« PreviousContinue »
mains in it; while Mr. White, the learned Professor of Arabic at Oxford, discovers so much laudable zeal in the cause of orthodoxy; and while others, of no less erudition, I am informed, are preparing to join the corps, now that they see the danger to be pressing.
Indeed, in a case of so great emergency, when so much may be lost, viz. the uninterrupted possession of ages, and so much honour (to say nothing of emolument) is to be acquired by preserving it, who, that has any confidence in his prowess, would not crowd to the standard, erected by the Dean of Canterbury, who so loudly calls upon all the friends of orthodoxy, to contend earnestly for THEIR faith? Without any disparagement to this truly learned and worthy dignitary, I hope his call will soon be answered by numbers, still higher in rank, and in fame, than even himself.
To be perfectly serious, I must acknowledge that it gives me more pleasure than I can express, to see such a prospect of this very important question, concerning the person of Christ, being thoroughly discussed, and perhaps finally terminated; so that the generality of those who give attention to these subjects, may have reason to think, that every consideration on which their judgment ought to be formed, will be fairly before them; that every weak or doubtful argument will appear to be so, and that nothing will remain in the scale but what has unquestionable weight.
The learned and inquisitive will then no longer halt between two opinions. If Christ be truly God, they will receive and honour him as such; but if he be only a man sent by God, they will honour him as the ambassador of God, not so much regarding himself as Him that sent him; and whatever shall be the settled opinion of the learned, it will, in due time, become that of the unlearned, and of the Christian world in general. To be the instruments in the hands of Divine Providence in bringing about so great an event, is so honourable, that I hope it cannot fail to excite the laudable ambition of many. Such an opportunity of distinguishing themselves, and of serving the cause of truth, may not soon occur again.
I feel more particular satisfaction in that part of this generous contest which relates to Dr. Price, partly because it is the first opportunity that has been afforded me of dis
In Notes to "Sermons at the Bampton Lecture," 1784. See supra, p. 276, Note t.
+ In this I alluded more particularly to Mr. Parkhurst, whose work having appeared since this Preface was written, I have had an opportunity of replying to it at the close of the present publication. (P.) See infra.
cussing in this manner the subject of Arianism; and also because it enables me to give another example of the manner in which I most wish to conduct a controversy, to shew that friends to each other may, at the same time, be greater friends to truth, and that they can even earnestly contend for this, without the least hazard of a breach in their friendship.
It is too common for persons engaged in controversy to lose sight of truth, and to contend for victory only; and when that is the object, those passions which enter into other contests, which have the same object, enter into this; and the effect is both unpleasant in itself, and in a variety of respects, unfavourable to the cause of truth. But in our
former discussion of the doctrines of Materialism and Necessity, nothing of this kind appeared on either side, and the door shall be as religiously shut against it in this.
That discussion was brought to its proper termination; each of us having advanced every thing that we thought proper in support of our respective opinions, and then we made a joint publication of the whole. In this case, my friend has declared his resolution not to engage in any controversy; and, as the time is approaching when I may think proper to make a similar resolution, I shall not urge him on the subject; but I write with his full consent; and we both of us earnestly wish that some other common friend, at least, some other learned Arian, who, like him, shall be actuated by a pure love of truth, may take his place. Whoever he be, I will engage that he shall have no reason to complain of me. He shall have nothing to fear but fair, dispassionate argument; and if he be worthy to succeed Dr. Price, it will be a matter of indifference to him whether the friendly contest end in his favour or in mine.
My highly valued friend will himself not fail to give due attention to what we write; and if he should see reason to change his opinion with respect to any particular article in the discussion, I have no doubt but that he will generously avow it in the future editions of his Sermons. Should he be induced to abandon Arianism altogether, (O that this were not too much to be expected of man!) I have as little doubt, that he would take an early opportunity of acknowledging it, and with that ingenuous frankness which marks his character. In this case, we should perhaps also have from his hand, a striking view of the Socinian, or, as he himself would then call it, the only proper Unitarian doctrine. There is
* See Vol. IV. pp. 18–121.
an energy in what he delivers, as coming directly from the heart, which few writers have attained. It is not mere mental ability that can enable a man to write like him. It requires perfect integrity, as well as a sound understanding. Better were it to be in any error with such a heart, than have the best head, and hold all truth, without it.
Writing to the Dean of Canterbury, who is at the head of a college in Oxford, I was insensibly led to address myself to the young men who are in a course of education for the Christian ministry at the two universities. For this, I hope, to obtain their pardon, if not their thanks. What I have done proceeds from an earnest desire to awaken their attention to a subject that most nearly concerns them, and through them the public, whom they are destined to serve.
To have gone on, as many have done, from generation to generation, subscribing what they have not considered, and then maintaining it because they have subscribed it, and because they would be distressed if they should abandon at once the fruits of their subscription, can only have arisen from a want of attention to so serious a subject. The most important and the plainest of all truths may not be perceived, till it be distinctly pointed out. But when attention is excited, the ingenuous youth, who would otherwise have gone heedlessly on, as thousands have done before him, will start at the apprehension of a wrong step in his conduct, as at the sight of a precipice before him; and then, whatever be the inconvenience of retreating, he will see that it must be better than to proceed.
May the God of truth open all our minds, and lead us into all truth; and especially may he give us the courage to acknowledge it, when it is discovered. The consequences of this may, in certain circumstances, be painful, but they are temporary; whereas, the consequence of persisting in error, and of living in the perpetual violation of integrity, while it fills the ingenuous mind with anguish here, must be followed by much greater anguish hereafter. Such conduct requires only to be fairly exhibited. It must at once be seen to be unworthy of a man, and much more so of a Christian, and a Christian minister.
As I wish not to trouble my readers with more publications in this controversy than may be necessary, and I
In 1768, Dr. Horne was appointed President of Magdalen College; and in 1791, Bishop of Norwich. He died in 1792, aged 62.
expect, at least hope, to have many more antagonists than have yet appeared, I here inform them, that I shall not make an immediate reply to every particular publication, but shall generally wait a proper time, in order to take into consideration what may be advanced by several of them, as I have done on this occasion.
It is my earnest wish that this important controversy with Trinitarians, and especially with Arians, may come to a proper termination. Nothing, as I have more than once declared, shall be wanting on my part to bring it to this desirable issue; and I pledge myself to the public, not to pass without notice any objection to which I may be unable to make a satisfactory reply. If it relate to a subject of much consequence, I shall not only make a frank acknowledgment of my mistake, but take the most early opportunity of doing it; but if it only affect an article of small consequence, I may content myself with correcting my works, if they should ever come to another edition. If any person think me superior to my adversaries with respect to force of argument, (which can only arise from the goodness of the cause which I have espoused,) I am determined to give them proofs of a still greater superiority with respect to ingenuousness.
Let it be understood, however, that this engagement relates only to the history that I have given of the rise and progress of the Trinitarian doctrine, of Arianism, and of Unitarianism, in the early ages, which is a proper field for the learned in ecclesiastical history, and not to that branch of the controversy which has been so long canvassed, that very little that is new can be expected to be advanced on any side, I mean the doctrine of the Scriptures on the subject, any farther than it may be introduced incidentally, and in connexion with the historical discussion.
But this historical discussion, when the nature of it is well considered, cannot, as I have frequently observed, but be thought to decide concerning the whole controversy; for, if it be true, as I have endeavoured to prove by copious historical evidence, not only that proper Unitarians were in communion with the Catholic church, and were not classed with heretics; but that the great mass of unlearned Christians continued to be simply Unitarians till the second and third century, it will hardly be doubted but that their instructors, viz. the apostles, and first disciples of Christ, were Unitarians also, and therefore, that no other interpretation of the Scriptures than that of the Unitarians, as opposed to that of the Trinitarians, or Arians, can be the true one.
Introduction, and of the Charge of Ignorance or Insincerity in the Defenders of the Doctrine of the Trinity.
AFTER being engaged in a controversy relating to the doctrine of the Trinity, with some very insolent, and, as I think I have shewn, insufficient antagonists, I rejoice that in you, I have met with one who is truly candid, learned, and in every view respectable. You, Sir, are as sensible as myself of the importance of this discussion, and have the same wish to conduct it in the most proper, that is, in the most amicable manner, as lovers of truth, and not contenders for victory. "We must not," you say," engage knowingly in a bad cause; nor persevere, if, in the process, we shall discover our cause to be a bad one."† "No mischief will arise from discussion. Truth always has been, and always will be, a gainer by it."+
With respect to the subject of this controversy, you very justly say, if the doctrine of the Trinity be not true," the Christian church has been guilty of idolatry,"§ and though I do not think it is with equal justice that you add, "from
Occasioned by his two Sermons, published together in 1786. These were a Discourse on "The Duty of contending for the Faith, preached at the primary Visitation" of Archbishop Moore, "in the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church, July 1, 1786;" and "a Discourse on the Trinity in Unity." See Bishop Horne's Works, 1809, Vl. pp. 60—98.
+ Sermons, 1786, p. 9. Sermons, p. 15. (P.) § Sermons, p. 2. (P.)
(P.) Works, 1809, VI. p. 67.