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THIS Discussion, which has excited so much public interest for some time back, commenced on Monday, the 14th April, 1834, at halfpast 10 o'clock. MICHAEL ANDREWS, Esq. of Ardoyne, and CONWAY RICHARD DOBBS, Esq. of Acton, were chairmen on the occasion.
The following is a statement of the Propositions which constituted the Subject of Discussion on each side, of the Standard of Reference, and the Rules by which the business was conducted.
STANDARD OF REFERENCE.
The Word of God contained in the books of the Old and New Testament, which are received into the Authorised Version, admitting them all to be canonical. The correctness or incorrectness of passages marked as spurious in Griesbach's last edition, and the translation or signification of any particular words or passages, to be open to question and legitimate criticism. The divine authority of Scripture to be admitted on both sides. And all quotations to be given in chapter and verse, according to the divisions of the Authorised Translation in common use.
Mr. J. S. Porter's Propositions:
1. There is one self-existent God, the Father: who is God alone; to the entire exclusion of the alleged Proper Deity of the Word.
2. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is (even in his highest capacity, nature, or condition) a Created Being, deriving his existence, wisdom, power, and authority from the Father; and inferior to him in these and all other attributes.
Mr. Bagot's Propositions :
1. There is one God, Jehovah, who is God only, to the entire exclusion of the alleged godhead of every creature.
2. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator, is the Word made flesh, perfect God and perfect man; possessing, as the Word, the same eternity, knowledge, power, authority, preroga tives, and godhead with the Father, and one with him in all attributes.
1. The discussion to commence on MONDAY, the 14th of April, and to continue for that and the three following days.
2. The discussion to continue for four hours each day :-the time, on the first day, to be divided into two equal portions, and each to give a statement and proof of the affirmative propositions on his side.
3. It is to be determined, by lot, on the first day of discussion, who is to open the debate.
4. On each of the two following days, the speakers are to address the meeting forty minutes alternately, a pause of ten minutes being allowed between each address, during which any question may be asked in explanation of what the last speaker had said. The person who closes one day's discussion is to commence on the following.
5. The discussion to be held in Belfast, in the most suitable place that can be obtained.
6. Two Chairmen to preside each day, one chosen by each party, with power to put a peremptory stop to any thing disorderly, and of excluding from the place of meeting any one who transgresses the rules.
7. Each day's meeting to commence at eleven o'clock, except the first, which is to commence at half-past ten, to allow the Chairmen to make any necessary explanations; and any time lost during any day's discussion, to be added to the regular period of closing the business of the day.
8. Admission to be by tickets, for which the sum of 4s. each shall be charged, and which shall admit to the entire discussion. In case of any room remaining, tickets for one day's discussion, at 1s. 6d. each shall be sold; but not before the Saturday preceding. The money received to be expended in defraying the necessary expense; and, if not sufficient for that purpose, each shall be liable for one half the sum deficient.
9. No signs of approbation or disapprobation to be allowed; and no person whatever to be permitted to address the meeting, except the speakers or the Chairmen, to a point of order; and no person to interrupt, in any way, the speakers; but each may have a friend to assist him in looking for references and marking them.
10. One Reporter to be employed, who shall be admonished and expected to do equal justice to both parties in the discussion, and his expenses to be defrayed out of the produce of the sale of tickets. Each speaker to write out a full report of his own speeches from the Reporter's notes; which, when approved by the other party, shall be jointly published; but neither to be allowed to introduce any new matter, nor to suppress any argument actually adduced, nor any statement actually advanced; and each to consider himself pledged not to sanction the publication of a report of any one side of the discussion unaccompanied by the other.
11. On the fourth day of discussion each speaker to make one speech of forty minutes' length; an adjournment for half an hour then to take place, after which each shall be allowed to make a closing speech of one hour, the report of which shall supersede the appendix formerly proposed.
12. The tickets to be equally divided between Mr. BAGOT and Mr. PORTER, and to be sold at the price above stated; each to account for the number of tickets received, but to be at liberty to give away twenty tickets for the entire meeting to his personal friends.
13. The execution of the above arrangements, and of all minor regulations, to be intrusted to Messrs. John Campbell and John Marshall, who may call in a third party, by mutual agreement, in case of any difference of opinion.
We agree to the foregoing.
MR. PORTER.-LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, It has fallen to my lot to address you first on this occasion; and without any formal preface, I proceed at once to the business which has brought us together this day.
You are aware that the present controversy has arisen in consequence of a notice which my reverend opponent caused to be inserted in the Northern Whig of Monday, January 26, 1834; which was to this effect:
THEOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY.-The Rev. Daniel Bagot, it will be seen, by an advertisement, has published an abstract of controversial sermons, lately preached by him in this town. He has requested us to suggest to the Unitarians, that they should publish a similar tract, in the same form, containing, concisely, their arguments in reply to his abstract. We readily do this; and we would have added, had Mr. Bagot not got so soon before the public, that both tracts should have been stitched together, and sold at a very low price. As journalists, we have nothing to do with either party; but, as we wish that truth should predominate, on whatever side it may be, we would readily concur in any fair proposition which might tend to settle the great questions at issue.
Having the honour and happiness to be a Minister of the Gospel of that persuasion to which this invitation was publicly addressed, it appeared to me that I could not, with propriety, omit taking notice of the challenge in some way or other. Had I allowed it to pass disregarded, I should not only have treated with disrespect an intimation proceeding from a gentleman, whose bland deportment and controversial candour I have always most readily acknowledged ; but I should likewise have given occasion to any who might be so disposed, to insinuate that the Unitarian Ministers of this townthough sufficiently open and sufficiently eager to propound their doctrines, when no direct attack upon them was to be apprehendedshrunk away from avowing and defending their opinions, when they would necessarily be contrasted with tenets of an opposite description; and I have no doubt whatever, the inference would have been drawn, and pointedly stated, that this reluctance proceeded from a secret consciousness that our principles would not bear the light of open discussion. I could not, in conscience and in honour, give ground for these suspicions. Convinced, as I am most firmly, that the tenets which I have embraced, are the solemn truths of the Gospel, firmly built on the solid foundation of Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone,-I dare not allow them, by any remissness or indolence on my part, to receive a wound. This would have been to abandon my post in the time of danger-to turn my back upon the standard of Christ, at the moment when the tide of battle rolled on directly against it. Convinced, besides, as I am, by the study of history, and by what little I have learned
of mental changes, that in an enlightened age, and with increasing facilities for public instruction, free, open discussion cannot but conduce to the discovery and extension of truth, I felt myself bound to accept the proposal of Mr. Bagot in some form or other; for I cannot doubt that the means of religious information are so plentifully diffused by a benignant Providence, that if men could only be induced to employ them, the result must be the progress of truth: and it is as a means of rousing men to think, to inquire, to weigh evidence, and judge for themselves, that I deem discussion and controversy mainly valuable.
But while, for these reasons, I thought myself bound to take some notice of Mr. Bagot's proposal, other considerations, of no small weight, as they seemed to me, rendered it expedient to accept his invitation in the precise terms in which it was conveyed. Had I simply accepted his challenge, and published a pamphlet in reply to his Abstract, it did appear to me, as it has appeared to all of every side of the question with whom I have since conversed, that I should have done so at a decided disadvantage. For, you must all be perfectly aware, that while persons of Unitarian sentiments feel, in general, little or no objection to read productions in which their tenets are impugned, there exists in the minds of a considerable number of the opposite persuasion a very great reluctance to peruse tracts in opposition to their own views. Had Mr. Bagot, indeed, delayed the publication of his tract until it could have been issued in conjunction with a reply of the kind suggested, so that both might have been circulated together, and so that every person who obtained the one must, of necessity, have procured the other at the same time, I should have been most happy to embrace the opportunity of carrying on the controversy with one whose temper and candour, as displayed in the only discourse I had ever heard him preach, had made upon me a most favourable impression. But, this opportunity not being allowed me, I thought it would have been a mere waste of time and trouble to publish a separate tract; which I very well knew would never make its way into the hands of those, whose opinions and views I was, as will readily be conceived, most desirous of combating. Acting under this impression, which every thing that has since occurred has only tended to deepen, I published a letter in the Northern Whig of Thursday, January 23; in which, after stating the reasons which induced me to decline taking the step which he suggested, I went on to say—
If, however, Mr. Bagot is desirous of circulating the facts and arguments, on both sides of the question, fairly among the public, both Unitarian and Trinitarian,—I, as an individual, propose to him two methods of doing so, either of which will answer the purpose.
I am ready to publish a series of Essays on the Doctrine of the Trinity, from his pen, in the new series of The Bible Christian; inserting, at the same time, illustrative comments; and subjecting both him and his antagonist, whoever he may be, to the conditions specified by the former conductors in reply to his note. Or, if he prefer it, I am willing to meet him in Belfast, in an amicable discussion on the subject; time, place, and other preliminaries, to be settled by friends mutually chosen the only stipulation on which I insist being, that an authentic report of the entire debate shall be prepared, and published at our joint expense.