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BY REVi J. SCOTT POETERj
OF BELFAST, IRELAND.
PRINTED FOR THE
amectcan ©jutartan &ssoctation.
BOSTON: James M.unroe &. Co. 134 Washington Street. August, 1841.
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That Christianity, in its genuine state, is calculated to foster the spirit of devotion, will readily be conceded by every one who professes to be a Christian. Indeed, the necessity of piety is so evident, that no one could reasonably adopt a faith which appeared to neglect the inculcation of a duty so important. All Christians, therefore, believe that Christianity is a Devotional Faith. It is my object, in the present lecture, to show, that the system of Christian Unitarianism possesses, in an eminent degree, this admitted characteristic of the pure Gospel; and that it thus exhibits, in its own nature and tendency, a strong, though indirect proof, of its claim to be regarded as the unadulterated faith which was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ.
In handling this subject, and some others of a similar nature, which I propose to consider in future lectures, I disavow all wish to institute any comparison between the actual conduct of those who have embraced Unitarianism, and those who adhere to the more popular modes of belief. Such a comparison would tend to inflate with pride the minds of those whose conduct might obtain the preference, and thus render them less careful in their behaviour, — less desirous of improvement, — less anxious to amend their errors, and supply their deficiencies. It might offend and mortify those who might be marked out as inferior to their brethren; but could hardly tend to make them better. I disclaim, therefore, any such comparison. I admit, that there are many men whose lives adorn what I regard as an erroneous creed; and, I am obliged to own, there are some whose conduct disgraces the profession of a sound one. I do not admit, indeed, that Unitarians generally, are inferior to their fellow christians around them in moral and religious character; but, for the reasons already stated, I refuse to give the preference to either party. I know that there are, in the case of every man living, many circumstances which modify or counteract the tendency of the creed which he professes. I know that a vast multitude of influences, besides his doctrinal creed, are continually at work, to form and establish the character of his mind. I am willing to allow their proper and just weight to all such considerations, in estimating the character of my fellowchristians. I beg distinctly to be understood as not imputing to individual men, many of whom I know to be most exemplary and praiseworthy, those immoral and irreligious effects which I regard as the natural consequences of their system of belief. I speak of the system only, not the men who hold it. I do not assert, that every Unitarian exemplifies the graces which I think to be the natural fruits of Unitarianism; much less do I charge every Calvinist with those vices which I look upon as the natural effects of Calvinism. But, in relation to the systems themselves, it is obvious, that their moral influence and natural results, such as they would display themselves — if unchecked and uncounteracted — may be a very strong ground for preference or rejection; and, accordingly, it is necessary to examine them in this point of view.
In considering the relative influence of Unitarianism, and what is commonly called Orthodoxy, in fostering a devotional spirit, it is needful to set out with just ideas of the real nature of genuine devotion. It is obvious, that mere sincerity is not sufficient to stamp upon any form of worship the impress denoting the highest value and importance. The Mahometan nations are perfectly sincere in their religious faith; and yet we do not regard their worship a3 equally pure with that which our Lord taught his disciples to cherish. Neither can we allow, that the most intense fervor of piety, or the most exalted emotions of ecstasy, are an indubitable proof of the acceptableness of the devotion in which they are displayed. The victims of the Hindoo Juggernaut display the utmost warmth and fervor of piety; and yet we cannot believe their worship to be equally honorable to God, or agreeable to his will, or pleasing in his sight, with that of Christians under the Gospel. Sincerity and fervor, therefore, though both are necessary, are not sufficient to distinguish the pure and sublime devotion which the Father of Spirits desires. Worship — to be in the highest degree pleasing unto him — must be founded on a just knowledge of his attributes and character: guided and controlled by reason; influencing the heart and life; and inspiring such feelings, and dictating such conduct, as the Author of our being approves and loves. Such is the highest and purest form of devotion. Such was the devoid iv.—No. 169. 1*