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^^^ mm . Trinitarian Controversy at Exeter , ( Concluded from p . 525 . ) MR . STOGDON , having been invited by a congregation to settle among them , wished to be ordained when the assembly should
meet , in September 1717 , before he entered on the pastoral charge . This being known to the orthodox party , so much intolerance was exhibited , that it was deemed desirable , for the sake of pe-i * e , to abandon the design ; but Mfwrs . HaJletr , Withers , - * nd
Peirce , highly appreciating his talents and his character , gave him a written testimonial of their good opinion , — a proceeding which excited the ** hot displeasure" of the " sound in faith , " th ^ t they should venture to speak well of a man so deeply tainted with heresv .
Heresy , however , continued to make rapid and " dangerous progress , " and at a meeting summoned bv the Orthodo * , in January 1718 , it was determined that a deputation should be sent to the ministers of Exeter , requesting them to preach 4 € in defence of \ he eternity of Jesus Christ . " When
these ambassadors waited on Mr . Peirce , he told them that he believed in the eternity of Christ , but they answered , that he was required to acknowledge that 1 hrist was self-existent and selforiginated . On which he asked , if they would have him add that he was
unbegotten too ? They replied , that he wanted to entrap them , and that they did not care to reason further . However , our reformers did so far comply with the wishes of the meeting as to express their belief publicly in the eternity of our Lord j but as they chose to respect the consciences of otheTs , and dealt out no damnation on
those who differed from them , they were accused of not daring to be *• clear , open and strenuous in their opposition / 1 Mr . Peirce , indeed , went further : he boldly proclaimed his right , and the right of all men , to think for themselves in the spirit of unfettered liberty :-
—" This liberty let others tamely give up as ttiey please ; I do , and will insist upon . it for myself , as a reasonable creature , a Christian , a Protestant , and a Dissenter . As 1 pretend not to impose on others , so nor will 1 be imposed
upon by others . No king , no parliament , no church , no council , no synod , no minister or body of ministers , shall be acknowledged by me to have any power or rightful authority over me . They may depiive me of my civil liberty , of my estate , or of my life , but this liberty , by the grace of God , they never shall deprive me of , to think and speak of the matters of God and of religion only in that manner in which 1 apprehend they are spoken of in the Holy Scriptures by God himself . Tell me not whai Athanasius or Arius
—what the Council of Nice or Rimini have said ^ but what Christ and Peter , and Paul , James and John , have said . / call no man master upon earth . " And afterwards most earnestly , most pathetically , does he implore his hearers , ' by the mercies of God , and the
gentleness of Christ , " to cultivate a spirit of candour and kindness and generous feeling , thus emphatically concluding , ' * This has been my course , and in the integrity of my heart I recommend it
to you all . And now , whether you will hear , or whether you wiUforbear , I take God , —and now also I take your own consciences , to record , that I have honestly and faithfully delivered my whole soul . "
A temporary calm succeeded ; bu measures were taken by the Orthodo : to make the period of the assembly i the following September , the momen for" purging the chu rch 1 1 of the heresie which had been introduced . Unknowi
to the individuals most nearl y concerned , advices were sent to London , and a meeting of ministers was called there to condemn the errors respecting the Trinity , which were making such progress in the West ; and it was also determined th ; it a subscription should
be required from all the ministers at the lixeter assembly , to the first article of the Church of England . In the mean time ( to keep up an appearance of liberality ) Mr . Peirce and Mr . Withers were requested to meet Mr . Ball and Mr . Walrond , * to " consult upon
* These two ministers , the first of IJoniton , the second of Oitery , had afterwards , with five others , the honour of being * fixed on to be the immediate instruments of the ejection of the Exeter ministers—a business for which their fiery intolerance well fitted
( 580 )
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Oct. 2, 1817, page 580, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2469/page/8/