John Wilson.

Unitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches online

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Again and again did Cluist admonish his apostles and other followers
to Hve as brethren and equals, not to affect a superiority over their
fellow-disciples or over one another ; inasmuch as, in this, his king-
dom would diflfer in its fundamental maxims from all the kingdoms
of the world; that that person alone would there be deemed the
greatest whose deportment should be the humblest, and he alone
superior who should prove most ser\iceable to the rest. . . . When
the disciples privately contended among themselves who should be
greatest, he took occasion to warn them against ambition. . . . The same
maxims were warmly inculcated by his apostles; and in their time,
imder the hapjDy mfluence of their instructions, generally prevailed
among Christisuis. — Dr. Geo. Ca3IPBELL : Lectures on Ecclesiastical
History, Lect. 2.

Thus you see [referring to Luke X'sii. 15-19], though the Jews
iearnt no humihty, no gratitude, yet the Samaritan, ignorant as he was
then thought, misinformed as he is now reckoned — yet the Samaritan
was deeply impressed with both. The Almighty himself taught him,
and he was obedient to the di\ine Instructor. The pride of rehgion
would make the Jews brand him mth the factious name of heretic or.
schismatic ; but, were he heretic or schismatic, he offered to heaven as
grateful a sacrifice as was ever laid on the altar at Jerusalem by
prophet or by saint. The contentions about the forms of religion
destroy its essence. Authorized by the example of Jesus Cln:ist, v/e
will send men to the Samaritan to find out how to worsliip. Though
yoiu' church was pm-e, without spot or imperfection, yet, if your heart
is not turned to God, the worship is hateful, and the prayers are an
abomination. The homage of the darkest Pagan, worshipping he
knows not what, but still v.'orshipping the unknown Power that formed
him, if he bows T\ith humility, if he praises mth gratitude, his homage
will ascend grateful to heaven ; while the dead, careless formahty of
prayer, offered up in the proudest Christian temples, shall be rejected
as an offering unholy. For think you that the Almighty esteems
names and sects ? No : it is the heart that he requhes, — it h the
heart alone that he accepts. And much consolation does tliis afford to
the contemplative mind of man. We may be very ignorant in spmtual
matters, if that ignorance cannot be removed, and yet may be very


safe. We may not know in what words to clothe our desu'es in
prayer, or where to find language worthy of being presented to the
Majest}^ of heaven. But, aniidst the clouds that smTound us, here is
our comfort: In eA'ery nation, he that worshippeth vath. humihty,
worshippeth aright; he that praiseth ^nth gratitude, praiseth well.
The pride of estabhshments maj' despise liim ; but the ^^isdom and the
righteousness of heaven -VAill hear, and -will approve him. It was to
the humble, thankful Samaritan, though sejjarated from the true
church, — yes, it was to him alone, because he alone returned to glo-
lify God, — that Jesus Christ said, " Arise, go thy way : thy faith hath
made thee whole." Thus in a moment vanished, and became of no
effect, the temple of the Jews, bmlt by prophetic direction ; its ritual,
given by theh illuminated legislator; all gave way to the profomid
humihty and the subhme gratitude of what they called an unbehever,
— of what Jesus Clmst called the only faitliful servant of God among
them. — PiiEBEND.iRY Co:mings, of St. Patrick's, Dublin : Sermons
on tlie Spiritual Kingdom of the Messiah.

Dr. George Campbell, from whom vre borrow this fine extract, saj^s, in
his work on Ecclesiastical History, that the seutiments quoted '' convey an
idea of the church truly rational, enlarged, and sublime; such as strongly
distinguishes it from all the pitiful and contracted pales, so uncharitably
erected by the different sectaries of all known denominations, Popish and
Protestant, established and nnestablished. For it is not a legal establishment,
as some vainly imagine, or any thing merely external, that either makes
or unmakes a sectary in the Scriptural sense: it is solely the spirit by which
a man is actuated."

Benevolence is the great principle on v»'liich Chiistianity is fomided ;
and it tends equally to the honor of rehgion, and the advantage of
society, tliat Clnist exacts from liis disciples, in their conduct towards
each other, the same illustrious quahty that Avas displayed on the part
of God m the redemption of mankind. The impetuosity of AATath,
the bitterness of e"vil-speaking, and the cruelty of revenge, are
peremptorily forbidden in every page of the gospel. That man is
there pomted out by the sacred Amters as the most acceptable servant
of Ciirist, who cultivates a large and generous love towards liis feUow-
ci'eatures; who seeks for opportunities of doing them good; who
dihgently retreats from every temptation to injm'e them; and who, by
a liap2)y miion of prudence ynth good-natiure, hves peaceably with all

men K you would act up to the spuit of the gospel, . . . you must

not suffer the love of yom- neighbor to be narrowed and enfeebled by


any fortuitous circumstance of ranlc or locality or religious persuasion.
You must consider acquaintances and strangers, friends and foes,
countrpnen and foreigners, the members of yom' o^\^l and every other
Christian community, the followers of Confucius and Mahomet as well
as of Chiist, heretics and schismatics, dogmatists and sceptics, mono-
theists and polytheists, the enlightened and peaceful inhabitant of
towns in a ci\ilized society and the wold savage roaming for his prey
through the trackless forest, the sceptered monarch and the humble
cottager, — you must consider all of them as formmg one great flock,
placed here in one spacious fold, imder one good Shepherd, who, in liis
own good tune and for liis owi^i good purposes, will hereafter separate
the better from the worse, and consign them to then* proper stations,
according to the measm'e wliich he only can laiow of then' respective
merits and demerits. — Dr. Samuel Parr : Sermon on Rom. xii. 18,
and Seiinon on the Two Commandments ; in Works, vol. vi. pp. 679,
and 36i-o.

It is delightful to meet with sentiments so just and beautiful as these, —
with principles of candor so fraught with the spirit of Jesus, — with views
of humanity so accordant with the whole genius of the Cln-istian faith.

Let truth be shrined in argument ; for this is its appropriate glory.
And it is a sore dispamgement inflicted upon it by the hand of
vindictive theologians, when, instead of this, it is shrined in anathema,
or brandished as a weapon of dread and of desti'uction over the heads
of all who are compelled to do it homage. The terrible denuncia-
tions of Athanasius have not helped — they have injiu-ed the cause.
The Godhead of Christ is not thus set forth in the New Testament.
It is nowhere proposed in the shape of a mere dictatorial article, or as
a naked dogma, for the understanding alone ; and at one place it is
introduced as an episode for the enforcement of a moral wtue. Li
this famous passage [Plnl. ii. 3 — 8], the practical lesson occupies the
station of principal, as the main or capital figm'e of the piece ; and
the doctrine on which so many would effervesce all then- zeal, even to
exhaustion, stands to it but in the relation of a subsidiary. ... In these
verses, there is a collateral lesson for our faith; but the cliief, the

direct lesson is a lesson of charity, which is greater than faith We

protest, by the meekness and the gentleness of Christ ; by the tears
of him who wept at Lazarus' tomb, and over the approaching ruin of
Jerusalem ; by every word of blessing that he uttered, and by every
footstep of this wondrous visitor over the sm-face of a land on wliich



he went about doing good continually, — we protest in the name of
all these unequivocal demonstrations, that they do him an injustice
who propound this message [the gospel message] in any other way
than as a message of friendsliip to our species. He came not to
condemn, but to save ; not to destroy, but to keep ahve. — Dr. Thos.
Chalmers : Select Works, vol. iii. pp. 260-1, 263, New York edition.

From the beautiful sentiments here set forth, it is evident, that, strongly-
attached as this good and gi'eat man was to Calvinistic and Trinitarian
theology, Dr. Chalmers regarded the virtues of meekness and humility,
exemplified by Jesus Christ and recommended by the Apostle Paul, as of
far higher importance than a belief in the doctrine of Christ's Supreme Deity;
and that he felt no sympathy with that spirit of exclusiveness and of
denunciation which has so often impregnated the "Orthodoxy" of his
church. In passing, however, it may be remarked, that his interpretation
of Paul's language is founded on a misconception of its meaning. This
wiU be shown under Phil. ii. 6, in a succeeding volume.

Listead of imbibing, countenancing, or warranting intolerance and
bigotry, he [Christ] taught, in all instances, their odiousness and guilt ;
and enjoined, with respect to every subject and person, the most
absolute moderation, hberality, and candor ; not, indeed, the fashionable
liberality of licentious men in modern times, — a professed indifference
to truth and holiness, but a benevolent and cathoKc spirit towards
every man, and a candid and just one towards every argument and
opinion. Distinctions of nations, sects, or party, as such, were to him
nothing : distinctions of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, were to
him every thing. According to this scheme, he framed his instruc-
tions and his life; and the same catholic sphit and freedom from
intolerance characteiize the \vritiiigs of his apostles. — T. Hartwell
HoRNE : Introduction to the Holy Scriptures, vol. i. p. 167.

Christianity itself condemns as decisively the evil tempers generated
by religious disagreements, as it condemns any other immorahties;
clearly, itself is a rehgion of love and meekness; and moreover it
contains (however httle they have hitherto been regarded) sufficient
and very precise provisions, securing to Christians hberty of conscience,
while cordial fellowship is not disturbed. The religion of Christ
should therefore bear none of the blame accruing from rehgious
strifes. -— IsAAC TAYLOR : Lectures on Spiritual Christianity, p. 182,
New York edition.

True love seeketh not its own. It rejoices in the truth, by whom-
soever professed or disseminated. If Christ is preached, whether in


pretence or iii truth, it rejoices, yea, anil will rejoice. It does not
rebuke a man because he prefers to labor in a field different from that
of his neighbor, or cut dowi the spiritual harvest mth a different
implement, or wear a costume somewhat plainer or more costly. It
does not meet the report of a \dctory in the Cln-istian cause with cold
indifference, or with a hesitating approval, till it has fu'st learned what
particular sect has the agency, or wiU receive the benefit. It nobly
overlooks all such things. It plants itself on no such narrow grounds.
Its object is not to make j^roselytes, but to save souls; not to coimt
up converts to this or that dogma, but to honor the Redeemer of the
world. Wherever, in whomsoever, it can discern the Hneaments of
his blessed image, it welcomes him to communion, and rejoices in his
prosperity. This is the spirit of Christ and of his apostles, miless the
New Testament is wiiolly misinterpreted. In proportion as you love
the cause of Christ as such, you may beheve that your love is sincere,
and -will stand the last fiery test. In proportion as it is concerned
with a sect as such, and pours out all its sympathy on its own peculiar
and selected friends, may its genumeness be questioned. To confine
your affections to one branch of the true church may be a proof of
spurious love, as it certainly is of a narrow understanding. It may be
the evidence of an arrogant Pharisaism, rather than of a Christian
temper. The spirit of Christ was sympathizing, concihatory, aU-
embracing. He never turned coldly aw^ay because a suppliant was a
i:)Oor Syrophenician. He did not resign the heterodox Samaritan to
the micovenanted mercies of God. — Bela B. Edwards : Writings^
vol. i. pp. 455-6.

Since the days of our Lord's personal ministry, his disciples have
altered the shibboleth of Christianity. The test-question is not now,
" Simon Peter, lovest thou me ? " but, " Simon Peter, thinkest thou as
I do ? " Unless the answer be clearly and decidedly affirmative, there
is but cold welcome to the Master's vineyard : no excellence of piety is
a sufficient offset to variant opinions, even about things the most ab-
struse and difficult of determination. No superiority of understanding
compensates, in its admu-able conclusions, for unlawful speculations
upon subjects concerning which men have done httle else than specu-
late from the beginnings of thought. " Venerable Bede," says John
Newton, " after giving a high character of some contemporary, adds,
* But, unhappy man, he did not keep Easter our way.' " — Dr. T. E.
Bond, Jun. : Methodist (Quarterly Review for Apnl, 1853 ; 4th series,
vol. V. p. 256.


Is it too much to ask such persons [as would abjure the union of
Christians on any other terms than those of perfect identity of opinion
with themselves] to place themselves in company with then- chvine
Lord, and to follow him through all the scenes of liis incarnation, for
the purpose of asking from what action, or from what expression,
they can feel authorized to treat with hostihty, and to reject with
sconi, the efforts that are being made to strengthen the bonds of
brotherhood between his disciples ? Is it from liis Sermon upon the
Mount, when he j^om'ed his benediction upon the peace-makers, and
called them the children of God ? Is it from his frequent rebukes to
his too htigious followers? Is it from his conversation with the
w'oman of Samaria, and liis labors on that occasion, among a people
hated and shimned by his own Idndred? Is it from liis inimitable
parable of the good Samaritan? Is it from his reproof of the dis-
tempered zeal of his disciples, who would have stopped the man that
cast out demons, because he followed not them? Is it from his
forbearance with liis apostles, mider their cloudy apprehensions of
liis doctrine and liis will, their impure motives, and their defective
sanctity ? How wide the interval wiiich separated his rehgious know-
ledge and attamments from those of his disciples ! — he, the fountain
of iUummation ; they, encompassed with infirmities : but did he recede
from them on that account ? No : he di-ew closer the bond of union,
imparted successive streams of effulgence, till he incorporated his
spuit "with tlieh's, and elevated them mto a nearer resemblance of

himself. Is there, notwithstanding our differences, a principle

known, — a principle attainable by us all, — a principle which is an
integral part of om' rehgion, — a principle wiiich, if it were more
cultivated and in full exercise, would subjugate all that is low and
selfish and malevolent in om' natm-e ; and which, wiiile it filled oiu
owii bosom with peace, would give us peace with our fellow-Christians
of every name ? There is. It is Love, — holy love, — heavenly love, —
Christian love. But where is it to be found ? Li the heart of God, in
the bosom of Jesus, in the minds of angels, in the spirits of just men
made perfect, and in the pages of the New Testament, we know ; but
where on earth shall we find it ? It ought to be seen in beauty and
in viffor in the chmch of Christ: this is built to be its mansion,
and for its residence. But how httle is it to be found in tliis its
own and appropriated abode ! — John Angell James : Union in
relation to the Religious Parties of England; in Essays on Christian
Union, pp. 206-7, 217-8.


His [Christ's] most distinct command was to love all mankind ;
which obligation, on our part, he gromided upon the universal love of
the Father in heaven, who makes his sim to shuie equally upon aU
nations, and sends his rain as plentiftilly upon those who are most
benighted or deformed by vice, as upon those who are decorated mth
the fahest \irtues. The neighbor to be loved as one's self was every
man mthout exception ; and, by thns representing love to the weakest
and most unworthy of mankind, in connection with love to the
Almighty Father in heaven, as the substance of all morality, our Lord
entirely and for ever abolished aU party considerations in respect to
distmction of family, rank, nation, and religion. . . . Christ appeared on
earth mvested with sublime and holy doctrines, which he labored to
impart, not to sects and sectaries, but to imiversal man. — E. L.
Magoox : Republican Christianity, pp.. 303-5.

By introducing tliese and other extracts on behalf of a spirit which would
embrace within its grasp all sincere Christians of whatever name or belief,
and which would not dare appropriate to any one particular sect the pos-
session of all truth and all saving f\iith, to the entire exclusion of others, —
we do not wish to be understood as implying that Trinitarianism is in itself,
or apart from the doctrines with which it is usually connected, naturally
and necessarily productive of an arrogant or illiberal demeanor towards its
opponents. All that we mean to indicate is, that, though the unchristian
and anticatholic spirit has been too frequently allied Avith the profession
of Trinitarianism, its best friends are united, in heart and purpose, with its
greatest foes, in proclaiming Christianity to be a religion of perfect freedom
and universal love.

Nor are we so foolish as to imagine, that, by any selection of extracts from
the writings of good men, v/e could j^^ove the religion of Jesus to be pre-
eminently a religion of love. The nominal disciples of Christ may, indeed,
show, in their conversations and their lives, that they have not yet learned
the lesson of human brotherhood; and, in justification of their unbelief, the
enemies of Christianity may point the finger of scorn at the animosities and
strifes of sectarians, and say, " Behold ! these are the fruits of your religion."
But no one Avho opens the New Testament can avoid seeing on almost every
page, written in characters of light, the glorious doctrine of the fraternity of
all God's children. If the reader of the gospel records be blind to this blessed
truth, no mere authority and no mode of reasoning will convince him of it.
We make the extracts, therefore, not for this purpose, but to exhibit the
inconsistencies of Christians so called, and to urge them, by considering
the mercies of God, the benign spirit of the Master whom they profess to
serve, and their own solemn responsibilities, to give no countenance, by the
ch-^i-ishing and manifestation of uncharitable dispositions, to the inference
of the unbeliever, that Christianity cannot be a revelation from heaveii.



Love talks ■with better kno-svledge, and knowledge with dearer love.


"\yhen we would coimnce men of any error by the strength of
truth, let us mthal poiu' the sweet balm of love upon theu' heads.
Truth and love are two the most powerful things m the world ;
and, when they both go together, they cannot easily be withstood.
The golden beams of truth and the silken cords of love, twisted
together, will draw men on with a sweet violence, whether they will
or no. Let us take heed we do not sometimes call that zeal for God
and his gospel, which is nothing else but om' owai tempestuous and
stormy passion. True zeal is a sw^eet, heavenly, and gentle flame,
which maketh us active for God, but always within the sphere of love.
It never calls for fire from heaven to consume those that differ a Kttle
from us in their apprehensions. It is like that kind of lightning,
which the philosophers S23eak of, that melts the sword witliin, but
singeth not the scabbard : it strives to save the soul, but hurteth not
the body. True zeal is a loving thing, and makes us ahvays active to
edification, and not to destruction. . . . True zeal is an ignis lamhens,
a soft and gentle flame, that will not scorch one's hand : it is no
prediitory or voracious thing. But carnal and fleshly zeal is lil\.e the
spirit of gunpow^der set on fire, that tears and blows up all that stands
before it. . . . Let this soft and silken Imot of love tie our hearts
together ; though our heads and apprehensions cannot meet, as indeed
they never wiU, but always stand at some distance ofi" from one another.
Om- zeal, if it be heavenly, if it be true vestal fire kindled from above,
will not dehght to tarry here below, bm-ning up straw and stubble and
such combustible tilings, and sending up nothing but gross and earthy
fumes to heaven ; but it wiU rise up, and retiu-n back pure as it came
down, and will be ever stri\ing to carry up men's hearts to God along
with it. It will be only occupied about the promoting of those things
which are unquestionably good ; and, when it moves in the irascible
way, it vnll quarrel with nothing but sin. — Dr. R.iLPH Cudworth :
Sermon I. appended to the Intellectual System of the Universe, vol. iL
pp. 574-5


1 know those that would draw you into such a contentious zeal
will tell you, that theu' cause is the cause of God, and that you desert
him and betray it if you be not zealous in it ; and that it is but the
counsel of fler^h and blood wliich maketh you pretend moderation and
peace ; and that it is a sign that you are hypocrites, that are so luke-
warm, and carnally comply mth error ; and that the cause of God is
to be followed mth the greatest zeal and self-denial. And all this
is true, if you be but sure that it is indeed the cause of God, and that
the greater works of God be not neglected on such pretences, and
that your zeal be much greater for faith and charity and miity than for
your opinions. But, upon great experience, I must tell you, that, of
the zealous contenders in the world tliat cry up " the cause of God
and truth," there is not one of very many, that understandeth what he
talks of; but some of them cry up the cause of God, when it is a brat
of a proud and ignorant brain, and such as a judicious person would

be ashamed of. Zeal without judgment hath not only entangled

souls in many heinous sins, but hath rmned churches and kingdoms ;
and, under pretence of exceeduig others m doing good, it makes men
the greatest instruments of e\il. There is scarce a sin so great and
odi.ous, but ignorant zeal mil make men do it as a good work. Chiist
told his disciples, that those that killed them should think they did
God ser^■ice ; and Paul bare record to the mm-derous, persecutmg Jews,
" that they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." —
Richard Baxter : Practical Worlis, voL ii. j^p. 130-1, 327.

" The temple of the Lord," said the Jews, as we read in Jere-
miah, — " The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are
these." Li the same spirit do some of our contemporaries exclaim,
" The gospel, the gospel, the gospel of Jesus, is here, and here only."
Perhaps, my brethren, it were unkind and uncourteous to apply to
these misguided declaimers those indignant terms in which Jeremiah
speaks of his countrymen, " Trust not in Ijing words." But I cannot
be charged with indecorum or harshness, when I recommend to these
accusers of my ecclesiastical brethren a Httle more charity to their
fellow-Christians, and a httle more distrust in themselves ; and much
more discipline from knowledge, as the correction of headstrong zeal

and frantic enthusiasm The pride which generates impatience

of contradiction upon points which have long exercised our intellectual
faculties, and which we often conceive to be intrinsically of highei
moment, because we had been accastomed to meditate upon them,
and to contend for them ; the fondness which we insensibh^ contract


for certain fomiularies of religious beKef, and certain modes of religious
ceremonies ; the dread which we feel of fickleness and lulvewarmness
in what we think the cause of Heaven, when it was really the cause

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 4 of 55)