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as ends; and therefore, if prayer be in itself a proper means, the end to be obtained by it, we may be assured, will not be had without this, any more than without any other means, or necessary previous circumstances.."* Dr. Priestley may allege, that this is not absolute predestination : but it is as absolute as ours, which makes equal provision for faith and holiness, and for every mean of salvation, as this does for prayer.
Will Dr. Priestley undertake to prove, that a loose, dissipated, and abandoned life is a more general thing among the Calvinists than among their opponents? I am persuaded he will not. He knows that the Calvinists, in general, are far from being a dissipated, or an abandoned people, and goes about to account for it; and that, in a way that shall reflect no honour upon their principles. “Our moral conduct,” he observes, “is not left at the mercy of our opinions; and the regard to virtue, that is kept up by those who maintain the doctrines above-mentioned, is owing to the influence of other principles implanted in our nature.”+ Admitting this to be true, yet one would think the worst principles will, upon the whole, be productive of the worst practices. They whose innate principles of virtue are all employed in counteracting the influence of a pernicious system, cannot be expected to form such amiable characters, as where those principles are not only left at liberty to operate, but are aided by a good system. It might, therefore, be expected, I say again, if our principles be what our opponents say they are, that a loose, dissipated, and abandaned life would be a more general thing among us than among them.
I may be told, that the same thing, if put to us, would be found equally difficult ; or that, notwithstanding we contend for the superior influence of the Calvinistic system to that of Socinus, yet we should find it difficult to prove, that a loose, dissipated, and abandoned life is a more general thing among Socinians, than is is among Calvinists. And I allow, that I am not sufficiently acquainted with the bulk of the people of that denomination to hazard an assertion of this nature. But, if what is allowed by their own
* Lettcrs to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part I. p. 111. + Considerations on Difference of Opinion, O III.
writers (who ought to know them) may be admitted as evidence, such an assertion might, nevertheless, be supported. “Rational Christians are often represented,” says Mr. Belsham, “as indifferent to practical religion.” Nor does he deny the justice of this representation, but admits, though with apparent reluctance, that “there has been some plausible ground for the accusation ;" and goes about to account for it, as we have seen in Letter ly. in such a way, however, as may reflect no dishonour upon their principles.* The same thing is acknowledged by Dr. Priestley, who allows, that “a great number of the Unitarians of the present age are only men of good sense, and without much practical religion ;” and that “there is a greater apparent conformity to the world in them, than is observable in others.”+ Yet he also goes about to account for these things, as Mr. Belsham does, in such a way as may reflect no dishonour on their principles. It is rather extraordinary that, when facts are introduced in favour of the virtue of the general body of the Calvinists, they are not denied, but accounted for in such a way that their principles must share none of the honor; and when facts of an opposite kind are introduced, in proof of the want of virtue in Unitarians, they also are not denied, but accounted for in such a way that their principles shall have none of the dishonor. Calvinism, it seems, must be immoral, though Calvinists be virtuous; and Socinianism must be amiable, though Socinians be vicious. I shall not inquire whether these very opposite methods of accounting for facts be fair or candid. On this the reader will form his own judgment: it is enough for me that the facts themselves are allowed.
If we look back to past ages, (to say nothing of those who lived in the earliest periods of Christianity, because I would refer to none but such as are allowed to have believed the doctrine in question,) I think it cannot be fairly denied, that the great body of holy men, who have maintained the true worship of God (if there was any true worship of God maintained,) during the Romish apostacy,
* Sermon, p. 32.
and who, many of them, sacrificed their earthly all for his name, have lived and died in the belief of the deity and atonement of Christ. Our opponents often speak of these doctrines being embraced by the apostate church of Rome; but they say little of those who, during the long period of her usurpation, bore testimony for God. The Waldenses, who inbabited the vallies of Piedmont, and the Albigenses, who were aftewards scattered almost all over Europe, are allowed, I believe, on all hands, to have preserved the true religion in those darkest of times: and it is thought by some expositors, that these are the people who are spoken of in the twelfth chapter of the Revelation, under the representation of a woman, to whom were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness—and there be nourished for a time, from the face of the serpent. It was here that true religion was maintained, and sealed by the blood of thousands from age to age, when all the rest of the Christian world were wondering after the beast. And as to the doctrines which they held, they were much the same as ours. Among the adversaries to the church of Rome, it is true, there might be men of different opinions. Arius and others may be supposed to have had their followers in those ages; but the body of the people called Waldenses are not to be reckoned as such : on the contrary, the principles which they professed were, for substance, the same with those embraced afterwards by the Reformed Churches; as is abundantly manifest by several of their catechisms and confessions of faith, which have been transmitted to our times.
Mr. Lindsey, in his Apology, has given a kind of history of those who opposed the doctrine of the Trinity; but they make a poor figure during the above long and dark period, in which, if ever, a testimony for God was needed. He speaks of " churches and sects, as well as individuals, of that description, in the twelfth century:" and there might be such. But can he produce any evidence of their having so much virtue as to make any considerable sacrifices for God? Whatever were their number, according to Mr. Lindsey's own account, from that time till the Reformation, (a period of three or four hundred years, and during which the Waldenses and the Wickliffites were sacrificing every thing for the preservation of a good conscience,) they were driven into corners and silence:"* that is, there is no testimony upon recond which they bore, or any account of their haring so much virtue in them as to oppose, at the expense of either life, liberty, or property, the prevailing religion of the times.
Mr. Lindsey speaks of the famous Abelard:” but surely he must have been wretchedly driven for want of that important article, or he would not have ascribed it to a man who, as a late writer observes, “could with equal facility explain Ezekiel's prophecies, and compose amorous sopnets for Heloise; and was equally free to unfold the doctrine of the Trinity, and ruin the peace of a family, by debauching his patron's neice."| Mr. Lindsey also in the Appendix to his Farewell Sermon to the Congregation in Essex-street, lately published, holds up the piety of Servetus, by giving us one of his prayers addressed to Jesus Christ; in which he expresses his full persuasion, that he was under a divine impulse to write against his proper divinity. Surely, if Socinian piety had not been very scarce, Mr. Lindsey would not have been under the necessity of exhibiting the effusions of idolatry and enthusiasm, as examples of it.
Religion will be allowed to have some influence in the forming of a national character, especially that of the common people, among whom, if any where, it generalty prevails. Now, if we look at those nations where Calvinism has been most prevalent, it will be found, I believe, that they have not been distinguished by their immorality, but the reverse. Geneva, the Seven United Provinces, Scotland, and North America, (with the two last of which we may be rather better acquainted than with the rest,) might be alleged as instances of this assertion. With respect to Scotland, though other sentiments are said to have lately gained ground with many of the clergy; yet Calvinism is known to be generally prevalent among the serious part of the people. And, as to their national character, you seldom know an intelligent Englishman to have visited that country, without being struck with the pecula
*Chap. 1. p. 34.
iar sobriety, and religious behaviour of the inhabitants. As to America, though, strictly speaking, they may be said to have no national religion, (a happy circumstance in their favour,) yet, perhaps, there is no one nation in the world, where Calvinism has more generally prevailed. The great body of the first settlers were Calvinists; and the far greater part of religious people among them, though of different denominations as to other matters, continue such to this day. And, as to the moral effects which their religious principles have produced, they are granted, on all bands to be considerable. They are a people, as the Monthly Reviewers have acknowledged,* “ whose love of liberty is attempered with that of order and decency, and accompanied with the virtues of integrity, moderation, and sobriety. They know the necessity of regard to religion and virtue, both in principle and practice.”
In each of these countries, it is true, as in all others, there are great numbers of irreligious individuals; perhaps, a majority : but they have a greater proportion of religious characters than most other nations can boast ; and the influence which these characters have upon the rest, is as that of a portion of leaven, which leaveneth the whole lump.
The members of the Church of England, it may be taken for granted, were generally Calvinists, as to their doctrinal sentiments, at, and for some time after, the Reformation. Since that time, those sentiments have been growing out of repute ; and Socinianism is suppposed, among other principles, to have prevailed considerably among the members of that community. Dr. Priestley, however, is often very sanguine in estimating the great numbers of Unitarians among them. Now, let it be considered, whether this change of principle has, in any degree, been serviceable to the interests of piety or virtue. On the contrary, did not a serious walking with God, and a rigid attention to morals, begin to die away, from the time that the doctrines contained in the Thirty
ton Review from May to August, 1793, p. 502.