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doctrines endeavour to adapt the different parts of their discourses to the various states of mind, of a distressing nature, under which they suppose their hearers to be labouring. Indeed, one would sometimes think, on hearing their sermons, that their respective communities were more like spiritual lazar-houses than households of that faith which is acconspanied with "joy unspeakable ;” and that their congregations were abandoned to every species of wretchedness and misery which can afflict the soul; and sliould
other proof of this be wanting, we have only to advert to those poetical compositions which they use for the professed purpose of praising God! Are they not often in the language of their hymns uttering the pitiful plaints of a heart full of distressing sensibilities and destitute of any cheering vibration, while they profess to make
melody to the Lord,” and boast in their creed of every thing being done for them without their efforts? Do we not often hear them chaunt such dirges as the following ?
“ 'Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it gives me anxious thought,
Am I his, or am I not?". Olney Hymns.
And tempted all hope to resign,
* I knew a man who, though so full of Calvinistic conceit that he would scarcely allow that any but himself possessed the true key of knowledge by which to unlock Scripture mysteries, was always in a state of melancholy dejection concerniug his interest in the very heavenly things which he considered the Spirit of God had revealed to him, and those even of his own creed who thought themselves warranted to indulge more comfortable persuasions respecting their spiritual condition, he deemed as “false professors,” because they deviated from his own standard. This man lived and died a prey to the most unhappy and desponding affections of mind ; and his death, as a suicide, affords an awful instance to what a dangerous length the coalition of a gloomy religious system with a morbid imagination, will extend its corrosive influence. Had the victim of this miserable feeling received simple and correct views of Christianity, instead of corrupt ones, there is no doubt his hypochondriac temperament would have been considerably counteracted, if not completely subdued.
And must we not suppose that the orthodox authors of such doleful effusions were really pining under the religious atrophy which their muse directs others to complain of ? "And what a most obstinate hold on the mind must that prejudiced attachment to popular tenets bare, which can make willing slaves to such galling captivity! One should think, as no man can love pain and bate pleasure, that many would, at all hazards, prefer the trial of another set of opinions to the voluntary retention of those under which they are tempted to resign all hope, and disheartened in waiting for confort 80 long. But why should I make this observation when my own instance adds one to the list of such anomalies ? And when I recollect for what a length of time I plodded on the victim of my deeprooted prejudice, taking for granted, as indisputable, what human device had imposed on my credulity under specious names and forins, and yielding up my reasoning powers in dishonourable surveillance to the claims of tradition and the authority of creed-makers, I need not be surprised at similar conduct in others. Thanks to the “Father of lights," the time of my liberation at last arrived, and I have escaped the dreary dungeon of error and confusion to follow the track of truth in the unlimited regions of free inquiry.
The first step towards this happy event, after an earnest search of the Scriptures and a sincere desire of learning from them what was really to be believed concerning God and his Son, was a full conviction of the erroneousuess of the doctrine of the Trinity. To this I was led by a circumstance in itself trivial. About the time when considerable sensation was excited in the public mind in the religious world by the secession from the Establishment of certain celebrated Calvinistic preachers in the west of Eugland, (some of whom are now returned to the ranks they had deserted,) a person who had followed them in renouncing this doctrine came in my way as an opponent, whom, in our controversies, I found to bring more sound reasoning and scriptural authority than my weapons of intemperate declamation and furious zeal could successfully encounter; and though I was not candid enough to give him the least credit for the force of his argoments, yet I felt them so far to operate as to impress me with the possibility of my being wrong, which before I could not admit. After this I became gradually open to conviction, and reflecting that, by the laws of nature and the immutable
axioms of physical phenomena, no established principles of analogy were known by which any sort of reasonable comparison could be instituted to make the doctrine understood, I determined to lay aside my prejudices and read the Sacred Volume as if I had never heard such a senti
Truth I ardently sought and earnestly desired to find, and whatever the plain language of the word of God should express concerning its Divine Author, I had prepared myself to receive; and this I found to be, not that he exists in a Trinity, but that he is an indivisible one, besides whom there is no other ; that this one God is the God and Father of Jesus Christ; and who, as the supreme object of religious worship, claims our adoration and praise to the exclusion of all others. By this inquiry I soon detected the verbal sophisms by which I had been so much misled in the belief of this popular doctrine ; and the jargon used to express what was so mysterious, to which I had been so long accustomed, and which, in my ignorance, I had partly identified with the dictates of inspiration,* to my surprise, I discovered to be nothing more than the vain jangle of theological mysticism, invented by men of corrupt minds, the more effectually to subjugate the understanding to priestly dominion and advance the interests, policy, and pretentions of ecclesiastical usurpers ; and so far from perceiving its affinity with the words of eternal truth, I found it altogether inimical to their simplicity and explicit authority. In a word, the declarations, « To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things" (1 Cor. viii. 6); “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. ii. 5), by their force and clearness, swept away from my mind a host of traditionary fallacies; and from the intricate mazes into which my erroneous views of the Deity had led me, gave me a happy relief.
* Perhaps some of the readers of the Christian Reformer may not be aware of the fact, but such is the extent to which orthodoxy has disparaged the sacred writings by substituting the Babel dialect of an inexplicable divinity for the pure and intelligible diction of revelation, that much of the phraseology employed by its preachers and writers to explain what they hold as a mystery, and thus make their
“ darkness visible,” is taken by many to be the express language of the Bible; and I have more than once had to witness persons being startled on being told that the expressions “God the son,
," “God-man," and the like, are not to be found in the Scriptures !
Let it not be thouglit, however, that my course of investigation was uninterrupted. An alarming idea of the daring step I had taken, at the risk of losing the enjoyment of my friendly connexion and a good name, occasioned me, at times, a fearful pause, and tempted my retrogression. But the power of truth prevailed, and the love of it enabled me to surmount these obstacles; and ultimately, what I had cousidered so formidable appeared as light as vanity in comparison with the satisfaction of a mind unburdened of absurdities and enlightened from the glorious refulgence of divine revelation. The cost I soon found to be as my scruples had suggested, for on my change of opinions, as it was called, being fully known to my religious friends, I was called to account, judged according to their laws, condemned and expelled their communion as a dangerous heretic. This proceeding, the particulars of which I have no room to detail, was conducted in its progress in a manner every way calculated to shew how averse the ad. vocates of false doctrine are to fair discussion, and how easily they can betray the weakness of their cause and their ignorance of the Scriptures by the ferment of bigotry and anathema. My excommunication, however, excited a spirit of inquiry, and I soon had the pleasure of being joined by several others of different communities in the open arowal of the same change of views, who were accordingly expelled from their religious connexions as I was. Being thus discarded and treated as apostates from the true faith by those who had previously acknowledged us as brethren, and finding it very uncomfortable to worship where the object of worship was so divided, and where invidious allusions from the pulpit directed the attention of the audience more to us than to the word of God, we agreed to assemble together in a place we procured and licensed for the purpose; where, at first, we attended to reading the Scriptures and other duties of social religion, but afterward had a preacher, and occasionally adopted the plan of mutual exhortation.* Our success, however, in
* Since I became acquainted with the mode in which Unitarians conduct their public worship, I find that they in general disregard extempore preaching. This, I am persuaded, is a serious obstacle to the increase of their cause and the diffusion of their sentiments, and especially in a place where its open profession has not yet been made, or is in its infant state. I am sorry to find them so set against a practice which, I am persuaded, will best answer the end
bringing others to search the Scriptures and think for themselves, though very desirable, was in great incasure defeated by the efforts of the orthodox preachers to excite prejudice against our sentiments by branding us with every epithet which implied a departure from all that is genuine and good in religion ; and although we took every opportunity of disowniug the name Unitarian, under the impression that a denial of the atonement formed the distinction which was imported by the use of the term, yet we had to bear the stigma and reproach usually attached to the sect it designates. But these things did not discourage us, nor deter us from the free exercise of our right in religious inquiries; and we found our social meetings of considerable use in searching and understanding the Scriptures, and the prouiotion of our mutual instruction therein. The contracted and pernicious notions we had imbibed respecting the divine oracles, as containing mysteries only to be unravelled to the favoured few by a process of immediate and irresistible illumination, through the course we bad adopted, now gave way to considerations of their design as a medium of divine tuition more consonant with rational principles, and led us to divest our creed of many cumbersome appendages which bindered our right understanding of the word of God, particularly those subtle distinctions and perplexities which we had learnt respecting faith and “experience." The doctrine of “ imputed righteousness," we also, by thinking and examining, found to be erroneous, even as counected with the idea of satisfaction which we then beld; for believing, as we did, (and as the orthodox do,) that jastice is satisfied by the substitution of Jesus, and accounting his sufferings as a payment of the debt, and as taking from us all imputation of sin, as if we had not sinned at all, we could not perceive the necessity of any thing more to make us legally righteous. Not only so, we could not, on close investigation, see that the scriptures usually referred to in proof of this sentiment had any such nieaning. The lopping off this branch of error will partly
for popular instruction and general good, particularly as I have no doubt many of their preachers are as well, if not better qualified for the exercise of pulpit talent than the most eminent of their orthodox coutemporaries. I shall be exceedingly gratified if this hint should lead to a consideration of the question in favour of my wishes by those who take the lead amongst Unitarians.