Sunday, December 3, 2017

Benjamin Rush on "Sects"

I don't think I've ever shared this quotation. There was a prevailing zeitgeist of religious correctness that dissenters of the era bucked. The "Athanasian" divines held that folks who didn't believe in among other things the Trinity weren't "Christians" whatever they called themselves.

Benjamin Rush, a Trinitarian Universalist, wasn't one of those religiously correct folks. His universalism made him a dissenter.

Below is the quotation from July 18 1792:
There is a propensity in all sciences to simplify themselves and to ascribe that to one which should be divided among many causes. For example, how few sects honor Father, Son and Holy Ghost in religion as they should do. The Socinians honor the Father only; the Catholics the Saviour chiefly, and the Quakers the Holy Spirit above both; how few include all the ends of our Saviour's death in their belief of the Atonement; each contends for one end only while six or seven other ends are clearly revealed in the Scriptures; many exalt one power or one set of powers only in the mind instead of all, many confine religion to one power only instead of applying it to all. The Episcopalians to the understanding, the Methodists to the passions and the Quakers the moral powers.
Socinians, Catholics and Quakers each were controversial in their own right. That Rush includes Socinians as a "Christian" sect demonstrates his sympathy with the dissenters and against the orthodox forces of religious correctness that would deny them such label.


Tom Van Dyke said...

This tolerance was only temporary. During this period, unitarians sat cheek-by-jowl with Trinitarians in the churches of New England. Unitarianism [Socinianism] was tolerated until around 1810, when the whole thing began to blow up.

After the controversy of 1815 the orthodox kept treating the Unitarians in the Church with such increasing narrowness, and kept attacking their beliefs with such increasing bitterness, that at length Channing, peaceable as he was, felt bound to strike a telling blow in return. The opportunity to do so came in 1819...

The unitarians started their own denomination, and by 1850 or so were no longer recognizably Christian, having made "free thinking" the church's central tenet. Benjamin Rush would scarcely have recognized them.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Yeah J. Morse quoted in the article is one of those "enforcers" of religious correctness to whom I alluded.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them."---Jedidiah Morse

I won't be around in 100 years or even 50, but he may yet be proven right. And that goes for Europe too.