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INTRODUCTORY. THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF THE
CONTROVERSY WITH UNITARIANS.
BY THE REV. FIELDING OULD.
FOR THE JEWS REQUIRE A SIGN, AND THE GREEKS SEEK AFTER WISDOM : BUT WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED, UNTO THE JEWS A STUMBLINGBLOCK, AND UNTO THE GREEKS FOOLISHNESS; BUT UNTO THEM WHICH ARE CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS, CHRIST THE POWER OF GOD, AND THE WISDOM OF GOD."--1 Cor. i. 22. 23. 24.
Never have I ascended this pulpit, brethren, to address you on the great themes connected with your everlasting peace, with feelings of deeper solemnity or more reverential awe, than at present. It is always under a weighty impression of the responsibility of my office that I apply myself to deliver to you the message of eternal life; how greatly is that impression increased under our present circumstances, when I am called, in the discharge of painful but necessary duty, not merely to propound to you the truths of the everlasting Gospel, but further to contrast those truths with certain perversions which pass current among many of our countrymen for Gospel, but which are, in effect, “another Gospel, and yet not another.”*
And who, it may be asked, has imposed this duty ? And whence has arisen this necessity? The Duty has been im
• Gal. i. 6, 7.
posed upon me, under my Lord and Saviour, by the Church of which I am unworthily a Minister, when, on the day of ordination, she required from me this solemn pledge,—“to be ready, with all diligence, to banish and drive away all false doctrine, contrary to God's Word, God being my helper.” And the NECESSITY is to be found in the conviction that the Ministers of an Established Church are bound to labour, not only for the edification and confirmation in the faith of those who voluntarily attend her ministrations, but also for the instruction and conversion of those “who are without," and who withdraw themselves, from whatever motives, from her pale. For the fulfilment of our obligations to our own members, the ordinary performance of our stated services is considered to suffice :-for the payment of our debt of missionary solicitude to those who are not only estranged from our worship, but also from the principles and doctrines of our holy religion, some such extraordinary effort as the present seems to be imperatively called for.
Of all the various classes of Dissenters from the National communion, there is none with whom our ground of difference is so wide, or whom we regard with feelings of such unfeigned interest and concern, as the class which assumes to itself the distinctive title of UNITARIAN. From our hearts we pity these men, although we are told (1.) that to feel or to express pity for those who are not themselves impressed with a conviction that they require that pity, is to insult them. But when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ shed his tears of sublime compassion over the Holy City, surely he did not mean to insult it; and yet, as surely, there was but little community of feeling between the holy sympathizer himself and those who were then the objects of his melting pity. The title of Unitarian, it will be observed, is one which we cannot concede has been properly
applied, inasmuch as it seems to take for granted that the doctrine of the Unity of the Godhead is alone held by those who are designated by this term. Admitting, however, as we do, that the term Socinian is not, perhaps, fairly applicable to this class of religionists, and unwilling to give just cause of offence at the outset by the use of it, we are satisfied to employ the name which they have themselves selected, while we enter our protest against the unfairness of its assumption. Neither can we conscientiously recognize as Christians those who deliberately reject the doctrine of the atoning sacrifice; and this, together with the consideration that we occupy a totally different ground from our opponents in this controversy, from believing that the eternal destinies of men are affected by their belief or rejection of certain doctrines,-a notion from which all Unitarians, so far as I can learn, dissent;—this, I say, frequently places us in a position of considerable embarrassment, and exposes us to the charges of bigotry, illiberality, want of Christian courtesy, and of Christian charity.
Before entering, then, on that which is to form the immediate subject of this lecture, I would desire to address a few observations with a view to excuse ourselves from justly incurring these charges.
The principal reason why we have been accused of spiritual pride, bigotry, &c. is, the importance we attach to some of our opinions. The difference between us and Unitarians does not respect merely the circumstantials of religion: it respects nothing less than the rule of faith, the ground of hope, and the object of worship. The question is, whether we Trinitarians are not only superstitious devotees, and deluded dependents on an arm of flesh,* but also habitual idolators; or whether Unitarians be not guilty of refusing to subject their faith to
* Jer. xvii. 5.
the decisions of heaven, of rejecting the only way of salvation, and of sacrilegiously depriving the Son of God of his essential glory. What if Unitarians do not deny our Christianity on account of our supposed idolatry; this only proves, in my opinion, not, as they allege, their charity, but their indifference to religious truth, and the deistical tendency of their opinions. If the proper deity of Christ be a divine truth, it is a great and fundamental truth in Christianity; so great, and so fundamental, that denial of it involves a forfeiture of the name of Christian. Is the honest avowal of this conviction to subject us to the charge of bigotry? I ask what is there of bigotry in our not reckoning Unitarians to be Christians, more than in their reckoning us idolators ? What says Dr. Priestley, the arch-apostle of English Unitarianism, a name to which I shall have frequent occasion to refer in the course of this lecture? Here are his own words. “ All who believe Christ to be a man, and not God, must necessarily think it idolatrous to pay him divine honours; and to call it so is no other than the necessary consequence of avowing our belief.” Nay, he represents it “ as ridiculous that they should be allowed to think Trinitarians idolators, without being permitted to call them so.” (2.) Doubtless if Unitarians have a right to think Trinitarians idolators, they have a right to call them so; and further, if they are able, they have a right to prove them such; nor ought we to consider ourselves as insulted by the attempt. We have no idea of being offended with any man, in matters of this kind, for speaking what he believes to be the truth. Instead of courting compliments from each other, in affairs of such moment, we ought to encourage an unreservedness of expression, provided it be accompanied with sobriety and benevolence. But neither ought Unitarians to complain of our refusing to acknowledge them as Christians,