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Candid and open, however, as Dr. Priestley in general
is, the above are, certainly, no very trifling exceptions: and, considering him as excelling most of his party in this virtue, they are sufficient to prove the point for which they are alleged; namely, that when Socinians profess to be more candid than their opponents, their profession includes more than their conduct will justify. I am, &c.
* About eight or nine years ago, the Monthly Review was at open war with Dr. Priestley; and the Doctor, like an incensed monarch, summoned all his mighty resources to expose its weakness, and to degrade it in the eye of the public. The conductors of the Review, at length, finding, it seems, that their country was nourished by the King's country, desired peace. They have ever since very punctually paid him tribute, and the conqueror seems very well contented, on this condition, to grant them his favour and protection.
THE SYSTEMS COMPARED, AS TO THEIR TENDENCY TO PROMOTE HUMILITY.
You recollect the prophecy of Isaiah, in which speaking of Gospel times, he predicts, that the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day; as if it were one peculiar characteristic of the true gospel, to lay low the pride of man. The whole tenour of the New Testament enforces the said idea. Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence. Jesus said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.-Where is boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.* It may be concluded, with certainty, from these passages and various others of the same import, that the system which has the greatest tendency to promote this virtue, approaches nearest to the true gospel of Christ.
Pride, the opposite of humility, may be distinguished, by its objects, into natural and spiritual. Both consist in a too high esteem of ourselves: the one, on account of those accomplishments which are merely natural, or which pertain to us as men; the other on
* 1 Cor. i. 26-29. Matt. xi, 25. Rom. iii. 27.
account of those which are spiritual, or which pertain to us as good men. With respect to the first, it is not very difficult to know who they are, that ascribe most to their own understanding; that profess to believe in nothing but what they can comprehend; that arrogate to themselves the name of Rational Christians; that affect to "pity all those who maintain the doctrine of two natures in Christ, as being under a debility of mind in this respect, however sensible and rational in others ;"* that pour compliments extravagantly upon one another;† that speak of their own party as the wise and learned, and of their opponents as the ignorant and illiterate, who are carried away by vulgar prejudices; that tax the sacred writers with "reasoning inconclusively," and writing "lame accounts ;" and that represent themselves as men of far greater compass of mind than they, or than even Jesus Christ himself!
The last of these particulars may excite surprise. Charity, that hopeth all things, will be ready to suggest, surely, no man that calls himself a Christian, will dare to speak so arrogantly. I acknowledge, I should have thought so, if I had not read in Dr. Priestley's Doctrine of Philosophical Necessity, as follows: "Not that I think that the sacred writers were Necessarians, for they were not philosophers; not even our Saviour himself, as far as appears-But their habitual devotion naturally led them to refer all things to God, without reflecting on the rigorous meaning of their language; and, very probably, had they been interrogated on the subject, they would have appeared not to be apprised of the Necessarian scheme, and would have answered in a manner unfavourable to it."§ The sacred writers, it seems, were well-meaning persons; but, at the same time, so ignorant, as not to know the meaning of their own language; nay, so ignorant, that, had it been explained to them, they would have been incapable of taking it in!
*Mr. Lindsey's Chatechist, Inquiry 6.
+ Mr. Toulmin's Sermon on the Death of Mr. Robinson, pp. 47, 56.
Doctrine of Necessity, p. 133.
Nor is this suggested of the sacred writers only; but, as it should seem, of Jesus Christ himself. A very fit person Jesus Christ must be, indeed, to be addressed as knowing all things; as a revealer of the mind of God to men; as the wisdom of God; as he in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell; by whom the judges of the earth are exhorted to be instructed; and who shall judge the world at the last day; when, in fact, he was so ignorant, as not to consider the meaning of his own language; or, if he had been interrogated upon it, would not have been apprised of the extent of the scheme to which his words naturally led, but would probably have answered in a manner unfavourable to it! Is this the language of one that is little in his own eyes?
But there is such a thing as spiritual pride, or a too high esteem of ourselves on account of spiritual accomplishments; and this, together with a spirit of bigotry, Dr. Priestley imputes to Trinitarians. "Upon the whole," says he, "considering the great mixture of spiritual pride and bigotry in some of the most zealous Trinitarians, I think the moral character of Unitarians in general, allowing that there is in them a greater apparent conformity to the world than is observable in others, approaches more nearly to the proper temper of Christianity. It is more cheerful, more benevolent, and more candid. The former have probably less, and the latter, I hope, somewhat more, of a real principle of religion, than they seem to have."* To this it is replied,
First: If Trinitarians be proud at all, it seems it must be of their spirituality; for as to rationality, they have none, their opponents having, by a kind of exclusive charter, monopolized that article. It is their misfortune, it seems, when investigating the doctrine of the person of Christ, to be under a "debility of mind," or a kind of periodical insanity.
Secondly Admitting that a greater degree of spiritual pride exists among Trinitarians, than among their opponents; if we were, for once, to follow Dr. Priestley's example, it might be accounted for without any reflection upon their principles. Pride is a sin that easily besets human nature, though nothing is more opposite
* Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 100.
to the spirit that becomes us: and, whatever it is in which a body of men excel, they are under a peculiar temptation to be proud of that, rather than of other things. The English people have been often charged, by their neighbours, with pride on account of their civil constitution; and, I suppose, it has not been without reason. They have conceived themselves to excel other nations in that particular; have been apt to value themselves upon it; and to undervalue their neighbours more than they ought. This has been their fault: but it does not prove their civil constitution has not, after all, its excellences. Nay, perhaps, the reason why some of their neighbours have not been so proud, in this particular, as they, is, they have not had that to be proud of. Christians, in general, are more likely to be the subjects of spiritual pride, than avowed Infidels; for, the pride of the latter, though it may rise to the highest pitch imaginable, will not be in their spirituality. The same may be said of Socinians. For, while "a great number of them are only men of good sense, and with much practical religion," as Dr. Priestley acknowledges they are,* their pride will not be in their spirituality, but in their supposed rationality.
Thirdly Let it be considered, whether our doctrinal sentiments do not bear a nearer affinity to those principles which, in scripture, are constantly urged as motives to humility, than those of our opponents. The doctrines inculcated by Christ and his apostles, in order to lay men low in the dust before God, were those of human depravity, and salvation by free and sovereign grace, through Jesus Christ. The language held out by our Lord, was that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. The general strain of his preaching tended to inform mankind, not only that he came to save lost sinners; but, that no man, under any other character, could partake of the blessings of salvation. I came saith he not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. To the same purpose, the Apostle of the Gentiles declared to the Ephesians, You hath he
Discourses on Various Subjects, p. 100.