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CORRESPONDENCE ON THE TRINITARIAN AND UNITARIAN
your refusal to a latent and half-formed conviction within you, that your principles, in whatsoever sincerity entertained and professed, might not bear the light of such an investigation as that to which they would have been subjected in a public vivá voce discussion. Where is there any charge of hypocrisy here? May not a man be perfectly sincere in the maintenance of an opinion, which he would nevertheless be very unwil.. Jing to defend in oral debate, from a proper apprehension of the force of argument with which it might be encountered, and a secret conscious EP TE TREC ness of his own slender materials for its support? Be assured it is not necessary for us to brand you with hypocrisy, in order to convict you or
en mapendance heresy. We are willing to give you every credit for honesty of intention
I 22 force and integrity of purpose, while we cannot but suspect that you are fully
1 aderstand and aware of the difficulty of maintaining the principles of Unitarianism on the ground of an unmutilated and “unimproved” Bible.
Were I equally disposed with you to take offence, I too might inquire abi." Well taen. “ in solemn sadness, whether it be deserved by us, or edifying to me
KUTLAS INSPIRATION public mind.” that you should more than insinuate, though of course bed and in very polished phrases, that " we have proposed a platform conto versy, in order to catch the ear of a popular assembly, and to turn away attention from weak points by oratorical artifices.” Is this your opinion
szta Fe shall set as of us? If we thought so, « we should decline all discussion with you as opponents too discreditable to be identified with a great question, to be considered as honourable representatives of your own party. we are not offended. We look upon your language as simply intenda to convey an admission that your system is unpopular ; one that: its cold, and cheerless, and unimpassioned character, would seek in. to enlist on its behalf any measure of popular sympathy, or conci any favour unless from those whom it had imbued with its own prou spirit, and accustomed to the low temperature of its own frigid zone.
2.-But, gentlemen, while I cheerfully receive the admonition on, “ tone" of my address which your letter does contain, I have to comp. respecting the answer to a very simple question I had proposed, w your letter does not contain. As I am unwilling to incur the hazam again offending, I will forbear from more than hinting at the sembra of rhetorical dexterity that appears in your perhaps undesigned tur away of attention from the PRINCIPAL POINT which I had submitted your consideration, in order to fasten upon me a groundless charge; so challenge public sympathy in your favour, as men branded with character of hypocrites, and secretly cognisant of errors which were openly preached as truths. We proposed to discuss with you " the eye dence of the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of the holy scrup, tures." You replied that you do not “ deny the genuineness," and sen, not “ to alter the translation of any part of the authorised version, which you prefer to the abandoned version of Mr. Belsham and his as; sociates. You were silent, however, about the inspiraTION. I venture to inquire whether I was mistaken in supposing you denied the plenary inspiration of the authorised version ? My words were, “ If I am mise ou tranen taken here too, I pray to be set right.” In your letter now before u there is not a word upon the subject; no answer to my all-importam
is meg part of that roluce. del presents “ empler and asain Imtarianism.” ī
and Mr. Wilberforce': T en ested ba Trmitarans in
tres pledge themselves nel propted, co misunderstood
deely rid of them altinget interpolations and corruption di remanchargeable against terse, er of mistaken confidence
to have set to be mformed. keren en consety for an answer 27 senti as opening wide a con
o og portion of the sacre you, as to render it doubtful wb yes, and thus entirely neutraliz cabe minds and hearts of me I remain, Gentlemen,
Tours, for the
To the Rev. Fielding Out
- proposed (in your let
slippesta a proper topics for 2 E to our notice for acce kaca te struck out two particul
hat ran inquiry. There is a little further disparagement of the “ improved ver
sion," which, we are told, has been raised into a “factitious importance
in this controversy;" you will be the first to “ abandon it," if it should ere be condemned by the ordinary principles of critical interpretation—so far un te so good. But what of the INSPIRATION? Are you either afraid or
ashamed to speak out what you think on this subject? I would not that
We are rejoiced to learn that you are satisfied with “the authorized
You will pardon my anxiety for an answer upon this head, bearing in mind that we regard it as opening wide a door for the introduction of infidelity, so to give up any portion of the sacred volume as being not of inspired authority, as to render it doubtful whether any portion does pos sess that authority, and thus entirely neutralize the effect of God's mes. sage of mercy to the minds and hearts of men.
I remain, Gentlemen,
To the Rev. Fielding Ould. Reverend Sir,—You proposed in your letter of the 5th February) certain series of subjects as proper topics for the discussion between and submitted the list to our notice for acceptance or rejection. Fro this enumeration we struck out two particulars, viz., the authenticity of
certain parts of the New Testament writings, on the ground that we did not deny your postulates under that head; and the translation of certain other parts of the Scriptures, on the grounds that, with yourself, we prefer, on the whole, the authorized version to all others ; that we would not be responsible for any new rendering proposed in the Improved Version ; and that, as we have nothing so absurd as a system of translation capable of systematic treatment, any special instances, in which we may think the common translation inaccurate, had better be discussed in connection with the theological doctrines affected by the texts in question.
These subjects being excluded from the list, the rest, comprising the question of inspiration, and the doctrines of your theology, of course stand over for discussion. We said nothing of these, because we had no exception to take against them. As our notice of the others was to effect their removal, our “ silence" about these was to secure their admission.
The plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, or, if you really prefer it, (as your phraseology seems to imply,) “ the plenary inspiration of the authorized version” remains then as an essential part of our approaching controversy. Why you should complain that we do not step aside with you individually, to render you an account of our belief in this matter, we cannot divine, unless you think that, by tempting us into your confessional by appeals to our conscience, you could impose upon the “heretics” your penance at discretion. If it should be, that this subject is likely to be committed to your hands in this controversy, and you are merely anxious to know betimes what precisely are the positions which you may be called upon to meet, a private communication of your wish would be sufficient. The second lecture of our series will be speedily published, and will furnish the information which you desire.
We are sorry that you discover any want of “candour" in our last letter; and surprised that, this being the case, you can esteem it “courteous.” We regard a violation of “candour” as the greatest outrage upon “courtesy ;" and despise, above all things, the hollow and superficial manners, which are empty of all guileless affections and Christian sentiments. In saying that you charged us with hypocrisy, we committed no breach of candour, but only the mistake, which we are now happy to correct, of supposing that your language faithfully represented your meaning. That you did not think of the word “hypocrite" when you wrote to us, we cheerfully believe ; but that you thought of us as doing that which makes a hypocrite, your own explanation renders more evident than it was before. You attribute to us “a latent and halfformed conviction,” that “our principles might not bear the light of investigation,” and “a consciousness” of “the difficulty of maintaining them.” Now there can be no “ difficulty,” where the tribunal is wisely chosen, in maintaining any set of opinions, except from the superior force of the antagonist considerations; there can be no “consciousness” of such“ difficulty,” except from consciousness of this opposing superiority ;-to be conscious of a preponderant evidence in favour of any system, is at heart to believe it; and he who believes one system, and publicly upholds another, is, as we interpret the word, a hypocrite. We
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perceive, however, that you made this charge without precisely meaning it; and we think no more of it.
We disclaim any intention of hinting that you “proposed a platform
To the Rev. J. Martineau, J. H. Thom, and H. Giles. Gentlemen,-Before we proceed with our proposed discussion, it is necessary to determine, with a little more of accuracy than has been hitherto stated, what our controversy is to be about.
We thought that you, in common with Unitarians generally, acknowledged the Scriptures of the New Testament, as contained in what is commonly called “The Unitarian or Improved Version,” to be inspired of God, and consequently of infallible truth.
This however you, as individuals, have disclaimed ; and, therefore, we are compelled to ask what you do acknowledge INSPIRED REVELATION !
Is our discussion to be,
1. Upon the meaning of a mutually-acknowledged standard of truth Or,
2. Upon the question, Is there any such standard ? And if so, what is it?
We affirm the inspiration by God of the Holy Scriptures, as con tained in our authorized canon, and are willing to refer every question for decision to their ascertained meaning.
Do you agree in this ?
Our standard being known, it is a matter of obvious fairness that w should ask to have yours stated.
Either you admit the divine inspiration, and consequent infallible truth of the Bible, or you do not.
Or, you so admit a part, and reject a part. You will be so good as to state clearly how this matter stands.
Are you believers in a WRITTEN and iNPALLIBLY-ACCURATE REVEL tion from God to man ?
If so, what is that Revelation ?
If you admit only parts of our Bible as inspired, you will oblige us by stating what parts.
The character of the discussion must obviously depend upon this : is it to be a discussion upon EVIDENCE or upon intERPRETATION? It would be manifestly a waste of time in us to enter upon the interpretation of what you might afterwards get rid of, (so far, at least, as you are concerned,) by declaring it only the opinion of a fallible mar.
We remain, Gentlemen,
To the Rev. H. M ́Neile, F. Ould, and T. Byrth. Gentlemen,-You ask us, Is our discussion to be,
1. “Upon the meaning of a mutually-acknowledged standard of TRUTH ?” Or.
2. “Upon the question, Is there any such standard ? And, if so, what is it?”
We answer, distinctly, that our controversy is upon the meaning, ascertained by INTERPRETATION, of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Should any questions of criticism arise respecting what is the text to be interpreted, these must, of course, be argued separately, upon purely critical grounds.
We conceive that the real controversy between us respects the nature of Christianity itself;—you holding the Revelation to consist in doctrines deducible from the written words; we holding the Revelation to be expressed in the character and person of Jesus Christ, and to be conveyed to us through a faithful and authentic record. Which of these two ideas is Scriptural ?-that is our controversy.
Of course, “ the standard" by which we must test “the truth" of these ideas is the New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures, so far as they throw light on its contents. Whichever view of Christianity is supported by the meaning of this standard, is the true one. The method of ascertaining the meaning of any writings is the same, whether those writings are of natural or of supernatural origin; so that the process of interpretation may go on, undisturbed by any reference to the theory of verbal inspiration. The admission of an « infallible truth” in the Bible (which, however, is known with certainty only to God; for you, after admitting it, are disputing with heretics of your own communion what it is,) cannot alter, in any respect, the true grounds of our controversy. It is a controversy of interpretation, and no theory of verbal inspiration can make it anything else.
This theory, however, we conceive to be altogether fallacious, both in its principles and in its results; and if you wish to make it the sub