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we could not help feeling he was rather idealizing than describing sensations, of which though some few, indeed, may be conscious, yet if taken as the type of ordinary feeling, and made a ground, as he makes it, of appeal to the common experience of mothers, example would seem to be afforded of the particular tendency we mean,—the tendency to step out of real life in search of the imaginative, and to extort a seeming testimony in favour of conceptions which have little or no existence, and of refinements which could only have their true seat in the minds of the wrapt, the enthusiastic, and recluse. Be this, however, as it may, all are not refined teachers. And we own we tremble at the idea of the unskilful handling of such pearls! Rather give us the plainest treatment of the plainest theme, than topics which so easily tempt to affectation and exaggeration. If we may not be moved, at least we would not be repelled. A sickly sentiment is very apt to spread the infection of its own nature. And a passion either overdone or awkwardly done, if intolerable any where, is most of all intolerable in connection with scenes that ought to be sacred, and thoughts that ought to be hallowing and raising. Mr. Wicksteed has entered upon tender and touching topics—and his, we believe, is a power which is equal to their instructive treatment. Much we wish we could add there were many of his order of whom a similar affirmation might be made.
But, secondly, there is another sense in which “ the personality of Jesus” may be more largely, and, generally speaking, more safely-we are inclined to think more efficiently-applied in the work of impressing human minds, and training the soul to religious habits. It does not so much consist in what Christ says, or what he does—at least in regard to time, or mode, or place;-in what he experiences in the Wilderness, or preaches on the Mount, or suffers in the Garden, or evinces in the presence of the grieving sisters of Lazarus, much and vitally as all these contribute to the internally, correlatively, evidential power, and practically affecting influence, of the mission he bore on earth ;—but, independently, and over and above them all, in the impression which must unchangeably attach to His person as the depository of A POWER vast beyond the human, and gracious as the love of heaven,--for the benefit of men, for the assurance of their minds, and the extirpation of those doubts which but for him, and but for that power, would have clung to their fondest wishes, clouded their dearest hopes, and compassed for ever with impenetrable shade their earthly path.
In this way, much as we hallow and love the tears which wet the tomb at Bethany, and deeply as we would own to the sympathies which bind the Saviour in a common affection to the mourners at that tomb, and, through them, to every mourner even to this our own day, we do nevertheless acknowledge that for us the words, “LAZARUS, COME FORTH !—and he came,”-have a power which no other sentiment of our nature can evoke in a measure or with a depth at all to be compared.
This was not “instruction,” but it was MANIFESTATion." And though no other words had been heard, no other feeling had been betrayed, it would surely have been as the great “POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION."
It is, then, true—most true—that the religion we profess is "wrapped up in the personality of Jesus.” In the power, as well as the excellency, of Jesus our hope stands. And if we in any thing differ from Mr. Wicksteed in the view he has propounded, it is, not that he suppresses-very far from it—but that we would give more prominence to that attribute of the Saviour's mission which at once fits it for deepening veneration to his person by associating it with the conviction of his authority, -and for satisfying by the shortest process the wants, the wishes, and the hopes of the great bulk of the human kind.
It is the distinctive character, as it is the peculiar recommendation, of those views of the gospel which our brethren in the Western counties, by means of a new organization, are endeavouring to spread and strengthen, that they can do this without those startling demands upon our credence which, in proportion as they succeed, unfit the mind for a just appreciation of evidence and truth,-and, as intelligence advances, must be sure in the end to induce a reaction fatal to the peace of souls, and obstructive of the virtue, the progress, and the happiness of mankind.
We must confess this is our quarrel with Orthodoxy. And we profoundly believe it to be a subject of such incalculable moment, that we must be excused for dwelling on it some little more at length. None more fully than ourselves are disposed to admit the necessity to a healthy state of the religious frame, of a constant and reverential reference of all our spiritual experiences--our joys, hopes, needs—to the person and office of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we need him in two ways—to have him before us in two aspects; not more as the moral image, than the divine power, of the Father who sent him.
In this we think the picture, beautiful as it is, traced by the hand of Mr. Wicksteed wanting in some important features; or rather, as a whole, it is too small. It wants expansion. It should take in more. All that it delineates belongs to Unitarianism. But something more belongs to it. Mr. Wicksteed truly says, " that this divine life was once led on earth, is our faith” (p. 9). But our faith includes, and, to be efficacious, requires, wider limits. For not the beautiful life only, but the assuring power,—not the attractive virtues only, but the subduing authority, of Jesus, are, as we deem it, essential elements to the enduring and embracing influence which his religion is to have over the hearts of men and the destinies of the world.
Now this, Unitarianism can educe in a way to which the prevailing interpretations of the gospel are not competent. We know that Unitarians are accused—we do not say with a fair measure of justice-but they are accused of setting aside the person of Christ, and dwelling on his name rather with an historical than an affectionate interest; “rather as that of a system than as that of a Lord; and rather as the symbol of a doctrine than as a title of One who is living and mighty.” We quote, indeed, the words of a discourse in a collection lately published by Archdeacon Manning, which, though not designed for immediate application to Unitarians, so fully harmonize with similar words of the late Dr. Arnold which were so designed, in a highly interesting letter to the late William Smith, formerly M.P. for Norwich, that in quoting the one, we may be said to quote them both. But how do these eminent members of their Church, divergent as their views so conspicuously were in other respects, undertake to correct or supply the defects which both would undoubtedly unite in ascribing to the Unitarian scheme? Why by claiming for Jesus a position in our religious regard
to which our allegiance to the plainest scriptures, and the most palpable dictates of the human reason, absolutely preclude us from acceding. By making him literally One with God; by clothing him not only in effect, but in terms, with every attribute of the Supreme Being; and by directing to him accordingly the highest adoration and deepest prostration of the dependent creature.
We do not enter into a review of the grounds on which we wholly reject these notions. In these pages it would be superfluous. But we wish to shew that a work has yet to be done in the Christian world -long commenced, but far from achieved—to which our best minds may well be summoned, and to which our best efforts are increasingly due. We thank the WESTERN UNITARIAN CHRISTIAN UNION for addressing themselves to the task. We think they have exercised a sound discretion in looking upon the struggle as not yet over, or its correspondent duty as, in these times, no longer needed.
We might adduce our reasons for thinking so, from Unitarian sources. But we will not confine ourselves to these. We have a profound belief that the countenance afforded in popular creeds and established churches to the doctrine referred to, and its connected expositions of the dealings of God, is a weight upon Christianity under which it is sinking,—which has already inflicted upon it a deadly injury,--and from which its power of recovery must be mainly owing, under God, to the united, consistent, and energetic efforts of Unitarian Christians.
We know the doctrine itself—we mean, of the Trinity—is sliding out of the belief of men. But with it a great deal more is sliding too. We believe, with Professor Norton,* that “the neglect and disbelief of this doctrine, and of other doctrines of like character, has extended to Christianity itself.” We believe with him, that “these systems have counteracted, and are counteracting, the whole evidence of divine revelation;" and that “the proof of the most important fact in the history of mankind, that the truths of religion have not been left to be doubtfully and dimly discerned, but have been made known to us by God himself, has been overborne and rendered ineffectual by the nature of the doctrines ascribed to God." We quite believe this; and hence it is we believe with Channing, that “the injury to religion from irrational doctrines is immense;" since not only do they injure those who reject, but almost as fearfully injure those who retain, them. Truly does Channing say, that “to wound and degrade the human soul in any of its powers, and especially in the noble and distinguishing power of reason, is to inflict on it universal injury. No notion is more false, than that the heart is to thrive by dwarfing the intellect; that perplexing doctrines are the best food of piety; and that religion flourishes most luxuriantly in mists and darkness.” “We want a harmony in our inward nature. We want a piety which will join light with fervour, and on which the intellectual power will look benignantly. We want religion to be so exhibited, that in the clearest moments of the intellect, its signatures of truth will grow brighter; that, instead of tottering, it will gather strength and stability from the progress of the human mind."
We have said that we should not confine ourselves to Unitarian sources; nor will we. What confirmation of the foregoing-what
Preface to his statement of Reasons for not believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians.
suggestion for those who have purged their belief, and who stand in the van of religious investigation, preserving intact the love, the reverence, the gratitude, and the dependence due to the Alpha and Omega, the Author and the Finisher of their faith,—may be found in the following reflections of Archdeacon Hare, in the deeply interesting Memoir he has given of his amiable but sceptical friend John Sterling !
“The problem of Sterling's life was the great one of this age, of all agesto reconcile faith with knowledge, philosophy with religion, the subjective world of human speculation with the objective world in which God has manifested Himself by a twofold Revelation,-outwardly to our senses, and spiritually to our spirits.....
“Nór are such men to be dismissed with a cold taunt, or a severe reproof, as wasting themselves unprofitably in grubbing about the roots, instead of feeding on the fruit. For the roots too may often need to have the soil about them loosened, and uncongenial substances removed : nor is it well to blame those who devote themselves to this more arduous labour, in order that others may have more abundant and better fruit to feed on. If the great problems of speculation .... are left unexplored, --if those who are set to be the guiding spirits of our age, pass them by.... the vessel after a while will assuredly strike on the rock, and founder..
“We must do the work that is set us to do, the intellectual work, as well as the moral. We must not shirk it, or slur it over : and this is part of it.
“ Among men of intellectual vigour, I will not say the majority, but undoubtedly a very large portion, are only withheld from open infidelity, by giving up their thoughts entirely to the business of this world, and turning away with a compromising indifference from serious inquiries about religion. In such a state of things it becomes the imperative duty of all who love the truth in Christ, to purge it, so far as they can, from the alloy which it may have contracted in the course of ages through the admixture of human conceits, and which render it irreconcilable with the postulates of the intellect.
“ This is a very delicate work.... but still it must be done. The men of our age will not believe, unless you prove to them that what they are called upon to believe, does not contradict the laws of their minds—and that it rests upon a solid, unshakeable foundation.”
These thoughts, which have found a voice within the Church,—and that no inconsiderable or obscure one,-might easily be shewn to accord with those of the higher order of minds without it; and progress, we may be sure, has set in with a healthful and hopeful current when the unestablished Orthodoxy on one side the Tweed can venture to applaud a renowned leader of its kindred Orthodoxy on the other, for having demonstrated that the theme of the preacher“ is, after all, a theme in harmony with every thing most intelligent, most beautiful, and most ennobling in modern cultivation.”*
It is a lofty challenge. Which is that Christian church-which is that form of the Christian faith, which might venture with fairest appearance of truth and right to take it up? It would be worse than affectation in us to disguise the strength of our own conviction in what direction we should seek the answer with largest probability of success. We feel, in these times, it is not out of place to say—at humble distance from Paul—that “we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” And therefore, assuming revelation for its basis, and claiming the application of instructed reason for its interpretation, we are but giving the
* British Quarterly Review, No. IV.--conclusion of article on German Philosophy and Christian Theology.
honest expression of that which is within us, when we say, that to UNITARIANISM belongs, in fullest measure, the qualities indicated in the passage we have quoted from an orthodox contemporary, and which we would scripturally translate as pre-eminently a faith “ of love, of power, and of a sound mind.” Of " love,” as coming from one who is à Father-and all we therefore brethren together. Of “power,” as resting on assurances more than human-not trusting alone to the resources of natural light; yet because not discarding, but taking those resources into closest intimacy, therefore also, as none other equally is, the faith of " a sound mind."
For these very sufficient reasons, holding this form as worthy of all acceptation, can we be indifferent to its prevalence in the world? Impossible. To be so, would be to put ourselves at variance with a principle of our nature, a duty of morality, and the example implied in the very existence of Christianity itself. God, in making man social, made him to be communicative; and having furnished to him the capacity of thought, furnished to him also the capacity of language. Is it only on the highest of themes that marvellous faculty is to be put in abeyance? The universal practice of mankind-Whately would ground it on a law of sympathy*_is sufficient refutation of the idea. For all men talk of these things where they can and how they can. There are communities, indeed, where certain orders of men have endeavoured, with more or less success, to keep all the talk to themselves. And in communities which labour under least restraint, there are multitudes who talk on these subjects neither wisely nor well. Is it not, then, a duty to assist them to think and talk better? A great authority has said that knowledge is power. It would be less an extension than a modification of the saying, to affirm that knowledge is riches. And if so, like other riches, it must come under the rule which speaks—be “ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” In fine, not being holders of apostolical succession, we do not recognize it as the exclusive investiture of any uninspired order of men to inculcate what is believed to be truth; but would accept and prize it as the equal duty of all, according to their gifts and opportunities of ministration, to go forth and preach the kingdom of God.
We are advocates then for diffusion ; and being so, are no less the advocates of the means of diffusion. In this view, we cannot but approve and honour the efforts, wherever made, to inculcate on the mistaught masses of this country more tenable, elevating, loving, practical impressions of the religion of Christ, than have yet been permitted, to any appreciable extent, to reach them. In the western, and subsequently, we believe, in the southern counties of England, organizations have recently been formed for this important purpose. We wish them all good-speed; and should rejoice in the dissemination far and wide of some of the principles laid down, though we could wish they were less briefly urged, in the excellent discourse of Mr. Wicksteed, delivered on occasion of the sixth half-yearly meeting of the Western Unitarian Christian Union.
We think these efforts could not be made, and especially that these principles could not be urged, at a more needful season. There is a disposition,--some think it a growing one, we ourselves believe it to be
Introductory Lectures on Political Economy, p. 176. London, 1831.