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" Christianity stands in no need of prosecutions for its support.”
SPBBCH OF THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
D. EATON, 187, HIGH-HOLBORN.
On the Sunday preceding the trial of Mt. Carlile for the publication of Paine's Age of Reason, having occasion to discourse on the account of the persecution of Paul and Silas at Philippi, I made the following allusion to what I could not but consider as an imitation of the opposers of Christianity in that transaction:
“ And here I must be allowed to digress for a moment, to lament that the Christian name should have been sullied, stained, bloodily stained with the foulest enormity of Paganism and Imposture; and that even here, in this boasted land of liberty, and now, in the nineteenth century, there should be Christian tribunals to whose bar the Unbeliever may be summoned to expiate his want of faith, or even his opposition to the faith, by pains and penalties, fine and imprisonment. The very fact is a libel on Christianity, and founded on a principle against which every one who values the character of his religion in the eyes of rational men should solemnly protest.
If Deists will listen to you, persuade them ; if they will
reason, argue with them ; if they write and publish, reply to them ; if they misrepresent, expose them; but in the name of Christ, do not persecute them, do not abet or sanction their persecution. Fine and imprisonment! What need has Christianity of such supports ? What means could its bitterest enemies devise more foully to disgrace its name, more effectually to obscure its truth? It will never prevail with such aid. O may it soon have • free course,' free not more from hostility than from such fatal friendship, for then, and then only, will it be glorified.'
Having thus freely expressed my opinion, it was my intention not to have adverted again to the subject, in the pulpit at least. During the progress, and at the termination of the trials, I found strong inducements to rescind this determination. The conviction of Mr. Carlile I had anticipated; but I had not anticipated the legal doctrines which were advanced to aid in procuring that conviction ; and still more was I surprised and grieved at the feeling manifested by that part of the public which was allowed to be present during the trial, and by religious people generally. The decorous silence of a Court of Justice has sometimes given way to sympathy with the accused, but rarely indeed has there been a disposition to violate that decorum by audible expressions of disapprobation, during a defence, or of applause at a verdict of guilty. The common language of Christians after the trials, as far as I could observe and ascertain, and with the exception of a liberal minority, was that of joyous congratulation, as if a Waterloo victory had been gained over Infidelity. To correct, as far as I can, this improper and unchristian feeling, as it appears to me, and inculcate 4 the duties of Christians towards Deists," as those duties are taught in the New Testament, is the design of the following Sermon, to which, as I have rigidly restricted myself, it may be allowed me here to make a few brief remarks upon the trial.
In the Sermon I have taken for granted the legal propriety of the conviction ; the pulpit was not the place for the discussion of that subject : to doubt it may be deemed presumptuous, but doubts I have, and why should they not be expressed ? They may be resolved into the following objections :
1. It virtually rescinds the protection granted by the Legislature to Unitarians. That protection rests upon Mr. W. Smith's Bill, 53 Geo. III., which certainly was not intended, either by the introducer or the Legislature, to protect Unbelievers, according to Mr. Carlile's interpretation; but by which it was clearly understood that