« السابقةمتابعة »
counts given in the book of Acts; but on this, though an argument of great weight, I shall not now enlarge. I shall content myself with making a few general remarks, which naturally arise from an impartial view of the unitarian doctrine.
I suppose it will be generally admitted that no doctrine can affect the heart, and influence the conduct, any farther than it is understood; for there seems to be no avenue to the heart but through the medium of the understanding. Incomprehensible and irrational notions may appeal to the passions, and agitate the feelings with terror or with joy, by the false sublimity they derive from their obscurity, by the imposing solemnity with which they are asserted, by being regarded as a succedaneum for steady piety and undeviating virtue, and by the awful sanctions erroneously associ. ated with them; but they cannot rationally influ. ence the heart and life. The unitarian doctrine, its enemies being judges, is most simple and comprehensible, so much so, that they have wrongly supposed it to be plain even to dulness and insipidity. If then it be calculated to inspire men with steady principles of piety and virtue, and to warm their hearts with benevolence (and that it is capable of doing this I shall show presently), its tendency to promote vital godliness cannot be reasonably doubted; for it appeals at once to the understanding, and is on a level with the common sense of unlearned men. It is, what a doctrine intended to promote true godliness in the world ought to be, rational, easy to comprehend, suited
to the leisure of the bulk of mankind, and a plain, though narrow way to moral excellence and happi
It is a fondness for marvellous and inexplicable things, generated and fostered by ages of misconception and prejudice, that prevents this from being perceived.
Unitarian views of God have a tendency to promote the most exalted piety and virtue, and to render men happy in all circumstances. Unitarians view the Creator and Supreme Governor of the Universe, who upholds and directs all things, as one undivided Being; they believe that he is essentially loving and merciful, at all times, and to all his creatures ; that he is the common Father of all; that he orders every thing in wisdom and goodness, and will make every thing that takes place conduce to the individual and general happiness of mankind ; that there is nothing in God, or that can proceed from him, that is in the least contrary to the purest goodness; that he neither wills nor desires any thing respecting his rational creatures, but their improvement and happiness. How can these sentiments fill our minds without our seeing all things in God, and God in all things? without our living under a sense of his presence, considering every thing as coming from his hand, and having a regard to him in every thing we do? They are certainly calculated to fill us with the highest admiration of his character, the strongest confidence in him, the most cheerful submission to his will; to yield great consolation in affliction ; to inspire the most ardent love to God and man;
in a word, to produce the highest-toned piety, virtue, and benevolence. I know that these effects can only be produced gradually, as the sentiments producing them imbue the mind and habitually associate with the feelings.
Unitarian views of Christ have a direct tendency to promote vital godliness. Viewed simply a man whom God hath exalted and glorified in consequence of his obedience, Christ is perceived to be more nearly related to us than he could be, if a being of an order different from ourselves, and the suitableness of his example is more evident and striking. Viewing him as our elder brother, made in all things like unto us, our feelings are the more excited towards him, we feel the more interested in all that he hath done and attained. Considered as one of the human race, his example is perfectly suited to us, and the imitation of it appears practicable. Hence, from his example associated with his doctrine, we may derive constant support and encouragement, when called to struggle against powerful temptations, to endure severe afflictions, or to perform the most difficult duties. No pretence to excuse our want of conformity to his likeness, by urging the natural disparity be. tween him and us, remains. The great reward he hath attained assures us what will be the happy and glorious issue of an unwearied course of pie. ty, virtue, and goodness, and inspires us with zeal and perseverance; for what a man hath attained, men may attain ; if we imitate him here, we shall be like him in glory hereafter. The tendency of
these views to inspire the most powerful motives to holiness, and to fill us with strong consolation and everlasting joy, appears to me most'evident.
The views unitarians entertain of other religious doctrines, tend effectually to secure the interests of vital godliness. They admit no excuse for ungodly tempers, on the absurd ground of hereditary depravity, nor for the excesses of the passions, by irrationally supposing them to be inflamed by an invisible and most potent adversary. They reject the monstrous notion which tends to sap the foundation of moral obligation, that another person has been righteous in our place and stead, and admit no man to be righteous any farther than he doth righteousness. They assert that every man is approved or disapproved of God, according to his real character; that all the virtuous and the good will be glorified with Christ, and all the wicked excluded from his kingdom. They ad. mit no godliness to be real but what is vital, what exists in the heart, and appears in the life, consisting in a habitual course of piety, accompanied by virtue and goodness.
As it so manifestly appears that unitarianism is eminently calculated to promote the cause of rational and vital piety, on which the moral improvement and happiness of mankind essentially depend, our regard to the glory of God, and our love to our fellow-creatures, ought to stimulate us to make the most active and persevering exertions to promote the spread of unitarian sentiments, and exhibit their practical tendency. Most ardently is it
to be wished, that every one who professes unita: rian doctrines may feel their influence in a high degree, and attain to that exalted tone of piety, virtue, and goodness which they are calculated to produce; this will be the way, if I may be allow. ed the expression, to live down the objections of our adversaries.
The three last articles are extracted from the second volume of the London MONTHLY REPOSITORY OF THEOLOGY AND GENERAL LITERATURE; a periodical publication commenced in 1806, and undertaken with a view (as it is stated in the prospectus) “ to try whether, in the present advanced state of knowledge, it were not possible to carry on a work of which the fundamental principle should be the RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT on all religious questions, and which should display, as its leading design, the utility of LEARNING and the necessity of REASON, as well with respect to understanding as to defending the christian doctrine ; and invite christians of all parties to examine important opinions with impartiality and diligence, to discuss controverted points with moderation, and to differ from each other with
It is farther observed, that “ a slight reference to the few magazines which are devoted either wholly or partially to religion, will show that the supporters have erected their own peculiar opinions into a standard of orthodoxy, to which all their correspondents must conform. Audi alteram partem is a maxim in civil, but not in theological justice. It is neither calumny nor unkindness to ascribe to the conductors of our religious magazines the principle which they avow-that it is presumptuous to call truth (that is, their own system) in question, and dangerous to examine error (that is, every system