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were obnoxious, were kept out of view till the last lecture which he delivered, in which he unfolded, without disguise, his Socinian heresies. Some of the clergy of the city occasionally heard these lectures.
He formed an acquaintance with Dr. Ewing, and on one sabbath went with him to his church in Market street. The doctor introduced Priestley into his pew, without giving him an invitation into his pulpit, as was his custom,
with those gentlemen whom he recognized as brethren in the ministry. The preachers too attacked, with great faithfulness, the heresies which Priestley was endeavouring to disseminate. He and his Socinian brethren were greatly offended with these insults, as they called them, and with the opposition. made to his creed. They represented him as a persecuted apostle. Little did they consider that he was endeavouring to destroy every thing, which the great body of Christians, from the begioning of the world, had held most sacred, that he was attempting to pluck the crown from the head of the Messiah, whom they adored, and to wrest from them all those hopes of salvation, which were founded upon his atoning sacrifice. Though much respect was shewn to the philosophical foreigner as a man of science, in both New York and Philadelphia, yet as his heresies rendered his very name unsavory to nearly all Christians, his situation was far from being comfortable. He indeed professed no anxiety to disseminate his principles, but as we learn from his life, and from some of his letters published since his death, it was the governing principle of all his actions, after he came to America. Among the common people he made little progress, but they were not the persons whom he was chiefly solicitous to gain over in the first instance. His object was the great. Among the distinguished persons with whom he became intimate was Mr. John Adams, at that time vicepresident of the United States; who was his constant hearer while in Philadelphia,* and who it is said received the sacrament at his hands. Mr. Adams was no doubt honest in his preference of Dr. Priestley's ministry; on account of the
Priestley's Life, Vol. II. p. 760.
creed which he held. Long before that period he was called an Arminian. Though we have no decisive testimony that Mr. Adams became a convert to the Socinian creed, yet from the honesty of his character, and the preference which he gave to Priestley's ministry, hardly a shadow of doubt exists that he did. In 1796, the first volume of Priestley's Evidences of revealed religion was published, and dedicated to the vice-president. To proselyte a president was in his view almost to convert a nation. In 1797, Mr. Adams was inaugurated president of the United States; and thus there is good reason to believe that the creed of Socinus was elevated to the highest official rank in the republic.
An offer was made to Dr. Priestley in the University of Pennsylvania, which he refused to accept, and settled in the town of Northumberland; from which he corresponded with the president.
Soon after Mr. Adams's elevation to the presidential chair, there was a commissioner to be appointed to Great Britain for the settlement of some important concerns. Before that time Thomas Cooper, Esq., Dr. Priestley's friend, had arrived from Europe. Mr. Cooper was his theological disciple and of the same political creed. Priestley wrote to President Adams, a letter, recommending Cooper as a fit person to be appointed on the embassy to England. The president with some temper, rejected the proposition, declaring that there were Americans capable of filling such stations. Dr. Priestley now perceived that Mr. Adams did not suit his purpose; that many acts of his administration were obnoxious to the people; that Pennsylvania was a pow. erful state, whose weight thrown into an opposite scale, would probably change the administration; and that he could perhaps produce more effect upon a person of another character, at the head of the government. He took his measures accordingly. A newspaper was established at Northumberland, under the patronage of Dr. Priestley and the friend on whose behalf he had made application. Many circumstances relative to this establishment and its editor were not very honourable to the doctor and his friend. In
this paper Dr. Priestley published several addresses to the people of Northumberland, * and in relation to the political state of the country. These addresses and numerous other articles from his pen, and that of Mr. Cooper, were published, not only in Northumberland, but circulated, by other papers, over the whole state, and produced very great ef. fect on the election of an opposition governor in Peon. sylvania; by which the whole weight of Pennsylvania was thrown into the scale in favour of Mr. Jefferson. He supplanted Mr. Adams. Though there were various other causes operating to produce this great political change, yet without the aid of Dr. Priestley and that of his friends' agency in Pennsylvania it is probable they would all have been ineffectual. Thus that Redeemer who governs the nations, made the very man, whom Mr. Adams had countenanced in his opposition to Messiah's divinity, one of the principal instruments of degrading him from the high station to which he had been elevated.
Priestley had great hopes of proselyting Mr. Jefferson to the faith of Socinus. He sent him a copy of his Comparison between Jesus Christ and Socrates, and received in return a complimentary letter from the president, who says he read the Comparison with great pleasure, and that he himself had promised Dr. Rush, in 1798-9, to write him a letter giving his views of the system of Jesus,-in which view, he says, he should have compared the system of Jesus with those of Pythagoras, Epictetus, &c. He says the view which he had proposed to take," would purposely omit the question of his" (Christ's) “ divinity, and even of his inspiration. To do him” (Christ) “justice it would be necessary to remark the difficulties, which his doctrines have to encounter, not having been committed to writing by himself, but by the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him, when much was forgotten, much misunderstood, and presented in parodoxical
• Life of Priestley, vol. I. p. 201, 2, 3, 4.
shapes."* He thus gives his decision on the subject of inspiration and avows himself a deist. Priestley in a letter to Lindsey, at that time one of the most distinguished Unitarians, or Socinians, of England, speaks thus of Mr. Jefferson. “ He,” Mr. Jefferson, " is generally considered an unbeliever. If so, however, he cannot be far from us, and I hope in the way to be not only almost, but altogether what we are." This is a strange confession for one, who had written so much against deism. Priestley considered deists as very nearly related to Socinians. Instead of a Socinian, Dr. Priestley had now the pleasure of seeing a reputed, and no doubt a really unbelieving president, who was still not far from him, at the head of the government of the United States.
Though this apostle of Socinianism had been one of the principal instruments of Mr. Adams's degradation from office, the effects of his intercourse with that gentleman did not cease to operate. The way had been paved in the north, for the introduction of Priestley's heresies into that section of the union. Very few indeed of the northern Arminians had proceeded so far before Priestley's arrival in America as to embrace the Arian or Socinian creed. There was one church in Boston, King's Chapel, under the care of Mr. Freeman, who as early as 1786, had, not without much opposition, introduced into his charge a liturgy modelled upon the unitarian plan; but it was not until 1801, that this liturgy was printed. This congregation was of the episcopal church, which, to their honour, refused to ordain Mr. Freeman to the ministry, on account of his heresy. In 1792, there was a small society of unitarians formed in the district of Maine, but it did not succeed. Soon after, there was one established at Saco, twenty miles from Portland, under the care of Mr. Thatcher, a member of congress. In the southern parts of Massachusetts, about Plymouth, Barnstable, and Bristol,
• Account of American Unitarianism, selected from Belsham's life of Lindsey.
they made some proselytes. There was also a society formed at Aldenbarneveldt, whose preacher was Frederick Adrian Vanderkemp. He was succeeded by a Mr. John Sherman, who, for his heresies, had been degraded from his charge by an association in Connecticut.
Such was the state of things, when Mr. Adams became a hearer of Dr. Priesusy, and probably an entire convert to his creed. It is well known that a president, or a king, poso sesses vast power over the opinions of a nation, especially of those persons with whom he associates. If a president is a Socinian, Socinianism will be popular; if a deist, deism; or if an idolater, idolatry; as was the case among the Israelites. In the United States, the total disseveration of politics from religion as far as human effort can go, renders this effect less visible, and something less in reality. Still the influence of a chief executive magistrate is very great. It must have been so with Mr. Adams, especially in Boston, the capital of his native state, in which his chief political supporters and most intimate friends resided. The books which he received from Dr. Priestley, and those with which Dr. Priestley made him acquainted, must, through his means, have been extensively circulated among his friends in Massachusetts. Mr. Adams was one of the trustees of Harvard university, and no doubt prodigiously accelerated the growth of heresy in that seminary. It is since his presidency, that nearly all the books of the Arians and Socinians have been introduced into the college library. The wealth and influence of the seminary have latterly increased to an alarming extent. Its funds are said to produce with the tuition money forty thousand dollars per annum. They have upwards of twenty professors or teachers constantly em. ployed in the instruction of youth; and more than three hundred pupils. All the officers in the government of the institution except one are said to be unitarian; and there is not one who embraces the creed of the ancient fathers of New England. They are all.gone aside. The principal is of the school of heresy, and there cannot be a doubt that every effort consistent with prudence has been made, and will be