Page images


No. 25.


Vol. III.

Universal Religious Freedom.

[We had intended closing our Second Volume with the following Letter, but in consequence of the important proceedings in the Synod of Ulster, together with other subjects, we were unable to accomplish our wishes. The letter is from Charles Butler, Esq. of Lincoln's Inn, a leading and venerable member of the Roman Catholic communion. It breathes the spirit of pure Christian benevolence, of universal religious freedom. From such men, what can the Protestant world have to fear? Such a spirit it would be well, were Protestants of all denominations to imbibe—such a mind, it would advance the progress of mankind, would they all attempt to equal. The letter was written the day after the public festival in commemoration of the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts.—Ed.]

To the Rev. Robert Aspland, Protestant Dissenting

Minister at Hackney.
Dear SIR,
I have often corresponded with you,

but never had the pleasure of seeing you till yesterday, at the dinner to celebrate the Repeal of the Sacramental Test.

This dinner I shall never forget. The speeches pronounced at it on civil and religious liberty—the power of argument—the impressive appeals to the heart—the noble sentiments of true Christianity—and above all, the generous feelings towards the Roman Catholics, with which they abounded—will never escape my memory or my gratitude.

You were pre-eminently great. I hung on every word you spoke. When you mentioned with so much sympathy the poor

Roman Catholics who have suffered for conscientious scruples, I was lost in admiration of your real liberality, your nobleness of mind, and fearless disdain of prejudice. May my country abound with such as you! This, assuredly, is wishing her a great good.


I have advocated the Catholic cause since 1778, the year in which the first bill for the relief of the Catholics was brought into parliament. I had great pleasure yesterday in thinking that I had uniformly advocated it on principles applicable to the case of all religious dissidents from the Church of the State. Early in life I met with Mr. Locke's first Letter on Toleration, which, you know, comprises all that is to be found in his subsequent letters. His doctrine of religious liberty became mine, and I have undeviatingly adhered to it. The sanguinary code of Queen Elizabeth, the Court of High Commission, the Episcopalian persecutions in Scotland, the ejection of the Presbyterian ministers by the Act of Uniformity, the proceedings in Oates's plot, and the scanty measure of religious liberty doled out in the Act of Toleration, I have frequently and loudly lamented and reprobated. As frequently and loudly have I lamented and reprobated the Inquisition, the Marian persecution, the massacre on St. Bartholomew's day, the revocation of the edict of Nantes, the expatriation of the Jews and Moriscoes from Spain, and the niggard toleration yet shown to Protestants in some Catholic countries on the continent. I

perfectly agree with Father. Persons in his Judgment of a Catholic Englishman), that “neither breathing nor the use of common air, is more due unto man, or common to all, than ought to be the liberty of conscience to Christian men; whereby one liveth to God, and to himself; and without which he struggleth with the torment of a continued lingering death.

In my “ History of the English Catholics," I have recorded Mr. Fox's having said to me, that " I should not meet with as many real friends to civil and religious liberty as I seemed to expect." What a stride has the glorious cáuse taken since his death! What a spring did it take yesterday! But never-never should our obligations to Mr. Fox be forgotten. He took up our cause while it lay shivering on the ground, and, to use the words of Gray,

“ Ope'd its young eye to bear the blaze of greatness." In fact, religious liberty was his favourite theme; and when he dwelt upon it, his periods rolled with more than his ordinary magnificence. How greatly did the nephew yesterday bring the uncle before all of us who remembered him! I have great pleasure to say, that when the Catholic Relief Bill was pending in 1791, Mr. Pitt exerted all his

powers in our cause. You know what favourites we were with Mr. Burke: how Mr. Wyndham spoke of us: that a wish for our emancipation was breathed in the last word uttered by Mr. Grattan. What men were these! How great is their authority!

I am sure, that yesterday, whenever the Duke of Wellington's great and glorious victory at Waterloo, and our hopes of him, were mentioned, it brought to your mind the oration for Marcellus, in which Cicero shows so admirably how greatly a general shares his triumphs with his officers and his soldiers, but that a deed of clemency is all his own. Should not his Grace-should not bis Grace's friends—sometimes think of this?

I had the pleasure to sit next to our common friend, Dr. Thomas Rees. May God bless you both! Though we now pray in different churches, may we-may all that joined us yesterday-meet in the tabernacles of heaven, and sing the praises of the Almighty, and bless his holy name through all eternity!

Excuse my taking this liberty, and believe me, with the most heartful thanks to you and your friends, for your celestial deeds of yesterday, your and their most obliged and most obedient Servant, LINCOLN'S INN, June 19.


A Discourse delivered at the Installation of the Rev.

Mellish Irving Motte, as Pastor of the South Congregational Society in Boston, May 21, 1828.-By William Ellery Channing, D.D."

2 Tim. i. 7." For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of

power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Why was Christianity given? Why did Christ seal it with his blood? Why is it to be preached? What is the great happiness it confers? What is the chief blessing for which it is to be prized? What is its pre-eminent gloryits first claim on the gratitude of mankind? These are great questions. I wish to answer them plainly, according to the light and ability which God has given me. I read the answer to them in the text. There I learn the great good which God confers through Jesus Christ.

« He hath given us not the spirit of fear, but of power, and of

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

love, and of a sound mind." The glory of Christianity, is, the pure and lofty action which it communicates to the human mind. It does not breathe a timid, abject spirit. If it did, it would deserve no praise. It gives power, energy, courage, constancy to the will; love, disinterestedness, enlarged affections to the heart; soundness, clearness, and vigour to the understanding. It rescues him who receives it, from sin—from the sway of the passions; gives him the full and free use of his best powers; brings out and brightens the divine image in which he was created; and in this way not only bestows the promise, but the beginning of heaven. This is the excellence of Christianity.

This subject I propose to illustrate. Let me begin it with one remark, which I would willingly avoid, but which seems to me to be demanded by the circumstances in which I am placed. I beg you to remember, that in this discourse I speak in my own name, and in no other. I am not giving you the opinions of any sect or body of men, but my own. I hold myself alone responsible for what I utter. Let none listen to me for the purpose

of learning what others think. I indeed belong to that class of Christians, who are distinguished, by believing that there is One God, even the Father, and that Jesus Christ is not this one God, but his dependent and obedient Son. But my accordance with these is far from being universal, nor have I any desire to extend it. What other men believe, is to me of little moment. Their arguments I gratefully hear. Their conclusions I am free to receive or reject. I have no anxiety to wear the livery of any party. I indeed take cheerfully the name of a Unitarian, because unwearied efforts are used to raise against it a popular cry; and I have not so learned Christ, as to shrink from reproaches cast on what I deem bis truth. Were the name more honoured, I should be glad to throw it off; for I fear the shackles which a party connexion imposes. I wish to regard myself as belonging, not to a sect, but to the community of free minds—of lovers of truth—of followers of Christ, both on earth and in heaven. I desire to escape the narrow walls of a particular church, and to stand under the open sky, in the broad light, looking far and wide, seeing with my own eyes, hearing with my own ears, and following truth meekly, but resolutely, however arduous or solitary be the path in which she leads. I am, then, no organ of a sect, but speak for myself alone; and I

thank God that I live at a time, and under circumstances, which make it my duty to lay open my whole mind with freedom and simplicity.

I began with asking, What is the main design and glory of Christianity? and I repeat the answer, that its design is to give, not a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.

In this its glory chiefly consists. In other words, the influence which it is intended to exert on the human mind, constitutes its supreme honour and happiness. Christ is a great Saviour, as he redeems or sets free the mind, cleansing it from evil

, breathing into it the love of virtue, calling forth its noblest faculties and affections, enduing it with moral power, restoring it to order, health, and liberty. Such was his great aim. To illustrate these views will be the object of the present discourse.

In reading the New Testament, I everywhere meet the end bere ascribed to Jesus Christ. He came, as I am there taught, not to be an outward, but inward deliverer; not to rear an outward throne, but to establish his kingdom within us. He came, according to the express language and plain import of the sacred writers, to save us from sin, to bless us by turning us from our iniquities, to redeem us from corruptions handed down by tradition, to form a glorious and spotless church or community, to create us anew after the image of God, to make us by his promises partakers of a divine nature, and to give us pardon and heaven, by calling us to repentance and a growing virtue. In reading the New Testament, I everywhere learn, that Christ lived, taught, died, and rose again, to exert a purifying and ennobling influence on the human character; to make us victorious over sin, over ourselves, over peril and pain; to join us to God by filial love, and and above all, by likeness of nature, by participation of his spirit.

This is plainly laid down in the New Testament as the supreme end of Christ.

Let me now ask, Can a nobler end be ascribed to Jesus? I affirm, that there is, and can be, no greater work on earth, than to purify the soul from evil, and to kindle in it new light, life, energy, and love. I maintain, that the true measure of the glory of a religion, is to be found in the spirit and power which it communicates to its disciples. This is one of the plain teachings of reason. The chief blessing to an intelligent being, that which makes all other

« PreviousContinue »