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Wit ^ h . the consideration . of many of the important moral subjects which excite the benevolent exertion of the wise and good in the present day , Unitarian principles seem to be closely connected . Those opinions which inculcate the belief of the limited duration and reformatory nature of future
punishment , must necessarily exert a beneficial influence on the question of prison discipline and penal law ; and those persons must surely be the best fitted for the humane management of these momentous and awful subjects who have a firm conviction of the merciful character and dispensations of their Creator , and believe that it is his intention finally to save and to bless every creature which he has thought fit to call into being . They must be enlightened to know that no mind is created in vain , or is incapable of a
high degree of improvement , or is destined for other than useful and good purposes by its Maker , before they can be furnished with a spiritual armour to come into a hopeful contact with misery and vice . When they believe this , when they feel a strong moral trust that a soul , with all its noble capacities and powers , its intellect and its passions , is not made to be cast away , however degraded and obscured by the evil direction of its gifts , when they are solemnly impressed with the truth that God is too good to inflict
everlasting or infinite sufferings for any only mortal and finite sins , then , and not till then , they have those views of his kind and holy and merciful nature , which render them worthy to be entrusted with the regeneration of their fellow-creatures , or likely to attempt it in the spirit in which alone it can be successful . They will be benevolent in every thing , because they believe their Maker to be benevolent , and they will follow the example of their Saviour in all their treatment of others , because he is the most perfect
example of that benevolence . On this ground they will try all human laws and customs by the test of a pure and rational Christianity , and approve or reject them accordingly . T ? hey will , in consequence , oppose the punishment of death for offences , because the whole spirit of the Christian Scriptures is opposed to it . The same tribunal will shew them the folly and impolicy as well as wickedness of all severe or cruel methods of attempting the improvement of criminals ; it will teach them that the mind is not to be changed by corporeal inflictions , and that there are rights possessed by every
living qeing which a religious person will respect under all circumstances . They will try to gain the gratitude and good will of the miserable , by endeavouring to , reach any virtuous or kindly feeling which remains unextinguished ,. because they understand that it is by good motive and not by mechanical effect , that they can secure any certain improvement . They will be incapable of feeling indignation against offenders , and will be filled with the purest compassion , because religion teaches them that the natural
consequences of sin are in themselves severe suffering , and that only the Being who reads the human heart is fully able to measure the degree of guilt in any transgression ; whilst they cannot be disheartened in their virtuous efforts , because they look forward in every failure to that great and glorious result of all evil and misery which will eventually make the existence of every human being an evidence of the mercy and kindness of God . Nor is the benevolence of its religious belie ? the only advantage which the Unitarian creed possesses over others with respect to criminals * Its clearness and simplicity make it peculiarly suited fofc the improvement of the ignorant and the darkened mina ; for it is not by jnysterious doctrines or speculative
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QN tfHE APPLICATION OF UNITARIAN PRINCIPLES TO THE REFORMATION OF CRIMINALS *
VOL . III . C
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1829, page 17, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2568/page/17/