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false, may be said to be admitted, because Unitarians have not thought it needful to give them a distinct denial-because, in short, no one has yet undertaken the labour of a reply, which must occupy at least three volumes, and when finished, might probably be neglected-by our friends, because they are already fully satisfied-by our opponents, because very few of them desire to know any thing of our side of the question.
ON DIVINE JUSTICE.
Θεος δε ου τιμωρείται εςι γαρ η τιμωρια κακο ανταποδοσης-κολαζει μεντοι προς το χρησιμον και κοινη και ιδια της κολαζομενες.
IN p. 66 of Bishop Butler's Analogy, I find the following words: “Some men seem to think the sole character of the Author of Nature to be that of simple, absolute benevolence. And supposing this to be the only character of God, veracity and justice in him would be nothing but benevolence conducted by wisdom. Now, surely this ought not to be asserted unless it can be proved, for we should speak with cautious reverence upon such a subject." I quite agree with this able and excellent author that we ought to treat the question with cautious reverence. But upon the first view of the subject, it is manifest that not less temerity would be shewn by affirming that justice and veracity in God are independent of benevolence, than by affirming that they are included in it. And that they are included in it, several considerations may be brought forward to shew; while, for the contrary proposition, no probable argument can be advanced. I shall confine my remarks to the attribute of justice. If justice, then, in God be not a modification of benevolence, it is not analogous to that principle which we otherwise denominate justice, and it is in vain for us to reason concerning it. Justice in man, or that to which alone we give the name of justice, is evidently a branch of general benevolence, and even when it assumes its severest form, and is employed in awarding the punishment of guilt, it has a view to nothing but utility; and, however it may miss of its object from a defect of wisdom, the object itself is always what benevolence approves, or rather what benevolence suggests. If punishment were inflicted with any other view than that of doing good either to the offender or to others, we should no longer consider justice as the principle which ordained such infliction, but should refer it without hesitation to the wantonness of cruelty or the malignity of revenge. To say, then, that justice in God may be altogether distinct from benevolence, is only to say that justice in God may not be justice; and to affirm that it is distinct from benevolence, would be to affirm ihat there is no attribute in the Divine Nature to which the term justice can with propriety be applied.
But it will be said that there is something in moral evil which calls for suffering as its consequence, without any regard to utility, and that Divine Justice is the principle by which this suffering is inflicted. On the concluding remark of this proposition, I need scarcely observe, that it is a mere abuse of language to call that justice which is supposed to do what justice never does. But the proposition that there is a demerit in vice which calls for suffering, even though the suffering should be in every sense useless, presents a fair subject of inquiry. Do we then perceive any thing in vice, considered in itself, which makes it necessary that pain should follow it, eren though this pain should be useless both to the sufferer and to others? It is in vain to reply, that, according to the constitution of nature, suffering is the consequence of vice, and therefore that to suppose the fact to be different from what it is, is to suppose an impossibility. That guilt and pain are connected by a law of nature, is admitted. But the present inquiry is, whether we see any reason, exclusive of utility, why they should be thus connected. And I conceive that we do not. For the sake of brevity I shall occasionally use the term punishment for suffering by which neither the sufferer himself nor others would be benefited. Will it, then, be said, that the fitness of things requires that punishment should follow guilt ? To speak of the fitness of things, without stating to what that fitness relates, is only to employ words instead of ideas, and to use a relative term as though it had an absolute sense. And granting all that has been said respecting the fitness of things, the question may still be asked, do we see that the fitness of things demands what it is now supposed to require ? Perhaps it may be alleged that the human mind intuitively perceives that guilt ought to be followed by punishment. For other minds I cannot answer, but I have not this intuitive perception. I can, indeed, perceive clearly enough that punishment which shall be productive of good may be inflicted from a principle of benevolence, but beyond this I perceive nothing. But vice or sin, considered as an offence against the perfect law of God, may justly be visited with what has been termed vindictive punishment. I answer, that the perfection of the divine law, when considered, as it ought to be, in connexion with the frailty of man, does not appear to supply a reason for the infliction of punishment which should do no good; and that the perfection of the Divine character forbids the supposition that such punishment will be inflicted. But the honour of the Divine government, it may perhaps be said, requires that guilt should be followed by punishment. When it shall be shewn that the honour of the Divine government consists in something distinct from the good of the creation, this proposition will deserve to be considered. In the mean time it is sufficient to ask, how the honour of any government can be sustained by punishments which should have no beneficial influence on the subjects of this government? But does not the ordinary language of mankind seem to be founded on the supposition that guilt deserves punishment for its own sake? Do we not say of an atrocious criminal, a brutal murderer for example, that he deserves to suffer something worse than death? In reply, I observe, first, that the indignation which we feel at certain crimes, though a useful principle in our constitution, may sometimes mislead our judgment; secondly, that the ideas of guilt and punishment are so closely associated in our minds that we are apt to overlook the link by which the things themselves are connected ; thirdly, that were we to analyze our ideas when we use the above language, we should find our meaning to be, that while death is the legal punishment for lighter offences, the atrocious criminal, if punished according to the enormity of his crime, might justly experience a severer doom. But let us be convinced that no good whatever would follow this severer punishment, and we should immediately acknowledge that to inflict it would only be to add one evil to another.
But, it will be asked, does not every man feel that sin deserves punishment for its own sake, and independently of any benefit by which the punishment may be followed ? To this question I would reply, that where 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 his feelings have ever taught him. He has proceeded to argue 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 whom he chastises."
ASPLAND'S SERMON.* A wide range for activity has ever been open to the professors of Unitarian Christianiiy (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 ennity, 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 Unitarian Christians truly Stated, and Vindicated from Popular Misrepresevtation. A Sermon. preached at the Opening of the New Unitariau Chapel, Wareham, Dorsetshire. By Robert Asplaud. Hunter, 1830.
with the two last of the three classes we have referred to; 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 bewers of wood and the drawers of water, to whom the drudgery of other causes may be conmitted. In 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 pinnacle 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 corrupters 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 Dew 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, a sect every schere spoken aguinst, 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 commonly 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; and in not a few cases the pious fraud is resorted to, of inventing tales of divine and miraculous judgments upon us, in order to delude the credulous and awe the simple. The combined result of all this machinery of artifice and falsehood is, that many persons are utterly surprised wben 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 boly 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, intrent. 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 temper 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 statements 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 exclaimed against for making God all mercy, and presently they are pitiedpitied, 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 communions, and ours cannot be expected to be alone free from this reproach. Of immorality as a sect, no one, I apprehend, would be bold enough to accuse us, although it is said by some of the more precise profes.