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The misfortune with this view of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, adopted by Augustine, Luther, Melancthon, and later by Olshausen and Dr. Schaff, is that whatever depth of ethical interest it may have, it is utterly wanting in Scripture proof or probability. That the scribes and Pharisees did actually blaspheme the Son of Man, is too manifest and substantial a fact to be sublimated away, and it is impossible to suppose that our Saviour set this over against another sin which bore no relation to it, and could by no metaphysical process be suggested by it. On the contrary, here are two instances of blasphemy, differing only in the objects against which they are directed, Christ on one side, and the Holy Spirit on the other. One consisted in an overt, shameless act; is the other to be denied this character? This is not to interpret Scripture, not to draw from it its own proper meaning, but rather to put into it a meaning which we think it ought to have. Some of the older German divines so define the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as to make it peculiarly the sin of Christians. To blaspheme the Spirit, one must, as the Apostle speaks, have been
once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost.” In this
In this way also does Beza explain it as a universal apostasy from the Christian religion, and gives us eight signs by which it is characterized; while Dr. Schaff, in a definition too long to quote, and too comprehensive and involved to express in English, leaves us to infer that with some knowledge and experience of Divine things, it ends in a general revolt of all the human powers, and a hopeless confusion of flesh and spirit, good and evil, God and the Devil. Such a result must be conceivable by the human mind, or so many would not look forward to it, but it requires a great deal more faith, or a great deal less than we possess, to believe that God has created human souls and endowed them with powers so ample as to be able to swing themselves entirely beyond his control and defeat the very purpose of their existence. Man was made for goodness, and virtue is the law of his being, as moral harmony is the end toward which the Divine Providence is ever moving. “Thou hast NEW SERIES VOL. XVIII
made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it rests in Thee,” 8 said Augustine, and he never uttered a profounder or more vital truth.
Certain Phases of our Growth.
The Universalist Church came into being under the push of most pregnant and aggressive convictions. The men who brought up its idea from the obscurity of fifteen centuries were filled with the purpose of converting the world to it. Without organization behind them, with no hope of support other than in the favor of Alınighty God, against the combined opposition of the churches of the land, and the rooted and violent aversion of the masses, facing everywhere the hatreds, spites, arguments, and calumnies that struggled with each other for expression against them, they spoke their convictions with unflinching faithfulness and unbounded hope. Impatient of long abodes, they hurried from town to town. Hardly had they conquered a hearing in one place before their eagerness drove them to another. The needs of men and women ignorant of the great faith, made them wanderers in the earth, but wanderers like the apostles of old, filled, mastered, and inspired by a purpose that made all of God's earth a home, and every man a brother. This was the pioneer stage of our existence.
Our people passed gradually out from it. They collected into bands for the support of their faith ; and for protection took on the bonds of legal organization. Whenever they could, they employed pastors; and gradually developed the means and methods of work essential to their efficiency. One at a time the travelling preachers became settled pastors, and the old preaching stations were either neglected altogether, or organized into parishes. In this initial work of organization
8 Feciste nos ad te, et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te.
one necessary incident seemed to be the neglect of great numbers of believers who were too scattered to be brought into organized relations with each other; they were thrown off from the growing body of the church, as the scales are thrown from the up-springing bud.
Slowly and almost unconsciously the ties of sympathy and fellowship asserted their existence between the separate and independent societies; and slowly and almost unconsciously these ties grew in extension and strength. The spirit of union was in us from the start, but it took years to form and establish the body of our common life. Where it was convenient, the societies and their ministers gathered for mutual counsel and encouragement; and decreed to meet at regular intervals. Through these rudimentary organs of one common life, the currents of one strength began to flow; and they gradually grew, as new work was demanded of them, and new strength was given them. As events made possible, and needs demanded, these state organizations connected themselves in a general body; and our people began to be one in organization as in faith and purpose.
This work of organization and growth was accompanied by its companion work of elimination. There were those among our people who opposed the progress of organization. They had been attracted to us by reason of our attack upon the prevalent theology of the times, yet had no other thought than to oppose, no other purpose than to destroy. Smarting under the restraint of unnatural ties, they refused to submit to any ties at all. Broken away from outworn, empty beliefs, they resented the adoption of even living principles in stated forms. Joined with them were men who feared organization as subject to abuse, and liable to become arbitrary and artificial, who were too timid to follow an evident good through to its final use when possible abuses stood along the pathway. These people were many; and there were times when it seemed as if they would prevail and stop all organization and construction among us. Many of our ministers preached against professions of faith in a way to show their distrust of the value of
convictions, and against organization in a way to show utter disloyalty to all methods of work. The conventions that met in loose representation of our people were filled with men who resented everything that looked to a closer union of our churches. They are responsible for what is commonly called the “individualism" of our Church. Had they really represented the spirit that was radical in our life, our work would have ended with this generation ; as negation, distinction and timidity are incapable of growth or work.
But our faith had positive principles pregnant of mighty truths and long-lived policies in social and religious enterprise. It had men of positive convictions who meant to give them efficiency, practical men, who knew and determined to use their opportunities, men of great executive ability, who had the power to reach their aims. A battle was to be fought between these destructive spirits and their timid allies on one side, and these clear-sighted, resolute organizers on the other. The battle was fought, and the issue committed us to the work of organization. But the men who had opposed it were more or less separated from us by the issue.
There should be no misunderstanding regarding this matter of organization. What we have really done is to declare ourselves one people in work as in faith. We have not put ourselves under the control of unnatural and external authority. The principle of our polity is that of representative government. We claim that we can decide what is right and wise for us to do, and that this decision can be executed by ourselves who have adopted it. The canon by which the extent of organization is to be determined, is its naturalness and necessity. Our people have committed themselves unreservedly to organization under this principle and canon. Henceforth we need fear no arbitrary authority, hesitate at no natural and needed measures, and attempt no artificial machinery.
At this point we look at our future. Are we to have a future? Our really great work of organization ought to have long ago answered that question. Men do not organize for idleness and death. Our organization means new and increased
growth. But here again we are met by the old phenomena of elimination. There are those who have been and are among us who claim that our mission is nearly ended, and that the other churches are preparing to swallow us up. The time is favorable for an analysis of this opinion. It is not a new opinion ; for it has operated among our people for a generation at least. It proceeds upon two grounds. First, that our mission is to overthrow the dogma of endless punishment, and second, that that work has been substantially done.
There is no doubt that very many of our people have had but one incentive in their work in our church, and that to disprove the dogma of endless punishment. With this moving them, our earliest preachers most certainly waged definite warfare; and their preaching stirred deeply the minds of thinking men, attracted them to our churches, and involved them in our organization. But a little at a time the evangelical churches have softened their teaching of the obnoxious dogma, and under the push of public sentiment have dropped it alınost entirely. At this point and all along the line with the decline of the interest in the debate thesc men have dropped out from our ranks; and to-day thousands of them are connected with other churches. Their claim is that there is no substantial difference between churches. A great variety of causes other than that of religious conviction determine men's church connections. But because the fathers fought the battle against the dogma of endless misery, it is not to be assumed that this was their only purpose ; far from it. A conviction deeper than denial, a principle wider than a single idea, a purpose grander than the love of destruction inspired them. A great system of faith lay germinant within the heart of their fervid teaching; and the men who were content with denial, who could go no further than to combat the bated dogma, were only chaff to be thrown off in the advancing life of the Church.
The second ground of mistake, that the silence of the evangelical churches on the subject of endless punishment has taken away all characteristic difference between them and the