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on our brethren around us. We believe that they are capable of virtue as well as of vice. We believe, that on the whole, the amount of good greatly surpasses the amount of evil. We believe that there are kindly, and generous, and devout influences, which are continually displaying their effects in the conduct even of those who are the most depraved. We believe that a single family, which amidst privations, poverty, and disappointment, still pursues the straight path of integrity, and struggles on with the hardships of its lot, seeking to earn its daily bread by honest industry, in humble reliance on the providing care of God, manifests a degree of virtue and of moral heroism that would compensate for all the crimes of a County Jail. Now, a race in which such examples are to be found, in which they are not of infrequent occurrence, in which such examples largely predominate, as is shown by the fact that society still endures, although the whole business of its vast and complicated concerns, is founded and conducted on the faith which we have in the honor, virtue, and integrity of our fellowmen — such a race we do not, and we cannot regard as beneath our sympathy. We look upon their nature as a rich and prolific soil that well deserves and will abundantly repay the hand of kindly culture; and for such a race we feel it incumbent on us to make great sacrifices, when thereby we can expect to promote their interest or advantage. We love our brethren therefore, because our religion teaches us, not only that this is a duty, but that they are deserving of our love. We do not believe that either the nature, the circumstances, or the opinions of any of our fellow-creatures can render them outcasts from the love and favor of heaven; and therefore we do not hold ourselves as justified in excluding them, or any portion of them, from ours. In this respect there is no other form or modification of Christianity which can be placed in comparison with Unitarianism. AH others inculcate, in one shape or other, the doctrine of exclusive salvation, which has a manifest and most powerful tendency to chill the warmth of benevolence, and to deaden the emotions of sympathy. Men holding such opinions may do acts productive of good to their fellow-creatures —but how can they love in their hearts, those whom they believe that the Father of Mercies hates 1 or, if they really love them, how can they love tiim?
The view which our system of religion teaches us to entertain, respecting our own condition and character, is calculated to foster the spirit of benevolence and sympathy.
We regard ourselves as not separated by any wall of partition from the common circumstances of our brethren around us. We look upon ourselves as partakers of the same nature, capable of the same virtues, liable to the same temptations, subject to the same infirmities, candidates for the same reward, and joint-heirs of the same salvation with our fellow-creatures. If they are weak and frail, so are we. If their virtues are often mixed with inferior principles, and sometimes impeded in their growth, so are ours. If, in certain respects, we have been enabled to avoid errors into which some of our fellow-creatures have fallen, we know that our circumstances have probably assisted to preserve us. We dare not, therefore, arrogantly presume on our moral character or our religious condition, as if it gave any of us a right to say to our fellow-mortals, — Stand off, for I am holier than thou!
The case would be very different, if we looked upon ourselves as the peculiar favorites of heaven; — if we considered, that we and a few others, like-minded with ourselves, monopolized the paternal love of the great Father of the universe; — if we supposed, that we had been, before the foundations of the earth were laid, selected to be the heirs of a salvation denied to mankind at large; — and that we were, in consequence, favored with a preternatural communication of Divine grace, and by it so inspired and guided, that we could neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of acceptance, nor err in any point of fundamental doctrine, nor be injured by the sins and follies into which we might occasionally fall. Such opinions as these might puff us up with vain notions of our own importance: they might fill our minds with spiritual pride: they might lead us to regard ourselves as raised to so high a level above the bulk of mankind, as to be divested of the motive and freed from the law of struggling for their welfare. Such opinions have produced, and will produce, though possibly not in all minds in which they are entertained, an abundant crop of religious arrogance. Indeed this is their natural result, unless their influence be counteracted by some opposing principle. But these opinions form no part of our religious creed ;— these sentiments are alien to our nature ; — they find no place, we hope and trust, either in our heads or in our hearts;—we repudiate and disavow them. Ours is essentially a social faith. It knits our affections with our fellow-creatures; and, placing us upon the footing of a common brotherhood, it necessarily gives rise to the sentiments of brotherly love. We feel that we stand in need of pardoning mercy; and we dare not be unforgiving. We know that our all depends upon the exercise of free and condescending love; and we cannot venture to set an example of severity, which may be turned against ourselves on that great day when our fate will be decided upon an impartial review of our lives and actions; and with especial reference, as our Savior assures us, to the manner in
UNITABIANISM, A BENEVOLENT FAITH. 240
which we have fulfilled the offices of kindness and humanity. If we are uncharitable therefore, we are the most inconsistent, as well as the most wicked of mortals.
Such are the peculiar motives to the cultivation of enlarged, and liberal, and benevolent dispositions, which are afforded by the Unitarian view of the Gospel of Christ; motives and encouragements in which the members of other denominations, holding opposite opinions from ours, cannot possibly participate. We have every motive to the practice of benevolence which their system affords, and we have these in addition, which their system does not and cannot afford. Hence our religion may indeed be called, with justice, the Law of Love; and its professors may and must, beyond all other men, feel themselves called on to exhibit the demeanor and spirit enjoined by our Savior, when he says, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another."
In conclusion, allow me to exhort all Unitarians who hear me, to preserve the same glorious characteristic of their faith, — its wide and comprehensive benevolence, untarnished and undiminished. Let no political zeal, let no sectarian bitterness, ever interfere with the cultivation and the exercise of their charity. Let us adhere to the test of discipleship given to us by our Divine Master; and let us exemplify in its full measure a precept which is not more lovely in itself, nor more conformable to the spirit of our religion, than, I am happy to think, it is agreeable to our own natural feelings as men, and members of society. Let our churches still be distinguished as pre-eminently the abodes of charity and love.