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work among “ the people," not that, appealing to their prejudices and antipathies, you may gather them into the circle of a
the ignoble aim of a narrow and intolerant mind, but that you may give to every man, whom your words may reach, wider and more persuasive views of the great objects of his existence, of his relations and duty to God, and of his final destiny. It is necessary, indeed, that you should be employed in controversy an irksome labour at all times; but if, with these great objects in view, you go on, with that noble spirit of honesty, generosity, and candour, so proper for those who would recommend the religion of Jesus, I doubt not that you will be eminently successful.
It would be presumptuous in me to assume the office of an adviser ; but I hope you will not censure me if I make a few remarks, which a limited observation has taught me not unimportant. Perhaps they have occurred to your own minds. From the two extreme quarters of the christian community the cry has repeatedly been heard, that Unitarians are not sufficiently explicit in the declaration of all their opinions—that they either withhold such a declaration, through timidity or an unworthy policy, or obscure their views by vague explanations. This presumptuous charge has been built upon the fact, that Unitarians, as a body, have not met the demands of their brethren to lay before the community any general creed or formulary of faith, that they have been reasonably unwilling to declare that certain sentiments belong to the faith of the whole class, which are professed only by a few individuals, from the fact that on minor points they differ considerably among themselves, and finally, from the fact that they are unwilling to adopt as their own all the unfounded inferences which others have been pleased to draw from their opinions. But however unfounded, the accusation has not been without its influence. In some minds, warped by a calumny so extensively circulated, there is a strong prejudice against us on this ground. This prejudice you can do much to remove by your example. I wish only to draw your attention forcibly to this point, when I say, Be honest — there is every thing in that word. You will not think me so simple or so utterly uncivil as to advise you to speak the truth. What I mean is, that the strongest and fullest expression of honesty in its highest sense should appear on your pages. Be open-minded, fearless. Let no one read a number of your work without feeling that he may rely on you with the utmost confidence that
will never cover up difficulties, if such you know to exist, that you will always distinctly state what you mean, and that you will never fear to declare whatever doctrine you believe to have been taught by Jesus Christ.
It has sometimes been said, that Unitarians speak of their opinions with diffidence, distrust, uncertainty. That they sometimes speak with diffidence on controverted points is true. But whether this has not been dictated by modesty is not for me to say. At least, this would be the most charitable inference. It is possible that the language they have frequently used may not have conveyed that strength of conviction which they intended to express, and thus laid the foundation for the charge to which I have alluded. It is better, however, to err in this way, than to assume that bold and arrogant tone with which presumptuous polemics would fain overawe the multitude and annihilate all opposition. May The Unitarian be entirely free from dogmatism and presumption. May it be characterized by a spirit of true charity. But, at the same time, let it assume the position which a manly and convinced mind will take without arrogance, that you are exhibiting the claims of Christianity. Let it be felt that you are not apologists for a set of novel opinions, but that the truths you teach are those which Jesus Christ announced, for which he died, and which are of unspeakable value to man. There is a wide difference between doga matism and a modest confidence. The voice of truth is ever lofty and commanding ; the tones of error, though venerable in its years, are only insolent and haughty,
As this is nothing more than a familiar epistle, you will not censure me for a want of method. I rejoice that your work will be written for the people — that it is designed for all classes of our community.
To one of these classes I would direct your attention. In not a few of our country towns where Unitarianism has not yet gone, there are many individuals, the general tenor of whose lives is very commendable ; they are good neighbours and good citizens ; much respected for their integrity, and exert a beneficial influence throughout the sphere in which they live. But they make no pretensions to religion, attend church very infrequently, and would not loudly complain, perhaps, if its doors were closed. They do not utterly reject Christianity. The force of education is sufficiently strong to prevent such a consummation. They are not willing to be called skeptics or unbelievers ; still, they have no fixed religious opinions. The notion is deeply imbedded in their minds that the doctrines of Calvinism are Christianity itself ; and so great are the prejudices of education, and so strong the associations of custom, that they are unable to conceive how any
other interpretation, than that which they have always heard, should be put on the passages of Scripture which have been supposed to declare those doctrines. Hence, being men of plain, common sense, who usually take the most direct way to their conclusions, they practically reject the gospel. They tell you that it can do them no good, and that it is absurd. On these points they frequently argue with great shrewdness and force. They tell you that the doctrines of Christianity are at war with the suggestions of that reason which God has given us for the conduct of life. And they likewise urge
that many, if not the most, of those who have been converted and are under the full influence of religion are worse citizens and neighbours than they were before, — that they are more presumptuous, dogmatical, and exclusive, and less modest, candid, and benevolent,- that they are more crafty and calumnious, and less generous and open-hearted, - that while they bestow largely of their substance for distant objects of charity, they are less attentive to the wants of their neighbours and the good of the community in which they live. I am not asserting that these men are always candid, that they always reason well, nor that prejudice may not have much to do with their infer
Still, confounding, as they almost unavoidably do, error with truth, the corruptions of Christianity with its simple doctrines, it is not unnatural that they should be anxious to remove themselves as far as possible from the sphere of its influence. Following these is another class, who have the same general views of Christianity, but whose conduct is not so estimable, and who, of course, are more beyond the reach of religious instruction. The great object is to revive and quicken these men ; to awaken the spirit of inquiry among them ; to direct their search after truth, and to teach them what is truth; to make them feel that there is such a thing as true religion, however there may have been many counterfeits in the world; that it is necessary to their well-being, and that man was made to be religious ; to teach them the nature of Christianity, and that it contains the noblest truths, suited to their faculties and condition as rational and moral beings, and to their wants as sinners; to teach them their relations and duty to God, and the great objects of life. The influence which this class of our citizens exerts is very con
siderable. I hope that you will regard them with especial interest. You need expect but little interference here. Those of our Orthodox brethren who are at all acquainted with the case, know as well as I do that their teaching cannot influence these men. It cannot reach them. They will not hear it. Should your journal fortunately go among them, you may do much, simply by showing them that Christianity is Unitarianism, - by exhibiting to them truths, which, while they are a revelation from God, are, at the same time, coïncident with principles which reason has adopted. My faith is strong that Unitarianism is the power of God unto salvation, and I devoutly hope that you will be an instrument in conveying its simple truths to those who are beyond the reach of any other influence.
The present aspect of the world, in a religious point of view, is interesting and impressive. Old authority, is gone. The influence of prescription is gone. The human mind is passing from blind obedience to rules and dogmas, for which it could give no better reasons than the assertions of its teachers, to a condition in which its convictions of truth shall be established on the basis of its own independent investigations. It is gradually feeling its way to something surer and better. In such a state of things, which, in all probability, will long continue, it becomes us to observe the many and conflicting elements which are at work in society. Generally speaking, it may be said that most civilized communities are awakened to the value of religious truth — that truth which concerns the highest interests of man and his immortal destiny. The convictions of its reality and importance are striking deeper and deeper. The mind is anxious, and intent on the great question, What is truth? It has thrown off the shackles of authority and asserted its right to investigate truth for itself. But, so long has it been confined, its limbs are enfeebled and its sight has grown dim. In that restless and feverish state, the consequence of emancipation, it is eager to hurry on But it is impeded by many causes.
It has not yet cut off its old associations. It is still influenced by fear, and error is yet venerable. And what is more, it has hardly discerned the sources of truth. It eagerly asks, What is truth? but has not yet determined where it is nor how it is to be found. There is heard the discord of a thousand voices. All would be taught, but all would be teachers. An uninterrupted conflict is going on between hope and the consciousness of freedom and an earnest looking for truth, on the one hand, and on the other, a feeling of amazement at the magnitude of the objects which open before the mind, united with fear, anxiety, and doubt, and the remains of superstition and dogmatism, and the strong associations which still cling around old errors. We rejoice at the emancipation of the mind. But few of us consider, as we ought, the evils which are the necessary consequence of its throwing off the shackles of a prescribed faith. While preceding ages were endeavouring to govern its growth by dogmas and creeds of their own devising, they cast no prophetic glance to that point in the future when it would burst those envelopements and pursue its own way. For such an event, consequently, they made no preparation, either by teaching the importance of truth, or supplying the mind with principles for its search. And now that time has come, and we see the result. Large masses of society not only have no settled religious opinions, but they hardly know the sources of truth, and are at a loss from what point to begin or how to pursue their investigations. The mind, I repeat, has cut itself away from a prescribed faith, and hopefully launched forth on the wide sea of speculation. But without compass or star to guide its way, amazed and anxious, and often looking back to the untroubled waters it has left, it is hurried on by the winds of expectation, and driven back by fear, or swept by the eddying gusts of novel theories ; or, despairing to reach the coast whose shadowy line it dimly discerns in the distance, it suffers itself to be borne swiftly along the smooth, deceitful current of unbelief.
Such is one feature in the present condition of the religious world. But I would confine these remarks to our own community. I have no disposition to detract from the noble and well earned fame of our ancestors. Still, it is not wonderful that sometimes they should have erred. Until recent times, nearly all the religious instruction received by the people at large was communicated by the pulpit. Its tones were always authoritative. The clergy announced doctrines which they knew would not be disputed. Their style of preaching, with a very few exceptions, was unvaried. They constantly used a set of phrases, for the most part undefined, which were supposed to contain the fundamental points of an orthodox faith. They recommended the reading of the Scriptures, as a means of edification and general instruction, but did not foster a spirit of inquiry, and gave their hearers no principles of