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perhaps I may say, not the class most esteemed.
the contrary, the more devout persons, together with the great majority of the people, are uneasy at the introduction of polemic discussions into the pulpit, and grieved at anything like illiberal remark upon other sects. They lament the necessity, (and many even doubt it,) which the state of the world has created, of canvassing disputed topics, and speaking loud in self defence. They would purchase at almost any sacrifice the silent enjoyment of their faith, without uttering or hearing a word respecting the differences which abound.
It is no evidence against the reality of this state of things, that so many controversial tracts are printed, and controversial sermons preached. These come mostly from the few persons who love discussion; and they are occasional; they do not exhibit the ordinary, but the extraordinary, style of preaching; and though preached from a sense of duty, they are listened to by many with pain and dissatisfaction. Sometimes this feeling is unduly sensitive. And this will be readily. understood by our friends, who will perceive in it the exact counterpart of the feeling which exists at home.
Of the precise state of Doctrinal Sentiment in England, it is not easy to speak in small compass. It will be seen from what has been said, that there can be no statement of opinion which shall describe the whole body of our brethren. Different individuals differ widely; and what would strike one as a correct representation of the Christian scheme, would appear to another not a little faulty. We have been too ready to take the language of certain individuals in England, for the expression of a universal sentiment; and hence has
arisen in many minds a degree of coldness and suspicion toward that branch of the church. While the truth is, that ultra, or latitudinarian, views are no more the prevalent characteristic of that community than of this; that, in fact, an inhabitant of either land who should remove to the other, would find himself in a circle of religious sentiment not very materially different from that which he had left. And it ought to be added, that the progress of opinion seems to be tending daily to a more complete assimilation.
As regards the doctrine respecting the person of the Saviour, it is probable that in England there is a smaller proportion of believers in his preexistence than in this country; though ministers and congregations are to be found there holding this sentiment. In Ireland, on the other hand, it is probably the prevalent opinion. But the difference which was once attempted to be made between the two classes of antitrinitarians, there is now a universal disposition to reconcile. They act heartily together, and look with grief on the ground of separation which was once maintained by some of their prominent men.
It has been commonly thought, in this country, that among our English brethren the doctrines of necessity, of materialism, and of universal salvation, are accounted to form a part of their system of religious faith. This, however, I found to be an erroneous supposition. There has been amongst them a good deal of speculation on these points, and individuals have freely published their own convictions. But, as I was informed, these have never been considered as forming part of Unitarianism. The two first named subjects, necessity
and materialism, are regarded as properly speculations in philosophy; which those who hold them have defended from the scriptures also; - but not as Unitarians; for Unitarians have denied as well as advocated them. They constitute the philosophy of a part, not the religion of the whole.
With respect to the other doctrine, that which regards a future retribution, I found the mind of our brethren to be very much in the posture of our own in this country. There is no sentiment respecting it which can be termed the sentiment of the sect, except the rejection of the literal interpretation of eternal torments. yond this, with them as with us, there is a great diversity of opinions. But I could not learn that any have adopted the doctrine of some in this country, that there shall be no retribution beyond the grave. The mode of preaching on this subject, is much the same as amongst ourselves. I heard of a few, who, regarding the doc-1 trine of universal salvation a positive and essential part of revelation, preach it as such; but the great majority are content to proclaim the general sanctions of a future judgment, without pretending to declare its precise character or limits; being satisfied to teach that God will render to every man according to his works.*
Upon the three points now mentioned, I was assured
*The delay in the publication of this Report, enables me to confirm the positions of the few preceding paragraphs, by reference to an excellent discourse, received since they were written, by the Rev. R. Aspland of Hackney, entitled, The religious belief of Unitarian Christians, truly stated, and vindicated from popular misrepresentation.' pp. 15- 18.
that there is less fondness for speculating, and less boldness in it, than formerly; that there is a rapidly growing taste for the practical and serious in preference to the philosophical and speculative; - and individuals were named, who, having in their younger days embraced the doctrines of materialism and necessity, had abandoned them in maturer life.
There can, therefore, be no doubt, that whatever may have been, or may be, the opinions of individuals, on these and similar questions, there is 'no received sentiment, properly called the sentiment of the denomination, which is different from that which prevails in this country. All that can be said is, that many inquisitive minds have engaged in these inquiries with an interest and zeal which have not been excited here, and have therefore, sometimes come to results, to which scarcely any have arrived amongst us.
I will only add, that I received the uniform and universal assurance, that there was a silent and perceptible growth of a devout and religious spirit. The day of warfare was passing by, and men were delighting to turn from the defence of the outworks of the faith, to the cultivation of the quiet and spiritual graces within. The principles which they had been establishing were taking every day a more practical turn, and becoming more and more dear to the hearts of their professors. And they were gathering new proofs, that their doctrines were worthy the efforts it had cost to sustain them, because their fruits of holiness were becoming daily more abundant.
The religious affairs of Ireland, at the time of my visit to that country, were approaching an interesting crisis. It had happened there, as it occurred here, that in the silent and unquestioned progress of opinion, many of the ministers of the Synod of Ulster had departed from the rigid authority of the Presbyterian standards, and adopted more liberal views of Christian truth. For this crime they were at length, in a manner, called to account. For successive years an ardent controversy was carried on not from the press alone,
as in this country, but face to face, at the public meetings of the Synod. I need not go into particulars, as the whole history is well known. Suffice it to say, that the liberal members of the Synod, in the spirit of their religion and the love of peace, desired to maintain their ancient connexion with the Presbyterian church. They contended earnestly for the Protestant right to inquire and judge for themselves concerning religious doctrine, and denied the authority of any human being to call them to account. The Orthodox members insisted on the right to judge them for their faith, and to exclude them from fellowship, if in their opinion it were found heretical. The discussion had been animated, severe, and powerful. It was drawing toward a close when I arrived upon the scene. I had the honor of seeing and knowing the upright and devoted men, who had stood forth so intrepidly for the rights of conscience and in opposition to spiritual domination. I was witness of their conversation, I saw something of the trial through which they were passing, and have brought away feelings of respect, affection, and sympathy, which never can die away from my heart, so long as truth and integ