Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Care.

But by

racter of God; nor these the attributes with which it invests him. Neither are these views consistent with what we learn from the analogy of his works, or our own experience of his providential

But suppose they were so, we, for our part, see not bow, or where, the foundations of religious or moral obligations could be laid. We see not how it would be possible to cherish toward such a being either love, gratitude, or reverence.

We see no room for penitence, or contrition ; , nor any advantage in them if there were. A fearful looking for of judgment,' or a reckless abandonment of hope and fear alike, would be all that remained for erring man. The doctrine in question, does, indeed, open a vista of hope for a chosen few; and on these, some obligationis to gratitude and obedience may be considered to rest. what means is this brought to pass ? By the intervention of the second person in the Trinity, who by bis sufferings and death, has purchased of the inexorable Father the right to confer eternal life on those, who had been preordained to this from eternity. But this selection having been made without any reference to character or conduct, and the blessing actually copferred without regard to personal desert, it is difficult to conceive how any moral effect should be produced by it on the characters even of the favoured few. And as regards the rest, it is obvious, that no gratitude can be due from them to a Being, who has given them existence for the express purpose of rendering that existence a curse; nor any obedience due to laws, which they are made without capacity of obeying, and which it was never intended they should obey.

Such, readers, is, as we conscientiously believe, a fair view of the practical tendency of the doctrine in question. God forbid we should misrepresent or distort it. But for what purpose is this view of the doctrine exhibited ? Simply to show that a doctrine pressed and encumbered with difficulties such as these, should, at least, be cautiously and deliberately examined, befor it be admitted to show that it requires to be sustained by strong, unequivocal, indubitable testimony; that it is not to be taken on trust, or drawn in by doubtful inferences; that, in short no rational man should embrace a dogma so sweeping in its consequences, without an express, 'thus saith the Lord.

We would show that Unitarians are not altogether inexcusable for hesitating on this point, and calliąg for clear and positive proofs ; and that to doubt or reject it, is not to be taken as decisive evidence of a corrupt heart, or reprobate mind. We wish to make it appear, that in their case, there is room, at least, for charitable construction; and to believe that they may be upright,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

though mistaken. If we shall have atchieved thus much, we shall not think that we have laboured to no purpose.

Our own system of opinions is charged with being cold and inoperative; with leaving the heart unatfected. Admitting the charge to be in any measure correct, it is obvious to reply, that it is better to be cold, than animated by a false and unhallowed fire; it is better that the affections be unmoved, than perverted in their exercise, or drawn toward unworthy objects. We hold that the calm of indifference is a more desirable state than the ragings of tempestuous zeal, or the blind fury of intolerant fana. ticism. In the absence of higher and nobler enjoyments, the mere quiet of life is of some value; and Unitarianism may, at least, plead in its own behalf, that its character is peaceable.

But the charge is wholly unfounded. Unitarianism is deficient in no principle, which is adapted to exert a healthful influence on the heart and conscience. It embraces every view, and recognizes every attribute of the divine character, which tends to enlarge, to elevate, and purify the affections; to inspire a salutary and filial fear, a devout reverence, an ingenuous sorrow for sin, and an animating hope of forgiveness-every thing to awaken love, and confidence, and gratitude, and joy.

If there be any thing kindly in the moral influence of the gospel; if there be any thing animating and attractive in the example of Jesus ; if any light be shed over the dark path of life by the hope of immortality; if there be any consolation to the heart broken and crushed by calamity, in the persuasion that all things shall work together for good to those who love God;' any thing ennobling and exalting in communion with the Father of our spirits; then is not Unitarianism destitute of topicks of spiritstirring interest to enkindle the devotion of its adherents.

Why should Unitarians be less devout than other men? Is there any thing in the peculiar views of our opponents—in their three-fold division of the object of their worship-to render their devotional feelings more steady, and more intense than ours ? We have seen that the very reverse is the truth. Is there anything in the association of human attributes and qualities with those of the divinity, in the being whom they address, to give a stronger impulse to the aspirations of piety ? On the other band, is it not true, that the more simple, the more distinct, the more lofty and consistent our views of the divine character are, the more corresponding qualities will be infused into our religious feelings and characters? Why should our love to God be less than that of Trinitarians ? Their system represents him as stern and unforgiving ; ours as essentially benignant and merciful. Why should our gratitude be less than theirs ? Is existence less

[ocr errors]

a blessing, because our system teaches us that he, who made us, made us to be happy, and furnished us with the faculties and means both of enjoying and obtaining, and securing felicity. Is eternal life of less value because we believe it the unpurchased gift of our Father in Heaven ? Are the sacred influences of the Holy Spirit, which give elevation to our thoughts, vigour and efficacy to our virtuous purposes, and a holy fervour to our devotions; which shed light and consolation into our hearts amidst the darkest scenes of life, and nerve our spirits to endurance when buffetted by calamity-are these less desirable, because we believe they proceed directly from the One living and true God, with. out the agency of a third distinct personal subsistence ? Ought the solemn sanctions of the gospel to bear with less weight upon our consciences, because we believe that God will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained,' than if we looked for the second person of the Trinity for our Judge ! We want no other evidence of the danger of transgression than the assurance of the divine word; nor any broader and firmer foundation for our eternal hopes, than the promise of the God of truth. If fear and hope ; if love, and gratitude, and reverence may be expected to influence the characters of rational and moral beings, then, we repeat, our system is not deficient in the means and motives to produce a pious temper, and a holy life.

H.

RETREAT FOR THE INTEMPERATE.

Among all the projects devised in this age, when plans having for their object the good of mankind, have been prosecuted with a zeal and ardour, usually devoted only to those whose end is private interest, I believe that no one has yet been presented wbose purpose

is the reformation or the seclusion of individuals addicted to the crime of intemperance. We have not been without those who have laboured to impress upon society a sense of the extent to which it is spreading, and the evils which it is entailing upon us. These have been stated fully, forcibly, and frequently. We have

had too, enough of exhortation and admonition and reproof. The motives for amendment have been insisted upon, again and again. The drunkard has been told of the destiny that awaits him, till he has become callous to the borror which it might once have excited. He has been warned of the contempt of

man and the anger of God that are his certain portion; of the misery unutterable and ubavoidable which must cling to him both here and hereafter; of the diseases that are New Series-vol. V.

16

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

fastening upon him, of the death to which he is hastening; till the voice that speaks to him passes by, like the idle wind, unheard or disregarded. This does not seem to be sufficient. Jutemperance is a vice which takes too fast hold to be removed by such means. They are applied to the offenders in a mass, and have little effect on individuals. Is there no way by which we can make personal application of a remedy, and thus effect reformation in particular cases, or at least arrest the evil before it has become fixed and irremediable ?

There are individual instances of this vice, in which a refor. mation becomes of more than ordinary importance. And this, both as it respects the happiness of the person himself and his family or friends, and also the influence of his example ; its influence on the one hand, to encourage others in the course of iodulgence which he is pursuing ; its influence on the other hand, to exhibit a proof of the possibility and practicability of reformation. For this purpose no plan seems adequate but that of providing an asylum whither the intemperate can be made to retire, and subjected to the necessary measures of restraint, during the painful period of amendment. No method has been devised so successful, in the cure of the insane, as institutions of this nature, where the subject of the disease may be secluded from the world, be protected from the operation of those causes which bave produced, or may perpetuate his malady, and thus gradually regain the tone of his mental powers, the undisturbed possession of his rea

Now what insanity is there more complete than that of the drunkard ? What lunatic who conducts himself more lamentably opposite to the dictates of sound judgment? Whose reason is so completely prostrated before an overwhelming delusion? Who requires so much to be removed by force from the causes which produce and perpetuate bis delirium--for who is so little able to resist and withstand their operation himself? No tenant of Bedlam is ever more completely destitute of the power of self controul and self restraint; is ever more incapable of standing between himself and the sources of his own weakness, than the intemperate man.

Were there such a resource as this, there are thousands who would desire to fly to it of their own accord—who would consi-, der it as the greatest blessing that could be afforded them on earth. Those who are in the habit of observing the intemperate, must be aware, that there is not always that entire absence of moral sensibility which would seem to be indicated by the unrestrained manner in which they yield themselves up to indulgence. That they often feel the debasing nature of their propensities, although they cannot resist them. In fact the animal nature of

son.

[ocr errors]

1

1

Retreat for the Intemperate.

123

man is often given over to destruction, before the spiritual has become alarmed. A physical necessity for the indulgence has become established, which the moral power cannot counteract, even when it has become fully sensible of the danger. They are awake to the full evil of their situation, but are tar too weak to extricate themselves. They sob, and weep, and sometimes dare to pray ; but do not reform. They resolve and re-resolve, in their hours of sobriety and reflection; but a moment's tempta-, tion roots up resolution after resolution, and as each resolve is broken, the moral principle on which it was founded, becomes proportionably weaker. It is in this situation that coercive power might step in and save. A power to which the drunkard would, in many cases, most readily and thankfully surrender himself, as alone able to save him from utter destruction.

In such a plan as this which has been suggested—and which some may deem so romantic, as to approach the ridiculous--the principal object must of course be, to exercise such a degree of restraint as shall effectually and constantly debar its subjects from any access to the means of indulgence. This need not be more severe than that exercised upon the tenants of lunatic asylums, nor deprive them of any of the comforts or even the luxuries of life. But with this restraint, other objects of very great importance might be combined, which should at once promote the delivery of the individual from his baneful habit and elevate and improve his general character, and strengthen his moral and religious principles. la the intemperate man, the better parts of his nature, do not,

may so express it, always have fair play. So much is his body disordered, so much is his brain confused, by the succession of bis trespasses, that he has not in the interval between them, an opportunity for the unclouded exercise of his reason.

The motives for reformation to be derived from moral and religious considerations, from a sense of character, from a regard to worldly interest and prosperity, io the happiness of his friends, his wife and family, have not time to operate effectually in the short intervals which he allows himself. They cannot change him in a moment, and the impression they are sometimes perhaps beginning to make, is eradicated by each succeeding instance of transgression. But in the state of tranquillity and reflection which must be produced by the plan of seclusion, all these motives might be urged to great advantage, and often no doubt with complete success. Religion would assert her claims--moral feeling would come powerfully to her aid the respect due to human society would exercise its influence the ties of nature would be again regarded and the best affections of the heart, unite with

if I

« ForrigeFortsæt »