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mourned over what they also have termed indifference, and have almost desponded of a cause, which they thought so languidly supported.
For ourselves, we have no such fears, and are disposed to make no such complaints. We think that the state of feeling among us is very well as it is, and would not wish that it should be remarkably otherwise.
In defence of this opinion, we would ask, what is the cause of that practical difference between ourselves and the orthodox, which is thought to redound so much to their praise, and to our own discredit? It can certainly be no other than a difference in our religious belief. And the difference consists in this important particular; that while they believe every convert to their peculiar faith to be a soul rescued from eternal perdition, it is our belief, on the contrary, that the sincere, the virtuous, and the pious, of all denominations, will be equally the partakers of eternal bliss. It is our opinion, that the salvation of our neighbour depends more on his own labours, than it does on ours; and more, much more, on his actions than on his creed. With St. John we believe, that "he that doeth righteousness is righteous;" and with St. Peter, that "in every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him." The orthodox do not seem to be of the same sentiments. They appear to be animated with a conviction, that no one is safe, till he has come into their enclosure.
Now, this being the difference of opinion, where is the wonder that there should be a corresponding difference in practice and feeling? What is termed indifference in us, flows as naturally and necessarily from
our views of the relations between man and his Maker, as what we should be disposed to call the overstrained zeal and anxiety of the orthodox, proceed from their ideas of the same relations. In changing our conduct, we should act inconsistently with our principles; and so would they. We have as good reasons for our moderation, as they have for their excitement. We do not pursue so warmly the peculiar interests of our party, because we do not believe that the interests of our party are exclusively the interests of religion. We do not so bitterly lament the loss of a member from our communion, because we do not believe, that while he holds fast his integrity, he can possibly be lost to God and Heaven. In fine, to accumulate no more instances, we do not, on any similar occasions, manifest extraordinary emotions, or employ extraordinary exertions, simply because our opinions forbid and prevent them. It is one of our doctrines, that doctrines are principally to be valued as they influence the heart and conduct. As long as we hold this doctrine, we cannot display the same kind of zeal that our opponents do. We cannot, on this subject, think one way, and feel and act another. If we give up our practice, we must also give up our principles. For our own parts, we do not feel inclined to do either.
Do we not, then, set any value on our distinguishing and characteristic opinions? Do we not feel an interest in maintaining and propagating our peculiar doctrines? We do indeed. We value them as we value truth. We feel that interest in their success, which we feel in the success of liberal sentiments, and enlightened views, worthy of rational beings, and honourable to God. We hope that they will prevail, as
we hope that pure and undefiled religion will prevail; and that they will fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea. But these feelings, and these hopes, are not of a nature to inspire a blind enthusiasm. They are too highly allied not to disdain a connexion with the selfishness and narrowness of party zeal. They are too holy to be the slaves of ambitious passion, and too charitable to be the ministers of spiritual pride. We believe that our doctrinal tenets are correct, and scriptural, and purifying, and consoling, and ennobling; and it is because we believe so, that we would employ no means to advance them, but such as are consistent with the dignity and divinity of their character. Though we would not deny, that in every form of Christianity, there must exist good influences, we yet undoubtingly affirm, that in our own they do especially abound; and that our own, because it is the purest and most primitive, is the best adapted of any to affect the hearts, to inform the understandings, to improve the morals, and to amend the condition of the children of men; and it is from this very conviction, that we are prompted to address all that is generous and honourable in men, their good affections, their reason, and their judgment, rather than their superstition, their prejudices, and their fears. There is every thing in our cause to inspire our efforts to advance it, for it is the cause of religion, and Christianity, and Heaven, and mankind; but we are determined that those efforts shall not disgrace so noble a cause. We wish to persuade and to convince. Our opinions are founded on the firm basis of the Scriptures, and the eternal dictates of reason. The exertions made to publish them, if we mean that they should bear
them an appropriate resemblance, must be made in the peaceful spirit of Christianity, and with the calm dignity of truth.
It would be presumption in us, and a vain arrogance, to assert that we had used all the efforts which our cause demanded; or that those which we had used were entirely free from unworthy leaven. But, considering the natural imperfection of human motives, and human actions, we are very well satisfied. If it is asked, where are the effects of our efforts, where are the fruits of our labours? we answer, every where! They are in the spirit of inquiry which has gone out into the ends of the earth; they are in the gradual surrendering of foolish and stubborn prejudices, and in the death-decline of superstition and bigotry; they are in the march of improvement, and the victories of reason and common sense; they are in the signs of the times, the temper of the age, the workings of society, and the mind of man. Look, in our own country, at the doctrinal and practical works which are constantly issuing from an unshackled press; look at the men of sense and education who have embraced our opinions; look at the churches of our faith which, within a few years, have been planted, and are flourishing, from the frontier town of Maine, to the capital of South Carolina, and the villages of the west. In all this it is, that the exertions of Unitarians have, in a greater or less degree, been engaged; though subordinately to the mighty force of truth, and the ruling providence of God.
Our opponents themselves see, and confess it-confess it by their alarms and their operations. They have sounded the trumpet, and manned the walls.
They cry out, that the true faith is in danger, and that many desert the old ways, and that we leave no method untried to recommend and establish our belief. Wherefore is this inconsistency? What is the cause or reason of these contradictory statements? Why is it that we are charged, in one breath, with disgraceful supineness, and in the next, with Arguseyed activity? The solution is this. We are making exertions, though not such as our opponents make. We are zealous and active, though not according to their activity and zeal. We are not indifferent to the progress of our opinions; though we certainly are but very little inclined to consign those who disagree with us to the blackness of darkness for ever, or to preach the religion of Christ in a passion. We resolutely oppose error, because error is dangerous and hurtful; and we enforce what we receive as the simple and sublime doctrines of the Bible, because we believe them to be the best to live and to die by;—but to love and obey God, and to keep his commandments, we cannot help thinking is even better than to be a Unitarian.
We are making exertions. By argument, and scripture, and, as we devoutly hope, by our lives and conversation, we enforce our religious sentiments and opinions. The voice of truth has spoken. It has spoken-and, especially in our own favoured land, where inquiry and discussion are as free and unfettered as the wind which sweeps over our solitudes, it will not speak in vain.