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as the designation of the new (or retrograde) movement, would be a less appropriate term than “ the Church of the Past.”
He correctly speaks of the English Presbyterians as “the only denomination of Christians in the country which, by its constitution" (perhaps he should rather say, habit or principle), “ has been always free in doctrine and discipline, -all others having creeds or articles fixed in books, title-deeds, or enforced by some other method.” “They present the only body the members of which can, consistently with their ecclesiastical and doctrinal system, have an opinion of their own."
He finds the history of the Norwich Chapel dividing itself into three distinct periods, and the principle of freedom" forming the line of connection. These periods are, “ that during which the prevalent theological opinions of the congregation were the old orthodox doctrines ; the second, when they were mostly Arian; and the later period, when they have borne the name Unitarian.” So that the periods themselves are at least marked by doctrinal distinctions, in the view of him who would now repudiate doctrines altogether. As regards the first stage, we learn that “ Mr. Finch seems to have used the Scotch Assembly's Catechism.” But this race of Nonconformists, " though orthodox in opinions on theology, were not exclusive; though believing the doctrines in their own minds, they were free in the manner of holding them; they would preach and pray according to them; but those doctrines were not the points of church union.” Is it, then, in obedience to the example of these admired orthodox Presbyterians, that their Unitarian successors are exhorted not to preach and pray according to their own doctrines? Mutatis mutandis, the description is precisely true of Unitarian ministers and congregations at this day: Though heterodox in opinions on theology, they are not exclusive; though believing the doctrines in their own minds, they are free in the manner of holding them; they preach and pray according to them (how can any sincere and intelligent minister of any denomination do otherwise ?); but those doctrines are not the points of church union" (except so far as worship framed on Unitarian views must be unsatisfactory to worshipers of a Trinity, and worship framed on Trinitarian views must be repulsive to Unitarians). The first age of Presbyterianism, then, gives no countenance to the project for deunitarianizing Unitarians.
“ The second age of the Presbyterians, as marked in the records of the Octagon Chapel, is the Arian, especially during the ministry of Dr. Taylor, who represents to us most fully the noblest characteristics of the free Presbyterians of the 18th century.” This Arian period was, as Mr. Crompton says, “ a transition period,”—the period of transition from Orthodoxy to Unitarianism, when the greatest diversity of theological opinion prevailed, and the greatest discretion was necessary on the part of the Presbyterian ministers in officiating among congregations more divided in opinion than ever before or since. Sometimes this discretion degenerated into suppression of personal convictions, which, if it can be vindicated in those circumstances (explained it certainly is by the circumstances), is not on any account to be imitated in the present day by their successors, who by Mr. Crompton's own argument are understood to be Unitarians, and to be preaching to people who have settled the Unitarian controversy in the affirmative. They ought, according to Presbyterian precedent, to do as the Presbyterians
did while decidedly or mainly orthodox-" to preach their doctrines and pray according to them. Dr. Taylor's repudiation of all theological names except Christian (in the extract quoted by Mr. Crompton) was plainly an attempt at peace-making appropriate to this “transition period” of opinion. It is observable, however, that even his catholicity (like that of many good men of his time and denomination) seems, in the extract, to be limited to all our fellow-Protestants ;” and we hope and believe that Mr. Crompton, who doubtless is aware of the “ holy zeal" which even the Presbyterians of that day felt against Popery (a zeal political quite as much as religious), would not recommend the modern Unitarians to re-assume precisely this position in the “ Church of the Future.”
The confession on p. vi, seems (though not designedly on the part of Mr. C.) to place the second stage of Presbyterianism as a warning rather than an example:
“During the latter part of the second or peaceful period, religion certainly lost much of its hold on the popular mind: a high intellectual tone marked the pulpits which addressed the educated classes, and dulness and routine duty sufficed for the country clergy. The people, uninterested, ebbed away from the public ministrations of religion, and a dead lethargy threatened to fall on the ministry of the word.”
Priestley and Wesley were equally important in saving our country from the threatened evils :
“ Priestley and a few others are presented to us as bearing single-handed a double controversy against infidelity on one side, and rampant political and ecclesiastical orthodoxy on the other. This position of their theology has been attended with many but at the time, the Unitarian and Arian form of religion saved the faith of many of the highest intellect, and gave a religion to many of those whom our country has since recognized as the heralds or active promoters of Progress and Reform, both civil and religious.”
We quite agree with Mr. Crompton that, amid these great benefits conferred on religion by the Unitarian controversy, there have been attendant evils, or at least dangers, and may be still, against which all practical and religious Unitarians are on their guard." Unitarianism has been dogmatic rather than spiritual in its manifestations." then? Shall we disown Unitarianism, or seek its spiritual manifesta. tions ? Shall we cease the agencies by which we may still save the faith of minds of highest intellect, or shall we seek to satisfy also the highest virtue and the devoutest affection ? “ These things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." Why should Mr. Crompton press us to a narrow alternative, when he might recommend a powerful union of the intellectual and the religious (or, if he please, the spiritual) attributes of spiritual Christianity? "Logical lucidness and systematic consistency" (we are told), “more than spiritual fire, was the characteristic of the time and of some of the leaders of the body; it was a necessary evil, perhaps, that this should be the stamp given, but nevertheless an undoubted evil.” But some of the leaders, even at the time, had “spiritual fire;" and many of their successors take " logical lucidness” as matter of course, while aiming at moral and religious improvement. Shall we then repudiate the progress of that time, and go back to illogical mist as the true element of spiritual growth for men of this day? Surely not.
“ The controversial position,” Mr. C. says, " is a transient and an unhealthy one. No religious soul may safely dwell long in it; no spiritual mind or church can do so; though all must pass through some form of inquiry."
We have two practical observations to make on this passage and its designed bearing upon the matter in hand. In the first place, every one who uses controversy simply as a means of gaining or communi. cating truth, and who values religious truth for its practical applications, will acknowledge that the controversial position is a transient one, and, if made permanent, an unhealthy one. But, as a transient one, surely it is healthy. Every active mind must doubt and inquire for a while, in order really to believe. There is thus a sad want of precision here. Then, though transient with each mind that rises through it to the possession of personal convictions, controversy is not so transient a position for “ a church,” however spiritual that church may be, which consists of many minds, and receives continually new accessions from successive generations of inquirers. Every intelligent and at the same time devotional Unitarian minister, of sufficient standing to have settled the leading controversies to his own satisfaction, will probably avow a growing distaste to subjects which some time ago interested his own mind intensely in its own transient position of inquiry into opinions. But he may also see reason, if he will recal this past position of his own mind, to bear with and help others now occupying the same position, and may see occasion to discuss again and again, for the satisfaction of others, what has been long settled to his own. Mr. Crompton seems to regard the Unitarian controversy as settled for all future inquirers. We fear such a notion would soon produce indifference to the attainment of personal convictions. Our other remark is this,—that the distinction hinted between controversy and inquiry (the former unhealthy, the latter necessary to all), so far as it is a true distinction, is applicable more properly to the reputed “ orthodox” churches than to ours. On them, rather than on us, rests the blame of perpetuating an unhealthy controversy. All the bitterness of controversy comes out of the single assumption that certain opinions are not only true, but that they are the only saving truth. if men could discuss the Unitarian controversy without any lurking assumption on either hand of this dogma of salvation by opinions, controversy would be simply equivalent to mutual inquiry after truth. Now this assumption is never made by Unitarians; it always is, openly or tacitly, by orthodox divines. And this constitutes the unhealthiness of religious controversy. This distinguishes it from simple inquiry. To get rid, then, of the evils of controversy, and retain the good of free inquiry, what is requisite? On whom does the obligation rest? Is the Unitarian to suppress his doctrine and its evidence, or the Orthodox to give up his spiritual intimidation? Let only the latter be done, and both parties may freely avow their doctrines and the respective reasons for them, without dwelling in an unhealthy atmosphere of controversy. Really it is not we that are to blame in this matter, but the Trinitarians. It is they that need abate something of their controversial position; not we. Let the saddle be put upon the right horse. Our suggested silence about doctrines will not promote free inquiry, and will leave them in possession of a religious terrorism far more noxious, alike to the souls that wield it and to those that are awed by it, than any breath of controversy.
Mr. Crompton seems to adopt George Dawson's idea of Trinitarians and Unitarians worshiping together with mutual satisfaction :
“Orthodox and heterodox once worshiped there together, and it is only the dogmatism of English orthodoxy and the antagonistic position of Unitarianism which prevent this union now. The time is come to cease from destructive action, and to trust in the swelling power of truth, and to labour constructively. The people want bread of life, not Athanasian, Arian or Unitarian disquisitions."
Facts are quite opposed to the alleged possibility of orthodox and heterodox worshiping together. They only did it “once,” in a time of transition, and by means of compromise such as a transition state of opinion could alone bring about and justify. There is no approach to such a union at present. The Trinitarian (who really believes the equal and separate deity of the Son and the Holy Ghost) will not, cannot and ought not to be content to worship the Father alone. The Unitarian will not, cannot and ought not to worship the Trinity. Nor is the sentiment of worship less irreconcilable between him who adores the Father of mercies, and him who approaches the Godhead with faith in vicarious blood. Is it replied: True Christians differ less than their creeds? The orthodox do not always worship three persons in one God, nor feel otherwise towards the Heavenly Father than as affectionate and dear children; many of them do and can join in such prayers as those of the Octagon Chapel? We know it; but this proves that in such cases orthodoxy is a mere name. It proves that simple Unitarianism has its root in human nature itself. But, in all charity, we presume there are some at least who really believe the doctrines of orthodoxy, and who do pray to the Heavenly Father, to Christ and to the Holy Spirit separately, and pray as those to whom Christ's righteousness is imputed. Can such persons unite in Unitarian worship? Surely not. Their creed and their feelings forbid. Shall we, then, unite in their worship? Our convictions and feelings equally forbid. In fact, the only basis ever proposed for a joint worship of orthodox and heterodox, invariably turns out to be a Unitarian one. It is so in Dawson's “ Church of the Saviour.” We venture to predict it will be so in Mr. Crompton's“Church of the Future.” Indeed, it cannot be otherwise. But then, instead of calling upon Unitarians to remove “the stone of stumbling and rock of offence," the appeal would be more justly made to the orthodox. It is not we, but they, that necessitate division. Ours is the broad basis, theirs the narrow one. Our principles are comprehensive, theirs exclusive. Let us not blame them for standing aloof from our assemblies; but we need not blame ourselves, nor submit to be regarded as the cause of the division.
We have given to this brief Introduction to a small book so full a notice, in the desire of fairly meeting and examining the somewhat fashionable demand for a “higher spiritualism.” The great difficulty is to gain a clear conception of what the demand means. Its vagueness baffles every attempt to satisfy it. It seems not to ask for any new organizations or instrumentalities; but rather tends to disparage existing ones. It seems dissatisfied with what is definite in opinion, and disposed to exalt sentiment into the place of conviction. Sometimes it seems to shrink from the name of Unitarian, while not, however, disputing the doctrine. Always it disparages the existing Unitarian
preaching and worship, while it utters no pure or exalted thought for which it is not indebted to them. Let us take all this as a sign of human perfectibility and aspiration,
"Which breathes from day to day diviner things,
And mocks possession." But let us not lose the real for the visionary. Let us not disparage the intellectual, because the moral and the devotional are equally or more important. Let no one-sided idea of Religion content us. Keep the intellectual, as well as the moral and devotional element; yes, and the active too. And if we choose to call them all spiritual, this will be at once a more philosophical and a more scriptural use of the term than it would be to set it in antagonism with reason, which is one part or function of the spirit that is in man.
Of Mr. Crompton himself we need not speak as a zealous and earnest minister, devoted especially to works of practical religion. We know not what more or better he can do in the name of the old Presbyterianism than he has been doing, these past years, in that of Unitarianism. Not the less, we trust, will he be ready in the Church of the Future, than he has been in that of the Past, to “give a reason for the faith that is in him," and to assist inquirers through the transient position (anxious and all-engrossing to them for the time) of religious controversy. If he can become, and help to make others, more spiritual,that is, more vitally religious,—this will be but the continuation of all his aims and efforts hitherto, as it is the sum and substance, the end and aim of the labours of every true minister of Christ, be he Churchman or Dissenter, Catholic or Protestant, Orthodox or Heterodox, Trinitarian or Unitarian. But while he is thus a Christian minister above and through all, he cannot cease to be Unitarian except by believing the Trinity, nor Dissenter except by conforming, nor Protestant till converted to Rome; nor can he avoid the stigma of Heterodoxy unless he learn to wield the insolent weapons of Orthodoxy. But while churches anathematize Heterodoxy, the world is being leavened by Unitarian Christianity notwithstanding, under one name or another.
W. G. W.
Πού Στώ. . “ The postulate of Archimedes is no less indispensable for knowledge [than for action). To comprehend a thing thoroughly, we need a standing-place out of it. Such a to OTG has been supplied for us all by Christianity. Therefore Christian philosophy and Christian science have an incalculable advantage of position over every other form of knowledge.”—Guesses at Truth.
It did not perhaps occur to the ingenious author that this felicitous illustration had done service before, under the pen of a writer whom he has shewn his knowledge of by the, possibly, injudicious expression of his contempt, David Hume, who says, I quote from memory—“Since priests have what Archimedes only wanted, another world on which to rest their fulcrum, no wonder they rule this world at their pleasure.” But if the retort were conscious, it is creditable to the Archdeacon's courage, aware as he must be that an earnest truth will not circulate as widely as a flippant sarcasm,
H. C. R.