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we are to determine whether doctrines are “wise and holy," "self-consistent,” and “worthy of God ?”.
Secondly. You plead that we have forfeited our claim on the fulfilment of your engagement, by a statement of opinion in our second lecture, to this effect : that miracles do not enable us to infer the intellectual infallibility of the performer. This, it seems, is an unexpected heresy, and cancels all promises. You appear to be affected by the Po. pish tendencies of the age, and to have adopted the notion, that no faith is to be kept with heretics. On this point we remark as follows :
Ist. We are astonished at your assertion, that this idea about miracles deprives us of any “common medium of reason" with you. Did you not “propose to discuss with us” the “ evidence of the plenary inspiration of the holy Scriptures,” under the persuasion that we should take the negative side ? In such discussion, would you not have argued from the miracles to the inspiration? And how did you suppose that we should reply? You were well aware that we should admit the miracles; and equally well aware that we should deny the plenary inspiration of those that wrought them. It cannot be supposed that, at this point, you would have had no more to say ; but you would have proceeded, as many able writers have already done, to seek some “common medium of reason,”—some considerations, that is, having force with both parties; by which you might hope to fasten the disputed connection between your premises and your conclusion.
2nd. We are still more astonished to hear that this sentiment puts us “ a step beyond common Deism,” “in undisputed possession of the field of infidelity," and even in “ separation from our common humanity;" seeing that the opinion has been held by
Bishop Sherlock :—Who says, “ Miracles cannot prove the truth of any doctrine; and men do not speak accurately when they say the doctrines are proved by the miracles; for, in truth, there is no connection between miracles and doctrines."'*
John LockE :—“Even in those books which have the greatest proof of Revelation from God, and the attestation of miracles to confirm their being so, the miracles are to be judged by the doctrine, not the doctrine by the miracles.”+
Dr. Samuel ClaRKE :-“We can hardly affirm, with any certainty, that any particular effect, how great or miraculous soever it may seem to us, is beyond the power of all-created beings (whom he explains further to be, 'subordinate intelligences, good or evil angels,') in the universe to produce.” He believes the Devil to “be able, by reason of his invisibility, to work true and real miracles ;” and “ whether such (i.e. miraculous) interposition be the immediate work of God, or of some good or evil angel, can hardly be discovered merely by the work itself.”
He accordingly lays down the conditions under which the miracles will prove the doctrine. I
• Sherlock's Discourses, No. 10, Hughes's edition, vol. i, p. 197, and No. 15, Vol. I, p. 278. + Lord King's Life of Locke, p. 125.
Sermons at the Boyle Lecture, Prop. xiv.
Bishop FLEETWOOD :-“ Spirits may perform most strange and asto. nishing things,-may convey men through the air, or throw a mountain two miles at a cast."*
The notions expressed by the last two writers, respecting the superhuman agency of good and evil spirits, evidently destroy, no less than the more philosophical principle of Sherlock and Locke, all power of reasoning from miracles, as such, to the divine authority and inspiration of the performers. You cannot be ignorant of the fact, that these no. tions prevailed among all the Fathers of both the Greek and Latin churches ; that they were almost universal among Christians till very recent times; and that your own church lodges with the Bishop of the Diocese a discretionary power to license clergymen to cast out devils.t
Nor need we remind you that, by yet another process of thought, the Society of Friends assigns to miracles the rank which you think so profane. “We know,” says Barclay on this subject, “ that the devil can form a sound of words, and convey it to the outward ear; that he can easily deceive the outward senses, by making things appear which are not. Yea, do we not see that the Jugglers and Mountebanks can do as much as all that, by their legerdemain ? God forbid then that the saint's faith should be founded on so fallacious a foundation as man's outward and fallible senses.” | And he urges, that there must be other ways of ascertaining divine truth; for as to miracles, John the Baptist and divers of the Prophets wrought none that we hear of, and yet were both imme diately and extraordinarily sent."S By different modes of thinking, all these (Christians ?) have arrived at the sentiment in question, so that we occupy " the field of infidelity,” without being “ separated from” at least a goodly portion of “ our humanity.” That this sentiment should be of so deep a dye of Deism is the more remarkable, because it is advanced and. Vindicated as a scriptural sentiment,-a plea which, however foolish, car be shown to be so, only by discussing the interpretation of the New Tes. tament. You have proposed no explanation of the state of the Apostless minds before the day of Pentecost. On that day they either did, or the did not, become more enlightened than before. If they did not, the gi of the Holy Spirit conferred no illumination ; if they did, they were des ficient in light before ; and the miraculous powers they had possesse and exercised did not imply infallibility. We thought, indeed, that the comparative narrowness of their views before this period had been unie versally admitted. With respect to the appeal which in the presence o the Baptist's disciples our Lord makes to his miraculous acts, you are quite aware that we do not regard it as “ worthless,” though you say we
* Essay on Miracles, p. 99, seq., as quoted by Farmer in his Dissertation on Mira cles, chap. i, $3.
" No minister or ministers shall, without the licence and direction of the Bishop the Diocese, first obtained and had under his hand and seal, . ...... attempt, u any pretence whatsoever, either of possession or obsession, by fasting and prayer. cast out any devil or devils, under pain of the imputation of imposture or cozen: and deposition from the ministry."— Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical, lxxii,
Apology for the True Christian Divinity, Prop. ii. pp. 35, 36. $ Ibid. Prop x. p. 296.
~ must” do so. These acts (the climax of which, however, was no mira.
And now, Gentlemen, accept from us in conclusion, our solemn protest against the language of unmeasured insult, in which, under the cover of sanctity, the associated clergymen whom you represent, have thought proper to speak of our religion : against the accusations personally addressed to us, in the presence of 3,000 people, by the Lecturers in Christ Church, of “ mean subterfuges,” of “ sneering,” of “ savage grins,” of “ damnable blasphemy,” of “ the greatest imaginable guilt,” of “ doing despite to the Spirit of Grace,” of “the most odious of crimes against the Majesty of Heaven," and in common with all Unitarians of forming our belief, from “ the blindness of graceless hearts," too bad “ to have been touched by any spirit of God," and against the
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* Discourses, No. 10, Hughes's edition, vol. I, p. 197.
41 visible glee, fierce as Tertullian's, with which “ the faithful" are remindea that ere long, we must and shall bow our proud knees, whether we likit or not, to the object of their peculiar worship ;—so that they are sure of their triumph in heaven, however questionable it may be on earth You began the controversy by ascribing to us one shade of “ infidelity : you end it by ascribing to us a blacker. Beneath “the lowest deep,” ther is it seems - a lower still.” We have sat quietly under all this, bearin the rude friction upon everything that is most dear to us, assured that anything in heaven or earth be certain, it is this ;—that no spirit of Go ever spake thus, or thus administered the poison of human passions falsely labelled as the medicine of a divine love. What is the difference between your religion and ours, that this high tone (than which, to pure moral taste, nothing surely can be lower) should be assumed against us? We believe, no less than you, in an infallible Revelation (though had We the misfortune to doubt it, we might be, in the sight of God, neithe Worse nor better than yourselves) ; you in a Revelation of an unintellid gible Creed to the understanding; we in a Revelation of moral perfection, and the spirit of duty to the heart; you in a Revelation of the metaphysics of Deity; we in a Revelation of the character and providence of the Infinite Father; you in a Redemption which saves the few and leaves with Hell the triumph after all; we in a Redemption which shall restore to all at length the image and the immortality of God We do reserve, as you suggest, “ a sort of inspiration” for the founders of Christianity, “a sort,” as much higher than your cold, dogmatical scientific inspiration, as the intuitions of conscience are higher than the predications of logic, and the free spirit of God, than the petty precisio) of men. We believe in a spiritual and moral Revelation, most awakenine most sanctifying, inost holy; which words, being the signs of hard and dennite ideas, could never express, and which is therefore pourtrayed i a mind divinely finished for the purpose, acting awhile on Earth and publicly transferred to Heaven. All men may see that such a Revelation Corresponds well with the medium which convevs it : but a set of scho lastic propositions, like Articles and Creeds, might as well have bez written on the sky; and many a bitter doubt and bitterer controver might have been spared.
We believe, Gentlemen, that the minds of serious and considera, persons are weary of the aggressions of Churches upon the private are secret faith of the individual heart; that they will not long be forced live on the dry husks of Creeds which have lost the kernel of true life nor accept mere puzzles as divine mysteries. It is at the peril of religion that its illimitable truths are embalmed in definite formula and the abyss of God confidently measured by thrusting out the foo rule of ecclesiastical wisdom. The things most holy cannot with mjury be thus turned from the contemplation of the affections, to t small criticism of the intellect : and the acute and polished dividina knife of dialectics, when applied to cut theology into propositions, is to leave scarce a shred of faith.
That all professing ministers of the Gospel may speedily turn from