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offence against God , but against all law and government , from the direct tendency to dissolve all the Itonds and obligations of civil society . It was upon this ground that the Christian religion constituted part of the law of England . But if the name of our
Redeemer was suffered to be traduced and his holy religion treated with contempt , the solemnity of an oath , on which the due administration of justice depended , would be destroyed ,
and the law be stripped of one of its principal sanctions—the dread of future punishment We have " gone through the cases on this head of the common law , and I think it would be a waste of time to
say , what must be quite clear , that the simple impugning of the doctrine of the Trinity does not in the least touch upon the principle upon which these cases have been decided , and upon which alone courts of justice can interfere , viz * that the Christian
religion in general is to be protected by the State , as one of its main supports , without entering at all upon questions which do not affect its influence as a bond of moral obligation and civil" society . The statute 19 Geo . III . would never have contented
itself with requiring the simple declaration of belief that the Scriptures contain the revealed will of God , if that belief had not been thought to be as much as ought to be required for the purposes of civil government . It
seems , however , that we are perfectly justified in observing with Mr . Holt , that the manner of the attack must be essential in determining what cases are properly within the cognizance of our courts ; and indeed , the difficulty of saying that a sober argument upon the evidences of the Christian religion was punishable if it leaned against the belief in the truth of that dispensation , seems to have been felt , and to have given rise to the legislative enactment which it was thought expedient to make by the 9 and 10 Wm . Hi . c . 82 , whereby penalties are inflicted on all persons who , having been educated in , or made profession of Christianity , for it extends to no other persons but apostates , shall deny the divine authority of the Scriptures , &c . ; which enactment puts a total stop to all argument of that kind , in whatever manner conducted , in the
case of persons who had been professors of the Christian faith . The manner seems , in many cases , indeed , to determine the question of offence altogether , for it is quite clear that lampoons , or indecent and scurrilous attacks upon the established
religion , or upon points of its faith , in discussing which there is no question but every person is tolerated and protected , are punishable like all other libels , as an outrage upon society
and a breach of the peace ( as in the case of buffooning the Trinity abovenoticed ) j and when it is considered to what lengths the courts have gone on the head of libel , as it affects political institutions and the character of
individuals , in considering even truth itself , in many cases , as improper to be conveyed to the public , when scandalous to individuals and tending to a breach of the peace , it will appear that cases in which persons have been punished for indecent and scurrilous
attacks upon the doctrines , ceremonies , or worship of the established church , or any other body of individuals , are no proof at all that the argument , if properly and decently managed , would have been in the least degree amenable to , or
cognizable by the temporal courts . It would perhaps be better if they refrained from interfering at all on these subjects , and Dr . Furneaux has very well argued that point ; but on the other hand , it trenches , very little , if i » t all , on free discussion , and it seems
to follow as a natural consequence when once the legislature his thought proper to endow and establish one sect in preference to another , that its ordinances should be protected from insult , especially when that legislature has protected 13 issenters from all interruption in the exercise of their own worship and ceremonies .
The only point remaining seems to be to consider whether the stat . of 9 and 10 Wm . III . can be considered as conclusive evidence , or as an existing declaration on the part of the
legislature , that impugning the doctrine of the Trinity was , and is an offence at common law ; and this , I suppose , will be maintained by contending that it is declared by the statute to be blasphemy . Now , in the first place , the act does , only by implication , apply that
On Religious Offences indictable at Common Law . 545
VOL . XII . 4 A
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Sept. 2, 1817, page 545, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2468/page/33/