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THE PROGRESS AND PRESENT STATE OF THE
Compiled, from Documents and Information communicated by
Jun. Esq. of Boston, and from other Unitarian
BY REV. THOMAS BELSHAM,
Extracted from his "Memoirs of the Life of the Reverend TпEOPHILUS
PRINTED BY NATHANIEL WILLIS.
NO, 76, STATE-STREET.
WHEN such radical and essential changes take place in the religion of a country, as have been witnessed in some parts of New-England, particularly in Boston and in the region round about it, during the last thirty years, it is gratifying to inquiring minds to know, from correct and undisputed sources and documents, in what manner and by what steps such changes have been effected. The Publishers of this pamphlet are happy that they have it in their power to satisfy the inquisitive on this subject. The information desired will be found in the following pages.
It is proper in this place to admonish the reader, that it is not our object to decide the great question, which has the preference, the old faith of the fathers of New-England, which Unitarians (to give them their own title) reject as irrational and unscriptural, or that which they have desired, under the idea of a reform, to introduce in its place. On this question, every one in this land of freedom of opinion, and of abundant means of information, must judge for himself. To his own Master each must stand or fall. We mean here to offer no opinion of our own; to introduce nothing of controversy; but merely to give a plain history of very important facts, derived from unquestionable sources, disclosing the instruments and operations by which these great and visible changes in the religious faith of so many of our Clergy, of the Churches, and of the University in this part of New
England, have been accomplished. This publication seems now to be required, and even necessary; because those who have been chiefly concerned in conducting these operations, have deemed it expedient, till this stage of their process, to conceal from the mass of the Christian community their ultimate designs. The history, therefore, which we now lay before the public, in its most material parts, will be new to most of its readers, and, as we believe, interesting to all. Though this history is now before the public, we are not quite certain that all the advocates of the changes in the religion of our country which it relates, are agreed as to the expediency and seasonableness of the present disclosure, or are disposed to commend Mr. Belsham for making it, in the manner he has done, on the other side of the Atlantic. The care which has been manifested to limit the knowledge of this interesting work, during many months, (probably two years) since its arrival in Boston, indicates pretty plainly the unwillingness of those who have possessed copies of it, to have its contents generally known. On this subject, however, we would not be positive. Appearances may have deceived us. The gentlemen who received this work from its Author, may have had other and very satisfactory reasons for this apparent concealment of it for so long a period. If so, we may, and we hope we shall, receive their thanks, and the thanks also of other American Unitarians, for bringing before the public their own history, in so unexceptionable a form, from the pen of a man, considered deservedly as standing at the head of their denomination, who derived his facts and information confessedly from gentlemen in this country, who were best acquainted with
the subject; who have been principals in the history which they narrate; and who, moreover, wrote evidently not for the public eye, but only for the information of private, confidential friends, and of course what they conceived to be naked and undisguised truth. Rarely indeed has the Christian public been favoured with a portion of history, which has had as high claims to attention and credit, for the reasons above stated, as that which is contained in the following pages. We may, therefore, without presumption, anticipate the pleasure we shall afford to all denominations of Christians, by giving them, in a cheap form, this very interesting portion of ecclesiastical history.
We have another reason for making this publication. Many complaints have been made that the Boston Clergy have been "slanderously reported" to be Unitarians. This pamphlet will shew who are their "slanderers," if indeed they are entitled to this character, and exculpate some who have been falsely accused in this thing.*
To evince the impartiality of Mr. Belsham, as respects the body of Christians in this country, whose history he has written, and to shew that his testimony concerning them is entitled to full confidence, his religious creed, (for English Unitarians have creeds, and long ones too, though their American brethren profess to have none) and from his own pen, is subjoined, and is as follows:
"I shall now proceed to exhibit a concise view of Rational Christianity in its connexion with Natural Religion.
"Of Rational Religion, the first and fundamental principle is, that the Maker of the universe is infinitely powerful, wise,
See pages 38, 41, and 44, of this pamphlet.