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should find them necessary the moment they have embraced a particular system; that they should feel, as some of the most eminent have confessed, an absolute incapacity, from that time, of praying without the aid of a book, affords a portentous indication of the spirit of that system. To be smitten dumb and silent in the presence of that heavenly Father whom they approached before with filial freedom and confidence; to be unable or indisposed to utter a word without artificial aids, where they were wont to pour out all their hearts, evinces the visitation of a new spirit, but most assuredly not that Spirit “ whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” Correct, elegant, spiritless—replete with acknowledgements of the general goodness of God, the bounties of his providence, and his benign interposition in the arrangements of society, and the success of the arts and sciences which embellish and adorn the present state--seldom will you hear any mention of the forgiveness of sins, of the love of the Saviour; few or no acknowledgements of the blessings of redemption. An earthly, unsanctified tincture pervades their devotions, calculated to remind
any thing rather than of a penitent pleading for mercy," with groanings that cannot be uttered.”
In all other dissenting communities, there are meetings for the express purpose of prayer, but has any thing of that nature ever been heard of among socinians? If they have any meetings out of the usual seasons of worship, they are debating clubs, several of which have been established among them in the metropolis on the Lord's day.
Among other dissenters, the religious observance of the Lord's day is considered as of the first importance, and he who made light of it would forfeit with them all credit for piety. Among the unitarians it is the reverse. Mr. Belsham, who seems to affect the character of their leader, has written vehemently against the observance of a Sabbath, denouncing it as one of the most pernicious of popular errors; and has lost no reputation by it.
Another of their principal writers has denounced public worship. In short, it is not easy to conjecture where these attacks will end, and whether they will suffer any of the institutions of christianity to remain unassailed.
IV. But it is time to advert to another part of the system of modern unitarianism, which, in my humble opinion, is pregnant with more mischief and danger than any of those we have just mentioned. I mean the fatalism and materialism with which, since Dr. Priestley's time, it is almost universally incorporated. The first socinians were so jealous of every opinion which might seem to infringe on the freedom of the human will and man's accountability, that they denied that the foreknowledge of God extended to human volition and contingent events. They carried pelagianism to its utmost length. The modern socinians have been betrayed into the contrary extreme. They assert, not only that the foreknowledge of the Deity is extended to every sort of events, but that he has connected the whole series of them in an indissoluble chain of necessity; that the Deity is the efficient cause of all that takes place, of evil volitions as well as good; that he is, properly speaking, the only agent in the universe; that moral evil is his production, and his only; and that, strictly speaking, no one can be said to be accountable for any of his actions, since they were the inevitable result of necessary laws, and could not possibly have been otherwise than they were; that the human mind is a machine governed by principles to whose operations it is perfectly passive.
Who does not see that, upon this theory, the distinction between virtue and vice, innocence and guilt, is annihilated, and the foundation of rewards and punishments in a future world completely subverted ? Agreeably to this, Dr. Priestley declares, in his treatise on this subject, that a perfect necessitarian, in other words, a philosopher of his own stamp, has nothing to do with repentance or remorse. Let these views of human nature prevail universally, and a frightful dissoluteness of manners, and a consequent subversion of the whole fabric of society, must infallibly ensue.
Alarming as these principles are, they form but one portion of the perilous innovations introduced by the sect of modern unitarians. With the dangerous speculations already recited, they connect the following: that the nature of man is single and homogeneous, not consisting of two component parts or principles, body and soul, matter and spirit, but of matter only; that the soul is the brain, and the brain is the soul; that nothing survives the stroke of dissolution, but that, at the moment the thinking powers of man are extinguished, all the elements of his frame are dissolved, his consciousness ceases, to be restored only at the period of the final resurrection.
From these premises it seems to be a necessary inference, that the hope of a future state of existence is entirely delusive ; for, if the whole man perishes, if all that composes what I call myself is dissipated and scattered, and I cease to exist for ages as a sentient and intelligent being, personal identity is lost, and being once lost, it is impossible to conceive it ever restored without the greatest absurdity. Thus the very subject of a future life, the very thing of which it is affirmed, perishes from under us, on the unitarian hypothesis; and a future state can be predicated of any man only in a lax and figurative sense.
Matter is incessantly liable to mutation; the matter of which our bodies are composed is so eminently so, that it is generally thought by physiologists that every particle of which it is constituted disappears, and is replaced by fresh accession in the course of about seven years. Let it be admitted, then, that the constitution of human nature is homogeneous, or, in other words, that it consists of matter only, and it will necessarily follow, that in the course of forty-nine years the personal identity has been extinguished seven times, and that seven different persons have succeeded each other under the same name. Which of these, let me now ask, will be rewarded or punished in another life?
Such are the moral prodigies which disfigure the system of modern unitarianism; such the hopelessness of reconciling it with human accountability, and the dispensation of rewards and punishments in the world to come.
V. The unexampled deference it displays to human authority. This may excite surprise, because there is nothing which its abettors proclaim [with] such loud and lofty pretensions, as their unfettered freedom of thought, their emancipation from prejudice, and their disdain of human prescription. They, and they only, if we believe them, have unfurled the banners of mental independence, have purged off the slough of obsolete opinion and implicit faith, and shine forth in all the freshness, vigour, and splendour of intellectual prowess.
VI. Their rage for proselytism, difficult to be accounted for on their principles.