What Is Unitarianism? -- By: Thomas Hill

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 038:149 (Jan 1881)
Article: What Is Unitarianism?
Author: Thomas Hill


What Is Unitarianism?

Rev. Thomas Hill

The adage that like draws to like has notable exceptions, both in the world of matter and in the world of mind. The factions in a party or sect are sometimes more bitter against each other than against their common opponents. When a man assents to most of the propositions which we hold of highest importance, and thus gives us proof of what we consider his good sense, we are surprised, and perhaps annoyed, at his differing from our views at all. It is, therefore, a delicate task for a person to attempt a description of the denomination to which he belongs; he must inevitably fail to satisfy some one of the wings of his sect. It is, perhaps, especially difficult to do justice to the Unitarians, because that denomination in New England carried, for many decades, the motto: Liberty, Holiness, Love. By putting liberty first they insured the greatest variety and individuality of opinion. This is, indeed, frequently affirmed by members of the denomination to be its distinguishing characteristic. They have no creed; and their opponents sometimes sarcastically add, no opinions.

Yet the “National Conference of Unitarian and other Christian Churches,” organized in April 1865, have by repeated votes clung to the name of Christian, and insisted upon retaining the title of Lord before the name of Jesus Christ in the preamble to their constitution. The New Hampshire Unitarian Association, organized February 1863, unanimously adopted, in October 1878, a set of twelve affirmative propositions, each illustrated and explained by comments and scriptural references, as “a statement of belief, … of the most distinctive views that are now generally held by Unitarians.” This statement is so far endorsed by the American Unitarian Association, founded in 1825, that it is “sent gratuitously, on application to the Secretary of the American Unitarian Association, 7 Tremont Place, Boston.” The Maine Conference, in October 1880, found no dissenting voices to a briefer set under their consideration.1

There is, therefore, up to the present hour a solid mass in the denomination (about four hundred clergymen and three hundred and seventy-five churches) whose views have a substantial unity, and who are but slightly affected by the learning and eloquence with which individual clergymen or laymen endeavor to modify them. The predominant tone of thought still takes its key from the leaders of the denomination in the last generation.

The New Testament is, according to Unitarians, a plain book; the gospels, at least, were written by plain, uneducated men, who lay no claim to inspiration or to wisdom, but only speak right ...

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