« EdellinenJatka »
nion, as I myself formerly was; and therefore that there is at present, as might well be expected, a general prepossession against me among the more learned Christians with respect to this argument.
am also not so ignorant of history or of human nature as not to be sensible that time is requisite to make any considerable change even in the opinions of the learned, though it certainly requires more time to produce an equal change in those of the unlearned ; and with respect to most persons who are advanced in life, it is hardly to be expected from any force of argument. But in the last ten years a very great change has been made in the opinions of those who have given much attention to theological matters, and the number of Unitarians is greatly increased. A learned Trinitarian is almost a phenomenon in this country, and learned Arians are much fewer than they have been. * And when the historical arguments in favour of proper Unitarianism, which have hitherto been very much overlooked, shall be duly attended to, especially that which arises from the consideration of the great body of the common people among Christians having thought that Christ was simply a man inspired of God, and their having had no knowledge of his pre-eristence, the conclusion that such a general persuasion must have been derived from the apostles having taught no other doctrine will not easily be avoided. It will also weigh much with those who are apt to lay great stress on the usual construction of some particular texts, to consider, that, in those early times, the Scriptures were constantly read by persons better qualified to understand the language of them than we at this time can pretend to be, without suggesting any such notions of the divinity or the pre-existence of Christ, as are now supposed to be clearly contained in them. When these, I say, and other similar arguments, shall have had time to operate, they will, I am confident, meet with less obstruction continually, and produce a still greater change in ten years to come.
As the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ came in with philosophical and speculative people, and required many centuries, and those years of gross darkness, before it laid firm hold on the minds of the common people, it will
By a learned Trinitarian or Arian I do not mean a man who has merely classical literature any more than mathematical or philosophical knowledge; but one who, having a competent knowledge of the learned languages, has made theology and ecclesiastical history his principal study. And I much question whether this has been the case with Dr. Horsley, (P.)
certainly remain a long time with them; and a disposition to accommodate to these will likewise operate to quicken the zeal of many teachers of Christianity in its defence. This will, no doubt, protract the æra of reformation, towards which the enlightened friends of Christianity look forwards with confidence and joy, to a more distant period.
In the mean time, it is a great satisfaction to reflect that, whatever difficulties may lie in the way of truth, no proper effort to remove them can be without its effect. So regular are the laws of nature, respecting even the human mind, and the influences to which it is exposed, that no endeavours to instruct or reform the world can be wholly lost. Like seed thrown into the ground they may seem to be lost ; but in due time, if the soil be good, and other circumstances favourable, (and for these things we, who scatter our seed promiscuously, must take our chance,) the harvest will in its proper season be abundant. This consideration should encourage all the labourers in the great field of mankind to plow in hope and to sow in hope; that, if not we, at least our posterity, may become partakers of our hope. (1 Cor. ix. 10.)
I can already perceive that several persons of more ingenuous dispositions among my Arian friends are much struck with some of the circumstances which I have brought to light, and others have had their objections completely removed; so that I am not without hope that a much greater number will think as I now do when my larger work shall be published, especially if a sufficient degree of attention be excited to the subject. In this view I am truly thankful for what has already been done by.Dr. Horsley and the Monthly Reviewers, and on this account I sincerely wish that their credit and influence were more considerable and extensive than they are. This opposition, and the effect of it abroad, will contribute to make the controversy better known; and though the truth may be borne down for a time, it will be more firmly established in consequence of it in the end. It is like sinking a piece of cork, which, with the greater force it is plunged under water, with the greater force and celerity it will recover its natural place. It is with great tranquillity and satisfaction that I look forward towards this period; and I should not be qualified to appear before the public at all, if, in the mean time, I could not look upon such an opposition as I have hitherto experienced with a mixture of indifference and contempt.
When this investigation shall be completely finished, it
will probably be matter of surprise to many, that it was not sooner discovered that the Unitarians must have been, and certainly were, the great body of common Christians till after the Council of Nice.* It may even be said, that there was very little merit indeed in proving a thing so extremely obvious, and that
persons it quite as well before. I shall, if I live to see it, rejoice in this change of opinion, let who will have contributed to it.
In the mean time, what is all the opposition that a man can meet with, from whatever persons, and in whatever form it be carried on, when weighed against the full conviction of his own mind, arising from a fair and careful examina. tion? And with respect to the judgment of the public, the effect of any mode of opposition is only temporary. What did the unqualified approbation of all the defenders of a pretended common sense, by the Monthly Reviewers of that day, do for the doctrine ? Has it now any advocates ? Those Reviewers quote, withoạt the least suspicion of any thing amiss, even Dr. Oswald's refutation of the only satisfactory argument for the being of a God, viz, from the consideration of cause and effect. But what has it availed in the issue? And what signified the rancour with which they treated my defence of the true common sense against the spurious one? t Though much admired in its day, it has not been in their power to rescue it from oblivion.
Though Dr. Horsley is determined to make no reply to me, (and, indeed, unless he was better informed with respect to this subject, it is more advisable for him to leave the field to abler writers,) he is accountable to the public for misleading them, as he has done with respect to facts in ancient history, and for his defamation of the illustrious dead; as well as for his want of common candour, and his misrepresentations as to the living. If he be an honest man, and of an ingenuous mind, he must, in some mode or other, either refute this charge, or acknowledge the justness of it. He says, with respect to me, “ Å writer of whom it is once proved that he is ill-informed upon his subject, hath no right to demand a further hearing.”! To which of us two the observation best applies, let others judge. When he has read these Letlers, (if he should think proper to read them at all,) he will, I presume, be a little better informed than he is at present; and then I shall
* A. D. 325. See Vol. VIII. pp. 294-304. + See Mon. Rev. XLVII, p. 47;
pp. 289-292. I Letters, p. 6. (P.) Tracts, p. 90.
have no objection to his having another hearing, but I shall not think myself bound to reply.
As to the Monthly Reviewer, Mr. Badcock, if he should ever really study the subject of this controversy, (which it is evident enough he has not done yet,) he will find that he is mistaken with respect to every part of it; and if ever he comes to reflect upon his conduct in this business in a moral light, he will feel more than I should wish him or any man to do, except for his own good.
I shall close this Preface with reminding the reader, that he should carefully distinguish with respect to the importance of the different articles that are now the subject of discussion. To prevent any material mistake of this kind, I published (1783] a sınall pamphlet, entitled A General View of the Arguments for the Unity of God, and against the Divinity and Pre-existence of Christ, from Reason, from the Scriptures, and from History ; * that when any advantage should be gained, either by myself or my antagonists, it might be seen at once what the amount of it really was, and be estimated accordingly. To this small piece, and especially the Maxims of Historical Criticism f contained in it, and in my former Letters to Dr. Horsley, I wish that particular attention may be given in the course of this controversy, whether carried on by myself or others.
Large works, particularly of the historical kind, were never yet known to be free from mistakes. The subjects of my History of the Corruptions of Christianity were so complex, and my attention was of course divided among such a variety of different articles, and the materials were collected at the distance of so many years, that I really wonder that it has escaped so well as it has done ; not one mistake having been discovered in it that at all affects my general design. What are all the errors put together, compared to that gross one which I have shewn Mosheim and Dr. Horsley to have fallen into ? And yet the credit of Mosheim's his. tory will not be materially affected by it on the whole. It is a work that I shall not scruple to quote myself, as I may have occasion, making due allowance for the author's peculiar prejudices. The candid reader will make the same allowance for me. Time, however, will shew what the oversights have been. These will of course be corrected, and what remains will stand the firmer on that account,
Though I cannot say to Dr. Horsley as he does to me, “I should have more than a single remark to make on almost every sentence of every one of your ten Letters,” * it would have been easy for me, from the materials that I have already collected, to have extended this publication to a much greater length. But I do not choose, in these temporary pieces, to forestal my larger work; though I think it may be of use to produce so much of what I have collected as may tend to excite a more general attention to the subject, and invite others to engage in the same inquiry ; that when I do publish that work, I may find more readers properly prepared to judge of it than there appear to be at present. . For, that there are at present those who are not thus prepared, there cannot be a clearer indication than that the writings of Mr. Badcock and Dr. Horsley have found admirers. Indeed, if I had not had the object above-mentioned, and also thought that their animadversions gave me a good opportunity of producing additional evidence for what I had advanced in my History of the Corruptions of Christi. anity, I should not have troubled myself with replying to their objections or abuse. If I had left all their darts sticking in my buckler, they would not have retarded my progress.
• Sec Appendix, No. VII.
# Ibid. No. II.
At all events, I wish the most rigorous investigation of this subject to proceed, whatever may be the consequence with respect to my opinions or myself, as I can sincerely adopt the prayer of Ajax, quoted by me in my first controversy with Dr. Brown: t
Ποιησον δ' αιθρην, δος δ' οφθαλμοισιν ιδεσθαι:
Since the whole of this Treatise was sent to the press, I have seen a posthumous piece of Dr. Lardner's, just published, entitled Four Discourses on Philippians ii. 1-15,1
* Letters, p. 9. (P.) Tracts, p. 94.
+ In 1765. See “ Remarks on a Code of Education," Sect iii., where Dr. Priestley exclaims, on quoting the Greek couplet, “ Be the prayer of the mag. nanimous Ajax ever mine."
| See “ 'Two Schemes of a Trinity considered, and the Divine Unity asserted;". Lardner, X. pp:
600—645. These Discourses “ were delivered from the pulpit" about 1747. .The editor, in 1784, was the Rev. John Wiche, of Maidstone, who died in 1794, aged 76. Mr. W. had “ embraced the Arian hypothesis," till, “in 1760, reading Dr. Lardner's • Letter on the Logos,' he was so impressed with the argument, as soon after to adopt the sentiment it was designed to prove." See Tbid, pp. 600, 601; Prot. Dis
. Mag. IV. p. 129. The Four Discourses have been annexed to the “ Letter on the Logos," among the Tracts of the Unitarian Society.