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in the spirit of Protestantism, have in any age, professed and practised the true religon of Christ in opposition to reigning corruptions and wickedness, and particularly to the erroneous doctrines and idolatrous worship of the Church of Rome.
The great object of Mr. E. in the whole of this interpretation, is to show that all the Protestant churches of Europe are involved in the like apostacy with the church of Rome; that “ they are all portions of the very same timber; have a similar savour ; and in all the material original principles of their religious tenets are the very same.” p. 107. " whether," says he,“ the Deity be addressed according to a printed form of prayer by the whole congregation, or for them in the preconceived or extemporary effusion of the minister alone; whether. that minister officiate in his ordinary dress, or in a white or black robe; whether baptism, if it is necessary to be administered at all, be performed by pouring or sprinkling water, or by immersion; or whether upon infants, or upon adults only; are matters of not the smallest real moment in themselves. And whatever differences such as these may exist between them, if the fundamental principles, upon which their mode of worship and their essential religious doctrines are built, correspond to the Church of Rome, they are all only different portions of the same anti-christian Church whose ruin, if this book of the Apocalypse be of divine authority, now fast approaches," p. 110. On the first part of this passage we may remark, that according to Mr. E, do just reason for separation from the established Church is to be found in any of those pretences, on which the early dissenters separated themselves from it; for it is a well known fact, that on one or other of the reasons, which are here mentioned by Mr. E. as “matters of not the smallest real moment," they did ground the defence of their separation, We most cordially agree with him in thinking, that a diversity of opis nion respecting these matters is not a justifiable cause of separation, and of breaking that sacred unity, which is so strongly recommended by Christ and his apostles ; though we will
not go so far as to say, that they are matters of no real moment. They are matters which ought to he settled by each national church with as scrupulous a regard to ancient and (where known) apostolic practice, as circumstances will admit of; but, being settled by the church in whatever way, no reason can be drawn from an opinion respecting them, which will justify the hazard of incurring the incalculable evils of schisin. As to the latier part of the passage, it remains to be shown, notwithstanding any thing, which Mr. E. has attempted towads it, that the Church of England, whatever resemblance she may still retain to the Church of Rome, holds any doctrines, or practises any forms of worship, which can justify her being called Anti-christian.
In his exposition of the doctrines and forms of worship, which he deems Anti-christian, he so confounds those, which are held and prac. tised by the different Churches to be found in Europe, that it is not easy to distinguish the particular charge intended to be alleged against each. In arguing, for instance, on the doctrine of Atonement, he makes the whole Catholic Church of Christ answerable for the absurdities of Cal. vinism ; whereas, whatever may be the case of other reformed Charches, the Church of England, as has often been shown in the clearest manner,
is entirely free from those absurdities, We agree with Mr. E. in think? ing, that they must, with all rational people, prove a great hindrance to the reception of the religion, of which they are represented as a part, As a specimen of the indiscriminate mode of accusation, to which we refer
, we invite the reader's attention to the following passage; after the due consideration of which, we shall leave him to determine what pretensions the writer of it has to the epithet of candid:
“ Besides this monstrous, unnatural tenet (the doctrine of the Trinity) by which the apostate Church pretends to justify her idolatrous word ship of a mortal man, in order to assign some kind of reason for such a blasphemous transformation, the fathers of that Church invented anos ther of her essential, fundamental doctrines, stamped also with the mys., terious character prefigured in this prophetic book, the mystery of man's, redemption from endless torments denounced against him in a future life, in consequnce of what is called the fall of Adam; the guilt of whose transgression is said to have been necessarily transfused into all his dea scendants; and so to have depraved his nature, and that of all mankind from the state, in which he was originally created, and rendered them so prone to evil, that nothing less than the infinite merit of the death of: the incarnate Deity upon the ignominious cross could make a sufficient atonement to himself for their sins, so as to preserve only some of them, from the impending fate of that dreadful punishment, to which lie him. self had doomed them, and fit them to inherit a happy immortality in a future state of existence, to which he had also destined those førtunate chosen few.” p. 124.
Now, notwithstanding the injudicious concessions, which some mem. bers of the Church of England have made respecting the Calvinistica nature of her doctrines, it is sufficienty evident, that this representation does not apply to her; and that, therefore, an exception ouglit to have been made in her favour. For, not to mention, that the notion of Adam's. guitt being transfused into his descendants is not recognised by her, it is certain, that the doctrine of universal redemption, that is, of a redemption, in which all men may participate, if they please, is clearly taught by her ; so clearly, that it seems difficult to conceive how any one who has read her articles, homilies, and liturgy, can seriously charge her with countenancing the opinion, that only a chosen few would be saved, and that those few are predestinated to be so (tor that is Mr. E.'s: meaning) by an absolute or arbitrary decree.
Mr. E. appears to entertain an unconquerable antipathy to a mystery. Everi his opposition to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement seems principally to arise from his conception, that they are mysterious doctrines. if; therefore, we could convince him, that this conception is erroneous, we should entertain some hope of bringing him to the belief of those doctrines. These two tenets," he observes, or of the trine division of the Godhead and of an Atonement made for all sins and wickedness by the death of Jesus Christ, are the grand essential, fundamental doctrines of the apostate Church of Rome, designated by the title of mystery, with which the forehead of her visionary emblem is here (Rev. xvii
. 5.) branded. And as all the religious societies of Europe, even those that have separated from her communion, have adopted and still adhere to these same tenets, she is with strict propriety denominated also, the mother of false religions, and of all the idolatrous suVol. V. Churchm. Mag. Aug. 1803.
perstitions of every country within the limits of the western Roman empire," p. 138. "If Mr. É. will condescend to read the remarks on the word mystery, which were inserted in our number for July last, he will find, that he lies under a great mistake in this point, and that all his reasoning against mysteries is founded on a misapprehension or misapplication of the term. The doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, so far as they are proposed to us as articles of belief, at least so far as they are proposed to us as such by the Church of England, are not mysteries but general truths made known by revelation. They do, indeed, involve things which surpass the human understanding; but this is no more than many other general truths do, to which we make no scruple of giving our assent. It is, surely, utterly inconsistent in Mr. E. to object to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, or any other doctrines, on the ground of their involving what we do not understand, and yet to acknowledge, as he expressly does, p. 15, in opposition to the Alheist, “the unreasonableness of denying the existence of God, because we cannot comprehend his nature, his eternal self-existence, nor the manner in which immaterial intelligence is capable of actuating matter."
Mr. E. makes a few desullory remarks on the fall of Adam, into the merits of which, as they have no pretensions to originality, we shall not particularly enter. Suffice it to say, that he considers the scripture account of that event as Allegorical. At p. 134, he attempts to shew the absurdity of understanding it literally, by the supposition of a case, which as it leaves out ideas essential to the trial of voluntary obedience in beings endued with reason (the case of our first parents in paradise) is absolutely nothing to the purpose. Afterwards, with what consistency the intelligent reader will judge, he professes his belief in a literal mil. lennium; so that, as if by an inverted rule of scriptural interpretation, he understands prophecy LITERALLY, and history ALLEGORICALIY ; by which mode of proceeding, as we conceive, almost any extravagance of opinion might easily be supported.
With respect to the great object of this publication, we perfectly agree with the learned and ingenious author, that a misrepresentation of the doctrines of Christianity, whatever temporary purpose of good it may answer, must eventually impede the progress of Christianity, and interfere with its beneficial influence on the world. We are also ready to allow, that the little influence of this sort, which, in the course of eighteen centuries, it has had in comparison of what it might reasonably be expected to have had (though we think that influence greater than Mr. E. seems to do) is a strong presumption, that something has been materially wrong in the method of promoting its reception. We do not , think, however, that it is necessary, in order to account for all that has happened, to have recourse to the causes which Mr. E. has thought fit, to assign. We are of opinion, that the corruptions in doctrines and , modes of worship, which are to be found in the Church of Rome, are fully sufficient to furnish the interpretation, and to justify the truth, of all the prophecies, which can clearly be made out to refer to corruptions within the Church, and to account for all the effects, which can fairly be attributed to such corruptions. The Christian Religion, as represented in the Romish Church, is so different from what it is, as represented in the New Testament, that we really do not much wonder at
the circumstance of those being hindered from embracing it on principles of approbation and conviction of its truth, who have no opportunity of viewing it in any other light; much less, that those particular persons should thus be hindered from embracing it, who actually are so, But, besides the hindrances to the reception of Christianity, which arise from within its pale, and more especially to such a reception of it, as may render it effectual to its grand purpose, the reformation of the lives of men, and the amelioration of their dispositions, it is obvious to observe, that there are many hindrances from without, which must not be expected to be speedily overcome. For, not to mention the opposi. tion, which must ever rise from the passions of men, a certain degree of mental cultivation is necessary for the perception of the proofs, on which the truth of Christianity rests; so that it betrays a great ignorance of human nature, and of the actual circumstances of the world, to expect, that the bulk of mankind, in the course even of many ages, will become converts to Christianity on a conviction of its truth, and so act, in consequence of such conviction, as to realize the fine pictures of Christian practice, which our author has occasionally drawn. Now, it is a maxim in philosophy, and it ought to be considered as such in divinity also, not to admit more causes than are sufficient fully to explain the phænomena. In fact, it is the great fault of Mr. E. as a reasoner, that, where adequate causes are at hand, he needlessly, and therefore erroneously, goes out of his way to look for others. "If this, however, had been all
, and no other evil had been likely to arise from his work, than as it furnishes an example of erroneous composition, we should not have thought it necessary to dwell so long upon it; but as, in doing this, he scruples not to give up very important truths, and, under the idea of advancing the cause of Christianity, sacrifices some of its essential and distinguishing doctrines, it seemed to us, that we could not be more properly or more usefully employed, than in guarding our readers against such a dangerous fallacy.
We shall conclude our account of this work with a few general observations relating to it. The first is, that the reader is not to expect in it any proofs, or pretensions to proof, in opposition to the truth of the doctrines referred to. The author is content with endeavouring to excite and cherish a prejudice against them, by suggesting, that they are occasions of offence, and hindrances to the progress of Christianity. If, however, Mr. E. had proved, what he has not done, that, in any particular instances, persons have been hindered from embracing Christianity, by its being represented to them as comprehending the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, this would by no means be a proof against the truth of those doctrines. Our readers, we trust, will not be in much danger of being deluded by such a prejudice as this, when they call to mind, that some of the doctrines, which were unquestionably taught by our Saviour himself, gave such offence to some of his hearers, that “they went back, and walked no more with him.” The doctrine of “ 'Christ crucified," was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks (which, in fact, is exactly the substance, and nearly the form, of Mr. E.'s argument) but the apostles did not therefore refrain from preaching that doctrine; being well assured, that to all those, who believed, it was the “ power and wisdom of God” unto R 2
salvation. But, though' we do not think, with our author, that the of fence taken at the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, supposing it to be at all an hindrance to the progress of Christianity, is such an hindrance as ought to be removed, we entirely agree with him in the opinion, that the lives of many professed Christians afford a very considerable hindrance, and such an one, as we cannot be too anxious to remove. We think, in particular, that the treatment, which the Jews very frequently meet with, is by no means calculated to give them such an idea of our religion, as to excite in them any desire of becoming converts to it; and that the most effectual way of persuading either Jews or Heathens to examine fairly the grounds of our religion, is to shew them, by our behaviour, that it is a religion “ according to godliness." In the case of the Church of England at least, we are firm in the belief, that, if all her professed members lived agreeably to their engagements as such, and even in a tolerable degree of obedience to her laws and directions, no hindrance to her conciliating the affections of men, and rendering them converts to a similar faith, would arise from the circumstance of her holding the doctrines in question. With respect to the Jews, however, let our behaviour to them or to others be what it may, it is their evident duty to examine the scriptures of both the Old and New Testament, to compare the prophetical parts of them with the events, which history has recorded, and thence to draw a conclusion as to the evidence afforded, that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah ; and if, instead of exciting delusive expectations, which may encourage them in their infidelity, Mr. E. had exhorted them to the diligent discharge of this duty, he would, in our opinion, have been more charitably as well as more rationally employed.
Besides the particular opinions, which we have noticed, others are advanced in this work, to which, if we were giving a regular reply to it, we could state such objections as would, we flatter ourselves, show them to be entirely unfounded. What we have said will probably be sufficient to put our readers on their guard, which, in general, is all that can reasonably be expected of us. Here, therefore, we shall stop. Confident, however, of possessing a shield, fully able to turn any shaft which can be drawn from Mr. E.'s quiver, we shall be ready, if occa. sion should offer, to 'meet any particular argument, which we may be thought to have passed over, or to re-consider any particular objection, which we may be thought to have considered too slightly.
We cannot take our final leave of Mr. E. without acknowledging, that, throughout the work, he gives evidences of good sense and learning, and that he writes like a man, who is convinced of the truth of the opinions, which he undertakes to defend. In short, the idea we are led to form of Mr. E. from the perusal of his work, is this, that he bears no small resemblance to the imaginary character of Don Quixote. As Don Quixote was sensible in his remarks, and amiable in his manners, when the subject of chivalry was out of the question so, as long as Mr. E. keeps clear of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement, we find every reason to approve of his arguments, and to be pleased with his manner of enforcing them; but, the moment he begins to tread on that hallowed or unhallowed ground, he seems to undergo a perfect change of character, and to lose, not only the soundness of his understanding, but the suavity of his disposition.