Slike strani
PDF
ePub

dollars. It elects its own members; and same congregations just as quietly had a majority of them having proved to be those congregations remained orthodox. Unitarian, the society has passed wholly In philosophy the Unitarians of Newinto the hands of that sect. It expends England were at first, and for some years, the income of its fund in supporting two followers of Locke ; holding that all our or three preachers among the remnants of ideas, or, at least, the elements of which Indian tribes in New-England. One or they are formed, are received through the two other unimportant societies, not ori- senses. Very naturally, therefore, they ginally formed by them, have in like man- built their belief of Christianity wholly on ner passed under their control. They have evidence addressed to the senses. They no organization for foreign missions. To believed that miracles had been wrought, the Bible Society they contribute some- because it appeared so extremely improbthing, but the amount is not known. able that the apostles were deceived con

The “ American Unitarian Association," cerning them, or attempted to deceive othformed in 1825, is their principal organ- ers; or that the canonical writings ascriization for united action. Its object is de- bed to them are spurious; or that the acclared to be “to diffuse the knowledge counts of miracles which they contain are and promote the interests of pure Chris- interpolations. Those miracles they held tianity throughout our country.” Its six- to be the testimony of God, addressed to teenth annual report gives the names of the senses of men, proving the truth of 117 clergymen who have been made life Christianity. Yet they did not admit the members by the payment of thirty dol- infallibility of the apostolic writings as we lars each, of whom eight are dead. The have them. Many of them held that the whole number of life members are stated authors of the several parts of the New at 374. It expended during the year end- Testament had no inspiration which seing in May, 1841, the sum of 4962 dollars, cured them against mistakes and false which was 81 dollars 89 cents more than reasoning; and they very generally held, its receipts. The expenses of adminis- that strong texts in favour of the doctrine tration were, the salary of the general of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, or agent, 1800 ; his travelling expenses, 100; the personality of the Holy Spirit, must office rent, 200 ; total, 2100 dollars ; being be interpolations or corruptions. Their very nearly three sevenths of the whole. religious guide, therefore, was so much of

This association has published 179 dif- the Bible as they judged to be true; and ferent tracts, the prices of which vary their religion was, in its theory, the confroin one cent to six cents. During the formity of their hearts and lives to certain year ending in May, 1841, it aided sixteen external rules, which, in all probability, destitute congregations, of which ten were were originally given by God, and which in New-England, three in the State of New- have been transmitted to us in a record York, and three in the Western States. which is not free from error. To this, inThe lowest appropriation for this purpose dividuals among them appended more or was thirty dollars, and the highest 300. less of sentiment and imagination, accordIt also expended 570 dollars for mission- ing to the prompting of their own genius. ary services, of which 530 were expended A system like this can never long continue to the west of New England.

to satisfy any community. It fails to meet The smallness of the amount expended certain feelings of spiritual want, which by Unitarians in the way of associated ac- are sure to spring up in many minds. tion is not to be ascribed to parsimony, Hence there has been among the more sebut to religious indifference. A large part rious, ever since the separation, a gradual of the wealth of Boston, and of the east- going over to orthodoxy, which has retardern part of Massachusetts, is in their hands; ed the growth of Unitarianism. Now the and their capitalists have made many splen- orthodox Congregational churches in Bosdid donations to literary, scientific, and hu- ten are about as numerous as the Unitamane institutions.

rian, and the worshippers much more nuTheir churches probably contain some merous; and the result is similar in the truly regenerate persons, who became surrounding country. members of them before they were avow- A few years since, German Transcenedly Unitarian, and who remain there from dentalism made its appearance among the reverence for ancient usages, attachment Unitarian clergy, and has spread rapidly. to the places where their ancestors wor- Its adherents, generally, are not very proshipped, and other similar causes. Others found thinkers, nor very well acquainted of them are men of stern and almost Puri- with the philosophy which they have emtanic morality, who have had from infan- braced, or with the evidence on which it cy great reverence for religion in the rests. It promises to relieve its disciples gross, but have never seriously studied its from the necessity of building their reliapplication to themselves in the detail of gious faith and hopes on probabilities, howits doctrines and duties, and who would ever strong, and to give them an intuitive have remained steadfast members of the and infallible knowledge of all that is es-:ential in religion; and it affords an un- , then or afterward, till public attention was

Jimited range for the play of the imagina- called to the subject by three evangelical tion. It has charms, therefore, for the con- clergymen who attended the ordination as templative and for the enthusiastic. hearers, and took notes of the discourse.

The controversy on this subject became These three witnesses, some weeks after public in 1836. It was brought out by an the ordination, published extracts from the article in the Christian Examiner, main- sermon in several religious newspapers, taining that our faith in Christianity does and called on the members of the ordaining not rest on the evidence of miracles; that Council to say whether they recognised a record of miracles, however attested, can the preacher as a Christian minister. Pub. prove nothing in favour of a religion not lic attention was roused. Several intellipreviously seen to be true; and that, there- gent Unitarian laymen united in the defore, we need to see and admit the reason- mand. Continued silence became impracableness and truth of the doctrines of Chris- ticable. A number of articles appeared in tianity, before we can believe that miracles newspapers and magazines, in which indiwere wrought to commend it to mankind. vidual Unitarian ministers denounced the The “Old School” Unitarians, as they sermon, and pronounced its doctrines deiscalled themselves, pronounced this theory tical; but they carefully avoided the quesinfidelity, for it struck at the foundation tion, whether its author was recognised by of the only reasoning by which they proved them as a Christian minister. Others of the truth of Christianity. The controversy them preached and wrote in his defence. was protracted, and somewhat bitter; but His ecclesiastical relations still remain no attempt was made by the “ Old School" undisturbed. Some of his Unitarian neighto separate themselves from those whom bours have recognised his ministerial charthey denounced as infidels.

acter by exchanging pulpits with him on The charge of Pantheism is brought the Sabbath ; and he has, in his turn, against the Transcendentalists generally, preached the weekly lecture maintained by their Unitarian opponents; and, in fact, by the Unitarian clergy of the Boston Assome of their publications are evidently sociation. It is understood, therefore, that Pantheistic, while others are ambiguous the public avowal of doctrines like his, in that respect. Some of them have bor- forms no obstacle to a regular standing in rowed largely from Benjamin Constant, the Unitarian ministry. and maintain that all religions, from Feti- Why was not this defection arrested in chism to the most perfect form of Christi- its progress by ecclesiastical authority? anity, are essentially of the same nature, The answer is easy. being only developments, more or less per- In Connecticut, where one or two minfect, of the religious sentiment which is isters became Unitarian while the comcommon to all men. According to them, munity remained orthodox, it was done. all men who have any religious thoughts Those Unitarian ministers were removed or feelings are so far inspired; Moses, from their places, and the progress

of error Minos, and Numa, and a few others, had was arrested. In Massachusetts, the dean unusual degree of inspiration; and Jesus fection was carried on by a different proof Nazareth most of all. They do not cess. Men did not fall, one at a time, from believe, however, that even Jesus was so orthodoxy into open Unitarianism, but alinspired as to be in all cases an infallible most the whole community in the eastern teacher; and they declare themselves by part of the state sunk down gradually and no means sure that we shall not yet see together. For a long time there was no his superior. They reject Christ as a me- proof by which any one could be convicted diator in every sense of the term, and de- of heresy; and when proof was obtained, clare that, in order to be true Christians, the heretics were found to be the majority we must hold intercourse with God as in the ecclesiastical bodies to which they Christ himself did, without a mediator. belonged, and of course, if any process had

These impious doctrines have been pro- been commenced, would have decided all mulgated in periodicals and otherwise, questions in their own favour. from time to time, with increasing boldness. The friends and abettors of the CongreIn the spring of the year 1841, they were gational independence of individual churchput forth without disguise and without re- es maintain that it has been the means serve in a sermon at an ordination at South of saving New-England from universal Boston. Several of the leading Unitarian apostacy. Had the Synod in 1662, they clergy of the “ Old School” were present, say, instead of being merely advisory, and took part in the services. It is said possessed jurisdiction over the churches, that some of them, in performing their parts, it would have imposed the half-way coveuttered sentiments at variance with those nant upon them all. As it was only adof the preacher, from which attentive hear- visory, a considerable number of churches ers might infer that the sermon did not rejected its advice, and adhered to the meet their approbation ; but there was no ancient practice of the Pilgrims.* So, half explicit condemnation of the sermon either * Many readers, however, will be of opinion that,

[ocr errors]

a

*

a century later, had there been an eccle- tians is of purely American origin. They siastical government to which all the are more generally called in the United churches owed obediênce, Stoddard's doc- States Christ-ians, the i in the first syllable trine of admitting the unregenerate to full being pronounced long, though this procommunion would have been enforced nunciation, I need hardly say, is rejected upon all; for numbers and influence were by themselves. in its favour. And when Edwards, after Dating their rise from about the year . the great revival of 1740, reproclaimed the 1803, they appeared, it seems, in Newancient doctrine concerning church mem- England, Ohio, and Kentucky, some say , bership, had there been an ecclesiastical | also in the South, nearly about the same tribunal having authority over all the time. They boast of having no founderchurches, he and his Reformation would no Luther or Calvin, no Whitefield or Weshave been put down at once, and the ad- ley—that can claim any special influence mission of the unregenerate to the Lord's among them. They are the largest notable would have been required of all. And, creed sect in America, and had their origin finally, consider, they still farther say, the in the dissatisfaction that existed in some state of things in 1815, when conclusive minds with what they called the "bondage proof was first obtained of the existence of creeds," and still more, with the bondof Unitarianism among the Congregational age of discipline that prevails, as they inclergy in Eastern Massachusetts. The sist, in all other churches. This may be Unitarians had the majority in the ec- easily accounted for. Many of the most clesiastical bodies of which they were active promoters of the new sect had been. members. Had these bodies possessed ju- excluded from other communions because risdiction over all churches within their of their denial of some important doctrine, bounds, they might have established Uni- or their refusal to submit to discipline and tarianism in them all, and might have for-government. bidden all efforts for the revival or preser- The Christ-ians, according to some of vation of orthodoxy. If there had been a their leading authorities, had a threefold. body representing all the churches in the origin. The first members of their sociestate, and having authority over all, the ties, or churches, in New-England, were majority would have been orthodox; but originally members of the Regular Bapthe Unitarians were numerous and power- tist connexion; in the West they had been ful enough to have thrown off its jurisdic- Presbyterians, and in the South Methotion, and to have subsisted by themselves, dists. Their churches have all along been as they now do. If the civil government constituted on the following principles : had been invested with power to enforce “The Scriptures are taken to be the only religious uniformity, it could have prevent- rule of faith and practice, each individual ed such a result; but it would not have being at liberty to determine for himself, done it; for the most important powers of in relation to these matters, what they enthe civil government were then, and, with join ; no member is subject to the loss of few exceptions, have been ever since, church fellowship on account of his sinwielded by Unitarian hands.

cere and conscientious belief, so long as In all these instances, the independence he manifestly lives a pious and devout of the churches, its friends firmly believe, life ; no member is subject to discipline secured to the most orthodox the privi- and church censure but for disorderly and lege of adhering to the whole truth, both immoral conduct; the name Christian to in doctrine and practice, and of exerting be adopted, to be exclusive of all sectarian. themselves in its defence and for its diffu- names, as the most appropriate designasion. This privilege there have always tion of the body and its members; the only been some to claim and to use. Error, condition or test of admission, as a memtherefore, has always been held in check ber of a church, is a personal profession. till truth could rally its forces and regain of the Christian religion, accompanied its ascendency.

with satisfactory evidence of sincerity and piety, and a determination to live according

to the divine rule or the Gospel of Christ ; CHAPTER IV.

each church is considered an independent

body, possessing exclusive authority to THE CHRIST-IAN CONNEXION.

regulate and govern its own affairs."* The body that assumes the title of Chris- Although their founders continued to but for the isolation of ministers and congregations least, of the peculiarities of the various

cleave more or less closely to some, at under the Congregational system, error must have been much sooner discovered, and checked in its be bodies in which they had been brought up, ginnings. The same remark applies to the apostacy a process of assimilation to each other of many nominally, Presbyterian ministers and con- has been gradually going on, and has at gregations in England. These never were Presby. terians in fact. Error thus had leave to work its way * See an “Account of the Christian Connexion, unchecked by the oversight either of bishop or pres- or Christ-ians,” by the Rev. Joshua V. Himes, in the bytery.

Encyclopædia of Religious Knowledge.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

length brought them to a considerable de- 1 1841 there were in the United States and gree of uniformity on most points of doc- Canada forty-one conferences, embracing, trine. Trinitarians for the most part at the it was estimated, 593 ministers, 591 churchoutset, they have now almost unanimously es, and about 30,000 members. The poprejected the doctrine of the Trinity as un- ulation supposed to be under their influscriptural; and although they refuse to be ence is estimated at 300,000, which is mantied down to a creed, the following may be ifestly too high, for many of their conconsidered as a fair outline of the doctrines gregations are very small, particularly in that prevail among them: “ There is one the West. living and true God, the Father Almighty, Generally speaking, their ministers are who is unoriginated, independent, and eter- men of little education, but a laudable denal, the Creator and Supporter of all sire for improvement in this respect has worlds; and that this God is one spiritual been showing itself. The State of Indiana intelligence, one infinite mind, ever the granted them a charter some years ago same, never varying : that this God is the for a college at New Albany, but whether moral Governor of the world, the absolute it has taken effect I know not. They have source of all the blessings of nature, prov- no theological seminaries. For some years idence, and grace, in whose infinite wis- past they have had a religious journal calldom, goodness, mercy, benevolence, and ed “ The Christian Palladium,” published love, have originated all his moral dispen- in the State of New York, and two other sations to man: that all men sin and come journals, one published in New Hampshire, short of the glory of God, and, consequent- the other in Illinois. They have a Book ly, fall under the curse of the law : that Association also. Upon the whole, much Christ is the Son of God, the promised Mes- inferior as the Christians are to the Unitasiah, and Saviour of the world, the Mediator rians in point of wealth, the size of their between God and man, by whom God has churches, the learning and eloquence of revealed his will to mankind; by whose their ministers, and the rank and respectsufferings, death, and resurrection, a way ability of their members, yet being far more has been provided by which sinners may numerous, and having doctrines of quite as obtain salvation-may lay hold on eternal elevated a character, their influence upon life; that he is appointed of God to raise the masses, whlie kindred in nature, is perthe dead, and judge the world at the last haps greater in extent. day: that the Holy Spirit is the power and energy of God—that holy influence of God by whose agency, in the use of means, the wicked are regenerated, converted, and

CHAPTER V. recovered to a virtuous and holy life, sanctified and made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light; and that, by the same In our chapter on the Unitarians we exSpirit, the saints, in the use of means, are pressed our views of the moral influence comforted, strengthened, and led in the path of the doctrines of the Universalists. The of duty: the free forgiveness of sins, flow- latter were little known as a sect in Amering from the rich mercy of God, through ica until about the middle of the last centhe labours, sufferings, and blood of our tury, when a few persons of reputation. Lord Jesus Christ : the necessity of re- partially or wholly embraced their docpentance towards God, and faith towards trines. These were afterward preached our Lord Jesus Christ : the absolute ne- by the Rev. John Murray, who came from cessity of holiness of heart and rectitude England in 1770, and were embraced by of life to enjoy the favour and approbation the Rev. Elhanan Winchester, a Baptist of God: the doctrine of a future state of minister of considerable talent. Both Mur-immortality: the doctrine of a righteous ray and Winchester held the doctrine of retribution, in which God will render to restoration, that is, that after the resurrecevery man according to the deeds done in tion and the judgment, the wicked, after the body : the baptism of believers by im- suffering in hell for a time, and in a measmersion : and the open communion at the ure proportioned to their guilt, will eventLord's table of Christians of every denom- ually be recovered through the influences ination having a good standing in their re- of the Spirit, and saved by the atonement spective churches."*

of Christ. About the year 1790, the Rev. Although each church is wholly inde- Hosea Ballou appeared as a Universalist pendent of all others in the management preacher, and taught that all punishment of its affairs, yet, for the promotion of their is in this life, and, consequently, that the mutual prosperity, they have associations souls of the righteous and the wicked alike called “ State Conferences," composed of pass immediately at death into a state of delegates from the clergy and the church- happiness—a doctrine which, being much es, but with only advisory powers. In more acceptable to the unrenewed heart,

“ Account of the Christian Connexion, or became much more popular than that of Christ-ians,” by the Rev. Joshua V. Himes, as above. restoration as above described. The res

THE UNIVERSALISTS.

a

# See

SWEDENBORGIANS AND TUNKERS.

[ocr errors]

torationist preachers in the United States and all haters of evangelical religion. hardly exceed twelve or fifteen in number, Their preaching positively exercises no

and their churches are even fewer; where- reforming influence on the wicked, and, as the Universalists, properly so called, what worse can be said of it ?* have rapidly increased here within the - last forty years. In 1801 there were but twenty-two avowed Universalist preachers ; they now state their numbers to be

CHAPTER VI. as follows: a General Convention, twelve State Conventions, fifty-nine Associations, .540 preachers, 550 meeting-houses, 875 The New Jerusalem Church, or Swedensocieties, and 600,000 of the population borgians, are not numerous in America. under their influence. The last item, we Their doctrines were first propagated here, suspect, is much too high. Their congre- I believe, by some missionaries from Enggations are mostly small, and many attend land. Their churches, which are small, are from mere curiosity.

about thirty or forty in number, and isoThe doctrines of the American Univer- lated members of the sect are to be found salists are well expressed in three articles in various parts of the country. They adopted as a “ Profession of Belief” by the have about thirty-five ministers, with hardGeneral Convention of Universalists, held ly 10,000 souls under their instruction. in 1803. It is said to be “perfectly sat. Their churches, in point of government, isfactory to the denomination,” and is as are, in the main, independent, with consulfollows:

tative conventions of their ministers, held 1. “ We believe that the Holy Scrip- from time to time. Their doctrines, which, tures of the Old and New Testaments the reader must be aware, are of Swedish contain a revelation of the character of origin, and have for their author Baron God, and of the duty, interest, and final Emanuel Swedenborg, are a strange" amal. destination of mankind.

gamation," as some one has justly re2. “We believe that there is one God, marked, “of Sabellianism, the errors of the whose nature is love ; revealed in one Patripassians, many of the anti-scriptural Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of notions of the Socinians, and some of the grace, who will finally restore the whole most extravagant vagaries of mysticism. world of mankind to holiness and happi- | Their mode of interpreting Scripture is to

tally at variance with every principle of 3. “We believe that holiness and true sound philology and exegesis, and neceshappiness are inseparably connected; and sarily tends to unsettle the mind, and leave that believers ought to be careful to main- it a prey to the wildest whimsies that it is tain order and practise good works; for possible for the human mind to create or these things are good and profitable unto entertain.” They practise both Baptism

and the Lord's Supper.t They have two Although their churches are all several or three periodicals, in which their docly independent of each other, yet for con- trines are expounded and defended. sultation they have local associations, Tunkers.-The Tunkers, or Dunkers, are, State Conventions, and a General Con- on the other hand, a sect of German ori. vention. They have begun of late years gin.' They are Seventh-day Baptist Unito pay some attention to education, and versalists. They are Restorationists, and have now what they call a university in teach that men may do works of supererothe State of Vermont, and three or four gation : on this latter point, as well as on inferior institutions. Most of their preachers, though men of little learning, by di- * On the opening of a Universalist place of worrecting all their thoughts to one point, and ship in any of our cities and villages, it is flocked to mustering every plausible argument in chiefly by low, idle, and vicious persons. Curiosity

sometimes attracts others of a better description for favour of their doctrines, become wonder- a time; but it is a remarkable fact, established by fully skilful in wielding their sophistry, the testimony of Universalists on becoming conso as readily to seduce such as want to verted to the Truth, that few can, however desirous, find an easier way to heaven than can be ever bring themselves to believe the doctrine of uni

versal salvation. Most are like the New England found in the Scriptures, when these are farmer who, at the close of a Universalist service, not tortured and perverted to serve some thanked the preacher for his sermon, saying that he particular end. They say that they have vastly liked his doctrine, and would give him five no fewer than twenty newspapers, advoca- dollars if he would only prove it to be true! ting their doctrines in different parts of ing faster in America than anywhere else at present,

† The Swedenborgians say that they are increas. the country.

this be so, their increase throughout the world The only Universalists whose preaching must be slow indeed. The late Judge Young, of seems to have any moral influence, are the Greensburg, in Pennsylvania, and a few other men handful of Restorationists—the rest are

of some influence, have been reckoned among their

converts. In some instances men who have grown heard with delight chiefly by the irreligious, tired of the coldness of Unitarianism, have betaken the profane, Sabbath-breakers, drunkards, 'themselves to Swedenborgianism.

ness.

men."

« PrejšnjaNaprej »