« PreviousContinue »
NEW EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE,
To the Editor of the New Evangelical Magazine.
Bristol, Oct. 16, 1817.
THE Letter of Dr. Stock to the Rev. John Rowe, with the introductory letter of the person who sent it to you, was inserted in the Bristol Mirror of Sept. 13th. As Mr. Rowe was absent, and I knew that from his long habits of personal intimacy with Dr. Stock he would wish to decline making any strictures on his letter, I drew up some remarks which were inserted in the Bristol Mirror of the 27th. As you have inserted Dr. Stock's letter in your publication, I trust you will feel yourself called upon, by a regard to that impartiality which is your duty as an Editor, to insert my letter in reply.
When I say that Dr. Stock saw the letter in manuscript, and that it has caused no diminution of the friendly regard existing between us, you will not think it necessary, from attention to his feelings, to decline the insertion of my letter.
I am Sir,
Your obedient servant,
To the Editor of the Bristol Mirror. | mistaken, if he imagine that the Great George-street, letter had been "confined to the
Sept. 18, 1817.
IN your last paper you inserted Dr. Stock's letter to the Rev. John Rowe, with the introductory letter of the person who communicated it to the New Evangelical Magazine of this month. As Dr. Stock's letter is now, for the first time, submitted to the Bristol public, I request the insertion of the following observations.
The anonymous writer is widely
private circle of the Doctor's
Dr. Stock too well understands the nature of evidence, to imagine that his letter assigns a single rea
son why another should follow his example. (a) Those who have so much extolled it, and have re
cently given it a species of celebrity, which his refined taste cannot relish, any more than his judg
ANIMADVERSIONS ON DR. CARPENTER'S LETTER.
NOTE (a) Dr. Stock's letter assigns no reason why another should follow his example.] In a subsequent paragraph, Dr. C. reminds his reader that Dr. Stock's letter "neither contains, nor was designed to contain any argument." We cannot, however, subscribe in an unqualified manner to the truth and accuracy of all this. A simple narrative of facts, well authenticated, may involve in it reasons of the most cogent nature for changing the judgment and influencing the conduct of men, even though those reasons should not be actually deduced by the writer, or exhibited in logical form. We shall endeavour to illustrate this position a little, by a reference to a matter of fact, familiar to every Christian. A dispute as we all know, formerly existed between Jesus of Nazareth and his unbelieving countryinen, during the whole of his personal ministry, whether or not he was the Son of God. Jesus affirmed that he was-the Jews denied it. Both parties were agreed respecting the plain meaning and import of that title as used by Jesus. When be called God his Father, they understood him as "making himself equal with God." John v. 18. It was upon this ground that they accounted his pretensions "blasphemy," and agreeably to the tenour of their law, they first attempted to stone him and ultimately put him to death. John x. 30-33. Mark xiv. 61-64. This then was the plain state of the controversy at the time of his crucifixion. It was no part of the dispute, whether in calling himself the SON OF GOD, he signified himself to be truly and properly God. All parties concerned, whether friends or foes, were agreed upon this point: for under that title Jesus claimed equal honour with the Father, John v. 23. under that title the believing Jews worshipped him, and ascribed the divine perfections to him, even at a time when nothing was more zealously maintained among the Jews than the worshipping of one God only, Matt. xxviii. 9. Luke xxiv. 52. and it is remarkable that, however captious in their conduct on other occasions, they never charged him with being an advocate of Poly.theism. It is too late, therefore, now to alter the meaning of that title: the simple question was, whether it belonged to Jesus or not. Now let us mark the result of
When the first preachers of the gospel went throughout the nations, what did they do? They testified a plain matter of fact, of which they were eye and ear witnesses. They declared that "God had raised Jesus from the dead." Acts ii. 24, 32. ch. iii. 15, 26. ch. iv. 10, 33. and v. 30. ch. x. 40. and xiii. 30. and xvii. 3. and this simple fact the apostles considered as containing in itself the most cogent reasons why men should every where repent and turn to God. Acts ii. 38. and iii. 19. ch. xvii. 30, 31. ch. xx. 21. and xxvi. 20., They very properly regarded the resurrection of Christ as deciding the dispute between Him and the Jews-and that God in raising him from the dead had interposed to vindicate all his claims, and had thereby given an indubitable proof that he was his "beloved Son, in whom he is wellpleased." This then is the great fact which is demonstrably ascertained to us by that important event, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and such its native import. Rom. 1.4 Let us now apply this reasoning to the question before us, and in order to do so, what should hinder us from forgetting for a moment the distance of time and place and a few other circumstances of no account as to the argument, and fancying ourselves living at Jerusalem at the instant when Saul of Tarsus was converted to the Christian faith. It will still further assist us, if, instead of being the worthy minister of Lewin's Mead, we should imagine Dr. Carpenter to be one of the rulers of the Synagogue of the Libertines, &c. Acts vi. 9. and Saul, as is probable was the case, a member of that synagogue (one of the Jews from Cilicia) at the interesting period. Suppose the intelligence to be brought to Dr. Carpenter, that Saul of Tarsus, who had hitherto distinguished himself by the keenness of his opposition to the character and claims of Jesus, had, all at once, become one of his bumble disciples, a firm believer of the Trinitarian doctrine, and a worshipper of the crucified Galilean. Of course he is at first quite incredulous as to the fact itself but upon further enquiry he finds, that, in the midst of his career, Saul had been surprised by a flood of evidence which he could neither gainsay nor resist-all his strong prejudices and former notions respecting the character of Jesus had vanished like the mists of the morning before the rising sun, and he is actually become a preacher of that faith which he once laboured to destroy. Acts viii. 1-3. ch, ix. 1-22. Gal. i. 13-16. Now what effect has this upon the ruler of the Synagogue? Why, he meets the members of it, and, to counteract the mischievous effects of such an example, he tells them that he finds his late friend and associate had been in a
ment can approve, shew that they consider the question as one which is to be determined by authority, and not by the sober appeal to men's understandings, exercised under a serious sense of responsibility, and a sincere desire to learn the truth as it is in Jesus. We think the contrary. If Dr. Stock had been followed by all whose feelings lead their judgment, it would not have affected the foundation on which his former opinions rest; it would not have weakened the conviction which had been, formed by a calin and serious investigation of the scriptural evidence for and against them.
When Dr. Stock's change was announced to the public, it was the language of many, "Dr. Stock become a Trinitarian! why this is decisive." And the greatest triumph
was manifested, as though the whole edifice of Unitarianisin were shaken to its foundation; and the most sanguine expectations were expressed, that numbers would follow his example. I should have felt no surprise, if others had followed his example, not, however, from that class who have formed their opinions for themselves, upon scriptural evidence, but from those who received Unitarianism upon the authority of others, or merely because they thought it rational, from those whom fashion or worldly motives would influence in any question, or whose weak minds sunk under the opprobrium so unjustly attached to the avowed Unitarian, (b) and the denunciations of eternal perdition, which so often supply the place of argument. Το many, I doubt not, the
singular state of mind during the progress of his conversion-his feelings appear to have somehow obtained an ascendancy over his judgment-he certainly had acted "under the influence of strongly excited feeling"-and that in the course of a very few (only three) days, "while in a state of mind utterly unsuited to the calm exercise of the understanding"-without taking the advice of any of his friends, who would have persuaded him to suspend his enquiries, or at any rate, from coming to a decision, he yielded to these unaccountable convictions-his judgment was evidently formed "with extreme rapidity, and communicated with a precipitancy which seemed to say that the desperate step must be made at once or he should relapse.” Such he assures them has been the conduct of Saul of Tarsus on this extraordinary occasion-aud marked as it is by a train of singular occurrences he puts it fairly to their consideration what dependence is to be placed upon it? The instance is but one; and it does not involve in it a single reason "why another should follow his example!" 'Tis true indeed that Saul is prompt upon every occasion to relate the change that has passed upon his mind--but then the narrative" does not contain one argument," which should stagger their faith or cause them to relax in their opposition to the claims of Jesus. The reader will easily perceive how exactly all this applies, mutalis mutandis, to the case before him. Those who can justify the reasoning of the ruler of the synagogue under the circumstances now supposed, will agree with Dr. C. in thinking that Dr. Stock's conduct has nothing in it to disturb the confidence of those who still hold fast the sentiments which he has relinquishedbut we must be allowed to think that it, at least, involves a powerful argument why they should enter upon an impartial scrutiny of their Theological creed-and we hope, before we take our leave of Dr. Carpenter, to shew him that it is both his interest and his duty to follow the example of Dr. Stock.
NOTE (b) The avowed Unitarian.] The appropriation of the term "Unitarian," by this denomination of professed Christians, as a title which exclusively belongs to them, has frequently been complained of by their opponents, and as we think with great reason; and certainly, did their candour bear any proportion to the pompous display which they make of it verbally, they would themselves commute it for that of Anti-Trinitarian." They affect to take it very much amiss that any persons ́should “misname them Socinians;" and in the polite phraseology of the Rev. Mr. Aspland, this is always the effect of " vulgar bigotry." See Monthly Repository, for October 1817, p. 588. col. 2. We must not, however, imagine, for a moment, that when the same writer, in the very same paragraph, classes all his opponents under the appellation of " Calvinists," that this proceeds from "vulgar bigotry"-.. or that it was intended as a term of "reproach"-no, indeed; how is it possible that "Unitarians"-a class of Christians of such "refined taste," so universally
change was a theme of simple | much raised, should have damped sacred joy and devout thanksgiv- their exultation. It was but one. ing, that one soul had been rescued from sentiments which, through ignorance, they dreaded more than sin itself. And others, who felt a strong confidence in the truth of their orthodoxy, and had witnessed, with deep sorrow, the numbered of instances in which the same confidence had fallen before examination and evidence, would naturally have their feelings cheered and their convictions invigorated, by perceiving the retrograde course run by a man of undoubted integrity and piety, and eminent for talents and literature. But the very circumstance which so
Talents not inferior to his own, the love of truth as pure, acquirements as varied, and character as unsullied, are possessed by many whose convictions of the truth of Unitarianism have been strengthenby the repeated examination of opposing evidence: and from among those respected individuals, who, by the study of their English Bible alone, and by comparing Scripture with Scripture, gradually arrived at the firm belief and steady avowal of the great principles of Unitarianism, (and the number of such is considerable, increasing and encouraging,) I
"well educated," and of such "respectable talents""-so eminently distinguished for every thing that is refined and delicate-who would be guilty of the excessive absurdity of imputing to them any thing so despicable as vulgar bigotry." Procyl, O, procul, este profani! But whence, did these refined Gentlemen, obtain their Letters-Patent for monopolizing all the learning and talents and virtue that exist in the world? Who gave either Mr. Aspland or his brother Carpenter authority to treat with the contemptuous language which pervades all their pages, the advocates of Trinitarianism? We happen to know a little of both these gentlemen; and without meaning to treat their characters with the supercilious scorn which they bestow upon others, we may be allowed to say that we have never hitherto found in them or in all the Unitarian sect, a man of more than mortal might! Take their word for it, and all the Calvinists and Trinitarians are a company of mean, illiterate, vulgar, despicable beings, with whom Dr. Stock must disgrace himself by associating. But this only shews the overweening conceit of the party, and it excites in our minds no other emotion than that of pity for their childish vanity, On what grounds however do they arrogate to themselves the exclusive appellation of UNITARIANS? We are as firmly persuaded as they can be that there is only one living and true God, Deut. vi. 4. Neh. ix. 6, 7. Is. xliii. 10, 11. ch. xliv. 8. and xlv. 5, 21. We, nevertheless, believe upon the same divine evidence, that there is a plurality in the one Godhead, or deity, and that this is taught in various parts of the Old Testament scriptures, particularly Gen. i. 26. and eh. iii. 22. ch. xi. 6, 7, Besides, in the original, various plural names are given to the true God, though our translators have expressed them in the singular form. Thus, for instance, in the Hebrew we have Holy ones, Prov. ix. 10. Creators, Eccles. xii. 1. Makers, Isa. liv. 5. Masters, Mal. i. 6. all which expressions intimate a plurality in the one deity, though it is only in the New Testament that we have a clear revelation of the number in this plurality. There we learn that they are three, and they are distinguished and manifested to us in the economy of redemption under the relative names of FATHER, WORD, (or SON) and HOLY SPIRIT, Matt. xxviii. 19. John i. 1, 14. ch. xiv. 26. Dr. Carpenter may indeed call upon us to explain to him how these THREE can be ONE GOD; but we are not at all ashamed to avow our inability to do that. 'Tis quite sufficient for us that we find this doctrine expressly taught in the oracles of God-that, in fact, it is interwoven with the whole phraseology of the New Testament, and that the whole scheme of human redemption is founded on it. The unity and distinction of the Divine Three is a mystery which infinitely transcends all our limited powers to comprehend; and conscious of our own ignorance, we think it becomes us to contemplate so exalted a theme as the manner of the divine existence, not only with modesty and humility, but with the most profound reverence and godly fear; nor can we well imagine a more daring act of impiety than for a puny worm of the earth to indulge in unhallowed speculations on this sublime subject, and rashly to intrude into those things respecting the Deity which he has not thought proper to reveal, and which it is neither possible nor profitable for us to know in our present imperfect state. But "fools rush in where angels fear
to tread !"
know not a single instance of the change which Dr. Stock has made.(c)
When it happens that men who have patiently examined the subject, on both sides, for themselves,
NOTE (c) The change which Dr. Stock has made.] As the importance of the change which has recently taken place in the religious sentiments of Dr. Stock, and indeed, the importance of the whole controversy between Dr. Carpenter's friends and ours, must be measured by the relation which it bears to our eternal concerns, it may be worth while to bestow a page or two in this place on an attempt to examine the subject in this point of view.
In all our reasonings, it is of great consequence to proceed from acknowledged premises or first principles; and though 'tis no easy matter to fix upon any thing of this kind with those who discard the inspiration of the holy Scriptures,-and who, like the late Dr. Priestley, can hold the apostle Paul as an inconclusive reasoner, and think themselves not at all obliged to admit a sentiment or doctrine because he taught it, yet there are some first principles on which it is to be hoped that Dr. Carpenter and ourselves are agreed. Such for instance are, the existence of a Great first cause, the Creator of the universe-his attributes and perfections in the moral government of the world, his power and wisdom, and goodness; his justice, holiness and truth-our accountableness to him as the subjects of his government-the evil demerit of sin--and the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. We are not aware that any of these principles are denied by Dr. Carpenter-they all stand independent of the Christian revelation, though recognized by it, and more clearly explained, amended and improved in the writings of the prophets and apostles. Now let these first principles be once fairly admitted, and they serve as so many criteria by which to examine the respective systems of Calvinism and Socinianism; or, if Dr. C. like it better, that of the Trinitarians and AntiTrinitarians.
Dr. Carpenter will no doubt admit that there is such a thing as sin, and that it is a transgression of the divine law, 1 John iii. 4. We do not at present require him to admit all that the scriptures affirm concerning the universal prevalence of it in the world, Rom. iii, 10-19. nor the utter impossibility of any of Adam's posterity obtaining acceptance with God by their own obedience to the divine law, though both these doctrines are taught in the scriptures with such plainness and perspicuity that nothing but wilful blindness can prompt any man to deny them. Gal. ii. 16. and ch. iii. 10, 11. All we ask is to allow the general question, that sin is in the world, and that no man is so entirely exempt from it as not to need forgiveness at the hands of God. Here then comes in the interesting question, which more or less concerns all the human race, 'How shall I, who am conscious of having incurred the divine displeasure, find acceptance with HIM, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity,' Hab. i. 13. Ps. i. 5. and v. 4, 5. We repeat it, this is the most interesting enquiry that ever engaged the mind of man! It is no doubt very possible to find persons of amiable qualities and of decent character, on either side of almost every theological controversy that has taken place in the world-but the grand enquiry is, where is the system which presents to the view of a guilty mortal a solid ground of hope on which to rest his everlasting concerns in the prospect of appearing before God in judgment? That we must all die is a fact too indisputable to be called in question; and though moralists and philosophers bave prescribed abundance of rules and regulations to teach us how to die decently, yet after all, those who have been much conversant with death-bed scenes, do not need to be told that something more than human wisdom ever yet devised is necessary to support the heart of man when nature itself is falling into dissolution! This then is the point of view in which the respective systems of the Calvinists and Socinians merit examination. Let us try them by this touchstone-their adaptedness for furnishing a suitable ground of hope to guilty mortals, in the view of death and judgment; this is the hinge of the controversy.
1. Calvinists admit, in its fullest extent, all that the scriptures say respecting the fall of man--the corruption of human nature-the prevalence of sin and its mora! turpitude men's accountableness to God-and the impossiblity of recommending themselves to his favour by any partial obedience which they can yield to the divine law. But in the clearest view of the divine character,-the most extensive view of the divine law-and the fullest view of their own guilt, they find a solid and allsufficient ground of hope set before them in the death and resurrection of the Son of God," who was delivered for their offences and raised again for their justification." Rom. iv. 25. "Who his own self bare their sins in his own body on the tree -and by whose stripes they are healed," 1 Pet. ii. 24. They know indeed that" it is appointed unto men once to die and after death the judgment"-but they also believe that" Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and that to them who