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that Christ was born of a virgin, and yet perfectly false, that he is the very and eternal Father. It may be incontrovertibly true, that the Messiah is a divine person, and yet the individual existence of the Holy Spirit may be greatly questionable. Among those “who deny any one of the persons of the Trinity to be God,” there is an infinite variety of minute shades of difference, which naturally result from bold and liberal reflection. It is not one sect, but many, that are striving to break their chains : disagreeing in a variety of respects; but uniting in a firm and unvaried attachment to the principles of civil and religious freedom.
In the second place, granting, for a moment, that the whole of these obnoxious sectarians are agreed in believing certain parts of the English version of the Scriptures to be interpolated or mistranslated; granting that there is no medium between the creed of Athanasius, and the opponents of Mr. Cobbett, I cannot admit the justice of his triumphant conclusion. Surely it was never before contended, except in the pulpits of the very lowest of the methodists, who are the objects of Mr. C.'s liberal abuse, that every word of an English version of the Scriptures is the word of God. Has the hand of some guardian angel preserved every Greek accent and Hebrew vowel from the unavoidable injuries of time! Were our translators, and their wise and royal master, placed beyond the reach of prejudice, exalted above the influence of passion, gifted with unerring wisdom, and more than mortal acuteness ? On the contrary, there is scarcely a Christian sect on earth, which does not perpetually exercise all its learning in the profound investigations of biblical criticism. The luminaries of the Church of England, the Tillotsons, the Paleys, and the Horseleys, have repeatedly displayed and corrected the errors of manuscripts, and of translations. To take but one instance out of a multitude, the celebrated passage in St. John's Gospel, on the very point in question, has been declared an interpolation by the almost unanimous voice of the learned of the opposing parties. The venerable Bishop of Landaff, in his masterly confutation of the “ Age of Reason," a work which will survive as the defence of our holy religion, when every penal statute has sunk into deserved oblivion; not only criticises but rejects. But all these worthy characters, according to Mr. Cobbeti's reasoning, have forfeited their title to Christianity, by their efforts to defend it. In common justice to Mr. Paine, his reverend antagonist should have been prosecuted with him, and all that are truly good and great, be separated froin a faith, to be received without examination, and believed without knowledge.
What, then, is it necessary for a Christian to believe, respecting the Scriptures ? The simple and obvious answer is to be found in the declaration which all Dissenters are required to make—and which the Unitarians are of course in the practice of making—when they become public teachers: That these holy books CONTAIN the revealed will of God, and are the rule of doctrine and of practice. These, the Unitarian considers as the rule; bis misfortune is, that he considers them also as the only rule. This is “the very head and front of his offending." Mr. Cobbett, on the other hand, believes the doctrines which he considers as orthodox, not because they are contained in the Scriptures, for that lie acknowledges he does not waste his time in inquiring; but because he finds them in the articles of his Church as by Law established. His adversaries, on the coti'trary, who do not acknowledge the Church as the true interpreter of Scripture, reject these positions because they do not see them revealed in the sacred records. Those, therefore, who profess to follow Christ as their only leader, have no right to be called by his name, and no claim to an honor which ought exclusively to dignify those who receive the divine light through a human and a fallible medium !
But these most heterodox of Dissenters from the Church of England, have no right to be called Christians, because they'reject some doctrines, as irrational and unintelligible, and retain others equally mysterious. For instance, some of them oppose the belief of the iticarnation of Christ, while they cherish a rapturous and contident hope of immortality from his triumphaut resurrection. Upon the same ground, the Church of Rome miglit have denied the claim of our reformed Church to Christianity; because, upon this very principle, she rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, while that worthy mother of all that is enchanting in mystery, might have reproached her with inconsistency in retaining her belief in the Trinity. lofinitely as the loftier glories and boundless expectations, which Christianity offers to our speculation, transcend those faculties by which they
are dimly surveyed, we must clearly understand that God has revealed their truth, or we only mutter a kind of cabalistic word, to which we are unable to affix any definite meaning. We can no more believe without knowledge, than we can know without ideas.
Let us, then, for a moment, put the Church and her damnatory creeds aside, and coming “ to the only rule of faith,” inquire what belief it is which is there required to constitute a believer in Jesus. “ This” says he, addressing his heavenly Father," is life eternal; to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” The profession required, by the inspired teachers of his religion, of those whom they converted, was a simple belief iu the Messiahship of their Master, and that the Almighty had raised bim from the tomb, as the proof of the divinity of his mission, and a pledge of a similar resurrection for his humble and yet aspiring followers. Whatever, then, the Unitarians may disclaim, this they steadfastly believe; on this they confidently repose their hopes of life and immortality. They first receive the Scriptures, because they commend themselves to their reason and to their hearts; they next acknowledge these principles because they find them there inculcated, and they reject the opinions they conceive to be false, because they think that they oppose the tenor of the sacred volume, and injure the holy cause for which they are anxiously contending.
Of these topics, however, Mr. Cobbett glories in being ignorant; “ for as there are settled laws and indeed express Acts of Parliament to regulate his faith and worship,” he thinks inquiry at once idle and unnecessary. In India, then, he would devoutly have submitted his reason to the ordinances of Brachma; in Turkey, he would have been a follower of Mahomet; in Italy, a Roman Catholic ; in China, a Confucian; in Egypt, he would have worn shipped the onions on which he banqueted; in Otaheite, the stoues upon which he trampled. But would he allow the stupendous powers of human genius, which assimilate us with our Alıniyhty Creator, to be employed on the petty concerus of this transitory scene, and restrain them from nobler exertions ou subjects which will employ them for ever? Must we chill the imagination of the poet, and ridicule the aspiring reason of the Philosopher ? and shall we reșt the enchanting hopes and celestial consolations, which cheer the weary
and animate the wretched, on the unstable basis of a priestly decree? or, to use an argument more suited to Mr. Cobbett's habits of reflection, can he be ignorant of the pestilential influence of universal errors in religion, on the moral and political welfare of society? The page of bistory will inform him, how, nearly mental greatness and political freedom are connected, and how easily are those subservient to the most degrading despotism, who have surrendered their consciences to a powerful and ambitious priesthood.
If, then, the claim of these sectarians to the name and character of Christians be fully established, there can be no reason why they should not be placed on a level with their brethren dissenting from the Church of England. But this, it seems, will be a partial favor, and a piece of gross injustice to those whom it will not benefit. This, however, cannot be the feeling of any other party' of Christians, because they are already emancipated from these grieva ous penalties, and it is those only, who totally deny the authority of revelation, who will have a pretence for complaining. But I am unable to perceive how the freedom of one sect to exercise its worship can be to them niore galling than the liberty which bas long been conceded to a multitude. If there is any weight in the objection, the Deist was most cruelly oppressed by the act of toleration : it was to him most injurious to repeal the salutary laws, by which the Catholics were threatened with the penalties of treason, if they dared to propagate the religion of their fore-fathers; and if ever the enlightened advocates of the Irish petitions should succeed, they will have forged new chains for the oppressed and wretched unbelievers.
But we are next told that the cause of religious liberty will suffer by pacifying the clamors of one class of petitioners ; that, so far from advancing, it will greatly impede ; and that the change, which will set the mind completely at liberty, must be sudden to be effectual. If this reasoning were correct, it would prove, that every act, by which intolerance has confessed its weakness, has placed us farther from the accomplishment of our wishes; that it was greatly prejudicial to favor all the rest of the Christian world to the exclusion of the Unitarians; and that, in order to promote the cause of liberty of conscience, our meetings ought to be closeil, our lips sealed, and our worship confined to the recesses of those woods which were once hallowed by the simple rites of our persecuted ancestors. On another ground, this singular argument is entirely fallacious; it is false, that any sect will be satisfied by the proposed repeal. The Unitarians will only be placed on a level with the rest of their dissenting brethren; they will then have all their disqualifications and wrongs in common, and they will be more than ever bound to a cordial and vigorous cooperation. At present, the exertions of some of the ablest and most illustrious dissenters are engaged in attaining a particular object: let that be once obtained, and they will give their undivided assistance to the general cause of humanity. They have ever been its boldest and firmest advocates. Among these prescribed Sectarians, we behold a Locke and a Newton: and if Mr. Cobbett's contempt for that Classical lore which elevates, refines, and softeus, the soul of its posses sor, has prevented him from respecting Gilbert Wakefield as a scholar, he can never forget him as a dauntless and suffering patriot. Did the cause of political, legislative, and moral reform ever receive more powerful support than from Price, ard Priestley ? Is Mr.Cobbett ignorant that at the dinner of the Unitarian fund,“ the Cause of civil and religious liberty all over the world” was drank with an enthusiastic feeling which was evinced in long and repeated applauses ? Are the names of Frend and Rutt totally unknown to him ? Of the religious creed of these distinguished characters, I express, like Mr. C., no opinion; but while I have before me their speeches and writings, while I can peruse the admirable sermon of Mr. Belsham on the Catholic Claims, and that of Mr. Aspn land on Religious Liberty, I am compelled to acknowledge the singleness of their views, the extent of their capacities, and the integrity of their hearts. “ We wish not” (says the last-mentioned author) “for unity of opinion in the bond of ignorance, nor unity of profession in the bond of hypocrisy, but for unity of spirit in the bond of peace.” If this pure Christianity should be once impres- . sed on every heart, the reform for which Mr. Cobbett has so ably contended must speedily dispel that corruption which we upite in detesting.