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Introductory Observations. It is not necessary to urge the importance of the object proposed in the work now commenced. We presume none will think any attempt gratuitous, which is made to diffuse the principles and truths of a pure religion. If there be any such, we should not expect to change their opinion by any force of argument or illustration. We take it for granted, that nothing can be of greater moment to society, than a general prevalence of such sentiments, principles, and rules of life, as shall strengthen the cause of virtue and religion, give dignity and excellence to the character of men, and secure to them the largest measure of happiness. We hope a purpose, which aims only at these results, will be allowed to have some claims on the candour and good wishes of our readers, although we may fail to execute it entirely to their satisfaction.
It will be our object to inculcate what we think correct views of religion, and leave the public to judge of the sincerity of our motives, and the strength of our cause. We ask no attention from those, who are prepared to judge before they hear; and no indulgence from those, who may find us departing from the spirit of the gospel, in attempting to establish any opinions we may express. If we are in error, we hope to be corrected; if we speak the language of reason and truth, we claim the right of being listened to with respect. No wise man will assert a position to be false, which he has never taken the trouble to examine; and no good man will coudemn the religious opinions of another, till he is sure he knows what they are, and how they are supported.
We have several reasons for resorting to this mode of making known to the public the principles of Unitarian Christianity. We know that many efforts are used, by our opponents, to suppress all knowlege of the subject. There is no cause of surprise in this. We well know, and they well know, that the more it is examined, the more it will be approved. They have learnt this from experience; and if they had been inclined to inquire, they might have discovered it in the very nature of our belief. We wish to have it submitted to the understanding of every one; we wish to have it encountered by fair argument, and canvassed by open discussion. This is one of the best modes of proving its truth. We desire our opinions to be fully known, because, if they are errors, we think it highly important, that they should be corrected; and if they are truths, we believe them solemn and sacred truths, and such as the highest interests of men make it desirable they should receive. Why should so much care be taken, by certain persons, to prevent all reading and inquiry on the subject? The reason is obvious. People, who read, will be apt to think; if they think, they will use their understanding; and if they use their understanding, with a proper knowledge of the arguments, it is much more than probable, that they will become unitarians. Can any other reason be given? If so, we should be glad to hear it. We have grown accustomed to denunciations; but those, who denounce, should have the charity to confute. It is only the ignorant and the stupid, who will take declamation for argument. But we are sorry to have the minds, even of such persons, perverted; and we shall do what we can to put that knowledge in their way, which they have been warned to shun, and which we hope will give them better principles, and a better temper, than they are likely to 'receive from the instructions of those, who are fond of harsh epithets, and unauthorized assertions.
We do not choose to be condemned without a fair hearing. Unitarians have rights, as well as other people, and rights, which they are willing it should be understood they will not be backward to assert and defend. We mean the right of having our claims examined, and of using the same means of making our opinions known and respected, which other christians use; the right of exposing the low arts and secret machinations, which are employed to make us odious on account of our religious belief; the right of being estimated, as all other persons are estimated in society, by our characters and our moral and intellectual worth, and not by a false representation of our faith; the right of publicly teaching our sentiments, and of detecting and pointing out such errors in religion, as we think dangerous to the morals and happiness of society. These rights we have not been allowed peacefully to enjoy. We do not intend to say, that any one of them has been violently and openly encroached upon; but public sentiinent has been poisoned by the misguided ignorance of some, and the industrious malevolence of others, till together they have succeeded in fixing a reproach, where they could not ground an accusation. · Suspicions have been
whispered by those, who have not had the independence nor the hardihood to make open charges. They have been repeated by others, who hoped, and perhaps, believed, they were not false. By these and similar means has public opinion been so influenced, that a respectable society of young men, who could not be supposed to act either from personal dislikes, or a full knowledge of facts, have agreed to exclude unitarians from among their number, as unworthy to unite with them even in the benevolent and pious purpose of distributing the bible. Good done by unitarians, it seems, is not good; and how can we be surprised, that truth believed by them, is not allowed to be truth? This poisoned state of the public mind, we should be glad to see corrected; and we know not what more we can do towards it, than to administer the wholesome antidote of knowledge.
We have other less selfish reasons for our efforts. We wish to use such feeble means, as we can command, to impress on society just views of the religion of Jesus; to vindicate its truth and authority; to inspire a reverence of its pure and sublime character; and to enforce its practical duties on the hearts and lives of men. We have cause to lament the prevalence of false views of this subject--false, we judge them, not more from their nature, than their unhappy effects. Many doctrines go abroad, as religious truths, which only perplex the simple, confound the wise, and mislead all; which confirm the skeptical in their doubts, and bring disrepute upon the gospel. We find many principles of action proposed, which are not the best calculated to purify the heart, or lead to a holy life; many prejudices kept alive at the expense of christian love. We find the character of God drawn in colours, which make him odious in the sight of his creatures, and divest him of the heavenly attributes of