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with those who are determined to hold their present opinions, whatever they be, at all events, and who shut their ears to all conviction; for such must be all those who censure my conduct.
Another of my opponents (but I am not now able to say which) ridiculing the Bishop of Landaff's truly useful publication for the use of young clergymen, amuses himself with the idea of the perplexity of a Welsh curate, who should not be able to tell which scheme of faith, contained in that work, he should adopt; not considering, or perhaps not knowing, that the chief use of reading is to make men think, and form systems for themselves; and that every person officiating as a Christian minister, whether residing in Wales or elsewhere, may reasonably be supposed to do this. Perhaps this acute reasoner would find a difference between treatises bound up together, uniformly printed, and published by the same person, and such as are published separately. Or perhaps, having his head full of the idea of
in 1745: "Doctor Law (pp. 290–292) likewise talks of a Being of infinite glory and perfection, the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature, and the Lord of heaven aud earth, condescending to degrade himself from all this power and dignity; divest himself of every glorious attribute, and appear not only in the form, but real nature of man, and in its most imperfect and forlorn estate; under all the wants and weaknesses, and pains of infancy; that he should be content to recover his former qualities again, one by one, in slow degrees, and mixed with all the infirmities of childhood.'" Survey, pp. 191, 192.
When the Bishop published his sixth edition in 1774, he had so far altered his views as to substitute, (pp. 275, 276,) for the former part of the first sentence, the following: "That a Being of inconceivable perfections should divest himself of every glorious attribute," &c. In the seventh (Carlisle) edition, the author thus gives the passage, now abandoning all his former notions of Christ's pre-existence:
"That the great Messenger and Mediator of a new covenant, fixed in the Divine decrees from the beginning, foretold by the ancient prophets, and announced by an host of angels, that he should at length appear, not only in the form, but real nature of man, and in its most imperfect and forlorn state, under all the wants, and weaknesses, and pains of infancy; that he should receive the Divine communications in slow degrees, (Luke xi. 52,) and mixed with all the infirmities of childhood!" Considerations, 1784, p. 289.
Thus was the "Theory, purged of some ancient prejudices relative to pre-existence," as Bishop Law expresses himself in a Letter to Mr. Lindsey, from "Cambridge, September 23, 1783." See Mr. Belsham's Memoirs, p. 163.
Dr. Fleming also objected (Survey, p. 185) to Dr. Law's representation of "eternal life-as the purchase of our Saviour and Redeemer Christ;" and there is, in the sixth edition, pp. 281-286, a long note, in which the bishop appears to maintain the doctrine of atonement in the manner of Dr. Taylor and Mr. Tomkins. This note is entirely omitted, on the same passage, p. 295, of the Carlisle edition.
Thus laudably cautious was this Unitarian writer not to misrepresent religion to his readers. How deeply is it to be regretted, that, in his prelatical character, Dr. Law should have continued through life to misrepresent himself before the public, while virtually professing the doctrine, performing the offices, and enjoying the lucrative dignities of a Trinitarian church; deaf to the warning voice-Come out of her, and be ye separate! See Vol. III. p. 378; Mon. Repos. I. p. 178.
Theological Tracts, six vols. 8vo. 1785. See supra, p. 350.
subscription, he might think that nothing is to be read that is not also to be subscribed.
Several of my opponents, as well as Mr. Howes, have amused themselves and their readers with the letters, &c., I have lately subjoined to my narne, in the title pages of some of my publications, under the idea, as I must suppose, of their reflecting some ridicule upon me, though they do not seem to have been able to make out their meaning. If this circumstance be any disgrace to me, it is my misfortune, and should entitle me to their compassion, as it was not of my seeking. None of them, however, reflect any dishonour on either of our English. universities.
This business reminds me of what is told of Dr. South, who being reflected upon by Deana Sherlock,† on account of his wit, (of which the dean might think that he made an improper use,) replied, that " it might have pleased God to have made him a wit." Let my adversaries, therefore, spare me on this subject, since it might have happened that their names should have had the sam.e appendages with mine.
Some, as any thing is easier than close argumentation, have even amused themselves with the number of my publications, and others with my mottos; and perhaps they may find some instruction as well as amusement in them.
I have been sometimes a'mused with what has been said of myself, and my opinions., of which some, who have addressed letters to me, seem to have been as ignorant as they have been of my titles. I need not observe that I have been most unmercifully stripped by them of every commendable quality of mind, natural or acquired, and of every kind of literature that is requisite to my writing on the subjects which I have presumed to discuss; but it is my pride (rank pride, and haughtiness of soul, as the poet calls it) on which they have enlarged the most. No man, I suppose, can presume to think for himself, and much less to teach others, but he must be proud.
"It is, unquestionably, pride," says one of them to you, "which has brought on your presumptuous teacher that wwpwois, that blindness and hardness of heart, the one as πωρωσις, consequential of the other." To avoid this pride you can do no less than implicitly receive what your teachers think
* See supra, p. 472, Note ||.
+"During their bitter controversy on the Trinity, 1693-1695. See Memoirs of South, prefixed to his Posthumous Ďiscourses, 1717, pp. 118-184; Dr. Toulmin's Historical View, 1814, pp. 177-187.
proper to prescribe to you; and, perhaps, that humility may have its perfect work, it may be advisable to sign the following form prescribed by a Protestant synod in France : "I receive and approve, all that is contained in the confession of faith of the Reformed Churches of this nation, and promise to persevere therein to my life's end; and never to believe or teach any thing not conformable to it."* Indeed, I do not see that any thing short of this will satisfy your tutors that your creed is absolutely fixed; and without this you will be in the same reproachful situation with myself.
This gentleman advises the Dean of Canterbury to have nothing more to say to me, and he even wishes that I may never see what he addresses to you, "because his letter was written without any view to convert me, but to preserve you." But if this had been his object, he should have circulated his Address in the universities only, and not have advertised it for public sale.
As to my religion, it is, according to this candid writer, "without a soul, without a Bible, (that is worth your attention,) without a church, and without a Saviour."† What this sentence wants in truth and sense, it makes up in sound.
A father, more careful of the orthodoxy than of the honesty of his son Charles, informs him, (p. 21,) that "all good and wise men in every age have thought it their duty to comply with the established religion of their country; and that he only subscribes the Thirty-nine Articles as a layman, and as terms of peace and communion."+
* See the Preface to Jortin's "Remarks on Ecclesiastical History," 1751, p. xvii. (P.) Dr. Price, speaking of Calvinism, says, “In Scotland, if I am not mistaken, the clergy are required not only to declare their belief of this system, but that they will constantly adhere to it, that is, never grow wiser." Sermons, p. 52, Note.
↑ The author of an "Address to the Candidates for Orders, &c." 1787, says, that if Dr. Priestley had lived in the time of Christ, “he would have been among the foremost of those whose detestable hands were lifted up to destroy the God of their life, the author of their eternal salvation." See New Ann. Reg. VIII. p. .
The following advice "to all gentlemen school-boys, who are designed for the university of Oxford," was given nearly a century ago:
"Never explain your opinions, but let your declarations be, that you are churchmen, and that you believe as the church believes.-Suppress, as much as possible, that busy spirit of curiosity, which too often fatally exerts itself in youthful breasts; but if (notwithstanding all your non-inquisitiveness) the strong beams of truth will break in upon your minds, let them shine inwardly; disturb not the public peace with your private discoveries and illuminations; no, if you have any concern for your welfare and prosperity, let Aristotle be your guide absolute in philosophy, and Athanasius in religion." Terra-Filius, (No. XXXI. May 1, 1721,) Ed. 8, 1754, pp. 167, 168. See the Correspondence of Wakefield with the late Dr. Bennet, Bishop of Cloyne, Mon. Repos. XV. pp. 512–514.
According to these wise maxims, his dear Charles ought to be a Pagan with Pagans, a Mahometan with Mahometans, and a Christian only with Christians; that is, he is to be of no religion at all; and then, indeed, he may subscribe any thing. This is the wisdom that is ascribed to the Vicar of Bray, who, in all the revolutions in this country, about the time of the Reformation, like a wise and good man, was consistent in keeping his preferment.* What this wise father meant by subscribing as a layman, or as a term of peace and communion, is best known to himself. I am utterly unable to divine it; and as little would it have been comprehended by those who framed these articles, who certainly meant to enforce consent in matters of faith.
The same excellent judge of this controversy, who says, (p. 25,) that he is "no bigot to orthodoxy," (in which I verily believe he says truly,) and that, "when he was a young man he was inclined to think freely on these subjects, and was a little staggered at the doctrine of the Trinity," speaks of the opinion of Dr. Clarke, and even that of Dr. Price, as "differing from orthodoxy by a slight distinction," whereas he says, that my opinions (which are infinitely nearer to those of Dr. Price than Dr. Price's are to the standard of orthodoxy)" approach very near to those of Hobbes and Spinoza, in their atheistical tendency," and, (p. 9,) that on my principles I may as well give up the belief of a Deity as that of the Trinity." You will not, I hope, expect from me a serious confutation of such absurd calumny as this. I am, &c.
"The Vicar of Bray, in Berkshire, [commemorated in a popular song,] was a Papist under the reign of Henry the Eighth, and a Protestant under Edward the Sixth; he was a Papist again under Queen Mary, and at length became a Protestant in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. When this scandal to the gown was reproached for his versatility of religious creeds, he made answer, I cannot help that: but, if I changed my religion, I am sure I kept true to my principle; which is, to live and die Vicar of Bray!' 1999 Curiosities of Literature, 1791, pp. 392, 393.
One of Wakefield's correspondents, in 1778, Mr. Wilde, of Chadkirk," who, "continued through life on a small cure of forty pounds a-year," because he could not "repeat his subscription," thus describes the compliant disposition of his clerical contemporaries: "I am verily persuaded, that if the Bible was burnt to-morrow, and the Alcoran introduced and established in its stead, we should still, provided the emoluments were the same, have plenty of BISHOPS, Priests and DEACONS." Memoirs, I. p. 166.
"Gentlemen school-boys-designed for Oxford," were thus instructed in 1721: "You go thither, prepossessed with a sanguine, but ignorant opinion, that you are to follow what in your conscience you think right, and to disclaim what you judge wrong. I advise you to shake off this childish prejudice.-Your only safe way is to carry along with you consciences chartes blanches, ready to receive any impression that you may please to stamp upon them." Terra-Filius, (No. XXXI.,) I. pp. 166, 167.
Of a Letter addressed to me by an Under-graduate.
THERE is another publication I shall take more particular notice of, not that it has more of real plausibility in it, but because it has been more noticed by the world, and because it is written by a young man, an Under-graduate of Oxford,† perhaps the very Charles to whom the preceding letter is addressed. Indeed, he appears to be a very docile youth. The oldest fellow of a college could not have imbibed his father's maxims, or have profited more by the sermons delivered at St. Mary's, than he has done. After learning himself, he justly thinks himself sufficiently qualified to teach others.
So perfectly indifferent is this well-tutored young man to the pursuit of truth, that he ludicrously represents myself, and all who are engaged in it, as John Gilpin, and the man at Hughes's, and himself and his friends as unconcerned spectators, standing aghast at our performances. Two centuries ago, Luther and Melancthon, Zuinglius and Calvin, were the performers, and the Catholics in general the gaping crowd.
After I had written my Letter to Mr. Pitt, [1787,] Ithought I had gone too far in representing the English universities as "stagnant waters, offensive to the neighbourhood," and really meant to make a public retraction of it; but I suspended this design, when I perused this letter, which was
"A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Priestley, by an Under-graduate,” 1787.
+ The Letter relating to the Under-graduate of Oxford was written before the report of its author being the Dean of Canterbury reached me; and as the writer begins with saying, "I am one of the young men to whom you have offered your services, as a director of their theological studies;" it is barely credible that a man of his character should affirm what cannot be termed less than an absolute falsehood. If the report be without foundation, the dean will, no doubt, take an early opportunity of disclaiming a publication so unworthy of him. (P.)
Dr. Priestley has declared his great aversion to writing under, or ever addressing, a feigned character. (See Vol. I. Memoirs 52, IV. p. 326, Note.) Yet his censure of Dr. Horne is scarcely justified by the occasion. The Dean of Canterbury might, surely, according to an allowed practice, assume the character and adopt the style of an Under-graduate, without any breach of integrity; though under favour of that, or any other disguise, to ridicule a serious inquiry after scriptural truth, was unworthy of a sober disputant.
That the Dean of Canterbury was this Under-graduate, though the Letter is not in the collection of his writings, is fully admitted by his biographer. See Dr. Horne's Life in Works, 1. p. 135.
+ Letter, p. 5. (P.)