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they are to be guided? There is no intimation of the repeal of the general precepts, as to the particular case of their sitting in judgment upon Deists. If it be objected that Christ did not contemplate the adoption of his religion as law, I reply, 1st. the supposition falsifies the declarations of the Scriptures that he foresaw and foretold the future fortunes of his Church, and is therefore itself an offence on the principles of the objector; and, 2nd. that if Christ only contemplated private duties, then his religion, framed on that foundation, is incapable of becoming the law of this or of any country. The distinction, therefore, completely fails, from its inconsistency with the original supposition. The argument upon that supposition I cannot state better than by quoting a letter from a most estimable friend : “ We are told Christianity is the law of the land. Admitted. This is the only concession we need; for then the law of Christianity, the law of charity, kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, rendering good for evil, blessing for cursing, is the law of England; and then it follows, too, that these prosecutions are illegal, because they are Antichristian.”
Should it be urged that former convictions are a decisive proof of the legality of punishing unbelief, and that the Common Law is to be interpreted by precedents, it may be replied, in the words of Blackstone, that “this rule admits of exception, where the former determination is most evidently contrary to reason, and much more, if it be clearly contrary to the Divine law.”
While as an Englishman I deprecate any limitation of the right of canvassing opinions, whatever those opinions may be, as a Christian I feel still more deeply the injury done to religion. As a Unitarian and a Dissenter, I regret that the first prosecution should have been conducted by one who has acknowledged the former title, and the second by one who still claims the latter. There are many, however, whose faith and practice are described by those denominations, many also of the Church of England, who lament with me the glaring inconsistency of publishing appeals to reason in behalf of the divinity of the gospel, to which the objector replies at the peril of his liberty and property. · Deism has spread widely in our country; no inconsiderable proportion of the lower classes are honest and open unbelievers; and a larger proportion of the higher classes are, I fear, concealed unbelievers, who, while they discard Christianity themselves, think it an useful superstition to keep their inferiors in order. It is proper and necessary that Christians should exert themselves to reclaim both these classes, but that very necessity and that propriety also require the upsparing rejection of all unhallowed means, of whatever may deepen prejudices, of whatever is alien from the spirit of their religion.
It was not easy to ascertain from the language held during the trials, whether Christianity was considered as entitled to legal protection from attack because it was true, or only because it was established. Although the accused was not allowed to enter into reasonings against its truth, yet both the prosecutor and the Court advanced a variety of arguments in favour of its truth, as if, notwithstanding their repeated declarations to the contrary, that were really the question at issue. The impropriety of trying such a question before such a tribunal, is most glaring. If Christianity be only protected because it is established, then to assail any established religion is a crime also; and instead of its being a duty to "preach the Gospel to every creature,” it is a duty to preach it to no creature whose Ruler has taken idolatry, or Mohammedism, or any other unchristian system, under his patronage. If the protection of the established religion be essential to the security of Governments, then is a limit fixed to the diffusion of Christianity, and societies whose lists of members are graced with some of the highest names in Church and State, are the enemies of social order all over the world.
I lament that Mr. Carlile, by his defence, strengthened the prejudices which before existed against himself, his faith, or want of faith, and his associates. Had he excited greater sympathy, my feeble efforts to abate those prejudices would have been unnecessary. Unitarians especially have reason to complain, that although he derived from their writers the most effective part of his defence, he was so continually guilty of the injustice of confounding their opinions with his own. Deists they certainly are, as Deist is opposed to Atheist, and so are all Christians, and so are all Religionists. But though this may be the original and proper meaning of the term, common usage has restricted it to deniers of Christianity, which Unitarians certainly are not. He may have learned this calumny from our reverend or mitred antagonists, but this was no excuse for its repetition. So far as our opinions coincide with his, no fear of obloquy prevents their avowal. With a brief statement of what they agree in, and wherein they differ, I conclude this preface.
Unitarians agree with Deists, and differ from the majority of Christians,
1. In rejecting the notion of a Triune God, and of a partial or inexorable Deity.
2. In reprobating the priestcraft which makes religion the instrument either of public oppression, or private cupidity.
3. In maintaining the right of discussing freely all opinions.
Unitarians differ from Deists, and agree with other Christians in believing,
1. That a series of revelations, confirmed by miracles, has been made by God to mankind.
2. That the Old and New Testament contain an authentic account of those revelations.
3. That Jesus Christ had a divine commission, that he rose from the dead, and that he will come again to judge the world.
There are two points in which, generally speaking, the opinions of Unitarians are opposed to those both of other Christians and of Deists.
1. In asserting the importance of good works in their immediate connexion with our future destiny, which is diminished on the one hand by a supposed indifference in the Deity to the conduct of his creatures, or the want of definite commands and authoritative sanctions, and on the other by the substitution of faith alone as essential to salvation.
2. In resting the hope of future existence upon the doctrine of the Resurrection, and not upon the Orthodox and Deistical notion of the natural Immortality of the Soul.
W. J. FOX.