Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub
[graphic]

Seeing, then, men and brethren,

And seeing,

1. That the points of difference between us are of the very highest possible importance, and not matters of mere theoretical speculation, as some of your writers have striven vainly to make appear ; that, in short, if Unitarians be sound interpreters of Holy Scripture, we Trinitarians are şulty of the most heinous of all sins-idolatry; and if, on the other

hand, Surs be the creed of the apostles, saints, and martyrs, Unitarians are sunk in the most blasphemous and deadly error, and are wholly unworthy of being considered Christians, in any proper sense of the word. 2. That considerable numbers, it is apprehended, especially among the middling and lower classes,who

outwardly profess Unitarian principles, are in total ignorance of the unscriptural nature and dangerous character of those principles. And seeing,

3. That the controversial discussion of disputed points was unquestionably the practice of the apostolic and primitive, as well as of all other ages of religious revival, and is calculated as a means, under the good biessing of Almighty God, to “open men's eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light." We invite and beseech you, by the mercies of God in Christ, to come and give us at least a patient hearing, while we endeavour to persuade you concerning Jesus,” and “ by all means to win some of you.” It is impossible that we can have any base or worldly motive in thus addressing you—any other motive, indeed, besides that which is here avouched, viz., our solemn impression of the value of souls, and of the peril to which the false philosophy of Unitarianism

Surely it is a sweet and a pleasant thing,—a thing not to divide and sever, but to unite and to gather into the bonds of dearest affection—thus to tell and to hear together of the great things which our God has done for our souls ; of His love to us when He, “Who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, did take upon him the form of a servant, and, being found in fashion as a man, did humble himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.”—Phil, ii, 6–8.

It is the intention of my reverend brethren and myself to meet together on the morning of Tuesday, the 5th of February, (the day immediately preceding the commencement of the course,) for the purpose of solemn humiliation before God, and earnest prayer for the blessing of our Heavenly Father,

upon

the work in which we are about to engage, that we may be enabled to exhibit and preserve “ the mind of Christ,"

contending for the faith,” and that we nay have great success in our endeavours to be instrumental in enlightening the eyes which we believe to have been blinded by the god of this world,” and causing the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is THE IMAGE OF God, to shine unto them.”—2 Cor. iv, 4.

And now, men and brethren, humbly and affectionately praying your serious attention to these things, I commend you to the protection and blessing of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I remain your friend and servant in the gospel, for the Lord's sake,

FIELDING OULD,

Minister of Christ Church.

exposes them.

while employed in"

Christ Church, Jan. 21, 1839.

[ocr errors]

Master

.

PETER

To the Rev. Fielding Ould, and the other Clergymen about to lecture on

the Unitarian Controversy in Christ Church.
Reverend Sirs,—A paper has been put into our hands, and an adver-
tisement has appeared in the public journals, containing a “ Syllabus of
a Course of Lectures on the Controversy between the Protestant
Churches and the (so called) Unitarians,” &c. As individual inquirers
after truth, and disciples of Jesus, we deliberately hold the characteristic
doctrines of Unitarian Christianity; and, as ministers among a class of
Protestants, who, binding themselves and their pastors by no human
creed or interpretation, encourage us to seek for ourselves and expound
for them the uncorrupted Gospel, we publicly preach the faith which we
privately hold. We feel, therefore, a natural interest in the determina-
tion of yourself and brother clergymen to call attention to the Unitarian
Controversy, and a desire that the occasion may be made conducive to
the promotion of candid research, the diminution of sectarian pre-
judice, and the diffusion of the true faith, and the spirit of our great

We are not of opinion that a miscellaneous audience, assembled in a
place of worship, constitutes the

best tribunal to which to submit abstruse theological questions, respecting the canon, the text, the translation of Scripture—questions which cannot be answered by any

" defective scholarship." You, however, who hold that mistakes upon these points may forfeit salvation, have consistently appealed to such tribunal; and nothing is left to us but to hope that its decision may be formed after just attention to the evidence. This end can be attained only by popular advocacy on either side, or popular advocacy on both ; and, as you have preferred the latter, we shall esteem it a duty to co-operate

with
contribute our portion of truth and argument towards the correction of
public sentiment on the great questions at issue between us. Deeply
aware of our human liability to form and to convey false impressions of
views and systems from which we dissent, we shall be anxious to pay a
calm and respectful attention to your defence of the doctrines of your
other

, to our congregations, and exhort them to hear you in the spirit
of Christian justice and affection ; presuming that, in a
will recommend your hearers to listen to such reply as
it right to offer. We are not conscious of any fear, any interest

,
any attachment to system, which should interfere with the sincere ful-
of yours, we rely on your avowder steal for that Protestantism which
filment of our part in such an understanding; and

, for the

performance boldly confides the interpretation of Scripture to individual judgment, and to that sense of justice which, in Christian minds, is the fruit of cultivation and sound knowledge. As you think it the duty of Unitarians to judge of your doctrines, not from our objections, but from your vindication, you cannot question the duty of Trinitarians to take their impressions of our faith from us, rather than from you..

We rejoice to hear that the Christ Church lectures will be pub. lished. Should they issue from the press within a week after delivery,

you, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

mrling to hope for a pre se pred to bare to

like spirit, you
we may

think

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ante in un candid criticism ; piesting it to be sach, the Ch

we should desire to postpone our

reply till we had enjoyed the oppor

[graphic]

you

tunity of reading them, persuaded that thus we shall best preserve
that calmness and precision of statement, without which, controversial
discussions tend rather to the increase of prejudice than the ascer-
tainment of truth. Should the publication be deferred for a longer
time, the necessity of treating each subject, while its interest is fresh,
will oblige us to forego this advantage; and we shall, in such case,
deliver, each week, an evening lecture in answer to that preached in
Christ Church on the preceding Wednesday. Permit us to ask, how
early an appearance of your printed lectures may be expected ; and
whether will recommend your congregations to attend with candour
to our replies.
We fear, however, that neither from the pulpit nor the press will your
statements and ours obtain access

extensively to the same persons ; your
discourses will, perhaps, obtain readers, too exclusively, among Trinita-
rians ; ours, certainly, among Unitarians. In order to place your views
and ours fairly side by side, allow us to propose the following arrange-
ments ; that an epitome of each lecture, and another of the reply, fur-
nished by the respective authors, shall appear weekly in the columns of one
and the same newspaper ; the newspaper being selected, and the length
of the communications prescribed, by previous agreement. Or should
you be willing, we should prefer making some public journal the vehicle
of a discussion altogether independent of the lectures, conducted in the
form of a weekly correspondence, and having for its matter such topics
as the first letter of the series may open for consideration. In this case
you will perceive the propriety of conceding to us the commencement of
the correspondence, as you have pre-occupied the pulpit controversy ;
have selected the points of comparison between your idea of Christianity
and ours ; and introduced among them some subjects to which we do
not attach the greatest interest and importance. On this priority, how-
ever, we do not insist. You will oblige us by stating whether you as-
sent to this proposal.

While we are willing to hope for a prevailing spirit of equity in this controversy, we are grieved to have to complain of injustice, and of a disregard to the true meaning of words at its very opening. We must protest against the exclusive usurpation of the title “Protestant Churches,” by a class of religionists who practically disown the principle of protestantism : who only make the Church (or themselves), instead of the Pope, the arbiter of truth ; who hold error (that is, an opinion different from their own,) to be fatal to salvation; and who allow the right of individual judgment only with the penalty of everlast

upon all whose individual judgment is not the judgment of their Church. We take objection also to the spirit that creeps out in the expression, “ (so called) Unitarians,” maintaining that the word does not impute to others” a polytheistic creed ;”” but that as " Trinitarian” denotes one who worships the Godhead in three persons," Unitarian fitly describes one who worships the Godhead in one person. And, above all, we protest against the resolution of our case into “dishonest or uncandid criticism;" that is the wilful maintenance of error, knowing it to be such, the Charybdis which one of your lec

ing condemnation

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

turers proposes for us, if we should be fortunate enough to escape the Scylla of “ defective scholarship.” We are deeply concerned that so much of the acetum theologicum" has mixed thus early in an invitation, characterized by the chief inviter as “a sweet and pleasant thing ;" and this, too, after a public announcement of having purged the mind of every feeling but the pure love of the pure truth.

And to you, reverend sir, in whose letter to the Unitarians of this town and neighbourhood the announcement in question occurs, it is incumbent on us to address a few remarks, with a special view to acquaint you with the feelings awakened by your earnest invitation.

The anxiety which that letter manifests to convince us that, in seeking our conversion, you are actuated by no“ base and worldly motive,” is, we can assure you, altogether superfluous. Of the purity and disinterestedness of your intention we entertain no doubt; and we regard it with such unaffected respect, as may be due to every suggestion of con. science, however unwise and fanatical. If, with the ecclesiastics and philosophers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, you esteemed the denial of witchcraft as perilous a heresy as Atheism itself, we should feel neither wonder nor anger at the zeal with which you might become apostles of the doctrine of sorcery. Any one who can convince himself that his faith, his hope, his idea of the meaning of Scripture, afford the only cure for the sins and sorrows and dangers of the world, is certainly right in spending his resources and himself in diffusing his own private views. But we are astonished that he can feel himself so lifted up in superiority above other men, as to imagine that Heaven depends on their assimilation to himself,—that, in self-multiplication, in the universal reproduction of his own state of mind, lies the solitary hope of human salvation. We think that, if we were possessed by such a belief, our affections towards men would lose all Christian meekness, our sympathies cease to be those of equal with equal, the respectful mercy of a kindred sufferer; and that, however much we might indulge a Pharisaic compassion for the heretic, we should feel no more the Christian “honour" unto “all men."

You ask us, reverend sir, whether it is not “a sweet and pleasant thing,” “to tell and hear together of the great things which God has done for our souls.” Doubtless, there are conditions under which such communion may be most “sweet and pleasant.” When they who hold it agree in mind on the high subjects of their conference, it is “sweet and pleasant” to speak mutually of “joys with which no stranger intermeddleth,” and to knit together the human affections, with the bands of that heavenly “charity,” which, springing from one faith and one hope, is yet greater than them both. Nay, when good men differ from each other, it is still “ sweet and pleasant to reason together, and prove all things, and whatsoever things are pure, and true, and lovely, to think on these things, provided that both parties are conscious of their liability to error, and are anxious to learn as well as to teach : that each confides in the integrity, ingenuousness, and ability of the other; that each applies himself with reasons to the understanding, not with terrors to the will. But such conference is not “ sweet and pleasant” where, falli

[graphic]

buty being confessed on one side, infallibility is assumed on the other ; where one has nothing to learn and everything to teach ; where the argament of an equal are propounded as a message of inspiration ; where presumed error is treated as unpardonable guilt

, and on the fruits of aborious and truth-loving inquiry, terms of reprobation and menaces of everlasting perdition are unscrupulously poured. You announce your intention to set a part, on our behalf, a day of humiliation and prayer. To supplicate the Eternal Father, as you pro pove, to turn the heart and faith of others into the likeness of your own may appear to you fitting as an act of prayer; it seems to us extraordinary as an act of humiliation. Permit us to say, that we could join you in that day's prayer, if, instead of assuming before God what doctrines his Spirit should enforce, you would, with us, implore him to have pity on the ignorance of us all; to take us all by the hand and lead us into his truth and love, though it should be by ways most heretical and strange; to wrest us from the dearest reliances and most assured conrictions of our hearts, if they hinder our approach to his great realities. A blessed day would that be for the peace, brotherhood, and piety of this Christian community, if the humiliation ” would lead to a recognition of Christian equality, and the prayer,” to a recognition of that spiritual God whose love is moral in its character, spiritual, not doctrinal in its conditions, and who accepts from all his children the spirit and the truth of worship

We fear that you will consider it as a mark of great obduracy, that we are not more affected by that “purest love” for “those in the extreme of peril,” which your letter expresses. Let us again assure you that we by no means doubt the sincerity of that affection. However pure in its source, it is ineffectual in its result, simply because no one can feel his heart softened by a commiseration which he is wholly unconscious of requiring. The pity that feels with me is, of all things, the most delicious to the heart; the pity that only feels for me, is, perhaps, of all things, the most insulting.

And, if the tenderness of your message does not subdue us, we trust its terrors will prevail still less. We are not ignorant, indeed, that, in dealing with weak minds, whose solicitude for their personal security is greater than their generous faith in truth and God, you enjoy an advantage over us. We avow that we have no alarms whereby to urge men into our Church ; that we know of no “terrors of the Lord” by which to persuade men,” except against sin; nor do we esteem ourselves exclusive administrators of any salvation, except that best salvation, which consists in a free mind and emancipated heart ; reverencing Christ as the perfect image of the Father, listening to the accents of reason and conscience

, as to the breathings of God's spirit, loving all men as his children, and having hope in death, of a transference from this outer court into the interior mansions of His house. For this reason, imbecile souls, without Christian trust and courage, may think it safer, at all events, to seek a place within your Church ; but we wonder that you can feel satisfied, retaining your Protestantism, to appeal

thus to fear and devout policy, rather than to conviction, and that you cannot discern the

« EdellinenJatka »