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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 como ference with my reverend brethren collectively at the expected meeles which took place at my house. I have now to address you upon result.
All that we had originally contemplated was, the delivery 014 of lectures upon the principal doctrines in controversy between rians and ourselves. It now appears that my invitation to the unitarias laity to come and hear us, while we brought their avowed principe the test of the Word of God, has been taken advantage of by you led to a series of proposals on your part. which I tuok upon my decline. I have this day addressed a letter to the memb body generally, which I trust will have the effect of setting that par the subject in its proper point of view.
It is, however, indispensable to distinguish carefully particular invitation of yours, and discussion generally.
le to distinguish carefully between this
ours, and discussion generally. Your letter to the Trinitarian laity invites discussion in any shape why tually bring the statements of both parties before the same
discussion in any shape which shall effecWe are now prepared to gratify your desire, and WE AC
t. both parties before the same individuals. vitation. Our lectures, however, shall be first denve
ry your desire, and WE ACCEPT YOUR IN
. however, shall be first delivered ; on this we are determined. THEN. in the name of. and in dependence" . blessed Lord and Master, three of our body will be reus
three of our body will be ready to meet you three before a public audience in this town; all premme course. arranged by mutual conference. We propose, . take the three great subjects into which the contro itself, viz.,
It subjects into which the controversy obviously divides 1. EVIDENCE of the genuineness, authenticity, and ins? parts of our authorized version of the Holy Scriptur
nuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of those
a version of the Holy Scriptures which you deny. 2. Translation of those parts which you alter, a misrepresent.
se parts which you alter, and in our judgment
this town; all preliminaries to be, of nce. We propose, if you please, to
THEOLOGY, involving those principles of vicarious sacrifice which we deem vital, and which you discard.
ar proposal, then, is to meet you either one day on each subject, o please; or one week on each subject, as you please : the discus
be conducted in speeches of one hour or half an hour each, as you
now, trusting that this proposed arrangement may prove satisto you, and to all who take an interest in this controversy, and ty praying the great Head of the Church to overrule our purposes aic ad van cement of His kingdom and the promotion of His glory,
I remain, Gentlemen,
To the Reverend Fielding Ould. End Sir,—It would have been gratifying to us to receive fro, being called
Aswer to our offer of a discussion, through the press, befo
you an ans
offer to write. 1
give us an invitation to talk, and call this an acceptance of our
crite. The two proposals are so distinct, that it is not easy to explained
he one could be transformed into the other ; nor is the mistake and conta
on turning to the words of our invitation, appealed to by you ained in our letter to the Trinitarian laity. They are these : Pe tendered discussion through the press, in any form whateve
single condition that the statements of both parties shall be pre o the same readers.” You leave the impression, that an or
Comprised within the terms of this offer ; but, in doing so, yo
Scope, by striking out the phrases which restrict it to printi cation, and describe it thus; “Your letter to the Trinitari. tes discussion in any shape which shall effectually bring the stat. ?, both parties before the same individuals.” You will at on
the misrepresentation ; will acknowledge that the idea of storical and philological controversies, by popular debate, bi o g in nor sanction from us ;—and will permit us to recal
st proposal of discussion through the press,-a proposal
"We have tender with the single con sented to the san debate is compris widen its scope, b
neither origin no
which, though now answer. Meanwhile, we wil
Bale, we will not delay the reply which is due to this new su
a platform controversy. We decline it altogether ; and to Set you must have been prepared, by the sentiment we expressa
stage of this correspondence: “ We are not of opinion th: aneous audience, assembled in a place of worship, constitute
tribunal to which to submit abstruse theological questions ro 29 the canon, the text, the translation of Scripture,-question
annot be answered by any defective scholarship.” To assemble af audience in an amphitheatre, where the sanctities of worshin
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 “controversy," “ discussion," nor
pute," but authoritative teaching on one side, and obedient listening the other? In one of two relations you must conceive yourself to ou to us;—that of a superior, who instructs with superhuman authority, or that of an equal, who “ discusses" with human and fallible reasongs. Between these two conditions, there is no third ; nor can vou.
Justice, take sometimes the one and sometimes the other, accordine
occasion may require the language of dignity or that of meekness ertainly addressed you as an equal, and did not pay you the disre
I imagining that your invitation to “ discussion" meant nothins at all.
re Sorry that you ascribe to us any intention to divert you from
templated course of lectures. Be assured nothing could be rom our design. We simply desired that, having invited us, Von ave recognized us when we presented ourselves, as parties in the
further from our de
We remain, Reverend Sir,
interest awak you a few obser of Friday. newspaper } subjects such in the absence
l as to the address to
e Mercury lumns of a lication upon
unwilling Close the oppor
all reflecting men
the actual pos
To the Revs. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles. tlemen,- I think it due to the cause of truth, as well as to
awakened in the public mind by this controversy, to addres ew observations on your last letter, as published in the Mer day. Though still strongly of opinion that the columns
Per present a most undesirable medium of communication , is such as those we are now engaged in discussing, I am un w absence of any other accessible instrumentality, to lose the on It affords of impressing upon the attention of all reflecting tual position which we relatively occupy.
Being aware of the sincere anxiety which you have already for “ discussion in any shape which should bring the state the sides before the same parties,” it is not without consid:
e that I perceive that you “ decline altogether ” my proposa and I a
O em controversy.” Now, while you say I invited you to in
our oral debate, you would have gained all that you could
could have made out against your system. I cannot but i
termination, and am of opinion that while a discerning
the statements it considerable
proposal of a
surprise that " platform col
evident to most, form, o f our 9 desired in the composed of 4 able to judge case we could that a secreto your determinati will approve
Kit will appear n an authentic
could have ditory, equally
have been ally, to meet the
preciate its motive, or the precise measure of your zeal for a candid impartial hearing.
But the settling of historical and philological controversies by popular debate has neither origin nor sanction from you.” Perhaps not :. you cannot say that such a course is altogether without precedent. have doubtless heard of the protracted debate upon these same contro versies 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 vour 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 mis. cellaneous 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 tert, 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 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