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ment that the Trinity were true , it would still be an unrevealed truth , and , as such , it Would be one that has no immediate bearing on moral usefulness or on the actions of human beings . Every thing that our Creator requires ' of his creatures , as the condition of their happiness or salvation , is explicitly and fully declared . We have line upon line , and precept upon precept . Now the great value of the Unitarian religion is * that it regards this moral code which is given for the daily government of our lives as the most
important part of revelation to us , because it is that in which we are called to co-operate with the designs of Providence . The nature of our Saviour , or the nature of the Deity , and such metaphysical questions , we are by no means forbidden to form our conclusions upon , but we are not commanded to learn and comprehend these things : but to love mercy , to do justice , and to walk humbly with our God , are injunctions laid upon all , and which all are called upon to obey . Now , are not these moral obligations peculiarly suited to the poor , the ignorant , or the sinful , who cannot have the restrictions of more abstract and refined considerations to withhold them from
wrong ? The wicked are generally ignorant . With a child , when we wish to form a religious character , we take his ignorance and childishness into consideration ; we begin by endeavouring to form good and useful habits , habits of kindness , of self-denial , of attention to the comfort of others ; but we should not -expect to succeed if we began by attempting to give him abstract ideas of religion and devotion . No , we are obliged to connect these with his previous associations , to lead him from his love and gratitude to us to the
love of the great Giver of all , and even to make many allowances for the confusion and strangeness of his first conceptions of a Supreme Being , and gently and carefully to explain sacred things as he is able to receive them . We open the next world to him in its connexion with this ; we unfold to hint the probable consequences of a certain course of conduct ; we lead him tenderly in the way he should go until he is able to conduct himself , and just such should be our treatment of criminals : they have shewn themselves incapable
of self-government ; it is then our duty while they are under our care to make the circumstances around them such as shall favour their recovery from sin , and as much as possible deter them from it , without depriving them of individual free-will - If we do the last , in our anxiety to prevent the possibility of crime , we make them into automatons , we render them incapable of acting upon motive , and , in so doing , we destroy their accountableness . Now , this ought to be particularly guarded against , because in
destroying practical free-will , we destroy the capability of all improvement ; the very thing by which alone any permanent good can be secured ; for it is the rectification of the will and the intentions which alone is to be depended on . On this account tread-mills , compulsory labour , and all farced exertion , are to be deprecated , because they are eventually unavailing . The unhappy sufferer must believe that punishment alone is the object in view , without any regard to the interest of society or to his future welfare ; but , on the contrary , where these two points are manifestly taken into
consideration , equity appears , and the purposes of benevolence are answered . The criminal is instructed , and in time acquiesces in his sentence . But are not all compulsory methods contrary to the example of Christ , and to the spirit of Christianity ? Did not he ground all his instructions to sinners on the supposition of an intellectual freedom , a choice between good and evil , a power to obey or disobey ? He appeals to their reason , he wishes them to act upon conviction ; in every word of his discourses he treats them as rational and accountable beings . By persons of a severe creed this is lost sight of ; the criminal is too often regarded as an object deserving only
Application of Unitarian Principles to the Reformation of Criminals . 19
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1829, page 19, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2568/page/19/