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On Controversial Divinity.
585 wish well to the cause of rational countenance; and in company he Christianity. I am the more dis- often drags his associates into a contenposed to make this observation, on tio: about some favourite and perhaps account of having often been pained frivolous topic, or at best not fit to be to see the free pews in our chapels debated in a mixed assembly, where, filled with strangers whose attendance if the subject of religion be introduced, was doubtless with an intention to it should be discussed only upon achear what might be said in behalf of knowledged principles. An old Puritan the doctrines held by Unitarians, but thus describes such professors : who must inevitably have gone away “They crowd about a little spark, with disappointment, perhaps with a Contend and wrangle in the dark; determination to come there no more, Never more bold than when most blind, having been disgusted rather than And they run fastest when the truth's informed by hearing (what is called) behind." a dry moral discourse. I do most sin- Such a spirit is of hurtful tendency ; cerely hope that this subject will be it is the bane of that common love we taken into serious consideration by owe to all mankind, of peace and friendly Unitarian ministers, particularly those intercourse; it will wither our virtues of our more opulent congregations and reflect disgrace upon our profesIf a doctrinal or controversial sermon sion : nevertheless, as just binted, we were to be preached regularly once a must sometimes dispute; for what fortnight, I think it would be calcu- topic of religion or of'norals hath not lated to do much good; for those who been made a subject of controversy? felt an interest in the cause would Only let us be careful to observe the then know when to invite their essential circumstances of time, place friends who are of a different opinion, and manner. but not indisposed to inquiry. A lec- As in a mixed company, so in a ture on theological subjects given on sermon delivered to a mixed a week day evening, is I think another gation, we should not enter much into
congrething very much to be desired; for, disputed points, meaning here, not the no doubt, there are many people who great outlines of natural and revealed would attend our meetings, at con- religion, which, though they have venient opportunities, but cannot con- been controverted, are supposed to be scientiously absent themselves from acknowledged and partly understood the service of their own respective by the majority of Christian hearers, places of worship
but those points about which the sin
cere professors of the gospel differ. On Controversial Divinity. The former will ever constitute an Sept. 7th, 1816.
essential part of all sound legitimate THE dispute about religion," says scriptural preaching; the latter it is
.Dr. Young, "and the practice plain should be treated of only in a of it, seldom go together." This asser- general way. It is impossible in a tion must be taken with some grains single discourse to state all questions of allowance. It could be designed relative to a disputed article or to anonly to guard us against the influence swer all objections: there is a decorum, of a contentious and controversial spirit, a manner to be observed in a sermon, to the neglect of real religion; and not never to be departed from. At the to discourage the sober investigation of same time that the faithful minister truth: for this eminent writer was should guard against every thing that himself, saving perhaps in some articles would nourish foolish and hurtful preof his creed, one of the profoundest rea- judices, every thing that has the apsoners. The disputatious professor en- pearance of trimming, compounding ters into the church or into company or reconciling things in themselves to criticize, to judge and to condemn. irreconcileable, he should avoid in He can discern a minister's creed by the matters of speculation ; for in morals turn of his prayers, by the naming of there must be no ceremony though his text,* or even by the lines of his there should be method : in treating of
matters of speculation he should avoid “ That's an Arminian tert,” said a sage every thing irritating or calculated to disciple once to his pew-mate as soon as the hurt the feelings of the weak, but mipister had spoken it.
humble believer, who certainly had
better for the present be suffered to opinion of their own party they have retain a simple error of the intellect, written well : but we must not confint rather, than that by having his evil Anti-Christ to any particular denomipassions awakened, he should unhap- nation : wherever there is a desire of pily fall into some rice of the heart. governing consciences or of lording it The preacher in this case is in danger over God's heritage, there is Antiof alarming the prejudices of his Christ.* hearers avithout convincing their un- But wherever these obnoxious prinderstandings, and perhaps, to shortenciples are disowned, we must not judge his work, will unawares be led into our brother“ because he followeth not railing instead of reasoning.
with us." The charity of the great These remarks do not apply to re- Founder of our religion and of ligious conversations strictly so called, the sacred writers, is extended to lo printed sermons on particular occa- a degree of which a true bigot of sions, or to lectures in the form of any denomination, cleric or laick, essermons professeilly treating on parti- tablished or un-established, can scarcecular subjects where the hearers are ly form an idea. Our Lord would prepared for discussion, and which not permit those strangers to be forbidmay all be eminently useful in their den who attempted to cure diseases in way, though even here the character his name; and St. Paul permitted of a sernion should be preserved, but those to preach the gospel who built chiefly to general preaching. “It is a nothing nipon it but « wood, hay and kind of sacrilege," says Dr. Hartley, “to stubble ;” and allowed that thoughi rol'God's flock of the nourishment due their works should be made manifest to them from public preachings, and“ by the spirit of judgment and the in its stead to run out upon questions spirit of burning," the men themselves that minister no profit to the hearers, might be saved, and be rejoiced that at 'heast to the greatest part. These “Christ was preached," though from things are much better communicated improper motives : aud thus must we to the world by the press than 10 a act if we would approve ourselves inue mixed assembly by the pulpit." Christians, though we should find it
It may not be amiss here to offer a impossible entirely to coalesce with few remarks upon the several names some particular communities. and denominations into which the If a Protestant of the denomination Christian church is divided; and to of “Friends” were introduced into the which, to names and not to things our cathedral of St. Peter's at Rone at the present reflections will be confined. celebration of some solemn fesuival, It is indeed certain that as “the evil what would be his sensations?-the shall bow before the good, and the gorgeous temple, the holy water, the wicked at the gates of the righteous;" superb ornaments, the pompous proSo, things as well as names will finally cessions, the change of postures and of settle upon their proper bases. That vestments, the blaze of candles at nounwhich hath an unstable foundation day, the smoke of incense, the instrumust necessarily, fall of itself; and mental music, the chanting of the were it not so, the decree as to all the choristers, the prayers in an unknown corruptious of religion is final and tongue-would altogether serve in their irrevocable : every plant which my general effect absolutely to distract heavenly Father hath not planted shall him! Or if perchance he could gain an be rooted up." But riames may be- interval of reflection, it would be to come obsoleie long before the things say within himself-is this the religion signified by them are fallen into decay; of Jesus Christ ? are these the diseiples that is, the asperities and excrescences of the prophet of Nazareth, “the man of sects and parties inay wear off, and of sorrows and acquainted with griefs?" they may learn to view one another of him who laid down “
poverty of without aversion and disgust, and even spirit” as the first stone in his spiritual with cordial amity and good will, building; of him whose kingdom though they should still retain many of was not of this world?" Perhaps he their own peculiar notions. And this desirable event appears to be rapidly *“ lyuovance in doctrine, superstition in accomplishing every day: Some emi worship and persecution in temper, are full nent Protestants have written to prove proofs of Anti-Christ." that the Pope is Anti-Christ, and in the
Robinson on Claude.
On Controversial Divinitija
387 might be told in the sermon, if per- then indeed for the present there inust chance it should be preached by a be an end of the business! In such a L'abbé Pluche or a Fenelon, that all case those who are left ought, in a rés
and pageantry was nothing, ligious view, to think and act for them any further than as it served to promote selves. “ The whole world," says Dr. internal sanctity and the religion of the Hartley, “ will never be reformed bus heart : but this would not suffice; he by those who are of a truly Catholic would immediately reply--if it be spirit." nothing, then it is nothing worth, a And to promote this desirable and needless expence upon the public, and important end we are called upon as much better omitted. And even in a Christians, both in our private and church of more chaste and sober forms, public capacities. Nothing can be the pealing organ, the frequent repe- more obvious, if we believe Scripture, titions, the monotonous buz of a gene- and, as it'hath been well illustrated by ral response and the careless gabble of many eminent writers, than that the charity children, would tend rather to world is carried on for the sake of the depress than to exalt his devotion. church, not this or that particular And on the other hand, bring an un- church, not the clergy as distinct from informed Romanist into a silent meet- the laity, but the church of God, coning, and, from a totali ignorance of sisting, first, of “the household of their peculiar principles, he would faith," emphatically so called, that is inquire --wherefore they were come true Christians of every denomination, together?
and secondly, of "the children of God And yet, might not the Romanist who are scattered abroad, those other and the Friend, together with some of sheep who are not of the first fold, the the intermediate classes, converse to- sons and daughters whoin God shall gether upon the outlines of natural bring from afar, from the east and the religion and of Christian faith; and if west, the north and the south, to sig, accidentally cast into situations where down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their particular worship was not to be in his kingdom.” The Jewish nation hrad, meet together on the Lord's day, also, which, as such, was the ancient depute one as the organ of the congre- and peculiar people of God, the only gation to pray with or withont a form, nation which has any right to pleadi read some portions of Scripture, exhort favouritism, and that not on their own either from a written table or from account-which was never entirely “the table of the heart," and praise cast off, and which is to be finally res the great Creator and Governor of the stored, must be included in this general universe, through Jesns Christ? Nay, idea. It is no enthusiasm to say that might not those among them who held in this sense“ dominion is founded in the perpetuity of the ordinance of the grace," and that “the saints shall judge Lord's Sapper, unite in eating bread the world;" but then this is a spiritual and drinking wine, in conmemoration and not a civil dominion the dominion of their common Lord, together with of virtue orer vice, of truth over error, some short and appropriate prayers and of simple real religion over superstition, thanksgivings ; and yet each retain for of a spirit of peace and charity orer a the present his own peculiar ideas as to spirit of bigotry and intolerance: “ For the nature of this religious rite? Cer- the needy shall not always be forgotten, tainly all this may be done by sober the expectation of the poor shall not and considerate persons in different perish for ever; nor sball the rod of parts of the world, not only without ihe wicked for ever rest upon the lot offence, but much to their mutual com- of the righteous!" · Providence -somefort and edification. But if upon any times brings about these events by such oceasions a Gardiner or a Bonner gradual means, and sometiines He should unexpectedly enter, thunder operates more sensibly. There is a out his anathema, tell those of his own period when the church is represented community that a ceremonial worship as crying out, “It is time for Thee, was necessary to their religious im- O Lord! to work, for they have made provement, that public prayer cannot void thy law : Arise, O Lord! judge be duly celebrated without the priest, the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nac: nor the sacrament without the masse tions.” In the 24th and 34th chapters book, and they were to believe him ; of Isaiah we have a description of what
is called “the day of the Lord's ven
Newington Green, geance, and the year of
October 8th, 1816.
I guage the most awfully sublime, when insertion of the following remarks, “ 'The indignation of the Lord shall be occasioned by the notice of Philosophic upon all nations, and his fury upon Etymology in your last Number" (p. their armies; when the hosts of heaven 538—544). That notice is not more shall be dissolved, and the heavens severe but less candid and sufficient themselves rolled together as a scroll, than I expected. The writer of it has as a leaf falleth from the vine, and a remarked, indeed, that if the book falling fig from the fig-tree: When“ should not have a fair and impartial the earth shall reel to and fro like a trial, the author will have principally drunkard, and be removed like a cot- himself to blame. Mr. Gilchrist's petage; and the transgression thereof cular manner has made it impossible shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall that his work should be tried dispasand not rise again: When the moori sionately by many of those who are shall be confounded and the sun qualified to sit in judgment upon it." ashamed, and the Lord of Hosts shall It is generally understood, 'I believe, reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem that judges ought to be peculiarly disand before his Ancients, gloriously;"— passionate : whether they could justify figurative expressions, no doubt, in a themselves, in conducting an unfair great measure, which, nevertheless, trial and pronouncing angțily an unjust must have a precise and determinate sentence by saying it was impossible to meaning, though we may possibly mis- be dispassionate, may admit of doubt. take in their application.
It were unreasonable indeed to exact In the mean time, it behoves both extreme virtue from the gravest judges subjects and the rulers of churches and or most learned doctors; and therefore kingdoms to “ discern the signs of the I “principally blame myself for not rimes ;" the former, to attend chiefly having a fair and impartial trial.” Had to personal and family reformation, to I wriiten as libellously of law and “ pray for the peace of Jerusalem," lawyers, as of our learning and the and for a spirit of wisdom and justice learned, of schools and schoolmen, it in their governors ; not to forestal the is probable that my condign punishDivine plans, never to disturb the state, ment would have been far more afin order to purify the church; to wield fictive, and that ridicule and hisses no sword in defence of the truth, but would have pursued me to Newgate. “ the sword of the spirit;" and, while I wish not to offer any remarks on they “ abide in their several callings," the notice of my work considered as a and perform their duty, to leave the review : the real merits or demerits of rest to time and Providence :--and the the book are still before the judges : latter, to revise obsolete and to change your contributor has (prudently perobnoxious laws; not to obstruct reason- haps) left them to the sagacity of my able and gradual reformation ; never readers
. The capital, I may say sole to encourage the horrid and flagitious offence, preferred in the indictment, or principle of national enmities and an- set forth in the sentence pronounced tipathies, (for a heathen could say upou me, is, “ arrogant contempt of “Homo sum, nihil humani a me alienum all who have gone before me or who puto"); and ever to act under the im- stand beside me.” On this charge I pression of this important maxim, that wish, both in respect for the public that is likely to prove the most durable and in justice to myself, to solicit a governmeni, which hath its foundation patient and candid hearing. in justice and equity, and in the good I acknowledge that there is much opinion of the people.
bitter contemptuousness in my wriAN OCCASIONAL READER. tings. I acknowledge such contempP.S. The above was written before tuousness to be very wrong and very An Occasional Reader had read the in- reprehensible, and promise that I shall genious letter of Homily (p. 466_460). carefully weed it out of my publications There are only some slight shades of whenever (if ever) any of them shall difference between Homily and himself pass through my hands into a second as to controversial discourse and con- edition. Had I been fortunate enougte troversial preaching
to sludy deeply the doctrines of a certain
Projected Edition of Dr. Priestley's Theological Works. 589 masterly dissector of human nature and My Reviewer has intimated that I human society before comniencing au- think it an act of condescension on my thorship, my compositions would have part to instruct my kind-insinuating been untinctured with that rude, au- that I vainly look down with disclain dacious disdain, which is one of their from some fancied eminence on all discriminative features. I ought not But I will not yield to him or indeed to have vailed or cloaked my any other in respect for common men contemptnous feelings a la mode, but I avd common sense. I have found at ought to have suppressed and subdued least a considerable portion of the difthem as workings of that untaught vi- ferent classes of society philosophers in cious nature, in renouncing and mor- their own way; and I always respect tifying which consists the moralist's thinking beings whether they think victory over himself. The contempt rightly or wrongly, with me or against which I have so plentifully displayed me. I would rather converse a whole did not originate in but was sanctioned day with the plainest plonghman conby an error of judgment, which error cerning the important science of huswas only rendered more obstinate by bandry, than a single hour with soine such rebukes as those grounded on learned doctors concerning grainmar, Philosophic Etymology: Cominon place etymology, rhetoric or logic. It is more criticisin and stale satire are, to persons blessed to give than to receive : I think it of original thinking, offensive for in- a privilege to communicate instruction. sipidness rather than sourness, and, 'I have (as already acknowledgedy instead of diminishing, increase the expressed much contempt for some acidity of contemptuous feeling. I who have gone before nie and some have however derived much profitable who stand beside me: but when it is reflection and feeling from my present considered that Johnson's Dictionary reprover; and I can sincerely assure and Murray's Grammar, &c. are adopted him (though he despaired of me) that as standari's of the English language, arrogance, contempt (especially if forced will not those who have attended to or affected), and angry vanity, &c. are the philosophy of language admit that become so odious in my sight, that I there was much temptation in my way? hope never to be guilty of them any And if I have attempted to undervalue
Contemptuousness is one of some popular works as much as they are the spurious offspring of pride; vet usually overvalued, it should be rememeren pride oughi to make elevated bered, that if a rod or rule has been minds despise it: any person can look bent io one side, it must be as much or speak scornfully, but every person bent to the other to bring it straight. cannot think clearly or reason power
JAMES GILCHRIST. fully. Having frankly confessed my guilt, SIR,
October 11th, 1816. it cannot be unreasonable to remonstrate against the injustice of some of the HAVING presumed in a former
Number (P. 386] to call the atcharges brought against me. I ain tention of your readers to the appre. accused of “ contenipt of all who have hended failure of the Proposal for a gone before me.” Oihers have charged New Edition of Dr. Priestley's Theo. me with extravagant admiration of logical Works, and to suggest a few some who have gone before me. Surely imperfect hints with a view of promy antagonists ought not to blow cold moting the design, I am happy to oband hot upon me thus with the same serve in your present Number (p. 521) mouth of crimination. Will my wor- that the observations then made have thy admonisher assert that I have shown called forth an abler pen to advocate contempt towards Shakspeare, Bacon, the same cause. Sensible of my own Hobbes, Wilkins, Tucker, Locke and incompetence to render any important Horne Tooke? It may be said that service to such a design, I did, howthese did not stand in my way, and ever, indulge the expectation that an therefore I had no temptation to wish appeal (however imperfect) in its beto thrust them aside or knock them half
, would not be altogether in vain : down: but I beg to say that they were that expectation has not been disapall great masters in the science of words pointed, nor am I willing to abandon and ideas, and are the best teachers in the hope that the projected plan may onr language of Philosophic Etymology yet be placed." beyond the probability or Rational Grammar.
of failure.” YOL. XI.