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the Jews and Christians is holy, because they are collectively a holy people."
At p. 849, he clearly shews that the damnation spoken of by Christ to Nicodemus was not that which may follow after the great day of judgment; but it means, that while on this earth they should continue in sin and ignorance, owing to their shutting their ears against his teachings.”
On a much-disputed subject he observes, “A MIRACLE (or what we look upon as a miracle, which is the same thing to us) can prove nothing, except mere power, till we know for certain who is the author of it; so that when it is performed as to all appearance by a man, it only proves him to be assisted by a being superior to man. But whether the being who assists him be sent from God or not, can only be proved from the nature of the revelation he brings, or the greatness of the miracle, or whatever other marks it may please God to set upon the cause which he espouses; by which a considering person will be able to distinguish it from the cause of the enemy,and be always sure to act with safety. If the miracle be in attestation of a doctrine which we know to be false, or contrary to the perfections of God, or contrary to a prior revelation of his will, we ought to conclude that the miracle was performed by a bad being, and we should be obliged to reject the doctrine, notwithstanding we might be obliged to allow the miracle ; for it would be a miracle of a lie, wrought by the power of an evil spirit to deceive. It is absurd to think of convincing either a Jew or a Deist of the divinity of the New Testament by urging the evidence of miracles, till the doctrines established by them appear to be agreeable to reason.”
In this 7th Letter, commencing at p. 897, will be found a summary of our author's views of Revealed Religion, under eight several heads, unfolding the character of the Almighty; the probability of his making revelations of his will; the nature of those revelations in past times, and their probable results in the future; and the instrumentality of Christ, as the angel Jehovah, throughout the whole. The Letter is followed by an Appendix in reply to Mr. Hume’s objections to miracles.
Letter 8 is, “ An Inquiry into the Opinions of Learned Christians, Ancient and Modern, concerning the Generation of Jesus Christ; in order to prove that it was the same Word of God who was in the Beginning with God, before the Creation of the World, that suffered for Mankind, and not any other Soul or Spirit that was created afterward.” This portion of the work shews him to have perused with attention all the records of Christian antiquity. He contends that even if there was reason to expect the assistance of the Holy Spirit at a general council of the whole church, no council was ever held which could pretend to combine the presence and votes of the whole Catholic church. Some were held in the East, without the presence of the Western ministers, and some in the West, beyond the reach of the Africans and Asiatics. None beyond the limits of the Roman empire were ever present, the East and West continually repudiating each other's decisions. He winds up a survey of their proceedings with these remarks :-“ Whoever looks into the history of the first four general councils, will find that they were carried on by violence and riot at the time, and by knavery afterwards. A learned writer has written, When I consider that the legates of Pope Leo would have imposed upon the Council of Chalcedon
these words, that the Church of Rome hath always had the Primacy,' as a canon of the Council of Nice, I am almost ready to think that we have scarce any thing of antiquity left us that is entire and uncorrupt.'
“ The depending upon the authority of these councils, and putting human Placits on a level with Scripture as the test of orthodoxy, is not only the fundamental principle of the grand apostacy, but will infallibly lead back Protestants, if they follow it, into all the depths of Popery, ignorance and superstition. But no sooner were Protestants satisfied by Luther that the Bible was the only rule of faith, than they all, in their several churches, as if by a general infatuation, resolved to substitute some human composition in its stead, or in partnership with it. Thus they weakened themselves as Protestants, and encouraged a continual hatred and animosity against one another. So that we might be tempted to observe, that the toe of the Protestant comes so near to the heel of the Papist, that it galls his kibe.”
After detailing and examining the opinions of eminent controversialists, ancient and modern, he concludes—“ There have been so many divisions made in the church, so much ill-blood raised, and so many dreadful murders committed, under the pretence of preserving the peace of the church, on both sides of the question, upon these abstruse subjects, in which it is impossible for men of the greatest learning and piety to be all of one mind, that it is time to return to the plain doctrine and spirit of the gospel, and to understand it, every man for himself, with the best help he can get, as well as he is able—and God will require no more of any man-and so to become one fold under one shepherd, and bear with one another's infirmities. For the breach of charity is a more heinous offence, in the sight of God, than a thousand errors upon this or any other metaphysical subject whatever."
Mr. Taylor's next work was entitled, “ Thoughts on the Grand Apostacy,” by which he means the gradual departure of the Christian church from the doctrine of the undivided Unity of God. This apostacy he maintains to have been foretold in the Book of Revelation, as well as the persecutions which form so large a part of the history of the Arian controversy. The persecution by the Roman emperors he thought to be prefigured by the first great beast; and that arising out of the decrees of Councils and Popes, by the little beast with three horns. He not only advocated the authenticity of the Apocalypse, but also the doctrine of a millennium, or a thousand years' reign of Christ on earth before the general resurrection.
In this work is a most learned and piquant investigation of the five second causes assigned by the celebrated Gibbon for the great and rapid spread of Christianity, independent of the supposition of its truth and its being sustained by the Divine agency. The attentive perusal of it will amply repay the reader by its logical acuteness, its depth of learning and its playful irony.
In a dissertation on the Parousias of Christ, he maintains that the New Testament did not warrant an expectation of Christ's second coming at the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the generation of men in which he had lived. His second coming will be after the world shall be converted to his religion, and the Jews shall have been gathered in, when Babylon shall be destroyed. By Babylon he means, not particularly the Church of Rome, but the power and the will of any one man injuring another on account of his religious belief. Such practices will wholly cease. The Son of Man will then come in the clouds, purge his church of hypocrites, reward his followers, and at length deliver up the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all.
In another essay he inquires whether the reign of Christ in the New Jerusalem, during the millennium, will be in this world? He was of opinion that it will be so. The New Jerusalem will be built; there will be a temple in it, but no separate priesthood. Every man's mind will be so enlightened that he will be a priest unto himself.
Next follows an interesting dissertation upon Prophecy, written by the Rev. Richard Wavell, rector of St. Maurice, Winchester, and presented to our author by William Deacon, Esq., of Portsmouth, a gentleman with whom he lived in habits of intimacy.
Another work, entitled “ Further Thoughts on the Grand Apostacy," is introduced by an eloquent Preface, in which he protests against the making and using of creeds and articles of religion, which he says ever have proved, and ever must prove, the sources of strife and disunion, and not of uniformity. He says,
“ If it should still be thought necessary to preach agreeably to the articles which were framed some ages ago, notwithstanding the new light which has been thrown upon the doctrines of Scripture by the studies of the learned within the two last centuries, and which the people who maintain the clergy have a right to be made acquainted with, the people are not used honestly and fairly. This is not to preach the gospel according to the rule of faith, for which the clergy are paid, but according to the commandments of men, which the people object to. And if by this means the people should open their eyes to the truth, and the clergy be obliged to keep theirs shut, what must be the consequence, but that the people will understand their religion in a more perfect manner than the clergy will dare to teach it, and so the knowledge of the laity will bring on the contempt of the clergy, and the people altogether leave the churches.” He maintains that a belief in the divine authority of the Bible is the only test that ought to be required, and adds, “I am proud to consider myself as related in Christ Jesus to every Christian community in the world, and to every individual among them.” He takes a view in detail of all the persecutions which have taken place in the history of the church, which he attributes to the absurd practice of drawing up creeds and articles, expressed, not in the words of Holy Writ, but in language which neither the writers themselves could define the meaning of, nor any one for them.
Much as our author lamented this state of things, he concludes by expressing his conviction, derived from the ancient prophecies, that the day will come when“ genuine Christianity shall flourish, and Providence shall work its way through the present apostacy against all the powers of the world that still resist it."
His Visitation Sermon, preached in Winchester Cathedral before Bishop Hoadly, in 1759, was “on the Beauty of the Divine Economy, in its successive Stages, the Creation of Man, the Patriarchal Ages, the Call of Abram, the Destinies of that wonderful People, his Descendants, the Advent of Christ, the Corruption of his Doctrines, the Rise and Progress of Mahometism, and the future Restoration of the Jews, the glorious Coming in of the Gentiles, and the future Reign in Person of Christ over the Universal Family of Man. In all of which the Wisdom and Goodness of the Divine Being is shewn, and that the sole Aim of all his Dispensations has been, and ever will be, the Universal Good of the whole Family of Man."
In the year 1777, appeared the remarkable work of Mr. Soame Jenyns, entitled, “ A View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion;" in which, in the character of an advocate for Christianity, he, perhaps sincerely, sets up this argument in its defence—that the exterior evidence from miracle and prophecy are not to be depended upon; but that its internal evidences are incontrovertible; that the story of the evangelists is not itself the revelation, but that it contains the revelation of doctrines contradictory to reason, adverse to experience and worldly wisdom, so incredible in themselves and impracticable for observance, that no human invention could ever have originated them; therefore they must have been a revelation from God. Our author, in a dialogue, extending to 160 closely-printed pages, examines these positions in detail; shews that Christianity contains no such contradictions or impossibilities; that all its moral precepts were propagated in the world before the advent of Christ; but that it was his work to stamp what was previously only guessed at, with the seal of truth and certainty; that it is the glory and the impregnable rock of Christianity, that it teaches nothing inconsistent with right reason.
Mr. Taylor also produced a pamphlet, entitled, “ Confusion worse Confounded ; Rout on Rout; or, the Bishop Gloucester (Warburton's) Commentary on Rice Evans's Letter from Heaven, examined and exposed. By Indignatio."
This is a severe, and apparently a merited, exposure of the credulity and folly of the learned Bishop, who had brought forth from a slumber of nearly 100 years a pretended dream of one Rice Evans, who, at the breaking out of the great Civil War, saw in a vision of the night that Fairfax, and after him Cromwell, would rule this land, and be followed by a succession of five princes, and then the line would be changed. This the Bishop called “a manifest prophecy," and attempted to prove that the five young men were the two Royal Stuarts, King William, and (most extraordinarily) the two female sovereigns, Mary and Anne. The absurdity of the whole story is exposed with much keen irony and an admirable degree of learning and point, as well as many of the Bishop's other literary paradoxes, among which are, that contained in his celebrated work, the Divine Legation of Moses, in which he had laboured to prove that a belief in future rewards and punishments is absolutely necessary in order to keep together any form of civil society; that the surrounding Heathen all held this doctrine, but Moses and the Jews had not the least notion of it; consequently the existence of the Jews as a nation was a miracle, which alone is sufficient to shew they were a people favoured with the special rule of Jehovah as their Sovereign and Lawgiver. Our author shews up Bishop Warburton as proof of the great Selden's maxim, “ that no man is the wiser for his learning; inasmuch as learning may administer matter to work in, or objects to work upon ; but wisdom and wit are born with a man.”
In politics our author was a Whig of the genuine school, as is clearly shewn by a Letter he addressed to the Earl of Abingdon, confuting a definition of civil liberty given by the Archbishop of York, in which that Metropolitan had defined Liberty to be," a freedom from all restraints except such as established law imposes." Mr. Taylor shews, that these laws may be imposed contrary to justice and natural freedom, and ought to be resisted as they were at the glorious Revolution of 1688.
After Mr. Taylor's decease, his son Henry published from the manuscripts he had left, “ Considerations on Ancient and Modern Creeds." In the Preface it is observed, “ The damnation which Christians deal out to one another in their creeds, is as senseless and disgusting as the profane cursing used by the common people in the streets;” and that ** those who, like parrots, repeat these creeds, mean no more;" and then adds this ludicrous anecdote: “ The master of a house asked his friend, as he returned with him from the church on Easter Sunday, how he could be so cruel as to damn him everlastingly for a mere difference in opinion? To which this good Athanasian replied, He could not say positively that every one would be so damned who did not believe in that Creed; he only hoped so.”
Much of the volume is devoted to a refutation of some points urged by Socinus, who had in one place contended, that the proper interpretation of a Greek word was “to be;" but the Devil had put it into the head of his opponents to translate it, “ to be made.” Our author neatly observes, “I can hardly persuade myself to believe that those learned men are in earnest who tell us that the Devil is concerned in the construction either way. I am sure, in the manner in which our controversies are generally carried on, our learned disputants may wrangle all their lives without his assistance. And he may perhaps be as well pleased in seeing good men abuse one another, as in abusing them himself; and the wisest part he can take will be, to leave them to the free indulgence of their passions; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.""
After arguing, with many learned quotations, against the Sabellian hypothesis, that there is but one person in the Deity, and that the Father and the Son are only different characters assumed by the Divine Being on particular occasions, he adds, "Now as I firmly believe the conversion both of Jews and Mahometans will be brought about in time by the common principle of One Supreme over all, it seems to me that the Athanasian notion of Three Supremes, and the Sabellian notion of no real personality of the Son and Holy Ghost, will both of them vanish as if they had never been, upon the return of the ancient doctrine, that the Son and the Holy Ghost are inferior to the Father, and capable of local motion,”
Much of this volume is occupied in replying to the Four Sermons of Dr. Lardner, who had maintained the modern Unitarian doctrine on these disputed points, and presumed to go much further in the broad road of heterodoxy than our author was prepared to accompany him.
Both these learned and estimable men have now long since gone to their last account. If they do not sleep until the general resurrection, which I believe both of them expected to be the case, they have, in the regions of the blessed, had whatever imperfections shaded their mental sight removed; in the unveiled presence of the Divine Being they have wondered at the errors into which they may each have unknowingly fallen; and have joined together in Hallelujahs to the Father of Light