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REMARKS ON 'LETTERS OF AN ENGLISH TRAVELLER.' The following extract of a Letter from a lawyer in Maine, late a Unitarian, but now a hopeful believer in Jesus, contains reinarks on the “Letters of an English Traveller”- the work reviewed in our three previous numbers.
“We have had the · Letters of an English Traveller' among us; and if their ingenious, but deluded author had himself been with us, he would have witnessed, not the effervescence of weak or distempered minds, but the workings of the 'still small voice of God,' appealing to the heart. And he would have seen the strugglings and opposition of this heart, and its gradual yieldings to the Spirit of Almighty power. He might converse with individuals, as rational and intelligent as himself, who would tell him that they were not suddenly awakened to a sense of their sinful character and alarming situation, but became convinced, by comparing their hearts and lives with the precepts of the law and Gospel of God, that they had always lived in disobedience, had never acted from such motives as God requires, and consequently, had never done anything acceptable in His sight. They felt, that they were justly condemned ; that they had no claim on him for the least favor; and that, if ever they were saved, it must be wholly of His rich and sovereign grace. Arguments to prove them enemies to God were unnecessary. They found, that they had a' carnal mind, which was enmity against him.' They believed, that their characters were about to take a decided cast for eternity. They generally obtained relief by experiencing an acquiescence in the character and will of God, a satisfaction at the thought of being in his hands, and a readiness to yield themselves unreservedly to Christ, in view of his loveliness and preciousness. Joy has not been in many instances, rapturous; but a calm delight, a peace of indescribable sweetness in contemplating divine things, has been felt for a length of time, in some cases for several days, before the subjects of these feelings have really dared to indulge the idea, that they had been renewed by the Holy Spirit.”
TESTIMONY OF A UNITARIAN EDITOR. In our last, we published the “testimony of a Unitarian Minister." The following is the testimony of one of the Unitarian editors of Boston on the same general subject.
" On the whole, we do not consider the Unitarian sect so zealous, or so sincere, in promoting the faith it professes, as the Orthodox. There are men, and we revere them, who feel the beauty and applicability to the wants of man, of the Unitarian construction of the Scriptures. They toil hard and do much good ; but look at the mass,—they are not so constant and zealous in endeavoring to spread a knowledge of the Gospel, in administering to objects of Chris. tian charity, and in giving a fervent attendance on such rites of our religion, as they acknowledge to be important. The Orthodox may not,-we think they do not give wisely or believe truly,—but they certainly bestow heartily, and act up to their belief in a great proportion of cases. They are liberal in their public charity, and constant in private beneficence and kindness-more so than can be said of the Unitarian sect. The fact is, that a great number of the latter, are people who do not wish to obey any calls of religion, who are sober, honest people in the main, but who have no great feeling, and perhaps no firm belief in any creed; they join that kind of church which imposes the fewest restrictions, and makes the fewest demands—and if it were as respectable, would prefer to belong to no church at all. These are frequently good men, and liberal to objects of distress; but they care little for any of the religious interests of the community, and are sure to avoid exertion and contribution.
“ If this view of the Unitarian community be correct, and we believe it to be so, it is plain, that in our section of the country, it is the duty of publications devoted to the promulgation of the Unitarian faith, to abandon for a time, a course of speculations about doctrines, and to lay before the public the exact situation in which it exists, to state the demands of religion which should be answered, and to warm the hearts of the people to better feelings and greater exertions."
WHY DO YOU NOT EXCHANGE WITH UNITARIAN MINISTERS? Those who are at all conversant with the progress of Unitarianism in this country, need not be told how very frequently and earnestly this question has been pressed upon Orthodox Congregational clergymen. Nor will any one, who knows how important are the consequences depending upon its decision, doubt, but it ought to receive a careful examination. Such an examination we propose to give it in this place.
We shall attempt to show, that an Orthodox minister cannot, without inconsistency, and unfaithfulness to Christ, exchange pulpit services with Unitarians.
And to come directly to the main point, on which the whole subject rests, we assert that such exchanges are not consistent on the part of the Orthodox minister, BECAUSE HE BELIEVES THAT, UNITARIANS DENY ONE OR MORE OF THE ESSENTIAL TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE ; and by such exchange he would give a public and solemn testimony, that between his sentiments and theirs there is no essential difference. Such a testimony, therefore, he cannot conscientiously give. He dare not give it, lest it should destroy the souls of some of the people of his charge.
On comparing the Orthodox and Unitarian systems together, there appears to him to be a radical difference between them ; so that if the one is the Gospel, the other cannot be. He believes that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were written under a constant and infallible inspiration : but “ whether the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures be a doctrine of the Christian religion, is one of those questions upon which Unitarians are divided in opinion.” Yates' Vindication of Unitarianism, p. 19. He believes that Christ was really the supreme God, as well as truly a man: but “that Christ was not the supreme God is the faith of all Unitarians without exception.” Unitarian Miscellany, Sept. 1822, p. 203. They believe, also, in his infinite inferiority to God, and that the doctrine of two natures in Christ “ could not be proved by
the clearest declarations of Scripture. On the contrary, its occurrence in the Scriptures would prove them to be false.” Yates' Vind. p. 176. He believes the Holy Spirit to be really the supreme God, yet distinct from the Father and the Son : but Unitarians maintain, that “ there is no plausible pretext of scriptural evidence for the existence of any being distinct from God the Father, called the Holy Spirit." Christian Disciple, vol. ii. p. 365. New Series. He believes that men come into the world morally depraved and disinclined to holiness : but Unitarians believe, that man “is by nature no more inclined to vice than virtue; and is equally capable, in the ordinary exercise of his faculties, and with the common assistance afforded him, of either.” Ware's Letters to Trinitarians, p. 21. He believes that no man of any age or nation can enter heaven without regeneration, or a new birth, through the special influences of the Spirit: but Unitarians deny the distinct personal existence of the Holy Spirit, and believe that when men, at the present day, are told of “the necessity of a new birth, the call, as it relates to them, is without meaning.” Christ. Discip. 1822. p. 420. He believes that Christ suffered as a substitute for sinners, and was made a propitiatory sacrifice, that God might be just, while he justified the believer in Jesus : but Unitarians “ do not believe that Christ has once offered himself up a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God; because this is making the innocent suffer for the guilty"_" and supposes God has introduced a principle in his administrations which would disgrace any government on earth.” Unit. Miscel. 1821. p. 19. and Bancroft's Sermons, p. 224. He believes that Christians are justified solely through the merits of Jesus Christ, by faith : but Unitarians believe, that “to build the hope of pardon on the independent and infinite sufficiency of Jesus Christ is to build on an upscriptural and false foundation.” Christ. Disciple, vol. i. p. 440. N. Series. He believes that the future misery of the wicked will last as long as the happiness of the righteous; that is, eternally : but“ the proper eternity of hell torments is a doctrine which most Unitarians of the present day concur in rejecting.” Christ. Disc. vol. iii. p. 451. N. Series.
Such is a brief view of the difference, in the more important doctrines, between the Orthodox, as a body, and the Unitarians, as a body. And will any reasonable man doubt whether this difference extends to fundamentals? The truth is, there is no such thing as embracing the leading doctrines of the Evangelical or Orthodox system of faith, sincerely and understandingly, without admitting a belief in them to be essential to salvation-essential, we mean, to those who have the capacity and the means of becoming acquainted with them. Such is the nature of these doctrines, that to regard them otherwise than indispensable, amounts to a virtual rejection of the system.
That all men are naturally children of wrath, because naturally depraved, is a doctrine lying at the foundation of this system. Now suppose a man, who assents to this view of human depravity -as all the Orthodox do—to admit that one person can be saved who understandingly rejects the doctrine of regeneration : certainly he must admit that every other man, who rejects this truth, may be saved. Or suppose he admit that an individual can be saved who rejects the doctrine of atonement : then must he also acknowledge that a belief in this truth is not indispensable to any other man's salvation. For the reason why regeneration and the atonement are necessary for one man—viz. his depravity-shows them to be necessary for every other man. The same reasoning will apply equally to other leading doctrines of Orthodoxy. Hence we see, that the idea, that a belief of these is essential to salvation, is so interwoven with the doctrines themselves, that they stand or fall together. If, therefore, an Orthodox man gives up the position that some doctrines in his system are essential, he virtually abandons the system itself. And this is the reason why the Unitarian regards such a man with so much complacency.
But suppose it be admitted that the difference between Unita- rianism and Orthodoxy is essential; on what principle is it therefore necessary for the Orthodox to refuse ministeriál exchanges with Unitarians ? How is it that such exchanges are a public and solemn testimony that no essential difference exists between the two systems ?
These are very natural and important inquiries, which demand a clear and satisfactory reply. And an answer to them involves the principles of Christian communion, or fellowship. For an exchange of pulpit services can be regarded in no other light, than as a deliberate and public act of fellowship. The ministry is the highest office in the Christian church, and to preach the Gospel is one of the most solemn and important services of that ministry. And when one man invites another to take his place, and preach to his people, he invites him to perform some of the most sacred acts of religion, as an ambassador for Christ, who has a commission from his Master to preach the Gospel. He gives, therefore, by this act, a public testimony, of the most decided character, in the house of God, and on the holy Sabbath, that he regards the man, thus introduced into his pulpit, as a Christian brother, possessed of a Christian character, and duly authorized to administer Christian ordinances. Were he publicly to invite this minister, with whom he exchanges, to a seat at the Lord's table, (an act universally regarded as an indication of fellowship) in what respect could it be considered as a more decisive expression of fellowship? But Unitarians, it is believed, universally regard ministerial exchanges as an expression of fellowship; and they would not press the subject with so much earnestness, did they
view them in any other light. It seems unnecessary, therefore, to dwell on this point.
The question, then, comes to this: Can a minister admit to his fellowship, as a Christian brother, a man who denies one or more of the essential doctrines of the Gospel ? By attending to the nature of Christian fellowship, the answer to this inquiry will become easy.
To extend Christian fellowship to any one implies that we treat him in all respects as a brother in Christ; as one who is justly entitled to a public participation in all the privileges and ordinances of Christianity. If he does not belong to that particular branch of the church with which we are connected, he may be refused any peculiar and local advantages, which that church has thought it expedient to connect with membership, and yet not be denied Christian fellowship. For he might still be invited to a seat at the Lord's table, and acknowledged as a Christian brother in other public religious acts. And so a particular church might require, as an indispensable condition of membership in her body, an assent to certain minor peculiarities in faith or practice, to which very many, whom she would acknowledge to be Christian bretliren, could not subscribe; and yet, if she publicly acknowledged them as brethren, and invited them to the communion board, she would be regarded as extending to them the right hand of fellowship.
We do not, therefore, inquire in this place, what particular churches have a right to require, as a condition of membership; but what qualifications ought the members of those churches to demand in an individual, as indispensable to his occasional admission to their communion board ; and as entitling him to every other expression which can be given, of that Christian fellowship, which should be exercised towards one another, by Christians of every name throughout the world. The Bible, it seems to us, requires, as an indispensable condition of this fellowship, a professed belief of the essential doctrines of the Gospel, and a correspondent practice. In other words, we are not " to prescribe as an indispensable condition of communion, what the New Testament has not enjoined as a condition of salvation.”
An essential doctrine is one, whose rejection would subvert the Gospel ; and, therefore, a belief of all such doctrines is indispensable to salvation. We speak here of those only, who possess the Bible in a language with which they are familiar, and have come to years of understanding, and are not prevented from apprehending the meaning of the Bible through a deficiency of intellect: for we do not wish in this place to discuss the case of the heathen, or of idiots, or of any others in Christian lands unavoidably ignorant of divine truth. Nor would we say how great, in peculiar cases, may be the errors of the head, while the heart is essentially right. But to those who can read and understand the Bible, we say, that the