صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

most impaired and attenuated affection-objects, in the contemplation of which, we before deemed it safe, and even obligatory, to lose ourselves in the indulgence of these delightful emotions.

Under the pretence of simplifying christianity, it obliterates so many of its discoveries, and retrenches so many of its truths; so little is left to occupy the mind, to fill the imagination, or to touch the heart; that, when the attracting novelty and the heat of disputation are subsided, it speedily consigns its converts to apathy and indifference. He who is wont to expatiate in the wide field of revelation, surrounded by all that can gratify the sight or regale the senses, reposing in its green pastures, and beside the still transparent waters, reflecting the azure of the heavens, the lily of the valley, and the cedar of Lebanon, no sooner approaches the confines of socinianism, than he enters on a dreary and melancholy waste. Whatever is most sweet and attractive in religion-whatever of the grandeur that elevates, or the solemnity that awes, the mind, is inseparably connected with those truths it is the avowed object of that system to subvert; and since it is not what we deny, but what we believe, that nourishes piety, no wonder it languishes under so meagre and scanty a diet. The littleness and poverty of the socinian system ultimately ensures its neglect, because it makes no provision for that appetite for the immense and magnificent, which the contemplation of nature inspires and gratifies, and which even reason itself

prompts us to anticipate in a revelation from the Eternal Mind.

By stripping religion of its mysteries, it deprives it of more than half its power. It is an exhausting process, by which it is reduced to its lowest term. It consists in affirming that the writers of the New Testament were not, properly speaking, inspired, nor infallible guides in divine matters; that Jesus Christ did not die for our sins, nor is the proper object of worship, nor even impeccable; that there is not any provision made in the sanctification of the Spirit for the aid of spiritual weakness, or the cure of spiritual maladies; that we have not an intercessor at the right hand of God; that Christ is not present with his saints, nor his saints, when they quit the body, present with the Lord; that man is not composed of a material and immaterial principle, but consists merely of organized matter, which is totally dissolved at death. To look for elevation of moral sentiment from such a series of pure negations, would be "to gather grapes of thorns, and figs of thistles," to extract "sunbeams from cucumbers."

II. From hence we naturally remark the close affinity between the unitarian system and deism. Aware of the offence which is usually taken at observations of this sort, I would much rather wave them, were the suppression of so important a circumstance compatible with doing justice to the subject. Deism, as distinguished from atheism, embraces almost every thing which the unitarians

[blocks in formation]

profess to believe. The deist professes to believe in a future state of rewards and punishments,-the unitarian does no more. The chief difference is, that the deist derives his conviction on the subject from the principles of natural religion; the unitarian from the fact of Christ's resurrection. Both arrive at the same point, though they reach it by different routes. Both maintain the same creed, though on different grounds: so that, allowing the deist to be fully settled and confirmed in his persuasion of a future world, it is not easy to perceive what advantage the unitarian possesses over him. If the proofs of a future state, upon christian principles, be acknowledged more clear and convincing than is attainable merely by the light of nature, yet, as the operation of opinion is measured by the strength of the persuasion with which it is embraced, and not by the intrinsic force of evidence, the deist, who cherishes a firm expectation of a life to come, has the same motives for resisting temptation, and patiently continuing in well doing, as the unitarian. He has learned the same lesson, though under a different master, and is substantially of the same religion.

The points in which they coincide are much more numerous, and more important, than those in which they differ. In their ideas of human nature, as being what it always was, in opposition to the doctrine of the fall; in their rejection of the Trinity, and of all supernatural mysteries; in their belief of the intrinsic efficacy of repentance,

and the superfluity of an atonement; in their denial of spiritual aids, or internal grace; in their notions of the person of Christ; and finally, in that lofty confidence in the sufficiency of reason as a guide in the affairs of religion, and its authority to reject doctrines on the ground of antecedent improbability ;-in all these momentous articles they concur. If the deist boldly rejects the claims of revelation in toto, the unitarian, by denying its plenary inspiration, by assuming the fallibility of the apostles, and even of Christ himself, and by resolving its most sublime and mysterious truths into metaphors and allegory, treads close in his steps. It is the same soul which animates the two systems, though residing in different bodies; it is the same metal transfused into distinct moulds.

Though unitarians repel, with sufficient indignation, the charge of symbolizing with deists, when advanced by the orthodox, they are so conscious of its truth that they sometimes acknowledge it themselves. In a letter to Mr. Lindsey, Dr. Priestley, speaking of the celebrated Jefferson, President of the United States when he arrived at America, says, "he is generally reported to be an unbeliever;" he adds, "but if so, you know he cannot be far from us."

(Here introduce the passages from Smith's Testimony, Vol. I.)

There was a certain period in my life when I was in habits of considerable intercourse with persons who, to say the least, possessed no belief

[ocr errors]

in christianity. Of these, it was never my lot to meet with one who did not avow great satisfaction in the progress of socinianism; they appeared to feel a most cordial sympathy with it, and to view its triumphs as their own. They undoubtedly considered it as the natural opening through which men escape from the restraints of revealed religion; as the high road to that complete emancipation which awaits them in the regions of perfect light and liberty.

Whoever has attentively investigated the spirit of modern infidelity, must perceive that its enmity is pointed chiefly to those very doctrines which unitarians deny; that their dislike is not so much to the grand notion of a future state of rewards and punishments, which sober theists admit, as to the belief of the fall, and the corruption of human nature, which are professed as the basis of the doctrine of redemption. It is, as it originally was, the cross of Christ which is foolishness to these Greeks; and here our opponents are confederated with them, and affirm themselves most faithful and zealous allies. Infidels, however they may dissent from the pretensions to a revelation, will feel no lively interest in impugning it while it imposes no necessity of believing what materially contradicts their prejudices and passions. Their quarrel is not so much with the medium of communication as with the doctrine conveyed: and here socinianism offers a most amicable accommodation, by assuring them of a future state, in

« السابقةمتابعة »