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ON THE PRESENT POSITION OF THE UNITARIAN CHURCH.
[The spirit and temper of the letter which follows entitle it to a place in our Magazine. We cannot, however, become responsible for the opinions expressed by our Cambridge correspondent, nor does our knowledge confirm his statements respecting the broad line of distinction between the Northern and Southern Unitarian churches of England. The speculative and moral characteristics of religious societies cannot be safely mapped out in the sharp and exact style proposed by our correspondent. So far as our knowledge goes, neither Arianism nor the denial of miracles is truly predicable of the Unitarian ministers of the North of England. -Ed. C. R.]
SIR, IN every
church, whether Christian or not, there are always seen two or more parties--one leaning towards outward rites and forms, the other clinging to the unseen and more strictly spiritual part of religion; the one fond of a mysticism which at times approaches to superstition, at times refines away towards infidelity; the other clear and steady, expressing their opinions without wavering, and occasionally without inquiry. In both classes there is always much good. Both will always exist as long as various minds are variously constituted—the former embracing the weakest and the strongest minds, the deep inquirer and the man who loves to lean upon the opinion of another instead of acquiring one for bimself; while the latter consists of those whose religion is the result of hereditary prejudice, or the conviction of the necessity of holding firm, undisturbed by the shifting winds of doctrine, certain truths, relying on which they may work out their salvation by the practice of “pure religion and undefiled;" the former contains most talent, the latter most practical piety. Controversy is to both a subject of interest: in the former, however, it is too often a doubtful and anxious fear of error; in the latter, almost always a healthy and open love of truth, and a desire to spread it as a precious boon from God to man.
We can trace these two parties in the Church of Rome, in their Jesuits and their Jansenists; and still more clearly can we trace them in the Church of England, in the poetry of a Keble, or the tracts of the humblest of the Lowchurch party; in the leaning towards Rome, in bigoted hatred of antichrist, in the study of the Fathers, in the zeal for missionary labours ;--the outward water on which one relies, the inward fire which the other requires, the very titles of the books which each party issues in shoals, are all signs of their different principles.
And this, too, is the case with us Unitarians; and each year makes it more apparent and more dangerous,-dangerous, we say, lest by internal differences we weaken our union, and fall away from our common, pure, and beautiful system of Christianity. Differences may be a source of strength or weakness to any class, according to the spirit in which they are entertained. Thus (as Channing well remarks), the differences of Protestants are the grand obstacle to the Church of Rome; while, on the other hand, if a small party, "divided against itself,” exhaust its energies in intestine discord, the common enemy soon obtains a position from which it is difficult to dislodge him.
And that this bad spirit is largely at work among us, is evident to all who take an interest in the Unitarian periodicals, sermons and discourses. There are two distinct parties in our church: the one answering to the Puseyites of the Establishment, though, of course, with peculiar modifications, arising from the spirit of the religion which they profess; the other, “ old-fashioned” Unitarians, as they love to style themselves, worthy descendants of the Puritans of the Stuart age. The stronghold of the former has always appeared to us
to be the North of England, where they constitute a wealthy and influential portion of the merchants, manufacturers and tradesmen ; the latter are chiefly found in the South and South-Western counties, in Somerset, Devon and Gloucester, and also in some of the Midland district around Leicester and Warwick. Each party has its peculiar danger, each has effected its peculiar good; while if, as we confidently hope, minor differences are merged in the common weal, our Unitarian church will be strengthened and consolidated in spite of, nay, the more for, the varying opinions of its adherents.
The great fear we have for the North-country Unitarians is their “pseudoliberality," which is virtually indifference. “Be as liberal as you like as regards others, never be indifferent as regards yourself," we remember once having heard one of our most valued ministers say; and those words have clung to us ever since. Would that our “Puseyite" brethren heard them as we did! They would then feel as we did, that it is not “liberality” which induces a Unitarian* parent to entreat his son not to think of religion till he has taken his degree at Cambridge, when he has to declare himself a bonâ-fide member of the Church of England; it is not “liberality” which says it matters not what your religion be, if your life is holy; it is not “liberality” which puts into the hands of a boy a “ Strauss ” or å "Newman;" nor is it "liberality” which impels several of our ministers, especially in America, † to write more like Romanists than Unitarians. This "liberality” is making some of us ashamed of the name “Unitarian," and would substitute-nothing. It is making others grant the holy name of “Christian” to men who look upon our Saviour as a nobler Socrates, a purer Cato; it is branding with the name of “ bigots” those who look with pain upon their “indifference" and wavering faith. Yet, on the other hand, if at one time nearly a Romanist, at another nearly a Deist, now gazing upon a crucifix and praying to the “crucified," I and again launching forth into the “reals” and “ideals” of Germanism, the Unitarian of this school occasionally grieves and astonishes us, he also, and far more often, fills us with gratitude nd delight.
To whom, but to the North-country Unitarian, do we owe it that we have at last churches instead of meeting-houses, and that the heart may be attuned to the worship of God by the sight of those outward marks which have been for ages regarded as holy, which (let who will say the contrary) are great helps to devotion ? No one has assisted more in the formation of schools, missions to the poor, and in the carrying out of philanthropic schemes, than the wealthy Unitarian of the North ; no ministry is, as a body, more enlightened and talented than the Unitarian ministry of the North; none write more truly catholic, more noble works;—they have for these, and much more, our sincerest respect and admiration.
The danger to which the South-country Unitarian is exposed, is that of a narrow, a too narrow, sectarianism, a bigoted hatred of bigotry, a superstitious dread of superstition ; but yet this danger is, after all, not very imminent, and some sectarianism we own we love to see. It has been said that there is no link between man and man so binding as the link of sharing the same ideas and hoping the same hopes ; in religion especially, where the idea is noblest, the hope the most aspiring, can we wonder if a union of opinion draw men more closely together, and unite them more firmly, than aught else can do? We would not wish it otherwise. We love to see the minister regarded as a friend, and not a mere sermonizer; we love to see the affectionate greetings after chapel; we love the truth-like expression for a brother Unitarian as one of our people," one of us;" we love the plain practical discourse, easy to understand and easy to remember; and if controversy be introduced, we prefer a
* A fact. + Vide passages in “Sermons on the Christian Communion." # Vide “Sermons on Christian Communion," which I know some Unitarians
simple statement of what we believe truth, to all the theories of the metaphysician, or the (as we heard it called) “ zig-zag" wanderings of the semiorthodox Unitarian.
There is generally something thorough, something manly and fine, about the Southern Unitarian, which the other does not possess. He is more friendly, more cordial, more full of Christian fellowship, more eager for the advancement of his tenets; he has a beautiful, a true religion-why should he not spread it? Proselytism, so he thinks, is a Christian duty; he abhors slaverywhy should he not say so? Why should he not tell his American brother his fears lest, by holding slaves, he cast a scandal upon their common faith ? He calculates not the chances of giving offence, the risk of being too hasty or too one-sided, but he hurries on in his zeal for the service of God, for the good of man.
The Northern Unitarian often becomes an Arian from the study of the Fathers, often a disbeliever in miracles from looking upon the Bible as a mere book, written by uninspired men. The Southern Unitarian clings to the Bible firmly, and to the Bible alone. Chillingworth's golden maxim is his" The Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants "-he enters not into abstruse theories on Inspiration, but believes the Scriptures to contain all that is necessary to salvation, to be the very “Word of God.”
But our limits will not allow us to say more. Let not our few remarks be misunderstood: we write not in praise of one party, or in condemnation of another. We but wish to see the good in each fostered, the evil avoided; we but wish to see the laborious research, the catholic spirit, the unwearied philanthropy of the one, united to the deep zeal, the warm fellowship, the strong conviction of the other ; then will our church become truly a church of Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God will bless it.
THE LATE REV. HENRY TAYLOR. SIR, You will permit me to subjoin to Mr. Price's interesting account of the very eminent Henry Taylor, vicar of Portsmouth, which appeared in your last number but one, a few corrections which I am able to propose through the kindness of a descendant of that learned person. I first venture to observe, that though this vicar of Portsmouth has not obtained the distinction, such as it may be, of being trumpeted forth among popular theologians, yet he has obtained the far higher distinction of being regarded by learned and intelligent scripturalists as one of the most talented of modern English clergymen. His priricipal work, the“ Apology of Ben Mordecai,” I remember from my boyhood, placed in the vestry library to which I had free access, by that excellent theologian, Timothy Kenrick. The late Mr. Aspland told me in conversation that he regarded Henry Taylor as the most talented clergyman who had given evidence of Unitarianism---meaning, of course, by that, belief that the Father is the only true God. I think, however, he must have forgotten at the time Dr. Samuel Clarke, Rector of St. James's, Westminster. Bishop Hoadly was the connecting link between Clarke and Taylor, and was the friend of both.
Mr. Taylor was vicar of Portsmouth first, and rector of Crawley in addition afterwards. The reason that they are inverted even in his own title-page is, that rector is before vicar in ecclesiastical dignity.
Instead of “living at Crawley at the end of his life," he resided in that retired village, about six miles from Winchester, nearly thirty years, and did there write his principal works. He had as curate the Rev. Francis Stone, afterwards of Cold Norton, in Essex, whose gown was taken from him, within my recollection, by Porteus, Bishop of London. His offence was the publication of a sermon avowing his belief in the simple humanity of Christ (his rector had never gone so far), preached at a Visitation, which if not published would, it is understood, have been overlooked. Mr. Stone was nephew to the wife of his Rector (i.e. Mr. Taylor), who died 27th April, 1785, at his son's house, at Tichfield, in the same county; but his remains were removed to Crawley, and buried in the chancel there, over which there is an appropriate inscription to his memory.
His two sons who were clergymen are placed by Mr. Price in the wrong order. Henry, rector of Spridlington, Lincolnshire, was the elder, but resided at Banstead, in Surrey, till his death in 1822, during the greater part of which time non-residence was allowed by law. The Catalogue of his books, which I have seen, shews him to have been a great collector in the department of Biblical Criticism. The "three hundred copies of the Bible” (p. 69), which shrink to two hundred copies of the Scriptures in the title-page of the Catalogue, included numerous early editions of the Greek Testament. He was the publisher of his father's posthumous work, “Considerations on Ancient and Modern Creeds" (1788), to which he has himself prefixed a discourse to the reader of twenty-two pages.
The second son was Mr. Peter Taylor, vicar of Tichfield, Hants. I am informed on authority that these two sons of the rector of Crawley were, like their father, Antitrinitarian; and when I reprint my list of Unitarian Clergymen, appended to my Letter to the Honourable and Rev. Baptist Noel (1835), I shall add them to the number.
Another son, the late Mr. William Taylor, from whom several most respectable members of our London congregations are immediately descended, lived latterly at Braintree, in Essex. He had married Miss Courtauld, not of Braintree, where she never lived, but of Hackney, and was, at the time of her marriage, a member of Dr. Richard Price's congregation. I was pleased to hear that a friendship existed between that noble Christian minister and the family of the Taylors, which a similarity of Christian views may be conceived to have cemented.
The letter on Miracles in the 7th Chapter of his father's “ Apology of Ben Mordecai,” was reprinted by Mr. William Taylor in a separate form, and deserves the attention of serious inquirers.
I have no more corrections to offer, and mistake Mr. Price if he will not be pleased to see these flaws on his tablet to the memory of a great man, removed. Boxworth Grove.
ADMIRAL GIFFORD'S PROTEST AGAINST STATE CHURCHES.
SIR, As one of my latest acts, I wish to record in your valued periodical my longentertained judgment respecting the established connection between Church and State.
TO THE UNITARIAN COMMUNITY. Christian Brethren,-The sand in my hour-glass is fast tapering down to cessation, thus notifying that I am now about to pass away from this glorious scene of wonder, beauty and magnificence; and could I make my parting voice heard through the trumpet of an archangel, I would summon the world to hear a loud and universal condemnation of State religions,-according to my long-tried and best judgment, the most unholy and the most unhappy
i. e. Defence. Some have thought Bishop Watson's use of the same word unfortunate, as if the Bible required an Apology, which, in the popular usage of the word, it does not.
institution ever devised by Christians, perverting the righteous kingdom of Christ into a kingdom of this world, ever productive of enduring injustice and dissension. A very few moments of consideration in the right direction are all-sufficient to manifest that there is not, nor ever has existed, a civil government which has not been vastly too unholy and corrupt to make part and parcel with the pure and holy gospel; and in proportion to the existing adulteration, so must be the amount of desecration; and one of the worst features is the erection of a most formidable barrier against the reformation of State doctrines, however irrational and unchristian-like they may be. What was it but the strong arm of government which enabled infuriated priestly bigots to make, in the language of the pious Dr. Watts, “a slaughter-house of the church of Christ"?—its victims, too, the most devoted disciples of our Lord. Humanity chills with horror at the perpetration of the awful cruelties done in the name of Christ, and at the bare recital must continue to weep until the end of time. Most sorrowful is it that, although the frightful horrors have passed away, and the general evils so greatly mitigated, as they are, by the most respectable of State churches, the remnants, true to their unholy connection, do, and constituted as they stand must ever continue to, exhibit their inherent nature, inflicting national injustice and interminable animosity upon the Christian world. Pious Christians all! contemplate the ruin, and with holy zeal and devotion seek to restore the Christian temple of peace and love. But Truth exclaims, Enough! and I turn to my farewell, humbly submitting the sincerity of the design as an offering for the altar of piety. I am fully aware of the disapprobation and anger to which this promulgated dictate of conscience may subject me, even from esteemed friends; but to this unhappy spirit I oppose a sacred and everlasting forgiveness, and sinking down to final rest with my Christian banner upheld, Peace and Goodwill inscribed shall adorn the last visible remnant.
A BEAM IN THE EYE. The actinia is a polypus so sensitive, that though it has no eyes, not a cloud can cross the sun without its evincing, by contraction, that it feels the change, and withal so voracious as to swallow three or four mussels for a breakfast. This creature is a fair representative of a class of men who are singularly voracious in the pursuit of their own advantage, and wonderfully shrewd in detecting the slightest shade of moral delinquency when it may be used as an impeachment of a rival. A violation of the rule of charity by themselves is venial, while the neglect of a mere form by their neighbour becomes a sin which justice must visit to the full.—British Quarterly Řeview, No. IV. p. 505.
ALMS-GIVING. It is sometimes objected to alms-giving, that to prevent poverty is better than to relieve it; and that there is but one way of prevention, which is, to take from men all expectation of relief if they become poor..... But.... the most injudicious alms-giving is an infinitely less injury to society than this extinction of sympathy. Better multiply beggars than make men monsters. Kind affection is the life of a community, and the excesses of these affections are to be chosen before a frozen selfishness.-CHANNING.