Page images
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

In the mean time, it may be reasonably expected, that the accumulated experience of difficulty and embarraffment in controverfies of this nature, will teach all parties the useful leffon of moderation, and lead them to confider nothing as effential, or even as greatly important, in Chriftianity, but thofe general truths, in which all Chriftians are and must be agreed.

We have been led into thefe reflections by the truly liberal and philofophical fentiments which we have met with in the first difcourfe of the volume now before us; in which Dr. Price afferts, and maintains at large, that Chriftians of all parties, however they may cenfure one another, or whatever oppofition there may feem to be in their opinions, are agreed in all that is cffential to Chriftianity, and with refpect to all the information which it is its principal defign to communicate.' After flating, in plain terms, thofe doctrines and facts of Chriftianity which all Chriftians believe-fuch as the being, perfections, and providence of God; the divine miffion of Chrift, confirmed by his miracles and refurre&ion; and the ends of his miffion, to teach men their duty, and affure them of the pardon of fin and eternal life he adds:

This is the fum and fubftance of the Gofpel; and, also, the fum and fubftance of all that fhould intereft human beings. The evidence for it which the Gofpel gives, removes all doubts about it; and is fufficient, whether we believe any thing elfe or not, to carry us (if virtuous) with triumph through this world. What then fignify the differences among Chriftians about other points? Or of what confequence is it that they have different ways of explaining this point itfelf? Give me but the fact that Chrift is the refurrection and the life, and explain it as you will. Give me but this fingle truth, that ETERNAL LIFE is the gift of God through Jefus Chrift our Lord and Saviour, and I fhall be perfectly eafy with refpect to the contrary opinions which are entertained about the dignity of Chrift; about his nature, perfon, and offices; and the manner in which he faves us. Cail him, if you pleafe, fimply a man endowed with extraordinary powers; or call him a fuper-angelic being who appeared in human nature for the purpofe of accomplishing our falvation; or fay (if you can admit a thought fo fhockingly abfurd) that it was the fecond of three co-equal perfons in the Godhead forming one perfon with a human foul that came down from heaven and fuffered and died on the crofs: fay that he faves us merely by being a meffenger from God to reveal to us eternal life, and to confer it upon us; or fay, on the contrary, that he not only reveals to us eternal life, and confers it upon us, but has obtained it for us by offering himself a propitiatory facrifice on the cross, and making fatisfaction to the justice of the Deity for our fins: I fhall think fuch differences of little moment, provided the fact is allowed, that Chrift did rife from the dead and will raife us from the dead; and that all righteous penitents will, through God's grace in him, be accepted and made happy for ever.'

REV. May, 1787.

E e


Dr. Price then proceeds to fhew, diftinctly, with respect to the chief points of controverfy among Chriftians, that it cannot be of fundamental importance what men believe concerning them; and concludes with faying, that there is but one thing fundamental, and that is, an honeft mind.

After having established this important and ufeful doctrine, the Author, in two difcourfes, briefly ftates the leading tenets of Athanafianifm or Calvinifm, and of Socinianifm, and gives his reafons for rejecting both. In the 4th and 5th difcourfes he ftates and defends the Arian doctrine concerning the pre-exiftence and dignity of Chrift, and concerning the nature of his office as Saviour of the world. The reprefentation is, on the whole, given with fairness and impartiality.

The fum of what Dr. Price has advanced in defence of the Arian doctrine concerning the perfon of Chrift is this; that it is probable there are beings of a fuperior order to man-that we may conclude Chrift to have been fuch a being, from his miraculous conception, from his immaculate character, from the unparalleled wisdom of his doctrine, from the efficacy afcribed to his death, from his raifing himself from the dead, from the texts of Scripture which fpeak of him as God's minifter in creating the world, or coming down from heaven, humbling himself, &c. and from his being appointed to judge the world, and exalted to honours, to which his merit, confidered as a mere man, was wholly inadequate.

Though, for thefe and other reasons, the Doctor adopts the Arian hypothefis, he delivers his opinion with a degree of diffidence and modefty becoming a philofopher. On the subject of the Atonement, he says:

In delivering my fentiments upon this fubject I have faid nothing offubftitution, or fatisfaction, or any of thofe explanations of the manner of our redemption by Chrift which have been given by Divines. Some of thefe explanations are in the highest degree abfurd, and I receive none of them, thinking that the Scriptures have only revealed to us the fact that God fent his Son to be the Saviour of the World, and chufing to fatisfy myself with thofe ideas refpecting it which I have laid before you. Perhaps fome of these ideas are wrong; and, fhould that be the cafe, I am under no apprehenfions of any ill confequences, being perfuaded that my intereft in this redemption depends not on the juftness of my conceptions of it, or the rectitude of my judgment concerning it, but on the fincerity of my heart. Indeed, I feldom feel much of that fatisfaction which fome derive from being fure they have found out truth. But I derive great comfort from believing, that error, when involuntary, is innocent; and that all that is required of me, as a condition of acceptance, is faithfully endeavouring to find out and to praċlife truth and right.'

In comparing the Athanafian and Socinian fyftems, the Author makes an observation which has, perhaps, more truth in it,


than bigots on either fide will be ready to allow, but which, if admitted, would go a great way toward annihilating the difputes between the contending parties. As every fair expedient for this purpose ought to be tried, we shall lay before our Readers the whole paffage:

I would point out to your notice a particular coincidence between Socinianifm and the high Trinitarian doctrine. You will find, ■pon reflection, that there cannot be a more remarkable inftance of a trite obfervation, "that extremes are apt to meet." According to the Athanafian doctrine, that Jefus who was born of a virgin, who bled on the cross, and who rofe again, was fimply a man feeling all our wants, and fubject to all our infirmities and fufferings; it is impoffible that any one who has the use of his reafon fhould believe that God was born, and fuffered, and bled, and died. This was true only of the man Jefus. The contrary is too fhocking to be even imagined; nor is it afferted by the advocates of the proper Deity of Jefus Chrift. What they fay is, that though Chrift was very man, yet he was alfo very God; and when they fay he was very God they do not mean that he loft his nature as a man by a converfion of it into the fubftance of the Deity (this alfo being an abfurdity too grofs to be admitted by any human mind), but that there was an union between it and the Divine nature which gave value and efficacy to the fufferings of the man. The Socinians fay much the fame; for they fay, that God dwelt in Jefus, and acted and spoke by him; and that there was fuch an extraordinary communication of Divine influence to him as raised him above other mortals and rendered him properly God with us, that is, God manifefting himself to us and displaying his power and perfections on earth in the perfon, difcourfes, and miracles of Chrift. The advocates of the Athanafian doctrine cannot mean more than this by the union they talk of between God and Chrift. They call it indeed an union of two natures into one person; an union which made the Godhead and the manhood one complex fub ject of action and paffion. But this is a language to which they cannot poffibly fix any ideas: for, whatever they may pretend, they cannot really believe that any two natures, much lefs two natures fo effentially different as the human and Divine, can make one perfon; or that there could have been fuch an union between Jefus and the Supreme Deity as to make it strictly true, that when Jesus was born, God was born; or that when Jefus was crucified God was crucified. They are no more capable of believing this than the Papifts, when they maintain tranfubftantiation, are capable of believing that the body of Chrift may be eaten at one and the fame time in a million of places, or that Chrift at his last fupper really held his body in his hand and gave it to his Apoftles. As far, therefore, as Trinitarians and Socinians have ideas, they are agreed on this subject; and the war they have been maintaining against one another has been entirely a war of words.'


Those who are acquainted with the representation which the ingenious Author of The Search after Nature has given of the doctrine of the Trinity, will be aware, that the idea started in this paffage is not altogether hypothetical. If it be a juft idea, Ee 2 it

[ocr errors]

it is furely high time to have done with a logomachy which has occafioned fo much mifchief in the world.

One inference, however, arifes from this comparative view of the Athanafian and Socinian doctrine, of which our Author does not seem to have been aware, which is, that if the dif pute between the parties be entirely a war of words, they are agreed in meaning. Confequently, when the Trinitarian worfhips God the Son, the Redeemer of the world, as far as he has any ideas, he worships the one true God as united to the man Chrift Jefus for the purposes of redemption. The charge, therefore, which has often been brought against the Trinitarians, and which we are forry to find repeated in this work, that in their prayers to three perfons in one God they are guilty of idolatry, is, upon our Author's own principles as quoted above, wholly without foundation. It muft, nevertheless, be acknowledged, that the metaphyfical terms, borrowed from the fchools, by which our public forms of religion are obfcured, whatever purpofe they may formerly have ferved, are at prefent of little ufe. For this reafon, although we can by no means adopt our Author's inconclufive mode of arguing, from the defects of paft or prefent establishments, againft the propriety of religious establishments in general, we heartily wish, that the fpirit of reformation and improvement, which is at prefent fo Jaudably called forth in other refpects, may be extended to the church, fo far as to difincumber its Liturgy and Creed from the perplexing fubtleties of fcholaftic theology, and to restore them, in all doubtful points, to the fimplicity of Scriptural language.

Concerning the remainder of this volume, it may fuffice briefly to inform our Readers, that it confifts of two difcourfes on The Security and Happiness of a virtuous Course, which contain more novelty of thought than was to be expected on so trite a fubject-two, On the Goodness of God, in which the arguments in fupport of the doctrine, drawn from the nature of the Divine Being and from his works, are clearly and ftrongly reprefented, and feveral objections, particularly that which has lately been advanced by Hume in a pofthumous work, are fatisfactorily refuted; and one, On the Refurrection of Lazarus, in which the Author ably defends the credibility of the miracle.

On the whole, we are of opinion that thefe difcourfes cannot fail to be acceptable to all truly liberal and candid readers; and that, whatever may be their effect in propagating the Author's peculiar tenets, they will render an effential fervice to the caufe of religion, by diffeminating a fpirit of philofophical modera


*** In a note, p. 93, there is a very material error. of the prefs, viz. fpeaking of an opinion into which, as our Author


fays, Dr. Watts fettled, after fpending many years in perplexing inquiries, and taking much pains to keep within the limits of the doctrines commonly reckoned orthodox. This opinion, Dr. Price obferves, agrees with Arianifm in the frange doctrineas Dr. Watts calls it-of a THREEFOLD Deity, &c.' But the paffage, it feems, should have been printed thus: it agrees with Arianifm in REJECTING the strange doctrine, &c. See more of this, in our lait Review, p. 364.



ART. VII. Obfervations on certain Parts of the Animal Oeconomy. By John Hunter. 4to. 16s. Boards. Sold at No. 13, Caftle Street, Leicester Square. 1787.


R. Hunter has here given us a collection of tracts on various fubjects, moft of which have already appeared, at different times, in the Philofophical Tranfactions of the Royal Society: thofe papers, therefore, which we have noticed in reviewing the works of that learned body, we fhall now barely enumerate; but we shall examine, in a more particular manner, the pieces which are now firft made public.

The first is, A Defcription of the Situation of the Teftis in the Foetus, with its Defcent into the Scrotum. This is a fubject which moft anatomifts and phyfiologifts have fully treated. Mr. Hunter is accurate in his defcription; but he does not give any new thoughts concerning the manner how, or the reafons why, the change happens.

The fecond is, On the Glands fituated between the Rectum and Bladder, called Veficula Seminales. Here we meet with a new hypothefis, viz. that the veficulæ feminales do not contain the fubftance which preceding writers on anatomy have allotted to them. Mr. Hunter's conjecture would, perhaps, have had more of the appearance of probability, could he have proved the real ufe of thefe organs. We muft nevertheless acknowledge the great ingenuity of the anatomift, although we doubt his conclufions.

III. An Account of the Free Martin. See Review, vol. lxii.

P. 221.

IV. An Account of an extraordinary Pheasant. See Review, vol. lxiv. p. 276.

V. On the Organ of Hearing in Fishes. See Rev. vol. Ixix. P. 395.

VI. An Account of certain Receptacles of Air in Birds which communicate with the Lungs and Euftachian Tube. See Rev. vol. li. P. 376. Confiderable additions have been made to this paper fince its former publication.

VII. Obfervations on Animals, with respect to the Power of producing Heat. See Rev. vol. Iv. p. 120.

Ee 3


« PreviousContinue »