« AnteriorContinuar »
from which Papists and Protestants, Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Unitarians, are at liberty " to select what they deem most edifying to themselves.” But my friend cannot seriously mean to maintain so great an absurdity; though it is in my judgment the only principle upon which he can justify the indifference which he professes to making proselytes to what he calls his own system. This language may be verv, proper if all varieties of system are contained in the Scripture, and if every one is at liberty to select those principles which he deems most edifying; but it is such as my friend would never seriously attempt to justify, if his own system is that, which, after mature inquiry, he seriously believes to be the true and. only doctrine of the Christian revelation, and (which is the necessary consequence) that all other systems are fabulous and false.
Candour surely does not consist in believing all systems to be equally true, or equally false, or equally uncertain, or cqually important, or equally indifferent; nor is it bigotry to endeavour by all fair and honourable means, to propagate the doctrine, which after due examination, is judged to be true and important, even though it may occasionally disturb the slum-, bers of those who, from ignorance, or indolence, or self-interest, may be desirous that mankind should always remain in error. If this be candour, Christ and his apostles were the most uncandid of all men; and the great reformers, to whose vigorous efforts the present generation is indebted for its civil and religious libertics, and for its mental and moral improvements, were unchristian bigots, for they were the great disturbers of the peace of mankind, and by their zeal for truth, and their bold and determined opposition to established error, they incurred the charge of turning the world upside down.
In my estimation, that man is truly candid with respect to his own opinions, who avows his principles fairly and without any disguise or mental reservation; and he is candid with respect to others, who readily concedes to them in practice, as well as in words, the same right of private judgment, which he claims for himself; who makes every reasonable allowance for the effect of early prepossessions, and other circumstances which tend iinperceptibly to bias the judgment; who does not hastily impute to his opponent improper motives ; who is willing patiently to listen to arguments, and to consider objections; and who does not charge bis antagonist personally with consequences which he disavows, however clearly they may appear to himself to follow from lis principles, and horn ever necessary he may feel it to be to state such consequences,
ST in order to guard others against pernicious and dangerous opinions.
"I cannot be very solicitous,” says my worthy friend, " to make proselytes to nown systein." "I should be glad to know how long it has been considered by Christians and Protestants, as a reprehensible thing to be solicitous to make proselytes to Christian iruth, for such ! presume that my friend" believes “ his own system” to be. It is happy for mankind that this all-einbracing and torporific spirit was not in fashion three centuries ago: bit that the Luthers, and Calvins, the Socinuses and the Zwingliuses, the Cranmers, and Ridleys of that age, did feel that earitest solicitude to niake proselytes to their systems, which induced them to exért' their utmost energies to burst the bonds of popish superstitions, and to kindle a glorious light in the Christian world, which by the blessing of God shall never be extinguished. Venerable confessors! Immortal chainpions of Christian truth! May I never presume to rob you, even in thought, of a particle of that well-earned glory which adorns your brows. May it be my highest ambition to imitate your great example, and to contribute, in my humble measure to accelerate and to complete the work which you have so nobly begun.
Amidst all these professions of Christian candour, and this very mudern clamour against the spirit of proselýtism, it may become us to recollect that there is such a duty as Christian zeal, a zeal for truth, and that the disciples of Jesus are exhorted to contend carnestly for the faith which was, once delivered to the saints. Of this the apostle Paul was an eminent example, so likewise was the apostle John. Their epistles are chicfly controversial. They express great indigo nation against the errors and pernicious principles with which the Christian doctrine in that carly age began to be corrupted. But are there not corruptions of the Christian selia gion in the present day more flagrant, and more dangerous, ihan those of the Docetæ or of the bigots to the ceremonial law? And are not Christians equally bound at all times by the law of their profession to oppose anti-christian errors, and to purify the doctrine of their great master from those pollutions which disfigure and disgrace it, which retard its progress and hinder its success
But “ all Christians believe what is sufficient for their salvation." True: and if, they rested in the plain simple doctrine of Christ it would be well. The bulk of Christans however are not satisfied with the simplicity of trutli, vui upon the foundation of Christ ihey must needs erect
their respective edifices of wood, and hay, and stubble. The Arian introduces his subordinate maker and governor of the world: the Trinitarian his three equal persons in the godhead: the Calvinist bis condemnation of the human race ta eternal misery for Adam's sin, and the Papist his idolatrous worship of saints and martyrs, and his licentious doctrine of indulgences to sin. These and other gross errors which have been engrafted into the Christian system, though not all equally absurd or equally pernicious, are, to say the least, uscless incumbrançes to Christianity, which impede its progress in the world, and which diminish and sometimes grievously counteract its beneficial influence upon individuals. And it is the part of true wisdom and benevolence to oppose and to correct these 'errors by the fair and honourable means of sound argument and rational criticism.
My worthy friend is in theory convinced of the utility of controversy, but l'he disapproves of “ the angry spirit of debate." So likewise do 1. At the same time it must be admitted that the asperity of controversy is often useful, as it stings the disputants to put forth all their strength and thus affords the impartial by.stander a better opportunity of forining a correct judgment on which side the evidence preponderales. And at any rate an angry controversy which rouses the energies of the mind, is infinitely more beneficial to individuals, and to society, than that stupid indifference, that listless torpor, that morbid indolence of spirit, which falsely assuming the sacred name of the love of peace, benumbs the faculties, and with its leaden mace opposes an insurmountable obstacle to all mental improvement. It iust, however, be admitted, that a generous warmth arising from a deep sense of tbe iniportance of the subject, and an earnest solicitude to enlighten and to benefit mankind, without any mixture of personal animosity, is the true spirit which ougiit to animate theological controversy.
“ There is, indeed,” says my respected friend, “ a period of life at which it is best for a person to lay aside controversial books, or to peruse them only as objects of curiosity. When a person has attained the middle period of life, when his faculties have acquired their full vigour, when he is conscious that he has examined with some fairness those questions which have been controverted by Christians in all ages, when he is persuaded that nothing new can be advanced on either side of the question, then let him make up his mind, instead of inquiring farther, and live under the influence of those principles which he has embraced.”
Upon this singular advice I beg leave to remark, first, that VOL, II.
my good friend assumes too much when he asserts that the
I agree with my friend that “ a person is to live under the influence of those principles which he has embraced.”. And Surely one of the first duties of a well-informed Christian, is to impart to others the knowledge with which he has himself been favoured. Christianity will not allow that when a man has lighted a candle he should put it under a bushel ; and as We would escape the doom of the wicked and the slothful servant, we must not bury our talent, however mean, in the earth. Christians are the light of the world: they are the salt of the earth; and under the Christian law, no man liveth to himself or dieth to himself. Impressed by these momentous considerations, the serious and enlightened Christian will feel it to be an imperious duty to contribute bis utmost efforts to instruct and benefit his fellow-creatures ; and to enter his grave and solemn protest against those errors which disfigure and disgrace the Christian religion. In this honourable testimony to revealed truth he will perseyere, whatever his success may be, conscious of acting under a commanding sense of duty; it is a light thing with him that by his misjudging brethren, his motives are misapprehended, bis zcal is condemned, and his character traduced. His chief ambition is to approve himself to conscience and to God, and his only solicitude is to be found of his judge in peace.
I am, Sir, your humble servant, Hackney, March 12, 1807.
UNITARIAN MINISTERS IN A TRINITARIAN CHURCH: WHIS
TONIÚS'S SECOND LETTER ON STONE'S SERMON.
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. SIR, I was not a little surprised to find that my letter which you published in November last had produced an opponent. I never wrote any thing which I less expected to be called upon to defend; as a mere definition of the terms ! Unitarian Minister," " Trinitarian Church” would, in my opinion, have 'secured me from an attack. I now find that I too soon in dulged the inclination to “put off the harness.”, C. G, adventures on this forlorn hope, a non-commissioned volunteer, I am persuaded; for the Rector of Cold Norton, had prudence allowed him to send to the lists a champion of his consistency, would at least have taken care that he should have been better appointed. I observe in some late notices of publication that the Rev. R. Nares, a quondam literary acquaintance of mine, himself I believe an incumbent in Essex, is disposed to shiver a lance with the Rev. F. Stone, in defence of his holy Mother the Church. That our Rector will ably maintain the doetrine of his Sermon I have no doubt. Respecting his conduet as the Preacher of such a sermon while he determined to continue a beneficed Clergyman of a Church to which that doctrine is directly opposed, I venture to expect that he will be on the reserve, and for an excellent reason
What would offend the eye in a good picture
The painter casts discreetly into shade, But, by this time, C. G. will be enquiring how I am af. fected by his strictures on my remarks. ask his excuse for informing hin that when I read them I immediately recollected the Spanish Proverb-" Defend a man from his friends, and leave him to coinbat his enemics.” And now I would willingly discover some arguments in his leiter which i may treat with the attention which arguments always deserve; but your correspondent has produced hardly a sophism to sustain the cause which he woulul defend. I assunied, as undisputed premises, that the Church of England bestows rights and immunities for which she exacts professions and duties. Hence I ventured to draw the obvious conclusion, that one who publicly revokes those professions and thus becomes incapable of couscientiously performing those du