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all who are offended, with the palpable absurdities of the creeds generally professed by christians, act the candid and fair part, which Dr. Whitby pursued; but they reject christianity at once without inquiry. This appears to have been the case with the celebrated Lord Bolingbroke; who, taking it for granted that Paul taught the doctrines of election and reprobation, on this ground pointed his reflections against revelation itself +. Many think enough to create doubts and difficulties in their own minds ; but not enough to settle their judgment by patient and calm examination. They soon grow weary with the labour; and, precipitate in their conclusions, having begun with the highest orthodoxy, terminate their rapid inquiry with scepticism and infidelity. This issue is ascribed by such writers as Mr. Fuller, to the tendency of those principles, which they might, in an intermediate stage of this mental revolution, have adopted: when it ought to be traced back to the absurd creeds imposed upon their credulous minds in youth. I am tempted here to give, as pertinent in this connection, the sensible and liberal remarks of a writer, in the Evangelical Magazine +. “I am not so “much surprised at the progress of infidelity, be“cause, I think, the present corruptions of christi“anity naturally account for it. The religion of
[* See Sikes on the Hebrews, Preface, p. 52, 54.]
[+ For January, 1798, p. 22.] “Jesus,
Jesus, in its primitive simplicity, successfully en
‘ countered opposition, and was received, at its first
publication, on the ground of its own evidences. But men gradually began to profess it, because it was the religion of their ancestors, without considering it for themselves. This spirit of indifference exposed them to imposture; and gave design-ing men an opportunity to corrupt the divine original, to serve their own purposes. Hence christianity became loaded with imposition upon imposition ; with doctrines, ceremonies, superstitions, and a vast heap of wood, hay and stubble, which the
christianity of the New Testament knows nothing
of. In this unhappy manner hath it been disfigured to the present day. The real genius of the gospel is buried so deep in this lubbish, that it requires the sacrifice of prejudice, and the exertion of serious inquiry, to discern and distinguish it. When freedom of thought awakes, and the spirit of liberty begins to burst the shackles, men look on the mass of what they have been taught to call christlanity, and discovering so much superstition and priestcraft, they turn away from it with hasty designs, condemning the whole without examination. Thus the extreme of credulity is succeeded by the opposite extreme of volatile and obstinate infidelity.”
This is a just account of the transition from high orthodoxy to infidelity. “The only infidels I have
in power and glory, obscured, and in danger of being lost : for the idea of an equality necessarily implieth a separate evistence: and how is it possible that each should be true, very and eternal God, and yet that there should be but one God The evil of this doctrine is, however, that it not only introduces into our conceptions of the Supreme Being absurd, repugnant metaphysical distinctions; but it giveth to each person a peculiar and appropriate moral character; the Father is the offended majesty, the Son is the benevolent mediator: the Father is an angry being, of rigorous justice; the Son is compassionate, and interposes between the Creator and the sinner, to screen the latter from wrath. The consequence of these views is, that the FATHER of all, the FATHER of mercies, is addressed with dread; and hope, and love, and joy, are almost wholly transferred to the Son. The consequence of these notions is, that the infallible rule and principle of devotion, laid down in the New Testament, is entirely reversed: that rule is, that Jesus Christ should be confessed to be the Lord, to the glory of God, the Father : but on this scheme, the glory of Christ is, if not in words, yet, in fact, the final object. According to the general tenor of their devotions, according to the general strain of their language, in the creed and worship of Trinitarians, the Mediator becomes the principal, and the honor due to the Sender is paid to him who was sent.
We see and observe these consequences of the Calvinistic and Trinitarian schemes with deep concern, as destroying the simplicity and tarnishing the glory of the gospel, and as unfriendly to moral virtue. We wonder, that the advocates of these systems do not themselves see these consequences arising out of them. We impute it to the influence of habit and the power of prejudice: and conceive it to be the effect of hearing no other doctrine, and of not opening the mind to free discussion and examination.
But we lament, that these consequences, in our opinion obviously arising out of these systems, though not seen and admitted by those who embrace them, being discerned and felt by others, create objections to christianity itself, and lead many to reject it. This is exemplified by the circumstances, with which originated two elaborate works of the learned Whitby *. He had himself implicitly received the Calvinistic system from his tutors. He afterwards fell into company with two gentlemen, who on account of its doctrines, were strongly disposed to discard christianity. This set him diligently to peruse the writings of antiquity, and to examine the scriptures, to see what foundation they had in either. The result was a conviction, that they had no foundation there +. Not
[*Tractatus de Imputatione divina Peccati Adami Posteris ejus. 8vo, 1711. A Discourse concerning Election &c. 1710.]
If Preface to the Discourse on Election, p. 4, 5.] all unguardedly Was he ever engaged by them as an advocate These are points, which it might be proper to ascertain, before Mr. Fuller brought him forward, as a witness in his cause. However, waving these points, it should seem that Mr. Fuller has misapplied the passage. It is, as he observes, an answer to the charge of enthusiasm brought against the Baptists ; what then can the sufficiency of reason mean in this connection ? Not its competence independently of divine revelation: not its sufficiency by itself to guide and conduct all men to the knowledge of God, and to future happiness, without heavenly communications ; but the cool, sober, rational exercise of the understanding, independently of individual, supernatural influences and illuminations, such as enthusiasts pretend to receive. Reason here stands opposed not to revelation, but to an immediate divine energy, bearing away the exercise of the judgment. In the preceding paragraphs Mr. Robinson speaks of the Baptists as acting on “a cool, rational and de“liberate exercise of thought, and regulated by the “ express command of scripture: and as making “ the written word of God the sole rule of their faith “ and practice.”—Had Mr. Fuller reflected on this connection of the words, he could not have concluded from them that, “if Mr. R.'s words be true, the “ systems of a Socinus and a Bolingbroke can not be “ wide asunder.” Yet Mr. F. should, methinks, have carefully examined the meaning of the passage,