Imágenes de página


independent; the connexion has a yearly conference; they have no creed except the Scriptures; their preachers generally deliver extemporaneous sermons; the majority of the societies abjure the doctrines of the Trinity and of Calvin," --January 7, 1826.

From the paper of the following week it appears, that their preaching is conducted by an elder chosen by themselves. Elder Morgridge was invited to preach for one year.

The dedication sermon was preached by Elder Clough, of New York, and it is characterized

an able defence of Christian liberty.” The sermon is subsequently noticed in the review department. “ We have read this discourse with great pleasure, and can speak of it with unqualified approbation. Mr. Clough shews himself to be an ardent friend and bold asserter of religious liberty. It is delightful to hear the notes of freedom and right poured forth with energy. They need to be sounded at the present time, and in our land, for spiritual tyranny was never more busy in its attempts to inthral the people. We are glad this voice has come from the midst of the people ; we rejoice that the poor have taken to themselves the name of Christians, and disclaimed the authority of the church and its ministers in determining what they shall believe or what name they shall bear." The extracts which follow are interesting, and fully justify the encomiums of the reviewer.

“ We have been liberal of our extracts because we have found nothing that affords so full and favourable a view of the principles of the Christians' as this discourse. The sect is gaining adherents, and it is desirable that we should understand its character. As far as we can judge, its members are simple and avowed Unitarians, the progress of whose opinions amongst the lower classes of the community will do very much towards dispelling ignorance, fanaticism and false religion. Our readers will be able to judge for themselves from the statement which Mr. Clough gives of what he and his friends consider the first principles of the Gospel1. The doctrine of one God. 2. That this one God is the benevolent Father and righteous Governor of the whole human family. 3. That all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. 4. That Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, the Mediator between God and men, and the Saviour of sinners. 5, That God, by his holy spirit, exercises a moral influence


upon the hearts of men in reclaiming them from vice. 6. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 7. The free forgiveness of sins, on the ground of the rich mercy of God. 8. The necessity of repentance towards God. 9. Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. 10. The necessity of holiness of heart and purity of life. 11. The doctrine of a future state of immortality. 12. That God is no respecter of persons, and that he will render to every man according to his works."-Christian Register, February 11, 1826.

This, with the exception perhaps of the 5th article, [though this admits of an explanation which would make it unobjectionable,] is a fair representation of the prevalent opinions amongst English as well as American Unita

The leading article of the number for January 21, is devoted to the American Unitarian Association, for which it pleads with considerable earnestness. Amongst other plans for increasing the revenues of the society, it is suggested that “ladies may give their assistance by making their pastors life members. Such aid will be acknowledged in the Christian Register whenever it is desired." The hint seems to have been taken, for in the Register of February 18, “the Treasurer of the American Unitarian Association acknowledges the receipt of thirty dollars from the ladies of the New South Society to constitute their pastor, the Rev. Alexander Young, a life member."

Surely the fair ones of Great Britain will not be exceeded in zeal and generosity by their Transatlantic sisters! Ten guineas will be a very slight tax on the ladies of our more respectable congregations, and will be as handsome a compliment to a minister as either a gown or a piece of plate, and it will confer a privilege that will cease only with life. The Christian Reformer will

, I trust, be often called on to register the generosity of the Unitarian ladies in this respect.

The advertisements frequently remind one of a very different state of manners and feelings from that to which we are accustomed in England. Thus a theological circulating library and reading-room, as advertised in Boston, would receive but little support in our cities and towns. This scheme is one of the many good effects of the American Unitarian Association. I observe, that amongst other theological attractions, the Monthly Repository and Chris. tian Reformer are specially mentioned. In a subsequent number the librarian inserts an advertisement of inquiry after two numbers of the Repository and three of the Reformer, which were lost sight of. În England, an advertiser would have the privilege of paying more for a single line than the cost price of four numbers of the Repository.

B. [To be continued occasionally.]

Mr. Gilman's Sermon, at Charleston, on John i. 1 & 14.

[We have received from the author, and lay before our readers, the following admirable discourse on a difficult passage of scripture. It was published by the Charleston Unitarian Tract Society, last year. We shall give the explanatory or doctrinal part in this number and the practical in the next. Ed.]

John, chap. i. ver. 1, and part of ver. 14 : In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and

the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.

The leading object of St. John was to trace the Gospel, or the religion of Jesus Christ, to the true cause, viz. the power and wisdom of God. He appears anxious to guard his readers against all suspicion of its earthly or humans origin. And well he might. Because any system of religion, devised by the contrivance and founded on the authority of man alone, could possess no intrinsic claims on the attention, the obedience, and the reverence of the world.

Such, it is allowed on all hands, was the principal object of the words selected for our text, and indeed of the whole introduction to the Gospel of St. John. To the mind of every reader, whatever be his peculiar views and interpretations of it, the passage must certainly appear strikingly sublime and impressive. Unhappily, however, considerable differences exist with respect to its true and precise meaning. If all cannot understand it in the same point of view, mutual charity should be exercised towards the interpretations of different parties, and the reasonings on which they are founded.

One interpretation which has prevailed, and still widely prerails in the Christian world, is, that The Word, of

which St. John speaks in the text, is intended by him as the proper name of a distinct person. Others, who profess also to be Christians, consider The Word to represent a certain quality or property of the Deity, and not a separate or intelligent agent. This latter mode of understanding the text is embraced widely, but not universally, by the class of Christians to whom the regular and accustomed worshipers in this church belong.*

It will be the object of the following discourse, first, To attempt a candid and temperate discussion of some of the principal interpretations which have at various times been given of the text; secondly, To demonstrate, that these differences of interpretation may really agree in all that is of importance to religion ; and, thirdly, To present to you a few of such reflections and lessons as may naturally arise from a consideration of the whole subject.

Grant, oh thou Spirit of Holiness, that these our studies and meditations may be prosecuted at this time with a sincere love of truth, a kind regard for the motives of our fellow-men, and an earnest desire to promote thy glory and our own eternal welfare, through Jesus Christ thy Son.

First, let us attempt a candid and temperate discussion of some of the leading interpretations which have been given of the text. The most prominent is that to which allusion has already been made, viz. that the Word spoken of in the beginning of John, is a separate and intelligent person, infinite in power and wisdom, equal to the Father, distinct from the Father, yet one with the Father, and also one and the same with Him whom the Scriptures call the man Christ Jesus,t whose history is given us in the records of the New Testament. The advocates of this representation, I believe, almost universally allow, that it is on its very face inconsistent with reason; but that it must be believed, although we do not understand it, and although it violates some of the most common forms of language which convey ideas from man to man.

I have not intentionally misrepresented this doctrine. I have borrowed the language used in books and discourses on the side of the question to which it belongs, and indeed

This Sermon was preached in the Second Independent Church, Charleston. + 1 Tim, ii, 5.

I do not fear in the least but that every one of my hearers at all conversant with the subject, will have recognized the statement to have been full, fair and exact.

Let us now listen with due attention to the principal considerations used in defence of it. For it must be acknowledged that they are such as ought to possess great weight with those who profess to be guided by the Scriptures.

The strongest argument then, is this: Look, say the advocates of this doctrine, at the plain language of the first verse in John. What can be clearer, what can be more explicit, than the naked statement itself in the very terms of Scripture? The Word was God. How, they ask, can any, who pretend to receive the Bible, after this, deny the possession both of deity and personality to what John calls the Word ?

You see that I have stated the argument in its very strongest light, and I do not wonder that its advocates confidently bring it forward, and charge us home with its whole force. But, after allowing and stating all this, I think I may humbly claim to be heard with equal attention and equal deference on the other side.

I hold it then to be a right rule of Scripture criticism, when a text occurs, which in its literal sense contradicts our understanding, to search and examine as diligently as we possibly can, for some moaning which may satisfy our reason, and still be consistent with the rest of the Bible. If two meanings are assigned to any scriptural passage, one mysterious and another clear, I wish to know by what law of God or man i am required to adopt the mysterious in preference to the clear. The Roman Catholic asks us, what can be more plain and explicit than the assertion of Jesus, This bread is my body. Now, if I am to take every expression in its first and literal sense, I know not how I can escape admitting that the bread which Jesus brake, was literally and truly his own body. But, on a moment's reflection, I perceive that that could not be the meaning of Scripture. Why not? Because, as my respected oppopents, who are Protestants, will themselves say, it violates the plainest dictates of the understanding. Exactly so! Here then they have stepped over on my own ground. When we look at the sentence, The Word was with God, and the Word was God, who is not ready to pronounce that this is an absolute contradiction, or at least a plain

« AnteriorContinuar »