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“ As to persons'ity in God-a trinity of persons, I think it the most absurd of all absurdities; and, in my opinion, a man who hath brought himself to believe the popular doctrine of the Trinity, hath done all his work ; for after that there can be nothing hard-nothing inevident; the more unintelligible, the more credible; and as this serves the purpose of producing implicit faith in pretended guides, priests will always try to keep it in credit,"
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
The writer of the following Essay divides all Christians into two denominations, Unitarians and Trinitarians. With their various subdivisions he does not interfere, deeming it enough, at present, to contend for the Supreme Deity of God alone, and believing that every departure from that doctrine, leads to a perversion of the Scriptures, and the adoption of opinions hostile to the religion of the Gospel. He is no follower either of Arius or Socinus, of Price or Priestley; but taking the Scriptures, with REASON and COMMON SENSE, as his guides, he adopts whatever doctrine he judges to be true, and rejects whatever he can prove to be false, no matter in what region it is found, nor by what names it is sanctioned. There are learned and pious men in all the great Christian denominations. He is glad to profit, where he can, by the labours of them all; and would rejoice to collect into one focus whatever scattered rays of light may render Gospel truths more clear, whether they emanate from Boston or Calcutta; from Geneva or Rome.
The more simple the creed of Christians, the more chance of harmony. In proportion as the chords of a musical instrument are multiplied, the difficulty of preserving concord is increased. A belief in the One only living and true God, and that he is a rich rewarder of those who diligently seek him, and in Jesus Christ his well-beloved Son, that he is the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey him ; commingled with that Charity, which the inspired Apostle declares to be superior to Faith and Hope, and without which there is no Christianity; should be a sufficient bond of fraternity and affection, among all who would be followers of Christ, not in name only, but in deed and in truth. Unitarian Christians of other countries, are wisely acting on this conviction. Let their brethren in Ireland follow their example, and quit their disputations about obscure questions, concerning which they cannot come to a perfect agreement; and which, therefore, should be deemed of very inferior importance. All who do not embrace the doctrine of the Trinity, are ranked by their opponents in one class; and whether they be Arians or nick-named Socinians, are all alike said to be infected with leprosy and heresy : for, that theological phantom known by the name of Orthodoxy, that heterogeneous compound of errors and contradictions, like Popery, deems itself infallible; and makes no distinction among those who separate from its communion. It brands them all with the name
of Socinians, though, in truth, there is no Socinianism in Ireland, nor any approximation to it, except among those who declaim against it most loudly. But the word “Socinian” has become an uncharitable term of reproach, and is to the disciples of Calvin and of the Pope, what the term Nazarene was to the Pharisees of old. The same spirit which prompted the words, “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?” and “Look and see, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet,” has lost no particle of its malignity in the lapse of eighteen hundred years.
It is not without the most painful reluctance, that the Author has entered into the stormy region of controversy, for he greatly prefers quiet and the shade. But there are times and occasions when silence would be criminal; and being considered as denoting either a want of confidence in the truth, or of ability to defend it, might seem to give sanction and currency to error. Of all denominations of Christians in this country, none, except the Society of Friends, is less prone to give offence, than that to which he belongs. Their love of peace has often exposed them to the charge of indifference. Notwithstanding this, they are not indifferent. Their zeal, indeed, is seldom displayed in thunder, and lightning, and brimstone-hail; it burns with a calm and steady heat; and may, perhaps, if much excited, be kindled into a blaze. When their tenets are stigmatized as leprosies and souldestroying heresies, by those who see them only with a "mind diseased," and "a jaundiced eye,” and through the distorting and discolouring medium of human creeds, they think it their duty to shew that, to the sound vision of reason, and in the clear light of the Gospel, they appear to be the purest and healthiest out-flowings of evangelical truth. They have provoked no quarrel, unless their repose be a provocation : and even when wantonly assailed, they war not with men, but with false opinions. For Mr. Pope and Mr. Maguire, the Author entertains no sentiments but those of kindness. He admires the zeal and talents of both, and only laments, that they have not been employed in what he would esteem a better cause.—But their controversy has not been unprofitable. In the collision of their arguments, the sparks of divine truth have leaped forth, and formed a bright and radiant glory round the brow of Unitarian Christianity. Though regarded by the one as a leper, and by the other as a heretic, he wishes them health and happiness; and hopes to be recognized at a higher tribunal than theirs, as a worshipper of the true God, and a sincere, though humble follower of Christ. Truth is his object as well as theirs. Let the candid decide, which of them is farthest from the mark.
In a land of liberty all have an equal right to defend their religious opinions; and it is imperative on the advocate of Truth, when her interests call him forth, to assert his right, and wing a shaft against error, wherever it is discovered, whe:lier perched upon a mitre, or nestling in the triple crown.
TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The Author, though anxious to please his Athanasian and Calvinistic readers, finds it to be a task of extreme difficulty. They are dissatisfied with what he has written, because it sets before them some great and important truths, which they have seldom, if ever, heard discussed; and they are dissatisfied because he is silent on some mysterious points of doctrine, of which he is ignorant, and of which he can find nothing revealed in the Word of God. Hard fate !—to offend both by his speech and his silence.
As to the arguments hitherto arrayed against the chief doctrine of the Essay, they are thin and vapoury, and of no consistence. When touched by a single spark of truth, like the chymist's bubbles of gas, they explode and disappear.
One of the Author's chief misdemeanours is the construction of a creed, so simple and so Scriptural, that all can understand it. Would that every creed had been so constructed ! then, instead of being involved in contentions and animosities, which destroy all the kind affections, the Christian world would be at rest, and the religion of the Gospel would be producing its genuine fruits
Glory to God in the Highest--on the earth peace, good will to men.
Another offence is the attempt to revive some good old doctrines, which, in this corner of the world, seem to have been almost forgotten. The Dublin “Christian Examiner” says, that the Author “has not even the meagre satisfaction of being original in his statements.” Most true. He lays no claim to originality or invention; and therefore his readers may enjoy, with him, not the meagre, but the plump, round, and full satisfaction of knowing, that the doctrines contained in these pages, are not the discoveries of a new adventurer in the field of theological inquiry. They are of much older date than those of Calvin, Athanasius, or Pope Nicholas the First. They are founded on the ROCK OF AGES, and are coeval with the Bible.
The Author is farther charged with having taken an argument, without acknowledgment, from Dr. Samuel Clarke, viz. that though Christ were proved by one text of Scripture to be God over all, it would not follow that the Son is consubstantial, and coeternal, and possessed of equal power with the Father.
For the same
Apostle who has written this, tells us elsewhere, (1 Cor. xv. 27,) that when he says “all things are put under him, it is manifest that HE is excepted which did put all things under him.” The argument is so extremely obvious that it can scarcely not occur to every mind capable of reasoning on the subject. It has been stated at least a thousand and one times. But the Examiner, throughout, betrays an impatient solicitude to fix a stigma of dishonesty on the Author's character. Here, however, he will find the usual well-known stratagems of his school of no avail
. The Author, so far from having a wish to repel the charge, that he has borrowed it, rejoices that it is now presented to the reader, armed with the sanction of so learned and distinguished a divine as Dr. Samuel Clarke. He writes for a nobler object than literary renown, and cares not if every line in the Essay be traced to a higher and more creditable authority than his own. Let the Examiner quit his personalities and answer the argument. His attempt, so far, is miserably abortive. It is plain to the common sense of a child, that he who did put all things under Christ, must be superior to Christ ;-even the Examiner's understanding, it is presumed, would revolt from the idea of Christ putting all things under the Father. If what is predicated of the one, cannot be predicated of the other, there is no equality. But even though their equality were established, it would not prove them to be coeternal and consubstantial, for equality and identity are not the same. The Apostle, however, does not leave the question to be thus decided; but, as if to guard his readers from being imposed on by the sophistry of such writers as the Christian Examiner, adds, “when all things shall be subdued unto him, (507€ xoi) even then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Cor. xv. 28. Let the Examiner quit his sophisms, and answer the
argument. The Examiner and his Athanasian and Calvinistic friends are indignant at our assuming the name of Unitarian Christians, and affirm that they believe in the divine unity as well as we. Be it so. Paul informs us, that in his days some preached Christ even of
envy and strife—of contention and not sincerely. What then (says he)- notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice.” Phil. i. 15, 18. So do we, Unitarians, rejoice that the divine unity is acknowledged in any sense.* But let not the disciples of Athanasius, and the Pope, be under any apprehension that we shall identify their three persons with our one God. There is an essential difference between us. Our idea of unity has no resemblance to theirs. Ours is a monad—theirs a triad ; ours a mathematical point, theirs a triangle; ours a monarchy, theirs an aristocracy, ours a clear simple idea, theirs a
* Est quoddam prodire tenus, si non detur ultra.