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none but the Supreme Being possessed of universal knowledge. God is the sole object of worship. Adore God alone. Know God alone. To God we should approach: of him we should hear; of him we should think, and to him we should attempt to approximate." Who of us will not say, with the editor of the tract referred to, that this extraordinary man is "not far from the kingdom of God"? Who would not rejoice in the triumph of his purer faith over the delusions of his countrymen?(1)
Do not these facts prove, either that the proper unity of God is the plain dictate of right reason, preached by the heavens and the earth, where man will hear their voice; or that it is a fragment of some original revelation, passed down by tradition to all ages and countries, and selected by the wise and good from the mass of accompanying absurdity? Either supposition implies its truth and importance. It is gratifying to see it generally in connexion with superior knowledge and virtue: to see it either a resource in general ignorance and depravity, or a means for bettering the state of mankind: either clung to as the last plank in the shipwreck of truth and freedom, or held aloft, the standard of reviving goodness, and signal of reformation.
Something like antiquity and universality are occasionally claimed by Trinitarians, while they affect to speak of Unitarianism as the reverie of
a few moderns. Even confining our views to Christian history, we have sufficiently shewn the fallacy of this representation, which is founded solely upon its comparatively later revival. Unitarianism" appears modern only when referred to an age of spiritual domination and persecution. Catholics wish to refer Protestantism to a recent and impure origin in the reign of Henry VIII. Trinitarians confine their views of Unitarianism to this side of that deluge of barbarism and superstition which overwhelmed the moral world at the destruction of the Roman Empire, and extended to the era of the Reformation; and from which some sects arose sooner than others. The tops of rugged rocks and barren mountains first appeared; but the extensive plains and fertile valleys, destined for the abode of man, rose last to view. The gloomy raven was the first to quit the ark, and was not long in finding a resting place; but the peaceful dove hovered over the scene of desolation, returned and lingered, till it brought the olive branch to give the assurance of safety to mankind. The sun itself could not, at first, penetrate the misty atmosphere, purify the air, and restore the unclouded face of the heavens." (Perry's Letters to Kinghorn.)
The chief scene of reviving Unitarianism at the time of the Reformation, was in Poland. There was a constellation of illustrious characters, which shed around a blaze of religious light.
Their writings yet remain, the rich repository of what is most valuable in Biblical knowledge and criticism. Of these the most conspicuous was Socinus. We lament the inconsistency which led him some steps in the road of persecution; but we must do justice to his high worth. "He died," says Robinson, "in perfect peace, reflecting on his sufferings with pleasure, and expressing his hopes that his labours would be rewarded by the just Judge at the last day." The epitaph inscribed on his tomb shews what his friends thought of his doctrine. It alludes to Popery under the similitude of a building. Luther took off the roof of Babylon; Calvin threw down the walls; but Socinus dug up the foundations. A furious persecution afterwards broke up the Unitarian Churches in Poland; but large bodies remain to this day in Transylvania. Indeed, at first they were hunted to death alike by Catholics and Protestants; witness the barbarous murder of Servetus, by the instigation of Calvin. Similar scenes took place in this country. That amiable young prince, Edward VI., was with great difficulty prevailed on by Cranmer to sign the death warrant of Joan Bocher, a pious, intelligent and distinguished female, for denying the Trinity. He did it with tears in his eyes, and with the solemn appeal, " My Lord Archbishop, as in this case I resign myself to your judgment, you must be answerable to God for
it." The history of Unitarian martyrs would be an interesting subject. Many have suffered in this country, under laws which no longer exist, but some of which have only recently been torn from the statute book which they disgraced. Heavily prest the yoke of persecution on the necks of our forefathers, and its burden crushed them to the earth. They fell beneath its overwhelming weight; and it formed their only monument. Never yet have they received that well-deserved tribute of posthumous applause, which has been the portion of so many others, whose names a recording finger has indelibly traced on the pillar of immortality. They have passed away without their fame, for our adversaries have told our tale, and by idolatrous Christians has been written the history of Christianity. But their names and worth are preserved in those imperishable records treasured up in the courts of heaven, were traced by the hand of Omniscience, and shall one day be unfolded to an admiring world: then shall they "shine as the stars, for ever and ever." (m)
The revived progress of Unitarianism claims affinity with the original diffusion of the gospel, as it has advanced in opposition to power, and in defiance of persecution; and of late years, since it has been fairly and plainly preached, has spread with great rapidity amongst the poor. So far as its present state and prospects belong to the
general design of this Course, they will be con sidered in the next Lecture. The text is a prediction of its final, universal prevalence, which must be realized. Its progress is first to destroy error and quell dissension in the Church; and then to flow around the globe, bearing to every land the unity and love of God, and universal brotherhood of man. Then "shall the Lord be King over all the earth; in that day shall there be One Lord, and his name One;" and every voice shall echo the song, till it resound from shore to shore, of "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace; good will towards men."
But between us and that happy period there is yet a long interval of arduous conflict. By strict consistency to rebut the shafts of calumny; by mild benevolence to conciliate affection, without swerving from the integrity that disdains the slightest sacrifice of truth; with unwearied patience to encounter opposition, ignorance and prejudice; and by firm, united, zealous exertion, to restore the purity of Christian truth on the ruins of antichristian error: these are the high duties of its advocates; these are the toilsome, but honourable task to which they are called by God and Povidence. Uniting in this noble work, you become the coadjutors of the excellent of the earth, who in any age have interposed, at their own peril, to arrest human evils or multiply blessings; who, like Aaron, have stood between