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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of our own prepossessions, our ovm. antipathies, oiu' own credidity,
and our own ignorance, — all these circumstances may lead us into
measures wliich a well-directed and well-disciplined conscience would
re]3resent to us as injmious to the best interests of society, and adverse
to the plainest and soundest prmciples of %ii-tue and religion. To his
o^\^l Master, say those prmciples, let e\'ery religionist or fall
w^hile the Master is not man, but God ; and, as to the glory of God,
sm^ely his perfections, his moral government, and his revealed ■will,
never will permit us to beHeve that it is promoted by injury to persons
wdio are the objects of his care as a Creator, a Kedeemer, and a
Sanctifier. The glory of God, indeed, as we learn from liistory, has
been the avowed justification of the most flagrant enormities. For
the glory of God, and the law given by liim to ]Moses, the Je^\ish
rabble, decoyed and goaded by the Jewish priesthood, dragged the
blessed Jesus to the cross ; inflicted upon the meek and pious Stephen
the most barbarous \iolence ; caused an execrable conspiracy of forty
zealots to bind themselves by an oath, that they would neither eat nor
drink till they had slam Paul; subjected him to a long and comfort-
less imprisonment at Kome ; and brought upon the noble army of
primitive martjTS all the miseries of dmigeons, chains, tortmes, and
death. For the glory of God, ^Mahomet raised the standard, maddened
his illiterate and sanguinary followers with the wildest frenzy in the
defence of the Divine Unity, and spread aroimd him the most hideous
desolation. For the glory of God were undertaken those frantic
crusades which for a long time agitated the Christian world, and have
left behind them the most frightful traces of superstition, intolerance
phmder, and bloodshed. For the glory of God, the, as I tola
you, whether a Romanist or Protestant, has consigned many a studious,
virtuous, and devout Christian to the flames. The glory of God incited
Anabaptists and other fenatics to trample upon the authority of laws,
and to convidse weh-foimded and well-administered governments with
all the tumults of. sedition, and all the atrocities of carnage. Yet the
bewildered imagination and infuriate passions of these self-appointed
champions for the honor of their Maker, pushed them onward from
one outrage to another, not merely without the strong reproach, but
with the prompt, hvely, and full, approbation, of then- perverted con-
sciences. — Dr. Samuel Parr: Works, vol. v. pp. 119 and 472-4.


Men may differ fi-om each other in many religious opinions, and
yet all may retain the essentials of Cluistianity ; men may sometimes
eagerly dispute, and yet not differ much from one another. The rigor-
ous persecutors of error should therefore enhghten their zeal \nth
knowledge, and temper then* orthodoxy "vvith charity ; — that charity
without which orthodoxy is vain ; charity that " thuilveth no evil," but
" hopeth all thuigs " and " endm-eth all things." — Dr. Samuel
Johnson : Life of Browne ; in WorJcs, vol. ix. p. 298.

It is g-reatly to be feared, that rehgious controversiaKsts are often
under the influence of pride, envy, and a contentious disposition, wliich
they and then- admhers mistake for the warm gloAv of a pure zeal, I
am led to draw this mifavorable conclusion from the vehemence and
acrimony of then* language. The love of truth operates indeed, steadily
and miiforml}', but not violently. It is the love of victory and supe-
riority which sharpens the style. The deshe of Hterary fame, of
becommg the patron or leader of a sect, of silencing the voice of oppo-
sition, usuaUy inspires tliat eagerness and warmth of temper which it is
not natm'al that the truth or falsehood of any speculative opuiion should
excite. — Vicesimus EInox: Sermons ; in Works, vol. \i. p. 249.

Rehgious charity requhes that we shoidd not judge any set of
Christians by the representations of their enemies alone, without

hearing and readuig what they have to say in their o\m defence

Some men camiot miderstand how they are to be zealous, if they are
candid, in rehgious matters. But remember that the Scriptures
carefuUy distinguish between laudable zeal and indiscreet zeal. . . . The
object is to be at the same time pious to God, and charitable to man ;
to render your ov/n faith as pure and perfect as jDOssible, not only
without hatred of those who differ from you, but with a constant
recollection, that it is possible, in spite of thought and study, that you
may have been mistaken ; that other sects may be right ', and that a
zeal in his sernce, which God does not want, is a very bad excuse
for those bad passions which his sacred word condemns. — Sydney
Smith: Sermon on Christian Charity ; in JVorks, pp. 308, 310.

We have a well-authenticated statement resjjecting an orthodox
professor of Christianity, who dechned to assist a neighbor's family
mvolved m distress, on the ground of the heterodoxy of a member of
that family. Tlrnt tendency in om* fallen natm-e wliich induces uis
to place reliance on a doctrinal creed or on a zealous temperament, to
the neglect of humane sentiments and of a generous disposition, is the
reason why the apostles so earnestly admonish theh disciples on



the subject. Nearly allied to this disposition, and perhaps a result
of it, is candor in judgment, — a habit of putting a charitable con-
struction upon the motives of our feUow-men ; the absence of bigotry
and exclusiveness ; a resolute determination to judge of books, of
systems of knowledge, and of men, with discriminating Idndness. No
one ought to be considered as eminently pious, wiio is rash and
overbearing in his moral or literary judgments. If his piety does not
enter into and control these matters, it is one-sided and partial. . , .
These illiberal judgments and micom-teous feehngs are intimately
connected mth a narrow miderstanding and with confined mtellectual
ojoinions. The natm'al tendency of enlarged views, and of extensive
and patient reading, is to break down the barriers of party, and of a
selfish bigotry, while it refines and ennobles the soul. — Bela B.
EDW.mDS : Writings, vol ii. pp. 479-80.

True rehgion imparts to the mind all those ideas that are fitted
most potently to stir the heart of man. ... It kindles and perpetually
feeds that wise zeal wliich has a grasp, breadth, and elevation, of wliich
mere sectarian selfishness is destitute, because not jjossessing the self-
denying heroism and affection of which true greatness is always formed.
, . . Christianity is not merely that indolent good nature which often
steals the name of philanthropy, but the supernatural fhe that flashed
transforming ideas on the brain of Paul as he jom-neyed to Damascus,
and pom-ed still more celestial revelations on his heart ; rousing divine
yearnings that bigotry had smothered, and miseahng that fountain of
charity toward all Avhich theological thorns tend so much to choke,
and which partisan bitterness is sm'e to destroy. — E. L. Magoon :
Republican Christianity, pp. 321-2.

A scliismatic spirit often insidiously puts on the disguise of com-
mendable zeal for the glory of God. . . . When a vain and weak-minded
Christian has bet^n wrought upon either by flatterers or designing
teachers or by his own warm distempered imagination, to suppose that
he of all others is called upon to seek the glory of God, and punish
his foes, he soon devises bold and decisive means for vindicating
the supposed honor of God, and finds arguments for his employing the
most cruel and unscriptm'al measiues against heretics and blasphemers.
... It was not a blood-thirsty cruelty that always kindled the fires of
the Inquisition, but at times an intense desire to glorify God, by
searching out his concealed foes, penetratmg the arcana of their heart,
and compelling them, by civil pains and penalties, to come back within
the pale of the cluuch ; otherwise they were to be extirpated as here-


tics, whom it was dangerous for religion to allow to live. The same
fiery, schismatical spirit passed, in a mitigated form, from the Roman
into the Reformed chm'ches ; for they also persecuted, and persecuted
from a sincere desire to promote the glory of God. The amiable
Bishop HaU vacate a treatise on Moderation, and, mth all his ten-
derness to sectaries, he lets out the sjTiiptoms of a deeply-seated
schismatical spiiit when he says, " Master Cahin did well approve
himself to God's church, in bringing Servetus to the stake at Gene^s'a."
The good man knew not what sphit he was of. . . . It is an angehc at-
tainment to have bm'nuig zeal, and yet zeal bumuig in love, to compass
the whole world, not for proselytes, but for converts, and to respect
every sincere inquirer after truth as an honest, conscientious professor.
True zeal draws no other sword fr'om its scabbard but the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God. — Dr. Ga^t;n Struthers : Party
Spirit ; in Essays on Chistian Union, pp. 417-19.

When, in the course of our reading, we meet witli passages so finely
conceived as these, so beautifully exhibiting the divine and gentle spirit
of our Lord, and so admirably conducive to the harmony and peace of
Christendom, without furnishing any grounds for indifference to the study,
reception, and spread of gospel truth; and when we recall to mind the
jealousies and the heart-burnings which so-called Christians have cherished
v/ithin their hearts, and the wars and persecutions which they have Avaged
against each other, on account of mere differences of opinion, — we have
sometimes thought that the religious world would lose little of truth, and far
less of love, if the creeds and confessions and systems of theology, which
have encouraged feelings and acts so alien to all that is good and pure and
peaceable, had, without the concurrence of man's embittered passions, been
swei:)t by the winds of heaven to the mouth of some great volcano, there to
be engulfed, and perish for ever. But we remember our Master's words,
and exclaim, in the spirit of his far-seeing counsel, — " Nay ! lest, while we
gather up the tares, we root up also the wheat with them." Let the follies
and errors, and even the fulminations, of theologians remain unconsumed
in the monumental piles which they have raised in their codes and books,
lest, while they are being burnt, the wisdom, the piety, and the truths, weak
and imperfect as they are, which have to some extent been incorporated
with their opposites, perish also. Let them remain awhile, — but remain
inactive in the production of further evil, till the great field of humanity be
covered by the fruits of truth, righteousness, and love, — till the harvest
of a liberal Christianity appear, when the tares of error, of bigotry, and of
persecution will either have rotten away from the face of the earth, or been
consumed by the flames of a Catholicism not assumed as a badge of dis-
tinction by any one church, but operating as a vital principle in all societies
and communities bearing the name of the blessed Jesus.



Let them see
That as more pure and gentle is your faith,
Yourselves are gentler, purer.

Robert Sodthey.

Although a difference in opinions, or modes of worship, may preveiJ
an entire external union, yet need it j^revent om' union in affection j*
Though we camiot think alike, may we not love alike ? May we nut
be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion ? It is certaui, so
long as we know but in part, that all men -will not see all tlnngs alilvC.
it is an unavoidable consequence of the present weakness and short-
ness of the human understanding, that several men will be of severai.
minds m rehgion as well as in common life. Nay, fiirther : although
every man necessarily beheves that every particular opuiion which he
holds is true, yet can no man be assured, that all his o^\ti opinions,
taken together, are true. Nay, every thinking man is assm-ed they
are not ; seemg Humanum est en'are et nescire, to be ignorant of many
things, and to be mistaken in some, is the necessary condition of
humanity. Every wise man, therefore, will allow others the same
hberty of thinking, wliich he desu'es they should allow liim ; and mil
no more insist on their embracing his opinions, than he would have
them to insist on liis embracing theirs. He bears vdth those who
differ from him, and only asks him vdth v;hom he desires to miite m
love that single question, " Is thme heart right, as my heart is ^nth
thy heart ? " No man can choose for, or prescribe to, another. Bm
every man must follow the dictates of his o^Yn conscience, m simpHcity
and godly sincerity. He must be fully persuaded m his own mind, and
then act according to the best hght he has. Nor has any creatm'e
power to constrain another to walk by his own rule. God has given
no right to any of the children of men thus to lord it over the con-
sciences of his brethren ; but every man must judge for himself, as
every man must give an accomit of liimself to God. I dare not
presmne to impose my^ mode of worsliip on any other. I believe it is
truly primitive and apostohcal ; but my^ belief is no rule for another.
I ask not, therefore, of him with whom I would miite m love, " Are
you of my church ? — of my congregation ? Do you receive the


same form of chm-ch goyernment ? Do you join in the same form
of prayer wherein I worship God ? " My only question at present is
this, " Is thuie heart right, as my heart is with thy heart ? " Is thy
heart right with God ? Dost thou beheve hi the Lord Jesus Cluist ?
Is thy faith filled with the energy of love ? Art thou employed m
doing " not thy own mil, but the \^dll of Him that sent thee " ? Is
thy heart right towards thy neighbor ? Do you show yom- love by

yom* works ? If it be, " give me thine hand." A cathoKc

spirit is not an indifference to ah opinions, nor an mdifference as to
pubhc worship, nor an indifference to all congregations. CathoKc
love is a catholic spuit. But, if we take this word in its strictest
sense, a man of a cathohc spirit is one who gives his hand to aU whose
hearts are right ^yiih his heart ; one who loves his friends as brethi'en
in the Lord, as members of Christ, and childi'en of God; as joint
partalvcrs now of the present kingdom of God, and fellow-hehs of his
eternal Idngdom ; all of whatever opinion, or worship, or congregation,
who beheve in the Lord Jesus Christ ; who love God and man ; who,
rejoicing to please, and fearing to offend God, are careftd to abstaui from
evil, and are zealous of good works. He is the man of a truly catho-
hc sphit who bears all these continually upon his heart. — Abridged
from John Wesley : fVorks, vol. i. pp. 347-54.

The preceding extract consists of a few sentences ctilled from Wesley's
Sermon on a " Catholic Spirit," which, thongh unambitious in its style and
objectionable in one or two of its ideas, will perhaps bear comparison with
any thing of the kind ever published. Would that this discourse, contain-
ing more of the principles of true religion than can be found in many a
professed work on divinity, were scattered in every Christian home ; read
and digested by every man, woman, and child; and exemplified in every
thought and Avord and deed !

Away with names, and the petty distinctions of religious pai'ty !
Are you a Christian, or wish to be one, in deed, not m word only ;
for the sake of spuitual, not temporal pm'poses ? Then di'op yoiu*
13rejudices, and seek the spirit of Christianity, not in systems, but
m the ^\^.itten gospel, assisted by prayer, and the pious illustrations
of men smcere and good, however they may have been reviled or
neglected through prejudice, political artifice, or mistaken zeal. When
you have thus foimd the truth, shov/ its influence by your charity. Be
united to all Christians, as well as to Christ ; and beware of maldng
distinctions by niclmames, and thus exciting enw, wrath, and mahce,
which are of a nature opposite to the fruits of the Sphit, — love, joy,


and peace. Good men should join in a fii-m phalanx, that the evi.
may not triumph in their divisions. Let aU who are miited under the
banners of Christ hail one another as brother Chiistians, though they
may differ on the subject of chm'ch discipHne, rites, ceremonies, or
even non-essential doctrme. . . . Let us consider how the liard-hearted,
unconverted, depraved, and worthless part of mankind exult, while
Christians, agreeing in essentials, quarrel and revile each other, not on
the substance of rehgion, but on the mere shades of difference in
opinion in matters of indifference. . . . Are you a sincere behever, — a
lover of God and man ? I salute you from my heart as my brother
in Christ, whether, in consequence of yom* bu'th and education, you
formed the creed you utter at Rome, at Geneva, or in yoiu: closet at
home. — ViCESiMUS Ejs'OX : Christian Philosophy ; in Works, vol. ^•ii.
pp. 239-90.

A more extensive diffusion of piety among all sects and parties
wiU be the best and only preparation for a corchal union. Clu'istians yvilL
then be disposed to appreciate then' differences more equitably; to
turn their chief attention to points on which they agree ; and, in conse-
quence of losing each other more, to make every concession consistent
.with a good conscience. Listead of "^ishmg to vanquish others, eveiy
one wiU be deshous of being vanquished by the truth. . . . Li the
room of being repelled by mutual antipathy, they will be insensibly
draMTi nearer to each other by the ties of mutual attachment. A
larger measm'e of the spirit of Christ would jDrevent them fi-om con-
verting every incidental variation into an impassable boundary, or
from condemning the most innocent and laudable usages for fear of
symboh2dng ydth. another class of Chiistians. . . . The general preva-
lence of piety in different communities would inspire that mutual
respect, that heartfelt homage, for the wtues conspicuous in the
character of their respective members, which would m-ge us to ask
with astonishment and regret. Why cannot we be one ? What is it
that obstructs om' union ? Listead of maintaining the barrier wliich
separates us from each other, and employing ourselves in fortifying the
frontiers of hostile communities, we should be anxiously demising
the means of narro'.^ing the grounds of dispute, by the atten-
tion of aU parties to those fundamental and cathohc principles in
which they concm'. — Robert Hall : Review of Zeal without Inno-
vation ; in JVorks, vol. ii. p. 266.

Truth and virtue vre do not hold to be chartered to compames :
they are possessed only in part by th .">se who possess the most of them ;


and they are possessed iii some good measure even by many who must

yet stand condemned as capitally WTong in theology It is

trite to say, that, vvliile the human poind continues what it is, men
must differ, not merely in taste and intellectual preferences, but even
in some of those matters of belief which should be under the control
of mere reason. The supposition of an age of miiformity is therefore
chimerical; but the supposition — nay the positive hope — of an age
of Christian concord and of cordial combination is not chimerical;
for it is identical with the behef of the truth of Chiistianity itself, and

of its triumph in the world Ought not those to look well to

the course they are pursuing, who, on the plea of a conscientious
regard to some special enactment, or of the adlierence to some insti-
tution which, at the most, is but the means to an end, are, and in a
dehberate manner, puttmg contempt upon Cluist's first law, — his
universal and sovereign vdW. ; and on such gromid are either refusing
to recognize and to consort with other Christians, or are even demdng
the very name to those whose only alleged fault is then- error, if it be
an error, on the particular in question ? — Isaac Taylor : Lectures on
Spiritual Christianity, pp. 159, 162, 179.

Let a man, no matter what his sectarian distinctions and natural
or social disadvantages, or what his discrepancies in the minor \dews
and practices of rehgion, give but evidence of love to Christ and to
his word, and hoHness, and he is my brother. Be he Arminian or
Cahanist, Episcopalian or Congregationahst, — let him be Baptist
or Pedobaptist, — let him have all worldly disadvantages of education
and station and taste, — be he Greek or Barbarian, bond or free, —
if I love Christ, I love that disciple of Cinist. . . . Under every variety
of costume and dispensation and dialect and race, the tenant of a
Caffre kraal or of the Greenlander's snow-hut, — nay, let him mutter
this prayer as his Pater Noster in an unlmovm tongue ; if I find, imder
all his superstition and disguises of hereditary prejudice and error,
the love of my Christ and the likeness of my Lord, can I — dare I
disavow the brotherhood ? — ■ WiLLL4]M R. Williams : Lectures on the
Lord's Prayer, pp. 12, 13.

Litolerance among Clmstians of reasor-able diversities of Christian
faith has been one of the greatest errors of modern times, and has
brought infinite reproach on the Protestant cause. It greatly impeded
the progress of the Reformation at first, and has hindered both its
completion and general prevalence since. While pretending the
greatest zeal for the honor of God and the pmity of religion, it i*


itself tlie greatest corruption. It betrays the cause of God witli a
kiss, and stabs it to the heart, ^\ith professions of love on its hps. It
is amazing that the world has been so long in getting its eyes open to
the enormous wickedness of this procedure. But a brighter day is
brealdng, not only with respect to the accm'acy and extent of Christian
knowledge, but also vdth respect to a reasonable mdulgence of the
ignorant, the wealv and erring. Uniformity in faith, and equahty in
superior knowledge and discernment, are very desirable indeed ; but
Christian charity and mercy are far greater and better. With all the
importance of Christianity as an uistitute of knowledge, it has a
transcendently greater importance as an institute of love and general
hohness. — Leicester A. Sawyer: Organic Christianity, p. 413.

The Scriptm-e plan of unity and concord cannot be based on abso-
lute uniformity of opinion and practice. This is the basis on which the
church of Rome mamtains her pretended miity, — a basis which may
perhaps be consistently assumed by a chm-ch claiming infalKbihty, and
den)ing the right of private judgment. It is a basis which may seem
to be countenanced by some expressions in Scripture, if we attend to
the sound rather than the sense of them. It has often been attempted
to be acted on. It was the favorite scheme, the idol, of the framers
of the Solemn League and Covenant, about the middle of the sixteenth
century; and it is a scheme to which, even in recent times, some
excellent persons have clung with fond affection or obstinate perti-
nacity. . . . The sHghtest knowledge of the constitution of human
nature, and the shghtest attention to the history of the human race,
may comince us that it is a scheme utterly hopeless and chimericaL . . ,
On all other subjects on which they thuik at aU, men entertain differ-
ent opinions. But there is no subject so likely to occasion a variety
of sentimeitt as rehgion; for, though its fmidamental doctrines are
comparatively few and abundantly obvious, there is no subject which
presents m its suborduiate details such a multipHcity of intricate and
difficult questions, none that has been so much perplexed by con-
troversy, none more lilcely to awaken prejudice and passion, and none
for the investigation of which the human facidties labor mider a
stronger mdisposition or inaptitude. . . . Even m the purest and
happiest ages of the chmrch, the friends of rehgion have not been
entirely of one mind ; and, if at times there has been something lilce
an approximation towards complete miiformity, it has probably been
when the spirit of free inquiry has been extinguished, Avhen the
faculties of the human mind were in a state of utter torpor. . . . What


Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 5 of 55)