« ForrigeFortsett »
our views of the relations between man and his Maker, as what we should be disposed to call the overstrained zeal and anxiety of the orthodox, proceed from their ideas of the same relations. In changing our conduct, we should act inconsistently with our principles; and so would they. We have as good reasons for our moderation, as they have for their excitement. We do not pursue so warmly the peculiar interests of our party, because we do not believe that the interests of our party are exclusively the interests of religion. We do not so bitterly lament the loss of a member from our communion, because we do not believe, that while he holds fast his integrity, he can possibly be lost to God and Heaven. In fine, to accumulate no more instances, we do not, on any similar occasions, manifest extraordinary emotions, or employ extraordinary exertions, simply because our opinions forbid and prevent them. It is one of our doctrines, that doctrines are principally to be valued as they influence the heart and conduct. As long as we hold this doctrine, we cannot display the same kind of zeal that our opponents do. We cannot, on this subject, think one way, and feel and act another. If we give up our practice, we must also give up our principles. For our own parts, we do not feel inclined to do either.
Do we not, then, set any value on our distinguishing and characteristic opinions? Do we not feel an interest in maintaining and propagating our peculiar doctrines? We do indeed. We value them as we value truth. We feel that interest in their success, which we feel in the success of liberal sentiments, and enlightened views, worthy of rational beings, and honourable to God. We hope that they will prevail, as
we hope that pure and undefiled religion will prevail; and that they will fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea. But these feelings, and these hopes, are not of a nature to inspire a blind enthusiasm. They are too highly allied not to disdain a connexion with the selfishness and narrowness of party zeal. They are too holy to be the slaves of ambitious passion, and too charitable to be the ministers of spiritual pride. We believe that our doctrinal tenets are correct, and scriptural, and purifying, and consoling, and ennobling; and it is because we believe so, that we would employ no means to advance them, but such as are consistent with the dignity and divinity of their character. Though we would not deny, that in every form of Christianity, there must exist good influences, we yet undoubtingly, affirm, that in our own they do especially abound; and that our own, because it is the purest and most primitive, is the best adapted of any to affect the hearts, to inform the understandings, to improve the morals, and to amend the condition of the children of men; and it is from this very conviction, that we are prompted to address all that is generous and honourable in men, their good affections, their reason, and their judgment, rather than their superstition, their prejudices, and their fears. There is every thing in our cause to inspire our efforts to advance it, for it is the cause of religion, and Christianity, and Heaven, and mankind; but we are determined that those efforts shall not disgrace so noble a cause. We wish to persuade and to convince. Our opinions are founded on the firm basis of the Scriptures, and the eternal dictates of reason. The exertions made to publish them, if we mean that they should bear them an appropriate resemblance, must be made in the peaceful spirit of Christianity, and with the calm dignity of truth.
It would be presumption in us, and a vain arrogance, to assert that we had used all the efforts which our cause demanded; or that those which we had used were entirely free from unworthy leaven. But, considering the natural imperfection of human motives, and human actions, we are very well satisfied. If it is asked, where are the effects of our efforts, where are the fruits of our labours? we answer, every where! They are in the spirit of inquiry which has gone out into the ends of the earth; they are in the gradual surrendering of foolish and stubborn prejudices, and in the death-deeline of superstition and bigotry; they are in the march of improvement, and the victories of reason and common sense; they are in the signs of the times, the temper of the age, the workings of society, and the mind of man. Look, in our own country, at the doctrinal and practical works which are constantly issuing from an unshackled press; look at the men of sense and education who have embraced our opinions; look at the churches of our faith which, within a few years, have been planted, and are flourishing, from the frontier town of Maine, to the capital of South Carolina, and the villages of the west. In all this it is, that the exertions of Unitarians have, in a greater or less degree, been engaged; though subordinately to the mighty force of truth, and the ruling providence of God.
Our opponents themselves see, and confess it-confess it by their alarms and their operations. They have sounded the trumpet, and manned the walls. They cry out, that the true faith is in danger, and that many desert the old ways, and that we leave no method untried to recommend and establish our belief. Wherefore is this inconsistency? What is the cause or reason of these contradictory statements? Why is it that we are charged, in one breath, with disgraceful supineness, and in the next, with Arguseyed activity? The solution is this. We are making ewertions, though not such as our opponents make. We are zealous and active, though not according to their activity and zeal. We are not indifferent to the progress of our opinions; though we certainly are but very little inclined to consign those who disagree with us to the blackness of darkness for ever, or to preach the religion of Christ in a passion. We resolutely oppose error, because error is dangerous and hurtful; and we enforce what we receive as the simple and sublime doctrines of the Bible, because we believe them to be the best to live and to die by;
but to love and obey God, and to keep his commandnients, we cannot help thinking is even better than to be a Unitarian.
We are making exertions. By argument, and scripture, and, as we devoutly hope, by our lives and conversation, we enforce our religious sentiments and opinions. The voice of truth has spoken. It has spoken-and, especially in our own favoured land, where inquiry and discussion are as free and unfettered as the wind which sweeps over our solitudes, it will not speak in vain.
Calvin and Geneva.
[In the Historical Sketch of Switzerland, subjoined to Simond's lately published travels in that country, we met with some notices of Calvin, and the city in which he ruled with an almost absolute sway, which we thought might prove interesting to those of our readers who had not seen that work. The writer is evidently impartial, and very little, if at all influenced, in his estimate of Calvin's character, by any religious prepossessions of his own. He attempts nothing elaborate, but merely gives us some passing notices of that learned, gifted, ardent and persevering, though obstinate, arrogant, bigoted and relentless reformer. Our extracts follow.)
Early in life, Calvin had published a book much celebrated in its day, on Predestination and Divine Providence; the doctrine of which he maintained throughout his life, while acting in direct opposition to it—that is, asserting that men cannot possibly be otherwise than they were intended to be beforehand, and at the same time employing the severest means to force them to be otherwise. The magistrates of Berne would not pass any approbation or censure on this doctrine, but wisely forbade their clergy preaching on such high matters. Those of Geneva, abandoning the circumspection they had shown before, when they declared some abstruse questions respecting baptism to be better calculated to shake our faith than strengthen it, now lent to the doctrine of predestination the assistance of the law. They kept the physician Bolzec a long time confined for saying that ultimate evil was