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tion of tho peril they run; we entreat those who have sought this as a refuge from superstition, to leave it for the stronghold of a scriptural faith; and shall we, because we cannot join in heaping opprobrious terms upon the unbeliever, or in pursuing him with maledictions, be accused of secret agreement with him? Our language is, “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved ” but the name of Jesus Christ; can the most unscrupulous ingenuity pervert this language into a symbol of unbelief?
As Unitarian Christians, we differ from Trinitarians of every communion-in our doctrine concerning God. We adopt no such expressions as “Triune God," "blessed and holy Trinity,” “three persons in one God.” We find no such expressions in the Bible. There, as I have said, we read only of the divine unity. We do not meet with a line or a word which represents Christ as sharing supreme deity with the Father. We do not read of a double nature in him, which enabled him to equivocate without a sacrifice of truth;—a moral and literal impossibility, is it not? We say with all confidence that the doctrine of the Trinity is either unintelligible or self-contradictory, and that in either case it cannot be a subject of revelation. We do not hesitate to pronounce it injurious in its effects upon devotion, and pernicious in its connexion with morality. We trace its history back to the admixture of an impure philosophy with the primitive faith of the church. And when we are reminded that it is now included in the faith of nearly all Christendom, we answer,-first, that if the truth of opinions be determined by majorities, Christianity must cower before Paganism, and Protestantism humble itself before the majesty of Rome;
- and secondly, that the variety of explanations which have been given by the advocates of this tenet is a sufficient proof that the majority of the Christian church are not agreed in any interpretation, and since we cannot find it in the Bible, we must at least defer a belief in it till they who esteem it so important have decided what it is which they wish us to believe.
As Unitarian Christians, wo differ from all of the Presbyterian or Congregational name who adopt Calvinistic standards of faith-in our doctrine concerning man. We look upon him as fallen from his state of primeval innocence. Observation and consciousness tell us that he is corrupt. But not by nature. We cannot shut our eyes on human depravity, but we can believe neither in natural nor in total depravity. If man comes into life with a nature wholly inclined to evil, where is his guilt in obeying the necessity under which he is placed of doing evil? As soon should I think of charging guilt on the mountains whose bleak sides are, by the ordinance of the Creator, smitten with the desolation of an almost perpetual winter, because they do not exhibit the verdure of early spring. If man can only choose and commit sin, where is his freedom, or where bis respousibleness? What folly to speak to him of duty! What injustice to pass upon him a sentence of condemnation! I care not for nice distinctions between natural and moral inability. Inability is inability, and what a man cannot do, it is worse than idle to require him to do. If the dogma of natural depravity be opposed to common sense, the idea of total depravity is irreconcilable with facts. There is not a being on earth wholly depraved-without any good in him. Nero, demon as he was, had some humanity left. Vitellius, beast as he was, could not drown his whole nature in sensuality. Neither the cannibalism of New Zealand nor the horrors of the French Revolution reveal to us unmitigated atrocity. In the worst men there are secret qualities that need only the riglit sort of collision with circumstances to bring them out to our admiration, as from the hard and black flint sparks of light may bo struck by proper means.
Man is a sinner-call him so, be he clothed with purple or beg in rags; and sin is spiritual suicide, by slower or quicker methods—so describe it, whether before Herod in his palace, or the Pharisee in the temple, or the most abandoned profligate in the foulest den of iniquity. Call them all to repent, alike by the mercies and the terrors of the Lord. “Cry aloud, spare not,” and prove yourself faithful as a minister of God to guilty mortals. But say not that man is only vile. Commit not that sacrilege, for it is God's work which you abuse. See in that wreck of humanity, as in a noble ship which the waves have swept till it looks only like a worthless hulk, much which is sound enough even to authorize the hope that it may be restored to its former bearing. The sinner is a man, and in that title, if he have not the pledge of his redemption, he has—what for a free and accountable being is better--the proof of its possibility.
As Unitarian Christians, we differ from the self-styled Orthodox of this and other lands—in our doctrine concerning the atonement. We believe in an atonement and in the atonement; in an atonement needed by every sinner, by which he shall be reconciled to God, and in the atonement of which Christ is the instrument, by bringing the sinner to God, that he may be forgiven and justified. Nay, more; we believe that the atonement was the great object of Christ's mission, even as he said, “the Son of inan is come to seek and to save that which was lost," and that in this purpose we find the solution of the mystery which overhangs bis cross. But we cannot and we thank God that we do not-believe in a vicarious atonement which would subvert our notions of justice, and teach us to look upon the heavenly Father as an infinite despot. We must use strong language on this point. We reject with abhorrence a doctrine which despoils the divine character of its glory, and takes from the divine law its most urgent sanctions. We can call that a gracious providence which hides instruction beneath chastisement, but we cannot call that a revelation of grace which shows us the sovereign of the universo refusing forgiveness to contrito offenders except on conditions which they are utterly unable to fulfil, yet which are held to be fulfilled by a technical evasion that would be sanctioned by no court of justice in the civilized world. Our doctrine of the atonement is a doctrine of parental love; the popular doctrine of the atonement, if it were not connected with the divine name, we should describe as a doctrine of cunning tyranny. Such, I am constrained to say, painful as is the association, is the light under which it seems to me to present the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I know that this dogma is set forth as the sinner's only ground of hope. Strange affirmation! And yet stranger blindness, that cannot see the invitation of a free mercy illuminating every page of the New Testament. Mercy! oh, how much needed by man, how freely erercised by God! Let not the condition of man be mistaken by thọ sinner, let not the character of God be misrepresented by the theologian.
As Unitarian Christians, we differ from members of the Roman Catholic communion-in our doctrine respecting authority in matters of religion. The principle towards which all the ideas of the Roman Catholic gravitate, is the Church. It is to this that he adheres with most tenacity, for in giving up this, he thinks he gives up everything. As he reduces this principle to practice, he makes the church the infallible interpreter of Scripture, and expounder of truth. The church is the ultimate authority, whom it is fatal sin to disoboy or mistrust. Heresy, therefore (which is only dissent from the church), becomes impiety, and may be punished as spiritual treason. Now, we believe in the church; but it is the church of the saints who are compacted into one body" by that which every joint supplieth," and not the hierarchy, who are only members in the body. We believe in no infallibility residing on earth, because we say-making a statement in moral arithmetic, which any child can understand—that no aggregation of fallible judgments can make an infallible guide. We protest against this claim of the Romish church. It is her cardinal vice. We might bear with her other errors ; but this assumption of the attributes of the Most High, with all the terrible consequences which it involves, we may not regard even with patience. It invades the sanctuary of man's freedom, and scales the throne of God's sovereignty. It has but one word to express the conditions of eternal life; and that is,-submit-submit to the church in its interpretation of truth, and its declaration of duty. This, with God's grace, we will never do. We will submit, not to the Church, but to him who is the Head of the Church, and the only spiritual Head whom its members should acknowledge. Christ has called us to liberty, not to bondage. He has taught us what to believe, and on us lies the responsibleness of construing his instructions in their right sense. We can let no man, nor body of men, frame a creed for us. It is not the We per
right of private judgment alone, which we defend. It is the duty of privato judgment, which we dare not neglect. We must think and read for ourselves. If we mistake the meaning of the written word, on our souls will lie the peril. It is a fearful responsibleness which is committed to us. We know this—we hope we feel it. If we suffer ourselves to be warped by passion or prejudice, by self-will or selfinterest, we shall stand condemned. But if we use no means of ascertaining “ the mind of the spirit,” except as we passively yield to others' dictation, we shall incur still heavier guilt. We are the Lord's freemen, and how can we be called loyal to him so long as we enter into voluntary servitude to any other master ?
As Unitarian Christians, we differ from the adherents of the episcopal church-in our doctrine concerning the ministry. We are far from denying the need of a separate order of men, who shall give themselves to study and preaching, that they may be able to convince the gainsayer, and instruct and exhort the believer. ceive that such a class as the clergy are demanded by the situation of the church in the midst of the world, as well as by its internal wants; and we doubt not that the ministry was intended by Christ to be perpetual. But we look with no respect on the claims which are advanced in behalf of the clergy of a particular church over other ministers. We find it difficult to express our amazement at the effrontery of a church, which, itself a fragment of the universal church, and a secession from a larger fragment, presumes to consider the ministers of other portions as intruders into the sacred office. It would be ridiculous, if it were not insolent. We do not call in question the claims of the English church to the admiration of its members ; for if they find in its liturgy or discipline what enkindles their admiration, we would not let our preference for a simpler worship lead us to forget the original diversity of mental wants ; but to admit her argument, drawn from Scripture in favour of the three orders, or her argument, not drawn from Scripture, nor from any other source except fancy, in favour of the apostolical succession, is what we cannot do without surrendering our common sense.
As Unitarian Christians, we differ from the Baptist denomination in our doctrine concerning ordinances. The ordinances we value. They are beautiful symbols and efficacious means. We prize them, and use them. But we would be slow rather than eager to exaggerate their importance. And we cannot easily understand the delusion which causes intelligent and excellent people to raise the mere form of a form, a mothod of a means, into a condition of church fellowship. We should as soon think of making an exact agreement in pronunciation indispensable to the interchange of kind offices on a journey. It is not sufficient to say, that compliance with the letter of the Master's direction, is of the first importance; because, to pass over the question whether the words of Scripture must bear the construction which is put upon them by the members of this denomination, it shows a grievous misapprehension of the genius of our religion and the mind of its Founder, to care more for the letter than for the spirit of his teaching. It might be difficult to determine which makes the greater mistake in his use of Scripture, the literalist or the allegorizer.
As Unitarian Christians, we differ from the Methodist Connexion -in our doctrine concerning religious excitement. We do not decry all excitement. On the contrary, we preach that men should be interested in religion as in everything else of moment, and that they should be more interested in this than in anything else, because this is supremely important. We like earnestness and fervour in religion, if they be held under the restraint of principle and propriety. Perhaps we have not as much of these qualities as it is desirable we should have. Our aversion to one extreme may have driven us towards the other. But we cannot admit that religion consists in excitement, nor that its best beginning is made in a tempest of feeling. We do not believe that God takes the soul by storm. A change of heart is not the work of an hour, as you may change the course of a stream by digging across a belt of ground which has turned its waters from a straight channel. Rather as the torrent which has been dashing down the hills, and exhibiting the wildest disorder in its descent, gradually subsides into the stream which flows quietly in a broader and deeper current through the fields, so the impetuous and disorderly passions are gradually subdued into a tranquil and useful character. We doubt the value of those occasions of which so much use is made, to convert the sinner by the force of sympathy. Regeneration, as we understand it, is a secret work, and often of slow growth, though its results be great and manifest. We dislike mechanical methods, as we distrust stereotyped evidences of religiga
Az Unitarian Christians, we differ from the Universalist body-in our doctrine concerning retribution. They agree with us in regard to the supremacy and sole deity of the Father; and many, doubtless, believe that the effects of transgression will extend beyond this life. But a still larger humber, probably, hold that sin entails no consequences after death, while all who adopt this name find the peculiar glory of the gospel in the promise of a final restoration of all men to virtue and happiness. Now, while there are different shades of opinion among us as to the future state of the wicked, no one, I
presunne, would adduce the ultimate salvation of the whole human race as the great revelation of Christianity, and all of us would reject any statement of belief which excluded the idea of future retribution. To us the doctrine which limits the consequences of a sinful life to our present existence, appears equally unphilosophical and unscriptural.