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tains more than the mere holding of an opinion: for it includes an exercise of the heart. Our Lord and his apostles did not proceed on any such principle, when they went forth preaching the gospel; as I hope has been sufficiently proved in the Letter on Candour. The principles on which they proceeded were, An assurance that they were of God, and that the whole world were lying in wickedness.—That he who was of God would hear their words; and he that was not of God would not hear them. That he who believed their testimony, set to his seal that God was true ; und he that believed it not, made God a liar.
If we consider a belief of the gospel, in those who hear it, as essential to salvation, we shall be called bigots : but, if this be bigotry, Jesus Christ and his apostles were bigots; and the same outcry might have been raised against them, by both Jews and Greeks, as is now raised against us. Jesus Christ himself said to the Jews, If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in
your and his apostles went forth with the same language. They wrote and preached, that men might believe that Jesus was the Christ ; and that, believing, they might have life through his name. Those who embraced their testimony, they treated as in a state of salvation ; and those who rejected it were told, that they had judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life. In short, they acted as men fully convinced of the truth of what their Lord had declared in their commission ; He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved ; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.
To all this an unbelieving Jew might have objected in that day, with quite as good a grace as Socinians object in this : “ These men think that our salvation depends upon receiving their opinions! Have we not been the people of God, and in a state of salvation, time out of mind, without believing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God ? Our fathers believed only in general, that there was a Messiah to come ; and were, no doubt, saved in that faith. • We also believe the same, and worship the same God; and yet, according to these bigots, if we reject their opinion concerning Jesus being the Messiah, we must be judged unworthy of everlasting life.
A Heathen also, suppose one of Paul's hearers at Athens, who had just heard him deliver the discourse at Mars-bill, (recorded in Acts xvii. 22-31.) might have addressed his countrymen in some such language as the following: “This Jewish stranger, Athenians, pretends to make known to us THE UNKNOWN GOD. Had he been able to make good his pretensions, and had this been all, we might have been obliged to him. But this unknown God, it seems, is to take place of all others that are known, and be set up at their expense. You have hitherto, Athenians, acted worthy of yourselves; you have liberally admitted all the gods to a participation of your worship : but now, it seems, the whole of your sacred services is to be engrossed by one. You have never been used to put any restraint upon thought, or opinion ; but, with the utmost freedom have ever been in search of new things. But this man tells us, we OUGHT NOT TO THink that the Godhead is like unto silver or gold; as though we were bound to adopt his manner of thinking, and no other. You have been famed for your adoration of the gods; and to this even your accuser himself has borne witness : yet he bas the temerity to call us to repentance for it. It seems, then, we are considered in the light of criminals—criminals on account of our devotions-criminals for being too religious, and for adhering to the religion of our ancestors ! Will Athenians endure this? Had he possessed the liberality becoming one who should address an Athenian audience, he would have supposed, that, however we might have been hitherto mistaken in our devotions, yet our intentions were good ; and that “all the differences in modes of worship, as practised by Jews and Athenians, (who are equally, by his own confession, the offspring of God,) may have been only different methods by which we have been endeavouring to honour and obey our common parent.” Nor is this all : for we are called to repentance, BECAUSE this unknown God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world, &c. So, then, we are to renounce our principles and worship, and embrace his, on pain of being called to give an account of it before a divine tribunal. Future happiness is to be confined to his sect; and our eternal welfare depends upon our embracing his opinions! Could your ears have
been insulted, Athenians, with an harangue more replete with "pride, arrogance, and bigotry?"
“But to say no more of this insulting language, the importance he gives to his opinions, if there were no other objection, must ever be a bar to their being received at Athens. You, Athenians, are friends to free inquiry. But, should our philosophers turn Christians, instead of being famous, as heretofore, for the search of new truth, they must sink into a state of mental stagnation. “Those persons who think that their salvation depends upon holding their present opinions must necessarily entertain the greatest dread of free inquiry. They must think it to be hazarding their eternal welfare, to listen to any arguments, or to read any books, that savour of idolatry. It must appear to them in the same light as listening to any other temptation, whereby they would be in danger of being seduced to their everlasting destruction. This temper of mind cannot but be a foundation for the most deplorable bigotry, obstinacy and ignorance."
The Athenians, I doubt not, will, generally, abide by the religion of their forefathers : but, should any individuals think of turning Christians, I trust that they will never adopt that illiberal principle of making their opinion necessary to future happiness. While this man and his followers hold such a notion “ of the importance of their present sentiments, they must needs live in the dread of all free inquiry; whereas we, who have not that idea of the importance of our present setiments, preserve a state of mind proper
for the discussion of them. If we be wrong, as our minds are under no strong bias, we are within the reach of conviction; and thus are in the way to grow wiser and better as long as we live."
By the above i: will appear, that the Apostle Paul was just as liable as we are to the charge of bigotry. Those parts which are marked with double reversed commas are, with only an altearation of the word heresy to that of idolatry, the words of Dr. Priestley, in the Second Section of his Considerations on Differences of Opinion. Judge, brethren, whether these words best fit the lips of a Christian minister, or of a heathen caviller. The consequences alleged, by the supposed Athenian, against Paul, are far from just, and might be easily refuted: but they are the same, for substance as those alleged by Dr. Priestley against us ; and the premises from which they are drawn are exactly the same.
From the whole, I think, it may be safely concluded, if there be any sentiments taught us in the new testament in clear and deci. ded manner, this is one : That the Apostles and primitive preachers considered the belief of the gospel which they preached, as necessary to the salvation of those who heard it.
But, though it should be allowed, that a belief of the gospel is necessary to salvation, it will still be objected, That Socinians believe the Gospel, as well as others; their Christianity, therefore ought not to be called in question on this account. To this it is replied, If what Socinians believe be indeed the gospel ; in other words, if it be not deficient in what is essential to the gospel ; they, undoubtedly, ought to be acknowledged as Christians ; but, if otherwise, they ought not. It has been pleaded, by some who are not Socinians, that we ought to think favourably of all who profess to embrace Christianity, in general, unless their conduct be manifestly immoral. But we have no such criterion afforded us in the new testament; nor does it accord with what is there revealed. The new testament informs us of various wolves in sheep's clothing, who peared among the primitive Christians; men who professed the Christian name, but yet were, in reality, enemies to Christianity; who perverted the gospel of Christ, and introduced another gospel in its place.
But these men, it is said, not only taught false doctrine, but led immoral lives. If by immoral be meant grossly wicked, they certainly did not all of them answer to that character. The contrary is plainly supposed in the account of the false Apostles among the Corinthians; who are called deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light : therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.* I would not here be understood as drawing a comparison between the false apostles and the Socinians. My design, in
* 2 Cor, xi. 13-15.
this place, is not to insinuate any specific charge against them, but merely to prove, that, if we judge favourably of the state of every person who bears the Christian name, and whose exterior moral character is fair, we must judge contrary to the scriptures.
To talk of forming a favourable judgment from a profession of Christianity in general, is as contrary to reason and common sense, as it is to the New Testament. Suppose a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons, on being asked his political principles, should profess himself a friend to liberty in general. A freeholder inquires, • Do you disapprove, sir, of taxation without representation ? * No. Would you vote for a reform in Parliament ? • No.' •Do you approve of the liberty of the press ? " No.' Would this afford satisfaction? Is it not common for men to admit that in the gross, which they deny in detail ? The only question that can fairly be urged is, Are the doctrines which Socinians disown (supposing them to be true) of such importance, that a rejection of them would endanger their salvation ?
It must be allowed, that these doctrines may be what we consider them, not only true, but essential to Christianity. Christianity, like every other system of truth, must have some principles which are essential to it: and, if those in question be such, it cannot justly be imputed to pride or bigotry, it cannot be uncharitable, or uncandid, or indicate any want of benevolence, to think so. Neither can it be wrong to draw a natural and necessary conclusion, that those persons who reject these principles are not Christians. To think justly of persons is, in no respect, inconsistent with an uni. versal good will towards them. It isnot, in the least, contrary to charity, to consider unbelievers in the light in which the scriptures represent them ; nor those who reject what is essential to the gospel, asr ejecting the gospel itselt.
Dr. Priestley will not deny, that Christianity has its great truths, though he will not allow the doctrines in question to make any part of them, “The being of a God-his constant over-ruling providence, and righteous moral government--the divine origin of the Jewish and Christian revelations that Christ was a teacher sent from God—that he is our master, law-giver, and judge--that God raised him from the dead--that he is now exalted at the right hand of Vol. II.