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REVIEW. Devotional Exercises, designed for the use of Families and
Individuals; to which are subjoined Prayers for ticular occasions.—By the Rev. Jos. Hutton, Dublin.
We welcome another aid to family and private devotion. The Unitarian body are in need of works of this description, and though it abounded with them, still should we welcome the publication of volumes such as these, as they serve to stir us up, by way of remembrance: they put us in mind of our duties—they admonish us of our neglects, and serve, we have reason to believe, to draw from time to time some to the observance of a pear and habitual intercourse with their Maker. We cannot conceal from ourselves the fact, that the duty of family devotion is sadly—we fear, in some cases, fatally-neglected amongst us.
How far private and personal prayer prevails, we have no means of ascertaining, and we have no wish to trench on the sanctuary of the closet. But obvious enough is it, that the piety of too many of us is far, very far below the standard of the Gospel, and we are bold to say, that no progress can be made, or ought to be made, in the diffusion of our sentiments, till we individually feel more of the power of religion in our own minds. Many, we fear, have talked so much about religion, that they have forgotten to practise it; others, rescued from the snares of unbelief or the dominion of the world, have never adequately felt the power of Christian principles in their practical operation. Whatever may be the causes of our imperfections, we earnestly beseech our readers, as they tender their immortal interests, seriously to inquire into their own spiritual condition, and diligently to pursue such a course of duty as the Scriptures and reason require. Time is passing rapidly on, and bearing this generation to its eternal destinies, and soon our reward, whether of joy unto eternal life, or pain unto condemnation—the reward of bim who writes, and of him who may read—will be allotted. Of small importance, then, will be all the engagements of this life, except in the influence they have bad upon our eternal condition. Little shall we reck of mortal joy or sorrow- of riches or poverty—of diversities of creed-or manner of Church government; one absorbing anxiety will occupy the soul,—the nature of the sentence of our Judge! Reader, I would speak to you as a man to a man, a Christian to a Christian, and as one dying creature to another: should we not have a concern for our eternal interests—should we not seek for the blessing and favour of God—should we not encourage the emotions of gratitude towards him-should we not strive to develope in our soul, those feelings which unite the creature with the Creator? How can heaven be happiness to those whose affections are gross, whose passions are unsubdued? If your sense of right compels you in these things to accord with me, I again ask you,
how are these things to be attained, without here maintaining an intercourse between yourself and God—without personal and private prayer? There is no other means, be assured. If your own experience does not tell you this, for once be guided by the experience of another, and the result will speedily justify your conduct. Equally is it impossible, that the blessings of religion can be fully attained for your family, without family devotion. I urge, then, earnestly and affectionately, these observances upon you. Do you think
you shall ever regret having commenced them? Make the trial. I will be content, that you lay them aside as soon as ever you are sorry for having begun to meet God in private and in the family circle.
The volume, whose title stands at the head of these remarks, we feel justified in strongly recommending to our readers. Devotional exercises for the closet, and for the domestic altar, should be short, earnest, affectionate, and scriptural. Such are those now presented to the public: they are evidently not the offspring of the head merely, but of the heart--they are not the result of the imagination, conceiving what in certain circumstances might be felt, and ought to be expressed, but they are the spontaneous utterings of what has been felt-the spoken communings of a pious heart with its Maker and Benefactor.
With the title and the tenor of one prayer, we have, we confess, been much surprised; and we feel ourselves called upon to speak of both in terms of condemnation. The title runs thus: “ Prayer of the prisoner for debt or crime.” What! class together the criminal and the unfortunate! How great the injustice! And strange, indeed, is the error, that the same prayer should suit the circumstances of both. Almost as well might the poor man and the criminal have been thus associated. To be imprisoned for debt is often any thing but a dishonour. We do not say, that disgrace never attaches to insolvency; but we do maintain, that few are the cases in which insolvency is allied to “crime.” And, perhaps, in the majority of instances, insolvency and consequent imprisonment ensue from being unable to bear up against an adverse tide. At all events, the law of England is, to treat every man as innocent, till his guilt is proved; and as a matter of justice, we claim this treatment for the debtor. But the language used in the prayer, is still more objectionable than the classification which is implied in the title. The suppliant is directed to say: “I acknowledge, O God, my transgression, and my sin is ever before me. I have done that which I ought not to have done; I have transgressed thy holy laws, and now receive the just reward of my
deeds." Again, “ lead me to that deep contrition for my past offences, which will ensure the conversion of
heart and life. Wherein I have offended against the laws of my country and my God, may I do so no more. O God, give me grace to amend my ways,” &c.
Now, to write thus, is to forget most important differences, and to confound our notions of right and wrong. Such a prayer might have suited the sentiments and practices which prevailed in respect of debtors, in the early ages of the Roman state; it is utterly condemned by the genius of our religion and the spirit of the age. How the prayer came to gain admission into the volume, we cannot imagine, but we sincerely hope to find it removed in a second edition.
G. C. S.
The Detector.--No. 3.
« If there's a hole in a' your coats,
I rede you tent it,
And, mind, he'll prent it. -Burns.
Shakspeare. That talented paper, “ The Scotsman," in an interesting article on the literature and religion of Boston, Massachusetts, states, on the authority of Bowen's Picture of Boston for 1829, that that city contains forty-nine Churches or Congregations, of which“ sixteen may be accounted Unitarian in sentiment, two are doubtful, and the remain
ing thirty-one avowedly Trinitarian." The total number must have been much increased since March 1828, at which period there were, 11 Unitarian Congregational Churches. 7 Trinitarian
do. 1 Independent Unitarian; using the Church of England Li
turgy altered. 3 Episcopalian. 4 Baptist. 2 Methodist. 3 Universalist; two of these at least Unitarian. 1 Catholic. 2 Christian, (Unitarian). 1 Presbyterian. 1 Swedenborgian. 1 African. 1 Free-will Baptist. I believe that since that period, is to be added Dr. Tuckerman's Congregation, as minister at large, and, I think, another Congregational Society. This, however, would make but forty Societies; the others may be small Associations. Those I have enumerated, have buildings set apart for their worship. It will be seen, that the Unitarians out-number any of the denominations taken separately: the attendance on each Unitarian congregation, varying, I understand, from 750 bearers to 2000; the population being about 70,000.
· The Scotsman" avers, “ The singular progress of Unitarian opinions in New England, is a phenomenon of which we have seen no plausible explanation.” I think an "explanation" not alone "plausible," but true likewise, may be given without much difficulty. Unitarianism barmonizes with reason, and is taught in Scripture, and, in America, bas no Church Establishment to keep it down. If, even in these kingdoms, despite of laws against dissent, and death-denouncing statutes specially directed against this heresy, the tide of conversion has for years flowed towards Unitarianism--if the stronghold and citadel of Calvinism, Geneva, has bowed to its truth, it can scarcely, , with justice, be deemed a “phenomenon,” that in a land where religion and the state hold no adulterous intercourse, its reasonableness and simplicity should convince many minds, and attract many hearts. Give pure and undefiled Christianity a similar chance in Great Britain; let it have a clear stage, and neither state favour nor odium, and onward would she advance on her rapid and all-conquering march. Let “The Scotsman " direct his attention to the phenomenon" of moral dishonesty which pervades his country, in which men may be seen-men of talent and of influence, upholding a worship which their understandings condemn, and countenancing a faith which their hearts abhor, doing this whilst lauding their own liberality and freedom from popular superstitions, looking with contempt on the humble labourer after truth, and with indifference on the struggles of Christian purity against the world's corruption. Let him lash such moral turpitude, and show its inconsistency with every principle of virtue, and its opposition to every assertion of a love of genuine freedom. And in thinking over the matter, he will possibly discover, that it is Church Establishments which thus lead men astray, and induce them, even though the schoolmaster be abroad, and though his teachings have opened their understandings, to prefer mammon to moral honesty, and the world's breath to the world's reform.
“ The Scotsman” need not have confined “the singular progress of Unitarian opinions' to “ New England." He might have said, AMERICA. Certainly the single fact (independently of the progress of Unitarianism in the Societies constituting “the Free Church"-"the Congregationalists”_" the Universalists”), that in the space of twenty-five years, upwards of One THOUSAND CHURCHES have been planted by “The CHRISTIANS,” among that class of people who must have drawn their faith from the Bible alone-and that faith Unitarianism, is a glorious and cheering testimony to the rapid spread of these benevolent principles. It is, indeed, heart-reviving to individuals who dwell in the old country,” battling, as they are, with all kinds of odium and obstacle, to be convinced, that it is the difference of circumstances, wbich accounts for the various success which attend their efforts. The “gladtidings,” which are wafted across the Atlantic, will nerve them on to renewed diligence; they will thank God, and take courage.
A somewhat different "explanation" of the “phenomenon," is given by Captain Basil Hall, in his Travels in North America, and quoted in a sort of half-jeering, halfapproving manner, in the Edinburgh Review, No. 98," that Unitarianism is almost sure of ultimate success in America, because it is the democracy of religion;' the