Page images
PDF
EPUB

all of whatever opinion, or worship, or congregation, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; who love God and man; who, rejoicing to please, and fearing to offend God, are careful to abstain from evil, and are zealous of good works. - Join WESLEY: Sermon on Catholic Spirit; apud Dr. Evans's Golden Centenary, or Sequel to his Sketch, pp. 122–3.

IIe (the author of the Plea] makes no question but a large number of good men are to be found both in the Established Church, and out of it. Even the most despised of sectarists, he conceives, are not wholly destitute. A liberal-minded and benevolent soul, who embraces every human being in the arms of his charity, who rises superior to the superstitious tribe of infalliblo doctors--the genus irritabile vatum; who can pierce through the guise of human distinctions, and trace religious excellence among all orders and descriptions of men, he would clasp to his bosom, make him room in his heart, and give him a place in the attic story of his affections. ---Simpson: Preface to the Sccond Edition of the Plea for Religion, pp. 26, 30, 31.

I would have our young men educated in the sentiments of the warmest affection, and the highest reverence, for the established religion of this free and enlightened country. I would at the same time endeavour to convince them, that, in all the various modes of Christian Faith, a serious observer may discover some sound principles, and many worthy men. I would tell them, that the wise and the good cherish within their own bosom a religion, yet more pure and perfect than any formulary of speculation they externally profess; that their agreements upon points of supreme and indisputable moment are greater perhaps than they may themselves suspect; and that upon subjects, the evidence of which is doubtful, and the importance of which is secondary, their difference is nominal rather than real, and often deserves to be imputed to the excess of vanity or zeal in the controversialist, more than to any defect of sagacity or integrity in the inquirer. - DR. PArr: Discourse on Education, p. 27, quoted by Field, in his Memoirs of Parr, vol. i. p. 291. (See also Parr's Works, vol. v. pp. 476-7; vol. vi. p. 224-6.]

Christian societies, regarding each other with the jealousies of rival empires, each aiming to raise itself on the ruin of all others, making extravagant boasts of superior purity, generally in exact proportion to their departures from it, and scarcely deigning to acknowledge the possibility of obtaining salvation out of their pale,form the odious and disgusting spectacle which modern Christianity presents. The bond of charity which unites the genuine followers of

Christ in distinction from the world, is dissolved, and the very terms by which it was wont to be denoted, exclusively employed to express a predilection for a sect. The evils which result from this state of division are incalculable. - In the present state of the church, externally considered, the evil most to be deplored is the unnatural distance at which Christians stand from each other; the spirit of sects, the disposition to found their union on the “wood, hay, and stubble” of human inventions, or of disputable tenets, instead of building on the eternal rock, the “faith once delivered to the saints.”. ROBERT HALL: Works, vol. ii. pp. 10, 468. (See also pp. 469-70.]

Not for a moment would we sit in judgment upon the integrity or piety of other Christian communities. We question no man's right; we censure no man's decision. We believe that there is much truth mingled with much error in the systems of others; and are humbly apprehensive lest it should at last appear, that there is much error mingled with much truth in the fabrication of our own. We know no greater heresy than unnecessarily to divide good men, nor any object more worthy of ambition than to conciliate and unite them. Let the profane calumniate; let the sceptic deride; let the bigot frown; let the base and interested partisan seek to cover with unmerited dishonour all who cannot lend themselves to the support of his darling peculiarities, or his still more darling emoluments : but the Christian should endeavour, above all things, to present in his own practice, and so to win upon his brethren that they may equally present in theirs, the all-attractive spectacle of fidelity, tempered with goodness, and blended with humility and love. - DR. M'ALL: Discourses, vol. i. pp. 260-1, 300. (See also pp. 60, 61; 292_3, vol. ii. pp. 328-9.]

[The liberal sentiments here expressed are not concessions in favour of Unitarian Christianity viewed as a sect, but testimonies to the value and excellence of those great principles of mutual charity and toleration, which, though constituting a prominent feature of Unitarianism, are more or less involved in every form of the Christian Faith, and which, happily for human nature, are deeply cherished by the truly catholic minds in every church; however much they may be obscured, or impeded in their operation, by dogmas of man's invention, alien to the benign spirit of the gospel. Such sentiments, indeed, bear no proportion to the narrow-minded opinions propounded in many theological writings; but it would be an easy and a delightful task to make additional extracts, of a similar tendency.]

SECT. II.

UNITARIANS DISTINGUISHED FOR THEIR WORTH, PIETY,

AND LEARNING.

I must also do this right to the Unitarians as to own, that their rules in morality are exact and severe; that they are generally men of probity, justice, and charity, and seem to be very much in earnest in pressing the obligations to very high degrees in virtue.- BISHOP BURNET; apud Field's Letters, p. 26. [See also Life of Burnet, prefixed to the “ History of His Own Time,” vol. i. pp. viii. ix. Lond. 1818.]

With regard to their moral code, the principles of the Unitarians do not seem to admit their loosening, in the least, the bonds of duty: on the contrary, they appear to be actuated by an earnest desire to promote practical religion. Love is, with them, the fulfilling of the law; and the habitual practice of virtue, from a principle of love to God and benevolence to man, is, in their judgment, the sum and substance of Christianity. DR. ADAMS: Religious World Displayed ; apud Field's Letters, p. 25.

In their [the Unitarian] body, I number many of the friends of my early days; and the recollection of the intercourse of the past is even now delightful:—men who dignify and adorn the stations which they occupy in society; some of whom will leave their names to posterity, identified with the improvements of science, the cultivation of the arts which embellish human life, and the grand schemes of philanthropy by which the present condition of man is elevated and purified, have I had the honour of numbering among my friends. — Byrth: Lect. on Unitarian Interpretation; Liverpool Controversy, p. 159.

To do right to the writers on that the Unitarian] side, I must own, that generally they are a pattern of the fair way of disputing, and of debating matters of religion without heat and unseemly reflections upon their adversaries. ..... They generally argue matters with that temper and gravity, and with that freedom from passion and transport, which becomes a serious and weighty argument; and, for the most part, they reason closely and clearly, with extraordinary guard and caution, with great dexterity and decency, and yet with smartness and subtilty enough; with a very gentle heat, and few hard words virtues to be praised wherever they are found, yea, even in an enemy, and very worthy our imitation. In a word, they are the strongest managers of a weak cause, and which is ill founded at the bottom, that perhaps ever yet meddled with controversy. ARCHBISHOP TILLOTSON: Works, as pub, by himself, Serm. xliv. p. 537.

I do actually feel a constant and deep sense of your goodness to me; and, which is much more, of your continual readiness to serve the public with those distinguished abilities which God has been pleased to give you, and which have rendered your writings so great a blessing to the Christian world. ..... In the interpretation of particular texts, and the manner of stating particular doctrines, good men and good friends may have different apprehensions: but you always propose your sentiments with such good humour, modesty, candour, and frankness, as is very amiable and exemplary; and the grand desire of spreading righteousness, benevolence, prudence, the fear of God, and a heavenly temper and conversation, so plainly appears, particularly in this volume of sermons, that, were I a much stricter Calvinist than I am, I should honour and love the author, though I did not personally know him. - Dr. DODDRIDGE: Let. to Dr. Lardner; apud Kippis’s Life of Lardner, Append. No. viii. [Numberless tributes of respect have been paid by all sects of Christians to this good man and indefatigable writer.]

Calvin confesses that he procured the burning to death of Michael Servetus, a wise and holy man, purely for differing from him in matters of religion. John WESLEY ; apud Field's Letters, p. 63. [See the same work, p. 63, for another quotation from the founder of Methodism, where he speaks of that eminent Unitarian, Firmin, as “ undoubtedly a pious man.”

The religious tenets of Dr. Priestley appear to me erroneous in the extreme; but I should be sorry to suffer any difference of sentiinent to diminish my sensibility to virtue, or my admiration of genius. From hin the poisoned arrow will fall pointless. His enlightened and active mind, bis unwearied assiduity, the extent of his researches, the light he has poured into almost every department of science, will be the admiration of that period when the greater part of those who have favoured, or those who have opposed him, will be alike forgotten. Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and will draw lustre from reproach. The vapours which gather round the rising sun, and follow it in its course, seldom fail, at the close of it, to form a magnificent theatre for its reception, and to invest with variegated tints, and with a softened effulgence, the luminary which they cannot hide. - ROBERT Hall: Christianity consistent with a Love of Freedom; Works, vol. iii. p. 28.

My previous impressions of his [Dr. Lant Carpenter's] amiable and upright character have been strengthened by the perusal of his work [entitled, “ An Examination of Charges against Unitarians and Uni

.

men

tarianism"]. IIis candour, integrity, and good temper, besides his intellectual ability, give to his writings an immense advantage over the imbecile arrogance, the rash crudities, and the still more dishonourable artifices, of some persons on whom he has felt himself called to animadvert. — DR. J. P. SMITH: Script. Test. vol. iii. p.

433. There can be no doubt, that, by the existing law, the sect of Unitarians is entitled to the fullest measure of toleration; and it would be absurd to hold, that there was any thing to corrupt virtue, or outrage decency, in tenets which have been advocated in our own days by men of such eminent talents, exemplary piety, and pure lives, as Price, Priestley, and Channing, and to which there is reason to think neither Milton nor Newton were disinclined. —LORD JEFFREY; apud Christian Reformer, new series, vol. vi. p. 194.

When we look back on the days of Newton, we annex a kind of mysterious greatness to him, who, by the pure force of his understanding, rose to such a gigantic elevation above the level of ordinary

and the kings and warriors of other days sink into insignificance around him—and he, at this moment, stands forth to the public eye, in a prouder array of glory than circles the memory of all the men of former generations—and while all the vulgar grandeur of other days is now mouldering in forgetfulness, the achievements of our great astronomer are still fresh in the veneration of his countrymen, and they carry him forward on the stream of time, with a reputation ever gathering, and the triumphs of a distinction that will never die. I cannot forbear to do honour to the unpretending greatness of Newton, than whom I know not if ever there lighted on the face of our world, one in the character of whose admirable genius so much force and so much humility were more attractively blended. — DR. CHALMERS: Astronomical Discourses, pp. 60, 71.

At least three quarters of my time have been spent among writers of the Unitarian class, from whom I have received, with gratitude, much instruction relative to the philology, the exegesis, and the literary history of the Scriptures · PROFESSOR STUART: Answer to Channing, Let. iü.

With surprise and with concern, I observed that in one of them (the charges] your Grace has spoken sweepingly of the Unitarians as illiterate. The expression, my Lord, astonished me.

In a dispute which, about one hundred and fifty years ago, was carried on with great violence, Bishop WETTENHAL wrote a very judicious, candid, and conciliatory pamphlet, which I found in a huge mass of controversial writings, in which he describes the Socinians as active, as

« PreviousContinue »