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The work which we here lay before the public, is a renewed attempt to supply a Universalist periodical which shall rank, in some degree, with the religious Reviews and critical Magazines of other denominations. This want appears now so generally felt by our brethren throughout the country, that we have little apprehension of a failure in our undertaking, through lack of public interest. But we should do injustice to ourselves, did we not confess that when we consider the character which such a work must bear, we feel a painful distrust of our means and qualifications to discharge the responsibilities we assume Relying, however, on the encouragement which several experienced and approved writers have already given, and hoping for the assistance of others of the same class, we shall spare no pains, on our part, to make the publication answer the object proposed. It will consist chiefly of
Explanations of Scriptural Texts, Phrases and Subjects;
Dissertations on points of Biblical Literature;
Expositions, both argumentative and historical, of Religious Truth in general;
Reviews of such important Works as shall be deemed of special concern to Universalists; and, at regular periods,
A General Review of the existing State of our Doctrine and Denomination in this country, and, as far as practicable, in other countries.
To articles of this description, the work will be for the most part confined, and from them derive its principal character. We are unwilling, however, to follow the reigning fashion of similar periodicals so far as to exclude original pieces of poetry. If worthy of the title, they will enhance the interest of our pages, and cherish a refined and correct taste. Without promising, what we may be unable to furnish, a regular list of new publications useful to the Biblical and religious student, we shall occasionally insert notices of the most important that come to our knowledge. Of sermons, few, if any, will be admitted, since other vehicles of regular publication are now provided for them.
From the foregoing Prospectus, it will be seen that this work cannot interfere with any of the periodicals existing at present among Universalists, nor in the least supersede their use. To their respective editors and proprietors, we owe a grateful acknowledgement of the generous and active patronage they have extended to us. Our only regret has been, that their anticipations have manifestly overrated the degree of excellence which we shall be able to give the work. For its imperfections we ask their indulgence, and that of our many brethren who have warmly befriended it; but, such as it is, we humbly commend it to the favor which it needs from all. And burying in silence, and as far as possible in oblivion, any grievance we may have suffered, we wish to be understood as directing to each in particular, the same expression of fraternal dependence that we address to the body in general.
Nothing remains, but to state the principles on which the publication will be conducted, and to prescribe the manner in which we hope it will be executed. Though no important error, or what we deem such, will be admitted without censure, still we shall not hold ourselves amenable for every statement and idea which may be inserted from a contributor. But, in order to furnish our readers with the proper responsibility in all cases, it is expected that each writer will affix to his communications the initials of his name, so that he may be easily recognized. Personalities would, of course, be altogether out of place. The style of the articles should be plain and correct, and at the same time engaging. Criticisms are apt to run into dry and tedious prosing; but they ought to be expressed in a manner as familiar and popular as the subjects will admit. An ostentatious display of learning should be wholly avoided, and even quotations from other tongues, where they are not absolutely necessary for illustration. la dogmatical and polemic pieces, the language should be temperate, without affecting, however, that fastidiousness which revolts at a full and hearty expression.
Such are our views, which we doubt not our correspondents will second; but how far we shall be able to attain them on our part, remains now to be proved.
Boston, January 1st, 1833.
The New Testament doctrine of Personal Righteousness; or, of Faith and Works, with regard to Justification.
This has always been considered a very difficult subject. We hope its acknowledged intricacy may be pleaded in excuse for any defects or even slight mistakes which, it is by no means improbable, will be detected in the present Essay. For any important error, we ought not indeed to ask favor; but in a case so complicate as this, we cannot flatter ourselves that every particular text will be explained and applied with perfect precision. If we but succeed to bring forth the general features, the outlines, of the doctrine into clear view, it will be all that we dare propose, or that we can rationally expect to accomplish.
There are several expressions in the New Testament which seem, at first sight, to detract so much from the moral value of good works and human righteousness, that they are somewhat startling to a rational observer. This, however, is fur from being the case with the general tenor of the New Testament. lis usual language recognises, in the highest terms, the worlh of virtue and obedience, in the sight of God; as anybody will discover by consulting its pages promiscuously. Thus, our Saviour in his preaching lays the utmost stress on personal righteousnese: Blessed, says he, are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, &c., for they shall see God, and be called the children of God. 'Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.' Here he attaches the highest importance to our righteousness. The strait gate and narrow way that leadeth unto life, he designates in the following precept: 'All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.' 'By thy words,' says he, ' thou shalt be justified; and by thy words thou shall be condemned.' St. Peter tells Cornelius, 'of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.' To work righteousness is here represented as the sure means of rinding acceptance with God. St. John says, 'If ye know that he [Christ] is righteous, know ye that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.' 'Little children,' adds he, 'let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is
righteous, even as he [Christ] is righteous In this
the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.' St. James inquires, 'What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? . . . But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our hiker justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? . . . Ye see then how that by works a man- is justified, and not by faith alone.'1
Such is the current language of the New Testament on this subject. And its propriety is manifest enough from the very nature of things. As to righteousness, we cannot conceive of it, except as personal; since it is nothing else than a certain state of one's mind, a right exercise of his affections. We may indeed call a person righteous, on some other ground, or on no ground at all; but every body can see that calling him so, does not alter the fact. To express the whole in a mere truism: if a man is righteous, he is so; otherwise, he is not, call him what we please. It is also plain that he cannot be really justified in the sight of immutable truth, any farther than he is righteous. The self-existent, universal law of right requires conformity on his part; and to that law he must forever be amenable, while he continues a moral being. If he be sinful, so far he is guilty; and so far, of course, he is removed from justification, in the proper sense of this word. These statements appear self-evident; and they illustrate the truth of the texts which we have quoted as specimens of the New Testament language on this subject.
1 Matt. v. 3—9, 19, 20; vii. 12—14; xii. 37. Acta x. 34, 35,—compare the entire chapter. 1 John ii. 29; iii. 7,10. James ii. 14—24.