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SPIRIT OF THE FOREIGN THEOLOGICAL JOURNALS AND REVIEWS.
From the Eclectic Review.
1. Four Sermons: Two on Man's Accountable
ness for his Belief (second edition); and Two on the Responsibility of the Heathen: with an Appendix, containing Strictures on an Article in the Westminster Review. By Ralph Wardlaw, D.D. 12mo. pp. 192. Price 3s. 6d. Glasgow. 1827.
2. The Nature and Extent of the Christian Dispensation, with Reference to the Salvability of the Heathen. By Edward William Grinfield, MA. 8vo. pp. 462. Price 12s.
3. The Balance of Criminality; or Mental Error compared with Immoral Conduct; addressed to Young Doubters. By Isaac Taylor, Minister of the Gospel, Ongar. 12mo. pp. 178. Price 3s. 6. London. 123.
4. Discourses in Vindication of the Christian Faith, and on the Responsibility of Man for his Belief. By Isaac Barrow, D.D. which is prefixed, a Preliminary Essay, by the Rev. Alexander Keith. 12mo. pp. lxxxi. 215. Price 5s. 6d. Edinburgh. 1828.
represented as unjust to visit him with punish
The cause of religious liberty is under small obligations to such backers as these. If we must choose between the Romanist, who contends that unbelief is a crime, and therefore ought to be punished; and the liberalist, who contends that it ought not to be punished, because it involves no moral delinquency; we must pronounce for the former. But there is, happily, no occasion to embrace the political blunder of the one, as the only alternative to the moral blunder of the other. Our position is, that man is not accountable to man for his moral character, except so far as his conduct infringes upon the rights of others, and renders him a political offender; that moral delinquency is not the legitimate subject of human legislation, but such acts of delinquency ouly as come under the description of political crimes.
Whether unbelief be voluntary or not, criminal or not, it will, we presume, be at once adTomitted, that the state of a man's heart towards his Maker must involve accountability of the most awful kind. If his heart be not right with God, his character must be, in the most important respect, deeply criminal. "If there be not sin in this cnmity," Dr. Wardlaw justly remarks, "there is no sin in the universe; nor is it even possible that a conception of sin can be formed by the human mind." But can a man's not loving God, his being at enmity against the law and will of his Maker, render him obnoxious to human laws? Can his disposition of heart, although decidedly vicious and criminal in the highest degree, be treated as an offence cognizable at a human tribunal? He is a bad man; ought he to be punished simply for being such? No; man, for his religious delinquency, as well as for his religious opinions, is answerable to God alone. A man may be not merely impious, but immoral; he may be guilty of the basest ingratitude, the most hardened selfishness, the most reckless profligacy; and yet, not violating the laws which protect the rights and property of others, he may not be politically an offender. Will it be said, that he is not accountable for such conduct, because, by a human tribunal, he is not punishable? It is obvious, that legislative restrictions and penalties cannot reach to many acts of the most flagrant criminality. In other words, the moral government of God cannot be administered through the medium of political institutions. It was never intended, that civil No. 7.-A
THAT "Man, for his religious opinions, is answerable to God alone," and that to God he is answerable for his opinions, and will have to answer, are propositions so perfectly in harmony with each other, that the assertion of the former almost of necessity involves the admission of the latter. And yet, strange to say, it has been deemed by some modern advocates of religious liberty, the best way of establishing the "great truth," that man is not accountable to man for his belief, to deny that he is, as regards his belief, a free or accountable agent. In order to prove that mental error and unbelief are not legitimate objects of civil punishment, it has been contended, that they are not morally blameworthy or criminal. This argument seems almost to imply, that, if moral demerit did attach to error or unbelief, they would then become legitimate objects of penal restriction. Mr. Brougham's position is, that man "has no control," over his belief, and therefore ought not to be called to account for it at a human tribunal. The expounder and defender of his doctrine in the Westminster Review, labours to prove, that the infidel is, or may be, the most virtuous man, the most meritorious as respects the honest way in which he deals with evidence and on this account, it is Rel. Mag.-VOL. II.