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pages of ancient history; when we read of potent monarchs, of powerful armies, of mighty battles, and of great achieve. ments; we do not yield implicit faith to the account, unless we have the concurrent testimony of various and approved writers. If, then, it is not easy to procure a faithful narra. tion, even of these notorious events - events blazoned in figures the most indubitable-how difficult must it be to arrive at certainty respects the causes of events, known only to a paltry few, and even, perhaps, misunderstood by them! In such a case the doubtful records of a partial or incompetent writer, instead of furnishing a clear elucidation, serve bat to perplex the mind, and resider the conclusion more uncertain. The precise origin of the Israelitish worship, and the immediate cause of it, seem to be involved in similar obscurity ; and therefore the most that can be done, in my opinion, is, closely to examine the accounts we have received, and compare them with what we well know human nature now is, and what we may suppose it has been : to deduct, infer, and form a probable conjecture :—and this is what I mean briefly to attempt.
But I must digress a little further, to notice the remarks of Christophilus upon this subject : for if I judge rightly, he as. sumes a fact, and argues from the premises. He seems to have taken it for granted, that even Deists pretend to define the person of God. It may be that some men, unwilling, perhaps, to give up wholly the creeds imbibed in their earlier days, may have gone thus far; and others, when writing upon the subject, may (though against their better knowledge) in order to accommodate their half-minded readers, have made such pretensions; but I am persuaded there are many that presume no such thing. The rational Deist (if the phrase is allowed) will choose to proceed on safer ground. He will view himself-he will view the innumerable objects that surround him-and he will fearlessly declare there must have been a first great cause. He will view the “ immensity of creation, and the unchangeable order by which the whole is governed," and he will infer that the essence of this cause must be all powerful and wise. But here he will erect bis standard
; and though his contemplating mind will lead him further, his prudence will deter him from asserting wbat bis finite knowledge cannot testify. Stepney..
(Want of room compels us to defer the remainder of this Letter till next month.)
AN EXAMINATION OF THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHURCH
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
HAVING shewn in my former letter the origin of the
Church of England, 1 shall now examine its principal doctrines, as contained in its creeds, catechism, and articles. But I wish to be understood, that my object is not to interfere with it as a political institution; for if the supposed repre. sentatives of the people were to pass an act that the Monument was the Supreme God, and the cathedral of St. Paul's was his only begotten son, and were to appoint religious service, and a priesthood to conduct it in honour of them, I should not dispute their right so to do; provided they did not call it the Christian religion, or require me to believe their nonsense, and support it. I should certainly look at it as it would deserve to be view. ed, as an absurd and idolatrous institution ; but while it was not imposed on me, I should consider that I had nothing to do with it, but patiently leave it to the Deity to vindicate his own honour, and to time and reason to clear the minds of men from the delusion. But when a system is established nearly as absurd and contrary to the scriptures as that which I have stated. when all the people of these realms are compelled, by tythes and other impositions, to support it-when the heads of this idolatrous political institution are not content with our silently bearing these wrongs, but persecute men for exposing their absurdities—when an Attorney-general has the hardihood to contend that the church of England is the Christian church, and that Christianity is the national religion, and ought to be supported by the secular arm-when the bishops and clergy declare the church of England to be the Christian church, and tell us that men ought not to be taught to read the Bible, without at the same time being taught their catechisms and creeds, lest it should undermine Christianity--the mind is filled with indignation, and it becomes a paramount duty of every friend to real Christianity to resist their claim, to unmask their arrogant pretensions, to strip this eldest daughter of the whore of Babylon of all her meretricious ornaments, and to expose her in all her pollutions and idolatry naked to the world, that they may be able to distinguish the true religion of Jesus from one which had its origin in lust, avarice, and ambition ; and whose doctrines and practices are as opposite to the sacred scrip. ture as light is to darkness.
There never was but one national religion appointed by the Deity, and that was the Jewish. The Christian religion was never intended to be a national one ; its design was to unite VOL. 11.
in voluntary obedience and union, those that feared God and worked righteousness, in every nation under heaven (Acts x. 35)-it was to prepare (not a whole nation but) a peculiar people zealous of good works (Titus ü. 14). The church of God were not to be those who worshipped God outwardly, but those who worshipped him in spirit and in truth-it was to be one, having one head even Jesus, and to be governed only by his authority ; but in the church of England, the vilest characters are considered as its members-the head of it is the head of different religions in different countries-he is the head of the Romish in Canada and in Ireland, of the Presbyterian in Scotland, and the Episcopal in England. Let any man ask himself, if this can be the church of God, or if it can be proyed, to be such, as their own article says every thing ought to be, that is necessary to salvation, from the holy scriptures.
The Romans, at the time the Jews were subject to them, had a'national religion; it wasas idolatrous as our national religion; yet we never find the Jews contending with them about it, as the dissenters from the established church of England now do. The reason is obvious-base and wicked as were the heathen priests, and idolatrous as their church evidently was, they never attempted to call it the Jewish church, or the church of God, and seldom endeavoured to impose their practices and doetrines on the Jews, or called upon them to pay towards the support a religion they despised; but whenever they did attempt it, then the Jews resisted their pretensions even unto death. But Christians have been more submissive, they have patiently submitted to these cruel exactions while suffered to enjoy religious liberty in other respects : but when the clergy are not content with receiving our money as a political institution, but arrogate to themselves the title of the Christian church, it becomes the duty of real Christians to resist the unhallowed claim, and to rouse all the energies of their inind, in opposition to so wicked a pretension.
But if the clergy wish to enjoy the fruits of their political institution, let them withdraw their pretensions to Christianity let them imitate the comparative moderation of the heathen national church, and, contenting themselves with the title of the church of England established by law, receive their pay from the state, as
its creature, and leave Christianity to make its way by its own native energies, unassisted by the smiles of a court, and unaided by such pretended and delusive friends. - The first doctrine I intend to examine, and that which is considered the most important in their creed, is the doctrine of the trinity ; the denial of which, according to the law, and the creed of this persecuting church, subjects a man to the most soevere punishment in this life, and everlasting damnation in the
next-a doctrine which, it'it cannot be proved from holy scrip. ture, stamps their church with the grossest inconsistency, idolatry, and wickedness; for in the thirty-nine articles it is asserted that, whatsoever is not read therein (the holy scriptures), nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requi. site and necessary to salvation. Yet in the creed which they call the creed of St. Athanasius, although it has been proved never to have been written by him (not that it is the worse on that account, for a viler character never existed than he was), yet in this creed it is declared, “that whosoever does not believe the doctrine must, without doubt, perish everlastingly; and that this is the Catholic faith, which except a man believe he cannot be saved.” It is true, that (Article 8) they assert that, “the three creeds, Nicene creed, Athanasius's creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy scripture." "If this be true, then I acknowledge they have not acted contrary to their for: mer article ; but it it cannot (which it shall be my business to prove), then what must we think of a church who first de, clares that not any thing is necessary to be believed but what may be proved from] holy scripture, yet imposés upon men à doctrine entirely contradictory thereto, under the severest pe: . nalties, both in the present and future life?
But let us examine this important doctrine contained in one of these creeds, that of St. Athanasius-a doctrine, without the belief of which a man cannot be saved. "I would fain quote the whole of this precious morsel, did I not fear I should sully your pages, and tire your readers with such a farrago of non. sense, absurdity, and presumption. It states that the Catholic (i. e. the universal) faith is this, " that we worship one God in trinity (i. e. three), and trinity in unity (one);" a falsehood at the commencement, for how can that be universally believed which has always been denied by many neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance ; for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.'
Here then, if they have not confounded the persons, they have divided the substance, for I would leave it to any man of common sense to say, how it is possible for three persons to exist as persons without being distinct substances ; for however they may all be composed of the same materials or substance, yet when they are distinguished as persons, it must be by a division of the substance; for though all men proceed from the same cause, and all are composed of the same materials, the idea of person is that which alone distinguishes one substance from
another, when formed into the shape of man. It then proceeds to detail the minutia, bůt as if conscious that no man in his senses could comprehend the mysterious jargon, it adds, “thie Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.” One sentence more would have compleated the climax, viz." and the whole of what we have written is altogether incomprehensible, and therefore ought not to be believed by any man who would wish to be considered
After a great deal more equally incomprehensible, it goes on to say, so the Father is God, and the Son ig God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God : so the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord, and yet they are not three Lords but one Lord ; for like as we are compelled by the Christian verity (truth) to acknowledge every person by
himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there be three Gods or Lords.” This part deserves some serious reflections—in the first place we are told there are three Gods, as plainly as we could be told that Paul, Peter, and James, were three men, by saying Paul was an apostle, Peter an apostle, and James an apostle; and then we are forbidden to believe this in the same manner as we should be taught these three apostles were but one apostle, by saying, yet they are pot three apostles but one apostle; but at the conclusion they are obliged to admit that the whole of this curious article is not to be proyed by.“ holy scripture,” for it is acknowledged that one part is taught by the scripture, the other by the Catho, lic (or universal) church. So then the church does teach something which holy scripture does not, and Jesus and his apostles were not competent to tell us the whole of tbis sacred mystery;" for (say they) we are compelled by Christian verity (i. e. the holy scriptures) to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord.”. Yet notwithstanding this compulsion, the church has forbidden them to say what they acknowledge the scriptures - compel or enjoin them to do ; for it is added, " so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there be three Gods or Lords;" that is to say, the scriptures do indeed teach us that there are three Gods and three Lords, but the Catholic church, wiser than the scriptures, forbids us, to say what is there taught. Again, "the Father is made of none, nei. ther created norbegotten: the Son is ofthe Father alone, not made por created, but begotten: the Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made por created, nor beyotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father not, three Fathers; one Son not three Sons; one Holy Ghost not three Holy Ghosts." All this is very plain whether we adınit the truth of it or not; but evidently they are, in contradiction to their own creed, dividing the substance; and