Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

ACCOUNT OF UNITARIANISM, &c.

The Unitarians of Boston have been charged by the Orthodox, with having practised a studied and dishonorable concealment, in the early propagation of their sentiments in this country. This charge has been often and indignantly repelled. “ There was,” it has been said, “no concealment.” “ Our own hearts tell us,” says Dr. Channing,“ how gross are these aspersions; and our acquaintance with our brethren authorises us to speak in their vindication, with the same confidence as in our own.” (Letter to Thacher, p. 10.) The documents contained in this pamphlet will enable the reader to come to a correct decision on this most serious question.

The following is an extract of a letter “from one of the ministers of the Philadelphia Unitarian Society" to friends in England, dated Philadelphia, Sept. 28, 1811, and published in the London “ Monthly Repository," vol. vii. pp. 56, 57.

“Having this summer made an excursion to Boston, perhaps a few particulars relative to the state of religious information there, may not be unacceptable. There is only one place of worship at Boston which is avowedly Unitarian, viz. King's Chapel, originally an Episcopalian church, and still so in regard to the mode of worship, except that the service has been freed from everything relative to the Trinity, Atonement, &c. A new and improved liturgy was published a few months ago, which is now used instead of the former one. The ministers are Mr. Freeman, a most excellent man, and Mr. Cary, a young gentleman of superior talents, and great respectability.

“For years after Mr. Freeman's settlement, the other ministers, with few exceptions, regarded him with considerable shyness, on account of his supposed heterodoxy, and because he had not had clerical ordination ; but now, and for a considerable time past, these prejudices have given way; while the weight of his talents, and the great goodness of his heart, have rendered him the object of high and general esteem.* Mr. Cary was not ordained in any other way than by Mr. Freeman laying his hand on his head, merely in the name of the congregation. No minister was called to assist.

* A few days ago, Mr. Freeman had the degree of D. D. from Harvard University.

Of late years, there has been a remarkable change in the Congregational churches at Boston. Of this description there are nine, eight of which are supplied by ministers, differing more or less on various topics, but all living in great harmony with each other, and with Messrs. Freeman and Cary, with whom they occasionally exchange pulpits, reading the King's Chapel service when they preach there, and on the other hand, Messrs. Freeman and Cary, when in a Congregational pulpit, conduct the prayers after the Congregational mode. In most of the Congregational churches, Belknap's collection is used. Mr. Buckminster uses Tate and Brady's, and a selection compiled by himself. Ere long, Belknap's book must be discarded ; for all the ministers alluded to are anti-Calvinistic and antiTrinitarian.

The ministers of Boston and its vicinity hold meetings at each other's houses, in rotation, once every fortnight, for the examination of candidates, and for friendly advice and social intercourse. At these meetings, you may see Únitarians, Arians, and Trinitarians indiscriminately—as also at the weekly Thursday morning lecture, which is preached by Orthodox and heterodox men alternately. I heard two of these, one by Mr. Cary, quite an Unitarian discourse; the other by a Mr. Codman, in the true style of an old Puritan. Dr. Osgood, whose sermon was animadverted on, in the Monthly Repository, (vol. v. p. 606) is a high Calvinist, of a warm and affectionate temper, and of great liberality and candor on theological subjects. His sympathies are with the anti-Calvinists, and if any of his own folks show anything like bigotry, Dr. O. is their (the antiCalvinist's) champion. He is, therefore, a great favorite with the Boston ministers.

The Presbyterians of the Middle States, finding that so many of the Congregational churches had departed from the old faith, erected a fine new church at Boston, to promote revivals. It is supplied by one Dr. Griffin, who had been extremely popular in New Jersey ; but he has SETTLED DOWN at Boston. The church is deeply in debt, half the pews are yet to let, and the good man himself, by not returning the civilities paid him by the other ministers, when he first came to Boston, is now neglected, not only by them, but by their hearers ; and he has to stand his ground, and plead the cause of Orthodoxy, against eight of the Congregationalists, besides the King's Chapel ministers."

“While at Boston, I had every opportunity of seeing with mine own eyes.“ It was my wish to have been only a hearer; but, although I declared myself a layman, yet a minister according to our constitution, i. e. as it respects our flock, I had to officiate twice.”

In the statements here made, there are some slight inaccuracies. In Sept. 1811, the date of the letter, there were ten Congregational churches in Boston, nine of which were supplied with ministers. Two of these ministers, Messrs. Griffin and Huntington, were not “anti-Calvinistic and anti-Trinitarian,” neither did they "exchange pulpits” with the ministers at King's Chapel.- The Thursday morning lecture” was preached, not “ by Orthodox and heterodox

66

men, alternately,” but by the members of the Boston Association, in succession.

- The account given of the Park Street church and its minister is too amusing to require correction or comment.

It will be observed, that all the ministers,” except the two above named, are anti-Trinitarian ;"—Dr. Griffin “has to stand his ground, and plead the cause of Orthodoxy, against” them all;—and yet “there is only one place of worship at Boston, which is AVOWEDLY Unitarian.” Our readers will draw the inference for themselves.

The letter above given, we consider of small importance compared with one which is to follow. In order to bring this more important communication fairly before our readers, a preliminary statement will be necessary.—Some time previous to 1812, the Rev. John Grundy, of Manchester, (England) published a Sermon, delivered at the opening of a new Unitarian chapel in Liverpool. In the course of the sermon, he spoke of the sense in which he wished the word Unitarian to be received :

“Since we must have some discriminating appellation, would that we could unite in the use of one term, so defined as to include us all, the term Unitarian-Unitarian, in contradistinction from Trinitarian, and referring solely to the object of religious adoration. The term, thus defined, would include us all, whether believing the preexistence, or the simple humanity of Jesus Christ."

To this paragraph, Mr. Grundy appended a Note, giving a very flattering account of the progress of Unitarianism in Boston, and the surrounding region. 66 The account in the Note, he says, was drawn up by a gentleman who had recently been in Boston, and thought himself fully qualified to give an account of Unitarianism in that place.” The Note, so much of it as is necessary for our present purpose, is as follows:

“ It may be interesting to the friends of Unitarianism to be informed, that the doctrines which they consider as consonant to the genuine principles of Christianity, have already made very considerable progress in the northern and eastern parts of the U. States. For several years, these doctrines have been spreading rapidly in the town of Boston; and at present, an open profession of them is made by the most popular and influential of the clergy there. Nor is' this change by any means confined to the teachers of religion, inasmuch as a gentleman of much talent, and very high celebrity in America, in speaking on this subject to the writer of this article, said, that he did not think there were two persons in Boston, who believed in the doctrine of the Trinity. This assertion, though it certainly cannot be intended to be literally understood, may serve to show the great prevalence of Unitarianism ; in further proof of which it may be well to mention, that a very large and expensive place of worship, which has been recently erected to enforce Calvinistic doctrines, has completely failed, and it was expected would be sold to its opponents.*

The office of President of Harvard College having lately become vacant, Dr. Kirkland, a professed Unitarian, was elected by a great majority of votes.-Until very recently, Unitarianism has been confined

* The Park Street church, doubtless, is intended.

« AnteriorContinua »