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Why do we not hail Mr. Owen as a liberating philosopher, instead of laughing at him as a madman? Why, above all, do we keep up the distinction between ourselves and Unitarians, by making the divinity of our Saviour an essential of our creed. Really, Sir, if we can give you credit even for simplicity, you may well afford us credit for charity at least!
All that you have written under the heads of " strictness and essential nature of practical Christianity," to the middle of p. 122, I cordially assent to, in the name of those whose vindication I have undertaken. Be our practice what it may, this is our belief as a body; all peculiar interpretation of words of course excepted. This, I say, is a true exposition of the opinions of those whose inadequate conceptions you have written to refute: nobody will deny your doctrine as here given. This is one of those softenings-down, one of those definitions of true Christianity, which in so many places adorn your book, and give to it an apparent excellence, I am grieved to quarrel with; but quarrel with it I must, as these are the very baits that render it dangerous. You have written all this truth, but in writing it, you have insinuated that it is adverse to our doctrine, adverse to the doctrine of the majority of the Church of England, and the sole and peculiar possession of that minority, whose
cause you appear to be so sedulously and gradually endeavouring to wind up to its pouncing pitch. This doctrine, Sir, is peculiar neither to you nor to us; it is the doctrine of Christianity, under whatever denomination, the ancient Catholic doctrine, ere sects were known. Our opinion as to the perfection commanded by Christianity, being applicable or inapplicable to individuals, is simply this:Each is absolutely required to do his best, under the circumstances in which he is placed. All Christians, of whatever sect, do, or should acknowledge, the imperfection of their practice, as compared with the perfect standard of the Gospel, which, like all other general laws, of course, in its positive enactments, must receive some degree of modification from circumstances, when applied to individual cases. This will act both ways, in some instances tightening, in others, relaxing the rein. We are bound, not by the letter but by the spirit; and in judging of that spirit, we must be guided by our own reason. We must look to the apparent intention of the enactment; and if we do this, in humble sincerity of heart, we are promised that our reason, enlightened by the Divine Spirit we would investigate, shall not fail us. The precepts are grounded upon the distinction between good and evil; and if we use our reason as directed, we shall not widely err. If we will not use it, we may chance to find ourselves
in the situation of the servant with the single talent, and after passing a life of penury, gloom, and discomfort, miss our reward at last. If we use it improperly, we commit the original sin of our first parents, and shall as infallibly be wrecked in our speculations. We are to remember that the eye of Omniscience is upon us, and to act as children in the presence of a wise though indulgent parent. We must be conscious of our own imperfection, and not too ready to judge others; for we are to remember that our judgment is limited, that God alone can judge the heart. When sect assumes the judgment-seat to judge of sect, let them be especially guarded, and remember the words of our Saviour, "Let him who is guiltless cast the first stone." You will quarrel with me, perhaps, for my expression of “relaxing the rein;" the tightening of it, I presume, you will be ready enough to concede, but we must have both or neither; and if neither, then we are again under the law of works; and this is equally against your creed. We would " evade" no" practical deduction" that is founded upon Scripture, rationally interpreted. But lest you or our readers should mistake my meaning, I would instance the command not to do injury to a fellow-creature, and especially not to take his life. This is a positive enactment. Yet in self-defence we may do so; by judicial sentence we may do so;
and in war, with certain limitations and exceptions, though the subject can hardly be said to be consonant to the spirit of our religion, and Quakers must, in the abstract, be held to be right. Yet I presume you will hardly contend, that a man who in war assails and kills an enemy, is individually a murderer within the meaning of the enactment. But sincerity must be implied in all these justifications of homicide, or the excuse before God will be unavailing. We may deceive other men, we may deceive our ownselves; but Omniscience we cannot deceive!
We now come again, though under another form, to the old subject of religious affections, of which you here give a sort of qualified definition, in the terms "settled predominant esteem, and cordial preference" (p. 124). If these terms are meant to be applied to God or our Saviour, I object to them as inapplicable language; if to Christianity, I readily adopt them, as well as all you say and quote about love to God, in the only sense the word can decently be understood in, as before explained'. The instance you quote of our Saviour's words, " He that loveth father or mother more than me," &c. has plainly reference to obedience, and means, "He that is more, (i.e.) influenced
contrary to me, by father, mother, or any authority whatsoever, is not the perfect servant I desire."
To the conclusion of the section you give us a very good sermon, wholly unobjectionable, but for its assumption of peculiarity.
Section 2d. You commence your second section with a renewed promise of pointing out errors and misconceptions in the practical system of the bulk of professed Christians (p. 129): and, in your note, further explain, that you mean to attack" only such vices, defects, and erroneous opinions, as are received into the prevailing religious system, or are tolerated by it, and are not thought sufficient (by it, of course, not by the laxity of individuals) to prevent a man being a very tolerable Christian." You then proceed with a sort of saving explanation, saying, that this system is not to be understood as a system, but merely as the laxity of individuals. Which is it? Individuals, of course, I cannot answer for, but what can fairly be termed the system of ordinary Church of England society, I will endeavour to explain, in answer to your remarks as they occur.
In your definition of religion (p. 130), the first thing I have to remark upon is your maxim,
Every endeavour and pursuit must acknowledge its presence." We should rather say, "Should be under the influence, even if imperceptibly, of its