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divine origin, sanctity, and truth of the Old Testament; or deny that the scriptures, " beginning at Moses and all the prophets," contain things concerning Christ; or insist that every Jew could have understood those 66 things” even as we can understand them. We suggest this circumstance now, only because it places in a strong light the progressive order of God's dealings with man. We have here revealed truth from God, before the coming of the Saviour, prophetic of that coming. When he came, he both fulfilled and unveiled that prophecy to a certain degree; for, with the coming of Christ in the flesh, were given to man treasures of higher truth than he had before received. But we find much reason to believe the prophecy not wholly accomplished, not wholly. interpreted; to believe, that as the Jewish dispensation was preparatory to the christian, so the truth which came from heaven with the Redeemer, was intended to open and elevate the mind of man, and make it receptive, at some after time, of yet higher truth; to suppose that, as there was a dispensation prophetic of the advent of the Messiah, there may be one explanatory of that transcendant fact; to feel, as all christians must feel, that our Bible is veiled and darkened to our eye, and, in that “ letter” which “ killeth,” is difficult and perilous, and to trust, as surely all christians may trust, that this darkness is not to endure until the word of God is silent; that the clouds which veil his glory in mercy, share not the immortality of the light.
We suppose that the time has now come, and a new dispensation of truth is given. Nothing is added to the scriptures, nothing is taken from them, but they are opened; and a higher and truer faith of the needs of man, and the gifts of God, than has hitherto entered into the human heart, may now be received. One preparation for this blessed consummation, and the preparation which is now most obvious, consists in the exposure of the weakness and groundlessness of those schemes which have been devised in the christian church, to explain the mysteries of our nature and of our relation to Jehovah; and as those schemes are truly seen to be what they are, and are abandoned, "the old heaven and the old earth pass away.” In the first ages of christianity, when it was itself a heresy against established religions, and the war all around preserved peace within its borders, and its diciples were simple minded and obedient, none of these schemes were known, or thought of, or wanted. This was the infantile state of the church. It passed away; and the tendencies of our nature to evil and to falsehood grew active and fruitful. Many sects, each with its ruling falsity, arose; but they all, -as they were then, and now are, and, while error has a home on earth, ever will be,-may be referred to two primary divisions. One great untruth to which we are prone,
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and which closes the heart in which it rules against the influence of all truth and good, is, that we are able of ourselves to live on earth the life of heaven; that, as we are evil, so also we are good; and need not call upon the Lord to do battle against ourselves, and give us that salvation from ourselves which is heaven. Of course, it is a part of this belief, that all which Christ did, or needed to do, was to teach, to give to his laws the sanction of a future life, and to prove the reality of that sanction by his own resurrection. On this belief, as on its corner-stone, rests unitarianism in its thousand forms; this is its essence, and from it is its life. But there is another falsity, kindred to this, and connected with it by affinities not too remote for scrutiny, yet upon which is built a system of faith that is now waging with the structure which rests upon that other error, a war of extermination. We speak now of that trust in the efficacy of pure simple faith, for salvation, to which human nature, laden with sins and unwilling to cast aside the burthen, flies, as to a rock of refuge. Every impulse to selfishness or impurity whispers this fatal delusion; and often has the obdurate heart of man calmed his awakened conscience into the lethargy of death, by its poison. To this, the whole scheme of orthodoxy is accommodated. The atonement, as meaning the vicarious endurance of the effect or recompense of sin; mercy, gratuitously given or withheld according to election; the absolute and sole deity of each of three persons, with the separate and mutual functions of each, all grow from the same root, and together form the best scheme which man could devise as his authority in the substitution of believing right for doing right. This system must needs become the triumphant one of all which christianity has been made to sustain.
We have stated, distinctly and without qualification, what we consider the essentials of these two principal systems; and these our views we shall endeavour hereafter to illustrate at length. But let us at once, as an act of duty and propriety, deprecate the supposition, that we charge the great body of christians with holding, in fact, in this or in any past time, to the principles we have exposed. Both of these systems were framed with reference, at least an external, formal reference, to that word in which lies all truth; they both assert its sanctity and authority; and therefore they are so far overruled by Divine Providence, that they have no power to destroy him who seeks the Lord and seeks to obey him. As Luther said to his followers that “ every man has a pope in his own heart," so may we say, that in every human soul lie the seeds of those forms of error which we have described above. We may quote here, with great pertinency, a beautiful passage from Dr. Channing's sermon, and apply it to the tenets he supports, and to those which he assails.
“I mean not, in commending or condemning systems, to pass sentence on their professors. I know the power of the mind to select from a multifarious system, for its habitual use, those features or principles which are generous, pure, and ennobling; and by these to sustain its spiritual life amidst the nominal profession of many
I know that a creed is one thing as written in a book, and another as it exists in the minds of its advocates. In the book, all the doctrines appear in equally strong and legible lines. In the mind, many are seldom traced, and seldom recurred to; whilst others are inscribed as with sunbeams, and are the chosen, constant lights of the soul. Hence, in good men of opposing denominations, a real agreement may subsist as to their vital principles of faith; and, amidst the division of tongues, there may be unity of soul, and the same internal worship of God.” p. 12.
It is totally impossible for any man upon whom the breathings of the spirit have fallen, though he call himself a unitarian, not to humble himself; not to feel his weakness, his helplessness; not to see that all his danger is from himself, and all his hope in God. And, as for the orthodox, with all of that sect who truly strive to ceașe to do evil and learn to do well, faith has always been a mysterious, living principle, of no efficacy but as it is received and made fruitful in the life.
But it is time to examine more directly the books we have undertaken to review.
It would be a great superfluity for us to speak of the literary execution of Dr. Channing's sermon. Its distinguished author has perhaps a higher and more extended reputation, as a writer, than belongs to any other of our countrymen who is not by profession a merely literary man. This sermon will confirm, and it need not exalt his fame in this
respect. The precise object of the discourse is,
“Not to prove the truth of unitarianism by scripture authorities, for this argument would exceed the limits of a sermon; but to show its superior tendency to form an elevated religious character."
After thus stating his object, Dr. Channing goes on :
“If, however, this position can be sustained, I shall have contributed no weak argument in support of our views; for the chief purpose of christianity undoubtedly is, to promote piety, to bring us to God, to fill our souls with that great being, to make us alive to him; and a religious system can carry no more authentic mark of a divine original than its obvious, direct, and peculiar adaptation to quicken and raise the mind to its creator."
We agree fully with our author as to the force of this argument. Indeed, we might go further, in this respect, than he would; for, where it could be applied with certainty, we should hold to its conclusiveness. We regard the propositions—that the sole end and
use of truth is good, that the value of truth can be measured only by the good it will produce, and that the necessary results of a doctrine, as they are good or evil, prove it to be true or false; we hold, we say, these propositions to be absolutely and unqualifiedly true, and to form fundamental principles, which can never be safely forgotten or disregarded in reasoning upon the nature and duties
“ By their fruits, ye shall know them.” We might, however, differ from our author as to the facility of building safe foundations on which this argument can rest; and we should scarcely seek more convincing proof of the difficulty of applying this test than may be found in this discourse. We acknowledge that, if one proves a doctrine to lead to good, he proves that doctrine to be true; but we feel so sensibly the difficulty of ascertaining the precise and certain results of a principle, in our present ignorance of the springs and secret influences of human nature, that we should resort to this arguinent not very readily, and use it not very confidently. We would willingly enlarge upon this topic; but it would carry us too far from our principal subject. Let us, however, be permitted to say, that, in the relation and connection between truth and good, lie hidden, secrets, the disclosure of which would go far to reveal the mysteries of our nature.
The first head of Dr. Channing's discourse is thus expressed:
“I. Unitarianism is a system most favourable to piety, because it presents to the mind one, and only one infinite person, to whom supreme homage is to be paid.” We shall presently remark upon the assumption,
--soon, as we think, put aside and abandoned by Dr. Channing himself,—that unitarianism does “ present to the mind one, and one only, infinite person.” In the mean time, we will gratify our readers with the following beautiful and eloquent remarks upon the effect on the mind of seeing God as one.
“ It collects and concentrates the soul on one Father, of unbounded, undivided, and unrivalled glory. To him it teaches the mind to risé through all beings. Around him it gathers all the splendours of the universe. To him it teaches us to ascribe whatever good we receive or behold; the beauty and magnificence of nature, the liberal gifts of providence, the capacities of the soul, the bonds of society, and especially the riches of grace and redemption. All happiness it traces up to the Father, as the sole source. And the mind which these views have penetrated, through this intimate association of every thing exciting and exalting in the universe with one infinite Parent, can and does offer itself up to him with the intensest and profoundest love of which human nature is susceptible. The more strict and absolute the unity of God, the more easily and intimately all the impressions and emotions of piety flow together, and are condensed into one glowing thought, one thrilling love. No language can express the absorbing energy of the thought of one infinite Father; when vitally implanted in the soul, it grows and gains strength for ever. It enriches itself by every new view of God's Word and works; gathers tribute from all regions and all ages; and attracts unto itself all the rays of beauty, glory, and joy, in the material and spiritual creation." pp. 14 and 15.
Imbued with the spirit of these sentiments; feeling their truth; answering back, from the very depths of our being, that verily there is and can be no hope, no safety, no gladness, no heaven, but in one infinite Parent; let us go on to examine the succeeding parts of this discourse.
“II. Unitarianism is the system most favourable to piety, because it holds forth and preserves inviolate the spirituality of God.”
Having laid down this position, our author proceeds to illustrate it thus :
“It is of great importance to the progress and elevation of the religious principle, that we should refine more and more our conceptions of God; that we should regard him as a pure intelligence, an unmixed and infinite mind. Unitarianism approaches him under no bodily form, but as a pure spirit, as the infinite and universal mind.”
We urge this subject earnestly upon our readers, because we conceive it to be interwoven with all the essentials of unitarianism. The objection we bring against this system is, that, growing out of feelings which in truth demand no object of worship, it presents to the mind nothing that can be worshipped; that it "refines” our conceptions of God until it destroys them. The whole of religion, as a science, consists in the knowledge of the relation between man and God. It becomes something more than science, more than mere theory, than inefficient and barren opinion, when man worships the God whom religion discloses. Without worship, what and where is religion as matter of practice, as a thing fruitful in good? Now, we beg our readers to consider, and answer for themselves, whether “pure intelligence” is an object of thought; and whether that can be an object of worship which is not an object of thought. Who is he before whom man bows himself in humility; who is he whom man obeys in fear or with hope, or reverences with love, or leans upon with unfailing trust, when he regards God as a "pure intelligence?” Is intelligence a person? Religion, in the soul and in the life, consists in living in accordance with the truth, that all being, power, love, and good are from God. But if this only be religion, where is it when we regard our creating, controlling, and sustaining Parent as a mere mixed and infinite mind.” Let us look at the subject in the light which Dr. Channing throws upon it.