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But Unitarians are not in the habit of preaching and defending their peculiar sentiments plainly, in Orthodox pulpits. Indeed, they disclaim the idea of having any particular system of truths, in which they agree. Their chief bond of union seems to be, a disbelief of the doctrines of Orthodoxy. But these they would not attack in an Orthodox pulpit. Their policy would rather be, to differ as little as possible, in their preaching, from the Orthodox. Hence those ignorant of the subject could not in this way obtain a correct view of Unitarianism; but would conclude that it differs much less than it does from Orthodoxy. Besides, every other denomination has as good a right as Unitarians, to have their preachers heard occasionally. So that the Orthodox clergyman must one Sabbath introduce, as a minister of Christ, a Universalist; the next Sabbath a Quaker; the next a Swedenborgian ; and so on, through all the countless sects tliat fill the world. And as the Deists have no preachers, we should suppose it right that a Sabbath should be occasionally devoted to reading from the pulpit an essay of Herbert, or Hume, or of Thomas Paine.
To such extravagancies does the principle lead, which would demand that men ought to hear from the same pulpit, opposite and various religious opinions defended. It would be building Babel, rather than the kingdom of Christ. Were men to wait till they had heard all the clashing religious sentiments in the world explained and defended, before forming their own, they would wait, till the judgment overtook them, as sceptical as ever. But, thank God, we have an infallible standard of truth in our hands, and it is not a difficult matter for the sincere and humble inquirer to determine from this, what are the essential truths of religion. For a minister, therefore, to attempt to enlighten his people on controverted points by introducing men of opposite sentiments into his pulpit, while the Bible is in their hands, would be to send them in pursuit of a dancing meteor, while the sun shone upon them from the zenith.
Another argument in favor of exchanges, is, that thereby Unitarians would hear the true Gospel preached, which otherwise they would probably never hear. And if the Orthodox feel it to be a duty to make great efforts to send the Gospel to the heathen, surely they ought to be willing to make some sacrifices to bring it before their own countrymen, whom they conceive to be in dangerous error. It is the minister's duty to preach the Gospel to every creature; and how can he excuse himself, if he suffers so fine an opportunity of fulfilling this command, as exchanges present, to pass away unimproved ?
What good can be expected from the most powerful medicine the physician can give, if he mix with it some other substance, by which it is entirely neutralized; or if it meet with something in the stomach of the patient that renders it inoperative? And of what use is it to preach the Gospel, under such circumstances, that there is no probability it will produce a saving effect? By the very act of exchange, the Orthodox minister practically and publicly testifies, that there is no essential difference between him and Unitarians. But the Unitarian society, to which he preaches, have already manifested their preference for the Unitarian system, by settling over them a minister of that character. Is there any prospect, then, that they will receive the doctrines of the Gospel, however faithfully they are preached, when the preacher himself has virtually told them that they are safe without such a belief?
But further; it would be considered a breach of civility for the Orthodox minister, in such cases, to preach his plainest and most discriminating sermons: and should he do this, his Unitarian hearers would regard it as the mere ebullition of sectarian zeal, and regard his efforts with contempt. Accordingly, we believe, that almost without an exception, Orthodox ministers, who make such exchanges, are not in the habit of selecting for Unitarian congregations, those sermons which exbibit most clearly the doctrines of the Reformation, and which have produced the deepest effect upon their own people. And they do this on the principle, that such sermons will probably do no good, because they will excite only enmity or contempt. They select, therefore, sermons which come nearest to the more serious discourses of Unitarians. And hence another unhappy effect is produced upon the Unitarian congregation. They are led to the conclusion that there cannot be any important difference between the two systems, since they cannot perceive it in the preaching.
Effects of a similar character are also realized upon the Orthodox minister's own congregation and church. The sermons which he preaches abroad, he will preach at home; and as exchanges multiply, sermons of this character must be multiplied. The inevitable effect will be to lower the general standard of his pulpit efforts; and in the place of that bold, frank, and earnest exhibition of truth, by which men are converted, there will be substituted those tame, ethical, unimpressive essays, which send a death-chill into the soul of devoted piety, and thus pave the way for the most fatal errors. Accordingly, it is not, in general, to such churches, that we look for bright examples of Christian character, and for great sacrifices in the cause of Christ. And although such churches ușually remain professedly Orthodox, so long as their minister does; yet upon his decease, or removal, the fruit of his timeserving policy appears, in the total defection of his people 10 Unitarianism, or in the banishment from their funds, and their house of worship, of a despised minority of Orthodox Christians. · Indeed, the most decided Unitarian philippics against the doctrines
of grace, delivered weekly in an Orthodox pulpit, would not be half as likely to produce such disastrous results, as sermons of the negative character above described, whether coming fron Unitarians or Orthodox.
But suppose the Orthodox minister who makes these exchanges, should continue, as plainly as ever, to exhibit the doctrines of the Bible, and endeavor to impress them upon the irreligious part of his audience. Will they receive these doctrines ? Suppose, for instance, he should urge the necessity of regeneration in order to be admitted to heaven. Would not his impenitent hearers be apt to reason in this way: 'Do you say that a change of heart is necessary to our salvation ? But last Sabbath you sent a man to preach to us, who believes nothing of this doctrine, in any such sense as you explain it. And surely, you would not send any one to preach to us, who denied any truth inconsistent with salvation, For you have frequently told us, that the object of your preaching was, to save our souls; and we suppose you hold to this intention when you preach by a substitute, as well as when you supply the pulpit yourself. Certainly we cannot believe you would send a substitute, whose preaching, if believed, would destroy our souls. When you place a minister in your pulpit, we understand you as recommending him to us as a spiritual guide, whose directions it is safe to follow, in regard to things essential, although perhaps you may not agree with him in regard to every minor point of doctrine. In regard to a change of heart, we feel as safe without it, as he is, whose preaching you recommended to us the last Sabbath ; and after exchanging with such a man, you must surely be inconsistent or insincere, to press this doctrine upon us in such an indiscrimipate manner.'
Does the Orthodox advocate for exchanges still inquire, how a refusal is consistent with the imperative command to preach the Gospel to every creature? We answer by inquiring, whether there is any command in the Bible to preach against the Gospel, as well as in its defence? Now a man may preach by his conduct, as well as by his words; and indeed, men always consider the language of actions to be more eloquent and impressive than the language of the lips. Of what use, then, will it be, if the Orthodox minister preaches the Gospel ever so eloquently with his lips, provided his conduct conveys the impression, that none of its doctrines are essential ? And such is the natural and just inference which men draw from the pulpit exchanges of an Orthodox minister with Unitarians.
Suppose, however, that the Orthodox minister, in complying with a request of his people to exchange with Unitarians, declare publicly, that he does it merely tu gratify them, and that he does not regard the exchange as an act of fellowship.
If any minister is willing to descend so much below the dignity of his sacred office as to play such a farce as this, the principles we have endeavored to support will not forbid him ; though expe
diency and Christian integrity would utter a warning voice against it. And he must remember, too, that his declaration, that he does. not regard exchanges as an act of fellowship, must be sounded beyond the limits of his own parish, even as widely as Unitarianism has spread; otherwise his example will be quoted in support of the propriety of exchanges. But after such a declaration, we do not believe, that any Unitarian would consent to an exchange. There would be no reason why he should wish it, and motives of delicacy and self-respect would forbid it.
But in nearly all Unitarian societies, and in some Unitarian churches, are found individuals who are Evangelical in their faith. Ought not the Orthodox minister to consent to exchanges, that he may establish and edify these by the truth?
It is indeed important that these individuals should occasionally hear faithful preaching; and if the Orthodox minister is invited to preach in a Unitarian pulpit, it is not an expression of fellowship for him to comply, provided he does not reciprocate the invitation. Or if no such opportunity offers to address these Evangelical members of Unitarian societies, let them occasionally assemble
during the week for religious instruction; and let this Orthodox · minister go and preach the truth to them. But let him not, for the sake of edifying a few individuals, bear public testimony in favor of essential error by exchanging with its advocates, and thus jeopardize the interests of the whole church of Christ on earth. For no man, however obscure, can tell how far the mischief may extend, when, to advance the interests of individuals, he violates a general rule of duty.
But though some unpleasant effects result from exchanges with Unitarians, yet their advocates would have us believe, that consequences still more terrific follow a refusal. It tends to confirm Unitarians themselves in their errors, and to drive them still farther astray. It produces a prejudice against Orthodox ministers, and the truths they deliver. It leads the neutral and the wavering to embrace errors, and prevents the truth, in almost every instance, from taking effect. Bitterness and alienations spring up among families and individuals. New parishes are formed, too weak to support the Gospel, and existing societies are broken down. But were the Orthodox minister only to consent to occasional exchanges, all these painful results might be avoided, and families and societies remain united, harmonious, and happy.
What, we ask, are that union and harmony worth, which are purchased by sacrificing the Gospel, and sacrificing the soul ? And such is the price that must be paid for peace and union, in his opinion, who believes the Unitarian essentially erroneous. The Unitarian will not consent to union, unless the Orthodox minister publicly testifies, by an exchange, that there is no essential difference of opinion between them; that is, unless he yield the point,
that any of the peculiarities of the Gospel are essential. Had Christ and his apostles consented to give up these peculiarities to the prejudices of the Jews and the heathen, none of those terrible and bloody contentions and divisions, whose history is contained in the Acts of the apostles, would have taken place. But highly as they valued peace and union, they regarded the truths of the Gospel as of still greater value; and when the former could be purchased only by a sacrifice of the latter, they did not hesitate to draw the line of separation, fearful as were the consequences impending over them. And since the value of the truths of the Gospel has not diminished, when a like alternative presents itself, we are bound to follow their example.
We do not doubt but the anticipated consequences of a refusal, have operated more powerfully upon the minds of Christians in favor of exchanges, than every other consideration. But what is the Christian minister's rule of duty ? Is he to regulate his conduct by a calculation of consequences, or by the revealed will of heaven? . Duties are his; events are God's. We ought, indeed, to have an eye upon the consequences of our conduct; because these are, in some cases, the only means of ascertaining the will of God. But whenever we can find principles in the word of God to direct us, it is very unsafe to suffer apprehended consequences to influence us. For though we may determine, with some degree of certainty, the immediate effects of our actions, we cannot, probably in a single case, look forward to all the ultimate effects. Besides, in the case under consideration, the Orthodox minister is peculiarly in danger of shrinking from duty, if he think too much of the consequences of a refusal to exchange with Unitarians. For in many cases that refusal will bring along with it some of the worst evils he can experience in this world ;--such as a defection of friends, loss of popularity, reputation, and temporal support; and raise round him a storm of opposition and contention. In this case, therefore, where the revealed will of God is so plain, com manding him to refuse every act of Christian fellowship to all who deny any essential truth of the Gospel, why should he ever stop to inquire about consequences ?. If he is faithful to his duty, God will take care of the consequences, and will take care of him.
But are not some of these consequences so dreadful, as to lead us to suppose we have mistaken the will of God in this matter. In some instances, for example, a refusal to exchange will actually convert an Orthodox into a Unitarian society. A majority of the people of the society are, perhaps, in favor of such exchanges; and they insist upon it, as their right, that they should occasionally hear Unitarian ministers. If their Orthodox pastor consent, they will remain peaceable and friendly under his ministrations. But if he refuse, they will forsake him, obtain his dismission, and settle over them a Unitarian. By yielding in this one point, he can