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BY LANT CARPENTER, LL.D.,
PRINTED FOR THE
American Unitarian Association.
GRAY AND BOWEN, 141 Washington street.
Price 4 Cents.
This tract is taken from Dr Carpenter's Examination of the Charges made against Unitarians, and Unitarianism,' &c, of which work it constitutes the last chapter.
PRINTED BY I. R. BUTTS.....BOSTON.
It has been sometimes urged against the doctrines of Unitarianism, that they cannot be true, because their effects are bad. Those who have made the objection, do not argue fairly: they do not fairly ascertain the fact; and they do not take into account those other causes, which may operate to produce the effects which they erroneously attribute to Unitarianism.
I say they do not fairly ascertain the fact, that what they deem its effects are real, or, if real, that they are bad. Sometimes they set up as a standard of christian practice, and as a test of christian principle, some criterion, which the Gospel neither lays down nor sanctions, and which the Unitarian holds to be perverted or defective; and then, judging by this, they come to conclusions, which are utterly inconsistent with righteous judgment. And, still more frequently, they draw inferences as to the religious conduct of Unitarian professors, from casual expressions, in themselves unfounded or entirely misunderstood; and from a few cases, they form the most erroneous judgments of the religious views and conduct of Unitarians generally.
If any opinions naturally lead to a perversion or deficiency in christian duty, then the conduct of those who profess them may be regarded as a strong corroborative proof of their injurious tendency. But if the opinions have naturally no such tendency, the ill conduct of those who hold them must be assigned to some other cause. Our Lord does indeed say, that the tree is known by its fruits; but to apply the principle, we must not take the tree which does not bear the fruits. If a man's spirit and conduct be unchristian, his actuating principles must be bad; his heart cannot be right: but his religious sentiments must not be made responsible for his unchristian spirit and conduct, unless it can be shown that they have, in some way or other, led to them. A man's religious sentiments may be true, without affecting his practice; they may be false, without af fecting his practice. Multitudes believe in Christianity, who have nothing of the Christian but the name; multitudes have believed in some of the wildest corruptions of Christianity, who have been Christians in deed and in truth. As to what I deem the corruptions of Christianity, it may be truly said, that where these unhappily modify the views entertained of christian duty and the christian character, yet the grand practical truths of the Gospel have so powerful an influence in the heart, which is yielded up to the obedience and imitation of Christ Jesus, which is sincerely desirous to do the will of God, that errors connected with these truths only serve to perplex the understanding, and to play around.
he heart, without essentially perverting its affections and principles. And, on the other hand, where the be
lief is scriptural, decided, and pure, yet the influence of the world and of bad habits and dispositions formed independently of that belief, as well as other causes which in individual cases are easily ascertained, often prevent its efficacy, and it has little or no share in the regulation of the heart and the guidance of the life.
I may here add, that many have avowed themselves Unitarians, not from any serious regard to christian. truth and duty, or from serious examination of the evidence on which the doctrines of Unitarianism depend; but because these at once approve themselves to their understanding, and because the Unitarians lay no undue stress upon the external observances of piety, and none upon those excited states of feeling, in which some appear to place the essence of religion. Such persons sometimes have little regard to the practical tendency of the doctrines they profess; and if Unitarianism do not improve them, they will, in all probability, too often throw discredit upon the cause they avow.
When the deist urges against us the unchristian lives of professing Christians, we justly answer by inquiring if this is the fault of their religion; and we desire him to form his estimate of the practical value of Christianity, by its efficacy where the life is cordially and habitually shaped by its precepts, its spirit, its prospects, and its examples. Unitarianism asks for the same justice; and then it has nothing to fear. The merely speculative Unitarian, whose opinions as little affect his heart as the clothes do which he wears, cannot with justice be regarded as a specimen of the influence of Unitarian principles.
The argument from the conduct of those who hold 1*
VOL. IH.-NO. V.