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to show their practical tendency and efficacy. “It “was a distinguishing mark of primitive preaching,” as you observe, “that it commended itself to every “man’s conscience. People, in general, could not “sit unconcerned under it. We are told of some “ who were cut to the heart, and took counsel to “ slay the preachers; and of others who were “ pricked to the heart, and said, “ Men and “ brethren, what shall we do *** We think ourselves justified in asserting, that these impressions were made, this holy solicitude awakened by the preaching of the pure Unitarian doctrine. The world, we say, was converted by this very doctrine ; on this doctrine were churches formed : this was the doctrine which worked effectually in them, who believed. I accede to your remark, that “there is nothing “like experiment in religion, as well as in philoso“ phy. As to his, i. e. Dr. Priestley's talking what “ tendency his sentiments would have upon heathens “ and mahometans, provided a free intercourse could “ be obtained, this is all conjecture. The best way “ to know their efficacy is by trial, and trial hath “ been madet.” Yes; and, I will add, to that glorious display of the efficacy of those principles ; when such was the force with which they reached the minds of those to whom they were addressed, that “they turned to God from idols, to serve the “ Living AND TRUE GoD, and to wait for his son “ from Heaven, whom HE raised from the dead, “even Jesus who hath delivered us from the wrath “ to come.”
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But here, Sir, I will pause and relieve your attention and my own, by subscribing myself with respect,
AT the close of my former letter I advanced what may, probably, appear to some a bold assertion; namely, that the world was converted, that the sinners of mankind were brought to faith and repentance by the preaching of the simple Unitarian doctrine. You have said, “that Socinian writers can not so much “ as pretend, that their doctrine has been used to “convert profligate sinners to the love of God and “holiness *.” Now, I not only pretend, but hope to prove, that at the first planting of the gospel, this was the doctrine which was effectual for this purpose. Should it not, in modern times, be effectual to the same great ends, the cause must be sought in other circumstances, not in the nature of the doctrine or its inefficiency. You are not to be told, that there are times, in which men hear not Moses and the Prophets; nor would be persuaded, though one rose from the dead: and yet you would not say, that the preaching of Moses and the Prophets, or the appearance of one from the dead, had not an efficacy, or a tendency, to bring men to repentance. It is well known to you,
* Page 23.
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that the flock of Christ, while he was on earth, was
a history, that records the System of Religion, which the first preachers of Christianity published to the world. It narrates the Acts of the APost LEs ; not in their private capacity, ot their domestic connections; but in their office as Ministers of Christ, authorised by Him to “preach the gospel to every creature and “to make disciples,” or converts in all nations. Such a history, of course and necessarily, involves in its details the principles by which the end of their office was to be secured. The history is very concise, but the design of it could not have been answered, unless the writer of it had, at least in some places, recorded the doctrine taught, as well as its effects in the conversion of the world. In this light it has appeared to orthodow writers. “This golden book,” says the learned Dr. Du Veil, “quite through displays the “singular providence of God in gathering together “ to himself and preferring his church. It opens “ and explains what was the beginning and rise of “ the christian religion; after what manner the “ Apostles began the preaching of the gospel”.” “In this divine book,” says another judicious writer, “we may see, how Christ subdued the “world to the obedience of the gospel, by a few “ illiterate men. Here we have examples of the “ prudence, faithfulness, and diligence of the holy “Apostles. Here we may see, how they lived, what “ they taught, how they dealt with the obstinate,