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or, as he expresses it, alive without the law; but when the commandment came, in its spirituality and authority, sin revived and he died. The Pharisee, who was whole in his own esteem and needed no physician, was abundantly more calm than the publican, who smote upon his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner! While any man is destitute of a principle of true religion, the strong man armed keepeth the house, and the goods are in peace, and while things are thus, he will be a stranger to all those holy mournings, which abound in the Psalms of David, and to those inward conflicts between flesh and spirit described in the writings of Paul. And, knowing nothing of such things himself, he will be apt to think meanly of those who do; to deride them as enthusiasts; and to boast of his own insensibility, under the names of calmness and cheerfulness.
Supposing the calmness and cheerfulness of mind, of which our opponents boast, to be on the side of virtue; still, it is a cold and insipid kind of happiness, compared with that which is produced by the doctrine of salvation through the atoning blood of Christ. One great source of happiness is contrast. Dr. Priestley has proved, what, indeed, is evident from universal experience, "That the recollection of past troubles, after a certain interval, becomes highly pleasurable, and is a pleasure of a very durable kind."* On this principle he undertakes to prove the infinite benevolence of the Deity, even in his so ordering things, that a mixture of pain and sorrow shall fall to the lot of man. On the same principle may be proved, if I mistake not, the superiority of the Calvinistic system to that of the Socinians, in point of promoting happiness. The doctrines of the former, supposing them to be true, are affecting. It is affecting to think, that man, originally pure, should have fallen from the height of righteousness and honour, to the depth of apostacy and infamy; that he is now an enemy to God, and actually lies under his awful and just displeasure, exposed to everlasting misery; that, notwithstanding all this, a ransom is found, to deliver him from going down to the pit; that God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, to be
Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part I. Letter VI.
come a sacrifice for sin, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life; that the issue of Christ's death is not left at an uncertainty, nor the invitations of his gospel subject to universal rejection, but an effectual provision is made in the great plan of redemption, that he shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied; that the Holy Spirit is given to renew and sanctify a people for himself; that they who were under condemnation and wrath, being justified by faith in the righteousness of Jesus, have peace with God; that aliens and outcasts are become the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty; that everlasting arms are now beneath them, and everlasting glory is before them. These sentiments, I say, supposing them to be true, are, undoubtedly, affecting. The Socinian system, supposing it were true, compared with this, is cold, uninteresting, and insipid.
We read of joy and peace in believing; of joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Those who adopt the Calvinistic doctrine of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and of their own lost condition as sinners, are prepared to imbibe the joy of the gospel, supposing it to exhibit a great salvation, through the atonement of a great Saviour, to which others, of opposite sentiments, must of necessity be strangers. The Pharisees, who thought well of their character and condition, like the elder son in the parable, instead of rejoicing at the good news of salvation to the chief of sinners, were disgusted at it and this will ever be the case with all who, like the Pharisees, are whole in their own eyes, so whole as to think they need no physician.
The votaries of the Socinian scheme do not, in general, appear to feel their hearts much interested by it. Voltaire could say in his time, "At least, hitherto, only a very small number of those called Unitarians, have held any religious meetings."* And, though Dr. Priestley, by his great zeal, has endeavoured to invigorate and reform the party; yet he admits the justice of a common complaint among them, that "their societies do not flourish, their members have but a slight attachment to them, and easily desert them; though it is never imagined," he adds, "that they desert
* Additions to General History, Art. England, under Charles II.
their principles."* All this the Doctor accounts for by allowing, that their principles are not of that importance which we suppose ours to be; and, that "many of those who judge so truly concerning the particular tenets of religion, have attained to that cool, unbiassed temper of mind, in consequence of becoming more indifferent to religion in general, and to all the modes and doctrines of it." Through indifference, it seems, they come in; through indifference they go out; and are very indifferent while there. Yet, it is said, they still retain their principles; and, I suppose, are very cheerful, and very happy. Happiness, theirs, consequently, which does not interest the heart, any more than reform the life.
Although the aforementioned writer in the Monthly Review insinuates, that President Edwards' religious feelings were "all wild ecstacy, rapture, and enthusiasm ;" yet he adds, "We cannot question the sincerity of Mr. Edwards, who, however he may possibly have imposed on himself by the warmth of his imagination, was, perhaps, rather to be envied than derided, for his ardours and ecstasies, which, in themselves, were, at least, innocent; in which he, no doubt, found much delight, and from which no creature could receive the least hurt." I thank you, sir, for this concession. It will, at least, serve to show, that the sentiments and feelings which you deem wild and enthusiastical, may, by your own acknowledgment, be the most adapted to promote human happiness; and that is all for which 1, at present contend. President Edwards, however, was far from being a person of that warm imagination which this writer would insinuate. No man could be a greater enemy to real enthusiasm. Under the most virulent oppositions, and the heaviest trials, he possessed a great share of coolness of judgment, as well as of calmness and serenity of mind; as great, and, perhaps, greater, than any one whom this gentleman can refer us to, among those whom he calls men of cool sensations. But he felt deeply in religion; and, in such feelings, our adversaries themselves being judges, he was to be "envied, and not derided."
*Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 94.
Why should religion be the only subject in which we must not be allowed to feel? Men are praised for the exercise of ardor, and even of ecstacy in poetry, in politics, and in the endearing connexions of social life; but, in religion, we must either go on with cool indifference, or be branded as enthusiasts. Is it because religion is of less importance than other things? Is eternal salvation of less consequence than the political or domestic accommodations of time? It is treated by multitudes as if it were; and the spirit of Socinianism, so far as it operates, tends to keep them in countenance. Is it not a pity but those who call themselves Rational Christians, would act more rationally? Nothing can be more irrational, as well as injurious, than to encourage an ardor of mind after the trifles of a moment, and to discourage it when pursuing objects of infinite magnitude..
"Passion is reason, transport temper, here!''
The Socinian system proposes to exclude mystery from religion, or "things in their own nature incomprehensible."* But such a scheme not only renders religion the only thing in nature void of mystery, but divests it of a property essential to the conOur tinued communication of happiness to an immortal creature. passions are more affected by objects which surpass our compreIt is thus with rehension, than by those which we fully know. spect to unhappiness. An unknown misery is much more dreadful than one that is fully known. Suspense adds to distress. If, with regard to transient sufferings, we know the worst, the worst is commonly over; and hence our troubles are frequently greater when feared, than when actually felt. It is the same with respect to happiness. That happiness which is felt in the pursuit of science, abates in the full possession of the object. When once a matter is fully known, we cease to take that pleasure in it as at first, and long for something new. It is the same in all other kinds of happiness. The mind loves to swim in deep waters: if it touch the bottom, it feels disgust. If the best were once fully known, the best would thence be over. Some of the noblest passions in
* Defence of Unitarianism, for 1786, p.
Paul were excited by objects incomprhensible: O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !—Great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, believed on in the world, received up into glory! Now, if things be so, it is easy to see, that, to divest religion of every thing incomprehensible, is to divest it of what is essential to human happiness. And no wonder: for it is nothing less than to divest it of GOD!
The Socinian scheme, by rejecting the deity and atonement of Christ, rejects the very essence of that which both supports and transports a Christian's heart. It was acknowledged by Mr. Hume, that," The good, the great, the sublime, and the ravishing, were to be found evidently in the principles of Theism." To this, Dr. Priestley very justly replies; "If so, I need not say, that there must be something mean, abject and debasing, in the principles of Atheism."* But let it be considered, whether this observation be not equally applicable to the subject in hand. Our opponents it is true, may hold sentiments which are great and transporting. Such are their views of the works of God in creation: but so are those of Deists. Neither are these the sentiments in which they differ from us. Is the Socinian system, as distinguished from ours, adapted to raise and transport the heart? This is the question.-Let us select only one topic, for an example. Has any thing, or can any thing be written, on the scheme of our adversaries, upon the death of Christ, equal to the following lines?
My theme! my inspiration! and my crown!
*Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part I. Preface, p. x.