Page images

called on Mr. B. to show, on the foregoing principles, how the doctrine of the Trinity and Original Sin, were articles of his belief. Mr. B. stated, that he was not then going to lose his half-hour, by proving the doctrine of the Trinity; but he expressed his readiness, at another time and place, to do so, should he be required. In consequence of this, a number of Unitarian Christians, a few days after, met and transmitted to the Rev. Gentleman, the following letter:

"Rev. Sir,-As Christians and Protestants, we beg leave to congratulate you, on your late exertions on behalf of the right of private judgment, and the sufficiency of the Scriptures as a rule of faith and practice. We heard with pleasure, your avowal of the principle, "that it is impossible for man to believe any proposition of which he has not a clear and distinct idea," and it is this conviction, pervading our own minds, which has led to the rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. Whilst you regard this as a fundamental doctrine of the Gospel, we cannot but consider it as opposed alike to the dictates of right reason, and the plainest declarations of the sacred volume, and that it can only be maintained on the ruins of the principle which you have so distinctly laid down.

"You will, Sir, remember, that in your late discussion, when pressed by the Rev. T. M. M'Donnel to show how you could believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, seeing that it cannot possibly be understood, and asked how you would prove it to the Unitarian, you declared that although you were determined not to lose the half-hour then allowed you in defending that doctrine, yet you were ready to do so on another occasion. As you made this declaration to the public, we now respectfully take leave to call upon you to redeem your pledge before that public, and shall be happy to appoint one of our own body to meet you, to discuss this momentous and important question, convinced, as we are, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the only living and true God, and the only proper object of religious worship; and that our faith is founded upon the most unequivocal testimony of the Scriptures, as well as approved by the noblest faculties of the mind. Waiting your reply, I have the honour to remain, Rev. Sir, On behalf of the meeting, Your obedient Servant, J. W. EVANS."

BIRMINGHAM, August, 11, 1827.

Mr. Burnett received the communication very politely, expressed himself friendly to the free discussion of religious opinions, convinced, as he said he was, that truth would ultimately gain by it; he admired the feelings which had actuated the Unitarians to step forward, and informed them verbally, that he should have been happy to have met them on the subject, had not the very limited stay he should make in Birmingham, being only six or seven days longer, entirely prevented him. Now it is a fact, that the Rev. Gentleman's stay was prolonged to above three times the period mentioned, without his signifying in the least his desire of complying with the request made to him. I am induced to give publicity to the above, through the medium of your excellent little work, in order to show, that, while Trinitarians, in their controversies with Catholics, are happy to avail themselves of those principles and arguments on which the Unitarian relies for the defence of his faith, yet they evidently shrink from the application of those principles and arguments against themselves. With the full persuasion of the importance of religious discussions, and the firm conviction that the cause of truth will ultimately triumph,

I remain,

BIRMINGHAM, September 12, 1827.

Yours, respectfully,

[merged small][ocr errors]

To the Rev. Robert Stewart, Minister of the Gospel at Broughshane, Ireland.-Letter 4.

SIR, IN resuming the irksome task of commenting on your Discourse, I feel it almost necessary to apologize to the numerous readers of the Pioneer in England, for offering a defence of Unitarian principles, and repeating arguments and correcting mis-statements, in a manner which has little of novelty to recommend it. But I entreat them to consider, that, although these things be familiar to them as the lessons of boyhood, the case is widely different in Ireland. There these discussions are but commencing; and although numbers of the most intelligent Northern Irish Presbyterians no longer believe in the doctrine of a Three-One God, yet the mass of the people adhere, with all the tenacity of early prejudice, to that strange and unscriptural opinion.

Your Discourse, Sir, is evidently addressed to that description of persons, and contains the usual quotations from Scripture, without the least attempt to show that they are fairly interpreted, or justly applied. It is a work adapted to the popular prepossessions, without either learning, ingenuity, or good feeling to recommend it.

The second reason you assign for abandoning Unitarianism, though very obscurely worded, appears to be, that divine worship was paid to Jesus Christ, during his abode on earth.

You surely require not to be told, that the term worship, in Scripture, sometimes means that homage which we pay to God, and sometimes the respect which we offer to man; and that the nature of the being to whom it is presented, as well as the accompanying circumstances, must determine the sense in which the word is employed. On this principlewhich cannot, I think, be objected against-if we examine the instances which you have adduced, of worship having been paid to our blessed Lord, we shall find, that the different persons who offered it, merely intended to express a reverential feeling toward him, from whom they had received, or hoped to receive, some signal benefit; and that it never appears, from the language of Jesus himself, nor from theirs, that any thing more than this was intended. The blind man, who is mentioned in John chap. ix. as having worshipped Jesus, in reply to the observations of the Pharisees, answered, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth-if this man were not of God, he could do nothing. The exclamation of Thomas, "My Lord, and my God!" is merely the effect of wonder and surprise, upon receiving the evidence of his senses, as to the resurrection of Jesus, which he had previously questioned. This was the subject of his unbelief, and not any thing regarding the nature of our blessed Lord.


The words of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, when invoking the protection of Jesus, at the moment of dissolution, have no relation to divine worship. It appears from the testimony of Rammohun Roy, that the notion of superior beings receiving and conveying away the spirit, at the hour of death, to the regions of the blessed, was familiar to the Jews, in common with other Eastern nations; and, as he justly observes, "from Stephen's saying, that he saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God, we may easily perceive the notion which he had formed of Jesus Christ."

The circumstance of Jesus accepting these marks of homage, whilst some of his Apostles refused them, is adduced by you, as a proof, that he was the Supreme Being, the sole object of religious worship. Upon the very same principle, it may be argued, that the Prophet Daniel was entitled to receive divine honours, for we read in Scripture, that "the King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and worshipped Daniel:" and

we do not read of his having been reproved for this seeming impiety. It seems evident, that in those instances where this act of homage was refused by the Apostles, their true character was misunderstood; and the ignorant Gentiles were preparing to honour them as superior beings. The mythology of the Greeks and Romans inculcated the doctrine, that the visitations of the gods, in human forms, some of them from benevolent, and others from less amiable motives, were by no means unfrequent; and, under this impression, when they witnessed the miraculous powers of the primitive disciples, they believed that some of their divinities had descended upon earth; and felt themselves called upon to reverence them accordingly. But the case was widely different with regard to the Jewish nation. They had been taught to confine all religious worship to Jehovah, the only living and true God; and when they prostrated themselves before an earthly superior, all their habits and opinions, and the express injunctions of their holy faith, effectually guarded against the possibility of mistake. It was therefore outward civil reverence, which Jesus, on several occasions, received from his countrymen-a tribute which they paid out of thankfulness for the favours which he had conferred; and which he graciously condescended to receive, as a mark of grateful affection.

Again, as our Lord and Saviour appeared on this earth to enlighten us, both by precept and example, we must conclude, that he would not leave us in doubt or uncertainty on that most important point, the object of religious worship-the Being to whom the thanksgivings and prayers of feeble and dependent creatures like us, should be offered up. His words are, indeed, plain and express. "Pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." And in that form of prayer which he taught his disciples, and which should be a model for our imitation and guidance, he instructs us to address" Our Father who art in heaven.' And when he himself prays, it is to the Supreme Being alone-his "Father and our Father, his God and our God.' I call upon you to adduce a single passage, from the first verse of the book of Genesis, to the last of the Revelation of John, in which we are commanded to offer up our prayers to the Trinity-or to any other being, but the Almighty Former of the Universe, the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In the progress of that moral and intellectual darkness which overspread the Christian world, the doctrine of the divine Unity became sadly corrupted, and opinions strange and incomprehensible, were imposed upon the ignorance and credulity of mankind. It was then that Jesus Christ, the Holy Messenger from on high, was exalted by superstition to an equality with God; and attributes assigned to him, which he never claimed." And as the darkness increased, the invocation of saints and martyrs was superadded to the worship of the blessed Jesus. The progress of error is usually gradual; but when once it is blended with our early associations and prejudices, it is very difficult to be removed. It is, no doubt, owing to this circumstance, that we have the following form of invocation, in the manual of devotion recommended by the Roman Catholic Church: "O Blessed Virgin, listen unto me. Mother of the Saviour of the world assist me; Mother of God, Lady of Heaven, sweetly beloved Queen, and Advocate of all human lineage, pray come, amiable and mild Lady, Lady of all Angels, Delight of the Patriarchs, Desire of the Prophets, Treasure of the Apostles, Mother of the Confessors, Ornament of Virgins, O sweet Virgin Mary, pray for ine, who art heard above the company of Angels, preserve me from all evils, past, present, and to come. O Gate of Paradise, Palace of Jesus Christ, Star of the Sea, Consolation of mankind, take pity of me, O sweet and blessed Virgin Mary, daughter of God the Father, Mother of Jesus Christ, and Spouse of the Holy Ghost, Gate of Heaven, Door of the Firmament, Hope of Christians,

Fountain of Piety, Safe-guard of Peace, Glory of Virgins, honoured above all Angels, Mother of mercy, Miracle of virginity, Virgin above all virgins, Temple of the Most Holy Trinity, beautiful above all creatures, O Lady of meekness, Abyss of mildness, Comfort of the sorrowful, Consolation of the afflicted, in you the Angels do rejoice. O sweet Lady of mercy, turn your merciful eyes unto me, and hear my prayers; unto the protection of Almighty God, and your holy hands, Ŏ Refuge of sinners, I recommend my soul and body. Amen. And as an inducement to repeat this farrago of absurdity and impiety, the poor ignorant Roman Catholic is taught by his Church, that" this prayer hath many remarkable properties, as to obtain a good death to any person that devoutly says it once a day, with a good intention to the glory of God, and devotion to the blessed Virgin. And saying it devoutly for any woman in labour, it forwards, with God's blessing, a speedy and safe delivery, with many other benefits."

Now this is one of the wretched fruits of the departure of men from the great and fundamental principle of true Religion, the Unity of God. When the Reformation, happily for mankind, swept away a vast portion of rubbish which had been accumulating during centuries of darkness, something still remained for succeeding ages to do. And amongst other corruptions of the pure faith of Christ, I hesitate not to reckon the doctrine of a Three-One God, and such a form of prayer as the following, extracted from the Litany of the Church of England: "O God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy upon us miserable sinners. O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us miserable sinners. Ꭴ God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, have mercy upon us miserable sinners. O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three persons, and one God, have mercy upon us miserable sinners. By the mystery of thy holy incarnation; by thy holy nativity and circumcision; by thy baptism, fasting, and temptation, good Lord, deliver us. By thine agony and bloody sweat; by thy cross and passion; by thy precious death and burial; by thy glorious resurrection and ascension, and by the coming of the Holy Ghost, good Lord, deliver us.'


Now, let any man, unbiassed by prejudices, seriously reflect that these expressions are addressed to a Being, whom they profess to believe, is the Omnipotent God, who has existed from eternity, and will continue for ever to exist, incapable of change; and that he is invoked by his incarnation, nativity, circumcision, agony and bloody sweat, his death and burial; and say, if any thing in the compass of human language, can be found more inconsistent, or more blasphemously absurd.

When we turn our thoughts from the precepts, to the example of the blessed Jesus, we can have no difficulty in ascertaining the proper object of all religious worship. "And he (Jesus) was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." "He went out unto a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth."

And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father I thank thee that thou hast heard me." And in the last hour of mortal agony, he exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

I am aware, that the answer usually given to this plain and irresistible argument, is, that Jesus, in these words, spake in his human capacity, and not as God. The doctrine of a two-fold nature, divine and human, in our Saviour, is wholly unsupported by Scripture: aud the representing him as sometimes speaking in one capacity, and sometimes in another, without ever informing us of the change of persons, is wholly irreconcilable with the conduct of him in whose mouth guile was not found. In the absence of all information on such an important subject,

we could not tell, when he spake as man, or when he spake as God; and this confounding of natures and characters, so totally dissimilar, would unavoidably tend to lead us into doubt, perplexity, and error. The doctrine of Christ's praying in his human nature to himself in his divineof his knowing a thing as God, and not knowing it as man-is one of those monstrous absurdities, generated in the times of gross darkness, and perpetuated by the almost resistless influence of early impressions. But this figment of Popery has no foundation whatever in the Word of God. And as, with regard to the offering up of prayer to the Trinity, I dared you to the proof of such a doctrine from Scripture; so now, I call upon you to show, from the same blessed authority, that Jesus "was both God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever." "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.'

The third reason which you assign for your re-conversion, is "the power and authority which our Lord, in the days of his flesh, exercised over both animated and inanimate nature."

This portion of your work will not require much discussion. 1 admit at once, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, during his abode on earth, performed many astonishing works, "which no man could have done, unless God were with him"-and that he often appealed to these miracles as proofs that he was divinely appointed. But by reference to Scripture, we find, that very extraordinary powers were bestowed upon many other holy Prophets, and upon the Apostles of Jesus, and several of the primitive Disciples. And all that can be inferred from the supernatural authority which our Saviour exercised, is, that he was truly a messenger of the Divine Will. You attempt, indeed, to draw a distinction between the manner in which he performed these remarkable acts, and that in which they were performed by others—alleging, that he always acted in his own name and authority; and that they never did. To this I reply, that we find the Prophet Elisha, as is recorded in the 2d Book of Kings, inflicted the punishment of leprosy upon his servant, who had offended him, without invoking the power of God, or making any immediate reference to such authority. Nay, by consulting Exod. xxiii. 20, 21, it appears, that an Angel, when provoked by human disobedience, had the power of withholding forgiveness of sins. "Behold I send an Angel before thee-beware of him, and obey his voice; provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions.

But the short and unanswerable reply to all your observations on this point, is, that the blessed Jesus himself, in numerous instances, in the plainest and most unequivocal language, acknowledges that all his powers were derived from God. "I have not spoken of myself, but the Father who sent me, he gave me commandment what I should say and what I should speak." "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear I judge; and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father who hath sent me.' And lest any misconceptions should arise in the minds of the Disciples, respecting his nature, from the extraordinary gifts with which he was endowed, he expressly says, "my Father is greater than I."


To all this straight-forward testimony from Jesus himself, you may perhaps use the stale argument, that on these occasions, he spake in his capacity as man. I have already disposed of this unscriptural doctrine; and shall merely add, that every thing which makes the least approach to equivocation and double-dealing is abhorrent to the pure nature of the Son of God.

I come now to your fourth reason for abandoning Unitarianism, viz. that it is unscriptural.

In illustrating this assertion, you have curiously interwoven a number of texts from the Old and New Testaments, into your discourse, without

« PreviousContinue »