Page images


I. Reasons for renouncing Unitarianism, by G. W. Philp late Unitarian Minister, Rochdale; with prefatory Remarks on the Case, by the Rev. J. E. N. Molesworth, D.D. London: Rivington.

The Berean Scripture Reader. A Sermon by the Rev. J.E.N. Molesworth, D.D., Vicar of Rochdale, preached on the baptism of G. W. Philp, late Minister of the Unitarian Chapel in that Parish. London: Rivington.

The Berean Scripture Reader, A Warning to the Church: A Sermon preached in Blackwater Street Chapel, Rochdale, Feb. 12, 1843, with Notes, and an Appendix, containing Remarks on the Rev. G. W. Philp's 'Reasons for renouncing Unitarianism,' and the Vicar of Rochdale's Sermon on Mr. Philp's Baptism. By J. H. Ryland, of Manchester. London: J. Green. Manchester: T. Forrest.

THERE is one passage in Mr. Philp's 'Reasons for renouncing Unitarianism,' on account of which alone we notice these various Publications. Mr. Philp whilst engaged in delivering a Course of Lectures in favour of Unitarianism, suddenly announced to his congregation his conversion to Trinitarianism. Mr. Philp very foolishly gives his reasons to the world: he should have rested satisfied with knowing that they were sufficient for his own conviction. On reading them the question will universally be asked,-What was there to give to such reasons a cogency they did not possess before? They are not new, they are the old thing in the old way,-nay, they are a very poor and feeble representation of the strength of the Trinitarian Argument. But Mr. Philp is not only converted to Trinitarianism,-it is a total illumination; and the question of Establishments is settled by the new light that is borne in upon his mind. And strange to say amidst all his reasons for renouncing Unitarianism he does not give one reason for renouncing Dissent, Freedom from Creeds, Religious Liberty, Individual Faith. He seems to think these fundamental principles are involved in the questions of textual evidence. Seriously,

this fact shows the character of Mr. Philp's mind; and his insensibility to the indignity almost justifies the priestly insolence of Dr. Molesworth. At all events he is a fit subject for it. Mr. Philp is not ashamed to print the following rich specimen of authorised arrogance in the preface to his pamphlet,—and to proclaim his own degradation to the feet of the Gamaliel of Rochdale :

"The evils, the unauthorised, presumptuous, and ever-changing nature of Dissent had been partially discerned. I felt it my duty in the several interviews I have had with him, to enlarge his prospects on this latter point; to show him its sinfulness, and to instruct him not only in what he ought to renounce, but also in what he must embrace.”—Dr. Molesworth, p. v.

Accordingly Mr. Philp, who, it would appear, knew nothing of the sources of information on such subjects, until the Vicar of Rochdale took him in hand, declares,—

"Since my change of opinions, I have given diligent attention to some excellent works which I have been enabled to peruse, through the kindness of the Rev. Dr. MOLESWORTH ; and I am fully convinced that the Articles and Creeds of the Church of England contain a Catholic and true interpretation of the sacred writings."-p. 9.

But the passage which has drawn our attention to this Publication is the following:

"Most alarming have been the sentiments that have recently been uttered and published by Unitarian preachers; and equally alarming the articles that have appeared in the Unitarian periodicals. Articles on Inspiration, Miracles, the Evidences of Christianity, and similar subjects; which, if not written by Unitarians, were published under the auspices of men styling themselves such; and in publications professedly designed to convey their opinions.

"Perhaps it has been in some degree a fortunate circumstance to me, that such opinions have been expressed, for it has led me to shrink with horror from the path to which they tend to reflect more seriously on my own state of mind, and to enable me, I trust, to lay aside every weight and every prejudice which prevented my embracing that faith which the Scriptures were designed to establish. Yes, I repeat, to the Bible must we go as the only source of infallible instruction. How dangerous are the following sentiments from one of the Unitarian periodicals, The Christian Teacher' for October :

[ocr errors]

The first condition of a virtuous life (according to the established notion) is a right faith: no one can be a Christian who does not receive the Bible as a book of Inspiration; the first step, therefore, in the proposed reform of life, is to believe the Scriptures to be the word of God. Here I cannot help to observe, that if the most wicked and perverse

ingenuity had been employed in devising a means to choke the earliest longings of a naturally good heart, after every virtue whose name is inseparably (and I will add rightly) attached among us to Christianity, it could not have discovered a more effective as well as insidious method, than the demand of this previous condition. At the present stage of our civilisation, every page of the Old Testament, and many of the New, must inevitably raise a swarm of doubts in every free and healthy mind.'

"Another extract from the same :

[ocr errors]

There will be neither peace nor regular progress in the pursuit of moral and religious truth, until the idea of a permanent divine oracle be totally banished. A steady progress can only be secured to mankind by the diffusion of Mental Philosophy, which will finally convince men that heaven has granted them only one source of Spiritual knowledge -God's light within them, in the character of Reason. Any system of Christianity which does not stand upon this foundation is false and mischievous.'-From a paper 'On Inspiration and Miracles.' "-p. 37-9.

Now what do these passages, thus selected as flagrant instances of a dangerous spirit in Modern Unitarianism, convey? Are these the most heretical passages that could be found? We could have helped the Author to more startling heresies. They convey neither more nor less than what Mr. Philp, previous to his Conversion, regarded as very obvious and very common-place truth,—namely, that the doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is a great promoter of unbelief, "at the present stage of our civilization," and if "demanded as a previous condition" is an "effective method" of repelling "free and healthy minds" from Christianity; and that "any system of Christianity" which pretends to stand upon inspiration,' without regard to their own "source of spiritual knowledge, God's light within them, in the character of Reason," must necessarily become both "false and mischievous." These are not very alarming positions: babes may be fed with such pure milk.

Now let us have Mr. Philp's version of these passages :—

[ocr errors]

"Is there not here the rankest infidelity? The idea of a 'right faith' is made an object of ridicule. The inspiration of the Bible is denied; and the vilest motive imputed to those who claim the inspiration as a first principle. The extravagant notion of human perfectibility is set forth in the words the earliest longings of a naturally good heart,' &c. 'Civilization' is thought to be a plea for doubt; the Bible is not to be received as a permanently divine oracle; • Mental Philosophy' is to take the place of the Scriptures, and Reason to be man's only light and guide!"-p. 39, 40.

Now is it possible that Mr. Philp can have really and sin cerely seen all this, in the passages which he has had the simplicity to print along side of these comments; or have rashness and folly betrayed him into presenting in one view the slander and the confutation; the charge of criminality and the evidence of innocence? There is not the faintest tone of “ridicule" in the passages: the "vile motive" would belong to a case supposed as the very opposite of the one to which Mr. Philp refers it; and as to "Infidelity," the writer conceived that his views would stay its progress in the minds of enlightened men.

Mr. Philp had not the truth nor the decency (we use the word in its high moral, its classic, sense) to give the Editor's note, stating that the Article was the production of one of the honoured dead, of a man whose conversions were not changes of fundamental principles, but developments of one spirit, progressions in one direction,-that it was introduced into the Periodical in question at the express wish of the writer, Blanco White, and that the Editor carefully abstained from identifying himself or his readers with all its views.

So much for Mr. Philp's truthfulness in matters of interprețation: now for his accuracy in matters of fact. He says:

[ocr errors]

He is aware that some of the Unitarian ministers strongly objected to this paper, and almost quarrelled with the Editors (three Unitarian ministers) for inserting it.'


He is aware of no such thing. There are not three Editors, but one Editor, and he received his very first intimation of the "objections and the quarrel" of which Mr. Philp declares himself to be aware" from his perusal of Mr. Philp's pamphlet. It is certainly possible to make objections to a man's proceedings without informing him of such objections,—but for a third person to be "aware of a quarrel" whilst one of the parties never even heard of any supposed foundation for a quarrel, is, we may say, an impossibility. We are entirely ignorant of Mr. Philp, but we must acknowledge that all these circumstances leave us with the impression that the character of his mind is a very undesirable one.

To those who may feel any further interest in this matter, we recommend Mr. Ryland's Sermon and Notes; we wish his industry, knowledge, and ability had had a better subject,—but we thank him for doing well what few would care to do at all. Mr. Ryland, once, sharply found fault with us, in the pages of another periodical, because we had not communicated with him respecting an anonymous letter, with which he had favoured us,

and we have therefore the more pleasure in gratefully acknowledging the candid and generous spirit of the following remarks:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

With respect to the extracts which Mr. Philp gives from an Article in The Christian Teacher' of October 1842, there are those who could vindicate both the Editor, (not Editors, as far at least as I know,) and the writer of the Article, much better than I can. But it is scarcely necessary. Candour and knowledge will read the extracts differently from Mr. Philp Common kindness and honesty is shocked at his ignorant and disgraceful comment. Had he known a little more of the mind from which they proceeded, most certainly he would have paused: its history and change would have taught him a different interpretation. "What a glorious gift' (breathes forth this same mind in its secret meditations) What a glorious gift conscious existence is in itself! Heaven must essentially consist in the absence of whatever disturbs the quiet enjoyment of that consciousness, in the intimate conviction of the presence of God.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


To him the glorious gift' has terminated, here: he has entered (we trust) the blissful presence, and every doubt and fear' have ceased. "Thus far I may be pardoned. The Editor is sufficient for his own vindication, if he deem it required. The reader of the Article might have seen it in his Note: and Friendship might have divined it from its own feelings.

"I have one other task to perform, and I have done with Mr. Philp. He gravely asserts that some of the Unitarian Ministers almost quarrelled with the Editors for inserting' the Article alluded to. What Unitarian Ministers does he mean? His degree of definiteness implies some of a particular number; and confirms rather more than a suspicion on my part, that he is speaking of an occasion on which both he and I were present; though perhaps he witnessed not the whole of it. If my suspicion be correct, I have no hesitation in saying, that Mr. Philp, in a kind of habit of making small things appear great, to say no more, has magnified an animated and most perfectly friendly conversation, into something approaching to a serious interruption of friendship. Do let him be careful how he interprets both men and things. Do let him reflect before he reports, either of the general body among whom he has but just ceased to be a minister; or of particular bodies of his brethren in the ministry, (if such he still considers them) of which he was very recently a member. There was one venerable voice heard on this occasion, to which all listened in silence; and had Mr. Philp gone home and acted on two words only which, in Christian candour and forbearance, it uttered in reference to the paper objected to, ‘Answer it,' his alarm might have ceased; and it might have proved a better means of leading him to the faith, which the Scriptures were designed to establish,' than shrinking in horror from its path, and leaving its unexplored image still to haunt his imagination. He would then, too, have had no need to anticipate the authority of the office to which he now aspires. in not permitting the pamphlet to be circulated among his congregation,

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »