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what he has done, and is satisfied with respect to the propriety of it. If you would not set your hand to a common bond, without previously reading it, and approving of it, surely your minds ought to revolt at the idea of subscribing articles of faith which you have not examined. And yet, some, I fear, do this without having so much as read them, or being able to say what propositions they have signed their
The probability is, that the greater part of you, who will ever think of reading this address, have already subscribed the Articles of the Church of England; having done it at your matriculation, that is, on your admission to that place of education in which you were to study them, than which nothing more preposterous can well be imagined. In this case, as persons who have unintentionally done wrong, proceed no farther; and do not, by availing yourselves of any advantages accruing from it, make that to be a deliberate falsehood, which originally was nothing more than an oversight. Truth and uprightness require that you renounce your subscription, and every thing consequent upon it. Because, till you be satisfied that what you have subscribed is true, so that you could, bona fide, repeat the subscription, you ought to consider yourselves as not having subscribed at all.
I take it for granted, you will not think that religion is the only subject with respect to which a person may be lawfully guilty of a known falsehood, or prevarication; or that God, in whose presence the subscription is made, is the only Being who may be safely mocked and trifled with. What can you hereafter say to any man, who shall have made a false declaration of any other kind, or have taken a false oath, when you will be conscious to yourselves that you have made a declaration in which there was as little sincerity, and that you made a solemn profession of what you did not know to be true, or might have known to be false; and that you reap the benefit of such false declaration and profession? This, Gentlemen, is a case that will not bear arguing. Every upright mind must decide upon it immediately, and all the attempts that have been made to apologize for subscription to articles of faith that are not really believed, or, which is the same thing, have never been examined, or for holding the possession of any thing to which such a subscription introduced a man, can only expose the chicanery of those who have recourse to them. In any other case similar to this, every clergyman would say with David, As
the Lord liveth, such a thing ought not to be. But how many of them are there, to whom, after such a declaration, it might be said, Thou art the man!
This is certainly the case with all Arians and Socinians in the Church of England, of all who admit the principles of Dr. Clarke's Treatise on the Trinity, or any other, in which * the Son of God is maintained to be, in any sense, inferior to the Father, or to be no proper object of prayer. For in one of your creeds† it is expressly said, that of the three persons in the Trinity, "none is afore, or after another: none is greater or less than another;" and in your Litany petitions are addressed to "God the Son," and "God the Holy Ghost," as well as to " God the Father."
With the greatest respect, I am,
Your sincere well-wisher,
Of the Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
THOUGH I do not mean to trouble you with my thoughts on many articles of your Christian faith, there is one which, on account of its peculiar magnitude, I cannot help recommending to your most deliberate consideration, viz. the object of religious worship. From the nature of the thing, you cannot but be sensible, that this must be an article of the first and last importance; and therefore on this subject you certainly ought not to form a hasty or rash judgment, but bring to the study of it your best faculties, and give it your closest attention.
In a matter of this consequence, let no man, or body of men, judge for you, but honestly and fairly judge for yourselves; because you are individually responsible for the use that you make of your faculties. Consider that, on the very same principle on which any person in this country may imagine that he may safely acquiesce in the judgment of the Church of England, a person in France or Italy will be justified in acquiescing in the judgment of the Church of Rome, and may receive without examination the doctrine of Transubstantiation, or the worship of Mary and all the Saints.
"Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity," first published in 1712. †The Athanasian.
If you are sensible that they ought not to bow down and worship Mary, on the authority of the Church of Rome, neither ought you to worship the Son of Mary, on the authority of the Church of England, but should first satisfy yourselves, whether the Son of Mary be your God and Maker. If he himself have a God and Father, and the same God and Father with yourselves, you are brethren; and you ought no more, without an express divine authority for it, to worship him, than he ought to worship you. You are equally dependent upon the same great God and Father of all; and neither of you has any thing but what He gave, what you are alike accountable to him for, and what he can resume at his sovereign pleasure.
But I do not mean, in this address, to enter into the particulars of the argument with you, but only to exhort you, though with all possible earnestness, to inquire and judge for yourselves; and do not think yourselves unqualified to form a judgment in the case. As far as reason is concerned in the discussion, use your reason; where scripture is appealed to, consult the Scriptures; and when recourse must be had to antiquity, carefully read the monuments of it, especially in the writings of those who are usually called the fathers, so strongly recommended to you by the Dean of Canterbury; and for this you enjoy uncommon advantages, in the noble libraries to which you have access. We Dissenters have no such privileges. All the knowledge we get of this kind is the result of much trouble and much expense.
If, not wholly relying on your own investigation, you have recourse to the assistance of others, read the publications on both sides of the question, and pay no regard to the authority of names, but only to the weight of argument.
The Dean of Canterbury, I am sorry to perceive, has only recommended such works as were professedly written in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is not of a piece with his usual candour and liberality. Very different from this, and certainly more worthy of a Christian and Protestant bishop, is the conduct of the present excellent bishop of Llandaff, who, in the list of books which he recommends to the students in divinity, has inserted works written for and against every doctrine of importance.*
As this great question is now in the course of public discussion, between myself and the ablest writers of your own
See Bp. Watson's "Collection of Theological Tracts," 1785.
church, and you cannot be wholly unconcerned spectators, read the productions of both. You may be well assured that, considering the ability of the writers in favour of the doctrine of the Trinity, their number, and the zeal with which they enter into the controversy, together with the opportunities which they and their numerous friends (who will not fail to give them all the assistance in their power) have of consulting the most valuable libraries, every thing will be produced that can be favourable to their argument. If, therefore, it be possible to prove that the doctrine of the Trinity is not contrary to reason, that it is agreeable to the Scriptures, and that it has the countenance of primitive antiquity, it will be done.
But if, after all that can be alleged, you cannot help thinking that three divine persons must be three Gods, which our religion reprobates; that Christ is the messenger and servant of God, and not God himself; and that the great body of common Christians, in primitive times, (the very persons for whose use the books of the New Testament were written, and who must have understood them, and the doctrine of the apostles, from whom they had their instruction,) were Unitarians, believing that divinity is to be ascribed to no other than to one God the Father, and that Christ was simply "a prophet mighty in deed and word;" (Luke xxiv. 19;) "a man approved of God, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him;"* (Acts ii. 22;) you must conclude that, notwithstanding the ability, learning and integrity, of my opponents, their cause is indefensible; that the reformed Church of England is idolatrous, as well as the Church of Rome; and, therefore, that till she be farther reformed, you ought to come out of her and be separate.
You will, of course, hear many sermons, and see many treatises, against my publications in defence of the Divine Unity, but do me the justice to read the books and tracts which have alarmed your superiors so much; you will find them written perhaps with less ability, and less learning, than those of my antagonists, but with a sincere love of truth. While the controversy continues, I pledge myself to acknowledge any oversight that, in so copious an argument, I may be guilty of, and shall let nothing of any moment pass unnoticed. I am even willing to adopt any method that shall be thought, by my adversaries themselves, most to facilitate the fullest investigation of the subject. I openly call
• See Vol. XIII. p. 393.
upon every one, who has any considerable character at stake, and who has entered into the lists, such as Dr. Horsley, Mr. White, Mr. Howes, and Dr. Horne, to make good what they have advanced; and in these circumstances you cannot doubt their readiness to produce any thing in their power to confute and silence me.
Besides my larger works, as the Histories " of the Corruptions of Christianity," and "of Early Opinions concerning Jesus Christ," together with all the writings of Mr. Lindsey, permit me to recommend to your perusal, a small pamphlet entitled, "A General View of the Arguments for the Unity of God," &c., mentioned p. 344. You will find it of great use in estimating the progress that may be made in the discussion, as it takes in the whole compass of it, from reason, from the Scriptures, and from history; so that if any of my arguments be found to be defective, you will easily see how many remain unanswered, and what is their proper place and weight in the whole controversy.
Of the Difficulties attending an open Acknowledgment of
I AM truly sensible of the peculiar difficulties attending your situation. Many of you, I believe, have no other pros pect in life but that of officiating in a church, in which the doctrine of the Trinity, to the examination of which I wish to draw your attention, is actually received. It even enters into her forms of devotion; o that for the present you have no choice but to subscribe her articles, and make use of her forms, or give up all hopes of preferment or employment. Should you, therefore, after the examination which I now recommend, see reason (as I cannot help suspecting you will) to decline that subscription, and all your prospects in life depending upon it, you may be much embarrassed.
To this I can only say, that great as the difficulty, no doubt, will be, it will be less now, than if, venturing to take a step which your minds disapprove, you should be struck with a sense of the impropriety of this transaction, in a later period of your lives; when you will be actually engaged in an employment, the duties of which you cannot conscientiously discharge, with the additional burden of a wife and