« PreviousContinue »
quired this ; but what necessity was there for exposing Mr. Badcock? Allowing that there was sufficient evidence to support the heavy charge, wherein does this affect the merits of the cause ? Does proving a man a villain answer his arguments ? Is it worthy of a generous antagonist to avail himself of such methods to prejudice the public mind? Does it belong to a controvertist to write his opponent's history, after he is dead, and to hold up his character in a disadvantageous light, so as to depreciate his writings?
Whatever good opinion Socinian writers may entertain of the ability and integrity of some few individuals who differ from them, it is pretty evident that they have the candour to consider the body of their opponents as either ignorant or insincere. By the Poem which Mr. Badcock wrote in praise of Doctor Priestley, when he was, as the Doctor informs us, bis“ humble admirer," we may see in what light we are considered by our adversaries. Trinitarians, among the Clergy, are there represented, as “ sticking fast to the Church for the sake of a living ;” and those whom the writer calls orthodox, popular preachers,” (which, I suppose may principally refer to Dissenters and Methodists,) are described as fools and enthusiasts ; as either“ staring, stamping, and damming in nonsenses ;" or else, "whining out the tidings of salvation ; telling their auditors that grace is cheap, and works are all an empty bubble.” All this is published by Dr. Priestley, in his Twenty-second Letter to the Inhabitants of Birmingham; and that without any marks of disapprobation. Dr. Priestley himself, though he does not descend to so low and scurrilous a manner of writing as the above, yet suggests the same thing, in the Dedication of his Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity. He there praises Dr. Jebb, for his "attachment to the unadulterated principles of Christianity, how unpopular soever they may have become, through the prejudices of the weak or the interested part of mankind.”
After all, it is allowed, that Dr. Priestley is, in general, and especially when he is not dealing with a Calvinist, a fair and candid opponent : much more so than the Monthly Reviewers : who, with the late Mr. Badcock, seem to rank among his “humble admi
Candid and open, however, as Dr. Priestley in general is, the above are, certainly, no very trifling exceptions: and, considering bim as excelling most of his party in this virtue, they are sufficient to prove the point for which they are alleged ; namely, that when Socinians profess to be more candid than their opponents, their profession includes more than their conduct will justify. LETTER IX.
I am, &c.
* About eight or nine years ago, the Monthly Review was at open war with Dr. Priestley; and the Doctor, like an incensed monarch, sum inoned all his mighty resources to expose its weakness, and to degrade it in the eye of the public. The conductors of the Review, at length, finding, it seems, that their country was nourished by the King's country, desired peace. They have ever since very punctually paid him tribute, and the conqueror seems very well contented, on this condition, to grant them his favour and protection.
THE SYSTEMS COMPARED, AS TO THEIR TENDENCY TO PROMOTE
You recollect the prophecy of Isaiah, in which speaking of Gospel times, he predicts, that the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day; as if it were one peculiar characteristic of the true gospel, to lay low the pride of man. Thc whole tenour of the New Testament enforces the said idea. Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise ; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty ; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.-- Jesus said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.- Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.* It may be concluded, with certainty, from these passages and various others of the same import, that the system which has the greatest tendency to promote this virtue, approaches nearest to the true gospel of Christ.
Pride, the opposite of humility, may be distinguished, by its objects, into natural and spiritual. Both consist in a too high esteem of ourselves': the one, on account of those accomplishments which are merely natural, or which pertain to us as men; the other on
* 1 Cor. i. 26-29. Matt. xi, 25Rom. iii. 27.
account of those which are spiritual, or which pertain to us as good men. With respect to the first, it is not very difficult to know who they are, that ascribe most to their own understanding; that profess to believe in nothing but what they can comprehend ; that arrogate to themselves the name of Rational Christians ; that affect to “ pity all those who maintain the doctrine of two patures in Christ, as being under a debility of mind in this respect, however sensible and rational in others ;''* that pour compliments extravagantly upon one another ;t that speak of their own party as the wise and learned, and of their opponents as the ignorant and illiterate, who are carried away by. vulgar prejudices ;I that tax the sacred writers with “reasoning inconclusively," and writing
lame accounts ;” and that represent themselves as men of far greater compass of mind than they, or than even Jesus Christ himself!
The last of these particulars may excite surprise. Charity, that hopeth all things, will be ready to suggest, surely, no man that calls himself a Christian, will dare to speak so arrogantly. I acknowledge, I should have thought so, if I had not read in Dr. Priestley's Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, as follows : “Not that I think that the sacred writers were Necessarians, for they were not philosophers; not even our Saviour himself, as far as appears :-But their habitual devotion naturally led them to refer all things to God, without reflecting on the rigorous meaning of their language ; and, very probably, had they been interrogated on the subject, they would have appeared not to be apprised of the Necessarian scheme, and would have answered in a manner unfavourable to it.”'S The sacred writers, it seems, were well-meaning persons; but, at the same time, so ignorant, as not to know the meaning of their own language; nay, so ignorant, that, had it been explained to them, they would have been incapable of taking it in!
*Mr. Lindsey's Chatechist, Inquiry 6.
† Mr, Toulmin's Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, pp. 47, 56.
[ Mr. Belsham's Sermon on the Importance of Truth, pp. 4. 32.
Doctrine of Necessity, p. 133.
Nor is this suggested of the sacred.writers only ; but, as it should seem, of Jesus Christ himself. A very fit person Jesus Christ must be, indeed, to be addressed as knowing all things; as a revealer of the mind of God to men; as the wisdom of God; as he in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell ; by whom the judges of the earth are exhorted to be instructed ; and who shall judge the world at the last day; when, in fact, he was so ignorant, as not to consider the meaning of his own language; or, if he had been interrogated upon it, would not have been apprised of the extent of the scheme to which his words naturally led, but would probably have answered in a manner unfavourable to it! Is this the language of one that is little in his own eyes ?
But there is such a thing as spiritual pride, or a too high esteem of ourselves on account of spiritual accomplishments ; and this, together with a spirit of bigotry, Dr. Priestley imputes to Trinitarians. “Upon the whole," says he, "considering the great mixture of spiritual pride and bigotry in some of the most zealous Trinitarians, I think the moral character of Unitarians in general, allowing that there is in them a greater apparent conformity to the world than is observable in others, approaches more nearly to the proper temper of Christianity. It is more cheerful, more benev. olent, and more candid. The former have probably less, and the latter, I hope, somewhat more, of a real principle of religion, than they seem to have."* To this it is replied,
First: If Trinitarians be proud at all, it seems it must be of their spirituality; for as to rationality, they have none, their opponents having, by a kind of exclusive charter, monopolized that article. It is their misfortune, it seems, when investigating the doctrine of the person of Christ, to be under a "debility of mind," or a kind of periodical insanity.
Secondly: Admitting that a greater degree of spiritual pride exists among Trinitarians, than among their opponents;
if we were, for once, to follow Dr. Priestley's example, it might be accounted for without any reflection upon their principles. Pride is a sin that easily besets human nature, though nothing is more opposite
* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 100.