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existing institution, but it may be allowed them to remark, in the fair spirit of benevolent competition, that it can scarcely be considered for any long time that the real objects of any one of the Societies can be essentially promoted by preserving a cumbrous and expensive apparatus for the issuing annually of a few publications, which might proceed as well in every respect from the office of the Association, with little or no additional expense or trouble. In any event, the General Committee are persuaded that in this part of its administration the Association will be of important service to the Unitarian interest, if it do no more than act as a general medium of communication in relation to our tracts and other publications, and furnish a convenient mode of procuring them from the scattered sources whence they issue, and of distributing them wherever they may be called for by societies or individuals.
It is humbly conceived by the General Committee that “ The British and Foreign Unitarian Association" may
be the means of bringing into affiliation and co-operation the seyeral SOCIETIES existing in different districts, as well as Congregations and Individuals, and of thus constituting that union and concentration of power and exertion which has long been desired by the more influential and active members of the Unitarian body.
I, Societies, whether Book Societies or existing under any
other denomination. These may be already in action or may be formed here. after.
Over these the Association meditates no controul, nor any interference with their funds or their independence. All that is proposed is, that wherever an Unitarian Society (whether County or District, or whatever be its local denomination) exists, it should connect itself with the Association, (on the supposition of approval of the general plan,) by making some stated contribution out of its funds, and by directing its officers to correspond regularly with the General Committee. There would thus be opened a ready channel of information, and the way would be prepared for co-operation on any emergency affecting the common cause. In return, the associated Societies would gain all the facilities for their various objects which the central establishment in the metropolis will naturally afford, and would be entitled to send each two representatives to the General Annual Meetings, who wonld also in that character stand on the same footing as the members
of the General Committee. It is taken for granted that the annual contribution of such Societies would be in proportion to their means : the lowest sum that is provided by the Rules as the qualification of membership is 5l. per
II. Independent Congregations. The union of these with the Association is considered by the General Committee as of the first importance. This union may be effected by means of Fellowship Funds or of special meetings of the Congregations for this express object. Some congregations may, it is true, form members of County or District Societies connected with the Association : but it is submitted that the resources of the union and the means of useful co-operation will be very restricted, unless all the principal congregations of the denomination unite themselves under the general plan and be directly known to, and, as occasion serves, in intimate correspondence with, the General Committee, and thereby become acquainted with one another. Associated congregations would be entitled to send instructions by two representatives to the General Meetings, and also to give their opinion and advice by correspondence on any questions affecting the general interests, and in case of need, would receive all the ad. vice, assistance and support which the general body in its different departments is able to supply. There are few of our congregations, it is presumed, which would feel any difficulty in making an annual contribution far exceeding the amount (31.) prescribed by the Rules; but should the difficulty be felt in a single instance, it is met by the provision that each congregation shall have the option of subscribing not less than the annual stated contribution, or of making a public collection once in three years, with the bona fide produce of which (where the other more desirable mode of contribution would be inconvenient) the Association would be satisfied.
III. Individuals. To these, who have been almost the entire support of Unitarian Societies hitherto, the General Committee look with confidence as their main dependence. Great is the number of those who are both able and willing to contribute to our common cause, and especially in the country and the larger towns, who have never yet been placed in a condition, with regard to information and connexion, of fulfilling their own wishes. The General Committee have reason to believe that there are thousands who wait only for the call, to make their contributions to objects which, as professed Unitarians and as Unitarian worshipers, they feel themselves pledged to promote. They have indeed no apprehension that an individual of their body will be found who will not cheerfully make some annual allowance, according to his ability, to an Association which will have perpetually in its view all the various modes by which the common cause of truth and righteousness can possibly be served. It is by individual efforts that other religious denominations are able to serve their respective interests so effectually, and it would be a reflection upon the Unitarians to admit for a moment the apprehension that they will fall below those in point of liberality above whom they justly conceive themselves to stand in a knowledge of the true meaning of the records of salvation. The General Committee confidently reckon upon a large accession of individual subscribers to the Association by means of its ramifications in Congregations and District and County Societies, throughout all which it is hoped that from the first an interest will be excited in the proceedings of the Association, as it is believed that that interest will be kept up and increased by the reports, that shall from time to time be made of its exertions. It is too plain to need stating, that a small annual contribution from the numerous Unitarians throughout the kingdom, to whom such a contribution could be a matter only of trifling consideration, would place the Association on a scale of respectability and influence far beyond any thing yet known amongst us.
And if our cause be the
of Revealed Truth, of Divine Benevolence and Human Happiness, why should not each of us be eager to do his part in favour of pure and undefiled religion before God even, the Father-were it only to wipe away the reproach, that Superstition has been able to excite a warmer zeal and, more energetic labours on its behalf, than have yet been seen amongst the friends and upholders of that pure Chris tiavity which professes both to inspire and cherish " the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind” ?
The General Committee, whose names are set down in the sheet of Rules that accompanies this Circular, * trust that 4 they are too well known to their brethren to allow of any
wrong interpretation being put upon this Address. The plan submitted to the Unitarian public is the result of
* See Christian Reformer, XI. 192–198.
many years' experience. There is no wish to dictate or even to instruct. The leading members of the Association state their views because they believe them to be practicable and conformable to the actual state of the denomination
; and they leave the subject to the consideration of Societies, Congregations and Individuals, persuaded that this appeal will be regarded at least with candour, and not without expectation that they shall receive such answers as will put the existence of the Association beyond all doubt, and place the Unitarian body in a more commanding attitude than it has yet been able to assume.
In order to ascertain the degree of support on which the General Committee can rely, by which, of course, their various proceedings will be determined and regulated, it is in the highest degree desirable that they should receive early instructions on the following points :
1. How many of the District or County Societies are disposed to unite with them, and to what extent they are prepared to offer pecuniary assistance.
2. What Congregations are willing to join the Association as distinct members. Many Congregations were connected with “ The Unitarian Association for the Protection of Civil Rights," which is now dissolved in "The British and Foreign Unitarian Association," and it is not doubted that these will also join the existing and more comprehensive Society: but they are specially requested to make an early communication of their intentions in this respect, and of the amount or mode of their respective contributious.
3. With regard to Individual Subscribers, many of whom have been members of several of the societies in the metropolis, it is of importance to the General Committee to be informed at an early period whether they consider themselves subscribers to the new Association, and to what amount. The General Committee are desirous that indi. viduals should consider themselves entitled by the plan of the Association to apply and apportion their subscriptions among the objects of the Society, ad libitum ; but at the same time they trust they shall be excused for recommending, to such as may have no strong feeling or decided inclination upon the question, a general subscription in preference to an appropriated one, in order to leave those persons whom the A'ssociation shall from year to year entrust with the administration of its fand's, in the full exercise of one of the great advantages contemplated in the formation of this new and extended Institution, viz. the power of applying the resources of the Society to such objects as shall at any one time appear to them to stand in need of peculiar support : each of the objects pursued by the Association will probably be benefited in turn by this discretionary power.
Sereral District and County Societies, some congregations, and many individuals, have already enrolled themselves amongst the subscribers or contributors, a list of whom will be published as soon as time shall have been allowed for answers to this Circular.
In the answers which the General Committee beg earnestly to solicit, it is requested that individuals will favour them with their names and addresses in full; that congregations will give the names and addresses of their ministers and representatives ; and that District and County Societies will communicate the names and addresses of their representatives and officers.
Ministers and other gentlemen who are willing to assist the Association in the country and in large towns by their correspondence, by receiving subscriptions as Local Trean surers, and by distributing communications, are earnestly requested to signify the same to the General Committee, and also to furnish any useful information with regard to the promotion of the objects of the Association in their respective neighbourhoods.
The General Committee have the pleasure of announcing that the Rev. Dr. CARPENTER, of Bristol, has kindly undertaken to preach the First Association Sermon, on the Evening of Wednesday in the Whitsun Week, May 17, and the Rev. JAMES TAYLER, of Nottingham, to preach the Second Sermon on the next morning, Thursday, May 18, 1826. Further and ample particulars of the Annual Meeting, and of all the proceedings of the Association, will be laid before the public soon, and from time to time ; it being the purpose of the General Committee to establish frequent communications between themselves and the subscribers and friends to the Society. Signed on behalf of the General Committee,
ROBERT ASPLAND, Secretary.