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volume. Whether the Orthodox interpretation be true, is a question of grammar and philology. Not only the lexicons of Gesenius and Schleusner, but the dictionary of Calmet, may be properly studied. But human philosophy is to be silent, when the question relates to subjects on which the human mind never had experience. In this case, real philosophy listens, but does not speak; questions, but cannot answer.
I have wished here to reduce the subject to its elements. A full discussion is unnecessary. Those, who have reason and are disposed to use it, will find this subject ably discussed in the appendix to the first volume of Storr, by Prof. Schmucker. See also the review of the Evangelical Church Journal, in the Spirit of the Pilgrims for April, 1828. The same subject is also discussed in Dr. Beecher's sermon, entitled, “ The Bible a code of laws."* Intelligent, reasoning minds, of every denomination, who are willing to examine the foundations, not only of the Orthodox, but of all religious faith, for themselves, will find matter for deep and satisfactory meditation in the works just mentioned.
Though somewhat acquainted with Unitarian writers, I know not the book where the Unitarian views on this subject are presented in a simple, coherent, dispassionate, and intelligible shape. The fact is, that Unitarian writers, when they refer to this topic, are generally not a little confused, from their forced admission of the inspiration and authority of the scriptures, and their wish to appeal to human reason, separated from, and in contradiction to those scriptures. A confusion arising, not from the want of talent or general learning, but from the contradictions inherent in their system.
The proper use of reason in matters of religion is, surely, a subject of great importance, deserving serious thought. Bretschneider has said, in reference to the Supernaturalists, or believers in the plenary inspiration of the scriptures, of Germany, that “they believe that reason furnishes the proofs of revelation, and that revelation cannot possibly contain any thing contrary to reason, though it may contain much that rises above reason.” This, he adds, was the ground taken by Döderlein, Morus, and Reinhard ; and it is the ground now held by Ammon, Schot, Niemeyer, Bretschneider and others. To this the Orthodox of this country would subscribe without a dissenting voice.
At the annual meeting of the Unitarian Association in May of the present year, a learned Judge addressed the audience on a variety of topics, among others, dwelling at some length on the subject of this note. The original talents, the general acquirements, the unwearied application to his chosen science, and the laborious duties of his office, the judicial uprightness and intentional impartiality of Judge Story, to say nothing of his private character and social virtues, no one is more willing, or more happy to admit, than the writer. He honors a station that would honor any man. But that honorable gentleman will pardon me for reminding him, that there are legal subjects, and others besides legal ones, that require to be studied, in order to be understood; and he need not be in doubt as to the hint, that fluency of remark does not always indicate intelligence of the subject professedly discussed. Instruction from laymen, upon subjects bearing more or less remotely upon religion, is desirable. It will not, however, be thought asking too much that it be instruction, and not ignorant declamation. The assertions of even a Sir Matthew Hale, will not now pass for argument. There was propriety in the proverb adopted by the Latins from the Greeks, which it is not necessary to apply, “Quam quisque nôrit artem, in hac se exerceat.” Will the learned Judge pardon me for asking, if it be judicious to decide, in a popular meeting, a legal question that may come before him for legal adjudication ? Whoever listened to the earnest remarks of the Judge, must have perceived that the zealot had got the better of the man, that the partizan had supplanted the judge. The rights of Mr. Story to the Unitarian belief, and to advance the Unitarian cause by proper means, personal, pecuniary, or other, are undoubted. But great legal questions (one of which has not yet been argued, or even started, in our courts*) with due deference to the Judge, I shall take the liberty to remind him, (though he long since knew, but seems recently to have forgotten it,) are to be presented in open court, where both parties may be heard; to be thoroughly investigated, by the judge or judges, in moments of cool, unbiassed reflection; and to be decided, without the impulse of passion, without the influence of prejudice, and without the remembrance of party. When a judge, throws his decision, formed without examination, into one of those scales, which he is bound by his oath to hold with even hand, while we may respect his social virtues and not despise his talents, we shall not long fear his influence. If Judge Story should contend that he had thoroughly examined the question, we should like to know how this will mend the matter, or relieve the difficulty ? Will he, or any one, say, “he is a judge of the United States' Court, and this is a question for the
* Occasional Sermons, p. 138.
* The rights of VOLUNTARY religious associations to hold property by deeds" under the Constitution of Massachusetts.
State Courts, and so he is at liberty to give his private opinion”? Let us examine this plea. A. B., a merchant of Boston, brings, or may be supposed about bringing an action for 100,000 dollars, against C. D., also a merchant of Boston. The question is to come before, and to be decided by Judge Parker. Mr. Justice Story, in the course of a public address at Fanueil Hall, takes occasion to argue and decide the question. The gentleman in whose favor Judge Story might decide, would, no doubt, feel additional confidence in his cause. But what would Judge Parker, and the good people of Massachusetts, think of Mr. Justice Story? The truth is, Judge Story has, in this instance, (on reflection, I am convinced, he will think so himself,) descended from that lofty eminence of impartiality, where he usually resides, and from that perception of the proprieties of his station, in which he generally excels. He was indeed unfortunate in the time, place, and mode of his descent. What he said on human reason, has been said a thousand times, and a thousand times shown to be mere declamation : and his argument about trust deeds, could be most easily shown to be of the same character. It was, in fact, but a repetition of the unfounded assertions of “A Layman,” which had been a little before triumphantly refuted in the review of his famous pamphlet on trust deeds. Judge Story would do well to remember that the followers of Jonathan Edwards can reason; and that the descendants of the Puritans know to whom they owe allegiance, and of whom they may claim their rights.
Unitarians object to the term rationalism, as indicative of their system, though “it claims a more intimate alliance with reason" than Orthodoxy. But what is rationalism ? Let Wegscheider define his own system. “It is an unquestionable fact, that in the canonical books of the New Testament, are contained the authoritative documents of the Christian religion, and of the divine truth, which it declares; and these documents are of the antiquity, which they purport, and are perfectly worthy of credit. This being the case, in conducting a system of instruction for mankind at large, it is our duty to employ the utmost attention and pains, that, laying aside those farfetched conjectures and questions, equally difficult and unprofitable, which have been brought up in later times, concerning revelation and the inspiration of the sacred books, we should evince that the Chris. tian religion, as well as the Holy Scripture, originated in God as its author, and should urge upon men the truly divine contents of the scriptures, which become constantly better understood, as what has proceeded from God, and is the true word of God; and therefore
should apply it to the practical use of life.” What is there in this so frightful, that Unitarians shrink from it? Is it not as near a definition of American Unitarianism as can be given ? Those who know what words mean, or do not mean, know, that this so plausible and smooth-speaking definition excludes all revelation.
I will only add that, if Unitarians continue to pervert the word rational, as for some past they have done, we shall be obliged to renounce it, and use the word reasonable' for what 'rational once meant. Knave formerly signified boy.
NOTE I. Puge 83.
UNITARIANS AND UNIVERSALISTS. What I have to say upon these topics, not very popular in some high places, I shall arrange under these heads, 1. Unitarianism, properly defined, includes both classes. 2. American Universalism is really the original American Unitarianism. 3. Unitarians, now so called, do not understand, or wilfully misrepresent, Universalism. 4. Unitarianism, in its largest, broadest sense, as believed by the greatest number of its adherents, is Universalism.
Can these propositions be made out? If they cannot be, I acknowledge myself obnoxious to the charge of bearing false witness against my neighbor. If they can be made out, the consciences of those concerned can decide on their past conduct and future duty. The community will also be prepared to take some new views of “ the arguments of liberal Christians, that are before the public, and of their characters, which are the property of society.” The first question, which arises in this investigation, and which must be settled before we proceed, is, what is Unitarianism? What is it in its essence, as defined and believed by its friends ? This question shall be answered by English and American Unitarians. The Monthly Repository, the Christian Disciple, the Christian Examiner, and the Christian Register, shall decide this and other connected ques. tions.
“ The essence of Unitarianism is the doctrine of the One God, the Father. This is to be carefully distinguished from the heterogeneous mass (?) of opinions, which have in different individuals been combined with it.” Month. Rep. Aug. 1827, p. 554.
Rev. W. H. Drummond, D. D. a Unitarian preacher of Dublin, in a work dedicated (the English reviewers say, « with great propriety,") to Rammohun Roy and Dr. Channing, “lias divided all Christians into two denominations, Unitarians and Trinitarians.” Dr. Drummond adds, (and we shall soon see that his American friends chime in to the same tune,) “ in proportion as the chords of a musical instrument are multiplied, the difficulty of preserving concord is increased.” “ The term Unitarian,' applied to our places of worship, should be understood as denoting nothing more than that all prayers are strictly addressed to the One God and Father of all,” says a writer in the Monthly Repository. “ The essence of [English] Unitarianism is the doctrine of One God, the Father,” (without any reference to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.) American Unitarians have not, as yet, adopted quite so “ exclusive” a creed. “ The basis of the Unitarian creed is, the One God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent." Christian Disciple, 1822, p. 313. This has rather an unusual share of Unitarian definiteness. With suitable explanations, it might apply to all Christians, of all countries, in all ages. Dr. Priestley would infer from this, that the church universal has been, and will be evermore, Unitarian, However, the following extract from the Christian Register, of Dec. 22, 1827, will help to define what might be thought somewhat indefinite in the preceding quotation. Unitarians are those who believe, that there is one God, even the Father; and that Jesus is not this one God, but a distinct being, derived and dependent, and sent by God to accomplish his benevolent will on earth.... Unitarianism excludes the doctrine of the Trinity, and the popular notions about atonement. On other subjects Unitarians divide.” We shall have occasion for this witness again.
Unitarianism, then, comprehending English and American believers in the doctrine, is simple monotheism, or pure theism. American Unitarians believe in this one God, deny that Christ, in any view of his character, was properly participant of the divine nature, but believe that he was (as every other prophet was) wholly derived and dependent, yet sent by God to accomplish his benevolent will on earth; and they also reject the popular notions of atonement. How long it will be before they will find that they have too many chords to their “musical instrument,” it is not necessary to decide. It requires, however, a skilful hand to touch the remaining two, and not produce a jar. Unitarianism, defined by its friends, consists either in the belief of “ One God the Father “ One God, and of Jesus Christ as sent to accomplish the benevolent will of God, excluding the doctrine of the Trinity and the popular notions about atonement; and on other subjects, Unitarains divide.”