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Notice. The present oumber of The Dial is published as a specimen.
A WORD TO OUR READERS.
Only that which is alive can impart life. And the magazine which we now introduce to our countrymen can not live but by the life it can supply. Such reciprocal vitality, we believe, must depend on the degree in which it shall be representative of the Spirit of the Age-a phrase which we fear is too common-place to carry with it always its deep purport. What can the Spirit of an Age mean but that leading tendency, coördinating all interests, which gives to that age an individual character and a special strength ? Why should not this individuality and specialty be as sacred in an age as in a man? Every faithful man has found God at the core of the special task assigned to his life; with no other friend than his work, he is upheld, inspired, empowered : there he is at home, there are the beacon-lights; there it matters not whether wind and tide be ahead or astern. So does God draw nigh to an age in the spirit of that age. Christ declared that out of his Word and Work should come a Spirit which should CONVINCE the world. The conviction of an age is its only possible Christianity: the deepest thing of its own time, Christianity must be the deepest thing of every time. To be alive and powerful, it must represent the conviction of the time that is, not of the time that was: it must not take a man whose every other sense and faculty is satisfied in the fulness of the Nineteenth Century, and set him, for the satisfaction of his religious sense, back in the Third ; it must not place a man's holiest day of the week fifteen hundred years behind his other days. Heine, the German poet, was asked, by his friend Alphonso, as they stood before the great
Cathedral of Rheims, “Why can not the present age build such cathedrals as that ?” “That structure,” replied Heine, “was reared by an age of convictions ; ours is an age of opinions.” There was a period when the Roman Catholic church represented that which was deepest, most immortal in the masses of men. The mitre was not then the crown of a despot; the crosier had not sharpened into the bayonet or coiled into the thumbscrew; and the loyal human heart, once won, will suffer long ere it recall a plighted faith. But the awful day came; a higher conviction arrived embodying that Spirit at whose touch the Right and the Wrong stand together at the bar of judgment; and from that day the Church which would not abandon the unveiled wrong could build no more great cathedrals ! “ Shall we not rather find,” says Ruskin, “that Romanism, instead of being a promoter of the arts, has never shown itself capable of a single great conception since the separation of Protestantism from its side ? So long as, corrupt though it might be, no clear witness had been borne against it, so that it still included in its ranks a vast number of faithful Christians, so long its arts were noble. But the witness was borne, the error made apparent, and Rome, refusing to hear the testimony, or forsake the falsehood, has been struck from that instant with an intellectual palsy, which has not only incapacitated her from any further use of the arts which were once her ministers, but has made her worship the shame of its own shrines, and her worshippers their destroyers."
In course of time, Protestantism, in the forms which it assumed, became in turn a tradition rather than a conviction ; a thing borne with sufferance, not with joy. As a conviction, it culminated in the planting of New England; then its spirit began a slow ebb. Then rose up the prophets of a new faith and hope ; and Channing, Freeman, Hollis, the Wares, the Buckminsters, easily gained the throne of American Thought. After them came a period of theological empyricism, confusing a specific and temporary movement with the eternal and progressive spirit on which the Unitarian movement was but another bead strung. Again was the witness borne, and the command Forward heard. But the prophets were stoned, the Lord at his coming denied. With what result? He who looks for Boston Unitarianism will see a series of stranded churches--churches once alive, now disintegrated, sold at auction to other sects, here and there a fusion of two or three in one to