« AnteriorContinuar »
we trust, not go unregarded by us ; but these latter, so far as our humble efforts may be employed on a critical exposition or elucidation of them, we shall be ever disposed to consider in their immediate or remoter relations with the former, inasmuch as it is thus only, we conceive, by a reference—an enlightened and rational reference of secular studies and pursuits to divine—that we are entitled to look upon them as conducive to the glory of God or the happiness and well-being of Man. This idea of the intimate connection subsisting between things “spiritual and temporal," to the production of good and salutary fruits, may not, indeed, be remarkable for its novelty ;. but it may not be the less just or correct on that account. To the question of " for what good ?” applied to any new discoveryin science or philosophy, or any physical apparatus calculated to accelerate, in a greater or less degree, the progress of human civilization, we hold it most rational to reply by considerations, as to whether, and in what manner, the means are thereby increased which tend to realize the great consummation so beautifully described by the prophet, when the spirit of the Gospel shall have triumphed over every obstacle, and man, enlightened and ameliorated by the successive conquests of truth, and science, and Christianity, shall have exchanged the attitude of hate and defiance, and “all uncharitableness," for the celestial graces of mutual kindness and brotherly love ; a blessed period indeed, and widely differing from the present, but perhaps not more so than the present differs from ages that have gone by.
But, leaving all visionary speculations as to the future, our business is more immediately with the actual and the present. Nothing of a moral, any more than of a physical nature can be accomplished without the proper and adequate means. An enlightened intelligence acting upon a just interpretation of the Christian religion, combined with a practical feeling of the invigorating spirit of Divine truth, must ever constitute the most powerful and
agency for advancing the civilization of man. will adopt various modes of developing its energies. In a critical and transitional age more of these will spring into existence than in what may be called, comparatively speaking, a quiescent and stationary period. Thus, at the present day, which certainly possesses the former characteristics, besides the long-established and universally recognised modes of disseminating the blessings of Christian doctrine, we have other institutions of collateral efficacy almost too numerous to mention. It is our design to notice from time to time the state and proceedings of the more efficient and remarkable of these. There are Sunday Schools for the young, Book and Tract Societies for adults, and Temperance Societies for all. Those in populous neighbourhoods, and especially where the principles of Unitarianism have gained an extensive footing, will more particularly attract our attention. And if our friends in the localities alluded to, (not excluding others), will supply us at suitable times with the particulars of their proceedings or improvement, we shall be most happy to insert, or, as occasion may require, to prominently notice, their communications.
It may perhaps be said that there are already publications in the Unitarian body which take cognizance of these subjects. We are aware of this fact, and rejoice at it. We do not expect that our small periodical will interfere with the usefulness or circulation of these publications, nor are we anxious that it should. We have too great a respect for our contemporaries and fellow-labourers in the same good cause, to wish, even if we had the means or the power, to supersede their useful, and now, more than ever, necessary efforts. All that we aim at is, an humble endeavour, by means of a small and cheap publication, to concentrate in a not inconvenient compass not only the distinguishing tenets of Unitarianism, but the more prominent and striking proceedings and movements of the Unitarian denomination during the preceding
month, and at a price which shall admit of their becoming known at once to each member, of the Unitarian body, however circumscribed in means, without the delay necessarily incurred in the case of the more elaborate and extensive, and hence more costly periodicals.
Our success in this undertaking depends partly, we are aware, on the ability, information, and talent brought to bear on the monthly production of the UNITARIAN ; and partly, we are also assured, on the good spirit, the kindly efforts and wishes of the respective members of the denomination themselves, which we hope and trust will not be withheld, if the publication should at all meet their views and expectations, seeing that we have undertaken it from pure love to the cause, and on our own individual risk and responsibility.
WHAT IS UNITARIANISM?
It is not Deism. It is not Socinianism. And yet it has suited, and, we regret to say, still suits, the purpose of some parties to represent it as either the one or the other. It is our aim to set forth in a few pages the leading doctrines and views of Unitarian Christianity, so that the reader may be put in possession at once of its characteristic tenets and principles; he will then be able to judge for himself how far the representations of those who speak of it as Deistical or Socinian, are founded in truth
We will not say that our exposition will be consonant with the views and conscientious belief of all Unitarians, because they differ among themselves ; but that the following are the religious opinions of the far greater portion of that calumniated body of Christians we think we may undertake to affirm. But let it be fully understood, that we here intend merely to state what are the doctrines of the Unitarians, not the arguments on which those doctrines are founded.
A Deist professes to follow no particular religion, but merely acknowledges the existence of God. The Unitarian, on the other hand, believes in both the Old and the New Testaments, on the latter of which his principles are founded, inasmuch as he receives the several books which compose that volume, the Histories and the Epistles, as the record of a religion revealed from Heaven through Jesus Christ, for the guidance and comfort of mankind here, and their salvation hereafter. Thus, then, the Unitarian believes in revelation, both the Jewish and Christian ; that is, he believes them both to rest on a supernatural foundation. In Jesus of Nazareth he confesses a teacher commissioned and sent by God; the founder of a religion which God appointed him to convey to man ; the Messiah, inspired with divine wisdom, and qualified and enabled by the performance of numerous and undeniable miracles, to lay the foundation of the everlasting kingdom of righteousness, the kingdom of God and of his Anointed. The writings of the New Testament the Unitarian receives as a collection of books, faithfully written from what they saw and heard, by the immediate disciples of our Lord. And these books he accepts as the best gift of God to man; he would endeavour to live according to their precepts; he would gladly die by them in the blessed hope of an immortality as well grounded and sure, as the universe itself.
Thus receiving the whole Bible as containing the accounts of two distinct revelations of God to man—the one addressed to the Jews and adapted to the childhood of the human race, the other intended for all mankind-the Unitarians have ever been among the most learned and zealous and satisfactory defenders of the Sacred Volume from the assaults of its impugners. Yet do they not regard it with a blind, credulous, superstitious reverence. They do not take every word and verse in the sense that might first present itself to an ignorant, uncultivated reader. They endeavour to understand the true sense by the employment of all those means legitimately resorted to in the interpretation of any other book of like antiquity. And this brings us to the question of the principles of Scriptural interpretation adopted by the class of Christians in whose name we write ; which principles are so well expounded by the pious and eloquent Dr. Channing, that we cannot do better than quote his words :
“Our leading principle in interpreting Scripture,” says
he, “is this, that the Bible is a book written for men, in the language of men, and that its meaning is to be sought in the same manner as that of other books. We believe that God, when he speaks to the human race, conforms, if we may so say, to the established rules of speaking and writing. How else would the Scriptures avail us more than if communicated in an unknown tongue ?
“ The New Testament is built on the old. The Christian dispensation is a continuation of the Jewish, the completion of a vast scheme of Providence, requiring great extent of view in the reader. Still more, the Bible treats of subjects on which we receive ideas from other sources besides itself, such subjects as the nature, passions, relations, and duties of man; and it expects us to restrain and modify its language by the known truths which observation and experience furnish on these topics. We profess not to know a book which demands a more frequent exercise of reason than the Bible. We find that the different portions of this book, instead of being confined to general truths, refer perpetually to the times when they were written, to states of society, to modes of thinking, to controversies in the Church, to feelings and usages which have passed away, and without the knowledge of which we are constantly in danger of extending to all times and places, what was of temporary and local application. We find, too, that some of these books are strongly marked by the genius and character of their respective writers; that the Holy Spirit did not so guide the Apostles as to suspend the peculiarity of their minds ; and that a knowledge of their feelings, and of the influences under which they were placed, is one of the preparations for understanding their writings. With these views of the Bible, we feel it our bounden duty to exercise our reason upon it perpetually; to compare, to infer, to look beyond the letter to the spirit; to seek in the nature of the subject, and the aim of the writer, his true meaning; and, in general, to make use of what is known, for explaining what is difficult, and for discovering new truths.”
But do not all classes of Christians, and Protestants in particular, make use of their reason in interpreting Scripture? How else can the latter reconcile with their creed the declaration of Christ that “unless we eat his flesh and