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When the Discourse, of which the following pages contain the substance, was delivered, its hearers were repeatedly informed that many additions would be made, before its appearance through the
press. They will not, therefore, be surprised at its altered form. I am not aware of having advanced, on the occasion alluded to, any thing in the pulpit which is not now placed, before the public, in a stronger light; while much that could not, with propriety, have been introduced in an oral address, is here brought forward.
My principal aim, in the composition of this Discourse, has been, to make the great elements of the momentous question, on which believers in the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and those who call themselves Unitarians, differ, intelligible (as far as that question depends upon critical and philological investigation) to the unlearned. That such an end might be accomplished, I had the authority of some of the greatest Biblical Scholars for believing; that, in the present case, it has not been, altogether unsuccessfully attempted, the deep attention with which this discourse was heard by an immense multitude, leads me to hope.
It would, indeed, be strange and discouraging, if refined and erudite attacks upon the truth should command attention, and if its defence, conducted upon the same plan, were incapable of producing any effect.
I am not sure, nevertheless, that it would have occurred to me, unless I had been solicited by the highly valued friend, in whose Church this Lecture was delivered, that the pulpit was the most suitable channel through which, systematic information upon these matters, should be communicated. Having, however, yielded to his solicitation, it was my business to make the subject
as popular and interesting as I could. I regret not that I made the experiment.
At the same time, it has been my care to advance nothing, which will not bear the severe scrutiny of the learned. Many learned men were among my hearers; more will be among my readers. I respectfully appeal to them, to pronounce their decision as to the accuracy of the statements, and the soundness of the criticisms, which I have advanced.
And here would have closed all introductory remarks, had I not seen the notes to the sermon, recently preached, by the Rev. James Martineau, entitled "The Bible : what it is, and what it is not."
In these notes, Mr. Martineau takes unexpected notice of my Discourse ; and it would hardly be consistent with courtesy to him, and justice to myself, not to acknowledge it. In this acknowledgment, however, I must of necessity be brief.
I did not know, until Mr. Martineau gave me the information, in these notes, that there were so much, on an average, as two variations in a page,” in the Improved Version, "from Archbishop Newcome.” I desire to express my thanks to him for having made the calculation. But, grossly perverted as, I believe, I have proved the translated text of that Version to be, my charge is against it as a whole, but principally against the notes rith which the Archbishop, being in his grave, had nothing to do. Will Mr. Martineau, however, kindly make another calculation for me; and discover how many of these variations regarded matters of Unitarian Interpretation ; under the stern influence of which the Editors were compelled to part company with the learned Prelate ?
That my audience was illiterate,” if it be true, was no fault of mine. I have reason to believe, however, that more of the educated, scientific, and learned inhabitants of this great community, together with others of the same classes, from distant places, were assembled, than is ordinary on such occasions. My case was before them ; it is now before the public at large.
But, be this as it may, the fewness of the passages upon which
remarks were offered, has nothing at all to do with the matter. The necessity of the case, in an oral discourse, prohibited the introduction of a great number; and the nature of the subject did not require it.
My respected opponent knows as well as I do, that defective scholarship may be proved, from the mode of dealing with a single page, or a single sentence; and that dishonest criticism, as well as dishonesty of every kind, consists not in the number of the acts which are perpetrated, but in the unprincipled disposition which led to the perpetration.
The passages, however, which, even in this first part of the discourse, are either incidentally touched upon, or directly discussed, are not so very few. And I should have a low opinion of that man's head, or a bad opinion of his heart, who, after examining the evidence adduced in connexion with them, could defend the Improved Version. Neither opinion do I entertain of Mr. Martineau ; and he affords me the satisfaction of knowing, that I am correct in my estimate of him, as a scholar and a man, by allowing, in these very notes, the substantial truth of all the charges I have brought against this monstrous production. Whether or no, it be authority with Unitarians, is, I admit, another question.
In connexion with this question, which has been sufficiently discussed in the Discourse itself, Mr. Martineau charges me with making a “rash” and “imprudent” statement. I am not aware that my statement deserves to have either of these epithets coupled with it. After careful consideration, I maintain it still. It is no answer, that a Unitarian Minister “may never see the Improved Version.” I was speaking of the Ministers who subscribed to the Society instituted for its circulation. It is no answer, again, to allege the case of American Unitarians. I was speaking of the Unitarian Ministers of ENGLAND, and to the character of Unitarian Theology, as developed in this country, all my observations were directed.
The case, which my respected opponent puts, of a Clergyman subscribing to the Bible Society, and thereby becoming
accountable "for the forgery of the Heavenly Witnesses," fails in every point necessary to constitute real parallelism.
The evidence, upon which that text is condemned, is of a very different character from that which is arrayed against the Improved Version.
To Mr. Martineau and myself, indeed, that evidence is satisfactory; and we give the passage up, but there are others, to whom neither of us would deny the title of being competent judges, who, nevertheless, think it a part of the Inspired Word.
Again : the authorized Version does not profess to be a systematic Interpretation. It is not, in one word a Creed, and an Exposition. It is only a literal translation, without note or comment.
The true parallelism would stand thus :-If a Society, calling itself, THE TRINITARIAN SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, were to publish an IMPROVED VERSION of the Scriptures, with a text corrected upon the principles of Trinitarian “ Theological" criticism and conjecture; if this Version not only retained the verse for the Three Heavenly Witnesses, and the other questionable passages, at the same time, giving no notice that their authenticity had ever been doubted; if, moreover, the Trinitarian Editors expunged as many texts as they could, which seemed to wear an Anti-Trinitarian aspect, explaining away or obscuring the rest, sometimes violating, to gain their end, the very conditions by which they professed to be regulated ; at others, advancing self-contradictory statements upon the most essential differences between Unitarians and themselves; and, at all times, betraying a wakeful anxiety to avail themselves of the slightest advantage in their favour ; attributing to Trinitarian authors, exclusively, the title of enlightened Theologians :-if, I say, such a Society existed, and were to publish such a book, to say that every Trinitarian Minister, who subscribed to its circulation, being a member of the Society, was not, in foro conscientia, and before the public, bound by it as the standard of his Interpretation of the Scriptures, would be little less than PITIFUL EVASION