« PreviousContinue »
hostile attack; and may you do all in your power to subdue the too prevalent spirit of uncharitableness, and promote, by every practicable means, the spirit of true candour and liberality.
However well-informed our opponents may be as to other subjects, they appear to be exceedingly deficient in correct knowledge of our religious sentiments, notwithstanding all that has been published in explanation and defence of them; and it is to be feared, that the very erroneous notions which still prevail, are too often fostered by the misrepresentations of those who ought to be better informed, and who seldom let slip any favourable opportunity for bringing us and our opinions into disrepute. But though there still exist many and great obstacles to the diffusion of genuine Christianity, we must not be dismayed. Our ardour ought rather to be increased and our exertions augmented; and we should persevere the more steadily in our onward course. So far am í from thinking that Priestley and Lindsey, Belsham and Carpenter, and other kindred spirits, have done enough, by their excellent writings and indefatigable exertions for the elucidation of Unitarianism,--that I am convinced there is the most urgent necessity for a continuance of similar labours in the same wide field. They, unquestionably, well performed their prescribed work; but there is yet very much to be done. It was never supposed by any of those distinguished worthies, that the great controversy was to be finally terminated by their labours. They looked forward to a succession of men, who, possessing an ardent love of truth, and competent ability to enforce it, would carry forward the good work of enlightenment. The doctrines of God's simple Unity and pure benevolence, are not now to be kept in the background; they must still be held forth to public view, from the pulpit as well as the press, in all their deep and vital importance, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.'
Some of our friends seem to think, that because they have themselves read and heard enough concerning doctrinal points, there is no necessity for more to be written or said on the subject. They do not consider there are thousands that are now as deeply involved in darkness, as they were before they commenced their inquiries, and who may continue in this condition, unless aroused to investigation by some friendly voice or a new publication; and it is more than probable, that new publications find their way into the hands of many who had not previously looked into any works of the kind, and who, without the opportunity thus afforded, would unfortunately remain utter strangers to their
existence. I might not myself have embraced my present sentiments (certainly not at so early a period), if the late excellent Dr. Carpenter had not published his Letters to Veysie, now entitled " Unitarianism the Doctrine of the Gospel," which I happened to meet with in a bookseller's shop early in the year 1810. It was this work, then recently published, that led me to a close investigation of the subject, and was the means of introducing me to other Unitarian authors, so that in a short time I was constrained to relinquish my former religious opinions. If we are really desirous that others should be brought over to our faith, we ought to endeavour to strengthen the hands of those who are able and willing to impart the needful instruction; and never should we throw any impediment in their way, to damp their zeal and discourage their laudable exertions, though we may not ourselves be likely to receive from them any new ideas. But I believe it will be found, that most persons (however well informed), require to have their memories occasionally refreshed, in order that important truths may not lie dormant, but be brought into active operation. We find that the sermons of reputed Orthodox teachers, very frequently comprise all the leading articles in their system of theology; and there cannot be a doubt, that the circumstance of their being brought so prominently forward, leads their hearers to be so much attached to their peculiar notions, and to deem them of such immense importance. I would not, however, recommend the adoption of a precisely similar course; but I am decidedly of opinion, that, in the present state of things, those great doctrines which form the distinctive features of Christian Unitarianism, ought not to be lost sight of, or but very rarely introduced. When we are beset on all sides by hostile parties, eager to effect their subversion, it assuredly does not become any friend to our cause to be ashamed of his faith. Perhaps there never was a period when the war against us was carried on with greater enthusiasm. Yet, notwithstanding this fact, and though the moral atmosphere seems to wear so unpleasant an aspect, if we attentively survey it, we sball sometimes perceive indications of a favourable change. We may then discern a few bright rays penetrating the gloom, and see the mists preparing to retire before the advancing light of truth; and if we look steadily forward, under the full assurance of faith, and with the cheerful anticipation of hope, we shall be disposed to thank God and take courage.
“ Considering what has been achieved during the last three centuries, and looking at the present advancement of general knowledge, we may reasonably conclude that the
period cannot be very distant, when ignorance and error, superstition and bigotry, shall disappear; and when the Universal Father shall be acknowledged and adored by the whole of his intelligent creatures. May his kingdom of peace and love come in all its power and glory! May we all be co-operators with Him, according to the extent of our abilities, in bringing about the desired improvement in human affairs; and may knowledge, virtue, and happiness, soon become the heritage of man from the equator to the poles! Yes, my friends, whatever the faithless may think or say on this subject,
God will diffuse those blessings round,
So richly scatter'd here;
Shall see, adore, and fear!” Mr. Gibbs sat down amidst loud and long-continued applause. The Picture presented to him bore the following inscription:
“ To MR. SILVANUS Gibbs, in testimony of esteem for his character, and of gratitude for more than twenty years' labours in preaching and defending CHRISTIAN UNITARIAN18M, this Picture was presented by his Devonport and Plymouth friends, on the 17th Dec. 1840."
TO CORRESPONDENTS. The paper by “Christophilus," has been received, and will be inserted in the Number for March; as also “ Reflections of a Young Farmer on a Devout Behaviour at Church.”
“ The Character of Calvin” has come to hand. “ The other Side of the Question" did not reach us till Jan. 12. Our pages render the request of Z. A. a work of supererogation. “ Vigil” will be acceptable, as his communications always are.
“ Juvenis,” A. M., J. F., C. D., have encouraged “ The Christian Moralist," and are thanked for their communications. They can work both “for" and "with” the Editor, as they shall be informed.
REFLECTIONS OF A YOUNG FARMER ON A DEVOUT
BEHAVIOUR AT CHURCH.
[The following reflections were written about fifty years ago, by a young farmer, little more than twenty years of age; and with no other advantages of education than having been taught to read, write, and cipher, at a village school. Shortly after writing this piece, he became a decided and zealous Unitarian, and remains so to the present day.]
It is melancholy to observe how little appearance of devotion there is in many who attend the public service of the church. Whispering, staring about, and sitting down, while the congregation is uniting in prayer, are by no means indications of sincere and genuine piety; and charity must be carried to a greater extent than reason will permit, to suppose, that where such a practice prevails, religion can hear much sway in the heart. Perhaps it would be in vain to argue with persons of such a disposition, and to persuade them to a more decent and suitable behaviour at such times and places as are set apart for the more immediate service of Almighty God; for, if religion is not predominant in their minds, how can it be expected that it should influence their actions? And appearances of piety (if they were persuaded to make them) without the reality, would be of very little use. I would rather entreat them to consider seriously whether they are in such a state as it would be safe for them to continue in; whether they are sincerely desirous to know the will of God, and habitually careful to practise it; if they make his word the study, and his will the rule of their lives; if they are careful to depart from all known iniquity, and to improve in all piety and virtue. It can hardly be imagined but that if such dispositions as these bore the prevailing influence in their minds, they would
have a better effect on their outward deportment when they assemble with others for the purpose of worshipping and glorifying their Creator. If they are strangers to these dispositions, they should consider the difficulty of acquiring them, when they have been neglected in the earliest and best part of life-and the uncertainty of the time of their probation; and sure they will need nothing else to convince them of their danger.
When sorrow for, and hatred of sin, and the love of God and of our neighbour, are become habitual to us, and as it were the natural temper of our minds, then, and not till then, are we qualified to associate with the blessed inhabitants of the mansions above; and to live in the presence of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and whom none but the pure in heart must ever expect
The difficulty of attaining these dispositions, when they have been entirely, or in a great measure neglected for any length of time, is greater than many are willing to believe. They find themselves averse to the exercises of devotion, and their minds engrossed with the business, amusements, and pleasures of the world; and they flatter themselves that hereafter they shall be more at leisure, and then they will attend to the business of their salvation, and exert their best endeavours to purify their hearts. But this is only delusion. Their aversion to religion will continue to increase, while they continue to neglect the practice of it. And if it should ever happen that they enjoy the leisure which they promised themselves, they will find their task harder, and themselves more unwilling to perform it.
The uncertainty of our continuance here, is, if possible, a still more forcible argument not to delay the work of preparation for futurity. The life of man, we all know, in its utmost extent is but very short; that few reach that extent, and many expire in their infancy; that some are continually departing, from all ages and conditions of life, into the invisible world; that numbers are summoned, without warning, to appear before the awful tribunal, and ourselves equally liable to the same stroke of fate. What greater motives can be thought of, to awaken us out of our security; and to induce us, like the Psalmist, to make haste, and prolong not the time to keep God's commandinents?