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PHILOSOPHICALLY AND THEOLOGICALLY EXAMINED,
On the first and fundamental principle on which Unitarianism is
hinged : viz. “ That man cannot reasonably believe, what is above the sphere of reason ; and that, of course, all mysteries are to be expunged from the code of Christianity.”
Preliminary Remarks on the Unitarian System. 1. The first and most essential thing in every discussion, is to fix the state of the question with accuracy, and to ascertain with precision the principles which we mean to discuss. This I consider to be indispensably necessary in the present controversy, lest, after having gone through much trouble, we be in the end piously told, that, in the heat of our investigation, we have mistaken the meaning of the system, and, of course, said nothing to the purpose. To preclude the very possibility of a charge like this, I thought, it would not be amiss to transcribe here, word for word, the chief views of the Unitarian system, such as 1 find them delineated by a zealous advocate of the sect, in a late periodical publication, *
ABSTRACT OF UNITARIAN BELIEF.
1. “ As Unitarians consider the Bible the only proper summary of religion, they do not profess to comprise their sentiments in any system of articles or forms of human invention. They consider the language of Scripture sufficiently plain: their creed is the Bible."
* See Unitarian Miscellany and Christian Monitor, No. 1, pages 9–20, published in Baltimore, by J. Webster.
2. “Unitarians believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, contain authentic records of the dispensations of God, and of his revelations to men: we think the evidence of the truth, and divine authority of these books, to be abundant and convincing.”.
3. “We believe that the revealed truths of the Scriptures are in conformity with the principles of right reason, and consistent with one another. We hold it to be impossible, in the nature of things, that any truth, which God has revealed, should be irrational or contradictory among themselves." Without proceeding on the principle, that the Scriptures have every where a consistent and intelligible meaning, it is no won. der, the inquirer is perplexed with mysteries, absurdities, and contradictions.
4. “ Unitarians believe one of the great doctrines taught in the Scriptures to be the unity and supremacy of God. Our reason tells us that there can be but one God: the Father."*
5. - Unitarians believe, that Jesus Christ was a messenger commissioned from heaven to make a revelation, and communicate the will of God to men. They agree that he was not God, that he was a distinct being from the Father, and subordinate to him ; and that he received from the Father all his wisdom, power, and knowledge. They believe Christ to have been authorized and empowered to make a divine revelation to the world. We believe in the divinity of his mission, but not of his person. We consider all, that he has taught, as coming from God; but we do not pay him religious homage, because we think, that this would be derogating from the honour of the Supreme Being."
6. ^ Unitarians believe that Christ was one Being, and that he possessed one mind, one will, one consciousness. We maintain that two natures, that of God, and that of man, must necessarily make two Beings. The notion, that two natures can constitute one person, we take to be unintelligible and absurd."
* The Unit. Miscellany and Christ. Monitor, No. 1, p. 2,
7. “We believe the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, was the spirit of God, and not a person, or being, or substance distinct, from God.?'
8. “We have only room to state, that we do not believe the guilt of Adam's sin was imputed, and his corrupted nature conveyed, to all his posterity, or that there is in men any original corruption. This doctrine makes God the author of sin, and the punisher of crimes, in men, which he has rendered it impossible, they should commit.”
9. “ We do not believe that Christ has once offered himself up a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; because this is making the innocent suffer for the guilty, and appeasing the wrath of a Being, who, in his very nature, is necessarily benevolent, merciful, and good.”
10. “We believe men have, in themselves, the power of being good or bad, of meriting the rewards, or deserving the punishments, of a just God.”
II. Such are the prominent features of Unitarianism. “We well know, says the above writer, that the more Unitarianism is examined, the more it will be approved. We wish to have it submitted to the understanding of every one; we wish to have it encountered by fair argument, and canvassed by open discussion : this is one of the best modes of proving its truths.” A declaration like this does much honour to the professors of the system, as it betrays, on their part, a strong confidence in the truth of their principles, and a candid desire, that it be fully known to all mankind. From this unfeigned declaration I inferred, that it would prove as gratifying to the Unitarians, as to Christians at large, were any one to undertake the task, of " encountering it by fair argument, and of canvassing it by open discussion.” It is under these impressions, that the present work has been undertaken, in which it is intended to pass in review, the said principles one after another, and to investigate, whether they are as consonant to sound reason, and to the Unitarian creed, “ the Bible," as Unitarians seem to believe, and whether they can stand the test of good logic. The impartial reader will decide on the result of our undertaking. iii. Before I enter upon the subject, I must be permitted to make a general reflection, and it is this, that it would be no small error to imagine, that Unitarianism is a new system, a masterpiece of the astonishing improvement of the human intellect : for it is a fact, that this sect has not even the merit of invention or novelty, (if novelty, in matters of religion, can be called merit,) and that it has existed before either my reader or I were thought of in the world: for in running over the above sketch of the Unitarian doctrines, it is obvious that Unitarianism is, with very little shades of difference, nothing more than a revival of ancient heresies, which, (even in the Apostolic age,) began to break out, and which, at that time, were boasted of, not unlike the said system, as wonderful improvements of the human mind, because devised by the very same grand principle, on which the Unitarian builds his system, I mean, reason. For the truth of what I am here advancing, the reader has nothing else to do, than to turn to the account, which the primitive Fathers of the church, and, among others, Tertullian, St. Irenæus, and St. Epiphanius, have left us of the errors of the Simonians, Cerinthians, the Ebionites, the Valentinians, &c. &c. and there he will find, that most of those heretics rejected the very same mysteries of religion which the Unitarians reject and on the very same ground, too, on which the Unitarians do, viz: because they appeared Unintelligible to their understanding. Arius, in the third century, denied the divinity of Jesus Christ; Eunomius, in the following century, the divinity of the Holy Ghost ; Pelagius, the existence of Original Sin and of Supernatural Grace; Eutyches, the distinction of the two Natures, or two Wills, in Christ, and so on; and when all these opinions had long since been forgotten, Socinus, in the sixteenth century, arose to amalgamate them all into one body, and to obtrude them on his followers as the most rational and consistent creed of the reformation : bis system was exactly that of the Unitarians : his grand principle, (and such is the Unitarian's,) was, that, whatever is unintelligible to human reason, is to be rejected : rejected, of course, were all these mysteries which the Unitarians reject: and when Socinianism itself had nearly vanished away, the dying sparks of this expiring sect were caught by the British infidels and French sophisters, who undertook, (with what success, the world well knows,) to shake the foundations of Christianity itself by the very same engines of sophistry, which, both Socinus and the Unitarians make use of to erase from the divine system of Jesus Christ the above mysteries, which are its very basis and ground work. ·
IV. There is another reflection which must necessarily offer itself to every reflecting mind, and which will ever form a strong and almost insuperable presumption against the Unitarian system. “Is it possible, it is thus, that every sober man will reason with himself,) is it possible, that the whole Christian world, for the space of not less than eighteen hundred years, should have been involved in more than Egyptian darkness, in the grossest idolatry, in adoring a mere man as the true God? Is it possible that Jesus Christ, “ the Divine Messenger of the Father, authorized and empowered to make a Divine Revelation to the world,' should have so utterly forgotten his solemn promises to his Church,* and, contrary to them, should have permitted her to fall into a worse kind of Idolatry than that, from which he came to rescue mankind? What, on that supposition, must we think of Jesus Christ himself? What of his wisdom, of his veracity, of his fidelity in keeping his promises ? Is it possible, that Christ suffered millions of martyrs to be butchered for the sake of an idolatrous worship? Is it possible that a handful of men, men of yesterday, men who are neither „Saints nor Thumaturguses, should, within the eighteenth century, be better informed of the Divine Religion of Jesus Christ, and of the true meaning of the Scrip. tures, than the Church of God, instructed by the Apostles and their immediate successors ? Is it possible, that these few men can be wiser than the whole Christian world; wiser than the glorious Martyrs; wiser than the Holy Fathers, these prodi
* St. Matthew, xviii. “ Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her.” Ana St. Matt. Xxviii. “And behold! I am with you, all days, even to the end of the world."