Unitarianism In America, Past And Present -- By: G. Frederick Wright

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:307 (Jul 1920)
Article: Unitarianism In America, Past And Present
Author: G. Frederick Wright


Unitarianism In America, Past And Present

G. Frederick Wright

Unitarianism in America in the first half of the nineteenth century had little resemblance to that which goes under the name at the present time. The Unitarianism of “which Channing was the representative maintained the inspiration and the authority of the Bible, defended miracles, accepted the historical evidences of Christianity as satisfactory and conclusive, believed in the preexistence of the Divine Word which became incarnate iii Jesus, accepted the miraculous conception of Christ, and defended these views not on purely rationalistic grounds, but by interpretation of what was accepted as the Word of God incorporated in the books of the Bible. No abler statements of the evidences of Christianity have been made than those by Unitarians during the first three quarters of the nineteenth century. No stronger defense of the genuineness of the Fourth Gospel has been published than that by Professor Ezra Abbot. No more original, powerful, and satisfactory defenses of the early date and the historical accuracy of the four Gospels have been written than “The Internal Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels,” by Professor Andrews Norton, of the Harvard Divinity School, and “Indirect Testimony of History to the Genuineness of the Gospels,” by Professor Frederic Huidekoper, of the Meadville Theological School.

For the first seventy-five years of the nineteenth century the controversies between the Unitarians and the evangelical scholars of New England were over the interpretation of the Bible in its bearing upon the doctrine of the real divinity of Christ. The Unitarians advocated the Arian view, that Christ was a created being — the firstborn of the creation — to whom was delegated the creation of the world. Andover Theological Seminary was established in 1808 for the defense of the Orthodox doctrine of the real divinity of Christ, and the doctrine of the

atonement dependent upon it. As the result of this Andover movement, there followed a remarkable amount of evangelical activity, leading to the spread of home missions and of Christian colleges throughout our expanding West, and to the organization of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and subsequently to the foreign missionary boards of various other denominations, whose work now so fills the world. On the other hand, the fruits of Unitarianism were very limited. Their work was almost wholly confined to Massachusetts, and they had practically no foreign missions. In 1844 Bibliotheca Sacra was established, to carry on the controversy in defense of Orthodox doctrines. Some time before the close of the century the exegetical victory was practically complete...

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