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same idea to the word "sinless." By sin, I understand, a deviation from what is known to be the will of God, or by due attention might be perceived to be his will. From such deviation I believe Jesus to have been free: under this view I speak of him as being sinless. I cannot see how it should be necessary for the parents, brethren and neighbours of Jesus to be wholly undefiled, in order to his being sinless, sin being a voluntary act of disobedience, and I expect it will not be denied that it is possible for a person to grow up more pure and virtuous than his relations and acquaintance. Seeing man is so imitative, and so much influenced by example, it seems perfectly agreeable to divine wisdom and goodness to set before us, as our pattern, a man possessed of all the moral perfection attainable in a state of mortality. That Jesus was simply a man, and that he was holy, harmless, and undefiled, are facts plainly stated in the New Testament. That he attained his eminent virtues, and preserved himself
pure, in the same way as his disciples are called to attain every virtue and excellency of character, is evident from their being called to imitate him, and follow in his steps. Whatever powers of mind Jesus possessed, his trials and duties were proportioned to his powers: consequently if it could be proved that he naturally possessed superior mental strength to others, this would make no difference as to the suitableness of his example; for mere ability is not virtue, and God requires of every individual according to the ability and opportunity he affords of knowing and doing his will. 'I do not think it capable of proof that Christ was endowed naturally with greater powers of mind than other man. His moral strength, by which he resisted every temptation, and always did those things which pleased God, he no doubt attained gradually: and I conceive the way to be open for us gradually to attain the same strength of inind, which results from right motives and habits. I do not pretend to trace philosophically the operations of the mind of Jesus, or the inward associations and outward combinations of circumstances, by which his character was formed; to attempt this would discover ignorance and folly; my aim is simply to establish what I esteem clear and important facts, that he was purely a man, and a most suitable and a perfect example to men.
I do contend, that “one of the enlightened and virtuous worshippers of Essex-street Chapel, or the Gravel-pit Meeting (would] be a suitable exemplar to a South-sea Islander," if the latter had an opportunity of being taught the Christian doctrines and precepts which the former understands and believes. The gospel teaches us the doctrines and motives which Jesus believed and felt, at the same time that it exhibits his example for our imitation.
: I certainly do think the example of Christ capable of imitation; and so far as relates to undeviating piety, virtue, and goodness, I deem it practicable for Christians to come, fully up to it; but this cannot be done without steady and unremitted efforts, and long continued active perseverance in the paths of truth and righteousness; as habits, either good or bad, can be formed and confirmed only in a gradual way. Whether Unitarian or any other Christians of the present day do come up to the example of their great Master is quite another matter. There is reason to fear, that in many instances, they generally, if not universally, fall short of what they ought to be; and for this many reasons may be assigned; as, 1. The very general corruption of christianity, both in doctrine, spirit, and practice; and it is much easier to escape from such corruption in theory, than from its pernicious influence in practice. 2. The prevalence of a worldly spirit among the professors of the gospel. 3. The supposition that the example of Jesus cannot be fully imitated; for what we believe impracticable we can never attempt with success. 4. The example of Jesus has not been sufficiently brought into view, insisted upon, and enforced by Christian teachers, and generally his person and sufferings have been represented in such a light as has tended to expunge every idea of the suitableness of his example and the possibility of being like him. To these and other causes we may ascribe the little influence which the example of Jesus has upon Christians. I deny that if Christians came fully up to the example of Christ his superiority would vanish; for their character may be said to be formed by him and after his pattern, as it is formed by the influence of his holy gospel, and the ensample he hath left them: he would have the pre-eminence still as the first who attained. such a degree of moral excellency, and as it is through his ministry, which he spent his life in executing and sealed with his blood, they attain such eminence in virtue. I must also deny that the virtue of the complete Christian is not superior to that of many eminent Jews and hoathens; as the gospel contains more abundant light, more powerful motives to right action, richer favours, more perfect commands, &c. than were known to either heathens or Jews, it must be capable of forming us to a higher degree of moral excellency, of creating us anew, under the dispensation of Christ, in righteousness and true holiness, after his likeness. As to Christians being entirely without sin, surely it will be admitted possible for them to attain to such a confirmed state of piety and virtue as not to trar.sgress the known commands of God: at any rate, the New Testament encourages us to seek and hope to attain deliverance from every evil habit, ten per, and practice: we are exhorted to give diligence that we may be found in peace, without spot and blameless. (2. Pet. iii. 14.) Frailty and imperfection are unavoidable in the present life, but mere frailty and imperfection, in which the will is not concerned, are not sinful, nor will a righteous and merciful God impute such unavoidable circumstances as sins.
Though it be granted “ that the ever-blessed God is proposed to us as a pattern of moral perfection,” this by no means weakens the argument respecting the suitableness of the example of Christ considered as a mere man; for none but a man, like ourselves, could be an example to us of obedience to God, of firmness in the midst of trials, of patience in the deepest sufferings, of forgiveness under the greatest personal injuries, and in particular a pattern of our resurrection from the dead.
Having made this communication longer already than I intended, I hasten to subscribe myself, very respectfully,
R. WRIGHT. Wisbech, Nov. 3, 1807.
QUERIES CONCERNING POPULAR PREACHING,
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository.
Being a constant reader of your liberal and enlightened Miscellany, and feeling myself deeply interested in the methods adopted by Unitarian Christians to disseminate their opinions, I beg leave to propose a few questions relative to such methods, which if any one of your worthy correspondents will take the trouble to answer, he will render a considerable service to the cause of rational religion, and if you will not admit any answer to appear but what is in your judgment dispassionate and satisfactory, you will much oblige your humble servant,
A MODEST QUERIST.
First.-What is to be understood by the terms “ Popular Preach. ing?” Do they mean preaching adapted and directed to the people, implying that whereas now and formerly, the higher and middle ranks of society have had an opportunity of hearing the Unitarian doctrines, from this time the lower orders shall be instructed in them? Is not. this a deviation from the usual signification of the words? And doce not the term “popular," intimate a desire to attract the notice and admi. ration of the people by such means, proper or otherwise, as are known to please them and to gratify their taste ? And if this be so, would it not be better to change the expressions, and instead of “ popular pr'aching," say " preaching designed to improve the minds of the common people ?"
Second.-Who is to be responsible for the jealousies, contentions and feuds which Unitarian preaching is sure to be attended with if missionaries are sent into towns and villages to assemble the inhabitants for the professed purpose of improving their minds ? When men act by a divine commission, they are completely exonerated from all responsibility of this kind, but will any plea of zeal for the promotion of truth be sufficient to justify uncommissioned teachers? Or can Unitarians vindicate themselves by any arguments that will not equally justify any sectarian whatever for disturbing the peace of a neighbourhood, under pretence of improving the minds of the people ?
Third. Is it enough to allege that a preacher is fully convinced of the truth of his opinions in order to exculpate him in his officious zeal to convert bis fellow Christians to his own sentiments ? Cannot Independent and Methodist preachers vindicate themselves upon the same grounds, whatever strife or coufusion they may occasion ?
Fourth.-Strongly and pointedly as Unitarian preachers may assert and inculcate their doctrines, cansuch of them as are unlearned disprove by fair and just arguments, the erroneous notions that are gene. rally maintained, and show that the doctrines of a plurality of persons in the divine nature, the satisfaction of Christ, &c. are built upon inconsistent and false interpretations of scripture ?
Fifth.Would it not be better to instruct such young persons as are well disposed in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, and make them exceedingly well versed in scripture, that they might be able to interpret it rationally and consistently before any audience ? And would not the money raised by the Unitarian Fund be usefully expended in enabling as many persons as possible to reside in various parts of the united Kingdom, and in a very gradual and inoffensive manner subvert the corrupt notions which militate against the pure doctrines of the gospel?
Seventh.-Would not the mode of education in the Seminaries of Dissenters be improved by confining the studies of the young men more to the knowledge of the scriptures, and paying less attention to such parts of classical and mathematical lore as are remotely and indirectly connected with theology?
Eighth.-Is it not exceedingly desirable that Sunday Schools, and Schools of Industry should be established and particularly attended to and directed by Unitarian Ministers? And would it not be a subject of useful discussion in the Repository to consider which is the most eligible mode of conducting Sunday Schools ? And might not rewards be offered to such as would most vigorously and zealously promote the education of youth?
Ninth. Would it not be a good plan to print separate books of scripture which might be done at a very cheap rate, and confine the reading of the children to them ? Suppose for instance the book of Proverbs was printed and given as a first book, or selections ma e from the historical books of the Old Testament and put into their hands, and afterwards they were brought to the reading of the New Testament, would not this conduce very much to the prevention of false notions ?
Tonth. - In the teaching the doctrines of the New Testament, would it not be useful to print the gospel of Mark, adding such parts from the other gospels as would furnish a complete and just knowledge of the life and character of Jest Christ? The intelligent reader will at once discern the reason why I mention Mark's gospel in preference to the rest.
FREE AND CANDID DISQUISITIONS-AMERICAN LITURGY.
To the Editor of the Monthly Repository. SIR; Since I read the account of the “ Free and Candid Disquisitions,' in your Repository, (p. 348,) I have often designed to communicate a few additions on that subject. With your leave I may yet be in time to cast my mite into your present voJume.
The first edition of the Disquisitions appeared in 1749. During that and the following year they occupied many pages of the Gentleman's Magazine, then the favourite vehicle of liberal discussion. One of Mr. Urban's correspondents indeed gravely objected, (and the race of such objectors is by no means extinct,) that any alteration in the forms and articles of the Church would be a violation of the “ Act of Union," which provides, that the “ Act of Uniformity" should remain and be in full force for ever. The Disquisitors were ably defended in various letters, and in a humorous dialogue between Mr. Allworthy and Mr. Western, entitled “a Chapter that is not printed in the History of Tom Jones, containing curious observations ou a subject which the reader perhaps does not suspect." (G. Mag. xix. 547.)
I have a copy of the second edition of the Disquisitions, on a blank leaf of which, a former possessor of the book has preserved, from the columns of a newspaper, two anonymous Ictters upon the subject of religious liberty and ecclesiastical reform. In the first, which from circumstances must have been written before 1770, is the following passage :
“ Somewhat less than a score of years ago, when some candid Disquisitors made their appearance it was decined thefavourable hourso long expected was come. And certain it is, that they had the secret wishes, and the open votes and encouragement, of many respectable characters and dignitaries in the church, as well as out of it. But the time was not cone.