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“nor could

any of the European nations," says Dr. Mosheim, “be persuaded to grant a public settlement to a sect whose members denied the divinity of Christ.”*

Socinians were but little heard of in England till during the troubles in the reign of Charles I., when the famous John Biddle, who erected an independent congregation in London, adopted, and openly avowed, their tenets, for which he suffered various persecutions, and at last died in prison in 1662.

The same tenets were soon afterwards embraced by several others, particularly among the dissenters; but their abettors, in England, never made any figure as a community, until towards the end of the last century, when they began to increase, and to acquire some distinction, from the writings and influence of Dr. Priestley and his associates.

“I have, indeed, no hesitation in stating it as my firm conviction,” says Mr. Belsham, “that, in consequence of his (Dr. Priestley's) personal exertions, and his admirable writings, in connexion with those of his able and learned associate in the same cause, the venerable Theophilus Lindsey, whom I am proud to call my revered friend, the number of converts to a pure and rational Christianity have been multiplied a hundred fold, and are daily increasing among all ranks of society.”+

* Eccles. Hist. Vol. V. p. 503.
# Letters upon Arianism, &c. p. 38.

We consider it as a ery favourable symptom of the increase of pure religion in the present times, that Unitarian

They are, notwithstanding, not only expressly excluded from the privileges conferred by the Toleration Act,* whereby the supreme powers of the kingdom have indulged other sects in the free exercise of their religion, but also by 9th and 10th of William III. c. 32., they are placed under the impending arm of a statute, yet unrepealed, by which it is enacted, that if any person educated in the Christian religion, or professing the same, shall by writing, printing, teaching, or advised speaking, deny any of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be God, he shall, upon the first offence, be rendered incapable to hold any office, or place of trust; and, for the second, be rendered incapable of bringing any action, being guardian, executor, legatee, or purchaser of lands, and shall suffer three prisonment without bail.t

years im.

chapels, and Unitarian preachers, are beginning to be diffused over the country.”—Critical Review, Aug. 1808, p. 434.

* Every person who claims the privileges of this act, is bound to make the following profession of his faith : "I A. B. profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, his eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit, one God, blessed for ever more ; and do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”

† Dr. Priestley, speaking of the penal laws which affect Unitarians, says,— The aet of William and Mary, which in part declares the doctrine of the divine unity to be blasphemy, only expresses the opinion of William and Mary, and of those English lords and commoners, who, if they may be said to have had any opinion at all about the matter, happened to think as William and Mary did. But what is that to the solemn declaration of God himself, which as

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Dr. Priestley, having met with much opposition, and perhaps with some ill treatment, in England, retired to America in 1794, where, in consequence of his exertions, in conjunction with those of his fellow labourer, Mr. William Christie,* and others, some Unitarian congregations have been formed. But however much he may have been respected by many individuals in that country, it does not appear that he met with much success in his favourite object, the propagation of Unitarianism, or that his friends have much cause to boast of their triumphs in that quarter; for, on his arrival, he was excluded from almost every pulpit; and his congregation at Northumberland, in Pennsylvania, where he resided till his death in 1804, is said to have at no time exceeded thirty or forty persons. Nay more, he seems scarcely to have gotten without the reach of penal laws, even when seated in that land of religious liberty; for we are told there is a law in Connecticut, that “whosoever shall deny the existence of God, or the mystery of the blessed Trinity, or the divine truth of the Holy Scriptures, shall be held unfit for any public office, till he repent and acknowledge his error; and that, in case of relapse, after such repentance, he shall be put out of the protection of the law.”+

serts their opinion to be impious and blasphemous."Memoirs of Dr. Priestley, Vol. II. p. 594.

The last attempt for the repeal of this law was made, I believe, in '1792.

Formerly of Montrose, where he formed a small society of Unitarians, which has already disappeared.

† Duke de la Rochefoucault Liancourt's Travels in America, Vol. I. p. 526.

*

DistingUISHING Doctrines. The predecessors of the modern Unitarians generally believed in a Trinity of some kind or other; and the extreme of heresy among them seems to have been Arianism, till about the year 1566, before which time the denomination of Socinian was unknown: but after they became a distinct sect, it soon appeared that they had totally divested Jesus Christ of his divinity, and wholly forsaken the Arian doctrine. They also denied the plenary inspiration of the sacred writers, and insinuated that mistakes had crept into their writings: and, having proceeded thus far, they endeavoured to strip revealed religion of every circumstance not clearly intelligible by human reason; and hence some of their successors now affect to call themselves Rational Christians, and, in this country, Rational Dissenters.

With regard to the grand point on which they differed from other Christians, they maintained, that the Father, and he only, is truly and properly God;—that Jesus Christ had no existence whatsoever, before he was conceived by the Virgin Mary; -and, that the Holy Ghost is no distinct person, but that the phrase is merely a figurative mode of expression, to denote the power or energy of God. They owned, that the name of God is given in the Holy Scriptures to Jesus Christ, but contended, that it is only a deputed title, which, however, invests him with a great authority over all created beings: they owned him to have been an extraordinary person, miraculously produced, and com

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missioned as a divine teacher, in whom the prophecies relating to the Messiah were completely, though not literally, fulfilled. They admitted also the whole history of his ascension and glorification in its literal acceptation; but, believing him to be a mere man like ourselves, though endowed with a large portion of the divine wisdom, they asserted, that the only objects of his mission were,--to teach the efficacy of repentance, without any atonement or satisfaction, as a means of recovering the divine favour;—to exhibit, in his life and conduct, an ex ample for our imitation;-to seal his doctrine with his blood ;-and, in his resurrection from the dead, to indicate the certainty of our resurrection at the last day.--They affirmed, that nothing is requisite to make men objects of the divine favour, but such moral conduct as he has made them capable of.

Their doctrine respecting the atonement, ism “ that God requires no consideration or condition of pardon, but the repentance of the offender; and that, consequently, the death of Christ was no real sacrifice for sin, but is called so in Scripture, merely in a figurative sense, by way of allusion to the Jewish sin-offerings; as our praises, and other good works, are called sacrifices, because they are something offered up to God.”

With the Pelagians of old, they denied the necessity of divine grace;—they also exploded the doctrines of original sin, predestination, and our Saviour's mediation, and reckoned the sacraments

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