Page images


gregations have been formed; it has been embraced by the greater part of the Presbyterian and General Baptist denominations ; and has received large accessions from other classes. It has been preached to the poor, and they have heard it gladly. Whole societies of Methodists, guided only by the Bible, have adopted its tenets, even without being aware that there were any other persons in the world of a similar faith. A considerable body of Unitarians exists in Transylvania. Numbers are scattered over the continent; and the Reformed churches seem generally to be receding with a slow and silent, but not uncertain progress, from the harsh doctrines of their ancestors : at Geneva, the temple of Calvin is become the monument of Servetus : an Unitarian Church has sprung up at Madras, consisting of natives, who are chiefly converts from Heathenism : while the progress already made, and the opportunities afforded, in America, promise a career of triumph through that widelyextended empire. Unitarianism is no longer the seed sown by the way side, exposed to destruction from the birds of the air, or the foot of the passenger, from gloomy skies or a sterile soil ; it has taken root, and sprung up, and put forth its branches far and wide; the river of life flows round and nourishes it; the dews of heaven descend upon it; and when we are laid in the dust,

others shall rise to admire its beauty, stability, and progressive increase, till the earth be covered with its shade, and filled with its fruits. . .

That Unitarianism shall become co-extensive with Christianity, and Christianity be the religion of the world, are expectations resting on the same basis-the power of Truth. Probably neither of these events will be brought about, though both may be accelerated, by proselyting. The progress of Unitarianism is less important than the progress towards it of the rest of the Christian community; especially if we observe the connexion of this change with the cultivation of biblical criticism, with just notions of religious liberty, and with the general diffusion of education and knowledge. The purity of Christianity may be restored, as it was lost, by a gradual and general movement. And in the same manner may Christianity itself prevail over other religions ;: increasing light leading to the detection of one error after another, until there shall remain only the easy transition from belief in the truths which Jesus taught, to an admission of his authority as the Son of God.

That “ Truth is mighty and will prevail,” is an assertion which has grown by common consent into a principle, or axiom, rather serving as proof for other propositions, than needing for itself the labour of examination and array of evidence. It is the dictate of experience. The progress of

the human race, as to knowledge in general, is analogous to that of the individual in the acquisition of physical truth. The perceptions of the infant are continually erroneous. One sense gradually corrects another; and notions of distance, magnitude, and colour, at first confused and deceptive, are by repeated observation reduced to truth and order. There is a continual acquisition of information by the senses of the individual, and the intellect of the race. The one process begins afresh with each ; the other is carried on from generation to generation. Knowledge once published becomes the property of the world. Where evidence is adduced, and the mind is impartial, it is obvious that truth must always prevail over error. Now towards this state, of candour in the judgment and complete evidence as to the subject, does all discussion and discovery tend. To this point they are continually advancing; and that approximation is a security for the ultimate reception of truth by all. There are obstacles in the passions, habits and pursuits of men ; but they are neither eternal nor invincible. They are comparatively weak; they are temporary; they are self-destructive. What shall successfully attempt to stay the march of truth? Shall ignorance? And what is there in ignorance to ensure its own eternity? It has no power. It is but a negation : a blank which may be filled up; waste land which

may be cultivated. It has been diminishing for ages, and diminishes every day. Its resistance is that of emptiness to substance, of nothing to existence. Shall education. This may do much for prolonging error, may transmit it from generation to generation ; but not for ever. Its power is equal on the side of truth; and, therefore, if resistless, it would prevent our retrograding. But who is there among you that has not met with numerous instances of its yielding to personal conviction? How many are yourselves monuments of its inability to withstand the force of evidence ! Shall antiquity and authority? They often reconcile to absurdity and sanctify falsehood : but where are the proofs of their permanently rebutting truth? Did they protect the temples of Jupiter and Mars, and save them from becoming Christian Churches ? Could they rivet the chains of Popery on our ancestors, when they arose in might to snap them asunder? Do they now preserve what men follow the decision of a thousand years in deeming the holiest mysteries of faith, from free discussion and complete rejection ? O no--they are no invincible barrier : they have been trampled down by hostile feet, and have borne the banners of triumphant foes. Shall political authority, interest, persecution? What institutions can pretend to perpetuity? What is history but the record of their changes ? The establishment of error cannot:

enable it permanently to resist knowledge and inquiry. For a time it may be upheld by bribery; external respect may be enforced; and opposition be fiercely avenged: but this cannot last : conscience cannot be permanently bribed, nor thought imprisoned. Institutions must give way to, or fall before, the improving spirit of the times. Persecution is becoming obsolete. The puny efforts which public opinion now allows it to make, only resist the advance of mind as reeds stay the torrent, or straws impede the whirlwind.

We have “ a more sure word of prophecy." Christianity asserts its own future universality. Our Lord, by his parables of the grain of mustard seed, which became a spreading tree, and of the leaven which pervaded the whole mass, intimated the indefinite increase of his religion. He taught to pray, and therefore to hope, that the kingdom of God might come, and his “ will be done on the earth, as it is in heaven.” That spiritual kingdom, according to ancient prediction, was to“ stand for ever," and * fill the whole earth.” Dan. ii. « The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah xi. 9. “ All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Isaiah lii. 10. The Lord will “ destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations." Isaiah xxv. 7. Such prophecies as these are continually occurring, in reference to

« PreviousContinue »