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Introductory Sketch of the early history of Unitarianism in England.

although it was not till a much later period that separate religious societies were formed in England, avowedly on Unitarian principles, yet the profession of these principles under one or other of their various forms and denominations is coeval with the Reformation; and this faith can boast of its full share of confessors and martyrs in those spirit-stirring but troubled and persecuting times. There is good reason to believe, that even the long night of darkness which had settled on the Christian world for so many centuries, accompanied and preceded as it was by gross corruptions of the pure simplicity of the Gospel, in no instance more generally prevalent than in the errors which almost totally obscured the doctrine of the absolute personal unity of the divine nature, was at no period altogether devoid of a few feeble glimmerings of that light which in more favourable times was destined afterwards to shine out with renewed lustre. At all events, the spirit of inquiry which gave rise to the reformation, and [2] was for a considerable time promoted and encouraged by its extensive spread, could not be limited to those questions which were chiefly under discussion between the great religious parties of the day. Accordingly, not a few assertors of Antitrinitarian opinions made their appearance in the very dawn of the Reformation.

The principal leaders, indeed, of the reforming party professed to retain, unchanged, the views of the Athanasian Trinity maintained by the Church of Rome; and it would even seem as if the very extent to which they had deviated from the standard of Popery in other directions only increased their solicitude to preserve themselves free from the imputation of heresy on this point. They were thus induced to display, in their treatment of those who had only followed out the genuine principles of Protestantism to a greater extent and with more consistency than themselves, a more than ordinary portion of that persecuting intolerant spirit which, in the language of a distinguished historian, is ‘the deadly original sin of the reformed churches; that which cools every honest man's zeal for their cause, in proportion as his reading becomes more extensive.’1

The unhappy fate of Servetus is the foulest blot in the history of Calvin. But before his time there was no small number who openly professed the Unitarian doctrine, and among them some of high reputation for talents and learning.

Of the Italian confessors whose names impart a peculiar lustre to the early history of the reformation, not a few are well known to have rejected [3] the Trinity, along with the other corruptions of the Romish church; some of whom afterwards became the most distinguished lights of Unitarian communities in distant lands. Many also of those who received the denomination of Anabaptists openly or covertly denied the deity of Christ. Of these some adopted the Arian sentiment, others that of the proper humanity of Christ, afterwards maintained by Socinus. A few of the Baptists appear to have made their way into England even before the half-reformation of Henry VIII., and did not escape the fiery trial allotted to such as incurred the charge of heresy in those fierce and stormy times. In 1548, John Ashton is recorded to have preached Unitarianism, and, under the terrors of the stake, to have signed a recantation when summoned before Archbishop Cranmer. In 1550, however, the Unitarian doctrine is represented as spreading with alarming rapidity, so that it was deemed necessary to resort to harsher measures. Joan Bocher, who appears, from the obscure and imperfect accounts which we have of her, derived only from the hostile persecuting party, to have been a woman of quality and consideration, is believed to have agreed in sentiment with the Baptists, in their general persuasion of Christ being not a God, but a creature. She appears to have been a zealous reformer, and particularly active in promoting the diffusion of the Scriptures; which, having access to the court, she was at pains to disperse in secret among the ladies of distinction who resorted there. For Arianism (as it is called), and some not very intelligible nicety about the incarnation, this excellent person was persecuted to death by Cranmer [4] and Latimer. When the tender-hearted young king for some time refused to sign the warrant for her execution, Cranmer undertook to argue the matter with him; and when, at last, he yielded, the king told him, with tears in his eyes, that if he did wrong, since it was in submission to his authority, he must answer to God for it.

This noble-minded martyr to the truth, who, whether right or wrong in her opinions, displayed a spirit of which the world was not worthy, in times of unexampled and formidable difficulty, such as we in these comparatively peaceful days happily cannot easily appreciate, is unfairly described by Burnet as a poor wrong-headed woman, that was burnt for some extravagant notions concerning Christ, but was looked on as a person fitter for Bedlam than the stake.

Soon afterwards George Van Pare, a Dutchman, being convited of saying that God the Father was the only God, and that Christ was not very God, was committed to the flames in Smithfield. He was a man of strict and virtuous life, and very devout: he suffered with great constancy of mind, kissing the stake and faggots that were to burn him.

‘These things,’ as is candidly acknowledged by Bishop Burnet, ‘cast a great blemish on the Reformation. It was said they only condemned cruelty when it was exercised on themselves, but were ready to practise it when they had the power. The Papists made great use of this afterwards in Queen Mary's time; and what Cranmer and Ridley then suffered was thought a just retaliation on them from a wise Providence, that dispenses all things justly to all.’ These unhappy excesses [5] of intolerant bigotry, so inconsistent and peculiarly unreasonable in men who had freely exercised that liberty which they denied to others, testified fatally against Cranmer, when, after so short an interval, he himself fell into the same trouble; for they left him without excuse or reply, when it was alleged that, by the confession and practice of the reformers themselves, it appeared that men, even of harmless and exemplary lives, might be put to death for their opinions. But such was the delusion of the times, and the influence of a heated religious zeal, aggravated by controversy and virulent contention, operating upon ruder manners and a fiercer and harsher state of society than that which happily prevails at present.

It is not easy to assign to any of the contending parties of this distracted age a deeper stain of the persecuting spirit than the rest. If the Catholics displayed it in a greater number and variety of instances, it must be remembered that they had greater power and more frequent opportunities, and that it had not in them the same obvious and glaring inconsistency with professed principles, and with the right of individual judgment which they asserted and exercised, which marked its exhibition by the leading reformers. Even the flames of persecution directed against themselves did not check the vehemence of their animosity against those who had gone further in the same road, and pursued their own avowed principles to their natural, and, as we think, necessary consequences.

Of this a very remarkable and curious instance is recorded in the case of Archdeacon Philpot, [6] who signalized himself by indecent and insulting behaviour towards some of his fellow-prisoners under the Marian persecution, who denied the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ. The rudeness and violence of this conduct in such circumstances displeased many, even in those times, and he accordingly attempted to vindicate himself in a little tract, entitled ‘An Apology of John Philpot, written for spitting upon an Arian; with an Invective against Arians, the very natural Children of Antichrist, with an Admonition to all that be faithful in Christ to beware of them, and of other late-sprung Heresies, as of the worst Enemies of the Gospel.’2

A very remarkable contrast to the bitter violence of this railing controversialist is seen in the just and rational sentiments of a distinguished Unitarian, Acontius, who passed several years in England under the protection of Queen Elizabeth. ‘That one thing,’ says he, ‘I never could look upon but as the most unreasonable of all, that a man who is supposed to have taught any thing false or impious should be compelled, on a promise of impunity, to make recantation of it. To what end this, I pray? What advantage can be proposed by it, if the heretic, for the sake of avoiding the punishment, retract his opinion against his conscience? It may, perhaps, be pretended that those who are in the like error, and lie concealed, may thus be wrought upon sincerely to renounce it, and all be brought by degrees to follow the example. But they must have taken up [7] their sentiments on very slight grounds who can so easily relinquish them. Is there not much more reason to suspect, that such renunciation of their sentiments may be made merely to avoid suffering? And will not this have the appearance of something very shocking and oppressive, as if the magistrate aimed not only to kill the body, but to lay a snare for the destruction of the soul too? Are we, then, so destitute of armour wherewith to encounter erroneous opinions, that we must have recourse to lies and feigned abjuration for our defence against them? It may be said that this is by no means what is intended, to procure a retractation any how of such opinions, but that the heretic may not only in words, but from the heart, abandon them. This is, indeed, finely spoken, if it can be accomplished. But what mean those fierce threatenings on the one hand, and flattering promises on the other? These may, indeed, contribute to overcome and influence the will and inclinations; but the great business is with the understanding. This cannot be affected by menaces or the most engaging allurements. They cannot make that which before appeared to be true to appear false, how much soever a man may desire it. But if this cannot be done, and a heretic, however earnestly he may wish it, cannot quit his heresy but by conviction of stronger argument against it, why should you importune and solicit the miserable man to lie, and thereby more offend both God and man.’3

Acontius was a native of Trent in Italy; he [8] was originally bred up to the legal profession, and afterwards spent most of his life in courts, engaged for the most part in laborious occupations. Having embraced the Protestant faith, he quitted his country and settled in England, where, under the protection of Queen Elizabeth, he obtained some employment connected with fortifications, for which his skill in mathematics eminently fitted him. The work from which the above extract is taken shews him to have been not only a man of an enlarged and liberal spirit, far beyond the prevailing temper of the times in which he lived, but a firm believer in the unity of God.

It is not in the unseemly spirit of vain boasting that we claim for the Unitarians in general, of that and of every other period, a greater freedom from this unchristian temper than is to be found in any other sect. It is true that the practical influence of their principles may be expected to lead to this result, because they are not called upon, like many others, to regard the right path (meaning their own path) to be essential to salvation. But, unhappily, we so rarely find men's practice in all respects conformable to their avowed principles, that this exemption is, perhaps, in a great measure, to be ascribed to the good fortune of the Unitarians, in having been very little exposed to the temptation. Long may they continue to enjoy this fortunate exemption! May the time never come when a synod or consistory of professed Unitarians shall be in such a manner connected with or dependent on the state, as to be invested with power which they may be tempted to abuse, in seeking to lord it over the consciences of men!—‘With good and religious reason (says [9] Milton, in his admirable discourse “Of true religion, heresy, Schism, and Toleration” ) all Protestant churches, with one consent, maintain these two points as the main principles of true religion, —that the rule of true religion is the word of God only, and that their faith ought not to be an implicit faith; that is, to believe, though, as the church believes, without or against express authority of scripture. And if all Protestants, as universally as they hold these two principles, so attentively and religiously would observe them, they would avoid and cut off many debates and contentions, schisms, and persecutions, which too oft have been among them, and more firmly unite against the common adversary. For hence it directly follows, that no true Protestant can persecute or not tolerate his fellow Protestant, though dissenting from him in some opinions; but he must flatly deny and renounce these two, his own main principles, whereon true religion is founded; while he compels his brother from that which he believes as the manifest word of God to an implicit faith (which he himself condemns) to the endangering of his brother's soul, whether by rash belief or outward conformity, for whatever is not of faith is sin.’

In 1575, twenty-seven foreign Baptists were apprehended, four of whom recanted their opinions under the terror of the stake. Shortly afterwards two Dutchmen were actually burnt in Smithfield, notwithstanding an eloquent expostulation addressed by Fox the martyrologist to Queen Elizabeth. To say the truth, it hardly deserved to succeed, for all he aims at is to substitute some milder form of death, thus virtually conceding the [10] principle of persecution for opinions in all its extent. In 1579, W. Hamont, a plough-wright, of Hetherset, near Norwich, underwent the same frightful sentence. The heretical opinions laid to his charge, as reported by Mr. Locke,4 are evidently such a distortion and exaggeration of Unitarianism as might be expected from violent and prejudiced judges under such circumstances. In 1583, John Lewis was burnt at Norwich for denying the deity of Christ. Some years after, two other persons suffered at the same place for blasphemy, by which term there is every reason to believe we are to understand some form of Unitarianism.

In the following reign of James I. two persons suffered in the same cause. In 1611, Bartholomew Legatt, called an Arian, said to have been well versed in the scriptures, and a man of unblamable conversation, being apprehended, King James himself conferred with him, in order to convince him of his error. This not succeeding, he was committed to Newgate, and, after being examined before Bishop King at his consistory at St. Paul's, was declared to be a contumacious and obstinate heretic; and as such, he was burnt at Smithfield, on the 18th of March, amidst a vast concourse of people. A pardon was offered him, when he was at the stake, if he would recant, but he refused it. The next month Edward Wightman, of Burton-upon-Trent, was convicted of heresy as an Arian5 and Anabaptist, and eight [11] pestilent heresies besides, some of which are contradictory to each other, before Dr. Neile, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. He was burnt at Lichfield, April 11

‘About this time (says Fuller) a Spanish Arian being condemned to die, was, notwithstanding, suffered to linger on his life in Newgate, where he ended the same. Indeed, such burning of heretics much startled common people, pitying all in pain, and prone to asperse justice itself with cruelty, because of the novelty and hideousness of the punishment. Wherefore King James politicly preferred that heretics hereafter, though condemned, should silently and privately waste themselves away in the prison, rather than to grace them and amuse others with the solemnity of a public execution, which in popular judgments usurped the honour of a persecution.’6

We say nothing of the spirit of this passage, or of the motive ascribed in it to the pattern of politic wisdom who adopted this new mode of dealing with heretics;—it is however certain, that, from whatever cause, Legatt and Wightman were the last on whom the atrocious and horrible sentence of burning was actually carried into execution in England, though the writ ‘de haeretico comburendo’ continued to disgrace the English law till the year 1676.

Thus it appears that, throughout the whole of the first century after the Reformation, all that can now be collected of the history in this country of what we consider as the pure and simple doctrine of the gospel consists of a series of acts [12] of gross violence; outrages alike on the natural rights of man, and on that liberty wherein Christ hath made him free. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that these cruel excesses of persecuting bigotry, endured, as by the testimony of unfriendly historians they seem to have been, with a constancy and fortitude worthy of martyrs, who not only were convinced of the truth, but experienced the value and excellence of their principles, were not without the effect which scenes like these commonly produce on the public mind. Compassion for unmerited suffering passes into admiration when it is met with the spirit of a martyr, and naturally leads to the suspicion that the principles which excited and maintained such a spirit were not unworthy of it. We find accordingly that the records of religious intolerance continue to present occasional instances of individuals who were called to account before the authorities of the day for the alleged crime of having professed Antitrinitarian sentiments. Of these, some were visited with various forms and degrees of punishment, while others gave way before the storm, and read a recantation, the sincerity of which may well be doubted. There are other indications that the denial of the deity of Christ was a growing opinion, though it might not as yet be openly expressed and avowed, there not being at this time a single society of worshiping Christians in England, assembling professedly on Unitarian principles. Of these indications, perhaps, the most unequivocal is seen in the alarm manifested on the subject by the patrons of the prevailing opinions, and particularly in the iniquitous ordinance against heresy [13] and blasphemy passed by the parliament, then consisting chiefly of Presbyterians, in 1647. Men do not in general enact new and severe laws against evils which they do not at least believe to be urgent, and to require a searching and powerful remedy.

But, previous to this time, it has been surmised that a strong tendency to Unitarian views may be traced in some of the most eminent persons of that age. This suspicion applies to Hales, to Falkland, and more particularly to Chillingworth; and it is so far probable, inasmuch as they were all of them men avowedly devoted to bold, free, and unbiassed inquiry into religious subjects, and in their writings have denounced in strong terms the system almost universal at that time, and too prevalent in all ages, of human creeds, articles, and confessions, especially where the reception of them is enforced by the rude sanctions of pains and penalties of human enactment. When it is considered that Unitarians have one and all adopted the liberal course on this subject, while the doctrine of the Trinity, not being expressible in language derived from scripture, is of necessity stated in propositions of human devising, so that its adherents are naturally also the framers and advocates of articles and creeds, we cannot much wonder that this circumstance alone should be thought to afford a strong prima facie evidence of the tendency of these great men to the profession of tenets which have been so intimately associated with their leading and distinctive principle.

The Socinianism of Falkland rests on the testimony of Aubrey, who wrote his life, in which he styles him the first Socinian in England; [14] having been converted by the perusal of the first copy of the ‘Fratres Poloni’ which was brought into this country. Hales's celebrated tract on Schism is chiefly derived from Socinus; and the works of Chillingworth frequently betray a familiarity with the Polish writers. His well-known letter to Dr. Sheldon, in which he argues the question of subscription in a most clear and unanswerable manner, on principles which admit of no refutation or dispute, assigns the Athanasian Creed, among other insurmountable obstacles to his subscribing the Articles of the English church, and partaking by that means of the emoluments and preferments which his friends were able and willing to bestow upon him. There is good reason to believe that his difficulties went farther than this; and though it is unfortunately too true, that, notwithstanding his manly and honourable protest, he was in no long time prevailed on to subscribe, and was appointed to sundry preferments accordingly, it is impossible to recognize in this conduct anything but another instance of that practical weakness and inconsistency which is often found in the acutest, and, in the main, most upright minds. Certainly his writings abound with declarations of the most enlarged and liberal character, leading of necessity in their practical application to a spirit of free inquiry and mutual toleration for which that age was by no means prepared.

It is thought by some, that Milton was even at this period what it is now no longer a matter of doubt that he at length became; but it does not appear that there is any direct evidence for this, nor any other presumption of it than what is derived from the natural tendency of the manly and [15] liberal spirit which everywhere pervades his noble political tracts. On the other hand, it is contradicted by several passages in which an incidental reference occurs to the doctrine of the Trinity, and in one instance (in the discourse on the Reformation in England, near the close of the second book) by a direct and formal address to the three persons of the Godhead. In the latter part of his life, we might infer with considerable confidence, from various intimations in the works which he himself gave to the world, what is now clearly ascertained by the recent discovery of his treatise on the Christian doctrine. In the discourse already quoted, ‘Of true Religion, Heresy, Schism, and Toleration,’ when contending that those who hold divers opinions on many points of doctrine are not on that account heretics, if they sincerely and honestly appeal to scripture in a diligent and prayerful endeavour to understand it, in which endeavour, nevertheless, the most diligent and conscientious are liable to err, he instances among others, ‘The Arians and Socinians are charged to believe against the Trinity; they affirm to believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the scripture and the apostolic creed: as for the terms of trinity, tri-unity, co-essentiality, tri-personality, and the like, they reject them as scholastic notions not to be found in scripture; which by a general Protestant maxim is plain and perspicuous abundantly to explain its own meaning in the properest words belonging to so high a matter, and so necessary to be known; a mystery indeed in their scholastic subtleties, but in scripture a plain doctrine.’ The general strain of the Paradise [16] Lost is most nearly accordant with what is called the High Arian doctrine; and in one of the finest and most striking passages of the Paradise Regained, the early dawn and gradual development of our Lord's character is beautifully depicted in a poetical enlargement of what the gospel teaches, that he ‘increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man.’

O what a multitude of thoughts at once
Awakened in me swarm, while I consider
What from within I feel myself, and hear
What from without comes often to my ears,
Ill sorting with my present state compared!
When I was yet a child, no childish play
To me was pleasing; all my mind was set
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do
What might be public good, myself I thought
Born to that end, born to promote all truth,
All righteous things; therefore above my years
The law of God I read, and found it sweet.

Paradise Regained, book i., 196-207.

Mr. Lindsey, in his ‘History of the Unitarian Doctrine,’ with a conscientious regard for strict accuracy of statement which does him honour, retracts the inference he had previously deduced from this passage as to the Unitarianism of Milton, an inference, says he, in which I was certainly mistaken. He does not assign the reasons which induced him to doubt the correctness of his former conclusions; but we now know that they were perfectly well founded.

Though the matter has of late been occasionally disputed, there seems to be no good reason to doubt that the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, in this early period of their history, [17] did not make an open profession of the doctrine of the Trinity; at all events, they did not make the profession of this or any other tenet not to be found in the scripture an essential requisite to admission into their community. Their most eminent and distinguished writer, W. Penn, in his ‘Sandy Foundation Shaken,’ has given as clear a view of the pure Unitarian doctrine, and as able an examination of many of the texts commonly adduced in support of the opposite system, as is any where to be found. The monthly meeting at Philadelphia, in their correspondence with George Keith (an active heresiarch, who had been endeavouring to sow divisions among them, and who, having afterwards seceded, was ordained a clergyman of the established church), declare their determination to keep to the plainness and simplicity of scripture language in all discourses about matters of faith, divinity, and doctrine; not believing subjects above the investigation of human reason and knowledge to be necessary to salvation, further than they are clearly revealed in the scripture. The declaration of their faith on these points presented to both Houses of Parliament, as preserved in Sewell's History of the Quakers, is strictly and properly Unitarian.7 Their descendants in this country have for the most part deserted the faith and practice of their forefathers in this respect; and have not only adopted in their public declarations the tenets and language of [18] modern orthodoxy, but in various instances have not hesitated formally to expel from their body those who adhered to the sentiments and professions of its original founders. In America it would appear that an influence of an opposite kind has been in operation, the liberal principles of the founders having carried a great majority into an open avowal of Unitarianism, while a Trinitarian minority has seceded.

If there could before have been any rational doubt entertained as to the religious opinions of Mr. Locke, the extracts from his Adversaria Theologica, inserted in the life of this great man by the late Lord King, must have completely removed them. We find there a statement of the arguments relied on by the opposite parties, expressed in terms, and drawn up in a form, which could have been used only by one who had already pretty decidedly made up his mind on the question in debate. On this subject, however, no one can doubt who reads with attention and impartiality his well-known treatise entitled ‘The Reasonableness of Christianity,’ which is ‘just such a treatise as a Unitarian would, and as no Trinitarian could by possibility, have written,’ or who observes the obvious tendency of many of the criticisms in his valuable and excellent Commentary on several of St. Paul's Epistles. It has even been said that he was the author of one of the papers published at this period, and collected under the title of Socinian tracts; but of this there is no sufficient evidence.

Another layman, of still greater eminence and celebrity, Sir Isaac Newton, who likewise devoted a large portion of his time and thoughts [19] to theological studies, especially in the latter part of his life, is also with good reason included in the catalogue of Unitarian worthies. The evidence, however, is less direct in his case than in that of Mr. Locke, and may, perhaps, be thought by some to be less decisive; a circumstance which may be accounted for partly by Newton's constitutional reserve and timidity,—his great aversion to personal controversy, in which an open avowal of such opinions would almost inevitably have involved him,—and, perhaps, a not unreasonable apprehension of unpleasant consequences from the same parties who in his own time expelled his successor Whiston from the mathematical chair at Cambridge. But the manner in which he has stated the evidence for the true reading, in his very valuable treatise entitled ‘An historical Account of two remarkable Corruptions in the New Testament, 1 John v. 7, and 1 Tim. III. 16,’ two of the main pillars of the received doctrine of the Trinity, on which, more than on any others, its less learned supporters are accustomed chiefly to rely; and this unaccompanied with any caveat, which a trinitarian critic would almost infallibly have added under such circumstances, but in surrendering a part of the evidence for orthodoxy he should be suspected of giving up the doctrine itself, would alone be sufficient ground for a strong suspicion that he had abandoned both the one and the other. We have, in addition to this, the direct testimony of Mr. Hopton Haynes, one of his most intimate associates during the latter part of his life,—himself a very diligent student of scripture, and a zealous Unitarian,—that Newton was not only an anti-trinitarian, but much lamented that [20] his friend Dr. Clarke had stopped at Arianism, which opinion he feared had been, and still would be, if maintained by learned men, a great obstruction to the progress of Christianity.

Besides these distinguished men, whose names are an honour to any cause, there were, towards the close of the 17th century, not a few learned and able advocates of the pure simplicity of the Gospel; whose writings remain, though their names have been withheld from the knowledge of posterity. The authors of the Socinian tracts, already referred to, have left us a vindication of the genuine evangelical doctrine, which in many particulars may fairly be said to have exhausted the subject. To these publications we shall take another opportunity of adverting; at present it may be enough to observe, that the very circumstance of the extensive circulation of so many works of this description is in itself a strong ground for believing, that they did not fail to meet with numerous and willing readers. The impression they produced on the public mind was such as to alarm the patrons of received opinions; who were roused to come forward as usual, not with the spiritual armour of sound argument and fair discussion, but with the carnal weapons of pains and penalties. The statute enacted in King William's reign, against blasphemy, as it was called, provided that all persons denying that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were separately and distinctly God, or maintaining that there were more Gods than one, should be incapable of holding any office or place of trust, and for the second offence be disabled from bringing any action, or from acting as guardian, executor, legatee, or purchaser [21] of lands, and shall suffer three years imprisonment without bail. Happily this statute seems to have been found from the first to be a step beyond what the improving spirit of the times would bear. Though there were many, both obscure and distinguished, who notoriously came within its danger, it does not appear to have been put in force against those whose only crime was speaking or writing against the doctrine of the Trinity, and it remained nearly a dead letter, till long after it had been actually swept from the statute book, when it occurred to the promoters of a recent attack on Presbyterian endowments to make it the basis of an argument not less inconclusive than it was illiberal and unjust.

The writers of these anonymous tracts approached most nearly to the system of Socinus; but in the succeeding age, the learning and high reputation of Clarke and Whiston in the Church of England, and of Emlyn and Peirce among the Dissenters, led the greater part of those who quitted the standard of orthodoxy to embrace the Arian hypothesis. This accordingly appears to have been the system generally adopted by most of the eminent lights of the rational dissenters who are commemorated in this volume. In the larger, and perhaps the juster, sense of the word, however, we include them all under the denomination of Unitarians, inasmuch as they agreed in the great principle of acknowledging one, and but one, object of supreme worship,—namely, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may add, that, on whatever minor points they may have differed (as in fact it is scarcely possible that those who truly inquire and think for theme [22] selves should be really of one mind on all disputed questions), on one grand and leading principle they were all cordially agreed;—in asserting for themselves, and conceding to others, the inalienable right of private judgment, and in acknowledging the duty incumbent upon all of exercising this right (or rather of performing this duty) without bias or prejudice, examining the scriptures for themselves, and openly and candidly professing the doctrines which they honestly believed to be inculcated by the word of God, without regard to any creeds or systems of human devising, whether imposed by the civil power, or recommended by the authority of synods and councils.

This is the principle on which we endeavour to act; and we cannot doubt that it will lead all who adopt it throughout, and consistently, to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. May that time speedily arrive, when the eyes of men shall thus be opened to prove all things; when they shall discern that God is one, and his name one, acknowledging the Father to be the only true God, and Jesus his messenger to be the Christ!

1 Hallam. Const. History of England, i., 130.

2 For the whole of this very singular piec , with a running commentary, containing many very judicious remarks on the general question, see Lindsey's Historical View, pp. 96-151.

3 Acontii Stratagemata Satanae; as quoted in Lindsey's Historical View, p. 75.

4 See Mr. Locke's Letters to Limborch, Oct. 7, 1699.

5 So he is called; but the heretical tenets ascribed to him as reported by Mr. Locke, as far as they are intelligible or credible, shew him to have been rather a believer in the simple humanity of Christ.

6 See Fuller's Church History of Britain; as quoted in Lindsey's Apology, p. 55.

7 See the Monthly Repository, VIII. 647. For a collection of prayers delivered by twelve preachers of note in this society towards the close of the 17th century, expressed for the most part in terms which no Unitarian would hesitate to use, see the same publication, vol. IX. 167.

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