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BY JAMES WALKER. 1794-187 4
PRINTED FOR THE
American Unitarian Association.
GRAY AND BOWEN, 141 WASHINGTON STREET.
Price 5 Cents.
This discourse was delivered at the installation of Rev. Charles Robinson, at Groton, November 1, 1826, and was afterwards printed in an octavo pamphlet, in which form its circulation was of necessity limited.
PRINTED BY I. R. BUTTS....BOSTON.
A CONSIDERABLE number of Christians in this section of the country have been entering, for some years back, into what is called the Exclusive System. This system consists in a combination to deny christian fellowship, the christian name, and all christian privileges to such as differ from them beyond a certain mark; which mark they assume the right to fix for themselves, and alter at pleasure. It would be wrong to charge this system on any one denomination, as such; for Christians of several denominations, agreeing together in what are termed fundamentals, have come into it; and besides, it is believed that there is no denomination in which there are not numbers, especially among the laity, who reprobate the whole measure as much, and as sincerely as we do. However this may be, the distinction between the Exclusive Party, constituted as I have said, and the Liberal Party, threatens to swallow up all other distinctions, and divide the church on a new principle. From the entire confidence we feel in the good sense and general intelligence of the people of this country, and in the jealousy with which they are accustomed to watch against everything that looks,
even, towards an abridgment of their liberties, we have no fears as to the final issue of this attempt. At the same time, as we can no longer shut our eyes on the fact, that an extensive and powerful combination is forming in the bosom of this community, to carry everything, in church and state, by the Exclusive System, some exertion should be made to enlighten public opinion in regard to the origin of this measure, the fallacy of the reasonings by which its friends think to recommend it, and its real tendencies.
We may observe then, in the first place, that there is no obscurity over the origin and history of this and similar usurpations. Men have always been willing that every one should think as he pleases, so long as he will please to think as they do; and this, especially when the clergy have been called in to decide the question, has commonly been the extent of their notions of religious liberty. Every sect has preached up just enough of liberality to answer its own purposes; that is to say, just enough to secure an indulgence to its own deviations from the traditionary faith. But further than this, almost every one has agreed, that liberality must be a very dangerous thing. All have allowed a certain latitude of thinking, within which liberty may be enjoyed; but if any one should go beyond this, though in the exercise of the same liberty, he is to be regarded and treated as an apostate from the religion.
Acting on this principle, the Catholics began the Exclusive System among Christians; that is to say, they allowed a certain latitude of thinking to the members of their communion, but fixed a mark, beyond