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of sympathy with the spiritual requisitions of their hearers. A congregation wants the glow of an emotion, the living thrill and interest of pleasurable states of high thought and feeling. They want their hour of worship to pass warmly, freely, carrying their hearts along upon its engaged moments. Now the nature of our congregations, their numbers, their position, their insulation, does not naturally lead to this affirmative preaching; to a direct, undisturbed, uncontroversial cultivation of the spiritual elements of man; to a nutritive, sustaining, and didactic eloquence. There are great evils in our necessary separation from the sympathies of the religious world we live in. We lose the effects of numbers; the contagion of emotion; the warmth of fellowship; the sentiment of security; the habit of undistracted devotion to the positive portions of our faith; and these losses must be counterbalanced by felt advantages; advantages not having reference to our first principles only, but including our religious affections, and moral emotions, and demands for pleasurable excitement else the religious interest and life of congregations, of popular assemblies, cannot be maintained.
II. We are at a great disadvantage, when compared with other sects, that we have no common centre of interest. Our point of union is not distinct, defined, presenting a clear idea, and imbedding it in the popular heart. We have no set of notions which zeal can apprehend and strongly individualize. We have no limited position on which a party takes its stand. We have no watchwords; no rallying points. Our ground of union is not vividly conceived. Other sects know exactly what they contend for; and what they contend for is also the doctrine that nourishes them. They have two sources of strong and passionate interest—distinctly pictured, circumscribed conceptions; and a belief that these conceptions are the essentials of their salvation. We contend not for individual conceptions; not for a saving Faith, but for abstract Liberty; and when we have obtained it we go off in a thousand diverse directions. We contend for a principle; they contend for an individual interest. We contend for a sentiment; they contend for a dogma which they have identified with their religious Life. We have infinitely the advantage in the purity, the freedom, the seminal nature of our devotion. But they have the advantage in all that makes the strength of a party; in the intenseness, heat, and concentration of their faith. Orthodoxy is one defined, clearly. conceived interest. There is no mistaking it. TRUTH is as varied as the minds that look upon her. How can they be gathered around one standard with a strong feeling of union? Reformers in Religion, those who look for a progress in Christian truth,
suffer as a party, in the same way as social and political Reformers. Their aims are not definite. They are seeking progress each in his own way. They do not rally around a point. Their Liberty disperses them. Conservatives are always agreed as to what they are contending for; their object is one; and hence their firm compactness as a Party. The absence of their individual liberty unites them as a Body.
III. There is an hereditary weakness in some of our congregations, from which the reputation of the whole body has unjustly suffered. Chapels have descended to us from a remote ancestry, with a religious constitution exhausted of all its vigour; neither warmed by the old spirit, nor sympathizing with the
We have been obliged to support congregations in decaying states, in situations which never would have been selected in which to plant new churches; and these languid and dying assemblies have been taken by opponents as types of our whole Denomination; nor can it be denied that they have exerted a chilling and dispiriting influence upon ourselves. The younger forms of Dissent, untrammelled by the past, have been free to pitch their tents wherever affinities with their spirit most strongly and freshly manifested themselves. They have had no decaying institutions to support; and they have chosen no unpropitious sites. They have been fed by young life, and only planted their churches where life manifested itself. We have had to contend with the worst parts of the spirit of antiquity; its prejudices, its feebleness, its effeteness, without its venerable
Without any living associations (for the historical ones cannot be expected to be popularly efficient) of the solemn or imposing, derived from our connexions with an older faith, we have had the unrelieved burden of its disadvantages; its leanings, or rather bendings, to the past; its aversion to change; its cold-hearted moderation; its inability to find satisfaction any where ; its grudging and sulky sympathy with the free, bold spirit of the New Theology; its want of strong interest in anything; the absence of intensity or devoted love in any of the existing aspects of its religious life. These influences have existed in almost all our congregations, and thrown a fetter on our fresher minds. The nobler, more ardent, and progressive spirit, has not been able to separate itself from the old leaven and has either moderated itself down to the tameness that awakes no sympathy, and stirs no faith ; or it has struggled against heavy weights, under a sense of opposition or cold encourage
This circumstance, derived from the gradually changing spirit of our older congregations, its heterogeneous elements,
should be taken into consideration in any explanation of the want of intensity, the languor, of Unitarianism.
Now all these causes of an inefficient existence seem to indicate as our one thing needful,--strong interests; individual affections nourished by our individual Faith ; a religion nutritive not combative; positive views and positive cultivation; the dwelling of our souls upon the spiritual realities we possess and hold dear, for the sake of developing the religious life within ourselves, and of drawing out into more abundant existence the fruits of our Faith. Faith in our own Christianity, such a faith as would put it in possession of our undisturbed devotion, trust, and love, and engage us to pursue, study, develope it, independently and undistractedly, is our one great want as a Religious Community. We want FAITH to make us forget our religious antipathies, and devote ourselves to our religious sympathies; to make us forget our repulsions, and follow our attractions. We want a strong, unagitated, uncontroversial Love, for the Christianity which we have ourselves embraced,the views which are our own Gospel. We want a faith, not in Unitarianism, for that is a negation, and contains no nourishment, but in that spirit of Jesus which Unitarianism has left us free to receive and love. It is not Unitarianism, but that Christianity which remains when we forget Trinitarianism, that we must take home to our souls and hearts as the faith that feeds our spiritual life; and which, if cherished, studied, and developed, will supply us with a constant stream of religious thoughts, affections, purposes. Our interest must be in the Christianity we do hold, as if there was no opposing creed in the world, and all Christendom was Unitarian. We must forget our controversial relations before we can begin to reap the benefits of the past controversies, that necessity obliged our Fathers to maintain. Other men have laboured. We must enter into their labours; and not go over again the work of clearing the ground. Let us take peaceful possession, and by occupying ourselves with our own religious interests, show that we have not been warring for a barren Right. Let us exhibit our Christianity in its own form, since we have made good our privilege to have one. Let us show what our religion is when we forget it has opponents, and present it in its own aspects. Let us illustrate, develope, and devote ourselves to the Christ, who is our Religion, our image of God, our ideal of Man. Until we do this, and regard this love, study, and development of the faith we hold, as our highest mission, we can have no vitality as a religious Community, as members of the body of Christ.
Other sects, on account of this positive character of their religion, frequently draw more of devotion and nourishment from an imperfect Faith, strongly loved, cherished, and studied, than we do from a purer Faith, held but not pursued. They dwell upon their faith, and draw from it whatever life it contains. The very security with which they hold it attracts to it trust and serene affections. Now strong Faith, even when erroneous, rears the spiritual life, devotion and self-consecration, more effectually than a purer Faith more coldly cherished. The religious life grows by dwelling in serene and undisturbed devotion upon the Truths and Beings kindred to our sympathies, our reason, our imagination, our hopes. Whatever fills these faculties, however false it may be in the sight of a perfect mind, engages, masters, and subordinates the minds it comes to as Truth. It is not truth, but faith, that gives efficiency to a view. We are not devotional, we are not practical, in our combative aspects. We are on preliminary, not on Christian ground. We are not improving, we have not a religion, until we have ceased contending and commenced cultivating. Moral progress proceeds from cultivation of the Faith we rest in, producing its fruits in the warmth of love. We must pursue what is our own, and forget our controversial attitudes. They never will nourish the inner life of a congregation, nor keep its interest alive: They hold out no signals of invitation. They give us no character of our own. They feed no intense yearnings. They make no devoted disciples. We must proceed upon our own views, not defending them, but loving them and studying them. We must draw out of them all the actual fruit they are capable of affording. We must pursue a more independent course of DEVELOPMENT. We must understand our own mission, which is not to battle but to advance; not to be dogmatists of any kind, but cherishers of Spirit and of Truth. Our union must be a moral one, a sympathy of spirit. We can have no intellectual or doctrinal union. We must give up therefore the idea of aggregate life, as a Body devoted to a uniform Belief, and held together by the forms of a uniform Ecclesiastical Government. Ourlife must be in individuals, and as varied as individuals; in our ministers, in each separate congregation. The whole Body can flourish only by the members having each life in himself. Our union must be one of sentiment and first principles : our life one of individualities.
In such circumstances the life of congregations must depend mainly upon their ministers, upon the individual minds that nourish them. We have no cluster of received notions to draw upon-no saving creed to exude life of itself. When other sects meet together in their religious assemblies they have a source of never-failing interest, distinct from the resources and attractions of the individual mind that may happen to be the organ of their faith and worship. Their faith itself is their great common fountain of life and warmth, and however feebly it may be presented by the preacher, however little he may be able to illustrate it by his genius, or to enforce it by his eloquence, the pith and soul of their religion is in the doctrine itself—and all their associations of fear, and hope, and salvation, and earnest desire to believe it and to hold it fast, gather around it; and enshrine it anew within their anxieties and their love. It is the faith that is to save them they are listening to—and their interest in it is personal, for its own sake and their own, altogether independent of the power or genius of the Preacher. These can enhance their interest, but the absence of them will not destroy interest, for the doctrine has life in itself, and however feebly uttered, awakens all the emotions which long habits have associated with a limited set of ideas, identified with Eternal Safety. The orthodox Preacher is not dependent for the attention he can command, and the warmth he can excite, on his own individual power to speak livingly to the soul, on the impressions he is producing by the vigour of his own thoughts, the fervour of his own feelings, the gifts of his own utterance. There are prepared feelings and directions of mind ready to gush out the moment he commences the oft-repeated elucidation of the Scheme of their Salvation. He has a subject already bathed in the trembling affections of his hearers, and he has only to present it to awake the whole cluster of emotions which past Love and Terror have attached to it, all the eager excitement of a question of Life and Death; to open the flood-gates of standing waters ready to be discharged. We have nothing of this power of producing easy effects upon prepared minds. We have ro subject so vital to our hearers that it cannot be mentioned without touching all the apprehensions and all the hopes of their souls. We have no fixed apparatus which is always certain of producing the dramatic effects of Love and Terror.
This is one of the disadvantages, if such they be, of having no Creed, no limited set of notions, regarded with the deepest emotions of affection and fear, as the Essentials of Salvation. We provide no machinery which anymind can work, and play off its strong excitements upon an audience. We put no ready-made instrument into the hands of a minister by which he may
work effects without the strong action of his own mind. All the interest our Preachers can awaken must be derived from themselves, from their power to think nobly, and to speak the living words