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Errors of Romanism.” Neander dedicated to him a volume of his Ecclesiastical History, with these words in Latin :
Accept, best and dearest of men, this little gift, with those sentiments which impel me to offer it, as a pledge and seal of that intimate communion which the Spirit of God has formed between our souls.” In 1836, after hearing of his avowal of Unitarianism, Neander sent him a pamphlet, by the hands of Dr. Sprague of Albany, directed in these words : “ To his dear friend, Rev. Blanco White, a token of his undisturbed friendship, love, and spiritual communion, - A. Neander." And since White's death, Neander has written a pamphlet concerning him, in which he calls him “the man who combined in himself all the principal religious tendencies of our age." And this is unquestionably true. We find united in this remarkable man the critical tendency of the present age, its pietistic or spiritual tendency, its interest in philanthropic and humane reforms, and in addition to all the rest, the Church tendency. Because he united in himself so much, and because of his relation to the Unitarian body, we have thought it well to give this notice of his life, and these extracts, as a faint outline of his character and career.
J. F. C.
1. His PassAGE FROM ROMANISM TO INFIDELITY, AND HIS RETURN
TO CHRISTIANITY ACCORDING TO CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
“The process of the moral and intellectual change which took place in me is not difficult to describe. The love of Christian virtue had been carefully, though very injudiciously, cultivated in me, during my youth. When the false grounds of Church authority on which my Christianity had been raised gave way, and I found myself in hopeless captivity to that powerful priesthood, which constitutes the real Church of Rome, my internal despair knew no bounds. In such a state of mind, it was a moral impossibility to sit down calmly and deliberately to sift out a Protestant system of Christianity. I am, therefore, convinced, that my unbelief was unavoidable. As it did not proceed from viciousness or perverseness, the removal of the irritating causes was enough to open my heart to the moral attractions of the gospel. When I made an open profession of atheism, it was (I bring the Almighty whom I offended to witness) neither with any evil view, nor produced by a mere malignity of heart. Catholicism had worked me into that madness."
My return to Christianity arose chiefly from my examining it, not as a collection of dogmatic propositions, but in its spirit and tendencies ; from my studying it in the character of its Founder, and his immediate followers. In the mean time, my mind, relapsing into its theological habits of many years, gave what might be called a provisional assent to the doctrines on which the generality of divines were agreed.”
II. His DoubTS CONCERNING THE TRINITY, ATONEMENT,
&c., COMMENCING IN 1818.
“ Feb. 8th, 1818.
I hope there is no lurking self-confidence in my heart. My doubts on many theological questions, which are considered as of the first importance in religion, seem to increase every day. May God have mercy on me, and defend me from a spirit of unbelief! I do not, however, feel in the least inclined to doubt the gospel. I think my heart is sincerely attached to my blessed Saviour. But I imagine there are more doctrines of men, and more errors, blended with his doctrines, than I would allow myself decidedly to suspect. What am I to do ? Am I to shut my eyes, and abstain from further inquiry? This would be unworthy of a man and a Christian. I must, however, pray fervently, and judge cautiously."
“Sunday, March 8th, 1818. - I have prayed with all the earnestness and sincerity in my power, that God would
not allow me to fall into any error concerning my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. My mind has been for some time full of doubts concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, and I felt very much inclined to Arianism. I thank God, however, that I have not allowed myself to form any decided opinion against that of the Church to which, through his especial providence, I belong. But I will not bewilder mind in the mazes of controversy.”
"I fervently renew my last prayer (it is a most ardent prayer addressed to Christ). I am again in considerable doubts about many points of divinity. I adhere to the practice, never to close with any opinion against those which the Church of England holds, without evidence of that kind which makes me reject Transubstantiation. It has lately occurred to me, that such is the obscurity of most of the subjects controverted among Christians, the proofs adduced on both sides so equally strong, or so equally insufficient, - that it would be best (if possible) to hold no opinion at all upon
them.” “My doubts on the Trinity and Atonement, though exceedingly distressing, were a stimulus to indefatigable study. Upon looking over my Student's Journal for 1818, I was gratified to see the regular account of the time which I employed every day at my books. Though extremely ill, I still continued the study of Hebrew. I studied the Greek Testament regularly every day ; and I may state here, once for all, that I have continued this practice without any important interruption. In the study of the Scriptures, I availed myself of the assistance of the best commentators. As my mind was particularly engaged in the Trinitarian question, I read a great deal on NO, 237.
both sides ; but certainly more on the Orthodox than the opposite. In the mean time I did not neglect my classical studies. There is a regular reading of sorne Greek classic recorded every day. I went through Horsley's Sermons, Tracts, and Controversy with Priestley, whose defence I also read. Jones on the Trinity was the last work on that side which seemed for a time to restore me to Orthodoxy. April the 26th, I mentioned in the Student's Journal my having finished it, and added these words :- It is an admirable little work.' Under this note there is a line dated December 21st of the same year ; it is in these words : Lord, what is man !
On turning to the record of the 21st of December, I find that it was the day when, with the greatest reluctance on the part of my Will, and in great distress, I found the convictions of my understanding so decided in favor of Unitarianism, that I resolved not to resist them. Conscious of the weakness which had frequently led me back to the Orthodox side, merely by the power of habit, and the influence of those whom I loved, and from whom I feared to be divided, I wrote the words above mentioned.”
“ But my mind has been constantly disturbed with doubts on the Divinity of our Saviour, and the degree of Inspiration under which the Scriptures were written. Whether I have directed my mind, in the examination of the first of these difficult subjects (for the second I have not yet been able to enter into), with the modesty, humility, and soberness which alone can either insure success in finding the truth, or take away all responsibility and guilt, in case of error, God alone is the judge, and I humbly commit myself to his mercy. I have not yielded with