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Full text of "A collection of essays and tracts in theology, from various authors,with biographical and critical notices"

COLLECTION 

OF 

ESSAYS AND TRACTS 

IN 

THEOLOGY, 

FROM VARIOUS AUTHORS, 

WITH 

BIOGRAPHICAL AISD CRITICAL NOTICES. 



BY JARED SPARKS. 






^fcwlYO 



BOSTON, 
PUBLISHED BY OLIVER EVERETT, 13 CORNHILL. 

1824. 



Press oi tb8 North 'American Review. 



CONTENTS 



THE THIRD VOLUME. 



ROBERT ROBINSON. 

Page. 

Biographical notice - 3 

On uniformity in religion 27 
On the right of private judgment - 37 
On the nature and objects cf baptism, as re- 
garding church fellcw sin? - 49 
Reflections on christian lI^ervt/cjvil ESTAB- 
lishments in religion, and toleration . - 93 
Hints concerning the ussthut-on an->, disci- 
pline OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH - - 137 

The spirit of god the guide of good men - 145 

The christian religion easy to be understood 165 

The jews ----- 176 



VI CONTENTS. 



THOMAS COGAN. 

Biographical notice - 185 

Remarks on the writings op dr cogan - 197 



LETTERS TO WILBERFORCE ON THE DOCTRINE 

OF TOTAL DEPRAVITY - - - .235 

LETTER I. 



Confidence with which the Calvinistic Tenet of De- 
pravity is usually asserted. False Modes of 
Reasoning by which it is supported. Leads to 
Skepticism. Sanctions absurd and impossible 
Doctrines. To be believed only by rejecting the 
Dictates of the Understanding. Harmony be- 
tween, Reason, and. Scripture 



LETTER II. 



239 



Calvinistic Doctrine, of 'Qrjgiwl Sin, or Total De- 
pravityy'stfiiefh . Not .caistitent with Scripture. 
No evidence in the Sacred Writings, that Adam 
was created with a perfect Nature, or that the 
sinful Propensities of his Posterity were derived 
from him 272 



CONTENTS. VII 



LETTER III. 



Texts of Scripture examined. The Notion of a 
Total, Hereditary Depravity confuted by Obser- 
vation and Experience. Stronger Proofs, that 
Men are upright and perfect, than that they are 
totally depraved - - - - - 287 

LETTER IV. 

Doctrine of Original Depravity can be reconciled 
neither with the Physical, nor Metaphysical 
Structure of Man. At variance with other Doc- 
trines of the Calvinistic Scheme - - 307 

LETTER V. 

The Notion, that Men are punished for Sin inherit- 
ed from Adam, is extravagant, irrational, and 
unscriptural. Shown to be absurd, and the Ar- 
guments in its Favour examined and confuted. 
It is in Opposition to the Attributes of God - 325 

LETTER VI. 

The Scheme of Original Depravity not necessary 
to account for Moral Imperfection in Man. Ar- 
guments against the Doctrine drawn from its 
pernicious Consequences - 355 



SELECTION 

FROM 

ROBERT ROBINSON'S 

WOEKS. 

r 



ROBERT ROBINSON. 



Among the uses of biography, none is more valua- 
ble, than that which inspires good purposes, awakens 
energy, and incites to exertion. The events of a 
person's life, who has risen to eminence by the force 
of his own genius and enterprise, are always interest- 
ing, because they are rare ; they are always instruc- 
tive, because they serve as a light and a guide to 
others, whose early fortunes may be equally unpro- 
pitious. 

That one should go out triumphantly on the tide 
of life, who is blessed with all the advantages of fam- 
ily, wealth, powerful friends, facilities of education, 
and incitements to employ them, is no cause of won- 
der. It would, indeed, be strange if it were other- 
wise. But when the sons of obscurity and indigence 
break from the cloud which surrounds, and the weight 
which oppresses them ; when they enter on the 
world's wide ocean, without a parent's voice to coun- 
sel, or a parent's hand to protect ; when each return- 
ing day brings them into a new conflict with want 
and anxiety ; when the allurements of vice besiege 
them on the one side, and the spectres of despond.en- 



4 ROBINSON. 

cy assault them on the other, without shaking their 
firmness, or turning them from the steady purpose of 
uprightness and perseverance ; and when, in defi- 
ance of every other obstacle, they ascend to a proud 
station among the wise, the learned, and the good ; 
it is then that they may justly claim the respect and 
admiration of their fellow-men, and call on them to 
behold an example worthy to be praised and emu- 
lated. Among the few, who are to be revered for 
self-acquired eminence, the subject of the present 
memoir stands in an honourable place. 

Robert Robinson was born at SwafFham, county 
of Norfolk, on the eighth of October, 1735. His 
father was a native of Scotland, and an exciseman, 
of whom little needs be said, except that his humble 
sphere in life received no dignity from his under- 
standing, and no brightness from his virtues. Mary 
Wilkin, the mother of Robert Robinson, was descend- 
ed from a respectable family, and to the advantages 
of a good education she added the charms of a beau- 
tiful person, an amiable temper, and gentleness of 
manners. She was the daughter of a second mar- 
riage, and, as unnatural as it may seem, the affections 
of her father were centred in the children of his wife 
by a former husband. Mary was doomed to experi- 
ence from him less of the tenderness of a parent, than 
of the austerity and unfeelingness of a severe master. 
He delighted to thwart her purposes ; and on several 
occasions, through mere caprice, he rejected the 



ROBINSON. O 

overtures of worthy and respectable persons, who so- 
licited his daughter's hand. 

Disheartened by the severity of her father's treat- 
ment, and impatient to escape from it, she imprudent- 
ly resolved on marrying without his consent. This 
step was a prelude to untried evils. She united her- 
self to a man in all respects unworthy of her, pos- 
sessing neither the qualifications for making her hap- 
py, nor the disposition to soften and conciliate her 
father. 

They had three children, of whom Robert was the 
youngest. The elder son was apprenticed to a 
painter, and the daughter to a mantuamaker. Robert 
was put to school when six years old, and soon drew 
the attention of his teacher, as exhibiting more than 
usual promise. In the mean time, his father remov- 
ed from Swaffham, and settled at Scaring. He 
soon after died, and left the destitute mother to pro- 
vide for herself, and three children. At Scaring was 
a grammar school, where Lord Thurlow, and some 
other distinguished persons, received the rudiments of 
their education. Desirous of encouraging her son's 
predilection for learning, Mrs Robinson made an ef- 
fort to maintain him at this school, but her resources 
proved inadequate to the expense. So favourable 
an impression had he made, however, on his teacher, 
the Rev. Joseph Brett, and so much did this gentle- 
man respect the motives and virtues of the mother. 
1* 



U ROBINSON. 

that he kindly offered to instruct his pupil without 
compensation. 

On these terms he continued at school till he was 
fourteen years old, studied the French and Latin, and 
made rapid proficiency in most of the branches com- 
monly pursued at such institutions. The time had now 
come when it was necessary to decide on his future 
destination. So many discouragements were in the 
w T ay of his being a scholar, and so many difficulties 
to be encountered, that his mother resigned this hope, 
which she had suffered to rise and brighten for a 
time, and was only concerned to place him beyond 
the reach of want by providing for him an honest 
calling. His benevolent instructer, Mr Brett, made 
interest to procure a situation suited to his capacity 
and inclination, but without success. He was finally 
bound as an apprentice to a hairdresser in London. 

To this new employment he at first devoted him- 
self with commendable industry, received the appro- 
bation of his master, and was able to boast of a due 
proficiency in the mysteries of his trade. But his 
thoughts were not to be chained, nor could nature be 
forced. His mind was too active to rest in vacuity, 
and his love of books too strong to be conquered by 
the routine of a barber's shop. It was his custom to 
rise at four in the morning, and from that hour till 
called to his master's service, he was busy in read- 
ing such books as he could collect from the cheap 
stalls or borrow from his friends. 



ROBINSON. 7 

His thoughts early took a religious bias, and after 
going to London a constant attendance on public 
worship was among his greatest pleasures. Gill, 
Guise, Romaine, and Whitfield were his favourite 
preachers. His diary at this time indicates no small 
degree of religious enthusiasm, and proves him to 
have gradually attached himself to the methodists. 
Whitfield, in short, was his adviser and friend, to 
whom he applied in all cases of spiritual difficulty, 
and with whom he familiarly corresponded. On one oc- 
casion Whitfield read to his congregation at the Taber- 
nacle two of Robinson's letters, while the writer was 
present. Encouraged by the favourable opinion of 
so distinguished a man, and moved by the advice of 
his friends, it is not a matter of surprise that he 
should begin to think himself destined to walk in a 
broader sphere, than the one on which he was en- 
tered. 

So great, indeed, was the esteem and respect 
which he gained by his genius and good character, 
that his master was not reluctant to comply with the 
general voice, and give up his indentures. At the age 
of nineteen he commenced preaching among the 
methodists. His youth, his amiable manners, his 
vivacity and native eloquence drew around him many 
hearers, and gave a charm to his preaching, which 
could not fail to please. His voice was clear and 
melodious, his elocution easy and distinct, his lan- 
guage flowing, and all his external accomplishments 



8 ROBINSON. 

engaging. These advantages, heightened by a liberal 
degree of youthful enthusiasm, crowned his first 
efforts with success, and animated his future exer- 
tions. He spared no pains to cultivate the powers 
which nature had bestowed on him, and frequently 
declaimed by the hour in private, that he might ac- 
quire the habit of a ready delivery, and a free use of 
language. In this practice the foundation was laid 
of his subsequent eminence as a public speaker. He 
thought no time mispent, which prepared him for 
winning the ear and gaining the hearts of his audi- 
ence, and thus more effectually discharging the du- 
ties of his sacred office. 

Among the methodists Mr Robinson preached 
chiefly in Norwich, and different parts of Norfolk 
and Cambridgeshire. While thus employed he re- 
sisted a temptation, which deserves to be recorded as 
a proof of his early integrity and strength of principle. 
He had been educated in the established church, and 
had not joined himself to the dissenters without ex- 
amining the causes and nature of their dissent. When 
his talents and virtues had gained him a name in the 
world, some of his relations, who seem to have for- 
gotten him before, made an attempt to bring him back 
to the episcopal church. The following incident is 
mentioned by Dr Rees, the learned editor of the 
Cyclopaedia, in his sermon preached on the occasion 
of Mr Rob nson's death. " A rich relation, who 
had promised to provide liberally for him, and who 



ROBINSON. 9 

had bequeathed him a considerable sum in his will, 
threatened to deprive him of every advantage which 
he had been encouraged to expect, unless he quitted 
his connexion with the dissenters ; but the rights of 
conscience, and the approbation of God were superior, 
in his regard, to every worldly consideration ; he pre- 
servi d his integrity, steadily maintained his princi- 
ples, and persevered in his connexion with the dis- 
senters, but forfeited the favour of his relation, and 
every advantage, which, living or dying, he had in his 
power to bestow."* This conduct was consistent 
with his character through life. A high-minded in- 
dependence, conscientious regard for truth and lib- 
erty, and unyielding adherence to his religious im- 
pressions, were among the shining virtues, which 
never forsook him. 

The causes leading to his separation from the 
methodists are not distinctly known, but he had not 
preached with them more than two years, when, at 
the head of a few persons associated for the purpose, 
he formed an independent society in Norwich. At 
this time he was a Calvinist, and constructed the con- 
fession of faith for his new society on Calvinistic prin- 
ciples. He adopted the rules and discipline com- 
mon to othe independent churches, and administered 
the ordinances after the same manner. 

*■ Dr Rees' Sermon en the Death of Mr Robert Robinson, 
p. 59. 



10 ROBINSON. 

In the year 1759, not long after this society was 
organized, Mr Robinson was invited to take charge 
of a Baptist congregation at Cambridge. He was 
already convinced, that adults only were the proper 
subjects of baptism, and he had himself been baptized 
by immersion. The Cambridge society was small, 
and the pecuniary circumstances of its members such, 
as to afford him no more than a very scanty support. 
When he commenced preaching in Cambridge he 
was twenty-three years of age, and two years after- 
wards he was ordained according to the usual mode 
of the dissenters. He had been married a little 
before to a young lady of Norwich. 

Mr Robinson's own account of his settlement, 
written at a later period of his life, will show his 
prospects to have been not the most flattering. In 
reference to this subject he observes ; " The settle- 
ment of Robinson seems rather a romantic, than 
rational undertaking, for this pastor was to be main- 
tained. He had not received above ten guineas from 
his own family for some years ; he had no future 
prospect of receiving any j his grandfather had cut 
him off with a legacy of half a guinea. He had 
received only a hundred pounds with his wife, and 
this he had diminished among the methodists. He 
had never inquired what his congregation would allow 
him, nor had any body proposed any thing. They 
had paid him for the first half-year, three pounds 
twelve shillings and five pence ; they had increased 



ROBINSON. 11 

since, but not enough to maintain him frugally ; there 
was no prospect of so poor a people supplying him 
long, especially should his family increase, which it 
was likely to do. Besides, the congregation, through 
the libertinism of many of its former members, had 
acquired a bad character. These would have been 
insurmountable difficulties to an older and wiser man ; 
but he was a boy, and the love of his flock was a 
million to him. His settlement, therefore, on this 
article, should be no precedent for future settle- 
ments." 

The situation here described could have few 
charms for a man who had set his heart on the things 
of this world, or whose fancy was quickened by the 
kindling visions of power and fame. But Robinson 
was not such a man. He loved his profession, and 
every motive of self-aggrandizement was absorbed in 
the deeper and purer desire of witnessing the growth 
of piety, good order, and happiness among his peo- 
ple. His congregation grew larger, and the time 
came when his annual income was increased to more 
than ninety pounds. At first he lived at Fulbourn, 
five miles from the place of his sabbath duties, where 
he contracted an acquaintance with Mr Graves, a 
gentleman of property and benevolence, from whom 
he received many substantial tokens of friendship. 

He next removed to Hauxton, about the same dis- 
tance from Cambridge, where he resided for several 
years, the tenant of an humble cottage, devoted 



12 ROBIiNSON. 

assiduously to his professional labours, and providing 
for the support of a numerous family, and an aged 
mother. His disinterested ardour, his kindness to the 
poor, his love of doing good, and his unwearied ac- 
tivity in making himself useful, attracted to him the 
notice of all the respectable part of the community, 
and quickened the generosity of some worthy and 
opulent persons. On the sabbath he often preached 
three times, and during the week several times in the 
neighbouring villages. He was intimate with all the 
surrounding clergy among the dissenters, and had for 
his early companions Roland Hill and Charles de 
Coetlogon. His congregation increased so much, 
that a more commodious place of worship was found 
necessary, and the pastor was highly gratified with the 
promptness and unanimity with which it was erected. 
In the midst of his professional labours he was a 
diligent student in theology and literature. Free 
access to the libraries of the University of Cam- 
bridge, and conversation with the learned men resid- 
ing there, enabled him to pursue his studies with 
advantage. He was an admirer of Saurin, and in 
1770 translated and published two of his sermons. 
These were sent out as specimens, which, if approv- 
ed, he promised should be the forerunners of others. 
The success of his project was quite equal to his ex- 
pectation, and he afterwards translated at different 
times five volumes of sermons selected from Saurin. 
These have gone through several editions, and to- 



ROBINSON. 



13 



gether with a sixth volume by Hunter, and a seventh 
by SutclifFe, they constitute the works of . Saurin, 
as they now appear in the English dress. 

While residing in the cottage at Hauxton he also 
published his Arcana, or the Principles of the late 
Petitioners to Parliament for Relief in Matter of 
Subscription, in eight Letters to a Friend. These 
letters were adapted to the times, and attracted a 
lively attention. The dissenters were making all pos- 
sible exertions to have the law repealed, which re- 
quired from them subscription to the articles. Pres- 
byterians and Baptists, orthodox and heterodox, 
united their forces to abolish a law, which operated 
with equal severity on them all, and which was in 
itself so flagrant an encroachment on justice, liberty, 
the rights of conscience, and the claims of humanity. 
All rallied under the same banner, and cried out with 
one voice against the oppression which weighed them 
down, till, after many unsuccessful struggles, their' 
voice was heard, their petitions heeded, and dissent- 
ing ministers and schoolmasters were allowed the 
privilege of prosecuting their peaceful avocations 
without violating their conscience by subscribing the 
Thirty-nine Articles, or subjecting themselves to a civil 
penalty by resisting so unholy a requisition. During 
the struggle for christian freedom the above letters 
were written. Clothed in a language always sprightly, 
sometimes adorned with glowing imagery, sometimes 
rising with the majesty of argument, and at others 
2 



14 ROBINSON. 

pungent with satire, they were well calculated for 
popular effect. They enter largely into the chief 
points of the controversy, and bating some defects of 
style, and perhaps occasional faults of sentiment, it 
will be rare to find a more ingenious vindication of 
the rights and privileges of christian liberty. 

Robinson left Hauxton in 1773, and settled at 
Chesterton within two miles of Cambridge. This 
brought him nearer to the centre of his parochial 
charge, and the facilities for his literary pursuits were 
multiplied by his proximity to the university. But 
his income was not yet adequate to support a family 
of nine children, and he was compelled to look 
around him for other sources of emolument. He 
turned his attention to agriculture. By rigid econo- 
my, personal inspection of his affairs, judicious invest- 
ments, and a spirit of enterprise that never slumber- 
ed, he found himself in a few years a thriving farmer, 
and had the joy to feel, that by the blessing of Pro- 
vidence his numerous family was beyond the grasp of 
want, and the caprice of fortune. Mr Dyer thus 
speaks of his character as a farmer and economist. 
" It would be no less agreeable than instructive to 
survey his rural economy, and domestic arrange- 
ments in his new situation ; the versatility of his 
genius was uncommon ; and whether he was making 
a bargain, repairing a house, stocking a farm, giving 
directions to workmen, or assisting their labours, 
he was the same invariable man, displaying no less 



ROBINSON. 15 

vigour in the execution of his plans, than ingenuity in 
their contrivance. The readiness with which he pass- 
ed from literary pursuits to rural occupations, from 
rural occupations to domestic engagements, from 
domestic engagements to the forming of plans for dis- 
senting ministers, to the settling of churches, to the 
solving of cases of conscience, to the removing of the 
difficulties of ignorant, or softening the asperities of 
quarrelsome brethren, was surprising."* This is 
the language of one who lived near him, for many- 
years, and saw him often. 

His professional duties were numerous. Those 
pertaining to his own parish made but a part. He 
was invited to attend ordinations in all the counties 
around him ; his judgment was respected and his ad- 
vice sought in cases of differences between churches ; 
he was the counsellor of his parishioners in their tem- 
poral as well as spiritual concerns ; the watchful 
guardian of the unprotected and distressed ; the pa- 
tron and benevolent friend of the poor. These calls 
of duty did not relax his literary ardour. He went 
on with his translations of Saurin, printed now and 
then an occasional sermon of his own, and, at the re- 
quest of two or three eminent gentlemen, wrote a 

* Dyer's Life of Robinson, p. 98. This work was published in 
1796, by a person well acquainted with Robinson ; but it is a 
work singularly defective in arrangement, wanting in interest, and 
barren of incidents, considering the opportunities and materials 
with which the author was favoured. 



16 ROBINSON, 

treatise on affinities in marriage, which was highly 
commended by jurists, as marked by an acute dis- 
crimination and force of argument. 

About the year 1776, Robinson published his Plea 
for the Divinity of Christ. This topic was now 
much agitated by reason of the late resignation of 
Lindsey and Jebb for scruples of conscience con- 
cerning the trinity. Robinson's Plea is drawn up 
with ingenuity, in a popular style, and winning man- 
ner. The arguments are less sound than specious ; 
they take names for things, and rest on deductions 
which go not beneath the surfaee of the Scriptures ; 
in the balance with just criticism they lose their 
weight and their substance. In the eyes of a certain 
class of trinitarians they were masterly, because with 
more than common skill they defended an old ground, 
which it was thought difficult to maintain much lon- 
ger, and which, in truth, has since been nearly aban- 
doned. But even this popular treatise did not please 
all parties. None withheld from the author the merit 
of ingenuity ; some professed to admire the force and 
accuracy of his reasoning ; while others were troubled 
with a kind of indefinable suspicion, that he had 
stopped short of the desired object. These latter 
seem to have been alarmed, that the author w r as so 
sparing of the fire and rage of controversy. Robin- 
son observes in writing to a friend, " The temper of 
the Plea has procured me a deal of blame from the 
good folks, who inhabit the torrid zone." These 



ROBINSON. 17 

zealous partisans were not satisfied, that lie should 
win the day, unless he carried war with flames and 
sword into the conquered enemy's camp. 

Others, however, were of a different mind, and the 
author received a profusion of complementary letters 
from dignitaries in the established church. It was 
whispered, and more than once proclaimed aloud, as 
a thing to be lamented, that such a man should be a 
dissenter, and waste his days in strolling with a be- 
wildered flock beyond the enclosures of the true faith. 
Gilded offers were made to him, if he would have 
the conscience to slide out of his errors, go up from 
the unseemly vale of poverty, and take his rest on 
the commanding eminence of church preferment. 
To these overtures he was deaf; from his principles 
he could not be moved. When Dr Ogden said to 
him, in trying to unsettle his purpose, " Do the dis- 
senters know the worth of the man f" he replied, 
" The man knows the worth of the dissenters." This 
reply he verified by his warm devoted ness to their 
interests through life. He received many letters ap- 
proving his work from persons not belonging to the 
episcopal church, especially his Baptist associates in 
the ministry. 

The Plea was answered by Lindsey, but Robinson 
never replied ; nor did he write any more in defence 
of the divinity of Christ, Whether influenced by 
Lindsey's arguments, or whether his own examina- 
tion of the subject had supplied him weaker grounds 
2* 



IB ROBINSON. 

than he expected, or whether his mind received a 
bias from any other quarter, it is certain that his senti- 
ments about that time underwent a change. During 
the latter years of his life he rejected the trinity, and 
believed in. the subordinate nature of Christ. 

The year after the Plea, Robinson published a 
curious tract, entitled the History and Mistery of 
Good Friday. In this pamphlet he traces back the 
church holidays to their origin, and proves them for 
the most part to have arisen out of heathen, or Jew- 
ish practices, and to derive no authority from the 
christian religion. It contains a severe, and some- 
what rough philippic against the church of England, 
which boasts of being reformed, and having cast off 
the abuses of the Romish church, while yet many 
are cherished, as unwarrantable and pernicious as 
those severed from the old stock. This tract was 
exceedingly popular, and ran speedily through seve- 
ral editions. 

But the work, which produced greater excitement 
than any of our author's writings, was a Plan of Lec- 
tures on the Principles of Nonconformity, publish- 
ed in 1778. Within a moderate compass, it embra- 
ces all the points of controversy between the estab- 
lished church and the dissenters. Its manner is orig- 
inal and striking. The time of its appearance was 
favourable to its currency and interest, for the dis- 
senters' bill was then pending in parliament. In the 
House of Lords this Plan of Lectures was honourably 



ROBINSON. 1£ 

mentioned by Lord Shelburne, and in the House of 
Commons, Burke read passages from it, which he at- 
tempted to turn to the disadvantage of the petitioners. 
Fox repelled his attack, and foiled his attempt. 
Many articles were written against it, and, among 
others, strictures by Mr Burgess, prebendary of Win- 
chester. Robinson replied to none, except the latter, 
on which he bestowed a few remarks in his preface 
to the fifth edition. 

The next literary enterprise of Robinson was his 
translation of Claude's Essay on the Composition of 
a Sermon. To this essay the translator added a 
life of the author, remarks on the history of preach- 
ing, and a vast body of notes, making together two 
thick volumes. The notes are written in the author's 
peculiar manner, full of spirit and vivacity, and dis- 
cover a prodigious extent of reading. Some of them 
are valuable, many are highly entertaining, but they 
seem to have been hastily thrown together, and col- 
lected with too little discrimination. They occa- 
sionally descend to trifling incidents, anecdotes, and 
inapposite reflections, equally offensive to good taste, 
and barren of instruction. But with all these defects, 
Robinson's original edition is vastly preferable to 
those coming after, in which the editors took the lib- 
erty to abridge the notes, and add others of their 
own. In the Rev. Charles Simeon's edition, the 
notes are chiefly omitted, and their place supplied 
by skeletons of his own sermons. 



20 ROBINSON. 

Mr Robinson's celebrated volume of Village Ser- 
mons was published in 1786. We have already ob- 
served, that it was his custom to preach in the neigh- 
bouring villages, and frequently he tarried at a place 
over night, and held religious service early in the 
morning, before the labourers were gone to their 
work. In summer these exercises were conducted 
in the open air, and fully attended. The above \o\~ 
ume is composed of discourses delivered on these 
occasions, and written out afterwards as dictated by 
the author to an amanuensis. They had evidently 
been prepared with care in his own mind, and they 
contain a copiousness of language, a felicity of illus- 
tration, and a readiness in quoting and applying ap- 
propriate passages of scripture, rarely to be witnessed. 
They were framed for a particular purpose, that of 
enlightening and improving the less informed classes 
of society ; and whoever reads them will not wonder, 
that this purpose was attained, and that even those 
for whom the things of the world had attractions 
should resign for an hour the labour of gain, and lis- 
ten with delight, to the persuasive accents of the 
preacher. They maybe read with profit by all, who 
love to contemplate the workings of a powerful mind 
in recommending and enforcing the principles of a 
holy religion, who are captivated with the inventions 
of genius, the current of a natural eloquence, sound 
words uttered in the spirit of christian philanthropy, 
and sentiments breathing the influence of a rational, 
fervent piety. 



ROBINSON. 21 

The last works in which our author was engaged 
were the History of Baptism, and his Ecclesiastical 
Researches. These were also his largest works, each 
making a closely printed quarto volume. It had 
long been a source of regret among the Baptists, 
that no full and authentic history of their brethren 
existed, and that their opinions, character, and pro- 
gress had never been represented to the world in the 
light they deserved. It was at length resolved by 
some of the leading members of this denomination to 
supply the deficiency, and appoint a suitable person 
to write a copious and accurate history. The gen- 
eral voice fixed on Robinson, and in 17S1 he was 
invited by an authorized committee to undertake the 
task. He complied with the request, and immediate- 
ly set himself about the gigantic labour of wading 
through the ecclesiastical records of ancient and mod- 
ern times, appalled neither by the lumber of antiqui- 
ty, nor the mountains of volumes, which have been 
raised by the prolific industry of later ages. 

That he might have a more ready access to scarce 
books, it was a part of his plan to reside a few days 
in every month in London. This design, however, 
was soon given up as impracticable, for so much was 
he sought after as a preacher, that he found his at- 
tention perpetually diverted from his studies. Ap- 
pointments were made by his friends for preaching 
every day in the week, and so slowly did his history 
advance in the midst of these interruptions that he. 



22 ROBINSON. 

was glad to escape from them to his farm, his family, 
and his people, in the country. Here he was kindly 
favoured with books from the university, and occa- 
sionally from London, and here he completed the 
History of Baptism. 

This volume was chiefly printed before the author's 
death, but not published till after that event. It con- 
tains a vast fund of historical knowledge on the sub- 
ject which he professes to treat, and indicates an 
uncommonly deep and patient examination. The 
Ecclesiastical Researches was a posthumous work, 
and having been left in an unfinished state, is in 
many respects imperfect. It contains some curious 
facts relating to the history of the existence and pro- 
gress of the principles of religious liberty and a ra- 
tional faith during the early periods of Christianity, 
and throughout the dark ages. It proves, that 
these principles were never extinct in the gloom- 
iest times, but that they were cherished in the 
hearts of a few sincere, secluded worshippers, who 
were either too remote from the public eye to be ob- 
served, or too insignificant to draw down upon them- 
selves the wrath of bigotry, or the rod of persecution. 
In this respect the Ecclesiastical Researches supplies 
a valuable link in the history of the church. But on 
the whole, neither this nor the History of Baptism, is 
equal to the author's other performances. While 
preparing them it is evident his mind had lost much 
of its former vigour, and was approaching that state 



ROBINSON. 23 

of inefficiency, which it was the melancholy lot of his 
friends to contemplate in the latter days of his life. 
However much the cause of truth may have gained 
by these works, they have added little to the author's 
fame. 

During the last year of Robinson's life, his health 
and his intellect gave symptoms of a rapid decline. 
Of this he appeared to be fully aware, for to a friend, 
who visited him not long before his death, he said, 
"You are come to see only the shadow of Robert 
Robinson." In the spring of 1790 he engaged to 
preach the charity sermons for the benefit of the dis- 
senting schools at Birmingham. He left home on 
the second day of June in a languid frame of body 
and mind, but so well did he bear the fatigue of the 
journey, that he preached twice on the following sab- 
bath. On Monday evening he was taken ill, and his 
friends were alarmed ; but he gained strength the next 
day. He retired to rest late in the evening, after 
eating his supper with a good appetite, and by the 
ease and cheerfulness of his conversation relieving 
those around him from all apprehensions of immedi- 
ate danger. But how frail are the foundations of hu- 
man confidence, how deceitful the visions of human 
hope ! When the morning came he was found life- 
less in his bed. His features were tranquil, and his 
spirit seemed to have deserted without a struggle its 
mortal tenement. His body was interred at Birming- 
ham, and on the sabbath following a discourse adapt- 
ed to the occasion was preached by Dr Priestlev. 



24 ROBINSON. 

In the year 1807, Mr Flower published the Mis- 
cellaneous Works of Robert Robinson, in four vol- 
umes, to which he prefixed a brief memoir of the 
author's life and writings. This edition comprises 
all his works, except the History of Baptism, Eccle- 
siastical Researches, Village Sermons, and Notes to 
Claude. Among his best writings are the prefaces to 
the several volumes of Saurin, especially the one on 
Christian Liberty. The Life of Claude is well writ- 
ten, but a dissertation on public preaching, prefixed 
to the second volume of Claude's Essay, although it 
contains some novel thoughts, and valuable facts, is 
imperfect, and obviously put together from ill digest- 
ed materials. This remark, indeed, applies to sev- 
eral of his minor pieces, where a broader plan seems 
to have been laid, than his leisure and opportunities 
allowed him to fill up. 

In selecting articles for the present publication, a 
range has been taken through the whole of the au- 
thor's works, nor has any scruple been felt in omitting 
occasionally such paragraphs, as have no more than 
a remote bearing on the main object of the piece 
chosen. The author's desultory mode of writing, 
and the local topics sometimes introduced, have ren- 
dered this latitude necessary. 

Among the numerous excellencies of Robinson's 
style, there are some glaring faults. His imagination 
is brilliant and active, but it rambles without license, 
and luxuriates without moderation. He never wants 



ROBINSON. 25 

an apposite figure to illustrate any position, but his 
choice is frequently ill-judged, and rests on low im- 
ages unworthy of his subject. This may be account- 
ed for, perhaps, from the circumstances of his edu- 
cation, and from his invariable habit of bringing down 
his language to the plain country people to whom he 
preached. Another fault is want of method, and 
looseness of reasoning. This fault is not perpetual, but 
it occurs too often. Logic was not his strongest point ; 
he loved not that his fancy should be clogged and 
hampered by the trammels of the schools ; he chose 
a path of his own, and in his passion for freedom was 
impatient of the restraints which others have thought 
so wholesome a branch of discipline, and so useful 
in checking the exuberance of a prurient imagina- 
tion, and maturing the decisions of a wayward judg- 
ment. It needs hardly be added, that his taste par- 
took of these defects ; it is sometimes bad, and often 
not to be commended. 

But these are small imperfections compared with 
the predominant features of Robinson's mind. The 
comprehensive views which he took of every subject, 
the richness and abundance of his thoughts, the 
power of intellect which weighs in his sentences, the 
point of his expressions, the varied and playful al- 
though erratic excursions of his imagination ; and, 
above all, his sincerity and ardour, the justness of his 
sentiments, his undisguised manner, his benevolence, 
charity, and christian temper, his independence and 
3 



26 ROBINSON. 

love of freedom, his unconquerable hostility to all 
religious domination under whatever name or charac- 
ter, his aversion to bigotry and narrowness, his ad- 
herence to the simple truths of the Gospel ; these 
give a charm and a value to his writings, by which 
none can fail to be instructed and improved. Who- 
ever would look for pleasure or benefit from the pro- 
ductions of a writer with traits like these, will find his 
labour well rewarded in perusing the works of Rob- 
bert Robinson. 



ON 



UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 



FROM THE ARCANA. 



Legislation is doubtless a sacred thing ; it is a 
divine imitation of the government of mankind, and 
is deservedly assigned to the first in birth, property, 
and skill ; but, the history of all nations will prove, 
that in parliaments, as in paradise, the serpent has found 
a way to corrupt and deprave. Ignorance or interest, 
negligence or pride, have too often prevailed over the 
generous principles which ought to influence these gods 
of mankind ; and one age has been driven to repeal 
the laws of a former ; so that perhaps legislation would 
furnish a large history of the extravagancies of the 
human mind, among which an Act of Uniformity would 
appear one of the greatest. Britons boast of their laws, 
and in general with great reason ; but some of them 
blush for their country when they read a law entitled 
an Act of Uniformity. 

It would be foreign from the present purpose to 
inquire the origin of this law ; it may be more proper 



28 UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 

to show that religious uniformity is an impossibility, 
and that a law of this kind can neither be argued from 
the light of nature, nor from the holy Scriptures. 
The idea of uniformity is neither the idea of a philos- 
opher, nor of a christian. The fabricature of this law 
therefore by men who had a just right to both these 
titles, implies a moment's absence. 

Sound policy requires a legislature to preserve its 
dignity ; but the dignity of a legislature is never more 
prostituted than when impracticable edicts are issued. 
The dignity of legislation depends more on enforcing, 
than on inventing a law ; the latter may be done by 
a pedant in his study, but the first must have power, 
property, magistracy, penalty, in a word, authority to 
support it ; and this energy is its dignity. Where a 
tax is levied which the people cannot pay ; where a 
kind of obedience is required which the people can- 
not yield ; the legislators are forced to dispense with 
the obedience required. And what follows? the 
people despise a folly which could not foresee, a nar- 
rowness of capacity which could not comprehend, a 
timidity which dares not, or a weakness which cannot 
enforce its decrees. Did not all Europe deride the 
absurdity of those magistrates, who, in the reign of Ma- 
ry, cited to their commissioners, Fagius and Bueer, who 
were both dead and buried, to appear and give an ac- 
count of their faith ? and, as if that was not quite 
ridiculous enough, caused their bones to be dug up 
out of their graves and burnt for non-appearance ! 



UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 29 

Aut nunquam tentes, aut perfice, is an excellent 
motto, and nowhere more rationally applied than in 
the matter of law-making. Had this been attended 
to, (but who that attends to the transactions of the 
year 1559, can wonder that it was not?) an act of 
uniformity could never have been passed. The im- 
possibility of enforcing it might have been foreseen ; 
nor ought it to be wondered at if five years after, 
" her Majesty was informed, that some received the 
communion kneeling, others standing, others sitting. 
Some baptized in a font, some in a bason ; some sign- 
ed with the sign of the cross, others not." In vain 
the queen attempted to enforce the act by penalties ; 
in vain have succeeding princes endeavoured to en- 
force it ; in vain were the formidable forces of oaths, 
subscriptions, fines, and prisons brought into the field; 
cruelty and lenity, madness and moderation, the gen- 
tleness of the eighteenth, and the rage of the seven- 
teenth century have been employed in vain 5 the act 
stands disobeyed and unrepealed to this day. 

Make religion what you will ; let it be speculation, 
let it be practice ; make it faith, make it fancy ; let 
it be reason, let it be passion ; let it be what you will ; 
uniformity in it is not to be expected. Philosophy 
is a stranger to it, and Christianity disowns it. 

A philosopher holds that the system of the uni- 
verse is perfect ; that the duty and glory of man is 
to follow, not force nature ; that moral philosophy is 
nothing but a harmony of the world of spirit with the 
3* 



30 UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 

world of matter ; that all the fine descriptions of vir- 
tue are nothing but essays on this conformity ; thus 
he proves that moral evil is the production of natural 
evil, moral good the production of natural good. A 
philosopher would say to a legislator, as the poet to a 
man of taste : 

To build, to plant, whatever yon intend, 
To rear the column, or the arch to bend, 
To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot, 
In all, let nature never be forgot. 

Give a philosopher a farm, and enjoin him to cultivate 
it enphilosophe, he will study the soil, the situation, the 
seasons, and so on ; and, having comprehended what 
his farm is capable of, he will improve it accordingly. 
In the same manner he directs his garden, and every 
plant in it, never expecting to gather grapes of thorns, 
nor Jigs of thistles. What would he, yea, what 
would the unphilosophized farmers say of an act for 
the uniformity of husbandry ? An act of uniformity, 
say the honest rustics, what's that ? What's that ! 
Why, you must grow nothing but wheat. How ! say 
they, some of our lands are too light, they will pro- 
duce none ; we can grow rye there indeed ; we have 
some even not worth ploughing for rye ; however 
they will serve for a sheep-walk, or at worst for a 
rabbit-warren. Thus nature teaches men to reason 
and thus they reason right. 

Go a step farther. Make this philosopher a tutor, 
and commit to his tuition a company of youths ; he 



UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 31 

will no more think of uniforming these young gentle- 
men, than of teaching his horse to fly, or his parrot 
to swim. Their geniuses differ, says he, and 1 must 
diversify their educations ; nature has formed this 
for elocution, and that for action. And, should the 
blind fondness of parents complain, his answer is ready, 
ivhatwas I, that I could withstand Godl in short, 
place such a man in what disinterested sphere you 
will, and his principles guide his practice ; except in- 
deed he should be chosen to represent a county ; then 
probably, not having the fear of philosophy before his 
eyes, he mi^ht vote for an act of uniformity, 

A law that requires uniformity, either requires men 
to be of the same sentiments, or to practise the same 
ceremonies. Now if it should appear that the first is 
impossible, the last will fall of itself. For then the 
question will be, ought two men, who confessedly 
differ in sentiment, to profess that they agree ? Ought 
an honest man to be one thing, and appear another ? 
Heaven forbid that any should maintain so dangerous 
a thesis ! 

You are a man of extensive knowledge ; you know 
the ancient and modern creeds ; you remember that 
Harry the Eighth enjoined " all preachers to instruct 
the people to believe the whole bible, the three 
creeds, the Apostles', the JVicene, and the Athana- 
sian, and to interpret all things according to them." 
You know that in Edward the Sixth's reign, two-and- 
forty articles, drawn up by Cranmer and Ridley, 



32 UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 

were thought necessary to be published, for the avoid- 
ing diversity of opinions, and establishing consent 
touching triw religion. In the beginning of Eliza- 
beth's reign, you know, eleven articles were " set 
out by order of both archbishops, metropolitans, and 
the rest of the bishops, for the unity of doctrine to be 
taught and hoi den o/all persons, vicars and curates; 
as well in testification of their common consent in 
the said doctrine, to the stopping of the mouths of them 
that go about to slander the ministers of the charch 
for diversity of judgment, ^c." Two years after, all 
the former were reviewed, and the whole bible, 
the three creeds, the two-and-forty articles, and 
the eleven articles, were collected into one aggre- 
gate sum, and made thirty-nine. Subscription to 
these has been essential ever since, which subscrip- 
tion is an argument (as his Majesty's declaration says) 
that all clergymen agree in the true, usual, literal 
meaning of the said articles. 

Whatever be the true meaning of these articles, it 
is not only certain that clergymen explain, and con- 
sequently believe them in different and even contra- 
ry senses ; but it is also credible that no thirty-nine 
articles can be invented by the wit of man, which 
thirty-nine men can exactly agree in. It is not ob- 
stinacy, it is necessity. 

Suppose the thirty-nine articles to contain a given 
number of ideas, and, for argument's sake, sup- 
pose that number to be fifty ; suppose the capacities 



UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 33 

of men to differ, as they undoubtedly do, and one 
man's intelligence to be able to comprehend fifty, a 
second's five hundred, and a third's but five-and-twen- 
ty. The first may subscribe these fifty points of 
doctrine, but who can confine the genius of the sec- 
ond ? Or who can expand the capacity of the last ? 
In minds capable of different operations, no number 
of points of doctrine can possibly be fixed on as a 
standard for all ; for fix on what number soever you 
will, there will always be too many for the capaci- 
ties of some, and for others too few. If this be the 
case who can establish an uniformity of sentiment . ? 
What earthly power can say, " we will not endure any 
varying or departing in the least degree 9" 

Moreover, it may be asked whether all these points 
of doctrine be capable of an equal degree of evi- 
dence; and if not, whether it be possible to enforce 
an uniform degree of belief. Take for example two 
propositions. " The Bishop of Rome hath no juris- 
diction in this realm of England." — " Athanasius's 
creed — may be proved by most certain warrants of 
holy scripture". 

The first of these propositions is capable of de- 
monstration, but the last is very doubtful ; and if the 
degree of assent ought to be exactly proportional to 
the degree of evidence, a magistrate, who would es- 
tablish uniformity, must either give falsehood the evi- 
dence of truth, or oblige men to believe a probable 
as fully as a certain proposition. But if neither of 



34 



UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 



these can be done, what becomes of uniformity ? An 
uniform assent to fifty propositions, some of which 
are probable, others certain, and others (pace tantis 
talibusque viris) false ! 

It is the easiest thing in the world to retire, sit 
down, invent, and publish a system on any subject. 
Imagination, always prolific, contributes largely ; and 
it is not difficult to erect an ideal world with Berke- 
ley ; an ideal republic with Plato ; or in short a phi- 
losophical romance of any kind. All sorts of men, 
poets, philosophers, orators, divines, some of each 
class have erred on this head ; the most ingenious 
wandering the farthest. But when these romantic 
machines are applied to real life, to the tillage of a 
field, the government of a state, the forming of a 
church, they appear only elaborate trifles ; amusive, 
but not useful. If such ingenious inventors are great 
men, there is another class greater still, a class 
whose motto is duce natura seqjjamur. 

After all, what is uniformity good for . ? Is it es- 
sential to salvation . ? Is it essential to real piety in 
this life ? Does it make a subject more loyal to his 
prince ? A husband more faithful, or a parent more 
tender ? Cannot a man be honest and just in his deal- 
ings without knowing any thing about St Athanasius? 
Nay, has not this act produced more sophistry and 
cruelty than any other act of parliament from the re- 
formation to this day . ? Not secular, but spiritual se« 



UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 35 

verity ; not the sophistry of the har, but the sophistry 
of the church. 

Did the great Supreme govern his empire by an 
act of uniformity, men might be damned for believ- 
ing too little, seraphs degraded for believing too much. 
The creed of the inhabitants of Saturn might be es- 
tablished, and theirs that dwelt in the moon only tol- 
erated. In such a case, what a fine field of contro- 
versial glory would open to the divines of these two 
provinces of the kingdom de origine mali. Almighty 
Father, can a blind belief please thee ? Can thy crea- 
tures believe what they cannot perceive the evidence 
of? Can all understand the evidence of the same 
number of truths ? Formed with different organs, 
educated in different prejudices, dost thou require 
the same services ? Art thou indeed the hard master 
who reapest where thou hast not sowed 9 Far from 
all thy subjects be such a thought ! 

Conclude then, that if God be a rock, and his work 
perfect, if variety be the characteristic of all his 
works, an attempt to establish uniformity is revers- 
ing and destroying all the Creator's glory. To at- 
tempt an uniformity of colour, sound, taste, smell, 
would be a fine undertaking ; but what, pray, will 
you call an attempt to establish an uniformity of 

THOUGHT . ? 

You will say, Christianity is not the religion of na- 
ture, but the religion of revelation ; what therefore 
may seem absurd to philosophy, may be explained 



36 UNIFORMITY IN RELIGION. 

by Christianity. Perhaps the Founder of our holy re- 
ligion may have established uniformity. If he has, 
uniformity may be a christian though not a philo- 
sophical idea. Well, this shall be inquired in the 
next letter. 



ON THE 



EIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 



FROM THE ARCANA. 



You have often admired that Dedication to the 
Pope which is prefixed to a piece of Sir Richard 
Steele's, entitled An Account of the State of the Ro- 
man Catholic Religion throughout the World. — 
" Your Holiness," says the writer, " is not perhaps 
aware, how near the churches of us protestants have 
at length come to those privileges and perfections, 
which you boast of as peculiar to your own. — The 
most sagacious persons have not been able to discov- 
er any other difference between us, as to the main 
principle of all doctrine, government, worship, and 
discipline, but this one, that you cannot err in any 
thing you determine, and we never do. That is, in 
other words, that you are infallible, and we always 
in the right. We cannot but esteem the advantage 
to be exceedingly on our side, in this case, because 
Ave have all the benefits of infallibility, without the 
absurdity of pretending to it, and without the uneasy 
4 



ob RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 

task of maintaining a point so shocking to the under- 
standing of mankind."* This is not a libel ; this is 
a satire ; the worst is, this satirical stroke is true. 
The church of Rome refuses the Scriptures to the 
people ; some protestant churches grant the sight of 
the book, but retain the meaning. Can you see any 
difference ? Search or not search, read or not read, 
the sense is fixed, it is at the peril of your prefer- 
ment to vary. 

Whence church governors pretend to derive this 
right does not signify. It can neither be derived 
from the nature of Christianity, the doctrine or prac- 
tice of Christ or his Apostles, the condition of man 
in a state of nature, his condition as a member of 
society subject to magistracy, nor indeed in England 
from any thing but the act of supremacy; an act 
which transferred a power over men's consciences 
from the pope to the king. His Majesty Henry the 
VIITth, by a master stroke in politics, preferred an 
indictment against the whole body of the clergy in 
Westminster Hall, and obtained judgment upon the 
statute of praemunire, whereby they were all declared 
to be out of the king's protection, and to have for- 
feited all their goods and chattels ; and then pardoned 
them on two conditions ; first, that they should pay 
into the exchequer £118,840. Secondly, that they 

* [The curious Dedication, from which these words are quoted, 
was written by Hoadly. See the whole article in the present 
Collection, Vol. i. p. 255. Ep.] 



RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 39 

should yield his Majesty the title of sole and supreme 
head of the church of England; a title which by 
subsequent declarations was so explained, as to anni- 
hilate the right of private judgment, and yet private 
judgment gave birth to this very act. 

Suppose his Majesty Harry the VHIth, exercis- 
ing the authority allowed by the act of supremacy, 
and among other things forming a creed for his sub- 
jects ; suppose him a man of shallow capacity ; would 
not his creed have been too lean and poor for many 
of his subjects ? And on the contrary, suppose him 
a man of an exalted genius, of a prodigious stretch of 
thought ; would not his creed have been too rich and 
full for many more ? But the impossibility of exer- 
cising such a power was discussed in the last letter ; 
this is to canvass the legality of it. 

No mean can be lawful in itself which destroys the 
end for which it is appointed. Now the end to be 
obtained is the establishment of Christianity. But 
how can the depriving men of the right of private 
judgment be a lawful mean of obtaining that end, 
seeing Christianity is a personal obedience to the laws 
of Christ arising from a conviction of their excellency, 
and their connexion with certain facts of whose cer- 
tainty evidence is given, which evidence to be re- 
ceived must be examined ? Christianity proposes 
truths of speculation and truths of practice ; if men 
can examine and ascertain the first by proxy, why 
not obey the last in the same manner ? But who 
can love or fear, believe or hope, by substitution ? 



40 RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 

If to deny the right of private judgment be de- 
structive of the nature of Christianity in general, it is 
more remarkably so of the Christianity of the reform- 
ed churches. The right of private judgment is the 
very foundation of the Reformation, and without es- 
tablishing the former in the fullest sense, the latter 
can be nothing but a faction in the state, a schism in 
the church. The language of the reformers must be 
something like this when they proposed subscription. 
"Gentlemen, the right of private judgment allowed 
of God, and supported by all kinds of argument, hath 
been challenged and exercised by men for upwards 
of five thousand five hundred years ; we ourselves 
have recovered it from the pope, who had unlawfully 
usurped this right, and as God, sat in the temple of 
God. In virtue of this right, we have examined 
the holy Scriptures, fixed their meaning, and engag- 
ed the king to support a creed, which by delegation 
we have composed for his Majesty, and for all his 
subjects. In us the right of private judgment ceases, 
and should England continue five thousand five hun- 
dred years longer, no man shall exercise this right 
without suffering all the penalties we can inflict. In- 
deed all Europe is but just emerging from barbarity, 
learning is but in its infancy, and England is torn 
and rent with civil dissensions. In all probability, 
peace may succeed war, learning may diffuse itself, 
and invigorate to maturity ; and a hundred years 
honco men may arise infinitely more capable than we 



RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 41 

aie ; but let succeeding ages improve as they will, 
all men shall leave the minster where they find it." 
How say you, Sir ? Cranmer stained his archiepis- 
copal hands with blood ; but could even Cranmer 
have opened the convocation with such a speech as 
this ? Yet speak it or no, it is all fact. 

The reformers were not to blame for exercising 
the right of private judgment themselves; their fault 
was a denial of the same right to others. They had 
the highest authority for what they did, deriving it 
from the doctrine and example of Christ and his 
Apostles. 

Take one, two, or more of our Saviour's doctrines, 
and ask what magic can there be in subscribing them 
without examination ? Himself never proposed such 
a thing, but on the contrary, exhorted his hearers to 
search the Scriptures ; a strange impertinence, unless 
the right of private judgment be allowed ! Nor did 
he only exhort the people to judge for themselves, 
but he also warned his disciples not to usurp that 
right. Call no man your father upon the earth, net* 
ther be ye called masters. Neither impose your 
opinions upon others, nor suffer them to impose theirs 
upon you. 

Had Jesus Christ considered the right of private 
judgment in an unlawful light, he would first have in- 
structed Herod, or Caiaphas, or some of the princi- 
pal rabbies, and by them he would have converted 
the nation. But instead of that, he condemns th^ 
4* 



42 



RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 



doctrines of the church governors, addresses his ser- 
mons ad populum, gives it as a proof of his mission 
that the gospel was preached to the poor, and constant- 
ly protects his followers in the exercise of the right 
of private judgment. When the disciples plucked 
and ate the ears of corn, they broke two canons of 
the established church. It was on a sabbath day; 
and probably before morning service was over ; and 
the church had determined the illegality of what 
they did. Used to judge for themselves, they thought 
the church mistaken in this case, ventuied to think 
for themselves, and acted accordingly. Did not 
Jesus Christ protect them in their claim ? 

The Apostles, worthy followers of such a master, 
went into all nations, preaching a doctrine which no 
church governors upon earth believed. Did they 
deny the right of private judgment ? If they had, 
their expeditions would have been in the Quixotic 
style. Did St Paul write to Corinth? I speak as 
to wise men ; judge ye what I say. Did he write 
to Rome ? Let every man be fully persuaded in 
his own mind. Every body understood this. The 
populace at Berea, men and women, searched the 
Scriptures daily whether these things were so % The 
students at Athens desired to know what the new doc- 
trine was, of which the Apostle spake ; for the pur- 
pose of search, no doubt. The magistrates, as Gallio, 
declared themselves no judges in such matters. 
And hence the amazing success of his preaching ; 



RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 43 

for what himself calls preaching ivith demonstration 
of the spirit, and power, St Luke calls reasoning in 
the synagogue every sabbath day. Compare Acts 
xviii. 4. with 1 Cor. ii. 4, 5. Who can account for 
all this without the right of private judgment ? 

Consider the condition of man in a state of nature ; 
and you will readily grant either that a right of de- 
termining for himself is no man's, or every man's 
right. Vindicate the right to one, and you do it to 
two, to two hundred, to two thousand, to the whole 
world ; for all in a state of nature are on a level. 
There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, 
prince nor subject ; the right of one argued from his 
nature, is the right of all. Whether men forfeit this 
right in a state of society is another question. 

A christian not only cannot, but if he could he 
ought not to dispose of this right, because not only- 
he cannot be a christian without its exercise, but all 
the purposes of civil government may be answered 
without it. The power of the magistrate is an article 
of importance enough to demand a particular discus- 
sion ; let the remaining space of this letter be filled 
up with inquiring, whether, if this advantage of pri- 
vate judging had been denied to other classes of 
men, the world would not have sustained infinite 
damage ? 

Choose of the mechanical arts, or of the sciences, 
which you please, place it in the state in which it 
was seven hundred, five hundred, or two hundred 



44 RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 

years ago ; let its then present state be defined, its 
ne plus ultra determined ; let all future search be 
prohibited, and what an innumerable multitude of 
useful discoveries are men deprived of? 

When Columbus first imparted his designs rela- 
tive to the discovery of America to Ferdinand, king 
of Spain, his Majesty thought proper to advise with 
his ecclesiastical counsellors about it. All were 
against the project, and quoted St Austin, who, in 
his book de eivitate Dei, had declared it impossible 
to pass out of one hemisphere into another ; and had 
denied that there co dd be any Antipodes. Seneca, 
Seneca the heathen, had declared long before, that 
future ages would discover new worlds, and that 
Thule would not be the farthest region upon earth. 
In this case it must be owned that St Austin was an 
heretic, and Seneca a sound believer. The king 
and Columbus ventured to dissent, judged for them- 
selves, and found ample reward for so doing, not- 
withstanding clerical decisions. Indeed, St Austin 
was not the only person who denied the possibility of 
Antipodes ; the church denied it, that is, the head, 
Pope Zachary, denied it for all the members. And 
this is the order that he sent to his legate Boniface, 
Archbishop of Mentz, who had accused Virgil, bish- 
op of Saltzburg, of holding the dangerous error of 
the Antipodes. " If," says the head of the church, 
" he should be convicted of maintaining that per- 
verse doctrine, which he hath uttered against the 



RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 45 

Lord, and against his own sou], that is, that there is 
another world, other men under the earth, another 
sun and another moon, call a consistory, degrade 
him from the honour of the priesthood, et ab ecclesid 
pelle." A fine story for a man to be excommuni- 
cated for ! 

Has not all Europe pitied the fate of Copernicus 
and Galileo, the fathers of modern astronomy ? The 
first kept his work near forty years before he dared 
to publish it, and died immediately after it was pre- 
sented to him ; the persecution he dreaded being 
the supposed cause. As to Galileo, he was charged 
with heresy, first, for affirming that the sun was in the 
centre ; secondly, that the earth was not in the 
centre, but had a diurnal motion. His works were 
burnt, himself imprisoned, and being released was 
enjoined a penance of repeating once a week for 
three years the seven penitential psalms. As if the 
penitential psalms said any thing about Galileo's 
crime ! But these are some of the fruits of denying 
the right of private judgment. The pope, the sole 
judge, was pleased to think that these discoveries in 
geography and astronomy clashed with certain doc- 
trines established in the church. 

What a condition would all Christendom have 
been in by this time, had not this extravagant claim 
been denied, and the right of private judgment 
established in arts and sciences ? All the received 
systems of music, astronomy, physic, and of all othey 



■16 RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 

arts and sciences, were originally private opinions j 
probably they would have been so still, had the 
inventors been prohibited publishing, or the public 
examining and receiving them. But now, mankind 
form into societies, impart their own discoveries, 
ofTer rewards to other inventors or improvers of arts 
and sciences ; and what follows ? What might be 
expected ; the perfection of science. Thus Cicero 
accounts for that literary pre-eminence which Greece 
had over Rome ; and thus in all nations and in all 
ages will the same effects follow the same causes ; in 
England as in Rome the maxim is true, honos alit 
artes. 

Numerous are the objections made to this doc- 
trine ; there are, however, but two that are worth 
answering. The first is, that Christianity is perfect 
and entire in the holy Scriptures, that herein it dif- 
fers from human arts and sciences, that therefore the 
inquisitiveness necessary for the latter would be 
highly injurious to the former. To which it may be 
justly answered, that many people doubt this, as the 
church of Rome, whose notion is too fully expressed 
by Cardinal Hosius, who said that the Scriptures were 
of no more authority than iEsop's fables, were it not 
for the authority of the church ; as the people called 
Quakers, who consider the holy Scriptures as a 
secondary rule subordinate to the spirit ; and many 
others wholly deny their divinity. Now ought not 
all these people to be all ■ivved the liberty of exam- 
ining the proofs of the divinity and perfection of the 



RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 47 

Bible ? For private judgment which is their malady 
is also their only medicine. But let the perfection 
of the holy canon be granted. It will amount to no 
more than granting the perfection of the works of 
nature. In both, invisible things, even the eternal 
power and Godhead are to be seen and understood 
by the things that are made* The word of revela- 
tion, like the works of nature, presents objects to view, 
but objects to be examined and understood ; and 
how can this be without the right of private judg- 
ment ? 

You say the Scriptures give a perfect account of 
the nature of God, the nature of man, the vanity of 
the life that now is, the certainty of the life that is to 
come ; but how is another man to know this, unless 
you allow him to examine and determine for him- 
self? It may be a perfect rule, it may be a subordi- 
nate rule, it may be a false rule, it may be no rule at 
all, for any thing he knows who must not examine, 
or if he examines must not determine ; for to retain 
the meaning is to retain the book ; and there is no 
real difference between denying the examination and 
denying the conclusion. You know the story of 
father Fulgentio, preaching at Venice on Pilate's 
question, What is truth ? He told his hearers that 
at last after many searches he had found it out, and 
held out a New Testament, and said, that there it 
was in his hand ; but then he put it in his pocket, 
and coldly said ; But the book is prohibited. Now 
what great difference would there have been, if he 



46 RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT. 

had said, You may read the book, but its true mean- 
ing is prohibited ? Yet this is what all the Arminian 
clergy in England must say, if they speak consistently 
with themselves ; for in the opinion of all impartial 
judges the established religion is Calvinism. 

The other objection is, that this will open a door 
to all sorts of heresies, and the truth will be oppressed 
and disappear. Indeed ! And is truth such a tim- 
orous, cowardly thing ? What idle fears are these ! 
Should an honest man be taxed with dissoluteness 
and impiety, and should any propose to him a fair 
trial before impartial judges, would he be frightened 
at it, think you ? Christianity is not to be loaded with 
calumnies, she is so already, her only hope is a fair 
trial. 

But to abridge the matter. Do not facts contradict 
this ? Is not the church of Rome full of heresy ? 
Have not the Gospel and the right of private judgment 
gone hand in hand in the reformation ? Are the power 
and promise of God nothing ? Has he not engaged 
to support his church ? Does not every thing pro- 
posed to men relate to some operation of their 
minds ? Does not a rational fancy protect the truth 
of imagery in poetry, and an honest conscience reli- 
gion ? Strange errors have been proposed which the 
penetration of church governors could neither foresee, 
nor provide against ; and it has happened to them as 
to monstrous images in poems ; they are dead, and 
buried, and exploded, and the public taste not injured 
thereby. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS 

OF 

BAPTISM, 

AS REGARDING CHURCH FELLOWSHIP. 



[The article here selected makes a part only of 
an essay entitled, The General Doctrine of Tolera- 
tion applied to the particular Case of Free Com- 
munion. It has a direct reference to that portion of 
the Baptist denomination, who hold to what is called 
close communion, or the doctrine, that no persons 
are qualified to be members of a christian church, 
who have not been baptized by immersion. The 
author pleads for a mixed communion, by which 
persons baptized in infancy are received into Baptist 
churches, provided such persons are satisfied with 
the validity of their own baptism, as having in their 
opinion been performed according to the spirit and 
intention of the Gospel. 

Robinson argues, that this kind of fellowship is 
allowable, because the New Testament nowhere 
enjoins any particular mode of baptism, as an abso- 
lutely essential qualification for being a member of 
the true church of Christ. He goes farther, and 
5 



50 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

proves, that there is no positive command requiring 
baptism in any form, as a prerequisite for church 
communion. This is left to the conscience and 
judgment of every christian. Any one sincerely 
believing the Gospel, and thinking it his duty to 
approach the Lord's table, cannot be rightfully de- 
nied this privilege, although he may not be con- 
vinced that the law of Christ demands his submission 
to the ordinance of baptism. The author considers 
both of the ordinances as of divine institution, and 
as designed for every christian ; but at the same time 
he does not suppose there is any immediate connex- 
ion between them, nor that any christian minister or 
church has a right to refuse one to a brother, who 
may desire it, because he cannot see his way clear 
to participate of both. There is as much impropri- 
ety in withholding the Lord's supper till baptism be 
performed, as there would be in refusing baptism till 
the person had become a communicant. Neither 
the Saviour nor the Apostles have declared, that 
either of these shall precede the other, nor that one 
shall be denied, if the other have not been complied 
with. 

Such are the views of the author as expressed at 
large in this essay, where they are unfolded with his 
usual freedom and perspicuity, and with more than 
his usual method, closeness of thought, and sound 
argument. This may be ranked among his best 
specimens of composition, and has almost none of his 
peculiar defects. He has succeeded in checking the 
busy meddlings of his fancy, which, on other occa- 
sions, is too apt to lead him astray, and prove a 
treacherous guide to his taste and judgment. He 
thought the subject of high importance, as it truly is, 
in its bearing on the principles and practice of chris- 
tian fellowship. If his views are correct, and he 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 



51 



brings scripture and reason to prove them so, many 
of the formidable barriers, which have been raised 
to keep christians asunder, to frighten the timid and 
harden the obstinate, to scatter the brands of dis- 
cord and heat the fire of persecution, may be pulled 
down, and the ground left open and free where all 
the sincere disciples of Jesus may meet in love and 
peace, in fellowship and kind feeling. 

One head of the essay relating to the history of the 
controversy concerning free communion, among the 
Baptists, and also a few closing reflections, are omit- 
ted, as not immediately connected with the subject 
of baptism, to which the parts of the essay here given 
are confined.] 

The most diligent and upright disciples of Jesus 
Christ have always entertained, and do yet entertain 
various sentiments concerning articles of faith and 
modes of divine worship, and there are but two ways 
of acting among christians in this case. 

The first, which the far greater part profess to 
pursue, is that of obtaining, some way or other, unity 
of faith, and uniformity of practice. In the papal 
corporation, and in some reformed communities, 
riches and power contend with weakness and want 
to silence scruples, and to force a real or professed 
uniformity. In some of our nonconformist churches, 
learning, argument, and beneficence are employed to 
produce the same effect. At length, however, 
unquestionable facts prove, that, how upright soever 
the attempt may be, the end is unattainable. The 
mind of man, uncontrolled in its operations, and for 



52 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

ever diversifying its modes of thinking, refuses to 
submit to restraint, and it is the virtue of such a 
mind to avow its refusal. 

If uniformity cannot be obtained, say the other, 
and the smaller part of christians, there remains only 
one thing for us to do ; we must so constitute our 
churches as to allow variety of sentiment and prac- 
tice, and by so doing acknowledge the force of nature 
for the voice of God. Let us put, say they, toler- 
ation in the place of uniformity ; this can never be 
produced ; but that lies within the reach of every 
society. 

The English nonconformists have, of all mankind, 
best understood, and most practised christian liberty; 
but there have arisen in many of their churches, as 
may naturally be supposed of men zealous for their 
religious principles, doubts and debates concerning 
the extent of that toleration, which christian liberty 
implies, but which, however, ought not to run into 
licentiousness, as it would if it went so far as to 
hazard the purity of gospel worship and order. 

Under this consideration comes the well known 
controversy among our Baptist congregations, 
whether churches consisting of members all baptized 
by immersion on a profession of faith and repentance, 
ought to admit into their fellowship such persons as 
profess faith and repentance, and desire communion 
with them, but refuse to be baptized by immersion, 
because they account they have been rightly bap- 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 53 

tized by sprinkling in their infancy. To this ques- 
tion, and to this only, we shall confine our attention. 
This whole debate, I should suppose, may be 
divided into a case of fact and a case of right. 

Case of fact. On the one hand, it is a matter 
of fact, that many sincere disciples of Christ declare, 
that, having renounced all authority except that of 
the holy Scriptures to decide in all matters of faith 
and practice, and having searched the Scriptures 
with all the diligence and rectitude, of which they 
are capable, they think infant baptism of divine ap- 
pointment, and rightly performed by sprinkling water 
on the face. 

It is a matter of fact, that many baptist churches 
do conscientiously admit such persons into their 
fellowship. 

It is also a fact, that these churches affirm, and they 
are best capable of giving evidence in this case, that 
no inconvenience has arisen to them from the mixture 
of their communion. The writer of this has been a 
member of such a church more than twenty years, 
but has never heard of the least disadvantage arising 
to the community from it, and he has received a like 
attestation from the ministers of several other mixed 
churches. 

Further, it is a fact, that these members perform 
all the duties of church fellowship, glorify God in 
their lives and conversations, and support the charac- 
5* 



54 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

ter of christians as honourably as the baptist brethren 
do. 

Moreover, it is a matter of fact, that some church- 
es have been mixed from before the time of the civil 
war in the reign of Charles I. when the baptists first 
made their public appearance in England. 

In fine, it is an undeniable fact, that, during the 
time of the great papal apostaey, while churches were 
congregated in private for fear of prelatical persecu- 
tion, believers, who held infant baptism, and believ- 
ers, who disowned it, were united in the same com- 
munity, as ancient manuscripts and authentic records 
abundantly prove. 

On the other hand, it is certain, that, from the first 
public appearance of baptist churches in England, 
many have refused, and to this day continue to refuse 
to admit into their fellowship all manner of persons, 
however qualified in other respects, who have not 
been baptized by immersion on their own profession 
of faith and repentance. 

It is equally true, that all these baptists allow the 
piety and virtue of unbaptized believers, account 
them members of the mystical body of Christ, and 
some of them possessors of knowledge and piety far 
superior to their own, and they hold themselves bound 
to discharge every kind office to them, except this 
one of admitting them to church fellowship. 

It is a fact, that these churches do not believe bap- 
tism a saving ordinance, nor do they think it a test of 



"NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 55 

true religion, nor do they bold that unbaptized be- 
lievers ought not to be tolerated in a state, nor do 
they deny any intelligent being the right of private 
judgment ; they only refuse to tolerate infant baptism 
in their own churches. 

It is also a clear fact, that these baptists affirm, 
their refusal does not proceed from wilful ignorance, 
obstinacy, spirit of party, bigotry, or any other illibe- 
ral disposition ; but from a fear of offending God by 
acting without a sufficient warrant from his written 
word, the rule of all religious conduct. Their testi- 
mony ought to be admitted, because they are the 
best judges of their own motives, because the gene- 
ral conduct of their lives confirms their testimony, 
and because (of some of them it must be allowed) 
they extend candour and compliments and polite pro- 
fessions of liberality of sentiment far, very far indeed, 
beyond what some of their brethren, who hold free 
communion, pretend to do. 

Moreover, it is a fact unquestionable, that, as some 
independent churches practising free communion 
have admitted so many baptists members, that the 
latter have in time formed a great majority, who have 
chosen a baptist minister, through whose influence 
the church has become a baptist church ; so, on the 
contrary, some baptist churches holding free com- 
munion have admitted so many unbaptized members, 
that the churches have in time chosen ministers, who 
held infant baptism, and lost the ordinance of baptism 
bv immersion. 



5t> NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

Lastly, it is matter of fact, that the primitive 
churches, those in Greece, that at Rome, and all 
others, were originally constituted baptist churches, 
and that they lost the ordinance of baptism, along 
with the doctrines of the Gospel, and the very nature 
and essence of christian churches, not by practising 
a wise toleration towards men of allowed piety, but 
by setting up certain external qualifications of church 
members, which in time became tests of orthodoxy, 
to which wicked men could and did conform, under 
pretence of authority from Christ to establish unifor- 
mity. 

All these are facts, but none of these constitute 
christian law, and, if we would ascertain what is 
right, we must distinguish what is from what ought 
to be. 

Case of right. The question before us is, 
right to church fellowship, and our inquiry must ne- 
cessarily be, What makes it just and right for church- 
es to admit of mixed communion ? The proper an- 
swer to this inquiry, on the allowed principles of all 
disputants, is, the revealed will of Jesus 
Christ, the original projector of church fellowship, 
and the sole legislator in all the assemblies of his 
saints. 

In strict adherence to this truly protestant ground 
of action, and in order to try out the question as fair- 
ly and clearly as we can, we will ascertain the judge 
of the controversy, and the law of the case ; and in 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 57 

order to this we will turn the subject on both sides, 
and first show negatively what does not make the law 
of the case, and then positively what does. 

First, then, nothing can be determined concern- 
ing the right in question from the universal consent, 
real or pretended, of men out of our own community. 

We divide these into four classes, and, although 
we have all due regard for them, yet we reject each 
apart, and all together, as judges pronouncing law in 
this case. 

1. The fathers are incompetent, for, if any thing 
in their writings looks like the case before us, it is 
the case of heretical baptism ; but the amount of all 
our inquiries on this article would be, that one says 
yea, and another says nay, and both refer us to Jesus 
Christ, and so we leave off where we began. 

2. Roman Catholics, both in council and out of 
it, are incompetent ; for their proper work is not in- 
vestigation of truth, much less determining protestant 
controversies ; but submission to infallible papal au- 
thority. 

3. Polemical dicines, and pious ones too, in estab' 
lished reformed churches, utter no law here. The 
case in hand never came, never could come serious- 
ly before them, and, if it had, having previously re- 
signed the right of judging for themselves by subscrib- 
ing a religious test, they could not prudently, or even 
uprightly, give an opinion in direct contradiction to it. 
AH baptists judge, that these divines are mistaken in 



5S NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

every part of baptism, in the nature, the subject, the 
mode, and the end of it, and this is one reason of 
their dissent from them ; they cannot therefore con- 
sistently allow their opinions on baptism and church 
government the force of law. 

4. Learned critics, foreign or domestic, have no 
occasion to interfere in this case, nor can they be of- 
fended at our affirming, that the christian church 
stands in no need of their assistance in this point 
now before them, for this plain reason, it is not a 
learned question. It would be a great misfortune to 
a company of plain, homely christians in church fel- 
lowship, if any case pertaining to life and godliness 
must cost fifteen hundred pounds worth of Latin and 
Greek to make it evident and clear. 

Should all these four classes of writers agree to 
make baptism necessary to salvation, necessary to a 
civil office, necessary to receiving the Lord's supper, 
necessary to the honour of being enrolled in the 
parish register while we live, and necessary to that 
of putrifying among our neighbours after we are dead, 
and should any baptist so far forget himself as to urge 
this universal consent as argument why we should not 
admit the persons in question to the Lord's table; I 
will venture to say, it would be an unfair appeal to 
the sheepishncss of some, and the modesty of others, 
in a case of conscience, where only scripture is law. 
and Christ alone is judge. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 59 

Secondly, nothing can be argued for or against this 
right from the great names in our own churches em- 
ployed in this controversy. Gale and Foster, Bunyan 
and Kiftjn, along with all the moderns, before whom 
the case actually came, and who had personal interest 
in deciding it, are respectable as counsel pleading on 
different sides of the question, and we calmly attend 
to what they say ; but none of their opinions con- 
stitute the law of the case. 

Thirdly, nothing can be determined for it from 
general notions of benevolence and usefulness, nor 
against it from zealous and uptight intentions of pre- 
serving purity of doctrine and order ; for in a case 
that comes under written revealed law, as the consti- 
tution of christian churches evidently does, general 
dispositions must be regulated by particular direc- 
tions. 

Fourthly, neither can one side infer the right in 
question from any particular case mentioned in the 
New Testament, nor can the other support their plea 
against it by the silence of the New Testament ; for 
the truth is, infant baptism was not then known, and 
consequently the case of admitting to fellowship per- 
sons baptized in infancy does not occur there. 

Fifthly, no accidental circumstances can deter- 
mine this matter. There have fallen into this con- 
troversy, as into all others, a collection of what I call 
accidental circumstances, and which have been 



60 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

argued upon, and have led off the attention of the 
inquirer from the case in hand. For example ; 

1. Cases have been supposed and urged, as that 
of admitting Jesuits, and Quakers, and others ; but 
these suppositions prove nothing. Lawyers say 
truly, there is nothing so hard to find, as a case in 
point. These cases are not in point, for they never 
did happen, they never can happen, and were they 
to happen they would not be this case, and they 
must be investigated on other principles, and rejected 
for other reasons. Neither supposed cases urged on 
one side, nor real cases allowed on the other, con- 
stitute the law of this case. 

2. The motives, tempers, and views of the dis- 
putants decide nothing. A sour, surly man may 
growl and grumble truth, a well bred man may 
warble melodious nonsense, a sincere disputant may 
be a very silly fellow, and a man right in his princi- 
ples may be wrong in his motives of defending them. 

3. Mistakes and self-contradictions in writers 
yield no argument against the general truth, which 
they are defending. If upright men sometimes in 
the heat of controversy forget themselves, we should 
do worse than they, were we to magnify their frailty 
into a crime, and their crime into a rule of action. 
On the other hand, an argument may be uniform, 
and free from self-contradiction, and yet it may not 
hit the case. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. CI 

4. Frightful consequences, affixed by one writer 
to the arguments of another, ought not to be urged 
as decisive reasoning constituting the law of a case. 

In short, the right or wrong of this case is deter- 
minable only by the written revealed will of God, a 
test of truth, which all the parties will allow. 

Having thus cleared the court of a bustling, noisy 
crowd, that do no good because they give no evi- 
dence, and do a deal of harm because they perplex 
the question by throwing in a quantity of foreign 
matter, let us proceed to investigate what is the law 
of Christ in this case. 

We affirm, then, that it is just, and right, and 
agreeable to the revealed will of Christ, that Bap- 
tist churches should admit into their fellowship such 
persons as desire admission on profession of faith 
and repentance, although they refuse to be baptized 
by immersion, because they sincerely believe they 
have been rightly baptized by sprinkling in their 
infancy. 

By way of explanation, I beg leave to distinguish 
what our divines call the esse, or the being of a 
church, from the melius esse, or best being of one ; 
for, although I affirm such a mixt church to be a 
rightly constituted church, yet I do not say its con- 
stitution is so perfect as that of the primitive churches. 
A church that tolerates is a good church ; but a 
church that has no errors to tolerate is a better. 
We do not, therefore, blame those churches, which 
6 



62 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

were never required to admit unbaptized believers, 
for maintaining strict communion ; we only say, 
where the requisition is made, a compliance with it 
is just and right. 

In support of this sentiment, we beg leave to offer 
two sorts of arguments, the first taken from those 
general principles of analogy, on which, the Scrip- 
tures declare, the christian church is founded ; and 
the second from the express laws of Jesus Christ 
recorded in scripture for the regulation of our con- 
duct. 

God is an intelligent being. An intelligent being 
exercises his intelligence when he constructs any 
exterior work, and the work will resemble the intel- 
ligence of its maker. A wise and beneficent being 
will naturally and necessarily form a work full of 
beneficence and wisdom. Should a perfect being 
create a world, it would be a world expressive of his 
invisible perfections ; should he form a church in this 
world, it would be a church constituted on similar 
principles ; and, if skill and compassion were excel- 
lencies of his nature, compassion and skill might be 
expected in the construction of his church. There 
would be an analogy, or resemblance, between the 
ties of nature and the social bonds of grace. 

We find, on reading the New Testament, that 
God is the author of Christianity, the creator of the 
christian church, that he hath displayed the eminence 
of his perfections in the construction of it, and that 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. Co 

he hath inviolably preserved an analogy between the 
natural and preternatural worlds. This is the true 
ground of all the parables, in which Christ taught his 
heavenly doctrine, and of all the discourses, by which 
he displayed the conduct of God to men under 
resemblances of a father and his sons, a shepherd 
and his flock, a husbandman and his lands, and so on. 
For the same reasons, we are expressly told of the 
aboundings, or abundance, of the wisdom and pru- 
dence, the power and pity, the forbearance and 
patience, love and compassion of God toward his 
church. He exercises the same attributes in the 
church as in the world, with this only difference, the 
display is brightest in the first. This is what we call 
analogy, and from this general source we derive 
many particular arguments from the nature and fit- 
ness of things in defence of our proposition. 

First ; It is just, and right, and agreeable to the 
nature and fitness of things, that we should diminish 
evils and difficulties, which we are not able wholly to 
remove. There are in nature a thousand obstacles in 
the way of every just pursuit. Agriculture, com- 
merce, navigation, literature, government, civil and 
domestic, are all attended with difficulties, some of 
which threaten the subversion of the whole. It 
should seem better, at first sight, that no obstacles 
should exist to discourage such just and laudable 
pursuits ; but they do exist, and we cannot help their 
existence, yea, perhaps their existence may be neces- 



64 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

sary to give being and exercise to some of the finest 
abilities and virtues of mankind. 

Our skill, and our duty too, consist neither in 
wholly removing these evils, for that is not in our 
power, nor in remaining plaintive and inactive, doing 
nothing where much may be done, though not all we 
wish ; but in diminishing these ills, and in making the 
most and best of such materials as providence hath 
actually put into our hands. Every projector of a 
great design exercises his penetration in foreseeing 
what obstacles may obstruct the execution of it, and 
much of his skill lies in providing against them. 

We apply this to the case in hand. Christianity 
is highly fitted, and admirably adapted to the actual 
state and condition of men and things in this world. 
It was excellently said by Jesus Christ, The sabbath 
was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, im- 
plying that positive religion was so contrived as to 
yield in certain cases to natural and necessary con- 
tingencies. The man, who uses all diligence to ob- 
tain evidence of believers' baptism, and cannot obtain 
it, and yet desires admission to the Lord's table, 
throws a difficulty in the way of the church, a diffi- 
culty too, which they cannot remove ; but the ques- 
tion is, can they not diminish it ? It hath pleased 
God to give this man faith in Christ and moral obedi- 
ence ; but it does not please him to give him light, 
into adult baptism. He does not belong to the world, 
he does not desire to trouble the church, he only 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 



05 



wishes for a peaceable admission to fellowship ; we 
cannot give him knowledge, we cannot baptize him 
without it; but we can admit him to the Lord's table, 
and so build God's house with the best materials we 
have. It is a case of insurmountable difficulty ; it 
cannot be wholly removed ; but it may be diminished. 
This argument is taken from that analogy which there 
evidently is between the economy of nature and that 
of Christianity ; and, if it be a less evil for an unbap- 
tized believer to be incorporated in the church than 
to lie exposed in the world, the reasoning is valid. 

Secondly ; It is fit, and right, and agreeable to 
the nature of things, that there should be no disqual- 
ification where there is no crime. On this principle 
we argue against a sacramental test in the episcopal 
church. Christian churches are free states, and full 
fellowship is the new birthright of every regenerate 
man. The candidate for fellowship, who has exam- 
ined believers' baptism by immersion, and cannot 
obtain evidence of the truth of it, is indeed in a state 
in which his knowledge is imperfect ; but his imper- 
fection is innocent, because he hath exercised all the 
ability and virtue he has, and his ignorance is invol- 
untary, yea, perhaps he may have exercised ten times 
more industry and application, though without suc- 
cess, than many others, who have obtained evidence. 
To deny church fellowship to persons of genuine 
virtue, and of, it may be, superior virtue too, is to 
affix a disgrace and inflict a punishment both without 
6* 



GG NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

an offence, and in violation of a right. This is a case 
of involuntary error, and there is, there can be no 
moral turpitude in it. Where there is allowed virtue 
in the general course of a man's actions, and no moral 
evil in one particular imperfection, it is not imagina- 
ble that any punishment should be inflicted, or any 
benefit of society denied. Now as we all agree, that 
Christ hath constituted his church on principles of 
equity, it should seem, this argument is valid and of 
force. 

Thirdly ; It is just, and right, and agreeable to the 
nature of things, that all men should be placed in that 
condition, in which they can do most good. By this 
rule we determine what is usually denominated a call 
in providence, and an all-sufficient rule it is. Now, 
by excluding the persons in question from church fel- 
lowship, we deprive the church of many wise and 
worthy members, who might become extremely use- 
ful, and we deny them the liberty of exercising such 
abilities as God gave them for the public edification. 
If Christ constituted his church on a principle of pro- 
moting the greatest social good, it should seem, this 
argument also ought to have its weight. 

Fourthly ; It is just and right in virtuous commu- 
nities, that a visible difference shoidd be put between 
the righteous and the wicked. If hatred of sin and 
love of holiness were principles of constructing the 
christian church, as they certainly were, this argu- 
ment too is good. The candidate in question is not 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 0/ 

rejected on account of any thing in common with the 
rest of exempts ; he is neither an infidel, nor an im- 
moral man, yet he is as really excluded as they are. 
This is a confounding of characters essentially dif- 
ferent, which should seem unwarrantable in a society 
professedly incorporated for the purpose of separat- 
ing and distinguishing them. Shall he that siveareth, 
and he that fear eth an oath, be held at equal distance 
from the Lord's table, and all the other benefits of 
church fellowship ? 

Fifthly ; It would argue great unfitness in any 
scheme of religion for this world, if it made no pro- 
vision for human imperfections. If a plan of religion 
provided for the wilful perpetration of vice, it would 
be a scheme fit for infernal spirits. If it provided 
only for perfect knowledge and virtue, it would be a. 
plan fit for only angels to realize ; but if, while it 
provided for eminent attainments of knowledge and 
goodness, it provided also for imperfections, that is, 
for small and inferior degrees of science and moral 
excellence ; if it provided for increase of knowledge 
and virtue, though accompanied with much ignorance 
and weakness, then would it commend itself for a divine 
system fitted by perfect wisdom and goodness for frail, 
imperfect men. The candidates, for whom we plead, 
are allowed to possess that general excellence, a 
supreme love to truth and virtue, from which all 
knowledge and all good actions proceed ; but they 
have not yet attained those peculiar exercises of it. 



GS NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

which produce some particular parts of obedience ; 
however, it seems fit and right, that they should be 
permitted to perform all they do know, and patiently 
borne with till they are able to make further progress. 
If Jesus Christ constituted his church on principles of 
patience and forbearance, condescension and long- 
suffering, it should seem, this argument also ought to 
have some authority over us. 

From arguments of this sort, and we omit many 
which might be adduced, there arises a high proba- 
bility, that it is just and right for christian churches 
to admit of free communion. 

Were these reasonings on the nature of things 
alone, and were they unconnected with revelation, 
and unsupported by it, they would come under the 
description of general dispositions not regulated by 
particular directions, and consequently they ought 
not to be urged in this controversy as decisive in 
point of right or law ; but when we examine the 
Scriptures, and find, that Christianity is actually con- 
stituted on these principles, that these are adopted as 
grounds of the divine conduct to us and rules of our 
actions to one another, we have a right to conclude, 
that these arguments are fair, valid, and conclusive. 

We have not hesitated to affirm, that God was the 
original projector of those associated bodies of men 
for divine worship, which we call christian churches. 
We have made no scruple of affirming that the orig- 
inal projector formed these churches on principles of 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 09 

wisdom, equity, compassion, love of holiness, and so 
on. We have not quoted passages of scripture to 
prove this ; for the point is beyond contradiction, and 
the quotations would be endless. If these should be 
accounted only probable arguments, we trust the next 
will produce demonstration. 

Our second class of arguments we take from 
express laws of church fellowship, contained 
iu the written revealed will of our excellent legis- 
lator. 

First ; We argue from his law of exclusion. 
There are in the New Testament many lists of per- 
sons, who may not be admitted into the christian 
church in this world, and who will be denied an 
entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Some of these 
lists are general, others descend to particulars ; but 
there is no mention of the persons now before us in 
any of them. Had the law of exclusion been made 
by a legislator who could not pry into futurity, it 
might be imagined he did not foresee the case, he 
did not know that such persons would ever appear ; 
but there is no room to urge this ; for our lawgiver 
was a prophet, and a tender prophet, who foresaw 
all future periods and persons, and forewarned his 
church of every thing that would endanger the con- 
stitution of it. 

The natural tendency of every good man is to 
associate witli other good men, and to go with them 
into the enjoyment of every immunity, that belongs to 



70 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

their society ; and his apparent right to enjoy all the 
comforts, as well as to suffer all the crosses of his 
condition is so highly probable, that nothing less than 
a clear, positive, express law of exclusion seems 
necessary to empower any church to refuse his claim. 
If there be no such law, and none such there is, we 
cannot help saying to the candidate before us, — Come 
in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou 
without 9 

Secondly ; We argue from his law of toleration. 
The particular case of the persons in question, we 
allow, is not mentioned in the New Testament ; but 
a general law including this, and many more such 
cases, is published, and answers the end better than 
the insertion of any particular case could have done. 
This law is, that all christians should enjoy unmo- 
lested in the christian church the right of pri- 
vate judgment. In a multitude of passages in the 
New Testament, the disciples of Christ are exhorted 
to judge for themselves in all matters of religion and 
conscience, and this right of self-determination is 
vindicated not only against magistrates, philosophers, 
and rabbies, but against fellow members, as in the 
xivth of romans ; and even against inspired Apostles, 
as in the 8th and 10th verses of the xxiiid of Mat- 
thew. By this law we are bound to allow a universal 
toleration in all matters, that do not destroy the 
essence of gospel worship. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 71 

Before we proceed it will be necessary to explain 
our meaning, and an answer to three plain questions 
will sufficiently do so. First, What do we plead 
for ? We answer, A free toleration of the right of 
private judgment. There is in our churches, strictly 
speaking, no such thing as public faith ; our standard 
of faith is the holy Scripture, and whatever we pub- 
lish beside are the private sentiments of different men, 
and different communities ; and it is questionable 
whether any two churches so exactly agree as bond 
fide to constitute an uniformity. Now we plead for 
the allowance of this right to unbaptized believers. 
What one of our churches allows to another of our 
churches, that, we suppose, each church ought to 
allow to all its own members, and to all good men. 
Secondly, Where do we plead for the free exercise 
of this right to be tolerated ? We answer, not in the 
state, that our civil governors allow, but in the church. 
We do not only affirm, that unbaptized believers have 
a natural right to freedom in Britain, so that they 
may congregate, and form churches of their own faith 
and order ; but we affirm, that they have a scriptural 
right to their own faith and order in our churches. 
It will be objected, this would destroy our own faith 
and order. In answer to this, we propose a third 
question, — How far is this toleration to extend, and 
where shall we draw the line ? We answer, in gen- 
eral, toleration ought to extend as far as is consis- 



72 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

tent with purity of faith and order ; and of this each 
church ought to judge for itself. 

If we descend to particulars, we must observe, 
that the objects of toleration are two, errors of faith, 
and irregularities of practice. In regard to faith, we 
must distinguish between the facts recorded in scrip- 
ture, such as the birth, life, miracles, death, resurrec- 
tion, ascension, second corning, judgment, and uni- 
versal dominion of Christ, from reasonings upon these 
facts ; they are the latter that are the proper objects 
of toleration. He who denies the facts is an infidel, 
he does not believe the record God has given of his 
Son, and consequently he is not a disciple of Christ, 
and so can have no claim to sit at his table. A man, 
who does believe the facts, but who reasons obliquely 
upon them, is a believer, and he ought to be tolerated 
though he is an inconclusive reasoner. The other 
object of toleration is irregularity of practice. Chris- 
tian obedience is submission to two sorts of precepts, 
the one moral, the other positive. The object of 
toleration in moral obedience is that sort of improper 
action, which proceeds not from malice, but from 
infirmity. The object of toleration in positive obe- 
dience is that sort of irregularity, which proceeds 
from innocent mental error. Now this kind of 
toleration, while it provides for the peace and pros- 
perity of the church, and for the ease of tender con- 
sciences, neither destroys the essence of Christianity 
nor the purity of gospel worship. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 73 

In effect, we do tolerate in all our churches each 
of these imperfections. 

1. In regard to faith. A church believing the 
mediation of Jesus Christ, which is a fact, admits a 
believer of this fact to fellowship, although he thinks 
it was necessary in order to this mediation that the 
human soul of Christ should pre-exist his incarnation. 
In such a case the church distinguishes between the 
fact, that Christ is a mediator, which the member 
believes, and his false reasoning upon the fact, that 
it was necessary the human soul of Christ should be 
first created, and that it should exist in heaven before 
his incarnation, in order to mediate between God and 
man in behalf of the Old Testament saints. The same 
may be said of many other cases. We repeat it 
again, the clear facts recorded in scripture are not 
objects of toleration, and a denier of them is an inn- 
del ; but errors in reasoning concerning these facts, 
such as the time and mode of their existence, and so 
on, are objects of toleration, and of a toleration every 
way safe to the facts themselves. 

2. In regard to the toleration of moral irregulari- 
ties, it is certain we are obliged to make, and do 
actually make the distinction above mentioned. We 
exclude members for such immoral actions as pro- 
ceed from malice, and hatred of virtue ; but we 
never think of expelling any for such immoral actions 
as proceed from infirmity. For example. Thou 
shalt not bear false ivitness against thy neighbour, 



74 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

is a moral law, founded in the nature and fitness of 
things ; and should any member of our churches, 
with malicious motives, and on purpose to injure 
another, violate this law, we should expel him as abater 
of morality, an enemy to the rights of all mankind, 
whom he attacked in the one injured person ; but if 
another, without any apparent malice, and merely to 
gratify a silly infirmity, a love of tattling and chatter- 
ing, take up a false report rashly, and tell it care- 
lessly to the injury of his brother, we should not 
expel this man. We should pity him, and pray for 
him, and exhort him to exercise more caution for the 
future ; and, though we knew he had not such an 
absolute government of his tongue as the law required, 
yet we should tolerate him, and such a toleration 
would not in the least endanger the law. 

3. In respect to irregularities in obedience to pos- 
itive precepts, we all exercise a toleration of these in 
an ample manner, except in the one article before 
us, to which some of us object. Our churches have 
never yet agreed on the number of positive institutes. 
All hold two, Baptism and the Lord's supper ; some 
add a third, the Sunday sabbath ; others several 
more, as worshipping God by singing, anointing the 
sick with oil, abstaining from things strangled and 
from blood, and so on. We tolerate irregularities in 
all these cases, and we have instances of pastors, 
who observe the Jewish sabbath, exercising the pas- 
toral office with the highest honour both to the church 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 75 

and themselves, in congregations that profane the 
Jewish sabbath, and hold the Sunday sabbath to be a 
positive divine institute. Now as all positive insti- 
tutes proceed from the same legislator, and ought all 
to be treated with equal reverence, and as we tole- 
rate irregularities in some of them without any danger 
to the general law of obedience to positive religion, 
what imaginable good reason can be produced for 
making an exception in the case of unbaptized 
believers ? 

This kind of toleration is professedly treated of in 
the xivth chapter of Romans, and the inspired Apostle 
defends it on the principles which we have laid down. 
There is, he affirms, no moral turpitude in mental 
errors, and the toleration of them is perfectly con- 
sistent with the safety of the church, the purity of the 
faith, and the order of divine worship. 

The believer who was baptized in his infancy, 
claims a right to church fellowship ; the church 
judges he has not been baptized, but he judges he 
has been baptized in his infancy by sprinkling accord- 
ing to Christ's institution. Now this is his own case ; 
it is a case of innocent irregularity in obeying a pos- 
itive institute, and he ought to be allowed to judge 
for himself. Here the fort of those who refuse 
admission to such members, falls to the ground. 
They reason thus. All churches require persons to 
be baptized before they admit them to the Lord's 
supper ; now we deny that infant sprinkling is bap- 



76 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

tism ; we therefore require persons, who have been 
sprinkled in infancy, to be baptized by immersion. 
When people reason thus for themselves they reason 
rightly ; but when they reason thus for another per- 
son they claim a right of judging for him, and conse- 
quently deny him that liberty of self-judging, which they 
themselves exercise under a law, which the common 
legislator ordained alike for both. We do not then 
plead for the admission of such a person because we 
think he hath been baptized, for in our opinion he 
hath not ; but because he judges he has been bap- 
tized ; and we have no authority to deprive him of 
the right of private judgment, but on the contrary we 
are expressly commanded to allow him the liberty of 
determining for himself. 

If any reply, we allow his right of private judgment, 
and he may join a church of his own sentiments ; we 
answer, that does not alter the case ; you are requir- 
ed to allow the exercise of private judgment in your 
own community, not out of it, where your allowance 
and disallowance operate nothing. 

Agreeably to this principle, when I have had the 
honour to assist in forming a christian church intend- 
ing to hold mixed communion, I have first embodied 
the baptists, and they have afterwards admitted 
believers, who were satisfied with their infant baptism, 
on the footing of toleration. The whole christian 
church, in my opinion, was thus planted in this like- 
ness of Christ's death, and at the same time the laws 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 77 

of christian liberty and toleration were delivered to 
them to be made use of as the exigencies of the 
times should require. 

We will conclude this head with two remarks. 
1. When an unbaptized believer appears before the 
brethren at a church meeting, and, professing faith 
and repentance, requires admission into church fel- 
lowship, the true question before the church is not 
whether he have been baptized, but whether he may 
judge for himself. 2. No instance can be produced 
of any Apostle presuming to judge for any primitive 
christian, and making his opinion the ground of that 
christian's conduct. On the contrary, instances may 
be produced of an inspired Apostle's declaring himself 
of one opinion on positive institutes, and pleading for 
the liberty of christians to embrace another. I know, 
and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is 
nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth 
any thing unclean, to him it is unclean. Let every 
man be persuaded in his own mind. 

Thirdly ; Let us attend to the law of baptism 
itself in its original institution. While we pay all due 
reverence to a divine institute, we ought not to make 
more of it than the instructer made ; neither ought 
we to remove it from that place in which his wisdom 
set it. Baptism has been called an initiating ordi- 
nance, that is, an ordinance by which we enter into 
something. Let us remember this is not a scriptural 
definition of baptism, nor is it admissible except in a 
7* 



76 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

qualified sense. It certainly was not an ordinance by 
which the first baptists entered into church fellowship ; 
for into what church did the disciples of John enter 
by baptism ? Was Jesus Christ admitted a member 
of a christian church by baptism ? Or into what church 
did the Eunuch enter, when Philip alone baptized him 
in the desert. Believers indeed entered on a public 
profession of Christianity in general by baptism, and that 
was all. If some were added to the church immedi- 
ately after baptism, it may not be amiss to recollect, 
that it was immediately after a sermon too, and if this 
connexion of events afforded any argument for the 
nature and place of baptism, it might as well be 
applied to the nature and place of a sermon, and 
preaching might be denominated an initiating ordi- 
nance. The truth is, preaching produced conversion, 
conversion baptism, baptism acquaintance and con- 
versation with church members, and conversation 
church fellowship. When we receive and use an 
ordinance for all the ends for which it was instituted, 
we have done all that is required of us ; but when 
we employ it to other ends, the least that can be said 
of us is, we are wise above what is written. Zeal 
may animate us ; but even zeal, when it does not 
follow knowledge, will misguide us. 

General and vague as this description of the law 
of baptism is, it is sufficient for all the ends, for 
which we produce it ; however, it may serve to elu- 
cidate our meaning, if we be more explicit. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 79 

We affirm, then, that baptism is not a church ordi- 
nance, that it is not naturally, necessarily, and actu- 
ally connected with church fellowship, and conse- 
quently that the doctrine of initiating into the chris- 
tian church by baptism is a confused association of 
ideas, derived from masters whose disciples it is no 
honour to be. 

Baptism, we allow, is a positive institute of the 
New Testament, and ought to be practised till the 
second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ ; but, that 
it is not a New Testament church ordinance is clear, 
for it was administered several years before the Jew- 
ish economy was dissolved, and consequently before 
there were any such congregated societies in the 
world as we call christian churches. When John the 
Baptist came first preaching and baptizing, Jesus, 
who afterward founded the christian church, lived a 
private life at Nazareth ; he did not enter on his min- 
istry till the death of John, and he did not dissolve 
the Jewish ecclesiastical state till his own death. 
People were baptized all this time on a general pro- 
fession of faith in the Messiah, and repentance tow- 
ards God. This notion of baptism was preserved 
after the resurrection of Christ, and after christian 
churches had been congregated by his order, as 
appears by the baptism of the Eunuch, who indeed 
made a profession of faith, but was not associated to 
any particular christian church. 



80 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

Much lias been said, in pretended proof of the 
place of baptism, concerning the order of Christ's 
words in that commission to baptize, which he gave 
his Apostles ; it is recorded in the last chapter of 
Matthew; but, if this trite method of reasoning 
amounted to argument, we might form one thus. 
Christ instituted the Lord's supper before his death. 
Christ made baptism a positive christian institute 
after his resurrection. Therefore the Lord's sup- 
per ought to be received before we are baptized. 

In a word, the law of christian baptism is, that 
believers in Christ should publicly avow their faith 
in him, and their resolution to obey him, by being 
baptized ; and the proper time for this is after believ- 
ing and before admission to fellowship ; however, as 
there was no original and actual, so there is no nat- 
ural and necessary connexion between baptism and 
fellowship. Baptism was an initiation into the pro- 
fession of Christianity at large, not into the practice 
of it in any particular church. 

This is the law, and, we think, the whole law of 
baptism, and we plead this law in favour of the right 
of unbaptized believers to the Lord's supper, for two 
plain and obvious reasons. 1. A command to per- 
form one duty is not a prohibition of another duty. 
Keep the sabbath day holy is one command, and hon- 
our thy father is another ; but as there is no neces- 
sary connexion between the two, a breach of the 
first does not release from an obligation to the last. 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 81 

Baptism and the Lord's supper are both commanded; 
but a law to perform one does not prohibit the observ- 
ance of the other ; the unbaptized believer's way to 
the Lord's table is therefore clear. 2. It is remark- 
able, that this positive law of baptism is not enforced 
by any penalties, and herein it differs from all other 
positive institutes. By what right then do we affix 
to the breach of it such a severe penalty as exclusion 
from church fellowship ? After all, our candidates 
neither deny the right of Christ to give laws, nor 
that he hath given the law of baptism, nor that they 
are bound to obey it ; their error lies in an innocent 
mistake concerning the proper subject, and the right 
mode of administering it. There is no penalty affixed 
to this mistake, and one law is not a prohibition, or 
repeal of another law. 

Fourthly ; We argue for the right of our candi- 
dates from the law of gifts. When Jesus Christ 
ascended to heaven, he gave gifts unto men for the 
work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the gen- 
eral body of christians. To one he gave a discern- 
ing of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, one 
had a gift of psalmody, another a doctrine, and 
another an interpretation ; and when the whole church 
came together into one place, all these gifts were 
directed to the public edification. 

It is the opinion of some, that all these spiritual 
gifts have been continued in the church in some 
degree ever since ; and it is the thankful acknowl- 



82 NATURE AND OBJECTS OP BAPTISM. 

edgment of all, that a part of them have been per- 
petuated to this day. Whatever general gifts men 
receive from God, they receive under a natural obli- 
gation of employing and improving them, of improv- 
ing them for themselves, and employing them for the 
benefit of others ; and whatever special ecclesiastical 
abilities good men receive from Christ, the Lord of 
the church, they receive both under a general obli- 
gation to use them, and under a special scriptural 
law to employ them in the church for the edification 
of the body. 

Some unbaptized believers have received out of 
the fulness of Christ spiritual abilities ; one hath a 
gift of psalmody ; another a comprehensive knowl- 
edge of christian theology, and an aptitude to teach 
it to others ; a third excels in spiritual discernment, 
and so on ; and we have four remarks to make on 
their case. 

1. The want of baptism does not incapacitate these 
men. The vigour of mental operations is not im- 
paired by this defect. Neither fancy, judgment, 
memory, penetration, freedom of speech, courage, 
nor any other excellence that goes into the compo- 
sition of a spiritual gift, is annihilated or debilitated 
on that account ; so that they are sufficient to the 
work of edifying the body of Christ. 

2. There is no express law in the New Testa- 
ment, no prohibition against the use of these abilities 
on account of the imperfection of baptism, no pre- 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 83 

cedent of exclusion, no trace or distant hint of any 
such thing. 

3. There is an express law given to persons who 
have spiritual gifts, to make use of them. They are 
not only given to every man to profit withal, but a 
positive command is issued, that they should employ 
them in the church for general advantage. Call 
all these abilities of unbaptized believers one talent, 
if you please, and suppose the baptist brother to have 
two ; it will yet follow, that the one talent should not 
be hid in a napkin, but put to use, that, when the 
Lord comes, he may receive his own with improve- 
ments. 

4. Christian societies cannot regularly employ 
these gifts among themselves, unless they admit the 
persons, who have them, to fellowship. An unbap- 
tized believer, having spiritual abilities, would not 
proceed regularly, if he were to begin by demand- 
ing of the church a right to exercise his gifts among 
them for the public benefit, according to Christ's 
command. He should first demand fellowship. In 
such a case a people would reason justly if they 
allowed, that such a man had a right to exercise his 
abilities in the church ; that the church was obliged 
by law to allow and direct the exercise ; that they 
had no jurisdiction except over their own members, 
and consequently that right to exercise spiritual gifts 
included in itself right to church fellowship. The 
law, that obliges the candidate to exercise his gifts in 



84 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

the church, and the law, that commands the church 
to employ him and to direct the exercise, both include 
in themselves an obligation to fellowship ; they oblige 
a candidate to join a church, and they oblige a church 
to admit him. 

All our churches allow and employ neighbouring 
independent ministers to preach to them, and daily 
express a high and just regard for their useful 
labours ; yet, in their opinion, these men are unbap- 
tized ; now we only ask such a toleration for mem- 
bers of their own congregations, as they daily exer- 
cise toward ministers of other congregations ; and we 
urge this for the former, because by their conduct to 
the latter they prove, that they do not hold the want 
of baptism to be either a natural or a legal inca- 
pacity. 

Fifthly ; Let us advert to the law of constitution. 

When the compassion of Christ induced him to 
descend into Judea to recover a profligate world to 
order, he brought along with him three sorts of ex- 
cellencies ; a body of perfect wisdom, an asortment 
of holy affections, and a set of upright actions. Some 
degree of each of these he imparted to his disciples, 
and they to others, as assisted by his divine influ- 
ence. All believers, therefore, have a threefold 
union to Christ ; an union of sentiment, for they 
believe what he believed and taught ; an union of 
affection, for they love and hate what he loved and 
hated ; what gave him pleasure gives them pleasure, 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 



85 



tind what grieved him gives them pain ; and an union 
of practice, for they form their lives on his example. 
Hence arises an union to one another, as well as an 
union of all to Christ the head. 

It is not imaginable, that any of the disciples of 
Christ possess these excellencies in such perfection 
as he possessed them ; nor is it to be supposed, that 
ail poss?ss them in such eminent degrees as some do; 
however, there is a general excellence, a supreme 
love to truth and virtue, religious principle, if you 
will, in all believers, on which the christian church is 
constituted. 

All the laws of constituting New Testament 
churches are formed on this just notion of sacred 
social union, and our argument turns on the suffi- 
ciency of this general excellence, which is common to 
all believers, for all the ends and purposes of church 
fellowship. 

The kingdom of Christ is an empire of truth and 
virtue, and it is not necessary to a residence in this 
kingdom that men should be perfect in either. A 
supreme love to truth as far as we know it, and a 
conscientious attachment to virtue as far as we have 
discovered it, are high qualifications, and all-suffi- 
cient for the duties and enjoyments of church com- 
munion. Now these are always found in the persons, 
for whose right we are pleading. They are partakers 
of God's promise in Christ by the Gospel ; they have 
heard the word of truth, the Gospel of their salva- 
8 



86 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

tion ; the eyes of their understanding are enlight- 
ened ; they know the hope of his calling, and the 
riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints ; 
they have been quickened together with Christ ; and 
are made nigh by his blood ; they have access by 
one spirit unto the Father, and therefore they ought 
not to be accounted any more strangers and foreign- 
ers, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the 
household of God, and to be built upon the founda- 
tion of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ him- 
self being the chief corner-stone. 

Persons thus qualified are equal to every duty of 
church fellowship, to singing, prayer, hearing, and 
even preaching the word, receiving the Lord's sup- 
per, visiting the sick, relieving the poor, in a word, 
to all the duties men owe as church members to 
themselves, to one another, and to God. 

They, who answer such descriptions, are so very 
like the primitive christians, that, it must be allowed, 
the inducement to receive them into church fellow- 
ship is exceedingly strong, so strong, that nothing 
short of an express prohibition seems sufficient to 
their exclusion. 

Here is one article, it will be said, in which these 
believers do not answer the description of the prim- 
itive christians ; they have not been baptized by im- 
mersion ; but, let it be observed, that baptism strictly 
speaking is neither repentance towards God, nor faith 
in our Lord Jesus Christ ; it is only a profession of 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 87 

ihese graces, and church fellowship seems in the 
very nature of the thing to be connected with the 
graces, and neither with this, nor with any other 
peculiar mode of professing them. We are sure, the 
church triumphant is formed on a connexion between 
grace and glory, a profession of grace sometimes 
accompanying the connexion, and sometimes not; and 
we are taught to pray, thy ivill be done on earth as it 
is in heaven. 

Right to church fellowship either lies in grace 
alone, or in baptism alone, or in both united, or in 
something beyond them all. If it lie in grace alone, 
then faith in Christ and moral obedience have a 
merit in them, and church fellowship is a reward due 
to such merit. An humble christian will not allow 
this. If it lie in baptism alone, then an irreligious 
person may get himself baptized, and claim his right 
to church communion. If it lie in grace and bap- 
tism united, then a worse idea of merit than the 
former will return ; for then it will follow, that baptism 
gives grace its value ; but this is inadmissible. The 
truth is, right to church communion lies in that royal 
charter, which the clemency of God hath granted to 
mankind, and by which persons of certain descrip- 
tions, though imperfect in knowledge, defective in 
obedience, and encompassed with many infirmities, 
are allowed the favour of approaching him through 
the merit of Jesus Christ. Title to fellowship lies 



88 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISE. 

in the divine charter, meetness for it in personal qual- 
ification. 

This qualification, which I call grace, general 
excellence, religious principle, supreme love to truth 
and virtue, perfect in kind, imperfect in degree, is 
essential to church fellowship ; and the law of Christ 
is, that his churches should be constituted, of only- 
such persons as actually possess this real, sterling 
goodness, which, being sufficient to answer all the 
ends for which churches are constituted, ought always 
to be considered as a clear warrant to admit to fel- 
lowship. Of such persons the primitive churches 
were constituted, and nothing can be clearer, than 
the divine testimony, that against such as these, who 
bring forth the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace, long- 
suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, tem- 
perance, against such there is no law. 

Finally; We urge in behalf of our candidates, 
the law of release and deprivation. We put these 
two together, because release from duty includes in 
it a deprivation of benefits. Jesus Christ found man- 
kind in slavery ; his Gospel finds a sinner in that 
condition still ; but he both manumits and enfran- 
chises this slave, he frees him from bondage, and 
invests him with privileges and immunities. This is 
done in the moment of regeneration, and hence- 
forward this man ceaseth to be a servant of men in 
religious matters. He ceaseth to be his own, he 
becomes a subject of him, who died and rose asjain, 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. $9 

that he might be Lord both of the dead and the 
living. The highest authority binds him to duty, 
and endows him with privilege ; and none but the 
highest authority can deprive him of one, or release 
him from the other. This undeniable fact is full to 
our purpose. 

This argument is taken from that obligation, under 
which the legislator hath laid every good man, to 
perform the moral as well as the positive duties of 
church fellowship, and from which obligation neither 
their own imperfections, nor any church acts of ours, 
can or ought to discharge them. If we refuse to 
admit the believers in question into church fellowship, 
they owe us none of the moral duties, which belong 
to that condition, and it would be unreasonable in us 
to require them. When they build places of worship, 
support ministers, use hospitality, provide utensils for 
the celebration of ordinances, contribute toward main- 
taining the poor and relieving the sick members of the 
church, they do nothing but their duty, if they them- 
selves be members ; but, if they be denied the ben- 
efit of membership, all these are works of superero- 
gation. Now we argue, that God hath connected in 
the holy Scriptures duty with benefit, and that, hav- 
ing enjoined the duties on all believers, he intended 
all believers should reap the benefit of performing 
them. The Lord's supper is both a duty and a ben- 
efit ; Christ requires all his disciples to partake of 
ihe Lord's supper ; but, if we deny them the benefit, 
S* 



90 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

we discharge them from the duty ; and the same may 
be said of all other church duties and benefits. Now. 
as we pretend to no authority to release from duty r 
how is it possible we should claim an authority to 
deprive of benefit ? 

Many of these duties are moral duties, of natural 
and immutable obligation ; and such is the absolute 
necessity of obedience to them, that, when a man is 
so circumstanced as to be obliged either to omit a 
moral duty or a positive precept, the latter is in all 
cases to give way to the former. If obedience to pos- 
itive precepts must subside to make room for obedi- 
ence to moral precepts, how is it possible to con- 
ceive, that innocent ignorance of a positive precept 
should become a release from moral obligations ; and 
such are many of the duties of church fellowship. 

Waiving for the present a multitude of arguments 
fairly and honestly deducible from scripture source, 
such as the law of positive institutes, and others, the 
sum of what we have said from the oracles of God is 
this. God, a being possessed of all possible perfec- 
tions, is the author of Christianity, the founder and 
friend of the christian church. He displayed the 
magnificence of his perfections in framing the whole, 
and continues to display it in governing every part. 
The same attributes, that pervade and direct all his 
natural empire, constitute and guide his moral domin- 
ion in the church. His wisdom leaves difficulties 
and obstacles, to us as immoveable as the decrees of 



NATURE AND OBJECTS OP BAPTISM. 9V 

fate ; but he leaves them to excite and improve our 
mental abilities and moral excellencies, which he 
intends we should employ in diminishing them. His 
perfect justice never disqualifies without a crime. 
His benevolence produces the greatest social good. 
His love of holiness distinguishes the righteous from 
the wicked, and his patience and compassion bear 
with imperfections, both of knowledge and virtue j 
hence we have inferred, that the admitting of an un- 
baptized believer to church fellowship is, on the 
principles of Christianity, a wise, a just, a benev- 
olent, a holy, a humane action. 

We have gone further ; we have examined many 
express laws, given in writing by Jesus Christ to 
his church for the more easy ad ministration of justice 
in it. There are laws of exclusion ; but unbaptized 
believers are not in the list. There are laws of tole- 
ration, which actually include their case. There is a 
law of baptism ; but this does not repeal any other 
law, nor prohibit the observance of any other positive 
institute. There is a law for the exercise of gifts, in 
which the incorporation of some is included ; and 
there is the law of constitution, which authorizes the 
incorporation of all good men. We have examined, 
finally, the law of release and deprivation, and we 
have thence inferred that the interests of morality, 
and the pleasures of Christianity, if not diminished by 
excluding these persons, would, however, be greatly 
promoted by admitting them. We do not presume 



92 NATURE AND OBJECTS OF BAPTISM. 

to have exhausted the subject ; there remain many 
more reasons for the practice, which we have been 
defending ; but these are satisfactory to us, and, we 
think, they deserve consideration by our brethren ; 
however, the writer of this does not mean to lengthen 
out the controversy ; and, he hopes, should any 
think proper to deny all he has affirmed, no offence 
will be taken at his future silence. He would not 
seem to slight the admonitions of any good man ; but, 
on this article, his judgment is settled ; he has only 
to add, Grace be with all them,) that love our Lord 
Jesus Christ in sincerity ! 



REFLECTIONS 

ON 

CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, 

CIVIL ESTABLISHMENTS IN RELIGION, 

AND 

TOLERATION. 



FROM THE PREFACE TO THE THIRD VOLUME OF SAURIN. 



Very early in life I was prepossessed in favour of 
the following positions. 

Christianity is a religion of divine original. 

A religion of divine original must needs be a per- 
fect religion, and answer all the ends, for which it 
was revealed, without human additions. 

The christian religion hath undergone considerable 
alterations since the times of Jesus Christ, and his 
Apostles ; and yet, Jesus Christ was then accounted 
the finisher as well as the author of faith. 

The doctrines of revelation, as they lie in the in- 
spired writings, differ very much from the same doc- 
trines, as they lie in creeds of human composition. 

The moral precepts, the positive institutes, and the 
religious affections, which constitute the devotion of 
most modern christians, form a melancholy contrast 



94 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

to those, which are described by the guides, whom 
they profess to follow. 

The light of nature, and that of revelation ; the 
operations of right reason, the spirit of the first, and 
the influence of the Holy Ghost, the soul of the last ; 
both proceeding from the same uniform Supreme 
Being, cannot be supposed to be destructive of each 
other, or even in the least degree to clash together. 

The finest idea, that can be formed of the Supreme 
Being, is that of an infinite intelligence always in har- 
mony with itself; and, accordingly, the best way of 
proving the truth of revelation is that of showing the 
analogy of the plan of redemption to that of creation 
and providence. Simplicity and majesty character- 
ize both nature and scripture ; simplicity reduces 
those benefits, which are essential to the real happi- 
ness of man, to the size of all mankind ; majesty 
makes a rich provision for the employment and su- 
peradded felicity of a few superior geniuses, who 
first improve themselves, and then felicitate their infe- 
rior brethren, by simplifying their own ideas, by re- 
fining and elevating those of their fellow creatures, 
by establishing a social intercourse, consolidating fra- 
ternal love, and along with it ail the reciprocal ties, 
that unite mankind. 

Men's ideas of objects essential to their happiness 
are neither so dissimilar, nor so numerous, as inatten- 
tive spectators are apt to suppose. 



AND TOLERATION. 95 

Variety of sentiment, which is the life of society, 
cannot be destructive of real religion. 

Mere mental errors, if they be not entirely inno- 
cent in the account of the supreme Governour of 
mankind, cannot be, however, objects of blame and 
punishment among men. 

Christianity could never be intended to destroy the 
just natural rights, or even to diminish the natural 
privileges of mankind. That religion, which allows 
the just claims, and secures the social happiness of 
all mankind, must needs be a better religion than that, 
which provides for only a part at the expense of the 
rest. God is more glorified by the good actions of 
his creatures, expressive of homage to him, and 
productive of universal social good, than he is by 
uncertain conjectures, or even accurate notions, which 
originate in self-possession, and terminate in social 
disunion. 

How clear soever all these maxims may be, a cer- 
tain degree of ambition or avarice, ignorance or mal- 
ice, presumption or diffidence, or any other irregular 
passion, will render a man blind to the clearest de- 
monstration, and insensible to the most rational and 
affecting persuasion. These positions, mere opinions 
and prepossessions before examination, become de- 
monstrative truths after a course of diligent search. 
But, previous to all inquiries concerning the doc- 
trines of Christianity, it is absolutely necessary to 
establish that of christian liberty ; for, say we 



06 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

what we will, if this preliminary doctrine of right be 
disallowed, voluntary piety is the dream of an enthu- 
siast ; the oracles of God in the christian world, like 
those of the Sibyls in pagan Rome, are sounds con- 
vertible to senatorial sense ; and the whole christian 
mission, from the first prophet down to the last min- 
ister, is one long muster-roll of statesmen's tools, a 
disgrace to their species, a contradiction to their pro- 
fession, a dishonour to their God. 

Christian liberty in Italy is liberty to be a Roman 
catholic, that is, liberty to believe what the bishop of 
Rome affirms to be true, and liberty to perform what 
he commands to be done. Christian liberty in some 
reformed churches is liberty to renounce what the 
reformers renounced, to believe what they affirmed, 
and to practise what they required. But we, who 
have not so learned Christ, define christian liberty 
otherwise ; and, if we be asked, What is christian 
liberty ? we answer, it is liberty to be a christian. 
One part of Christianity consists of propositions to be 
believed. Liberty to be a christian believer is liber- 
ty to examine these propositions, to form a judgment 
of them, and to come to a self-determination, ac- 
cording to our own best abilities. Another part of 
Christianity consists of duties to be performed. Lib- 
erty to be a practical christian is liberty to perform 
these duties, either as they regard God, our neighbour, 
or ourselves. Liberty to be a christian implies lib- 
erty not to be a christian, as liberty to examine a 



AND TOLERATION'. 97 

proposition implies liberty to reject the arguments 
brought to support it, if they appear inconclusive, as 
well as liberty to admit them, if they appear demon- 
strative. To pretend to examine Christianity, before 
we have established our right to do so, is to pretend 
to cultivate an estate, before we have made out our 
title to it. 

The object of christian liberty, that, with which a 
man, who would examine Christianity, has to do, is a 
system of christian doctrine j but, having established 
the doctrine of right, before we proceed to exercise 
this right by examining the religion proposed to man- 
kind by Jesus Christ, it is absolutely necessary to in- 
quire what we ought, on sound principles of just and 
fair reasoning, to expect to find in it. I know some 
truths without revelation. I have a full demon- 
stration in nature that there is one God, that it is im- 
possible there should be more than one, that he is an 
intelligent Spirit, and that he is a wise and bountiful 
Being. Should any religion, which pretends to be 
divine, affirm, there is a plurality of gods — God is 
not an intelligent spirit — God is an unwise and an 
unkind being — I should have a right to reject this 
pretended revelation. Indeed, should a revealed 
religion allow my demonstrations, and afterwards ex- 
plain them in a manner quite subversive of my for- 
mer explications of them ; should it affirm, God is, 
as you say, a wise and bountiful Being, but he dis- 
plays his wisdom and goodness not in governing his 



98 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

intelligent creatures as you have imagined ; such a 
moral government, I will prove to you, would show a 
defect of wisdom and goodness ; but he displays the 
supreme perfection of both by providing for such and 
such interests, and by bestowing such and such benefits, 
as have either escaped your notice, or were beyond 
your comprehension ; — in this case, I ought not to reject 
revelation ; for, although I can demonstrate without 
inspiration the wisdom and goodness of God, yet I 
cannot pretend by the light of nature to know all the 
directions, and to ascertain all the limits of these 
perfections. 

Lay Christianity before me who will, I expect to find 
three things in it, which I call analogy, proportion, and 
perfection. Each of these articles opens a wide field 
of not incurious speculation, and each fully explained 
and applied would serve to guide any man in his 
choice of a religion, yea, in his choice of a party 
among the various divisions of christians. But alas ! 
we are not employed now-a-days in examining and 
choosing religious principles for ourselves, but in sub- 
scribing, and defending those of our ancestors. A 
few hints then shall serve. 

By analogy I mean resemblance ; and when I say 
a revealed religion must bring along with it analogical 
evidence, I mean, it must resemble the just dictates 
of nature. The reason is plain. The same Supreme 
Being is the author of both. The God of nature has 
formed man for observing objects, comparing them 



AXD TOLERATION. 99 

together, laying down principles, inferring consequent 
ces, reasoning and self-determining. He has not 
only empowered all mankind to exercise these abili- 
ties, but he has even constrained them by a necessity 
of nature to do so; he has not only rendered it impossi- 
ble for men to excel without this exercise, but he has 
even rendered it impossible for them to exist safely 
in society without it. In a word, the God of nature 
has made man in his own image, a self-determining 
being, and, to say nothing of the nature of virtue, he 
has rendered free consent essential to every man's 
felicity and peace. With his own consent, subjection 
makes him happy ; without it, dominion over the 
universe would make him miserable. 

The religion of nature, (I mean by this expression 
here, the objects which display the nature of the Dei- 
ty, and thereby discover the obligations of mankind,) 
is in perfect harmony with the natural constitution of 
man. All natural objects offer evidence to all ; but 
force is on none. A man may examine it, and he 
may not examine it ; he may admit it, and he may 
reject it ; and, if his rejection of the evidence of natu- 
ral religion be not expressed in such overt acts as 
are injurious to the peace of civil society, no man is 
empowered to force him, or to punish him ; the su- 
preme moral Governour of the world himself does not 
distinguish him here by any exterior punishments ; at 
most he expresses his displeasure by marks attached 
to the person of the culprit, and concealed from all 



100 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

the rest of his fellow creatures ; and the glory of civil 
society is not to encroach on the moral government 
of God. 

Christianity comes, pretends to come from the God 
of nature ; I look for analogy, and 1 find it ; but I find 
it in the holy Scriptures, the first teachers, and the 
primitive churches. 

In all these I am considered as a rational creature ; 
objects are proposed, evidence is offered ; if I admit 
it, I am not entitled thereby to any temporal emolu- 
ments ; if I refuse it, I am not subjected to any tem- 
poral punishments ; the whole is an affair of con* 
science, and lies between each individual and his 
God. I choose to be a christian on this very ac- 
count. This freedom, which I call a perfection of 
my nature ; this self-determination, the dignity of my 
species, the essence of my natural virtue, this I do 
not forfeit by becoming a christian ; this I retain, ex- 
plained, confirmed, directed, assisted by the regal 
grant of the Son of God. Thus the prerogatives of 
Christ, the laws of his religion, and the natural rights 
of mankind being analogous, evidence arises of the 
divinity of the religion of Jesus. 

I believe, it would be very easy to prove, that the 
Christianity of the church of Rome, and that of every 
other establishment, because they are establishments, 
are totally destitute of this analogy. The religion of 
nature is not capable of establishment ; the religion 
of Jesus Christ is not caoable of establishment ; if the 



AND TOLERATION. 101 

religion of any church be capable of establishment, it is 
not analogous to that of Scripture, or that of nature. 
A very simple example may explain our meaning. 
Natural religion requires man to pay a mental hom- 
age to the Deity, to venerate his perfections, by ado- 
ring and confiding in them. By what possible means 
can these pious operations of the mind be established ? 
Could they be forced, their nature would be destroy- 
ed, and they would cease to be piety, which is an 
exercise of judgment and will. Revealed religion 
requires man to pay a mental homage to the Deity 
through Jesus Christ ; to venerate his perfections by 
adoring and confiding in them as Christianity directs ; 
by repentance, by faith, by hope, and so on. How 
is it possible to establish those spiritual acts ? A hu- 
man establishment requires man to pay this christian 
mental homage to the Deity by performing some ex- 
ternal ceremony, suppose bowing to the east. The 
ceremony, we grant, may be established ; but, the 
voluntary exercise of the soul in the performance, 
which is essential to the Christianity of the action, — 
who in the world can establish this ? If the religion 
of Jesus be considered as consisting of external rites 
and internal dispositions, the former may be estab- 
lished ; but, be it remembered, the establishment of 
the exterior not only does not establish the interior, 
but the destruction of the last is previously essential to 
the establishment of the first. 

No religion can be established without penal sanc« 
9* 



102 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

tions, and al] penal sanctions in cases of religion are 
persecutions. Before a man can persecute, he must 
renounce the generous, tolerant dispositions of a chris- 
tian. No religion can be established without human 
creeds ; and subscription to all human creeds implies 
two dispositions contrary to true religion, and both 
expressly forbidden by the author of it. These two 
dispositions are, love of dominion over conscience 
in the imposer, and an abject preference of slavery 
in the subscriber. The first usurps the rights of 
Christ ; the last swears allegiance to a pretender. 
The first domineers, and gives laws like a tyrant ; the 
last truckles like a vassal. The first assumes a do- 
minion incompatible with his frailty, impossible even 
to his dignity, yea, denied to the dignity of angels ; 
the last yields a low submission, inconsistent with his 
own dignity, and ruinous to that very religion, which 
he pretends by this means to support. Jesus Christ 
does not require, he does not allow, yea, he express- 
ly forbids both these dispositions, well knowing, that 
an allowance of these would be a suppression of the 
finest dispositions of the human soul, and a degrading 
of revelation beneath the religion of nature. If hu- 
man inventions have formerly secularized Christianity, 
and rendered such bad dispositions necessary in times 
of ignorance, they ought to be exploded now, as all 
christians now allow this theory. The Son of God 
did not come to redeem one part of mankind to serve 
the secular views and unworthy passions of the other; 



AND TOLERATION. 103 

but he obtained freedom for both, that both might 
serve him, without fear, in holiness and righteousness 
all the days of their lives. When churches reduce 
this theory to practice, they realize in actual life, 
what otherwise makes only a fine idea decyphered 
in books ; and by so doing they adorn their Christianity 
with the glorious evidence of analogy. 

Suppose the God of nature should think proper to 
reveal a simple system of astronomy, and to require 
all mankind to examine and believe this revelation 
on pain of his displeasure. Suppose one civil gov- 
ernment, having examined this revelation, and ex- 
plained the sense in which they understood it, should 
endeavour to establish their explication by temporal 
rewards and punishments. Suppose they should re- 
quire all their subjects to carry their infants in their 
arms to a public school, to answer certain astronomi- 
cal interrogations, to be put by a professor of astrono- 
omy ; as in general, — Wilt thou, infant of eight days 
old, wilt thou be an astronomer ? Dost thou renounce 
all erroneous systems of astronomy ? In particular, 
dost thou admit the true Copernican system . ? Dost 
thou believe the revealed explication of this system ? 
And dost thou also believe that explication of this 
revelation, which certain of our own predecessors in 
the profession believed, which explication the gov- 
ernment has adopted, and which we, your masters 
and parents, in due obedience, receive ? Suppose a 
proxy required to answer for this infant ; All this, I, 



101 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

proxy for this child, do steadfastly believe ; and sup- 
pose, from this hour the child became a reputed as- 
tronomer. Suppose yet further, this child should 
grow to manhood, and in junior life should be press- 
ed, on account of the obligation contracted in his in- 
fant state, to subscribe a certain paper, called an as- 
tronomical creed, containing mathematical definitions, 
astronomical propositions, and so on ; and should be 
required for certain rewards to examine and approve, 
to teach and defend this creed, and no other, without 
incurring the penalty of expulsion from all public 
schools, a deprivation of all honours, which he might 
be supposed on other accounts to merit, an exclu- 
sion from all offices of trust, credit, and profit, in 
some cases a loss of property, in others imprisonment, 
in others death. 

In this supposed case, I ask, would not the estab- 
lishment of this system be an open violation of the doc- 
trine of analogy, and should I not have a right to rea- 
son thus ? — The revelation itself is infallible, and the 
author of it has given it me to examine ; but the es- 
tablishment of a given meaning of it renders exami- 
nation needless, and perhaps dangerous. The God 
of nature has given me eyes, instruments, powers, 
and inclinations to use them ; eyes, faculties, and 
dispositions as good as those of my ancestors, and in- 
struments better ; but all these advantages, which 
may be beneficial to me, if they confirm the truth of 
the explication, may be fatal to me, if they lag be- 



AND TOLERATION. 105 

hind, or ken beyond the bound of the creed. Nature 
says, a constellation is a collection of stars, which in 
the heavens appear near to one another. This is a 
plain, simple truth ; I open my eyes, and admit the 
evidence. Revelation says, each fixed star is a sun,> 
the centre of a system, consisting of planets inhabited 
by intelligent beings, who possess one sense and two 
faculties more than the inhabitants of this globe, and 
who worship the most high God in spirit and in truth. 
I cannot comprehend this whole proposition ; but 
there is nothing in it contrary to the nature of things ; 
and I believe the truth of it on the testimony of the 
revealer. The established explication of this propo- 
sition is that of Ptolemy. He numbered the stars in 
the constellation Bootes, and found them, or suppos- 
ed he found them, twenty-three ; and this number I 
am to examine and approve, teach and defend, against 
all opponents. What shall I say to Tycho, who af- 
firms, Bootes contains only eighteen ? Must I exe- 
crate Hevelius, who makes them fifty-two ? After 
all, perhaps Flamstead may be right ; he says there 
are fifty-four. Does not this method of teaching as- 
tronomy suppose an hundred absurdities ? Does it 
not imply the imperfection of the revealed system, 
the infallibility of Ptolemy, the erroneousness of the 
other astronomers, the folly of examination, or the 
still greater madness of allowing a conclusion after a 
denial of the premises from which it pretends to be 
drawn ? When I was an infant, I am told, I was 



106 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

treated like a man ; now I am a man, I am treated 
like an infant. I am an astronomer by proxy. The 
plan of God requires faculties, and the exercise of 
them ; that of my country exchanges both for quiet 
submission. I am, and I am not, a believer of as- 
tronomy. 

Were it affirmed, that a revelation from heaven 
established such a method of maintaining a science of 
speculation, reasoning, and practice, every rational 
creature would have a right to doubt the truth of 
such a revelation ; for it would violate the doctrine of 
analogy, by making the Deity inconsistent with him- 
self. But we will pursue this track no further ', we 
hope nothing said will be deemed illiberal ; we dis- 
tinguish between a constitution of things, and many 
wise and good men, who submit to it ; and we only 
venture to guess, if they be wise and good men 
under such inconveniences, they would be wiser and 
better men without them. At all adventures, if we 
owe much respect to men, we owe more to truth, to 
incontrovertible, unchangeable truth. 

A second character of a divine revelation is pr&- 
portion. By proportion I mean relative fitness ; 
and, when I affirm, a divine revelation must bring 
along with it proportional evidence, I mean to say, it 
must appear to be exactly fitted to those intelligent 
creatures, for whose benefit it is intended. In the 
former article we required a similarity between the 
requisitions of God and the faculties of men ; in this 



AND TOLERATION. 107 

we require an exact quantity of requisition commen- 
surate with those faculties. The former regards the 
nature of a revelation ; this has for its object the limits 
of it. Were it possible for God, having formed a 
man only for walking, by a messenger from heaven to 
require him to fly, the doctrine of analogy would be 
violated by this requisition ; and were he to deter- 
mine a prodigious space, through which he required 
him to pass in a given time ; were he to describe an 
immense distance, and to enjoin him to move through 
it with a degree of velocity impossible to him, the 
doctrine of proportion, would be violated ; and the 
God of revelation would in both cases be made con- 
tradictory to the God of nature. 

The christian revelation, we presume, answers all 
our just expectations on these articles ; for all the 
truths revealed by it are analogous to the nature of 
things, and every article in it bears an exact propor- 
tion to the abilities of all those, for whose benefit it is 
given. Our Saviour treats of the doctrine of pro- 
portion in the parable of the talents, and supposes the 
Lord to apportion the number of talents, when he 
bestows them, and the rewards and punishments, 
which he distributes for the use and abuse of them, 
to the several ability of each servant. St Paul de- 
picts the primitive church in all the beauty of this 
proportional economy; the same God worketh all 
diversities of operations in all differences of adminis- 
trations, dividing to every man severally as he will. 



108 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

This economy, he says, assimilates the christian 
church to the human body, and gives to the one, as to 
the other, strength, symmetry, and beauty, evidently 
proving that the author of creation is the author of 
redemption, framing both by one uniform rule of 
analogy and proportion. 

Full of these just notions, we examine that descrip- 
tion of revelation, which human creeds exhibit, and 
we perceive at once, they are all destitute of pro- 
portional evidence. They all consist of multifarious 
propositions, each of which is considered as essential 
to the whole, and the belief of all essential to an en- 
joyment of the benefits of Christianity, yea, to those 
of civil society, in this life, and to a participation of 
eternal life in the world to come. In this case the 
free gifts of God to all are monopolized by a few, 
and sold out to the many at a price, far greater than 
nine tenths of them can pay, and at a price, which 
the remaining part ought not to pay, because the do- 
nor has not empowered these salesmen to exact any 
price, because by his original grant all are made joint 
proprietors, and because the payment would be at 
once a renunciation of their right to hold by the orig- 
inal grant, and of their Lord's prerogative to bestow. 

What can a declaimer mean, when he repeats a 
number of propositions, and declares the belief of 
them all essential to the salvation of man 9 Or what 
could he reply to one, who should ask him, which 
man do you mean, the man in the stall ? It is Sir 



AND TOLERATION. 109 

Isaac Newton. Or the man in the aisle ? It is 
Tom Long, the carrier. God Almighty, the Creator 
of both, has formed these two men with different or- 
gans of body, and different faculties of mind ; he has 
given them different advantages and different oppor- 
tunities of improving them ; he has placed them in 
different relations, and empowered the one to teach 
what the other, depend on his belief what will, is not 
capable of learning. Ten thousand Tom Longs go 
to make up one Newtonian soul. Is it credible, the 
God who made these two men, who thoroughly knows 
them, who is the common parent, the just governor, 
and the kind benefactor of both, should require of 
men so different, equal belief and practice ? Were 
such a thing supposable, how unequal and dispro- 
portional, how inadequate and unlike himself, must 
such a Deity be ! To grasp the terraqueous globe 
with a human hand, to make a tulip cup contain the 
ocean, to gather all the light of the universe into one 
human eye, to hide the sun in a snuffbox, are the 
mighty projects of children's fancies. Is it possible, 
requisitions similar to these should proceed from the 
only wise God ? 

There is, we have reason to believe, a certain 
portion of spirit, if I may be allowed to speak so, 
that constitutes a human soul ; there are infinitely 
different degrees of capability imparted by the Cre- 
ator to the souls of mankind ; and there is a certain 
ratio, by necessity of nature, between each degree of 
10 



110 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

intelligence and a given number of ideas, as there is 
between a cup capable of containing a given quantity, 
and a quantity of matter capable of being contained 
in it. In certain cases it might serve my interest, 
could the palm of my hand contain a hogshead ; but 
in general my interest is better served by an inability 
to contain so much. We apply these certain princi- 
ples to revelation, and we say, God hath given in the 
christian religion an infinite multitude of ideas ; as in 
nature he hath created an infinite multitude of 
objects. These objects are diversified without end, 
they are of various sizes, colours, and shapes, and 
they are capable of innumerable motions, productive 
of multifarious effects, and all placed in various de- 
grees of perspicuity. Objects of thought in the 
christian religion are exactly similar ; there is no end 
of their variety ; God and all his perfections, man 
and all his operations, the being and employment of 
superior holy spirits, the existence and dispositions of 
fallen spirits, the creation and government of the 
whole world of matter and that of spirit, the influ- 
ences of God and the obligations of men, the disso- 
lution of the universe, a resurrection, a judgment, a 
heaven, and a hell, all these, placed in various de- 
grees of perspicuity, are exhibited in religion to the 
contemplation of intelligent creatures. 

The creatures who are required to contemplate 
these objects, have various degrees of contemplative 
ability ; and their duty, and consequently their virtue, 



AND TOLERATION. 



Ill 



which is nothing else but a performance of duty, con- 
sists in applying all their ability to understand as 
many of these objects, that is, to form as many ideas 
of them, as are apportioned to their own degree. So 
many objects they are capable of seeing, so many 
objects it is their duty to see. So much of each 
object they are capable of comprehending, so much 
of each object it is their duty to comprehend. So 
many emotions they are capable of exercising, so 
many emotions it is their duty to exercise. So many 
acts of devotion they can perform, so many Almighty 
God will reward them for performing, or punish them 
for neglecting. This I call the doctrine of religious 
proportion. This I have a right to expect to find in 
a divine revelation, and this I find in the most splendid 
manner in Christianity, as it lies in the Bible, as it 
was in the first churches, and as it is in some modern 
communities. I wish I could change the word some 
for all. 

This doctrine of proportion would destroy every 
human creed in the world, at least it would anni- 
hilate the imposition of any. Instead of making one 
creed for a whole nation, which by the way provides 
for only one nation, and consigns over the rest of the 
world to the destroyer of mankind ; instead of doing 
so, there should be as many creeds as creatures ; 
and instead of affirming, the belief of three hundred 
propositions is essential to the felicity of every man 
in both worlds, we ought to affirm, the belief of half 



112 



CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 



a proposition is essential to the salvation of Mary, and 
the belief of a whole one to that of John, the belief 
of six propositions, or, more properly, the examina- 
tion of six propositions, is essential to the salvation of 
the reverend Edward, and the examination of sixty 
to that of the right reverend Richard ; for, if I can 
prove, one has sixty degrees of capacity, another six, 
and another one, I can easily prove, it would be 
unjust to require the same exercises of all ; and a 
champion ascribing such injustice to God would be 
no formidable adversary for the pompousness of his 
challenge, or the caparisons of his horse ; his very 
sword could not conquer, though it might affright from 
the field. 

The world and revelation, both the work of the 
same God, are both constructed on the same princi- 
ples ; and were the book of Scripture, like that of 
nature, laid open to universal inspection, were all 
ideas of temporal rewards and punishments removed 
from the study of it, that would come to pass in the 
moral world, which has actually happened in the 
world of human science ; each capacity would find its 
own object, and take its own quantum. Newtons 
will find stars without penalties, Millons will be poets, 
and Lardners christians without rewards. Calvins 
will contemplate the decrees of God, and Baxters 
will try to assort them with the spontaneous volitions 
of men ; all, like the celestial bodies, will roll on in 
the quiet majesty of simple proportion, each in his 



AND TOLERATION, 



113 



porper sphere shining to the glory of God the Crea- 
tor. But alas ; We have not so learned Christ. 

Were this doctrine of proportion allowed, three 
consequences would follow. First ; Subscription to 
human creeds, with all their appendages, both penal 
and pompous, would roll back into the turbulent ocean, 
the See I mean, from whence they came ; the Bible 
would remain a placid emanation of wisdom from 
God ; and the belief of it a sufficient test of the obe- 
dience of his people. Secondly ; Christians would 
be freed from the inhuman necessity of execrating one 
another ; and by placing Christianity in believing in 
Christ, and not in believing in one another, they 
would rid revelation of those intolerable abuses, which 
are fountains of sorrow to christians, and sources of 
arguments to infidels. Thirdly ; Opportunity would 
be given to believers in Christ to exercise those dis- 
positions, which the present disproportional division 
of this common benefit obliges them to suppress, or 
conceal. O cruel theology, that makes it a crime to 
do what I have neither a right nor a power to leave 
undone ! 

I call perfection a third necessary character of a 
divine revelation. Every production of an intelli- 
gent being bears the characters of the intelligence, 
that produceth it, for as the man is, so is his strength. 
A weak genius produces a work imperfect and weak 
like itself. A wise, good being produces a work wise 
and good ; and, if his power be ecj"jal to his wisdom 
10* 



114 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

and goodness, his work will resemble himself; and 
such a degree of wisdom, animated by an equal 
degree of goodness, and assisted by an equal degree 
of power, will produce a work equally w T ise, equally 
beneficial, equally effectual. The same degrees of 
goodness and power accompanied with only half the 
degree of wisdom will produce a work as remarkable 
for a deficiency of skill as for a redundancy of effi- 
ciency and benevolence. Thus the flexibility of the 
hand may be known by the writing ; the power of 
penetrating, and combining in the mind of the phy- 
sician, may be known by the feelings of the patient, 
who has taken his prescription ; and, by parity of 
reason, the uniform perfections of an invisible God 
may be known by the uniform perfection of his pro- 
ductions. 

I perceive, 1 must not launch into the wide ocean 
of the doctrine of perfection, and 1 will confine my- 
self to three characters of imperfection, which 
may serve to explain my meaning. Proposing to 
obtain a great end without the use of proper means 
— the employing of great means to obtain no valuable 
end — and the destroying of the end by the use of the 
means employed to obtain it, are three characters of 
imperfection rarely found in frail intelligent agents ; 
and certainly they can never be attributed to the 
great Supreme. A violation of the doctrine of anal- 
ogy would argue God an unjust being ; a violation 
of that of proportion would prove him an unkind be- 



AND TOLERATION. 115 

ing ; and a violation of this of perfection would argue 
him a being void of wisdom. Were we to suppose 
him capable of proposing plans impossible to be exe- 
cuted, and then punishing his creatures for not execut- 
ing them, we should attribute to the best of beings 
the most odious dispositions of the most infamous of 
mankind. Heaven forbid the thought ! 

The first character of imperfection is proposing to 
obtain a great end without the use of proper means. 
To propose a noble end, argues a fund of goodness ; 
but not to propose proper means to obtain it, argues 
a defect of wisdom. Christianity proposes the no- 
ble end of assimilating man to God, and it employs 
proper means of obtaining this end. God is an in- 
telligent being, happy in a perfection of wisdom; the 
Gospel assimilates the felicily of human intelligences 
to that of the Deity by communicating the ideas of 
God on certain articles to men. God is a bountiful 
being, happy in a perfection of goodness ; the Gos- 
pel assimilates the felicity of man to that of God by 
communicating certain benevolent dispositions to its 
disciples, similar to the communicative excellencies 
of God. God is an operative being, happy in the 
display of exterior works, beneficent to his creatures ; 
the Gospel felicitates man by directing and enabling 
him to perform certain works beneficent to his fellow 
creatures. God condescends to propose this noble 
end, of assimilating man to himself, to the nature of 
mankind, and not to certain distinctions, foreign from 



11G CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

the nature of man, and appendant on exterior cir- 
cumstances. The boy, who feeds the farmer's mean- 
est animals ; the sailor, who spends his clays on the 
ocean ; the miner, who, secluded from the light of 
the day and the society of his fellow creatures, spends 
his life in a subterraneous cavern, as well as the re- 
nowned heroes of mankind, are all included in this 
condescending, benevolent design of God. The Gos- 
pel proposes to assimilate all to God ; but it proposes 
such an assimilation, or, may I say, such a degree of 
moral excellence, as the nature of each can bear; and 
it directs to means so proper to obtain this end, and 
renders these directions so extremely plain, that the 
perfection of the designer shines with the utmost 
glory. 

I have sometimes imagined a Pagan ship's crew in 
a vessel under sail in the wide ocean ; I have supposed 
not one soul aboard ever to have heard one word of 
Christianity ; I have imagined a bird dropping a New 
Testament, written in the language of the mariners 
on the upper deck : I have imagined a fund of uned- 
ucated, unsophisticated good sense in this company, 
and I have required of this little world answers to 
two questions ; first, What end does this book pro- 
pose ? The answer is, This book teas written, 
that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son 
of God, and that believing we might have life through 
his name. I ask, secondly, What means cloth this 
book authorize a foremast man, who believes, to em- 



AND TOLERATION. 117 

ploy to the rest of the crew to induce them to believe, 
that Jesus is the Son of God, and that believing, they 
also, with the foremast man, may have eternal felicity 
through his name ? I dare not answer this question ; 
but I dare venture to guess, should this foremast 
man conceal the book from any of the crew, he would 
be unlike the God, who gave it to all ; or should he- 
oblige the cabin-boy to admit his explication of the 
book, he would be unlike the God, who requires the 
boy to explain it to himself; and should he require 
the captain to enforce his explication by penalties, the 
captain ought to reprove his folly for counteracting 
the end of the book, the felicity of all the mariners ; 
for turning a message of peace into an engine of fac- 
tion ; for employing means inadequate to the end ; 
and so for erasing that character of perfection, which 
the heavenly donor gave it. 

A second character of imperfection is — the employ- 
ing of great means to obtain no valuable end. 
Whatever end the author of Christianity had in view, 
it is beyond a doubt, he hath employed great means 
to effect it. To use the language of a prophet, he 
hath shaken the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, 
and the dry land. When the desire of all nations 
came, universal nature felt his approach, and preter- 
natural displays of wisdom, power, and goodness, 
have ever attended his steps The most valuable 
ends were answered by his coming. Conviction fol- 
lowed his preaching ; and truths, till then shut up in 



118 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

the counsels of God, were actually put into the pos- 
session of finite minds. A general manumission fol- 
lowed his meritorious death, and the earth resounded 
with the praises of a spiritual deliverer, who had set 
the sons of bondage free. The laws of his empire 
were published, and all his subjects were happy in 
obeying them. In his days the righteous flourished, 
and on his plan, abundance of peace would have con- 
tinued as long as the moon endured. Plenty of in- 
struction, liberty to examine it, and peac2 in obeying 
it. These were ends worthy of the great means used 
to obtain them. 

Let us for a moment suppose a subversion of the 
Ixxii psalm, from whence 1 have borrowed these 
ideas ; let us imagine the kings of Tarshish and of 
the isles bringing presents, not to express their hom- 
age to Christ, but to purchase that dominion over the 
consciences of mankind, which belongs to Jesus 
Christ ; let us suppose the boundless wisdom of the 
Gospel, and the innumerable ideas of inspired men 
concerning it, shrivelled up into the narrow compass 
of one human creed ; let us suppose liberty of thought 
taken away ; and the peace of the world interrupted 
by the introduction and support of bold usurpations, 
dry ceremonies, cant phrases, and puerile inventions. 
In this supposed case, the history of great means re- 
mains, the worthy ends to be answered by them are 
taken away, and they who should thus deprive man- 
kind of the end of the sacred code, would charge 



AND TOLERATION. 119 

themselves with the necessary obligation of account- 
ing for this character of imperfection. Ye prophets 
and apostles ! ye ambassadors of Christ ! How do 
ye say, we are wise, and the taw of the Lord is with 
us ? LdO ! certainly in vain made he it, the pen of 
the scribes is in vain ! Precarious wisdom, that must 
not be questioned ! useless books, which must not be 
examined ! vain legislation, that either cannot be 
obeyed, or ruins him who obe)s it ! 

All the ends that can be obtained by human 
modifications of divine revelation, can never compen- 
sate for the loss of that dignity, which the perfection 
of the system, as God gave it, acquires to him; nor 
can it indemnify man for the loss of that spontaneity, 
which is the essence of every effort that merits the 
name of human, and without which virtue itself is 
nothing but a name. Must we destroy the man to 
make the christian 9 What is there in a scholastic 
honour, what in an ecclesiastical emolument, what 
in an archiepiscopal throne, to indemnify for these 
losses ? Jesus Christ gave his life a ransom for men, 
not to empower them to enjoy these momentary dis- 
tinctions ; these are far inferior to the noble ends of 
his coming ; — the honour of God, and the Gospel at 
large ; the disinterested exercise of mental abilities, 
assimilating the freeborn soul to its benevolent God ; 
a copartnership with Christ in promoting the universal 
felicity of all mankind ; these, these are ends of re- 
ligion worthy of the blood of Jesus, and deserving the 
sacrifice of whatever is called great among men. 



120 CHRISTIAN* LIBERTY 

Thirdly ; The destruction of the end by the use of 
the means employed to obtain it, is another character 
of imperfection. St Paul calls Christianity, unity. 
He denominates it the unity of the Spirit, on account 
of its author, object, and end. God, the Supreme 
Spirit, is the author of it ; the spirits, or souls of men 
are the object ; and the spirituality of human souls, 
that is, the perfection of which finite spirits are capa- 
ble, is the end of it. The Gospel proposes the re- 
union of men divided by sin, first to God, and then 
to one another ; and, in order to effect it, reveals a 
religion, which teaches one God, one mediator between 
God and men, the man Christ Jesus ; one rule of 
faith, one object of hope ; and, lest we should imag- 
ine this revelation to admit of no variety, we are told, 
grace is given to every one according to the propor- 
tional measure of the gift of Christianity. Each be- 
liever is therefore exhorted to speak the truth in love, 
to walk with all lowliness, meekness, and longsuffer- 
ing, and to forbear another in love. Here is a char- 
acter of perfection ; for these means employed to 
unite mankind are productive of union, the end of 
the means. 

Should men take up the Gospel in this simplicity, 
and, accommodating it to their own imaginary, supe- 
rior wisdom, or to their own secular purposes, should 
they explain this union so as to suit their designs, and 
employ means to produce it ; and should ihey de- 
nominate their system, Christianity, it would certainly 



AND TOLERATION. 



124 



be, in spite of its name, a Christianity marked with 
the imperfection of its authors ; for in the christian 
religion, in the thing itself, and not in its appellation, 
shines the glorious character of perfection. 

The christian religion unites mankind. By what 
common bond does it propose to do so ? By love. 
This is a bond of perfectness, a most perfect bond. 
This is practicable, and productive of every desirable 
end ; and the more we study human nature, the 
more fully shall we be convinced, that we cannot 
imagine any religion to do more ; nor need we desire 
more, for this answers every end of being religious. 
Had Jesus Christ formed his church on a sentimental 
plan, he must have employed many means which he 
has not employed, and he must have omitted many 
directions which he has given. One of his means 
of uniting mankind is contained in this direction, 
Search the Scriptures, and call no man your master 
upon earth ; that is to say, exercise your very differ- 
ent abilities, assisted by very different degrees of aid, 
in periods of very different duration, and form your own 
notions of the doctrines contained in the Scriptures. Is 
not this injunction destructive to a sentimental union ? 
Place ten thousand spectators in several circles around 
a statue erected on a spacious plain, bid some look 
at it through magnifying glasses, others through com- 
mon spectacles, some with keen naked eyes, others 
with weak diseased eyes, each on a point of each 
circle different from that where another stands, and 
11 



122 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

all receiving the picture of the object in the eye by 
different reflections and refractions of the rays of 
light ; and say, will not a command to look destroy 
the idea of sentimental union ; and, if the establish- 
ment of an exact union of sentiment be the end, will 
not looking, the mean appointed to obtain it, actually 
destroy it, and would not such a projector of unifor- 
mity mark his system with imperfection ? 

Had Jesus Christ formed his church on the plan 
of a ceremonial union, or on that of a professional 
union, it is easy to see, the same reasoning might be 
applied ; the laws of such a legislature would coun- 
teract and destroy one another, and a system so un- 
connected would discover the imperfection of its au- 
thor, and provide for the ruin of itself. 

These principles being allowed, we proceed to 
examine the doctrines of Christianity, as they are pre- 
sented to an inquisitive man, entirely at liberty to 
choose his religion, by our different churches in their 
several creeds. The church of Rome lays before me 
the decisions of the council of Trent. The Lutheran 
church the confession of Augsburg. One nation 
gives me one account of Christianity, another a differ- 
ent account of it, a third contradicts the other two, 
and no two creeds agree. The difference of these 
systems obliges me to allow, they could not all pro- 
ceed from any one person, much less could they all 
proceed from such a person, as all christians affirm 
Jesus Christ to be. I am driven, then, to examine 



AND TOLERATION. 123 

his account of his own religion contained in the allow- 
ed standard book, to which they all appeal; and here 
I find, or think I find, a right of reduction, that removes 
all those suspicions, which variety in human creeds 
had excited in my mind concerning the truth of 
Christianity. 

The doctrines of Christianity, I presume to guess, 
according to the usual sense of the phrase, are divisi- 
ble into two classes. The first contains the principal 
truths, the pure genuine theology of Jesus Christ, 
essential to the system, and in which all christians in 
our various communities agree. The other class con- 
sists of those less important propositions, which are 
meant to serve as explications of the principal truths. 
The first is the matter of our holy religion, the last is 
our conception of the manner of its operation. In 
the first we all agree ; in the last our benevolent re- 
ligion, constructed on principles of analogy, propor- 
tion, and perfection, both enjoins and empowers us 
to agree to differ. The first is the light of the world, 
the last our sentiments on its nature, or our distribu- 
tion of its effects. 

In general each church calls its own creed a sys- 
tem of Christianity, a body of christian doctrine, and 
perhaps not improperly ; but then each divine ought 
to distinguish that part of his system, which is pure 
revelation, and so stands confessedly the doctrine of 
Jesus Christ, from that other part, which is human 
explication, and so may be either true or false, clear 



124 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

or obscure, presumptive or demonstrative, according 
to the abilities of the explainer who compiled the 
creed. Without this distinction, we may incorporate 
all our opinions with the infallible revelations of heaven, 
we may imagine each article of our belief essential 
to Christianity itself, we may subjoin a human codicil 
to a divine testament, and attribute equal authenticity 
to both ; we may account a proposition confirmed by 
a synodical seal as fully authenticated, as a truth con- 
firmed by an apostolic miracle ; and so we may bring 
ourselves to rank a conscientious disciple of Christ, 
who denies the necessity of episcopal ordination, with 
a brazen disciple of the devil, who denies the truth of 
revelation, and pretends to doubt the being of a God. 
But here, I feel again the force of that observation, 
with which this article begins. How few, compara- 
tively, will allow, that such a reduction of a large 
.>ystem to a very small number of clear, indisputable, 
essential first principles, will serve the cause of Chris- 
tianity ! How many will pretend to think such a re- 
duction dangerous to thirty-five out of thirty-nine ar- 
ticles of faith ! How many will confound a denial of 
the essentiality (so to speak) of a proposition, with a 
denial of the truth of it ! How many will go farther 
still, and execrate the latitudinarian, who presumes 
in this manner to subvert Christianity itself! I re- 
joice in prospect of that day, when God shall judge 
the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to his 
Gospel ; when we shall stand, not at the tribunal of 



AND TOLERATION. 



125 



human prejudices and passions, but at the just bar of 
a clement God. 

Here, were I only concerned, I would rest, and 
my answer to all complainants should be a respectful 
silence before their oracles of reason and religion ; 
but, alas ! I have nine children, and my ambition is 
(if it be not an unpardonable presumption to compare 
insects with angels) my ambition is to engage them 
to treat a spirit of intolerance, as Hamilcar taught 
Hannibal to treat the old Roman spirit of universal do- 
minion. The enthusiastic Carthaginian parent, going 
to offer a sacrifice to Jupiter for the success of an in- 
tended war, took with him his little son Hannibal, 
then only nine years of age, and eager to accompany 
his father, led him to the altar, made him lay his little 
hand on the sacrifice, and swear that he would never 
be in friendship with the Romans. We may sanctify 
this thought by transferring it to other objects, and, 
while w 7 e sing in the church, glory to God in the 
highest, vow perpetual peace with all mankind, and 
reject all weapons except those which are spiritual, 
we may, we must declare war against a spirit of in- 
tolerance from generation to generation. Thus Mo- 
ses wrote a memorial in a book, rehearsed it in the 
ears of Joshua, built an altar, called the name of it 
Jehovah my banner, and said, the Lord hath sivorn, 
that the Lord will have war with Jlmalek from gene- 
ration to generation. 
11* 



12G CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

We are neither going to contrast human creeds 
with one another, nor with the Bible ; we are not 
going to affirm or deny any propositions contained in 
them ; we only design to prove, that all consist of 
human explications as well as divine revelations ; and 
consequently, that all are not of equal importance, 
nor ought any to be imposed on the disciples of Christ, 
either by those who are not disciples of the Son of 
God, or by those who are. The subject is delicate 
and difficult, not through any intricacy in itself, but 
through a certain infelicity of the times. An error 
on the one side would be fatal to revelation, by allur- 
ing us to sacrifice the pure doctrines of religion to a 
blind benevolence ; and on the other, an error may be 
fatal to religion itself, by inducing us to make it a 
patron of intolerance. We repeat it again, a system 
of christian doctrine is the object of christian liberty ; 
the articles, which compose a human system of chris- 
tian doctrine, are divisible into the two classes of doc- 
trines and explications ; the first we attribute to 
Christ, and call Christian doctrines, the last to some 
of his disciples, and these we call human explications; 
the first are true, the last may be so ; the first exe- 
crate intolerance, the last cannot be supported with- 
out the spirit of it. I will endeavour to explain my 
meaning by an example. 

Every believer of revelation allows the authenticity 
of this passage of holy Scripture ; God so loved the 
the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that 



AND TOLERATION. 127 

whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have 
everlasting life. If we cast this into propositional 
form, it will afford as many propositions as it contains 
ideas. Each idea clearly contained in the text, I call 
an idea of Jesus Christ, a christian sentiment, a truth 
of revelation, in a word, a christian doctrine. Each 
of these ideas of the text, in forming itself into a prop- 
osition, will naturally associate with itself a few other 
ideas of the expletive kind ; these I call secondary 
ideas in distinction from the first, which I call prima- 
ry ; or, in plainer style, ideas clearly of the text, I 
name christian doctrines, or doctrines of Christ, and 
all the rest I call human explications of these doc- 
trines ; they may be christian, they may not; fori 
am not sure, that the next idea, which always follows 
a first in my mind, was the next idea to the first in the 
mind of Jesus Christ ; the first is certainly his, he 
declares it; the second might be his, but as he is si- 
lent, I can say nothing certain ; where he stops, my 
infallibility ends, and my uncertain reason begins. 

The following propositions are evidently in the text, 
and consequently they are christian doctrines, ema- 
nating from the author of Christianity, and pausing to 
be examined before the intelligent powers of his crea- 
tures. — -There is an everlasting life, a future state of 
eternal happiness — the mediation of the only begotten 
Son of God is necessary to men's enjoyment of eter- 
nal happiness — believing in Christ is essential to a 
participation of eternal felicity — every believer in 



123 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

Christ shall have everlasting life — -unbelievers shall 
perish — all the blessings of Christianity originate in 
God, display his love, and are given to the world. 
These, methinks, we may venture to call primary 
ideas of Christianity, genuine truths of revelation ; 
but each doctrine will give occasion to many ques- 
tions, and although different expositors will agree in 
the matter of each proposition, they will conjecture 
very differently concerning the manner of its opera- 
tion. 

One disciple of Christ, whom we call Richard, 
having read this text, having exercised his thoughts 
on the meaning of it, and having arranged them in 
the propositional form now mentioned, if he would 
convince another disciple, whom we name Robert, of 
the truth of any one of his propositions, would be 
obliged to unfold his own train of thinking, which con- 
sists of an associated concatenation of ideas, some of 
which are primary ideas of Jesus Christ, and others 
secondary notions of his own ; additions, perhaps of 
his wisdom, perhaps of his folly, perhaps of both ; but 
all, however, intended to explicate his notion of the 
text, and to facilitate the evidence of his notion to his 
brother. Robert admits the proposition ; but not ex- 
actly in Richard's sense. In this case, we assort 
ideas, we take what both allow to be the original ideas 
of our common Lord, and we reckon thus ; — Here 
are nine ideas in this proposition, numbers one, three, 
six, nine, genuine, primary ideas of Christ 5 numbers 



AND TOLERATION. 120 

two, four, five, secondary ideas of Richard ; numbers 
seven, eight, secondary ideas of Robert ; the first 
constitute a divine doctrine, the last a human expli- 
cation ; the first forms one divine object, the last two 
human notions of its mode of existence, manner of 
operation, or something similar ; but, be each what 
it may, it is human explication, and neither synod nor 
senate can make it more. 

No divine will dispute the truth of this proposition, 
God gave Jesus Christ to believers ; for it is demon- 
strably in the text. To this, therefore, Beza and 
Zanchy, Malancthon and Luther, Calvin and Armin- 
ius, Baxter and Crisp agree, all allowing it a chris- 
tian doctrine ; but each associating with the idea of 
gift, other ideas of time, place, relation, condition, and 
so on, explains the doctrine, so as to contain all his 
own additional ideas. 

One class of expositors take the idea of time, and 
by it explain the proposition. God and believers, 
says one, are to be considered contemplatively before 
the creation in the light of Creator and creatures, ab- 
stracted from all moral considerations whatever ; 
then God united Christ to his church in the pure 
mass of creatureship, without the contemplation of 
Adam's fail. Another affirms, God gave a Saviour 
to men in design, before the existence of creatures ; 
but in full contemplation, however, of the misery in- 
duced by the fall. A third says, God gave Christ to 
believers, not in purpose before the fall ; but in prom- 



130 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

ise immediately after it. A fourth adds, God gives 
Christ to believers on their believing, by putting them 
in possession of the benefits of Christianity. In all 
these systems, the ideas of God, Christ, believers, and 
gift, remain, the pure, genuine ideas of the text ; and 
the association of time distinguisheth and varieth the 
systems. 

A second class of expositors take the idea of rela- 
tion, and one affirms, God and believers are to be 
considered in the relative light of govemour and sub- 
jects ; the characters of a perfect government are 
discernible in the giving of a Saviour, justice vindi- 
cates the honour of government by punishing some, 
mercy displays the benefit of government by pardon- 
ing others, and royal prerogative both disculpates and 
elevates the guilty. However, as the govemour is a 
God, he retains and displays his absolute right of dis- 
pensing his favours as he pleases. A second says, 
God and believers are to be considered in the light of 
parent and children, and Christ is not given to be- 
lievers according to mere maxims of exact govern- 
ment ; but he is bestowed by God, the common Fa- 
ther, impartially on all his children. A third says, 
God and believers are to be considered in the light 
of master and servants, and God rewards the imper- 
fect services of his creatures with the rich benefits of 
Christianity. A fourth considers God and believers 
in the relation of king and consort, and says, God 
gave Christianity as an inalienable dowry to his chosen 



AND TOLERATION. 131 

associate. In all these systems, God, Christ, believ- 
ers, and gift, remain the pure, genuine ideas of the 
text ; and the association of the idea of relation dis- 
tinguishes and varies the systems. 

In general, we form ideas of the Supreme Being, 
and we think such a being ought to act so and so, 
and therefore we conclude he does act so and so. 
God gives Christ to believers conditionally, says one ; 
for so it becomes a holy being to bestow all his gifts. 
God gives Christ unconditionally, says another ; for 
so it becomes a merciful being to bestow his gifts on 
the miserable. I repeat it again, opposite as these 
may appear, they both retain the notions of the same 
God, the same Jesus, the same believers, the same 
giving ; but an idea concerning the fittest way of be- 
stoiving the gift distinguishes and varies the systems. 
I call it the same giving, because all divines, even 
they, who go most into a scheme of conditional sal- 
vation, allow, that Christ is a blessing, infinitely be- 
yond all that is due to the conditions, which they 
perform in order to their enjoyment of him. 

Let us for a moment suppose, that this proposition, 
God gives Christ to believers, is the whole of revela- 
tion on this subject. A divine, who should affirm, 
that his ideas of time, relation, and condition, were 
necessarily contained in this scripture ; that his whole 
thesis was a doctrine of Christianity ; and that the 
belief of it was essential to salvation, would affirm the 
most palpable absurdities ; for, although the proposi- 



132 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

tion does say, Christ is God's gift to believers, yet it 
does neither say, when God bestowed this gift, nor 
why he bestowed it, nor that a precise knowledge of 
the mode of donation is essentially requisite to salva- 
tion. That God gave the world a Saviour in the per- 
son of Jesus, is a fact affirmed by Christ in this propo- 
sition, and therefore a christian doctrine. That he 
made the donation absolutely or conditionally, before 
the fall or after it, reversibly or irrevocably, the prop- 
osition doth not affirm ; and therefore every proposi- 
tion including any of these ideas is an article of be- 
lief containing a christian doctrine and a human 
explication, and consequently it lies before an exami- 
ner in different degrees of evidence and importance. 

Suppose a man were required to believe this prop- 
osition, God gave Jesus to believers absolutely ; or 
this, God gave Jesus to believers conditionally ; it is 
not impossible, the whole proposition might be proved 
original, genuine, primary doctrine of Jesus Christ. 
Our proposition in this text could not prove it, and 
were this the whole of our information on this article, 
conditionality and unconditionally would be human 
explications ; but, if Christ have given us in any other 
part of revelation, more instruction on the subject ; 
if he any where affirm, either that he was given on 
certain conditions to be performed by believers, or 
that he was not given so, then indeed we might asso- 
ciate the ideas of one text with those of another, and 
so form of the whole a genuine christian doctrine. 



AND TOLERATION. 133 

When we have thus selected the instructions of 
our divine Master from the opinions of our fellow- 
pupils, we should suppose, these questions would 
naturally arise ; — Is a belief of all the doctrines of 
Christ essential to salvation ? If not, which are the 
essential truths ? If the parable of the talents be al- 
lowed a part of his doctrine, and if the doctrine of 
proportion taught in that parable be true, it should 
seem, the belief of christian doctrines must be pro- 
portioned to exterior evidence and interior ability ; 
and, on these principles, should a congregation of five 
hundred christians put these questions, they must re- 
ceive five hundred different answers. Who is suffi- 
cient for these things ? Let us renounce our inclina- 
tion to damn our fellow-creatures. Let us excite all 
to faith and repentance, and let us leave the decision 
of their destiny to Almighty God. When Christ 
cometh, he will tell us all things. Till then let us wait, 
lest we should scatter firebrands, arrows, and death, 
and make the hearts of the righteous sad, whom the 
Lord hath not made sad. How many doctrines are 
essential to salvation, seems to me exactly such a 
question, as — how much food is essential to animal 
life ? 

We will venture to go a step further. Were we 
as capable of determining the exact ratio between 
any particular mind and a given number of ideas, as 
we are of determiningjiow many feet of water a vessel 
of a given burden must draw ; and were we able so to 
12 



134 CHRISTIAN LIBERTY 

determine how much faith in how many doctrines 
was essential to the holiness, and so to the happiness 
of such a soul ; we should not then entertain a vain 
notion of exacting by force these rights of God of 
his creature. For, first, the same proportion, which 
renders a certain number of ideas essential to the 
happiness of an intelligent mind, renders this number 
of ideas so clear, that they establish themselves and 
need no imposition. Secondly ; the nature of faith 
does not admit of imposition ; it signifies nothing to 
say, kings command it ; if angels commanded it, they 
would require an impossibility, and exact that of me, 
which they themselves could not perform. Thirdly ; 
God has appointed no means to enforce belief ; he 
has nominated no vicegerents to do this ; he has ex- 
pressly forbidden the attempt. Fourthly; the means, 
that one man must employ to impose his creed on 
another, are all nefarious, and damn a sinner to make 
a saint. Fifthly ; imposition of human creeds has 
produced so much mischief in the world, so many 
divisions among christians, and so many execrable 
actions, attended with no one good end to religion, 
that the repetition of this crime would argue a soul 
infested with the grossest ignorance, or the most stub- 
born obstinacy imaginable. Sixthly ; dominion over 
conscience is that part of God's empire of which he 
is most jealous. The imposition of a human creed 
is a third action, and before any man can perform it, 
he must do two other exploits ; he must usurp the 
throne, and claim the slave. How many more rea- 



AND TOLERATION. 135 

sons might be added ! From a cool examination of 
the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of 
Christianity, the nature of all powers within the com- 
pass of human thought to employ, the history of past 
times, the state of the present, in a word, of every 
idea, that belongs to the imposition of a human creed, 
we venture to affirm, the attempt is irrational, unscrip- 
tural, impracticable, impossible. Creed is belief, and 
the production of belief by penal sanctions neither is, 
nor was, nor is to come. The project never entered 
the mind of a professor of any science, except that 
of theology. It is high time, theologists should ex- 
plode it. The glorious pretence of establishing by 
force implicit belief, should be left to the little tyrant 
of a country school ; let hirn lay down dry documents, 
gird false rules close about other men's sons, lash do- 
cility into vanity, stupidity, or madness, and justify 
his violence by spluttering, Sic volo, sicjubeo, stat pro 
rati one voluntas. 

Were christians sincere in their professions of mod- 
eration, candour, and love, they would settle this 
preliminary article of imposition ; and, this given up, 
there would be nothing else to dispute. Our objec- 
tions lie neither against surplice nor service-book ; 
but against the imposition of them. Let one party of 
christians worship God as their consciences direct ; 
but let other parties forfeit nothing for doing the same. 
It may appear conjectural, but it is sincerely true, 
theological war is the most futile and expensive contest, 
theological peace the cheapest acquisition in the world. 



136 



CHRISTIAN LIBERTY. 



Although the distinction of a divine revelation from 
a human explication is just and necessary ; although 
the principles of analogy, proportion, and perfection 
are undeniahle j and although, considered as a theory, 
the nature and necessity of universal toleration will 
be allowed to be as clear and demonstrative as possi- 
ble, yet we are well aware, the allowance of these 
articles in all their fair, just, necessary consequences 
would be so inimical to many dispositions, and so 
eil'ectually subversive of so many selfish, interested 
systems, that we entertain no hopes of ever seeing the 
theory generally reduced to practice. Heaven may 
exhibit a scene of universal love, and it is glorious to 
Christianity to propose it ; it is an idea replete with 
extatie joy, and, thanks be to God, it is more than an 
idea, it is a law in many christian churches, alas ! 
little known, and less imitated by the rest of their 
brethren. There is a remnant of Jacob in the midst 
of many people, as a dew from the Lord, as the show- 
ers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor 
waiteth for the sons of men. These may cheerfully 
adopt the Prophet's exultation, Rejoice not against 
me, O mine enemy ! If I fall, I shall arise; when I 
sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me ; 
he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold 
his righteousness. In the day that my ivalls are to 
be built, in that day shall human decrees concerning 
conscience be far removed. 



HINTS 

CONCERNING THE 

INSTITUTION AND DISCIPLINE 

OF THE 

PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 



FROM AN ORDINATION SERMON. 



Much hath been written on the discipline of the 
primitive church ; but it is highly credible, it orig- 
inated in some very plain fact, some very simple 
cause suited to the character of Jesus, and the con- 
dition of his disciples. If a cause adequate to all 
the effects be assigned, more would be redundant 
and ostentatious. Consider what I shall say on the 
subject, not as an investigation of it, nor as a reflection 
on others, nor as an oracle to you, but merely as a 
sketch of the first principles of a subject, which would 
fill many volumes ; principles, not now to be disputed, 
but merely stated ; principles, however, of real action, 
and tending to nothing but peace and virtue. 

The discipline of the primitive churches was not 
taken from the economy of Moses. That economy 
was fastened to a place, confined within a given 
12* 



lob PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 

period of time, and exhibited sensible objects to the 
worshippers. The late learned prelate, Bishop 
Warburton, in his life of the emperor Julian, hath 
clearly proved that the total subversion of the Mosaical 
dispensation was essential to the very being of the 
christian economy. As a theory, this is granted by 
all. In practice the case differs. Some christians in 
early times lost sight of this sound original maxim, 
and, unhappily, incorporated the discipline of the 
temple into the religion of Jesus, and on this mistake 
the Roman church is built. Hence the return of 
christians back into the bondage of infancy, regulated 
by meats, and days, and first elements of erudition. 
Hence a ritual, a pontiff, and a priesthood. Hence 
holy wars, and the defence of the faith by the sword 
of civil government. Hence a thousand institutes, 
all alien from the spirit of him, who said, Behold, I 
create new heavens, and a new earth. They shall not 
hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain. 

The primitive discipline was not taken from the 
synagogue. Synagogues were a sort of oratories 
resembling our meeting-houses, chapels, or parish- 
churches, erected not for sacrifice, which was con- 
fined to the temple, but merely for purposes of de- 
votion, and its appendage, instruction. It should 
seem, for reasons not now necessary to be mentioned, 
these houses were first erected at the return of 
the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, when the 
condition of the people made such places necessary. 



PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 139 

In Babylon they had lost the language in which their 
Scriptures were written, and it was necessary to rem- 
edy this inconvenience by glossing the text when it 
was read to the people, that they might not lose the 
sense in a confusion of terms. Here, on Sabbath 
days, the people assembled to pray, and to g ; ve and 
receive instruction by reading the holy Scriptures and 
expounding the sense. Order rendered rules neces- 
sary, and rules ripened into laws. In time these laws 
formed a system of parochial government ; so I think 
I may venture to call the jurisprudence of the syna- 
agogue. Many learned men have supposed that 
primitive christians adopted this discipline, and regu- 
lated their social worship by it. Probably some did 
so ; but it should seem they were Jews influenced by 
prejudices of education, and who, having only a slight 
knowledge of Christianity, incorporated with it max- 
ims of a polity not adapted to the views of their 
divine master ; for it would be easy to prove that the 
discipline of the synagogue was penal, practicable 
only in an assembly of rulers and subjects, and of 
course not fitted to a society of equals, which was 
the condition of the primitive church, as will be ob- 
served presently. Some have supposed, the Lord 
Jesus intended to recommend this discipline by his 
advice in case of trespass, recorded in the xviii 
of Matthew ; but that learned foreign lawyer, Pro- 
fessor Boehmer (let it not offend if w T e add, the best 
modern writer on this subject) hath elucidated the 



140 PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 

text, and proved beyond contradiction, that the reli- 
gion of Jesus did not, in its primitive institution, 
admit of any civil coercion, and consequently that its 
discipline was not that of the synagogue, which did. 

The primitive discipline was not formally instituted 
by Jesus Christ. In vain we search for it in any of 
his public discourses, or private conversations. The 
Jews differed in speculations, but their rites were 
uniform, because their legislator had with precision 
adjusted every thing. But what chapter of the life 
of Jesus can any church produce, and say, here is 
our ritual ; this is our order ; these are the institutes 
of our discipline ; this verse tells us how to admit a 
member ; that how to elect an elder, a deacon, or a 
teacher ; here we are told how to form a society ; 
there how to preserve it ; and in case of dissolution, 
this instructs us how to separate, or how to reassem- 
ble ? On these subjects the wise master of our 
assemblies said nothing. 

Finally, the discipline of the christian church was 
not expressly appointed by the Apostles. In the 
present view, the apostolical writings may be con- 
veniently classed under four heads. Some are pro- 
phetical ; as the Revelation of John, some paragraphs 
in the writings of Paul, and some detached verses of 
others. A second class are historical; as the Acts of 
the Apostles, and in the Epistles many incidental 
names, dates, places, persons, and events Prophecy 
affords no rules of discipline ; history furnishes prece- 



PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 141 

dents, but precedents however, which are law only to 
such as are in circumstances similar to those of the per- 
sons mentioned by the historians. The third class may 
be called expository of the christian doctrine, as the 
Epistle to the Hebrews written for the Jews, and the 
Epistles to the Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, and 
others, written for the Gentiles, or, to speak more 
properly, for societies composed of both Jews and 
Gentiles. Discipline here is an occasional subject, 
and it is chiefly applicable to the then state of the 
societies. In a similar state christians may adopt 
these prudential maxims, the end of all which is 
peace, peace. The last class consists of moral pre- 
cepts adapted to the conditions of individuals. Is 
Timothy an overseer ? He must be blameless. Is 
Paul aged ? His advice ought to be respected. Are 
you a husband ? Be kind. Are you a master ? 
Be just and humane. Are you a servant ? Be con- 
tent with providence, diligent in business, and rever- 
ence your master. Are you a member of the chris- 
tian body of believers ? Imitate Jesus your pattern, 
and love your brethren. Nothing of all this can be 
called a christian ritual ; and advice to a church, like 
advice to a wife, presupposes a state regulated by 
rules not mentioned by the adviser ; and indeed the 
Apostles no more drew up a discipline, than they 
did a ritual for the hiring of servants, or the cele- 
bration of marriage. 



14 2 PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 

What then ! Did Jesus leave this important arti- 
cle unsettled ? No. On the contrary, he finished it 
by an effort of wisdom truly divine. The Christian 
discipline rose of itself out of that condition of equal- 
ity, into which Jesus put his disciples. He took 
twelve men of even rank, and perhaps with little dis- 
similitude of age and ability, and constituted them a 
family of love, or, if you will, a circle of friends. 
They were his whole church. Here was no master, 
no servant ; no priest, no people ; no prince, no sub- 
ject ; no father, no son. It was not the union of a 
literal family like that of the temple ; or of a district 
like that of the synagogue ; or of a vague multitude 
like that which attended the preaching of Christ ; or 
of an universal body under the direction of universal 
itinerants, immediately inspired, as the churches were 
after his decease in the times of the Apostles ; but 
it was a state of the perfect equality of minds united 
by mutual benevolence. 

What is discipline ? Order. What was primitive 
discipline ? Order without government, and above 
the want of it. In this exuberant soil of peace and 
freedom the human understanding unfolds itself in 
free inquiry, free from the frost of nipping penalties. 
The heart mellows into ripeness. Fear of God and 
love of his creatures, reverence for the first great 
cause and attachment to his image, meekness, gen- 
tleness, goodness, and devotion, form a fragrant com- 
pound of delicious taste ; or, to use the language of 



PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 143 

Solomon, it is the sweetness of friendship, which, like 
ointment and perfume, rejoices the heart. It is not the 
fabric, however ornamented, it is this moral excel- 
lence, that excites the exclamations of christians ; 
and this in many a mean place hath impelled them to 
look upward and sing ; Lord, I love the habitation of 
thine house, the place where thine honour dwelleth. 

Jesus left civil society untouched, and there rank 
and government are necessary ; but it is a fact that 
primitive christian societies were small, independent 
bodies of equals. Many ecclesiastical historians have 
observed this, and have remarked that the first chris- 
tians never elected officers because they had no right 
to teach or to baptize, but because they had not all 
either ability or opportunity to officiate. Even 
women taught and baptized, but order required them 
to officiate only to their own sex, and therefore the 
first churches appointed them deaconesses. In large 
churches they were numerous ; they sat in public in 
a seat by themselves, and they were distinguished in 
the middle age by a small, grave ornament on the 
neck. The form of ordaining these female officers 
may be seen in the menologies of the Greek church. 
In the primitive church, order required a society of 
friends to visit and relieve each other, and, expedi- 
tion being necessary in many cases, it was found ad- 
visable to elect a few to receive and distribute relief, 
to comfort the sick, to inspect the condition of pris- 
oners, to try to procure their enlargement, and, in 



144 PRIMITIVE CHURCH. 

brief, to manage their secular affairs, as well as to 
wait on the rest at the administration of the Lord's 
supper and baptism. In our small societies deacons 
execute these friendly offices without neglect to their 
worldly employments ; but in large primitive church- 
es, as the office took up the whole time of a deacon, 
justice required an indemnity, not to say a reward, 
and the church wholly supported their deacons. 

Hence in time, in declining churches, when the 
teachers had risen into a priesthood, they associated 
deacons into their order. In the middle of the third 
century, it should seem, by comparing a letter of Cyp- 
rian with another of Cornelius of Rome, and a pas- 
sage in Optatus, there were in Rome at that time 
forty-four christian congregations in the Catholic con- 
nexion ; and in these churches there were on the 
list no less than fifteen hundred widows, sick, poor, 
and other objects of charity, wholly dependant on the 
liberality of the church. To the honour of the church, 
they were all supported ; and deacons, who had so 
much employment, were honourably maintained as 
justice required. Such equity ought to prevail in all 
our modern offices ; and a church that requires the 
whole time of an officer, deacon, or teacher, ought 
to support him ; and an election to such an office, 
not including an election to a maintenance, is not 
just. 



THE 

SPIRIT OF GOD 
THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN 



FROM THE VILLAGE DISCOURSES. 



[To understand the force and appropriateness of 
many parts of Robinson's Village Discourses and 
Morning Exercises, it is necessary to keep in mind, 
that they were delivered in different places, sometimes 
in a private dwelling, an open field, or an orchard ; 
and, also, at different times of the day, sometimes early 
in the morning, and at others in the evening. It 
seems to have been the speaker's chief purpose to 
render his discourses simple and perspicuous, and 
adapted to the uncultivated minds of his hearers, who 
were labourers, living at a distance from the stated 
place of worsiiip, and indifferently instructed in re- 
ligion. Occasional omissions in the articles selected 
from the Discourses and Exercises are indicated by 
asterisks.] 



As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the soils 
of God. Romans, viii. 14. 

The old prophets had a spirit of prophecy, and a 
spirit of holiness ; that is, they had the Spirit of God; 
they knew a little of those future events, which God 
13 



146 



THE SPIRIT OF GOD 



perfectly understood, and which little he imparted to 
them ; and they possessed a little degree of such 
justice and goodness as God possesses in infinite per- 
fection. Jesus Christ is a new character, having the 
Spirit of God without measure, possessing wisdom, 
justice, goodness, and every excellence in unlimited 
variety, and in absolute perfection. What did Jesus 
Christ with this fulness of the Spirit of God ? He 
communicated it to his disciples, and so sent them 
even as his Father sent him, saying, receive ye the 
Holy Ghost. Christ did not communicate to them, 
for they were not capable of receiving it, all the 
Spirit of God that dwelt in him ; but he communi- 
cated it in part, therefore they knew in part, and 
prophesied in part. When they were children, they 
thought and spoke as children ; but when they 
became men, they put away childish things. The 
question is, what did Jesus communicate to his Apos- 
tles for the Holy Ghost ? This question is properly 
answered by distinguishing extraordinary powers, 
peculiar to themselves, and necessary to obtain a 
hearing of their doctrine in the world, from ordinary 
communications common to them and to all other 
good men to the end of the world. 

When Christ came into the world, and conde- 
scended to ask a distracted race of men to give him 
a hearing, what glorious reasons did he stoop to 
bestow I He healed the sick, he raised the dead, he 
fed the multitude, he empowered his Apostles to 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN. 147 

speak with clivers tongues, and to perform many 
miracles, all for the good of society, all to convince 
the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. 
During the life of Christ he communicated to his 
Apostles his own ideas of things, what notion he had 
©f God, what of scripture, what of a future state ; and 
his wisdom made them wise. He imparted to them 
his own just and gentle tempers, and through his 
goodness they hecame good. He communicated to 
them proper actions, and by seeing how he conducted 
himself, they learned how to behave themselves. These 
communications, ordinary and extraordinary, are 
what one of them calls, a receiving out of his ful- 
ness grace for grace. 

Before Jesus Christ left the world, he promised 
the Apostles to supply his absence, after he should 
have left them, by another Comforter, even the spirit 
of truth, which, saith he, ye know, for he dwelleth 
with you, and shall be in you ; that is, the truths 
you know now shall be increased and multiplied, and 
you shall know them better, and more to your com- 
fort, after my death than you have done before. After 
his resurrection, as he had promised, he saw them 
again ; and while he was eating with them, he com- 
manded them that they should not go out of town, 
but wait at Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, 
which, said he, ye have heard of me ; for ye shall be 
baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 
Accordingly about forty days after his death, and a 



14S THE SPIRIT OF COD 

few days after his ascension, they received the Holy 
Ghost in a rich abundance both of ordinary and ex- 
traordinary powers, the first in a very high degree of 
excellence, and the last in a manner peculiar to them- 
selves. The Apostles had these powers in trust to 
communicate to others, and they executed the trust 
faithfully by imparting their extraordinary knowledge 
how to heal the sick, and how to speak with tongues, 
to some others, and this knowledge ceased when 
these extraordinary men died ; but such ideas as 
were necessary for the salvation of ordinary Chris- 
tians to the end of the world they left in writing, and 
so bequeathed as it were to posterity that Holy 
Spirit, which they had received of their divine Master 
for the use of all mankind. 

Thus the history of the Holy Ghost stands in 
Scripture divided into three periods ; the first, from 
Adam to Christ, was a Holy Spirit of prophecy ; the 
second, in the life of Christ, was a Holy Spirit of. 
prophecy, information, and promise, accompanied 
with wisdom to know how to work miracles, and 
power to give it effect ; the third, from Pentecost to 
the moment in which the apostle John wrote the last 
line of his gospel, was a holy dispensation of wisdom, 
goodness, and power, partly proper to that age and 
ceasing with it, and partly containing intelligence to 
inform and direct religion to the end of time. * * * 

Having thus seen the rise and the accomplishment 
of the promise of an universal religion under the ad- 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN. 149 

ministration of Jesus Christ, and having got posses- 
sion of the book that contains the whole of that reli- 
gion, let us proceed to examine the book, and partic- 
ularly with a view to the Holy Spirit, and his influ- 
ence in religion ; for as many as are led by the Spirit 
of God, they are the sons of God. To give you at 
once my notion of the subject, I think our Apostle 
took his idea of the christian church being led by 
the Spirit, from that favourite part of the history of 
his country so often mentioned #1 the writings of the 
prophets, and so faithfully recorded by their first 
historian Moses, I mean God's leading the Israelites 
through the wilderness into the land of promise. 
Sometimes it is said simply, God led them through 
the wilderness. Sometimes it is said, the Holy Spirit 
led them by the right hand of Moses. Sometimes 
they are said to be led with a cloud, and with a light 
of fire ; and in this manner the wise men of the east 
were led by a star to Jesus Christ. God in all these 
cases made use of means, and the work was no less 
his for using means to effect his purpose. In this 
manner I suppose the Holy Spirit by the Scriptures 
guides all good men. The cloud was not in the 
Israelites, nor was the star in the wise men ; but 
there was in them a knowledge of the use and intent 
of these appearances, and a conformity of action to 
their own ideas. 

Here then two things rise to view in our subject ; 
a guide without us, and a disposition within us ; and 
13* 



150 THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

the last seems to me to be an effect of the first, and 
both the work of one and the same spirit. Sup- 
pose a world without a Bible, and you have no idea 
of any Spirit of God as a spirit of religion in the 
inhabitants of it. Suppose, on the other hand, a Bible 
in a world without an inhabitant, and you have no 
notion of influence ; the Spirit of God is there, but 
nothing knows or worships him ; the earth is without 
form and void, and darkness is upon the face of the 
deep. If God calls for light, it will come ; if for 
land and water, they will appear ; if for the sun and 
moon, and stars, they will be ; if for fish, and fowl, 
and beasts, they will appear ; but there will be no 
religion till man comes, nor then any revealed reli- 
gion till the book and the man meet, and then the 
child of God will be led by the Spirit of God. My 
supposition is a fact. The Bible lies about in many 
parts of the world without readers, and there lies all 
our holy religion like Jesus dead in the sepulchre. 
There are, on the contrary, many places where the 
Bible is read ; but it is not among men, but mere 
animals, who eat and drink, and marry and give in 
marriage, and buy and sell, and build and plant, and 
are so full of these ideas, that they never attend to 
religious truth, before death comes and destroys them 
all. So it was in the days of JYoah, so it was also in 
the days of the Son of Man, and so it will be to the 
end of the world. In a word, there is no magic in 
the Bible to operate without reason and conscience ; 



THE GUIDE Of GOOD MEN. 151 

and there is no religion in man without revelation. 
If we lay aside the Scriptures we have no standard 
to judge by, and if we have no judgment the standard 
is of no use. 

Let us apply these general observations to partic- 
ular cases, in order to understand how the Spirit of 
God leads all good men. We have determined, that 
it is by means of scripture truths, and that it implies 
the exercise of some dispositions in us. I am aware 
of the questions you will ask, and I only defer stating 
the question till it comes properly before us, as it 
will presently by supposing a case, which is not a 
mere supposition, because it comes to pass every 
day. Suppose a man, who had never thought of 
religion, to lose by death the first of all earthly 
pleasures, the agreeable partner of his life, or, as a 
prophet calls his wife, the desire of his eyes. O 
dreadful calamity, sound fit to raise the dead ! Son 
of man, behold, I take away from thee the desire of 
thine eyes with a stroke ! I spake unto the people in 
the morning, and at even my wife died. Awhile the 
man, thunderstruck, can hardly believe it true, and 
hopes against hope, till time, cruel time, kills his 
hope, and drives him to despair. The more he 
thinks, the more occasion he sees for grief. Every 
thing he sees pierces him to the heart ; and in every 
place a lovely picture of her that was, and the ghastly 
features of her that is no more, meet his eyes, and 
melt down all his soul in wo. The sun does not 



152 THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

shine, the stars do not sparkle, the flowers do not 
scent, the world does not look as it used to do ; the 
world seems dead, his house is a tomb, and all his 
domestics dreary ghosts. Now he feels the vanity of 
the world, takes ..up his Bible, perhaps to look after 
the desire of his eyes, and try whether he can find 
any thing in her present state to assuage his pain. 
This man hath religion to seek, and it is indifferent 
which end of the Bible he begins at ; either will lead 
him right. If with the prophets, they will hand him 
on from one to another, till they conduct him down- 
ward to Christ ; if with the Apostles, they will direct 
him upward to the same person, who is a light to 
lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of the people of 
Israel. 

This man, thus led to Christ, will be instructed by 
reading his sermons, by observing his actions, and by 
examining how his Apostles understood and explained 
his meaning, by applying it to several cases both of 
individuals and collective bodies, which fell out after 
his death, and during their inspiration ; and perceiv- 
ing the truth and beauty of all this, and finding a 
satisfaction in it calming his mind and producing in 
him a pleasure never experienced before, he will 
become a convert to the christian religion, and choose 
to make the truths of it the rules of his action, and 
the ground of his hope. This man is led step by 
step to a moment in life, in which he becomes a new 
man ; rises, as it were, from the dead into newness of 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN. 153 

life. * * * He hath always been a child asleep in the 
bosom of his father, and when he woke he found 
himself in his arms. Call in now all the means used 
to lead this man to the spot where he now is, and 
examine, which of them made this man a christian ? 
Was it any one of your Prophets or Apostles ? We 
brought indeed the message which we heard of God, 
and declared unto him ; but we were not acquainted 
with him till lately ; he had, when we found him, 
eyes to read, ears to hear, and understanding to 
judge, a conscience to reprove, and he was in a con- 
dition neither melancholy nor mad, but disposed to 
make use of them. In a word, there is a chain of 
events, one of which brings on another, and of all 
which God is the first cause ; and if you can suppose 
the life of the man just now mentioned to consist of a 
chain of five thousand events, and that three thousand 
and fifty came to pass before he touched the holy 
Scriptures, and that his reading them was the three 
thousand and fifty-first event, I should call three 
thousand and fifty, acts of God as the God of nature, 
the three thousand and fifty-first an act of God as the 
God of grace ; and thoiigh I should think him led all 
along before by the same God, yet I should from that 
moment date his being led by the Spirit of God, as a 
spirit of truth and holiness revealing himself in scrip- 
ture as the Saviour of sinners, and in no other way. 
When the Spirit of God saves a soul from death, by 
converting a sinner from the error of his way, what 



154 THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

doth he ? Doth he create any new senses or fac- 
ulties, new eyes in the body, or new powers in the 
soul ? Certainly not ; for as there is no want of any 
new powers, so if they were, they would not be what 
Christ came to redeem, nor would they need sanc- 
tification. The whole work of the Spirit seems to 
me to consist in two things ; the one, a proposing of 
the truths of religion, and this is done in the holy 
Scriptures ; the other, a disposing of the mind to ad- 
mit the truth, and this is done by means of various 
sorts, by prosperity, by adversity, by education, by 
conversation, by sickness, and by a thousand other 
methods, parts of a whole complicated government, 
of which God is the first cause. In order to explain 
the subject, or rather (it becomes me to say of such 
a subject) my notion of it, I beg your attention to 
three reflections of reason, scripture, and experience. 
1 call it reasonable to give God as much glory for 
bringing an event to pass by means, as without them ; 
yea, in some sense more. I will explain myself. It 
is the opinion of some christians, that the Holy 
Ghost regenerates a soul immediately, that is sud- 
denly, and without any thing between himself and 
the soul, and they are zealous to support this idea of 
regeneration for the very laudable purpose of secur- 
ing all the honour of this work to God. We praise 
the motive, for too much care cannot be taken to 
render to God a glory so justly his due ; but we can- 
not see that the work is less bis for his making use of 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN". 155 

means to effect it ; for whose are the means but his 
own ? The more means he thinks proper to use, 
the more he displays his glorious perfections. In all 
his other works he makes use of means. He warms 
us by means of fire, he feeds us by means of bread, 
he refreshes us in the day by air, and in the night by 
sleep, he creates us and brings us into being hj 
means of our parents, and he removes us by means 
of diseases. Name, if it be possible, a single event 
in the whole world brought to pass without means. 
If we go from the body to the mind, still the same 
wise order prevails. Our eyes distinguish colours ; 
but colours are not God, but rays of light differently 
disposed. Our ears distinguish sounds, but sounds 
are only air. Our feelings find out hardness, soft- 
ness, rough, smooth, and so on. There is not a single 
thought, in all the multitude we have in our minds, 
which hath not been brought thither by some means 
or other. What is more, every thought is connected 
with another thought, and that with another, and so 
on till we are lost in the distance or the crowd. 

Now, we ask, is that which God doth by means 
less his doing than if it were performed without 
means ? Is not the last effect as much his as the 
first ? Who gave us this year a plentiful harvest ? 
You say, God. You say right, because God formed 
six thousand years ago sun and earth, air and water, 
wheat and barley, and fixed all in such a state that 
they came to you last harvest exactly in such pro- 



156 THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

portion as he at first appointed them. One great 
argument ior the truth of the christian religion is, that 
it exactly resembles the world of nature, and so 
proves itself to be the work of the same God ; and 
if it were not so, if religion were not like other things, 
which we are sure God made, we should have no 
certain rules to know, when we received a religion, 
whether it were a body of truth coming from God to 
make us happy, or a set of errors contrived by wicked 
men to make us miserable. Did ever any man con- 
ceive that the sun, or the air, or the water, or the 
trees, or fish, fowl, and cattle were the invention and 
production of man f Nobody ever thought so. Why ? 
Because they have characters of size, shape, dura- 
tion, and perfection, above all the skill and power of 
man to produce. Bring forth ten thousand things 
to view having the same characters of perfection in 
their kind, and we instantly know the maker ; but 
produce something with different characters, and the 
author becomes doubtful, and it is no further probable 
that he created it than as it resembles his other 
works. Apply this to our subject. If God regene- 
rates us by means, if he makes us wise by informing 
us of truth, and good by proposing good reasons to us 
for being so, then religion resembles his other works ; 
but if we be wise without truth, and good without 
motive, then a new work appears without the charac- 
ters of his other works, and consequently without 
any evidence to persuade us it is his. Thus, reason 



THE GUIDE 0¥ GOOD MEN. 157 

seems to plead for the truth of our notion of the work 
of the Holy Spirit. 

The chief objection against this account seems to 
me a strong reason in favour of it. If this account 
be true, say some, the work of the Spirit may be 
explained and described as clearly as any other part 
of religion, and we shall know what the work of the 
Spirit is ; whereas we have been taught to believe 
that the work is a mystery, which no man knoweth r 
no, not he that receiveth it ; and this notion seems 
confirmed by this text, the wind bloiveth where it 
Hsteth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst 
not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth ; so 
is every one that is born of the Spirit. In answer 
to this, and every other objection taken from Scrip- 
ture, we have proposed to make a second reflection 
on the language of Scripture concerning this subject, 
and we shall put the passages into two classes. 

In the first, we put such as speak of this work under 
figures or similitudes ; as where the Spirit is said to 
be like wind, fire, water. All Scriptures of this kind 
are explained by one distinction between the nature 
and the effects of things. It is one thing to know the 
nature of fire, and air, and water, and it is another to 
know the effects they produce. No man fully knows 
the first ; but the last are as clear as daylight. Is 
there a man in this assembly, who doth not know, 
what effect fire will produce in wood or water, and 
wind in mill work, and so on ? When our Lord said, 
14 



158 THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

Every one that is born of the Spirit is so as you, 
Nicodemus, are in the wind ; he knows the effects, 
and that knowledge is sufficient to direct his actions ; 
my instructions are intended to make men good men, 
and not philosophers. Observe, it was Nicodemus 
who said, how can these things be ? And the 
reproof given him by Jesus Christ would have been 
improper had the subject been a mystery ; art thou a 
master of Israel and knoivest not these things. We 
speak that we do know and testify that we have seen. 
The subject of their conversation was not the nature 
of the Spirit, but his influences in religion. Now, 
said our Lord, the religion I teach is spiritual, it doth 
not stand like yours in meats and drinks, and divers 
washings, and carnal ordinances imposed until the 
time of reformation for the purifying of the flesh, but 
in effects upon the mind and heart ; you see no tem- 
ple, no priesthood, no sacrifices in my religion ; let 
not this offend you ; my religion resembles the wind, 
which no man ever saw, but the effects of which you 
and all other men perfectly understand. The wind 
bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound 
thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither 
it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 
In this manner expound all the passages that speak 
of the Spirit's work under similitudes, and you will 
find no difficulty in them. 

In a second class, I put all such Scriptures as de- 
scribe the work of the Spirit. The apostle Peter had 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN. 159 

seen a great deal of this work, and one day of his 
life, such a day as that in which three thousand souls 
were added, produced more and better experiments 
than ordinary teachers have an opportunity of seeing 
in their whole life. He saw religion in every form, 
and examined single conversions, separately and 
alone, and his whole life was a course of experiments, 
a part of which are recorded in Acts j and we have 
reason to believe, though we have no account of the 
twenty-four last years of his life in Scripture, that he 
continued to old age in the exercise of instructing 
and converting mankind, or, as our Lord call? it ; 
feeding the lambs and the sheep of Christ. The tes- 
timony of such a man is extremely respectable. It 
is a testimony of inspiration explained and confirmed 
by experiment. Now he says, that the strangers 
scattered throughout Pontus, and other countries, 
who were elect through sanctification of the Spirit, 
were horn again of incorruptible seed by the word of 
God, ivhich word by the Gospel was preached unto 
them. This account of regeneration is partly literal, 
and partly figurative. The Gospel is the word of 
God ; the Gospel was preached unto you. These 
are literally true. The Gospel containing the word 
of God which was preached unto you is an incorrup- 
tible seed, of which you were born again ; these are 
figurative expressions, and must be expounded by the 
literal terms, and clearly mean a dependence of the 
three excellencies that constitute a regenerate man 



ICO THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

on the three principal parts of religion, in which they 
hacl been instructed. 

The Gospel proposes a set of clear truths ; Chris- 
tians examine and believe these truths. The Gospel 
proposes a set of motives ; Christians feel these 
motives ; fear hell, desire heaven, love holiness, and 
so on. The Gospel proposes a set of rules to live by; 
Christians reduce these rules to practice. Christians 
thus are born into a new world, having the new 
■powers necessary to live in that world ; they have 
new objects and new ideas ; they have new motives 
and new feelings ; they have new laws and a new 
life. The apostle not only saw all this in others, 
but he felt all this exemplified in himself. He was in 
the exercise of bis trade, casting a net into the sea, 
when a person walking on the beach called to him, 
and said, follow me, and I will make you a fisher of 
men. This word of the Lord was like that at the 
creation, let there be light ; and the history of the 
rest of Peter's existence may be contained in this 
word, there was light. When he afterward fell into 
a swoon, and returned again to sin and to fishing, he 
was begotten again, unto a lively hone, not without 
means, but by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from 
the dead. Here is the work, the whole ordinary 
work of the Holy Spirit, but all wrought by means ; 
these strangers purified their souls in obeying the 
truth through the Spirit, that is, through the knowl- 
edge of things reported unto them, by them that 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN. lul 

preached the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down 
from heaven, to enable the preachers to speak the 
divers tongues of these strangers, and of all others to 
whom they were sent, that so their faith might stand 
on what they clearly understood. ***** 
This brings us to our last reflection on christian 
experience. If means have no place in the christian 
religion till after the production of something in the 
soul containing the whole new man, then the use of 
means is only to nourish and cherish this new prin- 
ciple, that is to say, they are to a christian what air 
and earth and moisture are to an acorn. All chris- 
tians seem to act as if they thought the means ap- 
pointed to produce the end, and the fitness of the 
means is the support of christian action. On this 
principle we educate our children, because instruc- 
tion seems to us a proper method of producing in 
them knowledge. On this principle we read and ex- 
pound the Scriptures in public ; not that the Scrip- 
tures want any expounding, to cool and attentive 
minds, but because the minds of most men are not 
in such a state, but blinded with prejudice, custom, 
and passion, and because we know such a mind is 
not prepared to attend to reason. On this princi- 
ple we address the Gospel not only to the righteous 
and well disposed, but also to men of a quite differ- 
ent character. 

One great argument in defence of our holy reli- 
gion is that it is fitted not only to saints, but also to 
14* 



]'. J THE SPIRIT OF GOD 

sinners, even to such as are in the last and most 
deplorable stages of vice. If you say, God works in 
the means ; tins is what we plead for ; if you affirm 
on the contrary that he works immediately, then 
there is no more fitness in instructing the ignorant, 
and reasoning with the wicked, and expecting knowl- 
edge and reformation to follow, than there would be 
in planting and watering flints and pebbles, and ex- 
pecting them to grow into oaks. Go further, go back 
to the regeneration of any one christian in this assem- 
bly, and divide yourselves into two parts. Some of 
you do not know the time of your conversion ; that 
is as much as to say, the work of the Spirit was so 
connected with other events that one thing brought 
on another till all together issued in your conversion, 
for you are a sincere convert to the faith of Christ. 
Others of you resemble the man supposed some time 
ago, and you know what events fell out when you 
became christians ; but the connexion of an effect 
with a cause destroys the notion of immediate influ- 
ence. One says, such a providence set me a think- 
ing ; another says, such a discourse set me a repent- 
ing ; a third says, such a book gave me information 
that produced comfort. All of us believe, the means 
of religion are highly fitted to answer their end ; and 
the certainty of obtaining the end in the use of means, 1 
is the sun that rules the day, and the moon that rule? 
the night of life. v>sh blu* 



THE GUIDE OF GOOD MEN'. 168 

We cannot conclude this subject without two reflec- 
tions. First, we perceive a wonderful inclination in 
christians toward something in religion so sublime as 
not to be understood ; whereas the true sublimity of 
religion lies in its plainness, as the true excellence 
and dignity of man consist in his becoming such a 
plain man as Jesus Christ was. This inclination is a 
remnant of the old education given this country by 
monks and priests, whose majesty stood in the credu- 
lousness of their followers. They made creeds, or 
articles to be believed, and gave them to our forefath- 
ers to say over. You do not understand them, said 
they, but we do ; and, while they were doing that, the 
creed-makers ran away with their houses and lands. 
Let us renounce this disposition, and let us believe 
nothing but what we understand. 

Lastly, we observe with great pleasure that all 
christians allow the Spirit of God is a Holy Spirit ; 
and even they who think him hidden, think they have 
no right to conclude he is where they suppose, till the 
fruits of a holy life declare it. Should a man, who 
had lived wickedly all his days, be intoxicated with 
liquor over night and regenerated at six next morn- 
ing by an immediate work of the Spirit, no christians 
would believe it that day ; and should he, like Saul, 
assay to join himself to the disciples, they would be 
all afraid of him, and not believe that he was a dis^ 
ciple till some Barnabas should declare two things 
unto them ; one, how the Lord had spoken to him ; 



164 



THE SPIRIT OF GOD, &tC. 



and the other, how he had boldly preached at Da- 
mascus ; till he had given substantial proofs by his 
conduct that his pretensions were true and real. If 
an extraordinary conversion was not credible without 
proof, how much less are ordinary changes ? The 
proof of proofs is laid by the Holy Spirit where it 
ought to be. if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not 
under the law, for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, 
peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meek- 
ness, temperance ; against such there is no law. Let 
not a man think himself to be something when he is noth- 
ing ; but let every man prove his own ivork, and then 
shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in 
another man. 

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FR051 THE VILLAGE DISCOURSES. 



When ye fedd, ye may understand my knowledge in the 
mystery of Christ. Ephes. iii. 4. 

By Christianity, I mean that religion which Jesus 
Christ taught his disciples, and which is all contain- 
ed in the New Testament. Retain this observation, 
for it frees the subject from many difficulties. Some 
misguided christians propose a great number of 
mysteries, that is, secrets to us ; such as that the 
bread and wine in the Lord's supper cease to be 
bread and wine, and become the flesh, and bones, 
and blood of Christ ; such as that a wicked man is 
inspired by the Holy Ghost to lead us to heaven 
without our knowing the way ; and that these won- 
ders are performed by the uttering of certain words 
by a certain set of men ; and these secrets, which 
nobody so much as pretends to understand, we are 
required to believe. However, we have one short 
answer for all mysteries of this kind $ that is, they are 



J 66 THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 

not taught in the New Testament, and therefore they 
are no parts of the christian religion. 

When I affirm the christian religion is not a secret, 
observe, I speak of Christianity now, and not former- 
ly. Thus we free the subject from all the objections 
which are made against it from many passages in the 
New Testament. Christianity, say some, is often 
called a mystery, or a secret ; even the text calls it 
so. True ; but the same text says, Paul knew this 
secret, and the Ephesians might understand what he 
knew of it, if they would read what he wrote to them. 
When ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in 
the mystery of Christ. 

Strictly speaking, the text intends only one part 
of Christianity, that is, the uniting of heathens and 
Jews in one religious community ; but what is affirm- 
ed of this one part is equally true of the whole. True 
religion had always been hid from the wisest of the 
heathens; and the christian religion, which was then the 
only true religion, had not been made known in other 
ages to the Jews, as it was then to the Apostles ; but 
Paul knew it, and he proposed to make all men see 
it. I preach to make all men see. We allow, the 
wisest man could never have known (for his life would 
have been too short, and his faculties too much con- 
fined) the true character of God ; but we affirm God 
revealed, that is, made it known unto the Prophets 
and Apostles by his Spirit \ and these Prophets and 
Apostles have made it known to us by their writings. 



EASY TO BE UNDERSTOOD. 107 

When I affirm, the christian religion hath no mys- 
teries now, I do not mean to say that the truths and 
the duties of Christianity are not connected with other 
truths and other exercises, which surpass all our 
comprehension ; but I affirm, that the knowledge of 
the incomprehensible parts, and the belief of what 
people please to conjecture about them, though they 
may be parts of our amusement, and perhaps im- 
provement, are yet no parts of that religion which 
God requires of us under pain of his displeasure. 
Suppose I were to affirm, there is no secret in mow- 
ing grass, and in making, stacking, and using hay ; 
all this would be very true ; and should any one deny 
this, and question me about the manner in which one 
little seed produces clover, another trefoil, a third 
rye-grass, and concerning the manner how all these 
convey strength and spirit to horses, and milk to cows, 
and fat to oxen in the winter ; I would reply, all 
this is philosophy ; nothing of this is necessary to 
mowing, and making, and using hay. I sanctify 
this thought by applying it to religion. Every good 
work produces present pleasure and future reward ; 
to perforin the work, and to hope for the reward 
from the known character of the Great Master we 
serve, is religion ; and all before and after is only 
connected with it. 

What part of the christian religion is a mystery f 
Divide the whole into the three natural parts, of plan, 
progress, and execution : the first was before this 
j owofli fi ebam xjA 



168 THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 

world began ; the last will be after this world shall 
end ; the middle partis before us now. There is no 
secret in either of these parts ; but there are incom- 
prehensible mysteries connected with each of them. 
In regard to the first, it is impossible to be supposed, 
by a man who knows any thing of God, that the 
christian religion came into the world without the 
Creator's knowing that such an event would take 
place ; and it is impossible for such a man to imag- 
ine that, after the present life, there will be no dis- 
tinction made between the righteous and the wicked. 
There is no mystery in these general principles ; but 
we may render them extremely perplexed by rashly 
agitating questions connected with them. 

In regard to Christianity in this present life, every 
thing in it is exceeding plain. Is the character of 
Jesus Christ a secret ? Did ever any body take him 
for an idle gentleman, a cruel tyrant, a deceitful 
tradesman, a man of gross ignorance and turbulent 
passions ? On the contrary, is it not perfectly clear 
that he was the person foretold by the Prophets 
of his country, who should come, himself per- 
fectly wise and good, to instruct mankind in the 
knowledge and worship of God ? Is the char- 
acter of Scripture a secret ? Is it not perfectly 
clear, that it is a wise and good book, full of 
information on all the subjects that concern reli- 
gion and morality ? Is it a secret that we are 
mortal and must die ; or that we are depraved, and 



EASY TO BE UNDERSTOOD. 100 

apt to live in the omission of duty and the practice of 
sin ; or that a life of sin is connected with a course of 
misery, for pursuing which we deserve blame ? Is it 
a secret whether God takes notice of the actions of 
men, or whether he will forgive a penitent and pun- 
ish the impenitent ? In a word, is the character of God 
a secret in the christian religion ; and is it a myste- 
ry whether he be an object worthy of our adoration 
and imitation ? Were I obliged to give a short ac- 
count of the christian religion, I would not say it is a 
revelation of the decrees of God, or a revelation of 
the resurrection of the dead, or a revelation of the 
mercy of God to a repenting sinner through the mer- 
it of Jesus Christ ; for though each of these be true, 
yet all these are only parts of his ways ; but I would 
call Christianity a revelation, or a making known of 
the true and real character of God ; and I would af- 
firm of the whole, and of each component part, that 
it was so made known as to be free from all mystery, 
in regard to the truth of the facts, and yet so connected 
as to contain mysteries beyond the comprehension of 
finite minds. I would affirm further, that our relig- 
ion is confined to the belief and practice of only 
what is revealed, and that every thing untold is a 
matter of conjecture, and no part of piety towards 
God and benevolence to mankind. 

Take heart, then, my good brethren ; you may 
understand, practise, and enjoy all this rich gift of 
God to man, just as you enjoy the light of the day, 
15 



170 



THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 



and refreshment by rest at night. Let no one say, I 
was born in poverty, I have had no learning, I have 
no friends, my days are spent in labour, and I have 
no prospect except that of drawing my last breath 
where I drew my first. All this may be true ; but 
all this will not prevent your knowing, and practising, 
and enjoying the christian religion, the founder of 
which had not what the birds of the air have, where 
to lay his head. 

When I say all may understand it, 1 mean if their 
own depravity does not prevent it. Plainly, you can- 
not know it if you do not attend to it ; nor can you 
know it, though you do attend, if you do not attend 
to Christianity itself, but to something else put instead 
of it. Let me explain myself. 

One says, I cannot understand the nature and force 
of religion ; and pray, is there any thing wonderful 
in your ignorance ? Consider, you never read the 
Scriptures ; you never ask any body to read them to 
you ; you hate and persecute good men ; you sel- 
dom enter a place of worship ; you keep wicked 
company like yourself; you are often seen in the 
practice of enormous crimes. Are you the man to 
complain, I cannot understand religion? It would 
be a mystery indeed, if a man who never turned his 
attention to a subject, should know any thing certain 
about it. We have no such mystery in all the chris- 
tian religion. Christians do not live like you. 



EASY TO BE UNDERSTOOD. 171 

Another says, I am a very sober man, I go con- 
stantly to a place of worship, and I cannot compre- 
hend the christian religion. All this is very true ; 
you are a sober, decent character, and regular in 
your attendance on public worship ; but recollect, I 
am speaking not of your body, but of your mind. 
Now, it is a fact, abroad or at home, in the church 
or in the barn, your attention is always taken up 
with other things, and so taken up as to leave no 
room for the things which belong unto your everlasting 
peace. Sometimes your corn, sometimes your cattle, 
sometimes taxes and rates, and sometimes your rent 
and your servants' wages ; but, at all times, to live in 
this present world, engrosses all your attention. You, 
you resemble yon child fast asleep, without knowing 
it, in the arms of a parent. God besets you behind 
and before, and lays his hand upon you. It is he 
that watereth the ridges of your com, and settleth 
the furrows thereof ; he maketh the earth soft with 
showers ; he clothes thy pastures with flocks, and 
crowns the year with his goodness. It is he that 
giveth thee power to get wealth, and multiplieth thy 
herds and thy flocks, and thy silver and thy gold, 
and all that thou hast. And you, inattentive man ! 
you cannot comprehend that you are under an obli- 
gation to know and do the will of this generous bene- 
factor. What does Christianity require of you, but to 
love and serve this God ? If you do not serve him, 
it is because you do not love him ; if you do not love 



172 THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 

him, it is because you do not know him ; and if you 
do not know him, it is not for the want of evidence, 
but attention. 

It is not only to you that I affirm this connexion 
between attention and knowledge ; for if this barn 
were filled with statesmen and scholars, generals and 
kings, I should be allowed to say to one, Sir, you 
understand intrigue; to another, Sir, you understand 
war, to besiege a town, and rout an army ; to a third, 
Sir, you understand law, and every branch of the 
office of a conservator of the peace ; to another, Sir, 
you understand languages and arts and sciences ; and 
you all understand all these, because you have stud- 
ied them ; but here are two things which you have 
not studied, and which therefore you do not know ; 
the one, how to plough, and sow, and reap, and 
thresh an acre of wheat ; and the other, how to live 
holily in this world, so as to live happily in the world 
to come. Are you not convinced, my good brethren, 
that the same circumstance, which prevents those 
gentlemen from knowing how to perform the work 
that you perform every day with pleasure, prevents 
von from knowing the practice and the pleasure of 
true Christianity ? In both cases the subject hath not 
been attended to. 

I go further, and venture to affirm, if religion 
could be understood without attention, it would be a 
misfortune ; a misfortune depriving us of many ad- 
vantages and leading us to commit many crimes, 



EASY TO BE UNDERSTOOD, 



173 



The ease with which we acquired knowledge would 
sink the value of it, and darkness would have com- 
munion with light. 

As attention is absolutely necessary, so it is equal- 
ly necessary that attention should be fixed upon the 
christian religion itself, and nothing else. We hear 
often of the mysteries of religion ; let us not forget 
that there are mysteries of iniquity. Ignorance, 
covetousness, tyranny, especially tyranny over con- 
science, all wrap themselves in mystery ; but if we 
incorporate any of these mysteries with the christian 
religion, and attend to them, instead of distinguishing 
and attending to pure Christianity, we may attend 
and study, but we shall never know ; we shall be 
ever learning, and never able to come to the knowl- 
edge of the truth. The doctrine, manner of life, pur- 
pose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecu- 
tions, afflictions, and deliverances of the Apostle 
Paul, were fully known, and diligently followed by 
common christians ; but who ever knew the doctrine 
of transubstantiation, or that of the infallibility of a 
frail, sinful man ? Who of us, uninspired men, 
knows the feelings of a person under the immediate 
influence of the Holy Ghost? In vain we pursue 
such mysteries as these ; the stronger the attention, 
the greater the mortification of not being able to suc- 
ceed. If one place religion in impulses, another in 
new revelations, a third in a state of perfection, a 
fourth in discoveries and enjoyments inconsistent 
15* 



174 THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION 

with our present state, and not set before us in the 
christian religion, they may well be filled with doubts 
and fears, and spend life in complaining of the crook- 
ed and dreary paths of religion. If, on the contrary, 
we attend only to what is revealed, to believe only 
w T hat is reported with sufficient evidence, to practise 
only what is commanded by the undoubted voice of 
God ; if we seek only such pleasures and distinctions 
as we are taught in Scripture to expect ; in a word, 
if we w T ould acquaint ourselves only with God, and 
be at peace one with another, thereby good should 
come unto us. 

When I said, all of you might understand Christi- 
anity, I meant, there was nothing in Christianity but 
what might be understood if it were properly attend- 
ed to, and nothing in the natural condition of any 
individual (I do not say his moral state) to prevent 
his attending to it. There is no capacity so mean, 
no creature so forlorn, as to be beyond the reach of 
the benefits conferred upon men by Jesus Christ. 
You are a babe; in his Gospel there is milk for babes; 
truths adapted to nourish and cherish a little, feeble 
mind. You are poor ; the poor have the Gospel 
preached to them ; the glad tidings of a Redeemer, 
and all his benefits. You are unlearned ; but the 
highway of holiness is so plain, that a ivayfaring man, 
though a fool, shall not err therein. You are so 
bashful, and so unused to company, that you are 
necessarily deprived of the pleasure of the company 



EASY TO BE UNDERSTOOD. 175 

and conversation of good men ; but you have better 
company than that of good men ; and you, you poor 
shepherd, you will behold the heavens, the work of the 
fingers of your God ; you will consider the moon and 
the stars, and the Saviour and the heaven which he 
hath ordained, till you cry out, What is man, that 
thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou 
visitest him ? And upon these subjects the tongue 
of the stammerer shall be ready to speak eloquently I 
The christian religion enlarges and ennobles the 
mind, purifies and refines the heart, and adorns the 
life ; and a christian labourer, exercising his own un- 
derstanding, is a more beautiful sight than an unjust 
judge in all the pomp of his office. 



THE JEWS. 



FROM THE MORNING EXERCISES. 



Afterward shall the children of Israel fear the Lord and 
his goodness in the latter days. Hosea, iii. 5. 



Always when I see a Jew, I recollect a saying of 
the Lord by the prophet Isaiah, thou art the seed of 
Abraham, my friend ; and I find a thousand thoughts 
in my mind, impelling me to my duty. I am going 
this morning just to give you a sketch of a subject, 
that would fill volumes, and a subject of which we 
ought not to be ignorant. 

First, let us inform ourselves of the general history 
of this people. The father of the family was Abra- 
ham. He was born in the East, of an idolatrous 
family, and, at the command of God, he became the 
first dissenter in the world. He quitted his country, 
and went and set up the worship of one God in his 
own family, and taught them to practise it. From 
this man proceeded a family, which increased into 
tribes, and formed a people as the stars in the heav- 
en, or the sand on the seashore for multitude. Idol- 
atry and immorality sometimes infected a few ; but 



the jews. 177 

the bulk preserved the belief of one God, and the 
imitation of his perfections, inviolably for ages. They 
were shepherds, and lived, imbosomed in forests and 
fastnesses, a plain, frugal, laborious life, unacquainted 
with the world, and unpractised in the arts and luxu- 
ries of polished nations. They assembled to wor- 
ship God by prayer and sacrifice at every new moon, 
where the old heads of families taught morality, and 
inculcated the hope excited by the promise of God, 
that in one of their family, all the families of the 
earth should be blessed with the knowledge of their 
God and their morality. Thus read the book of 
Genesis, and other scripture histories of the same 
times, and without forming any romantic ideas of imi- 
tation, impossible except in their circumstances, ad- 
mire the history, approve the prophecy, and copy the 
inoffensive purity of their lives. 

When these people were in slavery in Egypt, they 
were at a school in which Providence taught them, by 
their own feelings, the nature and the worth of liber- 
ty, both civil and religious. What noble efforts they 
made to obtain it, and how God crowned their hon- 
est endeavours with success under the direction of 
Moses, Joshua, and the Judges, you will read in the 
four books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth. 
When they changed their government into an absolute 
monarchy, they enslaved themselves, and overwhelm- 
ed their country with idolatry, immorality, and ca- 
lamities of every kind. Read the prophecies with 



178 THE JEW?. 

the light of history of times, persons, and plaees, 
which is contained in Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, 
Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, and you will easily dis- 
cover what religion had to ohject against a tyrannical 
government, an idolatrous worship, and dissolute man- 
ners ; and what it had to do in bearing affliction, re- 
forming worship, and cherishing hope of better times 
under the direction of the expected Prince of the 
house of David. 

When he came, and addressed himself to the 
blessing of all nations with an universal religion, some 
of his countrymen put him to death ; but others 
espoused his cause, wrote his history, and reasoned 
to establish it, not in the form of a secular kingdom, 
but in the convictions and consciences of reasonable 
men. There it hath stood ever since ; and, though 
the bulk of the Jews have been scattered and punish- 
ed for crucifying Christ, yet by being kept a separate 
people, they serve to prove the truth of the Gospel ; 
and the text, with many others like it, promises that 
they shall reverence the Lord in the latter dap. 
The Epistle to the Hebrews lies ready for their use 
at that day. I think nothing can be easier than to 
apply this historical knowledge to its proper use ; 
and yet some christians have got such an unwise and 
wayward knack of reasoning, as to quote whatever 
was among the Jews in proof of what ought to be 
now; as if the economy that crucified Christ was to 
restore him his character and dignity ! 



the jews. J 79 

Remark next the customs of this people. They 
serve, as their history does, to interpret Scripture. 
Our text is connected with one. A part of this pro- 
phecy is a drama. I will try to make you understand 
me. A drama, in our present view, is a subject both 
related and represented. Divines call it preaching 
by signs. These signs were proper to represent to 
the eye the subject spoken of to the ear. Thus 
Jeremiah explained slavery with a yoke upon his 
neck ; and Jesus simplicity, by setting a little child 
before his disciples. * * * * * 

Further, let us allow the merit of the Jews. They 
deserve all the reputation, which the inspired writers 
give them. They exhibit single characters of con- 
summate virtue, as Abraham for faith, Moses for 
meeknes, Nehemiah for love of his country, and so on. 
As a nation they excelled in some periods in arms, 
in others in industry, commerce, splendour, and 
wealth ; and in all in good writers ; for what histo- 
rians are equal to Moses and the evangelists, or what 
ancient poetry breathes such pure and sublime senti- 
ments as that of the Jews ? As a church they pre- 
served the oracles of God, and at their fall their 
remnants became the riches of the world. The 
Apostle of us Gentiles was a Jew, and to say all in 
one word, the Saviour and the Judge of mankind was 
a Jew. Let us respect the ancient Jews in the per- 
sons of their children, and for their sakes let us be 
friends to universal toleration. 



180 THE JEWS. 

Let us recollect the sins and the calamities of 
these people. Their sins were many and enormous ; 
but it was the killing of Jesus Christ, that completed 
their ruin. Let us examine what sins brought Jesus 
to the cross, and let us avoid the practice of them. 
Nor let us forget their calamities. They have been 
under all the punishments foretold four thousand 
years ago by Moses, and seem doomed to travel over 
the world to recommend a Gospel which they reject 
and despise. Their prophets, we find, did not 
slander them ; they are the people described, and 
their punishments prove the divine mission of their 
prophets. Thus God is glorified, whether man be 
lost or saved. In some future time he will be glo- 
rified in us, either his mercy if we embrace it, or his 
justice if we reject it ; for to reject the Gospel is to 
reject both the mercy and the justice of God. 

Let us finish by observing the recall of the Jews. 
The prophets foretel it, and a course of events ren- 
ders it probable. They are preserved a distinct peo- 
ple, though the nations that conquered them are lost. 
They are more numerous now than they were when 
a nation. The Gospel is truth and virtue struggling 
against error and vice ; it is natural to hope that 
the stronger must in time subdue the weaker. Er- 
ror and vice are supported by man ; but truth and 
virtue by God. Let us not despair. The Jews 
came out of Egypt under the conduct of a shepherd 
with only a rod in his hand to point out the way. 



THE JEWS. 181 

Providence is at no loss for means to effect its pur- 
poses ; he worketh all things after the counsel of his 
oivn will. 

There are four things implied in the text, which 
the Jews will reverence in the latter days. First, 
That divine patience, which hore with their provoca- 
tions ; after they have rejected Moses and the Pro- 
phets, after they have committed crimes of every 
sort, after they have crucified Christ, persecuted his 
Apostles, and persevered for ages in approving the 
crime ; afterward shall the children of Israel rever- 
ence the Lord for his patience, which outlasted all 
their perverseness. 

Next, they will reverence his providence, which, 
when they were persecuted in one country, always 
provided them an asylum in another. Providence 
hath given them skill, and made them useful to many 
nations. It hath prospered their industry, and 
crowned it with plenty, so that their riches are almost 
as proverbial as their infidelity. When Jews from all 
countries, in their latter days, shall compile their own 
history of the dispersion, it must needs display a 
bright scene of providence, which they themselves 
will reverence in those days. 

Will they not always reverence the grace of God ? 
The Lord will both forgive their offences, and restore 
them to favour. To this we add, the glory of God, 
as another object of reverence. Great and marvel- 
lous displays of divine power have been made in 
16 



182 



THE JEWS, 



favour of this people formerly, and, it should seem 
by the prophecies, more such displays will be made 
in favour of them at their return to their first hus- 
band. May God hasten it in his time. 

What remains ? Only this at present. Let us 
avoid putting stumblingblocks in the way of the 
Jews. Let us propose Christianity to them as Jesus 
proposed it to them. Instead of the modern magic 
of scholastical divinity, let us lay before them their 
own prophecies. Let us show them their accom- 
plishment in Jesus. Let us applaud their hatred of 
idolatry. Let us show them the morality of Jesus in 
our lives and tempers. Let us never abridge their 
civil liberty, nor ever try to force their consciences. 
Let us remind them, that as Jews they are bound to 
make the law of Moses the rule of their actions. Let 
us try to inspire them with suspicion of rabbinical 
and received traditions, and a generous love of inves- 
tigating religious truth for themselves. Let us avoid 
all rash judging, and leave their future state to God. 
Read at your leisure the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah, 
in the beginning of which Jesus Christ is described as 
the Judge of the world, and the passage is explained 
in that sense in the Revelation of John. It is the 
judge alone, whose habit is stained with blood ; the 
saints, white and clean, only follow him to behold and 
applaud his justice. 



COGAN'S 
LETTERS TO WILBERFORCE, 

ON THE DOCTRINE OF 



HEREDITARY DEPRAVITY. 

V-sf. 



THOMAS COGAN. 



Few particulars have as yet been presented to the 
public concerning the long, and somewhat varied life 
of Thomas Cogan. He was born in the year 1736, 
at Rowell,in Northamptonshire, and was a descendant 
of an old and respectable family in that place, long 
devoted to the religious interests of the dissenters. 
His father was an apothecary, a man of repute in his 
profession, and respected for his good character and 
valuable qualities. To literature and books he was 
much inclined, and had a particular fondness for me- 
taphysical inquiries. A few pamphlets on some of 
the abstruser topics of mental philosophy, published 
at different times, prove the extent of his researches, 
and the industry and zeal with which he pursued 
them. 

With these propensities in the father, it is to be 
supposed that he would feel a lively interest in the 
education of his son. After being initiated into some 
of the simpler rudiments of learning, young Cogan 
was sent to Kibworth, in Leicestershire, and put un- 



18G COGAN. 

der the charge of Dr Aikin, the father of Mrs Bai- 
bauld, who at that time enjoyed a high reputation as 
a teacher. Dr Aikin had been a pupil of Doddridge, 
and afterwards an assistant in the Theological School 
of this eminent divine ; and as a scholar of refined 
taste, and extensive acquisitions, he sustained an ele- 
vated rank. For several years he was professor at 
Warrington Academy, in conjunction with Dr Enfield 
and Dr Taylor, and his lectures on the ancient clas- 
sics and on theology have been applauded by his sur- 
viving pupils. Gilbert Wakefield, in the memoirs of 
his own life, has paid an elegant and feeling tribute 
to the talents and virtues of Dr Aikin.* Under the 
instructions of this able teacher and excellent man, 
Cogan made rapid proficiency in the branches of 
learning to which he applied himself, and he was ever 
after accustomed to speak with delight of the days he 
had passed at Kibworth. 

At this school he remained till he was fourteen 
years of age, when he returned to his father's house, 
and continued at home during the two or three suc- 
ceeding years. About this time he began to think of 
preparing himself for the christian ministry, and with 
the design of prosecuting a course of theological stu- 
dies he entered the Academy at Mile End, where Dr 
Conder was teacher in divinity. For some reason, 
however, growing out of the management of the insti- 

* Memoirs of the Life of Gilbert Wakefield, B. A. formerly Fellow 
of Jesus College, Cambridge. Written by Himself. Vol. I. chap. X! 



COGAN. 187 

tution, Cogan soon became dissatisfied, and removed 
to Hoxton Academy. 

How long he remained in this seminary, or at what 
time he entered the ministerial office, is not known. 
In the year 1759 we find him preaching in Holland, 
and it is supposed, that he acted as an assistant 
preacher with Mr Snowden at Rotterdam, who was 
minister of an English church founded there on the 
principles of the Dutch establishment. 

This station, however, he did not retain long, for 
in 1762 he had returned to his own country, and was 
settled over a congregation in Southampton. What 
length of time he held this situation is uncertain, but 
it seems that difficulties arose between him and the 
people concerning some of his opinions, which ulti- 
mately induced him to request a dismission. By his 
parents he had been taught the principles of Calvinism, 
but his subsequent inquiries shook his faith in the higher 
dogmas of the Genevan creed, and he was too ingen- 
uous to conceal his opinions, and had too high a sense 
of his duty not to preach what he believed to be im- 
portant truth. Finding the views of his congregation, 
in regard to some of the abstruser points of doctrine, 
not in accordance with his own, and perceiving them 
troubled with suspicions of his heresy, he followed 
what he thought to be the dictates of wisdom and 
prudence, as well as of integrity and christian prin- 
ciple, in desiring to be released from the pastoral 
connexion. 

17* 



188 



COGAN. 



Being thus freed from engagements at home, he 
went over again to Holland, where he filled the office 
of colleague with a clergyman in a congregation com- 
posed of English residents. At this period the symp- 
toms of a pulmonary complaint, with which he had 
been long slightly affected, began to exhibit a more 
alarming aspect, and to admonish him of the danger to 
which he was exposing himself by the exertions re- 
quired in public speaking. In short, so much were 
his apprehensions awakened by his declining health, 
that he felt himself compelled to abandon a profes- 
sion, which he had chosen with a profound respect 
for its dignity, and sincere love of its duties, and 
which he had adorned not more by his ministerial la- 
bours and instructions, than by his exemplary deport- 
ment and purity of life. 

In looking around for a new pursuit congenial with 
his inclination, and suited to his health, and one which 
should afford him an honourable calling, his thoughts 
were turned to the medical profession. After his 
mind had become settled in this choice, he commenc- 
ed his new studies with a zeal and devotedness, which 
could hardly fail to ensure him success. He made a 
short visit to England, where he gratified his friends 
by preaching a few discourses, and then went back to 
Holland, and became a regularly matriculated student 
of medicine at the University of Ley den. 

This celebrated institution was then at the height 
of its renown, standing at the head of the medical 



COGAN. 189 

schools of Europe, and Cogan knew how to estimate 
the advantages of his situation, and to profit by the 
uncommon facilities which it afforded. He complet- 
ed the usual course at Leyden, and, when he took 
his degree, exhibited a Thesis on the Influence of the 
Passions in causing and healing Diseases. This dis- 
sertation was the basis of his future works on the 
Passions, which have given him considerable fame as 
a practical metaphysician and ethical philosopher. 

Being thus qualified for entering on his profession, 
he commenced practice in Holland, where he seems 
already to have formed an extensive acquaintance, 
and contracted intimate friendships. He married the 
daughter of a wealthy merchant in Amsterdam, by 
the name of Groen, and established himself for a 
time as a practising physician in that city. Encou- 
raged by his growing reputation, however, he went 
over to London, where his practice became so exten- 
sive and his labours so burdensome, that he found his 
health gradually impaired, and he yielded again to 
what he deemed the call of duty in relinquishing the 
active employments of his profession. In 1780 he 
went to Amsterdam, where he devoted himself to lit- 
erary and philosophical studies, and to such employ- 
ments as were suited to the state of his health, and 
the bias of his inclination. 

During his residence in London, Dr Cogan was in- 
strumental in establishing the Royal Humane Society, 
one of the most efficient schemes of benevolence, 



190 COGAN. 

which have been devised for the relief of suffering 
humanity. The institution may indeed be said to 
have originated with him, although it would not per- 
haps have been so soon carried into actual operation, 
had it not been forced onward by the zeal and un- 
wearied exertions of his friend Dr Hawes. A socie- 
ty was formed in Amsterdam in 1767, the object of 
which was to restore to life those who were apparent- 
ly dead from drowning. The frequent accidents in 
that city, where water conveyance was so common, 
suggested the importance of such an association, and 
premiums were offered for rescuing persons, who 
were in imminent danger of being drowned. The 
society was successful beyond its expectations, and 
statements of its proceedings and the cases of recovery 
were published. These were translated into Eng- 
lish by Dr Cogan, with a view to act on the public 
mind in his own country, and especially to convince 
the friends of humanity in London of the utility of 
such an association in that metropolis. 

These accounts first caught the attention of Dr 
Hawes, who applied himself to the subject with an 
enthusiasm and disinterestedness, which nothing could 
conquer. For a time he received neither sympathy 
nor aid from the public, but no discouragement could 
damp the ardour with which he was moved ; he was 
prodigal to profusion of every personal sacrifice of 
property, time, and labour. His project was ridicul- 
ed as absurd by some, and rejected as impracticable 



COGAN. 191 

by others. For a whole year he took the burden on 
himself, and offered rewards for bringing drowned 
persons to certain places, where means would be im- 
mediately used for their recovery. The practicabili- 
ty of resuscitation was thus proved by numerous 
examples, and his success was such as to silence every 
voice. After these testimonies, the force of which 
was not to be turned aside by ridicule, nor speculative 
objections, Dr Cogan and Dr Hawes agreed on a 
time and place at which they would assemble a cer- 
tain number of their friends, and consult on the proper 
measures to be taken for establishing a society. The 
result was the formation of the Royal Humane Socie- 
ty in 1774; and, to give an adequate conception of 
the utility of this society, it is enough to state, that 
during the first ten years after it was formed, no less 
than three thousand persons in the city of London 
alone, w r ere by its means rescued from a premature 
death. 

The Reports of the Society for the first six years 
were drawn up by Dr Cogan, who was in no degree 
behind his ardent coadjutor in zeal and assiduity. He 
contrived instruments for taking drowned persons 
quickly and uninjured out of the water, and suggest- 
ed various improvements in the methods of resuscita- 
tion. " Whilst he lived, Dr Cogan took a lively in- 
terest in the proceedings of the Society, and, when 
opportunity permitted, failed not to attend the annual 
meetings, where he of all others must have been grat- 



192 COGAN. 

ified by the procession of the persons restored to life 
by the Society's methods. By his will he bequeath- 
ed to his favourite institution the sum of one hundred 
pounds. The Society, as has been justly remarked, 
will be a standing monument of what may be accom- 
plished by individual persevering exertions in the 
cause of humanity ; and will transmit the names of 
Hawes and Cogan to posterity as benefactors of the 
human race."* The example set by them has been 
followed in almost all parts of the civilized world, and 
humane societies formed on a similar plan now exist 
in many of the large cities in Europe and America. 

After retiring from his profession in London, Dr 
Cogan lived a studious and quiet life in Holland till 
the French revolution, when he resolved to quit the 
continent and take up his final residence in England. 
During a part of his absence he had passed his time 
in travelling over Germany and the Netherlands, and 
had made notes of the incidents and reflections that oc- 
curred to him in his wanderings. When he returned 
to England he revised his journal, and published it in 
a work consisting of two volumes, entitled The Rhine. 
This work is praised for the ease and simplicity of its 

* See a short Memoir of Dr Cogan in the Monthly Repository, Vol. 
XIV, p. 1 — 5; 74 — 76. To this article I am chiefly indebted for the 
facts contained in the present brief notice. It is extremely meagre, 
but nothing more extended or full, it is believed, has come before 
the public. It remains for some future biographer to do justice to 
the memory of a man, who has claims so strong on the gratitude of 
his species, and who holds no humble rank among the wise, the 
learned, and the good. 



COGAN. 193 

style, and the interesting manner in which the narra- 
tive is put together. 

He now took up his residence at Bath. Here his 
attention was turned to agriculture ; he made ex- 
periments in farming, and was so successful as to 
gain several premiums from an Agricultural Society 
to which he belonged. In these pursuits it seems to 
have been his chief object to draw off his mind from 
severer studies, and relax himself by an amusement, 
which should be at the same time congenial with his 
taste, and afford him a salutary exercise of his mental 
and bodily powers. He preserved the same habits 
to the end of his life ; wherever he resided he took 
care to be supplied with land for agricultural experi- 
ments ; and when he afterwards retired to lodgings 
in London, he still kept a farm in the country to 
which he frequently resorted. 

While residing at Bath he published his Philoso- 
phical and Ethical Treatises on the Passions. These 
were received with approbation, and have been seve- 
ral times republished. At the same place, also, the 
celebrated Letters to Mr Wilberforce on Hereditary 
Depravity made their first appearance. So popular 
was this pamphlet, that it passed speedily through 
several editions, and continues still to be often re- 
published in England. It may be doubted, whether 
the arguments against the dark scheme of Calvinism 
have ever been stated with more power and spirit, or 
in a form calculated to produce a more thorough con- 



194 COGAN. 

viction of the false foundation on which this system is 
built. The letters are written in a plain, perspicuous 
st) r le, the reasoning is clear and direct, and the tem- 
per of the writer and tone of his sentiments afford an 
admirable illustration of the principles of benevolence, 
and christian love, for which he proves himself so 
powerful an advocate. 

Next in succession were his Theological Disqui- 
sitions, in two volumes, embracing a view of the 
Jewish Dispensation, and of Christianity. These are 
made to harmonize with his previous Ethical Trea- 
tises, and are intended with them to constitute a 
general system of morals and religion, as manifested 
in the character of the Deity, the nature of man, and 
the truths of revelation. But his Theological Dis- 
quisitions contain little that is original or striking ; 
they are diffuse in style, and abound in repetitions of 
the same thoughts ; and although the author's be- 
nevolent spirit shines out in every part, and some 
judicious reflections are scattered here and there, yet 
these volumes must be allowed to be the least satis- 
factory and interesting of all his writings. Dr Co- 
gan's last work, the Ethical Questions, appeared in 
1817, and treats chiefly of metaphysical subjects. 
He published other works during his lifetime, an 
entire catalogue of which may be seen in the article 
referred to above in the Monthly Repository. 

The author's latter years were mostly passed in 
London, although, as before remarked, he occasion- 



f 



COGAN. 195 

ally retreated to his little farm in the country. He 
enjoyed his usual health, till a month before his 
death, when he took a sudden cold by exposure to a 
damp atmosphere, and was seized with an indisposi- 
tion which never left him. For a week or two, 
however, he was able to be abroad, and went to his 
brother's house at Walthamstow, with a presentiment 
that he should never return. From that time he 
declined gradually, and expired on the 2d of Febru- 
ary, ISIS, in the eighty-second year of his age. His 
mind continued sound and active to the last ; he was 
cheerful and tranquil, recounted with expressions of 
gratitude the blessings with which his past life had 
been filled up, talked much of the necessity and 
benefits of death in the wise scheme of Providence, 
and declared his entire readiness to meet the will of 
God in submitting to the great change of death, and 
to resign his spirit to that mercy and goodness, which 
had through a life of many years protected and bless- 
ed him. 

The habitual frame of mind, which he cherished 
on this subject, may be learned from a short paragraph, 
which was found in manuscript among his papers, 
and was intended as the concluding part of the pre- 
face to a new edition of his treatise on the Christian 
Dispensation. "Before this edition will see the 
light," says he, " it is probable that the eyes of the 
author will be closed in darkness. Should this be 
the case, the following declaration may excite some 
18 



196 cogan. 

attention to it. Its principles have afforded him 
much consolation during a large portion of life ; they 
have rendered advanced years placid and serene, 
and enabled him to contemplate death itself, notwith- 
standing its gloomy appearance, as one of the most 
essential blessings in the whole plan of Providence." 
No man could have better grounds for contemplating 
death with security and composure than Dr Cogan ; 
his life had been without reproach ; he was pious 
and charitable, benevolent and humane ; in thought 
and action he was moved by the genuine spirit of 
Christianity ; he loved God, and praised him habitu- 
ally for his goodness ; he loved man, and laboured for 
nothing so much as the moral improvement and hap- 
piness of his fellow-creatures. 



REMARKS 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 



COMMUNICATED TO THE EDITOR. 



The design of Dr Cogan in the connected series 
of disquisitions, which he gave to the world, was, as 
he expresses it, " to trace the moral history of man 
in his pursuits, powers, and motives of action ; and 
the means of obtaining permanent wellbeing and hap- 
piness." He begins, very wisely, with a careful 
analysis of the passions and affections ; from the 
proper exercise of which he supposes all happiness 
to be derived, and in the proper regulation of which, 
he supposes all virtue to consist. 

It is to be regretted, that more attention has not 
been paid to this subject; to the actual constitution of 
the human mind, especially of its active principles, 
and to the various elements, that enter into the forma- 
tion of a good character. Just views on these points 
would do much, it is certain, to correct many prevail- 



198 REMARKS ON THE 

ing errours, not only in morals, but in theology. Light 
would be thrown upon the laws of scriptural interpre- 
tation ; several doctrines of the Gospel, particularly 
those of repentance and conversion, would receive a 
more clear, satisfactory, and practical explanation ; 
many of the differences, which now divide serious 
and well disposed Christians, would disappear ; a 
more candid and liberal spirit would discover itself in 
our treatment of one another, and a more rational and 
consistent, if not a warmer piety towards God. In 
considering the nature and sources of some of the 
most mischievous delusions, that have vexed the 
church, the confused and partial conceptions, that 
still prevail respecting the influence of religion on the 
character, and the too common habit of representing 
many things as the genuine offspring of benevolence 
and piety, which originate in reality in a perverted 
intellect, or a diseased state of the affections, there 
is certainly nothing to which we can look with so 
much hope and confidence as a remedy for these 
evils, as to the improvements which have been made, 
are making, and will be made, in the Philosophy of 
the Human Mind. 

The reputation of Dr Cogan, as a metaphysician, 
must depend chiefly on his Philosophical Treatise on 
the Passions. In defining, classifying, and describing 
the passions, affections, and desires, which belong to 
our nature, and in accounting for their almost infinite 
varieties and diversities, he has discovered much 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 199 

acuteness and compass of mind ; and given us pro- 
bably more useful information on the subject, than can 
be found any where else in the same number of pages. 
He considers, that all our passions and affections may 
be resolved into one principle, the love of well- 
being ; even our aversions being no other than par- 
ticular modifications of a desire founded on this love, 
namely, a desire of being liberated from whatever ap- 
pears injurious to wellbeing. Our passions and affec- 
tions he divides into two classes ; those, which owe 
their origin to the principle of self-love ; and those, 
which are derived from the social principle. Each of 
these classes he subdivides into two orders ; the first 
embracing the passions and affections in which the 
idea of good predominates, or is the exciting cause ; 
and the second, those in which the idea of evil pre- 
dominates, or is the exciting cause. 

The author is a decided believer in the real exist- 
ence of a benevolent principle in man, distinct from 
self-love, and not a mere modification of it. He ad- 
mits, indeed, as all must gladly admit, that much 
pleasure and satisfaction are felt by the person him- 
self, who performs a benevolent action ; but this 
pleasure and satisfaction are observed to follow, or 
attend, the benevolent action, and not to precede it ; 
and are, therefore, to be considered rather as its re- 
ward, than as its motive. There is sufficient evidence, 
that a disinterested sympathy forms a part of our 
moral constitution ; by which the wellbeing of others 



200 



REMARKS ON THE 



is so connected with our own, that an interest is felt 
and manifested in their happiness without any regard 
at the time to its influence on ours. It is an original 
law of our nature, and not the result of calculation. 
Another principle is excited, and made to act ; and, 
therefore, the motive prompting us to perform a bene- 
volent deed is by no means to be confounded with 
the motive prompting us to one purely selfish. It is 
one of the finest characteristics of our author's writ- 
ings, that he takes every occasion to remark upon the 
derivation of our best and only permanent gratifica- 
tions from the cultivation and exercise of this benevo- 
lent principle. " Who can sufficiently admire that 
constitution of things," he exclaims, "which has placed 
the supreme happiness of man in communicating 
happiness to others? Who can sufficiently despise the 
grovelling soul, whose only object is self-gratification ? 
And who will regret, that such a soul can never pos- 
sess what it covets; that it is condemned to feed 
upon husks alone, and to remain an eternal stranger 
to the luxuries of benevolence !"* 

In his Ethical Treatise on the Passions, founded 
on the Principles investigated in the Philosophical 
Treatise, it must be admitted that Dr Cogan does 
not discover equal talent and discrimination ; though 
it contains many ingenious remarks and happy illus- 
trations, which will reward well an attentive perusal. 
It is the leading doctrine of this work, that all our 

* Ethiral Questions, p. 103. 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 201 

passions and affections are good, and productive of 
good, unless abused, that is, bestowed upon unworthy 
objects, or carried to an improper extreme. The 
principle of haired, for example, is a useful and ne- 
cessary principle, so long as it is kept under a due 
regulation ; but becomes pernicious and criminal when 
abused, when an aversion is entertained for that which 
is a real good, on account of some peculiar quality it 
may possess, which is unpleasant to our feelings ; or, 
when we suffer an aversion to exceed, in any case, 
the limits which reason, justice, or humanity pre- 
scribes. Exemplifications of such an abuse are easily 
found by investigating the nature of envy, cruelty, 
malignity. It is by these abuses and irregulari- 
ties, that those passions and affections, which were 
designed and adapted to be the sources and guardians 
of wellbeing, both in ourselves and others, often be- 
come the occasions of the most poignant misery ; 
and, indeed, are the causes of all the manifold and 
aggravated sufferings, which afflict humanity, with the 
exception, perhaps, of some of those that result from 
disease and want. 

Dr Cogan considers that there is no disorder, or 
irregularity of disposition or conduct, which may not 
be traced to one or more of these three causes; igno- 
rance, the influence of present objects, and of inor- 
dinate self-love. Nay, there is a sense in which 
every aberration of the passions and affections may 
be ascribed to ignorance ; as the strong influence 



202 REMARKS ON THE 

of present objects, and the power of inordinate 
self-love to lead the passions and affections astray, 
lies in their effect, first to deceive and blind the un- 
derstanding, leading it to misjudge the properties of 
the interesting object. To guard, therefore, against 
these disorders and irregularities, we are provided 
with intellectual powers and the means of mental 
culture, by the aid of which we may form, or cor- 
rect, our judgments as to the real properties of any 
object that excites our affections ; and ascertain 
whether it ought, or ought not, to be pursued. 

It is this, according to Dr Cogan, that makes man 
a moral agent, accountable for his actions, and capa- 
ble of merit or demerit. It is a beautiful picture, 
which he gives us of the happiness attendant on a 
life of regular and confirmed virtue. " These are 
indications of an inward and deep respect for virtue, 
which may exist in the breasts of those who are pre- 
vented, by habits of depravity, from the practice of 
it. How congenial therefore must it be to the minds 
of those, who have been habituated to the practice of 
virtue ; who feel its benignant influence in their 
own conduct ; and who are witnesses to the peace, 
order, harmony, and joy, diffused according to the 
sphere of its influence ! To the pleasures arising 
from the approving decisions of his judgment, from 
personal advantages in the course of a virtuous con- 
duct, from the esteem of the worthy, from a heart 
glowing with benevolence — the man of confirmed vir- 



WRITINGS OF DR C0GAN. 



203 



tue adds the pleasures derived from a refined and 
exalted taste. He admires the beauty of right con- 
duct. The symmetry derived from well ordered af- 
fections is far more interesting to him, than that of 
forms painted on the canvass, or chiselled out in 
marble. The voice of harmony, arising from the 
cheerfulness of virtuous innocence, delights his ear 
more than all the melodies of music. The grandeur 
of virtue, rising superiour to every misfortune or seduc- 
tion, constitutes with him the true sublime ; and ex- 
cites in his breast the elevated emotions of admiration 
and delight to a much higher degree, than can be 
produced by the majesty of nature itself I"* 

The author's treatise, entitled Ethical Questions, 
or Speculations on the principal Subjects of Contro- 
versy in Moral Philosophy, forms a volume, as its 
title intimates, which contains much questionable mat- 
ter. By those, however, who agree with the author 
in his speculations, it may be thought to discover as 
much learning and ingenuity, as any which he has 
published. He denies that human nature is endow- 
ed with a Moral Sense to perceive moral principles, 
in a manner analogous to the organs of sense in the 
perception of external objects. All, he says, that 
can be ascribed to the constitution of human na- 
ture in this question, is an inherent love of wellbeing, 
disposing us to approve of whatever we think to be 

* Ethical Treatise on the Passions. Part II. Disquisition II. Chap 
II. Sec. 2. 



204 REMARKS ON THE 

conducive to it, and to disapprove of whatever we 
think injurious to it; the degree of our approbation 
or disapprobation being, in every instance, according 
to our opinion of the extent of the evil, or the malig- 
nity of the design. What is called conscience, or 
the moral sense, is therefore according to this writer 
nothing but the reason of man, employed in judging 
of human conduct with regard to its influence on well- 
being ; supported in its decisions by some modifi- 
cation of love or hatred, according as the action or 
agent, which is the object of each particular decision, 
is thought to be friendly or inimical to the order, 
harmony, and happiness of the moral world. It is 
however admitted, that these decisions of the mind 
on moral subjects, though in all cases the result of 
reasoning in the first instance, become by the power 
of habit as instantaneous and direct, apparently, as 
those of intuition or sensation. 

Our author is the open and strenuous advocate of 
the doctrine of Philosophical Necessity. He insists 
upon the argument, that every act of the will must 
have a cause out of itself; for even if we suppose 
the will to have a power to move itself, it must still 
have some inducement for every particular exertion 
of this power, or the action resulting from it, so far 
from being a moral action, would not even be a ra- 
tional one. He rejects the idea of a liberty of choice 
among motives, as this supposes the existence of 
several motives at the same time, whereas, strictly 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 205 

speaking, there can never be but one motive, namely, 
the inducement that actually moves us. Several in- 
ducements there may be, drawing different ways, but 
it is only the strongest inducement at the time that 
can prevail, and that must prevail. Whatever seems 
at the time, in existing circumstances and in the ex- 
isting state of our feelings and whole mind, most 
consonant to our wellbeing, we cannot but do. 

In what has been said, it is neither expected nor 
desired to make a single convert to the scheme of 
necessity. It is not at all surprising, that men should 
be slow to receive a doctrine, one of the legitimate 
inferences from which seems to be, that the charac- 
ter in every instance is formed for and not by the 
individual. Perhaps it may be found on a close and 
careful investigation, that both the necessarian and the 
libertarian are right in the main ; differing from each 
other in their verbal statements only, because accus- 
tomed to view the subject of moral agency under 
different aspects, and to use a different language in 
reporting their observations. In justice, however, to 
the doctrine of philosophical necessity, it ought to be 
observed that most of the objections urged against it, 
on the ground of its supposed immoral tendency, have 
originated in a very partial and superficial acquaint- 
ance with the system. 

There is still another charge, if possible, of a still 
graver character against the hypothesis assumed by 
Dr Cogan, which he succeeds very happily in evad- 



206 REMARKS ON THE 

ing. It should however be observed, that it is by a 
way of escape not open to the calvinist, though he 
also is pressed with the same difficulty. 

" Whoever asserts," says he, " that our doctrine 
leads to the honours of fatalism, takes a very imper- 
fect view of the subject. The imagination may easily 
extend the chain until it shall arrive at all that is 
great and good. Human beings have incessantly 
acted upon the grand principle of seeking happiness, 
although they have so frequently and so egregiously 
mistaken their way. But this is no proof that they 
will always mistake their way. We daily perceive 
that a conviction of errour leads to future caution. 
Ignorance corrects itself, by our experience of the 
evils which it produces ; and experience becomes the 
most impressive instructor. Mankind must at last 
form more consistent ideas of the nature of good, and 
obtain a more accurate knowledge of the ways and 
means to secure it, or they will continue eternal 
idiots. In every step they take, they are uniformly 
acting according to the laws of cause and effect ; and 
although they continue to follow their own inclina- 
tions, in every act they perform, these inclinations 
may finally conduct them right. Repeated expe- 
rience must finally correct the grossest ignorance ; 
and repeated evils suffered in one course, will compel 
them to pursue another, until they shall finally have 
obtained wisdom to make a choice of virtue and reli- 
gion as the supreme good. 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 207 

" This life may be much too short for the purpose ; 
but the human race have an eternity before them. 
In a future state, similar principles may operate in a 
similar manner, until the whole intellectual creation 
shall become reclaimed and happy. Whoever has 
an existence, must inevitably desire his own happi- 
ness, wherever he exists ; and he will pursue it by 
every method in his power; and as, wherever he 
may be, he will continue under the inspection of the 
universal Father, whose wisdom is equal to his power, 
and whose goodness is equal to both, the continued 
and extended operation of cause and effect may lead 
to an ultimatum devoutly to be wished, universal hap- 
piness."* 

The author's views of Moral Obligation partake 
largely of the peculiarities of the same school. He 
conceives that this also may be resolved into that 
love of wellbeing, which is the spring of every affec- 
tion, desire, and motive in man. Man is obliged, by 
his very nature, to pursue whatever he perceives to 
be conducive to his permanent wellbeing ; but his 
powers of discernment, unless obscured by ignorance, 
or perverted by the undue influence of present ob- 
jects and inordinate self-love, must enable him to 
perceive, that duty and virtue are conducive to his 
permanent wellbeing ; consequently his very nature, 
considering him as a rational and intelligent agent 
actuated by a supreme desire of good, must make 

* Ethical Questions, pp. 16S, 169, 170. 
19 



~0S REMARKS ON THE 

the practice of duty and virtue universally obligatory, 
" It is here," he observes, " that the mighty difference 
between rationality and irrationality consists. The 
enjoyment of this good is the basis of self-interest ; to 
diffuse it, is the soul of benevolence ; every thing is 
fit and right, that promotes it to the greatest extent ; 
every thing is wrong which impedes or destroys it. 
The intrinsic value of prudence, discretion, justice, 
kindness, and humanity, proceeds from their benig- 
nant influence upon happiness ; the deformity of vice 
consists in its fiendlike malignity. It is the expecta- 
tion of good, which creates submission to human 
laws ; and it is good, which assembles every motive 
of self-interest, and every sentiment of love and grati- 
tude around the throne of the great source of 
good !"* 

We notice next in order, in the series of Dr Co- 
gan's works, his Theological Disquisitions, or an 
Enquiry into those Principles of Religion, which are 
most influential in directing and regulating the Pas- 
sions and Affections of the Mind. His remarks on 
Natural Religion are brief and sometimes unsatisfac- 
tory ; but they always breathe a noble spirit, and are 
highly characteristic, not less of the writer's amiable 
disposition, than of his peculiar philosophy. The 
following extract will enable one to form some idea 
of the manner in which he treats the subject, as well 
as of the conclusions to which he is conducted. 

* Ethical Questions, pp. 391, 392. 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 209 

11 Although to will, to plan, to execute, be equal 
and instantaneous, respecting the divine mind, yet in 
the order of our conceptions, the Goodness of God 
prompting him to create, is the first attribute that 
presents itself. The next is that of boundless Know- 
ledge, by which he discerns effects in their causes, 
and every possible result from every possible energy. 
From such sources Wisdom is enabled to form its 
plans of extensive good, and to establish those laws, 
by which life shall be diffused, and its enjoyments 
multiplied; that Wisdom which has devised and con- 
stituted such a diversity of powers and properties in 
the material and inanimate creation ; of instincts and 
propensities in the animal kingdom ; and has endow- 
ed the human species with those intellectual and 
moral faculties, which are the inexhaustible sources 
of the most exalted and refined enjoyments. Such 
plans of wisdom and beneficence will be indubitably 
accompanied in their order, both of time and place, 
by a Power which conquers all opposition ; compels 
apparent obstacles into its service ; changes disorder 
into harmony ; and distress into blessings ; brings 
light out of darkness, and cherishes virtue in the 
midst of depravities that confound and appal !"* 

In the disquisition that follows on the Jewish Dis- 
pensation, many very ingenious thoughts and reason- 
ings occur ; but it must be confessed that they suffer 
much for want of method, condensation, and point. 

* Theological Disquisitions. Vol. I. pp. 32, 33. 



210 REMARKS ON THE 

It is a part of the author's system, that the object of 
all revelation is to produce good by the diffusion of 
light and knowledge, in exact proportion as the minds 
of men are prepared for their reception. It there- 
fore becomes necessary for him to show, as he does, 
that the records of the Old Testament, and especially 
the history of the Jewish nation, and the laws and 
institutions of Moses, agree with and support this 
theory. There is much force and pertinency in the 
closing paragraph, intended as an answer to the 
doubts and cavils sometimes urged against the divine 
legation of Moses, and often with a captiousness that 
does no honour either to the head or heart of the 
objector. 

" Many very important positions are established 
which no objections can invalidate. The selection of 
a particular people for a certain purpose, the accom- 
plishment of which could not have been expected 
according to the ordinary course of human events ; 
the importance of this purpose ; the preference given 
to the descendants of Abraham, in honour of the ex- 
emplary faith and piety of their progenitor ; the 
means used to preserve this people from the fatal 
contamination of idolatry ; their deliverance from a 
state of bondage, and their establishment in a land 
promised to their ancestors ; the superiour wisdom, 
strict morality, sublime piety, exemplified in every 
institution, honoured in every punishment, and in every 
reward ; and the final triumph of monotheism among 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 211 

this people, are facts which cannot be denied or con- 
futed by frivolous disputes about dczmons and witches, 
and magicians, and borrowing and lending of jewels ; 
or the precise degrees of inspiration in every indi- 
vidual agent of the divine purposes. We know that 
the sun exists, and we consent to be cheered by its 
light and splendour, without waiting till astronomers 
shall have explained the nature, or wiped off the dis- 
grace of those few spots, which our ignorance has 
placed before his disk. When it can be proved, that 
the happiness of mankind is not an object worthy of 
the Deity ; that it is not the design of the Deity to 
lead us, according to our nature and the extent of 
our faculties, from gross ignorance to knowledge and 
virtue ; that the numerous facts recorded in the 
Jewish history have no relation to this object, and 
have contributed nothing to its promotion ; then, and 
not till then, may the advocates for the divine lega- 
tion of Moses be alarmed, by trifling objections urged 
respecting minuter subjects, over which distance of 
time, a difference in customs, manners, idioms of 
languages, and other circumstances have thrown a 
temporary veil."* 

In the remaining theological disquisition, which is 
upon the Characteristic Excellencies of Christianity, 
he proceeds to apply his leading principles as before ; 
to evince the superiour lights and motives which the 

* Theological Disquisitions. Vol. I. pp. 458, 459. 

19* 



212 REMARKS ON THE 

Gospel affords to the practice of virtue, and the pre- 
paration of the moral offspring of God for permanent 
felicity. According to Dr Cogan, the principal ad- 
vantages, derived from the christian dispensation, 
relate to the views which it has given us of the parent- 
al character of God ; the benefits resulting from the 
mediatorial office of Christ ; the filial confidence, 
which constitutes the essence of christian faith, that 
it is adapted to inspire ; and the hopes and fears 
which it awakens respecting a future life. Under the 
head of the parental character of the Deity, we find 
the following remarks on the reasonableness of a be- 
lief in a. particular providence ; which, for the impor- 
tance of the subject, and the excellent spirit they 
breathe, must be read with interest even by those, 
who may not assent to all his conclusions. 

" We acknowledge that the Deity is immutable in 
his nature, but we must also acknowledge that he is 
necessarily active. His operations must be incessant, 
or he is not always the same. In what manner he is 
incessantly operative is a secret no one can disclose. 
Nor can we discover what particulars are included in 
our received axioms concerning the laws of nature, 
and the agencies of cause and effect. We are gene- 
rally prone to confine the course of nature entirely to 
physical causes, or to the influence which one body 
is ordained to have upon another, according to certain 
immutable rules. But if the ever active Deity hath 
not retired from his operations, something more must 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 213 

be understood. It is possible, that the permanency 
of physical powers may totally depend upon the per- 
manency of his agency. Nor is it irrational to sup- 
pose, that in certain cases, where the usual course of 
things is not equal to the production of important 
events preordained, this ever active Being exerts an 
extraordinary energy, or a different kind of energy, 
according to certain moral laws of his own appoint- 
ment. When God condescended to change the order 
of nature, or interrupt the usual influence of causes, 
in order to impress a conviction upon the minds of 
others, although it was by the infliction of judgments, 
the motive was always benevolent. Some essential 
good was to be produced, which could not otherwise 
have existed. May not a similar motive induce him 
to a similar interference, although in a more secret, 
and perfectly imperceptible manner, in order to as- 
sist, support, and console those who, in conformity to 
his commands, repose their confidence in him, that, 
their strength may be equal to their conflicts, and that 
in the hour of temptation and distress, they may not 
make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience ? 

" This subject has been briefly considered in some 
preliminary observations to a preceding Disquisition, 
to which the reader is referred.* It was there ob- 
served that our reason points out three modes by 
which the Divine Being may be supposed to execute 
his purpose ; by a stated concatenation of cause and 

* See Theological Disquisitions. Preliminary Observations. 



214 REMARKS ON THE 

effect, according to physical laws, destined to produce 
numberless beneficial effects, both in the natural and 
moral world, which may be equal to various purposes, 
both physical and moral, in the plans of his provi- 
dence ; by an open and ostensible manifestation of 
extraordinary power, in order to impress a conviction 
upon the human mind, of some important facts, which 
human reason could not have discovered, or to alarm 
and terrify a sinful world ; and, thirdly, when these 
manifestations are not necessary or proper, may we 
not imagine that the Deity exerts a secret influence, 
by which a new and extensive series of operations 
may arise, which could not have existed according 
to the former tenour of things ; and which, had the 
operations been made manifest, would have been 
deemed miraculous 9 

" Many facts are upon record which evince that a 
conviction of this secret agency may be founded, 
either upon the prediction uttered, that certain events 
should take place by the instrumentality of natural 
causes ; or upon so remarkable a coincidence in their 
operations with me peculiar exigence of the case, as 
compels us to acknowledge the hand of God. Many 
of the plagues of Egypt illustrate the former position. 
The passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea ; 
the destruction of their enemies by the return of the 
mighty waters ; and the occasional supply of quails 
in the wilderness, illustrate the latter. The extreme 
violence of an eastern, or a western wind, cannot ap- 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 215 

pear to us as a deviation from the laws of nature; nor 
the sudden and impetuous change of these winds ; 
yet their opportune influence, and the important pur- 
poses answered by this influence, induce every one 
who believes in the Mosaic history, to infer that there 
was a miraculous interference of Providence. But 
the Almighty is at all times free to employ a similar 
agency, without admitting us into his counsels, and 
without our being able to trace his footsteps. This 
secret agency seems to be the proper object, as it is 
the encouragement of prayer; and although the time, 
manner, and degree, are totally unknown, yet devout 
minds may safely rely upon the promise, that they 
shall not seek his face in vain. 

" The concealment is indubitably founded on wis- 
dom. The laws of nature, or the operations of cause 
and effect, cannot be too intimately known. They 
are the foundation of all science, and a confidence in 
them is necessary to encourage and direct our pur- 
suits. Miraculous displays of power have sometimes 
been employed, to convince an ignorant and unthink- 
ing world, that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. 
But many evils would arise, were it distinctly known 
in what cases, and to what a degree, the divine aids 
promised in the Gospel were administered to each 
individual christian. The favoured mind would, in 
that instance, possess the infallibility of inspiration, 
which might inspire it with arrogance and pride, and 
induce it to neglect the ordinary means of improve- 



216 REMARKS ON THE 

ment ; while jealousy, envy, and despair, would tor- 
ment those who w T ere less favoured ; and the free 
agency of man would be effectually destroyed. ' The 
wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the 
sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it comes, and 
whither it goeth ; so is every one, saith our Saviour, 
that is born of the Spirit.' Whoever confidently 
maintains that, in any particular instance, he is influ- 
enced by the Spirit of God, should he not impose 
upon others, wretchedly deceives himself. For a 
certain knowledge of the operation would render it 
miraculous. His feelings must be fallacious, for in 
this department of the divine government, all the ope- 
rations of God are designedly and wisely concealed 
from human knowledge. By their fruits alone are 
such influences to be inferred. These fruits are not 
a presumptuous confidence, but ' love, joy, peace, 
longsufTering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, 
temperance.' "* 

Respecting the benefits accruing to man from the 
Merits and Sufferings of Jesus Christ, the views of 
Dr Cogan are somewhat peculiar. He supposes, that 
the penalty incurred by man's transgression was a 
total extinction of his being ; that God, however, in 
consideration of the perfect obedience, and voluntary 
sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, has been pleased 
to commute the punishment, by changing this total ex- 

* Theological Disquisition on the Characteristic Excellencies of 
Christianity. Part I. Chap. 2. 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 217 

tinction of being into a temporary suspension of it in 
the grave ; so that we may be said literally to be in- 
debted to Jesus Christ, not only for the doctrine of our 
immortality, but for our immortality itself. This privi- 
lege he supposes the merits and sufferings of Christ to 
have procured for the whole human race ; just as the 
uncommon faith and piety of Abraham procured pe- 
culiar privileges for his descendants. 

But however great may be the privilege of being 
thus restored to life, he admits that it is not in itself 
a restoration to happiness ; it only presents us with a 
continued opportunity to prepare, or qualify ourselves 
for happiness. It is a principle with our author, from 
which he never departs in his reasonings, and which 
is as applicable to a future life as to this, that rational 
beings cannot possess wellbeing, without the love and 
practice of virtue, nor complete felicity, without the 
perfection of virtue and piety. Though, therefore, 
immortal life be secured to us by what Christ has 
done for us; immortal happiness can only be secured 
by what we may do for ourselves, with the means and 
assistances which God has provided. 

Christian faith is explained by this writer as im- 
plying that entire confidence in Jesus Christ, which 
is necessary that the promises and threatenings of the 
the Gospel may have their effect on our characters. 
For of course these promises can have no effect on 
us any further than they are believed, nor be believ- 
ed any further than we have confidence in the agent 



218 REMARKS ON THE 

employed to utter them. The following judicious 
observations on the kindred subjects of justification 
and human merit occur in this connexion. 

" The terms justified, just, justifier ; and also 
righteous, righteousness, righteousness of God, &ic. 
which are so frequently used by the Apostle, convey, 
in the currency of the English language, different sig- 
nifications from those which are uniformly annexed to 
them in the original Greek. We are accustomed to 
consider the word to justify, as being synonymous 
with to vindicate from a particular accusation ; and 
the justifier, as the advocate who pleads the cause of 
the accused. By righteousness, we are prone to un- 
derstand the perfection of a moral character in gene- 
ral. But by such applications, the primitive signifi- 
cations of the words are placed at a considerable 
distance from each other ; so that their natural con- 
nexion with themselves and their subject is destroyed. 
All these terms are derived from the same origin ; 
and they invariably relate to a just decision, in a judi- 
cial process. Consequently, they are equally appli- 
cable to the condemnation of the guilty, and the 
vindication of the innocent, or to an honourable ac- 
quitted from the charges which have been brought 
against him. 

" Nor do they exclude a free pardon, or mitiga- 
tion of the legal punishment, where the charge may 
have been substantiated. All these may be righteous 
judgments. The first places before the eyes of the 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 219 

offender and of the public, the law, the 'transgress- 
ion, and the penalty. The other evinces that neither 
the offence, nor the penalty, is applicable to the ac- 
cused. His innocence has been proved, and strict 
justice demands that he should be acquitted. In the 
remission of the punishment, or mitigation of the 
penalty of the law, the decisions of equity consist in 
pronouncing the offender to be guilty ; by which a 
very important distinction is inviolably preserved be- 
tween the guilty and the innocent. The law is pro- 
tected, and the offender disgraced. His demerits 
and his danger are publicly made known. But such 
a discovery cannot be a total impediment to the exer- 
cise of mercy. If it were, mercy would cease to 
have an existence. Wherever the detection of guilt, 
and immediate exposure to severe sufferings, inspire 
the offender with anguish and contrition, they also 
inspire a disposition in every benevolent mind to 
soften the rigours of the law, if circumstances will 
permit ; nor does such a mind apprehend that it will 
offend justice, either by the remission or the mitiga- 
tion of the penalty, as prudence may dictate. By 
this constitution of our nature, we are rendered the 
guardians both of justice and of clemency. We re- 
sent the offence, but we pity the offender. 

" Nor is this right relinquished in the establishment 

of civil governments. A mercy seat is always placed 

somewhere. Provision is always made for occasional 

acts of grace. Nay, the most cruel tyrant claims to 

20 



220 REMARKS ON THE 

himself the right of showing mercy when he pleases. 
Were any of his subjects to litigate this privilege, they 
would be in danger of suffering for the insult. In 
cases of this kind, all that the principles of wisdom 
and justice require, is, that in the mode of exercising 
mercy the criminal should be encouraged to reform, 
and not repeat his crimes ; and that his fellow sub- 
jects should be discouraged from imitating his wicked 
example. Where penitence is sincere, and there are 
sanguine hopes of reformation, although the offender 
has not been justified according to the stricter sense 
of the word, mercy will freely consent that he shall, 
in the future, be treated as if he had been justified. 
His former offences shall no longer exclude him from 
the privileges common to inoffensive citizens."* 

The following excellent remarks on merit are found- 
ed on the same principles, and accord with the same 
general system. 

"Absolute merit belongs not to the sinful children 
of God. Even the future, however exemplary, can- 
not recall the past. Life and immortality are the re- 
wards of moral perfection only ; and the title of Right 
is lost by a single act of disobedience. Among those 
who are clothed with humanity, the claim belongs to 
the immaculate Son of God alone. He knew no sin, 
and with him the Father was always well pleased. In 
him the merit was absolute. 

* Ibid. Part II. Chap. 1. On the Mediatorial Office of Christ. 



WRITINGS OF DR. COGAN. 221 

" Conditional merit consists in our complying with 
the terms of salvation proposed. Although a com- 
pliance be simply an act of prudence, and can lay no 
claim to any other kind of merit ; although the re- 
ward is so infinitely superiour to the nature and effects 
of the act itself, yet the man who conforms to the 
injunction is entitled, by virtue of the promise, to the 
reward proposed. The terms are, 'Believe in the 
Lord Jesus Christ ;' receive a dispensation which 
proclaims pardon to the penitent, and assures those 
who return to filial obedience, that they shall be enti- 
tled to all the privileges of children, by being adopted 
into the family of heaven. Compliance with such 
terms is simply an act of discretion ; to reject them is 
the extreme of folly, and it indicates the absolute 
dominion of vice. 

" On comparative merit is founded the wise deter- 
mination, to reward every man according to his com- 
parative deserts. By it we perceive the justice of the 
decree, that 'whoever sows sparingly, shall reap spar- 
ingly ; and he that sows plentifully, shall reap plenti- 
fully.' 

" The importance of these distinctions is manifest, 
from the gross abuses committed by mistakes con- 
cerning the nature of merit and demerit. Some 
have been so extravagant as to conceive that particu- 
lar actions, which have generally been of their own 
devising, are of a nature so meritorious, that they will 
be received as substitutes for the moral virtues ; that 



222 REMARKS ON THE 

they contain intrinsic merit sufficient to compen- 
sate for every defect or imperfection ; without reflect- 
ing that a continuance in vice must become a disqual- 
ification for a state of purity and perfection ; and 
without considering that there is more absolute de- 
merit in a single vice, in one act of disobedience to 
such a Parent, than there can be of merit in the most 
splendid virtues. 

" Others again have run into the opposite extreme. 
In the confusion of their minds, they have declaimed 
against the merit of good works with such indiscrim- 
inate vehemence as to discourage the practice. They 
pray earnestly for Holiness, but inveigh against Vir- 
tue and Morality ; without considering that Holiness 
can be no other than the practice of virtue from reli- 
gious motives ; and no man can practice holiness 
without understanding the nature of virtue, and the 
extent of its ramifications."* 

As has been intimated before, Dr Cogan discovers 
nothing in reason, or revelation, to preclude the pos- 
sibility, that those who die vicious and impenitent may 
find correction as well as chastisement in the suffer- 
ings, which they are doomed to undergo; until their 
ignorance is dispelled, and their obduracy conquered, 
and the whole moral creation ultimately restored to 
knowledge, purity, and blessedness. Much of the 
volume is appropriated to a discussion of this subject; 
and whatever may be our opinion respecting the 

- Ibid. Part I. Chap. 3 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 



223 



general question, it is impossible not to allow that 
there is much justice and spirit in the following stric- 
tures upon those representations of the future, eternal, 
and infinite miseries of the damned, which are made 
to occupy so large a space in the preaching and writ- 
ings of calvinists. 

"As the doctrine itself represents the true God, 
in a character which resembles that ascribed to the 
heathen deities, it was not unnatural to expect, that 
adopting the methods practised by pagan worship- 
pers might also render him propitious ; and every 
subterfuge has accordingly been employed, rather 
than to submit to the severer penance of ' denying 
all ungodliness, and every worldly lust,' in order to 
escape the misery they professed to dread. Multi- 
tudes have considered the punishment of everlasting 
misery so disproportionate to their guilt, that the 
most abandoned have secretly indulged the hopes 
of escaping. Nature prompts every rational creature 
of God to trust in his mercy. Numbers will not, 
cannot, believe that he is so implacable as their creed 
has taught them. They will hope that he cannot re- 
tain his anger forever ; and they are prone also to 
consider an escape from eternal wretchedness, as an 
acquittal from every degree of punishment. 

" But some divines themselves are fostering such 
dangerous delusions. Their compassionate hearts 
shudder at their own principles ; and they have hu- 
manely devised a prompt method of saving the most 
20* 



224 



REMARKS ON THE 



profligate sinner from eternal wrath. Although they 
represent sin to be of so malignant a nature, that all 
the flames of hell cannot, through myriads of ages, 
purify the polluted soul, yet a simple act of faith in 
a crucified Saviour, at the moment of nature's disso- 
lution, or with the terrours of death before their eyes, 
is sufficient to appease the wrath of God, and effect a 
change in the heart, to which the chastisement of ages 
would be incompetent ! By this single act, which is 
manifestly an act of terrour upon which no depend- 
ence can be made, the soul becomes instantly puri- 
fied, as by a charm, and is prepared for the enjoy- 
ment of the bliss reserved for the righteous in a 
kingdom of righteousness, equally with those who, in 
humble obedience to the divine commands, have been 
working out their own salvation with fear and trem- 
bling for a series of years, through numberless trials, 
afflictions, and anxieties of heart ! Nay, so omnipo- 
tent is this species of faith, in the opinion of some 
divines, that wretches who have been notoriously 
placed among the workers of iniquity for a series of 
years, and whose atrocious crimes have, perhaps, 
brought them to a premature and ignominious death, 
will be received by the holy Jesus, with the saluta- 
tion, ' Well done, thou good and faithful servant, 
enter thou into the joy of thy Lord !' 

" Who does not perceive that such incongruities 
destroy each other ? That those who are most alarm- 
ed at the tremendous consequences of disbelieving 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 225 

this doctrine, have invented a method of annihilating 
all its horrors? Sudden conversions, eagerly urged, 
and as eagerly complied with, and which every wick- 
ed man will thus be encouraged to expect, will not 
only appease the wrath of God, beyond the power of 
endless torments, but will answer all the purposes of 
habitual virtue and piety ! Can those be faithful, 
either to their trust, or to their principles, who, after 
they have assiduously fenced round the holy paradise 
of God, with all the flames of hell, that nothing which 
defileth may enter, thus encourage miscreants to 
break through the flames, that they may place them- 
selves at the right hand of the throne of the Most 
High, by one hasty act of faith ?" 

" Again, that very doctrine which is supposed to be 
necessary for the conversion of sinners, occasions 
great multitudes to continue in their sins. Those 
who maintain that every unbeliever will suffer never- 
ending misery, should be peculiarly cautious not to 
increase their number. But this dogma is one grand 
cause of infidelity, and exposes the unbeliever to all 
those irregularities which infidelity is prone to author- 
ize. Men who are taught by the light of reason to 
renounce this doctrine, and yet are taught by theo- 
logians, that it is an essential article of the Christian 
faith, will think themselves fully justified in renounc- 
ing the whole of Christianity. The rational being 
who admires the beauties of the creation, and adores 
the benevolence which is there displayed towards all 



226 REMARKS ON THE 

men indiscriminately, is astonished that the very God 
who shows so much indulgence to the wicked, in the 
present state, should be represented as pouring out 
the vials of eternal wrath upon them in a future 
world, under a dispensation which is emphatically 
termed a covenant of grace ! He turns from such 
glad tidings of great joy with horrour and indignation ; 
and being ignorant of the true design of Christianity, 
he becomes a determined unbeliever. These are 
historical facts. They are known to exist in every 
country in Europe. They will increase in propor- 
tion as the minds of men become emancipated from 
implicit faith in their spiritual instructers, and they 
will continue until the Gospel shall appear to them, 
' to be more worthy of all acceptation.' 

" Finally, we must remark that the doctrine of the 
eternal misery of the wicked is very inimical to those 
devout affections, which it is our duty and our happi- 
ness to cultivate towards the God of transcendent 
excellence. We are commanded to ' love the Lord 
our God, with all our hearts, with all our souls, with 
all our strength, and with all our minds.' These are 
glowing expressions, uttered by him who was in the 
bosom of his Father, and who hath revealed him unto 
us ; expressions which manifest how supremely he 
deserves our love, because he alone is supremely 
good. It is the attribute of essential Goodness on 
which the duty is founded ; it is this which renders it 
a most rational and a most pleasant duty. But is it 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 227 

possible for those to perform the duty aright, and to 
the due extent of the grateful feelings, who are habit- 
uated by their creed to consider the author of their 
being as an object of terrour ? We cannot love whom 
we please, and to the degree that we please, merely 
because we are commanded. Nor can the affection 
be called forth to a due extent, by a general indefi- 
nite acknowledgment that he is good. We cannot 
feel a warm affection for any human being, or an ad- 
miration of his character, until we are made acquaint- 
ed with some extraordinary instances of his superiori- 
ty ; and as these abound, will our love and admira- 
tion increase. 

" Thus the simple proposition, that God is good, 
may inspire a degree of respect, but it will not arise 
to the ardour of love. This affection must be called 
forth, and habitually cherished, by incessant manifes- 
tations of operative goodness. The more numerous, 
extensive, and extraordinary these, the more liberal 
his gifts, the more condescending his compassion, the 
more conspicuous his exertions for the diffusion of 
extensive happiness, the more shall we feel the pro- 
priety of the duty to love him with all our hearts, and 
with the greater facility will the duty be practised. 
But where munificence is limited by hypothesis to a 
comparative few, and infinite severity is exercised 
upon the multitude, without the intervention of wis- 
dom, or power, to prevent miseries which exceed the 
most vigorous imagination, men may attempt to love, 



228 REMARKS ON THE 

and they may resolve to check feelings of an opposite 
character as impious, but they will not always suc- 
ceed. Their religious tenets leave a deficiency 
somewhere, not to be expected in the character and 
conduct of a perfect Being, which must diminish that 
exalted admiration they are solicitous to entertain. 

" Moreover, should they arrive at that perfect love 
which casteth out fear, it is upon a contracted, selfish 
principle. They can be grateful alone for personal 
favours, and admire the goodness of God in nothing 
so much as in his partiality to themselves. They are 
justly astonished that they should be selected from the 
myriads who are consigned over to eternal misery ; 
and there is nothing to admire in this, but a sovereign 
act, which confounds the understanding ; and in 
which, as there are no traces of wisdom, there can 
be no marks of respectability. In a word, it is incon- 
sistent with the nature of things, and with the very 
constitution of the human mind, to love such a Being 
with that profound veneration and ardour of devotion, 
which are due to the wise and good Parent of the 
universe. 

" We are also commanded to love our neighbour 
as ourselves. But does this love harmonize with the 
gratitude which is so strongly excited, by a percep- 
tion that others will be eternally excluded from the 
transcendent blessings we are to enjoy ? Will not a 
generous heart feel an anxious wish that others, not 
less deserving, might also become participants ? If it 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 229 

feels these emotions, it must also feel an astonishment 
that God should implant them in the heart of man, 
and not act upon so worthy a principle himself ! It 
must perceive, that its benevolent dispositions exceed 
those which we ascribe to our Maker ! If such de- 
sires are not entertained, then is the heart hardened 
by the system ; for it can contemplate the eternal 
reprobation of the millions with a phlegmatic indif- 
ference ! But historical facts innumerable inform us, 
that it has been rendered still more obdurate. Mul- 
titudes have enlisted under the banner of persecution ; 
have hated men, because they supposed them to be 
hated by God ; and have aspired to the honour of 
wielding the exterminating sword, which was to send 
their fellow immortals into eternal misery ! How dif- 
ferent the sensations excited by such a creed, com- 
pared with the humble and benevolent hope of that 
Christian, who, while he laments that the wicked 
should turn away from their duty and their happiness, 
still rejoices that his God is their God, his Redeemer, 
will be their Redeemer ; and though he reflects, with 
concern, upon the misery they will inevitably bring 
upon themselves, he enjoys the exquisite consolation, 
that their sufferings will ultimately prove corrective of 
their vices. What motives for composure and resig- 
nation do these expectations afford to the sympathiz- 
ing friend, to the affectionate relative, to the tender 
and anxious parent, amidst the disorders and depravi- 
ties of those whom they love ! The mind of every 



230 REMARKS ON THE 

pious Christian will learn to acquiesce in the chastise- 
ments which shall prove salutary ; for he knows that 
the severest judgments will be inflicted by wisdom 
and mercy for purposes of Good."* 

The last publication of Dr Cogan's which we shall 
notice, though the first in the order of time, contains 
his Letters to Wilberforce on the Doctrine of Heredi* 
tary Depravity ; printed at first without the author's 
name, but afterwards acknowledged by him, with the 
declared intention of enlarging and republishing it in 
a collection of his works, as a part of the series, and 
to complete his design. As it is, it is certainly mark- 
ed with more of his excellences, and with fewer of 
his faults, than any other of his writings. It is a most 
successful application of the same general principles, 
which we have seen running through all his philo- 
sophical, ethical, and theological speculations, to the 
illustration of a particular doctrine of the Gospel ; or 
rather to the detection and confutation of a long es- 
tablished and pernicious errour. The Treatise, to 
which, so far as this errour is concerned, these letters 
are a most triumphant reply, certainly possesses high 
merits ; but theological learning, conclusiveness of 
reasoning, and precision of language, are not among 
the number. Dr Cogan, while he pays a due respect 
to the virtues and piety of his distinguished opponent, 
proceeds with great seriousness, earnestness, and at 
times with great eloquence to prove, that the positions 

* Ibid. Part III. On the Probability of Universal Salvation. 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. 231 

which he has taken, respecting original sin, are wholly 
untenable ; absolutely irreconcilable with the Scrip- 
tures ; with our conceptions of God ; with facts; with 
the foundation of all moral distinctions ; and with the 
constitution of the human mind. 

This tract may be recommended with a more en- 
tire satisfaction, because, in addition to the complete 
success of the argument, an excellent spirit per- 
vades it ; and because of the serious and religious 
direction which it gives to our thoughts. It is, more- 
over, upon a subject on which it is more important, 
that a man should have clear and correct ideas, than 
upon any other in the whole compass of speculative 
theology. There is scarcely an errour which now 
exists, or ever has existed in the church, that may 
not be traced to some misapprehension of this sub- 
ject, or to some supposed inference from it ; that has 
not been held either as necessary to it, or as support- 
ed by it. Destroy this unaccountable delusion, which 
has possessed and still possesses so many minds, re- 
specting the moral nature of man, and the moral con- 
dition into which he is born, and what a mass of 
absurd rites, and not less absurd opinions, which the 
credulity of the superstitious or the craft of the de- 
signing has imposed on the christian world, would be 
left without foundation or apology ? 

In remarking, generally, on Dr Cogan's merits 
as a writer and reasoner, it must be admitted, that his 
want of a lucid and happy arrangement, his perpetual 
21 



232 



REMARKS ON THE 



repetitions, and his vagueness and inaccuracy of ex- 
pression, often indicating vagueness and inaccuracy of 
thought, afford frequent and serious ground of com- 
plaint to the reader. He likewise indulges his fond- 
ness for the analytical mode of reasoning to an ex- 
treme ; treating of the faculties and phenomena of 
mind, not as they actually exist and operate, but dis- 
jointedly and abstractedly. The consequence of which 
often is, that he leaves his readers with as confused 
and indistinct a conception of the mind itself, and its 
various operations, as a man would have of a watch, 
who had never seen one after it had been put togeth- 
er, but had only seen, and perhaps heard a learned 
lecture upon the several parts of the machinery, after 
it had been taken to pieces. It is but just, however, 
to observe, that our author's passion for analysis and 
details has prevented his reasonings from being much 
affected by his general biasses in favour of the Hart- 
leian school ; which might otherwise have weakened 
not a little the confidence, that a large proportion of 
his readers may now safely repose in his conclusions. 
After all, however, it is the fine moral effect of his 
writings, which constitutes their highest recommenda- 
tion. It is the harmony which they prove to exist be- 
tween knowledge and virtue, between reason and 
faith, between perfect obedience and perfect happi- 
ness, that stamps upon them an unspeakable value, 
and makes it impossible for any one to read them 
without being made better. After being taught the 



WRITINGS OF DR COGAN. ~oo 

intimate and necessary connexion of our passions and 
affections with our wellbeing, it is impossible that we 
should not attend more to their due regulation ; after 
being shown, that in the nature of things complacency 
and delight must attend the exercise of the benevo- 
lent dispositions, and pain and misery the selfish and 
malevolent, it is impossible that we should not be 
more inclined to the former; after being convinced, that 
every event, even the most afflictive and inexplicable, 
tends to good, that all is from God and for good to 
all, it is impossible that we should not be more cheer- 
fully acquiescent in the dispensations of Infinite Wis- 
dom ; after considering the admirable adaptation of 
all our circumstances in this life to our moral condi- 
tion and improvement, and the whole history of reve- 
lation to the onward march of the human mind, it is 
impossible not to discern in this the hand of God ; and 
being persuaded that it is the religion of Jesus, 
which alone can excite and employ our best affec- 
tions, and furnish an adequate object to our highest 
and purest hopes and expectations, it is to that we 
shall look for all real and permanent felicity here, and 
hereafter. J. W. 



COGAN'S 
LETTERS TO WILBERFORCE, 



ON THE DOCTRINE OF 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



2V 



ADVERTISEMENT 



TO THE SECOND EDITION. 



The writer of the following Letters having studied 
the nature and genius of Christianity, for his own con- 
viction and improvement, has long been satisfied with 
such ideas of it, as appeared to him equally true and 
rational; and he never indulged a thought of becom- 
ing a theological controversialist, until the great popu- 
larity of Mr Wilberforce's Practical View of the 
prevailing Religious Systems of professed Christians, 
excited his curiosity. He naturally expected some- 
thing new and forcible from so distinguished an au- 
thor. He was greatly disappointed ; and the perusal 
of that celebrated work, instead of producing the 
conviction which its author so ardently desires to be 
the result, suggested to his mind with increased force, 
the numerous objections which had finally induced 
him to strike out of his creed a tenet in which he had 
been educated ; and was taught to believe of the high- 
est importance. 



238 ADVERTISEMENT. 

It might have been expected that the prevalence of 
good sense, in the present day, and more accurate 
ideas of the nature of justice in general, and of the 
divine benignity in particular, would have committed 
such a doctrine as that of hereditary guilt, to the ob- 
livion it deserves. But as it has met with an eloquent 
defender in the person of Mr Wilberforce, the errour 
may acquire new strength to the injury of genuine 
Christianity. That gentleman is zealous in support 
of the tenet, because he considers it as the foundation 
of all religion, and peculiarly of the christian dispen- 
sation ; his opponent is equally zealous to confute it, 
from a conviction that true Christianity cannot prevail 
until this so great a stumblingblock, and some oth- 
ers of which it is the basis, shall be removed. The 
arguments on both sides are now before the public, 
and it is for them to decide concerning the prepon- 
derancy of evidence. 



LETTERS 



TOTAL, DEPRAVITY. 



LETTER I. 

Confidence with which the Calvinistic Tenet of De- 
pravity is usually asserted. False Modes of Rea- 
soning by which it is supported. Leads to Skepti- 
cism. Sanctions absurd and impossible Doctrines. 
To be believed only by rejecting the Dictates of 
the Understanding. Harmony between Reason 
and Scripture. 

Sir, 
It must afford satisfaction to every lover of virtue 
and religion, to see a person in your elevated stRtion 
step forth from amidst the luxury, dissipation, ambi- 
tion, and irreligion that surround him, boldly vindi- 
cate the cause which he deems to be of God, and enter 
his protest against those who appear to be a disgrace 
to the religion they profess. The purity of your mo- 
tives, the fervour of your zeal, and your elegant 
classic taste, unite to inspire you with a captivating 



240 LETTERS ON 

and impressive eloquence ; and it is the sincere wish 
of the writer of these Letters, that it may be instru- 
mental in exciting the minds of the indolent and luke- 
warm, to pay more attention to the things which 
relate to their most important interests. In the midst 
of these excellences, every attentive reader must dis- 
cern essential defects, which will inevitably render 
your work much less acceptable and useful than you 
ardently desire. He will perceive that the whole of 
your diffuse, but eloquent expostulation, is uniformly 
founded upon very bold assumptions. You appear 
so eager to enforce your favourite doctrines upon the 
minds and consciences of your readers, that you have 
not given yourself sufficient leisure to inform us upon 
what principles you have embraced them ; nor have 
you taken sufficient pains to prove that the reception 
of those particular doctrines of hereditary depravity, 
the atonement of Christ, and the influence of the 
Spirit, according to your ideas of them, is peculiarly 
favourable to vital religion ; or the rejection of them 
the grand cause of its decline. Yet of such infinite 
moment do you consider these doctrines, that they 
are every thing to you, and you are totus in Mis. 
Not only is the disbelief of them the cause of depra- 
vity of manners, but it is an indication of this depra- 
vity ; virtuous conduct is suspicious, unless it be the 
result of your principles ; you enter a solemn protest 
against sincerity itself, if it be not connected with the 
belief of them ; and the cordial reception of chris- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 241 

tianity, as a wise and beneficent dispensation from 
God, will convey no higher title than that of a nomi- 
nal christian. Such contracted notions could not 
have been expected, Sir, from a person of your edu- 
cation and accomplishments ; they properly belong 
to the most illiterate proselytes of the tabernacle. 
Do you not perceive that the censorious temper you 
have thus indulged, must be extremely offensive to 
him who has enjoined, "judge not, that ye be not 
judged ?" — whose Apostles, in the spirit of their mas- 
ter, admonish not to speak evil of another ; and with 
a well adapted degree of indignation, inquire, " who 
art thou that judgest another? to his own master he 
standeth or falleth ?" Is not this conduct inverting the 
criterion of our Saviour, teaching us, not to judge of 
the tree from the fruit ; but of the fruit from the tree ; 
and condemning all as of a noxious quality, that is 
not gathered from your favourite vineyard ? Are you 
not sensible that it is peculiarly inconsistent in one 
who endeavours, throughout the whole of his animat- 
ed performance, to inculcate christian humility, and 
the deepest self-abasement ? Is it not an absurd union 
of the penitent publican's humiliation, with the pride 
of the pharisee ? While you recommend the language 
of the former, " Lord be merciful to me, a sinner !" 
you exclaim, in the spirit of the latter, to those whose 
religious opinions do not reach your standard, " stand 
off from me, for I am holier than thou." I am a 
real, thou art but a nominal christian ! 



242 LETTERS ON 

Sentiments like these, which pervade your work, 
ought at least to have been founded on the clearest 
proofs, not only that the doctrines which you main- 
tain, are of a truth from God ; but that he has de- 
cidedly enjoined the belief of them, as essential to 
the character of a christian. You ought also to have 
fully demonstrated, either that those who refuse from 
principle to admit these doctrines, are more immoral 
in their conduct, than those of your own persuasion, 
who frequently receive them implicitly ; or, that their 
opinions contain within themselves the seeds of im- 
morality. You should have proved that their belief 
in the humanity of Christ, teaches them to reject both 
his example and his precepts ; that no one can ac- 
ceptably apply to the throne of grace, for the pardon 
of his sins, unless he has exactly the same ideas with 
yourself, concerning the mode in which this pardon 
will be imparted ; that no one can become sanctified, 
without embracing your particular opinion concerning 
the nature of divine influences; and that every man 
must continue dead in trespasses and sins, unless he 
repent of those committed before he was born. You 
lament that the doctrines for which you are so zealous 
an advocate, have lost much of their power over those 
who embrace them. If you had inquired into the 
cause of this indifference, you might perhaps have 
discovered the cause of that general depravity you 
bewail, without stigmatizing a class of people, of 
whom, as it clearly appears, you are totally ignorant ; 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



243 



or indulging in the reprehension of opinions which 
you have not refuted. The professors of the high 
Calvinistic tenets have frequently been accused of an 
illiberal and censorious spirit; it would have been 
peculiarly exemplary, in a person of your talents and 
your influence, not to have patronised the disposition, 
or given it so great a sanction by your own conduct. 
It might at least have been expected, that the severe 
sentence from your tribunal would have been pre- 
ceded by the full detection of dangerous errours, or 
particular criminality of behaviour, in the party you 
condemn. 

You have not pursued this line of conduct. The 
doctrines of the atonement and influence of the Spirit 
are introduced and enlarged upon with all the confi- 
dence attendant upon implicit faith. Not an argu- 
ment is brought forward in support of these doctrines, 
though you deem it so fatal to deny them. You 
have indeed made some cursory observations in proof 
of hereditary depravity ; but these are by no means 
adequate to the importance you ascribe to that tenet, 
which you represent as lying at the root of all reli- 
gion, and still more, as being eminently the basis 
and groundwork of true Christianity. Surely, Sir, a 
tenet which you deem so peculiarly important, the 
principles of which pervade your whole system of re- 
ligion, should have been established by all the force 
of reason, so that scarcely a doubt could remain, be- 
fore you enforce it, as of the utmost moment, with all 
the powers of your eloquence. 
22 



244 LETTERS ON 

After giving a very lively and very just portrait of 
the vices and depravities with which mankind have 
been chargeable in every age and nation, even under 
circumstances the most advantageous to virtue and 
religion, you inquire, " How, can we account for the 
contrast between the actual state of man, and that for 
which, from a consideration of his natural powers, he 
seems to have been originally calculated ? How on 
any principles of common reasoning, can we account 
for it, but by conceiving that man, since he came out 
of the hands of his Creator, has contracted a taint ; 
and that the venom of this subtle poison has been 
communicated throughout the race of Adam, every 
where exhibiting incontestable marks of its fatal malig- 
nity ?" You proceed to trace the progress of depravi- 
ty, in a manner perfectly unexceptionable, and then 
resume the query, " How can this be accounted for 
on any other supposition, than that of some original 
taint, some radical principle of corruption ? All 
other solutions are unsatisfactory, whilst the potent 
cause which has been assigned does abundantly, and 
can alone sufficiently, account for the effect." You 
proceed to assert, " that the corruption of human 
nature is proved by the same mode of reasoning as 
has been deemed conclusive in establishing the exist- 
ence, and ascertaining the laws of the principle of 
gravitation ; that the doctrine rests upon the same 
solid basis as the sublime philosophy of Newton ; that 
it is not a speculation, and therefore an uncertain, 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 245 

though, perhaps, an ingenious theory, but the sure 
result of large and actual experiment, deduced from 
incontestible facts, and still more fully approving its 
truth by harmonizing with the several parts, and ac- 
counting for the various phenomena, jarring otherwise 
and inexplicable, of the great system of the universe." 
There never was, perhaps, a more singular instance 
of bewildered and bewildering sophistry, than that 
contained in the above paragraph. You begin with 
modestly forming a conjecture ; you conceive, from 
the contrast between the actual state of man, and 
that for which he seems to have been originally in- 
tended, that man, since he came out of the hands of 
his Creator, has contracted a taint ; and that, as you 
express it in another place, not slightly and superfi- 
cially, but radically, and to the very core. But cres- 
cit eundo ; having thus formed an humble conjecture, 
you become immediately certain of its truth ; for you 
assert that this subtle poison exhibits every where in- 
contestible marks of its malignity. Advanced thus 
far you grow still bolder, for you positively affirm, 
that this potent cause assigned can alone sufficiently 
account for the effect ; and immediately proceeding 
to raise what w T as at first simply a modest and diffi- 
dent conception to an equality with strict demonstra- 
tion, you attempt to place it upon a basis of equal 
solidity with the discoveries of the immortal Newton. 
Do you not observe, that in the impetuosity of your 
zeal, you have confounded your solution of the diffi- 



24G 



LETTERS ON 



culty with the facts which gave rise to the difficulty ; 
and, dexterously blending the degeneracy of man 
with the cause you assign, you precipitately conclude, 
that whoever admits the former, must admit the lat- 
ter ? Your assertion, that there can be no other cause, 
is extremely bold ; it necessarily implies either that, 
if you cannot find out any other solution, no one can ; 
or that, because it has not been discovered to your 
satisfaction already, it never can be. Positions as 
inadmissible as they are inconsistent with that tone of 
diffidence, with which you introduce the subject. 

Permit me, Sir, to observe, that if the hypothesis 
of that great philosopher had not been better founded 
than the one you propose, it would long ago have 
been buried in oblivion ; unless it had been sanction- 
ed by established creeds, or supported by the dread 
of disbelieving it. Sir Isaac observed one body to 
fall towards another. This he discovered, by subse- 
quent observations and experiments, to be a principle 
common to all bodies ; and he called it gravitation. 
The principle being obtained, he investigated its laws, 
until, by experiments, observations, and inferences, 
he found himself able to explain every leading phe- 
nomenon of nature by it ; as you express it, approv- 
ing the truth of his theory by its harmonizing with 
the several parts, and accounting for the various phe- 
nomena, jarring otherwise and inexplicable, of the 
great system of the universe. But where is the 
parallel ? Yours is simply a conjecture to explain a 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 247 

seeming phenomenon. You assert that it cannot be 
resolved in any other way, and triumph in a complete 
demonstration of the point in question ! Is this New- 
tonian ? Again, the hypothesis of the philosopher con- 
tradicts no one principle of natural reason ; it is not 
attended with consequences, which reflect dishonour 
upon any of the divine attributes. Your hypothesis 
harmonizes nothing ; it contradicts the first principles 
of reason, plunges the mind into much greater diffi- 
culties than those which it attempts to solve, and 
leads to consequences so absurd and impious, that 
every prudent man will rather sit down in perfect 
ignorance, leaving the phenomena unexplained, than 
venture to admit it. 

Excepting we admit strong expressions and posi- 
tive assertions in the place of argument, all that you 
have advanced proves nothing more, than that the 
human mind is very capable of becoming depraved ; 
that the will and affections may, and frequently do, 
take a pernicious turn ; that perverse inclinations 
and atrocious conduct may become habitual in the 
individual, until every good principle shall seem to 
be extinguished ; that these may be, and frequently 
are, rendered contagious by the force of evil example, 
or in consequence of that sympathy in our natures 
which disposes to imitation, whether the model be 
good or evil, until the accumulation of vice and pro- 
faneness shall exceed all calculation, or even the 
power of reform. This seems to have been the state 
22* 



248 LETTERS ON 

of the antediluvian world, when all "flesh had corrupt- 
ed his way on the earth," so that " every imagination 
of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continual- 
ly, and it repented the Lord that he had made man 
on the earth." The mind once perverted may be 
rendered capable of every excess ; and an assem- 
blage of perverted minds may operate like a pesti- 
lence. But as a physical pestilence arises from putrid 
miasmata, or noxious changes, which incidentally take 
place in bodies originally free from noxious qualities, 
why may not a moral pestilence be communicated to 
minds originally pure, free from any original taint, or 
inherent hereditary disposition to sin f 

To this very superficial and illogical mode of rea- 
soning, you have subjoined a number of scriptural 
passages, some of which, as has been judiciously 
remarked, cannot be admitted in evidence ;* and the 
others amount to no more than strong representations 
and pathetic lamentations of human degeneracy, 
without pretending to ascribe it to the cause you 
assign. 

A full confidence in your demonstration has in- 
spired you with courage to state a very formidable 
objection in all. its force. You represent some bold 
objector as pleading, " Whatever I am, I am what 
my Creator made me. I inherit a nature, you your- 
self confess, depraved and prone to evil ; how then 

* Sec a Review of Mr Wilberforce's Treatise, by the Rev. Thomas 
Belsham. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 249 

| 

can I withstand the temptations to sin by which I am 
environed? If this plea cannot establish my innocence, 
it must excuse, at least attenuate my guilt. Frail and 
weak as I am, a being of infinite justice and good- 
ness will never try me by a rule, which, however 
equitable in the case of creatures of a higher nature, 
is altogether disproportionate to mine." 

As this potent objection is so fairly stated, it was 
natural to expect that you had discovered some new 
mode of confutation that you possessed some reserve 
of arguments that should stagger the bold objector 
himself, if not demonstrate the fallacy of his rea- 
soning to others ; but your answer is so evasive and 
unsatisfactory, that he will certainly retain all his 
boldness ; and probably his confidence in the force of 
his objection will be increased. Nay, you have ex- 
hibited a melancholy specimen of the subterfuges, to 
which an ingenious and ingenuous mind will have 
recourse, in order to weaken the force of the strongest 
arguments against a favourite hypothesis. To submit 
your mode of reasoning to a critical examination,' and 
confute your positions step by step, would be a prolix, 
though a very easy employment. A few observations 
will suffice. 

You first place this objection in the mouth of a 
skeptic, and confess, that " although it may not be 
difficult to expose the futility of his reasoning, you 
should almost despair of satisfying him of the sound- 
ness of your own." Your leading argument with 



250 LETTERS ON 

him would be to show, that as " his pre-conceptions 
concerning the conduct of the Supreme Being had 
been in fact contradicted, particularly by the exist- 
ence at all of natural or moral evil ; and thus proved 
erroneous in one instance, why may they not be so 
likewise in another ?" But as you could only expect 
to silence, not to convince him by this query, you 
would " attempt to draw him off from those dark and 
slippery regions, and contend with him on sure 
grounds." Instead of giving a direct answer to the 
objection, your plan is to take the "high priori road" 
to prove the truth and importance of the christian reli- 
gion, and then to enforce the necessity of submitting 
reason and judgment to whatever may be taught in 
the sacred writings concerning this and every other 
point in dispute. In consequence of this mode, you 
would urge upon him the following contrarieties; "the 
justice and goodness of the Supreme Being ; the na- 
tural depravity of man — but that this natural depravity 
shall never be admitted as an excuse for sin ; and that 
neither our sins, nor the dreadful consequences of 
them, are to be chargeable upon God." You strenu- 
ously inculcate " that this corruption and weakness 
will not be admitted as lowering the demands of 
divine justice, and in some degree palliating our trans- 
gressions of the law of God." And thus is the skeptic 
completely refuted. To the christian it is recom- 
mended to silence his doubts, by the consideration 
that if our natural condition be depraved and weak, 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 251 

our temptations numerous, and our Almighty Judge 
infinitely holy, yet that the offers to penitent sinners 
of pardon, and grace, and strength, are universal and 
unlimited.* You acknowledge, however, that there 
are difficulties attending the subject above and beyond 
our comprehension ; and you attempt to soften this 
acknowledged truth, by observing that there is scarce- 
ly an object around us, that does not afford endless 
matter of doubt and argument. The meanest reptile 
which crawls on the earth, nay, every herb and flower 
which we behold, baffles the imbecility of our limited 
inquiries. 

It is very apparent from the above concise, but 
faithful statement of your mode of treating the sub- 
ject, that the objection itself is insurmountable by 

* This species of indemnification, you hold out to the penitent 
christian, is a kind of confession, that those who are necessitated to 
remain impenitent, have a right to claim it also ; or at least that 
they are treated with a severity which approaches to injustice; unless 
you suppose that no injustice can be committed to the non-elect, as 
the bigotted Catholic maintains that no faith is to be kept with 
heretics. The terms unlimited and universal, inspire, at first glance, 
an idea worthy of Divinity ; but being systematically interpreted, 
they become both limited and partial. They can only refer to the 
number and magnitude of sins that have been committed in an un- 
converted state, and to the aid promised to the few who have been 
converted by the Spirit of God. Thus what you call grace, those 
who are without the sphere of its influence will inevitably call ■par- 
tiality ; and the more universal and unlimited the pardon granted to 
chosen favourites, the more striking will the contrast appear to those 
who are doomed to remain under the burden of Adam's sins, as well 
as their own. 



252 LETTERS ON 

any powers of human reason, and therefore that an 
absolute veto must be put upon these reasoning pow- 
ers ; nay, you deem it " an awful and affecting 
spectacle to see men thus busying themselves in these 
vain speculations of an arrogant curiosity, and trifling 
with their dearest, their everlasting interests." 

How is it possible, my good Sir, for a man of your 
sense to argue so superficially and so inconsistently? 
To consider a question upon which so much depends, 
as a vain speculation of arrogant curiosity, and tri- 
fling with our dearest interests . ? You have placed the 
doctrine of an hereditary taint at the foundation of 
all religion ; you render the belief of it of equal im- 
portance with the belief of Christianity itself; and 
yet you treat it as a vain speculation ! Others strong- 
ly suspect, that it is neither scriptural nor rational, 
and they are convinced that the moral attributes of 
Divinity are deeply concerned in the contest ; to 
make inquiry into its truth, therefore, cannot pro- 
ceed from arrogant curiosity, nor can it be trifling 
with their dearest interests. It is this interest, Sir, 
that warmly induces them to search after the truth, 
as it is indeed in Jesus, that they may not rashly re- 
ceive for doctrines the commandments of men. Since 
the Deity has endued our minds with discriminating 
powers, he not only permits, but requires their exer- 
tion upon subjects most worthy of them. Therefore, 
unterrified with the awfulness of the spectacle, we 
shall proceed to examine the validity of your argu- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 253 

ments in opposition to the formidable objection that 
has been stated. 

It might be asserted, that your first and leading 
argument, if it were admitted, would prove too much ; 
that it opens the door for an unlimited extent of evil ; 
and, carried to its excess, would leave it indifferent 
to the wretched inhabitants of the universe, whether a 
being, nominally beneficent, or nominally malevolent, 
presided over their lot. Your objector will, therefore, 
claim a right to urge, that there must be some limit- 
ation of this evil under the empire of a Being essen- 
tially good, or the conduct of both would be exactly 
similar. He will suggest, that the existence of evil, 
both natural and moral, to a certain extent, may be 
an indispensable law in the constitution of limited and 
imperfect beings ; that natural evil may become bene- 
ficial to the sufferer himself, and that the temporary 
permission of both may be productive of good to a 
much greater degree than could be obtained without 
it. He will advance, that the greatest sufferings that 
have been inflicted cannot be deemed unjust, when 
they have not been inflicted beyond the claims or 
deserts of the sufferer, and where a power of indem- 
nification is reserved in the hands of the Almighty. 
He will tell you, that your position represents the 
divine conduct in the admission of evil, to be arbitra- 
ry and unlimited. It proposes no other rule of action 
than the Sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione voluntas. 
It renders human beings natively vile and wretched ; 



254 LETTERS ON 

it represents vindictive justice as punishing, to the 
utmost extent of severity, this inevitable cast of cha- 
racter, without a ray of hope or power of alleviation. 
He will remind you, that although it is not inconsistent 
with the character of a wise and good parent to inflict 
a certain degree of suffering upon his offspring, yet 
no wise and good parent will render them completely 
miserable. He may administer a bitter potion, and 
retain his reputation, but he cannot administer poison. 
His right to correct the faults of character or of con- 
duct observable in a child, by severe chastisement, 
will convey no title to render the whole of his exist- 
ence a curse on accession of infirmities, which could 
not have been avoided. 

The other mode you recommend, that of proving 
the truth and importance of the christian religion, 
and then insisting on the necessity of receiving this, 
and other peculiar doctrines, as an essential part of 
the christian's creed, does not promise greater suc- 
cess. Your objector dares to reason farther than 
yourself; and it will be difficult to call forth all his 
reasoning powers till you have gained this happy 
point of conviction, and then check and prohibit their 
future operations. He will expect, that the evidences 
of the truth of Christianity shall be succeeded by the 
evidence of its excellence ; and when he finds a num- 
ber of doctrines proposed to him, inconsistent with 
that reason you have permitted him to exercise, he 
will feel himself disconcerted and embarrassed. He 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 255 

will examine the nature of these doctrines ; if he dis- 
cover them to be inconsistent with the attributes of 
Deity, while he still believes them essential to Chris- 
tianity, there is great danger of his rejecting Chris- 
tianity itself. He will argue, that although the force 
of testimony be strongly in favour of the existence, 
character, mission, resurrection of Jesus, the internal 
evidence is so directly contrary to the honourable 
ideas we ought to entertain of the Divinity ; the doc- 
trines it inculcates are so revolting, that my reason 
teaches me to withhold my assent. I had rather be- 
lieve human testimony to be deceitful, however strong- 
ly supported, than I will believe the contradictions, 
you enforce upon me. If, on the contrary, he should 
suspect that these doctrines are not of God, and 
should find upon inquiry, that they are the mere in- 
ventions of men, who have given an artificial import- 
ance to their crude conceptions, and guarded, with 
all the terrours of a gloomy imagination, sentiments 
which cannot bear the light of reason, he may remain 
a sincere believer in Christianity. 

These, Sir, are not mere speculative probabilities ; 
each process has been frequently repeated. Inquisi- 
tive students in theology have, in numerous instances, 
either relinquished the doctrines you deem peculiar 
to Christianity, or they have relinquished Christianity 
altogether. Admitting that the atrocities lately com- 
mitted in a neighbouring nation proceed entirely from 
infidelity, it may be fairly concluded, that this infi- 
23 



256 LETTERS ON 

delity is to be ascribed to the absurdities of their na- 
tional creed. These they have been taught from 
their infancy to venerate as the essential doctrines of 
Christianity ; but as soon as reason began to dawn, 
not being accustomed to view the religion of Jesus 
through any other medium, and totally unable to dis- 
criminate truth from errour, they have rejected the 
whole. May we not also add, that the unworthy con- 
ceptions of Deity, which the professors of so bigotted 
a religion must inevitably entertain, the terrific repre- 
sentations of the divine character, the trifling and 
ridiculous methods enjoined to appease his wrath and 
obtain his favour, have contributed no small share to 
the spread of atheism. Vain philosophy has hastily 
concluded, that to banish such a Being from the mind 
was doing service to humanity ; and the populace 
naturally became very indifferent about his existence. 
In like manner may we attribute much of the incredu- 
lity discoverable among protestants, to the exception- 
ablet enets still remaining in the creeds and confess- 
ions of churches which call themselves reformed. 
To the thoughtless and indifferent they serve as a 
pretext, while they disgust the considerate, and in- 
duce them rashly to exclaim, If this be your Chris- 
tianity, it cannot be from above. 

On the other hand, there are also many instances 
of persons in whom a religious temper and the power 
of discrimination are happily united, and who know 
how to separate the chaff from the wheat. There 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



257 



are many who have been converted to the belief of a 
gospel, purged of its impurities, who thought it not 
worthy of credit in its impure state. There are many 
others who were educated after the strictest sect of 
our religion, or in the doctrines of Calvinism, who 
have been able, upon the closest examination, to 
separate truth from errour, the word of God from the 
additions, false conceptions, and impositions of men ; 
whose faith in the truth and importance of Christian- 
ity has been confirmed, by discovering that tenets the 
most objectionable, were not Christianity. These, 
Sir, have joyfully stopped at the half-way house you 
have mentioned with contempt. They find it pleas- 
antly situated between the dreary and barren wastes 
of infidelity, on the one hand, and the gloomy regions 
of false theology on the other. Here they meet with 
rationality in amity with religion ; they rejoice in a 
station where the mind can indulge hope and confi- 
dence in its God, without the injunction of sacrificing 
their reason ; and, Sir, without flattery, they would 
feel themselves highly gratified were you to join the 
society. One circumstance renders them peculiarly 
worthy of your notice ; the ablest defenders of Chris- 
tianity are to be found in this very class, to which you 
have been reluctant to give the full title of Christians. 
Had it not been for their labours, the absurdities of 
systems like yours would have completely banished 
religion from among us, and have deluged this coun- 
try also with the torrents of infidelity. They have 



25S LETTERS ON 

long stood in the breach, and fought your battles, 
though, as it appears, without receiving the puny re- 
ward of " honourable mention." 

It is easy to perceive from another observation you 
make, that your extreme embarrassment, respecting 
this acknowledged difficulty, has led you to blend 
and confound things inexplicable with things contra- 
dictory ; ideas perfectly distinct. " There is scarce- 
ly an object around us," you say, " that does not afford 
endless matter of doubt and argument. The meanest 
reptile that crawls upon the earth, nay, every herb 
and flower which we behold, baffles the imbecility of 
our limited inquiries." It is readily acknowledged, 
that we cannot comprehend many things respecting 
these. We know not what constitutes animal or 
vegetable life, whence the powers and properties of 
each class, or what occasions the diversities they pos- 
sess. But we know that this life, its laws, its diversi- 
ties, its final cause, — the diffusion of enjoyment, — 
manifest the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of 
the great Author of life. When it can be shown, that 
God created the meanest reptile, either with a deter- 
mination to render it miserable, or with a prescience 
of its misery ; when it can be proved, that the present 
race of reptiles receive disgrace, and become heirs of 
endless misery, for some misconduct of their parent 
reptile, the cases will become parallel. Then also 
will wisdom and goodness vanish from our sight, and 
power alone, arbitrary and tyrannical, be left for our 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 259 

contemplation. Then also will those, who should 
embrace the extravagant hypothesis, find themselves 
embarrassed in inexplicable difficulties, in attempting 
to reconcile palpable contradictions. 

Permit me further to observe, as no unimportant 
addition to the above, that unless you relinquish your 
argument, you will be compelled to increase the num- 
ber of articles in your faith ; for your mode of rea- 
soning is equally applicable to the vindication of some 
doctrines which you deny ; and these also must be 
received, unless you acknowledge its futility respect- 
ing those you admit. How would you be able to 
confute the doctrine of transubstantiation upon your 
principles, in a controversy with a Roman Catholic ? 
He asserts most positively, that the doctrine is taught 
in the sacred Scriptures ; holds its belief necessary 
to salvation ; terms those mere nominal christians 
who deny it ; and laments the degeneracy of the 
times in which such an important truth is visibly upon 
the decline. You are now the bold objector ; you 
advance, that the expressions in Scripture require no 
such interpretation, and that the doctrine is absurd 
in itself. He concedes, that considerable difficulties 
surround it, and that the objection cannot be satis- 
factorily answered by a direct appeal to reason. He 
resolves to draw you off from these dark and slippery 
regions, and contend with you on sure grounds. 
Supposing you to be a skeptic, he will commence by 
proving the truth of the christian religion ; if you 
23* 



260 LETTERS ON 

acknowledge the Scnptures, he will charge you with 
inconsistency and irreligion in not believing all that 
the Scriptures contain. The expressions, he urges, 
are absolute ; this is my body broken for you ; this 
cup is my blood. You are not to oppose the imper- 
tinence of your reason, or the imbecility of your in- 
quiries, to the express declarations of Christ. 

Should you yield to the force of his argument, an 
Anthropomorphite presents himself. He tells you, 
that passages innumerable prove, beyond dispute, that 
the Supreme Being has bodily organs ; urges that 
the Scriptures repeatedly mention the hands of the 
Lord, the eyes of the Lord ; that they speak of the 
breath of his nostrils, of his voice, and declare that the 
earth is literally his footstool. You allege, that these 
are merely figurative expressions. He contradicts 
the assertion. You maintain, that his doctrine mili- 
tates against the spirituality of the divine nature. He 
admits this spirituality, but he will not relinquish 
his tenet. He allows the subject to be difficult, at- 
tempts to soften the difficulty by suggesting that every 
reptile, and every flower baffles the imbecility of our 
inquiries ; that there is scarcely an object that does 
not afford endless matter for doubt and argument ; 
and he believes in the pure spirituality of God, and in 
the doctrine of the Anthropomorphites. 

A third appears, who also professes to be a firm 
believer in Christianity, and to receive the doctrines 
as he finds them, without venturing to consult the 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 261 

imbecility of his own reason. He maintains that the 
true object of Christ's mission, was to disseminate 
strife and hatred through the world. You are sur- 
prised and indignant at such a charge being brought 
against a religion, which proclaims peace on earth, 
and good will towards men ; against the doctrine of 
the meek and humble Jesus, who pronounced, Blessed 
are the peace makers, and whose example was such 
an unequalled pattern of patience, forbearance, and 
forgiveness ! Your opponent tells you, these are falla- 
cious notions ; you are even warned not to be de- 
ceived by them, for Christ himself admonishes you, 
" think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I 
come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am 
come to set a man at variance against his father, and 
the daughter against her mother, and the daughter- 
in-law against her mother-in-law." It is in vain that 
you attempt to qualify and explain ; this man also, 
who has built his system upon particular passages, 
mistaking strong expressions for literal import, insists 
upon your believing it as a revealed truth, and avers 
that the very object of Christ's mission was to excite 
animosities. Can you possibly reject his principles 
with the indignation they deserve, without perceiving 
that your mode of reasoning leads to regions dark 
and slippery in the extreme ? Such are the embar- 
rassments into which your manner of defending a 
doctrine, not more free from exceptions than any of 
the preceding, necessarily precipitates you. 



262 LETTERS ON 

However respectful it in ay appear to the divine 
oracles, the method you propose leaves the mind still 
in doubt what these oracles may contain. Amidst 
the multiplicity of opinions, which present themselves 
according to the different ideas annexed to various 
passages of Scripture, it entirely destroys the power 
of selection ; and it necessarily introduces such a con- 
fusion of sentiment, as has afforded too good an 
apology for the interference of spiritual guides, who 
have assumed the office of composing creeds and 
confessions for the multitude, and attempted to enforce 
the unity of the faith in the bonds of peace, by all the 
terrours of civil authority, and all the anathemas of 
religion. It is thus that the majority of christian 
professors have become supple and credulous ; they 
bow before creeds established by law, until they con- 
sider every doubt to be a sin, and every opposition to 
the established faith as an act of profaneness and 
impiety. But the device being purely human, is ne- 
cessarily imperfect. Truth, immutable truth, is ac- 
cording to this plan made to vary with the region in 
which particular tenets have gained the ascendency ; 
and that which is the true orthodox faith in one coun- 
try, without which no man can possibly be saved, be- 
comes a damnable heresy in another. 

Have you never considered it, Sir, as highly im- 
probable, that the Deity should have suffered the 
evidence for the historical truth of Christianity to be 
so extremely powerful and convincing, that no court 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 263 

of judicature has ever required stronger proofs for the 
establishment of facts in a civil process, and yet that 
this perspicuity of evidence should cease, the instant 
we apply ourselves to inquire what are the funda- 
mental doctrines of Christianity ? Is it not singular, 
that the moment we are admitted within the veil, 
where it was natural to expect all would be bright and 
glorious; is it not singular, that doubts and difficulties 
and mysteries should present themselves to distract 
and torment the mind ; and that a prohibition should 
be issued, no longer to use that very reason which 
conducted us thither ? Is it possible that the conduct 
of Providence should be so inconsistent with itself? 
If not, then may we safely conclude that those alone 
deserve to be considered as the peculiar doctrines of 
the Gospel, which are as plain and conspicuous as 
the facts which establish the credibility of the Gospel; 
those in which all christians must agree ; and we 
may safely conclude, that difficulties arise precisely 
at the points where doctrines are of less importance, 
or entirely the false conceptions of fallible men. 

But the attempt you make to check ratiocination, 
or to destroy its authority in matters of religion, is 
vain and impotent. It is in itself a species of felo de 
se ; for it can only be made by an effort of reason. 
Sentiments the most absurd, positions the most extra- 
vagant, can only be reconciled to any mind, because, 
in some point of view or other, it appears rational to 
admit them. The man who insists the most strenu- 



264 LETTERS ON 

ously upon faith, to the disparagement of human rea- 
son, thinks that he enforces the injunction upon 
rational principles. The argument is concise. God 
is wiser than man, it is therefore vain and presump- 
tuous for man to oppose the imbecility of his reason 
to the revelation of God. If synods and councils 
draw up confessions of faith for the multitude, and 
prohibit the perusal of the volumes from which they 
profess to have taken them, the argument is, the popu- 
lace are not able to judge for themselves, and they 
will infallibly run into destructive errours ; and the 
populace acquiesce, because they infer that their 
teachers, from the superiour advantages they enjoy, 
must know much better than themselves. Thus all 
may be resolved into the inductions of the reasoning 
faculty, however erroneous. 

On the other hand, christians of a different de- 
scription acknowledge, that the word of God ought 
to be implicitly received ; but they think it incumbent 
upon them to use their reason, in a careful inquiry, 
What is the word of God ? Propositions of the most 
extravagant nature, opinions diametrically opposite to 
each other, put in their claim. It is impossible to 
admit them all, how then are they to be distinguished? 
Reason, and reason alone, must be the guide. When 
a doctrine is proposed to them which evidently con- 
tradicts first principles universally admitted, they 
reject it. Their argument is the following ; it is in- 
finitely more natural to suspect that a wrong interpre- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 265* 

tation is given, by weak and fallible men to those 
scriptural expressions, which are thought to contain 
the sentiment enforced, than that it should be in real- 
ity the word of God. Since scripture phraseology is 
so extremely various, that every rash and inconsider- 
ate mortal may find out some expressions, that shall 
seem to countenance his favourite dogmata, they think 
it highly necessary to lay down for themselves some 
indubitable positions, which may safely conduct them 
through the labyrinths of errour and contrarieties. 
They know, for example, that the God of grace can- 
not possess a character essentially different from the 
God of nature, since he is the same God. They 
naturally expect much clearer displays of universal 
benignity under the former character, than those 
which the latter exhibits to their admiring view ; and 
therefore they suspect those doctrines which create an 
opposition. 

Upon inquiry, they discover that the proofs in their 
support are feeble and inconclusive. They discover 
that the passages on which this discord was founded, 
have been egregiously mistaken, and that fair criti- 
cism restores the harmony. When two very different 
or opposite interpretations solicit acquiescence, they 
give the preference to that which is the most rational 
in itself, and the most honourable to Deity ; and they 
invariably find that this interpretation is the most con- 
sonant with the general tenour of Scripture. They 
explain obscure parts in the sacred writings, by those 



266 LETTERS ON 

which are the most conspicuous, instead of pursuing 
the contrary plan, and this teaches them to distinguish, 
most carefully, the plain and simple truths expressly 
taught by Christ himself and his Apostles, after they 
were commissioned by their Master to preach the 
Gospel, from those strong figurative expressions, and 
bold representations, occasionally employed by the 
same Apostles in their epistolary writings ; where it 
is the invariable object not to preach another Gospel, 
or make an addition to that preached in their personal 
ministry, but to enforce the truths already promul- 
gated, upon the hearts and consciences of the new 
converts to Christianity. By pursuing a few natural 
and simple maxims of this kind, they solve difficulties 
innumerable ; they discover a perfect harmony be- 
tween the word of God, and that reason which God 
has given them to judge of it. They believe, because 
they discover truths perfectly congenial with the na- 
ture, wants, and expectations of men, and perfectly 
consistent with the character and perfections of Deity. 
The man, who has thus purified his faith from the 
dross of false theology, well knows the difficulties 
which attend the process ; and this inspires him with 
true charity towards those, whose ideas of Christianity 
difTer very considerably from his own. Fully con- 
vinced that faith in Jesus Christ, as it was preached 
to the first converts, is the found? lion of our religion, 
— and not the doctrine of hereditary guilt and de- 
pravity — convinced that " other foundation no man 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 267 

can lay, which shall be permanent, than that is laid, 
which is Jesus Christ," he is careful to separate the 
wood, hay, stubble, from the gold, silver, and precious 
stones, that have been built upon it ; yet he rejoices 
in the assurance, that " if any man's work shall be 
burnt, and he suffer loss, yet he himself shall be 
saved." He acknowledges that christians of different 
denominations possess the essentials, and he embraces 
them as brethren ; though some may have inadvert- 
ently added many superfluities, sometimes trifling, 
often pernicious. But he is careful not to permit this 
charitable disposition to degenerate into a spirit of in- 
difference. He knows that truth is of the highest 
importance, and that it inevitably leads to very 
important consequences ; while it is in the nature 
of errour to be a dangerous guide ; and though 
charity hopeth all things, and believeth all things, 
respecting the motives by which the advocates for 
false systems are actuated, yet it does not prevent 
him from perceiving that all false religion is an enemy 
to the true. It infuses a multitude of wrong notions, 
and directs the mind to wrong objects. Truth is 
one, errour is infinite ; and the combined influence of 
individual errours, like that combination of depravity 
which you have ascribed to an original taint, may be- 
come so extensively pernicious, as, in process of time, 
to check and destroy, like baneful weeds, the be- 
nignant influence of truth. This remark is strikingly 
confirmed by the observations already made concern- 
24 



2G8 LETTERS ON 

ing the progress of infidelity, preceded and occasion- 
ed by the no less extensive progress of superstition. 

We are rapidly approaching, Sir, to that period in 
which mankind will embrace a rational religion, or 
none ; since men will reason, it is of high moment 
that they reason right ; since they experience the use 
of reason in their secular concerns, they cannot con- 
ceive it to be useless in religion. In this age of rea- 
soning, it is very necessary to be assured, that the 
religion which comes from God is perfectly conform- 
able to the dictates of reason ; it is of the first im- 
portance to evince, that those religious opinions, 
which have created the greatest difficulties, and be- 
come the strongest impediments to embracing the 
Gospel, constitute no part of the Gospel ; that they 
are pernicious additions, which destroy the simplicity 
of our religion, and cast a deep shade over its native 
excellency. The philosophic enemies of Christianity 
contemplate these adventitious blemishes with plea- 
sure. They love to consider them as the most im- 
portant parts of the christian religion. They also 
affect to censure that class of christians, who deny 
what are termed the peculiar doctrines, with as much 
severity as the most orthodox believer. They are 
hurt when they meet with a christian, who presumes 
to be rational, and impertinently insinuate that he 
cannot be a genuine christian. The reason is ob- 
vious. The primitive unadulterated religion of Jesus 
consisting of a few principles, as rational as they are 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 269 

interesting, these opponents are disappointed when 
Christianity is confined to them ; they are now de- 
prived of objects against which they may display the 
force of argument, or direct the shafts of ridicule. 
They weep because there is nothing left to conquer. 

Of the innumerable errours, which have tarnished 
and disgraced our holy religion, the one which you 
consider as lying at its foundation, appears, to the 
writer of these letters, to be one of the most perni- 
cious in its tendency, and the weakest in point of 
evidence. The above animadversions will indicate 
how little can be urged in its support, even by your 
eloquence, on the principles of reason ; and there is 
scarcely a doctrine that has been embraced by the 
most enthusiastic visionary, which cannot boast equal, 
if not greater authority from Scripture. A few, very 
few detached passages, taken from their peaceful 
stations, where their plain and simple meaning was 
well understood by their connexions, have been as- 
siduously collected together, and compelled, by forced 
interpretations, to give a fallacious evidence in favour 
of a doctrine they knew not, and with which they 
had no concern. These are strong expressions, but 
they are dictated by a conviction founded on the 
strongest proofs. 

The abettors of the calvinistic doctrines act con- 
sistently, in being strenuous for the support of original 
depravity ; for they justly view it as the foundatior 
of a system, which they have mistaken for genuine 



270 LETTERS ON 

Christianity, and which cannot be subverted without 
the demolition of the superstructure. The strongest 
argument they can possibly produce in its favour, is 
not to be found in positive evidence, but in its being 
absolutely necessary to the support of other doctrines, 
which they consider as of divine authority. Were 
those doctrines in themselves capable of demonstra- 
tion ; did they resemble first principles that must be 
true, then the necessity of its relation to them would 
furnish a plausible inference of its truth also ; but as 
this is not the case, such a circuitous mode of reason- 
ing cannot be admitted. All that can be acknow- 
ledged is, that the doctrine of original sin is an essen- 
tial part of their system ; but it remains to be proved, 
that this is the system of genuine Christianity, and not 
a fabric of human invention. 

Those, who entertain very different ideas of the 
nature of Christianity, not feeling this necessity, have 
mostly been satisfied with rejecting the doctrine, as 
superfluous ; or with suggesting a few general argu- 
ments in opposition to it, without entering into a 
minute investigation of the subject, or aiming at its 
complete confutation. 

But a tenet that is still received among the churches 
of Europe ; that has been believed as an essential ar- 
ticle of the christian faith, by a constellation of great 
and wise men, in different ages; that is warmly 
espoused by yourself, and preached at the present 
hour by a very numerous and pious body of christians, 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 271 

ought not to be dismissed without full examination, 
and without the strongest evidences of its being un- 
scriptural or irrational. 

It appears to the author of these letters, that such 
evidences can be produced. He first collected them 
for his own satisfaction, and is desirous of stating 
them to your conviction. He also was educated in 
this fundamental article of the established faith ; but 
he no sooner began to reason, than he felt insuffer- 
able uneasiness that such a doctrine should be a reve- 
lation from a God, who is benignity itself. He could 
not possibly silence " those unbelieving doubts, which 
are ever springing up in the heart." The doctrine 
appeared so repugnant to the character of a Being, 
whom we are ordered to love and adore, that a sin- 
cere concern for the honour of that Being, led him 
to inquire whether, of a truth, it was from God. 
The letters, which he has the honour of addressing to 
you, contain the result of this inquiry, which he sub- 
mits to your serious consideration. He invites you 
to search the arguments adduced with a freedom 
similar to his own ; and promises to bow before the 
force of evidence. 

You will perceive by the respectful strain in which 
these letters are written, that although the author 
wishes to remain concealed, he scorns to abuse con- 
cealment, by indulging in personal reflections. He 
carefully and sincerely distinguishes between the man 
and his doctrines, as he is convinced that they differ 
24* 



272 LETTERS ON 

widely in the article of respectability. The conceal- 
ment, it is true, annihilates every claim to personal 
respect ; but if you should think his arguments worth 
your notice, he is convinced that your manner will be 
worthy of yourself, and consistent with that high re- 
gard for your merits entertained by 

A LAYMAN. 



LETTER II. 

Calvinistic Doctrine of Original Sin, or Total De- 
pravity, stated. Not consistent with Scripture. 
No evidence in the Sacred Writings, that Adam 
was created with a perfect Nature, or that the sin- 
ful Propensities of his Posterity were derived from 
him. 

Sir, 
As the preceding letter was principally devoted to 
the examination of your arguments, and proving the 
insufficiency of the mode you have adopted to defend 
the doctrine of hereditary depravity, it has unavoid- 
ably assumed the appearance of a personal attack, 
which cannot be pleasing to yourself, nor is it to the 
author, who contends not for victory, nor wishes to 
irritate, but sincerely aims at your conviction. Con- 
fiding in the liberality of your disposition, and in the 
accuracy of your judgment in cases where you dare 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 27$ 

to exercise it, he is not without hopes that the obser- 
vations already suggested will not only have explained, 
in a satisfactory manner, the cause why you cannot 
possibly convince the skeptic of the futility of his 
reasoning, but dispose you to doubt the validity of 
your own. He flatters himself also, that if you will 
accompany him through a more minute review of the 
doctrine you so warmly espouse, than you may hith- 
erto have taken, it will appear in every point of view 
totally unworthy of your patronage. This expectation 
is encouraged by several symptoms, which indicate 
your dissatisfaction at a tenet you think it is your 
duty to embrace and enforce. Your efforts to sup- 
press the exercise of reason could only have been 
made, in consequence of your perceiving something 
unreasonable in the doctrine itself. You obviously 
consider such a suppression as a sacrifice due to a 
revealed truth; as a species of auto defe, the severity 
of which you very sensibly feel. You frankly allow, 
that " unbelieving doubts are ever springing up in the 
heart." Could you but entertain the idea, that these 
unbelieving doubts proceed from the understanding 
rather than from the heart, instead of suppressing, you 
would think it right to encourage them. Or, if you 
choose to ascribe them to the heart, conceive that 
they may be seated in the best of its affections, its 
benevolence and its love of rectitude, and you will be 
prepared to suspect, that there must be something 
essentially wrong in your hypothesis, which can be 



274 LETTERS ON 

inimical to feelings like these. Such circumstances 
strongly indicate, that you are open to conviction, and 
that you would gladly renounce the doctrine, did you 
not believe it to be of divine authority. 

It is, good Sir, so painful for a sensible, conscien- 
tious man to hold a faith, which is at variance with 
his judgment, that it becomes an office of charity to 
endeavour to relieve him from his embarrassment, by 
collecting incontestible proofs, that such sentiments 
cannot be true, and that it is the duty of every rea- 
sonable being to dismiss them from his creed. 

The strong objection which was the subject of ani- 
madversion in the former letter, is by no means the 
only one to be proposed to the doctrine which you 
have unfortunately espoused ; and had you been more 
successful in your attempts to confute it, your victory 
would have been incomplete. There are many other 
objections, which you have passed over in silence, 
that deserve your most serious attention; and these 
shall be considered in the present and some following 
letters. 

In order to do justice to the subject, it will be re- 
quisite to state the doctrine of original sin, not in the 
partial and delicate manner, which your regard for 
its character has induced you to pursue, but as it is 
boldly expressed in the creeds and confessions of 
those, who have enforced it with synodical authority. 

That no suspicion may be entertained of exaggera- 
tion, or of a design to " set down aught in malice," 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 275 

the catechism composed by the assembly of divines 
shall be our guide. In that summary of christian 
faith the subject is thus treated. 

" God created man in his own image ; in know- 
ledge, righteousness, and holiness ; with dominion 
over his creatures. When God created man, he en- 
tered into a covenant with him upon condition of 
perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree 
of knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death. 

"Our first parents being left to the freedom of their 
own will, fell from the estate wherein they were 
created, by sinning against God. 

" Sin is any want of conformity to, or a transgress- 
on of the law of God. 

" The sin whereby our first parents fell from the 
estate wherein they were created, was the eating the 
forbidden fruit. 

" The covenant being made with Adam, not only 
for himself but for his posterity, all mankind descend- 
ing from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, 
and fell with him in the first transgression. 

" The fall did bring man into a state of sin and 
misery. 

" The sinfulness of that state whereinto man fell, 
consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of 
original righteousness, the corruption of his whole 
nature, which is commonly called original sin, togeth- 
er with all the actual transgressions which proceed 
from it. 



276 LETTERS ON 

" All mankind, by the fall, lost communion with 
God ; are under his wrath and curse, and so made 
liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself, 
and to the pains of hell for ever. This constitutes 
the misery of that estate whereinto man fell. 

" God, out of his mere good pleasure, from all 
eternity elected some to everlasting life, did enter 
into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the 
estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state 
of salvation by a Redeemer ; and thus God did not 
leave all mankind to perish in a state of sin and 
misery."* 

Although the doctrine of original sin, as it is taught 
in most of the protestant churches in Europe, is es- 
sentially the same, yet they indulge to a variety in 
their amplifications. The Walloon churches, or those 
of the French protestants, for example, enlarge con- 
siderably upon the moral incapacity of man in con- 
sequence of Adam's fall. Thus to the question ; 
" Are all our works so reprobated that they cannot 
merit any favour before God?" the answer is, "All 
the works performed by the natural man (de notre 
propre nature) are vicious in themselves, consequent- 
ly they must displease God, and be condemned by 

* Had these letters been privately conveyed to Mr WiIberforce,so 
large a portion of the Assembly's Catechism would not have been 
transcribed ; but as they are submitted to public inspection, some 
reader may possibly be gratified with being introduced to an ac- 
quaintance with an article of faith he has been professing all his 
life, without paying the least attention to its nature. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 277 

him." Minister. " You say that before God has 
received us into his favour we cannot avoid sinning, 
as a bad tree necessarily brings forth bad fruit ?" 
Catechumen. " Doubtless, for however beautiful our 
works may appear externally, they are inevitably 
sinful, because the heart, which God regards, is cor- 
rupt."* 

The German protestants tell us, in the Heidelburg 
confession, that we are naturally prone to hate both 
God and our neighbour; that we are totally incapable 
of any good, and inclined to every evil, before we are 
born again by the Spirit of God. It is asked of the 
catechumen, " Is not God unjust, when he requires 
of man what we are not able to perform ?" and it is 
answered, " Not in the least. For God had made 
man perfect, so that he was able to fulfil the law ; but 
he has deprived himself and all his posterity of this 
power, by listening to the suggestions of the devil." 
Ques. " Will God leave this disobedience and apos- 
tacy unpunished ?" Ans. " By no means ; but he 
will manifest his terrible wrath, both against original 
guilt and actual transgression ; and he will punish 
both by a righteous judgment in time and in eternity ; 
for it is written, cursed is every one that continueih not 
in all things which are written in the book of the law, 
to do them.'''' Ques. " But is not God compassionate 
also ?" Ans. " Yes, God is compassionate, but he is 
also just; and justice demands that sin, which is com- 

* See Les Articles de la Foi, Dimanche \9me. 



278 LETTERS ON 

mitted against his infinite majesty, should be punished 
to the utmost ; that is, with the everlasting punish- 
ment of both body and soul." 

These, Sir, are the sentiments imposed upon us, 
by a conspiracy of fallible men, as the oracles of the 
living God ! These are the glad tidings of salvation 
which a merciful Redeemer came to proclaim! God 
so loved the world, that he sent his Son to preach 
these horrours, from which the multitude cannot pos- 
sibly escape ! This is the last and best dispensation 
from him, who will not always chide, nor hold his 
anger forever ! If these doctrines be true, and if it 
be true that the Divine Being delighteth not in the 
death of a sinner, what insufferable violence must this 
vindictive justice commit upon the compassion of his 
nature ! 

But it is time to inquire what foundation there is 
for this horrid hypothesis? A doctrine so tremendous, 
that it harrows up one's soul as we are stating it, 
ought to be established upon the firmest foundation. 
It ought to be proclaimed from heaven by a voice 
which all can hear, and no one misinterpret ; and all 
the powers of natural reason, and the best feelings of 
humanity, ought to be brought into submission by 
some incontestable authority. 

You confess that it is difficult to reconcile this 
doctrine with the principles of reason ; but you think 
that it is taught in the Scriptures, and countenanced 
by the moral state of mankind. We will therefore 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 279 

first consider the evidence from Scripture, and inquire 
whether that be so convincing as to deserve being 
placed in competition with the powerful objections, 
which natural reason suggests. By pursuing this 
plan, your reluctance to attend to the voice of reason 
may possibly be subdued. 

The doctrine of original sin, as stated above, pre- 
supposes the perfection of Adam's nature before the 
fall ; teaches the depravity of human nature, in con- 
sequence of the fall ; and the eternal punishment of 
the majority of the human race, in consequence of 
this depravity. 

Respecting the first article, if we had been taught 
to understand by the perfection of his nature, Adam's 
innocence, and the rectitude of his disposition, simply, 
the position would have been admissible. He must 
have been innocent before he was guilty, and his dis- 
positions upright before they were perverted. But 
much more has been understood. It has been assert- 
ed, that the powers and propensities of our first pa- 
rents were vastly superiour to the present standard of 
human nature ; once " beams etherial," now " sullied 
and absorbed." These, however, are mere phan- 
toms of the brain, unsupported by a single proof. The 
sacred historian informs us, that God made man in his 
own image. Catechisms, not Scripture, have added, 
in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Now the 
only instance upon record of knowledge; is, that of 
his having given names to the various animals, as they 
25 



2S0 LETTERS ON 

were brought before him, which is too circumscribed 
to be worthy of an encomium; and as to his righteous- 
ness and holiness, the Scriptures are perfectly silent. 
It is true, Adam was created with a thirst for know- 
ledge, which induced him to eat of the " tree to be 
desired to make one wise ;" but he manifested his 
ignorance, in not discovering the artifices of the evil 
one, and in imagining that he could improve his situa- 
tion by disobeying the divine command. 

The expression " let us make man in our image," 
has been variously interpreted. It has been con- 
sidered by some as referring to the spirituality of our 
natures, or to our possessing an immaterial principle, 
in distinction from every other class of animated 
beings. Whoever admits this sense, must also admit 
that it is equally applicable to the offspring of Adam, 
in their present dishonoured state. This, of conse- 
quence, is not the high dignity forfeited by the fall. 
Some imagine, that the expression relates to the ex- 
alted powers conferred upon man, in distinction from 
the lower creation, by which he is rendered capable 
of mental improvements and mental enjoyments. In 
this sense also, is the term applicable to the offspring 
of Adam, even in these days of their supposed de- 
generacy. 

The Scriptures themselves obviously confine the 
expression to the universal dominion given to the hu- 
man race over all the other creatures of God. "And 
God said, let us make man in our image, and after 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 2S1 

our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish 
of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over 
the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every 
thing that creepeth upon the earth ; so God created 
man in his own image," he. In consequence of this 
wonderful superiority in his mental powers, is man 
hecome the sovereign of creation, and able to render 
every part subservient to his will. He is able to 
subdue the strength of the strongest, and bow their 
necks to his yoke ; he arrests the flight of the swift- 
est, and exceeds, by his inventions, the craft of the 
most crafty. " He has more wisdom than the fowls 
of the air, and more understanding than the beasts of 
the field ;" and thus may he be viewed as the vice- 
gerent on the earth, the representative of the Uni- 
versal Sovereign. This interpretation is also as ap- 
plicable to the offspring of Adam, as to their first 
parent. In no sense, therefore, can the passage be 
confined to that state of high perfection ascribed to 
Adam during his innocence ; and yet it is the strong- 
est argument in favour of the position, that has ever 
been adduced. 

Another passage of Scripture has indeed been 
pressed into the service, which is, the observation of 
the preacher in Ecclesiastes ; " God made man up- 
right; but they found out many inventions." It will 
be unnecessary to detain you in attempting to prove 
that the preacher is not, in this place, speaking of 
Adam's transgression; but simply making observations 



282 



LETTERS ON 



upon common life; that by man we are to understand 
mankind in general ; for we are told, they found out 
many inventions ; nor is the phrase in any way appli- 
cable to that single transgression of our first parents ; 
the invention manifested in this transaction was found 
out by Satan, by which Adam was unfortunately de- 
ceived. 

Not being forbidden by any express declarations in 
Scripture, we may innocently presume that the powers 
and faculties of Adam and Eve were as limited as our 
own, and that their propensities to good and evil were 
perfectly similar. Whence comes it, otherwise, that 
they should fall an easy prey to so slight a tempta- 
tion ? The conflict they had to sustain, in order to 
manifest their obedience to the divine will, was far 
inferiour to many, over which multitudes of their pos- 
terity have triumphed. If we consider the Mosaic 
account of this event as a literal fact, and not allego- 
rical, the temptation was scarcely beyond the powers 
of a schoolboy to resist ; their ready seduction was 
totally inconsistent with that superiority, that exalta- 
tion of character arbitrarily ascribed to them. To 
manifest that a supposition of this kind must be des- 
titute of evidence, we have only to recollect that no 
opportunity could possibly occur for their displaying 
this elevation of their natures, had they really possess- 
ed it. No scenes could possibly present themselves 
favourable to the exercise of numberless virtues, which 
have adorned so many of their offspring. In the in- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



283 



fantile state of the world, it was the easiest thing in 
nature to be perfectly innocent, for scarcely could a 
vice be committed. When the first pair were the 
only inhabitants of the globe, there could be no temp- 
tation to fraud, oppression, deceit, avarice ; nothing 
to excite anger, jealousies, envyings, lawless ambition, 
or to infuse implacable malice. Social and relative 
duties were the same, and circumscribed within the 
narrowest bounds. No drunkenness nor adultery, 
nor theft, nor covetousness, could possibly constitute 
a part of their vices. Benevolence to every creature 
newly subjugated to their will was so natural, that 
they must have been monsters not to possess the dis- 
position. They could not have experienced a series 
of vexations and disappointments, to irritate their 
minds, and render them peevish or discontented ; nor 
have suffered an accumulation of unmerited evils, 
which might tempt them to doubt the existence of a 
Deity, or suspect the wisdom and beneficence of his 
government. Placed in a garden replenished with 
delights, by the hand of their Creator; and in a world 
where every thing new, grand, and wonderful, burst 
upon the astonished sight, must not the lowest of their 
degraded offspring have felt an impulse of admiration, 
love, and gratitude ? 

Where then are the evidences of a superiority, 

which would render our first parents a different class 

of beings from their offspring ? What proofs, that 

they were qualified, by the transcendency of their in- 

25* 



284 LETTERS ON 

tellectual and moral powers, to associate with angels, 
and hold special communion with God ? The posi- 
tion is as void of evidence as it is of probability ; and 
though it may be viewed as the chief corner-stone 
of your superstructure, we perceive, upon close ex- 
amination, that it is destitute of solidity. Sir, it is 
porous, and crumbles at the touch. 

Nor does the sacred history present us with stronger 
proofs, that the children of Adam derived sinful pro- 
pensities from his first transgression. The Scriptures 
represent Adam as the parent of a mortal race, and 
they ascribe this law of mortality to his disobedience. 
But let us remember, that as life is the free gift of 
God, the continuation of our existence to a perpetuity 
cannot be claimed by us as a natural right. We may 
add, that it would prove a perpetual curse before the 
minds of men were fully prepared for so vast a de- 
sign ; and however repugnant it may be to our feel- 
ings, there is neither injustice nor the imputation of 
an unnecessary severity in the temporary dissolution 
of our frames. Infinite wisdom can best decide con- 
cerning the mode of introducing this law of our disso- 
lution, and infinite wisdom is able to convert the 
greatest seeming evil into the most substantial good. 
But we are not taught by any passage of sacred writ, 
that the vices of men, or their vicious propensities, are 
inheritances derived from the offence of Adam. This 
idea is merely an induction from expressions, which 
were intended to convey a very different meaning. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 285 

Had it been the object of the sacred writings to 
make us acquainted with so singular a fact, it surely 
would not have been passed over in total silence by- 
Moses in the account given us of the first transgression. 
Shall we suppose him to have been inspired to write 
the history of the fall, and that he should have omit- 
ted the chief circumstance ? Or that it should have 
been withheld from him, and revealed at a very re- 
mote period to others, who were not appointed to be 
the historians of the event ? The supposition is ex- 
travagant. This is unquestionably the properest place 
for the narrative, but here we find it not. The first 
sin recorded after the grand offence was the murder 
of Abel by his brother Cain ; and this horrid instance 
of fratricide is ascribed to the passions of anger and 
jealousy, which have multiplied murders since that 
event ; there is not the most distant insinuation, that 
those passions were implanted by the disobedience of 
his father, When the wickedness of the world was 
so great that, according to the strong figurative lan- 
guage of the Scripture, " it repented the Lord that 
he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at 
his heart ;" we are not informed that the sin of Adam 
was the cause of this wickedness, or that it grieved 
the Lord that he had permitted man to pollute his 
offspring. The event is represented as arising from 
the progressive degeneracy of men, " as they began 
to multiply upon the face of the earth," that is, to 
the contagion of evil example, and not to the develope- 



286 LETTERS ON 

ment of that grand germ of corruption implanted in 
the heart of man at the fall. 

Again, as you allow that Jesus Christ came into 
the world to repair the ruin of the fall, it is natural to 
imagine that he would, in the course of his ministry, 
have made us clearly acquainted with the nature and 
extent of this ruin. We are assured, that the world 
was in a state of sin and misery ; but the derived cor- 
ruption of human nature in consequence of the fall, 
is not intimated by the author of the christian dispen- 
sation, nor was it, previously to his appearance. We 
find no declaration, that he came to save a sinful 
world from hereditary sin. This doctrine is not 
mentioned in the commission given to the Apostles to 
preach repentance and remission of sins ; nor do we 
discover, in the execution of their commission, that 
they either lament the state of mankind, or upbraid 
the children of Adam, on account of the depravity 
derived from him. 

Thus it is incontestable, that this article of your 
creed is not mentioned where it was most natural to 
expect it ; neither is it enforced by those who must 
have been the best informed, and who alone could 
possess authority to propagate it. 

How, Sir, can you account for so very singular a 
circumstance ? How conies it that a doctrine, deem- 
ed so essential to Christianity, should have been for- 
saken or omitted by those, whose peculiar province it 
was to place it in the most conspicuous point of view ? 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 2S7 

How comes its foundation to rest solely on the inter- 
pretation given to a few phrases scattered in different 
parts of the Old and New Testament, which from 
their connexion, and from the manner in which they 
were uttered, are not only capable of a different con- 
struction but demand it ? Expressions, some of which 
were obviously the strong language natural to occa- 
sional emotions, some proverbial, some descriptive of 
particular classes and characters of men, without any 
reference to the sin of Adam ; and some were spoken 
by persons whom it would be ridiculous to suppose 
possessed of inspiration. 



LETTER III. 



Texts of Scripture examined. The Notion of a 
Total, Hereditary Depravity confuted by Obser- 
vation and Experience. Stronger Proofs, that 
Men are upright and perfect, than that they are 
totally depraved. 

Sir, 
The passages you quote, in support of your senti- 
ments, illustrate and confirm the truth of the above 
observation ; for not one of them has the most distant 
relation to the subject.* They all refer to a state of 

* They are the following ; 

The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. What is 
roan that he sIioiaJc! be clean ? and he which is born of a woman, 



288 LETTERS ON 

actual depravity, without reference to its cause ; and 
they describe, in striking language, those vicious pro- 
pensities too frequently observable both in individuals 
and in large communities, which may be the result of 
perverse education, evil habits, the force of bad ex- 
ample, and other causes which are known actually to 
exist, and whose influence is universally acknow- 
ledged, without insinuating that they are the streams, 
which necessarily flow from the original transgression 
of Adam. This propensity to sinful errours is fully 
expressed by " the imagination of man's heart is evil 
from his youth;" and to this is it necessarily confined, 
if you will not compel it to start from its context in 
order to support an hypothesis. The phrase is men- 
tioned twice in the book of Genesis. In the first 
instance it refers to that accumulated wickedness, that 
acquired corruption, which preceded the flood ; when 
" God saw that the wickedness of man was great in 
the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts 
of his heart was only evil continually." In the 

that he should be righteous ? How much more abominable and filthy 
is man, which drinketh iniquity like water ? The Lord looked down 
from Heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any 
that did understand and seek God. They are all gone aside ; they 
are altogether become filthy ; there is none that doeth good, no not 
one. Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from 
sin ? The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, 
who can know it ? Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin 
hath my mother conceived me. We were by nature the children of 
wrath, even as others, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the 
mind. O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the 
body of this death ? 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 289 

second instance, it is expressive of the weak and imper- 
fect state of our natures, which, instead of exciting 
the divine wrath, is a subject of his commiseration. 
" The Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse 
the ground for man's sake, for the imagination of 
man's heart is evil from his youth ; neither will I 
again smite any more every living thing, as I have 
done."* Your second and third quotations are rather 
unfortunate ; for as it has been judiciously remark- 
ed, f they are no revelations from God, but exagge- 
rated representations made of human infirmities by 
Eliphaz, the Temanite,J which provoked even the 
patient Job to reply, " miserable comforters are you 
all ; — Shall vain words have an end, or what embold- 
eneth thee that thou answerest ?" &c. Again, " ye 
are all forgers of lies ; ye are all physicians of no 
value ; Oh, that you would altogether hold your 
peace, and it should be your wisdom." 

Let this instance, Sir, of the absurdities and incon- 
sistencies which result from an indiscriminate quota- 
tion from Scripture be added to those mentioned in 
a preceding Letter ; and let them exert their influence 
to dissuade you from a practice, which is the fertile 
source of every errour ; which renders the Oracles of 
Truth as equivocal and contradictory as the Delphic 
Oracles or the Sibyl's Leaves. 

* Genesis vi. 5. lb. viii. 21. 

t See a Review of Mr Wilber force's Treatise, by T. Belsham, 
page 43. 

i Job xv. 14, 16. lb. xvi.2, 3. 



290 LETTERS ON 

As all the other passages you have quoted relate 
merely to the state in which either individuals, or 
large bodies of men, may be occasionally reduced, 
they are equally irrelevant to our subject. They ex- 
press truths which no one has ever disputed, but they 
give you no assistance in forming your hypothesis ex- 
planatory of these truths. Th> -y mention facts alone; 
and it is the hypothetic abettors of an extravagant 
system alone, that presume to trace the cause to the 
sin of our first parents. 

You may perhaps still argue, that the declaration 
of David, " Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in 
sin did my mother conceive me ;" and that of the 
Apostle, "we were by nature children of wrath, even 
as others," are too explicit to be included in the above 
remark. We will, therefore, pay them more particu- 
lar attention. 

The expression of David is generally allowed to 
be a part of the penitential Psalm he composed, upon 
his having been guilty of the sins of adultery and 
murder. It is manifestly the strong language of con- 
trition and seif-abhorrence. He adopted a phrase 
proverbial among the Jews, by which he intimated, 
that his vicious propensities were so great, that had 
he been born with them they could not have been 
stronger. Such terms are common in all countries, 
and cannot be mistaken by natives and contempora- 
ries, whatever interpretations they may suffer from the 
comments of foreigners, or from the changes which 



TOTAL, DEPRAVITY. 291 

may in process of time take place in the modes of 
expression. Let us suppose, Sir, that you, in the 
warmth of your laudable zeal for the abolition of the 
slave trade, should declare in the Senate, that those 
who persevere to carry on that detestable commerce 
must be devils incarnate. We will suppose your 
speech to descend to posterity, and that the express- 
ion should meet with a commentator, who explained 
the terms in their literal sense, seriously adducing them 
as proofs, that they were not men, but devils in the 
form of men, who were used to engage in the traffic ; 
we will suppose him to conclude, that it was custom- 
ary for evil spirits to assume the human shape, that 
they might man the ships from Liverpool and other 
places, in order to deal in human flesh, torment the 
inoffensive negroes, and transport them into wretched 
captivity for the sake of gain ; would you not smile, 
though you might be disposed to excuse the blunder 
on account of the pointed satire it contained ? That 
the terms being born in sin were equally proverbial 
among the Jews, is evident from a similar expression 
being employed by the Pharisees, when they ques- 
tioned the man who had been blind, concerning the 
manner in which he had received his sight. Upon his 
asserting, " if this man [Jesus] was not of God, he 
could do nothing ;" they answered, " thou wast alto- 
gether born in sins, and dost thou teach us ?"* 

* John ix. 33. 

26 



292 



LETTERS ON 



Nothing could be more obvious than that the ex- 
pression was familiarly used as a mark of ignominy 
and reproach. It was applied to those, who were 
really degenerate, or who were looked down upon 
with contempt as the refuse of the people. In the 
deep abasement of his soul, David appropriated it to 
himself, as in the haughtiness of his soul, the Pharisee 
applied it to another. That the expression could not 
have the most distant reference to the doctrine of 
original sin, is most evident from this second mode of 
application ; for the Pharisee, proud as he was, could 
not have the arrogance to deem himself or his sect to 
be exempt from a state of degradation, that necessa- 
rily involved all mankind. 

Respecting the other passage, "and were by nature 
children of wrath, even as others,"* let us suffer the 
Scriptures to explain themselves, without the inter- 
ference of crude ideas of our own. They tell us that 
" the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against 
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." We 
learn from history, sacred and profane, that the world 
was plunged into the depth of corruption and depra- 
vity, before the appearance of the Son of God. Of 
this depravation, St Paul gives us a dreadful summa- 
ry in his Epistle to the Romans.f The same Apostle 
writing to the Ephesians, who were also Gentiles, 
expatiates upon the regenerating nature of the chris- 
tian doctrine ; and draws the contrast between their 

'Ephes. ii. 3. t Ch. i. 21. passim. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 293 

present and their former state. "You hath he quick- 
ened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein, 
in time past, ye walked according to the course of this 
world, according to the Prince of the power of the 
air, the Spirit that now worketh in the children of 
disobedience ; among whom we all had our conversa- 
tion in time past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the 
desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by 
nature children of wrath, even as others." 

The word nature, it is well known, has various 
significations ; and the precise idea to be affixed to it 
can only be ascertained by the subject in question, or 
by circumstances relative to it. Sometimes it signi- 
fies custom, sometimes prevailing disposition, some- 
times particular laws in the physical, intellectual, 01 
moral world; sometimes characters that distinguish 
one class from another, or discriminate individuals in 
the same class. The context necessarily applies the 
word to that state and situation in which the Ephe- 
sians, together with the whole Gentile world, were 
placed before their conversion to Christianity ; and it 
points out the cause of their having been children of 
wrath, even as others ; not on account of Adam's 
transgression ; not on account of this original taint 
derived from thence, but on account of transgressions 
of their own. " Ye walked in times past according 

to the course of this world ;" " among whom also 

we had our conversation in times past," &ic. Is it 
possible for signification to be more explicit and de- 
cisive ? 



294 LKTTERS ON 

You have remarked that assailants have generally 
the advantage over the defendant ; but surely, Sir, 
you should have made some exceptions and limita- 
tions according to the mode of defence that may be 
adopted. If it be permitted to collect from all quar- 
ters, and pour forth a multitude of detached scriptural 
expressions, the defence is perfectly easy; it consists 
simply in quotations and assertions ; whereas, the la- 
bour of proving, that the true signification of these 
passages is perverted, and that they are not applicable 
to the subject, falls to the lot of the assailant. A 
mound is thus thrown up with expedition ; and 
though it has no solidity in itself, it serves to retard 
the progress of the assailant, who is condemned to 
remove it. 

Having shown that no evidence, in support of the 
hereditary depravity of mankind, can be legitimately 
deduced from Scripture ; and that those passages, 
which you have manifestly mistaken for a cloud of 
witnesses, are dissipated like mists, as you approach 
and penetrate them, we will now examine the merits 
of the arguments, you have urged from experience 
and observation. These you consider as being unan- 
swerable ; and confiding in the strength of your 
proofs, you pronounce every one to be obstinately 
dull, who does not admit them. 

The cause of your mistake respecting the argu- 
ment, and also the capacities of your opponents, has 
already been pointed out. It has been proved, that 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 295 

you have hastily blended conclusions and inferences 
with facts, and imagined that whoever admits the lat- 
ter, must yield to the former. We might readily 
concede, that there is universally and permanently as 
much wickedness in the world, as you have represent- 
ed ; we might grant, that the principles of mankind 
are totally corrupted, and that their practice is in 
every way correspondent ; we might, in short, accept 
your statement, or even prefer that of St Paul, which 
is much stronger, and yet deny that an original depra- 
vity was imbibed in consequence of Adam's trans- 
gression. We might allow, that all mankind had 
corrupted their ways, and not suppose that they were 
born in sin ; and were it a literal fact, that " there is 
none that doeth good, no, not one," we might perti- 
nently attribute it to that progressive depravity of 
which humanity is capable. But we are not under 
the obligation of making such large concessions. All 
the proofs you have produced do not demand it, nor 
will a strict attention to the general character and 
conduct of men, admit it. All that you have said ; all 
that the great Apostle has said ; all that the sacred 
historian has recorded, concerning that universal cor- 
ruption, which occasioned the deluge, relate to par- 
ticular periods, circumstances, and characters, and are 
no more to be considered as the genuine history of the 
human heart, in its habitual dispositions, than storms, 
tempests and pestilence, indicate the general state of 
26* 



296 



LETTERS ON* 



the atmosphere ; or conflagrations indicate the natural 
malignity of fire. 

It is an acknowledged maxim, corruptio optimi est 
pessima. Whatever possesses very limited powers, 
cannot prove, in its worst estate, extensively detri- 
mental ; whatever possesses extensive powers, how- 
. ever excellent, may in certain situations be rendered 
dreadful. Those powers and propensities character- 
istic of the human mind, which in their natural and 
placid operations are productive of much good, con- 
stitute the bonds of society, relieve distresses, and 
advance happiness a thousand ways, may, by being 
perverted, spread desolation and horrour. But these 
perversions are extraordinaries ; they are excesses, 
which distort and deform the human heart, and not 
faithful portraits of its real character, or native pro- 
pensities. 

In the midst of the greatest excesses and most 
flagrant immoralities, much good is still observable. 
In the worst of times there are many laudable excep- 
tions to the general depravity of character, and in the 
worst of characters some remaining virtues. Vice 
being not only pernicious in its tendency, but often 
quick in its effects, alarms, strikes, and we instantly 
complain. Virtue being in its nature placid, and, like 
our aliments, productive of habitual health by imper- 
ceptible operations, in its usual tenour scarcely pro- 
duces an encomium. It is some extraordinary and 
almost romantic virtue alone, that has power to arouse 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 297 

our attention. These are facts, which cannot be de- 
nied ; but they could not exist, if the doctrine of 
original sin, as stated in catechisms, were true ; they 
could not exist, if man were naturally inclined to hate 
both God and his neighbour ; if he were incapable of 
doing any good, and if he cannot avoid sinning, more 
than a bad tree can be productive of good fruit ; or 
if the human heart were " tainted with sin, radically, 
and to the very core." If this were the wretched 
state of man, the pollution would be universal through- 
out the species, and so complete in each individual, 
that our natures would exhibit a mass of corruption 
inconsistent with a state of society. We should be 
as the fierce beasts of the forests ; and the " pesti- 
lence," instead of "walking in darkness," would stalk 
forth at noonday. 

No one, who has studied the heart of man free 
from the bias of systematic prejudices, has been able 
to discover such universal marks of innate depravity. 
Every attentive observer will contemplate a great va- 
riety of excellent qualities diffused over the human 
species. He will notice that where the mind has 
been properly informed, and where self-love is not 
predominant to a shameful excess, it knows not the 
dominion of evil propensities ; nor will he perceive 
the smallest traces of inherent, unprovoked, heredita- 
ry malice. He will perceive that in every case, 
where this calumniated mind has emerged from igno- 
rance, and has acquired the power of discrimination. 



298 LETTERS ON 

it learns to know what is right, it acquires a delicate 
sense of what is right, loves and approves of it, se- 
verely censures and reprobates its contrary, unless 
some selfish pursuit, or ardent desire of immediate 
gratification, shall have hardened the heart, for the 
instant, or perverted the judgment. We have in- 
stances innumerable in the history of human life, 
where the benevolent principle operates with wonder- 
ful energy ; in which the human mind manifests itself 
to be liberal, generous, compassionate, forgiving ; in 
which it has been impelled by exquisite sympathy to 
brave dangers, and face death itself, in order to suc- 
cour the distressed. But as this subject has been so 
well treated by another writer, I will urge it no 
farther.* 

You have only two ways of solving this difficulty ; 
the first is, to ascribe every remaining good observ- 
able in the unregenerate heart, to the influence of 
divine grace. But this will render the grace of God 
much more diffused than is consistent with your gene- 
ral system. It will break down that barrier, which is 
so assiduously erected between the real christian and 
the unconverted ; and yet, if the mere moral man and 
nominal christian be supposed destitute of these divine 
influences, to what can we ascribe the good qualities 
so frequently observable in the professedly wicked, 
which, in some instances, have put the professed 
people of God themselves out of countenance ? 

* See Belsham's Review of Mr Wilberforce's Treatise, Letter IV. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 299 

The second method is to deny the facts ; and, in 
the face of the strongest evidence, to assert, with the 
Walloon church, that all the works of the natural 
man are vicious in themselves, consequently that they 
must displease God, and be condemned by him ; that 
its best deeds are only splendida peccata ; and how- 
ever beautiful they may appear to the undistinguish- 
ing eye, they are inevitably sinful, because the heart 
is corrupt. But this mode of evading the difficulty 
is a sacrifice to hypothesis, which no one who pre- 
tends to reason, will ever admit. Predetermined 
that the doctrine of universal corruption must be true, 
and shall be true, the supporters of such an opinion 
render themselves wilfully blind to the strongest evi- 
dences of the contrary. They resemble some disci- 
ples of the acataleptic, or incomprehensible school, 
among the ancients, who denied the reality of motion, 
because its existence would entirely confute their 
system. Common sense knows not of any splendid 
sins, excepting such actions as are performed with a 
design to impose upon mankind, or which spring from 
unworthy motives. Ambition, vanity, hypocrisy, may 
he guilty of them ; but where the heart of man is in- 
cited by the love of man to deeds of justice, liberali- 
ty, compassion, and mercy, they must be sterling. 
Such deeds cannot be counterfeit, and he that gives 
them the name, knows not the nature of coin. 

You strenuously maintain, Sir, the necessity of re- 
generating grace ; you acknowledge this grace to be 



300 LETTERS ON 

perfectly free in its operations, and yet you inform the 
poor impenitent sinner, that he must earnestly suppli- 
cate for its communications ; but according to the 
principles now advanced, this very prayer, proceed- 
ing from a corrupt heart, must be offensive to the 
Deity, a punishable sin ; the humblest supplication 
which the natural man can utter, instead of procuring 
the desired blessing, may render it still more remote. 
If your good sense should preserve you from such an 
absurd extreme, then you must be compelled to ad- 
mit, that the natural man is able, without any imme- 
diate interposition of divine grace, occasionally to 
imitate the good works of the true children of God 
so closely, that it is impossible to distinguish the one 
from the other ; and the carnal man, unpurged from 
the corruptions of the fall, becomes a formidable rival 
to the spiritual man, with all his superiour advantages ; 
consequently this grace is not so absolutely necessary 
as you have conceived ; or it is more liberally diffused 
than your system can possibly grant. 

The assertion, that we are naturally prone to hate 
both God and man, is also an extravagant assertion. 
Considered in an absolute, unqualified sense, it is a 
stigma which reflects dishonour upon the hypothesis 
which gave it birth, or upon the hearts of the theolo- 
gians who first gave it a place in their creeds. 

It is granted that our commerce with the world 
presents us with too many instances of jealousies, 
envyings, malice, revenge, he. generated from rival- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 301 

ships, the disappointment of unreasonable desires, 
irritations at supposed injuries ; but with no instances 
whatever of inherent, hereditary, unprovoked malice; 
and whenever these passions are carried to excess, 
whatever be their cause, common phraseology passes 
an encomium upon our species, by terming the dispo- 
sition inhuman. 

The hatred, which wicked men may be said to en- 
tertain against their maker, is also an acquired, not a 
natural vice. It can only proceed from the strength 
of corrupt affections, or from their entertaining erro- 
neous ideas of the divine character. When inordi- 
nate desires arise, which the subject is determined to 
indulge at all events, the precepts of religion and 
morality are rendered irksome to him ; the idea of 
the divine presence and inspection becomes as insup- 
portable, as the presence of a tutor or monitor to a 
disciple, whose mind is bent upon some illicit pursuit. 
Under the influence of this perverted disposition, he 
may possibly "say in his heart, There is no God;" or 
becoming hardened in his iniquity, he may inquire, 
" Who is the Lord, that I should serve him ?" But 
this is an adventitious, perverted state of mind. It 
is so far from being natural to man, that many con- 
flicts must be maintained before this conquest of pro- 
faneness can become complete. The infant mind 
knows it not ; early youth knows it not ; it is alone 
the dreadful acquirement of the determined sinner. 



302 LETTERS ON 

Again, unworthy conceptions formed of the divine 
character, may also inspire an indifference, perhaps an 
hatred. When men consider their Creator altogether 
such an one as themselves, it is not surprising that they 
should lose their respect for him ; and those frivolities 
which are deemed essential to his service, naturally 
bring his service into disrepute. This has been 
already considered as a principal cause of the atheism 
so prevalent in a neighbouring nation. Some dog- 
mata, also deemed essential to Christianity, by repre- 
senting the Deity as implacable, revengeful, severe 
beyond the bounds of reason and justice, are not cal- 
culated to inspire love or filial veneration. Love has 
for its object, qualities which appear amiable and at- 
tractive. Hatred, the reverse ; its objects are quali- 
ties apparently injurious and repugnant. According 
to the ideas cherished of the moral perfections of the 
Deity, will be the habitual state of mind concerning 
him. Is there a being, can such a being exist, who 
habitually contemplates the great God as the source 
of every possible excellence, as the benevolent Father 
of universal nature, and yet entertain the disposition 
of hatred against him ? If indeed any one should 
become a proselyte to the doctrine for which you are 
so strong an advocate, without presuming to entertain 
the hopes of being one of the elect ; if he believes 
that he shall finally be condemned for sins committed 
before his existence, and for actual transgressions 
which he could not possibly avoid ; while he beholds 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 303 

others not more deserving, made participants of that 
grace which is denied to him ; — you may urge upon 
him the sovereignty of God, with all your eloquence ; 
it is an attribute he will never adore ; nor can you 
point out to him any one that is entitled to his love. 
He may hate ; such an offence may come ; but wo 
to the principles that gave it existence ! 

You have cited the humours and froward disposi- 
tions of children as proofs of your hypothesis. Take 
their sudden gushes of passion, or occasional instances 
of perverseness, as your argument, and we will op- 
pose the innocence, simplicity, amiableness, confiden- 
tial friendships habitual to them, in support of ours. 
But these concessions are much too liberal, for we 
may securely maintain, that the greater part of that 
frowardness of temper, you behold as a mark of 
original depravity, is to be ascribed to a perverse edu- 
cation from the earliest infancy. That sublime fabu- 
list Milton, whose poetic fictions, concerning the fall, 
have frequently been mistaken for Scripture history, 
represents Satan infusing pernicious dreams into the 
ear of Eve, while sleeping in the bower ; he may 
possibly have borrowed the idea from the conduct of 
mothers and nurses, who so frequently infuse poison 
into the minds of their infants while they are yet in 
their cradles. One of the first perceptions of the 
infant, is its unbounded influence over its indiscreet 
guardians, whose fond indulgences soon generate, in- 
crease, and multiply perverse desires, until the feeblest 
27 



o04 LETTERS ON 

of all beings becomes the most tyrannical. Thus do 
their ignorance and imprudence pervert the young 
mind at the earliest period, and when the pernicious 
fruits appear, the mischief is unjustly thrown from 
themselves back to our primitive ancestors. When, 
Sir, you contemplate the malignant effects of a per- 
verse education, at every period of early life, and 
behold the degree of good, powerfully operative in the 
human mind, under every possible disadvantage, will 
you not acknowledge, that Providence has infused a 
large share of virtuous disposition into the human 
heart, in order to counteract the mischiefs, which the 
professed guardians of the human heart are hourly 
committing ? 

Before we quit the infantile character, permit me 
to call to your recollection a passage in Scripture, the 
beauty of which is peculiarly striking. It is in Mat. 
xix. verses 13, 14. "Then were there brought unto 
him [unto Jesus] little children ; that he should put 
his hands on them and pray ; and the disciples re- 
buked them; but Jesus said, Suffer little children, and 
forbid them not, to come unto me ; for of such is the 
kingdom of heaven." 

What, Sir, could Jesus, the Son of an incensed 
God, the second person in the Trinity, and who, as 
God, must be, equally with the Father, offended at 
the first transgression, in which these children were 
involved ; whose vindictive justice also required the 
eternal punishment of these little heirs of wrath, these 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 305 

embryos of iniquity, these tainted germs of every 
thing that is vile and worthless ; could he invite them 
to approach his presence ? Could he pronounce, Of 
such is the kingdom of heaven ? Why, Sir, your 
creed tells you, that " all mankind, by the fall of our 
first parents, lost communion with God, are under his 
wrath and curse, and so made liable to the pains of 
hell forever!" 

Oh, Reason, how art thou humbled by system, 
when compelled to employ thy powers to reconcile 
contrarieties like these ! 

Much, much more could be urged upon this sub- 
ject ; but if you dare to consult your reason, the 
above must prove sufficient. If not, we will only 
subjoin that those very Scriptures, the perversion of 
which constitutes the foundation of your faith in uni- 
versal depravity, absolutely require you to renounce 
it. They speak as frequently and as copiously of 
righteousness, uprightness, perfection, purity of heart 
observable among mankind, as they are free of their 
corrections and reproofs at the instances of degene- 
racy. "A wicked man," says Solomon, " hardeneth 
his face ; but as for the upright, he directs his 
way."* " Judge me, O Lord, according to my 
righteousness" says the very David, who was con- 
ceived in sin, " and according to mine integrity that 
is in me. My defence is of God, who saveth the 

* Prov. xxi. 29. 



306 



LETTERS OX 



upright in heart."* Again, " Shout for joy, ye that 
are upright in heart ; all the upright in heart shall 
glory. "f " Mark the perfect man, and behold the up- 
right, for the end of that man is peace. "J 

In the midst of the general depravity which occa- 
sioned the deluge, it is said of Noah, that he was "a 
just man, and perfect in his generation. "§ Although 
the mistaken friends of Job indulged their unjust cen- 
sures against him, yet the sacred historian assures us, 
that he was "perfect and upright, one that feared God, 
and eschewed evil."|| And Solomon bore testimony 
of David, that he walked " in righteousness and up- 
rightness of heart before God. "IT 

Many other passages might be quoted of a similar 
nature, and were we to adopt your mode of reason- 
ing, we should infer from such declarations, that man- 
kind are naturally perfect and upright. You would 
then be compelled to qualify and explain, in order to 
protect your hypothesis. Permit us to use the same 
liberty with the passages you have advanced, in order 
to protect human nature and its Author from being 
most unjustly libelled, and the contest will be termi- 
nated. We shall meet as friends on the centre of the 
plain ; we shall mutually acknowledge that both Scrip- 
ture and experience unite to represent mankind as 
imperfect creatures, as a wonderful compound of good 
and evil ; that in the midst of much depravity great 

* t Ps. vii. 8, 10. t Ps. xxxii. 11. t Ps xxxvii. 37. § Gen. vi. 9 
j| Job, i. 1. IT I Kings, iii. 6. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 307 

excellencies are discernible ; while many infirmities 
adhere to the characters, which the Scriptures them- 
selves pronounce to be perfect. 



LETTER IV. 

Doctrine of Original Depravity can be reconciled 
neither with the Physical, nor Metaphysical Struc- 
ture of Man. At variance with other Doctrines 
of the Calvinistic Scheme. 

Sir, 

Having attempted to remove those obstacles, which 
mistaken ideas of Scripture evidence, and of the 
acknowledged facts observable in human life, have 
opposed to your judging more favourably of human 
nature, and which have induced you to adopt the most 
inadmissible system mortals ever have invented, in 
order to solve apparent difficulties, we may now, it is 
hoped, without offence, approach the system itself; 
and we shall venture to examine, without reserve, 
whether it be consistent with reason or common 
sense. 

The hypothesis, which you urge upon our belief as 
the proper foundation of religion, natural and reveal- 
ed, is that man was originally possessed of every 
moral and intellectual quality, before he had eaten the 
27* 



308 LETTERS Otf 

forbidden fruit ; that, in consequence of this act, the 
powers of his mind became darkened, his will per- 
verted ; that he was rendered prone to every evil 
thought and wicked deed ; and also, that he commu- 
nicated this corrupt and depraved disposition to all 
his offspring, without a single exception. 

You must allow, that this total degeneracy of our 
natures can only be ascribed to one or other of the 
following causes ; it must have proceeded from an 
absolute decree of heaven, or arbitrary exertion of 
divine power, introducing some immediate and mira- 
culous change in the very constitution of our first 
parents, in consequence of their conduct ; or from 
the agency of an evil spirit possessing inherent pow- 
ers, or receiving permission from God, to contaminate 
the parent stock, and the germs of existence, with 
every evil principle ; or the change itself must have 
taken place by the operation of some physical cause ; 
that is, there must have been some natural relation 
between the offence of our first parents, and the de- 
generate effects ascribed to it. These are the only 
alternatives that present themselves. 

1. The first of these positions does not appear to 
be maintained by any advocate for your system. 
The whole blame is universally laid upon man ; and 
the consequences of his disobedience are considered 
as a just punishment for the abuse of his free will. 
It is even attempted to vindicate the wisdom and jus- 
tice of God, in thus ordaining that the eternal fate of 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 309 

myriads should be made to depend upon the single 
act of an individual, by the allegation, that if our first 
parents had proved obedient to this test, their posteri- 
ty would have enjoyed perfection and felicity equal 
to the depravity and misery in which they are now 
involved. Indeed, the contrary sentiment could not be 
adopted without an accusation being brought against 
their Maker, of voluntarily becoming the immediate 
author of sin and misery ; without supposing that the 
greatest miracle, ever wrought by Omnipotence, was 
called forth for the worst of purposes ; that the Deity, 
finding himself disappointed in his gracious designs to 
render man perfect and happy, should, from a spirit 
of revenge, inflict the greatest curse upon man, which 
his all-comprehensive mind could devise. 

2. Nor do they attribute to Satan any other power, 
than that of seduction. They suppose that this evil 
spirit, jealous of the felicity in reserve for the newly 
created favourites of heaven, determined to counter- 
act the beneficent designs of the Creator. But that 
he was restrained from the use of any other means 
than that of artifice ; that he perverted the judgment, 
vitiated the desires, and gained a complete conquest 
over the will of Adam and Eve, by his wiles ; know- 
ing that the natural consequence of their disobedience 
would be the ruin of themselves and their posterity. 

3. Nothing remains, therefore, to explain this phe- 
nomenon, but the influence of physical causes. They, 
who admit the doctrine of hereditary depravity, are 



310 LETTERS ON 

compelled to believe, that the sin of our first parents 
so changed and contaminated their natures, that they 
were rendered incapable of procreating such a race 
of perfect and happy beings, as would have issued 
from their loins, had they continued obedient to the 
divine commands ; that their natural powers were so 
instantaneously changed, as to communicate to their 
innumerable progeny the guilt of their own sin, and a 
propensity to commit every other. 

Let us now examine whether this be possible. 

Human depravity is ascribed by the hypothesis to 
the sin of Adam and Eve in eating the forbidden 
fruit. Whether we consider the account of the first 
transgression given us by Moses, as allegorical, or as 
a literal fact, criminality of conduct must equally con- 
sist in disobedience to the divine command. The 
disobedience was manifested by the commission of an 
act in opposition to the divine prohibition, which in- 
cluded in it a previous disposition, prompting to the 
commission, and a voluntary compliance with this 
disposition. Criminality cannot be attached to the 
act itself, simply considered ; for, exclusive of the 
prohibition, it would have been no greater crime to 
eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, than 
of any other tree in the garden. Nor could guilt be 
imputed to the first impulse of desire ; for although 
the height of perfection may consist in the elevation 
of mind above temptation, yet to check an irregular 
propensity, or rather a natural propensity, rendered 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 311 

criminal alone by superiour authority, to check this 
from reverence to that authority, is justly deemed a 
virtue. Criminality must have commenced, there- 
fore, with the yielding of the mind to the temptation, 
that is, with the resolution taken to disobey. It is 
consequently evident that Adam, in his best estate, 
did not possess the high perfection which would have 
placed him above an illicit propensity ; and it is no 
less evident, that he had virtually fallen from a state 
of purity and innocence of heart, before he partook of 
the forbidden fruit. His mind was rendered depraved 
by the determination of his will, before he actually 
committed a deed, which is said to have plunged all 
mankind in depravity. The act itself was simply an 
indication, that he had not virtue enough to resist the 
temptation. He must have been equally guilty in the 
eyes of his Judge, had some miraculous interference 
prevented the commission of it. 

Here, by the way, we are again able to recognise 
parents similar to their offspring. For it is the en- 
couraging and yielding to irregular desires, which 
constitute the criminality of our conduct. This is an 
additional evidence, that they were created in all re- 
spects like ourselves ; not excepting their being sub- 
ject to temptations, and being subdued by them. 

It appears, therefore, from the above considera- 
tions, that the dispositions of our first parents were 
perverted, before the actual commission of the deed, 
to which the whole evil of the fall is invariably ascrib- 



312 LETTERS ON 

ed. Are we then to imagine, that the depraved dis- 
position generated in their minds by the temptation, is 
the primitive cause of all this hereditary mischief? 
Could the indulgence of this one propensity produce, 
by any physical laws of the constitution, such a singu- 
lar change in their natures, that they should be ne- 
cessitated by this change, to procreate a race of beings 
directly opposite in character, to the original nature 
infused by the immediate power of the Almighty . ? 
It is allowed that a prevailing cast of character may 
be transmitted to the immediate offspring ; but the 
hypothesis attributes infinitely greater force to one 
particular desire, excited and gratified in a single in- 
stance, in opposition to the general character, than to 
the influence of the general character itself. Could 
this singularity, which has such a miraculous appear- 
ance, proceed from any physical law . ? Are we to 
conceive, that every other propensity, with which our 
great ancestors were endowed, was at once annihi- 
lated, or at once rendered inert by the momentary 
indulgence of a single desire ? Are we to suppose 
that a particular virus was contained in this illicit de- 
sire, potent enough to spread itself over the human 
race for the space of so many thousand years, pro- 
ducing in the minds of men, not a single and similar 
propensity to disobey an individual command, but a 
congeries of perverse dispositions infinitely various, 
and numbers of them directly opposite to each other 
in their natures and qualities, and that no virtuous 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 313 

propensity should be transmitted to check the conta- 
gion ? 

Again, it is admitted by our opponents that Adam 
and Eve were blessed with sincere repentance, that 
they were informed of a promised Messiah, that they 
possessed a saving faith in him, and thus obtained the 
pardon of their sin. Why was not this penitent tem- 
per propagated in a similar manner, and diffused over 
the human race, that the dangerous and deep wound 
inflicted upon our natures might also have been heal- 
ed ? Do not potent remedies discovered by mortals, 
by healing the diseases contracted by the vicious 
irregularities of parents, prevent their baneful effects 
from being transmitted to their offspring . ? Shall we 
suppose a provisional power implanted in our natures 
of receiving transmitted benefits in one case, which 
is incidental, partial, and of inferiour importance, and 
not in the other, which is infinite in extent and dura- 
tion ? The bane is asserted to contaminate the whole 
species, and to expose them to eternal misery, with- 
out their deriving the least advantage from the anti- 
dote of imputed repentance, while the great federal 
offender himself is supposed to escape with the slight 
punishment of transient sufferings and temporal death ! 
Can a position more extravagant and absurd be de- 
vised by the utmost efforts of human ingenuity ? 

There can be no answer to these queries, without 
recurring to a proposition that has been disavowed ; 
without ascribing the cause to a miraculous inter- 



314 LETTERS ON 

ference ; or to some original law in their make, de- 
signedly planted there for the most pernicious pur- 
poses ; by means of which this perfect pair, and in 
them the whole human race, have been rendered prone 
to every evil, by one single incident, while the physical 
influence of other desires and propensities is not 
permitted to counteract the mischief. This is resolv- 
ing the consequences of the fall into the arbitrary ap- 
pointment of Heaven, and directly charging God with 
being the intentional author of universal depravity. 

For the above reasons it cannot be admitted, that 
this particular desire, generated in the mind of Adam 
before the commission of the deed itself, should be 
propagated to his posterity, and branch out into an 
innumerable multitude of illicit desires, according to 
the operation of any physical law in his constitution. 

Would we ascribe the baneful influence of the 
crime to the act itself, we should still be at a loss to 
discover the most distant connexion between the sup- 
posed cause and the dire effects. 

It has already been observed that the act would 
have been indifferent, had it not been a trespass upon 
the divine prohibition. As such it was the consum- 
mation of guilt. It totally obliterated every title to 
the character of innocence. The unfortunate pair 
could no longer rejoice in the simplicity and purity 
of their minds, or enjoy that self-complacency and 
confidence in the divine favour, which a triumph over 
the temptation would have inspired. The dreadful 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 315 

penalty was now incurred. The deed once perpe- 
trated inevitably exposed them to the threatened 
punishment. To the illicit desire excited before the 
actual commission, succeeded terrour, Shame, re- 
morse, self-reproach, and repentance; which, how- 
ever it might mitigate the divine wrath, could not 
restore their innocence, or replace them in the state 
of conscious integrity from which they had fallen. 
Such are the bitter fruits they had gathered from the 
tree of knowledge of good and evil. 

In a state perfectly similar may all the children of 
Adam be placed, under a consciousness of guilt, and 
in the fearful expectation of the righteous judgments 
of God. To this they are rendered liable by the very 
constitution of their natures, as being, like their first 
parents, moral, conscious, responsible beings; and not 
from any other inheritance than that of being of the 
same species as their great, ancestors. Thus, by con- 
templating all the moral evils arising immediately 
from the commission of the act, it appears that they 
must have been personal; such as were the necessary 
result of their conduct, and relation to their Creator; 
and such as can only be experienced by the offspring 
that imitates their example. Nor could the act itself 
indicate any thing that had a natural or physical ten- 
dency to implant those seeds of universal depravity 
ascribed to the grand transgression. Shall we attri- 
bute the evil to the nature of the fruit, 



31G LETTERS ON 

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste 
Brought death into the world, and all our woe ? 

Will this solve the difficulty ? Could the tree of 
knowledge of good and evil secrete from its juices, 
and deposit in the fruit, nothing but a malignant virus, 
without any mixture of the good ? Could its intoxi- 
cating qualities diffuse the most opposite frenzies over 
an innumerable progeny, and transmit them down to 
the latest posterity? Is it owing to the subtile proper- 
ties of this fruit, that even to the present hour the 
most opposite vices shall be generated; that one child 
of Adam shall be disposed to the sin of avarice, an- 
other to that of extravagance and dissipation ; that 
this person is timid to pusillanimity, and his neighbour 
rash and impetuous ; that one character is treacher- 
ous, another overbearing and tyrannical ? Did this 
also infuse propensities to ebriety, lewdness, fraud, 
and deceit; to envy, groundless suspicions, deliberate 
malevolence, cruelty, or vindictive anger ? In short, 
did it, in reality, operate in the manner fabulously re- 
corded of Pandora's box, and shed over human na- 
ture a medley of evils various and opposite, containing 
within itself at the same instant the germs of all those 
wicked and contrary propensities, which have dis- 
graced and tormented our natures ? 

But whichever of the modes specified you may 
adopt, as the physical cause of human depravity, are 
we to extend the moral effects of the fall beyond the 
human race ? Did it exert its morbid influence over 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 31? 

all animated beings ? We perceive something in the 
brute creation strongly resembling those propensities, 
which constitute, in certain circumstances, the vices 
and imperfections of men. Did the ruins of the fall 
extend to these also ? Did it curse the hare, and 
many other animals, with a timidity which keeps them 
perpetually upon the watch; give ferocity to the tiger; 
subtlety to the fox ; render the wolf treacherous and 
cruel ; teach the insidious spider to weave its w r eb for 
the incautious fly ; impart to the scorpion its deadly 
sting? Did it impart to one animal its unconquerable 
sloth ; or infuse into another its hereditary disposition 
to gluttony ? Did it foment strifes and quarrels 
among animals of the same species ; teach mastiffs 
to worry each other ; inspire the gamecock with 
persevering hatred against its antagonist, and arm it 
with spurs for the contest ; impart to various animals 
a degree of mutual enmity, as often as they become 
rivals or impediments to each other in the gratifica- 
tion of their appetites ? Did it create birds of prey 
also, and diffuse universal hostility over the finny 
tribe ? 

If your answer be in the affirmative ; then must 
you acknowledge, that a petulant power has been ex- 
erted by the Almighty to blast innocent natures, in 
revenge for crimes in which they had no share, for 
here hereditary propensity could not take place. If 
your answer be in the negative ; whence came these 
apparent evils in the brute creation ? If they were 



318 LETTERS ON 

originally implanted by the finger of God, is not such 
a constitution of things as contrary to our primary 
notions of the divine character, as the permission of 
moral evil in the moral world ? Since characters and 
dispositions, so contrary to our ideas of rectitude and 
innocence, are permitted in the lower ranks of life 
by an absolute law of their natures, why may not 
that peculiarly susceptible and versatile creature, man, 
whose connexions with the world and its objects are 
infinitely more ample and diversified, become inci- 
dentally subject to them all, without the imputation of 
that hereditary depravity, which you suspect to be a 
deviation from the primary plan ? Why may we not 
allow his various propensities to be with him, as with 
the lower creation, the satellites of self-love, the 
moral depravity of which consists in the perversion of 
desires innocent in themselves, in the criminal choice 
of objects, or undue degrees of indulgence, that is, 
in their opposition to the dictates of reason, or of an 
express command, or to those laws of benevolence, 
which are so peculiarly obligatory upon him, as a ra- 
tional and social being ? 

If we consider the subject metaphysically, we shall 
be presented with objections not less formidable. 

You have manifested, it is true, a degree of con- 
tempt for metaphysics, not uncommon to those who 
are totally unacquainted with the science ; forgetting 
that some subjects cannot be satisfactorily treated in 
any other manner. But let it be remarked, that in 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 319 

cases where the metaphysician is lost in his abstrac- 
tions, and returns from his arduous pursuits dissatis- 
fied with the result, yet he has in general acquired an 
accuracy and precision in his ideas, with which they 
are little acquainted, who have never applied them- 
selves to the study. However, under this head, we 
will be as concise as possible. 

We may first observe, that the doctrine is not very 
consistent with the ideas you entertain of mind. 

It is singular that the doctrine of hereditary depra- 
vity should alone be entertained by those, who are 
strenuous advocates for the spirituality of mind. 
Should the Materialist adopt the system, he might 
claim some right to borrow an argument from the 
analogy subsisting between one material substance 
and another. He might be permitted to affix a more 
literal signification to the usual terms corruption of 
human nature, the contagion of sin, &tc. and derive 
illustrations from the fermentative quality and expan- 
sive powers of leaven, which will in small quantities 
diffuse its influence over a large mass ; or from the 
dairy, when he observes how small a portion of an 
acrid juice is able, instantaneously, to change a large 
quantity of the blandest milk into a hard, coagulated 
substance. His only task will be to prove, that the 
cases are perfectly parallel; and that dispositions and 
actions are inevitably contagious to mind, independent 
of the will. But an advocate for the spirituality of 
the soul, attentive to the high attributes with which 
28* 



320 LETTERS ON 

he clothes this spiritual nature, should be particularly 
cautious before he asserts that a momentary desire, of 
a peculiar nature, excited by a particular temptation, 
can be infectious to kindred minds, while they were 
in an unconscious state ; and that this disposition, 
being infinitely divisible as matter, has been diffused 
over infinitudes of minds for successive generations.* 
Further, the abettors of this system ought to form 
precise ideas of the nature of sin, and of mental de- 
pravity, before they impute either to the unconscious 
principle. The only malady of mind consists in im- 
paired or disordered intellects, depraved desires, and 
perverse will. The former is by universal consent 
pronounced to be a misfortune, not a crime, because 
the mind is purely and involuntarily passive ; and is 
not this precisely the case with the primitive temper 
and disposition with which we are generated? Allow- 
ing the definition of sin to be " any want of conform- 
ity unto, or transgression of the law of God," we 
ought to be perfectly clear in the position, that this 
transgression, or want of conformity, can be committed 
by the mind, before it enjoys any knowledge of moral 
obligation. If we should deem it absurd to impute 
errours in judgment to mankind, before they are 
capable of reasoning, how can we suppose their wills 
to be depraved before they had a will, or charge them 

[* Two or three paragraphs are here omitted, as containing an 
argument not very obvious, and adding little strength to the author? 
general train of reasoning. — Ed-] 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 321 

with being guilty of Adam's sin, either in deed or by 
acquiescence, before they had power to act, or to 
testify consent ? 

Will you say they sinned by imputation 9 This is 
impossible, for sin is a personal act ; and were it 
possible, the imputation itself would be a greater in- 
justice in the imputer, a greater violation of rectitude, 
than could be committed by the much injured inno- 
cent, even after he had acquired the power of actual 
transgression. But your hypothesis states, that the 
heart itself is depraved, rotten to the core ! Can this 
statement be qualified by the idea of imputation 9 

The utmost, that can possibly be ascribed to the 
human mind, is, that it is so formed as in certain cir- 
cumstances it will indicate itself prone to the com- 
mission of evil. But such a conformation in itself 
has no more culpability, than the calamity of impair- 
ed intellects. Let the natural propensity be ever so 
strong, the subject must be as innocent of guilt, as 
the embryo of a tiger is void of cruelty, before it has 
acquired the instinctive ferocity of the dam. Virus 
itself is innoxious in an inert state. Nor could the 
inert virus of sin, supposing it to exist, be charged 
with demerit. This title must be suspended until it 
shall burst forth into actual transgression. 

But the same mind is so formed, that in certain 
circumstances it shows itself prone to good also ; and 
why may not this fact be admitted with equal pro- 
priety, as an evidence of the universal excellence of 



322 LETTERS ON 

our natures ? Why may we not expatiate upon all the 
good observable in man, and pronounce him perfect, 
in consequence of his approved moral qualities, as 
legitimately as you stigmatize him with the character 
of universal depravity, from his bad ones ? Let this 
statement convince you, Sir, that the singular con- 
formation of our natures cannot be, of itself, an indica- 
tion of either virtue or vice, that it is equally void of 
merit or demerit, claims no reward, and deserves no 
punishment. 

Does not the above examination fully prove that 
the doctrine of hereditary mental depravity, consider- 
ed either physically or metaphysically, is an absolute 
impossibility ? 

We shall now briefly show, that it is equally incon- 
sistent with some other theological tenets, which are 
also deemed sacred by its supporters. For instance ; 

If hereditary corruption be admitted, it will totally 
destroy all the subsequent temptations of Satan. If 
man be so depraved that he can neither think a good 
thought, nor perform a good action ; if his very best 
deeds are only splendid sins, there is no place left for 
the seductions of the evil one. His whole business 
must have been completed by the success of his first 
enterprise. He and his agents would be idling away 
their time, in employing arts of seduction upon those, 
who are already prone to every kind of iniquity ; or 
endeavouring to captivate those, who are already in 
their chains. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 323 

The doctrine of original depravity opposes with no 
less force, that of the true and proper incarnation of 
the Son of God. If it be true, that our natures are 
universally corrupt, when the Godhead became man 
in the person of Jesus Christ, he must have taken our 
corrupt natures upon him ; that is, he must also in- 
evitably have partaken of this original hereditary de- 
pravity. If he remained untainted with original sin, 
it could not be our nature, which he took upon him- 
self. Admitting that the union of the Divinity with 
humanity may have preserved the latter from actual 
transgression, may have checked and subdued every 
evil propensity, or may have prevented any from 
rising, yet the propensity must have been radically 
inherent in the person of Jesus Christ, as much as in 
ourselves. The divine nature must inevitably have 
taken the human, as it actually exists. Christ Jesus, 
therefore, as Man, however perfect in character and 
in conduct, yet being a child of Adam, he was, 
equally with those he came to save, " liable to the 
wrath of God, and the pains of hell for ever !" The 
pen trembles as it traces these consequences ; but 
they inevitably flow from your extravagant hypothesis ! 
The idea might be enlarged upon, were not the sub- 
ject too revolting. 

The position, that our Saviour was born out of the 
course of ordinary generation, does not solve the dif- 
ficulty, unless it can be proved that Adam's depravity 
ran in the male line alone, notwithstanding that Eve 



324 LETTERS ON 

was first in the transgression. Mary, the mother of 
Jesus, being born of parents naturally depraved, must 
have partaken of their depravity, and this must have 
been communicated to all her descendants, whether 
according to the course of ordinary generation or not. 
It is maintained by our opponents universally, that our 
Saviour was of the seed of David, alone in conse- 
quence of his having been born of Mary ; but as you 
apply the declaration of David, that " he was born in 
sin, and in iniquity did his mother conceive him," to 
the pollution derived from Adam, Mary must also 
have partaken of, and communicated its dreadful 
effects to her son. 

Thus it appears, without a possibility of evading 
the force of the argument, that if the doctrine of 
hereditary depravity be true, and if the Son of God 
be also the Son of Man, being descended from Adam, 
in the female line, he " sinned in him, and fell with 
him in his first transgression." 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 325 



LETTER V. 



The Notion, thai Men are punished for Sin inherited 
from Mam, is extravagant, irrational, and un- 
scr'jitural. Shown to be absurd, and the Argu- 
ments in its Favour examined and confuted. It is 
in Opposition to the Attributes of God. 

Sir, 
The other branch of your doctrine relates to the 
punishments, to which the hereditary sinner is ex- 
posed. These, as represented in creeds and con- 
fessions, consist in miseries, which it is not in the 
power of imagination to exceed. They state that 
" the offspring of Adam have, by his fall, lost com- 
munion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and 
so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death 
itself, and to the pains of hell for ever." The only 
mitigation of this dreadful sentence is, " God having 
out of his mere good pleasure from all eternity elect- 
ed some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant 
of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and 
misery, and bring them into an estate of salvation 
through a Redeemer." 

The objections against the tenet of hereditary sin 
were simply, that it is unscriptural, irrational, and, 
physically and metaphysically considered, impossible ; 
as well as inconsistent with other doctrines held to be 
of equal importance. The charges against this part 



326 LETTERS ON 

of the system are of a more serious nature. It con- 
tains sentiments which impeach the divine character, 
and are totally the reverse of the ideas it is our duty 
to cherish of the Great Universal Parent. 

This sentence of condemnation consists of three 
parts, being made " liable to all the miseries of this 
life; — to death itself ; — and to the pains of hell for 
ever." 

To ascribe all the miseries of this life to the fall of 
Adam is merely hypothetical. It far exceeds the 
Scripture account, nor is it warranted by facts. 
Many evils manifestly arise from the original consti- 
tution of animated natures. Many evils are suffered 
by the brute creation, whose natures could not have 
partaken of any hereditary change from the fall of 
Adam. The sensitive powers which are the sources 
of pleasure, may, in some circumstances, become the 
occasions of pain ; and that susceptibility of impress- 
ions from surrounding causes, which is productive of 
health and vigour, may occasionally render our na- 
tures subject to diseases, as it finally induces the tor- 
por of death. Many evils are superadded to the 
human species from the very superiority of our make ; 
from the extreme delicacy of our feelings ; from the 
nature and extent of our connexions with every thing 
around us ; from the infinite variety of our pursuits, 
and the number of our enjoyments. Animals suffer 
little more than bodily pain, for the instant. The 
majority of them have, in appearance, very imperfect 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



327 



recollection of the past, and no dread of the future. 
Their pursuits commence and cease with animal 
gratifications. The objects which attract our atten- 
tion are not to be calculated, and every object may 
prove a source of disappointment. Our sorrows arise 
from the recollection of past, comforts ; they are the 
funeral eulogy of departed joys. Framed and situ- 
ated as we are, various discomfitures must present 
themselves, from the very constitution of things, with- 
out their being evils entailed upon us by the crime of 
our progenitors. It will appear obvious to every one, 
who attentively studies, free from the bias of system, 
the nature of man, his powers, his connexions, his pas- 
sions and affections, that we are as originally intend- 
ed ; and that the shock of a single transgression could 
no more introduce such various and wonderful com- 
binations, than the shock of an earthquake could 
newly organize the whole creation. 

It is the immutable law of animal natures, that all 
which are born into this world, shall suffer the disso- 
lution of their frames. From this law the human 
species, superiour as it may be in its faculties, is not 
exempt. Yet the human species are expectants of a 
higher state, where their natures shall be rendered 
capable of enjoying permanent existence, and more 
exalted happiness, than its present frailties will permit. 
Were they destitute of this expectation, as they can- 
not claim an exclusive right to immortality, there 
could be no injustice in their being involved in the 
29 



32S LETTERS ON 

common ruin ; with it, they are rendered the peculiar 
monuments of divine benignity, notwithstanding this 
temporary dishonour. Mortality being our destined 
lot, where is the injury in rendering our grand pro- 
genitor the parent of this mortal race ; or the impro- 
priety of constituting his disobedience to the divine 
command the medium of its introduction ; since it 
inculcates this important lesson, that disobedience 
disqualifies for the enjoyment of permanent happi- 
ness, and therefore would render permanent exist- 
ence a curse ? Sin entered into the world through 
the first man, as he was the first sinner ; but as there 
is not the most distant reason to expect, that his off- 
spring would have been created with more perfect 
dispositions, and stronger powers than he enjoyed, 
each, like him, would doubtless have yielded to his 
own temptation ; and the divine law being in force, 
that the wages of sin shall be death, these wages 
would have been universally the awards of our own 
personal transgressions. This statement must not 
only appear consonant with every attribute of Deity, 
but to every one, who believes in primitive and ra- 
tional Christianity, indicative of the divine benignity. 
He will, in that system, discover, that indemnification 
is promised to the virtuous part of our race, through 
the instrumentality of one, who is termed the second 
Adam, and whose perfection of character entitles him 
to the high honour of being the Saviour of mankind ; 
for we are there taught, that " as in Adam all died, 
so in Christ shall all be made alive." 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



329 



According to this constitution of things, should it 
not perfectly quadrate with prior ideas or expecta- 
tions, no injustice in the conduct of Deity towards his 
creatures can be discovered, or suspected. Ample 
provision is made for the reparation of temporary in- 
juries ; and though we may not completely trace the 
whole plan of Providence, we can trace marks of 
wisdom and beneficence through the mists of obscu- 
rity which still remain. But to believe that the human 
race is rendered liable to the permanent inextinguish- 
able wrath of God, and to the pains of hell forever, 
on account of the transgression of their forefather, or 
in consequence of any taint, that they have been ne- 
cessitated to receive from him, is an extravagance 
that has never been equalled ! 

It has been asserted, and, I think, indisputably 
proved, that the doctrine of hereditary depravity has 
no countenance from Scripture, and that every text 
urged in support of that idea demands a different sig- 
nification. We must now remark, that the eternal 
punishment of hereditary sin is likewise a phantom of 
the brain, a mere dream, and no revelation. 

It must be remarked, that the doctrine of our being 
liable to eternal misery on account of original sin, has 
not so much as dubious phraseology, or the sound of 
a single text to support it. Most of the errours of 
systematic divines, whether of the Romish or Calvin- 
istic church, proceed from their not possessing any 
clue to direct them through the diversities and appa- 



•-530 LETTERS ON 

rent contrarieties of scripture language. The par- 
ticular style of each author, the nature of the subject, 
the state and circumstances of the persons addressed, 
&c. have been the occasion of varied phraseology, 
and this has been made to countenance every religious 
hypothesis, which the caprice of man has imagined, 
from the extravagances of Transubstantiation on the 
one hand, to those of Antinomianism on the other. 
In fact, almost every absurdity, which has disgraced 
theology, has arisen from literal interpretations being 
given to passages in holy writ, where the first prin- 
ciples of reason, and the essential doctrines of Chris- 
tianity demand a figurative, metaphorical sense. But 
on the present question, the opposite conduct has been 
pursued. The doctrine appears so enchanting, that 
language has been strained and distorted, in order to 
give it countenance. The only sentence denounced 
against disobedience, recorded in scripture history, 
is, " in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt 
surely die ;" the only apprehension expressed by 
Eve, when tempted by the serpent, was, " if she ate 
of the tree, or touched it, she should surely die." 
After the deed was committed, the Lord God, allot- 
ting the punishment to each offender, passed the fol- 
lowing verdict alone ; he said unto the woman, " I 
will greatly multiply thy sorrow, and thy conception ; 
in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children, and thy de- 
sire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over 
thee." And unto Adam he said, "Because thou hast 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



331 



hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of 
the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou 
shalt not eat of it ; cursed is the ground for thy sake ; 
in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life ; 
thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee ; 
and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat 
of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto 
the ground ; for out of it ivast thou taken ; for dust 
thou art, and to dust shalt thou return." 

What a predilection for the diffusion of misery 
must that mind have possessed ; what barbarous 
ideas, worse than gothic, which dared first to inter- 
pret threats like these into our being made liable to 
the pains of hell forever, on account of the first trans- 
gression ! What reason can be given for this unusual 
deviation from the literal sense of terms ? By what 
rule of interpretation can it be proved, that the death 
denounced in this sentence should signify eternal ex- 
istence, and an eternal existence in misery ? The 
errour and absurdity of this interpretation are happily 
demonstrated by an authority you will not dispute. 
St Paul, referring to this transgression of our first 
parents, says, " For as in Adam all die, even so in 
Christ shall all be made alive." The contrast, ac- 
cording to just rules of interpretation, must either 
relate to the privation of life by one event, and the 
restoration of life by the other ; or it must run thus, 
" for as in Adam all were made eternally miserable, 
so in Christ shall all be made eternally happy." A 
29* 



J32 



LETTERS ON 



contrast which contradicts itself ; for those, who are 
preordained to be eternally wretched, can never be 
eternally happy. 

Neither is there a single passage in any other part 
of sacred writ, in which eternal misery is said to be 
the punishment allotted to the offspring of Adam, on 
account of Adam's transgression, or that can encou- 
rage the most eccentric imagination to draw the in- 
ference. 

We shall, therefore, with a freedom similar to that 
indulged respecting the former article, examine 
whether the doctrine of the eternal misery of Adam's 
offspring, on account of his transgression, be consistent 
with those attributes, which we all profess to ascribe 
to the Deity, whom we unite to pronounce infinitely 
powerful, wise, just, and good. 

But this freedom shall not prevent our proceeding 
with due caution, in the examination of a question 
upon which our characters may be said, in some 
measure, to depend ; concerning which, if the doc- 
trine he true, the boldness of the attack must appear 
rash and reprehensible; if false, every one will deem 
the doctrine itself to be impious. Let it therefore 
be previously noticed, that every argument demands 
a perfect agreement of the disputants concerning the 
signification of the terms used, and a mutual convic- 
tion of their aptitude to the subject. You will doubt- 
less acquiesce in the definition, that Power is an 
energy capable of producing certain effects; and the 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 333 

power of an intelligent being is the ability of operat- 
ing some designed effect. By Wisdom is understood 
the perception and application of means adapted to 
certain ends. It implies a knowledge of the relation 
in which things stand to each other, and the direction 
of this knowledge to some suitable purpose. By Jus- 
tice is meant the disposition to render to others what 
is their due. It consists in not inflicting punish- 
ment beyond their deserts; and in not depriving them 
of the good to which they have an undoubted claim. 
By Goodness, the disposition which consults and pro- 
motes the welfare of others to the utmost extent of 
power. 

It is also to be presumed, that these terms have 
exactly the same import when applied to the charac- 
ter of Deity, as in their application to the characters 
of men ; that the difference is in degree only, not in 
nature. Without this concession there can be no ar- 
gumentation concerning the attributes of Deity. We 
shall neither understand each other nor ourselves ; 
but shall rush into a chaos of incertitude, where 
nothing can be maintained or denied, proved or con- 
futed. 

These observations will, it is hoped, strike you, 
Sir, with all the force of self evident propositions ; but 
they have not been uniformly admitted by advocates 
for the religious sentiments you have espoused. 
Some have imagined, that there is one code of moral 
conduct for God, and another for man ; that what- 



334 LETTERS ON 

ever the Divine Being ordains or effects, must be 
right and good, merely because he is the agent ; that 
his sovereignty renders him superiour to every other 
rule, but that of his own good pleasure. Sentiments 
these, which subjugate every principle to the right of 
the strongest, and would render Satan himself wise, 
just, and good, could he but usurp the throne of the 
Almighty. 

Let us now apply these principles to the history of 
original sin, and inquire how they will accord. The 
doctrine stands thus. 

It was the primary design of the Almighty, all wise, 
infinitely just, and good God, to create a race of 
beings in order to confer upon them perfection of 
character, and render them eternally happy. Unfor- 
tunately Satan, an evil spirit of extraordinary powers, 
and astonishing subtilty — but yet a creature of God, 
and as such not above the control of his Maker — 
Satan, by a single stratagem, subverted the whole 
plan. It was not by procuring the annihilation of this 
new world, with its inhabitants, that he destroyed 
those complacential prospects of communing bliss en- 
joyed by the divine mind, but he involved an infinite 
majority of its rational inhabitants in endless misery. 
The infernal scheme was accomplished by seducing 
our first parents to transgress the divine command, 
while their whole progeny was in their loins ; and the 
seduction introduced at once such a total depravity 
into human nature, as to render the whole progeny of 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 335 

Adam deserving of eternal damnation, even before 
they committed any actual transgression. This sin 
of Adam incensed the Deity against the whole human 
race, and now he determines to make the beings, who 
were originally designed to be partakers of his muni- 
ficence, the dreadful monuments of his wrath. The 
intended objects of his lovingkindness are now the 
objects of his vindictive justice for crimes, of which 
they were totally ignorant. The infinite mercy of 
Deity, however, induced him to make a few excep- 
tions, and to elect some from this immense mass of 
misery to everlasting life, out of his mere good pleas- 
ure, without any superiour degree of innocence on 
their parts, or the possession of a single good quality 
to recommend them to this peculiar mark of divine 
favour. 

Surely, to every person free from prejudice, will 
the above statement, which defies the charge of ex- 
aggeration, appear as a confutation of the doctrine. 
But such is the force of early education, or of predi- 
lection for a particular system, and so great is the 
awe with which some minds are struck, when dis- 
posed, or, as they term it, tempted to doubt of tenets, 
they have been taught to regard as sacred, that the 
greatest absurdities lie concealed from the eye when 
they put on a religious garb ; and the same under- 
standings, which despise common extravagances, will 
bend the knee to those contained in their theological 
creeds. 



336 LETTERS ON 

Is it not self evident, that if God foresaw from all 
eternity the seduction of Adam, and if he ordained 
from all eternity to save the elect out of the general 
wreck, either, that it was not the primary intention of 
the Supreme Being to render Adam and his posterity 
happy, or that he failed in the attempt ? We cannot 
make the former supposition, without denying to the 
Deity the only motive that was worthy of him. Nay, 
we must suppose that he decreed to form, that is, to 
compel into existence, beings innumerable, whose 
eternal misery he distinctly foresaw. Can the imagi- 
nation devise a determination of cruelty equal to this ? 
Is it possible for such a doctrine to be true, and the 
Deity to possess the character ascribed to him by the 
Apostle John, when he says, " God is love ;" a being 
essentially benignant ? Could a good being form 
creatures for such an unworthy purpose, when the 
very definition of benignity is a disposition to diffuse 
all possible happiness ? 

The partial exertion of sovereignty in the predesti- 
nation of a few to eternal life, which is eagerly urged 
as a proof of the infinite mercy of God, is in fact an 
evidence to the contrary. The salvation of this se- 
lected few must now be considered as a full indica- 
tion of the Divine Power to save those destined to 
perdition, had he chosen it ; and therefore it necessa- 
rily limits the divine benignity. Had the whole hu- 
man race been involved in one equal ruin, we might 
have lamented that Satan should thus triumph over 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 337 

the benevolent designs of our Maker ; and we might, 
even in misery, have venerated the disposition, which 
prompted to make us happy. But to display in this 
small specimen his power, while the disposition con- 
tinues averse from the promotion of the grand primi- 
tive design, is an astonishing limitation of goodness ; 
and what increases the astonishment is, its being pro- 
duced by the machinations of an infernal spirit. 

Most advocates for the distinguishing tenets of Cal- 
vinism seem to be much more deeply impressed with 
the idea of Power, than with any other of the divine 
attributes ; and to be much more cautious not to 
commit an offence, by placing limits to the exertions 
of this power, than to the manifestations of wisdom 
and goodness. The abettors of such sentiments 
should be peculiarly careful not to support a doctrine, 
which virtually destroys the sovereignty of God, and 
transfers that attribute to his grand antagonist. This 
corruption of the whole human race, and peopling the 
dominions of sin and misery with such multitudes of 
subjects, loudly proclaims the triumph, and extends 
the sovereignty of Satan over the wide region of the 
damned, while that of the great Creator is contracted 
to the small province of the elect. He is now de- 
prived of every power, beyond this jurisdiction, but 
that of executing the purposes of Satan, by inflicting 
eternal punishments, in perfect conformity to Satan's 
malignant desires ! 



338 LETTERS ON 

Can we venerate the infinite Wisdom of God, and 
believe that his plans were disconcerted by the wiles 
of an apostate spirit ? Can we imagine that he should 
have miscalculated the powers of his new favourite 
man, on the one hand, and the artifices of the Devil 
on the other ; and thus have inadvertently exposed 
the representative of the human race to a combat, to 
which he was created so unequal ? According to this 
scheme, the very Prescience of God is an impeach- 
ment of his wisdom, siuce he must thus have concert- 
ed a plan which he knew would prove abortive. 

If we attend to the plan itself, it will, in every re- 
spect, appear unworthy of Deity. In other cases, 
where we trace the divine footsteps, we discover 
marks of wisdom ; we judge them to be of God from 
the stamp of excellency impressed upon them ; but 
who can possibly discern the wisdom of a constitu- 
tion, which not only failed in the primitive design, but 
inevitably exposed the vast majority of mankind to 
endless wo ? What marks of design worthy of God 
do we trace, in resting the character and felicity of 
numberless beings on the single act of a frail indi- 
vidual ; in rendering them nominally good or bad, 
really happy or wretched, by imputation and proxy ? 
If it be an essential character of wisdom to discern 
and adapt means to ends, that some valuable purpose 
may be obtained, it surely cannot be found in a doc- 
trine, that represents the means to be inadequate, and 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 339 

the issue the reverse of what was intended, that is, 
the reverse of every thing wise and good. 

If it be one property of Justice not to inflict punish- 
ment beyond desert, can the utmost stretch of imagi- 
nation conceive of an act of injustice equal to the 
conduct imputed to the Supreme, which has exposed 
" numbers, beyond enumeration," to eternal misery 
for a single act of their primogenitor, while they were 
sleeping in unconsciousness . ? Can any act be more 
unjust, than the judicial punishment of the innocent 
for imputed crimes, than to rank those who have 
never transgressed, in the class of the vilest offenders, 
for a conduct over which they could have no influ- 
ence ; and to exclude them from the pardon you al- 
low to have been granted to the real offender ? Had 
iEsop lived in the christian era, and been informed, 
that such a tenet was maintained by some professors 
of Christianity, we should have suspected that the 
fable of the wolf and the lamb, which every ingenuous 
schoolboy reads with indignation, had been invented 
to satirize and confute so extravagant an idea. 

You say, that this multitude, doomed to eternal 
perdition, fall a sacrifice to the vindictive justice of 
God, whose laws have been violated by the grand 
representative of the human race. But can Deity be 
unjust and cruel to others, that he mny be just to him- 
self? The satisfaction of the attribute justice, is, in 
reality, a simple abstract idea. Justice suffers no 
misery, if it be not satisfied ; and it cannot demand 
30 



340 LETTERS ON 

the misery of millions, who never intentionally offend- 
ed it. Besides, since the claims of vindictive justice 
have been waived in the salvation of the elect, what 
can have rendered them so inexorable respecting the 
reprobated? or, why should its claims be paramount 
to those of every other attribute ? Are they more 
sacred than those of Benignity and Compassion ? 
Must this so peremptorily demand millions of victims, 
and are the others to be easily satisfied with a few 
scattered monuments of mercy ? 

But the principal defence of your fundamental doc- 
trine is founded upon a supposed covenant, which it 
is said God entered into with Adam ; according to 
which it was stipulated, that he and his posterity 
should enjoy eternal life, in consequence of his obe- 
dience. It is therefore pleaded, that as Adam sub- 
mitted to the terms, the Deity is fully justified in 
executing the sentence denounced against disobedi- 
ence. 

The first answer to this assertion is, that it is a mere 
assertion, and no revelation. Among the numerous 
covenants really mentioned in the Old or New 
Testament, it is nowhere to be found. Those upon 
record are obviously just, most of them replete with 
benignity and love. They are all worthy of a God, 
worthy of being adored. Not one of them has the 
most distant reference to the fall of Adam ; and we 
shall search in vain for a stipulation so formed, that a 
breach of its conditions on the part of man should 
involve myriads of innocent beings in endless misery. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 341 

The idea of a covenant is solely entertained as a 
subterfuge, under which distressed argument may 
shelter itself; but it is totally inadequate to the pur- 
pose. A moment's reflection will convince you, that 
it was unworthy of the Deity, and ill adapted to the 
state of man. If you suppose, that supreme Intelli- 
gence did not foresee the issue of this compact, which 
is the most favourable supposition w T e can make, you 
must admit, that it was a desperate venture to place 
the eternal interests of the whole human race upon 
such a hazard. We are struck with honour when 
we read, that the ancient Germans used frequently to 
stake the liberty of their wives and children upon the 
throw of a die, and yet we must imagine that the Su- 
preme Parent staked the felicity of his intellectual 
offspring upon an event, that was equally precarious. 
If you acknowledge that he foreknew the event, the 
imputation is infinitely stronger. In that case, this 
extolled covenant, which is to settle every difficulty, 
by fully vindicating the divine justice, bears all the 
marks of an illicit contract. Adam, confiding in the 
powers newly received from his Maker, and deeming 
them fully adequate to every trial to which the benig- 
nant Author of his existence would expose him, must 
have accepted the terms in the simplicity and in- 
genuousness of his heart. But his Creator foreknew 
the dreadful consequences ; and what shall we term 
this, if it be not deceitfully taking in the unwary ? If 
it be not holding out a ticket to the grasp, which, 



342 LETTERS ON 

upon the face of it, promised riches immense, while 
the proposer knew it would be drawn a dreadful 
blank ? Or what shall we think of that commisera- 
tion, which should propose a compact, Omniscience 
foresaw would be so fatal in its result ; which should 
expose the dearest interests of the universe to the 
vibrations of Adam's free will,' with a previous know- 
ledge that it would finally point at destruction ? 

You may, perhaps, object that such language is 
bold even to rashness ; you will plead, that notwith- 
standing we agree in our ideas of justice and good- 
ness in the abstract, we may frequently err in our 
application of these terms to particular instances; and 
because we are prone to make egregious mistakes in 
dispositions and conduct, often deeming that to be just 
and good, or to be unjust or cruel, which in fact is the 
very reverse. This objection is admitted to have 
some force, but when duly considered it will be dis- 
covered to add strength to our argument, and justify 
every expression that has been uttered. 

You cannot maintain, that because we sometimes 
err in our ideas of moral conduct, we must always 
err ; for this mode of reasoning, would render every 
thing uncertain, and bring us back to a state of con- 
fusion and ignorance. Were this to be established as 
an universal axiom without any exception, it would 
destroy itself. The same evidence, which, in certain 
instances, detects that we had misapplied those terms, 
manifests that we do not misapply them always ; otli- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 343 

ervvise we should never be able to correct our opinion 
effectually, nor would the mind find itself authorized 
to settle in the full conviction of a truth. Let us then 
attend to the manner in which our former errours 
have been corrected, and we shall discover a rule of 
conduct sufficient to direct us in every similar in- 
stance. In all cases, we correct our judgment, by 
rendering ourselves more perfect masters of the sub- 
ject under consideration ; that is, by obtaining minute 
and accurate information concerning every circum- 
stance that can elucidate it ; and by giving to each 
circumstance, without reserve, its genuine character 
and due degree of importance. Every person of 
sound intellect is able to judge of right and wrong 
in conduct, when each material article, relative to 
the act, is fairly placed before him, provided his 
mind be totally free from the bias of prejudice. We 
thus, in some cases, acquire a power of discrimina- 
tion which we deem infallible. It is thus we are able 
to exculpate or convict in courts of judicature ; and 
venture to decide concerning guilt and innocence, 
where the life and character of the arraigned, that is, 
all that is valuable to him, is at stake; and where the 
character and mental peace of the juror himself, de- 
pend upon the truth of his verdict. It is by attending 
to every leading circumstance of a fact, we know that 
to take what has been the property of another, is not 
always theft ; to destroy life is not always to commit 
murder ; that every act of severity is not always an 
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344 LETTERS ON 

injustice ; and every indulgence granted may not al- 
ways be a real kindness. 

Thus the conduct of Deity towards his rational 
creatures may, in many instances, appear extremely 
severe, perhaps inconsistent with justice. But as we 
are not fully acquainted with the deserts of the indi- 
vidual, on the one hand, nor with the whole plan of 
Providence concerning him on the other, we should 
be rash and precipitate in the extreme, did we form 
our judgment according to these appearances. Did 
we know the whole, the equity and benignity of a 
being, essentially just and good, must necessarily be 
rendered conspicuous ; and the coincidence between 
character and conduct would be fully demonstrated. 
As long as the possibility of retribution remains, the 
severest conduct may finally indicate itself to be the 
truest benignity directed by wisdom ; and the full in- 
demnification, which Omnipotence is able to bestow, 
may render those trials a subject of joy and gratitude, 
which, in the painful process, excited the contrary 
emotions. When, therefore, we have arrived at the 
ultimatum concerning a plan, or an action ; when we 
are able to estimate the degree of influence belonging 
to every circumstance surrounding it, we are then 
able to decide concerning its nature and character. 
We may then pronounce a verdict without hesita- 
tion ; no further appeal can be made, nor can any 
circumstances present themselves to produce a change 
of opinion. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 346 

Now this is precisely the case with the subject in 
debate. Your doctrine professes to give a history of 
the whole plan of Providence respecting the human 
race ; and to the conduct of Providence towards this 
race are our ideas necessarily confined. Every es- 
sential part is stated ; the primitive designs of creation ; 
the seduction of Satan ; the guilt of Adam ; the in- 
culpation of his unconscious progeny; the punishment 
denounced ; the motives for its extreme severity — to 
avenge vindictive justice ; the exceptions which anni- 
hilate its necessity — the salvation of a chosen few in 
the same predicament, without the shadow of a mo- 
tive. A clearer case has never been stated before a 
court of judicature ; and we may add, never could 
the decision of not guilty be pronounced with a 
firmer tone, than we are able to pronounce the inno- 
cence of Adam's progeny. Never could a court be 
more assured that particular conduct is unjust, cruel, 
unworthy of its agent, than we may rest assured, that 
a. just and merciful Being cannot sentence the uncon- 
scious children of Adam to eternal misery, on account 
of this single act of disobedience. 

From inattention to the essential difference, which 
particular circumstances necessarily make in the na- 
ture and character of any action, it proceeds, that you, 
and the supporters of your system, are so prone to 
adduce as powerful arguments, every instance of di- 
vine conduct, which bears but the slightest analogy to 
the subject in question; although this mode of reason- 



346 LETTERS ON 

ing leads to consequences, which yourselves must 
reject. It was this which induced you to conclude, 
that because the Supreme Being has admitted some 
evil into the system of things, he is free to multiply 
and diffuse it in the most arbitrary manner, and to 
the greatest extent; which, if true, would, as has been 
already hinted, approximate the most opposite charac- 
ters, and render the state of mankind as lamentable 
under the government of the best of beings, as under 
the tyranny of the worst. 

The declaration made to the Jewish people by the 
Almighty, that " he visiteth the iniquity of the father 
upon the children to the third and fourth generation 
of them that hate him," furnishes us with another 
example of the same inconclusive mode of reasoning. 
An argument has been drawn from it, that as it is 
consistent with the justice of God to visit the iniquity 
of parents upon their offspring in one instance, why 
not in all ? The answer upon the principles stated 
above is obvious. When circumstances, which have 
an apparent similarity, indicate themselves, upon close 
examination, to be essentially different, no argument 
from so slight and imperfect an analogy can be ad- 
mitted. This threat may prove itself to be within 
the sphere not only of justice, but of benignity. The 
good enjoyed may yet surpass the evils suffered; and 
undoubtedly will surpass the deserts of the offending 
sufferer. The threat was intended to prevent the 
offence ; while it shuts no door to the repentance. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 347 

which severity is calculated and designed to promote ; 
and which will be succeeded by the return of the di- 
vine favour and protection. What relation has such 
an admonition with that final state of things, where 
punishment infinitely exceeds personal demerit, re- 
pentance can be of no avail, and " hope never comes 
that comes to all ?" We must also observe, that, ac- 
cording to the manifest constitution of human affairs, 
a regular series of cause and effect is established in 
every station and relation in life ; and the nature and 
complexion of the one will be according to the ten- 
dency of the other. Parents are not only the source 
of the existence, but of the lot of their offspring. 
Both the prosperity and distress of children, in cases 
innumerable, depend upon the success or adversity, 
the prudence or imprudence, the virtuous or vicious 
conduct of the authors of their being. It was there- 
fore a benignant admonition, which warned the Israel- 
ites, that the effects of a rebellious conduct would 
extend their pernicious influence beyond the existent 
generation ; that by transmitting an idolatrous spirit 
to their posterity, they necessarily transmit the punish- 
ments annexed to idolatry. In the same declaration 
they are informed, that mercy would be shown to 
thousands of those who loved him and kept his com- 
mandments. In this very passage, therefore, the 
divine benignity shines conspicuous, both in the threat 
and in the promise ; and the disposition to show mer- 
cy is represented as greatly exceeding that to chastise ; 



348 LETTERS ON 

perfectly harmonizing with the many other assurances, 
that he is slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy; 
that he will not always chide, nor retain his anger for- 
ever. Assurances as opposite to the system we are 
combating, as the meridian day to the gloom of mid- 
night ; as the joys of heaven to the pangs of hell. If 
that system be true, the punishment is inflicted upon 
souls, that could not be admonished by the threat ; 
the visitation is an eternity of pure, unalloyed misery ; 
the Deity is quick to revenge, infinitely slow to par- 
don ; he doth chide where there is no fault ; and his 
anger endureth forever without any just provocation. 

If arguments from slight analogies formed upon 
admitted facts thus prove inconclusive, those deduced 
from vague conjecture ought to prove more unsatis- 
factory. In your attempt to convince the skeptic of 
the truth of the christian religion, which, according 
to your creed, necessarily comprehends the belief of 
this doctrine ; you demand of him, whether " all this 
weight of evidence is to be overbalanced by this one 
difficulty on a subject so confessedly high and myste- 
rious ; considering, too, that he must allow we see 
but a part — oh, how small a part of the universal 
creation of God, and that our faculties are incompe- 
tent to judge of the scheme of his infinite wisdom." 
Not to observe that the whole mystery on the subject 
is, that any man of sense can admit such a doctrine 
without evidence, and that every difficulty is at once 
removed by rejecting it ; not to repeat what has 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 349 

already been advanced to prove the futility of your 
reasoning, concerning the incompetency of the human 
faculties to judge of religious tenets ; it is very ap- 
parent from the above passage, that you feel yourself 
necessitated to plunge into the immensity of creation 
in search of an argument to justify your hypothesis. 
We shall follow you for a moment, attempt to give 
shape and consistency^ to vague ideas, couched under 
general expressions, and show that your system can 
derive no consolation or support from this quarter. 
Your observation can only be relevant to the subject 
by its suggesting, that the plan of Providence towards 
our first parents and their offspring may be intimately 
connected with, and exert an important influence 
over, some other part of the universal system. But 
we can conceive of no other influence than the force 
of example ; and the only object of this example 
must be to deter other probationary beings from the 
imitation of a similar conduct. If this, Sir, be your 
meaning, the objections against it are as formidable 
as any that have been urged against the doctrine 
which gave it existence. How large do you imagine 
the number of these parental representatives of future 
offsprings, who require such an expense of happiness 
in order to keep them in awe ? What ideas shall we 
form of their primitive character, if methods like ihese 
are requisite to retain them in their allegiance ? Must 
they not be too depraved to merit such sacrifices ? 
Or dare we for a moment entertain the horrid idea, 



350 LETTERS ON 

that the divine wisdom and goodness could discover 
no better methods in order to teach lessons of obe- 
dience to surrounding worlds ? Can cruelty and in- 
justice become the basis of the moral government of 
the most perfect of beings ? Will he create a mass of 
misery among one race of his creatures, that another 
may escape it ? It is most true, Sir, that we cannot 
fathom the depths of infinite wisdom. " The ways 
of the most perfect Being are not as our ways, nor 
his thoughts as our thoughts." They are infinitely 
better, not infinitely worse. They are " high as the 
heavens, above our thoughts and our ways," not 
deeper than the abyss below them. If this condem- 
nation of the human race for the sin of Adam be itself 
cruel and unjust, as you acknowledge yourself some- 
times tempted to suspect, the utmost extent of its 
uses cannot alter its nature. We are forbidden to do 
evil that good may come ; and infinite perfection will 
never set us the example. Tyranny itself, in its most 
wanton exertions, has never devised or executed a 
plan so extravagant ; has never attempted to retain 
one class of subjects in obedience, by gibbeting the 
innocent offspring of another. 

These remarks may possibly convince you, that 
your embryo argument aguin proceeds from a very 
defective analogy. You now s"ppose that, because 
exemplary punishment may be useful among one class 
of frail and imperfect creatures, it becomes abso- 
lutely requisite to prevent the frailties and imperfec- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 351 

tions of another ; because the guilty are made to 
suffer for the good of the community they have in- 
jured, the innocent offspring of the guilty may be ex- 
posed to sufferings unparalleled, for the good of a 
state with which they have no other connexion ; be- 
cause pains and imprisonments form too large a por- 
tion of our defective governments, they are absolutely 
necessary, under the perfect administration of a most 
perfect Being, to retain one part of the universal sys- 
tem in obedience ; and that he has created a race or 
races of beings, whose powers and dispositions have 
been exactly adapted to such disingenuous motives. 

Thus, my good Sir, do we find, upon taking, not a 
partial and superficial, but a full and comprehensive 
survey of this doctrine, as stated by its warmest advo- 
cates, that it is surrounded by the most formidable 
objections ; objections which cannot be confuted nor 
evaded. Your system, professing to ley the whole 
plan of Providence before us, enables us to judge of 
its nature and complexion ; and we may safely pro- 
nounce that it is unworthy of the perfections of Deity. 
The divine attributes are so implicated in this transac- 
tion, that one cannot possibly escape without the im- 
peachment of some other. There must have been a 
deficiency in foresight, in wisdom, in power, in jus- 
tice, or in goodness, or the event, as represented in 
your system, could not have happened. If Satan de- 
ceived the Ali-wise, then was he still wiser ; if he suc- 
ceeded in opposition to the exertions of the Almighty 
31 



352 LETTERS ON 

to prevent the evil, then was he more powerful ; if 
the event took place with his concurrence or conniv- 
ance, then was it a conspiracy with the evil one, con- 
trary to all the principles of justice, goodness, and 
commiseration ; and he, whose nature and character 
it is to hate sin and misery, formed a league with 
Satan to render them perpetual ! Surely, Sir, these 
inductions, flowing so necessarily from your system, 
ought to make you tremble. Look at it again, and 
say, can a doctrine, which contains such an accumu- 
lation of absurdities and impieties, be deemed honour- 
able to our Creator ? Ought it to be considered as 
the basis of true Christianity ? 

If you still remain unconvinced of your errour, re- 
specting the doctrine itself, you will, it is hoped, con- 
clude from the above train of reasoning, that when 
the nominal christian renounces a doctrine you think 
so essential, he may also be actuated by a concern 
for the honour of God ; that it is not a desire to extol 
human nature in a manner flattering to human pride, 
which prompts him to deny this original depravity, 
with its consequent punishment ; nor a wish to show 
himself wise above what is written, which induces 
him to reject the supposed covenant as apocryphal, 
and contemplate its conditions with horrour. He 
argues not for himself, but the character of his God, 
and your God, is intimately concerned in the debate ; 
that Being whom we are commanded both to love 
and to imitate. Since it is enjoined upon us, that we 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 353 

" be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect," how 
important is it that we entertain the most worthy ideas 
of the divine character and conduct, in order that 
obedience to his commands may be in unison with the 
imitation of his example. But if your system be true, 
the imitation of the divine model would naturally 
lead us to be incautious, or unjust, or cruel ; impla- 
cable in our resentments, and partial in our forgive- 
ness. We also should feel ourselves entitled to re- 
venge every injury, under the pretext of satisfying 
vindictive justice ; for if justice in the abstract neces- 
sarily requires the punishment of the offender, neither 
can we pardon without committing an offence against 
it, by being unjust to ourselves. 

We are commanded to " love the Lord our God 
with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our 
might;" but this devout and ardent affection can only 
be founded upon a conviction of his superlative good- 
ness. Every sentiment, that has a tendency to check 
this conviction, must inevitably damp the ardour of 
our affection. Every sentiment, that largely displays 
the divine benignity, is calculated to fan the devout 
flame. In the doctrine of original sin and its ordain- 
ed consequences, most certain it is, that the universal 
benevolence of the Deity is not rendered conspicuous ; 
much less is it represented in a manner adapted to 
warm the generous heart. The only love that can 
be excited, consistent with its principles, is the per- 
sonal gratitude of the elect, for what they justly term 
astonishing and unmerited favour. Out of this small 



354 LETTERS ON 

circle the Universal Parent must become an object of 
terrour. The duty must therefore be confined to 
them ; for the non-elect, experiencing no essential 
benignity, cannot possibly perform it. They must be 
as destitute of motives, as you deem them destitute 
of natural powers. There is a selfishness also in the 
affection of the elect, which diminishes the lustre of 
so excellent a disposition ; for a due regard to that 
other command, " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as 
thyself," would disqualify a benevolent mind for the 
enjoyment of this exclusive felicity. It would lament 
the misery of the damned too deeply to feel satisfac- 
tion at the distinguished favour conferred upon itself; 
unless, indeed, you admit another extravagance, and 
suppose that it will be the office of the same spirit, 
which softens the christian's heart in this world, to 
harden it in a more exalted state. 

How different this contracted, monopolizing temper, 
and the scheme which inspires it, from that inspired 
by a conviction of the universal benignity of Deity, 
entitling us to call upon the whole earth " to rejoice 
that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth ;" from being 
fully assured that "his throne is established in right- 
eousness, and that his mercy endureth forever." Sen- 
timents like these must impress the wicked in the hour 
of reflection ; and they communicate joy unalloyed 
to the benevolent christian, as often as his mind yields 
itself up to their full impression. 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 



LETTER VI. 



355 



The Scheme of Original Depravity not necessary to 
account for Moral Imperfection in Man. Argu- 
ments against the Doctrine drawn from its perni- 
cious Consequences. 

Sir, 
A person unacquainted with artificial theology, and 
ignorant of the extravagances of which it is capable, 
would be much surprised when informed, that a 
scheme like the one we have been contemplating, 
was invented expressly to vindicate the character of 
Deity. He would naturally inquire, what imputation 
can be supposed worse than the one this vindication 
necessarily brings with it ? He will urge that the 
apology is totally on the side of Man, and not of his 
Maker ; since the depravity, which is hereditary and 
inevitable, renders what is termed vice as instinctive, 
and consequently as innocent as the brutal propensi- 
ties of the most brutal animals ; and he will ask, can 
any thing stronger be suggested against the divine 
perfections, than to treat these instinctive propensities 
as crimes deserving eternal punishment? When you 
unfold your principles before him, by asserting that 
every thing, which comes immediately out of the hands 
of Deity, must be perfect; that it is inconsistent with 
the divine attributes to form creatures in a depraved 
state, and therefore they must have been rendered 
depraved by incidental circumstances ; he will reply, 
31* 



356 LETTERS ON 

thnt the difference is not so immense between permit- 
ting the agency of a wicked spirit to effect this fatal 
change, by which his own eternal purpose was ac- 
complished, and originally creating man with the pro- 
pensities you contemplate and bewail } nor is there 
more injustice in punishing mankind for the primitive 
depravity with which they were created, than in ren- 
dering them liable to eternal damnation for imputed 
crimes. 

But without wishing to palliate the frailties and im- 
perfection of human nature, he will remind you, that 
there is a large space between absolute perfection of 
character, and radical depravity ; and that a large 
diversity of mixed characters may be formed within 
that space ; and he will again demand, what proofs 
have you that it is inconsistent with the divine per- 
fections to create beings capable of this diversity? If 
you say that every thing which comes from God must 
be perfect, he will require an explanation. He will 
ask, Do you mean to preclude the Deity from the 
creation of any beings, who are not perfect in know- 
ledge, disposition, and felicity ? without which there 
must be occasional crimes of ignorance, of depraved 
wills, and some share of misery ; if so, you presume 
to limit his creative powers to the formation of beings 
perfect like himself. If this position be disavowed, 
it will necessarily follow, that there must be some 
kind and degree of imperfection in the creation of 
God. And this being admitted, he will again ask, 
How can you prove that the degree of imperfection 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 357 

and depravity observable in human nature exceeds 
that, which it is within the limits of the divine attri- 
butes to admit ? He will further suggest the possi- 
bility, that, in the wide empire of the universe, an 
infinite diversity of methods may, in the plenitude of 
infinite wisdom, be rendered conducive to the same 
issue ; the promotion of all possible happiness. He 
may suppose it to be the divine plan, in our system, 
to form beings, who shall be placed at a great distance 
from complete felicity, but with endowments that shall 
render felicity attainable ; to create in ignorance, but 
to furnish with powers and means of acquiring know- 
ledge ; in weakness, both individually and collectively, 
but with the capacity of acquiring personal and com- 
bined strength ; to implant a principle of self-love, 
which, though innocent in its nature, may prove inor- 
dinate and pernicious, unless it be under the control 
of higher principles, with which our natures are like- 
wise endowed ; to inflict sufferings, but to give them 
a salutary tendency, so that they may be productive of 
greater good than could have been promoted without 
them. He will admit, that such a plan may not cor- 
respond with our wishes ; and that our impatience to 
enjoy happiness will induce us to imagine, that it is not 
the best possible ; but you will surely allow, Sir, that 
it is infinitely more consonant with our ideas of a wise 
and perfect governour,than plunging a whole race into 
endless misery at once, without crimes of their own, 
without means of reforming their native depravity, or 
hopes of escape. 



358 LETTERS ON 

One singular advantage attends the above hypo- 
thesis ; it is not necessary that it should be true, in 
order to invalidate yours. If there be no proofs that 
it is contrary to Scripture, that it is irrational, or that 
it is peculiarly derogatory to the divine perfections, it 
has infinitely the advantage. It may be false, and 
yet confute your bold assertion, that there is no other 
way of explaining the phenomena of human depra- 
vity, than the one you have adopted ; it may be false, 
and yet afford a more pertinent and more honourable 
solution of the difficulty, until the discovery of a bet- 
ter shall produce still greater satisfaction to the impa- 
tient mind. 

If the adoption of this should commit too great a 
violence upon prejudices and habits, that have been 
long formed, there is another hypothesis which ap- 
proaches nearer to your own, and ought to have a de- 
cided preference ; and that is the ancient doctrine of 
Manes, from which yours is manifestly derived, and 
of which it may be justly deemed a corruption. The 
Manichean system completely exculpates the Deity 
from being the author of evil, and the intentional 
cause of misery. The Creator is deprived by it 
of no other attribute than that of infinite power, 
which is no impeachment of his moral character. 
Since his designs and plans may yet be just, wise, 
and good, the grand respectability of character still 
remains, and the incessant exertions of his power, 
to the destruction of misery, which he did not volun- 
tarily permit, still demand the universal tribute of 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 359 

love and gratitude. Their doctrine further adminis- 
ters this consolation ; it admits that the good Being 
will finally become triumphant over the malignant 
Spirit ; and that order, virtue, and happiness, shall, 
at some future period, be diffused through the uni- 
verse. Who, Sir, that has it in his choice, would 
not prefer reposing his mind upon an errour, which 
promises such a desirable issue, rather than suffer it 
to be tossed, like the fallen angels of Milton, upon the 
waves and surges of eternal misery, to which your 
system incessantly directs our thoughts ? 

Many other objections might be advanced against 
an hypothesis, which you deem so essential to Chris- 
tianity ; but if the force of these already urged be not 
sufficient to subdue your prejudices, it would be in 
vain to expect success from the most numerous 
auxiliaries. We might examine the principles upon 
which you rest the importance of this doctrine, and 
prove them fallacious. We might assert, that to strike 
terrour into the human mind, by expatiating upon the 
danger of actual transgressions, is much better calcu- 
lated to produce a change in minds and morals, than 
the method which your system pursues. For true 
repentance can only arise from a consciousness of 
personal guilt ; and a rational expectation of the terri- 
ble judgments of God, can alone be founded on a 
conviction that they are righteous, and we deserve 
them. It would not be difficult to demonstrate, that 
a firm and influential belief of your hypothesis would 
extend the most baneful effects over the whole human 



360 LETTERS ON 

race, in every successive generation. It would bring 
forward such a total debasement of character, as to 
create mutual detestation, and excite universal suspi- 
cion. It would compel every individual, when ac- 
cused of the vilest dispositions, and basest principles, 
to admit the charge. It would diffuse an universal 
gloom, which nothing could, nothing ought to dissi- 
pate. The benevolent mind would perpetually suffer 
the torments of the damned, by reflecting upon the 
miseries that probably await the majority of its most 
intimate and endearing connexions. Every principle 
of humanity would forbid the most virtuous commerce 
of the sexes ; and celibacy, as the only means of ex- 
terminating a race born under the wrath and curse of 
its Creator, would be the sublimest of duties. You 
might also be admonished, that, if the danger of specu- 
lative errours proceeds from their pernicious tendency, 
an errour so peculiarly dishonourable to Deity, which 
has a tendency to embitter every enjoyment in life, 
to throw one class of persons into a sinful despond- 
ency, and tempt another to reject all religion, must de- 
servedly be placed among the most dangerous ; and 
nothing can prove a future excuse for your creed, 
but that sincerity against which you have entered so 
solemn a protest ; or afford such consolation to the 
mind, as the benignity which your creed insults. 

Haying thus reasoned with you to the utmost ex- 
tent of thr subject, we might justly extol our courtesy 
in condescending to argue with persons, whose by- 
pothesis deprives them of the right. For what evi- 



TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 361 

dence can those produce, that they are qualified to 
argue upon the subject, whose leading principle is, 
that the fall of Adam has impaired our intellects, and 
blinded our judgments, to such a degree, that we are 
not able in any one instance to think or to act right ? 
How can they, who maintain the depravity of human 
reason, convince us that every thing they urge, in de- 
fence of their system, does not proceed from that 
very perversion of intellect, which they confess to 
have seized the whole human race ? 

Justice could not be done to these hints, without 
increasing our trespass upon your time and patience ; 
and therefore they are submitted to the amplification 
of your leisure moments. 

It is hoped, Sir, that you will perceive, from the 
pains which have been taken in these letters, to state 
the objections to the doctrine of original sin, in all 
their force, that the writer sincerely aims at your con- 
viction. He would be happy to relieve you from that 
embarrassment of mind under which you manifestly 
labour. He assures you that it is a pleasant thing 
for faith to walk hand and hand with reason ; and he 
sincerely thinks, that it would not only be an honour, 
but an advantage to rational Christianity, were you to 
become its advocate. Eloquence, like yours, founded 
upon true principles, might produce the most bene- 
ficial consequences. 

These Letters are addressed to you through the 
medium of the public, that they may, in some degree, 
serve as an antidote to the pernicious effects of your 



362 LETTERS ON TOTAL DEPRAVITY. 

Treatise, upon minds already prejudiced against Chris- 
tianity, — whose prejudices must inevitably be con- 
firmed, by the apprehension that your doctrines are 
essential to genuine Christianity. It is also ardently 
desired to soften that uncharitable asperity, which 
your work is unhappily calculated to increase among 
a numerous and respectable body of christians, by 
indicating that your principles are not rejected with- 
out mature consideration. In order to make the ex- 
periment, whether it be not possible for reason to gain 
the ascendency over the influence of station, and 
popularity of character, the writer has concealed his 
name, that his arguments may be appreciated accord- 
ing to their real validity ; and that their influence may 
not be diminished by prejudice, or receive adventi- 
tious force from predilection. If he has, in some in- 
stances, expressed himself in strong language, he has 
taken care that such language should be authorized 
by stronger arguments ; and whenever he has mani- 
fested indignation, he has felt that the doctrine de- 
serves it, which was with him an additional proof of 
its being a pernicious errour ; for nothing, which 
comes from God, can possibly excite that emotion. 

With the respect due to your distinguished merits, 
I have the honour to subscribe myself, 
Sir, your fellow Christian, 

and obedient servant, 

A LAYMAN. 



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