Page images

less trifler with men's dearest interests. If not false; thirdly, because if we had a creed I had been living at Johostown, Pa., and fitted to our wants to-day, we should either had for three years foreseen without a doubt have to stop growing in knowledge and that the fearful disaster was coming to that insight or else get a new one tomorrow; place which actually befell it, and if in all fourtbly, because neither Jesus nor the aposthose years, though mingling freely with

tles taught any, nor did the early church the people, I had definitely alluded to their possess any; fifthly, because history gives peril but three times in a way which would

unmistakable proof that creeds and authoricause anybody to note it down, and then

tative statements of doctrine have always only momentarily, and in such hurried and tended to tear the Christian Church to indefinite terms as left it doubtful whether, pieces, to multiply sects, to suggest and indeed, I had ever spoken of the matter at foster persecutions, and to hinder progress. all,—does anyone think the survivors of

Something Better.—But, while we have no that catastrophe would bless me now as their creed or fixed statement of doctrine which benefactor and their savior from danger? we prescribe as a condition of Christian SAMUEL C. BEANE,

fellowship, we do have a great, central princiNewburyport, Mass.

ple and a few great, simple, central faiths.

Our central principle is this: the necessary WHAT DO UNITARIANS BELIEVE ?

harmony of true religion with reason, or the

supreme authority of reason and moral conFor the purpose of rendering, if I may, sciousness in the search after religious truth. some little assistance to the large number of From this fundamental principle, everywhere persons all about us who are asking the held to among us, has resulted an essential above question, as well as with the hope, agreement as to the general, fundamental possibly, of stirring up others still who have faiths upon which our movement builds,not yet done so to inquire, I have prepared an agreement probably quite as great as can the following brief summary of information be found in churches which have authoritaregarding the principles and positions of tive creeds. Unitarians.

God. We believe God to be one, not three Freedom of Inquiry in Religion.—We be- or more; an intelligent First Cause, not an lieve that the same God who is the author ultimate blind force; beyond our utmost of religion is also the author of reason; that thought, powerful, wise, holy, just, good, there is no other way in which truth can not malignant, or indifferent, or in any way possibly be separated from error in religion imperfect; the embodiment of all, and more except by investigation and the use of rea- than all, that we can possibly mean by that son; and, therefore, that it is of the highest name which Jesus taught us to call him,importance that there should be everywhere “our Father,”—and hence one who can never the freest and fullest inquiry with reference cease to love and care for all his children, in to religious things, in this inquiry every this world or any other. man being permitted to stand upon his own Inspiration.- We believe that inspiration feet and to judge for himself, subject to no is not something which can be locked up in dictation or pressure from councils, synods, writing, or confined to any age or people, conferences, presbyteries, creeds, catechisms, but that now, to-day, and here with us, just fathers of the church, doctors of the church, as truly as two thousand or three thousand or preachers.

years ago, and in Palestine, the Infinite No Creed.—We have no creed; that is, Spirit of Wisdom, Truth, Beauty, and Love no authoritative statement of beliefs which waits to come with its inspiration into every persons are required to subscribe to,— first, receptive mind. because we believe to the fullest extent in Revelation.—We believe that revelation is liberty of thought, and would do nothing to progressive, pot stationary; that it is of all check it; secondly, because, in the very times, countries, and races, not of the renature of the case, it is impossible for any mote past or of a single people only; that two persons to see truth exactly alike, and it comes through many channels, including therefore a creed made by one man for an- nature, history, and the mind of man, not other must be more or less inadequate, if through any single channel alone or in any miraculous way; that, so far from revelation Conversion.-The word "convert" means being confined to one book, all moral and "to turn,” or “to turn about.” Inasmuch, spiritual truth known to man belongs to it; therefore, as all men, being imperfect, are that as a race we are now standing only in liable to commit errors, and fall to walking the morning dawn of revelation, not in its in ways that are not right, we believe that evening twilight.

all men have need to be converted,-not The Bible.- We believe that the Bible is once, but again and again. the greatest, the most influential, the most The New Birth. We believe that to be important, the noblest depository of this born again, and to continue to be born revelation that has come down to us from again, into new and perpetually new, into the past, and is therefore to be prized by us finer and higher and forevermore finer and as the most precious and sacred of books, higher spiritual life, is what Jesus taught to though not as the only sacred book of the be the law of our being and the design of world, nor by any means an infallible book. the Creator for all men.

Jesus.— Accepting the Bible teaching that Salvation. We believe in salvation by all men are “sons of God," we yet believe character, not salvation by purchase or that Jesus, by reason of the exceptional transfer; and that Jesus saves men solely by purity and perfectness of his character, was helping them to become better, not by vicapre-eminently what the New Testament in riously atoning for their sins. a number of places calls him,--the son of The whole idea, in all its forms, that God, God. We believe him to have been divine, before he can or will pardon men's sins, but not Deity,—as we believe that humanity, must have some third party to make him in the degree of its perfection, is everywhere willing, or some sort of "plan" or "scheme,” divine. We teach tender love and earnest whereby he becomes able to pardon, we reverence toward him; but we do not wor- utterly reject. We believe that God's patership him, because, among other reasons, he pity is real, and not a mere pretense of himself, both by word and example, taught paternity; and therefore that the moment us to worship only God, his Father and ours. any human child of his manifests sincere

Coming to Jesus.—While we believe that penitence, and seeks forgiveness of his sin, no words in our day are more often used God freely and joyfully forgives, without among certain large classes of religious any thought ever of requiring first the sufpeople in a sense which has in it no sense, fering of an innocent person in the place of but is mere sentimentalism and cant, we at the guilty. In our reading of the parable the same time most sincerely believe in a of the Prodigal Son,—that part of the teachreal coming to Jesus; that is, a coming ing of Jesus in which he illustrates most (through study and reflection and effort) to fully God's dealing with his erring children, a constantly more and more perfect imita- —we find the father represented as running tion of or conformity to his pure and exalted to meet the penitent son “while he was yet spirit and life.

a great way off”; and we do not find even Believing in Jesus.—Believing in Jesus we a hint that the elder brother, who had not do 110t understand to consist in believing sinned, was required first to make an any speculative theological doctrines about "atonement" for the younger, or to “interhim,- as his incarnation, his deity, his cede” for him, or to "satisfy justice," or to atonement, his relation to a trinity. True "propitiate" the father, or to do anything in believing in Jesus we understand to consist any way to promote the father's willingness in believing in him,- in what he was and or ability to forgive. did, in the kind of life he lived and charac- The Guilt of the Race for Adam's Transter he exhibited, in such love to God and gression.—We believe that nobody can be man, such devotion to truth and duty, such guilty for anybody's sin but his own. beautiful self-sacrifice, such patience and Good and Evil.-We believe that the gentleness, such bravery and fidelity, as he world is not fallen, but incomplete; and everywhere taught and exemplified.

that, in the nature of things, evil is tranFollowing Christ. We believe that the sient, and good eternal. truest following of Christ is to go about Human Nature.- We believe that human doing good.

nature is imperfect, but not inherently bad;


that it has been wisely appointed to man to Church Membership.We believe that the rise by slow degrees and long and even pain- true basis of church membership and all ful effort out of low conditions into condi- Christian fellowship is not an intellectual tions ever higher and better, and not that belief of formulated creeds or articles of we are the degenerate descendants of pure faith, but a sincere desire to unite for a and perfect ancestors in some remote past.


of Christian worship, We believe that the race, as a whole, oc- moral culture, and human belpfulness. cupies a higher plane to-day than ever be- Science and Religion.- We believe that scifore, and that this progress of the past gives ence and religion, having the same author, us ground for faith in a greatly increased can never, by any possibility, be antagonisprogress in the future.

tic, but that true religion is scientific, and Retribution.- We believe that no wrong- true science is religious. We cheerfully acdoing will go unpunished, and no right- knowledge that science has already been of doing unrewarded; that all punishment for incalculable service to religion in helping sin is natural, not arbitrary, reformatory in to rid it of many degrading and hurtful its aim, not vindictive, and therefore cannot superstitions and errors; and we bid all sciin the nature of things be everlasting. entific investigators a most sincere God.

Heaven and Hell.— The doctrine of an speed in any and every investigation which eternal hell we unqualifiedly reject, as the can throw light upon any of the great religfoulest imputation upon the character of ious questions of the time. God possible to be conceived, and as some- Fellowship of Religions.—While we believe thing which would render happiness in that Christianity is the highest and best heaven itself impossible, since no beings religion of the world, we believe also that whose hearts were not stone could be happy the other great religions of mankind have anywhere, knowing that half the human in them much that is true and of God, and family, including many of their own loved that God, ivstead of having arbitrarily ones, were in torments. Instead of such chosen out one single people and made it a dark and God-dishonoring doctrine, we the sole channel of his communication with believe that the future existence will be the race, leaving the rest in midnight darkone ruled by Eternal Justice and Love, that ness, “has not left himself without witness” he whom in this world we call "our Father" among any people, and that “in every nawill be no less a Father to all his human tion he that feareth God and worketh rightchildren in the world to come, and that that eousness [according to the best light he has] world will be so planned as not only to is accepted with God.” bring eternal good to all who bave done The Above.—The above, while not a creed, well here, but also to offer eternal hope to or authoritative statement, or one binding such as have done ill here.

upon any but the writer, is yet believed to Faith and Works.—We believe in faith,- be in essential harmony with what is comfaith in God, faith in inan, faith in truth, monly held and taught as fundamental faith in duty, and that all these faiths are among Unitarians, as it is also believed to "saving faiths." We believe in works,- be in essential harmony with reason, scithat the more good works a man does, so ence, the best scholarship and thought of that his motives be good, the better pleasing the age, and the teachings of Jesus. to Heaven is his life; and that no salvation of any worth ever comes to any human being SOME LEADING POINTS OF UNITARIAN BELIEF, except through faithful and earnest work.

Worship, Love, and Service of God.-We 1. One God, and only one, the Father, a believe that man is as much made to wor- Spirit, the only proper object of worship; in ship as to think, but that perfect worship of contradistinction from a trinity, and worGod includes reverence for everything bighship of Jesus or of the Virgin Mary. Matt. and pure in humanity; that perfect love of vi. 9; Mark xii. 29; John iv. 24, xvii. 3, God includes love to all God's children; xx. 17; Eph. iv. 6; 1 Tim. ii. 5. that he best serves God who is most useful, 2. Jesus not God the Son, but the son of and who obeys best every law of his being, God (his sonship consisting in moral god-physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual. likeness, many others besides him being



James Russell Lowell,
Oliver Wendell Holmes,


Richard Hildreth,
Williain H. Prescott,

Francis Parkman,


David A. Wasson,
John Weiss,

James T. Fields,


Maria Mitchell,

Samuel G. Howe,
Abbott Lawrence,

(of Harvar

Dorothea Dix,

Prof. Ezra Abbot,



President Jefferson,

Gov. John A. Andrew,

Fisher Ames,

Dorman B. Eaton,

called in Scripture “sons of God"); not

Henry W. Longfellow, John G. Whittier Deity, but divine (all humanity being the William Cullen Bryant,

(Unitarian Quaker),

Bayard Taylor, “offspring of God,” and therefore, in the

John W. Chadwick, degree of its perfection, divine). Matt. xvi.

Helen Hunt Jackson. 16; Acts ix. 20; Acts xvii. 29; 1 John iii.

John Lothrop Motley, 1, 2; Hosea i. 10; Matt. v. 9; Gen. i. 27;

Jared Sparks. James iii. 9.

3. Human nature not inherently evil (nor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, as the creeds of at least two of our great

Edwin P. Whipple,

Thomas W. Higginson, Christian denominations say, “dead in sin,

Henry D. Thoreau,

Charles Sprague,
George Ripley,

0. B. Frothingham, wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts

Bret Hartė,

Edward Everett Hale. of soul aud body, and therefore bound over

Lydia Maria Child,

Lucretia Mott to the wrath of God”), but created "in the Margaret Fuller,

(Unitarian Quaker)

Louisa May Alcott, image of God,” and even in its lowest es- Julia Ward Howe,

Mary A. Livermore. tate containing much that is beautiful, noble, and well-pleasing to God. Gen. i. 26, 27;

President C. W. Eliot

University), Rom. ii. 14, 15; Mark x. 14, 15; Luke vii.

Peter Cooper,

Chancellor Wm. G. Eliot

(of Washington Univ.), 1-9 and 36-48.

Joseph Tuckerman,
Henry Berg,

Nathaniel Bowditch, 4. God's love universal and everlasting, Horace Mann,

Louis Agassiz. extending as much to the next world as to

Daniel Webster, this; all punishment remedial and discipli- President John Q. Adains, Josiah Quincy

President Fillmore,

Sumner, nary; all men finally to be saved. Isa. xlix.

John C. Calhoun, 15; Jer. xxxi. 3; Ps. cxxxvi. 1; Matt. xviii. Benjamin Franklin, Charles Francis Adams,

Chief Justice Marshall, 14; Col. i. 20; Heb. xii. 5-10; 1 Cor. xv.

Edward Everett,

U.S. Supreme Judges

Wayne and Miller, 22-28; Luke xv. 20-24.

Harrison Gray Otis,

Judge Joseph Story, Judge Geo. W. McCrary, 5. The Bible the most important and

George William Curtis. sacred of books, but not to be accepted as infallible, because in some of its parts op accurate, yet it is very nearly so.

This list does not claim to be absolutely

It falls posed to the teachings of science, the best below rather than exceeds the truth. In. conscience and reason of our time, and the deed, another longer list, of names nearly teachings of Jesus. Matt. v. 33–44. Com

as eminent, could easily be made out. pare Matt. v. 44 with Ps. cix., with Deut.

It would also be easy to make out a list xix. 13-21, with Josh. xi. 6-23, and with nearly or quite as striking of eminent Uni1 Sam. xv. 2-11. Josh. x. 12–13; Jonah

tarians of England and other foreign couni. 17, and ii. 10.

tries. 6. Conscience sacred; inquiry to be full

We have not included the names of and free. Luke xii. 54–57; Rom. xiv. 1-5;

eminent Universalists, though Universalists 1 Cor. x. 15; 1 Thess. v. 21. 7. Man's whole duty included in love to

are Unitarians, as are Hicksite Friends, and God and love to man. Mark xii. 29–33;

most of that large religious body in this Rom. xiii. 8-10.

country kuown as “Christians.” The Pro

gressive Jews are also essentially with us, REPRESENTATIVES OF AMERICAN UNITARIANISM. as well as an ever increasing number of the For the benefit of any who may not have

more liberal thinkers in all the orthodox had their attention called to the great prom- denominations. The Broad Church party inence that Unitarians are coming to have in the English Churcb, and in the American in the best literature, scholarship, thought, Episcopal Church, and the New Theology reform, statesmanship, and religious teach- men in the Congregational body are a long ing of the times, a partial list is given way on the road toward Unitarianism; while below of eminent American Unitarians : the religious teachings of such liberal inde

pendents as Rev. David Swing, Dr. H. W. William E. Channing, Andrew P. Peabody,

Thomas, and Henry Ward Beecher are esTheodore Parker, Ezra Stiles Gannett, Cyrus A. Bartol,

sentially ours except in name. George R. Noyes,

James Freeman Clarke,
Orville Dewey,
William R. Alger,

New England is the part of the United Thomas Starr King,

Minot J. Savage, Henry W. Bellows,

States where organized Unitarianism most Ralph Waldo Emerson, Brooke Herford,

prevails. The city of Boston has twentyFrederic H. Hedge, Robert Collyer.


Thomas Hill,

Wm. H. Furness,


nine Unitarian churches. Yet the real in- upon the Sermou on the Mount as a perfect fluence of Unitarianism is nowhere, not even code. In this faith he lived with uninterin Boston, to be measured by the number of rupted serenity, and in it he died with per. its churches. Unitarian views are spread- fect resignation.” ing in every direction,-among the educated The Sermon on the Mount, so rational, so and thinking classes, among the common universal in its application, our most compeople, into the orthodox bodies. Dean plete statement of Jesus' teachings,-but Stanley, shortly before he died, expressed containing, be it noticed, no intimation of the conviction that the Liberal Theology his Deity, the Trinity, the Fall of the Race will be the prevailing theology of the twen- in Adam, the Atonement, the Infallibility of tieth or the twenty-first century.

the Bible (except to deny it,-see Matt. v. The American Unitarian Association, 25 33-44), Election, or any other of the disBeacon Street, Boston, is the leading organi- tinctive, leading doctrines of “Orthodoxy,”— zation of the denomination in this country. this sublime and wonderful sermon of Jesus Any person desiring information, books, or has never been by any people so persistently tracts on Unitarian subjects, can obtain the set forth and urged as a sufficient religious same by applying to that address.

code as it has been by Unitarians during

their entire history. Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND UNITARIANISM. and most judicial minds that America has Says the author of "Six Months at the produced, left behind him this creed, as the White House," with reference to the religresult of his life-long study and reflection : ious creed of President Lincoln: “The con“I believe in one God, the Creator of the versation turned upon religious subjects, and Universe ; that he governs it by his provi- Mr. Lincoln made this impressive remark: dence; that the most acceptable service we 'I have never united myself to any church, render to him is doing good to his other because I have found difficulty in giving my children; that the soul of man is immortal, assent, without mental reservation, to the and will be treated with justice in another long, complicated statements of Christian life respecting its conduct in this. These I doctrine which characterize their articles of take to be the fundamental points in all belief and confessions of faith. When any sound religion. As to Jesus of Nazareth, I church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole think his system and his religion, as he left qualification for membership, the Saviour's them to us, the best that the world ever saw condensed statement of the substance of or is likely to see; but I apprehend they both Law and Gospel, “Thou shalt love the have received various corrupting changes, Lord thy God with all thy heart and with and I have, with most of the present dissen. all thy soul and with all thy mind, and thy ters of England, some doubts of his divinity.” neighbor as thyself,” that church will I join

This statement of belief, embracing the with all my heart and with all my soul.”” ripest conclusions of perhaps the greatest Had President Lincoln only known it, mind of the New World, constitutes, as will there is one Christian church which does be seen, a correct, condensed statement of "inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualificathe doctrines commonly held by Unitarians. tion for membership,” exactly this sublime

injunction of Jesus.

J. T. SUNDERLAND. Says Charles Francis Adams, writing of

Ann Arbor, Mich. his grandfather, John Adams: “He devoted himself to a very elaborate examination of

THE BLESSING OF SERVICE.* the religions of all ages and nations, the

New blessings every morning, result of which he committed to paper.

New blessings still at eve, The issue of it was the formation of his Our lives with goodness crowning, theological opinions very much in the mould

We as Thy gift receive.

As are the stars in number, adopted by the Unitarians of New England.

As are the seashore sands, Rejecting the prominent doctrines of Cal- So many are the bounties vinism,—the Trinity, the Atonement, and

Still flowing from Thy hands. Election,-he was content to settle down

*A hymn composed for the New York League of Unitarian Women, January, 1891.

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »