Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

being born at Bethlehem,) Unitarianism, I say, is obliged to maintain that his coming into the world had not even the merit of a voluntary act; for what greater absurdity can there be than to suppose that a being who had no previous existence should be voluntary in his own birth? Evangelical Christianity, on the other hand, views him as having existed not only previously to his birth, but from eternity; and of course as having come into the world, not merely, as every other human being does, by a decree over which he had no controul, but in obedience to the dictates of his own will; agreeably to the prophetic description which is given of his advent,-" Lo, I come to do thy will O God!" In the one case, he is to be viewed only as an instrument raised up for an important purpose, as was Peter or Paul, and performing his part merely in view of the circumstances in which Providence placed him; in the other case, as a great Agent, deliberately forming his own purpose in the ages of eternity, and, in the fulness of time, voluntarily coming forth for its execution. Paul has a claim upon the gratitude of the church for his labours and sufferings in her behalf; but what a difference between his claim and that of Jesus, when you remember that the former came into the world simply because God ordained it, and became an Apostle only because sovereign grace called and qualified him for it; and that the latter came forth to our help from the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, because he had beheld and pitied our condition from eternity!

And then Evangelical Christianity attributes to Christ a far higher degree of condescension than Unitarianism. In the act of his coming into the world Unitarianism cannot admit that there is any condescension; for condescension implies a voluntary act; and no one will say

that an individual is voluntary in being born. The only condescension which he evinces, upon this scheme, is that of an innocent man submitting to undeserved indignities for the benefit of his fellow men; but, on the Evangelical scheme, his condescension outruns the farthest stretch of human thought. Hear the Apostle's description of it, and say whether it is not so:-" Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Would you think it a condescending act for an earthly monarch to stoop to the wants of a wretched beggar? What was it then for the King of Heaven to exchange a throne for a cross, that he might save a worm from death?

And as for the purpose for which Jesus came,-Unitarianism knows no higher purpose than to reform the world by his instructions and example, and to seal the truth of his testimony with his blood; while Evangelical Christianity recognises as the great end of his mission, the giving of his life a ransom for us. I will not say that he has conferred no benefit upon me, who has set before me my duty, and presented motives to the discharge of it; but I will say that he has done nothing for me in comparison with him who has rolled away the grand obstacle to my salvation by atoning for my sins; who has brought peace to my conscience by sprinkling that conscience with his own blood; who has gone into the Heavens to plead the merit of his sacrifice as the foundation of my acceptance. Let other benefits be duly estimated; but let nothing be brought into comparison with the benefits of Christ's redemption.

Say now, will the Evangelical Christian or the Unitarian be more grateful to his Saviour? If the system held by the former represents him as having come to save us, from purposes of mercy which he had himself been active in forming, while that held by the latter exhibits him as altogether involuntary in his advent; if the system of the one attributes to him but a small degree of condescension, while that of the other makes his condescension infinite; if the one recognises him only in the relation of an instructor and guide-not unlike that which other good men have sustained to the world, while the other contemplates him in a relation entirely peculiar, not only as proclaiming salvation to the wretched and guilty, but as actually purchasing it;

--if these things are so, judge ye whether the Evangelical Christian or the Unitarian finds most to call forth his gratitude to Christ. Read the writings of both, and say whether that which might be expected from the nature of the systems, is not fully realized in actual experience; whether Christ is not the all-absorbing theme of the one, whether any thing but Christ does not constitute the burden of the other.

3. Benevolence to man.

I here use the word benevolence in its more extensive sense; as including a regard to the interests not only of the body but of the soul; not only of time but of eternity. He who provides for the temporal relief of the wretched and destitute,-who furnishes bread for the hungry, and raiment for the naked, and a habitation for the houseless, is certainly a benefactor to his fellow men : but he who, viewing them exposed to an everlasting death, puts forth his hand in an effort to save them,— who, contemplating the millions that are perishing for lack of the bread of life, cheerfully contributes of his

substance to send it to them, and even denies himself, and goes forth among them, as a herald of salvation,— such a man, I say, exhibits the spirit of benevolence in a still nobler form;—so much nobler as the interests of the immortal spirit are superior to those of the tenement which it inhabits. Let us see then whether a spirit of benevolence in this extensive and most legitimate sense, finds more to foster it in Unitarianism or in Evangelical Christianity.

Evangelical Christianity finds far higher examples of benevolence than does Unitarianism, in the character of God and of his Son ;-a point which I have already endeavoured to illustrate, in speaking of the different claims which both the Creator and the Redeemer have upon our gratitude, in view of the two systems. If this fact be admitted then, (and I do not see how it can be successfully questioned,) you perceive that it is adapted to exert a mighty influence in favour of Evangelical Christianity, in regard to the promotion of a benevolent spirit. It results from the constitution of our nature that the examples which we are most accustomed to contemplate and admire gradually become incorporated, in respect to some of their leading qualities, among the elements of our intellectual and moral habits. The more of benevolence then the Christian sees in the character of God and of Jesus Christ, (as these are the objects with which his faith is most conversant,) the more will a spirit of good will to man glow in his bosom. Suppose you were in the habit of associating with an individual who exhibited in some degree a benevolent spirit, and occasionally performed deeds of mercy,-no doubt your intercourse with him might have some influence in waking up generous feelings in your own heart; but suppose you were to be the constant companion of such a man as How

ard,—were to see him going through the world, like an angel of mercy, and wearing out his life for the relief of human wo,—it were scarcely possible, if there were even the germe of a benevolent spirit in your bosom, but that that spirit, under such an influence, should blaze forth in bright and vigorous action. I would reverently apply this illustration to the case before us. Unitarianism sees a lower degree, Evangelical Christianity, a higher degree, of good will to man, in the great objects which are proposed for our imitation: must there not then be a proportional difference in the amount of influence which they respectively exert in forming man to the same benevolent temper?

Evangelical Christianity enforces the obligation to cultivate a benevolent spirit, far more strongly than Unitarianism. It is one of the grand laws of the divine administration,—a law which will controul the decisions of the final judgment, and the equity of which instantly commends itself to every mind, that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." But, we have already seen that incomparably more has been done for us, incomparably more has been promised to us, on the principles of Evangelical Christianity than on the principles of Unitarianism. So much the greater then is our obligation to exhibit a benevolent spirit toward others; for it is by this means especially that we are to glorify God, and to indicate our sense of his goodness towards ourselves. Hence we find that his gracious recognition of the beneficence of his people toward the children of want and wo, is one of the circumstances which have been prophetically exhibited to us, in a description of the judgment:-" Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." In doing good to the

« ZurückWeiter »