« AnteriorContinuar »
St. David's and Raphoe, and of Dr. Hales, we adverted to on former occasion. But they are left far behind by a contemporary Reviewer, whose outrageous eagerness to elevate himself into the champion of the Church, has led him, like a rash recruit, to venture far beyond the lines of sound argument or sober truth, with no better result than the gratification of his own vanity, or the amusement of the enemy. As we do not see the Review in question, we must take Mr. Fripp's word for the correctness of the following citations, in which the sentiments of the Unitarians are professedly described.
""They reject all supernatural doctrines; nay, they even deny some of the doctrines of natural religion, such as the Omnipresence and universal agency of the Deity. They are conscious hypocrites : their writings are marked by contradictions and absurdities so palpable as to move our pity, and to humble us in our view of our common nature." Above all," they are brazen, avowed, truculent infidels-leagued together against the Majesty of Heaven. (Conjurati cælum, rescindere fratres.) They worship a non-entity, a phantasm, an airy nothing.-THEY ARE ATHEISTS IN THE WORLD-MEN WHO WOULD CRUCIFI CHRIST APRESH if he were to appear among them, and they were able. In fine, that it is hard to form a conception of any man more completely cut off from God :--men, in whose minds there must be an obstacle that blocks out all religious influence--a barrier to the entrance of saving truth, which nothing but Omnipotence can subdue.”'. pp. 12–13.
In the remarks which Mr. Fripp subjoins on these and similar calumnies, we cordially coincide.
• How much were it to be wished that certain defenders of orthodoxy would be less sparing of their anathemas, and deal more in arguments ?
feeble voice be heard, I would earnestly solicit them to imitate -ot this or that polemic of great fame, whose intention was to crush where he could not persuade, to defame where he found refutation impracticable—but the great Apostle of the Gentiles; who, when speaking of the “ enemies of the cross of Christ," wielded the all-powerful eloquence of a bleeding heart; who disdained to employ threats and in tive, or to call to his aid the thunders and lightnings of Mount Sinai, but rather used the mild and persuasive language of tears, and expostulations, and benevolent prayers. Besides, it might not be unuseful were they to reflect, that by bending the bow too far, it may break; that by representing a denomination of professed Christians as a hideous compound of all that is vile and base, as even worse than the very worst " anti-religious" sect, as men irreversibly sealed to everlasting perdition,-doubts as to the truth of such representations, may possibly be raised in the minds of some, who might otherwise have gone on contentedly, in an unwavering and implicit assent to whatever they hear from their spiritual guides. Surely, their conviction of the TRUTH of their own cause cannot be so tottering, as to lead them to suppose that the awful and magnificent edi. fice, reared by Prophets and Apostles, “ Jesus Christ himself being the
" chief cornerstone, can require the piny buttresses of human cene sures, of misrepresentation and calumny, of baughty disdain and bitter inveciive. Can the anathemas of councils, and the damnatory clauses of creeds, give stability to the foundation, or can the lightnings of excom munication reflect glory on the hallowed walls of the TEMPLE OF ETERNAL Truth? · Vain thought!
It stands like the cerulian arch we see,
MAJESTIC IN ITS OWN SIMPLICITY. pp. 15, 16. We must now turn from the particular case of Mr. Fripp, to the common subject of the pamphlets before us. But in so doing, we shall have less in view the refutation of our opponents, than the information of our readers. In the grounds on which Mr. Fripp rests his abjuration of orthodoxy, and in the assertions of Mr. Belsham and Mr. Aspland, there is little or nothing that is new, either in matter or in manner. The same palpable sophisms which have been a thousand times refuted, the same bold assertions which have been again and again replied to, are calmly reproduced. With much that Mr. Fripp has brought for ward, we have no concern.
We are of Jeremy Taylor's opinion as to the creed aseribed to Athanasius. We lay no stress on the word Trinity, it being of purely human invention ; though we scruple not to use it, as firmly believing what it is meant to convey. We have no such affected horror of theo. logical terms confessedly of no higher origin or authority than other conventional phrases; neither are we disposed to fight for them. Again, we are of Mr. Fripp's opinion on some important points; to wit, as to the Protestant use of Reason in religious inquiries, the right of private judgement, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the authority of Christ • as the sole • monarch and head of his Church, the only spiritual Master of • Christians. These are, with us, first principles, which we hope never to leave behind in our theological discussions or in, quiries. But these admissions, which we make most cheerfully, must be considered as so much deducted from the reasons Mr. Fripp assigns for going over to our opponents; and those which are left him after these deductions, are not, in our view, better founded.
It appears to be Mr. Fripp's wish, and it has been the policy of some recent writers of the Unitarian school, to attempt toet shew how much the Unitarians hold in common with Christiansa: of every denomination,-how near they come to orthodoxy. We are indebted to Dr. Priestley and to Mr. Belsham, for af fording us the ready means of detecting and exposing this specious fallacy. In this respect, Mr. Belsham's present pamaa phlet supplies us with an antidote to all that is likely to prove deleterious in Mr. Fripps. We consider the former gentleman indeed, as one of the best friends to the cause of orthodox Chris Vol. XVII. N.S.
tianity. His name has come to have all the force of an argument in favour of the tenets he impugns. His writings dispense far and wide the light of a beacon; and when the fear of running into uncharitableness leads us too near the shoals of latitudinarianism, this light-house of the Christian world warns us back. Whatever may have been the besetting sins of Mr. Belsham's long controversial career, no one can charge him with the want of explicitness or of boldness. The present pamphlet is worthy of himself. Its design and spirit are in striking consistency with the moral tendency and aim of his former labours. It has for its object, to ridicule the 'vulgar' notion of the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, or their freedom from 'great philosophical errors ;'
that Moses was not the author of the Book of Genesis; and to shew, that the 'ingenious attempts of learned men to re• concile the narrative in the first chapter of Genesis with the • true system of the universe, are unsatisfactory, and useless, • and even injurious to the cause of revealed religion.' It is a • vulgar,' but a forcible expression, which we are tempted to employ when we say, that Mr. Belsham is a man who sticks at nothing. He concedes to Bellamy and Carlile, in the following passage, all that they would wish for.
• To conclude. The Scriptures in general will never be read with that pleasure and improvement which they are calculated to impart, till the vulgar opinion of the plenary inspiration of every book, and of every sentence contained in them, is entirely given up, and till no inspiration of any kind, or in any degree, is allowed, but what the writers themselves claim and prove. While the mind is entangled in the notion of an universal plenary inspiration of the sacred volume, it finds difficulties at every step, and is fearful of exercising a sound discretion; its reasoning powers are cramped and suspended, and it ventures only to exercise its ingenuity in harmonizing contradictions, in reconciling to probability things that are repugnant to common sense, and in vindicating the morality of actions which are at variance with truth and justice. In fine, so long as the plenary inspiration of all the books which compose the volume of the Jewish and Christian scriptures is asserted and maintained, the objections of unbelievers, however they may be silenced by pains and penalties, can never be answered in a way which will be satisfactory to men of sense, candour, and reflection.' pp. 28, 29.
We have sufficiently expressed our opinion as to pains and penalties in such cases, in reviewing Mr. Belsham's memorable defence of Ecclesiastical Establishments; and Mr. Belsham is the last man we would silence in that way. We would sooner see him made a bishop. But we cannot help adverting to the capricious diversity of fate which the learned Translator, the learned Divine, and he who should have been their bookseller, have met with :- the first, patronised by the hierarchy; the second, revered as the patriarch of his sect; the third, out of Bedlam, but in gaol. Posterity, with more even-handed justice, will award to their labours a common fame. All three of them agree in this ; that the Bible, as it is now vulgarly understood, in the vulgar translation, and according to the vulgar opinion of Christians of all denominations, is open to unanswerable objections, and that parts, at least, cannot be read with either pleasure or improvement.
We shall make but one more extract from Mr. Belsham's discourse, and for this we feel that we ought almost to apologize to our readers. But such passages speak volumes as to the “ general spirit of a writer. And as the spirit of Dr. Carpenter's letter suggested Mr. Fripp's first doubts as to the purity of the orthodox system, who knows but the spirit of Mr. Belsham's discourse may excite a salutary doubt in the mind of some person as to the true genius and tendency of Unitarianism?
• That there was one only God, one glorious person alone, the Creator, the Former, and the Lord of all things, was unquestionably the clear understanding of the Hebrew nation in all ages ; who justly repel with indignation the insulting charge that their ancestors ever worshipped a Triune Deity. Into whatever errors or idolatries this extraordinary people might be suffered to fall, pever, never did they so far apostatize from the religion of their forefathers, and the doctrine of their sacred books, as to concede, that Moses taught the
existence of the Trinity in Unity, or that the Eternal and Almighty God transferred to some inferior nature the task of new modelling and of governing the world and its inhabitants, while he was himself contented to sustain the part of a silent and inactive spectator.
• The arguments in favour of these strange suppositions are almost too trilling to be mentioned, and in all other cases would be passed over in silent contempt by many, who now bring them forward with the greatest parade.'* pp. 14, 15.
* Mr. Belsham, in the subsequent paragraphs, condescends to notice one of those trifling' arguments, founded on the plural form of the Hebrew word translated God, as uniformly connected with a singular verb. Miserable subterfage,' miserable sophistry,' are the words employed by our “Calm Inquirer” on this subject. Who does not • know,' he says, 'that such anomalies are common? We must ingenuously confess that we do not. But moreover, the word trans• lated God, in its singular form, expresses power: in its plural, it sig, • nifies omnipotence.' • Nor is it at all uncommon,' adds this learned Hebraist, to apply the very same word in its plural form to magistrates and judges : Moses himself is called Elohim.' Now, then, what can be clearer, than that it must, in the plural, mean omnipotence ? Ergo, magistrates and judges are omnipotent; and the meaning of Exod. vii. 1, is, I have made thee an Omnipotent to Pharoah !! Will
The learned and pious Bishop of St. David's has termed the Unitarians, God-denying apostates ;' in allusion, we presume, to 2 Pet. i. 1. We strongly object to the phrase, as warranted neither by the text nor by the fact. We do not see, indeed, how the term apostates can be with propriety applied to any collective body, the greater part of whom have been educated in the false opinions they hold, and have not, as individuals, apostatized. But, waiving this objection, we consider the designation as useless for the purpose of argument, and adapted only to inflame the passions. Yet, let the reader compare with this expression, against which such a clamour has been raised, the above declaration of Mr. Belsham as to those who hold the doctrine of the Trinity. Here we have the very word apostatized, hypothetically applied to the Jews, but, by direct and necessary implication, pointed at all Christians who hold that “the Word
was God," and that “ all things were made by him.” This apostacy is intimated to be worse than any errors or idolatries into which the ancient Jews were suffered to fall. Nay, notwithstanding the present intellectual and moral degradation of the Hebrew nation, it were an insult to them, an insult which, we are told, they would justly repel with indignation, to charge their ancestors with the foul crime of that apostacy in which is involved the whole Christian world !! We will not be provoked even by Mr. Belsham into recrimination. We should be ashamed to plead such a precedent in extenuation of a moment's forgetfulness of the decencies of controversy. We would, however, recommend Unitarians like Mr. Fripp, when they complain of the spirit of orthodox writers, to look nearer home. But this is not the use which we wish our readers to make of such passages. There is apostacy somewhere. So far, Mr. Belsham has correct views of the immense distance which separates his creed from ours. Trinitarian Christianity is idolatry, or Socinianism is apostacy; and Dr. Wardlaw's affirmation, that the whole world lies between the two systems,' is no hyperbole. If Mr. Fripp still objects to it as such, we refer him to Mr. Belsham, who will on that point set him right.
Mr. Aspland is a far more formidable antagonist than Mr. Belsham, because, with far more natural acuteness, he is always cool, and never loses sight of the character of a gentleman. if, as a writer, he is never profound, neither is he ever pompous; he is always plausible, and sometimes elegant. His native good taste is conspicuous in his keeping clear from the slang to which his brethren Fox and Gilchrist have continually recourse in
Mr. Belsham have the goodness to inform us what Adonim and Baalim mean in connexion with a singular verb; or what is the superlative' of Lord?