« السابقةمتابعة »
which the perfections of the Supreme Being oblige him to render them eternally happy. These men are not so perverse as to feel any repugnance to a Deity who has no punitive justice, and an eternity which has no hell. It is the constant boast of our opponents, that their system gives them such an advantage in an attempt to win over infidels to the christian cause, by its being purged of those doctrines which afford the chief matter of offence and in this representation there is doubtless some appearance of truth. But whether, upon that account, they are likely to be more successful in converting [them] than ourselves, may well be made a question. For, in the first place, they will not find it so easy a task as they suppose, to convince them that the obnoxious tenets are not the doctrines of the gospel; and next, if they should succeed in this, the difference between their system and pure theism, is so slight and inconsiderable, as to make it appear a matter of great indifference which they adopt. Unless they are prepared to call in question the moral attributes of Deity and a future state, they are all in possession of the unitarian gospel already, and that by a mode of acquisition more flattering to the pride of reason. In a much vaunted seminary, or college, as it was called, established above thirty years back, for the avowed purpose of propagating unitarianism throughout the kingdom, I have the highest authority* for
* Hackney College. The authority here referred to is that of the late Dr. Abraham Rees, who was one of the professors.-ED.
affirming that a great proportion of the students became sceptics and unbelievers, and of none more than from those who attended the theological lectures. Had that institution continued, it bid fair to become the most prolific hot-bed of infidelity this country ever knew. Among those who had an education completely socinian, it is matter of palpable observation, that infidelity has prevailed to a great extent; nor will the genuine tendency of that system have an opportunity of completely developing itself, in this respect, until the existing generation is swept away. In the denomination where it chiefly prevails, it has recently supplanted arianism, under which the greater part of its present disciples were educated, so that its influence in the formation of character has been shared with a preceding system, which, however erroneous, is far removed from that total abandonment of all the peculiarities of the gospel which is involved in the socinian creed.
Fas est et ab hoste doceri. Surely the complacency felt by the avowed enemies of the christian religion for a particular modification of it, is not without its instruction or its warning, since, allowing them the ordinary sagacity necessary to discern their own interests, we may be sure they perceive in the object of their predilection the seeds of ruin to the christian cause; that they plainly see that unitarianism is a stepping-stone to infidelity, and that the first stage of the progress facilitates and almost secures the next.
III. A third feature in the unitarian system is the unfavourable influence it exerts on the spirit of devotion. It appears to have little or no connexion with the religion of the heart. Of all high and raised affections to God proudly ignorant; love to Christ, involving that ardent attachment which enthrones him in the soul, and subordinates to him every created object, it systematically explodes, under the pretence of its being either enthusiastic or impossible. Mr. Belsham, in a recent work, argues at large against indulging or pretending to indulge any particular attachment to the person of the Saviour, such as he acknowledges his immediate disciples felt, but which, according to him, is no longer the duty of christians of the present day. The only reason he assigns for this bold assault on the most vital part of practical christianity, is the invisibility of our Saviour,—a reason urged in open contempt of the sentiments of an inspired apostle, "whom," said he, “having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."*
By parity of reason, God, who is essentially invisible, must cease to be the object of our affections; and the obligation of loving him with all our heart, and all our strength, is at once cancelled and destroyed.
The devotional feelings inculcated in the Bible, are intimately and inseparably interwoven with
* 1 Pet. i. 8.
humility and gratitude-the humility and gratitude of a penitent and redeemed sinner. That he who is forgiven much will love much, is the decision of our Lord; while he to whom little is forgiven will love little.* But the perpetual tendency of the socinian system extenuates the evil of sin, and the magnitude of the danger to which it exposes the sinner, and is calculated to weaken, beyond expression, the force of the motives [they supply].
By asserting the intrinsic efficacy of repentance, to the exclusion of the merits of the Redeemer, it makes every man his own Saviour; it directs his attention to himself, as the source to which he ascribes the removal of guilt, and the renovation of hope; nor will it permit him to adopt, in any obvious and intelligible sense, the rapturous language of the redeemed, "To Him who loved us,
and washed us from our sins in his own blood." Taught to consider the Lord Jesus Christ in no other light than as the most perfect example, and the most enlightened of teachers, and believing that he has already bestowed all the benefits he is empowered to bestow, it is in vain to look for that consecration of the heart to his love, and of all the faculties of body and mind to his service, which may reasonably be expected from him who looks upon himself as a trophy of his power, and as the purchase of his blood. Not viewing himself as at any time exposed to condemnation, you must not expect him to celebrate, with elevated
* Luke vii. 47.
emotion, the riches of divine grace, much less that he should be transported with gratitude to God for the inestimable love evinced in the gift of his Son; when he considers it a high attainment to have learned that this Son is a mere man, on a level with himself. The unhappy disciple of this system is necessarily separated and cut off from the objects most adapted to touch the springs of religious sensibility. He knows nothing of a transition "from death unto life;" nothing of the anxieties of a wounded and awakened conscience, followed by "joy and peace in believing;" nothing of that "love of Christ which passeth knowledge;" nothing of the refreshing aids and consolations of that Holy Spirit whose existence he denies, whose agency he ridicules; nothing of that ineffable communion of spirit with God and the Redeemer, the true element of life and peace; nothing of the earnests and foretastes of that heaven which his system covers with a dense and impenetrable veil.
Facts, on this subject, concur with theory: for no sooner is a minister of the gospel transformed into a socinian, than he relinquishes the practice of extempore prayer, and has recourse to a written form. We are far from condemning the use of forms, where they are adopted from a conscientious preference; nor can we doubt that many members of the establishment, whose habits have combined with them the most devout associations and feelings, find them useful helps to piety. But, that those who have never used them before