Page images
[blocks in formation]

VILL you allow me room in your valuable publication, to bring to the recollection of your readers, the very praiseworthy and interesting congregation who assemble to worship one God in one Person, at Newchurch, Rossendale, in Lancashire, and to set before them some particulars of their present situation?

It must be fresh in the remembrance of many, that within the last twenty years they were all Wesleian Methodists; but, under the guidance of their honest and inquiring minister Mr. Cooke, were step by step, without being themselves aware of it, led on to more rational, and, as we esteem them, more scriptural doctrines. Though dependent upon his profession for a maintenance, this lover of truth persevered in a careful examination of the sacred writings; and zealously instructing his hearers according to his own convictions, was far on his way towards Unitarianism, though he had not reached it, when called to a severe account, and dismissed from the Methodist connexion.

A large number of his flock were attached to him, and to the doctrines they had heard him deliver, and these, separating themselves from the rest, chiefly with borrowed money, erected the chapel at Newchurch.

The painful struggle which he had gone through, and the harsh usage he had received, was more than the tender frame of Mr. Cooke could sustain, -he fell into a decline, and died soon after; bearing witness to the last, in the cause for which he had sacrificed his little share of this world's goods, believing it to be the cause of Christian truth; and in full confidence committing his widow and helpless infants to the Almighty Protector, who never forsaketh those who trust in him..

The congregation then, as it now does, consisted entirely of persons getting their living by hard labour. Trade, in consequence of the war, was

rapidly becoming worse; paying the interest of the debt on their church became oppressive to them, and they could offer nothing towards the support of a new minister, when one whose merits we can never too highly appreciate, was raised up from amongst themselves. Mr. John Ashworth, a woollen-manufacturer, undertook the office without a prospect of pecuniary recompence. How well qualified he was for the undertaking, the general good conduct, the increase, and the regular attendance of the congrega tion, together with the high estimation in which he is held wherever known, will best testify. When he and his people became known to the late excellent Dr. Thomson of Leeds, an annual stipend of 127, was by that gentleman obtained for him, from what is termed "Lady Hewley's Fund;" but with a disinterested liberality not often equalled, he declared his determination regularly to appropriate the money to the necessary expenses of the chapel, or the gradual extinction of the debt.

When this "little flock" of worshipers of Him who is One and his Name One, was made known through the medium of the Repository to the Unitarian public, much interest was excited, and a subscription raised which reduced their debt to less than 1007. Had the times been less unfavourable, it would, no doubt, ere now have been done away. But, notwithstanding the good management of their pastor, the necessary repairs and regular expenses attendant upon carrying on worship, and providing for the early instruction of the young, has hitherto prevented its being brought under half the above-mentioned sum.

The case of this exemplary congregation was, in the course of the last year, laid before the members of the Bristol Fellowship Fund, and in addition to the particulars just related, they were informed that a Sundayschool, consisting of 200 children, who were taught reading, writing and accounts, was carried on in the body of the chapel; that not only all things necessary for this were furnished free of expense to the parents, but a library of well-selected tracts, &c., was added for the use of the scholars, many of whom took great delight in reading. Some of the oldest of these

it was mentioned, were growing up, had taken sittings in the gallery, and by their conduct did credit to the instruction which had been bestowed upon them.

Considering that all this was done by persons who gain their daily bread by the labour of their hands, and who, till within a few past months, could with difficulty procure a sufficiency of the necessaries of life, such exertions could not but be deemed most worthy of encouragement and assistance, and the sum of 107. was unanimously voted towards the liquidation of their debt.

A short time before the meeting of our Fellowship Fund in May last, Mr. Ashworth, in a private communication to a friend here, mentioned that the Sunday-school had so much increased, that there was not room sufficient for teaching in the bottom of the chapel, and himself and his friends being convinced that money could not be better bestowed, had come to a resolution of removing this difficulty, though in so doing they must considerably increase their debt. He added, that it was no small proof of the estimation in which the people held the religious instruction of their children, that they had raised more than 307. amongst themselves, towards defraying the expense of the proposed alterations.

This letter was read at the meeting, and a very general wish to give some further assistance warmly manifested. A sum was mentioned by one of the committee, when another member proposed that the business should be suspended till further particulars were obtained, and that if these were such as we anticipated, we might then, by setting a liberal example, and stating their case to our brethren at large, hope to induce other Fellowship Funds and individuals who are able and willing to help in so good a work, to come forward and do something effectual for their relief. This plan was agreed upon, Mr. Ashworth applied to, and his answer laid before the next meeting. It informed us that the Sunday scholars then amounted to nearly 300, and that, to make the necessary room for their accommodation, and also to increase the number of sittings in the chapel, which was likewise highly desirable, they had re

[blocks in formation]

solved to take down one end, inclose a bit of ground, which is their own, adjoining it, and gallery it across. The expense of doing this (not less than 2001.) he owns is large, when compared with their very small means; but he feels convinced that it ought to be incurred,that the objects in view call upon them to encounter it,-and though disposed most thankfully to accept of assistance, he does not wait for the assurance of it, but has actually begun the work, trusting in the liberality of his brethren, and still more in the blessing of that Great Being, to promote whose holy worship, and more widely to diffuse a knowledge of whose righteous laws, this exertion is made.

This statement was most favourably received, and not only unanimously, but I may almost say by acclamation, the sum of 201. was voted to the Rossendale congregation.

Should other Funds in proportion to their means, and individuals also, "do likewise," these highly meritorious people will be happily relieved from a heavy load of debt, which must otherwise lie on them, and cripple their praiseworthy and most useful efforts in the noblest of all causes.

Few of your readers I am persuaded will hesitate to say with me, that ""Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished." Should it be effected, it will be a cause of heartfelt satisfaction to, Sir, Yours respectfully,



SIR, May 20, 1822. THE following letter was put into my hands for perusal, by a very respectable member of the Society of Friends, from whom I afterwards obtained leave to copy it, and satisfactory evidence of its authenticity. I withhold the name and residence of the writer, that I might not be the means of exposing him to the inquisitorial visits of busy and injudicious discipli narians. The Society of Friends is, I trust, nevertheless, gradually learning to estimate more justly the vast importance and real value of those great principles of Revealed Religion which are plainly laid down in the Scriptures, and on which all Christians are agreed, when compared with the pro

portionate insignificance of those nice and minor points on which they separate, and actually or seemingly differ. Your readers should be informed, that C. E's letter and the reply to it were reviewed in the Monthly Repository, XVI. 46; but that I have reason to believe few of either have got into circulation, such Friends as are booksellers in London having, I am informed, thought fit to decline selling both the one and the other.

terfuges, such a perversion of common
sense, derogatory alike to reason and to
And it is in this light that I
view the reply to thine, which, however
plausible it may appear to superficial
minds, is as deficient in sound argument
as it is in scriptural authority for its
mandatory advice.

That the grand and simple doctrines of genuine Christianity will ultimately triumph over the distorted, inferential and unscriptural creed of Trinitarianism, is my firm belief, and I entirely acquiesce with thee in the opinion that truth must finally conquer.

Should you insert this communication, I hope Mr. Alexander of Yarmouth, the printer of the first letter, will soon send some copies to Hunter's or Eaton's for sale, in order to counteract almost as effectual a mode of suppressing inquiry within the pale of a small Society, as was ever adopt ed by the Church of Rome in the plenitude of her power, and in the darkest period of her priestly domination. It was with great pleasure I heard Wm. Allen, a minister amongst Friends, at the Annual Meeting of the British and Foreign School Society To Charles Elcock, Yarmouth. on the 16th inst., eloquently and impressively advocate far different and truly liberal principles.

In conclusion, I request thy acceptance of my sincere acknowledgments for thy endeavour to promote (what I conceive to be) the true interests of our Society, by thy attempt "to rouse the spirit of inquiry where it is dormant, and to counteract the support which the sanction of a grave assembly might give to error." I am,



Having lately had an opportunity of perusing thy "Letter to the Young Men and Women of the Society of Friends, on the Yearly Meeting Epistle for 1820," I conceive that I could not better discharge my duty as a junior member of the Society of Friends, than by thus addressing thee. And though personally unacquainted with thee, a coincidence of opinion will, I trust, be deemed a sufficient apology for this intrusion upon thy attention. The perusal of thy dispassionate, firm and intelligent address, has been the source of the most pleasurable anticipations. It has convinced me that the spirit of inquiry is diffusing its genial influence, and dispelling the crude, unscriptural and unconstitutional doctrines of modern orthodoxy, as adopted by many of the active members of our Society.

To discourage investigation, to insist upon the limited nature of our faculties, and to hold up implicit faith and blind obedience, as "honourable prudence," is only what might be expected from the advocate of a weak cause. And weak indeed must that cause be, that for its defence has recourse to suck futile sub

With sentiments of sincere esteem,
Thy Friend,

4 Mo. 1822.


Evesham, June 25, 1822

I BEG leave to offer a few remarks

in reply to a letter in your last Repository, [p. 271,] intended to persuade your readers "that the publication of Penn's Sandy Foundation Shaken by Unitarians, without taking the least notice of his Vindication," as if such were the fact, "is at once disiagenuous and unjust." The writer also with equal truth asserts, that "there are in the Unitarion Preface" to that work, "two instances of an entire want of candour in the author." These severe charges, confidently as they are advanced, may be easily refuted. The first is, that the author does not notice Penn's letter to Lord Arlington; by whose warrant he was imprisoned, and of which letter the Editor certainly cannot say be was "ignorant." And he might have conclusively proved from it, that Penn was as indisposed to recant, and to when he wrote that letter, though at avow doctrines "totally opposite" that time a close prisoner in the Tower of London, for publishing the Sandy Foundation Shaken, as when he seni word about the same time to his 0

cuser, the Bishop of London, that he never would recant, "though his prison should be his grave."

rate persons in the unity of essence," or of some other plurality of persons in the Deity, neither of which can I find that Penn, since he became a Dissenter, ever acknowledged. Sabellius and his followers, in the third century, ascribed "eternal Deity" to Christ, as expressly as William Penn ever did, and yet they were always justly deemed Unitarians.

In the page preceding that from which the extract supposed to be so

The other alleged instance of "an entire want of candour," is a charge not only unfounded, but it also completely disproves the writer's other accusation, of “disingenuous and unjust" conduct, by testifying to your readers, that the said Apology is expressly noticed in that preface. The editor has even described it, p. vii., as obviously favourable “to the Sabel-“unequivocal" was selected, Penn Lian hypothesis;" which constitutes its nearest approach to reputedly orthodox doctrines. He has also noticed Penn's eulogy on Socinus, in reply to a charge of being a Socinian." This could not be designed for "a recantation;" and five years after this, Penn declared that Thomas Firmin, who said he had retracted, was "shamefully mistaken." See the Sequel to my Appeal, pp. 47-52; or Penn's Works, II. 453. Whence, then, these groundless, injurious and contradictory accusations? It cannot be amiss for the "intelligent" writer calmly to inquire.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

"In this very Apology," adds the writer, "are to be found these unequivocal expressions." They follow p. 272, but are taken not from that work, but from "an Apology," published several years after, for the Principles and Practices of the Quakers," yet not quite correctly. And though the Editor truly declared in his preface, that he was "not acquainted with a more manly and able vindication in that peculiarly fanatical age, of the pure Unitarian doctrine, than the Sandy Foundation Shaken,' the writer is much mistaken in concluding, that " then it necessarily follows that the Apology is a recantation;" or that it is "in direct opposition to the principles which constitute Unitarianism." To prove these positions it is necessary to shew, which the writer has not even attempted, that Penn's Apology for his former work contains a "disavowal of his former sentiments," and that this very Apology asserts principles which are "in direct opposition" to the doctrine of one only true and living God, who is described in the Scriptures as "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" such as the doctrine of "the Trinity of distinct and sepa.

[ocr errors]

challenges his Trinitarian opponent to adduce " one scripture that has directed him to such a phrase as distinct person, or that says, I and my Father are two, instead of 'I and my Father are one.' 2udly. If he will but bring me one piece of antiquity for the first two hundred years, that used any such expression. 3rdly. And if he can deny that the Popish schoolmen-were the grandfathers and promoters of such like monstrous terms and uncouth phrases, I will be contented to take the shame upon me of denying proper, apt and significant phrases.

"But till then I will tell him, that if the Son of God did purchase our salvation distinctly from the Father, the Father was not concerned in our salvation, but Christ only. And if he did so purchase it as God the Son, (distinct from the Father,) then God the Son (by his principles) cannot be the same with God the Father; and all the earth, with all their idle sophisms and metaphysical quiddities, shall never be able to withstand the conclusion to be two Gods; otherwise, if the purchase was by God the Son, then God the Father was concerned as well as God the Son, because the same God. If not, then either Christ's Godhead was not concerned in the purchase, or there must be two Gods; so that which he calls a personality distinct from the essence, could not do it, and if the divine essence did it, then the Father and Spirit did it as well as the Son, because the same individual, eternal essence." Penn's Works, II. 65.

About two years after this " Apology for the Principles of the Quakers" was published, Penn addressed a letter to Dr. Collenges, a clergyman who had attempted "to shew, what ignorance puts inan under the state of

[ocr errors]

damnation, and what knowledge is necessary to life eternal." A solitary passage from this letter is laid before your readers in the same page as the one I have above endeavoured to elucidate, by adducing its context. I must do the same in this case, in order that Penn's letter may more fairly and fully "speak for itself" the real sentiments of the writer. "The mattér insisted upon, relating_chiefly to us on this occasion," says Penn, was, "that we, in common with Socinians, do not believe Christ to be the eternal Son of God, and I am brought in proof of the charge. The Sandy Foundation Shaken touched not upon this, but Trinity, separate personality, &c. I have two things to do; first, to shew I expressed nothing that divested Christ of his divinity; next, declare my true meaning and faith in the matter.

"I am to suppose that when any adversary goes about to prove his charge against me out of my own book, he takes that which is most to his purpose. Now let us see what thou hast taken out of that book, so evidently demonstrating the truth of thy assertion. I find nothing more to thy purpose than this; that I deny a Trinity of separate Persons in the Godhead. Ergo, what? Ergo, William Penn denies Christ to be the only true God; or that Christ, the Son of God, is from everlasting to everlasting, God. Did ever man yet hear such argumentation? Doth Dr. Collenges know logic no better? But (which is more condemnable in a minister) hath he learnt charity so ill? Are not Trinity and Personality one thing, and Christ's being the eternal Son of God another? Must I therefore necessarily deny his Divinity, because I justly reject the Popish School Personality? This savours of such weakness or disingenuity, as can never stand with the credit of so great a scribe to be guilty of. Hast thou never read of Paulus Samosatensis, that denied the divinity of Christ, and Macedonius, that oppugned the deity of the Holy Ghost? And dost thou in good earnest think they were one in judgment with Sabellius, that only rejected the imaginary personality of those times; who at the same instant owned and confessed to the eternity and Godhead of Christ Jesus our

Lord? It is manifest, then, that though I may deny the Trinity of separate Persons in one Godhead, yet I do not consequentially deny the deity of Jesus Christ." Penn's Works, I. 165.

The part of this letter selected for your readers, (p. 272,) directly follows the above passage. From the whole of the letter it appears, that Penn rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, and that he held that of the divinity of Christ in the same sense as he conceived that Sabellius did; the accusation against whose followers, previous to the Council of Nice, according to Novatius, was, that they, "the Sabellians, make too much of the divinity of the Son, when they say it is that of the Father, extending his honour beyond bounds. They dare to make him not the Son, but God the Father himself." And again, "They acknowledge the divinity of Christ in too boundless and unrestrained a manner.” Ch. xxiii. The same writer also says, "The Son, to whom divinity is communicated, is, indeed, God; but God the Father of all is deservedly God of all, and the origin of his Son, whom he begat Lord." Ch. xxxi.; or, History of early Opinions concerning Christ, by Dr. Priestley, I. 47, 48.

In later times, since the doctrine of the co-equality and co-eternity of the three supposed persons in the Trinity has been a professed article of faith in many Christian churches, those who are known to reject the notion of any distinction of persons in the Deity, and yet continue to use such seemingly orthodox language as the foregoing, are generally understood as asserting only the divinity of the Father dwelling in Christ, and acting by him, as Unitarian Christians also do.

What else, indeed, can such persons mean? And what definite ideas can they annex to the terins they use? That such was in substance William Penn's meaning, when he used the strongest expressions of that kind he ever adopted after quitting the Church of England, I have no doubt; and especially when I consider how forcibly a man of such piety, sterling integrity and good sense, must otherwise have been impressed with the sacred obligation of expressly recant ing the doctrines he had so clearly and definitely asserted as sound and scriptural in his Sandy Foundation

« PreviousContinue »