the just criterion of revealed truth; and, a being so anomalong never yet existed, as a Christian unbeliever in a future life.
The second proposition, I hardly understand. If my worthy friend means no more than this, that there have been upright " and good men of all persuasions I believe it. But the conduct of his argument, and the nature of his conclusion seein to imply that the Word of God is, as he expresses it, (p. 11. * a rich treasure, contai:sing a great diversity of doctrines,