« PoprzedniaDalej »
most interesting topics, to which the attention of the religious public was drawn; it rendered incalculable service to the cause of truth, by compelling Unitarians to leave the concealment, by which they had so long been gaining influence, and in which lay the far greater proportion of their strength. The charge of such concealment was indeed most indignantly resented, though the witnesses adduced in support of it were distinguished Unitarians, and their testimony was perfectly explicit. It is still more remarkable, that these Unitarian witnesses were not publicly reprehended for having given their testimony, nor was their veracity called in question, while the Reviewers in the Panoplist were bitterly reproached for republishing their statements from pages written by a leading Unitarian, for the express purpose of giving an authentic history of American Unitarianism. It is a curious fact, that the Christian Examiner, which is far the most important Unitarian publication in the United States, ten years after the charge was made in the Panoplist, found occasion to repeat and confirm it. The disclosures, to which we have here referred, led the way to the controversy of 1815, which called forth the talents of the late Dr. Worcester, so much to the advantage of the cause which he espoused, and of which he proved so able an advocate. We are among those who believe, that all the controversies with Unitarians, since the name was known in this country, have accelerated the progress of correct sentiments; have given strength, union and consistency to the orthodox; and are now contributing, in their natural and predicted consequences, to the return of Boston and the vicinity to the cordial reception of those doctrines, and the exemplary practice of those duties, which so honorably distinguished the first settlers of New England. Believing all this, we cannot doubt that a publication, which aided so essentially in the necessary developements, must have had an indispensable share in producing those great and happy effects, which are now witnessed. Unless we are greatly mistaken, the Unitarians will agree with us in saying, that if any good is to be derived from the Theological Seminary in Andover; if true religion is promoted by the erection of new churches for orthodox assemblies in Boston; if the doctrines of the Reformation, as preached in these assemblies, are to be approved ; if revivals of religion, as the orthodox understand the phrase, are to be desired ; if the education of hundreds of ministers, and ultimately of thousands, under the fostering care of charitable institutions, is to bring down countless blessings upon our land; if the sending of the Gospel to the heathen, by Christians in America, is a good work, upon which the blessing of God may be expected: -in fine, if the whole system of religious instruction and charitable exertion, as sustained by the orthodox, is a blessing to mankind; —then must the Panoplist be allowed to have discharged an important service, as it promoted and defended all the measures,
which led to these results, and was the organ of many original suggestions respecting them.
It is true that the magazines, which have here been mentioned by name, and many others, were successively discontinued; but this no more proves that they were not extensively useful, than the death or removal of a minister proves, that his labors, through a long succession of years, were of no value to his people, or to the church at large. A periodical publication may have a certain great work to perform; and when that is accomplished, it may peacefully and honorably repose. The fact is, that religious magazines in our country have been supported by personal sacrifices, on the part of their projectors, editors, and contributing patrons, of which the public at large have never had an adequate conception. No class of men have deserved more credit for generous and persevering devotion to the public good; and if they have not received this credit, so far at least as the pious and the wise are concerned, it is solely because the true circumstances of the case have not been known.
It should be added, with reference to the general utility of religious magazines, that they obviously prepared the way for religious newspapers, which are now exerting a very great and a very salutary influence in our country; but which, though destined to render essential service to all extensive operations of benevolence, do not supersede other uses of the periodical press.
The reasons, which have led to the establishment of a new religious magazine in Boston, are briefly the following.
First :- There has been for several years past, and especially of late, a great increase of attention to religion, in this city and the vicinity. We mean, not only that the number of individuals, who are resolved to make religion their highest personal concern, has been greatly augmented; but also, that many others have had their curiosity so far excited, and their minds so far aroused, as to make them inquire what religion is ;-what orthodoxy is ;--and what Unitarianism is. A spirit of investigation has gone forth, -a spirit of free inquiry,-a spirit that determines to examine for itself, to hear for itself, to think for itself, and not implicitly to confide in the representations of partisans; and this spirit is all the while adding to the number of those who hear orthodox preaching, who converse with orthodox ministers, who associate with the members of orthodox churches, who read the Bible with seriousness and with an anxious desire to ascertain its real meaning, and who admit the reasonableness of making religion the first, the constant, and the greatest object of attention. This spirit of investigation is a noble spirit, and it should be cherished, and cultivated, and satisfied.
In this connexion it is proper to say, that the inhabitants of Boston, and of many other parts of Massachusetts, are, to an
unusual degree, an intellectual people. They
They are hereditarily and constitutionally a thinking race of men; and though opiates have long been administered to the conscience, and much reproach has been thrown on discriminating views of religion, still a state of torpor, or mental stagnation, is to them an unnatural state. No subjects are so proper to occupy the minds of the community, at the present time, as those which relate to the distinction between true and false doctrine; and thus, to the great realities, which are disclosed in the word of God. What can be plainer, than that additional means of meeting this disposition to investigate should be furnished ?
Again; it is undeniable, that a large portion of the community has been totally deceived, in regard to the doctrines and preaching of the orthodox. Many have recently discovered the deception practised upon them, and others are almost daily discovering it. Both classes wish to know how far they have been deceived. They are willing to hear from the lips of the orthodox themselves, and to learn from books what is really believed and taught.
In this state of things, nothing can be more reasonable, than that the orthodox should explain their own faith; and that they should have the means of doing it conveniently and easily, in writing as well as in public discourses. They must themselves tell what they believe, or be content that Unitarians should do it for them. They must give the reasons for their belief, or their adversaries will have it, that they believe without reason.
The cause of truth has already suffered greatly in this way. Misrepresentations, the most palpable and injurious, of the doctrines, preaching, and motives of the orthodox, have been common for many years; and the continual repetition of them has by no means ceased. The apparent object has been to keep the members of Unitarian congregations from entering the doors of an orthodox church; and this, to a very unhappy extent, has been the effect hitherto. There are not a few proofs, however, that these misrepresentations are soon to recoil upon their authors with unexpected violence. When those, who have been misled, determine to hear and examine for themselves, they find every thing different from what they had been taught to anticipate. They exclaim at once, “This cannot be orthodoxy. For aught that we can see, this is reasonable, scriptural, and in agreement with all that we observe within our breasts, or in the world around us. There is nothing here that violates common sense, or the experience of mankind. Either this is not orthodoxy, or we have been grossly imposed upon respecting it.
The attempt to render the doctrines held by our fathers odious and absurd, by giving distorted views of them, has pushed its authors into an unpleasant dilemma. Those who have been deluded are naturally impelled to say, "Your views of orthodoxy are either correct or incorrect,-fair or unfair. If correct and fair, then the preaching in new churches at Boston, and the teaching at Andover, though usually called orthodox, have really no resemblance to orthodoxy, and you can have no objection to our regarding such teaching and preaching with respect, and to our frequenting those places of worship where these doctrines are usually heard. But if all the descriptions of orthodoxy, which we have heard from Unitarian pulpits, are incorrect and unfair, we shall know what reliance to place on statements from the same quarter hereafter.'
It is hardly necessary to inform our readers, that the latter horn of this dilemma is the one, from which peculiar danger is to be apprehended. How many of the misrepresentations here alluded to have been intentional, and how many the result of ignorance, it might be a difficult matter to settle; but ignorance is a very unsatisfactory excuse for erroneous statements, which are intended to make the cause of an adversary odious and contemptible, and which relate to the great and everlasting interest of immortal beings.
While Unitarians have generally been very slow and reluctant to tell definitely what they themselves believe, and have contended that it is a hardship, and an insult, that they should be required to do so, they have been very ready to tell what the orthodox believe; and to tell it in such a manner, that their people should be in no danger of forming predilections for orthodoxy: thus volunteering to do that for their neighbors, which they will hardly do for themselves, after years of intreaty, argument, and expostulation. Now we have serious objections to this course of proceeding. We wish to state our own views of divine truth, in our own manner, and to defend them by our own arguments. We suppose we can express our own creed more accurately, than our adversaries can express it for us.
At any rate, we are desirous of making the experiment; and of repeating it as often as shall be neccessary. It is known, indeed, that Unitarians, while they insist on the right of judging for themselves on all subjects, claim the privilege of judging for the orthodox too, with respect to the terms of communion, ministerial exchanges, and the manner in which the orthodox are to regard them. This privilege they would gladly enforce, as unquestionable facts evince, even to punishing orthodox ministers, who do not yield to it, by ejecting them from their parishes. It is presumed that they will not claim the exclusive right of making creeds for others; but there would be nothing more inconsistent in this, than attempting to control the religious practice of others, in reference to a matter of vital importance to the church; and such a religious practice, as results necessarily from the orthodox creed.
Secondly :-Unitarians have a magazine published here, upon which they spare no labor, and which is constantly employed in promoting their cause. We must have the means of meeting them on this ground; it being impossible to do as much through the medium of works published at a distance, as can be done on the spot. They have found it necessary to make strenuous efforts to keep up the publication and circulation of their magazine ; and surely, with our views of truth and duty, we cannot do less than they Thirdly :
-There have been great accessions of numbers and strength to the body of orthodox Christians in Boston and the vicinity, within a few years past. We mention the fact with gratitude, but not with boasting. To God be unceasing praise, that he has so evidently begun to turn back the captivity of his people. Human agency could never have effected what has been done, and to God alone be the glory.
These accessions of numbers and strength require additional means of improvement, of instruction, of confirmation, of encouragement. As readers are multiplied, there is more need of writing; as invitations to labor are strongly presented, they prompt to seize the proper occasions, and the proper topics, for discussion; and as the cause of truth advances, it is plain that new measures and new efforts will be constantly demanded. The present day is not a time for inaction, nor for hesitating and dilatory movements.
Fourthly :The Unitarian controversy, as it is now conducted in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States, embraces nearly all the great points of fundamental truth and fundamental error. It is, as we firmly believe, one of the last great controversies, which is to afflict the church; and, although we would by no means advise to have it introduced where it is unknown, still there is little doubt that it must, for a time, attract the attention of many individuals, in almost every part of our country. The history of this controversy, so far as it has already proceeded, does not furnish any ground of alarm for the future; but, in order to make a proper use of advantages, as well as to correct misrepresentations, it is necessary that the orthodox should have some regular channel of communicating with the public.
For these reasons a new magazine has been commenced, to which The Spirit of the Pilgrims is considered an appropriate name.
Those principles, which were the glory of our fathers, and by which New England, and other parts of our country settled from New England, have obtained a name and a praise in the earth, are still entertained by a vast majority of their descendants. There has been, it is true, a serious and lamented defection from orthodoxy, in the most populous parts of Massachusetts; but, even in this commonwealth, if the whole number of decided Unitarians were ascertained, we feel authorized by their own publications to