Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

demonstrations. Our pecuniary contributions, as a body, alone make any thing like a just exponent of our means and Christian intentions. But these are so freely bestowed upon a multitude of benevolent, philanthropical, and educational objects, and are so little directed into sectarian channels, that we really often do as much through the medium of money to invigorate other sects as to extend our own. It entered into the original design of those who formed the Association, and it has ever been the wish of its most earnest friends, that its Auxiliaries should be brought into joint action with it in all measures. It was expected that delegates from our various congregations would attend the annual meeting, would take an active part in its deliberations, and extend in all directions the impulses which might from time to time quicken at the centre. If this expectation had been realized, the Association would have been vastly more efficient both in its religious and in its benevolent agencies. But while this simple process of joint action through delegates has never been any thing more than an intention, various other reasons may be given for the very inadequate expression of our real ability and numbers which is made by or through the Association. From the very commencement of the Trinitarian controversy, and the drawing of party lines, a large number of Liberal Christians, so called, and we are almost tempted by the commentary which events have written to regard this class of them as the majority, - utterly refused to come under any sectarian title or organization. Some of the most efficient men who belonged to our party, if they belonged to any, some who preached, wrote, labored, and contributed in various ways to sustain and vindicate the new cause, withheld their assent to a denominational bond, or an antagonistic position before the public. Many reasons led them to this decision. They had experienced so much of the evils of ecclesiastical action, that they would not risk it in any shape. They found it difficult to define a party profession which should both include and exclude all that were with them and all that were against them. The name Unitarian, too, had been made objectionable, not to say offensive, by some of the unessential and accidental associations which attached to it in England. Any one who has perused Cottle's Reminiscences and the Biographies and Letters of Coleridge and Southey, and calls to mind the sermon of the former on “ The Hair-Powder Tax," and any one who is familiar with the materialistic opinions, and the political ill-odor of Priestley and some of his friends, will well understand why the title Unitarian should have been rejected by many who, notwithstanding, were Unitarians. These original objections have continued in force to many minds ever since, and new objections have arisen in addition to them. The length to which some of our brethren have carried a license of criticism, and the spirit of antagonism to the records and institutions of revealed religion, has repelled many from us, who are still with us. Others have friends or relatives so attached to other views or communions that they are unwilling to make a manifestation of hostility towards the various Christian bodies. Indeed, it is a prime element of their faith, with a large number of Unitarians, that they ought not to show any very earnest interest in matters of mere opinion, when these tend to distract and divide Christians. For these and other reasons, which might be given, our views have never called out, and brought together and bound by party ties, and engaged in joint action, more than a very small portion of those who hold them. Those who are actually with us in opinion and conviction may be found in nearly every church in our land.

Some other reasons might be stated, to account for the undeniably disproportionate exhibition which we have made when compared with other sects, in concentrated efforts to extend our views. Very many occasional and temporary movements have been started among us. Our societies, making the fullest use of their independency, select their own objects of benevolence. City churches contribute largely to sustain domestic ministries to the poor. Several missionary enterprises have been projected and continued through short periods. Large sums bestowed by Unitarians have gone to the general funds of Bible Societies, or to the charities of the whole Congregational body. We have given over, if we ever actually entertained, the expectation, that all those who accord with us in our views of the Gospel, of its substantial truths, and of the aims and means requisite for enlarging, purifying, and deepening its influence, can be induced to enroll themselves in an association, to take a distinctive name based upon one or more of their opinions, and to appear in its support in any way which brings them into antagonism with other Christians. But few of the honored and eminent laymen who are with us in sentiment attend our conventions, while other sects, on like occasions, are apt to bring forward all their strength and dignity, as represented by distinguished civilians and heads and officers of colleges. We have borne all the reproach of sectarianism at Cambridge, without having turned our alleged opportunities to any account in that direction. Since Justice Story died, we have missed a strong and earnest voice, and an honored advocate. We know not when we last heard, at any of our anniversaries, the words of a Cambridge President or Professor. We mention this fact only as a fact, without expressing either regret or approbation. Some approve this state of things among us; it meets their idea of the perfectly free and unsectarian character of our body. Others would rejoice to see a different state of things, and they feel that allegiance to what we regard as the truth, and a knowledge of the amount of irreligion, scepticism, bigotry, and exclusiveness which still prevail, should move us to cooperate in an efficient, though honorable and charitable sectarianism. It ought, however, to be mentioned, that when our right to the Christian name was actually in question, and our freedom and comfort were put in peril by a preponderating spirit of exclusiveness in the community, there was no lack of boldness and fidelity on the part of our laymen, in the maintenance of our opinions and rights. These being no longer in peril, very many among us think that truth may be left to its inherent power and to its spontaneous agencies, without requiring another roll-call of its champions. Time only can test the practical results of this cooling of sectarian ardor.

In the mean while, the very moderate degree of effort which we make as a denomination accomplishes as much as we could expect from it. The general softening effect which has been wrought upon the spirit of religious hostility is a testimony on a large scale to the efficiency of " the unsectarian sect.' Controversies have been opened between parties in other communions among themselves, more interesting for the time being than is our own common controversy with them. We have a large amount of literature of a distinctive character, and its circulation is greatly extending our views.

The Collation. — This festival, to which all Unitarian ministers, with their wives, are invited by the Unitarian laity of Boston, Jacked none of its usual interest this year. It took place in the spacious Assembly Hall in Beach Street, over the Worcester Railroad Station. Hon. Benjamin Seaver presided, Governor Boutwell and Hon. John P. Hale of the United States Senate being seated at either side of him. A blessing was invoked by Rev. Dr. Barrett, and thanks were returned by Rev. W. H. Eliot of St. Louis. Remarks, some of a serious, but for the most part of a lively and amusing character, were made by Mr. Seaver, Rev. Chandler Robbins, Hon. J. P. Hale, Rev. H. F. Bond of Dover, N. H. Rev. W. H. Eliot of St. Louis, Rev. A. B. Muzzey of Cambridgeport, Governor Boutwell, Hon. Horace Mann, Samuel Greele, Esq., Rev. Charles Farley of San Francisco, George Holt, Esq., of Liverpool, Rev. R. Sanger of Dover, Rev. Dr. Farley of Brooklyn, N. Y., Rev. Samuel Osgood of New York, Rev. J. Pierpont of Medford, Hon. D. A. White of Salem, and Mr. G. F. Thayer.

The Society for the Relief of Aged and Destitute Clergymen met on Wednesday morning, May 28th, at the Chapel of the Church of the Saviour, Rev. Dr. Parkman presiding. The officers of the last year were reëlected. The amount of the funds already in the treasury of the Society exceeds $6,000. No special efforts have been made to obtain contributions, and the present fund must be regarded as almost a spontaneous offering from generous hearts to a truly merciful and affectionate charily. Though no public record is to be inade of the names of the recipients of this benevolence, we are at liberty to state that some most worthy persons have had cause to bless the motive and the occasion which established this fund. It is obvious that the interest of what is now in the treasury will be inadequate to the purpose of the charity. But we feel that it may be safely left to commend itself to those who enjoy wealth with a kindly heart, and who need no urgency of appeal to move them to a liberal exercise of both.

Sunday School Society. — The Annual Meeting of this Society was held in the Church in Federal Street, on Wednesday evening, May 28, the President, Hon. Stephen C. Phillips, in the chair. Prayer was offered by Rev. John White of Dedham. The Annual Report, which was read by the Secretary, Rev. S. H. Winckley, presented some statistics of the operations of this institution in most of our congregations, and offered views designed and suited both to excite and encourage teachers in their work. New force was given to the already well-established grounds on which this Society maintains its claims to an earnest and hearty regard, as the nursery of our churches, and one of the most efficient means for the moral and social improvement of successive generations in the community at large.

Addresses were made on the occasion by Rev. H. F. Harrington of Lawrence ; Rev. Alonzo Hill of Worcester; Rev. W. R. Alger of Roxbury; and Rev. G. W. Briggs of Plymouth. The President offered some cheering remarks at the close.

The Massachusetts Convention of Congregational Ministers met as usual in the Supreme Court room, on Wednesday, at 5 o'clock, P. M. Rev. Dr. Frothingham was the preacher in order for this year, but he having declined the service on account of the state of his health, the second preacher, Rev. Dr. Woodbridge of Hadley, officiated as Moderator, and delivered the Convention Sermon on the day following. Rev. Dr. Putnam of Roxbury was chosen as the preacher for the next year.

A committee was raised by the Convention to inquire into and report upon the use of tobacco.

Devotional Exercises of Anniversary Week. — These occasions, which exclude formal discussion, and are regarded as exclusively designed to quicken religious sentiment, are attended by a great many persons who are highly interested in them, as the most profitable of all which the week affords them. For four successive mornings the places of assembly were filled at an early hour for conference and prayer meetings. The brevity of those who took part in them gave opportunity for much variety. The Lord's Supper was administered on Thursday evening at the Church in Federal Street.

Ministerial Conference. - Under the system adopted two years ago for the conduct of this body, two profitable meetings were held, and two addresses were delivered, followed by debates. The Conference assembled in the Chapel of the Church of the Saviour, on Wednesday morning, May 28. Rev. Dr. Farley was chosen Moderator, the officers of the last year, a Scribe and a Committee, were reëlected, Rev. Dr. Hall of Providence being put upon the latter in place of Rev. J. F. Clarke. The Rev. F. H. Hedge of Providence then delivered an address, which appears on preceding pages of this number. A debate ensued, the aim of which was to do justice to the Protestant side on some points suggested by the address, though of course not dwelt upon by the speaker from limitation of time.

In the afternoon, the Rev. John Pierpont of Medford delivered an address on Social Reform. After allowing the claims of this age on the score of practical benevolence, and giving it credit for its measures and agencies of good, Mr. Pierpont presented a sad picture of the actual state of Christendom, of its vice, its tolerated iniquities and outrages, and contrasted the force and sway of all these with the feebleness of the efforts put forth against them. In conclusion, he adverted to the difficulties which attend the faithful preaching of the Christian religion, especially under the voluntary system, where any parishioners who may take offence at the honest rebuke of a preacher, or rather at the truth as spoken by his lips, may promote dissension and drive off a minister. A short debate ensued, which was brought to a close by an ad

urnment.

The Debate on the Fugitive Slave Law in the Ministerial Conference.The discussion begun on Wednesday afternoon was interrupted by adjournment, and renewed on Thursday morning. The manner in which ibis debate has been brought before the public in the newspapers, and the complete misrepresentation of the ruling spirit of the meeting, and of the tenor of the remarks of some of the speakers, seem to call for some reference to the subject in our pages of Intelligence. It would appear from the newspapers, - which, by a great breach of courtesy and an affront to truth, introduced into their columns pretended reports of the meeting, - that now, for the first time, the so-called Liberal Ministers brought the topic of Slavery into their discussions, and that most of them went all lengths in the use of violent and revolutionary language. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A fair representation and report of the meeting and the discussion would, we believe, be read with interest by good men of various opinions, as highly commendable to the body represented in it. Strong sentences, taken from their connection, and without the qualifications attending their utterance, and with no recognition of the well-known position and former remarks or course of conduct of the speakers, were brought before the public, while calm and wise words were passed without notice. Nor was any thing said of the connection between this debate and those of previous years.

It is true that the papers which were instrumental in spreading these misrepresentations, by copying from the journal which first contained them, offered to give equal publicity to any correction which the speakers who had been wronged might offer for insertion. But no individual felt himself held to the obligation of a personal remonstrance on his own part. No one could fairly report his own remarks in their full connection and with all their bearings, without giving a complete sketch of the meeting. No independent man wishes, by bringing forward with stress his qualifications and explanations, to appear to take back even his rhetoric. The simple truth is, that the same subject has come up before every meeting of the Conference for the last ten or twelve years. Those who spoke this year had spoken often before, and they spoke with reference to their previous opinions and course of action. The brethren knew, as the public, even from the fullest report, would not know, how to interpret each speaker. The supposed security of a private meeting was trusted to as rendering unnecessary that deliberate and guarded speech which one would use under different circumstances.

The resolution offered by Rev. S. J. May, at the meeting of the Unitarian Association, was offered to the Conference. Besides this, a counter resolution, with a preamble introducing names to correspond with those in Mr. May's preamble, was presented by Rev. Joseph Richardson of Hingham. The same topic was introduced in another paper, which, with some subjects proposed by the Executive Committee, all came before the Conference. By reference to the rules of the body, it was found that the Conference had provided that, as it was a meeting of brethren for frank and friendly conversation or advice, and not an ecclesiastical convention, no declarative vote or resolution should be passed.

The recognition of this rule was a disappointment to those who wished the Conference to pronounce upon the Fugitive Slave Law, while it was hailed as a relief to those of another mind. The papers offered in the shape of resolutions were therefore changed in form, and made subjects for discussion, the records showing only that they were discussed without action upon them. All persons present not members of the Conference were requested to retire. The meeting was designed to be private and informal. This precluding in the outset of all action by resolutions was the first matter which occupied the time.

Another point which engaged several of the speakers had reference to our brethren in England. The Rev. Theodore Parker read an editorial from the London Inquirer, and referred to the action of the Congregational Union at Bristol, both advising that such of our ministers as might visit England without being known there to have expressed here decided opinions against the Fugitive Slave Law, should not be allowed to enter an English pulpit.

Rev. George E. Ellis of Charlestown, after expressing his gratification that now for the first time in our meetings justice was done to honest differences of opinion, by a debate which was not to result in a resolution, implicating all with some, denied the right of the body ever to force its members into such action, and expressed his purpose to leave the Conference if it ever took such a course. He had always opposed similar resolutions, and also all answers to the letters from our brethren VOL. LI. — 4th s. Vol. XVI. NO. I.

14

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »