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Universalist church, demands some attention. The dogma of endless misery is but a part of a great system, and in harmonious relations to other doctrines. It is consistent with peculiar ideas of God and His government, of Christ and his mission, of man and the means of salvation. It is associated with fellow doctrines on inspiration, revelation, sin, and the atonement. Moreover the churches holding this system of faith, are organized upon it, and by means of influences growing out of it, and working through many generations. Yet again the motive of appeal by which each church gains and keeps its hold on men, and which is indelibly traced in the literature of each, is in vital accord with this system of faith. How far had silence on the question of endless punishment gone to obliterate the difference between the Universalist Church and these other churches ? The bare asking of the question brings its own answer. These “liberal” preachers who are silent what have they done? They are content with vague doubts upon a single point ; and on that few of them have the courage of their convictions. The great system lies almost wholly untouched in the background; the powerful organizations standing upon the system are untouched ; the old motives are still urged. These “liberal” preachers who are “ to leaven the old theology” have gone no further than to raise the question of their right to stand within the bodies to which they have been attached. Unfortunate is that man who, having the positive faith of Universalism, finds himself within those churches ! He must stifle his convictions, or barter them in dishonor. The dream of reconstructing the theology, organization, and motives of the evangelical churches, is the dream of madmen. How far doubt and denial may prevail among them is a question open for the decision of history ; but common sense and history alike tell us that the work is the work of discord and disintegration alone. There is no positive principle within this “liberal” movement pregnant and powerful enough to re-organize the atoms. The evangelical churches will throw off the discordant elements for very selfprotection. If they are ever organized, it must be upon some
principle that is positive and has wide-reaching and definite relations to the world of religious thought, that has an efficient system of organization, and a motire born of its faith.
Here we come again upon the work we are to do. It ought to be very clear to us. We have a faith that is germinant of great doctrines upon every important topic within the field of religious life: It is for us to work them out. Other doctrines upon these topics hare set these faculties of men at variance with each other, have plunged the thinkers of the world into discord, and lost to the Christian Church the service of thousands of earth's wisest men. We can remove this discord, and make the Christian Church the home of every thinking man. No nobler work can be done than to develop the doctrines that lie ungrown within the faith of our Church.
We have only fairly begun our work of organization. We have adopted a form and principle, whose growth and application is far beyond our present realization. There are certain things to be done in the near future, which we are beginning to do already, and which need to be hastened in all wise ways :
1. The determination of the limits to the provinces of our State and General Conventions. In the past, each has claimed work that belonged to the other, and now we are in some danger of confusion in the matter. This is the fruitful cause of suspicion and timidity, and ties our hands oftentimes. We should clear up the field as quickly as possible, that we may work with heartier courage.
2. The development of our Missionary work. This is being left largely to the States; as the present need seems to be the economy and consolidation of our present forces. But here our means of work are crude and unformed. We need better system, more carefully considered methods. The time is coming when we shall need to reach out beyond our present borders and carry our work into new fields where no organization exists to-day.
3. Some method of collecting funds from all our people. At present, not one family in ten of our people contributes to
our general work. The need here is two-fold. We need some way to reach every one, and we need to reach them with appeals for definite objects. With our present methods, no matter low faithful our general officers may be, their appeals are shot off into the air, and if they hit, it is by chance. Then the appeals are made for general objects, which have no meaning to the minds of nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandthis of our people. It is idle to assume perfect knowledge, on the part of our people, of the use of the funds they have given ; it doesn't exist; and will not exist until the objects are put down in black and white for the eyes of our people when they are asked to give. When we have established some definite method of appeal, and presented definite objects to be gained by our money, our people will not only all of them give, but give liberally, and at the same time take a deeper and more intelligent interest in the details of our work : for our people are naturally as generous as any in the land ; they are a prudent people, however, and want to know what their money
4. The development and strengthening of the executive branch of our various organizations. We have put our legislative and judicial branches into comparatively efficient order; but the hold of our executive power upon our work is weak. We make a thousand resolves and have no way of carrying them out. Legislation alone is like a community of males, barren of offspring.
Beside this work in our thought and organization, we have a great work to do with the motive that is peculiar to our faith. The old motives and appeals of the churches are losing force with every year; and if ever man is to be saved from sin and its consequences, new motives must be used, new and more efficient appeals must be made. It is given us to have a faith in the all-conquering love of God; in the certain triumph of good, in the brotherhood of man, and the deathless image of God implanted in every human soul. The Enthusiasm of Humanity that has power to stir the noblest impulses of our nature, and by its very presence redeem us from sin,
burns within the heart of our faith. It is the spirit of the kingdom of God that for all these past centuries has been struggling within the deadness of the churches. It is for us to free it from the incubus of hate and fear and faithlessness and give it free course in the body of the Christian Church.
Here is our work: To appeal to men in the love of God, to work for the sinful and suffering; to unite them in a great church, in which the free mind of each helps to make up the decisions upon the work, in which loyalty to moral obligation is the strong tie that binds every heart to the decision, and in which the faith professed leads every mind to its highest wisdom and every conscience to its finest issues.
Lessing's Theological Opinions.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's sämmtliche Schriften. Heransgegeben von Karl Lach
Aufs neue durchgesehen und vermehrt von Wendelin von Maltzahn. 12 Bde in 13, 8vo. Leipzig, 1853–57.
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing als Theologe, Dargestellt von Carl Schwartz, a. o. Profes-.. sor der Theologie au der Universität Halle. Ein Beitrag zur Geschiehte der Theologie im 18 ten Jahrhundert. Halle, 1864.
The Life and Works of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. From the German of Adolphe Stahr. Ry E. P. Evans, Ph.D., Professor of Modern Languages and Literature in the University of Michigan. In two volumes. Boston, 1866.
Lessing. By James Sime. In two volumes, with Portraits. London: Trübner & Co. Boston: Houghton & Osgood. 1877. (The English and Foreign Philosophical Library, extra Series, Volumes I and II.)
The Education of the Human Race. By Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Translated by the late Rev. F. W. Robertson, M. A. London, 1872.
Cambridge Free Thoughts, and Letters on Bibliolatry. Translated from the German of G. E. Lessing. London, 1877.
It is now about one hundred years since the death of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Poet, Dramatist, Critic and Theologian. Time, which tests all things, has established the fame of this remarkable man as having exerted the most powerful influence on the thought of the world of all the thinkers of his restless and productive age. An adequate appreciation of his mind, in all the phases and directions of its manifold activ
ity, would require a critical review of the history of thought during the last half of the eighteenth century, so fundamental were the principles which he established in every department of literature or art to which he applied himself. An original and powerful poet and dramatist, and the master of a prose style unequalled for clearness, vivacity and force, for precision and a sparkling, dramatic quality so rare in his countrymen, he has not only left works which rank among the classics of the literature of his nation, but has established bis claim to immortality rather as a teacher than a creator, as an instigator of thought than a thinker, as an indicator of methods and principles of research, than an investigator, in a word, rather as an eager, restless truth-seeker, than a creative artist at lei. sure. His true fame and place in history will be determined, not by his “Emilia Golotti,” and “ Nathan the Wise," but by his “ Dramaturgy," the “Education of the Human Race," and “Laocoon." In his æsthetic criticism, his merciless exposure of the depraved and false in the popular literary irodels of his countrymen, in his purification of the reigning taste, and his assignment of their proper limits to the several arts, he made possible the great classic productions of the German national literature. In his theological criticism, in his wonderful historical intuition, in his fearless vindication of the true province and rights of reason, in his reliabilitation of Protestantism, and in his clear and radical distinction of letter and spirit, of Bible and Christianity, he laid the foundations of modern scientific theology, and became the spiritual progenitor of the Schleiermachers, Rothes and Keims of the nineteenth century."
A true appreciation of Lessing's spirit and influence begins and ends with the understanding and study of him as a Critic. And while in no one has the spirit of criticism ever found a more complete embodiment, and ever realized more successfully and with more energetic and many-sided activity its legitimate ends than in him, so no one has ever apprehended
1“ Vormals im Leben ehrten wir Dich als einen der Götter,
Nun Du todt bist so herrscht über die Geister Dein Geist."- Goethe.