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Prospects of Unitarianisnın Preface to Sparks' Theological Col.
Editor's Address. It is the purpose of the present editor of the Unitarian Miscellany, to conduct it, as far as he is able, in the same way, and on the same principles, which have hitherto been pursued in its publication. With regard to religious doctrines, indeed, he could hardly follow a different path, as his own opinions coincide, in almost every important particular, with those of the late editor. And the form and disposition of the work have been so universally approved, that it would be useless, and perhaps impolitic, to make any change in that respect.
The Unitarian Miscellany is not adapted to render much assistance to those, whose duty or disposition it is to search into the depths of theological controversy. For
persons of this class, there are ample means of information, and they know where those means are to be found. But we are happy to believe, that, for those to whom our labours are principally addressed, no long or learned disquisitions are necessary. Christianity is a simple religion, intelligible in its doctrines, and plain in its requisitions. It speaks most reasonably to the understanding, and appeals most forcibly to the heart. Designed as it is for all, it is suited to the capacity and apprehension of all. If men have thought it intricate, it is because they have not been content with its simplicity; and if they have turned from its light, it is because they have loved the darkness better. And thus it happens that by far the greater part of the labour which is required from us is, not to explain Christianity, for it is sufficiently explicit, nor to recommend it, for it powerfully recommends itself, but to show how much that has been supposed to be Christianity does not at all belong to it, and how miserably it has been misconstrued by its professed interpreters. The minds of men have been so long accustomed to connect mystery, and terror, and scheming, and planning, and darkness, with the very name of religion, that the great object to be attempted is to dissolve this connexion; and when that is done, every thing is done. Let us clear away the heaps of rubbish which are every where piled up in the way, and then the way itself will be straight and level enough. If we can only pull down the superstructures of wood, hay and stubble, which have been built on the edifice of Christ and his apostles, our work is at an end, for the edifice appears in all its beauty then, complete, and well proportioned.
If we are asked whether there are not many passages in the Seriptures, which an unlettered man finds himself unable to comprehend, we answer, undoubtedly there
but this is no reason why he should not be perfectly able to understand the general system of Christian doctrine and duty. Christianity was not meant to perplex and confound its votaries, to make them melancholy, or to drive them mad. It will be an import
ant part of our design to advance and enforce some great and leading principles, which, if adopted, will preserve the plain and honest inquirer from being troubled by meeting a few difficult sentences among the luminous revelations, and the simple directions and assurances of the gospel. A text here, and a word there, which have been mistranslated, or misconceived, will not make God less wise, just, or merciful; will not affect his unity, his goodness, his wisdom or his power; and will not deprive men of their ability to do his will, or obtain his favour.
We have no respect whatever for the long list of errors, which are so generally maintained as the essentials, but which we consider the corruptions of our religion. We see nothing engaging in the fancies and imaginations which have spoiled the simplicity of truth, and yoked mysticism with its sublimity. Neither do we esteem falsehood as in the least degree more venerable, because it is a hundred, or a thousand years old. We only think it a pity that it should have lived so long. We shall therefore do all that is in our power, small as that power may be, to weaken the influence, and check the progress of those doctrines, commonly designated as orthodox, which have neither beauty nor utility to recommend, nor scripture to support them.
While we think in this manner of erroneous doctrine, we do yet profess to regard with undistinguishing charity the honest of all sects. If the same charity is not shown in our favour by others, we are content. We shall not, on that account, think more favourably of their opinions, nor less so of our own. We shall assume no spiritual authority, and we shall only smile at any such assumption.
The great object of religion, after all, is the regulation of the conduct. We shall endeavour, in
every ber of the Miscellany, to introduce one or more essayš, entirely free from controversy, which shall have for their sole
the excitement and exercise of the pious affections, and the inculcation of the pure and holy morality of the Gospel. And it is our earnest prayer to God, that they may be productive of good
Unitarian and Orthodox Zeal compared. Because we do not compass sea and land to gain a proselyte; because we do not call religious meetings and conferences every day in the week; because we do not travel from house to house, and from village to village, proclaiming our peculiar opinions; because we do not sound alarms, and utter lamentations, and sow discord, and form cent societies; because we do not do all this, and much more that is like it; we are called lukewarm and indifferent, and regardless of the triumph of what we believe to be the truth.
The orthodox tell us, that our religion must be cold and lifeless, or we should not be so cold and lifeless ourselves. And they who rank themselves on neither side, say, that whatever may be the respective merits of our doctrines, our opponents have certainly the advantage of us in zeal.
We have even heard many of our associates and fellow-believers express the opinion, that we might profitably borrow from our adversaries, if nothing else, yet some of that warmth and interest and devotedness, in which we are so deficient ourselves. They have