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revelation.* It is a consolation to us to trace these likenesses : as it affords a presumption that our sentiments accord with the scriptures, being liable to the same objections.

Socinian writers not only make the same objections to Calvinism, which Deists make to revelation, but, in some instances, have so far forgotten themselves, as to unite with the latter in pointing their objections against revelation itself. Steinbart and Semler, (as quoted in Letter XII.) have fallen foul upon the writers of the Old and New Testament. 66 Moses,” says the former, "according to the childish conceptions of the Jews in his days, paints God as agitated by violent affections ; partial to one people, and bating all other nations.” “ Peter," says the latter, 2 Epistle i. 21. “ speaks according to the conception of the Jews ; and the prophets may have delivered the offspring of their own brains as divine revelations.”+ The infidelity of Socinians is frequently covered with a very thin disguise ; but here the veil is entirely thrown off. One thing, however, is sufficiently evident : while they vent their antipathy against the holy scriptures in such indecent language, they betray a consciousness that the contents of that sacred volume are against them.

The likeness of Socinianism to Deism will further appear, if we consider, Secondly, The similarity of their prejudices. The peculiar prejudices of Deists are drawn, I think, with great justness, by Dr. Priestley himself. “ There is no class or description of men,” he observes, " but what are subject to peculiar prejudices; and every prejudice must operate as an obstacle to the reception of some truth. It is in vain for unbelievers to pretend to be free from prejudices, they may indeed be free from those of the vulgar ; hut they have others, peculiar to themselves : and the very affectation of being free from vulgar prejudices, and of being wiser than the rest of mankind, must indispose them to the admission even of truth, if it should happen to be with the common people. The suspicion, that the faith of the vulgar is superstitious and false, is, no doubt, often well-founded ; be

Chap.

* See Leland's Defence of Christianity against Tindall, Vol. I. IV, VI, VIII.

+ Dr. Erskine's Sketches and Hints of Church History, No. III. pp. 65-71.

cause they, of course, maintain the oldest opinions, while the speculative part of mankind are making new discoveries in science. Yet we often find that they who pride themselves on their being the farthest removed from superstition in some things, are the greatest dupes to it in others ; and it is not universally true, that all old opinions are false, and all new ones well-founded. An aversion to the creed of the vulgar may, therefore, mislead a man; and, from a fondness for singularity, he may be singularly in the wrong.

Let those who are best acquainted with Socinians judge, whether this address, with a very few alterations, be not equally adapted to them, as to professed unbelievers. We know who they are, besides avowed Infidels, who affect to be “ emancipated from vuigar prejudices and popular superstitions, and to embrace a rational system of faith.”+ It is very common with Socinian writers, as much as it is with Deists, to value themselves on being wiser than the rest of mankind, and to despise the judgment of plain Christians, as being the judgment of the vulgar and the populace. It is true, Dr. Priestley has addressed Letters to the common people at Birmingham, and has complimented them with being “ capable of judging in matters of religion and government.” However, it is no great compliment to Christians in general, of that description, to suppose, as he frequently does, not only that the Trinitarian system, but every other, was the invention of learned men indifferent ages, and that the vulgar have always been led by their influence. “ The creed of the vulgar of the present day,” he observes, " is to be considered not so much as their creed, for they were not the inventors of it, as that of the thinking and inquisitive in some former period. For those whom we distinguish by the appellation of the vulgar, are not those who introduce any new opinions, but those who receive them from others, of whose judgment they have been led to think highly."I On this principle, Dr. Priestley somewhere expresses his persuasion of the future prevalence of Unitarianism. He grants, that, at present, the body of common Christians are against it; but, as the learned and the speculative are verging towards it, he supposes the other will, in time, follow them. What is this, but supposing them incapable of forming religious sentiments for themselves ; as if the Bible were to them a sealed book, and they had only to believe the system that happened to be in fashion, or, rather, to have been in fashion some years before they were born, and to dance after the pipe of learned men ?

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part II. Leller V.

+ Mr. Belsham's Sermon, pp. 4-32.

| Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part II. Letter V.

It is acknowledged, that, in matters of human science, common people, having no standard to judge by, are generally led by the learned; but surely it is somewhat different in religion, wher we have a standard ; and one, too, that is adapted to the understanding of the simple. However, many people may be led implicitly by others, yet there will always be a number of plain, intelligent, serious Christians, who will read the Bible, and judge for themselves ; and Christians of this description will always have a much greater influence even upon those who do not judge for themselves, than mere speculative men, whom the most ignorant cannot but perceive to be wanting in serious religion, and respect to mankind ; and while this is the case, there is no great danger of the body of common Christians becoming Socinians.

Thirdly : There is a bold, profane, and daring spirit, discovered in the writings of Infidels ; a spirit that fears not to speak of sacred things with the most indecent freedom. They love to speak of Christ with a sneer, calling him the carpenter's son, the Galilean, or some such name, which, in their manner of expressing it, conveys an idea of contempt. Though Socinians do not go such lengths as these, yet they follow hard after them in their profane and daring manner of speaking. Were it proper to refer to the speeches of private individuals, language might be produced, very little inferior in contempt, to any of the foregoing modes of expression : and even some of those who have appeared as authors, have discovered a similar temper. Besides the examples of Engedin, Gagneius, Steinbart, and Semler, (as quoted in Letter XII.) the magnanimity which has been ascribed to Dr.

Priestley for censuring the Mosaic narrative of the fall of man, calling it a LAME account,” is an instance of the same irreverent spirit.

Fourthly : The alliance of Socinianism to Deism, may be inferred from this, that the success of the one, bears a proportion to that of the other, and resembles it in the most essential points. Socinians are continually boasting of their success, and of the great increase of their numbers; so also are the Deists, and I suppose with equal reason. The number of the latter has certainly increased in the present century, in as great, if not a greater proportion, than the former. The truth is, a spirit of infidelity is the main temptation of the present age, as a persecuting superstition was of ages past. This spirit has long gone forth into the world. In different denominations of men it exists in different degrees, and appears to be permitted to try them that dwell upon the earth. Great multitudes are carried away with it ; and no wonder : for it disguises itself under a variety of specious names ; such as liberality, candour and charity ; by which it imposes upon the unwary. It flatters human pride ; calls evil propensity nature ; and gives loose to its dictates : and, in proportion as it prevails in the judgments, as well as in the hearts of men, it serves to abate the fears of death and judgment, and so makes them more cheerful than they otherwise would be.

It is also worthy of notice, that the success of Socinianism and Deism has been among the same sort of people ; namely, men of a speculative turn of mind. Dr. Priestley somewhere observes, that " learned men begin more and more to suspect the doctrine of the Trinity ;” and possibly it may be so.

But then it might, with equal truth, be affirmed, that learned men begin more and more to suspect Christianity. Dr. Priestley himself acknowledges, that “among those who are called philosophers, the unbelievers are the crowd."* It is true, he flatters himself, that their numbers will diminish, and, that “the evidences of Christianity will meet with a more impartial examination in the present day, than they have done in the last fifty years.”

But this is mere conjecture, such as has no foundation in fact. We may as well flat

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Vol. II. p. 32.

If not many

ter ourselves that Socinians will diminish : there is equal reason for the one as for the other. It is not impossible that the number of both

may be diminished in some future time ; but when that time shall come, it is not for us to say.

It may be suggested, that it is a circumstance not much in favour either of the doctrine of the Trinity, or of Christianity, that such a number of philosophers and learned men suspect them. But, unfavorable as this circumstance may appear to some, there are others who view it in a very different light. The late Mr. Robinson, of Cambridge, always contended, that common Christians were in a more favourable state for the discovery of religious truth, than either the rich or the learned. And Dr. Priestley not only admits, but accounts for it. “Learned men,” he says, “have prejudices peculiar to themselves ; and the very affectation of being free from vulgar prejudices, and of being wiser than the rest of mankind, must indispose them to the admission even of truth, if it should happen to be with the common people.” wise men after the flesh are found among the friends of Christianity, or of what we account its peculiar doctrines, is it any other than what might have been alleged against the primitive church ? The things of God, in their times, were hid from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes, and that because it seemed good in his sight.

It is further worthy of notice, that the same disregard of religion in general, which is allowed by our opponents to be favourable to Socinianism, is equally favourable to Deism. Dr. Priestley describes unbelievers of a certain age amongst us, as having heard Christianity from their infancy, as having, in general, believed it for some time, and as not coming to disbelieve it till they had long disregarded it."* A disregard of Christianity, then, preceded their openly rejecting it, and embracing the scheme of Infidelity. Now this is the very process of a great number of Socinian converts, as both the Doctor and Mr. Belsham elsewhere acknowledge. It is by a disregard of all religion that men become Infidels ; and it is by the same means that others become Socinians.

* Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Vol. II. Preface p. 9.

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