Page images

a bird with its white extended wings, the beauty of the sea; in rough weather gathering them in, and with closed hatches riding buoyant on the enormous surges, washed from stem to stern with every wave; but rising out of the black sea, and holding on its way, till it gain its appointed harbor beyond the wide-heaving and tormented main.

The only real peace we can have is when we believe in evil, and prepare ourselves for war against it. Contented. optimism makes men more wretched than any thing else.

Theoretically, there may be difficulties in this question ; but, practically, there are none. Whatever may be said of physical and natural evil, sin must always be bad, — never can become good. “We wrestlé not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Good comes out of sin, every day; but sin itself is not, and never can be, good. The poet says truly,

“ Ill that God blesses is our good,

And unblest good is ill;
And all is right which seems most wrong,

If it be his sweet will." This is the optimism in which I do believe, — that all things work together for good to those who love God and hate evil. To them, all events are, indeed, providential; to others, accidental. To their eyes, God reigns, and the Devil is sure to be beaten at last; to others, evil and good are waging war with equal fortunes. To them, hell is only purgatory, to purify and redeem; to others, it is hopeless, and only black despair. To those who do not believe in God, and love him, this world is a hell already, and the earth is a fortuitous concourse of circling atoms; life, an aimless circuit round and round, tending nowhere; and the Devil, the real lord and master of the world. But the man of faith is necessarily an optimist in this better

sense. So the true optimism does not ignore or neglect evil, or consider it as only negative; but admits it, and fights against it, but in faith that it is to be conquered at last. The Church, in the past, has been too much afraid of evil, has shrunk away from it too much, and considered itself only as an ark to save a few from the deluge. It is, hereafter, to come forth more heartily, and battle more courageously against wrong; speaking the truth in love, and fighting the good fight of faith: and, in this great war, Christianity, forgetting its separate creeds and rituals, will be like a great army, with all armscavalry, infantry, artillery -going out under the great Captain to contend against all sin and evil.


ORDER OF EXERCISES. Tuesday, Oct. 13, 1863.—77, P.M., Sermon by Rev. Edward E. Hale, of Boston.

Wednesday. 8, A.M., Conference and Prayer Meeting. 9, A.M., Essay by Charles E. Norton, Esq., -"American Ideas applied to Religion and Politics;' followed by discussion till 11, P.M. 6, P.M., Sermon by Rev. Octavius B. Frothingham, of New York. 8, P.M., Collation in City Hall.

Thursday. — 8, A.M., Conference and Prayer Meeting. 9, A.M., Essay on “Optimism,” by Rev. James Freeman Clarke, of Boston; followed by discussion.

For twenty-two consecutive Octobers, the members of our Unitarian communion have assembled in convention at some point, more or less accessible, extending from Montreal on the north and east, to Baltimore on the south, and Syracuse on the west. In this period, they have assembled in seventeen distinct towns or cities.

They last convened in Springfield, Mass., Tuesday Oct. 13, 1863.

The gathering was much the largest on record; the delegates from abroad numbering not fewer than seven hundred, from about one hundred and fifty distinct parishes, located in one hundred and five towns and cities, from Maine to Kentucky, and including about ninety ministers, settled and unsettled, embracing many of those most widely known in and out of the denomination, and most highly respected.

This unusual attendance, though doubtless accountable for in part by the remarkably successful Convention held last year in Brooklyn, is even more largely attributable to causes more intrinsic and permanent. It is undeniable, that, owing to recent events, the body occupies, denominationally, a position before the public of much greater prominence and repute than ever before. It has suddenly been discovered to our credit, that, as a body, we have been always in the van of every reformatory or philanthropic movement; and, now, that radicalism, — in matters at least of social science, — which has hitherto been denounced as baneful and disastrous, forms our special claim to earnest and respectful consideration.

The natural effect of this prominence and consideration has been to generate among ourselves an increase of hitherto deficient esprit du corps, one of the first and most obvious fruits of which was observable in the attendance at Springfield.

All the services of the Convention took place in the Unitarian Church ; Rev. Francis Tiffany, pastor. The commodious edifice was completely filled at every meetTHE OFFICERS OF THE CONVENTION, elected on Wednesday morning, were, President. — Rev. Dr. HOSMER, of Buffalo. Vice-Presidents. – Rev. Dr. FARLEY, of Brooklyn ; JUDGE


CHAPIN, of Worcester. Secretaries. — Rev. GEORGE M. Rice, of Westford; Rev. C.

S. LOCKE, of West Dedham.

The press was represented in unusual force. Besides representatives of the two denominational papers, special reports of considerable fulness were prepared for the “Springfield Republican,” the “ New-York Evening Post," “Boston Daily Advertiser,” and “ Boston Journal,” by gentlemen from each of these papers. From these various reports, in part, the subjoined record of the Convention is compiled; and, in making this acknowledgment of indebtedness, it is but just to bear testimony to the general fidelity and accuracy of the several reports and abstracts referred to.

THE SERMONS were delivered by Rev. E. E. Hale, of Boston, and Rev. O. B. Frothingham, of New York; the former on Tuesday evening, the latter on Wednesday evening. Though noticeably dissimilar in thought and style, both discourses were of marked originality and power, and were listened to with the deepest interest.

Mr. HALE'S DISCOURSE was from the text in Matt. xii. 32:

“Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh a word against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him.”

The speaker said the central truth of personal religion is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit: it is, therefore, the central doctrine

of theology. This doctrine now commands, as never before, the assent and proclamation of every squadron and battalion of the Christian Church. The scholarship of the Church has always inclined to rest in written forms; but the life of Christianity breaks through these, and plants itself upon the vital doctrine of the presence of God with and in his people as the sole essential condition of truth and godliness. Luther re-asserted this doctrine, when he proclaimed individual justification by faith; and the Church, in denying and denouncing him, denied the essential doctrine of her own creed. Protestantism, in its worship of the living scripture, forgot that God is the ever-living; so that it came to need the Moravians, Zinzendorf, Fox, Swedenborg, Whitefield, the Wesleys, and Channing, to re-assert the truth, that the Holy Spirit is with the people of God, leading them into all truth. “ The word is nigh thee, in thy heart and in thy mouth.” It is clear that this must have been the doctrine of personal piety in all ages. . Whoever prays, believes that God is with him, and hears and answers him.

At this day, the presence of God with his people is generally accepted as the central idea of theology and a religious life. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has asserted itself, and won universal assent. In this steady advance of theology, it is evident there must come a reconstruction of theological systems. The sentiment of conservatism gives rise to a fear, that the Saviour, the written gospel, are superseded by every new revelation of the living God; as if, in the growth of a spiritual faith, there is a proportionate decline of evangelical religion.

The preacher controverted this idea, and proceeded to show that this triumph of the Holy Spirit is what Christ labored, hoped, and prayed for. It is the steady drift of his whole system. In the text, which is no isolated passage, but the expression and summing-up of the Saviour's whole teachings, he declares his indifference to what men thought of himself, if they gave allegiance to the Infinite God. The first brother of our brotherhood lived and died for this great idea, which is just beginning to dawn in its fulness on the world. Never has this gospel so triumphed as in the assent of the churches to the simplest and broadest statement of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

« PreviousContinue »