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with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength; to prefer his favour before every interest of this mortal state, as being really better than life itself; to raise our minds above every corrupt appetite and passion; and to take all possible pains to adorn our lives and actions with the excellent qualifications of piety, righteousness, charity, sobriety, patience, purity, and holiness, which Christ and his apostles have solemnly inculcated as the necessary terms and conditions of gaining eternal life. On the other hand, very severe threatenings, namely, exclusion from the kingdom of heaven, and a state of great and lasting misery, are denounced against all wilful sinners, who continue such without sincere amendment and reformation, demonstrated by a uniform course of universal righteousness to the end of their lives.
Athanasian. My good friend, though you are very zealous in this important cause, yet your zeal is conducted by reason and knowledge. Partyzealots, in the midst of their solicitous concern to settle opinions and religious practices, are too apt to forget or disregard the christian obligations to universal charity and holiness of life. I am really convinced, that what you have said highly deserves the serious consideration of all those who profess themselves disciples of Jesus Christ, and in earnest believe the divine authority of the holy scriptures. I hope to make a proper use of this religious conference, and to act such a part, in consequence of it, as will be accepted at that solemn time, when
God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.
Unitarian. I sincerely rejoice, my dear christian friend, that you are become a Berean, an inquirer for yourself, and resolved to search the scripture with an unprejudiced mind; which excellent temper will, I make no doubt, lead you to a rational satisfaction upon this and other religious subjects. And may the blessings of the one Supreme God and Father of all attend your sincere disquisitions.
A Letter to the Rev. Mr. D
BY A LAYMAN.
AS, of late, I have not attended upon your ministry so constantly as heretofore, and as I have some ground to think that you judge me to be guilty of a fault in absenting myself, you will permit me to assign a reason in justification of my conduct.
You are very sensible, sir, that you and I differ very much in our religious opinions; so much, indeed, that I have heard you declare, that a person who thinks as I do, is, on that account, excluded from salvation. Such a declaration, however, affects me but little; knowing well that the great and good God hath never so declared; and,
therefore, esteeming the sentence of any frail and fallible man as a thing of little moment. Though, by the way, it seems no trifling affair, with respect to the person himself, who places himself in the seat of judgment, and pronounces condemnation on his brother for his opinions. This man had need look well to his authority. And how if, in the end, it should appear that the party so condemned, is one whom God approves? But to return. The wide difference in our sentiments, of necessity, prevents my gaining that profit from your ministry, which I would heartily wish to gain: and thus the principal design of public worship is defeated. How should I be profited by what I am shocked and grieved to hear? by that which the reverence which I owe to the everblessed God, obliges me to regard with abhorrence? that at which I am really ashamed to be shocked no more; as, indeed, I should be, if I had such a sense of God upon my mind as I ought to have. Yet, although I think so ill of your tenets, considered in themselves, believing your sincerity unquestionable, I do, at the same time, account you a good and a worthy man. Such is every man, who, according to his best judgment, practises what is right and good.
The doctrines I object to are, that of the trinity according to Athanasius; the doctrine of original sin; the doctrine of election and reprobation; the doctrine of the satisfaction, and that of imputed righteousness.
The doctrine of the trinity, as Athanasius and you represent it, appears to me utterly absurd and contradictory: because you represent the Father, the son, and the spirit, as three separate agents, each of them God, each of them infinite: and yet you say there is but one infinite God. You will not, surely, say the Father, son, and spirit are not three separate agents; when, at the same time, you assert, that the father sent the son into the world, who, in consequence of being so sent, came into the world, and did and suffered what is recorded of him: when, at the same time, you assert also, that the Father sent the spirit in the name of the son, and that the spirit, in consequence of being so sent, came into the world, and convinced mankind of sin, &c. Surely, sir, you will not say that the sender and the sent, he who commands and he who obeys, are not separate agents, but the same. Here, then, are three agents, each of whom you affirm to be infinite, each of whom you affirm to be God, and to each of whom, as to the Lord your God, you pay divine worship. Yet you say there is but one infinite God. And you say well but you miserably contradict yourself; and, however good your intention may be, you greatly dishonour the eternal Deity, who is one infinite agent.
Whenever you declare the son and spirit to be equal with the Father, you do, in the very terms, acknowledge that their existence is separate from the Father's existence. You always conceive of things as existing separately, when you think of
their equality: you cannot help it if you would. But you may impose upon yourself.
The doctrine of original sin, according to you, sir, seems to consist of two parts: in the first place, guilt derived from Adam's transgression upon all his posterity, whereby they are brought under the wrath and curse of God, and are made liable to the torments of hell for ever: and, secondly, the total corruption of their nature; which is such, that it renders them sinners by nature, and dead in trespasses and sins; so dead, that they are no more able to do any thing truly good, than a dead corpse is able to rise and walk.
With respect to the first of these articles, I would observe, that if we know any thing whatsoever, we know that it is not just to punish one man for the sin of another. If it be asked, "How do you know this?" in return, I ask, how do you know that there is any thing wrong, or inconsistent with justice, in oppressions, murders, massacres, perjuries, blasphemies? Suppose any one should affirm that these things are very innocent. If you thought he deserved any notice, I doubt not you would eagerly contradict him. Yet you could not do it without showing your inconsistency for that same reason which declares these things to be essentially unjust, is equally clear, full, and positive in declaring the injustice of punishing one man for the sin of another. If this be right, there is not the shadow of a reason for thinking those horrid crimes to be really criminal. But we know, assuredly, that oppressions, murders,