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HISTORY OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST.
His last illness was short; he, feeling his end was nigh, raised himself up in bed, sang a verse, committing his spirit unto God in solemn prayer, praising God with a loud voice, expired, March 23d, 1812, in the eighty-seventh year of his age, having preached fifty years. George A. Geeting quickly followed Beohm, which was on the 28th of June, same year, 1812. His illness was of but one night and a day, without much pain. Being sensible that his hour had come, he desired to be helped out of bed, which being done, he lined a verse and sang it with a clear voice, knelt down by the bedside, and offered up his last prayer on earth; and in the full triumph of faith bid the world adieu, having preached forty years. Wm. Otterbein, as he was first, was also last of the three; for the year 1813 closed the labours in the vineyard of the Lord of this holy man of God, full of years, of hope, and a glorious immortality. Soli Deo gloria.
BY THE REV. ALVAN LAMSON,
ANALYSIS OF THE ENSUING ARTICLE.
1. Doctrines of Unitarians.-Great distinguishing features of Unitarianism-Diversity of opinion among Unitarians—Views generally received among them—Character of God -Gospel of Jesus originated in his mercy-Unitarian views of his justice-Jesus Christ -Unitarians believe him to be a distinct being from the Father, and inferior to him— The sort of evidence on which they rely for proving this—Assert the incredibility of the Trinity-Their view of the teachings of the scripture relating to the Son—The inference they make from the conduct of the disciples and others—Their views of Trinitarian proof texts—Of the concessions of Trinitarian Christians-Unitarians do not address Christ directly in prayer—Reasons for not doing it—Question of his nature—How regarded by Unitarians—His character and offices—True ground of reverence for Jesus, according to Unitarians-Unitarian views of the divinity of Christ—Their views of the AtonementThey do not, they contend, destroy the hope of the sinner, nor rob the Cross of its power -Unitarian views of the Holy Spirit-of the terms of salvation-Of the new birth—How Unitarians speak of reverence for human nature-Need of helpRetribution for sin and holiness--Of the Bible—Their reply to the charge of unduly exalting human reason.
2. Hislory.-Unitarians do not profess to hold any new doctrine-What they affirm, that they are able to prove of the Unitarianism of the ancient Church-Reference to mo. dern Unitarianism in Europe-American Unitarianism-Its date-Its progress, to the commencement of the present century-Its state during the first fifteen years of this cen. tury-1815 an epoch in its history-First controversy-Its origin and results—Second controversy—First separation between orthodox and Unitarian Congregationalists.
3. Statistics.— Number of societies and churches-Other Unitarians besides Congregationalists-Unitarian periodicals-American Unitarian Association-Present condition and prospects of Unitarianisrn.
The brevity we must study in this article will not allow us to give any thing more than a very meagre sketch of the views held by Unitarian Congregationalists of the United States, and add a few facts concerning the history and reception of these views, and the general statistics of the denomination.
Unitarianism takes its name from its distinguishing tenet, the strict personal unity of God, which Unitarians hold in opposition to the doctrine which teaches that God exists in three persons. Unitarians maintain that God is one mind, one person, one undivided being; that the Father alone is entitled to be called God in the highest sense; that he alone possesses the attributes of infinite, underived divinity, and is the only proper object of supreme worship and love. They believe that Jesus Christ is a distinct being from him, and possesses only derived attributes; that he is not the supreme God himself, but his Son, and the mediator through whom he has chosen to impart the richest blessings of his love to a sinning world.
This must be called the great leading doctrine, the distinguishing, and, properly speaking, the only distinguishing feature of Unitarianism. Unitarians hold the supremacy of the Father, and the inferior and derived nature of the Son. This is their sole discriminating article of faith.
On several other points they differ among themselves. Professing liule reverence for human creeds, having no common standard but the Bible, and allowing, in the fullest extent, freedom of thought and the liberty of every Christian to interpret the records of divine reve. lation for himself, they look for diversity of opinion as the necessary result. They see not, they say, how this is to be avoided without a violation of the grand Protestant principle of individual faith and liberty. They claim to be thorough and consistent Protestants.
There are certain general views, however, in which they are mostly agreed, as flowing from the great discriminating article of faith above mentioned, or intimately connected with it, or which they feel compelled to adopt on a diligent examination of the sacred volume. Of the more important of these views, as they are commonly received by Unitarian Congregationalists of the United States, some account may be here expected. To do full justice to the subject, however, would require far more space than it would be proper for this article to occupy.
We begin with the character of God. Unitarians, as we said, huld to his strict personal unity; they are accustomed, too, to dwell with peculiar emphasis on his moral perfections, and especially his paternal love and mercy. They believe that he yearns, with a father's tenderness and pity, towards the whole offspring of Adam. They believe that he earnestly desires their repentance and holiness; that his infinite, overflowing love, led him, iniraculously, to raise up and send
Jesus to be their spiritual deliverer, to purify their souls from sin, to restore them to communion with himself, and fit them for pardon and everlasting life in his presence; in a word, to reconcile man to God, and earth to heaven.
They believe that the gospel of Jesus originated in the exhaustless and unbought love of the Father; that it is intended to operate on man, and not on God; that the only obstacle which exists, or which ever has existed on the part of God, to the forgiveness of the sinner, is found in the heart of the sinner himself; that the life, teachings, and resurrection of Jesus, become an instrument of pardon, as they are the appointed means of turning man from sin to holiness, of breathing into his soul new moral and spiritual life, and elevating it to a union with the Father. They believe that the cross of Christ was not needed to render God merciful; that Jesus suffered, not as a victim of God's wrath, or to satisfy his justice; they think that this view obscures the glory of the divine character, is repugnant to God's equity, veils his loveliest attributes, and is injurious to a spirit of filial trusting piety. Thus all in their view, is to be referred primarily to the boundless and unpurchased love of the Father, whose wisdom chose this method of bringing man within reach of his pardoning mercy, by redeeming him from the power of sin, and establishing in his heart his kingdom of righteousness and peace.
We now proceed to speak of Jesus Christ. As before said, Unitarians believe him to be a distinct being from God and subordinate to him. The following may serve as a specimen of the process of thought, views, and impressions through which they arrive at this conclusion. We beg leave to state them, not for the purpose
argument, for we have no wish here to enter into any defence of Unitarian sentiments, but simply that our views may be understood, and the more especially, as we have reason to believe that they are often misapprehended. No more of argument will be introduced, and no more of the history of ancient and foreign Unitarianism, than appears necessary to put the reader in complete possession of the sentiments and position of the sect as it exists in this country.
Unitarians do not rely exclusively, or chiefly, on what they conceive to be the intrinsic incredibility of the doctrine to which they stand opposed. They take the Bible in their hands, as they say, and sitting down to read it, as plain unlettered Christians, and with prayer for divine illumination, they find that the general tenor of its language either distinctly asserts or necessarily implies the supremacy of the Father, and teaches the inferior and derived nature of the Son. In proof of this, they appeal to such passages as the following : “ This is
life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John xvii. 3.) “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. ii. 5.) “My Father is greater than I.” (John xiv. 28.) « My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” (Ibid. vii. 16.) “I speak not of myself.” (Ibid. xiv. 10.) “I can of my own self do nothing." " (Ibid. v. 30.) “ The Father that dwelleth in me he doeth the works." (Ibid. xiv. 10.) “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts ii. 36.) “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour.” (Ibid. v. 31.)
They appeal to such passages, and generally to all those in which Jesus Christ is called, not God himself, but the Son of God; in which he is spoken of as sent, and the Father as sending, appointing him a kingdom, “giving" him authority, giving him to be head over all things to the Church. Such passages, they contend, show derived power and authority. Again, when the Son is represented as praying to the Father, and the Father as hearing and granting his prayer, how, ask they, can the plain serious reader, resist the conviction, that he who prays is a different being from him to whom he prays? Does a being pray to himself?
Unitarians urge, that passages like those above referred to, occur- . ring promiscuously, are fair specimens of the language in which Jesus is spoken of in the New Testament; that such is the common language of the Bible, and that it is wholly irreconcilable with the idea that Jesus was regarded by those with whom he lived and conversed, as the infinite and supreme God, or that the Bible was meant to teach any such doctrine. They do not find, they say, that the deportment of the disciples and the multitudes towards Jesus, the questions they asked him, and the character of their intercourse with him, indicated any such belief on their part, or any supposition that he was the infinite Jehovah. We meet, say they, with no marks of that surprise and astonishment which they must have expressed on being first made acquainted with the doctrine,-on being told that he who stood before them, who ate and drank with them, who slept and waked, who was capable of fatigue and sensible to pain, was in truth, the Infinite and Immutable One, the Preserver and Governor of nature.
They contend that the passages generally adduced to prove the supreme deity of Jesus Christ, fail of their object; that without violence they will receive a different construction; that such construction is often absolutely required by the language itself, or the connexion in which it stands; that most of those passages, if carefully examined, far from disproving, clearly show the distinct nature and