« 上一页继续 »
special but inexplicable sense ; if we substitute any other word, we must equally remember that it is the sign of an idea, never possessed by any human mind, and is to us an unmeaning sound, or only reminds us at most of the existence of a mystery which we can never hope to penetrate. All this of a doctrine of revelation, a doctrine revealed, i. e, made known. What made known? Is it the necessity of using a certain form of words. Even thus the principal orthodox terms are not Scriptural—but no ! prescription of words is not revelation. There must be some hing for the understanding to embrace, and by meditation on which the practical benefits of truth or knowledge may be obtained. It is senseless to talk of that being revealed, which does not even remain unintelligible, but in respect to which we are obliged to substitute language which excites inconsistent and utterly irreconcilable ideas for the confession of ignorance. It is vain to refer us to the mysteries of Nature and Providence, and the incomprehensibility of all the Divine perfections. We are, indeed, blind and feeble-minded, and it would be strange if finite beings could fully comprehend the attributes or works of Him who is infinite ; but on all these subjects what we think that we know is intelligible and practically useful, what remains mysterious is so confessedly, and does not mock us with the pretence of being revealed in language which is either unmeaning or contradictory.
It cannol then be thought unreasonable to insist that there is a strong antecedent improbability attending the doctrine of the Trinity. For our own parts, so completely are we convinced of the sufficiency of the evidence for the Jewish and Christian revelations, and so deeply are we impressed with a sense of the importance of these dispensations to mankind, that whatever is proved from the records to be a genuine part of them we will submissively receive, and if we cannot understand it, we will believe that our profession of it is to do some good; but we neither can nor ought to resist the feeling that peculiarly strong and clear evidence is necessary to support a doctrine such as this: nor, if persons who were fully satisfied that bo trace of it is to be found in the records of the Divine communications have spoken of its absurdity and utter impossibility, can such language with any appearance of justice be attributed to impiety or contempt of revelation. We do not, however, justify such language; what we have said has been merely in reply to Dr. Smiih's attempt to set aside all antecedent improbability. We are persuaded that Unitarian Christians act most wisely in meeting the
question simply as a Scriptural question. Other views of the subject may appear to them very striking, but they acknow ledge the Sacred Records as the guides of their faith, and, firmly coni inced that the Trinity is not taught or implied in them, they are anxious, in the first place, fairly and candidly to discuss that point with those who maintain the contrary position.
The next passage upon which we feel ourselves compelled to remark, and which is an example of the treatment Mr. Belsham uniforinly receives from Dr. Smith, is the note (A) 10 Chapter III. which we must quote at length:
“No writer can be more prompt to appeal to the original text than the author of the Calm Inguiry; and for this, when reason and truth warrant the appeal, let bir be commended. But a case happens in which the error of the Authorized Version affords a semblance of support to the Unitarian cause : and then he can argue from the very inaccurucy of the translation, with as comfortable a confidence as could be felt by the most illiterate of those laypreachers, upon whom, on another occasion, he has poured unsparing contempt. (Sre a Letter to Lord Sidmouth, by the Rev. Tuomas Belsham, 1811.) This case is one in which, with a view to neutralize the passage, - In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,' (Col. ii. 9,) le brings an alleged instance of the application of similar language to Christians generally: 'In the Epistle to the Ephesians, chap. iii. 19, the Apostle prays that they may be filled with all the fulness of God, i. e. with knowledge of the Divine will, and conformity to the Divine inage.' P. 252.- But the Apostle's expression is, 'that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God;' suggesting the sublime conception of an approximation to the Supreme perfection, which is begun by religion now, and shall be ever growing in the holiness and bliss of the future state ; while the infinity of distance must for ever remain between Deity and the creature. This palpable error is retained in the text of the Improved Version,' and the true rendering is barely inentioned in a note with this vapid and silly interpretation-i. e. that ye may be admitted into the Christian Church,'. As if the community of Ephesian Christians, which had flourished so many years in full organization (Acts xx.) and eminent stability (Ephes. i. 13-15), was not yet to be regarded as a part of the Christian Church !”
Now it happens, notwithstanding what we must call the bitterness of invective in this note, that the common version of Ephes. iii. 19, is not a palpable error, and was manifestly adhered to by Mr. Belsham, whether rightly or not, from conviction after examination. It will be sufficient for us to quote Dr. Bloomfield's note :
“In the interpretation of these words, the cominentators, as on many other occasions, exceedingly differ. But, as often, the most natural, simple, and extensive application will be found the best. Now, as the Apostle had been speaking of the immense and inconceivable love of God and Christ, so here (1 assent to Grotius, Whitby, Crellius, and Macknight) le means to say that by thus attaining the Holy Spirit, and having suitable conceptions of the great mystery of Redeeming love, they may be filled with all the spiritual gifts and blessings, both ordinary and extraordinary, that God can and will impart to his faithful worshipers. 'Eus is put for Ey; thun which nothing is more frequent in Scripture. Compare infra iv. 10, and Col. i. 9.”— Bl. Recensio Synoptica, Vol. VII. p. 581.
This distinguished scholar, and the eminent critics whom he here follows, will, in the estimation of most persons, at least protect Mr. Belsham from the charges of retaining a palpable error, and ignorantly or unfaithfully arguing from the inaccuracy of a translation. In the Improved Version, it seems, Dr. Smith's true rendering is barely mentioned in a note, (two different translations, however doubtful the case, can hardly be both introduced into the textomone must be placed in a note, or else neglected,) with a vapid and silly interpretation. We will only say this interpretation is that of Schleusner, (in verb. Tiamwua, No. 7,) to whom Mr. Belsham refers; and no competent judge no one who examines his references and reflects on what he says-will treat it with contempt, even if he should be induced ultimately to reject it.
We must now quote a paragraph from the fourth chapter, “ On the Errors and Faults, in relation to this Controversy, attributable to Unitarian Writers," which, for its uncandid and illiberal spirit, we have hardly seen surpassed, even in the course of our attention to the Unitarian controversy :
“ It has appeard to me,” says Dr. S., “that one of the distinguishing failings of the Unitarian theology is a propensity to generalize too soon, and to conclude too hastily, both in criticism and in argumentation. It seems the habit of its advocates to assume a few of the broadest facts in the scheme of Christianity, which are obvious to the most rapid glance: and, with a sweeping hand, they either crush down all the rest, and leave them upregarded, or they force them into an unnatural and disfiguring subordination to the favourite assumptions. Unlike the cautious and patient spirit of true philoso.
phy, which is always open to the collection and the careful estimation of facts, and which regards nothing as more hostile to its objects than a precipitate and foreclosing generalization, the Unitarian spirit rather resembles that of the old scholasticism, which spurned laborious investigation and slow induction, and would force all nature into its ranks of predicaments and predicables. This may be one reason, among others, why these notions meet with so ready an acceptance in young minds, inexperienced, flirty, and ambitious, half-learned, and ill-disciplined. Here is a theology easily acquired, discarding mysteries, treading down difficulties, and answering the pleas of the orthodox with summary contempt: a theology complimentary to the pride of those who deem themselves endowed with superior discernment, and which in practice is not ungenerously rigid against any favourite passion or little foible that is decently compatible with the world's code of morals.”
We suppose we must expect Dr. S. to speak slightingly of our mode of reasoning, since he so little likes our conclusions, and we are very willing to leave our logic to its own defence; but we will venture, though the same thought will occur to most of our readers, to illustrate the character of mind-young, inerperienced, flirty, and ambitious, half-learned, and illdisciplined—to which our doctrines have been found acceptable, by naming Milton, Newton, Locke, Lardner, Priestley-and Whitby and Watis, as the last resting-place of their minds, at the close of lives devoted to religious inquiries. We are tempted to enumerate others distinguished for their great attainments, their powers of mind, the prejudices with which they had to struggle, or the sacrifices they made to what they believed to be the truth, but it is needless. Dr. S. may have seen that Unitarianism recommends itself to young minds, ardent in the pursuit of truth, ambitious of being distinguished in promoting it, too inexperienced to be influenced by motives of worldly wisdom, not yet having their own thoughts lost and buried in a mass of ill-digested learning, too ill-disciplined to suppress as criminal the doubts wbich inquiry may suggest and he forgets that the same views have satisfied the matured judgment of those whose fame he cannot injure, have been entertained with the fullest conviction by those whose genius, learning, and virtues, he cannot prevent the better part of mankind from admiring. We will not stop to compare Dr. S.'s own confidence in his superior discernment with our recollections of what we have seen manifested by Unitarian writers; but when our theology is described as “ in practice not ungenefously rigid against any favourite passion or little foible that is decently compatible with the WORLD's code of morals," we are called upon to reject the calumny; we are entitled to express the disgust with which it affects us. We ask first, what there is in the doctrines of Unitarian Christianity which should make their professors indulgent to sinful passions, and ready to conform their standard of duty to the merely prudential requisitions of the worldly-minded and irreligious ? Like others, they are taught that they are constantly under the eye of an all-seeing God, perfect in holiness and purity, who has made known to them their duty, and who will one day bring every work into judgment with every secret thought. Is it then because they believe that this all-perfect Being has given them laws, not for his own glory, but for their happiness, and that the strict observance of these laws is essential to their attainment of any real or permanent good? Is it because they are assured that sin and suffering are inseparably connected, and that a death-bed repentance is vaidly relied upon to avert the consequences of a life of wickedness? Is it because they are taught that they must " work out THEIR OWN salvation with fear and trembling," and have not learned to put their trust in another's merits? Is it because, whilst they rely on
their heavenly Father and Friend mercifully accepting their faithful endeavours to perform their duty, to correct their faults, and to improve their characters, they feel certain that no rational hope can be founded ou any thing less than earnest and prevailing endeavours to do right, accompanied by honest self-examination, sincere repentance of known faults, and constant efforts after improvement ? On account of which of these characteristic doctrines is it that they should be judged likely as a body, rather than other professing Christians, to make light of the evil of sin, to find excuses for the indulgence of bad passions, and to join themselves with those who, thinking only of present pleasure, make the decencies of society, not the rules of duty, the standard by which they regulate their conduct ?
We ask, again, are Unitarian Christians in fact distinguished from those amongst whom they live by being less strict in the government of their own appetites, less honest and liberal in their dealings with others, less kind and charitable towards their suffering fellow-creatures? We know that they are not generally thought so by those who differ from them most widely in sentiment. They are often, through misapprehension of their opinions, accused of relying on their good works, but seldom of any remarkable defciency in performing them. We have no disposition to praise them highly. We lament that they do not come nearer to what, with their advantages, might reasonably be expected. We would to God we could see them more deeply imbued with their professed principles, and more uniformly acting as becomes their high and holy calling; but we cannot silently allow them to be unjustly and uncandidly condemned. We well know that the faults with which they are chargeable are not effects of their religious principles, but consequences of these not being cherished and felt as they deserve to be : and as the language of Dr. Smith has forcibly reninded us of those whom we have known most truly under the influence of the peculiar religious sentiments in which we rejoice, most firmly convinced of their truth, and most constantly applying them in practice of those whose pure minds, elevated affections, warm and habitual piety, strict integrity, and active benevolence, have been to our conceptions a genuine and glowing representation of the Christian life-of some who yet remain to edify and bless their friends of others who have already found their faith triumphant over death, and have closed their pilgrimage as became those who had spent it in preparation for that better world, of which through the gospel of Jesus they entertained an assured expectation, that language has appeared to us so inexcusably unjust, so entirely founded in culpable ignorance and prejudice, and dictated by so arrogantly censorious a spirit, that whilst we appeal from his judgment, we cannot help reminding him of the responsibility under which he has passed sentence upon us.
In bis fifth chapter, Dr. S. makes somewhat more particular charges against the conduct of Unitarians, which, that we may not have to return to the subject, we shall here notice. He accuses them of being generally, “SO far as station and circumstances afford opportunities,” devoted to “all the forms of gay amusement and fashionable dissipation;" of neglecting the ordinances of religion, and of not honouring the Lord's-day. With respect to the first of these charges, we cannot tell what Dr. Smith may have seen, but from pretty extensive opportunities for observation, we feel ourselves warranted in giving the opinion, that the members of Unitarian congregations (meaning, of course, those who are of a rank to be within reach of the temptation) generally partake very moderately in the gaieties of life, and are not justly chargeable with dissipation. It is true they do not think every
thing which has the name of pleasure criminal, and consider it as a point of duty to abstain from it; they do not affect that peculiar austerity which is so frequently characteristic either of the bigot or the hypocrite ; but we should describe them as concerning themselves little with the follies of fashion, entering very moderately into scenes deroted to amusement, pursuing the quiet walks of business, of social duty, and of innocent social enjoyment.
There is, however, no sect which exhibits any thing approaching to uniformity of excellence among its members : each has many connected with it who are considered by the better part as doing no credit to the principles they profess, and being by no means truly under their influence. Now, it should be observed that Unitarianism, as understood by the majority of its professors, not attaching to the externals of religion the same essential and inherent importance with most other systems, and affording no inducements to hypocrisy, a thoughtless devotion to the gaieties of the world is just the fault into which our less worthy and serious members are apt to fall; not to mention that there are many partially connected with us, who, though disbelieving the doctrines of reputed Orthodoxy, and finding their remaining belief Unitarian, have never been brought to interest themselves on the subject, and are never acknowledged by us as those from whom a practical exhibition of the effects of our principles could be expected. On the contrary, among the orthodox sects, including those members of the Establishment who make any considerable pretensions to religion, a particular attention to all outward observances is essential to character : they consider abstinence from the gaieties of life as a direct requisition of duty, and the faults to which their situation most exposes them are hypocrisy and the vices which it may conveniently cloak. That they are not all free from these faults, is sufficiently notorious.
The Unitarian Christian does not in general feel himself under any obligation to such an observance of the Lord's-day as Dr. S. deems essential to a religious character, although not many, perhaps, may go so far the other way as Calvin or Mr. Belsham : but it certainly is not just to accuse men of irreligion because they wish to be influenced by their religion every day equally, when no precept applying the strict sabbatical law to Christians can possibly be produced, and its practical utility may, to say the least, be reasonably called in question.
It is not to be doubted, that among Unitarians the outward observances of religion are commonly regarded less as the performance of a direct duty, and more as means of improvement voluntarily resorted to, than amongst other sects. Those who think most of the absolute duty of paying a public homage to Almighty God, in the name of his chosen Messenger, will not, amongst us, pretend to determine how many times in one day this may be required ; and as on the question of expediency different opinions may be formed, those who think most seriously do not make the same point of atlending worship several times on each Lord's-day with persons of a less degree of real religious feeling in other sects; whilst indolence or carelessness more readily amongst us find excuses for the neglect of some valuable opportunities for improvement. We regret this result, because we are sure that all the services which are ever attempted by us, might be made useful and found interesting; to some classes of society they are particularly important; and that improvement of plan which would make them all that they might be, can hardly be expected, except under the sanction of a zealous and uniform attendance. We regret, then, much that our people, though