Gc M. L,
ALLEN COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY
3 1833 01067 9360
Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive
in 2010 witii funding from
Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
NEW CHANNING CHURCH
NF.W T ON. MA5S .
On Tuesday, May 23, i882_
SERMONS PREACHED AT THE TIME OF LEAVING THE OLD
AND ENTERING THE NEW
BY THE PASTOR
REV. FRANCIS B. HORNBROOKE
FRANKLIN PRESS : RAND, AVERY, AND COMPANY
At three o'clock on the afternoon of May 23 the services
of dedication were opened by the singing of the famiUar
words, " From all that dwell below the skies," by the choir
and congregation. The Rev. G. Herbert Hosmer of Salem
offered the prayer of invocation.
Not without thee, our Father, are we met together ; and
we would at all times acknowledge thy presence and invoke
thy blessing. We come with glad hearts to dedicate this new
temple, which our hands have raised to thy worship and
service, conscious, unless the Lord build the house, they labor
in vain who build it.
We would remember before thee all who have faithfully
served in their day and generation in this church ; and in
the same spirit their descendants, desiring to strengthen and
broaden the walls of their Zion, now raise this new temple.
We feel surrounded by a cloud of witnesses ; for we believe
but a thin veil separates us from the saints in light, — ay,
from those who have labored and prayed to strengthen the
things which remain.
And now, our Father, we pray that peace may be within
these walls, and that peace may come to young and old who
enter here ; and in the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to call
thee Father, and to worship thee, who art a Spirit, in spirit
and in truth, we would render to thee thanksgiving and praise
The choir then rendered the anthem, " Rejoice in the Lord,"
after which Rev. Rufus P. Stebbins, D.D., of Newton
Centre, read appropriate selections of Scripture.
Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who put it into the
hearts of his people to build a house to the God of heaven.
And the people had a mind to work.
And they gave money unto the masons and to the carpen-
ters to prepare timber and stones to build the house.
And the work went fast on, and prospered in their hands ;
and the artificers and builders did the work faithfully.
Thus all the work, made for the house of the Lord, was
How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts !
Strength and beauty are in thy sanctuary ! holiness becometh
thine house, O Lord, forever !
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house. They are contin-
ually praising thee.
My soul longeth ; yea, even fainteth for the courts of the
Lord. Oh, come, let us worship before the Lord our Maker !
Who shall ascend into the house of the Lord ? or who shall
stand in his holy place .-*
He that hath clean hands and a pure heart. They go on
from strength to strength. Every one of them appeareth before
God. No good thing doth he withhold from them that walk
But will God indeed dwell in the earth.? Behold, the
heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain him ; how
much less this house which was builded with hands !
Have faith in God! I will meet thee and commune with
thee from the mercy-seat, saith the Lord. Lift up your heads,
ye gates ! and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors ! and the
King of glory shall come in. And the glory of the Lord filled
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of
my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there
am I in the midst of them. Ask and ye shall receive ; seek
and ye shall find.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit ; and there
are differences of administration, but the same Lord ; and
there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God who
worketh all in all. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy
and strife, and some also of good will. What, then ? Not-
withstanding, every way is CJirist preached ; and therein do
1 rejoice, and will rejoice. Who art thou that judgest another
man's servant } Let every man be fully persuaded in his own
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God ? As God hath
said, I will dwell in them ; and I will be their God, and they
shall be my people.
I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and accept-
able, unto God, which is your reasonable service. That ye
may be built, as living stones, polished after the similitude of
a palace, upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom the
whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which
every joint supplieth, may grow into a Jiabitatioji of God ;
that they all may be one as thou. Father, art in me and I in
thee ; that they may be one even as we are one, keeping the
unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace, in honor preferring
Let us not sleep as do others. Having our loins girt about
with truth and our lamps trimmed and burning, let us press
toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus, that we may be perfect even as our Father in
heaven is perfect.
I have many things to say unto you ; but ye cannot hear
them now. The time is short. Be ye faithful unto death, and
I will give you a crown of life. For what doth the Lord
require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
humbly with thy God .''
Peace be within these walls ! For my brethren and com-
panions' sake, I will now say. Peace be within thee ! Because
of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good. They
shall prosper that love thee.
A HYMN, written for the dedication of the old church, by-
Mr. Samuel Jennison, jun., and sung Feb. 25, 1856, was read
by the Rev. J. P. Sheafe, jun., of South Natick, and sung by
the whole congregation : —
(Used at the Dedication of the Old Church, Feb. 28, 1856.)
When first the Twelve in grief and gloom,
Within thy gates, Jerusalem,
Were gathered in that upper room,
Jesus was in the midst of them.
Since then what myriad lofty fanes
By Christian hands upreared have been !
For still the loving word remains.
Though that dear Presence is not seen.
With prayer, with song, with organ tone.
With utterance of that loving word,
In one more temple made thy own.
Praise waiteth for thee now, O Lord !
One temple more : we name it thine ;
Yet how shall it accepted be,
Unless our spirits we resign.
And consecrate our lives to thee ?
Here may the gospel Jesus taught
Fall like sweet music on each ear.
And works of heavenly grace be wrought
In every heart that worships here.
Then shall thy children, gathered round
Thine altar with the gifts thou bidst.
Feel that they stand on hallowed ground,
And know thou dwellest in their midst.
The dedicatory sermon was then preached by the Rev.
Francis G. Peabody of Cambridge.
"Even so would He have removed thee out of a strait into a broad place."
Job xxxvi. i6.
We meet to-day with mutual congratulations. We rejoice
together that this church and congregation, so sacredly min-
istered to and loyally supported for thirty years, have out-
grown one home and have grown into another. We are glad
that you have been " removed out of a strait into a broad
place." Yet it is not alone for the enlargement of your con-
venience, or the increase of your numbers, or the indication
of your harmony, that we rejoice. When such a transition as
this takes place in the life of a church, it means much more
than the satisfaction of your private ends. It is prophetic
of a transition in your purposes and ideals. This outward
enlargement of your circumstances is the symbol of an en-
larged conception of your mission and opportunities. If God
has removed you out of a strait into a broad place for your
worship, it is — you must believe — because he has given you
a larger work to do, and has removed you out of a strait into
a broad place in your dealings with the problems and the
duties which beset you.
What, then, are these larger problems, these broader privi-
leges to which your outward transition is but a response }
They are not the peculiar property of any single congregation
or neighborhood. They are waiting for recognition wherever
people are joined together in the spirit which joins you here.
The fact is, that the whole body of the liberal Christian
churches finds itself in our day at that critical epoch when
new problems are taking the place of old and familiar ones,
when large possibilities are replacing limited purposes, and
the same God who gave them in the past a specific and nar-
row work to do, now stands ready to remove them out of a
strait into a broad place. I call this a critical epoch, because
in the life of churches, as in the life of nature, there is no
such thing as standing still. There is either growth through
the acceptance of new life, or there is downright decay.
When, then, it comes to pass that new problems, fresh pur-
poses, a broader mission, open before a church, then its
vitality is tested. The backward look, the sigh for the "good
old times," the clinging to the problems of the past, — these
are the characteristics which separate a church from the liv-
ing interest of practical people. The quick appreciation of
present needs, the profound interpretation of living problems,
— these are the signs which justify the continued existence
of a church. " There is," says Thomas Arnold, " nothing so
revolutionary, because there is nothing so unnatural and so
convulsing to society, as the strain to keep things fixed."
What, then, is this great transition in the purposes of lib-
eral Christianity, in which we find ourselves involved, and of
which your outward change is a fitting symbol ? You know
what the early purpose of the Unitarian movement was ;
you know how honorable and honest a movement it was, —
the protest' of clear minds against a technical method of salva-
tion, and in behalf of the simplicity that is in Christ. You
know how soon it won to itself a great proportion of the most
sagacious, poetic, and philanthropic minds of this country.
You know what poets, philosophers, historians, theologians,
sprung, either by coincidence or by inheritance, from the time
and place when this movement began. It was a golden age
of literature, of poesy and prophecy, in whose twilight hour
we still linger, and whose departing splendor we mourn. It
is a spiritual ancestry to justify honorable pride. We can
hardly hope to serve the demands of our times as loyally and
effectively as these men did the needs of theirs. And yet we
must confess that the place into which God removed those
early liberal Christians was a strait place. It was, after all,
one sort of New England Congregationalism over against
another sort of New England Congregationalism. It was a
difference of theological results, but with the same theological
assumptions. Trinity against unity, depravity against integ-
rity, eternal decrees against human freedom, church against
parish, — these were real differences, worth contending for,
and yet very limited, special, sectarian, transitory. Visions,
it is true, passed before some minds — like his whose memo-
rial this building is — of union and enlargement beyond these
distinctions of opinion ; but, none the less, the immediate
problems of the time were of this special, local, hmited kind.
The Lord had set them in a strait place.
And at what point have we now arrived ? We have come
to a point where these early controversies are sheer matters
of history, with no living issue among them. I do not mean
that you cannot find some -relics of that unhappy contest.
You may even now occasionally hear some belated gun go
off, directed against Channing, or Parker, or Emerson; but
you hear no returning fire. There is no need of defence at
any of these points. The interest of warfare, the strategic
points, are on another side of the works. The whole climate
of the times has changed. I do not suppose a single sermon
has been preached for years in a Unitarian pulpit on such a
theme as the denial of the Trinity. Nor have I heard this
year a single voice prophesy hard things for the sainted souls
of Longfellow or Emerson or Bellows. To read of that
earlier warfare is like reading the history of the Crusades. It
was brave fighting ; it tested souls : but it was an issue
which can never be fought out again.
What shall we say then ? That the mission of the liberal
Christian churches is fulfilled ? That there are no longer
living problems waiting for them to solve, and worthy purposes
to which new and fairer churches may be dedicated .-* I ask
you to see, on the contrary, that — in the providence of God
— the mission of our churches is as definite as ever, but far
larger and more persuasive than it ever was before. A prob-
lem of thought addresses our minds, a problem of conduct
addresses our judgment, a problem of worship addresses our
affections ; and these three problems, kindred of each other,
happen to be the central, special, absorbing problems of the
thought and life of the time.
Consider, in the first place, the point at which modern
thought is now brought to a pause. Here, on the one hand,
is a whole flood of new methods, principles, discoveries, a sud-
den and startling overflow of the limits of earlier inquiry ; and
here, on the other hand, are the permanent, precious aspira-
tions and visions of the human race ; and the one question of
the time - — not for ministers and churches alone, but for all
thoughtful minds — is this : "Will this sudden flood make an
end of these aspirations ? will it submerge these visions ? or
will it only buoy them up, and bear them on to larger service .-' "
The problem of our time — that is to say — is the problem of
religion, the reconciliation of faith and knowledge, the trans-
lation of the religious life into the language of to-day. No
student can bury himself beyond the range of this central
subject. No philosopher can shut it out. No theme in our
periodical literature is so popular or remunerative as some
aspect of the problem of religion. But why is this problem,
which concerns all thoughtful minds, in any peculiar sense
our problem ? How is it that we find ourselves, through the
nature of our position, brought face to face with it in a special
way, and with habits of mind prepared to welcome it ? It is,
first, because — of Christian bodies — we are most free to
address ourselves to this central problem, least hampered or
distracted by other interests, side issues, subordinate questions
of doctrine, or administration, or ritual. Suppose, for instance,
that you were an English clergyman of the Established
Church. A multitude of questions would be of essential im-
portance to you concerning your liturgy, your legal attitude,
your church administration ; and you would be sadly inter-
rupted in your dealing with deeper problems, — nay, you might
even come to think these problems great and deep. But if,
by chance or Providence, you should wade through these
shallows and into the deep ocean of great thoughts, where
would you look for an authority and a support ? Every one
knows who is the first authority in England concerning the
reconciliation of scientific method with religious convictions.
You would turn to Mr. Martineau ; and, from your position,
you would say, " These writings are sadly insufficient in their
recognition of Church authority, apostolic succession, estab-
lished ritual ; but, when it becomes really deep water and a
matter of life or death to faith, then this man knows how to
swim with a free arm and a strong stroke." And the reason
is obvious : he can give his whole thought to these matters ;
he has nothing else to do.
This is one reason why the central problem is for us ; and
a second reason is, that we undertake to see both factors in it.
We have not turned our back upon the past ; we have not
surrendered ourselves to the limits or methods of natural
science ; we believe in the worth and the witness of the
spiritual life. Thus, if over against the churches we are free
and unembarrassed, over against the prescriptions of material-
ism and indifference we stand for the reality and measureless
effect of ideal truth. And thus the ministry of reconciliation,
the problem of union between the conflicting intellectual forces
of our time, the fusion of the open mind and the receptive
heart, the reading of one word of God, in history and in nature,
in Bible and life, in the world without and the soul within, —
this step for which the thought of our time wearily waits, — this
is the work, the positive, constructive, conservative work,
waiting for a church like this to do.
But is it then — I think you may well say — for this alone
that we are to meet and labor here ? Is it for the solution of
intellectual problems that we have built this house of God,
and in the discussion of them that we must satisfy our desire
for worship .? By no means. It is to no such strait and
stifling place that God has removed you, and to no such weary
intellectualism that you must condemn your worship. The
ministry of reconciliation which I have tried to describe is
indeed a mission which demands thoughtfulness in its dis-
ciples, and intellectual training in its ministers. Let us be
thankful that it does ; glad that the present function of our
churches demands, as its past has done, learning no less than
piety, thought no less than emotion, an educated ministry and
an open-minded laity. But in no intellectual problem does
the ministry of reconciliation cease. It has no less assuredly
the basis of effective work and of elevating worship.
Look at the practical work which a church has to do.
Here, once more, on the one hand, are the new and scientific
methods of charity, reform, benevolence, the sense of failure
in the earlier, sentimental ways, the questioning whether the
whole history of dealing with the poor and vicious is not the
history of one colossal mistake ; and here, on the other hand,
are the eternal impulses of human love and brotherhood, which
will not be stifled, and which must be directed. Here then is,
once more, your practical problem, — yours, who stand on the
one hand for intelligent methods, and on the other hand for
spiritual impulses ; yours, who are unwilling to see generosity
a harmful agent, but who are still more unwilling to see the
spirit of charity die or fail in human hearts. Here is your
practical problem, — to find safe channels for the stream of
fervid kindliness, to enlarge the methods of reform and charity
about you so that the heart and head may be fellow-workers,
and the religious impulse may safely come out into the light
of scientific methods and work in the dark no more.
Or turn, most of all, to that other factor of life which a
church most directly and imperatively represents, — the spirit
of living worship. What is the pressing peril here ? It is,
plainly enough, the threatening divorce of worship from
reasonableness, the possible separation of piety from intelli-
gence, the awful disaster that must occur when the Church
betakes itself in one direction, and the rational, awakened
thoughtfulness of the time sets out in another. I need not
say to you how present this danger is ; how sacerdotalism and
emotionalism on the one hand, and the arid speculations of
intellectualism on the other, are threatening the very life of
rational and thoughtful piety. I only remind you that here is
the final test of this ministry of reconciliation. It is not the
philosophical solution of theoretical difference which justifies
and strengthens a church ; it is not the wisdom of its practical
benevolence ; it is the renewal in the full light of modern
methods of the spirit of sincere worship, the union of thought-
fulness and prayerfulness, of the disciplined intellect and the
consecrated life. If it shall come to pass that either of these
factors fail in a church, then its highest mission fails. If, on
the one hand, a church withdraws from the intellectual in-
terests of the time, it withdraws itself forthwith from any-
mission to the leaders of the time. If, on the other hand, the
choice must be made between a church whose views are
rational, but whose worship is barren, and a church whose
piety is warm and whose devotion is rich in spite of the incon-
sistencies of its theology, then there are multitudes, believe me,
who will cry in the face of logic and reasonableness, " Better
a prayer ill directed than an essay well delivered ; better the
scanty nourishment of the herbs of an insufficient theology
where the spirit of a living piety is than the stalled ox of a
robust rationalism and the strife and weariness of human dis-
cussion." Nay, they will go farther, and will even dare to
infer that the Church which under any method ministers to
the spirit of devotion and quickens living piety must have
caught sight of some side of truth hidden from the wise and
prudent, and revealed only to the prayerful heart. The adjust-
ment of thought, the justification of charity, the perpetuation
of worship, — these are the three problems with which the
Church of the present must frankly deal. And these three,
I repeat, are one, — one problem of spiritual renewal, one task
of reconstruction, one ministry of reconciliation, touching
alike the mind, the conduct, and the heart.
And now, finally, what must a church expect which accepts
a ministry like this ? It must expect misinterpretation, hos-
tility, disappointment. It cannot commend itself to those
who are anxious to construct a close-walled sect, or to those
who are absorbed in controversy, or to those who feel called
to go whooping over the world in pursuit of freedom, and
who care nothing for the reconciliation of freedom with faith.
It must disappoint those who look for large denominational
development, or rigid standards of doctrine, or sharp antago-
nism with other communions. It has but little negative, de-
structive, or combative work to do. But, on the other hand,
it may anticipate within its modest limits the noblest possi-
bilities and the purest usefulness. It will command the sym-
pathy of those who desire that their church shall be the one
which puts away all lesser problems, and addresses itself
directly to the central issues of serious minds. It will encour-
age an honorable type of men and women, strenuous for
truth, ready for duty, trusting in prayer. Its members will
not lightly sign creeds, or rashly undertake a sentimental
philanthropy, or make a superstition of their worship. It will
be free from narrow partisanship, the equal narrowness of
those who will not think, and of those who cannot feel It
will have no controversy to maintain with other churches ; for
its work is in reality the same work as theirs, only, it believes,
less obscurely recognized and more directly undertaken. It
will look for its natural growth, not by detaching members
from other communions, but by winning back to the consola-
tions of religion some of that great multitude of precious
souls who have perceived the divorce of reason from religion,
and are waiting for the ministry of reconciliation. It will
see, not far away, the vision of a fellowship larger than any
denominational name, where all who believe in the spiritual
life may throw their weight together on the precise point
where the world most needs it ; where we may push together
with thoughtful believers of every name, — push with all the
force of history, philosophy, prayer, and life, against the bar-
rier which holds back ignorance of history, materialism in
philosophy, and worldliness in life from breaking in and crush-
ing out the hopes and ideals of mankind. And in this vision,
this anticipation, this basis of union, it will take up into itself,
we may reverently believe, some genuine part of the gospel
ministry of Jesus Christ, — that withdrawal from unessential
distinctions, that ingathering of all contrite and devout hearts,
that vision of comprehensive unity, that enlargement of
thought, of charity, and of worship, which, from the time of
Christ till now, has led every life which could receive it " out
of a strait into a broad place."
After the sermon, the following hymn of Pierpont was
read by the Rev. Arthur M. Knapp of Watertown, and sung
by the congregation : —
Oh, bow thine ear, Eternal One !
On thee our heart adoring calls ;
To thee the followers of thy Son
Have raised and now devote these walls.
Here let thy holy days be kept;
And be this place to worship given,
Like that bright spot where Jacob slept,
The House of God, the gate of Heaven.
Here may thine honor dwell ; and here
As incense, let thy children's prayer,
From contrite hearts and lips sincere,
Rise on the still and holy air.
Here be thy praise devoutly sung ;
Here let thy truth beam forth to save.
As when of old thy spirit hung.
On wings of light, o'er Jordan's wave.
And when the lips, that with thy name
Are vocal now, to dust shall turn.
On others may devotion's flame
Be kindled here, and purely burn.
The dedicatory prayer was offered by the Rev. Edward J.
Young of Waltham.
PRAYER OF DEDICATION.
O thou ever-present Spirit, who art the Giver of every good
gift, as we are gathered together before thee, we lift up our
hearts in praise and gratitude and adoration ! Thou hast im-
planted within us instincts and yearnings which seek the infi-
nite and eternal ; and in every age thy children have raised
temples and altars for thy worship, that they might express the
deepest feelings of their hearts, ask for illumination and guid-
ance, and find forgiveness, strength, comfort, and peace. We
rejoice that we can come to thee as our heavenly Father and
Friend, who lovest and hearest us always, who hast mani-
fested thyself in the universe and in our souls, who hast
spoken to us through the lips of holy men, and especially
through Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. As his
disciples we are assembled to dedicate this beautiful temple
to thy service ; and we look up to thee who art the All-
Beautiful, the One altogether lovely, and acknowledge that,
as thou hast given us all our blessings, so the best we can
bring is not too good, but is only what is due from us
to thee. Thou fillest immensity with thy presence. The
heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this
house which we have builded ! And yet thou dost deign to
hear the prayers of thy children, and dost take up thine abode
in the humble, sincere, and contrite heart.
We rejoice that this day has come, which sees the fulfilment
of long-cherished hopes. We are glad that the period of prep-
aration is at length ended, and that we are permitted to meet
here to rejoice with this people in all that their hearts and
minds and hands have wrought. We thank thee for all the
memories of the past. We recognize thy favor shown to this
society in the early days, when they were few, and came to-
gether in a small upper room, and were united by one faith,
one spirit, one purpose. We bless thee for those who were
then with them as leaders and workers, who illustrated their
faith by their noble characters and lives, and who are now
held in loving remembrance. We rejoice that some of their
number yet remain to reap the harvest of the seed which they
had planted. And we praise thee that the influence of those
who have passed on still survives, and animates this church ;
and we delight to think that to-day they are in sympathy and
fellowship with us, and may be permitted to bend from their
holy seats, and join in these services of consecration.
We rejoice, our Father, that the spirit which inspired the
founders of this religious society has governed those who
have come after them ; that the children have followed in the
footsteps of the fathers ; that they have not been weary in well
doing ; that all have labored so zealously and given so freely ;
and that now they can present this choice offering to thee.
We pray that thou wilt accept it as their gift, and as a symbol
of what is highest and holiest and most precious to them ; and
that thou wilt fill this sanctuary with thy presence, and fill
these souls with thy love, and lift up the light of thy counte-
nance upon all thy children.
May those who from time to time shall assemble here
worship thee in spirit and in truth ! May the hungering be
fed with the bread of life ! May the sorrowful find a peace
which the world cannot give ! May the young be led into the
fold of the Good Shepherd ! And may all be uplifted and quick-
ened to a higher life ! Send down influences from above that
all may be drawn unto thee who art the Fountain of blessed-
ness, may gain strength to bear their burdens, and may have
faith which is the evidence of things not seen, so that this
place shall be indeed to them the house of God and the gate
of heaven. May these memorials of those who have been
translated speak to this congregation, bidding each and all to
be followers of them even as they were of Christ !
And do thou have this building in thy care and keeping.
Preserve it from all harm and peril ; and may it last for many
generations, and gather about it more and more sacred associa-
tions as the years roll on ! May it stand as a bulwark of Chris-
tian truth and righteousness, and from it may influences go
forth which shall increase and strengthen all that is good, and
help to build up the kingdom of God on the earth !
Look with favor, we beseech thee, upon this pastor and
his flock. May thy servant be enriched with all knowledge
and all spiritual gifts, that he may speak with new inspiration
and new power, and may minister to the wants of this people !
And may these families be blessed in their homes, and in all
their interests ! May peace be within these walls, and pros-
perity within all these palaces ! Thou knowest what we would
ask of thee for this church. Grant the petitions which are
in our hearts, but which we cannot utter before thee. Help
us to dedicate ourselves to thee as the true temples for thy
indwelling spirit. And may the Lord our God be with us,
as he was with our fathers ! May he never leave us nor for-
sake us ! Amen.
The choir rendered an anthem entitled, " I have surely built
thee an house ; " after which the Rev. F. B. Hornbrooke pro-
nounced the formula of consecration as follows : —
" We dedicate this house to the service of the only true and
living God, to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus, to the com-
munication of the spirit of truth, holiness, and love. We ded-
icate it to the memory of Channing, the prophet of our later
time. We dedicate it to the work of conforming the life of
man to the will of God ; to the quickening of the spiritual life ;
to the declaration of the law of duty ; to the earnest search
for whatsoever things are true, honorable, and just; for what-
soever things are pure, lovely, and of good report. We dedi-
cate it to the cultivation of that spirit which seeks the light,
and which finds in all truth the word of God. We dedi-
cate it to the work of redeeming the whole nature of man ;
to the spirit of reverent inquiry and wise trust ; to the spirit
which looks around and above, to the spirit of aspiration
towards God, and helpfulness towards man. And we dedicate
it to the work of reconciling man to God and to his brother ;
to the work of strengthening human wills to tasks of love and
duty, and of freeing man from the bondage of evil and sin.
Amen and amen.
The exercises closed with the singing of an anthem, and
the benediction by the pastor of the church.
DELIVERED IN THE OLD CHURCH, MAY 21, 1882, BY THE PASTOR,
REV. F. B. HORNBROOKE.
" But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father
in spirit and in truth ; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
" God is a spirit ; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
John iv. 23, 24.
These words express the highest conception of worship, —
that conception which makes it independent of time and place,
and depending for its value only upon the spiritual condition
of the worshipper. Such an idea of worship impressed upon
men's hearts has always been, and still is, the most effective
means for deliverance from an undue reverence for times and
seasons. It will not allow us to think of one place as more
favored with the divine presence than another. It causes us
to see that all times and all places are alike sacred, and that
the sanctifying influences of heaven depend, not upon the
place where, or the time when, but upon the spirit in which,
we worship. It was this idea of true worship which lifted
Christianity above the influences of its national surroundings,
and made it a universal religion. It was the influence of this
idea which caused the early Christians to regard all times and
every place as equally filled with the presence of God. But,
great and vital as is this truth, it would be going beyond the
intention of the great Teacher to conclude that he ignored all
those associations which have such power to bind man's affec-
tions more to one place than another. In our interpretation
of the teachings of Jesus we must never forget that they must
often be regarded rather as protests against dominant tenden-
cies than as complete statements of human duty. Like every
wise teacher, he insisted most upon the truths which were most
in danger of being neglected. Now, in his time, the tendency
of men was in the direction of an exaggeration of the value of
places. The Jew thought God was most present in the
Temple at Jerusalem, while the Samaritan imagined that he
was to be found most fully revealed on Mount Gerizim. Rit-
ualism was the prevailing characteristic of the day. More im-
portance was attached to the place than to the condition of
the worshipper. Religious service was too much an external
mechanical affair, in which the form was everything and the
Against all this the words of Jesus were a protest. But to
carry out their meaning as if they contained all that needed to
be said of the manner of worship would be to destroy all out-
ward expression of the religious sentiment. It would tend
towards a denial of that instinct of the human heart which
find^ itself more susceptible to the highest influences in cer-
tain places and at certain times, because of the associations
which cluster around them. These two thoughts — the one
asserting the equal sanctity of all places and times, and the
other asserting the affection of the heart for one place more
than another — maybe easily united. It is possible for the
soul to acknowledge them both without any sense of conflict
between them. We may discard the splendid temple of
worship ; but the place where we are accustomed to pray be-
comes identified with the higher spirit we bring to it, and
itself assumes an additional sacredness. Indeed, we may say,
the one thought cannot exist without the other. Every place
loses its sanctity if we fail to bring to it the spirit of rever-
ence and trust ; and the places to which we most often go with
the highest and holiest desires are invested with the character
of our purpose. It is true that one place is as good as another,
that God is as near to us there as here; but it is no less true
that one place becomes better to us than another, and that
thoughts of divine things are more easily awakened where
we have been wont to worship than in places to which we are
unaccustomed. It is true that in all places we may find
a present God; but it is just as much true that we find him
most near in the places where we learned to seek him by the
side of our mothers, where we were led by our fathers, or
where all around serves to remind us of past aspiration and
endeavor, of past experiences of joy or sorrow. It cannot be
denied that the colors with which association adorns our
surroundings give them an undying charm and an invincible
power of attraction.
Thoughts like these present themselves unbidden on an
occasion like this, when a place of worship is about to be used
for religious purposes for the last time. We well know that
one place is as sacred as another, that it is best for us to go ;
and yet many pleasant and tender memories bind us to the
place, and throw over the parting hour, in spite of the glad
anticipations of the future, a shade of regret. It would not
be well for us, without a word, to break the tie that binds us
to the past, — to dismiss, without a thought, the feelings that
rise unbidden. Better will it be to strive to realize all the
meaning of that past, to cherish that sentiment, by recalling
some memories of this place, that so we may unite the past
with the future, and make what has been minister to what
It is only a little over twenty-six years since this church
was dedicated. It was originally only two-thirds its present
size. But, small as it was, it was large enough for the small
number of those who gathered within its walls ; and, small
as it was, it may be taken for granted that its erection was not
unaccompanied with considerable toil, anxiety, and sacrifice.
There are few here who were active in that work. But those
who were could tell us of some sacrifices made that have not
been required to build the new and more spacious house, in
which we are soon to enter. We are too much inclined to
pass such things by. They are so far in the past, they
seem so small when seen in the light of more prosperous days,
that we either forget or undervalue the toils and sacrifices of
the past. But though these sacrifices were made years ago,
and though they seem small, we owe what we have to them.
If we have made sacrifices to-day, others made them yesterday.
If the pleasanter place of worship cost much, the one we
have enjoyed without any trouble to ourselves cost relatively
much more. Others have labored, and we have entered into
their labors. The fact that sacrifices were made to give us —
yes, to give us, for most of us were not here when this building
was erected — what we to-day enjoy, admonishes us that we are
in duty bound to do as much in our day, and according to our
abihty for those who will come after us. We have no right to
receive favors without bestowing them. The measure of our
duties is in proportion to the greatness of our benefits. These
walls, plain and simple as they are, came to most of us as an
inheritance from those who toiled and labored to make them
ours; and they are a silent admonition to leave to those
coming after us, not merely as much, but more than we our-
selves have received. To whom does this place seem most
dear ? Not to us who have not done any thing to make it even
what it is. It must have the greatest charm for those who
have anxiously watched its growth, who have spared no pains
to give it new beauty. To these this church has the same
kind of charm and attraction which belong to the child who
has needed most of our care. The things for which we do
most, we care most. Naturally, necessarily, our hearts go out
towards that for which we have labored. That is why some
of you see more in these walls than meets the eye. You
see them in the beauty which toil and sacrifice have power
to give to even the commonest surroundings. To you this
place is irradiated with the radiance which comes from the
spirit of the Christ and his cross.
A few days since, I read the sermon of Dean Stanley,
preached on the eight hundredth anniversary of the dedication
of Westminster Abbey. Naturally the preacher noticed the
vast changes that had taken place in England since the walls
first resounded to the voices of prayer and praise. Compared
with the changes in a period of time so vast, the changes
which have occurred since the dedication of this church may
seem very slight ; and yet, even in the twenty-six years that
lie behind us, there have been changes and occurrences great
as any known to history. When the songs of praise first rose
from glad hearts in this place, three millions of men were in
chains. The battle for freedom had been fought, and appar-
ently lost. To-day our laws know none but free men. Between
that day of dedication and now the greatest struggle known
to human history has been begun and ended, and the question
whether we were a nation decided. Some of you, doubtless,
remember the anxiety and apprehension that filled your hearts
when you met here, and could not forget that your brothers
and fathers and sons were braving all the perils of the field
of battle. You could not forget how every thing that was most
precious seemed trembling in the balance. Since then, quiet-
ness and peace, with their attendant blessings of plenty and
prosperity, have come again ; and we meet with untroubled
hearts, and, let us hope, also with thankful ones. But, between
the horrible din of the great conflict and the calm of to-day,
centuries seem to have intervened, so different are the emotions
of those days from these. History is made fast in these days ;
and a quarter of a century often witnesses as many changes as
a quarter of a millennium in former times. Since this church
was erected, there have been great changes in the theological
world. The Pope has been declared infallible ; orthodoxy
has been proved fallible. Our first minister, who left Andover
after two years of study because he could not accept the
doctrines taught there, would perhaps to-day find much less
difficulty in subscribing to the positions of Newman Smyth,
than the latter would have in subscribing to the creed of that
school. The revision of the translation of the New Testament
has been completed, and awakened new thought upon the
questions of inspiration and revelation. Criticism has placed
the Bible before us in a light never thrown upon it before.
The study of the Scripture to see what is there, rather than
what in our opinion ought to be there, has, in New England, to
a great extent taken the place of searching for proof-texts.
Old systems of theology have been compelled to find need of
restatement, — restatement which sometimes looks very much
like rejection of what in former times was imposed as the only
word of God. Science, too, in this space of time has opened
up new and sometimes startling conceptions of the universe, —
conceptions which have thrown a flood of light upon problems
that formerly vexed the metaphysician and the theologian.
Changes have taken place, perhaps as a consequence of all
these other changes, in the more liberal conduct of denomi-
nations towards another. They have become aware that
perhaps they may not be so absolutely right after all, and
that toleration is the best course. I am sorry to say, however,
that the so-called evangelical bodies are yet so certain that
liberal Christians are wrong, that they cannot invite them
even to thank God with them. But with all the pleasing
changes in other directions, and even in this direction outside
our own village, we ought not to allow this to trouble us, but
make ourselves at least worthy "the fellowship of the saints,"
and await the future in patience and hope.
It is a short time since this society met to consecrate this
place to the worship of God. But what changes there have
been among us since you first met together ! Of the ministers
who took part in the dedication service, only two survive ;
and one of these sits even now in " the valley and shadow of
death." Of the strong ones who greeted them, how few
remain ! To many of you they are unknown, so long have
they gone before. But many of them have not wholly died :
their memories linger among us to bless and inspire. I would
mention names, were not the roll of our honored dead so long.
Your own hearts will recall them. Some who were here on
the first day are still with us ; but, though time has dealt
gently with them, they are only too conscious that the long
years are behind and not before them. But what though the
hair may have grown thinner and whiter, what though the bur-
dens of life are a little heavier now than then, if, through the
intervening years, the same spirit which guided them then
guides them still .'' It is significant that the hymn written for,
and sung at, the dedication of this house will be sung at the
dedication of the new. It is an emblem of that which amid
all change is changeless. It teaches our hearts the lesson,
that, though the outward man perish, the inward man may be
renewed by the same song of faith in God, and allegiance to
the spirit of the Master. What inward changes there have
been, what differing phases of moral and spiritual nature,
only God and our souls can know. We can only trust that
through all changes we " have been transformed into the same
image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the spirit."
As you sit here at the end of these years, you are think-
ing of the voices that you have heard from this place. Those
who have spoken here seem to be speaking still ; and I
know some of you are recalling words which have been full
of comfort and consolation and inspiration. It would not
be fitting for me to recall the words of those who are still
spared to labor among us ; but I may speak of those who
have passed onward and upward.
One went from among you in middle life, — so long ago
that few here knew or even remember him. The Rev.
Joseph C. Smith was the pastor of this society when it
entered this church. When, en Feb. 28, 1856, he preached
the dedication sermon, he took for his text the significant
words, " But I say unto you that one greater than the tem-
ple is here ; " and told this people that " the visible sanc-
tuary is subservient to God as the Father of all, to Christ
as the Redeemer, and to man as the possessor of an im-
mortal soul ; and that by these alone could the temple be
sanctified," — a truth which gives to places of worship all
the value they have. On the first Sunday he preached
from the words, " So built we the wall, and all the wall
was joined together into the half thereof, for the people had
a mind to work."
His concluding words may well come to you to-day as
an admonition : " As you go home, then, to-day, ask of your
own souls if their wants and welfare do not need that you
should each take such a part in the future work of this
place as to build up a wall of consenting wills and life."
Some of you who are here to-day may recall how, when
wasted and feeble, he spoke to you, for the last time, from
the words which, from his position, acquire an exquisite
pathos: "Where is thy flock that was given thee, — thy
beautiful flock ? " The last text of the preacher has found
expression in the window to his memory in the new church-
building, in the representation of a shepherd caring for his
flock. Thus the words spoken here will not pass away with
the disappearance of the place where he uttered them, but
will be brought back to our minds and hearts, — be enshrined
Dr. Hosmer we all remember, and, remembering, love.
The tones of his grand voice still sound in our ears. Who
can ever forget the words he spoke when he was about to
leave us .-' Sentences freighted with the meaning which only
the long experience of a sainted soul can give still linger
in our minds, and refresh our hearts. "All in the church,"
he said, — " the songs of praise, prayer, preaching, — are to
open the way of life, and lead us up to the open vision of
God." And again, " The sanctuary is a place chiefly and
primarily to come to our higher self, — to get the nearer to
our Father, to Jesus, and immortal realities. All need it.
If doing right, you need it to do better; and none need it
more than those who neglect it." Voices speaking words
like these consecrate the place, and make it holy ground.
Oh, may they go with us ever, and make our souls fit
dwelling-places of the living God !
To many the religious ceremonies in which they have
taken part impart a sacred character. To them this altar
has become a hallowed place. Here some have plighted their
faith to the dearest one for the long journey of life. Here
many have acknowledged that their children were God's
children, and have dedicated them to his service. Here, at
the supper of the Lord, many have caught glimpses of the
deep meaning of the life of Jesus. Here some of you have
promised, by God's help, to be true to God, and to the spirit
of his Son. And others have heard the words of consolation
and hope spoken over the dear departed. All these scenes
are so intermingled and intertwined with the thought of
this church, that they must see in it that which appeals to
their hearts, as no other place under heaven can. And I
am sure that others among us, although they have engaged
in no other rite beyond the ordinary purposes of worship,
have memories of times when their hearts have been strangely
stirred, and have been so quickened by holier impulses, and
so awakened to nobler purposes, that they have gone away
with a great gladness of spirit, because they have found some-
thing worth living for, — if need be, dying for. Memories
like these may well make this place like that where Jacob
slept, none other than " the gate of heaven."
Sometimes, when we stand at the end of a period in our
lives, we recall all in it that we have achieved that was
worthy, and rejoice ; all that we have left undone, and
mourn. So to-day, for all that we have truly done here, let
us be thankful, and take it as prophecy of the still better
things which may be done. As for what we have neglected,
let us not be discouraged by that, but rather impelled to a
devotion which shall more than compensate for the years
that we may have lost.
And now, in this solemn hour, let us ask ourselves whether
we have been as loyal to our profession as we ought ; whether
we have accepted or rejected the duties which we ought to
have fulfilled ; whether we have sought or shirked responsi-
bility ; whether in our own way, and with all the power we
had, we have tried to make our church a welcome place for
the stranger; whether we have come here to worship God
" in spirit and in truth," or with listless indifference. If we
cannot answer these heart-questionings as we ought, then
let us here send up our prayer for help to so answer them
in the future that our best selves may not reproach us.
My friends, what is it that makes the churches in which
men worship beautiful ? It is not the massive wall, the
lofty arch ; it is not the storied windows, nor noble organ
strains, nor voices of sweetest singing. No : all these are
only the trappings of the religious sentiment, the mere ex-
ternals of worship, the mechanism of faith. The true beauty
of the church must come from the spirit of the worshippers.
It is they, and not bishops, who truly consecrate a church.
The sincere worship of God is the fairest adornment. The
earnest endeavor to help man endows with the most sacred
charm. The spirit of self-sacrifice alone can transform the
house into a temple. Be it ours, then, so to worship, so to
work, so to be, that all that has made this place what it is
to us may go with us into our new house of worship. And
more than this : may we carry there so much more of the
spirit of true devotion, of mutual helpfulness, of loyalty to
our trust, of the spirit of Christ's cross, that, in the deepest
and truest sense, " the glory of this latter house shall be
greater than of the former " !
DELIVERED IN THE NEW CHURCH, MAY 28, 1882, BY THE PASTOR,
REV. F. B. HORNBROOKE.
" Behold, I have set before thee an open door," — Rev. iii. 8.
The circumstances under v^^hich we meet to-day are full of
gladness and encouragement. The work which your toil
and care and sacrifice have made possible is finished, and
you rejoice in the fulfilment of the wishes of your hearts.
All the outward means needed for carrying on the work
which has been given us to do are abundantly supplied. We
meet for worship in a place attractive and comfortable, and
wisely designed to intensify the spirit of devotion. Our chil-
dren can come together for instruction in rooms whose com-
fort and beauty will serve to unite the remembrance of wise
teachings with pleasant memories.
Means also for facilitating church-work, benevolent effort,
and social intercourse, — agencies so necessary in our modern
church-life, — have been fully provided. Every thing most
necessary to the promotion of the spiritual, intellectual, be-
nevolent, and social work of a church, has been anticipated
with wise forethought, and to-day is ours.
But, if the present is a season of gladness and hopefulness
for us, it is no less a season of gladness and hopefulness for
the cause for which we are contending. The condition of the
religious world never afforded more favorable opportunities
for the advancement of liberal Christianity, or a more attrac-
tive and worthy task.
To the most superficial observer the chaotic condition of
dogmatic theologies is the most evident sign of the times.
The movement of modern thought is away from their claims
and their positions. The popular mind is filled with a vague
sense of their uncertainty, and lack of reality. They no
longer speak with the old authority ; or, if they do, their in-
ability to enforce their authority only renders their powerless-
ness more palpable. Indeed, to many intelligent minds the
systems of theology which, in former times, seemed to reveal
the whole intention of the divine mind, appear as baseless and
futile as the fantastic conceptions of the monks of the Middle
Ages, or the wild dreams of Brahmanism. The systems of
Calvin, of Arminius, of Turretin, of Edwards, are either not
read at all, or, if read, read only as intellectual curiosities, —
not as helps to wiser living. The creeds stand not as proofs
of what people actually believe, but as reminders of the faith
of the fathers. They are still subscribed, but often in a sense
which those who framed them would have been most earnest
in denouncing. The bases upon which dogmatic systems
have rested — infallible church, infallible councils, infallible
popes, infallible scriptures — are daily appearing to the thought
of men the chimerical assumptions they really are. In such
a state of religious opinion is the opportunity for those who,
while they believe in religion and in Christianity, find the
evidence of the one in the nature of man, and the evidence
of the other in the spirit of Jesus, which shines through the
fragmentary accounts of the evangelists, and the sainted souls
of Christian history. For, while many may and do reject
dogmas, they do not reject faith ; while they expose error
in a church, they do not infer that a " church is an error ; "
while they have come to regard the systems of Christianity
as " cunningly devised fables," they still can see in the life of
Jesus the expression of the noblest moral and spiritual ideal,
and the most powerful incentive to the realization of that
ideal; while they have ceased to be Calvinists, Arminians,
Lutherans, churchmen, they have not ceased to be Christian.
Many of the truest and noblest men and women of our time
have lost belief in many things ; but they have not lost belief
in the endeavor to apply the spirit of Jesus to the circum-
stances of the present, and to interpret that spirit, and make
its meaning clearer by the aid of the verified facts of the
time. To such, liberal Christianity makes its appeal ; and
that appeal never had larger access to the hearts of men
than it has to-day. Through the circumstances of our times
a voice seems to speak as it spoke to the Church of that
earlier day, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door."
But it is not enough to have opportunities : we must
know how to use them well. It is no uncommon thing for
religious bodies to lose, by their own short-sightedness and
neglect, the most favorable opportunities, and sometimes
even to allow them to become obstacles to their aims and pur-
poses. So Roman Catholicism thrust from its bosom those
who were in alliance with it by the ex-communication of
Queen Elizabeth, by making loyalty to the Church treason to
the State. So the Church of England lost its hold upon the
great masses by opposing, instead of helping, the great spirit-
ual movement under Wesley. So here, in New England, Con-
gregationalism, instead of seeing in the liberal movement of
sixty years ago a providential call to the formation of a
church comprehensive enough to include all loyal Christian
souls, saw in it only a movement to be met with denuncia-
tion ; and the door then opened has shut forever. These are
warnings sufficient to teach the necessity of that wisdom
which knows how to " discern the signs of the times."
I shall not, however, now speak of the course which I think
ought to be pursued by the liberal Christians of the country.
And I shall not do so for two reasons, — first,, because the
duties which devolve upon us may be taken as devolving
upon the whole liberal Christian body; second, because I
want you to feel that the responsibilities of which I speak are
your responsibilities, and the duties your duties. And, as I
speak, I trust that each one will take what I say to himself,
and see what he can do towards advancing the cause to which
he professes allegiance.
There are three ways in which any cause may more power-
fully appeal to the world, — by the moral and spiritual character
of its adherents, by the clear statement of its principles, and
by the value of its work. What we are, what we know, what
we do, will decide how much or how little influence we shall
exert upon the community in which we live. And the influ-
ence of what we are is the first and most important factor in
the success of our movement. This world is never attracted
or led for any length of time by mean men, or by men of low-
moral and spiritual attainment. It is led and influenced by
character. Every great movement in the religious history of
man has gathered its adherents by the moral and spiritual
excellence of those who maintained it. Without this, every
such movement is powerless. There may be the wisest state-
ment of truth, and the most earnest and zealous activity ; but
the wisest utterance and the hardest work will prove useless
when they are unaccompanied by the manifestation in the life
of high moral purpose and spiritual character. This holds
true even of those who represent ideas which are not uncom-
mon and unpopular. Even the religious organization which
is in harmony with commonly received opinions, loses its
power when it fails to manifest in the conduct of its followers
the presence of a higher moral standard and deeper religious
Character is the mxOtive force, without which there is no
forward movement. It is the inspirational power, without
which there is no quickening of the world's heart to the sense
of better things ; it is the grace of Christ which wins the
world. But if a movement in alliance with customary ideas,
without this, loses its power, the lack of it in a new move-
ment is absolutely fatal. It must win its way by what its fol-
lowers are, or not at all. Belief in what a man is, prepares
one to believe what he says. Christianity would never have
made its way by miracles, or interpretations of prophecies, or
philosophic statements. Anybody might seem to work mira-
cles in the judgment of that credulous, although sceptical,
time ; interpretations might be denied, and philosophies seem
at most only the brilliant guesses of a busy brain ; but the
manifestation of a transcendent moral character, of spiritual
perception prepared hearts to receive it, and won the day for
it in all earnest souls. The same law still holds : the attrac-
tion which true and worthy Hfe exerts upon the nature of man
is as deeply imbedded in the nature of things as the law of
gravitation. When I read Father Newman, and catch the
reflection of his pure nature in his limpid prose, I cannot help
feeling more attracted towards Roman Catholicism ; and I
have no doubt that Father Taylor always felt kindly disposed
towards liberal Christianity, because of the gospel of " sweet-
ness and light " which lit up the face of Emerson. And if
we, opposed as we are to many of the traditions which, in
the popular mind, are so associated with religion and Chris-
tianity that they seem identical with them, are forced to
meet the suspicions and prejudices of men and women, we
must in our lives show that we can get along without those
traditions, and that our religion and our Christianity needs no
such supports. When we have done that, our cause will be
virtually won. If we cannot do it, we shall fail, and we
ought to fail. For it is not merely a clearer conception of
the truth, not merely a truer apprehension of the thought of
the times, that a real church ought to offer, but lives that
have become purer and sweeter, and fuller of strength and
grace by means of the clearer conception and the truer view.
What we want to do is to recommend the gospel of liberal
Christianity by our lives, and not our lives by means of our
gospel. Enough are ready, I know, to flock around any new
thought ; but the best and choicest souls will be best pre-
pared to receive our new thought by our new life.
But we need not only a higher moral and religious character
to commend our gospel : we also need it to see what our
gospel really means, and to show to others what it really
We are always in danger, because of our denials of this or
that conception of Christianity, of concluding that our mission
is one of denial, and denial alone. It is thus that doubt often
receives an undue emphasis in our thought. From this
danger, only the most profound sense of duty and religion can
save us. Then, and then only, shall we see that it is our
deeper insight, and not pur lack of vision, which causes our
doubt in many opinions and traditions about the nature of
Christianity. It should be made evident that our denials
come out of our deeper conviction, and not out of our lack
of conviction. No body of people in this world more needs
a clearer spiritual perception than that to which we belong.
Others who trust to what is told them by those who have
seen, can better do without it than we. But, as for us,
who profess to see and interpret spiritual realities for our-
selves, what shall we do, whither shall we drift, if we allow
ourselves to lose hold of the great spiritual realities which
underlie all forms of religious life ? If ours is to be a true
progress in religious investigation, it must be in the light
of intense religious conviction. We must deny, if deny we
must, not because we believe so little, but because we believe
so much. It is in the interpretation of the facts of the moral
and spiritual world, as in the interpretation of the facts of the
physical universe. The scientific observer, as he closely
examines the movements of the planets, or the strata of the
earth, or forms of plants, or the nature of animal life and
growth, begins to realize that the phenomena he sees are not
fully explained by any previous theory. So he begins to doubt
the theories, not because he knows nothing, but because he
knows so much more than the theories can fully explain.
And, in the interpretation of moral and spiritual phenomena,
they who have studied them most deeply, in their own moral
and religious experience, are enabled to see that the inter-
pretations of them are not adequate. This is not doubt : it is
a reaching out towards a larger faith ; it is the deeper knowl-
edge asking for a deeper interpretation. This is the doubt of
the great religious natures. Let us see to it that ours is the
doubt of deeper spiritual vision, — of vision so large that it is
satisfied with no statement, because it sees and feels more
than any finite system can contain. And then ours shall be
a positive, and, at the same time, a progressive faith, — positive
in its assurance of moral and spiritual realities, beyond the
positiveness of any written statement, and progressive as the
unfolding powers of human thought ; but its positiveness will
be that of fullest interior conviction, and its progress that of
more adequate explanation of the heavenly vision. And, if
we can pitch our lives so high that we can be positive and
progressive in this way, we shall soon enter in at the
" opened door," and take possession of all those who are
religious, but who will not receive religion in the forms pre-
scribed and fixed by an arrogant authority, but only in those
which properly spring out of, and fitly express, the spirit and
life of to-day. I rejoice in all the nobility of character which
has been manifested in the liberal Christian body in times past.
I take pride in the names which adorn its memorials. My
heart is glad when I recall the saintly souls who have testified,
not only to the freedom, but to the holiness, which belonged
to their faith. The records of our own church contain names
of those who have commended it by their lives of integrity, of
^spirituality, and of saintly zeal. But we must take these as
incentives to still better things. It is our duty not to rest in
what has been, but to see that the present and future shall sur-
pass the past. It is for us to show by what we are, in places
of business or of public trust, in the social circle, and in the
routine of the smallest daily duties, that a higher spirit ani-
mates and directs us. We must show, by our earnestness
to attain to a clearer view of, and firmer grasp upon, spiritual
realities, that our word is the expression of the truest religious
sentiment. By constant prayer, by daily meditation upon
divine things, and by the quickening which comes from the
union of hearts in a common worship, we should inform our
lives with a spirit which will have power to awaken the spirit
of devotion in others, and prompt those who come among us
to praise and prayer, and to aspiration after what is highest
and holiest and best. Woe be to us if the weary heart is not
rested by communion with us, if the listless soul is not roused
to effort, if no prophetic fire communicates itself from heart
to heart in our common worship ! No other gain can make up
for this. The social gathering may be pleasant, the amuse-
ments may delight, and the music stir the languid pulse ; but
that is not the mission of the Church. I would rather those
who came for these alone remained away. The great move-
ments that sway the future are directed, not by the lovers of
pleasure, but by the lovers of God. O my friends ! let us so
live and so strive, that we ourselves may know that the
reproach of coldness and indifference is not true ; ay, so that
the great world, seeking for warmth as well as light, shall
seek us as the flowers lift themselves up to seek the sun.
I have spoken so long of this first way in which we must
appeal to the hearts of men to-day, that I can say but little of
the two other ways ; viz., by our knowledge of what we stand
for, and by the value of the work we do. But the appeal by
means of what we are seemed so important, that I could not
refrain from giving it, if possible, an undue emphasis. And
yet, important as is what we are to the success of our work,
it would be untrue to consider it as every thing. It gives us,
indeed, a claim to be heard, and kindly listened to. It pre-
vents us from falling into the worst consequences of our
peculiar position by keeping us from drifting into the open
sea of mere negation ; but, while it does this, it would not alone
give us an excuse for being. Other churches may be, and
are, good. Other churches present examples of integrity and
heavenly-mindedness, and so have great power of attraction.
We need not meet apart from the great body of Christian
worshippers, if that is all we seek ; for everywhere we shall
find earnest, pure, and holy men and women.
To justify our separate positions, we ought to have as clear
a conception as possible of what we stand for. There is no
use in disguising the fact that we, as liberal Christians, stand
for something more than a mere charitable sentiment. Of
course it is true that God is our Father ; but nobody denies it.
Of course it is true that life is more than creed ; but Wesley
affirms it as strongly as Channing. The representation of
liberal Christianity in this way has worked it incalculable
harm. It has made many who have been reared under its
teachings careless about all truth as truth; it has created
a religion of vague sentiment, which veers with the individual
characteristics ; it has made them listless lookers-on, instead
of earnest workers for a cause; and it has, on the part of
many, been the reason for the acceptance of dogmatic opinions^
simply because they had grown weary of holding no opinions ;
for the healthy mind will not remain satisfied with nothing to
believe. It has caused a spurious liberalism, which opposes
nothing because it believes nothing, which tolerates all opin-
ions because it has none of its own to defend. The conse-
quence has been, that our children have often lost the sense
of loyalty, because there was nothing for them to be loyal to.
Now, we do stand for a definite way of viewing the problems
of Christianity and religion. If we do not, we waste our time
and our strength and our money to no purpose. We lose much
to gain nothing. But if we do stand for a purpose, if we do
have a duty to perform, we owe it to ourselves to see that our
purpose and work should be presented clearly, and impressed
upon the mind and heart. We have our conceptions of God,
of the relations of God to man, of the nature of man, of the
work of Jesus Christ, of the character of the Bible and its re-
lations to Christianity ; and we have very definite ideas as to
the nature of Christianity, and the relation of the religious
sentiment to knowledge ; and we should take pains to get
a clearly defined idea of all these things, and so be able to
give a reason for our hope. We should instil these principles
into the songs our children sing, and in the interpretation of
the Scriptures we read to them. We should train those who
are older in the right ways of regarding the Bible and the na-
ture of its contents. We should see to it that they were not
left so ignorant of its contents that any one is able to mislead
them, or at least confuse them, by interpretations long ago
discarded by the canons of all modern criticism. And it will
be well if we ourselves and our children read books like Phi-
lochristus and Onesimus, which are based upon the impartial
study of the earliest Christian history, that we and they may
see how different that time was from the fancy pictures which
have so often been drawn by those who justify their theological
and ecclesiastical assumptions by an appeal to an imaginary
history of the past. It would be well, too, if we would read
those writers who have clearly stated and proved the position
we occupy. Nothing vexes me more than to hear people say
they do not know what liberal Christianity is, while writings like
those of Channing and Parker and Martineau and Hedge lie
covered with dust. Read them, and you will find something to
believe, and something substantial to trust in. Perhaps, also,
a faithful attendance at church might be a help towards un-
derstanding something of what liberal Christianity is, and is
trying to do. But just here is the difficulty. Some of you
come once a month, once a year, and wonder why the minister
does not do this or that. He often does so, and finds to his
regret that on that day you saw a cloud in the sky and staid at
home. I do not hesitate to say, that if we resolved, to the best
of our ability, to regularly attend the services of this place ; if
we read and thought one half-hour every day ; if we tried,
young and old, to get at the heart of the gospel we profess to
love, — that in a few years we would have the vision of divine
things, which would kindle in our hearts a devotion and en-
thusiasm for it which would prove an irresistible power in the
overthrow of the strongholds of superstition and error.
And now as to the value of the work we have to do : why,
that will depend upon the purity of our motives and the knowl-
edge of our task. And if it were not that sometimes we mean
good without doing good, and that we know what is right with-
out being willing to carry out what is right into conduct, what I
have been saying would suffice. Our lack has been in the de-
fect of organization, and, I may say, in the unwillingness of
many to make small sacrifices. It is only by the organized
effort of all, by the willingness of each one in his or her as-
signed place to give up something in order to fulfil it worthily,
that we, as a people, shall bear witness to the truth of our
mission by the enhanced value of our work.
More than in any other time people ask of churches to prove
their mission by their works. What you do will often show to
the community what you are. There never was a time when so
many ways of doing useful and needed work as a church com-
munity offered themselves. Your ready acceptance of these
will prove how you welcome your opportunities, and how
gladly you accept your ministry of helpfulness.
My friends, we are living in a momentous time. It is a time
full of disquiet, of unrest, of change, and of perplexity. The
air is filled with the noise of one of the greatest of world
conflicts. We are vaguely conscious that we are passing from
one order of things to another. But what form the new world
will take on is hidden from our sight. No one, however wise,
can read the future in the hieroglyphs of the present. But
what matters it .-' Enough for us if we are true to our provi-
dential mission ; enough that we are true to the light that is
given. And what our success may be, whether great or small,
concerns us not to know. It is for us to enter the opened
door of our opportunity. Let it be said of us, at least when the
history of our age shall be written, that — in a troublous and
perplexed time, when religion was assailed by senseless big-
otry on the one hand, and by unbelief on the other, and every-
where endangered by its close alliance with a traditional
theology — we strove to make reason religious, and religion
reasonable ; to reveal the simple truth of the gospel story.
Enough for us if it can be said that we tried to attain our
purpose by pure living, by earnest thought, and unwearying
Channing Religious Society.
Rev. FRANCIS B. HORNBROOKE.
HENRY CLAFLIN. | CHARLES C. HARRINGTON.
WARREN p. TYLER, Chairman.
CHARLES H. STONE.
HOWARD B. COFFIN, Treas.
C. BOWDITCH COFFIN.
JOHN K. TAYLOR.
CHARLES C. HARRINGTON.
CHARLES W. LORD.
HENRY B. WELLS, Clerk.
ALBERT C. BRACKETT.
H. EDMOND BOTHFELD.
ffi;ammittc£ on Cj^urcfj decoration.
Miss ETHIE M. BIGELOW. | Miss MARY ALICE CLAFLIN.
Miss HELEN L. WELLS.
lENRY B. WELLS, Supt.
W. RUSSELL BRACKETT,
CHARLES A. DREW,
Sec. and Treas.
NATHANIEL L. RIPLEY,
FREDERICK W. STONE,
Mrs. henry K. HOBART, I Miss ETHIE M. BIGELOW,
President. | Vice-President.
Miss SARAH J. FEARING, Sec. and Treas.
Rev. FRANCIS B. HORNBROOKE,
JOHN T. WELLS, Jun.,
(S:,])anmnQ 5Literarg Winion,
JOHN A. KENDRICK,
Miss HANNAH P. JAMES.