« AnteriorContinuar »
below the dead level of mediocre Unitarianism, than the former towers above it. Dr. Channing, to be sure, looms up above all his fellows and followers, like an Egyptian Pyramid among the tents of an Arab encampment. Our other authority, it must be confessed, is more doubtful. But that Mr. Richardson, replete with the immense experience of two whole years in the ministry, is also a part and parcel of the same system, a lesser limb of the same body, seems quite certain. He has been bedewed with the gentle affusions of Cambridge; he is pastor of a congregation, which for many years, has gloried in its Unitarianism; he talks and acts as only their men talk and act about orthodoxy and "liberal Christianity;" and partakes with the Unitarians in the most solemn ecclesiastical duties. We advert to these facts, because some of his denomination, in order to avoid the charge of sympathizing in his views, have denied that he is in regular standing among them.
Let us now compare the light which Dr. Channing as the setting sun, and Mr. Richardson as the rising luminary, reflect upon the three important subjects of the Bible, of miracles, and of the character of Christ.
DR. CHANNING. "On hearing of God's teaching us by some other means than the fixed order of nature, we ought not to be surprised, nor ought the suggestion to awaken resistance in our minds. An exigence had occurred, [the state of mankind at the time of Christ's appearing,] in which there was no prospect of relief from nature; an exigence in which additional communications, supernatural lights, might be expected from the Father of lights." Works, Vol. iii. P. 328.
MR. RICHARDSON. "A miracle, then, a Revelation, or any other so called Supernatural act cannot be above the laws of Nature, or of God; to say this, is not only absurd, but blasphemous." The laws of nature "never can be transcended; they can never be suspended, changed, or contravened; and Miracles and Revelations so called, and the wonderful works of Jesus cannot, therefore, be contrary to nature, or above nature and her laws, for these are the laws of God." Discourses, Pp. 6, 8.
DR. CHANNING. "The New Testament is built on the Old. The Christian dispensation is a continuation of the Jewish, the completion of a vast scheme of Providence, requiring great extent of view in the reader." Vol. iii. Pp. 360–362.
MR. RICHARDSON. "You are not to go to the Old Testament, to the Hebrew prophets, or writers before Christ, for Christianity.". "I regard the hopeful anticipations of future prosperity found in the Jewish writings, as being similar to those always entertained by
trustful, pious and hopeful minds, among all people, even in the darkest and most adverse periods of human history, anticipations so nobly expressed in England, at the present day, in such words as Mackay's hopeful Ode, There's a good time coming.'”—“We cannot go to Moses, David and Solomon, to the Jews before Christ, for views of Christian doctrine. They neither believed, taught, nor lived Christianity." Discourses, Pp. 21, 22, 26.
DR. CHANNING. "Nature furnishes a presumption in favor of miraculous agency."-"It clearly shows us a power above itself, so that it clearly proves miracles to be possible."- "To a man who cherishes a sense of God, the great difficulty is, not to account for miracles, but to account for their rare occurrence. The truth of the divine origin of Christianity was attested by miracles. Its first teachers proved themselves the ministers of God, by supernatural works. They did what man cannot do, what bore the impress of divine power, and what thus sealed the divinity of their mission. A religion so attested must be true.". Christianity is not only confirmed by miracles, but is in itself, in its very essence, a miraculous religion." Vol. iii. Pp. 115, 119, 372, 106.
MR. RICHARDSON. "As Nature is the manifestation of God, and as the laws or principles of Nature are the modes of his operation, to say that anything is above and beyond the laws of Nature is to say that it is above and beyond the laws of God, above God himself; and this is not only absurd but blasphemous." "When we reflect that what we call the laws of Nature, are the eternal modes in which the Wisest and Best being continually acts; and therefore that they must be the very wisest and best laws that can be conceived of, we must see the utter impossibility of any change or suspension of these laws, or of their ever being transcended or risen above; for to talk about rising above, transcending, or going beyond what is wisest and best, is to talk utter nonsense." Dis. Pp. 6, 7, 8. DR. CHANNING. "The observation of the uniformity of Nature, produces, in multitudes, a secret feeling as if violations [of this uniformity] were impossible."-"This secret feeling, essentially atheistical, and at war with all sound philosophy, is the chief foundation of that scepticism which prevails in regard to miraculous agency." Vol. iii. P. 111.
MR. RICHARDSON. "The healing of the sick, or any other wonderful work (miracle) of our Saviour, is no more wonderful and mysterious, perhaps not so much so, as the development and growth
As to this remark of Dr. C., we would say, with good old Thomas Fuller: "Miracles, though cordials in extremity, are no bill of fare for man's ordinary diet.”
This is but sorry logic in Mr. R. The only power which can trauscend the laws of nature, which are the wisest and best for all ordinary purposes, is the will of God, who willed that those laws should be what they are. He who has power to enact, has equal power to amend, suspend, or repeal. The miracle being God's own work, it is folly to speak of it as being "above God himself."
of plant or tree.". "Whatever works Jesus performed, he must have performed them as a wise man would; that is to say, understandingly, by the application of certain known and efficient causes, to produce certain desired effects." -"I consider Jesus in this respect, as a good nosologist and physician, well acquainted with the laws of life and health, and of wonderful skill."—"The healing of the sick, the giving sight to the blind, and other acts of Jesus, were not only, then, not above the laws of Nature, but in accordance with Nature, and with laws of Nature, whose workings Jesus, as a wise man, understood." Discourses, Pp. 6, 7.
DR. CHANNING. "Jesus Christ is the only Master of Christians; and whatever he taught, either during his personal ministry or by his inspired apostles, we regard as of divine authority, and profess to make the rule of our lives.". "These miracles were not wrought by a man whose character was in other respects ordinary. They were acts of a Being whose mind was as singular as his works, who spoke and acted with more than human authority, whose moral qualities and sublime purposes were in accordance with superhuman powers." Vol. iii. Pp. 61, 130.
MR. RICHARDson. "Jesus himself not only disclaims any idea of having originated or invented Truth, but even declares himself to be only the interpreter of Truth, a learner of the Father of Nature.""I do not see why Jesus should seem more out of Nature or preternatural than any other great Prophet or wonderful Teacher and Sage. He seems to me as much a part of Nature, aye, more a part of Nature, because more true to Nature, than a Newton, a Howard, a Shakspeare, or a Channing, -as much a part of Nature even, as the bird, the tree, or the flower. There are simple blossoms that open their petals daily and hourly, by every way-side; and yet once only in a hundred years the century-aloes sends up its giant stalk, and expands its wonderful flowers. And yet this, as well as the simplest plant, is a part of Nature; and I know not whether, however uncommon and wonderful a being he might have been, Jesus of Nazareth, in simplicity of character, does not most resemble the way-side flower." Discourses, Pp. 17, 20, 21.
Leaving the great dead and the little living to settle their differences as they may, and leaving the theologue of two full years' standing to call the views of the departed Channing as absurd and blasphemous as he pleases, we return to the old question, What is Unitarianism? Is it the faith of either of the above writers, or of neither, or of both? It seems to us, that the followers of Dr. Channing must regard Mr. Richardson as a mere Nature-worshipper or Pantheist, whose profane eyes can view our Saviour only as a very skilful physician: while the followers of Mr. Richardson must regard him as "a heap taller " than Dr. Channing, like "Ossa on Pelion piled" in the war of the giants! And yet both are Unitarians! But though we are
to have no doubt of their being equally Unitarians, we cannot but ask, What title has the new-fledged divine to the name of Christian? For what important doctrine is he indebted to Christ? In what particular does his doctrine transcend natural religion?
Again we ask, If men who differ so widely are all good Unitarians, what is Unitarianism? If it be only the latest impressions produced by the most reasonable orator who comes along, the frank acknowledgment would be a great kindness to its opposers; for then might they rest from the vain pursuit of a flying phantom. It is a strong ground for believing that it consists with no faith in particular, no positive belief, inasmuch as when one of their champions is routed from his main position, he has planted himself with unabated confidence in an exactly opposite quarter; and when routed there, he returns to the first position as though he had never abandoned it. But if he is fairly surrounded, and his retreat entirely cut off, he boldly looks his pursuer in the face, and exclaims: "I do not own the name Unitarian! I renounce all sect. I follow no leader. My colors are an original patchwork of my own. I am Orthodox almost, a Christian, a Biblicist, an Optimist, an Eclectic,or one of the Coleridge school of transcendentalists!" Thus is the pursuer foiled in the instant of victory, by finding that he has been chasing nobody, or a neutral. This is more provoking than Mexican warfare, in which the enemy presents no vital point, where a fatal blow may end the contest: but he is at Queretaro and at Puebla, over the river and in the chapparals. By forced marches you come where, by all accounts, he ought to have been, and he is not there!
This looseness, or freedom from any fixed faith, is called "liberal Christianity." But is this true independence of soul? Is not the sceptic as much in servitude to his necessity of doubting, as is the firmest believer to his creeds? Is a man a slave because he cannot believe error? May not scepticism and liberalism be bigotted, and kept from embracing truth, lest it should commit itself to a particular belief, and so lose its liberty? Who is the most truly free, the pilot who goes with all sails set, but unrestrained by rudder, compass, or star; or he who dare not leave port in a storm, and who when sailing, is unwilling to veer a single point from the most direct course to his haven?
Is there any real union among Unitarians? If there be, then the impieties of Mr. Richardson cleave, like so many warts and wens to the whole body. If these unsightly excrescences cannot be cut off, then is there no fair and healthy ecclesiastical union. The only union that can come, will be when the whole body is infected alike by the fell disease. But if there is no unity, then why keep up the semblance of fellowship by exchanges, councils, associations, periodicals, and petitions to government. Let every man hear what he likes, and say what he likes, and use as many mental reservations as he likes. What sort of a guidepost is this, which points in all directions; or which, rather, the benighted wanderer carries on his back? Of what use is a needle, which so spurns at the constraint of the magnetic law, that it "boxes the compass" every twenty-four hours?
And now, to appease, as far as we may, the perturbed spirit of Dr. Channing, for having recalled him from his dread repose to illustrate the "mighty littlenesses" of his young and emulous successor, we would close by saying, that we can marvel at no amount of error or impiety in a man, who starts early in life, with the flattering assumption that his individual reason has an authority superior to the inspirations of Isaiah, John, or Paul. This is not the first time that a fire-fly has volunteered to outshine the stars with his feeble phosphorescence. This is by no means the first rash youngling, who has mistaken effrontery for courage, and irreverence for genius. The first principles of Unitarianism, in regard to the place which reason holds in relation to the Bible, open the way for all this; and these wicked and preposterous "Discourses," from which we have quoted too largely, are, as it were, the first prizes which a young privateer on the high seas of inquiry brings in, and lays at the feet of the authorities from whom he received his "letters of marque and reprisal." It is to be hoped that such a promiscuous booty, containing quite as many jewels snatched from the fingers and breasts of his own nation, as scalps and scabbards torn from his enemies, will suggest to those authorities hereafter, the importance of giving "sealed instructions, private and confidential,” to be followed by such inexperienced navigators in their "long, low, black-looking schooners," when having lost sight of land, and passed all soundings, they shall nail to the mast their flag of evil omen.