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It would however be unjust to the divines I have mentioned not to connect them with persons of extraordinary reputation, among whom they may be fairly classed upon this occasion. It was, I believe, an eminent father of the church who uttered that edifying exclamation, Credo quia impossibile est ; and I think thereis a similar sentiment somewhere in the" Private Thoughts" of Bishop Beveridge. Christians have often pitied the deluded worshippers of an infant-lama; and critics have deemed the wounded gods of Homer an extravagance beyond the licence even of poetic fiction. Yet the pious and accomplished Watts, before he had put away such childish things, could discover “ the mighty God in a babe at the mother's breast,”as he is quoted by your correspondent, p. 355. During the same days of his younger assurance” he deplored Mr. Locke's deficiency of faith, because, after applying his mature judgment to a serious investigation of the scriptures, that great and good man could not bear the infant Deity," and found " a bleeding God', one of the « themes too painful to be understood *.”
But I cannot forbear to quote upon this subject, that ornament of our country and our race, whom, excepting an unhappy stain on his judicial purity, both poetry and prose have designated not only “the greatest" but also " the wisest of manķind.” Lord Bacon, in his theological works, to a very orthodox “ Confession of Faith," in which he declares that “ the blessed virgin may be truly and catholicly called, Deipara, the mother of God.”. has subjoined a paper from which I shall make a quotation, which will enable me to leave my worthy · old master in good company, or rather to shew that the Rev. John Ryland, in his “extremes and opposites,” is only a paraphrast of Lord Bacon, in his “ Christian Paradoxes."
" The characters of a believing christian in paradoxes and seeming contradictions.
2. “ He believes three to be one and one to be three; a Father not to be older than his son, a son to be equal with his Father; and one proceeding from both to be equal with both; he believing three persons in one nature, and two natures in one person.
See Horz Lyricæ B. 28. Watts in a poetical address to John Shute, Esq. afterwards Lord Bariington,“ on Mr. Locke's dangerous sickness, some time after he had retired to study the scriptures," had called on his friend to catch the mantle of the departing sage. Yet on the publication of Mr Locke's Annotations, after his decease, the goung zealous polemic, instead of doubting a tittle of all that the priest and the nurse had taught, presently charges the venerable expositor with having “ darkened the glory of the gospel, and debased christianity.” He however ven tures to “ invoke Charity" to find him out in heaven," because he has “ reason to believe he was no Socinian." Such are the laws and limits of orthodox fret inquiry.
3. “ He believes a virgin to be a mother of a son, ard that very sou of hers to be her maker. He believes him to have been shut up in a narrow room whom heaven and earth could not contain. He believes him to have been born in time who was and is from everlasting. . He believes him to have been a weak child carried in arms, who is the Almighty, and him once to have died who only hath life and immortality in himself.
Should these passages, and those before quoted offend, as they can hardly fail to do, some pious and considerate minds, let them remember that they are not the words of reputed heresy, attempting to represent, and so liable to the charge of misrepresenting, orthodoxy; but, on the contrary, the language of orthodoxy representing licrself. Protestants have generally agreed to assail, either with sarcasm or grave censure, as the occasion might encourage, those professors of christianity who, “impious, eat their God.” With what consistency the majority of Protestants have so assailed the Papists, I am at a loss to discover. Give me leave to explain myself and to end this “ lengthened tale” by offering a remark on a passage in the affecting story of lady Jane Grey, as I find it in “Dr. Gibbons' Memoirs of Pious Women," (1.17). I will quote the whole paragraph.
“ Lady Jane was early instructed in the principles of the reform. ed religion, which she seriously and attentively studied, and for which "she was extremely zealous, and this, together with her other excellent and amiable accomplishments, greatly endeared her to king Edward. Her dislike of popery, particularly in one of its worst abominations, that of idolatry, was shewn, as it is credibly reported of her, when she was very young. . Upon a visit to the princess Mary at New-Hall + in Essex, she took a walk with the Lady Anne Wharton. Happening to
# "Works of Francis Bacon, Baron of Verulam," 4t0. 1778. iii. 129. This passage has, I think, been quoted somewhere in the valuable writings of the Rev. Dr. Toulmin, to shew the strange representations to which the docrine of a trini. ty gives countenance. I have also seen it a few years ago quoted, with high appro. -bation, in an orthodox magazine, published in Scoiland.
+ This mansion is still standing about 32 milc: from Lordoa, on the Harwich Road. Scarcely any place has been more variously occupied. New-Hall was formerly a seat belonging to the monks of Waltham Abbey. it afterwards became the property of Anne Boleyn's father, of whom Henry Villih purchased it, and named it Beaulicu, as his favourite palace. Hercliadoughter the princess afterwards the bloody queen, Mary frequently resided. For a short time Oliver Cromwell possessed it. After the Restoration, Gen. Munk purchased it out of the reward of bistreachery to the Commonwealth. See Míorant's Essex ii. 13-15. It is towaraina monastic residence, being occupied by some runs who were driven from Lite during the storm of the French Revolution. It is also a school sor the female children of opulene Roman Catholics.
These nuns were probably from the English convent at Liege, which Mrs. Car. ter visited in 1763. See Memoirs of her Life, p. 183.
pass by the chapel, Lady Anne made a low courtesy to the host, at which lady Jane testified some surprise, and asked whether the Princess Mary was there? Lady Anne answered, “No, but I made my courtesy to hiin who made us all.' • Why,' replied Lady Jane, how can that which hath been matle by the baker be he who hath made us ali?" This speech of hers, it is said, being carried to the Princess Mary, gave her a dislike to the Lady Jane, which she retained ever after."
I am persuaded that no Protestant has ever read this anecdote without applauding the ingenuity of lady Jane Grey, which, 80 far as appears, completely silenced her companion. Yet had Lady Wharton attempted a defence, the disputants agreeing that Jesus Christ, who was supposed to be resident in the host, was both God and man, her case would have been by no means desperate. She might easily have shewn that the distinction, however great, between a man liable to hunger and the bread which sustained him, was lost in a comparison with him who made us all.” Thus the orthodos protestant and the orthodox papist were equally justified in worshipping representations of Deity, or both involved in the same absurdity *.
I remain your's, Sept. 8, 1807.
MR. BELSHAM'S STRICTURES UPON MR, D. CARPENTER'S DEFENCE OF ARIANISM IN HIS LECTURES.
To the Editor of the Monthly Reposilory. SIR, My worthy friend in his seventh Lecture, treats on the pre-existence and divine nature of Christ.”. Having put the question, “ Who is Jesus Christ?”? p. 152, he observes : “ It is a question to which I am not solicitous to give any other answer than what Peter gave when our Lord said, Włom say ye that I the Son of man an? to which this apostle answered, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." And he apprehends that the Churcb of Christ " would have been more pure and peaceable, if no other confession had ever been required of its members." I think so too, provided that the terms are used in a rational and proper sense, without which a mere verbal agreement is puerile and trifling. My friend seems to think differently. "If I am asked," says he, “ what precise meaning I affix to those words, the Son of the living God, I am not solicitous to answer this question.” I admire my friend's prudence in the easy method which he has adopted of getting rid of troublesome inquiries. It saves much time and pains. Others who are less sparing of their labour, or who have more leisure and inclination to inquire, may perhaps observe, that the phrase, « Son of God,” has various senses in the New Testament. Jesus applied this character to himself, because he was the perSOR " whom the Father had sanctified and sentinto the world,” that is, whom hehad chosen, and appointed to reveal his will to mankind, John x. 36. The primitive converts were called sons of God, because they participated in the gifts of the holy spirit, Rom. viii. 15. Gal. iv. 6, but to Christ the spirit was communicated without measure. Christians in general are sons of God because they are heirs of an immortal inheritance. Rom. viii. 16. 17. Gal. iv. 7, and in this sense, Jesus is “ the firot born from the dead," Col.i. 18. Nor can I find a single passage either in the Old Testament or the New, in which the expression, “ son of God," necessarily signifies, a being, in rank and nature superior to mankind. So that I cannot accede to the worthy author's idea that it may be necessary to " wait till an. other stage of existence commences,” in order to understand so plain a phrase.
* Just as I was concluding this letter I happened to look into the Memoirs mene tioned in the last note, when I found the following passage in a letter from St. Omers, written by Mrs. Carter in 1763. “On one side of the high altar is a pica ture with an impious representation of him whom no man bath seen nor can see. Over the head of the figure is a triangle. On another part of the piece, a dove, and a heart, and crown of thorns. The motto, Vive le sacre cæur de Jesus.” Mem, p. 172. Yet this learned and respectable lady, whose faith is described as truly orthodox, was doubtless persuaded that the Son of nian, who while he went about doing good, hungered and thirsted, and had not where to lay bis head, was a representation of him, wbom no man batb seen ner can see, and whom the scripture forbids, us to consider as needing any thing.
My friend justly observes, p. 154, that “there can be but three opinions respecting Christ. Either he is the self-existent God, or a mere man like ourselves, or a being of an interimediate order between God and man." He adds, Now with out uncharitably regarding those who adopt the first opinion, as idolaters, or those who adopt the second, as unbelievers. Į acknowledge that the third appears to me most consonant to the declaration of scripture." I have, Sir, no desire to prevent my worthy friend from selecting and professing whatever opinions he pleases, nor yet from pluming himself upon his great charitv, and proclaiming it to the world, but I wish that he had not in the same sentence cast an unnecessary reflection
upon oihers who happen to think differently from himself with regard to
the truth and importance of their respective opinions. An honest Trinitarian I respect. If he believes that Jesus Christ is the true God, he must be as much shocked at my disbelief of the doctrine, and at my zeal for the contrary opinion, as I should be at the zeal of a professed atheist. It is true charity, and not he want of it, which induces him to state to me, what he apprehends to be the nature and the danger of the delusion under which he supposes me to lie. Far from being offended, I thank him for the kindness of his intention, though I remain insensible to the force of his arguments. By parity of reason, when a Unitarian remonstrates with a Trinitarian that the doctrine of three divine persons is polytheism, and that the worship of the son and spirit is idolatry, they do not mean to reproach, but merely to state what appears to them to be a serious and important charge, in order to rouse their mistaken brethren to examine the subject with becoming attention, in hope that the Night of truth may dawn upon their minds. At the same time, they carefully distinguish between christian idolatry which, though a grievous error, is perfectly consistent with purity and virtue, and heathen idolatry, which authorized and often required the practice of the most abominable vices. And Trinitarians themselves, so far from regarding these allegations as false and uncharitable, are ever most ready to allow, that if the Unitarian doctrine be true, their worship is idolatrous and unscriptural. See the Introduction to Whitaker's History of Arianism, and Mr. Proud's late animadversions upon Unitarians. I hope therefore that when my friend's charity may think it necessary to "vaunt herself" upon any future occasion, she will do it, in a less“ unseemly" manner, than by casting unfounded and injurious reflections upon her fellow christians, who with equal sincerity, and an equal right of private judgment, hold differ, ent opinions from her own.
In a note, p. 156, my friend relates an anecdote of Dr. Priestley. “ Conversing," says he, “ once with Dr. Priestley upon the subject, he observed that the pre-existence of Christ appeared to him an absurdity. I asked him to point out wherein ihe absurdity consisted : but he only said in reply, that it
appeared in that light to him; and to this no answer could be given.” It is not very easy to see for what purpose my worthy friend introduces this anecdote. He could not surely mean to insinuate that Dr. Priestley avowed an opinion without being able to assign, what was, in his own judgment at least, a competent reason for it. The truth probably is, that Dr. Priestley regarded the pre-existence of Christ as absolutely incompatible