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joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” Col. ii, 1–8. “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes ; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” Psa. xix, 7–9. “ Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets ; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. I have heard what the prophets said that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the hearts of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let himn speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord : Is not my word like as a fire ? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rocks in pieces,” Jer. xxiii, 9, &c. “ For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these
things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book," Rev. xxii, 18, 19.
The language of these passages is so far from being equivocal, that the reader, without the assistance of a commentator, will easily understand them, and make the proper application.
How much cause there is for these warnings, has been exemplified from the times of the apostles to the present. “ The Christian Church was scarcely formed when in dif. ferent places there started up certain pretended reformers, who, not satisfied with the simplicity of that religion which was taught by the apostles, set up a new religion drawn from their own licentious imaginations. Several of these are mentioned by the apostles, such as Hymenæus and Alexander. The influence of these new teachers was but inconsiderable at first. During the lives of the apostles their attempts toward the perversion of Christianity were attended with little success. They, however, acquired credit and strength by degrees; and even from the first dawn of the gospel laid imperceptibly the foundation of those sects which produced afterward such trouble in the Christian Church.
Among the various sects that troubled the Christian Church, the leading one was that of the Gnostics. These self-sufficient philosophers boasted of their being able to restore mankind to the knowledge (gnosis) of the supreme Being, which had been lost in the world. Under the gene. ral appellation of Gnostics are comprehended all those who, in the first ages of Christianity, corrupted the doctrine of the gospel by a profane mixture of the tenets of the oriental philosophy with its divine truths.” (Mosheim, book i, part ii, chap. v.) From these “knowing ones" arose, in the first and second century, a rich harvest of heretics and heresies, of which, not to mention them in detail, the reader may find an ample account in the first volume of Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History. A few specimens would show that the apostles acted wisely when they cautioned their disciples against every thing
destructive to the simplicity of the gospel, and that they were not mistaken in the results of this unnatural coali. tion of philosophy and revelation which they predicted. “There is no observation capable of fuller proof, than that religion, through all ages of the Christian Church, was more or less pure according to the alloy of philosophy or human reason mixed up with it. There were scarcely a heresy in the primitive church that was not imbibed from Plato's academy, Zeno's portico, or some vain reasonings of the pagan wise men. In latter ages the schoolmen rejected Plato, and exalted Aristotle into the chair of Christ, says Tilenus, (Til. Syntagm., part ii, disp. 16, thes. 31,) esteeming him the god of wisdom, who could not err.
And the controversy long subsisted to which of them an appeal lay for the determination of truth. Such is the vain arrogance of human reason, as to have puffed up some in every age to promise they would show us the truth by the mere light of it, and maintain it as the only rule of faith. ‘Philosophy and vain deceit' have always proved highly injurious to the purity of religion, and the great objects of faith which are supernaturally revealed.” (Dr. Ellis.)
Since philosophy has fallen into the hands of sincere and devout Christians, who valued above all learning “ the faith delivered to the saints,” and “ contended” for that faith as the truest wisdom, it has been much reformed. But so long as it is human wisdom, it will never be fit to take the lead of revelation. Modern philosophers, as well as those of antiquity, whenever they attempt to model their creed by the rule of their reason, show themselves capable of the greatest absurdities. With our Unitarian divines, (as they are pleased exclusively to denominate themselves,) it is a first principle that “reason directs to whatever is true in speculation.' To set reason free from the fetters of education, they have renounced the doctrine of human depravity, and of eternal punishment. Thus inspired with unlimited confidence in their own under. standing, and divested of all apprehension of eternal con, sequences, they are “induced to reason cautiously and frequently, and learn to reason well.” So says one of themselves.* And what can be more reasonably expected
* Mr. James Yates, in a sermon on the grounds of Unitarian dissent, preached at Glasgow, pp. 16, 17, 22, 23.
from them than that they should all reason alike? But their one, perfect, infallible, and unchangeable guide, which “ directs to whatever is true in speculation,” is far from leading them all in the same path. A few lines from the author just mentioned will amply illustrate their agree. ments and their differences.
“ In order to convey a just idea of the constitution of Unitarian societies, it is necessary to premise, that, while we are united by a few great principles, there are numerous topics of inferior consequence respecting which we differ in opinion among ourselves. All Unitarians agree in denying that Jesus Christ was the eternal God; and that he is the object of religious worship. Some of them, however, believe that he was employed, as an instrument in the hands of the Deity, to create the material world, though not possessed of underived wisdom and indepen. dent power : others believe only in his pre-existence. Some
go still farther, maintaining that he was simply a human being, but conceived in the womb of the virgin according to the introductory chapters of Matthew and Luke's gospels : others see reason to believe that those chapters are interpolations, and therefore deny the doc. trine of the miraculous conception. In like manner all Unitarians agree that the death of Christ was an incal. culable blessing to mankind : some, however, do not presume to determine the exact manner in which it conduces to the good of men, while others think that the mode of its beneficial operation may be distinctly pointed out ; but all reject the Trinitarian doctrines of satisfaction and vicarious atonement, believing, not that Jesus saves his followers from the everlasting misery to which they are supposed to have been doomed in consequence of the sin of their first parents, but that he saves them, by the force of his doctrines, precepts, and example, from vice, igno. rance, and superstition, and from the misery which is their natural result. The ordinance of baptism is a subject on which we entertain various opinions; some of us practise the baptism of infants, others of adults, and some think that the use of water may be omitted entirely. Concern. ing the question of an intermediate state, and the philoso. phical doctrines of materialism and necessity, we either remain in doubt or espouse opposite sides,
On these and
other points, which have been debated by orthodox Chris. tians with rancorous animosity, we agree to differ.” (Mr. Yates' Sermon, pp. 13-15.)
Mr. Yates ought to have the thanks of the Christian world for speaking the truth. This curious passage shows that reason, as well as nature, has her frolics. The “ few great principles" in which the Unitarians agree, Mr. Y. has carefully laid down; viz., 1. " The free and unbiassed use of the understanding on religious subjects.” 2.
They ought to offer prayer and adoration to God, the Father, only.” 3. “They regard holiness of heart, and excellence of conduct, as the only means of obtaining salvation.'
These three great Unitarian principles will not prevent the effect of our observations on the passage which we have cited.
There is one part of this exposition of Unitarianism on which we may properly enough remark before we enter into the heart of it. Mr. Y. has shown that his friends are not yet agreed on the philosophical doctrines of mate. rialism and necessity.” But ought they not to know from whence they take their departure, when they set out on their voyage of discovery? When Thales, while contemplating the stars, fell into a ditch, how, said a woman, should you know what passes in the heavens when you see not what is just at your feet? Again : ought they not to determine whether or not there is a spirit in them, before they assure themselves that they can without assist. ance from above find out God, who is a Spirit ? An apostle thought that none but the spirit of a man can know what is in man. But they think that, without a spirit, they can know the things of God. If all the phenomena of perception, reason, memory, will, and various affections, joined with the unequivocal and uniform testimony of divine revelation, cannot assure a Unitarian that he has a spirit distinct from his body, how can his reason prove to itself that there is a God who is a Spirit ? Where then is the reason, which is “a partial revelation of God, his nature, attributes, and will ?" If a man's reason be not satisfied on this point, how can he on Socinian principles believe the testimony of a revelation which contradicts his reason? Or, if a contradiction be not admitted, how can