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and defend it because it is ours. As “Rational” or Unitarian Christianity, it is greatly to be feared, exists without renovation of heart, we are in great danger of letting this fact blind our eyes to another—that orthodoxy of belief is by no means synonymous with that rectitude of heart “without which no man shall see the Lord.” Holiness, and not orthodoxy merely, is the prerequisite for heaven. Still, sound views, that cannot be condemned; exhibitions of truth, that cannot be gainsayed, supported by arguments that cannot be resisted ; are now, as they ever have been, the appointed moral instruments, by which the Spirit of truth awakens sleeping conscience, startles dormant fear, banishes delusive, bewildering, destructive error, and renovates and sanctifies the soul.
Entertaining such sentiments in regard to the importance and the clear exhibition of truth, we are happy to offer to our readers the work before us. The volume is handsomely printed, with a fair type, and on good paper. The Sermons contained in it are scarcely the subjects of legitimate criticism, having been all printed previously, in pamphlet form, and the judgment of the public having been long since pronounced upon them. As we have no disposition to call in question the public decision, so we have no disposition merely to echo it. It is not because these Sermons are the sermons of Dr. Beecher that we wish them read, but because they present the views entertained by the Orthodox in New England on various and important points of doctrine and practice, in that light, connexion and proportion, which we deem Scriptural, and therefore true.
The Sermons are nine in number. We will give their titles, that those of our readers, who have not seen the volume, may judge of its contents. The Government of God desirable. The Remedy for Duelling. A Reformation of Morals Practicable and Indispensable. The Building of Waste Places. The Bible a Code of Laws. The Design, Rights and Duties of Lucal Churches. The Faith once delivered to the Saints. Resources of the Adversary and Means of their Destruction. The Memory of our Fathers. In a closely printed Appendix, containing fisty pages, is a Reply to the Review which appeared in the Christian Examiner, of the Sermon entitled “The Faith once delivered to the Saints. This Reply, we believe, remains as yet, not only unanswered, but unnoticed. If silence and assent were one, in all cases, we could understand this. To forget a refutation, however, is not to refute its argument. Those who have fears as to the effect of religious controversy, would not lose their time if they should carefully read this Sermon, the Review, and the Reply. If there be such a thing as annihilating an opponent, such annihilation seems to have been the lot of this reviewer. A similar fate attended Mr. Yates, in Glasgow, some years since. Mr. Yates is a clear-headed, intelligent advocate of Unitarianism. When he first went to Glasgow, he had a large audience, embracing many intelligent individuals. His sermons were well received. Unitarianism thus attracting especial attention, Dr. Wardlaw, equally clear-headed and intelligent as his opponent, prepared his Discourses on the Principal Points of the Socinian Controversy. Multitudes flocked to hear them. The discussion was afterwards carried on through the press. The result was, that the congregation of Mr. Yates, convinced of the error of his doctrine, withdrew; and his support thus failing, he was obliged to leave the place. He was subsequently settled, we believe, at Birmingham. This was a discussion of argument, not of authority. Dr. Wardlaw, as a Dissenter and an Independent of the straitest sect, stood alone on Scriptural ground. The kirk of Scotland, and the Presbyterians generally, whether of the Secession or the Relief, have no ecclesiastical connexion with the Doctor. In this instance of theological discussion, no friend of truth can hesitate to admit, that great good was accomplished ; Unitarianism having, as the result, been nearly extinct in Glasgow, till two years since, when an effort was made to revive the congregation; with what success we have not heard. We mention this, in connexion with this Reply, to satisfy well-meaning, but timorous friends, that theological discussion, if properly conducted, though it be denominated controversy, is often of incalculable benefit.
The opponents of evangelical religion wish nothing more, than that its advocates would promise, agreeably to the rational and liberal Geneva formula of subscription, not to preach upon the divinity of Christ, or the original and entire corruption of the human heart, or the gracious influences and purposes of the Father of our spirits; promise, in short, not to oppose any of their sentiments; and they most rationally expect, that their present opponents will soon be as rational as they, or at least make way for a generation who will become so.* In this anticipation we agree with them. It is only by open, full, and fearless discussion, that the cause of truth has ever advanced, or ever will advance. Peter and Paul were not afraid nor ashamed to tell all they believed, and why they believed it. They did not wait till men were ready to receive, and willing to obey the truth. They anticipated “ the march of mind,” and revealed truths, beyond the unassisted reason of the Stagyrite to discover, beyond the conception of Plato to comprehend. While we tread in the footsteps of the apostles, we need not fear the result. Such are our views of religious discussion. Such is the practice of Dr. Beecher. The attempt to prove him an anticalvinist has recoiled, and we confidently expect it will never be repeated.
* In the canton of Geneva in Switzerland, where the majority of the Company of Pastors is at present Unitarian, every member, and every candidate for ordination, is compelled, by that liberal body, to subscribe to a solemn engagement not to preach on the above named doctrines.
The Sermons collected in this volume, have been printed before at different times, beginning as far back as 1806, a period when some of those, who imagine and assert, that he does not understand, or misrepresents Calvinism, were probably conning the mysteries of Webster's spelling book. Four of these nine Sermons, were pubilshed before the Unitarian controversy was known in this country. The intelligent reader will be able to judge by these, how much confidence is to be placed in those random assertions, often made, that the modifications of modern Orthodoxy, are owing to rational Christianity. In this view, we might also recommend to those Unitarians who may peruse these pages, the theology of Dr. Dwight. This whole series of Discourses was probably written and delivered years before most of those, now occupying Unitarian pulpits, began to think. They will find in this system, in addition to its merits as a treatise on theology, the learning and taste of the scholar, the piety of the Christian, the good sense of the well bred gentleman, the enlarged views of a truly rational and philosophical mind, and the eloquence of a highly finished orator. His views of evangelical religion, drawn out in detail, will be found to coincide, in all essential particulars, with the epitome presented in the Worcester Sermon of Dr. Beecher.
We have one remark to make, which we trust our Unitarian readers will feel to be just. If they desire to know what Orthodoxy is, they should bear in mind that it is what the Orthodox believe, and not what others say they believe. In order to know what they really believe, their own writings must be consulted, or their preaching must be attended. We profess not to speak for others, and whenever we examine the opinions of those who may differ from us, we wish to express those opinions, as far as possible, in their own words. And we must claim the right, which we thus concede to others, of expressing our own opinions in our own language. This is but even-handed justice, and cannot be thought unreasonable. An opinion may be stated by an opponent, with so slight a diversity of expression or shade of coloring, as, after all, wholly to misrepresent it. This, men of the legal profession, and others accustomed to examine their thoughts and expressions, know full well. Every advantage which is taken of an opponent in this way, is not honorably and justly acquired. We are far from saying, that the Orthodox are not sometimes in fault here, as well as others. This fault is too general, and deserves to be held up to reprehension by all fair inquirers after truth. It is not always intentional. It is often unknown by the individual who commits it. But ignorance of law is no excuse for misconduct; so ignorance of the sentiments of another, when definitely expressed, is no excuse for misstatement. Those who assert, should know what they assert, especially when the means of knowledge are within their reach. The Orthodox are persuaded, that hitherto
their views have been distorted and discolored, by Unitarian representation. Entertaining this persuasion, we are resolved to speak for ourselves, through the Spirit of the Pilgrims. Through this organ, we can direct those, who are disposed to examine for themselves, and not rest on the authority of any man, or the representations of any party, to those authors and sources of information which the Orthodox generally approve. Of this character, we think, are the Sermons now before us.
Without attempting to decide as to the relative value of these Sermons, we would particularly recommend to Unitarians, the first, fifth, sixth, and seventh, with the Appendix, and the eighth and ninth. We would not, indeed, have any one receive his religious opinions on trust, from any human authority. We would say to the inquirer after truth, First of all, study your Bible ; study it on your knees, praying the Father of lights to instruct and guide you. Aşcertain, for yourself, what are the truths there revealed, what phenomena are exhibited, what facts are true. Then you can hear the religious lecturers, or philosophers, if you please so to call them, with profit. You may, for yourself, subject their respective theories to the test of fearless examination. Whether Orthodoxy or Unitarianism best accords with revealed truth, with recorded fact, with daily experience and general observation, it were idle for us to say, as our opinions are so well known. What we wish is, that others would not shrink from the examination, but pursue it fearlessly, yet humbly. "The meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way.” But this inquiry, so far as Orthodoxy is concerned, must be pursued under the direction of Orthodox guides. We claim the right of being heard in our own behalf.
The points in dispute between the Unitarians and the Orthodox in this country are many, some of greater, and others of less importance. On one of these points, which may be considered fundamental, we have already distinctly expressed our opinions, in the fourth number of our Magazine. We refer to the province of reason in matters of religion. We are well aware, that we are said by those whose system is the antipodes of ours, to reject or cast contempt upon reason, that high prerogative of the heavenborn soul, by which it looks abroad over this fair and beauteous: creation, and up through nature's works to nature's God, enthroned in moral rectitude and glory ineffable and eternal. We are not about to repeat what we have already said upon this subject. Sure we are, that none are more desirous than ourselves to understand the real capabilities of reason, unenlightened by revelation, and the proper attitude which reason should assume, when approaching that Word, declared from on high, by Him who is the source and upholder of reason, and to whom we are soon, and each for himself, to render an account for its use, or its perversion. We notice this subject again, thus early, because it is of primary importance.
We have not, however, introduced it for extended discussion in this place, but merely that we may refer the reader to the exhibition of it, in the Sermons before us. See the fourth inference, of the fifth Sermon, p. 150, where Dr. B. has exhibited a condensed, and yet perspicuous view of the merits of this highly important question.
The subject of creeds may be considered of secondary importance. In Massachusetts, however, this is a matter of no slight interest; and, with the Evangelical party, of no slight importance. To rid themselves of all creeds, is, by not a few, “a consummation devoutly,” or undevoutly, “ wished.” To retain them, and bring them, wherever they depart from Scriptural truth, into conformity to the word of God, is an object solicitously desired by those, who in their great views of life and death, of God and his government, of Christ and his kingdom, of time and eternity, of heaven and hell, coincide with the Reformed churches, in the symbols of their faith. We have not yet expressed our views of the necessity, propriety, or utility of creeds. We shall take this occasion to exhibit them in an extract from our author, which will serve as a fair specimen of his style of writing, and illustrate his ability to analyze and simplify whatever is presented for consideration.
“Notwithstanding the torrent of invective poured out against creeds; after the most deliberate attention to the subject, I have not been able to perceive any rational ground of objection against them. There are, in every science, elementary principles, without the knowledge of which it can never be understood. The same is true in theology; for the God who governs the natural world according to stated laws, administers the concerns of his moral government, by the operation of general principles. It is fashionable, I ain aware, to decry system in theology : but why the Most Iligh should be supposed to observe order in the government of the natural world, so as to lay the foundation for demonstration and system in philosophy; and at the same time, be supposed to govern his moral kingdom by laws obscurely revealed, including no general principles, connected by no dependencies, and excluding the possibility of system in theology, is an enigma for those to explain who choose to decry creeds, and to speak contemptuously of system in theology.
What is the precise ground of objection to creeds ? Does the Bible contain no important, elementary principles ? Are these incapable of being understood? Can they by no means be exhibited in a brief, connected form ; or can their meaning be correctly expressed in no other language than the precise terms in which they are revealed; or do the Scriptures prohibit a concise exhibition of revealed truth? How then can the Scriptures be translated, or what right have we to preach the Gospel, or to publish sermons, or commentaries? Or how can Christians communicate to each other verbally, their various opinions concerning the meaning of revelation? It is not the object of creeds to supplant the Bible, but to ascer