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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, 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.
salute as "fellow Christians," those who differ from them on almost every point of the circle of religious truth. But it cannot be for a moment recognised by us, who hold that there is but one way of salvation, and that a "strait and a narrow way," in which there are comparatively few who walk; while the way that leads to destruction "is wide and broad, and many there be who go in thereat."* It is in vain to say, that this is requiring submission to a creed of human imposition, and exposes us to the charges of an assumed infallibility, and a disposition to domineer over the convictions or consciences of others. It is requiring submission only to the authority of the oracles of God, which gives no countenance to the latitudinarian hypothesis, that all errors of opinion are innocent, and that sincerity, even in error, is acceptable with God. Those who remind us that Trinitarianism originated in and tends to Popery, and of the proneness of the teachers of an Established religion to spiritual despotism, well know that this is a controversy between principles, and not between churches; and that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Atonement have been and are as zealously contended for and maintained by various members of the dissenting community, who exist independently of any connexion with the State, and who are, at least, as far removed from any disposition towards Popery as the Unitarians themselves. Regarding, then, as we do, a peace which is based upon false principles, and so leads to unscriptural conduct and exposes to future peril, as "no peace," and being sincerely anxious to lead our erring brethren to the knowledge and enjoyment of Him who is the only minister of a "peace which passeth all understanding,"-and being persuaded, moreover, that even the tumultuous swellings of Jordan are preferable to the stagnant waters of the Dead Sea, we have only followed the example of the Saviour and his Apostles, in warning sinners of their danger and exhorting them to embrace the deliverer from "the wrath to come." We would be as solemn as Jesus when he upbraided Capernaum, and as tender as when he bathed Jerusalem in tears. And when men tell us that
Jesus did not weep over errors of opinion we maintain that it was the "error of opinion," which led them to reject him as the Messiah, over which he lamented, and which made him exclaim, "How often would I have gathered you, and ye would not!"* But this is to speak as if we considered the state of Unitarians as hopeless, and had as infallible a knowledge of their doom. Holding the atonement and its kindred doctrines to be essential to the Gospel, how can we look upon the condition of those who reject them as any other than hopeless; while "our infallible knowledge" of the doom of all such, is derived exclusively from this infallible revelation, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." +
But these principles involve a violation of unity: and what if they do? Did not our Saviour emphatically declare, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword," &c.‡ Unity is, doubtless, an eminently desirable attainment, but it must be a "unity of the spirit," if it would be "in the bond of peace." Principles are the springs of conduct and moral conversation: to talk of a unity without principle, or of a unity purchased at the expence of the surrender of all principle, is to speak of that which is not worth having, even when attained. In order, therefore, to moral union, there must be doctrinal union, not the doctrine of creeds, as such, but the doctrine of an "unimproved," because unimprovable revelation. We feel concerned for Unitarians solely on their own account, and because of our deep conviction of the fatal character of their principles. It has been justly observed, that Unitarianism "appeals to the vanity of the half-learned, and the pride of the half-reasoning; but it neither interests the imagination, nor awakens the feelings, nor excites the passions, nor satisfies the wants of the human heart." Of the popularity, or extensive spread of such a system, we have no apprehensions; but we do deeply feel for those whom the pride of reason has already led into its fatal enclosure, and "our heart's desire and prayer to God for
Matt. x. 34-36.
*Matt. xxiii. 37.
Mark xvi. 15, 16.