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A LETTER, &c.
MY DEAR SIR:
When we last had the pleasure of being together, our conversation, as you may remember, turned not a little on the duty laid upon Unitarians to endeavor to propagate a knowledge of their views of religion in those parts of our country where they are not generally known. Since that conversation, time and distance have both separated us; but the subject on which we conversed has grown neither less important in itself, nor less interesting to us. Nay; every addition made to the experience of life, or to the knowledge of men - of their religious wants and trials - discloses more and more its importance. It is this fact, that induces me by means of a letter to revive and continue our conversation. It is not done with the purpose of conveying new thoughts on this subject, but in the hope that by dwelling upon them, the thoughts which we already have may be converted into living and active feelings. That the fire may burn, there must be, not solitary "musing" only, but communion of mind with mind. The brightest coal on the altar, if drawn apart and left alone, will go out. A few insignificant sparks, if brought into contact with each other, will warm and glow and flame and be sufficient to kindle a conflagration.
In the following remarks I shall confine myself to the missionary responsibilities of Unitarians in our own country, and especially as regards the West; intending to consider briefly some of the reasons which have operated to cripple the zeal and efforts of many of our brethren in diffusing their views; some of the reasons for effort in this matter; and some of the modes in which such efforts may be most profitably made.
But before our brethren will enter heartily and unitedly into this great field of labor, there are certain objec tions to be removed, which rise up like а wall between some of them and the vineyard in which they ought to be at work.
Among those of our denomination, there are not a few who, from mistaken views of the subject (at least so far as action goes) take no interest in extending a knowledge of what they believe to be the truths of the Gospel. They see no use in it. The language of their practice is,Stay at home and take care of yourself and only of yourself. They do not see that for all practical purposes, one set of religious opinions is not as good as another.
state of mind, that so
It is obvious to remark on this thought not the Lord Jesus Christ. Such, too, is not the lesson that we learn from the Bible, nor from the Providence of God, nor from the relations which he has instituted between man and man. Almighty God deemed truth - religious truth - of so much worth to man, that he caused it to be taught, though at its planting it was to be watered by the blood of his Son, and to be nourished by the toils and tears and blood of Apostles and Martyrs for years and ages after. And is it indeed left for us to discover that after all, there was a mistake in this matter!—
that it is not worth the cost to be at much trouble in diffusing truths, which were introduced into the world at such sacrifices!
The infinite worth of christianity to man, arises from the fact that it discloses the truth on subjects that to him are of infinite moment. The worth of our religion is diminished, just in proportion as it is corrupted with error. The same principle therefore that made it imperative on the apostles to teach christianity at first to those who knew it not, makes it obligatory on all who receive it, to endeavor to make and keep it pure.
Many are restrained from exertion by a palsying dread of sectarianism.* They will do nothing to spread views which they believe represent truly the doctrines of Christ, for fear of there being something sectarian about it. Rather than have it thought that they could be infected with any thing of sectarianism, they will let what they honor as the truth of God be covered up and misinterpreted and perverted to the certain danger and possible ruin of human souls. 66 They are so afraid of being sectarists that they hardly dare to be christians."
It is singular how much more tender men's consciences are on this subject than in the days of Paul and Peter and John ! These men had so little of this fear, that they did not hesitate to disturb every part of the world with new opinions.
Afraid of sectarianism! Certainly, a very wholesome fear. But are these men afraid of sectarianism in govern
* For a fuller discussion of this topic, see a Tract, on "The Wants of the West," by Rev. Wm. G. Eliot; and for all the subjects of any importance discussed in these pages, I would refer my readers to the very interesting Reports of Rev. Mr Briggs, Gen. Sec. of the A. U. A.
ment, in political economy, in any thing in which they feel an interest? Why so fearful then in religion? Because they are indifferent?
No. Some of the most religious men are possessed-for it is possession-with this morbid horror of sectarianism. What is the reason? Their difficulty lies in mistaking the nature of the sin which they would avoid.
Sectarianism, like self-love, has a good and a bad sense, and they are often confounded together. He is a sectarian in the bad sense, who wishes to spread opinions, not because he thinks them true and useful, but because they are his, who wants power,-who wants to make his creed and himself conspicuous,-who wants to enlarge the borders of his sect because it is his sect. Such an one is a sectarist in the bad sense. But there is a good sense of the word.
Every one, who for truth's sake and for the sake of its influence, endeavors to introduce a new truth into the world, or to revive an old one, or to propagate one to which the world is hostile, is a sectarist. Galileo was a sectarist. Newton was a sectarist. Washington was a sectarist, one who by the sword sought and won a place in the world for those primal truths on which civil liberty depends. Luther was eminently a sectarist. Nay, did I not seem to compare him with man, (and why should this prevent my referring to him who is our guide?) I would even refer to him, who was the founder of that sect much spoken against, first called christians at Antioch. Here we see the difference between a praiseworthy and a vicious sectarian. The sectarian in the bad sense, to repeat what I have before said, thinks only of his opinions, his creed, his own notoriety and influence, the spread