« السابقةمتابعة »
and it is but right they should, in due time, be rewarded. They are the scavengers of the universe, and having done a great deal of necessary, though dirty work, they are entitled to commiseration at present, and to proportionable compensation in another state of being. How admirably are these views adapted to promote a horror of sin! What tenderness of conscience, fear of offending, deep humility, and penitence, may we expect to find in Mr. Belsham, and in his admirers! Doubtless their eyes are a fountain of tears, which, like Jeremiah, they are incessantly pouring out for those vices and impieties, which are the sure and certain pledges of endless felicity.
To expect Mr. B. to write a bulky volume without intermingling a large portion of infidelity, would be to expect grapes of thorns, and figs of thistles. In the work under consideration, he fully maintains the consistency of his character. He more than insinuates his disbelief of a great, if not the greater part, of the Mosaic history. Mr. Lindsey having expressed himself in terms of just reprehension with respect to the conduct of those who reject the books of Moses, Mr. B. takes upon him to censure the severity of his friend.
'But surely if the venerable writer (says he,) had reconsidered the case with his usual calmness and impartiality, he would have seen that a person may be a very firm believer in the divine mission and doctrine of Christ, and be well satisfied with the general evidence of the divine legation of Moses, while he at the same time may entertain very serious doubts, whether the books commonly attributed to Moses were really written throughout by him, and whether either the narrative or the institute, exist at present exactly in the form in which he delivered them.' P. 408.
But supposing the narrative to be in certain points false, the institution misrepresented and disguised, and the books which we term the Pentateuch the production of some author, who does not see the impossibility of separating the truth from the falsehood, and of attaching, on any consistent principles, to any part of it, the credit due to a divine communication?-The spirit of infidelity evinced in these passages, is little different from that which pervades the pages of Bolingbroke and Voltaire. But such is the genuine progress of Socinianism: it begins with denying some of the clearest propositions in the New Testament, in order to which its claims to inspiration must be weakened or annulled; whence it proceeds to dispute the authority of the Old, till the whole Bible be virtually set aside as the umpire of controversy. Among the other sublime discoveries to which Mr. B. has been led by a critical investigation of the writings of the New Testament, one is,
that the Lord Jesus Christ possesses no authority whatever, or, to use a term of his own invention, no external authority. Speaking of the Duke of Grafton, he says,
'In a paper, dated Jan. 1, 1792, the Duke expresses a belief that the exaltation of Christ to dominion and authority was the consequence of his submission to those sufferings which were so efficacious, perhaps so necessary, to his own glory and to the future happiness of mankind." His mind at this time seems to have been perplexed with some obscure notion of the unscriptural doctrines of meritorious sufferings, and of the external authority of Jesus Christ; which, however, he regards as a mystery, which "it will probably never be given to man in the present state" to understand, and which, therefore, "must consequently be ranked among those articles, the belief of which cannot be necessary to salvation."' P. 327.
Though the Apostles have affirmed the exaltation of the Saviour to the government of the universe, in every variety of form which language can supply; though he himself declared that all power was given to him in heaven and in earth, his possession of external authority is unblushingly asserted to be an unscriptural tenet. We challenge Mr. B. to invent terms more strongly expressive of the highest dominion and authority, than those which the inspired writers have employed in describing the exaltation of the Saviour. We can regard this assertion of Mr. Belsham's, in no other light than as a specimen of that theological audacity which forms the principal feature in that gentleman's character, and which happily can have no other effect than to inspire a complete abhorrence of the system which renders such a procedure necessary. We cheerfully accept, however, the concession implied in these daring positions, that the doctrine of the meritorious sufferings of Christ is inseparably connected with his exaltation; and as the latter cannot, without the utmost indecency, be denied, the former follows of course. We can annex no other meaning to the epithet external, as applied to authority, than what might be more clearly expressed by the term personal; or, in other words, Mr. B's intention is to assert, that our Lord possesses no authority whatever, apart from the credit due to his mission and to his doctrine, and that the Christian church is in no other sense governed by Christ, than the Jews might be affirmed to be governed by Moses after his decease. It must be obvious, however, to every one, that this is not to explain, but boldly and unequivocally to contradict, the writings of the Apostles on this important subject.
We shall close these strictures on Mr. Belsham, by quoting one passage more, which illustrates at once his insufferable arrogance, and his servile deference to authority.
'What childish simplicity and ignorance,' says he, does it betray in some, to feign or to feel alarmed at the tendency of those doctrines which are avowed by such men as Lindsey, Priestley, Hartley, and Jebb, and which are represented by them as lying at the foundation of all right views of the divine government, of all rational piety and virtuous practice, and of all rational and substantial consolation! And yet such persons feel no alarm at the vulgar notion of philosophical liberty, or the power of acting differently in circumstances precisely similar; a notion, the fond persuasion of which encourages men to venture into circumstances of moral danger, and to which thousands of the young and inexperienced especially are daily falling victims.' P. 394.
The arrogance, folly, and absurdity of this passage are scarcely to be paralleled, even in the writings of its inimitable author. The most celebrated metaphysicians and reasoners, in every age and in every country, Malebranche, Cudworth, Clarke, Butler, Reid, Chillingworth, and innumerable others, who have avowed the strongest apprehensions of the immoral tendency of the doctrine of fatalism, or, as it has been styled, of philosophical necessity, are consigned by a writer, who has not capacity sufficient to appreciate their powers, much less to rival their productions, to the reproach of childish simplicity and ignorance; and this for no other reason than their presuming to differ in opinion from Lindsey, Priestley, Hartley, and Jebb! What is this but to enjoin implicit faith? and why might not a Roman Catholic, with equal propriety, accuse of childish simplicity and ignorance, those who should suspect the pernicious tendency of sentiments held by Pascal, Fenelon, and Bossuet? We must be permitted to remind Mr. B. that we hold his pretensions to a liberal and independent turn of thought extremely cheap; that possessing nothing original even in his opinions, to say nothing of his genius, his most vigorous efforts have terminated in his becoming a mere train-bearer, in a very insignificant procession.
Having already detained our readers longer on this article than we ought, we should now put a period to our remarks, but that there is one particular connected with the history of Mr. Lindsey, which, we conceive, has been too often set in such a light, as is calculated to produce erroneous impressions. We refer to the resignation of his livings, in deference to his religious scruples. He is, on this account, every where designated by Mr. Belsham by the title of the venerable Confessor;' and, what is more to be wondered at, the late excellent Job Orton, in a letter to his friend, the late Rev. Mr. Palmer, of Hackney, speaks of him in the following terms:
'Were I to publish an account of silenced and ejected ministers, I should be strongly tempted to insert Mr. Lindsey in the list, which
he mentions in his Apology with so much veneration. He certainly deserves as much respect and honor as any of them, for the part he has acted. Perhaps few of them exceeded him in learning and piety. I venerate him as I would any of your confessors. As to his particular sentiments, they are nothing to me. An honest pious man, who makes such a sacrifice to truth and conscience as he has done, is a glorious character, and deserves the respect, esteem, and veneration of every true Christian.'
We have no scruple in asserting that this unqualified encomium is repugnant to reason, to Scripture, and to the sentiments of the best and purest ages of the Christian church. To pass over the absurdity of denominating Mr. L. a silenced and ejected minister, merely on account of his voluntary withdrawment from a community whose distinguishing tenets he had abandoned, we are far from conceiving that the merit attached to his conduct on this occasion, was of such an order as to entitle him for a moment to rank with confessors and martyrs. To the praise of manly integrity for quitting a situation he could no longer conscientiously retain, we are ready to acknowledge Mr. L. fully entitled. We are cordially disposed to admire integrity, wherever we perceive it; and we admire it the more in the present instance, because such examples of it, among beneficed ecclesiastics, have been rare. But we cannot permit ourselves to place sacrifices to error on the same footing as sacrifices to truth, without annihilating their distinction. If revealed truth possess any thing of sanctity and importance, the profession of it must be more meritorious than the profession of its opposite; and, by consequence, sacrifices made to that profession must be more estimable. He who suffers in the cause of truth is entitled to admiration; he who suffers in the defence of error and delusion, to our commiseration; which are unquestionably very different sentiments. If truth is calculated to elevate and sanctify the character, he who cheerfully sacrifices his worldly emolument to its pursuit, must be supposed to have participated, in no common degree, of its salutary operation. He who suffers equal privations in the propagation of error, evinces, it is confessed, his possession of moral honesty; but unless persuasion could convert error into truth, it is impossible it should impart to error the effects of truth. Previous to the profession of any tenets whatever, there lies an obligation on all to whom the light of the gospel extends, to believe the truth. We are bound to confess Christ before men, only because we are bound to believe on him. But if, instead of believing on him, we deny him in his essential characters, which is the case with Socinians, the sincerity of that denial will indeed rescue us from the guilt of prevarication, but not from that of unbelief. It is possible, at least, since some sort
of faith in Christ is positively asserted to be essential to salvation, that the tenets of the Socinians may be such as to exclude that faith that it does exclude it, no orthodox man can consistently deny; and how absurd it were to suppose a man should be entitled to the reward of a Christian confessor, merely for denying, bona fide, the doctrine which is essential to salvation! The sincerity which accompanies his profession, entitles him to the reward of a confessor; the error of the doctrine which he professes exposes him, at the same time, to the sentence of condemnation as an unbeliever! If we lose sight of Socinianism for a moment, and suppose an unbeliever in Christianity in toto, to suffer for the voluntary and sincere promulgation of his tenets, we would ask Mr. Orton, in what rank he would be inclined to place his infidel confessor? Is he entitled to rank with any of the confessors? If he is, our Saviour's terms of salvation are essentially altered, and though he pronounces an anathema on him who shall deny him before men, the sturdy and unshaken denial of him in the face of worldly discouragement, would answer, it seems, as well as a similar confession. Men are left at their liberty in this respect, and they are equally secure of eternal happiness, whether they deny, or whether they confess the Saviour, providing they do it firmly and sincerely. If these consequences appear shocking, and he be forced to assert the negative, then it is admitted that the truth of the doctrine confessed, enters essentially into the inquiry, whether he who suffers for his opinions, is to be, ipso facto, classed with Christian confessors. Let it be remembered, that we are not denying that he who hazards his wordly interest, rather than conceal or dissemble his tenets, how false or dangerous soever they may be, is an honest man, and, quoad hoc, acts a virtuous part; but that he is entitled to the same kind of approbation with the champion of truth. That the view we have taken of the subject is consonant to the Scriptures, will not be doubted by those who recollect that St. John rests his attachment to Gaius and to the elect lady, on the truth which dwelt in them; that he professed no Christian attachment, but for the truth's sake; and that he forbade Christians to exercise hospitality, or to shew the least indication of friendship, to those who taught any other doctrine than that which he and his fellow Apostles had taught. The source of the confusion and absurdity which necessarily attach to the opinions of Mr. Orton and others, here expressed on this subject, consists in their confounding together moral sincerity and Christian piety. We are perfectly willing to admit, that the latter cannot subsist without the former; but we are equally certain that the former is by no means so comprehensive as necessarily to include the latter. We should have imagined it unnecessary to enter into an