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an adversary, whom he had not vanquished in open and fair warfare.
That any thing has ever been done by the orthodox men of Massachusetts, to excuse or palliate such a charge as this, we utterly deny. We certainly are not prepared to vindicate, in all cases, the manner in which they have conducted the controversy between themselves and the Unitarians. But, as far as we have seen, the matter of controversy, and not the manner, is the chief subject of complaint. The great question is this; are the men who deny the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, the total depravity of human nature, the divinity of our Lord, the personality and divinity of the Holy Ghost, the vicarious sufferings and atonement of Christ, regeneration and sanctification by the Holy Spirit, justification by faith, and the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent, to be reckoned Christians or not? The Unitarians affirm, and the Orthodox deny. This denial is the great cause of dissatisfaction and complaint. The Orthodox have never withheld personal civilities and kindness, have never brought their religious disputes into politics. The whole controversy has been one entirely of a religious character; it concerns only religious opinion and practice. Decisive proof of this is found in the fact, that although a decided majority of the people of Massachusetts are Orthodox, the government of the State has, for some years, been confessedly in the hands of Unitarians.
It is true that loud complaints have been heard, that the venerable college of the State, although chiefly founded by orthodox men, for the express purpose of promoting orthodox sentiments is entirely in possession of Unitarians. But these complaints have been made chiefly, if not entirely, on the ground that Harvard University has been employed for sectarian purposes; and has indeed been used as an instrument of proselytism. The fact is undeniable. Is the public statement of this fact one ground of Dr. Channing's charge?
It was remarked above, that Dr. Channing had repeated the accusations of the avowed enemies of Christianity. As long as these accusations were anonymous, no man of any character thought them worthy of notice. But the case is greatly changed, when a gentleman of distinguished reputation, comes forward before the public as an accuser, and virtually pledges himself for the truth of the charge. He must be held either to produce his proof, or to retract.
We wish it, however, to be understood, that if Dr. Chan
ning, after convincing himself that the principles and practice of his orthodox neighbours tend to produce the evil alleged, had only endeavoured, by fair argument, to produce the same convictions in the minds of others, we should have found nothing to censure in his conduct, whatever we might have thought of the soundness of his reasoning. But he alleges it to be a fact, that hostility to free inquiry is the motive, and the destruction of religious liberty is the object of his theological opponents. What a specimen of liberality!
Professor Stuart felt that he was called on to notice grave charges, thus publicly made by one whose dictum goes for proof among the whole body of liberal men, whether Christians or Infidels, in this country. His letter to Dr. Channing is now before us. It is our duty to put our readers fairly in possession of its contents; and it is our privilege to offer such remarks as the occasion seems to demand.
In the first place, Professor Stuart takes even unnecessary pains to prove that Dr. Channing does, distinctly, and in strong terms, make these very serious charges against Orthodox Christians in Massachusetts. Perhaps he supposed that many persons would be slow to believe, without very abundant evidence, that a man so exceedingly liberal as the Unitarian Doctor, would prefer such accusations; and prefer them too, against those very men whose acknowledgment of him as a Christian brother, he has for a long time most earnestly desired.
It may be observed, as well in this place as any where else, that such are the matter and form of Dr. Channing's accusations, that they include all sincere Trinitarians throughout the country, and especially all who go under the name of Calvinists, to whatsoever denomination they may belong. The charge, virtually, involves at least one half of the Christian population of the United States.
În justification of our own remarks, as well as of those which we shall quote from Professor Stuart, we give the following extracts from the writings of Dr. Channing:
“ It is said, that, in this country, where the rights of private judgment and of speaking and writing according to our convictions, are guaranteed with every solemnity by institutions and laws, religion can never degenerate into tyranny; that here its whole influence must conspire to the liberation and dignity of the mind? I answer, we discover little knowledge of human nature, if we ascribe to constitutions the power of charming to sleep the spirit of intolerance and exclusion. Almost every other bad pas.
sion may sooner be put to rest; and for this plain reason, that intolerance always shelters itself under the name and garb of religious zeal. Because we live in a country, where the gross, out. ward, visible chain is broken, we must not conclude that we are necessarily free. There are chains not made of iron, which eat more deeply into the soul. An espoinage of bigotry may as effectually close our lips and chill our hearts, as an armed and hundredeyed police. There are countless ways by which men in a free country may encroach on their neighbour's rights. In religion the instrument is ready made and always at hand. I refer to opinion, combined and organized in sects, and swayed by the clergy. We say we have no Inquisition. But a sect, skilfully organized, trained to utter one cry, combined to cover with reproach whoever may differ from themselves, to drown the free expression of opinion by denunciations of heresy, and to strike terror into the multitude by joint and perpetual menace,--such a sect is as perilous and palsying to the intellect as the Inquisition. It serves the minister as effectually as the sword. The present age is notoriously sectarian, and therefore hostile to liberty." pp. 25-28 of his Election Sermon.
“I know that the suggestion of persecution will be indignantly repelled by those, who deal most largely in denunciation. But persecution is a wrong or injury inflicted for opinions; and surely assaults on character fall under this definition. Some persons seem to think, that persecution consists in pursuing error with fire and sword; and that therefore it has ceased to exist, except in distempered imaginations, because no class of Christians among us is armed with those terrible weapons. But no. The form is changed, but the spirit lives. Persecution has given up its halter and fagot, but it breathes venom from its lips, and secretly blasts what it cannot openly destroy.”—pp. 561, 562 of Discourses.
“Another important consideration is, that this system of excluding men of apparent sincerity, for their opinions, entirely subverts free inquiry into the scriptures. When once a particular system is surrounded by this bulwark; when once its defenders have brought the majority to believe, that the rejection of it is a mark of depravity and perdition, what but the name of liberty is left to Christians? The obstacles to inquiry are as real, and may be as powerful, as in the neighborhood of the Inquisition. The multitude dare not think, and the thinking dare not speak. The right of private judgment may thus, in a Protestant country, be reduced to a nullity. It is true, that men are sent to the scriptures ; but they are told before they go, that they will be driven from the church on earth and in heaven, unless they find in the scriptures the doctrines which are embodied in the popular creed.
- To oppose
They are told, indeed, to inquire for themselves; but they are also told, at what points inquiry must arrive ; and the sentence of exclusion hangs over them, if they happen to stray, with some of the best and wisest men, into forbidden paths. Now this . Protestant liberty' is, in one respect, more irritating than Papal bondage. It mocks as well as enslaves us. It talks to us courteously as friends and brethren, whilst it rivets our chains. It invites and even charges us to look with our own eyes, but with the same breath warns us against seeing any thing which Orthodox eyes have not seen before us. Is this a state of things favorable to serious inquiry into the truths of the gospel; yet, how long has the church been groaning under this cruel yoke.”
what I deemed error was to me a secondary consideration. My first duty, as I believed, was, to maintain practically and resolutely the rights of the human mind; to live and to suffer, if to suffer were necessary, for that intellectual and religious liberty, which I prize incomparably more than my civil rights. I felt myself called, not merely to plead in general for freedom of thought and speech, but, what was more important and trying, to assert this freedom by action. I should have felt myself disloyal to truth and freedom, had I confined myself to vague commonplaces about our rights, and forborne to bear my testimony expressly and specially to proscribed and persecuted opinions. The times required that a voice of strength and courage should be lifted up, and I rejoice, that I was found among those by whom it was uttered and sent far and wide”-pp. vii. viii. of the Preface.
Such are the charges. There is no doubt as to the persons against whom they are brought. To save appearances, indeed, Dr. Channing occasionally throws in words of kindness and professions of liberal feeling. But these are only drops of sweet in bowls of bitterness. We, in common with Professor Stuart, feel no obligation to the Doctor for these little morsels, sparingly dealt out, while he is pouring on us the vials of his wrath.
Professor Stuart, however, feels that he has as good a right to maintain the doctrine which the pilgrim fathers taught to their children, as Dr. Channing has to assail them. And he very justly thinks that the time has not yet come, when any individual, however exalted in his own view or that of his party, can, by sweeping denunciations and fierce accusations, crush all who venture to oppose him. (p. 11.) He also suggests, that the Unitarian Doctor committed a great mistake in supposing himself to be the man whose word is to put down orthodoxy. We remember to have heard a rumour, some two
years ago, that Dr. Channing had said, Orthodoxy must be put down. And we should not be surprised to learn, that, in the Unitarian Association, every speech of certain grave and reverend seigniors has, for a long time, been concluded with the declaration of unmitigated and unappeasable hostilitydelenda est Carthago. But Dr. Channing ought to know, that of those martyrs on whose “heroic spirit” he looks “with solemn joy,” nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand held the very opinions which he regards with utter scorn and abhorrence. They felt the power of those truths which he treats as fables. It was the constraining influence of the redeeming love of Christ which bore them through the flames in their way up to Heaven. Fire could not consume this spirit: the wheel could not break it. It yet lives. And Dr. Channing's voice, even if it were lifted up with the strength and tone of a trumpet, could not put it down.
Professor Stuart sums up, in few words, the charges brought against him and his brethren.
“We are accused of a settled design to invade the religious liber. ties of this community, and to force upon them, sooner or later, a creed which was framed in the dark ages, and is worthy only of them. We are charged with an intention to erect ecclesiastical courts, which, like the Inquisition of old, are by terror and compulsion to bring this whole Commonwealth to one uniform system of religious doctrine."
The professor then places himself at the bar of the public, and put in his plea. It is a plea of non est factum; a denial entirely, both of the fact and the intention. But instead of a bare denial, the accused puts in a special plea, containing a statement, in detail, of his principles, and (by implication) of his actions, in regard to the matter alleged by the prosecutor. * We here give the general heads:
“1. We hold that every individual has a perfect right to examine and decide for himself, what his own religious sentiments or creed shall be.
“ 2. We not only believe that all men should be left free to form their religious opinions, without any civil penalties or disabi. lities, but we maintain most fully, that when the religious sentiments of any one are formed, he has a right to propagate them, to defend them, and to support them, by his efforts, his pen, his property, or his influence."
Accuser would be the better word; because, although Dr. Channing has brought his accusation, he has not appeared to 'make good his charges.
VOL. 111. No. I.-I