Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

of his Sermon at Worcester, and in the Review, published in Boston, of Dr. Channing's Discourse preached at the dedication of the Second Unitarian Church in New York. A learned infidel, while expressing a decided preference of the Arminian to the Calvinistic system, says he thinks himself “ in justice bound" to state, that “the modern Calvinists have, in no small degree, excelled their antagonists in the practice of the most rigid and respectable virtues; and have been the highest honor to their own age, and the best models for imitation to every succeeding age.”* Another writer, in a journal for a long time decidedly unfriendly to evangelical opinions, says, “What are we to think of the morality of Calvinistic nations, especially the most numerous of them; who seem, beyond all other men, to be most zealously attached to their religion, and most deeply penetrated with its spirit ? Here, if any where, we have a practical and decisive test of the moral influence of a belief in necessarian opinions. In Protestant Switzerland, in Holland, in Scotland, among the English Nonconformists, and the Protestants of the north of Ireland, and in the New England States, Calvinism was long the prevalent faith, and is probably still the faith of a considerable majority. Their moral education was at least completed, and their collective character formed, during the prevalence of Calvinistic opinions. Yet, where are communities to be found of a more pure and active virtue?”+ Dr. Priestley, the father of modern Unitarianism, said, forty years ago, of “ great numbers of Unitarians” in England, that, “having no zeal for speculative religion, merely because they have no zeal for religion in general, their moral conduct, though decent, is not what is deemed strict and exemplary." And in relation to “the moral character of Unitarians in general,” he allows, “ that there is in them a greater apparent conformity to the world than is observable in the others," i. e. in the orthodox. A writer in the Christian Register, (the Unitarian newspaper published in Boston,) of Jan. 13, 1827, over the signature of " Layman Junior," says, that it is a question “ frequently asked," i. e. we suppose among Unitarians, “ but seldom if ever, answered, “Why the Unitarian preachers do not exhibit the zeal of the Calvinists?' It is, as we say, a question oftener asked than answered, and that too, while the fact remains confessedly undisputed.This inquiry, he adds,“ implies a charge of lukewarmness in their vocation, upon those whose duty it is to keep alive a pure flame of religious action among their people ;" a charge, of course “confessedly undisputed,” since the fact which implies it is a confessedly undisputed.” And in another article on the same subject, in the Register of Jan. 27, of the same year, he says “ No fact can be more certain, than that the people will never exceed their pastor in religious fervor.” So that it is, according to this writer, a charge, the justness of which is “confessedly undisputed,” that Unitarian preachers and people are more lukewarm and have less religious fervor than the Calvinists. A writer in the Christian Examiner, (the principal Unitarian periodical published in this country,) for March and April, 1826, says of Unitarians as a body, that their " country societies in general are” almost entirely destitute of zeal, and their ministers are “ surrounded by” so much “ timidity” among their people, that they “often grow timid themselves, keep to one style of preaching, and one round of subjects, and neither excite, nor are excited to inquiry, decision, and exertion. Much of this,” he adds, “is also true of the Unitarian societies in Boston.” “ The people, though satisfied with ministers of the Unitarian persuasion, and resolved to have no other, are generally unwilling to hear Unitarianism explained or defended, and are therefore not interested in it, nor well versed in its princi ples.” “They are called Unitarians, and that is enough.” And s when a purpose strictly Unitarian is to be accomplished, they, into whose hands it is committed, know full well that the interest in Unitarianism, as such, is small indeed, and that its resources are soon exhausted."* But of the orthodox, a writer in the same magazine-the author of the Review of Dr. Beecher's Sermon at Worcester, says, p. 34, “ It is a pleasure to us, now and always, to acknowledge the good qualities which recommend our opponents, --their unquestionable sincerity as a body, their laudable zeal in promoting many of the benevolent undertakings that distinguish this age, their endeavors to excite a spirit of greater seriousness and consideration among the people, and to stem the torrent of vice that is forever setting in upon a thoughtless world.”

* Article on Predestination in the Bri'ish Encyclopedia. + Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxvi. p. 237. Discourses on various subjects, pp. 95,: 6. * Christian Examiner, vol. iii. pp. 111, 115, 116.

It is then a fact, proved by the most ample testimony, of the opposers, as well as of the advocates, of the doctrines of the orthodox, that they have ever, as a body, excelled their opponents, in no small degree, in the practice of the most rigid and respectable virtues; that those communities, whose collective character has been formed most exclusively by the influence of orthodox opinions, have invariably been of a more pure and active virtue than others; and that, compared with Unitarians, the orthodox have more zeal for religion, and their moral conduct is more strict and exemplary, and they are more zealous in promoting benevolent undertakings, and in endeavoring to excite a spirit of seriousness and consideration among the people, and to stem the torrent of vice. These are facts, and facts which remain “confessedly undisputed.”

The moral influence of a system of religious belief, is, moreover, distinguished Unitarian writers themselves being judges, a proper test of the truth of that system. Mr. Sparks, in his Inquiry into the Comparative Moral Tendency of Trinitarian and Unitarian Doctrines, says, “ There is a close connexion between faith and practice. A man will act according to his convictions, and an irreligious practice can never be the consequence of a right faith.” And Dr. Channing says, in his Discourse at the dedication of the Second Unitarian Church in New York, “A religious system can carry no more authentic mark of a divine original, than its obvious, direct, and peculiar tendency to form an elevated religious character.” And a far higher authority has said, “ Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even as every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” And yet, it is maintained that orthodox opinions are false, and Unitarian opinions are true! We appeal to common sense, and the candor of those who disbelieve or doubt the truth of evangelical opinions, and ask, Can it be so?—“ An irreligious practice can never be the consequence of a right faith.” “A religious system can carry no more authentic mark of a divine original, than its obvious, direct, and peculiar adaptation to form an elevated religious character.” “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” According to the testimony of the opposers, as well as of the advocates of orthodox opinions, those who have embraced these opinions have ever, as a body, excelled their opponents, in no small degree, in the practice of the most rigid and respectable virtues; and those communities whose collective character has been formed most exclusively by the influence of these opinions, have invariably been of a more pure and active virtue than others; and, according to the testimony of distinguished advocates of Unitarianism, the orthodox have more zeal for religion in general than the Unitarians; their moral conduct is more strict and exemplary, and they are more engaged in promoting benevolent undertakings, and in endeavoring to create a spirit of seriousness and consideration among the people, and to stem the torrent of vice. Can it be, then, that orthodoxy is false, and Unitarianism true? If the premises are admitted (and how can they be denied ?) is it not manifest that the correct conclusion is the directly opposite of this ? Let candor and common sense decide.

REVIEWS.

REVIEW OF TRACTS PUBLISHED BY "THE AMERICAN UNITARIAN

ASSOCIATION.”

A Review of the Tracts, published by “the American Unitarian Association," was commenced and pursued through eleven of the Tracts, in the late Christian Magazine. It is proposed to resume and continue this Review in our pages. We begin with the twelfth number, entitled, " A Dialogue on Providence, Faith, and Prayer.”

The Dialogue is between a Mr. and Mrs. Henderson. The occasion of it is the decease of “their eldest daughter, a lovely girl of eighteen." The bereaved parents are “amiable people ;" both « professors of religion;" and are spoken of as Christians “in spirit and in life.” But Mr. H. has less faith than his sympathizing partner, and cannot so clearly see the goodness of God, in the painful dispensation with which he has been visited; and Mrs. H. is affectionately endeavoring to impart to him those views and consolations with which she is herself sustained. This constitutes the subject of the Dialogue. This Tract is designed, evidently, for persons in affliction, and may be regarded as a specimen of the instruction and consolation, which Unitarianism affords, under such circumstances.

Our first remark respecting it, which might have been made on almost any other Tract in the series, as well as this, relates to the singular phraseology of Unitarians in their theological discussions. The clergyman who visits Mr. and Mrs. H. 6 offers them the consolations suggested by his nature and his office. The hopes of the Christian faith, and the support of philosophy, are pointed out.” p. 4. Mr. H. speaks of himself, and his wife, as "virtuous parents,” who “both piously offered prayers for the life of their child.” “We prayed," says he,“ with the most pious and humble state of mind.” pp. 7, 12, 14. Mrs. H. in explaining the nature of spiritual favors, has the following expressions : “If I find my mind, on any occurrence, greatly disturbed, and if my religious principles and reflections are unequal to restoring tranquillity_if my philosophy is insufficient, and all common aid fails me; I have then two methods left, which may bring back my peace. On the ground of philosophy, I may presume that nothing violent can last long; or on the ground of religion, I may hope that God will do for me, what I cannot do for myself, if I earnestly implore his mercy, to calm the tumult of my feelings.” p. 16. On the sentiments conveyed in these quotations, we make no remark. They speak for themselves. We have given them as specimens of Unitarian phraseology, in the discussion of theological subjects.

There are apparent inconsistencies in the Tract, which its readers will find it difficult to reconcile. The afflicted parents are represented in the commencement, as having "no disposition to murmur at the dispensations of Providence.” But expressions are immediately put into the mouth of Mr. H. which plainly indicate a murmuring spirit. “When we see a lovely creature, one calculated to be useful, and to diffuse happiness, as well as to enjoy it; one who has lived an innocent life, and who constitutes the chief joy and hope of virtuous parents; when we see such an one snatched away from their arms, and laid in the disinal tomb, cut off from the innocent delights of the world, and its improvements, while the hearts of all around are crushed by the heavy affliction ; when we see this, and then turn, perhaps, to our next door neighbor, and find a beastly, intemperate being, who is a plague to all with whom he lives, and who is incapable of either virtue or happiness himself, or of increasing that of others; and this useless, miserable wretch is left, while our lovely child is taken away; who can reconcile these things with that perfect benevolence that is represented always to will kindness, and always to be able to bring to pass what it wills ?” p. 7. The person who allowed himself in language such as this, we are told,“ had no disposition to murmur at the dispensations of Providence !"

Mr. H. is spoken of, not only as wishing to be a Christian, but as one who “ manifests, by a strict conformity to the precepts of Jesus, that he really is a Christian in spirit and in life.” p. 9. And yet we find attributed to him such ignorance of spiritual subjects, such objections and cavils, as the following. “There is so much,” says he, "to excite doubt, that it is difficult at all times to satisfy the mind that all things are ordered in mercy.” p. 6. “We ask, and are denied. If we prayed not at all, in what should we be losers ?" p. 13. “This phrase [the grace of God] is very commonly used; but I never could exactly comprehend its meaning.” p. 15. “I have hitherto supposed, that in all the common concerns of life, God holds himself at a distance, and is unconcerned how the world is going on; and that it is only on great occasions, and in uncommon circumstances, he condescends to interfere with the established order of things." p. 21. The author of the Tract must either admit that these expressions are inconsistent with the declaration that Mr. H. is “ a Christian in spirit and in life," or maintain that they are consistent with the spirit and character of a Christian. He may have his choice.*

Although this Tract is deplorably barren in point of doctrine of any sort, we find expressions, here and there, which ought not to pass unnoticed. The deceased daughter is spoken of, as “innocent,” and a confidence is expressed of her being in heaven, on the

* We feel authorised to regard Mrs. II. as expressing the views of the writer of the Tract; and Mr. H. also, when he is not expressly or implicdly controverted,

« EdellinenJatka »