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HERESY AND ORTHODOXY.
REV. JOSEPH BLANCO WHITE.
“I have heard frequent use (said the late Lord Sandwich, in a debate on the Test Laws)
J. MARDON, 19, ST. MARTIN'S LE GRAND.
The publication of the following Letters has been prepared by a most painful sacrifice of happiness on the part of the writer. Convinced that it is my duty publicly to dissent from some doctrines upon which the Orthodox seem to consider themselves as incapable of mistake (else they would not treat those that deny them as guilty of something worse than an error of judgment), I perceived the necessity and submitted to the pain of quitting the domestic society of a family, whose members shewed me an affection seldom bestowed but upon a near relative, and whom I love with all the tenderness and warmth of a heart which nature has not made either cold or insensible to kindness.
It is not my intention to court the sympathy of the public on the score of what I have had to endure on this occasion. I will not complain; though this is certainly the second time that ORTHODOXY has reduced me to the alternative of dissembling, or renouncing my best external means of happiness. But I humbly thank God, that the love of honesty and veracity which He implanted in my soul, has been strengthened, constantly and visibly, from the moment that, following its impulse, I quitted my native country. From that time to the present-a period of five-and-twenty years—every day seems to have made me more and more obedient to the principle, not to deceive either by word or deed. To countenance externally the profession of what internally I am convinced to be injurious to the preservation and further spread of Christ's true Gospel, would be a conduct deserying bitter remorse and utter self-contempt.
It has been urged by persons whom I believe incapable of recommending dissimulation, and who have besides expressly acknowledged to me the duty of obeying conscience, that the step I had resolved to take would destroy what, in the language of partial affection, they called my former usefulness. I can easily explain to myself this suggestion, from the nature of that religious belief which, being chiefly, or in a great degree, supported by fear of a great sin, supposed to be attached to certain heresies (as they are called), prevents even the ablest men from going through a free and impartial examination of those subjects. As if it were incredible that any reasonable man could give his assent to such theological views, my excellent and kind advisers seem to have believed me under some mental delusion; else they would not have urged motives which ought not to have the least weight against conviction.
Unconscious, however, as I am of any thing like delusion, but, on the contrary, enjoying the full and calm satisfaction which air evidence, long resisted by mere FEELING, is apt to produce when the mind honestly surrenders itself to its power, I feel no anxiety about consequences. I commit my past services in the cause of Truth (whatever they may be) to the care of that Providence, which, if in fact I have been useful, must have employed me, though a humble instrument. Of consequences we are very incompetent judges : on principles alone can we depend with confidence and certainty. If the consideration of usefulness could be allowed in my case, SPAIN, my native country, would long, long since, have had my services. But dissembling, whether in deference to Transubstantiation or the Athanasian Creed, is equally hateful to me.
Yet, why any real good of which I may have been the occasion should be destroyed by a fresh proof of my love of honesty and fair dealing, is what I cannot conceive. If any thing could invalidate or weaken the force of my testimony in regard to the
corruptions of Popery, it would be my silence in favour of what I deem other corruptions. The great Chillingworth would have added weight to his unrivalled works, if he had not permitted his subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles to remain in full force, when neither his judgment could approve of it nor his natural honesty conceal his change. As to myself, I have not enjoyed any of the temporal advantages of Orthodoxy; and it is well attested, that, at a time when I might conscientiously have taken preferment, I solemnly resolved never to accept it. But, having subscribed to the Articles for the mere purpose of qualifying myself for the occasional performance of clerical duties, I feel bound modestly to recall that subscription before my death ; and to declare that I am satisfactorily convinced, not only that the DOCTRINE OF The TRINITY is not scriptural, but also that the whole Patristical theology, which makes up the greatest part of the Thirty-nine Articles, consists of groundless speculations which could never have obtained currency among Christians without the aid of a false philosophy. I profess Christianity as a UNITARIAN; acknowledging One GOD IN One Person, and Jesus of Nazareth as my guide to His Father and my father, His God and my God.
In announcing such changes of views, it is usual to state how they have taken place. To describe, however, the circumstances of my case fully, would require a work much larger than the Tract which affords me the opportunity of making my sentiments known. Such an undertaking is quite beyond my present strength. How long, how earnestly, and I may add (for who except God can know it better than myself?) how conscientiously, I have examined the whole Patristical theology, of which the Articles of the Church of England are a summary, will be known, in detail, when the SKETCH OF MY MIND IN ENGLAND may happen to see the light. Out of respect, however, to such persons as may take an interest in the subject, I will mention-(1) That