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EXTRACT FROM A LETTER TO THE
Jan. 5, 1818. I am much surprised at the rapid sale of my sermon; which I impute, not so much to its intrinsic merit, (for I think I have printed better,) as to the occasion. Mr. Combe proposes to publish two editions more, making seven in the whole, as speedily as possible. I am afraid he will overdo it : if you are of that opinion, do stop him.* You will have an opportunity of judging while the fifth and sixth are selling
TO THE REV. JAMES PHILLIPS. (EXTRACT.)
Leicester, March 6, 1818. *
* What a loss would dear Mr. Hughes be to the Bible Society, and to the religious world in general ! I beg to be most affectionately and respectfully remembered to him. Please to inform him, when you see him, how ardent is my desire, and that of thousands, that his most valuable life may be spared and protracted to a distant period. I rejoice to hear he is better, and hope he will be spared to the prayers of the religious public. I am quite of opinion, with you, that the admirable temper and prudence of Mr. Hughes have been as serviceable as the more brilliant talents of Mr. Owen : both admirable men,-par nobile fratrum.
* The Sermon here alluded to, was that on the death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales. Mr. Combe's anticipations as to its sale seem to have been more accurate than those of the author, for it has gone through sixteen editions. Ed.
TO THE REV. THOMAS GRINFIELD, CLIFTON.
WHAT DOCTRINES ARE FUNDAMENTAL ? Dear Sir,
Leicester, Aug. 5, 1818. In reply to your favour of July 2d, which ought to have been answered sooner, you will not expect me to enter deeply into the subject in the compass of a letter. A very few, and possibly very superficial remarks, must suffice.
1. Whatever opinion may be formed about fundamentals, it cannot affect the solidity of my reasoning, which is directed to this :—that no church has a right (in foro conscientiæ) to demand more, as a term of communion, than that church deems essential to salvation. The evidence of this proposition is quite independent of the question what is essential to salvation.
2. That some truths are fundamental, besides those you have enumerated, appears to me sufficiently manifest from the word of God. If Christ is set forth as a propitiation, (or mercy-seat
inaotplov,) through faith in his blood, then, faith in his blood is fundamental; and, as the apostle is speaking of him as a propitiation, faith in his blood must mean a trust in him, under that character. But how can this consist with his being a mere prophet or martyr, or with the denial of his atonement?. Again—" As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,” &c. Every orthodox interpreter supposes this is intended to represent Christ crucified, or lifted up on the cross, as a divinelyappointed source of cure to our spiritual maladies, and consequently an expectation of spiritual benefit from him, as crucified. But how does this consist with the idea of his death, as a mere circumstance confirming his doctrine, exclusive of any proper influence it is supposed to exert in the pardon of sin ? He is said to be “ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth ;" then justification, or acceptance with God, is the consequence of faith in him as the great antitype and completion of the legal sacrifices and ceremonies. We are everywhere affirmed to be justified by that faith of which he is the object; and if the conceptions entertained by the socinians of that object are essentially different from ours, then must their faith in that object be equally so, and one or other of them essentially defective or erroneous. I am aware I have transgressed the canon you have laid down, which excludes a reference to particular texts. I have done so, because I am by no means satisfied respecting the justness of that
canon. I am at a loss how general reasoning can ascertain the point in question, exclusive of an immediate appeal to the words of scripture. It is with God to determine what is essential to be believed, in order to salvation; and his determinations on this subject can only be ascertained by attentively weighing the sense of scripture. It is true, different parties interpret particular passages differently: to quote these, or similar passages, to a socinian, would, it is confessed, be to little purpose. But you, my dear Sir, profess not to be a socinian : with you, therefore, the only question ought to be, Is the proposition, which affirms faith in the atonement to be fundamental to salvation, a legitimate inference from the commonly-received, or orthodox interpretation, of these passages ? If it is, we must either renounce our orthodoxy, or admit (however painful it may be) that inference. If the revealed method of salvation — revealed (I say) fully after the completion of the canon-is a cordial acceptance of Christ as the propitiation for the sins of the world, they who reject, deliberately and habitually, every idea of vicarious atonement, cannot be in that way. The belief of the messiahship of Christ was unquestionably held by the ancient heretics, or they could have made no pretension to be considered as christians in any sense; yet we know in what light they were regarded by the primitive christians : and why should they who deny the miraculous conception, the incarnation, and the atonement of the Son of God, be considered
in a more favourable light? You yourself, not satisfied with the general proposition-the messiahship of Christ, descend to particular doctrines, e. g. the resurrection of the dead. But to me it appears, that the collective moment of the doctrines I have mentioned is far more than that of the resurrection of the body, considered apart from the doctrine of immortality or a future life. In short, I can see no possible medium between giving up the doctrines already [mentioned], and asserting their fundamental importance; since, supposing us to interpret aright the passages on which we found them, their belief is everywhere conjoined with saving benefits. Whether we interpret these passages aright, is in no degree the question before us ; but, solely supposing our interpretation correct, whether the fundamental nature of the doctrines in question is not a necessary consequence.
I return you my most sincere thanks for the favourable opinion you express of my performance; and that you may be guided into the midst of the paths of judgement is the sincere prayer of Your obliged Friend and Servant,
TO THE REV. JOSEPH IVIMEY, LONDON.
Leicester, Feb. 20, 1819. I had intended, long since, to thank you very sincerely for your very valuable present of your