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words. You suggest that I have probably given an erroneous account of the whole sermon, because, as you imply, I have restricted its application to myself. This is your assertion implied with sufficient plainness; and it is wholly out of my power to conjecture, what can have led you into this extraordinary mistake. As I never thought, so I never have intimated, that any part of your discourse referred to any thing I may have 'written, except about half of a paragraph in one of your inferences.
I will now make a few observations upon some things which you have advanced in answer to my former letter, before proceeding to what is the principal remaining object of the present. I had said that the corruptions of Christianity were one of the most powerful causes of unbelief. You say, on the contrary, "that the great stumbling block of unbelievers is to be found in the doctrines themselves;" and you adduce the authority of lord Herbert of Cherbury in proof of your assertion, and in opposition to mine. You quote however, not the words of that author himself, but of Leland, who says of him, that "he representeth it [the Christian religion] as containing doctrines, which disgust some men against all religion, and therefore is for recommending what he calls the universal religion, as the best way to prevent men's having no religion at all." Nothing can be certainly inferred from this statement; but if it should appear that what lord Herbert, in conformity to the erroneous opinions of his age, considered as doctrines, were in fact what I should regard as corruptions of Christianity, then his authority is little favorable to your purpose. I have not at hand the work of that author, on a passage of which Leland founds his assertion. But I can produce a more full account of the passage from a writer of the last century, who replied to lord Herbert; I mean Halyburton. You will excuse the coarseness of his language. He says "Our author tells he embraced this catholic religion, ruod incontroversa a controversis distinguat, &c. It is needless to repeat all our author's words here. What he says is in short this, That particular religions (and here he must be understood to speak particularly of Christianity) contain austere and frightful doctrines that prejudge some men of squeamish stomachs at all religion (and is it to be wondered at,
that men, who have no heart to any religion, are disgusted easily?) But our author has provided them of one that will not offend the most nice and delicate palate, as consisting of principles universally agreed to; which he supposes such persons will readily close with, and so retain some religion, whereas otherwise they would have none.- Here our author evidently designs a thrust at the Christian religion, and insinuates, that it is stuffed with austere and horrid doctrines. I know full well what are the doctrines he aims at: The doctrines concerning the corruption of man's nature, the decrees of God, the satisfaction of Christ are particularly intended."*-These then, it seems, were the doctrines, which lord Herbert thought disgusted men with all religion. But in my opinion, the doctrine of the corruption of man's nature, the doctrine of irrespective reprobation and election, or, in other words, the doctrine of decrees, and the doctrine of satisfaction,† are no parts of true Christianity. They are some of those doctrines, which I should esteem and speak of as among its corruptions. In attempting therefore to disprove, by the authority of lord Herbert, what I have said, viz.—that the corruptions of Christianity make men infidels; you have produced an authority which is directly in my support.-Perhaps however you only meant to say, that what I should call the corruptions you would call the doctrines of our religion, and thus to agree with me in the fact, that certain articles of belief, which have been supposed to belong to Christianity, are in truth among the most powerful causes of infidelity. If this were the case, I do not know why you have quoted the authority of lord Herbert; as we should then be agreed in the fact which he states, that the articles of faith referred to do make men infidels, and his authority could decide nothing respecting the correctness or incorrectness of our opinions, on the truth or falsity of the doctrines themselves.
• Natural religion insufficient; and revealed necessary to man's happiness in his present state. By the late Rev. Thomas Halyburton, professor of divinity in the university of St. Andrews. Edinburg, 1714. With chapter xiv. a new enumeration of pages commences: the above extract is from chap. xix. p. 76.
† See Note at the end of this Letter.
I pass to another part of your letter, in which I observe, that you now make an exception in favor of unbelievers, who, though living in a Christian country, may not have access to the Gospel of Christ; by which I suppose you mean, may not have the use of the Bible. Of this exception you gave no notice in your discourse. But as I did not introduce the case of such unbelievers, in stating the great difference in the degrees of evidence, presented to those who witnessed the ministry of our Saviour or his apostles, and to many who live in Christian countries at the present day, your exception does not affect the force of my remarks. "Such instances," as you yourself observe, "are foreign to the present question."
But if, as I presume is not the case, by having access to the gospel of Christ, you mean, having a correct knowledge of our religion; and you intend to make an exception in favor of unbelievers, who have not this knowledge, then Sir, our sentiments, though not perhaps the same, are so nearly similar, that if I be liable to the charge of contradicting our Saviour, I fear that you cannot be absolved from it yourself.
You speak of those unbelievers in the time of our Saviour, who would not "hear Moses and the prophets," and who, he gives us to understand, "would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead;" and you found an argument on this passage of scripture. It is only necessary for me to observe, that, in my opinion, you have mistaken its meaning. If you are not satisfied of this by examining the passage itself, and will take the trouble to look into Whitby (whose comment I shall quote for the sake of our readers),* you will find that in his opinion, which is the same with that of some other commentators whom I have consulted, the passage has no reference to unbelievers.
You say that in this Age of Reason, you shall not forbear to speak what you think the truth. You cannot suppose me ignorant of the allusion intended. I do not think however that this sort of irony will do much, toward discouraging Christians from using their reason, in discovering the character of their religion. But, Sir, you must suffer me to remind you of what you seem to have forgotten, that we, who, do use our reason in the study and explanation of the scriptures, are not behind
• See Note at the end of this Letter.
those whose faith is more implicit and more fearful of all free inquiry, in profound reverence for our religion, and a deep and strong conviction of its immense importance to mankind. You must suffer me to remind you, that the most powerful cause of our decided opposition to what we think its corruptions is, that in our opinion, they degrade and vilify the greatest blessing ever bestowed upon mankind, and prevent its general reception, and far more powerful influence.
I come now to what is one of the principal objects of the present letter. To a careless reader your introductory remarks may give the impression, that you intended in no part of your discourse to refer to the Defence of Liberal Christianity. To me they convey no such meaning, nor do they at all affect my opinion on the subject. I must presume that you would be very unwilling to say that by apparent implication, which you would not say in direct words. One principal motive, therefore, for my troubling you with this letter is, that you may have an opportunity of explaining yourself, and of distinctly and explicitly stating in reply, either that you did or that you did not intend a reference, in that part of your discourse in which you speak of the Defenders of Liberal Christianity, to any thing contained in the piece which I have mentioned. Your reply, whatever you may state, I shall publish in the Repository, as it is now too late to suppress this correspondence, a considerable part of it having been struck off when I received your letter. If you intended such reference, I must regret that you did not take the trouble (as you state to me that you did not) to look at the piece on which you remarked, at the time when you wrote. It might perhaps have relieved relieved you from any belief of the necessity of noticing it at all; or at least have saved you from error in your representation of its meaning. If no such reference was intended, I certainly have been greatly mistaken. Of this however I cannot feel very much ashamed, as I have for companions in my error some of the most respectable and intelligent among your hearers. Indeed every person, who has spoken to me on the subject, received the same impressions from your language. You will recollect likewise, that I have had particular confirmation in my error, which others have
not had. When I requested your discourse, merely, as I stated to you, because I had been repeatedly informed that a part of it related to a piece of which I was the author, and when you immediately sent it to me, without any note or message of explanation, I do not know, Sir, how I could well understand this otherwise, than as an acknowledgment, that such reference was really intended.
I could have remarked upon other parts of your letter than I have done, but am willing to leave them without comment to the judgment of our readers. On account of arranging matter for the press, I must request you, if you wish to explain yourself on the subject last mentioned, to send me a note either this evening, or in the course of tomorrow. If, notwithstanding what you mentioned in your last letter, you should wish to make any general reply to the present, I must also request you to inform me before tomorrow evening, at what time I may probably expect it.
I am respectfully your obedient servant,
NOTE, REFERRED TO p. 318.
As all our readers may not know what is meant by satisfac tion, we give the following orthodox authorities on the subject. Calvin considers satisfaction, as the compensation which was paid to God, compensatio quæ Deo redderetur.* He says, in treating of the subject—the following passage would not be true, there is one Mediator who gave himself a ransom,† unless the punishment were cast on him, which we had merited. So the same apostle defines redemption in the blood of Christ, to be remission of sins; as if he had said, we are justified and cleared before God, because that blood answers for satisfaction. To which another passage is consonant, that he blotted out the hand-writing, that was against us, nailing it to his cross; for here a ransom, or compensation is referred to, which frees us from the charge of guilt.§
• Institut. Lib. iii. c. 14. § 39.
† 1 Tim. ii. 5.
+ Coll. ii. 14.
§ Non staret etiam alterum ejus dictum, unus Mediator, qui se dedit Vol. III. No. 2.