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‘ as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged “ by the law and that God will render to every “ man, according to his works, to the Jew first and “ also to the Gentile.” Rom. ii. 12, 6, 10. If, in this instance, there is a likeness between Socinians, and Deists, the likeness extends to the apostles of Christ also. The Socinian may reflect with pleasure on the affinity. That a just and honourable sentiment of divine mercy and equity is held by others as well as by himself, is a ground of pleasing reflection. It is also so, that the high estimate, in which he himself holds, that the devout gratitude, with which he embraceth, christianity, do not dispose him to limit the benevolence of the universal parent ; nor tempt him to entertain hard thoughts of God, as reaping, where he has not sown, or gathering where he has not strawed: and requiring an account of five talents, where he has entrusted but one. Why should this be considered as tending to Deism : Unless holding a common truth should incline us to fall on other points, into the errors of those who embrace that truth. Where is the immediate connection between liberal and exalted thoughts of God’s universal mercies, and rejecting his special favours ? Doth it follow, because I judge that sincerity, wherever the all-discerning eye of Deity beholds it, will be accepted; that, therefore, I must think, that he who is at no pains to know the truth and follow it, is not culpable, but blameless . On him, who acts on this principle, let the censure - of of approximating to infidelity fall; but not on thes serious, conscientious Unitarian, who adheres to the profession of christianity. , “But passing the likeness between Socinianism “ and Deism in matters of principle, let us next “ consider,” says Mr. F., “the similarity of their “ prejudices:” this, it seems, consists in affecting to be “emapcipated from vulgar prejudices, and “ popular superstitions, and to embrace a rational “ system of faith *.” Affectation, wherever it is found, is censurable: but a superiority to vulgar prejudices, and popular superstitions, when it ariseth from inquiry and judgment, betokens wisdom and strength of mind; and to be emancipated from them, must be, in some cases, a just ground of exultation. It was so with the converts from paganism to christianity. It was so with the partisans of the reformation from popery. Was it not a command of Moses, “not to follow a multi“ tude to do evil o' Was it not the exhortation of the apostle, “be not conformed to this world " Do not these injunctions vindicate, a desire of rising above vulgar errors and superstitions : Do they not make it a duty It is, then, only to be blamed, to be looked upon as a prejudice, when it makes a man precipitate in his conclusions, precludes patient inquiry, and, without the conviction from evidence and argument, determines the judgment, Whatever. 3. *, of . . . . )
the ardor, of men's affection, lukewarmness, as well as glowing zeal, shall praise the Lord, and subserve the process of his providence. The spread of truth may be, sometimes, owing to those who take very little interest in any modes and doctrines of religion : it may be adopted, to serve their own purposes, by the ambitious and lustful. The reformation, in England, originated in the vices of Henry the Eighth. But will Mr. Fuller characterize its spirit by the causes, from which it sprang; and, on this account, compare it to the licentiousness of paganism His mode of reasoning, if admitted, would bear hard on christianity itself. In the same way, the religion of the holy Son of God may be represented as having an affinity to principles of licentiousness : for our Lord, addressing himself to the religionists of his day, declares; “Verily, I say unto you, the publicans “ and harlots go into the kingdom of God before “you.” Mat. xxi. 31. Mr. Gibbon has, accordingly, in the wantonness of his wit and the boldness of his irony, repeatedly given a turn to the words of Jesus, and a representation of his deportment to such sort of characters, very similar to the strain of Mr. Fuller's argument from the words of Dr. Priestley and Mr. Belsham. The representation is not, in either instance, candid and fair. A general and absolute conclusion is drawn from passages, that express only a comparative estimate of the influence of a certain state of mind: from which it by no means I follows,
follows, that the state of mind specified is, in itself, laudable and innocent ; or that, in one case, it is congenial to the spirit of Unitarianism, or, in the other, to that of the gospel. Mr. Belsham himself has stated the principle, on which he considered an indifference to the practice of religion as favourable to the reception of a rational system of faith: but Mr. Fuller, though he has quoted the passage, does not appear to have attended to the force of it. “The men, who are most in“ different to the practice of religion, and whose “ minds therefore are least attached to any set of “ principles, will ever be the first to see the absurdi“ ties of a popular superstition, and to embrace a “ rational system of faith.” The remark, which Mr. Fuller makes, is, that “It is easy to see, one “should think, from hence, what sort of characters “ those are who compose the body of Socinian con“verts.” If this observation be meant to point at the future character as well as to the previous state of mind of such converts, Mr. Fuller is not supported by Mr. Belsham's concession : for, in the remaining part of the paragraph, which he omits, Mr. Belsham expresseth his persuasion, that this indifference to the practice of religion, as it would favour the reception, so it would yield to the power, of a rational system of faith. “Practical believers,” he says, “will at “ length open their eyes, and feeling the benign in
“fluence of just and genereus principles, they will “demon
“ demonstrate the excellence of their faith by the “ superior dignity and worth of their character.” The energy of truth will carry them above their former state of mind and generate piety and goodness. This was the case with many of the early converts to christianity; who, previously to embracing it, were men of vicious character: but “faith worked by “ love, and ended in keeping the commandments of “God.” Truth enlightens the understanding and purifies the heart. I will notice only one paragraph more in Mr. Fuller's reply to myself. I had expressed my surprise, that a resemblance and affinity to Deism should be ascribed to the creed of those, among whom have appeared the most able critics on the scriptures, and the most eminent advocates for divine revelation. On this Mr. Fuller says, “most eminent, no doubt, “ they are in the opinion of Dr. Toulmin”.” If this be meant as a sneer at my opinion, or an impeachment of my judgment, I am not solicitous to support the credit of either. The names of a Grotius, Clarke, Sykes, Peirce, Benson, Haines, Locke, and Sir Isaac Newton +, carry an honour and renown with them entirely independant of my feeble suffrage. Are these names unknown to Mr. Fuller Or will
[* Socinianism Indefens. p. 26.] .
[+ Some of these authors were in the Arian scheme; but all of them decided on the doctrine of the divine Unity J * I 2 he