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on missionary tours should do so. There will then be no troublesome suspicions that they are sending food to others at which they would themselves decidedly reluct.
I now come to speak of the general attitude and spirit of the Convention. If the sermon of Dr. Bellows had been, as doubtless he hoped to make it, the key-note of that attitude and spirit, I should stand here with a very sad and painful story. But the real key-note was more as if James Martineau, whom we hoped to have with us, had been there to strike it. And yet we cannot be too glad that Martineau was not there; for had he been, and everything else had been just as it was, he would have been so grossly insulted by the remarks of certain individuals on Thursday morning that his opinion of America would probably have suffered a considerable shock. And yet again, perhaps, had he been with us some things that were said would have been left unsaid, for I have noticed that my conservative friends are not troubled by the radicalism of Martineau, only by radicalisın here in America. Men on this side of the water who believe almost exactly what Martineau believes upon the other side, are called enemies of Christianity ; but Mr. Martineau is never spoken of so disrespectfully.
The last public utterance of Dr. Bellows previous to the Conference had been so broad, he had declared himself so unmistakably in favor of the widest liberty, that persons with bad memories fondly expected to find him still firmly rooted in that noble attitude. But when did Dr. Bellows ever hold to the same opinion for three or four months running? After the first shock, therefore, it seemed the most natural thing in the world that he had forgotten all about his last pronunciamento, and was sailing on an entirely different tack. It was time, he thought, to make Unitarianism a sect.
He would keep open doors, but every man that entered he would have seized, his head shaved, his ears cropped, a uniform put on him, and his limbs stretched on a denominational Procrustes' bed, there to be lengthened out or shortened in to the required denominational limit. “ Let us have a rigid, well-defined ecclesiasticism, a creed, a theological slop-shop, where young men can provide themselves with ready-made sectarian uniforms." Such was the bearing of his eloquent discourse. Do you wonder that the Conference did not choose to follow him on such a downward, backward, God-forsaken, man-forsaking
The general temper of the Conference was every way an improvement on the two previous Conferences, and rebuked the temper of the introductory discourse as it deserved. It was truly encouraging to look over the Conference and see what light had risen within two years on many of its members; how much more generally and fully the great principle of liberty was apprehended than at Syracuse. The test of all this came on Thursday morning in the form of a proposed amendinent to the constitution, which was debated for several hours, and which was withdrawn at the last moment, when it might just as well have been carried. This amendment was as follows:
Art. IX.-To secure the largest unity of the Spirit and the widest practical co-operation, it is hereby declared that all expressions in this Preamble and Constitution are expressions only of the majority of the Conference, committing in no degree those who object to them, and depending wholly for their effect upon the consent they command on their own merits from the Churches here represented or belonging within the circle of our fellowship; and that we heartily welcome to that fellowship all who desire to work with us in advancing the kingdom of God.
With the exception of the last sentence it was substantially the same as a resolve that passed the Convention in New York three years ago.
That resolve was an agreement that there should be no creed put to the lips of any man or church. But no sooner was the constitution framed and accepted than it was loudly heralded that the Conference had placed itself unequivocally on the side of the authoritative Christ. Hence the attempt at Syracuse to change the Preamble and first part of the Constitution, an attempt which only succeeded in relieving us from the purely sectarian strait-jacket into which we put ourselves in New York by inserting the words “and other Christian"after the word “Unitarian" in the first article of the constitution, thereby making ourselves a conference of “Unitarian and other Christian churches.” This was a decided gain. It broke down the wall of partition built up at the original convention in New York. But still the question remained, was the Preamble a creed, and wherever the word Christian was used was that also a creed? The more conservative—or rather I should
say the more illiberalmembers of the Syracuse Conference said Yes, and said that if we radicals were honest men we should clear out and leave them to themselves. And if there hadn't been anybody to leave but these we should have done so in a hurry. But besides these men there was the great body of liberal conservatives who assured us that they did not consider any expression in Preamble or Constitution as a creed, and that they thought we might remain with perfect honesty. Somewhat in doubt we did as these advised, only resolved to win the battle at some future day which that day had been lost. And last Thursday morning we did it securely and triumphantly. There was great need, for, as from New York, so also from Syracuse, the devotees of the authoritative, supernatural Christ went home and proclaimed from their pulpits that the Conference had again committed itself to their dogma, and that radicalism must put its neck into the yoke or go. They cannot say so now without departing from the truth. By an immense majority the Conference has decided that no expression in the Preamble or Constitution commits any person who does not agree with it; that even the word Christian has no fixed meaning; but that any Church which chooses to call itself by that name has as good a right in the Conference as if it came reciting the apostle's creed.
Do you ask, “Why then are you not entirely satisfied ?” For I certainly am not. Because, for the amendment that we hoped to carry, we allowed to be substituted another that was exactly the same with this exception : it omitted
to say, “and we heartily welcome to our fellowship all who desire to work with us in advancing the kingdom of God.” Thus we should have indicated our faith in the purely spiritual significance of Christianity, and made its meaning so large that no earnest soul could possibly have felt that we were excluding him. Thus we should have said: “We will be judges whether you are Christian or not, but our test shall be spiritual, not dogmatic, and if you desire to work with us in advancing the kingdom of God, if you desire to spend your life in blessing on your fellow-men, we will insist upon it that you are a Christian whether you allow it or not.” For we were all carrying in our hearts one man, Abbot of Dover, who, as you all know, insists that he is not a Christian, and we felt that if we could not make our doorways wide and high enough for him we should win the battle only in part. For whatever he might choose to call himself, we knew that in the highest sense in which the word Christian can be used, there was not in that whole conference a more Christian man than he. The word Christian has three great leading . significations.
1. It means the system of dogmas concerning Jesus popularly received as true by the majority of so-called Christian Churches. In this sense Mr. Abbot is not a Christian ; neither am I. There is not, in this sense, a Christian in this congregation. And when Mr. Abbot insists that he is not a Christian this is all he means to say.
But 2. Christianity means a great river of influence running across buman history on which all the inhabitants of Christendom have been upborne. In this sense Mr. Abbot is surely a Christian, and it is a much higher sense than that of which we have just spoken. But there are many who have never sailed upon this stream-Jews and Mahometans, and disciples of Confucius and Cakya Mouni-who are, nevertheless, much better, purer, holier men than many who are Christians by dogmatic leaning or historic right. Therefore we rejoice that
3. Christianity means that love to God and man which Jesus of Nazareth so gloriously taught and so divinely illustrated. In this sense Francis Abbot may not say he is a Christian. It would not, perhaps, be quite modest for him to
But we will say it for him, and say that we will never rest until the conference is open to the coming of his stainless feet. Is it not too absurd to think of, that we are now in a position to admit the emissaries of that enemy of all freedom, truth and progress, the Roman Catholic Church (and I would not have it otherwise,) and are not in a position to admit this strong manchild of our own loins, this lover of all truth and seeker for all good ?
Do you fear that possibly it might not do to make our fellowship as brcad and free as this. Friends, between this and Romanism lies our choice. Principles never stop half-way. A creed is a creed though it is contained in one sentence or one word. And any creed accepted as a finality is a sin against the ever-lasting, ever growing truth. And for myself, though you could make a statement that would not vary by a hair's breadth from my own
belief concerning God and Jesus, and all the great facts and relations that are the staple of the world's most deep reflection,—though it should express my own beliet better than I could express it myself ; so that, reading it, I should exclaim : “ There ! I never could exactly state myself, but you have done.it;” if
you could do all this, and should do it, and then ask me to sign this statement as a creed, I would no more do it than I would sign the Nicene creed, the Westminster catechism, and the contents of the Koran rolled into one. Of the perfect law of liberty it is most true that he that sins against its least particular has offended in all. “ Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus."
Nor need we fear, when we have once apprehended this principle, to accept it as the ruling principle of our lives. There were men in the conference who talked as if this principle of perfect intellectual freedom might leave us open to the approaches of unworthy men. They need not worry. Great principles do not attract little men.
Believers in authoritative men and books and institutions would nowhere feel so out of place as in a company
of liberal-minded reasonable men and women.
When a man has really appre. hended the principle of religious freedom he has so evidently set his face toward the eternal city that we need not be afraid to travel in his company. As for bad men, when did these ever choose to come into the society of earnest, loving and obedient souls ? I wish that they would come. They would become infected with goodness and die of it,--die to impurity and falsehood, and live to righteousness and truth.
“A bad man, like a leaky tub,
May waste his helps to right;
How soon a crack soaks tight." No, we need not fear that the principle of religious liberty will draw after it unworthy men. The load-stone draws not wood and brass and dirt, but iron and steel; and so this moral load-stone draws not men of wood or brass or dirt, but men of iron and steel; aye, men of gold and pearl,-men whose life-blood is as ruddy as the garnet's glow,— men whose rectitude is brighter than the diamond's spotless gleam--the mystery of whose godliness is as tender and as beautiful as are the permeating fires that slumber in the opal's hidden veins.
Long ago it was written : “ In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free.” There comes a day in which it shall be written: “In religion, in humanity, in love, in God, there is neither in the dogmatic sense) Christian nor unchristian, black nor white, male nor female, but a new creature, a divine life, all things that are tender, all things that are gentle, pure and high.” Not that it makes no difference what a man believes. It makes a great deal, though it does not make so much difference as the churches generally teach. The difference in amount of faith and love is the real difference between man and man. And not only this, but this also : it is not the opinion which a man swallows with shut eyes that profits him,
that which is poured down his throat like medicine, but that which he accepts consciously and joyfully because it approves itself to him as true. Free thought and true thought are almost synonymous terms. To-day, theology is the falsest of the sciences because it has always been the least free. But already on the hill-tops I see the first forewarnings of a happier, holier time.
“ The day of the Lord is at hand, at hand!
Its storms roll up the sky :
All dreamers toss and sigh;
And the Day of the Lord is at hand.
“Gather you, gather you, angels of God,
Freedom and Mercy and Truth;
Come down and renew us her youth.
To the Day of the Lord at hand.
“Gather you, gather you, hounds of hell
Famine and Plague and War;
Gather and fall in the snare!
In the Day of the Lord at hand.
6. Who would sit down and sigh for a lost age of gold,
While the Lord of all ages is here ?
And those who can suffer can dare.
In the Day of the Lord at hand.”