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which difficult process, however, some enlightened and humane individuals have succeeded to a degree which has not only attracted the notice and the praise of royalty, but which deserves and must secure the approbation and applause of every friend to virtue, to humanity, and religion.
"In the course of the last fifty years, in direct opposition to the full tide of religious prejudice, and amidst the clamours of hosts of adversaries, the true Unitarian doctrine, under the protection of Divine Providence, has lifted up its head and made its way in a manner, and with a rapidity, which its most sanguine advocates would not have ventured to anticipate. Half a century ago it was scarcely known: or if upon any occasion mentioned, it created a universal thrill of horror. Here indeed a Newton or a Haynes, and there a Lardner, a Cardale, or a Fleming; a profound and inquiring philosopher on one side, or a learned, impartial, and judicious divine on the other,―might be seen, who to his intimate friends would venture to disclose the portentous and dangerous secret, that in his estimation pure Unitarianism was the doctrine of the gospel, and the genuine belief of the primitive church. But such disclosures were commonly received with surprise and coldness; and were secretly attributed to that pride of learning, that love of novelty, and that fondness for speculation, which so often mislead the judgment of the philosopher and the scholar, and which give him a distaste to the doctrines of the gospel, and reconcile his mind to the grossest perversion of the plain language of scripture. But, generally speaking, the truth was seldom divulged, and the light which had been kindled was concealed. Indeed, it was not very safe to make it known; and few had the hardihood to encounter the general hatred of mankind.
"The destined period at last arrived. A man was found who possessed the patience, the learning, and the impartiality which were requisite for the detection of error and the discovery of truth; the honesty and courage to avow it; the firmness and fortitude to sacrifice his worldly interests and his dazzling prospects at the shrine of conscience; and by a manly profes sion of his principles, and the public dedication of his labours to the promulgation of christian truth, to rouse the attention of mankind. This man was Theophilus Lindsey :--who, after he had honourably resigned all his preferments and prospects in the church, was directed by Providence to this great metropolis, where he unexpectedly found many friends, who revered his magnanimity, and embraced his principles; and who in a short time enabled him to build this chapel in which we are now assembled. By degrees the public attention was turned to the subject. First one, and then another discovered the light of
truth, and avowed their convictions. The number gradually increased. The alarm subsided. Societies, one after another, were instituted for the diffusion of religious knowledge. Congregations adopted Unitarian principles; and were superintended by learned, pious, and laborious ministers, who, discarding antiquated and obsolete formularies of faith, bestowed the most meritorious and indefatigable pains in instructing the rising generation in the purity of revealed truth.
"Thirty years ago, when I first had the happiness to discern its evidence, there were only two or three congregations in the kingdom, and here and there an individual besides, who acknowledged its truth. Whereas, there is now hardly a considerable town in England where there is not a flourishing society of Unitarian christians, and hardly a village in which there is not some individual, who, being himself instructed in the truth, does not feel a generous desire to impart knowledge and happiness to his neighbours."
MEANS OF PROMOTING CHRISTIANITY.
WE live at a time, when the obligation of extending Christianity is more felt than in many past ages. There is much stir, motion, and zeal around us in this good cause. Even those, who seem not to be burdened by an excess of piety themselves, are in earnest to give it to others. The activity of multitudes is taking strongly this direction; and as men are naturally restless, and want room for action, and will do mischief rather than do nothing, a philanthropist will rejoice that this new channel is opened for carrying off the superabundant energies of multitudes, even if no other good should result from it.
We hope however much other good. We trust, that whilst many inferior motives and many fanatical impulses are giving birth and action to large bodies in christendom; whilst the love of sway in some, and the love of congregating in others, and the passion for doing something great and at a distance in all, are rearing mighty institutions among us; still many sincere christians are governed in these concerns by a supreme desire of spreading christianity. They have found the gospel an infinite good, and would communicate it to their fellow-beings. They have drunk from the fountain of life, and would send forth the stream to gladden every wilderness and solitary place, and to assuage the thirst of every anxious and afflicted mind. They turn with continual pleasure to the prophetic passages of scripture, and, interpreting them by their wishes, hope a speedy
change in the moral state of the world, and are impatient to bear a part in this stupendous renovation. That they are doing good we doubt not, though perhaps not in the way which they imagine or would prefer. The immediate and general success of their attempts would perhaps be ultimately injurious to christianity. They are sending out, together with God's word, corrupt interpretations of some parts of it, which considerably neutralize its saving power, and occasionally make it a positive injury. They are perhaps to do good, not by success, so much as by failure. Almost all great enterprises are accomplished gradually, and by methods which have been learnt from many unsuccessful trials, from a slow accumulation of experience. The first labourers often do little more than teach those who come after them what to avoid, and how to labour more effectually than themselves. But be the issue what it may, sincere Christians who embark in this good work, not from party spirit and self-conceit, as if they and their sect were depositories of all truth and virtue, but from unaffected philanthropy and attachment to Jesus Christ, will have their reward. Even a degree of extravagance in such a cause may be forgiven. Men are willing that the imagination should be kindled on other subjects; that the judgment should sometimes slumber, and leave the affections to feed on hopes brighter than reality; that patriotism, and philanthropy and the domestic affections should sometimes break out in chivalrous enterprizes, and should seek their ends by means on which the reason may look coldly. Why then shall we frown on every deviation from the strictest judi ciousness in a concern which appeals so strongly to the heart as the extension of christianity? Men may be too rational as well as too fervent; and the man, whose pious wish of the speedy conversion of the world rises into a strong anticipation of the event, and who, taking his measure of duty from the primitive disciples, covets sacrifices in so good a cause, is an incomparably nobler spirit than he, who, believing that the moral condition of the world is as invariable as the laws of material nature, and seeking pretexts for sloth in a heart-chilling philosophy, has no concern for the multitudes who are sitting in darkness, and does nothing to spread the religion which he believes to have come from heaven.
There is one danger however, at a period like the present, when we are aiming to send christianity to a distance, which demands attention. It is the danger of neglecting the best methods of propagating christianity, of overlooking much plainer obligations than that of converting heathens, of forgetting the claims of our religion at home and by our fire sides. It happens, that on this as on almost every subject, our most important du
ties are quiet, retired, noiseless, attracting little notice, and administering little powerful excitement to the imagination. The surest efforts for extending christianity are those which few observe, which are recorded in no magazine, blazoned at no anniversaries, immortalized by no eloquence. Such efforts, being enjoined only by conscience and God, and requiring steady, patient, unwearied toil, we are apt to overlook, and perhaps never more so, than when the times furnish a popular substitute for them, and when we can discharge our consciences by labours, which, demanding little self-denial, are yet talked of as the highest exploits of christian charity. Hence it is, that when most is said of labours to propagate christianity, the least may be really and effectually done. We hear a torrent roaring, and imagine that the fields are plentifully watered, when the torrent owes its violence to a ruinous concentration of streams, which before moved quietly in a thousand little channels, moistening the hidden roots, and publishing their course not to the ear, but to the eye, by the refreshing verdure which grew up around them. It is proper then, when new methods are struck out for sending christianity abroad, to remind men often of the old fashioned methods of promoting it, to insist on the superiority of the means, which are in almost every man's reach, which require no extensive associations, and which do not subject us to the temptations of exaggerated praise. We do not mean that any exertion, which promises to extend our religion in any tolerable state of purity is to be declined. But the first rank is to be given to the efforts which God has made the plain duties of men in all ranks and conditions of life. Two of these methods will be briefly mentioned.
First. Every individual should feel, that whilst his influence over other men's hearts and character is very bounded, his power over his own heart is great and constant, and that his zeal for extending christianity is to appear chiefly in extending it through his own mind and life. Let him remember that be as truly enlarges God's kingdom by invigorating his own moral and religious principles, as by communicating them to others. Our first concern is at home; our chief work is in our own breasts. It is idle to talk of our anxiety for other men's souls, if we neglect our own. Without personal virtue and religion, we cannot, even if we would, do much for the cause of Christ. It is only by purifying our own conceptions of God and duty, that we can give clear and useful views to others. We must first feel the power of religion, or we cannot recommend it with an unaffected and prevalent zeal. Would we then promote pure christianity? Let us see that it be planted and take root in our own minds, and that no busy concern for others take us New Series-vol. I.
from the labour of self-inspection, and the retired and silent offices of piety.
The second method is intimately connected with the first. It is example. This is a means within the reach of all. Be our station in life what it may, it has duties, in performing which faithfully, we give important aid to the cause of morali ty and piety. The efficacy of this means of advancing chris tianity cannot be easily calculated. Example has an insinuating power, transforming the observer without noise, attracting him without the appearance of effort. A truly christian life is better than large contributions of wealth for the propagation of christianity. The most prominent instruction of Jesus on this point is, that we must let men" see our good works," if we would lead them to "glorify our Father in heaven." Let men see in us, that religion is something real, something more than high sounding and empty words, a restraint from sin, a bul wark against temptation, a spring of upright and useful action; let them see it, not an idle form, nor a transient feeling, but our companion through life, infusing its purity into our common pursuits, following us to our homes, setting a guard round out integrity in the resorts of business, sweetening our tempers in seasons of provocation, and disposing us habitually to sympathy with others, and to patience and cheerfulness under our own afflictions, to candid judgment, and to sacrifices for others good; and we may hope that our light will not shine uselessly, that some slumbering conscience will be roused by this testimony to the excellence and practicableness of religion, that some worldly professor of christianity will learn his obligations and blush for his criminal inconsistency, and that some, in whom the common arguments for our religion may have failed to work a full belief, will be brought to the knowledge of the truth by this plain practical proof of the heavenly nature of christianity. Every man is surrounded with beings, who are moulded more or less by the principles of sympathy and imitation; and this social part of our nature he is bound to press into the service of christianity.
It will not be supposed from these remarks on the duty of aiding christianity by our example, that religion is to be worn ostentatiously, and that the christian is studiously to exhibit himself and his good works for imitation. That same book which enjoins us to be patterns, tells us to avoid parade, and even to prefer entire secresy in our charities and our prayers. Nothing destroys the weight of example so much as labour to make it striking and observed. Goodness, to be interesting, must be humble, modest, unassuming, not fond of show, not waiting for great and conspicuous occasions, but disclosing itself without labour, and without design, in pious and benevolent offices,