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same purpose, are advanced by Mr. Lindsey, in his Discourse addressed 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
i 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 according to the best of their capacity.
The near relation of the system of Socinians to that of Infidels, 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 advocates 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 charged 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 Infidelity ; 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
charge ; and tells us, that he “bas written a great deal to prove the insufficiency of human reason :" he also accuses Mr. Burn, of 6 the grossest and most unfounded calumny,” in charging such a principle upon him.*
If what Mr. Burn alleges be “a gross and unfounded calumny," it is rather extraordinary, that such a number of respectable writers should have suggested the same thing. I suppose there has been scarcely a writer of any note among us, but who, if this be calumny, has calumniated the Socinians. If there be any credit due to Trinitarian authors, they certainly have hitherto understood matters in a different light from that in which they are here represented. They have supposed, whether rightly or not, that their opponents in general, do hold the very principle which Dr. Priestley so strongly disavows.
But this is not all. If what Mr. Burn allows be a gross and unfounded calumny, it is not more extraordinary, that Socinian writers should calumniate themselves. Mr. Robinson, whom Dr. Priestley glories in as his convert, affirms much the same thing ; and that, in his History of Baptism, a work published after he had adopted the Socinian system. In answering an objection brought against the Baptists, as being enthusiasts, he asks,“ Were Castelio, and Servetus, Socinus, and Crellius, enthusiasts ? On the contrary, they are taxed with attributing too much to reason, AND THE SUFFICIENCY OF REASON IS THE SOUL OF THEIR SYSTEM. If the last member of this sentence be true, and Dr. Priestley has maintained the same principle as much as any of his predecessors ; then is what Mr. Burn alleges true. also, and no calumny. Further : If Mr. Robinson's words be true, the system of a Socinus, and of a Bolingbroke, however they may differ in some particulars, cannot be very wide asunder. They may be two bodies; but the difference cannot be very material, so long as those bodies are inhabited by ONE SOUL.
But was not Mr. Robinson mistaken ? has he not inadvertently granted that which ought not in justice to have been granted ? suppose this to be a fact, why might not the same construction have
* Letters to Mr. Burn, Letter IV.
* Page 47.
uratively ; but 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 charges above cited, it ought not ; and this is not only summoning revelation to the bar of our own understandings, but actually passing 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
One acknowledges Christ to be a true prophet ; the other considers him as an impostor : but the denial of the proper inspiration 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 reasonings,” naturally lead to Deism. Deists themselves do not so reject the Bible as to disbelieve every historical event 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. Priestley 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 imagery 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 consequences 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 rendering the belief of the gospel necessary to salvation. Lord Shaftesbury insinuates, that the heathen magistrates, in the first ages of
Christianity, might have been justly offended with a notion which treated them, and all men, as profane, impious, and damned, who entered not into particular modes of worship, of which there had been formerly so many thousand kinds instituted, all of them compatible, and sociable, till that time."* To the same purpose is what Mr. Paine advances ; wbo, I imagine, would make no pretence of friendship towards Christianity. “If we suppose a large family of children," says he," who on any particular day, or particular circumstance, made it a custom to present to their parents some token of their affection and gratitude, each of them would make a different offering, and, most probably, in a different man
Some would pay their congratulations 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 gather what it thought the prettiest flower 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 diversified 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 pretended to worship, a deity. The sentiment which this writer and all others of his stamp, wish to propagate, is, That, in all modes of religion, men may
be very sincere ;" and that, in being so, all are alike acceptable to God. This is infidelity undisguised. Yet this is no more than Dr. Priestley has advanced in his Differences in Religious Opinions, “ If we can be so happy," he says, “ as to believe, that all differences in modes of worship may be only the different methods by which different men (who are equally the offspring of God) are endeavouring to honour and obey their common parent,
* Characteristics, Vol. 1, 3.
+ Rights of Man, Part Il, near the conclusion.
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 Reason, in maintaining that it matters not what religion we are of, if we be but sincere in it. Dr. Toulmin has laboured to 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. But, before he had pretended to palm it upon them, he should have made it evident, that Cornelius, when he feared God, and worked 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 may be saved: but whether they may be saved in their Heathenism ; and whether Heathenism and Christianity be only different modes of worshipping our common Father, and alike acceptable to him?
Several other principles might be mentioned, in which Socinians and Deists are agreed, and in which the same objections that are made by the one, against Calvinism, are made, by the other, against the holy scriptures. Do Socinians reject the Calvinistic system, 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 doctrines 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 scriptures; but they dislike them, and reject the scriptures, partly on account of them. The sufficiency of repentance to secure the divine 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 Calvinism ; are the same things, for substance, which those who have written against the Deists have had to encounter, when defending
* Sect. II. Practical Efficacy, pp. 164, 165, 2nd. Edit.