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the past the dim twilight that preceded the long night of ignorance and error, when the fair forms of truth and simplicity were lost, and all was gloomy incertitude, or shapeless horror; and if, in our age, the state of religious knowledge again resemble the twilight, we rejoice that the night is past, and it harbingers not now the blackness of darkness but the dawn of day, the rising of the sun, the dispersion of every baleful mist, the gladdening song of animated nature, the revived beauties of earth, and the unveiled glories of the serene and majestic heavens.
We commonly speak of Unitarianism as a subdivision of Christianity, and call oursélves Unitarian Christians. We might also speak of Christianity as a species of Unitarianism, and call ourselves Christian Unitarians. The contest has been tried on other principles than those of the gospel; and it may not be amiss just to notice five different classes of Unitarians, who are out of the pale of Christianity.
1. The wisest and best philosophers of Greece and Rome rose above the superstition of their age and country, and held sublime ideas of the Deity. Thus God was defined as the living, eternal, best Being. He was spoken of as the Father of gods and men, King of the gods, most high, most great, most excellent. There are many popular gods, said Antisthenes, but one natural
Others affirm that God, being really one,
hath many names, according to the several affections he discovers, and operations he exerts. The doctrine of Socrates was-God is the universal intellect. God is one ; perfect in himself, giving the being, and the well-being of every creature. These men were lights shining in dark places. Bigotry may sometimes have passed on them a hasty and contemptuous censure, but charity, say rather justice, should make us regard them with esteem, and adopt towards them the sentiments of that liberal and excellent man, (of whom I have had more than one occasion to express my admiration,) William Penn, in his « Fruits of a Father's Love :" " That blessed principle, the eternal word, I begun with to you, and which is that light, spirit, grace and truth, I have exhorted you to, in all its holy appearances and manifestations in yourselves, by which all things were at first made, and men enlightened to salvation, is Pythagoras's great light and salt of ages; Anaxagoras's divine mind; Socrates's good spirit; Timæus's unbegotten principle and author of all light; Hieron's God in man; Plato's eternal, ineffable and perfect principle of truth; Zeno's maker and Father of all; and Plotin's root of the soul. These were some of those virtuous Gentiles, commended by the apostle, Romans ii. 13–15; that though they had not the law given to them, as the Jews had, with those instrumental helps and advantages, yet
doing by nature the things contained in the law, they became a law unto themselves.”
11. The Jews have been steady Unitarians in all their calamities. Numbers of them became Christians before the doctrine of the Trinity was broached; but since that, conversion has been at an end. Till this barrier be thrown down, and Christianity purified, they remain witnesses against its professed advocates, but real corrupters.
111. The disciples of Mahomet. Although his pretensions to inspiration, his employment of the sword for conversion, and the earthly nature of his paradise, deserve strong reprobation; yet when we consider the state of gross superstition into which the Christians of the East were sunk, and the native idolatry of the Arabians, it must be allowed that he accomplished a great reformation: he introduced comparative purity of faith and worship; and probably, after all, in estimating his character, which was compounded of enthusiasm and imposture, there was more of the former than has been commonly assigned. His doctrine, in his own words, is, “ Say, God is one God; the eternal God: he begetteth not, neither is he begotten; and there is not any one like unto him.” Gibbon observes : “ The Koran is a glorious testimony to the Unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the
rational principle that whatever rises must set ; that whatever is born must die; that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish. In the Author of the universe, bis rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal Being, without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection.” Such notions of God, from whatever source derived, must have been a blessing to those who received them in exchange for absurdity, idolatry and degradation.
iv. While too many unbelievers of modern times stand convicted of the grossest disingenuousness in their mode of reasoning, and of great depravity of character, there are others who seem to have been honest, though mistaking, inquirers, who confounded Christianity with its abuses, which, in a Catholic country, is not surprising, and opposed them both, when they should have discriminated. Many of them have been highly useful in bringing back Christians to a purer faith, and to juster notions of the rights of conscience. The resurrection of Christ is the rock of our immortal hopes; but the conviction cannot, and ought not, to be suppressed, that some creeds, called Christian, are not to be compared with the religion of nature, as stated by Lord Herbert in these five articles:
]. That there is one supreme God, God of gods, or God and Father of all things.
2. That all worship and adoration ought to terminate in this one God.
3. That the love and pursuit of truth and virtue is the chief and only essential part of this acceptable, rewardable worship of the one true God.
4. That deep contrition and sorrow for our sins and aberrations from truth and virtue, with a sincere repentance and reformation after such sins committed, is the true propitiation for sin, or means of reconciling sinners to God. And,
5. That God, as the wise and righteous Judge and Governor of the world, will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, butli here and hereafter.
. It is probable that many philosophers of China and India have taught a pure theism, and deserve a place among the honourable opponents of idolatry and vice. We know that there is, at the present moment, an intelligent and growing sect of unchristian Unitarians, in Bengal, at the head of which is Rammohun Roy, a Brabmun of high character and great celebrity. Many of you, probably, have read the interesting account of his doctrine in Mr. Belsham's preface to the letter of W. Roberts, concerning the native Unitarian Christian Church at Madras. He asserts the Unity of the Supreme Being. " God is indeed One, and there is no second. There is