Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dr. Priestley is at the Bottom of the Plan

A Unitarian Founding Era Conspiracy? Yeah, there sorta was.

This letter is from Rev. Jeremiah Leaming to Bishop William White, one of the first Episcopal Bishops in America and the first Bishop of Pennsylvania.

Stratford, June 16th, 1788.

My Rev. and dear Sir :

I have received your kind and obliging letter, dated the 10th of last February, and I should have answered it before this time, but have waited to hear how the affair turned out, after the Convention in Virginia, with Dr. Griffith.

—— As to the affair upon which our correspondence commenced, it appears to me, that the union of the Churches is, at present, a matter that cannot be effected. I was in hopes to see it accomplished soon after your return from England. But you inform me some object, and will have nothing to do with the Scotch Succession. Dr. P-------y is at the bottom of the plan. He has contrived it to make this country all Unitarians; for, to accomplish that, he must demolish the Church in these States. However, if we do not lend him a helping hand, he cannot do it. The Church will never fall, unless it is pulled down by her own members.

Perhaps you will say, you cannot think there is any such scheme on foot. It will not be long before you will find that what I have told you is fact. The Presbyterians are employed by, to fill all the Southern States with their sort of Ministers, before the Church is supplied with Episcopal Clergymen. Where people have no principles about the nature of a Christian Church, a man ordained by the Laity is as good as any. And a man who professes to believe no creed, but only this, that he believes not in any creed, is as good a Christian as any man can be. By this scheme the Unitarian doctrine is to take place. In order to preserve the Church, the members should be vigilant, lest the foundation should be undermined by clandestine enemies. If true Christianity is not preserved by the Episcopal Church, it will soon take its flight from these States, for Unitarians will be the whole.

In order that the common people, members of the Church in this state, might understand the mature of the Christian Church, and some of its leading doctrines, I have lately published a small treatise upon various subjects, a copy of which I now send you. This I should not have presumed to do, if you had not in a familiar manner expressed your desire that I would communicate to you any matters that might turn up with regard to our Church.

If you should, upon the reading of it, approve what I have advanced, I should be glad to know if reprinting of it would be of any advantage to the people of your State, who are under your care, If we desire to preserve the Church, we must acquaint the people for what end the Church was appointed, and what the doctrines of a Christian Church are, in order that they may understand them.

Thus I have expressed my sentiments freely, and perhaps have been too open. But this must be my apology: in love I have done it, and in love I hope it may be received.

I am, with every sentiment of esteem and regard, Right Rev. Sir,

our sincere friend and verv humble Servant,



Tom Van Dyke said...

Interesting. So far it seems mostly a product of rev. leaming's imagination, so I'd like to hear more about what Priestley actually said.

I read this as a movement in Protestantism to evade the established Church---especially the Anglican---by the laity ordaining their own ministers outside of the Church's authority [and the Anglicans still believed in Apostolic Succession, just the popery part].

However, as it turns out, this non-ecclesiastical ordination movement in Protestantism seemed to be taken up by revivalists---Great Awakening types---not itinerant Unitarians.

Jonathan Rowe said...

"I read this..."

Could be.

"[T]his non-ecclesiastical ordination movement in Protestantism seemed to be taken up by revivalists---Great Awakening types---not itinerant Unitarians."

Something that connects the Great Awakening types with Unitarians. If not paying careful enough attention, one would mistakenly conclude -- as David Barton has -- that Jonathan Mayhew and Charles Chauncy were Great Awakeners.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, it also occurs to me that although it came after the era of the letter in question, the

[today's "Church of Christ"] was both [Second] Great Awakening and non-ecclesiastical and non-creedal, just as Leaming feared.