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ON MODERN UNITARIANISM.
at all times steadily on our guard against attempts to seduce us into error. The present is not an age, in which all caution in these matters can be deemed superfluous, in which vigilance may safely be relaxed. The supporters of Unitarian tenets in the present times betray no want of activity or of perseverance in propagating doctrines hostile to those which the orthodox Christian Church has uniformly professed. They set at work against , us every engine of open and of indirect assailment. They repeat their attempts with a perseverance which knows no weariness, with a boldness which is shaken by no repulse.
And, as long as they adhere to the system of endeavouring to establish their cause on regular argument; as long as they make a sober and serious appeal to the test of Scripture, and strive to found on it interpretations favourable to their own opinions, and adverse to ours: we have every reason indeed narrowly to watch their proceedings, but we have certainly no just ground of complaint, and we have as certainly not the smallest ground of alarm. The cause of truth can never be impaired by the most nice and severe examination of the foundations on which it rests. On the genuine text of Scripture rightly interpreted, we altogether ground our faith. We are able to defend our own interpretations; we are able to point out the complete unsoundness
of all that are opposed to us. We can produce reasonings for the support of the main and essential doctrines of our Christian Creed, which have hitherto stood their ground against all assailants; and which, we may safely trust, are not likely now to be proved either invalid or insufficient.
But it certainly does constitute a ground of very just and very serious complaint, that we should find ourselves attacked, as in some cases has been and is done, by very unfair and unbecoming weapons. It does form matter of very deep regret that we should ever find the shafts of empty ridicule and petulant invective pointed at the doctrines of our Church; that we should find, in some publications * of the day embracing matters of general literature and mixed discussion, insinuations loosely thrown out, affirmations dogmatically advanced, and assumptions made without the smallest pretensions to proof, but with that imposing air of confidence, which is well calculated to entrap the unwary and work upon the inexperienced; and which, without the possibility of producing regular conviction, may have great effect in generating undue impressions. It is indeed to be lamented, that any of the adversaries, to whom we are opposed, should deem it becoming to have recourse to expedi
* See Note X.
ents, which no reflecting person, whatsoever be his sect or party, can seriously approve, in the conduct of religious controversy.
Now, against a method of attack such as this, it is by no means easy to provide. When an argument is advanced against us, we have something firm and solid on which we can lay hold. We feel the ground on which the question is placed, and we know the means of defence. But, when our adversary merely asserts at a hazard without pretending to support his assertion; when he stoops to vague invective and loose raillery; he sets at defiance all regular reasoning,'' and leaves no direct method of repelling the aggression. The only plan, which can be adopted with effect against such proceedings, seems to be that of affording some general cautions, which may fortify and prepare the minds of readers against imbibing the intended impressions. Accordingly, with a view to this purpose, a few observations respecting the conduct and pretensions of this class of our opponents shall here be suggested.
In the first place, it must always operate as a most useful caution, with reference no less to the Unitarian than to the Infidel, to bear well in mind, that, whenever ridicule is employed on a subject 80 serious as religious truth, a suspicion must always arise, that those, who employ such an unworthy weapon, feel an inward consciousness
of the unsoundness of their cause; and are driven to the necessity of having recourse to other support, besides serious, dispassionate argument. It is universally true, that ridicule is no test of truth. For, as it has justly been remarked *, if ridicule be applied to any position as the test of its truth, the first question to be decided is, whether such ridicule be just; and this can only be decided by the application of truth as the test of ridicule. This weapon may be, and has been employed as successfully to promote the worst of causes as the best. It must also be allowed by persons of every sect and party, that there is both unfairness and indecency in the attempt to employ ridicule on such a subject as religious truth. It is unfair to have recourse to such an expedient, because, while no subject whatever can claim an exemption from the possibility of ludicrous treatment, a grave and solemn subject can with the greater ease be made to assume a ridiculous aspect by some quaint comparison, some petulant mode of statement, or some light association. It is most indecent, because all sincere religious feelings, however misguided, however connected with error, deserve to be respected; and because truths so important, as those which are the subject of such feelings, demand on all occasions the greatest solemnity of discussion. When therefore we meet, with con
By Dr. Johnson.
ON MODERN UNITARIANISM.
temptuous expressions and sarcastic sneers thrown out against the doctrines of our church and against those who yield their faith to them, we should bear this caution well impressed on our minds. We should remember, that the certainty of any truth is not in the slightest degree impaired, by the circumstance of its admitting to be stated or treated in a ludicrous manner. Not the semblance even of a proof is afforded, that the doctrines of the Trinity and of the Incarnation of the Son of God are destitute of Scriptural foundation, and undeserving of our serious belief, by the fact that they may be made to furnish an handle for sportive raillery and irreverent wit, or that they admit of being twisted by the scoffer and the caviller into a ridiculous form. But, against the persons who have recourse to such expedients in assailing religious doctrines, we are warranted in making very strong and decided inferences. We are fully warranted in suspecting that they are mainly impelled to this proceeding by the despair of succeeding in their cause by fair reasoning and regular discussion. We may be positively certain that they are destitute of those serious impressions on religious subjects, which can entitle them to any claims on our respect. Whatever might be their own feelings and convictions; still, if they possessed any proper dis