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THE writer of the following lectures takes this opportunity of stating his reasons for declining the calls which have been made upon him, to hold a discussion with Mr. Barker, the founder and leading advocate of that sect of of Unitarians, called in this neighbourhood, "The Christian Brethren."* It is his decided conviction, that
Some persons might think it would have been better, if the argument had been kept more general, and less allusion been made to the above named individual; but the peculiar circumstances of the case absolutely required it, as it is the mischief done in this particular locality by his tracts, &c. which these lectures are solely intended to counteract; and he bearing the same relation to the sect who distribute them, that Goliah did to the Philistines. The Philistines would no doubt have strongly objected to being called Goliathites, but David knew what he was about; and his personal allusion to their champion put them all to flight Some statements in the introductory lecture will shew how little such a result is anticipated in the present instance; and the observation is only made for the information of any Unitarian at a distance, who might repudiate some of the opinions here combated, or of other persons, who might be surprised at the style of argument frequently adopted.
In a pamphlet just published, entitled "Peter an Unitarian," it is encouraging to observe how completely Mr. Barker is thrown overboard. The writer evidently has himself, and wishes to shew that Unitarians generally have, great reverence for the Bible: he therefore does not attempt to defend the extracts produced from Mr. Barker's works, but blames me for not having stated at first that the Unitarianism combated in these lectures was the Unitarianism of Mr. Barker and his followers. To which it need only be replied, that it was, in the first lecture, stated to be "the Unitarianism prevalent in this neighbourhood," an expression, which I am sure there were not six persons in the church who did not distinctly understand. The writer however suggests, that "finding how impregnable is the Unitarianism of Channing and Carpenter, he has since thought it wise to adopt another course;" a pretty clear confession that Mr. Barker's Unitarianism is not impregnable. Of Carpenter's works I never read a page, and very little more of Channing's; almost the only passage of his that I remember, is his statement about the ground of our love to Christ." There is but one ground for virtuous affection in the universe, and that is-moral
public discussions on religious matters, whatever be the parties engaged, generally do more harm than good. The tactics employed, and the scenes that occur,* are neither conducive to the spirit of truth nor to the spirit of love. It is not the best cause that gains the victory, but the best arguer. Besides, a plausible cavil may be raised against some truth in half a minute, which it would take half an hour satisfactorily to answer; and if a number of them be strung together, and the time allowed for reply be limited, it becomes morally impossible to expose the fallacy of them all; and the opponent has only, at the commencement of his next speech, just to run over them again, and say "he is glad to find his arguments were considered conclusive, as no reply to them was even attempted." A spoonful of arsenic may be thrown over a plate of meat in a moment; but it's not a moment's work to pick each particle of it out, and leave the meat pure and wholesome. For these general reasons, independently of personal considerations, the author, unless he should see cause to change his opinion, could never be induced to engage in a vivâ voce discussion with any one.
As our Saviour's example is urged, a few words may be required in answer. When any one came to him in an humble, teachable spirit, really to gain instruction, he always received them willingly, and taught them: but did he always answer the cavillings and questionings of those who, he knew, came only to oppose him? Did he consent
goodness" and a little afterwards, speaking of the gratitude and love which true believers feel towards Jesus for having saved them from everlasting death, he says, it is quite natural, but "of very little worth." This is quite enough for any spiritually minded Christian; he would not want to read much farther."
The following extracts from the report of the discussion between the Rev. W. Cooke and Mr. Joseph Barker are quite sufficient for him at least, whatever may be the opinion of others. "Dr. Lees-'I rise to order.' (Loud hissing, applause, and cries of 'Down, down.') 'The umpire has decided'-(Sit down,' 'Stand up,' and general confusion.) Again, (Loud cheers, hissing, hooting, and great excitement.) These manifestations of feeling were displayed again and again; and the entire scene, as looked upon and listened to from the platform was one not often witnessed(Loud laughter. 'You'd better hold your tongue,'' Put him out.") &c.
to enter into controversy with such persons? The very reverse. We almost invariably find, that when any persons came merely to catch him in his talk, or puzzle him with a difficulty, he either evaded the question, or refused to answer it altogether, or confounded them with some home thrust to their own consciences. Another thing to be observed is, that when his disciples, that is, those who were willing to learn from him, could not understand anything in his public teaching, they went afterwards privately to ask him. This example, no doubt, any Christian minister, as far as God enables him, would at all times be glad to follow.
But did not St. Paul, it is asked, argue publicly, when he preached in heathen cities? He did: but besides the fact of his being able to work miracles in proof of his doctrines, we must remember that he had no other way of preaching at all. If the laws of the country had afforded him a place where he could deliver his message, uninterrupted by the laughter of the Athenians, or the wild uproar of the Ephesians, no doubt he would have preferred it; and if ever the clergy should be deprived of their churches, where at present, thank God, they can preach his word, undisturbed by the gainsaying or mockery of opposers, they will then, you may rely upon it, fulfil their commission where and how they can. Their general reluctance to engage in public debate being so perseveringly paraded as a proof of conscious weakness, and the boasting challenges, which the knowledge of that reluctance gives birth to, having so much weight with ignorant minds, the subject appeared to require notice, and the above remarks will, it is hoped, show something of the real state of the case.
An important fact to be remembered in controversy is, that there is no such thing in the world as an unanswerable argument on any side of any question whatever,
religious or otherwise. An argument may be perfectly satisfactory and convincing to one who is willing to be convinced; but,
"He that's convinced against his will,
and bring forward arguments ever so many or ever so powerful, he is sure to find some answer to them; generally such a plausible one as to satisfy himself, and often to shake others, who are not able to see deeply into a subject. Unitarians make great boast of their being able to answer all the arguments that are brought against them. No doubt they can; so can the Atheist, the Deist, or Romanist. You cannot bring a single argument against either of the three, but what, if he is clever enough and determined not to give way, he will be able to get out of-and yet they can't all be in the right, The Christian should be aware of this, or else he is apt to be staggered and perplexed, when he finds very clever ingenious answers given to what had always appeared to him, and are in reality, conclusive proofs. Let him seek the Spirit's guidance, and he will assuredly be taught what is the mind of God in scripture; being satisfied of this, he cares not what other meaning may be put upon the words; he sees clearly what God did mean when he inspired the men to write them, and therefore he doesn't trouble himself to find out what they can mean. As far as everything necessary for him is concerned, "he has an unction from the Holy One, and knows all things."
A few expressions in the following Lecture may sound harsh and uncharitable, to the ears of some, who read them. The writer would beg such to suspend their judgment until they have read the Lecture on Latitudinarianism in Doctrine, when the subjects of bigotry and charity will be fully discussed. Meanwhile he would only say, that, as far as his own disposition is concerned, he should