« ПретходнаНастави »
the very days of the apostles," it has certainly been the case from a very early period. Against an accusation of this magnitude, you, who hold the doctrine, certainly do well to defend yourselves, and to exert all your powers to repel the attack that is made upon you.
You agree with me in having no dislike to controversy in general, saying, “ It is a wholesome exercise for us. It excites attention, and prevents indifference, the enemy, of all others, most to be dreaded."* In this, however, you differ very widely from Mr. Howes, who, though he voluntarily engages in this discussion, is of opinion that no good ever arose from controversy.t
As you and I, Sir, agree in so many particulars, I flatter myself that, in due time, we shall be able to bring this important controversy to a proper termination, so that what. ever may be the case with respect to ourselves, and others engaged in the discussion (for whose prejudices allowance will easily be made) attentive readers will be able to perceive on which side the truth lies.
Before I proceed any farther, I wish to set you right with respect to a charge against me, that I am confident is ill-founded, viz. that I consider all the defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity as either ignorant or insincere. I really cannot imagine on what it is that this supposition is founded; since, in a variety of places in my writings, I have expressed the greatest respect for some of those who have defended the doctrines of the Church of Rome, as well as those of the Church of England ; and I have no doubt of their being equal to any Unitarians with respect to ability, learning, or integrity.
This charge, I suppose, you have adopted from Dr. Horsley, who advanced it in his Letters to me. should not have repeated it without having read, and noticed, my reply to him on that subject, in my Second Set of Letters to him, in which among other things, I say, “ I do not pretend to recollect all that I have written; but I have such a consciousness of never having meant, or intended to say, what Dr. Horsley here charges me with, that I will venture to assert, that he cannot have any more authority for this, than for the privileges granted to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem on their abandoning the ceremonies of
Sermons, p. 15. (P.) Works, VI. p. 73. + See supra, p. 314. | P. 30. (P.) Dr. Priestley here, I apprehend, refers to a passage in “ an adver. tisement subjoined by Dr. Horue to these Sermons in 1786, declaring his intention to uswer the objections against the divinity of Christ, which had been urged of
See Rev. William Jones's “ Life of Dr. Horne.” Works, I. p. 146.
their old religion.- I shall therefore consider this charge of Dr. Horsley as a mere calumny, till he shall produce some evidence for it. And if, in any of my writings, he can find sufficient authority for his accusation, I here retract what I advanced, and ask pardon for it.”*
As Dr. Horsley did publish a Reply to my Letters, without producing any proof of his charge, I am at liberty to consider it not only as a calumny, but as an acknowledged one, with the aggravation of his not having the grace to ask pardon for it, which certainly a regard to truth, and to the public, called for. Since you, Sir, choose to take up the matter where he left it, I am under a necessity of calling upon you, to do what he ought to have done, or to acknow. ledge your inability to do it, and consequently the injustice of your accusation. I have the same right to call upon Dr. Parr, who has likewise recorded this accusation in the notes to his Sermon on Education.t
It is true that I do not think quite so highly of Dr. Horsley's literature as you do, but among other defenders of the doctrine of the Trinity, I am far from denying him a competent share of it: though he has, upon all occasions, expressed the greatest contempt for mine, besides charging me repeatedly with the most fraudulent practices in the conduct of this controversy. I wish his ingenuousness had been equal to his ability, or his learning. As to your learning, Sir, no person who has seen your Version of the Psalms, can call it in question, and that you are a real believer in the doctrine of the Trinity, as laid down in the Athanasian Creed, it is impossible to entertain a doubt, after your very solemn declaration to that purpose ; when you say, declare before God, in the sincerity of my soul, upon the best judgment I can form, I am verily persuaded it is the doctrine of the scripture, and of the primitive church.”+
I am far from being offended at the compliment you pay Dr. Horsley, as “evidently" an over-match for nie, “ in point of learning,”S and do not wonder that you should think that, “ the thanks of the Church of England are due to him for his seasonable, learned, and judicious writings in her defence ;” and therefore, that you should urge him, to
occupy the department he is so thoroughly qualified to fill, and go on, frustrating the attempts of your adversaries,
* See Appendix, No. IX.
Discourse on Education, and on the Plans pursued in Charity Schools," 1786. P. 3. (P.) Probably in the Advertisement. See supra, p. 323, Note I. § Sermons, p. 22. (P.) Works, VI. p. 80.
to deprive you of the argument from tradition.”* only concerned that, in this, you seem to give up that important province to him, when, in my opinion, it would be much better occupied by yourself. · I do not know, however, how it is, but after the great exertions of this boastful champion of yours, (whom all your encomiums and encouragement will not, I fear, be able to bring into the field again,) your church seems more solicitous than ever to procure more help, and from other quarters. Your own sermon, the object of which is to exhort your friends to contend earnestly for the faith,t is a proof of this; and from many other publications, as well as the language that, as I am informed, is frequently held from many pulpits in different parts of the kingdom ;£ it should seem that, notwithstanding all that had been done by Dr. Horsley, the faith of the church, and consequently the church itself, is still in danger. Is all this to slay the slain? The least that can be inferred from your sermon is, that the controversy is hardly well begun, and by no means that it is ended ; and from your engaging in it,g I flatter myself that it will be con. ducted in a manner infinitely more pleasing, both to myself, and the public, as well as more satisfactory with respect to the object of it, than it is probable that it would have been, if it had continued in the hands of Dr. Horsley.
I am, with real esteem,
Rev. Sir, very
* Sermons, p. 15. (P.) Works, VI. p. 73, Note. + See supra, p. 322, Note *.
| I have heard that Mr. Prettyman, brother to Dr. Prettyman, secretary to Mr. Pitt, and now Bishop of Lincoln, preached a very virulent sermon, in which my name was mentioned, before the corporation of Norwich. I hope he is so much a man of honour, as to publish the sermon, and thereby give me an opportunity of knowing, from himself, what be really did say of me, that, if it appear to me to be necessary, I may viodicate myself. (P.)
In an N. B. to the Preface, 1787, Dr. Priestley says, “ I am just informed that it was not Mr. Prettyman, but Dr. Prettymau himself, the present Bishop of Lincoln, who preached the Sermon. I should be sorry to fix a charge of illiberality on any wrong person; and I shall now with more confidence expect, from the bigh rank of his Lordship, that he will do me the justice I require."
In some copies of the Preface, dated Feb. 1, 1788, Dr P. adds, “ A year is nearly elapsed since this preface was written, but nothing has yet come from the Bishop upon the subject."
s“ The last literary work which Dr. Horne proposed to execute, while Dean of Canterbury, was a formal Defence of the Divinity of Christ against the objections of Dr. Priestley; in which it was his intention to shew, how that writer had mistaken and perverted the Scripture and the Liturgy." Jones's “ Life of Dr. Horne," Works, I. p. 145. This design was never accomplished. The biographer says, “ How much had been collected for this purpose, I do not find: yet I know that the subject had been long and often in the mind of Dr. Horne.” Mr. Jones, however. like a good churchman, satisfies himself that, “ in the eyes of all reasonable
Of the Argument from Antiquity, and of Dr. Horsley's Ser
vices with respect to it. Rev. Sir, It is evident from your exhortations to Dr. Horsley, and the whole tenor of your discourse, that, notwithstanding the stress you very justly lay upon the doctrine of the Scriptures, you do not undervalue the opinion of the primitive church. You say,
“ If the doctrine of our Lord's divinity be not the doctrine of the Scriptures, and of the primitive church” (as if these must have been the same)" it matters not how, when, or by whom, it was afterwards introduced. It should not have been received, and ought not to be retained.”
If, therefore, it can be proved by independent evidence, that the great body of primitive Christians were Unitarians, one of the strong holds of your faith is removed, and the other must be in great danger. For you could hardly have expressed yourself in the manner you have done, in the above quotation, if you had not thought some regard due to the sense in which the primitive Christians understood those books of scripture, which were written more immediately for their use, and in a language with which they were perfectly acquainted; regard enough to render us doubtful of the different interpretations which may be given at so great a distance of time as the present, and under the influence of such a mass of prejudices as may be supposed to have been contracted in the course of seventeen hundred years.
It cannot be doubted, but that the primitive Christians really thought that their opinions, whatever they were, were contained in the Scriptures, as these were the standard to which they constantly appealed. When you say, therefore, of what I have written, as you choose to express it, "in four large volumes, concerning the Jews, and the Gnostics, and the Ebionites, and the Nazarenes ; concerning Plato, and Philo, and Justin Martyr, and Tertullian ; concerning Philosophers, Fathers and Heretics, many and diverse, but all Unitarians it concerning the supposed caution of the apos
P.31. (P.) Probably in the Advertisement. See supra, p. 323, Note I. † There is rather too much of rhetoric in this passage to be strictly true. I am far from supposing that Justin Martyr. Tertullian, and many others of the Fathers
tles, and the supposed metaphysical and injudicious arguments and disquisitions of writers, whether ancient or modern, upon any part of the subject; that all this, with the goodly edifice raised on such a foundation, will fall directly to pieces, vanish into air; "and, like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind ;'"* your conclusion is rather too hasty.
If, Sir, what I have advanced in those four volumes be just; if, from the various evidence that I have produced, it be indisputable, as I think it is, that the primitive Christian church was Unitarian; if all the explanations and defences of the doctrine of the Trinity, by those who first broached it, and by those who have since maintained it, be absurd, and no better explanations or defences can be produced, the doctrine itself cannot be true; and no criticism upon any texts of scripture, if they can possibly bear an Unitarian interpretation, can prove it to be so.
As you strongly recommend the study of ecclesiastical history, and that of the fathers, I presume that, though you wish Dr. Horsley to occupy this department in the present discussion, you have not neglected to give due attention to it yourself. Indeed, your deciding so peremptorily as you do, on Dr. Horsley's superiority to me in that respect, shews that you think yourself qualified to judge between us. Permit me, then, to request, that you would state a little more particularly, what the services of Dr. Horsley in this province, which you commend so much, have really been. For I cannot suppose that you would have given so general and decided a judgment on the whole of the argument, without having examined all the particulars of which that whole consists.
As a lover of truth, then, and a candid scholar, please, whenever you publish your large work, to answer the following questions seriatim :
1. Has Dr. Horsley proved, that those who are called Ebionites, or Nazarenes, had no existence in the age of the apostles, and that the latter had their name from Nazareth, on their retiring to that place after the destruction of Jerusalem by Adrian ? Has he even proved that any of them were ever settled there at all ?
of Canterbury would call so now, as they did not believe the perfect equality of all the three persons, but uniformly held the inferiority of the Son to the Father, which Dr. Horsley must also do, as he maintains, that the Father is the fountain of deity, and has some unknown pre-eminence over the Son. (P.)
P. 91. (P.Y Probably in the Advertisement, See supra, p. 323, Note I.