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of our comprehension. Other persons hear of these truths, but experimental philosophers feel them; and it is chiefly from their report that others derive their knowledge of them. Let Dr. Purkis also say, what experimental philosophy has to do with the traditions of men, or the rudiments of this world.-Indeed, Gentlemen, no man could know any thing of modern philosophy, or of Gnosticism, and say what Dr. Purkis does on this subject. It is all groundless insinuation and calumny, void of all colour or resemblance of truth, and calculated to prejudice the mind both against philosophy and rational theology.
There is more pride, Gentlemen, in disclaiming reason, and affecting to be governed by a principle superior to it, than in humbly following it. Besides, it has been well observed, that no man abandons reason till reason has abandoned him.
2. Of Mysteries in Religion.
If mysteries mean, as Dr. Purkis says they do, "things in their own nature incomprehensible," I must say that the Scriptures know no such mysteries, but only things that were for some time unknown, but which were perfectly intelligible when they were made known. The term is never applied to any thing concerning the nature of God, but only to the dispensations of his providence, and almost wholly to that one particular in his dispensations, the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, without burdening them with the observance of the Jewish ritual. But how can this be said to be a thing in its "own nature incomprehensible"? It had been, as the apostle calls it, [Col. i. 26,] a secret, or "mystery,-hid from ages," but it was then made known, and when made known, was perfectly intelligible.
What Paul calls (1 Tim. iii. 16) the great mystery of godliness consisted of such particulars relating to Christianity as are all perfectly intelligible, when made known, as (even admitting the common reading) God manifest in the flesh, that is, speaking to mankind by the man Christ Jesus, &c. &c.† Suffer not your minds, therefore, to be dazzled by the doctrine of mysteries in religion, and the submission of reason to faith, By the same bait you may be drawn in to believe the doctrine of Transubstantiation. For the Catholics use the very same arguments in its defence, that
Sermon, D. 1o. (P.)
+ See Vol XIV pp 182-18A
the Trinitarians do in the defence of that of the Trinity. They are both said to be doctrines of pure revelation, and that it is not the province of reason to examine them. In reality, they are neither agreeable to reason nor revelation.
3. Of Toleration.
If any subject had been well understood, I should have thought it had been that of toleration. But I perceive it is of very difficult comprehension to those who have it in their power to be intolerant. It happens to be unfashionable to deny the doctrine of it in words, but its principles are certainly undermined by the limitations of it in this sermon of Dr. Purkis. For he would not tolerate "the disbelievers of the gospel," saying, that "the religion of Jesus manifestly excludes every other; and that we must adhere to this exclusive principle, if we assert its divine authority."†
This, Gentlemen, you must see to be the most palpable of all fallacies. In one sense, indeed, every truth is exclusive, because it cannot be received together with the opposite error, the one necessarily excluding the other, that is, in the mind of the same person. But in no other sense is the religion of Christ, any more than the principles of true philosophy, of an exclusive nature. Whereas Dr. Purkis means, that the professors of Christianity ought not to suffer any other religion to be professed, if they have power to prevent it, which is a doctrine that neither Christ nor the apostles give any countenance to. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. (2 Cor. x. 4.) If Christianity itself be of this exclusive nature, the same property must belong to every thing that is essential to it; and consequently, Trinitarians, thinking their peculiar doctrines essential to Christianity, will think themselves justified in exterminating all Unitarians, as well as Jews and Mahome. tans, as disbelievers of true Christianity.
But must not Dr. Purkis allow that, if the civil governors of a country, as such, have a right to use their power in support of what they deem to be true religion, Heathens and Mahometans have the same right to persecute Christians, that Christians have to persecute them? The Christian maxim of doing to others as we would be done by, ourselves, is as justly applicable to this case as to any other whatever, If, therefore, we Christians would think it right that we should be tolerated among Heathens or Mahometans, we ought to tolerate them among us.
Sermon. p. 20. (P)
+ Ibid. p. 21. (P.)
4. Of perverting the Language of the Scriptures.
Dr. Purkis says, Next to this turn for a philosophical system in religion, we remarked a sceptical desire of arguing away the phraseology of Scripture, when it seems to convey doctrines above our comprehension, in order to reduce them to the level of our own opinions," &c. &c. &c.*
Now I dare say, that Dr. Purkis, believing in the truth of the Scriptures, and likewise in other truths not contained in the Scriptures, will endeavour to reconcile them as well as he can, as also to reconcile one scripture truth with another; for they cannot both be believed, unless they can be reconciled; and what is this but the very thing that he charges the Unitarians with, as an unpardonable fault? For example, he, as a Protestant, cannot believe that a piece of bread is changed into flesh, while the properties of bread remain in it, though our Saviour has said of the sacramental bread, This is my body. What then does he do, but explain away this phraseology, by supposing that it is a figurative expression; and merely because the doctrine of "the literal sense is above his comprehension, reduces it to the level of his own opinion." In this very language, he would be reproved for his conduct by a Catholic disputant. Why then does he see a mote in my eye, and not the beam that is in his own eye?
But in reality, Gentlemen, the plain language of Scripture is much more directly in favour of Unitarianism than of the doctrine of the Trinity; and it is with difficulty made to accord to the latter. The great doctrine of the strict unity of God, and also that of the pure humanity of Christ, is the common language of the Scriptures, where no figure is used, or can be suspected. As when the apostle says, (1 Tim. ii. 5,) to us "there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." By what construction of words and phrases can the doctrine of the Trinity be reconciled with this passage? Must not the literal meaning be explained away, before it can be made consistent with that mysterious doctrine?†
The texts which the Unitarians have to accommodate to their system are very few indeed, compared with those which the Trinitarians must subject to their mode of
Sermon, p. 12. (P.)
+ See Vol. XIV. pp. 126, 127.
5. Of Materialism and the Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity.
Dr. Purkis is not singular in endeavouring to throw an odium upon myself and others, as Materialists, as if the doctrine of an immaterial soul was essential to Christianity. I shall not argue this matter with Dr. Purkis, having already advanced all that I think necessary for the purpose in my Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit, in which I am satisfied that I have made it as evident as any thing of this nature can be, that the popular doctrine of a soul has no foundation in reason, or the Scriptures, but was borrowed from the Heathen philosophy. I shall now only observe to you, that the doctrine of a soul is of no consequence in itself, or to a Christian, but as an argument for a future life.
If, therefore, any person does firmly believe that he shall live again, and receive according to his works, which is the great and ultimate doctrine of Christianity, of what consequence is it whether he believe that he has a soul or not? It is enough that he believes that his power of thinking (which is the only province of a soul) will be restored to him at the resurrection, and that he will have a perfect recollection of all the transactions of the present life. And this I believe as firmly as any of those who hold the doctrine of a soul. In what respects, then, is my faith of less value than theirs?
With as little reason do Dr. Purkis and others suppose that, by the doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, which I hold, and which I consider as even demonstrably true," every principle," as he says, "of right and wrong, of moral goodness and moral government, has been in reality removed from our sight, and, of course, the necessity of all law and religion whatsoever."t
Now, in my writings on this subject, I have proved it, and shall not take the trouble to prove any more, that the doctrine of Necessity supplies the only theoretical foundation of moral government, and that the opposite doctrine affords no foundation for it at all. But, independently of this, with respect to the real consequences of any doctrine, those who hold it, and not those who deny it, should be consulted; for if I myself do not perceive that such consequences flow from my system, I cannot act as if they did; and, surely, any man who believes that his actions are truly
See Vol. III. pp. 384-446.
↑ Sermon, p. 7.- (P.)
voluntary, depending upon motives, and that he shall receive good or evil hereafter according to his works here, may be depended upon for giving due attention to his conduct, whatever be his opinion with respect to the nature of the mind, and the manner in which motives influence it. Can Dr. Purkis shew that Necessarians are at all less solicitous about their moral conduct than other men? This is the proper test of the moral influence of any system,
It is commonly said, that the doctrine of Necessity tends to make men indifferent to all action, all events being predetermined by God, and all sure to work right, and end well. But how does this supposition correspond to fact? Dr. Horne says, "our opponents," among whom he undoubtedly includes myself, "are shrewd, active, busy, bustling and indefatigable."* How far this character applies to myself I will not say; but I will venture to assert that, change the term shrewd (which is always used in a bad sense) for intelligent, or sensible, and the rest of the description applies to many Necessarians, and that some of the advocates for Philosophical Liberty are the most indolent of mankind.
I am, &c.
Of Mr. Jones's Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity.
As the worthy Dean of Canterbury strongly recommends to you Mr. Jones's Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity, proved by above a hundred short and clear arguments, expressed in the terms of the Holy Scripture, compared after a manner entirely new" no doubt esteeming it to be a master-piece of reasoning, I am tempted to give you a specimen of his mode of arguing on the subject. To pursue him through all his hundred arguments will hardly be required of me; as every text on which any thing that to other persons has had the appearance of an argument, has been built, is satisfactorily explained in my small pamphlet entitled, "A Familiar Illustration of certain Passages of Scripture," and more at large in the writings of Mr. Lindsey.
The foundation of the more specious of Mr. Jones's arguments is the following: If any language be applied to Works, VI. p. 69.
An early publication by Bishop Horne's intimate friend and biographer, who died in 1799. There was a third edition of the Catholic Doctrine in 1767.
† Vol. II. pp. 430–480.