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out this, is like defending a particular construction of a will, when the testator was incompetent to render the construction of anyworth. This is a subject which must yet engage the attention and the talents of the Christian church to a greater extent than it has done.
While we admire the fearlessness with which the essential absurdity and immorality of trinitarianism is asserted, we are not a little surprised at it. When we hear that the doctrine of the trinity is as inconsistent as the doctrine that three angles are one angle, and that the doctrine of the atonement is opposed to moral justice, we cannot but think that a strange misconception of the power and the province of the human mind must obtain. That they may have been so defined and explained as to be justly so represented, we have no disposition to deny, but that in themselves, and of necessity they are so, we cannot perceive. There is nothing in the one more difficult, than in the eternity and selfexistence of God, or in the other, than in ten thousand forms and proceedings of his providence. The assertion seems to be more carelessly made in the face of the fact, that a vast majority of the wise and good believers in Christianity hold these doctrines. This is not adduced as an evidence of their truth; nothing is further from our intention; but we think it a strong indication that they are not so necessarily absurd and wicked as they are represented to be. If they were, they could not so prevail. The human mind would reject them with spontaneous and immediate indignation. Who finds it needful to prove that three angles are not one angle? But if the human mind, after all, is so incorrect in its conceptions of consistency and morals, as to believe the most inconsistent and immoral tilings, without any perception of their inconsistency or immorality, where is the unitarian right to treat its dictates, in certain cases, with such implicit faith—to assert that anything contrary to these, can, by no possibility, be proved?
We are likewise at a loss to understand how this mode of representing doctrines generally believed, can consist with the professions of intellectual and moral respect, which those who employ it, yet make for their opponents. We make no accusation, but simply express an inability of our own. We say not that these professions are hollow; on the contrary, we believe them sincere, but we cannot see how the views taken of orthodoxy can exist in the same mind with any great reverence and esteem for the orthodox. We fear that we should not think very highly of the intellect of the man, who asserted anything so absurd as that three angles are one angle, nor of his moral state, who held notions that outraged all righteousness.
To yet another subject must we refer. It would have been singular, if a controversy respecting unitarianism had been coneluded without, at least, a clear indication of the existence of different opinions as to the importance of theological sentiments. That the doctrine of responsibility for faith is not formally discussed, is matter of regret, but it is plain enough that very opposite notions are entertained by the combatants. It would be wrong to represent the unitarians as holding the absolute and unconditional innocence of error, a doctrine which is opposed to the plainest facts and laws of the human mind, and involving the virtual denial of all responsibility. They admit, so far as we can learn from their writings, that a man may be responsible for his opinions. We imagine that the question between them and ourselves would be, the extent, not the reality or grounds of this responsibility. We are not prepared to advocate the extreme notion upon this subject. The holding of opinions, apart from their moral causes and consequences, is no matter of responsibility. It is so only as far as it results from, and exerts, a moral influence. The Liverpool Unitarians would probably admit this. The debate with them would be, as to what religious errors were necessarily the fruit, and the fountain, of an unholy power. We should infer a man's sinfulness from his errors; they would infer the innocence of his errors from his goodness. They do not allow opinions to be any certain test of character. The most erroneous may consist, in their view, with great moral excellence. Even the rejection of Christianity as a divine revelation is not regarded as any sure indication of a wrong state of.heart. 'We 'believe,' say they to their three epistolary opponents, 'no less 'than you, in an infallible revelation (though had we the misfor'tune to doubt it, we might be, in the sight of God, neither 'worse nor better than yourselves).' It is intimated that infidelity may be 'an intellectual judgment,' without the coexistence of ' bad moral qualities.' This supposes that there is nothing in the evidences or the peculiar discoveries of Christianity which makes it thoroughly impossible for a good man to reject it. Whether the scriptures support this notion or not, is a matter ol no importance, because if they did not, their testimony would probably be considered as expressing, not the truth of the case, but the opinion of the writers. We believe that the scriptures do not support it, and that their witness is true. But we are ready to ask, can that be a revelation, and the Christian one, which a man may deny, without damage or disproof of his moral excellence? Is the being a Christian, something distinct from, and additional to, the being good? Is the unitarian idea of Christ's moral salvation so weak and vapid a thing as to be realised without faith in Christianity? "Would a man be better from believing the gospel? If he would, is he not criminal for not being better? If he would not, is Christianity superior to deism? They who would deny the first, have little reason to boast of the peculiar excellence and strength of their views of duty and responsibility; they who would deny the second, have equally little reason to complain, if charged with maintaining a system which tends to infidelity.
They who admit the innocence of infidelity may well admit the innocence of orthodoxy, and this is another subject of difficulty to us. Unitarians are fond of proclaiming the superior moral tendency of their system to that of others. The living and the dead have asserted the claim. It is maintained with the sarcastic bitterness of a Belsham, the philosophic quietness of a Priestley, the flowing eloquence of a Channing, and the force and beauty of a Martineau. But how it can be separated from the duty of embracing unitarianism, we know not. If its rejection be not criminal, then the holding error which has a very pernicious moral influence is innocent, yea, the very error which involves such ideas of justice as are sufficient to discredit the pretensions ef any professed revelation sanctioning them. That innocence should belong to a belief of things being not only good, but pre-eminently good, which are really so bad that no amount of evidence can prove them real, is passing strange. He who supposes this may suppose more, and admit that any moral and religious error may be innocent, and, as a man can only act according to his own conceptions of truth and duty, and not another's, that any moral and religious practice may be innocent likewise.
We cannot conclude this paper without suggesting a few hints as to the mode of conducting the controversy with unitarians.
We would not, however, urge a controversial spirit and practice. We have no morbid dislike of polemical contention, to 'which many object, solely because they are too ignorant, or indolent, to engage in it . There may be times—and the prospect is of their increased, not diminished number—when it is necessary not only to defend truth, but assault error, and we would have all men ready to do strong and stedfast battle for their faith; but we are convinced that, in general, the best method of preventing and checking error is the publication of truth, and that this is the only method that multitudes of good and useful men can adopt. They can deliver the gospel as a testimony, but not argue it as a proposition. They can maintain its divinity as a system against the attacks of folly and vice, but not defend its particular truths and records from the perversions and objections of wise and learned men. The controversy with unitarians is no engagement for unripe and unfurnished minds. It demands an order of endowment and attainment vastly superior to what many have thought sufficient for its safe and successful management. The plight of orthodoxy has often embodied the cry, 'Save me from my friends!' Some of the passages most formidable to it, in the works of its assailants, are quotations from those of its advocates.
To those who may feel it their duty to attack unitarian ism, we would say, ' Understand it.' It is not enough for a polemic to know his own opinions, he should know his adversary's. He should be acquainted with the arguments that are urged against his views, and the effectual mode of answering them. If the true points in debate, be not detected, labor is wasted, error is untouched, and the impression is conveyed of inability or unfairness. A liberal and comprehensive acquaintance with unitarian theology is indispensable to any safe and effectual attempt to refute it. It is useless and worse than useless to treat the body of unitarians as if responsible for the sentiments and criticisms of individuals, or the present race for those of a past. The practice of quoting and answering Belsham and Priestley, as if they were the authorised expositors of unitarian belief, is easy, but not good. We war with the living, not with the dead. A study of our opponents' publications, by revealing the real shape and ground of their dissent, would prevent many vain and pointless efforts, and irrelevant accusations. Unitarians, for instance, are often charged with refusing to receive our doctrines on account of their mysteriousness,—they allege that they believe in mystery, and that our doctrines are not mysterious, but contradictor}', excluded from their creed not by the presence of ideas too great for comprehension, but the absence of ideas capable of reconciliation. They are charged with denying the atonement because they disregard and disesteem the divine justice;—they allege that they reject the atonement because, among other reasons, they maintain and honor the divine justice, and think the atonement to be, of all things, one of the most unjust. They are charged with cherishing pride of understanding, in rejecting the doctrine* of orthodoxy; they allege that humility of mind consists in submission to evidence which they display, and that orthodoxy is made up of many sentiments which evidence does not support. Now it is obvious that the mere bringing of these accusations, under such circumstances, does no good, nor the proving the folly and guilt of the conduct they describe. The thing needed, i» the proof of their applicability. They are all founded on the presumed settlement of the question, and therefore have no force or place while the question is being discussed. The only way in which they can be sustained, is by showing that the Bible is so true, and orthodoxy so truly in it, that the rejection of the latter must result from pertinacious obstinacy—must sacrifice the moral character of God—must prove that simple inability to explain, is held to be a good reason for disbelieving what is thoroughly explicable. What is wanted is, not the proof that the alleged conduct is wrong, but that the accused parties are the wrong doers; and while unitarians plead not guilty to the charges preferred—while they retort them—while they assay to justify their conduct by the very principles from respect for which the charges are brought, it is plainly a want of knowledge, at least, which secures their continued presentation. Next to the mistake and mischief of imputing opinions which are not held, is that of assigning reasons for opinions which do not exist. To ascertain either, it is necessary to pay careful attention to the writings in which alone they can be fully found. Unitarianism, or any other system of belief, is not, as a matter of course, and in all respects, just according to the popular impression respecting it—nor, which is nearly the same thing, what its most noted and bitter antagonists represent it to be,—and we would therefore earnestly advise all who may have it in their hearts to attack it, to obtain a personal and familiar acquaintance with the publications of its advocates.
Closely connected with this, is the spirit in which the controversy should be conducted. Every thing like rudeness and abuse—discourtesy and unfairness—should be avoided. The gentleman and the Christian should never be forgotten in the polemic. No end sanctifies the means. 'Pious frauds' are, of all frauds, the most impious. Truth needs but truth for its defence. It is dishonored and desecrated by any other weapon. The tactics of worldly policy are not fitted for the conduct of a spiritual contention. It is a solemn, tender, and noble thing, to befriend the faith once delivered to the saints, and he is not meet for its advocacy who has not been baptized with its spirit. The source of many of the evils that disgrace religious controversy, is a sense of infallibility, and this should be ejected from every mind with careful and energetic zeal. This would be—not scepticism, but humility. It is one thing to believe that we are right, and another to believe that we must be. A conviction that we have the truth, and a conviction that we may not have it, are perfectly compatible. Most men admit that they are fallible, but no man admits that he fails. The nature of doctrinal discussions forbids the assumption of oracular certainty, and all displays of it are as absurd as offensive. We can conceive of no religious argument which should not be prosecuted with a desire to elicit truth, as well as to defend it. If we are not absolutely incapable of mistake, which perhaps no one would affirm, it is possible that we are mistaken, and it is due to this possibility that, while we maintain the truth we think we have, we should look out for the truth that may yet be hidden from us. The very reasons for which we love and hold our present opinions should lead us to respect and weigh the arguments of those who deny them. If this were felt, all neglect in seeking for the real idea of an opponent—all unfairness in representing it—all modes of attacking it,