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Genuine Christianity, or the Unitarian Doctrine Briefly
Stated, by a Physician. This is the title of a pamphlet, the second edition of which is just published.*
A remarkable circumstance in the history of English Unitarianism is the number of laymen who have stood publicly forward as its advocates. Milton may now be appealed to as one of the ablest opponents, on scriptural grounds, of the doctrine of the Trinity. Sir Isaac Newton's “ Letters to Le Clerc” on two of the disputed texts in the coatroversy, rendered great service to the Unitarian cause : his unpublished writings in the keeping of the Portsmouth family, will probably, if they ever see the light, be of still greater service. Locke in his Commentary on Paul's Epistles and his “ Reasonableness of Christianity" has taken Unitarian ground, and he is thought to have been the author of some of the old Unitarian Tracts. And, as the “ Physician” before us observes, (p. 4, note,)
Milton, Newton and Locke is indeed a triad for whose sentiments no Englishman need blush."
After these immortal laymen, whose names are their country's glory, came Hopton Haynes, the Master of the Mint, whose work on the “ Attributes,” designed to establish by a critical examination of the Scriptures the sole Deity of the Father, is still accounted one of the best books in its department of the controversy that the Unita
Here let us not overlook the simple-hearted, intrepid Edward Elwall, whose Trial on the charge of Unitarianism, or as it was called in his day Blasphemy, is a popular tract, and who has left several pamphlets asserting and defending extreme Unitarianism, which manifest great integrity of purpose, much sagacity and fearless courage.
Mr. Amory, the author of the singular romance entitled
* Printed at Falmouth and sold by James Philp: sold also at London, by R. Hunter. 12mo. 18.
familiar with the doctrine who would not have learned it from graver writers.
In the same list is to be placed Mr. Alichael Dodson, the celebrated lawyer, whose “ Notes on Isaiah" are a valuable addition to an Unitarian library.
The “ Welsh Freeholder," the late Mr. David Jones, the Chancery Barrister, contributed many valuable publications to the Unitarian cause.
It is less known that the late Duke of Grafton wrote one pamphlet at least of an Unitarian complexion, and he left behind him for the use of his family a printed, but not published, exposition of his faith.
Many laymen of the present day have been in one period of their lives Unitarian writers, such as Sir Benjamin Hob. house; the truly respectable gentleman who writes under the denomination of “ Another Barrister;" the learned and eloquent anthor of the "Appeal to Scripture and Tradition" on behalf of the Unitarian Faith; Mr. Cooper, formerly of Manchester, now of America, one of whose wellargued Essays was inserted in the Christian Reformer, Vol. V. pp. 82, 104, 172; Mr. Thomas Foster, who has suffered disownment by the Quakers for re-asserting the doctrines of William Penn; Captain Gifford, of the army; Mr. (late Captain) Thrush, of the Royal Navy; and now, not to mention many others, the “ Physician," the title of whose publication stands at the head of this article.*
This writer in a brief but satisfactory manner discusses the whole Unitarian question, and for perspicuity, correctness, good temper, scriptural knowledge and suitableness to the times and the present state of the controversy, we know of few cheap publications better fitted for the hands of young persons and inquirers.
Physician" is frank and decided, while he is courteous. He says truly, p. 10, “ The Unitarian asserts without fear of contradiction, that there is not a single plain scripture authority, be it precept or example, to justify our addressing real religious worship to any other name but that of God the Father only. And such is the practice of the Unitarian chapel, harmonizing therein with the Scrip
* Unitarianism has not been without its female advocates, amongst whom stand pre-eminent the late Mrs. Barbauld and the late Mrs. Cappe, of whose names any denomination might boast. The time will come when other writers of the same sex may be put on record as the defenders by their pens of pure Christianity.
tures, and with the recorded customs of the first Christians. Here alone, amidst so many temples professedly Christian, the Father of Jesus Christ is honoured as the only true God.”
On the “orthodox” quibble of two natures in Christ, by which the sense of the plainest scriptures is evaded, the “ Physician" says, with great spirit,
"In reply to this curious distinction, it ould be quite sufficient to observe that it is quite gratuitous: Christ never explained his own words in this way, and who shall presume so to explain them for him? But the truth is, that his words will not hear such an interpretation without the greatest violence. There is nothing in the language of Christ's assertions to sug, gest to us that they are true only in a certain qualified and peculiar sense; they are made absolutely, and if they are not true absolutely, I know not what can be said of them but that they are absolutely false. To perceive the force of this, let us suppose it asserted that Christ never died, never was crucified, never was buried, never rose again. Who would not allow that such assertions would be false, and unfit to be uttered? Yet they might be justified by the same sort of saving clause which is so easily admitted in defence of orthodoxy. These things, it might be said, are spoken of Christ in reference to his Divine nature only; and certainly, with that limitation, they might be spoken truly enough. But if such limitation were not expressed, then those assertions would be false ; not more false, however, than would be that other unqualified assertion which Jesus really made, ‘Of that day and hour knoweth not the Son,' if at that same time, possessing the omniscience of Deity, he knew them perfectly well. Declarations made with such inental reservations are no more than equivocation and deceit.”. Pp. 11, 12 .
There is no point on which the Calvinists are more assured of a triumph over the Unitarians, than the death of Christ; and yet the death of Christ is an utter impossibility on the supposition of his essential deity. Hear this able reasoner:
“ As it is allowed that God cannot suffer, to say that Christ was God and get did suffer, is another contradiction; a thing not at all above reason, but plainly contrary to it. For what avails that trite reply, that he did not suffer as God? If God suffered at all, whether in the assumed nature of man or any other form, still he suffered, and the assertion that he cannot suffer is falsified. But let me ask what suffering the scene of crucifixion could inflict on a mind whose presence, if he then possessed the Divine perfections, was throughout the universe, diffusing bliss and receiving adoration ? If a petty insect inflicts its minute wound on a remote portion of our body, while all our noble faculties are occupied with some active and animating pursuit
, how little do we feel it ! Such and infinitely less would be the sufferings of humanity to a being enjoying at the same moment the unutterable glory of God. But this is not all-Jesus died. Then if Jesus was God, it is an inevitable inference, that God died. But here I will stop, because these things, although they inay be called orthodox, are not fit to be spoken, and verge on blasphemy. I submit it to every pious and enlightened Chris. tian, that the Living God, the immortal King of Ages, cannot take it on himself to die in any form or nature whatever. But if he could, what would death have been to one who all the while never ceased to live in transcendent glory? Something less than it is to us, when a single hair dies on our heads, and drops unnoticed to the ground.” -Pp. 26, 27.
The following view of the evidence for Unitarianism has always appeared to us extremely important :
Though studious of brevity, there is one consideration adduced by Unitarians, which appears to me so powerful that I cannot omit it. It is that of the negative evidence which the scripture affords in their favour. Let it only be considered that in the three first gospels, and Acts of the Apostles, there is not u single passage in which the deity or pre-existence of Christ can with any appearance of reason be even pretended to be mentioned: nothing occurs from which we should be led to view him in any other light than that in which Peter represented hiin on the day of Pentecost, a man approved of God by signs and wonders ühich God did by him in the midst of us.' Now I ask, is it possible that three of his best-informed followers should have left formal memorials of his life and doctrine, and one of them an account of the preaching of his apostles after his death, without taking any notice of so astonishing and essential a fact, as that he had declared himself to be not only a man, as he appeared to be, but in very deed the Almighty God, the creator of the universe, descended from heaven and dwelling personally amung mankind, had such been really the case ? say, if these Christian memorialists, undertaking as they do to give us sufficient accounts of their master's life and discourses, have indeed left us narratives so miserably defective as this would imply, farewell to the credibility of the gospel history; such writings, in the judgınent of all impartial critics, will
be esteemed destitute of good faith, and unworthy of credit. But the negative evidence for Unitarianism is not confined to these books alone : it may be boldly said, that there is not a single explicit and unequivocal declaration either of the deity or preexistence of Christ in the whole of the New Testament. The passages which are brought to prove these doctrines are either corrupt readings, or mistranslations, or ambiguous sentences which will admit of another interpretation. If this new, grand, and most astonishing doctrine had really been a part of the gospel, the apostles would most assuredly have enforced it in statements as plain and explicit as language could supply, and insisted on it with that pointedness and frequency which its novelty, importance, and apparent difficulty would have demanded. That they have not done so, is the best possible proof that they were entirely unacquainted with it, and that those who now endeavour to discover it in some obscure expressions which their writings occasionally present, are labouring under a great error, and seeking what they will never truly find.”—Pp. 43–45.
Pious men have been strongly affected by what they have regarded as a presumptive argument against the Unitarian faith from the nearly universal prevalence for ages of the contrary doctrine ;-this is well inet by our author.
“I have known some to whom it has seemed impossible to believe, that God would suffer an error of so great magnitude as Unitarians represent the doctrine of the Trinity to be, to overrun the church so long and so extensively, and especially to obscure the faith of so many pions minds. It becomes us not to imagine what God would or would not do, but to remember what he has done. For how many centuries was not the whole church overrun with all the errors of Popery? The Reformation even to this day has had but a partial diffusion, and by far the larger part of Christendom is still involved in all the corruptions of the Greek and Roman churches. Yet candour must adinit, what is an undoubted fact, that multitudes of persons as pious and devoted as any Protestants, have lived and died in those communions, and even been zealously tenacious of their errors. Among Protestants themselves, how many men of deep piety and fervent prayer, have eagerly contended for the most opposite opinions! It is clear then, that the order of Provi. dence has not in fact preserved either the church at large or its most pious members from gross prevailing delusions, in numberless instances; and there is therefore no reason to suppose that it must have done so the instance in question. Is not a great and general apostacy of the church the burthen of NewTestament prophecy? Shall we then, when the existence of this apostacy is pointed out, turn round and say, that it is impossible that God can have suffered such a thing to happen? As regards pious individuals, if their piety have been sincere, their salvation has been secured, whatever may have been the errors of their creed. If this be admitted, it is sufficient to justify the ways of God, and quiet all our anxieties.”—Pp. 45, 46. We can only quote one inore passage, but we have al.