Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

scarcely remember an individual, who, in speaking of this version, has not expressed an unfavourable opinion at least of some of its notes. I repeat it, these remarks are not offered for the purpose ef throwing any reproach on any class of Christians, but simply to repel a statement which is untrue, and which is intended to rank us under a denomination, which the people of this country have been industriously taught to abhor. It is this intention of rendering us odious, which constitutes the criminality of the charge, and which exposes its author to severe indignation. A man, who is governed by christian principles, will slowly and reluctantly become “the accuser of his brethren.” He will inquire long and impartially before he attempts to fasten a bad name, (the most injurious method of assailing reputation) on an individual, and especially on a large class of the community. What severity of reproof then is merited by the author of this Review, who has laboured to attach, not only to professors, but to ministers of religion, a name and character which he hoped would awaken popular alarm, and endanger their influence, although a large majority of the accused have no participation in the pretended crime. That he intended to deceive, I am unwilling to assert; but the most charitable construction which his conduct will admit is, that his passions and party spirit have criminally blinded him, and hurried him into an act, which could have been authorized only by the strongest evidence, and the most impartial inquiry. The time may come, when he will view this transaction with other eyes; when the rage of party will have subsided; when the obligation of a fair and equitable temper will appear at least as solemn as the obligation of building up a sect; when misrepresentation, intended to injure, and originating, if not in malignity, yet in precipitancy and passion, will be felt to be a crime of no common aggravation. That this time may soon come, and may bring with it not only remorse, but sincere repentance, I know to be your wish, and I trust it is my own.

II. I now come to the second charge of the Review: That the ministers of Boston and the vicinity, and the most considerable members of the liberal party “operate in “secret; entrust only the initiated with their measures; are “guilty of hypocritical concealment of their sentiments; “behave in a base and hypocritical manner, compared with “which Mr. Belsham’s conduct, rotten as he is in doctrine “to the very core, is purity itself.”* Such is the decent language scattered through this Review. This charge is infinitely more serious than the first. To believe with Mr. Belsham is no crime. But artifice, plotting, hypocrisy are crimes; and if we practise them, we deserve to be driven, not only from the ministry, not only from the church, but from the society of the decent and repectable. Our own hearts, I trust, tell us at once how gross are these aspersions; and our acquaintance with our brethren authorizes us to speak in their vindication with the same confidence as in our own. ~

* We are accused of “the systematick practice of artifice,” p. 242; of “hypocritical concealment,” 251 ; of “cowardice in the concealment of our opinions,” 260; of “cunning and dishonesty,” 260; of “acting in a base, hypocritical manner,” a manner “at which common honesty revolts,” 260; a manner “incompatible with fidelity or integrity,” 261. “The conduct of Mr. Belsham,” we are told, “rotten as he is to the very core in point of doctrine, is purity itself, compared with the conduct of these men,” 262. “In pretence all is politeness and liberality; in practice we find a rancour bitter as death, and cruel as the grave,” 264. Let it be remembered that this is not to be considered as the invective and exaggeration, which we are unhappily accustomed to permit in a political pamphlet. It is found in a grave theological publication, and uttered by a man who declares that he “never took his pen in hand with greater caution, nor with a more imperious sense of duty.” 259.

[ocr errors]

It is not to be wondered at, that those, who have charged us with holding sentiments which we reject, should proceed to charge us with hypocritically concealing our sentiments. Most of fis have often contradicted Mr. Belsham's opinions: and they who insist that these opinions are ours, will be forced to maintain that we practise deceit. They start with a falsehood, and their conclusion cannot therefore be true. o

I am not, however, disposed to dismiss this charge of artifice and hypocrisy so lightly. The proofs on which it rests are perhaps the most extraordinary which were ever adduced on so serious an occasion. The first evidence of our baseness is a letter from Dr. Freeman. It is unnecessary to enter into any examination of this letter. It is sufficient to observe, that it was written, according to the Review, in the year 1796 or 1797, that is, it was written when all the present congregational ministers in Boston, with the single exception of the venerated Dr. Lathrop, were receiving their education either at school or in college, and had not probably directed their thoughts towards the sacred office; and before a considerable part of our brethren, now in the vicinity, were settled in the ministry. It is a melancholy thought, that accusations which would place us among the profligate part of society, are bitterly and furiously urged on such foundation as this! 2.

But the next proof is still more remarkable. It is the letter of Mr. Wells to Mr. Belsham. In this letter Mr. Wells says, “Most of our Boston clergy and respectable “laymen, among whom we have many enlightened theolo“gians, are Unitarian. Nor do they think it at all neces“sary to conceal their sentiments, but express them without “reserve when they judge it proper. I may safely say, “the general habit of thinking and speaking upon this “question is Unitarian.” Can a more explicit passage be conceived The method in which it is distorted by the Reviewer can hardly be recollected without expressions of indignation. Towards the close of his Review, p. 269, in speaking of the persons on whom Mr. Wells “lavishes commendation,” he represents him as mentioning “most of the Boston clergy and respectable laymen, many of whom are enlightened theologians, who do not conceal their sentiments, but express them when they judge it proper.” This passage, as it stands in the Review, has the marks of quotation, as if taken from Mr. Wells’ letter. Let me ask you to look back, and compare it carefully with the second sentence, which I have extracted from that letter. You perceive, that by mutilating that sentence, and by printing the last words in Italicks, the reviewer has entirely done away the meaning of Mr. Wells, and contrived to give to the common reader a directly opposite impression to what that gentleman intended to convey. An unperverted mind turns with sorrow and disgust from such uncharitable and disingenuous dealing; and why all this labour to distort what is so plain? The object is, to fix the character of knaves and hypocrites on a large class of christians and christian ministers. I might here be permitted to dip my pen in gall; but I do not write for those, whose moral feeling is so dull, as to need indignant comment on practices like these. With respect to yourself, my friend, I presume no one will charge you with hypocritical concealment. Your situation offers you no temptation; and no one who has heard you preach, can ever have suspected you of a leaning towards Trinitarianism. As to myself, I have ever been vinclined to cherish the most exalted views of Jesus Christ, which are consistent with the supremacy of the Father; and I have felt it my duty to depart from Mr. Belsham, in perhaps every sentiment which is peculiar to him on this subject. I have always been pleased with some of the sentiments of Dr. Watts on the intimate and peculiar union between the Father and the Son. But I have always ab" stained most scrupulously from every expression which could be construed into an acknowledgment of the Trinity. My worship and sentiments have been Unitarian in the proper sense of that word. In conversation with my people, who have requested my opinion upon the subject, especially with those who consider themselves Trinitarians, I have spoken with directness and simplicity. Some of those who differ from me most widely, have received from me the most explicit assurances of my disbelief of the doctrine of the Trinity, and of my views in relation to the Saviour. As to my brethren in general, never have I imagined for a moment, from their preaching or conversation, that they had the least desire to be considered as Trinitarians; nor have I ever heard from them any views of God or of Jesus Christ, but Unitarian in the proper meaning of that word. It is indeed true, as Mr. Wells says, that we seldom or never introduce the Trinitarian controversy into our pulpits. We are accustomed to speak of the Father as God, and of Jesus Christ as his son, as a distinct being from him, as dependent on him, subordinate to him, and deriving all from him. This phraseology pervades all our prayers, and all our preaching. We seldom or never, however, refer to any different sentiments, embraced by other christians, on the nature of God or of Jesus Christ. We preach precisely as if no such doctrine as the Trinity had ever been known. We do not attempt to refute it, any more than to refute the systems of the Sabellians, the Eutychians, or the Nestorians, or of the other sects who have debated these questions with such hot and unprofitable zeal. But, in sollowing this course, we are not conscious of having contracted, in the least degree, the guilt of insincerity. We have aimed at making no false impression. We have only followed a general system, which we are persuaded to be

« НазадПродовжити »