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cated by its increase. The genius of religion, and so of every peculiar form of it, is expansive. It is well likened to a seed, whose normal action is not only to spring up and flourish as a plant, but to mature other seeds, which, scattered abroad, give it ever wider and wider root. But it is fair to say, that (using this same analogy) there are certain plants which do not ripen seeds. The beautiful double-flowers of our gardens are sterile. The stamens and carpels are converted into leaves, and so they have no fertilizing power. The gardener, when he produces them as curious and handsome varieties, only expects them to flourish for the season when they are sown. So there may be perhaps a double-flowering church; but, however ornamental while it lasts, there is little comfort in the thought, that, when its first summer's blossoms have faded, it is only to be remembered as a thing of the past. If our church is not such a one as this, then if it does not increase, - especially in such an age, and in a country like ours, of progress and change in every thing, - it is a token that there is some evil at the root, and its decay is sure.
There is one of the most important considerations in connec
I have purposely refrained from enlarging, lest I should trespass upon the subjects on which others are to speak : I mean the peculiar importance which attaches to it at the present time by reason of the circumstances of our country. On the one hand, as was stated in the Report, some societies are temporarily enfeebled by the absence in the army of many of their supporters, — societies whose abandonment would be a sad thing for our cause. But, besides this, there is a liberalizing effect in the life of the camp, which, by breaking up old prejudices, and inclining serious men to broader views of life, will dispose many who formerly belonged to other sects, on their return to their homes, to connect themselves with churches of our faith, if they shall find any in their reach; as they may, if we will only help to plant them, and give them what they need at first, — our fostering care.
I will not longer occupy your time, except to speak, by way of encouragement, of what has been done in this direction in
former times. Many a society now flourishing, and exerting a vast influence for good, owes its existence to the fact, that at its start, when a few earnest ones were struggling in vain to make a stand for the cause, the needed aid came to them from the prosperous churches of our faith. Need I remind you of the most conspicuous illustration of this in that well-known society in the West, - we can hardly believe now that it ever was a “ feeble church," — whose munificent bounties in aid of every generous cause, whose earnest piety (recognized by Christians of every name), and whose noble labors (never ceasing, though more noticed when, as now, they are made for the nation's need), have made it indeed a “light” that is “on a candlestick," a
the West, of the excellence of the Unitarian faith? Who knows but that many of the societies that are now calling on us for aid may have the germs of a life like that? Some of them
- like that one whose piteous appeal in the last “Monthly Journal” has, I hope, reached many a heart — are only asking for the gift of a few liberal books, such as many of us have laid away upon our shelves. Shall their entreaties be denied ?
All honor to this city, that, through its churches and its individuals, it has done so much for this most worthy cause! This city has been styled our “Antioch,” because, as they “were called Christians first at Antioch," so this is the baptismal place of our American Unitarian Church. But there are other reasons to justify the name. That ancient capital has yet more to make its memory sacred in the fact that it furnished the first instance on record of a contribution to a feeble society; the Christians there sending money by Paul and Barnabas to the needy Jerusalem church. And in later years, true to its character of ministering to the cause which it cradled at the first, when the growing capital, and seat of empire, Constantinople, then in full tide of prosperity, was calling out for some one to its vacant bishopric, -- a feeble church, from the very opulence and mighty energy of life in that luxurious city, creating an intensity of need, calling out for some one who could stem the current of worldliness, and seoure for religion its proper care, - Antioch sent the idol of her people, Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed, to the Golden Horn. So will it ever be to our“ Antioch” her greatest claim to grateful remembrance, that she has ever been ready to give from her abundance to the support of the cause which is so largely identified with her name. Sometimes she has given money to help the “poor saints of” some “Jerusalem ;” and when, from the Constantinople of our Republic, sitting in queenly robes of opulence, the mistress of the Pacific coast, came the cry, that they, too, were a “ feeble church," because no one could be found equal to the opportunity which their position afforded, she sent her Chrysostom to the Golden Gate.
Be it hers to continue, and ours to emulate, this generous course; and blessing will come back to us a hundred-fold.
The hymn, “ Upon the gospel's sacred page,” was then sung by the congregation to the tune, “ Missionary Chant.”
Rev. FREDERIC H. HEDE, D.D., of Brookline, then spoke in substance as follows:
Mr. PRESIDENT, — It has often seemed to me, that if this society were merely an association of propagandists; if its sole or chief aim were to draw Christians of other communions into our ranks, to enlist ecclesiastical recruits for the long polemic of theology, - it would be the most useless league in the world.
We propose to ourselves nothing of the sort. Our aim is, not to turn believers from their creeds, or to win men over to our way of thinking, but to meet the necessities of those who have already broken with the creeds and traditions of their communion; who have dropped out of their native folds, and would be shut out from Christian -fellowship and from all church-life, but for such hospitality as we can give them, and such provision as we are able to make for their edification. To such we propose no dogmatic requirements and no conditions of fellowship, other than their own affinities and the broad fellowship of the Christian name. We are not propogandists of even a liberal creed, but defenders of Christian liberty, — the largest liberty within the scope of the Christian confession.
We are quite content that Christians of all đenominations should abide in their respective churches so long as they feel at home in them; and are not much agitated when one of our own communion finds more attractive metal elsewhere, and prefers a smaller room in a larger house. And when a preacher of another connection, whose faith has outgrown the creed of his sect, consults me as to the expediency of joining our body, my advice to him is to remain in his own so long as honesty on his part, and toleration on their part, will permit. ... Better the leaven should stay where it is, and work where it is needed, than go to swell its own kind.
The last thing we need be concerned about is the spread of liberal theology. It is understood to be one of the functions of this Association to scatter that seed; but it is not our only
sown; to organize the truth as it matures ander other culture than our own. Other hands are sowing for us. Forces more potent, missionaries more adroit, than any we can bring into the field, are enlisted on our side. There is no need for us to push our views : the providence of God is conducting the high propagandism of human progress in paths which lead to the same results. There is no need for us to assume the aggressive: the Jesuitry of events is plotting for us, and invading the Church with inextinguishable light.
One of the prime forces of the modern world is science. That agency, so damaging often to other connections, we hail as a friend and fast ally. And how does science promote liberal theology? I answer, In various ways, beside its direct applicacation to Scripture and creed in the shape of criticism. But
of the method of God.
The old systems of theology were connected in their origin with certain puerile conceptions of nature which science has dissipated. It is impossible that the methods of divine government and the programme of man's destiny should exhibit the same aspeet to modern thought, informed with modern conceptions of the universe, that they did to mediæval speculation. Most of those old dogmas contained a kernel of spiritual truth, which survives; but the doctrinal forms which embodied it have shrivelled in the light of facts, and are no longer presentable,
There is truth in the doctrine of the “Fall;" but the thesis of "man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe,” — the once accepted theory of an actual decline of historic man from a state of original perfection, — has another look since science has gone behind the Garden of Eden, and shown us man far away in the geologic ages, but little removed from the brute, and climbing by slow millenniums through weary stone periods into that advanced stage of intellectual and moral life which tradition ascribes to the Paradise watered by the Tigris and the Euphrates.
There is saving truth in the doctrine of the “Incarnation;" but the thesis of the personal relation of the individual historic Jesus to the universe of being can no longer seem the same that it could when the earth was the empire planet, the only inhabited world, and the sun and stars earth's greater and lesser lights.
Science - natural science – impugns no dogma of the Church; but it nullifies the Church perspective by distending the parallax of intellectual vision. It leaves the revelation of the Word untouched, but divulges revelations of its own, which furnish new conditions for the interpretation of that Word. Two revelations, especially, of supreme import, we owe to science, – the one correcting our reading of the future; the other, our reading of the past: astronomy, the revelation of infinite space; geology, the revelation of measureless time.
Science, as well as religion, has given to man a new heaven and a new earth, and so revolutionized our conception of the material universe, that the two great Christian poems, the “ Divina Commedia" and the “Paradise Lost," could not have employed the machinery and topography by which they are severally motived, if written in our day. To Dante's contemporaries there was nothing physically preposterous in a subterranean hell and purgatory, whose converging circles tunnelled the