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LETTER FROM A UNITARIAN LAYMAN TO AN EVANGELICAL FRIEND.

ESTEEMED FRIEND, Having heard your ideas of Unitarianism and the sentiments you bear towards its professors, I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise and concern that one so disposed to rectitude of principle, and to a conformity with the dictates of the gospel, should nevertheless be wanting in the great and essential duty of charity, seeing, as I feel assured you must upon a due consideration, that it constitutes the brightest ornament of Christianity; that it is the duty enlarged upon and enforced throughout the gospel above all others. The 13th chap. 1 Cor. is so eminently illustrative of the subject, and renders it so evidently paramount amongst Christian duties, that I confess it is always a matter of great astonishment to me that any reader of the gospel can for a moment lose sight of it. How overcharged must that zeal for a particular creed be which can fail to impress the mind with an everpresent conviction, that though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing! Permit me then to urge upon you a never-failing attention to the subject, since where charity is wanting there evidently can be no genuine Christianity; and whenever you may find your zeal for your particular faith bearing you onward beyond the bounds of that meekness, humility, and forbearance, under which it ought to be held, and without which it can be nothing worth, I fain could wish that one moment's retrospective thought may point to this appeal and help to recall the peaceful spirit of Christian charity.

In furtherance of my object, allow me now not only more particularly to point out how inconsistent the sentiments you manifest towards those who differ from you are with the peculiar religious tenets you profess, but at the same time to suggest that you appear strangely to overlook the all-confounding reaction readily deducible from the opinions you entertain.

In the first place, the judgment you pass upon others for not thinking as you do yourself, will, I apprehend, upon a short inquiry, be found to be, as far as regards reason, a judgment absolutely devoid of all sense. According as the Almighty has seen åt to make us, the features of our minds differ as much as the features of our countenances ; so many men so many minds; and were it otherwise the world would be very differently constituted from what it really is. Scarcely two are to be found who can think precisely alike, and specially with regard to religious dogmas. Christianity has been seen in such different views by its respective votaries, that the best and wisest men have stood wide apart, whilst experience has demonstrated that the strongest measures and the most earnest zeal ever exerted to induce uniformity, have proved equally weak and mischievous; and, excepting by your own sect, the idea has been generally given up as persecutory, indefensible, and impossible; excepting those of your faith, scarcely any example of such an intolerant desire is now to be found, but in the most wretched and ignorant of the Roman Catholic countries. Conscientious opinion is by no means a matter of choice, but clearly a matter of absolute and unavoidable necessity; and consequently it would be just as reasonable to adjudge your neighbour to everlasting condemnation for not having the features of his countenance in all respects like your own, as for not having the features of his mind so. I am really surprised at these things. If a man exerts his understanding to the best of bis power, and conscientiously forms his judgment accordingly, he does all he possibly can do; and to require more of

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him is evidently to require an impossibility. Such a judgment, then, as you pass in this case, is, as I have stated, clearly a judgment devoid of all sense ; and worse than this, since it is plainly as mischievous as it is senseless : such blind and self-sufficient judgments uproot Christianity, hurling it as a fire-brand upon society, in place of rendering it as a bond of love and union. Whilst such unmeasured language and harsh judgments are indulged in upon such grounds, it is obvious to the calm understanding of every one whose mind is not darkened by prejudices, that the great objects of Christianity, charity, peace, and good-will, never can exist amongst mankind. I do, therefore, earnestly recommend to you as strict and persevering an examination into the arguments against your particular opinions as you have given to the considerations upon which they are founded; for then, and then only, can you be properly qualified to form any thing like a rational decision; and the more competent you may become by this means, the more and more will you become impressed with the indispensable necessity of genuine charity

Proceeding now more particularly to a review of your religious faith, the result will appear no less extraordinary than the one we have just arrived at. Your religious tenets lead you to deny the possibility of your rendering yourself entitled to the least merit; you hold that the most faithful and scrupulous observance of the Christian precepts, that the highest acts of moral goodness, cannot entiile you to the smallest desert: by these opinions you therefore evidently think it necessary to put yourself to the test of the deepest humility; in lowliness of mind you assume the lowest grade. But how, I ask, is the contemplation of such deep humility reconcileable with a stern condemnation of others to everlasting punishment? How can it be reconcileable with a charge of damning heresy for not reading scripture with your understanding, with the accusation of a wilful blindness to the plain sense of scripture, a rejection of their title to the name of Christian, an expressed fear of contamination by intercourse, and the affirmation that the gates of heaven are shut against them? And all this, because they cannot see with your eyes and comprehend with your understanding ! Surely this is all very astonishing, and due consideration will, I cannot doubt, suffice to shew that such sentiments do, in contradiction to the deepest humility, bcspeak the highest spiritual pride and presumption. In the first place, to imagine that others are in a state of condemnation, must arise from the consideration that you are yourself in a state of acceptance, or, to say the least, less in danger of condemnation than they are. It must be thus, or you could never think of making the accusation : but let it originate as it may, sucli a conclusion has nothing to do with humility, nothing in unison with the conduct of the humble publican, but quite the reverse, being directly in the face of scripture, which commands to judge not, that ye be not judged. It follows, also, from this presumed advantage, (as I conclude you will not unreservedly avow that a less degree of practical piety or moral virtue can give you a superior or even equal claim to Divine favour with those who may be superior to you in these respects,) that you not only must in reality consider yourself as at least equal in piety, virtue, and desert, to the very best of ihose who differ from you, but also, that you are capable of taking a more wise and accurate view of scripture than the wisest of them, great learned as they may have universally been acknowledged to be. This, indeed, you did not scruple to signify; and surely it may be said, neither in all this is there any lowliness of mind to be found. As, therefore, a reference either to scripture or reason, for the justification of your sentiments, seems

but to prove them alike inconsistent with both, the difficulty naturally enforces the necessity of looking to some other source for your principle of action; and this, although it is generaliy but evasively hinted at, and seldom or ever openly and unreservedly avowed, is, as I have gathered from yourself and from the opinions of your sect generally, nothing less than a claim to an immediate supernatural gift of divine grace; and, indeed, nothing short of such a pretension can account for the results we witness : still, this does but increase the difficulties and inconsistencies, since, in place of the subject's improving under our hands by a reference to divine grace, it only becomes infinitely worse.

By this grace you of course mean the gift of a light which reason cannot furnish you with; a supernatural, spiritual teaching to read the Scriptures with a sure and superior understanding to those who read them differently from you. Now this again is, in truth, nothing but a palpable presumption, and by no means small in its degree; whilst at the same time it is no less amazing than it is presumptuous, since no power upon earth can prove it to be any thing more than a mere delusion, an imagined superiority; and if for a moment we come to consider so great a dereliction of charity as flowing from or standing in connexion with this divine grace, as it evidently does, nothing can be worse than the position involved. The two considerations stand so diametrically opposed to one another, as at once to overturn both religion and reason. To suppose that a mind divinely instructed can undertake to lay prostrate the first principle of Christianity, is nothing less than supposing divinity to be divided against itself. The spirit which cometh from above is first pure and then peaceable. We have no proof of such a spirit as this, under the grace by which you presume to be guided; but, on the contrary, if other sects were to give theniselves up to the same vehemence and violation of charity which yours does, the world would be in a constant state of perilous strife and warfare. Peace not being the result of the grace under which you act, it cannot come from above. In plain truth, this deficiency in charity is clearly as sure a proof that your presumed grace cannot be of a divine character, as the certainty of any proof which can be furnished by mathematical demonstration ; and, indeed, I am greatly surprised that the conclusion has not forced itself upon your attention. Furthermore, if you be asked for any direct proof of your being actually in possession of this supernatural gift, there is nothing to be said for it; you can allege nothing more in answer than that your particular view of scripture is the proof of it; which is nothing more than those may say who differ from you, and therefore is plainly no special proof at all. You can no more give proof of your being endurd with supernatural grace, than you can give proof of your having power to work a miracle; this is, in fact, precisely the proof which is wanting, and without which it never can obtain a rational credibility. Such a proof was necessary for the conviction of mankind even to manifest the divine spirit in Jesus, whom you call (I am quite shocked to say it) God-man and Jehovah Jesus; and, most certainly, if such a proof was requisite in God himself, you cannot properly, for a moment, entertain the idea that less than an undoubted miracle can suffice on the part of a mere mortal like yourself; in fact, the conception bears strongly the character of the most wild and extravagant conceit and presumption, although entirely lost to your view : nevertheless it wonderful that these things should not strike upon your understanding, and that you should remain, as I have before said, totally unaware of the conclusions consequent upon your own opinions. You can furnish no possible proof that your being endued with this special

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grace is any thing more than mere illusion existing in your own mind, such a proof being absolutely out of the course of nature, whilst, as I have already shewn, and could further shew, there is every substantial reason which human intelligence can require in proof of its being so.

It were well if such notions were nothing more than abstract opinions; but the worst is not yet told. This supposed gift of grace is a most dangerous principle to take up with, for when once such a notion has got possession of the mind, from that moment the mind is no longer open to conviction; it matters not how irrational or extravagant the doctrines entertained may be, nor it seems how uncharitable the conduct pursued—every ray of opening light seems to be precluded. Held to the pursuit of a visionary grace and blind faith, a presuming self-sufficiency takes precedence of the understanding, and the faculties merge wholly into a zeal without knowledge. And -what, in truth, is this assumed superiority or self-sufficiency, however curbed in its influence and action by the improved intellect of the day? It is nothing less than that dread spirit of infallibility which actuated the ruthless Mary, which, in former times, filled the world with persecution and bloodshed, and which, in the language of the pious Dr. Watts, made a slaughterhouse of the church of Christ. People who can conceive that they are acting under the inspiration of a particular divine grace, of course must conclude that they cannot be wrong. This divine grace then, and infallibility, are in result but one and the same thing, leading to persecution and the judgment of eternal torments upon others. And what, again, is this, 0 Christian! but saying, in the presence of the Almighty, “Stand aside, I am holier than you? My faith, O God, being the work of thy particular inspiration, not only secures me thy acceptance, but also ensures me so high a standing in thy favour above my neighbour, as to entitle me to a participation in thy power, and to hurl the bolts of heaven in condemnation upon his soul!" What a dread assumption of the judgment-seat! Thus must the charge of inconsistency, which I have advanced, appear fully manifest, since, whilst through your faith you would throw yourself at the very foot-stool of humility, you, at the same time, actually do, through it, reach the very highest summit of spiritual pride and presumption! An awful usurpation of the province of God, since he alone can see the secret thoughts of ihe heart and be its judge!

I have given my arguments in plain terms, because I think the subject demands it ; but I trust you will see that I have spoken argumentatively only, and absolutely free from the fearful thought of judging you before God for your faith; for not for kingdoms, as I have told you, would I take upon myself such an unscriptural and awful responsibility. I see too much to dament in

your faith to admit of its originating any animosity in my breast : upon every consideration I have been able to give it, it appears to me to be one of the weakest and most visionary held by Christian sects ; that in place of genuine humility it presents a system of blind presumption throughout, whilst in addition iť labours under the most serious objection of being practically more injurious to society. Wanting charity, it scripturally wants every thing; and I assure you I do most sincerely give thanks that the day is come when there can be no danger that a sect disposed as yours is can have an ascendency in political power.

Let me urge upon you, then, a review of your doctrines by a due consideration of all which is to be said against them, and particularly I would lead your attention to the astounding conclusions consequent upon them. Recollect that the particular charge brought against you by the more liberal part

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of your own sect is, that “ your opinions lead to great self-conceit and harsh judgments upon others." Therefore, as you value the character of your faith and that of your understanding, be specially careful that no sentiments in breach of charity henceforth escape from your lips; but working out your own salvation with fear and trembling, leave your neighbour to do the same without molestation, but rather seeking to bestow the blessings of love and peace upon all around you.

Having thus gone through the task proposed to myself, allow me to say, that no difference of opinion with respect to religious tenets will ever shake me in the respect I hold to be justly due on account of your many excellent works and pious disposition; and that had I not felt this, I most certainly should not have taken the trouble I have done in addressing you on this subject. I remain, with much esteem and regard,

&c., &c.

AD RUBECULAM.
Quid ad fenestram stas, avis rubente

O decore pectore ?:
Manu relicti panis à benigna

Frusta visne, parvula ?
“ Mihi nivali grana non in agro

Bacca non in arbore !
Fames et urget dura ; ni det escam

Mors iniqua me manet.”
Avis videtur pipilare pennas

Concutitque frigides
Cibum libenter do quam hyems negavit

Carpe, fauste! frustula !
Ita, O‘Deus, si qua premat me egestas

Supplici feras opem !

T.

TRANSLATION.

TO THE REDBREAST.
Why dost thou at the lattice stand,

Bird of the ruddy breast ?
In hopes that some benignant hand

With crumbs will make thee blest ?
“ Alas! to me the snowy field

Each wonted grain denies
No berry will the hawthorn yield

Beneath these freezing skies.
“Feed, feed me, then, for pity's sake,

A death so cruel spare.”
Such was the plaint he seem'd to make

Whilst feebly fluttering there.
Yes, gladly in thy hour of need

I'll save thee, little bird ;
And when to God in want I plead,

Thus may my prayer be heard !

A.

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