Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

search, is the same as to forbid one to crack the shell before he eats the kernel. St. Peter, 2d Epist. chap. vi. ver. 16, suggests, that there is as much danger in being unlearned as learned."

"If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.' Now Unitarians cherish this rule vastly more than their opponents. Their great wish is to adhere to what is plain and simple, and what fools and way-faring men can comprehend; whereas Trinitarians wrap up their doctrines in an unintelligible mystery, which it costs infinite ingenuity and learning to explain and comprehend, and even to place in any satisfactory light."

666

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.' Which party obey this command the most faithfully, those who search the Scriptures independently and prayerfully, with the lights which God has given them, or those who adopt their views from the prescriptions of tyrannical creeds, and follow, like slaves, in the track of human devices ?"

666 ‹ No man knoweth the Son but the Father.' But there are some men who declare that they do know him so well, as to entitle them to condemn all who differ from them."

"Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.' But the Son has absolutely revealed to the world, that the Father is greater than himself, and this is what Unitarians humbly believe, but Trinitarians will not believe."

"Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.' What things? Why will this writer pervert the language of scripture? It is not the first time that he has applied it in a most unwarranted manner. Look at Matthew, chap. xii. verse 25, where this sentence occurs. There is not one word there respecting the Trinity, or any of the topics agitated between Unitarians and their opponents. But the generality of his readers would suppose quite the reverse. Is it right to defend one's opinions in this manner? Besides, even allowing the applicability of the quotation at all, it would go entirely against the Editor. For it can be only the plain and simple and intelligible doctrines of the Divine. Unity which babes and unlearned men can comprehend, whereas it required all the ingenuity and skill and even violence of the scholastic doctors of the third century, to

force the complicated dogma of the Trinity on the church, where it still holds a loose and precarious footing. There is a very respectable share of unlearned men in all our Unitarian churches. Bishop Magee complains that it is our want of learning which prevents us from embracing orthodox views of the atonement. The Wesleyan Journal reproaches us for quite the opposite quality. Between these extremes of censure, we are likely to be kept right.”

Letters from the Rev. R. Wright, to the Unitarians in the North-east District.

LETTER V.

Trowbridge, August 3, 1826.

MY CHRISTIAN BRETHREN,

IN continuing my remarks respecting the treatment of virtuous Unbelievers who may attend or wish to attend on your public religious services, let me remind you, that you are not to be influenced by any worldly motives or considerations whatsoever; you are to act candidly and impartially towards all, what difference soever there may be in their outward condition and circumstances in life. You are not to suffer your conduct towards Unbelievers to be influenced by a regard to what persons of other religious denominations may say of you, nor to depart from the candid and liberal spirit of the gospel to avoid their reproaches or to gain their approbation. There is reason to fear, that churches, in the treatment of their own members as well as of those whose faith has been questioned, have, in some instances, been influenced by a regard to the opinions which others would form of them and their proceedings, rather than to the precepts of Jesus and his example. In every case you should adhere as strictly as possible to the directions of the great Master and his divinely-commissioned apostles, and where you cannot find a specific direction, be careful to act in his spirit, in the kind and benevo lent temper of Christianity, doing every thing in charity, seeking not the praise of men, but the approbation and glory of God.

If Unbelievers choose to attend your places of public worship, you cannot prevent their doing it, nor ought you to prevent them if you had the power. The word of salvation and eternal life held forth among you, is addressed

to them, for it is addressed to all, and it ought to give you pleasure to find them still disposed to hear it. Could you exclude them, your doing it would contribute nothing towards their instruction and conviction; on the contrary, it would be depriving them of the means of instruction and conviction, and surely this cannot be desirable. Their presence in your assemblies neither veils the light of truth, nor weakens its evidences, nor hinders the edification of those who believe. Can you help wishing and praying that they may be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and become real Christians? But if you exclude them from among you, and so far shut them out from the means of being converted to pure and genuine Christianity, are you not counteracting the very thing for which you wish and pray? Our Lord and his apostles excluded none from the assemblies in which they taught publicly, nor from the means of grace and salvation: and what right can you have to do it? Does not the wish to exclude Unbelievers from our public assemblies savour of the leaven of the Pharisees, who said, "Stand by, I am more holy than thou"? Is it not likely to arise from pride, and a dread of the illiberal reflections of the reputed orthodox? I trust, my brethren, there is only one way in which you will endea vour to exclude Unbelievers, that is, by using all possible means to remove their unbelief, and bring them to be Christians.

As you cannot prevent Unbelievers mixing with you in your public assemblies, unless it be by offensive treatment, let me remind you that such treatment would be both dishonourable and injurious. It is an apostolic exhortation, to be gentle towards all men and in meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves. You ought to treat all upright and virtuous persons with respect and kindness, whatever may be their opinions. You have no authority to judge, censure and condemn others for believing either less or more than you do. Their doubts or disbelief cannot justify your withholding from them any of the charities of life, or any part of the respect and friendly treatment to which their integrity and virtue entitle them. → Your acting with Pharisaical austerity and self-righteous contumely towards Unbelievers, or treating them with any sort of contempt, disrespect or unkindness, can only tend to shut their minds against conviction, and disaffect them the more against Christianity. If you wish to bring them

to the knowledge of the truth, you must do all you can to excite their attention, conciliate them, and shew them not only the evidence, but also the benignant influence of the gospel in your own spirit and conduct.

Whether Unbelievers can consistently unite in prayers addressed to God in the name of Christ or not, is their in-quiry, not ours; their presence neither interrupts nor alters the nature and acceptableness of our devotions : it is for them to judge how far they can unite with us; we have no right to judge for them; and to God alone they are accountable. More than a little depends on what is meant by praying in the name of Christ; I suppose it to mean by his authority, or according to his teaching and example, according to the gospel. It is evident we cannot, while our houses of worship are public, prevent Unbelievers uniting with us in the devotional parts of our services, if they choose to do it; uor can I perceive any right we should have to do it, if we had the power, nor any good purpose our doing it could possibly answer. is hardly to be thought they would join in such parts of our services if they found nothing interesting in them. Thus it appears, that we neither can nor ought to prevent Unbelievers attending in our public assemblies, to hear the Scriptures read and the word preached, and to join with us in our devotions which are public, if they think it proper to do so, and their doing it should not trouble, as it cannot harm us; it is a matter between themselves and God, to whom alone they are accountable.

It

But ought we to admit Unbelievers to be members of our churches? This question cannot well be answered without some explanation of the words church and member, (which will be understood differently by different persons,) and also asking some other questions. The word church, in the New Testament, literally means an assembly, or a congregation, and I am not aware that it has any other meaning. All who regularly attend the public services in any given place, must be included in the congregation or assembly meeting in that place; consequently, by regularly attending, they become members of that congregation or church, whatever any of them may believe or disbelieve. By a church, many persons in the present day mean a select part of the congregation, who are separated and distinguished from the congregation at large, by being baptized, or by partaking of the Lord's Supper, or by some

mark of distinction which separates them from the assembly at large, with whom they ordinarily unite in public worship. Of this distinction between the church and the congregation which regularly meet for religious worship and instruction, I can find no trace in the New Testament: those, however, who admit and act upon it, regard as members of the church none but those who have the peculiar mark or badge, whatever it may be, though perhaps hundreds more may be members of the congregation, by regularly filling their places in it, and contributing towards the support of the minister and the other expenses incurred by regularly meeting together and supporting the cause. Hence, to give a definite answer to the above question, it will be proper to inquire,

1. Ought Unbelievers to be admitted to the Lord's Supper? I do not suppose that any Unbeliever would wish to be admitted either to baptism or the Lord's Supper, unless in an established church, where the latter is made a qualification for some place of worldly honour, power or emolument; I know not that such a case either has occurred or is likely to occur among us. The coming to the Lord's Supper is in fact an expression of faith in Christ, and it is uncharitable and unjust to suppose that a virtuous inan who thus expresses his faith is an Unbeliever, when he has no worldly object to gain by it. You have no right as churches to form yourselves into courts of inquisition, and, usurping dominion over the Lord's table, to sit in judgment upon others, and decide whether they be believers or not, before you admit them to his supper. The rule Paul gave is, "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of this bread and drink of this cup"-not examine one another, or let every one be examined by the church. The apostle left each person to decide for himself as to bis own faith and fitness, and so to partake of the Lord's Supper. Instead of requiring a confession of faith of each person before he comes to the Lord's table, you should regard his coming to that table as declaratory of his faith in Christ. Say an Unbeliever should, inconsistently, partake of the Lord's Supper with you-it is he that is accountable to God for his conduct, not you; nor ought yon to play the pope, and usurp dominion, which neither God nor Christ hath given, to prevent it.

2. Ought Unbelievers to be acknowledged as members of our churches? If you use the word church in the sense

« AnteriorContinuar »