A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Freethinking Christians

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FREETHINKING CHRISTIANS, a name lately adopted by a society which arose in the year 1799, and has ever since regularly assembled in London, calling itself a church of God, founded on the principles of free inquiry. Their first members separated from a congregation of trinitarian dissenters in Parliament Court Chapel, Bishopsgate Street; they rejected the doctrine of the trinity, the atonement, and other points of Calvinism; then the sacraments and the immateriality of the soul; and lastly, the inspiration of the scriptures and public worship; for they have neither singing nor prayer in their assemblies, and regard the bible only as an authentic history.

These freethinking Christians readily admit that since their first assembling as a body, their sentiments have undergone considerable alteration on points of primary importance; but they contend that this is the natural consequence of free inquiry; that men who had heretofore been the slaves of errour, could not but advance in the attainment of truth, after adopting a system which left thought unrestrained, and conscience free' and they are still ready to renounce any opinion, whenever it shall appear to them untenable. In consequence, their public meetings, which are mostly on Sunday forenoons, resemble rather a debating society, than a christian church. The elder opens the meeting by saying the subject for consideration, and at his call, several speakers successively address the meeting. It is not unusual to hear among them a difference of opinion; and they are all prompt to controvert the current doctrines of the christian world, to show their dissent from all sects and parties, and their aversion to the clergy, and to christian ministers of all denominations.

This society was little known till the year 1808, when they advertised their intention of publicly inquiring into the "existence of a being, called the devil." So singular a notice could not fail of drawing a considerable number of persons to their assembly, especially on a Sunday morning. The landlord of the house at which they met, in the Old'Change, alarmed for his personal security, obliged them to remove, and they engaged the large room at the Paul's Head, Cateaton street. Here the magistracy interfered; but as they had taken the precaution to license themselves under the toleration act, nothing could be done legally to restrain them. Since then they have set up a periodical publication under the title of the "Freethinking Christian's Magazine," in which they profess to disseminate christian, moral, and philosophical truth; and they have erected a handsome meeting-house in the crescent behind Jewin Street, Cripplegate, where this weekly assembly, consisting of members and strangers, is said to amount to between four and five hundred persons.

The following appears to be the latest summary of their opinions. "The christian religion," they say, "consists in the worship of one God, eternal and just, and good; and in an obedience to the commands of Jesus, his messenger on earth, who taught the wicked to repent of the errour of their ways, and that God was ever ready to receive them. Forms and ordinances, parade and show, are no parts of his system; but virtue and purity of heart can alone prepare man for a blissful existence beyond the grave; the wisdom and hope of which were furnished by the resurrection of the teacher of their faith, a member of earth, and an heir or immortality."[1]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Freethinking Christian's Mag. The True Design of the Church of God, &c. Evan's Sketch, 13th ed. p. 311, &c.