图书图片
PDF
ePub

sors of religion, that we possess the spirit of the world. The spirit of the world! were this ours, my fellow-christians, what should hinder us from adopting the world's faith and the world's worship? Why have you separated with so many personal sacrifices from your former religious connexions, and raised this edifice for the quiet performance of rites agreeable to your consciences? Why have you called your Christian brethren to witness this morning your sanctification of this House of Prayer to the honour of the incommunicable name of Jehovah ? And why have I stood up at your invitation, to vindicate our body from imputations cast upon us only because we will not yield religious conformity to this world and this world's teachers and rulers ? We are in fact reproached with a worldly spirit by some of our fellow-dissenters, simply because we refuse to carry dissent further than conscience constrains us, judging that it is not only lawful, but a part of social duty, to be in a state of unity with our fellow-countrymen in things that are morally indifferent. When we are thus condemned we are judged by a law which we do not acknowledge; and the sentence which is pronounced against us, because we are comparatively few in number, really involves the greater part of the Christian world. With them and for them, as well as ourselves, we protest against a standard of virtue which is not sanctioned by Christianity, but is on the contrary at variance with our Lord's example and precepts. We renounce the morality which consists in looks and apparel and much-speaking; in resistance to the harmless usages of civilized life and refined society; and in putting down innocent cheerfulness, and setting up affected gloominess and severity: we adhere to the old morality and religion of the Sermon on the Mount, standing in justice, mercy, and the fear of God; and should we, for this preference of our Lord to earthly masters, be followed with the inconsistent denunciation of being worldly-minded, whilst in reality no place is left for us in the believing or the unbelieving world, we must take refuge in the judgment of the great Head of the Church, If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.'"-Pp. 21, 22.

The Preface informs us that the publication of this discourse has been requested, not only by the congregation assembled at Wareham, but by several other bodies of Unitarians before whom its substance bas been delivered. We hope this affords an assurance of its wide circulation and consequent important usefulness. If so clear and explicit a statement of our opinions as this could extensively fix the attention of our Christian adversaries, the days would be in prospect when the remonstrances which we are now obliged to connect with our statements would be needless, because the worst charges against us would have become obsolete.

A PARABLE. As the sun was withdrawing his light from one hemisphere, the guardian spirits of man followed his course, as they were wont, that they might visit every land in turn.

But two who had been busy among the abodes of men all the day, lingered, unwilling to leave those to whom they had ministered.

To the one had been committed the urn which held the waters of bitterness, and he was called Woe. His young sister was named PEACE; and in her hand was placed the lyre whose music was of heaven.

“ There are some,” said Woe, “ who will not be ready to hearken to thee to-morrow, my sister, if I leave them already.

“ There are also some, my brother, whom I have not yet soothed to deep repose. O! that we might tarry awhile !"

“ We may not tarry, for there is need of us afar. Yet one thing may we do. Let us give of our power to another, that she may minister till we return."

So they called upon CONSCIENCE, and charged her to descend with the shadows of night, and to visit the abodes of men. The angel of WoE gave her of the waters of his urn, and said unto his sister “ Give her thy lyre, for what other music needest thou than thine own songs: What other melody is so sweet?”

And when they had charged their messenger to await them at the eastern gate when the morning should open it unto them, they spread their wings and hastened down the west.

Their messenger gazed after them afar : and when she marked the dim majesty of the elder spirit, and the mild beauty of his sister, she bent her head and silently went her way.

• What hast thou beheld ?” said the angels to their messenger, when the portals of light were unclosed. “ Are the healing waters spent ? Hath the lyre been tuneful ?”

“ The waters are not spent,” she replied; “ for mine own tears have made this urn to overflow. The lyre was tuned in Paradise ; else my trembling hand had jarred its strings."

“ Alas!” cried the younger spirit, “ where then hast thou ministered ?"

“ When the evening star appeared, I descended among the shadows, where I heard a voice calling to me from afar. It came from a space where raging fires were kindled by the hands of priests. Night hovered above, but the flames forbade her approach, and I could not abide longer beneath her wings. He who appealed unto me stood chained amidst the fires which already preyed upon him. I swept the strings of the lyre, and smiles overspread his face. Even while the melody waxed sweeter, the dark-eyed spirit of the tombs came and bore him away asleep."

The young angel smiled as she said, “ He hearkeneth now to nobler harmonies than ours! But was there none other amidst the flames to whom thou couldst minister ?”.

“ Alas! there was one who lied through fear. He was led back to his cell, whither I followed bim. I shed the waters into his soul, and the bitterness thereof tormented him more than any scorching flames which could have consumed his body. Yet must I visit bim nightly till he dies."

“ Droop not thy wings because of his anguish, my sister," said the elder spirit “He shall yet be thine when he is made pure for thy presence.”

" I have been," said the messenger, “ beside the couch of the dying, in the palace, and beneath the lowly roof. I have shed into one departing soul the burning tears of the slave, and soothed the spirit of another with the voices of grateful hearts. I have made the chamber of one rich man echo with the cries of the oppressed, and have surrounded the pillow of another with the fatherless who called him parent. Kings have sought to hide themselves as I drew nigh, while the eye of the mourner hath lighted up at my approach. The slumbers of some have I hallowed with music, while they knew not I was at hand; and others have I startled with visions, who guessed not whence they came. I am filled with awe at mine own power."

" It shall increase," said the elder spirit, “ while nine own waneth. The fountain of bitter waters wasteth continually. When it shall be dried up, I will break mine urn."

" And my lyre,” said his sister ; “shall it not be hushed by mightier music from on bigh ?!”

“ Nay, my sister, not then, nor ever. No mightier music shall make men cease to love thine. They shall gather together to hear thee in their cities, and shall seek thee in wildernesses and by the sea-shore. The aged shall hear thee chaunt among the tombs, and the young shall dance unto thy lay. Unto the simple shall thy melodies breathe from amidst the flowers of the meadows; and ihe wise shall they entrance as they go to and fro among the stars."

Then the messenger sighed, saying, “ When shall these things be?”.

“ When thou art queen among men. Knowest thou not that such is thy destiny? Thou art now our messenger, but we shall at length be thy servants. Yea, when yonder sun shall wander away into the depths, and the earth shall melt like the morning cloud, it shall be thine to lead the myriads of thy people to the threshold whence the armies of heaven come forth. It shall be thine to open to them the portals which I may not pass."

CONFESSIONS OF A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.* In the perusal of this work we have received no ordinary gratification. Whatever conclusion the writer had come to respecting the doctrine wbich be has subjected to examination, that of the Trinity, we could not have been otherwise than pleased at the spirit in which the book is written. Throughout there prevails an attachment to truth, a deep interest in divine things, a deference to the authority of Scripture, and a rejection of every other test of revealed doctrine; a patience of inquiry, a candour of judgment, and a sense of responsibility, which bespeak the piety of the writer, secure the favourable regards of the reader, and point the work out as a model of controversial writing. But, believing as we do, that of all the corruptions of Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity is, with the exception of Transubstantiation, the greatest, we feel our gratification enhanced that the long and serious and disinterested inquiries of Mr. Shaw have led him to renounce Athanasius, and to cleave to Jesus Christ.

There are passages in the book in which, as we think, error is mingled with truth. On some occasions we like the conclusion better than the premises whence Mr. Shaw deduces it. But these and other things we pass over, at least at present. The only object we have now in view is, to lay before the reader the process through which the confessor's mind has gone, and the state in which it now is.

“I am a member of the Church of England-because, take it for all in all, I believe it to be the best church of the present day. I am, however, of William Law's opinion, that the purest church now existing is only the vestige of a

• The Confessions of a Member of the Church of England, occasioued by a Laborious Examiuation of the celebrated Work of the late Rev. W. Joves, entitled, ** The Catholic Doctrine of a Trinity,” aud also an Essay on Socinianism. Londop, Marsh and Miller.

better thing. Still, it is natural to a person of a serious turn of mind to wish that he might rightly understand and entirely believe every important article of doctrine professed by the church of which he is a member: it was decidedly the case with me. I had been in the habit of reading the Holy Scriptures the greater part of my life, and I seldom opened the book without meeting some passages which appeared to me to be directly opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity, in the way in which that doctrine is set forth in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. This was a cause of grief to me for many years. I eagerly read every book I could meet with written in defence of these creeds, and most scrupulously shunned the writings of those uho controrerted them. In the course of my researches I sometimes met with arguments inanaged with such address and ability as made a strong impression on my mind in favour of the doctrine; but on my return to the Bible these impressions were instantly effuced. For one text or expression from which the doctrine could in any possible way be inferred, I met with tеn which, in my humble judyment, pointedly and unequivocally denied it. I was at length informed tbat the Rev. Mr. Jones, of Nayland, had published a work which set the matter at rest; that he had incontrovertibly proved the doctrine to be scriptural. I immediately procured his · Catholic Doctrine of a Trinity,' and read it with attention. It did not appear to me to be by any means satisfactory : I could not but suspect that he dealt unfairly with the Holy Scriptures. I resolved to take the first convenient opportunity of setting about a minute examination of every text he had quoted, and every argument he had advanced. I foresaw that this would be a laborious task, requiring much time, and as far as possible an abstraction from every other pursuit. Many years passed over before I found a fit opportunity for the undertaking : it was not till the winter of 1825, when confined by ill-health, that I commenced my task. I considered the matter to be of so much importance to my own peace of mind, that for more than two years it was principally, I may almost say exclusively, the subject of my meditations, and the object of my inquiry. I made the Scriptures my guide, and wholly unassisted (excepting only by the comments of writers deemed orthodox) I laboured tbrough the work. No one can hesi. tate to give Mr. Jones the credit of sincerity and good intentions ; yet I cannot but think he has injured rather than supported his cause. This appeared to me so obviously the case, that when I had gone through his work I doubted if it were proper to give my Confessions in the form of a review of it; for it might be said that the doctrine must not be condemned because it had been injudiciously stated and weakly defended by Mr. Jones. But on further con. sideration, as the book has strangely obtained a considerable degree of cele.. brity, and, moreover, as it afforded me the opportunity of bringing forward a powerful body of scriptural evidence, I thought it might as well remain in that forio. That the sentiments of an individual, who has no pretensions to the character of a man of learning, will be considered only contemptible by writers esteemed orthodox, may be fully expected at the present time; yet I confidently predict that before half a century passes over, the doctrine stated in these pages will be generally, if not unanimously, confessed throughout the kingdom. It may fairly be asked, upon what grounds I hazard so bold a prediction? In the first place, a surprising expansion of the human intellect within the last thirty years (especially in our own country) has been noticed by every discerning person. Men are beginning to emancipate their minds from the trammels imposed upon them by great names, and are disposed to compare authorities, and to judge for themselves. Secondly, though we have frequent proof of great depravity and impiety among the very ignorant classes, Christianity is more seriously and more generally inquired into by the better informed part than it has hitherto been ; we may, therefore, hope for a rapid progress in true Christian knowledge. Thirdly, the Greek language is now more generally studied than it had been in former times. This is very important; for it has been admitted by many orthodox divines, that our present translation of the New Testament (ihough probably the best extant) is incor

rect in several places, and not a few of the inaccuracies will be found to affect the awful subject I have ventured to discuss. Lastly, I feel perfectly satisfied that the doctrine here stated is that which was taught by our blessed Lord and his apostles.”

Mr. Shaw then proceeds to examine the passages adduced by Mr. Jones in proof of the Deity of Christ. In the course of his remarks, he very properly reprobates as mischievous the practice (which Mr. Jones and some other writers constantly adopt) of bringing detached sentences from distant parts of the Scripture and joining them together : the most absurd doctrines may appear to be proved by it; and the Bible is brought into contempt by frequenily making it seem to contradict itself. Of this mode of imagined proof, the following, amongst others, is one on which Mr. Shaw animadverts.

Isaiah liii. 11, compared with 2 Pet. jii, 18: “I, even I, am the Lord, and besides me there is no Saviour.” “ Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

The words Lord and Saviour occur in both of these texts. In the first, they are applied to the Father, and in the second, to the Son, and therefore Mr. Jones conceives that the doctrine of co-equality is established. “ Jesus Christ is a Saviour, therefore he is Jehovah the Lord : Jesus Christ is Jehovah, therefore he is the Saviour.” On this Mr. Shaw observes,

“If we follow Mr. Jones's system, we shall need to be extremely circumspect in our mode of expression. No orthodox writer would deny that Jehovah is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet if we say Jehovah is Christ, and Christ is Jehovah, it is orthodox; but if we say the Father is the Son, and the Son is the Father, which is in truth the very same, it is heresy and nonsense.

“ The two texts quoted by Mr. Jones are easily understood, if we read them in simplicity; but his notions make the Bible unintelligible. The Almighty Father is declared to be the Creator of the world, yet it is said tbat the world was made by Christ. Again, the Father hath said, “Thou shalt know that I, the Lord, am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer.' Yet of Christ it is said, that he is the Saviour of the world,' and that he hath redeemed us to God by bis blood. Both originated in the power and love of God, and were accomplished through the ministration of his ever-blessed Son.

“It is distressing to find a man of Mr. Jones's learning and piety closing his comments upon these two texts with a garbled and misapplied quotation from Phil. ii. 9. The text, if he had quoted fairly, would have been decidedly against him, for it runs thus :- Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name.' The Apostle concludes with these words, “That every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' How either co-equality or underived power can be proved from this passage is to me inconceivable."

Most frequent are the complaints which Mr. Shaw has to make of the manner in which Mr. Jones wrests the Scriptures to his purpose.

“The manner in which Mr. Jones uses the Holy Scriptures, makes it a distressing task to follow him through his arguments.”—“ He continually perplexes himself and his readers with incomplete or unfair quotations."

The following contains an important truth : “ We seldom meet with a text in the Bible which seems to give any countenance to this doctrine of the co-equality of our Lord with the Almighty Father, but is preceded or immediately followed by a plain denial of it.”

« 上一页继续 »