Page images
PDF
EPUB

the world, and it will shine “more and more unto the perfect day.”

The tendency of Unitarianism is to destroy sectarianism. Its votaries are separated by so mighty a barrier from the rest of the Christian world, that they readily overlook the lesser differences among themselves ; like a few persons of different nations, shipwrecked on a desert island, who, whether their native countries be at peace or war, find it necessary to unite cordially, and render each other good-will and kind offices. All the minor varieties that have made parties, fostered bigotry, and excited alienation and persecution, exist among them commonly, without interfering with social peace or individual affection. And though to a much less extent, yet something of the same result has been produced among their opponents; and the necessity of defending the great peculiarities of their system, has softened the asperities that used to attend its more minute varieties. Good men have long looked forward to a time when dogmas and leaders shall cease to give names to religious societies; when they shall merge in the more honourable title of Christian

;

and there shall be “one fold and one shepherd.” Let us hope that to this state we are approaching; and that as inferior distinctions are becoming absorbed in the greater, they also will, by a continuance of the same operation, at length vanish, and sects

and creeds bow their usurping heads before the name of Christian and the apostolic confession, “ There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

Meanwhile, the great cause of civil and religious liberty has been advanced. The latter was very imperfectly understood and practised at the Reformation. It was claimed or denied, as parties were in or out of power.

Often was it claimed for societies, but denied by them to individuals. Unitarianism sprung up in the bosom of other denominations, and its votaries claimed in their own defence, real religious liberty, viz individual liberty in a Christian Church. With its progress the subject has become better understood. It is remarkable, that when Trinitarianism originally sprung up in a similar way, it was followed by no similar result: till it acquired influence, it was timid; and then, tyrannous. This shews a difference of spirit and tendency. In the first four centuries, doctrinal corruption and ecclesiastical domination advanced hand in hand; together were they born; together did they revel on human sacrifices; and together shall they perish. The same malignant star ruled at their nativity, and the same triumphal shout shall peal the glad-tidings of their destruction around the enlightened and liberated globe. And will the man of high and just and liberal spirit in religion, be in politics the slave or the enslaver? Is not the connexion most intimate between religious and civil freedom ? They identify themselves. Religious liberty is a civil right; to assert it is a Christian duty. By enlightened principles of theology are minds nurtured which are prompt firmly to claim their due, and faithfully to discharge their duty-men who will be just to their country and to the world.

This rapid view of the results of the Unitarian controversy, results so decidedly beneficial, nou only proves the utility of controversy, as a means for the discovery and promotion of truth, but indicates our duty, and confirms our hopes. It exhibits the arms and triumphs of Unitarianism. The weapons

of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds : casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

The present state of Unitarianism is most encouraging to its advocates. It has advanced in defiance of prejudices the most obstinate and extensive, and amid the assaults and anathemas of almost all the sects into which Christianity is distributed. Till within the last fifty years it scarcely existed in Britain but as the religion of individuals, but since that time numerous con

gregations have been formed; it has been embraced by the greater part of the Presbyterian and General Baptist denominations; and has received large accessions from other classes. It has been preached to the poor, and they have heard it gladly. Whole societies of Methodists, guided only by the Bible, have adopted its tenets, even without being aware that there were any other persons in the world of a similar faith. considerable body of Unitarians exists in Transylvania. Numbers are scattered over the continent; and the Reformed churches seem generally to be receding with a slow and silent, but not uncertain progress, from the harsh doctrines of their ancestors : at Geneva, the temple of Calvin is become the monument of Servetus: an Unitarian Church has sprung up at Madras, consisting of natives, who are chiefly converts from Heathenism : while the progress already made, and the opportunities afforded, in America, promise a career of triumph through that widelyextended empire. Unitarianism is no longer the seed sown by the way side, exposed to destruction from the birds of the air, or the foot of the passenger, from gloomy skies or a sterile soil ; it has taken root, and sprung up, and put forth its branches far and wide; the river of life flows round and nourishes it; the dews of heaven descend upon it; and when we are laid in the dust,

others shall rise to admire its beauty, stability, and progressive increase, till the earth be covered with its shade, and filled with its fruits.

That Unitarianism shall become co-extensive with Christianity, and Christiantuy be the religion of the world, are expectations resting on the same basis-the power of Truth. Probably neither of these events will be brought about, though both may be accelerated, by proselyting. The progress of Unitarianism is less important than the progress towards it of the rest of the Christian community; especially if we observe the connexion of this change with the cultivation of biblical criticism, with just notions of religious liberty, and with the general diffusion of education and knowledge. The purity of Christianity may be restored, as it was lost, by a gradual and general movement. And in the same manner may Christianity itself prevail over other religions ; increasing light leading to the detection of one error after another, until there shall remain only the easy transition from belief in the truths which Jesus taught, to an admission of his authority as the Son of God.

That “ Truth is mighty and will prevail,” is an assertion which has grown by common consent into a principle, or axiom, rather serving as proof for other propositions, than needing for itself the labour of examination and array of evidence. It is the dictate of experience, The progress of

« PreviousContinue »