« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
on your principle, and deny the orthodox minority their civil rights. Would they not have as much right, and in their own opinion as much reason, for such a proceeding, as you now have for the measure which you propose in relation to them? Is it possible for you to think their system of faith more erroneous, than they believe yours to be ? Is it possible for you to regard their doctrine of punishment with more abhorrence, than they feel in respect to your belief of eternal decrees and endless torments ? Why then would they not be justified in acting on the same principle of condemnation, when they possess the power of executing their resolves ? I can see no difference between the two cases. If you may deprive any man of his civil rights on account of his honest religious opinions, because you are the majority; I know not why any other sect of Christians may not return the compliment, when they secure the majority. Is not this principle of exclusion wholly subversive of religious liberty ? Certainly. For wherever any man is punished (no matter what the mode or manner) for his religious sentiments, there can exist no religious freedom. And by advocating this rule of proscription, by establishing this civil disability, do you not aim a death blow at free inquiry and religious liberty?
4. In the fourth place, - In depriving the universalist of his civil rights on account of his religious opinions, do you adopt the most Christian remedy for the existing evil ? Just look at some of the consequences of such a course of proceeding. You fear he will perjure himself, if admitted to an oath, because he believes such a crime would receive its full punishment in this world. To prevent the offence, therefore, you would remove the possibility of the temptation; you would not permit him to enter upon the stand of legal witnesses. You would ascertain his particular belief before you would admit his testimony. Now on the same ground, you may imprison your neighbour, because you fear he may be tempted to steal your property. You might place him beyond the possibility of temptation. But I know of no laws, human or divine, which are founded on such unjust principles. All with which I am acquainted, go on the principle, that it will be time enough to punish the criminal after the offence shall have been committed. I know of none which requires the punishment of the innocent, for fear he may be tempted to commit iniquity. And does not our own Constitution make specific provision for the punishment of perjury? Whenever a person is convicted of such a crime, will not the law be executed ? Is there not a proper tribunal for all such offences? If the guilty is not detected, will not the divine punishment be as certain, as if he believed in endless burnings ? And should not the credibility of a witness be determined, not by his religious creed, but by his previous character? And on this ground, have not the communicants in universalist churches as high standing for strict honesty, rigid impartiality, and firm integrity, as the professors in orthodox communions? Would it not, then, be the more Christian course to regard such persons as Christians, so far as they profess their belief in revelation, and exhibit a Christian character? Would it not be better to convince them of their errors by fair and Scriptural reasoning, and by exhibiting undoubted evidence of the certainty of a future righteous retribution ? Now, Sir, I am not saying all this, because I feel any partiality for the doctrine of no punishment after death. No; I regard this opinion as equally erroneous with the one cherished by the orthodox on this subject. But I say this, because I believe that every man, who makes the Bible his standard of faith and practice, and exhibits the fruits of the gospel in his daily walk and conversation, is entitled to the Christian name, rights, and privileges; and because I believe all Christian believers should be on an equal standing in the sight of our civil government. And when I meet an individual of this character, let him be called by what name he may, let me think him in what error I may, I will endeavour to do unto him as I would have him do unto me. And I think a candid consideration of this subject will induce you to regard this as the most Christian remedy for the supposed evil. For an opposite course appears to me subversive of free inquiry, religious liberty, and the principles of congregationalism.
I perceive, Sir, that you have alluded to the subject of religious tracts. You assert that unitarians accuse the orthodox of being “raving mad;' and destitute of modesty and humility,' because they engage in their publication. You have probably come as near the truth in this statement, as in many others in your late pamphlet. I think you would find it very difficult to mention the unitarian who ever made such an accusation. But for my own part, I am free to confess, that some of the measures adopted by your leaders for the distribution of tracts appear to me very singular. In order to foist them into unitarian families, they have come in the darkness of night, and put them in our well-curbs and our work-shops, scattered them in our door-yards and our gardens, thrown them into our entries and our out-houses, and tied them to our pump-bandles and our door-latches. They have stuffed them into the hats and pockets of our dependents, thrust them into the hands and bosoms of our children, and concealed them among the leaves of our borrowed books. They have dropped them in our public and private walks, thrown them to us from wagons and stage-coaches, and strewed them in bar-rooms, and canal-boats, and steam-boats, from Maine to New Orleans. And in these various ways, they have become as plenty in some of our houses, as were the frogs in the dwellings of the Egyptians, not to say as noisome.
But this is not all. A new method of sowing this precious seed has lately been invented, and has already been put into extensive operation. Let me illustrate this assertion by an example of recent occurrence. The circumstances are briefly these. There are about one thousand inhabitants in the place. They all attend a unitarian meeting. One of your disorganizers enters the peaceful fold, and succeeds in turning some of the flock from their present pastor. They are organized into a feeble church. Their secession takes from the annual salary from five to ten dollars. A building is thrown up for a place of worship; and a minister is ordained over them. Some of this new society are in indigent circumstances; others are deeply in debt to their unitarian neighbours; all together they are unable to pay but one third of their teacher's small salary; and but few of the number are particularly distinguished either for superior acquirements, or superior morals. In this situation, they resolve to present every family in the whole town with a religious tract on the first of each month. Agents are appointed; the work is commenced with impartiality ; no individual, not even the unitarian minister, is neglected. They feel justified in spending their time and money for this purpose, when other important duties claim their attention. Such is an exact and true description; and there are doubtless many similar instances within this Commonwealth. How much modesty and humility are exhibited in such proceedings, I leave you to determine.
But this is not the worst of the case. These agents will feel themselves insulted, if you either refuse to receive their offering, or offer them a unitarian tract in return. This assertion may be illustrated by two examples. The first is this. The tract-distributer knocked at the front door of the house of a wealthy and learned unitarian Christian. He told the servant that he wished to leave a tract for the family. The gentleman overheard his remark, and politely informed him, that he felt qualified to select the reading for his own household, and was able to pay for his books. The pious saint burst into a rage, said he did not expect such treatment in a Christian land, and insisted on leaving the pamphlet. The other case is this. I passed down the Ohio river in the same steam-boat with onc of your officious tract-distributers. He was frequently thrusting his dingy publications into the very face and eyes of the travellers. He was asked how he should regard the conduct of any one who refused his gratuitous offering. He said he should consider it ungentlemanly and unchristian. A unitarian tract was then offered to him. He cast his eye over the title-page, and shrunk back as from a deadly serpent. He was reminded of his former observation, and pronounced self-condemned. But neither shame nor entreaty could induce him to read a word of the heretical doctrine. He was literally obedient to the command of your leaders, who have cautioned their readers to avoid unitarian publications as they would a cup of poison. These are mere specimens of daily occurrences.
Now, Sir, would you exhibit such proceedings as the most worthy examples of orthodox modesty and humility ? Let me endeavour to bring this measure home to your own bosom. Suppose then a very feeble unitarian society should now be organized in your neighbourhood. Suppose it should consist of some ten or a dozen males of little education or influence or usefulness; and some twenty or thirty females. Suppose they should send you a copy of the following document: “At a meeting of the first unitarian church in South Andover the following preamble and resolves were unanimously adopted. Whereas divine Providence has surrounded us by those who have embraced soul. destroying errors, and are hastening to perdition; and whereas the Theological Seminary in this place has essentially renounced the Scriptures, and set up a human standard of religious belief; and whereas we can'not answer to our final Judge with an approving conscience, unless we do all in our power to stay this destructive heresy ; -- therefore resolved, that we will distribute a Christian tract to every family in this heathenish settlement on the first of each month; and also resolved, that since the divinity school on the Hill may be regarded as the fountain-head of this pernicious infidelity, we will present to every professor and student two Christian tracts on the first of each month.” Suppose that on the first day of next January, while you are at breakfast, you should observe a female busy body pass by your window. Suppose one of your younger children should answer to her rap, and receive with the specified tracts, this observation: “I am the agent for distributing these religious works in this school district. Here are two for your father and the rest for the family. I hope you will all peruse them prayerfully, and that they may be blessed to your conversion to truth and godliness." Suppose she should then extend her errand of mercy to each of the students. This would serve to let you understand what is now doing at the instigation of your leaders. I hope you will seriously meditate upon this statement, and let us know how much modesty and humility would be indicated by such an undertaking. I know of no way of bringing this business home to your people but by returning the compliment.
In relation to the religious persecutions in Switzerland, you have fallen into a most egregious mistake. I will quote the passage from your Letter. These are your words. “We look to Switzerland ; we see the wandering erile pastors there thrust out from their own country, or languishing in dungeons, and their families bezging their bread, because these dauntless heralds of salvation have dared to preach Christ and him crucified. WE CANNOT HELP KNOWING THAT UNITARIANISM HAS DONE This.” Now this last assertion has not the least foundation in truth. Unitarianism has had nothing whatever to do with these persecutions to which you allude. The literal fact is this. One party of Calvinists have been persecuting another party, for being more zealous and rigid in their views and measures. And I will now prove the five following propositions. First, that the regular church in the cantons of Vaud and Berne, in Switzerland, has caused the persecution of some of their brethren for separating from their national religious establishment. Secondly, that these persecutors believe the doctrine of the trinity, and preach the deity, atonement, and grace of Christ. Thirdly, that these persecutors still retain the name of Presbyterians and Calvinists. Fourthly, that these persecutors still give their assent to the Calvinistic confession of faith. And fiflhly, that they have been among the persecutors of the unitarians at Geneva.
And first, take a passage from the Eclectic Review, the standard orthodox journal of England. “ The canton of Vaud, in Switzerland, is about the size of the county of Essex; its population is estimated at a little more than one hundred and forty-two thousand. It had been for almost three centuries, dependent upon the canton of Berne ; but the changes consequent upon the French revolution raised it to the rank of a separate canton. The seat of government is Lausanne, and the supreme power is lodged in an aristocratical Council of State. The people have long borne the character of enlightened and liberal; but recent events have forcibly and painfully proved that they do not possess a government worthy of them.” I will now give you an extract from one of the petitions presented to the Lausanne Council of State by some of the persecuted Christians.“ The undersigned have separated from the national church of this canton, and have formed themselves into a church according to Scriptural order, as appointed by Jesus Christ and his apostles, and under which discipline they desire to live and die." These are sufficient to prove that separation from the national church was the cause of persecutions in Switzerland.
Take, secondly, an extract from the Letters of Canonicus to Dr. Channing, written by the late Rev. Mr. Shed, orthodox minister in Abington. Here it is. “In regard to the doctrine of the TRINITY, so far as I can learn, that is still held in the canton of Vaud.” Remember that this acknowledgement comes from one of your own men, when writing on this very subject of dispute. Take another extract from the orthodox Eclectic Review. These are the important words. “ One of the two professors of divinity in the academy of Lausanne had particularly directed his Lectures to the confirmation of the Scripture doctrines concerning THE DEITY, ATONEMENT, AND GRACE OF CHRIST. The effect upon his auditors was great. A new life and energy appeared among the students and the younger ministers. Evangelical principles were not left to slumber in the formalities of the academic hall, but were brought forth into the exemplification of experience and action. The professor became alarmed. He seems to have thought that the pupils had no right to go beyond the length of his cord; and, O the weakness and