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

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is surely as unreasonable and improper as it would be to use the national
distinctions of Frenchman and Spaniard to signify that these people are the
natural enemies of Englishmen and Americans, and that they are, and ever
will be, unworthy of belonging to the human race, — to the family and
brotherhood of man.

Pai'ty spirit, in that sense in which I have spoken of it as a th'ing
to be wholly renounced and sedulously shunned in religious matters,
consists in a general, indefinite conformity to the ■sdews and practices
of some party, — a zeal for the advancement of that party and the
promotion of their objects, generally, and without hmitation either of
the time or of the objects themselves. . . . We are right -when the
objects proposed are in themselves good, and when these, and
the means by wiiich they are promoted, are distinctly specified : we
are right m associatmg together for such pm-poses, pro\ided we are
careful to guard our minds against the insensible, insidious encroach-
ments of party spuit; against being miconsciously led beyond the
defined Hmits ; so as to bind om-selves, in any thing that concerns
rehgion, by an mdefinite, general allegiance to any man or set of men.
... If any one joins a regularly-formed rehgious association for the
distributing of Bibles and other selected books, and for ether such
specified pm-poses, he does not bind himself to a general conformity
of sentiments and practice in other points, with each other, or even
ydth. the majority of the members, but preserves his original inde-
pendence. But it is otherwise if a man allows himself to be considered
as belonging to a party, and as conforming mdefinitely to their general
■yiews, their prevaihng tone of sentiment, and their established practice.
He may flatter himself, indeed, that, whenever he may see reason to


disapprove of any of these, he can -withdraw. But the odium he would
iQCur by such a step is but too hkely to make him hesitate at takuig
it ; and in the meantime, while hesitatmg, he is drawn on by httle
and httle to acquiesce in, and ultimately to comitenance, much that
he would originally, and judging for himself, have shrunk from. —
AnciiBiSHOP Whately : Essays on Dangers to Christian Faith,
pp. 92, 94-5, 97-8.

The divisions of the Christian church are undoubtedly much to be
deplored. They present a most unseemly appearance to the world,
of that rehgion which may be said to be " one and indi^isible." They
imply much imperfection on the part of its professors, occasion great
stumbHng to unbehevers, and impair the energy and resom'ces which
might be advantageously employed in assaihng the common enemy.
The causes of these divisions are to be sought in the ignorance, the
wealaiess, and the prejudices of Christians ; in indolent submission to
authority on one part, and the love of influence on another ; in the
power of early habits and associations ; and, above all, in the influence
of a worldly spirit, Avhich warps and governs the miad in a thousand
ways. — William Orme, in his edition of Baxter's Practical Works,
vol. i. pp. 97, 98.

At that period [the period of the Reformation], Christians of every
class and j^arty beheved that gross rehgious errors were punishable by
the civil magistrate, — a Popish doctrine which they had not yet
renounced, and which, it is to be feared, is not even to this day and
in the most enhghtened j)art of the world, exterminated from the
breasts of all Protestants. By cherishing such a principle, they betray
the best of causes, furnish occasion for the most injiuious representa-
tations of Christianity, and, instead of proving that they have learned
of their Master, who was " meek and lowly of heart," show that they
imitate the misguided disciples who were for calling down fire fr'om
heaven. — Dr. F. A. Cox: Life of Melancthon, pp. 279-80.

Party spirit in rehgion is another spurious proof of piety. . . .
Whenever men act together, the mind, by one of its mysterious
powers, sees a new being ia the imion, and soon forms almost a
personal attachment for it. It enhsts men's pride and ambition, and
arouses all their energies ; and devotion to this imaginary existence
becomes often one of the strongest passions of the human mind. It
is one of the sms to which the human heart is most prone, and in
which it is most impregnable. A man usually tliinks it a vfrtue. He
sees he is not working for himself, and persuades himself that it is the


principles of Ms party which are the object of his attachment. But
this is not the case ; for, when these principles spread partially mto
other parties, he is always displeased. He is never satisfied at seeing
his ojDponents coming to the truth : they must come over to his side.
This . . . spirit bmiis everywhere in the Christian chm'ch : it influences
parish against parish, and society against society, and makes each
denomination jealous and susj^icious of the rest. It fro^^ns upon the
truth and the Christian prosperity which is not found within its own
pale. It is the spirit of intolerance and exclusion. " We found one,"
it says, " castmg out devils m thy name, and we forbade him because
he folio weth not us." Banish this spirit for ever. If men will " cast
out de^dls," no matter whom they follow : they must do it, if they do
it at all, in Jesus' name, and no matter for the rest. We must not
fro^vn upon real piety or truth, because they do not appear in om* own
uniform. — Jacob Abbott : The Corner-stone, pp. 198-200.

The bigots of an earher age [the Jews of Chiist's time] were accus-
tomed to speak of themselves as chosen of God, before all meaner
creatm-es, holy and clean; while the Gentile nations were sumers
beyond the reach of salvation, reprobate dogs. And why was this ?
It was because they, lilvc the Pharisees of modern times, clung to the
dogma, " out of their chm-ch, no salvation ; " the latent principle of
death in all those sects which have embraced, or ever do embrace,

such a creed Every man is to be esteemed who honestly

endeavors to give a reason for his beUef, and claims the freedom of
its peaceful enjojTnent, however mistaken or absm-d he may be. To
despise the intellect of another, to liuit his want of integrity, or to
ridicule his con\ictions of right, is but jDOor evidence either of philo-
sophical judgment or Christian charity. The spirit that leagued with
an emperor and excited him to murder the Anabaptists of Mmister,
burned Servetus at Geneva, himted Roger Williams beyond the
boundaries of ci^iHzation with no less savage rage, jjersecuted the elder
CarroU in Maryland, and more recently bm^ned the convent at Charles-
town, as well as the chui-ches of Philadelphia, is part and j^arcel of
the bigoted priestcraft that dug the prisons of Venice and erected the
Inquisition in Spain. jMilton had good reason for asserting, that
" Presbyter is but old priest writ large." — E. L. Magoon : Republi-
can Christianity, pp. 131, 259.

The refusal to exercise forbearance, and the attemjjt to ensure a
complete uniformity, tend necessarily to produce, and, in the past
history of the chm'ch, have actually produced, consequences the most


inj irious and deplorable. While the conduct in question involves an
audacious invasion of the prerogatives of Jesus Cln-ist, by maldng new
laws for his church, it tends inevitably to iatroduce those very strifes
and divisions which it professes to aA' ert ; it checks free mqmi-y, and
nurses a spuit of tame and slavish submission to human authorit}- ; it
leads the professors of rehgion to fix their regards chiefly on subordi-
nate topics and sectarian peculiarities, to the neglect of the vital truths
of the gospel and " the weightier matters of the law ; " it arrests the
current of brotherly love, or turns it into a WTong chamiel, by divert-
ing it towards those who reflect our own views and sentiments rather
than towards those who exhibit conspicuously the hneaments of the
Saviour's lovely image. All these baleful effects it has actually pro-
duced to a frightful extent; and, in addition, it has sometimes
occasioned the practice of an unprincipled laxity ; for the members of
the same chinch have contented themselves vdth an agreement in a
form of words, while yet they differed, and knew that they differed,
in sentiment; thus toleratmg or practising rile dissimulation to
avoid an avowed and honest forbearance. — Dn. Robert B.ilmer :
7^ Scripture Principles of Unity; in Essays on Christian Union,
pp. 51, 52.

To avoid doing an apparent injustice to Dr. Balmer, Ave have given tiie
latter sentence ; but, though heartily agi-eeing with him in his disapproval
of" an unprincipled laxity" and "vile dissimulation" as to matters of theo-
logical opinion, we cannot help thinking that the less a church interferes
respecting the private sentiments of its members, and the more it attends to
the purity of their conversations and lives, the better will it be for the true
interests of Christianity, and for the peace and happiness of man.

Disputants are loudest and fiercest where God says least

Notwithstanding the power of pubHc opinion in restraining on plat-
forms, and in the pidpit, the exhibitions of a A\Tetched sectarian and
proselytizing spirit, the demon is not cast out, and appears even more
horrid when it is seen looldng from beneath the veil of an angek
Party sphit descends meekly fr^om the pulpit, and takes its station at
the head of the Lord's table, and from thence excommimicates many
of the Lord's people, whom a few minutes before it pronounced to be
brethren in Cinist Jesus. The feast of love is made the feast of
schism ; and e'vangeKcal denominations, A^ithin the walls of their oawi
temples, are. as much keen partisans, excommunicating each other, as
if there was no common gi-oimd on which they could meet, and as if

all but themselves were given over to Satan Bigotry and



sectarianism are still hot and scorching ; only they are now ashamed
of then' real natiure, and liave put on various disguises, connected
more or less with an assumj)tion of extraordinary strictness and piety.

When the men of the world see professing Christians broken

up into little parties, which seem to hate each other m the inverse ratio
in which they are agreed on the great cardinal points of their rehgion,
they are natm'ally led to consider Christiamty as based, to a considerable
extent, upon pride and priestcraft. "When they meet with the same
rivalships and jealousies among saints that they meet with among
secular men, they judge of them by the same standard. When sect
" clashes with sect as harshly and unkindly as political factions " do,
they consider all rehgious divisions as no better than a strife for power,
drive all schismatics out of their presence, and turn aside altogether
from what they consider a lui'ldng, biting, phi'enetic religion. The
bitterness with which theologians will speak and vaite of each other,
and the rancor and solemnity with which they will excommunicate
each other at the head of the Lord's table, while yet they are con-
fessedly one m Chiist Jesus, is to worldly poHticians a matter of utter
loathing. — Dr. Gavin Struthers : Party Spirit, its Prevalence and
Insidiousness ; in Essays on Christian Union, pp. 381, 385, 391,

The deplorable workings and effects of the sectarian spirit are pointed
out with much impartiality in the Essay from which we have made the
above extract, and are shown not to be peculiar to the Eoman Catholic
church, but to prevail in the English and Scotch establishments, and in the
various " evangelical " bodies, particularly in North Britain, which have
dissented from Papal and Protestant Episcopacy. Surely, if men who,
forgetful of the benevolent spirit of the Master whom they profess to serve,
and of the whole genius of his religion as contained in the New Testament,
look down with supercilious pride upon such of their brethren as disagree
with them merely in forms of church government and in subordinate points
of faith, — if such men, to whom Christ's commandment of love seems to
be still almost literally " new " or unheard of, have any just claim to be
called his disciples, or regarded as members of his invisible church, —
surely, those whom they pronounce to be heterodox or unevangelical, but
who, notwithstanding, "love the Lord Jesus in sincerity," and, remembering
Ms precept, " By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have
love one to another," would not confine their affections avA their sympathies
tc Iheir own narrow circle, but would extend them to all who " name the
name of Christ, and depart from iniquity," — surely, these may humbly
hope that the great Founder of the universal church will permit them to
sit at his feet as docile and reverent disciples, to learn more of his heavenly
mind, and drink richer draughts of his holy and benign spirit-



They prove their doctrine orthodox
By ugly words and blows and knocks.

Samuel Butler, modified.

§ 1. Faith and Orthodoxy.

Almost all sects pretend that they are Tviser and of sounder judg-
ment than all the Christian world besides; yea, those that most
palpably contradict the Scri|)tm-es (as the Papists in their half-
communion and unintelligible ser\ice), and have no better reason why
they so beheve or do but because others have so beheyed and done
aheady. But the greatest pretenders to orthodoxness are not the
most orthodox ; and, if they were, I can value them for that which
they excel, "without abating my due respect to the rest of the chm'ch.
For the whole chm'ch is orthodox in all the essentials of Christianity,
or else they were not Christians ; and I must love all that are Christians
with that special love that is due to the members of Christ, though I
must superadd such esteem for those that are a Httle "v^iser or better than
others, as they deserve. — Richard Baxter : Christian Diredoiy ; in
Works, vol. ii. p. 122.

A man may be orthodox in every point ; he may not only espouse
right opinions, but zealously defend them against all opjDOsers ; he may
think justly concerning the incarnation of our Lord, concerning the
ever-blessed Trinity, and every other doctrine, contained in the oracles
of God; he may assent to all the three Creeds, — that called the
Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian ; and yet it is possible he
may have no religion at all, no more than a Jew, Turk, or Pagan. —
South ; apud Southey^s Commonplace Book, second series, p. 16.

Every mean person who has nothing to recommend him but his
orthodoxy, and owes that perhaps wholly to his ignorance, "v\ill think
[if you venture to pubHsh an unfashionable opinion] he has a right to
trample upon you ^vith contempt, to asperse your character with
wulent reflections, to run down your writings as mean and pitiable
performances, and give hard names to opinions which he does not
understand. — Bishop Hare : Study of the Scriptures ; in Sparks^s
Collection of Essays and Tracts, voL- ii. p. 178.


Men have thought it an honor to be styled that which they call
zealous orthodox, to be firmly linked to a certain part}', to load others
with calumnies, and to damn by an absolute authority the rest of
mankind, but have taken no care to demonstrate the sincerity and
fervor of their j^iety by an exact observation [observance] of the
gospel morals; which has come to pass by reason that orthodoxy
agrees very well "with our passions, whereas the severe morals of the
gospel are incompatible with om' way of hving. — Le Clerc : Five
Letters on the Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, p. 108.

As to orthodox, I should be glad to know the meaning of the
epithet. Nothing, you say, can be plainer. The orthodox are those
who, in religious matters, entertain right opinions. Be it so. How,
then, is it possible I should know who they are that entertain right
opuiions, before I know what opinions are right ? I must therefore
unquestionably know orthodoxy, before I can know or judge who
are orthodox. Now, to laiow the truths of rehgion, which you call
orthodox, is the very end of my inqmiies ; and am I to begm these
inqimies on the presumption, that without any mqiury I know it

aheady ? There is nothing about which men have been, and

still are, more divided. It has been accoimted orthodox divinity in
one age, which hath been branded as ridicidous fanaticism in the next.
It is at this day deemed the perfection of orthodoxy in one country,
which in an adjacent country is looked upon as damnable heresy.
Nay, m the same country, hath not every sect a standard of their own ?
Accordingly, when any jDerson seriously uses the v/ord, before we can
understand his meaning, we must know to what commmiion he belongs.
When that is knowTi, we comprehend him perfectly. By the orthodox
he means always those who agree in opinion with him and his party j
and by the heterodox, those who differ from him. When one says,
then, of any teacher whatever, that all the orthodox acluiowledge his
orthodoxy, he says neither more nor less than this, " AU who are of the
same opinion with him, of which number I am one, beheve him to be
in the right." And is this any thing more than what may be asserted
by some person or other, of every teacher that ever did or ever wll
exist ? ... To say the truth, we have but too many ecclesiastic terms
and phrases which savor grossly of the arts of a crafty priesthood,
who meant to keep the world in ignorance to secure an implicit faith
in their own dogmas, and to intimidate men from an impartial inquiry
into holy writ. — Dr. George Campbell : Lectures on Systematic
Theology and Pulpit Eloqiience, pp. 112-15.


A suspicion of fallibility would have been an useful princij^le to the
professors of Christianit}^ in every age : it would have choked the spnit
of jiersecution m its buth, and have rendered not only the chui'ch of
Rome, but every church in Christendom, more shy of assuming to
itself the proud title of orthodox, and of branding every other with the
ppprobrious one of heterodox, than any of them have hitherto been.
... It is difficult for any man entnely to divest himself of all pre-
judice ; but he may sm-ely take care, that it be not accompanied with
an micharitable propensity to stigmatize with reproachful appellations
those who cannot measme the rectitude of the divine dispensations by
his rule, nor seek their way to heaven by insisting on the path which
he, in his overweening wisdom, has arrogantly presented as the only

one which can lead men thither. What is tliis thing called

oHhodoxy, which mars the fortimes of honest men, misleads the judg-
ment of princes, and occasionally endangers the stability of thrones ?
Li the true meaning of the term, it is a sacred thing to which every
denomination of Christians lays an arrogant and exclusive claim, but
to which no man, no assembly of men, since the apostolic age, can
prove a title. — Bishop Watsox : Preface to Theological Tracts,
vol. i. pp. XV. xvii. ; and lAfe, p. 451.

The most ardent zeal, the most pertinacious obstinacy, is displayed
in preserving the minutest article of what is called orthodox opinion.
But, alas ! what, in a world of woe like this, — what signifies our
boasted orthodoxy in matters of mere speculation, in matters totally
ii-relevant to human happiness or misery? What signifies a jealous
vigilance over thirty-nine articles, if we neglect one article, — the law
of charity and love ; if we overlook the " weightier matters " which
Cluist liimself enacted as articles of liis religion, indispensably to be
subscribed by all who hojje for salvation in him ; I mean forgiveness
of injuries, mercy, philanthropy, humihty ? — ViCESlMUS Knox :
Preface to Antipolemus ; in Works, vol. v. pp. 417-18.

Let us recollect, that speculations, however sound in their princi-
ples, however exact in then process, and however important in their
results, are insufficient to fill up the measure of om- duty, if they
terminate solely in our inward persuasion, or in outward profession, or
in transient though ardent feeling, or in mere orthodoxy, be it real
or imaginary. — Dr. Samuel Parr : Sermon on Faith ; in Works,
vol. V. p. 361.

In the New Testament, the absolute subserviency of doctrinal state-
ments to the formation of the principles and habits of practical piety


is never lost sight of: v/e are continually reminded, that obedience is
the end of all knowledge and of all rehgious impressions. But the
tendency, it is to be feared, of much popular and orthodox mstruction
is to bestow on the belief of certain doctrines, combined with strong
rehgious emotion, the importance of an ultimate object, to the neglect
of that great principle, that " cu-cumcision is notliing, and micircum-
cision nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God," —
Robert Hall : Preface to Antinomianism Unmasked ; in JForkSj
Yol. ii. p. 461.

Orthodoxy by itself does not touch the conscience — does not
quicken the affections : it does not comiect itself m any manner mth
the moral faculties. It is not a religion, but a theory ; and, inasmuch
as it awakens no spiritual feehngs, it consists easily either with the
grossest absurdities or with the grossest corruptions. Orthodoxy,
powerless when alone, becomes even efficient for evil at the moment
when it combmes itself with asceticism, superstition, and hierarchical
ambition. What is the rehgious liistory of Em'ope, tln-ough a long
course of time, but a narrative, of the horrors and the immorahties
that have sprung from this very combination ? — Isaac Taylor :
Lectures on Spiritual Christianity, pp. 100-1.

This writer, however, holds Orthodoxy, or Trinitarianism, to be the basis
of all Christian piety.

Let us, in explanation of the term "faith," advert to the wide
distinction which obtains between the popular imagination of what it
is, and the apostle's definition of what it is. The common conception
about it is, that it consists in a correct apprehension of the truths of
theology, or soundness of behef as ojDposed to error of behef. It
appears to be a very prevalent impression, that faith hes in our judging
rightly of the doctrines of the Bible, or that we have a proper mider-
atanding of them. And, in this way, the privileges annexed to faith
in the New Testament are very apt to be regarded as a sort of remu-
xieration for the soimdness of our orthodoxy. Heaven is viewed as a
land of reward, if not for the worth of om' doings, at least for the
worth and the justness of our dogmata. Under the old economy,
eternal life was held out as a return to us for right practice. Under
the new economy, is it conceived by many, that it is held out to us as
a return for right tliinking. Figure two theologians to be hsted, the
one against the other, in controversy. He who espouses error is
estimated to be a heretic, and wanting in the faith. He who espouses


truth is estimated to be a sound believer, so that his faith resolves
itself into the accuracy of his creed. It is not, " Do this, and you
shall live ; " but it is, " Think thus, and you shall Hve ; " and this
seems to be the popular and prevailing imagination of being saved by
faith, and being justified by faith. Now, look to the apostolical
definition of faith, as being the " substance of things hoped for, and
the evidence of things not seen." .... Let us look to it, not as the
mere acquiescence of the understanding in the dogmata of any sound
or recognized creed, but as that which brings the futm-e and the yet
unseen of revelation so home to the mind, as that the mind is filled
with a sense of their reahty, and actually proceeds upon it. — Dr
Thomas Chalmers : Select Works, vol. i. pp. 410-11.

It may be safely affirmed, that no weak and fallible man ever yet
held the whole of revealed truth free from the slightest mistake or
defect. The bigot, however, will make no such confession. He
maintains and defends his own creed as being perfect. It is the very
type of truth. He condemns every man either as not holding the
truth, or as holding it in a very defective way, who does not see mth
his eyes, and believe with his heart. All must He down on the bed of

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 8 of 55)