Theophilus Lindsey.

An historical view of the state of the Unitarian doctrine and worship from the reformation to our own times : With some account of the obstructions which it has met with at different periods online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryTheophilus LindseyAn historical view of the state of the Unitarian doctrine and worship from the reformation to our own times : With some account of the obstructions which it has met with at different periods → online text (page 1 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



PES 8 i9G3




Lindsey, Theophilus, 1723

An historical view of the

.c;t;^tp nf 1-hp Tin i±J3jr i ;=i n










With some account of the obstruc-





/^ r-< "T*


P R E F A 'C E

T>efign of the wo?^k. Hi /lories of virtuous

fiifferers in the caufe of the Divine Unity;

ifefuL Archdeacon Philpot and Socinus ;

alike deferving of ce?2fure, The term, Soci-^

nian, improperly applied, A bla?neable inf^

nuation i?i the author of the *' Effay on the

Genius and Writings of Pope;" rectified,

'The lateBiJljop of ^i'i&.oVs cvnfure -, not to be

pajjed over unnoticed, The author of '' The

Light of Nature purfued -f why fo largely

quoted, Liji of confeffors to the fole wor-^

fiip of the Father, the one only true God;

in the efablified church,

IN a fmall tract (a), not lono; aeo pub-
liflied, in the v/ay of dialogue, it was
endeavoured to fliev/, from the holy Scrip-

[a] " The Catechiil : or an Inquiry into the do(3:rIne
of the Scriptures, concerning the only true God and ob-
ject of religious vvorfliip." N. B. The title, Cate-
CHiST, prefixed to the work, and which occurred to the

A 2 writer.

[ iv ]

tures, that the One Almighty Father of the
univerfe is the only God of chriftians. And
a fecond part is intended to follow, ia
which, in the fame familiar manner, all the
pallages of Scripture, fuppofed to favour the
worfhip of Jefus Chrift, and of the Holy
Spirit, will be confidered. And the writer
has a good hope, that it will there eaiily be
made to appear, that although Three Su-
preme equal Divine Perfons, and a m.ulti-
tude of inferior demons or deities, have been
for ages adopted into their rituals, and ftill
continue to be worshiped by the greater part
of chriftians : yet, the worfliip of One Per-
fon, of One fmgle Firjl Caufe, and Author
of ail things, is not in itfelf an intricate
problem, difficult to be made out and folv-
cd, in the Old Teftament, or in the New :


v/ritcr, from the idea of the famous Orhen belna: Catechifl
of the church of Alexandria, lias, it feems, mifled and
difappointed feme perfons ; as if it were a compofition
fitted only for very young perfons ; whereas it was intend-
ed, whether it will anfwer the purpofe others mufl judge,
for thofe of mature age, who have not had fufiicient lei-
fure to attend to the fubjefi ; not v/ithout ftriving at the

fame time, to make the whole "plain to ordinary capaci-.

[ V ]

and the deviations from it are eafy to be ac-
counted for [b) and explained.

In the prefent work, which was under-
taken with a view to ferve the fame defign,
continual opportunities have offered them-
fejves of iiluftrating different portions of the
facred writings, which relate to this Great
Subject. And perhaps the kiftcrical fadls
intermixed, many of them little known, m.ay
attracft a greater attention to it.

Thofe fadts, it is apprehended, will be
reckoned curious by fuch as wifh to know

A 3 what

{h) See the '^ Hiftory of opinions concerning Chrifl,"
in the firft volume of Dr. PrieJlUy^ " Hiftory of the cor-
ruptions of Chriftianity." Of this admirable Work, wor-
thy of the great name of its author, the writer would have
fpoken more at length, had lefs been faid of himfe'f in the
dedicatory part of it. To be beloved and efleemed bv the
wife and good, is a fpur and incitement truly to deferve
it ; and fuch he earnellly wifhes may be the eftecf^ of his
friend's over- partial regards.

One thing however he will venture to prognofticate,
from Dr. Prieflley's labours and thofe of others, to re-
eftabliih the true Scripture-idea of the perfon and charac-
ter of Chrift J that pofterity, and he trufts not a late pofte-
rity, will look back upon the belief of his being the fu-
preme God, or any thing but the moji excellent^ ^erfect^ hu-
m:nz bei?7g, with divine extraordinary powers, jufc in the
fame light as Proteflants nov.' viev/ the Pcpiili doclrine q:

[ vl ]

what palles, and has .paffed upon the ftage of
this world of ours, concerning a point of fo
fiiblime a nature • t!ie diverfity of opinions
that have been entert.uned upon it, the warm
paffions it has excited, and the lingular events
to which it has fometimes given occaiion :
in whatever light they look upon the reli-
gion of Chrift.

But to thofe who believe tBaf relig-ion to
come from God, it is prefumed, they will
appear both important and curious.

The Play-book, and the Novel, (would
that all of them were drawn by the chafte
hand of Addifons, 'Tho?nfons or Cecilids>
mufe !) are, in proper place and time, need-
ful to refrefh and relieve the mind, fatigued
and overplied with feverer ftudies, or appli-
cation to the Vv^orld's neceffary bulinefs -, and
may alfo well read many an ufeful moral
ledrure for the condud; of human life. But
the hiftory of virtuous, upright m.inds, and
inquirers after truth, emerging out of the
long night of antichriftian darknefs, feeking
the great fourcc of being and benevolent Fa-
ther of all; and having found him, yield-
ing thcmfelves to tortures and death, rather
J than

[ vli ]

than difown him {c), rather than not con-
fefs, and maintain, and declare to others, his
tranfcendent majefty and excellency, and fu-

periority to the things he has made;

prefents the moft inftruftive, awful, and ani-
mating fpedtacle and leffon, of all others ;
tending to infpire the reader with the like un-
fliaken courage, and love of truth, and loyalty
to the righteous and moral Governor of the

It would be great fatisfadiion, to be made
an inftrument, in any the leaft degree, to
lead others out of the mazes of impenetrable
myftery, and polytheifm, to this Parent

" To the Firfi: good, Firft perfe£l5 and Firft fair,"

alone w^orthy of the highefl love, adoration,
and gratitude.

Connedied with, and by the means of this
light, and juft reprefentation of the One Su-
preme Being, it would be a no lefs defireable
fervice, to fhorten, and if poffible, to abolifli
the gloomy reign of fuperflition over frail
ignorant mortals ; which, in particular, has

A 4 induced

[c) Pag. 7c. 87. Ch. iv. Se61:, i, 2, p. 270.

[ viii ]

induced too many of the mircaken followers
of Chrift, in all ages, to imagine they did
Gcd fervice, (Joh. xvi. 2.) by hating and de-
ftroying their fellow-creatures, who did not
think of his incomprchenfible deity, or of
the nature and attributes of Jefus Chrift,
exaftly in conformity with themfelves.

MUCH therefore as Archdeacon Philpoth
to be honoured, for nobly dying in defence
of what he believed to be the truth of the
gofpel, under Queen Mary^ it ought not,
for the fake of others, to exempt him from
the cenfure paffed upon him, in the follow-
ing pages [d), for his very unw^orthy beha-
haviour towTa'ds fome Unitarians of thofe
days. It will alfo be feen, that no endea-
vours are ufed to conceal or palliate a limilar
[e) blameable conduct of Socimis, in his treat-
ment of many perfons, w^ho agreed with him
in believing Chrift to be only a human be-
ini^, fivoured with divine extraordinary
powers ', but could not come up to his no-
tion of worlhiping and praying to him.


(//) P. 5^0, CIQ.

('.} Ch. iii. Sccl'. 2. p. 194.

[ ix 1

THE fample which is given of the difpu-
tation (/ ) upon this fubjedt, which Socinus
held with Francis Davides, will probably be
acceptable to fome perfons, as it is not com-
monly known. There, and in other places,
where it was judged proper to produce the
words of the authors themfelves, care has
been taken to give an exacl tranflation of
them. Davides, w^ho had been at firft of a
contrary fcntiment, was imprifoned in con-
fequence of his maintaining in public; '^ that
prayer v^-as not to be offered to Jefus
Chrift, but to God only/' His part in the
controverfy ihews, that he had not receded
from his former opinion, but on good grounds,
and after well weighing the matter.

Mr. Toulmin's plan, in his ufeful life of
Socinus, would not allow him to defcend
into fo minute and particular a detail on this
point. What js here offered, may be con-
fidered as fupplemental to his faithful repre-
fentation of the opinions, and characler of
this eminent man ; in piety and other vir-
tues, not inferior to any of the Reformers ;
in fagacity and infight into the true meaninp-


(/} Ch, ill. Seft, I. p. 154.

I ^ ]

of the Scriptures, in many things oftentimes
much beyond them; but who, alas, like all
[g) of them, was tainted with a fpirit of bi-
gotry, and intolerance towards thofe who
prefumed to differ from him, on fome fa^
vourite topics.

It will be very apparent, that thofe per-
fons, in our own country, who are called
Socmians, are far from being efpoufers of all
Socmiis's opinions. Or rather, as I can fpeak
of myfelf, and as far as I know of others fo
called, they never borrowed their fentiments
from him, but had embraced them before
they had read a page in his works.

But if the name, Socmian, be given by way
of reproach, fingly for believing that Jefus
Chrift had no exiilence before he was born
in the reign of Herod, king of Judea; then,
although they would not willingly be called
followers of Socinus, or of any one, but of
Chrift himfelf ; yet they refufe not the ap-
ncilation, but think it honourable : under a
full perfuaiion, that Jefus Chrift never pro-
feiTed himfelf to be a being of any other na-

* :;} Sec " Memoirs of the life, charafter, fentiments,
iind writings of Faiiftus Socinus, by Jofhua Toulmin,
A. M." p. 112, ^-c.

[ xi ]

ture than the human, and that his apoftles
never believed, or declared him to be any

It is high time to abftain from names of
ill found, when fpeaking of chriftians of dif-
ferent fentiments from ourfelves; or elfe, to
be extremely careful in cautioning others,
not to aiTociate any thing blameable or hate-
ful with the name. For otherwife the evil
done thereby, particularly, for inftance, in
the ufe of the terms, Aj^ian^ Socijiian, will
not foon or eafily be repaired. For the or-
thodox, who have hitherto been the mofl:
numerous, Divines, Poets, Hiilorians, being
accuilom.ed in all their writings, to charac-
terize fuch perfons, as enemies to Chrijl,
pervert ers and oppofers of the gofpel, &c. the
generality of chrifLians hence fix thefe ideas
to their charaders, and feldom thir.k or fpeak
of them but v/ith horror and deteflation.

Whereas, all ihculd be taught^ that there
is nothing in any opinion concerning Chrifi,
v/hich men are led into fi'om the lludy of
the holy Scriptures, that will leffen the di-
vine favour towards them, but will on the
contrarv recommend them to it ; and that at


[ xi! ]

the laft day, fuppofing they have thus fallen
into any opinions that fl^iould be found to lef-
fen the original dignity of Chrifl, they will
not be on that account the lefs kindly receiv-
ed by him, their great appointed judge. For
he will pafs fentence upon them, not accord-
in p- to the opinions they have entertained of
himfelf (which are matters of little account,
fo long as they have been honefl and fmcere
in them) but acco-rdlng to their (Rev. xx. 13.)
ivorksy whether they have done ^^^^(Joh.v. .
29.) or whether they have done evil in this
their firft probationary ftate.

I may here obferve,for the honour of truth,
and in vindication of a moft worthy perfon,
though it may net be perhaps quite fo fuit-
able in a preface, that a learned, ingenious
writer, fc lately as in 1782, fliculd not have
fallen in with the fl:ream of popular prejudice
in this refpeci', by affording any place in his
amuhng work, to an idleftory of Dr. Clarke's
repentance on his death-bed^ for having pub-
li filed his v/ork upon the Triinty.

In the laft edition of the ^' EiTav en the
*' Genius ai]d Writings of Pope," Vol. ii.
p. 121 . the aut:]or, having fpoken, in a note,,
of a ccrrcfpondcnce bctVv'ccn Mr. Ramjay


[ xiii ]

•and Racine the younger, on the fubje6l of
the EJ/ay on Man ; adds as follows :

'' There is a circumftance in the letter of
Ramfey above mentioned, too remarkable to
be omitted ; and which, fome perhaps may
be almoft tempted to doubt the truth of.
In a cafe of fo delicate a nature, I chufe to
quote the original. '* M. le Chevalier
** Newton, grand Geometre, et nullement
** Metaphyficien, etoit perfuade de la verite
^* de la Religion : mais il voulut rafiner fur
*' Tanciennes erreurs Orientales, et renou-
vella I'Arianifme par TOrgane de fon fa-
m.eux difciple et interprete M. Clarke;
qui m'avoua quelque terns avant que de
mourir apres plufieurs conferences que
*' j'avois cues avec lui, combicn ii fe re-
*^ pentoit d'avoir fait imprimer fon cuvrage:
^' je fus temoin, il y adouzeans, aLondres,
" des derniers fentimens de ce modefle et
" vertueux Dod:eur."

Dr. Wart on raifes the curiofity of his read-
ers much, to exped; fome charge that bore
very hard againfl Dr. Clarke, by not taking
upon him to hazard a tranilation of it. I
fball here give it in Engli(h, having no doubt


t XIV ]

of being able to prove, that there is no truth
in it.

*' Sir Ifaac Nevv'ton, (fays this Mr. Ram-
fay) a profound mathematician, but no
metaphylician at all, was a fmcere be-
liever in chriftianity ; but being carried
away with a fondnefs to refine upon the
ancient herefies of the Eaft, he revived
Arianifm by the pen of his famous difci-
pie and interpreter Dr. Clarke ; who
owned to me, fome little time before his
■ death, after feveral conferences that I had
with him, that he greatly repented that
he ever publiihed his work (on the T^ri-
nity), I was witnefs twelve years ago,
that thefe were the laft fentiments of this
modefl: and virtuous Divine !"
It is upon the flice of the thing very in-
jurious to the m.emory of Dr. Clarke, with
no other proof than mere affertion, to make
him nothing better than Sir Ifaac Newton's
Secretary, in what he publifhed upon the
Trinity ^ as if he was not an original in the
opinions which he profeffed to deliver as his
own. It might however probably te an
hearfay ftory of the day, and take its rife
from the intimacy that fubfifted between


[ XV ]

thofe two great men. Mr. Whiilon (/) has
mentioned it, but does not appear to think
there was any thing in it; and he muft be
allowed to be a more competent judge than
Mr. Ramfay.

That however this gentleman's pretended
interview and converfations with Dr. Clarke,
and being the confident and depofitary of
his dying fentiments, is wholly without
foundation, will be evident from the follow-
ing fa6ls.

I. Mr. 'Emlyjiy than whom hardly any
one had more of Dr. Clarke's confidence on
jthefe points, furnifhes a proof within a very
fhort time of the Dodtor's death^ of his not
having changed his fentiments concerning


(z) " A. D. 1705. About this time, or not much
^^ later, it was, that I difcovered my friend Mr. C7<?r/^^ had
" been looking into the primitive writers, and began to
*' fufpe^:, that the Athanafian do6lrine of the Trinity was

*' not the doctrine of thofe early ages. Whether Mr.

" Newton had given Mr. Clarke yet any intimations of
" that nature; for he knew it long before this time 5 or,
*' whether it arofe from fome inquiries of his own, I do
" not dire^lly know, though / mcline to the latter.

« Hiftorical Memoirs of the Life of D-r, S= Clarke^
p. 7, 8. By Mr. Whiflon.^'

[ xvl ]

the Trinity, which he had before pub-


** He once fhewed me, fays Mr. Emlyn,
(i) that he had been making fome emen-
dations in his Common-prayer book; and
the very laft time, I think, I ever faw
him, (the March before he died) and in
fome of our laft difcourfe at parting, he

*' afked me, if he had Ihewn me what he
had been doing in his Common Prayer. I
faid I had juft k^rv it once; he added,
that it Jhould not be loji. With what de-
' fign or view he had done it, he never faid

to me. But I hardly fuppofe he ever

finiflied the work, being fo foon after
taken away from us. A few days before

'^ his ficknefs in May 1729, I received a

*' letter from him about a private affair, but

** before I could anAver it, I heard firft that

*' he was fick, and quickly after that he
was dead ; and thus to my great grief a
fudden end was put to our friendly con-

** verfe, and all his intercourfe with this

*^ earth cut off."

Now it is well known, that Dr. Clarke's

Amendments of the Common Prayer Book,


[k) Eml^-n's Works. Vol. XL p, 494.




[ xvii ]

at prefent lodged in the Britifli Mufeum, and
frequently mentioned in the following work >
contain nothing lefs than a retractation of
his former opinions about the Trinityi

2. Bp. HoaJfy, Dr. Clarke's very intimate
friend, in his ^* Preface to his works, giv-
** ing fome account of the life, writings^
** and charafter of the Author" (p. xxxiv.)
fo defcribes the Doctor's laft illnefs, as leaves
no room for Mr. Ramfay being admitted to
his bedfide to have any converfation with

** On Sunday, May ii, 17.29, he went
'* out in the morning to preach before the
** Judges in Serjeant's Inn : and there was
feized with a pain in his fide, which made
it impoffible for him to perform the office
** he was called to, and quickly became fo
** violent that he was obliged to be carried
*' home. He went to bed, and thought
** himfelf fo much better in the afternoon,
'* that he would not fuffer himfelf to be
** blooded : againft wdiich remedy he had
indeed entertained ftrong prejudices. But
the pain returning very violently about
** two the next morning, made the advice
*^ and affiftance of a very able phyfician

a ** abfolutely

[ xviii i

abfolutely neceffary : who, after twice
bleeding him, and other applications,
thought him, as he alfo thought himfelf,
quite out of all danger; and fo continued
to think, till the Saturday morning fol-
lowing : when, to the inexprelTible fur-
prize of all about him, the pain removed
from his fide to his head; and, after a
very fhort complaint, took away his fenfes,
fo that they never returned any more.
He continued breathing till between fe-
ven and eight of the evening of that day.
May ij^ 1729? and then died: and by
his death (let me be permitted to fay it)
left the world deflitute of as bright a
light y and as mafterly a teacher of trutb
and virtue^ as ever yet appeared amongft

3. It happens luckily that we have fome-
thing ftill more pofitive and decided, to op-
pofe to this idle ftory of Dr. Clarke, a little
before his death, finding all he had written
upon the Trinity to have been wrong, and
condemning himfelf for it. For, a little
before, in the above cited Preface, p. xxvi.
Bifhop Hoadly makes this remark :

** One

*^ One matter of fad I will add, that
** from the time of Dr. Clarke s publifhing
this book, (his Scripture doctrine of the
"Trinity) to the day of his death, he found
no reafon, as far as he was able to judge,
*^ to alter the notions which he had there
** profeffed, concerning the Father, Son,
*« and Holy Ghoft, towards any of thofe
*' fchemes v/hich feemed to him to dero-
" gate from the honour of the Father y ca
** one fide; or from that of the So?iy and
*' Spirit y on the other. This I thought
** proper jufl to mention, as what all his
♦* friends know to be the truth. And indeed,
nothing to the contrary can be alleged,
without contradifting many exprefs itri -
tences, fcattered through all his works
^' which have followed, or will follow, the
" forementioned treatife -, evidently fetting
^' forth, or implying, the fame dodlrine.'*

We have nothing therefore to conclude,
but that this tale (/) of Dr. Clarke's re-

a 2 converfion

(/) It is the evidence which men bring from the Scrip-
tures, for their particular opinions ; and not their name
or authority, that is of any weight : and lead of all the
judgment which they form at going out of the world,


t XX ]

converfion to the orthodox opinion con-
cerning the Trinity, too haftily admitted
into his Book by Dr. Warton, and which
is infinuated by the author of it as having
been brought about in a good meafure
by his conferences with the Dod:or, and
the fecret of which he intrufted to him
alone when near his end, is nothing but
an anecdote of Mr. Ramfay's own inven-
tion, contrived to ingratiate and make him-
felf of confequence with his new popifh
friends on the other lide of the water, to
whofe reh'gion he had become a convert.
And it is one humiliating inftance, among
others, that high myftic Pietifts are wont
to be above paying a flrid: regard to truth,
when fome good end, as they imagine, may
be ferved by their deviating from it.


when their reafoning powers in general are the weakeft.
It was well however, that Dr. Clarke's fon was living, a
few years ago, to contradict a like fabulous report of his
father having died under great anxiety of mind, for hav-
ing written his book upon the Trinity ; which was pro-
pagated in the public prints, and much cherifhed ^nd

Credited by fome perfons. See Mr. Clarke's letter in

*' An Apology on refigning the Vicarage of Catterick/*
p, 86, the lajl edition.


[ xxi ]

WHAT juft occafion there was for the
writer to take notice of the (^) cenfures of
Dr. Newton, the late Bifhop of Briftol ; and
of the folidity and truth of what he has ad-
vanced, others will judge. But I fhall here
take the liberty to corredl a former inadver-
tence of my own, as I know not how to
iind a better place for it.

The Bifliop, in his edition of Milton,
had made this remark on a beautiful paffage
{m) of the Paradife regained -, '^ How finely
^^ and confidently does Milton here imagine
*' x}i\^ youthful meditations of our Saviour !'*
Upon this it was [n) obferved y that it was
much to be wondered, that the expreffion,
youthful mxeditations did not ftrike the wor-
thy Com.mentator's own mind, and lead him
to refleft, that our Saviour could not be the
fiipreme God, as he maintained; for that

3 3 in

(^) Ch. ill, Se(St. 3. p. 211.
[m) " When I was yet a child, no childifli play
To me was pleafing, all my mind was fet
Serious to learn and know, and thence to do
What might be public good; myfelf I thought
Born to that end, &c."

Paradife regained. Book I.
(«) " Sequel to the Apology on refigning Catterick.'*
p. 406. note*

f xxil ]

in any union or connexion whatfoever. It
could never be faid that the fupreme eternal
Being was {o) a child, or y out Jo, This paffage
however too eafily perfuaded me, that Milton
was at that time come off his former orthodox
fentiments, and was become a believer of
the proper humanity of Chrift ^ and I fup-
pofed this to be corroborated by a paffage in
his profe writings : but in which I was
certainly mi (taken.

I HAVE but ill reprefented my own feel-
ings, if it does not appear from what I have
faid of the author (r) of '' The light of
f * nature purfued," how greatly I efteem his
charafter, and value his writings. If I have
blamed him, whom I think I have fuffici-
ently proved to have been an enlightened
unitarian chriflian, for being a voluntary


(o) " Neftorlus, Patriarch of Conflantinople, except-
f' ed againfl Mary being called ©eoIoko?, i. e. the mother of
f God: becaufe, as he argued, Mary was a woman, and
*' that therefore God could not be born of her ; adding,
*' / cannot call hhn God^ who once was not above two or
*' three months old.'' Evagr. E. H. 1. i. c. 2. Socr.
I. vii. c. 32, 34.

See " 67ytfA2^/^r'sHiflory of Perfecution." Such juft
remarks muft in time fhakc the ftrongefl: prejudices; and
jiwaken chriftians to learn to diftingiiifh between GcD and
^he creature,

(r) Ch. vi. Se£l, 6. p. 404,

[ xxiii ]

advocate for the continuance of trinitarian
forms of worfliip, and for a regular attend-
ance upon them, I have at the fame time
made his apology as far as I could, and fo as
to juflify the purity of his intention, though
his j udgment therein is not to be approved. It
was to make his work more read, and at the
fame time to prevent the harm, on his part
wholly undefigned, that might enfue from fuch
a principle and pradlice grounded upon it, be-
coming univerfal; that induced me to produce
fuch large extradls from him. There is fo

Online LibraryTheophilus LindseyAn historical view of the state of the Unitarian doctrine and worship from the reformation to our own times : With some account of the obstructions which it has met with at different periods → online text (page 1 of 29)