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But are not these things done?-I tremble, my dear Sir, while I put this question to your conscience:-tremble, not because I feel that I am doing wrong; but because I consider it a question of infinite solemnity.-It surely will not be denied, that the New Testament is mutilated;"- it will not be denied, that the Saviour is degraded to the condition of a fallible, peccable, and ignorant man;"_nor should it any more be denied, that "nearly all the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel are rejected.” I do believe you will yourself admit, that nearly all the doctrines are rejected, which, by the venerable founders of the New England churches were held as fundamental;—which the great body of the Protestant churches, since the Reformation, have held as fundamental.
How great a proportion of the liberal party actually do all this, and to how great an extent the rest of them consent to it, I would be devoutly, thankful, that I am not particularly concerned to determine. But I must seriously ask, whether, from the representations made in your letter, were there no other means of judging in the case, there would not be most fearful reason to apprehend, that you and your liberal brethTen generally have done but very little, to secure yourselves from the general charge, or, I must add, to purge yourselves from the general guilt-It grieves me, dear Sir, to state, that in your Letter you tell us, in so many words, that to believe with Mr. Belsham is no crime:"-by which I understand, no sing—no offence against God-against Christ-against the Gospel-against the cause and kingdom of truth and holiness.-No sin--no offence, to hold Christ to have been no more than “a fallible, peccable, and ignorant man;"_to discard those parts of the New Testament which assert his pre-existence, his miraculous conception, his divinity, and his atonement, as either spurious, erroneous, or extravagantly hyperbolical;-to deny that his death was an expiatory sacrifice for sin, that “we owe him any gratitude for the benefits which we are now receiving,” that “we have any reason to hope for bis future interposition;—to deny the inspiration of the Scriptures generally, and reject all the fundamental, ali the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel!-- You are also most studiously careful, most exquisitely tender, lest any state
ment you make should be considered, as casting the least reproach on those amongst us, who believe in the simple humanity of Jesus Christ;" and, of course, agree with Mr. Belsham, if not in all, yet certainly in the most material articles of his creed.--Most studiously careful, most exquisitely tender, lest you should wound their feelings, abridge their influence, or hinder their success in propagating their sentiments! And from other parts of your Letter, it would seem that such has been the uniform feeling, and conformable to it the uniform practice, not only of yourself, but of your liberal brethren in general.
Now, Sir, if such is the real fact, however small a proportion of the liberal party those may be, who actually do the things in question; yet is it not perfectly correct to say, generally, that the liberal party do them. And if so, where is the foundation for the serious charge of falsehood, so vehemently urged against the Reviewer?
You are pleased to say, (p. 7.) “The conduct of the Re“viewer, in collecting all the opinions of that .gentleman," Mr. Belsham, “not only on the Trinity, but on every other otheological subject, in giving the whole collection the name “of Unitarianism, and in exhibiting this to the world as the screed of liberal Christians in this region, is perhaps as "criminal an instance of unfairness, as is to be found in the “records of theological controversy.” Upon this permit me to ask,- Did you overlook that Mr. Belsham exhibits the opinions, thus collected, not as peculiarly his own, but expressly as the sentiments of the Unitarians generally? Have the goodness to observe his phraseology: «The Unitarians generally believe," &c. «The Unitarians maintain," &c. “The Unitarians disavow," &c. Was it not right for the Reviewer to consider Mr. Belsham, at present the head of the party certainly in England, as good an authority for de termining what Unitarianism is, in the nineteenth century, as “Dr. Mosheim” or “Miss Adams?" and right also to give the people some distinct information on this subject? Is not the fact well known to you, that Unitarianism is a "name," not opprobriously given to that class of professed christians by their opponents, but eagerly claimed, and strenuously as
serted by themselves? Are you not also perfectly aware, that after the denial of the essential divinity and the proper atonement of Christ, the descent to the lowest degree of Unitarianism is extremely easy, and often most rapid? That among those, who reject these primary doctrines a peculiar brotherhood is at once established? and that any differences of sentiment which may exist among them, are considered by themselves from the highest to the lowest, as compartively unimportant;—and are so considered also by their opponents the Trinitarians, who regard the denial of these doctrines as subversive of the very foundations of the gospel? In what then consists the extreme criminality, with which the Reviewer is so warmly charged?
To conclude this head. You have accused the Reviewer of falsehood, in “asserting, That the ministers of Boston and its vicinity, and the great body of liberal christians are Unitarians in Mr. Belsham's sense of the word.” I trust it has been made clear, that this accusation is unfounded: that he does not make the assertion which you allege that he makes; and in that what he does assert, in the passages cited by you, he is in part justified by your own concession, and in the rest borne out by the testimony of liberal gentlemen, and by principles of fair interpretation,
I frankly confess that I did regret, when I first read the Review, and I do still regret, that he had not expressed himself with more studious care, and more circumspect qualification. But for the heavy accusation, which you have preferred against him, and for the uncommon heat with which it is urged, I am utterly incapable of discerning any solid reason. "A man who is governed by christian principles, will slowly and reluctantly become the accuser of his brethren.” This sentiment, Sir, I quote from you with most hearty approbation. Near it, however, is a passage, which I quote with no common sensation of pain. «That he," the Reviewer,
intended to deceive I am unwilling to assert; but the most “charitable construction which his conduct will admit is,
that his passions and party spirit have criminally blinded him, and hurried him into an act, which could have been wanthorized only by the strongest evidence, and the most im
spartial inquiry. The time may come, when he will view cthis transaction with other eyes; when the rage of party 6will have subsided; when the obligation of a fair and equitaoble temper will appear at least as solemn as the obligation "of building up a sect; when misrepresentation, intended to rinjure, and originating, if not in malignity, yet in precipisotancy and passion, will be felt to be a crime of no common “aggravation.”—God in mercy preserve me from the desire of applying this passage. But, my dear Sir, I must be permitted to intreat you, at some favoured moment, when passion is hushed, when conscience is awake, when God and eternal things are in view, very seriously to consider, whether it might be applied with greater justice to the writer of the Panoplist Review, than to the writer of the Letter to the Rev. Mr. Thatcher.
II. In the second place you allege, that “the Review as"serts, that the ministers of Boston and the vicinity, and the “most considerable members of the liberal party, “operate in ««secret, entrust only the initiated with their measures; are 6 oguilty of hypocritical concealment of their sentiments; av obehave in a base and hypocritical manner, compared with 66 «which Mr. Belsham's conduct, rotten as he is in doctrine 6 to the very core, is purity itself.'-Such, you are pleased to add, is the decent language scattered through this Review." And in a note, at the bottom of the page, you throw together a number of severed phrases, selected from various parts and connexions of the Review, and represent them all as having been applied by the Reviewer, directly to yourself and your clerical brethren generally of Boston and the vicinity, together with the most considerable members of the liberal party at large.
You are perfectly aware, Sir, how easy a thing it is to select from any book detached sentences and members of sentences, and so to arrange them as to give them a very different aspect and bearing, from what they have in their proper connexions. A more striking example of this kind I have seldom if ever witnessed, than the one which you have afforded in the instance now before us. Of all the quotations which you have made from the Review, as the basis of your
accusation under this second head, I think I may safely affirm, there is not one sentence, or scrap of a sentence, which appears in your Letter, with the same aspect and bearing as in the Review. When I first read them in your Letter, I felt, I confess, no small degree of excitement in regard to the Reviewer; and no little surprise that I could have read the Review without a similar excitement. But not less was my surprise, when, on turning to the Review I perceived how very differently they there, in their proper connexions, appeared. My limits will permit me to present but a few of them here.
Speaking of the Stone Chapel, the Reviewer remarks, “We must say that the conduct of this society and their minister, in coming out openly and avowing their sentiments to the world, is vastly preferable to a hypocritical concealment of them. The words in Italicks are those which you quote, as being applied by the Reviewer to the ministers of Boston," &c, but no such application of them is made by him.-Of a remarkable letter, written by a clergyman in this country to his friend in England, and published by Mr. Belsham, the Reviewer says, “The object of Mr. Belsham in publishing it was, to chastise the Boston clergy for their cowardice in concealing their religious opinions." This expresses what the Reviewer supposed to be Mr. Belsham's opinion of the Boston clergy: and I presume, Sir, you will admit that he was warranted by the documents before him, in believing that such was Mr. Belsham's opinion, and such his design in publishing the letter. The idea that a minister believes the truths of the gospel to be of infinite importance, and still conceals them, is incompatible with either fidelity or integrity.” Here the Reviewer expresses a general sentiment, without applying it; a sentiment which you, Sir, I doubt not, will readily acknowledge to be just.
My principal reason for selecting these passages, rather than others partly quoted by you, is, that they could be presented in their proper connexions and aspects in fewer words. These, however, will be admitted, I trust, as a pretty fair sample of the whole.