« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
holy temper and character, and manifest a willingness even to lay down his life in defence of his religious faith, my conscience compels me to grant him the Christian name, although he rejects some of the most precious articles of my belief. And if the conscience of the orthodox does not move them to perform this act of justice towards their liberal brethren ; if it does not require them to do unto others as they would have others do unto them, no reasoning can ever induce them to perform this duty, or convince them of this error. Have not unitarians the same Scriptural right, and as much reason, to deny the Christian name to the orthodox denomination?
2. The Orthodox deny Unitarians the Christian Character. Look at those passages in which orthodox writers have denied unitarians the Christian character, and endeavoured to make the community believe they were irreligious and immoral in their lives. My first quotation shall be from the sermon of your friend, Dr. Beecher, at Worcester. " It requires no proof, but universal observation, to support the position, that the irreligious, immoral, and voluptuous part of the community prefer the liberal system, and are vehement in their opposition to the evangelical system. If this assertion needs confirmation, assemble the pleasure-loving and licentious community of the world; the patrons of balls, and theatres, and masquerades; and if they support the preaching of any systein of doctrines, is it not substantially the liberal system ? " When the Reverend Doctor wrote this paragraph, he probably forgot, that several of the orthodox cities in our country support more than four times as many theatres, and balls, and masquerades, as the unitarian city of Boston; and that the state of morals in this liberal city, according to its population, is very much superior to that of any of the large evangelical cities in the union.
My next quotation shall be from “ The Spirit of the Pilgrims.” “Unitarianism, as a system, is very agreeable to the natural, unhumbled heart, is specially adapted to the tastes and inclinations of the gay, thoughtless, and fashionable world, denying them no liberties or gratifications which come any where within the bounds of decency, while it quiets their consciences with the name and forms of religion, and allays the fear of death by promising happiness beyond the grave; and it will not be thought strange, with all this variety of adaptation, preparation, and influence, that a considerable number of individuals and churches were secretly, and, it may be, almost imperceptibly, CORRUPTED.” Now I was not before aware that most of our civil fathers were such vile, corrupted characters. One of your writers has been looking over the Registers for several of the last years, and he is astonished to find that almost all our public officers have belonged to the liberal party. And he sums up the result of his investigations in this sentence: “And more than nine tenths of the political influence is in the hands of the unitarians.” I rejoice in the orthodox authority for this fact, for two reasons. First, every man can look to our public men, and determine if the nine unitarians are wicked characters, while the one orthodox is the only godly officer. And, secondly, persons at a distance will readily conclude, that the wisest, ablest, and best men are elected to office in Massachusetts ; and accordingly determine that unitarians sustain the fairest reputation in the land.
My two last quotations shall be, one from the “ Recorder," and the other from “ The Spirit of the Pilgrims.” “By his writings for ten years past, Dr. Channing has taken the lead among the eneinies of the orthodox; and who are the enemies of the orthodox? Why, every infidel, and disorganizer, and sabbath-breaker, and debauchee, and gambler, and every haunter of grog-shops and theatres in the land. The orthodox are honored with the uniform and unrelenting hatred of all the haters of good order, the haters of virtue, the haters of God.” What, my dear Sir, Dr. Channing at the head of a party which includes all these vile characters ? and is this the way to answer his arguments? And now for the passage from “ The Spirit of the Pilgrims.” “We cannot contemplate the career of Dr. Channing but with extreme pain. He was once a very serious-minded man, a professed believer in what we deem the religion of the Bible. But of this faith he has made shipwreck, and has been among the first to let in that flood of infidelity, which, under a fashionable name, has swept over the altars of New England. When licentiousness has reached its height in our land, and a jubilee is proclaimed to those in the upper classes of society who have hitherto been withheld by public opinion from an open renunciation of the sabbath, Dr. Channing will be referred to as the gifted mind, who, with commendable caution, first unloosed the yoke of a superstitious observance. May it appear in the judgment that he fled at last to that cross as his only hope, and that he did not go into eternity till the blood shed for the remission of sins was applied to his soul, and his peace was made with God through the atonement of his Son.” Such language can excite nothing but pity for the writer in the mind of every decent person of any denomination. It is not in the power of man to produce stronger evidence of the weakness of the orthodox cause, and the wickedness of orthodox writers in thus judging the hearts of their brethren.
Now if the members of your denomination were free from failings, imperfections, and sins, you would have some excuse for thus passing upon your fellow Christians sentence of condemnation. But you cannot justly lay claim to any such exemptions; and although it does not become me to speak of the external conduct and character of the orthodox, I may quote a few lines from an article in the last American Quarterly Review, written by a Christian who rejects unitarianism, and who has had much opportunity for observation. “ Admitting that there are pure and bright examples of a good life among the terrorists,
not however more or better than are found among their opponents; if we look at them individually, we shall see them, generally, as devoted to worldly wealth and enjoyments; as solicitous for distinction and influence; as easily and happily puffed up with pride and conceit; and as mere creatures of flesh, as those they pity or spurn, because, forsooth, their pretensions to sanctity are not so lofty, or their notions of Christianity so mysterious, as their own; nor their observances and deportment squared by the rule they have adopted. They are as impatient of injuries; as vindictive in their passions ; as unforgiving in their temper; as keen, close, and avaricious in their dealings; as hard creditors ; as inflexible and unpitying in exacting their rights." Will any man in your party dare to affirm that this is not the literal truth? When you or any one of your friends can feel that you are without sin, then will it be time enough to condemn a large, and respectable, and virtuous denomination as irreligious, immoral, and unchristian. Remember that unitarians have the same right and as much reason to deny the Christian character to the orthodox denomination.
3. The Orthodox assert that Unitarian Ministers are not Ministers of the Gospel. Look at those passages in which orthodox bodies have declared that unitarian preachers were not ministers of the gospel. One extract will be sufficient in this case ; more especially, since it contains the opinion of a numerous body of orthodox clergy and delegates. “In the present state of our country, whilst unitarian errors, in various forms, are making their insidious approaches; whilst the advocates of this heresy, in many cases, are practising a system of concealment, and insinuating themselves into the confidence of multitudes who have no suspicion of their defection from the faith; the Assembly feel it to be their duty to speak without reserve. It is the deliberate and unanimous opinion of this Assembly, that those who renounce the fundamental doctrine of the trinity, and deny that Jesus Christ is the same in substance, equal in power and glory, with the Father, cannot be recognised as ministers of the gospel, and that their ministrations are wholly invalid.” Remember that unitarians have the same right and equal reason to deny orthodox preachers to be ministers of the Gospel.
4. The Orthodox assert that Baptism and the Lord's Supper, when administered by Unitarians, are not Christian Ordinances. Look at those passages in which orthodox writers have denied the name of Christian ordinances to baptism and the Supper when celebrated by unitarian Christians. One or two extracts from your friend, Dr. Miller, will be sufficient for my present purpose. “ You are prepared, I hope, to decide, promptly and without wavering, that their ordinances are to be held unworthy of regard as Christian institutions. With respect to the validity of sealing ordinances administered by unitarians, the highest
judicatory of the church to which we belong has given a decision, which ought to be generally known. In the year 1814 a question was laid before the General Assembly, in the following words. A person who had been baptized in his infancy by Dr. Priestley, applied for admission to the Lord's Table. Ought the baptism administered by Dr. Priestley, then a unitarian, to be considered as valid ? The Assembly, after mature deliberation, decided as follows. Resolved, that this question be answered in the negative; and it was accordingly determined in the negative.” I have known several instances of late occurrence, in which the orthodox have rebaptized unitarian church members, and admitted them to their communion only as new converts. Remember that unitarians have the same right and as much reason to deny the validity and Christian appellation of the ordinances administered by orthodox ministers.
5. The Orthodox assert that Unitarians spread their Sentimonts by Concealment. Look at those numerous passages, in which orthodox writers accuse unitarians of spreading their peculiar opinions by concealment. One sentence from “The Spirit of the Pilgrims” will be sufficient for my present purpose. “Unitarianism, it is well known, was introduced and propagated in this country by concealment.” Is this true? For my own part, I am free to confess, that I have never understood the meaning of this charge. Concealment! What do you mean by the term ? Do you mean, that unitarian ministers concealed orthodoxy from their hearers, and thus introduced unitarianism? If so, how do you account for the well known fact, that a large majority of many congregations have embraced unitarianism, to whom their own ministers never preached any thing but rigid orthodoxy, and would permit none but orthodox preachers to officiate in their pulpits ? That such has been the result in many societies in this Commonwealth, you have already received abundant testimony; and that such is the condition of many more parishes over whom exclusive pastors are still settled, you will ere long have still more demonstrative evidence. If then such be your meaning, please to reconcile this notorious truth with your oft repeated accusation. Do you mean, that unitarian ministers concealed unitarianism from their hearers ? Where then did they obtain a knowledge of it? You admit that they have received it, and still believe it true? From the Bible ? And is this a good reason why they should renounce it? Or is it any less valuable because derived from this sacred source ? Are people to believe nothing but what comes from their preachers ? I know your friend Dr. Miller has exhorted all the orthodox to consider the preaching of unitarians as blasphemy, and to avoid their publications as they would a cup of poison. If then this be your meaning, please to reconcile the well known fact, of the general reception of unitarianism by the members of unitarian parishes, with your oft repeated accusation. Do you mean, that unitarian preachers concealed the name of their sentiments, when delivering them to their hearers ? If so, wherein lies the guilt of such a course ? Is truth any less precious because stigmatized by an odious name? Is it a preacher's business to proclaim the party names which have deluged Christendom, and been a principal cause of dividing Christians? And if a parish have embraced true views of the gospel, do you suppose they will be so foolish as to renounce them, because they did not at first know the sectarian title by which they had been christened? If a man finds a guinea, and knows it to be pure gold, but knows not its name, will he cast it from him as worthless, when informed of the appellation by which it is called? If this be your meaning, please to inform us, if this is the estimate you put upon the understandings of your own hearers, and by them proceed to form your opinion of unitarian believers? Do you mean, that unitarian ministers have sincerely endeavoured, according to the best of their judgment, to promote the religious knowledge and spiritual welfare of their hearers? And is not this their duty ? Is it not commanded by Jesus and his Apostles? Have you any authority to dictate to other preachers how they must perform their ministerial services ?
Now, Sir, I wish to know why this charge of concealment against unitarian ministers has been so often reiterated by orthodox writers. Has it not been done to frighten the more ignorant members of our societies, so that you might gain a few proselytes? Remember, Sir, that the orthodox are peculiarly obnoxious to this charge of concealment. One of your pupils made this confession to me after he had been in your seminary two years. “If the orthodox community only knew how very liberal many of us are in certain articles of theology, they would not herr us preach." How long is it, since a public charge was given to orthodox ministers, not to preach the doctrine of election in times of religious excitement? How long since your colleague advised your pupils not to bring forward the doctrine of election too often, on account of the prejudices existing against it in the community ? How long since one of your students, who had been lately ordained, observed that the orthodox did not preach sufficient terror ? And when asked why he did not preach more, answered — “ Because my people will not bear it.” I have more facts on this subject than you may imagine. You must remember that there are men now in the unitarian denomination who were once initiated into all the secrets of the orthodox party. The literal fact is this ; many of your preachers are much more liberal than their hearers imagine, while many others are much more rigid in their sentiments, and they feel obliged to trim their course of ministerial duty, in order to keep their societies united. But, even if this be not blamable (though I certainly wish to pursue no such practice myself), I do find fault, when you proceed to condemn day after day your unitarian brethren for doing precisely the same thing which