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“ Admitting that the apostles had taught any doctrines of a peculiarly sublime nature (which the Fathers pretend to have been the case with respect to the preexistence and divinity of Christ) yet, as all their teaching was in public, and there were no secrets among them (Paul, for instance, having solemnly assured the elders at Ephesus, that he had not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God) the common people must at least have heard of these sublime doctrines, and have been accustomed to the sound of the language in which they were expressed. And had they known that those doctrines had been taught by the apostles to any of their body, though not to themselves, they would have learned to respect what they did not understand, and was not meant for their use. They could never have been offended and staggered at things which they and their fathers before them had always been in the hearing of."*
I omit, as I do not krow that there is any controversy con, cerning them, various passages that Dr. Priestley quotes from different trinitarian writers, from Origen, Novatian, and Eusebius. They, in connexion with Tertullian in the passage be. fore quoted from him, speak of their opponents as being troubled,' shocked,' offended,' and scandalized,' at the doctrine of the trinity. And, in writing on the divinity of Christ, they describe them as being afraid of making two gods, as fearful of introducing a second god, and as being dreadfully afraid lest they should be obliged to acknowledge two hypostases of the Father and of the Son,
“ In short,” says Dr. Priestley, “ it appears that the aneient unitarians entertained the same dread of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, that the trinitarians of this day do of that of his simple humanity; a proof that each of them had been brought up in the persuasion of the opinions they held, being the doctrine of their ancestors, and of the apostles. In this the ancient unitarians could not be mistaken, but the trinitarians of the present age may very well be so. Whether, therefore, we consider the feelings of the unitarians, or those
• Histe of Earl. Opp, B. jil. c. 14,
of the trinitarians of the early ages, we perceive evident traces of the former maintaining an old opinion, and the latter a new one."*
I must again refer to Dr. Priestley (Hist. of Earl. Opp. B. iii. c. 13. sect. 2.] for various presumptive arguments in favor of what he is maintaining. Some of these may be thought forcible; and if one be solicitous to see the answers of Jamieson, these may be found in his second volume without difficulty.
Relying on these presumptions, and much more on the ar, guments I have stated and the passages I have quoted, Dr. Priestley makes the following remarks:
66 That the unitarians constituted the great body of Christians till the time of Justin Martyr, and that they were the majority at least of the common people till about the time of the council of Nice, has, I presume, been proved to as much satisfaction as the circumstances of the case could be expected to admit. There is every reason to believe that it was so a priori, a great number of circumstances, applied by the clearest axioms of historical criticism, shew that it must have been so. And there is likewise the strongest positive testimony to the fact, from some of the most considerable Christian writ, ers. The unitarians were the major pars credentium, in the time of Tertullian, they were the to mambos, the multitude, and the tæ manon, the multitudes of Origen, and the a todos, the many of Athanasius.”+
(To be continued.)
REMARKS ON AN ESSAY ON ECCLESIASTICAL
TRIBUNALS. A piece was published in the Panoplist for July 1812, with the following title: A few remarks on the want of Ecclesi, astical Tribunals in Massachusetts for the trial of offending ministers.” The writer expresses his feelings and wishes apon this subject in the first sentence, which is as follows
* Hist. of Earl. Opp. B. jii. c. 14. + Hists of Earl. Opp. B. iü. c. 14.
6 It is a deplorable fact that there is no tribunal in our churches competent to try an offending minister without his own consent.” After saying that the present customary mode of removing such differences as may exist between ministers and their churches, viz. by councils, is inadequate, because it is not in the power of a council to punish the offender by depriving him of his ministerial character, and because if some will not employ him others may,” and “ he can gather a church and administer sacraments,” and thus, however depraved, he attaches to the ministry all the reproach of his future immoralities,” the writer asks, " is there not something horribly defective in this state of things?” He afterwards observes, that “the defect of our present system is still more apparent in the case of heresy. Here a minister is absolutely invulnerable.” He thinks that there are no means whatever of punishing an heretical clergyman, especially when his church professes the same opinions as himself, but that it is a duty established in scripture incumbent on Christian communities to call ministers as well as people to account for heresy; that -“A solemn question, interesting to every man that has a part to act for God, is then brought before us: Ought not such a tribunal to be erected without delay?" Three things are stated to be necessary to render this tribunal competent to its proposed objects. 1, That it should have power to depose from office, and to ordain. 2, That it should be a permanent body. 3, That ministers should voluntarily submit to its authority. The purpose of this tribunal is not merely to judge those heretical and immoral ministers who may have submitted to its authority, but to direct and strengthen the orthodox in adopting an uniform mode of treatment toward those heretics, who are not immediately under its power. A method of forming the proposed tribunal is suggested, and among other advantages to be gained by it, is mentioned the promotion of brotherly love!
We confess that we have read this piece with some feelings · of surprise and mortification. We were aware that there were men among us to whom it might be supposed that such establishments would be pleasing, but we were not prepared to see 80 open and public a proposition for their institution. It is somewhat humiliating to those who are interested in the intellectual character of our country, that such individuals should suppose that their influence is sufficient to execute a design like this; or that they should think that the state of publie feeling is such that the suggestion will be tolerated. That these and similar feelings should have been excited in us by this picce, will not, we think, be surprising to any who will consider, what it is in the existing state of things which has probably produced this proposal, with what principles and feelings it must be connected, and to what consequences the adoption of it would lead. We shall notice these things, and we shall notice also some of the arguments which the writer in the Panoplist has adduced in support of his proposition.
The Essay on which we are remarking is itself an indication of something in the present state of things, peculiarly unpleasant to the writer; and it is explicitly implied, that there are some reasons at the present time for the establishments he advises, other than have always existed. To something now existing hostile to his own views, the writer eertainly alludes when he laments, with a warmth almost ludicrous, that those means which are favorable to their promotion have not been before adopted.“ Ecclesiastical domination,” he observes, “is of all things, that which we have least reason to fear in New England. The bent of the age is to the opposite extreme. We are much more in danger of anarchy; it can never be sufficiently impressed on the public mind, that the thing which we have most reason to fear, is a dissolution of all ecclesiastical government and discipline, leading the way to an apostaey, greater than that of Rome. Has not this apostacy already begun to appear? What do we behold? Let any orthodox man lay his hand upon
his heart, and then say, whether, if sufficient responsibility had been attached to the ministerial character fifty years ago, things would have come to their present pass.” The principal evil which such a tribunal as that proposed would have prevented can be no other than what it is now iutended to remedy--the ex. istence and prevalence of what are stigmatized as heretical sentiments. The pride of opinion, which is in no case so strong as on religious subjects, reverence for antiquity, the fondness for the countenance of numbers, will always render those who dissent from the commonly received notions, objects of aversion—especially to those, whose influence or power is lessened by the diminishing numbers of such as think with them. It was natural therefore that the change, which for a long time has been slowly taking place, and which of late years has been so manifest in the feelings, and opinions, and the habits of study of many of our theologians, should excite much odium and opposition. In our view however this change is the honest index of the increase of learning, and the prevalence of habits of thought and investigation. The introduction of the science of biblical criticism has made a new era in the ecclesiastical history of our country, and to a taste for this study, and also to the greater, and continually increasing facilities which are afforded to students for obtaining theological learning, as well as to the diffusion of literature among us, we proudly attribute the enlarged views and liberal feelings of a great portion of our community. The young theologian does not now search in stale bodies of divinity, or in collections of catechisms and confessions, or in the professed system of a popular leader or of a powerful party, for the tenets he will embrace. He would be ashamed to be suspected of admitting any authority but the bible, or any interpreter but his reason. That a diversity of opinions on speculative subjects should be produced by this noble freedom, is the natural and inevitable consequence of the diversity of human faculties.
Another result, which we think natural and necessary, is the prevalence of different, and, in our opinion, far more honorable and more correct views of our religion, than those which we believe were originated and matured in that superstition and ignorance, which at last deepened into the darkness of the middle ages.
But that each should hold his own sentiments with meekness, as the sentiments of an individual, and should allow to others the same liberty of judging, which