Page images
PDF
EPUB

fact and sense. Its best aim is exaltation in excellence. Ample means are at hand; the reward is sure. Earth is improved by man, though man knows nothing of the primitive qualities of its atoms; metals are raised indefinitely in utility and value, while the workman remains in profound ignorance of the essence of his material; and the body is ameliorated despite the impenetrable mystery in which the problems of its vitality, identity, muscular action, and nervous operations are involved; and the principle designated soul, spirit, mind, or heart, is known to be susceptible of improvement and exaltation, to a degree which no metaphysical thermometer can indicate, although no speculative test can detect the soul's primitive qualities.

C. C. H.

CONCESSIONS OF TRINITARIANS. It has long seemed to us, that one who should collect together the concessions of Trinitarians as regards the meaning of the proof texts commonly relied on in support of the doctrine of the Supreme Deity of Jesus Christ, would do a good service for the truth. Were this task thoroughly accomplished, every one would be enabled to see at a glance that there is hardly a single passage in the Bible, that has ever been supposed to favour the idea of a trinity of equal persons in the Godhead, which has not been so explained by one or another respectable orthodox commentator as to render it consistent with the views of Unitarians. For instance, Heb. i. 8, 9: " and unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." What text has been more relied on than this, to prove the nature of Christ to be the same as that of God? And yet we happen to have before us the explanations of two distinguished Trinitarian divines, which represent the text as referring, not to the nature of Jesus, but to his office. One of these explanations may be found in Prof. Stuart's Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. ii. p. 58. He remarks thus: “Does the word God, here denote the divine or the kingly nature or condition of the Messiah? Most interpreters, who admit the doctrine of the Saviour's divine naturé, contend for the first of these senses; as I have myself once done, in a former publication. But further examination

has led me to believe, that there are grounds to doubt of such application of the word God, in this passage. The king, here called God, has for himself a God, 'thy GOD hath anointed thee;' and the same king bas associates, i. e. others who in some respects are in a similar condition or office," &c. The other orthodox divine to whom we referred as giving a similar explanation, is a writer in the Biblical Repository for Jan. 1839. His words are these: “ Here the Son is addressed by the title God; but the context shows it is an official title, which designates him as a King; he has a kingdom, a throne, and a sceptre; and in verse 9, he is compared with other kings who are called his fellows; but God can have no fellows. As the Son, therefore, he is classed with the kings of the earth; and his superiority over them consists in this, that he is anointed with the oil of gladness above them, inasmuch as their thrones are temporary, but his shall be everlasting.”

Why will not some one who has leisure and books set about collecting the concessions of our orthodox brethren, in regard to the meaning of those passages of the Bible commonly quoted in support of the doctrine of the Trinity?

[The wish expressed by the author of the preceding article (which is copied from the Christian Register, published at Boston, U. S. January 30, 1841), is, we are happy to say, on the point of being realised. The readers of the Christian Pioneer are aware that a work, bearing the title prefixed to this article, has been long. in preparation by Mr. John Wilson (now of Manchester), and that proposals for its publication have been for some time before the world. The labour, accuracy, attention, and judgment manifested by Mr. Wilson in his former work “Scripture Proofs and Scriptural Illustrations of Unitarianism” '-are pledges of the fidelity and value of his proposed volume. He asks only for 350 Subscribers, to induce him to go to press. We are glad to know that by far the major portion of that number have already sent in their names. We cannot doubt, when the importance of such a publication is considered, that the residue will immediately be forthcoming.]

CATHOLICITY AND UNITARIANISM. We have been favoured with several numbers of the “ Hertford Christian Reformer" (a periodical now merged in the “ Voluntary"), containing a correspondence under the title given above, and under the signatures of “An Open Communion Baptist," « Vigil," "E. S.&c. The first-mentioned of these parties had broached some plan of Catholicity, to be founded, as he laid down, upon the acceptance of the Scriptures as the standard of religious sentiment, leaving the interpretation open to every man's unfettered inquiry and private judgment. It soon appeared, however, that this vaunted Catholicity was to be only an old sectarianism under a new name. It was to be an aggregation of certain parties, assuming the exclusive title of Orthodox. The Unitarian was especially to be excluded from these so-called Catholic or unsectarian churches. Upon this our correspondent, Vigil, wrote a letter, addressed to the “ Reformer” newspaper, exposing the inconsistency of this sort of Catholicity, and calling upon the Baptist either to follow out the legitimate result of his principles, else explain or retract them.

The question between the Baptist and Vigil, is really the question of Protestantism itself; namely, whether the interpretation of Scripture is to depend on authority (that authority being no constant and invariable quality, but often in contradiction to itself, and shifting like the sands),-or whether every man may inquire for himself, believe according to the evidence, and be fully persuaded in his own mind? This is no new topic of controversy. It is coeval with Christianity itself; it was revived with peculiar earnestness at the Reformation of the 16th century; and though it was not, as some have supposed, the principle on which that Reformation was avowedly based; yet, owing to the condition of the human mind and of the church, the great cause of free inquiry and individuality of religious belief, acquired at that time new and peculiar developement. Whether Tradition or Reason is to be the interpreter of Scripture, is a point which many, calling themselves Protestants, have not yet settled for themselves. They are in substance, and unwittingly, Romanists, though devoutly hating with all their hearts what they designate Popery. Here is an egregious mistake. All are Romanists, who hold their religious opinions on the ground of authority, who set up creeds to be subscribed to, who hold catechisms, prayer-books, and confessions of faith, as available to finally settle the meaning of Scripture and to place their belief on a high vantageground above the investigations of human reason. ACcording to this reckoning, many are Romanists who have no suspicion of the fact. One may be in principle a Romanist, though he is in the habit of anathematising Mother Church. He may be so, though he idolises the Westminster Confession or the Episcopalian Prayer-book. He is a Romanist, that is, a Traditionist, if he thinks as if Andrew Fuller, or Robert Hall, or Moses Stuart, had definitively settled everything, and that from such authorities there is no appeal. It is incredible, that many, calling themselves Protestants, should not perceive this very obvious consequence, that either Church Authority or Individual Reason must be the ultimate standard of interpretation. There can be no medium or third alternative; and these two can no more unite than light and darkness, the idea of a square with the idea of a circle. If the authority of the Church, or of any portion of it, is accepted as the regulation of faith, we are at once Traditionists; if tradition is rejected, we cannot stop short of the principle of private judgment—the exercise of individual reason—the principle of the Apostle, “ Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”

Discussions of this kind will always be in season and in place, so long as a certain class of persons assume that tone of superiority, and claim for their peculiar opinions that oracular certainty which the Orthodox are in the habit of claiming Generally speaking, those who style themselves orthodox, assume that Unitarian opinions must be wrong, because a number of orthodox sects agree in condemning them. They appear to imagine that the whole thing is fixed beyond the reach of argument-settled by the leading men of their respective parties. There cannot, they think, be two opinions on the subjects of the Trinity, birth-sin, and vicarious redemption. Their feeling was expressed by one who said, the other day, 6 we think the Methodists are wrong, we are sure the Unitarians are.” This is precisely giving utterance to the prevalent feeling. It is given to the Unitarians to inquire and believe, with more or less probability; it is given to the Orthodox to know with absolute certainty. The Unitarians have the privilege of thinking that the Orthodox may be wrong; it is the prerogative of the Orthodox to know that their opponents are in error. Such is their tone of infallibility; and is it not the spirit of Popery? This is that assumption of unerring certainty, which they all nominally agree to reprobate and protest against, in her of Rome. Nomine mutato de te fabula narratur;" they do the same thing toward us which they exclaim against when assumed by the Church of Rome. Now, we beg leave to say, that no party nor sect can sanctify Popery; and that other poperies are to be not less condemned than that which is seated on the seven hills.

We speak advisedly when we say, that the mass of the Orthodox sects generally, with some brilliant exceptions of individual members, are Traditionists, or believers upon authority. Are we unjust in this charge? Is not the language of certainty always employed in condemnation of the Unitarians? Do the Orthodox evince any scruples or misgivings, or any the remotest recognition of human fallibility, when it pleases them, roundly and in good set terms, to denounce the whole opinions, criticisms, and scholarship of Unitarians? Are not Unitarian views so referred to as if they were out of the pale of argument, and stood on different ground from those of other denominations? Are they not held to be finally, fatally, and effectually condemned in those precious depositories of the prejudices and ignorance of the dark ages-the creed-books and articles of churches, established and dissenting? Is all this apocryphal, and without foundation? We wish we might believe so; but we appeal to the writings, the periodicals, and the speeches of the Orthodox, to say whether this is not their tone toward the Liberals. Nay, is not every child, and old woman, and half-witted person, taught to hold up their hands in horror, and to utter the self-sufficient sentence of condemnation

проп

the heresies of such men as Newton and Priestley, Locke and Milton? We wish the history of these things were precisely the reverse of what it is; and we have to remind all and sundry who may

be

« PreviousContinue »