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THE DISTINCT EXISTENCE AND PERSONAL-
I shall not offer any excuse, for occupying a few pages of each lecture, in an endeavour to counteract any unfair conclusions which have been drawn from the preceding. This will indeed be expected, when it is known, that such unjust inferences have been extensively circulated.
I little thought that the sentiments, advanced in our last lecture, would have been deemed so obnoxious, as I have had reason to believe they are considered: For instance, I little thought that I should be stigmatized as an encourager of every species of vice. I did expect,
that common candour would have induced those who heard me to pay some attention to the two last reflections. In the last I explicitly stated, that the opinions I had been advancing were, in my estimation, decidedly favourable to piety and virtue. I stated the reason, because they left a man no excuse for his crimes. He could not ascribe his sins to the irresistible influence of an infinitely malicious being, who had access to his heart, and was able to attack him, at a time, and in a mode, when the least opposition could be expected, and success might be deemed almost absolutely sure. I stated, in positive terms, a belief that every man was responsible for his own crimes; that he could not by any chicanery impute them to another, and that in himself he must atone for them, he and no other must suffer the punishment.
And yet, Christians, I am told, that if there be not a devil to punish human beings, every species of crime is encouraged! Is there not a God to punish? Is it not God, whom thou, O sinner, hast offended? Is it absolutely necessary, in the divine
administration, that a being should exist, first to allure, almost compel, mortals to sin, and then that this same being should necessarily be the punisher for obedience to his mandates? Is it not God, even in your estimation, who punishes? So it is in ours. Most solemnly do I believe, that every sin committed, will receive a proportionate degree of punishment. As an act of candour, then, I ask, as an act of justice, I demand, that you will contradict the assertion that we encourage vice.
Further, As little did I expect to be charged with preaching something new. I can give no other answer to this charge than to assure you, that I solemnly believe, that the Christian system, as understood and explained by Unitarians, was the system, believed and preached by Christ and his apostles; and that if I did not so believe, I would from my soul discard it.
Again, It may be said, The doctrines are all probably true; indeed, I believe them to be true, but it were as well to conceal them, not to publish them to the
ears of the common people.' Indeed? I have not so learnt Jesus. My religion teaches me that the gospel was preached to the poor, and that what had been whispered in the ear should be proclaimed on the house tops. I find that Jesus and his apostles pursued one direct course, in opposition to long-established opinions, and regardless and fearless of consequences, leaving them to God. If what we preach be not Christianity, it will, it must fall to the ground, before the all-dazzling blaze of truth; if it be, in God's name, let no Christian minister hide it from those whom he professes to instruct. Let him remember his responsibility to Almighty God.
One more observation I feel myself called upon to make. I have hitherto advanced nothing without some argument, whether it has been more or less solid, you must judge. I have a right to expect, you have a right to expect, that by argument the opinions should be refuted. I ask you not to adopt my opinions from my mere assertion. Has any other a right to insist upon your adopting his
opinions, from his assertions? Is this treating you as reasonable and accountable beings? I warned you in my first lecture, (though perhaps the warning was needless, for you were fully acquainted with the fact,) that hard names, opprobrious epithets, were lavished upon us. That we were called Deists, Infidels, Atheists, Sadducees, Blasphemers! Such names were heaped abundantly upon our blessed Saviour. But, Christians, hard names are but a bad substitute for solid argument. They make but a poor apology for rational evidence, and are generally pretty clear demonstrations of a weak cause. Indeed they usually defeat their own designed end. And, (to say nothing of the absence of a Christian spirit, which they betray,) it would be much wiser for those who adopt them even to accomplish their own object, to abstain from their use.
I repeat an observation made on the last evening, That, as I trust and believe, that I meet you in a true Christian spirit, so I hope you meet me with the same; if not, your time is ill spent, and it would