Friday, 14 February 2014

19° century London and Unitarians

 It is not like certain website may want to  believe people that the "original movement began in Poland back in the mid-1500s when a member of the Minor Reformed Church challenged the Trinity doctrine."
 Unitarians, are people wanting to keep to Only One True God have been around for ages. Though we do agree that the the church denomination which is called Unitarian Church did come into existence many years after the death of the son of God. Most people in Poland were such believers in Only One God and took Jesus as the son of God, who really died, whilst God can not die.
Those who agreed with the member of the Minor Reformed Church who challenged the Trinity doctrine were given the ultimatum to convert to Roman Catholicism or leave.
 Most of the once preferring to keep to the biblical Truth went to Transylvania, which is where they first used the name “Unitarian” to describe themselves.
 Unitarianism came to the U.S. in the 1780s; Boston’s King’s Chapel was its first church. Many Unitarians, including the ones who attended church with the family of Andrew Sullivan, the author of the Dish, refer to themselves as Universalists. The term originally meant universal salvation, opposing the idea that God would punish or not save anyone. …


19°Century U.K.

Unitarianism has made way in England.

Newington Green Unitarian Church, London, Engl...
Newington Green Unitarian Church, London, England. Built in 1708, this is the oldest non-conformist church in London still in use as a church. (October 2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act became law the Unitarians in England were a small sect, and had not a single place of worship.  It was not till 1779 that it ceased to be required of Dissenting ministers that they should subscribe to the Articles of the Church of England previous to taking the benefit of the Toleration Act, and even this small boon was twice thrown out in the Upper House by the King’s friends and the Bishops.  In 1813, however, one of the most cruelly persecuting statutes which had ever disgraced the British code received its death-blow, and the Royal assent was given to an Act repealing all laws passed against those Christians who impugn the commonly received doctrine of the Trinity.  It was no easy matter to get this act of justice done; the Bishops and the Peers were obstinate.

  In 1772, we read, the Bishop of Llandaff made a most powerful speech, and produced from the writings of Dr. Priestley passages which equally excited the wonder and abhorrence of his hearers, and drew from Lord Chatham exclamations of “Monstrous! horrible! shocking!”  A few years after we find Lord North contending it to be the duty of the State to guard against authorizing persons denying the doctrine of the Trinity to teach.  Even as late as 1824, Lord Chancellor Eldon doubted (as he doubted everything that was tolerant in religion or liberal in politics) as to the validity of this Act, and hinted that the Unitarians were liable to punishment at common law for denying the doctrine of the Trinity.  Yet the Unitarians have a remote antiquity.  They can trace their descent to Apostolic times, and undoubtedly were an important element in the National Church, in the days of William and the Hanoverian succession.

Dr. Parr, says Mr. Barker,
 “spoke to me of the latitudinarian divines with approbation.  He agreed with me in thinking that the most brilliant era of the British Church since the Reformation was when it abounded with divines of that school;”
 and certainly Unitarians may claim to be represented at the present day in Broad Churchmen within the Establishment, and in divines of a similar way of thinking without.  They have been much helped by their antagonists.  No man was less of a Unitarian than the late Archbishop Whately, yet, in a letter to Blanco White, he candidly confessed,
 “Nothing in my opinion tends so much to dispose an intelligent mind towards anti-Trinitarian views as the Trinitarian works.”

As a sect, the Unitarians are a small body, and at one time were much given to a display of intelligent superiority as offensive in public bodies as in private individuals.  They were narrow and exclusive, and had little effect on the masses, who were left to go to the bad, if not with supercilious scorn, at any rate with genteel indifference.  There was in the old-fashioned Unitarian meeting-houses something eminently high and dry.  In these days, when we have ceased to regard heaven—to quote Tom Hood — as anybody’s rotten borough, we smile as a handful of people sing—
“We’re a garden walled around,
Planted and made peculiar ground;”
yet no outsider a few years ago could have entered a Unitarian chapel without feeling that such, more or less, was the abiding conviction of all present.
  “Our predominant intellectual attitude,”
 Mr. Orr confesses to be one reason of the little progress made by the denomination.  A Unitarian could no more conceal his sect than a Quaker.  Generally he wore spectacles; his hair was always arranged so as to do justice to his phrenological development; on his mouth there always played a smile, half sarcastic and half self-complacent.  Nor was such an expression much to be wondered at when you remembered that, according to his own idea, and certainly to his own satisfaction, he had solved all religious doubts, cleared up all religious mysteries, and annihilated, as far as regards himself, human infirmities, ignorance, and superstition.  It is easy to comprehend how a congregation of such would be eminently respectable and calm and self-possessed; indeed, so much so, that you felt inclined to ask why it should have condescended to come into existence at all.
  Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, as described by that lady herself, may be taken as a very fair description of an average Unitarian congregation at a no very remote date.  Little Nell says, “I never saw any waxworks, ma’am; is it funnier than Punch?”  “Funnier?” said Mrs. Jarley, in a shrill voice, “it is not funny at all.”  “Oh,” said Nell, with all possible humility.  “It is not funny at all,” repeated Mrs. Jarley; “it’s calm, and what’s that word again—critical?  No, classical—that’s it; it’s calm and classical.  No low beatings and knockings about; no jokings and squeakings like your precious Punch’s, but always the same, with a constantly unchanging air of coldness and gentility.”
  Now it was upon this coldness and gentility that the Unitarians took their stand; they eliminated enthusiasm, they ignored the passions, and they failed to get the people, who preferred, instead, the preaching of the most illiterate ranter whose heart was in the work.

In our day a wonderful change has come over Unitarianism.  It is not, and it never was, the Arianism born of the subtle school of Alexandrian philosophy, and condemned by the orthodox Bishops at Nicea; nor is it Socinianism as taught in the sixteenth century, still less is it the Materialism of Priestley.
CDV portrait of James Martineau
CDV portrait of James Martineau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  Men of the warmest hearts and greatest intellects belonging to it actually disown the name, turn away from it as too cold and barren, and in their need of more light, and life, and love, seek in other denominations what they lack in their own.  The Rev. James Martineau, a man universally honoured in all sections of the universal church, confesses:
“I am constrained to say that neither my intellectual preference nor my moral admiration goes heartily with the Unitarian heroes, sects, or productions of any age.  Ebionites, Arians, Socinians, all seem to me to contrast unfavourably with their opponents, and to exhibit a type of thought and character far less worthy, on the whole, of the true genius of Christianity.  I am conscious that my deepest obligations, as a learner from others, are in almost every department to writers not of my own creed.  In philosophy I have had to unlearn most that I had imbibed from my early text-books and the authors in chief favour with them.  In Biblical interpretation I derive from Calvin and Whitby the help that fails me in Crell and Belsham.  In devotional literature and religious thought I find nothing of ours that does not pale before Augustine Tauler and Pascal; and in the poetry of the Church it is the Latin or the German hymns, or the lines of Charles Wesley or Keble, that fasten on my memory and heart, and make all else seem poor and cold.”
  This is the language of many beside Mr. Martineau — of all, indeed, to whom a dogmatic theology is of little import compared with a Christian life.

Let us attempt to describe Unitarianism negatively.  In one of his eloquent sermons in its defence, the late W. J. Fox said,
 “The Ebionites, Arians, is not essential to Unitarianism; Dr. Price was a Unitarian as well as Dr. Priestley, so is every worshipper of the Father only, whether he believes that Christ was created before all worlds, or first existed when born of Mary.  Philosophical necessity is no part of Unitarianism.  Materialism is no part of Unitarianism.  The denial of angels or devils is no part of Unitarianism.”
  Unitarianism has no creed, yet briefly it may be taken to be the denial of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead, or of the natural depravity of man, or that sin is the work of the devil, or that the Bible is a book every word of which was dictated by God, or that Christ is God united to a human nature, or that atonement is reconciliation of God to man.  Furthermore, the Unitarians deny that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit, or that salvation is deliverance from the punishment of sin, or that heaven is a state of condition without change, or that the torments of hell are everlasting.

  It may be that the Broad Churchman entertains very much the same opinions, but then the Unitarian minister has this advantage over the Church clergyman, that he is free.  He has not signed articles of belief of a contrary character.  He has not to waste his time and energy in sophistications which can deceive no one, still less to preach that doctrine so perilous to the soul, and destructive of true spiritual growth, and demoralizing to the nation, that a religious, conscientious man may sign articles that can have but one sense and put upon them quite another.  Surely one of the most sickening characteristics of the age is that divorce between the written and the living faith, which, assuming to be progress, is in reality cowardice.

- p. 196 - p 202 from The Religious Life of London by J. Ewing Ritchie
Release Date: June 16, 2010  [eBook #32844]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Religious Life of London, by J. EwingRitchie 


continues with: 19° century London, Unitarians and Evangelical Alliance

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