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England, have been accomplished. This publication seems now to be required, and even necessary; because those who have been chiefly concerned in conducting these operations, have deemed it expedient, till this stage of their process, to conceal from the mass of the Christian community their ultimate designs. The history, therefore, which we now lay before the public, in its most material parts, will be new to most of its readers, and, as we believe, interesting to all. Though this history is now before the public, we are not quite certain that all the advocates of the changes in the religion of our country which it relates, are agreed as to the expediency and seasonableness of the present disclosure, or are disposed to commend Mr. Belsham for making it, in the manner he has done, on the other side of the Atlantic. The care which has been manifested to limit the knowledge of this interesting work, during many months, (probably two years) since its arrival in Boston, indicates pretty plainly the unwillingness of those who have possessed copies of it, to have its contents generally known. On this subject, however, we would not be positive. Appearances may have deceived us. The gentlemen who received this work from its Author, may have had other and very satisfactory reasons for this apparent concealment of it for so long a period. If so, we may, and we hope we shall, receive their thanks, and the thanks also of other American Unitarians, for bringing before the public their own history, in so unexceptionable a form, from the pen of a man, considered deservedly as standing at the head of their denomination, who derived his facts and information confessedly from gentlemen in this country, who were best acquainted with
the subject; who have been principals in the history which they narrate; and who, moreover, wrote evidently not for the public eye, but only for the information of private, confidential friends, and of course what they conceived to be naked and undisguised truth. Rarely indeed has the Christian public been favoured with a portion of history, which has had as high claims to attention and credit, for the reasons above stated, as that which is contained in the following pages. We may, therefore, without presumption, anticipate the pleasure we shall afford to all denominations of Christians, by giving them, in a cheap form, this very interesting portion of ecclesiastical history.
We have another reason for making this publication. Many complaints have been made that the Boston Clergy have been "slanderously reported” to be Unitarians. This pamphlet will shew who are their "slanderers," if indeed they are entitled to this character, and exculpate some who have been falsely accused in this thing.*
To evince the impartiality of Mr. Belsham, as respects the body of Christians in this country, whose history he has written, and to shew that his testimony concerning them is entitled to full confidence, his religious creed, (for English Unitarians have creeds, and long ones too, though their American brethren profess to have none) and from his own pen, is subjoined, and is as follows:
"I shall now proceed to exhibit a concise view of Rational Christianity in its connexion with Natural Religion.
"Of Rational Religion, the first and fundamental principle is, that the Maker of the universe is infinitely powerful, wise,
See pages 38, 41, and 44, of this pamphlet.
and good, and that it is impossible for him to act in contradic
tion to his essential attributes.
"GOD IS LOVE. Infinite benevolence alone prompted him to action. And infinite benevolence, combined with unerring wisdom, and supported by irresistible power, will infallibly accomplish its purpose in the best possible manner. It appears in fact, that a limited quantity of evil, both natural and moral, was necessary to the production of the greatest possible good. Whence this necessity arises, we know not; but that it could not be avoided in a system upon the whole the best, we are well assured; for God would not choose evil for its own sake. Evil therefore is introduced and permitted, not because it is approv ed, but because it is unavoidable. It is in its own nature temporary and self-destructive; and in the view of the Deity it is absorbed and lost in the contemplation of its ultimate beneficial effects, so that to him the whole system appears wise, beautiful and good.
"God is the Former, the Father, and Benefactor of the human race, whom for wise reasons, unknown to us, but perfectly consistent, no doubt, with his magnificent plan of universal order and happiness, he has been pleased to place in circumstances of frailty and danger, the natural consequence of which, in their progress through life, is the contraction of a certain degree of moral pollution, which, in the nature of things, and by the divine appointment, exposes them to a proportionate degree of misery here or hereafter.
"But this fact by no means proves a preponderance of vice and misery in the world; otherwise we must conclude that the Maker of the world, whose character we learn only from his works, is a weak or a malignant being. The truth is, that although the quantity of vice and misery actually existing is very considerable, there is nevertheless, upon the whole, a very great preponderance of good in general, and, with few, if any exceptions, in every individual in particular.
"The almost universal desire of life and dread of dissolution, amounts to a strong presumption, that life is in general a blessing. And the disgrace universally attached to flagrant vice, proves that such vice is not common. Character is the sum total of moral and intellectual habits, and the proportion of vir
tuous habits, in the worst characters, exceeds that of vicious ones. But no character takes the denomination of virtuous unless all the habits are on the side of virtue: whereas one evil habit is sufficient to stamp a character vicious.
“God cannot be unjust to any of his creatures. Having brought men into existence and placed them in circumstances of inminent peril, though in the nature of things misery is necessarily connected with vice, we may certainly conclude that none of the creatures of God in such, or in any circumstances, will ever be made eternally miserable. Indeed it is plainly repugnant to the justice of God, that the existence to any of his intelligent creatures, should be upon the whole a curse.
"The light of philosophy affords a few plausible arguments for the doctrine of a future life: there are some appearances physical and moral, which cannot be satisfactorily explained upon any other supposition. But since the sentient powers are suspended by death, and admit of no revival but by the revival of the man, a fact the expectation of which is entirely unsupported both by experience and analogy, the speculations of philosophy would commonly, and almost necessarily, terminate in the disbelief of a future existence.
"Here divine revelation offers its seasonable and welcome aid. God has commissioned his faithful and holy servant, Jesus of Nazareth, to teach the universal resurrection of the dead, and by his own resurrection to confirm and exemplify his doctrine.
"Jesus hath authoritatively taught, that the wicked will be raised to suffering; nor could it possibly be otherwise, if they are to be raised with the same system of habits and feelings with which they descended to the grave, and without which their identity would be lost. But since eternal misery for temporary crimes is inconsistent with every principle of justice, and since a resurrection from previous insensibility to indefinite misery, to be succeeded by absolute annihilation, is a harsh supposition, contrary to all analogy, and not to be admitted but upon the clearest evidence, we are naturally led to conclude, that the sufferings of the wicked will be remedial, and that they will terminate in a complete purification from moral disorder, and in their ultimate restoration to virtue and happiness. In
this conclusion we seem to be justified by those passages in the apostolical writings which declare, that the blessings of the gospel shall be far more extensive than the calamities of the fall, and that Christ shall reign till all things shall be subdued unto him. (Rom. v.-1 Cor. xv.)
"The apostles were commanded to preach the gospel to the idolatrous heathen as well as to the chosen family of Abraham, and they were authorized to confirm their doctrine by miracles. These extraordinary powers are in the Scriptures called the Spirit of God, and the Holy Spirit; and the great change` which took place in the views, feelings, and character of pharisaic Jews and idolatrous heathen, when they sincerely professed the Christian faith, is called, a new creation, regeneration, rising from the dead, and the like. And as conversion to Christianity was usually produced by the evidence of miracles, this new creation, regeneration, sanetification, or passing from death to life, is in this sense ascribed to the Spirit of God.
"The Jews, having been chosen by God to peculiar privileges, entertained a very high notion of their own dignity, and expressed themselves in the most contemptuous language of the idolatrous gentiles, who were not in covenant with Jehovah. Of themselves they spoke as a chosen and a holy nation, sons of God, and heirs of the promises. But the heathens were represented as sinners, as aliens, as enemies to God, and the like. In allusion to which forms of expression, the converted gentiles being entitled equally with converted Jews, to the blessings of the new dispensation, they are therefore said to be forgiven, reconciled, and saved, to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
"The death of Jesus is sometimes called a propitiation, because it put an end to the Mosaic economy, and introduced a new and more liberal dispensation, under which the gentiles, who were before regarded as enemies, are admitted into a state of amity and reconciliation; that is, into a state of privilege similar to that of the Jews. It is also occasionally called a sacrifice, being the ratification of that new covenant into which God is pleased to enter with his human offspring, by which a resurrection to immortal life and happiness is promised, without distinction, to all who are truly virtuous. Believers in Christ