« PreviousContinue »
covers, and operations he exerts. The doctrine of Socrates was God is the universal intellect. God is one ; perfect in himself, giving the being and the well-being of every creature. These men were lights shining in dark places. Bigotry may sometimes have passed on them a hasty and contemptuous censure, but charity, say rather justice, should make us regard them with esteem, and adopt towards them the sentiments of that liberal and excellent man, (of whom I have had more than one occasion to express my admiration,) William Penn, in his “ Fruits of a Father's Love;": « That blessed principle, the eternal word, I begun with to you, and which is that light, spirit, grace, and truth, I have exhorted you to, in all its holy appearances and manifestations in yourselves, by which all things were at first made, and men enlightened to salvation, is Pythagoras's great light and salt of ages ; Anaxagoras's divine mind; Socrates's good spirit ; Timæus's unbegotten principle and author of all light : Hieron's God in man; Plato's eternal, ineffable, and perfect principle of truth; Zeno's maker and father of all; and Plotin's root of the soul. These were some of those virtuous Gentiles, commended by the apostle, Rom, ii. 13–15; that though they had not the law given to them, as the Jews had, with those instrumental helps and advantages, yet, doing by nature the things contained in the law, they became a law unto . themselves.”
. 11. The Jews have been steady Unitarians in all their calamities. Numbers of them became Christians before the doctrine of the Trinity was broached; but since that, conversion has been at an end. Till this barrier be thrown down, and Christianity purified, they remain witnesses against its professed advocates, but real corrupters.
III. The disciples of Mahomet. Although his pretensions to inspiration, his employment of the sword for conversion, and the earthly nature of his paradise, deserve strong reprobation ; yet when we consider the state of gross superstition into which the Christians of the East were sunk, and the native idolatry of the Arabians, it must be allowed that he accomplished a great reformation: he introduced comparative purity of faith and worship; and probably, after all, in estimating his character, which was compounded of enthusiasm and imposture, there was more of the former than has been commonly assigned. His doctrine, in his own words, is, “ Say, God is one God; the eternal God: he begetteth not, neither is he begotten ; and there is not any one like unto him.” Gibbon observes : “ The Koran is a glorious testimony to the Unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set; that whatever is born must die ; that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish. · In the Author of the universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal Being, without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection.” Such notions of God, from whatever source derived, must have been a blessing to those who received them in exchange for absurdity, idolatry, and degradation.
iv. While too many unbelievers of modern times stand convicted of the grossest disingenuousness in their mode of reasoning, and of great depravity of character, there are others who seem to have been honest, though mistaking, inquirers, who confounded Christianity with its abuses, which, in a Catholic country, is not surprising, and opposed them both, when they should have discriminated. Many of them have been highly useful in bringing back Christians to a purer faith, and to juster notions of the rights of conscience. The resurrection of Christ is the rock of our immortal" hopes; but the conviction cannot, and ought not, to be suppressed, that some creeds, called Christian, are not to be compared with the religion of nature, as stated by Lord Herbert in these five articles ;
. 1. That there is one supreme God, God of gods, or God and Father of all things. . 2. That all worship and adoration ought to terminate in this one God. . 3. That the love and pursuit of truth and virtue is the chief and only essential part of this acceptable, rewardable worship of the one true God. 4. 4. That deep contrition and sorrow for our sins, and aberrations from truth and virtue, with a sincere repentance and reformation after such sins committed, is the true propitiation for sin, or means of reconciling sinners to God. And, : 5. That God, as the wise, and righteous Judge and Governor of the world, will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, both here and hereafter. : v. It is probable that many philosophers of China and India have taught a pure theism, and deserve a place among the honourable opponents of idolatry and vice. We know that there is, at the present moment, an intelligent and growing sect of unchristian Unitarians, in Bengal, at the head of which is Rammohun Roy, a Brahmun of high character and great celebrity. Many of you, probably, have read the interesting account of his doctrine in Mr. Belsham's preface to the letter of W. Roberts, concerning the native Unitarian Christian Church at Madras. He asserts the Unity of the Supreme Being. “God is indeed One, and there is no second. There is none but the Su
preme Being possessed of universal knowledge. God is the sole object of worship. Adore God alone. Know God alone. To God we should approach: of him we should hear; of him we should think, and to him we should attempt to approximate.” Who of us will not say, with the editor of the tract referred to, that this extraordinary man is “not far from the kingdom of God”? Who would not rejoice in the triumph of his purer faith over the delusions of his countrymen? ()
Do not these facts prove, either that the proper unity of God is the plain dictate of right reason, preached by the heavens and the earth, where man will hear their voice; or that it is a fragment of some original revelation, passed down by tradition to all ages and countries, and selected by the wise and good from the mass of accompanying absurdity? Either supposition implies its truth and importance. It is gratifying to see it generally in connexion with superior knowledge and virtue: to see it either a resource in general ignorance and depravity, or a means for bettering the state of mankind : either clung to as the last plank in the shipwreck of truth and freedom, or held aloft, the standard of reviving goodness, and signal of reformation.
Something like antiquity and universality are occasionally claimed by Trinitarians, while they affect to speak of Unitarianism as the reverie of