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A SERIES OF BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL
& Robert Spens
“ Biography is the most universally pleasant, and most universally
BRITISH AND FOREIGN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION
ESSEX HALL, ESSEX STREET, STRAND, W.C.
The very useful biographical compendium which the late Rev. Robert Spears published, entitled “A RECORD OF UNITARIAN WORTHIES,” has long been out of print. Mr. Spears died before accomplishing his purpose of re-issuing it in a revised and extended form. In hopes of facilitating such a re-issue, one of his colleagues in the compilation of that RECORD has (with the sanction of Mrs. Spears) selected and revised some of the principal memoirs contained in it. These, with the addition of a few supplementary sketches, constitute the present volume.
The philosophical and the Scriptural arguments in support of Unitarianism have been set before the world by very many authors. Moreover, each of the arguments against it has repeatedly been shown-as by Mr. Wilson in his " Trinitarian Concessions"—to have been abandoned as unsound by one or another of the defenders of orthodoxy. But beyond all appeals to argument there is the appeal to experience. Many an inquirer wishes to test the tree by its fruits, and to learn what has been the moral and intellectual calibre of the men whom Unitarianism has produced or has attracted.
The reply might be given in general terms by quoting orthodox theologians. Canon Curteis, in his Bampton Lectures, wrote, “ Can we Churchmen possibly be doing right in retaining our present hostile attitude towards Unitarians ? In personal character many of them represent the highest type of Christian manhood and many a good book of Unitarian authorship has been adopted and widely used by Anglicans.” Dean Plumptre preached before the University of Oxford of “ those Unitarians in whom we find a zeal in all good works, and a bright sympathy which comes nearer than anything else we have seen to the charity which hopeth and endureth all things.” And we are told by Dr. L. W. Bacon (History of American Christianity, p. 227), that
one of the most strenuous of the early American disputants against Unitarianism remarked, in his later
years, concerning devout Unitarians, that it seemed as if the contemplation of Jesus Christ as the example for our imitation had wrought in them an exceptional beauty and Christ-likeness of living.” In more collective terms, the present Bishop of Carlisle, Dr. Diggle, has said (The Churchman for 1899), “The homes of Unitarians, whether rich or poor, are generally homes of singular refinement and of active interest in intellectual movements. Their generosity and charitable benevolence are proverbial.”
A more detailed and more precise reply, however, it is the object of the present volume to give, by describing individual men. In some of these, who were educated in Unitarianism, the reader will see how noble and devout a spirit that education produced. In others, who were educated in Trinitarianism-like Milton, Locke, Newton, Watts, Porson, Paley-he will see by what acute thinkers, even when originally prepossessed against Unitarianism, the arguments in support of it have been pronounced irresistible.
THE APOSTLE OF THE GOTHS.
One of the most learned of living defenders of Trinitarianism, the Rev. Professor Gwatkin, of Cambridge, writes (in his “ Arian Controversy,” p. 6) :“Whatever be the errors of the creed of Arianism, it was a power of life among the Northern nations. Let us give Arianism full honour for its noble work of missions in that
of deep despair which saw the dissolution of the ancient world.” In that high work the noblest worker was the great Arian scholar, Ulfilas, whose name is the brightest in the whole Christian records of the fourth century. Of him Gibbon says (“Decline and Fall," chap. xxxvii.) :“Ulfilas, the bishop and the apostle of the Goths, acquired their love and reverence by his blameless life and indefatigable zeal; and they received with implicit confidence the doctrines of truth and virtue which he preached and practised. He executed the arduous task of translating the Scriptures into their native tongue-a dialect of the German or Teutonic language. (But he prudently suppressed the four Books of the Kings, as they might tend to irritate the fierce and sanguinary spirit of the barbarians.)”