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view towards their most perfect union for carrying out, by spiritual and material means, the various objects of a truly Christian Church. He could not better serve his Denomination, than by again taking counsel with his brethren, and securing for his ideas a working form and a practical acceptance. No man will estimate more justly the high and Christian purposes for which such organization should exist, or see more clearly, so as to avoid, the possible dangers with which it might be attended. The spirit in which Mr. Tayler would devise such a scheme may be judged of, from the following passage :
Religion is rather the central interest of humanity, which should dwell in the very midst of our daily employments, and engage the affections and occupy the thoughts of all men :-and the Church will then only fulfil its proper object, as a free association of rational and responsible beings, for the joint exercise and cultivation of their purest affections and noblest tendencies, when the distinction between layman and minister shall be considered as only one of momentary convenience, when its members shall feel they have all an equal interest and share in its offices and ministrations, and in different ways, according to their several gifts, shall work together in extending its operations upon the hearts and lives of men, and by making its salutary influences felt through the varied relationships of social life, save it from the contempt and abandonment inevitably awaiting every institution that stands aloof from the great universal interests of humanity.
The importance of lay agency in the affairs of the Church cannot be too highly estimated, and the present course of events in this country must tend to make all thoughtful minds more aware of it. Laymen themselves, then, must understand their duties, and acquire the prerequisites for discharging them well. Men prepare themselves by reading and reflexion for taking an intelligent part in politics ; and the same preparation ought not to be neglected for filling their stations in the Church with benefit to the world. Religion and politics are the two grand interests of life, on which far more than on the mere accu. mulation of material wealth, the progressive well-being and happiness of mankind repose : and in an age where so much depends on the right disposal of the questions that grow out of these two great interestsevery man should feel it his duty to qualify himself for acting wisely and consistently in respect to them. Otherwise, with the best intentions, unenlightened zeal and defective knowledge may injure the cause they have intended to serve.”—p. 13.
Mr. Tayler has not sketched, in any detail, the functions of a layman within the Christian Church, though he has admirably indicated the kind of service he might perform. Except where religious rights and civil institutions come into collision, and present a sphere of service in which an enlightened layman is called upon to defend by argument, and maintain in action, the great principles of spiritual liberty, the question of the functions of laymen must be confined to their influence upon the religious life and the benevolent institutions of their respective associations for Christian worship and beneficence, for it is only within these limits that the distinction between layman and minister can at all be recognised.
The manner in which laymen may best unite to render a Christian Congregation, not merely isolated listeners to prayer and preaching, but a living centre of Christian philanthropy, the creator and supporter of charitable, educational, and missionary Institutions, is a question that invites the attention of pious and thoughtful men beyond all others that concern the visible Church of Christ.
Mr. Tayler's remarks upon this subject are introductory to the high commendation which he justly bestows upon Mr. Wood in these relations, and indeed serve as an indirect delineation of his Character. The more detailed sketch of Mr. Wood both in the Sermon and in the Appendix may hereafter be a model, on those rare occasions, when it is proper for the Minister of religion to speak in the house of prayer and Christian aspiration of any individual, whether for praise or blame. That there are such occasions we readily admit, and that this was one of them. The death of a fellow-worshipper is an occasion to be approached with peculiar delicacy. Private sorrow is a sacred thing, and in its presence the attention of the stranger ought seldom indeed to be invited either to the grief of the living, or the character of the dead. In the pulpit the Christian Minister can exhibit no standard of character but one; can uphold the virtues of no other as a model, and would not draw notice on their frailties. There Christian goodness refuses to be measured by individuals, and Christian consolation discourses of the destinies of our nature and of the providence of our God, and the mourner finds that his individual sorrow is embraced within the comfort of these universal views, and that the thoughts which strengthen are more firmly based, because they proceed from a large consideration of God's great plan, and detached from the peculiarities of single
These impressions disincline us, as a general rule, to what are called “Funeral Sermons," and we wonder that religious sacredness and lacerated feeling have not long since united, and demanded their suppression, as they are commonly perpetrated. Let private sorrow ever meet that respectful sympathy which directs the train of thought and reflection to topics that accord with its wants,-but in the open church let no private heart be intruded on, no bereaved affection hear its sacred object made a public theme. The exceptions to this rule are in the
VOL. VI. No. 23.- New Series.
few cases in which the character of an individual eminent above his fellows, and occupying a conspicuous place, is already the property of the public, and every mind feels afflicted as by a private loss, or where he is so associated with all the interests of a congregation that he has an established connexion with all the local sympathies of their weekly worship. Under either head of this exception, the death of Mr. George William Wood was an occasion on which to break the silence of the church, and speak of individual worth and service. Never was the delicate office performed with a more admirable union of tenderness and truth. The only danger is lest the perfect success with which Mr. Tayler can execute such a task, should induce inferior men to attempt similar delineations,—and then most grievous would be the failure, and harsh the grating:
His description of Mr. Wood's doctrinal belief is a delineation not so much of an individual, as of a large class once embracing the whole Unitarian body; and there may still be some who wili not readily conceive what idea Mr. Tayler attaches to religious faith, except that of an earnest belief in the truth of certain doctrinal statements. Yet the trust of the soul in all the higher sentiments, in the goodness and perfection of God, and in the aspiration after the greatness and loveliness of Christ, as the right practical guidance of life, is the only sense in which St. Paul uses the expression. We extract the passage because, as we have said, it is descriptive of a class.
· His doctrinal belief was clearly and decidedly Unitarian, derived from considerable reading and reflection on the subject, and strengthened by his habitual intercourse with the most eminent expounders of the Unitarian system in the present and the past generations, Belsham, Carpenter, and Wellbeloved. Perhaps to younger men, whose minds were more intent on the future than on the past, his views might seem occasionally to be marked by some of the deficiencies, and that want of strict consequentiality, which hey conceive to attach to the earlier statements of the Unitarian doctrine. His mind was remarkably practical, and very tenacious of opinions once adopted. He was therefore averse from all speculations which tended to unsettle principles which he supposed had been already established. Perhaps also he erred with many Unitarians of the last generation in regarding Christianity, and Unitarianism as the truest expression of it—in too intellectual and doctrinal a light—too much as a definite system of religious philosophy —and not as a broad and popular principle of deep and earnest faith, and warm sympathy with universal humanity, intended rather to quicken and spiritualize the affections and the conscience, than to fashion the philosophical conceptions of the understanding. His own native sympathies were ardent and generous, and he could duly appreciate popular efforts to disseminate education and religion among the masses of the community. But the aristocratical bias of his mind led him to cling to precedent and established usages; and the general cast of his religious opinions would have been considered rather intellectual and systematic than spiritual. In this, however, he only expressed the image of the time and the community in which his earliest impressions had been received.”—p. 21.
In the closing passages of the Discourse in which Mr. Tayler is led to speak of personal relations and feelings, there is a noble simplicity, -wisdom, tenderness, and beauty, speaking with one voice.
“ Events sometimes occur, like the sudden stroke of a clock in the stillness of night, announcing to the startled spirit the unsuspected hour of our swiftly passing existence. That voice of solemn warning comes to me, when I think of the grave so recently closed ; and the train of memory it awakens is of a mingled hue. I call to mind with lively gratitude the many instances of wise and faithful counsel, the many proofs of kind interest and cordial regard, which through long years and changing circumstances I continued to experience from our friend now gone. There were a few things, too, which it may be less pleasing to recollect. In the passage of life, perhaps no earnest and sincere minds can escape partial collisions. They cannot be true to themselves, without temporary offence to each other. Nor is any situation more painful than that in which conviction of the right and the strong feelings of friendship, draw for the moment in opposite directions. There were a few occasions in the years now passed away, in which an imagined sense of duty-perhaps mistaken--perhaps exaggerated-forced me into opposition to the views and wishes of my friend : but in this moment of sad and softened remembrance, I can only regard it as one of the many excellencies of his generous nature, that, when the earliest emotions of irritated feeling were over and gone, no sentiment of ill-will ever harboured in his breast, and the expressions of his friendship remained as hearty and genial as before. I now recal the good and noble qualities, which some haughtiness of manner, combined with my own infirmities, may have tempted me occasionally to lose sight of or undervalue; and it is with tears of grateful affection that I moisten his grave. My friends will forgive this expression of personal feeling. It comes unbidden to my lips. Those of them who have had as constant intercourse with the departed, will sympathiee with all that I have said ; they will do justice to his many virtues, and deplore the human weaknesses that ever caused them for a moment to be overshadowed or forgotten.
Friends and fellow-mourners, let not this life of honourable activity have passed away from us in vain. Let us seriously reflect, how much it has left for us to perform. Sobered by the experience of life and warned of its uncertainty—let us with clearer views, with calmer judgments, and with steadier aims, follow in the footsteps of all the honoured and virtuous dead-not servilely copying their acts, where we believe they were mistaken, nor implicitly adopting their principles, where we perceive they were defective; but let us imbibe the generous spirit of
their characters, and in the honest application of our own ripened judga ments and enlarged experience to the rising circumstances of the world, let us emulate them in the love of truth and freedom-in sustained and thoughtful efforts to serve the best interests of our country and our kind.”
III. The Supremacy of the One God the Father, Vindicated. By the Rev. John Harrison, Ph. D. London : 1843.
This is one of those Vindications of Unitarianism which are called forth by local circumstances, and which are often more eminently useful in the neighbourhood of their birth, than more complete and elaborate treatises which have no immediate application, and enter into no personal struggle with actual opponents. A clear, direct, and convincing answer to some confident argument that has just been poured into your ears by a living man, is a much more forcible and conclusive instrument, than the same answer in a learned treatise to an argument that nobody had been urging. And in fact, the arguments that have to be employed by Unitarians, are too much of this nature,-arguments that nobody would ever dream of advancing, were it not that Trinitarianism must be met on its own ground; and some of its reasonings are of a nature that replies to them, however convincing, can have no profit. It is this which makes the controversy so wearisome: the great warfare is carried on with instruments so utterly contemptible, and on ground so worthless, that it may be lost or won, and leave the parties where they
A work of this kind, intended as a ready answer to the statements or reasonings of some very ordinary writer, cannot be complete ; its completeness would spoil it for its immediate purpose,--enough if it is fresh, competently learned, and written in a Christian spirit. All this we can most cordially say of the little treatise before us. It is remarkably cheap, and well fitted to do good service in its day and place. And men who are content to write and publish works addressed to an immediate and pressing occasion, and which must therefore have but a temporary interest, are entitled to especial praise for their self-sacrifice, and disinterested zeal for the truth.
An instance of the reductio ad absurdum applied to the Trinitarian method of proof is ingenious. Whether new or not we cannot say, for our memory does not long retain these things. It might be advantageous to have one or two such examples ready for use.