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X HE following Letters are addressed to the friendst of vital and 
practical religion, because the author is persuaded that the very 
essence of true piety is concerned in this controv«Tsy ; and that 
godly men are the only proper judges of divine truth, being the 
only humble, upright, and earnest inquirers after it. So far from 
thinking, with Dr. Priestley, that " an unbiassed temper of mind 
is attained in consequence of becoming more indiflVrent to religion 
in general, and to all the modes and doctrines of it ;" he is satis- 
fied that persons of that description have a most powerful bias 
against the trutli. Though it were admitte*!, th;it false principles, 
accompanied with a bigoted attachment to them, are worse than 
none ; yet he cannot admit, that irreligious men are destitute of 
principles. He has no notion of human minds being unoccupied 
or indifferent : he that is not a friend to religion in any mode, is 
an enemy to it in all modes ; he is a libertine ; he doeth evil, and 
therefore, hateth the light. And shall we compliment such a charac- 
ter, by acknowledging him to be in " a favourable situation for dis- 
tinguishing between truth and falsehood ?"* God forbid! It is 
he that doeth his will, that ahali know of his doctrine. The hum- 
ble, the candid, the upright inquirers after truth, are the persons 
who are likely to find it ; and to them the author takes the liberty 
to appeal. 

The principal occasion of these Letters was, the late union 
among Protestant Dissenters, in reference to civil affairs, having 
been the source of various misconception, and, as the writer ap- 
prehends, improved as a mean of disseminating Socinian principles. 

In the late application to Parliament, for the repeal of the Cq»- 

* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 9.S. 


poration and Test Acts, the Dissenters have united, without any 
respect to their doctrinal principles. They considered themselves 
as applying merely for a awzY right ; and that, in such an applica- 
tion, difference in theological sentiment had no more concern than 
it has in the union of a nation under one civil head or form of 

This union, however, has become an occasion of many reflec- 
tions. Serious men of the Established Church have expressed 
their surprise*, that some Dissenters could unite with others, so op- 
posite in their religious principles ; and, had the union been of a 
religious nature, it must, indeed have been surprising. Others 
have supposed, that the main body of Dissenters had either imbi- 
bed the Socinian system, or were hastily approaching towards it» 
Whether the suggestion of Dr. Horsley, that "• the genuine Cal- 
vinists, among our modern Dissenters, are very few," has con- 
tributed to this opinion, or, whatever be its origin, it is far from 
being just. Every one who kmxDS the Dissenters, knows that the 
body of them are what is commonly called orthodox. Dr. Priest- 
ley, who is well known to be sufficiently sanguine, in estima- 
ting the numbers of his party ; so sanguine, that, when speaking 
of the common people of this country, he reckons " nine out often 
of them would prefer a Unitarian to a Trinitarian liturgy ;"* yet 
acknowledges, in regard to the Dissenters, that Unitarians are by 
far the minority. In Birmingham, where the proportion of their 
number, to the rest of the Dissenters, is greater than in any town 
in the kingdom, it appears, from Dr. Priestley's account of the 
matter, that those called orthodox are nearly three to one : and 
throughout England and Wides, they have been supposed to be 
'^as two, if not as three to one, to the Socinians and Arians inclu- 

If Dr. Horsley found it necessary, in support of his cause, to 
overturn Dr. Priestley's assertion, that "great bodies of men do 

* Defence of Unitarian ism, for 1786, p. 61. 

T See Dr. Priestley's Familiar Letters to the Inhabitants of Birmingham, 
Letters III. XI. Also, Mr. Parry's Remarks on the Resolutions of the War- 
wick Meeting. 


not change their opinions in a snuill space of time ;'' some think 
he might have found an example niore to his pnrposo, than that of 
the body of Dissenters havirjg deserted llieir foimer principles, in 
the well-known change of the major part of the Chnrch of Eng- 
land ; who, about the time of Archbishop Laud, went off from 
Calvinism to Arminiamsm. Mad this example been adduced, his 
antagonist might have found some difficulty in maintaining his 
ground against him ; as it is an undoubted fact, and a fact which he 
himself acknowledges, with several others of the kind, in the 
Third of his Famiiuir Letters to the Inhabitants of Birmingham, 

The supposition, however, of the Dissenters being generally- 
gone, or going off, to Socinianism, though far I'rom just, has not 
been without its apparent grounds. The consequence which So- 
rinians have assumed, in papers and pamphlets which have been 
circulated about the country, has alTorded room tor such a suppo- 
sition. It has not been very uncommon for them to speak of 
themselves, as the Dissknters, the Modekn Dissenters, &c. 
It was said, in a paper that was published more than once, '' The 
ancient, like the Modern Dissenters, worshipped one God ; they 
hnew nothing of the Nicene or Athanasian creeds." The celebra- 
ted authoress of The Address to the Opposcrs of the Repeal of ihr 
Corporation and Test Acts, is not clear in this matter. That 
otherwise admirable performance is tinged with pride of party 
consequence. " We thank you, gentlemen," she says, for the 
compliment paid to Dissenters, when you suppose, that the 
moment they are eligible to places of power and protit, all 
such places will ot once be filled with them. IVc had not the 
presumption to ima^e^ine, that, inconsiderable as we are in num- 
bers, compared to the Established Church ; inferior, too, in for- 
tune and influence ; labouring, as we do, under the frowns ol" 
the court and the ok the orthodox ; we should 
make our way so readily into to the recesses of royal favour." 
Even the Monthly Reviewen, though they have borne testimony 
against mingling doctrinal disputes with those of the repeal of the 
Test laws;* yet, have sometimes spoken of Dissenters and Socin- 

• Monthly Kovicw Enlarged, Vol. I. p. 233. 


ians, as if they were terms of the same meaning and extent. ."It 
appears to us as absurd," they say, " to charge the religious prin- 
ciples of THE Dissenters with republicanism, as it would be to 
advance the same accusation against the Newtonian philosophy. 
The doctrine of gravitation may as well be deemed dangerous to 
the state, as Socinianism."* 

Is it unnatural, from such representations as these, for those 
who know but little of us, to consider the Socinians as constituting 
the main body of the Dissenters ; and the Calvinists as only a few 
stragglers, who follow these leading men at a distance in all their 
measures ; but whose numbers and consequence are so small, that 
even the mention af their names among Protestant Dissenters, may 
yery well be omitted ? 

This, however, as it only affects our reputation, or, at most, 
can only impede the repeal of the Test laws, by strengthening a 
prejudice, too strong already, against the whole body of Dissent- 
ers, might be overlooked. But this is not all : it is pretty evi- 
dent, that the union among us, in civil matters, has been improved 
for the purpose of disseminating religious principles. At one of 
the most public meetings for the repeal of ihe Corporation and 
Test Acts, as the author was credibly informed, Socinian peculiari- 
ties were advanced, which passed unnoticed, because those of 
contrary principles did not choose to interrupt the harmony of the 
meeting, by turning the attention of gentlemen from the immediate 
object for which they were assembled. What end could Dr. 
Priestley have, in introducing so much about the Test Act, in his 
controversy with Mr. Burn, on the person of Christ, except it were 
to gild the pill, and make it go down the easier with Calvinistic 
Dissenters ? 

The writer of these Letters does not blame the Dissenters of 
his own persuasion for uniting with the Socinians. In civil mat- 
ters, he thinks it lawful to unite with men, be their religious prin- 
ciples what they may : but he, and many others, would be very 
sorry, if a union of this kind should prove an occasion of abating 
our zeal for those religious principles which we consider as being 
•f the very essence of the gospel. 

• Review for June, 1790, p. 247- 


The reason why the term Sncinians is preferred, in the follow- 
ing Letter, to that of Unitanans, is not for the mean purpose ol 
reproach ; but because the hitter name is not a fair one. The 
term, as constantly explained by themselves, s-ignifies those pio- 
fessors of Christianity who worsliip b\H one God: but this is not 
that wherein they can be allowed to be distingushed from others 
"For what professors of Christianity are there, who profess to wor- 
ship a plurality ofGods ? Trinitarians profess also to be Unitari- 
ans : They, as well as their opjjonents, believe there is but one 
God. To give Sociuians this name, therefore, exchuively, would 
be granting them the very point which they seem so desirous 
to take for granted ; that is to say, the point in debate. 

Names, it may be said, signify little ; and this signilies no more 
on one side, thim the term orthodox does on the other. The 
writer owns, that, when he first conceived the idea of publish- 
ing these Letters, he thought so ; and intended, all along, to 
use the term Unitarians. What made him alter his mind was, his 
observing, that .the principal writers in that scheme have frequently 
availed themselves of the above name, and appear to wish to h ive 
it thought, by their readers, that the point in dispute between them 
and the Trinitarian is, Whether there be three Gods, or only one ? 

If he had thought the use of the term Unitarians consistent with 
justice to his own argument, he would have preferred it to that of 
Sociuians ; and would also have been glad of a term to cxpre.««s the 
system which he has defended, instead of calling it after the name 
of Calvin ; as he is aware, that calling ourselves after the names of 
men, ('though it be merely to avoid circumlocution,) is liable t» bo 
understood as giving them an authority which is ificonsistent with h 
conformity to our Lord's command, Call 710 man master upon 
earth ; for one is your master, even Christ, 

He miiy add, that the substance of the following Letters was 
written before the riots at Birmingham. His regard to jus- 
tice and humanity made him feel much, on that occasion, for Dr. 
l^riestley, and others who suflered with liim ; hut his regard to 
what he esteems important truth made him feel more. The injury 
which a doctrine receives from those who would suj»port ii by the 
unhallowed hands of plunder and persecution. \s far t;reatpr in the 

Vol. 11. 1 


esteem of mnny, than it can receive from the efforts of its avowed 
adversaries. For his own part, he has generally supposed, that 
both the contrivers and executors of that iniquitous business, call 
themselves what they will, were men of no principle. I f,^ how- 
ever, those of the high-church party, who instead of disavowing 
the spirit and conduct of the misguided populace, have manifestly 
exulted in it, must be reckoned among the Trinitarians ; he^has 
only to say, they are such Trinitarians as he utterly disapproves ; 
and concerning whom he cannot so well express his sentiments and 
feelings, as in the words of the patriarch : Instruments of cruelty 
are in their habitation. O my soul, come not thou into their secret ; 
unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their 
anger they sleio a man, and in their self-will they digged down a 
wall. Cursed be their anger , for it was fierce ', and their wrath for 
it was cruel. 

Detestable, however, as were the riots at Birmingham ; no one 
can plead, that they render the religious principles of Dr. Priest- 
ley less erroneous, or less pernicious ; or an opposition to them, 
upon the fair ground of argument, less necessary. On the con- 
trary, the mere circumstance of his being a persecuted man, will 
have its influence on some people, and incline them not only to 
feel for the man, the gentleman, and the philosopher ; Call which 
is right ; but to think favourably of his religious opinions. On 
this consideration, if the following Letters would, previous to that 
event, have been in any degree proper and seasonable ; they are 
not, by any thing that has since occurred, become improper, or 

Since the first edition, the author has attempted, in some places, 
10 strengthen his argument, and to remove such objections as have, 
hitherto occurred. The principal additions will be found in Let- 
ters IV. and XV. The note, towards the latter end of the former, 
was occasioned by a report, that Dr. Priestley complained of being 
misrepresented by the quotation in the first page of the Preface. 
This Note contains a vindication, not only of the fairness of the 
quotation from Dr. Priestley, but of another, on the same purpose, 
from Mr. Belsham : and an answer to what is advanced, on its be- 
half in the Monthly Review. 



latroductioD aud General RemurkS) ... 


The Systeme compared, as to their Tendency to convert Profligates to a 
Life of Holiness, ------.. .j7 


The Systems compared, as to their Tendency to convert Porf^ised Unbe- 
liever?, 35 


The Argument, from the Number of Converts to SocinianiBm, examined, 46 


On the Standard of Morality, 57 


The Systems compared, as to their Tendency to promote Morality in 

general, . - ^5 

The Systems compared, as to their Tendency to promote Love to God, 8' 

On Candour and Benevolence to Men, . - . . _ iqq 

The Systems compared, as to their Tendency to promote Humility, Uy 

On Charity : in which is coaeidered the Charge of Bigotry, 129 



The Systems compared, as to their Infiueace in promoting the Love of 
Christ, - - - - ■- - . - - - -153 


On Veneration for the Scripture^, - - - - - 165 


Gn the Tendency of the different Systems, to promote Happine^, or 
Cheerfulness of Mind, - - - 185 


A Comparison of Motives exhibited, by the two Systems, to Gratitude, 

Obedience, and Heavenly-mindedness, - - • • - 19& 


On the Resemblance between Sociuianism and Infidelity, and the Ten- 
dency of the one to the other, - - - - - -211 

Postscript, -,----- ^ ' - 23S 





Christian Brethren, 

iWlUCH has been written of late years on the Socinian controver- 
sy ; so much, that the attention of the Christian world has, to a 
considerable degree, been drawn towards it. There is no reajson, 
however, for considering this circum>tance as a matter of wonder, 
or regret. Not of wonder : for supjjosing the deily and atonement 
of Christ to be divine truths, they are of such importance in the 
Chrisitian scheme, as to induce the adversaries of tlie gospel to 
bend their main force against them, as against the rock on Zihich 
Christ hath built his church. Not of regret : for, whatever partial 
evils may arise from a full discussion of a subject, the interests of 
truth will, doubtless, in the end prevail ; and the prevalence of 
truth is a good that w ill outwcij^h all the ills that rnny have attend- 
ed its discovery. Controversy engages a number of persons of dif- 
ferent talents and turns of mind ; and, by this means, the subject iS 
likely to be considered in every view in which it is capable of being 
exhibited to advantai;e. 

The point of light in which the subject will be considered lo 
these letters, namely, as influencing the heart and life, has beeu 
frequently glanced at on both sides. I do not recollect, how- 
ever, to have seen this view of it, professedly and separately han- 

Vol.11. 2 



In the great controversy in the time of Elijah, recourse was had 
to an expedient by which the question was decided. Each party . 
built an altar, cut in pieces a bullock, and laid the victim upon the 
wood, but put no fire under; and the God that should answer by 
fire, was to be acknowledged as the true God. We cannot biing 
our controversies to such a criterion as this : we may bring them 
to one, however, which, though not so suddenly, is not much4ess 
sensibly evident. The tempers and lives of men are books for 
common people to read ; and they will read them, even though they 
should read nothing else. They are, indeed, warranted by the 
scriptures themselves to judge of the nature of doctrines, by their 
holy or unholy tendency. The true gospel is to be known by its 
being a doctrine according to godliness ; teaching those who em- 
brace it to deny ungodliness and 'worldly lusts, and to live soberly, 
righteously and godly in the present world Those, on the other 
hand, who believe not the truth, are said to have pleasure in un- 
righteousness. Profane and vain babblings, as the ministrations 
of false teachers are called, will increase unto more ungodliness ; 
and their word will eat as doth a canker.* To this may be added, 
that the parties themselves, engaged in this controversy, have vir- 
tually acknowledged the justice and importance of the above crite- 
rion ; in that both sides have incidentally endeavoured to avail 
themselves of it. A criterion, then, by which the common people 
will judge, by which the scripture authorises them to judge, and by 
which both sides, in effect, agree to be judged, cannot but be wor- 
thy of particular attention. 

1 feel, for my own part, satisfied, not only of the truth and im- 
portance of the doctrines in question, but also of their holy tenden- 
cy. 1 am aware, however, that others think differently; and that 
a considerable part of what I have to advance must be on the de- 

" Admitting the truth," says Dr. Priestly, *<of a trinity of per- 
sons in the Godhead, original sin, arbitrary predestination, atone- 
ment by the death of Christ, and the plenary inspiration of the 
gcriptures; their value, estimated by their influence on the morals 

* 1 Tim. vi. 3. Titus ii. 12. 2 Thes. ii.2. 1 Tim. ii. 16, IT 


Letter I] REMARKS. |1 

of men, cannot be supposed, even by the atlmirers of them, to be of 
any moment, compared to the doctrine of the resurrection of the 
human race to a life of retribution : and, in the opinion of those 
who reject them, they have a wry unfivourable tendency; jc'ving 
wrong impressions concernint; the character and moral govern- 
ment of God, and such as might tend, iflhey l>ave any elfecl, to re- 
lax the obligations of virtue "♦ 

In many instances Dr. Priestly deserves applause for his frank- 
ness and fairness as a disputant: in this passage, however, as well 
as in some others, the admirers of the doctrines he mentions are 
unfairly represented. Tiiey who embrace the other doctiiues, are 
supposed to hold that of arbitrary prede'^tination ; but this >uppo- 
tion is not true. The term arhitrary conveys the idea ot ca- 
price; and, in this connexion denotes, that, in predestination, ac- 
cording to the Calvinistic notion of it, God resolves upon the fate* 
of men, and appoints them to this or that, without any reason tor 
80 doing. But there is no justice in thi5 representation. There 
is no decree in the divine mind that we consider as void of reason. 
Predestination to death is on account of sin; and as to predestina- 
tion to life, though it be not on account of any works of righteous- 
ness which we have done, yet it does not follow that God has no 
reason whatever for what he does. The sovereignty of God is a 
wise, and not a capricious sovereignty. If he hide the glory of 
the gospel from the wise and prudent, and reveal it unto babes, it 
is because it seemeth good in hi» sight. But if it seem gooil in the 
sight of God, it must, all things considered, be good; for the judg 
ment of God is according to truth. 

It is asserted also, that the admirers of the forementioned tlor- 
trines cannot, and do not, consider them as of eqijal importanre 
with that of the resurrection of the ^uman race to a life of retribu- 
tion. But this, I am satistied, is not the case : for, whatever I)r 
Priestly may think, they consider them, or at least some of them, 
as essential to true holiness; and of such consequence, even to the 
doctrine of the resurrection of the human rare to a life of retribu- 
tion, that, without them, such a resurrection would be a cur-r to 
mankind, rather than a blessing. 

• I.ettert" to a Philosophical Unbsliever Part II, p. H'l. T' 

12 INTRODUCTORY [Letter 1. 

There is one thing, however, in the above passage, wherein we 
all unite ; and this is — that the value or importance of religious 
principles is to be estimated by their influence on the morals of 
men. By this rule let the forementioned doctrines, with their op- 
posites, be tried. If either those or these will not abide the trial, 
they ought to be rejected. 

Before we enter upon a particular examination of the subject, 
however, I would make three or four general observations. 

First, Whatever Dr. Priestly or any others have said of the 
immoral tendency of our principles, I am persuaded that I may 
take it for granted, they do not mean to suggest, that we are not 
good members of civil society, or worthy of the most perfect tol- 
eration in the state ; nor have I any such meaning in what may be 
suggested concerning theirs. I do not know any religious denom- 
ination of men, who are unworthy of civil protection. So long as 
their practices do not disturb the peace of society, and there be 
nothing in their avowed principles inconsistent with their giving 
security for their good behavior, they, doubtless, ought to be pro- 
tected in the enjoyment of every civil right to which their fellow- 
citizens at large are entitled. 

Secondly, It is not the bad conduct of a few individuals, in any 
denomination of Christians, that proves any thing on either side; 
even though they may be zealous advocates for the peculiar 
tenets of the party which they espouse. It is the conduct 
of the general body, from which we ought to form our es- 
timate. That there are men of bad character who attend on 
our preaching, is not denied ; perhaps, some of the worst : 
but if it be so, it proves nothing to the dishonour of our principles. 
Those, who, in the first ages of Christianity, were not humbled by 
the gospel, were generally hardened by it. Nay, were it allowed 
that we have a greater number of hypocrites than the Socinians, 
(as it has been insinuated that the hypocrisy and preciseness, of some 
people afiford matter of just diijgust to speculative Unitarians,) I do 
not think this supposition, any more than the other, dishonourable 
to our principles. The defect of hypocrites lies not so much in 
the thing professed, as in the sincerity of their profession. The 
thing professed may be excellent, and, perhaps, is the more likely 

Letter I] HKMARKS. I3 

to be so, from its being counterfeited ; for it is not usual to coun- 
terfeit things of no value. Those persons who entertain low and 
diminutive ideas of the evil of sin and the diijnity of Christ, rnu«t, 
in order to he thought religious by us, counterfeit the contrary ; 
but, Hmong Socinians, the same persons may avow those ideas, and 
be caressed for it. That temper of nur)d which we suppose com- 
mon to men, as being that which they possess by nature, needs not 
to be di-sguised amons them, in order to be well thought of: they 
hove, therefore, no great temptations to hypocrisy. The question in 
ha!i(l, however, is not — What influence either our principles or 
theirs have upon persons who do not in reality adopt them'' but, 
What influence they have upon those who do ?* 

Thirdly, It is not the good conduct of a few individuals, on 
either side, that will prove any thing. Some have adopted a false 
creed, and retain it in words, who yet never enter into the spirit 
of it, and consequently do not act upon it. But merely dormant 
opinions can hardly be called principles: those, rather, seem to be 
a man's principles, which lie at the foundation of his spirit and 
conduct. Farther: good men are found in denominations whose 
principles are very bad ; and good men, by whatever names they 
are called, are more nearly of a sentiment than they are frequently 
aware of. Take two of them, who difl"er the most in words, and 
bring them upon their knees in prayer, and they will be nearly 
agreed. Besides, A great deal of that which passes for virtue 
amongst men, is not so in the sight of God, who sees things as they 
are. It is no more than may be accounted for without bringing 

•Though the Socinians be allowed, in what is said aboye, to have but few 
hypocrite* among them ; yet this is to be understood as relating merely to 
one species of hypocrisy. Dr. IVicstly speaking of Unitarians who still 
continue in the Church of England, says, " fn^n a just aversion to every 
thing that looks like A^ocnxj/ ami precuencsty they rather lean to the ex- 
treme of fashionable dissipation.^'' Yet he represents the same persoDa, 
and that in the same pag<-, as '* continuing to countenance a mode of Wor- 
ship, which, if they were questioned about it, they could not ilcny to he ac- 
cording to their own principles, iilolatrous and blasphemous, Dtscourst$ on 
Various Suhjeclx, p. 96. The hypo-ri^y, then, to which thr«c ^entlemcQ'havr 
10 just an adversion, seem? t« be only of one kind. 


religion or virtue into the question. There are motives and con- 
siderations which will commonly influence men, living in society to 
behave with decorum. Various occupations and pursuits, espe- 
cially those of a mental and religious kind, are inconsistent with 
profligacy of manners. False apostles, the very ministers of Satan, 
are said to transform themselves into the apostles of Christ, and to 
appear as the ministers of righteousness ; even as Satan himself is 
transformed into an angel of light.^ There are certain vices, 
which, being inconsistent with others, may be the means of re- 
straining them. Covetousness may be the cause of sobriety; and 
pride restrain: thousands from base and ignoble gratifications, in 
which, nevertheless, their hearts take secret and supreme delight. 
A decent conduct has been found in Pharisees, in infidels, nay, 
even in Atheists. Dr. Priestly acknowledges that "'An Atheist 
may be temperate, good natured, honest, and, in the less-extended 
sense of the word, a virtuous man.''''] Yet Dr. Priestly would not 
from hence infer any thing in favour of the moral tendency of 

Lastly, Neither zeal in defence of principles, nor every kind of 
devotion springing from them, will prove those principles to be 
true, or worthy of God. Several gentlemen, who have gone over 
from the Calvinistic to the Socinian system, are said to possess 
greater zeal for the propagation of the latter, than thay had used 
to discover for that of the former. As this, however, makes noth- 
ing to the disadvantage of their system, neither does it make any 
thing to its advantage. This may be owing, for any thing that can 
be proved to the contrary, to their having found a system more 
consonant to the bias of their hearts than that was which they for- 
merly professed. And as to devotion, a species of this may exist 
in persons, and that to a higher degree, inconsistent enough with 
the worst of principles. We know that the gospel had no worse 
enemies than the devout and honourable amongst the Jews.j Saul 
while an enemy to Jesus Christ, was as sincere, as zealous, and as 
devout in his way, as any of those persons whose sincerity, zeal, 

*2Cor. xi. 13, 15. 

+ Letters to a philosophical Unbeliever Part T. p. 6, Preface. 

:(^Acts. xiii. 60. 

Litter I.] REMARKS. l5 

and devotion, are frequently held up by their admirers in f\u'oui 
of their cauge. 

These observations may be thought by some, instead of clear- 
ing the ^subject, to involve it in greater didn ulties, and tf) render 
it almost impo;isible to judge of the tendency of princijde:? by any 
thing that is seen in the lives of men. The subject it is allowed* 
has its difficulties, and the foregoing ob<erv;itions are n proof of it -. 
but I hope to m.ike it appear, whatever difficulties may, on these 
accounts, attend the subject, that there is still enough, in the gen* 
eral spirit and conduct of men, by which to judge of the tenden- 

dency of their principles. 

I am, kc. 



Christian Brethren, 

You need not be told, that being bom a^ain — created in Christ 
Jesus — converted — becoming as a little child, ^-c. are phrases ex- 
pressive of a change of heart, which the scriptures make neces- 
sary to a life of holiness here, and to eternal life hereafter. It is 
on this account that I begin with conversion, considerint; it as th« 
commencement of a holy life. 

A change of this sort was as really necessary for .M'icodemvs, 
whose outward character, for ought appears, was respectable, as 
for Zaccheus, whose life had been devoted to the sordid pursuits 
of avarice. Few, I suppose, will deny this to be the doctrine 
taufjht in the New Testament. But. should this be questioned, 
should the necessity of a change of heart in some characters be 
denied, still it will be allowed necessary in others. Now, as a 
change is more conspicuous, and consequently more convincing, 
in such persons who have walked in an abandoned course, than 
in those of a more ^ober lite, 1 have fixe«] u[)on the conversion of 
profligates, as a suitable topic for the present discussion. 

There are two methods of reasoning which may be used in as- 
certaining the moral tendency of principle-. 'I'he first is, by 
com[)arini» the nature of the prinriplcs themselves with the na- 
ture of true holiness, and th(^ agreement or disagreement of the 
one with the other. The second is, by referring to plain and ac- 
knowledged facts, judging of the nature of cau<es \\\ their eflecfs. 
FJoth these methods of reasoning, which are u»JU.dlv expressed bv 
the ternis « priori ,:\m\ a posteriori, will be u-^cd io tins ;iii,| the 
following Letters, as the nature of the sulijcrl may .ulnut. 

Vor.. II. 3 


True conversion is comprehended in those two grand topics 
on which the apostles insisted in the course of their ministry — 
Repentance tozt^ards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Let us, then, fix upon these great outlines of the apostolic testimo- 
ny, and examine whicli of the systems in question has the greatest 
tendency to produce them. 

Repentance is a change of mind. It arises from a conviction 
that we have been in the wrong ; and consists in holy shame, grief, 
and self-loathing, accompanied with a determination to forsake ev- 
ery evil way. Each of these ideas is concluded in the acconnt 
we have of the repentance of .Job.* Behold, I am vile ; xi.'hat shall 
I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once have I 
spoken, but I will not ajiswer ; yea twice, but 1 will proceed no farther. 
— / abhor myself^ and repent in dust and ashes. It is essential to such 
a change as this, that the sinner should realize the evil nature of j-in. 
No man ever yet repented of a fuilt, without a conviction of its evil 
nature. Sin must appear exceedingly sinful, before vvc can, in the na- 
ture of things, abhor it, and ourselves on account of it. Those sen- 
timents which wrought upon the heart of David, and brought him 
to repentance, were of this sort. Throughout the fifty-first 
Fsalm, we find him deeply impressed with the evil of sin, and 
that considered as an offence against God. He had injured Uriah 
and Bathsheba, and, strictly speaking, had not injured God ; the 
essential honour and happiness of the divine nature being infinite- 
ly beyond his reach : yet, as all sin strikes at the divine glory, 
and actually degrades it in the esteem of creatures, all sin is to 
be considered, in one view, as committed against God : and this 
view of the subject lay so near his heart as to swallow up every 
other — Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this 
evil in thy sight ! It follows, then, that the system which affords 
the most enlarged views ot the evil of sin, must needs have the 
greatest tendency to promote repentance for it. 

Those who embrace the Calvinistic system believe, that man 
was originally created holy and happy ; that of his own accord he 
departed from God, and became vile ; that God, being in himself 

*Chap,xl.4. xlii.6. 


Lkttf.rII.] of FROKLIGATK.S. jQ 

infinitely amiable, deserves to be, aiui is, the moral centre of the 
intellii^ent sy:>tein ; that rebellion against him is opposition to llie 
general good ; that H sutTered to operate according to its tenden- 
cy, it would destroy the well-bein^ ot' the universe, by excluding 
God and rigliteousness, and peace Irom the whole system ; that, 
seeing it aims destruction at universal good, and tends to univer- 
sal anarchy and mischief, it is, in those respects, an infinite evil, 
and dfservini; of endless punishment ; and that, in whatever in- 
stance God exercises forgiveness, it is not without respect to thai 
public expression of his displeasure against it which was uttered 
in the death of his Son. 'J'hese, brethren, are sentiments which 
furnish us with motives for selt'-abhorrencc : under their inlluence 
millions have repented in dust and ashes. 

But thosC; on the other hand, who embrace the Socinian system, 
entertain diminutive notions of the evil of sin. They consider 
.ill evil propensities in men ('except those which are accidentally 
contracted by education or example) as being, in every sense, nat- 
ural lo them ; supposing that they were originally created with 
them : they cannot, therefore, be offensive to God, unless he 
could be offended with the work of his own hands for being what 
he made it. Hence, it may be, Socinian writers, when speaking 
o( the sins of men, describe them in the language of palliation ; 
language tending to convey an idea of pity, but not of blame. Mr. 
Belsham, speaking of sin, calls it, " human frailty ;" and the sub- 
jects of it, " the frail and erring children of men.''* The follow- 
ing positions are for substance maintaine«l by Dr. Priestly, in his 
treatise on necessity : " That, for any thing we know, it might have 
been as impossible for God to make all men sinless and Jiappy, 
as to have made them infinite ;" that all the evil there is in sin, 
arises from its tendency to injure the creature ; that, if God punish 
sin, it is not because he is so displeased with it as in any case to "take 
vengeance" on the sinner, sacriticing his happiness to the good ofthe 
whole : but, knowing that it tends to do the sinner harm, he puts 
him to temporary pain, not only tor the warning of others, but for 
his own good, with a view to correct the bad disposition of him ; 

* Srrmon on the importunes of truth, pp. ;j.j, S'> 



that what is threatened jisjainst sin is of s ii<-h a trifling: account 
that it needs not be an object of dread. " No Necessarian^" says 
he," supposes that any of the human race will suffer eternally ; 
but tha' future punishments will answer the same purpose as tem- 
poral ones are found to do, all of which tend to good, and are evi- 
dently admitted for that purpose ; so that God, the author of all, 
is as much to be adored and loved for what we suffer as for what 
we enjoy, hi- intention bein. equally kind in both. And, since 
God ha- created us for happiness, what misery can we fear ? If 
we be really intended for ultimate happiness, it is no matter, to a 
truly resigned person, when, or where, or /ioa'."* Sin is so tri- 
fling an affair, it seems, and the punishment threatened against it 
of so little consequence, that we may be quite resigned and indif- 
ferent, whether we go immediately to heaven, or whether we first 
pass through the depths of Hell! 

The question at present is not, which ot these representations 
is true or consonant to scripture ? but, which has the greatest ten- 
dency to promote repentance ? If repentance be promoted by a 
view of the evil of sin, this question, it is presumed, may be con- 
sidered as decided. 

Another sentiment intimately connected with the evil of sin, and 
equally necessary to promote repentance, is, The equity and good- 
ness of the divine law. No man ever truly repented for the breach 
of a law, the precepts of which he considered as too strict, or the 
penalties as too severe. In proportion as such an opinion prevails, 
it is impossible but that repentance must be precluded. Now, 
the precept of the divine law requires us to love God with all the 
heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. 
It allows not of any deviation or relaxation, during the whole of 
our existence. The penalty by which this holy law is enforced, 
is nothing less than the curse of Almighty God. But, according to 
Mr. Belsham, If God "mark and punish every instance of trans- 
gression," he must be a '^merciless tyrant;'''' and we must be 
"tempted to wish that the reins of universal government were in 
better hands."! Mr. Belsham, perhaps, would not deny that per- 
fect obedience is required by the law, according to the plain mean- 

* Pages 118. 122. 65. 149. 150. 128. t Sermon, p. 34. 


ing of the words by which it is expressed, or that the curse of Ood 
is threatened, aj^iinst every one that continueth not in all thins^s 
written in the book of the law to do them ; but then thi« rule is so 
strict, that to '' mark and piini-h evrrv instance, " of deviation from 
it, would be severe and cruel. It seem*J. ther), that (lod has piven 
us a law, by the terms of which he camiot abide ; that justice itselt 
requires him, if not to abate the precept, yet to remit the penalty, 
and connive at smaller instances of transj^ression. I need not in- 
quire how much this reflects upon the moral character and gov- 
ernment of God. Suffice it at present to say, that such views must 
of necessity preclude re/ieninuce. If the law which forbids ''every 
instance" of human folly, be unrea>onably strict, and the pen- 
alty which threatens the curse of the Almighty on every one that 
continueth not in all things therein written, be indeed cruel; then 
it must so far be unreasonable for any sinner to be required to re- 
pent for the breach of it. On the contrary, God himself should 
rather repent lor making such a law, than the sinner for breaking 

Fditli tnxvards our Lord Jesus Christ, is another essential part of 
true conversion. Faith is credence, or belief F;Mth towards our 
Lord Jesus Christ, is belief of the gospel of salvation through his 
name. A real belief of the gospel is necessarily accompanied with 
a trust, or corifidence in him for the salvation of our souls. The 
term believe itself sometimes expresses this idea : particularly in 
2 Tim. i. 12. I knorv zchom I have believed, and am persuaded 
that he is able to keep that which I havk c ommitted unto him 
wrainst that day. This belief, or trust, can never be fairly under- 
stood of a mere confidence in his veracity, as to the truth of hi> 
doctrine ; for, if that were all, the ability of Christ would stand 
for nothing; ; and we mii^ht as well be said to trust in Peter, or 
John, or Paul, as in Christ, seeing we believe their testimony to 
be valid as well as his. Believing, it is granted, does not necessa- 
rily, and in all cases, involve the idea of .rust, for which I here 
contend; this matter beini; determined by the nature of the testi- 
mony. Neither Peter, nor any of the apostles, ever pretended 
that their blood, tboijuh it mie:ht be shed in martyrdom, would be 
the price of the salvation of smners. We may, ther*'fore, credit 


their testimony, without trusting in them, or committing any thing, 
as Paul expresses it, into their hands. But Christ's blood is testi- 
fied of, as the way, and the only way, of salvation. He is said to 
be the propitiation for our sins , and by himself to have purged our 
&ins — Through his blood we have forgiveness — Neither is there sal- 
vation in any other ; for there is none other name under heaven giv- 
en among men whereby we must be saved — Other foundation can no 
man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.* Hence it fol- 
lows, that to believe his testimony, must of necessity involve in it 
a trusting in him for the salvation of our souls. 

If this be a just representation of faith in Jesus Christ, we can- 
not be at a loss to decide which of the systems in question has the 
greatest tendency to promote it ; and, as faith towards our Lord 
Jesus Christ is essential to true conversion, we cannot hesitate in 
concluding, which has the greatest tendency to turn a sinner from 
the evil of his ways. Not to mention, at present, how Socinian 
writers disown an " implicit belief' in the testimony of the sacred 
writers,! and how they lean to their own understanding, as the cri- 
terion by which scripture is to be tried ; that which 1 would here 
insist upon is, That, upon their principles, all trust, or confidence, 
io Christ for salvation is utterly excluded. Not only are those 
principles unadapted to induce us to trust in (Christ ; but directly 
tend to turn off our attention and affection from him. Dr. Priest- 
ley does not appear to consider iiim as the way of a sinner^ s salva- 
tion, in any sense whatever, but goes aboijt to explain the words of 
Peter, (Acts iv. 12.) Neither is there salvation in any other ^ <§'C. not 
of salvation to eternal life, but " of salvation, or deliverance, from 
bodily diseases."! And another writer of the same cast, (Dr. 
Harwood) in a Volume of Sermons lately published, treats the sa- 
cred writers with «till less ceremony. Paul had said. Other foun- 
dation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ ; but 
this writer, as if he desiiined to affront the Apostle, makes use of 
his own words in order to contradict him. " Other foundation 

* J«ha iv. 10. Heb. i. 3- Ephes. i. 7. Acts iv. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 11 
t Dr. Priestley's Defence of Unitarianism, for 1787, p. 66. 
X Familiar LetUrs, Let. 'XVI. 



than this ran no man lay ;" say?' ho, <♦ other expectations are vis- 
ionary and groundless, and all hopes founded upon any thint; else 
than a good moral life, are merely imaj^inary, and contrary to the 
whole tenor of the gospel."* Whether these things he not aimed 
*o raise the foundation on which the church is huilt ; and whether 
this he any other than stumbling at the stvinhlin^r-stntie, and a net- 
ting him at naught, in the great affair for which he came into the 
world, let every Christian judge, it particularly deserven the se- 
rious consideration, not only of the ahove writers, hut of those who 
are any way inclined to their mode of thinking : for, if it should 
he so that the death of Christ, as a propitiatory sacrifice, is the 
only medium through which sinners can he accepted of Cod ; and 
if they should be found fighting against God, and rejecting the only 
way of escape, the consequence may he such as to cause the ears 
of every one that heareth it to tingle. Mean-while, it requires 
hut little penetration to (li->cover, that whatever takes away the 
only foundation of a sinner's confidence, cannot be adapted to pro- 
mote it. 

Brethren, examine these matters to the bottom, and judge for 
yourselves, whether you might not as well expect grapes of thorns, 
or fiu;s of thistles, as to see re[)entance towards Ciod, or I'aith to- 
wanl^ our Lord Jesus Christ, proceeding from Socinian principles. 
The foregoing observations serve to show what may br t^xpected 
from the Socinian's doctrine, according to the nature of things: let 
us next make some inquiry into matters of fact. We may judge, 
trom the nature of the seed sown, what will be the harvest ; but 
a view of what the harvest actually is, may afford still greater sat- 

First, then, Let it be considerrd whether Socinian congregations 
have ever abounded in converMuus of the profane to a life of ho- 
liness and devotcdness to God. Or. Priestley acknowledges, that 
"the gospel, when it was fir-t preached by the apostles, produced 
a wonderful change in the lives and manners of persons of all 
age8."t Now, if the doctrine which he and others preach be the 
same, for substance, as that uluch they preached, one might ex 

'^ Pape 193. t r,o(torito a ['hilotophiraM'nl rliovor, l'rrfar>t,\). i\. 


pect to see some considerable degree of simihrity in the effects. 
But is any thing like this to be seen in Socinian congregations ? 
Has that kind of preaching, which leaves out the doctrines of man's 
lost condition by nature, and salvation by grace only, through the 
atonement of Christ; and substitutes, in their place, the doctrine 
of mercy without an atonement, the simple humanity of Christ, the 

efficacy of repentance and obedience, &c Has this kind of 

preaching, I say, ever been known to lay much hold on the hearts 
and consciences of men? The way in which that "wonderful 
change" was effected, in the lives and manners of people, which 
attended the first preaching of the gospel, was, by the word preach- 
ed laying hold on their hearts. It was a distinguishing mark of 
primitive preaching, that it commended itself to every man's con- 
science. People could not in general sit unconcerned under it. 
We are told of some who were cut to the heart, and took council 
to slay the preachers ; and of others who were pricked in the 
Aear^, and said. Men and brethren, what shall we do? But, in 
both cases, the heart was the mark at which the preacher aimed, 
and which his doctrine actually reached. Has the preaching of 
the Socinians any such eflect as this ? Do they so much as expect 
it should ? Were any of their hearers, by any means, to feel 
pricked in their hearts, and come to them with the question. What 
shall we do ? would they not pity them as enthusiasts, and be ready to 
suspect that they had been among the Calvinists ? If any counsel 
were given, would it not be such as must tend to impede their re- 
pentance, rather than promote it ; and, instead of directing them 
to Jesus Christ, as was the practice of the primitive preachers, 
would they not endeavour to lead them into another course ? 

Socinian writers cannot so much as pretend that their doctrine 
has been used to convert profligate sinners to the love of God and 
holiness. Dr. Priestley's scheme will not enable him to account 
for such changes, where Christianity has ceased to be unovelty. 
The absolute novelty of the gospel whentirst preached, he repre- 
sents as the cause of its wonderful efficacy ; but in the present 
age, among persons who have long heard it, and have contracted 
vicious habits notwithstanding, he looks for no such effects. He 
confesses himself 'Hess solicitous about the conversion of unbe- 


lievers tcfio are much advanced in life, than of youngor |)«»rsoni ; 
and that, because tie despairs ol ilw principles of Chn->ii:iu»iy hav- 
ing much effect upon the lives of those whose dispositions and 
habits are alre;uiy fonnod."* Sometimes he reckons that the 
great body of primitive Christians rnusl have been '* well-di"*posed 
with respect to moral virtue, even before their conversion to 
Cliristianity ; else," he thinks, " they could not have been so rea- 
dy to have abandoned their vices, arwl lo embrace a doctrine wliich 
required the strictest purity and rectitude of conduct, and even to 
sacrifi'^e their lives in the cause of truth. "t In his treatise on 
Philosophical NecesHily^l he declares, that, " upon the principles 
of the Necessarian, all late repentance, and especially after long 
and confirmed habits of vice, is altogether and necessarily ineffect- 
ual ; there not being sutficient time left to produce a change of 
disposition and character, which can only be done by a change of 
conduct, and of proportionally long continuaace." 

1 confess, 1 do not perceive the consistency of these passages 
with each other. By the power of novelty a wonderful change 
was produced in the lives and manners of men ; and yet the body 
of them must have been well-disposed with respect to moral 
virtue: that is, they must have been in such a state as not to 
need any wonderful change ; else they could not have been so 
ready to abandon their vices. A change was produced 
in the lives and manners of men of all ages ; and yet there is a cer- 
tain age in which repentance is '* altogether and necessarily inef- 
fectual." Inconsistent, however, as these positions may be, one 
thing is sufficiently evident; namely, That the author consider! 

• Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Pa/7 II Preface. It is true, Dr. 
Priestley is uol here spenkin^ of the profligates among nomiual Christians, 
but of those among avowed Infidcla. Thic, however, makes nothing to th« 
argument. The dispositions and habits of profvine aominal Christians are ai 
much formed, as those of avowed InAdels; and their conversion to a holy lift 
is HS much an object of despair, as the other. Yea, Dr. Priestley in the 9:\m« 
place acknowledges, that " to be mere nominal Christians is worse than to bt 
no Christians at all." 

t Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part II. pp. 167, 168. 

t Paje 166. 
Vol. II. 4 

26 THE CONVERSION [Letter 11. 

the conversion of profligates, of the present age, as an object of 
despair. Whatever the Gospel, accordingto Matthew, Mark, Luke, 
or John, may affirm, that, according to Dr. Priestley, affords but 
very little, if any, hope to those who in scripture are distinguish- 
ed by the name of sinners^ chief of sinners, and lost. He does 
'* not expect such conversion of profligate and habitually-wicked 
men, as shall make any remarkable change in their lives and cha- 
racters. Their dispositions and habits are already formed, so that 
it can hardly be supposed to be in the power of new and better 
principles to change them." It cannot be unnatural, or uncandid, 
to suppose that these observations were made from experience ; 
or that Dr. Priestley writes in this manner on account of his not 
being used to see any such effects arise from his ministry, or the 
ministry of those of his sentiments. 

There is a sort of preaching, however, even since the days of 
inspiration, and where Christianity has ceased to be a novelty, 
which has been attended in a good degree, with similar effects to 
that of the apostles. Whatever was the cause, or however it is 
to be accounted for, there have been those whose labours have 
turned many, yea, many profligates, to righteousness ; and that by 
preaching the very doctrines which Dr. Priestley charges with be- 
ing the "corruptions of Christianity;" and which a once-humble 
admirer of his attempted to ridicule.* It is well known what sort 
of preaching it was that produced such great effects in many na- 
tions of Europe, about the time of the Reform.ation. Whatever 
different sentiments were professed by the Reformers, I suppose 
they were so far agreed, that the doctrines of human depravity, 
the deity and atonement of Christ, justification by faith, and sancti- 
fication by the influence of the Holy Spirit, were the great topics 
of their ministry. 

Since the Reformation there have been special seasons in the 
churches, in which a religious concern has greatly prevailed, 
and multitudes were turned from their evil ways: some, from an 
open course of profaneness ; and others, from the mere form of 
godliness to the power of it. Much of this sort of success attende d 

* See Familiar Letters, Letter XXIl. P. S. 

Lkttkr n.] OF PROFLIGATES 27 

the labours of Perkins, Bolton, Taylor, Herbert, Hildersham, 
Bluckerby, (iauge, \Vlutaker, Bunyan, great numbers of the 
ejected ministers, and many, since their time, in Kngland ; of Liv- 
ingstone, Bruce, Rutherford, MTtillock, M'Laurin, Kobe, Bal- 
four, Sutherland, and others, in Scotland; of Franck and his fel- 
low labourers, in Germany ; and of Stoddard, Edwards, Tennant, 
Bucl, and many others in America.* And what Dr. Watts and 
Dr.Guyse said of the success of Mr. Edwards and some others, ia 
America, might with equal truth have beensaid of the rest: " That 
it was the common plain Protestant doctrine of the KeformatioD, 
without stretching towards the Antinomians on the one side, or the 
Arminians on the other, that the Spirit of God had been pleased to 
honour with such illustrious success.! 

Nor are such effects peculiar to past ages. A considerable de- 
gree of the same kind of success has attended the Calvinistic 
churches in North America, within the last ten years ; especially 
in the States of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. J Nor is it pecul- 
iar to the Western world, though they have been greatly favoured. 
1 believe there are hundreds of ministers now in this kingdom, some 
in the Established Church, and some out of it, who could truly say to 
a considerable number of their auditors, as Paul said to the Corinthi- 
ans, Ye are our epistle^ known and read of all men — ye are tnani- 
fesily declared to be the epistle of Christ, ministered by «», written 
not with ink, but rvith the Spirit uf the living God; nut in tables of 
atone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. There are, likewise, 
hundreds of congregations which might with propriety, be addres- 
sed in the language of the same Apostle to the same people. And 
such were some of you ; (namely, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, 
covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortionei-s,) but ye art tranhcd, but 
ye are sanctified, but ye arc justified. And those ministers by 
whose iostrumentality these effects wcro produced, like tli»ir pre- 
decessors before-mentioned, have dwelt priiicipallv on the Pro- 
testant doctrines, of marj's lost condition by nature, and salvation by 

• See Gillies' Historical CollecUons. 
t Preface to Mr. Edwards' Narrative. 
tSce Rippon's BnpliH Ret^ister, for 1790, Fitrtt I, il. 


grace only, through the atoning blood of Christ ; together with the 
necessity of the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit. When 
therefore, they see such effects attend their labours, they think 
t')emselves warranted to ascribe them, as the Apostle did, to the 
name of the Lord Jesus, and to the Spirit of our God.''"'* 

The solid and valuable effects produced by this kind of preach- 
ing are attested by the late Mr. Robinson of Cambridge, as well 
as by Dr. Watts and Dr. Guyse. *' Presumption and despair," 
said that ingenious writer, '* are the two dangerous extremes to 
which mankind are prone in religious concerns. Charging home 
sin precludes the first, proclaiming redemption prevents the last. 
This has been the method which the Holy Spirit has thought fit to 
seal and succeed in the hands of his ministers. WickUffe, Luther, 
Knox, Latimer, Gilpin, Bunyan, Livingstone, Franck, Blair, El- 
liot, Edwards, Whitefield, Tennant, and all who have been emi- 
nently blessed to the revival of practical godliness, have con- 
stantly availed themselves of this method ; and, prejudice apart, it 
is impossible to deny, that great and excellent moral effects have 

Should it be alleged, that Mr. Robinson, before he died, chan- 
ged his opinions in these matters, and reckoned all such things as 
these enthusiam; it might be answered, A change of opinion in 
Mr. Robinson can make no change in the "facts," as he justly 
calls them, which he did himself the honour to record. Besides, 
the eflects of this kind of preaching are not only recorded by Mr. 
Robinson, but by those who triumph in his conversion to their 
principles. Dr. Priestley professes to think highly of the Metho- 
dists, and acknowledges that they have "civilized and Christian, 
ized a great part of the uncivilized and unchristianized part of 
this country."! Also, in his Discourses on Various Subjects^ he 
allows their preaching to produce *' more striking effects" than 
that of Socinians, and goes about to account for it.§ 

* 2 Cor. iii. 2, 3. 1 Cor. vi. 12. 

t Translation of Claude, Vol.11, p. 364, Ab/e 

X Familiar Letters, Lttter VIL 

§ Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 375. 

Lbttxr II] ok profligates. ^ 

A matter of fact, so notorious as this, and of so much conse- 
quence in the controvesy, recjuires to be well acruunted for. Dr. 
Priestley ^eems to hare felt tlie force of ihe objection that might be 
made to his principles on this ground ; and therefore attempts to 
obviate it. But by what n)edium is this attempted ? The same 
principle by which he tries to account for the wonderful success of 
the gospel in the primitive ages, is to account for the effects pro- 
duced by such preaching a-^ that of the Methodists ; The igno- 
rance of their auditurs giving what they say to them the force of 
NOVELTV. 'J'he Doctor is pleased to add, " Our people having 
in general been brought up in habits of virtue, such great chan- 
ges in character and conduct are less necessary in their case."* 

A few remarks in reply to the above shall close this Letter. 
First, If novelty be indeed that efficacious principle which Dr. 
Priestley makes it to be, one should think it were desirable, every 
century or two, at least, to have a new dispensation of religion. 

Secondly, If the great success of the primitive preachers was 
owing to this curious cause, is it not extraordinary, that they 
themselves should never be acquainted with it, nor communicate a 
secret of such importance to their successors / They are not on- 
ly silent about it, but in some cases, appear to act upon a contrary 
principle. Paul, when avowing the subject matter of his ministry 
before Agrippa. seemed to disclaim every thing novel ; declaring, 
that he had said none other things fhaji those which the prophets 
and Mosen did say should come. And as to the cause of their suc- 
cess, they seem never to have thought of any thing but the hand 
of the Lord that was with them — I'hc working of hin mighty power — 
Who caused them to triumph in Christy making manifest the savour 
of his knowledge by thrm m every place. \ 

Thirdly, If novelty be what Dr. Triestley make> it (o be, the 
plea of Dives had much more of truth in it thun the answer of 
Abraham. He pleaded, that if one rose from the dead, men 
would repent : the novelty of the thmg, he suppo-ied, must strike 
them. But Abraham answered, as if he had no notion of the pow 

♦ Discourses on Various Subject?, p. 376. 
t Acts xu. 21. Ephei. i. VJ. '♦ Cor. ii. H 

30 THE-CONVERSION [Letter If, 

cr of mere novelty, If they hear not Moses and the prophets ^ nei- 
ther will they he persuaded, though one rose from the deady 

Fourthly, If the success of the apostles was owing to the novelty 
of their mission, it might have been expected, that, at Athens, 
where a taste for hearing and telling of new things occupied the 
whole attention of the people, their success would have been the 
greatest. Every body knows that a congeniality of mind in an au- 
dience, to the things proposed, wonderfully facilitates the recep- 
tion of them. Now, as the Gospel was as much of a novelty to 
them as to the most barbarous nations, and as they were possessed 
of a peculiar turn of mind, which delighted in every thing of that na- 
ture, it might have been expected, on the above hypothesis, that a 
harvest of souls would there have been gathered in. But, instead 
of this, the gospel is well known to have been less successful 
in this famous city than in many other places. 

Fifthly, Some of the most. striking effects, both in early and lat- 
ter ages, were not accompanied with the circumstance of novelty. 
The sermon of Peter to the inhabitants of Jerusalem* contained 
no new doctrine ; it only pressed upon them the same things, for 
substance, which they had heard and rejected from the lips of 
Christ himself ; and on a pre-judgment of the issue by the usual 
course of things, they would probably have been considered as 
more likely to reject Peter's doctrine than that of Christ ; be- 
cause when once people have set their hands to a business, they 
are generally more loth to relinquish it and own themselves in 
the wrong, than at first to forbear to engage in it. And, as to lat- 
ter times, the effects produced by the preaching of Whitefield, 
Edwards and others, were many of ihemupon people not remark- 
ably ignorant, but who had attended preaching of a similar kind 
all their lives without any such effect. The /ormcr, it is well 
known, preached the same doctrines in Scotland and America, as 
the people were used to hear every Lord's day ; and that with 
great effect among persons of a lukewarm and careless descrip- 
tion. The latter in his Narrative of the work of God in and about 
Northampton, represents the inhabitants as having been " a ration- 
al and understanding people." Indeed, they must have been such 

*Act3 ii. 


or they could not have undei stood the compnss of argument con- 
tained in Mr. Kdwards' Sermons on Juati/icalton, wliirh were de- 
livered about thiit time, and are f^aid to have bctn the means of 
great religious concern amoni; the hearem. Nor were these ef- 
fects produced by airs and gestures, or any of tho^e extraordin- 
ary things in the manner of the preacher, which give a kind of 
novelty to a sermon, and iioraetimes tend to move the affections of 
the hearers. Mr. Prince, who, it seem*, had often heard Mr. Ed- 
wards preach, and observed the remarkable coiivirlion which at- 
tended his ministry, describes, in his Christian historyy his manner 
of preaching. *' He was a preacher," says he, " of a low and 
moderate voice, a natural delivery, and without any agitation of 
body, or any thing else in the manner to excite attention, except 
his habitual and great solemnity, looking and speaking as in the 
presence of God. and with a weighty sense of the matter deliv- 

Sixthly, Suppose the circumstance of Novelty to have great effi- 
cacy, the question is, with respect to such preaching as that of 
the Methodists, whether it has efficacy enough to render the truth 
of the doctrine of no account ? It is well known that the main doc- 
trines which the Methodists have taught, are, Man's lost condition 
by nature, and salvation by the atonement of Christ : but these, ac- 
cording to Dr. Priestly, are false doctrines ; no part of Christianity, 
but the " corruptions" of it ; and " s»ich as must tend, if they 
have any eflect, to relax the obligations to virtue." But, if so, 
how came it to pass that the preaching of ihem should *' civilize 
and Christianize mankind ?" Novelty may do wonders, it is gran- 
ted ; but still the nature of those wonders will correspond with 
the nature of the principles tausjht. All that it can be supposed to do 
iri to give additional energy to the principles which it accompanies. 
The heating of a furnace seven times hotter than usual, would not en- 
dure it with the properties of water ; and water put into the most 
powerful motion, woiild not be capable of producing the effects of 
fire. One would think, it were equally evident, that falsehood, 

•Gillies -8 Historical Collections, Vol.11. |.. 196. 


though accompanied with novelty, could never have the effect of 

Once more : It may be questioned, whether the generality of 
people who make up Socinian congregations stand in less need of 
a change of character and conduct than others ? Mr. Belsham 
says, that " rational Christians are often represented as indiSferent 
to practical religion ; and admits though with apparent reluctance, 
that '* there has been some plausible ground for the accusation." Dr. 
Priestley admits the same thing, and they both go about to account 
for it in the same way.* Now, whether their method of -account- 
ing for it be just, or not, they admit the fact; and from hence we may 
conclude, that the generality of " rational Christians" are not so 
righteous as to need no repentance ; and that the reason why their 
preaching does not turn sinners to righteousness, is not owing to 
their want of an equal proportion of sinners to be turned. 

But supposing the Socinian congregations were generally so vir- 
tuous as to need no great change of character ; or if they did, so 
well informed that nothing could strike them as a novelty ; that is 
not the case with the bulk of mankind amongst whom they live. 
Now, if a great change of character may be produced by the mere 
power of novelty, why do not Dr. Priestley and those of his sen- 
timents go forth, like some others to the highwarjs and hedges? 
Why does he not surprise the benighted populace into the love of 
God and holiness, with his wc/r doctrines ? (New he must acknowl- 
edge, they are to them.) If false doctrine, such as that which the 
Methodists have taught, may, through the power of novelty, do 
such wonders, what might not be expected from the true ? I have 
been told that Dr. Priestley has expressed a wish to go into the 
streets and preach to the common people. Let him or those of 
his sentiments, make the trial. Though the people of Birming- 
ham have treated him so uncivilly, I hope both he and they would 
meet with better treatment in other parts of the country ; and 
if by the power of novelty they can turn but a few sinners from 
the error of their ways, and save their souls from death, it will be 
an object worthy of their attention. 

^ Mr. Beliham's Sermon, p. 32. Dr. Priestley's Discourses on rarious sub- 
jects, p. 95. 



But, should i)r. Priestley, or any others of his sentiments, go 
forth on such an errand, and r^till r«.'tain their |)rinci[)les, they must 
reverse the declaration of our Lord, and say, He conn not to call 
sinners, but th>' riirhtrous to repentance All their hope must be 
in the uncontaminated youth, or the better sort of people, whose 
habits in the path of Vice are not so strong but that they may be 
overcome. Should they, in the course of their labours, behold a 
malefactor approaching the hour of his execution, what must they 
do .^ Alas ! like the priest and the levite, they must prus by on the 
other side. They could not so much as admonish him to repen- 
tance, with any degree of hope ; because they consider '* all late 
repentance, and especially after long and confirmed habits of vice, 
as absolutely and necessarily ineffectual."* Happy for many a 
poor wretch of that description, happj especially for the poor 
thief upon the cross, 'hat Jesus Christ acted on a different principle. 

These brethren ai e matters that come within the knowledge of 
every man of observation ; and it behoves you, in such cases, to 
know not the speech of them that are puffed up, but the power. 

1 am, &c. 

* Sep Dr. Priestley's Discourse? on Various Subjects, p. 238. Also his 
Doctrine of Philosophical Noccsaity, p. 156. 

Vol ]]. 



fJli ristian Breth ren^ 

SocfMAN writers are very sanguine on the ten<lei»cy of tlicir 
views of things to convert Infidels; namely, Jews, Heathens, and 
Mahometans. They reckon that our notions of the Trinity form 
the grand obstacle to their conversion. Dr. Priestley often sug- 
gests, thai so long as we maintain the Deity of Jesus Ctirist, there 
is no hope of converting the Jews, because this doclrinc contradict* 
the first principle of their religion, the Unity of God. Things, not 
altogether, but nearly similar, are said concerning the conversion 
of the Heathens and Mahometans, especially the latter. On this 
subject, the following observations are submitted to your consider- 

With respect to the Je-ws, they know very well, that those who 
believe in the Deity of Christ, profess to believe in the unitv of 
God; and if they will not admit this to be consistent, they must 
depart from what is plainly implied in the language of their ances- 
tors. If the Jews in the time of Christ had thought it impossible, 
or, which is the same thing, inconsistent with the unity of God, that 
God the Father should have a Son equal to himself, flow came 
they to attach the idea of equality to that of Sonship ? Jesus as- 
serted that God was his own Father; which they understood as 
making himself equal with God ; and therefore sought to kill him 
as a blasphemer.* Had the J»'ws aflixed those ideas to sonship 
which are entertained by our opjxjuents ; namely, as implying 
nothing more than simple humanity, why did they accuse Jesus of 
blasphemy for assuming it ? they did not deny, that to be God's 
oan .Son was to be equal with the Father ; nor did thev allege 

*JollM V. 18. 


that such an equality would destroy the divine unity : a thought of 
this kind seems never to have occurred to their minds. The idea 
to which they objected was, That Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of 
God; and hence, it is probable, the profession of this great article 
was considered in (he apostolic age as the criterion of Christianity.* 
Were this article admitted by the modern Jews, they must reason 
differently from their ancestors, if they scrupled to admit that 
Chrtstis equal with the Father. 

The Jews were greatly offended at our Lord's words ; and his not 
explaining them so as to remove the stumbling-block out of the way, 
may serve to teach us how we ought to proceed in removing stum- 
bling-blocks out of the way of their posterity, for this cause they 
sought to kill him — because he had said that God was his Father^ making 
HIMSELF EQUAL w^iTH GoD. — Jcsus said, I and my Father are one. 
Then they took up stones to stone him. When he told them of many good 
works that he hadshorcn them, and asked, Forzvhich of those works do ye 
stone me? They replied, For a good work we stone thee not, but 
for blasphemy ; and because thou, being a man makest thyself 
GoD.t From hence it is evident, that whether Jesus Christ be 
truly God, or not, they understood him as asserting that he wa$ 
so ; that is; they understood his claiming the relation of God's own 
Son, and declaring that He and his Father were one, as implying 
so much. This was their stumbling-block. Nor does it appear 
that Jesus did any thing towards removing it out of their way. It 
is certain he did not so remove it, as to afford them the least sat- 
isfaction : for they continued to think him guilty of the same blas- 
phemy to the last, and, for that, adjudged him worthy of death j 
If Jesus never thought of being equal with Godj it is a pity there 
should have been such a misundei standing between them ; a mis- 
understanding that proved the occasion of putting him to death ! 

Such an hypothesis, to be sure, may answer one end ; it may 
give us a more favourable idea of the conduct of the Jews than we 
have been wont to entertain. If it does not entirely justify their 
procedure, it greatly extenuates it. They erred, it seems, in 
imagining, that Jesus, by declaring himself the Son of God, made 
h'imfie\( equal with God; aud tlius, through mistaking his meaning, 
put him to death as a blaspherp€r. But, then, it might be pleaded 

^ Acts viii. 37. t John v. IB, 10, 30, 33. t Matthew xxvi. 63, 66. 


on their helialf, thai Jesus never suggested that they were in an 
error in this matter ; that, instead of infonnine; them that the 
name Son of God imphed notliing more than simple humanity, 
he went on to say, among other things, That all men should 
honour the Sun, even as they honour the Father. And, instead 
of difowning with abhorrence the idea of making liimself 
Gody he seemed to justify it, hy arguing from the less to the 
greater — from the image of the thing to the thing itself* 
Now, these things considered, should an impartial jury sit in judg- 
ment upon their couduct, one would think they could not, with 
Stephen, bring it in murder ; to make the most of it, it could be 
nothing worse than manslaughter. All this may tend to conciliate 
the Jews ; as it tends to roll away the reproach which, in the es- 
teem of Christians, lies upon their ancestors for crucifying the 
Lord of glory : but whether it will have any influence towards 
their conversion, is another question. It is possible, that, in pro- 
portion as it confirms their good opinion of their forefathers, it 
may confirm their ill opinion of Jesus, for having, by his obscure 
and ambiguous language, given occasion for such a misunderstand- 
ing between them. Could the Jews but once be brought to feel 
that temper of mind, which it is predicted in their own prophets 
ihey shall feel ; could they but look- on him zchoni (hey have pierced^ 
and mourn for him as one inourneth for his only son, and be in bit- 
terness for him as one that is in bitterness for his frst-born ; \ 
should be under no apprehensions respecting their acknowledging 
his proper divinity, or embracing him as the great atonement, to 
i\iQ fountain of wliose blood they would joyfully repair, that they 
might be cleansed from their sin and their unclcauncss.t 

Nearly the same tbing*^ might be observe*! resperiing Heathens and 
Mahometans. \Ve may so model the go.«peI, as almost to accommo- 
date it to their tastej: and by this means we may come nearer togeth- 
er ; but whether, in so doing, we shall not be rather converted to 
them, than they to us, deserves to be considered. Christianity may 
be so heathenized, that a man may believe in it, and yet bi- no 
Christian. Were it true, therefore, that Socinianism hail a tendency 

•John V. IH. and x. ;{4, 36. 

i Zcch. xii. 10. 11. xiii. 1. 


to induce professed Infidels, by meeting them, as it were, half-way, 
to take upon them the Christian name ; still it would not follow, 
that it was of any real use. The Popish Missionaries, ©f the last 
century, in China, acted upon the principle of accommodation : 
they gave up the main things in which Christians and Heathens had 
been used to differ, and allowed the Chinese every favourite spe- 
cies of idolatry. The consequence was, they had a great many 
converts, such as they were ; but thinking, people looked upon the 
Missionaries as more converted to Heathenism, than the Chinese 
Heathens to Christianity.* 

But even this effect is more than may be expected from Socin- 
ian doctrines among the Heathen. The Popish Missionaries had 
engines to work with which Socinians have not. They were sent 
by an authority, which, at that lime, had weight in the world ; and 
their religion was accompanied with pomp and superstition. These 
were matters, which though far from recommending their mission 
to the approbation of serious Christians, yet would be sure to re- 
commend it to the Chinese. They stripped the gospel of all its 
real glory, and, in its place, substituted ^ false glorj. But Socin- 
ianism, while it divests the gospel of all that is interesting and affec- 
ting to the souls of men, substitutes nothing in its place. If it be 
Chrijitianiiy at all, it is, as the ingenious Mrs. Barbauld is said in 
time past to have expressed it, " Christianity in the frigid zone." 
It may be expected , therefore, that no considerable number of pro- 
fessed Infidels will ever think it worthy of their attention. Like 
the Jew, they will pronounce every attempt to convert them by 
these accommodating principles nugatory ; and be ready to ask, 
with him, What they shall do more, by embracing Christianity, than 
they already do ? j 

Dr. Priestly, however, is for coming to action. '' Let a free in- 
tercourse be opened," says he, ''between Mahometans and Ra- 
tional, that is. Unitarian Christians, | and I shall have no doubt with 

* Minor's Propagation of Christianity, Vol. II, pp. 388 438. 

t Mr. Levi's Letters to Dr. Priestley., pp. 76,77. 

\ '' Rational, th:\t is, Unitarian Christians."— Why need Dr. Priestley be su 
{^articular in informing his reader that a Rational Cliristiau signifies an Unita- 



respect to the constujuence.'" And ;i^;iin " Let tlie Hindoos, as well 
as the Mahometiins, heronje ;h (juainted uilli our hterature, and have 
tree intercourse with Unitarian ('hrislianm, and 1 have no doubt 
but the residt will b • in favour of Christianity."* So, then, when 
Heathens and Mahometans are to he converted, Trinitarians, like 
those of Gideon's army that bowed down their knees to drink, must 
sit at liome ; and the whole of the expedition, it seems, must be 
conducted by Unitarians, as by the three hundred men that lapped. 
Poor Trinitarians ; deemed unworthy of an intercourse with 
Heathens ! Well ; if you must be denied, as by a kind of Test 
Act, the privilege of bearing arms in this divine war, surely you 
have a right to expect, that those wlio shall be possessed of it, 
should act valiantly, and do exploits. But what ground have you 
on which to rest your expectations ? — none, except Dr. Priestley's 
good conceit of his opinions. When was it known, that any consid- 
erable number of Heathens or Mahometans were converted by 
the Socinian doctrine ? Sanguine as the Doctor is on this subject, 
where are the facts on which his expectations are founded ' 

Trinitarians, however, whether Dr. Priestly think them worthy, 
or not, have gone among the Heathens, and that not many years 
ago, and preached what they thought the gospel of Ciirist ; and, I 
may add, from facts that cannot be disputed, with considerable suc- 
cess. The Dutch, the Danes and the English, have each made 
some attempts in the East, and I iiope,not without some good eflects. 
If we were to call that conversion, v. hich many piofessors of Chris- 
tianity would call so without any scruple, we niight bo;ist of the 
conversion of a great many thousands in those parts. But it is ac- 
knowledged, that many ot the conversions in the East were little, 

nan Chrislian ? To be sure, all the worlJ knew. Ion* enough a»o, (hat ra- 
tionalilj/ ■vra" coufiHod tethe Unitarian? I Doubtltss, they are the people, and 
wiidom will die with them 1 When Dr. I^riestley speaks of persons of his own 
lentiments, he calls tluin " Rational Christians \^ when, in the same pa;;©* 
speaking of snt h as dirterfrom him, he calls them "those who assume to them- 
•elve« the dislin^uiihiug title of Orthmlox." Constdrrations on difference of 
Opinion, ) 3. Query. Is the latter of these names n**Mmrrf, any more than 
the former ; and. Is Dr. Priestley a fit person to reprove a bcxly of people f<M* 
assuming a uame which implies what their adversaries do not admit I* 

* Letter" to a Philosophical L'ubcliever, P<jr/II. pp. lISjllT. 

40 THE CONVERSION OF [Letter 10. 

if any thing, more than a change of denomination. The greatest 
and best work, and the most worthy of the name of conversion, of 
which I have read, is that which has taken place by the labours of 
the Anglo-Americans among the natives. They have, indeed, 
wrought wonders. Mr. Elliot, the first minister who engaged in 
this work, went over to New- England in 1632 ; and, being warm- 
ed with a holy zeal for converting the natives, learned their lan- 
guage, and preached to them in it. He also, with great labour, 
translated the Bible, and some English treatises, into the same lan- 
guage. God made him eminently useful for the turning of these 
poor Heathens to himself. He settled a number of Christian 
churches, and ordained elders over them, from among themselves. 
After a life of unremitted labour in this important undertaking, he 
died in a good old age, and has ever since been known, both 
among the English and the natives, by the name of The Apostle of 
the American Indians. 

Nor were these converts like many of those in the East, who 
professed they knew not what, and, in a little time, went off again 
as fast as they came : the generality of them understood and felt 
what they professed, and persevered to the end of their lives. 
Mr. Elliot's example stimulated many others : some in his life- 
time, and others after his death, laboured much, and were blessed to 
the conversion of thousands among the Indians. The names and la- 
bours of Bourn, Fitch, Mayhew, Pierson,Gookin, Thatcher, Rawson, 
Treat, Tupper, Cotton, Walter, Sargeant, Davenport, Park, Hor- 
ton, Brainerd and Edwards, are remembered with joy and grati- 
tude in those benighted regions of the earth. Query, Were ever 
any such effects as these wrought by preaching Socinian doc- 
trines ? 

Great things have been done among the Heathen, of late years, 
by the Moravians. About the year 1733, they sent Missionaries 
to Greenland — a most inhospitable country indeed, but containing 
about ten thousand inhabitants, all enveloped in Pagan darkness. 
After the labour of several years apparently in vain, success at- 
tended their efforts; and, in the course of twenty or thirty years, 
about seven hundred Heathens are said to have been baptized, 



and to have lived the life of Christians.* They have done great 
good also in the most northern parts of North-America, among the 
Esquimaux ; and ^U\\ more amonn the Negroes in the West India 
islands ; where at the close of 1788, upwards of thirteen thousand 
of those poor, injured, and degraded people, were formed into 
Chri>tian societies. The views of Moravians, it is true, are dif- 
ferent from ours in seven! particulars, especially in matters rela- 
ting to church g;n'<'rninoiit and discipline : but they appear to 
possess a great deal of godly simplicity; and as to the doctrines 
which tliey inculcate, they are mostly, what we esteem evangel- 
ic d. The do«:trine of atonement by the death of Chri*t, in par- 
ticular, forms the great subject of iheii- ministry. The first per- 
son in Greenland ^vho appeared willing to receive the gospel, was 
an old man wlio « line to the mi'^^sion.nies for instruction. <' We 
told him," say they "as well as we could, of the creation of man, 
and the intent thereof — of the fall and corruption of nature — of 
the re<lemplion effected by Christ — of the resurrection of all men, 
and eternal happiness or danuiation." They inform us, after- 
wards, that tne doctrine of the cross, or *' the Creator's taking 
upon him human nature, and dying for our sins," was the most 
powerful me;m< of impressing the minds of the Heathen, and of 
turning their hearts to God. " On this account," they add, *♦ we 
determined, like Paul, to know nothing but Je«us Christ, and him 

Now consider, brethren, were there ever any such effects as the 
al)ove wrought by the Socinian doctrine ? If there were, let Ihem be 
brought to light. Nay, let a single instance be produced ofa Socmian 
teacher having so much virtue or benevolence in him, as to make the 
the attempt ; so much virtiie or benevolence, as to venture among a 
race of barbarians, merely with a view to their conversion. 

But we have unbelievers at home : and Dr. Priestley persuaded 
of the tendency of his principles to convert, has lately made some 
experiments upon them, as being within his reach. He has done 
well. There is nothing like erperiment in religion as well as in 
phdosophy. As to what tendency his sentiments would have upon 
Heathens and Mahometan*, provided a free intercourse could hi 
♦ Ser Cranlz'8 History of GreenlanJ. 


obtained, it is all conjecture. The best way to know their effica- 
cy, is by trial ; and trial has been made. Dr. Priestley has ad- 
dressed Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, and Letters to the 
Jews. Whether this seed will spring up, it is true, we must not 
yet decide. Some little time after he had published, however, he 
himself acknowledged, " I do not know that my book has convert- 
ed a single unbeliever."* Perhaps, he might say the same still : 
and that, not only of his Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever^ but 
of those to the Jews. 

If the opinion of the Jews may, in any degree, be collected from 
the answer of their champion, Mr. David Levi, so far are they 
from being convinced of the truth of Christianity by Dr. Priest- 
ley's writings, that they suspect whether he himself be a Chris- 
tian. '^ Your doctrine," says Mr. Levi, " is so opposite to what 
I always understood to be the principles of Christianity, that I 
must ingeniously confess I am greatly puzzled to reconcile your 
principles to the attempt. What ! a writer that asserts that the mi- 
raculous conception of Jesus does not appear to him to be sufficient- 
ly authenticated, and. that the original Gospel of St. Matthexv did 
not contain it, set up for a defender of Christianity against the 
Jews, is such an inconsistency as I did not expect to meet with in 
a philosopher, whose sole pursuit has been in search of truth ! 
You are pleased to declare, in plain terms, that you do not believe 
in the miraculous conception of JesuSj and that you are of opinion 
that he was the legitimate son of Joseph. After such assertions as 
these, how you can be entitled to the appellation of ' a Christian,' 
in the strict sense of the word, is to me really incomprehensible. 
If I am not greatly mistaken, I verily believe that the honour of 
Jesus, or the propagation of Christianity, are things of little mo- 
ment in your serious thoughts, notwithstanding all your boasted 
sincerity."! To say nothing of the opinion of the Jews concerning 
what is Christianity having all the weight that is usually attributed 
to the judgment of impartial by-standers, the above quotations af- 
ford but little reason to hope for their conversion to Christianity 
by Socinian doctrines. 

* Letters to Mr. Hammon. 

t Mr. David Levi's Letters to Dr. Priestley. 


But still, it 111:1} be said, We know not what is to come. True 
but this we know, that if any considerable fruit arise from the Ad- 
dresses above referred to, it is yet to come; and not from xUv^f* 
Addresses only, but i ain inclined to think, from any thing that has 
been attempted by Socinians for the conversion of unbelievers. 

Is it not a fict, that Socinian principles render men indilVerent to 
this threat object, and even induce them to treat it with contempt i 
The Monthly Heviezvers^ in reviewing Mr. Carey's late publication 
•n this subject, infer from his acknowledy;enionts of the baneful in- 
fluence of zi'ickeil Europeans in their intercourse with Heathens, 
and the great corruptions among the various denominations of pro- 
fessing Christians, that, if so, "far better is the liglit of nature, a* 
communicated by their Creator, than any light that our olhrious- 
ness disposes us to carry to them "* By Europeans who have 
communicated their vices to Heathens ; Mr. Carey undoubtedly 
meant, not those ministers of the gospel, or those serious Chris- 
tians, who have gone among them for their good ; but navigators 
merchants and adventurers, whose sole oltject was to enrich them- 
selves: and, ihoiiEh he acknowledges a great deal of degeneracy 
and corruption, to have infected the Christian world, yet the qual- 
ifications which he requires in a missionary might have secured his 
proposal from censure, and doubtless would have done so, had not 
the Kevicwers been disposed to throw cold water upon every 
.•«uch undertaking. If, indeed, there be none to be found among 
professing Christians, except such who, by their intercourse with 
Heathens, would only render their state worse than it was bef)re, 
let the design be given up: but if otherwise, the objection is of no 

The Reviewers will acknowledge, that great corruptions have 
attended the civil government of Europe, not excepting that of our 
own country ; and that we are constantly engaged in dissensions on 
the subject: yet I have no dotibt but they could find certain indi- 
viduals who, if they were placed in the mi«ist of an unrivilized 
people, would be capable of afl"ording them substantial assistance — 
rvould tearh them to rst.tbli^li g(iod la^vs, good order, and equ.d 

• Monthly lie view, for Ooc. 179 J, p. 4 17. 

44 THE CONVERSION kv. [Letter 111. 

liberty. Nor would they think of concluding, because European 
conquerors and courtiers, knowing no higher nootive than self-in- 
terest, instead of meliorating the condition of uncivilized nations, 
have injured it, that therefore it was vain for any European to 
think of doing otherwise. Neither would they regard the sneers 
of the enemies of civil liberty and equity, who might deride them 
as a little flock of conceited politicians, or, at best, of inexperienced 
philanthropists, whose plans might amuse in the closet, but would 
not bear in real life. Why is it that we are to be sceptical and 
inactive in nothing but religion ? 

Had Mr. Carey, after the example of Dr. Priestley, proposed 
that his own denomination only should open an intercourse with 
Heathens, the Reviewers would have accused hmi ofillibebaraHty; 
and now, when he proposes that " other denominations should 
engage separately in promoting missions," this, it is said, would 
be " spreading our religious dissensions over the globe." How, 
then, are these gentlemen to be pleased ? By sitting still, it should 
seem, and persuading ourselves that it is impossible to find out 
what is true religion ; or, if not, that it is but of little importance to 
disseminate it. But why is it, I again ask, that we are to be scep- 
tical and inactive in nothing but religion ? The result is this : 
Socinianism, so far from being friendly to the conversion of unbe- 
lievers, is neither adapted to the end, nor favourable to the means 
— ^to those means, however, by which it has pleased God to save 
them that belie'w^. 

I am, &c. 



( hristian Brethren, 

If facts be admitted as evidence, perhaps it will i.ppear that 
Socinianism is not so much adapted to make convert;* of Jew^, 
Heathens, Mahometans, or Philosophical Unbelievers, as of a 
speculating sort of people among professing Christians. These in 
our own country are found, some in the Established Cluirrh, and 
^ome among the Dissenters. Among people of this description, 1 
suppose, Socinianism has gained considerable ground. Of this. Dr. 
Priestley, and others of his party are frequently makin;; their 
boyst.* But whether they have any cause for boasting, even in 
this case may be justly doubted. 

In the first place let it be considered, that, though Socinianism 
may gain ground among speculating individuals, yet the congrega- 
tions where that system, or what bears a near resemblance to it, i* 
taught, arc greatly upon the decline. There are, at this time, a 
great many places of worship in this kingdom, especially among 
the Presbyterians and the General Baptists, where the Socinian 
and Arian doctrines have been taught till the congregations arc 
gradually dwindled away, and there are scarcely enough left to keep 
up the form of worship. There is nothing in either of these sv>- 
tcms, comparatively speaking, that alarms the conscience, or in- 
terests the heart ; and therefore the congregations w here they are 
taught, unless kept up by the accidental popularity of a preacher 
or some other circumstance distinct from the doctrine delivered, 
generally fall into decay. 

• Disrnurjc^ on \'arinu« Subject", pp. 9:?, 91, 

46 'i'HE NUMBER OF [Letter IV. 

But, farther let us examine a little more particularly, what sort 
of people, they, in general, are, who are converted to Socinianism. 
It is an object worthy of inquiry, whether they appear to be mod- 
est, humble, serious Christians, such as have known the plague of 
their own hearts ; such in whom tribulation hath wrought patience, 
and patience experience ; such who know whom they have believ- 
ed and who have learned to count all things but loss for the excel- 
lency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord ; such who, in 
their investigation of sentiments, have been used to mingle earnest 
and humble prayer with patient and impartial inquiry ; such, in 
fine, who have become as little children in their own eyes? //", 
they be, it is a circumstance of consequence, not sufficient, indeed 
to justify their change of sentiments, but to render that change an 
object of attention. When persons of this description embrace a 
set of new principles, it becomes a matter of serious consideration, 
what could induce them to do so. But if they be not, their case 
deserves but little regard. When the body of converts to a system 
are mere speculatists in religion, men of little or no seriousness, 
and who pay no manner of attention to vital and practical religion, 
it reflects neither honour on the cause they have espoused, nor 
dishonour on that which they have rejected. When we see per- 
sons of this stamp go over to the Socinian standard, it does not at all 
surprise us : on the contrary, we are ready to say, as the Apostle 
said of the defection of some of the professors of Christianity in 
his day. They went out from us, but they ivere not of us. 

That many of the Socinian converts were previously men of no 
serious religion, needs no other proof than the acknowledgment of 
Dr. Priestley, and of Mr. Bel.<ham. " It cannot be denied," says 
the former, " that many of those who judge so truly concerning 
particular tenets in religion, have attained to that cool and unbiassed 
temper of mind in consequence of becoming more indifferent to re- 
ligion in general, and to all the modes and doctrines of it." And this 
indifference to allreligion is considered by Dr. Priestley as "favoura- 
ble to a distinguishing between truth and falsehood."* Much to the 
same purpose is what Mr. Belsham alleges, as quoted before, that 
" Men^who aremost indifferent to ihepractice of religion, and whose 

* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 65. 


mind«, therefore are least attached to any set of principles, will ever 
be the first to see the absurdity of a popular superstition, and to em. 
brace a rational .<jystem of faith."* It is easy to see, one should 
think from hence, what sort of charactei*9 those are, which com- 
pose the body of Socinian converts. 

Dr. Priestley, however, considers this circumstance as reflect- 
ing no dishonour upon his principles. He thinks he has fully ac- 
counted for it. So thinks Mr. Helsham : and so think the Month- 
ley Reviewers, in their Review of Mr. r>»?lshain's Sermon. t 

Surely Socinians must be wretchedly driven, or they would not 
have recourse to such a refuge as that of ackiiowlcdninj; that they 
hold a gospel, the best preparative for which is a being destitute of 
allreligion ! " What a reflection is here implied," says Dr. Wil- 
liams, '* on the most eminent reformers of every age, who were 
ihe first to see the absurdities of a popular superstition, and the fal- 
sity of reigning principles I What a poor compliment to the reli- 
gious character of Unitarian reformers I According to this account, 
one might be tempted to ask. Was it by being indiflerent to the 

* Sermon on the Importance of Truth, p. \1. 

I I have not sirtipleJ to class the Monthly Reviewers among; Sociniaos. 
Although iu a work of that kind there he frequently, no doubt, a change of 

hands; yet it is easy to see, that, of late years, (a »ery short interval cxcep- 
ed, j it has been priucinally, if not entirely, under Socioian direction ; and, so 
far as relgion is conceruf'd, has been used as an instrument for llic propaga- 
tion of that system. Impartiality towanlsCalvinistic writers is not, therefore-, 
to be expected from that quarter. It is true, they sometimes afTert to stand 
aloof from all parties: but it is mere afftctalioii. Nothing can be more ab- 
surd than to expect them tojudge impartially in a cause wherein they them- 
selves are parties : absurd, however as it is, some persons are weak enough to 
be imposed upou by their pretences. Perhaps, of late years, the Monthly 
Review has more contributed to the spreading of Socinianism, than all other 
writings put together. The plan of that work does not admit (>( an^wnentntion; 
a sudden flash <»f wit is generally reckoned suilicient to di-credit a Calvinistic 
performance; and this just suits the turn of tho-*' who arc destilule of nil reli- 
gion. \ laborious investigation of mailers would not sait their temper of 
miud:. they hud rather subscribe to the wcll«known maxim, that •• Ridicule 
is lh« test of truth :" and then, whonerer the Reviewers hold up a dorlnne 
as ridiculous, they have nothing to do, but to join the laugh, and conclade il 
tu be a " vulgar error, or a po])ulnr superstition 


practice of religion that Mr. Belsham was qualitied to see and pro- 
nounce Calvinism to be gloomy and erroneous, an unamiable and 
melancholy system ? Charity forbids us to think he was thus qudl- 
ified; and if so, by his own rule he is no very competent judge ; 
except he is pleased to adopt the alternative, that he is only the 
humble follower o( more sagacious, but irreligious guides."* 

We read of different kinds of preparatives in the scriptures ; but 
I do not recollect that they contain any thing like the above. 
Zeal and attention, a disposition to search and pray, according to 
Solomon, is a preparative for the discovery of truth. t The piety 
of Cornelius, which he exercised according to the opportunities he 
possessed of obtaining light, was a preparative for his reception of 
the gospel as soon as he heard it.^ And this accords with our Lord's 
dechiration, He that loilldohis will shall know of his doctrine. On 
the other hand, the cold indifference of some in the apostolic age, 
who received not thelove of the truth, hui, as it should seem, held it 
with a loose hand, even while they professed it, was equally a pre- 
parative for apostacy.§ We also read of some, in Isaiah's time, 
** who leaned very much to a life of dissipation:" they erred 
through wine. All tables are full of vomit andfilthiness, (saith the 
prophet, describing one of their assemblies,) so that there is no 
place. He adds, IVhom shall he teach knowledge, and whom shall he 
make to understand doctrine ? And what is the answer ? Were 
the men who " leaned to a life of dissipation," who loved to suck 
at the breasts of sensrd indulgence, the proper subjects ? No 
those that were weaned from the breasts ^ and drawn from the milk.W 
But now, it seems, the case is altered, and, in order to tind out the 
truth, the most likely wav is, to be divested of a// religion ! 

It is true, these things are spoken of what are called " specula- 
tive Unitarians," whom Dr. Priestley calls '^ men of the world, 
and distinguishes them from " serious Christians." He endeav- 
ours also to guard his cause by observing, that the bulk of profes- 

*■ Discourse oq the luflacnce of Reliijious Practice upon our Inquiries after 
Truth, in Answer to Mr. Belsham's Sermon, p. 6. 

+ Prov. ii. 1— 9. i Acts x. « 2 Thes. ii. 10. (1 Isa. xxviii. 7, 9, i;5. 


sing Christians, or of those who should have ranked :\s Chri-tians, 
in every a^e, have been of this description. It must be acknowl- 
edged, that there have been liikow.<rm, dissipat'd. antl merely 
nominal Christians, in all aires of the church, and in every denom- 
ination: I su«i|)ect, however, that Dr. Priestley, in order to reduce 
the state of the church in i;ener.d to that of the L'nilarians, has 
rather majEjnificd this matter. But, be that as it may, there are 
two rircumstanres which render it improper for him to reason 
from this case to the other : — First ; whatever bad characters have 
ranked with other denominations, (at least with ours,) as to their 
reiii^ious creed, we do not own, or consider them as "converts ;" 
much less do we glory in the spread of our principles, when men 
of that character profess to embrace them, as this writer does.* 
If we speak of converts to our principles, we disown such people, 
and leave thena out of the account, as persons whose walk and 
conversation, whatever be their speculative opinions, discover 
them to be enemies to the croas of Christ. But. were the Socinians 
to do so, it is more than probable that the number of converts ol 
whom they boast would be greatly diminished. Secondly ; when- 
ever irreligious characters profess to imbibe our principles, we 
do not consider their state of mind as friendly to them. That 
which we account truth, is a system of holiness ; a system, there- 
fore, which men of " no religion" will never cordially embrace. 
Persons may, indeed, embrace a notion about the certainty of the 
divine decrees, and of the necessity of things being as they are to 
be, whether the proper means be used, or not ; and they may live 
in the neglect of all means, and of all practical religion, and may 
reckon themselves, anti be reckoned by some others, among the 
Calvinists. To such a creed as this, it is allowed, the want of all 
religion is the beet preparative: but then it must be observed, 
that the creed itself is as false as the practice attending it is im- 
pure, and as opposite to Calvinism as it is to scripture and com 
mon sense. Our opjionents, on the contrary, ascribe many of their 
conversions to the absence of religion, as their proper cause, 
granting that " many of those who Jtidge so truly concerning par 

♦ Discourses on \urioU9 Subjects, pi>. 91 — 93,9-1. 
Vol. II 7 

50 THE NUMBER OF [Letter IV 

ticiilar tenets in religion, have attained to that cool, unbiassed tem- 
per of mind, in consequence of becoming more indifferent to reli- 
gion in general, and to all the modes and doctrines of it." Could 
this acknowledgment be considered as the mistake of an unguard- 
ed moment, it might be overlooked : but it is a fact ; a fact which, as 
Dr. Priestley himself expresses it, "cannot be denied;"* a fact 
therefore, which must needs prove a millstone about the neck of his 
system. That doctrine, be it what it may, to which an indifference 
to religion in general is friendly, cannot be the gospel, or any 
thing pertaining to it, but something very near akin to Infidelity. 

If it be objected, that the immoral character of persons, previ- 
ously to their embracing a set of principles, ought not to be alleg- 
ed against the moral tendency of those principles, because, if it 
were, Christianity itself would be dishonoured by the previous 
character of many of the primitive Christians ; — it is replied, there 
are two circumstances necessary to render this objection of any 
force : First, the previous character of the convert, however 
wicked it may have been, must have no influence on his conver- 
sion, Secondly ; this conversion must have such an influence on 
him, that, whatever may have been his past character, his future 
life shall be devoted to God. Both these circumstances existed 
in the case of the primitive Christians ; and if the same could be 
said of the converts to Socinianism, it is acknowledged, that all 
objections from this quarter ought to give way. But this is not 
the case. Socinian converts are not only allowed, many of them, 
to be men of no religion; but the want of religion, as we have 
seen already, is allowed to have influenced their conversion. Nor 
is this all : it is allowed, that their conversion to these principles 
has no such influence upon them as to make any material change 
in their character for the better. This is a fact tacitly admitted 
by Mr. Belsham, in that he goes about to account for it, by alleg- 
ing what was their character previously to their conversion. It is 
true, he talks of this being the case " only for a time," and, at 
length, these converts are to *' have their eyes opened ; are to 
feci the benign influence of their principles, and demonstrate the 

'^ Discour^ea on Various Subjects, p. 95. 


excellency of their fnith by the superior dignity and worth of their 
character." But these, it seems, like " the annihilation of death" 
and the conver«ioii of Jews and M.jhonietans by th«' Socinian doc- 
trine, are thing? yet to (omt* 

• Since the publication of the first edition of these I^etters, j» nport has been 
circulated, that Dr. I'riestley has been Mj|jr«/ir«5rn/^rf by the qtioliition in i»age 
55, which al«o was referred to at the romniencenietit of the I'reface. Dr. P. 
it has been said, in the place from whence the pa¥«:»j;^e i^ taken, mu not com- 
mending a total mdiffereuce to rrU^ion, bu'. tht contrary ; and fits meaning ttaa 
not that surh a disregard to all relinion is a better qwihfieation for discerning 
truth than a serious tanper of mutd, but that it is preferable to that bigoted at- 
tachment to a si/stem^ tchich some people discover. 

That Dr. F.'s leading design was to commend a total indiflerence to religion, 
was never suggested. I suppose this, on tht- contrary, was to commend good 
discipline among the Unitarians, lor the purpose of promoting religicus zeal 
His words are, (accounting for the want of zeal among them,) " It cannot b« 
denied, that many of those who judge so truly concerning particular tenets in 
religion, have attained to that cool, unbiassed temper of mind, in consequence 
of becoming more indifferent to religion in general, and to all the moJe« and 
doctrines of it. Thoujh, therefore, they are in a more favourable situation for 
distinguishing between truth and falsehood, they are not likely to a« quire a 
zeal for what they conceive to be the truth." 

The leading design of Dr. P. in tliis passage, it is allowed, was to recom- 
mend good discipline, as friendly to zeal; and as a previous indifference to 
religion in general was unfavourable to that temper of mind which he 
wished to inspire, in this view he is to be understood as blaming it. Yet, in 
an incidental manner he as plainly acknowledges it to have been favourable 
for distinguishing between trutli and fal-ehood ; and, in this view, he muvt be 
understood as commending it. 1 hat he does commend it, though in an inciden- 
tal way, 18 manifestfromhisattribuling their judging so truly concerning partic- 
ular tenets in religion to it ; and that, not nerely as an occasion, but as an ade- 
quate cause, producing a good effc<;t: rendering the mind more cool and unbiassed 
than it was before. To suppose that Dr. P. does not mean to recommend in- 
difference to reliirion in general, as friendly to truth, (though unfriendly to- 
teal,) is supposing him not to mean what he »ayi. 

As to th<^ question, Whether Dr. P. means to compare an indiffi renro to re- 
ligion in general with a serious temper of min<l, or with a spirit of bigotry .' 
It cannot be the latter, unless he considers the charHcters of whom he speaks, 
as having been formerly bigoted in their attachment to modes and forms : for he 
is not comparing them with other people, but with them drives at a former period 
S« long as they regarded reliirion in general, according to his ocroiint, ih^y 

5^ THE NUMBER OF [Letter IV. 

But it will be pleaded, Though many who go over to Socin- 
ianism are men of no religion, and, continue to " lean to a life of 

were in a less favourable situation for distinguishing between truth and false- 
hood, than when they came to disregard it. Dr. P. 'sown account of these 
characters seems to agree with mere men of the world, rather than with reli- 
gious big^ots. They were persons, he says, who troubled themselves very lit- 
tle about religion, but who had been led to turn their attention to the dispute 
concerning the person of Christ, and, by their natural good s'^n n had decided 
upon it. To this effect he writes in pages 96, 97, of his I) - oursea on Va- 
rious Subjects. Now, this is far from answering to tiit c: -aracter of religious 
bigots, or of those who at any time have sustained, that character. 

But, wavin? th-'s, let us suppose, that the regard which those characters 
bore towards re!;gioa in general, was the regard of bigots. In this case, they 
w^re a kind of Pkansef.s, aliached to modes and forms which blmded their 
minds from discovering the truth. Afterwards, they approached nearer to 
the Sadducees, became more indifferent to religion in general, and to all the 
modes and doctrines of it. The amount of Dr. P.'s position would then be, 
That the spirit of a Sadducee is preferable, with respect to discerning truth, to 
that of a Pharisee, possessing more of a cool, unbiassed temper of mind. The 
reply that I should make to this is, That neither Pharisees nor Sadducees pos- 
sess that temper of mind of which Dr. P. speaks, but are both a generation of 
vipers, different in some respects, but equally malignant towards the true gos- 
pel of Christ; and that the humble, the candid, the serious, and the upright 
inquirers after truth are the only persons likely to find it. And this is the sub- 
stance of what I advanced in the first page of the Preface, which has beea 
charged as a misrepresentation. I never suggested that Dr. P. was comparing 
the characters in question with the serious or the candid ; but rather, that 
et the comparison respect whom it might, his attributing an unbiassed temper 
of mind to men, in consequence of their becoming indifferent to religion in 
general, was erroneous ; for that he who is not a friend to religion in any 
mode, is an enemy to it in all modes, and ought not to be complimented as 
bein? in a favourable situation for distinguishing between truth and falsehood. 
A writer in the Monthly Review has laboured to bring Mr. BeUham off in 
the same manner; but, instead of affording him any relief, he has betrayed 
the cause he has espoused, and made Mr. B. reason in a manner unworthy of 
his abilities. "We apprehend,'* says this writer, "that Mr. B. does not 
mean to assert, nor even to intimate, that indifference to religious practice 
prepared the mind for the admission ofthat religious truth which prompts vir- 
tuous conduct.'''' Mr. B. however, does intimate, 'and even assert, '' that 
the men who are the most indifferent to the practice of religion, will ever be 
he first not only to see the absurdity of a popular superstition, but to embrace a 


dissipation," yet that i* not the ca«e with all : tlicre are some who 
are exemplary in tlieir lives, men ot rminont piety and virtue, and 

ralionnl siistem of f 1111/1."' iJofrs the Kcvirwcr mtan, then, te acknowledge, 
that the rational system doe* not inchidt tUmt kind of triUh wUicfi prompts virtu- 
OM3 conduct .^ Tliere is no truth inhi-eK|tretsions, but upon this »upco«i»ion. 

But this writer not only iuforms us what Mr. B. did no/ mean, but \ hat he 
did matixx. (One would thiuk the Reviewer ol Dr. WUiiams must ha.e beeo 
very ultimate with Mr. B.) Mr. BeUham meuut, it seems, *♦ that the ab9un.l1- 
tie* of a popular superstition are more apt to strike the minds of those who are 
fvtn indifferent to religion, than of those who arc bigoted iu their atlarhmeDt 
to particular creeds and rites; and therefore, that the former will be more 
inclined (o allow reason toniould their faith, than th^ laUer." — Revicv of Dr. 
fyiiliamt" ,'lmuer to .Mr. BeUfiam, for Jan. 1792, p. 1 17. 

To be sure, if a Reviewer may be allowed to add a few «uch words as more, 
and than, and even, to .Mr. B.'s laogu;ige, he may smooth its rough edges, and 
render it less exceptionable ; but is it true that this was Mr. B.'s meaning, or 
that such a meaning would ever have been invented, but to serve a turn ? 

If there be any way of coming at an author's meaning, it is by his xcordt, 
and by the scope of his reasoning ; but neither the one nor the other will war- 
rant this construction. .Mr. B.'s words are these : " The men who are the 
most indifferent to the practice of religion, will ever be the firs I to embrace a 
rational system of faith." H he intended merely to assert, that immoral 
characters will embrace the truth before bigots, his words are abundantly to« 
stroig for his meaning : for, though the latter were allowed to bo the last in 
emV racing truth, it viil not follow, that the former will be the first. If the 
rational system were on the side of truth, surely it might be expected, that 
the serious and the upright would be the Jirsl to embrace it. But this is not 
pretended. Serious Christians, by the ackiiowlidgmcnt of Mrs. Barbauld, are 
the last that come fully into it. 

The scope of Mr. Belsham's reasoning is equally unfavourable to such a con- 
struction as his words are. There is nothing, in the objection which he encoun- 
ters, that admits of such an answer. It was not alleged. That there uas a f^reater 
proportion of immoral charnctrrs, than of bigotn, nmonp the Unitarians ; had 
this been the charge, the answer put into Mr. fi.'s lip«, mit:ht have been in 
point. But the charge, as he himself expresses it, was simply this — " Ration- 
al Christians are often represented as indifferent to practical religion." To 
suppose that Mr. B. would account for this by alleging, that immoral charac- 
ters are more likely to embrace the truth than bigot;*, (uiieiss he dcuominata 
all bigots who are not Unitarian?,) is supposing him to have Irl't the oljectiou 
unanswered. How is it, that llwre should be vn great a proportifiu of immoral 
chbrtclers, rather than c\i humble, serious, and g9dJi^ mni, or ol what .Nlr. Bel- 

54 THE NUMBER OF [Letter IV . 

who are distinguished by Dr. Priestley by the name of " serious 
Christians "* To this it is replied— 

First, Whatever piety or virtue there may be among Socinian 
converts, it may be doubted, whether piety or virtue led them to 
embrace that scheme, or were much in exercise in their researches 
after it. It has been observed, by some who have been most 
conversant with them, that, as they have discovered a predilec- 
tion for those views of things, it has been very common for them 
to discover at the same time a light-minded temper, speaking oi 
sacred things, and disputing about them, with the most unbecom- 
ing levity, and indecent freedom : avoiding all conversation on ex- 
perimental and devotional subjects, and directing their whole dis- 
course to matters of mere speculation. Indeed, piety and virtue 
are, in effect, acknowledged to be unfavourable to the embracing 
of the Socinian scheme : for, if " an indifference to religion in 
general be favourable to the distinguishing between truth and 
falsehood ;" and if •' those men who are the most indifferent to 
the practice of religion will ever be the^rs^ to embrace the ra- 
tional system," it must follow, by the rule of contraries, that piety, 
virtue, and zeal for religion, are things unfavorable to that system, 
and that pious and virtuous persons will ever be the last to em- 
brace it : nay, some may think it very doubtful whether they ever 
embrace it at all. Serious Christians, according to the account of 
Mrs. Barbauld, are the most difficult sort of people that Socinian 
writers and preachers have to deal with ; for though they are 
sometimes brought to renounce the Calvinistic doctrines in the- 
ory, yet there is a sort of leaning towards them in their hearts, 
which their teachers know not how to eradicate. " These doc- 
sham calls " practical believers ?" This was the spirit of the objection : and 
if the above construction of Mr. B .'s words be admitted, it remains unnnswered. 

Let Dr. Priestley, or Mr. Belsham, or any of their j\dvooates, who have 
charged the above quotations with misrepresentation^ come forward, and, if 
they be ablc^ make j^ood the charge. Till this is done, I shall consider them 
as fair and just, and as including concessions which, though possibly made in 
an unijuarded moment, contain a Irutk which must prove a millstone about 
'ho neck of the Socinian system. 

■" Di«counics on Various Subjects, p. 98. 


triiies," she says, " it is true, among thinking people are^ 
ground ; but tliere is still apparent, in that class called servjug 
Christians^ a tenderness in expcsing them ; a sort of leaning to- 
wards them, as in walking over a precipice one »(hould lean to the 
safest side ; an idea that they are, if not true, at least good to be 
beleived, and that salutary error is better than a dangerous truth."* 
Secondly, Whatever virtue there may be among Socinian con- 
verts, it may be questioned whether the distiuguished principles of 
Socinianism have any tendency towards promoting it. The pi in- 
riples which they hold in common with us ; namely, the resurrec- 
tion of the dead, and a future life, and not those in which they 
are tlistinguished from us, are confessedly the springs of their vir- 
tue. As to the simple humanity of Christ; which is one of the 
distinguishing principles of Socinianism, Dr. Priestly acknowl- 
edges, that " the connexion between this simple truth and a reg- 
ular Christian life is very slight."! " That," says the same au- 
thor, " which is most favorable to virtue in Christianity is the ex- 
pectation of a future state of retribution, grounded on a tirm belief of 
the historical fact* recorded in the scriptures ; especially, the mir.q. 
cles,the death, and resurrection of Christ. The man who believes 
these things only, and who, together with this, acknowledges an 
universal providence, ordering all events ; who is persuaded that 
our very hearts are constantly open to divine inspection, so that 
no iniquity or purpose of it, can escape his observation ; will not 
be a bad man, or a dangerous member of society."! Now, these 
are things in which we are all agreed : whatever virtue, therefore 
is ascribed to them, it is not, strictly speaking, the result of Socin- 
ian principles. If, in addition to this, we were to impute a con- 
siderable degree of the virtue of Socinian converts to " the prin- 
ciples in which they were educated, and the irdluence t<» which 
they were exposed in the former part of their lives," we should 
only say of them what Or. Priestley says of the virtuous lives of 

♦* Kcmarks on WakefieUrs Inquiry on Social Worship. 

t Discourses on V'urious Subjects, p. 67. 

\ I^etter V. to Mr. Burn. 

56 THE NUMBER OF &c. [Letter IV. 

some Atheists ; and perhaps, we should have as good grounds for 
such an imputation in the one case, as he had in the other. * 

Among the various Socinian converts, have we ever been used 
to hear of any remarkable change of life or behaviour, which a 
conversion to their peculiar principles effected ? I hope there are 
few Calvinistic congregations in the Kingdom, but what could point 
out examples of persons among them, who at the time of their 
coming over to their doctrinal principles, came over also from 
the course of this world, and have ever since lived in newness of 
life. Can this be said of the generality of Socinian congregations ? 
Those who have had the greatest opportunity of observing them, 
say the contrary. Yea, they add, that the conversion of sinners 
to a life of holiness does not appear to be their aim ; that their 
concern seems to be, to pursuade those, who in their account, 
have too much religion, that less will suffice, rather than to ad- 
dress themselves to the irreligious, to convince them of their de- 
fect. A great part of Dr. Priestley's Sermon on the death of Mr. 
Robinson is of this tendency. Instead of concurring with the 
mind of God, as expressed in his word, that my people were wine, 
that they would consider their latter end ! the preacher goes about 
so dissuade his hearers from thinking too much upon that unwel- 
come subject. 

You will judge, from these things, brethren, whether there be 
any cause for boasting on the part of the Socinians, in the number of 
" converts which they tell us are continually making to their prin- 
ciples ;"t or for discouragement on the side of the Calvinists, as if 
what they account the cause of God and truth were going fast to de- 
cline. 1 am, &c. 

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever Part I. Preface, p. vi. 
t Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 93. 

LETTi:U \ . 


Christian Brethren^ 

Yoi' have observed, that Dr. Priestley charges the Calvnustic 
system with being unfriendly to morality, *' as giving wrong im- 
pressions concerning the character and moral government of God, 
and as relaxing the obligations of virtue." That you may judge of 
the propriety of this heavy charge, and whether our system, or 
his own, tends most to " relax the obligation of virtue," it seems 
proper to inquire, which of f hem affords the most licentious notiojis 
of virtue itself . To rsuppose that the scheme which pleads for re- 
laxation, both in the precept and in the penalty of the great rule 
of divine government, should, after all, relax the least, is highly 
paradoxical. The system, be it which it may that teaches us? to 
lower the standard of obedience, or to make light of the nature of 
disobedience, must surely be the system which relaxes the obliga- 
tions of virtue, and, consequently, is of an immoral tendency. 

The eternal standard of right and wrong is the moral law, sum- 
med up in love to God with nil the hearty soul, mind, and strcn^'th, 
and to our neighbour as ovrsclves. This law is /to/y, Justy and 
good: holy, as requiring perfect conformity to God ; just, as be- 
ing founded in the strictest equity ; and good, ag being equally 
adapted to promote the happiness of the creature as the glory of 
the Creator. Nor have we any notion of the precept of the law 
being abated, or a jot or title of it being given up, in order to suit 
the inclination of depraved creatures. We do not conceive the 
law to be more strict than it ought to be, even considering our pre- 
sent circumstances ; because we consider the evil propen'^ity of 
the heart, which alone renders us incapable of perfect obedience, 
as no excuse. Neither do we plead for the relaxation of the pen- 
alty of the law upon the footing of equity ; but in^JHt, tlmt tboneli 

Vol 11. 8 

38 THE STANDARD [Letter V. 

God, through the mediation of his Son, cloth not marh ini- 
qvity in those that wait on him, yet he might do so consistently 
will) justice; and that his not doing so is of mere -race. 1 hope 
these sentiments do not tend to " rel;;x the obligations of virtne.'* 
Let us inquire whether the same may be said of the scheme of our 

it may be thought, that, in these matters, in some of them 
at least, we are agreed. And, indeed, 1 suppose few will care 
to deny, in express terms, that the moral law, consisting of a requi- 
sition to love God with all the heart, and our neighbour as oar- 
selves, is an eternal standard of right and wrong. But let it be- 
considered, whether the Socinians, in their descriptions of virtue 
and vice, do not greatly overlook the former branch of it, and al- 
most confine themselves to those duties which belong to the latter. 
It has been long observed of writers of that stamp, that they exalt 
what are called the social virtues ^ or those virtues which respect so- 
ciety, to the neglect, and often at the expense of others which more 
immediately respect the God that made us. It is a verj^ common 
thing for Socinians to make light of religious principle, and to rep- 
resent it as of little importance to our future well-being. Underthe 
specious name of liberality of sentiment, they dispense with that 
part of the will of God which requires every thought to be 
in subjection to the obedience of Christ ; and, under the dis- 
guise of candour and charity, exc^ise those who fall under the 
divine censure. The Scripture s[)eaks of those who deny the 
Lord that bought them, bringing vpon themselves swift des- 
tru'twn — and of those who receive not the love of the truths 
being given vp to believe a lie. But the minds of Socinian wri- 
ters appear to revolt at ideas of this kind : the tenor of their 
writings is to persuade mankind, that sentiments may be ac- 
cepted, or rejected, without endangering their salvation. Infidels 
have sometimes compluned of Christianity, as a kind of insult to 
their dignity, on account of its deafing in threatenings : but Dr. 
Priestley, in his Letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of 
France, has quite removed this stumbling block out of their way. 
He accounts for their infidelity in such a way as to acquit them of 
blame, and enforces Christianity upon them by the most inoffen- 
sive motives. Not one word is intimated as if there was any dan- 

Letter V.] OF MORAI.ITY. ^9 

ger as to futurity, though lliey shouhl continue Infiilels, or CTcn 
Athei;8ts, till death. The oiilv siring upon which he harps, as I 
remember, is, that could thoy but embrace Christianity, they 
would be much happier than thoy are ! 

If 1 entertain degrading; notions of the pennon of Christ, and 
ifl err from the truth in so doini;, my error, accordini; to Mr. 
Lindsey, isinnocent* and no one ought to think the tvorse of me 6n 
that account. But ifl happen to be of Of)inion. that he who rejects 
the deity and atonement of Christ is not a Cliri-Jlian. I t;ive great 
offence. But wherefore? Suppose it an error, why should it 
not be as innocent as the former ? arul why ought i to be reproach- 
ed as an illiberal, uncharitable bi'j;ot for this, while no one ous^ht 
to thirjk the worse of me for the other ? Can this be any other- 
wise accounted for, than l>y supposins; that those who reason in 
this manner, are more concerned for their own honour, than for 
that of Christ ? 

Dr. Priestley, it may be noted, makes much lighter of error 
when speaking on the supposition of its being found in himself, 
than when he supposes it to be found in his opponents. He char- 
ges Mr. Venn, and others, with "striving to render those who 
differ from them in some speculative points odious to their fellow 
christians ;" and elsewhere suggests, that, " we shall not be judged 
at the last day according to our opinions, but our works; not 
according to what we have thought of Christy but as we have 
obeyed his commands .''I a- if it were no distinguishing property 
of a good work, that it originate in a good principle ; and, as if the 
meanest opinion, and the most degracjing thoughts of Jesus ChrHl, 
were consistent \\\[\\ obedience to him. But \vhfn he him-stll 
becomes the accuser, the ca«c ix altered, and instead of rerkonmg 
the supposed errors of the Trinitarians to be merely speculative 
points, and harmless opinions, they arc suid to be " idolatrous, and 
blasphemous. "1^ but idolatry an<l l)l,i«.phi'inv will not oidv be 

• Apology, 4lh oJilioa,|». 48. 

t Consideration on Differences of Oi«inion, ; III. Dofcuce of Unitarianitm 
for 1786, p. 69 l>ilto for I7f<7, \). GB. 

X DiscourcJ on Various Subjects, p. 96. 

60 -IHE STANDARD [Letter V. 

brought into account at the day of judgment, but be very offensive 
in the eyes of God.* For my part, 1 am not offended with Dr. 
Priestley, or nny other Socinian, for calling the worship that 1 pay 
to Christ, idolatry and blasphemy ; because, if he be only a man, 
what they say is just. If they can acquit themselves of sin in 
thinking meanly of Christ, they certainly can do the same in speak- 
ing meanly of him ; and words ought to correspond with thoughts. 
I only think they should not trifle in such a manner as they do with 
error, when it is supposed to have place in themselves, any more 
than when they charge it upon their opponents. 

If Dr. Priestley had formed his estimate of human virtue by that 
great standard which requires love to God with all the heart, soul, 
mind, and strength, and to our neighbour as ourselves ; instead of 
representing men by nature as having " more virtue than vice,"! 
he must have acknowledged, with the scriptures, that the whole 
world lieth in wickedness — that every thought and imagination of 
their heart is only evil continually — and that there is none of them 
ikat doeth good, no not one. 

If Mr. Belsham, in the midst of that '^ marvellous light" which 
he professes lately to have received, had only seen the extent and 
goodness of that law which requires us to love God with all our 
hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves, in the light in which reve- 
lation places it ; he could not have trifled, in the manner he has, 
with the nature of sin, calling it '' human frailty," and the subjects 
of it " the frail and erring children of men ;" nor could he have 
represented God, in, "marking and punishing every instance of it, 
as acting the part of a merciless tyrant. "J Mr. Belsham talks of 
** Unitarians being led to form just sentiments of the reasonableness 
of the divine law, and the equity of the divine government ;" but 
of what divine law does he speak ? Not of that, surely, which 
requires love to God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, 
and our neighbour as ourselves ; nor of that government which 

* 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. 

i Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part I. p. 80. 

X Sermon, pp. 33—35. 

Letter V.] OK MORALITY . 01 

threaten? the ciir^e of God on erery one that continneth not in all 
things written in the hook of the law to do them ; for this allows 
not of a single transgression, and punishes every instance of human 
folly, which Mr. Helshani considers as *' merciless tyranny." lie 
means to insinuate, I suppose, that for the law to take co^nizance 
of the very thoughts and intents of the heart, at least of every in- 
stance that occurs, is unreasonable ; and that to inflict punishment 
accordingly is inequitable. He conceives, therefore, of a law, it 
seems, that is more accommodated to the propensities, or, as he 
would call them, frailties of the erring children of men ; a law 
that may not cut olV all hopes of a sinner's acceptance with God by 
the deeds of it, so as to render an atoning mediator absolutely 
necessary, and this he calls reasonable ; and of a government that 
will not bring every secret thing into judgment, nor make men 
accountable for every idle zvorcl, and this he calls equitable. And 
this is the " marvellous light" of Socinianism ; this is the doctrine 
that is to promote a holy life ; this is the scheme of those who are 
continually branding the Calvinistic system with Antinomianism. 

If the moral law require love to God with all the heart, and 
soul, and mind, and strength, and to our neighbour as ourselves ; 
it cannot allow the least degree of alienation of the heart from God, 
or of the smallest instance of malevolence to man. And, if it be 
what the scripture says it is, holy^just, and good ; then, though it 
require all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, it cannot 
be too strict ; and if it be not too strict, it cannot be unworthy of 
God, nor can it be " merciless tyranny" to abide by it. On the 
contrary, it must be worthy of God to say of a just law, JS'ot a jot 
or tittle of it shall fail. 

Dr. M'Gill, in his Practical Essai/ on the death nf Jesus Christ, 
maintains, that "the Supreme Lawgiver deternunod iioin the be- 
ginning to mitigate the rigour of the law, to make allowances for 
human error and imperfection, and to accept of repentance and sin- 
cere obedience, instead of sinless perfectiorj." Lut, if this were 
the determination of the lawgiver, it was either considered as a 
matter of right, or of undeacrved favour. If the former, why w.\» 
not the law so framed as to correspond with the determination of 
the lawgiver ? How was it, especially, that a new edition of i' 


should be published from Mount Sinai, and that without any such 
allowances ? Or, if this could be accounted for, how was it tha^ 
Jesus Christ should declare, that not a jot or tittle of it should fail^ 
and make it his business to condemn the conduct of the scribes 
and pharisees, who had lowered its demands, and softened its pen- 
alties, with a view to " make allowance for human error and im- 
perfection ?" It could answer no good end, one should think, to 
load the divine precepts with threatnings of cruelty. A law so 
loaded would not bear to be put in execution : and we have 
been taught by Dr. Priestley, in what he has written on the Test- 
Act, to consider '- the continuance of a law which will not bear to 
be put in execution, as needless and oppressive, and as what ought 
to be abrogated."* If repentance and sincere obedience be all 
that ought to be required of men in their present state, then the 
law ought to be so framed, and allowance to be made by it for er- 
ror and imperfection. But then it would follow, that where men 
do repent, and are sincere, there are no errors and imperfections 
to be allowed for. Errors and imperfections imply a law from 
which they are deviations ; but if we be under no law, except 
one that allows for deviations, then we are as holy as we ought to 
be, and need no forgiveness. 

If, on the other hand, it be allowed that the relaxation of the 
law ot innocence is not what we have any right to expect, but 
that God has granted us this indulgence out of pure grace ; I 
would then ask the reason, why these gentlemen are continually 
exclaiming against our principles as making the Almighty a tyrant, 
and his law unreasonble, and cruel ? Is it tyrannical, unreasonable, 
or cruel, for God to withhold what we have no right to expect ?t 
* Familiar Letters, Lttler Vf. 

i The Intelligent reader, who is acquainted with the different sentiments 
that are embraced in the religious world, wdl easily perceive the agreement 
between the Socinian and Armenian systems on this subject. By their ex- 
clamations on the injustice of God as represented by the Calvinistic system, 
they both render that a debt, which God in the whole tenor of his word de- 
clares to be of grace. Neither of them will admit the equity of the divine 
law, and that man is thereby ri-hteously condemned to eternal punishment, 
antecedently to the grace of the gospel ; or, if they admit it in words, they 
will be ever contradicting it by the tenor of their reasoning. 

Lettfr V.J OF MORALITY. ^^ 

Dr. Priestloy (\ot\nesjunticc, as beino[ " such a do^ree of sever- 
ity, or pains and penalties so ir)tlicted, as will produce the best ef- 
fect with respect hoth to those who are exposed to them, and to 
others who are under the same irovernment : or, in other wonia, 
that de«;ree of evil which is cj.lculated to produce the greatest 
ilepree of j;ood : and, if the punishment exceed thi« measure ; 
if, in any instance, it be an unnecennary or tiseleng suffering, it is 
always censured as cruelty and is not even called ju-tice, but re. | 
injustice." To this he adds *' If, in any particular caso, the strict 
execution of the liw would do more hiu-m than eood, it is univer- 
sally agreed, that the punishment ought to be remitted."* Wiih 
an observation or two on (he above pu?s;ige, I sliail t.lose this let- 

First, That all punishments are designed for the good of the 
whole, and less (or corrective) punishments for the pood of the 
offender, is admitted. Every instance of divine punishnjont will 
be not only proportioned to the laws ofeijuity, but adapted to pro- 
mote the good of the universe at large. God never inflicts pun- 
ishment for the sake of punishing. He has no such pleastire in 
the death of a siimer as to put him to pain, whatever may bo his 
desert, without some great and good end to be answered by it : but 
thai, in the case 6f the finally-impenitent, this end should necessa- 
rily include the good of the offender, is as contrary to reason as 
it is to scripture, it does not appear, from any thing we know of 
govornnjents, either human or divine, that the good of the offend- 
er is necessarily, and in all cases, the end of punishment. When 
a murderer is executed, it is necessary tor the good of the commu- 
nity : but it would sound very str.mge to say, it was necessary 
for bis own good ; and that, unless ///a- good were promoted by it, 
as well as that of the community, it must be an act of crutliy ! 

Secondly, that there are cases in human government, in which 
it is right and necessary to relax in the execution of the si^ntence 
of the l,iw, is also admitted. I'Ut this arises from the impLrfec- 
tion of human laws. Laws are general rub's for ibt^ conduct of a 
commup.ity, with suitable punishments aiuiexed to the breach of 
'hem. But no general rules can be made by mon, that will apply 

• LeUart to a rhilo-opbical Unt>clicver, /'art I. \>\j. 100. 101 

G4 THE STANDARD &c. [Letter V. 

to every particular case. If legislators were wise and good men, 
and could foresee every particular case that would arise in the 
different stages of society, they would so frame their laws as that 
they need not be relaxed when those cases should occur. But 
God is wise and good ; and, previous to his giving us the law which 
requires us to love him with all our hearts, and our neighbour ag 
ourselves, knew every change that could possibly arise, and every 
case that could occur. The question, therefore, is not, *' If in any 
particular case the strict execution of the law would do more harm 
than good, whether it ought not to be remitted ;" but, whether 
an omniscient, wise and good lawgiver, can be supposed to have 
made a law, the penalty of which, if put in execution, would do 
more harm than good ? Would a being of such a character make 
a hiw, the penalty of which, according to strict equity, requires to 
be remitted ; a law by which he could not in justice abide ; and 
that not only in a few singular cases, but in the case of every in- 
dividual, in every age, to whom it is given ? 

It is possible these considerations may suffice to show that the 
divine law is not relaxed ; but be that as it may, the question at 
issue is, what is the moral tendency of supposing that it is ? To 
relax a bad law would indeed have a good effect, and to abrogate 
it would have a better ; but not so respecting a good one. If the 
divine law be what the scripture says it is, holy ^ just and good; to 
relax it in the precept, or even to mitigate the penalty, without 
some expedient to secure its honors, must be subversive of good 
order ; and the scheme which pleads for such relaxation, must be 
unfavorable to holiness, justice, and goodness. 

I am, &c. 



Christian Brethren, 

What lias been advanced in the last Letter on tlie standard of 
morality, may serve to fix the meaning of the term in this. The 
term morality, you know, is sometimes used to express those 
duties which subsist between men and men, and in tins acceptation 
stands distinguished from religion ; but I mean to include under it. 
the whole of what is contained in the moral law. 

Nothing is more common than for the adversaries of the C.ilvin- 
istic system to charge it with immorality ; nay, as if this were 
self-erident, thoy seem to think themselves excused from advanc- 
ing any thing like sober evidence to support the charge. Viru- 
lence, rant, and extravagance, are the weapons with wlin h \\v ;Me 
not unfrequently combatted in this warfare. " I challenge the 
whole body and being of mor.d evil itself," says a writer of the 
present day,* " to invent, or inspire, or whisper, any thing black- 
er, or more wicked : yea, if sin itself had all the wit, the tonijues, 
and pens of all men and an;^els, to all eternity, I defy the whole to 
say any thing of God worse than this. O sin, thou hast <ipcnt and 
emptied thyself in the doctrine of John Calvin I And here I rejoice 
that 1 have heard the utmost that malevolence itself shidi e\er be 
able to say ag.dnst infmite benignity I I was myself brought up 
and tutored in it, and being delivered and bi ought to see the evil 
and danger, am bound by my obligations to (Jod, angels, and men, 
to warn my f( llow-sinners ; I therefore, here, before God, and tlu 
whole universe, rec;d and condemn every word I have spoken in 
favor of it. i thus renounce the doctrine as the r.mcor of dcviU ; 

• Mpwpllyu's Tracts, p. 2P2. 

Vol.. n. 9 

^e OF MORALITY [Letter VI. 

a doctrine, the preaching of which is babbling and mocking, its 
prayers blasphemy, and whose praises are the horrible yellings of 
sin and hell. And this I do, becaiise I know and believe that God 
is love ; and therefore his decrees, works and ways, are also love, 
and cannot be otherwise." It were ill-spent time to attterapt an 
answer to such unfounded calumny as this, which certainly par- 
takes much more of the ravings of insanity, than of the words of 
truth and soberness : yet this, according to the Monthly Review, is 
'•The true coloring of the doctrine of Calvinism."* Had any 
thing like this been written by a Calvinist against Socianism, the 
Reviewers would have been the first to have exclaimed against 
Calvinistic illiberality. 

This gentleman professes to have been a Calvinist, and so does 
Dr. Priestley. The Calvinism of the latter, however, seems to 
have left an impression upon his mind very different from the 
above. " Whether it be owing to my Calvinistic education,'" 
says he, ^' or my considering the principles of Calvinism as gene- 
rally favorable to that leading virtue, devotion, or to their being 
something akin to the doctrine of Necessity, I cannot but acknowl- 
edge, that, notwithstanding what I have occasionally written against 
that system, and which I am far from wishing to retract, I feel 
myself disposed to look upon Calvinists with a kind of respect, and 
could never join in the contempt and insult with which I have often 
heard them treated in conversation."! 

But Dr. Priestley, I may be told, whatever good opinion he may 
have of the piety and virtue of Calvinists, he has a very ill opinion 
of Calvinism : and this, in a certain degree, is true. Dr. Priestley, 
however, would not say, that " The preaching of that system was 
babbling and mocking, its prayers blasphemy, or its praises the 
horrible yellings of sin and hell:" on the contrary, he acknowl- 
edges " its principles to be generally favorable to that leading vir- 
tue, devotion.^'' 

I confess, Dr. Priestley has advanced some heavy accusations 
on the immoral tendency of Calvinism ; accusations which seem 

* Review for July, 1792, p. 266. 

tThe Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity illustrated, p. 163. 

LktierVI] in r.ENF.IlAl.. q7 

■•carcely consistent willi the candid concessions just now quoted ; 
and these I shall now proceed to examine. " I do not see," says 
he '* what motive a Cahinist can have to give any attention lo his 
moral conduct. So long as he is unregenerate, all his thoughts, 
words, and actions, are necessarily sinful, and in the act of regen- 
eration he is altogether passive. On this account, the most con- 
sistent Calvinists never address any exhortation lo sinners ; con- 
sidering them as dead in trespasses and sins, and, therefore, that 
there would be as much sense and propriety in speaking to the 
dead, as to them. On the other hand, if a man be in the happy 
number of the elect, he is sure that (Jod will, some time or other, 
and at the most proper time, (for which the las^t moment of his Wfc 
is not too late,) work upon him his miraciilous work of sdvin^^ and 
sanctifying grace. Though he should ho. ever so wicked immedi- 
at»'ly before this divine and effectual calling, it makes nothing 
against hini. Nay, some think that this, being a more "»i2:nal (hs- 
play of the wonders of (hvine grace, it is rather the more probable 
that God will take this opportunity to display it. If any system of 
"fperulative principles can operate as an axe at the root of all virtue 
and goodness, it is this."* On this unfavourable acc«)unt of Cal- 
vinism I will offer the following observations. 

First, If Calvinism be an axe at the root of virtue and goodness, 
it is only so with respect to those of the '' unregenerate ;'" which 
certainly does not include all tlie virtue and goodness in the world. 
As to others. Dr. Priestley ackriow ledges, as we have seen already, 
tliat our prmciples are "generally favourable io devotion:" and 
devotion, if it be what he denominates it, **a leading virtue," will 
<]oubtless be follozi-ed with other virtues correspomi«iit with it. 
He acknowledges also, " There arc many (among the Calvinists) 
whose hearts and lives are, in all respects, truly Christian, and 
whose Christian tempers are really promoted by their ort/i viezcs of 
their system.'"] How is it, then, that Dr. Priestley " cannot see 
what motive a Calvinist can have to give any attention to hi** moral 
conduct;" and why does he represent Calvinism as ''an a\e at 
the root of all virtue and goodness ^" By all virtue and goodne«« 

* Doctrine of .Neccisity, p. 1J4. * \hh]. pp. 1*^3, IGJ. 

68 OF MORALITY [Lkxter VI. 

he can only mean the virtue and goodness of wicked men. Indeed, 
this appears plainly to have been his meaning : for, after acknowl- 
edging, that Calvinism has something in it favourable to '* an habit- 
ual and animated devotion," he adds, *' But, where a disposition to 
vice has pre-occupied the mind, I am very well satisfied, and but 
too many facts might be alleged in proof of it, that the doctrines 
of Calvinism have been actually fatal to the remains of virtue^ and 
have driven men into the most desperate and abandoned course of 
wickedness ; whereas the doctrine of necessity, properly under- 
stood, cannot possibly have any such effect, but the contrary."* 
Now, suppose all these were true, it can never justify Dr. Priest- 
ley in the use of such unlimited terms as those before mentioned. 
Nor is it any disgrace to the Calvinistic system, that men whose 
minds are pre-occupied with vice should misunderstand and abuse 
it. The purest liquor, if put into a musty cask, will become 
unpalatable. It is no more than is said of some who professed to 
embrace Christianity in the times of the apostles, that they turned 
the grace of God into lasciviousness. Is it any wonder that the 
wicked will do wickedly ; or that they will extract poison from 
that which, rightly understood, is the food of the righteous ? It is 
enough, if our sentiments, like God''s words, do good to the upright. 
Wisdom does not expect to he justified, but of her children. The 
scriptures themselves make no pretence of having been useful to 
those who have still lived in sin ; but allow the gospel to be a 
savour of death unto death in them that perish. The doctrine of 
necessity is as liable to produce this effect, as any of the doctrines 
of Calvinism. It is true, as Dr. Priestley observes, ** it cannot do 
so, if it be properly understood :" but this is allowing that it may 
do so, if it be misunderstood ; and w^e have as good reason for 
ascribing the want of a proper understanding of the subject to those 
who abuse predestination, and other Calvinistic doctrines, as he has 
for ascribing it to those who abuse the doctrine of necessity. Dr 
Priestley speaks of the remains of virtue, where a disposition to 
viee has pre-occupied the mind ; and of the Calvinistic system 
being as an axe at the root of these remains : but some people 

* Doctrine of Necessity, p. IC'2. 

Letter VI. IN GFNFKAL. qa 

will question, whether virtue ot this description have Huy root 
heloiimii;; to it, so as to recniire an axe to cut it up ; and whether 
it be not owing to tins circuniHtance that such character*, hke the 
stony-ground hearers, ifi time of temptation fall away. 

Secondly, The Calvinistic system is misrepresented liy Dr. 
Priestley, even as to its irilluence on the unregeneratf. In the 
passasre before (pioted, he represents those persons, " who are of 
the happy nund)er of the elect, as being 5i/re that God will, some 
time or other, work upon them his work of sanctifying ^race." 
But how are they to come to this assurance? Not by any thing 
contained in the Calvinistic system. All the writers in that scheme 
have constantly insisted, that no man has any warrant to conclude 
himself of the happy number of the elect, till the work of sanctify- 
ing grace is actually wrought. With what colour of truth or ingen 
MOiisness, then, could Dr. Priestley represent our system as afford, 
ing a ground of assurance, previotis to that event ? This is not a 
matter of small account in the present controversy ; it is the point 
on which the immoral tendency of the doctrine wholly depends. 

As to the certainty of any man's being sanctified and saved at 
some future time, this can have no ill influence upon him, while it 
exists merely in the divine mind. If it have any such influence, 
it must be owing to his knozvledgc of it a^ a time when, his heart 
being set on evil, he would be disposed to abuse it : but this, as 
we have seen, upon the Calvinistic system, is ntterlv impossible ; 
because nothing short of a sanctified temper of nund afford^ any 
just grounds to draw the favourable conclusion. Dr. Priestley has 
also represented it as a part of the Calvinistic system, or, however, 
'* as the opinion of some," that, the more wicked a man is, previ- 
ous to God's work of sanctifying grace upon him, the more proba- 
ble it is that he will, some tinje, be sanctified and saved. But, 
though it be allowed, that God frequently takes occasion from the 
degree of human ivickedness to magnify his grace in delivering from 
it ; yet it is no part of the Calvinistic system, that the formei 
affords any ground-^ of probability to expect the latter : and who 
ever they be that Dr. Prir-tley alludes to, as entertaininix ^uch an 
opinion, I am inclinnl to think thev are not among the respectable 

70 ^^ MORALITY [Letter VI. 

writers of the party, and probably not among those who have writ- 
ten at all. 

Thirdly, Let it be considered, Whether Dr. Priestley's own 
views of Philosophical Necessity do not amount to the same thing 
as those which he alleges to the discredit of Calvinism ; or, if he 
will insist upon the contrary, whether he must not contradict him- 
self, and maintain a system, which, by his own confession, is less 
friendly to piety and humility than that which he opposes. A 
state of unregeneracy is considered by Calvinists as the same thing 
which Dr. Priestley describes as " the state of a person who sins 
with a full consent of zvill, and who, disposed as he is^ is under an 
impossibility of acting otherwise ; but who," as he justly main- 
tains, " is nevertheless accountable, even though that consent be 
produced by the efficacy and unconquerable influence of motives. 
It is only," continues he, " where the necessity of sinning arises 
from some other cause than a man's own disposition of mind, that 
we ever say, there is an impropriety in punishing a man for his 
conduct. If the impossibility of acting well has arisen from a bad 
disposition, or habit, its having been impossible, with that disposition 
or habit, to act virtuously, is never any reason for our forbearing 
punishment ; because we know that punishment is proper to cor- 
rect that disposition and that habit."* Now, if it be consistent to 
punish a man for necessary evil, as Dr. Priestley abundantly main- 
tains, why should it be inconsistent to exhort, persuade, reason, 
or expostulate with him; and why does he call those Calvinists 
" the most consistent," who avoid such addresses to their audi- 
tors ? If " the thoughts, words, and actions of unregenerate men, 
being necessarily sinful," be a just reason why they should not 
have exhortations addressed to them, the whole doctrine of Ne- 
cessity must be inconsistent with the use of means, than which 
nothing can be more contrary to truth, and to Dr. Priestley's own 
views of things. 

As to our being passive in regeneration, if Dr. Priestley would 
only admit, that any one character could be found that is so depra- 
ved as to be destitute of all true virtue, the same thing would fol- 

* Doctrine ©f Necessity, pp. 63—65. 

Letter VI. J IN GENERAL. 7I 

low from his own Necpssnriaii principles. AccordiiiK lo tliosf 
principles, every man who is under the doininion of a vicious 
habit of mind, will continue to choose vice, till such time as that 
habit be changed, and that, by some inlluence without himseli. 
'Mf," says he, *' I make any particolar choice lo-<lay, I should 
have done the same yesterday, and should do the same to morrow, 
provided there be no change in the state of my mind respecting 
the object of the choice."* Now, can any person in such a state 
of mind be supposed to be active in the changing of it ; for such 
activity must imply an inclination to have it changed ; which is a 
contradiction, as it supposes him at the same time under the do- 
minion of evil, and inclined to goodness ? 

But, possibly, Dr. Priestley will not admit that any one charac- 
ter can be found, who is utterly destitute of true virtue. Be it so: 
he must admit that, in some characters, vice has an habitual ascen- 
dancy: but the habitual ascendancy of vice as certainly determine* 
the choice, as even a total depravity. A decided majority in par- 
liament carry every measure with as much certainty as if there 
were no minority. Wherever vice is predominant, (and in n« 
other case is regeneration needed,) the party must necessarily be 
passive in the first change of his mind in favor of virtue. 

But there are seasons in the life of the most vicious men, iii 
which their evil propensities are at a lower ebb than usual ; in 
which conscience is alive, and thoughts of a serious nature arrest 
their attention. At these favorable moments, it may be thought 
ihat virtue has the advantage of its opposite, and that this is the 
time for a person to become active in effecting a change upon hi* 
own mind. Without inquiring whether there be any real virtue 
in all this, it is suflicient to observe, that, if we allow the whole of 
what is pleaded for, the objection destroys itself. For it suppose* 
that, in order to a voluntary activity in favor of virtue, the mind 
must first be virtuously disposed, an<l that by something in which 
it was passive ; which is giving up the point in dispute. 

Dr. Priestly often represents *' a change of disposition and char- 
acter .IS being effected oidy by a change of conduct, and that ot 

* Doctririr of Necessity, p. 7. 

72 OF MORALITY [Letter VI. 

long continuance."* But, whatever influence a course of virtuous 
actions may have upon the disposions, and however it may tend to 
estabhsh us in the habit of doing good, all goodness of disposition 
cannot arise from this quarter. There must have been a disposi- 
sition to good, and one too that was sufficiently strong to outweigh 
its opposite, ere a course of virtuous actions could be commenced; 
for virtuous action is nothing but the effect, or expression, of vir- 
tuous disposition. To say that this previous disposition was also 
produced by other previous actions, is only carrying the matter a 
little farther out of sight ; for, unless it can be proved, that virtu- 
ous action may exist prior to, and without all virtuous disposition, 
let the one be carried back as far as it may, it must still have been 
preceded by the other, and, in obtaining the preceding disposition, 
the soul must necessarily have been passive.^ 

Dr. Priestley labours hard to overthrow the doctrine of immedi- 
ate divine agency^ and contends that all divine influence upon the 
human mind is through the medium of second causes, or according 
to the established laws of nature. " If moral impressions were 
made upon men's minds by immediate divine agency, to what end," 
he asks, *' has been the whole apparatus of revealed religion?''^\ 
This, in effect, is saying, that if there be laws for such an opera- 
tion upon the human mind, every kind of influence upon it must be 
through the medium of those laws ; and that, if it be otherwise, 
there is no need of the use of means. But might he not as well 
allege, that, if there be laws by which the planets move, every 
kind of influence upon them must have been through the medium 

* Doctrine of .Necessity, p. 156. 

t Since the publication of the second edition of these Letters, 'it has been 
8Ugo;ebted by a friend, thiit there is no necessity for confiniog these olserva- 
tions to the case of a man totally depraved, or of one under the habitual as- 
cendancy of vice: for that, according to Dr. Priestley's Necessarian princi- 
ples, all volitions are the eifects of motives : therefore every man, hi every 
volition, as he is the subject oi the influence of motive, operating as a cause, 
is passive; equally so, as he is supposed to be, accordiug to the Calvinistic 
system, in rejjeneration. 

t Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 221. 

Letter VI. J IN GENERAL. 73 

of those laws; and deny, thai the Divitte Being immediately, and 
prior to the operation of the hms of nature, put them all in motion'' 
Might he not as well ask, If an immediate influence could he ex- 
ercised in setting the material system in motion, of what use are all 
the laws of nature, by which it is kept in motion ? Whatever laws 
attend the movements of the material system, the first creation of 
it is allowed to have been by an immediate exertion of divine pow- 
er. God said, Let there be light, and there rva$ light; and why 
should not the second creation be the tame ? 1 say the second cre- 
ation ; for the change upon the sinner's heart is represented a5 
nothing less in the divine word ; and the very manner of its being 
effected, is expressed in language which evidently alludes to the 
first creation — God^who commanded the li^Jit to shine out of dark- 
ness, hath shifted into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge 
of the glory of God ^ in the face of Jesus Christ. Not only scripture, 
but reason itself, teaches the necessity for such an immediate divine 
interposition in the changing of a sinner's heart. If a piece of 
machinery (suppose the whole material system,) were once in a 
state of disorder, the mere exercise of those laws by which it was 
ordained to move, would never bring it into order again ; but, on 
the contrary, would drive it on farther and farther to everaUting 

As to election. Dr. Priestley cannot consistently maintain his 
scheme of Necessity without admitting it. If, as he aliundantly 
maintains, God is the author of every good disposition in the human 
heart ;* and if, as he also in the same section maintains, God, iu 
all that he does, pursues one plan, or system, previously concert- 
ed ; it must follow, that wherever good dispoaitions are produced, 
and men are finally saved, it is altogether in consequence of the 
appointment of God ; which, as to the present argument, is the 
same thing as the Calvinistic doctrine of election. 

So plain a consequence is this from Dr. Priestley*s Necessarian 
principles, that he himself', when writing his Treatise on that sub- 
ject, could not forbear to draw it. "Our Saviour," he says, 
" seems to have considered the rejection of the gospel by those 

• Doctrine of Nfic««ity, ^ Xf. 
\oi. 11 D 

74 OF MORALITY [Letter VI. 

who boasted of their wisdom,* and the reception of it by the more 
despised part of mankind, as being the consequence of the express 
appointment of God : At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank 
thee O Father^ Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these 
things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them, unto babes ; 
even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.'^ To the same 
purpose, in the next page but one, he observes, that God is consid- 
ered as " the sovereign disposer, both of gospel privileges here, 
and future happiness hereafter, as app^^ars in such passages as 2 
Thess. ii, 13. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salva- 
tion, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.''^^ 

If there be any difference between that election which is invol- 
ved in Dr. Priestley's own scheme, and that of the Calvinists, it 
must consist, not in the original appointment, or in the certainty of 
the event, but in the intermediate causes or reasons which induced 
the Deity to fix things in the manner that he has done : and it is 
doubtful whether even this can be admitted. It is true, Dr. Priest- 
ley, by his exclamations against unconditional election,\ would 
seem to maintain, that, where God hath appointed a sinner to ob- 
tain salvation, it is on account of his foreseen virtue: and he may 
plead, that such an election is favorable to virtue, as making it 
the ground, or procuring cause of eternal felicity ; while an elec- 
tion that is altogether unconditional, must be directly the reverse. 
But let it be considered, in the first place, Whether such a view 
of election as this does not clash with the whole tenor of scripture, 
which teaches us that we are saved and called with an holy call- 
ing, not according to our works, but according to the divine pur- 
pose and grace inven us in Christ Jesus before the world began — JSfot 
of works, lest any man should boast. At this time also there is a 
remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then 
it is no more of works ; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if 
it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise zvork is no more 

* Query, Were not tliese tlie rational religionists of that age? 

+ Doctrine of Necessity, pp. 140— 14'2. 

t Considerations on Difference m Religious Opinions. 4 III. 

Lettkr VI.J in GKNKKAl.. 75 

rvork.* Secondly, Lot it hf considered, Wliclher «ur!i an elec- 
tion will con^iist witli Dr. Prio<<tley's own sclieinc of Necessity. 
This scheme supposes, tli;«l all virtue, as well as every thing else? 
is necessary. Now, whence arose the necessity of it? It w;is not 
self-ori«;inated, nor accidental: it must have been established by 
the Deity. And then it will follow, that, if God elect any man rn 
account of his foreseen virtue, he must have elected him on ac- 
count of that which he had determined to give him: but this, as to 
the origin of tliiuL^s, amount' to the same thing as unconditional 

As to men's taking liberty to sin, from the consideration of their 
bein^ amons; the number of the elect ; that, as we have seen al- 
ready, is what no man can do with safety or consistency; seeing 
he can have no evidence on that subject, btit what must arise from 
a contrary spirit and conduct. But suppose it were otherwise, an 
objection of this sort would come with an ill grace from Dr. IViest- 
ley, who encourages all mankind not to fear, since God has made 
them all for urdimited ultimate happiness, and (whatever be their 
conduct in the present lil'e) to ultimate unlinutcil hapjiitics? they 
will all doubtless come.^ 

Upon the whole, let those wlio are inured to close thinkmg, 
judge .whether Dr. Priestley's own views of Philosophical Neces- 
sity do not incl'ide the loadini; 5)rinriples of Calvinism ? Rut, 
should he insist upon the contrary, then let it be considered, 
whether he must not contradict himself, and maintain a svstem 
which, by hi- own confession, is loss friendly to piety and humility 
than that which he opposes. " The essential difference, " he 
says, " between the two schemes is this : the Necessarian be- 
lieves his own di-:po-:ition-j and actions are the necessary and sole 
means of his pre-^cnt pinl tijtur«.' happiness; so that, in th(» most 
proper sense of the words, it dejx-nds entirely on himself, whether 
he be virtuous or vicious, happy or miserable. The Calvinist 

* See also those scriptures which reprcseul election as ihc cause of faith 
and holiness; partictilnrly Fphei. i. 3, 4. John. vi. 37. Rom. Tiii. 02.30. 
Actjxiii.4G. 1 I'et. i. 1. Rnra. ix. 13. 16. But, if it be the coj/j'- it nono». 
be the effect of thcin. 

* Dof-trine of NecetMty. pp. 1?P, 1 29. 

76 OF MORALITY [Letter VI. 

maintains, on the other hand, that so long a3 a man is unregener- 
ate. all his thoughts, words, and actions are necessarily sinful, and 
in the act of regeneration he is altogether passive."* We have 
seen already, that on the scheme of Dr. Priestley, as well as that 
of the Calvinists, men, in the tirst turning of the bias of their hearts, 
must be passive. But allow it to be otherwise ; allow what the 
Doctor elsewhere teaches, that " a change of disposition is the 
effect, and not the cause of a change of conduct ;''t and that it de- 
pends entirely on ourselves, whether we will thus change our con- 
duct, and, by these means, our dispositions, and so be happy for 
ever : all this, if others of his observations be just, instead of pro- 
moting piety and virtue, will have a contrary tendency. In the 
same performance, Dr. Priestley acknowledges, that " those who, 
from a principle of religion, ascribe more to God and less to man 
than other persons, are men of the greatest elevation of piety. "| 
But, if so, it will follow, that the essential difference between the 
necessarianism of Socinians and that of Calvinists, (seeing it con- 
sists in this, that the one makes it depend entirely upon a man's 
self, whether he be virtuous or vicious, happy or miserable; and 
the other, upon God j) is in favour of the latter. Those who con- 
sider men as depending entirely upon God for virtue and happi- 
ness, ascribe more to God, and less to man than the other, and so, 
according to Dr. Priestley, are "men of the greatest elevation of 
piety." They on the other hand, who suppose men to be depend- 
ent entirely upon themselves for these things, must, consequently, 
have less of piety, and more of " heathen stoicism ;" which, 
as the same writer, in the same treatise, observes, "allows men to 
pray for external things, but admonishes them, that, as for virtue, 
it is our own, and must arise from within ourselves, if we have it 
at all."§ 

But let us come to facts. If, as Dr. Priestley says, there be 
'^something in our system, which, if carried to its just consequen- 
ces, would lead us to the most abandoned wickedness;" it might 
be expected, one should think, that a loose, dissipated, and aban- 
doned life would be a more general thing among the Calvinists than 

* Doctrine of Necessity, p. 152—154. t Ibid p. 156. % ^hid p. 107. 
« Ibid p. 67. 

Letter V'I.] IN GENERAL. ^.| 

among their opponents. This seems to be a coni«equence of which 

he feels the force, and therefore diicovers an inchnation to make 

it good. In answer to the question, '< Why those persons who 

hold these opinions are not abandoned to all wickedness, when 

they evidently lay them under so little restraint ?" he answers, 

•• This 15 otten the case of those who pursue these principles to 

their just and fatal consequences;" adding, '* for it is easy to 

prove, that the Antinomian is the only consistent absolute predesti- 

uarian/^* That there are persons who profess the doctrine of 

absolute predestination, and who, from that consideration, may 

indulge themselves in the greatest enormities, is admitted. Dr. 

Priestley, however, allows, that these are ** only such persons 

whose minds are previously depraved ;" that is, wicked men, who 

turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. Nor are such examples 

'* often'' to be seen among us ; and, where they are, it is commonlj 

in such people who mike no serious pretence to pergonal religion, 

but who have just so miich of predestination in their heads, as to 

suppose that all thmgs will be as they are appointed to be, and 

therefore that it is in vain to strive, — just so much as to look at 

the end, and overlook the means ; which is as wide of^Calvinism, 

as it is of Socinianism. This may be the absolute predestination 

which Dr. Priestley means ; namely, a predestination to eternal 

life, let our condtict be ever so impure ; and a predestination to 

eternal death, let it be ever so holy : and, if so, it is granted that 

the Antinomian is the only consistent believer in it : but then it 

might, with equal truth, be added, that he is the only person who 

believes in it at all. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination 

supposes, that holiness of heart and life are as much the object of 

divine appointment as fdture happiness, and that this connexion 

can never be broken. To prove that the Antinomian is the only 

consistent believer in such a predestination as this, may not be so 

easy a task as barely to assert it. I cannot imagine it would b« 

very easy, especially for Dr. Prie«tley ; seeing he acknowledges, 

that '' the idea of every thing being predestinated from all eternity 

is no objection to prayer^ because all means are appointed aii vvell 

* Con?'idoration« on Diflercnoc of Opinioo, } III 

78 OF MORALITY [Letter VI. 

as ends; and therefore, if prayer be in itself a proper means, 
the end to be obtained by it, we may be assured, will not be had 
without this, any more than without any other means, or neces- 
sary previous circumstances.."* Dr. Priestley may allege, that 
this is not absolute predestination : but it is as absolute as ours, 
which makes equal provision for faith and holiness, and for every 
mean of salvation, as this does for prayer. 

Will Dr. Priestley undertake to prove, that a loose, dissipated^ 
and abandoned life is a more general thing among the Calvinists 
than among their opponents? I am persuaded he will not. He 
knows that the Calvinists, in generals are far from being a dissipa- 
ted, or an abandoned people, and goes about to account for it ; and 
that, in a way that shall reflect no honour upon their principles, 
" Our moral conduct," he observes, " is not left at the mercy of 
our opinions; and the regard to virtue, that is kept up by those 
who maintain the doctrines above-mentioned, is owing to the influ- 
ence of other principles implanted in our nature."! Admitting 
this to be true, yet one would think the worst principles will, 
upon the whole, be productive of the worst practices. Tliey whose 
innate principles of virtue are all employed in counteracting the 
influence of a pernicious system, cannot be expected to form such 
amiable characters, as where those principles are not only left at 
liberty to operate, but are aided by a good system. It might, 
therefore, be expected, I sa;y again, if our principles be what our 
opponents say they are, that a loose, dissipated, and abandaned life 
would be a more general thing among us than among them. 

I may be told, that the same thing, if put to us, would be found 
equally difficult ; or that, notwithstanding we contend for the supe- 
rior influence of the Calvinistic system to that of Socinus, yet we 
should find it difficult to prove, that a loose, dissipated, and aban- 
doned life is a more general thing among Socinians, than is is among 
Calvinists. And I allow, that I am not sufficiently acquainted 
with the bulk of the people of that denomination to hazard an 
assertion of this nature. But, if what is allowed by their own 

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part I. p. 111. 
t Considerations on Difference of Opinion, f III. 


writers (who ought to know thoni) may he adniittod as evidence, 
such an assertion inij^ht, nevertheless, be supported. •' Rational 
Christians are often represented,'' says iMr. Bel-ham, " as indif- 
I'erent to practical rehgion." Nor does lie deny the juslice of 
this representation, but admits, though with apparent reluctance, 
that 'Mhere has been some plausible *;rouiid for the accusation ;" 
and goes about to account for it, as we have seen in Letter IV. 
in such a way, however, as mcty reflect no dishonour upon their 
principles * The same thina; is acknowledged by Dr. Priestley, 
who allows, that ^^ngreiU number of the Unitarians of the present 
age are only men of good sense, and without much practical 
religion ;" and that " there is a greater apparent conformity to 
the world in them, than is observable in others. "t Yet he also 
goes about to account for these things, as Mr. Belsham does, in 
such a way as may reflect no dishonour on their principles. It i!« 
rather extraordinary that, when facts are introduced in favour of 
the virtue of the general botly of the Calvinists, they are not deni- 
ed, but accounted for in such a way that their principles must 
share none of the honor ; and when facts of an opposite kind are 
introduced, in proof of the want of virtue in Unitarians, they also 
are not denied, but accounted for in such a way that their princi- 
ples shall have none of the dishonor. Calvinism, it seems, must 
be immoral, though Calvinists be virtuous; and Socinianism must 
be amiable, though Socinians be vicious. I shall not inquire wheth- 
er these very opposite methods of accounting for facts be fair or 
candid. On this the reader will form his own Judgment: it is enough 
for me that the facts themselves are allowed. 

If we look back to past ages, (to say nothing of those who lived 
in the earliest periods of Christianity, because; 1 would refer to 
none but such as arc allowed to have believed the doctrine in (ques- 
tion,) I think it cannot be fairly denied, tliat the great body of holy 
men, who have maintained the true worship of (Jod (if there wat 
any true worship of God maintained,) dgriug the Komish apostacy, 

*• Sermon, p. 3 J. 

t Oisrourjo? on Various Suhjecti, p. 100. 

80 OF MORALITY [Letter VI. 

and who, many of them, sacrificed their earthly all for his name, 
have lived and died in the belief of the deity and atonement of 
Christ. Our opponents often speak of these doctrines being em- 
braced by the apostate church of Rome ; but they say little of those 
who, during the long period of her usurpation, bore testimony for 
God. The Waldenses, who inhabited the vallies of Piedmont, and 
the Albigenses, who were aftewards scattered almost all over Eu- 
rope, are allowed, I believe, on all hands, to have preserved the 
true religion in those darkest of times: and it is thought by some 
expositors, that these are the people who are spoken of in the 
twelfth chapter of the Revelation, underthe representation of a 
womafiy to whom were given two wings of a great eagle, that she 
might Jly into the wilderness — and there be nourished for a time, 
from the face of the serpent. It was here that true religion was 
maintained, and sealed by the blood of thousands from age to age, 
when allthe rest of the Christian world were wondering after the 
beast. And as to the doctrines which they held, they were much 
the same as ours. Among the adversaries to the church of Rome, 
it is true, there might be men of different opinions. Arius and 
others may be supposed to have had their followers in those ages; 
but the body of the people called Waldenses are not to be reckon- 
ed as such : on the contrary, the principles which they professed 
were, for substance, the same with those embraced afterwards by 
the Reformed Churches; as is abundantly manifest by several of 
their catechisms and confessions of faith, which have been trans- 
mitted to our times. 

Mr. Lindsey, in his Apology, has given a kind of history of those 
who opposed the doctrine of the Trinity; but they make a poor 
figure during the above long and dark period, in which, if ever, a 
testimony for God was needed. He speaks of " churches and 
sects, as well as individuals, of that description, in the twelfth cen- 
tury:" and there might be such. But can he produce any evidence 
of their having so much virtue as to make any considerable sacriji-' 
ces for God ? Whatever were their number, according to Mr. 
Lindsey's own account, from that time till the Reformation, (a 
period of three or four hundred years, and during which the Wal- 
denses and the Wickliffites were sacrificing every thing for the pres- 

Litter VI. j IN GENERAL gj 

ervation of a good conscience,) ihcy " were driven into corners and 
silence:"* thai is, there is no testimony upon record which ihcy 
bore, or any account of their having so much virtue in them a* to 
oppose, at the expense of either hfo, hherty, or properly, the pre 
vailing rehgion of the times. 

Mr. Lindsey speaks ot •' tlie famous Abelard:'^ hut sureU \n- 
must liave been wretchedly driven for want of that important arti- 
cle, or he would not have ascribed it to a man wiio, as a late writer 
observes, " could with equal facihty explain Lzekiel's prophecies 
and compose amorous sonnets for lleloise; and was equally free to 
unfold the doctrine of the Trinity, and ruin the |)eace of a family, 
by debauching his patron's ncicc."t Mr. Lindsey also in the 
Appendix to his Farewell Sermon to the Congregation in Exsex-itreet, 
lately publisiied, holds up the piety o{ Servetus, by giving us one of 
his prayers addressed to Jesus Christ; in which he expresses his 
full persuasion, that he wiis under a divine impulse to write against 
his proper divinity. Surely, if Socinian piety had not been ver) 
scarce, Mr. Lindsey would not have been under the necessity of 
exhibiting the eflu^^ions of idolatry an«l eiithusi.ism, as exanipl»'< 
of it. 

Religion will be allowed to have some influence in the formmii 
of a national character, especially that of the common people, 
among whom, if any where, it generally prevails. Now, if we 
look at those natiorjs where Calvinism has been most prevalent, it 
will be I'ound, I believe, tliat they have not been distinguished by 
their immorality, but the reverse. Geneva, the Seven United Pro- 
vinces, Scutlund, and .\ortii Aincricuj (with the two last of which 
we may be rather better acquainted than with the rest,; might he 
alleged as instances of this assertion. With respect to Scotland. 
though other sentiments are said to have lately gained ground 
with many of the clergy; yet Calvinism is known to be generally 
prevalent among the serious part of the people. And, a** to their 
national character, you seldcmi know an intelligent Lnglishman 
to have visited that country, without being struck with the pecid- 

♦Chap. I. p. 34. 

1 Mr. Rohinsoa's Plea lor the Diviuity of Chri't 
Vol. II. 11 

82 OF xMORALITY [Letter VL 

iar sobriety, and religious behaviour of the inhabitants. As to 
America, though, strictly speaking, they may be said to have no 
national religion, (a happy circumstance in their favour,) yet, per- 
haps, there is no one nation in the world, where Calvinism hag 
more generally prevailed. The great body of the first settlers 
were Calvinists; and the far greater part of religious people 
among them, though of different denominations as to other matters, 
continue such to this day. And, as to the moral effects which 
their reliizious principles have produced, they are granted, on all 
hands to be considerable. They are a people, as the Monthly 
Reviezcers have acknowledged,* " whose love of liberty is attem- 
pered with that of order and decency, and accompanied with the 
virtues of integrity, moderation, and sobriety. They know the 
necessity of regard to religion and virtue, both in principle and 

In each of these countries, it is true, as in all others, there are 
great numbers of irreligious individuals; perhaps, a majority : but 
they have a greater proportion of religious characters than most 
other nations can boast ; and the influence which these characters 
have upon the rest, is as that of a portion of leaven, which leaven- 
eth the whole lump. 

The members of the Church of England, it may be taken for 
granted, were generally Calvinists, as to their doctrinal sentiments, 
at, and for some time after, the Reformation. Since that time, 
those sentiments have been growing out of repute ; and Socinian- 
ism is suppposed, among other principles, to have prevailed con- 
siderably among the members of that community. Dr. Priestley, 
however, is often very sanguine in estimating the great numbers of 
Unitarians among them. Now, let it be considered, whether this 
change of principle has, in any degree, been serviceable to the 
interests of piety or virtue. On the contrary, did not a serious 
walking with God, and a rigid attention to morals, begin to die 
away, from the time that the doctrines contained in the Thirty- 

* Review from May lo August, 1793, p. 302. 

Letter VI.] IN GCNERAL. g^ 

nine Articles bep;nn to be di-ire|i;ardcd ?• And now, when Socin- 
ianism is suppositd so have nKide a j^reater proj^re^s than ever it 
did before, is there not a greater degree of perjury, and more ilit- 
ftipation of manners, than at ahnosi aiiy pernxl since the Relornia- 

I am not insensil)Ie, that it i«< the opniiou ot' Dr. Priestley, aod 
of some others, that men grow better — that '.he worhl advances 
considerably in moral improvement: nay, Mr. Belsham seems to 
favour an idea, that, " in process of time, the earth may revert to 
its original paradisiacal state — and death itself be annihilated." 
This, however, will hardly be thought to prove anything, except, 
that enthusiasm is not confined to Calvinists. And, as to men 
growing better, whatever may be the moral improvement of the 
world in general. Dr. Priestley some where acknowledges, that 
this is far from being the case with the Church of England, espe- 
cially since the times of Bisliop Burnet. 

With respect to the Dissenters, were there ever men of holier 
lives than the generality of the puritam, and nonconformists of the 
last two centuries ? Can any thing, equal to their piety and devo- 
tedncss to God, be found among the generality of the Socinians, of 
their time or of any time. In sufferings, in fastings, in prayers, in 
a firm adherence to their principles, in a close walk with God in 
their families, and in a series of unremitted labours fur the good 
of mankind, they spent their lives. 

But fastings and prayers, perhaps, may not be admitted as 
excellences in their character: it is possible they may be treated 
with ridicule. Nothing less than this is attempted by Dr. Priest- 
ley, in his Fifth Letter to Mr. Burn. " I could wish," s.iya he 
*" to quiet your fears, on your account. For the niany sleepless 
nights which your apprehensions must necessarily have caused 
you, accompanied, of course, with much earnest /grayer aui\ fastings 
must, in time, atTect your health." Candour out of the question. 
Is this piety'/ it is said to be no uncommon thing lor pei'^ons who 

* The same sort of people who held Calviniflicdoctrinp^, were at ttic fame 
time so sevpro in their mDral", that fjnud (otind it nerr«*nry, it seem*, to pub- 
lish The Book of Sports, in onler to roimtrrtf'l their inllucuce on the u itiou at 

84 OF MORALITY [Letter VI, 

have been used to pray extempore, when they have turned Socin- 
lans, to leave off that practice, and betake themselves to a written 
form ot^ their own composition. This is formal enough, and will 
be thought by many to afford but slender evidence of their devo- 
tional spirit ; but yet one would have supposed, they would not 
have dared to ridicule it in others, however destitute of it they 
might be themselves. 

Dr. Priestley allows, that Unitarians are peculiarly wanting in 
zeal for religion * That this concession is just, appears not only 
t>om the indifference of great numbers of them in private life, but 
from the conduct of many of their preachers. It has been 
observed, that, when young ministers have become Socinians, 
they have frequently given up the ministry, and become school- 
masters, or any thing they could. Some who have been possessed 
of fortimes, have become mere private gentlemen. Several such 
instances have occurred, both among Dissenters and Churchmen* 
If they had true zeal for God and religion, why is it that they are 
60 indifferent about preaching what they account the truth ? 

Dr Priestley farther allows, that Calvinists have " less apparent 
conformity to the world; and that they seem to have more of a 
real principle of religion than Socinians." But then he thinks the 
other have the most candour and benevolence; '' so as, upon the 
whole, to approach nearest to the proper temper of Christianity." 
He " hopes also, they have more of a real principle of reli- 
gion than they seem to have."! As to candour and benevolence, 
they will be considered in another Letter. At present it is suffi- 
cient to observe, that Dr. Priestley, like Mr. Belsham, on a change 
of character in his converts, is obliged to have recourse to hope^ 
and to judge of things contrary to what they appear in the lives of 
men, in order to support the religious character of his party. 

That a large proportion of serious people are to be found among 
Calvinists, Dr. Priestley will not deny; but Mrs. Barbauld goei 
farther. She acknowledges, in effect, that the seriousness which 
is to be found among Socinians themselves, is accompanied by a 
kind of secret attachment to our principles; an attachment which 

* Discourses on Various Subjects, pp. 94, 95. +Ibid. pp. 100, 101. 

Letter VI.j IN GENERAL g^ 

their preachers ;ind writers, it seems, have hitherto laboured iu 
vain to eradicate. " The!<e doctrine*," she s:iys, *' it is tnie, 
among thinking people, are losir)g around; but there i« still appa- 
TPnt, in that class called serious Christiana^ a tenderness in expo- 
sing them; a sort of leaning towards them, as, in walking over a 
precipice, one should Jean to the safest side; an idea that they are, 
if not true, at least good to be believed; and that a salutary error 
is better than a dangerous truth."* By the "class called serious 
Christians," Mrs. Barbauid cannot mean professed Cjdvinists; for 
they have no notion of Uaning towards any system, as a system of 
salutary error, but consider that to which they are attached as 
being the truth. She must, therefore, intend to describe the seri- 
ous part of the people of her own profession. We are much 
obliged to Mrs. Barbauid for this important piece of information. 
We might not so readily have known without it, that the hearts 
and consciences of the serious part of Socinians revolt at their own 
principles; and that, though they have rejected what we esteem 
the great doctrines of the gospel, in theory, yet they have an in- 
ward leaning towards them, as the only safe ground on which to 
rest their hopes. According to this account, it siiould seem that 
.serious Christidvs are known by their predilection for Calvinistic 
doctrines; and that those *' thinking people, among whom these 
doctrines are losing ground," are not of that class or description, 
being distinguished from them. Well, it does not surprise us to 
hear, that " those men who are the most indifl'erent to prartical 
religion are the Jirst, and serious Christians the last, to embrace 
the Rational system;" because it is no more than might be eipect- 
ed. Ifthere be any thing surprising in the affair it is, that those 
who make these acknowledgments should yet boast of their prin 
ciples, on account of their moral tendency. 

1 am, i's:' 

* Rrmnrk* on Wnkefipld'* Ini 




To oOD. 

Christian Brethren, 

OiR opponents, as vou have doubtless observed, are as boM in 
their assenions, as they are liberal in their accusations. Dr. 
Priestley not only asserts that tlie Calvinistir system is " unfavor- 
able to genuine piety, but to every branch of vital practical reli- 
gion.''^* We have considered, in the foregoing Letter, what relates 
to morality and piety in general: in the following Letters, we shall 
descend to particulars ; and inquire, under the several specific 
virtues of Christianity, which of the systems in question is the 
most unfavorable to them. 

I begin with Love. The love of God and our neighbour not 
only contains the sum of the moral law, but the spirit of true reli- 
gion; it must therefore afford a strong prtsumption for or against 
a system, as it is found to promote or diminish these cardinal vir- 
tues of the Christian character. On both these topics, we are 
princi[)ally engaged on the defensive, as our views of things stand 
charged with being unfavorable to the love of both God and man. 
" There is something in your system of Christianity," says Dr. 
Priestley, in his Letters to J\lr Hum, " that debases the pure 
spirit of it. and does not consist with either the perfect veneration 
of the divine character, which is the foundation of true devotion 
to God; or perfect candour and benevolence to man." A very 
serious charge; and which, could it be substantiated, would, doubt- 
less, afford a strong presumption, if not more than presumption, 
against us. But let the subject be examined. This Letter will 
be devoted to the first part of this heavy charge ; and the follow ing 
one, to the last. 

* Coosidoratioi).« on DiflereDCCof OpiDJon, i III. 

83 LOVE TO GOD. [Letter VII. 

As to the question, Whether we feel a veneration for the divine 
character ? — I should think, we ourselves must be the best judges. 
All that Dr. Priestley can know of the matter is, that Ae could not feel 
a perfect veneration for a being of such a character as we suppose the 
Almighty to sustain. That, however, may be true, and yet nothing 
result from it unfavorable to our principles. It is not impossible that 
Dr. Priestley should be of such a temper ofmind as incapacitates him 
for admiring, venerating, or loving God, in his true character: 
and hence, he may be led to think, that all who entertain such and 
such ideas of God must be void of that perfect veneration for him 
which he supposes himself to feel. The true character of God, 
as revealed in the scriptures, must be taken into the account, in 
determining whether our love to God be genuine, or not. We 
may clothe the Divine being with such attributes, and such only, 
as will suit our depraved taste; and then it will be no difficult thing 
to fall down and worship him: but this is not the love of God, but 
of an idol of our own creating. 

The principal objections to the Calvinistic system, under this 
head, are taken from the four following topics: The atonement ; 
the vindictive character of God; the glory of God, rather than the 
happiness of creatures, being his last end in creation ; and the 
inorship paid to Jesus Christ. 

First, the doctrine of atonement, as held by the Calvinists, is of- 
ten represented, by Dr. Priestley, as detracting from the goodness 
of God, and as inconsistent with his natural plar ability. He seems 
always to consider this doctrine as originating in the want of love, 
or, at least, of a sufficient degree of love; as though God could not 
find in his heart to show mercy without a price being paid for it. 
" Even the elect," says he, " according to their system, cannot 
be saved, till the utmost effects of the divine wrath have been suf- 
fered for them by an innocent person.* Mr. Jardine also, by the 
title which he has given to his late publication, calling it. The Un- 
purchased Love of God, in the Redemption of the World, by Jesus 
Christ; suggests the same idea. When our opponents wish to make 
good the charge of our ascribing a natural implacability to the Di- 

^ Consideration on Diflerence of Opinion, i III. 

Letter VII. J LOVE TO (iOl), g^ 

vine Being, it is common for ilnin niher to describe our senti- 
ments in their own language; or, it' tlioy deign to quote authori- 
ties, it is not from the «ober disrus-sions of prosaic writers, hut 
from tlie figurative hmguage of poetry. Mr. BeUham describes 
"the formidable chimera of our imagination, to which," he sayf, 
" we have annexed the name oCdod the Father, as a merciless ty- 
rarjt.''* They conceive of "God the Father," SHy» Mr. Lind- 
sey, '* aUvays with drea<l, as a being of severe, unrelenting justice, 
revengeful, and inexorable, without full sali^faclion made to him 
for the breach of his laws, (iod the Son, on the other hand, is 
looked upon as made up ot" ail compassion wnd goodness, interpos- 
ing to save men from the Father's wrath, and subjeclinc; him«<elf to 
the extremest sutTerings on tint account." For proof of this, we 
are referred to the pnetrtj of Dr. Watts'. — in wiiich he speaks 
of //»<■ rich drops of Jesus' blood, that ailiii'd his f running face ; that 
sprinkled o'er the hurning throne, and turn d the xirath to grace: — 
of r/<e infant Deity, the bleeding God, and o( heaven appeased nith 
flo'^ing blood. ^ 

Oil this. subject, a Calvini't might, without presunjption, adopt 
the l.inguiigc of our Lord to the Jews: I honor my Father, and ye 
do dishonor tne. Nothing can well be a greater misrepresentation 
of our sentiments, than this which is constantly given. These wri- 
ters cannot be ignorant that Calvinisto disavow considering the 
death of Christ as a cause of divine love, or goodness. On the 
contrary, they always miintain, that divine love is the cause, the 
first cause, of our salvation, and of the death of Christ, to that end. 
They would not .scruple to allow, that God had love enough in his 
heart to save sinners without the death of his Son, had it been 
consistent with righteousness ; but that, as receiving them to 
favor without some public expression of di-pleasure against their 
sin, would have been a dishonor to his government, and have 
afforded an encouragement for others to tbilow their example ; the 
lore of (iod wrought in a way of righteousness: first givirjg his only 
begotten Son to become a sacrifice, and then pouring forth all the 

• Sermons ou the ImportafM*? ol Trulli, pp. 'Xi — ".ij. 

t Apology, (Fourth Ldition,) p. 97— aud Appendix to hit Farcwcl icrmoD, 
at Kssex Street, p. 52. 

Vol.11. 12 

90 LOVE TO GOD. [Letter VII 

fulness of his heart through that appointed medium. The incapa- 
city of God to show mercy without an atonement, is no other than 
that of a righteous governor, who, whatever good-will he may bear 
to an offender, cannot admit the thought of passing by the offence, 
without some public expression of his displeasure against it; that^ 
while mercy triumphs, it may not be at the expense of law and 
equity, and of the general good. 

So far as I understand it, this is the light in which Calvinists 
consider the subject. Now, judge, brethren, whether this view 
of things represent the Divine Being as naturally implacable? — 
whether the gift of Christ to die for us be not the strongest expres- 
sion of the contrary ? — and whether this, or the system which it 
opposes, " give wrong impressions concerning the character and 
moral government of God V Nay, I appeal to your own hearts, 
whether that way of saving sinners through an atonement, in 
which mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace 
embrace each other; in which God is just, and the justifier of him 
that believeth in Jesus ; do not endear his name to you more than 
any other representation of him that was ever presented to your 
minds ? Were it possible for your souls to be saved in any other 
way; for the divine law to be relaxed, or its penalty remitted, 
without respect to an atonement; would there not be a virtual re- 
flection cast upon the divine character? Would it not appear as 
if God had enacted a law that was so rigorous as to require a re- 
peal, and issued threatenings which he was obliged to retract ? or, 
at least, that he had formed a system of government without con- 
sidering the circumstances in which his subjects would be involved; 
a system, " the strict execution of which would do more harm 
than good;" nay, as if the Almighty, on this account, were asham- 
ed to maintain it, and ye' had not virtue enough to acknowledge the 
remission to be an act ofjudice; but must, all along, call it by 
the name of grace '^ Would not the thought of such a reflection 
destroy the bliss of heaven, and stamp such an impression of meuri' 
ness upon that character a Iiom you are taught to adore, as would 
almost incapacitate you fo; revering or lovmg him ? 

It is farther objected, tl it, according to the Calvinistic system, 
God is a vindictive beings and that, as such, we cannot love him. 

Ljctteu VII. J LOVK TO GOD. g- 

It is said, that we '* represent riod in surh a light, thut no e:irih!y 
parrnt roultl imil.ile him, without suslainin<; a character shocking 
to mankind." That there is a mixture of the vindictive in the 
Calvinistic system, is allowed : hut let it be closely considered, 
whether this be any <lisparairemont to it ? nay, rather, whether it 
be not necessary to its perfection ? The issue, in this c.ise, 
entirely depends upon the question, Wholher vindictivejustice be 
in itself amiable ? If il be, it cannot render any system unamia- 
ble. '' We are neither amused nor edified," says a writer in the 
Monthly Review, ** by the coruscations of damnation. Nor can 
we by any means brinj^ ourselves to think, with the late Mr. 
Edwards, that the vindictivejustice of God is a glorious attribute."* 
This, however, may be very true, and vindictivejustice be a glo- 
rious attribute, notwithstanding. 

I believe it is very common for people, when they si)oak of 
vindictive punishment, to mean that kind of puni.shment which is 
mflicted from a wrathful disposition, or a disposition to punish for 
the pleasure of punishing. Now, if this be the meaning of our 
opponents, we have no dispute with them. We do not suppose 
the Almighty to punish sinners for the sake of putting them to 
pain. Neither scripture nor Calvinism conveys any such idea. 
Vindictive punishment, as it is here defended, stands opposed to 
tb;»t punishment which is merely corrective : the one is exercised 
for the good of the party ; the other not so, but (or the goo<l of 
the community. Those who deny this l.»st to be amiable in (Jod, 
must found their denial either on scripture-testimony, or on the 
nature and fitness of things. As to ihe former, the scriptures will 
hardly be supposed to represent God as an unamiable being; if, 
therefore, they teach, that vindictivejustice is an unamiable attri- 
bute, it must be maintained that they never ascribe that attribute 
to God. But with what colour of evidence can this be allrgtMl ? 
Surely, not from such lari;;ua'jc a-^ the followins: : The Lord thy 
God is a consuming Jirc^ even a jrnlous God. Our God is a con- 
suining fire. — God is Jealous, and the Lord ; the l^trd 
llKVENOETH, and is furious ; the Lord 'will tnkc vengKANCE on hit 

* Review ol Edwards' Thirty-three Sennous, M irth, 1791. 

92 LOVE TO GOD. [Letter VII. 

adversaries ; and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. — Who can 
stand before his indignation ? and who can abide in the fierceness of 
his anger ? — His fury is poured out like fire. — O Lord God^ to 
whom VENGEANCE bclongeth : O God to whom vengeance belongeth^ 
show thyself! — He that showeth no mercy shall have jndgment with- 
out mercy. — He that made them will not have mercy on them, and 
he that formed them will show them no favour. — For we know him 
that hath said, vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompence^ 
saifh the Lord. — It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the 
living God. — / lift up my hand to heaven, and say I live for ever. 
If I rvhet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judg^ 
ment, I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward 
them, that hate me. — The angels which kept not their first estate he 
hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judg- 
ment of the great day. — Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about 
them, are set forth for an examyle, suffering the vengeance of eter- 
nal fire. — The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his 
mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know 
not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.* 

As to the nature and fitness of things, we cannot draw any con- 
clusion from thence against the loveliness of vindictive justice, as 
a divine attribute, unless the thing itself can be proved to be 
unlovely. But this is contrary to the common sense and practice 
of mankind. There is no nation or people under heaven, but 
what consider it, in various cases, as both necessary and lovely. 
It is true, they would despise and abhor a magistrate, who should 
punish beyond desert; or who should avail himself of the laws of 
his country to gratify his own caprice, or his private revenge. 
This, however, is not vindictive justice, but manifest injustice. 
No considerate citizen, who values the public weal, could blame 
a magistrate for putting the penal laws of his country so far in 
execution, as should be necessary for the true honour of good 
government, the support of good order, and the terror of wicked 
men. When the inhabitants of Gibeah requested that the Levite 

• Deut. iv. 24. Heb. xii. 29. Nahum i, 2. 6. Psa. xciv. 1. James ii. 13. Isa. 
xxvii. 11. Heb. x. 30, 31. Deut. xxxii.40, 41. Jude6, 7. 2 Thesa. i. 8. 

Lkttf.h \ II.] LOVi: TO (iOn. g. 

might be brou<;ht Oiit to (licm, thi.t Ih. y rui-ht know him; and, on 
their ro(iiiest not Ixini; jfranted, abust'd and murdered bin compan- 
ion ; all liiTiwl, as one man, not only condemned the action, but 
calltMl upon the Benjamites to deliver uji the criminals to jus- 
tice. Had the lU'riJamites complied with their request, and had 
those sons of Belial been put to death, not for their own good, but 
for the good of the community, where had been the unloveliness 
of the procedure ? On the contrary, such a conduct must have 
reconmiended itself to the heart of every friend of ri^^bteousness 
in the universe, as well as have prevented the shockinj; (duHion of 
blood, which followed their refus-al. Now, if vindictive justice 
may be glorious in a human government, there is no reason to be 
drawn from the nature and fitness nf things, why it would not be 
the same in the divine administration. 

But the idea on which our opponents love principally to dwell, 
is ihdt of i\ father. Hence, the chari;e, that we " repre.-ent God 
in such a light that no earthly parent could imitate him, without 
sustaininGj a character shocking to mankind/' Tliis objection 
comes with an ill grace from Dr. Piiestley, who teaches, that 
*' God is the author of sin ; and may do evil, provided it be »vith 
a view that good may come."* Is not this representing God in 
such a light, that no one could imitate him, without sustaining a 
character shocking to mankind .' NVbether Dr. Priestley's notions 
on this subject be true, or not, it is true that Cod's ways are so 
much above ours, that it is unjust, in many cases, to measure his 
conduct to a rebellious W(jrlJ, i»y that of a fithrr to bis rhd- 

In this matter, howerer, God i-j imitable. Wt- have seen al- 
ready, that a good magistrate, who may justly be called ihcfithcr 
of his people, ought not to be under the iidbience of blind aflVction, 
so as, in any case, to show mercy at the expense of llie public 
g<jod. Nor is this :<ll : TiitMe are cases in winch a patent ha> 
been obliged, in benevolenrr to his fiinily, and from a conrern 
for the general good, to give tjp a stubborn and rebellious son, to 
bring liini lorlli willi W\< own lian(U to the elders of his rity, and 

'^ Dortriuc of iNcccssity, pp. 117 — 121. 

94 LOVE TO GOD. [Letter VII. 

there with his own lips bear witness against him ; such witness, 
too, as would subject him not to a mere salutary correction, but to 
be stoned to death by the men of his city. We know, such a law 
was made in Israel ;* and, as a late writer observed upon it, such 
a law *' was wise and good:"t it was calculated to enforce in par- 
ents an early and careful education of their children ; and if, in 
any instance, it was executed, it was that all Israel might hear 
and fear ! And how do we know, but that it may be consistent 
with the good of the whole system, yea necessary to it, that some 
of the rebellious sons of men should, in company with apostate an- 
gels, be made examples of divine vengeance ; that they should 
stand, like Lot's wife, as pillars of salt, or as eveilasting monu- 
ments of God's displeasure against sin ; and that, while their 
smoke riseth up for ever and ever, all the intelligent universe 
should Aear, and fear, and do no more so wickedly! Indeed, we 
must not only know, that this may be the case, but, if we pay any 
regard to the authority of scripture, that it is so. If words have 
any meaning, this is the idea given us of the angels which kept not 
their first estate, and of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha ; 
who are said to he set forth for Ax\ example, sobering the ven- 
geance of eternal fire.^ 

It belongs to the character of an all perfect being, who is the 
moral governor of the universe, to promote the good of the whole I 
but there may be cases, as in human governments, wherein the 
general good may be inconsistent with the happiness of particular 
parts. The case of robbers, of murderers, or of traitors, whose 
lives are sacrificed for the good of society, that the example of ter- 
ror, afforded by their death, may counteract the example of immo- 
rality exhibited by their life, is no detraction from the benevo- 
lence of a government ; but, rather, essential to it. 

But how, after all, can we love such a tremendous being ? I an- 
swer, A capacity to resent an injury is not always considered as a 
blemish, even in a private character: if it be governed by justice, 

* Deut. xxi. 18—21. 

t Mr. Robinson in his Sermon to the Young People at Willingham. 

:j:JuJo 6, 7. 

Letter VII.] LOVF TO GOD. ^ 

and .limed at the correction of evil, it is generally allo>ved to be 
commendable. We do not esteem the favour of a man, if we con- 
sid«M- him as incap.ihle, on all occasions, of re-ientment. We 
should call him an easy soul, who is kind, merely because he has 
not sen-e enoii»jh to feel an insult. But, shall we allow it right 
and fit for a puny mortal thus fir to know his own worth, and a-^sert 
it ; and, at the same lime, deny it to the great Supreme, and plead 
for hi.s being insulted with imj)unity ? 

God, however, in the punishment of sin, is not to be considered 
as acting in a merely private capacitij, hut as the universal moral 
governor ; not as separiite from the great syst«Mn of beiug, but as 
connected with it ; or as head and guardian of it. Now, in this 
relation, vindictive justice is not only consistent with the loveli- 
ness of his character, but essential to it. Capacity and inclination 
to punish a disorder in a state, are never thought to render an 
earthly prince less lovely in the eyes of his loyal nnd taithful 
subjects ; but more so. That temper of mind, on the contrary 
which shotild induce him to connive at rebellion, however it 
might go by the name of benevolence and mercy, would be ac- 
cotinted by all the friends of good government, injuxlice to the 
public ; and those who, in such cases, side with the disalTecled and 
plead their cause, are generally supposed to be tainted with disaf- 
fection themscdves. 

A thiid objection is takon from the consideration of the glory of 
God, rather than the h;ip|»incss of creatures, being his last end ia 
creation. " Those who assume to themselves the distinguishing 
title of orthodox," says Dr. Priestley, "consid.-r the >upreme 
Being as having created all iWin& for his glory, and l»y do means 
for the general happiness of all his creatures."* If by the gen- 
erid hippiness of all his creatures, Dr. Priestley means the gen- 
eral good of the universe, nothing can be more unfiir than this 
representation. Those who are culled orthodox never consider 
the glory of (iod as being at variance with the happiness of crea- 
tion in general, nor with that of any part of it, except those who 
have revolted from the divine goveniment : nor, if we regard the 

* ConsideratioiM on Diffefuce of Opinioo. * HI. 

^g LOVE TO GOD. [Letter VII. 

intervention of a mediator, with theirs, unless they prove finally 
impenitent, or, as Dr. Priestley calls them, " wilful and obstinate 
transgressors." The glory of God consists^ with reference to the 
present case, in doing that which is best upon the whole. But if, 
by the general happiness of all his creatures, he means to include 
the happiness of those angels who kept not their first estate, and of 
those men who die impenitent ; it is acknowledged, that what is 
called the orthodox system, does by no means consider this as an 
end in creation, either supreme or subordinate. To suppose that 
the happiness of all creatures, whatever might be their future 
conduct, was God's ultimate end in creation, (unless we could ima- 
gine him to be disappointed with respect to the grand end he had 
in view) is to suppose what is contrary to fact. All creatures, we 
are certain, are not happy in this world ; and, if any regard is to 
be paid to revelation, all will not be happy in the next. 

If it be alleged, that a portion of misery is necessary in order to 
relish happiness ; that therefore, the miseries of the prese it life, 
upon the whole, are blessings ; and that the miseries threatened 
in the life to come may be of the same nature, designed r.s a pur- 
gation, by mfeans of which, sinners will at length escape the 
second death ; — It is replied, All the miseries of this world are not 
represented as blessings to the parties, nor even all the good things 
of it. The drowning of Pharaoh, for instance, is never described 
as a blessing to him ; and God declared that he had cursed the bles- 
sings of the wicked priests, in the days of the prophet Malachi. 
All things, >ve are assured, work together for good ; but this is con- 
fined to those zvho love God, and are called according to his pur- 
pose. As to the life to come, if the miseries belonging to that 
state be merely temporary and purgative, there must be all along 
a mixture of love and mercy in them; whereas the language of 
scripture is, He that hath showed no mercy, shall have judgment 
WITHOUT MERCY. — Th-c "wiue of the wrath of God will he poured 
out WITHOUT MIXTURE. Nay, such miseries must not only contain 
a mixture of love and mercy, but they themselves must be the 
effects and expressions of love ; and then it will follow, that the 
foregoing language of limitation and distinction (which is found 
indeed throughout the bible) is of no account ; and that blessinp 


and curses are the same things. Dr. Priestley himself speaks ot 
** the laws of God as heini; ijiiiirded with awful saiictioriM ;" and 
•ays, *' that God will inllcxibly pumsh all wdful and ob^liuale 
tran-igressors."* But how can that be called an awful sanction 
which only subjects a man to such misery as is necessary for hit 
good ] How, at least, can thai be accounted infleithU punishment, 
in which the Divine Being all alone; aims at the sinner's happiness? 
We mit^ht as well call the operation of a surtjeon in amputatin^ a 
morlitieij limb, in order to s;ive the patient's life, by the name of 
inflexible punishment, as those miseries which arc intended for 
the s:ood of the sinner. If that he their end, they are, strictly 
speaking;, blessings, though blessings in disguise : and, in that case, 
as Dr. Edwards in his answer to Dr. Chauncy has fully proved. 
bles.^ings and curses are in efl'ect the same things. 

As to our considering the Supreme Being as having created all 
things for his own glory, I hope it will be allowed that the scrip- 
tures seem, at least, to counti-nance such an idea. They teach us 
that (ind made all things for himsklf — that all things are created 
by him, and FOR Hm. He is expressly said to have created Israel 
(and if Israel, why not others .') for ms iiLORv. Not only of him 
and through him, but to hi.m are all things. Glory, and honour, 
and power, are ascribed to him, by the elders and the living crea- 
tures ; for, say they, Thou hast created all things : and fur nw 
PLEASTRF. they are and xvere created.^ 

But farther, and what is more immediately to the point, I hope 
this sentiment will not be alleged as a proof of our want of /or« to 
God; for it is oidy assigning him the supreme place in the system 
of being; and Dr. Priestley himself elsewhere speaks of" the love 
of God, and a regard to his glory," as the same thing. :J One should 
think, those, on the other hand, who assign the hiippiness of crea- 
tures as God's ultimate end, thereby giving him only a subordinate 
place in the system, could not allege this as an evidence of their love 

♦ Conaideralions on Differeoce of Opinion, { III • 

t Prov. xvi. 4, Col. i. 16. I»«. xbii. 7. Heb. ii. 10. Rrm. li. 36, 
Rev. IV. II. 

X Coosideratieni on Diflereucs of Opioioa, i I 
Vol. II. 13 

98 LOVE TO GOD. [Letter VII. 

to him. That place which God holds in the great system of being, 
he ought to hold in our affections ; for we are not required to love 
him in a greater proportion than the place which he occupies 
requires. If it were otherwise, our affections must move in a 
preposterous direction. We ought, therefore, on this supposi- 
tion, to love ourselves, our own happiness, and the happiness of 
our fellow-creatures, more than God ; for God himself is supposed 
to do the same. But, if so, the great rule of human actions should 
have been different. Instead of requiring love to God in i\ie first 
place, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength ; and then^ love 
to ourselves and our neighbours; it should have been reversed. 
The song of the angels, too, instead of beginning with Glory to God 
in the highest, and ending with j^eare on earth, and good will to 
men ; should have placed the last first, and the first last. How 
such a view of things can tend to promote the love of God, unless 
a subordinate place in our affections be higher than the supreme, 
it is difficult to conceive. 

The great God, who fills heaven and earth, must be allowed to 
form the far greatest proportion, if I may so ipeak, of the whole 
system of being ; for, compared with him, all nations, yea, all 
worlds, are but as a drop of a bucket, or as a small dust of the W- 
ance. He is the source, and continual support of existence in 
all its varied forms. As the great guardian of being in general, 
therefore, it is fit and right, that he should, in the first place, guard 
the glory of his own character and government. Nor can this be 
to the disadvantage of the universe, but the contrary ; as will 
appear, if it be considered, that it is the glory of God to do that 
which shall be best upon the whole. The glory of God, there- 
fore, connects with it the general good of the created system, and 
of all its parts, except those whose welfare clashes with the wel- 
fare of the whole. 

If it were otherwise, if the happiness of aW creatures where the 
great end that c^od from the beginning had in view, then, doubtless, 
in order that this end might be accomplished, every thing else 
must, as occasion required, give way to it. The glory of his own 
character, occupying only a subordinate place in the system, if 
ever it should stand in the way of that which is supreme, must 

Letter VII.j LOVK TO GOD. ^ 

give place, amons: other things. And if God have con.^ented to 
all this, It must be becanse ii.u h-.i»iMness, not only of creation in 
general, but of every individual, is an object ol ihc Rro^test mag- 
nitude, and most fit to be chosen : that is, it is better, and more 
worthy of God, as the governor of the universe, to give up his 
character for purity, equity, wisdom, and venicity, and to become 
vile and contemptible in the eyes of his creatures : It is better 
that the bands which bind all holy intelligences to him should be 
broken, and the cords which hold together the whole moral sys- 
tem be cast away, than that the happiness of a creature should, in 
any instance, be given up! Judge, ye friends of God, does thi.- 
consist with " the most perfect veneration for the divine charac- 
ter ?" 

Once more : it semis to be generally supposed by our oppo- 
nents, that the worship rt-e pay to Christ tends to divide our hearts ; 
and that in proportion as we adore him, we detract from the es- 
sential glory ol the Father. In this view, therefore, they reckon 
themselves to exercise a greater veneration for God, than we, 
But it is worthy of notice, and particularly the serious notice of 
our opponents, that it is no new thing for an opposition to Christ 
to be carried on under the plea of love to fiod. This was the very 
plea of the Jews, when they took up stones to stone him. For a 
good work, saifl they, ice stone thee not, but for that thou, hcin^ a 
man, makfst tki/self God. They very much prided themselves 
in their God ; and, under the influence of that spirit, constantly 
rejected the Lord Jesus. Thou art called a Jnr, and makest thy 
boast of Goo. — H'^e be not born (tf fornication : we have one Fa- 
ther, even God. — Give Ct<>i> the praise : we know that this man it> 
a sinner. It was under the pretext of zeal and friendship for God, 
that they at last put him to death, as a blasphemer. But what kind 
of zeal was this ; and in wli;«t manner did Jesus treat it ? If Gov 
were your Father, said he, ye would love me. — Ife that is of God Goi)\ words. — It is my father that honoureth me, of whom 
ye say, that he is your God ; yet ye have not known him. — / know 
you, that you have not the love of God in you.* 

* Kom. ii. 17. Joha x. 33. viii. 41 ix. 24. viii 42, 47, 54, 55. v, 42. 

letti:h Mil. 

ON CAN Dot U ANW DEN K \ Ul F..N( F. TO *\r.>. 

(firistiati Brethrvu, 

You recollect, that the Calvmistic system stan<U chare;od by 
Dr. Priestlej, not only with being incoiij-istenl with ;«|nMfert ven- 
eration of the divine character, hut with " perfect candour and be- 
nevolence to man," 

This, it must be owned, has otten been objected to the Calvin- 
ists. Their views of things have been supposed to render them 
sour and ill natured towards those who differ from them. Charity, 
candour, benevolence, liberality, and the like, are virtue-^ to w hich 
Socinians on the other hand, lay almost an exclusive claim. And 
such a weight do they give these virtues in the scale of morality, 
that they conceive themselves, " upon the whole, even allowing 
that they have more of an apparent conformity to the world than 
the Trinitarians, to approach nearer to the proper temper of Chris- 
tianity than they."* 

I shall not go about to vindicate C'alvinists, any farther than I 
conceive their spirit and conduct to admit of a fair vindica- 
tion ; but I am satistied, that, if things be closely examined, it will 
be found, that a great deal of what our opponents attribute to 
themselves, is not benevolence, or candour ; and that a great deal 
of what they attribute to us, is not owing to the want of either. 

Respecting benevolence, or good will io men, in order to be gen- 
uine, they must consist with love to (iod. There i«j such a thing 
as partiality to men, with respect to the points in which they and 
their Maker are at variance : but this is not benevolence. Par 
tiality to a criminal at the bar might induce us to pity him, so far n^ 
to plead in extenuation of his guilt, and to endeavour to bring him 
off from the just punishment of the laws : but this would not be 

■^ Dr. Trif^tley's -hiscoursei on Various Subjects, p. I0<). 

104 ON CANDOUR [Letter VIII. 

benevolence. There must be a rectitude in our actions and affec- 
tions, to render them truly virtuous. Regard to the public good 
must keep pace with compassion to the miserable ; else the latter 
will degenerate into vice, and lead us to be partakers of other men's 
sins. Whatever pretences be made to devotion, or love to God, we 
never admit them to be real, unless accompanied with love to men, 
neither ought any pretence of love to men to be admitted as gen- 
uine, unless it be accompanied with love to God. Each of these 
virtues is considered in the scriptures as an evidence of the other. 
If a man say, I love God, andhateth his brother^ he is a liar. — By 
this we know that 7ve love the children of God, when we love God, 
and keep his commandmetits.* 

There is such a thing as partiality to men, as observed before, 
with respect to the points in which they and their maker are at 
variance; leaning to those notions that represent their sin as com- 
paratively little, and their repentance and obedience as a bal- 
ance against it ; speaking smooth things, and affording intima- 
tions, that, without an atonement, nay, even without repen- 
tance in this life, all will be well at last. But, if it should prove 
that God is wholly in the right, and man wholly in the wrong ; that 
sin is exceeding sinful ; that we all deserve to be punished with 
everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord ; and that, 
if we be not interested in the atonement of Christ, this punishment 
must actually take place: if these things, I say, should, at last, 
prove true, then all such notions as have flattered the pride of 
men, and cherished their presumption, instead of being honored 
with the epithets of liberal and benevolent, will be called by very 
different names. The princes and people of Judah would, doubt- 
less, be apt to think the sentiment taught by Hananiah, who pro- 
phesied smooth things concerning them, much more benevolent and 
liberal than those of Jeremiah, who generally came with heavy 
tidings ; yet true benevolence existed only in the latter. j Wheth- 
er the complexion of the whole system of our opponents do not 
resemble that of the fnlse prophets. w\iO prophesied smooth things, 
and healed the hurt of the daughter of Israel slightly, crying Peace, 
* John iv. 20. x. 2. 
t Jer. xxviii. 


peace; when there iras no peace ; and whcthor their objoctioiis to 
our views of tliinj^s be not llie same, for <ubstaii( e, as might have 
been made to the true prophets ; let all who wish to know the 
(ruth, however ungrateful it in;iy be to flesh aiwl blood, drcidc. 

A great deal of what is called candour and benevolence among 
Socinians, is nothing else but indifference to all religious principle. 
" If we cotdd be so happy ,^' says Dr. I'ciestley, *' as to believe, 
that there are no errors but what men n)ay be so circumstanced as 
to be innocently betrayed into ; that any mi-^take of the head is 
very consistent with rectitude of heart ; and that all differences in 
modes of worship may be only the ditVerent methotU by which dif- 
ferent men, (who are equally tke (tlfsjiring oj'(judy) are endeav- 
ouring to honour and obey their common parent ; our differences 
of opinion would have no tendency to lessen our mutual love and 
esteem.''* ^J'his is, manifestly, no other than indifference to all 
religious piinciple. Such aji indifference, il is allowed, would 
prodiice a temper of mind which Dr. Priestley calls candour and 
benevolence ; but which, in fa<t, is neither the one, nor the other. 
Benevolence is good wilt to men : but good will to men is very 
distinct from a good opinion of their principles or their practices ; 
so distinct, that the former may exi-^t, in all its force, without the 
least degree of the latter. Our Lord thought very ill of the prin- 
ciples and practices of the people of . Jerusalem ; yet he beheld the 
city, and -wept over it. This was genuine benevolence. 

Benevolence is a very distinct thing from cmnplaccnri^, or esteem. 
These are founded on an approbation of character ; the other is 
not. 1 am bound by the law of love to bear good will to men, as 
creatures of God, and as fellow-creatures, so as, by every mean in 
my power, to promote their welfare, both as to this life, and that 
which is to come ; and all this, let their character be what it may, 
I am also bound to esteem every person, for that ill him which Ij* 
truly amiable, be he a friend or an enemy, and to put the best con- 
struction upon his actions that truth will admit ; but no law obli- 
ges me to esteem a person respecting those things which 1 have 
reason to consider as erroneous or vicious. 1 may pit/ him, and 
ouchttodoso; but to esteem him, in those respects, would bo 
• Consi'lcration? on Diflerence of Opinion, k M. 

Vol. If. 14 

106 ON CANDOUR [Lbtter VIIl. 

contrary to the love of both God and man. Indifference to reli- 
gious principle, it is acknowledged, will promote such esteem. 
Under the influence of that indifference, we may form a good 
opinion of various characters, which, otherwise, we should not do ; 
but the question is, Would that esteem be ri^ht or amiable ? On 
the contrary, if religious principle of any kind should be found ne- 
cessary to salvation ; and if benevolence consist in that good will 
to men which leads us to promote their real welfare, it must con- 
tradict it : for the welfare of men is promoted by thinking and 
speaking the truth concerning them. I might say. If we could be so 
happy as to think virtue and vice indifferent things, we should 
then possess a far greater degree of esteem for some men than we 
now do ; but would such a kind of esteem be right, or of any use 
either to ourselves or them ? 

Candour^ as it relates to the treatment of an adversary, is that 
temper of mind which will induce us to treat him openly, fairly, 
and ingenuously ; granting him every thing that can be granted 
consistently with truth, and entertaining the most favourable opin- 
ion of his character and conduct that justice will admit. But what 
has all this to do with indifference to religious principle, as to 
matters of salvation ? Is there no such thing as treating a person 
with fairness, openness, and generosity, while we entertain a very 
ill opinion of his principles, and have the most painful apprehen- 
sions as to the danger of his state ? Let our opponents name a more 
candid writer of controversy than President Edwards ; yet he 
considered many of the sentiments against which he wrote, as de- 
structive to the souls of men, and those who held them, as being 
in a dangerous situation. 

As a great deal of what is called candour and benevolence 
among Socinians, is merely the effect of indifference to religious 
principle ; so a- great deal of that in Calvinists, for which they are 
accused of the want of these virtues, is no other than a serious at- 
tachment to what they account divine truth, and a serious disappro' 
bation of sentiments which they deem subversive of it. Now, surely, 
neither oftheso things is inconsistent with either candour or be- 
nevolence : if they be, however, Jesus Christ and his apostles are 
involved in the guilt, equally with the Calvinists. They cultiva- 



ted such an attachment to rehgious principle, as to be in real ear- 
nest in the promotion of it ; ami constantly represented the knowl- 
r^dge and belief of it, as necessary to eternal life. Ye shall knuSi- 
the truth, said Christ, and ihe truth shall make you free. — TT^ij i$ 
life eternal J to knou' thee, the onlij true (lud, and Jesus Christ Zi'hom 
thou hast sent. — He that httieveth on the Son, hath everlasting life ; 
and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of 
God abideth on him* They also constantly discovered a marked 
disapprobation of those sentiments, which tendrd to introduce 
another gospel, so far as to declare that man accursed who should 
propagate thetn. They considered false prinriples as pernicious 
and destructive to the souls of men. If ye believe not that I am he, 
said Christ to the Jews, ye shall die in your sins — and whither I go 
ye cannot come. To the Galatians, who did not fully reject Chris- 
tianity, but in the matter of justification were for uniting the works 
of the law with the grace of the gospel, Paul testified, saying. If ye 
he circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.] 

Had the apostle Paul considered " all the different modes of 
worship as what might be only the different methods of different 
men, endeavouring to honour and obey their conunon parent ;" 
he would not have felt his spirits stirred in /n';/», when he saw the 
city of Athens wholly given to idolatry : at least he would not 
have addressed tlie idolaters in such strong language as he did, 
preaching to them that they should turn from these vanities unto the 
living God. Paul considered them as having been all their life 
employed, not in worshipping the living (iod, only in a mode dif- 
ferent from others, but mere vanities. Nor did he consider it as a 
** mere mistake of the heati, into which they might have been in- 
nocently betrayed ;" but as a sin, lor which they were ztithuut ex- 
cuse ; a sin for which he called upon them, in the Fiame of the liv- 
ing God to repent.^ 

Now, if candour and benevolence be Christian virtues, which 
they doubtless are, one should tliink they must consist with the 
practice of Christ and his apostles. But, if tbis be allowed, the 

♦ John viii. 3-2. xvii. 3. iii. 3G. 

t John vii. 21—24. Gal. i. 8. v. '2—4. 

t Act! xvii. 10. xiv. l.'». Rom. i. 20. Acl» xvii. 30. 

108 ON CANDOUR [Letter VIII. 

main ground on which Calvinists are censured will be removed ; 
and the candour for which their opponents plead must appear to 
be spurious, and foreign to the genuine spirit of Christianity. 

Candour and benevolence, as Christian virtues, must also con- 
sist with each other ; but the candour of Socinians is destructive 
of benevolence, as exemplified in the scriptures. Benevolence in 
Christ and his apostles, extended not merelj', nor mainly, to the 
bodies of men, but to their souls ; nor did they think so favourably 
of mankind as to desist from warning and alarming them, but the 
re erse. They viewed the whole world as lyitig in -wickedness ; 
in a perishing condition ; and hazarded the loss of every earthly 
enjoyment to rescue them from it, as from the jaws of destruction. 
But it is easy to perceive, that in proportion to the influence of 
Socinian candour upon us, we shall consider mankind, even the 
Heathens, as a race of virtuous beings, all worshipping the great 
Father of creation, only in different modes. Our concern for 
their salvation will consequently abate, and we shall become so 
indifferent respecting it, as never to take any considerable pains 
for their conversion. This, indeed, is the very truth with regard 
to Socinians. They discover, in general, no manner of concern 
for the salvation of either Heathens abroad or profligates at home. 
Their candour supplies the place of this species of benevolence, 
and not unfrequently excites a scornful smile at the conduct of 
those who exercise it. 

The difference between our circumstances and those of Christ 
and his apostles, who were divinely inspired, however much it 
ought to deter us from passing judgment upon the hearts of indi- 
viduals, ought not to make us think that every mode of worship is 
equally safe, or that religious principle is indifferent as to the affairs 
of salvation ; for this would be to consider as false, what by divine 
inspiration, they taught as true. 

Let us come to matters of fact. Mr. Belsham does not deny 
that Calvinists may be *' pious, candid, and benevolent ;" but he 
thinks they would have been more so if they had been Socinians. 
" They, and there are many such," says he, "who are sincerely 
pious, and diffusively benevolent with these principles, could not 
have failed to have been much bettery and much happier, had 

Lf.ttbti VHI] and benevolence. j^g 

they lulopted a milder, a more rational, a more truly evangelical 
creed."* Now, if this be indeed the cane, one might expect, that 
the most perfect examples of these virtues are not to be looked for 
among us, but amon;^ our opponents: and yet it may be ques- 
tioned, whether they will pretend to more perfect examples of 
piety, candour, or benevolence, than arc to be found in the char- 
acters of a Hale, a Fhanck, a Bhaincud, an Kdwards, a Wmite- 
FiEi.D, a Thornton, and a IIowaro, (to say nothing of the living) 
whose lives were spent in doing good to the souls arul bodies of 
men ; and who lived and died, dependini: on the atoiung blood and 
justifying righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The last of 
these great men, in whom his country glories, and who is justly 
considered as the martyr of humanity, is said thus to have ex- 
pressed himself, at the close of his last will and testament : ♦' My 
immortal spirit, I cast on the sovereign mercy of God, through 
Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of my strength, and, I trust, is be- 
come my salvation." He is said also to have given orders for a 
plain, neat stone to be placed upon his grave, with this inscription, 
Spes mea Christus : Christ is my hope ! 

We are often reminded of the persecuting spirit of Trinitarians, 
and particularly of Calvin towards Servetus. This example has 
been long held up by our opponents, not only as a proof of his 
cruel disposition, and odious character, but as if it were suflicient 
to determine what must be the turn and spirit of Calvinists in gen- 
eral Hut, supposing the case to which they appeal were allowed 
to prove the cruelty of Calvin's disposition ; nay, thai he was, on 
the whole, a wicked man, destitute both of religion and humanity ; 
what wDulil 111! tlii< prove as to the tendency of the system that 
happened to be called after his name, but which i'J allowed to have 
existed long before he was born ? We regard what no man did or 
taught, as oracular, unl«'>< he could |»rove himself divinely inspired, 
to which Calvin never j)retended. Far be from us to vindicate him, 
or any other man, in the l)u^ine^s of pjMsecution. We abhor every 
thing of the kind, a-, much as our opj)onents. Though thr princi- 
ples for which he contendt'd appear to us, in the main, to be |U«it ; 
yet the weapons of his warfare, in this instance, were carnal. 

•■ f?rrmoii oi) thr Importnor** of Truth, p. fX* 

110 ON CANDOUR [Lktter Vllf. 

It ought, however, to be acknowledged, on the other side, and, 
if our opponents possessed all the candour to which they pretend, 
they would, in this, as well as in other cases, acknowledge, that 
persecution for religious principles was not at that time peculiar 
to any party of Christians ; but common to all, whenever they 
were invested with civil power. It was an error, and a detestable 
one ; but it was the error of the age. They looked upon heresy 
in the same light as we look upon those crimes which are inimical 
to the peace of civil society , and, accordingly, proceeded to pun- 
ish heretics by the sword of the civil magistrate. If Socinians did 
not persecute their adversaries so much as Trinitarians, it was 
because they were not equally invested with the power of doing 
so. Mr. Lindsey acknowledges, that Faitstus Socinus himself was 
not free from persecution, in the case of Francis DavideSj super- 
intendent of the Unitarian churches in Transylvania. Davides 
had disputed with Socinus on the invocation of Christ, and "died 
in prison, in consequence of his opinion, and some offence taken 
at his supposed indiscreet propagation of it from the pulpit. I 
wish I could say," adds JMr. Lindsey, " that Socinus, or his friend 
Blandrata^ had done all in their power to prevent his commit- 
ment, or procure his release afterwards." The difference 
between Socinus and Davides was very slight. They both held 
Christ to be a mere man. The former, however, was for praying 
to him ; which the latter, with much greater consistency, disap- 
proved. Considering this, the persecution to which Socinus was 
accessary, was as great as that of Calvin ; and there is no reason 
to think, but that, if Davides had differed as much from Socinus as 
Servetus did from Calvin, and if the civil magistrates had been for 
burning him, Socinus would have concurred with them. To this 
might be added, that the conduct of Socinus was marked with dis- 
ingenuity ; in that he considered the opinion of Davides in no very 
heinous point of light; but was afraid of increasing the odium 
under which he and his party already lay, among other Christian 
churches.* ^ 

* Mr. Lindsey 's Apology, pp. 153 — 156. 

Letter VIII. ] AND BENEVOLENCE. j j , 

Mr. Koliiiison, in his Krrlrsuisticul Researches, has given an 
account of both these persecution* : but it in ea«y to |Hjrcei\e the 
prejudice under which he wiote. He evident!)' iuchnes to exteo- 
uale the conduct of Socinus, while he incbjdes every possible cir* 
cuinstance that can, in any niMnner, blacken the memory of dlvin. 
Whatever regard we may bear to the latter, I am persuaded we 
should not wish to extenuate his conduct in the persecution of 
Servetus ; or to represent it in softer terms, nor yet so soft, as Mr. 
Robinson has represented that of the former, in the persecution of 

We do not accuse Sociniauism of being a persecuting system, 
on account of this instance of misconduct in Socinus : nor is it any 
proof of the superior candour of our opponents, that they arc con- 
tinually acting the very reverse towards us. As a Baptist, I might 
indulge resentment against Cranmer^ who caused some of that 
denomination to be burned alive : yet, 1 am inclined to think, from 
all that 1 have read of Cranmer, that, notwithstanding his conduct 
m those instances, he was, upon the whole, of an amiable disposi- 
tion. Though he held with Pasdobaptism, and in this manner 
defended it, yet I should never think of imputing a spirit of |)erse- 
cution to Pa?(iobaptists in general ; or of charging their sonliment, 
in that partirtilar, with being of a persecuting tendency. It was 
the o|Mnion — that erroneous religious principles arc punishable by 
the civil magistrate, that did the mischiet', whether at Cuiieva, in 
Transylvania, or in Britain ; and to this, rather than to Trinitari- 
anism, or to Unitarianism, it oui^ht to be imputed. 

We need not hold, with Mr. Lindscy, " the innocence of error," 
in order to shun a spirit of persecution. Though we conceive of 
error, in many cases, as criminal in the sight of God, and as recpiir- 
ing admonition, yea, exclusion from a religious .>ociety ; yet, while 
we reject all ideas of its exposing a person to civil punishment, or 
mconvenience, we ought to be acquitted of the charge of persecu- 
tion. Where the majority of a religious society consider the 
avowed principles of an in<lividual of that society as being funda- 
mentally erroneous, and inr(Mi>i>itent with the united worship and 
well-being of the whole ; it rannot be jMr^erution to endeavour. 

112 ON CANDOUR [Letter VTI. 

by scriptaral argumenls, to conTince him ; and. if that cannot be 
accomplished, to exclade him from their communion. 

It has been suggested, that to think the worse of a person on ac- 
count of his sentiment, is a species of persecution, and indicates a 
spirit of bitterness at the bottom, which is inconsistent with that 
benevolence which is due to all mankind. But, if it be persecu- 
tion to think the worse of a person, on account of his sentiments, 
(unless no man be better, or worse, whatever sentiments he im- 
bibes, which very few wiU care to assert,) then it must be perse- 
cution for us to think of one another according to truth. It is also 
a species of persecution of which our opponents are guilty, as well 
as we, whenever they maintain the superior moral tendency of 
their own system. That which is adapted and intended to do good 
to the party, cannot be persecution, but genuine benevolence. — 
Let us suppose a number of travellers, all proposing to journey to 
one place. A number of different ways present themselves to 
view, and each appears to be the right way. Some are inclined 
to one ; some, to another ; and some contend that, whatever smal- 
ler difference there m^y be between them, they all lead to the 
same end. Others, however, are persuaded, that they do not ter- 
minate in the same end, and appeal to a correct map of the coun- 
try, which points out a number of by-paths, resembling those in 
question, each leading to a fatal issue. Query, Would it be the 
part of benevolence, in this case, for the latter to keep silence, and 
hope the best : or to state the evidence on which their apprehen- 
sions were founded, and to warn their fellow-travellers of their 
danger ? 

There are, it is acknowledged, many instances of a want of candour 
and benevolence among us : over which it becomes us to lament. 
This is the case.especially with those whom Dr. Priestley is pleased 
to call " the only consistent absolute predestinarians.'' 1 may add, 
there has been, in my opinion. a great deal too much haughtiness and 
oncandidDess dfecovered by some of the Trinitarians of the Estab- 
lished Church, in their controversies with Socinian Dissenters. — 
These dispositions, however, do not belong to them as Trinitari- 
ans, but as Churchmen. A slight observation of human nature 
will convince us. that the adherents to a religion estabhshed bv 


law, let their sentiments be what they may, will aluriyf» be under 
a poweTful temptation to take it for ^r^nte<l that they nro rij^ht. 
and that ;ill who (hssont tVonj thorn are contemptible sectaries, un- 
worthy of a candid and re«po( tful treatment. This temptation, it 
is true, will not U.wo equal efl'eet upon all in the «ame conimuni- 
ty. Serious and humble character-* will watrh against it; and, 
being wise enough to know that real worth is not derived from any 
ihinjj merely external, they may be Miperior to it. Rut tho«e of 
another description wdl be ?ery diftVrontly affected. 

There is, indeed, a mixture of evil passions in all our religious 
affections, against which it becomes us to watch and pray. I see 
many things in those of my own sentiments, which I cannot ap- 
prove ; and possibly, others may see (he same in me. And, should 
the Socinians pretend to the contrary, with respect to them-^elves, 
or aspire at a superiority to their neighbors, it may be more than 
they are able to maintain. It cannot escape the observation of 
thinking and imj)artial men, that the candour of which they so fre- 
qiiently boast, is pretty much confined to their own party, or those 
that are near akin to them. Socinians can he chndid to .'Vrian*, 
and Arians to Socinims, and earh of (hem to Deists ; but, if Cal- 
vinists expect a share of their tenderness, let them not greatly 
wonder, if they be disappointed. • There need not be a greater. 
or a more standing proof of this, than the manner in which the wri- 
tings of the latter are treated in the Monthly Review. 

It has been frequently observed, that, though Socinian writer* 
plead so much for candour and e«teem among professing Christians, 
yet, generally speaking, there is such r mixture of scornful con- 
tempt discovered towards their opponents, as renders their pro- 
fessions far from consistent. Mr. Lindsey very charitably accounts 
for our errors, by asserting, that, "the doctrine of Christ being 
possessed of two natures, is the fiction of ingenious men, determin- 
ed^ at all events, to believe Christ to be a different beinqfrom xrhat 
he really tc«5, and uniformly declared himself to be ; by which fic- 
tion of theirs, they elude the fdainest declarations of scripture con- 
cerning him, and mil prove him to be the Moat High God, in spite 
of his own most express and constant language to the contrary. -*^ 
And, as there i» no reasoning wrth such persons, lh«'V arc to br 

Vol. II. I'. 

114 ^^ CANDOUR [Letter VIII; 

pitied, and considered as being under a debility of mind in this re- 
spect, however sensible and rational in others."* Would Mr. 
Lindsey wish to have this considered as a specimen of Socinian 
candour? If Mrs. Barbauld had been possessed of candour equal 
to her ingenuity, instead of supposing, that Calvinists derive their 
ideas of election, the atonement, future punishment, &c. from the 
tyranny and caprice of an eastern despot, she might have admitted, 
whether they were right or not, that those principles appeared to 
them to be taught in the Bible. t 

If we may estimate the candour of Socinians, from the Spirit 
discovered by Mr. Robinson^ in the latter part of his life, the con- 
clusion will not be very favourable to their system. At the time 
when this writer professed himselfa Calvinist, he could acknowl- 
edge those who differed from him, with respect to the divinity of 
Christ, " as mistaken brethren;" at which time, his opponents 
could not well complain of his being uncandid. But, when he 
comes to change his sentiments on that article, he treats those 
from whom he differs, in a very different manner ; loading them 
with every species of abuse. Witness his treatment of Augustine ; 
whose conduct, previously to his conversion to Christianity, though 
lamented with all the tokens of penitential sorrow, and entirely 
forsaken in the remaining period of his life, he industriously rep- 
resents to his disadvantage ; calling him '^ a pretended saint, but 
an illiterate hypocrite, of wicked dispositions ;" loading his mem- 
ory, and even the very country where he lived, with every oppro- 
brious epithet that could be devised.J Similar instances might be 
added from his Ecclesiastical Researches,, in which the characters 
of Calvin and Beza are treated in an equally uncandid manner.§ 

* Catcchist. Inquiry 6. 

t A friend of mine, on looking over Mrs. Barbauld's Pamphlet, in answer 
to Mr. Wakefield, remarks as follows: '* Mrs. B. used to call Socinianism, 
The frigid zone of Christianity ; but she is now got far nurth herself. She is 
amazingly clever : her language enchanting ; but her caricature of Calvinism 
is abominable." 

\ History of Baptism, p, 652. 

k Mr. Robinson, in his Notes on Claude, observes, Mr. Burgh, that ** What- 
ever occurs in modern writers of History, of a narrative nature, we find to 


Dr. Priestley himself, who is said to be the most cnn(li<l man of 
his party, is seldom overloaded with this virtue, when he is deal- 
ing with Cidvinists. It does not discover a very great degree of 
perfection in this, or even in common civihty, to call those who 
consider its principles as pernicious, by the name of " bigots," 
" the bigots," &c. which he very fre<pienlly does. Nor is it to 
the credit of his impartiality^ any more than of his candour, when 
weighing the moral excellence of Trinitarians and ('nitarians 
against each other, as in a balance, to suppose *Mhe former to have 
less, and the latter something more^ of a real principle of religion, 
than tliey seem to have.* This looks like taking a portion out of 
one scale, and casting it into the other, for the purpose of making 
weight where it was wanting. 

Dr. Priestley, in answer to Mr. Hum on the person of Christ. 
acquits him of " any thing base, disingenuous, immoral, or wick- 
ed ;" and, seeing Mr. Burn had not acquitted him of all such things 
m return, the Doctor takes occasion to boast, that his '* princ iples, 
whatever they are, are more candid than those of iMr. Burn."t 
But, if this acknowledgment, candid as it may seem, be compared 
witli another passage in the same performance, it will appear to 
less advantage. In Letter V. the Doctor goes about to account for 
the motives of his opponents ; and if the following language do 
not insinuate any thing " base, iminoral, or wicked," to have in- 

* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 100. 

t Familiar Letters, Letter xviii. 

bo an inference from a system, previously assumed, without any view to Uu 
seeming truth of the fact recorded ; but to the establishment ol which the 
historian appears, through every species of misrepresentation, to have zealous- 
ly directed his force. The jubversion of freedom was the evident purpose of 
Mr. Hume, in writing the History of England. I fear we may with loo 
much justice, affirm the subversion of Christianity to be the object of Mr. 
Gibbon, in writing: his Ifislort/ of the Decline and/all of the Roman F.mpire^^" 
Vol. II, pp. 147. 141. Perhaps it might, wilh equal propriety, be added 
Uiatthe aubversion ol what is commonly called orthodoxy, and the viudiia- 
lionor palliation, of every thmg which, iu every age, has been called by the 
name of heresy, where the objects of Mr. Robinson in writing his llitlory of 
Baptism, and what bn^ "inro horn published under the tillf «( F.rcleuasticai 

* I 


fluenced Mr. Burn, it may be difficult to decide what baseness, im- 
morality, or wickedness is. "As to Mr. Burn's being willing to 
have a gird at me, as Falstaff says, it may easily be accounted for. 
He has a view to rise in his profession ; and, being a man of good 
iiatural understanding and good elocution, but having had no ad- 
vantage of edacation, or family connexions, he may think U neces- 
sary to do something, in order to make himself conspicuous ; and 
he might suppose, he could not do better than follow the sure steps 
of those who had succeeded in the same chase before him." What 
can any person make of these two passages put together ? It must 
appear, either that Dr. Priestley accused Mr. Burn of motives, of 
which, in his conscience he did not believe him to be guilty ; or that 
he acquitted him of every thing base and wicked, not because he 
thought him innocent, but merely with a view to glory over him, by 
affecting to be under the influence ofsuperior candourand generosity . 
The manner in which Dr. Priestley treated Mr. Badcock, in 
his Familiar hetters to the Inhabitanis of Birmingham, holding 
him up as an immoral character, at a time when, unless some val- 
uable end could have been answered by it, his memory should 
have been at rest, is thought to be very far from either candour or 
benevolence. The Doctor and Mr. Badcock seem to have been, 
heretofore upon friendly terms, and not very widely asunder as to 
sentiment. Private letters pass between them ; and Mr. Bad- 
cock always acknowledges Dr. Priestley his superior. But, about 
1783, Mr. Badcock opposes his friend, in the Monthly Review, and 
is thought, by many, to have the advantage of him. After this 
be is said to act scandalously and dishonestly. He dies : and, 
soon after his death, Dr. Priestley avails himself of his former 
correspondence, to expose his dishonesty ; and, as if this were 
not enough, supplies from his own conjectures, what was wanting 
of fact, to render him completely odious to mankind. 

Dr. Priestley may plead, that he has held up " the example of 
this unhappy man as a warning to others." So, indeed he spe.iks ; 
but thinking people will suppose, that if this Zimri had not slain his 
master, hib' bones inight have rested in peace. Dr. Priestley had 
just cause for exposing the author of a piece, signed Theodisius, in 
tlie manner he has done in those Letters. Justice to himself re- 


quired this ; but wh;«t necessity was there for exposing Mr. Hail- 
cock ! Allowing; that there was sufficient evidence to support the 
heavy charge, wlierein does this afVfcl the merit** of the cause ? 
Does proving a man a villain answer his argiimenti ? Is it worthy 
of a generous antagonist to avail himself of such methods to preju- 
dice the pubhc mind .' Does it belong to a controverlisl to write 
his opponent's history, after he is dead, and to hold up his charac- 
ter in a disadvantageous light, so as to depreciate his writings ? 

Whatever good opinion Socinian writers may rnlertairi of the 
ability and integrity of some few individuals who differ from them, 
it is pretty evident that they have the candour to consider the bo<ly 
of their opponents as either ignorant or iiminccre. By the Poem 
which Mr. Badcock wrote in praise of Doctor Priestley, when he 
was, as the Doctor informs us, his '* humble admirer," we may sec 
in w hat ligiil we are considered by our adversaries. Trinitarians, 
among the Clergy^ are there represented, as " sticking fast to the 
Church for the sake of a living ;" and those whom the writer calb 
orthodox, popular pr(';u her'," (which, I sujipose may principal- 
ly refer to Dissenters and Mtthudists,) are described as fooU and 
enthusiasts ; as either " starinij, stamping, and damming in non- 
senses ;" or else, '*w Inning out the tidings of salvation ; telling their 
auditors that grace is cheap, and works are all an empty bubble." 
All this is published by Dr. Priestley, in his Tzicnty -second Letter 
to the Inhabitants of BirmiuL^ham ; and that without any marks of 
disap[)rob;itiun. Dr. Priestley himself, though he does not descend 
to so low and scurrilous a manner of writing as the above, yet sug- 
gests the same thing, in the Dedication of his Doctrine nf Vhilo- 
iophical .Vccessiti/. He there praises Dr. Jebb, for his " attach- 
ment to the unadulterated principles of Christianity, h«)w unj)opu- 
lar soever they may have become, through the prejudices ot the 
weak or the interested \ydri of mankind." 

After all, it is allowed, that Dr. Priestley is, in general, and es- 
pecially when he is not dealing with a C'alvinist, a fair ami candid 
opponent : rnurh more so than the Monthly Reviewers : who, with 
the late Air. Padrock, seem to rank amonir hi< " luimblr adnii 

118 ON CANDOUR, Uc. [Letter VIU. 

rers."* Candid and open, however, as Dr. Priestley in general 
is, the above are, certainly, no very trifling exceptions: and, con- 
sidering him as excelling most of his party in this virtue, they are 
sufficient to prove the point for which they are alleged ; namely, 
that when Socinians profess to be more candid than their oppo- 
nents, their profession includes more than their conduct will justify. 

I am, &.C. 

* About eight or nine years ago, the Monthly Review was at open war 
with Dr. Priestley ; and the Doctor, like an incensed monarch, summoned 
all his mighty resources to expose its weakness, and to degrade it in the eye of 
the public. The conductors of the Review, at length, finding, it seems, that 
their country was nourished by the King's country, desired peace. They 
have ever since very punctually paid him tribute, and the conqueror seems 
very well contented, on this condition, to grant them his favour and protection. 

LETTEIi l\. 


Christian lireihren, 

\ ou recollect the prophecy of Isniah, in which openkins; oflJo*- 
pel times, he predicts, thnt rhc loftiness of man shall be bowed 
douTTij and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord 
alone shall be exalted in that day; as if it were one peculiar char- 
acteristic of the true gospel, to lay low the pride of man. The 
whole tenour of the New Testament enforces the said idea. Yc 
see your callim^^ brethren, hoic that not many wise men after the fleshy 
not many mighty, not many noble, arc called. But God hath cho- 
sen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise ; and God 
hath chosen the iceak things of the world to confound the fhingt 
ichich are mighty ; and base things of the world, and things 
which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are nnf^ 
to bring to nought things that arc: that no fcsh should glory in his 
presence. — Jesus said, I thank thee. O Father, Lord of heaven and 
earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, 
and hast revealed them unto babes. — Jflicrc is boasting ? It is ex- 
cluded. By what law ? Of works ? Nay, but by the law of 
faith.^ It may be concluded, with certainty, from these passages 
apfl various others of the same import, that the system which has 
the greatest tendency to promote this virtue, approaches nearest to 
the true gospel of Christ. 

Pride, the opposite of humility, may be distin^tiished, by it» 
objects, into natural and spiritual. lioth consist in a too high esteem 
of ourselves : the one, on account of those accomplishments which 
are merely natural, or which pertain to us as men ; the other on 

• 1 Cor. i. :G— 29. Mall, xi, 2r,. Rom. iu-TT. 

120 ON HUMILITY. [Letter IX^ 

account of those which are spiritual, or which pertain to us as 
good men. With respect to the first, it is not very difficult to know 
who they are, that ascribe most to their own understanding; that 
profess to believe in nothing but what they can comprehend ; that 
arrogate to themselves the name of Rational Christians ; that affect 
to " pity all those wlio maintain the doctrine of two natures in 
Christ, as being under a debility of mind in this respect, however 
sensible and rational in others ;"* that pour compliments extrava- 
gantly upon one another ;t that speak of their own party as the 
wise and learned, and of their opponents as the ignorant and illite- 
rate, who are carried away by vulgar prejudices ;]: that tax the 
sacred writers with " reasoning inconclusively," and writing 
*'Iame accounts ;" and that represent themselves as men of far 
greater compass of mind than they, or than even Jesus Christ him- 

The last of these particulars may excite surprise. Charity, 
that hopeth all things, will be ready to suggest, surely, no man 
that calls himself a Christian, will dare to speak so arrogantly. I 
acknowledge, I should have thought so, if I had not read in Dr. 
Priestley's Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, as follows : *' Not 
that 1 think that the sacred writers were Necessarians, for they 
were not philosophers ; not even our Saviour himself, as far as 
appears : — But their habitual devotion naturally led them to refer 
all things to God, without reflecting on the rigorous meaning 0£ 
their language ; and, very probably, had they been interrogated on 
the subject, they would have appeared not to be apprised of the 
Necessarian scheme, and would have answered in a manner unfa- 
vourable to it."§ The sacred writers, it seems, were well-mean- 
ing persons ; but, at the same time, so ignorant, as not to know the 
meaning of their own language ; nay, so ignorant, that, had it been 
explained to them, they would have been incapable of taking it in ! 

*Mr. Lindsey's Chatechist, Inquiry 6. 

t Mr. Toulmia's Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, pp. 47, 5fr. 

% Mr. Belsham's Sermon on the Importance of Truth, pp. 4. 32. 

♦ Doctrine of Necessity, p. 133- 


Nor is this 8uj^e?ted of the sacred writen? only ; but, as it should 
»eem. of Jesus Christ himself. A very tit person Je»us Chrwt 
must be, indeed, to be addressed as itnoain^ ail things; ai a 
rerealer of the mind ofCiod to men ; as the zvisdom of God ; aB he 
ui whom it pleased the Father tfiat all fullness should dwell ; by 
whom the judges of the earth are exhorted to be instructed; and 
who phall judge the world at the last day ; when, in fact, be was 
so ignorant, as not to consider the meaning of his own language ; 
or, if he had been interrogated upon it, would not have been 
apprised of the extent of the scheme to which his words naturally 
led, but would probably have anj^wered in a manner unfavourable 
to it ! Is this the language of one that is little in his own eyes ? 

But there is such a thing as spiritual pride, or a too high esteem 
of ourselves on account of spiritual accomplishments; and thig, 
together with a spirit of bigotry, Dr. Priestley imputes to Trinita- 
rians. " Upon the whole," says he, "considering the groat mix- 
ture of spiritual pride and bigotry in some of the most zealous 
Trinitarians, I think the moral character of Unitarians in general, 
allowing that there is in them a greater apparent conformity to the 
world than is observable in others, approaches more nearly to the 
proper temper of Christianity. It is more cheerful, more benev- 
olent, and more candid. The former have probably less, and the 
latter, I hope, somewhat more, of a real principle of religion, than 
they seem to have."^ To this it is replied, 

First : If Trinitarians be proud at all, it seems it must be of their 
spirituality; for as to rationality, they have none, their opponents 
having, by a kind of exclusive charter, monopolized that article. 
It is their misfortune, it seems, when investigating the doctrine of 
the person of Chrii^t, to be under a *• debility of mind," or a kind 
of periodical insanity- 

Secondly : Admitting that a greater degree of spiritual pride 
exists among Trinitarians, than among their opponents ; if we were, 
for once, to follow Dr. Priestley's example, it might be accounted 
for without any reflection upon llieir principles. Pride is a sm 
that easily besets human nature, though nothing is more opposite- 

• Discounc^ on Various Subjects, p. 100. 
Vol. II. IG 

122 ON HUMILITY. [Lettiui IX. 

to the spirit that becomes us : and, whatever it is in which a body 
of men excel, they are under a peculiar temptation to be proud of 
that, rather than of other things. The English people have been 
often charged, by their neighbours, with pride on account of their 
civil constitution ; and, I suppose, it has not been without reason. 
They have conceived themselves to excel other nations in that 
particular ; have been apt to value themselves upon it ; and to 
undervalue their neighbours more than they ought. This has 
been their fault: but it does not prove their civil constitution has 
not, after all, its excellences. Nay, perhaps, the reason why 
some of their neighbours have not been so proud, in this particu- 
lar, as they, is, they have not had that to be proud of. Christians, 
in general, are more likely to be the subjects of spiritual pride, 
than avowed Infidels ; for, the pride of the latter, though it may 
rise to the highest pitch imaginable, will not be m their spiritu- 
ality. The same may be said of Socinians. For, while *' a great 
number of them are only men of good sense, and with much prac- 
tical religion," as Dr. Priestley acknowledges- they are,* their 
pride will not be in their spirituality, but in their supposed ration- 

Thirdly : Let it be considered, whether our doctrinal senti- 
ments do not bear a nearer affinity to those principles which, in 
scripture, are constantly urged as motives to humility, than those of 
our opponents. The doctrines inculcated by Christ and his apostles, 
in order to lay men low in the dust before God, were those of hu- 
man depravity, and salvation by free and sovereign grace, through 
Jesus Christ. The language held out by our Lord, was that he 
came to seek and to save that which was lost. The general strain 
of his preaching tended to inform mankind, not only that he came 
to save lost sinners ; but, that no man, under any other charac- 
ter, could partake of the blessings of salvation. / cawie-saith he 
not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The whole need 
not a physician, hut they that are sick. To the same purpose, the 
Apostle of the Gentiles declared to the Ephesians, You hath he 

* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 100. 

Letter IX.] ON HUMILITY. ' ,23 

quickened, Ziho zvere dead in tre^passef and tins : ttherein, in time 
past, ye 'walked according to the course of this world, according to 
tU prince of the porver of the air, the spirit that now xuorketh in the 
children of disobedience. Nor did he ^peak this of Gentiles or 
of Frolligatesonly ; but, though himself a Jew, and educated a 
Pharisee, he added, Among tohom also ice htul our convertation in 
times jmst, in the Imtts uf our jitsh, fulfil linfr the digirei of the 
JicJi and of the mind ; and icere by nature the children of wrath 
e.ven as others. To the doctrine of the universal depravity of hu- 
man nature, he very properly and joyfully proceeds to oppose 
that of Gods rich mercy. Hut Uodwiut is rich m mercy ^ for the 
great love wherewith he loved us, even when *t>e were dead in tins^ 
hath quickened us tofrethtr with Christ. The humbling doctrine 
of salvation by undeserved favour, wa? so natural an inference 
from these premises, that the Apostle could not forbear throwing 
in such a reflection, though it were in a parenthesis : By grace ye 
are saved ! Nor did he leave it there, but presently after drew 
the same conclusion more f;illy : For by grace ye are saved through 
faith ; and that not of yourselves ; it is the gift of God. Not of 
works lest any man should boast • To the same purport he taught 
in his other Kpistles. Who hoth saved u$, and called us with an 
holy calling, not according to our wirrks, but according to his own 
purpose and grace y which was given us in Christ Jesus before the 
world began. — Not by works of righteousness which wc have done, 
but according to his mercy he saved us. — Of him are ye in Chrisf 
Jesus, who of (iod is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and 
sanctif cation, and redemption : that, according us it is written. 
He that gloriefh, let him glory in the I^rd.\ 

These, we see, were the sentiments by which Christ and hi« 
apostles taught men humility, and cut off boasting. But, as though 
it were designed in perfect opposition to the apostolic doctrine, So- 
cinian writers were constantly exclaiming against the Calvini'^tic 
system, because it maintains the insufficiency of a good moral life, 
to recommend us to the favour of God. " Kepcntanc«'. and a good 

* Ephca. ii. 1—0. 
^2Tim. i.9. Titus lii. 5. iCori. 30,31 

124 <^^ HUMILITY. [Letter IX. 

life," says Dr. Priestley, " are of themselves suflficient to recom- 
mend us to the divine favour."* " When," says Mrs. Barbould, 
** will Christians permit themselves to believe, that the same con- 
duct which gains them the approbation of good men here, will se- 
cure the favour of heaven hereafter ? When a man like Dr. Price 
is about to resign his soul into the hands of his Maker, he ought 
to do it not only with a reliance on his mercy, but his justice. It 
does not become him to pay the blasphemous homage of depre- 
cating the wrath of God. when he ought to throw himself into the 
arms of his love."t '* Other foundation than this can no man lay :'» 
says Dr. Harwood, " all hopes founded upon any thing else than 
a good moral life, are merely imaginary. "J So they wrap it up. 
If a set of writers united together, and studied to form an hypoth- 
esis in perfect contradiction to the holy scriptures, and the de- 
clared humbling tendency of the gospel, they could not have hit 
upon a point more directly to their purpose. The whole tenor 
of the gospel says. It is not of works, lest any man should boast : 
But Socinian writers maintain, that it is of works, and of them 
only ; that in this, and in no other way, is the divine favour to be 
obtained. We might ask. Where is boasting then ? Is it excluded? 
Nay ; Is it not admitted and cherished ? 

Christ and his apostles inculcated humility, by teaching the 
primitive Christians that mr<Me itself was not of ouiselves, but 
the gift of God. They not only expressly declared this with res- 
pect to faith, but the same in effect, of every particular included 
in the general notion of true godhness. As the branch cannot bear 
fruit of itself said Christ, except it abide in the vine, no more can 
ye except ye abide in me : for without me ye can do nothing. — We 
are his workmanship , created in Christ Jesus unto good loorksj 
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. — He 
worketh in us both to will and to do, of his good pleasure.^ The 
manifest design of these important sayings was, to humble the 
primitive Christians, and to make them feel their entire depen- 

*History of the corruption of Christianity, Vol. I. p. 155. 
t Answer to Mr. Wakefield, if Sermons, p. 193. 
5 John XV. 4, 5. Ephes. ii. 10. Phil. ii. 13. 

Letter IX.] ON HUMILITV I05 

deuce upon God for virtue, even for every good fhourrht. W'/io 
makcth thee to dijfer? said the Apostle, and icfuit hast tlum that 
thou didjtt not receive 9 Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou 
glory as if thou hadst not recieved t7 /• The Calvini9tic system 
it is well known, includes the same things : but where is the place 
for them, or where do they appear, in the system of our oppo- 
nents ? Dr. Priestley, in professed opposition to Calvinism, main- 
tains, *' that it depends entirely upon a man's self, whether he be 
virtuous or vicious, happy or miserable :"t that is to say, it is a 
man's self (hat maketh him to ditiVr from another ; and he has that 
(namely, virtue, ' which he did not receive, and in which, there- 
fore he may glory. | 

Dr. Prie«tley replies to this kind of reasoning, *' When we con- 
sider ourselves as the workmanship of God; that all our powers 
of body and of mind are derived from him ; that he is the giver of 
every good and of every perfect gift ; and that without him we can 
do and enjoy nothing'; how can we conceive ourselves to be in a 
atate of greater dependence, or obligation ; that is, what greater 
reason or foundation can there possibly be for the exercise of 
humility / If 1 believe that I have a power to do the duty that 
God requires of me ; yet, as I also believe that that power is bis 

• J Cor. iv. 7. + Do( trine of Necessity, p. 153. 

I It is true, Dr. Priestley himiieir 8ometimes> allows, that virtue is twt our 
own, and does not arise from wilUtn oursetvti ; ciillin^^ that mere healhtn Sto- 
icism, which maintains the contrary : aud I ells us, that " those person", who 
from a principle of religion, ascribe more to God, and less to man, arc per- 
sons of the greatest elevation in piety." On M'ecunly, pp. 107, 108. Yet, 
in the same performance, he represents it as a part of the Necessarian scheme 
by which it is opposed to Calvinism, that " it depends entirely upon a nian's 
self, whether he be virtuous or vicious," p. 153. If Dr. Triestlcy mean no 
more by these expressions, than that our conduct in life, whether virtuous or 
vicious, depends uj>on our ( hoicc, the Calvinistic scheme, as well as his own 
allows of it. But, if he mean that a virtuous choice originates in ourselves, 
and that we are the proper cause of it, this can agree to nothing but the Ar- 
menian notion of a self-determining j>ower in hix will ; nnd that, in fart, a* 
he him«clf elsewhTo observes, in " mel* heathen Sloteism, which allows bien 
to pray for external things, but admonishes thrm, that, as for virtue it 1/ our 
9i£n, and inu-t ariw from irithin our.ietres, it wc have it at all." p. fiP. 

J 26 t)N HUMILITY. [Letter IX. 

gift, I must still say, liliat have I that I have not received? how 
then can I glory as if I had not received it ?"* 

It is true, Dr. Priestley, and for aught I know, all other wri- 
ters, except Atheists, acknowledge themselves indebted to God 
for the powers by which virtue is attained, and, perhaps, for the 
means of attaining it ; but this is not acknowledging that we are 
indebted to him for virtue itself Powers and opportunities are 
mere natural blessings : they have no virtue in them, but are a 
kind of talent, capable of being improved, or not improved. Vir- 
tue consists, not in the possession of natural powers, any more 
than in health, or learning, or riches ; but in the use that is made 
of them. God does not therefore, upon this principle, give us 
virtue. Dr. Priestley contends, that, as we are " God's xsoorkman- 
shifj and derive all our powers of body and mind from him, we 
cannot conceive of ourselves as being in a state of greater depend- 
ence upon him." The Apostle Paul, however teaches the ne- 
cessity of being created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Accord- 
ing to Paul, we must become his workmanship by a new creation 
in order to the performance of good works : but according to Dr. 
Priestley, the first creation is sufficient. Now, if so, the difference 
between one man and another is not to be ascribed to God : for it 
is supposed, that God has given all men the powers of attaining 
virtue ; and that the diflference between the virtuous man and his 
neighbour is to be ascribed to himself, in making a good use of the 
powers and opportunities with which he was invested. Upon this 
system, therefore, we may justly answer the question, What hast 
thou which thou hast not received ? ' I have virtue^ and the prom- 
ise of eternal life as its reward ; and consequently, have whereof 
to glory.' In short, the whole of Dr. Priestley's concessions 
amount to nothing more than the heathen Stoicism which he, else- 
where condemns. Those ancient philosophers could not deny, 
that all their powers were originally derived from above ; yet 
they maintained, " that, as for virtue, it is our ozvn^ and must arise 
from within ovrselves, if we have it at all." 

"^ Considerations on Difference of Opinion, ^ III. 


I do not deny that all men have natural powers, together with 
mean«! and o|>portunities of doini^ good ; which, if they were but 
completely well-disposed, are equal to the perlormiince of their 
whole duty. God requires no more of us, thui to love and serve 
him with ail our strength. These powers and opportunities ren- 
der llieni accountable beinp*, and will leave them without excuse 
at the last day. liut, if they are not rightly disposed, 4ill their 
natural powers will he abused ; and the question is, To whom 
are we inilebted for a change of disposition .* If to (iod, we hare 
reason to lie in the dust, and acknowledge, it was he that quickened 
us when 'le njre dead in sins : if to ourselves, the doctrine of the 
Stoics will be established, and wc shall have whereof to glory. 

1 ajn, &c. 




Chrntiun IWrthrcn, 

Thf. mair) reason why wo are accused of spirittial pride, bigotry, 
uncharitabli'ness, and the hke, i-*, the importance which we as- 
cribe to some of our sentiments. Viewinj^ them as ewcntial to 
Christianity, we cannot, properly speaking, acknowledge, as 
Christians, those who reject them. It is this which provokes the 
resentment of our opponents, and induces them to load us with 
opprobrious epitliets. We have already touched upon thi«« topic, 
in the Letter on Candour, but will now consider it more particu- 

It is allowed, that weoin;ht notto jtidi^e of whob* bodies of men, 
by the denomination under which they pass ; because names do 
not always describe the real principles they embnice. It is possi- 
ble, that a person who attends upon a very unsound mini«»lr>, may 
not understand or adopt so intich of the system which he hear* 
inculcated, as that his disposition phall be formed, or his conduct 
regulated, by it. I h ive heard, from persons who have been much 
conversant with Socini ms, that, though, iu general, they are of a 
loo«e, dissipated turn of mind, assembling in the gay circles of 
pie tsure, and following; the customs and manners of the world ; yd 
Ihat there are some a:nong them who are more serious; Hnd thai 
tho«e, if not in their conversation, yet, in their >olemn a«ldres»et 
to the Almighty, incline to the doctrines of Calvinism. This per- 
fectly accords with Mr«. Karbauld's representation of the matter, 
as noticed towards the close of the .SixfA l^ttvr. The-e people 
are not, properly speaking, Socinians ; and, therefore, ought to be 
left quite out of the question, for the question i«. Whether, at 

Vol. II. 17 

130 ON CHARITY. [Letter X- 

believing in the deity and atonement of Christ, with other corres- 
pondent doctrines, we be required, by the charity inculcated in the 
gospel, to acknowledge, as fellow-christians, those who thoroughly 
and avowedly reject them ? 

It is no part of the business of this Letter, to prove that these 
doctrines are true ; this, at present, I have a right to take for 
granted. The fair state of the objection, if delivered by a Socin- 
ian, would be to this effect : * Though your sentiments should be 
right, yet, by refusing to acknowledge, as fellow-christians, others 
who differ from you, you over-rate their importance, and so vio- 
late the charity recommended by the gospel.' To the objection^ 
as thus stated, I shall endeavour to reply. 

Charity, it is allowed, will induce us to put the most favourable 
construction upon things, and to entertain the most favourable 
opinion of persons, that truth will admit. It is far from the spirit 
of Christianity, to indulge a censorious temper, or to take pleas- 
ure in drawing unfavourable conclusions against any person what- 
ever ; but the tenderest disposition towards mankind cannot con- 
vert truth into falsehood, or falsehood into truth. Unless, there- 
fore, we reject the bible, and the belief of an?/ thing as necessary 
to salvation ; though we should stretch our good opinion of men to 
the greatest lengths, yet we must stop elsewhere. Charity itself 
does not so believe all things, as to disregard truth and evidence. 
We are sometimes reminded of our Lord's command, Judge not, 
lest ye be judged. This language is, doubtless, designed to reprove 
a censorious disposition, which leads people to pass unjust judg- 
ment, or, to discern a mote in a brother^s eye, while they are blind 
to a beam in their own : but it cannot be intended to forbid all 
judgment whatever, even upon characters ; for this would be con- 
trary to what our Lord teaches in the same discourse, warning his 
disciples to beware of false prophets, whoi would come to them in 
sheep^s clothing: adding, Ye shall know them by their fruits.* Few 
pretend, that we ought to think favourably o( profligate characters ; 
or, that it is any breach of charity to think unfavourably concern- 
ing them. But, if the words of our Lord be understood as forbid- 

* Matt. vii. 1— -3. 15, 16. 


(ling a// judgment uhatner upon characters, it mu«t be wrong to 
pass any judgment upon tlum. Nay, it must be wron^ for a mm- 
ister to declare to a diunkard, a thief, or an aduherer, that, if he 
die in his present condition, he must perish ; because this is judg- 
ing the party not to be in a state of salvation. 

All the use that is commonly made of our Lord's words, is in 
favour of sentiments, not of actions : but the scriptures make no 
such distinction. Men are there represented as beint; under the 
wrath of God, who have not belined on the name of the only- 
begotten Son of God ; nor is there any thing intimated in our 
Lord's expressions, as if the judgment whuli he forbade his dis- 
ciples to pass, were to be confined to matters of sentiment. The 
judgment which is there reproved, is partial or trron^ judgment, 
w hether it be on account of sentiment, or of practice. Even those 
who plead against judging persons on account of sentiment, (many 
of them at least,) allow themselves to think unfavourably of avowed 
Infidels, who have heard the gospel, but continue to reject it. 
Thoy themselves, therefore, do judge unlavourably of men on 
account of their sentiments ; and must do so, unless they will 
reject the bible, which declares unbelie\ers to be under condem- 

Dr. Priestley, however, seems to extend his favourable opin 
ion to idolaters and Infidels, without distinction. " All differences 
in modes of worship," he says, "may be only the ditTerent meth- 
ods by which ditTerent men (who are equally the offspring ofGoti) 
arc endeavouring to honour and obey their common parent."* 
He also inveighs against a siippo»>ition, that the mere holding of any 
opinions (so, it seems, the great articles of our fiilh must be cal- 
led) should exclude men from the favour of (iod. It is true, what 
he says is guarded so much, as to give the argument he engages 
to support a very plausible appearance ; but withal so ill directed, 
as not in the least to nflVct that of hi«» o|>ponent<. Hi^ wonis arc 
these : " Let those who maintain that the mere holding of any 
opinions, (without regard to the motives and state of mind through 
which men may liavi* br«n led lo form them.) will neceiianlv 

* Con»itleration9 on r>iffrrcncc of Opiuiun, ♦II. 

132 ON CHARITY. [Letter X. 

exclude them from the favour of God, be particularly careful with 
respect to the premises from which they draw so alarming a con- 
clusion." The counsel contained in these words is, undoubtedly, 
very good. Those premises ought to be well founded, from 
whence such a conclusion is drawn. I do not, indeed, suppose, 
that any ground for such a conclusion exists ; and who they are 
that draw it I crmnot tell. The mere holding of an opinion, con- 
sidered abstractly from the motive, or state of mind of him that 
holds it, must be simply an exercise of intellect ; and, I am inclin- 
ed to think, has in it neither good nor evil. But the question is, 
Whether there be not truths, which, from the nature o{ them, 
cannot be rejected, without an evil bias of heart ? And, there- 
fore, where we see those truths rejected. Whether we have not 
authority to conclude, that such rejection must have arisen from 
an evil bias ? 

If a mm say. There is no God, the scripture teaches us to con- 
sider it, ntther as the language of his heart than simply of his 
judgment, and makes no scruple of calling him a fool; which, ac- 
cording to the scriptural idea of the term, is equal to calling him a 
zvicked man. And let it be seriously considered, upon what other 
principle our Lord could send forth his disciples io preach the gos- 
pel to every creature, and add, as he did. He that beUeveth and is 
baptized, shall be saved ; and he that believeth not, shall be damned. 
Is it not here plainly supposed, that the gospel was accompa- 
nied with such evidence, that no intelligent creature could reject it, 
but from an evil bias of heart, such as would ju*;tly expose him to 
damnation ? If it had been possible for an intelligent creature, 
after hearing the gospel to think Jesus an impostor, and his doc- 
trine a lie, without any evil motive, or corrupt state of mind ; 1 
desire to know how the Lord of g'ory is to be acquitted of some- 
thing wor.=<e than bigotry in making such a declaration. 

Because the mere holding of an opinion, irrespective of the mo- 
tive or state of mind in him that holds it, is neither good nor evil, 
it does not follow, that " all difierences in modes of worship may 
be only the different methods by which different men are endeav- 
ouring to honour and obey their common parent." The latter in- 
cludes more than the former. The performance of worship con- 

Li:ttkk X.J ON LFIARITY. I33 

tains more th;m the mere holding of an opinion : for it includes an 
exercise of the heart. Our Lord and his aposilcs did not proceed 
on any such principle, when they went forth preaching the gosp 1 ; 
as 1 hope has been sufficiently proved in the Letter on Canriour. 
Tiie principles on which they proceeded were, An assurance that 
they -were of God, and that the whole ivorld loere lying in wicked- 
ness. — That he rvho was of God zuould hear their words; and he 
that xvas not of God would not hear them. — That he who believed 
their testimony, set to his seal that God was true ; und he Uiat be- 
lieved it notf made God a liar. 

If we consider a belief of the (gospel, in those who hear it, as 
essential to salvation, wc shall be called bigots : but, if this be 
bigotry, Jesus Ciirist and his apostles were bigots ; and the same 
outcry might have been raised against them, by both Jews and 
Greeks, as is now raised against us. Jesus Christ himself said to 
the Jews, If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins ; 
and his apostles went forth with the same language. They wrote 
and preached, that men iniirht believe that Jesus was the Christ; 
and that^ believim^, they misht have life through his name. Those 
who embraced their testimony, they treated as in a state of salva- 
tion ; and those who rejected it were told, that they had judged 
themselves unworthy of everlasting life. In short, they acted as 
men fully convinced of the truth of what their Lord had declared 
in their commission ; He that believeth und is baptized, shall be 
saved ; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. 

To all this an unbelieving Jew might have objected in that day, 
with quite as good a grace as Socinians object in this : *' These 
men think that our salvation depends upon receiving their opin- 
ions ! Have we not been tlie people of God, and in a state of sal- 
vation, time out of mind, without believing that Jesus of NazaretU 
was the Son of God? Our fathers believed only in general, that 
there was a Messiah to come ; and were, no doubt, saved in that 
faith. ' We also believe the same, and worship the same God ; 
and yet, according to these bigots, if we reject their opinion con- 
cerning Jesus beinc the Messiah, we must he judyed unworthy of 
everlasting life. 

134 <^N CHARITY. [Letter X.. 

A Heathen also, suppose one of Paul's hearers at Athens, who 
had just heard him deliver the discourse at Mars-hill, (recorded in 
Acts xvii. 22 — 31.) might have addressed his countij'men in some 
such language as the following : ' This Jewish stranger, Athenians, 
pretends to make known to us the unknown god. Had he been 
able to make good his pretensions, and had this been all, we might 
have been obliged to him. But this unknown Gody it seeine, is to 
take place of all others that are known, and be set up at their ex- 
pense. You have hitherto, Athenians, acted worthy of yourselves; 
you have liberally admitted all the gods to a participation of your 
worship : but now, it seems, the whole of your sacred services is 
to be engrossed by one. You have never been used to put any 
restraint upon thought, or opinion ; but, with the utmost freedom 
have ever been in search oi nexv things. But this man tells us, we 
OUGHT NOT TO THINK that the Godhead is like unto silver or gold ; 
as though we were bound to adopt his manner of thinking, and no 
other. You have been famed for your adoration of the gods ; and 
to this even your accuser himself has borne witness : yet he has 
the temerity to call us to repentance for it. It seems, then, we are 
considered in the light of criminals — criminals on account of our 
devotions — criminals for being too religious, and for adhering to 
the religion of our ancestors ! Will Athenians endure this ? Had 
he possessed the liberality becoming one who should address an 
Athenian audience, he would have supposed, that, however we 
might have been hitherto mistaken in our devotions, yet our inten- 
tions were good ; and that " all the differences in modes of wor- 
ship, as practised by Jews and Athenians, (who are equally, by 
his own confession, the offspring of God,) may have been only dif- 
ferent methods by which we have been endeavouring to honour 
and obey our common parent." Nor is this all : for we are call- 
ed to repentance, because this unknown God hath appointed a day 
in which he will judge the world, &c. So, then, we are to renounce 
our principles and worship, and embrace his, on pain of being 
called to give an account of it before a divine tribunal. Future 
happiness is to be confined to his sect ; and our eternal welfare 
depends upon our embracing his opinions ! Could your ears have 

Letteu X.l ON CHARITY. 


been insultrd, Athenians, with an baran<;ue more replete with 
*' pride y arrogunct\ and bigotry /"' 

'* But to say no more of this insulting language, the importance he 
gives to his opinions, if there were no other objection, must ever 
be a bar to their being receivt'd at Athens. Vou, Athenians, 
are frientls to free inquiry. Hut, should our philosopher* 
turn Chri^tians, instead of beini^ famous, as heretofore, for the 
%c\iTc\\o( neic truth, they must sink into a state of menial stagna- 
tion. •* Those persons who tinnk that their salvation depends 
upon holdiiio; their present opinions must necessarily entertain 
the greatest dread of/ree inquinj. They must think it to be haz- 
arding their eternal welfare, to listen to any arguments, or to read 
any books, that savour of idolatry. It must appear to them in the 
same light as listening to any other temptation, whereby they 
would be in danger of being seduced to their everlasting destruc- 
tion. This temper of mind cannot but be a foundation for the 
most deplorable bigotry, obstinacy and ignorance." 

The Athenians, I doubt not, will, generally, abide by the reli- 
gion of their forefathers : but, should any individuals think of turn- 
ing Christians, I trust that they will never adopt that illiberal prin- 
ciple of making their opinion necessary to future happiness. 
While this man and his followers hold such a notion " of the impor- 
tance of their present sentiments, they must needs live in the 
dread of all free inquiry; whereas we, who have not that idea of 
the importance of our present setiments, preserve a state of mini! 
proper for the discussion oflhem. Ifwe be wrong, as our minds are 
under no strong bias, we are within the reach of conviction • and 
thus are in the way to grow wiser and better as long as we live." 

By the above V. will appear, that the Apostle Paul was just a« 
liable as we are to the charg<' of bigotry. Those parts which are 
marked with double reversed commas are, with onlv an alteara- 
lion of the \\ovi\ heresy to that i)( idolatry , tlw words of Dr. Priestlcu. 
n the Sfcond Section of his Considerations on Diff'crenrvs of Opin- 

. Judge, brethren, whether these w ^nU hvA fit the lips of 
Christian minister, or of a heathen cavilh'r. The conse<iuence> 
alleged, by the supposed AllH-nian, a-ainst Paul, are far from just, 
and might be easily refuted: but thev are the same, for substance 





as those alleged by Dr. Priestley against us ; and the premises from 
which they are drawn are exactly the same. 

From the whole, I think, it may be safely conclnded, if there be 
any sentiments taught us in the new test;>ment in a clear and deci- 
ded manner, this is one : That the Apostles and primitive preach- 
ers considered the belief of the gospel which they preached, as 
necessary to the salvation of those who heard it. 

But, though it should be allowed, that a belief of the gospel is ne- 
cessary to salvation, it will still be objected, That Socinians believe 
the Gospel, as well as others; their Christianity, therefore ought not 
to be called in question on this account. To this it is replied, If what 
Socinians believe be indeed the gospel ; in other words, if it be 
not deficient in what is essential to the gospel ; they, undoubtedly, 
ought to be acknowledged as Christians ; but, if otherwise, they 
ought not. It has been pleaded, by some who are not Socmians, 
that we ought to think favourably of all who profess to embrace 
Christianity, in general^ unless their conduct be manifestly immor- 
al. But we have no such criterion afforded us in the new testa- 
ment ; nor does it accord with what is there revealed. The new 
testament informs us of various wolves in sheep'' s clothing, who ap- 
peared among the primitive Christians ; men who professed the 
Christian name, but yet were, in reality, enemies to Christianity ; 
who perverted the gospel of CAm<, and introduced another gospel 
in its place. 

But these men, it is said, not only taught false doctrine, but led 
immoral lives. If by immoral be meant grossly wicked, they cer- 
tainly did not all of them answer to that character. The contrary 
is plainly supposed in the account of the false Apostles among the 
Corinthians ; who are called deceitful workers, transforming them- 
selves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel ; for Satan him- 
self is transformed into an angel of light : therefore it is no great 
thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ininisters of righ- 
teousness.* I would not here be understood as drawing a compari- 
son between the false apostles and the Socinians. My design, in 

* 2 Cor. xi. 13—15. 

Lkttbii X.j ON CHARITY. 1 37 

this place, is not to insinuate any specific charge against them, hut 
merely to prove, that, if we judge favourably of the stale of every 
person who bears the Christian name, and whose exterior moral 
character is fair, we must judge contrary to the scriptures. 

To talk of forming a favourable judgment from a profession of 
Christianity in general^ is as contrary to reason and common sense, 
as it is to the New Testament. Suppose a candidate for a seat in 
(he House of Commons, on being asked his political principles, 
should profess himself a friend to liberty in general. A freehold- 
er inquires, ' Do you disapprove, sir, of taxation with ut repre- 
aentation ?' * No.' 'Would you vote for a reform in Parlia- 
ment ?' ' No.' 'Do you approve of the liberty of the press ? '' No.' 
Would this afford satisfaction ] Is it not common for men to admit 
that in the gross, which they deny in detail ? The only question 
that can fairly bo urged is, Are the doctrines which Socinians dis- 
own (supposing them to be true) of such importance, that a rejec- 
tion of them would endanger their salvation ? 

It must be allowed, that these doctrines may be what we consid- 
er them, not only true, but essential to Christianity. Christianity, 
like every other system of truth, must have some principles which 
are essential to it: and, if those in question be such, it cannot just- 
ly be imputed to pride or bigotry, it cannot be uncharitable, or un- 
candid, or indicate any want of benevolence, to think so. Neither 
can it be wrong to draw a natural and necessary conclusion, that 
those persons who reject these principles are not Clirisiians. To 
think justly of persons 19, in no respect, inconsistent with an uni- 
versal good will towards them. It isnot, in the least, contrary to 
charity, to consider unbelievers in the light in which the scriptures 
represent them ; nor those who reject what is essential to the 
gospel, asr ejectiniithe gospel ilsell. 

Dr. Pri»!stley will not deny, that Christianity has its threat truths, 
though he will not allow the doctrines in question to make any part 
of them, " The being of a God — his constant over-ruling provi- 
dence, and righteous moral government — the divine origin of the 
Jewish and Christian revelations — that Christ was a teacher sent 
from God — that he is our master, law-giver, and judge — tliat God 
raised him from the dead — that he is now exalted at the right hand of 

Vol. 11. 18 

138 ON CHARITY. [Lktter X. 

God — that he will come again, to raise all the dead, and sit in judg- 
ment upon them — and that he wiU then give to every one of us 
according to our works : — ^' These," he says, " are properly 
speaking, the only great truths of religion: and to these not only 
the Church of England, and the Church of Scotland, but even the 
Church 0/ Home, gives its assent."* We see here, that Dr. Priest- 
ley not only allows, that there are certain great truths of religion, 
but determines what, and what "only," they are. I donol recol- 
lect, however, that the false teachers in the churches of Galatia 
denied any one of these articles ; and yet, without rejecting some 
ofihe gi^eat and essential truths of Christianity, they could not have 
perverted the gospel of Christ, or have introduced another gospel. 
But Dr. Priestley, it seems, though he allows the above to be 
great truths, yet considers nothing as essential to Christianity, but 
a belief of the divine mission of Christ, " While a man believes," 
he says, "in the divine mission of Christ, he might with as much pro- 
priety be called a Mahometan, as be denied to be a Christian"! To 
call Socinians Mahometans, might, in most cases, be improper : 
they would still, however, according to this criterion of Christian- 
ity, be within the pale of the church ; for Mahomet himself, I sup- 
pose, never denied the divine mission of Christ, nor very few of 
those doctrines which Dr. Priestley calls " the onlt/ great truths of 
religion." The Doctor informs us, that ''some people consider 
him, already, as half aMahometan."| Whether this bejust or un- 
just, according to his notions of Christianity, a Mahometan is to be 
considered as more than half a Christian ? He ought, if the 
above criterion be just, to be acknowledged as a fellow christian ; 
and the whole party, instead of being ranked with heathenish and 
Jewish unbelievers, as they are by this same writer,§ ought to be 
considered as a sect, or denomination of Christians. The Doc- 
tor, therefore, need not have stopped at the Church of Home, but 
might have added the Church of Constantinople, as agreeing in his 
" only great truths of religion." 

* Familiar Letters, Letter, XXII. 
+ Considerations on difference of opinion tV, 
X Preface to Letters to Mr. Burn, 
h Familiar Letters, Letter XVII. Conclusion. 

Letter X.l ON CHARITY. 139 

I scarcely ncotl to draw thr ronrlusion which follows from what 
has beon observed : If not only tliosc who perverted the gospel 
among the Galatians, did, but even the Mahometans may acknowl- 
edge (hose truths which Dr. Priestley mentions, they cannot be 
the only great, much lest? the distinguishing truths of the Chris- 
tian religion. 

The difference between Socinians and Calvinists, is not about 
the mere circumstantials of religion. It respects nothing less than 
the rule of faith, the ground of hope, and the object of worship. 
If the Socinians be right, we are not only superstitious devotees, 
and deluded dependents upon an arm of flesh,* but habitual idola- 
ters. On the other hand, if we be right, they are guilty of refu- 
sing to subject their faith to the decisions ofheaven ; of rejecting 
the only way of salvation ; and of secreligiously depriving the Son 
of God of his essential glory. It is true, they do not deny our 
Christianity on account of our supposed idolatry ; but for this no 
reason can be assigned, except their inditTerence to religious 
truth, and the Deistical turn of their sentiments. 

If the proper deity of Christ be a divine truth, it is a great and 
a fundamental truth in Christianity. Socinians, who reject it, 
very consistently reject the worship of Christ with it. But wor- 
ship enters into the essence of religion ; and the worship of 
Christ, according to the New Testament, into the essence of the 
Christian religion. The primitive Christians ar echaracterized 
by their calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus. The Apostle 
when writing to the Corinthians, addressed himself fo the church of 
Qod at Corinth, to them that zverc sanctified in Christ JesuSy called 
to be saintSj with all that in every pl(u:e callf.d upon the name ok 
.Ifsus Christ our LoRD.t That this is designed as a description 

* Jer. xxTii. 5. 

t Mr. Lindsoy'.! observation, (hut Cnllmi upon the name of Christy should l>e 
rendered, Called by the name of Christ, if apphod to Rom. x. 13, would make 
the scriptures promise salvation to every one that is called a Christian. Sal- 
vation is promised to all wao bclieit, love, ftar, aod call upon the name of the 
Lord ; but novcr are tli<? possessors of it debcril)ed by a Mipre accidental cir- 
• umstancc, iu wn rh they are not voluntary, and in which, if tboy were. tKere 
IS no Tirtue. 

140 Ox\ CHARITY. [Lktteu X. 

of true Christians will not be denied ; but this description does not 
include Socinians, seeing they call not upon the name of Christ. 
The conclusion is, Socinians would not have been acknowledged, 
by the Apostle Paul, as true Christians. 

If the deity of Christ be a divine truth, it must be the Father's 
will, that all men should honour the Son, in the same sense, and 
to the same degree, as they honour the Father ; and those who 
honour him not as God, will not only be found opposing the divine 
will, but are included in the number of those who, by refusing to 
honour the Son, honour not the Father who hath sent him: which 
amounts to nothing less, than that the worship which they pay to 
the Father, is unacceptable in his sight. 

If the deity of Christ be a divine truth, he is the object of trust; 
and that not merely in the character ot* a witness, but as Jehovahy 
in rvhom is everlasting strength. This appears to be another 
characteristic of true Christians in the New Testament. In his 
name shall the Gentiles trust. — / know who)n I have trusted; and 
that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him. — In 
whom ye also trusted, after ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of 
your salvation.* But, if it be a characteristic of true Christianity 
so to trust in Christ, as to commit the salvation of our souls into 
his hands ; how can we conceive of those as true Christians, who 
consider him only as a fellow-creature ; and, consequently, place 
no such confidence in him ? 

If n^.en by nature be in a lost and perishing condition ; and if 
Christ came to seek and save them under those characters, as he 
himself constantly testitied : then, all those that were whole in 
their own eyes, and seemed to need no physician, as the Scribes 
and Pharisees of old, must necessarily be excluded from an inter- 
est in his salvation. And in what other light can those persons be 
considered, who deny the depravity of their nature, and approach 
the Deity without respect to an atoning Saviour ? — Further : 

If the death of Christ, as an atoning sacrifice, be the only way 
of a sinner's salvation ; if there be no other name given under 
heaven^ or among men, by which we must he saved; if this be the 

♦ Matt. xii. 21. 3 Tim. i. 12. Ephes. i. 12, 13. 


foundatioji ■u.hich God hath laid in '/Aon ; and if no other will stand 
in the day ot' trial ; how can we conceive, that those who deliher- 
ately disown it, and renounce all dependence upon it for accept- 
ance with (Jod, should yet he interested in it? is it supposahic, 
that tliey will partake of that forgiveness of s'.ns^ which believers 
are said to receive /or his sake, and through his name, who refuse 
to make use of that name in any of their petitions ? 

If the doctrine of atonement hy the cross of Christ be a divine 
truth, it constitutes the very substance of the gospel ; and, conse- 
quently, is essential to it. The doctrine of the cross is repre- 
sented in the New Testament, as the grand peculiarity, and the 
principal glory of Christianity. It occupies a large proportion 
among the doctrines of scripture, and is expressed in a vast variety 
of language. Christ xcas delivered for our offences, "wounded for 
our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. — He died for our 
sins. — J5j/ his death purged our sins — is said to Itke (or bear) azcay 
the sins of the world — to have made peace through the blood of his 
cross — reconciled us to God by his death — redeemed us by his blood 
— ■:i:ashed us from our sins in his ok'JI blood — hy his on.'n blood 
obtained eternal redemption for us — purchased his church by his 
oTun blood, &c. &c. This kind of language is so interwoven with 
the doctrine of the New Testament, that, to eiplain away the one, 
is to subvert the other. The doctrine of the cross is described as 
being, not merely an important branch of the gospel, but the gospel 
itself. JVe preach Christ cruci^cd ; to the Jens a stumbling-block^ 
and to the Greeks foolishness : hut to them that are called, both Jews 
and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. — / 
determined not to knovo any thing among you, save Jesus Christ and 
him crucified. — An enemy to fhe cross of Christ, is only another 
mode of describing an enemy to the gospel.* It was reckoned a 
suHkicnt refutation of any principle, if it could be proved to involve 
in it the consequence of Christ's having died iti rain.t Christ's 
dying for our sins, is not oiJy declared to be a r.ivine truth, accor- 
ding to the scriptures, but a truth of such importance, that the then 
present standing, and the final salvation of the Corinthians, were 

• 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. ii. 2. + Gal. ii. 21. 

142 ON CHABITY. [Letter X 

suspended upon their adherence to it.* In fine, the doctrine of 
the cross is the cen'iral point in which all the lines of evangelical 
truth meet, and ar.B united. . What the sun is to the system of 
nature, that the doctrine of the cross is to the system of the 
gospel ; it is the life of it. The revolving planets might as 
well exist and keep their course, without the attracting influence 
of the one, as a gospel be exhibited worthy of the name, that 
should leave out the other. 

I am aware that Socinian writers do not allow the doctrine of 
the atonement, to be signified by that of the a'oss. They would 
tell you, that they believe in the doctrine of the cross ; and allow 
it to have a relative or subordinate importance, rendering the truth 
of Christ's resurrection more evident, by cutting off all presence 
that he was not really dead.j Whether this meagre sense of the 
praise will agree with the design of the Apostle, in this and va- 
rious other passaj^es in the New-Testament ; whether it contains 
a sufficient ground tor that singular glorying of which he speaks, 
or any principle by which the world was crucified to him, and he 
unto the world, let the impartial judge. But, be this as it may, the 
question here is not whether the doctrine of atonement be sig- 
nified by that of the cross ; but, supposing it to be so, whether it 
be of such importance as to render a denial of it a virtual denial of 
Christianity ? — Once more : 

If we believe in the absolute necessity of regeneration^ or, that 
a sinner must be renewed in the spirit of his mind, or never enter 
into the kingdom of God ; in what light must we consider those 
who plead for a reformation only, and deny the doctrine of a su- 
pernatural divine influence, by which anew heart is given us, and 
a new spirit is put within us ? Ought wc, or can we, consider them 
as the subject of a divine change, who are continually ridiculing 
the very idea of it ? 

It is common for our opponents to stigmatize us with the name 

of Bigots. Bigotry, if I understand it, is a blind and inordinate 

attachment to one's opinions. If we be attached to principles on 

account of their being owr'.s, or because we have adopted them, 

* 1 Cor. XV. 1 — 3. 

t Dr. Priestley's Sermon on Glorying; in the Cro*?. 

Letter X] ON CHARITY. I4j 

rather than because they appear to us to be taught in the holy 
scriptures ; if we be attached to some peculiar principles to the 
neglect of others, or so as to give them a gieater proportioo in 
the system than they require ; if we consider things as be- 
ing of greater importance than the scriptures represent them ; if 
we obstinately adhere to our opinions, so as to be averse to free 
inquiry, and not open to conviction ; if we make so much of prin- 
ciples as to be inattentive to holy practice ; or if a dilference iu 
religious sentiment destroy or damp our bennvolence to the per- 
sons of those from whom we differ ; in any c»f these cases, we are 
subject to the charge of bigotry. But we may consider a belief 
of certain doctrines as necessary to salvation, without coming un- 
der any part of the above description. We may be attached to 
these doctrines, not because we have already embraced them, 
but on account of their appearing to us to be revealed in the scrip- 
tures : we may give them only that degree of importance in our 
views of things, whicli they occupy there : we may be so far 
friends to free inquiry, as impartially to search the scriptures, to 
see whether these things be true; and so open to conviction, as 
to relinquish our sentiments when they are proved to be unscrip- 
tural. We may be equally attached to practical goodness, as to 
the principles on which it is founded; and, notwithstanding our 
dl opinion of the religious sentiments of men, and our apprehen- 
sions of the danger of tiieir condition, we may yet bear good will 
to their persons, and wish for nothing more than an opportunity of 
promoting their welfare, both for ihis life and which is to come. 

1 do not pretend that Calvinisls are free from bigotry ; neither 
are their opponents. What I here contend for, is, That their 
considering a belief of certain doctrines as necessary to salvation, 
unless it can be proved that they make more of these doctrines 
than the scriptures make of them, ought not to subject them to 
such a charge. 

What is there of bigotry in our not reckoning the Socinians to 
be Christians, more than in their reckoning us idoiators f Mr 
Madan complains of tire Socinians " insulting those of his princi- 
ples with the charge of idolatry." Dr. Priestley jtBtified them 
by observing. " All wlm brliovr" rihri'^t to be a mari. and not God;, 

144 ON CHARITY. | Letter X, 

must nece.ssaril}^ think it idolatrous to pay him divine honours ; 
and to call it so, is no other than the necessary consequence of. 
avowing our belief." Nay, he represents it as ridiculous, that 
they should *' be allowed to think the Trinitarians idolaters, with- 
out being permitted to call them so."* If Socinians have a right 
to think Trinitarians idolaters, they have, doubtless, a right to call 
them so ; and, if they be able to make it appear so : nor ought 
we to consider oursel?es as insulted by it. I have no idea of be- 
ing offended with any man, in afifairs of this kind, for speaking 
what he believes to be the truth. Instead of courting compli- 
ments from each other, in matters of such moment, we ought to 
encourage an unreser?edness of expression- provided it be ac- 
companied with sobriety and benevolence. But, neither ought 
Socinians to complain of our refusing to acknowledge them as 
Christians, or to impute it to a spirit of bigotry ; for it amounts to 
nothing more than avowing a necessary consequence of our belief. 
If we believe the deity and atonement of Christ to be essential 
to Christianity, we must, necessarily, think those who reject these 
doctrines, to be no Christians ; nor is it inconsistent with charity 
to speak accordingly. 

Again ; what is there of bigotry, in our not allowing the Socin 
ians to be Christians, more than in their not allowing us to be Uni- 
tarians? We profess to believe in the divine unity, as much as 
they do in Christianity. But they consider a oneness of person, 
as well as of essence, to be essential to the unity of God ; and, 
therefore, cannot acknowledge us as Unitarians : and we consider 
the deity and atonement of Christ as essential to Christianity ; and, 
therefore, cannot acknowledge them as Christians. We do not 
choose to call Socinians Unitarians, because that would be a vir- 
tual acknowledgment that we ourselves do not believe in the 
divine unity : but we are not offended at what they think of us ; 
nor do we impute it to bigotry, or to any thing of the kind. We 
know, that, while they think as they do on the doctrine of the 
Trinity, our sentiments must appear to them as Tritheism. We 
comfort ourselves, in these matters, with this, that the thoughts of 
creatures, uninspired of God, are liable to mistake. Such are 

Lbtter X.] ON CHARITY. I45 

theirs concerning us, ami such are ours concerning them ; and if 
Socininns do indeed love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerityj it is 
happy for them. The judgment of their fellow-creatures cannot 
affect their state : and thousands who have scrupled to admit them 
among the true followers of Christ in this world, would rejoice 
to find themselves mistaken in that matter at the hist day. 

It has heen pleaded, hy some who are not Socinians, that a be- 
lief in the doctrine of the atonement is not necessary to salvation : 
they observe, That the disciples of our Lord, previously to his 
death, do not appear to have embraced the idea of a vicarious 
sacrifice ; and therefore conclude that a belief in a vicarious 
sacrifice is not of the essence of faith. They add. It was owing 
to prejudice, and, consequently, wrong, for the disciples to dis- 
believe this doctrine ; and they admit the same thing with respect 
to Socinians ; yet, as the error in the one case did not endanger 
their salvation, they suppose it may not do so in the other. To 
this objection the following observations are offered in reply. 

First: Those who object in this manner do not suppose the 
disciples of Christ to have agreed with Socinians in any of their 
peculiar sentiments, except the rejection of a vicariotis sacrifice. 
They allow them to have believed in the doctrine of human de- 
pravity, divine influence, the miraculous conception, the pre-ex- 
istence and proper deity of Christ, the inspiration of the scriptures, 
&c. The case of the disciples, therefore, is far from being paral- 
lel with that of the Socinians. 

Secondly ; Whatever were the ignorance and error which oc- 
cupied the minds of the di.scij)les, relative to the death of their 
Lord, their case will not apply to that of Socinians, on account of 
the difference in the state of revelation, as it stood before and after 
that event. Were it even allowed, that the disciples did reject 
the doctrine of Christ's being a vicarious sacrifice ; yet the cir- 
cumstances which they were under render their case verv differ- 
ent from ours. We can perceive a very considerable difference 
between rejecting a principle before, and after a full discussion of 
it. It would be a far greater evil, in the present day, to persecute 
men for adhering to the dictates of their con^^ciences, than it was 
before the rights of conscience were so fully understood. It may 

V,,,. rr. 19 

J 40 ON CHARITY. [Letter X. 

include a thousand degrees more guilt for this country, at the 
present time, to persist in the slave-trade, than to have done the 
same thing previously to the late inquiry on that business. But 
the disparity between periods, with regard to the light thrown 
upon these subjects, is much less than between the periods before 
and after the death of Christ, with regard to the light thrown upon 
that subject. The difference between the periods before and after 
the death of Christ, was as great as between a period in which a 
prophecy is unaccomplished, and that in which it is accomplished. 
There are many things that seem plain in prophecy, when the 
event is passed, which cannot then be honestly denied : and it 
may seem wonderful, that they should ever have been overlooked, 
or mistaken ; yet overlooked or mistaken they have been, and 
that by men of solid understanding and real piety. 

It was after the death of Christ, when the means of knowledge 
began to diffuse light around them, that the disciples were, for the 
first time, reproved for their slowness of heart to believe, in refer- 
ence to this subject. It was after the death and resurrection of 
Christ, when the way of salvation was fully and clearly pointed 
out, that those who stumbled at the doctrine of the cross were 
reckoned disobedient, in such a degree as to denominate them un- 
believers, and that the most awful warnings and threatenings were 
pointed against them, as treading underfoot the blood of the Son of 
God. It is true, our Lord had repeatedly predicted his death, 
and it was faulty in the disciples not to understand and believe it ; 
yet what he taught on that subject was but little when compared 
with what followed. The great salvation, as the Apostle to the 
Hebrews expresses it, first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was 
confirmed to the primitive Christians by those who heard him; but 
then it is added, God also bearing them witness, both with signs and 
wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, 
according to his own will* Now, it is upon this accumulation of evi- 
dence that he asks, How shall we escape, if we neglect so great sal- 

*Heb. ii. 1—4. 

Letter X.] ON CHARITY. I47 

A belief in the resurrection of Christ is allowed, on all hands, 
to be essential to salvation ; as it is an event upon which the truth 
of Christianity rests.* But the disciples of Christ, previously to 
the event, were as much in the dark on this article, as on that of 
the atonement. Even to the last, when he was actually risen 
from the dead, they visited his tomb, in hope of finding him, and 
could scarcely believe their set)ses, with respect to his having 
left it ; yor as yet they knezi^ not the scripture, that he inust rise again 
from the dead. Now, if the resurrection of Christ, though but 
little understood before the event, may, after it, he considered ai 
essential to Christianity ; there is no reason to conclude, but that 
the same may be said of his atonement. 

Thirdly : It is not clear, that the disciples did reject the idea 
of a vicarious sacrifice. They had, all their lives, been accustom- 
ed to vicarious sacrifices : it is, therefore, very improbable, that 
they should be prejudiced against the idea itself Their objec- 
tion to Christ's laying down his life, seems to have been directed 
simply against his dying, rather than against his dying as a vicari- 
ous sacrifice. Could they have been reconciled to the former, 
for any thing that appears, they would have readily acquiesced in 
the latter. Their objection to the death of Christ seepfis to have 
been more the effect of ignorance and misguided affection, than of 
a rooted opposition of principle : and therefore when they came 
to see clearly into the design of his death, it is expressed not as 
if they had essentially altered their sentiments, but remembered 
the words which he had spoken to them ; of which, while their 
minds were beclouded with the notions of a temporal kingdom, 
they could form no clear or consistent ideas, and, therefore, had 
forgotten them.t 

And, notwithstanding the ignorance and error which attended 
the disciples, there are things said of them which imply much 
more than the objection would seem to allow : — Whither I go, said 
Christ, ye hwu: ; and the way ye know. As if he should say, I 
am not going to a strange place, but to the house of my Father 
nnd of your Father ; with the way to which you arc acquainted, 

* 1 Cor. xix. 14, 15. Rom. x. 9. t Luke xxiv. 1—8. 

148 ON CHARITY. [Letter X. 

and therefore will soon be with me. Thomas said unto hijUj Lord, 
we know not whither thou goest^ and how can we know the loay ? 
Jesus said unto him, I am the wai/, the truths and the life : no man 
Cometh unto the Father hut by me. — If ye had known me, ye 
should have known my Father also : and from, henceforth ye know 
him, and have seen him.* From this passage it appears, that the 
disciples had a ^e«era/ idea of salvation through Christ ; though 
they did not understand jpar^icw/ar/y, how it was to be accomplish- 
ed. Farther : Christ taught his hearers, saying, Except ye eat 
my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you : — and the 
bread that I will give is my flesh, that I will give for the life of the 
world. On this occasion, many of his nominal disciples were of- 
fended, and loalkedno more with him; but the true disciples were 
not offended. On the contrary, being asked, Will ye also go 
away? Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the 
words of eternal life.] From this passage it plainly appears, that 
the true disciples of Christ were, even at that time, considered 
as believing so much on the subject of Christ's giving himself for 
the life of the world, as to eat his flesh and drink his blood', for 
our Lord certainly did not mean to condemn them, as having no 
life in them. So far were they from rejecting this dofctrine, that 
the same words at which the f\dse disciples were offended, were 
to them the words of eternal life. Probably, this great truth was 
sometimes more, and sometimes less apparent to their view. At 
those periods in which their minds were occupied with the notion 
of a temporal kingdom, or in which events turned up contrary to 
their expectations, they would be all in darkness concerning it ; 
yet, with all their darkness, and with all their doubts, it does 
not appear to be a doctrine which they can be said to have rejected. 
No person, I think, who is open to conviction can be a bigot, 
whatever be his religious sentiments. Our opponents, it is true, 
are very ready to suppose, that this is our general character, and 
that we are averse from free inquiry : but this may be more 
than they are able to prove. We acknowledge, that we do not 
choose to circulate books indiscriminately among our friends, 

- .Tohu xiv. 4 — 7. t.Tohn vi. 61 — tj}>. 

Lettkr X.] ON CHARITY. j^j 

whi( h are cont^'dored by us as containing false and pernicious doc- 
trines ; neither do otiier people. 1 never knew a zealous Dis- 
senter enger to circulate a book containing high-church principles, 
amonfj his children and connexions ; nor a Churchman, those 
which contain the (rue principles of dissent. In like manner, an 
Anti-triiiitari;in will not propagate the best productions of Trin- 
ituriiins. If lhc_y happen to meet with a weak performance, in 
which the subject is treated to disadvantage, liiey may feel no 
great objertiuii to make it public ; but it is otherwise with res- 
pect to those in which it is treated to advantage. I have known 
some gentlemen aflecting to possess what has been called a liberal 
mind, who have discovered no kind of concern at the indiscrim- 
inate circulation of Socinian productions ; but 1 have also pcrcei' 
ved, that those gentlemen have not been far from their kingdom 
of h aven. If any person choose to read the writings of a Socin- 
ian or ot an Atheist, he is at liberty to do so ; but, as the Monlhhj 
Reviewers themselves observe, " Though we are always ready to 
engage in inquiries after truth, and wish to see them at all times 
promoted ; yet we choose to avoid disseminating notions which 
we cannot approve."* 

As to being open to conviction ourselves, it has been frequently 
observed, that Socinians discover as great an aversion to the read- 
ing of our writings, as we can discover to the reading of theirs. 
Some will read them ; but not many. Out of a hundred persons, 
whose minds lean towards the Socinian system, should you put into 
their hands a well-written Calvinistic performance, and desire 
them carefully and seriously to read it over, I question whether 
five would comply with your request. So far, however, as my 
observation extends, I can perceive in such persons an eagerness 
for reading those writin;;s which suit their taste, and a contempt of 
others, equal, if not superior, to what is perceivable in people of 
other denominations. 

Dr. Triestley suggests, that the importance which we give to 
our sentiments, tends to prevent an earnest and impartial search 
after truth. " While they imbibe such a notion of (hrir present 

*" MimUily Krviow Fjilar;;ed, Vol. VI. p. 55.S. 

I3Q ON CHARITY. [Letter X. 

sentiments, they must needs" he says, <' live in the dread of all 
free inquiry ; whereas we, who have not that idea of the impor- 
tance of our present sentiments, preserve a state of mind proper 
for the discussion of them. If we be wrong, as our minds are 
under no strong bias, we are within the reach of conviction ; and 
thus are in the way to grow wiser and better as long as we live."* 
Mr. Belsham, however, appears to think the very reverse. He 
pleads, and 1 think very justly,that an idea of the non-importance of 
sentiment, tends to destroy a spirit of inquiry, by becalming the 
mind into a state of indifference and carelessness. He complains of 
those of his own party, (the Socinians,) who maintain that ''sin- 
cerity is every thing, that nothing is of much value but an honest 
heart, and that speculative opinions, the cant name for those inter- 
esting doctrines, which the wise and good in every age have 
thought worthy of the'most serious discussion, — that these specu- 
lative opinions, as they are opprobriously called, are of little use. 
What i« this," adds he, *' but to pass a severe censure upon those 
illustrious names, whose acute and learned labours have been suc- 
cessfully employed in clearing up the difficulties in which these 
important subjects were involved ; to condemn their own conduct, 
in wasting so much of their time and pains upon such useless spec- 
ulations ; and to check the progress of religious inquiry and 
Christian knowledge ? Were I a friend to the popular maxim — 
that speculative opinions are of no importance, I would endeavour 
to act consistently with my principles : I would content myself 
with believing as my fathers believed ; I would take no pains to 
acquire or diffuse knowledge ; I would laugh at every attempt to 
instruct and to meliorate the world ; I would treat as a visionary 
and a fool, every one who should aim to extend the limits of sci- 
ence ; I would recommend to my fellow-creatures that they should 
neither lie nor defraud, that they should neither swear falsely nor 
steal, should say their prayers as they have been taught : but, as 
to any thing else, that they need not give themselves any concern ; 
for that honesty was every thing, and that every expectation of 

^Considerations on Difference of Opinion, II. 

Letter X] 0\ CHARI TY. 


improvin*; their circumstances, by cultivating; their understandint^i 
iind extendini^ their vie\v>., would prove delusive and chimerical."* 
None will imagine that I have quoted Mr. Belsham on account 
of my agreement with him in the great principles of the gospel. 
Wliat he would reckon important truth, I should consider as per- 
nicious error : and, probably, his views of the importance of what 
he accounts truth, are not equal to what 1 have alten)pted to main- 
tain. But, in this general principle we are agreed : That our 
conceiving of truth as being of but little importance, has a tendency 
to check free inquiry rather than to promote it : w hich is the reverse 
of w hat we are taught by Dr. Priestley. 

To illustrate the subject more fully : Suppose the possession of 
a precious stone, of a certain description, to entitle us to the pos- 
session of some very desirable object ; and suppose that none of 
any other description would answer the same end ; would that 
consideration tend to prejudice our minds in favour of any stone 
we might happen to possess; or prevent an impartial and strict in- 
quiry into its properties ? Would it not rather induce us to be 
more inquisitive and careful, lest we should be mistaken, and so lose 
the prize ? If on the other hand, we could imagine, that any stone 
w ould answer the same end, or that an error in that matter were of 
trifling importance as to the issue, would it not have a tendency to 
promote a spirit of carelessness in our examinations ; and, as all 
men are apt, in such cases, to be prejudiced in favour of what thej 
already have, to make us rest contented with what we had in pos- 
session, be it what it might ? 

It is allowed, however, that, as every good has its counterfeit, 
and as there is a mixture of human prejudices and passions in all 
we think or do, there is danger of this principle degenerating into 
an unchristian severity ; and of its being exercised at the expense 
of that benevolence which is due to all men. There is nothing, 
however, in this view of things, which, in its own nature, tends to 
promote these evils : for .the most unfavourable opinion of a man's 
principles and state may con'^i'-t wilii the most perfect benevolence 

*" Sermon on tlic Imjtorlanre of truth, pp. 6, 6. 

J 52 ON CHARITY. [Letter X. 

and compassion towards his person. Jesus Christ thought as ill of 
the principles and state of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the 
generality of the Jewish nation, as any of us think of one another ; 
yet he wept over Jerusalem, and to his last hour sought her wel- 
fare. The apostle Paul had the same conception of the principles 
and state of the generality of his countrymen, as Christ himself 
had, and much the same as we have of the Socinians. He consid- 
ered them, though ihey follo'wed after the law of righteousness, or 
were very devout in their way, yet as not having attained to the law 
of i ighteousness ; in other words, as not being righteous persons ; 
which the Gentiles, who submitted to the gospel, were. And 
wherefore ? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by 
the works of the law ? For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone * 
Yet Paul, in the same chapter, and in the most solemn manner, 
declared, that he had great heaviness, and continual sorrow in his 
heart. — Nay, that he could wish himself accursed from CJirist, for 
his brethren's sake, his kinsmen according to theflesh ! 

But why need I say any more ? Dr. Priestley himself allows 
all I plead for : '• The man,', says he, " whose sole spring of 
action is a concern for lost souls, and a care to preserve the purity 
of that gospel which alone teaches the most effectual method of 
their recovery from the power of sin and Satan unto God, will feel 
an ardour of mind that will prompt him strenuously to oppose all 
those whom he considers as obstructing his benevolent designs." 
He adds, " I could overlook every thing in a man who I thought 
meant nothing but my everlasting welfare."! This, and nothing 
else, is the temper of mind which 1 have been endeavouring to 
defend ; and, as Dr. Priestley has here generously acknowledged 
its propriety it becomes us to acknowledge, on the other hand, that 
every species of zeal for sentiments, in which a concern for the 
everlasting welfare of men is wanting is an unhallowed kind of 
fire ; for which whoever indulges it will receive no thanks from 
Him whose cause he may imagine himself to have espoused. 

I am, &c. 

* Rom. ix, 30—32. 
t On Difference of Opinion, {I. 



THE Love of christ. 

' 'h ristiun Brcth ren , 

If the holy scriptures be a proper medium by which to judge 
of the nature of virtue, it must be allowed to include the love of 
Christ : nay, that love to Christ is one of the cardinal virtues of 
the Christian scheme ; seein;T it occupies a most important place 
in the doctrines and precepts of inspiration. He that loveth me, 
said Christ, shall be loved of my Father. — If God were your Fath- 
er, ye would love me. — Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, 
though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeak- 
able and full of glory. — Grace be zvith all them that love our Lord 
Jesus Christ in sincerity. — If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, 
let him be anathema marari-atha.* 

From these passages, with many others that might be produced 
we may conclude, that love to Christ is not only a Christian virtue, 
but essential to the very existence of Christianity ; nay, to moral- 
ity itself, if by term be meant a conformity to the moral law. 
The following lines, though expressed by a poet, contain more 
than a poetic fliglit, even the words of truth and soberness ; 

'* Tiilk they of Mur;ili ' Oh thou bleoainj^ Love, 
The grand morally is love of Thee 1" 


In judging which of the systems in question is most adapted to 
promote love to Christ, it should seem sufficient to determine, 
which of them tends most to exalt his character ? which places hi5 

' John xiv. 21. viii. 42, I Pet. i. 8. Kpiics. vi. 24. 1 Cor. xvi. 25. 
Vol. II. 30 

J 64 LOVE TO CHRIST. [Letter XI. 

mediation in the most important light ? and which represents us 
as most indebted to his undertaking ? 

With respect to the first : Every being commands our affection, 
in proportion to the degree of intellect which he possesses ; pro- 
Tided that his goodness be equal to his intelligence. We feel a 
respect towards an animal, and a concern at its death, which we 
do not feel towards a vegetable ; towards those animals which are 
very sagacious, more than to those which are otherwise ; towards 
man, more than to mere animals ; and towards men of enlarged 
powers, if they be but good as well as great, more than to men in 
common. According to the degree of intellect which they possess, 
so much they have of being, and of estimation in the scale of being. 
A man is cf more value than many sparroz/vs ; and the life of David 
was reckoned to be worth ten thousand of those of the common 
people. It has been thought to be on this principle, that God, 
possessing infinitely more existence than all the creatures taken 
together, and being as good as he is great, is to be loved and re- 
vered without bounds, except those which arise from the limitation 
of our powers ; that is, with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and 

Now, if these obervations be just, it cannot be doubted which of 
the systems in question tends most to promote the love of Christ : 
that which supposes him to be equal, or one with God ; or that 
which reduces him to the rank of a mere fellow-creature. In the 
same proportion as God himself is to be loved above man, so is 
Christ to be loved, supposing him to be truly God, above what he 
is, or ought to be, supposing him to be merely a fellow-man. 

The prophets, apostles and primitive Christians, seem to have 
felt this motive in A] its force. Hence in their various expres- 
sions of love to Christ, they frequently mingle acknowledgments 
of his divine dignity and excellence. They, indeed never seem 
afraid ot going too far, or of honouring him too much ; but dwell 
upon the dignity and glory of his person, as their darling theme. 
When David meditate-l upon this subject, he was raised above 
himself MiJ heart, sdiih he, is inditing a good matter: I speak 
of the things which I have made touching the King: my tongue is 
as the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of 

Letter XI.] LO\'K TO CHRIST. j ^ ;^ 

men. — 7Vu/ throne, O (Jod, is fur ever and ever : the srepfre of thy 
kin^duin is a right sceptre. — Gird thy sword upon thy thi^h, O most 
MIGHTY, with thy glory and thy majesty.* The expected Messiah 
was frequently the subject of i.^saiuh's prophecies. He loved 
him ; and his love appears to have bet'n ft)undod on his dignity and 
divine excollency. Unto us a child is horn, unto us a son is given, 
and the gocernment shall be upon his shoulder : and his name shall 
be called JVonderJul^ Counsellor, tmk mighty God, the everlast- 
ing Father, the Prince of Peace.] lie thus describes the preach- 
ing of John the Baptist, The voice of him that crieth in the wilder- 
ness, Prepare yc the ivay o/ Jlhovah, make straiifht in the deserta 
high way for our God. — Behold, the Lord Gob will come with a 
strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him; behold, his reward is 
with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a 
shepherd ; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them 
in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.\ 
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, so loved the Messiah as 
to rejoice in his own child, chiefly because he was appointed to 
be his prophet and forerunner. .4nd thou, child, said the enrap- 
tured parent, shall be called the prophet (fjHE. highest ; for thou 
shalf go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his »rayv.§ John 
the B.iptist hinn«olf,when the Jews artfully endeavoured to excite his 
jealousy on account of the superior ministerial success of Christ, 
replied. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the 
Christ. He that hath the bride is the brid- groom: but the friend of 
the bridegroom, tchich standeth and heareth him, rcjoiceth greatly 
because of the bridegroom- s voice : this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 
He that COMETH FROM AFOVE IS ABOVE ALL : hc that is of thc 
earth is earthly , and speaketh (f the earth: he that cometm prom 


* Psa. xlv. 1- f . t Isu. ix. 6. 

\ Isu. xl.:3, 10, il ; Luke i. 7G. 

Ij Joha iii. 2ft— 31. Query, In wlmt sense coul-i Christ bo said to come 
trom aboTe, cvn from heaven, il he was merely ;i man, and came into the 
world like other men ? It could not be on account of his office, or of recen ing 
hii mission from Clod : for, in that sense, John was from heaven as well as he. 
Was it nut for the same reason whch John elsewhere gives for his being; pre- 
ferred before him ; viz. that he wns before hjm' John i. 15, 30. 

156 LOVE TO CHRIST. ["Letter XI. 

The apostles, who saw the Lord, and who saw the accomplish- 
ment of what the prophets foretold, were not disappointed in him. 
Their love to him was great, and their representations of his per- 
son and character ran in the same exalted strain. In the begin- 
ning was the f Ford, said the beloved disciple, and the Word was 
2cith God, and the Word was God. The same was in the begin- 
ning with God. All things were made by him, and without 


the world, and the world was made by him, and the world 
knew him not. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among 
ns, (and loe beheld his glory, the glory as of the only -begotten 
OF THE Father,) full of grace and truth.* Thomas insisted up- 
on an unreasonable kind ofevidenceof the resurrection of his Lord 
from the dead ; saying Except 1 shall see in his hands the print of 
the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust 
my hand into his side, I loill not believe.] VViicn reproved by our 
Lord's oifering to gratify him in his incredulous proposal, he con- 
fessed with a mixture of shame, grief and affection, that, however 
unbelieving he had been, he was now satisfied, that it was indeed 
bis Lord, and no other ; saying, Mv Lord, and my God ! The 
whole Epistle to the Hebrews breathes an ardent love to Christ, 
and is intermingled with the same kind of language. Jesus is 
there represented as upholding all things by the word of 
his power, as the object of angelic adoration : as he to whom 
it was said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and evkr : as he 
who laid the foundation of the earth, and concerning whom it 
is added, the heavens are the work of thine hands : as su- 
perior to Moses, the one being the builder and owner of the 
house, even God that built all things ; and the other, only a ser- 
vant in it: as superior to Aaron and to all those of his order, 
a gre\t high priest Jesus the son of God: and finally as 
infinitely superior to angels ; for to which of the angels, said 
he at any time, Thou art my Son ; or. Sit on my right hand? 
Hence, the gospel is considered as exhibiting a great salvation ; 
and those who neglect it, are exposed to a recompense of wrath 
which they shall not escape.\ 

* John i. 1—3, 14. t John xx. 24—28. 

:j:Heb. i.3,5,6,8. 10, 13. ill. 3— 6. iv. 14. ii. S. 

Letter XI.] LOVE TO CHRIST. 1 57 

Paul could scarcely mention the name ofChrirst without addinj; 
isomc strong cncouium in liis praise. Wlien he was enumcralinj» 
those things which rendered his countrymen dear to him, he men- 
tions their being Israelites, to whom pertained tlie adoption, and 
the glory, and the rovenants, and the giving of the /ati-, and the 
service of God, and the promises : whose were the fathers, and of 
whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. Here, it seems, he 
might have stopped : hut, having mentioned the name of Christ, 
he could not content himself without adding. Who is ovfr all 
God hi.fsski) for fvfii. Amen.'^ Having occasion also to speak 
of him, in his Epistle to the Colossians, as Uod's dear Son, in 
whom n-e have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of 
sins ; he could not forbear adding, JVho is the imaqe of the invisible 
God, the first born of every ereature. For by him were all things 
created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisi- 
ble, whether thrones, or dominiojis, or principalities or powers ; all 
things were created by him, and for him. And he is before all 
things, and by him all things consist.^ 

And now, brethren, I might appeal to you on the justness of Dr. 
Priestley's assertion, that " in no sense whatever, not even in the 
lowest of all, is Christ so much as called God, in all the New Tes- 
tament. "J 1 might appeal to you, whether such language as the 
above would ever have proceeded from the sacred writers, had 
they embraced the scheme of our opponents. But waving these 
particulars, as irrelative to the immediate point in hand, I appeal 
to you, whether such love as the prophets and apostles expressed 
towards Christ, could consist with his being merely a fellow-crea- 
ture, and their considering him as such ; whether the manner in 
which they expressed that love, upon the principles of our oppo- 
nents, instead of being acceptable to God, couhl have been any 
other than the height of extravagance, and the essence of idolatry ? 
•hulge also for yourselves, brethren, which of the systems in ques- 
tion has the greatest tendency to promote such a spirit of love to 
Christ, as is here exemplified : that which leads us to admire these 

- Rom. ix. ,4, ^. 1 Col. i. l;J— 17. 

t Letter:* to Mr. Hiirn, Letter I. 

158 LO VE TO CHRIST. [Letter XI. 

representations, and, on various occasions, to adopt the same ex- 
pressions ; or that which employs us in coldly criticising away their 
meaning : that which leads us, without fear, to give them their full 
scope ; or that which, while we are honouring the Son, would ex- 
cite apprehensions, lest we should, in so doing dishonour the 
Father ? 

The next question to he discussed is, Which of the two systems 
places the mediation of Christ in the most important poiiit of light? 
That system, doubtless, which finds the greatest use for Christ, or 
in which he occupies the most important place, must have the 
greatest tendency to promote love to him. Suppose a system of 
politics were drawn up, in which civil liberty occupied but a very 
small portion, and was generally kept out of view ; or if, when 
brought forward, it was either for the purpose of abating the high 
notions which some people entertain of it, or, at least, of treating 
it as a matter not absolutely necessary to good civil government ; 
who would venture to assert, that such a system was friendly, or 
its abettors, friends to civil liberty ? This is manifestly a case in 
point. The Socinian system has but little use for Christ; and 
none at all, as an atoning sacrifice. It scarcely ever mentions 
him, unless it be to depreciate those views of his dignity which 
others entertain, or in such a way as to set aside the absolute ne- 
cessity of his mediation. 

It is not so in our views of things. We find so much use for 
Christ, if I may so speak, that he appears as the soul which ani- 
mates the whole body of our divinity ; as the centre of the system, 
diffusing light and life to every part of it. Take away Christ ; 
nay, take away the deity and atonement of Christ ; and the whole 
ceremonial of the Old Testament appears to us little more than a 
dead mass of uninteresting matter: prophecy loses almost all that 
is interesting and endearing : the gospel is annihilated, or ceases 
to be that o-ooc? news to lost sinners which it professes to be : prac- 
tical religion is divested of its most powerful motives ; the evangel- 
ical dispensation, of its peculiar glory ; and heaven itself, of its 
most transporting joys. 

The sacred penmen appear to have written all along upon the 
same principles. They considered Christ as the All in all of iheir 


religion ; anil, as such, they loved him with their whole hearts. Do 
they speak of the Jirst tabernacle ? They call it a figure for the 
time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices. 
that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertain- 
ing to the conscience. — But Christ being come a high priest of good 
things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle^ not 
made with hands, that is to say, not of this building:, neither by the 
blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entoed in onct 
into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for 
us.* Do they speak of prophecy ? They call the testimony 
of Jesus the spirit of it.t Of the gospel ? it is the doctrine of 
Christ crucified.* Of the medium by which the world was cruci- 
fied to them, and they to the world ? It is the same.§ The very 
reproach of Christ had a value stamped upon it, so as, in their es- 
teem, to surpass all the treasures of the present world. || One of 
the most affecting ideas which they aiford us of heaven, consists in 
ascribing everlasting glory and dominion to him that loved us, and 
tcashed us from our sins in his on'n blood. Ten thousand times ten 
thousand, and thousands of thousands were heard 'seith a loud voice, 
saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, 


Let us select a particular instance in the character of Paul. This 
cipostle seemed to be swallowed up in love to Christ. His mercy 
to him, as one of the chief of sinners, had bound his heart to him 
with bonds of everlasting gratitude. Nor was this all ; he saw 
that glory in his person, othce and work, which eclipsed the excel- 
lence of all created objects, which crucified the world to him, and 
him unto the world, ff^hat things were gain to me, those I counted 
lost for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for 
the excellency of the knowledi^e of Christ Jesus my Ijerd : for ichom 
I have suffered the loss of all things. Nordid he now repont : for he 
immediately adds, And do count them but dung, that I may iinn 
Christ, and be found in him ; not hating mine own righteousness which 
is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the n;^ht- 

* Heb.ix. 0—11. t Rer. xix. 10. t • Cor. i. 'JJ. C Gal. ri. 11 
\\ Heb.xj. 26. ' JXcr. r. 11, 12. 

160 LOVE TO CHRIST. [Letter XL 

eousness which is of God hy faith, — That I may hnoio him^ and the 
power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being 
made comformable unto his death.* When his friends wept because 
he would not be dissuaded from going to Jerusalem, he answered, 
}Vliat mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart? For I am ready, 
not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalefn, for the na»ie of 
THE Lord Jesus !t Feeling in himself an ardent love to Christ, 
he vehemently desired that others might love him too. For this 
cause he bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christy in 
behalf of the Ephesians ; praying, that Christ might dwell in their 
hearts by faith. He represented him to them as the medium of 
all spiritual blessings ; o( election, adoption, acceptance ivith God., 
redemption, and the forgiveness of sins ; of a future inheritance, 
and of a present earnest of it', as Head over all things to the 
church, and as him that filleth all in all. He described him 
as the only way o£ access to God, and as the sole foundation of n sin- 
ner's hope ; whose riches were unsearchable, and the dimensions 
of his love passing knowledge.X 

If any drew back, or deviated from the simplicity of the gospel, 
he felt a most ardent thirst for their recovery : witness his Epis- 
tles to the Corinthians, the Galatians, and, (if, as is generally sup- 
posed, he was the writer of it) to the Hebrews. If any one drew 
back, and were not to be reclaimed, he denounced against him the 
divine declaration, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.§ And, 
whatever might be the mind of others, like Joshua, he was at a 
point himself: Henceforth, he exclaims, let no man trouble me: 
for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.W If he wished 
to live, it was for Christ ; or, if to die, it was to be with him.lf 
He invoked the best of blessings on those who ioved the Lord 
Jesus Christ in sincerity ; and denounced an anathema maran- 
atha on those who loved him not.** 

The reason why I have quoted all these passages is, to show 
that the primitive gospel was full of Christ ; or, that Christ was, 
as it were, the centre and the life of the evangelical system ; and 
that this, its leading and principal characteristic, tended wonder- 

* Phil. iii. 7—10. i Acts xxi. 13. X Ephes. i, ii, iii. * Heb. x. 38. 
II Gal. vi. 17. ir Phil. i. 20, 21. ** Ephes. vi. 24. 1 Cor. xvi, 22. 

Lktter XL] LOVK TO CHRIST. jgj 

fully to promote the love of (Jhrist. Now, brethren, let me 
appeal to you again : Which of the systems in question is it, 
whiclj resembles that of the apo-tU-s in this particular; and, con- 
sequently, has the greatest temh'ncy to promote love to Christ ? 
Tliat of which Christ is the All in all ; or that ir) which he is 
•scarcely ever introduced, except for the i)urpose of representing 
him as a " mere fellow-cre.dure, a fdlibleand peccable man '" 

The third, and last question to be discussed, (if, indeed, it need 
any discussion,) is IVhich of tin tico systems represents us as most 
indebted tit Christ'' s undertaking? Our I^ord him*«elf has laid it 
down as an incontrovertible rule, that those who have much for- 
given, will love him much ; and that those who have little forgiven ^ 
will love him hut littlf. Tiiat system, therefore, which supposes 
us the greatest debtors to forgiving love, must needs have the 
greatest tendency to promote a return of love. 

Our views with respect to the depravitif of human nature are 
such, that, upon our system, we have much more to be forgiven, 
tiian our opponents have upon tlieirs. We suppose ourselves to 
have been utterly depraved ; our very nature totally corrupted ; 
;ind, consequently, that ail our supposed virtues, while our hearts 
were at enmity with God, were not virtue in reality, but destitute 
of its very essence. We do not, therefore, conceive of our- 
selves, during our unregcneracy, as having been merely 5/a//J('</ by 
a few imperfections', but as altogether polluted ^ by a course of apos- 
tacy from God, and black rebellion against him. 'i'hat which is 
called sin, by our op|)onents, must consist chiefly, if not eutirely, 
in the irregularity of a man's outward conduct ; else they could 
not suppose, {is Dr. Priestley does, that '^ Virtue bears the same 
proportion to vice, that happiness does to misery, or health to 
sickness, in the world :"• that is, that there is much more of the 
former than of the latter. But the merely outward irregularities 
of men bear no more proportion to the whole of their depravity, 
according to our views of it, than the particles of water which are 
occasionally emitted from the surface of the ocean, to the tide that 
rolls beneath. The religion of those who make sin to consist in 

• Letters to a |*hiJosophical Unbeliever, \ol. I. Letter V. 
Vol. II. 21 

jg2 LOVE TO CHRIST. [Letter XI. 

little beside exterior irregularities, or who conceive of the virtues 
of men as greatly exceeding their vices, appears to us to resemble 
the religion of Paul, previously to his conversion to Christianity. 
While he thought of nothing but the irregularities of his exterior 
conduct, his virtues, doubtless appeared to him to outweigh his 
vices; and, therefore, he concluded all was well ; that he was 
in a fair way to everlasting happiness ; or, as he himself express- 
es it, alive without the law. But when through the glass of that 
divine commandment which prohibits the very inclination to evil, 
he saw the corruption that reigned within, transgression assumed 
a very different appearance : it was then a mighty ocean, that 
swelled, and swept off all his legal hopes. Sin revived, and he 
died. In short our views of human depravity induce us to consid- 
er ourselves, by nature, as unwovthy, as lost, and ready to perish) 
so that, if we are saved at all, it must be by rich grace, and by a 
great Saviour. I scarcely need to draw the conclusion, That, 
having according to our system, most to be forgiven, we shall, if 
we truly enter into it, love most. 

Further : Our system supposes a much greater malignity in 
sin, than that of our opponents. When we speak of sin, we do 
not love to deal as Mr. Belsham does, in extenuating names. We 
find no authority for calling it *' human frailty ;" or for affixing any 
idea to it that shall represent us rather as objects worthy of the 
compassion of God, than as subjects of that which his soul abhor- 
retb. We do not see how Mr. Belsham, or those of his senti- 
ments, while tliey speak of Moral evil in so diminutive a style, can 
possibly conceive of it, after the manner of the inspired writers, 
as an evil and hitter thing ; or, as it is expressed in that remark- 
able phrase of the apostle Paul, exceeding sinful* 

Our opponents deny sin to be, in any sense, an intiuite evil ; or, 
which is the same thing, deserving of endless punishment ; or 

* Tbe expression, exceeding sinful, is very forcible. It resembles the 
phrase, /ar more exceeding, or r&iher, excessiveli/ exceeding, in 2Cor. iv.l. 
It seein.« that the Holy Spirit himself could not find a worse name for sia 
than its own. If we speak of a treacherous person, we call him a Judas : 
if of Judas, we call him a devtl ; but if of satan, we want a comparison, be- 
cause wc find none that is worse than himself: we mui^t, therefore, say, as 

Lkttkr XL] l-U\ K i<» ( IllU.-r. 163 

that such puDisliinent nil! lollow upon it. Nobody, indeed sup- 
poses that sin is, in all j-esfjcrts, irjlinitc. As coiumilted by a tiiiitr 
creature, ami admitting of different degree, it must be finite, and 
will doubtless be punished hereafter with different' dei^rees of pun- 
ishment ; but, .18 committed against a God of infinite excellence, 
and as tending to infinite anarchy and mischief', it must be infinite. 
All that is meant, 1 supper, by calling sin an infinite evil, is, that 
it is deserving of endless punishment ; and this can never be fair- 
ly objected to, as an absurdity. If there be no absurdity id the 
immortality of a sinner's existence, there is none in supposing 
him to deserve a punishment, be it in what degree it may, they 
shall run commensurate with it. There is no absurdity in sup- 
posing a sinner to have been guilty of such crimes as to deserve 
misery for as long a duration as he is capable of sustaining it. 
But w hatever may be said as to the truth or falsehood of this sen- 
timent, thus much is clear : that, in proportion as our opponents 
conceive diminutively of the evil of sin, they diminish the grace of 
forgiveness ; and if that forgiveness come to us through Christ, (as 
is plainly implied in their loving him most who have most forgiv- 
en,) it must needs follow, that in the same proportion, the love 
of Christ is sapped at the foundation. 

Once more : The expense at which we suppose our forgive- 
ness to have been obtained, is a consideration which endears to 
us both the gift and the giver. We do not conceive of Christ, in 
his bestowment of this blessing upon us, as presenting us with 
that which costs him nothing. If the portion given by Jacob to 
his son Joseph was heightened and endeared by its being obtain- 
ed by the sword and the bow : much more is a title to eternal life, 
by its being obtained through the desith of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
It is this that attracts the hearts of those who are de^^cribed as 
singing a new song to their redeemer, Thou irast slain, and haat 

Christdid, When he speaketh a /if, fte spenketh of his own. It uas thus wiU> 
the Apostle, when speakings of {he rvil of his own heart, Thai sin by the rom- 
morirfmf 71/ might become — what .^ He wanted a name worse thno his own- 
he rould not find one — he therefore unite." a strong epithet to tlie thing it«clt. 
f-alling it exceeding sinful. 

164 LOVE TO CHRIST. [Lkttkr XI. 

redeemed vs to God hy thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue, 
and people, and nation. 

It does not appear, from any thing I have seen, that the system 
of our opponents can, >vith any plausihility, be pretended to equal 
ours, respecting love to Christ. All that can be alleged, vvilh any 
colour of reason ; all, however, that I have noticed, is this ; That, 
in proportion as we, in this way, furnish motives of love to Christ, 
we detract from those of love to the Father, by diminishing the 
freeness of his grace, and exhibiting him as one that was incapable 
of bestowing forgiveness, unless a price was paid for it. To this 
it is replied : If the incapacity of the Father to show mercy with- 
out an atonement, consisted in a want of love, or any thing of natu- 
ral implacability, or even a reluctance to the bestowment of mer- 
cy, there would be force in the objection : but, if it be no other 
than the incapacity of a righteous governor, who, whatever good- 
will he may have to an offender, cannot bear the thought of pas- 
sing by the offence without some public expression of displeasure 
against it ; that, wliile mercy triumphs, it may not be at the ex- 
pense of law of equity, and of the general good; such an incapa- 
city rather infers a perfection, than an imperfection, in his nature ; 
and, inst-^ad of diminishing our regard for his character, must have 

a powerful tendency to increase it. 

I am, kc. 



Christian Brethrm^ 

If we may jiidt^e of the nature of true piety by the examples of 
the prophets and holy men of old, we may conclude, with certainty, 
that an affectionate attachment to the holy scriptures, as the rule 
of faith and practice, enters deeply into the spirit of it. The holy 
scriptures were desribed, by David, under the names of the word, 
statutes^ Imrs, precepts, judgments, and testitnojiies of God ; and to 
these, all through the Psalms, especially in the 1 l9th, he professes 
a most ardent attachment. Such language as the following wa« 
very common with him, as well as others of the Old-testamcnf 
writers ; O hoip I love thy law ! — Thy word is a lamp unto my 
ftet, and a liifht unto my path. — Open thou vxine eyes, that I may 
behold Xiouderous things out of thy law. — My soul breaketh for tJic 
longing thai it hath unto thy judgments at all times.-Thy words were 
found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and 
rejoieing of my heart. — Thy statutes have been my song in th/' 
house of my pilgrimage. — The law of thy mouth is better to me 
than thousands of gold and silrir. 

Dr. Priestley often professes great regard for the sacred wri- 
tings, and is very severe on Mr. Burn, for suggesting, that he deni- 
ed " the infdlihility of the apostolic testimony concerning the per- 
son of Christ." He also tells Dr. Price, "No man can pay a 
higher regard to /?ro/?fr scripture authority than I do." We may 
therefore take it for granted, that a regard for the authority of 
scripture is a virtue; a virtue that our opponents, as well as we, 
would be thought to possess. 

I wish, in this Letter, to inquire, supposing the sacred writers 
to have been honest and good men, What a regard to the proper 
authority of their writings includes, and to compare it with the 
avowed sentiments of our adversaries. By those means, breth- 
ren, you may be the better able to judge for yourselves, whether 

166 VENERATION 1011 [Letikr Xll. 

the spirit which animates the whole body of the Socinian tlivinity 
does not breathe a hmgiinge unfriendly to the sacred writings, and 
carry in it something hostile to every thought being subdued to the 
obedience of Christ, 

In order to judge of a regard for proper scriptural authority, it 
is necessary, in the first place, to have recourse to the professions 
of the sacred writers concerning what they wrote. If any man 
venerate the authority of scripture, he must receive it as being 


IT PROFESSES TO BE WRITTEN. If the scpiptures profess to be 
divinely inspired, and assume to be the infallible standard of faith 
and practice ; we must either receive them as such, or, if we 
would be consistent, disown the writers, as impostors. 

The professions of the sacred writers are as follow : The Spirit 
of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue: the God 
of Israel said, the rock of Israel spake to me. — Thus saith the Lord. 
— And Jehoshaphat stood,and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye 
inhabitants of Jerusalem, Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye 
he established ; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.* 

New-testament writers bear ample testimony to the inspiration 
of those under the Old Testament. All Scripture is given by 
inspiration of God ; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for 
correction, for instruction in righteousness ; that the man of God 
may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. — No 
prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation — it is not to 
be considered as the private opinion of a fallible man, as the case 
is with other productions— ^o/* the prophecy came not in old time 
by the icill of man ^ but holy men of God spake as they were moved 
by the Holy Spirit.] 

Nor did the New-testament writers bear testimony to the inspi- 
ration of the prophets only ; but considered their own writings as 
equally inspired: If any man think himself to be a prophet, or 
spiritual, let him acknoiuledge that the things that I write unto you 
ftre tJie commandments of the Lord, Peter ranks the Epistles of 

'^- 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, 3. Isa. xlii. 1. 2 Chron. xx. 20. 

t 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17. 2 Peter i. 20, 21. 

Letter Xn.] THE SCRIPTURES. 167 

Paul with other scriptures * There seems to have been one 
instance in which Paul disowned liis having; received an^- comirumd- 
innit from (hr Lord, and in wlni h he proceeded to give his own 
private judgment :\ hut this a|)pears: to have been a particular 
exception from a i;eneral rule, of whi( h notice was expressly ^iven ; 
an exception, therelore, which tends to strens^lhen, rather than to 
weaken the arj^unienl for aposlohc inspiration. 

As the sacred writers cou?ii(lerod thernselves as divinely inspir- 
ed, so they represented their writings as the infallible test of divine 
truth, to which all appeals were to be made, and by which every 
controversy in religious matters was to be decided. To the late, 
and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this wordy it is 
bcraiiup there is no light in them. — These are the true savings of 
(iod. That which is rioted in the scriptures of truth. — What saith 
the scripture ? — Search the scriptures ; for in them ye think ye 
have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. — TLe Be- 
reans searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.^ 

The sacred writers did not spare to denounce the most awful 
judi^ments ngainst those who should either pervert their writings, 
add to them, or detract from them. Those who w rested the apos- 
tolic Epistles, are said to have wrested them, as they did the other 
scriptures, to their own destruction. — Though wc,oran angel from 
heaven, preach any other gospel unto you ^ than that irhich we have 
preached unto you, let them be accursed. — JThat thing soever I com- 
mand you, observe to doit: thou shalt not add thereto, nor dimin- 
ish from it. — If any man shall add unto these things, God shall 
add unto him the plagues that are ziritten in this book. And if any 
man shall take away from the word^ of the book of this prophecy, 
God shall take away his part out of the book of life.') Nothing 
short of the most perfect divine inspiration could justify such lan- 
guage as this, or secure those who used it from the charge of bold 
presumption and base imposition. 

• iCor. xiv. 37, J I'ol. ill. 16. 1 1 Cor. vii. 20. 

^ I«a. viii. 20. Rev xix. 9. Dan. x. 21. Rom. i v. 3. John, v. ;J9. 
Acts, xvii. 1 1. 

' 2 Pet. iii. IG. i. R. Hout. xii. .1?. Hrv. xxii. in, 10. 


Dr. Priestley often professes great regard for the scriptures, 
and, .IS has been observed before, is very severe on Mr. Burn for 
representing him as denying " the infaUibihty of the apostohc tes- 
timony concerning the person of Christ. Far be it from me to 
wish to represent the sentiments of Dr. Priestley in an unfair 
manner or in such a light as he himself could justly disavow. All 
1 mean to do, is to quote a passage or two from his own writings, 
and add a few remarks upon them. 

Speaking in favour of reverence for the sacred writings, he says, 
^' Not that I consider the books of scripture as inspired, and, on 
that account, entitled to this high degree of respect, but as au- 
thentic records of the dispensationsof God to mankind, with every 
particular of which we cannot be too well acquainted." 

Again ; '* If you wish to know what, in my opinion, a Christian 
is bound to believe with respect to the scriptures, I answer, that 
the books which are universally received as authentic, are to be 
considered as faithful records of past transactions, and, especially, 
the account of the intercourse which the Divine Being has kept up 
with mankind from the beginning of the world, to the time of our 
Saviour and his apostles. No Christian is answerable for more 
than this. The writers of the books of scripture were men, and 
therefore fallible; but all that we have to do with them is in the cha- 
racter of historians and witnesses of what they heard and saw. Of 
course, their credibility is to be estimated, like that of other histo- 
rians ; viz. from the circumstances in which they wrote, as with 
respect to their opportunities of knowing the truth of what they 
relate, and the biases to which they might be subject. Like all 
other historians, they were liable to mistakes with respect to 
things of small moment, because they might not give sufficient at- 
tention to them ; and with respect to their reasoning, we are fully 
at liberty to judge of it, as well as that of any other men, by a due 
consideration of the propositions they advance, and the arguments 
they allege. For it by no means follows, because a man has had 
communications with the Deity for certain purposes, and he may 
be depended upon with respect to his account of those communi- 

LettkuXII.] the SCRIPTL'RKS. 169 

cations, that he is in other respects, more wise and knowing than 
other men."* 

" You say," says he, in his Lvtttrs to Dr. PricCy " that I do not 
allow of scriptural authority : but, indeed, my friend, you should 
have expressed yourself with more caution. No man can pay a 
higher regard to proper scriptural authority, than I do; but nei- 
ther I, nor, I presume, yourself, believe implicitly every thing 
that is advanced by any writer in the Old or New Testament. I 
believe all the writers, without exception, to have been men of 
the greatest probity, and to have been well informed of every 
thing of consequence, of which they treat ; but, at the same time 
I believe them to have been wjf«, and consequently fallible, and 
liable to mistake with re-^pect to things to which they had not giv- 
en much attention, or concerning which they had not the means of 
exact information ; which I take to be the case with respect to the 
account that Moses has given of the creation and the fall of man." 
In a late performance, entitled, Letters to the Philosophers and Pol- 
iticians of France y^ Dr. Priestley speaks much in the same strain. 
" That the books of scripture" he says, " were written by a par- 
ticular divine inspiration, is a thing to which the writers them- 
selves make no pretensions. It is a notion destitute of all proof, 
and that has done great injury to the evidence of Christianity." 

From this account, taken all together, you will observe, breth- 
ren, that Dr. Priestley does not believe either the Old or the 
New Testament to be divinely inspired ; to be so inspired as that 
he is *' bound implicitly to believe every thing" (and might he not 
have added any thing ?) " which the writers of those books ad- 
vance." He believes, that the scriptures, instead of being the rule 
of faith and practice^ are only " faithful records of past transac- 
tions :" and that no authority attends them, except what attends 
the writings of any other honest and well-informed historian ; nor 
even that, in many cases : tor he maintains, that " no Christian is 
bound to consider any of the books of scripture as faithful records 
of past transactions, unless tfiey have been univermlly received as 

' Letters to n PhiFosophical Unbeliever, Partll. Preface, p. xiii. rvlso Letter V. 
1 Pago 38. 


authentic :" thRt is, if any person, at least any considerable num- 
ber of persons, at any period, have thought proper to dispute the 
authenticity of any of these writings, that part immediately ceases 
to have any claim upon posterity, and may he rejected with impu- 
nity. And even those writers, whose works, upon the whole, are 
allowed as authentic, are supposed to have written upon subjects 
*' to which they had not given much attention, and concerning 
which they were not possessed of sufficient means of information;'* 
and, consequently, in those cases, are not to be regarded. This 
is the whole of what he means hy " proper scriptural authority.'* 
This is the ground on vvhich,while he speaks of the sacred writers 
as fallible, he nevertheless, maintains the infallibility of their tes- 
timony concerning the person of Christ. He does not pretend to 
say the apostles were inspired in that article, though not in others, 
but merely that this was a case in which, by the mere exercise of 
their senses, they were competent to decide, and even certain of 
deciding right. Whether these notions of proper scriptural au- 
thority will accord with the foregoing professions, I leave you to 
judge ; also, if Dr. Priestley's views be right, whether the sacred 
writers, professing what they did, could be men of the *' greatest 

You will observe further, that the fallibility which Dr. Prietley 
imputes to the sacred writers, as being men, must rest upon this 
principle ; That it is impossible for God himself so to inspire a 
man as to preserve him from error, without destroying bis nature; 
and. as he considers Christ as a mere ma;t, perhaps it is on this 
principle that he maintains him to be " fdlihle and peccable." 
Yet he has never been able to produce one example in which he 
has actually failed. But, it should seem very extraordinary, for a 
fallible and peccable man to go through the world in such a man- 
ner, that his worst enemies could not convict him of a single fail- 
ure, nor accuse him of any sin. If this matter be capable of 
proof, let Dr. Priestley prove it. Though the Jews declined the 


challenge, yet, it is possible lie may possess suflicient " mag- 
nanimity" to accei)t it.* 

Further : Vou will observe, ihc infallibility which Dr. 
Priestley ascribes to the apostolic testimony concernin; the per- 
son of Christ, implies, that every historian is infallible in similar 
circumstances. Jli< reasoning supposes, that, if a sensible an<l up- 
riijht historian have the proper means of inf rmation and pay at- 
tention to his subject, he is infallible : but is this a fict ? It cer- 
tainly has not been usual for us to coii'^ider historians in this light. 
We commonly suppose, thit, amidst the most ample means of 
information, and the greatest attention, that uninspired men (who 
all have their prejudices and imperfections) are ever known to pay 
to a subject, they are liable to mistakes Dr. Frie»lley has writ- 
ten a treatise, in which he has declared for the doctiine of Mate- 
rialism ; and, I suppose, he would be thought to hive paid tten- 
tion to it, and to have possessed the moans of information as far as 
the nature of the subject will admit ; yet, I imagine, he does not 
pretend, in that article, to inftllibiliiy. 

If it be objected, that the nature of the subjects is dilTerent, and 
that the apostles were capable of arriving to a greater degree of 
certainty concerning the person of Christ, than Dr. Priestley could 
obtain on the subject of .Materialism ; I answer. This appears, to 
me, to be more easily asserted than proved. Dr. Priestley, in- 
deed, tells us, " They were as capable of judging whether he' 
was a man^ as whether John the Baptist was one." This is very 
true ; and if the question were. Whether he was a man ; it might 
be to the purpose. But at this lime of day, however some of the 
humble followers of Dr. Priestley may amuse themselves in circu- 
lating pamphlets, proving that Jesus Christ was a man, and that 
with a view to convert the Trinitarians ; yet he himself cannot be 
insensiWe, that a Materialist might, with just as much propriety, 
gravely go about to prove that men have material bodies. t Sup- 

♦ When Dr. Pnestloy i-harjji-s t'lp \Tiis.« c history of the croritioii and fall ol 
man, with being a lame account, il wa*' imputed to his mai^ruinimili/. 

i When Socinian writ^^-rs have produred a li^t of texts, wh'rh prove the 
proprr Jiumiinitv of ( 'hri-t, they '■rnu lr» i[jiiilc their work i^ duur. Our wri- 


posing Christ to have been merely a man, this was a matter that 
could not be visible to the eyes of the apostles. How could they 
judge by his exterior appearance, whether he was merely a man, 
or both God and man ? The august personages that appeared to 
Abraham, to Lot, and to Jacob, are called me7i ; nor was there 
any thing, that we know of, in their exterior appearance, different 
from other men : yet, it does not follow from hence, that they 
were merely human. God, in the above instances, assumed the 
appearance of a man ; and how could the disciples be certain that 
all this might not be preparatory to his becoming really incarnate ? 
Tt is true, our Lord might have told them that he vvas merely a 
man ; and, in that case, they might have been said to be certain of 
it : but, if so, it was either in some private instructions, or else in 
the words which they have recorded in their writings. We can- 
not say it was impossible for the apostles to mistake respecting the 
person of Christ, owing to their private instructions : because that 
would be building upon a foundation, of which we are confessedly 
Ignorant : neither can we affirm it on account of any of those words 
of Christ to his disciples which are recorded : for we have those 
words as well as they ; and it might as well be said of us, as of 
them, that ^' it is impossible for us to be under any mistake upon 
the subject." We might as well, therefore, allow what Dr. Priest- 
ley says to be infallible, on the question, whether men have souls, 
or not, as what the apostles say (if we give up their inspiration) 
on the question, whether Christ was divine, or not ; for the one 
is as much an object of the senses, as the other. 

I cannot conceive of any foundation for the above assertion, un- 
less it be upon the supposition of a union of the divine and hu- 
man natures being, in itself , impossible . Then, indeed, if we sup- 
pose the apostles knew it to be so, by knowing him to be a ma7i, 

ters reply ; We never questioned his humanity. If you attempt to prove any 
thing, prove to us, that he was merely/ human. Here our opponents, feeling 
themselves pinched, it should seem, tor want of evidence, have been known 
to lose their temper. It is on this occasion, that Mr. Lindsey is reduced to 
the necessity of abusing and insulting his opponents, instead of answering 
tlieir arguments. Catechisty Inquiry VI. quoted towards the latter end of Let- 
ter VII!. 

Letter Xlf.J TH^: ^CIMPTURKS. £73 

ihey must have known liim to be a were man. But, it' a union ol 
the divine and human natures be in itself impossible, tliat impos- 
sibility might as well appear to Dr. Priestley ai to the apostles, i) 
they were nninspircd ; and he might as well maintain the infalli- 
bility of his own notions, relative to the person of Christ, as of 

In fine : Let Dr. Priestley view the subject in what li^ht he may. 
if he deny the divine inspiration of the apostles, he will never be 
able to maintain their infallibility, on any ground but what wonhl 
equally infer his own. 

When Mr. Burn charged Dr. i'riestley with denying the infal- 
libility of the apostolic testimony, he princii)ally founds his charg* 
on what the Doctor had written in a miscellaneous work called. 
The Theological Repoaitory : in which he maintained, that " som*- 
texts of the Old Testament had been improperly quoted by wri- 
ters in the New ;" who, it seems, were some times " misled by 
Jewish prejudices."* Mr. Burn inferred, that if they were mis- 
led in their application of one text, they were liable, to the same 
thing in others ; and that, if so, we could have no security what- 
ever for their proper application of any passage, or for any thing 
like infalhbility attending their testimony. One would think, thi« 
is not the most inconclusive mode of reckoning that ever was adop- 
ted : and how does Dr. Priestley refute it ? Ho replies, " It does 
nottbllow, because 1 suppose the apostles to have been fallible in 
«owethings, that they were therefore, fallible in all." He con- 
tends, that he always considered them as infallible, in ichat re- 
spects the person of Christ ; as a proof of which he alleges his 
always having " appealed to their testimony, as being willing to be 
decided by it." And yet we gener.dly suppose, a single failurr 
proves a writer fallible, as really as a thousand ; and, as to his ap- 
pealing to their testimony, and being willing to be decided by it, 
we generally appeal to (he best evidence we can obtain, and must 
be decided by it. liut this does not prove, that we consider that 
evidence as infallible. Dr. Priestley has appealed to the Fathers; 
yet he will hardly pretend that their testimony is mfallible ; or, 
that they were incapable of contradirting either themselves, 01 

"^ Letters to .Mr. Hum, LeiUrsX. 11. 


one another, even in those matters concerning which the appeay 
is made. If be will, however, he must suppose them to have dif- 
fered very widely from writers of a later date. v\ here is the 
historian who has written upon the opinions of characters of a 
body of men, even of those of his own 'imes, but who is liable, 
and likely, in some particulars, to be contradicted by other histo- 
rians of the same period, and equally respectable ?* 

To be sure, if Dr. Priestley thinks proper to declare, that he 
believes the apostles, uninspired as they were, to have been in- 
fallible when they applied passages of the Old Testament to the 
person of Christ ; and that, notwithstanding their being fallible, 
and misled by Jewish prejudices in their application of passages 
on other subjects, nobody has a right to say he does not. Thus 
much may be said, however, that he will find it no very easy task, 
to prove himself, in this manner, a Rational Christian. If the 
apostles are to be considered as uninspired, and were actually 
misled by Jewish prejudices in their application of some Old Tes- 
tament passages, it will require no small degree of labour to con- 
vince people in general, that we can have any security for their 
not being so in others. 

Mr. Burn, with a view to illustrate his argument, supposed an 
example; viz. the application of Psalm xlv. 6. to Christ, in Heb. 
i. 8. He observes that, according to the foregoing hypothesis, 
*' there is no dependence to be placed upon the argument; be- 
cause the Apostle, in his application of this scripture to the Mes- 
siah, was misled hi/ a prejudice common amonff the Jews ^ respecting 
this, and other passages in the Old Testament. Mr. Burn does not 
mean to say that Dr. Priestley had^ in this manner, actually reject- 
ed the argument from Heb. i. 8. but barely, that, according to his 
hypothesis, he might do so : he preserves the principle of his op- 
ponent's objection, as he himself expresses it; but does not mean 
to assert that he had applied that princi})le to this particular pas- 
sage. And how does Dr. Priestley reply to this ? Why, by alleging 
that he had not aj)plied the above principle to the passage in 
question, but had given it a sense, which allowed the propriety of 

* See this truth more fully illustrated in a Leifer of Dr E heard TVitUams 
Dr. Pritstley prefixed to his Abridgment of Dr. Owen on the Hebrews. 

Letter XII.] THE SCKirTURES. 1 73 

its bfing ;ij)i)lio(l to Christ : that is, !ie h;ui not made that use of a 
priiiri|il(' u hioli nii;;ht be rnaileof it, and whicli i»o one asserted he 
had made of it. Dr. Priestley is, doubtle^is, possessed of great 
abilities, and has hatl lar^e experience in controversial writin;^ ; to 
what a situation then, m-isl he have been reduced, to have re- 
course to su( h an answer as the above ! 

The question between Mr. Burn and Dr. Priestley, if I under- 
stand it, is not, Whether ihf Later appealed to the scriptures for 
the truth of his opinions; but, Whether his supposing the sacred 
writers, in some cases, to apply scripture improperly, does not 
render that appeal inconsistent ? not, Whether he had allowed the 
propriety of the Apostle's quoting the sixth verse of the forty-fifth 
Psalm, and applying it, in the tirst chapter of the flebrews, to 
Christ: but. Whether, upon the piinciple of the sacred writers 
being liable to make, and having actually made, some improper 
quotations, he might not have disallowed it ? not, Whether the 
Apostles did actually tail in this or that particular subject; but, 
Whether, if they failed in some instances, they were not liable tn 
fail in others; and, whether any dependence could be placed on 
their decisions ? not, Whether the Apostles testified things which 
they had seen and heard from the beginning; but, Whether the in- 
fallibility can be supported merely upon that ground, without 
supposing that the Holy Spirit assisted their memories, guided 
their judgm<*nts, and supeiintended their productions ? If the 
reader of that controversy keep the above points in view, he will 
easily perceive the futility of a great many of Dr. Priestley's an- 
swers, notwithstanding all his positivity and triumph, and his pro- 
ceedmg to admonish Mr. Burn to repentance. 

Dr. Priestley, in his Sixth Letter \o Mr. Burn, denies, that he 
makes the rens^m of the iwUvidual the aolc umpire in tnattera of 
faith. But, if the sacred writers, " in some things which they 
advanced were fallible, and mi>led by prejudiee;" what depend- 
ence can be plared upon them ? Whether the reason of lh(r indi- 
vidual be a proper umpire in matters of faitli, or not, the writings 
of the Apo>tles, on the foregoing hypothesis, ran make no such 
pretence. Dr. Priestley m iv allege, that w«> must (li<tinmii<«h be- 
tween those things to which the Apostles bad not given much at- 

1 7t^ VENERATION FOR [Letter XU. 

lention, and other things to which they had ; those in which they 
were prejudiced, and others in which they were unprejudiced; 
those concerning which they had not the means of exact informa- 
tion, and others of a different description : but can he himself, at 
this distance of time, or even if he had been cotemporary with 
them, always tell what those cases are ? How, in many instances 
at least, can he judge, with any certainty, of the degree of atten- 
tion which they gave to things; of the prejudiced or unprejudiced 
state of their minds; or, of the means of information which they 
possessed ? Or, if Ae could decide with satisfaction to himself on 
these matters, how are the bulk of mankind to judge, who are not 
possessed of his powers and opportunities, but who are equally 
interested in the affair with himself? Are they implicitly to rely 
on his opinion ; or, to supplicate heaven for a new revelation, to 
point out the defects and errors of the old one ? In short: let Dr. 
Priestley profess what regard he may for the scriptures, if what 
he advances be true, they can be no proper test of truth; and if 
the reason of the individual be not the sole umpire in these mat- 
ters, there can be no umpire at all; but all must be left in gloomy 
doubt, and dreadful uncertainty.* 

The generality of Socinian writers, as well as Dr. Priestley, 
write degradingly of our only rule of faith. The scriptures pro- 
fess to be projitahle for doctrine, and to be able to make men wise 
unto salvation. The testimony of the Lord is said to be sure: ma- 
king wise the simple; and those who made it their study, professed 
to have obtained more understanding than all their teachers. But 
Mr. Lindsey considers the scriptures as unadapted to promote any 
high perfection in knowledge , and supposes, that they are left in 
obscurity, with design to promote an occasion of charity, candour, 
and forbearance. Speaking of the doctrine of the person of Christ, 
"Surely it must be owned," he says, '' to have been left in some 
obscurity in the scriptures themselves, which might mislead read- 
ers, full of Heathen prejudices, (othertvise so many men, wise 

* The reader will observe, that the foregoing remarks on the controversy 
between Mr. Burn and Dr. Priestley, have nothing to do with that part of it 
which relates to the riots at Birmingham, but merely with that on the person 
of Christ, 


and good, would not have diflered, and still continue to differ, con- 
cerning it ;) and so left, it should seem, on purpose to whet hu- 
man industry, and the spirit of iiKjiiiiy into the things of God, to 
give scope for the exercise of men's charity, and mutual forhear- 
ance of one another, and to he one great means of cultivating the 
moral dispositions ; which is plainly the design of the Holy Spirit 
of God in the Christian revelation, and not any high perfection in 
knowledge, which so few can attain.''* 

On this extraordinary passage, one might inquire. First, If the 
scriptures have left the subject in obscurity, why might not the 
mistake of those who hold the divinity of Christ, (supposing them 
to be mistaken,) have been accounted for, without alleging, as Mr 
Lindsey elsewhere does, that " they are determined, at all events, 
to believe Christ to be a different being from what he really was ; 
that there is no reasoning with them ; and that they are to be 
pitied, and considered as being under a debility of mind, in this re- 
spect, however sensible and rational in others. "f If wise and 
good men have differed upon the subject in all ages, and that 
owing to the obscurity with which it is enveloped in the scriptures 
themselves, why this abusive and in«ulting language ? Is it any 
disgrace to a person not to see that clearly in the scriptures, which 
is not clearly there to be seen ? 

Secondly: If the scriptures have indeed left the subject in 
obscurity, how came Mr. Lindsey to be so decided upon it? The 
*' high perfection of knowledge" which he possesses, must, un- 
doubtedly, have been acquired from some other quarter ; seeing 
it made no part of the desi<,'n of the Holy Spirit in the Christian 
revelation. But, if so, we have no further dispute with him ; as, 
in what respects religion, we do not aspire to be irisc above what i$ 
tor it ten. 

Thirdly : Let it be considered, whether the principle on which 
Mr. Lindsey encourages the exercise of charity and mutual for- 
bearance, do not cast a he.ivy reflection upon the character of God. 
The scriptures, in what relates to the person of Christ, (a subject 
on which Dr. Priestley allows the writer to have been infallible^) 

* Apology, Chap. II. t Catechist, Inquiry VI. 
Vol. U. 2^^ 


are left obscure ; so obscure, as to mislead readers full of Heathen 
prejudices ; nay, and with the very design of misleading them. God 
himself, it seems, designed that they should stumble on in ignorance, 
error, and disagreement, till, at last, wearied with their fate, and 
finding themselves united in one common calamity, they might 
become friends. But what is this friendship ? Is it not at the 
expense of him who is supposed to have spread their way with 
snares, or (which is the same thing) with misleading obscurity ? 
Is it any other than i\\e friendship of the tcorldj which is enmity 
with God? 

In perfect harmony with Mr. Lindsey is the language of a wri- 
ter in the Monthly Review. *' The nature and design of the scrip- 
ture," he says, '• is not to settle disputed theories, nor to decide 
upon speculative, controverted questions, even in religion and 
morality. The scriptures, if we understand any thing of them, 
are intended not so much to make us wiser, as to make us better; 
not to solve the doubts, but, rather, to make us obey the dictates of 
our consciences."* The holy scriptures were never designed? 
then, to be a rule of faith or practice ; but merely a stimulative. 
In matters of speculation, (as all disputed subjects will be termed, 
whether doctrinal or practical,) they have no authority, it seems, 
to decide any question. What saith the scripture? therefore, 
would now be an impertinent question. You are to find out what 
is truth, and what is righteousness, by your reason and your con- 
science ; and when you have obttiined a s)^stem of religion and 
morality to your mind, scripture is to furnish you with motives to 
reduce it to practice. If this be true, to what purpose are all 
appeals to the scriptures on controverted subjects ; and why do 
Socinians pretend to appeal to them ? Why do they not honestly 
acknowledge, that they did not learn their religion from thence, 
and therefore refuse to have it tried at that bar ? This would 
save much labour. To what purpose do they object to particular 
passages, as interpolations, or mis- translations, or the like ; when 
the whole, be it ever so pure, has nothing at all to do in the decis- 
ion of our controversies? We have been used to speak of con- 

* Review of Horsley's Sermon, March, 1793. 

Letter XII.] THK SCRIPTLRtir. I79 

science having but one master, even Christ : but now, it seems, 
conscience is its own master, and .Jesus Christ iloes not pretend to 
dictate to it, but merely to a^'-i^t in the execution of its decisions 1 
Mr. Belsham carries the matter still further. This <i;entlenjan, 
not satLstied, it seems, with disclaunin^ an implicit confidence in 
holy scripture, pretends to thai uuthoriti/, in the scriptures them- 
selves, for so doing. '' The Bereans," he says, " are commended 
for not taking the word even of an apostle, but examining the scrip- 
tures for themselves, whether the doctrines which they heard were 
true, and whether St. PauTs reasoning was just.''* I do not recol- 
lect, that the Bereans were commended ^ur not taking the word of 
an apostle ; but for not rejecting it without examination, as the 
.Tews did at Thessalonica. But, gnmting it were otherwise, their 
situation was different from ours. They had not then had an 
opportunity of obtaining evidence that the apostles were divinely 
inspired, or that the gospel which they preached was a message 
from God. This, surely, is a circumstance of importance. There 
is a great difference between their entertaining some doubt of the 
(ruth of the gospel, till they had fully examined its evidences ; and 
our still continuing to doubt of its particular doctrines and reason- 
ings, even though we allow it to be a message from God. To this 
may be added, that, in order to obtain evidence, the Bereans 
searched the scriptures. By comparing the ficts which Paul testi- 
fied, with the prophecies w hich went before ; and the doctrines 
which he preached, with those of the Old Testament ; they would 
judge, whether his message from God, or not. There is a 
great difference b ctween the criterion olthe Bereans and that of 
(he Socinians. The scriptures of llic i)U\ 'l\'>l,m\cii{ were the 
allowed standard of the former ; and they employed their reason 
to find out their meaninj;, and their agreement with New-testament 
facts : but tlie authority and agreement of the Old and New Testa- 
ments will not satisfy the latter, unless what they contain agree 
also with their pre-conceived notions of what is fit ai»d reasonable. 
The one tried what, for aui^lit llu-y at that tiin«' kiirw, were mere 
private reasonings, by the -cripturc^ ; but the other trv the sciip 

'^ S«nnon on the Importuuceof TriitJi, p. 39. 

180 VENERATION FOR [Letter Xll. 

tures by their own private reasonings. Finally : if proposing a 
doctrine for examination prove the proposer liable to false or un- 
just reasoning, it will follow, that the reasoning of Christ might be 
false or unjust; seeing he appealed to the scriptures, as well as 
his apostles, and comn«.inded his heaierg to search them. It will 
also follow, that all the great facts of Christianity, as well as the 
reasonings of Christ and his apostles, were liable to be detected of 
falsehood ; for these were as constantly submitted to examination, 
as the other. These things, said they, icere not done in a corner. 
Nay, it must follow, that God himself is liable to be in a wrong 
cause, seeing he frequently appeals to men's judgments nnd con- 
sciences. /47id now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of 
Judnh, judge, 1 pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. The 
inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, were exhorted, and 
even entreated, it may be J^aid, not to take matters upon trust ; but 
to examine for themselves,, whether the conduct of Jehovah was 
just, or whether any thing ought to have been done for his vine- 
yard, that was not done ! 

But, far as our English Socinians have gone in these things, 
they do not seem to have exceeded, nor hardly to have equalled, 
those of the same denomination, in other countries. These ap- 
pear to have made great advances indeed, towards Infidelity. Mr. 
Blachcall makes mention of two, whose language conveys an idea 
ofuncommon disrespect to the sacred writings. George Engedin, 
speaking of the writing of John, says 'If a concise, abrubt obscuri- 
ty, inconsistent with itself, and made up of allegories, is to be caU 
led sublimity of speech, 1 own John to be sublime : for there is 
scarce one discourse of Christ, which is not altogether allegorical, 
and very hard to be understood." Gagneivs, another writer of 
the same spirit, says, '' I shall not a little glory, if I shall be found 
to give some light to Paul's darkness ; a darkness, as some think, 
industriously affected." — " Let any of the followers of these wor- 
thy interpreters of the gospel, and champions of Christianity," 
adds Mr. Blackwall, by way of reflection, '* speak worse, if they 
can, of the ambiguous oracles of the father of lies. These fair- 
dealing gentlemou tirst disguise the sacred writer, and turn them 
into a harsh allegory ;— -and then charge them with that obsucrity 

Letter XII.] THF SCRIPTURES. 1 g^ 

and inconsistency which is phiinly consequent upon that sense 
which their interpretations force upon them. Tfiey outrage the 
divine writers in a double capacity: first, they deba:?e their sense 
as theologues and commentators, and then carp at, and vilify their 
language as grammarians and critics."* 

Steinbart, Sender^ and other forcii^n Socinians, of latter times^ 
write in a similar strain. The former, speaking of the narrations 
of facts contained in the New Testament, says, *' These narrations, 
true, or false, are only suited for ignorant, uncultivated minds, who 
cannot enter into the evidence of natural religion." The same 
writer adds, '* Moses, according to the childish conceptions of the 
Jews in his days, paints God as agitated by violent affections, par- 
tial to one people, and hating all other nations." The latter, m 
a Note on 2 Pet. i. 21. The prophecy came not in old time by the 
will of man, but holy men of God spake as they rvcrc moved by the 
Holy Sjnrit, says, '' Peter speaks there according to the concep- 
tion of the Jews ;" and, "the prophets may have delivered the 
offspring of their own brains, as divine revelations."! 

Sociniao writers sometimes profess great respect to the holy 
-K^riptures : and most, if not all of them, would have it thought, thai 
they consider their testimony as being in their favour. But, if so» 
why all these pains to depreciate them ? We know who they are that 
not only undermine their general credit, but are obliged, on almost 
every occasion, to have recourse to interpolation, or mis-transla- 
tion ; who are driven to disown the apostolic reasonings as a pro- 
per test of religious sentiment, and to hold them as the mere pri- 
vate opinions of men, no way decisive as to what is truth. But, is 
it usual, in any cause, for persons to endeavour to set aside those 
witnesses, and to invalidate that testimony, which they consider at 
the same time, as being in their favour ? This is a question which 
it does not require much critical skill to decide. 

When Socinian writers have mangled and altered the traslatioi 
to their own minds, informing us, that such a term may be render- 
ed so, and such a passage should be pointed so, and so on ; they 

* Sacred-Classics, Part II. Chap. V. 
t Dr. Erskinc'i Sketches aiad Hui) of Church History, No. UI. pp. 9S» 71 


seem to expect that their opponents, should quote the scriptures 
accordingly ; and, if they do not, are very liberal in insinuating, 
that their design is to impose upon the vulgar. Bui, though it be 
admitted, that every translation must needs have its imperfections, 
and that those imperfections ought to be corrected by fair and im- 
partial criticism : yet, where alterations are made, by those who 
have an end to answer by them, they ought always to be suspected, 
and will be so, by thinking and impartial people. 

If we must quote particular passages of scripture, after the man- 
ner in which our adversaries translate them, we must also avoid 
quoting all those which they object to as interpolations. Nor 
shall we stop here : we must, on certain occasions, leave out 
whole chapters, if not whole books. We must never refer to the 
reasonings of the apostles, but consider that they were subject to 
be misled by Jewish prejudices ; nor even to historical facts ^ unless 
we can satisfy ourselves that the historians, independent of their 
being divinely inspired, were possessed of sufficient means of infor- 
mation. In short, if we must never quote scripture, except ac- 
cording to the rules imposed upon us by Socinian writers, we must 
not quote it at all : not, at least, till they shall have indulged us 
with a bible of their own, that shall leave out every thing on which 
we are to place no dependence. A publication of this sort would, 
doubtless, be an acceptable present to the Christian world ; would 
be comprised in a very small compass ; and be of infinite service 
in cutting short a great deal of unnecessary controversy, into which, 
for want of such a criterion, we shall always be in danger of wan- 

Dr. Priestley, in his Animadversions on Mr, Gibhon'^s History, 
takes notice of what is implied in that gentleman's endeavouring 
to lessen the number and validity of the early martyrdoms; name- 
ly, a consciousness that they afforded an argument against him. 
" Mr. Gibbon," says the Doctor, " appears to have been suffi- 
ciently sensible of the value of such a testimony to the truth of the 
gospel history, as is furnished by the early martyrdoms, and, 
therefore, he takes great pains to diminish their number ; and, 
when the facts cannot be denied, he endeavours to exhibit them in 


the nio.-t unfavourable light."* Judge, brethrepi, whether this 
picture does not bear too near a resemblance to the conduct of Dr. 
Priestley, and other Socinian writers, respecting the holy scrip- 

I have heard of persons, who, when engagingin a law-suit, and tear- 
ing lest certain individuals should appear in evidence against them, 
have so contrived matters as to sue the zvitnesses ; and so, by making 
them parties in the contest, have disqualified them for bearing testi- 
mony. And what else is the conduct of Dr. Priestley, with respect 
to those passages in the New Testament, which speak of Christ as 
(ioD ? We read there, that Ihe Word^ who was made Jiesh, and 
dwelt among us, was God. Thomas exclaimed, Aly Lord and my 
God. — Of whom as concerning the Jlesh, Christ came, who is over 
all, God blessed for ever. — Unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O GoDj 
is for ever and ever. — Feed the church of God, which he hath pur- 
chased with his 07vn blood. — Hereby perceive we the love of God, 
because he laid down his life for us.] But Dr. Priestley asserts, 
that " in no sense whatever, not even in the lowest of all, is Christ 
so much as called God in all the New Testament.''^ The method 
lakon by this writer to enable him to hazard such an assertion, 
without being subject to the charge of downright falsehood, could 
be no other than that of laying a kind o( arrest upon the foregoing 
passages, with others, as being either interpolations, or mis-trans- 
lations, or something that shall answer the same end ; and, by 
these means, imposing silence upon them, as to the subject in dis- 
pute. To be sure, we may go on, killing one scripture testimony, 
and stoning another, till, at length, it would become an easy thing 
to assert, that there is not an instance, in all the New Testament, 
in which our opinions are confronted. But to what does it all 
amount ? When we are told, that " Christ is never so much as 
railed God, in all the New Testament :" the question is. Whether 

* Letter! to a Philosophicdl DDbeliever, Part II, p. 217. 

• John i. 1. 14. XX. 'JC. Horn. ix. .,. Hel>. 1. C. Acts xx. 28. I John 

iii. 16. 

t Letter? to Mr. Hum, J.eKrr] 

g^f : I; I 5 ON THE SCRIPTURES. [Letter XIF. 

/fX* •>»>%!< - V t ' 

' Sj^^'^re^ to understand it of the New Testament, as it was left 
jij^'tbe 'sacred writers; or, as corrected, amended, curtailed, and 
^ ilit^preted, by a set of controvertists, with a view to make it ac- 
}J'^ca|^4yith a favourite system ? 

*r I am,&c. 



Christian Brethren^ 

Nothing is more common with our opponents, than to represent 
the Calvinistic system as gloomy ; as leading to melancholy and 
misery. Our ideas of God, of sin, and of future punishment, they 
say, must necessarily depress our minds. Dr. Priestley, as we 
have seen already, reckons Unitarians " more cheerful" than 
Trinitarians. Nor is this all. It has even been asserted, that the 
tendency of our principles is to promote " moral turpitude, mel- 
ancholy, and despair ; and that the suicide practised among the 
middling and lower ranks, is iVequently to be traced to this doc- 
trine."* This is certainly carrying matters to a great height. It 
might be worth while, however, for those who advance such 
things as these, to make good what they affirm, if they be able. 
Till that be done, candour itself must consider these hold assertions 
as the mere effusions of malignity and slander. 

It is some consolation, however, that what is objected to us, by 
Socinians, is objected to religion itself, by unbelievers. Lord Shafts- 
bury observes, " There is a melancholy which accompanies all 
enthusiasm," which, from bis pen is only another name for Chris- 
tianity. To the same purpose, Mr. /fume asserts, " There is a 
gl)om and melancholy remarkable in all devout people." If these 
writers liad formed a com|)arison between Deists and Atheists, on 
the one side, and devout Cliristians, on the other, they would have 
3ai(i of the former, as Dr. Priostloy said of Unitarians, '* They 
are more cheerful and more h;ij)|)y." 

•^ See Critical Review, lor Jrept. iTJiT, on Memoirs of Gabriel d'AnvilU. 
Vol. II. 21 


It is granted, that the system we adopt has nothing in it adapted 
to promote the happiness of those who persist in enmity against 
God, and in a rejection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the only way 
of salvation. While men are at war with God, we do not know of 
any evangelical promise that is calculated to make them happy. — 
This, perhaps with some, may be a considerable ground of objec- 
tion to our views of things: but then, such objection mujst stand 
equally against the scriptures themselves; since their language to 
ungodly men is, Be afflicted, and mourn^ and weep. All the pro- 
phets and ministers of the word were, in effect, commanded to 
eai/ to the wicked, It shall be ill with him. This, with us, 
is one considerable objection against the doctrine oi the Jinal saU 
ration of all men; a doctrine much circuldted of late, and general- 
ly embraced by Socinian writers. Supposing it were a truth, it 
must be of such a kind as is adapted to comfort mankind in sin. — 
It is good news; but it is to the impenitent and unbelieving, even 
to those who live and die such; which is a characteristic so sin- 
gular, that I question whether any thing can be found in the Bible 
to resemble it. If our views of things be but adapted to encourage 
sinners to return to God by Jesus Christ; if they afford strong con- 
solation to those who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the 
hope set before Ihem ; and if sobriety, righteousness and godliness 
here meet with the most powerful motives, this is all that the scrip- 
tures themselves propose. 

Our system, it is granted, is not adapted to promote that kind 
of cheerfulness and happiness to which men in general are greatly 
addicted; namely, that which consists in self-deceit , and levity of 
spirit. There is a kind of cheerfulness, like that of a tradesman 
who avoids looking into his accounts, lest they should disturb his 
peace, and render him unhappy. This, indeed, is the cheerful- 
ness of a great part of mankind; who shun the light, lest it should 
disturb their repose, and interrupt their present pursuits. They 
try to persuade themselves that they shall have peace, though 
they add drunkenness to thirst; and there are not wanting preach- 
ers who afford them assistance in the dangerous delusion. The 
doctrines of human depravity, of sinners being under the curse of 
the law, and of their exposedness to everlasting punishment, are 

Letter XIII.] ON HAPPINESS. ]q7 

those which are supposed to load us to mehincholy: and we may 
fairly conclude, that the opposilcs to these doctrines are at the bot- 
tom of the cheerfulness of which our opponents boast. Instead o 
considering mankind as lost sinners, exposed to everlasting destruc- 
tion, they love to represent them simply as creatures, as the chil- 
dren of God, and to suppose that, having, in general, more virtue 
than vice, they have nothing to fear; or if, in a few instances, it 
be otherwise, still, they have no reason to be afraid oi endless pun- 
ishment. These things, to be sure, make people cheerful; but it 
is with the cheerfulness of a wicked man. It is just as wicked 
men would have it. It is no wonder, that persons of *■' no reli- 
gion, and who lean to a life of dissipation, should be the first to 
embrace these principles." They are such as must needs suit 
them; especially, if we add what Dr. Priestley inculcates, in his 
Sermon on the death of Mr. Robinson, That it is not necessary to 
dxvell in our thoughts upon death and futurity; lest it should inter- 
rupt the business of life, and cause us to live in perpetual bondage.* 
We hope it is no disparagement of the Calvinistic doctrine, that it 
disclaims the promoting of all such cheerfulness as this. That 
cheerfulness which is damped by thoughts of death and futurity, is, 
at best, mere natural joy. It has no virtue in it; nay, in many ca- 
ses it is positively vicious, and founded in self-deception. It is noth- 
ing better than the laughter of a fool. It may blaze awhile in the 
bosoms of the dissipated, and the secure; but, if the dinner be once 
awakened to just reflection, it will ex[)ire like the crackling of 
thorns under a pot. 

There is, aL-^o, a kind of happiness, which some persons enjoy, 
in treating the most serious and important subjects with levity; 
making them the subjects of jest, and trying their skill in disputing 
upon them; which is frequently called pleasantry, good nature, 
and the like. A cheerfulness of this kind, in Oliver Cromwell, is 
praised by Mr. Lindsey, and represented as an excellency "of 
which the gloomy bigot is utterly incapable."! Pleasantry, on 
some occasions, and io a certain degree, is natural and allowable : 
but, if sporting with sacred things must go by that name, let me be 
called a ''gloomy bigot,'' rather than indulge it. 
* This is the substance of what he advancos, pp. 7 — 12. t Apolo^, Chap. IL 

138 ON HAPPINESS. [Letter XIII. 

Once more ; It is allowed, that the system we embrace has a 
tendency, on various occasions, to promote sorrow of heart. Our 
notions of the evil of sin exceed those of our opponents. While 
they reject the doctrine of atonement by the cross of Christ, they 
have not that glass, in which to discern its malignity, which others 
have. There are times in which we remember Calvary, and 
weep on account of that for which our Redeemer died. But, so 
far are we from considering this as our infelicity, that, for weep- 
ing in this manner once, we could wij^h to do so a thousand times. 
There is a pleasure in the very pains of godly sorrow, of which 
the light minded speculatist is utterly incapable. The tears of her 
that wept, and washed her Saviour's feet, afforded abundantly 
greater satisfaction than the unfeeling calm of the Pharisee, who 
stood by, making his ill-natured retiections upon her conduct. 

If our views of things have no'tendency to promote solid, holy, 
heavenly joy ; joy that fits true Christians for the proper business 
of this world, and the blessedness of that which is to come ; we 
will acknowledge it a strong presumption against them. If, on the 
other hand, they can be proved to possess such a tendency, and 
that in a much greater degree than the opposite scheme, it will be 
a considerable argument in their favour. Let us examine this mat- 
ter a little closer- 

' The utmost happiness which the peculiar principles of Socin- 
ians are adapted to promote, consists in calmness of mind^ like that 
of a philosopher contemplating the works of creation. The 
friends of that scheme conceive of man as a good kind of being, 
and suppose there is a greater proportion of virtue in the world 
than vice ; and that things, upon the whole, are getting better 
still, and so tending to happiness. They suppose there is little 
or no breach between God and men ; «npthing but what may be 
made up by repentance, a repentance without much pain of mind,* 
and without any atoning Saviour ; that God, being the benevolent 
Father of his rational offspring, will not be strict to mark iniquity ; 
and that, as his benevolence is infinite, all will be well at last : As 
with the good ^ so with the sinner ; nith him that siveareih, as loith 

* S«ch a repentance is pleaded for, by Mr. Jardine in his Letters to Mr. 


him that feareth an oath. This in;»kes thorn serene, and enables 
them lo pursue the studies of j)hilo<opl)y, or the avocntions of hfe 
with composure. This appears to he the summit of their happi- 
ness ; and must be so of all others, if they wish to escape their cen- 
sure. For, if any one pretends to happiness of a superior kind, 
they will instantly reproach him as an enthusiast. A writer in the 
Monthly Reriew observes, concerninti; the late President Edwards, 
*• From the account i;iven of him, he appears to have been a very 
reputable, good, and pious man, according to his view% and feelings 
in religious matters , whirh those of diflferent sentiments arul cooler 
sensations will not fail to consider as A\\\\i\Aecstacij^ rapture^ and 

The tendency of any system to promote calmness, is nothing at 
all in its favour, any further than such calmness can be proved to 
be virtuous. But this must be determined by the situation in 
which we stand. We ought to be affected according to our situa- 
tion. If, indeed, there be no breacb between God and men ; if 
all be right, on our part as well as his, and just as it should be ; then 
it becomes us to be calm and thankful : but, if it be otherwise it 
becomes us to feel accordingly. If we have offended Cod, we 
ought to bewail our transgressions, and be sorry for our sin ; and, 
if the offence be great, we ought to be deeply affected with it. I( 
would be thought very improper for a convict, a little belbre the 
time appointed for his execution, instead of cherishing proper 
reflections on the magnitude of his offence, and suing for the mer- 
cy of his offended sovereign, to be employed in speculating upon 
his benevolence, till he has really worked himself into a persua- 
sion that no serious apprehensions were to be entertained, either 
concerning himself, or any of his fellow-convicts. Such a person 
might enjoy a much greater degree of calmness than his compan- 
ions; but considerate people would neither admire hi"* mode of 
thinking, nor envy his imaginary felicity. 

Cahnness and serenity of mind may arise from ignorance of our- 
selves, and from the want of a principle of true religion. Wliih 
Paul was ignorantof his true chararter, he wa« calm and r;uKy. 

' Review of KJwanl-' History of Redemption, Vol. LX.XX. Art. 68. 

190 ON HAPPINESS. [Let-ier XIIL 

or, as he expresses it, alive mthout the law; but when the com- 
mandment came, in its spirituality and authority, sin revived 
and he died. The Pharisee, who was ?^)Ao/c in his own esteem 
and needed no physician, was abundantly more cahn than the 
pubHcan, who smut? upon his breast, and cried, God he mer- 
ciful to me a sinner ! While any man is destitute of a prin- 
ciple of true religion, the strong man armed keepeth the 
house, and the goods are in peace, and while things are thus, he 
will be a stranger to all those holy mournings, which abound in the 
Psalms of David, and to those inward conflicts between flesh and 
spirit described in the writings of Paul. And, knowing nothing of 
such things himself, he will be apt to think meanly of those who 
do ; to deride them as enthusiasts ; and to boast of his own insen 
sibility, under the names of calmness and cheerfulness. 

Supposing the calmness and cheerfulness of mind, of which our 
opponents boast, to be on the side of virtue ; still, it is a cold and 
insipid kind of happiness, compared with that which is produced 
by the doctrine of salvation through the atoning blood of Christ. 
One great source of happiness is contrast. Dr. Priestley ha* 
proved, what, indeed, is evident from universal experience. 
" That the recollection of past troubles, after a certain interval, 
becomes highly pleasurable, and is a pleasure of a very durable 
kind."* On this principle he undertakes to prove the intinite 
benevolence of the Deity, even in his so ordering things, that a 
mixture of pain and sorrow shall fall to the lot of man. On the 
same principle may be proved, if I mistake not, the superiority of 
the Calvinistic system to that of the Socinians, in point of promo- 
ting happiness. The doctrines of the former, supposing them to 
be true, are affecting. It is affecting to think, that man, originally 
pure, should have fallen from the height of righteousness and 
honour, to the depth of apostacy and infamy ; that he is now an 
eneny to God, and actually lies under his awful and just displeas- 
ure, exposed to everlasting misery ; that, notwithstanding all this, 
a ransom is found, to deliver him from going down to the pit ; that 
God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, to be- 

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part I. Letter VI. 

Letter XIIl.J ON HAPPINESS. 191 

come a sacrifice for sin, that whofoever believcth on him should 
not perish, but have eternal life ; that the issue of Christ's death 
is not left at an uncertainty, nor the invitations of his gospel sub- 
ject to universal rejection, but an effectual provision is made in 
the sreat plan of redemption, that he shall see of the travail of hit 
soul, and be satisfied ; that the Holy Spirit is given to renew and 
sanctify a people for himself; that they who were under condem- 
nation and wrath, being justified by faith in the righteousness of 
Jesus, have peace with God ; that aliens and outcasts are become 
the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty ; that everlast- 
ing arms are now beneath them, and everlasting glory is before 
them. These sentiments, I say, supposing them to be true, are, 
undoubtedly, affecimg. The Socinian system, supposing it were 
true, compared with this, is cold, uninteresting, and insipid. 

We read of J 01/ and peace in believing; oi joy unspeakable, and 
full of frlory. Those who adopt the Calvinistic doctrine of the 
exceeding sinfulness of sin, and of their own lost condition as sin- 
ners, are prepared to imbibe the joy of the gospel, supposing it to 
exhibit a great salvation, through the atonement of a great Sav- 
iour, to which others, of opposite sentiments, must of necessity be 
strangers. The Pharisees, who thought well of their character 
and condition, like the elder son in the parable, instead of rejoicing 
at the good news of salvation to the chief of sinners, were dis- 
gusted at it: and this will ever be the case with all who, like the 
Ph.irisees, are whole in their own eyes, so whole as to think they 
need no physician. 

The votaries of the Socinian scheme do not, in general, appear 
to feel their hearts much interested by it. Voltaire could say in 
his time, " At least, hitherto, only a very small number of those 
called Unitarians, have held any religious meetings."* And, 
though Dr. Priestley, by his great zeal, has endeavoured to invig- 
orate and reform the party ; yet he admits the justice of a common 
complaint among them, that " their societies do not flourish, their 
members have but a slight attachment to them, and easily desert 
them ; though it is never imagined," he adds, " that they desert 

* Additionp to Gonrral History, Art. F:ogland, under Charlr? !!. 

1^2 ON HAPPINESS. [Letter XIll. 

their principles."* All this the Doctor accounts for by allowing, 
that their principles are not of that importance which we suppose 
ours to be ; and, that " many of those who judge so truly con- 
cerning the particular tenets of religion, have attained to that cool> 
unbiassed temper of mind, in consequence of becoming more indif- 
ferent to religion in general, and to all the modes and doctrines of 
it." Through indifference , it seems, they come in ; through 
indifference they go out ; and are very indifferent while there. 
Yet, it is said, they still retain their principles ; and, I suppose, 
are very cheerful, and very happy. Happiness, theirs, conse- 
quently, which does not interest the heart, any more than reform 
the life. 

Although the aforementioned writer in the Monthly Review 
insinuates, that President Edicards' religious feelings were *' all 
wild ecstacy, rapture, and enthusiasm ;" yet he adds, " We can- 
not question the sincerity of Mr. Edwards, who, however he may 
possibly have imposed on himself by the warmth of his imagination, 
was, perhaps, rather to be envied than derided, for his ardours 
and ecstasies, which, in themselves, were, at least, innocent; in 
which he, no doubt, found much delight, and from which no crea- 
ture could receive the least hurt." I thank you, sir, for this con- 
cession. It will, at least, serve to show, that the sentiments and 
feelings which you deem wild and enthusiastical, may, by yoUf 
own acknowledgment, be the most adapted to promote human 
happiness ; and that is all for which 1, at present contend. Presi- 
dent Edwards, however, was far from being a person of that warm 
imagination which this writer would insinuate. No man could be 
a greater enemy to real enthusiasm. Under the most virulent 
oppositions, and the heaviest trials, he possessed a great share of 
coolness of judgment, as well as of calmness and serenity of mind; 
as great, and, perhaps, greater, than any one whom this gentleman 
can refer us to, among those whom he calls men o( cool sensations. 
But he felt deeply in religion ; and, in such feelings, our adversa- 
ries themselves being judges, he was to be *' envied, and not deri- 

* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 94. 

Lkitkr XlII.j ON HArFINLsS. jjj3 

Why should religion be the only suhject in which we must 
not be allowed to/eei'/ Men are pr used for the exercise of ardor, 
and even of ecstacy in poetry, in politics, and in the endearing 
connexions of social life; but, in religion, we must either go on 
with cool indilferencc, or be branded as enthusiasts. Is it because 
religion is of less importance than other things ? Is eternal sal- 
vation of less consequence than the political or domestic accom- 
modations of time ? It IS treated by multitudes as if it were ; and 
the spirit of Socininnism, so far as it operates, tends to keep them 
in countenance. Is it not a pity but those who call themselves 
Rational ChristiaiiSj would ,ict more rationally ? Nothin*' can be 
more irrational, as well as injurious, than to encourage an ardor 
of mind after the trifles of a moment, and to discourage it wheri 
pursuing objects of infinite magnitude. 

''Passiou is reason, transport temper, here '." 

The Socinian system proposes to exclude mystery from reli- 
gion, or *' things in their own nature incomprehensible."* But 
Huch a scheme not ordy renders religion the only tiling in nature 
void of mystery, but divests it of a property essential to the con- 
tinued communication of happiness to an immortal creature. Our 
passions are more affected by objects which surpass our compre- 
hension, than by those which we fully know. It is thus with re- 
spect to unhappiness. An unknown misery is much more dread- 
ful than one that is fully known. Suspense adds to distress. If, 
with regard to transient sufferings, we know the worst, the worst 
is commonly over; and hence our troubles are frequently greater 
when feared, than when actually felt It is the same with respect 
to happinrsa. That happiness which is felt in the pursuit of sci- 
ence, abates in the full possession of the object. \Vhen once a 
matter is fully known, we cease to take that pleasure in it as at 
first, and long for something now. It is the same in all other kinds 
of hap|)incss. The mind loves to swim in deep waters: if it touch 
the bottom, it feels disgust. If the l)est were once fully known. 
the best would thence be over. Some of the noblest passions ir» 

" Defence of Unilarianism, lor 1786, \\ C,'. 
\ Ml,. II 25 


Paul were excited by objects incomprhensible: the depth of the 
riches, both of the zi'isdom and knowledge of God ! How unsearch- 
able are his judgmejits, and his ways past finding out ! — Great is the 
mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the 
spirit, seen of angels, believed on in the world, received up into glo- 
ry ! Now, if things be so, it is easy to see, that, to divest religion 
of every thing incomprehensible, is to divest it of what is essential 
to human happiness. And no wonder: for it is nothing less than 
to divest it of God ! 

The Socinian scheme, by rejecting the deity and atonement of 
Christ, rejects the very essence of that which both supports and 
transports a Christian's heart. It was acknowledged by Mr Hume, 
that, " The good, the great, the sublime, and the rnvislwig, were 
to be found evidently in the principles of Theism." To this, Dr. 
Priestley very justly replies; " If so, 1 need not say, that there 
must be something mean, abject and debasing, in the principles of 
Atheism."* But let it be considered, whether this observation 
be not equally applicable to the subject in hand. Our opponents 
it is true, may hold sentiments which are great and transporting. 
Such are their views of the works of God in creation: but so are 
those of Deists. Neither are these the sentiments in which they 
differ from us. Is the Socinian system, as distinguished from ours, 
adapted to raise and transport the heart ? This is the question. — 
Let us select only one topic, for an example. Has any thing, or 
can any thing be written, on the scheme of our adversaries, upou 
the death of Christ, equal to the following lines ? 

" Religion ! thou the soul of happiness ; 

And groaninof Calvary of thee ! there shine 

The noblest truths ; there strongest motives sting 1 

There sacred violence assaults the soul, — 

My theme ! my inspiration ! and my crown 1 

My strength in age ! my rise in low estate I 

My souFs ambition, pleasure, wealth ! — my world I 

My light in darkness ! and my life in death ! 

My boast through time ! bliss through eternity ! 

• Letters to a PkUogophical Uftbeliever, Part I. Preface, p. x. 

Letter Xrif ] u.V HATPINEbS. ^^r, 

Eternity too short to speuk tliy praise 1 

Or rallioin thy profouiul of lore lo man 1 

To man, to men (he mcrmest, cv'n to me; 

My sucrifice ! my God ! whut thing;^ are th#»*i» '' 


" Pardon (or infinite offence ! and pardon, 
Through means that speak its value infinite I 
A pardon bought with blood ! with blood divine 1 
With blood divine of him I made my foe I 
Persisted to provoke! ihou^h wooM and awed. 
Ble*«'d, ctud chastis'd, a flagivnt rebel still ! 
A rebel 'midst thn thunders of his throne 1 
Nor I alone, a rebel universe ! 
My species up in arms ! not one exempt 1 

Yet for the foulest of the foul he dies ! 

Bound every heart ! and every bosom burn 1 

Oh what a scale of miracles is here I 

Praise ! flow for ever, (if astonishment 

Will give thee leave,) my praise ! for ever flow : 

Praise ardent, cordial, constant to high Heaven 

More fragrant thoii Arabi» sacrific'd ; 

And all her spicy mountains in a Jlime !" 

.Xi-Ul Thoughts, xNight, 1\ . 

There is a rich, great and ravishing quality in the foregoing sen- 
timents, which no other theme can inspire. Had the writer been 
a Socinian and attempted to write upon the death of Christ, he 
might, by the strenghof his mind and the fire of his genius, have 
contril)uted a Utile to raise his subject ; but here his subject rai- 
ses him above himself. 

The dignity of Christ, ton;ether with his glorious undertaking, 
was, as we have seen, in Letter XI. a source of joy and love tt» 
the |)rin»itive Christians, it was their darling theme, and that 
which raised them above themselves. Now, according lo our sys- 
tem, Christians may still rejoice in the same manner, and give 
vent to their souls, and to all that is w ilhin them ; and without fear 
of going beyond the words of truth and soberness, of border- 
ing, or seeming to border, upon idolatry. But, upon the princi- 
ples of our opponents, the sacred writers must havo dealt largelv 

196 ■ ON HAPPINESS. [Letter XIII. 

in hyperbole ; and it must be our business, instead of entering 
into their spirit, to sit down with " cool sensations," criticise their 
words, and explain away their apparent meaning. 

Brethren, I appeal to your own hearts, as men who have been 
brought to consider yourselves as the scriptures represent you ; Is 
there any thing, in that preaching which leaves out the doctrine of 
salvation by an atoning sacrifice, that can afford you any relief? 
Is it not like the priest and Levite, who passed by on the other 
side? Is not the doctrine of itonementby the blood of Christ like 
the oil and wine of the good Samaritan ? Under all the pressures 
of life, whether from inward conflicts or outward troubles, is not 
this your grand support ? What hui an advocate icith the Father 
one who is the propitiation for our sins, could prevent you, when 
you have sinned against God, from sinking into despondency, and 
encourage you to sue afresh for mercy ? What else could so di- 
vest affliction of its bitterness, death of its sting, or the grave of 
its gloomy aspect ? In fine : what else could enable you to contem- 
plate a future judgment with composure? W^hat hope could you 
entertain of being justified, at that day, upon any other footing 
than this, It is Christ that died ? 

I am aware I shall be told that this is appealing to the passions, 
and to the passions of enthusiasts. To which it may be replied, 
In a question which relates to happiness, the heart is the best cri- 
terion : and, if it be enthusiam to think and feel concerning our- 
selves as the scriptures represent us, and concerning Christ as he 
is there exhibited, let me live and die an enthusiast. So far from 
being ashamed to appeal to such characters, in my opinion they 
are the only competent judges. Men of mere speculation play 
with doctrines : It is the plain and serious Christian that knows 
most of their real tendency. In a question therefore, which con- 
cerns their happy or unhappy influence, his judgment is of the 
greatest importance. 

Dr. Priestley allows, that '• the doctrine of a general, and a 
most particular providence, is so leading a feature in every scheme 
of predestination, it brings God so much into every thing, that an 
habitual and animated devotion is the result."* This witness is 

' Doctrine of Necessity, p. 162. 

lkttbrXIii.i on happiness. 


true : nor is this all. The same principle, taken in its connex- 
ion with various otiiers, equally provides for a serene and joyful 
satisfaction in all the events of time. All the vicissitudes of na- 
tions ; all the furious oppositions to the church of Christ ; all the 
etforts to overturn the doctrine of the cross, or blot out the spirit 
of Christianity from the earth, we consider as permitted for wise 
and holy ends. And, being satified that they make a part ofGod'a 
eternal plan, we are not inordinately anxious about thrm. We 
can assure our opponents, that when we hear them boast of their 
increasing numbers, as, also, professed unbelievers, of theirs, it 
gives us no other pain than that which arises from good will to 
men. We have no doubt, that these things are wisely permitted ; 
that they are a fan in the hand of Christ, by which he will thor- 
oughly purge his floor ; and that the true gospel of Christ like 
the sun in the heavens, will finally disperse all these interposing 
clouds. We are persuaded, as well as they, that 'hings, upon the 
whole, whether we, in our contracted spheres of observation, per- 
ceive it, or not, are tending to the general good : that the empire 
of truth and righteousness, notwithstanding all the infidelity and 
iniquity that are in the world, is upon the increase ; that it must 
increase more and more ; that glorious things are yet to be ac- 
complished in the church of God ; and that all which we have 
hitherto seen, or heard, of the gospel dispensation, is but as the 
first-fruits of an abundant harvest. 

The tendency of a system to promote present happiness, mav 
be estimated by a degree of securittj which accompanies it. The 
obedience and suffering of Christ, according to the Calvinistic sys- 
tem, constitute the ground of our acceptance with God. A good 
moral life, on the other hand, is the only foundation on which our 
opponents profess to buiUI their hopes.* Now, supposing our 
principles should prove erroneous, while they do not lead us to 
neglect good works, but do abound in them, from love to God, 
and with a regaid to his glory ; it may be presumed, that the r)i- 
vine Being will not cast us off to eternity, for having asciibed too 
much to him, and too little to ourselves. But, if the principles 

' See tliP quotatinTT- from Dr. Priestley, Dr. Fjarwooil. ami .Mi*. J»ai- 
t-\ul.l, Lfttrr I.X. 

)98 O^ HAPPINESS. [Letter XIII. 

of our opponents should be founrl erroneous, and the foundation 
on which tliey build their hopes should, at last, give way, the is- 
sue must be fatal ! I never knew a person in his dying moments, 
alarmed for the consequence of having assumed too little to him- 
self, or for having ascribed too much to Christ : but many, in that 
hour of serious reflection, have been more than a little apprehen- 
sive of danger from the contrary. 

After all, it is allowed, that there is a considerable number of 
persons amongst us, who are under too great a degree of mental 
dejection ; but, though the number of such persons, taken in the 
aggregate, be considerable, yet there are not enough of them to 
render it any thing like a general case. And as to those who are 
so, they are, almost all of them, such, either from constitution, from 
the want of a mature judgment to distinguish just causes of sorrow, 
or from a sinful neglect of their duties aud their advantages. Those 
who enter most deeply into our views of things, provided their 
conduct be consistent, and there be no particular propensity to 
gloominess in their constitution, are among the happiest people iu 

the world. 

i am, &c. 



Christian Brethren, 

The subject of this Letter lias been occasionally noticed 
already : but there are a few things in reserve that require your 
attention. As men are allowed, on both sides, to be influenced by 
motives, whichever of the systems it is that excels in this particu- 
lar, that of course, must be the system which has the greatest ten- 
dency to promote a holy life. 

One very important motive, with which the scriptures acquaint 


God so loved the Zi'orld, that he gave his only-begotten Son ; that 
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting 
life. Herein is love ; not that zve loved God, but that he loved its, 
and sent his Son to he a propitiation for our sins. — God commendcth 
his love toui'ords us, in that, xvhile zve were yd sinners, Christ died 
for us. He that spared not his ozvn Son, but delivered hini up for 
us all. — Behold, if God so loved ms, wc ought also to love one 
another.* The benevolence of God to men is represented, in the 
\ew Testament, as consisting, not in his overlooking their frailties, 
not so much even in his foririving their sins, as in giving his 
only-begotten Son to die for them. Herein zeas love ; and herein 
was found the grand motive to grateful obedicace. There js no 
necessity, indcctl, for e>tablishing this point, since Dr. Priestley 
has fully acknowledged it. He allows, that '' the love of God in 
giving his Son to die for tis, is the consideration on which the 
^rriplnrcs always lay llie moafost stress, as a motive to gratiludr 

• .Ii.lin in. h,. 1 Juh.i u. 10, 11. Koin. v. U. aw.l vjii. .\Z. 



and obedience."* As this is a matter of fact, then, allowed on 
both sides, it may be worth while to make some inquiry into the 
reason of it ; or, whij it is that so great a stress should be- laid, in 
the scriptures, upon this motive. To say nothing of the strong 
presumption which this acknowledgment affords in flivour of 
the doctrine of atonement, suffice it, at present, to observe, that 
in all other cases, an obligation to gratitude is supposed to bear 
some proportion to the magnitude, or value, of the gift. But if it 
be allowed in this instance, it will follow, that the system which 
gives us the most exalted views of the dignity of Christ, must in- 
clude the strongest motives to obedience and gratitude. 

If there be any meaning in the words, the phraseology of John 
iii. 16, God so loved the "world, that ^e ^a-ye his only-begotten 
Son, conveys an idea of the highest worth in the object bestowed. 
So great was this gift, that the love of God in the bestowment of it, 
is considered as inexpressible and inestimable. We are not told 
how much he loved the world, but that he SO loved it that he gave 
HIS ONLY-BEGOTTEN SoN. If Jcsus Christ be of more worth 
than the world for which he was given, then was the language of 
the sacred writer fit and proper ; and then was the gift of him 
truly great, and worthy of being made *' the consideration upon 
which the scriptures should lay the greatest stress, as a motive to 
gratitude and obedience." But, if he be merely a man like our- 
selves, and was given only to instruct us by his doctrine and ex- 
ample, there is nothing so great in the gift of him, nothing thai 
will justify the language of the sacred writers from the apperance 
of bombast; nothing that should render it a motive to gratitude 
and obedience, upon which the greatest stress should be laid. 

Dr. Priestley, in his Letters to Dr. Price, observes, that, " In pass- 
ing from Trinitarianism to High Arianism,from this toyour Low Arian* 
ism, ^nd from this to Socinianism, even of the lowest kind, in which 
Christ is considered as a mere man, the son of Joseph and Mary, and 
naturally as fallible and peccable as Moses, or any other prophet, 
there are sufficient sources of gratitude and devotion. I myself," 
continues Dr. Priestley, '^' have gone through all those changes ; 
And 1 think I may assure you, that you have nothing to apprehend 

* Def-^nt^e of Unitarianism, for 1786, p. 102. 


from any part of the progress. In every stage of it, you have that 
consideration on which tlie scriptures always hiy the greatest 
stress, as a motive to ti;ralitude and obedience ; namely, the love 
of God, the Almighty Parent, in giving his Son to die for us. And 
whether this Son be man, angel, or of a super-angelic nature, 
every thing that he has done is to be referred to the love ofGody 
the original Author of fill, and to him all our gratitude and obe- 
dience is ultimately due.''* 

Dr. Priestley, it seems, wishes to have it thought, that, seeing 
Trinitarians, Arians, and Socinians agree, in corisidering the gitt of 
Clirist as an expression of the love of God; therefore their ditVerent 
systems are upon a level, as to the grand method of gratitude and 
obedience. As if it made no difference at all, whether that gitt 
was small or great ; whether it was a man or an angel, or one 
whom men and angels are bound to adore : whether it was to die, 
as other martyrs did, to set us an example of perseverance ; or, 
by laying down his lite as an atoning sacrifice, to deliver us from 
the wrath to come. He might as well suppose the gift of one tal- 
ent to be equal to that often thousand, and that it would induce an 
equal return of gratitude ; or, that the gift of Moses, or any other 
prophet, afforded an equal motive to love and obedience, as the 
gift of Christ. 

If, in every stage of religious principle, whether Trinitarian, 
Arian, or Socinian, hy admitting that one general principle. The 
love of God in giving his Son to die for us, we have the same 
motive to gratitude and obedience, and that in the same degree ; it 
must be because the greatness or smallness of the gift, is a matter of 
no consideration, and has no tendency to render a motive stronger or 
weaker. But this is not only repugnant to the plainest dictates of 
reason, as hath been already observed, but also *o the doctrine of 
Christ. According to this, Ur that hath miirh forgircn, tovtth 
much ; and he that hath little fori^ivcn, lovcfh little. From hence, 
it appears, that the system which afforris the most extensive views 
of the evil of sin, the depth of hum;in apostacy, and the magnitude of 

• Defence of Uuitananism, for 178G, pp. 101, lOt?. 

Vol.. H. 2r, 

202 ON GRATITUDE [Letter XIV. 

redemption, will induce us to love the most, or produce in us the 
greatest degree of gratitude and obedience. 

It is to no purpose to say, as Dr. Priestley does, " Every thing 
that Christ hath done, is to be referred to the love of God.'' For, 
be it so, the question is, if his system be true. What hath he done ; 
and what is there to be referred to the love of God ? To say the 
most, it can be but little. If Dr. Priestky be right, the breach 
between God and man is not so great, but that our repentance-fmd 
obedience are of themselves, without any atonement whatever, 
sufficient to heal it. Christ, therefore, could have but little to do. 
But the less he had to do, the less we are indebted to him, and to 
God for the gift of him : and, in proportion as this is believed, 
we must of course, feel less gratitude, and devotedness of soul to 

Another important motive with which the scriptures acquaint us 

ING DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US. het tkis viiiid he in you which was 
also in Christ Jesus ; who being in the form of God., thought it 
not robbery to be equal laith God : but made himself of no reputa- 
tion, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the 
likeness of men. — For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
that though he was rich, yet for your snkes he became poor, that ye 
through his poverty might be made rich. — Forasmuch as the chil- 
dren were partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of 
the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the 
power of death, that is the devil. — Verily, he took not on him the 
nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. — The love of Christ 
constraineth us ; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, 
then were all dead ; and that he died for all, that they who live 
should not henceforth live unto themselves^ but unto him who died f of 
them, and rose again. — Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, 
and hath given himself for us an offering, and a sacrifice to God for 
a swe(t smelling savour. — To him that loved us, and washed us from 
our siiis in his ow?i blood, be glory and doyninion for ever ajid ever. 
Amen. Such is the uniform language of the New Testament, 
concerning the love of Christ ; and such are the moral purposes to 
which it is applied. It is a presumption in favour of our system, 


ihat here the above motives have all their force : wherea?, in the 
system of our opponent^, they have scarcely any force at all. 
The following observntions may n luier this sufficiently evident. 

We consider the coming of Clirist into tlie world, as a voluntary 
undertaking, liis taking upon hitn, or faking hold, not of the 
nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham ; his taking upon him 
the form of a servant, and beini: made in the likeness of men, and 
that from a state of mind, which is held up for our example ; and 
his becoming poor, though previous^/ rich, for our sake«, and 
that as an act of grace ; all concur to establish this idea. For this 
we feel our hearts bound, by every consideration that love unpar- 
alleled can inspire, to gratitude and obedience. Bui our oppo- 
nents, by supposing Christ to have been a mere man, and to have 
had no existence till he was born of Mary, are necessarily driven to 
deny, that his coming into the world was a voluntary act of his own; 
and consequently, that there was any love or grace in it. Dr. 
Priestley, in answer to Dr. Price, contends only that "he came into 
the virorld in obedience to the command of the Father, and not in 
consequence of his own proposal." Rut the idea of his coming, in 
obedience to the command of the Father, is as inconsistent with 
the SociniaD scheme, as his coming in consequence of his own pro- 
posal. For, if he had no existence previous to his being born 
of Mary, he could do neither the one nor the other. It would be 
perfect absurdity, to speak of our coming into the world as an act 
«f obedience : and, on the hypothesis of Dr. Priestley, to speak of 
the coming of Christ under such an idea, must be equally absurd.* 

We consider Christ's coming into the world, as an act of conde- 
scending love; such, indeed, as admits of no parallel. The riches 
of deity, and the poverty of humanity ; [he form of God, and the 
form of a servant, afford a contrast that tills our souls with grateful 
astonishment. Dr. Priestley, in the last mentioned performance,! 
acknowledges, that " the Trinitarian doctrine of the incarnation, is 
calculated forcibly to impress the mind with divine condescen- 
sion." He allows the doctrine of the incarnation, as held by the 
Arians, to have such a tendency in a degree : but he tells Dr. 
Price, who pleaded this argument against Sociniani^m, that " the 

' Defence of UoitariaDism, for 1786, p. 103. t I'a^o 103 

204 ON GRATITUDE [Letter XIV. 

Trinitarian hypothesis of the Supreme God becoming man, and 
then suffering and dying for us, would, no doubt, impress the 
mind more forcibly still." This is one allowed source of grati- 
tude and obedience, then, to which the scheme of our adversaries 
makes no pretence, and for which it can supply nothing adequate. 
But Dr. Priestley thinks to cut up at one stroke, it seems, all the 
advantages which his opponents might hope, to gain from these con- 
cessions, by adding ; '' With what unspeakable reverence and 
devotion do the Catholics eat their maker !" That a kind of su- 
perstitious devotion may be promoted by falsehood, is admitted : 
such was the voluntary humility of those who worshiped angels. 
But, as those characters, with all their pretended humility, were 
vainly puffed up with ajleshly mind ; so all that appearance of rev- 
erence and devotion which is the offspring of superstition, will be 
found to be something at a great remove from piety or devoted- 
ness to God. The superstitions of Popery, instead of promoting 
reverence and devotion, have been thought, by blinding the mind, 
and encumbering it with other things, to destroy them.* There 
are times, in which Dr. Priestley himself'* cannot conceive of any 
practical use being made of transubstantiation :"t but not now it 
is put on a level with a doctrine which, it is allowed, *' tends for- 
cibly to impress the mind with divine condescension." 

Once more : We believe that Christ, in laying down his life for 
us, actually died as our substitute; endured the curse of the 
divine law, that we might escape it 5 was delivered for our offen- 
ces, that we might be delivered from the wrath to come ; and all 
this, while we were yet enemies. This is a consideration of the 
greatest weight : and, if we have any justice or ingenuousness 
about us, love like this must constrain us to live, not to ourselves, 
but to him that died for us, and rose again ! But, according to our 
adversaries, Christ died/or us in no higher sense than a common 
martyr, who might have sacrificed his life to maintain his doc- 
trine ; and, by so doing, have set an example for the good of pth- 

* See Mr. Robinson's Sermon, on 2 Cor. iv. 4 entitled, The Christian Doc- 
trine of Ceremonies. 

t Defence of Unitarianism, for 1786, p. 3:?. 


ers. If tliis. be all, why should not we be as much irulebtetl, in 
point of gratitude, to Stephen, or Paul, or Peter, who al;?© in that 
manner died for us, as to Jesus Christ ? And why is there not 
the same reason for their death being proposed as a motive for us 
to live to them, as for his, that we might live to him ? 

But there is another motive, which Dr. Priestley represents as 
being " that in Christianity which is most favourable to virtue, 
namely, a future state of retribution, grounded on the firm belief 
of the historical facts recorded in the scriptures ; especially in the 
miracles, the death, and the resurrection of Christ. The man," 
he adds, " who believes these things only, and w ho, together with 
this, acknowledges a universal providence, ordering all events ; 
who is persuaded that our very hearts are constantly open to the 
divine inspection, so that no iniquity, or purpose of it, can escape 
his observation, will not be a bad man, or a dangerous member of 
society."* Dr. Priestley, elsewhere, as we have seen, acknowl- 
edges, that " the love of God, in giving hii* Son to die for us, is 
the consideration on which the scriptures ahcays lay the greatest 
^tress as a motive to gratitude and obedience ;" and yet he speaks 
here, of " a future state of retribution, as being that in Christian- 
ity which is most favourable to virtue."" One should think, that 
what the scriptures always lay the greatest stress upon, should be 
that in Christianity which is most fivourable to virtue, be it what 
it may. But, waving this, let it be considered, whether the Cal- 
vinistic system has not the advantage, even upon this ground. The 
doctrine of a future state of retribution, is a ground possessed by 
Calvinists, as well as by Socinians ; and, perhaps, it may be found, 
that their views of that subject, and others connected with it, are 
more favourable to virtue, and a holy life, than those of their ad- 

A motive of no small importance, by which we profess to br 
influenced, is, The thought of our own approaching dissolution. 
Brethren, if you embrace what is called the Calvinistic view o* 
things, you consider it a» your duty anrl interest to be frequently 
conversing with mortality. You find such thoughts have a ten- 

- Loitrri to Mr. Burn, Letter V. 


dency to moderate your attachments to the present world ; t» 
preserve you from being inordinately elated by its smiles, or de- 
jected by its frowns. The consideration of the time being shorty 
teaches you to hold all things with a loose hand ; to weep, as 
though you wept not, and to rejoice, as though you rejoiced not. 
You reckon it a mark of true wisdom, to keep the end of your 
lives habitually in view ; and to follow the advice of the holy 
scriptures, where you are directed to go to the house of mourning, 
rather than to the house of feasting ; where the godly are descri- 
bed as praying, So teach us to number our days, that we may ap- 
ply our hearts unto wisdom / and God himself, as saying, O that 
they were wise^ that they understood this, that they would consider 
their latter end!* But these things, instead of being recommended 
and urged as motives of piety, are discouraged by Dr. Priestley ; 
who teaches, that it is not necessary to dwell in our thoughts upon 
death and futurity ^ lest it should interrupt the business of life, and 
cause us to live in perpetual bondage.^ 

The scriptures greatly recommend the virtue of heavenly mind- 
edness. They teach Christians to consider themselves as stran- 
gers and pilgiims on the earth; to be dead to the world, and to 
consider their life, or portion, as hid with Christ in God. The 
spiritual, holy, and happy state, which, according to the Calvinis- 
tic system, commences at death, and is augmented at the resurrec- 
tion, tends, more than a little, to promote this virtue. If, breth- 
ren, you adopt these views of things, you consider the body as a 
tabernacle, a temporary habitation ; and when this tabernacle is 
dissolved by death, you expect a house not made with hands, 
eternal in the heavens. Hence it is, that you desire to be absent 
from the bod}', and present with the Lord. There are seasons in 
which your views are expanded, and your hearts enlarged. At 
those seasons, especially, the world loses its charms, and you see 
nothing worth living for, except to serve and glorify God. You 
have, in a degree, the same feeling which the Apostle Paul appears 
^o have possessed, when he said, I am in a strait betwixt two, kar- 

* Eccles. vii. 2. Psalm xc. 12. Deut. xxxii. 29. 
t Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, pp. 7, 22. 


ing a desire to depart^ and to be with Christ ; which is far better. 
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But Dr. Priestle} 
teaches, thiit the heavenly state shall not commence till the resur- 
rection. He does not suppose that there is any state of existence, 
strictly speaking, wherein we shall be absent from the body, and 
present with the Lord ; for he considers the soul as having no ex- 
istence at all separate from the body. lie must, therefore, of 
necessity, be a stranger to any such strait as that mentioned by 
the Apostle. If the question were put to him, or to any of his 
sentiments, Whether they would choose to abide longer in ihejlesh, 
(which might be profitable to their connexions,) or immediately 
depart this life ? they would be at no loss what to answer. They 
could not, in any rational sense, consider death as gain. It would 
be impossible for them, upon their principles, to desire to depart. 
Conceiving that they come to tlie possession of heavenly felicity 
as soon, if they die fifty years hence, as if they were to die at the 
present time, they must rather desire to live as long as the course 
of nature will admit: so long, however, as life can be considered 
as preferable to non-existence. It would indicate even a mean 
and unworthy temper of mind, upon their principles, to be in such 
a strait iis I'aul describe?. It would imply, that they were weary 
of their work, and at a loss whether they should choose a cessa- 
tion of being, or to be employed in serving God, and in doing good 
to their fellow-creatures. 

The NATURE and employments of the heavenly state, deserve 
also to be considered. If you adopt the Calvinistic view of things, 
you consider the enjoymonts and employments of that state in a 
very different light from that in which Socinian writers represent 
them. You read, in your IJiblcs, that the Lord will be our ever- 
lasting lighty and our God our glory; that our life is hid with 
(.'hriit in God; that, when he shall appear., wc shall appear with 
him m glory ; and that we shall then be like him ; for wc shall see 
him as he is. Hence you conclude, that A full knjovment of 


read, further, that the bliss in reserve for Christians is afarmon 
exceeding and eternal weight of glory ; that now wc arc the sons of 
frody but it doth not yet appear what wc shall he : and, from hencr 


you naturnlly conclude, that the heavenly state will abun- 

you read, that those who shall be found worthy to obtain that world, 
and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry , nor are given in 
marriage, hut arc like the angels of God. Hence you conclude, that 

GETHER SPIRITUAL AND HOLY. You Fcad of OUT knowledge here 
being in part ; but that there we shall know even as we are known; 
and that the Lamb, zvhich is in the midst of the throne, shall feed 
usy and lead us to living fountains of ivater. Hence you conclude, 
that we shall not only enjoy greater means of knowledge, which^ 
like a fountain, will flow for ever, and assuage our thirsty souls, 


concerning those who shall obtain that world, and the resurrection, 
that they cannot die any more ; that they shall go no more out ; 
that the inheritance to which they are reserved is incorruptible^ 
andfadeth not away ; ^nd that the weight of glory which we look 
for, is eternal. Hence you conclude, that the immortality prom- 
ised TO Christians is certain and absolute. 

These are very important matters, and must have a great influ- 
ence in attracting your hearts toward heaven. These were the 
things which caused the patriarchs to live like strangers and pil- 
grims on the earth. They looked for a habitation, a better coun- 
try, even a heavenly one. These were the things that made the 
Apostles and primitive Christians consider their afflictions as light 
and momentary. For this cause, say they, we faint not ; but though 
our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 
For our light aJfUction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a 
far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory ; while we look not 
at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen : 
for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are 
not seen are eternal. 


But, if you adopt the Socinian view of things, your ideas of the 
heavenly state, compared with the above, will be miserably flat 
and cold ; and conscijuently, your atVection* will be more sot on 
things below, and less on things above. Dr. Priestley, in his.SVr- 
mon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, is not only employed in di'^sna- 
ding people from too much thought and fear about death ; but 
from too much hope respecting the state beyond it. He seems to 
fear, lest we should form too high expectations of lieavenly felici- 
ty, and so meet with a disappointment. Tlic heaven which he 
there describes, does not necessarily include any one of the forego- 
ing ideas, but must exist if they were all excluded ! 

Take his own words: " The change of our condition by death, 
may not be so great .is we are apt to imagine. As our natures 
will not be changed, but ordy improved, we have no reason to think 
that ihe future norld (which will be adapted to our merely im- 
proved nature,) will be materially different from this. And, in- 
deed, why should we ask or expect any thing more ? If we should 
still be obliged to provide for our subsistence by exercise, or la- 
bor; is that a thing to be complained of by those who are suppo- 
sed to have acquired fixed habits of industry, becoming rational 
beings, and who have never been able to bear the languor of ab- 
solute rest, or indolence ? Our future happiness has, with much 
reason, been supposed to arise from an increase of knowledge. — 
But if we should have nothing more than the means of knowledge 
furnished us, as we have here, but be left to our own labor to find 
it out; is that to be complained of by those who will have acquired 
a l(yve of truth, and a habit of inquiring after it ! To make discov- 
eries ourselves, though the search may require time and labor, is 
unspeakably more pleasing than to learn every thing by the infor- 
mation of others.* If the inunortality th^ii is promised to us in 
the gospel, should not be necessary and absolute, and u'e should 
only have the certain mcajis of making ourselves immortal, we 
should have much to be thankful for. What the scriptures inform 
us concerning a future life, is expressly in genend terms, and often 

•Is not this the rock on which Dr. I'ric^tley and his brethren split.-' Iluve 
ihcy not, ou this very principle, coinrJ a gospel of thrir own, instep ol" rc- 
cciving the instructions of the saorcil writ«r"« ^ 

Vol. II. '27 

210 TENDENCY TO, &c. [Lktter XIV. 

in figurative language. A more particular knowledge of it is wise- 
ly concealed from us.* 

You see, brethren, here is not one word of God, or of Christ, 
as being the sum and substance of our bliss; and, except that men- 
tion is made of our being freed from ^' imperfections bodily and 
mental," the whole consists of mere natural enjoyments; differ- 
ing from the paradise of Mahometans chiefly in this, that their en- 
joyments are principally sensual, whereas these are mostly intel- 
lectual. Those are adapted to gratify the voluptuary, and these 
the philosopher. Whether such a heaven will suit a holy mind, 
or be adapted to draw forth our best affections, judge ye. 

I am, &c. 
*Pugc J8. 



Christian Brethren, 

I SUPPOSE we may take it for granted, at present, that Christian- 
ity is favorable to true virtue, and that infidelity is the reverse. It 
it can be proved, therefore, that Socinianism resembles Intidelity. 
in several of its leading features, and has a direct tendency toward>^ 
it, that will be the same as proving it unfavorable to true virtue. 

It has been observed, and 1 think justly, that " there is no con- 
sistent medium between genuine Christianity and Infidelity." The 
smallest departure from the one, is a step towards the other. — 
There are different degrees of approach, but all move on in the 
same direction. Socinians, however, are not willing to own that 
their scheme has any such tendency. Dr. Priestley appears to be 
more than a little hurt, at being represented by the bigots, (as he 
politely calls those who think ill of his principles,) as undermining 
Christianity; and intimates that, by their rigid attachment to cer- 
tain doctrines, some are forced into Infidelity, while others are sa- 
ved from it by his conciliating principles.* xMany things to the 

* Here the late Mr. RoUiu-oi), of Cambridge, is brought in as au exam[»le ; 
who, as some think, iti -au excess of coinj)laisanco, told the Doctor, in a pnvutr 
letter, that, " but for his friendly aid, he feared he should have gone from en- 
thusiasm to Deism." Letters to Mr. Burn, Preface. 'J'o say nothing, whether 
the use Dr. Priestley made of ihi^ pnvnle letter was warrantable, and whether 
it would not have been full as m<xJcst to have forborne to publish to the world 
so high a compliment on hitnsell ; supposing not only the thnig itself to hav* 
been strictly true, but that the conduct of Dr. Priestley was as strictly prop- 
er ; what does it prove ' Nothing, except that the region of Socinianir-m is 
so near to that of Deism, that, now und then, an individual, who was on the 
high road to the one, has stopped short, and taken up with the other. 

212 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV 

same purpose, are advanced by Mr. Lindsey, m his Discourse ad 
dressed to the Congregation at the Chapel in Essex-Street, Strand, on 
resigning the Pastoral Office among them. We are to accommodate 
our religion, it seems, to the notions and inclinations of Infidels ; 
and then they would condescend to receive it. This principle of 
accommodation has been already noticed in Letter III. And it has 
been shown, from the example of the Popish Missionaries in China; 
to have no good tendency. To remove every stumbling-block 
out of the way of Infidels, would be to annihilate the gospel. Such 
attempts, also, suppose what is not true; That their not believing 
in Christianity, is owing to some fault in the system, as generally 
received, and not to the temper of their own minds. Faults there 
are, no doubt: but if their hearts were right, they would search 
the scriptures for themselves, and form their own sentiments ac- 
cording to the best of their capacity. 

The near relation of the system of Socinians to that of Infi- 
dels, may be proved, from the agreement of their principles, their 
prejudices, their spirit, and their success. 

First : There is an agreement in their leading principles. One 
of the most important principles in the scheme of Infidelity, it is 
well known, is THE SUFFICIENCY OF HUMAN REASON. This Is the 
great bulwark of the cause, and the main ground on which its ad- 
vocates proceed in rejecting revelation. If the one, say they, 
be sufficient, the other is unnecessary. Whether the Socinians do 
not adopt the same principle, and follow hard after the Deists in 
its application too, we will now inquire. When Mr. Burn char- 
ged Dr. Priestley with making the reason of the individual the 
sole umpire in matters of faith," the Doctor denied the charge, 
and supposed that Mr. Burn must have been " reading the writings 
of Bolingbroke, Hume, or Voltaire, and have imagined them to be 
his:" as if none but professed Infidels maintained that principle. 
This, however, is allowing it to be a principle pertaining to Infidel- 
ity ; and of such importance, it should seem, as to distinguish it 
from Christianity. If it should prove, therefore, that the same 
principle occupies a place, yea, and an equally important place, 
in the Socinian scheme, it will follow, that Socinianism and Deism 
must be nearly allied. But, Dr. Priestley, as was said, denies the 

Letter XV. J INFIDELITY. 213 

charge ; and tells us, that he " lias written a great ileal to prove 
the imufficicncy of human rtason :'^ he also accuse? iMr. Burn, ol 
"the grossest and most unfounded calumny," in charging such a 
principle upon him.* 

If what Air. lUirii alleges be " a gross and unfounded calumny," 
It is rather extraordinary, that such a number of respectable wri- 
ters should have suggested the same thing. I suppose there has 
been scarcely a writer of any note among us, but nho, if this be 
calumny, has calumniated the Socinians. If there be any credit 
due to Trinitarian aiithors, they certaitdy have hitherto understood 
matters in a dift'erent light from that in which the} are here repre- 
sented. They have supposed, whether rightly or not, that their 
opponents in general, do hold the very principle which Dr. Priest- 
ley so strongly disavows. 

But this is not all. If what Mr. Burn allows be a gross and un- 
flunded calumny, it is not more extraordinary, that Socinian wri- 
ters should calumniate themselves. Mr. Robinson, whom Dr. 
Priestley glories in as his convert, affirms much the same thing ; 
and that, in his History of liaptism, a work published after he had 
adopted the Socinian system. In answering an objection brought 
against the Baptists, as being enthusiasts, he asks, " Were Cas- 
telio, and Servetus, Socinus, and Crellius, enthusiasts ? On the 
contrary, they are taxed with attributing too much to reason, an© 


If the last member of this sentence be true, and Dr. Priestley 
has maintained the same principle as much as any of his pred- 
ecessors ; then is what Mr. Burn alleges true also, and no calum- 
ny. Further : If Mr. Robinson's words be true, the system of 
a Socinus, and of a Bolin^broke, however they may differ in some 
particulars, cannot be very wide asunder. They may be two bod- 
ies ; but the diflference cannot be very material, so long as those 
bodies are inhabited by om: soi l. 

But was not Mr. Robinson mistaken ? has he not inadvertently 
granted that which ought not injustice to have been granted ? sup- 
l)osc this to be a fact, why might not the same construction hav^^ 

♦" Lcttcnto Mr. Burn, F.rif.r \V 
* Page 47 

014 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV. 

been put upon what is alleged by Mr. Burn, and other Trinitarian 
writers, instead of calling it by the hard name of *' gross and un- 
founded Calumny ?" If we s y no worse of our opponents than 
they say of themselves, they can have no just grounds of com- 
plaint; at least, they should complain with less severity. 

Further : If Mr. Robinson was mistaken, and if Dr. Priestley 
do really maintain the insufficiency of human reason in matters of 
religion ; it will follow, after all that he has pleaded in behalf of 
reason, that he is no better friend to it than other people. The 
Doctor often reminds his Calvinistic opponents of an old saying, 
that ^* No man is against reason, till reason is against him." Old 
sayings, to be sure, prove much in argument. This old saying, 
however, is very just, provided the term reason be understood of 
the real fitness of things. Dr. Priestley's opponents are not against 
reason in this sense of the word ; but against setting up the reason 
of the individual as umpire in matters of faith : and this, we see, 
is no more than the Doctor himself disavows ; in that he supposes 
a principle of this kind is no where to be found, except in such 
writings as those of Bolingbroke, of Hume, or of Voltaire. He 
tells us, that he has " written much to prove the insufficiency of 
human reason, and the necessity of divine revelation." He is then 
professedly against reason in the same sense as his opponents are; 
and the Deists might remind him of his " old saying," with as 
much propriety as he reminds other people of it. 

Once more : If Mr. Robinson was mistaken, and if his conces- 
sion be beyond the bounds of justice and propriety ; it will foU 
low, that, notwithstanding what Dr. Priestley has said of saving 
him from Infidelity, he was not saved from it after all. Whether 
Mr. Robinson's words convey a just idea of Socinianism, or not, 
they must be allowed to express what were /«is ozvn ideas of it. 
Whatever' therefore. Dr. Priestley believes, he appears to have 
believed in the sufficiency of reason. But if none besides Infidels 
maintain that principle, it must follow, that Dr. Priestley's glory- 
ing in Mr. Robinson is vain ; and that, so far from saving him from 
Infidelity, as he boasts, he was not saved from it ; but was the dis- 
ciple of a Bolingbroke, of a Kume or of a Voltaire, raiher than of 
a Priestley. 


But, after all, was IMr. Robinson indeed mistaken ? Is not " the 
sufficiency of reason the soul of the Socinian system ?" It is true, 
Socinians do not openly plead, as do the Deists, that reason is 50 
sufficient, as that revelation is unnecessary ; nor is it supposed, 
that Mr. Robinson meant to acknowledge that they did. But do 
they not constantly advance what amounts to the same thing ? I do 
not know w hat pul)lications Dr. Priestley refers to, w hen he speaks 
of having written a great deal to prove the " insufficiency of hu- 
man reason, and the necessity of divine revelation :" but, if it be 
upon the same principles as those which he avows in his other 
productions, I do not see how he can have proved his point. Ac- 
cording to these principles, the sacred writers were as liable to err 
as other men, and, in some instances, actually did err ; producing 
•' lame acrounts, improper quotations, and inconclusive reason- 
ings ;" and it is the province of reason, not only to judge of their 
credentials, but of the particular doctrines which they advance.* 
Now, this is not only " making the reason of the individual the 
sole umpire in matters of faith," but virtually rendering revelation 
unnecessary. If the reason of the individual be to sit supreme 
judge, and insist that every doctrine which revelation proposes 
shall approve itself to its dictates, or be rejected ; the necessity of 
the latter might as well be totally denied. If it be necessary, 
however, it is no otherwise, than as a French parliament used to 
be necessary to a French king ; not in order to dictate to His Ma- 
jesty, but to afford a sanction to his resolutions ; or, at most, to 
tender him a little advice, in order to assist him in forming his 
judgment ; which advice, notwithstanding, he might receive or 
reject, as best suited his inclination. 

Dr. Priestley often suggests, that he makes no other use of hu- 
man reason, than all Protestants make against the Papists, when 
pleading against the doctrine of transubstantiation ; that is, where 
the literal sense of a text involves an absurdity, he so far allows the 
dictates of reason as to understand it figuratively. But this is not 
the case ; for the question here does not at all respect the mean- 
ing of Fcripture, whether it should be understood literally or fig- 

^ce Letter XII. 

216 TENDENCY TO [JLetter XV. 

uratively ; bat whether its allowed meaning ought to be accepted 
as truth, any further than it corresponds with our pre-conceived 
notions of what is reason ? According to the principles and char- 
ges above cited, it ought not ; and this is not only summoning 
revelation to the bar of our own understandings, but actually pass- 
ing sentence against it. 

The near affinity of Socinianism to Deism is so manifest, that it 
IS in vain to disown it. Nobody supposes them to be entirely the 
same. One acknowledges Christ to be a true prophet ; the oth- 
er considers him as an impostor : but the denial of the proper in- 
spiration of the scriptures, with the receiving of some part of them 
as true, and the rejecting of other parts even of the same books, 
as ^' lame accounts, improper quotations, and inconclusive rea- 
sonings," naturally lead to Deism. Deists themselves do not so 
reject the Bible as to disbelieve every historical ev^ent which is 
there recorded. They would not deny, I suppose, that there 
were such characters in the world as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: 
and that some things which are written concerning each are true. 

In short, they take what they like best, as they would from any 
other ancient history, and reject the rest: and what does Dr. Priest- 
ley even pretend to, more .^ He does not reject so much as a 
Deist ; he admits various articles which the other denies : but 
the difference is only in degree. The relation between the first 
and leading principles of their respective systems is so near, that 
one spirit may be said to pervade them both ; or to use the image- 
ry of Mr. Robinson, one soul inhabits these different bodies. The 
opposition between faith and unbelief is so great in the scriptures, 
that no less than salvation is promised to the one, and damnation 
threatened to the other ; but, if they were no further assunder 
than Socinianism and Deism, it is passing strange that their conse- 
quences should be so widely different. 

Another leading principle, common to Socinians and Deists, is 
the non-importance of principle itself , in order to the enioyment of 
the divine favour. Nothing is more common than for professed 
infidels to exclaim against Christianity, on account of its render- 
ing the belief of the gospel necessary to salvation. Lord Shaftes- 
bury insinuates, that the heathen magistrates, in the first ages of 

Lbtter XV.] INFlDKLirV. 0^7 

Christianity, mii^lit have been justly ofl'ended " with a notion which 
treated them, and all men, as prol'ane, impious, and damned, who 
entered not into particuhir modes of worship, of which there had 
been formerly so many thousand kinds instituted, all of them com- 
patible, and sociable, till that time.''* To the same purpose is 
what Mr. Paine advances ; who, I imagine, would make no pre- 
tence of friendship towards Christianity. '* If we suppose a large 
family of children," says he, " who on any particular day, or par- 
ticular circumstance, made it a custom to present to their parents 
some token of their aflection and gratitude, each of them would 
make a different otfering, and, niost probably, in a different man- 
ner. Some would pay their congratulatioiis in themes, of verse or 
prose, by some little devices as their genius dictated, or according 
to what they thought would please ; and, perhaps, the least of all, 
not able to do any of those things, would ramble into the garden 
or the field, and iiather what it thought the prettiest tlower it could 
find, though, perhaps it might be but a simple weed. The parent 
would be more gratified by such a variety, than if the whole of 
them had acted on a concerted plan, and each had made exactly 
the sa ne offering."! And this he applies, not merely to the diver- 
sified modes of worshipping God, which come within the limits of 
the divine command, but to the various ways in which mankind 
have, in all ages and nations, worshipped, or pretendrd to worship, 
a deity. The sentiment wiiich this writer and all others of hi^ 
stamp, wish to propagate, is. That, in all modrs of reli;;ion, men 
may be very sincere ; and that, in being so, all are alike accep- 
table to Cod. This is infidelity undisguised. Yet this is no more 
than Dr. Priestley has advanced in his Differences in Rtli^ious 
OpininiiH, " If we can be so happy," he says, " as to believe, 
that all differences in modes of worship may be only the ditTerenl 
methods by which ditVerent men (who are equally the offspring of 
find) are endeavouring to honour and obey their common parent. 

• Characteristics, Vol. i, i 3. 

t Ri^hL'of Mut), Part If, near the coucliiiioB. 
Vol. II ?8 

218 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV, 

our differences of opinion would have no tendency to lessen our 
mutual love and esteem."* 

Nor is Dr. Priestley the only writer of the party who unites 
with the author of The age of Reaaon, in maintaining that it mat- 
ters not what religion we are of, if we be but sincere in it. Dr. 
Toulmin has laboured lo defend this notion, and to prove, from 
Acts X. 34, 35, and Rom. ii. 6, 10, 12, that it was maintained by 
Peter and Paul.j But, before he had pretended to palm it upon 
them, he should have made it evident, that Cornelius, when he 
feared God, and zeorked righteousness^ and those Gentiles, when 
they are supposed to have worked good, and to be heirs of glory, 
honour, and peace, were each of them actually living in idolatry ; 
and, being sincere, that God was well pleased with it. It is no 
part of the question, whether Heathens maybe saved : but wheth- 
er they may be saved in their Heathenism ; and whether Heathen- 
ism and Christianity be only different modes of worshipping our 
common Father, and alike acceptable to him ? 

Several other principles might be mentioned, in which Socini- 
ans and Deists are agreed, and in which the same objections that 
are made by the one, against Calvinism, are made, by the ether, 
against the holy scriptures. Do Socinians reject the Calvinistic sys- 
tem, because it represents God as a vindictive being ? For the 
same reason, the scriptures themselves are rejected by the Deists. 
Are the former offended with Calvinism, on account of the doc- 
trines of atonement, and divine sovereignty ? The latter are 
equally offended with the Bible for the same reasons. They 
know very well, that these doctrines are contained in the scrip- 
tures ; but they dislike them, and reject the scriptures, partly on 
account of them. The sufficiency of repentance to secure the di- 
vine favour ; the evil of sin consisting merely in its tendency to 
injure the creature ; all punishment being for the good of the 
offender, as well as for the public good; with various other 
principles which are opposed in these Letters in defence of Calvin- 
ism ; are the same things, for substance, which those who have 
written against the Deists have had to encounter, when defending 

* Sect. II. t Practical Efficacy, pp. 164, 165, 2nd. Edit. 

Ljbtter XV.] INFIDELITY. 211) 

revolution.* It i^ a consolation to us to trace these likenesses : as 
it afl'ords a presumption tliat our sentiments accord wilii the scrip- 
tures, being liable to the same objections. 

Socinian writers not only make the same objections to Calvin- 
ism, which Deists make to revelation, but, in some instances, 
"have so far forgotten themst^lves, as to unite with the latter in 
pointing their objections against revelation itself. Steinb.irt and 
Semler, ('as quoted in Letter XII.) have fallen foul upon the wri- 
ters of the Old and New Testament. " Moses," says the former, 
*' according to the childish conceptions of the Jews in his days 
paints God as agitated by violent affections ; partial to one people, 
and hating all other nations." '* Peter," says the latter, '2 Ej is- 
tle i. 21. *' speaks according to the conception of the Jews ; and 
the prophets may have delivered the offspring of tiieir own brains 
as divine revelations."! The infidelity of Socinians is frequently 
covered with a very thin disguise ; but here the veil is entirely 
thrown off. One thing, however, is sufficiently evident : while 
they vent their antipathy against the holy scriptures in such inde- 
cent language, they betray a consciousness that the contents of 
that sacred volume are against them. 

The likeness of Socinianism to Deism will further appear, if we 
consider, Secondly, The similarity of iheir prejudices. The pe- 
culiar prejudices of Deists are drawn, I think, with great justness, 
by Dr. Pnestley himself. " There is no class or description of 
men," he observes, " but what are subject to peculiar prejudices; 
and every prejudice must operate as au obstacle to tiie reception 
of some truth. It is in vain for unbelievers to pretend to be free 
from prejudices, they m;iy indeed be free from those of the 
vulgar ; but they have others, peculiar to themselves : and 
the very affectation of being frr-e from vuliiar prejudices, 
and of being wiser than tbr re>t of mankind, must indispose 
them to the adrnissiori even of trtitb, if it should happen to be with 
the conjmon people. The suspic ion, that the I'aith of the vulgar 
is superstitious and false, is, no doubt, often well-founded ; be- 

♦ See Lelund'a Defence olCliristiamty agaiusl Tinflall, \'ol. I . (hap. 

t Dr. Erskiae'fl Sketches aud Hints of Church History, No. III. pp.G5-7l. 

220 TExNDENCY TO [Letter XV. 

cause they, of course, mnintain the oldest opinions, while the spec- 
ulative part of mankind are making new discoveries in science. 
Yet we often find that they who pride themselves on their being 
the farth.^,st removed from superstition in some things, are the 
greatest dupes to it in others ; and it is not universally true, that 
all old opinions are false, and all new ones well-founded. An 
aversion to the creed of the vulgar may, therefore, mislead a man; 
and, from a fondness for singularity, he may be singularly in the 

Let those who are best acquainted with Socinians judge, wheth- 
er this address, with a very few alterations, be not equally adapt- 
ed to them, as to professed unbelievers. We know who they are, 
besides avowed Infidels, who affect to be " emancipated from vul- 
gar prejudices and popular superstitions, and to embrace a rational 
system of faith."! It is very common with Socinian writers, as 
mu h as it is with Deists, to value themselves on being wiser than 
the rest of mankind, and to despise the judgment of plain Chris- 
tians, as being the judgment of the vulgar and the populace. It is 
true, Dr. Priestley has addressed Letters to the common people 
at Birmingham, and has complimented them with being " capable 
of judging in matters of religion and government." However, it 
is no great compliment to Christians in general, of that descrip- 
tion, to suppose, as he frequently does, not only that the Trinita- 
rian system, but everv other, was the invention of learned men in- 
different ages, and that the vulgar have always been led by their 
influence. " The creed of the vulgar of the present day," he 
observes, " is to be considered not so much as their creed, for 
Ihey were not the inventors of it, as that of the thinking and in- 
quisitive in some former period. For those whom we distinguish 
by the appellation of the vulgar, are not those who introduce any 
new opinions, but those who receive them from others, of whose 
judgment they have been led to think highly. "+ On this princi- 

*Letters to a Philosophical Unbtliever, Pari H. Letter V, 

t Mr. Belsham's Sermon, pp. 4—32. 

X Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part II. Letter V. 

Lkttkh x\.i i.\kii>i:litv. 

22 J 

pie, Dr. Priestley somewhere expresses lu}- persuasion of the 
future prevalence of Unitariani?m. He grants, that, at present, 
the hody of coniinon Christians are against it ; but, as the learned 
and the speculative are vergins; towards it, he supposes the other 
will, in time, follow ihcm. What is this, hut supposing them in- 
capable of forming religious sentiments for themselves ; as if the 
Bible were to them a sealed book, and they had only to believe 
the system thnt happened to be in fa^^hion, or, rather, to have been 
in fashion some years before they were born, and to dance after 
the pipe of learned men ? 

It is acknowledged, that, in matters of human science, common 
people, having no standard to judge by, are generally led by the 
learned ; but surely it is somewhat dilFerent in religion, where 
we have a standard ; and one, too, that is adapted to the under- 
standing of the simple. ^However, many people maybe led impli- 
citly by others, yet there will always be a number of plain, intel- 
ligent, serious Christians, who will read the Bible, and judge for 
themselves ; and Christians of this description will always have a 
much greater iidluence even upon those who do not judge for 
themselves, than mere speculative men, whom the most ignorant 
cannot but perceive to be wanting in seribus religion, and respect 
to mankind ; and while this is the case, there is no great danger 
of the body of common Christians becoming Socinians. 

Thirdly : There is a bold, profane, and darimr spirit, discov- 
ered in the writings of Infidels ; a spirit that fears not to speak of 
sacred things with the most indecent freedom. They love to 
speak of Christ with a sneer, calling him the carpenter^s son, thf 
Galilean, or some such name, which, in their manner of express- 
ing it, conveys an idea of contempt. Though Socinians do not go 
such lengths as these, yet they follow hard after them in their 
profane and daring manner of speaking. Were it proper to re- 
fer to the speeches of private individuals, language might be pro- 
duced, very little inferior in contempt, to any of the foregoing 
mo<les of expression : and even some of those who have appear- 
ed as authors, have discovered a similar temper. Besides the ex* 
amples of Ki)<;odin, Giigneius, St«Mnhart, and Semler, (as quoted 
in Letter XII.; tiie maffuanimity which has been ascrib«Ml to Dr. 

222 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV. 

Priestley for censuring the Mosaic narrative of the fall of man, 
calling it " a lame account," is an instance of the same irreverent 

Fourthly : The alliance of Socinianism to Deism, may be infer- 
red from this, that the success of the one, bears a proportion to 
that of the other, and resembles it in the most essential points. 
Socinians are continually boasting of their success, and of the 
great increase of their numbers ; so also are the Deists, and I 
suppose with equal reason. The number of the latter has cer- 
tainly increased in the present century, in as great, if not a great- 
er proportion, than the former. The truth is, a spirit of infidel- 
ity is the main temptation of the present age, as a persecuting 
superstition was of ages past. This spirit has long gone forth 
into the world. In different denominations of men it exists in dif- 
ferent degrees, and appears to be permitte!l to try them that dwell 
upon the earth. Great multitudes are carried away with it ; and 
no wonder : for it disguises itself under a variety of specious 
names ; such as liberality ^ candour and charity / by which it im- 
poses upon the unwary. It flatters human pride ; calls evil pro- 
pensity nature ; and gives loose to its dictates : and, in propor- 
tion as it prevails in the judgments, as well as in the hearts of* men, 
it serves to abate the fears of death and judgment, and so makes 
them more cheerful than they otherwise would be. 

It is also worthy of notice, that the success of Socinianism and 
Deism has been among the same sort of people ; namely, men of 
a speculative turn of mind. Dr. Priestley somewhere observes, 
that " learned men begin more and more to suspect the doctrine 
of the Trinity ;" and possibly it may be so. But then it might, 
with equal truth, be affirmed, that learned men begin more and 
more to suspect Christianity. Dr. Priestley himself acknowl- 
edges, that "among those who are called philosophers, the unbe- 
lievers are the crowd."* It is true, he flatters himself, that their 
numbers will diminish, and, that " the evidences of Christianity 
will meet with a more impartial examination in the present day, 
than they have done in the last fifty years." But this is mere con- 
jecture, such as has no foundation in fact. We may as well flat- 

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Vol. 11. p. 32. 



ter ourselves that Socinians will dirniiii-li : (here is e(nial reason 
for the one as for the other. It is not iini)()ssibie that the number of 
both may l»e diminished in some future time j but when that time 
shall come, it is not for us to say. 

It may be sui^gested, that it is a circumstanre not much in favour 
either of the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Christianity, that such 
a number of philosophers and learned men suspect them. But. 
unfivorable as this circumstance may ajjpear to some, there are 
others who view it in a ver}' ditlerent light. The late Mr. Rob- 
inson, of Cambridge, always contended, that common Christians 
were in a more favourable state for the discovery of religious 
truth, than either the ricli or the learned. And Dr. Priestley not 
only admits, but accounts for it. " Learned men," he says, '* have 
prejudices peculiar to themselves ; and the very affectation of be- 
ing free from vulgar prejudices, and of being wiser than the rest 
of mankind, must indispose them to the admission even of truth, 
if it should happen to be with the common people." IC not many 
wise men after the fiesh are found amoag the friends of Christian- 
ity, or of what we account its peculiar doctrines, is ii any other 
than what mis;ht have been alleged against the primitive church ? 
The things of Cod, in their times, were kidfrom the wise and pru- 
dent, and revealed unto babcSy and that because it seemed good in 
his sight. 

It is further worthy of notice, that the same disregard nf reli- 
gion in general, which is allowed by our opponents to be favour- 
able toSocinianism, is equally favoarable to Deism. Dr. Priestley 
describes unbelievers of a certain age amongst us, as '' having 
heard l/hristianity from their infancy, as having, in general, be- 
hcved it for some time, and as not coming to disbelieve it till the// 
had long disregarded it. '^^ A disregard of Christianity, then, pre- 
cede<l their openly rejecting it, and embracing tlie scheme of In- 
fidelity. Now this is the very process of a great number of So- 
rinian converts, as both tlie Doctor and Mr. I^el>ham elsewhere 
acknowledge. It is by a disregard of all religion that men become 
Infidels ; and it is by the same means that others become Sociaians. 

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Vol. (I. rrclucc p. 

224 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV. 

The foregoing observations may suffice to show the resemblance 
of Socinianism to Deism. It remains for me to consider the ten- 
demy of the one to the other. 

Dr. Priestley seems to admit, that his scheme approaches near- 
er to that of unbeUevers than ours ; but then he disowns its having 
any tendency, on that account, to lead men to Infidehty. On the 
contrary, he retorts the charge upon his opponents, and asserts his 
ovvn-scheme to have an opposite elTect. '' An enemy as I am con- 
sidered to Christianity, by some," says he, " I have saved many 
from that Infidehty into which the bigots are forcing them." The 
case of the late Mr. Robinson is hero introduced as an exam- 
ple to confirm this assertion. The reasoning of Dr. Priestley, on 
this subject, resembles that of Archbishop Laud, on another. 
When accused of leaning to Popery, he denied the charge, and 
gave in a list o^ twenty -one persons, whom he had not merely saved 
from going over to that religion, but actually converted them from 
it to the Protestant faith.* Yet few thinking people imagine the 
principles of Laud to have been very unfriendly to Popery ; much 
less that they were adapted to save men from it. 

That Socinianism has a direct tendency to Deism, will appear 
from the following considerations. First : By giving up the plen- 
ary inspiration of the scriptures, and allowing them to be the pro- 
duction of fallible men, (of men, who, though too honest know- 
ingly to impose upon others, were, notwithstanding, so far under 
the influence of inattention, of prejudice, and of misinformation, as 
to be capable of being imposed upon themselves,) Socinians fur- 
nish Infidels with a handle for rejecting them. To give up the 
plenary inspiration of the scriptures, is to give them up as the 
loord of God, and as binding upon the consciences of men : to which 
our opponents apparently have no objection. They are seldom, 
if ever, known to warn mankind, that the rejection of the holy 
scriptures will endanger their eternal welfare. Nor can they do so, 
consistently with what they elsewhere plead for, that " all diflfer- 
cnces in modes of worship, may be only different modes of endeav- 
ouring to honour and obey our commoL Parent " Under the pre- 

'■^ Neale's History of the Puritans. V»*l. III. Index, Art. Laud. 

Letter XV.] l\FIDi:Ln\. oo,^ 

tence of appealing (o the reason of unbelievers, they neglert to 
address themselves to their hearts and consciences. Il the cause 
ol' Infidelity lie in tin- want of evidence, or if those who leaned 
toward> it were inujenious and disinterested inquirers after truth, 
^solemn warnings might be less necessary. But. if it lie in the tem- 
per of their hearts, which blinds their minds to the most convin- 
cing proofs, their hearts and consciences must be addressed, as well 
as their understandings. The sacred writers and preachers al- 
ways proceeded upon this principle. This only will account for 
such language as the following : llie blindness of their hkart. — 
Lest they should understand with their heart, and be converted. — 
Repent and believe the gospel. — If Gody peradventure^ will give 
them REPENTA.vcK to the acknowledging of the truth. This wa« 
the method of John the Baptist, of Christ, and his apostles, in 
their addresses to unbelievers : and whatever addresses are mado 
to Infidels, whether Jews or Deists, in which the sin of unbelief 
and the danger of persisting in it, are not insisted on, they will 
tend to harden them in Infidelity, rather than to recover them out 
of it. Dr. Priestley, in effect, acknowledges, that the cause of 
Infidelity lies in the temper of the heart ; and yet, when he ad- 
dresses himself to Infidels, he seems to consider them as morelv in 
want of evidence, and fosters in them an idea of their security, 
notwithstanding their rejection of the gospel. This is manifestlv 
the tendency of his Letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of 

Dr. Priestley acknowledges, that men seldom reject Christianiiij 
in theory y till they have long disregarded it in practice* That is, 
they seldom believe it to be false, without their hearts being fullv 
inclined to have it so. Let us then consider a character of thi« 
description, in his examination of Christianity, lie has long dis- 
regarded the practice of it, and begins now to hesitate about it«! 
truth. If he read a defence of it upon our principles, he will find 
the authority of heaven vindicated; his own sceptical sj)irit con- 
demned ; and is warned that he fdl not upon a rock that will 
prove his eternal ruin. He throws it aside in resentment ; caIN 

* Letter^ to a Pbilosopbical Unbclicvrr, Vol. U. Preface, p. ix. 
Vol. II. 29 

226 TENDENCY TO [Letter X\ . 

the writer a bigot ; and considers the warning given him, as an 
insult to his dignity. Still, however, there is a sting left behind, 
which he knows not how to extract ; a something which says 
within him. How, if it should be true ? He takes up a defence of 
Christianity upon Socinian principles ; suppose Dr. Priestley's 
Letters to the Philosophers and Politicians of France. He is now 
brought to a better humour. Here is no threatening ; no immi- 
nent danger. The sting is extracted. The reasoning, in many 
parts, is plausible ; but, having long wished to disbelieve Chris- 
tianity, it makes little or no impression upon him ; especially as it 
seems to be of no great consequence if he do so. It is only 
rejecting that entirely, which professed Christians reject in part.. 
It is only throwing off the testimony and opinions of fallible men. 
What will be his next step, is not very difficult to conjecture. 

By allowing part of the Gospels to be spurious, Socinian writers 
enable the Jews to ask, with an air of triumph, " How are we 
sure that the remainder is authentic''"* We are often told, that 
the Jews can never embrace what is called orthodox Christianity, 
because of its inconsistency with one of the first principles of their 
religion, the uniti/ of God. We do not ask them, however, to give 
up the unity of God. On the contrary, we are fully persuaded, 
that our principles are entirely consistent with it. But this is 
more than our opponents can say, with regard to the inspiration of 
the scriptures ; a principle as sacred, and as important with the 
Jews, as the unity of God itself. Were they to embrace Dr- 
Priestley's notions of Christianity, they must give up this princi- 
ple, and consider their own sacred writings in a much meaner 
light than they at present do. They have no conception of the 
Old Testament being a mere, '* authentic history of past transac- 
tions ;" but profess to receive it as the very word of God ; the 
infallible rule of faith and practice. Whenever they shall receive 
tlie New Testament, there is reason to conclude it will be under 
the same character, and for the same purposes. While they con- 
eider their own scriptures as divinely inspired, and hear professed 
Christians acknowledge, that " part of their Gospels is spurious :*' 

" Mr. D. Levi's Letters to Dr. Priestley, p. 82. 

Letter XV. I INFIDKLITY. ^.^^ 

they will be tempted to look down upon Christianity with scorn, 
and so be hardened in their infidelity. 

Secondly : If the sacred vvritini<s be not received for the pur- 
poses for which they were professedly given, and for which they 
were actually appealed to by Christ and his apostles, they are 
in effect, rejected ; and those who pretend to 'embrace them for 
other purposes, will themselves be found to have passed the boun- 
daries of Christianity, and to be walking in the paths of Infidelity. 
We have seen, in Letter XII. that the scriptures profess to be tht 
zvord of God, and the rule of faith and practice. Now, if any man 
believe in revelation, he mast receive it as being what it professes 
to be and for all the purposes for which it professes to have been 
written. The Monthly Review suggests, that *' the scriptures 
were never designed to settle disputed theories, or to decide spec- 
ulative, controverted questions, even in religion and morality."* 
But, if so, what must we think of their assuming to be the rule 
of faith and practice ? what must we think of Christ and his apos- 
tles, who appealed to them for the truth of their doctrines and the 
goodness oftheir precepts ? On the principles of our opponents, they 
must have been either weak or wicked. Ifthey considered them as 
the standard of faith and practice, they must have been weak : ifthey 
did not, and yet appealed to them as a decisive test, they were cer- 
tainly wicked. In either case, their testimony is unworthy of regard: 
which is downright Intiileiity. 

Thirdly : By the degrading notions which Socinians entertain ol 
^Ihe p.TSon of Christ, they do what in them lies to lessen the sin of 
rejecting him ; and afford the adversaries of the gospel aground 
for accusing him of presumption ; which must necessarily harden 
them in unbelief The Jews consider their nation, according to 
the sentimentss of orthodox Christians, as lying under the chargp 
of " crucifying the Lokd and Savfouii of the world ; but, accord- 
ing to those of Dr. Priestley, as only having crucitied ^'\\ prophet. 
that was sent to them in the first instance."! Such a considera 
lion diminishes the degree of their guilt ; tends to render them 

* MonUdy Review Kularj!;c(1, V«»l. X. p. ;])T. 
Mr. David Levi's Lcllers to Dr. Pric-tlcy, p. 1 i 

228 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV, 

more indift'erent ; and, conquenlly, must harden them in infidelity. 
By considering our Lord as merely a prophet, Socinians also fur- 
nish tlie Jews with the charge of presumption ; a weighty objec- 
tion, indeed, against his Messiahship ! " He preached himself^''' 
says Mr. Levi, " as the light of the world ; which is an instance 
not to be paralleled in scripture : for the duty of a prophet con- 
sisted in his delivery of God's word or message to the people ; not 
in presumptuously preaching himself. Again, we meet with the 
same example in John xiv. 6. where Jesus preaches himself ^ as the 
zvay, the truth, and the life.^^ From all which he concludes, ** It 
is manifest that he was not sent by God to us as a prophet ; see- 
ing he was so deficient in the essential character of a prophet."* 
How Dr. Priestley, upon his principles, will be able to answer 
this reasoning, I cannot tell. Though he has written a reply to 
Mr. Levi, I observe he has passed over this part of the subject 
very lightly ; offered nothing that sufficiently accounts for ofja* 
Lord's preaching himself as the light of the world, the way, the truthy 
and the life, upon the supposition of his being merely a prophet. 

Fourtlilv : The progress which Socinianism has made, has gen- 
erally been towards Infidelity. The ancient Socinians, though 
they went great lengths, are, nevertheless, far outdone by the 
moderns. If we look over the Racovian Catechism^ printed at 
Amsterdam in 1652, we shall find such sentiments as the follow- 
ing. " No suspicion can possibly creep into the mind concerning 
those- authors, (the sacred writers,) as if they had not had exact 
cognizance of the things which they described; in that som^ 
of them were eye and ear-witnesses of the things which they set 
down, and the others were fully and accurately informed by them 
concerning the same. It is altogether incredible, that God, whose 
goodness and providence are immense, hath suffered those wri- 
tings wherein he hath proposed his will, and the way to eternal 
life, and which, through the succession of so many ages, have, by 
all the godly, been received and approved as such, to be any 
ways corrupted."! I need not go about to prove, that these sen- 

'■^ Mr. David Levi's Letters to Dr. Priestley, p. 24. 
tRaoovian Catechism, p. 3. 4. 

lkttkk xv.j iNHDhxrn. 2iy 

timents .ire betrayed into the liands of Inlidcls by modern Socin- 
ians. Dr. Priestley, (as we bave seen in Letter XII.) supposes 
the sacred writers to bave written upon subject>j " to wbich 
tbey bad not given mucb attention, and concerning whicb they 
bad not tbe means of exact information," and, in such cases, 
considered bimself at bberty to disregard their productions. In- 
stead of maintaining that the sacred writings, cannot bave been 
corrupted, modern Socinians are continually labouring to prove 
that tbey are so. 

Some, who are better acquainted with Socinians and Deists, than 
I profess to be, bave observed, that it is rery common for those 
who go over to Infidelity, to pass through Socinianism, in their 
way. If this be the case, it is no more than may be expo> ted 
according to the natural course of things. It is not common 1 
believe, for persons who go over to Socinianism, to go directly 
from Calvinism, but through one or other of the different stages of 
Arminianism, or Arianism, or both. Dr. Priestley was once, as 
he himself inlerms us, " a Calvinist, and that of the straitest sect. 
Afterwards," he adds, '• be became a High Arian, next a Low 
Arian, and then a Socinian, and then, in a little time, a Socinian of 
the lowest kind, in which Christ is considered as a mere man, tbe 
son of Joseph and Mary, and, naturally, as fallible and peccable as 
Moses, or any other prophet:" to which he might have added, 
and in which tbe plenary inspiration of tbe scriptures is given up.* 
The Doctor also informs us, that he " does not know when his 
creed will be fixed."! And yet he tells us, in bis volume of Ser- 
mons, (page 95,) that " Unitarians are not apt to entertain any 
doubt of the truth of their principles." But this, I suppose, is to 
be understood of their princi[)les only in one point of view ; name- 
ly, as they are opposed to what is commoidy calle<l orthodoxy : 
for as they are opposed to Infidelity, they are apt to entertain doubts 
concerning them, as mucb, and perhaps more than any other men; 
and, in that line of improvement, to bold tbemselvts open to the 
reception of greater and greater iliuuunalions. It is in this direc- 

♦I/fillcrs to a I'hilosiipliical Unlx-'bcvrr, Pari 11. pp. 33 — Jj. 

i Defenro of I oitarfHuism, for 17C7, p. 111. 

230 TENDENCY TO [Letter XV. 

tion that Dr. Priestley has generally moved hitherto : and should 
he, before he fixes his creed, go one degree further, is there any 
doubt where that degree will land him ? Should it be upon the 
shores of downright Infidelity, it can afford no greater matter of 
surprise to the Christian vvorld, than that of an Arian becoming a 
Socinian, or a Deist an Atheist. 

By the following extract from a letter, which I received from a 
gentleman of candour and veracity, and extensive acquaintance in 
the literary world, it appears, that several of the most eminent 
characters amongst professed unbelievers in the present age, were 
but a few years ago, in the scheme of Socinus : '^ I think I may 
say, without exaggeration, that, of my acquaintance, the greater 
part q{ literary men who have become Unitarians, are either scep- 
tics, or strongly tending that way. I could instance in , ^ 

, , , , and many others. About four months 

ago, I had a pretty long conversation with one of the above gentle- 
men, (as intelligent as any man I know,) on this subject. He 
reminded me of a conversation that had passed betwixt us about a 
year and a half before, in which I had observed, there was a near 
affinity between Unitarianism and Deism ; and told me, he was 
then rather surprised I should suppose so, but that now he was, 
completely of that opinion ; and that from very extensive observa- 
tions, there was nothing he was more certain of, than that the one led 
to the other. He remarked how much Dr. Priestley was mistaken, 
in supposing he could, by cashiering orthodoxy, form what he cal- 
led Rational Christians ; for that, after following him thus far, they 
would be almost sure to carry their speculations to a still greater 
extent. All the professed unbelievers I have met with, rejoice in 
the spread of Unitarianism, as favourable to their views." 

Christian brethren, permit me to request, that the subject may 
be seriously considered. Whether the foregoing positions be suf- 
ficiently proved, it becomes not me to decide. A reflection or 
t>vo, however may be offered, upon the supposition that they are 
so ; and with these I shall conclude. 

First : If that system which embraces the deity and atonement 
of Christ, with other correspondent doctrines, be friendly to a life 
of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness ; itmust be of God, and it 


becomes us to abide by it ; not because it is tlie doctrine of Calvin, 
or of any other man that was uninspired, but as being the gospel 
which irc hare received from Chi i^t and his apostles ; lohcrein tec 
stand, and by trhivh we arc saved. 

Secondly : If that system of religion which rejects the deity and 
atonement of Christ, w ith other correspendent doctrines, be un- 
friendly to the conversion of sinners to a life of holiness, and of pro- 
fessed unbelievers, to faith in Christ; if it be a system which irrelig- 
ious men are the first, and serious Christians the last to embrace; if it 
be found to relax the obligations to virtuous affection aad behaviour, 
by relaxing the great standard of virtue itself ; if it promote nei- 
ther love to God under his own true character, nor benevolence 
to men, as it is exemplitied in the spirit of Christ and his apostles ; 
if it lead those who embrace it to be wise in their own eyes, and, 
instead of humbly deprecating God's righteous displeasure, even 
in their dying moments, arrogantly to challenge his justice : if the 
charity which it inculcates be founded in an indili'erence to divine 
truth; if it be inconsistent with ardent love to Christ, and veneration 
for the holy scriptures ; if the happiness which it promotes be at 
variance with the joys of the gospel : and, linally, if it diminish the 
motives to gratitude, obedience, and heavenly mindedness, and 
have a natural tendency to Infidelity ; it must be an immoral sys- 
tem, and consequently not of God. U is not the gospel of Christ, 
but another gospel. Those who preach it, preach another Jeaus, 
whom the apostles did not preach ; and those who receive it, 
receive another spirit^ which they never imbibed. It is not the 
light which cometh from above, but a cloud of darkness that hath 
arisen from beneath, tending to ecli()se it. It is not the high way 
of truth, which is a way of holiness ; but a bye-path of error, 
which misleads the unwary traveller ; and of which, as we value 
our immortal interests, it becomes us to beware. We need not be 
afraid of evidence, or of free inquiry. For if irreligious men 
be the first, and serious Christians be the last, who embrace 
the Socinian system; it is easy to perceive, that the avenues 
which lead to it are not. as its abettors would pcrsiuide you tn 

^^32 TENDENCY TO, «S.t. [Lktter XV. 

think, an openness to conviction, or a free and impartial inquiry 
after truth ; but a heart secretly disaffected to the true character 
and government of Gody and dissatisfied with the gospel-way of 

1 am, 

Christian Brethren, 

Respectfully and Affectionately yours, 



U.N the first appearance of the foregoing Letters, in 1793, some 
of the most respectable characters amongst the Socinians, and 
who have since nffected to trent them with contempt, acknowl- 
edged that they were " well worthy of their attention." No an- 
swer, however, appeared to them till 1796, when Dr. Toulmin 
published his Practical Efficacy of the Unitarian Doctrine, and 
Mr. Kentish hi* sermon, on the moral Tendency of the Geniiinc 
Christian Doctrine. To these publications, a reply was written 
in 1797, entitled, Socinianisin Indefensible, on the ground of its 
Moral Tendency. xMr. Kentish wrote again, and Dr. Toulmin 
has lately published a second edition of his piece, with large ad 
ditions. I had no inclination to add any thing in reply to Mr. Ken- 
tish, being well satisfied that the public should judge from the 
evidence that was before them. And as to Dr. Toulmin, his 
second edition is, like his first, full of irrelative matter. 

Having been charged with shifting the ground of the argument 
and begging the question, this writer labours to persuade his rea- 
ders that he has done neither. " He did not intend," he says, 
'' nor profess, to give n full and m/wM/c answer to Mr. Fuller's 
tract. He meant not much more than to take an occasion from that 
publication, to bring the general question, namely the practical 
elficacy ot the Unitarian doctrine, to the test of scriptural facts.''* 
This is acknowledging, that if he had professed to give a proper 
answer to the work, he would have been obliged by the laws of 
just reasoning, to keep to the ground of his opponent. But in- 
tending only to write a piece that should bear some allusion to it. 
he considered himself a liberty to choose his own ground. But 
if this were his intention, Why did he profess, at his outset, to 
** enter the lists" with me ; and to comprehend in his performance 
" the main point to which a reply to my Letters need be direc- 
ted ?" If this be not professing to answer a work, nothing i«. 

• Practical Efficacy, p. 1J3. Second Kdition. 
Vol. H. 30 



The des^i oi Mr. Tnwlww weems to kare beca Toy 
a^ hii accoont of it has anch the jpycjiJ«.<L of the 
He did Mt iaiCBd'to giTe zJmManA fiiif aKwer : did he Mean 
l» give «qf MPWii ; oroiily to.write a piece which w^fatposybr 

Menoi^Mxe! If he did, he oogM to hare k^ to the pnper 
g^oond of reaaoQiag ; or, if hethooght it onftMr, to hare proved 

B«t he had a light, be saTS, to choose tl^ gronad of hk : 
as veil as L Doabtles, tf he had chotsea to write «poa aoj 
jcct, mitkomtfi i/i in'ajg io ■■■■rr «<rffcr, or wishiag hg 
ance to pass for Mi smswer. be had : bm if at the ootsct, he pro- 
pose to *' eater the lias" with an opponent, and to coapcehead 
- afl that to which a replj to hb pertormaace need be directed,'* 
it b otherwise. If a Christian diviae wish to write in fevoor of 
CbrbtiaiDtj, he is ai liboty to choose fak gnmad. He nay Ux 
as Bishop Newton has, on the ar«;iuient froMjiiytfcj. But if a 
Deist roiar after him, profisaHBg to ^ ^ner the Ikt,'' with hia. 
and to c oip tehead in hb perfbraiance '- att that to which a reply 
to the work of his oppooeat need be Erected,'' he is obliged bj 
the rules of jast reasoaing, either to eKuune the aigmaenti ot 
hk adrersarj, or attempt to OTertoxn the priadple on whi^ thcj 
resL If; iKtead of trring the trmh of the Christiaa rehgioa by 
the fiilfflmfal of jwopAfcy, he were to ^ op bis pages by argo- 
iag oa the i^pcobabiliij of aMfnciMy Or thtMrnfaemey mf tie SgM 
^ aatere. What wooJd Dr. Toolnn say to him ? And if; ia oider 
to excuse bin^eli. he should allege, that he did aot ialead, aor 
pn£e96, to ff\^ i mimmte answer to bis aatagoaist ; that he 

meaat aot amc. ^ n to take an oroamoa firom his pabiica- 

tioa, to bring f&nr- , -. ^eral qnestioa betweea Christiaas aad 

Deists, on the necesiiv .>t' a divine reTebtiDn, might, he not fab- 
ler hare hdd his peace ] Most not jndicio^ persoas. erea amoagit 
his frieads, dearly perceire that be has betrayed the caoie ; aad, 
whether thej choo«e to acknowled^ it, or not, be tolly co a ii ate d 
^at if he did not wish to aofwer the work, he shoald hare lei it 
or if the groond of aigament were aa^ir. he shoald, have 



proved ii so, and not hare set up another, which had no relation 
to it ? 

Thus it i«, that Dr. Touimin has siiifted the ground of tht argu- 
ment: and what is that ground to which he give* the preference ? 
He wished, it seems, to try *'the practical efficacy of the Unita- 
rian doctrine, by the test of scriptural fact." Are those facts, then, 
a proper medium tor such a trial ? 1 have been used to think, that 
every tree was to be tried by its (jwn fruits, and not by those of 
another. Scriptural facts, such as those which Dr. Touimin al- 
lecies, afford a proper test of the practical efficacy of scnp/Mre 
doctrines; and, if brought against the cause of Infidelity, would be 
in pomt. But there is no question in this case, whether scripture 
truth be of a practical nature, but wherein it consists ? The /ac/« 
to which Dr. Touimin wishes to draw the reader's attention, prove 
nothing in favor of Unitariani«m or Trinitarianism : for, before 
they can be brought to bear, the work of proof must be accom- 
plished by other means. An attempt to establish the practical ef- 
ficacy of modern Unitarianism by scriptural facts, is like producing 
the fruits of Palestine, in order to ascertain the soil of Taunton. 

Dr. Touimin complained of my animadverting upon particular 
passages in the writings of Unitarians, and suggested that 1 ought 
rather to hare applied my arguments to the general, the fundamen- 
tal principles of their system; 'That there is one God, the Fa- 
ther, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Je- 
sus." To this it was answered, " The unity of God, and the hu- 
manity of Christ, then, it seems, are the principles which I ought 
to have attacked; that is, 1 ought to have attacked principles which 
1 profess to believe, and not those which I profess to disbelieve." 
— *'But," says Dr. T. in reply, '• does he receive these priciples 
in the pure and simple form in which Unitarians embrace ihcm ?"• 

The Dpctor ought to have expressed bis fundamental principles 
in hitozcn zcords^ and not in those of scripture. Every controver- 
sial writer, who does not wish to beg the question, will do so. He 
ought to have said, Mr. Fuller, instead of animadverting upon par- 
ticular passages in the wntings of Unitarians, should hav« attacked 

' Page 81. Not*. 


their first principles ; That God is one person, and that Christ is 
merely a man. This had been fair and open: and had the objec- 
tion been made in this form, I might have repHed to this effect:— 
My object was not to attack particular principles, so much as the 
general tendency of their religion, taken in the gross ; and the pas- 
sages on which I animadverted, chiefly related to this view of the 
subject. Yet, in the course of thework, I have certainly attempt- 
ed to prove the divinity of Christ; and whatever goes to establish 
this doctrine, goes to demolish those leading principles which, it 
is said, I ought to have attacked ; for, if Christ be God, he cannot 
be merely a man, and there must be more than one person in the 
Godhead. But, not contented with expressing his leading princi- 
ples in his own words. Dr. Toulmiu chooses scripture language for 
the purpose. This, I contended, was begging the question; or, 
taking it for granted, that the terms one God, in scripture, mean 
one person, and that Christ's being called a man, denotes that he 
tvas merely a man. To show the impropriety of this proceeding, 
I alleged, that I believed both the unity of God, and the humanity 
of Christ; and, therefore, ought not to be expected to oppose 
either of them. *' But does he receive these principles," says Dr. 
T. *' in the pure and simple form in which Unitarians embrace 
them ?" What is this but saying, that I do not admit the Socinian 
gloss upon the Apostle's words? Dr. Toulmin may contend, that 
the scriptures express his sentiments so plainly as to need no 
gloss; but a gloss it manifestly is. He may call it a pure and sim- 
ple form, or what he pleases; but nothing is meant by it beyond a 
gloss, nor proved, except the prevalence of his easy-besetting sin, 
that of begging the question. 

To show, in a still stronger light, the unfairness of a controver- 
sial writer's attempting to shroud his opinions under the phraseol- 
ogy of scripture, I supposed it to have been done by a Palvinist, 
and asked what Dr. Toulmin would say to it in that case ? I could 
say for example, There is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit, in 
whose name we are baptised. The Word zoas God. — Christ died for 
our sins, according to the scriptures; and could require Socinians not 
to animadvert upon particular passages in Calvinistic writers, but 
on these our leading principles. Would they admit, or ought they 


to be expected lo admit of these, as our leading principles? No: 
Dr. Toulmin has given proof that he does not, and has thereby 
Justified me in refusing to achnit the same thing on his side of the 
question. He will not allow that our leading principles are ex- 
pressed by these passages of scripture, because they say nothing 
of the Father, Son, and Spirit being une (iod, nor of a sameness of 
essence, Sec. i>ic.* \er\ well : neither do I ullovv, that his lead 
ing fxinriples are expressed by the passages he has produced ; 
for they say nothing of God's being one person^ or of Christ's 
being merchj a man. If the scriptures which I alleged, express my 
sentiments as fully as the passages he has produced express his, 
thiit is sufficient. My object was not to join issue in endeavoring 
to prove that my sentiments were expressly and fully contained in 
scripture-language; but to show the futility of such pretences on 
cither side. So far from "affecting to show, that the first princi 
pies of the Calvinists are to be expressed in the words of scrip 
ture," it was manifestly my design to show, that the practice of 
•o expressing them in controversy, was objectionable, in that it 
takes for granted that which require? to be proved. 

It is true, as Dr. Toulmin says, that, if he, or any other person, 
were to offer to subscribe the passages which 1 have produced, as 
exhibiting a creed tantamount to ours, we should demur to admit 
it in this view. But this, instead of overturning my reasoning, 
confirms it, and cuts the throat of his own argument : for it is no 
less true, that, if I, or any other person, were to offer to subscribe 
the passages produced by him, as exhibiting a creed tantamount to 
his, he would demur to admit it in this view. Nay, more : in his 
case, it is beyonil supposition. I have actually offered to subscribe 
the Apostle's words, and he has actually refused to admit my sub- 
scription ; alleging that I do not receive them in that pure and 
simple form in which Unitarians embrace them. According to hit 
own reasoning, therefore, the words of the Apostle, by which he 
would express his leading principles, do not contain the uhole of 
them, and he must have fiiled in his attempt to express them ia 
scripture-language ; and, consequently, the " boasted superiori- 
ty" of his scheme, even in this respect, is without foundation. 

Pttgc'' 5, fi. Note 


If we can belie v^e Dr. Toulrnin, however, the scriptures not 
only expressly declare God to be one, but 07ie person. *' This 
simple idea of God J that he is one single person," says he, from 
Mr. Lindsey, '* literally pervades every passage of the sacred 
volumes." To this I have answered, among other things, " It 
might have served a better purpose, if, instead of this general as- 
sertion, these gentlemen bad pointed us to a single instance in 
which the unity of God is literally declared to be personal." And 
what has Dr. Toulmin said in reply ? ^' The appeal, one would 
think, might be made to Mr. Fuller's own good sense. What can 
be more decisive instances of this, than the many passages in 
which the singular personal pronouns, and their correlates, are 
used concerning the Supreme Being ; as, I, me, my.^ m/we, &c."* 
Whatever may be thought of my good sense, or of that of my op- 
ponent, I appeal to good sense itself, whether he have made good 
his assertion. To say nothing of his reducing it from every pas- 
sage to many passages, which probably strikes out ninety-nine 
passages out of a hundred in the sacred volumes ; if the singular 
personal pronouns be a literal declaration, that God is one person, 
the plural personal pronouns. Let us tnake man in ovr image, &c. 
must equally be a literal declaration, that he is more than one. 
The singular personal pronouns also, which are frequently applied 
to the Holy Spirit,! contain a decisive proof, yea, a literal decla- 
ration of his personality ; and which inevitably draws after it the 
doctrine of the Trinity. 

Dr. Toulmin has said much nhout judging the heart : (pp. 95 — 
101, Note :) but his objection does not seem to lie against judging, 
so much as judging Unitarians. If I affirm, what the scriptures 
uniformly teach, J That a false and immoral system has its origin 
not in simple mistake, but in disaffection to God,§ this is highly 
presumptuous ; this is judging the heart: but, if Dr. Toulmin 

"^ Page 85, Note, t John xiv. 26. xv. 26. xvi. 7—15. 1 Coi. xii. 1 1. 

t 1 Thess. ii. 10, 1 1. 2 Pet. ii. 1. 1 John iv. 6. Jude 4. 

j The reader will recollect, that what is affirmed at the close of the Letters 
ismerely hypothetical, and rests upotj the supposition of Socinianism being 
what I had attempted to prove it, a false and immoral system. 


pronouru:^ my mode of arguing lo be " savouring of spleen and 
ili-Uiiture, and evidently dcaigned to fix an opprobrium and dis- 
grace," (p. 134.) ibe case is altered. 

It is rigbt to judge of the disposition of the heart by *' overt 
acts ;" (hat is, by words and deeds : but, where this judgment i« 
directed against Unitarians, it is not right, after all ; for it is pos- 
sible we may judge uncandidly and unjustly I It is right for Dr. 
T. to disregard the profession of his opponent, when he declare* 
his belief in the unity of CJod and tlie luunaiiity of Christ, and ex- 
presses that belief in the words of scripture, because he does not 
'* receive these principles in the pure and simple form in whic!) 
Unitarians embract? them." Hut, if we disregard (Iwir professions, 
and require any thing more than a declaration of their faith in the 
words of scripture, we set up " our gospel, or the gospel accord- 
ing to our views of it ;" and act contrary to our professed princi- 
ples as Protestants, as Dissenters, and as Baptists. 

When our creed and worship are such, that they cannot con- 
scientiously joifj them, ihoy have a right to separate from us ; 
otherwise they could not " keep the commandments of Jesus pure 
and undefded :" but, whatever be their creed, or the tenor ol 
tlieir ronversation, or prayers, we have no right to refuse com- 
niiiriiuTi with tiiciii. 

if wc do not model our professions, preaching, and worship, so a'^ 
to give no olTence to an individual of their principles, we "assume 
a power which no Christian, or body of Christians possesses :" 
yet they do not model their professions, preacliing, or worship, so 
as to give no offence to us ; neither do we desire they should. Thev 
do not confine themselves to the words of scripture; nor is it ne- 
cessary liny should. Thry in<|uire, whether our {professions ac 
cord with the mcaniufy of scrij)ture ; and we claim to do the same. 
The reason why Dr. T. will not allow of this and other claims, 
must, i should think, be this: Their views of the gospel are ''pure 
and simple.'' and ours are corrupt. Thus it is, reader, that he 
goes about to prove, that he does not 'Make for granted the princi- 
ples on which he argues," and that " he assumes nothing !" If Dr. 
T. can persuadu himself and his friends, that he has not shil'ted the 


ground of the argument, has not assumed what he should have pro- 
ved, and, in short, has not tacitly acknowledged Socinianism to be 
indefensible on the ground of its moral tendency, they are welcome 
to all the consolation such a persuasion will afford them. 

All I shall add will be, a brief defence of the principle on which 
the foregoing Letters are written. To undermine this, is a point 
at which all my opponents have aimed. The practical efficacy of 
doctrine, in the present age, is a subject, it seems, which ought not 
to be discussed, as the test of its being true. They are, to a man, 
however, against it : a pretty clear evidence this, that it does not 
speak good concerning them. 

Mr. Belsham, in his Review of Mr. Wilberforce, glancing at The^ 
Systems Compared, says, " The amount of it is ; We Calvinists, being 
much better Christians than you Socinians, our doctrines must, of 
course, be true." The Unitarians," he adds, *' will not trespass 
upon the holy ground. We have learned, that not he who commend- 
eth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. And be it 
known to Mr. Wilberforce, and to all who, like him, are disposed 
to condemn their brethren unheard, that, if the Unitarians were in- 
clined to boast, they have whereof to glory. And, if they took 
pleasure in exposing the faults of their orthodox brethren, they like- 
wise have tales to unfold, which would reflect little credit on the 
parties, or on their principles. But of such mutual reproaches 
there would be no end."* 

Dr. Toulmin alleges, that " It is a mode of arguing very unfa- 
vourable to candour and fair discussion, savouring o( spleen and ill- 
nature, principally calculated to misrepresent and irritate, and evi- 
dently designed to fix an opprobrium and disgrace ; that, when our 
Saviour cautioned his followers to beware of false prophets, who 
should be known by their fruits, he meant not persons who would 
te-dch false doctrine, and whose lives would accord with it; but per- 
sons of insincere character^ whose doctrine might, nevertheless, be 
true; and that his brethren have not reasoned against Calvinism 
from the immoral lives of Calvinists, but merely from the immoral 
tendency of their principles.! 

* Pages 267, 268, 274. t Pages 134, 148, 154. 


If the mode of arguing pursued in the foregoing Letters be liable 
to all these objections, it is rather singular, that it should not have 
been objected to, till it was pointed against Socinianism. If it can 
be shown to be a mode of arguing consonant to the directions given 
by our Saviour, and actually used by the Apostles, the Fathers, the 
Reformers, the Puritans, and even by our opponents thein>»elve9, 
their objecting to it in this instance will prove nothing, except it be 
the weakness of their cause. 

Our Saviour warned his followers to be-joare of false prophets, 
and gave this direction concerning them : Ye shall know them by 
their fruits * This direction, founded in self-evident truth, and 
enforced by the Head of the Christian church, appeared to me to 
furnish a proper criterion by which to judge of the claims, if not of 
every particular opinion, yet of every system of opinions [ retending 
to divine authority. 

Me. Kentish admitted, that ** The effects produced by a doctrine 
was a proper criterion of its value, but not of its truth.^' But the 
value of a doctrine implies its truth. Falsehood is of no value: 
whatever proves a doctrine valuable, therefore, muat prove it to 
be true. 

Mr. Kentish further objects : " This celebrated saying of our 
Saviour is proposed as a test of character, and not as a crite- 
rion of opinion/^ To the same purpose Dr. Toulmin alleges, 
that " This is a rule given to judge, not concerning principles 
but men ; not concerning the sentiments promulgated by them, 
but concerning their own ch^-acters and pretensions. The persons 
here pointed at are hypocrites and talse prophets ; such as would 
falsely pretend a commission from (Jod. Their pretentions might 
be blended with a true doctrine ; but their claims were founded in 
di»isimulation. They would be discovered by their covetousness, 
love of gain, and lasciviousness.^' p. 118. 

These writers arc, in general, exceedingly averse from judging 
men, considering it as uncandiil and presumptuous, and plead for 
confining all judgment to (hini^s ; hut, in this case, things them- 
selves seem to be in danger ; and therefore men are left to shilt for 

* Matt. VI i. 1,',— 20. 
Vol. n. 31 


According to this exposition, it is the duty of Christians, when 
ministers discover an avaricious and ambitious disposition, though 
sound in doctrine, and in time past apparently humble and pious, 
to set them dovs^n as hypocrites. And this is more candid, it seems, 
and savours less of spleen and ill-nature^ than drawing an unfavour- 
able conclusion of their doctrinal principles. 

But waving this : The saying of our Saviour is given as a test of 
false prophets, or teachers ; an epithet never bestowed, I believe, 
on men whose doctrine was true. That false prophets and teacher? 
were men of bad character, I admit, though that character was not 
always apparent :* but that they are ever so denominated on ac- 
count of their character, as distinct from their doctrine, does not 
appear. When any thing is said of their doctrine, it is invariably 
described as false. \f(tny man >ihall say unto you, lo here, is Christ, 
or lo there, believe him not : J o^ false Christs, and false proph- 
ets, bnaripi!; witness in their favo )r hall arise. — There were false 
PROPHETS among the people, even as there shall be false teachers 
among you who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even de- 
nying THE LORD THAT BOUGHT THEM, and bring upon themselves 
swift destruction. — Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spir- 
its, whether they he rf God : because many false prophets are gone 
out into the world. — Every spirit that confesseth not that jesus 
CHRIST is come IN THE FLESH, is not of God. — Whosocvcr trans- 
gresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of christ, hath not God. 
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him 
not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth 
him God speedy is partaker of his evil deeds.] 

If the false prophets described by our Saviour were such as 
might teach " a true doctrine," the description given by the New 
Testament writers, uniformly representing them as teaching false- 
hood, are at variance with those of their Master. 

That there were hypocrites who taught a true doctrine, may be 
allowed : but they are never denominated false prophets or false 
teachers. Balaam was a wicked character, and is called a prophet; 

* 2 Cor. xi. 14. Matt. vii. 15. 

t Mark xUi. 21, 23. 2 Pet. ii. 1. 1 John iv. 1—3. 2 John 10, 11. 


but, as the subject matter of bis propbeciea were true, he is not 
called a false prophet. Jutlas also, was a bypocrite and a ibief, at 
the same lime ibal he was a preacher and an apostle ; but, as what 
he tauj;ht was true, he is not described iis a false teacher, or n false 

These thinsis considered, let the impartial rca<ier determine, 
Whether our Saviour did not mean to direct his followers to judge 
by their fruits, who vcere the patroiis of false doctrine? 

With respect to the use which has been made of this direction, I 
appeal, in the first place, to the apostles and New-testament writers. 
i presume they will not be accused of self-commendation, nor of 
spleen, and ill-nature ; yet they scrupled not to represent those 
who believed their doctrine, as washed and sanctified from their 
former immoralities ; and tho^e who believed it not, as having 
pleasure in unrighteousness * All those facts which Dr. Toulmin 
has endeavoured to press into the service of modern Unitarianism, 
are evidences of the truth of the primitive doctrine, and were con- 
sidered cis such by the New-testament writers. They appealed 
to the effects produced in the lives of believers, as living epistles, 
kno-xn and read of all meUy in proof tliat they had not corrupted the 
word of Gody but were the true ministers of Christ.! With the 
fullest conBdence they asked, Who is he that overcometk the worlds 
but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God. ''I Plainly intima- 
ting, that truth was well known by its effects. Nor was error less 
80 : those who introduced false doctrines, are mvariably described 
as unholy characters. § 

To quote the reasonings of the Fathers on this principle, were 
to copy a large proportion of their apologies. I question whether 
there be one of them, which does not contain arguments for the 
truth of Christianity, on the ground of the holy lives of Christiar)s; 
and which does not infer, or, in some form, intimate, the falsehood 
of Heathenism, from the known immorality of Heathens. Their 
oppiHients having no better answer at hand, might possibly charge 
thii reasoning with vain boasting, spleen and ill-nature : but I do 

<^1 Cor. vi. 9— 11. 2Thej. II. 12. t 2 Cor ii. 17. iii. 1— 3. 

tl John V. 5. ;2rcl. ii. 1—3. JuJe. I Cor. zv. S3, .M 


not recollect that it was ever imputed to these causes by Christians. 

As to the Reformers^ the most successful attacks which they 
made upon the Church of Rome, were founded on the dis- 
sohite lives of her Clergy, and the holiness and constancy of 
those whom she persecuted unto death. The general strain 
of their writings may be seen in Fox's Martyrology, which is, in 
effect, an exhibition of the moral character of the persecutors 
and the persecuted, from which the world is left to judge which 
was the true religion: and I may add, a considerable part of the 
world did judge, and acted accordingly. 

Dr. Toulmin su gests from Jlf osAem, that the Reformers, and 
particularly Calvin and his associates, neglected the science of 
morals.* But Mosheim's prejudice against Calvin and his asso- 
ciates, renders his testimony of but little weight, especially as the 
reader may satisfy himself of the contrary by the writings of the 
parties, which are yet extant. The eighth chapter of the second 
book of Calvin''s Institutes, is sufficient to wipe away this slander. 
The morality there inculcated, is such as neither Antinomians, nor 
** great numbers" amongst modern Unitarians, can endure. That 
there were some among the gospellers, as they were called, who 
were loose characters, is admitted: such there are in every age: 
but take the reformed as a body, and they were not only better 
Christians than their persecutors, but, than those their successors^ 
who, while pretending to teach the *' science" of morality, have 
deserted the gre it principles by which it requires to be animated, 
and debased it, by allowing the amusements of tlie theatre, and 
other species of dissipation, to be consistent with it. 

The historian of the puritans has recorded of that persecuted 
people, that, " While others were at plays and interludes, at revels^ 
or walking in the fields, or at the diversions of bowling, fencing, 
&c. on the evening of the sabbath, they, with their families, were 
employed in reading the scriptures, singing psalms, catechising 
their children, repeating sermons, and prayer ; that neither was 
this confined to the Lord's day, but they had their hours of family 
devotion on the week days, esteeming it their duty to take care 
of the souls as well as of the bodies of their servants ; and that they 

* Page 109. 


were circumspect ns to all the excesses of eating and drinking, 
apparel, and lawful diversions ; being frugal in house keeping, 
industrious in their particular callings, honest and exact in their 
dealings, and solicitous to give to every one his own."* 

These things might not be alleged in proof of the truth of ever} 
particular opinion which the} held ; neither have 1 inferred from 
such premises, the truth of every opinion maintairjcd by Calvin- 
ifits ; but they were allesed in proof that their religion, in the 
main, tras that of Jesus ( hrist, and the religion of their adversa- 
ries, a very near approacli to that of Antichrist. Nor do I recol- 
lect that the writer has been charged, unless it be by those who 
felt the condemnation which his story implied, with vain-boasting, 
spleen, or ill-nature. 

Finally: Will our opponents nccM^e themselves of these evils^ 
for having reasoned u]>on this principle as far as they are able ? 
That they have done this, is manifest, though Dr. Toulmin jiffects 
to disown it, allegine, that they have not reasoned on the lives of 
men, but morely on the tendevcy of principles.! That they have 
reasoned on the tendency of principles, is true ; and so have I : 
such is the reasoning of the far greater part of the foregoing Let- 
ters. But that they avoided all reference to the lives of Calvin- 
ists, is not true. Was it on the tendency of principles, or on the 
lives of men, that Dr. Priestley reasoned, when he compared the 
virtue of Trinitarians with that of Unitarians, allowing, that though 
the latter had more of an apparent conformity to the world than 
the former, yet, n|)on tfie whole, they approached nearer to the 
proper temper of Christianity than they ?| Did he confine him- 
self to the tendency of principle*, in what he has related of Mr. 
Bodcock ?§ Does he not refer to the practices of Antinomians, in 
proof of the immoral tendency of Calvinism, representing them as 
the legitimate offspring of our principles ?ll 

* Nealc's History of the I'lirilaii.-, \ ol. I. Chnp. MM. + Tagc 1 10. 

^ Discourses on V.irious Subjects, p, 100. 
♦ Familiar I.pltrn«, F.rltrr XXII. 
(I Sec the quolatioD, p. 77, of the foregoing; Letters. 


And though Mr. Belsham now affects to be disgusted with this 
mode of reasoning, yet there was a time when he seemed to think 
it would be of service to him, and when he figured away in the 
use of it. Did he not affirm, that " they who were sincerely pious, 
and diffusively benevolent with our principles, could not have 
failed to have been much better, and much happier, had they 
adopted a milder, a m.ore rational, a more truly evangelical 
creed ?" And what is this but affirming, that those of his senti- 
ments are better and happier, in general, than others ? 

Yet this gentleman affects to despise the foregoing Letters ; for, 
that the sum of them is, " We Calvinists being much better Chris- 
tians than you Socinians, our doctrines must, of course, be true."* 
S.- ange, that a writer should so far forget himself, as to reproach 
the performance of another, for that which is the characteristic of 
his ov»n ! 

Nor is this all : In the small compass of the same discourse, he 
expresses a hope, that Socinian converts would " at length feel the 
benign influence of their principles, and demonstrate the excellence 
of their faith, by the svperior dignity and worth of their character.^^ 
If the excellence of principles (and of course their truth, for noth- 
ing can be excellent which is not true,) be not domonstrable by 
the character of those who embrace them, How is superior dignity 
and worth of character to demonstrate it ? 

Such was once the " self condemning" language of Mr. Belsham: 
but, whether his converts have disappointed his hope, or whether 
the ground be too "^holy" for him, so it is, that he is now entirely 
of a difl'erent mind : and, what is worse, would fain persuade his 
readers, that it is ground on which he and his brethren have never 
" trespassed." 

This is the man, wh(.. ifter throwing down the gauntlet, declines 
the contest ; and, after his partisans have laboured to the utmost 
to maintain their cause, talks of what they could say, and do, were 
they not withheld by motives of generosity ! 

One would imagine, from Mr. Belsham'smanner of writing, that 
I had dealt largely in tales of private characters. The truth is, 

* Review of Mr. Wilberforce, p. 274. 


What tales have been told are of their own telling. I freely 
acknowledged, that " 1 was not sufficiently icquainted with the 
bulk of Socinians, to judge of their moral character."* Every 
thing was rested ou their own concessions : and this it is which is 
the galling circumstance to IMr. Relsham and his party. They 
miy now iusiiiuate what great thirjgs thoy could bring forward to 
our disadvantage, were they not restrained by motives of modesty 
and generosity : but they can do nothinu;. They might, indeed, 
collect tales of individuals, and point out many faults which attach 
to the general body : but they cannot prove it to be equally 
immoral with the general body of Socinians. Before this can be 
consistently attempted, they nmst retract their concessions : and 
this will not avail them ; for it must be manifest to all men, that it 
was only to answer an end. 

The reader is now left to judge for himself, whether the prin- 
ciple of reasoning adopted in the foregoing Letters, be justly liable 
to the objections which have been raised against it ; whether our 
opponents did not first apply it against us ; and whether any other 
reason can be given for their present aversion from it, than that 
they feel it to be unfavourable to their cause. 

A. K 

* See Pagro 126 of these Letters. 













Vol. II. 32 





I he s^rouoJ of Argument stated and defendeJ. 


f- arlher Remarks on Dr. Toulmin's Replies to his Animadversions. — Flit 
Complaint of the Attack not being made on the Fundamental Principles of 

his System. — The Principles of Calvinism, not the only Springs of Piety. 

The WhiiI of Piety taciily sdm.ttotl by Dr. Toulmin.— His method of ac- 
counting for it, ruinous to his Cause. — His Method of accounting for the 
Unsuccesjfuloess of their Preaching. — ( omplaint of being called Socinians, 
and Plea for being called Unitarians. — Socinianism leads to Deism. — Case of 

the Puritans and Socinians dissimilar. — Grounds of Love to Christ. Ur. 

Toulmin's Complaint of /n/ta/ic«. — On the Criminality of Error, and judg- 
ing the Iloart. 


Containing Remarks on Dr. Toulmin's Review of the Actaof tho Apostle?. 


He begs tho Question, in his Title-p.ige.— D«clmes a full Inquiry on tlic Sub- 
ject. — The concluding Passajrc o( Lrtlers on Socmianum defended against th'' 
Charges of Mr. Kentish and the Reviewers,— Reply to iMr. Kentish's Six 
previous Remarks. 


Mr. Kentish's Four Heads of Inquiry. 
I. On the divine, the social, and the personal Virtue?. — Om L->ve to God. 
— Love to Christ. — The F'ear of God. — Confidence in Go>l. — i rusting in 
Christ. — His Appeal to Fact. — The Innocence of Error. — His Appeal again 
to Fact. 

II. On the Tendency of the Unitarian Doctrine to assist, support, and 
console, under Tempt;Uions, Afflictions, and Death. 

III. On the Conversion of Profligates and Unbelievers. 

IV. On Veneration for the Scriptures. — Remark on the Meaning of John 
xiv. 28. '< My Father is greater than I." 

Review of the Reviewers. 


IT is now more than three years since the first publication of 
Ihe Catvinistic and Socinian Systetns examined and compared^ as to 
their Moral Tendency. Dr. Toulmin expresses some regret, that, 
at the time he wrote, nothing had appeared in answer to it ; and 
seems disposed to account for this circumstance in a way tha^may 
acquit his cause of seeming to be indefensible. Addressing himseli 
to me, he says, *' No one can doubt, that the gentleman, on pas- 
sages in whose writings many of your reflections are grounded, are 
every way equal to the contest, if they saw fit to enter the lists 
with you. As they have not done it, I presume they think it suffi- 
cient to leave the candid reader to judge between you and 
them." (p. 2.) 

That these gentlemen, so far as abilities are concerned, are equal 
to this contest, there can, indeed, be no doubt : but, whether they 
be everij way equal to it, is another question. It is beyond the 
power of any man to convert truth into falsehood, or falsehood into 
truth ; and their silence may, for any thing Dr. Toulmin can prove, 
be owing to the difficulty of the undertaking. One thing is rather 
remarkable : though Dr. Toulmin has undertaken a defence of So- 
cinianism, yet he has cautiously avoided a vindication of the wri- 
tings of those gentlemen, on which I had animadverted. Such a 
conduct could not have been pursued by them : if they had written, 
they must have entered on a defence of their writings, or have given 
them up as indefensible. 

Dr. Toulmin informs us, that, for his own part, '' it was but late- 
ly that the piece fell in his way, so as to find him at leisure to read 
it." (p. 1.) This, undoubtedly, is a sufficient apology, so far as it 
respects himself; and if he or his colleague, Mr. Kentish, have but 
overturned the substance of the piece against which they have 
written, time and other rircunislances are of small account. If tli*- 


opinion of Reviewers, on these performances, be of any weight, it 
must be concluded, that they have done this, at least. The Analyt- 
ical and Monthly Rev lews ^\y\\\\ The Protestant Dissenters' Magazine, 
have each bestowed on one or other of them, their strong and un- 
qualitied approbation. Whether their critiques have been of any 
advantage to the cause I may hereafter inquire : at present. I shall 
proceed to examine what is advanced by each of my opponents, in 
their order. 





When I tirst formed a design of writing against Socinianisni, I 
perceived, that, although the holy scriptures were treated, by So- 
cinian writers, with great disrespect in various instances, yet they 
were generally the ultimate tribunal to which the appeal was made. 
The object of the controversy, on both sides, seemed to be to as- 
certain their true meaning. For this purpose, two general methods 
had been adopted : First, arranging the various passages of 
scripture which relate to the subject, and reasoning upon them. 
Secondly, examining in what sense Christians, in the early ages of 
Christianity, understood them. 

The first is the common way of deciding controversies in divin- 
ity ; and a very good way it is, if fairly conducted. I had several 
objectionf^, however, against pursuing it in this instance. First : 
it was ground which was already fully occupied. Able writers, 
on both sides, had gone over all the passages of scripture relating 
to the subject ; and many of them had nearly exhausted their 
genius, in reasoning upon the scope of the sacred writers, and in 
criticising upon the original language. Secondly : I perceived 
that Socinian writers had got into such an unwarrantable habit of 
criticising upon the sacred writings, that the plainest passages 

256 <^^^ THE GROUxND [Section I. 

could not stand before them ; whole chapters, and whole books, 
were cashiered, as spurious ; and even the whole Bible was de- 
clared to be " obscure," and ^' never designed to decide upon 
controverted questions in religion and morality."* It appeared, 
to me, of but little account to reason upon texts of scripture, when 
the scripture itself, whatever might be its meaning, was virtually 

As to the last of these methods, it was not within my province. 
Besides, it appeared to me, that, whatever pleasure we may feel 
in tracing the history of early opinions, and whatever good pur- 
poses may be answered by a work of this nature, if impartially 
conducted ; yet it can afford no proper criterion of what is the 
apostolic doctrine. Christians in early ages were as liable to err 
as we are ; and, in many instances, they did err, so as to contra- 
dict the scriptures, and one another. 

Thinking on these things, it occurred to me, that there was 
another method of reasoning, distinct from those which have been 
already mentioned ; namely, by inquiring — What is that doctrine, 
in the present day, 'which is productive of the best moral effects ? 
Several considerations induced me to prefer this ground of reason- 
ing, in the present case, to either of the other two. First ; It 
would serve to ascertain what was the apostolic doctrine, as well 
as the former of them, and much better than the latter. If, for ex- 
ample, in discoursing on the vines and fig-trees which formerly 
o^rew in the land of Canaan, a dispute should arise, whether they 
resembled this or that species now growing in other countries, one 
way of deciding it would be to compare the fruits. If the fruit of 
one species could be pi oved to possess a much nearer likeness 
than the fruit of another, that would tend to decide the contro- 
versy in its favour. Secondly: An inquiry into the moral ten- 
dency of the different doctrines, would not only serve as a medi- 
um of ascertaining which of them was the apostolic doctrine, but 
would also prove the truth of that doctrine^ and its divine original: 
for it is a principle so deeply engraven on the human mind, that 
whatever doctrine is productive of good fruits must in itself be 

* Monthly Review Enlarged, Vol. X. p. 357. 

Section I.] OF THE ARGUMENT. 557 

good, and have its origin in (iod, tliat very few writers, if any 
would dare to maintain the contrary. 1 perceived, thi'iefore, if I 
«:ould not only prove that what is commonly called Calvinism is 
most productive of effects similar to tliose which sprang from lh» 
doctrine of the Apostles, hut also exhihit them in such a lij^ht, as I 
went along, as that they shonld approve themselves to every man's 
conscience ; I should therehy cut off the retreat of those Socinian 
writers, who, when their (Utcirine is proved to be anti-scriptural, 
forsake Christian ground, and take shelter upon the territories of 
Deism ; degrading the Bible as an " obscure bo(»k ;" taxing its 
writers with " reasonins; inconclusively ;" and declaring;, that its 
" nature and design was not to settle disputed theories, or decide 
upon controverted questions in religion and morality." I knew 
well, that, though they dared to write degradingly of the scriptures, 
and of the sacred writers, yet they dare not professedly set them- 
selves against morality. Thirdly: The judging of doctrines by 
their effects, is a practice warranted by scripture : By their fruits 
ye shall knon' ihem. A very able writer, in a discourse on this 
passage, has shown, that " the rule here given by our Saviour, is 
the best that could have been given ; that it is sutficient to distin- 
guish truth from error ; and that it is, in fact, the rule by which 
all good men, and, indeed, mankind in general, do judge of reli- 
gious principles and pretensions."* Fourthly, I supposed that 
such a method of reasoning would be more interesting to the pub- 
lic mind, having never before, to my recollection, been adopted as 
the ground of any particular treatise on the subject. Fifthly, It 
was ground upon which there was room for common Christians to 
stand, and be witnesses oftlie issue of the contest ; which, while 
the controversy turned upon the opinion of the Fathers, or the 
conitructionof atext of scrij)ture, was not the case. Sixthly, It was 
a ground of reasoning to which our opponents could not fairly ob- 
ject, seeing they had commenced an attack upon it, charging the 
Calvinistic system with " gloominess," " bigotry," and *' licen- 
tiousness ;" with being " averse to the love of both God and man," 
and '' an axe at the root of all virtue." 

* See Dr. Witherspoon's Trial of ReligiouB Truth by its Moral Influenc*. 
Vol II. 33 

258 <^^' THE GROUxND [Sfxtion I. 

These were the principal reasons which induced me to prefer 
the ground of argument on which I have proceeded. I would not 
be understood, however, as expressing the least disrespect towards 
the works of those who have proceeded on other grounds. Let the 
subject be examined in everj point of view. Every author has a 
right to choose his ground of reasoning, provided it be a fair one, 
and that which may be unsuitable to the turn and talents of one 
person, may be suitable to those of another. If the reader wish to 
see the present controversy pursued, on the grounds of scripture 
testimony, and the opinions of early ages, he may consult to great 
advantage, a late very valuable and elaborate work of Dr. Jamieson, 
entitled,.^ Vindication of the Docti ine of Scripture, and of the 
Primitive Faith, concerning the Deity of Christ, in Reply to Dr. 
Priestley^s History of Early Opinions, 2 vols. 8vo. 

Knowing somewhat of the abilities of the writers on the other 
side, and their readiness, on all occasions, to defend their cause, I 
did not expect to escape their censure. I laid my account, that 
what I advanced would either be treated as unworthy of notice, or 
if any answer was written, that the strength of the arguments, 
would be tried to the uttermost. In both these particulars, howev- 
er, I have been mistaken. They have not treated it as unworthy 
of notice. They have acknowledged the contrary. And, as to 
trying the strength of the arguments, I must say, that Dr. Toul- 
min has not so much as looked them in ' he face. On the contrary, 
though the Practical Eficacy of the Unitarian Doctrine, is the title 
of his performance, yet he acknowledges his design is to " super- 
cede the examination of that comparison into which I had fully 
entered;"* that is, to relinquish the defence of the practical 
efficacy of his principles, and to reason entirely upon another 
ground. Mr. Kentish is the only writer who has pretended to 
encounter the argument. Whether he has succeeded, will be here- 
after examined. At present, I shall attend to Dr. Toulmin. 

This writer observes, at the outset, that " the title prefixed to 
his Letters, will lead the reader to expect from them, chiefly the 
discussion of one point ; but, that a point of great importance in 

* Page 5. 


itself, and tlie main one to wliicli a reply to Mr. F'liller's work 
neiid to be directed." 

Now, reader, what would you have expected that une point to 
be? The title pn-fixed to his Letters, recollect is this ; The prac- 
tical EJicaci/ of the Unitarian Doctrine considered. Would you 
not have supposed, the Doctor was j;oiiig to offer evidence in 
favour of the practical ellicacy of modern ruitariaiiism ? From 
the title of his book, could you have expected atiy other than an 
exhibition of the most forcible ///-^'//me/i/s in fivour of the holy ten- 
dency of his princi|>les, toij;ftiier \> ilh a nurnlxM- of undoubted yV^c/* 
in which their efhcacy has appeared, sutficient, at least, to con- 
front the evidence alleged on the other side ? How great then 
must be your disappointmep.t, to find him employed in " produ- 
cing evidence in support of his opinion, from passages of scrip- 
ture;^' and in proving what nobody calls in question, that the preach- 
ing of the apostle was productive of great moral effects ? 

Dr. Toulmin, it should seem, can find no such fruits of Socinian 
doctrines as will support an appeal, and therefore is under the 
necessity of going seventeen hundred years back, in search of 
examples. But are these examples in point : Were the princi- 
ples of Christians, in the apostolic age, the same as those of iSocin- 
ians ? With what face can Dr. Toulmin take it for granted that 
they were, or even go about to prove it, as a medium of establish- 
ing the practical efficacy of modern Unitarianism ! 

When the grand end of a controversy is to determine a princi- 
ple, a writer who assumes that principle as a medium of proof, is 
guilty of hcirging the question : and, if in order to escape the pub- 
lic censure, he endeavour to give evidence of this principle, from 
some other source of argument than that which he [irofesses to 
answer, he is guilty oi\shiftin<^ the ground of the controversy ; and 
by so doing, virtually gives up his cause as indefensible. 

This is exactly the case with Dr. Toulmin. The Doctrine ol 
the apostles is allowed, on both side.*, to have produced great moral 
effects. The object of the controversy was to ascertain nhut tlmt 
doctrine was. 'J'he medium of proof which I had adopted, and to 
which Dr. Toulmin, if' he pretended to write an answer ,to mc, 
ought to have conhnr-d hinisell', was the effects which it produced. 

260 ^^ THE GROUND [Sectioit I. 

I attempted to prove that the apostolic and Calvinistic doctrines 
are nearly similar, from the similarity of their effects; and, that 
the apostohc and Socinian doctrines are dissimilar, from the dissim- 
ilarity of their effects. To have answered this reasoning. Dr. 
Toulmin should have proved, either that the effects of the Calvinis- 
tic doctrine are not similar to those which attended the doctrine of 
the apostles, and that the effects of the Socinian doctrine are so ; 
or else, that a similarity of effects is not a proper ground from 
which to infer a similarity in the naiure of the doctrines. His 
attempting to prove the practical efficacy of the Unitarian doctrine, 
by assuming that the apostles were Unitarians, in his sense of the 
term, is nothi?ig better than begging the question; and his endeav- 
ouring to screen himself from this reproach, by labouring to prove 
the point in dispute from a review of the Acts of the Apostles, let 
his reasonings be ever so just, is foreign from the purpose: it is 
shifting the ground of the argument : it is declining to meet the 
inquiry on the ground of moral tendency, and substituting in its 
place, observations on the meaning of scripture testimony : which 
to all intents and purposes, is relinquishing the practical efficacy of 
modern Unitarianism, as indefensible. The plain language of his 
performance is this : There are no examples to be found of any 
considerable moral influence which the Unitarian doctrine has had 
upon the hearts and lives of men of late ages; and, therefore, I 
have had recourse to the preaching of the Apostles, and have 
endeavoured to prove, that they were Unitarians. 

If Dr. Toulmin thought the moral tendency of a doctrine an 
improper medium of proof, why did he not professedly decline it ? 
Why did he not acknowledge, that Dr. Priestley was wrong in chal- 
lensing an inquiry on such a ground ? And why did he entitle his 
performance, The practical Efficacy of the Unitarian Doctrine ? 
This piece does not answer to its title : it ought rather, to have 
been called. An Inquiry into the Doctrines which the Primitive 
Preachers delivered, by a Review of the Acts of the Apostles. The 
practical efficacy of either doctrine makes no part of his argument, 
and occupies scarcely any place in his performance, except the 
title page ; and there is reason to think, it would not have been 

Section I.j OF TIIK ARGUMENT. oq] 

there, but tor the sake of its wearingj the appearance of nn answer 
to the piece against which it is written. 

I am not obliged by the laws of controversy to follow Dr. Toul- 
min in his review of the history of the Acts of the Apostles; nor is 
it my intention to be diverted from the subject by the manoeuvres of 
any opponent. The only notice I shall take of this part of his per- 
formance will be in the form of an Appendix, as being a subject 
beside the question ; and that, merely to show, as a thing by the 
bye, that, even upon his own ground, his cause is indefensible. 

An anonymous writer, in the Analytical Review,* discovers a 
similar inclination with that of Dr. Toulmin, to shift the ground of 
the controversy J but with this difference : the Reviewer openly 
awows his dislike of the medium of proof which 1 have adopted ; 
calling it " a fallacious test," and recommending to all parties, 
" instead of asking, by xvhom any system is professed, to confine 
themselves to the single inquiry, by Trhat evidence it is supported: 
whereas Dr. Toulmin, though he discovers the same dislike to the 
ground of argument on which I have proceeded, yet has not the 
ingenuousness to acknowledge it, hni pretends to reason upon the 
practical efficacy of his principles, while, in fact, he has utterly 
relinquished it, and endeavoured to establish his system upon 
another ground. 

The writer above-mentioned, having quoted the concluding par- 
agraph of my Letters, calls it "an unfounded and presumptuous 
sentence, pronounced upon the hearts of those who adopt Socinian 
principles," and insinuates, that I must have written in a had spirit. 
Before I have finished these pages, I shall have occasion to defend 
the passage referred to, more particularly. At present, I only 
observe, that, taken in its connexion, it amounts to no more than 
this. That, if Socinianism be an immoral system, immoral disposi- 
tions are the avenues which lead to it : and it is possible, that this 
writer, notwithstanding what he has said under cover, might be 
ashamed to come forward, and, in a publication to which he shoultl 
prefix his name, avow his denial of this proposition. 

Thi'5 Reviewer wishes to have it thought, that the moral eflfectc 

■"■ Vol. XVH, pp. 183, 184. 

262 ^^ THE GROUND, &c. [Section I. 

produced by a doctrine form no part of the evidence by which it is 
supported ; that is to say, he wishes to shift this ground of argu- 
ment, as unsuitable to his purpose. If the effects of a doctrine 
upon the hearts and lives of men be no proper ground of argu- 
ment, why are we directed by our Lord to judge of false teachers 
by their fruits ? and why were not the same observations made, 
while Socinians were throwing out their accusations of immorality 
against the Calvinists ? Writers may rave like furies against them, 
and be applauded by Socinian Reviewers.* But a single attempt 
to repel these shafts of calumny, and to prove, from facts which no 
one has yet undertaken to dispute, that immorality attaches to the 
other side, quite alters the nature of things : lo, then, the ground 
of argument is unfair, and the waiter must be a man of a bad spirit! 
About forty years ago, the Socinians, and those who veered 
towards their sentiments in the Church of Scotland, are said to 
have attacked the Calvinistic system with various kinds of weap- 
ons. Amongst others, they abounded in the use of ridicule ; so 
much, indeed, that they seemed disposed to adopt Lord Shaftes- 
bury's maxim, that '^ Ridicule is the test of truth." At this junc- 
ture. Dr. Witherspoon, as it is supposed, published his Ecclesias- 
tical Characteristics ; in which he successfully turned their weapon 
upon themselves. The effect of that performance was very con- 
siderable : a dead silence succeeded its publication ; none moved 
the wing, or opened the mt)uth, or peeped ; but they comforted one 
another, by suggesting, -that the author of the Characteristics must 
be a man of a bad heart ! 

* See Monthly Review, for July, 1792, oa Llewellyn's Tracts, p. 226. 



Du. TouLMiN gives ii5, at the oulset of his performance, a short 
account of the '' fundmiental principles'' of his scheme. These, 
he tells us, are, *' That there is but one God, the sole former, sup- 
porter, and governor of the universe, the ONLY proper object of 
religious worship ; and that there is but one mediator between 
God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who was commissioned by 
God to instruct men in their duty, and to reveal the doctrine of a 
future life."* He afterwards complains, that, " instead of apply- 
ing my arguments against these principles, I have brought forward 
particular positions, scattered through the works or discourses of 
several eminent persons, known and able advocates of the Unita 
rian faith, which have no immediate and direct connexion with the 
first principles of it." These positions, he observes, "might, or 
might not, be true ; and the truth of the great doctrines of the 
unity of God and the humanity of Christ remain, in either case, 
unalTected by it,"t The unity of God, and the humanity of 
Christ, then, it seems, are the principles which I ought to have 
attacked : that is to say, I ought to have attacked principles which 
I profess to believe, and not those which I profess to disbe- 
lieve ! Dr. Toulmin seems disposed to be on the safe side. Hy 
avoiding a defence of those positions which are quoted from the 
principal writers of the party, and adopting the words of scripture 
as the medium by which to express his sentiments, (taking it for 
granted, as he goes along, that these scripture-expressions are to 
be understood in his sense of them,) his work becomes very easy, 
and very pleasant. !iut thinking people will remark, that, by so 
doing, he has retired from the field of controversy, and taken 

Page 4. y I'nge. 41 

otJ4 ON DR. TOULMIiN'S [Section U. 

refuge upon neutral ground. Dr. Toulmin knows that I shall not 
dispute with him the apostolic position, that there is one God, and 
one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus : and his 
taking it for granted, that these and other scriptures convey his 
peculiar sentiments ; namely, that the unity of God is personal, 
and that Christ is merely a man, is begging the question; a prac- 
tice to which he is more than a little addicted. 

What would Dr. Toulmin have said, if I had alleged that Socin- 
ians, instead of attacking the positions of the leading writers 
amongst the Calvinists, ought to have attacked our first principles; 
such as the following: there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit, 
in whose name we are baptized: the Word was God: Christ died for 
our sins, according to the scriptures. And, if to this 1 had added, 
" We think it a just ground of boast, that we can express our fun- 
damental opinions in the words of scripture;"* would he not 
have replied, to this effect ? ' We do not deny any one of your po- 
sitions. These are not your distinguishing principles, but are 
such as are allowed on both sides. It is the seiise which you put upon 
these passages of scripture, which constitutes your first principles, 
and the points of difference between us. You ought not to expect, 
that we should attack the words of scripture; for it is not scrip- 
ture, but your glosses upon it, that we oppose; and it is mean in 
you to beg the question, by taking it for granted that your sense of 
these passages is the true one; it is no other than shrouding your 
obnoxious glosses under the sacred phraseology of scripture; and 
it betrays an inclination in you to impose upon us the one, under 
the form of the other.' 

No man who striveth for the mastery, is crowned, except he 
strive lawfully. If a Grecian combatant had quitted the ground 
marked out for the contest, like Dr. Toulmin, he would not only 
have lost the prize, but would have been struck out of the list of 
honorable competitors. 

Dr. Toulmin labors to prove, that there are certain principles that 
are productive of piety, which are not peculiar to Calvinists or So- 
cinians, but are common to both ; and mentions several devotional trea- 

" Page 5. 

Section II. J AiNIMADVERSIONS. ^)g^ 

tises of Ciilviuistic writers, in which these are the only principles 
insiiJtecJ on.* And wliat iftliishe granted.' I nevers.iid, that the dis- 
tinguishing principles of Calvinism were the only sources of holy 
practice. On the contrary, the being of a God, which we hold in 
common with the Deists, is the foundation-stone in the great fabric 
of piety and virtue. This, however, I must observe: that the 
most important truths, when accompanied with great errors, are 
retained to but very little purpose, in comparison of what they 
are when accompanied with other truths. Divine truths, in this 
respect, resemble divine precepts : they are so connected togeth- 
er, that he who offends in one point is, as it were, guilty of all. 
It is thus that one great truth, the being of a God, is of but very 
little use to Deists who reject his word: and 1 may add, it is thus 
that the doctrine of a future life loses almost all its effect in the 
hands of both Deists and Socinians. Dr. Toulmin will admit the 
propriety of this remark, as it respects the former:! and if Dr. 
Priestley's Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson may be consider- 
ed as a specimen of the Socinian doctrine of a future life, there 
can be but little doubt of the lattcr.J 

In introducing the above remarks. Dr. Toidmin tells us his de- 
sign is to prove, " that the Calvinistic system is not essential to 
devotion. "§ Truly, our opponents are, of late, become moderate 
in their demands. Heretofore, Calvinism was ''unfriendly to the 
love both of God and man, and an axe at the root of all virtue:" 
but now, it seems, it is allowed to have a tendency in favor of devo- 
tion, and all that is argued for, is, that it is " not essenfiar' to it. 

After holding up the character of several Socinians, as eminent 
for piety and virtue, Dr. Toulmin observes, that, " if the number 
of excellent characters should not be so great as amongst other de- 
nominations — a cause of this is easily to be assigned: the number 

* Pa-es 33, 34. 

t See his Dissertatiou on the iiitc'rn;il KviJeaces and t.xcelleucei of Chris- 
tianity, p. 246, Note. 

X See reflcctioQs upon it, near tlie etui of niy XIV th Letter on Socinianism. 

4 Page 35. 

Vol. 11. 34 

2QQ ON DR. TOULMlN'i? [Siection II. 

of Socinians hath always, in the later ages of the church, borne a 
small proportion to the number of Trinitarians and Calvinists; and 
the number of sincere, conscientious persons, attentive to the cul- 
tivation of pious affections, hath borne a small proportion to those 
who have been nominal Socinians or Calvinists."* It was no part 
of my plan to examine the good or bad conduct of individuals, 
whether they were Socinians or Calvinists: it was the general 
body from which I proposed to form an estimate. 

As to Dr. Toulmin's attempt to reduce the state of Socinians and 
Calvinists to a level, it comes too late. His brethren have ac- 
knowledged that, *' Rational Christians are often represented as 
indifferent to practical religion:" nor have they denied the charge, 
or alleged that they are no more so than is common with other de- 
nominations of Christians ; but, on the contrary, have tacitly ad- 
mitted it, by endeavoring to account for it. Nay, why need I go 
back to the acknowledgments of Mr. Belsham or Dr. Priestley ? — 
Dr. Toulmin, himself has, in effect, acknowledged the same thing: 
he also goes about to account for the defect in devotion among So- 
cinians, compared with Calvinists, in such a way as shall not be 
disparaging to the principles of the former, with respect to their 
influence on the pious feelings. " They," he says, " deeply en- 
gaged in the investigation of truth, absorbed in gaining just ideas, 
may have been necessarily betrayed into a neglect of the culture 
of the heart and affections."! These methods oi accounting for 
things, whether just or not, are plain indications of the existence of 
the fact accounted for : all attempts, therefore, to disown or palli- 
ate it, are nugatory and vain. 

But let us examine Dr. Toulmin's method of accounting for the 
defect of devotion among Socinians. They are so absorbed in the 
acquisition of truth, as to neglect the culture of the heart; yea, ne- 
cessarily to neglect it. This is somewhat strange. Truth and 
righteousness used to be reckoned friendly to each other; but, of 
late, it seems, the case is altered. Dr Priestley and Mr. Belsham 
have taught us, that indifference to religion is friendly to the acqui- 
sition of truth; and Dr. Toulmin completes the scheme, by teaching 

* Page 36. tibid. 

Section II.] . ANIMADVERSIONS. 267 

us, that the acquisifioii nf truth is fricndlij to indijfercnce to religion: 
or, which i« the same thin;;, that, it ieiuls to the neglect of cultiva- 
ting holt/ affections. Say, reader, can that ho truth, evangtlical 
truth, which is thus accjiiired, aiul which thus operates ? The 
knowledge of Christ's doctrine was formerly promoted by doing 
his icill; and being known, it invariably wrought in a way of 

1 know, indeed, that persons deeply engaged in polemics, what- 
ever cause they espouse, are in danger of neglectmg the culture 
of the heart: but, whatever allowances require to be made on one 
side of the controversy, ought equally to be made on the other. — 
Unless Dr. Toulmin means to acknowledge, that, on account of the 
peculiar difficulty of defending their cause, they have had greater 
labor, and more "absorbing" application than their opponents, 
he cannot, therefore, account for their defects from their /)o/ewK«/ 
engagements. The "investigation" to which he refers, must be 
private, like that of the noble Bereans; but serious investigation 
of divine truth has not been used to produce the effect which Dr. 
Toulmin ascribes to it, but the reverse. The deeper the primi- 
tive christians drank into it, the more powerfully it operated; 
changing them into the same image from gtori/ to glory, by the Spir- 
it of God. Grace and peace were multiplied in them by the knowl- 
edge of God, and of Jesus, their Lord. What strange fatality is it 
that hangs about Socinianism ? It seems doomed to die by its own 
hands ! 

That Dr. Toulmin's sentiments have produced glorious effects 
in turning sinners to righteousness, is manifest, if he may but take 
for granted, or l)e allowed to have proved, that tlieso were the 
sentiments of the apostles: but, if this be not allowed him, and he 
be asked for proof of any sucli etTects arising from Socinianism, or, 
as he would call it, modern I'nitarianism, here he scarcely pre- 
tends to any thing of the knid. lie endeavours, however, to 
account for the contrary, from " circumstances not included in the 
nature of the doctrine^ or its inefficiency." *' There are times," 
he observes, "in which men hear not Moses and the prophets. — 
The flock of Christ, while he was upon earth, was a little tlock. — 
He lamented the unsuccessfulness of his own preaching ; and the 

268 ON DR. TOULMIN'S [Sfxtion 11. 

preaching of the apostles was not always successful."* All this 
is true, and proves, that the success of any doctrine depends upon 
something else than merely its being adapted to the end. But, can 
it be said of the apostles' doctrine, that there never was a time in 
which it was remarkably blessed to the conversion of sinners ? Dr. 
Toulmin admits the contrary : but to what period will he refer us, 
when Socinianism was productive of such effects ? If the doctrine 
of our opponents be the same, for substance, as that of the scrip- 
tures, is it not surprising, that, ever since the times of the apos- 
tles, "circumstances," should have existed to counteract its effi- 
cacy? or, if this were admissible, is it not still more surprising, 
that those very effects should, since that time, have been transfer- 
red to a false doctrine, a mere corruption of Christianity ? 

But 'Uhe unsuccessfulness," it is pleaded, "may, in some 
degree, be imputed to the conduct of those who, instead of refu- 
ting their doctrine by plain, scriptural, and sound argument, give 
representations of it that are invidious, raise prejudices against it, 
and prevent its having a fair hearing." A part of this charge is 
exhibited against me, for representing their " congregations as 
gradually dwindling away, their principles as having nothing in 
them, comparatively speaking, to alarm the conscience, or inter- 
est the heart ; and their sincerity, zeal, and devotion, as on a foot- 
ing with those of Saul the persecutor."! As to the last of these 
representations, the whole of which I have suggested is, to prove, 
that a species of devotion may exist which is anti-evangelical ; and 
therefore, that the mere existence of devotion, irrespective of its 
nature and efifects, is no evidence in favour of the principles from 
which it arises. And, as the whole of them, the only question is, 
whether they be true? If I have given false and invidious repre- 
sentations, they are capable of being proved such ; and, if the 
arguments which I have used be not plain, sound, and scriptural, 
they are the more easily overturned. It is rather singular, how- 
ever, that those facts which I alleged to have existed at the time 
I wrote, should be attributed, in any degree, to me. And why 
have not the same effects been produced upon Calvinistic congre- 

* Pages 8, 9. 39. t Page 40. 


^tions ? Dr. Toulmin well knows, it has not been for want of 
the strongest roprcsentntions, both from the pulpit and the press, 
of the inmiorni tendency of their prinrijdcs. There is no system 
of relij^ion that has stiffered a larger portion of obloquy in the 
present century. Preachers, writers, and reviewers, of almost 
every tlescription, have thous^hl themselves at liherty to invei£;h 
ag:ninst 'Mhe ploomy, lirentious, and blasphemous doctrines of 
Calvin." And yet we have ex[)erienced very little, if any. injury 
tVom these representations. Common people do not pay much 
regal d to what is alleged by writers : they judge of the tree by 
its fruits. It is thus, as we reckon, that the accusations of our 
opponents have had but very little effect upon us: and if ours 
against them were not founded in truth, they would, in like man- 
ner, fdl to the ground. 

Dr. Toulmin complains of my using the term Socininns, as being 
a term of reproach.* For my own part, I would much rather call 
them by another name, if they would but adopt a fair one. Let 
them take a name that does not assume the question in dispute, 
and 1 would no longer use the term Socinians. But Dr. Toulmin 
seems to think, that there is no necessity for this : " The name,'' 
he says, " by which we choose to be called, is, you are sensible, 
that of Unitarians."! True; I am sensible that this is the name 
by which they rhoose to be called ; but it is rather surprising to 
me, that Dr. Toulmin should be insensible, that in so doing, they 
choose also to beg the question in dispute. It seems, according to 
him, that we oui^ht, at the very outset of our controversies, tQ 
acknowledge that we worship a plurality of Gods ; that is, that 
our conduct is irrational and unscriptural ! He thinks, that for 
Trinitarians to profess also to be I'nitarians, or to worship but 
one God, " is strange and contradictory ; that it is saying, that they 
who admit a threefold division, or distinction, in the divine nature, 
hold the same tenet with those who contend for its simple unity. "{ 
I know not who they are that admit of a division in the divine 
nature : and those who plead for a personal distinction in it, never- 
theless maintain its simple unity, though they do not consider (hat 

" Page 41. t Pago 42. ^ Pago 43. 

270 Ox\ DR. TOULMIN'S [Section II. 

unity as personal ; and, consequently, do not hold the same tenet 
with their opponents. 

What is it that Dr. Toulmin desires, unless it be that we should 
grant him the question in dispute ? Where a gentleman can be so 
very condescending, as in this manner to solicit for a name, it 
grates with my feelings to give him a denial. He must be remind- 
ed, however, that he has no right to expect it at our hands, much 
less to charge us with strange and contradictory assertions in case 
of our refusal. 

The tone of positivity which our opponents assume, when de- 
fending their notion of the divine unity, is rather extraordinary; 
and, if we could but be persuaded to admit of confidence, in the 
place of evidence, their exclusive right to the name of Unitarians 
would be fully established. " This simple idea of God," says 
Dr. Toulmin, from Mr. Lindsey, "that he is one single person, 
literally pervades every passage of the sacred volumes."* A com- 
mon reader of the Bible would not have thought of finding any 
thing relating to this subject in every passage; and, in those passa- 
ges where the subject is introduced, who, except Mr. Lindsey 
and Dr. Toulmin, would have asserted, that the personal unity of 
the Deity literally pervaded them all? It might have answered a 
better purpose, if, instead of this general assertion, either of these 
«entlemen would have pointed us to one single instance^ in which 
the unity of God is literally declared to he personal. Instead of this, 
we are asked, in the words of Mr. Lindsey, " How can we form 
any notion of the unity of the Supreme Being, but from that unity 
of which we ourselves are conscious ?"t It is not impossible, or 
uncommon, for us to form ideas of three being one, and one three, 
in different respects : but what if, in this instance, we have no dis- 
tinct idea ? We do not profess to understand the mode of the di- 
vine subsistence. What notion can either we or our opponents 
form of the spirituality of the Supreme Being, or of any being who 
is purely spiritual ? I can form no idea of any being who is not, like 
myself, corporeal : but it does not follow from thence, either that 
God must needs be a material being, or that there are no imma- 
terial beings in the universe. 

* Page 45. t Page 45. Note. 


Dr. Toulinin, at length, comes to tlie title of my last letter, Thn 
rCHLinblamv of Socinianis/u to Dcis'iiij and the tendenvy of the one. 
to the other. He calls this "a .solecism," and charges it with 
'* inconsistency and ahsunlity.'' " It implies," he says, " that to 
rec»'ive the divine mission ot'a Jesus, has a resemhlance to consid- 
ering him as a deceiver; that to take him as my master, the resur- 
rection and the life, has a tendency to the rejection of him; that to 
learn of him, is to deny him; that to profess to ohey him, res-em- 
bles disobedience ; and that to hope for the mercy of God in him, 
will lead m»' to cast otf this hope."* Surely Dr. Toulmin must 
feel himself touched on a tender point, or he would not have so far 
lost the possession of himself, as to have suffered this paragraph to 
escape his pen. Can he seriously think, that it is on account ol 
their receiving the divine mission of Jesus, their acknowledging 
him as their master, the resurrection and the lite, iheir learning of 
him, professing to obey him, or hoping tor the mercy of God in 
him, that we reckon their system to resemble Deism, or to have 
a tendency towards it? No: he knows the contrary. 

But, " it is a singular circumstance," he adds, " that a resem- 
blance and affinity to Deism should be ascribed to the creed of 
those amongst whom have arisen the most able critics on the scrip- 
tures, and the most eminent advocates tor divine revelation."! 
Most eminent, no doubt, they are, in the opinion of Dr. Toulmin; 
but, let the eminency of their opinions be what it may, if, in criti- 
cising and defending the sacred oracles, they give up their inspira- 
tion; plead that they are interpolation ; cashier whole chapters, 
where they are found to clash with a favorite hypothesis; tax the 
writers with reasoning inclusively; declare the whole an obscure 
book, not adapted to settle disputed theories, or to decide upon 
speculative, controverted (piestions, even in religion and morality; 
those sacred oracles will not admit them to be friends, but consider 
them as adversaries in disguise. 

1 have not attenipted, as Dr. Toulmin suggests, to prove the re- 
lation of Socinianism to Deism, barely from an agreement in somt 
instances; but from instances in which Socinians, by uniting with 
the Deists, have given up some of the fundaniental principles bv 
• Page 45. ^ Pag;e8 45, 46. 

272 ON DR. TOULMIN'S [Section II. 

which Christians have been used to naaintain their ground against 
them. Neither is the success of our opponents, in gaining num- 
bers to their party, and its resemblace, in this respect, to Infideli- 
ty, in itself considered, alleged as an argument against them ; but, 
rather, its being amongst the same description of people, mere 
speculatists in religion, and allowed to arise from a similar cause, 
namely, a disregard to religion in general. I have also attempted 
to prove, by several arguments, the direct tendency of Socinianism 
to Deism: but of these Dr. Toulmin has taken no notice. I have 
also appealed to ficts: but neither is any notice taken of them. If 
further proof were needed, I might now appeal to more recent facts. 
The new German reformers, if I am rightly informed, are mak- 
ing swift progress in this direction. Bahrdt, a little before his 
death, is said to have published a proposal, that the worship and 
instruction churches should be confined to natural religion, in 
which all agree. Last year, my informant adds, an anonymous 
writer carried the idea farther; he is for banishing from churches 
all the theory of natural religion, as there are disputes about a 
future state, snd the providence, perfections and even existence 
of God : and that only the duties of self-government, justice and 
beneficence should be taught. Of those who have /a^e/^/ joined 
the standard of Infidelity in our own country, is there not a large 
proportion of Socinians ? Have not several of them, who 
were candidates for the ministry, and even ministers them- 
selves, given up their work, and avowed their rejection of 
Christianity ? It is not in the power of the leading charac- 
ters amongst them to prevent these things. Socinianism is 
slippery ground; few will be able to stand upon it. Some few may, 
and doubtless will; but the greater part, I am persuaded, will 
either return to the principles which they have discarded, or go far- 
ther. Mrs. Barbauld might well represent their situation by that 
of " people walking over a precipice;'' and describe ^' that class 
called serious Ckristians,''^ amongst them, as " leaning to the safest 
side." A precipice, indeed, it is, or rather, the declivity of a rock, 
bulging into the sea, and covered with ice; a few wary individuals 
may frame to themselves a kind of artificial footing, and so retain 
their situation; but the greater part must either climb the summit, 
or fall into the deep. 

Section II.] ANlMAr)\ ERSIONS. 073 

*' The general tenor of vuiir book," says Dr. Toiilmin, " luid 
your mode of ariiuinf::, leniiiirl me, Sir, of a piece published in the 
last century, entitled, ' \\ kitasi^mv: the M(,tfu'r ; and Sikse the 
Dauirhter : or a Treatise tclicrciu is tie nK.nstrated from tirenty^ 
several Doctrines oiifi Positions of Puritanisme, that the Faiih and 
Reiigion of the Puritans, doth forcihly induce its Professors to the 
pcrpetratinir 0/ Si.nne, and doth rvurrant the committing of the 
same.' I could wish th(> piece in your hands, and to see what 
remarks you would offer on the candour of the imputation, or the 
conclusiveness of the ar<:ument. The same remarks, 1 am incli- 
ned to think, would supply an answer to the general tenor of your 
own treatise."* 

I have not seen the piece to which Dr. Toulmin refers, but I 
am inclined to think I should not be greatly at a loss to vindicate 
the Puritans froni the charge .; and that, without being necessita- 
ted to travel back seventeen hundred years for examples, and to 
beg the question in dis|)ute, by taking it for granted, or even under- 
taking to prove, that the apostles and primitive Christians were 
Puritans. I have no doubt but the conduct of the accused would 
bear a comparison with that of their accusers. I could allege, 
from Mr. Acn/c's History of that persecuted people, (a work which 
Dr. Toulmin is now publishing,) that, " While others were at 
plays and interludes, at revels, or walkiiiii in the fields, or at the 
diversions of bowling, fencing, iic. on the evening of the Sabbath, 
the Puritans, with their families, were employed in reading the 
scriptures, singing psalms, catechining their children, repeating 
sermons, and prayer: nor was thi** only the work of the Lord's- 
day ; but they harl their hours of funily-devotion on the week- 
days, esteeming it their duty to take care of the souls, as well as of 
the bodies of their servants. Th(?y were circumspect as to all the 
excesses of eating and drinking, apparel, and lawful diversions ; 
being frugal in house-kee|»ing, industrious in their particular call- 
ings, honest and exact in tlirii- dpalinfis, and solicitous to give to 
every one his own.'*t If Dr-. Toulmin rould fairly allege the same 
thinzs in br-half of the boily of infMJorn 1 Unitarians, he need not 

' T':ijr 4tt. t Vol. 1. Chap. TUI 

Vol. II. ^n 


*' call upon the churches of Christ in Judea and Samaria"* to bear 
witness to the holy efficacy of his doctrine. 

And why does Dr. Toulmin complain of my '^ mode of argu- 
ing"? He might have found examples of it, without going back 
to the days of Puritanism. It is the same- mode which has beea 
adopted by his brethren against the Calvinists. They commenced 
the attack. I have only met them upon their own ground. A 
large proportion of my Letters, it is well known, are written on 
the defensive : and, if, in the course of the controversy, I have 
occasionally acted on the offensive, I had a right to do so. Dr. Toul- 
min's complaming of my "mode of arguing," is as if the Philis- 
tines bad complained of the unfairness of the weapon by which 
Goliath lost his head. 

I had observed, that " it was very common for those who go 
over to Infidelity to pass through Socinianism in their way." To 
this Dr. Toulmin answers, " A similar remark, if I mistake not, I 
have seen made, on the side of Popery, against the Reformation, 
that Protestantism was the pass to Infidelity."! But what does 
this prove ? The question is, Is such a charge capable of being 
supported ? A few solitary individuals might, doubtless, be pro- 
duced : but, in return, I could prove, that a great nation has been 
led into Infidelity by Popery ; and that the former is the natural 
oftspring of the latter. If Dr. Toulmin could retort the charge 
against Socinianism with equal success, what he writes might, with 
propriety, be called an ansrver. But his reasoning amounts to no 
more than that of a person, who, being charged with a crime at 
the bar of his country, should argue, that a similar charge had 
been brought against other people, and that innocent characters 
had, in some instances, been wrongfully accused. 

As a kind of answer to my Xlth Letter, Dr. Toulmin has re- 
printed, in the form of an Appendix, a piece which he had pub- 
lished some years ago, in the Theological Repository, on The Na- 
ture and Grounds of Love to Christ. But, I conceive, I might as well 
reprint my Xlth Letter, in reply to this, as he this, in answer 
to mine. His piece is not written against the Trinitarian, 

* Page 39. t Page 48. 


but the Ari;in Ijypothesis ; and is pointed chiefly against the pre- 
existcnt glory of Christ beini; represented in scrif)ture as the 
ground ofiove to liini. But this position has little, if any, connex- 
ion wilii our ideas of the subject : for, though we contend that 
Christ did exist prior to his coming into the world yet, we have 
no idea of making his bare existence, but his glorious character and 
conduct, a ground of love. It is not how long Christ has existed, 
but what he is, and w hat he has done, that endears him to us. If 
he be a mere creature, it is of very little account with us, whether 
he be seventeen hundred or seventeen thousand years old.* It is 
true, the pre-existen'*e of Christ was necessary, in order that his 
coming into the world should be a voluntary act, as I have attempt- 
ed to prove in my XlVth Letter ; and his being possessed of a 
pre-existent glory was necessary, that his coming into the world 
might be an act of humiliation and condescension^ as I have also, 
in the same place, attempted to prove it was : and this his volun- 
tary humiliation, notwithstanding what Dr. Toulmin has written 
aflfords a ground ofiove to him. No Christian, whose mind is not 
warped by system, can read such passages af the following, without 
feeling a glow of sacred gratitude. — rcrily he took not on him the 

nature of angels ; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. For 

ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was 
rich, yet for your sakes he became poor ^ that ye through his poverty 
might be rich. — f^ho being in the form of God, thought it not rob- 
bery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and 
and took upon him the form of a servant , and zi-as made in the like- 
ness of men : and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled 
himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the 
cross.] How foreign is this from Dr. Toulm?.i^s assertion, " that 
the circumstance of Christ's degradation from a glorious pre-exis- 
tent state, is never hinted at when his death is spoken of, though 
io proper to cast a glory around it, as illustrating his grace and 

* See Joseph Pike of VVarmiubter's Impnrtiril View of the Trinitarinu and 
\rian Scheme, Chap. X. 

t Heb. ii. 16. 2Cor. viiiy. Phil. ii. 6, 7. \PageGl. 

276 ON DR. TOULMIN'S [Section II. 

If Dr. Tonlmin wished to answer my Xlth Letter, why did he 
not prove, that the original dignity of Christ's character is never 
represented in scripture as the ground of love to him ; that hie 
mediation is exhibited in an equally important point of light by the 
Socinian, as by the Calvinistic scheme ; and that the former rep- 
resents us as equally indebted to his undertaking as the latter. 

The " extravagant compliment" to which I referred, and con- 
cerning which Dr. Toulmin complains of my not having done him 
justice,* respected not Mr. Robinson, but his biographerj whom 
Dr. Toulmin characterized as ^' a learned and sensible writer ;'* 
and his performance on the Nature of Subscription, as a work 
*'full of learning, of a// judicious remarks, and liberal sentiment." 
I may remark, however, from Dr. Toulmin's account of his 
regard for Mr. Robinson, that he pays but little respect to the 
apostolic manner of regarding persons, namely, /or <Ae truth's sakcj 
that dzvelleth in them. Truth had no share in Dr. Toulmin's 
regard ; but the love of liberty was substituted in its place, as a 
companion for piety. "My regard for Mr. Robinson," he says 
** did not ebb and flow with his opinions,^'' (a name by which our 
opponents choose to call religious principles ;) "• but was governed 
by the permanent qualities of the man, the friend of liberty and 
piety, and who had sacrificed much for conscience."! 

Dr. Toulmin's performance concludes with a quotation from Dr. 
Lardner. There are several sentiments in it which I cordially 
approve. I cannot, however, acquiesce in the whole. " We 
should be cautious," he says, '• of judging others — God alone 
knows the hearts of men, and all their circumstances, and is, 
therefore, the only judge what errors are criminal, and how far 
men fall short of ir proving the advantages afforded thom, or act 
up to the light that has been given them. "J We should, I grant, 
*' be cautious of judging others ; and I may add, should never 
attempt it, but from their words or actions. But, if it be pre- 
sumptuous, in this way, to judge others, then is the tree not to be 
known by its fruits. In this case, thoush it might be lawful for 
Peter to declare to Simon that, by his thinking that the gift of 

* Pages 50, 51. t Page 51. ^ Page 52. 


God miofif be purchased Kith money, he percrired that his heart 
was not right in the sight of (iod ; and for Paul to ntUIress El^rnas, 
on account of his opposition to the gospel, .ns a child of the devil^ 
an enemy of all righteousness^ seeing they were inspired of God ; 
yet, it was utterly wrbne; for the Bishop of Landaff to apply this 
language to Mr. Paine; and his Apology for the Bible, (which ip 
generally allowed to be written in a very gentle style,) must, nev- 
ertheleS'^, be censured as presumptuous. Upon this supposition, 
Dr. Toulinin has written presumptuously, in airirming, that "the 
number of t*incere, conscientious persons, attentive to the cul- 
tivation of |)ious affections, hath borne a small proportion to 
those who have been nominal Socinians and Calvinists."* It is 
presumptuous also in him to coiiipliin of the want of candour and 
justice in his o|)ponent.t Yea, upon this supposition, it was pre- 
sumption in the Analytical Reviewer to call what I had written '*a 
presumptuous sentence, pronounced u[)on the hearts of those who 
adopt Socinian principles." If it be presumption to judge the 
hearts of men by their words and actions, wh «t right had he 
to judge of mine ? A i)resumptuous sentence is a sentence which 
proceeds from a presumptuous spirit. His censure, therefore, 
includes the very fault, if it he a fault, against which it is pointed. 
It resembles the conduct of a man, who shotild swear that he dis- 
approves of oaths ; or, who should/ci/ir/y accuse his neighbour of 
being a liar. 

If it be presumptuous to judge of the hearts of men by their 
words and actions, it must be presumptuous to judge of the good or 
evil of any action. For no action, considered separately from its 
motive, is either good or evil. It is no otherwise good or evil, 
than as it is the expression of the heart. To judge an action, there- 
fore, to be either this or that, is to judge the heart to be so. 

I may be toM, that Or. Lardner is not speaking of immorality, 
but of errors in judgment. True; but his reasoning would apply 
to actions, as well as errors. The former may be as innocent as 
the latter. The killing of a man, for instance, may have arisen 
from mere accident. It is the motive which governed the action, 

• r-agc 36. t Pago 39. 

278 ^N DR. TOULMIN'S [Section II» 

that determines its guilt or innocence; '* but God alone knows the 
hearts of men, and all their circumstances, and is, therefore, the 
only judge what actions are criminal." In this manner, we might 
censure the proceedings of a jury, which should sit in judgment 
upon a person, to determine whether the act by which he has ta- 
ken away the life of a fellow-creature arose from accident or 

Who can say, with infallible precision, concerning any action, 
how far the author of it " has fallen short of improving the advan- 
tages afforded him; or how far he has failed of acting up to the 
light that has been given him ?" If this reasoning, therefore, prove 
any thing, it will prove that men are utterly incompetent for any 
kind of judgment, in things which relate to good and evil. 

A man may err in his notions of morality, as well as concerning 
evangelical truth: he may think, with some modern unbelievers, 
that the confining of a man to one woman is unnatural; that forni- 
cation is allowable; and that even adultery is but a small crime; 
and, where it is undetected, no crime at all. Now, if God alone 
is to judge of these errors, God alone must also judge of the actions 
resulting from them: for there can be no more of moral evil in the 
one, than in the other. If the former may be innocent, so may the 
latter; and all being to us uncertainty, owing to our ignorance of 
the motive, or state of mind, from whence such notions were form- 
ed, together with the advantages which the party may have pos- 
sessed, we must, in all such cases, entirely cease from passing 

If it be alleged, that there are such light and evidence in favor 
of chastity, that no man can err on that subject, unless his error 
arise from some evil bias; I answer, this is what, in other cases, 
is called judging men's hearts; and why may I not as well say, 
there are such light and evidence in favor of the gospel, that no 
man can reject it, but from an evil bias ? This appears to me to 
be the truth; and the ground on which unbelief is threatened with 
damnation, and a denial of the Lord who bought us, followed zvith 
swift destruction. 

Far be it from me to indulge a censorious spirit, or to take plea- 
riure in thinking ill of any man. Nay; far be it from me, to pas? 

Skction IL] ANIMADVKRSION.-. 219 

any kind of judgment on any man, further than I am called to do 
so; and, when this is the case, I desire it may always be in meek- 
ness and fear; knowing, not oidy that I also am judged of others. 
but that all of us, and all our decisions must be tried, another day. 
at a higher tribunal. 

It may be asked, \Vhat call have we to pass any kind of judg- 
ment upon those who disown the deity and atonement of Christ ? 
I answer, we are called either to admit them, as f(dlow-christian.s, 
into communion with us, or refuse to do so. We are necessitated 
therefore, to pass some judgment; and this is all that we do pass. 
We do not pretend to say, concerning any individual, that we are 
certain that he is not in a state of salvation; but we say, we cannot 
perceive sufficient ground to warrant our acknowledging hiiii as a 

We must either admit every pretender to Christianity into com- 
munion with us, and so acknowledge him as a fellow-christian; oi 
ne shall be accused of judging the hearts of men. The rule by 
which we admit to fellowship is, a credible profession of Christian- 
ity. There are two things which render a profession credible: — 
First: that the thing professed be Christianity: Secondly: that 
the profession be accompanied with a practice correspondent with 
it. If a man say he loves God, and lives in malevolence against 
his brother, all will admit that he ought to be rejected: and, though 
such rejection may include a kind of judgment upon his heart, 
none will object to our proceedings on this account. But, if this 
be judging the heart, we suppose we have a right, and are obliged, 
to judge it from words, as well as from actions. If the profession 
which a person makes of Christianity do not include what, in our 
jiigdment, is essential to it, we cannot consistently admit him to 
communion with us, not acknowledge him as a fellow-christian. — 
Our judgment must be the rule of our conduct. If we err, so it is; 
but we ought not to act in opposition to our convictions. To ac- 
knowledge a person as a fellow-christian, while we consider him 
as def'Ctive in the essentials of Christianity, would be to act hypo- 
critically, and tend to (h'ceive the souls of men. 

280 C)N DR. T.'S ANIMADVERSIONS. [Section II. 

Some persons have spoken and written, as though we invaded 
the right nf private judgment by refusing to commune with those 
who avow Socinian principles. But, if a community have not a 
right to refuse, and even to exclude, an individual, whose senti- 
ments they consider as subversive of the gospel, neither has an 
individual any right to separate himself from a community, whose 
sentiments he considers in a similar light. Provided they would 
forbear with him, he ought to do the same with them. The prin- 
ciple condemns not only the Reformation from Popery, but all o her 
reformations in which individuals have withdrawn from a corrupt 
community, and formed one of a purer nature. Under a plea for 
liberty, it would chain down the whole Christian world in slavery; 
obliging every community to hold fellowship with persons between 
whom and them there is an entire want of Christian concord. It 
aims to establish the liberty of the individual at the expense of 
that society. Our opponents, however, will be silent in this 
case. They, with proper consistency, persuade their people to 
come out from Trinitarian commiinities.* Were I to imbibe their 
sentiments, I should follow their counsel, and separate myself from 
those whom I accounted Idolaters : or, if the community should 
be beforehand with me, and separate me from them, as one whom 
they accounted a subvertcr of the gofipel, however such a sepa- 
ration might prove to my feelings, I should have no just reason 
to complain. 

In our view, our opponents have renounced the principal ideas 
included in those primitive forms of confession, Jesws is the Christ — 
Jesus Christ is the Son of God: and, as charity itself does not 
require us to acknowledge and treat that as Christianity, which in 
our judgment, is not so ; we think it our duty, in love, and with a 
view to their conviction, both by our words and actions, to declare 
our decided disapprobation of thier principles. We lay no claim 
to infallibility, any more than our opponents. We act according 
to our judgment, find lenve them to act according to thrrirs ; look- 
ing forward to that period when we shall all appear before the 
judgment-seat of Clirist. 

* See Mr. Kentish, p. 44. Note. 



Ir'iRST : Let it be observed, that Dr. Toulmin, by appealing to 
the history of the Acts of the Apostles, would seem to be an adhe- 
rent to scripture, and to disregard every thing else in comparison 
with it. But, if the system which he espouses be so friendly to 
the scriptures, how is it that they are treated with so little respect 
by almost all the writers who embrace it? and why did not Dr. 
Toulmin answer my Letter on " Veneration for the Scriptures,'" 
(No. XII.) in which this charge is substantiated ? 

Secondly : Dr. Toulmin proceeds on the supposition, that the 
history of the Acts of the Apostles is, in itself, independent of the 
other parts of the sacred writings, a complete account of the sub- 
stance, at least, of what the Apostles preached, and that it ascer- 
tains those principles, the publication of which preceded the con- 
versions in this primitive age. But why should he suppose this ? 
The book professes to bo a hi*itory of the ^cts of the Apostles. 
As to the principles which operated in producing the great effects 
of those times, they are occasionally touched ; but, that not IxMng 
the professed object of the sacred writer, it is but occasionally. 
He does not always relate even the substance of what the Apos- 
tle.« preached. For instance, he tells us, that Paul preached at 
Troas until midnight,* but makes no mention of any thing that he 
taught. He informs us of that Apostle's conversion to Christianity, 
and makes no mention, it is true, of those principles which I have 
supposed necessary to repentance and faith, as having had any 
influence in producing that elTect ; such a conviction of the evil 
nature of sin. our own (le|)ravity, kc. and this silenre of the sarrcd 

" Chap. XX. V,— ]':. 

282 ON THE ACTS [Appendix. 

writer Dr. Toulmin improves into an argument against me.* But. 
if we hence infer, that these principles had no influence in con- 
version, in that of Saul, for example, we must contradict the Apos- 
tle's own particular account of this matter, which he has stated in 
the seventh chapter to the Romans ; where he intimates, that by 
a view of the sprituality of the divine law, he was convinced of 
his own depravity, and of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and died, 
as to all hopes of acceptance with God by the deeds of the law. 

When any thing is said, in the Acts of the Apostles, concerning 
principles, the account is very general. — They ceased not to teach 
and preach Jesus Christ. In Samaria, Philip preacAec? Christ. 
Unto the eunuch he preached Jesus, and declared that Christ was 
the Son of God. The discourses of the Apostles are frequently 
called THE WORD OP THE LoRD, and the word of GoD.f 

To suppose that the principles which are particularly specified 
in the history of the Acts, were the only ones which were influen- 
tial in the conversions of those times, would be to exclude, not 
only those doctrines which are commonly called Calvinistic, but 
various others, which are allowed, on all hands, to be the first 
principles of religion ; such as, the being of a God, the excellency 
and purity of his moral government, the divine origin of the Old 
Testanient, &c. The apostles, in preaching to the Jews, did not 
assert these principles, but they supposed them. It were unrea- 
sonable to expect they should havp done otherwise ; seeing these 
were principles which their hearers professedly admitted : yet it 
does not follow, that they had no influence in their conversion. 
On the contrary, we are assured, that he that cometh to God, must 
believe that he is ; and that by the law is the knowledge of sin. Nor 
is it less evident, that to embrace the Messiah, includes an appro- 
bation of those scriptures which foretold his character and con- 

Thirdly : Though the writer of the Acts of the Apostles does 
not profess to give us even the substance of the ministry of the 

* Letter III. 

-f Chap. V. 42. viii. 5. 35. 37. ix. 20. xiii, 5. xiv, 25 xvii. 3. 

Appkndix.I of THF apostles. 033 

apostlrs, yet he sa^fs sufticient lo convince an unprcjuHiced reader, 
that llieir «loctrine was ver_y dillerent fVom that of Socinus, or of 
modern liiitai ians. It is tnn;, they j.|)ake of Christ as a man, a 
man approved of Gud by miracles, and zvonderSy and signs, Vi'hich 
God (ltd by hi in ; and tau<;ht that God raised him front the dead : 
and, if we had denied truths, it wouhl have been in 
point for Dr. Tonhnin to have hd»oured, all through his Second 
and Third Letters, to establish them. Rut they Uni^lit the prop- 
er t/ej7i/, as well as the hOYnanity of Christ ; and atonement by his 
death, as well as the fact of his resurrection. They exhibited 
him as the Lardy on whose name sinners were to call for salva- 
tion ;• and declared, that by the shedding of his blood his church 
zvas purchased, and believing sinners Ji/sfiy?e(//rom all things from 
which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. t 

Peter, in his first sermon, addressed the Jews upon principles, 
of the truth of which they, in their consciences, were convinced : 
Ye men of Israel, said he, hear these words ; Jesus of JS'azareth, a 
man approved of God — by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which 
God did by him in the midst of you, as ve yourselves also know , 
— yc — by wicked hands have crucified and s/amfj; Upon these 
principles he grounded others, of which they were not convinced ; 
namely, his resurrection from the dead,§ his exaltation at the right 
hand of God,ll his being made both Lord and Christ,^ and of re- 
mission of sins through his name.** In his next sermon, he assert- 
ed him to be the son of God,]] the Holy One, and the Just, the Prince 
(^or author) 0/ /i/e, whom they had ^j7/f(/, preferring a murderer 
before hiin-Jf If.Iesus was the author of life in the same serise in 
which Barabbas was the destroyer of it, then was the antithesis 
proper, and the charge adapted to excite the greatest alarm. It 
was nothing less than declaring to them, that, in crucifying Jesus of 

♦ Chap. ii. 21. Compare Chap, ix.l I. xxii. IG. Hum. x. 12 aud I Cor. i. 22 

tCluip. XX. 28. xiii.39. 

X Chap. ii. 22. i Verse 24—32. || Verso 33. V \'erse 30. ♦♦ Verse 3a. 

+tChap. iii. 13. ^ Ch.ip. iii. M, 1.',. 

284 ^N THE ACTS [Appendix. 

Nazareth, they had cruci^ed the Lord of glory or that the per- 
son whom they had slain was no other than the Creator of the 
world, in human nature ! In the first instance, the Apostle ap- 
pealed to what the Jews themselves knew of Christ ; in the last, 
to what he knezv concerning him, who, with his fellow-apostles, had 
beheld his glory, theglury as of the only -begotten of the Father. 

Did Peter speak as would a '* modern Unitarian,"* when he 
said to his countrymen, Neither is there salvation in any other ; 
for there is none other name under heaven given among men, where- 
by we must be saved? Such language, I fear, is seldom, if ever, 
used in their pulpits. It is such, however, as I have never met 
with in their writings. On the contrary, one of their principal 
writers endeavours to explain it away, or to prove, that it is not 
meant of " salvation to eternal life, but of deliverance from bodily 

Dr. Toulmin finds Stephen before the council, but makes no 
mention of his death ; in which he is described as praying to 
Christ, saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. — Lord, lay not this 
sin to their charge. Having made a few remarks upon the eighth 
chapter, he obse.rves, '^ I next meet with this Apostle (Peter) re- 
ceiving an extraordinary commission to preach unto Cornelius and 
his house."! But why does he skip over the ninth chapter, which 
gives an account of the conversion of Saul ? Was it because we 
there find the primitive Christians described as calling upon the 
name of the Lord Jesus ? (ver. I 4. 21.) And why does he make 
mention of " the fine speech of the Apostle Paul to the elders of 
the church at Ephesus," and yet overlook that solemn charge, 
Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood F^ 
Is it because he thinks, with Dr. Priestley, that " we ought to be 
exceedingly cautious, how we admit such an expression ?"|| 
That seems to be the reason. But then, we ought to be as cau- 
tious, how we admit the book which contains it. 

'♦^ Dr. Toulmin, p. 14. tDr. Priestley's Familiar Letters, No. XIV. 

I Page 17. ^ Chap. xx. 28. (| Familiar Illustrations, p. 36. 


In prcachin*^ to the Jews, tlie a|)o«tIes insisted that Jesus was 
the Christy the promised Messiah^ the Son of God; resting the proof 
of these assertions upon the fact that God hud rained him from the 
dead; and Dr. Tonhnin reckons this to be, " what, in modern 
style, is called Unitarianism."* But this is proceeding too fast. 
Before such a conclusion ran be fiirly drawn, it must be proved, 
that these propositions have the same meaning in the Socinian 
creed, as in that of the apostles. Let us examine whether that 
be the case. \V hen they asserted, t\r.\{ Jesus teas the Christ, the mean- 
ing of the terms must be supposed to have been sufficiently under- 
•itood. W-hon Paul preached at Athens, though he ultimately brought 
Christ into his discourse, yet he did not use this kind of language. 
It would have been improper to have done so. The Athenians 
would not have understood what he meant by Jesus being the Christ 
but the Jews did; and the ideas which they would attach to this 
name, must be collected from the means of information which 
they possessed. If, as Socinians affirm, the Chnst preached by the 
apostles, was only an instructor of mankind; if he suffered martyr- 
dom oidy in confirmation of his doctrine; and if his being called 
the Son of God^ denoted him to be nothing more than iiunian; it 
must be supposed that these were the i«le;is which the prophets 
had given of the Messiah, which our Lord himself had professed, 
and which the Jews h »d understood him to profess. And, if all 
this be true, it must be granted, that the apostles used these terms 
in the sense of our opponents; and Dr. Toulmin's conclusion, 
that '' their preaching was the same, for substance, as that of mod- 
ern Unitarians," is just. But, if the Messiah, prefigured by Jew- 
ish sacrifices, and predicted by the prophets, was to take away the 
sins of the world, by being made an atoning sacrifice; if Christ, in 
professing to he the Son of God^ professed to be equal zvith God ; 
ntul if his rountrymen generally so understood him, and, therefore, 
accused WimiAhlasithnni/, and f)ut him to death; then it is not true 
that the apostles could use these terms in the sense of our o[)p<»- 
nents, and Dr. Toulmin's conclusion is totally iinlounded. 

The reader may now judge of the propriety of the following 
language, used by Dr. Toulmin. " If you suppose. Sir, that these 

• Paje 20. 

ggQ ON THE ACTS [Appendix. 

sentiments were inculcated and blended with the great truth, the 
Messiahship of Jesus, it is supposition only, which is not supported 
by the testimony of the historian, nor by the practice of the apos- 
tolic preachers on any other occasion. You may build on suppo- 
sitions; but I must be allowed to adhere to what is written."* 

Now, I appeal to the intelligent reader, whether Dr. Toulmin 
has any thing more than supposition^ as the ground of his conclu- 
sion, that the apostles, in teaching that Jesus was the Christ, the Son 
of God, '' taught nothing morp than what, in modern style, is called 
the Unitarian doctrine." The only ground for such a conclusion, 
IS, the supposition that the Messiah, predicted by the Jewish pro- 
phets, was not to become an atoning sacrifice, but a mere instruc- 
tor of mankind: that he was to be merely a man; that his being 
called the Son of God, denoted him to be nothing more than hu- 
man; that this was the substance of what he himself professed, and 
of what the Jews unilerstood him to profess. All this is mere 
supposition, for which not the shadow of a proof is offered; and 
yet, without it. Dr. Toulmin's conclusion must fall to the ground. 

Contrary to all this supposition, I take leave to observe, First: 
That the Messiah prefigured by the Jewish sacrifices, and predic- 
ted by the prophets, was to become a sacrifice of atonement or 
propitiation, for the sins of the world. His sotd was to be made an 
offering for sin. The Lord was to lay on him the iniquity of us 
all. He teas the Lamb of God, who was to take away the sin of the 
worldA But, if the Old Testament representations were in favor 
of the Messiah's being an atoning sacrifice, the apostles, in declar- 
ing Jesus to be the Messiah, virtually declared him to be an aton- 
ing sacrifice. Secondly: That the Messiah, predicted by the pro- 
phets, was to be God manifest in the flesh, or God in our nature. 
Unto the Son it was said, Thy throne, God, is for ever and ever. 
The child born was to be called the mighty God. He who was to 
feed his Jlock like a shepherd, to gather the lambs with his arm, and 
carry them in his bosom, was no other than the Lord God, who would 
come with strong hand, and whose arm should rule for him. The 
goings forth of him who was to be barn in Bethlehem, loere of old. 

t- Page 24. t I«aiah liii Q. 10. John i. 29. 

Appendix.] OF THE APOSTLES. 037 

tVoin everlasting.* But, if the prophetic representations of thf 
Messiah, were in tavor of liis beitijj; God in our nature, the apos- 
tles, in declaring Jesus to he the Messiah, virtually declared him 
to be God in our nature.* Thirdly : That our Lord, in saying I 
am the Son of God, was understood by the Jens as claiming an 
equality with God ; that he was, on this account, accused of blas- 
phemy, and finally put to death; and all this without having said 
any thing that should contradict the iilea which they entertained. 
Jesus said, Mij Father zi^urkcth hitherto, and I Ziurk. Therefore the 
Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the 
Sabbath, but said also, that God -Ji-as his Father, making himself 
equal zi'ith God. The Jews said^ JVe have a law, and by our law he 
ought to die, because he jnade himself the Son of God.] But for the 
apostles, under these circumstances, and without explaining away 
the supposed blasphemy, to assert that Jesus icas the Son of God, 
was the same thing as asserting him to be equal with God: and 
their calling on his murderers to repent and be baptized in his name, 
for the remission of sins, was calling them to retract their charge of 
blasphemy; to embrace him in that very character for claiming 
which they had put him to death; and to place all their hopes of 
forgiveness in his name, by which alone they could be saved.^ 

From these premises, and not from mere supposition, I con- 
clude, that the deity and atonement of Christ, were comprehend- 
ed in the great doctrines of his Sonship and Messiahship. 

If Dr. Toulmin's remarks on the Acts of the Apostles are for* 
eign to the argument, much more so are those which respect the 
concessions of ancient Fathers, and modern churches and church- 
men. To these 1 shall make no reply. And, though I have so 
far followed him, as, in these few pages, to reply to some of his 
observations ; yet, I desire it may be noticed, that I shall not hold 
myself obliged to pursue this subject any further. If Dr. Toulmin 
choose to resume the controversy, let him keep to the subject; 
namely. The moral tendency of our respective systems. Any thing 
besides this will be entitled to no reply. 

* Fsalm xlv. 0. Compare Hcb. i. U. Isn. ix, 6. xl. 10, II. Micah v. 2. 
t John v. 17, 10. xijt. 7. tActsii.38. iv. 1?. 

\ RKl»LY 


MK -KENTISH entitles his Discourse, The Moral Tendency 
of the Genuine Christian Doctrine. This title is either irrelative, 
to the professed object of his undertaking, or it is a begging the 
question. If he only meant to affirm, that the genuine Christian 
doctrine, be it what it may, is productive of moral etlects in those 
wbo embrace it, this is what none but a professed Infidel would 
der,y. It is a principle which every denomination of Christians 
admits. It is the datum on which I have proceeded, in endeavour- 
ing to ascertain what the genuine Christian doctrine is. It, there 
fore, Mr. Kentish, intends only to prove what his title announces, 
his performance must be totally irrelative to its professed object ; 
and contains no answer to the piece against which it is written. 
But it is possible, that, by the genuine christian doctrine, Mr. Ken- 
tish means what " he sincerely believes to be such,'* or what he 
calls the Unitarian doctrine. liut this is begging the question at the 
outset. Our opponents must surely be reduced to very necessitous 
circumstances, or ihey would not condescend to such hnrnlth' 
methods of establishing their principles. 

Mr. Keiitifth, speaking of my Letters on Socini.uiisin. observes, 
that *' it was by no means liis intention, or his wish, to canvass ev- 
ery observation which is there advanced." To canvass t'vcry ob- 
servation might be unnecessary ; but :m answer (o ;(ii\ vvurk nu^li' 

Vor.. n. 37 


to enter upon a full and thorough discussion of the principal sub- 
jects includeil in it. 

A performance that does not require this, requires no answer 
at all. 1 cannot think, therefore, that either Dr. Toulmin or Mr. 
Kentish are justifiable, in evading the body of the arguments con- 
tained in the publication which they meant to answer. The num- 
ber of veterans, in literary war, which are to be found on the side 
of our opponents, renders it difficult to account for their refusing 
to hazard a decisive engagement, without imputing it to a convic- 
tion that they stand upon disadvantageous ground. Dr. Toulmin 
has proved his dislike to it by a barefaced attempt to shift it. Mr. 
Kentish has not done so : his peformance has less evasion, and less 
assuming of the question in debate, and, consequently, is more re- 
spectable than that of his colleague. He keeps upon the proper 
ground : but as though he thought it enchanted, he hurries over it, 
touching upon only a few of the topics of discussion, and taking 
but very little notice of the arguments of his opponent, as he passes 
along. It is a retreat, instead of a regular engagement ; a running 
fight, rather than a pitched battle. In favour of such a mode of 
conducting the controversy, it is possible he might choose to print 
in the form of a sermon. 

But Mr. Kentish has reasons for not being more particular in his 
answer: "Of Mr. Fuller's remvirks, many," says he, " are per- 
sonal, and many refer solely to a vindication of the religious prin- 
ciples that he has seen proper to embrace."* If many of my 
remarks be personal, Mr. Kentish had a right to point them out ; 
and ought to have done so, rather than content himself with a gen- 
eral accusation, unsubstantiated by a single proof. That I have 
vindicated those religious principles which I have thought proper 
to embrace, is true : the misrepresentation and contempt with 
which they have been treated by the Reviewers, and other Socin- 
ian writers, rendered a vindication of them necessary ; and, if our 
opponents have now retreated within the limits of their own terri- 
tory, and are contented to act, in future, merely on the defensive ; 
it may be presumed, without arrogance, that it has not been 
altogether without effect. 

* Page 3, Preface. 


iMr. kcnlislj seems not only contented to act on llie defensive, 
with respect to tlie rnor;il terul^'ncy ol* hi«i principles, but also with 
respect to tlie actual moral ejferfx produced by them. He think?, 
in point of fict, it can scarcely be proved, that, in love to God, 
they are suritussed by tlu^ir fllow-christians ; thoi!ii;li God forbid,'' 
he adds, "that we sliould ra-^hly arrogate to ourselves superiority 
of virtue f^* Hash,, and shockinj;, however, as this pre- 
tence appears to .Mr. Kentish, it is no more than ha? been made by 
his brethren. All that Dr. Priestley has written upon the gloomy 
and immoral tendency of Calvinism, implies n pretence to a supe- 
riority of virtue. What else is meant by his charging; our views 
with being " unfavourable to the love of both God and man ; and 
an axe at the root of all virtue ?" He accuses us of *' living in 
the dread of all free inquiry? whereas they are in the way of 
growing wi-er and better, as long as they live." He also goes 
about to weigh the virtue of Unitarians and Trinitarians ; and> 
though he allows the former to have most of an apparent conform- 
ity to the world, yet, " upon the whole, he supposes them to 
approach nearest to the proper temper of Christianity." Mr. 
Helsham does not scruple to assert, that '' they — who are sincerely 
pious and diffusively benevolent trith these principles, could not 
have failed to have been much better, and much happier, had they 
adopted a milder, a more rational, a more truly evangelical creed." 
These are passages wj)ich I have quoted and answered, in my 
Letters on Socinianism : and what else can be made of them, but 
a pretence to superiority of virtue ! I do not accuse these ivrilers 
of rashness or arrogiince, in making such pretences, unless it be 
on acco(mt of their asserting what they are unable to maintain. It 
would be consistent with Christian humility to prove, that true 
believers are men of superior virtue to unbelievers ; and if any 
denomination of professing Christians have an advantage over 
others, in this respect, they have a right, especially when accused 
by them of immondily, ftirly and modestly to i^tate it. But who 
ran fi)rl»oar to jiity the situation of men who, after all the-ie chal- 
lenges, on the first clos<' incpiiry that is made into the justice of 

■* Page 13. 


their claims, are reduced to the dire necessity of giving them up, 
of standing merely upon the defensive, and of exclaiming against 
the rashness of arrogating to themselves a superiority of virtue! 

It will be time enough for Mr. Kentish to " admit a claim to 
infallibility," when such a claim is made ; or to a "knowledge of 
the motives or designs of men," any farther than as they are made 
manifest by their words and actions, when his opponent makes 
any pretence to it. In this way, 1 suppose, he himself will not 
scruple to judge the heart ; since he proposes, in the same page, 
to " illustrate the spirit in which my examination is written."* I 
assure Mr. Kentish, it was neither in an "unguarded" nor a 
" guarded" moment, that I presumed to charge Unitarians with 
having a heart secretly disaffected to the true character and gov- 
ernment of God, and dissatisfied with the gospel way of salvation. 
Rather, was it not in an unguarded moment, that he, as well as 
several of his brethren in the reviewing department, accused me 
of so doing ? If any of these writers thought proper to quote my 
words, why did they not quote the whole sentence, as it stands ? 
by their method of quotation, one might prove, from the scrip, 
tures, that there is no God. 

The proposition, as it stands in my Letters, is conditional. It is< 
true, the thing atlirmed is, that " the avenues which lead to Socin- 
ianism are not an openness to conviction, or a free and impartial 
inquiry after truth ; but a heart secretly disaffected to the true 
character and government of God, and dissatisfied with the gospel 
way of salvation : but the condition on which the truth of this 
proposition is suspended, is that Socinianism is a system the char- 
acter of which is, that " irreligious men are the first, and serious 
Christians, the last, to embrace it." Now, do our opponents 
mean to admit, without hesitation or explanation, that this is the 
character of Socinianism? I know, indeed, they have conceded 
thus mu('h ; but I was ready to suppose, that, upon its being rep- 
resented to tlicm in its own colours, they would have recalled, or, 
at least, have endeavoured to put a more iiivourabJe construction 
upon their concessions. But, it should seem, by their applying 

"* Pajc 4, Preface. 


the latter branch of the proposition to themselves, tlioy adniil the 
former, as properly characteristic ol their system : an«l, if they 
achnit the one, I see no cause to recede from the other. 

I liave contended, that it is not presumption to judge of men's 
motives by their words and actions ; and tliat it is what our op- 
ponents, as well as all other men, do, in innumerable instances. 
In this instance, however, / have not judged the motivef of ant/ 
individual. The thing aftirmed barely rtspects the general course 
of things. The avenues which lead to any place are the ordinary 
passages tliroui;h which persons enter : but it does not follow, 
that they are the only ones. Were I to assert that the avenues 
which lead io offensive war are not, as its abettors wouM persuade 
us to think, a desire to maintain the honour of their country ; 
but a heart secretly dissatisfied to the true interests of mankind, 
and dissatisfied with the morality of the gospel ; such an asser- 
tion I fear, would contain but too much truth : it would not de- 
note, however, that there never was an individual who engaged 
in such wars, but from such motives. Persons may be drawn into 
them unawares, and contrary to their inclination . and, being once 
engaged may find it difficult to recede. Thus, with respect to 
our religious sentiments, education, connexions, and various other 
things, may have great influence in determining them. How far 
such things may consist with sincere love to Christ, I have not 
undertaken to decide. But, as, in the^one case, a person would 
generally find his heart averse from actual engagements, and lean- 
ing towards a peace ; so, I apprehend, it will be in the other : 
like the serious Christians mentioned by Mrs. Barbould, though 
they may rank with Socinians, yet their hearts will lean toward?- 
the doctrine that exalts the Saviour, and cxliibits him as thr 
atoning sacrifice. 

Before Mr. Kentish enters on the defence of his principles, on 
the ground of their moral tendency, he offers six remarks. These 
are as follows : 

1. " An obvious effect of the impressions to which mankind art 
exposed from surrounding objects, is, that no prinriplp« ran so 


fully influence th*=! conduct, as might be expected in theory."* 
True ; but the same remark equally requires to be made in favour 
of Calvinism, as of Socinianism. There is nothing in it, there- 
fore, appropriate, or which goes to account for that want of prac- 
tical religion which is acknowledged peculiarly to attend the pro- 
fessors of the latter 

2. " While some men are, confessedly, much better than their 
principles, it will not, it cannot be disputed, that to the most val- 
uable principles others fail of doing justice."! That some men's 
hearts are better than their systems, is true ; and for this reason, 
notwithstanding all that is said by my opponents to the contrary, 
I have not presumed to decide upon the state of individuals. 

It is also allowed, that " to the most valuable principles others 
fail of doing justice." This is the same thing, for substance, as 
that which I have acknowledged, in my introductory observations; 
and I have, therefore, never reasoned either from the bad or good 
conduct of individuals, but from that of the general hodij. It is 
true, I have mentioned the names of some eminent persons among 
the Calvinists ; but it was merely to confront an assertion of Mr. 
Belsham, that those who were singularly pious, and ditfusely 
benevolent, with Calvinistic principles, could not have failed t© 
have been much better, and much happier, if they had imbibed a 
different creed." The piety and benevolence of Hale, Franck, 
Brainerd, Edwards, Whitefield, Thornton, and Howard, were in- 
troduced as a proof, that such degrees of virtue have been found 
amongst Calvinists as have never been exceeded hymen of what 
are called Kational principles, or indeed, of any principles what- 

3. ** It deserves to be considered, farther, whether doctrines 
which have most efficacy upon the dispositions, the conduct, and 
the feelings of Christians, be not such as they profess in com- 
mon."}: I have no objection to this, or any other subject, being 
considered ; though 1 am persuaded, the result of an impartial 
consideration, in this case, would be different from that which is 
suggested by Mr. Kentish : bui, granting his supposition to be true, 

^ Page 6. + Ibid, \ Pajc 7 

Lf.tter 1] MR. KENTISH'S SERMON. 395 

the ditficulty on his side is just where it was. If the principles 
which Calvinists and Socinians hold in common, he the grand, 
sources of virtue, why do they not influence both alike ? Why is 
it that " Rational Christians are spoken of, as indifferent to prac- 
tical religion ;" and that those who acknowledge this charge, as 
Dr. Priestley and Mr. Helsham have done, are not able to vindi- 
cate them from it ? If Calvinists and Socinians hold principles in 
common, which are of a holy tendency, and yet the latter are the 
mosi indifferent to practical religion, there must be something un- 
favourable to virtue, one should think, in their peculiar sentiments. 

4. " From a natural partiality, moreover, to opinions which 
themselves embrace, men will suppose those opinions to have a 
tendency peculiarly favourable to virtue and happiness. There 
is danger therefore, lest the conclusion to which I have adverted, 
be drawn rather by the feelings, than by the understanding ; rath- 
er by prejudice than by calm and unbiassed reason."* To this, I 
answer, if the conclusions which have been drawn be unreasona- 
ble, they are capable of being proved so. 

6. •' In their ideas, too, of moral excellence, different sects of 
Christians may not exactly agree.— Many of them severely censure 
certain instances of conformity to the world, which others of them 
may think not merely lawful, but deverving of praise."! True. 
Some, for example, may live in the disuse of prayer; and miy 
plead, in excuse, that this practice does not accord with their ideas 
of devotion. They may also frequent the gaming table, and the 
assembly room, and occasionally, if not constantly, resort to the 
theatre ; and may contend that each is an inno«'ent, if not a praise- 
worthy amusement. But if people are not to be criminated 
beyond the line marked out by their own opinions of morality, 
our " moderation" must extend firther than Mr. Kentish himself 
might be willing to allow. There are people in the world who think 
favourably of polygamy, and others who would plead for fornica- 
tion, yea, for adultery itself, provided it were kept a secret ; yet, it 
is to be hoped, he would not think the better of such practices, on 
this account. On the contrary, he must think himself warranted 

♦PageB. tibid. 


to conclude, in ordinary cases at least, that the opinions of such 
persons were formed under the influence of an immoral bias, and 
therefore, that they themselves partake of the nature of immor- 

6. " The very nature of the argument proposed, renders it 
extremely difficult to deduce from it a satisfactory inference. If 
to judge respecting the conduct of men, even in single cases, 
demand much care and knowledge, far more requisite are these 
qualifications when sentence is to be passed upon their general 
character. Who, indeed, is so intimately acquainted with the 
various denominations of Christians, as to form a decision upon 
this point, that shall not be liable to the imputation of partiality, or 
ef rashness ?"* That care and knowledge are necessary, in 
such a comparison, 1 shall not dispute ; and, if I have betray- 
ed my want of either, I presume it is capable of being exposed : 
but, that the thing itself is impracticable, 1 cannot admit. It is not 
impossible to discover who, in general, are serious, conscientious, 
and pious men, and who they are that indulge in dissipation and 
folly. The observation of Mr. Kentish, if it prove any thing, 
proves that the moral tendency of a doctrine is no proper crite- 
rion of its truth. Yet he acknowledges, that *' In religion the max- 
im. Ye shall know them by their fruits, is a maxim, un- 
questionably, of high authority, evident reason, and famihar 
application."! How can these things consist together ? If it be of 
''' familiar application," it cannot be "extremely difficult," nor 
require any extraordinary degree of understanding to apply it. 
Let there be what difficulty there may, however, in this case, my 
work, so far as related to facts, was done ready to my hand. Dr. 
Priestley, Mr. Belsham, and Mrs. Barbauld, were my authorities 
for the want of regard to practical religion amongst Rational Ciiris- 
tians: writers whom Mr. Kentish will not accuse of the want of 
either ''care or knowleds^e :" and to whom he will not. in this 
cause, impute either " partiality or rashness." 

It has been suggested, by some who are friendly to the cause of 
Socinianism, though not professed Socinians, that I have made an 
unfair use of a few concessions ; and that a similar use might be 

* f age^ ii, 9. + Page 5. 


uiade of the concessions of many of the Puritans, wh<?, in their 
(lay, lamented the imperfection-* and (lej^enerary of their own peo- 
ple. If Dr. Priestley and hi;* brethren had barely acknowledged, 
that there were great defects amongst their people when compar- 
ed with the primitive Christians* or with what they ought to be, 
this, I confess, had been no more than what Puritan writers have 
done, and the writers of every other denomination of Christians 
might have done; and such acknowledgments ought not to have been 
improved ag-ainst them. Rut, who, beside themselves, have ever 
professed to hold a set of principles, to the discernment of which an 
indifference to religion in general was favourable ; a system which 
those who were most indifferent to the practice of religion were 
the first, and serious Christians the last, to embrace ? Who beside 
themselves, have been reduced, by facts which they could not 
deny, to such dire necessity ? 

From the foreL,^oing introductory observations, Mr. Kentish pro- 
ceeds to the body of his discourse, which he divides into four 
heads of inquiry. '* I. What is the tendency of the Unitarian doc- 
trine with respect to tiie cultivation and exercise of the divine, the 
social, and the personal virtues? II. What assistance, support, 
and consolation it affords, in the season of temptation, affliction, and 
death? III. What is its efficacy in the conversion of profligates, 
and unbelievers ? And IV. Finally, How far is it adapted to pro- 
mote a veneration for the scriptures, and to fortify our fiith in 
Christianity ?" 

I. On the dfvine, thf. social, and the personal virtues. 

Under the first of these particulars, .Mr. Kentish very properly 
considers *' love to God ;" and, so far as he attempts an answer 
to what 1 have written, 1 suppose this is to be considered as an 
answer to my Vllth Letter. The s»ib«tance of what he advances 
upon this subject is as follows. — " We believe, according to the 
sublime language of the favourite Apostle, that God is love; we 
consider all his moral excellencies, as jtistice, truth, and holiness, 
as modifications of this principle Happiness we reg-ard as the 
grand object of his works and dispensations, and conceive of his 
glory as resulting from the diffusion of thi» happiness." 

Vol.. H. -^f? 


''These being our ideas of the Deity, love to him cannot fail to 
be shed abroad in our hearts. Did we think of hiai, indeed, as 
one altoj^ether like unto ourselves, did we imagine that he is vin- 
dictive, inexorable, arbitrary, and partial ; and did we suppose his 
glory to be something distinct from the exercise of his goodness ; 
we might experience difficulty in obedience to this first and great- 
est of the commandments. But, in the contemplation of infinite 
power, emyloyed to execute designs which proceed from infinite 
benevolence, and are planned by consummate wisdom, filial aflfec- 
tion towards God is naturally enkindled and preserved alive in 
our breasts."* 

On this statement, I would observe, in the first place, that it 
passes over one very important topic of discussion between us ; 
namely, the doctrine of the atonement. Why is it that Mr. Ken- 
tish has passed over this doctrine? He knows that Socinian wri- 
ters have charged it with implying the natural implacability of 
God; a charge, against which 1 have attempted to defend it. Have 
I not a right to conclude, from Mr. Kentish's silence on this head, 
that he feels the ground to be untenable ? 

Mr. Kentish has not only declined the discussion of one of the 
most important subjects, but those topics which have fallen under 
his notice, are stated with great unfairness. His account of my 
sentiments, respecting the vindictive character of God, is marked 
by the grossest misrepresentation. I had carefully explained the 
term vindictive, when af)plied to the divine conduct in the punish- 
ment of sin, by observing, that *'it is very common for people, 
when they speak of vindictive punishment, to mean that kind of 
punishment which is inflicted from a wrathful disposition, or a dis- 
position to punish for the pleaure of punishing. Now, if this be 
the meaning of our opponents, we have no dispute with them. We 
We do not suppose the Almighty to punish sinners for the sake of 
putting them to pain. Vindictive punishment, as it is here 
defended, stands opposed to that punishment which is merely cor- 
rective. The one is exercised for the good of the party ; the 
other not so, but for the good of the community." (Letter Vil.) 

* Pa^es 11, 12. 



Now, though Mr. Kentish must have observed this statement, yet 
be has suffered himself to write as follows : — '* Did we imagine 
that Cod is vindictive, itjexor.ible, arbitrary, and partial ; or did 
we suppose his glory to be something distinct from the exercise 
of his goodness ; we miij;ht experience ditriciilty in obedience to 
this tirst and greatest of the commandments."* As a proof, it 
should seem, that these were my sentiments, Mr. Kentish refers 
to page 119, of the second edition of my Letters, where I have 
acknowledged, that there is a mixture oi the. vindictive in the Cal- 
vinistic system. But have I not also, in the same p;ige, so explain- 
ed my meaning as to reject those offensive ideas whicii Mr. Ken- 
tish has introduced in connexion with it? Why did he hold 
up my acknowledgment, concerning the vindictive character of 
God, without, at the same time, holding up that sense of it in w hich 
I prol'essed to detend it? Or, if he might think himself excused 
from this, why did he connect such terms with it as must exhibit 
it in a different and contrary sense, even that very sense in 
which I had opposed it ? I cannot but consider this as rlisingeuu- 
ous ; and as greatly resembling the conduct of certain Deists, who. 
in their attacks upon Christianity, choose first to dress it up in the 
habits of Popery. 

As to the glory of God consisting in the exercise of his goodness, 
if it be meant of the manifestation of the divine glory, and good- 
ness he put for moral excellence, it is the same thing as that which 
I have acknowledged ; nitmely, that ** the glory of Cod consists in 
doing that which shall be best upon the whole :" but, by goodness, 
Mr. Kenti>h means merely beneficence, undistinguished beneli- 
cence, or the pursuit of ullimate happiness in behalf of every 
intelligent being in the creation, obedient or rebellious, penitent 
or impenitent, men or devils. In this sense I allow tliat the glory 
of Cod may be at variance with the happiness of creatures, and 
I contend, tiiat where it is so, the latter, and not the former, ought 
to he given up. 

Mr. Kentish pleads from " the declaration of the fivourit*^ 
\postle, God is love^'' and supposes, that " all his moral excellen- 

♦ Pages 11, 12. 

300 ^ REPLY TU 

cies, as ju<stice, truth, and holiness, are but moditications ol this 
principle." To all ihis I have no objection, provided the object 
aimed at be the general good of the moral system. But Mr. Ken- 
tish supposes, if God be love, that in all he does he must have the 
good of every individual in his dominions in view. On this prin- 
ciple he must have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha, Cain, and 
Balaam, and Saul, and Judas; and all those who, in every age. have 
lived foaming out their own shame, and to whom, according td 
the scriptures, is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever, 
together with Satan and all his rebellious legions, not only as 
examples to the intelligent creation, but for their own good! 
Surely this is not a necessary inference from the apostolic declar- 
ation. There are other cases, as well as this, in which justice 
may be a modification of love ; but in no case does it require, that 
an incorrigible offender should not be punished but for his own 
advantage. The execution ofa murderer may be an exercise of pure 
benevolence to the community, though of just displeasure to the 
criminal. The removal of a restless, ambitious, intriguing, and 
bloody-minded prince or princess from the earth, may be a mercy to 
mankind, and, as such, may be considered as anact worthy of //leGoc? 
of love ; but it may not follow that this is accomplished in love to the 
systematic murderer of the human race. If all the West India 
islands were to be overv/helmed in some dire distruction, I am not 
sure that it would not be a mercy to the human species ; it would 
terminate the miseries of thousands, and prevent the annual sacri- 
fice of thousands more ; and yet such an event might proceed, not 
from love, but from just displeasure to guilty individuals. It 
does not follow, therefore, from any principles with which we are 
acquainted, that because God is love, he must have the happiness 
of his incorrigible enemies in view, in all the displeasure which 
he pours upon them. 

In order, it should seem, to obviate this reasoning, Mr. Kentish 
objects to our ^' thinking and speaking respecting the measures of 
the divine administration, as though they were precisely similar 


to the measures which are pur9ue<l by earthly rulers."* It is cu- 
rious to observe in what mauner our opponents shift their positions, 
and veer about, as occa;^ion itujuires. Dr. Priestley accused liie 
Caivinistic system of representing (lod in j»uch a light, '' that no 
earthly parent could iniitate him, without sustaining a character 
shocking to mankind." 'I'o this 1 answered, by proving that it is 
the practice of every good government to make examples of incor- 
rigible offenders; and that benevolence itself requires it: yea, that 
there have been cases in which even d parent has been obliged, in 
benevolence to his family, and from a concern for the general 
good, to give up a stubborn and rebellious son to be stoned to 
death by the elders of his city, and that, not for his own good, but 
that alt Israel might hear and fear. To this, Mr. Kentish replies, 
that God's government is not to be measured by human govern- 
ments. First, then, we are accused of exhibiting the divine char- 
acter in such a light, that it cannot be imitated; and when we prove 
that it can and ought, in those respects, to be imitated, then we are 
charged with tliinking and speaking of God, " as one altogether 
like ourselves." 

But, passing this, the point at issue is, which of the above re- 
presentations of the divine character tends most to excite our love 
to him. Mr. Kentish concoives, that, as love to God arises from 
a contemplation of his goodness, his scheme must, in this instance, 
have the advantage. That depraved creatures, who care not for 
the honor of the divine government, but whose supreme regard is 
directed towards themselves, should love that being best, who, 
whatever be their character and conduct, is most devoted to 
their happiness, is readily admitted. But this is not the love ol 
God. That goodness is the immediate object of love, I also admit: 
but goodness in the Divine Being is the same thing as moral excel- 
lence, and tbis renders him an «)bject of love only to such created 
beings, as, in some degree, bear his image. The goodness for 
which Mr. Kentish pIea«Js, i>* more undistinguishing beneficence, of 
which we can form no idea, without iV-eling, at the same time, a di- 
minution of respect. I fa supreme magistrate should posse's such nr» 

* P«j« 20. 

302 '^ REPLY TO 

attachment to his subjects, as that, whatever were their crimes, he 
could in no case be induced to give any one of them up to condign 
punishment, orto any other punishment than what should be adapted 
to promote his good, he would presently become an object of general 
contempt. Or, if a father should possess such a fondness for his 
children, that, let any one of them be guilty of what he might, 
suppose it were a murder, a hundred times repeated, yet he could 
never consent that any punishment should be inflicted upon him, 
excepting such as might be productive of his good; such a father 
would be detested by the community, and despised by his own 

But, perhaps I may be told, that the divine government is not 
t-o be measured by human governments ; no, not by those which 
are parental. Be it so; indeed, I am willing to grant Mr. Kentish 
that it is not. If he can prove from scripture^ that the divine gov- 
ernment is possessed of this peculiarity, that, in every instance of 
justice, the good of the party, as well as the good of the communi- 
ty, is the object pursued, I will readily admit it, and will never 
mention its inconsistency with our ideas of government any more. 
But, while no manner of appeal is made to the scripture; while the 
numerous passages which I have alleged in favor of the doctrine 
•f vindictive punishment, remain unnoticed; while nothing of any 
account, except the nature and fitness of things, is alleged; I have 
a right to show ih^i^ from the nature and fitness of things, no con- 
clusion like that of Mr. Kentish can be drawn, but the very re- 
verse. Love to a government, even a parental one, must be ac- 
companied with respect. A being whose kindness degenerates 
into fondness, however his conduct may please our selfish humors, 
can never be the object of our esteem. On this principle, when 
Jehovah proclaimed his name, or character, to Moses, he not only 
declared himself lo be the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gra- 
cious, long-suffering , and abundant in goodness and in truth, keep- 
ing mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and 
sin; but added, and that will by no means clear the guilty. 

" Love to God," Mr. Kentish observes, " is no enthusiastic rap- 
lure, no offspring of a licentious imagination. It consists in the 
highest esteem for the divine character, and the liveliest grati- 


mde tor the divine mercies."* Very true ; it is the character of 
God thill is the prime ohject of genuine love ; and I mav add, 
what I have observed before, that " the true character of God, as 
revealed in the scriptures, must be taken into the account, in de- 
termining whether our love to God be genuine, or not. We may 
clothe the Divine Being with such attributes, and such only, as 
will suit our depraved taste ; and then it will be no difficult thing 
to fall down and worshfp him : but this is not the love of God ; 
but of an idol of our own creating." It ap[)ears, to me, that the 
God in whom Mr. Kentish professes to believe, is not the true 
God, or the God revealed in the Bible ; and that the love he pleads 
for, is no other than self-love, or an attachment to a Being whose 
glory consists in his being invariably attached to us. 

The character of God is principally manifested to us through 
those two grand mediums, the law and the gospel ; but neither of 
them convey any such idea of him, as that which Mr. Kentish 
endeavours to exhibit. By the precepts and penalties of the for- 
mer. Jehovah declared his love to men, as creatures, by guarding 
them against every approach to evil ; but he also, by the same 
means, solemnly declared his love of righteousness, and his deter- 
mination to maintain a righteous government in the universe. By 
the propitiation exhibited in the latter, the same important ideas are 
repeated, and others, of still greater importance to us, revealed. 
Here, Jehovah declares hi- compassion to men, as guilty and mis- 
erable ; but it is without any relaxation of the rigid uprightness 
of his moral government, or the least implication that his rebellious 
creatures had been hardly dealt with, that he pours forth a rich 
exuberance of mercy upon the uaworthy. He is still the jusl 
God, and the Saviour ; justy and the Jimtifier of him that believeth in 
Jesus. While salvation is promised to every believing sinner, 
damnation is threatened to every one that believeth not. 

There i«« a rectitude that runs through all the dispensations of 
God, which determines his true character, and, by consequence, 
the II Uure of genuine love to him ; seeing the one must necessa- 
rily correspond with the other. The scripture-character of Goi 

• Paere 10. 



is such, that wicked men are naturally averse from it. The car- 
nal minclis enmity against God. Our Lord toKl the Jews, not- 
withstanding all their boasted attachment to God, that they had 
not the love of God in them. Hence, we are taught the necessity 
of the heart being circumcised to love the Lord our God.*^ But the 
character of God, as drawn by iMir. Kentish, is such, that the most 
depraved being must approve it ; and that, without any change in 
the unholy bias of his heart. Sinners can love those that love them. 
A being, the perfections of whose nature require him to promote 
the good of creation in general, will be loved by those, and those 
only, who value the general good, and who no otherwise desire 
the happiness of any creature, not even their own, than as it is 
included in the well being of his moral empire. But a being, the 
properties of whose nature prevent him, in any instance, from ma- 
king a final example of any of his rebellious creatures, or punish- 
ing them in any way, except that in which their good shall be his 
ultimate end, may be beloved by those who have no regard for the 
general good, nor for any part of intelligent existence but them- 
selves, or such as become subservient to themselves. And what, 
other than this, is Mr. Kentish's representation of love to God ? 
Considering God as all goodness, and goodness as consisting in a 
determination to do good, ultimately, to every creature, let his 
character and conduct be what it may, he supposes it to be nat- 
ural to men to love him. " The love of God," he says, •' cannot 
fail to be shed abroad in our hearts : it is " naturally enkindled, 
and kept alive in our breasts."* Genuine love to God requires 
to be shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit : but there 
needs no Holy Spirit in this case ; it is altogether natural to man : 
Mr. Kentish, therefore, acted very properly in leaving that part 
of the passage out of his quotation. 

The scheme of our opponents not only misrepresents the nature 
of love to God, but is miserably deficient with respect to motives 
whereby it may be excited. God so loved the world, that he gave 
his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not 
perish, but have everlasting life. — Herein is love, not that rvc loved 

* Rom. viii. 7. John v. 4?. Deut. xxx. 6. tPagesIl, 12. 


( iod^ but Unit lit loved us, and sent hix Son to be a pi*ojjitiation/or 
our sins. — God couuncndeth his love towards us^ in that while Tve 
were yet sinners, Christ died for us. — He that spared not his ozvn 
Son, but delivered him up for us all. — Thanks be unto God for his 
unspeakable gift.* Such is the hmgaa<;e of inspiration ; but this 
affecting: epitome of gospel-truth ia despoiled of all its glory by the 
expositions of our opponents. I'very thing rich, interesting, and 
endearing, which it contains, evaporates in tiieir hnndn, as by a 
kind of chymical process ; and nothing is left behind that can ac- 
(juit the sacred writers of dealing in great swelling words of vanity. 
Mr. Kentish's remarks upon this subject, together with a quota- 
tion from Dr. Kippis, in support of it, are feeble and nugatory : 
they prove nothing, but the poverty of the cause. " By the 
goodness of the Almighty, exhibited in the works of nature, in 
the dispensation of providence, and in our temporal comfort, we 
are as much impressed, I presume," says Mr. Kentish, " as any 
class of Christians. And, if we neither think nor speak like 
some of them concerning the divine love muiitested in the gift of 
Jesus Christ, it must not hence be inferred, that we are less atten- 
tive to its magnitude and extent. It is our persuasion, on the con- 
trary, that from the view we cherish of this important subject, we 
can say with peculiar justice, We love him because he first loved 
Ms."t To the ' persuasion" of Mr. Kentish is added the opinion 
of Or. Kippis, that, when *' writers express themselves as if. the 
Christian revelation would be of little value, unless their partic- 
ular systems are adopted, it is a kind of language which is ex- 
tremely injudicious, and which ought to be avoided and discour- 
aged ; and that no man can think meaidy of the evangelical dis 
pensation, or detract from its excellence and dignity, who believes 
that God is the author of it — that it was communicated by Jesu.^ 
Christ — and that he conveys to us knowledge, panlon, holiness, 
and eternal life. "^ Our opponents, then, in all their numerous 
charges of idolatry, corruptinfji Christianity y&!,c. exhibited against 
uSj wish to b<; understood, jt seems, after all, as concluding nothing 

" John iii. IC. 1 John iv. 10 Worn. v. 8, viii. 32. 2 Cor. ix. 1 ',. 

Ta^es 12. 1). [ Pages 12, 1.3. Note. 
VolH. 3D 


under these offensive terms, which implies "a mean opinion or 
the evangehcal dispensation, or which detracts from its excellence 
and dignity '•" I wish it were in my power honestly to return the 
compliment. In this case, however, I should think, consistency 
would require me to retract my former charges. But, were Cal- 
vinists and Socininns to coalesce, upon Dr. Kippis's principles, I 
should fear it would deserve the name of a confederacy against the 
holy scriptures. The Apostle Paul must necessarily fall under their 
united censure ; for, if it be " extremely injudicious to represent 
the Christian revelation as of little value, unless a particular sys- 
tem be adopted," he must have been very guilty, in suggesting that 
the Galatian teachers, who only erred on the doctrine of justi- 
6cation, had introduced «no///er ^05/?r/, and aimed ',\i perverting 
f he gospel of Christ. But, if the scheme of Mr. Kentish be de- 
fective in one point of view, he seems to think it has the advan- 
tage in another. 

The uniti/ of God, he observes, stands connected with the com- 
mand to love him ; and labours from hence, to prove the supe- 
rior efficacy of his sentiments in promoting this temper of mind ; 
inasmuch as they who imbibe them are not subject to be distracted 
and bewildered in their worship, as those are who worship a plu- 
rality of deities.* But with this- reasoning I, who do not worship 
a plurality of deities, have no concern. 

Under the article of Love to God, Mr. Kentish proceeds to dis- 
course on love to Christ.] With what ''propriety" this is done, 
unless he be possessed of Deity, I shall not inquire. It is in this 
pl;tce, I suppose, that we are to consider him as answering my 
eleventh Letter, which was wri.ten on this subject. The ques- 
tions discussed in that letter were, " Which of the two systems 
tend most to exalt the character of Christ ? Which places his 
mediation in the most important view ? And which represents us 
as most indebted to his undertaking ?" The substance of Mr Ken- 
tish's remarks, on the first of these questions, consists in this : 
that it is not greatness, but goodness^ that is the object of love ; 
that "love to Christ has its just foundation, not in a persuasion of 
his superior dignity, but in a conviction that his character was 
* Pages 14, 15. t Pages 15—19. 


tlialinguished by the ' beauty of holiness,' or the cljnrms of vir- 
tue."* 1 uUovv, goodness, and not greatness is the immedi- 
ate object of love : but Mr. Kentish uillaUo allow, that the latter 
renders a being capable of the former. The more enlargedness 
of mind any person possesses, the more capable he is of goodness; 
and, if his moral qualities keep pace with his natural accomplish- 
ments, he is a more estimable character than if his mind were not 

The greater any character i.s, tiierefore, if his goodness be but 
equal to his greatness, the more he becomes the proper object of 
love. Will Mr. Kentish pretend, that the "charms of virtue/' 
in a good man, (in Jesus Chri^^t for example, supposing him to be 
only a good man,) ought to render him as much the object of our 
atTection, as the infinitely glorious moral excellence of the Divine 
Being ought to render him ? But, by how much the character of 
the Divine Being is more estimable than that of the best of men, 
by so much is the character of Clirist more estimable, upon the 
supposition of his proper deity, than that of his being merelv 

Mr. Kentish, as though he felt this difiiculty, and wished to re- 
move it, suggests, thai it is upon the principle of gratitude that we 
''give to God, the supreme author of our enjoyments, our highest, 
purest lovc."t But it is gratitude on/y, that binds us to love God 
better than a creature ? It is merely because we receive more 
from him ? It is not also on account of the infmite amiableness of his 
moral character, as displayed particularly in the gospel, or, (as the 
scriptures express it,) of the g for j/ of God in the face of Jesjn 
Christ y Yea, is it not. primarily^ on this account, that God is en- 
titled to our " highest and purest love ?" 

Mr. Kentish has not thought it proper to enter on the iniiuiries, 
• Which of the two systems places the mediation of Christ in the 
most important light; and which represents us as most indebted to 
his undertaking ?" He has maile some observations, however, 
upon gratitude. Having stated, that (iod is to be loved, on this 
principle, with our hi«i;hest, purest love, he adds, " H<'nce, too. 
we cannot avoid indulging and showing affection fur those of our 

* Page li). t Page 17. 


fellow-creatures whom he disposes and enables to do us good ; and 
who, in truth, are but the instruments of his bounty. It is upon 
the same principle, that we perceive the justice of manifesting no 
common love to Christ, the author, under God, of our most valua- 
ble privileges and our richest blessings."* Whether the love of 
our opponents towards Christ, in a way of gratitude, be common, 
or uncommon, while they maintain that he existed not till he was 
born of iM.iry, they carmot consider themselves as under any obli- 
gation to him for coming into the 7vorld to save them ; seeinji that 
was a matter in which he must have been totally invchmtary , and 
while they reject the doctrine of the atonemeut. I do not see how 
they can feel obliged to him for the forgiveness of their sins ; or to 
any thing which he has done, or suffered, for their hopes of eternal 
life. They may feel indebted to him for having pM^/zs/ze^ these 
doctrines: but, if this be all, it is a smgll affair for so mucli to be 
made of it. Many a prophet, who was a beaier of heavy tidings. 
would have been glad, in this respect, to exchange messages with 
him. Dr. Toulmin, in a former publication, has tried to magnify 
this subject a little, by alleging, that '' Christ came not only to 
preach the doctrine of a future stale, but to prove it, and to furnish 
dL pledge 0^ the resurrection to eternal life, by his own resurrec- 
tion."! Dr. Toulmin has not informed us, in what manner the 
mission of Christ proved the doctrine of a future state, any other- 
wise than as his resurrection afforded a pledge of it : and this can 
add nothing, as a foundation of gratitude to him ; inasmuch as. 
upon his principles, it was a matter in which he had no voluntary 

For our parts, we consider ourselves deeply indebted to Christ 
for his voluntary assumption of our nature ; for the preference 
given to us bt;fore the fallen angels ; for his condescending to 
become subject to temptations and afflictions for our sake, that in 
all things he might be made like unto his brethren ; and for his offer- 
ing himself without spot to God, as our atoning sacrifice, thereby 

* Page 17. 

t Dissertation oa the Internal Evidences and Excellency of Christianity, 
Appendix!. p. 215. 


obtaining tne remis>;ion of our sins, and becoming the foundation ol 
our hopes of eternal life : but none of tbese things b;ivo any place 
in the system of our opponents. And, though they would per- 
suade us that they hold the sentiments embraced by primitive 
Christians, yet they cannot follow them in these importruit particu- 
lars. Their views of things will not suffer th«m to speak of his 
faking upon him flesh and blond; of his taking upon him not the 
nature of an gels, but the seed of Abraham ; of his being in the form 
of God, and yet taking upon him the form of a servant, and being 
made in the likeness of men ; of our being forgiven for hit sake ; or 
^)( the promise of an eternal inheritance being received by means of 
fiis death.* According to their principles, his coming into the 
world wa3 no act of his own; he had no existence, prior to his 
existing in flesh and blood ; it was not a matter of choice with him, 
whether he would be made an angel or a man ; he never existed 
in any other form, nor sustained any other character than that of a 
servant ; his death had no influence on the forgiveness of our 
sins, or in procuring eternal life : none of these things, therefore, 
afford to them any foundation for gratitude. 

The substance of this argument was stated in my fourteenth Let- 
ter ; but neither of my opponents has thotight proper to take any 
notice of it. It might be their wisdom to decline this part of the 
subject, which is so strongly supported by the express declara- 
tions of scripture. 

Mr. Kentish seems to feel, that love to Christ makes but a di- 
minutive figure in the Socinian scheme ; and, therefore, apologizes 
tor it. To suppose Christ to have been possessed of'* a super- 
human nature, and so to regard him,'' he says, " would be infring- 
ing upon our pious gratitude to the rulorable Being whom we arc 
commanded to love with an entire affection." To this I reply : 
Our belief of a doctine which our opponents will not allow us to 
believe, namely, the Divine Unity, enables us to repel this objec- 
tion : we believe (and that, on the first of all authority,) that Christ 
and the Father are so one, that he who hath seen him hath seen tht 
Father ; and that he who honoureth him, in so doing, honoureth the 

*Hcb. ii.l4. 16. Phil. ii. 6,7. F-phe». iv. 3^ Heb. ix. I . 

.310 A REPLY TO 

Father.* The idea thrown out by Mr. Kentish, and which enters 
into the essence of his system, is what the scri[)tures are utterly 
unacquiiinted with. They require us to lov^e creatures in differ- 
ent degrees. But, inasmuch as this love, if carried to excess, 
would dishonour the Divine Being, these requirements are accom- 
panied and limited by various cautions. Thus, we are required to 
love all mankind as our fellow-creatures ; but we must take heed 
of improper attachment, lest we worship the creature more than 
the Creator. We are commanded to love and honour our parents; 
but, if they stand in competition with Christ, we are required 
comparatively to hate them. Christians are enjoined to love 
their ministers, who are over them in in the Lord : but, if 
even the servants of Christ be idolized, it shall be demanded, on 
their behalf. Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, but ministers by 
whom ye believed? Was Paul crucijied for you? or were ye bapti- 
zed in the name of Paid? We are doubtless, obliged to love 
angels, because they are our brethren, and are employed as minis- 
istering sprits to the heirs of salvation; but, if any attempt to wor- 
ship them, they will profess themselves to be what they are, and 
direct to the worshipping of God.j Now, if Christ be only a crea- 
ture, it might have been expected, that the numerous commands to 
love and honour him, should also have been accompanied with 
some such cautions ; lest in complying with them, we should 
*' infringe'* upon the honour dtie to the Father. The great hon- 
our to which Christ was exalted, above all other creatures, ren 
dered such cautions peculiarly necessary ; since love to him 
would be in the greater danger of being carried to excess ; and it 
is a fact, that the great body of those whom our opponents will 
allow to have been «!erious Christians, in almost all ages, have 
actually worshipped him as God. Yet there is not a single cau- 
tion against this sort of excess, in all the New Testament ; nor the 
least intimation, that, in giving glory to the Son, we may possibly 
*' infringe" upon the glory of the Father. On the contrary, when 
the topic of love to Christ occurs, every thing is said to intlame it, 
and nothing to damp it. There is a becoming jealousy in the 

* John X. 30. xiv. 9. 11. v. 23. t Rev. xxii. 9. 



Divine Being expressed, in other cases, but never in this ; if any 
thing; of this kind be expressed, it is on the other side. If a man 
Jove me — my Fnthtr will love him, and wr will come unto him, and 
make our abode with him. — // any man serve me, him will my 
Father honour. — The Father jud^ith no man ; but hath committed 
nil judgment unto the Son, that all men should honour the Son, 
even as they honour the Father. He that honourcth not tJic Son, 
honoureth not the Father which hath f>ent him.* 

Mr. Kentish, as if he felt no pleasure in discoursing upon the 
character and work of Christ, as the grounds of love to him, pro- 
reeds to remark, with some apparent satisfaction, upon certain ex- 
pressions of it. " From the lips of our divine instructor himself," 
he says, " let us learn — the lesson of love to him ; let us hence 
be informed, in what tliis principle consists. If a man love me, 
says Jesus, )te uill keep my words. — He that lovcth me not, keepcth 
not my sayings, Ye are my friends, if ye do whotsoever I command 
you. — These things 1 command you, that ije love one another. Who 
can here refrain from observins;, how truly rational is this lan- 
guage, how remote from mystery and enthusiasm ! But, while 
Clirist declares, that such as obey his laws, as imbibe his spirit, 
manifest love to him, let none of his followers be so ignorant and 
presumptuous, as to insist upon other testimonies of affection to 
their master. Of better they cannot possibly conceive ; upon 
stronger they cannot possibly rely."* 

1 have no dispute with Mr. Kentish concerning what are the 
proper expressions of love to Christ ; but his insinuating, that to 
plead for his deity and atonement, as crounds of love to him, is tft 
** insist upon other testimonies of affection towards him ;" testi- 
monies which are " mysterious .ind enthusiastic," is calculated to 
perplex the sul)ject. To say nothing of the *' decency" of his 
pronouncing upon our conduct, in this instance, as '' ignorant and 
presumptuous ;" it is but to manifest, that he wishes to confound 
the reasons of love with the expressions of it, and, under a show of 
regard for the one, to draw off the reader's attention from the 
other. Mr. Kentish may recollect, that the same language is use<! 

• xiv. 23. xii. 26. v. 23, 23. Puge?! 18, lf>. 


of love to God, as onove to Christ : This is the love of God, that 
we keep his commandments : and his commandments are not (Griev- 
ous * Now, an enemy to the infinitGly-amiable moral character of 
the Deity, as the primary ground of love to him, might here ex- 
claim, with Mr. Kentish, "= Let us hence be informed, in what the 
principle of love to God consists : it is to keep his commandments. 
Who can here refrain from observing, how truly rational is this 
language, how remote from mystery and enthusiasm ! But, while 
God declares, that such as keep his commandments, manifest love 
to him, let none be so ignorant and presumptuous, as to insist on 
other testimonies of affection to him. — Let them not talk of •' con- 
templating infinite power employed to execute designs which pro- 
ceed from infinite benevolence, and of filial affection towards God, 
as enkindled by such contemplations.''! Mr. Kentish would prob- 
ably reply, to this effect : The grounds or reasons, of love to God 
are one thing ; and the appointed expressions of it, another : and 
your depreciating the former, under a pretence of exalting the 
latter, is as if you were to kill the root, in order to preserve the 
fruit. Such is my reply to Mr. Kentish. 

From the love of God and Christ, Mr. Kentish proceeds to dis- 
course on the fear of God.\ I do not recollect having advanced 
any thing, in my letters, on this subject. I may observe, howev- 
er, that the definition given of this virtue, does not appear to me 
to answer to the scriptural account of it. It is said, to be " the 
veneration of infinite grandeur." But this approaches nearer to 
a definition of admiration, than of fear. The mora/ excellence of 
the Deity, as the object of fear, enters not into it; neither is there 
any thing of a moral nature included in it. Without taking upon 
me to. define this heavenly virtue, 1 may observe, that a holy 
dread of offending God, or of incurring his displeasure, enters into 
its essence. The main objection that I feel to the scheme of my 
opponent, on this head, is, that the divine goodness, according to 
his notion of it, necessarily pursues the ultimate happiness of all 
creatures, pure or impure, penitent or impenitent, men or devils. 
This, as I have already stated, undermines that respect to the di- 
vine character, which is the foundation of both love and fear. 

* 1 John V. 3. t rage 12. % ^'^i- ^^- 


That God is the Fatliciof all his rreatures, is true ;* hut it is 
also true, that he is a Father to those that believe in his Son, in 
such a sense as he i*^ not to the rest of the world. The Jews 
boasted that God was their Father : but Jesus answered, If God 
were your Father, ye would love me. — To us inanij as received 
Christ, and no more, was power given to become the souh of God, 
even to them who believed on his name. This adoption by Jesus 
Christ is not the cuininon heritage of men : It is a subject of spe- 
cial promise. Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, 
saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thin<>, and I loill receive 
you, and will be a father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daugh- 
ters saith the Lord Almighty.] And it ou^lit to be observed, that it 
is this evangelical relation, and not that of creatures to their Creator, 
that converts our "afflictions into fatherly corrections." There have 
been characters in the woild, of whom it has been said. He that made 
them will not have mercy on them : and he that formed them will show 
them no favour. These things ought not to be confounded. 

After considering the tear of God, our author proceeds to dis- 
course on cowj^c/e/ice in him.l In this, as in most other of his 
discussions, Mr. Kentish appears to me to forget that he is a sin- 
ner ; representing the Divine Being, and his creature, man, as 
upon terms of the most perfect amity. Mis persuasion of the 
power, wisdom and goodness of the Deity, begets confidence. But 
nothing is said of his going to God, under a sense of his helpless 
and perishing condition as a sinner, and under the warrant of the 
gospel invitations : or of his confiding in him for eternal salvation. 
The confidence which Mr. Kentish describes, is more suitable to 
the condition of holy angels, than of guilty creatures, who have 
incurred the just displeasare of their Maker. 

There is one subject included in the scripture exercises of de- 
votion, which Mr. Kentish has passed over ; namely trusting in 
Christ. Under the article of love to God, he considered love to 
Christ ; and trusting in Christ is no less an exercise of Chri-tian 
devotion, than lovo to him ; an exercise, too, with whi( h our eter- 
nal salvation stands connected In his name shall the Gentiles 
trust. — That ye should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted 

* Page 20. tJohn viii. 12, i IJ. 2 Cor. vi. 17. IR. t Pa^e 21. 
Vol. 11. in 


in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word 
of truth, the gospel of your salvatim — / kwtw whom I have trust- 
ed, and I am persuaded that he is abk to keep that which I have 
committed to him against that day,* In my second Letter, I ob- 
served, that, upon the principles of our opponents, '* all trust, or 
confidence, in Christ for salvation is utterly excluded." And how 
has Mr. Kentish answered in this charge ? By passing it over in 
silence. This is a serious matter. O that for their own sakes, 
they could be convinced of the insufficiency of the ground on 
which they rest their hopes, and build upon the foundation that 
God hath laid in Zion ! Uncharitable and uncandid as they consid- 
er me, 1 could water these pages with tears for them. My heart's 
desire and prayer to God is, that they maybe saved. But other 
foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 
From reasoning, Mr. Kentish proceeds to facts. He calls upon 
\]s " to show, that, as a body, they are less actuated than others, 
by the spirit of genuine devotion."! Mr. Kentish must be sens- 
ible, that private devotion is a matter tliat cannot come under pub- 
lic cognizance. In my V^ll Letter, therefore, which was written 
upon this part of the subject, I did not refer to facts, but conten- 
ted myself vvitli reasoning on the tendency of principles. It is a 
circumstance not the most favourable, however, to the devotion 
of Socinians, that persons, when they embrace their system, 
though they have previously been in the habit of praying to God, 
yet are frequently known, at that time entirely to give it up; or, 
if they practise it, it is by drawing up a written composition, and 
reading it to the Almighty. Such, I suppose, was Mrs. Barbauld's 
Address to the Deity, to which Mr. Kentish referred.^ Though 
I have not seen it. I doubt not that it was an elegant composition ; 
but whether there was any devotion in it, is another question. 
Sure I am, that such things are at a great remove from those 
prayers and supplications which abounded amongst the primitive 
Christians, and which have abounded among serious Christians 
of every age. Mr. Kentish should consider, too, that the prin- 
cipal part of what 1 have alleged, lo the disadvantage of Socin- 
ian piety, is taken from the acknowledgments of their own wri- 

* Rom. XV. It. Ephes. i. \2, \X 2 Tim.i. 12. t Page 22. 
^ Page 25, Note. 

M R. KKNTISirs SERMON . 3 j .r, 

tor?. He cnlls upon liis '* fellow Christians to show, that, as 
a body, they are less actij;ited than others, by the spirit of gen- 
uine devotion ;" and from his fellow Christians, even in the strict 
est sense of the term, let him receive an answer. Dr. Priestley 
confesses, that so it seenui to be ; and Mrs. Barbauld, by manifest 
consequence, informs us, that so it is. " Calvinists," says the for- 
mer, ''seem to have moie of a real principle of religion than 
Unitarians." *' There is still apparent, in that class called serious 
Christians,''' says the latter, '• a tenderness in exposing these doc- 
trines, a sort of leaning towards them, as in walking over a preci- 
pice one would lean to the safest side." What is this but acknowl- 
edging, that complete Socinians are not distitiiruishr<l Li/ their sr- 

I\Ir. Kentish next refers to n numher of characters of his own 
denomination, who have been eminent for their piety.* Whether 
this account be liable to animadversion, I have no inclination U) 
inquire. To animadvert on the characters ^f individuals, espe- 
cially on those of the dead, is invidious; and it forms no part ot 
my plan: on the contrary, as I have said before, 1 have professedly 
declined it. Let our opponents make the most of their j)iety ; let 
them muster up all their force ; let them claim those as Unitari- 
ans when dead, whom they refused to acknowledge as such while 
they were living,! I have no apprehensions as to the issue of the 

Our ojiponents, however, must not always be indulgcil in their 
pretensions. We c.mnot allow tliem, for example, to substitute 
words in the place of actions. If one on their side the question 
make asjiecch, or print a <erinon, or a set of sermons in favour of 
morality, they seem to wi«,h to consider it amorjgst the evidences 
of the moral tendency of their principle*. It is not \)r. Pnestley.'s 
writing on the duty of not lieimr to ourselves ; nor Mr. Turner's 
publishing a volume ofsermons on moral subjects, though ap[»laudcd 
by Reviewer-, principally, if not entirely, of his own persuasion, 
* Pages 23. 25. 

t Dr. l'*riestley refused lo acknowledge Dr. Price as a LfnitariiUi, when 
they were engaged in conlrovcrs-y, thou:;h both my opponents placo liini in 
their list. 


that will afford a " practical answer to my Letters on Socinian- 


From the divine, I\Ir. Kentish proceeds to discourse on the social 
nm] personal virtues.! I perceive many things, in this part of his 
performance, which would admit of a reply ; but nothing that 
requires any, except what he alleges on the innocence of error. 
" Liberality," Mr. Kentish observes, " inclines us to believe, that 
involuntary religious error exposes not men to the displeasure of 
their Maker." — And again, " We assert the innocence of invol- 
untary error. It is the unhappiness of many professors of our 
religion, to consider it as partaking of the nature of sin. Such is 
the language they use in their writings. "+ Surely Mr. Kentish 
has not read what he has written against, or he must have noticed, 
that 1 also have acknowledged the innocence oi involuntary error. 
Have 1 not said, "The mere holding of an opinion, considered 
abstractedly from the motive, or state of mind of him that holds it, 
must be simply an exercise of intellect ; and, I am inclined to think, 
has in it neither good nor evil ;"§ Does not Mr. Kentish know, 
that the ground on which I have supposed error relating to the 
gospel to be sinful, is, that it is not involuntary ? Not that 1 accuse 
those who err ot knowing that they do so ; or of avowing princi- 
ples which in their conscience they do not believe : this would not be 
error but gross dishonesty. Voluntary error is that which arises 
from an evil bias of hearty or a dislike to the truth. Such is the 
account given of certain characters by a sacred writer : Because 
they received not the love of the truth — God sent them strong delu- 
sions that they should believe a lie,\\ These men were not apprised 
of their being in an error ; they believed their lie : but this belief 
arose from a dislike of truth ; and it was this that denominated it 
voluntary, and sinful. 

What is it that Mr. Kentish would persuade his readers that I 
believe ? " The mere conclusions of the understanding," he says, 
" where the will is unconcerned, cannot surely participate of 
guilt :" and who thinks they can ? " Guilt," he adds, " then, only- 
attaches itself to error, when men wilfully and indolently refuse 
* See " Wood's Sermon," for Turner of Wakefield, pp. 50, 51, Note. 

t Page 25. X ^^Z^^ -^» 30. * Letter X. p. 176. || 2 Thes. ii. 10, 1 1. 



to employ the means ol'bettcr information whicli nre put into their 
hands."* Very well ; ;nul who itn;ij»iiies the contrary ? 

From these principles, which Mr. Kentish seems willing to 
liave considered as the exclu>ive properly ot' himself and his 
brethren, he proceeds to draw certain useful improvements : " B}' 
these considerations, my fellow Christians," he says, •* we are 
restrained from placins; ourselves in the chair of infallibility : 
from rashly jiidgina; upon the present state, and the future doom 
of our virtuous, though, it may be, mistaken brethren." Part of 
this is, no doubt, very good ; it is highly proper, that fallible crea- 
tures should make no pretence to infallibility : but how can Mr. 
Kenti?h say that they do not judge upon the present state of others, 
when, in the same sentence, he pronounces some men " virtuous," 
and calls them " brethren ?" Will he give the name of" virtuous" 
to every man in the world? If not, he occupies the seat of judg- 
ment as really as I do : his censure, therefore, does not affect my 
judging upon '' the present state of men ;" (for he does the same, 
and that in the same breath :) but my not acknowledging those as 
•' virtuous, Christian brethren, whom he accounts so. 

But, say our opponents, it is illiberal and presumptuous in you, 
to attribute men's errors on divine subjects to an evil bias of heart. 
If they were not atlributed to this cause in the scriptures, I grant it 
ivuuld be so: but it is neither illiberal nor presumptuous, to view- 
things as they are there represented. I have no more inclination, 
than Mr. Kentish, to occupy the "chair of infallibility:" but I 
considftr it as a part of my proper work, and that of every other 
Christian, to judge of the meaning of his decisions 'nho does occupy 
it. Produce me an example from the New Testament, of a single 
character who imbibed and taught false doctrine, and who was 
treated by the apostles as innocent. How different from this is 
the conduct of Paul, and Peter, and John, and Jude.f Nay, pro- 
duce me a single example of error, in matters of religion, amongst 
good men, that is treated as innocent in the holy scriptures. Are 
HOt the tenets of some amongst the Corinthians, w ho denied the 

• Page 31. 

tGul.i. 7. 8. 2 The?, ii. 10, 11. 2Petcr,ii. 1. .Tud« 4 


resurrection, called evil communications, which would corrupt good 
manners ? Were not the errors of the Galatians called disobtdi 
ence to the truth ; and were they not reproached, on this account, 
HS foolish J and in a sort bewitched, and as needing to have Christ 
again formed in them? Did not our Lord accuse his own disci- 
ples, whose minds were blinded by their notions of an earthly 
kingdom, with folly and slowness of heart ?^ 

In things purely natural, men may think justly, or make mis- 
takes, without any degree of goodness on 4he one side, or evil on 
the other : and even in things of a moral nature, if our errors 
arose either from natural incapacity, or the want of sufficient 
means of information, they would be excusable : but never, that 
I recollect, do the scriptures represent errors of the latter de- 
scription, especially those which relate to the gospel way of salva- 
tion, as arising from these causes. They teach us, that wayfar- 
ing men, though fools shall not err therein; intimating that the er- 
rors which men make concerning the way of salvation, do not arise 
from the want of natural capacity, but of a way-faring spirit, or a 
h^ue desire to walk in it. 

I am not conscious of retaining any error , yet there is little 
doubt but that I do : from having discovered many in my past life, 
I have reason to suspect, that there are many more about me un- 
discovered. But, whatever they be, I suppose they are owing to 
some sinful prejudice of which I am not aware : and I know not 
that 1 am obliged to think differently of the errors of other people. 

I perceive Mr. Kentish himself can omit the morality ^f opin- 
ion, where himself or a fellow-creature is the object of it. He 
pleads for liberality of sentiment, (by which he seems to intend an 
equally good opinion of men, notwithstanding their errors,) as a 
virtue, a virtue in which he thinks his brethren to excel. He 
must, therefore, consider its opposite as a vice, a vice which oper- 
ates to our disadvantage. Now, 1 would ask Mr. Kentish, as be- 
fore I asked Mr. Lindsey, " Supposing that I am in an error, in 
thinking amiss of my fellow-creatures, why should it not be as in- 
nocent as thinking amiss of Christ ? Why ought I to be reproacb- 

* 1 Cor. xr. 33, 34. Gal. jii. 1. iv. 19. Luke xxiv. 23. 



«d as nn illiberal, uncharitable bigot for the one, while no one 
ought to think the worse of me for the other ?" I wish some one 
of our opponents would answer tliis question. 

If "the language of tiherality be," what Mr. Kentish says it is, 
" that in every nation , he that feareth God and rvorketh righteousness ^ 
is accepted,'^ we can assure iiim, that we are not such strangers to 
it as he may be apt to imagine. Such language not only approves 
itself to our judgments, but rejoices our hearts. And, if bigotry 
be, as he defines it, "such an inordinate attachment to our own 
modes of faith and worship as prompts us to have tio dealings with 
those who prefer others, to think of them with unkindness, and to 
act towards them witli violence," provided he do not extend his 
c/e«///2o-5 to Christian fellowship, which, according to his note in 
page 44, he does not we can cordially unite with him in reproba- 
ting it. Liberality and candour, of this description, may exist, a? 
Mr. Kentish observes, in harmony with zeal for religious principle. 

Rut 'i( liberality must incline us to treat errors of a moral and 
religious nature, especially tiiose which relate to the gospel way 
of salvation, as mere mistakes of the understanding, "in which 
the will is unconcerned," it i;^ a kind of virtue to which we make 
no pretence: and if bigotry consists in the reverse of this, we have 
no objection to be thought bigots, believing, as we do, that such 
bigotry is abundantly recommended in the holy scriptures. 

But, " it is impossible, surely,'' says my opponent, " that, main- 
taining this opinion, they should regard the man whose religious 
sentiments differ from theirs, with perfect complacency, satisfac- 
tion and benevolence."* Where, then, did Mr. Kentish learn to 
confound " perfect complacency and satisfaction" with "benevo- 
lence ?" To exercise the former towards characters who re- 
noimce what we consider as tiie fundamental principles of the gos- 
pel, or even towards any man, but for the truth's sake that dircll- 
€th in hiin^ is, in our esteem, sinful : but the latter ought to be ex- 
ercised towards all m inkind, whatever be their principles or char- 
acters. I cannot be conscious of another^s feelings; but, for my 
own part, I find no difTirulty, in this matter, arising from mv relig- 
ious principle^: and it is a sati^fiction to my mind, to see not only 

- r;.-c .TO. 

320 ^ REPLY TO 

the Aposile of the Gentiles ardently desiring the salvation of his 
countrymen, but my Lord and Saviour weeping over them; while 
each abhorred both their principles and their practice. If this be 
a "persecuting" principle, Paul, and even our Saviour, must 
both have been pers<^cutors. 

Mr. Kentish, having thus reviewed the social and personal vir- 
tues, calls upon '' fiiir and unbiassed observation to determine, 
what is the character which they bear in their commerce with 
mankind." " If," says he, " it be not more exemplary than that 
of other Christians, it is not, perhaps, in any degree, inferior."* 
Mr. Kentish knows very well, that the authorities from which I 
drew a contrary conclusion, were no other than those of Dr. 
Priestley and Mr. Belsham. '^ It cannot be denied," says the for- 
mer, " that many of those who judge so truly concerning particu- 
lar tenets in religion, have attained to that cool, unbiassed temper 
of mind, in consequence of becoming more indifferent to religion 
in general, and to all the modes and doctrines of it." " Men who 
are the most indifferent to the practice of religion,''^ says the latter, 
" and whose minds, therefore, are least attached to any set of prin- 
ciples, will ever be the first to see the absurdities of a popular 
superstition, and to embrace a rational system of faith." Such was 
the method in which these writers attempted to account for the 
alleged Aict, " that Rational Christians were indifferent to practi- 
cal religion :" This fact they could not deny ; and, by attempt- 
ing to accown^ for it, they tacitly admitted it; yea, Mr. Belsham 
expressly grants, that " there has been some plausible ground for 
the accusation." 

To the authority of Dr. Priestley and Mr. Belsham 1 may now 
add that of Dr. Tonlmin and Mr. Kentish. The former, after the 
example of his predecessors, endeavours to account for their " neg- 
lecting the culture of the heart and affections ;"t and the latter 
acknowledges, without scruple, that, " with less restraint than is 
practised by some of their brethren, they enter into the world, and 
indulge in its amusements. "|. 

But Mr. Kentish, though he grants the above, denies that there 
is any thing in it that can be fairly improved to their disadvantage 

* Page 31. t Page 36. ^ Page 32. 


Mil. KKNTtSH'S SERMON. 3^21 

• L n\eyi< it can be show n, " he savs, '^ that we so use the world us 
to use it to excess, (referring; to I Cor. vii. 31.) we sliall t.ike no 
shan)e to ourselves on tliis account." It is worth while to rein rk 
the progress \\W\rh our opponent^ m;iUe in matters of morality . 
Dr. Priestle}' acknowlodjjied much the same as Mr. Kenti-h, tliat 
'* there is a greater app.irent conr'rmity to the woild in Unitari- 
ans, than is ohservable in others ; luii he dots not undertake to 
justify it : all he attempts, is to account tor it in u way that might 
reflect no dishonour upon Unitarianism. He represents those 
amongst them, who, thus " lean to a life of dissipation," as being 
oidy ''speculative Unitarians," "men of the woild," and distin- 
guishes tliem from "•' serious Christians." And when he comes to 
weigh the virtue of Trinitarians and Unrtarians in a balance, he 
allows that conformity to the world, which is to be found in 
the latter, to be a detraction from their excellence ; and only 
pleads, that they have other virtues which counterbalance it, oi 
which, " upon the whole," cause their character to '* apjtroach 
nearer to the proper temper of Christianity than the other."* 
Mr. Belsham also, though he speaks of Rational Christians as ha?- 
Ing "often been represented as indifferent to practical religion;" 
and admits, that " there has been some plausible ground for the 
accusation ;" yet does not justify it, but expresses a hope that it 
will be " only for a time ;" and that, at length, those who give 
occasion for such accusations w ill " have their eyes opened, and 
feel the benign influence of their principles, and demonstrate the 
excellency of theirfaitii by the superior dignity and worth of their 
character."! But how dilVerenl from all this is the conduct of 
Mr. Kentish. Dr. Priestley a/x^/o^^/ses; Mr. Belsham /io^f5 / but 
Mr. Kentish, despairing, it should seem, of things growing better, 
and refusing to " take shame on the account," boldly justifies it ; 
yea more, suggests that such conformity to the world is ** not only 
lawful, but deserving of praise. "J This is carrying matters with 
a high hand. 

• Dibcoursef on \'arious Subjects, p. 100. 

t Sermon ou the Imporlauce of Truth. % Fa^ei 32, 8. 

Vol. II. 41 

32:2 A KLPLY TO 

From Dr. Priestley's account of things, one might have suppos- 
ed, that, though there were " great numbers" of these confor- 
mists to the world amongst the Unitarians, yet they were a kind of 
excrescencies of the body, and distinguishable from it, as '* men of 
the world" are distinguisliod from "serious Christians;" but, 
according to Mr. Kentish, it is their general character, and they 
are not ashamed of it ; nay, they consider it as " not only lawful, 
but deserving of praise !" 

That we are allowed, in the passage to which Mr. Kentish re- 
ers, to use this world, is true : men are allowed to form conjugal 
connexions, to buy and sell, and to rejoice in all their labour. It 
is necessary, however, that even these enjoyments should be 
chastised by an habitual sense of their brevity and uncertainty. 
That this, or any other passage of scripture, should be pleaded in 
favour of an indulgence in the amusement of the -world, is beyond 
any thing that I have lately witnessed from the pen of a Christian 

My opponent proceeds to his second head of inquiry, viz. 

" 11. What assistance, support, and consolation, does thf 
Unitarian doctrine afford, in the season of temptation. 



Mr. Kentish here quotes a number of scriptures, which allowing 
him his own exposition of them, can scarcely be said to express a 
single sentiment peculiar to what he calls Unilarianism. His 
whole aim, in this part of his subject, seems to be, to prove, that 
Unitarians may, by the principles which they hold in common with 
others, be possessed of something superior to "calmness of mind." 
I must say, 1 never saw any thing, in any of their writings, that 
appeared to me to bear any tolerable resemblance to the joy of the 
gospel. 1 admit, however, that what I have advanced on this 
sul ject, might have been better expressed. If, instead of affirm- 
ing, that " the utmost happiness to which the Socihian scheme 
pretends, is calmness of mind/' 1 had said. The utmost happiness 
which the peculiar principles of Socinians are adapted to promote, 
is calmness of mind, it would have been more accurate. My op- 
ponent's being obliged to have recourse to common principles, as 
ike springs of joy and consolation, is a sufficient proof, that those 


wliicli are peculiar to Ins scheme, as a Socinian, were altogether 
unailaptetl to his purpose. He may wij^h to have it thought, in- 
deed, that Christ^s being *< in all things made like unto his breth- 
ren," and his resurrection being that of a man, are terms expres- 
sive of his peculiar sentiments. So he insinuates.* But let any 
person consult the first of these passages ;t and he will find, that 
he who was in all things made like unto his brethren, took not on 
him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham : that is to say, 
he existed prior to his being a man, and was vohmtary in choosing 
to assume the human, rather than the angelic nature. By culling 
single sentences, without taking their connexion, we may prove 
any thing we pleiise : but in so doing, we abuse the scriptures, 
rather than interpret them. That the resurrection of Christ wa« 
the resurrection of a man, no one questions : but, to infer from 
hence that he was a mere man, is drawing conclusions which are 
not contained in the premises. 

The scheme of our opponents is so far from being adapted to 
promote evangelical joy, that it leads them, in general, to despise 
it as enthusiastic. As an example of this, I cited the critique of 
the Monthly Revievcers vl\iov\ President t.dward's History of Re- 
demption : and such examples might be multiplied almost without 
end. But, if men were not strangers to the sacred joys of religion 
themselves, how is it possible to conceive that they could despise 
them in others ? 

The following head of inquiry is next introduced, viz. 

" 111. What is the DEtjRFF. of efficacv which the Unitari- 

On another occasion, Mr. Kentish tells his auditors, that " con- 
cerning the natural influence of religious opinions, the world will 
judge, not from abstract reasoning aad fancied tendencies, but 
from our dispositions and our lives ;"§ that is to say, from ficts. 
Hut, on this Hiihject^ he has produced neither the one nor the 
other. *' Wo claim to embrace," he says, ** and allow no other 
doctrine than what Jesus and his apostles taught. ''II True ; bu( 

♦ rages 34, 35. t Heb. ii. 16, 17. t Page 35. « Page4G. Ij Pa-r- Vi 


the question is, If their claim be admissible, how comes it to pass, 
that their doctrine has no better effect ? Mr. Kentish answers, 
" The fact is to be explained by the prevalence of human corrup- 
tions." Is it a fict, then, that men are more corrupt amongst So- 
cinians, than in those congregations where the doctrine of atone- 
ment through the blood of Christ is taught and believed ? 

But, perhaps, what we call conversion will not be admitted, by 
our opponents, as genuine. " We reject," says Mr. Kentish, 
"■ and reason and the scriptures, we think, authorise us to reject, 
every pretence to sudden conversion. True conversion from sin 
to holiness, we regard as the work of time and labour." If it were 
necessary to examine this subject, the conversion pleaded for by 
Mr. Kentish might appear as mean in our esteem, as ours does in 
his. But I desire no other criterion of true conversion in this 
case, than that by which the end is accomplished. Where I see a 
man turned from sin to holiness, I call him a converted man. 
That such a change is sometimes gradual, is admitted ; but this is 
not always the case : neither was it in the primitive ages. I 
know very well, that Dr. Priestley, as well as Mr. Kentish, con- 
siders all sudden changes as nugatory, and supposes, that conver- 
sion is a work of time and labour. Upon this principle he affirms, 
that "• All late repentance, especially after long and confirmed 
habits of vice, is absolutely and necessarily ineffectual." That 
our opponents should imbibe such an opinion, has nothing surpris- 
ing in it ; but that they should pretend, that the " scriptures 
authorize it," is somewhat extraordinary. Was not the repent- 
ance of Zaccheus, and that of the thief upon the cross, a late 
repentance, and yet effectual ? Was the repentance of either of 
them the effect of long time and labour ? Were the Jews under 
Peter*s sermon, the jailor and his household, or any others of 
whom there is an account in the Acts of the Apostles, converted in 
the manner Mr. Kentish describes ? If, however, the whole that 
was to be attributed to God, in this change, were no more than 
Mr. Kentish supposes ; if it consisted merely in his furnishing us 
with " the powers of willing and acting ;" it might well be consid- 
ered as a work of time and labour ; or rather, as a work that time, 
in its utmost extent, would never be able to accomplish. 


I>»it what end has Mr. Krnti^li to answer by his objecting to 
-'udden conversion, and representing; it as a work of time and 
labour ? Does he mean to snn:«;est, tliat their doctrme has not yet 
had time to operate? If not, what difference does it make to the 
argimient ? We call notliin^i; conversion, amon^^st us, but that in 
xvhich a change of disposition and hfe appears ; and if this end 
were arcomphshed against them in any considerable degree, 
whether it were sudderdy or gradually, he need not be at a lostj 
for facts to support the efficacy of his doctrine. Instead of these, 
Mr. Kentish is obliged to content himself with assertin<r, that 
'* Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesn? 
Christ, rightly understood, have as intimate a connexion with their 
views of the Christian dispensation, as with those of their breth- 
ren :" — and with fwpiiig, that "there are tliose in their number 
who have found the plain, the simple, yet the despised gospel of 
Christ, the power of God unto salvation." 

I shall not controvert the remarks of my opponent respecting 
the Jews, and respecting unbelievers who reside in a Christian 
country. It is true, as he observes, *' little can be said on either 
side, inasmuch as the experiment has never, perhaps, been fairly 
and entirely made by both the parties." Meanwhile, I perfectly 
acquiesce in the observation, that "eventually, without doubt, 
that representation of Christianity which has scripture, and/' 
it may be, *' antiquity for its basis ; which is simple in its nature, 
and comfortable to our best ideas of the Divine character and gov- 
ernment ; will every where prevail." 

On the subject of AJissiuns to the Heathen, I have only t© 
observe, that, if other Socinian writers had said nothing worse 
than Mr. Kentish, my remarks, on that subject, would not have 

Lastly, Mr. Kentish proceed-^ to consider, 



The principle which I assumed, at the outset of my inquiry ou 
this subject, was this, " If any man venerate the authority of scrip, 
ture, he must receive it as being lohat it prof esses to be, and for 
all the purposes for which it professes to be ivritten. If the scrip- 
tures profess to be divinely inspired, and assume the infalli- 
ble standard of faith and practice, we must either receive them as 
such, or, if v^e would be consistent, disown the writers as impos- 
tors." After stating this principle as the ground, or datum, of the 
argument, I proceeded to examine into the professions of the 
sacred writers. Now, I would ask Mr. Kentish, whether the 
above position be not unobjectionable as aground of argument ? Has 
it not the property which every ground of argument ought to pos- 
sess, that of being admitted, or admissible, by both parties ? And 
if so, why has he not joined issue upon it? I have no inclination 
to "view my opponent with the eye of jealousy and suspicion ;"* 
but what motive can be assigned for his passing over this ground, 
and substituting, in the place of it, such a definition of veneration 
tor the scriptures, as leaves out the ideas oi inspiration and infal- 
lihility ? It is true, he has used the former of these terms, but, 
it is manifest, that he considers the apostles in no other light than 
honest, well-informed historians. '' To venerate the scriptures," 
s«ys he, "is to receive and value them as containing a revelation 
of the will of God to man ; it is to investigate them with diligence 
and impartiality ; to interpret them fairly and consistently ; to be 
guided by the natural, plain, and uniform sense of them, in articles 
of faith and on points of conduct. — Then, it should seem, do we 
entertain a just and correct wiew of their inspiration, when we 
regard them as the writings of men, who derived from the very 
best sources of information their acquaintance with the history and 
doctrine of Christ; of men whose integrity is beyond all question ; 
of men who credibly relate facts and discourses, which either 
themselves witnessed, or which they deliver on the authority of 
the spectators and the hearers ; and who faithfully teach that word 
of God, with a knowledge of which they were furnished by their 
master, and by miraculous communications subsequent to his 

* Page 45. t Pages 38,39. 


Whether this representntion sufficiently expresses a proper ven- 
eration for the scriptures, is itself a matter of dispute, it is, there- 
fore, very improper for n ground of argumeni, and especially for 
being substituted in the place of a position that was liable to no ob- 
jection from any quarter. Why did not Mr. Kentish admit my 
general position, that, '* If any man venerate the authority of 
scripture, he mvst receive it as being rvliat it professes to be, and 
for all the purposes for which it professes to be written ;" and why 
did he not, on this ground, join issue in an examination of the pro- 
fessions of the sacred writers ? Such a conduct would have been 
fair and manly ; but that which Mr. Kentish has substituted in the 
place of it, is evasive, and unworthy of a candid reasoner. 

Mr. Kentish, having given us his opinion of the inspiration of the 
scriptures, and the veneration that is due to them, thus concludes, 
•* If this be to venerate the scriptures, our principles, I must be 
allowed to think, are far indeed from being unfriendly to such ven- 
eration.* What does this conclusion amount to, more than this, 
That, if his notions of divine inspiration may be admitted as a stand- 
ard ; why, then their veneration lor the scriptures will be found, 
at least in his opinion, to come up to it ? Assuredly, the rpiestion 
was not, whether the veneration which our op[)onents exercise 
towards the scriptures, ha such as corresponds with their own no- 
tions of their inspiration ; but, whether it agrees with the venera- 
tion which the scriptures themselves require. Mr. Kentish must 
excuse me if I remind him of the resemblance of his conduct to 
that of persons who, measuring themselves by themselves, ami com- 
paring themselves amongst themselves, are not wise. 

But further, 1 am not sure that Mr. Kentish's conclusion will 
follow, even from his own premises. There is so much disrespect 
discovered, in the writings of our opponents, towards the holy 
scriptures, (of which I have attempted to give evidence in my 
XI 1th Letter,) that even upon Mr Kentish's own professed views, 
they come miserably short of veneration. Mr. Kentish acknowl- 
edges, that veneration "consists in being guided by the natural 

32ii ^^ REPLY TO 

plain, and uniform sense of them, in articles of faith, and on points 
of conduct :" but the Monthly Reviewers assert, that " the 
nature and design of the scriptures' is not to settle disputed 
theories, nor to decide on controverted questions, even in re- 
ligion and morality — that they are intended, not so much to 
make us wiser, as to make us better ; not to solve the doubts, but 
rather to make us obey the dictates of our consciences."* And 
how are all the subtractions of Dr. Priestley to be reconciled with 
Mr. Kentish's criterion of veneration ? He supposes the sacred 
penmen to have written upon subjects " to which they had not 
ijiven much attention, and concerning which they were not pos- 
sessed of sufficient means of information." Mr. Kentish, it is true, 
may not be accountable for the assertions of the Monthly Review- 
ers, or of Dr. Priestley ; but then his conclusions should have 
been more confined : instead of affirming, that, '• if this be to ven- 
erate the scriptures, their principles are for from being unfriendly 
to such veneration," — he should only have asserted it with respect 
lo his own. 

My opponent proceeds : ^' But, if reverence of these sacred re- 
cords of our faith — is to be manifested by a dread of examining 
them, lest their doctrines be found in contradiction to our present 
opinions ; or by a blind acquiescence in the unavoidable inaccu- 
racies of transcribers, and in the no less unavoidable, but more in- 
jurious, errors of translators ; or by a bigoted opposition to every 
attempt toward an improved knowledge and version of them ; or by 
judging of the truths which they teach, rather from the sound of de- 
tached passages, than from the signification and tenor of the con- 
text ; such reverence we disclaim. Sincerely attached to the 
sacred volume, against such reverence we stedfastly prolest-j 

But how, if reverence to these sacred records should not consist 
in a dread of examining them ; or in a blind acquiescence in the 
inaccuracies of transcribers, and the errors of translators ; or in 
a bigoted opposition to any atte[npt toward an improved knowl- 
edge or version of them ; or in judging of the truths which they 

* xMonthly Review Enlarged, Vol, X. p. 357. t Pages 39, 40. 



leach, rather from the sound of detached passages, than ironi the 
gignitication and tenor of the context ! How, if this should prove 
to be a kind of reverence, tor \vhi( h i\Ir. Kentish's opponent does 
not plead any more than iiimself/ And how, if our objections 
should not be nsiain>t examination, but against the conclusion- 
which some persons draw; not against correcting, but corrupting 
the translation ; not against attending to the scope of the writers, 
' but against torturing them to speak contrary to their real inten- 
tions ? Will it not folloiv, in this case, that this '* stedfast protest" 
is against a nonentity, that this mighty triumph is over a man oi 
straw ? 

It is a usual way of writing, first to lay down a proposi- 
tion, and then to establish it by evidence. ]n this manner 
I have generally proceeded. Mr. Kentish in quoting ray lan- 
guage, has more than once taken simply the proposition, taking 
no notice of the evidence by which it is supported, and then 
accused me of dealing in peremptory assertions.* Such is his 
conduct in reference to what I have written on the tendency of So- 
cinianism to Infidelity.! Mr. Kentish is welcome to call the po- 
sitions which 1 have advanced " calumny," or by what other name 
he pleases ; let but the evidence with which they are supported be 
considered in connexion with them, and, if they will not stand the 
lest of examination, let them share the fate they deserve. 

As to what my opponent alleges concerning what it is that de- 
nominates any one a professing Christian, and his appeal to thr 
^cts of the ApostlesjJ I have already said what I judge necessary 
on that subject, in my reply to Dr. Toulmin; where also I have 
adduced some additional evidence of the tendency of Socinianism 
to Deism. 

I have only one more remark to make on Mr. Kentish: it re- 
spects the meaning of our Lord's words in John xiv. 28, My Fa- 
ther is greater than I. The sense which has commonly been put 
upon this passage, both by Trinitarians and Anti-Trinitarians, ap- 
pears to me to be beside the scope of the writer; nor is that oi 
Mr. Kentish, in my judgment, more plausible. I agree wjth him, 
*' that it is not the mere abstract doctrine of his Father's i^uperior- 
ity, which he designed to assert;" or rather, I think that it cxpres- 

♦ See pages 29, 35. t Page 40, Note. \ Tagc 4 J . 

Vol. II. 42 



$e? no comnRrison whatever between the person of the Father and 
that o^t'ie Son. The cornpiri>*on nppe.irs e\ iileiuiy, to me, to re- 
spect 'he state of exaltation zvith the Father, and the state of huinilia' 
tion vvhi 'h he then snstained. Jf ye loved ine, saith he. ye rvould 
rejoice because I said, I go to the Father ; for my Father is greater 
than I. — The ^h^vy and happiness which my Father possesses, 
anH which I go to possess with him. is greater than any thing I 
can Iiere enjoy: your hive to me, therefore, if it were properly 
regulated, instead of prompting you to wish to detain me here, 
womH rather incline yon to rejoice in my departure.* 

B-jt, though I disagree with Mr. Kentish in his sense of thig 
pa^sa^e of scripture, I perfectly agree with him in the general 
sentiment with which he concludes his performance: that ''the 
season may not be far distant, when systems which assume the 
Christian name, sh dl, like fabrics erected upon the*anc be over- 
thrown by a mighty fvdl" — but " that real Christianity has noth- 
ing; to fear." And 1 may add, that it is with sacred satisfa tion I 
anticipate the time, wlien all that exalteth itself against Christ, let 
it affect whose systems it may, shall utterly fall, and nothing shall 
be I'^ft standing, but the simple, unadulterated doctrine of the cross. 
I shall conchide my reply, to both Dr. Toulmin and Mr. Ken- 
tish, wiih a hv'ieV Reviezv of the Reviewers. What has fallen under 
my observation is contained in the Monthly and Analytical Reviezvs, 
and the Protestant Disse7iiers' Magazine. 

• In the Monthly Review Enlarged, my opponents had reason to 
expect, not merely a friend and patron, but a respectable and 
povverful dly. The managers of tiat work were parties in the 
controversy; as much so as Dr. Priestley, or Mr. Belsham, or Mr. 
Lin<lsev, or Mrs. Barbauld. They were called upon either to 
defend their allegations, or to relinquish them. But, like the late 
Empress of the North, by the allies, they have been a long time 
in raising their quota, and at last, have mustered up about half a 
dozen lines ! In these lines, which are given in a Review of Mr. 
Kentish's Sermon, they have, with a design suthciently apparent, 
preserved a sullen silence respecting the piece which gave occa- 

* See Calvin and Henry upon theplaof. 


sion toi it. '' From an iin[»arlial peru.-al of this sensible nnd \v» II- 
writteii digcourse," they tell us, •* the candid reader may perhaps 
apprehend, that the important objects of piety and virtue may be 
advanced on the Unitarian plan, ahhough he should not hitneolf 
embrace it."* 

Brief, caution?, and sullen, as this Review may appear, it is the 
best that my opponents can cither of them boa»>t. It is true, it 
contains merely opinion ; and that is expressed in very ueneral 
terms; but herein, for aught I know, may consist its exccllenry. 
The other Reviewers, as the reader will presently perceive, by 
descending to particulars, and attempting to back th**ir opinion 
with reasonincr^ have ruined the cause, and injured those whom it 
was their intention to serve. 

The Analytical Review of Dr. Toulmin's performance! is too long 
for insertion here. The substance of it amounts to no more than this: 
that (lie ground on which I have conducted the controversy^ is not a 
fair one. But this implies a reflection on the wisdom of Dr. 
Totilmin, for pretending to mpet me upon thi*; ground; and a still 
greater retlection upon iMr. Kentish, for engaging upon it, and 
acknowledging, that, *' in religion, the maxim, Ye shall know them 
by their fruits, is a maxim unquestionably of high authoiity, evi- 
dent reason, and familiar application;" yea, more: that it is a cri- 
terion "by »vhich the world will judge concerninir the natural 
influence of our religious opinions." It also implies a conviction, 
on the part of the Reviewer, that his cause is lost. Like a second 
in a duel, he informs the world that it is no wonder his friend has 
fallen, for he fought upon unfair ground ! 

If this review has been of any use to Dr. Toulmin, it is by an 
attempt to cover his retreat. By raising an outcry, against the pro- 
fessed ground of the controversy, a kind of apology i*^ lornMMJ for 
its being shifted; and the reader's attention is insensibly turned off 
from the Doctor's false reasoning, and reconciled to what he has 
advanced, foreign to the subject, from the Acts of the Apostles. 
Bui, whatever srrvirr rnijrhl Ix- alVordrd by this, it ifl all undone 

Kevipw lor January, I7'.»'., p. i 18. Article 74. 
' Rrvirw forO<tnhrr. 170«. pp n<)4_*^06. 


by what follows: for, after having raised an outcry against reason- 
ing on the ground of moral tendency, he discovers an inclination 
to make the utmost use of it that he is able. As Dr. Toulmin, not- 
withstanding his shifting the ground of the argument, has no objec- 
tion to exhibit all the morality on his side, that he can muster up; 
go neither has the Analytical Reviewer any objection to repeat it 
after him. The one can tell of their virtuous individuals, and the 
other can echo the account; though both ought to have known, 
that it is not from the character of individuals, but of the general 
body, that I proposed to reason. 

If the critique of the Analytical Review be weak, that in the Protes- 
tant Dissenter's Magazine is still weaker. This Reviewer observes, 
that " the method Dr. Toulmin has taken to show the moral ten- 
dency of Unitarian principles, is plain and solid ; it is one recom- 
mended by his antagonist, an appeal to facts. He examines every 
specimen of apostolical preaching recorded in the Acts of the Apos- 
tles ; each of which, he endeavours to show, is in unison with 
Unitarian sentiments. From this, the inference is very clear, that 
the world was converted, and the sinners of mankind were brought 
to faith and repentance, by the preaching of the simple Unitarian 
doctrine ; directly contrary to what Mr. Fuller has advanced, that 
" Socinian writers cannot pretend that their doctrine has been used 
to convert profligate sinners to the love of God and holiness."* 

Dr. Toulmin has appealed to facts ; and it seems the writer of 
this article does not know but that they were facts in point. That 
they are not so, must be evident on the slightest reflection : for 
they can be of no use to Dr. Toulmin, unless he first prove, that 
the Apostles were of his sentiments : and, if this be proved, they 
can be of no use afterwards ; because the point in question is sup- 
posed to be decided without them. Whether Dr. Toulmin was 
aware of this, 1 shall not pretend to determine : it is evident, how- 
ever, that his afifecting to join issue in an appeal to facts,t has every 
property of ^ feint, or of an attempt to keep up the appearance of 
a regular, pitched battle ; while, in reality, he was atlecting a re- 
treat. But, whatever may be thought of Dr. Toulmin's acquainted- 

* Review for October, 1196, p. 394. t Page 6. 


uess or unacquaintedness with what he was doing, this writer appears 
to know nothing of the matter. He does not know, that the Doctor's 
repairing to the primitive Christians for examples of the conversion 
of profligates to the love of God and holiness, instead of proving 
^' the direct contrary" to what I had affirmed, affordtithe strongest 
eonfirmatiou of it. It did not occur to him, it seems, that, if Dr. 
Toulmin could have found, or pretended to find, examples near 
home, he Xi'onld not have ^one to so great a distance in search of 





A KEV'lEW of the Controversy between Mr. Vidler and Mr. 
Fuller, on the doctrine ofUniversal Salvation, in Twelve Letters 
to a Universaiist, being; prepared for the press, it was judged a fit 
opportunity for gratifying the wishes of many of Mr. Fuller's 
tViends, to reprint his Letters to Mr. Vidleron (hat subject. He 
was accordingly applied to, for bis permission, and returned the 
following answer : — " Mr. Vidler in a letter to me, signified hi? 
intention to print the whole controversy. As he has now, I should 
think, had sufficient time to fulful his proposal, and has not done 
it, you are at liberty to publish that part of it which belongs to me." 

The reader is requested to notice, that the first of these F^ettert^ 
appeared in the Evangelical Magazine for September, 1795, and 
the seven following ones in the Universalist's Miscellany, between 
July 1799, and July 1800 ; and, that owing to this circumstance; 
the 6rst Letter in the present series, was not numbered in that of the 
Universalist's Miscellany : but what is there called the frst. is 
here the second ; and so on throughout 

August 2, 1 802. 

Vol. U. 43 



Expostulations with Mr. Vidler, on his having embraced the doctrine of Uni- 
versal Salvation. 


Reasons for not continuing- the controversy, and replies to Mr. Vidler's objec- 
tion to the foregoing. 


Difficulties attending Mr. Vidler's scheme, and its ioconsistency with scrip- 


Replies and defences of former reasonings. 


Evidences of endless punishment. 


Replies to objeclions. 


An examination of Mr. Vidlers system, and his arguments in support of it. 


A farther examination of Mr. Vidler's scheme, with replies to his animad- 




My Dear Friend, 

It has afforded me some painful concern, to hear of your having 
embraced the scheme of Universal Salvation. When yoo 
were at K ? you appeared, to me, to be of a speculative dispo- 
sition. I have long thought such a turn of mind to be very advan- 
tageous, or very dangerous : persons of this description either 
make great advances in truth, or fall into great errors. I cannot, 
in this Letter, enter deeply into the controversy ; nor is there any 
necessity for it, as 1 am told, that Dr. Edwards' Answer to Dr. 
Chauncey is in your hands. I earnestly wish you mjiy read that 
piece with care, impartiality, and openness to conviction. I think 
you ought to have read it before you advanced your change of 
sentiment ; and 1 greatly wish you had : for, though I do not ques 
tion your openness to conviction, any more than that of any other 
person in your situation, yet I know something of wh:it is in man : 
I know it it is a very rare thing mhcn we have once openly disavow- 
ed a sentimenty to return to i7, and openly avow it again. There 
are many instances of people, clianging their principles, and there 
may have been instances of the other ; but I do not recollect any. 
False shame, supported by mistaken pride, forms here a very pow 

340 LETTERS TO |_Lktter I. 

erful temptation. The dread of being accused of versatility and 
indecision insensibly obtains such a dominion over the mind, as to 
blind it to one side of the argument, and to give efficacy to every 
thing that looks like argument, or the shadow of an argument, on 
the other. 

It is certainly a very serious matter, that we do not err in our 
ministrations. Error in a minister may affect the eternal welfare 
of many. I hope I may presume upon the friendliness of your 
temper, while I expostulate with you upon the subject. I will 
not be tedious to you ; but let me intreat you to consider the fol- 
lowing things : 

First : Whether your change of sentiment has not arisen from 
an idea of endless punishment being, in itself, unjust. If it has, 
consider whether this does not arise from diminutive notions of the 
evil of sin : whether you be not too much infected by sin yourself, 
to be a proper judge of its demerit : (a company of criminals 
would be very improper judges of the eqnity and goodness of a 
law which condemns them :) whether you do not hold a principle, 
from which it will follow that millions will be finally happy, who 
will not be indebted to either the grace of God or the death of 
Christ, for their happiness ; and, consequently, must have a heaven 
to themselves, not being able to join with those who ascribe 
theirs to God and the Lamb. For, if endless misery be unjust^ 
exemption from it must be the sinner's right., and can never be 
attrib jted io mercy ; neither could a mediator be needed to induce 
a righteous God to liberate the sinner, when he had suffered his 
full desert. In fine, consider whether you do not contradict your 
own experience. I think you have told me of your great distress 
of soul, arising from a consciousness of your deserving to be cast 
out of God's favour, and banished forever from his presence. 
Can you now say, that you did not deserve this ? Do you not 
deserve it still ? If you do why not others ? 

Secondly ; Consider whether the genius of the sentiment in ques- 
tion, he not opposite to that of every other sentiment in the Bible. 
Tli'^ whole tenor of scripture saith to the righteous, it shall he well 
with him ; and to the wicked, it shall be ill with him : but Univer- 
sal Salvation saith, not only to the righteous, but to the wicked, it 

Letter I.] MK- vmLEll. ,i4l 

shall be well at \\^{ with him. Do con-jider, whether you can find 
any one scripture truth that resembles it, in this respect. What 
doctrine, besides this, can you find in the Bible, that affords 
enrouragemcnt to a sinner going on still in his trespasses ; and 
which fiirni^hes ground for hope and joy, even supposing him to 
persevere in sin till death ? Instead of siding with God against a 
wicked world, as a servant of God ought to do; is not this siding 
with a wicked world against God, and encouraging them to believe, 
what they are apt enough to believe without encouragement, that 
thei/ shall have peace, thnui^h they add drunkninesx to thirst ? Wo 
is me. said an apostle, if I preach not the gospel? Jf an angel 
from heaven preach any other gospel, he is declared to be accur- 
sed! L>o seriously consider, whether the doctrine of Universal 
Salvation will not render your preaching another gospel. The 
gospel of Christ is good fidinirs to the meek, healing to the broken- 
hearted, and comfort to tlieni that mourn: but must not yours be 
good tidings to the proud and impenitent, and comfort to those 
whom the scriptures declare under condemnation and the curse ^ 
The gospel of Christ is a system of holiness ; a system entirely 
opposite to every vicious bias of the human heart ; a system, 
therefore, which no unrenewed heart embraces : he that helieveth 
that Jeans is the Christy is born of God. But the good news 
which you must publish, requires no change of heart, that it may 
be embraced ; being just suited to the wishes of an abandoned 

Thirdly : Consider, whether your ministrations, on this princi- 
ple, will not savour of who taught our first parents, Ye shall not 
surely die. If you should raise the hopes of the ungodly part of 
your audience, that, though they should live and die in iheirflthi- 
ncss, yet they «*hall nnibeflthif still: though they go down to the 
pit, yet it shall not prove bottomless ; liiough the worm may prey 
upon them, yet, at some period or other, it shall die ; and though 
they may have to encounter devouring fire, yet they shall not 
dwell in everlatting burnings : if, I say, you should raise such 
hopes ; and if all, at last, should prove a deception : think how 
you will be aide to look them in the face another day ; and w hat is 
ftill more, how you will hr able to look Him in the face, who bath 

.342 LETTERS TO, &c. [Letter I. 

charged you to be fret from the blood of all men; and to 
sai/ unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him ; for the reward of his 
hands shall be given him ! 

My dear friend ! do not take it unkindly. My soul is grieved 
for you, and for the souls of many «round you. How are you as 
to peace of mind, and communion with God ? Beware of the 
whirlpool of Socinianism. From what I understand of the nature 
and tendency of your principles, it appears to me, you are already 
within the influence of its destructive stream. All who hold this 
sentiment, I know, are not Socinians ; but there are few, if any, 
Socinians, who do not hold this sentiment ; which is certainly of a 
piece with their whole system. It would greatly rejoice my heart 
to be able to acknowledge you, as heretofore, my brother, and fel- 
low labourer in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Do let me hear from 
you, and believe me to be 

Yours, &c. 

Feb. 14, 1793. A. F, 




In the year 1793, when f understood that you had imbibed the 
doctrine of Universal Salvation, I wrote you a private exposlulatory 
letter, to which you returned no answer. You speak of this let- 
ter as being no secret in the circle of my acquaintance, I do not 
think it was shown to more than two or three individuals. Some- 
time after, as a request was made in the Evangelical Magazine, for 
some thoughts on that subject ; and as there was nothing private 
m the contents of that loiter, 1 took the liberty to send il up for 
insertion. Accordingly, it appeared in the Magazine for Septem- 
ber, 1795, under the signature of Gaius. To this Letter you have 
since written an answer, in the two first numbers of your Mis- 
Gellany: I received, from you, a copy of those numbers, at the time, 
and, since then, another of the second edition; for both of which 
I thank you. To this I made no reply. In your second edition, 
you inform your readers of the casre, and seem to wish much to 
know the reasons of my silence. Some of your friends in the 
country, possessing a little of the sanguine temper, perhaps, of 
your Birmingham correspondent, appear to have entcrtaineda 
hope, that it was owing to the impression which your Letters had 
made upon my mind. If such be also your hope, I can only say. 
it has no foundation. 

Whether the reasons of my silence be "cogent," or not, the 
reader will judge, when I have stated them. If I do not consider 
them as requiring a continued silence, it is because you have com 

344 LETTERS TO [Letter II, 

pelled me to pursue a flifferent conduct. To the best of my recol- 
lection, I had three reasons for not writing at that time : — 

First : 1 did not know that it would be agreeable to you to insert, 
in your Miscellany, what I might write upon the subject; and 
though I considered the Evangelical Magazine as a suitable work for 
the introduction of a single piece, yet it did not appear to be a pro- 
per vehicle for a continued discussion, unless what was said on both 
sides were introduced. 

Secondly : Though I was not very deeply impressed with the 
force of your arguments ; yet, being fully persuaded, notwithstand- 
ing what you say of the holy uatureof your doctrine, that it needed 
only to be read by a certain description of people, in order to be 
imbibed ; and not supposing your work to have a very extensive 
circulation at present, I thought it might be as well to let it alone. 
You may consider this, if you please, as an acknowledgment of the 
weakness of my cause. 

Thirdly: Your two letters appeared, to me, to contain so many 
misapprehensions, and such a quantity of perversion of the plain 
meaning of scripture, that I felt it a kind of hopeless undertaking to 
go about to correct them. 

I do not entertain a mean opinion of your talents ; but they are 
perverted by a system. You write as though you did not under- 
stand the plain meaning of words. I should not have thought, 
that, by saying, " I observed you to be of a speculative disposition," 
I should either have puzzled or offended you. I certainly did not 
mean, by that form of speech, either thatyou discovered a disposition 
'* not to take the assertions of men as the rule of your faith," on 
the one hand ; or any particular " want of respect towards the sa- 
cred writings," on the other. 1 should not have thought of using 
such modes of expression to convey either of these ideas. If you 
choose to pay yourself such a compliment, or load yourself with 
such a censure, you are at liberty to do so j but do not attribute 
either of them to me. You might have supposed, that I meant to 
exhibit no very heavy charge, nor, indeed, any charge at all, under 
this form of expression ; seeing I added, that such a turn of mind 
might be very adcantageousy as well as very dangerous." 

Letter H.J MR. \II)/.I:K. 345 

In suggesting, that " it is a serious niattcr, tliat \v<» err not in 
our ministrations," 1 did not mean, either to take it for grante*! 
that you were in an error, or to prove that yoti were so ; but, 
merely to bespeak your serious attention to tlu- subject. Vour 
stumbling at the threshold, in this manner, Sir, afforded but little 
hope, that, if I wrote, it would produce any other effect than a 
wrangle of words, for which I had neither time nor inclination. 

The three questions which I put to you, and " entreated you 
to consider," were, it seems, totally irrelative to the subject, 
equally so as to ^' the doctrine of election :" yet you thought 
proper to oflfer answers to some parts of them, as well as to pass 
over others. Waving, for the present, the consideration of those 
parts which you have noticed, I shall remind the reader of a few 
things which you have not noticed, and leave him to judge, whether 
even they were totally irrelative to the subject. 

You have not told us, that 1 recollect, wiiether you claim an 
exemption from endless punishment as a right ; but seem to wish 
us to think that this is not your ground ; especially, as you ascribe 
it to the death of Christ : (p. 10.) yet, in other parts of your Mis- 
cellany, I perceive thegift of Christ itself is considered as a repar- 
ation for an injury : (p. 69.) which affords but too plain a proof, 
that, notwithstanding all you say of grace and love, it is not on the 
footing of grace, but debt^ that you hold ^vith Uiiiveisa! Salvation. 

Under the second question, you were askod, " Whut doctrine. 
beside that of Universal Salvation, you would find in the Bible, 
which affords encouragement to a sinner, going on still in his tres- 
passes ; anil which furnishes uronnd for hope and joy, even sup- 
posing him to persevere in sin till death ?" To this you have 
given no answer. Was thi-* (piestion equally irrelative to the sub- 


ject, as to the doctrine ofelecti 

Under the third cpjestion. you were addressed as follows : — '' If 
you should raise the hopes of (he ungodly part of your audience, 
that, thou:;h they should live and die in their fillhiness, yet they 
shall not hv. filthy still ; though they go down to the /)tV, yet it shall 
not piove bottomless ; though the worm prey upon them, yd, at 
some period or other, it shall die ; and, though they may have to 
encounter devouring f re, yet they shall not dwell with (irrlasting 
burnings : if, 1 say, you should raise such hopes ; and if all, at 

Vol. II. 44 


last, should prove a deception ; think how you will be able to look 
(hem in the face another day ; and, what is still more, how you 
will be able to look Him in the face, who hath charged you to he pure 
from the blood of all men!'''' Was this equally irrelative to the subject, 
as to the doctrine of election ? Yet to no part of this have you given 
any answer, except your attempting to explain away the terra ever- 
lasting may be so called. You represent the whole of this third 
question as proceeding on the supposition of your denying all 
future punishment. But is not this a gross misrepresentation ? 
Does not the whole foregoing passage allow that you admit of 
future punishment of a limited duration ; and hold up, though not 
in the form of arguments, several scriptural objections to that no- 
tion ? I consider this, Sir, as a farther proof of your talents for 
fair and plain reasoning being perverted by a system. 

You appeal to the scriptures, and contend, that they no where 
teach the doctrine of endless punishment : yet you are aware that 
they appear to do so, and are obliged to have recourse to a meth- 
od of weakening the force of terms, in order to get rid of them. 
It has been long the practice of writers on your side of the ques- 
tion, to ring changes on the words aion and aionios, — pretty words, 
no doubt ; and, could they be proved to be less expressive of end- 
less duration than the English words everlasting and eternal, they 
might be something to the purpose ; but, if not, the continual re- 
currence to them is a mere affectation cf learning, serving to mis- 
lead the ignorant. Be this as it may, this is an exercise which 
hardly becomes you or me. I shall only observe upon it, that, 
by this method of proceeding, you may disprove almost any thing: 
you please. There are scarcely any terms, in any language, but 
what, through the poverty of language itself, or the inequality of 
the number of words to the number of ideas, are sometimes used 
jn an improper or figurative sense. Thus, if one attempt to prove 
the divinity of the Son of God, or even of the Father, from his 
being called Jehovah, God, ^c. you may reply, that the name Je- 
hovah is sometimes given to things ; as, to an altar, a city, and, 
once, to the church; therefore nothing can be concluded, from 
hence, in favor of the argument. Thus, also, if one go about to 
prove the omniscience of God, from its being declared that Ai« un- 

Let I EH II. J MR. VIDLER. 247 

derstanding is infinite; you might answer, The term " inhnile'" 
is sometimes used to express only a very great degree; as when 
tlie strength of Ethiopia and Egypt is said to have been infinite. 
(Nnhiim iii. 9.) Again: If one endeavor to prove the endle.-s ex- 
istence of God, from his being called the eternal God, thfe everlmt 
ing God, &.C. or the endless duration of the heavenly inheritance, 
from its being called the eternal life, an inheritance incorruptible, 
and that fndeth not mray; you might answer, Thrse terms arc 
sometimes used to siiniity only a limited duration; and, that a 
thing, in common language, is said to be incorruptible , when it 
will continue a long time without any signs of decay. 

The question is, Could stronger terms have been usedy concern- 
ing the duration of future punishment, than are used? To olject 
against the words everlasting, eternal, &lc. as being too weak, or 
indeterminate in their application for the pur[)ose, is idle, unless 
others could be named which are stronger, or more determinate. 
What expressions could have been used, that would have placed 
the subject beyond dispute ? You ordinarily make use of the term 
endless, to expre-^s onr doctrine: it should seem, then, that if we 
read of endless punishment, or punishment without etid^ you would 
believe it. Vet the same objections might be made to this, as to 
the words everlasting, eternal, kc. It is common to say of a lo- 
cpiacious person, He is an endless talker: it might, therefore, be 
pretended, that the term endless is very indeterminate; that it often 
means no moie than a long time; and, in some instances, not more 
than three or four hours at longest. Thus you see, or may see, 
that it is not in the power of language to stand before such meth- 
ods of criticising and r»>a-()ning, as those on which you buil i your 

Admitting all that yoti allege in favor of the limited sense of the 
above terms, still the nature; of the subject, the connexion and 
■•cope of the passages, together with the use of various other forms 
of expression, which convey the same thing, are sufficient to prove, 
that, when applied to tho doctrine of future punishment, they are 
to be understood without any limitation. 

If we read of a disease cleaving to a man for ever, the plain 
meaning i^. to the nul of his lifr: if «if nn merlastin^ priesthood, the 


meaning is, one that sIjouIcI continue to the end of the dispensation 
of which it was an institute: if of everlasting hills, or mountains, 
the meaning is, that they will continue till the end of the rrorld: 
but if, after this world is ended, and successive duration conse- 
quently terminated, we read, that the wicked shall go away into 
everlasting punishment, and that in the same passage in which it 
is added, but the righteous hdo everlasting life; (Matt. xxv. 46.) wo 
be to the man who dares to plunge into that abyss, on the pre- 
sumption of finding a bottom ! 

The evidence which you offer of a successive duration, after this 
period, is a proof of the scarcity of that article in the paths which 
you are in the habits of tracing. A plain, unbiassed reader of scrip- 
ture would have sapposed, that the terms day and nighty in Rev. 
xiv, 11, had been a figurative mode of expression, to denote perpe- 
tuity; and especially as the same language is used by the inhabit- 
ants of heaven, Chapter vii. 15. For my part, I confess, I should 
as soon have dreamed of proving, from what is said in Chapter xxi. 
21 — " The nations of them that are saved, shall walk in the light 
of the New Jerusalem," that mankind will maintain their present 
political distinctions in a future state, as of founding, upon such lan- 
guage, the idea of successive duration. Your expositions on other 
parts of the Revelations are of the same description, as frigid as 
they are puerile. It is a. wonder the New Jerusalem coming down 
from heaven, had not been supposed to have fallen into the sea, and 
to filled it up; and an argument been drawn from its great dimen- 
sions, of its being large enough to contain the whole human race. 
You must not be surprised, Sir, if I do not perceive the force of 
these passages, in proving, that all beyond the last judgment is nol 
proper eternity. Yours, &c. A. F. 

July, 1799. 

LETTER 111. 

ruFFirur.TiKs attending mr. vipler s scheme, v\d its incon- 



You complain, more th(in once, of my not understanding the 
subject against which I write ; and here, for aught I see, I must 
fall under. I confess I do not, nor can I understand what it is 
that you believe. Having heard and seen so much of your profes- 
sing to hold the doctrine of Universal Salvation, Universal Resti- 
tution, and that "all men will be finally benefitted by the death of 
Christ," i really thought you had meant so ; and could not have 
imagined, that, with these pretensions, you would have avowed 
the notion of annihilation. Hence it was, that in my third ques- 
tion, though I did not, as you allege, proceed upon the supposi- 
tion, of your denying all future punishment, yet, 1 acknowledge, 1 
did proceed upon the supposition that you hold with no other 
future punishment than what should terminate in everlasting 
life. And who could have thought otherwise ? After all the 
information you have since given me, I am still so ignorant, as 
not to understand how all men are to be finally saved, and yet a 
part of them annihilated ! Neither can 1 comprehend how there 
can come a time with sinner'^, when he that made them will not 
have mercij upon them, on the supposition, that all punishment^ of 
nil degrees and dnrution, is itself an exercise of mercy, (p. 10.) 

Neither can I comprehend how you reconcile many things in 
your scheme with the holy scriptures. I have been used to un- 
derstand the terms death and perish^ being opposed to everlasting 
life, (John iii 16. x. 28.) as expressive, not of the loss of being, 
but of well-being. But with you they signify annihilation, (p. 42.) 
The design of God. it seems, ingivir)g his Son to sulVer for us, was 

350 LETTERS TO [Letter Hi. 

not to save us from suffering, but merely from becoming extinct, 
and to perpetuate our existence. And the death which those who 
keep his sayings shall never taste, (John viii. 62.) means the same 
thing : they shall exist for ever ; a blessing which your scheme 
makes equally applicable to many who do not keep his sayings as 
to those who do. And where do you find the above terms used to 
convey the idea of annihilation on any other subject; and from 
whence was this notion learned ?* 

When we are lold that God will not contend forever, neither will 
he be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before him, and the 
souls which he hath made, (Isa. Ivii^ 16,) I supposed it had been 
meant only of them who, in the context, are said to put their trust 
in the Lord; and that in the present life, seeing it was promised 
them that they should possess the land, and inherit his holy mounlnin: 
of them who were of a contrite and humble spirit, and not of the 
wicked, who are likened to the troubled sea, for whom there is no 
peace: but you consider all these promises as belonging to the 
same people as the threatening in Chapter xxvii. 16. He that made 
them will not have mercy upon them, and he that formed them will 
show them no favour! 

I observe, when such terms nsfor ever seem to favor your cause, 
they are to be taken in their utmost latitude of meaning. If it had 
been said of the Divine Being, he will contend for ever, you would 
have introduced your sing-song of aionas and aionon,] as some- 
times meaning only a limited duration; but seeing it is said he will 
7iot contend for ever, here the word must be understood of dura- 
tion without end. You must excuse me, however, if I for once 
avail myself of your critical labors, and remind you, that/or ever, 
in this passage, refers merely to the present life, as the context 
plainly shows. 

♦ The reader will perceive hereafter, that Mr. Fuller was mistaken, in pup- 
poaiog Mr. V idler to hold the doctrine of Annihilation ; this he acknowledgeb 
in Letter I v.— Ed. 

t Alluding to Mr. Vidler' a quotation in the Universalist's Miscellany, No. 
I. p. 8. 

Letter III.] MR. VIDLER. 351 

I never imagined, till I saw it in the writings of t niversalists, 
that finishing trangression, and making an end of sin, f Dan. ix. 24,) 
had any reference to what was to be done after the resurrection 
and the last judgment; and especially, since what is there predict- 
ed was to be accomplished within seventy wecks^ or four hundred 
and ninety years from the time of the prophecy. 

1 have been used to think, that the mediation of Christ was not 
on behalf of fdlen angels, whose nature he took not on him, of 
whose salvation the scriptures are silent, and whose own ideas are, 
that they have nothing to do with him. Matt. viii. 29. But, ac- 
cording to your reasonings, they also must be eitfier saved ©r an- 
nihilated; yea, they must have, at least, the offer of salvation, 
otherwise their present and future sufferings would not be in mercy, 
which you consider as belonging to all punishment whatever. 

It had been usual with me to think, that the triumph of mercy, 
in the day of retribution, as described in James ii. 13, Psalm Ixii. 
12. respected another description of people, than those who were 
to receive judgment vi'ithout mercy; namely, those (hat should S9 
speak^ and so do, as they that should be judged by the perfect law of 
liberty, but you have found out a scheme, it seems, in which these 
opposites are united in the same persons; and in which the un- 
godly, while re:eiving judgment without mercy^ have no judgment 
but what is in mercy, (p. 10.) Is it surprising. Sir, that a man of 
plain and ordinary capacity should be at a loss to understand such 
things as these ? 

It would not have occurred to me, that an argument could have 
been drawn, from the threatenings of God to Israel in the present 
life, (Lev. xxv.) to what shall be done to the ungodly world in the 
life to come; yet so it is: (p. 43 ) and the ground on which the 
analogy is justified, is the immutability of the divine character. 
But what the immutable character of God requires to be done, 
must be done alike in all ages, and to all people : whereas, what 
was there threatened to Israel, was not done at the same time to 
other nations, nor has it been done since to any nation beside thorn. 
(Amos iii. 2. Acts xxvii. 30.) There is nothing in it analogous to 
his dealings with mankind, unle.<'8 it be the general idea of hii 
'• making use of natural evil to correct moral evil." This being 

352 LETTERS TO [Letter III. 

known to be the case on earth, you " cannot but think it must be the 
design of future punishment." Such is the whole of your argumenl, 
which you recommend to my " serious consideration !" But how, 
if, on the other hand, 1 should say, though natural evil be used on 
earth to correct moral evil, in society at large, yet it is not always 
sent for the purp se of correcting the parties themselves ? We have 
no proof that the men of Sodom were destroyed by fire, or Pha- 
raoh drowned in the sea, for their good: therefore, I cannot but 
think there is a similar design in future punishment. 

I always supposed, that the sense in which God is said to be the 
Saviour of all men. especially of them that believe, (p. 44.) was 
that in which the Apostle there puts his trust in him; namely, as 
the God of providence, whose care is extended to all his creatures, 
but especially to believers. 

I have read of the dispensation of (he fulness of times; but the 
idea never occurred to me, that these times were to be under- 
stood of ages beyond the last judgment. I have no doubt but the 
"gathering together in one, all things in Christ, which are in 
heaven, and which are on earth," will be accomplished, and that 
within the limits of time. If it be done, as you allow it will, (p. 10.) 
by the time " that he shall have put down all rule, and all author- 
ity, and power, and shall have subdued all things unto himself," it 
will be done by the time he shall have raised the dead, and judg- 
ed the world; for then is this work described as being accom- 
plished. (1 Cor. XV. 24.) 

In reading the account of the tiew heaven and neio earthy in the 
21st chapter of the revelation, I find, amongst other things, it is 
said, there shall he no more death; and afterwards, no tnore curse; 
but I should not have thought of these things being applied to the 
universe at large, but merely to the inhabitants of that blessed 
state ; and the rather, seeing it is said, in the same chapter, that 
the fearful, and the unbelieinng, and the abominable, and mnrderers^ 
and whoremongers^ and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liarSy shall 
have THEIR PART in the lake which burnethwith fire and brimstone, 
which is the second death. Neither could I have supposed it pos- 
sible, from such a representation of the second death, to conclude, 
that it consisted in annihilation. 

Letter III.J MR. VIDLER. 353 

By the times of the resfitution of all things^ (Acts iii. 21.) 1 have 
been used to understand ihv. limes of the resurrection and the last 
judgment : for that till llien, and no longer, will Christ be detained 
in the heavem. Whenever Christ descends from heaven, then, 
according; to Peter, will he the times of the restitution of all things ; 
but this will be previously, and in order to his raising the dead, 
and judging the world, (1 Thes. iii. IG.) Consequently, these are 
the times of which the Apostle speaks. The utter overthrow 
which will then be given to tlie kingdom of Satan,. by the general 
conflagration ; (2 Pet. iii. 12.) the destruction of the last enemy, 
death, by the resurrection ; (I Cor. xv. 23. 26.) and the final 
adjustment of human affairs, by the last judgment ; (Matt. xxv. 31 
— 46.) will be a restitution of all things : the empire of sin will be 
crushed, and the government of God completely restored. 

But the times in which your scheme is to be accomplished, 
must be after the tinal judgment ; for, from that period, there is an 
everlasting punishment for the wicked to endure, a lake of fire 
into which they are to be cast ; (Malt. xxv. 46. Rev. xx. 15.) and 
from which your restitution of all things is to recover them. Your 
restitution, therefore, and that of the scriptures, are not the same. 

You cannot conceive of a restitution of all things, and of sin 
being made an end of unless all the individu.ds in the creation be 
either reconciled to God, or annihilated : but what authority have 
you for such a construction of these terms ? Did the restoring of 
all things, on the Messiah's first appearance, (Matt, xxvii. 11.) 
include all individuals, as far as it went ? When God said lo Zed- 
ekiah, yind thou, profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day /.v 
come, rvhen iniquity shall have an end, did it mean (hat he should 
be either converted or annihilated ? (Ezek. xxi. 25.) And wh< n 
the same language is used of the ^ins of the people, (Chap. xxv. 
5.^ does it mean that liiey shouM be either converted or annihila- 
ted ? Rather, is it not manifest, that, by iniquitij having an end is 
meant, that the jterixtrators of it were brought to condign punish- 
ment, sh4it up in liabylon, as in a prison, and rendered incapable of 
doing farther mischief? Such will be the case with all the ungodly, 
at the second coming of Christ ; and this will be the restoration of 
peace, order, an<l happiness, to the rest of the univ<^rse- 
Vnr. II. 45 

.:J54 LETTERS TO [Letter IK. 

The doctrine of endless misery appears, to you, to "confound 
all degrees of punishment, in giving infinite punishment to all." 
(p. 42.) You, it seems, can conceive of no diversity of suffering, 
unless it be in duration. Will the reflection of lost souls on their 
past life, then, be all exactly the same ? — the same in the objects 
reflected on; and, consequently, the same in the intenseness of 
their misery ? How grossly absurd. Sir, must be your notions of 
future punishment, to admit of such an idea ! Besides, there is 
equal reason to. believe, that there will be different degrees of 
glory, as of misery. If heavenly bliss bear any relation to the 
labours and sufferings of the present life on behalf of Christ, which 
the scriptures assure us it does, (Matt. v. 12. 2 Cor. iv. 17.) 
these being diverse, that must also be the same. But, according 
to your reasoning, there can be no diversity, unless it be in dura- 
tion : either, therefore, all degrees of happiness, must be con- 
founded, in giving happiness to all ; or the inhabit ;nts of heaven, 
as well as those of hell, must, after a certain period, be continually 
diminishing by annihilation. 

Such, Sir, are your expositions of scripture. Except in the 
productions of a certain maniac in our own country, I never recol- 
lect to have seen so much violence done to the word of God in so 
small a compass. 

According to your scheme, all things work together for good to 
them that love not God, as well as to them that love him. Thus 
you confound what the scriptures discriminate. 

Our Lord told the Jews, that, if they believed not that he was 
the Messiah, they should die m their sinsy and whither he went 
they could not come: (John viii. 21.) but, according to your 
scheme, they might die in their sins, and yet be able to go whither 
he wont, and inherit eternal life. 

The scriptures describe a sort of characters who shall be expo- 
sed to a certain fearful looking for of judgment: (Heb. x. 27.) but 
this, according to your scheme, can be nothing more than annihi- 
lation. For, as the case of the characters described is suggested 
to be irrevocable and hopeless, they cannot be punished, during 
ages of ages, in a rvay of mercy, or with a view to their recovery : 
and as to their being punished during this long period, and, in the 

Letter III.] MR. VIDLEU, -5^ 

end, anniliilatcd, this would be contrary to all your irfeas of punish- 
ment, which must always have its foundation in mercy. Hence it 
follows, that all this fearful lookin* for of jud-^ment amounts to no 
more than what Atheists and Lilidels generally prefer ; death 
bein^z, to them, an everlasting sleep. 

Nor is your hypothesis less at variance with itself, than with 
the holy scri[)liiros. Your notion of temporary punishment clashes 
with all your arguments drawn from the benevolent feelings of a 
good man. You ask, " Doth not every ^ood man love his ene- 
mies, and forgive even the worst of thetn ■ Is there a man living, 
whose heart is filled with the love of God, that would not pro- 
mote the best interest of his most inveterate foe, if it lay in his 
power ? And has not God niore love than the best of men ? And 
are not his wisdom and hia power equal to his love ?" (p. 7**-) 

In return, I ask, Is there a mm iivinir, whose heart is fille<l 
with the love of God, who would be willing that his worst enemy 
should be cast into hell for ages of ages, or for a single age, or even 
a single day, when it was in his power to deliver him from it ? Init 
God hath more love than the best of men ; and his wisdom and 
power are equal to his love : consequently, there will bf. no fu- 
ture punishment ! 

Your notion of annihilation will also contradic I the L!:rtatei- part 
©fyour pretensions. You talk of imir^rsa/ salvatioi» ; but yi)u do 
not believe it : for a part ol the human race are to be given up, a« 
incurables, to annihilation. You j)lead the 5th chapter to the Ro- 
mans, in fivour of your doctrine ; contending that j««f(/fca<ion 0/ 
life will be as extensive as cundtmnation : but you believe no such 
thing ; for a part of those who are condemned, instead of being 
justified and saved, will be given up as incurables, to annihilation. 
You think you see times beyond the last judgment, in which all 
things, or, rather, as you understand it, all persons, are to be gath- 
ered together m Christ, and reconciled by the blood of his cross : 
howbeit, you mean not so, neither doth your heart think so ; for a 
part of then» will be struck out of existence, who can, therefore, 
be neither gathered nor reconciled. You pretend to unite the 
opinions of Ciilvinists and Armini.ins : the former, you say, ren- 
der the denlh of ( lirist effectual, hut limit its design to a part of 


innnkind ; the latter tender it to all, but consider it as ineffectual ; 
while you maintain, that it is designed for all, and effectual to all. 
(pp. 70, 71.^ But this is mere pretence : you believe no such 
thing; for a part of mankind are to be, at last, annihilated. By 
an anecdote which you have inserted in p. 65 of your Miscellany, 
you flatter yourself that you have fastened a difficulty on a Mr. 

U , from which he cannot extricate himself, but by embracing 

your doctrine. But neither could he, if he did embrace it ; for 
you no more believe that God will save all mankind, than Mr. 
R . 

You pretend to urge it, as a difficulty on me, that " either God 
cannot or will not make an end of sin ; that there is not efficacy 
enough in the blood of Christ to destroy the works of the devil ; 
or else, that the full efficacy of the atonement is withheld by the 
divine determination :" (p. 44.) But it is all pretence. If it be a 
difficulty, it equally bears upon your own hypothesis, as upon 
mine. If Christ died with an intention to save all, why are not all 
saved ? Why must a number of them be annihilated ? Is it be- 
cause God cannot bring them to repentance and salvation ; or be- 
cause he will not ? Is there not efficacy enough in the blood of 
the cross to destroy the works of the devil, without his having re- 
course to a mere act of power ; an act which might have been 
exerted without that blood being shed ? Or is the full efficacy of 
the atonement withheld by the divine determination ? 

Yours, Sic. 

August 9, 1799. A. F. 

LKTTEIt l\. 



I MUST be very weak, if, while writing in a publiration, of whicli 
my opponent is the Editor, I should expect to have the last word. 
When I have said what a()pears, to me, necessary on any point, and 
on the whole matter of dispute, I shall leave it to the judgment oi 
the candid reader. 

From a y thing I had advaiiced, you had no ground to conclude, 
that I formed an improper estimate of my own i:eputation. Any 
man, who has been in the habit of writing, and whose writings 
have been at all regarded by the public, must be possessed of 
some reputation ; and, whether it be small or great, it is his duty 
not to make use of it for the propagation of what he believes to be 
pernicious error. 

*' Truth," you say, *' courts the public observation of men :" 
and so may error. If it be true, that wisdom crieth in the top of 
high places ; it is equally true, that folly is loud and stubborn. The 
advocates of Infidelity, Sir, are not less bold than yourself; nor 
less loutl in their challenges of examination. Such challenges 
aflford no criterion of truth : nor is it any proof of the goodness of 
a cause, that its abettors court the public attention. They may 
be well aware, that public prejudice is in their favour ; or may 
entertain a much greater dread of sinking into insignificance, by 
neglect, than of being overcome m the fiold of contest. 

You have repeatedly reminded mc of the favour which you con- 
fer upon me, by permitting my |)apers to appear in you Miscella- 
ny. Now, Sir, I consider it as no favour at all ; nor as affording 
any proof of your impartiality. If you think otherwise, yo»i ar^ 

358 LETTERS TO [Letter IV. 

at perfect liberty, after introducing this series of Letters, to disr 
continue them. If I wish to write any thing farther on the subject, 
I shall not be at a loss for a proper medium. 

*' The prejudices of both professor and profane," you tell me, 
'• are in my favour." Had you used the term consciences, instead 
of prejudices, you would have been nearer the truth. So far as 
my observations extend, the prejudices of the bulk of mankind are 
on the other side. Deists and hbertines lead the way, by an open 
or aftected rejection of all future punishment. Socinians, who 
generally include Universal Salvation in their scheme follow hard 
after them. Mrs. Barbauld, if I remember right, in her Remarks 
on Mr. Wakefield's Inquiry, goes so far as to represent the ideas 
of access to God through a mediator, and of punishment in a bot- 
tomless pit, as originating in the ignorance and servility of eastern 
customs. Unbelievers, it is well known, rejoice in the spread of 
Socinianism, as being favorable to their views ; and Socinians rejoice 
no less in the spread of Universalism, as favourable to theirs. This 
is sufficiently manifest, by the applauses which writers on your side 
commonly meet with in the Monthly Review. There are great num- 
bers of nominal Christians, of loose characters, %vho would be glad to 
believe your doctrine of temporary punishment, and to proceed, by 
easy transition, to that of no punishment at all ; nor is there 
any bar which prevents their falling in with these views, but the 
remonstrance of their consciences. They fear it is too favoura- 
ble to their vices to be true; and, therefore, are deterred from 
embracing it. Such, Sir, is the " description of people," after 
whom you inquire ; such is the company with whom you associ- 
ate, and to whom you administer consolation : and such is the just- 
ness of your remark, that " the prejudices of both professor and 
profane are in my favour." If you yourself had not been persua- 
ded of the contrary, I question whether you would have given that 
title to my two first Letters, which appears on the blue covers of 
your work.* The word torments, it is true, can give no just 
offence, as it is a scriptural expression : yet, to persons who 
judge on these subjects merely by their feehngs, the ideas convey- 

* "Letter I. from Mr. A. Fuller, in defence o( eternal torments.''" 

Lr.TTER IV.] MR. VIDLER. 35.. 

ed by it, are sufTicient to prejudice them agjiinst every thing which 
a writer may advance. 

Your Magazines, Sir, I presume, wouIjI he less acceptable to 
many of your readers than they are, if, instead of employing 90 
large a portion of them in attempting to prove that all will be 
finally happy, you were frequently to insist, that some men would 
be tormented in hell, without any mixture of mercy, for a num- 
ber of ages ; and if you insisted on this doctrine also, in your pul- 
pit exercises, you yourself mi;;ht possibly be considered, as a 
** brawler of damnation." 

You carefully avoid claiming universal salvation as a right, and 
are pleased to represent my inquiry on that subject as '* a quib- 
ble.** 1 am not surprised, Sir, that you should feel reluctant on 
this hear! : that you should decline the defence of your friend, 
and that you should alternately compliment and reproach your 
opponent, as if to keep him at n distance from the subject. (No. I. 
p. 5. No. XXXIV. p. 309. If I mistake not, this is a fundamental 
principle in your system, and that which proves it to be fundamen- 
tally wrong. There is no need of having recourse to the pieces of 
other writi^rs ; your own productions afford sufficient evidence. 
that the salvation for which you |dead, is not that which arises 
from the free grace ofGod tlirough Je«us Ciirist : and, consequently, 
that is no part of the salvation revealed in the gospel. You reject 
the i'lea of invalidating the divine threateiiin^s towards sinners, 
(No. XXXIV. p. .310.) admitting " them in their full latitude, and 
the execution of them too ;" maintaining, that " God will deal with 
his creatures arrording to character ;" and that " sinners will be 
punished according to their works." (^No. II. p. 42.) Now, Sir. 
if there be :\ny meaning in all this language, it is, T\v,\t Justice will 
have itx course on the ungodly ; and that whatever ptinishment 
they endure, whether it be vindictive or corrertive, endless or 
temporary, it is all that their sins deserve. If the threatenings of 
God mean no more thnn a [xinishment whirh is tem[)orary, and for 
the good of sinners, their conduct can deserve no more: for we can- 
not have a more certain ruleofestimatingthejust demerit of sin, than 
the wratlr ofGorl which is revealed from heaveo against i». Ftit il 

360 LETTERS TO [Letter IV. 

sinners endure the full desert of their sin, there is no room for 
grace, or undeserved favour ; nor is any place left for the work of 
mediation. A criminal who has suffered the full penalty of the 
law, has no right to be told, that liberation is an act of grace, or, 
that it was owing to the mediation of another. Your Universal 
Salvation, therefore, is no part of that which arises from the grace 
of God, or the death of Christ ; nor is it, properly speaking, salva- 
tion at all, but a legal discharge, in consequence of a full satisfac- 
tion to divine justice being made, by the sufferings of the sinner. 

If you contend, that the liberation of the sinner is owing to the 
grace of God, through the mediation of his Son, which mitigates 
and shortens his punishment, then you at once give up all you have 
before maintained ; That sinners will be punished according to 
their works, and that the threatenings of God will be fully execu- 
ted upon them. You may have read of •' instances of both pun- 
ishment and pardon to the same person, and for the same sins :'• 
(No. XXXV. p. 327.) but this must be where the punishment has 
not been according to the desert of the sin ; otherwise there had 
been no need of pardon. 

You talk much of my dealing in ^^ suppositions , instead of argu- 
ments," and of my " resting my conclusions on unfounded assump- 

I have carefully examined these charges, and am unable to per- 
ceive the justice of them, in a single instance. Though the Let- 
ter which appeared in the Evangelical Magazine, was chiefly in the 
form of supposition, yet that supposition was not destitute of argu- 
ment to support it. It is possible. Sir, though it does not appear 
to have occurred to your mind, that arguments themselves may be 
conveyed under the form of suppositions. To convince you that 
this was the case, in the above Letter, I will put the very passage 
to which you object, into the form of argument. 

The scriptures teach us, that those who, at a certain period, are 
found Jilthy, shall be filthy still; that they shall be cast into that 
bottomless pit, which was prepared for the devil and his angels ; 
and that they shall dwell with everlasting burnings. 

But your doctrine teaches, that though they be filthy at death, 
or judgment, or any other period, yet they shall not be always so ; 

LettkrIV.] MR. VIDLER. 3(J2 

that though they be cast into the pit of destruction, yet it shall not 
prove bottomless ; and, that thou<;h they have to encounter ilevour- 
ing fire, yet they shall not dwell with everlasting burnings. 

Therefore, your doctrine is anti-scriptural. But, if your doc- 
trine be anti scriptural, it is of that nature which tends to deceive 
the souls of men ; and you will not be able to look them in the 
face another day, and still less Him who hath charged you to be 
pure from the blood of all men. 

The first three positions contain the argument, and the last the 

I should tliink, *' the world," or rather the reader, did not need 
to be informed, what argument there was in this string of supposi- 
tions ; if he did, however, I have attempted, at your request, to 
give him that information. 

With respect to building on " unfounded assumptions," for which 
I am accused of *' betraying my ignorance of the subject 1 have 
written against," (No. II. p. 4o.) you have given us two instances, 
which I shall briefly examine. 

First : I had asked, Wh it doctrine, besides that of Universal 
Salvation, will you find in the Bible, which affords encouragement 
to a sinner going on still in his trespasses; and which furni>hes 
ground for hope and joy, eyen supposing him to persevere in sin 
till death ? What principle is it that is here assumed ? VV' hy, 
(you answer,) that the doctrine of Universal Salvation does afford 
encouragement to a sinner going on still in his trespasses, and does 
furnish ground for hope and joy, even supposing him to persevere 
in sin till death. And is this indeed a question ? 1 took it for a 
self-evident truth, and supposed you must and would have acknowl- 
edged it. Whether you will, or not, however, 1 af)|>eal to the 
common sense of the reader, whether any po-^ition cm be more 
self evident than the following: If the scriptures teach that all 
men shall be finally saved, every sinner, whatever be his vicious 
courses, is encourairod to expect eternal life : and, though he 
should persist in sin till doath, is warranted to hope and rejoice, in 
the prospect of all beiiu: ^>ell with Inin at last. For any mm lo 
den^ this position, is to deny what. is self evident, and there can 
he no farther reasoning with him. To ajlege, in answer. Thai it 

Vo... }\. 4G 

362 LETTERS TO [Letter IV, 

will be always ill with the wicked while he continues so, is trifling: 
for, if the sinner be taught to believe, that at some future period 
beyond this life, he shall be delivered both from sin and punish- 
ment ; whether the former branch of this deliverance afford him 
joy, or not, the latter must. 

The same question, you say, might be asked, concerning the 
doctrine of election. It might ; but I should readily answer, No 
sinner, while going on in his trespasses, is warranted to consider 
himself as elected to salvation : therefore, that doctrine affords no 
ground of hope and joy to persons of this description. Can you 
say the same of the doctrine of Universal Salvation? If there 
were the same ground for an ungodly sinner to conclude himself 
elected, as your doctrine affords for his concluding that he shall be 
eternally saved, the cases would be parallel ; and both these doc- 
trines would be alike subject to the charge of comforting those 
whom God would not have comforted : but, as this is not true of 
election, your notion is still solitary, and your difficulty remain? 
where it was. All the encomiums which you pass upon the Uni- 
versal scheme, (No. II. pp. 41 — 44.) furnish not a single exam- 
ple of any other divine truth, which gives encouragement to a sin- 
ner, while in his sins, to believe, that in the end it shall be well 
with him. The question, therefore, still returns upon you, 
What doctrine, besides that of Universal Salvation, will you find 
in the Bible, which affords encouragement to a sinner going on still 
in his trespasses, and which furnishes ground for hope and Joy, even 
supposing him to persevere in them till death ? 

I do not Scty, " let the world judge," whether this question pro- 
ceeded on pny unfounded assumption, and whether it be equally 
applicable to election as to Univei*sal Salvation ; because I imagine, 
it will be but a very small part of the world that will examine our 
productions : bat I am willing to make my appeal to the intelligent 
and impartial reader. And with respect to you. Sir, the task 
which yc: have set youself is before you ; either, to *' confess it 
to be true," that your doctrine gives encouragement, hope, and 
joy to wick (id men ; or to "^expose the falsehood of this supposi- 
tion more fully." 

Letter IV. ] MR. VIDLER. 353 

In the second place, you charge me with " taking it for granted, 
that your views invalidate the divine threatenings towards sinners ; 
and intimate, that there is no *' reason" in what I say, but upon the 
supposition ol your denying "all future |njnishnicnt.'' (No. 11. 
p. 45.) That 1 never supposed you to deny, all future punibh- 
ment, I have already proved; and that any tliini; which I advanced 
required such a supposition, you have not, hitherto, made appear. 
As to your invalidating the divine threatenings, so far as the doc- 
trine of Universal Salvation appears, to mc, to operate in that way, 
■'O far, I must, of uecessity believe that you do : but, whatever 
may be my belief, the question is, Have 1 built any conclusion up- 
on it as an acknowledged truth? If so, how came I to entreat ijou 
to consider -whether it was not so ? Is it usual to entreat an opponent 
to consider, whether that which we take for granted as an acknowl- 
edged truth, be true ? Undoubtedly, I suggested this idea to you, 
as being my judgment ; which, however, I did not desire to im- 
pose upon you, any farther than as it was supported hf evidence ; 
and therefore, at the same time, intimated what was the ground of 
that judgment ; namely, the near resemblance Letn'een your labours, 
and to those of the deceiver of mankind. If you cannot perceive this 
resemblance, I cannot help it. Other people can, and will. He 
persuaded his auditors, that though they shouM transgress, yet the 
evil they had dreaded would not come upon them : they believed, 
and were not afraid to transgress. You persuade your auditors, that, 
though they should die in their sins, yet the evil will not be so 
great as they had been used to apprehend: God hath not said, 
Ye shall die eternally; and he means that you shaJI all come where 
Jesus is. If they believe, must they not be Itss afraid of trans- 
gression, than before ? 

And now. Sir, Who is ^* ignorant.^" and who has been employ- 
ed in " raising a dust to hide the truth ?'* are questions which I 
leave you to resolve. It is enough for me, If I have proved your 
charges to be unfounded ; for, if this be accomplished, your work 
still returns upon your hands ; as it will follow, that, notwithstand- 
ing all your challenges, and calling out for more to be written, you 
have not yet answered the first Letter. 

Yours, &c. 

\. J'. 

i.i:tter v. 


You seem to wish to persuade your readers, that the crounds ou 
which I rest my belief of the doctrine of endless punishment, are 
very slender. The truth is, I have not, at present, attempted to 
state those grounds Considering myself as not engaged in a for- 
mal controversy, I only introduced a few passages ; and to several 
of them you have, hitherto, made no reply. The principal grounds 
on which 1 rest my belief of the doctrine you oppose, are a^ 

follow : 

I. All those passages of scripture -ji'hick describe the future states 

rf men in contrast. 

" Men of the world, who have their portion in this life : I shall 
be satisfied when 1 awake in thy likeness. The hope of the right- 
cous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shalj 
perish.— The wicked is driven away in his wickedness : but the 
righteous hath hope in his death. And many of them that sleep in 
the dust of the earth shall awake ; some to everlasting lit>, and 
some to shame and everlasting contempt. He will gather his wheat 
mto the garner, and will burn up the chaiT with unquenchable tire. 
Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth lo destruction, 
and many there be who go in thereat; because strait is the gate, 
and narrow is the way, that lead.-th unto lite, and l.w there be that 
find it. Not every one that saith. Lord, Lord, si»all enter into the 
kingdom of heaven ; but he that doelh the vxill ot my Father who 
is in heaven. M <ny shall come from the eaht and west, and shall 
sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of 
heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into out- 
er darkness : therr- shall be weeping and gna>hmg of leeth. Gather 

366 LETTERS TO [Letter Y. 

ye first the tares, and bind them in bundles, to burn them : but 
gather the wheat into my barn. — The son of man shall send forth 
his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that 
offend, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a fur- 
nance of fire : there shall be wailing, and gnashing of teeth : then 
shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their 
Father. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that gathered 
fish of every kind ; which, Avhen it was full, they drew to the shore, 
and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad 
away. So shall it be at the end of the world ; the angels shall 
co'ne forth, and sever the wicked fr^om among the just, and shaH 
cast ihcm into the furnace of fire : there shall be wailing and gnash- 
ing of teeth. Blessed is that servant, whom, when his Lord cometh, 
he shall find so doing : but and if that evil servant should say in his 
heart. My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his 
fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, the lord of 
that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and 
shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypo- 
crites: there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Well done, 
good and faithful-servant; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. But 
cast ye out the unprofitable servant into outer darkness : there shall 
be weeping, and gnashing of teeth. — Then shall the king say unto 
them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the 
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: then shall 
he also say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, 
into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. — And 
these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous 
into everlasting life. — He that believeth and is baptized, shall be 
saved ; but he that believeth not shall be damned. — Blessed are ye 
when men shall hate you for the son of Man's sake. Rejoice ve in 
that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in 
heaven. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your 
consolation. — He that heareth my sayings, and doeth them, is like 
unto a man who built his house upon a rock; and when the flood 
arose, the storm beat vehemently against that house, and could not 
shake it ; for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and 
doeth not, is like unto a man who built his house upon the earth, 

Letter V.J MR. V IDLER. 3(^7 

against uhicli the storm did be:it vehemently, mikI iininediatt'ly it 
tell, and the ruin ol that house was great. God so loved the world, 
that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on 
bim, should not perish, hut have everlasting life. — All that arc in 
their graves shall come forth : they that have done good, unto the 
resurrection of life j ami they that have done evil, unto the resur- 
rection of damnation. — Hath not the potter power over the clay, ot 
the same Jump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto 
dishonour.? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make 
his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels ot 
wrath fitted to destruction : and that he might make known the rich- 
er of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared 
unto glory ? — The Lord knoweth them that are his. — But in a great 
house there are vessels to honour, and vessels to dishonour. — Be 
not deceived; God is not mocked : tbr whatsoever a man soweth, 
that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the 
flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the 
Spirit reap life everlasting. — That which beareth thorns and briars 
is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing ; whose end is to be burned. 
But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and thing"- 
which accompany salvation.'** 

I consider these passages a«i designed to express thk final 
STATES OF MEN ; w hich, if they be, is the same thing, in eflect, as 
their being designed to express the doctrine of endless punishment: 
for, if the descriptions here given of the portion of tho wicked 
denote ihe'xr final state, there is no possibility of another state suc- 
ceeding it. 

That the above passages do express thejinal states of men, may 
appear from the following considerations : 

1. The slate of the riuhtcous (which is, all along, opposed to 
that of the wicked,) is allowed to be final : and if the other were 
Bot the same, it would not have been in such a variety of forms, 
contrasted with it : for il would not be a contrast. 

♦ Psa. xvii. 14, 15. I'rov. x. '.*8. xiv. 32. Dan. xii. 2. Matt. ui. 12. vii. 
13, 14. '21. viii. U, r2. xiii. :J0. 40—43. 47— .^0. xxiv. 46—51. xxv. '2X 30. 34. 
41. 46. Mark. xvi. IG. Luke vi. 23, 24. 47. 49. John iii. 16. r. 29. Rom. ix. 
?!- 23. 2 Tim. ii. 19* ?0. Gnl. vi. 7, 8. Heb. vi. 8, 9. 

308 LETTERS TO [Letter V, 

2. All these passages are totally silent, as to any other state fol- 
lowing that of destruction, damnation, &,c. If the punishment 
threatened to ungodly men had heen only a purgation, or tempo- 
rary correction, we might have expected, that something like this 
would have been intimated. It is supposed that some, who are 
npon the right foundation, mny yet build upon it zvood, and hay^ 
and stubble ; and that the party sh;\\\ suffer loss ; but he himself 
shall be saved, though it be as by fire. Now, if the doctrine of 
Universal Salvation were true, we might expect some such account 
of all lapsed intelligences, when their futjre state is described! 
but nothing like it occurs in any of the foregoing passages, nor in 
any other. 

3. The phraseology of the greater part of them is inconsistent 
with any other state following that which they describe. On the 
supposition of salvation beinq; appointed as the ultirriate portion of 
those who die in their sins, they have not their portion in this life ; 
but will, equally with ^hose who die in the Lord, behold his right- 
eousness^ and be satified in his likeness. Their expectation shall 
not perish : but shall issue, as well as that of the righteous, in 
gladness : and, though driven away in their wickedness, j'et they 
have hope in their death, and that hope shall be realized. The 
broad way doth not lead to destruction, but merely to a temporary 
correction, the end of which is everlasting life. The chaff will 
not be burned, but tu^rned into wheat, and gathered into the gar- 
ner. The tares will be the same, and gathered into the barn ; 
and the bad fish will be turned into good, and gathered into ves- 
sels. The cursed, as well as the blessed, shall inherit the king- 
dom of God ; which also was prepared for them from the founda- 
tion of the world. There may be a woe against the wicked, that 
they shall be kept from their consolation for a long time, but not 
that they have received it. Those who, in the present life, be- 
lieve not in Christ, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This 
life also, is improperly represented as the seed time, and the life 
to como as the harvest, inasmuch as the seeds of heavenly bliss 
may he sown in hell : and though the sinner may reap corruption, 
as the frnit of all his present doings, yet that corruption will 
not be the opposite of everlasting life, seeing it will issue in it . 

Letter V.] Mil. \ IDLKII. 3gg 

Finally ; I'hoiigh they bear briurs and tfiorns, yet their f.nd is not 
to be burned, but to ohtniii salvation. To the foregoing scripture 
testimonies, may be added, 

n. >/// those passogt'S which speak of the diirntinn of future 
punishment , by the terms ''everlastings eternal, for ever, and for 
ever and ever ;" — 

'* Some shall awake to everlasting life, and some to shame and 
everlasting contempt. — It is better for thee to enter into life halt 
or maimed, than having two hands, or too feet, to be cast into ever- 
lasting fire. — Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire. — And these 
shall go away into everlasting punishment. — They shall be pun- 
ished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, 
and from the glory of his power. — He that shall blaspheme against 
the Holy Spirit, is in danger of (or subject to) e/erwa/ damnation. 
— The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha are set forth for an 
example, suffering the vengeance o^ eternal ^vc. — These are wells 
without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, to whom 
the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. — VV^aadering stars, to 
whom is reserved the blackness of darkness yor ever. — If any man 
worship the beast, or his image, and receive his mark in his fore- 
head, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine ol the wrath 
of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his 
indignation : and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in 
the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb : 
and the smoke of thoir torment ascendeth up for ever and ever : 
and they have no rest day nor night. — And tlicy said, Alleluia. 
And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. — And the devil that 
deceived them was cast into the lake of tire and brimstone, where 
the beast and the false prophet are ; and ghali be tornntited day 
and night/br erer and ever." '^' 

1 have not mentioned Isa. xxxiii. 1 L because 1 wish to intro- 
duce no passage, but what ^hall he allowed to refer to a future 
life. The Hebrew word D"?;', in Dan. xii. 2. answers to the Greek 
ttjc^v ; and, whatever may be said of the ambiguity of the term, the 
uUilhesis, in this passage, as in Matt. xxv. 46, determines it to 

♦ Dan. xii. C. Matt, xviii 0. xxv. 41—46. 2 Thes. i. 9, Mark iii. 29 
liideT. 2 I'rter ii. l7. .IuJp 1:1. R'^v xiv 10. II. xix. 3. xx. 10 
\.>r. II IT 

370 LETTERS TO [Letter V. 

mean the same, when applied to " shame and contempt," as when 
apphed to life. 

As to the term diojvjoj, rendered everlasting, or eternal, which 
you consider as proving nothing, on account of its ambiguit)', there 
is a rule of interpretation, which I have long understood to be 
used on other subjects, by all good critics, and which I consider as 
preferable to yours. In my next Letter I may examine their com- 
parative merits. This rule is, That every term he taken in its 
PROPER sense, except there he something in the subject or connex- 
ion which requires it to be taken otherwise. Now, so far as my 
acquaintance with this subject extends, it appears to be generally 
allowed by lexicographers, that aiwv is a compound of cts'i, and wv. 
and that its literal meaning is always being ;* also, that the mean- 
ing of its derivative aiwviog is endless, everlasting, or eternal. This 
term, diwvio^ which is very sparingly applied in the New Testa- 
ment to limited duration, I always take in its proper sense, except 
there be something in the connexion or subject which requires it 
to be taken otherwise : and, as I do not find this to be the case in 
any of those places where it is applied to punishment, I see no 
reason, in these cases, to depart from its proper acceptation. Ever- 
lasting punishment is, in some of them, opposed to everlasting life ; 
which, so far as an antithesis can go to fix the meaning of a term, 
determines it to be of the same force and extent. 

* Aristotle, the philosopher, who lived upwards of three hundred years 
before the New Testament was written, plainly tells us the meaning which 
the Greek writers of his time, and those who, in his time, were accounted 
ancients, affixed to this term. Speaking; of the gods, whom he considered as 
immortal, and as having their residence above the heavens, he says, *'The 
be ings which exist there, neither exist in place, nor does t ime make them grow 
old ; nor undergo they any change, being placed beyond the motion, even of 
those who are the farthest removed (from the centre ;) but possessing an 
unchangeable life, free from all outward impressions, perfectly happy, and 
self-sufficient, they continue through all cuZvct, eternity. And this the ancients 
admirabls signified by the word itself: for they call the time of each person's 
life his <i<^v, inasmuch as according to the laws of nature, nothing (respecting 
him) exists out of the limits of it ; and, for the same reason, that which com- 
prehends the duration of the whole lieaven, the whole of infinite time, and 
infinity itself, is called d/wvjt, eternity; taking its name from always being. 
(*« «v«t/ immortal and divine." 

LkttkrV.) MK. VIDLEK .HI 

To allege, thai the subject requires a (Ufl'ereril meaning, in tl»is 
case, to be given to the term, is to assume what will not be granttd. 
The />/"oo/'tiKil has been oftercd, on this point, tvill be con«>i(lerod 

With respect to the phrases iii rov ouwva, for evei\ and its cig 
diCJyas Twv aiwvwv, for ever and ever, 1 believe you will not find a 
single example in all the New Testament, of their being used to 
convey any other than the idea of endless duration. Vou tell us-, 
that hg aiuivag aiojvwv, ybr erer and ever, in Kev. xiv. 1 1, should be 
rendered, " to the age of ages.'' Are you certain of this ? Admit- 
ting the principle of your translation, some would have rendered 
it to a^es of a^es : but, render it liow you will, the meaning of the 
phrase is the same. You might render it thus in other instances, 
wherein it is applied to the happiness of the righteous, or the 
glory to be ascribed to God ; but this would not prove, that such 
happiness and such glory were of limited duration, or that the 
phrase in question is expressive of it. 

To the above may be added, 

III. All those passages which express the duration of future pun- 
ishment by implication, or by forms of speech which imply the doc- 
irine in question. 

*• I pray for them : I pray not for the world. — The blasphemy 
against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men, neither in this 
world, neither in the world to come. — He hath never forgiveness ; 
but is in danger of eternal damnation. — There is a sin unto death : 
I do not say that ye shall pray for it. — It is impossible to renew 
them again unto repentance. — If we sin wilfully after we have re 
ceived the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacri- 
fice for sins ; but a fearful looking for of judgment which shall 
devour the adversaries. — What is a man profited, if he shall gain 
the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away ? — Woe unto 
that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed : it had been good 

for that man if he had not been born Their worm dieth not 

and the fire is not quenched.* — Between us and you there is a 
great gulf fixed ; so that they who would pass from hence to vou 

■* Several timea repeated in a few ver^e«. 

37^' LETTERS TO [Letter V. 

cannot, neither can they pass to us, who would come from thence. 
He that beheveth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of 
God abideth on him. I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and 
shall die in your sins; whither I go ye cannot come. — Whose 
end is destruction. — He that showeth no mercy, shall have^wc^o^- 
ment zn^ithout mercy.'''' *^ 

If there be some for whom Jesus did not pray, there are some 
who will have no share in the benefits of his mediation, without 
which they cannot be saved. If there be some that never will be 
foi given, there are some that never will be saved; for forgiveness 
is an essential branch of salvation. Let there be what uncertain- 
ty there may in the word eternal, in this instance, still, the mean- 
ing of it is fixed by the other branch of the sentence, — they shall 
never be forgiven. It is equal to John x. 28. / give unto them 
eternal life! arid they shall never perish. If there were any uncer- 
tainty as to the meaning of the word eternal, in this latter passage, 
yet the other branch of the sentence would settle it : for that must 
be endless life, which is opposed to their ever perishing ; and, by 
the same rule, that must be endless damnation, which is opposed 
to their ever being forgiven. If there be a sin, for the pardon of 
which Christians are forbidden to pray ; it must be on account of 
its being the revealed will of God, that it never should be pardon- 
ed. If repentance be absolutely necessary to forgiveness, and 
there be some who it is impossible should be renewed again unto 
repentance there are some whose salvation is impossible. If there 
])e 710 more sacrifice for sins , but a fearful looking for of judgment ; 
ibis is the same thing as the sacrifice already offered being of no 
saving effect : for, if it were otherwise, the language would not 
contain any peculiar threatening against the wilful sinner, as it 
would be no more than might be said to any sinner : nor would a 
fearful looking for of judgme7U he his certain doom. If the souls 
of some men will be lost, or cast away, they cannot all be saved; 
seeing these things are opposites. A man may be lost in desert, 

* John xvi. 9. Matt. xii. 31, 32. Mark iii. 29. 1 John v. 16. Heb. vi. 
6.x. '26.27. Luke ix 25. Matt. xxvi. 24. Mark ix. 43— 48. Luke xvi 
26. John iii. 36. viii. 21. Phil. iii. 19. James ii. 13. 

Letter V.] MR. VIDLER. 373 

and yet saved in fact , or he may suffer loss, and yet himself be 
saved: but he cannot be lost, so as to be cast away, and yet finally 
saved ; for these are perfect contraries. Whatever may be the 
precise idea of the fire and the xvonn, tiicre can be no doubt of 
their expressing the punishment of the wicked : ;ind its being de- 
clared of the one, that it dieth not, and of the other, that it is not 
quenched, is the same thing as their being declared to be endless. 
It can be said of no man, on the principle of Universal Salvation, 
that it were good/or him not to have been horn ; ,\>, whatever he 
may endure for a season, an eternal weight of glory will infinitely 
outweigh it. An impassable gulf between the blessed and the 
accursed, equally militntes against the recovery of the one, as the 
relapse of the other. If some shall not see life^ but the wrath of 
God abideth on them ; if those who die in their sins, shall not 
come where Jesus is ; if their end be destruction, and their por- 
tion he judgment zt'ithout mercy ; there must be some who will not 
be finally saved. 

To these may be added, 

IV. All those passages zjifiich intimate tluit a change of heart, and 
u preparedness fur heaven, are confined to the present life. 

*' Seek ye the Lord while he may be found ; call ye upon 
him -ji^hile he is near : let the wicked forsake his way, and 
the unrighteous man his thoughts ; and let him return unto 
the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him ; and to our God, 
for he will abundantly pardon. — Because I have called, and 
ye refused ; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regard- 
ed — I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your 
fear cometh. When your fear comelh as desolation, and your de- 
struction cometh as a whirlwind ; when distress and anguish 
cometh upon you ; then shall they call upon me, but I will not 
answer ; they shall seek me early, but shall not find me. — Then 
said one unto him, Lord, are there few that shall be saved ? And 
he said unto them. Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for many, 
I say unto you, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When 
once the master ofthc house is risen up, and hath shut to ihc door 
and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at Ihe door, saying. 

374 LETTERS TO [Letter V. 

Lord, Lord, open unto us ; he shall answer and say unto you, 1 
know you not whence you are — Depart from nae, all ye workers 
of iniquity — there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth, — 
While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the 
children of light. — While they (the foolish virgins) went to buy, 
the bridegroom came ; and they that were ready went in with him 
to the marriage, and the door was shut. — We beseech you, that ye 
receive not the grace of God in vairi — Behold, now is the accepted 
time, now is the day of salvation. — To day, if ye will hear his 
voice, harden not your hearts. — Looking diligently, lest any man 
fail of the grace of God — lest there be any fornicator, or profane 
person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 
For ye know how that afterwards, when he would have inherited 
the blessing, he was rejected : for he found no place of repentance, 
though he sought it carefully with tears. — He that is unjust, let 
him be unjust still ; and ho which is filthy, let him be filthy still ; 
and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still ; and he that is 
holy, let him be holy still."* 

According to these scriptures, there will be no successful call- 
ing upon the Lord, after a certain period; and, consequently, no 
salvation. Whether there be few that shall ultimately be saved, 
our Lord does not inform us; but he assures us, that there are 
many who will not be saved; ©r, which is the same thing, who will 
not be able to enter in at the strait gate. None, it is plainly inti- 
mated, will be able to enter there, who have not agonized here. 
There will be no believing unto salvation, but while we have the 
light; nor any admission into the kingdom, unless we be ready at 
.'he coming of the Lord. The present is the accepted time^ the day 
of salvation^ or the season for sinners to be saved. If we continue 
to harden our hearts through life, he will swear in bis wrath, that 
we shall not enter into his rest. If we turn away from him who 
apeaketh from heaven, it will be equally impossible for us to obtain 
the blessing, as it was for Esau, after he had despised his birth- 

* l3a. Iv. 6,7. Prov. i. 24—28. Luke xiii. 24—29. John xii. 36. Matt. 
XXV. 5— 13. 2Cor. vi. 1,2. Heb. iii. 7, 8. xii. 15— 17. Rev.xxii. I|. 


rii;lit. Finallv : boyoiid a certain perioii, lliere shnll be no more 
change of character; but every one will have received that im- 
pression which sliall remain for ever, vvhethtT he he just or un- 
just, filthy or holy. 

In this Letter, 1 have emleavored to state the grounds of my 
own persuuii^ion: in the next, I may examine the reasonings and 
objections which you have advanced against it. The greater part 
of tliis evidence being taken from our Lord's discourse?, who knew 
the truth, and was liimself to be the Judge of the world, renders 
it peculiarly interesting. If a preacher, in these times, delivered 
half so much on the subie< t, you would denominate him *' a bran I 
pv ol (l.uniiation." 

Yours, kc. 

\. r. 




In a former Letter, I suggested, that, whether the scriptures 
teach the doctrine of endless punishment, or not, they certainly 
appear to do so. Whether this suggestion was unfounded, the 
evidence in my last Letter must determine. You attempt, how- 
ever, to discredit it, hy alleging the few instances in which the 
terms ever, everlastings Lc. as connected with future punishment, 
are used in the scriptures. 

*^ Everlasting, as connected with the future punishment of men,'* 
you say, '^ is used only /tie times in the Old and New Testament; 
and yet this same word is used in the scriptures at least ninety 
times, (very generally, indeed,) in relation to things that either 
have ended, or must end." You proceed, "As to the word c/er- 
naly which is of the same meaning, it is use! in the text and mar- 
gin upward of forty times in the whole Bible; out of which there 
are only twu which can he supposed to relate to future punish- 
ment."* You should have jjroceeded a little farther, Sir, and 
have told us how often the terms ever, for ever, and for ever and 
ever, are .ipplied to this subject; as the distinction between them 
and the words everlasting and «icrna/, is chiefly English, and as you 
have allowed, that it is from the use of the one, as well as the 
other, that 1 suppose the scriptures must " appear" to teach the 
doctrine of endless punishment. As a candid reasoper, you «hould 
also have forborne to mention Jude 6, with a view to diminish the 
number of testimonies; as it is not to the endless punishment of 

* Univor-alist'a Miscellany, No. XXXV. p. 028. 
Vol. II. 18 

27 g LETTERS TO [Letter VI. 

men onlj, that you object. By these means, your number would, 
at least, hare extended to eleven, instead oC seven. 

But, passing this, I shall offer a few observations on your reasoning. 
First: If the term everlasting be applied to future punishment five 
or six times out of ninety, in which it is used in the scriptures, this 
may be as large a proportion as the subject requires. It is applied, 
in the scriptures, to more than twenty different subjects; so that 
to be applied five or six times to one, is full as frequent a use of it 
as ought to be expected. 

Secondly : If the application of the term everlasting to future 
punishment only five or six times discredit the very appearance 
of its being endless, the same or nearly the same, may be said of 
the existence of God ; to which it is applied not much more fre- 
quently. You might go over a great part of the sacred writings 
on this subject, as you do on the other : telling us, that not only 
many of the Old Testament writers make no use of it, but a large 
proportion of the New ; that Matthew never applies the word to 
this subject, nor Mark, nor Luke, nor John ; ihat it is not so ap- 
plied in the Acts of the Apostles ; and, though Paul once uses it, 
in his Epistle to the Romans, yet he closes that, and all his other 
Epistles, without so using it again ; and James did not use it, nor 
Peter nor John, either in his three Epistles, or in the Apocalypse, 
And, when you had thus established your point, you might ask. 
with an air of triumph, " Is this a proof that the scriptures ap- 
pear to teach" the eternal existence of God ? Truly, Sir, I am 
ashamed to refute such trifling : yet, if I did not, your readers 
might be told, that doubtless, I had " cogent reasons" for my si- 

Thirdly : If any conclusion can be drawn from the number of 
times in which a term is used in the scriptures, that number should 
be ascertained from the langu'iges in which they were written, 
and not from a translation, which, on such a subject, proves noth- 
ing ; but, if this had been done, as it certainly ought by a writer 
of your pretentions, we should have heard nothing of number 
twOy nor of number^ye. 

Fourthly : You tell us, not only that *' the word everlasting is 
used very generally indeed, in relation to things that either have 

LeiterVI.J MFl. VIDI.FJl. 373 

ended, or must end;'* but that the word whicli in -o rendoretl 
was, by the Old-te^tamerit urileis, most y;<>ncrally so applied.* 
By " the word wliicli we rctjder r/'tr/r/*///*^'," I suppose you mean 
D^>% thougli there are otlier wonl;:, as well as this, which are 
rendered everlasting, and this word is not always so rendered. I 
have careAilly examined it by a Hebrew conrordance, and, ac- 
cording to the best of my judgment, noticed as I went along, when 
it is applied to limited, and when to unlimited duration ; and I find 
that, though it xsfrequnitlij used to express the former, yet it is 
more frequently, applied, even in the Old Testament, to the latter. 
I do not allege this fact as being of any conserpience to the argu- 
ment : for, if it had been on the other side, it would have proved 
nothing. It would not have been at all surprising, if, in a book 
wherein so little is revealed concerning a future state, the word 
should have been used mueh more frequently in a fii^urative, than 
in a proper sense : but, as far as 1 am able to judge, the fact is 

In looking over the various passages in which the word occurs, 
I perceive, that, in many of those instances which I noted as ex- 
amples of the limited use of it, the limitation is such as arises 
necessarily from the kind of duration, or state of being, which is 
spoken of. When Hannah devoted her child Samuel to the Lord 
forever^ there was no limitation in her mind ; she did not intend 
that he should ever return to a private life. Thus also, when it 
is said of a servant whose ear was bored in his master's house, 
he shall serve himybr ever ; the meaning is, that he should never 
go out free. And when .lonah lamented, that the earth with her 
bars was about himybr cvcr^ the term is not expressive of what it 
actually proved, namely, a three days' imprisonment, as you un- 
accountably construe it ;t hut of what it was, in his apprehensions , 
which were, that he was cut off from the land of the living, and 
should never more see the light. 

So far as my observations extend, the word, whenever apj)lied 

to a future state, is to be taken in the endless sense ; and, this you 

yourself will allow, except in those passages which relate to future 

» Univtrsaliflt's Miscellany, No. XXXV. pp. 328, 3'29. 

t Univerfalisl's Mi'^-ellany, No. I. p. 6 

380 LETTERS TO [Letter VL 

punishment. You, therefore, plead for a meaning to the term, in 
relation to this subject, which has nothing parallel in the scrip- 
tures to support it. 

In the New Testament, the future state is a frequent topic 
with the sacred writers ; and there, as might be expected, the 
terms rendered everlasting, eternal, for ever, &c, are generally 
applied in the endless sense. Of this you seem to be aware ; and, 
therefore, after asserting, that, by Old-testament writers, the 
term rendered everlasting was " most generally" applied other- 
wise, you only add, concerning New Testament writers, that they 
" use it but a few times in relation to future punishment ; a re- 
mark, as we have already seen, of but very little account. If a 
particular term should be applied to one subject only five or six 
times, it does not follow, that the evidence is scanty. There may 
be other terms equally expressive of the same thing ; and the 
foregoing letter, it is presumed, has given proof that this is the 
case in the present instance. And, if there were no other terms 
10 convey the sentiment, five or six solemn asseverations on any 
one subject ought to be reckoned sufficient, and more than suf- 
ficient, to command our assent ; and, if so, surely they may be 
allowed to justify the assertion, that the scriptures appear, at least, 
to teach the doctrine of everlasting punishment. 

In answering what I considered as a misconstruction of a passage 
of scripture, (Rev. xiv. 19.) I suggested, that the phrase, day and 
night w?i% not expressive of a successive or terminable duration, 
but a figurative mode of speech, denoting perpetuity. *' it fol- 
lows then," say you, " that your best ground for believing that 
there is no successive duration after the end of this world, is only 
a figurative expression or two."* Did ever a writer draw such 
an inference I What I alleged was, not for the purpose of prov- 
ing endless punishment, but merely to correct what I considered 
as a misinterpretation of a passage of scripture. If this be your 
method of drawing consequences, we need not be surprised at 
your inferring the doctrine of Universal Salvation from the holy 

^- Universalist's Miscellany, No. XXXV. p. 329. 

Letter VI.] MR. VIDLEIL 3gl 

I tliou<;ht (hat you, as wril as myself, had better not have at- 
tempted to criticise ot) Hebrew and Greek terms. You think oth- 
erwise. Very well : we have a right, then, to expect the more 
at \t>ur hands. Yet, methinks, you should have been contented 
to meet an opponent, who never professed to have a competent 
acquaintance with either of those languages, on his own ground : 
or, if not, you should either have assumed a little less consequeuce, 
or have supported your pretensions with a little better evidence. 
To be sure, it was very kind in you to inform me, that though a/wv 
and aluiftoi agree in some respects, with the English words eternity 
and eternal, yet they will not always bear to be rendered by these 
terms. 1 ought equally to thank you, no doubt for teachmg me, 
and that repeatedly, that, " as for the word eternal, it is the same 
in the original which is translated everslasting.'"* Seriously, 
may not a person, w ithout pretending to be qualified for Greek 
criticisms, understand so much of the meaning of words, as to stand 
in no need of the foregoing information.^ Nay more: Is it not 
possible for him to know, that the Greek words aiwv and aluviog 
will not always bear to be rendered by the English words eterni- 
ty, everlasting, or eternal: and yet perceive no evidence of the 
one being less expressive of endless duration than the other f 

This, if it must be so called, was my '' hypothesis." To over- 
turn if, yoii allege, that the Greek terms will '* admit of a plural," 
and of the pronouns iliis and that before them ; which the Eng- 
lish will not.t So far as this is the case, it may prove, that 
there is some difference between them ; but not that this difference 
consists in the one being hss expressive of endless duration than 
the other. Words in English, that are properly expressive of end- 
less duration, may not ordinarily admit of a plural ; and, if this 
were universally the case, it would not follow, that it is the same 
m Greek. Nor is it so : for the idea of endless duration, is fVe- 
quently conveyed by these very plural forms of expression. Thuf«, 
in Ephes. iii. 11. xara •'podso'iv tuv aiwvwv ; ncrording to his eter- 
nal purpose. So also, in I Tun. i. 17. 'lu 6e Ba(J'i>i» tuv «iu)vwv 

♦ (fniriTsnlijl's Mi?rcllany, No. I. p. 7. No. XXXV. p. 23fi. 
t Ibid. No. XXXV. pp. 332, 333. 

382 LETTERS TO lLettkr VI. 

a(p4apT6j, aoparw, fz-ovw tfoipw^ 0£w^, TijLi*>] xa/ (56|a sig T^g ajwvag fjojv a/- 
wvwv, iVoz^ unto the King eternal^ immortal, invisible, the only 
wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Render these 
passages how you will, you cannot do them justice, unless you 
express the idea of unlimited duration. And though the English 
terms may not admit of what is termed a plural form, yet they 
admit of what is equal to it ; for though we do not say everlastings, 
nor eternities, yet we say ^br ever and ever; and you might as well 
contend, that /or ever cannot properly mean unlimited duration, 
seeing another ever maybe added to it, as that aiwv must needs mean 
a limited duration, onaccount of its admitting a plural form of ex- 
pression. You might also with equal propriety, plead for a plu- 
rality of ewers in futurity, from the English phraseology, as for a 
plurality of ages from the Greek. 

With respect to the admission of the pronouns <7as and that, we 
use the expressions, this eternity of bliss, or </jai eternity of bliss ; 
nor does such language, being applied to a state of existence, 
express the idea of limitation. The very passage that you have 
quoted, (Luke xx. ,S5.) where a/wv is rendered world, and admits 
of the pronoun that before it, refers to a state which 3'ou yourself, 
I should suppose would allow to be endless. 

For any thing you have hitherto alleged, the Greek words aiwv 
and a/wviog are no less expressive of endless duration, than the Eng- 
lish words everlasting ^nd eternal : the latter, when applied to tem- 
porary concerns, are used in a figurative, or improper, sense as, 
frequently as the former. And, if this be a truth, it must follow, 
that the continual recurrence to them by your writers, is no better than 
a sing-song ; a mere affectation of learning, serving to mislead the 

You make much of yoxiv rule of interpretation, that, where " a 
word is used in relation to different things, the subject itself must 
determine the meaning of the word." (p. 333.) You are so con- 
fident that this rule is unobjectionable, as to intimate your belief, 
that I '' shall not, a second time, have the temerity to reprove you 
for the use of it." If you examine, you will perceive, that I have 
not objected to it a first time yet, but rather to your manner of 
applying it. I shall take the liberty, however, to object to it now. 

Letter VI. J Mil. VIDLKK. 333 

*vhatever " temerity" it m:»y imply. I know not who those " best 
critics" are, from wliom you proless to fuive taken it, but, to mo, 
it appears disrespecttul to tlic scripture*, and ii)a(imissible. It 
supposes, that all those word- w hich ar«» used in relation to differ- 
ent thmj^s, (which, by the wav, almost all words are,) have no 
proper meanins: of their own, and that ihey are to stand for noth- 
ins; in the derision of any question ; but are to mean any thing 
tint the subject to wliic h tlioy rel.iteran hv. proved to mean with- 
out them. Had you said, that the -ubject including the scope of 
the w liter, must commonly determine whether a word should be 
taken in a literal, or in a fii^urative sense, that had been allowing it 
to have a proper meaftinj; of its own: and to this I should have no 
objection : but to allow no meaning to a term, except what shall 
be imparted to it by the subject, is to reduce it to a cypher. 

But, exceptionable as your rule of interpretation is, in itself, it 
is rendered much more so by your maimer of applying it. If, 
under the term '' subject," you had included the scope and design 
of the writer, it had been so far good; but, by this term, you ap- 
pear all along to mean, the doctrine of future punishment^ abstract- 
edly considered from xvhat the scriptures teach concerning it; at least, 
from what they teach by the terms which professedly denote its 
fluration. You rotpiirc, that " there be something in the nature 
of future punishment, which necessarily leads us to receive the 
word alCnioc; in an endless sense; in which case, (as you very prop- 
erly add,) it is not the zi-nrd, but the xubjcct which gives the idea 
of endless duration."* What is this but saying, We are to make 
up our minds on the duration of future punishment, from the na- 
ture and fitness of thing-; and having done this, we are to under- 
stand the scripttirc terms which are designed to express thai dura- 
tion, accordingly ? Hut, if we can settle this business without the 
aid of those scripture terms, why do we trouble them; and what it» 
the meaning of all your criticism'- upon them ? If they are so 
*• weak, from tlunr VHgue and indeterminate applic.ition in scrip- 
ture," that nothing certain can be gathered from them, why not 
let us alone ? It should seem, as though all your critical labor 

'• (Joivr'nlislN Mi"''cllanv. p '.1'2'^ 

384 LETTERS TO [Letter VL 

upon these terms, was for the sake of imposing silence upon them. 

1 do not know that endless punishment can be proved from the 
nature of things: but neither can it be disproved. Our ideas of 
moral government, and of the influence of sin upon it, are too con- 
tracted to form a judgment, a |9n'or2, upon the subject. It becomes 
us to listen, with humility and holy awe, to what is revealed in the 
oracles of truth, and to form our judgment by it. When I sug- 
gested that *' the nature of the subject determined that the term 
everlasting, when applied to future punishment, was to be taken 
in the endless sense," I intended no more, than that such is the 
iense in which it is used when applied to a future state. 

By your rule of interpretation, I have the '* temerity" to say 
again, you might disprove almost any thing you please, I observed 
before, that if one should attempt to prove the divinity of the Son 
of God, or even of the Father, from his being called /e/ioua/t, your 
mode of reasoning would render all such evidence of no account ; 
because the same appellation is sometimes given to an altar, &c. 
You reply, by insisting, that you interpret this term by the suhf 
ject. But, if you interpret it as you do the term aiwvjo^, it is not 
the name Jehovah that forms any part of the ground of your conclu- 
sion. You do not, on this principle, believe God to be self-exist- 
ent from his being called Jehovah ; but, that the nnme Jehovah 
means self-existent, because it is applied to God, whom, from other 
considerations, you know to be a self-existent being. If Christ 
were called Jehovah a thousand times, you could not, on this ac- 
count, believe him to be the true GcJd, according to your princi- 
ple; because the same word, being applied to other things, its 
meaning can only be determined by the subject; and, in this case, 
as you say, it is not the word, but the subject, that gives the idea. 

The rule adopted in my last Letter, allows a proper meaning to 
every scripture term, and does not attempt to set it aside in favour 
of one that is improper, or figurative, unless the scope of the passage^ 
or the nature of the subject require it. This is a very different thing 
from not admitting it^ unless the subject, from its own nature, render 
it absolutely necessary. The one is treating the proper meaning 
of a scripture word with respect, not dispensing with it, but upon 

Letter \1.) MIL MULkH. 395 

argent necessitj: the other is tre;itiii<^ it with indis^iiify, ret'ujjing 
it admission, except where it cannot be tienied. 

You refer me to Hab. iii. 6, as a imrallel paissage with Matt. xxv. 
46, in which the same »vord is used, in the same text, in a differ- 
ent sense.* But these passages are not parallel: for there is no 
such antithesis in the one, as in the other. It has been thought, 
and, I apprehend, is capable of being proved, that the everlasting 
ways, or paths of God, denote those verjr goings forth by which he 
scattered the mountains, and caused the hills to bow; and, that the 
term everlasting, in both instances, is expressive of merely limited 
duration. But, admitting that the everlasting hills are opposed to 
the everlasting ways of God, or, that the one were only lasting 
and the other properly everlasting; still, the antithesis, in this case, 
naturally directs us so to expound them; whereas in Matt. xxv. 
4C, it directs us to the contrary. If there be an opposition of 
meaning in the one case, it lies in the very term everlasting; or 
between the duration of the hills, and that of the divine ways: but 
the opposition in the other is between life and punishment, and the 
adjective everlasting, is applied in common to both; which, instead 
of requiring a different sense to be given to it, requires the con- 
trary. The words recorded by Matthew, arc parallel to those in 
John V. 2y. Some shall come forth to the resurrection of life^ anU 
some to the resurrection of damnation ; and we might as rationally 
contend for a different meaning to the term " resurrection" in the 
one case, as to the term " everlasting'! in the otiier. 

But, besides all this, by your manner of quoting tlie passage, 
you would induce one to suppose that you had taken it luerclv 
tVom the English translation, wUich, in a man of vour pretensions, 
would be hardly excusable; for though the same word be tuice 
tised in the passage, yet it is not in those places which you have mar- 
ked as being so : the instances which you have pointed out, as bein^ 
the same word, are not the same, except m the l%ngliii/i transUuion. 

It was a*iked, Whether stronger ternjs could have been used con- 
cerning the duration of future puni>hment than those that are used ? 
You answer, "The question ought not to be, what language God 
rould have used; but, what is the mcaniog of that which he has 

* Univerbttlisl's Mi.-cell.Tny, No. XXW. p. iJJ 
VorH. 49 

386 LETTERS TO [Letter VL 

used ?* I should have thought, it had been one way of ascertain- 
ing the strength of the terms that are used, to inquire whether 
they be equally strong with any which the language affords ? 
Should this be the case, it must follow that, if they do not convey 
the idea of endless duration, it is not in the power of language, or. 
at least, of that language, to convey it. 

You suggest a few examples, however, which, in your appre 
hension, would have been stronger, and which, if it had been the 
design of the Holy Spirit to teach the doctrine of endless punish- 
ment, might have been used for the purpose. " I refer you,'* 
say you, " to Heb. vii. iG, dxarakvrog, endless^ say our translators.'' 
"The word," you add, " is never connected in scripture with 
punishment, and but this once only with lifej which, however, 
shows, that the sacred writers speak of future life in a different 
way than they do of punishment." (p. 334.) It is true, the term 
aycaraXvTos, is here applied to life; but not, as you insinuate, to 
that life of future happiness which is opposed to punishment. 
The life here spoken of, is that. which pertaina to our Lord's 
priesthood, which is opposed to that of Aaron, wherein menwere 
not suffered to continuey bi/ reason of death. The word signifies 
indissoluble; and, being, applied to the nature of a priesthood 
which death could not dissolve, is very properly rendered endless. 
It possibly might be applied to the endless happiness of good men. 
as opposed to the dissoluble, or transitory enjoyments of the pres- 
ent state; but as to the punishment of the wicked, supposing it to 
be endless, I question whether it be at all applicable to it. I can 
form no idea how the term indissoluble, any more than incorrupti- 
ble, can apply to punishment. The word xaraXuw, to unloose, or 
dissolve, is true, is said to refer to travellers loosing their own 
burdens, or those of their beasts, when they are resting by the 
way: but there are no examples of its having been used with ref- 
erence to the termination of punishment; nor does it appear to be 
applicable to it. In its most common acceptation in the New 
Testament, it signilies to destroy, or demolish; and you will scarce- 

* Universalistfa Miscellany, No. XXXV. p 334. 

j.etterVI.j mk. vil»m:k. 387 

ly suppose the sacred writers to sucj^nst l\ut idea of a destruction 
which oannot be destroyed. 

You offer a eecond example; r« ferriiiu; ine to W.\. xlv. 1?. Jsrat/ 
sh(dl not he confounded, world irithout rnd:* hut lliis is t'arlher oil 
-till. In the first place, the phrase is ;/j/ r*/// /"^^^/i-s/r; ami there 
tore atlbrds no example of "(ireek," for \vhi<h it is |uofes«i»nll\ 
mtroduced. Secondly, It is not a translation t>otn the (J reek, hut 
from tiie Hebrew. To have done any thing to purpose, you 
should have found a Greek won! whieh niiij;ht have been applied 
to punishment, stronger than uiu'viog: or, if you must needs go to 
another language, you should have proved, that the Hebrew words 
in Isa. xlv. 17. which are applied to future happiness, are stronger 
than the (ireek word a/^Ijvjoj, which is applied to future punish- 
ment: but, if you had attempted this, your criticisms might not 
have perfectly accorded; as they are the same words which, you 
elsewhere tell us, would, if " literally rendered, be age and 
nges;''] and, therefore, are properly expressive of only a limited 
duration. And why did you refer us to the Oid Testament ? It 
could not be for the want of an example to be found in the New. 
You know, I dare say, that the English phrase, world tcithont end, 
occurs in Ephes. iii. 21. And are the (ire«'k words there used, 
stronger than a/wv, and its derivatives ? On the contrary, thev are 
the very words made use of; and in a plural form, too: sig rra(fa3 
ras ysvcog tou aiuivog rwv a/wvc^v, throughout all ciqcSf world without 
end. Had these very terms been applied to future punishment, 
you would have pleaded for a different translation, and denir'd that 
they were expressive of endless duration. 

Without pretending to any thing like a critical kno.vvledge ol 
either the Greek or Hebrew langHage, I can perceive, Sir, that all 
your arguments have, hitherto, been merely founded upon English 
phraseology; and, from your translating n;? and D"?;', age and ages^l 
as though one were the singular, and the other the plural ; and sic 

* Univcrjalisl's Mi?ccllany, No. XXXV. p. .10\. 
■ rnivfr?alist'3 Miwcllany, No. XXXVI. p. 36-J. t ]\>v]. • 

3^3 LETTERS TO MR. VIDLER. l^-J^tter VI. 

audmz a/wvwv *' to the age of ages," as though one, here also, were 
the singular, and the other the plural; as well as from your refer- 
ence to ctxaraXuToj, as a proper term to be applied to endless pun- 
ishment; I am furnished with but little inducement to retract my 
opinion, that you had better not have meddled with these subjects. 

Yours, &c. 

A. F. 




\ have, certainly, to bej; your pnrdon for hnving misunderstood 
you, with respect to the doctrine <j( annihilation. I did not observe 
how you opposed the idea of endless punishment on the one hand, 
and annihilation on the other. In this matter, I submit to your 
correction, and readily acquit you of all those absurdities which 
would have followed the admission oC that principle. Other parts 
of that Letter, however, you have but but lightly touched; and 
some of them are entirely passed over. 

As to your conjectures about my motives, both you and your 
friends might have been as well employed in something else. I 
can truly say, that 1 never wrote a line in my life with a view to 
"rai^e adust" that might obscure the truth; and it is difficult to 
suppose, that any person, unless he himself had been in the habit 
of doing so, would have thought of imputing it to another. 

It is ray desire to understand you, and not to wrest any of your 
words to a meaning which tl^iey do not fairly include. I have 
endeavoured to collect your sentiments, as well as I am able. 
The amount of your first maxim, in p. 330, appears, to me, to be 
this : ' That if God created men, and placed them in circumstances 
which he certainly foreknew would issue in their fall and ruin, 
he willed this their fall and ruin ; and this is of no importance that 
he forewarned them to avoid the evil: whatever be the event, he 
is chnri^fable with it.' ' But God,' you say, ' hath sworn by him- 
iclf, that he willplh not the death of him who dieth ; that is, he 
willeth it not as death finally or simply, or destruction irrecovera- 
ble. If, therefore, it occur, it is a part of his economy of grace, 
and, finallv, a ministration unto life ; for he hath (ieclarcd. it is hig 

390 LETTERS TO [Letter Vll. 

will that all should be saved : therefore, the doctrine which for- 
ges any contrary will, falsifies supreme, unchangeable truth.' 

Thus, itseems,you reckon, that you acquit your Creator of injus- 
tice, which must, otherwise, attach to his character and conduct. 
Let us examine this matter. It is true, that whatever exists must, 
in some sense, accord with the will of God. Let the blasphemer 
make what use he may of it, it may be asked. Who hath resisted 
his will ? Godjwilleth not evil, however, as evil ; but permits its exis- 
tence, for wise ends. The good that shall arise from it, and not the 
evil, is the proper object of divine volition. But it is not true, that God 
is on this account chargeable with man's sin ; that all his cautions 
and warnings are of no account ; and that he is to be ''accused" 
of the death of the sinner, if he die eternally. If it be, however, 
it is not the doctrine of Universal Salvation that will free him from 
the charge. 

I am surprised, Sir, that you could allow yourself in this manner 
to reproach your Maker. You cannot allege all these things as 
merely attaching to my system. It is a fact, (is it not ?) that God 
did place man in circumstances which he certainly foreknew would 
issue in his fall ; and that he did, notwithstanding, caution and 
warn him against apostasy, and still continues to caution and warn 
sinners against those very sins which he certainly foreknows they 
will commit : Who, then, is this that dares to arraign his conduct, 
and to accuse him of insincerity ? — Who, that, at one stroke, aims 
to sweep away the accoutableness of his creatures ; and to charge 
him with the evil of their sin, on account' of his having placed 
them in such circumstances ? 

If it be as you insinuate, it must follow, that man is not blame- 
worthy in all his rebellion against his Maker, nor justly accounta- 
ble for any of its consequences. Whether those consequences be 
eternal, makes nothing to the argument. Sin, and all the evils 
which follow upon it, are, by you, transferred from the sinner to 
the account of his Creator ! State your supposition with refer- 
ence to your principles : * Suppose him about to create twenty 
men: he knows ten of them will become vicious, and, conse- 
quently, exposed to the tremendous penalty of damnation /or ages 
of ages. Who doubts, in such a case, that he wills that penalty, 

Letter VII. J MR. VIDLER. 291 

who, being almighty and all-knowing, does that without which it 
could not come to pass ; and who will not accuse him of their dam- 
nation — having sent them into such circumstances?' Thus Sir, 
you undermine the justice of all punishment, present and future, 
and every principle of moral government. 

Let no man say, ivhen he is tempted, I am tempted of God. Yes, 
says Mr. Vidler, it is he, who, knowing all events, and placing us 
in such circumstances as he does, that is accountable ! And it is 
of no importance, in the consideration of common sense, that he 
cautions, or forewarns, us against the evil. 

If what you have suggested be true, it must also follow, that 
there is no need of a mediator, or of forgiving mercy. Where 
there is no blame, it is an insult to talk of forgiveness, or of the 
need of a mediator to effect a reconciliation. All that is necessary 
to recover man, is justice. If the Creator only to be accountable 
for the evil, it belongs to him to remedy it. Thus, instead of sup- 
porting the doctrine of Universal Salvation, you undermine ail sal- 
vation at the very tbundation. 

Think not that you shall be able to roll away this reproach, 
which you have had the temerity to charge on your Creator, by 
suggesting, that all the evil which follows will be ultimately a ben- 
e6t ; for still it follows, that man has not been blameworthy in sin- 
ning against God ; that God has never been sincere in his cautions 
and warnings ; and that, being accountable for the whole, it is but 
justice to man, that he turn all to his ultimate advantage, as a re- 
compense for present injury. " He sent his children into the 
wood, it seems, where he knew the poisonous fruit abounded ; 
and though he warned them against it, yet he was not in earnest ; 
and when they had eaten, to the endangering of their lives he 
counteracted the poison ; but was conscious, at the game time 
that, if there were any fault in the affair, it was his own ; and if 
the children were to perish, he would be justly accused of their 
death." And can you, Sir, with these sentiments, continue to dis- 
avow your invalidating the divine threatenings towards sinners, 
and concurring with him who taught our first parents, •* Ye shall 
not surely die ?" What better exposition could the deceiver of 
mankind have wished for, than what your words afford ' Ye shal^ 

.J92 LETTERS TO [Letter VII 

not surely die ; •' namely, finally, or simply, or with destruction 
irrecoverable." For God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, 
then shall your eyes be opened. "■' If death occur, it is a part 
of his economy of grace, and finally a ministration unto life." That 
is, it shall prove a benefit. 

<' God hath sworn, that he willeth not the death of him that 
dieth. That is, he willeth it not as death finally, or simply, or de- 
struction irrecoverable." Death simply and finally, then, means 
irrecoverable destruction, does it ? But, if it does so in this pas- 
sage, it may in others ; and then the threatenings of death, 
provided they were put in execution, may mean eternal damnation. 
Yea, if death, in this passage, mean irrecoverable destruction, it 
will follow, that some are irrecoverably destroyed : for the death 
in which God taketh no pleasure, whatever it be, the sinner is 
supposed to suffer — He hath no pleasure in the death of him that 
dieth. God taketh no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, in 
the same sense as he doth not afflict willirigly, nor grieve the chil- 
dren of men. It does not mean, that he doth not afflict them ; for 
this is contrary to fact : but he doth not afflict for affliction's sake, 
or for any pleasure that he takes in putting his creatures to pain. 
In all his dealings with sinners, he acts like a good magistrate, who 
never punishes from caprice, but for a good end ; in many cases 
for the correction of the party, and in all for the good of the com- 

To your second maxim I have no objection — " That, whatever 
God does, is intended by his goodness, conducted by his wisdom, 
and accomplished by his power." But your application of it is 
inadmissible. Some parts of it are trifling ; others rest on un- 
founded assumptions; and others are adapted to overthrow all fu- 
ture punishment. 

First : The greater part of it is mere trifling. — Whoever sup- 
posed, that eternal punishment, or any punishment, was a benefit 
to God ; or even a pleasure to him, or any holy beings, for its own 
sake ? Or, who pretends, that it is inflicted for the honour^ pleas- 
ure^ or benefit of the sinner. 

Secondly : Some parts of it which object to endless punishment, 
because it cannot be lor the honour of God, or the bene^t of crea- 

i.F.tiF.ii VI I. J .\1K. \iiji.i:k 393 

tures, proceeds altos;etliei" upon unjounded ainunjiliuni. — 1 lie 
only proofyou have ollereil for {\w fin>l branrli of this position is 
naked assertion, '' that every unsophisticated heiirl would -^o de- 
termine." Suppose, I say. every uiU'OphiaticattMl heart would de- 
termine the contrary, my assertion w»)iiid prove as much as yours: 
and, I may add, if our hearts he sophisticated, it must be hy malig- 
nity, or the wish of havini; our fellow-creatures miserahle ; which 
i imagine, you will not generally impute to us. Hut, if your 
hearts be sophisticated, it is much more easily accounted for. 
The decision of sinful creatures, in such a case as this, is like that 
of a company of criminals, who should sit in jtulgmcnt on the na- 
ture of tile penalties to which they are exposetl ; whose prejudi- 
ces are much more likely to cause them to err on the favourable, 
than on the unfavourable side. — The scconc? branch of this position^ 
is as unsupported as the first. Only one re;ison is alleged, and 
that is far from being an acknowledged truth ; viz. That no possi- 
ble good can arise to society from the punishment of sinners, but 
that of safety. Common sense and universal experience teach U5. 
that this is not the only end of punishment. Israel might have been 
safe, if Pharaoh and his host had noi been drowned; yet they were 
drowned. ^Vas safety the oidy end answered to the world by the 
overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrha ; or were they not rather set 
forth for an example? Is it only for the safety of society, that a mur- 
derer is publicly executed ? That end would he equally answer- 
ed by perpetual imprisonment, or banishment, or a private execu- 
tion : but there would be wanting an example, to express the dis- 
pleasure of a good government against crimes, and to impress the 
public mind with it. 

I'hirdly : *ftIost of what you suy on this subject, if admitted, 
would overturn all future punishment. You might ask, Wouhl it bf> 
honourable to doi], to have any of his creatures miserable for oves 
o/ a^fs, rather than happy ? Would it be a greater /)/f(isMrr .^ 
Benefit he can have none ; for there is no profit in their Mood. 
As to the punished, future punishment can be neither honour nor 
pleasure to them : and, if their salvation could he .^rc<lmph^lJed 
without It, It cannot be any benefit ('» them. If they may not be 
saved without it, it must ho either because thrr«' was not erticac\ 

Vor. I[. OO 

394 LETTERS TO [Letter VII. 

enough in the blood of Christ for the purpose; or else, that " the 
*^>i\\ efficacy of the atonement was withheld by the divine determi- 
nation." As [o fdlow -creatures, can the future punishment of any 
of the human race be any honour to them ? Who ever thought it 
an honour to him, that any of his family were punished in any waj' ? 
Is it not a dishonour to humm nature at large to be sent to hell ? 
Can any creature have pleasure in the punishment of another ? 
Would not every benevolent mind possess a greater pleasure in 
seeing sinners converted and saved, without going to hell ; than 
to see them condemned to weeping and wailing and gnashing of 
teeth, /or (Xo-e5 of ages ? Benefit they can have none, except 
mfetij ; and that is better answered by their enmity being conquer- 
ed in the present life. As, then, future torments can answer no 
possible good end to any one in the universe, I conclude them to 
be neither the work nor will of God ; and, consequently, not the 
doctrine of scripture ! 

You '* think there is a vast difference indeed, in the nature of 
luture blessedness, and future punishment ; such as fully to justify 
ijs in giving a very different sense to the word eternal, when ap- 
plied to these subjects." (p. 331.) It may be so; but your 
thoughts prove nothing. "Sin and misery," you say, " have no 
root or foundation in God;" and, therefore, must come to an end. 
Awhile ago, they seemed to have their sole root in him, so much 
so as to exclude the accountableness of creatures ; but, allowing 
they have not, this inference is a mere creature of the imagination. 
Reduce your argument to form, and see what it will amount to : — 
Whatever has its root in the creature must come to an end : 
But sin and misery have their root in the creature ; 
Therefore sin and misery must come to an end : 
Now what proof, I ask, have you for your major proposition ? 
None at all. It is an argument, therefore, without any medium of 
proof, founded upon mere imagination. Another, with equal plau- 
sibility, might imagine, that, as sin and misery had their origin in 
the present state, they will also terminate in the present state ; 
•tmd, consequently, that there will be no future punishment. And 
another might imagine, that, as the acts of human beings are per- 
formed within a few years, the effects of them upon society can- 

Letter VII.] Mil. VIDLKR. 39^ 

not extend much farther; and, consequently, it is alisuni to sup- 
po-^e, that a whole nation still feels the consequence of what was 
transacted in a few hours at Jerusalem, nearly 1800 years ago ; 
and a whole world, of what was wrought, perhaps, in less time in 
the garden of Eden. In short, there are no bounds to the imagin- 
ation, and will be no end to its absurdities, if it ejo on in this direc- 
tion. If, ini^tead of taking our religion from the Bible, we labour 
to form a system from our own ideas of fitness and unfitness, and 
interpret the Bible accordingly, there will be no end of our wan- 

Because all judgment is committed to the Son, you conclude, 
that future punishment has its origin in mercy, and will end in 
eternal salvation. To this I answer, First : if it be owing to the 
mediation of Christ, that punishment should be a work of mercv, 
this is allowing, that if no mediator had been provided, it must 
have been the reverse. But, if so, all your arguments against 
eternal punishment from the divine perfections, and all your at- 
tempts to maintain that the original meaning of the divine threat- 
enings never included this idea, are given up. Secondly : It 
whatsoever is done by Christ in his mediatorial capacity shall ter- 
minate, on his delivering up the kingdom to the Father ; the re- 
wards of the righteous, as well as the punishments of the wicked, 
must, at that period, come to an end : for he will equally confer 
the one, as inflict the other. The '* execution of judgment" 
committed to the Son, denotes, not merely the carrying into exe- 
cution the sentence at the last day, but the general administration 
ofGod's moral government, both in this world and that which is to 
come. See Jer. xxiii. 5. xxxiii. lA. *Matt. xii. 18 — 20. 

You talk of our *' ascribing a proper eternity to sin and misery," 
as if we considered sin and misery to be necessarily eternal. The 
existence of intelligent creatures is no more eternal, than their 
moral qualities or sensations ; and, therefore, it would be im- 
proper to ascribe eternity either to the one or the other : but, if 
God perpetuates the existence of intelligent beings to an entile*? 
duration, he may aUo pcrpetualt- their mural qualities to the same 
extent ; whether they originated »vith their existence, or were 
acquired at any subsequent period. Holiness and happiness^ in 

^59G LETTERS TO [Letter VII. 

respect to creatures, are not necessarily eternal, any more than sin 
and misery ; and, in this view, it would be as improper to ascribe 
eternity to the purity and blessedness of the saved, as to the sin 
and misery of the lost, seeing, that the endless duration of both 
depends upon the will of God. You speak of the "life and bles- 
sedness of holy beings, as having their root and foundation in 
God ; and that, being thus grounded in him, they will be, like him; 
eternal in duration." But this position is contrary to fact ; for 
was not " God the source and proper spring, both of the life and 
blessedness" of the unsinning angels ? Yet they kept not their first 
estate^ but lost their blessedness, and are reserved in chaijis of 
darkness unto the judgment of the great day. The life and bles- 
sedness of man in a state of innocence, had their origin in God, as 
well as those of saints and angels ; yet they were not, on this ac- 
count, like their Author, " eternal in duration." To make such 
an assertion is, '^ to say the least of it, an unguarded mode of ex- 
pression:" but, more than this, it is contrary to fact, and tends to 
lessen the dependence of creatures upon God as the constant au- 
thor of all their happiness. The argument to prove that sin and 
misery cannot be eternal, is the counterpart of the above position ; 
and, of course, it is equally fallacious. 

" Sin and misery being contrary to the holiness and benevolence 
of God, they must (it seems) come to an end." Such an assertion 
is soon made: but where is the proof? A little more assurance 
might lead another to say, that sin and misery, being contrary to 
the holiness and benevolence of God, cannot exist in a future state : 
and, were it not for the awful evidence of facts, another might 
assert, that sin and misery do not now exist; for, in theory, it 
would be as easy to prove, that the present existence of sin and 
misery is as contrary to the holiness and benevolence of God, as 
their existence in future ; and that their existence, in future, /or 
ages of ages, is as contrary to the holiness and benevolence of 
God, as their existence to an endless duration. By such kind of 
reasoning, some men have become Atheists, because they cannot 
reconcile the present state of things with their ideas of a superin- 
tending power, possessed of infinite holiness and benevolence ; 
and 1 cannot but tremble for the man who begins to travel in this 

Lktter VII] MR. V IDLER. 397 

unwary patli, by measuring the divine administration by his own 
unhallowed notions of moral fitness. 

If your attempts to prove that all judgment is a work of mercy, 
and yet that there may be Judgment xvitfiuut mercy^ should prove 
fruitless, it is no more than may be expected ; for the thing itself 
is a contradiction. " The scriptures aflord instances of punishment 
and pardon to the same persons, and for the same sins :"• but Wiis 
this punishment without mercy? '* Judgment and mercy were 
united in God's dealings with Jerusalem."! Granted : but, for 
this very reason, it could not be judgment zvithout mercy. You 
might as well allege the union of wisdom and righteousness in all 
the works of God as a proof that there are some works in which 
wisdom will be exercised without righteousness ! 

In another Letter, Sir, I hope to conclude these remarks 

Meanwhile I am 

Yours, &c. 

A. J- 

» UniversalUl's Miscellany, p. 3"." Ibi.l. p. 3.18 

l.ETTKU Mil 



1 ilo not know whether I fully understand your remarks on 
proper eternity, (p. 364.) It is, certainly, one of those ideas in 
which the human mind is easily lost ; as it infinitely surpasses our 
comprehension : but, whether '* the scriptures have revealed any 
thing past or to come, besides what is connected with successive 
duration ;" and, whether we be " left to infer a proper eternity 
only from the nature of Deity ;" are other questions. You will 
allow that the scriptures attribute a proper eternity to the Divine 
Being, and to his all-comprehending purposes ; which, I shouW 
think, is not leaving us to infer it from his nature. They speak 
also of a period when God shall be all in all ; when the end com- 
eth ; and of the end of all things being at hand. They Likewise 
promise an inheritance that shall be without end. I should think, 
therefore, that this inhenlanre, of which the New Testament 
speaks very fully, cannot be said to be connected with successive, 
duration ; not so connected, however, as to be commensurate with it. 

By successive duration heinj; ended, I meant no more than what 
1 apprehended you must mean by the cessation o{ dtty and night, 
(No. I. p. 8.) and the state of things when Christ shall have deliv- 
ered up the kini;dom to the Father. Strictly speakinj;, it may be 
true, that the idea of successive duration necessarily attaches, and 
ever will attach, to the existence of cre.ntures ; and that none but 
God can be said to exist without it : but there is a period, by your 
own acknowledgment, when the states of creatures will be for ever 
fixed ; and if, at this period, dinners be doomed to everlasting pun- 
ishment, the term " everlasting" must be understood to mean end 
less duration This period I conceive to be at the last judgment 
you extend it to ages beyond it. Here, therefore is our differ- 
ence. I did not allege Kev. x. G. in favour of there being an end 

40U LETTERS TO [Letter VIU. 

of time. 1 did not apprehend it needed proof. Yoot formal 
answer to it, therefore, is only removing an objection of your own 
creating ; and, if designed to prove that time will have no end, it 
is as contrary to your own avowed principles, as to mine. 

You contend, that ^' the day of judgment is not the finishing 
period of Christ's kingdom ;" for which you offer a number of 
reasons. To the greater part of them I have already replied. 
The rest I shall briefly consider : — 

This earth (which is to be the hell of wicked men, 2 Pet. iii. 7 
— 13.) is. to be renewed, whereby hell itself will be no more."* 
If the gloss will bear the test, you have certainly, for once, hit 
upon a clear proof of your point ; for none can imagine the con- 
flagration to be eternal. But, First: the scriptures speak of a 
hell already existing^ wherein the angels who kept not their first 
estate are reserved in everlasting chains, unto darkness^ unto the 
judgment of the great day ; and in which the departed spirits of 
wicked men lift up their eyes, being in torment ; and intimate, that 
this, whatsoever and wherever it be, will be the hell of ungodly 
men : for they are doomed to depart into everlasting fire, prepared 
for the devil and his angels. But this cannot be upon earth ; as its 
present condition does not admit of it. 

Secondly : If the earth, as being dissolved by fire, is to be the 
hell of ungodly men, their punishment must precede \\\e. day of 
judgment, instead of following it : for the conflagration is liniformly 
represented as prior to that event. It is described, not as your 
scheme supposes, as taking place a thousand years after Christ's 
second comrtig ; but as attending it. The day of the Lord's com- 
ing is the same as the day of God, which Christians look for, and 
hasten to ; wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved. 
— Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence : a fire shall de- 
vour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him ; 
and all this, previous to his giving orders for his saints to he gath- 
ered untohim. And thus we are taught, by the apostle Paul, that 
the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven m flaming fire-I 

Thirdly : I appeal to the judgment of the impartial reader, 
whether, by the per^iVeon of ungodly men, be not meant the dos- 

* Universalist'8 Miscellany, No. XXXVI. p. 365. 
t 2Pet. ii. 7, 12, 13. Psa. I. 2 Thes. i. 7, 8, 

Letter VIIL] .MR. \ IDLLR 401 

truction of their /it;e«, aod not of their souls? It is spoken of iu 
connexion with the deluge, and intimated, that, as the ungodly 
were then destroyed from the face of the earth by water, in like 
manner they should now be destroyed by fire. 

You plead the promise, that *' every knee shall bow to Christ," 
and consider this as inconsistent with " a stubborn knee, even in 
hell.' But the question is, Whether the bowing of th»* knee to 
Christ be necessarily expressive of a voluntary auA holy submission 
to him ? The same inspired writer applies the languasjc to that 
universal conviction which shall be produced at the last jtidgment, 
when every mouth will be stopped, and all the world become 
guilty before God. We shall all »/awr/(saith he) before the judg- 
ment seat of Christ : for it is written as I live saith the Lord, every 
knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.] Bat 
you will not pretend, that every knee will, in that day, bow to 
Christ in a way of voluntary submission. 

" All things," you allege, " are to be reconciled to the Father 
by the blood of the cross : but, while any continue in enmity 
against God, this can never be performed." (p. 364.) You 
refer, I suppose, to Col. i. 19, 20. But, if the reconciliation of 
things in earth, and things in heaven, denote the salvation of all 
the inhabitiints of heaven and earth, it would follow : (I.) That the 
holy angels are saved, as well as the unholy ; though, in fact, they 
never sinned. (2.) That when the Apostle adds, .-tnd you that 
were sometime alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked 
works, yet now hath fie reconciled, he deals in unmeaning tautolo- 
gy. Things in heaven, and things in earth, were at variance 
through sin. Men becoming the enemies of God, all his faithful 
subjects, and all the works of his hands; were at war with them ; 
yea, they were at variance with each other. But, tlirough the 
blood of Christ, ail things are reconcile! ; and, under his head- 
ship, all made to subserve the present and everlasting good ol 
them who believe in him. Such a|»pear^, to me, to be the mean- 
ing of the passage, and which involves neither of the foregoing 

+ Rom. xiv. 10— Ii». 
Vor II. A I 

402 LETTERS TO [Letter VIII. 

*' Christ," you add, '^ is to rule till his enemies are subdued; till 
there be no authority, power, or dominion, but what shall be sub- 
servient to him ; and, as the wages of sin is death, the second 
death must be here included." (p. 365.) This language, which 
is taken from 1 Cor. xv. is manifestly used in reference to the res- 
urrection of the bodies of those that sleep in Jesus, which is an 
event that precedes the last judgment ; for when this corruptible 
shall have put on incorruption — then shall he brought to pass the 
saying that is icritt en. Death is sicallowed up in victory; which is 
ihe same thing as the last enemy being destroyed. And then cometh the 
end, the last judgment, and the winding up of all things, when he 
shall have delivered up the kingdom to God even the Father : when 
he shall have put down all rule, and all authority , and power, (ver. 
24, 25.) For you to interpret this language, of things that are to 
follow the last judgment, and to say that it ?jiust include the second 
death, proves nothing, but the dire necessity to which your system 
reduces you. 

"Finally: the character of God is love; which is expressly 
against the horrible idea of the endless misery of any of his rational 
creatures." (p. 3D5.) So, Sir, you are pleased to assert. Anoth- 
er might, from the same premises, infer, that the punishment of 
any of his rational creatures in hell, for ages of ages, where there 
shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (and this, not- 
withstanding the death of his Son, and the omnipotence of hi? 
grace, which surely was able to have saved them from it,) is borri„ 
ble and incredible ! Is it inconsistent with the benevolence of a su- 
preme magistrate, that he dooms certain characters to death ? 
Rather, is it not an exercise of his benevolence ? Should a male- 
factor persuade himself and his companions in guilt, that his ma- 
jesty cannot possibly consent to their execution, without ceasing 
to be that lovely and good character for which he has been famed, 
would not his reasoning be as false in itself as it was injurious to 
the king ? Nay ; would it not be inimical to his own interest, and 
that of his fellow criminals ; as by raising a delusive hope, they 
are prevented from making a proper and timely application to the 
throne for mercy ? 



Such are your reasons for successive duration, and final salva- 
tion after the last judgment ; which, whether they ought to sat- 
isfy any other peraoii, let the reader jud;;t'. I sliall close with re 
plies to a few of your aniniadvei*sions. 

Your misrepresentation of what I had advanced concerning the 
Jews as a distinct nation, I should hope needs no correction. If 
any of your readers can mistake what you have said, for a just 
statement of the views, or an answer to the argument of your op- 
ponent, they are beyond the reach of reasoning. 

You inferred, from what was God's end in punishing Israel in 
the present life, that, (seeing he was an immutable being,) it must 
be the same in his punishing others in the life to come.* I an- 
swered, that I might as well infer, from what appears to be his end 
in punishing Pharaoh and Sodom in the present life, which was not 
their good, but the good of others, that such will be the end of fu- 
ture punishment.! You reply by supposing that these characters 
were destroyed for their good. (p. 367. What, //* the present life? 
No ; but in the life to come ! and do you call this reasoning ? 

You say, " If any be finally incorrigible, it mu:jl be in conse- 
quence of the divine purpose ; or else ihe purpose of God has 
been fustrated." I have in my last letter, replied to the substance 
of this dilemma. I may add, you need be under no apprehen- 
sion, that I shall be tempted to give up the infrustableness of the 
divine purpose ; and if 1 admit, that God, in just judgment, has 
purposed to give some men up to stumble, and fall, and perish, it 
is no more than the scriptures abundantly teach. You talk ol 
'^ the LASTStateof a creature according with the divine purpose :" 
but I know of no evidence for this, whicli does not equally apply 
to every state. If you be templed to ask, Why does he yet find 
fault ; for who hath resisted his will? you may possibly recollect, 
that these questions have been asked before and answered loo ; 
and it may be of use to you to study the answer. 

Akin to this is your dilemma, '* That God cannot, or will not, 
make an end of sin ; that then* is not efficacy enough in the blood 
of Christ, to destroy the works of the devil ; or else, that the full 
efficacy of the atonement in withheld by the divine determination." 

» Uniremalist's Misrellany, No 11. pp. 4:J, 44. 1 Ibid No. XXXI II. p. 26^2, 

404 LETTERS TO [Letter VIU. 

It has been already observed, and I hope proved, that the scrip- 
ture phrnses, making an end of sin, 8fc. convey no such idea as 
you attach to them. (p. 264.) And as to your dilemma, to which 
you ascribe great *' weight," I answer again, you need be under 
no apprehensions of my limiting the power of God, or the effica- 
oy of the Saviour's blood ; and, if I say, that both the one and the 
othor are applied under the limitation of his own infinite wisdom, 
I say, not only what the scriptures abundantly teach, but what you 
yourself must admit. Can you pretend, that your scheme rep- 
resents God as doing all he can do, and as bestowing all the mercy 
which the efficacy of the Saviour's blood has rendered consistent ? 
If so you must believe that God cannot convert more than he ac- 
tually does in the present life, and that the efficacy of the blood 
of Christ is not equal to the saving of more than a part of man- 
kind from the second death. 

You think, that " the scripture is not silent concerning the fu- 
ture emendation of the ancient Sodomites ;" and refer me to 
Ezek. xvi. 44 — 63; arguing, that "Sodom and her daughters 
must be taken hterally for the city of Sodom, and the neighboring 
cities of the plain ; that the prophecy must refer to the very per- 
sons who were destroyed, seeing they left no descendants ; and 
that there is the same reason to expect the restoration of Sodom, 
as the fulfilment of God's gracious promises towards Jerusalem.''' 
(p. 368. J But, if your interpretation prove any thing, it will 
prove — I will not say, too much, but too little. It will prove, not 
that the ancient Sodomites will be saved from " the vengeance of 
eternal fire," and introduced into the heavenly world ; but, bare- 
ly, that they are to return to their former estate, (ver. 55.) And 
do you seriously think, that, after the last judgment, the ciHes of 
Sodom and Gomorrha, of Samaria and Jerusalem, will be rebuilt, 
and repossessed by their ancient inhabitants ? If so, it is time for 
me to lay down my pen. 

The former part of the above passage, (ver. 46 — 59.) I appre- 
hended to be no promise; but the language of keen reproof: and, 
instead of intimating a return to either Sodom or Jerusalem, the 
latter is reckoned with on the footing of her own deserts, and told, 

Letter VIllJ MR. VIDLEIl. ^Qr^ 

in effect, not ti) expect it, any more than the tbrmer.* The lat- 
er part (ver. 69 — 63.) contains the language of free mercy ; not 
honever, towards the same individuals as^ainst whom the threat - 
nings are directed, but to their distant posterity, who, under the 
gospel dispensation, should be brought home to God ; and by a 
new and better covenant, have the Gentiles given to them. The 
conversion of the heathen is expressed by this kind of language 
more than once; as by bringing again the captivity of Moab. of 
Elam, and of the children of Amman in the latter days. Jer. 
xlfiii. 47. xlix. 6. 39. 

You " have not discernment enough, it seems, to perceive the 
gross absurdity" of maintaining that there can be no diversity in 
future punishment, unless it be in duration ; that is, that the reflec- 
tions of sinners on their past life must all be exactly the same. It 
may be so; but I cannot help it. Your answer amounts to this ; 
Diversity of degrees in future punishment may be accounted for, 
by varying the duration of it; " for every one knows there need* 
not so much time to inflict a hundred stripes, as to inflict ten time* 
that number.'^ Theretbre, that must be the way, and the ntih/ 
way ; and if you do not admit it, you *' confound all degrees of 
punishment, in giving infinite punishment to all." (pp. 42. 264. 

You believe, you say, ^' those toho die in their sins cannot go 
where Christ is.'' You must mean to say merely, that they cannot 
follow him NOW, but shall follow him afterwards. Such things, 
indeed, are said of Christ's friends, but not of his enemies. 

You have represented me jis maintaining, that all punishment 
clashes with the benevolence "both of God and his people." I 
have said no such thing concerning God : and if we were equally 
wise and righteou?, and equally concerned to guard the interests 
of the universe, as he is, we should be, in all respects, of the same 
mind with him. The misery which I suppose true benevolence 
to clash with, is misery inflicted for its own sake: and to this, 
whether it be temporary or endless, it is alike abhorrent. God 
has also made it our duly, while sinners are not his confirmed 

* Sec a aiaiilar kiod of phraMoluj^y io Jer. xxxtii. 19— '2C. 


enemies, to do all in our power to preserve their lives, ami save 
their souls : but He is not obliged to do all that he can to these 
ends, nor does he. Temporary punishment, you contend, may 
consist with benevolence, *' because it is directed to a good and 
glorious end :" and do I contend for endless punishment on .any 
other principle ? If you can form no idea of an end that is good 
and glorious, save that which respects " the amendment of the 
sufferer," it does not follow that no such end exists. A murderer, 
contemplating his approaching exit, might be so much absorbed in 
the love of himself, as to be of your opinion ; but the community 
would not. 

Whether I have entered into " the merits of the cause," or 
conducted the controversy in a becoming " spirit," I consider as 
no part of my province to determine. The impartial reader will 
judge, whether I have dealt in "' soft words, or hard arguments ;" 
and if, in this particular, I have been so happy as to follow your 
counsel, whether 1 have not been obliged to deviate from your 
example. On this account, I shall be excused from taking any 
notice of your animadversions on these subjects, together with 
those of your ally, the " Hoxtot Student," unless it be to thank 
you, for affording additional proof of the justness of my remark, 
That Socinians rejoice in the spread of Universalism. 

Whether the kingdom of heaven be prepared for all men, or 
not, that you and I may so agonize, in the present life, as at last to 
enter in, is the desire and prayer of your sincere well-wisher, 

A. F.