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reason is silent, feeling is a dubious authority. And reason finds no connexion between guilt and punishment but what is founded upon individual or public advantage. As for the feeling in question, the case seems to be this. The ideas of guilt and punishment are associated in our minds by various means from our earliest years. Hence arises the notion of demerit, which, in consequence of this association, is familiar to every man; but perhaps not one man in a thousand has considered whence this notion is obtained, or what is implied in it. And all that a man, whether properly or improperly, can be said to feel, is a persuasion that the appointment by which punishment follows guilt is just and proper. But in what the justice and propriety of this appointment consist, reason must inform him if he is informed at all. And he who says that guilt merits punishment for its own sake, says a great deal more than bis feelings have ever taught him. He has proceeded to argne upon what he feels, and has drawn a conclusion which I conceive to be erroneous. In a word, the only intelligible view of the connexion between vice and suffering is, that vice is a disease, and that suffering is intended to effect its cure or to check its contagion.
I think it sufficiently appears that punishment, as far as we are able to judge, has for its object utility alone ; and I conceive that I cannot conclude better than by presenting to the English reader the meaning of my motto: “ God does not inflict vindictive punishment, for this is the returning evil for evil; he chastises, however, for utility, both publicly and individually, those whoin he chastises."
A wide range for activity has ever been open to the professors of Unitarian Christianity (as to the professors of all truth) in the explanation of their opinions and the enforcement of the principles on which those opinions are founded. This range is widening every day. Though we are no longer hemmed in on every side by bigoted enmity, there is still enough of ignorance and prejudice around us to make it necessary, for the millionth time, to declare what our opinions are, and in self-defence to “ intreat” because we are “ defamed.” This least agreeable duty is imposed upon us by the portion of society which calls itself the most religious. Next comes the delightful employment of developing to those who are with us in opinion the consequences of the principles to which they assent. There is much for us to do in displaying, in proportion as they are revealed to ourselves, the power, the beauty, and the perfect blessedness, which are the eternal attributes of truih. Lastly, it becomes our animating duty (and the privilege is conspicuously conferred on Unitarian Christians) to make known to philosophical unbelievers what Christianity is when divested of superstition, and to help those among them who are prepared-he serious and candid-lo a sympathy with our hope, and a participation in our joy. If the choice of our duty were left to ourselves, all would probably prefer having to deal
* The Religious belief of Unitariau Christians truly Stated, and Vindicated from Popular Misrepresentation. A Sermou, preached at the Opening of the New Unitarian Chapel, Wareham, Dorsctshire. By Robert Asplaud. Hunter, 1830.
with the two last of the three classes we have referred lo; but the drudgery of our cause must be gone through as well as its more congenial employments; and this, not by an inferior order of minds, the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, to whom the drudgery of other causes may be conmitted. lo religion there is no aristocracy of mind, no superior order to whom it may be permitted to delight themselves with the refinements which are wrought out of the irksome labour of their inferiors. In religion, each must be to all a servant for Christ Jesus' sake: each must be a labourer to clear away the rubbish from the foundations, as well as the architect who is to erect the pile, or the philosopher who is to gaze into heaven from its pinpacle when all is done. Delightful as may be the expansion of views and the lofty speculations into which we may enter with teachable or congenial minds, animating as may be the strenuous intellectual exercise which we share with really philosophical unbelievers, these occupations must alternate with the less hopeful ones to which we are compelled by Christian adversaries. Let there be no repining at this, since Paul had to remonstrate with corropters of his own doctrine as well as to confirm his converts and to dispute with Athenians; and Christ himself answered the cavils of the Pharisees in the morning, before he communed with his friends at Bethany in the evening, and reasoned with Nicodemus by night.
In proportion to the eminence of the advocate is the service rendered to the cause. Never, therefore, can the chief men among us feel themselves privileged to decline the labour which, though apparently “ never ending, still beginning,” carries with it a promise of recompense in the gradual spread of the truth, as well as in the gratitude of those who already hold it. It is many years since Mr. Aspland began to state the religious opinions of Unitarians. He has since been perpetually advocating and illustrating them; but he must still go back and state them again. They are still new ; they still rouse attention and cause wonder. As, however, this is a proof that new hearers are present to listen, as there is a hope that to these new hearers the truth will become familiar as it has already become to those who were new hearers at the beginning of his career, we are sure there is no danger of his growing weary of the service which the cause still requires of him, and on which awaits the gratitude of all to whom that cause is dear.
The sermon before us divides itself into three portions. The first consists of a reprobation of bigotry, and of suggestions of encouragement to those who suffer under it. The second exhibits the religious opinions in which all Unitarians are agreed, and those less important ones on which some difference of opinion exists. The third contains a summary of the accusations most current against Unitarians. We give extracts from the first and third. It would be an injustice to the intermediate portion to separate any part of it from its connexion.
" Whatever be the cause, the fact will, I take for granted, be admitted, that Unitarian Christians have been for ages, as they are now, I sect every there spoken against, and that the rancour with which we are • spoken against exceeds the common measure (large as that unhappily is !) of theological hostility. The more eager and zealous religionists of the day, in speaking of us, find no terms too gross, no censures too harsh and severe. Our arguments are fairly open to discussion, to objection, and (if it be thought fitting) to reprobation, but these are rarely laid hold of except to be misstated and distorted and falsely coloured; they are coinmonly abandoned for easier and more inflammatory methods of arousing the blind superstition and angry prejudice of the multitude. Ridiculous stories are propagated concerning us and find ready credit with listeners whose ears have been previously poisoned; speeches are attributed to us which we never made, or, consistently with our habits and opinions, could possibly make; anıl in not a few cases the pious fraud is resorted to, of inventing tales of divine and miraculous judyments upon us, in order to delude the credulous and awe the simple. The combined result of all this inachinery of artifice and falsehood is, that many persons are utterly surprised when upon examination they find, or by acci. dent learn, that we are not scoffers and blasphemers, that we pray to Almighty God, that we receive the Holy Scriptures with reverence and study them as a Christian duty, and that we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a divinely-commissioned Teacher and an all-sufficient Saviour.
“ Being defamed we intreut. We make no apology, indeed, for our faith ; we owe none to man. We have derived it from the word of God, and we are not ashamed of it, nor can we honestly hide it or dress it out in any disguise. Much as the statement may surprise many that do not scruple to declare themselves our enemies, we trust that we have the mind of Christ. We know that we have searched diligently and sometimes painfully for it, and our belief has at least these two marks of truth, Ist, that we can express it in the very words of our Lord and his apostles, and, 2ndly, that it produces in us, as we hope, and we always pray that it may produce in us more completely and effectually,) the moral spirit of the holy and merciful Jesus,-a spirit that leads us neither to value ourselves nor to decry others, on account of mere opinions, that teaches us to exalt above all creeds the higher matters of justice, mercy, and the fear of God, and that disposes us to make allowance for human infirmity, to confess our own fallibility, to acknowledge the real virtues of our fellow-christians of whatever persuasion, to instruct in meekness them that oppose us, and to forgive them that revile and spitefully use us. Being defamed, we thus, like the apostle, intreat. We say to our accusers, • Listen to us and judge of our doctrine by the Holy Scriptures to which we all appeal. Estimate our faith, not by public report, which is often erroneous and sometimes malicious, but by our arguments. Take not your opinion of us from our adversaries who caricature us, instead of drawing our true likeness. Understand before you condemn; hear before you strike. We intreat you not to wrong your own souls by prejudice ; for all prejudice is hurtful, and no man can injure another by a precipitate judgment, without doing at least equal harm to his own mind and teinper and character. If we be in error, it is by cool and patient investigation alone that you can discover the error, and separate it from any truth with which it may be mixed up :-if we hold the truth, and in the presence of Almighty God, and on the faith of the Bible, and as we value our own souls, we here publicly and solemnly declare that we believe we do hold the truth, your passionate hostility will prevent you from perceiving and acknowledging it, and will bind you down in captivity to another gospel, which yet is not the gospel. For the sake of Christianity, for the sake of humanity, for your own sake as well as ours, we intreat you to lay aside prejudice and enmity, and to hearken to our statemients with a candid ear, and to weigh them in the balances of the sanctuary.'”
" While we complain of the accusations brought against Unitarians, it would be unreasonable not to allow that some of them are harmless by being inconsistent. At one moment they are likened to the Pharisees, at another to the Sadducees, who were a perfect contrast; sometimes they are described as of lax morality, at others their good works are admitted in order to introduce the charge of their relying upon them for salvation ; now, they are ex
pitied, not without scorn and condemnation-for having no hope of mercy hereafter.
“In respect of moral character, let me say that unworthy individuals there are in all cominunions, and ours cannot be expected to be alone free from this rcproach. Of immorality as a sect, no one, I apprehend, would be bold enough to accuse us, although it is said by some of the inore precise profes
sors of religion, that we possess the spirit of the world. The spirit of the world! were this ours, my fellow-christians, what should hinder us from adopting the world's faith and the world's worship? Why have you separated with so many personal sacrifices from your former religious connexions, and raised this edifice for the quiet performance of rites agreeable to your consciences? Why have you called your Christian brethren to witness this morning your sanctification of this House of Prayer to the honour of the incommunicable name of Jehovah? And why have I stood up at your invitation, to vindicate our body from imputations cast upon us only because we will not yield religious conformity to this world and this world's teachers and rulers ! We are in fact reproached with a worldly spirit by some of our fellow-dissenters, simply because we refuse to carry dissent further than conscience constrains us, judging that it is not only lawful, but a part of social duty, to be in a state of unity with our fellow-countrymen in things that are morally indifferent. When we are thus condemned we are judged by a law which we do not acknowledge; and the sentence which is pronounced against us, because we are comparatively few in number, really involves the greater part of the Christian world. With them and for them, as well as ourselves, we protest against a standard of virtue which is not sanctioned by Christianity, but is on the contrary at variance with our Lord's example and precepts. We renounce the morality which consists in looks and apparel and much-speaking; in resistance to the harmless usages of civilized life and refined society; and in putting down innocent cheerfulness, and setting up affected gloominess and severity: we adhere to the old morality and religion of the Sermon on the Mount, standing in justice, mercy, and the fear of God; and should we, for this preference of our Lord to earthly masters, be followed with the inconsistent denunciation of being worldly-minded, whilst in reality no place is left for us in the believing or the unbelieving world, we must take refuge in the judgment of the great Head of the Church, “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own.'”—Pp. 21, 22.
The Preface informs us that the publication of this discourse has been requested, not only by the congregation assembled at Wareham, but by several other bodies of Unitarians before whom its substance has been delivered. We hope this affords an assurance of its wide circulation and consequent important usefulness. If so clear and explicit a statement of our opinions as this could extensively fix the attention of our Christian adversaries, the days would be in prospect when the remonstrances which we are now obliged to connect with our statements would be needless, because the worst charges against us would have become obsolete.
A PARABLE. As the sun was withdrawing his light from one hemisphere, the guardian spirits of man followed his course, as they were wont, that they might visit every land in turn.
But two who had been busy among the abodes of men all the day, lingered, unwilling to leave those to whom they had ministered.
To the one had been committed the urn which held the waters of bitterness, and he was called Woe. His young sister was named PEACE; and in her band was placed the lyre whose music was of heaven.
“ There are some,” said WoE, “ who will not be ready to hearken to thee to-morrow, my sister, if I leave them already."
“ There are also some, my brother, whom I have not yet soothed to deep repose. O! that we might tarry awhile !"
“ We may not tarry, for there is need of us afar. Yet one thing may we do. Let us give of our power to another, that she may minister till we return."
So they called upon CONSCIENCE, and charged her to descend with the shadows of night, and to visit the abodes of men. The angel of WoE gave her of the waters of his urn, and said unto his sister “ Give her thy lyre, for what other music needest thou ihan thine own songs?, What other melody is so sweet?”
And when they had charged their messenger to await them at the eastern gate when the morning should open it unto them, they spread their wings and hastened down the west.
Their messenger gazed after them afar : and when she marked the dim majesty of the elder spirit, and the mild beauty of his sister, she bent her head and silently went her way.
“ What hast thou beheld ?” said the angels to their messenger, when the portals of light were unclosed. “ Are the healing waters spent ? Hath the lyre been tuneful ?”
“ The waters are not spent,” she replied; “ for mine own tears have made this urn to overflow. The lyre was tuned in Paradise ; else my trembling hand had jarred its strings.”
“Alas !" cried the younger spirit, “ where then bast thou ministered ?"
“ When the evening star appeared, I descended among the shadows, where I heard a voice calling to me from afar. It came from a space where raging fires were kindled by the hands of priests. Night hovered above, but the flames forbade her approach, and I could not abide longer beneath her wings. He who appealed unto me stood chained amidst the fires which already preyed upon him. I swept the strings of the lyre, and smiles overspread his face. Even while the melody waxed sweeter, the dark-eyed spirit of the tombs came and bore him away asleep."
The young angel smiled as she said, “ He hearkeneth now to nobler harmonies than ours! But was there none other amidst the flames to whom thou couldst minister ?”.
" Alas! there was one who lied through fear. He was led back to his cell, whither I followed him. I shed the waters into his soul, and the bitterness thereof tormented him more than any scorching fames which could have consumed his body. Yet must I visit him nightly till be dies.”
“ Droop not thy wings because of his anguish, my sister," said the elder spirit. “He shall yet be thine when he is made pure for thy presence.” .
" I have been,” said the messenger, “ beside the couch of the dying, in the palace, and beneath the lowly roof. I have shed into one departing soul the burning tears of the slave, and soothed the spirit of another with the voices of grateful hearts. I have made the chamber of one rich man echo with the cries of the oppressed, and have surrounded the pillow of another with the fatherless who called him parent. Kings have sought to hide themselves as I drew nigh, while the eye of the mourner hath lighted up at my approach. The slumbers of some have I hallowed with music, while they knew not I was at hand; and others have I startled with visions, who guessed not whence they came. I am filled with awe at mine own power."
“ It shall increase,” said the elder spirit, “ while mine own waneth.