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together with the reasoning by which he has been led into those views. But he wishes it to be understood, that they are his own views only. He is not authorized, nor does he profess, to speak in the name of any party or body of Christians. How far his opinions on the subjects in controversy, and his manner of explaining and defending them, may agree with those of his friends, he knows not. He is willing to avail himself of this opportunity of appearing before the public on these subjects, believing that the cause of Christian truth cannot fail of being promoted by unreserved freedom in the discussion of controverted doctrines; and by individuals communicating the result of their study and thought, without any reference to the opinions of the party or sect, to which they may be considered in general as belonging.
With respect to the points at issue between those, who are called Unitarians on the one hand, and Trinitarians and Calvinists on the other, it is of some importance that you should know in what light they are viewed, and what degree of importance is attached to them by Unitarians. Upon this subject, there is probably with us, as with you, some diversity of opinion; though I am persuaded that no intelligent Unitarian can think them unimportant, and practically a matter of indifference. It cannot be imagined, that the constitution of things is such, as to render truth and error on any subject perfectly indifferent, and equally salutary. And it is believed, as I shall have occasion to show in the sequel, that the doctrines for which we contend, and which are the subject of controversy between us, are calculated, as far as their effects are not prevented, nor counteracted by other causes, to have a better moral influence in forming the character, than the opposite doctrines; and that their reception and prevalence cannot fail to have great influence on the reception and spread of Christianity in the world. At the same time, it is not maintained, that any one of the doctrines, about which we differ, is fundamental in such a sense, that the opposite is incompatible with the Christian character, and forfeits the Christian name for him who maintains it. It is not doubted that all the best influences of Christian faith may be felt, and the Christian life acted out, and the consolations and hopes of the Gospel enjoyed by those, whose
speculative opinions upon each of the several points of controversy, which lie between us, are in opposition to each other.
I SHALL Confine myself to a few passing remarks on what is contained in some of the first letters of Dr. Woods, wishing to draw your attention chiefly to the important articles of doctrine, which are discussed in the remaining ones; since, with the exception of the doctrine of the divine Unity, they involve the most interesting questions, that lie between us and you.
With respect to what is implied in no equivocal manner in the beginning of the second letter, I would only observe, that as to the propriety of having a creed, no doubt, I believe, has ever been entertained. Unitarians have always claimed the right of every individual to have his own particular creed. What they have sometimes had occasion to object to is, not that each of the several sects and denominations of Christians should have its own creed, nor, that any individual should have one; but that any, whether an individual or a body of Christians, should insist upon their creed being the creed of others; either as a title to the Christian name, or as a condition of their being admitted to the participation of any Christian privileges.
In the concluding part of the same letter, and in the two following, Dr. Woods proceeds to charge Mr. Channing with a gross misrepresentation of the opinions of the Orthodox upon two points, the Unity of God, and his moral perfection; and of injustice in claiming these as distinguishing articles of the Unitarian Faith. Now, in respect to the first of these, the Unity of God, it is to be recollected, that the question is not, whether the Unity of God be asserted by Trinitarians. This is not denied them; but the true question is, whether opinions are or are not held by them in relation to this subject, which cannot be reconciled with the divine Unity. It is with this, and not with the other, that they are charged by Unitarians. Full
credit is given to their word, when they declare 'their belief in the Unity of God, and when they tell us "it is asserted in all their systems of Divinity, and all their Confessions of Faith." Nor is there any thing that I can perceive in Mr. Channing's Sermon, that contradicts this. But until more than this is done, and until something more satisfactory, than has yet been said, can be alleged by them to show, that the commonly received doctrine of the Trinity is reconcileable with the proper Unity of God, we must be allowed to consider the charge as still lying in its full force. Of this the most respectable Trinitarian writers seem not to be insensible How much they are pressed with this difficulty, and how impossible they find it to extricate themselves from it, appears in the variety of explanations which have been successively resorted to, and the dissatisfaction expressed with every attempt that has been made for the purpose. The last expedient, indeed, that of rejecting the use of the phrase "three persons," as applied to the Deity, and substituting for it that of "three distinctions," if by distinctions be meant any thing short of separate persons or agents, may be considered as restoring the divine Unity. But it reduces the Trinity to a mere unmeaning name, and were it not an abuse of language of mischievous tendency, would leave nothing on the subject, that need be thought worth contending about.
Professor Stuart (p. 23) expresses regret that the term person had ever come into the symbols of the churches, sensible, as it appears, that it cannot be used in any intelligible meaning, without infringing on the Unity, and running into palpable Tritheism; and the late President Dwight, though he contends for the propriety of the term, (vol. ii. p. 137,) as a convenient one for expressing the things intended by the doctrine, yet confesses, that if he is asked what it means, he must answer, I know not. But what is the particular convenience of the use of a term, which expresses no meaning, not even in the mind of him that uses it, we are left to conjecture.
Upon the other charge, which relates to the moral perfections of God, the course which Dr. Woods has pursued seems to me liable to objection. In his fourth Letter, in stating what was necessary on his part, and the mode of
reasoning proper to be pursued, in order to relieve the system he has undertaken to defend, from the charge of inconsistency with the moral perfections of God, he says, (6 we have nothing to do with the inquiry, whether the common doctrine of depravity can consist with the moral perfection of God, nor with any difficulty whatever in the attempt to reconcile them." This is certainly a very extraordinary thought, that in defending his system against an objection to which it is thought liable, he should have nothing to do with the very objection itself, nor with the difficulty it involves. Did the question relate to the simple fact, whether the doctrine of depravity, as maintained by the Orthodox, were a doctrine of scripture or not, its consistency or inconsistency with the moral perfections of God would indeed make no part of the ground, on which the argument should proceed. But the question he had to consider was different one from this. The doctrine of depravity, together with the associated doctrines, has a place in the system of Orthodox faith. It is upon the ground of these doctrines, as Dr. Woods expressly admits, (p. 25,) that Mr. Channing has used the language, which he understands as implying the charge under consideration, viz. "that the Orthodox deny the moral perfection of God." Now it certainly does belong to him, who would relieve the system from that imputation, to show, not only that the doctrine of depravity, but that all the other doctrines connected with it in the Calvinistic system, are consistent with the moral perfection of God. This is the very point at issue, and the only point, so far as relates to this charge, with which he had any concern; and all that he has said to show, that he maintains many views respecting the divine government and purposes in common with Unitarians, and which are consistent with the moral perfection of God, will do nothing toward proving that he does not maintain other opinions, which are not reconcileable with it. He was required, therefore, in undertaking to repel this charge, not only to prove, which 1 shall afterward show he has not done, that the scheme of doctrine, which he defends, is taught in the scriptures; but also to prove that it is in itself consistent with the moral perfection of God. But this he has not attempted to do. He has, on the contrary, said that, which implies,
that whatever the fact may be, the consistency demanded cannot be seen to exist. Now if he, who believes the doctrines in question to be taught in the scriptures, is vet unable to perceive how they are reconcileable with the moral perfection of God; ought he to be greatly surprised, or much disturbed, that another, who cannot find them taught in the bible, and who sees them therefore only as human opinions, without authority, should represent them as irreconcileable with that moral perfection, which he does find there clearly and constantly taught?
There is another consideration also, not to be overlooked, to show that he had something to do with this inquiry. If the doctrine of depravity, as it is maintained by the Orthodox, cannot be perceived by us to be consistent with the moral perfection of God, the presumption is very strong, that it is not true; since, if it actually be inconsistent, it certainly cannot be true. In proportion then to the difficulty of reconciling it, the proof of it from scripture and our experience ought to be clear, and not liable to objection. The neglect, therefore, to remove this fundamental objection to the whole system, you perceive, must have its influence upon all the reasoning employed in the direct proof of its several parts. Nothing but the most clear and satisfactory proof will be sufficient for the support of a doctrine, which labours under the weight of so much intrinsic incredibility, confessedly incapable of being removed.
I have one other remark to make in this place. Dr. Woods has stated correctly, (p. 26,) "That independently of revelation, and well known facts, we are inca pable of judging, what the goodness of God will require, as to the condition of man; or what man's character and state must be under the government of a being infinitely wise and benevolent." But the inference he would draw from this, I think you will perceive, is not warranted by the premises. For although it be conceded, that from the limitation of our faculties, we are incapable of saying what the goodness or justice of God would require; we have faculties capable of deciding with certainty, what they will not admit. We can pronounce without hesitation with respect to some things, that they are absolutely irreconcileable with those attributes. To say that we have