« PreviousContinue »
Aperte dicite non vos credere Christi Evangelio; nam qui in Evangelio quod vultis creditis, quod vultis non creditis, vobis potius quam Evangelio creditis. Aug. cont. Faust. vi. 336.
MY BELOVED BRETHREN IN THE MINISTRY
OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR,
WHO HAVE SO READILY CO-OPERATED WITH ME IN THIS EFFORT TO VINDICATE HIS
NAME AND HIS TRUTH
FROM THE DEGRADING ASSUMPTIONS OF THE
COD-DENYING HERESY OF UNITARIANISM;
TO ALL, IN EVERY PLACE,
WHO LOVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IN SINCERITY,
The following Lecture
IS RESPECTFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY
BY THEIR FRIEND AND SERVANT IN THE BONDS OF THE GOSPEL,
In sending this Lecture to press, the author thinks it right to premise, that having delivered it from notes, and corrected it into its present form from the report of a short-hand writer, it cannot profess to be, verbatim, the same as was spoken. There has not, however, been any important change, that he is aware of; and while but a few unimportant alterations have been made, and one only additional quotation introduced, he can affirm it to be substantially the same. It is scarcely to be expected that, on such a subject, much original matter should now be elicited. The praise of originality was not, however, the author's object, but rather usefulness and edification. He has accordingly availed himself freely of the labours of those who have gone before him in the controversy, not only in the adoption of their arguments, but frequently of their words; and being aware how eagerly advantage is taken of definitions and forms of expression by those whose tenets are here impugned, he has preferred rather to clothe himself in the verbal armour of the tried veterans in this contest, than trust himself in the weaker panoply of his own providing. He has further abstained from drawing a picture of Unitarianism in his own language, and then criticising that picture ; but has deemed it more candid and honest to let it speak for itself, in the words of its most eminent and gifted defenders. The reader will, therefore, find large quotations from Priestley and Channing, as well as other distinguished writers of their school, whose opinions may be taken as a fair specimen of those which are generally held by the body at large. It must be obvious, that in endeavouring to ascertain the doctrinal sentiments of a sect which boasts of its freedom from creeds, articles, or formularies, considerable difficulty must be encountered : it is so easy and convenient withal, for each particular member to dis.. claim any responsibility for what has been advanced by another,
however venerated he may be in reality for his talents, or silently considered as a standard of appeal. “To seize what is fugitive,” says Archbishop Magee, “to fix that which is ever in the act of change, to chain down the Proteus to one form, and to catch his likeness ere he has shifted to another,—this is certainly a work not easily accomplished.”* The difficulty of the case is not diminished by the notorious and avowed difference of opinion which exists among Unitarians themselves; from the highest Arianism down to the lowest shade of Socinian Humanitarianism itself. If, therefore, it should be attempted to turn aside the force of the argument on the practical tendency of this system, by disowning the authorities of Belsham, Priestley, Channing, and the editors of the “Improved Version,”-confessedly the ablest men, and most learned critics and expositors of Unitarian principles who have yet appeared in this country or in America, whose writings have formed the text-book and influenced the destinies of unnumbered thousands, it can only be answered, that until Unitarianism shall have set forth, in an authentic and authorized form, an exhibition of its fixed principles, (if it have any,) it must be content with being judged of, as a system, by those individuals, however irresponsible, whose published works (many of which have passed through numerous editions) furnish the most plausible and elaborate statement of their doctrinal sentiments, and which have never been repudiated or protested against by any section of the general body. It is amusing to see the coolness with which the “Improved Version” has been abandoned by the champions of Unitarianism in this controversy, after it has served its awful purpose of unsettling the minds and undermining the faith of multitudes in the divine authority of the Word of God.
It has been said that the present agitation of the points in dispute between us and Unitarians, involves an unnecessary and injurious disturbance of the religious peace of the community. This objection is natural enough from those who are content to fraternize with every creed, and no creed, among the unbounded varieties of prevailing opinion, and who can gracefully
Atonement, vol. ii. 347, 348.