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from the apostles' creed, has completely excluded himself from its protection; and if known idolatory may be repressed by violence, or punished by the sword, we justify at once all the odious severities of the Spaniards and the Portuguese towards their heathen subjects, if we do not involve in the same snare our fellow-christians of the Greek and Roman communions.
"It is probable, indeed, as none of these persons were at that time in any immediate danger of persecution, (since for the case of the Roman Catholics he afterwards provided, and the Socinians had not as yet advanced to their modern pitch of free-thinking,) that Taylor was not anxious to pursue his own principles to an extent which might give offence to those whom he desired to conciliate. It is certain, that his arguments against punishing men for following the dictates of an erroneous conscience, as well as that which is taken from the dishonour done to Christianity, by supposing it to need any other defence than those weapons of argument and good life by which it subdued the world, are no less cogent against all persecution whatever, than against that which has for its subject the minor dissensions of Christendom.
"Nor is there any real weight in the difficulty which appears to have perplexed him, in what manner to reconcile the duty incumbent on every magistrate to repress all open acts of sin and impiety, with the toleration which the same magistrate may be called on to grant to the worshipers of idols, or to the assailant of Christianity. That difficulty arises from a misapprehension of the magistrate's power, whose office, as it is purely civil and secular, has no direct concern with the souls of men, and who is neither bound nor authorized to interfere between man and his Maker, or to take on himself the punishment of offences against God, except where those offences disturb the temporal peace, or endanger the temporal property of the subject.
Thus, as idolatry, abstractedly considered, is a crime against God, and not against man, it is a crime the punishment of which God may be conceived to have reserved to himself, and which the secular prince is not called on to punish or to repress, any otherwise than by his own example, and by securing to his subjects the means of religious instruction. Nor can the precedent of the Jewish law avail to lead us to a different conclusion; since, that which
might be expedient and necessary under the peculiar circumstances of their theocracy, is no example for us who live under dispensations entirely different; and since, though God may be conceived, as He did in this instance, to delegate a part of his power to a particular magistrate, yet other magistrates, who have no such express commission or direct command, would be guilty of usurpation no less than cruelty, if they presumed to determine on the conduct of another man's servant.'
"But if the particular species of idolatry complained of, be attended with obscene or cruel rites, or if the public processions or ostentatious sacrifices of its votaries, have an evident tendency to shock the feelings of the majority of their fellow-citizens, and disturb the public tranquillity, the magistrate is not only permitted, but obliged in conscience to punish or restrain them according to his power, and in such measure as the interests of the community under his charge may require.
"Thus the Persians did ill under Xerxes, in destroying the Grecian temples, because not only has a foreign power no right to interfere in the national religion of any state, but because the idolatry of Greece involved no practices that we know of, inconsistent with the general peace of society. But the Roman Senate did well in repressing and punishing the Bacchanalians, because they had sufficient evidence of the debauchery and violence with which those infernal rites were celebrated. Nor is it useless to observe, that the picture which is handed down to us of the open whoredom and human sacrifices with which the gods of the Canaanites were worshiped, would be in itself, and without any divine injunction, a good reason why Moses should have prohibited, under the severest penalties, the practice among his own people of such forms of pollution and bloodshed.
"In like manner, though it would, indeed, be the height of wickedness and folly, to forbid the Hindoos, in their own country, to address their devotions to whatever idols, and in whatever form, they pleased; yet, if certain Hindoos resident in London, were to institute a public procession in honour of Juggernaut, it would be no persecution to command them to perform their acts of faith in private; while, if in the course of those acts any thing actually criminal took place, it would not be the less an offence against the laws, and punishable by the hand of justice,
however it might have arisen from the dictates of a real or pretended superstition. Nor, whatever religious prejudice might be pleaded, did our Indian government do wrong in forbidding the murder of female children, nor would it do wrong (however a real or mistaken policy may forbid the measure) in preventing the sacrifice of widows on the funeral piles of their husbands.
"The distinction which has been laid down as to actions, will apply with equal accuracy to doctrines. Those which are immediately, or in their evident and avowed consequences, injurious to civil society, and those only, are fit. subjects for suppression and punishment; and they are so, not because they are offences against God, but because they are dangerous to mankind. Thus if a man maintains in' argument the falsehood of the Apostles' Creed, he is, perhaps, a blasphemer, certainly an infidel or a heretic; but his crime is not one which it belongs to the magistrate to punish.
"But the man who persuades his neighbour to insurrection, murder, incest, a promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, or the invasion of private property; the preacher of Atheism, who lays the axe to the root of all moral obligation, and the impugner of a future state of retribution, who deprives morality of its only effectual sanction-such men as these, being common enemies to the peace of the world, are to be put down and repressed by whatever severities: are necessary to abate the nuisance. With these exceptions, I know no limit to the toleration of speculative opinions. It is true, indeed, that the teacher of any opinion, false or true, who seeks to inflame in his cause the bad passions of the multitude, who violates the decency due even to established error, and who assails not only the opinions, but the characters and motives of those opposed to him; will, under all circumstances, be deserving of general indignation, and, under particular circumstances, may be a proper subject of legal coercion. But this is as a breaker of the public peace, not as an enemy to that religion which, as it is founded on argument alone, can, by argument alone, be legitimately or effectually defended. The length of this digression will, I trust, be pardoned, on account of the importance of the interests which its subject involves, and the necessity which appeared of defining more clearly what Taylor had left uncertain. Of the beauty of particular passages in the Liberty of Prophesying' on.
its general eloquence and clearness of reasoning, as well as on the admirable temper and moderation which throughout distinguish it, any further observations are needless."
G. M. D.
Plan for Religious Improvement of the Poor. SIR, Bridport, April 22, 1826. In compliance with a request made in your Reformer of February last, (p. 79,) respecting "the instruction of young persons," the following statement is sent for your insertion.
Having frequently observed with regret, that the pupils of the Sunday-school, and others who had not the advantage of regular religious instruction in their families, very soon became indifferent to religion; and knowing that the best informed need "line upon line, and precept upon precept;" considering also the injury done to youth by the perusal of books of a light and trifling, if not an immoral tendency; some ladies of the Unitarian Society in this town, were induced to adopt a plan of meeting, one evening in the week, any females who might be disposed to attend, for the purpose of improving them in reading, and of leading their minds to right subjects.
It is now about eight years since the commencement of this association. The time occupied is generally one hour and a half. The business of the meeting is conducted in the following manner: Religious instruction being its first object, a select portion of scripture is read by the pupils alternately, each taking a verse or complete sentence. For the purpose of explanation, the more familiar parts of a commentary have been at the same time employed. Wellbeloved's new edition of the Bible, Kenrick's Exposition, and Mrs. Trimmer's Sacred History, have all been found useful in the accomplishment of this plan. In reading Mrs. Trimmer's work, however, it has been thought advisable to select such passages only as accord with our views of Christian truth. When this is gone through, a portion of natural history, biography, or some other interesting work of religious and moral instruction, is read, suited to the capacities of the young auditory. Watson's popular "Evidences" has proved a valuable and pleasing work to the society. The instructors, persuaded that the more we are led to perceive the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Deity, and to live under an habitual sense of his inspection,
the more constantly shall we honour him, and dread to incur his displeasure, endeavour as much as possible to excite in the minds of the young a desire to contemplate God in his works and word, and to impress the solemn conviction that he is the ever-present witness to their thoughts, words, and actions. Advice is also given them as occasion requires, in a friendly and affectionate manner, respecting their dress, associates, habits, &c., and the business of the evening concludes with prayer. Remarks occasionally made by the young persons themselves, are encouraged as the best mode of ascertaining the effects produced by the instructions given.
There is reason to believe that in several instances, this meeting has been attended by the Divine blessing. It has evidently contributed to unite more closely the different classes of the society, and has led to the establishment of a library, by means of which knowledge is diffused very generally in the congregation. Those who are engaged in this work, have readily acceded to the wish expressed by your correspondent, that they would furnish an account of the methods pursued, from a persuasion that the adoption of similar plans in other Christian societies, would be attended with the same beneficial results.
On the British and Foreign Unitarian Association. SIR, Honiton, April 12, 1826. PERMIT me to request the attention of your readers to a subject of considerable importance, in which every Unitarian should feel a common interest; and although I have not the vanity to suppose my humble interference can do much towards advancing what has been justly termed our Righteous and Immortal Cause;" yet believing it to be the duty of every individual to use his utmost exertions in the support of it, by improving the talent committed to his care, I venture my observations to the public with the less diffidence, through the medium of your useful Miscellany.
Previous to forming the British and Foreign Unitarian Association, the want of it was universally felt it is well known that the Unitarian Fund was the means of much usefulness, but from inadequate resources, and other causes, its operations were comparatively limited. Now that anto other Institution is formed on a more extensive scale, it