Imagens das páginas

formerly relied upon, have given place to that form, which it has now taken.

The first objection is, that it contradicts and destroys itself ; first, by professing to uwe all its support to express revelation, and then by declaring it impossible that it should be revealed. The second is, that it has recourse for support to a flagrant abuse and perversion of language, by applying definite terms to an indefinite, or undefinable subject.

These objections are urged with force, and the reader will probably think in a satisfactory and conclusive manner.

They are suggested, it will be perceived, by that scheme of the Trinity, which is adopted by Professor Stuart in his late publication on the subject, which rejects the use of the term persons, and prefers that of distinctions in the Deity; on the ground, that the term person is not applicable in its usual sense. Or if the term is retained, professes to use it, not according to its ordinary acceptation, nor in any sense that is capable of being defined, or understood.

• Those with whom I am arguing,' says our author, 'admit that there are not three persons in the Godhead, in the ordinary sense of the term. But they plead, that there is no reason for wholly discarding the term, since a better is not to be found. “It has always,” says Mr. Stuart, “ been a conceded point, that in the discussion of difficult subjects or the statement of them, terms might be used aside from their ordinary import.”—Allowed; but was it ever conceded that a man might vary a term from its ordinary or received sense, without defining the sense in which he would be considered as using it? If such a latitude might be taken, I see not how it would tend to render a difficult subject less difficult, &c. But it seems, if we would be orthodox Trinitarians, we must not apply the term person to the Godbead in the ordinary sense, nor in any other that is known, or capable of being defined; for the subject is no other than an indefinable distinctioo, to express which by definite terms, or in other words, by terms of any meaning, would be just as absurd, as for Paul to have gone on, and told the Corinthians what were those unspeakable words, which he heard in Paradise.'

How far the writer has succeeded in the design of relieving the doctrine of the Trinity from the great difficulties and objections, to which it was hable in every form and under every modi. fication in which it has appeared, and in presenting it in a rational and scriptural light, different opinions will be entertained. Trinitarians, whose faith has not yet been disturbed, by the inquiring spirit of the day, will probably consider it, as it undoubtedly is, an entire abandonment of the most essential part of the doctrine. They will revolt from the notion of a Trinity so constituted, and will think it little short of impiety to apply the term to three distinct beings, so unequal and dissimilar as finite and infinite, created and uncreated. They will think the name but ill preserved, where the essence of the thing is given up. And some, who, together with the doctrine of a Trinity, have been willing to give up the name also, will not improbably bave been led to very different speculations on the subject, and think the scheme bere offered pressed with difficulties scarcely less formidable, than those with which that is embarrassed which they have found themselves compelled, by the remonstrances of reason and the clear voice of Scripture, to abandon. Nor ought our author to be surprised or disappointed, should this be the case ; should there be few, who are ready to fall in entirely with his views, however they may admire the spirit of freedom and independence with which he has been led to them, and respect the talents with which he has been able to explain and defend them, and admit the irresistible force of the arguments, which he has employed against the commonly received opinion upon the subject. With that freedom of mind with which this re. spectable writer seems to have engaged in these inquiries, and rejecting as he does, the popular doctrine, because it is unintelligible and therefore incredible; be cannot fail to perceive, that the doctrine which he has substituted for it, though relieved from some of the absurdities with which the other is charged, is yet embarrassed by others of a similar kind. That single and deliberate pursuit of what is true and intelligible, which has carried him so far, cannot fail to make him perceive the necessity of proceeding further. And he will see, that all the considerations which he has urged with so much force and justice against the notion of three distinct independent persons in one God,'may be urged with something of the same propriety, against the notion of two or three distinct natures, so different as finite and infinite, created and uncreated, constituting one complex person, that is, one single consciousness, one agent, one being.' We have no doubt that the author has perceived, and is fully aware of this difficulty, and that he has a solution of it, with which his own mind is at present satisfied. But we are far from believing that a mind so open to the light of truth, so capable of perceiving the whole force of an objection, and so ready to follow the evidence of reason and scripture, as we are induced, by the specimen before us, to believe his to be, will continue to rest satisfied long with any solution, of which we can imagine the subject to be capable. The writer, we are sure, will not be of. fended nor hurt at these intimations. We make them with feelings of the greatest respect and good will; welcoming him cordially as a fellow labourer with ourselves in the cause of truth, and in the free and fearless investigation of the meaning of the sacred scriptures, and not doubting that he is one, who believes with us, that more light is yet to be thrown upon those holy writings, -that they are destined to be yet better understood, and that in all our researches to promote this great end, it becomes us to express with freedom and plainness the results to which we are led, to bear with patience the different views of others, and to be thankful for any bints they can throw out, by which we. may be led to correct and improve our own system of faith.


The Church of Christ; a Sermon preached on the day of monthly

communion, at the Second Independent Church, in Charleston, S.C. By SAMUEL Gilman. Charleston : Duke & Browne. 8vo. Pp. 16.

We owe the publication of this Sermon to the Charleston Unitarian Tract Society; an institution of which we have no further knowledge, but of whose utility we cannot doubt. If its affairs are conducted with zeal, and with the judgment which has been exercised in the present case, it may be the instrument of extending widely a spirit of religious inquiry, and a knowledge and love of religious truth. It may thus second the labours and honour the memory of the former pastor of the Second Independent Church, who was himself so fine an example of the power of the gospel, and who so nobly opened a way, which we trust will not soon be closed, for the triumph of religious freedom, and the diffusion of christian knowledge and charity. The memoir of his life and character, upon which we dwelt with peculiar pleasure in our last volume,* presents a picture of independence, integrity, and piety, which cannot he studied without imparting something of the same spirit ; and we trust that those who are labouring in the same field, will feel their obligation to tread faithfully in his steps. We hope that that memoir has been printed as one of the Charleston tracts; if not, we could recommend it, as eminently calculated to make the best impres. sions, and produce the best effects. It is such actual, living, exhibitions of fidelity and devotion, which are to bring men to love and embrace religion.

[blocks in formation]

It is matter of congratulation that societies are every where multiplying for the purpose of publishing and distributing works of this kind. Their increase in number and in zeal is one of the favourable signs of the times ; though much still remains to be done to make them as efficacious as they might be. There is one mode of augmenting their value and influence, which appears to us to promise more than any other; and that is, the establishment of a Library and Tract Society in every parish. Let there be an association of judicious men who shall manage a library, to which the whole congregation may have access, and who shall, from time to time, print and distribute amongst the congregation, such works as may seem to be called for by the state of religion and the aspect of the times. The good which might thus be done is incalculable. A taste for reading might be created and extended, better books would be in circulation in place of those which are now by most persons selected very much at random, hearers would be made more intelligent, and preaching more profitable; while the personal intercourse of the minister would become more instructive, by the reference to subjects, in which books have already created an interest. Within the limits of a single parish, such an association could act with energy and judgment; they could know certainly what was best to be done, and the best mode of doing it; and multitudes would be thus instructed and impressed, who could never come within the operation of more extensive societies. Indeed the larger and more general institutions might be essentially aided by multiplying such minor establishments : for they would operate as auxiliaries, to make them better known, and to circulate their publications. There is no way, for instance, in which the interests of the Boston Publishing Fund could be more effectually promoted, its tracts more rapidly circulated, its exertions facilitated and its means of usefulness augmented, than by such associations in our several parishes. We recommend the suggestion to the attention of active and zealous christians throughout our churches.

The design and tendency of the sermon before us, is to inculcate the temper of a liberal and enlarged feeling of good will to. ward all wlio bear the name of Christ. From the text, For we are members of his bodythe inquiries are made, What is the church, and Who are its members. After a rapid and spirited sketch of the various replies, which would be given to the first question by inhabitants of different countries and christians of different communions; the preacher asks the question at the New Testament. He thence endeavours to make it appear, that the body of men who have right to be called the Church of


Christ, is formed of those who openly receive the two ordinances of the gospel, and conform in heart and life to its spirit and laws. To members of this description he thinks the interests of the visible church may be entrusted without danger; though he does not presume to exclude from the hope of salvation or 'the bosom of the invisible church, many who never have heard of the peculiar rites of christianity, or who have been prevented frorn engaging in their celebration by circumstances, which none but the Searcher of Hearts can perceive or weigh. From these statements he draws the conclusion, that the church is not so nar. row in extent, or limited in time, as some imagine.

The church of Christ, the visible church of Christ, is commensurate with the time that his name has been heard on earth, and with the region of space throughout which it has been and will be proclaimed. The seeds of the gospel, as they are wafted about on the four winds of heaven, fall without discrimination on those pure, gentle, virtuous, and faithful hearts, which are their appropriate soil. No matter whether they are confined within enclosures, or grow along the highways and hedges of human society; wherever they are, they receive the genial impregnation, and produce the flowers of christian grace, and the fruits of christian virtue, and are equally visited by the common light, air, and warmth of heaven. Cornelius, the heathen, in the time of St. Peter, was baptised, CorDelius received the Lord's supper, Cornelius in connection with these ceremonies was a just man, and one who feared God, and therefore Cornelius was a member of the church of Christ, though no sectarian divisions, nor exclusive communions, were as yet so much as heard or thought of. In like manner, generations yet unborn shall be baptised in the name of Christ, shall sit at his table and partake of his supper, shall receive him as the messenger of God, obey his commands, imbibe his spirit, and maintain his genuine and legitimate church on earth, through far, far distant ages hence, when the names of Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Independent Churches, shall only be known to the curious historian, or shall have sunk far down into the dark deep gulph of forgetfulness.'-Pp. 10–12. The Discourse then concludes with two lessons.

First, as the several members which compose a living body are vitally and inseparably connected with the head, so, the same union exists between Christ the head of the church, and the various individual members, who compose it He is our life-our principalour origin—without which we could have had no existence as a church, nor have performed the functions, and enjoyed the felicities belonging to it. To Christ we must chiefly look for instruction, and for guidance. His doctrines must constitute the foundation of our

« AnteriorContinuar »