Skip to main content

Full text of "Services at the dedication of the new Channing Church Newton, Mass. on Tuesday, May 23, 1882. Together with sermons preached at the time of leaving the old and entering the new"

See other formats

Gc M. L, 







3 1833 01067 9360 

Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center 






NF.W T ON. MA5S . 
On Tuesday, May 23, i882_ 










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 
forever. Amen. 

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 
the house. 

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 
one another. 

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. 


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. 



" 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 
spirit nothing. 

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 
shall be. 

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 
in art. 


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 " ! 



" 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. 






Stantimg Committee, 

WARREN p. TYLER, Chairman. 









ffi;ammittc£ on Cj^urcfj decoration. 



Suntiau Scl^ool 

lENRY B. WELLS, Supt. 

AssT. Supt. 

Sec. and Treas. 



AssT. Librarian. 

SeiDing Circle. 

Mrs. henry K. HOBART, I Miss ETHIE M. BIGELOW, 

President. | Vice-President. 

Miss SARAH J. FEARING, Sec. and Treas. 



(S:,])anmnQ 5Literarg Winion, 




Jlotner JHission.