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useful meditation, I would, were I ahle, and time would permit, summon before
you the circumstances that are past, and reconduct you through the scenes in which you have acted your parts. I would remind you of the storms, that have passed over your heads, and of the snares and pitfalls of destruction by which you have been safely conducted I would lead you into the chambers of sickness and of death, and recal to your memory the tears, which you bave shed over suffering humanity and departed worth. I would invite you to the silent repository of those who are sleeping for eternity, and point out to you the mouldering remains of such as were dear to your hearts. And I would then ask you why it was, that the storms which passed over your heads left you unhurt? What unseen power preserved you in the midst of dangers concealed, and secret destruction? How you continued to enjoy health, wbile others languished on beds of pain ? And how it is, that the cold bosom of the earth has not yet received you ? I would ask you this, and were there no one else to proclaim the truth, the silent tombs would burst forth in eloquence, and all nature would conspire to swell the strain, that the hand of providence has been with you, and God himself has watched over you." p. 87-89.
The best discourse in the collection, perhaps, is the one on a particular providence. The arguments are well chosen and well sustained, and the style is on the whole more uniformly unexceptionable, than in most of the other discourses. The sermon on prayer, which makes the fifteenth in the selection, we have read with much delight. It displays the amiable traits of the author's character, his piety, and tenderness of heart, in the most engaging light, at the same time it presents some of the strongest motives for devout addresses to the Deity.
Although we have found much to admire and commend in this volume of sermons, we do not think them faultless. There are some inaccuracies of style, which might have been improved. All errors of this sort, however, as far as we have observed, are more the result of inattention, than want of judgment or taste. We do not remember a single instance of what may be called a fault of affectation or ambition. Much more serious defects, than any we have discovered, might indeed be expected in the writings of almost any author under similar circumstances. " It ought, in justice to the author's reputation," says his biographers, " to be remembered, that these discourses were composed not only with no thought of their future publication, but composed, many of them at least, under great depression of spirits and langour of mind, the result of corporeal debility and suffering." When these things are considered, it would be with an ill grace, that the voice of criticism should be harsh or querulous; and we have much more reason to be surprised at the fewness than the frequency of faults.
The biographical notice prefixed to this work has much merit, both as a literary performance, and a judicious selection of the most interesting particulars of Mr. Forster's life. His conversion, with its consequences, was an event of no ordinary occur. rence, and an era in the history of unitarianism, which will never be forgotten while the spirit of Christian truth and the love of religious freedom remain; and we rejoice that the task of recording this event has fallen into bands so well qualified to do it justice.
The Racovian Catechism, with Notes and Illustrations, translated from the Latin: To which is prefixed a Sketch of the History of Unitarianism in Poland and the adjacent Countries. By Thomas Rees, F. S. A. 12mo. London, 1818.
In considering the objections and charges that are brought against Unitarianism, it is surprising to find how few of them are derived from the Sacred Scriptures. The appeal is made to the Bible, it is true, but much oftener to popular prejudices and ecclesiastical history. Who is ignorant of the manner in which it is commonly opposed from our pulpits and in the pamphlets of the day ? Odious names and epithets are attached to it. Much is said, without even a shadow of proof, of the hollowness of its principles, its want of vitality, and its latitudinarian tendencies. Suspicions are also cast upon the piety, sincerity and moral strictness of its professors. All the errours and extravagances of those, who have ever held the leading doctrine of the unitarians, are charged more or less directly upon the whole body. Especially the obnoxious opinions, that are known to have been held by some of its distinguished advocates, but which had no necessary connexion with their belief in that system, are repre• sented as essential to it. In fine, the imposing authority of numbers, influence and antiquity is set up against it; and men affect to look down upon it with contempt as “the reverie of a few moderns."
We admit that in our own section of the country, and among the more learned and respectable opponents of this doctrine, a change has taken place for the better in conducting the controversy. But we deceive ourselves if we suppose that New Series-vol. III.
this change has extended far or affected many. The great body of trinitarians regard Unitarianism still as they always have done; oppose it in the same way, and bring against it the same objections. And it is to no purpose for us to say, that these objec. tions are utterly unfounded-frivolous in the extreme. It is a fact that they do exist in the minds of thousands-exerting there a mighty influence, and contributing more than any other cause, or than all other causes together, to retard the progress of unitarian views. How then are these objections to be removed? We answer, by giving a plain and full history of Unitarianism from the beginning of the world to the present time. The interests of truth call loudly for such a work, and in the present state of things we know of nothing that would do so much for the advancement and ultimate triumph of pure and undefiled religion.
Such a work would furnish us with a perfect answer to every one of the objections and charges hinted at above--an answer, which all could understand an answer, which all would feel. The writer would show that Unitarianism, so far from being a delusion of yesterday, is a doctrine as old as the creation. He would show that it was laid at the very foundation of the Jewish religion, and has ever been held in the highest veneration by the serious and devout among that people. Neither would he disdain to notice that the wisest and best among the beathen philosophers, the Mahometans, and the ancient and pure worship of that wonderful people the Hindoos, all consent in this as a great and fundamental principle of natural religion. As he proceeded, he would illustrate in a thousand instances, and in the history of all religions, the strong propensity there is in man to multiply the objects of his worship. He would show how distinctly, how frequently, and with what emphasis, the doctrine of the divine unity is asserted by Jesus Christ and by bis apostles. He would also prove, that this same doctrine was held by the mass of chris. tians with an undoubting faith, until after the Nicene Council at the beginning of the fourth century. He would also mark the gradual corruption of this doctrine-tracing its progress from the time of Justin Martyr, with whom it began, down to the time when the doctrine was wholly lost, along with almost every
other important truth, in the ignorance and confusion of the dark Ages. He would consider the causes of this corruption, and point out the true origin of the doctrine of the Trinity. He would show distinctly that it originated in an attempt of those who are called the Platonizing Fathers, to find in the New Testament the same fanciful notions of the divine essence, which they had found in the writings of their favourite philosopher
this attempt concurring with their desires to elevate as much as possible the character of the Saviour. After thus demonstrating the heathen origin of this doctrine—that it sprang from this desire to make the language of the Bible speak the dogmas of Plato--that it was the fruit of this unnatural coalition between the gospel and a “vain philosophy"-he would not omit to notice the various circumstances, both moral and political, which conspired at that time, and have conspired since, to give ascen. dancy and permanency to this deep-rooted errour.
Passing over the dark ages, during which it was no discredit to Unitarianism to be forgotten, he would endeavour to do justice to those noble confessors, who stood forth at the Reforma. tion to re-assert and maintain the absolute unity of God. Here he would pause to consider the reasons and causes, which prevented the immediate and universal rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity by the first reformers. It was an errour which had nothing to do with those impositions and oppressions of the church of Rome of which they complained, and was therefore the less likely to come into the general plan of their operations. It was also a speculative errour, and not a practical one, and for this reason was less likely to be detected. They could per. ceive at once the absurdity of believing, that the bread they were eating was real flesh; but it required some thought before they could perceive the source of the Trinity. The Trinity, too, they had always been taught from their earliest childhood, to regard as an awful'mystery. Granting therefore that this doctrine had no real foundation, the peculiar reverence and awe which they must thus have contracted for it, are quite sufficient to account for its being retained long after the other errours of popery had been abandoned ;-especially when we consider its comparative inoffensiveness. Besides, we recollect that the point on which the early reformers were more sensitive than on any other, was this—the danger of bringing unnecessary odium on the protestant cause by attempting too much in the beginning. The wisest among them were fully aware, that the Reformation, from its very nature, must be gradual and progressive ; and that nothing could be hoped from a rash and uncompromising spirit on the part of its friends. This consideration alone, we may presume, kept many back who were otherwise secretly inclined to Unitarianism; and even those, who had actually adopted its sentiments, may have been prevented from avowing them, from a fear that such a disclosure would as yet be premature. know," says Melanchthon in one of his Epistles, " that I always was afraid this controversy would break out. Good God! how much blood this dispute about the nature of the Logos and the
spirit will cause to be shed among our .posterity. As for myself, I go to the very language of Scripture, which directs an invocation of Christ. This is to ascribe to him the honour of divinity, and is full of consolation; but curious inquiries concerning his nature are unprofitable.”—We are also to be reminded that the Catholics were continually goading the reformers with the objection, that they would never know where to stop ; that they would split into a thousand factions, and give up doctrine after doctrine, until no doctrine would be left. In order to guard against this danger, and weaken the force of this objection, the reformers thought it necessary to prescribe certain limits, beyond which they would not pass in their innovations; and the leading men among them seem to have entered into a sort of compact not to transgress these limits themselves, nor suffer them to be transgressed by others. The moment therefore that any one, more bold or more enlightened than the rest, presumed to go a single step beyond them, not only Catholics, but Protestants too, fell upon him ; and in general the treatment he received from his protestant brethren was even more severe, than that which he received from the Catholics, as the former opposed him not only as sinning against the truth, and against the state, but as bringing a great scandal on the Reformation. Who tberi can wonder that no more had the courage in the face of such an opposition to avow themselves Unitarians ?-In addition to all this, we are likewise to remember, that the leading reformers had their pride of opinion and their love of consequence. But if others were suffered to reform upon them, as they had reformed on the Catholics, they well knew that their opinions, and even their very names, would soon be forgotten. To prevent this they hastened to draw up their confessions and creeds, which they imposed upon their disciples in the most solemn mannernot as containing their views of Christianity, but as containing the religion itself, from which none were to be permitted to depart even in the minutest particular. These confessions and creeds, thus framed, thus imposed, and thus identified with christianity, have come down to our times, and numbers still uphold them--some from ignorance, some from indolence, and some from conscientious scruples, some from a reverence for antiquity, some from a horror of innovation, and some from interest and policy. At any rate, however upheld, they have served to perpetuate many errors, and among the rest the doctrine of the Trinity.
These are some of the powerful obstacles, that have prevented the universal restoration of the unitarian doctrine as far as the Reformation has extended. But notwithstanding these obstruc