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Two editions of this Work, in the larger form, having been printed, and a third being called for; I have thought it proper, in compliance with the request of many respected friends, to publish the present edition in a smaller form, so that it might be sold at a reduced price. In order to accomplish this latter object more effectually, I hare omitted some of the Greek, Latin, and German notes contained in the former editions, retaining merely the references to places, where they may be found in the original Authors. The Translation of these potes however appears, as beretofore, in the text of the Letters. I have also omitted the quotations from the Greek Testament, whenever the reference to the Testament itself will be easy and explicit, without presenting any obstacle, or occasioning any delay of consequence to the reader.
The present edition bas received corrections and additions, too pumerous to be specified. Some very considerable additions have been made to the Second Letter. A few omissions have been made, of matter that on the whole might be spared, without any injury to the work. But these, for the most part, have been supplied by other matter, which I thought to be more relevant to the subject under discussion.
I hare frequently been solicited to abridge or condense these Let. ters, so that they might appear in a small and cheap pamphlet form. To do this, however, would be to write another work. A popular discussion of the interesting topics of these Letters, seems to me unnecessary ; or if needed, there are a multitude of such discussions already extant, some of which may be republished. The times seem to require discussion of a critical and philological nature; and any other would be, in a measure, unappropriate. The advocates for Unitarianism, in this region, who possess the greatest influence over the public mind, are pot men who are to be convinced, or perbuaded, by popular addresses. The discussions, which addresses of this class in general exhibit, can hardly be expected to produce any thing more than a temporary influence, or to subserve a local exigency. But if the great questions pending can be reduced to fundamental ground, and discussed with a Christian spirit, there is more probability that a union of sentiment may eventually take place.
Two anonymous Pamphlets, containing remarks on my Letters, have appeared, since the last edition of the Letters went to the press. There has also appeared a Review of them, in the Christian Disciple, (published likewise in a separate Pamphlet,) which, the writer says, is intended only as a kind of introduction to tbe examination of the Letters.
There is one topic of remark, under the fourth division in this Review, respecting the use of the word person by the Fathers or the an. cient Churches, in regard to which I must thank the Reviewer for his suggestions; as they have occasioped me to institute a more laborious examination of the subject in question. The modification, which the paragraph animadverted upon by him, under the head mentioned, has undergone, ia consequence of his remarks and my subsequent investigations, may be seen by comparing the present with the former editions of these Letters. I have added to the pres. ent edition, the suin mary result of my re-examination of the topic in question, and attached it to the paragraph in the Letters, which was the occasion of the whole discussion.
The Reviewer will see, (unless I have misunderstood him,) that while he has afforded me occasion to correct aod modify some of my expressions, in regard to the views of the Fathers, (which favor I cheerfully and thankfully acknowledge,) there are some things in his own observations, which need perhaps a reexamination.
Ja regard to other topics, suggested by the Reviewer, I have lit. tle to offer. On a re-examination of Mr. Channing's Sermon, I confess myself unable, as he speaks so often of " Trinitarians," of his . “ adversaries,” and his " opponents," to make the separation be. tween“ writing against doctrines and against persons," which ! should be heartily glad to make, and which the Reviewer tbięks 1 ought to make. I had no personal feelings to gratify, in animad. verting upon Mr. Channing's representation of the sentiments and conduct of Trinitarians. On the contrary, I did consider it as a very ungrateful task, to say wbat I did, so far as it personally concerned him. If I have made any remarks of this nature indocorously, or with an unchristian spirit, I am willing to receive admonition, or reproof. I am fully aware, that the way to settle disputes is not by mutual criminations of injury, and want of respect. I have thought it my duty, to follow this conviction so far, in the present edition of this work, as to soften or modify whatever of an unpleas. ant nature may seem to have a personal reference to Mr. Channing, and not to be concerned with the great points of dispute.
I have availed myself of some suggestions in the Review, in res. pect to a few other things, so as to modify some seutences and expressious, which appeared in the former editions of these Letters ; but they are not of sufficient importance to need specification.
Without implying any disrespect so the Reviewer, or the authors of Remarks, may I be permitted to state my views, in regard to the manuer of conducting the present discussion ?
I have giren my name to the public, and made myself responsible
for what I have written, before this tribunal. I have a right, perhaps, to expect, that vthers, if they wish me to reply to their remarks, should take the same course ; at least, unless they offer good reasons for choosing a different one.
I do not wish to dispule; my object is to discuss. I have no persobal prejudices against any man, or body of men, to gratify ; my object is to inquire after what the Scriptures have said, in regard to the topics which I have discussed. Every thing but this simple inquiry, I couceive to be irrelevant to the great question before me. I cannot therefore consent to enter into logomachy about the word person ; 'or the discussion of metaphysical difficulties about agents ia .the Godhead. I aim principally at one point. Has the N. Test. ascribed a nature truly and properly divine to Christ? Has il ascribed attri. bules and works lo him, which belong only lo the Deity? If so, then I must either beliere he is Gud, or renounce my preteosions to a belief in Revelation. When my opponents speak to this simple point, and speak as sincere inquirers after truth, entering into a discussion of the meaning of the N. Testament, of the true nature of the laws by which it is to be interpreted, or of the deference which is to be paid to it, it will be incumbent on me, either to accede to what they advance, or to show my reasons for declining to accede to it. There is no end of dispute on any other ground ; nor can any other be taken, which is not irrelevant to the great object in question.
As to charges of a personal nature; of having loose and inconsistent ideas of exegesis ; or of having none at all; or of broaching a new theory of the doctrine of the Trinity, at variance with the Creed of the Institution with which I am.connected; how far (supposing them well grounded,) do they go to prove, that the doctrine of Christ's divini. ty is not to be found in the New Testament? Whether I'am con. sistent or inconsistent; true to the Creed of the Institution at Ando. ver, or otherwise ; have systematic views of interpretation or not ; have discriminatiog views of the metaphysical nature of person and agent, or pot; can never be used as an argument, to prove what John, and Paul, and Peter have afirmed respecting the divine nature of Christ; and therefore never can enter into the merits of the present question. On these topics, I might attempt to show that the Reviewer, and authors of Remarks have misunderstood me, or made select sentences to speak what the context forbids them to mean; and I might suggest some personal vindications ; but wbat have the public to do with all this? It is abuse of good nature, it is obtrusive vanity, to attempt to occupy the public with our own petty selves and concerns, while the great truths of Christianity are in debate.
To every thing of this nature, which has been said, or may be said, I reply simply ; The awful nature of the discussion, in which I have engaged, forbids the thoughts of intermingling with it, any considerations, which belong only to me, personally. If the interests of truth may be promoted, by the examination of the subject of these Letters, I ought never to permit myself to retaliate any criminations, involving either my talents, or.wy character, or my object, which
may be preferred against me. Be it as it may with me, let the truth, whatever it is, be developed, and prevail.
With such views, without implying any neglect of my opponents or Reviewers, or any disrespect to them, may I not be permitted with the exceptions above stated, to pass in silence the remarks, which they have hitherto published? Whatever goes to correct any error in my discussion, I shall receive with gratitude, come when or how it may; in all besides, the public have no interest, and with it ! shall give them no trouble.