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HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE TRINITARIAN CONTROVERSY FROM
THE ACCESSION OF WILLIAM III. TO THE PASSING OF THE BLASPHEMY ACT.
No. VII. APPENDED to Mr. Edwards's Socinianism Unmask'd is A brief Reply to another Socinian Writer, which abounds in all the more prominent peculiarities of that reverend gentleman's compositions. The Socinian writer, against whose pamphlet this Reply was directed, Mr. Edwards calls “ the Reverend Examinator,” and “this professed and known writer of the brotherhood.” But though he is classed among the members of the clerical profession, of his name Mr. Edwards gives not the slightest hint. It is something, however, to have learned that all the authors of the Unitarian Tracts were not laymen; and that it was a clergyman by whom the Exceptions to Mr. Edwards's “ Causes of Atheism," against “ The Reasonableness of Christianity,” were “ examined, and found unreasonable, and unscriptural, and injurious."
But there was another clergyman, who took part in this important controversy, and had the courage to identify his own principles with those advanced by Mr. Locke in his Reasonableness of Christianity. This was the Rev. Samuel Bold, of Steeple, in the Isle of Purbeck,* who published A short Discourse of the true Knowledge of Christ Jesus : to which are added some Passages in the “ Reasonableness of Christianity, &c.," and its “ Vindication;" with some Animadversions on Mr. Edwards's Reflections on the “Reasonableness of Christianity,” and on
# The Rev. Samuel Bold was instituted Rector of Steeple, in the year 1682, and died in the month of August, 1737, at the advanced age of eighty-eight, having held the living fifty-six years. He was imprisoned, in the reign of James the Second, for A Sermon against Persecution, in favour of the French refugees, from Gal. iv. 29 (1682, 4to), and for his plea for Moderation towards Dissenters, (See Hutchins's History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 2nd ed., Vol. I. p. 330.) He held the vicarage of Shapwicke fourteen years ; but either resigned it, or was ejected from it, in 1688. Besides the discourses above mentioned, Mr. Bold published one from 1 Pet. i. 15 (1675, 4to), entitled Man's great Duty; another from Rev. iii. 20 (1687, 12mo); a third from Rom. viii. 18 (1689, 4to), entitled An Exhortation to Charity; and two on the Accession of George I., from Ps. cxxxvi. 23, and from Deut. xxxiii. 29 (1715, 1716). In the Address to the Reader, prefixed to his Sermon on behalf of the French refugees, which was preached March 26, 1682, the following passage occurs. “It may be, some who pretend to the Church will take exception at this sermon; for there are some so shallow, and of so short discourse, they cannot understand how a man can except against their violent proceedings against some Dissenters, and yet be himself a thorough Conformist. Indeed, it is not of any moment what such may either say or think; but yet to give them some satisfaction, if they ever happen to be favoured with any sober and lucid intervals, I will, amongst the many instances I might mention for this end, offer these few for their consideration." Under the fourth of these instances, he speaks of the Dissenters with whom he has been acquainted, as “men of great learning, exemplary piety, strict devotion, and extraordinary loyalty; men who have been diligent attenders on God in his public ordinances, eminently religious in their families, who have had a great regard to conscience in all the parts of their conversation with men. *** Indeed," says he, “they have been persons that could not be justly blamed for any thing, but that they had straiter notions concerning human impositions in the service of God than we Conformists have." The Address thus concludes. "If, after all this, any remain unsatisfied, they may seek satisfaction where they please for
his Book, entitled, “Socinianism unmask'd.” 1697. In the Short Discourse, which is from Phil. iii. 8, the author recommends, in the warmest terms, Mr. Locke's design of uniting all Christians in one compact body; and sharply rebukes those who are opposed to that design, as unfolded in The Reasonableness of Christianity. At the close of his Animadversions, he says, “ In short, if the Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scripture, doth merit no worse a character, on any other account, than it doth justly deserve, because it advanceth and so fully proveth this point, That Christ and his apostles did not propound any articles as necessarily to be believed to make a Christian, but this,—That Jesus is the Christ, or Messias,-I think it may with great justice be reputed one of the best books that hath been published for at least these sixteen hundred years." The liberality of Mr. Bold stands out conspicuously in this and all his other published writings; and is the more praiseworthy, as there seems no ground for suspecting his orthodoxy on the subject of the Trinity. The main points for which he contends are, that Christ and his apostles required no further profession than that Jesus was the Messiah; that the primitive Christians suffered solely on account of this profession, and not for their faith in any particular doctrines; and that it is antichristian to insist upon any thing, as a part of the religion of Jesus, which Jesus himself has not authorized.
Mr. Edwards, whose pen was never dry, published, in the course of the same year, THE SOCINIAN CREED, or a brief Account of the professed Tenents and Doctrines of the Foreign and English Socinians ; wherein is shew'd the Tendency of them to Irreligion and Atheism, with proper Antidotes against them. After having “ gone through the several particulars and members which make up the body of Socinianism,” taking a little here, and a little there, from the writings of Socinus, Volkelius, Smalcius, Crellius and others, among the Polish Brethren, Mr. Edwards proceeds, in the 9th Chapter, to give a summary view of the Socinian doctrines, in the form of a Creed ; and for every separate article in this Creed he holds the whole body of English Unitarians responsible. But with just as much reason might any contemporaneous Unitarian writer have exhibited another Creed, as the Creed of Mr. Edwards, made up of the heterogeneous mass of materials supplied by the controversial writings of Drs. Wallis, Sherlock and South.
Considering the false medium through which this reverend gentleman viewed every thing relating to the doctrines of the English Unitarians, he is probably not entitled to implicit credit in what he advances respecting their practice. In the course of his work, however, and particularly in the 8th Chapter of it, he has incidentally mentioned certain things respecting them, to which it may not be uninteresting to allude, and the truth of which there seems no particular reason to call in question. He tells us, for instance, that none of the English Unitarians in his time had any set meetings for the propagation of their doctrine ; that there was not a single congregation of Unitarians throughout the kingdom ; but that they mixed with others, and particularly sometimes with the churches of the Conformists; and that some of them had been, and still were, professed members of the Church of England. From these statements, it may be inferred, that the Unitarians, in Mr. Edwards's time, consisted chiefly of members of the Established Church ; but that they were occasionally found also in connection with other religious bodies. Mr. Edwards further says, that though they wrote in defence of their opinions, yet they concealed their very names and persons; and that, notwithstanding their opposition to mysteries, they hid themselves in the clouds, and would not let the world know who they were. These practices he regards as proofs of their indifference, and of their want of true zeal in defence of their own cause. “It is not only cowardise,” says he, " but something of a worse nature, that makes them thus mask themselves. These knights errant (who come not like those of old to do kindnesses to the distressed) will not vouchsafe to lift up the beavers of their helmets, and let us see who they are, because by this concealment they are abler to do the greater mischief. They lie hid, and publish not their names, that thereby they may have the advantage of saying what they please, and aspersing whom they will with their audacious pens." How successfully the authors of the old Unitarian Tracts preserved their incognito, appears from Mr. Edwards's confession, that he was “a perfect stranger to them," and knew “nothing" of them “but their books :" and yet, if we may judge from the conjectures which he sometimes hazards, he was not a little curious to learn something more. “We are not sure," says he, “that some of those who go under the name of English Socinians are not foreigners. Is not Crellius's stock somewhere harboured among them :* Have there not been seen strange outlandish books at the press of late?t May we not suspect some Transylvanians and Polanders employ'd in the work lately? Are we not sure that there are some Irisht as well as English ingaged in the service?"
In The Socinian Creed, the author mentions “Mr. Lock” repeatedly by name, as the author of The Reasonableness of Christianity; and exults over him, because he has not replied to Socinianism Unmask'd. He regards Mr. Locke's silence as a proof of inability to produce an effective defence of himself and his opinions from the charges brought against him. This roused the indignation of Mr. L., who lost no time in preparing and publishing A Second Vindication of “The
* Samuel Crellius was at this time in England, and probably his younger brother Paul, who, in the year 1697, must have been about twenty years of age (Bock Hist. Antitrin. Tom. I. P. i. p. 203), and who received a considerable part of his education in England. (Ibid.) Samuel published in London, (8vo, 1697,) his Faith of the Primitive Christians demonstrated from Barnabas, Hermas and Clement of Rome, under the feigned name of Lucas Mellierus, (which was a transposition of his own name,) in reply to Bull's Defence of the Nicene Faith (Walchii Bibl, Theol. Selecta, Tom. I. pp. 914, 970); and during his stay in this country visited Sir Isaac Newton, who made him a handsome present at his departure. (Bock, H. A. Tom. I. p. 165.)
+ By “strange outlandish books" is probably meant, books in a foreign or a dead language. One of these books may have been Samuel Crellius's Fides Primorum Christianorum, &c., mentioned in the preceding note. Another probably was the Tractatus Tres, published A. D. 1694-5, the last of which has been attributed, not altogether without reason, to Samuel Crellius.
This is probably an allusion to the active correspondence which Mr. Locke carried on, about this time, with his friend. Mr. Molyneux, who resided at Dublin. (Some Familiar Letters between Mr. Locke and several of his Friends. London, 1708. See particularly p. 216.) VOL. II.
Reasonableness of Christianity," with a Preface to the Reader, including a letter addressed to Mr. Bold, explanatory of the origin of that excellent work. At the commencement of this Second Vindication, Mr. L. says, “A cause that stands in need of falsehoods to support it, and an adversary that will make use of them, deserve nothing but contempt; which, I doubt not, but every considerate reader thought answer enough to · Mr. Edwards's Socinianism Unmask'd.' But since, in his late 'Socinian Creed,' he says, “I would have answered him if I could, that the interest of Christianity may not suffer by my silence, nor the contemptibleness of his treatise afford him matter of triumph amongst those who lay any weight on such boasting, 'tis fit it should be shewn what an arguer he is, and how well he deserves for his performance to be dubb’d, by himself, 'irrefragable.'"
In the Second, as in the First Vindication, Mr. Locke indignantly repels the charge of appropriating to his own use the interpretations of Socinian authors. Of the writings of Socinus, Crellius and Schlichtingius, from which Mr. Edwards charges him with borrowing, he distinctly declares that he never read a page; and he gives it, as the result of his observation upon the pending controversy, that “the Socinians themselves," who were most forward in their advocacy of free and unrestrained discussion, were as much wedded to their own orthodoxy, and as much bent upon making converts to their own peculiar views, as other men. “When 'tis observed,” says he,“ how positive and eager they are in their disputes; how forward to have their interpretations of Scripture received for authentick, though to others, in several places, they seem very much strained ; how impatient they are of contradiction; and with what disrespect and roughness they often treat their opposers; may it not be suspected, that this so visible a warmth in their present circumstances, and zeal for their orthodoxy, would (had they the power) work in them, as it does in others? They, in their turns, would, I fear, be ready with their set of fundamentals ; which they would be as forward to impose on others, as others have been to impose contrary fundamentals on them."
In a Postscript to The Socinian Creed, Mr. Edwards added some Brief Reflections on the Short Discourses of the Rev. S. Bold, whom he calls “ Mr. Li's journeyman.” In reference to the Animadversions, he says, that Mr. Locke and his friends “have made a tool of Mr. B., and under the shelter of a clergyman's name, have imposed their notions upon the reader.” “I have heard,” says he, “ that these very objections and cavils which are here used were made use of by the party, and therefore it is probable that though they appear under the name of S. B., yet they might more truly have had J. L. or A. and J. C.” Now “J. L.” clearly denotes John Locke; and “ A. and J. C.” are the initials of the Messrs. Churchill,--Mr. Bold's publishers, whom Mr. Edwards evidently suspected of having something more than a pecuniary interest in the publication of works such as those of Mr. Bold, and other liberal theological writers of the day. This suspicion leads him to say, in another place, (p. 239,) that when his eye caught the bottom of Mr. Bold's title-page, and he saw that the work “came from the lower end of Paternoster-Row," he “gather'd thence who had a hand in" it.
In the course of the year 1697, Mr. Bold defended the view which he had taken of The Reasonableness of Christianity, in a Reply to Mr, Edwards's Brief Reflections. In the year following, he published Observations on the Animadversions (lately printed at Oxford) on a late Book, entituled, “ The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures ;” and, with this work, took his leave of the controversy.
Among the opponents of Mr. Locke was Dr. Edward Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, who charged him with heterodoxy, in A Discourse in Vindication of the Trinity ; London, 1697, To this charge Mr, Locke replied, in A Letter to the Bishop of Worcester; and after the exchange of one or two other Letters, the controversy ceased in the year 1698.
Having slightly deviated from the chronological order of events, for the purpose of completing our review of the controversy which arose out of the publication of The Reasonableness of Christianity, we must now return to the year 1695, in which Dr. Fowler, Bishop of Gloucester, published A Second Defence of the Propositions by which the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is so explained, according to the ancient Fathers, as to speak it not contradictory to natural Reason, in Answer to a Socinian MS., in a Letter to a Friend ; together with a Third Defence of those Propositions, in Answer to the newly published Reflexions, con, tained in a Pamphlet, entituled, “ A Letter to the Reverend Clergy of both Universities.” This brought forth a Reply from the author of the manuscript, which occupies the fifth place in the Third Collection of (Unitarian) Tracts, and bears the following title. A Reply to the Second Defence of the xxviii Propositions, said to be wrote in Answer to a Socinian Manuscript, by the Author of that MS., no Socinian, but a Christian and Unitarian. It is written in the epistolary form; and though the person to whom the author addresses it is not named, the internal evidence is conclusive as to its being Mr. Thomas Firmin, Bishop Fowler was one of Mr. Firmin's most intimate and dearest friends; and it appears that the manuscript was communicated to him by Mr. Firmin, with the author's consent. But the Bishop must either have violated the conditions on which it was entrusted to his perusal, or made such a use of it as he was not justified in doing, without the author's permission. This may be inferred from the commencement of the Reply, which is as follows. “I now find by notice in the Gazette, that your learned and worthy friend, whose name you concealed from me, is the Lord Bishop of GlocesterHe has published an answer (which he calls, A Second Defence of his Propositions, to a private Manuscript, which he calls Socinian: which MS., to excuse his not publishing it, he tells his reader he had returned to you, and had it not by him, nor a copy of it. He saith he collected the substance of it: I believe what he thought the substance; but how shall the reader judg of that? since, as a great master tells us, the context, the style, and the phraseology of an author must be well considered by one that means to understand him perfectly. But it seems he was not willing to lose an opportunity to expose a heretick, tho' he strain'd civility in so doing.” When the author consigned his manuscript to the hands of Mr. Firmin, he had but recently become acquainted with that gentleman. “My aim,” says he, “was only to let you (then my very new acquaintance) privately know my private judgment. I am none of your proselyte, nor no man's else. I profess sincerely, I fell