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countenance in scripture precept or example, nor, indeed, in those of the primitive church.
16. Dr. Horsley maintains that the Unitarians do not even pretend that the general tenor of scripture is in their favour, that they cannot produce any text that plainly contains their doctrine, but that they derive it wholly from particular passages, to which they give a figurative interpretation. Whereas I maintain, that the Unitarians have always appealed to the general tenor of scripture, and the plain language of it; and, on the contrary, that the Trinitarians cannot find their doctrine either in the general tenor, or in any clear texts of scripture, but that they deduce it from particular expressions and circumstances, which, when rightly explained, do by no means authorize their conclusions.
17. Dr. Horsley says, that the difference between the Unitarians and the Mahometans is so small, and such advances were made towards the Mahometans by the Unitarians of the last age, that there is good ground to think that the Unitarians will soon acknowledge the divine mission of Mahomet. He also represents Christianity on the principles of Unitarianism, as inferior to Deism, and when joined with Materialism, as highly favourable to Atheism: Such charges as these, I say, can proceed from nothing but ignorance and malevolence, and do not deserve a serious refutation.
These are all the articles of importance on which we hold different opinions, every thing else being of less moment, and subordinate to these.
ADDITIONS TO LETTERS TO DR. HORSLEY, PART II., LETTER IX. (See supra, p. 200.)
ADMITTING that the apostles had taught any doctrines of a peculiarly sublime nature, and above the comprehension of ordinary Christians; yet, as all their teaching was in public, and there were no secrets among them, nothing corresponding to the mysteries of the Heathens, the common people must have heard of these sublime things, and have been accustomed to the sound of the language in which they were expressed; and they would have learned to respect what they could not understand. They could never have been offended and staggered at things which they and their fathers before them had always been in the hearing of.
Besides this argument for the novelty of the doctrine of the Trinity, from the offence that was given by it in the time of Tertullian, when, as far as I can find, the common people first heard of it; that this class of persons were generally Unitarians before, and even after the Council of Nice, appears pretty clearly from several circumstances in the history of those times. Besides, that we do not read of any of the laity being excommunicated along with Noetus, Paul of Samosata, or Photinus, though Unitarians are acknowledged to have been in great numbers in their days, and to have been in communion with the Catholic church. When the two last were deposed
from their sees, the common people were their friends. After the bishops had deposed Paul of Samosata, he could not be expelled from the episcopal house till the aid of the emperor Aurelian was called in, and he may be supposed to have been offended at him, for his having been in the interest of his rival Zenobia.* This could not have been necessary, if the majority of his people had not been with him, and, therefore, if his deposition had not, in fact, been unjust.
As to Photinus, he was so popular in his diocese, that his solemn deposition by three councils could not remove him from his see. "He defended himself," says Tillemont, "against the authority of the church, by the affection which his people had for him, even to the year 351; though his heresy began to appear as early as 342 or 343, according to Socrates; and the Eusebians condemned it in one of their confessions of faith in 345."+ At length, the emperor Constantius, a zealous Arian, thought it necessary to interfere, and get him banished in a council held at Sirmium itself. I may add, that Marcellus of Ancyra left Galatia full of Unitarians, as Basil afterwards found to his cost. Had the body of Christians in those times been generally Trinitarians, we Dissenters, who are pretty much in the same situation with Unitarians in those times, not having the countenance of government, know well how ready the common people would have been to take an active part in those affairs.
"Sabellianism," which was precisely the same thing with Unitarianism in former times, Dr. Lardner says, "must have been very agreeable to the apprehensions of many people. Eusebius speaks of its increasing very much in Egypt, when Dionysius of Alexandria opposed it. According to Athanasius, the occasion of Dionysius's writing upon that head was, that some bishops of Africa followed the doctrine of Sabellius, and they prevailed to such a degree, that the Son of God was scarce any longer preached in the churches."
It is also remarkable, that the first treatise that was ever written against the Unitarian doctrine was that of Tertullian against Praxeas, with whom he was particularly provoked, on account of the active part he had taken against Montanus, in getting him excommunicated and expelled from the church of Rome. This, says Le Sueur, was the cause of the bitterness with which Tertullian wrote against him. Now there were treatises against the Gnostics in a much earlier period. Why, then, were none written against the Unitarians, since pure Unitarianism was certainly as old as Gnosticism? And if it had been deemed a heresy at all, it would certainly have been thought to be of the most alarming nature, as it is considered at present. In the opinions of those who are now called orthodox, the Gnostics thought much more honourably of Christ than the Unitarians did. The Unitarians were likewise much more numerous, and in the bosom of the church itself; a circumstance which might be expected to render them peculiarly obnoxious.
• See Vol. VIII. pp. 201, 202. Credib. IV. p. 606. (P.)
+ History of the Arians, I. p. 116. (P.) Works, III. p. 77.
ADDITIONS TO LETTERS TO DR. HORSLEY, PART II., LETTER XVII.
(See supra, p. 255.)
I OBSERVE that, to the many false charges and insinuations of Dr. Horsley, which are noticed in the preceding Letters, he has added another to exculpate himself for the contempt which he has expressed of Dissenters. "If you are still," he says, "disposed to be indignant about this harmless word," (conventicle,)" recollect, I beseech you, with what respect you have yourself treated the venerable body to which I belong, the clergy of the Establishment. You divide it into two classes only, the ignorant and the insincere. Have I no share in this opprobrium of my order? Have I no right to be indignant in my turn?"*
I do not pretend to recollect all that I have written; but I have such a consciousness of never having meant or intended to say what Dr. Horsley here charges me with, that I will venture to assert, that he cannot have any more authority for this, than for the privileges granted to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, on their abandoning the ceremonies of their old religion. That many of the clergy are ignorant, none can deny; because it is true of every body of clergy in the world; and that some are insincere, may also, without great uncharitableness, be supposed of any large body of men. Of one kind of insincerity, the fact is too evident to be denied of several of the members of the Church of England; for no man can be sincere in professing to believe what he openly writes against. And are there not persons in communion with the Church of England who publicly controvert the articles of it; which articles, while they continue in the church, and especially if they officiate in it, they virtually profess to believe? That many are both learned and sincere, I have acknowledged with respect to the clergy of the Church of Rome, and I think I could hardly say less of those of the Church of England. I shall, therefore, consider this charge of Dr. Horsley as a mere calumny, till he shall produce some evidence for it; and if, in any of my writings, he can find sufficient authority for his accusation, I here retract what I advanced, and ask pardon for it.
The learning of many divines in the Church of Rome and that of England, I have never denied. Bishop Hurd I have styled learned and able, though, in my opinion, nothing can be weaker than his reasoning on the subject of church establishments. As to sincerity, I have always been ready to acknowledge it with respect to both the churches. As one proof of this, I shall quote a passage from the Sermon I preached on accepting the pastoral office in this place: [Birmingham:] "Think not that the most fervent zeal for what are apprehended to be the genuine doctrines of the gospel, is at all inconsistent with true Christian charity, which always judges of particular persons according to the advantages they have enjoyed,
Letters, p. 172. (P.) Tracts, p. 294.
and of the final state of men by their sincerity only. And, for my own part, I have no doubt but that, though the Church of Rome be the proper Antichrist of the apostles, not only innumerable zealous Papists, but even some popes themselves, and since the Reformation, will sit down with Luther, with Calvin, and with Socinus, in the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Known unto God alone are the hearts of men; and the man who honestly pursues truth, and who acts according to the best lights that God gives him an opportunity of acquiring, will be he whom the God of truth and uprightness will approve; and none will suffer a greater or more just condemnation than those who hold the truth in unrighteMuch rather would I be in the case of many worthy persons in the Church of England, or the Church of Rome, who, at the same time that they are fully sensible of the corruptions and errors of the system in which they are entangled, are not able to break their chains, than, from a spirit the reverse of that of the gospel, make an improper use of my own liberty, by insulting them."*
Will Dr. Horsley himself say this after me? With respect to real candour, few, I think, will go greater lengths than I have done. He charges me with many instances of wilful misrepresentation, which is certainly a charge of insincerity; whereas, I have not charged him with any, though I might have done it with much greater appearance of reason. With respect to ignorance, viz. of what relates to the subject of this controversy, with which he likewise repeatedly charges me, I own that I return the accusation, and let our readers judge between us.
REFLECTIONS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF FREE INQUIRY IN THIS COUNTRY.
(See supra, p. 304.)
I PUBLISH the preceding Discourse † in part to oblige those before whom it was delivered; but chiefly because I do not think
Sec Vol. XV. pp. 42, 43. On this quotation Dr. Horsley remarks, that Dr. Priestley "justifies himself, by producing a long passage from one of his sermons, in which he professes to hold the Church of England in no less estimation than the Church of Rome." Tracts, p. 295, Note.
+ The Sermon, Vol. XV. p. 70, to which the Reflections were annexed in 1785 and 1787. In 1785 there was the following Preface to the Sermon:
"After I had consented to the publication of the following Discourse, it occurred to me that it might be proper to take the same opportunity of enlarging upon some of the topics of it, and of adding such other Reflections on the subject as the limits of a sermon would not admit, and also such as were less proper for a mixed audi
"Having written the Reflections, I was desired to attend to some passages in Mr. White's Sermons, which I happened not to have read before; and having animadverted on them, and the pamphlet entitled Primitive Candour coming into my hands at the same time, I thought it would not be amiss to give my opinion of that performance, as well as of Mr. Howes's, which I had not been able to procure till
that the generality of even the more liberal-minded Christians in this country have as yet given sufficient attention to the sentiments inculcated in it. This I perceive by the alarm that has been taken at some free, but important discussions in the last volume of the Theological Repository. It was a willingness to convince such persons how groundless were the apprehensions they have expressed on this subject, that led me to the train of thought which runs through this Discourse; though it will be perceived that I had likewise a view to another class of persons, who despise all such discussions as those which I now allude to.
It has been too much the disposition of all Christians to imagine that those who think a little more freely than themselves, are ready to abandon Christianity itself, together with their peculiar notions concerning it. They are so fully persuaded that their own opinions are contained in the Scriptures, that they cannot separate the idea of renouncing the one from that of renouncing the other. But a little observation and reflection on what has passed of a similar nature, might satisfy them that their apprehensions have no solid foundation; their own peculiar notions not having, in reality, that necessary connexion with Christianity which they imagine them to have, from not considering how few the essentials of Christianity
From want of distinguishing essentials from non-essentials, the Roman Catholics have thought that there can be no Christianity besides their own; and too many of the several sects of Protestants think the same with respect to their peculiar tenets. Many Arians (themselves held in abhorrence by Athanasians) have said that they could not consider Socinians as Christians; and some are now unreasonably apprehensive, that those who disbelieve the miraculous conception, or the plenary inspiration of Christ and the apostles, in cases with respect to which the object of their mission did not require inspiration, are in danger of rejecting Christianity, though they are as firm believers in the divine mission of Christ (which alone properly constitutes a Christian) as themselves. This is the more extraordinary, as the doctrine of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures is, I believe, universally disclaimed by all who are called rational Christians. But of what use is it to give up that doctrine, if we are never to avail ourselves of our opinion with re
very lately; for though I have written as much in the way of controversy, relating to the doctrine of the Primitive Church concerning Christ, as will be sufficient to acquit me of any suspicion of a distrust of what I have advanced, yet, as my object is the spread of truth, which cannot be promoted without keeping up an attention to it, I thought it might auswer a good purpose to urge such men as Mr. White, Mr. Howes, and the anonymous author of the pamphlet above-mentioned, to produce what they may have to say on the subject. If my writings be of no other use, at least vice cotis fungantur.
"I cannot conclude this Preface without expressing my surprise, that all my antagonists in this controversy should be Trinitarians, and that no Arian has appeared in it. It is certainly an unfavourable symptom for them. Where is their learning or their zeal? Solomon says, there is a time to speak; but my Arian friends may think that that time is not yet come."
• The Fourth, 1784. These Discussions were, I apprehend, those by the Author, on Inspiration and on the Miraculous Conception.