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Blasphemy-Law in United States of America.
Philadelphia, of the verdict of a jury, and after a SIR, August 28, 1822. fair and full investigation. But I have
the pleasure to be able to inform your N p. 224 of the Monthly Reposi- readers, that the 18th and 19th ÁrtiIN
tory for this year, an article ap- cles of the Constitution of the Propeared, signed ing the following extract from Wm. vince, now State of New Jersey, make Cobbett’s Register for 2nd February liberty of all persons, and that, under
effectual provision for the religious last: “In the year 1819, a man was tried in New Jersey, under the act of
this constitution, those of every ProHoly Trinity, found guilty, and pu- fices of trust, power and authority; King William III., for impugning the testant sect, who deinean themselves
peaceably, are equally eligible to ofnished by imprisonment in the com- whether executive, judicial or legismon gaol.” Assuming the fact to be as thus New Jersey under which a prosecu
lative; neither is there any law of stated, your correspondent expressestion could be maintained for denying a wish that you may be furnished with the Trinity, or any other supposed some particulars ;, and makes such doctrine of Holy Scripture. The concomments as would oply be proper stitution would be a dead letter did were the truth of what is alleged esta- it not abrogate whatever is inconsisblished by satisfactory evidence. If such an occurrence had really
tent with its spirit and express provi
sions. happened, so extraordinary and un
About two or three years ago, seveprecedented would it have been, that
ral it could not have failed to create a ge- and punished by the Mayor's Court of
persons were prosecuted, convicted neral and strong excitement. newspapers would have circulated the Philadelphia, for uttering profane and news from one end of the United contumelious language, to the great States to the other, and comments annoyance of people who were returnwould not have been sparingly made. ing from their
place of worship ; and, Unitarians, more especially, (of whom
on the part of the defendants, much I am one,) could not have been indif.
was said about religious liberty, the ferent to so alarming an attack on
ghts of conscience, persecution, &c.; their religious freedom. But, happily,
but the court very properly said, that, the news comes to us from the other
on their own principles, they ought to side of the Atlantic, instead of the suffer, because they could not plead of ,
conscience for disturbing the peace which divides the city of Philadelphia and interfering with the rights of
others. I have never heard of any from the state of New Jersey; and it is not a little suspicious, that neither person suffering from the civil power the place where this trial was had, the
in consequence of maintaining and enname of the offender, nor
deavouring to propagate his religious lars relative to the court, jury, pro
opinions. But, then, this license ceedings, &c., are given by Wm. Cob- must not be abused for the purpose bett, though enough is asserted for of uttering profane and impious rithe purpose of defaination.
baldry. It might be sufficient to inform your
JAMES TAYLOR. readers, that this inan stands on the records of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as a libeller, in consequence
Letters between Rev. Jos. Cornish, of A cheap edition of it would prove a
Colyton, and Mr. T. Williams, public benefit. prosecuted in 1798, for selling Not, however, to intrude on your Paine's " Age of Reason.” (Come time, your acceptance is requested of municated by Mr. Cornish.) five guineas, as a small help under the No. I.
expenses of a prosecution so injudiMr. Cornish to Mr. T. Williams.
ciously, some think wickedly, encou
raged by political religionists,-the SIR,
Colyton, Sept. 1798. worst enemies, and in general the VHOUGH an utter stranger to greatest strangers, to the religion of
your person, my feelings at your the heart. treatment are most indignant. Firmly Public wisdom, for which many probelieving the Christian revelation to fess a wonderful reverence, is, to adopt be the best gift of the great Father of the language of the admired Dr. Jormercies, and that the evidences of its tin, "a mere Proteus, and, not to condivine original must prove irresistible sider it in Pagan or Mahommedan on a candid examination, unless to countries, it was once the wisdom of minds very peculiarly disposed, all at- Ahab and Jezebel, and afterwards of tempts to stifle objections appear to Annas and Caiaphas; and in Christian me not only unwise, but directly con- countries it hath appeared in a huntrary to its spirit and design.
dred shapes. It sets out with a great The blessed Jesus and those who show of religion : it begins with the were commissioned by him, appealed Gospel according to St. Matthew, and to the reason and understandings of it often ends in the Gospel according men; the Sacred Scriptures also re to Mr. Hobbes." peatedly commend attentive hearers This gospel according to Mr. and diligent inquirers. Scoffers are Hobbes, who teaches, "that religion sharply rebuked, and awful threats de- is merely what the civil power in any nounced against them; but the New country hath decreed to be so named," Testament in no place countenances is the gospel of too many politicians, the infliction of penalties, by the civil and it is to be feared of not a few power, on any who should reject or priests in every establishment now exderide' its teachings, leaving men en- isting on the face of the earth. The tirely, as to belief and profession, to gospel of real Christians is that of the God and their own consciences. blessed Jesus, “whose kingdom is “What,” said St. Paul, “have I to not of this world, therefore, its true do with those who are without? Those subjects in defending it will employ who are without, God judgeth.” The no worldly arts or weapons. regulations of a Christian Society had The times are now so difficult, that nothing to do with Jews or Heathens. the generous find it necessary to set
Concerning your ideas on religion, I 'bounds to their exertions, very pain. am as much a stranger as to your ful to their feelings, and the friends of person. If you have not already at- 'liberty particularly have been called tended to the subject, Lord Lyttelton 'to repeated pecuniary aids. It may, on the Conversion of St. Paul, Dr. however, be hoped,
that a sufficient Doddridge's three sermons on the number of genuine Christians, or, to Evidences of Christianity, price 6d., use Mr. Wilberforce's expression, not to mention innumerable other friends to “vital Christianity," will be brief and valuable publications, would found disposed to manifest their reprobably remove all doubt and create gards to the gospel, which they value a firm belief in truths which yield the more than thieir own lives, by effectamost effectual support under every ally expressing their abhorrence of a worldly sorrow. Dr. Leland's Advan- prosecution so disgraceful to all who tages and Necessity of the Christian took a part in it. Revelation, besides being highly enter If they were actuated by a zeal for taining and interesting, carries convic- God, it was not according to knotion in each important page, and richly ledge, and no way becoming the disdeserves the attentive and frequent ciples of the meek and holy Jesus, perusal of all who think religion an who came to promote peace on earth object worthy of serious consideration, and good-wvill towards men. Clearly,
however, did this Divine Instructor ţion for the Christian religion if he foresee that numbers of his professed had used his influence to suppress and pretended disciples and ininisters the prosecution; and if he could not would excite division and wield the have accomplished it privately, he, as sword.
a servant of Christ, should have pubThe truth as it is in him will finally lished to the world the words of his prevail, and then no civil forms of Lord and Master, who metaphorically religion will domineer, or rational be- says, St. Matt. xxvi. 52, "All they ings, whether professing Christianity that institute persecution shall perish or not, for their mere profession, either with persecution." in speaking or writing, be domineered With respect to my ideas on reli. over. The ablest advocates for Chris- gion; I presume when I inform you tianity, like the great Lardner, have that I am by trade a book-binder, and decidedly expressed their abhorrence that for six years last past, my chief of persecuting measures.
support has been by binding the difThis little help would have been ferent works of the late venerable John forwarded long ago, but it was thought Wesley, for Mr. G. Whitfield, one of best to wait till the sentence was pass, the preachers and bookseller belonged, and opportunity did not immedi. ing to that Society at the New Cha. ately offer.
pel, City-Road, Moorfields, you will It would be worthy of the ministers be satisfied that I am not a very imof the gospel, publicly to petition the moral character; for it is to be preKing to give orders for your immedi- sumed that no Christian Society will ate release and the remission of your prefer supporting a person of that fine, and, like a true Defender of the class to one of their own principle. Faith, discountenance and reject every In regard of petitioning the king, I other mode of defence but reason and
am satisfied there is no chance of one argument.
being conveyed to him, for the hearts That you may be delivered from of those through whose hands a petievery effect of the prosecution under tion must go, are as callous as the which you suffer, and be savingly en- stone-floor of the melancholy cell I am lightened in the knowledge of the best now locked up in ; and I conceive the things, is the fervent prayer of
only effectual" means of procuring me Yours, most sincerely, any liberation, would be for some phiJOSEPH CORNISH. lanthropist to write an energetic let.
ter to the Bishop of London, who is No. II.
president of the conspirators against Mr. T. Williams to Mr. Cornish.
the gospel of our blessed Saviour and
the liberty of religious opinion. PerHouse of Correction, Clerkenwell, mit me to inform you that I have pe.
Sept. 16, 1798. titioned the Society before I received Sir,
sentence, to stop all farther proceedZITH heartfelt gratitude I return ings, when Mr. Wilberforce, the Biyour liberal donation in support of my · (Ba ington) and St. Asaph (Bagot), family; and believe me, as God is just, with other persons, came to the followthe persecution of me is unjust; for í ing unanimous decision: “That they am not publicly charged with any did not feel themselves justified in inthing but selling the book which was timating a wish to shew lenity;" which answered by the Bishop of Llandaff, answer precludes me from making any Watson; and it was his answer that further personal application, although induced me to publish it, conceiving by my being kept from my business niy the work was sanctioned by his pub- family are literally starving to what they lishing an ansiver to it, and physically would be if I was with thein to render no man can be considered capable of my efforts in their support. And performing an idea of an answer, (whether mit ine to picture to your mind what it be to the purpose or not,) unless
he my feelings inust have been since the be permitted to peruse the work which first of May last, in the course of gave cause to it; and if I have been which month I was so ill, that I lay guilty of any crime in publishing it, without the least expectation of seeing the Bishop of Llandaff was the cause the month throughi; in which time of it, and would have evinced his affec. I had one of my children died of the
small pox, and the other, immediately SER,
September, 1822. after her decease, was taken with a
T is very gratifying to view the putrid fever, and for a month was given over by the physician : on her connexion with a manly freedom of recovery, my wife was taken ill; and it mind and a fearless exercise of the being Sessions time now, my wife has understanding, such as the history of not been allowed to see me all the religious inquiry has never before exweek, and the last time I heard of her, hibited. It is still more delightful to I was informed she was very ill. When see its appropriate effect on the temI was presented this morning with per of a man's heart; to view it preyour kind letter, I was almost afraid eminently favourable to an amiable to open it for fear of its containing mind; an enlarged Catholic spirit; some fatal news, but happily I was a spirit friendly to social charities and disappointed.
private affections; in a word, a kind I have got nearly ready for the and candid temper, without which repress, a letter to the Bishop of Lon- ligion has no beauty, and human nadon, as president, and another to Mr. ture no loveliness. One is naturally Wilberforce, as vice-president of the desirous that such a spirit should “go Society who prosecuted me; and, with on to perfection;" and that every your permission, I will send you a thing in the conduct or writings of our copy of each as soon as they are Unitarian brethren, really or appaprinted. I must beg leave to inform rently inconsistent with it, should be you, that I am not allowed to speak done away. Permit me, Sir, by your privately to my wife, and that neither useful pages, to throw out a hint or pens, ink or paper is (if known) als two for so good an end. With a very lowed, therefore must intrude on this distinguished zeal and ability, the Reletter of mine being kept a profound pository and Reformer have protested secret, as the channel of my informa- and argued against the popular creed; tion would be shut if it was known, and, with most of your readers, I have and most likely I not be allowed to no doubt the name of Calvinism is see my wife again during the re- tantamount to every thing unamiable mainder of the time I have to remain and bad. I cannot but think, Sir, we here, which, to all outward appear- have somewhat erred in this course of ance, will be till the 28th of April next. proceeding; and that the effect has I remain, Sir,
not been good, either to our own Your most obliged, minds, or in facilitating the conver
Humble Servant, sion of our brethren. Should it ap-
some ignorance of human nature has No. III.
been betrayed, some disingenuousness Mrs. Williams to Mr. Cornish. discovered, and a forgetfulness of the
London, requisitions of the Christian character, Sir,
Nov. 15, 1798. I shall be confident of their candid I have this day received a fresh acknowledgment and ready correcwound from my inhuman persecutors, tion of the error. To come to the orders being given to have my hus- point : If the wise and the good and band closely locked up to prevent his the amiable (and who will say there communication with any one, in con are not many such ?) amongst our Cal. sequence of a manuscript of the in- vinistic brethren, deny the truth and tended publication being found upon correctness of the consequences we him. Although it contained no sub- charge on their creed, and say, (as ject of crimination, being purely in- they do,)“Were Calvinism the odious tended to shew that the conduct of his thing you describe it, we would fling prosecutors was quite opposite to the it from us,” shall we continue the spirit of the gospel; yet a handle is disingenuous practice of taxing the made of it for fresh severity, and to system with them? It has ever apwhat length they will now carry it, I peared to myself, Sir, bad every way, cannot tell ; but with constant ‘grati- bad to the best Unitarians, in embittude to you, I shall ever remain, tering the temper towards their felYour much obliged Servant, low-christians, strengthening prejudice E. WILLIAMS. against them, and increasing the cold
ness and distance between them. The
accurate observer of human nature ble effort to promote an urbaneness may perceive, that some of the best of of the Christian character, (consistent, men hear from the pulpit, or read, surely, with its sincerity, seriousness such charges on religious opponents, and solidity,) that will greatly add to (an ugly word,) with a complacency its beauty and influence. sometimes which does them no good, As a Unitarian Christian, I am hapeither in the pursuit of truth or the py to think our creed has no stigma practice of charity. Indeed, whenever of bigotry upon it: it sanctions no the zeal of the pulpit has caused the harsh judgments of other divisions of kind of remark, “ Calvinism has had the Christian world; it unchristianizes a good trimming to-day,” it is only none for mere opinion ; it reflects on too obvious the exertions of the the heart of no man because his faith preacher have been worthless. It is displeases us; it shuts out no one equally bad to the Calvinist, who is from salvation because he is not a irritated and made indignant to see his Unitarian. But it should be rememreligion represented in such odious bered, that bigotry is not confined to colours; and, if he be not more than mere opinion : though such is the liinan, his dislike of those who do it beral and Christian character of our must be augmented. And, surely, faith, (as Unitarians,) it will not be it is not the serious, conscientious Cal. our character, unless our sentiments vinist it would convert by misrepre- and feelings with respect to other senting his system ; that is, charging Christians correspond with our creed. it with consequences he denies, and The worst bigotry is that of the heart; knows nothing of in his own feelings and we should keep the heart moss and character. The less sincere pro- diligently from it.” He must not be fessor of Calvinism is not likely to flattered with any better title than that quarrel with a crced which, should of a bigoted man, who joins an unthe Unitarian convince him of its kindly spirit with a kindly faith; who falsehood and evil, he would still pre- has neglected to mould his affections fer, as best suiting his defective views to his faith ; and, in consequence, reand principles. Will not all Unita- gards his differing brethren without rians acknowledge there is in thousands either respect or affection. There is and tens of thousands of our fellow danger lest Unitarian Christians shoul christians, who make a serious profes- feel a complacency in a generous and sion of Calvinism, an ardent zeal, a philanthropic creed, that may make pure and fervent piety, a warm, active, them self-satisfied before the amiable unwearied benevolence, scarcely equal temper of their creed has been careled, certainly not excelled, by any fully grafted on their own; and, while other Christian professors ? How pluming themselves on the superiority must such men feel when they read of their faith, they are indulging, perUnitarian descriptions of Calvinism ? haps, a supercilious contempt for the That they are equally false and offen- understanding of their fellow-chrissive, and the worst possible way of ad- tians whose opinions are opposed to vocating another system. If it be their own; or suspecting their sincesaid, our cause is more misrepresent- rity, and harshly judging their hearts. ed, it suggests at once the best argu- Wherever this is the case, there is the ment for condemning the practice. spirit of bigotry; and in Unitarian Forbearance on our part would per- professors, it is the very worst spirit suade and prevail more than the keen- united with the very best faith ; for est words; and it is hardly necessary the faith of the Unitarian cries out to remark, that if misrepresentation most loudly of all against it; and were on one side only, it would be justly then are the holders of it shamed comparatively harmless, and could not by every benevolent Calvinist who rebe perpetuated. I would, Sir, I could gards their faith with horror, but ferpersuade all my Unitarian brethren,' vently prays for their conversion; or there is something low and vulgar in by the amiable Catholic who closes our usual way of speaking of the op- the door of heaven on the Protestant's posite faith, and that it offends equally faith, though lie would endure the laagainst good taste and good policy; bours and sufferings of a martyr to and I am very desirous of seeing in save his soul. your valuable Miscellany, every possi Your readers, Sir, are greatly