of society, from a religion for men. Important as the function of the intellect is in the race, it is a very small one compared with that of the affections, the conscience, and the will. It is by, no means certain, that, relative to the mass, the ratio of pure thinkers, the class of philosophers and sages, will increase with civilization, nor is it at all probable that the wisdom of the wise is the real wisdom of humanity. To make original and independent thinkers is not even the chief function of general education, - but to develop the understanding, and the other powers and faculties, in such a harmonious way as to render human souls sensitive to and fruitional of the sum of human thought already tested and recognized as positive truth. The religion of Humanity is not an intellectual function, but a spiritual affection, - the love and service and worship of God. Thought is not its inspiration, but feeling. Thought is not a priest or a prophet, but a philosopher and a critic; and a world of pure thinkers and pure thought would be like a garden in which, in place of fruits and vegetables and flowers, we had only ploughs and barrows, hoes and spades, pruning-hooks and works on horticulture and gardening.

The wealth, variety, and glory of the world is the passionate, aspiring, loving, conscience-smitten, worshipful, common humanity that occupies it. In this inheres the massive motion, the rich capacity, the hopeful prospect of civilization. The notion of breaking this passionate, instinctive, complicated, and ever freshly renewed humanity of the race to the rein of utilitarian philosophy, of feeding it with ethical and economical ideas, or directing it by mere considerations of its interest, or by any thing short of its primordial passions, expressed in those vast institutions which open channels for the tendencies that carry man towards his inexpressible des. tiny,- is to treat man as a finite and known quantity, and not as aliquid immensum infinitumque. There is no buman want so passionate and instinctive as the want of religion. There is no institution so universal as religion. Worship man learns before he learns duty, before he learns domestic, social,



or political order; and as it is the first, so it will prove the last, necessity of its being.

A Church, then, as well as a Religion, we must have, - the Church, as well as a Church. And the great office of Liberal Christianity, in our day, is to claim the Church as its own, to assert its gospel origin and office, and to exercise its functions as the Church of Christ and the people. It wants only that spiritual audacity which has made all the great transfers of religious life to new vehicles, to secure its necessary victory. If what is known in the head so well were felt in the heart as fully; if what so many are confidently waiting to see accomplished by time and circumstances, were understood to be waiting only for courage and noble daring to take on a sublime and immediate victory,- it would not be one generation before as great a change were seen in the ecclesiastical and theological face of American society' as the second quarter of the sixteenth century witnessed in England, when hardly a monastery or abbey out of so many hundreds that had flourished in one generation remained unsuppressed in the next; not another mass was said, where the land had so lately rung with their dronings; not a monk or friar of ten thousand privileged ecclesiastics was left to prey upon the superstition of the ignorant; when, in short, in one decade, the Church of a thousand years was revolutioned, and set in a wholly Protestant order by the courage and zeal of one determined king, one brave minister of State, and one resolute bishop.

The Liberal Christians of America, above all, the Unitarian denomination, have it in their power to effect a general reformation of opinion in the Church of this country. They need nothing but resolute determination to effect it. The thing is ripe for doing; but it will never do itself. Principles and tendencies must embody themselves in brave, devoted, uncalculating hearts, before they will command the attention or following of multitudes. So great and necessary a spiritual revolution as the nineteenth century calls for, cannot be carried by timid, doubting, self-saving leaders. Fastidiousness, fear of criticism, a fear of consequences, halfness of conviction,

or a philosophic sympathy with the thing that is to be done away, and only an intellectual aspiration for the thing that is to be set up, - these sickly moods and cowardly humors can effect nothing but disgrace. It is the regal will alone that can order grand results. Let Unitarianism find its will, and add it to its understanding and its conscience, and it may sweep the nation.

Indications of the rise of a courage and determination, such as the Liberal Christian cause requires for its great mission in the Church, have already appeared. The National Conference of the Unitarian Churches, established in New York in April, 1865, showed an unexpected vitality in a body which was seemingly dying of self-criticism, endless debate, and passionless, will-less intellectualism. There, a union was effected between the clergy and the laymen of our body, such as had never before been realized; a truce, if not a peace, between the extremes of the denomination; and a readiness to enter on large expenditures and bold measures, which showed how little satisfied the Unitarian body was with its past, and how willing to reverse its waiting, negative policy. The old prejudice which had assumed that unity of action, and the organization that can alone secure and promote success in a great cause, involved the surrender of mental independence and spiritual freedom, was for the time exorcised. The other absurdity, that a public religion can exist without a Church, or that any Church is possible in the nineteenth century but the Church of Christ, was rebuked and flung aside without hesitation, as a paralytic speculation. A year and a half of such activity and zeal, such success and encouragement, as the Unitarian denomination never experienced before, has proved the benignity and wisdom of the policy inaugurated, the spirit displayed, in the National Conference.

On the 8th of October, this National Conference is to meet for its second session, at Syracuse, N.Y. If the vitality shown at its first meeting was not a spasm of sympathetic zeal, the spiritual echo of the general enthusiasm which our great national triumph had just raised, then we may hope to see at Syracuse a still larger representation of the churches, a still

bolder faith, nobler and better-considered plans, and the evi. dences of a diviner guidance to a clearer destiny. God grant that low and destructive considerations of personal convenience and pecuniary cost, a wretched self-suspicion or lack of faith in the great mission of our Faith, a stupid return to the old issues of debate, a timid reluctance to step forth on the national platform, and fight the battle of our Liberal Christianity with all comers, may not paralyze the generous purposes that last year gave our Convention a nearly universal representation from our churches, and shook the whole body and spirit of the denomination, as with the throes of a new birth! We call upon the West, with its earnest laborers and open field, to hold not back; and the East with its wealth and culture, its intelligence and faith in ideas, not to desert at this supreme moment the national standard of our Liberal

There is an urgent, glorious, Christ-like work to be done; and God calls our three hundred churches to lead the way. Shall we not stand shoulder to shoulder, not one member missing, in our Thermopylæ; and, in a better cause and with a better fate than the Spartans, turn in a day the spiritual fortunes of the nineteenth century for our country and mankind?




The second course of Boyle Lectures, by Mr. Merivale, * is designed as the complement of the course which he delivered two years ago, and completes his account of the conversion of the pagan nations. That the sketch of the greatest of all religious revolutions, which he has here given, will be read with disappointment, must be conceded

* The Conversion of the Northern Nations. — The Boyle Lectures for the Year 1865. Delivered at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall. By Charles MERIVALE, B.D., Rector of Lawford, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1866. Small 8vo.

at the outset ; and it is cause for regret that the two small volumes Dow published will add so little to the reputation which he acquired by his History of the Romans under the Empire. The complete mastery of his subject there evinced afforded strong presumptive evidence of his ability to narrate the history of that memorable transformation of opinion by which the Roman empire was brought out of heathenism and unbelief into the visible fold of the Christian Church; and, as the tone of subdued sadness in which his great work closes does not permit us to hope that he will resume a task thus laid down, we were inclined gratefully to accept the brief sketch which was all we had the right to look for in a short course of Sunday-afternoon lectures. Being in London during the delivery of a part of the first course, we accordingly availed ourselves of the opportunity to hear Mr. Merivale. With no peculiar charm of voice or manner, there was a manliness of utterance, and an erect and firm attitude, which gave increased weight to his clear and positive statements, and secured for him the closest attention of a miscellaneous audience, in spite of the general absence of rhetorical ornament. Every one seemed to feel that he was in the presence of a man who possessed a knowledge and a skill adequate to every demand of the subject; and that, back of every argument and inference, which were so simply and naturally expressed, there was the strength of a settled and well - grounded conviction. The same impression was produced, though in a lesser degree, by the first series of lectures, when they were printed shortly afterward. Written for delivery on the foundation of the Honorable Robert Boyle, and in general accordance with the design of the founder, they have the special characteristics of discourses designed for a popular audience. Yet they everywhere exhibit the ripe culture, the firm grasp of his subject, the ample knowledge of details, and the strong powers of generalization, of which Mr. Merivale has heretofore given such striking evidence. His style is, in some respects, even more easy and polished than it was in his History; while it has lost none of its vigor and clearness, and not seldom rises into passages of sustained eloquence.

It is only when we close his second series, that we experience that disappointment to which we have referred ; and which, we suppose, will be shared by every reader of the volume. In his first course, Mr. Merivale sought to show, first, What was the religious condition of the Roman empire before the preaching of Christianity; next, What circumstances prepared the way for the reception of the new

« ElőzőTovább »