« PreviousContinue »
The following Remarks were drawn up, in substance, soon after the publication of that work which is the subject of them. The author had then neither health nor leisure to fit ! them for the press; and was under less trouble about it, when he found that the argument was undertaken by others, of whose learning and experience he had a better opinion than of his own.
But a new edition of his Answer to an Essay on Spirit having been called for, they are now published as a continuation of the same controversy. The Confessional is little more than a sequel to the Essay on Spirit ; and we may judge by the 'excellent things which the author has prom claimed in favour of the late bishop Clayton, and that Essay, he will not be offended with me for putting him into the same class with his fellow-labourer.
I would not be thought so much as to insinuate by this publication, that the Confessional is not fairly and fully refuted in those Three Letters which have been addressed to its author by a judicious hand : notwithstanding all that satire, flash, and affected superiority, with which the Letterwriter is assaulted in the Occasional Remarks, which every impartial reader, who has the least knowledge of the world, will easily understand. Nor is it difficult to see, that the Confessional, and those Remarks, are the work of the same person : for men are known by the cast of their metaphors, and the temperature of their expressions, as effectually as by the turn of their features, and the form of their handwriting.
But there are readers who will scarcely be at the pains to follow the argument to such a length : as there are doubtless some admirers of the Confessional, who have not had patience to attend their guide through all the multifarious doublings
and turnings of his historical libel. Therefore I thought it might be of use to go at once to the roots of the argument, and attempt to shew the author's mistakes in a smaller compass : for if his principles are agreeable neither to scripture, nor reason, nor the universal practice of christians in all ages ; scurrilous anecdotes, and scraps of history, pointed against the church and churchmen with all the art the author is master of, and more invectives than any dictionary can supply him with, will never compensate for such a defect; but in the opinion of judges who are under the same pre, judices with himself.
They who attend to the humours and practices of mankind, may distinguish truth from error without much reading, by observing the motions of the restless part of the community on different occasions. When the Confessional comes abroad, reports are instantly spread far and wide, of a famous, learned, acute, unanswerable work, by an able, dignified, candid, sagacious, masterly, incomparable writer. Pamphleteers, reviewers, and news-writers, proclaim his merits, and the coffee-houses ring with his conquests The whole bench of bishops are insulted, and the advocates of the church sneered at as mercenaries, and held in defiance ! Such is the public entry of a work against orthodoxy and uniformity; and such it hath been in time past. The book called the Rights of the Christian Church, which was intended to prove that the Christian church hath no rights at all, but is merely the creation of the civil power, was ushered in with the same popular acclamation : a circumstance described by an ingenious hand in such lively terms, as will not be unacceptable to the learned reader--- Prodiit haud ita pridem e Socinistarum cæno, famosus quidem libellus, &c.-Et tamen hic ipse liber, qui tot undique absurda, tot impietates, tot denique blasphemias continet, mirum in modum omnium libertinorum teritur manibus; ab omnibus rapitur, adamatur. Hic magnificè erultant et triumphant Socinistæ ; palam vociferantur clericorum causam hoc uno libro penitus confossam jacere: 'nihil esse sani, nihit solidi, quod vel acutissimi theologi Herculeis hisce argumentis reponant *.
* This passage is extracted from Hughes's Dissertatio proæmialis, prefixed to his edition of Chrysostom de Sacerdotio. It comprehende
On the contrary, when a work of the other sort makes its appearance, such, for example, as the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity ; if you hear any thing of its author, you
hear, in the first place, every thing that can be said, truely or falsely, to his disadvantage. Retailers of literary intelligence depreciate his work as not worth reading; the newspapers rail at him, under the contemptuous appellation of one William Jones; and if the Arian party do not undertake to write against his book in form, you are assured there can be no reason for their silence, but the wildness of the composition, and the weakness of the argument. Thus the book steals as it were into the world, creeping by degrees from one hand to another, as if there were treason in it, and making its way slowly to a third and fourth edition, with no helps from public attestation, and against all the obstructions of clamour and ill report ; as christianity prevailed in former times against the universal obloquy of Romans, Greeks, Jews, and Barbarians. So wise and active are some men in their generation ; and they who are once aware of it, will not easily be carried away with every wind of common fame, or common defamation.
I had some thoughts of following the author of the Confessional in his capacity of a Critic, and exhibiting some examples of the partiality with which he makes his report of books, writers, and controversies. In this age, when the talents of so many are unhappily drowned in a sort of small reading, from which no just principles of divinity, or literature, can be extracted, men are guided by names more than things: whence it comes to pass, that characters are saleable commodities, and consequently very apt to be sophisticated. I was unwilling to draw out these remarks to a greater length, otherwise, I think, it might have been easy enough to shew how little submission is due to his literary decisions. However, that I may not seem to throw out an unsupported assertion, I shall fix upon the character of Dr. Sykes, to whose abilities he gives his testimony in very exalted language. There are a set of disputants who are distinguished as the sons of truth and liberty-worthies, whose services, under all disadvantages, have been so great an honour and ornament to the church *. In this class of worthies we find Dr. Sykes, who undertook to hold up the credit of Arian subscription, in answer to Dr. Waterland. He is farther ornamented with the honourable titles of an acute writerthis ingenious person the ingenious author of the Case t. We shall see how justly Dr. Sykes is celebrated for his acuteness and ingenuity, if we venture to take a nearer view of him, J. as a reasoner, 2. as a writer, and 3. as an historian, or relater of facts.
an authentic description and vindication of the primitive constitution of the Christian church; well worth the diligent perusal of younger students in divinity; who may also read it with advantage as an elegant piece of Latin,
When Dr. Waterland had charged the Arian party with fraud and prevarication in subscribing Trinitarian articles; his adversaries 'endeavoured to recriminate, accusing the orthodox clergy with subscribing Calvinistical articles, although they were well known to dissent from Calvin's doctrine. Dr. Waterland clears the orthodox, by shewing that the articles of the church of England were purposely framed to a neutral sense ; neither affirming nor denying Calvin's doctrine, that offence might be taken by neither party; and he affirms it to have been "abundantly proved, “ that the articles are NOT CALVINISTICAL.' Here Dr. Sykes changes the state of the question, and declares Waterland not to have been convinced of his own proofs of the ANTICALVINISM of the articles . Not calvinistical is altered into anticalvinistical. The former of these terms implies neutrality, the latter opposition. Dr. Waterland's defence rests entirely upon this plain distinction, which Dr. Sykes either did or did not understand ; and I shall not stay to enquire which part of the dilemma will consist with his acuteness and ingenuity. In another place, he sets down the words “ well proved to be Anticalvinian,” referring to them as if they were the genuine words of Dr. Waterland: but, in the place referred to, it is only said to be “ well proved “ that our articles were not drawn up by Calvin's scheme $.”
* Confess. p. 171, 173.
See Sykes's Case of Subs. p. 31, 32.