« ZurückWeiter »
human selfishness is but half thawed out from the heart, it is in vain to look for a life of consistent benevolence; and that where, on the other hand, the spirit of the good Samaritan has taken possession of the heart, the deeds of the good Samaritan will be manifest in the conduct? If it be once admitted that the Evangelical system exerts a more powerful influence than Unitarianism in moulding the Christian affections, you have only to keep in view the fact that these affections constitute the principles of moral conduct, that the heart is to the life what the fountain is to the stream; to arrive at once at the conclusion that the former system must lead to a higher and nobler course of religious action than the latter; that, while the one tends to self-indulgence and inaction, the other prompts to vigorous and persevering self-denial.
And here I trust it will not be thought invidious, if I direct your attention for a moment from what we might expect would be, to what we know actually is;-in other words, to the comparative amount of self-denying and beneficent activity which has really followed,—still follows, in the track of the two systems. Well am I aware that many Unitarians have exhibited a noble and philanthropick spirit, especially by contributing liberally of their substance for the relief of human wo; but, if I mistake not, you will find, in nearly every instance, that their benevolent efforts have been directed, rather to supply the wants of the body, than to meet the exigencies of the soul. The history of Unitarianism may safely be challenged for one such name as that of Swartz, or Eliot, or thousands of others, that illumine the record of Evangelical Christianity. And I venture to say that such a character as these men possessed, never could be formed under the influence of the Unitarian system. If
they had believed that man, instead of being dead in trespasses and sins, and liable to an eternal death, is only an imperfect being, and has little or nothing to fear in respect to the future, they would not have sacrificed so cheerfully their earthly interests to carry him the gospel of salvation. If they had regarded Jesus Christ as a mere human teacher divinely commissioned to proclaim God's will, it is impossible that their gratitude towards him should have engaged them to such acts of heroick self-denial as to lead them not even to count their lives dear in his service. No, no, I repeat, such characters were never formed-never could be formed, under the operation of any other than Evangelical principles.— There is in them too much of that Christian heroism which shrinks not from bearing the cross any where, every where, to have had its origin in any thing else than the constraining influence of the love of Christ.And I may speak not only of what has been, but of what is; for never was this difference between the two systems more strikingly exemplified than in some of the doings of the present day. If you look into the vast wilderness which still constitutes no inconsiderable portion of our country, you will see here and there a white man teaching the poor Indians to read, and kneeling with them in their devotions and directing their hearts toward Heaven; and if you follow him from day to day, you will see that he is wearing out his life in this humble and self-denying vocation. If you direct your view across the ocean, you will see another set of men labouring on the burning plains of India, and another stilk in the cold regions of the North, and yet another among the degraded Hottentots of Africa, for the benevolent purpose of making known the gospel; and this too at the hazard of meeting a premature, if not a violent,
death. These are men who might have staid at home, and enjoyed all the blessings of civilized and Christian and domestick society; but such was their love to Christ, and such their benevolence to man, that they left all to serve their master and to save their fellow creatures.— Need I ask whether these men are Unitarians or Evangelical Christians? Need I ask whether the great system of operations which is going forward for the conversion of the world is sustained by Unitarians or Evangelical Christians? I mean not to be invidious when I say that Evangelical Christianity does the work, while Unitarianism stands by and congratulates herself that she can be true to her principles without making such mighty sacrifices; nay, and sometimes denounces the loftiest enterprizes of benevolence as nothing better than the dreams of a delirious fanaticism.
1. It is an obvious deduction from the preceding train of remark, that a belief in the great truths of Christianity constitutes the only legitimate basis of Christian character.
I am well aware that there may be much that has the semblance of Christian conduct where the peculiar doctrines of Christianity are rejected:-there may be the outward decencies of a moral life;-there may be a uniform course of equitable and honourable dealing, and a spirit of courtesy and generosity and benevolence may breathe in all the intercourse between man and man, and yet not one of those cardinal doctrines by which Christianity is especially distinguished from Natural Religion, may have found a lodgment either in the heart or the understanding. But all this may exist independently of what I mean by true Christian character: it may be merely the operation of a naturally generous spirit, or it may result even from the calculations of self-love.
Christian character implies much more: it supposes not merely that the outward act be right, but that the inward feeling be right also;-right, I mean, according to the standard of God's word; and to suppose that this could happen independently of a belief in the truths of the gospel, were to admit an absurdity. We feel on every subject agreeably to the views which we take of it; and this remark applies to religion as truly as any thing else. Certain it is then that our religious character will be modified by our views of religious truth: of course where the great truths of the gospel are absolutely rejected, there can be no foundation for religious cha
Never then, for a moment, admit the absurd and dangerous doctrine that it is no matter what a man believes provided his life be good; for while this doctrine supposes that a pure stream may emanate from a corrupt fountain, and that that God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and whose prerogative it is to search the heart, after all, passes upon the character in view of what is merely external, and connives at a spirit of rebellion within provided there be the appearance of decency without; it inevitably leads to a disregard of all truth, and puts man in the impious attitude of casting contempt upon the divine authority. Rely on it, my friends, if the truths of the gospel had not been of mighty importance, they would never have been revealed, especially at such amazing expense; and just in proportion as you hold views which detract from their importance, you put your immortal interests in jeopardy. Men are sanctified by the truth-the peculiar truths of the gospeland by nothing else: of course, if this great means of sanctification is rejected, where is there any ground for hope that they will be sanctified at all? And if they
are not sanctified, how will they ever enter Heaven? Take heed that you do not rely for salvation upon mere intellectual views of truth; but take heed also that you do not undervalue a correct speculative faith; for while such a faith enters essentially into the constitution of the Christian character, remember that indifference to the truth is the legitimate preparation of the mind for a league with dangerous and destructive errour.
2. Of how much greater value does the Bible become on the principles of Evangelical Christianity, than on those of Unitarianism!
Once admit that men may be saved without a knowledge of the great truths which the Bible reveals, and you admit that which makes the Book itself of comparatively little importance; because, though it may contain much that is excellent and adapted to exalt the human character, yet if, after all, salvation, the richest of all blessings, can be attained without it, who will say that it may not at least safely be dispensed with? But how much is the case changed, when you come to admit that a knowledge of these truths, communicated in some way or other, is absolutely essential to the salvation of the soul; and that he that believeth them not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him! Now the Unitarian maintains that a belief in the gospel is not essential to salvation; that those who have the Bible in their hands and reject its divine authority altogether, may still be good men and candidates for Heaven; and if the Bible contains nothing more than he finds in it, he is right and consistent in doing so: for surely if he should cast it to the winds, every thing that he regards essential would be left to him in the system of Natural Religion. The Evangelical Christian, on the other hand, regards the Bible as disclosing the only