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charity or love, which “ vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, thinketh no evil, hopeth all things.” Is such the nature of your assumptions and accusations ?
You may doubtless say, that you have verily thought you ought to do and say many things against the dissenters. from your creed ; and that you have no satisfactory evidence, that any of them are good people. So Paul verily thought he ought to do many things against Jesus of Naza-, reth, which things he did, by persecuting Christians with unrelenting cruelty. He might say, that he saw no satisfactory evidence, that any of them were good people. So the Jewish Sanhedrim might probably have said, that they saw no satisfactory evidence that Jesus was any thing better than an impostor. But why this blindness in the Sanhedrim, and in Saul of Tarsus? They looked at Christ and his disciples through the medium of prejudice, and judged of them by false traditionary tests, neglecting the proper and prudent means of forming a correct opinion. If they heard Christ preach, it was not that they might form correct opinions of him and his doctrine, but that they might catch something from his lips, on which they could ground an accusation. If they saw him perform the most beneficent miracles, such were their prejudices, that they ascribed these good deeds to the aid of the devil. While under the influence of such prejudices, what could be evidence to their minds of the goodness of the Messiah ?
We well recollect, that there was a time, when many of your denomination seemed verily to think, that they ought to do many things against the Baptists; and about forty years ago, we heard an eminent minister of
denomination, express serious doubts, whether any of the Baptists were really good people. He was reminded that Dr. Stillman was a man of good reputation. But your good brother still had his doubts, though he hesitated to say that Dr. Stillman was not a good man. Yet, Sir, you are aware that the Baptists are at this time a numerous and respectable denomination. Few, we believe, at this day, think it to be either impossible or improbable, that a Baptist may be a good man. Since, then, it is so evident, that men have been very liable to misjudge the characters of those who dissent from their creed, it would seem, that there has been a good opportunity for reflecting and observing men to learn
wisdom; and to be cautious, lest haply they should be found to fight against God, by calumniating and abusing his friends. But it is a deplorable fact, that Christians have been slow to believe the things which concern the true interest and peace of the church. They see that one sect after another is formed, and abused, - and that the very means which are employed to prevent their increase, have the contrary effect. Yet the same or similar means are still pursued in successive ages and generations.
One of your accusations and reproaches against us, is this, that we exalt reason above revelation; - and what, Sir, are the grounds of this reproach ? When by reflection, we have found in some of the opinions which we derived from tradition and education, or in the popular opinions of others, that which seems to us to be repugnant to reason or reproachful to the character of God, we have employed our reason to ascertain, whether such opinions were not founded in misinterpretations of the oracles of God. In various instances we have found satisfactory evidence that such was the fact ; and the consequent change of our own opinions, and the reasons for such change, we have frankly avowed, and have published them for the consideration of our brethren at the hazard of reputation and worldly prospects. But this we do not regard as preferring our reason to revelation, but as employing reason to obtain a right understanding of what the mercy of a heavenly Father has revealed for our benefit. Permit us, Sir, here to ask, have you never employed your reason for such worthy purposes ? Have you not, by such an employment of reason, found occasion to alter your opinion in regard to the meaning of some ambiguous portions of Scripture ? If you have, we ask further, did you regard this as preferring reason to revelation ? and would you not have deemed it injurious in others, to accuse you of this on such ground? If you have not employed reason in this way, such neglect may account,
, perhaps, for your continuing to regard as essential' doctrines, the fabrications of fallible men.
We, or some who have agreed with us, that God is one, may have, on some occasions, been imprudent in what has been said of the office or value of reason in regard to revelation ; and, perhaps, it has been so with yourself
. But be assured, Sir, that we employ our reason from regard to revelation, and not in contempt of that gift. We may also observe, that we esteem revelation and reason, as equally gifts from the Father of lights; and to speak contemptuously of reason, as some bave done, seems to us little less than speaking disrespectfully of the goodness of God, by which the gift was bestowed. Reason is fallible, and revelation infallible; yet, were it not that we possess the faculty of reason, revelation would be of as little value to us, as it is to reptiles and insects.
In regard, however, to the charge of preferring reason to revelation, we deem the charge as misplaced. For, believing as we do, that our reason is fallible, and that we are very liable to err in our interpretations of the oracles of God, we have not dared to set up any of our inferences from what we deem Scrip ure premises, as essential articles of faith, or as tests of Christian character. We deem it more safe for us, and more respectsul 10 others, to acquiesce in what Christ established as essential, than to exalt our reason so far, as 10 assume the right of forming other tests or essential doctrines. Can you, Sir, honestly make a similar declaration ? As we have seen already, not so much as one of the articles which you have declared essential, was ever so represerted by Him, who came from God to teach us what we must do to be saved. The articles, therefore, must have been fabricated by your reason, or the reason of others, fallible like yourself. Yet, is it not undeniable that you prefer these fruits of reason to the revelations of God, considered as essential articles of faith? If they are not preferred, why are they substituted for those which have the explicit sanction of the Head of the Church? Are you not, then, liable to the very charge which you have attempted in vain to fix on others ? Show that we have, in like manner, or in any manner equally gläring, preferred our reason to revelation, and we will at once plead guilty, and supplicate the forgiveness of God and our fellow Christians.
That we have imperfections, both natural and moral, we cannot deny; and that there are some of the dissenters from your creed who are irreligious men, we do not doubt. But are you, Sir, free from moral imperfections ? And are there no irreligious men who adopt your "soul-humbling doctrines ” ? If you can truly answer these queries in the VOL. XVII. - N. S. VOL. XII. NO. J.
negative, you may have reason to suppose that your creed is more efficacious and salutary, than ours.
Still, you should remember, that your creed has subjected you to great disadvantages in respect to judging impartially of the characters or the conduct of your dissenting brethren. For your creed implies the belief, that it is impossible there should be any thing morally good in those who dissent from your test of character. Prior to giving them a hearing, you have pronounced them undeserving of the name of Christians." What confidence, then, can be placed in your judgment, or your declarations, respecting them ? The same that might have been placed in the judgment and declaration of bim, who said of the “holy one of God," — “We know that this man is a sinner.” We verily believe that some articles of your creed are in contradiction to the revelations of God. Should we connect with this, belief that no good man can dissent from our creed, or that all who dissent are unworthy to be called Christians, would you not have reason to say, that we are in no situation to judge impartially of your characters or of your conduct ? Judges of courts have sometimes declined acting, being conscious of prepossessions against one of the parties.
When a prisoner is to be tried for his life, the jurors are severally questioned, whether they have formed an opinion on the cause to be tried. If any one acknowledges that he has, he is set aside, and another man is called in his room. Or, should it be made to appear, that one or more of the jurors had expressed an opinion against the prisoner, prior to the trial, and manifested strong prejudices against him, he, or they, would be set aside as disqualified. Admitting the principle to be good, on which such measures are adopted, what reliance could reasonably be placed on your judgment of any minister who dissents from your doctrine, that God is three. Have you not adopted a test on the ground of which you have denounced indiscriminately all such dissenters? And have you not been more or less employed in efforts to destroy their reputation as Christians, and to render them odious in the estimation of their parishes, and of the whole community ? With what propriety, then,
could you sit in a council, when one of them is to be tried ? Or, of what value can be your judgment against him ?
In view of the legal or common-sense principle, on which
prejudice is regarded as disqualifying a man for acting as a judge or juror, you may perhaps learn why your accusations and reproaches have not occasioned the dismission of every Unitarian minister in the United States. If what you" and some of your brethren have said against them had been generally believed to be true, their reputation would have been ruined, and they would all have been dismissed, if not hooted from their parishes and driven into exile. But notwithstanding you have so often reproached them as infidels, or as bad as infidels, as enemies to God and Christ, and unworthy of the name of Christians, yet, many of them at least, are held in esteem by men as worthy perhaps as yourself, and much better acquainted with their real characters, than yourself. We cannot account for the fact that your accusations have not been more extensively ruinous to them, except on the ground, that you and others are regarded as so far under the dominion of prejudice, that, in this case, your opinion and your reproaches are entitled to little respect. We do not esteem it a light thing to be thus reproached and denounced by our brethren of another sect; but we have consoling evidence to our own minds, that God's thoughts of us are not as your thoughts ; and we recollect, that as bad things were said of the Messiah, whose disciples we are, as have been said of us, and that he forewarned his disciples that
they would have to endure such trials and reproaches. Besides, we have verily believed, that in your attempts to ruin the Christian character of your brethren, you were so bewildered by prejudice and party passions, that what Christ said on one occasion to James and John, he might with equal truth say to you,
6. Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” Seeing that Christ still treated men as his disciples who sometimes erred, not only in opinion, but in temper and practice, it is our aim to follow his example. We, therefore, still regard you as a Christian, while we disapprove of that in your conduct, which seems to us antichristian. We wish ever to be able to pray, · Father, forgive us, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
You will probably say, that there have also been reproachful things said by Unitarians, which tended to injure the character of the clergy of your denomination. This we shall not deny, — and we lament, that there has ever been ground of complaints of this kind against any who dissent