Page images

tions, that it was the preaching of the simple os Unitarian doctrine, which first brought men to 66 faith and repentance, and christianized the " world *." Another represents the “ Letters to “ Mr. Fuller” as “ entering into a dispassionate and

judicious enquiry into the influence of the prin

ciples, which they defend; and, in a strain of “ perspicuous and solid reasoning, intermixed with “ animated appeals to the example of some eminent “ and worthy characters, which have adorned our “ own country, in later times, completely repelling “ the attack of his opponent +." Whose are the pens, to whom the author of the letters owes this verdict, which Mr. Fuller, and the admirers of his tract, naturally deny to him, he knoweth not. Though it may not become him to pronounce on the justice of it, yet it shows, that, notwithstanding the decided and triumphant manner, in which Mr. Fulles and the partizans of his sentiments have spoken of the inaptness and deficiency of the argument in the · Letters," the matter admits a different opinion: and those who have not read either his treatise, or the “ Letters,” or one only of those publications, would do well, if they feel any interest in the question, to keep their judgment, amidst such a contrariety of opinion, suspended, till they can calmly read

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

[* Analytical Review for October, 1796, p. 395, 96,]

[+ New Annual Register for 1796. Domestic Literature, p. 180. 1


both, and determine for themselves, where the truth lieth.

It is not, however, incompatible with this appeal to the judgment of the candid and impartial reader, for the author of the “ Letters" to offer some remarks in favour of his own mode of arguing.

It is alleged, that, “ by endeavouring to give 66 evidence from some other source of


than " that which he professes to answer, he is guilty of

shifting the ground of the controversy, and, by so “ doing, virtually gives up his cause as indefensi66 ble *."

This remark is irrelevant to the question. The title of the “ Letters” and the author's declaration of his design, p. 3, 4, show, that he did not intend, nor did profess, to give a full and minute answer to Mr. Fuller's tract. He meant not much more than to take an occasion, from that publication, to bring the general question, viz. the practical efficacy of the Unitarian doctrine, to the test of scriptural facts. Mr. Fuller, of all men, it appears to him, has the least right to censure him for giving the preference to one out of several modes of discussing the question before us: since he himself selected one ground of seasoning in preference to others which offered. The author of the “ Letters” hath only availed himself of the liberty to which he, as well as Mr. Fuller, had a claim ; that of discussing a general question on principles, that meet their own views and tastes.

[ * Socinianism Indefensible, p. 8.]


The source of argument, which he adopte!, appeared to him to have much the advantage of that which Mr. Fuller has pursued. It is more concise, than his mode of discussing the point. It is more pertinent and appropriate, because it is an appeal to the effects, produced by certain principles, in the first and purest exhibition of them; when they were not encumbered with heterogeneous speculations, or mingled with notions not immediately and directly connected with them ; such are the sentiments contained in the passages brought forward from various authors by Mr. Fuller. It is more decisive and authoritative : for it is derived directly from the scriptures, and from examples, that are incontrovertible. And, in this mode of argument, there is nothing invidious: it is candid. It introduces no odious-comparisons between one seheme of sentiments and another; between one party of christians and another: as doth Mr. Fuller's tract, which is, throughout, the argumentum ad invidiam; a mode of arguing very unfavourable to candour and fair discussion, savouring of spleen and ill-nature, principally calculated to misrepresent and irritate, and evidently * designed to fix an opprobium and disgrace..

[* See an excellent tract by Le Clerc, entitled Dissertatio Philosophica de Argumento Theologico ab Invidia ducto: which pole mical divines would do well to read, before they take in hand the pen of controversy. Opera Philosophica. V. 1. p. 244–280.]

It is, also, a recommendation of the source of argument, from whence the “ Letters" are derived, that, though it doth not involve in it a direct comparison between the religious character of the Unitarian and the Calvinist, it is conclusive with respect to what is proposed by such a comparison: for if it be the fact, that by the simple Unitarian doctrine men were brought to faith and repentance, and the world was christianized, the excellence and efficacy of the doctrine is sufficiently evinced; without bringing another doctrine into competition. It matters not what can be urged from the present, supposed, or apparent, inefficacy of this doctrine. That inefficacy must arise from other causes than from the nature of the doctrine. According to the parable of the sower, how various and opposite are the effects of sowing one and the same seed; “the word of the kingdom !!! In une instance the fowls devoured the seed; in another it withered away, because it had not root: in a third it was choaked by thorns : and, where it brought forth fruit, the produce was in different proportions. All these effects took place where one and the same seed was sown. The spectator, who, in viewing the different results of the same operation of sowing, should have drawn any comparison from the different cases with respect to the quality and vegetative force of the seed itself, would not have argued justly. So it impeaches neither the excellence, nor the energy of any truth, that it hath not,


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

with respect to all persons, nor with respect to all times, the same influence. The gospel is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever : but it must be admitted, as an incontrovertible fact, that the understanding of christians hath not been always equally enlightened, nor their hearts equally impressed, by its principles. If we would determine concerning its energy and tendency, there may be a propriety, therefore, in going back, even seventeen hundred years, to those times, when it “worked effectually “ in those who believed *.” It can be no disparagement to the Unitarian doctrine, if, in order to trace and display its influence, we make the same appeal to ages long since past, which we do with respect to christianity itself. Such an appeal may imply the degencracy of the present day; but it doth not imply any

defect or error in the principles, which are avowedly embraced. The seed hath fallen into bad soil : or its operation hath been impeded by unfavourable, external circumstances. Men may, and often do, i hold the truth in unrighteousness. The effects may be dissimilar; where the principles are the same.

But it is asked, “ whether the examples,' alleged “ by the author of the · Letters,' are to the point? “ Were the principles of christians in the apostolic

[ * * “ Dr. Toulmin, it should seem, can find no such fruits of “ Socinian doctrines as will support an appeal, and, therefore, is “ under the necessity of going seventeen hundred years back in 56 search of examples.” Socinianism Indefensible, p. 7. 8.


« PreviousContinue »