Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

incitements of hope, the glow of spiritual feeling, are in their highest quality singularly calm and placid. Exulta. tion never creates a panic. Fear, on the contrary, usually shows itself in paroxisms of emotion.

The true type of human character, we hardly need say, is that in which the higher nature, and not the selfish, has the supremacy; and consequently the worship which must distinguish this type of character, cannot be spasmodic or phrensied, but on the contrary, calm, even, genial, attractive, spiritual. Dissimilar as are the animal and the spir. itual emotions, they will nevertheless readily mix; and to the eye which can perceive only the stariling and spas. modic, the compound will appear far more perfect and meritorious, than will the quiet and gentle expression of the purely divine. How much of the fervor that gives many of the so-called evangelical sects a reputation for earnest and working religious convictions, is but the excitement of the lower propensities, is obvious-not indeed to the individuals themselves, but to all whose higher and purer religious growth qualifies them to distinguish read. ily between the genuine and the alloy.

But it may be asked, Is not the proportion of Orthodox who come up to the Orthodox type of character, much larger than the proportion of Universalists who come up to the Universalist type of character? We answer unbesitatingly, much larger. And so is the proportion of Catholics who attain the Catholic ideal much greater still; while in the same respect, the Mahometan excels the Catholic, and the Hindoo the Mahometan. It appears to be the order of creation, that what is lacking in quality shall be made up in bulk. Hence the diamond is scarcer than gold, gold than silver, silver than copper, copper than lead, lead than iron. Throughout nature, the quantity of material is always in exact proportion to its coarse. ness. Human society is yet in the process of growth; at present it is obviously very imperfect; the selfish thus far (and for wise reasons we doubt not) very greatly preponderates over the spiritual. It is therefore inevitable that the lower or coarser quality of character will, so far as quantity is concerned, very greatly preponderate over the higher and purer quality. Consequently, it is the necessity of the case-a necessity rising from the existing imper. fections of human society as a whole—that that form of theology which proposes the highest type of character, shall present the fewest number of cases in which its ideal is reached; while that form of theology which proposes the lowest type of character, shall present the greatest number of cases in which its ideal is reached. There is less material out of which to construct the higher, and more material out of which to construct the lower. The fact then that the proportion of Universalists who reach a Universalist ideal, is decidedly less than the proportion of Orthodox who reach the Orthodox ideal, is precisely what we should expect, on the supposition that the Universalist ideal of character is very much the higher of the two. Of the Alpine glaciers the purest are the highest, and for that reason the most seldom reached by man.

It is, however, a very different question, whether Uni. versalists will not compare with Orthodox, when both are compared to the same standard--a standard admitted by both legitimately to be such. There will be differences of opinion as to this or that type of religious character considered as the true and complete test. But there can be no question as to what constitutes the bulk of the social virtues. Integrity, kindness, neighborly affection, generosity, deeds of benevolence-these are admitted to be genuine virtues by every sect. In no one of these excel. lencies are Universalists a little better than they ought to be; with respect to none of them, can we dare to boast; but we will cheerfully submit to the decision of any impartial and intelligent umpire, whether as respects these virtues, our Orthodox brethren have the advantage over us. We claim, that in connection with our concession that Universalists do not as generally come up to their standard of character as do the Orthodox reach a very different standard, we shall as distinctly insist on . the reason therefor:- because the Universalist type of character is very much higher, and hence in this imperfect stage of our growth, vastly more difficult of attain. ment.

In this connection, we deem it of great importance that we clearly apprehend what kind of character we may expect, and what kind we must not expect, as the devel. opment of the Universalist form of faith. If it is thought desirable by any that, as Universalists, we should seek that quality of character which is commonly found in connection with Orthodoxy, we will do what we can to assure all such that the end they desire is an impossibility. As well expect plum trees to bear cherries, as to expect that the tree of Universalism will bear Orthodox fruit. If we feel a want of this latter kind of fruit, we must plant the tree ihat will bear it. Any attempt, as Universalists, to develop the particular character indicated, will be unnatural, mechanical and abortive. If the Orthodox results are in accordance with the highest conceivable type of character, then, according to the bearing of the practical argument, is Orthodoxy true; in which case, our proper position, as religious believers, is sufficiently obvi. ous.

The position on which we take our stand is this: we feel that the Orthodox type of character- meaning by this phrase to include both its moral and devotional practices

is too low; that it is too largely composed of selfish ingredients, and hence involving too much of paroxysm, of panic, of excitement, of all the morbid results produced by fear; that a much higher type is possible-one embracing less of the selfish and more of the purely spiritual, and which, though it will be less boisterous, less obtrusive, less spasmodic, will be more genial, more elevated and pure, more durable and salutary; and we are fully convinced that the principles, the influences, and the motives which Universalism addresses to the human conscience and heart, are of all instrumentalities yet known, best calculated to secure this happiest of results.

If now it should be asked, of what experiences we predicate this trust in the efficacy of Universalism, we answer briefly :-of its actual exhibition in the lives of very many saintly persons, whose extraordinary purity and excellence were and are the obvious development of their religious faith and hope; of the influences and appeals of which we ourselves are vividly conscious, even at the very time that we culpably resist them, and thereby realize that we are unworthy the great privileges and opportunities for spiritual excellence our faith bestows upon us; and in the obvious modification for the better which the spread of our faith-working, however, invisi

bly, like leaven in the meal-has upon the tempers and lives of those in other communions, who are measurably governed by it, though they know it not; and in the palpable fact that in those communities in which Universalism has had the greatest permanence, and been most fairly tested, the spirit of philanthropy, of brotherly love, and of high-toned piety is found most to accord with the public and private heart; and that in such communities (with occasional exceptions, which are easily accounted for by local considerations) do we find, on the part of believers, the deepest desire and most earnest purpose to bring the individual character much nearer the pure type, which type, though it may not be very generally practicable in the present stage of imperfection, is nevertheless deemed possible for the race, and so the proper object of effort on the part of all who perceive its desirableness.

These are considerations, which we are sufficiently aware, cannot be appreciated by, or have influence with, those of essentially different faiths. But with us, they are satisfactory, and conclusive of the point now before us. We are rejoiced at the spirit which, at the present time, more than ever before, is at work in our communion. A higher life is called for earnestly, and we trust, will be called for persistently. Such a result our faith assures us to be possible. "May it be sought with diligence, and with unflagging purpose ;-it may not be amiss to add, with discretion. Let us seek the spiritual life, not with a view to an argument to prove that our faith will produce it, but let us seek it for itself alone. With such a motive, and with judicious effort, it will give us not less surprise than pain, if a large measure of success does not ensue, in the development of the true Christian character. G. H. E.

Art. XIII.

' Literary Notices.

1. The Convert: or, Leaves from my Experience. By 0. A. Brownson. New York : Edward Dunigan & Brother. 1857. pp. 450.

Aside from the general interest attaching to this record of a most eventful, and as we deem it, eccentric intellectual and religious history, we are particularly interested in it because of the author's account of his brief and singular connection with the Universalists. Mr. Brownson, breaking what he deemed a most unprofitable connection with the New York Presbyterians, received a letter of fellowship, as a Universalist preacher, in the autumn of 1825. He remained in the denomination about four years, during which period he was drawn into intimate relations with such prominent preachers as Samuel C. Loveland, Paul Dean, Charles Hudson, Edward Turner, and Hogea Ballou. He was very industrious throughout this period—as in fact throughout all his public life and made something of a mark as an editor of a Universalist paper in New York. In 1829. breaking up his connection with the denomination, he avowed his position, not as a disbeliever, but as an unbeliever-a distinction which he deems important.

The statement of Mr. Brownson, “ the most anti-Christian period of my life was the last two years that I was a Universalist preacher," need excite no surprise, for he explains the fact by an example of candor almost unparalleled ;-he tells us that all this time, if not insincere, if not preaching what he did not believe, he was professing to be a Universalist, whereas in fact he was an infidel, or as he prefers to say, an unbeliever! Of course, he would not convey the impression that he was made anti-Christian by a theology in which he did not believe. He was not a Universalist, but was only unsuccessfully trying to be one. We can easily understand how he “ felt restored to his manhood," the moment he took his real position as an unbeliever. Doubts as to the truth of the doctrine he professed to preach, were in his mind from the first.

“In the commencement of my career as a Universalist, I did my best to smother my doubts as to revelation, and to defend Universalism as a Scriptural doctrine. But I succeeded only indifferently. I had made up my mind that endless vindictive

« ZurückWeiter »