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VOL. 111.- NOVEMBER, 1868.- NO. 35.
WHO IS MY BROTHER ?
A SERMON BY JOHN W. CHADWICK,
Preached Sunday Morning, October 11k. “ Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother." -MATT. XII. 50.
suggested by the Conference of Unitarian and other Churches which has been held in New York during the last week. I am well aware that this Conference is a matter in which but few of you are deeply interested. Many of you are quite indifferent, and some of you are without the least particle of faith, so that as a Society you have been represented in it more from a senti ment of good-nature than on any other ground. My own feelings in the matter are so strangely mixed, that I hardly know in which of the three classes I have named to place myself. In some of the purposes of the Conference I am certainly much interested, for others I have nothing but distrust ; in some of its methods I have confidence, in others not a whit; to the personal fellowship of the great majority of its members I feel myself irresistibly attracted, while from the tastes and sympathies of others the diameter of the planet would scarcely symbolize the breadth of my divergence. But however these things may be, I am quite certain that those of you who have been present at che meetings of the Conference have heard a great many noble and inspiring words, a great many wise and excellent suggestions. You have seen it proved, if you were ever disposed to doubt it, that the most conservative theology may co-exist with the most liberal spirit, and that the name of Jesus can be glorified in the same breath that hisses with unmanly temper and unchristian scorn. And if you came away from the Conference feeling that, after all, its work is not your work, you must also have come away feeling, as you did not feel before, that you have a work of your own, and that the earnestness that you have witnessed shall at least be yours. Wherefore I wish that all of you could have been present at the Conference I am certain that to day you would be better armed and equipped for the winter campaign that is before you, that you would be more earnest even than you are to make this Society a living power in this community, and if possible stretch out your hands of influence to widely distant fields.
The story told by the Secretary of the Conference concerning its operations for the last two years was in the main encouraging, revealing, as it did, a willingness of large tracts of virgin soil to receive the seeds of a more cheerful and consistent faith than that which is at present in the nominal majority. Much more, I am personally confident, might have been done if the Unitariar Association, which is the main instrument of the Conference in the doing of its work, had pursued a bolder policy. The president of that Association is a man than whom no gentler, sweeter, truer, walks the earth; a man who would like to deal fairly, but who, from the necessities of his position, or some misinterpretation of it, is drawn into an attitude which is not only unfair but weak and timid to the last degree. So long as the Association is managed as it is at present, I cannot advise you to put your hands very deep down into your pockets for its support; I cannot solicit any contributions from you in its name.
Of course this will not prevent those who do not feel as I do from ending their personal contributions ; it will not prevent you as a Society from overriding my wishes and giving the Association a handsome contribution very year. God forbid that I should ever seek to dictate to you what you hall do. I am only one of my congregation, and as such I would have my oice er.titled to as much weight as any other, but to no more. And in regard o this matter of the Association, I beg you not to misunderstand me. It is ot that I consider you a radical Society and the Association a conservative nstitution that I cannot ask for it your substantial aid. It is because you are
liberal Society and the Association is not liberal, that I say, if you have money to give, keep it till you can find some channel where it will not all run up stream.
You are not a radical Society, but you are a liberal Society. You do not all agree with me, but you are perfectly willing that I shall think as I must think, and I am perfectly willing that you shall do the same. If there is truth to be had we are certain that it can be got at in this way, and that it can be got at in no other. I glory in your position. I would not have it anything different for the world. I would not have you simply a radical society. I rejoice that there are men and women here of conservative tendencies, and that they are here not because they love conservatism less but because they love liberty more. But liberality is one thing and compromise is another. Compromise sits on the fence with its legs dangling upon either side. Liberality razes the fence to the ground, and is as much at home on one side of where it was as on the other. The Unitarian Association is on the fence. The conservatives are on its right hand, the radicals are on its left. It carries its pocket-book on the right hand side. In its left side pocket it has a few pennies. The pennies are for the radicals; the greenbacks are for the conservatives. It gives five thousand dollars to the Third Society in Brooklyn, so long as it is strictly Unitarian. If that is not a premium upon dishonesty, what is it? It sends out strong conservatives if it can find them ; but the strong radicals must look out for themselves. Weak radicals,-men who do not know exactly what they do believe; men whose radical theology is swamped in a great mush of orthodox sentiment-get an occasional crumb from the Association's table. It turns a cold shoulder on a scholar and a saint, because he cannot conscientiously administer the Lord's Supper. A prominent church wants the Association to aid it in procuring a minister after its own heart. The Association sends the money and a conservative bigot to take care of it. There is a question of books. The Life of Channing is the most liberal book that the Association has ever printed, and that is not radical. Of radical books it publishes none. Of radical tracts it publishes none. It publishes a creed which, if the words be taken in their plain honest signification, not one Unitarian in America believes. It publishes books and tracts which must sound a little old-fashioned even to the few Arian divines that still keep up a show of their lean dogma. It publishes a liturgy which is more suggestive of St. Albans, than of a self-respecting Unitarian Church. But the Association does not mean to be illiberal. It insists that it is not. Unitarianism, it
“has not broadened in one direction only. If it has on one side gone further in the radical direction than Norton and Ripley, it has also gone in the orthodox direction beyond Burnap and Buckminster and Ware.” These are the words of Secretary Lowe, and he goes on to say :
“So that Dr, Eliot and Dr. Gannett, or any other names who were part of that original nucleus, no more represent the extreme on one side, than does Robert Colyer or Dr. Furness or Dr. Clarke on the other. The wide circle which would include Theodore Parker and extreme radical names, would, in its opposite arc, embrace Bushnell and Beecher, and a host of names like those, Unitarianism may yet come to be the Broad Church that shall comprehend them all!”
The charming simplicity of this argument does not atone for its absurdity. It is doubly fallacious, First, because it takes for granted that Bushneli and Beecher are more conservative than Eliot and Gannett, when the facts are just the other way.
I know that Mr. Beecher varies; but I have heard him preach sermons so radical that because of their radicalism the Unitarian Association would not publish them. But this is not the worst. Even if Beecher and Bushnell were more conservative than Eliot and Peabody, would the Association by stretching out its arms to them by way of welcome, entitle itself to stretch out its feet with contrary intent to Weiss and Potter and Prothingham? No. For the radicals of the Unitarian movement are bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh. It is that which has made us, not we ourselves. We are the people of its pasture and the sheep of its hand. If Beecher and Bushnell had grown conservative with us, then there might be something in the matter. But they are the extreme left of orthodoxy, not the extreme right of Unitarianism, and this fact spoils the argument. Conservative or radical, Unitarianism is not responsible for them. It is responsible for us. There has been no break in our development. Channing carried Parker and Weiss and Potter in his conscience, if not in his brain. We have followed our leaders, and if, when they have fallen pierced by many arrows, we have pushed forward, it has been in strict accordance with their teachings, in the full spirit of their lives. Therefore I say the Unitarian Association is lopsided and illiberal, and cannot consistently expect the suffrages of any liberal church.
But it is only for the principle of the thing that I have dwelt on this so long. Were the work of the Association exactly after your own hearts, there would still be a very good reason why for some years to come you should make different disposition of your surplus cash. I trust that in future you will not do less but more than you have ever done in the past, but I am as sure as I can be that the right way for you to do this is to make yourselves more earnest and efficient; make this church what it ought to be, and what it can be if you will put your shoulders to the wheel like one man. There is certainly a great work for you to do in this city, and if I am not the man to help you do it then give me your God-speed and I will give you mine. But if I am the man, or if you believe I am the man, then let us go to work. Let us fairly lift our banner up, and though we may not draw all men unto it, we shall draw a great many more than are yet mustered under its shining folds. This church-building of ours, beautiful and home-like as it is, is not suited to our purposes, or, if it is, so much the worse for us. It is so small that the rents are higher than a poor man can afford to pay. Do you know that it goes right to my heart tha: there isn't a mechanic that I know of in my congregation ? And I have not been a mechanic myself without learning that mechanics think on the great subjects that we come here to study, and that their strong instincts and quick intuitions anticipate the results of scholarship and long investigation. “Can a poor man go in there?” asked a poor man, standing in front of Dr. Osgood's church, of a delegate to the Conference, last Tuesday night. I should hate to think that any poor man ever stood at this church door and said that; but I should hate still worse to think that there are not a great many poor men in this city, whose hearts and souls are with us, but whose bodies are not, only because they cannot afford to pay the price of admission. Of all the good things said at the Conference I can endorse none more heartily than those said in favor of free churches. Let us be content with what we have now, but let us not be satisfied. Let us at least cherish the hope that one of these days we too shall have A FREE WORKING
There may be almost insuperable obstacles to overcome, among
them the difficulty of selling our present edifice. But let us not for one minute take our eyes from the goal. I for one pledge myself never to be satisfied until it is attained. And may the day of its attainment not be very far away!
Every sensible working church ought to have connected with it a free reading room, with other rooms for conversation and amusement. Only by giving the young people of our cities proper enjoyment shall we save them from wreaking their God-given instincts on unworthy objects. In the absence of any of these attractions from our Church, I rejoice that the Liberal Christian Union of this city has at least one of them-a free reading room.
An appeal will shortly be made to you in behalf of this useful instrument of social culture, and I trust that your response will be most generous. Do not say that you cannot afford to give anything. You cannot afford to miss so grand an opportunity for doing work that God will smile upon.
The subject of theatre preaching received a great deal of attention from th Conference, and the general sense of the body was evidently in favor of that method of operating on the public mind. For myself I accept it as a provisional arrangement, but as nothing more. It is a confession that our churches are not upon the right basis, pecuniary or moral. We are told that the tendency of the times is to Ritualism. If these great meetings of the people mean anything they mean that just the opposite is true; that our churches are all of them, not merely the ritualistic, but all of them, too ecclesiastical—too churchy; that if men can go to church without seeming to do so, they are ready ; that they like public preaching, but do not like public worship, or, rather, like the worship of ideas better than the worship of lawn sleeves and genuflections. When instead of our present exclusive churches we have buildings free to all, supported by the generosity of all who can afford anything, and when, instead of priests, with or without the chasuble, we have preachers pure and simple, we shall not need to hire a theatre to soothe the well-founded prejudices of the people. Happy that people who can make their church beautiful with all the wonderful devices of the architect and painter, and then offer it as a free gift to the community! But better, it seems to me, a free barn for the many than a cathedral for the few.
In Mr. Dall's account of the India Mission I did not find myself sufficiently interested to promise it your aid. Against the establishment of a denominational magazine I voted for so many reasons that I will not specify them. All true science and all good literature are already at work for the Church of the Future, and if any able man among us has a good word to say, he can say it through established channels much better than he can say it in a denominational magazine, and much more influentially. One good word in the Atlantic is worth ten in a denominational organ.
That the right hand of fellowship should be held out as it was to the African Methodists, seemed exceedingly fit and beautiful. Another excellent suggestion was that congregations who can afford to let their ministers go off