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Spitef. Well Sir, for all that, I am quite of Mr. Wisehead's opinion, that we have no business with the Bible, when it flatly contradicts our reason; though in all points we may not understand it. It would surely be a fine thing, if we were to believe what we cannot comprehend, or else go to hell and be damned.

Consid. Why then Sir, am I so to understand you and Mr. Wisehead, as to suppose you are Atheists, for you cannot comprehend the incomprehensible attributes of God; or that you do not believe your own existence, because you cannot understand the nature of that existence? If you and Mr. Wisehead, are only to believe the Bible so far as you can comprehend it; that book, in your opinion, is nothing better than a mere history of uncertain events; and then, notwithstanding revelation, we have nothing left us but to guess at religion as well as we can: and what sort of guesswork this has proved, even among the most cultivated of the heathen nations, is evident enough.

Wiseh. Sir, I believe the book, which we generally call the Bible, is but little more than the works of good men, subject to the same infirmities with ourselves; who, though they might have written according to the best of their judgments, were still frequently warped by their national prejudices, in favor of their own religion.*

Consid. Indeed gentlemen, if the word conversion should be inapplicable to young Mr. Henry Littleworth, yet it cannot be unsuitable to either of you; for Jews and Pagans believe a part of the Bible as well as yourselves, while neither you nor they, give any more credit to it, as the Book of Revelation, than I do to the History of Robinson Crusoe.

Spitef. Why really Mr. Wisehead, I begin to be afraid we are going rather too far; this is making out the Bible to be but little better than an old, ill-writ

*See Priestly and other Socinian writers, passim.

ten ecclesiastical history. Though I don't at all approve of Lovegood's notions the more for that.

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Wiseh. Indeed Sir, if you wish to know more correctly "my opinion, what a Christian is bound to believe, with respect to the Scriptures; I am not afraid to answer, that the books, which are universally received as authentic, are to be considered as faithful records of past transactions.' "No Christian is answerable for more than this, the writers of the books of Scripture were men and therefore fallible: but all that we have to do with them, is in the character of historians and witnesses of what they heard and saw ; of course, their credibility is to be estimated like that of other historians, viz. from the circumstances under which they wrote, as with respect to their opportunities of knowing the truth of what they relate, and the biasses to which they might be subject. Like all other historians, they are liable to mistakes, with respect to things of small moment, because they might not give sufficient attention to them; and with respect to their reasonings, we are fully at liberty to judge of them as well as those of other men, by a due consideration of the propositions they advance, and the arguments they allege."-" And if such men have even communications with the Deity, it by no means follows that they are in other respects, more wise and knowing than other men.* This point, I suppose to be proved by the lame account+ Moses has given of the creation and fall of man, having not the means of exact information; so that to suppose, that "the books of Scripture were written by particular divine inspiration, is a thing to which the writers themselves make no pretensions: it is a notion destitute of all proof, and that has done great injury to the evidence of Christianity." As to Paul's Epistles therefore,

*See Priestly's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part II. Pref. xiii. and Let. V.


+ Priestly.

‡ Priestly's Letters, p. 58,

and the other Epistles, I never can admit that the authors of them were immediately inspired for the purpose of writing them and many of our rational divines have thought them in many instances unintelligible and absurd.

Consid. Well Sir, this is speaking out with a witness. I don't think one Deist in tea would have spoken more decidedly against the Scriptures. Pray Sir, if such be your judgment on the Epistles, what are we to think of the Gospels?

Wiseh. O Sir! I have no doubt but all the four evangelists, as they are called, were very honest men, and that they wrote the "history of Jesus" according to the best of their judgment; though we suspect their genuine histories have been intermixed with many interpolations: and it appears, that "some texts of the Old Testament have been improperly quoted by writers of the New," who it seems were sometimes" misled by Jewish prejudices."* Surely therefore, it must be owned, that "some obscurity is left in the Scriptures themselves, which might mislead readers, full of Heathen prejudices, and so left, it should seem, to whet human industry and the spirit of inquiry ;" and "the Bereans are commended for not taking the word even of an apostle, but examining the Scriptures for themselves; whether the doctrine which they heard was true, and whether St. Paul's reasoning was just." Such Sir, are the sentiments of all the great divines of our denomination who have written on this subject.

Consid. Are we then to suppose, that the Bereans searched the Old Testament Scriptures under any other idea, but that their decisions were definitive? I should have thought that when they searched the Scriptures, it was not with a design to examine whether they were right, or wrong, but rather that they

*Theological Repository. See Fuller's Systems, p. 238. + Lindsey's apology, ch. 2.

+ Belsham's Sermon on the Importance of Truth, p. 39.

referred to them, as to an infallible guide. If they had only to look into the lame account Moses has given of matters, I do not know that any thing but confusion could be the result of their diligence.

Wiseh. Well well Sir, I cannot give up the point: we must be guided by our own reason, as it respects revelation.

Consid. Allow me then Sir, to ask you this plain question, If we are to be guided alone by our reason, while we are at liberty to doubt every word of Revelation; are we to call this Infidelity, or Christianity? or is not downright Deism, far more rational and consistent than such sort of Christianity?

• Wiseh. O Sir! we are still believers in the Christian religion.

Consid. Why then, Christian believers are at liberty to doubt the certainty of every truth of Revelation itself; even Jews and Mohammedans believe a part of the Bible but deny the rest. I beg leave therefore, farther to ask, if this be Christianity, what is Infidelity ?*

Wiseh. Sir, the question is easily answered; some few infidels doubt, whether there ever was such a person as Jesus Christ; and others of them think there is no future state; but we all believe there will be a future state, and that there was such a person as Jesus, the son of Mary; but then we do not conceive ourselves bound to believe the story of his miraculous conception, or his pre-existence, as it is called; or the

* When Dr. Priestly had made this country too hot to hold him, by his bad politics and infidel principles, (however the treatment he met with is to be lamented,) he went to America; from thence, in a letter to Mr. Belsham, dated April 23, 1813, speaking of Mr. Jefferson, their former President, he observes, that he (Mr. J.) is generally considered as an unbeliever, i. e. an infidel. If so, (adds the Dr.) HE CANNOT BE FAR FROM US. Their own acknowledgment is quite sufficient, a Socinian is the next door neighbour to an infidel. Mr. William Wells, a Boston infidel; in a letter to Mr. B. says, " Unitarianism consists, rather, in not believing." It shall be left with them to rebut the charge if they can. A man that does not believe is an infidel.


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strange, inconsistent, mysterious doctrine of the Trinity and among other "corruptions of Christianity," contrary to what we esteem the rational and true Gospel of Christ," we reject what is commonly called the doctrine of the atonement: "in every shape, and under every modification of it, it is unfounded in the Christian revelation."* Nor can we believe, that there is any such being as the Holy Spirit. Consequently we have nothing to do with the abstruse notion of regeneration, or as it is called, the work of the Spirit; we believe that such sort of expressions are to be taken as oriental figures, or as "tropical language;" and that it only means a good disposition. We therefore, consequently deny the popular doctrine of original sin,† as there is quite as much virtue as vice in the world: we have no doubt at all, as to the devil, that he is entirely a fabulous character; and as to what is said concerning those who are possessed of the devil, it were irrational to suppose, that it could mean any thing farther than that "they were mad, or had hysteric fits:" as to the existence of angels, "though there are frequent allu

*Belsham's Caution against Popular Errors, p. 15. Peremptory assertions, and positive denials, are the principal weapons of a Socinian.

† Mr. Blesham in his discourse against what he calls Popular Errors, and from which Mr. Wisehead is now making extracts, speaking against original sin, insinuates, as though we believed in the damnation of infants. Can he be so ignorant of matters of fact, as not to know, that the insinuation is utterly false? I think he must know how almost universally it is admitted among the people he thus slanders, that the imputation of the first Adam's guilt is entirely done away, by the imputation of the second Adam's righteousness, among all those, who have not sinned wilfully or deliberately, after the similitude of Adam's transgression. We shall presently see other methods adopted, to evade the awful truth of man's depravity, as held forth in Scripture, and evidence by universal experience; but I think the reader will not be a little struck with horror and surprise, when he notes the following extract from the above-mentioned sermon. "This abominable doctrine [Original Sin] represents the wise and righteous Governor of the Universe, as a more savage tyrant, than the most merciless despot that ever cursed the human race," p. 19. Such is the horrid lan guage of one of those gentlemen who wished to be famed for their moderation!!!

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