A True Theology the Basis of Human Progress

by James Freeman Clarke

The subject of the present lecture is "A True Theology the Basis of Human Progress." And, in order to strike the key-note, and to indicate the object at which I aim, I will read four or five passages from the New Testament, which describe such a Theology in its spirit and root.

The Apostle Paul says: "I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark." So he declares himself a Progressive Christian.

Again he says: "We know in part, and we prophesy [or teach] in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." So he declares that all intellectual statements, his own included, are relative and provisional. He is here speaking, doubtless, not of rational insights, but of the insight when elaborated by the intellect into a statement; not of intuitional knowledge, but that which comes from reflection. In regard to all such propositions, he would accept the modern doctrine of the Relativity of Knowledge; thus cutting up by the roots the poisonous weed of Bigotry.

My Thesis to-night is not a truism; my argument is not unnecessary or uncalled for. Nothing is more common than to undervalue the importance of Theology; to regard it as having no bearing on life, no influence on human progress, no causative power in regard to civilization. Mr. Buckle, one of the most recent English philosophical historians, contends that Theology is the result rather than the cause of national character; that it is merely symptomatic of the condition of a people. If they are in a good condition, they have a good Theology; if in a bad condition, a bad one. He even thinks it owing to a mistaken zeal that Christians try to propagate their religion, because he believes that savages cannot become Christians. Civilization, Mr. Buckle supposes, depends greatly upon soil, upon climate, upon food, upon the trade-winds; but not much upon religious ideas. He says that, in England, "theological interests have long ceased to be supreme." "The time for these things has passed by." And this is also a very common opinion among ourselves. Many reformers have a notion that we have done with Theology, that we can do without it. Some men of science tell us that Theology has nothing to do with the advance of civilization, but that this comes from discovery in the sphere of physical science. But I believe that the one thing which retards the progress of reform is a false philosophy concerning God and man, a false view of God's ideas concerning this world; and that the one thing needful for Human Progress is a deeper, higher, broader view of God and his ways. And I hope to be able to show some grounds for this opinion.

The religious instinct in man is universal. Some individuals and some races possess more of it, and others less; but the history of mankind shows that religion in some form is one of the most indestructible elements of human nature. But whether this religious instinct shall appear as faith or as fanaticism; whether it shall be a blind enthusiasm or an intelligent conviction; whether it shall be a tormenting superstition or a consoling peace; whether it shall lead to cruel persecutions or to heavenly benevolence; all this, and more, depends on Theology. Religion is a blind instinct: the ideas of God, man, duty, destiny, which determine its development, constitute Theology.

The same law holds concerning Conscience and Ethics. Conscience in the form of a moral instinct is universal in man. In every human breast there is a conviction that something is right and something wrong; but what that right and wrong is depends on Ethics. In every language of man, there are words which imply ought and ought not, duty, responsibility, merit, and guilt. But what men believe they ought to do, or ought not to do,—that depends on the education of their conscience; that is, on their Ethics.

Conscience, like religion, is man's strength, and his weakness. Conscience makes cowards of us all; but it is the strong-siding champion which makes heroes of us all. Savages are cruel, pirates are cruel; but they cannot be as cruel as a good man, with a misguided conscience. The most savage heart has some touch of human kindness left in it, which nothing can quite conquer,—nothing but conscience. That can make man as hard as Alpine rock, as cold as Greenland ice. The torture-rooms and autos da fe of the Inquisition surpass the cruelties of the North American Indian. The cruelties of instinct are faint compared with the cruelties of conscience. Now what guides conscience to good or to evil? Theology, in the form of Ethics, is the guide of conscience. For, as soon as man believes in a God, he believes in the authority of his God to direct and control his actions. Whatever his God tells him to do must be right for him to do. Therefore religion in its inward form is either a debasing and tormenting superstition or a glad faith, according to the Theology with which it is associated. And religion, in its outward form, is either an impure and cruel despotism or an elevating morality, according to the idea of God and Duty which guide it; that is, according to its associated Theology.

Some persons, like Lucretius, seeing the evils of Superstition, Bigotry, and Fanaticism, and perceiving that these have their root in religion, have endeavored to uproot religion itself. But could this be effected, which is impossible, it would be like wishing to get rid of the atmosphere, because it is sometimes subject to tempests, and sometimes infected with malaria. Religion is the atmosphere of the soul, necessary to the healthful action of its life, to be purified, but not renounced.

Every one has a Theology, who has even a vague idea of a God; and every one has this who has an idea of something higher and better than himself, higher and better than any of his fellow-men. The Atheist therefore may have a God, though he does not call him so. For God is not a word, not a sound: he is the Infinite Reality which we see, more or less dimly, more or less truly, rising above us, and above all our race. The nature of this ideal determines for each of us what we believe to be right or wrong; and so it is that our Theology rules our conscience, and that our conscience determines with more or less supremacy the tendency and stress of our life.

No one can look at the History of the Human Race without seeing what an immense influence religion has had in human affairs. Every race or nation which has left its mark on Human Progress has itself been under the commanding control of some great religion. The ancient civilization of India was penetrated to the core by the institutions of Brahmanism; the grand development of Egyptian knowledge was guided by its priesthood; the culture of China has been the meek disciple of Confucius for two thousand years. Whenever any nation emerges out of darkness into light,—Assyria, Persia, Greece, or Rome,—it comes guided and inspired by some mighty religion. The testimony of History is that religion is the most potent of all the powers which move and govern human action.

Such is the story of the past. How is it at the present time? Has mankind outgrown the influence of religion to-day? Has the spread of knowledge, the advance of science, the development of literature, art, culture, weakened its power in Christendom? Never was there so much of time, thought, effort, wealth, consecrated to the Christian Church as there is now. Both branches of that Church, the Catholic and Protestant, are probably stronger to-day than they ever were before. Some few persons can live apart from religious institutions; but mankind cannot dispense with religion, and they need it organized into a Church or Churches.

Religion is a great power, and will remain so. But what is to determine the character of this power? It may impede progress or advance it; it may encourage thought or repress it; it may diffuse knowledge or limit it; it may make men free or hold them as slaves; it may be a generous, manly, free, and moral religion or a narrow, bigoted, intolerant, fanatical, sectarian, persecuting superstition. It has been both: it is both to-day. What is to decide which it shall be? I answer, its Theology; the views it holds concerning God, man, duty, immortality, the way and the means of salvation. Religion is an immense power: how that power is to be directed depends on Theology.

Proceeding then with my theme, I shall endeavor to show how false ideas in Theology tend to check the progress of humanity, and afterward how true ideas always carry mankind onward along an ascending path of improvement.

But first let me say that my criticism is of ideas, not of sects, churches, nor individuals. By a true Theology, I mean neither a Unitarian nor a Trinitarian Theology, neither a Catholic nor a Protestant Theology. I do not mean Calvinism nor Arminianism. I have nothing to say concerning these distinctions, however important they may be; and I, for one, consider them important. But I refer to a distinction more important still, lying back of these distinctions, lying beneath them; a difference not of opinions so much as of ideas and spirit.

By a true Theology, I mean a manly Theology, as opposed to a childish one; a free, as opposed to a servile one; a generous, as opposed to a selfish one; a reasonable and intelligent Theology, as opposed to a superstitious one.

By a true Theology, I mean one which regards God as a father, and man as a brother; which looks upon this life as a preparation for a higher; which believes that God gives us freedom, inspires our reason, and is the author of whatever is generous, self-forgetting, and noble. I find something of this Theology in all sects and churches; from the Roman Catholic at one extreme, to the Universalists and Unitarians, the Spiritualists and Come-outers, at the other. And the opposite, the false Theology, dishonorable to God, degrading to man, I find in all sects, and accompanying all creeds. And if I shall show, as truth compels me to show, that certain parties and persons are specially exposed to danger in one or another direction, I wish distinctly to state my belief that sincere and earnest men continually rise above the contagion of their position, and live untainted in an atmosphere which may have in it some special tendency to disease.

One false idea in Theology, which opposes human progress, is that Pantheistic view of the Deity, which loses sight of his personality, and conceives of him as a blind, infinite force, pervading all Nature, and carrying on the universe, but without intelligence and without love.

I know indeed that many views have been accused of being Pantheism which are not. I do not believe in a God outside of the universe. I believe that he is one "in whom we live, and move, and have our being," one "from whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things,"—a perpetual Creator, immanent in his world. But this view is quite consistent with a belief in his personal being, in his intelligent, conscious, loving purpose. Without such a belief, hope dies out of the heart; and without hope mankind loses the energy which creates progress. Unless we have an intelligent Friend who governs the universe, it will seem to be moving blindly on toward no divine end; and this thought eats out the courage of the soul.

In some poetical natures, as in the case of Shelley, this Pantheism takes the form of faith in a spirit of beauty, or love, or intellectual power, pervading all things. In more prosaic minds it becomes a belief in law, divorced from love. It turns the universe into a machine, worked by forces whose mutual action unfolds and carries on the magnificent Cosmos. Often this view comes, by way of a reaction, against an excessive Personality of Will. When the Christian Church speaks of the Deity as an Infinite Power outside of the world, who creates it and carries it on according to some contrivance, of which his own glory is the end, it is perhaps natural that men should go to the other extreme and omit person, will, and design from their conception of Deity. But thus they encounter other and opposite dangers.

A gospel of mere law is no sufficient gospel. It teaches prudence, but omits Providence. This utilitarian doctrine, which reduces every thing to law,—which makes the Deity only a Great Order, not a Father or Friend,—would soon put a stop to the deepest spring of human progress. It takes faith and hope out of our life, and substitutes observation, calculation, and prudence. But the case of Ecclesiastes and of Faust teaches us what comes from knowledge emptied of faith. He who increases such knowledge increases sorrow. The unknown, wonderful Father; the divine, mysterious Infinite; the great supernatural power and beauty above Nature, and above all,—these alone make life tolerable. Without this brooding sense of a Divine love, of a Heaven beyond this world, of a Providence guiding human affairs, men would not long have the heart to study, because all things would seem to be going nowhere. Without such a Heavenly Friend to trust, such an immortal progress to hope, all things would seem to revolve in a circle. Not to believe in something more than a God of Law is to be without God in the world, is to be without hope. And hope is the spring of all progress, intellectual progress as well as all other. Intellect, divorced from faith, at last kills intellect itself, by destroying its inner motive. It ends in a doctrine of despair, which cries continually, "What is the use?" and finds no answer. And so the soul dies the only death the soul can die,—the death of torpor and inaction.

Another false idea in Theology, which interferes with human progress, is that of ecclesiastical authority in matters of faith and practice. When the Church comes between the soul and God, and seeks to be its master rather than its servant, it takes from it that direct responsibility to God, which is one of the strongest motives for human effort. I know that this has always been done from a sincere desire, at any rate in the beginning, to save men from apparent dangers. The Church has assumed authority, in order to do good with it. It has commanded men not to think for themselves, lest they should err. But God has meant that we should be liable to error, in order that we should learn to avoid it by increased strength. Therefore Christ said, "Be not called Rabbi; be not called Masters, and call no man father on earth." His church, and his apostles, and he himself are here, not to be masters of the soul, but to be its servants.

The Roman Catholic Church is a great organization, which has gradually grown up, during a thousand years, the object of which has been to educate men in Christian faith and Christian conduct. It has sincerely endeavored to do this. But, unfortunately, it took a narrow view of Christian education; supposing that it meant instruction and guidance, restraint and tuition, but not development. It has magnified its own authority, in order to produce docility in its pupils. It has not allowed them freedom of inquiry nor liberty of conscience. It has not said, like Paul, "Be not children in understanding;" on the contrary, it has preferred to keep them children, so as to guide them more easily. It has not said, with Paul, "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free;" for it has come to hate the very name of liberty. What is the result? You may read it to-day in France, where, as Mr. Coquerel tells us, that Church has prevented the steady development of free institutions. It has always supported the principle of authority in the State, as the natural ally of authority in the Church. There are so few republicans in France to-day, because the people have been educated by the Church to blind submission. The priests are not to blame, the people are not: it is the Roman Catholic Theology which is to blame. That Theology teaches that the soul is saved by the reception of external sacraments, and not by vital, independent convictions of truth.

Or, if you wish another illustration of the same thing, look at New York. Why have republican institutions in New York almost proved a failure? Why were a few robbers able to take possession of the city, and plunder the citizens? Because they could control the votes of the Irish Catholics in a mass; because this vast body of voters were unable to vote independently, or to understand the first duties of a free citizen. And why was this? Not because the Irish are naturally less intelligent than the New-Englanders, the English, the Germans. No; but the Roman Catholic Church, which has had the supreme control over the Irish conscience and intellect for a thousand years, has chosen to leave them uneducated. Of course, the Roman Church, if it had pleased to do so, might long ago have made the Irish nation as enlightened as any in Europe. But its Theology taught that education might lead them into heresy, and so take them out of the true Church, and that ignorance in the Church was infinitely better than any amount of intellectual and moral culture out of it. The fatal principle of Roman Catholic Theology—"Out of the true Church there is no salvation"—has been the ruin of the Irish nation for hundreds of years, and has very nearly entailed ruin on our own.

Do you wonder that the priests oppose our school system? If I were a Roman Catholic priest, I should oppose it too. Should I run the risk of poisoning my child's body by accepting as a gift a little better food than that I am able to buy? And shall I risk the vastly greater evil of poisoning its soul, by allowing it to be tainted with heretical books and teachers in free schools? The Roman Catholic priest is consistent: it is the Theology which teaches salvation by sacraments that is to blame. It is a theology which naturally, logically, necessarily, stands opposed to human progress. It says, "In order to be children in malice, you must also be children in understanding."

When the Protestant Reformation came, it brought with it a manly Theology. It put the Bible into all men's hands, and asserted for each the right of private judgment and liberty of conscience. Therefore the Reformation was the cause of a great forward movement in human affairs. It awakened the intellect of mankind. Science, literature, invention,—all were stimulated by it. It ran well, but something hindered. Its reverence for the Bible was its life; but, unfortunately, it soon fell into a worship of the letter. It taught a doctrine of verbal inspiration. It forgot the great saying of Paul, "not of the letter, but the spirit; for the letter killeth." Very soon that saying was fulfilled. Reverence for the letter of the Bible killed the spirit of the Bible. That spirit is as free as air. It teaches no creed, it demands no blind acceptance of any dogma. It declares that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But the letter-theology has opposed nearly all the discoveries of science and all moral reforms with the words of the Bible. It has set Genesis against geology, and the book of Psalms against the Copernican system. Because the Book of Genesis says the heavens and earth were made in six days, the letter-theology declared that the fossil shells were made in the rocks just as they are, or were dropped by pilgrims returning from the Holy Land. Because the book of Psalms said that "God hath established the earth so that it shall not be moved for ever," the letter-theology denied its daily and yearly revolution. Because Noah said, "Cursed be Canaan," the letter-theology defended the slavery of the negro. Because Noah also said, "He who sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," the letter-theology has defended capital punishment as a religious duty. Because the Jews were commanded to rest on the seventh day, the letter-theology forbids the Boston Public Library to be open on the first. Becoming ever more timid and more narrow, it clings to the letter of the common English translation, and the received text. It even shrinks from alterations which would give us the true letter of the Bible, instead of the false one.

Some years ago the American Bible Society appointed a committee of the most learned scholars, from all Orthodox denominations, to correct the text and the translation of our common English Bible, so as to make it conform to the true Hebrew and Greek text. They were not to make a new translation, but merely to correct palpable, undoubted errors in the old one. They did their work; printed their corrected Bible; laid it before the Bible Society,—and that Society refused to adopt it. They had not the slightest doubt of its superior correctness; but they feared to make any change, lest others might be called for, and lest the faith of the community might be disturbed in the integrity of the Scriptures. Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth, to take of his truth and show it to them; but they did not believe him. They preferred to anchor themselves to the words chosen by King James's translators than to be led by the Spirit into any new truth. So it is that "the letter killeth." It stands in the way of progress. It keeps us from trusting in that ever-present Spirit which is ready to inspire us all to-day, as it inspired prophets and apostles of old. It is an evidence not of faith, but of unbelief.

Thus, this false idea in Theology, that inspiration rests in the letter of a book or a creed rather than in its spirit, is seen to be opposed to human progress.

And then there is another Theology which is opposed to human progress. It is the Theology of Fear. It speaks of hell rather than of heaven; it seeks to terrify rather than to encourage; it drives men by dread of danger rather than leads them by hope. Its ruling idea is of stern, implacable justice; its God is a God of vengeance, who cannot pardon unless the full penalty of sin has been borne by some victim; whose mercy ceases at death; who can only forgive sin during our short human life, not after we have passed into the other world. To assuage his anger, or appease his justice, there must be devised some scheme of salvation, or plan of redemption. He cannot forgive of pure, free grace, and out of his boundless love.

Now those who hold such a Theology as this will apply its spirit in human affairs. It will go into penal legislation, into the treatment of criminals. It will make punishment the chief idea, not reformation. Jesus taught a boundless compassion, an infinite tenderness toward the sinful, the weak, the forlorn people of the world. He taught that the strong are to bear the burdens of the weak, the righteous to help the wicked, and that we are to overcome evil with good. When this principle is applied in human affairs, the great plague spots of society will disappear: intemperance, licentiousness, pauperism, crime, will be cured radically. Society, purified from these poisons, will go forward to nobler achievements than have ever yet been dreamed of. But this principle will not be applied while the fear-theology prevails, and is thought more of than that of love. The progress of human society depends on the radical cure of these social evils, not their mere restraint. And they can only be cured by such a view of the divine holiness and the divine compassion as is taught by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Prodigal Son; showing the root of crime in sin, and inspiring a profound faith in God's saving love.

It may seem to some persons that I go too far in asserting that a true Theology is at the basis of human progress. They may ascribe human progress to other causes,—to the advance of knowledge, to scientific discovery, to such inventions as printing, the steam-engine, the railroad, and the like. But I believe that spiritual ideas are at the root of all others. That which one thinks of God, duty, and immortality,—in short, his Theology,—quickens or deadens his interest in every thing else. Whatever arouses conscience, faith, and love, also awakens intellect, invention, science, and art. If there is nothing above this world or beyond this life; if we came from nothing and are going nowhere, what interest is there in the world? "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." But if the world is full of God,—if we come from him and are going to him,—then it becomes everywhere intensely interesting, and we wish to know all about it. Science has followed always in the steps of religion, and not the reverse. The Vedas went before Hindoo civilization; the Zend-Avesta led the way to that of Persia; the oldest monuments of Egypt attest the presence of religious ideas; the Laws of Moses preceded the reign of Solomon; and that civilization which joined Greeks, Romans, Goths, Vandals, Franks, and Saxons in a common civilization, derived its cohesive power from the life of Him whose idea was that love to man was another form of love to God. "The very word humanity," says Max Müller, "dates from Christianity." No such idea, and therefore no such term, was found among men before Christ came.

But it may be said that these instances are from such obscure epochs that it is uncertain how far it was religion which acted on civilization. Let us, then, take one or two instances, concerning which there is less uncertainty.

In the deserts, and among the vast plains of the Arabian Peninsula, a race had slumbered inactive for twenty centuries. Those nomad-Semitic tribes had wandered to and fro, engaged in perpetual internecine warfare, fulfilling the prediction concerning Ishmael, "He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him." No history, no civilization, no progress, no nationality, no unity, could be said to exist during that long period among these tribes. At length a man comes with a religious idea, a living, powerful conviction. He utters it, whether man will bear or forbear. He proclaims the unity and spirituality of God in spite of all opposition and persecution. At last his idea takes hold of the soul of this people. What is the result? They flame up into a mighty power; they are united into an irresistible force; they sweep over the world in a few decades of years; they develop a civilization superior to any other then extant. Suddenly there springs up in their midst a new art, literature, and science. Christendom, emasculated by an ecclesiastical and monastic Theology, went to Islam for freedom of thought, and found its best culture in the Mohammedan universities of Spain. Bagdad, Cairo, Damascus, Seville, Cordova, became centres of light to the world. The German conquerors darkened the regions they overran: the Mohammedans enlightened them. The caliphs and viziers patronized learning and endowed colleges, and some of their donations amounted to millions of dollars. Libraries were collected. That of a single doctor was a load for four hundred camels. That of Cairo contained a hundred thousand manuscripts, which were lent as freely as those in the Boston Public Library. The College Library of Cordova had four hundred thousand. In these places grammar, logic, jurisprudence, the natural sciences, the philosophy of Aristotle, were taught to students who flocked to them from all parts of Christendom. Many of the professors taught from memory: one man is reported to have been able to repeat three thousand poems. The Saracens wrote treatises on geography, numismatics, medicine, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics. Some, like Avicenna, went through the whole circle of the sciences. The Saracens invented pharmacy, surgery, chemistry. Geber, in the eighth century, could prepare alcohol, sulphuric acid, nitric acid, corrosive sublimate, potash, and soda. Their astronomers measured a degree of the earth's meridian near Bagdad, and determined its circumference as twenty-four thousand miles. They found the length of the year, and calculated the obliquity of the ecliptic. Roger Bacon quotes their treatises on optics. Trigonometry retains the form given it by the Arabs, and they greatly improved Algebra. We received from them our numerical characters. We all know the beauty and permanence of their architecture, and much of our musical knowledge is derived from them. They also made great progress in scientific agriculture and horticulture, in mining and the working of metals, in tanning and dying leather. Damascus blades, morocco, enamelled steel, the manufacture and use of paper, the use of the pendulum, the manufacture of cotton, public libraries, a national police, rhyme in verse, and our arithmetic, all came to us from the Arabs.

All this fruitful intellectual life must be traced directly back to the theological impulse given by Mohammed to the Arab mind; for it can be derived from no other source.

It is not quite so easy to define the precise influence on human progress given by the doctrines of the Reformation; for, before Luther, these were in the air. But no one can reasonably doubt that the demand for freedom of conscience and the right of private judgment in religion has led to liberty of thought, speech, action, in all other directions. To the war against papal and ecclesiastical authority in concerns of the soul we owe, how much no one can say, of civil freedom, popular sovereignty, the emancipation of man, the progress of the human mind. The theses of Luther were the source of the Declaration of Independence. And modern science, with the great names of Bacon and Newton, Descartes and Leibnitz, Goethe and Humboldt, is the legitimate child of Protestant Theology.

It is true that printing and maritime discoveries preceded Luther. But these inventions came from the same ideas which took form in the Lutheran Reformation. The discovery of printing was a result, no less than a cause. It came because it was wanted; because men were wishing to communicate their thoughts more freely and widely than could be done by writing. If it had been discovered five hundred years before, it would have fallen dead, a sterile invention, leading to nothing. And so the steam-engine and the railroad did not come before, because they were not wanted: as soon as they were wanted they came. That which lies at the root of all these inventions is the wish of man to communicate easily and rapidly and widely with his brother-man; in other words, the sense of human brotherhood. Material civilization, in all its parts and in all times, grows out of a spiritual root; and only faith leads to sight, only the things unseen and eternal create those which are seen and temporal.

The two Theologies at the present time which stand opposed to each other here are not Calvinism and Armenianism, not Trinitarianism and Unitarianism, not Naturalism and Supernaturalism. But they are the Theology of discouragement and fear on one side, that of courage and hope on the other. The one thinks men must be driven to God by terror: the other seeks to attract them by love. The one has no faith in man, believes him wholly evil, believes sin to be the essential part of him. The other believes reason a divine light in the soul, and encourages it to act freely; trusts in his conscience enlightened by truth, and appeals to it confidently; relies on his heart, and seeks to inspire it with generous affections and disinterested love. That this Theology of faith is to triumph over that of fear who can doubt? All the best thought, the deepest religion, the noblest aspiration of the age, flows in this direction. Whether our handful of Unitarian Churches is ever to become a great multitude or not, I do not know; but I am sure that the spirit which inspired the soul of Channing is to lead the future age, and make the churches which are to be. It is not now a question of Unity or Trinity, but something far deeper and much more important. While endeavoring to settle the logical terms of Christ's divinity and humanity, we have been led up higher to the sight of the Divine Father and the Human Brotherhood. Like Saul, the son of Kish, we went out to seek our father's asses, and have found a kingdom.

We have recently been told about a Boston Theology. If there is any thing which deserves to be called a Boston Theology it is this doctrine of courage and hope. For it is shared by all the leading minds of all Protestant denominations in this city. Whatever eminent man comes here, no matter what he was when he came, finds himself, ere long, moving in this direction. The shackles of tradition and formality fall from his limbs, his eyes open to a new light; and he also becomes the happy herald of a new and better day.

But a better word still, if one is wanted by which to localize these ideas, would be "The New England Theology." For in every part of New England, from the beginning; in every one of the multiform sects, whose little spires and baby-house churches have spotted our barren and rocky hills, there have never failed men of this true Apostolic succession; men believing in truth, and brave to utter it; believing that God loves truth better than falsehood; that he desires no one to tell a lie for his glory, or to speak words of wind in his behalf. With all our narrowness, our bigotry, our controversial bitterness, our persecuting zeal,—of which, God knows, we have had enough in New England,—the heart of New England has been always free, manly, and rational. Yes: all the way from Moses Stuart to William Ellery Channing, all along the road from the lecture-rooms on the hills of Andover to the tribune of Theodore Parker standing silent in the Music Hall, we have had this same brave element of a manly Theology. This has been the handful of salt which has saved New England. Hence it is that from the days of the early Puritans, men and women, of Harry Vane, Mrs. Hutchinson, and Roger Williams, who stood up for the rights of the human soul against priestly tyranny, down through the ministers of the Revolution who went with their people to the camp of Washington at Cambridge; down to the days of the Beechers,—there has never failed a man in the New England pulpit to stand up for justice, freedom, and humanity. From our bare hill-tops New England men and women have looked up to the sky and seen it not always nor wholly black with superstitious clouds, but its infinite depths of blue interpenetrated evermore with the warm living light of a God of Love. And therefore has New England been the fountain of Progress, the fruitful parent of Reforms, "the lovely mother of yet more lovely children."

I have quoted several striking passages from the Apostle Paul. One expresses his longing for greater excellence, and declares that he forgets every thing already attained, and is reaching out for better things, for more truth and more love. Another passage calls on his disciples to think for themselves, and be rational Christians, not children in understanding. A third asserts that he is the minister of the spirit of the gospel, not its letter; a fourth that his religion is not one of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind; a fifth says, Stand fast in freedom, and be liberal Christians; and in other places he exhorts his brethren not to be narrow, nor bigoted; but to look at every thing beautiful, lovely, true, and good, no matter where they find it. But a little while before he said these things Paul himself was one of the most narrow, and intolerant of men, opposed to progress wholly. What made this great change in his soul? It was that he had found a true Theology. He learned from Christ to trust simply in the divine love for pardon and salvation. He learned that God was the God of Heathen and Pagans as well as of Jews. He learned that no ritual, ceremony, sacraments nor forms, but only the sight of God as a Father and Friend, can really save the soul from its diseases, and fill it with immortal life. A true Theology was the secret of Paul's immense progress, and of his wonderful power to awaken and convert others. There are many who suppose his Theology obscure and severe. But when we penetrate the veil of Jewish language, we find it one of Freedom, of Reason, of Love, manly and tender, generous and intelligent. And this same Theology passing in its essence from Paul to Augustine, to Luther, to Wesley, has always been the motive power of human civilization and human development. It has been the friend of free thought, liberty of conscience, and universal progress.

I mean then by a true Theology what Paul meant when he said that God "has not given to us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." I mean what he said when he declared that God had made him a minister of the New Testament, not of the letter but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

I mean the Theology which places the substance above the form; the thing before the name; which looks at the fact, not at the label.

Let us then, brethren, who call ourselves Unitarians, be glad and grateful for the gospel of faith and hope which we enjoy. And let us give to others what we have ourselves received. If it be true, as we have tried to show, that human progress depends largely on a true Theology we cannot help mankind more than by diffusing widely that which God has given us of his truth. Freely you have received, freely give. You who have always lived in this community, surrounded by this mellow warm light of peace and freedom, do not know, cannot tell, what those suffer who have been taught from early childhood to fear God, and to distrust his light in their soul. Do your part in spreading abroad the beams of a better day. Give to the world that religion which is not a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.