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We are convinced that the attempt will not succeed. The public will have eyes to see with sufficient clearness the real merits of the case, and will condemn the efforts made to blind its vision, or at least incline it to take a distorted view of our relative position.
Again repeating my invitation to all who can conscientiously accept it, to attend our lectures, and leaving cheerfully to others the free use of the only weapons we employ—the Bible—the Pulpit—and the Press—and praying the Lord to guide all his inquiring people, by the teaching of his Holy Spirit, into all truth, even the truth as it is in Jesus,” I remain, men and brethren, yours in the bonds of love,
FIELDING OULD. Christ Church, Feb. 5, 1839.
To the Rev. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and Henry Giles. Gentlemen, Having hitherto corresponded with you on my own individual responsibility, I have to request that you will consider me as alone answerable for what has hitherto appeared under my signature. I had this morning, for the first time, the opportunity of personal conference with my reverend brethren collectively at the expected meeting which took place at my house. I have now to address you upon the result.
All that we had originally contemplated was, the delivery of a course of lectures upon the principal doctrines in controversy between Unitarians and ourselves. It now appears that my invitation to the Unitarian laity to come and hear us, while we brought their avowed principles to the test of the Word of God, has been taken advantage of by you, and led to a series of proposals on your part, which I took upon myself to decline. I have this day addressed a letter to the members of your body generally, which I trust will have the effect of setting that part of the subject in its proper point of view. It is
, however, indispensable to distinguish carefully between this particular invitation of yours, and discussion generally. Your letter to the Trinitarian laity invites discussion in any shape which shall effectually bring the statements of both parties before the same individuals
. We are now prepared to gratify your desire, and we accEPT YOUR IN
Our lectures, however, shall be first delivered; on this we are determined. Then, in the name of, and in dependence upon our blessed Lord and Master, three of our body will be ready to meet your three before a public audience in this town; all preliminaries to be, of course, arranged by mutual conference. take the three great subjects into which the controversy obviously divides itself, viz., parts of our authorized version of the Holy Scriptures which you denyn 1. EVIDENCE of the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of those
2. Translation of those parts which you alter, and in our judgment misrepresent.
We propose, if you please, to
as you please ;
3. Theology, involving those principles of vicarious sacrifice which
or one week on each subject, as you please : the discussion to be conducted in speeches of one hour or half an hour each, as you please.
And now, trusting that this proposed arrangement may prove satisfactory to you, and to all who take an interest in this controversy, and fervently praying the great Head of the Church to overrule our purposes to the advancement of His kingdom and the promotion of His glory,
I remain, Gentlemen,
February 5, 1839.
To the Reverend Fielding Ould.
in answer to our offer of a discussion, through the press, before being called upon to consider a proposal, altogether new, for a platform
You give us an invitation to talk, and call this an acceptance of our offer to write. The two proposals are so distinct, that it is not easy to see how the one could be transformed into the other ; nor is the mistake explained on turning to the words of our invitation, appealed to by you, with the single condition that the statements of both parties shall be pre“We have tendered discussion through the press, in any form whatever, and contained in our letter to the Trinitarian laity. They are these :sented to the same readers.” You leave the impression, that an oral debate is comprised within the terms of this offer ; but, in doing so, you widen its scope, by striking out the phrases which restrict it to printing laity invites discussion in any shape which shall effectually bring the stateand publication, and describe it thus; “Your letter to the Trinitarian ments of both parties before the same individuals.” You will at once perceive the misrepresentation ; will acknowledge that the idea of setting historical and philological controversies, by popular debate, has to our first proposal of discussion through the press, neither origin nor sanction from us ;-and will permit us to recal
,-a proposal to which, though now made for the third time, we have yet received no Meanwhile
, we will not delay the reply which is due to this new gestion of
a platform controversy. We decline it altogether; and this answer you must have been prepared, by the sentiment we in an early stage of this correspondence: "We are not of opinion that a miscellaneous audience, assembled in a place of worship, constitutes the best tribunal to which to submit abstruse theological questions re. specting the canon, the text, the translation of Scripture,-questions which cannot be answered by any defective scholarship.” To assemble a similar audience in an amphitheatre, where the sanctities of worship
are not present to calm and solemnize the mind, is evidently not to improve the tribunal. The scholar knows that such exhibitions are a mockery of critical theology; the devout, that they are an injury to personal religion. We are surprised that any serious and cultivated man can think so lightly of the vast contents of the questions on which we differ, as to be able to dispense with calm reflection on the evidence adduced, and to answer off-hand all possible arguments against him, within the range of biblical and ecclesiastical literature. We are not accustomed to treat your system with such contempt, however trivial an achievement it may seem to you to subvert ours. In reverence for truth, in a spirit of caution inseparable from our desire to discharge our trust with circumspect fidelity, and from a belief that, to think deeply, is the needful pre-requisite to speaking boldly, we offered you the most responsible method of discussion, in which we might present to each other, and fix ineffaceably before the world, the fruits of thought and study. To this offer we adhere; but cannot join you, on an occasion thus solemn, in an appeal to the least temperate of all tribunals. We recollect that one of the clergymen associated with you refused an oral discussion of the Roman Catholic controversy. We approved of his decision ; and, in like circumstances, adopt it.
Will you allow us to correct a mistake which appears in your enumeration of the three topics most fit for discussion ? We do not, as Unitarians, deny the genuineness, or alter the translation, of any part of the authorized version of the holy Scriptures. The Unitarians have neither canon nor version of their own, different from those recognized by other churches. As biblical critics, we do indeed, neither more nor less than others, exercise the best judgment we can on texts of doubtful authority, (as did Bishop Marsh, in rejecting the “heavenly witnesses," 1 John v. 7,) and on the accuracy of translations (as did Archbishop Newcome, when he published his version of the New Testament); but no opinions on these matters belong to us as a class, or are needful to the defence of our theology. If
you allude to the Improved Version, we would state, that it contains the private criticism of one or two individuals; that it has never been used in our churches, nor even much referred to in our studies, and is utterly devoid of all authority with us ; and that, for ourselves, we greatly prefer, for general fidelity as well as beauty, the authorized translation, which we always employ. In
your letter to the Unitarians, published in the Courier of Wednesday, you state that you never invited discussion with us (the ministers) personally. We never imagined or affirmed that you did. But surely you invited discussion with the class of persons called Unitarians ; and as a class has no voice except through its representatives, and no discussion can take place without two parties, you cannot think that we are departing from our proper sphere in answering to your call. Did you not invite us (the Unitarians) to you, “to tell and hear together the great things which God has done for our souls ?” And did this mean that all the “ telling" was to be on one side, and all the “ hearing” on the other? Did you not press upon our admiration the primitive practice of “controversial discussion of disputed points ?" And did this
mean that there was to be neither a controversy,” “ discussion,” nor “ dispute," but authoritative teaching on one side, and obedient listening on the other? In one of two relations you must conceive yourself to stand to us ;-that of a superior, who instructs with superhuman authority, or that of an equal
, who discusses” with human and fallible reasonings. Between these two conditions, there is no third ; nor can you, with justice, take sometimes the one and sometimes the other, according as the occasion may require the language of dignity or that of meekness. We certainly addressed you as an equal, and did not pay you the disrespect of imagining that your invitation to “ discussion” meant nothing
you ascribe to us any intention to divert you from. further from our design. We simply desired that, having invited us, you pour contemplated course of lectures. Be assured nothing could should have recognized us when we presented ourselves, as parties in the
We remain, Reverend Sir,
We are sorry
To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles. Gentlemen,-I think it due to the cause of truth, as well as to the interest awakened in the public mind by this controversy, to address to you a few observations on your last letter, as published in the Mercury of Friday. Though still strongly of opinion that the columns newspaper present a most undesirable medium of communication tanity it affords of impressing upon the attention of all reflecting men in the absence of any other accessible instrumentality, to lose the the actual position which we relatively occupy:. I.-Being aware of the sincere anxiety which you have already mani
discussion in on both sides before the same parties,” it is not without considerable
| any shape which should bring the statements surprise that I perceive that you " decline altogether" my proposal of a " platform controversy.” Now, while you say.
I invited to
you and I answer I invited you to argue, I cannot but think it will form, of our oral debate, you would have gained all that you could have
to most, that by the subsequent publication, in an authentic desired in the assistance of the press, while a select auditory, equally composed of the respective friends of both parties, would have been able to judge of your ability, not intellectually, but morally, to meet the that a secret consciousness of the weakness of your cause could have made out against your system. I cannot but hope
has your determination, and am of opinion that while a discerning public will approve the discretion of your resolve, they will not be slow to ap
preciate its motive, or the precise measure of your zeal for a candid and impartial hearing.
But the “ settling of historical and philological controversies by popular debate has neither origin nor sanction from you.” Perhaps not : but you cannot say that such a course is altogether without precedent. You have doubtless heard of the protracted debate upon
these same controversies which were held in the north of Ireland a few years ago between Mr. Bagot and Mr. Porter. May I ask whether it was the result of that discussion that induced you to withhold your sanction from all future controversies so conducted ? Mr. Porter did not consider it inconsistent with the principles of Unitarianism to debate his creed before “ a miscellaneous audience.” Are you wiser than he in your generation ? Again :—the proposed tribunal is not the best “ to which to submit abstruse theological questions respecting the canon, the text, the translation of scripture."
But do you not apprise us a little lower down, that you, as Unitarians, do not deny the genuineness, or alter the translation of any part of the authorized version of the holy scriptures ?
Why, then, there is no ground for the above apprehension. As these are not points which the tribunal will have to try, why question its competence on their account? You are surprised that I would“ dispense with calm reflection on the evidence adduced.” I am, in my turn, surprised that you should suppose I have any such intention. When the “ evidence adduced” has been taken down and published, what is there to prevent its being “ calmly” weighed and estimated at its proper value ? And then it is hard " to answer off hand all possible arguments " advanced.
So it is ; but not harder for you than for us. Here at least we should stand on a footing of perfect equality. It was hardly to be expected that you should object to this.
2.-I now come to the mistake into which you say I have fallen, and which you offer, obligingly, to correct. We do not, as Unitarians, deny the genuineness or alter the translation of any part of the authorized version of the holy scriptures. The Unitarians have neither canon nor version of their own different from those recognised by other churches.” If this be true I certainly have been mistaken; but have the satisfaction of knowing that this mistake has been shared by a host of abler critics and more learned scholars than I can pretend to be.
I had always thought that I had read of the liberties taken with the received text by the Priestleys and Belshams--the Wakefields and Channings, when they were of opinion that they spoke too strongly the language of Trinitarians. I had also understood that the Bruces, the Drummonds, and the Armstrongs of Ireland had performed achievements in the same line, at which many not a little wondered. I had further imagined that the unanswered
— because unanswerable—volumes of Archbishop Magee presented evidence on this behalf, with which few were unacquainted. Now, if you mean to say that you, the ministers and representatives of Liverpool Unitarianism have never
questioned the genuineness, nor altered the translation of any part of the authorized version,” I can understand the assertion, and willingly take your own word for its truth. But if you mean to affirm that this has not been done, and to a very prodigious extent, by