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Title: Recollections and Impressions - 1822-1890
Author: Frothingham, Octavius Brooks
Language: English
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                  G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

                  NEW YORK     LONDON


                The Knickerbocker Press


                  COPYRIGHT, 1891 BY

            The Knickerbocker Press, New York

  Electrotyped, Printed, and Bound by G. P. Putnam's Sons


     I PARENTAGE                                         1
    II EDUCATION                                        19
   III DIVINITY SCHOOL                                  25
    IV SALEM                                            35
     V THE CRISIS IN BELIEF                             53
    VI JERSEY CITY                                      65
   VII NEW YORK                                         76
  VIII WAR                                             104
    IX THE FREE RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATION                  115
    XI THE CLERICAL PROFESSION                         146
   XII MY TEACHERS                                     165
  XIII MY COMPANIONS                                   190
   XIV MY FRIENDS                                      225
    XV THE PRESENT SITUATION                           248
  XVII CONFESSIONS                                     289
       INDEX                                           303



My father was, as I have said elsewhere, a clergyman in Boston,
Massachusetts, a Unitarian minister to the First Church, standing in a
long line of men, of whom the earliest was severely orthodox, while he
abhorred orthodoxy. Yet he was ordained without hesitation, was more
than acceptable to the best minds through a service of thirty-five
years, and continued more and more unorthodox to the end; so gradually
and insensibly did the Puritan tenets disappear one by one until the
shadow of them only remained. We are assured that by 1780 nearly all the
congregational pulpits were filled by Arminians. In 1815, the year of my
father's ordination, they were well domesticated in New England,
Calvinism having lost its hold on the minds of thinking people, and none
but keen-eyed watchers on the tower seeing what course opinion was
taking. How far the tendency towards the moral and practical view of
religion as distinct from the speculative view had gone, is well
illustrated in my father's case. He was a man of excellent education,
one of the best scholars in a distinguished class at Harvard, an
enthusiast for intellectual cultivation, singularly refined in
perception, an acute critic, a careful, precise, elegant writer. His
tastes were pre-eminently literary. This is said in full view of the
fact that he was a learned theologian, a pungent disputant, a zealous
student of biblical researches, a faithful pastor.

He was essentially a man of letters. His passion was for the Latin
classics. The best edition of Cicero was on his shelves; the finest copy
of Horace graced his book-case. His knowledge of the Greek literature
and language was fair. He was fond of poetry of a stately and romantic
description; was, himself, a poet of a gentle, meditative, spiritual
cast, especially eminent as a composer of hymns written for church
occasions, the dedication of meeting-houses, the consecration of
ministers, many of them of permanent and general value, as both
"liberal" and "orthodox" collections attest; while he has done as much
as any man in his generation to elevate, purify, and console delicate
and serious natures.

His library of about three thousand volumes was exceedingly
miscellaneous, illustrating the breadth of his interests and the
activity of his mind. There were Bibles of choice editions and in every
tongue. There were biblical commentaries, dictionaries, grammars. The
Church Fathers were well represented. Church history was presented by
its best narrators. But the bulk of the collection was secular. It
contained copies of Addison, Johnson, Bayle, Carlyle, Milton, Bacon,
Dante, Dickens, Emerson, Grote, Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, Hugo,
Heeren, Hume, Iriarte, Michelet, Lessing, Kingsley, Macaulay,
Longfellow, Plutarch, Pindar, Pope, Scott, Rousseau, Racine, Rückert,
Rabelais, Tasso, George Sand, Thucydides, Theocritus, Virgil, Voltaire,
Wieland, Pliny, Wordsworth, Wilkinson, Zschokke, Walt Whitman. They were
very various. They commanded all extremes: Augustine and Anacreon;
Aratus and _Annual Register_; Æschylus and Molière; Aristotle and
Herrick; Seneca and Horace; Antoninus and Almanacs; Burton and
Boccaccio. There was no pure metaphysics--a compendium or two of
philosophy, a bit of Spinoza, of Kant, of Cousin, of Jouffroy, of
Malebranche, the "Dialogues" of Plato--nothing of Schelling or Hegel. I
find Proclus, and Jamblicus, and Böhme, and dramatic literature in
Greek, Latin, French, German. Here is Burlamaqui on Law, and Erasmus
Darwin, and Godwin's "Memoirs of Mary Wollstonecraft," and the
Hitopadesa, and the "Hymns" of Orpheus, and Palæphatus, together with
many a forgotten book.

The favorite language next to English was German, then came French,
then Latin, which was pretty well represented in its literature. Dr.
Frothingham was a wide reader, but his finest gift was a power of
penetrating to the heart of an author, a power that was akin to genius.
He called himself a _taster_. But every taster must take into his mouth
some things that are unpleasant, and he did. He nibbled at Heine, but
Heine's philosophy disgusted him. He nibbled at Browning, but Browning's
lack of sensuous music did not satisfy his idea of poetry. His mind,
trained in the old school, could not adapt itself to the new style of

He gladly turned his back on doctrines he did not like. He was
spiritually minded, but soberly so, as if to be spiritually minded
belonged to a special temperament; a Christian theist in all respects,
though indifferent to many details of Christian doctrine; an optimist on
principle as well as from instinct, inclined to put the most cheerful
construction on the ways of divine Providence, and to look patiently on
the moral conditions of human life; an unquestioning believer in Christ,
immortality, the need of revelation, the supremacy of the religious and
moral nature, the demand for the steady influence of the spiritual world
to enlighten mankind on the truths of conscience no less than on the
mysteries of faith. He was no seer, gazing on things unseen with the
penetrating, inward eye; no prophet possessed by an overwhelming
conviction of the absolute law; no regenerator believing that men must
be lifted up from the earth by an interior renewal of soul; no reformer
bent on changing the circumstances of society. He was an apostle of air,
sunshine, and the mild, enticing summer shower which covered the wintry
ground with the smiling grass and the sweet-smelling flowers. Reformers,
of whatever school, were not to his taste, partly because their methods
seemed to him violent, but partly also because their primary assumption
that the world was out of joint did not command his sympathy. He could
not think that the established institutions of the age ought to be
subverted, even though they might be improved under enlightened
teaching. Socially he was conservative, although by no means
reactionary; disposed to see the soul of good in things evil, though not
always as studious as one must needs be to "search it out." Rather he
took it for granted, and was often impatient with those who felt keenly
the evil but could not discover the good.

High-minded he was rather than deep-souled; devout in sentiment,
chivalrously moral in principle and in practice; ideal, poetic, delicate
of sensibility, but not soaring of spirit; certainly not a spiritual
enthusiast, as little a prosaic plodder; no mystic but no disciple of
"common-sense." For the dignity, decency, purity, propriety of the
clerical profession he had great regard, but as much on account of its
social position as on account of its sanctity. It indicated the highest
type of gentlemanliness, the finest style of personal character, a kind
of exquisite courtliness of manhood, humanity of a finished stamp of
elegance; and he resented everything like an admixture of ordinary
philanthropy. It was in his view a descent to enter the arena of strife
even for the purpose of removing an evil. Thence his dislike of
Channing; his disapproval of Pierpont, otherwise a particular favorite
of his; his disagreement with Parker, of whom he was fond. When the
"Miscellanies" were published the writer sent a copy to his friend, who
acknowledged the volume by a letter in which expressions of personal
affection were curiously blended with antipathy towards the class of
speculations with which Mr. Parker was identified. George Ripley and
R. W. Emerson won and held his attachment to the end, but he never
visited Brook Farm, and was deaf to solicitations to join the
Transcendental Club.

His friends were many and various--Emerson, Ripley, Francis, Hedge,
Bartol, Stetson, Parkman, Longfellow, Felton, Hillard,--the list is
long, for the sunny temper of the man drew all hearts to him and his
warm affectionateness of disposition made him tenacious of good-will. He
was interested in men as individuals not as members of a clique or
party, and was not repelled by differences of opinion where his heart
was engaged. On the whole, his sympathies were with conservatives like
George Ticknor and W. H. Prescott, and the literary spirit mainly kept
him in association with those. Where this spirit was wanting and there
was divergence of sentiment there was no attempt at intimacy.

Of interest in the denomination, the sect, the party name, he was
absolutely devoid. He never attended the conventions or conferences of
the Unitarian body or spoke in their deliberations. On anniversary week
it was for many years his custom to visit New York, where no
professional responsibility rested upon him, and where he could find
recreations of a purely social kind. But at the "Boston Association"
where he met friends one by one, and could talk half confidentially,
with perfect freedom, in a conversational tone, he delighted to be

For the rest, he was a man universally respected, admired, and beloved,
mirthful and sportive, more than tolerant of gaiety, as a rule in
excellent spirits, though subject, as such temperaments usually are, to
moods of depression. Without private ambition and utterly destitute of
vanity, his uneventful days were spent among his friends and his books.
The round of clerical duties was even and monotonous; his calling had
few excitements; even poverty had limits, and social iniquity was
manageable in those times when relations were simple. The routine of
parochial service was such as a friendly man of quick sympathies and
ready speech could easily discharge in a few hours of each week, nor was
the transition violent from it to the quiet library, the companionship
of Cicero, Shakespeare, Milton, Walter Scott, Herder, Rückert. The love
of art, society, literature, was not inconsistent with a love of the
Saviour; and though as a matter of taste he would not have spoken of a
sonata of Beethoven in a sermon, there was nothing in his philosophy to
render secular allusions improper.

His literary predilections were somewhat at the mercy of his sense of
beauty, as if he had an eye to artistic effect quite as much as to
intellectual justice, as if the firm lines of logical discernment were
blurred by the passion for poetic or scenic grace. Of the two famous
German writers about whom opinions were divided, he greatly preferred
Schiller to Goethe, probably because the former was glorious, ardent,
declamatory. Of the two eminent English novelists whom all the world was
reading, Dickens was his choice far above Thackeray, perhaps for the
reason that Dickens had color and warmth of sentiment, while Thackeray
seemed to him cold, skeptical, and cynical. The flow of eloquence, the
charm of dramatic style made him relish authors as radically unlike as
Carlyle, Ruskin, and Macaulay, rendering him unmindful of qualities in
their cast of thought which he might have disapproved of if less
seductively presented. When a lady objected to Macaulay on the score of
his material ethics, Dr. Frothingham was too much captivated by
Macaulay's manner to criticise his philosophy, and he let the philosophy
go. It sometimes looked as if the way in which things were said was of
more importance in his view than the things themselves; but it was not
so, for he could respond to ideal sentiments when they offered
themselves fairly to his mind, and his moral indignation against an act
of flagrant turpitude was quick and hot.

With politics, whether speculative or practical, he gave himself small
concern, for in his day politics were hardly an honorable calling. He
belonged to the Whig party, as it was then called, because it comprised
the greater number of educated men--scholars, divines, lawyers,
physicians, judges, and people of consideration from their position in
society. The Republican party in Massachusetts was not formed till his
public life was nearly ended, and we may doubt whether he would in any
case have connected himself with it, for its aims and purposes were
hardly such as he could have gone along with. The well-known sentiment,
ascribed to Wendell Phillips, "Peace if possible, Truth at any rate," he
would in all probability have reversed so as to read, "Truth if
possible, Peace at any rate"; not because the search for truth was
difficult, and peace furnished the most promising conditions for finding
it, but because peace was preferable in itself as being stable and
quiet. He was not a fighter; he disliked the noise of battle; his horror
of anti-slavery agitation, as of all other, was constitutional; and even
if he had been convinced of the slave's degradation, no mode of redress
that was proposed commended itself to his gentle, apprehensive mind. To
him the chief interest of society was enlightenment associated with
refinement; the needed influence was that of education. He was a
delicately organized, sensitive man, fond of repose, happy in his
temperament, in his tastes, in his occupation, in his social position,
in his relationships, in his home. He had his disappointments and
sorrows like other men, but he did not repine. His latter years were
afflicted with total blindness, accompanied by constant distress and
steadily increasing pain; but his friends never failed to find him
cheerful; the companion who ministered to his daily necessities and
culled from books and periodicals the materials for his entertainment,
seldom had reason to complain of his petulance; the visitor could with
difficulty be brought to believe that the man was living in the presence
of death, and was exposed to frightful phantoms due to a slowly
decomposing brain.

His æsthetic tastes were active, as may be supposed, and would have
been keen if there had been opportunity for cultivating them, and
leisure to pursue them. The pictures that adorned his parlor walls were
not distinguished as works of art, but they were pure in sentiment, they
showed a love of color, and of the highest truth. There was not much
fine painting at that time in America, and what there was required for
its fair appreciation more training and experience than was possessed by
one immersed in the cares of an exacting profession and interested also
in literary pursuits. Mr. Frothingham's artistic taste was, besides, so
much controlled by moral feeling that he could not be critical of form.
Of art for its own sake he had no conception, and could have none, for
that cry which voices the demands of technical execution had not been
raised; but even if it had been he would have felt no sympathy with any
kind of excellence that was not directly associated with the moral

His taste in music was much like his taste in painting,--that is to say,
it was uneducated and unscientific. To the great music,--that of the
intellect and the soul,--the compositions of the masters, of Bach,
Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, he was indifferent; but the music of the
heart, of feeling, emotion, elevated passion,--the Scotch songs, the
Irish melodies, the English lays, madrigals, glees, was his delight. He
was especially fond of religious airs. The oratorios of "The Creation"
and "The Messiah" he was never tired of hearing. His voice was
melodious, and he was fond of using it. His organist taught him the
principles of his own art, and hours were spent at a parlor-organ in
playing favorite hymn-tunes, the melody of which he sang as he played.
He amused his children by trilling nursery ditties, and joined his boys
as they performed glees from the "Orphean Lyre," sometimes singing with
the heart quite as much as with the understanding. His joyous nature
expressed itself instinctively in song. His whole nervous system
responded to it. He was transported out of himself by sweet strains, and
fairly trembled under the influence of divine harmonies.

Mr. Frothingham's love of dramatic art amounted to a passion, but the
art must be high as well as pure. Tragedy he did not like. All of the
Shakespearian plays he was critically familiar with, but he loved "The
Tempest" best, as uniting poetry with cheerfulness in fullest measure.
The lines he wrote on the restoration of the Federal Street Theatre
expressed the depth of his interest. A religious society, afterwards the
"Central Church" in Winter Street, was gathered here. Of this kind of
enterprise the poet says:

    More reverence than befits us here to tell,
    We yield to courts where sacred honors dwell.
    But have not they their places? Have not we?
    Has not each liberal province leave to be?

The "Lecture-Room" he had little respect for, none at all for the
"Variety Show." To every device he wishes a cordial farewell,

    Restored! Restored! Well known so long a time,
    These buried glories rise as in their prime.
    Our tastes may change as fickle fashions-fly,
    But art is safe: the Drama cannot die.
    More than restored! Whate'er the pen since wrought
    Of loftiest, sprightliest, here that wealth has brought.
    Whate'er the progress of the age has lent
    Of purer taste and comelier ornament,--
    To this our temple it transfers its store,
    And makes each point shine lovelier than before.

But the drama must be clean:

    But more yet,--and how much! We claim a praise
    The Playhouse knew not in the ancient days.
    Own us, ye hearts with moral purpose warm!
    Our word Renewal adds the word Reform.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Come, friends of Virtue! Share the feast we spread.
    It loads no spirits, and it heats no head.
    But rouses forth each power of mind and soul
    With food ambrosial and its fairy bowl.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Hearts are improved by Feeling's play and strife;
    Refined amusement humanizes life.
    So wrote the Sages, whom the world admired;
    So sang the Poets, who the world inspired;
    Why in New England's Athens is decried
    What old Athenian culture thought its pride?

Thus Righteousness and Peace are made to kiss each other. Art and
Virtue walk hand in hand. The sole condition is that art shall be
virtuous and that virtue shall be artistic. There was a singular
blending in his mind of the sacred and the secular. Perhaps Matthew
Arnold's definition of religion as "morality touched with emotion" comes
as near expressing Dr. Frothingham's conception as any. There must be
morality; that is cardinal; that lies at the foundation of all systems;
that must be strict and high. But emotion is indispensable also. This
runs into praise, the love of goodness, the worship of the highest. This
imparts warmth, glow, passion, the upward lift that inspires. Morality
alone is cold, emotion alone is apt to be visionary. But the two united
propel the ship, one serving as ballast to keep it steady, and one as
sails to catch the winds of heaven.

My mother was an example of pure character. She laid no claim whatever
to literary talent. Indeed she had none. I cannot associate her with
books of any special description, but I can always associate her with
goodness, with humility, sincerity, duty, kindness, pity, and
simplicity. Truthfulness was her great virtue, and was saved from
bluntness only by her delicate feeling for others and her inborn
politeness. The severest rebuke I ever received from her was on account
of a sharp arraignment of merchants in a youthful sermon, which to her
seemed presumptuous. Her household cares, the nurture of her children
(she had seven, five sons and two daughters, all of whom she trained
most carefully like a devoted mother), the family visitings, the parish
calls, missions among the poor, occupied the day. She would sit for
hours knitting or sewing, or in an armchair before the coal fire
silently musing. She was quiet, reserved, old-fashioned in her
sentiments, but with a great fund of inward strength, which came out on
emergencies. I shall always remember her ceaseless solicitude for an
unfortunate elder brother of mine who had for years been an anxiety and
a trouble. When he died in early manhood, after nursing him tenderly,
she softly closed his eyes, and preserved the memory of him in her
heart. Her chamber window in the country looked upon his distant grave,
the little white stone over which kept him before her eye who was always
in her thoughts.

She accepted the existing order of things because it was established,
disliking experiments, however humane, for the reason that they had not
been tested; and if she had misgivings, she kept them to herself not
daring to set up her private feelings in opposition to the will of the
Supreme, the question whether the existing order expressed the will of
the Supreme never being raised by her.

She was Unitarian, having so been taught, but speculative matters were
out of her reach as well as uncongenial with her sphere. Her faith was
of the heart, and all the reason for it she had to give was an uplifted
life, "unspotted from the world." Of creeds she knew nothing, not that
she was deficient in mind, but because they seemed to her to be affairs
of criticism, with which she had nothing to do. Her concern was with
practical things, and conduct was, with her, more than seven eighths of
life. Even the very mild decoction of theology that was administered
from Sunday to Sunday in Chauncy Place was sometimes too much for her.
She was a practical Christian, if there ever was one.

Her love of nature was genuine. As a young woman she could distinguish
the colors of a flying bird. When she had a house of her own in the
country, she preferred a spot remote from the world of society; went
there as early as possible in the spring, and stayed as late in the
autumn as she could. She delighted in the place; loved the air, the
trees, the smell of the ground. She enjoyed her garden; liked to see
plants grow. Every morning after breakfast she went out to inspect the
grounds, and came back laden with modest flowers; in the fall with pine
cones, the flame of which she enjoyed. On her last evening, quite
unaware of her coming end, she sat on the piazza, and looked at the
sunset, wrapped in shawls, though it was midsummer, for she was weak and
emaciated but patiently tranquil.

Her habits were simple, not from parsimony but from taste. She cared
nothing for decoration or display. She spent no more than was necessary
on dress or furniture. She was fond of old-fashioned, solid things. In
the midst of abundance, her appetite was for plain food, yet she was no
ascetic or prude, but a largehearted, sensible woman, sober and serious
but genial too.

Browning makes Paracelsus say:

    'T is only when they spring to heaven that angels
    Reveal themselves to you; they sit all day
    Beside you, and lie down at night by you,--
    Who care not for their presence,--muse or sleep,
    And all at once they leave you and you know them.

This is in a measure true. Death is a great revealer. Unfortunately it
is a great deceiver also, putting wings on very earthly bodies. But in
this instance, the qualities were all there in the living form, and all
clearly visible to those who sat all day beside my mother. Death did but
brush away a little film that hung before distant eyes.

Until near middle life I had the example and advice of these dear
spirits. It is my privilege to have their blood in my veins. That was my
best endowment, and kept me always hopeful of a better future in the
time to come. The dream of a nobler age for literature, art, science,
humanity, came directly from my father. The desire to do something to
make the dream an actual fact, to prove myself as of some service in the
world, came from my mother. His was the love of intellectual liberty.
Hers was the passion for practical accomplishments. He was a scholar.
She was a worker.

Both had thoughts deeper than they could express. Both were utterly
sincere in their calling, and the limitations of their age alone
confined their advance. The times were quiet then; the world was small
and disconnected; Boston was a little place and shut off even from
American cities by difficulties of travel and by exorbitant rates of
postage. Thus responsibility was mainly confined to individuals. There
were no wearing duties; no perplexing cares; even railroad disturbances
did not worry, for there was no railroad speculation, and no railroad
system. Hours were early, dinner was at two or half-past, tea at six or
seven, the evening ended at ten, and was spent with books, melodious
music, or playful games of amusement, not of instruction. There were few
social gatherings; balls were very rare, seldom lasting later than
eleven o'clock. There was an occasional concert, and here and there a
theatre, but there were no great dinner parties. Social problems were
exceedingly simple; the classes were divided by lines that nobody
attempted to pass over. Socialism was unborn, and labor agitations were
unknown. In a word, there was such a thing as leisure, and this was used
chiefly for the cultivation of the mind.

My father was greatly interested in the education of his boys; watched
all their attainments; taught them French; encouraged their learning how
to box, and fence, and swim; while my mother shed an atmosphere of peace
over the whole household. She made one joke only, as far as my memory
serves me,--and I mention it here lest any one should suppose there was
a lack of sunshine in her nature. My father was very fond of "vöslauer,"
an Austrian red wine. When the last bottle was produced my mother, said
archly, "your _face_ will _lower_ when it is all drunk up." It was not
much of a joke, but a small jest will show the spirit of fun quite as
well as a large one.

There was a singular combination of aspiration with peace at that time.
Probably there is as much aspiration now as there was then, perhaps
more; but it is associated with social reform rather than with personal
perfection; there is peace, too, at the present day, but it is harder to
get at and needs to be sought most often in private homes; the inward
peace is found in all periods.

How the principles then formed would bear the strain of a later age or
a larger sphere remained to be proved. Fifty years ago the modern era
with its complications and perplexities could not even be suspected. The
foundations alone could then be laid.


Of the primary schools it is unnecessary to speak. They were of the same
kind that were established in Boston at that period. Indeed I can
recollect but two, one, a child's school of boys and girls, kept by a
Miss Scott, at the corner of Mt. Vernon Street and Hancock; the other a
boys' school kept by a Mr. Capen, a poor hump-backed cripple who could
not get out of his chair, but wheeled himself about the room, and kept
on his table a cowhide, which was pretty generously exercised. The
school was on Bedford Street behind the "Church of Church Green." A
little alley-way ran along in the rear of the church through which I
used to go to the school-house.

The Latin School was an old institution brought hither by Rev. John
Cotton, who remembered the Free Grammar School founded in Lincolnshire,
England, by Queen Mary, in which Latin and Greek were taught. It was
established here, in 1635, five years after the landing of Winthrop, two
or three years before Harvard College. When I was there, it stood on
School Street, opposite the Franklin statue. It had a granite front and
a cupola. The head-master was Charles K. Dillaway, an excellent scholar,
a faithful teacher, an agreeable man. He had to resign in consequence of
ill-health. The tutors were Henry W. Torrey and Francis Gardner, who
afterwards became head-master. Both were pupils of the school. Mr.
Frederick P. Leverett, author of the Latin Lexicon, was chosen to
succeed Mr. Dillaway, but died before assuming the office. The next
head-master, during my course, was Epes Sargent Dixwell, a most
accomplished man, an elegant scholar, a gentleman of the world, very
much interested, as I remember, in the plastic art of Greece. He is
still living, and amuses himself by writing Greek. Mr. Dixwell held
office till 1851, when he established a private school. The discipline
of the Latin School was strict but mild. Corporal punishment was the
unquestioned rule, but it was never harshly administered, though the
knowledge that it might be undoubtedly did a good deal toward
stimulating the ambition of the scholars. Here and there no doubt a boy
exasperated the teacher by idleness or disorder; possibly at moments the
teacher was nervous and irritable. I recollect a single instance in
which he was over-sensitive, too prone to take offence, which fastened
suspiciously upon some individual scholar; but injustice was a very rare
occurrence. We learned Greek and Latin, the rudiments of algebra,
writing and declamation; but the best part of the education I received
in those days was an atmosphere of elegant literature, derived from
friends of my father. I used to see William H. Prescott taking his walk
on Beacon Street, in the sun, and have often sat in his study in his
tranquil hours, and heard him talk. The beautiful library of George
Ticknor, at the head of Park Street, was open to me, and I can see his
form now as he walked on the Common. George S. Hillard, the elegant man
of letters, was a familiar figure on the street. Charles Sumner, then a
young law student, strode vigorously along, his manner even then
suggesting the advent of a new era.

In 1846, I listened to his oration before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of
Harvard University on the Scholar [Pickering]; the Jurist [Story]; the
Artist [Allston]; the Philanthropist [Channing]; and his bold
declamation was strangely in contrast with the academical gown that he
wore. Daniel Webster used to stalk by our house, the embodiment of the
Constitution, the incarnation of law, the black locomotive of the train
of civilization. Ralph Waldo Emerson often sat at my father's table
diffusing the radiance of serene ideas, and heralding the diviner age
that was to come.

From the Latin School to Harvard College was an easy transition. There
existed an impression that Latin-School boys might take their ease for
the first year at Cambridge, because they were so well prepared, but I
found enough to do; there was the great library, there were the advanced
studies, there was the more perfect training. The President was Josiah
Quincy, the elder. Henry W. Longfellow was professor of modern
languages; Cornelius C. Felton, the ardent philhellene, taught Greek;
Charles Beck, a German, taught Latin; Benjamin Peirce was professor of
mathematics; James Walker was an instructor in intellectual and moral
philosophy; Joseph Lovering, teacher in chemistry. Among the tutors were
Bernard Roelker, in German; Pietro Bachi, in Italian; Francisco Sales,
in Spanish.

The new buildings now in the college yard were not erected; Holworthy
(1812), Stoughton (1804-1805), Hollis (1763), Harvard (1766), Holden
(1734), Massachusetts Hall (1720), University Hall (1812-1813) were in
existence. There were no athletics; there was no gymnasium; there was no
boating; there was little base-ball. There were few literary societies;
so that we were driven back mainly upon intellectual labor. The
professors' houses were always open, and there was choice society in the
town. I recollect particularly well going to the house of John White
Webster, who was executed later for the murder of Dr. Parkman. He was
very fond of music and had a daughter who sang finely, besides being
handsome. She afterwards married Mr. Dabney, of Fayal. The Doctor was a
nervous man, high strung, but good-natured and polite. His fatal
encounter with Dr. Parkman I always attributed to a sudden outbreak of

Within the grounds of the college we were quite studious, companionable
among ourselves. There was no rioting, no excess of any kind. Walking
and swimming in the river Charles were our chief recreations. Connection
with Boston was infrequent and difficult, as there was no railroad. The
Sundays could be passed in the city if the student brought a certificate
that he went regularly to church; otherwise it was expected that the
First Church, or one of the others, should be frequented. The
instruction was of a cordial, friendly, courteous, and humane kind; the
professors were enthusiastic students in their departments. I well
recollect Professor Longfellow's kindness; Professor Felton's ardor (I
visited Pompeii with him in 1853). Charles Beck was a burning patriot in
the war. Pietro Bachi's great eyes lighted up and glowed as he talked
about Dante. Bernard Roelker afterwards became a lawyer in New York.
Charles Wheeler and Robert Bartlett, tutors, both rare spirits, died
young. On the whole, life at Harvard College was exceedingly pleasant,
and a real love of learning was implanted in young men's bosoms.

The corner-stone of Gore Hall was laid in 1813. The books were moved
into the library in the summer vacation of 1814. There were forty-one
thousand volumes at that time.

In the early part of my career, I took my meals in Commons, at an
expense of two dollars and a quarter a week, the highest price then
paid. Commons was abolished for a time in 1849, it being found difficult
to satisfy the students, who for some years had boarded in the houses in
the neighborhood.

There were excitements too. Though there was no gymnasium, or boating,
and little foot-ball, base-ball, or cricket (these games were all very
simple and rudimentary), there were the clubs, the "[Greek: Alpha Delta
Phi]," still a secret society, and occupying a back upper room, to which
we mounted by stealth,--the same room serving for initiations and
sociables,--was exceedingly interesting in a literary point of view.
There were papers on Scott, Byron, Wordsworth, delightful conversations,
anecdotes, songs.

The "Institute of 1770" taught us elocution, and readiness in debate;
the "[Greek: Phi Beta Kappa]," no longer a secret society, and no longer
actively literary, hung over us like a star, stimulating ambition and
inciting us to excellence in scholarship.

Altogether it was a delightful life; a life between boyhood and
manhood; of purely literary ambition, of natural friendship. There was
no distinction of persons, no affected pride. We found our own level,
and kept our own place. Money did not distinguish or family, only
brains. There was no care but for intellectual work; there was no excess
save in study. Expenses were small, indulgences were few and simple. The
education was more suited to those times than to these, when culture
must be so much broader, and social expectations demand such varied


To enter at once the Divinity School was to start on a predestined
career. From childhood I was marked out for a clergyman. This was taken
for granted in all places and conversations, and my own thoughts fell
habitually into that groove. There was nothing unattractive in the
professional career as illustrated by my father. I was the only one of a
large family of brothers who pursued the full course of studies at
Cambridge, or who showed a taste for the scholastic life. An appetite
for books rather than for affairs pointed first of all to a literary
calling, while a fondness for speculative questions, a leaning towards
ideal subjects, and a serious turn of mind naturally suggested at that
time the pulpit. An inward "experience of religion," which in some other
communions was regarded as essential to the character of a minister of
the gospel, was not demanded. Religion was rather moral and intellectual
than spiritual, a matter of mental conviction more than of emotional
feeling. The clerical profession stood very high, higher than any of the
three "learned professions," by reason of its requiring in larger
measure a tendency towards abstract thought, an interest in theological
discussions, and a steady belief in doctrines that concerned the soul.
Literature was not at that period a profession; there was no Art to
speak of except for genius of the first order like that of Allston or
Greenough. Men of the highest intellectual rank, whatever they may have
become afterwards, tried the ministry at the start. The traditions of
New England favored the ministerial calling. The great names, with here
and there an exception, were names of divines. The great books were on
subjects of religion; the popular interest centred in theological
controversy; the general enthusiasm was aroused by preachers; the
current talk was about sermons. The clergy was a privileged class,
aristocratic, exalted.

Divinity Hall had been dedicated in August, 1826. It was situated on an
avenue about a quarter of a mile from the college yard. It contained,
besides thirty-seven chambers for the accommodation of students, a
chapel, a library, a lecture-room, and a reading-room; it stood opposite
the Zoölogical Museum. Before it was a vacant space used for games.
Behind it was meadow land reaching all the way to Mr. Norton's. Just
beyond it was Dr. Palfrey's residence. George Rapall Noyes, D.D., was
elected in May, 1840, with the title of "Hancock Professor of Hebrew and
Oriental Languages, and Dexter Lecturer on Biblical Literature." He had
already translated the poetical books of the Old Testament, and it was
his eminence as a translator which had won him fame while a minister at
Petersham. It was his duty also to explain the New Testament, and in
addition to give lectures in systematic theology. Besides all this he
was to preach in the college chapel a fourth of the year. He steadily
grew in the respect and attachment of the young men; his authority in
the lecture-room was very great; his opinions were carefully formed and
precisely delivered; and his shrewd, practical wisdom was long
remembered by his pupils. Convers Francis, D.D., appointed to the
"Parkman Professorship," after the resignation of Henry Ware, Jr., was
his associate. The branches assigned to him were ecclesiastical history,
natural theology, ethics, the composition of sermons, and instruction in
the duties of a pastor; besides all this he was to preach half of the
time in the college chapel. Dr. Francis was an accomplished scholar and
a faithful teacher. The best man, too, for his position, at a time when
in an unsectarian school it was exceedingly desirable that the
professors should harmonize all tendencies; for with a strong sympathy
with "transcendentalism," as it was then called, he had been a most
successful parish minister, a very acceptable preacher, and a man in
whom all the churches had confidence.

At Cambridge, owing to the influence of Buckminster, Ware, and Norton,
Unitarian opinion prevailed, though the controversial period had passed
by when I was there. The clouds of warfare no longer discharged
lightning; there was no roll of thunder; only a faint muttering betrayed
the former excitement; and the memory of old conflicts hovered round the
spots where the fights had been hottest. Marks of strife were still
visible on texts, and chapters were scarred with wounds. Comment still
lingered near the passages where polemics had raged, and the blood
burned as we read the tracts or studied the essays of the champions we

It was impossible to forget the interpretations that had been given to
words or phrases. A strictly scientific study, either of the Bible or
the creed, was therefore out of the question. But the course of
exercises was broad, generous, inclusive, as far as this was feasible.
The bias was decidedly unorthodox, yet without the bitter temper of
opposition. The old system was rather set aside than attacked. It was
assumed to have been vanquished in the fair field. The professors were
liberal in their views. A small but serviceable library furnished the
students with a certain amount of needed material, the college library
was freely opened to them, and the collections of the professors were
gladly placed at their disposal. The days were fully occupied with
lectures, recitations, discussions, exercises in writing out and taking
of notes. Once a week there was a debate on some general theme not
connected with the topics of the class-room; and at the latter part of
the course there was special training in the composition and delivery of
sermons, accompanied by a brief experience of extemporaneous speaking.
The Unitarian ministry was alone contemplated; no wide divergence from
it was encouraged, and the conservative methods of interpretation were
the ones recommended. Some knowledge of Greek and Latin being
presupposed, the study of Hebrew was made the one study of language, and
this was pursued with the best available helps. Biblical criticism
naturally took a prominent place in the current curriculum, under the
guidance of the most distinguished authorities; books of every school
were recommended, whether old or new, Catholic or Protestant,
"conservative" or "liberal," Horne, Tholuck, De Wette being consulted in
turn. The New Testament and "Historical Christianity" were taken for
granted; and these meant belief in miracles, which were defended against
rising objections of the Strauss and Paulus schools, the former holding
by the "mythical" theory, the latter favoring the notion of a natural
explanation of some sort. The hostility towards rationalism was decided.
This was forty years ago, before the "historical method," as it was
called, instituted by Baur, Schwegler, Zeller, Sneckenburger, and the
_Theologische Jahrbücher_, had any expositor in this country, long
before the Dutch school, the later French school--Kuenen, Reville,
Reuss, Nicolas, Renan,--came out. The great issue was the credibility of
the miracles of the Old and New Testaments. The half-monastic life we
led at Divinity Hall cut us off a good deal from social amenities,
reform agitations, attempts to change institutions, and even from the
deeper currents of religious sentiment. None but the very observant took
note of Brook Farm, or heeded the movements in behalf of Association
that were going on in other communities. Whatever was outside of the
"Christian" ministry concerned us but little. The professors did not
direct our eyes to the mountain tops or call attention to the bringers
of good tidings from other quarters than the Christian Revelation, as
explained by its scholars and writers. Even such a phenomenon as Emerson
did not make a profound impression on the average mind.

A tone of old-fashioned piety pervaded the establishment. A weekly
prayer-meeting, always attended by one of the professors, though
officially rather than as a stimulator, was much in the manner and
spirit of similar exercises at Andover. The students were cautioned
against excessive intellectualism. Several of them spent their Sundays
in teaching classes of the young in the neighboring towns, in
ministering to the sick in hospitals, or in carrying the monitions of
conscience to the criminals in the prison at Charlestown. The aims of a
practical ministry were thus kept in view as well as the circumstances
of the time permitted. Of course the school could not be a philanthropic
institution any more than it could be independent or scientific. It was
committed to a special purpose, which was the supply of Christian
pulpits with instructed, earnest, devoted men. That they should be
Unitarians was expected; that they should be Christians in belief was
demanded. There were two ever-present spectres, "orthodoxy" and
"rationalism," the one represented by Andover, the other by Germany.
Audacity of speculation when unaccompanied by practical piety was
discountenanced, and in flagrant instances rebuked.

The literal form of the orthodox creed, it need hardly be said, was made
more prominent than its imaginative aspect. This was inevitable, for the
object was to assail it rather than to understand it. To be perfectly
fair to all sides was, under the circumstances, not to be expected at a
period so near the era of controversy. An earnest, ingenuous youth could
find at Cambridge all the courage and impulse he needed, for the
atmosphere of the place was neither chilling nor depressing. The less
emotional, more intellectual scholar was left to pursue his studies
undisturbed, the wind of spiritual feeling not being strong enough to
carry him away.

In a word, the institution was all that could have been looked for in a
time when ecclesiastical and doctrinal traditions were fatally though
not confessedly broken, and naked individualism was not avowedly
adopted. The task of the professors, conscientious, hard working,
utterly faithful men, was laborious, difficult, and thankless. The
Unitarian public, fearing a tendency to unbelief, gave them a grudging
confidence; the students, I am afraid, were not considerate of
them,--the zealous finding them lukewarm, the cold-blooded blaming them
for stopping short of the last consequences of their own theory. It is
wonderful that the school went on at all. The single-minded devotion of
the teachers alone preserved it. Looking thoughtfully back across a wide
gulf of years, the writer of these pages feels that he owes this tribute
to Convers Francis and George R. Noyes. How often he has wished he could
take them by the hand and ask their forgiveness for his frequent
misjudgment of them, misjudgment the remembrance of which makes his
heart bleed the more as he can only think of their generous forbearance.
Their influence was emancipating and stimulating. They were friendly to
thought. Under their ministration the mind took a leap forward towards
the confines of the Christian system of faith. What the divinity school
of the future may be able to accomplish it would be hazardous to
conjecture. It could hardly then have done more than it did.

The study of comparative religions, so zealously prosecuted within a
few years, together with a desire to do perfect justice to orthodox
doctrines, may render practical a scientific review of theological
systems, but in this event a predilection in favor of a separate
"Christian" ministry can be no longer characteristic of a divinity
school which proposes to prepare young men for the clerical calling.

The three years of secluded life passed quickly away. The trial sermon
in the village church was delivered and criticised. The President of the
college then was Edward Everett, my uncle. The next morning I went to
his office; he spoke warmly of my sermon, but advised me henceforth to
commit sermons to memory as he did. This I tried two or three times, but
the effort to write the sermons so fatigued me that the task of
committing them to memory was too great, and for years I wrote my
discourses, until for convenience' sake I learned to preach without
notes. The diploma was bestowed, the actual ministry was begun. The term
of preaching as a candidate did not last long. By the advice of friends
an invitation was accepted to an old established conservative parish in
Salem, Mass. Ordination and marriage soon followed, and public life was
inaugurated under the most promising conditions. I had the best wishes
of the conservative portion of the community to which I was, properly,
supposed to belong, and the hopes of the radical portion who anticipated
a change of view as time went on, and I was brought into sharper
collision with prevailing habits of thought than was possible at
Cambridge, where the student was in a great measure cut off from
intercourse with the world.

At the "Divinity School" I was known as a young man with conservative
ideas. I remember now discussions, essays, criticisms, in which the
opinions in vogue among old-fashioned Unitarians were defended somewhat
passionately against the more daring convictions of my companions. In
especial my faith was in direct opposition to the spiritual philosophy;
Strauss was a horror; Parker was a bugbear; Furness seemed an innovator;
Emerson was a "Transcendentalist," a term of immeasurable reproach. All
this was soon to pass away, and I was to go a great deal beyond even
Parker. The word "Transcendentalist" ceased to be a synonym for
"enthusiast." The philosophy of intuition was first literally adopted,
then dismissed, and I came out where I least expected. But I well
remember, one evening as I was walking out from Boston, presenting to
myself distinctly the alternative between the adoption of the old and
the new. I am afraid that the old commended itself by its venerableness,
the solidity of its traditions, and the authority of its great names,
while the new was still vague and formless. I then and there decided to
follow in the footsteps of my fathers, a course more in sympathy with
the prevailing temper of the age and with the current of thought at
Divinity Hall, though Emerson had delivered his address some years
before, and the New Jerusalem was even then coming down from heaven.


Old Salem was a city of the imagination. History does it no justice.
The "Essex Institute," founded in 1848, by the union of the "Essex
County Historical Society" and the "Essex County Natural History
Society," has a very fine collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts,
an invaluable museum, relics, pictures, so that in no locality in the
country has so much been accomplished in exhuming the treasures of
municipal and civil history, and in bringing to light antiquities.
Hurd's "History of Essex County," published in 1888, with its monographs
on commerce, religion, literature, newspapers, etc., written by
thoroughly competent men, throws a flood of light on the past of the
place. Mr. Upham's "Memoir of Francis Peabody," published in 1868, gives
an admirable account of the literary eminence of the old town. Colonel
Higginson's article in _Harper's Monthly_ on "Old Salem's Sea Captains,"
published in September, 1886, gives something of its romantic character.
But best of all as illustrating this feature are the articles written by
"Eleanor Putnam" (Mrs. Arlo Bates), and republished after her death
under the title of "Old Salem," in 1887. She was about thirty years old
when she died; but if she had lived she would have presented the old
city in its quaintest aspect. Her love of antiquarian research, her
taste, her devotion to Salem qualified her in an eminent degree for her
self-appointed task.

There can hardly be a doubt that the origins of the town were
religious; that a religious purpose, deep though undefined and
undeclared, animated the emigrants before Winthrop. The very name,
Salem, the Hebrew for peacefulness, instead of "Naumkeag" (the old
Indian name), adopted in 1628, to commemorate the reconciliation between
the company of Roger Conant and that of John Endicott, was already
suggestive of spiritual qualities. Eminent forms loom up in the
distance: Francis Higginson, the first minister of Massachusetts Bay;
Roger Williams, whose name is identified with "soul freedom"; Hugh
Peters, his opponent. John Endicott was a most imposing figure; hasty,
rash, choleric (as was shown by his striking a man in early life),
imperious, but brave and bold. He was a stern Puritan, hating popery so
much that he cut out the image of the king from the English banner,
because it was an image, while at the same time he persecuted the
Quakers, because they advocated obedience to the "inner light" and were
disturbers of the established peace. But he had sweeter
qualities--gentleness, generosity, and kindness. An old scripture
(Ecclesiasticus xi., 28) says: "Judge none blessed before his death; for
a man shall be known in his children." The descendants of John Endicott
are graceful, elegant, refined people, lovely in manners, gentle in
disposition. The root of these qualities must have been in the
forefather two centuries and a half ago. The intellectual history of the
city is very illustrious and began early. A strong intellectual bent
characterized the early settlers, who were persons of inquisitive minds,
addicted to experiments and enterprises, exceedingly ingenious. Near the
middle of the last century there was in existence in Salem a social
evening club, composed of eminent cultivated and accomplished citizens.
On the evening of Monday, March 31, 1760, a meeting was held at the
Tavern House of a Mrs. Pratt for the purpose of "founding in the town of
Salem a handsome library of valuable books, apprehending the same may be
of considerable use and benefit under proper regulations." The books
imported, given, or bought, amounted to four hundred and fifteen
volumes. This society, which may be regarded as the foundation of all
the institutions and agencies established in this place to promote
intellectual culture, was incorporated in 1797. In 1766, the famous
Count Rumford was an apprentice here. In 1781, Richard Kirwan, LL.D., of
Dublin, an eminent philosopher of the period, had a valuable library in
a vessel which was captured by an American private armed ship and
brought into Beverly as a prize. The books were given by Dr. Kirwan, who
would accept no gratuity and was delighted that his volumes were put to
so good a use. The books were sold to an association of gentlemen in
Salem and its neighborhood, and formed the "Philosophical Library." This
and the "Social Library" were afterwards consolidated into the "Salem
Athenæum," which was incorporated in March, 1810.

Among the distinguished men were William H. Prescott, Benjamin Peirce,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Lewis Russell, Charles Grafton Page, and Jones
Very. Here lived Edward Augustus Holyoke, president of the Massachusetts
Medical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Timothy
Pickering, Rev. John Prince, Rev. William Bentley, Nathaniel Bowditch,
author of the "Practical Navigator" and translator of the "Mecanique
Celeste"; John Pickering, Joseph Story, of the Supreme Bench; Daniel
Appleton White, Leverett Saltonstall, Benjamin Merrill, and many another
man of accomplishments and learning. Even the uneducated, and those
engaged in the common occupations of everyday life, gratified their love
of knowledge, and followed up, for their private enjoyment, researches
in intellectual and philosophical spheres; apothecaries and retail
shopkeepers distinguished themselves as writers; one of them--Isaac
Newhall by name--was reputed the author of the famous "Junius Letters,"
thus enjoying companionship with Burke, Gibbon, Grattan, Camden,
Chatham, Chesterfield, and other distinguished writers.

Its commercial history was exceedingly brilliant. In its palmy days it
had more trade with the East Indies than all the other American ports
put together. Its situation by the sea encouraged maritime adventure.
From its very infancy its inhabitants sent vessels across the Atlantic
of forty to sixty tons, and followed up the trade with Spain, France,
Italy, and the West India Islands. In the war of the Revolution it sent
out one hundred and fifty-eight armed ships, mounting at least two
thousand guns, and carrying not less than six thousand men. In 1785,
Salem sent out the first vessel to the Isle of France, Calcutta, and
China; she began also the trade to the other ports of the East Indies
and Japan; to Madagascar and Zanzibar, Brazil and Africa. In the south
seas, Salem ships first visited the Fiji Islands; they first opened up
to our commerce New Holland and New Zealand. In the war of 1812 she had
two hundred and fifty privateers. When the war was over, these vessels
were engaged in the merchant service. Mr. E. H. Derby, one of the great
merchants, said to be the richest man in America, sent out thirty-seven
vessels in fourteen years, making a hundred and twenty voyages. The
names of the great merchants, E. H. Derby, N. Silsbee, William Gray,
Peabody, Crowningshield, Pickman, Cleveland, Cabot, Higginson, are of
universal celebrity. Then Derby Street was alive with sea-captains, the
custom-house was active, the tall warehouses were full of treasures, the
great East Indiamen fairly made the air fragrant as they unloaded their
merchandise. To quote the language of "Eleanor Putnam": "There was
poetry in the names of the vessels--the ship _Lotus_, the _Black
Warrior_, the brig _Persia_, the _Light Horse_, the _Three Friends_, and
the great _Grand Turk_. There was, too, a charm about the cargoes. They
were no common-place bales of merchandise, but were suggestive in their
very names of the sweet, strange odors of the East, from which they
came. There was food for the imagination in the mention of those
ship-loads of gum copal from Madagascar and Zanzibar; of hemp and iron
from Russia; of Bombay cotton; of ginger, pepper, coffee, and sugar from
India; of teas, silks, and nankeens from China; salt from Cadiz; and
fruits from the ports of the Mediterranean."

Miss Putnam speaks of the gorgeous fans, the carved ivory, the blue
Canton china, the generous tea-cups, the tureens, the heavy tankards,
the Delft jars, the ancient candle-sticks, the heavy punch bowls, the
strange beads, suggestive of the Hindoo rites, Nautch dances, and women
with dusky throats. Then the very air was weighty with romantic
adventures. We read with awe of cashmere shawls hanging on clothes
lines, of jars full of silver coin, of the gilded fishes on the side of
each stair, of the grand staircase in the front hall of Mr. Pickman's
house on Essex Street, of logs of sandal-wood. The museum of the East
India Marine Society contains sceptres from the Fiji Islands; a musical
instrument from New South Wales, another from Borneo; a carved statue of
a rich Persian merchant of Bombay; an alabaster figure of a Chinese Jos;
a copper idol from Java; a mirror from Japan; fans from Maraba, the
Marquesas Islands, Calcutta; cloth from Otaheite; an earthen patera from
Herculaneum; two dresses of women from the Pelew Islands; sandal-wood
from the Sandwich Islands; a parasol from Calcutta; nutmegs from
Cayenne; thirty-six specimens of Italian marble; cement from the palace
of the Cæsars at Rome; white marble from Carthage; porphyry from Italy;
beads worn by the Pundits and Fakirs in India; a glass cup from Owyhee;
Verde Antico from Sicily; sandal-wood tapers from China; wood images of
mummies from Thebes; a silver box from Soo-Soo; porphyry from
Madagascar; a piece of mosaic from ancient Carthage; silk cocoons from
India; marble from the temple of Minerva at Athens; piece of pavement
from the site of ancient Troy; and polished jasper from Siberia.

When I was in Salem, from 1847 to 1855, this splendor had departed.
Derby Street was deserted, the great warehouses were tenements for
laborers. Hawthorne has described the custom-house in his famous preface
to the "Scarlet Letter." The sailors had disappeared; the commerce,
owing mainly to the shallowness of the water in the harbor, had gone to
Boston and New York. But traces of the old glory still lingered. Here
and there a great merchant was seen on the streets. Some of the old
houses remained: the Pickering House on Broad Street, built in 1651; the
Turner House; Roger Williams' house, at the corner of Essex and North
Streets, built before 1634; and Mr. Forrester's house.

As the chairman of the Salem Lyceum, it was my privilege to entertain
such men as R. W. Emerson, George W. Curtis and others. Thomas Starr
King, when he lectured in Danvers, drove over to my house, and spent the
rest of the evening. Nathaniel Hawthorne I used to meet frequently on
the street. I often saw Mrs. Hawthorne leading her children by the hand.
Mr. Hawthorne, who was in Salem from 1846 to 1849, was remarkable for
his shyness. His favorite companions were some Democratic politicians,
who met weekly at the office of one of them, where he occupied himself
in listening to their talk, but he avoided cultivated people. On one
occasion a friend of mine asked us to meet him at dinner; twice he went
to remind his guest of the engagement. The hour arrived, the dinner was
kept waiting half an hour for Mr. Hawthorne to come. He said but little
during the dinner, and immediately afterward got up and went away; his
reluctance to meet people overcoming his sense of propriety.

My church, the "North Church," as it was called, was a handsome
building on the main street, a stone structure with a tower, and a green
before it. It was founded in 1772 by people who had left the First
Parish by reason of great dissatisfaction. The first minister, called in
1773, was Thomas Barnard. He was a broad-minded, liberal man, and left
the church substantially Unitarian. His successor was J. E. Abbot,
called in 1815, whose ministry, from ill-health, was very short. My
predecessor, John Brazer, a cultivated, scholarly, sensitive man, a good
preacher, an excellent pastor, was settled in 1820. My ministry there
was exceedingly pleasant and tranquil for several years. There were long
hours for studying; the parish work was not hard; the people were
honest, quiet, sober, some of them exceedingly refined and gentle; it
was as if the old Puritan spirit, modified by time, still lingered about
the old town. Family life was beautiful to see; the homes were charming;
there was luxury enough; there was great intelligence, singular activity
of mind; and I remember well the bright conversations, the
entertainments, the teas, the dinners, the receptions, the social
meetings. The women, especially, were distinguished for interest in
literary matters. Many interesting people still lived in the town,
Daniel Appleton White, for instance, Dr. Treadwell, Benjamin Merrill,
Thomas Cole; some of these were my parishioners and all were my friends.
But the life was almost too quiet for me, as circumstances presently

At the same time, as if to render impossible my further ministration in
this first place of service, the anti-slavery agitation was at its
height, dividing churches, breaking up sects, setting the members of
families against each other, detaching ministers from their
congregations, and arraying society in hostile camps. The noise of the
conflict filled the air. It was impossible to evade the issue. Those who
had fixed positions in the community, were of a tranquil temperament, or
of an easy conscience, might survey the battle calmly, or be vexed only
by the confusion in the social world; but they who had the future still
before them could not but feel the necessity of taking sides in the
quarrel. When Garrison, the incarnate conscience, was enunciating the
moral law and illustrating it by flaming texts from the Old Testament;
when the intrepid Phillips was throwing the light of history on
politics, and putting statesmanship in the face of humanity, judging all
men by the maxims of ethical philosophy; when Parker was proclaiming the
absolute justice, and Clarke was applying the truths of the eternal
love; and many others, men and women, were thundering forth the divine
vengeance on iniquity; when facts were set out for everybody's reading,
and tongues were unloosed, and fiery messages proceeded from all mouths,
and conviction was deep, and eloquence was stirring, it was impossible
to be still.

Now the situation is changed; the evil is removed; the wound has
healed; the surgeon's knife has been put up in its case. A new
philosophy is disposed to blame the action of the anti-slavery
champions. Some critics have doubted whether the conduct of the
abolitionists was wise; whether their primary assumption of the
political equality of all men was correct; whether a race that had never
founded a government or contributed to the advance of civilization could
add any weight to the cause of liberty. But then such misgivings could
not be raised. The abolitionists seemed to have on their side the
precepts of the New Testament, the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount,
the character and example of Jesus, the burning language of prophecy,
the inspiring traditions of primitive Christianity, the humane instincts
of the heart, the moral sentiments of equity, pity, compassion, all
reinforced by the growing democratic opinion of the age, and by the
tenets of the intuitive philosophy then coming to the front. The glowing
passages from Isaiah and from Matthew: "Let the oppressed go free; break
every yoke"; "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye
did it unto me," shone in our eyes. To the anti-slavery people belonged
the heroic virtues, courage, faithfulness, and sacrifice. Theirs was the
martyr spirit; the readiness to surrender ease, position, and success
for an idea. It would have been strange if, at such a time, a young man,
a clergyman, too, had been a champion of vested interests. The doctrine
of a higher law than that of the State commended itself to his idealism,
and pledged him to oppose what he regarded as legalized wrong. The
doctrine of legal rights for all men made him a firm enemy of organized
inhumanity. It was a period of passionate war. In every department of
the Church and State the irrepressible conflict went on. It was no time
for the calm voice of the loving spirit of wisdom to be heard. It was no
time to propose that the local laws respecting slavery should be
remodelled, and the relation between whites and blacks readjusted on
more equitable principles. The science of anthropology had no weight in
America or anywhere else. No exhaustive study of race peculiarities
could be entered on. The combatants had the whole field, and between the
combatants there seemed to be no room for choice by a minister of the
Gospel, an enthusiastic friend of humanity, a democrat, and a

On one occasion, after a brutal scene in Boston attending the return of
a slave to his master, feeling that the larger part of his congregation
were in sympathy with the government, and approved of the act of
surrender, the excited minister declined to give the ordinance of
communion, thinking it would be a mockery. This action brought the
growing disaffection to a head. The feeling of the parish was divided.
Bitter words were exchanged. The situation on both sides became
uncomfortable, and he accepted an invitation to another city, where he
could exercise his independence without check or limit.

The position in regard to slavery which was taken thirty years ago
there is no room to regret. It was taken with perfect sincerity, and
under an uncontrollable pressure of conviction. The part performed by
the abolitionists was predestined. The conduct of their opponents looks
now as irrational as it did then. American slavery was so atrocious a
system, so hideous a blot, that no terms were to be kept with it.
Probably nothing but the surgeon's knife would have availed in dealing
with such a cancerous mass. The cord had become so fatally twisted that
the knot, too closely drawn to be untied, must be cut with the sword.
The abolition of slavery was inevitable; it came about through a great
elemental upheaval. The situation had become intolerable and was past
reforming. Long before the war, it had become impossible to get along
with the slaveholders, except on the most ignoble principles of trade or
fashion. All manly acquiescence was out of the question. The Unitarians,
as such, were indifferent or lukewarm; the leading classes were opposed
to the agitation. Dr. Channing stood almost alone in lending countenance
to the reform, though his hesitation between the dictates of natural
feeling and Christian charity towards the masters hampered his action,
and rendered him obnoxious to both parties,--the radicals finding fault
with him for not going further, the conservatives blaming him because he
went so far. The transcendentalists were quite universally
abolitionists, for their philosophy pointed directly towards the
exaltation of every natural power. Wherever they touched the earth--as
they did not always, some of them soaring away beyond terrestrial
things--flowers of hope sprang up in their path. In France, Germany, and
England, they were friends of intellectual and social progress, of the
ideal democracy. The spiritual philosophy was in the air; its ideas were
unconsciously absorbed by the enthusiastic spirits. They constituted the
life of the period; they were a light to such as dwelt in darkness or
sat under the shadow of death.

In this country Mr. Emerson led the dance of the hours. He was our
poet, our philosopher, our sage, our priest. He was the eternal man. If
we could not go where he went, it was because we were weak and unworthy
to follow the steps of such an emancipator. His singular genius, his
wonderful serenity of disposition inherited from an exceptional ancestry
and seldom ruffled by the ordinary passions of men, his curious felicity
of speech, his wit, his practical wisdom, raised him above all his
contemporaries. His infrequent contact with the world of affairs, his
seclusion in the country, his apparitions from time to time on lecture
platforms or in convention halls, gave a far-off sound to his voice as
if it fell from the clouds. Some among his friends found fault with him
for being bloodless and ethereal, but this added to the effect of his
presence and his word. The mixture of Theism and Pantheism in his
thoughts, of the personal and the impersonal, of the mystical and the
practical, fascinated the sentiment of the generation, while the lofty
moral strain of his teaching awakened to increased energy the wills of
men. His speech and example stimulated every desire for reform, turning
all eyes that were opened to the land of promise that seemed fully in
sight. How much the anti-slavery conviction of the time, along with
every other movement for the purification of society, owed to him we
have always been fond of saying with that indefiniteness of
specification which communicates so much more than it tells. This must
be said, that, in the exhilaration of the period, they that worked
hardest felt no exhaustion, and they that sacrificed most were conscious
of no self-abnegation, and they that threw their lives into this cause
had no sentiment but one of overflowing gratitude and joy. The
anti-slavery agitation was felt to be something more than an attempt to
apply the Beatitudes and the Parables to a flagrant case of
inhumanity--it was regarded as a new interpreter of religion, a fresh
declaration of the meaning of the Gospel, a living sign of the purely
human character of a divine faith, an education in brotherly love and
sacrifice; it was a common saying that now, for the first time in many
generations, the essence of belief was made visible and palpable to all
men; that Providence was teaching us in a most convincing way, and none
but deaf ears could fail to understand the message.

It was, indeed, a most suggestive and inspiring time. Never shall I
forget, never shall I cease to be grateful for, the communion with noble
minds that was brought about, the moral earnestness that was engendered,
the moral insight that was quickened. Then, if ever, we ascended the
Mount of Vision. I was brought into close communion with living men, the
most living of the time, the most under the influence of stimulating
thoughts; and if they were intemperate in their speech, extravagant in
their opinions, absolute in their moral judgments, that must be taken as
proof of the depth of their conviction. They loved much, and therefore
could be forgiven, if forgiveness was necessary. They sacrificed a good
deal, too, some of them everything in the shape of worldly honor, and
this brought them apparently into line with the confessors and saints.
They made real the precepts of the New Testament. Their clients were the
poor, the lowly, the disfranchised, the unprivileged, against whom the
grandeurs of the world lifted a heavy hand. They were champions of those
who sorrowed and prayed, and this was enough to win sympathy and disarm
criticism. It was a great experience; not only was religion brought face
to face with ethics, but it was identified with ethics. It became a
religion of the heart: pity, sympathy, humanity, and brotherhood were
its essential principles. At the anti-slavery fairs all sorts and
conditions of men met together, without distinction of color or race or
sex. There was really an education in the broadest faith, in which
dogma, creed, form, and rite were secondary to love; and love was not
only universal, but was warm.

Salem was the home of story and legend. There Puritanism showed its best
and worst sides, for there Roger Williams preached, and there the
witches were persecuted. The house where they were tried and the hill
where they were executed were objects of curiosity. There were the wild
pastures and the romantic shores, and broad streets shaded by elm trees,
and gardens and greenhouses. There were spacious mansions and beautiful
country-seats and pleasant walks. There was beauty and grace and
accomplishment and wit. There were quaint old buildings, and ways once
trodden by pious and heroic feet. On the whole, this was the most
idyllic period in my ministry. Thither came Emanuel Vitalis Scherb, the
native of Basel, an exile for opinion's sake, a man full of genius,
learning, enthusiasm. Young, handsome, hopeful, his lectures on German
literature and poetry attracted notice in Boston, whence he came to
Salem to talk and be entertained. The best houses were open to him; the
best people went to hear him. Alas, poor Scherb! His day of popularity
was short. He sank from one stage of poverty to another; he was indebted
to friends for aid, among the rest to H. W. Longfellow, who clung to him
till the last, and finally died from disease in a military hospital
early in our Civil War.

I remember, in connection with Samuel Johnson, collecting an audience
for Mr. A. B. Alcott, the most adroit soliloquizer I ever listened to,
who delivered in a vestry-room a series of those remarkable
"conversations"--versations with the _con_ left out--for which he was
celebrated. It was, in many respects, a happy time.


I was in Salem when this came. It happened in the following way: A woman
in my choir, a melancholy, tearful, forlorn woman, asked me one day if I
knew Theodore Parker. I said I did not, but then, seeing her
disappointment, I asked her why she put that question. She replied that
her husband had abandoned her some months before and with another woman
had gone to Maine. There he had left the woman and was living in Boston,
and was a member of Mr. Parker's Society; and she thought that if I knew
Mr. Parker I might find out something about him, and perhaps induce him
to come back to Salem. I told her I was going to Boston in a day or two,
and would see Mr. Parker.

My visit, again and again repeated, resulted in an intimacy with that
extraordinary man which had a lasting effect on my career. His personal
sympathy, his profound humanity, his quickness of feeling, his
sincerity, his courage, his absolute fidelity of service, even more than
his astonishing vigor of intellect and his earnestness in pursuit of
truth, made a deep impression on my mind. To be in his society was to be
impelled in the direction of all nobleness. He talked with me, lent me
books, stimulated the thirst for knowledge, opened new visions of
usefulness. As I recall it now, his influence was mainly personal, the
power that comes from a great character. He communicated a moral
impetus. Faith in man, love of liberty in thought, institution, law,
breathed in all his words and works. His theological ideas were somewhat
mixed, as was inevitable then. His gift of spiritual vision, especially
as shown in his interpretation of the Old-Testament narratives, may have
been imperfect; his moral perspective may have been incomplete; his
learning was copious, rather than discerning. But his single-mindedness
was perfect, and his devotion to his fellow-men was almost superhuman.
It was a privilege to know such a man, so simple-hearted and brave. The
slight disposition to put himself on his omniscience, to strike an
attitude, was not strange considering his enormous force, his
consciousness of power, his singular influence over men, and his
conviction (in large measure forced on him by his advocates) that he was
a religious reformer, a second Luther, the inaugurator of a new
Protestantism. His three doctrines, to which he constantly appealed, and
in proof of which he adduced the testimony of the human soul,--the
existence of a personal God, the immortality of the individual, and the
absoluteness of the "moral law" might have been untenable in the
presence of modern knowledge under the form in which he stated them. His
vast collection of materials in attestation of Theism may have been
valuable chiefly as a curiosity; but the man himself was all of one
piece, genuine through and through. The mingling of fire and moderation
in him was very remarkable, the blending of consuming radicalism with
saving conservatism puzzled his more vehement disciples; but his
character interested everybody; his firmness was visible from afar, and
his warmth of heart was felt through stone walls. There were no two
ministers in Boston who did as much for the inmates of hospitals and
prisons as he did. His ministry ceased a quarter of a century ago, but
the effect is vital yet, and will last for years to come. At this
distance the heart leaps up to meet him. His chief work was done, for it
consisted mainly in the adoption of a type of character, and length of
days is not needed for this, while it is apt to be impaired by the
infirmities of age. His long, wearisome illness, full of weakness and
pain, tested the strength of his fortitude, patience, hopefulness, and
trust, and was interesting as showing the passive, acquiescent side of
heroism, all the more impressive in view of his love of life, his desire
to finish his course, his sense of accountability (stronger in him than
in anybody I ever met), and his wish to serve his kind. It was my
happiness, more than ten years after he went away from men, to dwell for
months in his atmosphere, while writing his biography, and all my old
impressions of him were confirmed. And five years later, reviewing his
life in the _Index_, I was again struck by his greatness. I may be
excused for quoting the closing passage from the _Index_, of July 5,
1877, in which I stated the claims of Theodore Parker to the honor of
posterity. The paragraph sums up the qualities that have been ascribed
to him--integrity, catholicity, outspokenness; to these might have been
added warmth of heart, but this last attribute lay on the surface, and
could be easily appreciated by ordinary observers--in fact, was seen and
acknowledged by his enemies, and by those who knew him least.

     On the whole, then, I should say that _manliness_ was Theodore
     Parker's crowning quality and supreme claim to distinction. That he
     had other most remarkable gifts is conceded as a matter of course.
     Everybody knows that he had. But this was his prime characteristic.
     The other gifts he had in spite of himself--his thirst for
     knowledge, his love of books, his all-devouring industry, his
     unfailing memory, his natural eloquence or power of affluent
     expression; but character men regard as less a gift than an
     acquisition,--the fruit of aspiration, resolve, fidelity,--the
     product of daily, nay, of hourly, endeavor. Hence it is that
     intellectual greatness does not impress the multitude; even genius
     has but a limited sway over the masses of mankind. But character
     goes to the roots of life. In fact, Theodore Parker's eminence as a
     man of thought and expression in words has concealed from the world
     at large the intrinsic quality of the person. His reputation as
     theologian, preacher, controversialist, has concealed the real
     greatness which comes to light as the dust of controversy subsides.
     The very causes in which the heroism of his manliness was
     displayed--as, for example, the anti-slavery cause, to which he
     devoted so much of his time and vitality--rendered inconspicuous
     the contribution he made to the treasury of humane feeling. Now
     that that great conflict is over, now that its agitations have
     ceased and its heats have cooled, the character of which this
     conflict revealed but a portion, the career in which this long
     agony was but an episode, loom up into distinctness. The greatest
     of all human achievements is a manly character--guileless, sincere,
     and brave; that he by all admission possessed. He earned it; he
     prayed for it; meditated for it; worked for it;--how hard, his
     private journals show. And for this he will not be forgotten. For
     this he will be remembered as one of the benefactors, one of the
     emancipators, of his kind.

From a shelf in his library, I took Schwegler's "Nachapostolische
Zeitalter," a work which threw a flood of light on the problems of
New-Testament criticism. This led to a study of the writings of F. C.
Baur, the founder of the so-called "Tübingen School." A complete set of
the _Theologische Jahrbücher_, the organ of his ideas, was imported from
Germany, and carefully perused. These volumes contained full and minute
studies on all the books of the New Testament--Gospels, Epistles, the
writing termed "The Acts of the Apostles," with incidental glances at
the "Apocalypse." The calm, consistent strength of these expositions
commended them to my mind. The author was a university professor, a man
of practical piety, a Lutheran preacher of high repute, simple,
affectionate, faithful to his duties, quite unconscious that he was
undermining anybody's faith, so deeply rooted was the old Lutheran
freedom of criticism in regard to the Bible. In the German mind,
religion and literature, Christianity and the Scriptures, were entirely
distinct things. The scholar could sit in his library in one mood and
could enter his pulpit in another, preserving in both the
single-mindedness that became a Christian and a student.

Other theories have arisen since, but none that have taken hold of such
eminent minds have appeared. Theodore Parker accepted it; James
Martineau adopted its main proposition in several remarkable papers
written at various times, last in the Unitarian magazine _Old and New_.
In the brilliant lectures delivered in London, during the spring of
1880, on the Hibbert Foundation, Ernest Renan's striking account of
early Christianity owed its force to the assumption of the fundamental
postulate of the Tübingen School. In the latter years of his life, Baur
summed up the results of his criticism in a pamphlet that was designed
to meet objections; and in 1875-1877 his son-in-law, the learned Edward
Zeller, one of his ablest disciples, an eminent professor of history at
Berlin, published an earnest, carefully considered, masterly report of
the writings of the now famous teacher, in the course of which he paid a
merited tribute to his character, vindicated his views from the charge
of haste and partisanship, and predicted for them a triumphant

    [*] "Vorträge und Abhandlungen," von E. Zeller, 2 vols., Leipzig.

The adoption of these opinions, so opposed to the views current in the
community, compelled the adoption of a new basis for religious
conviction. Christianity, in so far as it depended on the New Testament
or the doctrines of the early Church, was discarded. The cardinal tenets
of the Creed--the Deity of the Christ, the atonement, everlasting
perdition--had been dismissed already, and I was virtually beyond the
limits of the Confession. But Theism remained, and the spiritual nature
of man with its craving for religious truth. Without going so far as
Theodore Parker did, who maintained that the three primary beliefs of
religion--the existence of God, the assurance of individual immortality,
the reality of a moral law--were permanent, universal, and definite
facts of human nature, found wherever man was found; without going so
far as this, I contended that man had a spiritual nature; that this
nature, on coming to consciousness of its powers and needs, gave
expression to exalted beliefs, clothing them with authority, building
them into temples, ordaining them in the form of ceremonies and
priesthoods. In support of this opinion, appeal was made to the great
religions of the world, to the substantial agreement of all sacred
books, to the spontaneous homage paid, in all ages, to saints and
prophets; to the essential accord of moral precepts all over the globe,
to the example of Jesus, to the Beatitudes and Parables, to the respect
given by rude people to the noblest persons, to the credences that
inspire multitudes, to the teachings of Schleiermacher, Fichte,
Constant, Cousin, Carlyle, Goethe, Emerson, in fact, to every leading
writer of the last generation. All this was so beautiful, so consistent
and convincing, so full of promise, so broad, plain, and inspiring that,
with a fresh but miscalculated enthusiasm, over-sanguine, thoughtless,
the young minister undertook to carry his congregation with him, but
without success; so he went elsewhere. This action proceeded from the
faith that Parker instilled. Parker was pre-eminently, to those who
comprehended him, a believer.

In the words of D. A. Wasson, his successor in Music Hall:

     Theodore Parker was one of the most energetic and religious
     believers these later centuries have known. This was the prime
     characteristic of the man. He did not agree in the details of his
     unbelieving with the majority of those around him, because it was
     part of his religion to think freely, part of their religion to
     forbear thinking freely on the highest matters. But he was not only
     a powerful believer in his own soul, but was the believing Hercules
     who went forth in the name of divine law to cleanse the Augean
     stables of the world.... This, I repeat, and can not repeat with
     too much emphasis, was the characteristic of the man--sinewy,
     stalwart, prophetic, fervid, aggressive, believing.... The Hercules
     rather than the Apollo of belief, it was not his to charm rocks and
     trees with immortal music, but to smite the hydra of publicity,
     iniquity, and consecrated falsehood with the club or mace of
     belief; if this might not suffice, then to burn out its foul life
     with the fire of his sarcasms.

To quote my own words, written in 1873 (see "Life." p. 566):

    With him the religious sentiment was supreme. It had no roots in his
    being wholly distinct from its mental or sensible forms of
    expression. Never evaporating in mystical dreams nor entangled in
    the meshes of cunning speculation, it preserved its freshness and
    bloom and fragance in every passage of his life. His sense of the
    reality of divine things was as strong as was ever felt by a man of
    such clear intelligence. His feeling never lost its glow, never was
    damped by misgiving, dimmed by doubt, or clouded by sorrow. Far from
    dreading to submit his faith to test, he courted tests; was as eager
    to hear the arguments against his belief as for it; was as fair in
    weighing evidence on the opponent's side as on his own. "Oh, that
    mine enemy had written a book!" he was ready to cry, not that he
    might demolish it, but that he might read it. He knew the writings
    of Moleschott, and talked with him personally; the books of Carl
    Vogt were not strange to him. The philosophy of Ludwig Büchner, if
    philosophy it can be called, was as familiar to him as to any of
    Büchner's disciples. He was intimate with the thoughts of Feuerbach.
    He drew into discussion every atheist and materialist he met, talked
    with them closely and confidentially, and rose from the interview
    more confident in the strength of his own positions than ever.
    Science he counted his best friend; relied on it for confirmation of
    his faith, and was only impatient because it moved no faster. All
    the materialists in and out of Christendom had no power to shake his
    conviction of the Infinite God and the immortal existence, nor would
    have had had he lived till he was a century old, for, in his view,
    the convictions were planted deep in human nature, and were demanded
    by the exigencies of human life. Moleschott respected Parker; Dessor
    was his confidential friend; Feuerbach would have taken him by the
    hand as a brother.

There can be no greater mistake than to call Theodore Parker a Deist;
than to class Theodore Parker with the Deists. He was utterly unlike
Chubb or Shaftesbury, Herbert of Cherbury or Bolingbroke. Even the most
philosophical of them had nothing in common with him. Hume and Voltaire,
for instance, were utterly unlike him. They, it is true, believed in _a_
God, the "First Cause," the "Author of Nature," the "Supreme Being," and
in a future life. But their belief was merely logical and mechanical,
his was vital; he believed in the real, living, immanent Deity. They
thought that religion was an imposition, a policy of the priests, who
played upon the fears of mankind; he believed that religion was a
working power in the world, the origin of the highest achievement, the
soul of all aspiration. They had no faith in the direct communication of
the "Supreme Mind" with the soul of man; he believed in the infinite
genius of man, and in the direct communication of the absolute
intelligence. They thought of justice as a contrivance for securing
happiness; he thought of it as the law of life. One of Mr. Parker's
friends ascribed to him a gorgeous imagination; if he had it, it is a
surprise that it should have been so completely suppressed as it was,
for his taste in pictures and in poetry was very questionable. His want
of speculative talent probably helped him with the people. Whether he
formulated his thoughts is uncertain. Such was not his genius. He was a
constructive, not a destructive. It was his faith that he criticised the
Bible in order that he might release its piety and righteousness; that
he tore in pieces the creeds in order to emancipate the secrets of

It is useless to conjecture what Parker might have been had he lived.
That he would have held to his primary convictions is almost certain; it
is quite certain that he would have loved mental liberty. He would have
been a great power in our Civil War; he would probably have been a
leader in the free religious movement. Parker, when I first knew him,
was in full life and vigor. He had gone to Boston a short time before my
ordination in 1847, and had before him a long future of usefulness. All
the exigencies in which he might have been conspicuous were distant.
That the effect of such a man on me and my connections was exceedingly
great is not strange. It would have been strange had it been otherwise.
In sermon, prayer, private conversations my convictions came out. That
the people were disappointed may be assumed, but they were kind,
generous, and patient. The congregations did not fall off; there was
little violence or even vehement expostulation. But the position was not
comfortable, and when an invitation came from Jersey City to found a new
Society, I accepted it at once. It had been a dream of Dr. Bellows to
establish a Society at that place, and, learning that I was in search of
another sphere of activity, he asked me to undertake the work. This was
seconded by a cordial representation from Jersey City itself, on the
part of some who were Dr. Bellows' own parishioners. The uprooting was
not easy, for Salem had become endeared to me as the first scene of my
ministry, a place where I could be useful in many ways, and which
contained a delightful society; an established, well-furnished town,
with historic associations; a country centre, an agreeable situation.
But the waters were getting still there, and the sentiment of the past
was getting to over-weigh the promises of the future.


Jersey City, to which I went directly from Salem, was a very different
place from what it is now; smaller and perhaps pleasanter. Where now is
a large city, a few years ago was but a village. Now it is a
manufacturing place, with great establishments, foundries,
machine-shops, banks, insurance companies, newspapers, more than forty
schools, and more than sixty churches. Then it was a large town, though
it was nominally a city (incorporated in 1820), with a population of
about twenty thousand, the increase being chiefly due to the annexation
of suburbs, not to its own vital growth. It was substantially rural in
character, with extensive meadows, broad avenues; a place of residence
largely, the gentlemen living there and doing business in New York.
There were a few Unitarians, a few Universalists, but there was no
organized Unitarian society before I went there. A great many cultivated
people resided in this place. There was wealth, culture, and interest in
social matters. A meeting-house was built for me and dedicated to a
large, rational faith.

The chief peculiarity of my ministry there was the disuse of the
communion service. This rite I had thought a great deal about in Salem.
There had been, then, a well-meant proposal on the part of the pastor to
make an alteration in the form of administering the communion service.
The custom had been (quite an incidental one, for the usage was by no
means the same in all the churches of the denomination) to thrust the
rite in once a month, between the morning worship and dinner time, and
to offer it then to none but the church-members, who composed but a
small part of the congregation. As a consequence of this arrangement,
the observance became formal, dry, short, and tiresome. To the majority
of the Society it seemed a mystical ceremony with which they had no
concern, while those who stayed to take part in it, wearied already by
the preceding exercises, and hungry for their mid-day meal, gave to it
but half-hearted attention. The observance was thus worse than thrown
away; for, in addition to the loss of an opportunity for spiritual
impression, a dangerous kind of self-righteousness was encouraged in the
few church-members, who regarded themselves as in some way set apart
from their fellow-sinners, either as having made confession of faith or
as being subjects of a peculiar experience. To impart freshness to the
rite, and at the same time to extend its usefulness as a "means of
grace," the minister proposed to celebrate it less frequently (once in
two or three months), to substitute it in place of the usual afternoon
meeting, to make special preparation for it by the co-operation of the
choir, and to throw it open to as many as might choose to come, be they
church members or not. The suggestion met with feeble response, and that
chiefly from young people who had hitherto stayed away out of a laudable
feeling of modesty, not wishing to remain when their elders and betters
went out, and not thinking themselves good enough to partake of a
special privilege. The "communicants," as a rule, set their faces
against the innovation, perhaps because they were secretly persuaded
that the change portended the secularizing of Christianity by a removal
of the barrier that divided the church from the world, possibly because
they wished to retain an exclusive prerogative which had always marked
the "elect."

The matter was not pressed; the routine went on as before; the
minister did his best to render the service impressive and interesting.
But his studies and meditations led him to the conclusion that the
observance had no place in the Unitarian system; that it was a mere
formality, without an excuse for being; that it contained no idea or
sentiment that was not expressed in the ordinary worship; that it was a
remnant of an otherwise discarded form of Christianity, where it had a
peculiar significance; that it was the last attenuation of the Roman
sacrament of transubstantiation; that it ought to be dropped from every
scheme of liberal faith as an illogical adjunct, a harmful excrescence,
a hindrance, in short. No whisper of these doubts was breathed at the
time, but the pastor's silence allowed the scepticism to strike the
deeper root in his mind. Mr. Emerson's departure from his parish, on the
ground that he could no longer administer the communion rite according
to the usage of the sect, had occurred many years before this, but was
still remembered in discussion and talk. Theodore Parker had no
communion; but he was an established leader of heresy, and did not
furnish an example. Many, agreeing with Emerson's reasoning, disapproved
of his course in resigning his pulpit rather than continue to administer
the bread and wine. He himself advised others to hold on to the
observance, if they could, hoping for the time when it might be
universally vivified by faith. Some might do it as it was. The
congregations would, it is likely, without exception, have decided as
his did, to lose their minister sooner than their "Supper." Some years
later, on passing through Boston on my way to another scene of labor, I
called on a distinguished clergyman who had taken a part in my
ordination, and was asked by him what I intended to do in my new parish
with regard to the communion. I replied that it was not my purpose to
have it, "You cannot give it up," he said; "it is stronger than any of
us. I should drop it if I dared, for there is nothing real in it that is
not in the general service, but I am afraid to try. I shall watch your
experiment with interest, but without expectation of its success." "Very
well," I replied, "we shall see." The experiment was tried and
succeeded. For four years I had no communion, and not a word was said
about it. On leaving for New York, several of my friends, who had been
accustomed to the ceremony all their lives, were asked if they did not
think it would be wise to reinstate the rite. To my surprise, they with
one voice said that there was no need of it, that the Society got along
perfectly well without it. It is needless to say that in New York the
observance was never celebrated.

The ceremony was justified among Unitarians by various reasons which,
in the end, seemed apologies. With the old-fashioned, semi-orthodox
members of the congregations it was a precious heirloom, prized for its
antiquity; a link that still held them in the bond of fellowship with
the universal church; a last relic of the supernaturalism to which they
clung without knowing why; the pledge of a mystical union with their
Christ. Any change in the administration of it was regarded as a
desecration; the suggestion of its complete discontinuance could, they
thought, arise in no mind that was not fatally poisoned by infidelity.
It was not, in their opinion, a symbol of doctrine, but a channel of
divine influence, which no intellectual doubts could touch, which
spiritual deadness alone could dispense with. Tenets might be abandoned,
forms of belief might be discredited, but this citadel of faith must not
be assailed or approached by irreverent feet. Mr. Emerson's example was
not followed by his contemporaries. His fellows did not so soon reach
his point of conviction. Even radicals, like George Ripley, did not. In
my own case it was the growth of time. At the moment there was no
disposition to abandon the observance, simply a desire to reanimate it.
It was not perceived till much later that the changes proposed implied a
virtual abandonment of the rite itself; that the communion is regarded
as a sacrament, that as a sacrament it might be presumed to be
supernaturally instituted for the communication of the divine life;
that, when faith in the supernatural declines, the sacrament no longer
has a function as a medium, and must be omitted; that no attempts to
revive it as a sentimental practice could be justified to reason; that
all endeavors to awaken interest in it by assuming some occult efficacy
must be futile because groundless. The "memorial service" can in no
proper sense be called a sacrament. It may be a pleasing expression of
sentiment, somewhat over-strained and fanciful, but capable of being
made attractive. The task of reproducing the emotions of the early
disciples as they sat at supper with their Master, nearly two thousand
years ago, is too severe for the ordinary imagination, and when
persisted in from a sense of duty may become a dull, creaking
performance, against which the sensitive rebel and the witty are tempted
to launch the shafts of their sarcasm. The only way of saving it from
gibes is to ascribe to it some mystical efficacy for which there is no
logical excuse. The Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation had a
foundation in the philosophy of the Church. The Lutheran doctrine of
Consubstantiation, which recognized the presence of Christ on the
occasion, but not the literal change of the substance of his flesh, was
legitimate. But the Sabellian theory, which the Unitarians inherited,
was in no respect justified, save as a tradition.

The sole alternative at that time for me, when the Communion service
was made a test question between the "conservative" and the "radical,"
was to drop it. At present the situation is altered. It is no longer a
ceremony or a tradition, but a means of spiritual cultivation. It stands
for fellowship and aspiration, not for a communion of saints, but of all
those who desire to share the saintly mind, of all who aim at
perfection. The rite is one in which all may unite who wish, however
fitfully, for goodness; _all_, whether Romanist or Protestant, and
Protestant of whatever name; _all_, in every religion under the sun,
Eastern or Western, Northern or Southern, old or new, every dividing
line being erased. I once attended the Communion service of a Broad
Churchman. The invitation was large and inclusive, comprehending
everybody who, though far off, looked towards the light, everybody who
had the least glimmer of the divine radiance; and none but an absolute
infidel was shut out. There was a recognition of a divine nature in

    Like plants in mines which never saw the sun,
    But dream of him, and guess where he may be,
    And do their best to climb and get to him.

The idea of spiritual communion is a grand one. It is universal too; it
is human in the best sense. The symbols were ancient when Jesus used
them, the Bread signifying Truth, the Wine signifying Life. Originally
the symbols referred to the wealth of nature, as is evident from an
ancient prayer. It was the custom for the master of the Jewish feast to
repeat this form of words: "Blessed be Thou, O Lord, our God, who givest
us the fruits of the vine," and then he gave the cup to all.

Leaving out the personal application which is purely incidental, and
discarding the sacramental idea which is a corruption, throwing the
service open to the whole congregation as an opportunity, a great deal
may be accomplished in the way of spiritual advancement. True, the
ceremony contains no thought or sentiment that is not expressed in the
sermon or the prayer, but it puts these in poetic form, it addresses
them directly to the imagination, it associates them with the holier
souls in their holiest hours, and brings people face to face with their
better selves in the tenderest and most touching manner, teaching
charity, love, endeavor after the religious life. The rite is full of
beauty when confined within the bounds of Christianity, but when
extended to the principles of other faiths, it is rich in meaning, and
may be used with effect by those who wish to educate the people in the
highest form of idealism, who desire comprehensiveness. A symbol often
goes further than an argument, and a symbol so ancient and so
consecrated ought to be preserved. A friend of mine included all
religious teachers in his commemoration. This was a step in the right
direction, but if the people are not ready for this yet, they may
welcome an extension of the reign of spiritual love among the disciples
whom theological hatred has kept apart. But this was not suspected then.

It will be remarked that my reasons were not those of Emerson. His
argument was solid and sound, but his real reason was personal. He said
in his sermon: "If I believed it was enjoined by Jesus and his disciples
that he even contemplated making permanent this mode of commemoration,
every way agreeable to an Eastern mind, and yet on trial it was
disagreeable to my own feelings, I should not adopt it.... It is my
desire in the office of a Christian minister to do nothing which I
cannot do with my whole heart. Having said this I have said all.... That
is the end of my opposition, that I am not interested in it." My ground
was different; I had no objection to the symbol, none to an Oriental
symbol, and the mere fact that I was not interested in it seemed to me
not pertinent to the case. My objection was that it divided those who
ought to be united; that it encouraged a form of self-righteousness;
that it implied a "grace" that did not exist. For the rest, my form of
religion was of sentiment. It was scarcely Unitarian, not even Christian
in a technical sense or in any other but a broad moral signification. It
was Theism founded on the Transcendental philosophy, a substitute for
the authority of Romanism and of Protestantism. This was an admirable
counterfeit of Inspiration, having the fire, the glow, the beauty of it.
It most successfully tided over the gulf between Protestantism and
Rationalism. Parker used it with great effect. It was the life of
Emerson's teaching. It animated Thomas Carlyle. It was the fundamental
assumption of the Abolitionists, and of all social reformers.

I had perfect freedom of speech in Jersey City; there was no
opposition to the doctrine announced. The Society there was large and
flourishing, and its influence in the town was on the increase. But
Jersey City was, after all, a suburb only of New York. Some of my most
devoted hearers came from New York, and urged me to go there. Dr.
Bellows was anxious to found a third Society in the great city, and
added his word to their solicitations, so that in the spring of 1859 I
went thither. My church in Jersey City was continued for a short time,
but I had no settled successor; the congregation did not grow; some of
my most earnest supporters had either died or left the town. The war
broke out and was fatal to institutions that had not a deep root. The
building was sold soon after, for business purposes I think, and the
society was never renewed. This may appear singular considering that
there are Unitarian churches elsewhere in New Jersey, at Camden, Orange,
Plainfield, Vineland, and Woodbury. The changed condition of the town
may have had something to do with the failure to revive, after the war,
the Unitarian Society. The Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox
Congregationalist communions were more suited to the new population than
the Unitarian was. Possibly, too, the "radical" complexion of the parish
had something to do with the disrepute that fell upon it. However this
may have been, the cause did not seem to prosper. Mr. Job Male, who died
recently at Plainfield, was one of my most zealous supporters and
exerted himself to keep the enterprise alive, but in vain. It is
understood that the flourishing Unitarian church in Plainfield was
largely due to his efforts.


For the first year in New York I lived with Dr. Bellows at his
parsonage. Mrs. Bellows and the children were at Eagleswood, New Jersey,
the children being at school with Mr. Weld. And this is the place to say
something about Henry Whitney Bellows. He was a very remarkable man,
most extraordinary in his way; an original man, a peculiar individual;
of mercurial temper, various, quick, sympathetic, brave, whole-hearted,
generous, but all in his own fashion. More Celtic than Saxon, more
French than English, prone to generalize, something of a _doctrinaire_,
indifferent to personalities, but of warm affections where he was
interested; loyal, as knights always are, where his honor was concerned,
but impatient of dictation, restless, nervous, impetuous, dashing from
side to side, always consistent with himself, yet rarely consistent with
ordinary rules of conventional society. Such a man is best described in

Dr. Bellows, as we called him, had a singular gift of _expression_.
This was the soul of him, his most prominent feature, the trait that
explains every other. His appearance indicated as much. He had a mobile
mouth, flexible features, a ringing voice, a cordial manner. He was fond
of talking, brilliant in conversation, attractive in social intercourse,
a charming companion, full of wit, rapid in repartee, ready with
anecdote, illustration, allusion. He was a great favorite at the
dinner-table, at friendly gatherings, at the club, where a circle always
collected round him and were delighted with the endless versatility of
his discourse. In fact, he was a man of society rather than a clergyman,
though he occupied a pulpit from the beginning, and was faithful to all
the duties of his profession. Still they were not altogether to his
taste, and he got away from them whenever he conscientiously could. His
best deliverances were half-secular addresses on some theme of immediate
popular interest, speeches, orations, ethical talks, ever on a high
plane of sentiment, but looking towards the urgent preoccupations of the
time. He was not a student in any direction; not a deep, patient,
exhaustive thinker; not a scholar in any school, but an immense reader
of current literature, of magazines, papers, memoirs, and an eloquent
reproducer of thoughts as he found them lying on the surface of the
intellectual world. His brain was exceedingly active, and reached forth
in all directions; his pen was fluent, facile, and busy; language exuded
from all his pores. As a preacher he was conventional, restrained, and,
it must be confessed, not engaging as a rule, but as a talker he was
delightful, copious, entertaining, kindling, attractive to old and
young, and crowds thronged the house when he spoke about what he had
seen or felt, while his pulpit discourses did not fill the pews. Like
many men of remarkable talents, he imagined his strong points to be
those in which he was most deficient, not being gifted with much power
of self-knowledge, and perhaps aspiring after accomplishments he did not
possess. He prided himself more than he should have done on his insight
as a theologian, his depth as a philosopher, his skill as an
administrator, his practical success as an organizer; whereas his
consummate ability consisted in exposition, not in original discovery.
He was not a theologian, not a philosopher, not a builder, but a most
persuasive advocate, perhaps the most adroit I ever met with. His range
was wide, his exuberance infinite, his sway over his listeners absolute.
It is no marvel that such a man was persuaded that he could achieve all

He was the only speaker I ever knew who could talk himself into ideas.
Many, by dint of talking, can work themselves into an implicit faith in
doctrines they were indifferent about at starting; but this man had the
dangerous gift of being able, not merely to think on his feet, but to
set his faculties in motion by the action of his tongue. Again and again
he has gone to a public meeting, at which he was expected to speak, with
no preparation at all, or none but a very general one, depending upon
some impulse of the moment to set him a-going. A word dropped by a
previous speaker, the mere presence of the audience, a suggestion
awakened in his mind as he sat awaiting his turn, would excite him
sufficiently; and when he stood up one idea started another, an
illustration opened a new field of thought, till the torrent, growing
deeper and more tumultuous as it flowed, carried the hearers away in
ecstasy. One who did not know him found it hard to believe that he had
not meditated his address beforehand. He has gone into the pulpit with a
written sermon, and being struck by a sentence in the Scripture he was
reading, has laid his manuscript aside and delivered an extemporaneous
discourse on an entirely different theme.

The reason why he did not preach habitually without notes was that this
fatal facility of speech excited him too much, carried him too far,
rendered him discursive, led him on to inordinate length, and wearied
his congregation. He needed the restraint of the paper, the calm dignity
of the closet meditation; he needed also to spread his thoughts over a
larger expanse of time, and thus to secure quiet for his brain. At the
risk, therefore, of being dull, he spared himself, as well as his
parishioners, the stimulating fervor of the extemporaneous address. He
may have felt, too, that his was not the quality of mind for this
method. It required a less fluent talent, a less ready loquacity, a less
mercurial temperament, a more reserved habit. There are those whose
constitutional reticence preserves them from aberration; who can see the
end from the beginning; can cling closely to the matter in hand; can
walk a thin plank; and have too few ready ideas to be in any peril of
going astray. Such are the most successful extemporaneous preachers. Dr.
Bellows' genius was better adapted to an address, therefore, than to a

The secular view of things was more attractive to him than the
spiritual. His defence of the drama in 1857 (an oration delivered in the
Academy of Music, and which was very bold for that time); his vigorous
conduct of the _Christian Inquirer_, a Unitarian paper, which he managed
and for which he wrote constantly for four years, advocating an unwonted
liberality of sympathy, maintaining, for example, the substantial
identity of the Unitarian and the Universalist confessions; his interest
in questions of social and philanthropic concern; his lectures before
the Lowell Institute in 1857,--all attest his desire to effect a
reconciliation between science and religion, between this world and the
next. His oration before the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard, in 1853,
is an admirable specimen of his treatment of similar themes. The subject
of the oration was "The Ledger and the Lexicon, or Business and
Literature in Account with American Education"; and its purpose was to
assert the claims of popular life against those of scholarship,--to
state the case of natural instincts and practical intelligence as the
controlling force of our destiny. He says, most truly, at the outset,
"Speaking purely as a scholar, I should unaffectedly feel that I had
nothing to offer worthy this audience or occasion," and then he goes on
with a full, earnest, eloquent plea for the intellectual character of
our political and commercial activity. Here is an extract:

     What History asks from us is not Literature and Art. The world is
     full of what can never grow old in either. _American_ Literature,
     _American_ Art! Heaven save us from them! Let us freely use what is
     so much better than anything one nation can make, the Literature
     and Art of the whole past and the whole world. History implores us,
     first of all, to be true to humanity. She begs to see the
     education, the taste, the sensibility of this great people turned
     to the serious, vital, universal interest of thoroughly vindicating
     _Man_ from the scorn of _men;_ of establishing man on his throne as
     man,--free because man, happy because man, noble and religious
     because man! Literature and Art will take care of themselves; high
     education and scholarship will come in their own time; and so,
     thank God, will everything humanity needs. But for ourselves and
     the immediate generation, there is no work so worthy as confirming
     the faith of our people in their own principles; encouraging
     devotion to Liberty as the supreme interest of Man;--of man sacred
     in his own eyes, with duties, rights, aims, that are bounded
     neither by color, nationality, nor law. The love of the race, the
     liberation of humanity from complexional, material, political, and
     moral disfranchisements; the elevation of the individual and of
     every individual; the prostration of all partition-walls that
     separate our kind; the tumbling of the artificial pedestals that
     elevate the few, into the unnatural pits that bury the rest; the
     affiliation of the foreigner, and the emancipation of the slave;
     the subjugation of rebellious matter and reluctant wealth to the
     wants and desires of man; the establishment of beautiful and
     independent homes, of high and free and noble lives;--this is
     American scholarship, this American art. A country that sacrifices
     even its nationality, that proudest of all prejudices, to its
     humanity, will be the first to pay that tribute to man, which
     Christ waits to welcome as the final triumph of his kingdom. And,
     finally, here in America, where for the first time universal
     comfort and general abundance reign, the race looks to us to
     pronounce the banns between the spiritual and material interests
     and pursuits of man,--his worldly well-being, and his heavenly
     prosperity,--a union that shall not be a miserable compromise of
     which both shall be ashamed and which neither shall keep, but an
     honorable, hearty, and intelligible alliance, on the highest

This is very fine and brave, and similar in tone was all he said
about American life and destiny. He tried to exalt common things, and in
this way he more than made amends for his lack of scholastic equipment.
His mission was to encourage and fortify and console actual men and
women, not to solve deep problems of fate. A good but commonplace man
spoke to me with tears in his eyes of his endless gratitude to Dr.
Bellows because on one New Year's Day he preached a doctrine of promise,
and said that men did their best, and that the world was as good as
could be expected; not an extraordinary doctrine certainly, but one that
is seldom announced with so much cordial, human sympathy. This same
ardor he threw into his ordinary lectures, carrying audiences away with
a flood of conviction. When our Civil War broke out and it became
evident, as it soon did, that the conflict would be a long one,
necessitating large armies in a region of country unused to military
needs and ignorant of military exigencies, Dr. Bellows' attention was
drawn to the questions involved in the maintenance of a vast number of
men in the field, their protection, discipline, and comfort; the proper
supply of food, clothing, medicine; the best kind of tent, the best kind
of hospital, the duty of keeping up the home associations by means of
correspondence and missives. He talked over the situation with a few
friends; societies were formed, organizations instituted, the means of
relief set in motion. Out of this grew the Sanitary Commission, of which
he was the mouthpiece and the inspiring soul. The work was immense, but
the task of awakening the country to the necessity of endeavor was,
beyond all ordinary power of conception, arduous. Such was the blind
faith in the government,--a government inexperienced in similar
matters,--such was the indifference of multitudes who were far removed
from actual danger, such the unconsciousness of the magnitude of the
peril, such the insensibility to the demands of the hour, the serene
confidence that all was going well, the jaunty sense of complacency in
having raised the regiments, that nothing less than a trumpet call was
required to rouse the country to a feeling of obligation. Afterwards
when the magnitude of the strife was self-evident, when the dangers of
camp-life were understood, and the temptations to infidelity of many
kinds were painfully apparent, other forces came in to carry forward the
work; but at first prescience was needed, and zeal, and faith in
principles, and a sense of the gravity of the situation. It is hardly
too much to say that but for the energy shown by the Sanitary Commission
in the early part of the war, the issue might have been indefinitely
postponed. That the Commission itself flourished to the end was due in
the main to Henry Bellows. Of course he did not do everything, but he
did his part. The labor of organization was discharged by other orders
of genius. The duties of treasurer devolved upon men differently
constituted still; there were many hands employed, many heads busy with
planning. But his was the potent voice. He sounded the clarion; East,
West, North, and as far South as he could go, he argued, remonstrated,
pleaded, exhorted, interpreted, inspired, and wherever he was heard he
filled veins with patriotic fire. He was never daunted, never
disheartened, never depressed. His tones always rang out clear, strong,
decisive. The bugle never gave an uncertain sound. In Washington he
addressed the highest authorities and was so urgent, not to say so
imperious, that President Lincoln asked him which of the two ran the
machine of government. He possessed in a singular degree the power of
making people work, and work gladly,--all sorts of people, men and
women, the sensible and the enthusiastic, the practical and the
sentimental, the low-toned and the high-strung; and they toiled day
after day at scraping lint, packing garments, raising money, organizing
fairs. In the meantime he travelled to and fro, lecturing, addressing
crowds in the meeting-houses, halls, theatres; writing letters to
committees, visiting men of influence, inspecting hospitals and camps,
making himself acquainted with the newest methods of dealing with
sanitary problems, and imparting ideas as fast as they came to him. His
activity was prodigious. He was one of the most conspicuous figures in
the country. He brought the Commission into universal repute. Under his
spell it lost its local character and became a national concern. He was
a Unitarian preacher; his immediate co-operators were Unitarians; yet so
broad and mundane was he that no savor of sectarianism mingled with his
zeal, nor could it be suspected, except for his aims, that he was a
clergyman. As long as the war lasted this energy continued, the
enthusiasm did not abate, the outpouring did not slacken. It was not
till the struggle was over that the over-tasked brain craved repose.
Then the reaction was purely nervous, not in the least moral or
intellectual. He sprang up again and threw himself into new enterprises
with the old fervor and the old brilliancy of speech, striving to awaken
a desire for religious unity, as he had promoted national concord. The
establishment of the National Conference of Liberal Churches, which was
to supplement the more local Unitarian Associations, was his suggestion.
The scheme did not entirely meet his expectations, but this shows how
large his expectations were, and how comprehensive were his purposes of
good. As has been intimated already, his desires were in advance of his
practical ability. He was a man of wishes rather than of expedients. His
plans often failed, but his aspirations were always pure and lofty, and
it was characteristic of him to impute the failure of the special plan
to some stubbornness in the materials he attempted to manipulate, rather
than to any deficiency in his own faculty. Thus his confidence in
himself was sustained, and he went on trying experiments and believing
in his talent to set anything, even communities and States, on their

People used to say that his advocacy was very uncertain; that it was
impossible to tell in advance whether he would take a liberal or a
conservative view of a party or dogma; in short, he had the reputation
of being somewhat of a chameleon, of catching his line from the last
person he talked with. One of his parishioners remarked, jestingly, that
the hearers of Dr. Bellows were taught in perfection one lesson,--that
of self-reliance. This was probably true, as it was a general
impression; and it illustrates the warmth of his sympathy, the
impressionableness of his temperament, the readiness of his adaptation,
the facility of his discourse, as well as the want of depth in his
speculative intellect and his lack of hold on fundamental principles. He
was an advocate by nature, not a theologian, a philosopher, or a critic;
an adept in speech, not a subtle or profound thinker. He saw the
effective points in either doctrine, and chose the one that was most
captivating at the time. His eclecticism was simply ease of
transference, not a keen perception of the grounds of identity. His
logic was the skilful accommodation to circumstances, not absolute
fidelity to the laws of reason. His affluence of diction and his
profusion of thoughts covered up his essential poverty of insight, and
persuaded some that he looked farther than he did; but still it remains
true that he was not a sure guide in matters of opinion. He was a most
adroit, subtle, engaging talker, and as such was of incalculable value;
a fountain of entertainment, and a source of influence. A decided vein
of Bohemianism ran through his character. He was light-hearted, gay,
versatile, fond of fun, restless, addicted to society, abhorrent of
solitude, darkness, confinement; a friend of artists, musicians, wits; a
club-man; could smoke a cigar, and drink a glass of wine, and tell a
merry story; a man of quick emotions, volatile some would call him,
though of unquestioned and unquestionable loyalty when any principle was
at stake, or any person he loved and trusted was in trouble. Otherwise
he forgot unpleasant things and went to something else, dropping the
individual, but holding fast to the elements of charity. This faculty of
changing rapidly from one interest to another saved him from a vast deal
of fatigue, and enabled him to pursue his almost incredible labors with
less wear and tear than would have been possible under other
circumstances. The formation of roots, and the necessity of pulling them
up frequently with a feeling of loss and pain, is sadly weakening and
disabling. This fosters a disposition to stay at home, to form few ties,
to remain quietly where one is placed by destiny, to expose one's self
to no more disruptions than are appointed, to hide one's self in a
corner of existence, to avoid the wind. The scholar hugs his library,
reads books, meditates, cultivates his mind, appears in public only when
he is prepared. The man of society dashes out and deems the time wasted
that is passed in the house. Dr. Bellows once expressed his wonder that
a friend should have no desire to go abroad, but should be content in
his study.

He was a knight-errant, a Norman gentleman, ever ready to succor the
oppressed, but satisfied when he had unhorsed the oppressor, though the
victim lay helpless on the ground. He derived his name from "Belles
Eaux." He was not a democrat as implying one that had affinities with
the people. On the contrary, he was at bottom an aristocrat, looking
down on the people; but he was humane in idea, holding it to be the part
of a gentleman to relieve the unfortunate. The motto, "_Noblesse
oblige_" applied to him exactly, with the understanding that he belonged
to the _Noblesse_, and was privileged to patronize. This tendency was
prominent in him. He would not allow a companion to pay his car fare,
because he would not borrow so small a sum, but he confronted the man to
whom he had lent fifty dollars, and who had forgotten the payment, as
people often do. Meeting the defaulter in the street, he reminded him of
the transaction, taxed him with infidelity to his engagements, and had
the satisfaction of receiving his money and relieving his mind at the
same time. Magnanimous he was by nature. I will give a single instance
of it, out of several I could detail if personalities did not forbid.
When I first came to New York to found a parish, there was a woman in my
congregation,--an angular, brusque woman, not sunny or agreeable,--whose
husband, being unfortunate, had, to repair his fortune, gone to San
Francisco; she stayed in New York and kept school, for the purpose of
educating her children, and of eking out the family expenses. One day,
complaining to me of her lot and labor, she spoke of certain prejudices
against her as interfering with her success, and accused Dr. Bellows of
being one of her enemies. Having satisfied myself of the injustice of
the impression about her, and of her worthy deserving, I took occasion
at once to speak to Dr. Bellows on the subject. Reminding him of the
circumstances in which the woman was placed, I asked him if he did not
think she ought to be helped instead of being hindered. He acknowledged
that he knew her, that he did not like her, that he had spoken harshly
of her under the impression that she was not deserving of moral support.
On my presentation of her case, and conviction that he was wrong, he,
being persuaded of his heedlessness, offered to do everything in his
power to repair any mischief he might have caused. In my excitement, I
became audacious and suggested the drawing up and signing of a
paper,--about the most disagreeable thing that could be proposed. But he
assented, prepared the paper, affixed his signature, and from that hour
did his utmost to befriend the woman whom he took no pleasure in
thinking of. This was noble, even great. He could put his personal
tastes aside when a principle was involved.

It used to be urged against him that he dropped people when he had done
with them, and felt no scruple in sacrificing them to his views of
policy. But it cannot be proved that he was false to anybody, and his
notion of the absolute unfitness of the individual for his place, or of
the man's unreliability, was probably the real cause of his opposition.
Probably, in each instance of his withdrawal of confidence, there were
excellent reasons for his conduct, though it was natural that those who
were suddenly neglected or displaced should feel indignant and
aggrieved. Dr. Bellows was not one to act on a private prejudice or a
personal pique. His affections were strong and would have led him to
make any concession that was consistent with what he regarded as his
public duty. No doubt he was somewhat imperious in judging what his duty
was; he lacked the useful faculty of remaining in the background; he was
impetuous and forward; but he never was or could be insincere, and he
always had a sufficient explanation of the course he pursued,--an
explanation perfectly satisfactory to one who bore his temperament in
mind and considered what he could do and what he could not.

A most lovable, cordial, faithful man I always found him,--a man to be
depended on in difficult and trying times, high-minded, courageous,
daring, ready to enter the breach, happiest when leading a forlorn hope,
straight-forward, inspiring, easily lifted beyond himself, and imparting
nervous vigor to his followers. Followers he must have, for he was not
content to obey any behest; but then his leadership was so hearty and
wholesome, so free from superciliousness, so abundant in expressions of
loyalty, that it was a joy to go with him. He was more than willing to
do his share of hard work, and to indulge his servants. If one could
forbear to cross him, he was friendliness itself; a warm advocate of
liberty, only insisting that liberty and progress should march hand in
hand; that private idiosyncrasies should not stand in the way of
practical advance. He was a very different man from Dr. Dewey, yet he
loved Dr. Dewey devotedly while life lasted. He was an entirely
different man from me in temperament and in gifts,--quite opposite in
fact,--yet he was one of the best of my friends as long as he lived,
seldom resenting my radicalism, never impatient of my slowness, but
warm, sunny, helpful to the end, the man to whom I instinctively
resorted for sympathy in the most painful passages of my career.

In a word, the foundation of his character was impulse. He was a man of
fiery zeal, of moral passion, of vast enthusiasm, and when a storm of
spiritual power came sweeping down from some unseen height, he was
easily carried away. This impulsive character explains his chivalry of
disposition, his magnanimity, his self-abnegation; for though he was
self-asserting, he could at once forget himself, and sink his own
individuality entirely when some cause he had at heart strongly appealed
to him. This impulsiveness explains, too, his theological inconsistency,
for when the popular feeling struck him, he was carried away in a
different direction from what he had first proposed. For instance,
once--I think it was at Buffalo--he gave a most eloquent plea for
individualism, having determined to speak in favor of institutions; and
in Boston when he had been expected to uphold a creed, he was so borne
away by the opposite sentiment that, when he ended, a creed seemed
absolutely impossible.

A very different person from the foregoing was Dr. Samuel Osgood, the
successor of Dr. Dewey in the Church of the Messiah on Broadway, and the
close associate of the pastor of "All Souls," which name he suggested
when the new edifice on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Twentieth Street
was christened. He was a lover of ecclesiasticism, of forms, usages,
ceremonials, though he was not unmindful of the ideas that lay beneath
them, and too good a New Englander, too good a Unitarian, too staunch a
friend of free thought to be anything but a liberal Protestant; a man of
names and dates, and instituted observances, not "electric," "magnetic,"
or a leader either of thought or action; not a man of deep emotions, or
moving eloquence in or out of the pulpit; not a man of long reach or
wide influence, but conspicuous in his way, unique, worth studying as a
figure in his generation.

He was devoted to books, of which he read and produced many, and might
have been called learned, yet he was not a closet man, not a recluse; on
the contrary, he knew about public affairs, talked about what was going
on in the world, attended political, social, and literary meetings, was
a member of the prominent clubs, like the "Century" and the "Union
League," was for years the Corresponding Secretary of the "Historical
Society," rather prided himself, in fact, on the number and intimacy of
his outside relations. With all this, he was a diligent pastor, an
excellent denominationalist, a dependence on all church occasions within
his sect, a speaker at conventions, a worker of the ecclesiastical
machinery, a man much relied on for denominational work.

His writings were numerous. In fact he always seemed to have the pen
in his hand. Besides the books which are known,--"Studies in Christian
Biography," "The Hearthstone," "God with Men," "Milestones in Our Life
Journey," "Student Life,"--all popular once,--he contributed frequently
to the _Christian Examiner_, the _North American Review_, the
_Bibliotheca Sacra_, and other important magazines; delivered orations,
printed theological discourses, especially a famous one before the
theological school at Meadville, Pennsylvania, on "The Coming Church and
its Clergy," and for several months, during Mr. Curtis' illness,
prepared the essays in the "Easy Chair" for _Harper's Monthly Magazine_.
His interest in matters of education and literature was incessant,
active, and useful. He made speeches, served on committees, prepared
reports, in every way tried to serve the cause of rational knowledge.
Yet with all his industry and all his ability--for he possessed ability
of no mean order,--he had a mind singularly destitute of vitality. His
ingenuity, his pleasantry, his sententiousness, his versatility, could
not conceal this lack of organic power. His vivacity did not exhilarate,
his happy expressions did not create the sense of life in the mind, but
were like artificial flowers that had no perfume, and reminded one more
of the perfection of art than of the involuntary sweetness of nature. He
was destitute of genius to inspire. It is the more wonderful that he
could persevere, as he did, without the popular recognition that his
talents merited, or the applause his endeavors deserved. He had praise,
to be sure, but it was not hearty or effusive, and they who rendered it
probably wondered why they could not put more soul into their laudation.
The address was brilliant, but not warming. One must come within arm's
length of him to feel the beating of his heart, to be sensible of his
force. He was unable to project himself far, and relied upon incidental
advantages of occasion for effects which he could not produce by genius.

He was a most affectionate man, dependent, clinging, always ready to
serve, obliging, docile, patient, without hardness and without guile. He
was devoted to his family, faithful to his friends, never allowing
differences of opinion to interfere with his duty towards those who
might expect support from him, but fulfilling disagreeable offices when
he felt that loyalty made perfect truthfulness incumbent. There was
something touching in his fidelity towards men who gave him nothing but
outside recognition, and who were willing to abandon him when he could
no longer be useful. There was something plaintive in his readiness to
work for men who accepted his labor as a matter of course, and allowed
him to throw away his love. He, for his part, asked no reward, but was
quite satisfied if his service was accepted kindly by those to whom he
rendered it. Not that he did not like recognition; he did, and the more
public it was the better he liked it. For he was fond of notoriety, had
a craving for publicity, and was happiest when a multitude applauded.
This may have grown out of his affectionateness, for he reached forth
his arms as widely as possible, and wanted to hear the sound of many
approving voices, needing sympathy and the assurance that he was
conferring pleasure, the noise of plaudits reassuring his heart. Still
he could do without this, if he was certain of the attachment of a
single warm friend. Recognition of some sort was essential to his peace,
for he did not possess independence enough to stand alone, and he cared
too much for individuals to be easy if they were displeased. He gave
himself a great deal of pain, worried, took infinite trouble about
imaginary sorrows, not being able to feel or to affect indifference, and
being destitute of the robustness of character necessary to throw off
unpleasant things; for his ambition, not springing from vitality of
mind, was no guard against griefs of the spirit. He that cannot lose
himself in his studies fails to derive from them their best
satisfaction,--that of consolation and refuge. He stands naked to the
wind, and, if his skin is tender, suffers acutely.

Dr. Osgood was intensely self-conscious, self-regarding,
self-referring. Not vain in the ordinary sense, though he seemed so from
his countenance, attitude, manner, for all of which, I am persuaded,
nature was more responsible than disposition, his physical formation
producing a certain carriage that suggested superciliousness and
conceit. If he were forth-putting, it was, in most instances at least,
because he lacked self-reliance, and wished to be _seen_, knowing that
he could not be _felt_. In reality he was a modest, timid, shrinking
man, with an inordinate desire for distinction, which impelled him
continually to make a demonstration in public. Mere vanity--the love of
appearances--he was destitute of, for he was too tender-hearted and too
conscientious to make victims. One must be self-centred to be vain, as
he was not. I recollect his coming one day into the office of the
_Christian Inquirer_, with his head up as usual, and calling out in a
loud voice: "Where do you think I went on my way down town?" Of course
none of us knew or could guess. "Well," he went on to say, with an air
of complacency, "I stopped at Fowler & Wells' and had my head examined."
"Ah!" exclaimed one of the impudent, "did they find anything, Sam?"
"What they did _not_ find," he said, "will interest you more. They
declared that I was deficient in self-respect, and it is true." And it
_was_ true. Samuel Osgood assumed a brave air, for the reason that he
could not trust himself in the open field. He needed the protection of a
rampart. He wore a showy uniform, because he was not valiant. He had too
much self-esteem to forget himself, and too little courage to assert
himself; the consequence was that he said and did numerous things that
looked vainglorious and were absurd, but which were intended to conceal
his impuissance. It was an innocent kind of bravado, like poor Oliver
Proudfute's, in Scott's romance, "The Fair Maid of Perth." Nobody was
hurt by it, though to him the passion for notoriety was fatal. He liked
to see his name in a newspaper, coveting the kind of reputation that
came in that way, and comforting his heart with the thought of lying on
the broad bosom of the community. His restless desire for public notice
brought ridicule on him, for ordinary people ascribed it to his conceit,
whereas it rather indicated an absence of self-confidence. It was a
cloak to hide his depreciation at the same time that it made him look
larger in the general eye. It was, therefore, more touching than
despicable, and if it excited mirth there was nothing bitter in the
smile which could not break into laughter. Selfish he could not be
called, for he was always serving others, and disinterestedly too; but
on a charge of complacency he could hardly be acquitted. This was the
manner in which he took his reward, and, as I said, it cost nothing to
anybody, while the public received a great deal of service very
ungrudgingly bestowed.

The change from Unitarianism to Episcopacy is very easily explained.
His craving for sympathy was boundless. He was necessarily isolated in
New York, nor had he the solace of a great popular success. In fact his
following was small; his church was dwindling; his reputation was
certainly not increasing; and he became persuaded, I think without
sufficient reason, that he was the victim of adverse influences. In
London, he was charmed with the blended freedom and sanctity of the
"Broad Church" represented by Stanley, Kingsley, Jowett, and a host of
cultivated men; by its unity amid diversity; its sympathy and fellowship
and large scholarship. Here was a church indeed; wide, holy, liberal,
devout, with articles admitting of various interpretations, sacraments
tender and elastic, forms that did not constrain, and usages that did
not bind, an unlimited range of speculation, and a spirit of reverence
that kept the most widely separated together. Here was something very
different from the sectarianism he had, all his life, been accustomed
to, and, all his life, had loathed. He joined this Communion not so much
on account of its _creed_ as of its _creedlessness;_ not as another form
of denominationalism, but as an escape from denominationalism; a real,
living, comprehensive church, where there was room for all Christian
souls, whatever their special mode of belief; a Protestant church with a
truly catholic temper, cordial, humane, courteous; with a respect for
literature, and a love for knowledge; with no jealousy or ill-will, or
fear of thought. His heart was warmed, his fancy fired. Shortly after
his return, as he sat in my study, I asked him if he had materially
changed his theology. He replied that he had not, he had simply altered
the _emphasis;_ as much as to say that in substance it remained what it
was before, essentially Unitarian, as he understood that designation. In
fact, his sermons were to all intents and purposes the same; they never
abounded in doctrine, they did not now; they were always "sentimental,"
in the sense of dealing with sentiment, they were so still. He was not a
prime favorite with Episcopalians in America. He was not narrow or
strict enough for the orthodox; he was not "sensational" enough for the
liberals; he was too ecclesiastical for the Low Churchmen; too
rationalistic for the High Churchmen; and his failure to communicate
warmth was not favorable to his attractiveness. There were not many
Broad Church ministers in New York, so that his circle of fellowship was
small; and on the whole the reception was a disappointment. He longed
for recognition, which he found among many of his old associates, as he
did not find it among his new friends. He was always a churchman when he
was a Unitarian; he was no more of a churchman now, and the sympathy he
sought he might have found in his former connection. Probably had he
lived elsewhere than in New York, where the competition was sharp, and
where individuality alone without distinguished power counted for
nothing, he would have continued Unitarian, and been happy, but he was
ambitious of eminence; he wanted to live in a great city, to be minister
of a metropolitan parish, to be a Doctor of Divinity, and for all this
he lacked the force. There was a perpetual conflict between his
aspirations and his vigor. He joined the Episcopal fraternity, hoping
for what none but those born into it attain without energy of an exalted
kind. His ancient comrades fell away, as was natural; he could not win
other comrades, and his later years became lonely. He cared more for
Christian fellowship than for any other; and he had not the power to
secure this. Thus his affectionateness was against him. He was a loyal
man, true to his convictions, faithful to the bent of his mind. He could
not be a deceiver or a renegade, and his heart was not strong enough or
wide enough to push him forward.

Some thought him deficient in common-sense, and this is, in a sense,
true. He had not the force to carry projects through, nor had he the
hearty accord with the people of his generation that would give him an
instinctive insight into their wishes and enable him to strike into the
current of their designs. His self-reference always stood in the way of
his sympathy with other men; yet he often took practical views of
speculative questions, and curbed a propensity to moral enthusiasm on
the part of some of his associates. This, however, was due to his
timidity, to his absence of vigor, to his want of vital conviction,
rather than to any clearness of perception. He had no humor, no sense of
the incongruous, the incompatible, or the absurd. He named rocks,
groves, arbors, on his summer estate, after the famous poets, and used
to sit in turn on the seats he had thus immortalized. He said things
that no man of taste would have uttered, and did things that no man of
judgment would have been guilty of. But all this was owing to the
absence of sensible qualities rather than to the presence of visionary
ones. He was not perverse, stubborn, or wrong-headed, did not outrage
common opinion, or fly in the face of established prejudice. His want of
good sense was negative, not positive; innocent, not harmful.

Such men have their uses and their place, and neither is small or low.
His love of learning, his devotion to duty, his friendliness, his
fidelity, his kindliness, were rare gifts, particularly rare in
communities like ours. His child-like conceit, very different from the
aggressive vanity that offends the sensitive soul, was not offensive or
noxious, and was a source of harmless amusement. His guilelessness was
more than touching; it was admirable as an example and as a lesson, in
an age that honors knowledge of the world beyond its deserts; and his
simplicity of nature, his trustingness, his ingenuousness, rendered him
a confiding friend, dear to those whose hearts were sore. Few men living
have so small a number of enemies. He did not provoke the hostility he
received. It was possible to be sorry for him; it was impossible to bear
him malice.

As I think of him, the vision arises of a complacent man, with a loud
greeting, a metallic voice, an outstretched hand, a consequential
manner. All this is dust and ashes, but his singleness of intention is
not dead. When everything else is forgotten, his faithfulness will be

Both these men gave me a warm welcome; in fact, my relations were most
friendly among the other Unitarian ministers in the neighborhood. It was
anticipated, no doubt, that I would establish a third Unitarian Society
"up town," of a liberal type; but a wide departure from the existing
order was not suspected. The expectation was that the usual doctrines
were to be proclaimed; that the sacraments were to be administered; that
the regular order was to be observed. Perhaps my willingness to
undertake such an enterprise was regarded as a sign of concession on my
part; perhaps it was supposed that the conservative tone of the city,
together with the attitude of the other churches, would repress the
radical tendencies of the young clergyman; perhaps the trials incident
to a new society and the confusions of the time concealed somewhat the
real bearing of the undertaking. However this may be, there was no
opposition, no criticism, no dictation, no proscription of radical
leanings. My congregations were composed of all sorts of people. There
were Unitarians, Universalists, "come-outers," spiritualists,
unbelievers of all kinds, anti-slavery people, reformers generally. But
this, as being incidental to the formation of every liberal society, was
not objected to. It need not have been; for if there had been no
interruption, no check, everything might have gone smoothly, as in
similar societies since.


Hardly had I got warm in my place when the mutterings of war were in
the air. During the autumn of 1859, on the 16th of October, John Brown
planned his attack on Harper's Ferry. His was a portentous figure. His
position in history--greater than his achievements would warrant--was
due partly to his position as herald of the coming strife, but mainly to
his personal qualities. These were colossal; however much one may
criticise his particular deeds, or the details of his motive, these
qualities can not be exalted too highly. His courage, heroism, patience,
fortitude, were most extraordinary. Even Governor Wise, the man whose
duty it was to see him tried and executed as a felon, said of him; "They
are mistaken who take Brown to be a madman. He is a bundle of the best
nerves I ever saw; cut and thrust and bleeding and in bonds. He is a man
of clear head, of courage, fortitude, and simple ingenuousness. He is
cool, collected, indomitable; and it is but just to him to say that he
was humane to his prisoners, and he inspired me with great trust in his
integrity as a man of truth." Colonel Washington, another Virginia
witness, testified to the extraordinary coolness with which Brown felt
the pulse of his dying son, while he held his own rifle in the other
hand, and cheered on his men. His character made his prison cell a
shrine. On the day of his execution, December 2, 1859, he stood under
the gallows with the noose round his neck for full ten minutes while
military evolutions were performed; he never wavered a moment, and died
with nerves still subject to his iron will. He was a Calvinistic
believer in predestination; a real Covenanter, more like the Scotch
Covenanters of two centuries ago than anything we know of to-day. He was
an Old-Testament man, and like all fanatics was indifferent to death,
either that of other men or his own. His anti-slavery zeal began in his
youth. He early took an oath to make war against slavery, and, it is
said, called his older sons together on one occasion and made them
pledge themselves, kneeling in prayer, to the anti-slavery crusade. This
purpose he always bore in mind, whatever else he was doing; he even
chose the spot for his attempt--the mountains which Washington had
selected as a final retreat should he be defeated by the English. Nearly
nine years before his own death, he exhorted the members of the "League
of Gileadites" to stand by one another and by their friends as long as a
drop of blood remained and be hanged, if they must, but to tell no tales
out of school.

Then came the war. Though its physical aspect,--the loss of treasure and
of blood--was most affecting, I cannot but think that its mental and
moral aspect has been underrated. Its whole justification lay in its
moral character, and I must believe that full justice has never been
done to those who were obliged to stay at home and uphold this feature.
The preacher of the Gospel of Peace had as much as he could do to
overcome the horrors of war; and the preacher of Righteousness was
engaged all the time in promoting the cause of justice. They who went to
the front had the excitement of battle, the pleasures of camp-life, the
assistance of comradeship, the comfort of sympathy. The preacher had
none of these. Every day rumors were reaching his ears; "extras" were
flying about in the silence; he had to comfort people under defeat, to
humble them in hours of victory; to interpret the conflict in accordance
with the principles of equity; to keep alive the moral issues of the
struggle. This was an incessant weariness and anxiety; to fight foes one
could not see, and to uphold a cause that was discredited, fell to his
portion; it is no wonder that when the war was over he was spent and

An illustration of a part of what he had to contend with is found in
the riot of the summer of 1863. This was an anti-abolitionist riot, a
fierce protest against the conscription, and at the same time an
uprising against the government, which was supposed to maintain a war of
the blacks against the whites. The riot was directed against the negroes
and the abolitionists, and was pitiless and ferocious in the extreme. It
was my lot to be in New York in that dreadful week in July. I was
visiting friends in the upper part of the town when the uproar began. As
I walked home down Madison Avenue a group of rough men met me; one of
them snatched at my watch chain, and I should have been maltreated had
not more attractive game in the shape of people in a buggy drawn away
the attention of my assailants. I reached my home in safety. The next
morning, as I walked about the city, there were groups of men standing
idle, or armed with missiles, in almost every street. Had the mob been
organized then it might have done more mischief than it did, for the
inhabitants of the city were unprepared and unprotected. As I stood at
night on my roof, I could see the fires in different parts of the town,
and hear the shots. An arsenal stood on Seventh Avenue, near my house,
full of arms and ammunition which the insurgents wanted. When the United
States troops arrived, they defended this arsenal. Cannons were pointed
up and down the street, guards were posted, officers with their clanking
swords marched up and down before my door. The riot lasted three
days,--from the 13th to the 16th. On the following Sunday a sermon was
preached which gives expression to the better thoughts of the wisest
people, and from which accordingly extracts are made:

     Of all the dreadful and melancholy passages in the history of human
     progress, none, to a thoughtful man, are more dreadful or
     melancholy than those which tell how men have resisted, pushed
     away, reviled, cursed, beaten, mobbed, crucified their benefactors.
     It does seem, as we read them, as if the most dreaded thing on
     earth had been the personal, the domestic, the social welfare; as
     if the deepest anxiety on the part of men of all sorts was an
     anxiety to escape from their health and salvation; as if the
     profoundest dread was a dread of mending their estates, and their
     utmost horror was a horror of heaven! It does seem, as we read, as
     if happiness, prosperity, success, were the pet aversion of
     mankind; as if the signs that were looked for with the most
     agonized apprehension were the signs that the kingdom of heaven was
     at hand.... We saw this conspicuously and dismally exemplified in
     the events of the past week. The one man who, before and above all
     others, was a mark for the rage of the populace, the one man whose
     name was loud in the rabble's mouth, and always coupled with a
     malediction, the one man who was hunted for his blood as by wolves,
     who would have been torn in pieces had the opportunity been
     afforded, and on whose account the dwelling of a friend was
     literally torn in pieces, was a man who had been the steadfast
     friend of these very people who hungered for his blood; their most
     constant, uncompromising, and public friend; thinking for them,
     speaking for them, writing for them; pleading their cause through
     the press, in the legislature, from the platform; excusing their
     mistakes and follies, asserting and reasserting their substantial
     worth and honesty and rectitude, advocating their claims as working
     people, vindicating their rights as men; proposing schemes for the
     safety of their persons, the healthfulness of their houses, the
     saving and increase of their earnings, the education of their
     children, the exemption of their homesteads from seizure in cases
     of debt, the enlargement of their sphere of labor, the transferring
     of their families from the crowded city, where they could do little
     more than keep themselves alive by arduous toil, to the fruitful
     lands of the West, where they could become noble and
     self-respecting men and women. This was the man whose blood was
     hungered for. I need not speak his name,--you know whom I mean,
     Horace Greeley,--a man whom some call visionary, but whose visions
     are all of the redemption of the people; whom some call "fool," but
     who, if he seem a fool, is foolish that the people may be wise;
     whom some call "radical," but whose radicalism is simply a
     determination that the popular existence shall have a sound, sure,
     and deep root in natural law and moral principle; at all events, a
     man who has lived for the people and suffered for the people, and
     been laughed at when he suffered and because he suffered. _This_
     was the man whose blood was hungered for. And yet the most
     moderate, kind, considerate of all the papers, the last week, was
     his paper. And I believe he, even had he fallen into the hands of
     his enemies, would have said, "Forgive them, they know not what
     they do."

     Indulge me in one more personality. I said that the dwelling of a
     friend was pillaged by the mob, under the impression that Mr.
     Greeley lived there. What was this dwelling? Who was this friend?
     The dwelling was one the like of which is rare in any city, a
     dwelling of happiness and peace, a home of the tenderest domestic
     affections, a house of large friendliness and hospitality, a refuge
     and abiding-place for the unfortunate and the outcast. There was no
     display of wealth there--there was no wealth to display; yet the
     house was full of things which no wealth could buy. It was crowded
     with mementos. The pieces of furniture in the rooms had family
     histories connected with them; chairs and tables were precious from
     association with noble and rare people who had gone. Pictures on
     the walls, busts in the parlor, engravings, photographs, books,
     spoke of the gratitude or love of some dear giver. One room was
     sacred to the memory of a noble boy, an only son, who had died some
     years before. There was his bust in marble, there were his books,
     there were the prints he liked, the little bits of art he was fond
     of, and all the dear things that seemed to bring him back. The
     whole house was a shrine and a sanctuary.

     And who were the inmates? The master, a man whose sympathies were
     always and completely with the working-people, a man of steady and
     boundless humanity; the mistress, a woman whose name is familiar to
     all doers of good deeds in the city of New York, and dear to
     hundreds of the objects of good deeds. To the orphan and friendless
     and poor, a mother; to the unfortunate, a sister; to the wretched,
     the depraved, the sinful, more than a friend. In the city prison
     her presence was the presence of an angel of pitying love; at
     Blackwell's Island she was welcome as a spirit of peace and hope.
     The boys at Randall's Island looked into her face as the face of an
     angel. Again and again had she rescued from the life of shame the
     countrywoman, and possibly the kindred of these very people who
     plundered her house. For the better part of a year and more she has
     been in camp and city hospitals, nursing their brothers and sons,
     performing every menial office. At this moment she is at Point
     Lookout, doing that work, amid discomforts and discouragements that
     would daunt a less resolute humanity than hers, giving all she has
     and is to the _people_, to the wounded, crippled, bleeding, and
     broken people; giving it for the sake of the people--giving it that
     the people may be raised to a higher social level! And she,
     forsooth, must be selected to have her house pillaged! She must be
     stabbed to her heart of hearts, stabbed through and through, in
     every one of her affections, by these people for whom her life had
     been a perpetual process of dying! Why, if they had but known this
     that I have been telling you, or but a tenth part of it, those men
     would have defended with their bodies every thread of carpet she
     trod on. But so it was, and so it must be! Only the best names are
     ever taken in vain on human lips, and they are so taken because
     they are the best, and best is worst to those who cannot understand
     it. Theodore Winthrop was shot by a negro. Did he know what he
     did?... In thinking of it one's bosom is torn with distracting
     emotions, and between feeling for the persecuted and feeling for
     the persecutors, one almost loses the power of feeling. Could
     anything be more pitiful? Yes, one thing more pitiful there
     was--the savage hunting down and persecution of the negroes, as if
     they, too, were the enemies of these working-people. The poor,
     inoffensive negroes, most innocent part of the whole population!
     Most quiet, harmless, docile people, who could not stand in the way
     of the white people if they would, and who never thought of
     anything but of keeping out of their way! These the enemies of
     white labor! As if they had not, for these very white people, borne
     the burden and heat of the tropical day, raising the cotton by
     which we are clothed, and the rice by which we are fed! As if to
     these and the like of these, the white people did not owe a large
     share of the manufacturing towns where they get their bread! As if
     the lowest foundation stones of this very New York of ours were not
     cemented by their bloody sweat! As if there were too many of them
     in the country now for the country's needs, supposing the country
     ever to fall into a settled and civilized condition again! As if
     all there are might not by and by be _required_ to do the work
     which white labor can not for a long time, if it can ever, safely
     undertake! Strange complications of things! Strange cross-purposes
     of human nature! The Southern people would revive the slave trade,
     because they have not black laborers enough, and their allies among
     ourselves would banish or kill all the black people, because they
     interfere with white labor! A mutual stabbing at each other's
     hearts! And on each side a stabbing to its own heart!... It is a
     very mysterious thing in history, this alliance between the most
     turbulent and the most tyrannical, the most depraved and the most
     despotic portions of society. The most undisciplined, barbarous,
     savage members of a community are ever in a league with the most
     overbearing, insolent, imperious, and domineering members of it.
     They who are under the least self-control bow most deferentially
     before those who rule others with the most cruel rod. The people
     who were proudest of having turned out to a man, in London, for the
     maintenance of law and order, on the day of the great Chartist
     demonstration there, were the most immoral class in the
     city--proved by the criminal returns to be nine times as dishonest,
     five times as drunken, and nine times as savage as the rest of the
     community. (See Spencer's "Social Statics," p. 424.)

     In Boston, on the occasion of the rendition of Anthony Burns, all
     the thieves, burglars, cut-throats, swarmed from their dens and
     volunteered with alacrity to enforce the fugitive-slave law. And
     now the leaders of the Southern Confederacy count, and count
     securely, on the Northern populace. The fiercest allies of the only
     absolutely despotic class in the country are the outlaws of
     society. The men who are fighting for the privileges of the
     extremest tyranny, the privileges not of ruling merely, but
     literally of owning the laboring class, these men have the
     implicit, unquestioning, fanatical loyalty of the people who are at
     the opposite end of the social scale--the people who own nothing
     either of fortune, position, influence, or character, and whose
     sole relation towards the despots they worship is that of mad,
     savage slaves.

     In Europe this alliance between the despotic and the lawless may
     be fortunate for the peace of the community. In our Southern States
     it is eminently conducive to the tranquillity they desire. But when
     the lawless are here and the despotic are there, when the barbarism
     is in New York and the tyranny in Richmond, when the elements of
     discord and turbulence in our Northern cities fly to support their
     iron-handed rulers in the seceded States, there ensues a state of
     things, especially in time of war, that is calculated to shake
     society to its foundations, and fill every loyal heart with dread.
     The unruly, as if they felt instinctively their lack of
     self-control, seek a ruler--fly to the strongest to save them from
     themselves, worship the sternest, the most high-handed, the
     cruellest, and by that natural sympathy with brutality are
     maintained in subjection to law.

     Heaven speed the time when these heedless, reckless, licentious
     children of humanity may feel sensible of the weight of power
     without its brutality, may reverence authority when it is neither
     beastly nor cruel, may yield obedience to Order, whose symbol is
     not the sword, and to Law, whose badge is not the bayonet. But till
     that time comes, we, with thoughtful minds and sad hearts and sober
     consciences, and souls full as we can make them of human charity
     and good-will, must hold in our hands those terrible symbols, and
     in the Christian spirit do the ruler's part.

The insurrection did not last long. As soon as the United States troops
appeared the trouble was over and order was restored. There was
fighting; there was pillage; but how many lives were lost and how much
property was destroyed was never exactly known. On the whole, the riot
strengthened the hands of the government, increased pity for the victims
of outrage, and excited sympathy for the negroes and the abolitionists.
The priests, as I well remember, helped in the work of pacification. On
the second day of the uprising, as I was visiting a friend in his studio
on Fifth Avenue, the mob came along, shouting, yelling, brandishing
clubs, on their way to the archbishop's palace, to hear an address by
him. The prelate appeared on the balcony dressed in full canonicals, in
order to impress the people, and delivered a most ingenious and
persuasive address. Beginning "Men of New York," he flattered their
self-esteem, paid a tribute to their sense of power and exalted
influence, and advised them against cruelty and anarchy. The effect of
this speech was surprising in soothing and quieting the crowd. They had
come there in a mood of tumult--they separated peacefully and went to
their own homes, satisfied. From that hour the soul of the riot was

The incidents of the war cannot be detailed here. The story has been
told too often, and is altogether too long for my space. And after all
the moral issues of the war were the most interesting though not the
most pathetic. The sentiment of union, the establishment of the national
supremacy, the authority of the reign of law, the emancipation of a
degraded race, the new inspiration imparted to a great people, and the
advent of a universal republicanism were most significant. It is quite
likely that the modern uprising of labor and the urgent claims of women
for recognition and civil power were aided, if not suggested, by this
overwhelming triumph of order and enlightenment. It is more than likely
that the position of the United States, as a power among the nations of
the earth, was due mainly to the victory that was achieved by the powers
of liberty.


The happy ending of the war stimulated, as has been said, the
sentiment of Unity. The success of the government in putting down the
rebellion filled the air with the spirit of union. The restoration of
political harmony suggested a deeper harmony, when divisions should
cease. At this moment, in April, 1865, the indefatigable Dr. Bellows,
who had been the soul of the Sanitary Commission, summoned all Christian
believers of the liberal persuasions to a convention in his church for a
more complete organization. The invitation was most generously
interpreted, and was hailed by some who could be called Christians only
under the most elastic definition of the term. A prominent layman of the
Unitarian body brought an elaborate creed which he wished the convention
to adopt; and a distinguished minister of the West was of the opinion
that the work of perfect organization could best be done by the adoption
of stringent articles of faith. But the minimum of belief was imposed.
The preamble of the constitution, the work of reconciling minds, reads
thus: "Whereas the great opportunities and demands for Christian labor
and consecration, at this time, increase our sense of the obligations of
all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to prove their faith by
self-denial and by the devotion of their lives and possessions to the
service of God, and the building up of the kingdom of his son,
Therefore." Then follow the articles. It was this phrase, "Lord Jesus
Christ," that provoked discussion. The struggle was renewed at Syracuse
on October 8th of the next year, 1866, and an attempt was made to
explain away the force of the declaration by announcing that while the
preamble and articles of the constitution represented the opinions of
the majority, yet they were not to be considered an authoritative test
of Unitarianism, or to exclude from fellowship any who though differing
in belief "are in general sympathy with our purpose and practical aims."
But this was not considered by the radicals as satisfactory. For in the
first place the title of "Lord" seemed to contain by implication a
doctrine which could not be subscribed to, as the "Lordship" of Jesus
was supposed to be supernatural. Here seemed to be a fundamental
difference between those who held to the old world's idea of a spiritual
kingdom, and those who proclaimed the new world's idea of a spiritual
democracy. In fact, one of the leaders--Dr. Bellows--plainly said if
there was to be any change it must be made in the other direction; "we
are to consider not only the few on the one side, who may or may not
care to unite with us, but the great body of Christians of all
denominations, the Universal Church of Christ; I demand liberality to
them, the liberality which acknowledges their Lord and Leader, and
welcomes them to a household whose hearth glows with faith in and
loyalty to the personal Saviour." It was plainly declared by him that
Unitarians assumed the name of liberal Christians, because they allowed
liberality of inquiry and opinion _within the pale of Christian
discipleship_. This of itself was enough to create a palpable division,
but it was felt besides that freedom of interpretation did not imply
freedom of rejection. The phrase _Lordship of Jesus_, although as little
of a creed as could be devised, was hostile to freedom, besides not
being altogether true, as Jesus never claimed to be infallible. The
radicals, under the lead of Francis E. Abbot, attempted to introduce a
substitute for the original preamble, inculcating unity of spirit and of
work as the basis of the "National Conference of Unitarian and
Independent Churches." This substitute was not carried, and a final
breach between the Independents and the Unitarians was thus established.
This was inevitable twenty-five years ago; it could not happen to-day,
when both wings are united in one body.

For my part I did not go to Syracuse, having foreseen what eventually
occurred, namely, the intended solidification of the Unitarian body by
the strengthening of the bonds of organization. My own personal
experience, which other radicals knew nothing of, led me to this
conclusion. My church edifice on 40th Street was begun in the spring of
1863. The two ministers in New York were present at the informal service
of laying the corner-stone. The walls were going up during the summer;
on the week of the riot the mob called the workmen off, threatening to
destroy what was built if the masons did not leave. The building was
finished in the winter, and dedicated on Christmas Day. To the warm
personal invitation which was sent to all the Unitarian clergy in New
York and Brooklyn--there were but three then--no response was returned;
and when my father and I went to the church there were no ministers on
the platform. We went through the service, my father offering the prayer
and I preaching the sermon. No remark was made at the time beyond an
expression of surprise at the non-appearance of the "brethren." The next
day my father, who had come from Boston on purpose to attend the
dedication, and whose blindness was approaching fast, went to make a
friendly visit on Dr. Bellows. On his return, when asked if any reason
was assigned for the failure to participate in the proceedings of the
day before, he said that the duties of Christmas were alleged as the
cause. I was sure there was another explanation behind; and as soon as I
had put my father in the train for home wrote to Dr. Bellows, taxing him
among the rest with discourtesy. It was evident that such a charge was
anticipated and prepared for; that the ministers had met and had agreed
on a course to be pursued in my case. For at once there came a reply to
my note, accusing me of studiously neglecting all the usual observances
of the denomination. My invitation had not been official; there was no
"church"; there had never been any sacrament; the allegiance to
fundamental doctrines of the sect had been slack. All this was true, and
no attempt at exculpation was made, but it was felt that a breach
existed. The excitements of the war overshadowed everything else at this
period, and nothing more was said. My Society was duly represented at
the first conference; but as soon as our side was argued,--as it was by
D. A. Wasson,--it was plain that the spirit of organization prevailed
and was against us. A division was inevitable. The "Independents" must
form a separate party.

This virtual exclusion occasioned the formation of the Free Religious
Association. A meeting was held on the 5th of February, 1867, at
Dr. C. A. Bartol's, in Boston, to consider a plan for creating a new
association on the basis of free thought. Very strong words were spoken
on that occasion. One man, I recollect, spoke of all churches, all
ministers, and all religion as being outgrown. But the majority were of
the opinion that religion was an eternal necessity, and the
administration of it an absolute demand. Dr. Bartol himself was always a
warm friend of the Association, appearing on the platform, speaking
always hopefully, one of the most welcome of its supporters. The
Association was formed in the spring of that same year. In the plan of
organization it was distinctly announced that the aim of the Association
was to "promote the interest of pure religion, to encourage the
scientific study of theology, and to increase fellowship in the spirit;
and to this end all persons interested in these objects are cordially
invited to its membership." Thus the object of the Association was
exceedingly broad. It proposed to remove all dividing lines and to unite
all religious men in bonds of pure spirituality, each one being
responsible for his own opinion alone, and in no degree affected in his
relations with other associations. If the movement had been in the hands
of orthodox and well-reputed people, it would have seemed not only large
but noble and beneficent. Being, as it was, in the hands of a few
radical clergymen and laymen, it was supposed to be "infidel" in its
character; and was misrepresented and abused accordingly.

At first, the dissensions of the sects were rebuked. Afterwards, the
scope of the idea was extended; all the religions of the world being put
on an equality of origin and purpose. The spiritual nature of man was
assumed; the universality of religious feeling; the inherent tendency to
worship, aspiration, prayer, being taken for granted as an element in
the best minds; all churches and confessions of faith being looked upon
as achievements of the soul; Jesus being classed among the leaders of
humanity; the Bible being accepted as a record of spiritual and moral
truth; and the church being regarded as an organization to diffuse
belief. The foundation, therefore, was a pure Theism, and the effort
contemplated the elevation of all mankind to the dignity of children of
the Highest. That this aim was always borne in mind is not pretended.
The negative side was made too conspicuous. Now and then there was a
lurch in the direction of denial. There was too much criticism, and it
was not always just. There was too much speculation, and it was not
always wise. The plan of letting each sect tell its own story was a
little confusing at the start. Still, on the whole, the object was
pretty faithfully kept in view. Lucretia Mott suggested that the word
"religion" should be substituted for the word "theology," but the word
"religion" was too vague to afford ground for discussion, and it was
felt that the phrase "scientific" sufficiently explained, through the
substitution of the scientific for the theological method, the purpose
of the association. Moreover, the purpose was to remove _theological_
differences, the only differences that existed.

There were names of distinguished men and women on our list of
officers, members, speakers, and friends--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Amos
Bronson Alcott, Gerrit Smith, George William Curtis, Edward L. Youmans,
Nathaniel Holmes, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Rowland G.
Hazard, Lucretia Mott, Lydia Maria Child, Ednah D. Cheney. Thomas W.
Higginson was one of our most effective speakers; John Weiss read on our
platform his most brilliant paper on "Science and Religion"; David
Atwood Wasson lent us the light of his countenance.

Our greatest want was the want of a leader,--a man not only of competent
learning and spiritual enthusiasm, but of natural impulse and vigor; a
man of the people, a man of rugged speech, a man of vivacity and humor.
If Theodore Parker had been alive he might have taken this position, and
distinguished himself as a leader in this movement; as it was, there was
no one who could take his place, and the enterprise flagged accordingly,
lacking the popular zeal which would give it currency. The speculative
character of the association was always against it and rendered it
somewhat dry; but this under the circumstances was inevitable, because
we were forced to deal with technicalities of credence, and had not
power enough to get beyond them into the universalities of faith.

There was an expectation in many quarters that the association would
devote itself to beneficent projects; and this was natural, because it
seemed as if those who gave up the bond of belief must adopt the bond of
work. Mr. Emerson seems to have had a similar desire. "I wish," he said,
"that the various beneficent institutions which are springing up like
joyful plants of wholesomeness all over this country, should all be
remembered as within the sphere of this committee,--almost all of them
are represented here,--and that within this little band that has
gathered here to-day should grow friendship." But in the first place,
ours was not a philanthropic institution; its aim was religious
entirely, as it attempted to substitute the universality of religion for
the one faith of Christendom. The chief workers in several forms of
charity presented their schemes for our consideration, and at one time
it looked as if we must be borne away into some philanthropic
enterprise. The current, however, which carried us towards "religious"
unity was too strong.

And then, at that time there was little scientific philanthropy. The
word _charity_ was more or less associated with patronage and pity, the
very things that we wanted to avoid; they who were bent on wiping out
distinctions could not countenance these, and it was safer not to let
our hearts get the better of our reason. But even if there had been a
scientific treatment of humane questions, we were afraid of the danger
of becoming too much absorbed in this kind of work, and so of losing
sight of our chief end.

At present the idea of our Association is pretty well domesticated in
Christendom. It was not, after all, entirely new. In 1845 and 1846
Frederick Denison Maurice, lecturing on the Boyle Foundation in London
on "The Religions of the World and their Relations to Christianity,"
attempted to do justice to the ancient faiths of India, Persia, Egypt,
Greece, and Rome. In 1882, in Edinburgh, eminent men discussed the same
problems under the title of "The Faiths of the World." In 1871 James
Freeman Clarke published his "Ten Great Religions." The study of
comparative religion has been going on for many years. When Mozoomdar
came to this country a few years ago, there was such a rush for him
among American orthodox Christians that the Free Religious Association
could not get at him at all, though it had tried in vain to get a real
Brahmin on its platform. True, there were differences of opinion among
the orthodox students of the old-world systems. Some regarded the
ancient religions as effete; some denied that Christianity touched them
at more than one or two points; some treated them simply as preparations
for the crowning faith of Christ. Still, whatever their differences, all
agreed that the religious instinct was universal; that there was a
ground for revelation in the human heart; since Carlyle's famous lecture
in "Heroes," delivered in 1840, it was impossible to regard Mahomet as
an impostor, or to look upon religion as a fabrication of the priests,
as an attempt to practise upon human ignorance and fear.

Among the Unitarians our conception is familiar. At the convention that
was held in Philadelphia, in October, 1889, both parties, the most
conservative and the most radical, sat side by side. A manager of the
Free Religious Association delivered one of the addresses, and said: "I
never believed one tithe as much as I believe to-night. Never did I have
such faith in God; never did I so believe in man; never did I see such a
glorious outlook for the Church; never did I hold such a glad theory of
human hope for the future." The secretary of the American Unitarian
Association was full of joy. The secretary of the Western Unitarian
Conference quoted the opinion of the Western churches, assembled at
Chicago in May, 1887, and declared "our fellowship to be conditioned on
no doctrinal tests, and welcomes all who wish to join us to help
establish truth and righteousness and love in the world." A prominent
leader of Unitarianism in Illinois uttered himself thus: "Whatever its
traditions, whatever its present positions, or its prospects, this
spiritual commonwealth is extra-Unitarian, extra-American,
extra-Christian; it is human, and on that account it is universal, and
it is divine." Another speaker at this convention declared that "the
hand that shall hold this master key is Christ, as the modern mind
conceives him,--Christ healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the
leper, casting out devils from society and business, from politics and
religion; Christ, the friend of Lazarus and of Mary Magdalen; Christ
robed in absolute justice and also in transcendant love, and embracing
the whole world."

It is not claimed that this extraordinary change in ecclesiastical
fellowship and sympathy is due to the Free Religious Association. That
was one of the signs of the times, and is an effect rather than a cause;
but it is a sign of the grander unity. When the portrait of Theodore
Parker is hanging on the walls of Channing Hall; when a cordial welcome
is extended to all seekers for the light; when the East and West are
ready to embrace in a fellowship of aspiration; when the young men are
all alight with fresh hope and fresh endeavor, we may with confidence
anticipate the time when there shall be but one fold, and the aim of the
Free Religious Association be met.

The emancipation from denominational trammels was of great service to
the young minister. It is true that he was still in a "church" which
kept him within ecclesiastical associations; but these fetters were not
heavy, and they were soon to be thrown off. For in the spring of 1869,
the church was sold to another congregation. This was done partly
because the acoustic properties of the building were not favorable, and
partly because the place was not suited to the genius of the new
society. "There was no room in the inn," was the subject of the last
sermon preached in that building. Lyric Hall, to which we removed, is
situated on Sixth Avenue, between 40th and 41st streets. It is a large
room fifty by one hundred feet. During the week it was used as a dancing
hall, but on Sundays it was arranged for a religious service. A small
organ was placed there, a platform was built, and seats were brought up
from the cellar below. The first sermon preached there was on "Secular
Religion," and it indicated the whole character of the services. The
most remarkable thing, as regards myself, that happened in Lyric Hall,
was the adoption of the habit of speaking without notes. The light from
the avenue was too far off for reading, and the speaker was therefore
obliged to dispense with a manuscript altogether. A theme was first
chosen that admitted of subdivisions, so that as fast as the speaker
exhausted one he could fall back on another. The habit soon became so
familiar that no difficulty was experienced in handling the most
complicated subject. Here we remained until the spring of 1875, when we
removed to Masonic Temple, on Sixth Avenue and 23d Street.

This building, which was very large and handsome, had just been erected
by the Masons, who designed it for their own accommodation. The
structure having cost, however, more than was anticipated, the owners
were obliged, reluctantly, to let the large hall, which they did for
literary and religious purposes only. We were the first to occupy it.
The hall was spacious and stately, with fixed seats for about a thousand
people. A fine organ stood at one end of the platform; at the other end
there was a large reception room. The first sermon there was on
"Reasonable Religion." The audience was never large--never more than
eight or nine hundred, usually six or seven hundred. The form of service
much resembled the form common in Unitarian churches, with the exception
that Mr. Conway's "Sacred Anthology" was substituted for the Bible, and
the other exercises were more universal in their character. It had long
ceased to be a Unitarian congregation. There were people of Catholic
training, many of Protestant training, some of no religious training
whatever, materialists, atheists, secularists, positivists--always
thinking people, with their minds uppermost. It was a church of the
unchurched. George Ripley, the journalist, was always there; E. C.
Stedman, the man of letters; Calvert Vaux, the architect; Sanford R.
Gifford, the painter; Henry Peters Gray, the artist, was there until he
died; C. P. Cranch, the poet, was a member of the Society as long as he
was in the city. In the Lyric-Hall days, Judge Geo. C. Barrett had a
seat in the audience. The secular character was always prominent. When
we had a church on 40th Street, the large basement was used for music,
dramatic performances, readings, festivities, social gatherings. In
Lyric Hall, these were continued as far as they could be.

The "Fraternity Club" was organized in 1869 by a devoted member of the
Society for the entertainment and improvement of its members; and drew
together very brilliant minds both within and without the immediate
fellowship. The meetings were held once in two weeks, when an essay was
read, a debate carried on, and a paper presented; all the performers
being nominated in advance by the President. The work was mainly done by
a few young men, who have since become eminent in various fields--as
teachers, lawyers, literary critics, publishers,--and by witty women not
a few. There were about seventy members, each one standing for some
peculiar accomplishment. The subjects of the essays were such as these,
illustrating the breadth of the intellectual interest: On "Taste"; on
"Expressions"; on "The Coming Man"; on "Wordsworth"; on "The Tree of
Life"; on "Spencer's Britomart as the Type of Woman"; on "Light and
Laughter"; on "Successful People"; on "Culture"; on "The Cultivation of
the Masses." The subjects for debate were equally varied: "Ought the
sexes to be educated apart?"; "Does a house burn up or burn down?"; "Is
the highest musical culture compatible with the highest intellectual
development?"; "Is there a distinctly American literature as contrasted
with that of England?"; "Should matrimonial union be contracted early or
late?"; "Ought we to cultivate most those faculties in which we
naturally excel, or those in which we are naturally deficient?"; "Does
increase of culture involve decrease of amusement?"; "Is the existence
of a 'Mute inglorious Milton' possible?"; "Will giving the franchise to
women exert a beneficial influence on society?"; "Had you rather be more
stupid than you seem, or seem more stupid than you are?"

The "papers," of which there are some nine volumes existing, were
receptacles for the fancy, imagination, sentiment, and humor of the
editors or their co-editors; there were verses, stories, criticisms,
jokes, illustrations, in them; each had its name: "The Bubble," "The
Venture," "Bric-a-Brac," "Stuff," "The Rag-Bag." The club ceased soon
after the Society disbanded, in 1880.

The root idea of the Society, apart from its independence, was the
mingling of the spiritual and the natural; the domestication of faith.
With a view of making the idea more prevailing and complete, a
children's service in the afternoon was substituted for the regular
Sunday-school. A book was prepared, "The Child's Book of Religion," by
the pastor, for this express purpose. There were responsive readings,
recitations in unison, songs, and an address, simple and anecdotical, by
the minister.

The Society was never fashionable, or even popular. At one period--that
of the Richardson-McFarland matter--there was a vast deal of
misrepresentation, criticism, and abuse, but all this had no effect on
the constituency of the parish. There was the same loyalty, the same
interest, the same determination to sustain a thoroughly liberal
ministry, by which every form of conviction was made conducive to a
purely spiritual faith.

It was never pretended that the Society was anything more than a
beginning. A small and feeble beginning, but of something that was to
grow and spread; the beginning of a faith that is as rational as it is
wide. Its influence was more diffusive than concrete as an instituted
thing. It is the pride and consolation of those who began it that they
removed some of the barriers that divided the great brotherhood of
believing men.

My ministry in New York ended in the spring of 1879. Its close was due
entirely to my ill-health. A year before the doctors had warned me not
to continue longer than was necessary my rate of speed. They urged me to
go slower, to "take in sail," and to withdraw as far as I could from all
public demonstrations. Measures were taken against every emergency, and
I sailed away in the French steamer, with the hope that in six months I
might regain my nervous power, and return. There was first the
exhilarating sea voyage; then the beautiful city hall of Rouen, the
churches and famous buildings, the square where Joan of Arc suffered;
then came Paris with its enchantments; after that Basel showed its great
Holbeins, and its lovely promenade overlooking the river; this led to
the celebrated baths at Ragatz in Switzerland, the placid waters of
Pfeffers', the gorge, the hotel gardens, and the lovely walks; after
this came the pass of the Splügen, the Via Mala, the hotel at the summit
of the pass among the snows, the pastures, the wild goats; then came
Lake Como in Italy, Bellagio, the charming Villa Serbeloni, looking down
upon the two lakes, Como and Lecco, the vineyards ripening in the sun,
the terraces, looking across upon the mountains; then Milan opened its
great cathedral, the gallery of the Brera, the ancient church of Saint
Ambrose. Afterwards came Florence and its heavenly environs, its
pictures and statues and public buildings, its groves and stately drives
and lovely villas; Florence was followed by Siena, and there I saw the
great cathedral, walked on the esplanade, enjoyed the public square, the
palaces, the pictures of Sodoma. From there I went to Rome, in December.

It was all in vain; I became satisfied that the complaint was not of a
temporary nature, not owing to overwork or over-excitement, not easily
cured--if curable at all,--but nervous and hereditary. Thereupon, I
wrote a letter to my trustees absolutely resigning my office and
declining to be a clergyman any longer, as I could not attempt to renew
the same kind of labor. An attempt was made to secure a successor;
several names were mentioned, and among men greatly my superiors in
learning and eloquence, but none, it was thought, represented the
precise form of speculation, the exact view of religion which my friends
desired. The Society therefore was disbanded, and no attempt has been
made since to reorganize it. The members were scattered, some among
other churches, some among other cities, while some never joined any
religious society whatever. Thus a thriving and growing organization is
now simply a memory.


An article in the _North American Review_ for April, 1885, on "Free
Thought in America," is chiefly significant as showing how gradual and
tentative the progress of thought in religion was. The comments on
individuals are often wide of the mark, but the general drift is quite
correct. The course was shadowy, but the main point was unmistakable. At
this day, the wholesale abuse of religion is harmless, and can exert no
wide influence. The friends of liberal thought are against it; and those
who seek the old grim conclusion do so in another way, striving to
substitute a new faith in nature for the old faith in divine
inspiration, and to prove the latter to have been a growth rather than
an imposition. The study of comparative religions has put a new face on
the question, and the concern is now to discover the source of faith in
the supernatural and not to make it appear a creation of priestcraft. No
sooner had serious investigations into antiquity become known, than the
method pursued by Voltaire and Dupuis was abandoned, and each generation
since has confirmed the facts of historic development.

That my own immediate predecessors were Emerson and Parker is most true.
With the writings of the former I was familiar; the latter was my
intimate friend. Perhaps my theological views are due to him more than
to any other man, though the circumstances of his generation were
peculiar, and determined, in a much greater degree than in my own case
was possible, the cast of his thought. The Unitarian controversy, in
which he played so prominent a part, and by stress whereof he was driven
into some of his positions, is over. The anti-slavery struggle, into
which he threw himself and as a result of which his religious
antagonisms were sharpened, was ended many years ago.

Poe said in the preface to "Eureka," that perfect beauty was a guaranty
of perfect truth; so I felt--felt rather than reasoned--that a great
character was sufficient proof of the truth of doctrine, and I accepted
the teaching on the strength of the nobleness which was before my eyes.
Later researches confirmed my opinions, but while I was under Parker's
influence, his theological views were accepted without much
consideration; his unique style of personality laying my heart as it
were under a spell.

Emerson was a man of colder temperament, thinner of blood, more spare
in frame; of finer intellectual fibre, of more commanding intellectual
supremacy; not a combatant on any field; a sweet, gracious, shadowy
personality; calm, lucid, imperturbable; pursuing knowledge along the
spiritual path of pure thought, although he was also a student of books;
a regenerator of mind rather than a reformer of customs; a prophet,
distinguished for penetration rather than for will. His ideas were
substantially the same as Parker's, but he did not arrive at them in the
same way, or hold them in the same spirit, or apply them with the same
directness. He carried them out further, not being hindered, as his
contemporary was, by the immediate necessities of the hour. In short, he
was another sort of man entirely. Both were transcendentalists, but
Parker shaped his philosophy to the working exigencies of his
generation, while Emerson let his stream freely in the air. The writer
of the article in question accuses Emerson of want of pathos, and
declares that this was the lack of the transcendentalists, as a school.
But he could hardly charge this on Parker, who was an ardent
transcendentalist, but whose very language was vascular, who affected
multitudes of men and women, and who held audiences by the heartstrings.
Did Hopkins or Bellamy or Edwards melt people? Were the preachers of
Calvinism priests of sorrow? This is a matter of temperament and not of
creed. Extreme rationalists leave their congregations in tears, and
extreme churchmen dismiss theirs unmoved, the humors of the men deciding
the issues of their ministrations. The closer to the ground, the more
abundant the sympathy. The question is whether one is more mundane or
more ethereal by native gift and endowment.

That transcendentalism was mainly speculative may be doubted, but if it
was so this may be accounted an incidental circumstance to be explained
by the prevailing theological temper of the age, and the duty imposed on
it of transferring the body of doctrine to an ideal realm; a task which
demands an intellectual effort of no common magnitude. And when with
this task was joined the endeavor to sift out the purely spiritual ideas
from the mass of dogmatical and ecclesiastical error, it is no wonder
that it should have been speculative in its tendency. Certainly, Brook
Farm was concrete enough, and the transcendentalists were, as a rule,
interested in social reconstruction, though not in a way to touch
popular emotion. One cannot, even at this distance, think of the
quickening radiance shed by the transcendentalists over the whole region
of religious belief and duty, without gratitude. The hymns, the sermons,
the music, the Sunday-schools, the prayers, the charities, the social
ministrations, breathed forth a fresh spirit. If there were fewer tears
of woe, there was more weeping for joy. There was too much gladness for
crying. Life was made sunny. Human nature was interpreted cheerfully.
There was an unlimited future for misery, ignorance, turpitude. Sin was
remanded to the position of crudity, and was banished from the heavenly
courts. Violence was protested against in laws, customs, manners,
speech. Harsh doctrines were criticised. Austere views were discarded.
Intellectual barriers were removed. Spiritual channels were deepened and
widened. Light was let into dark places. The brightest aspects of
divinity were presented. Immortality was rendered native to the soul.
The life below was regarded as the portal to the life above.

In my own case, whatever of enthusiasm I may have had, whatever
transports of feeling, whatever glow of hope for mankind, whatever ardor
of anticipation for the future, whatever exhilaration of mind towards
God, whatever elation in the presence of disbelief in the popular
theology, may be fairly ascribed to this form of the ideal philosophy.
It was like a revelation of glory. Every good thought was encouraged.
Every noble impulse was heightened. It was balm and elixir to me. If
transcendentalism did not appear as a sun illuminating the entire mental
universe it was the fault of my exposition alone. Absolute faith in that
form of philosophy grew weak and passed away many years since, and the
assurance it gave was shaken; but the sunset flush continued a long time
after the orb of day had disappeared and lighted up the earth. Gradually
the splendor faded, to be succeeded by a softer and more tranquil gleam,
less stimulating but not less beautiful or glorious. The world looks
larger under the light of stars. I always loved Blanco White's
magnificent sonnet to Night, but never appreciated its full significance
until the scientific view had succeeded to the transcendental, and I
began to walk by knowledge, steadily and surely, but not buoyantly any
more. It would be a mistake to suppose that anything like pain, sadness,
or sterility accompanies the departure of an old faith, when a new one
takes its place and soon opens fresh prospects of good. The universe but
grows larger: other methods are adopted, other hopes are entertained,
other consolations are presented, and soon the mind adjusts itself to
the altered conditions. The downcast mood of George Eliot, of the author
of "Physicus," and of many another less distinguished unbeliever, may be
due in part to temperament, in part to the first feeling of chill that
ensues upon a transitional period, which brings in a different climate;
but the allegation of lasting coldness, gloom, discontent, is wholly
groundless. The old fable says that quails drop from the clouds, that
even rocks quench the traveller's thirst. There is, in short, no

That the creed was "filmy," the foothold "unsteady," is altogether
likely, for the ancient supports were removed, the pillars that replaced
them were shaking, and tradition alone remained to hold by. But religion
was still the Poetry of Life, and kept its place among the interests
singly represented by art, music, literature, philosophy, those fine
intimations of a higher state, those splendid foreshadowings of the
future, those noble efforts to solve problems that must be forever
insoluble. My creed did not pretend to be final or even definite. It was
simply a study, a preliminary sketch, an essay towards truth. A claim to
completeness, to logical consistency, would have been fatal. Still less,
if possible, did it pretend to meet popular wants. It resolutely turned
in the opposite direction, and took up positions which, it was
understood, the general public could not occupy without abandoning all
its works and retiring to other ground. No effort was made to commend it
to common opinion; on the contrary, everything like concession was
shunned, and the slightest signal of agreement with current beliefs was
regarded as a warning against a compromise of principle. Nothing was
assumed except the validity of the human faculties, including, of
course, the higher reason, the insight of genius, and such feelings as
were parts of the rational constitution, together with perfect liberty
in their exercise. Every theological system was repudiated; even the
doctrines of a conscious Deity and the individual immortality of the
soul were left open to discussion, the atheist and the materialist being
listened to with as much deference as any. These doctrines were
accepted, yet not on the ground of authority or tradition, but simply
considered as faiths, hopes, sentiments of the spiritual being; the
existence of living mind, coupled with the demand for unity, seeming to
guarantee the first, the fact of individual persistency appearing to
demonstrate the second. But all definition was carefully avoided,
conviction being confined to the main idea, and being purely spiritual
in its character, not in the least dogmatical, or exclusive of
knowledge. Of doctrine in the usual sense there was none. There was
merely thought. The very teaching was more of the nature of suggestion
than of final conclusion. For this reason no account of the "credo" can
be given, all fixed expressions of views being discountenanced as
premature, and therefore irrational. This should be distinctly
understood by those interested in coming at the truth on this subject.
The object was to disintegrate, to pulverize, to enable mind to float
freely in the air of intellect, to the end that it might crystallize
about natural centres. All dogmatism, that of the infidel as well as
that of the believer, of the man of science as well as of the
theologian, of the sensualist as well as of the spiritualist, was
obnoxious. There was no sympathy with those who regarded the case as
closed, either as the anti-Christian assailant or as the apologist did;
either with the school of Paine or with the school of Calvin. Hereafter
there may be articles of belief, at present there can be none. This, it
may be said, was a temporary, incidental position, quite indeterminate
and unsatisfactory. No doubt it was. That was all it pretended to be.
The sooner it disappeared and was succeeded by a more stable one, so it
was reasonable, the better, for that would indicate an advance in
rational judgment.

This task--the complete emancipation of the human mind from every form
of thraldom--will occupy liberal teachers for a long time to come. All
that can be said in defence of instituted religion, and all that can be
urged on the other side, had been put forward again and again, but in a
sectarian--that is, in a partisan--spirit. Now an even temper is
demanded. Unfortunately, impartiality is apt to degenerate into
indifference. Breadth of view is, as a rule, inconsistent with rapidity
of motion. The fact that the Free Religious Association had a small
constituency as compared with many an orthodox society is no evidence
whatever that the orthodox society is nearer the truth. The former was
broad enough to admit all religions, the latter shut out all save the
Christians, thus making them a special community saved by their belief.
The problem is to preserve and, if possible, deepen intellectual
enthusiasm while opposing fanatical adherence to dogmas; to associate
breadth with force, to unite freedom with earnestness, and to render the
love of truth more intense in proportion as the horizon recedes and
ideas multiply. Such ought to be the result of free thinking, and such
it is when _thinking_ goes hand in hand with _freedom_.

Critical studies must keep an even pace with philosophy, and both must
conspire to push back the lines of credence as far as faith in the
spiritual sentiment will permit. The latest investigations have
substantiated liberal conclusions and carried them into regions which
were inaccessible to the authorities of an early day. A certain amount
of denial was necessary of course, but this was made in view of a larger
affirmation which had to be brought forward, and was, moreover, confined
to matters incidental, not directed at the substance of faith. The
assumption of a spiritual nature in man guaranteed the inherent
genuineness of all aspiration.

No doubt the assumption of a creative religious nature in man lent aid
to the endeavor to glorify the pagan faiths, and predisposed the mind to
accept criticisms on Christianity; but scientific investigation of the
world's bibles went on quite independently of this assumption. It was
promoted by Catholics and Protestants, by Lutherans and Unitarians, by
Germans, French, English, Americans. Certainly the alleged antiquity of
a system is not in its favor; for ignorance, credulity, superstition,
are much older than this; older than the ancient books, than the ancient
thinkers. The oldest things are errors, delusions, falsities. The
allegiance of great minds simply proves the limitations of intellect.
Sir Thomas More believed in transubstantiation, and Samuel Johnson
believed in ghosts. The wide reverence for the Scriptures is an
impressive fact, until it is seen that no writings have been so guarded,
nor have such pains been taken in regard to any other literature to
create for it a habit of docile veneration. Fidelity is praiseworthy,
but it is no pledge of wisdom. On the contrary it draws attention to the
merits or demerits of the creed to which it is consecrated. Is
witchcraft respectable? Yet it had its martyrs. Is demoniacal possession
credible? Yet saints attested it. The fury of the fighter cannot vouch
for the worthiness of the cause. If it could, the narrowest credence
would be the truest as the world goes, and they who adhere to the
"Christian" tradition would be consigned to the darkest cells of it. The
newest thing is knowledge. This never paralyzes, and never is fanatical.
Its heat is stimulating yet gracious. Its zeal does not scorch or
consume. It awakens every faculty, keeps inquiry on the stretch, excites
the noblest ambition, and at the same time rebukes the partisan temper
in all its manifestations. Its reign is beneficent; its coming is full
of hope. It is ever looking forward with sanguine anticipation, and if
it is at times impatient, petulant, or imperious, it is because it is
fretted by stubborn obstacles that prevent the full realization of its
purpose to discover the truth. For a long time to come there will be
controversy, but its violence will disappear, its acrimony will
gradually cease, the passion for victory will yield to the love of
knowledge, and all genuine seekers will unite in the search after light.

In the last generation the progress of intelligent examination into
nature's secrets has been exceedingly rapid. During my active ministry I
was hardly aware of it, for though an assailant of the popular religion,
a champion of the freest thought, I was a defender of the current
religious ideas; since leaving the profession, the significance of the
mental revolution that is taking place, has been more fully revealed to
me. The advance has approached very near to the heart of the citadel.
The questions under discussion are fundamental ones, the existence of a
self-conscious deity, the fact of personal continuance beyond the grave,
the line of distinction between "material" and "spiritual" things. The
dispute hangs on invisible threads of logic. The conservatives occupy
positions which radicals of thirty years back could not assume.

The next step in the development of free thought must be toward the
realization of all the ideal supports of mankind, the spiritualizing of
the secular, the lifting into heavenly places of this world's activity,
the transfiguration of our common life. If by religion is understood the
striving after perfection in intellectual things by the untrammelled
pursuit of knowledge, in social concerns by the exercise of fraternal
kindness, in the spiritual world by aspiration towards a complete
surrender to natural law, every free thinker will encourage that and
will do what he can to promote it. That there is no final truth
discoverable must be admitted, but such a confession need not trouble
those who look manfully forward to a future of new discoveries, and gird
themselves to remove all obstacles to the knowledge of the world they
live in.

Robert Browning in his "Paracelsus," published in 1835, anticipates the
doctrine of evolution.

                Thus He dwells in all,
    From life's minute beginnings, up at last
    To man--the consummation of this scheme
    Of being--the completion of this sphere
    Of life; whose attributes had here and there
    Been scattered o'er the visible world before,
    Asking to be combined.

In 1836, Emerson in his "Nature," reiterated this grand prophecy:

    A subtle chain of countless rings,
    The next unto the farthest brings,
    The eye reads omens where it goes,
    And speaks all languages, the rose;
    And striving to be man, the worm
    Mounts through all the spires of form.

In 1867, science had gone so far that it could announce the Unity of
Creation; the absolute Order and Law; one continuous Force; Progress as
the end of life. The eternal beauty existed for those who had eyes to
see. On this foundation the human heart, with its qualities of mercy,
pity, peace, and love, its sentiments of justice and equity, its hunger
for advance, its idea of goodness, built up a very noble and benignant
conception of deity and the sure hope of moral perfection.


It is natural that the clerical profession should be an order by
itself. Every other calling is--the lawyer's, the physician's, the
artist's and the merchant's. There is an absurd notion that the clerical
profession stands alone; that it has a supernatural origin, which takes
it out of the circle of ordinary employments; that it is not to be
compared with other institutions of society. But the real dignity of the
profession consists in its filling its place among human arrangements. A
certain temperament too, seems to belong to all employments. There is
the legal temperament, the artistic, the dramatic, the mercantile. It is
no disadvantage that one prefers solitude, likes abstract thoughts, has
no taste for business enterprise, is fond of books and study. Indeed,
this is an advantage for one whose office it is to amass learning, to
weigh opinions in fine scales, to follow the spiritual laws, and to peer
into the mystery that surrounds human life. The very misunderstandings,
illusions, superstitions that gather around the calling may be
recommendations, inasmuch as they prevent the intrusion of rude minds,
and draw their attention towards subjects they would not otherwise be
interested in.

A certain amount of positiveness is necessary to ensure the worth of the
profession. The Catholic priest has no doubt whatever of the
providential establishment of the church in which he is a servant. This
must be beyond question or misgiving. This is taken for granted by
clergy and laity. All learning must be made to confirm it, all
observation is compelled to favor it. The laws of society must have
nothing to do with the kingdom of God; for society is to be redeemed,
nature is to be supplanted by grace, secular life must therefore be
excluded. The priest, such is the theory, dwells out of the world, and
is encouraged to do so. He is poor, celibate, homeless, has no
attachments, no affections, no terrestrial occupations. He must be to
all intents and purposes dead to mortal affairs. One may find fault with
earthly institutions; one is bound to find fault with them, but the
church must be beyond criticism and must be accepted as a gift from

The Protestant clergyman holds fast by his doctrine of faith as by
divine appointment. His chief tenets must not be submitted to doubt.
Whatever he may reject, there remains something he is not tempted to
resign--namely, the presence of the Holy Spirit in his creed. Reason may
carry the outworks--ceremonies, ordinances, incidental points of
belief,--but the citadel is removed from assault. The world-spirit may
hover around him, envious, expectant, watchful, applauding his boldness,
cheering his progress towards negations, glad to see the gulf betwixt
him and the age gradually diminishing, and pressing into every vacant
position; society may claim interest in him more and more; but there are
points he must not yield, and which he merely wishes to bring into
prominence in surrendering others which he regards as secondary. So much
may be necessary, but religion must practically take its place among the
ideal pursuits of men and be exposed, as they are, to the full
examination of the mind before any fair account of it can be given. And
this cannot be so long as a region, however small, is shut off from
investigation by supernatural powers.

Moreover, it is the common impression that the office of the ministry
is detrimental to the best interest of humanity, because it establishes
another caste and thus destroys the unity that is so important in the
integrity of the world. By it the priest is a person set apart, hedged
about by the laws, held in peculiar reverence, habited in special
garments. Some kinds of entertainments, such as dancing, the drama, are
commonly forbidden to him. His presence on festive occasions used to be
regarded as a gracious intrusion. He was not expected to take part in
gayeties or to have any share in frivolities, which were much more
hilarious when he was absent and the restraint of his presence was
removed. He was thought to be somehow at war with nature, and his
looking on at merrymaking was regarded by the polite as a piece of
condescension on his part, an evidence of unusual liberality of
sentiment. It was but the other day that a young physician, belonging to
a Unitarian family, and himself an enthusiastic student of science,
praised a minister for excusing his continual absence from church on the
ground of his being so well employed. This was regarded as a long step
in the direction of indulgence towards natural inclination. Even among
rationalists, a symptom of the old idea appears in an expression of the
face, the manner of address, the walk, or the general bearing. It is
thought a great stretch of charity if he is kind to the atheist, the
materialist, the infidel; and to take in the tempted child of nature,
the drunkard, the victim of lust, avarice, is extreme good-will,
benevolence amounting to saintliness. To abolish from it the pretension
of superiority in the form of pity, as the high look upon the low, the
good upon the bad, the moral upon the immoral, the virtuous upon the
vicious, is, it is presumed, to overlook all recognized distinctions, to
enthrone nature, to accept instinct as a safe guide, to renounce
religion altogether and reject the saying that "the Christian church is
immortal because its fundamental dogma involves a doctrine of God in
nature so ample and clear as to satisfy every profoundest want of the
heart and every urgent demand of the head towards God forever."

There are distinctions enough among men at any rate, and to obliterate
them as far as possible is the office of true religion and all real
humanity; to increase love, to multiply the bonds of fraternity, to
bring mankind to a social equality, to annihilate all that keeps mortals
apart. Of course the safety of society must be preserved by laws,
customs, prejudices, but care should be taken to make these simply
protective in their function, and in no event should it be assumed that
such distinctions, however radical, have any absolute value or go beyond
the limits of this outward world. Save men, if you can, from
intemperance, violence, covetousness, lasciviousness, cowardice,
gluttony, laziness, from every vice that brutalizes them, renders them
objects of hate, fear, suspicion, or jealousy; make their circumstances
wholesome, their condition in life invigorating, but do it in the name
of enlightenment, do it as members of the human brotherhood, not as
members of a divine organization. Many ministers make great efforts to
exorcise this demon of exclusiveness, but the effort is too severe for
any but the few, and the success of it is of doubtful accomplishment.

The Christian minister is a representative of humanity, pure and
simple, without recognition of its division into classes. He is neither
rich nor poor, high nor low, in society nor out of it, elevated nor
obscure. He is democratic, the friend of everybody, the servant of all,
on terms of charity and sincerity with all men. Sectarianism, with its
manifold evils of violence, malignity, hatred, misrepresentation, is a
standing evidence of the harm done to society by a priesthood, whether
Catholic or Protestant, and ministers who have labored to overthrow its
influence as being fatal to charity have been obliged to fight against
the spirit of party, and to rely more upon their natural disposition
than upon their professional training. In this respect the laity have
been in advance of their so-called leaders. The people have always been
opposed to dogmatical exclusiveness, and have welcomed every sign of
generosity towards unbelievers. They have followed their instinct of
sympathy, they have read the New Testament by the light of their human
feeling, and setting common-sense against doctrinal narrowness, have
rejoiced at every victory gained over intolerance. They have been
friends of brotherhood; they have adopted the cause of liberty; and I
must own with grief, the foes they have had to contend with have been,
in too many instances, the ministers who would not see that charity was
before faith.

Everybody must have observed the unanimity and the persistency with
which ministers of all denominations and of all ages have devoted
themselves to the rich. In fact the devotion is so conspicuous that it
is one of the commonplace criticisms on the profession. People in
general assume that this kind of adulation, amounting often to toadyism,
is characteristic of the clerical calling, so inseparable from it indeed
that the majority of men are incredulous as to any departure from it,
and look with unfeigned admiration, when there are no reasons for
distrust, on the minister who knows no distinction of persons or
conditions, but has regard to intellectual or spiritual considerations
alone. Such a man is viewed as a wonder, an exception to all rules,
singularly constituted, either extraordinarily humane or extraordinarily
obtuse, either more or less than a man. The worship of wealth is so
common that some explanation of it must be given. The sufferings,
mishaps, troubles of the rich are reputed to be more serious than they
are in the ordinary run of cases; their disappointments are more
pitiable, their crosses heavier, their losses severer, their sorrows a
graver imputation on Providence. They are looked on as the favorites of
heaven, and the cotton-wool in which they are wrapped is spoken of as
the provision that is made for them expressly by the Lord.

This may be accounted for on grounds of material convenience. They who
have money are of great importance, and that they should be interested
in church affairs is of immense moment to all concerned, not to the
ministers alone, but to the entire congregation, nay, to the whole
community of believing men. There is always need of money, to build
churches, pay officials, hire singers, furnish ornaments, support
charities, maintain organizations for various ecclesiastical purposes;
and it is much easier to get this in larger sums and with little
trouble, than to obtain it in little driblets, with much pain, great
expenditure of time, and constant vexation of spirit. The minister, from
the nature of the case, is chargeable with this concern, which obliges
him to visit frequently the wealthier members of his sect. To this end
he must keep on good terms with them, must sit at their tables, eat
their dinners, drink their wine, praise their pictures, compliment their
tastes, commend their performances, flatter their self-esteem, admire
their surroundings, take their side in controversy; and all such conduct
is set down by kindly, thoughtful people, to the account of prudence
which is more than pardonable in one situated as he is.

This is quite true, but it is not the whole truth. By implication
already, the duty of cultivating the rich as donors involves the
qualities of manhood to an indefinite extent. The line of necessary
courtesy is not decisively drawn; cannot be drawn by the rules of
etiquette. This must be the result of a trained experience, of a
delicacy and sensitiveness, of a pride of selfhood, of a loftiness or
dignity of mind that are hardly to be looked for in any large class of
human beings, however free from special temptation or particular
seductions that may be. The influence of luxury, ease, comfort,
elegance, is very insidious, so that even an unusual zeal for truth, an
extraordinary passion for excellence, yields to the power of moral
indifference, of intellectual superficialness, which is characteristic
of those who do not do battle with circumstances. It is so much easier
to do nothing than it is to do something; it is so charming to be
deferred to, to be looked up to, to be flattered, to have one's opinion
sought without being involved in discussion, or vexed by opposition, or
confronted with scepticism; it is so delightful to the natural man to
sit in an easy cushioned chair, and be treated with delicate courtesy
and dainty refinement as an authority on matters theological,
philosophical, literary, instead of being put on the defensive by keen
questioners who submit awkward problems for immediate solution; it is so
gratifying to one's self-esteem to be received as a superior being, that
ordinary human nature generally succumbs to the temptation and finds
ready excuse for acquiescence in the necessity of being on good terms
with one's wealthier parishioners, and so securing their all important
good-will. In short, a fastidious kind of flunkeyism is engendered that
is quite inconsistent with the spiritual life. The rich become a refuge
as well as a resource, and the inner man is weakened while the outer man
is confirmed. A species of lethargy creeps over mind and conscience.
Even the moral purpose faints and languishes, and charity ceases to be
athletic, as elegance of form is substituted for pith of resolution. The
prophet is induced to say smooth things, to announce easy principles, to
gloze over hard interpretations, to keep out of sight unwelcomed truths;
and extraordinary courage is required of those who would resist this
tendency to complaisance. The rich are, from the nature of the case,
easily persuaded of the excellence of existing institutions, ideas,
observances. I had been in the pulpit five years before I saw Henry
James' remarkable lecture on "Property as a Symbol," and learned for the
first time that "Property symbolizes the perfect sovereignty which man
is destined to exercise over nature"; that "Property as an institution
of human society expresses or grows out of this instinct of sovereignty
in man. While this instinct is as yet misunderstood or unrecognized by
the individual, while its full issues are as yet unimagined by him,
society lends all her force to educate it under this form of an
aspiration after property, or a desire to appropriate to one's self,
land, houses, money, precious stones, and whatsoever else evidences
one's power over nature.... Thus the moral law is nothing more or less
than an affirmation of the sacredness of private property. It virtually
asserts an individuality in man superior to that conferred by his
nature.... Such is the temper of mind which God begets in him, to subdue
the whole realm of the outward and finite to himself, to the service of
his proper individuality, and so vindicate the truth of his infinite
origin.... The sole ground of our sovereignty over nature is inward,
consisting in a God-inspired selfhood, instinct with infinite power."

It would be comforting to believe that a felt consciousness of this
infinitude, however dim, animates the attachment of the clergyman to the
opulent of any congregation; but I, for one, must make the confession
that the fact of property was taken literally, that the ideal,
symbolical character of it was concealed, that the instinct of
sovereignty was unrecognized and unimaginable, and that the divine
intent was unsought for, the institution being held quite sufficient to
itself and needing no authentication beyond its existence. And such, I
apprehend, is the prevailing view among the clergy, whose worship of it
is not identical with the adoration of the Infinite.

One cannot undertake to speak with knowledge on a subject so complicated
as this is with private motives, personal temperaments, social
circumstances; but, as far as my memory goes, the clergy, as a class,
have been too much engaged with matters ecclesiastical to be deeply
interested in any cause of reform, and too timid to take the initiative
in any matter involving disagreeable relations with controlling powers.

While towards the rich the attitude of the clergy is one of allegiance,
towards the poor it has been one of patronage. This is a danger. "The
poor ye have always with you, and whenever ye will ye can do them good,"
expresses their doctrine of charity. As if the poor were created in
order that others might exercise beneficence; as if poverty was a
providential institution, maintained in the interest of religion! It is
hard in a so-called "Christian" community to get away from this view.
The modern scientific theory and the "Christian" theory are thus at war;
the former being intent on the well-being of society, the latter having
in mind the cultivation of the individual in tenderness of sympathy; the
former educating intelligence, the latter educating feeling. Still there
was charity.

The Catholic Church, to say nothing here of any ecclesiastical purpose
in keeping masses of men and women out of the world, gathered those who
could not help themselves into great buildings and took care of them. In
the Protestant Church the care of the poor has been held to be a
religious duty, and a large part of the efforts of Christian ministers
is directed to the fostering of pity and generosity in the hearts of the
wealthy. To give to those who had nothing was reckoned the chief of
graces, and "charity"--interpreted as love for those in want--was placed
above "faith" and "hope," even when money alone was given. Not long ago
a Unitarian minister exhorted his congregation to set apart for the uses
of the poor one tenth part of their annual income, and doubtless he had
the consciences of nearly all his hearers with him, for the monstrous
proposition has been so often asserted as to seem by this time a
commonplace. Probably no man living does that or ever did, and the
practice of it on a large scale would pauperize the community. Think of
it! Five thousand dollars a year is not a great income, yet if every one
who had as much bestowed a tenth part of it on charitable objects what a
fund for human demoralization would be raised! And when the income is
ten thousand, fifteen thousand, twenty thousand, the amount of
imbecility created would be indescribable; inertia would be frightfully
increased, and multitudes would sit with folded hands who otherwise
would have lifted them to do some honest work. A moral lethargy would
fall on the toiling masses; wealth-producing labor would shrink to
narrower and narrower limits, and a paralysis of energy would steal over
the will of those whose need of resolution is the sorest. Wealth would
consequently decrease, and the number of the givers get smaller and
smaller until accumulation, which is the life of the modern world as
distinguished from the ancient, would be blighted. The industrial
classes would be reduced to servitude, enormous fortunes would be
gathered by fraud, speculation, cruelty, and progressive society would
relapse into sterility. Fortunately the minister could not persuade
people to adopt this fatal policy. Fortunately, in this particular,
niggardliness went hand in hand with common-sense.

That the churches, under the lead of the ministers, have done a vast
deal in the direction of charity, so far from being denied or disputed,
is cordially allowed and even maintained. Indeed, this has been their
chief function, and they have discharged it with immense zeal and
astonishing results.

But that it was an "ideal" profession is, as I said, a recommendation
to the ministry. It is a broad foundation for spiritual-mindedness, for
unworldliness. True, the habit of dealing with abstract topics, of
holding commerce with purely speculative themes, of entertaining mere
theories which cannot be verified, of going back to what are called
"first principles," imparts a curiously vague, dreamy, impersonal,
impalpable character to the minister's intellect, rendering it unfit to
treat concrete questions of life or morals; for this reason he is not
often successful as a man of business, a practical politician, a manager
of affairs, his cast of mind disqualifying him for close consideration
of details.

The duty of answering unanswerable questions, too, of solving problems
that are insoluble, of replying positively to what, from the nature of
things, he cannot know, gives him a kind of ingenuity which is not
genuine insight, but consists in subtle turnings, windings, in making
fine distinctions and splitting hairs, and inventing ingenious
interpretations, rather than in keen insight or straightforward
analysis. He must seek ways of escape from his pursuers, and, when no
other offers, hide in the thicket of mystery or run up the tree of
faith. He must, if possible, have an explanation ready, and, if he has
none, he must fall back on authority, and be impressive, addressing the
sentiment of awe which is usually alive in every bosom, or, in the last
resort, asseverating the truth of revelation, and thus silencing the
debate he cannot continue. If neither conscience is satisfied, his own
or his interlocutor's, there is no remedy save in submission. He makes
no attempt to clear up his conceptions, or, if he does, ends at last in
vacuity or discontent. His neighbor, unconvinced, concludes that this is
a clerical subterfuge, and so far loses confidence in a profession he
cannot understand. Probably he does not do it justice, but the effect is
the same,--a rooted depreciation such as would not be felt towards a
layman who simply said that he had no answer.

The minister, also, is generally committed to a conception of the
universe as a product of the Supreme Will which, makes him an apologist.
He is, after a fashion, in the secret of God. He is supposed to deliver
messages and to utter oracles. His is the wisdom of the Eternal. His is
the Bible. His are the testimonies. He must follow the ways of the
Spirit and defend the divine economy in the constitution of the world.
But in each case, every allowance being made for indefiniteness, for
largeness of statement and broadness of exposition, the minister must be
a champion of the Infinite Wisdom and Goodness, pledged to maintain it
against all opponents; and however cordially he may choose that part,
the consciousness of being bound may act as a fretting annoyance, not to
say a galling restraint.

A singular dogmatism often accompanies this claim to speak in the name
of the Almighty; the minister must enunciate truths, not deliver
opinions. An authoritative tone gets into his voice, pervades his
manner, affects his whole expression of face, is conveyed by his gait
and walk, so that he is known at once from afar. Men hush their voices
in his presence, ventilate thoughts not natural to them, conceal their
actual sentiments, from a feeling that he is to be deferred to, not
argued with like another man. The tone of the pulpit animates his
conversation and works into the very structure of his thought. He is
always a preacher. The atmosphere of Sunday hangs about him. He carries
the New Testament into the parlor; unconsciously to himself he uses the
language of authority, and finds to his mortification that he is angered
by dispute.

The duty of administering consolation to the afflicted adds to this
visionary frame of mind. Frequent intercourse with the suffering, sad,
and bereaved, intimate commerce with sick-beds and graves, besides
creating ghostly dispositions, deepens his cast of thought. To comfort
people under disappointments, to smooth the rugged path, to quiet the
perturbed heart, is a business to discharge which all the resources of
faith are called into requisition, and any means that will accomplish
the end in view are considered as justifiable. In the effort to find
comfortable things to say, the temptation to say pleasant things, easy
things, amiable things, to present the kindly aspect of Providence, and
to indulge happy fancies in regard to human allotments and destiny, is
exceedingly strong; so that one may come at last to believe himself what
gives so much contentment to others in the severe crises of existence.
The loving heart is in perilous proximity to the thinking head. All the
sweetest feelings of our nature, the wish to console people, to make
them patient, trusting, resigned, cheerful, are brought in to reinforce
the faith in a benignant purpose on the part of the Creator, and an
unquestioning disposition is encouraged in the spiritual physician as
well as in the stricken patient.

Mr. Henry James says ("Substance and Shadow," p. 214): "Protestant men
and women, those who have any official or social consequence in the
church, are apt to exhibit a high-flown religious pride, a spiritual
flatulence and sourness of stomach which you do not find under the
Catholic administration." This is strong language, but not too strong
considering the author's abhorrence of exclusiveness, separation,
Pharisaism, and his identification of this with official religion.

If humility is the base of all the virtues, as it is commonly reported,
then a profession that directly favors pride is not productive of the
highest type of character. And if love,--kindness, brotherhood,
fellowship,--is the fulfilment of the law, then a calling that puts
desire in conflict with duty is not conducive to unity or peace, whether
in the private mind or in the collective household. Character, as
_naturally_ interpreted, consists of an innate superiority to one's
fellow-men in the qualities that glorify humanity, purity,
heavenly-mindedness, patience, earnestness, truthfulness, sincerity.
Character, as _spiritually_ interpreted, consists of the cordial
affiliation with one's fellow-men in the qualities that unite the atoms
of humanity in love, compassion, humility, forgiveness, sympathy. But
the higher view has not prevailed in my experience; let me repeat, in
the most emphatic language at my command, my conviction that ministers
as a body do not succumb to the temptations thus apparently incident to
their profession.

It is commonly supposed that the intellectual part of the minister's
labor--the making of the sermons--is most severe. It is imagined that
the task of addressing the same audience every Sunday must be
exceedingly arduous. This is a mistake. There is a facility of work in
every profession. The mind becomes accustomed to running in certain
grooves, to going through the same process of thinking, to applying the
same rules to many details of practice. The longer one's continuance in
the ministry, the easier this becomes. Experience accumulates. Themes
multiply. Novel suggestions occur. New thoughts arise. Fresh books are
written. Singular questions are proposed. Problems present fresh
aspects. The old interests remain in all their force. Men never tire
hearing about God, Immortality, Destiny. In truth, the intellectual
difficulties become less and less appalling until at last they
disappear. The real effort is to keep alive the feelings of humanity; to
overcome the inclination towards separation into classes; to avoid
distinguishing between persons; to keep love glowing; to maintain the
supremacy of soul; to identify spirituality with custom. The preaching
is subordinate not to the private practice alone, but to the religious
attitude towards mankind, which is conditioned on charity and the
recognition of human worth and sonship. The most beautiful trait in the
pastor is his universality, his simple, unaffected manhood.

But enough of criticism. It is a privilege to belong to a profession
occupied with things ethereal; to be interested in the grandest themes;
to hold intercourse with the loftiest minds; to live aloof from the
world; to put the happiest constructions on the events of human life; to
interpret Providence beneficently. And it is my firm persuasion that in
proportion as the profession throws off the thraldom of ecclesiasticism
and dogmatism, it increases in power and is sure to recover its ancient


Among Englishmen, I owe the most to James Martineau, at the time of my
ordination (1847), a Unitarian clergyman in Liverpool. His lectures in
the Unitarian controversy (1839) on "Christianity without Priest and
without Ritual," on "The Christian View of Moral Evil," on "The Bible:
What It Is and What It is Not"; his articles on "Distinctive Types of
Christianity," on "Creeds and Heresies of Early Christianity," on "The
Ethics of Christendom," on "The Creed of Christendom," on "St. Paul and
His Modern Students," made a profound impression on my mind. One passage
in particular, at the close of the essay on "The Ethics of Christendom,"
still lingers in my memory:

     The old antagonism between the world that now is and any other
     that has been or is to come, has been modified, or has entirely
     ceased.... _Here_ is the spot, _now_ is the time for the most
     devoted service of God. No strains of heaven will wake man into
     prayer, if the common music of humanity stirs him not. The
     saintly company of spirits will throng around him in vain if he
     finds no angels of duty and affection in his children, neighbors,
     and friends. If no heavenly voices wander around him in the
     present, the future will be but the dumb change of the shadow on
     the dial. In short, higher stages of existence are not the refuge
     of this, but the complement to it; and it is the proper wisdom of
     the affections not to escape the one in order to seek the other,
     but to flow forth in purifying copiousness on both.

Martineau's intellectual fidelity, accurate learning, earnestness of
feeling, were exceedingly fascinating.

In this country Ralph Waldo Emerson was the great teacher. He gave an
atmosphere rather than a dogma. He was air and light. He is best
described, not as a philosopher, a man of letters, a poet, but as a
seer. His gift was that of insight. This he tried to render
comprehensive, searching, intelligent, accurate, by reading, study,
meditation, the acquaintance of distinguished men; but he was never
beguiled into thinking that learning, eloquence, wit, constituted his
peculiarity. He had a penetrating, eager, questioning look. His head was
thrust out as if in quest of knowledge. His gaze was steady and intense.
His speech was laconic and to the purpose. His direct manner suggested a
wish for closer acquaintance with the mind. His very courtesy, which was
invariable and exquisite in its way, had an air of inquiry about it.
There was no varnish, no studied grace of motion or demeanor, no
manifest desire to please, but a kind of wistfulness as of one who took
you at your best and wanted to draw it out. He accosted the soul, and
with the winning persuasiveness which befits friendliness on human
terms. There was a certain shyness which indicated the modesty which is
born of the spirit.

But a commanding doer he certainly was not; that is, he was no man of
expedients, of practical resources, of merely executive will. He
appreciated this kind of ability, as his lecture on Napoleon shows, but
he possessed little of it, his Yankee ingenuity being more confined in
its range. The moral courage belonged to him, the earnestness, the
faith, but his ethereal qualities lacked driving force. His principles
made him interested in every movement of reform, for he had a boundless
hope which led him sometimes into extravagant anticipations of truth and
benefit. Every sign of life, intellectual, moral, spiritual, caught his
eye, and so long as it promised new developments of power his eager
sympathy went with it, but when the creative period ceased he turned
away. He early enlisted in the anti-slavery cause, not because he had
entire confidence in the negro, or specially liked the abolitionists,
but because he demanded the utmost liberty for all men in order that
substantial advantages might be widely shared; but he was not prominent
among the workers of that reform. His name stood foremost in the list of
those who claimed the emancipation of woman from social or political
disability, not that he was a worker in the woman's-rights phalanx, not
that he looked for any immediate benefit from that agitation, or felt
any particular interest in the leaders or in the success of that
individual crusade, but that he was in favor of the largest opportunity
for all human beings, and wished every particle of power to be used.
From the first he welcomed the Free Religious Association as giving
promise of original light, greater breadth, fresh vigor, new revelations
of knowledge in that most ideal, but most deplorably limited, of all
spheres; but when in his view that promise was unfulfilled, though his
name still stood with those of its vice-presidents, he ceased to take
any part in its proceedings or to feel any personal concern in its
affairs. There was something theoretical, speculative, in his attitude
as a reformer. His philosophy pledged him to the utmost individualism,
and this called for the utmost liberty, that each might receive all he
could of the divine fulness and be as much as his nature required. Hence
his own limited expectation; hence his enthusiasm in behalf of
individuals like Walt Whitman, John Brown, Henry Thoreau; hence the
light that came into his eyes when he sat in some reform convention
where high thoughts were spoken. His word was given, and it was always
inspiring, emancipating, uplifting, heard in the valleys from the
dizziest heights of vision; but force was not his to give. Such words
were more than "half battles," to be sure, so invigorating were they to
all the champions of good causes, but they were _words_ still, and
seemed to proceed from some upper region of impersonal mind. They
expressed convictions, feelings, desires, but there was lack of blood in
them. They seemed made of air; there was soul behind them, but not as
much body as many wished. In a word, all the ideal elements were
present. He was a man who believed, felt, hoped, had vast resources of
faith, but was a thinker more than an actor. Thinking is indeed doing,
yet not in the same sphere of achievement.

Emerson recognized the limitations of genius. "Life is a scale of
degrees," he says in the lecture on the "Uses of Great Men."

     Between rank and rank of our great men are wide intervals. Mankind
     have in all ages attached themselves to a few persons who, either
     by the quality of that idea they embodied, or by the largeness of
     their reception, were entitled to the position of leaders and
     lawgivers.... With each new mind a new secret of nature transpires;
     nor can the Bible be closed until the last great man is born.... We
     cloy of the honey of each peculiar greatness. Every hero becomes a
     bore at last.... We balance one man with his opposite, and the
     health of the state depends on the see-saw.

Emerson looks forward to the time when all souls shall lie open to the
heavenly influx, and he regards greatness as an earnest of that
possibility. What disappointments he must have felt as he was forced to
turn away from people who should have been saints and heroes, but were
none! What bitter moments he must have known when he stretched out his
arms to welcome a goddess and embraced only a cloud! But his
expectations continued eager; no feature betrayed evidence that these
practical refutations of his theory had effect on his heart.

Whether Emerson's constant belief in the Over-soul, his stubborn theism,
his persuasion of an immanent God, was an advantage or a disadvantage to
his philosophical view of the universe may be doubted. On the one hand,
we cannot question the fact that he owed to it his enthusiastic faith in
the substantial unity of creation, his optimism, his assurance of future
progress, his confidence in man, his moral earnestness, his elevation of
soul, his buoyancy of spirit, his forwardness in all endeavors after
reform. On the other hand, it can hardly be denied that it led him to
take some things for granted, diverted his mind from the unprejudiced
observation of phenomena, prevented his rendering full justice to the
scientific method, was the cause of wide aberrations in his estimates of
human character, and of a curious onesidedness in his judgments on human

Emerson was always profoundly religious, at heart a supernaturalist. The
blood of centuries of pious ancestors was in his veins. His soul was
uppermost, not his intellect nor his heart. He was a closet man, a
minister at the altar. True, he rejected every form of the religious
sentiment, and moved with entire freedom among dogmas however expressed
in word or in rite. Every attempt at giving voice to spiritual emotion
was disagreeable to him.

    I like a church; I like a cowl;
    I like a prophet of the soul;
    And on my heart monastic aisles
    Fall like sweet strains or pensive smiles;
    Yet not for all his faith can see
    Would I that cowled churchman be.

Theology had fallen from him like a shroud. He would not venture any
definition of the spiritual laws. Doctrine had become faith; prayer was
changed into aspiration; the speechless utterance was the only one he
cordially listened to. But faith he held fast; aspiration he cherished;
the inarticulate language of the eternal was ever in his ears.

Ever and anon would come a burst of conviction. "Oh, my brothers, God
exists!" he cries in an ecstasy of emotion. Some years ago Emerson
seemed fascinated by the inductive method, so that some of his admirers
thought he would become a convert to physical science. But the bent of
his nature asserted itself, and he pursued the deductive system as
before. His passion for "First Truths," as they were called, was
irresistible. He could not abandon the philosophy of intuition, and all
his studies--comprehensive, profound, and original as they were,--his
insatiable thirst for knowledge, his inordinate appetite for details of
fact, incidents, anecdotes, gleanings from literature of every kind,
were subservient to this.

Emerson's serenity is often spoken of as evidence of the power of his
religious faith. It may allow of this construction, but it may be
accounted for on other and different grounds which lie nearer at hand
and proceed immediately from more obvious sources. How far may a long
ancestral experience in devout meditations, practices, longings, worked
into the system and producing a sedate, calm, interior temperament, go
in explaining that almost imperturbable tranquillity? The piety of his
forefathers was so genuine that it drove him from the church of his
adoption, and rendered another calling sacred. Their descendant
exhibited the same saintliness which they possessed but in a different
fashion. And he was probably saintlier than they were, because he was
their child. His brothers had the same characteristic of equanimity by
virtue of the same parentage. His brother William, whom I knew
intimately in New York, showed in his daily life a similar dignity, and
tradition reports the same of Charles. It was the perfect fruitage of
centuries of heavenly-minded men, not the peculiarity of an individual

This predisposition to inwardness was favored by the long seclusion of
Concord, which kept Emerson aloof from the world and prevented the
friction which is so damaging to serenity. He saw those only who
respected, loved, honored, and revered him. He came into collision with
none. Men of thought, unambitious men, students, farmers, were his
fellow-townsmen. Several hours in each day he was alone with his books
or his mind. When he visited the city it was for an intellectual or
social purpose, as one who had dropped from a star and was soon to
vanish. His contact was with men of letters, clergymen, publishers,
friends, gentlemen interested in mental pursuits who had left their
business in order to disport themselves in the fields of thought. These
added to his stores of wisdom, and sent him home replenished rather than
drained. The gains of his day were not dissipated either by business
occupation or pleasure.

Then, whether from disposition or philosophy we cannot tell, this man
avoided everything dark, evil, unwholesome, unpleasant. Sickness of all
kinds, complaint, depression, melancholy, was an abomination to him. He
turned away from ugly sights and sounds, thus evading conflict. He never
argued, never discussed, but said his word as well as he could, and
encouraged others to say theirs, in this way hoping to get at the truth.
By this course he escaped the usual provocations to ill-temper, and was
forced upon an undisturbed equipoise of mind. Nothing helps serenity so
much as avoidance of contest, and when one can thoroughly convince
himself that there is no rooted evil in the world to be fought against,
an even condition of soul is not hard to maintain; optimism is
proverbially cheerful, but an optimism that is grounded in principle
must be unconquerable by any force that circumstances can bring against

It must be remembered that Emerson was not a man of warm temperament,
not tropical in color or in heat; more like the morning, cool and
breezy, than like the sultry noon-day, or the glowing evening; more like
the dewy spring, than the effulgent summer or the fruit-bearing autumn;
not a child of the sun, rather suggesting the still, white, imaginative
moonlight. There was an air of remoteness about him. His remark to the
inn-keeper,--"heat me red-hot," tells the story. Simple habits kept his
frame wiry, and a New England nurture saved his mind from luxuriant
uncleanness. By nature he was passionless. The beautiful "Threnody" on
the death of his boy, reveals the sorrow of a soaring mind rather than
the grief of a crushed heart. To command one's self enough for such an
effort evinces a rare power of rising above mortal conditions. Such a
constitution finds solitude congenial and is calm by force of
inclination. Friendship seems an emotion better suited than love to that
ethereal soul, which was always radiant but seldom burning, benignant,
seldom craving, always gracious in imparting, seldom hungry for
receiving. One might walk in his illumination, but one could hardly bask
in his heat, or lie on his bosom, or nestle near his heart. They that
knew him at home may speak more warmly of him, but thus he appeared to
people outside; thus he appeared to many who had admired him as I did
and tried to get close to him.

The love of wild, untrimmed nature, the want of interest in cultivated
gardens, was part of his theory of the universe as the expression of
God; the richer, the less it was interfered with. He would approach as
near to the Creator as possible, listening for the divine voice, which
was most clearly heard in the wilderness. To the same source must be
ascribed his partiality for wild, untrained men,--foresters, hunters,
pioneers, trappers, back-woodsmen. He sought everywhere after
originality, freshness, power, in individuals and in groups. He hailed a
genius, however rough. Unconventionality excited his enthusiasm to such
a degree that he could scarcely contain himself, but said the most
extravagant things in the ecstasy of his hope. Men of polished outside
he did not care for; mechanical men, however successful, politicians,
however popular and adroit, were his aversion. Accomplishments, however
great, scholarship however finished, he did not respect. He wanted the
rough, uncut gem. Genius of whatever description, in whatever class,
whatever its order or grade, was his joy. In him the love of truth
predominated. He submitted to the inconvenience of imperfect opinion,
but respected the highest law of his being. He believed in the eternal
laws of mind, in the self-existence of right, in purity, veracity,
goodness. He was one of the most honest of men, one of the cleanest, and
he did his utmost to bring his life into correspondence with his best
thought. That all created things must be imperfect was part of his
creed; that this imperfection ran through human character he was as much
convinced as any man; and his efforts were unceasing to turn men's eyes
towards the beauty "ancient but ever new," which he in his moments of
insight beheld. No one lives up to his most exalted faith. No one ever
endeavored to do so more sincerely and humbly than Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In my early ministry, the discourses of Dr. Orville Dewey on "Human
Nature," "Human Life," "The Nature of Religion," seemed all-sufficing. I
read them over and over again with increasing admiration, and his
solutions of spiritual problems were accepted as final.

Miss Mary Dewey, in the admirable memoir of her father, lays great
stress on his affectionate qualities. These cannot be too emphatically
asserted; yet they probably had more scope than even she suspected.
Indeed, unless I am much mistaken, they formed the basis of his
character. He was a most deep-feeling man. He loved his friends in and
out of the profession, with a loyal, hearty, obliging, warm, and even
tender emotion, expressing itself in word and deed. It was overflowing,
not in any sentimental manner, but in a manly, sincere way. He was a man
of infinite good-will, of a quite boundless kindness. His voice, his
expression of face, his smile, the grasp of his hand,--all gave sign of
it. He felt things keenly; his sensibilities were most acute; even his
thoughts were suffused with emotion. He could not discuss speculative
themes as if they were cold or dry. Nothing was arid to his mind. In
prayer it was not unusual for his audience to discern tears rolling down
his cheeks. One day, in his study, on speaking about the intellectual
implications of the "Philosophie Positive," he dropped his head and
seemed for a moment lost in reverie largely made up of devotion. In him,
heart was uppermost; intellect, conscience, were of subordinate value
when taken alone; in fact, they were incomplete by themselves, and
wanted their proper substance. He said once that his skin was so
delicate that the least soil on his hands was felt all through his
system and prevented him from working. This excessive sensibility, which
could not be understood by the world at large, was at the bottom of his
likes and dislikes, of his personal fears and hopes. Excitement drained
off his strength. He exhausted himself physically, and fell into
ill-health by exertions that would not have taxed an ordinary
constitution. It cost him a great deal to write sermons, to visit the
sick or sorrowing, to conduct public services. At the same time, he was
disqualified, by a certain want of steel in his blood, for any but the
clerical profession, where qualities like his are of inestimable value,
and of the rarest kind. He was a minister from the beginning, always
profoundly interested in questions of the interior life, and though he
early left the orthodox communion and became a preacher of Unitarian
Christianity, making it his work to apply religious ideas to all the
concerns of the natural world and the secular life, he retained all the
fervor of spirit that charaterized the most devout believer. A vein of
passionate feeling ran through all his discourses, and while his themes
were taken from daily existence, his thoughts were fixed on eternity. He
was absorbed in the destiny of the human soul, of the _individual_ soul,
bringing all discussions to that point, and trying to make lasting
impressions on the spiritual natures of men and women.

When I first knew him he had the reputation of being a self-indulgent
man. This was a great mistake. His way of life was exceedingly simple,
and his habits were almost abstemious. In fact, neither his physical nor
his mental constitution allowed of any indulgence in eating or drinking.
Still the impression was a natural one, for a certain amount of ease,
exemption from care, gayety, was necessary to him. The society of
elegant, accomplished people was indispensable to his recreation and
rest. His motive for seeking such was not the love of luxury so much as
a demand for recreation and a craving for repose. He was not, in any
sense, an earthy man or one who loved sensual delights. On the contrary,
he was always mindful of his calling, always intent on high subjects,
always ready to lead intercourse upwards, always, to the extent of his
power, interested in the moral aspect of current discussions;
over-anxious, if anything, to approach speculative themes. He possessed
an eager, unresting, questioning mind. He was always thinking, and on
great subjects of theology or philosophy, and he put into them an amount
of feeling that is extraordinary with intellectual men.

That he should have been so sensitive as he was to the words and
suspicions of anti-slavery men who charged him with being an advocate of
a fugitive-slave law, an apologist for slavery, a ready tool of the
inhuman, reactionary party of the country, is not surprising. His dread
of pain, his hatred of falsehood, his horror of injustice, his love of
fair play, will sufficiently account for this; while the impossibility
of explaining himself kept the wound open. That for thirty years the
sore should have bled, shows the delicacy of his temperament and the
shrinking nature of his will. To speak of him as a friend of slavery is
absurd. No one can read his sermon on "The Slavery Question," preached
shortly after the annexation of Texas and at a moment of great
excitement at the North in regard to the advances of the slave-power,
and not perceive that he was deeply moved.

"_Are these people_ MEN?" he said; "that is the question. If they
are _men_, it will not do to make them instruments for mere
convenience,--for the mere tillage of the soil;--if they are _men_, it
is not enough to say that they have a sort of animal freedom from care,
and joyance of spirits. If they are _men_, they are to be cultivated;
their faculties are to be regarded as precious; they are to be
improved.... If he is a _man_, then he is not only improvable and ought
to be improved, but he _will improve_ in spite of all we can do." And a
great deal more to the same effect. He indignantly protested against
treating "an intelligent creature, a fellow-being, a brother-man, a
being capable of indefinite expansion and immortal progress," as one
would treat a tree, a flower, an ox, or a horse. "Grant that the African
of the present generation cannot be raised to our stature; yet if in the
course of ages he may be, and if it is our policy systematically to
arrest or to retard his growth, does the case materially differ from
what I have supposed?" Namely that of a child. Dr. Dewey visited
slave-States and talked with slave-holders in order to make himself
fully acquainted with the condition of opinion and of feeling about the
case, and he took occasion everywhere to argue the Northern side. This
ought to be enough in the way of vindication of his personal sentiments.

At the same time, he was a Unionist of the Webster school. His
attachment to the Union was intense. Disunion in his judgment meant
ceaseless discord, the end of republican institutions, the arrest of
civilization, the indefinite postponement of progress, the hopelessness
of education and uplifting for the slave, the withdrawal of Northern
influence, the final overthrow of government by moral powers. A long
reign of anarchy, in the course of which the lovers of the race must see
their visions of good disappear, would supervene, and this he could not
contemplate with equanimity.

Then he was an old-fashioned enemy of war, especially of civil war. He
was a sincere lover of peace, and a believer in the arts of peace, in
industry, education, the diffusion of intelligence, the weaving of the
ties of fraternity; and though he acknowledged the heroic mission of
strife, he recoiled instinctively from it. War, in his estimation, was
an inevitable necessity in the order of the world, but it was an awful
element in the "world problem"; "a fearful scourge," a condition to be
outgrown along with vice, passion, injustice, selfishness, ambition, a
sign that is destined to disappear as intelligence and Christianity come
in. It must be submitted to as an ordination of Providence, but it
should never be precipitated by men, least of all should it be brought
on hastily, by unreasonableness, malignity, or hate. The evils of war
were precisely such as appealed most directly to his imagination; they
were so personal, they were so domestic, they were so pitiable, they
were so full of tears. He shrank from violence, from rage, from party
ambition, from curses and cries. He loved his countrymen, and, so long
as any reason remained, he could not bear to think of fighting. So long
as any oil was left in the can, the troubled waters were not to be
abandoned by the peace-makers. It was much for him to have patience with
those who used angry words, even in a cause of righteousness. He, for
his part, could not scold or overstate, or do anything in a harsh

Dr. Dewey believed in colonization; not necessarily in Africa, but in a
separation between the white and black races, in the civilization of the
negro. In the tenth lecture of the course on "The Problem of Human
Destiny" (1864), he takes occasion to welcome "the great hope" that thus
was opened "for purging our American soil from the stain of slavery.
Many of us have long been asking how this is to be done. Look at Africa,
surrounded by a wall of darkness, and filled with cruelty and blood,
with no civilizing influence in herself, as the story of ages has
proved; what now do we see? Britain sends to her borders the
man-stealer, to tear her children from her bosom and transport them to
the American colonies. It was a deed of unmingled atrocity, compared
with which capture in war was generous and honorable; the African King
of Dahomey grows white by the side of the Saxon slave-trader. But what
follows? The African people in this country improve, and are now far
advanced beyond their kindred at home. And now they begin to return;
they are building a state on their native borders which promises to stop
the slave trade with Africa and to spread light and civilization through
her dark solitudes." At the close of his discourse on the slavery
question, he said:

     If I were to propose a plan to meet the duties and perils of this
     tremendous emergency that presses upon us, I would engage the whole
     power of this nation, the willing co-operation of the North and the
     South, if it were possible, to prepare this people for freedom; and
     then I would give them a country beyond the mountains,--say the
     Californias,--where they might be a nation by themselves. Ah! if
     the millions upon millions spent upon a Mexican war could be
     devoted to this purpose,--if all the energies of this country could
     be employed for such an end,--what a noble spectacle were it for
     all the world to behold, of help and redemption to an enslaved
     people! What a purifying and ennobling ministration for ourselves!

The intimacy with Dr. Charming re-inforced the conclusions which were
native to Dr. Dewey's temperament. The moderate view, the dread of
overstatement, the fear of fanaticism, the faith in reason, the love of
tranquillity, the desire after truth, were rooted in his mind. His
constitutional conservatism was confirmed. Then he was a Unitarian, and
therefore rational in his methods, inclined to judge by arguments, to
sift opinions by the understanding. The abolitionists were, for the most
part, either Calvinists or transcendentalists, people who followed an
inward voice, who placed interior conviction before ratiocination, and
encouraged moral sentiment to take the lead in action, blowing coals
into a flame, and not content unless they saw a blaze. The Unitarians,
as a class, were not ardent disciples of any moral cause, and took pride
in being reasoners, believers in education, and in general social
influence, in the progress of knowledge, and the uplifting of humanity
by means of ideas. The habit of discountenancing passion may have been
fostered in a school like this. Perhaps if young Dewey had continued in
his old belief he would have been a more vehement reformer than he was.
His natural glow was softened down into a mild effulgence, communicating
warmth to his convictions, but not producing a burning zeal for any
substance of doctrine.

His power of emotion made him a powerful preacher but prevented his
being a great philosopher. Dr. Bellows, who was his close friend for
many years, described him as a man of "massive intellectual power," and
then went on to impute to him the gifts that belong to the pulpit
orator: "poetic imagination," a "rare dramatic faculty of
representation." Perhaps by "massive" Dr. Bellows meant the power to
throw thoughts in a mass, with cumulative effect. This power Dr. Dewey
certainly possessed in an extraordinary degree. But of philosophical
talent he had little. Indeed, he seemed to be conscious of this himself.
At the end of his first lecture before the Lowell Institute he said:

     I am not sorry that the place and occasion require me to make this
     a popular theme. I am not to speak for philosophers, but for the
     people. I wish to meet the questions which arise in all minds that
     have awaked to any degree of reflection upon their nature and
     being, and upon the collective being of their race. I have hoped
     that I should escape the charge of presumption by the humbleness of
     my attempt--the attempt, that is to say, to popularize a theme
     which has hitherto been the domain of scholars.

The lecture assumes the existence of a Personal God, the reality of a
conscious soul, the freedom of the human will, the fact of a moral
purpose in creation, the perfectibility of man, the idea of progress,
the evidence of design in the universe attesting a divine intelligence.
The treatment nowhere shows metaphysical acumen or speculative insight.
On every page is brilliancy, eloquence, skilful manipulation of
arguments, fervent appeal to conscience. Nowhere is subtilty or depth of
intuition. Take for example the discourse on "The Problem of Evil," the
most intellectually exacting of all subjects. It ends thus after a
series of pictures:

     Give me freedom, give me knowledge, give me breadth of experience;
     I would have it all. No memory is so hallowed, no memory is so
     dear, as that of temptation nobly withstood, or of suffering nobly
     endured. What is it that we gather and garner up from the solemn
     story of the world, like its struggles, its sorrows, its
     martyrdoms? Come to the great battle, thou wrestling, glorious,
     marred nature! strong nature! weak nature! Come to the great
     battle, and in this mortal strife strike for immortal victory! The
     highest Son of God, the best beloved of Heaven that ever stood upon
     earth, was "made perfect through suffering." And sweeter shall be
     the cup of immortal joy, for that it once was dashed with bitter
     drops of pain and sorrow; and brighter shall roll the everlasting
     ages, for the dark shadows that clouded the birth-time of our

This is not argument, but preaching--- very fine, stimulating, powerful
preaching, but preaching nevertheless; quite different from James
Martineau's treatment of the same theme, in the course of the Liverpool
lectures (delivered in 1839). Mr. Martineau, too, addressed a popular
assembly, and closed his discourse in a strain of exhortation. Still,
the grave tone of the previous discussion sobered the rhetoric, and the
background of the ancient debate made the moral lessons solemn.
Philosophy yielded to the necessities of ethics, much as the "Kritik der
Reinen Vernunft" gave place to the "Kritik der Practischen Vernunft" of
Kant--the preacher and the reasoner standing indeed on different ground,
but the moral instruction being tempered by the philosophical.

Orville Dewey was a great preacher, perhaps the greatest that the
Unitarian communion has produced; greater as a preacher than Dr.
Channing, because more various and more sympathetic, nearer to the
popular heart, less inspired by grand ideas, and for that reason more
moving. He was imbued with Channing's fundamental thought--the "Dignity
of Human Nature,"--and illustrated it with a wealth of imagination,
enforced it by an urgency of appeal, quickened it by an affluence of
dramatic representation all his own. His function was to apply this
doctrine to every incident of life, to politics, business, art,
literature, society, amusement, and he did this with a boldness, a
freedom, a frankness unusual at any time, but without example when he
was in the ministry. I shall never forget, in one of his sermons, an
allusion to a symphony of Beethoven which gave me a new conception of
the essential humanity of the pulpit's office, of the close association
that there was between religion and art. His conversational style,
impassioned but not stilted and never turgid, was exceedingly
impressive, while his constant employment of the forms of reasoning
added weight to his sentences. The discourse was plain, and yet from its
copiousness it was ornate; and the affectionate tone assumed an air of
grave remonstrance which was deepened in effect by the appearance of
formal logic. The hearer seemed to be admitted to the secrets of a
living, earnest mind, and to be listening to something more than the
usual enunciations of ethical principle. At the same time his own will
was consulted, he was taken into partnership with the orator and
introduced to the processes of conviction. His state of feeling was
considered, his objections were met, his scruples answered, his
arguments confronted. He was, in short, treated like a rational being,
to be reasoned with, not to be looked down upon.

Dr. Dewey was always a friend of liberal thought. There are no more
significant pages in his daughter's memoir of him than those which
contain his correspondence with Mr. Chadwick, one of the most radical of
Unitarian divines. He was himself a student of divinity at Andover,
early converted to Unitarianism, became an assistant and warm friend of
Dr. Channing, but instead of remaining stationary in dogmatic faith,
took a rational view of all religious questions, favored the largest
liberality, and welcomed every effort to adapt spiritual ideas to actual
knowledge. He had no dogmatic prepossessions, and no professional fears.
What he asked for was sincerity coupled with earnestness. This being
given, conclusions, within certain limits, of course, were of little
moment. Theodore Parker used to sadden and irritate him, but less on
account of his opinions than on account of his pugnacious manner in
expressing them. Parker rather despised him for what he regarded as his
time-serving disposition, and could not understand his mental delicacy;
but men who thought as Parker did were even then on the best terms with
Dr. Dewey, whose mellowness, on the whole, increased instead of
diminishing with age, and was greatest in his declining years.

He was a man fond of personalities; even in his addresses on the
greatest themes, he would if possible narrow the subject down to the
measure of individual application. Thus when lecturing on "The Problem
of Evil," after submitting various considerations, he adds:

     Broad and vast and immense as that problem may appear, it is after
     all, in actual experience, purely individual.... The truth is,
     nobody has experienced more of it than you or I have, or might
     have, experienced. With regard to all the intrinsic difficulties of
     the case, it is as if one life had been lived in the world; and
     since no man has lived another's life, or any life but his own,
     there _has been_ to actual individual consciousness _but one life_
     of thirty, seventy, or a hundred years lived on earth. The problem
     really comes within that compass.... If I can solve the problem of
     existence for myself, I have solved it for everybody; I have solved
     it for the human race.... Do you and I find anything in this our
     life that makes us prize it, anything that makes us feel that we
     had rather have it than have it not? Doubtless we do and other men
     do; all men do.

This passage illustrates well the tendency to personal reference that
distinguished the man. In a discourse on war delivered before the Peace
Society he resolves its miseries into those of the individual, as if
mass--affecting, as it does, nations, civilizations, humanity
itself--counted for nothing. This tendency explains his fondness for his
friends, his strength of sympathy, his tenacity of attachment, his love
for people. It does not betoken a broad, deep, philosophic mind, but it
does betoken a warm, clinging, affectionate nature.

It made him too a charming feature in society, a delightful talker, an
easy, graceful, delectable companion, an interested adviser and
counsellor, a beloved person in his family, an excellent townsman.

We should be grateful for this, that one has lived to irradiate a
somewhat sad profession, to warm the bleak spaces of mortal existence,
to throw a gleam of gladness upon the sunless problems of human destiny.
It is a great deal to be assured that a living heart has walked with us,
and that a living voice has proclaimed the heart-side of man's lot.


These were many, but most of them are living and cannot, therefore, be
spoken of. There is an advantage in writing about the dead, for they
cannot protest against the handsome things you say, and they cannot
remonstrate against the unhandsome things. I shall on this account
choose but two, with whom I was very intimate, and who are very near to
my heart. I shall give sketches of John Weiss and Samuel Johnson, and
first of John Weiss.[*]

    [*] Reprinted from the _Unitarian Review_ of May, 1888.

This man was a flame of fire. He was genius unalloyed by terrestrial
considerations; a spirit lamp always burning. He had an overflow of
nervous vitality, an excess of spiritual life that could not find vents
enough for its discharge. As his figure comes before me it seems that of
one who is more than half transfigured. His large head; his ample brow;
his great, dark eyes; his "sable-silvered" beard and full moustache; his
gray hair, thick and close on top, with the strange line of black
beneath it, like a fillet of jet; his thin, piping, penetrating, tenuous
voice, that trembled as it conveyed the torrent of thought; the rapid,
sudden manner, suggesting sometimes the lark and sometimes the eagle;
the small but sinewy body; the delicate hands and feet; the sensitive
touch, feeling impalpable vibrations and detecting movements of
intelligence within the folds of organization (they say he could tell
the character of a great writer by holding a sealed letter from his
hand),--all indicated a half-disembodied soul. His spoken addresses and
written discourses confirm the impression.

I first met him at the meetings of the "Hook-and-Ladder,"[*] a
ministerial club of which we both were members. At the house of Thomas
Starr King, in Boston, he read a sermon on the supremacy of the
spiritual element in character, which impressed me as few pulpit
utterances ever did, so fine was it, so subtle, yet so massive in
conviction. Illustrations that he used stay by me now, after the lapse
of more than forty years. I next heard him in New Bedford, at the
installation of Charles Lowe, when, in ill-health and feeble, he gave,
in substance, the discourse on Materialism, afterwards published in the
volume on "Immortal Life." It struck me then as exceedingly able; and it
derived force from the intense earnestness of its delivery, as by one
who could look into the invisible world, and could speak no light word
or consult transient effects. Many years later, I listened, in New York,
to his lectures on Greek ideas, the keenest interpretation of the
ancient myths, the most profound, luminous, sympathetic, I have met
with. He had the faculty of reading between the lines, of apprehending
the hidden meaning, of setting the old stories in the light of universal
ideas, of lighting up allusions. The lecture on Prometheus I remember as
especially radiant and inspiring; but they were all remarkable for
positive suggestions of a very noble kind.

    [*] We copy from a private letter the following account of the
    origin of this club and of its grotesque name, which has lost, alas!
    its significance to the younger generation. "In the year 1844 (I
    think it was) a few of us young ministers formed a club, including
    Charles Brigham, Edward Hale, John Weiss, with one or two elders, as
    Dr. Hedge and, later, O. B. Frothingham, Starr King, W. R. Alger,
    William B. Greene, and others. We went long without a name, in spite
    of my urgent appeals as Secretary, till one fine day, at George R.
    Russell's house in West Roxbury, in an after-dinner frolic, Weiss
    turned the garden-engine hose upon a fellow-member and drenched him
    from head to foot; upon which escapade it was unanimously agreed to
    call ourselves the 'Hook-and-Ladder,' by which name the memory of it
    is fondly kept among us to this day. A similar older fraternity had
    gone by the name of the 'Railroad Association,' and, in imitation,
    when it was proposed to borrow a title from some like line of
    industry we, on this sudden whim, chose the fire-department."

His genius was eminently religious. Not, indeed, in any customary
fashion, nor after any usual way. He belonged to the Rationalists, was a
Protestant of an extreme type, an avowed adherent of the most "advanced"
views, a speaker on the Free Religious platform, a writer for the
_Massachusetts Quarterly_, and for the _Radical_. His was a purely
natural, scientific, spiritual faith, unorthodox to the last
degree,--logically, historically, critically, sentimentally so,--so on
principle and with fixed purpose. The accepted theory of religion
excited his indignation, his scorn, his amazement, and his mirth. He
could brook no dogmatic limitations, even of the most liberal sect, but
went on and on, past all barriers, facing all adversaries, confronting
every difficulty, and resting only when there was nothing more to
discover. He had an agonized impatience to know whatever was to be
known, to get at the ultimate data of assurance. Nothing less would
satisfy him. His cup of joy was not full till he could touch the bottom.
Then it overflowed, and there was glee as of a strong swimmer who is
sure of his tide. His exultation is almost painful, as he welcomes fact
after fact, feeling more and more positive, with each new demonstration
of science, that the advent of certainty was by so much nearer. Evidence
that to most minds seemed fatal to belief was, in his sight,
confirmatory of it, as rendering its need more clear and more imperious.
"We need be afraid of nothing in heaven or earth, whether dreamt of or
not in our philosophy." "The position of theistic naturalism entitles it
not to be afraid of all the scientific facts that can be produced."
"There is dignity in dust that reaches any form, because it eventually
betrays a forming power, and ceases to be dust by sharing it." "It is a
wonder to me that scholars and clergymen are so skittish about
scientific facts." "We owe a debt to the scientific man who can show how
many moral customs result from local and ethnic experiences, and how the
conscience is everywhere capable of inheritance and education. He cannot
bring us too many facts of this description, because we have one fact
too much for him; namely, a latent tendency of conscience to repudiate
inheritance and every experience of utility, to fly in its face with a
forecast of a transcendental utility that supplies the world with its
redeemers, and continually drags it out of the snug and accurate
adjustment of selfishness to which it arrives." There is a great deal to
the same purpose. In fact, Mr. Weiss cannot say enough on this head. He
accepts the doctrine of evolution in its whole length and breadth. "Of
what consequence is it whence the living matter is derived? We are not
appalled at the possibility that organic matter may be made out of
non-living, or, more properly, inorganic matter. We are nerved for such
a result, whether it occur in the laboratory or in nature, by the
conviction that the spiritual functions are no more imperilled by using
matter in any way, than that the Creator hazarded his existence by
originating matter in some way to be used by himself and by us."
"Science does me this inestimable benefit of providing a universe to
support my personal identity, my moral sense, and my feeling that these
two functions of mind cannot be killed. Its denials, no less than its
affirmations, set free all the facts I need to make my body an
expression of mental independence. Hand-in-hand with science I go, by
the steps of development back to the dawn of creation; and, when there,
we review all the forces and their combinations that have helped us to
arrive, and both of us together break into a confession of a force of

This cordial sympathy with science, this absence of all savor of a
polemical spirit, this hearty welcoming of every fact of anatomy and
chemistry, is very noble and inspiring. It is very wise, too, though the
noble, hearty side was alone attractive to him. He had in view no other,
being a single-minded lover of truth. But, nevertheless, he could not
have adopted a more politic course. For thus he propitiated the
scepticism of the age, struck in with the prevailing current, disarmed
opposition, and erected his own principles on the eminence which
scientific men have raised and which they cannot build too high for his
purposes. He doubles on his pursuers, and fairly flanks his foes. This
throws the labor of refuting him on the idealists, who may not care to
become responsible for his positions, and may demur to conclusions he
arrives at, while they cannot but applaud his general aims, and wish
they could give positive assent to all his specific doctrines. There was
always this discrepancy between his sentiment and his logic; but it came
out most conspicuously in his elaborate arguments.

The burden of his exposition was the existence of an ideal sphere,
quite distinct from visible phenomena; facts of consciousness attesting
personality, a moral law, an intelligent cause, an active conscience, a
living heart; order, beauty, harmony, humanity, self-forgetfulness,
self-denial. As he states it:

     I claim, against a strictly logical empirical method, three classes
     of facts: first, the authentic facts of the Moral Sense, whenever
     it appears as the transcender of the ripest average utility;
     second, the facts of the Imagination, as the anticipator of mental
     methods by pervading everything with personalty, by imputing life
     to objects, or by occasional direct suggestion; third, the facts of
     the Harmonic Sense, as the reconciler of discrete and apparently
     sundered objects, as the prophet and artist of number and
     mathematical ratio, as the unifier of all the contents of the soul
     into the acclaim which rises when the law of unity fills the scene.
     Upon these facts, I chiefly sustain myself against the theory
     which, when it is consistently explained, derives all possible
     mental functions from the impacts of objectivity.

If Mr. Weiss had stopped with this general thesis, he would
probably have carried most Rationalists, certainly the mass of
Transcendentalists, with him. They would have been only too glad to
welcome so clear and brilliant a champion. But he insisted on gathering
up these conceptions into two points of doctrine--God and Immortality.
On these points his arguments become strained, and too subtle for
ordinary minds. Indeed, many will be inclined to suspect his whole
exposition, which would be a misfortune of a very grave character. Mr.
Emerson avoided all definite assertion of personality carried beyond the
limits of individuality in the present state of existence. Mr. Weiss is
more daring, and proclaims a God who arranges creation _as it is_, and
an immortality that drops what to most people constitutes their highly
valued possessions--namely, their "animalities" of various kinds. What
will most men think of a God who "takes his chances," who "in
planet-scenery and animal life is at his play," who puts up in his
divine laboratory "curare and strychnine," and cannot "recognize the
word _disaster_," though he makes the thing? To how many will an
immortality be conceivable that can "belong only to immutable ideas,"
that only "springs from the vital necessity of their own souls," that is
a clinging "to the breast of everlasting law"?

To tell the truth, the arguments themselves for this rather questionable
result of idealism are somewhat unconvincing, not to say fanciful. They
are chiefly of a dogmatic kind, that may be met with counter
affirmations, equally valid. Many of them are stated in a symbolical or
poetical or illustrative manner, the most dangerous of all methods.
Examples of this might be multiplied indefinitely. I had marked several
for confirmation, but they were too long for quotation. One instance of
his mode of reasoning may be given[*]:

     It is objected that no thought and feeling have ever yet been
     displayed independently of cerebral condition; they must have
     brain, either to originate or to announce them. If brain be source
     or instrument of human consciousness, what preserves it when the
     brain is dead? But there would have been no universe on such terms
     as that. What supplied infinite mind with its preliminary _sine qua
     non_ of brain matter?

    [*] It occurs in "American Religion," p. 149.

But, surely, if this is an argument at all, if it does not beg the very
question in debate--namely, whether there is an infinite mind,--is it
not an argument for atheism? For either the existing universe fully
expresses Deity, in which case Deity is something less than infinite; or
Deity must be conceived as very imperfect, and a progressive, tentative
Divinity is no better than none.

To be sure, he says: "We attribute Personality to the divine Being,
because we cannot otherwise refer to any source the phenomena that show
Will and Intellect." That is to say, we yield to a logical necessity. To
argue that materialism "reeks with immortality" because "the baldest
negation is not merely a verbal contradiction of an affirmation, but a
contribution to its probability,--for it testifies that there was
something previously taken for granted,"--is really a play upon words,
inasmuch as the denial is simply an affirmation of certain facts, and by
no means a categorical declaration involving all the facts at issue. By
claiming none but relative knowledge, the antithesis is removed.

One is conscious of a suspicion that the author's tremendous overflow
of nervous vitality had much to do with the vehemence of his
persuasions. He himself countenances such a suspicion. "I confess," he
declares, "to an all-pervading instinct of personal continuance, coupled
with a latent, haunting feeling that there is a point somewhere in human
existence, as there has been in the past, where animality controls the
fate of men. Where is that point? We recoil from every effort to draw
the line." He had a very strong sense of personality, with its
inevitable reference of persistency. "To us, perhaps," he cries, in a
kind of anguish, "no thought could be so dreadful, no surmise so
harrowing, as that we might slip into nonentity. We impetuously repel
the haunting doubt. We shut the eyes, and cower before the goblin in
abject dread until it is gone. With the beauty-loving and full-blooded
Claudio, we cry,--

    Oh, but to die, and go we know not where."

and he quotes the rest of the famous passage in "Measure for Measure,"
adding for himself: "Put us anywhere, but only let us live; and we could
feel with Lear, when he says to Cordelia,--

            Come, let's away to prison.
        We two alone will sing like birds i' the cage."

     Then, too, there come to us the tender and overpowering moments
     when we can no longer put up with being separated from beloved
     objects, who tore at the grain of our life when they went away
     elsewhere, with portions of it clinging to them. We must have them
     again. Shall life be stabbed and no justice compensate these
     sickening drippings of the soul in her secret faintness? The old
     familiar faces have registered in our hearts a contempt for graves
     and burials. Not so cheaply can we be taken in, when the lost life
     lies quick in memory still, and cries against the insults which
     mortality wreaks on love.

Is not this an exclamation of temperament?

John Weiss was essentially a poet. His pages are saturated with poetry.
His very arguments are expressed in poetic imagery. To take two or three

     One who rides from South-west Harbor to Bar Harbor in Mt. Desert
     will see a grove in which the pines stand so close that all the
     branches have withered two-thirds of the way up the trunks, and are
     nothing but dead sticks, broken and dangling. But every tree bears
     close, each to each, its evergreen crown; and they seem to make a
     floor for the day to walk on. This pavement for the feet of heaven,
     more precious than the fancied one of the New Jerusalem, stretches
     all round the world, above the thickets of our spiny egotism, where
     people run up into the only coherence upon which it is safe for
     Deity to tread.

Or this about the poet's inspired hour:

     Through flat and unprofitable moments, a poet is waiting for the
     next consent of his imagination. The bed of every gift, that lately
     sparkled or thundered as the freshet of the hills sent its
     surprises down, lies empty, waiting for the master passion to open
     the sluice when it hears the steps of coming waves. The poet's
     nature strains against the dumb gates of his body and his mood.
     With power and longing he hears them open, and is brim full again
     with the rhythm that collects from the whole face of Nature,--the
     hillside, the ravine, the drifting cloud, the vapors just arrived
     from the ocean, the drops that flowers nod with to flavor the
     stream, the human smiles that colonize both banks of it. All
     passions, all delights hurry to possess his thought, crowd into the
     precincts of his person, pain him with the tumult in which they
     offer him obedience, remind him of his last joy in their
     companionship, and will not let him go till he ennobles them by
     bursting into expression. Relief flows down with every perfect
     word; the congested soul bleeds into the lyric and the canto; the
     poet's burden becomes light-hearted, and the supreme moment of his
     travail, when it breaks in showers of his emotion, cools and
     comforts him; he must die or express himself. All the blood in the
     earth's arteries is running through his heart; all the stars in the
     sky are set in his brain's dome. This light and life must be
     discharged into a word, and the poet restored to health and peace

Or the following rhapsody about health:

     What a religious ecstasy is health! Its free step claims every
     meadow that is glad with flowers; its bubbling spirits fill the cup
     of wide horizons and drip down their brims; its thankfulness is the
     prayer that takes possession of the sun by day and the stars by
     night. Every dancing member of the body whirls off the soul to
     tread the measures of great feelings, and God hears people saying:
     "How precious also are thy thoughts, how great is the sum of them!
     When I awake, I am still with thee." Yes,--when I awake, but not
     before; not while the brain is saturated with nervous blood, till
     it falls into comatose doctrines, and goes maundering with its
     attack of mediatorial piety and grace; not while a stomach depraved
     by fried food, apothecary's drugs, and iron-clad pastry (that
     target impenetrable by digestion) supplies the constitution with
     its vale of tears, ruin of mankind, and better luck hereafter. When
     all my veins flow unobstructed, and lift to the level of my eyes
     the daily gladness that finds a gate at every pore; when the
     roaming gifts come home from Nature to turn the brain into a hive
     of cells full of yellow sunshine, the spoil of all the chalices of
     the earth beneath and the heavens above,--then I am the subject of
     a Revival of Religion.

Or these passages about music, of which he was always a devoted lover,
a passionate admirer, an excellent critic. My first extract is used to
illustrate the doctrine of evolution, and suggests Browning's poem of
"Abt Vogler." It should be said, by the way, that Weiss was a great
student of Browning, whose lines in "Paracelsus," prophetic of the
evolution doctrine, was often on his lips. He even understood

     The divine composer, summoning instrument after instrument into his
     harmony, climbed with his theme from those which offered but a
     single note to those that exhaust the complexity of thought and
     feeling, to combine them into expression, kindling through hints,
     phrases, sudden concords, mustering consents of many wills,
     releases of each one's felicity into comradeship, till the sweet
     tumult becomes his champion, and bursts into an acclaim of a whole
     world. "I ought--so then I will." The toppling instruments concur,
     become the wave that touches that high moment, lifts the whole
     deep, and holds it there.

     When perfect music drives its golden scythe-chariot up the fine
     nerves, across the bridge of association, through the stern
     portcullis of care, and alights in the heart of man, there is
     adoration, whether he faints with excess of recognition of one long
     absent, and lies prostrate in the arms of rhythm, feeling that he
     is not worthy it should come under his roof, or whether he mounts
     the seat and grasps the thrilling reins; God's unity is riding
     through his distraction, brought by that team of all the
     instruments which shake their manes across the pavement of his
     bosom, and strike out the sparks of longing.

In calling Mr. Weiss essentially a poet, I am far from implying that
he was not a thinker. Perhaps he was more subtle and more brilliant a
thinker for being also a poet--that is, for seeing truth through the
medium of the imagination, for following the path of analogy. At any
rate, his being a poet did not in the least interfere with the acuteness
or the precision of his thinking, as any one can see who reads his
chapters--those, for example, which compose the volume entitled
"American Religion." I had marked for citation so many passages that it
would be necessary to quote half the book to illustrate my thesis. When
I first knew him, he was a strict Transcendentalist. Dr. Orestes
Brownson, no mean judge on such matters, spoke of him as the most
promising philosophical mind in the country. To a native talent for
metaphysics, his early studies at Heidelberg probably contributed
congenial training. His knowledge of German philosophy may well have
been stimulated and matured by his residence in that centre of active
thought; while his intimacy, on his return, with the keenest intellects
in this country may well have sharpened his original predilection for
abstract speculation. However this may have been, the tendency of his
genius was decidedly toward metaphysical problems and the interpretation
of the human consciousness. This he erected as a barrier against
materialism; and this he probed with a depth and a fearlessness which
were truly extraordinary, and would have been remarkable in any disciple
of the school to which he belonged. No one that I can think of was so
fine, so profound, so analytical. His volume on "American Religion" was
full of nice discriminations; so was his volume on the "Immortal Life";
so were his articles and lectures. His "Life of Theodore Parker"
abounded in curious learning as well as in vigorous thinking. He could
follow, step by step, the great leader of reformatory ideas, and went
far beyond him in subtlety and accuracy of mental delineation. He could
not rest in sentiment, must have demonstration, and never stopped till
he reached the ultimate ground of truth as he regarded it. Ideas, when
he found them, were usually, not always, expressed in symbolical forms.
His alert fancy detected likenesses that would have been concealed from
common eyes; and often the splendor of the exposition hid the keenness
of the logical temper, as a sword wreathed with roses lies unperceived.
But the tempered steel was there and they who examined closely felt its

He was a man of undaunted courage, being an idealist who lived out of
the world, and a living soul animated by overwhelming convictions, which
he was anxious to convey to others as of immense importance. He
believed, with all his heart, in the doctrines he had arrived at, and,
like a soldier in battle, was unconscious of the danger he incurred or
of the wounds he received, being unaware of his own daring or fortitude.
He was an anti-slavery man from the beginning. At a large meeting held
in Waltham in 1845, to protest against the admission of Texas as a slave
State, Mr. Weiss, then a minister at Watertown, Mass., delivered a
speech in which he said: "Our Northern apathy heated the iron, forged
the manacles, and built the pillory," declared that man was more than
constitutions (borrowing a phrase from James Russell Lowell), and that
Christ was greater than Hancock and Adams. To his unflinching devotion
to free thought in religion, he owed something of his unpopularity with
the masses of the people, who were orthodox in opinion, though his
failure to touch the general mind was probably due to other causes. The
class of disbelievers was pretty large in his day and very
self-asserting. Boldness never fails to attract; and brilliancy, if it
be on the plane of ordinary vision, draws the eyes of the multitude, who
are on the watch for a sensation.

The chief trouble was that his brilliancy was not on the plane of
ordinary vision, but was recondite, ingenious, fanciful. He was too
learned, too fond of allusions--literary, scientific, historical,--too
swift in his mental processes. His addresses were delivered to an
audience of his friends, not to a miscellaneous company. They were of
the nature of soliloquies spoken out of his own mind, instead of being
speeches intended to meet the needs of others. His lectures and sermons
were not easy to follow, even if the listener was more than usually
cultivated. Shall it be added that his sincerity of speech, running into
brusqueness, startled a good many? He was theological and philosophical,
and he could not keep his hands off when what he considered as errors in
theology or philosophy came into view. His wit was sharper than he
thought, while the laugh it raised was frequently overbalanced by the
sting it left behind in some breasts. It was too often a "wicked wit,"
barbed and poisoned, which one must be in league with to enjoy. They who
were in sympathy with the speaker were delighted with it, but they who
were not went off aggrieved. No doubt this attested the earnestness of
the man, who scorned to cloak his convictions; but it wounded the
self-love of such as were in search of pleasure or instruction, and
interfered with his general acceptableness. A broad, genial,
good-natured, truculent style of ventilating even heresies may not be
repulsive to people of a conventional, believing turn; in fact, it is
not, as we know. But the thrusts of a rapier, especially when
unexpected, are not forgiven. Mr. Weiss drew larger audiences as a
preacher on religious themes than he did as a lecturer on secular
subjects, where one hardly knew what to look for, because he was known
to be outspoken and capable of introducing heresies on the platform.

Then he was in all respects unconventional. His spontaneous exuberance
of animal spirits, which led him to roll on the grass, join in
frolicsome games, play all sorts of antics, indulge in jokes, mimicry,
boisterous mirthfulness, was inconsistent with the staid, proper
demeanor required by social usage. How he kept himself within limits as
he did was a surprise to his friends. Ordinary natures can form no
conception of the weight such a man must have put upon his temperament
to press it down to the level of common experience. Temptations to which
he was liable every day do not visit average minds in their whole
lifetime, and cannot by such minds be comprehended. The stiff, upright,
careful old man cannot understand the jocund pliability of the boy, who,
nevertheless, simply expends the superfluity of his natural vigor, and
relieves his excess of nervous excitability. On thinking it all over,
remembering his appetite for life, his joy in existence, his nervous
exhilaration, his love of beauty, his passionate ardor of temperament, I
am surprised that he preserved, as he did, so much dignity and soberness
of character. I have seen him in his wildest mood, yet I never saw him
thrown off his balance. With as much brilliancy as Sydney Smith, he had,
as Sydney Smith had not, a breadth of knowledge, a depth of feeling, a
soaring energy of soul that kept him above vulgar seductions, and did
for him, in a nobler way, what ambition, love of place, conventional
associations did for the famous Englishman.

The difficulty was that he was too far removed from the common ground
of sympathy. He could not endure routine, or behave as other people
behaved, and as it was generally fancied he should. If Sydney Smith's
jocularity interfered with his promotion, how much more did he have to
contend with who to the jocularity added an enthusiastic devotion to
heresy, a partiality for metaphysical speculation, and a poetic glow
that removed him from ordinary comprehension! With an unworldliness
worthy of all praise, but fatal to the provision of daily bread, he left
the ministry, a fixed income, a confirmed social position, ample leisure
for study and for literary pursuits, and launched forth on the uncertain
career of lecturer. He was not the first who failed in attempting to
harness Pegasus to a cart, in the hope of making him useful in mundane
ways. Neither discharged his full function. The cart would not run
smoothly, and the steed was not happy. The old profession has this
advantage: that to all practical purposes, the wagon goes over the
celestial pavement where there is no mud nor clangor, and Pegasus can
seem to be harnessed to a chariot of the sun.

Weiss simply disappeared from view. His books were scattered; his
lectures and sermons were worked over and over, the best of them being
published in his several volumes. A few relics of the author remain in
the hands of his widow, who is grateful for any recognition of his
genius, any help to diffuse his writings, and tribute to his memory.
They who knew him can never forget him. Perhaps the very vividness of
their recollection makes them indifferent to the possession of visible
memorials of their friend.

Samuel Johnson should be known as the apostle of individualism. The
apostle I say, for this with him was a religion, and the preaching of
individualism was a gospel message. He would not belong to any church,
or subscribe to any creed, or connect himself with any sect, or be a
member of any organization whatever, however wide or elastic, however
consonant with convictions that he held, with beliefs that he
entertained, with purposes that he cherished, with plans that were dear
to him. He never joined the "Anti-Slavery Society," though he was an
Abolitionist; or the "Free Religious Association," though its aims were
essentially his own, and he spoke on its platform. He made it a
principle to act alone, herein being a true disciple of Emerson, whose
mission was to individual minds. He wrote a long letter to me on the
occasion of establishing the "Free Religious Association," of which I
wished him to become a member, that recalls the letter written by Mr.
Emerson in reply to George Ripley when asked to join the community of
Brook Farm, and whereof the following is an extract:

     My feeling is that the community is not good for me, that it has
     little to offer me which with resolution I cannot procure for
     myself.... It seems to me a circuitous and operose way of relieving
     myself to put upon your community the emancipation which I ought to
     take on myself. I must assume my own vows.... I ought to say that I
     do not put much trust in any arrangements or combinations, only in
     the spirit which dictates them. Is that benevolent and divine, they
     will answer their end. Is there any alloy in that, it will
     certainly appear in the result.... Nor can I insist with any heat
     on new methods when I am at work in my study on any literary
     composition.... The result of our secretest attempts will certainly
     have as much renown as shall be due to it.

Johnson ended by discarding the church entirely. In 1881 he wrote:

     For my part, every day I live the name _Christian_ seems less and
     less to express my thought and tendency. I suspect it will be so
     with the Free-thinking world generally.

In a sermon, "Living by Faith," he says:

     There is no irony so great as to call this "flight out of nature"
     and the creeds that come of it, "faith." The purity of heart that
     really sees God will have a mighty idealization of humanity at the
     very basis of its creed, and act on it in all its treatment of the
     vicious, the morally incapable and diseased. It is time Christendom
     was on the search for it.

In the paper on "Transcendentalism," he says:

     Christianity inherited the monarchical idea of a God separate from
     man, and a contempt for natural law and human faculty which
     crippled its faith in the spiritual and moral ideal. It became more
     and more a materialism of miracle, Bible, church. Even its essay to
     realize immanent Deity yielded a more or less exclusive,
     mediatorial God-man; and it treated personality as the mere
     consequence of one prescriptive, historical force, just as
     philosophical materialism treats it as mere product of sensations.

Mr. Johnson abhorred the monarchical principle. It was his endeavor to
track it from its origin, through all its forms of institution,
ceremonial, dogma, symbol, from the earliest times to the latest,
through the whole East to the farthest West. This was the burden of his
studies in Oriental religions, the sum of his criticism, the aim of his
public teaching. He was profoundly, intensely, absorbingly religious,
but the form of his religion was not "Christian" in any recognized
sense, Romanist, Protestant, or Unitarian. The most radical thought did
not altogether please him. His was a worship of Law, Order, Cause,
Harmony, impersonal, living, natural; a recognition of mind as the
supreme power in the universe; a cosmic, eternal, absolute faith in
intellectual principles as the substance and soul of the world. God was,
to him, a spiritual being, alive, vital, flowing in every mode.

     All power of growth and service depends, know it or not as we may,
     on an ideal faith in somewhat all-sufficient, unerring, infinitely
     wise and tender, inseparable from the inmost of life, bent on our
     good as we are not, set against our failures as we cannot be. It
     means that there can in fact be no philosophy of life, no law of
     good, no belief in duty, no aspiration, but must have such
     in-dwelling perfection, as being alone reliable to guarantee its
     word. This only is my God; infinite ground of all finite being;
     essence of reason and good.... When you see a function of memory,
     or a law of perfection, let your natural piety recognize it as wise
     and just and good and fair. Be loyal to the moral authority that
     affirms it ought to be, and somehow must be. Let your _soul_ bring
     in the leap of your mind to grasp it. Then, if you cannot see God
     in perfect, absolute essence, you will know the Infinite and
     Eternal in their relation to real and positive existence; feel
     their freedom in your own; know their inseparableness from every
     movement of your spiritual being.... The love we feel, the truth we
     pursue, the honor we cherish, the moral beauty we revere, blend in
     with the eternity of the principles they flow from, and then, glad
     as in the baptism of a harvest morning, expanding towards human
     need and the universal life of man, our souls walk free, breathing
     immortal air. That is God,--not an object but an experience. Words
     are but symbols, they do not define. We say "Him," "It" were as
     well, if thereby we mean life, wisdom, love.... Must we bind our
     communion with the just, the good, the true, the humanly adequate
     and becoming to some personal life, some special body of social
     circumstances, some individual's work in human progress and upon
     human idealism? How should that be, when the principles into which
     the moral sense flowers out in its maturity as spiritual liberty,
     essentially involve a freely advancing ideal at every new stage
     revealing more of God, whom nothing but such universal energy can
     adequately reveal?... If then, we cannot see the eternal substance
     and life of the universe, it is not because Deity is too far, but
     because it is too near. We can measure a statue or a star, and look
     round and beyond it; but the Life, Light, Liberty, Love, Peace,
     whereby we live and know, and are helpful and calm and free, which
     measures and surrounds and even animates us, is itself the very
     mystery of our being, and known only as felt and lived. God stands
     in all ideal thought, conviction, aim, which ever reach into the
     infinite; and thence, as if an angel should stand in the sun, come
     attractions that draw forth the divine capabilities within us, as
     the sun the life and beauty of the earth. God is the inmost motive,
     the common path, the infinite import of all work we respect, honor,
     purely rejoice in, and fulfil; of art, science, philosophy,
     intercourse,--whatsoever function befits the soul and the day.

These quotations, which might be multiplied indefinitely, in fact,
which it is difficult not to multiply, are probably enough to satisfy
any who really wish to know that here was a truly religious man, a
really devout man, the possessor of a living faith; one who held fast to
more Deity than the multitude cherished, and welcomed him in a much more
cordial, comprehensive, natural manner; one who fairly drenched the
world and man with a divine spirit, but who was all the more spiritual
on this account, as a man attests his vigor by his ability to lay aside
his crutches, and put the medicine-chest, bottles, and boxes on the
shelf, to walk in cold weather without an overcoat, or lie naked on the
ice and melt it through.

Of course, the only justification of a pretension of this kind is the
actual vitality necessary for such a feat, the sanity demanded by one
who would stand or go alone. In Samuel Johnson's case there was no
question of this. Spiritually, he was a whole man, self-poised,
self-contained, strong, clear, alert, a hero and a saint. His
conversation, his bearing, conduct, entire attitude and manner indicated
the most jubilant faith. He never faltered in his confidence, never
wavered in his conviction, never abated a jot of hope that in the order
of Providence all good things would come. There was something staggering
to the ordinary mind, in his assurance of the divine wisdom and love.
There was something altogether admirable in the elevation of his
character above the trials and vexations that are incident to the human
lot, and that seemed heaped upon him. For his own was not a smooth or
fortunate life, as men estimate felicity. His health was far from
satisfactory. He was not rich or famous or popular or sought after. He
lived a life of labor, in some respects, of denial and sacrifice. Not
until after his death was the full amount of his renunciation apparent
even to those who thought they knew him well.

He was a Transcendentalist--that is to say, he believed in the intuitive
powers of the mind; he was sure that all primary truths, such ideas as
those of unity, universe, law, cause, substance, will, duty, obligation,
permanence, were perceived directly, and are not to be accounted for by
any data of observation or inference, but must be ascribed at once to an
organic or constitutional relation of the mind with truth.

     That the name "Transcendentalism" was given, a century ago, to a
     method in philosophy opposed to the theory of Locke--that all
     knowledge comes from the senses,--is more widely known than the
     fact that what this method affirmed or involved is of profound
     import for all generations. It emphasized Mind as a formative force
     behind all definable contents or acts of consciousness--as that
     which makes it possible to speak of anything as _known_. It
     recognized, as primal condition of knowing, the transmutation of
     sense-impressions by original laws of mind, whose constructive
     power is not to be explained or measured by the data of sensation;
     just as they use the eye or ear to transform unknown spatial
     notions into the obviously human conceptions which we call color
     and sound. All this the Lockian system overlooked--a very serious
     omission, as regards both science and common-sense.

And again, in the same article--that on "Transcendentalism," first
printed in the _Radical Review_ for November, 1877, and afterwards
included in the volume of "Lectures, Sermons, and Essays":

     What we conceive these schools to have misprized is the living
     substance and function of mind itself, conscious of its own energy,
     productive of its own processes, active even in receiving, giving
     its own construction to its incomes from the unknown through sense,
     thus involved in those very contents of time and space which, as
     historical antecedents, _appear_ to create it; mind is obviously
     the exponent of forces more spontaneous and original than any
     special product of its own experience. Behind all these products
     must be that substance in and through which they are produced.

And again, for we cannot be too explicit on this point:

     It is certain that knowledge involves not only a sense of union
     with the nature of that which we know, but a real participation of
     the knowing faculty therein. When, therefore, I have learned to
     conceive truths, principles, ideas, or aims which transcend
     life-times and own no physical limits to their endurance, the
     aforesaid law of mind associates me with their immortal nature. And
     this is the indubitable perception or intuition of permanent mind
     which no experience of impermanence can nullify and no Nirvana

It will be observed that Mr. Johnson does not make himself answerable
for specific articles of belief on God or immortality, but confines his
faith to the persuasion of indwelling mind, sovereign, eternal,
imperial. "Immortality," he says, "is immeasurable chance for all. In
its light, all strong, blameless, heroic lives--divine plants by the
wayside--tell for the nature they express. God has made no blunder in
our spiritual constitution. Power is in faith." This intense belief in
the soul, in all the native capacities of our spiritual constitution, in
the supremacy of organic feelings, ideas, expectations over merely
private desires, this burning confidence in divinely implanted
instincts, this absolute certainty that every promise made by God will
be fulfilled, explains the tone of exulting hope in which he writes to
bereaved friends.

     I wish I could tell you how firmly I believe that feelings like
     these (that the absent one cannot be dead), so often treated as
     illusion, are _true_, are of God's own tender giving; that in them
     is the very heart of his teaching through the mystery that we call
     death. Our affections are _forbidden by their maker_ to doubt their
     own immortality.... Immortal years, beside which our little lives
     are but an hour--what possibilities of full satisfaction they open!
     And we sit in patience, knowing that they must bring us back our
     holiest possessions--those which have ever stood under the shield
     of our noblest love and conscience and so are under God's blessing

How far such a declaration as this comports with the demand for general
immortality made in behalf of those who are conscious of no noble love,
who have attained to no conscience, and have no holy possessions, we are
not told. Perhaps Mr. Johnson would seize on the faintest intimations of
mind as evidencing the presence of moral being, as Mr. Weiss does. But
he did not dwell on that side of the problem. Plainly he ascribed little
value to mere personality, viewed abstractly and apart from its
spiritual development. He wrote to those whom he knew and loved, to
remarkable people.

Yet it would not be fair to conclude that immortality was denied to the
basest. If immortality is "opportunity," a "chance for all," it is for
those who can profit by it or enjoy it. If any are debarred, the cause
must be their own incompetence. They simply decease. There is no torment
in store for them; no hell is possible.

Samuel Johnson was an enthusiastic evolutionist, but of mind itself, not
of matter as ripening into mind. The ordinary conception of
evolution,--that the higher came from the lower,--was exceedingly
repugnant to him. Every kind of materialism he abhorred as illogical and
irrational. The theories of Comte,--that "mind is cerebration;" of
Haeckel,--that it is a "function of brain and nerve;" of Strauss,--that
"one's self is his body;" of Taine,--that a man is "a series of
sensations," were to him as absurd, in science or philosophy, as they
were fatal to aspiration and progress.

     The crude definition of evolution as production of the highest by
     inherent force of the lowest is here supplanted by one which
     recognizes material parentage as itself involving, even in its
     lowest stages, the entire cosmic _consensus_, of whose unknown
     force mind is the highest known exponent.

He is alluding to Tyndall's statement that mind is evolved from the
universe as a whole, not from inorganic matter. For himself, he says:

     Ideas were not demonstrated, are not demonstrable. No data of
     observation can express their universal meaning.... What else can
     we say of ideas than that they are wondrous intimacies of the soul
     with the Infinite and Eternal, its contacts with universal forces,
     its prophetic ventures and master steps beyond any past!... The
     grand words, "I ought" refuse to be explained by dissolving the
     notion of right into individual calculation of consequences, or by
     expounding the sense of duty as the cumulative product of observed
     relation of succession.... How explain as a "greater happiness
     principle," or an inherited product of observed consequences, that
     sovereign and eternal law of mind whose imperial edict lifts all
     calculations and measures into functions of an infinite meaning?
     And how vain to accredit or ascribe to revelation, institution, or
     redemption, this necessary allegiance to the law of our being,
     which is liberty and loyalty in one?

This is absolute enough. It is plain that to this writer the notion of
extracting intellect from form is ridiculous.

At the same time the method of evolution is the one adopted by the
supreme Mind in its endeavor to awaken in man religious ideas. The
exposition of the original faiths--Indian, Chinese, Persian--is a long
and eloquent argument for this thesis. All criticism, all thinking, all
analysis, all study of history, all investigation of phenomena, point in
this direction. This is the rule of creation; this is the solution of
the problem of the universe. The successive degrees of this divine
ascent, he maintains, are distinctly traceable in the records left for
our reading. The threads are fine, of course, but what have we eyes for?
It is not necessary that everybody should see them, and the few who can
are amply rewarded for the trouble they take in putting their fingers
upon the very lines of the heavenly procedure. His peculiar strain of
genius admirably qualified him for this delicate task. It was serious,
critical, earnest, and aspiring. At one period of his life he was a
mystic, wholly absorbed in God, and he always had that tendency towards
the more passionate forms of idealism which led him to mystical
speculations. The search for God was ever the animating purpose of his
endeavor. The law of the blessed life was never absent from his thought.
He, all the time, lived by faith, and was naturally disposed to see the
gain in all losses. His mind had that penetrating quality which loved to
follow hidden trails, and appreciated the subtlest kinds of influence.
In a striking passage he speaks of the

     great mystery in these influences which thoughtless people little
     dream of, and which common-sense, so called, cares nothing about.
     In the wonderful manner in which, through books, the spirits of
     other men, long since dead, enter into and inspire ours; in the
     eloquent language of eye and lip which without words, merely by
     expression, conveys deepest feelings; in the presence in our souls
     of strange presentiments, intuitions of higher knowledge than
     science or learning can give, voices which seem the presence of
     other spirits in ours, which make us feel often that death, so far
     from removing our dear friends from us, brings them nearer to our
     souls so that they _cannot_ be lost;--in all these wonderful ways
     we see dimly the unveiling of holy mysteries which the future is to
     fully open to us, mysteries which we can even now, in our sublimer
     and holier secret moments, feel trying to disclose themselves to

This was written in a letter to his sister, on the occasion of a visit
to the menagerie to see Herr Driesbach, the horse-tamer. A man who could
spring into the empyrean from such ground may be trusted to behold Deity
where others behold nothing but dirt; and they who submit to his
guidance are pretty certain to come out full believers in the spiritual

Johnson absolutely subordinated dogma to practice, holding fast to the
idea involved in the declaration that he who doeth the will shall know
the doctrine. He began with the ethics of the individual, the family,
the social circle, seeing every principle incarnated there. How faithful
he was in all domestic relations the world will never know, for there
are details that cannot be divulged. But in all public affairs his
constancy was perfect. Dr. Furness of Philadelphia used to say that the
anti-slavery struggle in this country taught him more about the
essential nature of the Gospel than he had learned in any other way.
Samuel Johnson had the same conviction. In a private letter written in
1857 he says:

     Everything in this crisis of American growth centres in the great
     conflict about this gigantic sin of slavery. That is the
     battle-field on which the questions are all to be fought out, of
     moral and spiritual and intellectual Freedom against the Absolutism
     of sect and party; of Love against Mammon; of Conscience against
     the State; of Man against Majorities; of Truth against Policy; of
     God against the Devil. It is really astonishing how everything that
     happens with us works directly into this fermenting conflict.

They who remember his addresses during the war will not need any
confirmation of this announcement, and they who heard or have read his
sermon on the character and services of Charles Sumner will have the
fullest assurance of the cordial appreciation with which every phase of
the struggle was entered into.

But though so ardent a follower of the doctrine that ideas lead the
world, Johnson was not induced to go all lengths with the
sentimentalists. While warmly espousing the cause of the workingman his
papers on "Labor Reform" show how keenly critical he could be of
measures proposed for his benefit. No one will accuse him of
indifference to the claims of woman, but he spoke of "Woman's
Opportunity" rather than of "Woman's Rights"; is inclined to think that
it is not true that she is left out of political life from the present
wish to do her injustice; that "on the whole, the feeling, if it were
analyzed, would be found to be rather that of defending her right of
exemption, relieving her from tasks she does not desire.... Among
intelligent men at least, actual delay to wipe out the anomaly of the
voting rule is not so much owing to a spirit of domination or contempt
as is too apt to be assumed, as it is to a respect for what woman has
made of the functions she has hitherto filled, and the belief that she
holds herself entitled to be left free to work through them alone." He
has nothing to say regarding the superiority of woman's nature; ventures
no definition of her sphere; is not unconscious of feminine infirmities;
doubts the efficacy of the ballot; confesses that the level of womanhood
would be, at least temporarily, depressed by the larger area of
practical diffusion; is by no means certain that women would necessarily
act for their own good, and is deeply persuaded of the inferiority of
outward to inward influence. This is the one thing he is sure of; this
and the principle that "liberty knows--like faith and charity--neither
male nor female." In the war between Russia and Turkey he took the part
of Turkey, not only because he respected the rights of individual genius
and resented invasion, but for the reason that he distrusted the
civilizing tendencies of Russia, and thought the interests of Europe
might be trusted to the Ottoman as confidently as to the Russian. In a
discourse entitled "A Ministry in Free Religion," delivered on the
occasion of his resigning the relation of pastor to the "Free Church at
Lynn," June 26, 1870, he said:

     The pulpit has no function more essential than an independent
     criticism of well-meaning people in the light of larger justice and
     remoter consequences than most popular measures recognize. The
     truest service is, perhaps, to help correct the blunders and the
     intolerances of blind good-will and narrow zeal for a good cause;
     to speak in the interest of an idea where popular or organized
     impulse threatens to swamp its higher morality in passionate
     instincts and absolute masterships, to maintain that freedom of
     private judgment which cannot be outraged, even in the best moral
     intent, without mischievous reaction on the good cause itself.

In this connection he speaks of temperance, the amelioration of the
condition of the "perishing" or "dangerous" classes, the various schemes
for benefiting the laboring men, plans for adjusting the relations of
labor and capital, arrangements for diffusing the profits of
production,--causes which he had at heart, but which should be discussed
in view of the principle of individual freedom, which must be upheld at
all hazards. He was a close reasoner as well as a warm feeler, and would
not allow his sympathies to get the upper hand of his ideas. He hoped
for the best; he had faith in the highest; he anticipated the brightest;
but he tried to see things as they were. He was a student, not a
sentimentalist, and while he was ready to follow the most advanced in
the direction of spiritual progress, he was not prepared to take for
granted issues that still hung in the balance of debate, or to prejudge
questions that had not been answered, and could not be as yet.

Such moderation and patience are not common with reformers, and few are
independent enough to confess misgivings which are more familiar to
their opponents than to their friends. Candor like this shows a genuine
unconsciousness of fear, a sincere love of truth, an earnest
postponement of personal tastes, ambitions, and connections to the
axioms of universal wisdom and goodness; a loyalty to conviction that is
very rare, that never can exist among the indifferent, because they do
not care, and which is usually put aside by those who _do_ care as an
impediment if not as a snare. In courage of this noble kind, Johnson
excelled all men I ever knew, for they who had it, as some did, had not
his genius, and were spared the necessity of curbing ardor by so much as
their temperament was more passive and their eagerness less importunate.
Of course of the lower sort,--the courage to bear pain, loss, the
misunderstanding of the vulgar, to face danger, to encounter peril, none
who knew him can question his possession. In fact, he did not seem to
suffer at all, so jocund was he, so much in the habit of keeping his
deprivations from the outside world; even his intimates could but
suspect his sorrows of heart.

Samuel Johnson was an extraordinary person to look at. He had large
dark eyes; black, straight, long hair; an Oriental complexion, sallow,
olive-colored; an impetuous manner; a beaming expression. His voice was
rich, deep, musical; his gait eager, rapid, swinging; his style of
address glowing; his aspect in public speech that of one inspired. He
was fond of natural beauty, of art, literature, music; full of fun,
witty, mirthful, social. He was attractive to young people, delightful
in conversation, ready to enter into innocent amusements. His eye for
scenery was fine and quick, his interest in practical science sincere
and hearty, his concern for whatever advanced humanity cordial, and his
freshness of spirit increased if anything with years.


It is impossible to mention them all, and to single out a few from a
multitude must not be done. I should like to commemorate those who came
nearest to me by their earnest work and faithful allegiance, but these
cannot be spoken of, and I prefer to enumerate some of those with whom I
was less intimate.

Alice and Ph[oe]be Cary came to New York in 1852, and were prominent
when I was there; their famous Sunday evenings, which were frequented by
the brightest minds and were sought by a large class of people, being
then well established. These were altogether informal and gave but
little satisfaction to the merely fashionable folks who now and then
attended them. The sisters were in striking contrast. Ph[oe]be, the
younger, was a jocund, hearty, vivacious, witty, merry young woman,
short and round; her older sister, Alice, was taller and more slender,
with large, dark eyes; she was meditative, thoughtful, pensive, and
rather grave in temperament; but the two were most heartily in sympathy
in every opinion and in all their literary and social aims. Horace
Greeley, one of their earliest and warmest friends, was a frequent
visitor at their house. There I met Robert Dale Owen, Oliver Johnson,
Dr. E. H. Chapin, Rev. Charles F. Deems, Justin McCarthy and his wife,
Mrs. Mary E. Dodge, Madame Le Vert, and several others.

Among my friends was President Barnard, of Columbia College, the only
man I ever knew whose long ear-trumpet was never an annoyance; Ogden N.
Rood, the Professor of Physics at Columbia, a man of real genius, whose
studies in light and color were a great assistance to artists, himself
an artist of no mean order and an ardent student of photography; Charles
Joy, Professor of Chemistry, a most active-minded man, who received
honors at Goettingen and at Paris, and contributed largely to the
scientific journals; a man greatly interested in the union of charitable
societies in New York; Robert Carter, then a co-worker in the making of
Appleton's Cyclopedia; Bayard Taylor, novelist, poet, translator of
Goethe, traveller; Richard Grant White, the Shakesperian scholar;
Charles L. Brace, the philanthropist; E. L. Youmans a man fairly
tingling with ideas, and peculiarly gifted in making popular, as a
lecturer, the most abstruse scientific discoveries. The breadth of my
range of acquaintances is illustrated by such men as Roswell D.
Hitchcock, of Union Seminary, the learned student, the impressive
speaker; Isaac T. Hecker, the founder of the Congregation of the
Paulists; Dr. Washburn, the model churchman of "Calvary"; Henry M.
Field, editor of the _Evangelist_, a most warm-hearted man, so large in
his sympathies that he could say to Robert G. Ingersoll, "I am glad that
I know you, even though some of my brethren look upon you as a monster
because of your unbelief," and welcomed as an example of "constructive
thought," Dr. Charles A. Briggs' Inaugural Address as Professor of
Biblical Theology at Union College; John G. Holland (Timothy Titcomb), a
copious author. The _Tribune_ company was most distinguished: There was,
first of all, the founder, Horace Greeley, a unique personality, simple,
unaffected, earnest, an immense believer in American institutions, a
stanch friend of the working-man, and a brave lover of impartial
justice; Whitelaw Reid, who was, according to George Ripley, the ablest
newspaper manager he ever saw; and Mrs. Lucia Calhoun (afterward Mrs.
Runkle), one of the most brilliant contributors to the _Tribune_. Of
George Ripley I may speak more at length, as he was my parishioner and
close friend. In my biography of him, written for the "American Men of
Letters" series, I spoke of him as a "remarkable" man. One of my critics
found fault with the appellation, and said it was not justified by
anything in the book, as perhaps it was not, though intellectual vigor,
range, and taste like his must be called "remarkable"; such industry is
"remarkable"; no common man could have instituted "Brook Farm" and
administered it for six or seven years; could have maintained its
dignity through ridicule, misunderstanding, and fanaticism; could have
cleared off its liabilities; could have turned his face away from it on
its failure, with such patience, or in his later age, could have alluded
to it so sweetly; no ordinary person could have adopted a new and
despised career so bravely as he did. No journalist has raised
literature to so high a distinction, or derived such large rewards for
that mental labor. He deserves to be called "remarkable," who can do all
this or but a part of it, and, all the time, preserve the sunny serenity
of his disposition. If the biography failed to present these traits it
was, indeed, unsuccessful. Yes, Mr. Ripley was an extraordinary man. It
is seldom that one carries such qualities to such a degree of
perfection, and it may be worth while to look more closely at his

George Ripley had a passion for literary excellence. From his boyhood
he possessed a singularly bright intelligence, a clear appreciation of
the rational aspect of questions. He was not an ardent, passionate,
enthusiastic man, of warm convictions, vehement emotions, burning ideas.
His feelings, though amiable and correct, were of an intellectual cast.
They sprang from a naturally affectionate heart, rather than from a
deeply stirred conscience, or an enchanted soul. If he had been less
healthy, eupeptic, he would scarcely have been so gay; a vehement
reformer he was not; a leader of men he could not be. He had not the
stuff in him for either. The element of giving was not strong in him. He
was not an originator in the sphere of thought; not a discoverer of
theories or facts; not an innovator on established customs. But mentally
he was so quick, eager, receptive, that he seemed a pioneer, an
enthusiast, a saint; his quickness passing for insight, his eagerness
for a passionate love of progress, his receptivity for charitableness.
He appeared to be more of an image-breaker than he really was. In fact,
the propensity to iconoclasm was not part of his constitution. But his
mind was wonderfully alert. He had his antipathies, and they were strong
ones, his likes and dislikes, his tastes and distastes, but these were
instinctive rather than the expression of rational principle or a
deliberate conclusion of his judgment. In one instance that I know of,
he threw off a man with whom he had been associated for many years, and
in connection with whom he labored daily for a time, a very accomplished
and agreeable person to whom he was indebted for some services, because
he thought that the individual in question had been unjust to some of
his friends; but that this was not entirely a matter of conscience would
seem to be indicated by the fact that he sent a message of affection to
this man, as he neared the grave. In the main, so far as he was under
control, intellectual considerations determined his course. He was
prevailingly under the influence of mind; he acted in view, a large
view, of all the circumstances; as one who takes in the whole situation,
and has himself under command. This is not said in the least tone of
disparagement, but entirely in his praise, for the supremacy of reason
is more steady, even, reliable than the supremacy of feeling however
exalted in its mood. He that is under the control of mind is at all
times _under control_, which cannot be said of one who is borne along by
the sway of even devout emotion. I have in memory cases where passion
might have betrayed Mr. Ripley into conduct he would have regretted, had
it not been for the restraining power of purely rational considerations.
His early religious training may have produced some effect on his
character, but this is more likely to have operated at first than at the
later stages of his career. The love of old hymns, the habit of
attending sacred services, the fondness for Watts' poems, a copy of
whose holy songs always lay on his table, showed a lingering attachment
to this kind of sentiment up to the end of his life; but it existed in
an attenuated form, and at no period after his youth exerted much sway
over him. His predominating bent was intellectual, and this caused a
certain delicacy, fastidiousness, aloofness, which kept him in the
atmosphere of love as well as of light.

From his youth this was his leading characteristic. As a boy he was
ambitious of making a dictionary, a sign of his carefulness in the use
of words, and an omen of the value he was to set on definitions and on
exactness in the employment of language. At school he was an excellent
scholar, at college he stood second, but was graduated first owing to
the "suspension" of a brilliant classmate who might have excelled him
but for the mishap of a college "riot" in which he took part. In the
languages and in literature he was unusually proficient, while in
mathematics,--that most abstract, severe, precise of pursuits,--his
success was distinguished. In later-life his devotion to philosophy
marked the man of speculative tastes. His early letters to his father,
mother, sister, reveal a consciousness of his own peculiarities. Here
are extracts:

     The course of studies adopted here [Cambridge], in the opinion of
     competent judges, is singularly calculated to form scholars, and
     moreover, correct and accurate scholars; to inure the mind to
     profound thought and habits of investigation and reasoning.

     The prospect of devoting my days to the acquisition and
     communication of knowledge is bright and cheering. This employment
     I would not exchange for the most elevated situation of wealth or
     power. One of the happiest steps, I think, that I have ever taken
     was the commencement of a course of study, and it is my wish and
     effort that my future progress may give substantial evidence of it.

     I know that my peculiar habits of mind, imperfect as they are,
     strongly impel me to the path of active intellectual effort; and if
     I am to be at any time of any use to society, or a satisfaction to
     myself or my friends, it will be in the way of some retired
     literary situation, where a fondness for study and a knowledge of
     books will be more requisite than the busy, calculating mind of a
     man in the business part of the community. I do not mean by this
     that any profession is desired but the one to which I have been
     long looking. My wish is only to enter that profession with all the
     enlargement of mind and extent of information which the best
     institutions can afford.

These quotations are enough to show what was the prevailing impulse of
the man. An intellectual nature like this, calm, studious, accomplished,
eager, is subject to few surprises and experiences rarely, if ever,
marked by crises, cataclysms, eruptions, in passing from one condition
of thought to another at the opposite extreme of the spiritual universe.
A process of growth, gradual, easy, motionless, takes the place of
commotion and violent uproar such as passionate temperaments are exposed
to. In 1821 he writes to his sister from Harvard College: "We are now
studying Locke, an author who has done more to form the mind to habits
of accurate reasoning and sound thought than almost any other." On the
19th of September, 1836, the first meeting of the Transcendental Club
was held at his house in Boston. In 1838 he replied to Andrews Norton's
criticism of Mr. Emerson's Address before the Alumni of the Cambridge
Divinity School. In 1840 he said to his congregation in Purchase Street:

     There is a faculty in all--the most degraded, the most ignorant,
     the most obscure--to perceive spiritual truth when distinctly
     presented; and the ultimate appeal on all moral questions is not to
     a jury of scholars, a conclave of divines, or the prescriptions of
     a creed, but to the common-sense of the human race.

But this substitution of the intuitive for the sensational philosophy--a
change which affected all the processes of his thought and actually
caused a revolution in his mind--was made silently, quietly, without
agitation, without triumph, in a sober, conservative manner, very
different from that of his friend Theodore Parker, who carried the same
doctrines a good deal further, and advocated them with more heat like
the burly reformer he was.

In religion, Mr. Ripley's position was the same that it was in
philosophy. In fact the intellectual side of religion interested him
more than the spiritual or experimental side. It was mainly a
speculative matter, where it was not speculative it was practical; in
each event it concerned the head rather than the heart, as being an
opinion rather than a feeling. He was instructed in the school of
orthodoxy, and, as a youth, was strict in his allegiance to the old
system of belief; but he became a disciple of Dr. Channing, and later a
rationalist of the order of Theodore Parker, a friend of Emerson, an
adherent of what was newest in theology. Yet, in this extreme departure
from the views of his early years, he betrayed no sign of agitation, no
trace of internal suffering. He wished to go to Yale instead of Harvard,
because "the temptations incident to a college, we have reason to think,
are less at Yale than at Cambridge." He preferred Andover to Cambridge,
being "convinced that the opportunities for close investigation of the
Scriptures are superior to those at Cambridge, and the spirit of the
place, much relaxed from its former severe and gloomy bigotry is more
favorable to a tone of decided piety." Still, he goes to Cambridge, is
"much disappointed in what he had learned of the religious character of
the school," and, on more intimate acquaintance is impressed by "the
depth and purity of their religious feeling and the holy simplicity of
their lives"; "enough to humble and shame those who had been long
professors of Christianity, and had pretended to superior sanctity." In
1824 a bold article in the _Christian Disciple_, a Unitarian journal,
the precursor of the _Christian Examiner_, excited a good deal of
comment, not to say apprehension. He writes to his sister about it as

     You asked me to say something about the article in the _Disciple_.
     For myself, I freely confess that I think it a useful thing and
     correct. The vigor of my orthodoxy, which is commonly pretty
     susceptible, was not offended. Now, if you have any objections
     which you can accurately and definitely state, no doubt there is
     something in it which had escaped my notice. If your dislike is
     only a misty, uncertain feeling about something, you know not what,
     it were well to get fairly rid of it by the best means.

The same year he writes to his mother:

     I am no partisan of any sect, but I must rejoice in seeing any
     progress towards the conviction that Christianity is indeed "_glad
     tidings of great joy_," and that in its original purity it was a
     very different thing from the system that is popularly preached,
     and which is still received as reasonable and scriptural by men and
     women, who in other respects are sensible and correct in their
     judgments. When shall we learn that without the spirit of Christ we
     are none of us His? I trust I am not becoming a partisan or a
     bigot. I have suffered enough, and too much, in sustaining those
     characters, in earlier, more inexperienced, and more ignorant
     years; but I have no prospects of earthly happiness more inviting
     than that of preaching the truth, with the humble hope of
     impressing it on the mind with greater force, purity, and effect
     than I could do with any other than my present conviction.

In 1840 the ministry was abandoned forever, for more secular pursuits.
After 1849 his activities were wholly literary; he had no connection
with theology, and none who did not know his past suspected that he had
once been a clergyman.

The same cast of thought, not "pale" in his case, suffused his action
at Brook Farm and made a Utopia quiet, calm, dignified, pervaded by the
radiance of mind, the gentle enthusiasm of the intellect. The heat came
in the main from other sources. He was receptive rather than original,
inflammable rather than fiery, brilliant rather than warm. The heat was
supplied by those near him, by those he trusted, and by those he loved.
Not that he was deficient in concern for society; far from it; but his
interest was more philosophical than philanthropic. The subject of an
association that should combine intellectual and mechanical labor and
should diminish the distance between the tiller of the ground and the
educator was agitated among the thinkers he was intimate with. Dr.
Channing had such a project at heart. Mrs. Ripley burned with humane
anticipations. Plans for social regeneration were in the air. It was
impossible for one who lived in the midst of ardent spirits, or was
sensitive to fine impressions, or was cultivated in an ideal wisdom that
was not of this world, to escape the contagion of this kind of optimism;
Emerson was saved by his belief in individual growth; Parker by his
steady common-sense; others were protected by their conservatism of
temperament or of association, by their want of courage, or their want
of faith; but men and women of ideal propensities, like Nathaniel
Hawthorne, W. H. Channing, J. S. Dwight, joined the community, which
promised a new era for Humanity. Mr. Ripley would probably have left the
ministry at any rate, for it had become distasteful to him, but it is
not likely that he would have undertaken the management of Brook Farm
unless he had been assured of its success; for he was a New England
youth by birth and by disposition, prudent, careful, thrifty; his very
enthusiasm was of the New England type, the product of theological
ideas, a creation of the gospels, a desire to introduce the "Kingdom of
Heaven," a continuance of the prophetic calling. New England is as noted
for its fanaticism as it is for its theology. Its fanaticism is the
offspring of its theology, and in proportion as its theology disappears
its fanaticism decreases. In Mr. Ripley's case the theology had reached
very near to its last attenuation and the fanaticism had tapered off
into a gentle enthusiasm. He undertook to establish a kingdom of heaven
on earth because he had given up the expectation of a kingdom of heaven
in the skies; and he undertook to establish a kingdom of heaven on earth
by rational, economic means, not by religious interventions. He was
subject to that peculiar kind of excitement that comes to a few people
in connection with the keen exercise of their intellectual powers, when
they have laid hold of what seems to them a principle--an excitement
that is easily mistaken for moral earnestness even by one who is under
its influence, which, indeed, lies so close to moral earnestness as to
feel quickly the effect of moral earnestness in others, notwithstanding
the checks applied by practical wisdom. Mr. Ripley had struck on a
theory of society, which at that time was passing from the phase of
feeling into the phase of philosophy. The theory was in the air; the
most susceptible spirits were full of it; all noble impulses were in its
favor, it belonged to the order of thought he had attained; it was
native to the aspirations that inflamed the men and women with whom he
was most intimate; their feelings awoke his intellect, and he was
carried away by a stream whereof he appeared to himself to be a
tributary and whereof he appeared to others as the main current, on
account of his impetuosity, and the vigor with which he proceeded to put
the idea into practice. In his own mind he was realizing the dream of
the New Testament, but, in fact, he was testing a principle of which the
New Testament was quite unconscious, the modern principle of the equal
destinies of all men. He had abandoned the New Testament ground of
allegiance to Jehovah, and had adopted the human ground of fidelity to
social law. He was still under the spell of religious emotions, but they
had become merged in the abstractions of rationalism and merely lent an
added glow to his ideas, so that he could readily imagine that he was
actuated by spiritual convictions when, in fact, he was doing duty as a
disciple of socialist philosophers. His own interest in Brook Farm was
in the main speculative, though through his personal sympathies he was
moved toward an enterprise that had moral ends in view.

Once embarked in it, he gave his whole mind to its
accomplishment,--all his industry, all his organizing talent, all his
high sense of duty. He worked day and night; he wrote letters; he
answered inquiries; he mastered the science of agriculture; he did the
labor of a practical farmer; he maintained the supervision of the
strange family that gathered about him. Very remarkable was his success
in keeping the intellectual side uppermost, in keeping clear of the
temptations to give way to instinctive leanings. His associations were
with books and study and bright people. He brought the most brilliant
men and women of the day to the place. He awakened the interest of the
general community. He diffused an atmosphere of cheerful hope around the
experiment. It is easy to make sport of Brook Farm; to laugh at the odd
folks who came there; to ridicule their motives and actions; to repeat
stories of extravagant conduct; to tell of the eccentric behavior of men
and maidens who were right-minded but impulsive; to follow
spontaneousness to its results; to trace the course of unrestricted
liberty. But it is not fair to remember these things as peculiarities of
Brook Farm, as incidents of its conception, or as incidents that were
agreeable to Mr. Ripley. He exerted the whole weight of his character
against them. He watched and guarded. We do not hear of him in
connection with the scandals, the laxities, or the frolics. His efforts
were directed to the supremacy of ideas over instinct, the idea of a
regenerated society, something very different from joyousness, or
merriment, or the fun of having a good time. He, too, was gay; he felt
the delight of freedom; but his gayety was born of happy confidence in
the principle at stake, his delight was connected with the advent of a
new method of intercourse among men. I remember hearing him once deliver
a speech in Boston. In it he spoke of the "foolishness of preaching,"
and avowed his willingness to be a pioneer in the task of breaking out a
new future for humanity, a ditcher and delver in the work of
constructing the new building of God. He had the coming time continually
in view. Others might enjoy themselves, others might grow tired of
waiting, but he held smiling on his way, determined to carry out the
idea to the end. There was something grand in the steady intellectual
force with which he did his best to carry through a principle that
commanded more and more the assent of his reason. When the demonstration
of Charles Fourier was laid before him, no argument was required to
persuade him to adopt it. He took it up with all his energy; his
enthusiasm rose to a higher pitch than ever; the rationale of the
movement was revealed to him, and apparently he saw for the first time
the full significance of the scheme he had been conducting. The
impelling power of an intellectual conviction was never more splendidly
illustrated. Nobody discerned so clearly as he did the financial
hopelessness of the experiment. Nobody felt the burden of responsibility
as he felt it. Yet he did not flinch for a moment, and his patient
assumption of the indebtedness at last had the stamp of real heroism
upon it. His renewal of the most painful traditions of "Grub Street"
until the liabilities of Brook Farm were cleared off is one of the noble
histories, a history that cannot be told in detail because of the
modesty which has left no record of toil undergone or duty done. The old
simile of the sun struggling with clouds, and gradually clearing itself
as the day wears on, best illustrates my view of this man's
accomplishment. There were the clouds of orthodoxy which were burned
away at Cambridge. Then came the clouds of Unitarian divinity, which
were dispelled by the transcendental philosophy. These were succeeded by
the dark vapors of the ministry, and these by the sentimental
philanthropy of New England rationalism. At length his intellect broke
through these obscurations and showed what it truly was.

On the failure of Brook Farm and the final dismissal of all plans for
creating society anew, Mr. Ripley's faculties emerged in their full
strength. The New England element was withdrawn. There was no longer
thought for theology or reform, but solely for knowledge and literature.
In Boston he had taken on himself every opprobrious epithet. In his
final letter to his congregation he avows his interest in temperance,
anti-slavery, peace, the projects for breaking down social distinctions;
simply, it would seem, because his philosophy, falling in with popular
sentiment, pointed that way; for he was never publicly identified with
any of these causes, or ranked by reformers in the order of innovators.
Indeed, one of the old Abolitionists told me that she had never
associated him with the anti-slavery people, though her family went to
his church. In New York there was no pretence of this kind. The devotion
to literature absorbed his attention. His democratic concern for the
workingmen continued, but in a theoretical manner, if we may judge from
the fact that he took no part in domestic or foreign demonstrations,
that he made no speech, attended no meeting, consorted with no social
reformers, did not even keep up his intimacy with the original leaders
of socialism in this country. When the sadness of his first wife's death
was over, and the drudgery of toil was ended, he was happier than he had
ever been. No time was wasted; no talent was misused. Mental labor was
incessant, but in performing it there was pure delight. It is usual to
think of his early life as his best, and there were some who regarded
him as an extinct volcano; but I am of the opinion that his latter years
were his most characteristic, and that he was most entirely himself when
his intellectual nature came to its full play. In proportion as the
"olden thoughts, the spirit's pall," fell off, he became peaceful and
sweet; his view backward and forward became clear, his purpose steady,
his will serene. The past was distasteful to him and he seldom alluded
to it; but as one puts his childhood and his age together, a steady
development is seen to run through both. His could not be a cloudless
day, but he went on from glory to glory. His age more than justified the
promise of his youth. In his latter years he befriended aspiring young
men; he made literature a power in America; he threw a dignity around
toil; he associated knowledge with happiness, and rendered light and
love harmonious. His favorite author was Goethe, the apostle of culture.
His familiarity with Sainte-Beuve, the master of literary criticism, was
so great, that on occasion of that writer's decease, he sat down and
wrote an account of him without recourse to books. Though without
knowledge of art, destitute of taste for music, and deficient in
æsthetic appreciation, his sympathy was so large and true that these
deficiencies were not felt. The intellectual sunshine was shed over the
entire nature, and the book was so universal that it seemed to embrace

This is the property of pure mind, rarely seen in such perfection of
lucidity. Such a mind is at once conservative and radical; conservative
as treasuring the past, radical as anticipating improvement in the
future. There is nothing like fanaticism, but a bright look in every
direction, a place for all sorts of accomplishments, hospitality to each
new invention, a radiant acceptance of all temperaments. The mind cannot
be superstitious, for it cannot believe that divine powers are
identified with material objects or occasional accidents; it cannot be
ever sanguine as those are who indulge in abstract visions of good, for
it knows that progress is very slow and gradual, and that the welfare of
mankind is advanced by the process of civilization, by cultivation,
acquirement, refinement, the gains of wealth, elegance, and delicacy of
taste. It judges by rational standards, not by sentimental feelings,
accepting imperfection as the inevitable condition of human affairs and
bounded characters. It is not exposed to the convulsions that accompany
even the most exalted moods, but calmly labors and quietly hopes for the

I do not say that George Ripley was such a mind, merely that his
tendency was in that direction. He was limited by traditions; he had too
many prejudices. The axioms of the transcendental philosophy clung to
him. The shreds of religion hung about him. He could not divest himself
of the ancient clerical memories and ways, nor wholly throw off the
mantle of personal sympathy he had so long worn. He was not completely

That he was a perfect man is less evident still. His sunny quality was
due in some degree to a happy temperament, and was subject to the
eclipses that darken the blandest natures, and render sombre the most
hilarious spirits. He lacked the steadfast courage of conviction, was
somewhat over-prudent and timid, afraid of pain, of popular disapproval,
of criticism and opposition. This may have been due in part to his
frequent disappointments and the carefulness they forced upon him, to
the distrust in his own judgment which he had occasion to learn, and the
necessity of confining his action to the point immediately before him.
But I am inclined to think that this apprehensiveness was
constitutional. If it is suggested by way of objection that the bold
experiment of Brook Farm, made in the face of obloquy and derision,
indicated moral courage of a high stamp, I would remind the critic of
the warm approbation of his friends, and the confident expectation of
success on the part of those he was intimate with. His wife not merely
gave him her countenance but stimulated his zeal, and surrounded him
every day with an atmosphere of faith. He had the applause of Dr.
Channing, and the support of his brilliant nephew. Men like Hawthorne,
Ellis Gray Loring, George Stearns, not to mention others, urged him on.
His own well-beloved sister was one of his ardent coadjutors. He had
hopes of Emerson. In short, so far from being alone, he stood in an
influential company, and instead of his being altogether unpopular was
encompassed by the good-will of those he prized most. It would have
required courage to resist such influences. Besides, he was inflated by
a momentary enthusiasm which carried him along in spite of himself and
would not allow his judgment to work. A sudden storm struck him, lifted
unusual waves, caused unexampled spurts of foam, made the ordinarily
quiet water boisterous and dangerous, and threw long lines of breakers
on the coast, so that what was a still lake became of a sudden a
tempestuous sea. One must not hastily imagine that the water had become
an ocean, or that it was really an Atlantic formerly supposed to be a

Then it must be said he loved money too well. This infirmity was not
native to him, but must probably be imputed to early poverty, the
necessity of working hard in order to pay debts not altogether of his
own contracting, thus pledging the meagre income of the first sixty
years of his life. His final income was large, but it was earned by
incessant literary toil, which naturally rendered him avaricious of the
rewards that might come to him. His generosity did not have a fair
chance to show itself outside of his family. There it was lavish, but
there it was too much mixed up with affection, duty, and pride to be
credited to his manhood. He did not live long enough, either, to attain
complete superiority over his accidents. He was already an old man
before he had money for his wants. I remember meeting him on Broadway in
1861, the year of his wife's death, and he said: "My grief is embittered
by the thought that she died just as I was getting able to obtain for
her what she needed." He was then fifty-nine years of age. It cannot be
expected that any impulse of generosity will overcome the habits of a
life-time at so advanced a period as this. That they showed themselves
at all is remarkable, and establishes as well their power as their

In a word, this man was too heavily weighted by circumstances to do his
genius full justice. He seemed to be two individuals, with little in
common between them. As one looked at his past or at his present, his
real character was differently judged. The most plausible account of him
was that which supposed the experiences to be buried in a deep grave,
which was seldom uncovered even by the man himself, who lived in the day
before him, and rarely glanced back save to mourn over or to make sport
of his former career. The only way of establishing a unity in his
history is to concede the supremacy of the intellectual quality over the
moral in his first endeavors. The prejudice in favor of the moral was
and is so strong that to maintain this supremacy will seem like a
condemnation of him, though meant in his praise. He probably would so
have considered it, especially when carried away by the flood of
memories. It was easy for him to be mistaken. His merit consists in the
energy of the reason which made headway against a host of disadvantages
and achieved something resembling a victory in the end. Some time hence,
when the homage paid to sentiment shall have yielded to the worship of
knowledge, George Ripley will be regarded as one of the earliest
apostles of the light.

All these greatly enriched my life in New York, opened new spheres of
activity, and enlarged my whole horizon, both intellectually and
socially. Their variety, elasticity, and vigor in many fields of
intellectual force added much to the extension of my view, and acted,
not merely as a refreshment, but also as a stimulus.


The progress of mind is continuous. Strictly speaking, there are no
periods of transition, no crises in thought. The history of ideas
presents no gap. Every stage begins and ends an epoch. One is often
reminded of the common notion that the year begins and ends at a
particular moment. Every day begins and ends a year; every hour is
equally sacred. Yet solemn thought, worship, self-examination, are
precious, and these can be secured only by the observance of times and
seasons; so that we fall on our knees and pray when the old year ends
and the new one begins.

So, as a point of time must be fixed upon, we will begin with Thomas
Paine. It is not easy to speak fully and justly of Paine, because in so
doing we must speak of the misapprehensions and mis-statements of which
he has been the victim; and even if we refute these, the bare mention of
them leaves a stain on his fame. No doubt his method--application of
common-sense to religion--was essentially vicious. Common-sense is an
admirable quality in practical affairs, quite indispensable in the
management of business of all kinds, but it has no place in the
discussion of works of the higher imagination--of poetry, art, music, or
faith. But such was the man's genius, such was the demand of his age. It
is easy to speak of his ignorance, his coarseness, his impudence, his
vanity; but it must be remembered that his education was very imperfect,
for he was utterly ignorant of any language but his own, and he did not,
apparently, read even the English deists; that he was a man of the
people; that he lived in an age of revolutions; that he stood for the
rights of common humanity. It must be remembered also that, in the first
place, he brought the human mind face to face with problems which had
been appropriated by a special class that considered itself exempt from
criticism. In the next place he was in dead earnest; not attacking the
Bible or religion out of flippancy or brutality, but because he really
hated the interpretations that were usually given of sacred things; his
attack was against orthodoxy, not against faith. "His blasphemy," says
Leslie Stephen, "was not against the Supreme God, but against Jehovah.
He was vindicating the ruler of the universe from the imputations which
believers in literal inspiration and dogmatical theology had heaped upon
him under the disguise of homage. He was denying that the God before
whom reasonable creatures should bow in reverence could be the
supernatural tyrant of priestly imagination, who was responsible for
Jewish massacres, who favored a petty clan at the expense of his other
creatures, who punished the innocent for the guilty, who lighted the
fires of everlasting torment for the masses of mankind, and who gave a
monopoly of his favor to priests or a few favored enthusiasts. Paine, in
short, with all his brutality, had the conscience of his hearers on his
side, and we must prefer his rough exposure of popular errors to the
unconscious blasphemy of his supporters." Then Paine _did love his
kind;_ he abhorred cruelty, and desired, after his fashion, to elevate
his race.

Examples of this are numerous. At the time when the "Common Sense" and
"Crisis" were having an enormous sale, the demand for the former
reaching not less than one hundred thousand copies, and both together
offering to the author profits that would have made him rich, Paine
freely gave the copyright to every State in the Union. In his period of
public favor and of intimate friendship with the founders of the
government, Paine declined to accept any place or office of emolument,
saying: "I must be in everything, as I have ever been, a disinterested
volunteer. My proper sphere of action is on the common floor of
citizenship, and to honest men I give my hand and heart freely." The
State of Virginia made a large claim on the general government for
lands. Thomas Paine opposed the claim as unreasonable and unjust, though
at that very time there was a resolution before the legislature of
Virginia to appropriate to him a handsome sum of money for services
rendered. In 1797, Paine was the chief promoter of the society of
"Theophilanthropists," whose object was the extinction of religious
prejudices, the maintenance of morality, and the diffusion of faith in
one God. "It is want of feeling," says this _heartless blasphemer_, "to
talk of priests and bells, while infants are perishing in hospitals, and
the aged and infirm poor are dying in the streets." In 1774, Paine
published in the _Pennsylvania Journal_, a strong, anti-slavery essay.
While clerk in the Pennsylvania Legislature he made an appeal in behalf
of the army, then in extreme distress, and subscribed his entire salary
for the year to the fund that was raised. Towards the close of his life,
he devised a plan for imposing a special tax on all deceased persons'
estates, to create a fund from which all, on reaching twenty-one years,
should receive a sum to establish them in business, and in order that
all who were in the decline of life should be saved from destitution. It
is not generally known that Paine often preached on Sunday afternoons at
New Rochelle. In England he spoke in early life from Dissenting pulpits,
and to him we owe this exquisite definition of religion: "It is man
bringing to his Maker the fruits of his heart." All this is evidence
that honorable considerations were at the bottom of his own belief. He
was, according to his view, the friend of man, and in this interest
wrote his books. He introduced kindness into religion.

He certainly repeated the ideas of Collins and Toland, and the
conceptions that were floating in the air, breathed by Voltaire and
Diderot; but he did give them voice. The English deists were dead, and
would have continued so but for him. He was essentially a pamphleteer,
the master of a very rich, simple style that went directly to the hearts
of the people. His best performances were unquestionably political, but
all his works were marked by the same peculiarities. His mistake was in
supposing that the power that could animate an army could pull down a

Paine was no saint, but he was no sinner above all that dwelt in
Jerusalem. He drank too much; he took too much snuff; he was vulgar; he
was a vehement man in a vehement age; he went to dinner in his
dressing-gown; and he certainly did not bring his best convictions to
bear on his private character; but he did wake up minds that had been
dumb or oppressed before. The "Age of Reason" went everywhere, into
holes and corners, among back-woodsmen and pioneers, and did more
execution among plain moral men than many a book that was more worthy of
acceptance. It is a pity that his disciples should be content with
repeating his denials, instead of building on the rational foundations
which he laid. For instance, they might, while adding to his criticism
of the Scriptures, have shown their high moral bearing and their
spiritual glow. They might have carried out further his "enthusiasm for
humanity," showing that man had more in him than Paine suspected. They
might have justified by more scientific reasons his belief in God and in
immortality. They might have been truly rationalists as he wanted to be,
but could not be at that period. But they were satisfied with saying
over and over again what he said as well as he could, but not as well as
they can. He was simply a precursor, but he was a precursor of such men
as Colenso and Robertson Smith, and a large host of scholars beside.

Paine's best exponent in America is perhaps Robert G. Ingersoll. He is a
sort of transfigured Paine. He has all Paine's power over the masses,
being perhaps the most eloquent man in America; more than Paine's wit;
more than Paine's earnestness; more than Paine's love of humanity; more
than Paine's scorn of deceit and harshness,--for he extends his
abhorrence of cruelty even to dumb beasts. He has great power of
sympathy, a tender feeling for misery of all kinds. He is a poet, as is
evident from these words:

     We do not know whether the grave is the end of this life or the
     door of another, or whether the night here is somewhere else a
     dawn. The idea of Immortality, that like a sea has ebbed and flowed
     into the human heart with its countless waves beating against the
     shores and rocks of time and faith, was not born of any book or of
     any creed or of any religion. It was born of human affection, and
     it will continue to ebb and flow beneath the mists and clouds of
     doubt and darkness as long as love kisses the lips of death. It is
     the rainbow, Hope, shining upon the tears of grief.

Paine's simple childlike belief in God and Immortality, Ingersoll
remands to the cloudy sphere of agnosticism, as Paine probably would
now; but it is my opinion that if evidence which he regarded as
satisfactory--that is, legal evidence--could be given, he, too, would
accept these articles; for he has none of the elements of the bigot
about him. His detestation is simply of hell and a priesthood; for pure,
spiritual religion, he has only respect. Like Paine, he attacks the
ecclesiasticism and theology of the day, and is satisfied with doing
that; and, like Paine, he has convictions instead of opinions, and his
character is all aflame with his ideas.

In his private life, in his family relations, in his public career,
there is no reproach on his name--nothing that he need be ashamed of.

Mr. Ingersoll does not worship the Infinite under any recognized form or
name, but that he adores the _substance of deity_ is beyond all doubt;
he worships truth and purity and sincerity and love,--everything that is
highest and noblest in human life. One word more I must say,--that his
motive is essentially religious. It is his aim to lift off the burden of
superstition and priestcraft; to elevate the soul of manhood and
womanhood; to promote rational progress in goodness; to emancipate every
possibility of power in the race; and this is the aim of every pure
religion,--to open new spheres of hope and accomplishment.

The disintegration of the popular orthodoxy goes on very fast, and
always under the influence of the moral sentiment. This is very prettily
put by Miss Jewett, in one of her short stories, entitled "The Town
Poor." Two ladies, jogging along a country road, fall to talking about
an old meeting-house which is being _improved_ after the modern fashion.
One of them laments the loss of the ancient pews and pulpit, and the
substitution of a modern platform and slips. The other says:

     When I think of them old sermons that used to be preached in that
     old meeting-house, I am glad it is altered over so as not to remind
     folks. Them old brimstone discourses! you know preachers is far
     more reasonable now-a-days. Why, I sat an' thought last Sabbath as
     I listened, that if old Mr. Longbrother and Deacon Bray could hear
     the difference, they'd crack the ground over 'em like pole beans,
     and come right up 'long side their headstones.

In Chicago, some years ago, orthodox preachers begged a pronounced
radical to stay and help them fight the matter out on the inside; and a
minister of one of the principal churches there distinctly said that he
did not believe in the infallibility of the Bible or an everlasting
punishment. A Congregational minister in Connecticut expressed himself
as thoroughly in sympathy with the advanced party in theology. An
orthodox clergyman in New England declared that he did not know of an
orthodox minister in the whole range of his acquaintance who believed in
the old doctrine. A minister in Rhode Island, who occupied a high
position in the orthodox church, while declining to make an open
statement on account of social and political reasons, avowed his
willingness to write a private letter disclaiming all belief in the
accepted views. The Rev. Howard MacQueary, the Episcopal rector of
Canton, Ohio, who has recently published a book, entitled the "Evolution
of Man and Christianity," has been convicted of heresy against his own
protest and the popular sentiment. The successor of Henry Ward Beecher,
in Brooklyn, N. Y., recently published the essentials of his creed.
There is no fall in it, no trinity, no miracle in the old sense, no
eternal punishment. He declares, frankly, that there is no difference
_in kind_ between man, Jesus, and God, but only a difference _in
degree_. The same man recently preached in King's Chapel, and lectured
in Channing Hall. The Andover controversy distinctly reveals the decay
of the ancient theology. In England dissent has gone very far, as is
evident from a book called "The Kernel and the Husk," written by the
Rev. Dr. E. A. Abbott, the author of the article on "The Gospels," in
the last edition of the "Encyclopædia Britannica." In this article the
fall is repudiated, the trinity, miracles, the virgin birth, the
physical resurrection of Jesus, and eternal punishment; yet even his
bishop has not rebuked him. Yes, the moral sentiment is certainly coming
to its rights.

Of Unitarianism, after what has been said, it is unnecessary to speak.
That there should be a difference between the East and the West is
natural. The East holds fast, in large sense, to the ancient theological
traditions. The West never had them, and can therefore declare that its
fellowship is conditioned on no doctrinal tests, and can welcome all who
wish to establish truth and righteousness and love in the world. The
West will ultimately prevail; the temper of the East is rapidly wasting
away, and the breach will soon be closed up. The new Unitarian churches
will be founded on a practical basis, the only requirement being that
the minister should be deeply in earnest about religious things. The
characteristic of all churches, of whatever name, is an urgent interest
in social reform, a deep concern for the disfranchised and oppressed,
and a warm feeling towards the elevation of mankind. The universal
prayer is, to borrow the pithy language of Dr. F. H. Hedge: "May Thy
kingdom come on earth!" not "May we come into Thy kingdom."

If it was hard to do full justice to Thomas Paine, it is harder to do
full justice to the Broad Churchman. There is no authoritative account
of his position to which appeal can be made, and the great variety of
opinion on incidental points makes it difficult to frame any description
which the leaders would accept. A great deal depends on the change of
circumstances, the ruling spirit of the time, the prevailing tendencies
of thought in the period,--whether scientific, critical, or social,--and
a great deal depends, too, on the peculiarities of individual
temperament, but the fundamental doctrines are the same. The ordinary
observer can see the largeness, sympathy, inclusiveness, devotion to
actual needs. But the ordinary observer cannot see the real basis of
faith in human nature; the manifestation of the Divine Being in the
highest possibilities of man; the trust in a living, active,
communicating God.

These are cardinal points, and must be insisted on. The inherent
depravity of man; his essential corruption; his absolute inability to
receive any portion of the divine life, is naturally repudiated. But his
feebleness, crudeness, imperfection, his dearth and deficiency, his
sensuality, hardness, love of material things, is insisted on, and
cannot be exaggerated. Still there is a germ of the divine nature in
him, a spark of the divine flame which can be kindled. The familiar
language of Longfellow expresses this idea exactly:

    "Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
    Who have faith in God and Nature,
    Who believe that in all ages
    Every human heart is human,
    That in even savage bosoms
    There are longings, yearnings, strivings
    For the good they comprehend not,
    That the feeble hands and helpless,
    Groping blindly in the darkness,
    Touch God's right hand in that darkness
    And are lifted up and strengthened:--
    Listen to this simple story."

To this nature, thus receptive, God addresses Himself. He is the
Father, the absolute Love, and his desire is to lead men upward towards
the height of divine perfection. In all ages, in every way, he has been
trying to do this; and all nature, all art, all literature is full of
this affection for his child. Even the Pagan myths express this striving
of God with man. The existence of what we call evil is assumed, but
there is no attempt to explain it or theorize about it or reconcile it
with any mode of philosophy. To us it may be simply the divine effort to
startle the soul into a consciousness of itself. Even the worst forms of
doubt, of denial, of atheism may be parts of this divine effort; even
men like Strauss and Feuerbach may be witnesses for truth, because they
drive men back in horror from the pit of disbelief, and compel them to
take refuge through tears and prayers in the supreme love. Of absolute
evil we cannot be sure that there is any; so many ways must the infinite
spirit have to awaken men to a sense of their own destiny.

I cannot better convey my thought than by recounting the essence of two
sermons that I heard some years ago from eminent preachers in different
American cities; the first was on the death of Charles Darwin. After a
very ornate service, the minister dwelt enthusiastically on the merits
of Darwin as a philosopher, described his system, and declared that his
own belief in the Deity of Christ, was confirmed in large measure by
Darwin's theory of the Selection of the Fittest. The statement was
startling at first, for the two doctrines seemed to point in opposite
directions, but the speaker probably meant that the Christ expressed all
the potentialities of human nature; that he was the Fittest; not a
miracle, not an exception to humanity, but the perfection of man; in
other words, a divine person. The other sermon turned on the murder of
Sisera (Judges iv, 18), as contrasted with a statement in the first
epistle of John (iv, 8), "God is love." The rector spoke of the
assassination of Sisera in terms of extreme abhorrence; called it
treacherous, cruel, base, and then said: "See what progress the human
mind has made from this period to that when John was written." The
common impression is that the _human_ mind had nothing to do with it, it
being the _divine_ mind that was alone in question. But what the
preacher meant was evidently this,--either that the divine mind dropped
thoughts into the human mind as fast as they could be appreciated, or
that the human mind, imperfect in development, apprehended all that it
could of the perfect mind. Whichever case we assume, the integrity of
the divine mind is secured, and at the same time the growth of the

At this point, the conception of the Broad Churchman's idea of the
inspiration of the Scripture must be dwelt upon, for the doctrine is
very remarkable, and throws a flood of light upon his whole conception
of the aim and purpose of Christianity. According to the common notion,
the Bible is literally the word of God, and men have nothing to do but
to submit themselves to its authority. They must suppress all natural
desires, all dictates of their moral sense, to this supreme standard of
truth and rectitude. According to this notion, the whole of man, as a
thoroughly corrupted being, is _subject_, in obedience to this law. The
second theory, adopted by the American Broad Churchman, holds that the
Bible _contains_ the word of God; and this implies that there may be a
part of the Bible that is not the word of God, and opens the way to an
indefinite amount of criticism, speculation, and doubt. The English
Broad Churchman holds, as I understand it, the common doctrine, but with
this immense difference. That whereas, according to the common notion,
the Bible is the word of God, he maintains that the whole object of the
Bible is to educate and uplift man. The word is a minister to human
needs. Through it, God is trying in various ways, by history, biography,
tale, and song, to warn, persuade, teach, inspire the human soul.
Sometimes he can do nothing but startle, shame, provoke; and the very
things we find fault with may be designed for moral education. The
Bible, itself, encourages this idea. Does not Paul preach
reconciliation? Does not John speak of God as love? God hardened the
heart of Pharaoh in order that he might show that He was stronger than
Pharaoh. Jacob was not altogether a lovely character, but the Lord
wrestled with him and lamed him, thus showing his own disapproval of the
patriarch's temper. David was a seducer, adulterer, and murderer, but he
_repented_, was ashamed, was sorrowful, and this repentance made him a
man after God's own heart. It was not that God _approved_ of his
conduct, but that he wanted to make us _disapprove_ of it. In like
manner Luther based his faith on the Bible, because it convicted him of
sin, and drove him to seek refuge for himself in Christ. The Church as
an organization has always this one purpose in view--to minister to the
soul of man. The "Articles" fairly throbbed with this conception. The
outrage committed by the "Evangelicals," men who insist upon everlasting
punishment and talk of doom, consists in their overlooking this divine
purpose towards humanity.

The _doctrines_ of the Church--the Deity of Christ, the Incarnation, the
Resurrection, the Ascension--bear this testimony, and are inexplicable
without it. But these doctrines simply convey one thought. The Christ
must be God, otherwise he could not exemplify the perfect love; he must
be Incarnate, otherwise he could not mingle with men. His Resurrection
teaches his absolute triumph over death; his Ascension is a pledge of
his union with God and his perpetual intercourse with God's children.

The two _rites_, Baptism and Communion, give the same idea. Baptism
imports a recognition of the duty to lead a Christian life; and
Communion imports a wish, on the part of all who partake of it, to enter
into the privilege of a perfect harmony with Christ. None of these
points are reached by criticism, or any array of texts, though passages
may be cited in confirmation of them. But the proof is derived from
experience, from the felt need of enlightenment and inspiration, from
prayer and the yearning after eternal life. No doubt it is taken for
granted that neither the Bible nor the Church expresses the _whole_ word
of God. The word is as large as the divine love, and this is infinite.
The complete word of God includes all nature, all history, and all life.

It will be understood that the Broad Church notion is only a theory and
rests entirely on its reasonableness. It is simply a modification of
Episcopalianism, and none but an Episcopalian would be likely to adopt
it. Its interest for us consists in its _human_ character, in its
earnestness for social reform, in its passionate desire to make
conscience and justice and freedom of the Spirit supreme in all human
affairs. It is essentially an ethical system with an ecclesiastical
addition and a heavenly purpose.

There is certainly a great difference between the Broad Church in
America and the Broad Church in England; there are no Thirty-Nine
Articles in this country; there is no National Church. The Broad
Churchman here is still a Churchman, but the system is much more elastic
and much more intellectual. The Church is to him also a divine
institution, but not a final establishment; and it becomes divine by
virtue of its helpfulness in imparting the divine life and its power of
human service. The sacraments have become symbols, venerable from their
antiquity, but more venerable from their use. The Broad Churchman is an
orthodox believer, but he accepts only the simplest creeds, and he
interprets them in accordance with the rational principles of thought,
and with his fundamental conception of Christianity, holding not to the
written letter, but to the real meaning of the Confession. This meaning
is, he maintains, easily reconcilable with the idea that all revelation
is made to a living mind,--whether that of a race or an individual,--and
that the Bible is merely the record of it. No _book_, in his estimation,
can be inspired. This, coupled with a belief in the unlimited progress
of the natural conscience, brings the system within the category of
modern arrangements.

The idea that man is _developed_ into the divine life, not _converted_
to it, seems to be the heart of the system. The writings of F. D.
Maurice are full of it. He said that he did not know what the Broad
Church was, and disclaimed any position in it; yet he is its reputed
father, and certainly held its cardinal doctrine. This was the soul of
his teaching; this dictated his likes and his dislikes; this animated
his dissent from the Evangelicals on the one hand and the Rationalists
on the other; this made him cling to the "Articles"; this made him love
the Church. I cannot better convey my notion of the Broad Churchman's
credence than by quoting some passages from Maurice:

     I think that the _ground-work of this thought_ and this humanity
     _is laid bare_ in the Thirty-nine Articles; _that for that
     ground-work_ [namely, the living God, the living Word] all our
     different schools are trying to produce feeble and crumbling
     substitutes; that we must recur to it if we would pass the narrow
     dimensions of Calvinism, Anglicanism, Romanism; if we would learn
     what a message we have for Jews, Mahometans, Brahmins, Buddhists,
     for all the nations of the earth, as well as our poor people at

     I cannot doubt that this belief [the confession of a God, who was,
     and is, and is to come] is latent in every man now; that we are all
     living, moving, having our being in this God, and that He does
     reveal Himself to His creatures gradually, before He is revealed in
     His fulness of glory.

     I do perceive that if I have any work in the world, it is to bear
     witness of this name [the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy
     Ghost], not as expressing certain relations, however profound, in
     the divine nature, but as the underground of all fellowship among
     men and angels, as that which will at last bind all into one,
     satisfying all the craving of the reason as well as of the heart,
     meeting the desires and intuitions that are scattered through all
     the religions of the world.

     The Church must either fulfil its witness of the redemption for
     mankind or be cut off. And I cannot help thinking that a time is at
     hand when we shall awaken to this conviction, and when we shall
     perceive that what we call our individual salvation means nothing,
     and that our faith in it becomes untenable when we separate it from
     the salvation which Christ wrought out for the world by His
     incarnation and sacrifice, resurrection and ascension.

     He has been pleased to reveal to me in His Son the brightness of
     His glory, His absolute love. On that point I have a right to be
     certain; he who says I have not, rejects the Bible and disbelieves
     the incarnation of the Lord. I will not give up an inch of this
     ground; it is a matter of life and death.

     By baptism we claim the position which Christ has claimed for all
     mankind.... More and more I am led to ask myself what a Gospel to
     mankind must be, whether it must not have some other ground than
     the fall of Adam and the sinful nature of man.... No doctrine can
     be so at variance as this, with the notion that it is a Gospel
     which men have need of, and in their inmost hearts are craving for.

Why is not this system sufficient? Simply because the claim that Christ
is God, does not seem made out to severely critical minds. Such as these
must hold even the Broad Church to be a mythology, beautiful and
innocent, but still a mythology. The word "mythology" implies no
disparagement. A mythology is simply the poetical form of an idea, and
takes its character from the nature of the ideas it represents. The
pagan mythology is on this account very different from the Christian,
and a mythology that has universal love as its basis may well be called
innocent and beautiful. To the doctrine of trinity, philosophically
considered, even Unitarian scholars make no objection. What they cannot
accept is the deity of Jesus as an historical person. The Christ is not,
in their opinion, an historical person, but a doctrine, not identical
with the man of the New Testament. The Divine Being has never, in their
estimation, appeared on earth. They only who can put aside criticism,
can suppress it, can regard it but as one of many manifestations of
mind, can fix their eyes on a church for society at large and not for
individuals, will be likely to accept it, and they will on the ground
that it is altogether human, a church for mankind.

The last phase in the development of the moral sentiment is represented
by the "Ethical Societies." It is natural that the origin of these
should be Jewish, for the Jews are unencumbered by the mysteries of the
Christian theology; their genius is for social organization, and the
moral element is very large in their religion. It is natural, too, that
the system should be purer here than in England. Some of the members of
the "Cambridge Ethical Society" are members of the Church of England,
and have to be warned not to set themselves needlessly in opposition to
the work of the Christian churches. The "Edinburgh Ethical Club" is
mainly a debating society. In America it is usual to have a lecturer,
and stated services on Sunday. But these services are very simple, nay,
even bare; there is no prayer, and no scripture, no architecture or art
or poetry; but there is an intense earnestness, nay, enthusiasm, for
social reform. There are kindergartens for the poor children of the
streets, there are classes for the untaught, libraries for the
workingmen, plans for better lodging and employment for the families of
artisans. There is no fixed doctrine in regard to the origin of the
moral sentiments, lest any should be alienated; the object being to
combine all who have at heart the moral interests of mankind. The
peculiarity of these societies is not so much that they lay emphasis on
the moral as distinct from the spiritual interests, or aim to break down
the dividing line between Religion and Ethics, as it is that they rest
upon conscience as the supreme authority, that they assume its practical
function, build upon it as the one and only thing absolutely known.
There is no pretence of following, even at a distance, the charities of
the old churches with their vast funds, their immense organizations,
their heaps of tracts, their legions of missionaries, all employed in
calling unbelievers into the fold. The object is to elevate all mankind
by appealing to their moral instincts, on the ground of their inherent
ability to rise in the scale of being.

To make their position clear let me quote the words of the founder of
these societies, contained in an article entitled "The Freedom of
Ethical Fellowship," in the first number of the _International Journal
of Ethics_:

     It is the aim of the Ethical Societies to extend the area of moral
     co-operation so as to include a part, at least, of the inner moral
     life; to unite men of divers opinions and beliefs in the common
     endeavor to explore the field of duty; to gain clearer perceptions
     of right and wrong; to study with thoroughgoing zeal the practical
     problems of social, political, and individual ethics, and to embody
     the new insight in manners and institutions....

     It would be a wrong and a hindrance to the further extension of
     truth to raise above our opinions the superstructure of a social
     institution. For institutions in their nature are conservative;
     they dare not, without imperilling their stability, permit a too
     frequent inspection or alteration of their foundations.... The
     subject part of mankind, in most places, might, with Egyptian
     bondage expect Egyptian darkness, were not the candle of the Lord
     set up by himself in men's minds, which it is impossible for the
     breath or power of man wholly to extinguish. It is to this "candle
     of the Lord set up in men's minds" that we look for illumination.
     It is in the light which it sheds that we would read the problems
     of conduct and teach others to read them. We appeal directly to the
     conscience of the present age, and of the civilized portion of
     mankind. There remains as a residue a common deposit of moral
     truth, a common stock of moral judgments, which we may call the
     common conscience. It is upon this common conscience that we
     build.... The contents of the common conscience we would clarify
     and classify, to the end that they may become the conscious
     possession of all classes; and in order to enrich and enlarge the
     conscience, the method we would follow is to begin with cases in
     which the moral judgment is already clear, the moral rule already
     accepted; and to show that the same rule, the same judgment,
     applies to other cases, which, because of their greater complexity,
     are less transparent to the mental eye....

     And here it may be appropriate to introduce a few reflections on
     the relations of moral practice to ethical theory in religious
     belief. To many it will appear that the logic of our position must
     lead us to underestimate the value of philosophical and religious
     doctrines in connection with morality, and that, having excluded
     this from our basis of fellowship, we shall inevitably drift into a
     crude empiricism. I may be permitted to say that precisely the
     opposite is at least our aim, and that among the objects we propose
     to ourselves, none are dearer than the advancement of ethical
     theory and the upbuilding of religious conviction. The Ethical
     Society is a society of persons who are bent on being taught
     clearer perceptions of right and wrong, and being shown how to
     improve conduct. At least, let us hasten to add, the ideal of the
     society is that of a body of men who shall have this bent. Is it
     vain to hope that there will in time arise those who will render
     them the service they require....

     It is safe to say that every step forward in religion was due to a
     quickening of the moral impulses; that moral progress is the
     condition of religious progress; that the good life is the soil out
     of which the religious life grows. The truths of religion are
     chiefly two,--that there is a reality other than that of the
     senses, and that the ultimate reality in things is, in a sense
     transcending our comprehension, akin to the moral nature of men.
     But how shall we acquaint ourselves with this super-sensible? The
     ladder of science does not reach so far. And the utmost stretch of
     the speculative reason cannot attain to more than the abstract
     postulate of an infinite, which, however, is void of the essential
     attributes of divinity. Only the testimony of the moral life can
     support a vital conviction of this sort....

     The Ethical Society is friendly to genuine religion anywhere and
     everywhere, because it vitalizes religious doctrines by pouring
     into them the contents of spiritual meaning.... A new moral
     earnestness must precede the rise of larger religious ideals; for
     the new religious synthesis which many long for, will not be a
     fabrication, but a growth. It will not steal upon us as a thief in
     the night, or burst upon us as lightning from the sky, but will
     come in time as a result of the gradual, moral evolution of modern
     society, as the expression of higher moral aspirations, and a
     response to deeper moral needs.

In his famous essay on "Worship," Emerson says:

     There will be a new church founded on moral science, at first cold
     and naked, a babe in a manger again, the algebra and mathematics of
     ethical law, the church of men to come, without shawm or psaltery
     or sackbut; but it will have heaven and earth for its beams and
     rafters; science for symbol and illustration; it will fast enough
     gather beauty, music, picture, poetry.

Is this the church that Emerson predicted? It looks like it. Already we
seem to hear the shawms and sackbuts. Already there are desires after a
more rich and melodious administration.

The last number of the _International Journal of Ethics_ contains two
articles: one on "The Inner Life in Relation to Morality," the other on
"The Ethics of Doubt," which suggest a transcendental ground for moral
beliefs; and they who dissent from this position surround _action_ with
an ideal solemnity. At all events it is something to see, even at a
distance, a city that hath foundations.


In the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ of October 15, 1860, M. Renan wrote a
remarkable article on the "Future of Religion in Modern Society." This
paper of course dealt largely with questions that were interesting at
that time, but it also contains very acute observations on the whole
subject, which are of universal concern. His conclusions are that
neither Judaism nor Romanism nor the established forms of Protestantism
will constitute the coming faith, which must be spiritual (that is, free
of space and time), undogmatical, and enfranchised. "The religious
question," he says, "finds its solution in liberty.... The liberal
principle pre-eminently is that man has a soul, that he is to be reached
only through the soul, that nothing is of value save as it effects a
change in the soul. An inflexible justice, granting with inexorable
firmness liberty to all, even to those who, were they masters, would
refuse it to their adversaries, is the only issue that reason discovers
for the grave problems raised in our time." This essay, along with that
of Emile de Laveleye of Liège in Belgium, on the "Religious Future of
Civilized Communities," written in 1876, sums up the whole question. It
only remains to apply their principles to America.

Many dread the prevalence of Roman Catholicism. I confess I never could
share in that apprehension. For if there is anything certain it is the
unchangeableness of the lines of division that separate the three great
regions of the earth, each having its own faith. There is the Greek
Church, which rules in Asia; the Latin Church, which is confined to the
Latin races, and is strongest in Southern Italy, where the people are
most ignorant and supine; and the Protestant Church, which prevails in
Northern Europe among the Germanic nations. As Renan says:

     Nothing will come of the mutual struggle of the three Christian
     families; their equilibrium is as well assured as that of the three
     great races which share between them the world; their separation
     will secure the future against the excessive predominance of a
     single religious power, just as the division of Europe must forever
     prevent the return of that _orbis romanus_, that closed circle,
     which allowed no possible escape from the tyranny that unity has

Moreover, the Roman Catholic faith is essentially _Italian_, and as
such can have no permanent influence in Germany, England, or America.
The great popes of the Middle Ages, whose genius raised the papacy to
power and splendor, were Italians. Italy, until a few years ago, was
isolated; not a great political power, as it is now, among other powers
of Europe, nor drawn by political affiliations into the schemes of other
dominions. Besides, the Catholic Church had the advantages of the
Italian genius for organization, command, wisdom in practical affairs.
Then, too, it had the immense benefit of the old Roman treasures of art,
which gave a glory to the system. These considerations alone would make
it impossible that Romanism, in its foreign form, should ever become the
religion of the United States. There may be another kind of
ecclesiasticism, but without the ancient authority; an ecclesiasticism
which stands for pomp, ornament, display, beauty, but not for anything
more. There is evidence that every form of religion here is disposed to
take on elements of decoration,--architecture, music, stained glass,
drapery, pictures, and monuments; but this is only a sign of increasing
wealth, not of increasing subjection.

In addition to all this, the _genius_ of the American people is
strongly against anything like submission to authority. The love of
liberty is exceedingly powerful. It is claimed that Romanism is not
committed to any form of government, that it is as favorable to
republican institutions as to monarchical; but this is not the opinion
of Renan, who was born and trained in the church, and who is therefore
entitled to speak with knowledge; nor is it the opinion of other
scholars, Martineau for instance, who says in his article on the "Battle
of the Churches" (_Westminster Review_, January, 1851):

     We are convinced it cannot occupy the scope which English
     traditions and English usage have secured; that every step it may
     make is an encroachment upon wholesome liberty; that it is innocent
     only where it is insignificant, and where it is ascendant will
     neither part with power nor use it well, and that it must needs
     raise to the highest pitch the common vice of tyranny and
     democracy,--the relentless crushing of minorities.

But whether this charge of absolutism be just or not, Romanism has been
so long associated as a polity with monarchical governments that it has
contracted a habit of domineering, and the people can never be persuaded
that the papacy is democratic in its constitution.

Americans are very suspicious, too, of any interference on the part of
the government. If a system demands an army, a palace, lands, it must
pay for them out of its own private means. A generation or more ago it
was possible for an administration to give for a merely nominal sum, in
the very heart of a large city, great estates to one denomination. This
is possible no longer. Every sect must vindicate itself, and stand on
its own feet; this alone would make it impossible for a church so poor
as the Catholic to establish itself in this country on any terms of

The desire for change which is inherent in the American mind must also
prove fatal in the end to any claim of absolute stability. Protestantism
is therefore better for Americans than Romanism is, because it is more
portable, more various, more accommodating to popular tastes and

There is no disposition to undervalue the work of the Catholic Church.
Its great saints, its heroic martyrs, its stupendous missions, its
enormous philanthropy, its influence in educating and controlling masses
of people, cannot be exaggerated; and still it is destined to wield an
immense influence as a spiritual power over the human race; but it never
again can be the absolute system it once was. However it may commend
itself to certain classes in our population, it must always be simply
one department in the universal church.

But it will be said that the Catholic Church may _accommodate_ itself to
republican institutions. M. Renan doubts whether any radical change can
be made. He says:

     Catholicism, persuaded that it works for the truth, will always
     endeavor to enlist the state in its defence or its spread....
     Catholicism is, in fact, the believer's country, far more than is
     the land of his birth. The stronger a religion is, the more
     effective it is in this way.... More and more have Catholics been
     brought to think that they derive life and salvation from Rome. It
     is especially worth remarking that the new Catholic conquests
     exhibit the most sensitiveness on this point. The old provincial
     Catholic, whose faith belonged to the soil, has less need of the
     Pope, and is much less alarmed at the storms that menace him, than
     the new Catholics, who are coming fresh to Catholicism, and regard
     the Pope, after the new system, as the author and defender of their
     faith.... Catholicism has been seduced into becoming a religion
     essentially political. The Pope becomes the actual sovereign of the

But supposing that such an alteration is possible, that the church can
abase its pretensions to supremacy over all other sects, that Romanism
simply melts into our society,--in this case, the papacy, as usually
understood, becomes simply a form of church government like
Presbyterianism or Congregationalism or Episcopacy; Catholicism becomes
a purely spiritual faith, and, as such, is not only harmless but

The religion, therefore, of America cannot be ecclesiastical; neither
can it be dogmatic. I was on the point of saying _theological_; but
there is a great difference between theological and dogmatical.
Dogmatism is theology raised to power. Theology there always must be;
some account of the Supreme Power in the world; some report of the
contents of the Divine Mind. The present indifference to theology is
hardly a good sign, unless it be an indifference to theology as usually
regarded--that is, to the old systems of theology. The future religion,
for this reason, cannot be Protestantism. For Protestantism is
essentially dogmatical. It claims superiority to Romanism on the one
hand and to infidelity on the other. Furthermore, it is identified with
the Bible. Now, modern scientific criticism has so riddled the Bible,
that it no longer can serve as a foundation. And this foundation being
taken away, Protestantism must lose its corner-stone, and rest entirely
on a rational basis. Likewise, Protestantism encourages sectarianism. It
exists, in fact, only in numerous parties, each jealous of the rest and
seeking to build up its own establishment without regard to the
well-being of opposing bodies. There is a dream of unity amid all this
diversity. But such unity can be gained only by the sacrifice of the
very peculiarity of division, and the admission of certain things which
all have in common; and such a reconciliation, besides the tyranny it
engenders, cannot be desired, as it would be fatal to all activity.
Sectarianism itself, apart from the "hatred, malice, and
uncharitableness" which accompany it, may not of necessity be an evil;
but sectarianism as it exists now is an evil of very great moment, and
yet, without something of this alienation between sects Protestantism
would decline.

Is Unitarianism then to be the coming religion? I cannot think so.
Unitarianism is but a form of Protestantism; the most attenuated form.
It is committed to the Bible; held to it indeed by a very fine thread,
but still held to it. No doubt it has gained greatly in the last years.
The annual circulation of its tracts has risen in twenty-five or thirty
years from fifteen thousand to three hundred thousand copies. A quarter
of a century ago there was but one Unitarian church on the Pacific
coast, now there are eighteen. A generation since it had, in the whole
region from the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains, only fourteen
churches, now there are ninety; and in the same period, sixty-three new
societies have come into being in the New England and Middle States.
Still, as compared with the great sects, it is very small, and never can
be their rival. And this because, however interesting and precious it
may be to some people, it lacks, and must ever lack, owing to its
critical character, the elements of a great religion, the passionateness
that charms the people, and the moral enthusiasm that catches up the few
men of genius. The period of "pale negations" is past; but in proportion
as the system becomes positive it tends more and more towards the
principle that animates the ethical societies, namely, its supreme
devotion to the moral law. Thus it stands at the beginning, not at the
end, of the line of advance, and has all the work of building up to do,
before it can grow in general influence.

No, the religion of the future in America must be of the spirit; not
merely as being independent of form and dogma, but as cherishing a great
hope for the soul, and a great aspiration after perfection. No doubt
every spirit must have a form of some kind, but it need not be a fixed,
established, dominant imposition. M. Renan touched the matter exactly
when commenting on the interview of Jesus with the woman of Samaria:
"Woman, the hour is coming and now is, when men shall worship neither on
this mountain nor at Jerusalem, but when the true worshippers shall
worship the Father in spirit and in truth." Renan says:

     When the Christ pronounced this word, he became really a Son of
     God, and for the first time spoke the word upon which eternal
     religion shall repose. He founded the worship without date, without
     country, which shall endure to the end of time. He created a heaven
     of pure souls, where one finds what one asks in vain for on the
     earth, the perfect nobleness of the children of God, absolute
     purity, total abstraction from the impurities of the world, the
     liberty which has its complete amplitude only in the world of
     thought.... The love of God conceived as the type of all
     perfection, the love of man, charity, his whole doctrine is reduced
     to this; nothing can be less theological, less sacerdotal, nothing
     more philosophical, more profound, or more simple.

The coming religion must also be humane and social. Intellectual it must
certainly be, but it must, too, be emotional and adoring. There are
three implications in it--a spiritual nature in man, a living power in
the universe, an eternal life of progress and attainment, and these are
assured only by reason.

The coming religion, we may add, must be Christian in name, because
Christianity as an ideal faith has worked itself into our common life.
It is the soul of our laws, of our customs, of our institutions. All
assume its authority; all respect its sanction. The great thinkers of
the world conspire in thinking so. Thus Goethe says:

     Let intellectual culture progress; let natural science extend our
     knowledge; let the human mind grow; it will never outstrip the
     grandeur of Christianity, nor its moral culture.

Strauss, in his essay on "The Transient and Permanent in Christianity,"
declares that humanity never will be without religion; and Laveleye

     It is Christianity which has shed abroad in the world the idea of
     fellowship, from which issue the aspirations after equality which
     threaten the actual social order; it is also the influence of
     Christianity which arrests the explosion of this subversive force,
     and its principles, better comprised and better applied, will bring
     back by degrees peace in society.

Ours is a scientific age. There is a general demand for knowledge, a
desire for demonstrated truth. Many will believe nothing that they
cannot see with their eyes. In this sense, and in this sense alone, it
is true that facts count for nothing in the domain of religion. But
there are facts of the inner world that are quite as important as any
facts in the outer world,--facts of the imagination; facts of love;
facts of faith. Nothing is truer than that we are saved by hope. Science
has enlarged the world; has beautified it; has made it look orderly,
harmonious, poetic; but the realm of the known is very small indeed as
compared with the realm of the unknown, and the more we discover, the
more we find that there is to discover. The realm of the inner world is
immensely large; and thousands of years must elapse before we discover
its contents, if we ever do. The language of James Martineau is as true
to-day as it was when the words were spoken, more than fifty years ago:

     Until we touch upon the mysterious, we are not in contact with
     religion; nor are any objects reverently regarded by us, except
     such as, from their nature or their vastness, are felt to transcend
     our comprehension.... The station which the soul occupies when its
     devout affections are awakened, is always this; on the twilight
     between immeasurable darkness and refreshing light; on the confines
     between the seen and the unseen; where a little is discerned and an
     infinitude concealed; where a few distinct conceptions stand in
     confessed inadequacy, as symbols of ineffable realities.... And if
     this be true, the sense of what we do not know is as essential to
     our religion as the impression of what we do know: the thought of
     the boundless, the incomprehensible, must blend in our mind with
     the perception of the clear and true: the little knowledge we have
     must be clung to as the margin of an invisible immensity; and all
     our positive ideas be regarded as the mere float to show the
     surface of the infinite deep.

Shall I say that some form of theism will be the religion of America in
the future? Not the literal theism of a generation or more ago, with its
individual God, its contriving Providence, its supplicatory prayer, its
future of retribution; nor yet the theism of Theodore Parker, of an
infinite God revealed in consciousness, "the Being, infinitely powerful,
infinitely wise, infinitely just, infinitely loving, and infinitely
holy." It well may resemble the system described by Francis W. Newman in
his book called "Theism," published in London in 1858. In this work he
describes a religion based on conscience, without regard to any form of
professed faith, yet covering in its theory and practice the whole
region of ideal ethics. Different minds approach the problem from
different directions. Mr. F. E. Abbot ("Scientific Theism," 1885)
appeals to science; Josiah Royce printed a volume in 1885 entitled "The
Religious Aspect of Philosophy," wherein he pursues the line of
sympathetic thought; James Martineau in his "Study of Religion" (1888),
bases his system on the moral sense; but all three arrive at the same
point--a supreme mind in creation.

We must be careful not to confound Theism with Deism, for though both
are the same word--one Greek and one Latin--and mean the same thing, yet
they stand for entirely different conceptions. Deism is a purely
negative system, weighed down with denials. It is content when it has
rejected what it calls all supernatural adjuncts--miracles, revelations,
an inspired Scripture. Its face is set towards the past, not toward the
future, and it is simply what is left of the old systems of belief,
having no positive philosophy of its own. But Theism is a positive,
fresh, original faith. It gazes forward, and builds on the natural
consciousness of man, making no criticism on previous modes of belief.
It is full of hope and enthusiasm, looking towards something that is
before it, not scorning but believing. All that it needs in order to
become a popular faith is a poetical element, something imaginative,
symbolical, picturesque. The intellectual requirements it already
possesses. It is affirmative; it is universal.

Neither must this kind of theism be identified with natural religion,
unless natural religion be made to comprehend facts of the inner as well
as the outer world--facts of psychology as well as of physiology; facts
of mind as well as of body. Such a theism is not a mere reminiscence,
either, of an ancient faith; for every form of mediatorial religion,
however modified, simplified, "enlightened," as it is called, leaves
something of its temper behind it. The intellect is haunted by old modes
of truth; the heart lingers around the ancient places of reverence; the
conscience refers to some antique authority; the soul cannot pray except
in the language of a pater-noster or a psalm. A scent as of roses may
hang round the human mind; but the roses will be grown in some garden of
the East, not in ours. Such a theism as I am thinking of will be
grounded in Ethical Law. You may call it "Christian," if you will,
because the word _Christian_ expresses the highest form of the moral
sentiment, and carries a supreme authority to the human conscience; but
on the _human conscience_ it must rest. It will be a noble, pure faith,
giving a welcome to all knowledge, bright with anticipation, warm with
enthusiasm. As John Weiss has said so much better than I can what I
mean, I will quote a passage from him. It occurs in "American Religion"
(page 67):

     Cannot the power which sustains, without budging from the spot, my
     personal vitality, sustain and nourish the immediate conscience of
     which that vitality makes me aware? I cannot hurt my health, nor
     tell a lie, nor commit a fraud, nor strike my brother, nor leave
     the beggar in the ditch, nor parade my superiorities, without
     knowing it by direct intimation. My pains are its rebukes, my
     delights its sympathies, my hopes its suggestions, my sacrifices
     its impost, my heavenly longings its apology for haunting me
     forever. There is a power in which I live and move and have my
     being, in which I eat, drink, breathe, sleep, wake, love and hate,
     marry, and protect a home. Is it incapable of sustaining all my
     functions of true religion on the spot as well as these? Do I have
     these without a mediator, and must I travel for the rest? When I
     undertake to breathe by tradition it will be time for me to get a
     sense of God in the same way.

The Dignity of Human Nature must be our watchword; of human _nature_,
not of human _character_. For human _nature_ denotes the _capacities_ of
man, what he _ought_ to be and _shall_ be, not what he _is_. Human
character expresses only the undeveloped condition of man, and is
therefore not to be taken as a final stand. This doctrine does not
belong to a sect or a church, but to all mankind. It assumes an entirely
new conception of the basis of religious faith; it makes a new
beginning; it starts a new system; it exactly reverses the ancient order
of thought, and builds up from a completely original foundation.

The weightiest objections proceed from the undeveloped character of
man. For example, the common saying that conscience is crude, confused,
either does not exist at all, or erects inconsistent standards of right
and wrong. But if a high criterion of morality is established, as it is,
it has an educating and sustaining power. Every saint attests it; all
the bibles of the world voice it; revelation owes to it its authority.
Great souls do but raise the common level on which common souls tread;
as the discovery of the ancient pavements in the Forum at Rome opens to
ordinary feet the way that statesmen and heroes went. When I was in
Salem, a young man who was very much addicted to drink, being
remonstrated with, urged that he could not help it, that he was born so,
just as another was born to praise and pray. His appetite for ardent
spirits was just as natural to him as the preacher's appetite for
spiritual things. His argument could not be refuted, but I always
thought that in his hours of reflection, if he had any, he must have
despised himself. At all events, the outside observer would class him
with a lower order of humanity; the fixed rule of conscience being a
universal judge.

Again, the slowness of moral advance is flung in our teeth; the
stubbornness of vice and evil. But we must give time for improvement and
cultivation. All good things must wait--coal, petroleum, gas,
electricity; the fertilizing qualities of guano were known and announced
a full generation before the industrial world acted on the discovery;
now millions of dollars are made by its importation. We are so used to
thinking of the globe as round, and of men as living at the antipodes
just as we live here, that we cannot believe that once it was deemed
impossible for human creatures to live with their heads downward and
their feet upward, and to walk like flies upon a ceiling. None but
hopelessly crazy or foolish people were supposed to entertain such a
notion. So the time will come when it shall be as natural for men to do
right as to breathe; when all kinds of injustice, cruelty, and tyranny
will be instinctively abandoned. When that time does come, men will be
unable to believe that the ages ever were when men could make brutes of
themselves or brutally treat each other. An eminent divine, commenting
on a passage in Matthew, xviii., 15--"Moreover, if thy brother shall
trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between him and thee
alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he
will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the
mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he
shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect
to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a
publican,"--said: "This is equivalent to saying, 'You must begin all
over again; must start fresh from the beginning.'" This was very bad
exegesis, but it was excellent morality; even the "heathen man and the
publican" holds in his bosom all the possibilities of human nature; and
we are bound to believe that in time the like of him may be saintly.

The decline of faith in religion, the passion for material
things--money, fame, luxury,--is often cited as a proof that man is
going downward; but may not this be a simple return to honesty and a
rudimental integrity; a disposition to depend on one's self, and not on
any mediator or redeemer? Let us build then in hope and faith, for,
after all, these are the great architects. A listener to an eminent
divine once said that when he got up to speak a radiance seemed to grow
round his head; the great walls of a temple seemed to rise above him;
the audience was composed of all nations, all sorts and conditions of
men, and a choir of seraphs made the music; and yet this man spoke in a
small, low-browed hall to a scanty audience, and the hymns were badly
sung by a voluntary company. Such power has a great conviction; and when
a deep conviction like that is extended and confirmed, the visible
church will match the invisible, and shepherds will again hear the songs
of angels.


The course of spiritual advance is traced with difficulty and
hesitation. It is the most obscure phase of the general problem of
progress, which is almost insoluble. There are so many currents and
counter-currents; so many tributaries; so many swift torrents and still
bays; so many times the stream seems moving in the opposite
direction--it is not surprising if some have concluded that there was no
progress at all, that we only moved in a circle, went over the same
ground again and again, and even marched backwards; what some counted
gain others counted loss. A keen examination suggests that on the whole
advance has been made, allowance being conceded for many a turn and

The law of evolution may be considered established, but the method of
evolution is hidden. The law of hereditary descent may be admitted, and
yet the lines of hereditary descent are by no means obvious. Tendencies
may even run in parallel lines, may aid each other, may confuse each
other, may neutralize each other, may go very far or lie close at hand,
and in any individual instance it is almost impossible to find how they

In my own case the inferences of temperament followed each other. During
the first fifty years of my life I was mainly under the influence of my
father's temperament. I sang, wrote hymns and poems, sent pieces to the
papers, was sanguine, inclined to take a happy view of all experiences;
but at the same time I was conscious of another train of thought which
struggled fitfully with the first, acquiring more and more power until
at last it gained the ascendency, and I found myself more inclined to
conservatism, as it is called, to a grave, sober, serious regard for
existing institutions and modes of opinion. It is said that this might
have been the effect of years, inasmuch as after middle life one is very
apt to experience a change of sentiment. But in my own case time will
hardly explain the phenomenon, for long before I came to middle age I
was aware of this less hopeful tendency in my constitution. It was my
mother's influence succeeding my father's. And though it never entirely
prevailed, I can see how it may have shadowed my visions of the future.
And it makes me somewhat distrustful of the entire sanity of my
criticism. I am afraid of not being hopeful enough.

I have sometimes suspected myself of a too critical disposition, a
propensity to discover defects in men and opinion, to look at the dark
side of systems that were repudiated; and in the effort to correct the
aberrations of a literal estimate I may have gone too far in the
opposite direction, rendering more than justice to antagonistic
doctrines. But this, if it was an error, was certainly not an error to
be ashamed of. For say what we will, the partial man is not the whole
man, nor is cold perception true perception. There must be sympathy in
every act of judgment, as Dr. Diman wisely wrote ("The Theistic
Argument," p. 32): "In the pursuit of the highest truth not one faculty
but all faculties need to be enlisted." Every system, however formal or
dogmatical it may have become, had in the beginning its spiritual
aspect; it was piously, if not humanely, meant; and in order to be
rightly comprehended, should be surveyed from the inside. The most
repulsive doctrine has something to urge in its favor, and it is the
duty of the true rationalist to find out what it may be.

If the inclination to take a common-sense view of opinions was derived
from my mother's side, a strong democratic bent was primarily due to
her. My grandfather was a poor boy who earned his fortune by the simple
qualities of industry, integrity, perseverance, independence,
faithfulness, honesty,--virtues which he bequeathed to his children.
These inherited dispositions were encouraged by the social influences of
the public school, which, in spite of its laborious method of imparting
a knowledge of Latin and Greek, threw the lads together, thus breaking
down artificial distinctions; and also by my experience at Harvard
College, where scholarship was associated with mere manhood, and was
cultivated by youth of all conditions. The anti-slavery agitation was a
practical instructor in humanity, indicating as it did the widest
sympathy of race. An assumption of the essential identity of all sorts
of mind was a cardinal principle of transcendentalism, while my later
experiences confirmed these early tendencies. My societies in Jersey
City and New York were popular in their composition. The "Free Religious
Association" was based on universal sentiments. The clerical profession
was, in my day, broadly human, so that aristocratic proclivities had
small hope of prevailing. In fact, the lessons which I learned from
R. W. Emerson and Wendell Phillips sank deeply in, and became clearer as
years went on.

One can hardly say that learning is retrogressive when one thinks of Dr.
Döllinger, of Germany; Ernest Renan, of France; Benjamin Jowett, Arthur
P. Stanley, James Martineau, of England; but erudition must, as a rule,
be conservative; for it associates the mind directly with the past,
binds one down to facts of history, and lays great stress on the
testimony of evidence. It still is true that abundance of luggage is a
sign that one is far from home. And they who can move quickly with all
this weight upon them must have extraordinary genius.

An indifference to dogma is also characteristic of a speculative
reformer; and I cannot recollect the time when I cared much for
doctrinal differences. All questions were to me open questions. I had
doubts about everything, and never suffered acute pain from such doubts.
The influence of Jesus, the immortality of the soul, the existence of
God, were always exposed to misgivings. Everything active was
interesting to me, whether it looked toward "radicalism" or not. This
was an advantage, not merely because it saved me from suffering, but
because it enabled me to face all emergencies.

But some one will say: Does not the love of truth count for anything?
Yes, undoubtedly it does. But lovers of truth do not by any means belong
to the same school, or look for light from the same quarter; some are
Romanists, some Protestants; some have no religion at all. Lovers of
truth are found in all denominations, from Calvinist to Unitarian, from
Christian to Buddhist. Truth exists for us in layers. There are truths
of the letter and truths of the spirit; there is truth to fact, and
truth to fancy; there is truth to the individual soul, and truth to the
public conscience; there is truth to the heart, to the moral sense, to
the spiritual intuition: but it will not do to charge lack of
truthfulness upon anybody simply because he does not hold the same
opinion with ourselves. M. Renan somewhere says that in order to judge a
system one must have been in it as a disciple, and outside of it as a
critic. But then only a very extraordinary person can do this. As a
disciple he must be earnest, intelligent, devoted; as a critic he must
be without prejudice, without animosity, and without guile. Thus the
point of view must of necessity be individual. There can be no general
or absolute standard of judgment. One thing only is certain: the fact of
spiritual progress; but what constitutes this progress nobody can tell.
Since 1822 till now the change in _Unitarianism_ has been immense, and
it has consisted in the gradual supremacy of reason over tradition, but
it has been almost too sudden and too swift. Progress had better be
slow, in order that it may be sure. One step at a time, for the reason
that only one step at a time can be taken safely. We must not jump at
conclusions. There must be unbounded catholicity of thought, but it must
not be made up of indifference, concession, and idle compliance.

Experience has taught me many things--this among others, that there is
no final criterion of truth, not criticism, or "science," or philosophy,
or liberty. There is no question any more of "destructive" and
"constructive." The Supreme Power is always constructive, and the
Supreme Power is sure at last to prevail. There is an old Greek fable,
that Apollo once challenged Jupiter to shoot. The sun-god shot an arrow
to the very confines of the earth; then Jupiter, at one stride, reached
the limits of creation, and said, "Where shall I shoot?" We are not
Jupiters; we are not Apollos; but we can take our stand and shoot our
arrows a little way into the dark. The utmost we can do is to be
steadfast in our own places; be faithful to our own calling; draw our
own shaft to the head. Father Hecker said a brave thing to me when, on
declining my request that he would speak before the Free Religious
Association, he took the ground that in a few weeks Catholicism would
enter Boston in triumph. I honored the Broad Churchman, who said to me
once that he always preached Christ as an historical person, and wished
he had a church big enough to hold all humanity; and I admired the
Presbyterian clergyman who commended the sincerity of Dr. Briggs, whom
some regarded as a heretic. Fidelity to one's own word and gift is the
one thing needful here.

Whether it be the tendency of modern thought, or whether it be not, to
abandon the Christian religion and cast discredit on every kind of faith
held by the churches and professors throughout the world, cannot, in
this generation, be decided. In any event, we shall not be left
desolate. For nature will remain, with its unfathomable resources of use
and beauty. The mind will remain, with its infinite faculties of reason
and imagination. The heart will remain, with its insatiable affections
and desires. Conscience will remain, with its sense of duty. The
sentiments of awe, wonder, admiration, worship, will not expire. The
reconstructive powers will still be active, and every creative quality
will continue in full operation. Knowledge, literature, art, will live
and flourish in new manifestations; and no original capacity will lie

We should have learned by this time that nothing dies before its hour
has come; that processes of recuperation keep even pace with processes
of decay; that forms alone perish while principles endure; that living
things become more mighty and glorious as they throw off encumbrances;
that strength always in the end accompanies simplicity.

The idea of God has passed through several phases, and each new phase
has been a gain. The deity who was an individual has become a person;
the attributes of personality, as commonly understood, have disappeared,
so that pantheism has succeeded to a mechanical theism; God has become a
name for our most exalted feelings, so that instead of saying "God is
Spirit," some read "Spirit is God"; yet the ancient reverence more than
persists, is on the increase. And if the course of disintegration of the
old clumsy conception should go on, there need be no apprehension that
loving veneration will decline.

The future life is no longer associated with retribution, and
immortality means opportunity instead of doom. Should the doctrine of
moral influence follow upon the doctrine of spiritual progression, the
essential significance of the tenet would be preserved, for that is
ethical not individual.

Prayer, too, is no more a begging for favors, or an act of
intercession. Supplication for outward benefits has given place to
petition for spiritual gifts, and this to pure aspiration, the desire
for excellence; still the soul's passion is as deep as ever, perhaps

If Mr. Tyndall's prophecy should be fulfilled, and we should come to
"discover in that matter which we, in our ignorance, and notwithstanding
our professed reverence for its Creator, have hitherto covered with
opprobrium, the promise and potency of every form and quality of life,"
then what we call matter would simply assume new properties commensurate
with novel tasks. The properties themselves will remain as they were,
and will in nowise change their peculiarity. The ancient attributes of
mind will persist, whatever theory of their origin be adopted. The old
sanctities will endure, and the burden of responsibility will fall upon
another pair of shoulders.

Thus every virtue will be maintained in complete vigor,--reverence,
aspiration, trust, submission, confidence, serenity, patience,
fortitude,--and nothing will be lost.

Then there is the social world, in which we "live and move and have our
being." This "encompasses us behind and before, and lays its hand upon
us." There is not an hour in the day, hardly a moment of the hour, when
the call of duty is not made upon us. None but the rarest spirits
discharge the claims of mercy and brotherhood; people generally do not
know what they are; repudiate them when presented. The preachers have
more than they can do to induce practice of even the commonest virtues
of good will. Humanity, in its grand aspects, is left to the writers of
Utopias. Not a day passes that conscience is not over-worked, even when
it is not perplexed by misgivings in regard to the amount or the kind of
service it ought to render. Some have sought an escape in the immortal
life from the demands of this; and some have denied the doctrine of
another world because it drew attention away from this, and made the
ills of the present seem light in view of some coming beatitude. In
truth, the friends of that great hope will do well to remember that it
is identical with moral attainment; that it is for great souls; that

    The life of heaven above,
    Springs from the life below.

It is, to say the least, doubtful whether any future life can do more
than ripen seeds that are sowed here, or whether spiritual perfection
will owe anything essential to other events of time, while it is certain
that nothing is sure to abide but what is born of love.

Unless the doctrine of a future life can be used to reinforce the
doctrine of moral attainment in the present state of existence, its
power must depart. The cords of personal affection are not strong enough
to hold the belief. The true inference from disbelief is not expressed
in the words, "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die"; but in these,
"I must work while it is day." This idea is a very old one. The air was
full of it when I was a youth. It was the soul of all liberal faith. The
_Westminster Review_, which was in full force in my early manhood,
having begun in 1824, two years after my birth, was animated by it. The
_Prospective Review_, the organ of the spiritual Unitarians, and edited
by such men as James Martineau, John James Taylor, John Hamilton Thom,
and Charles Wicksteed, a magazine aiming to "interpret and represent
Spiritual Christianity in its character of the Universal Religion," was
started about 1845. In its pages "spirituality" was intimately
associated with "humanity." The books of F. W. Newman, "The Soul"
(1849); "Phases of Faith" (1850); "Catholic Union" (1854), teemed with
this conception. The charming verses of William Blake, published in his
"Songs of Innocence," had somehow came to my knowledge.

    To mercy, pity, peace, and love,
    All pray in their distress;
    And to these virtues of delight
    Return their thankfulness.

    For mercy, pity, peace, and love
    Is God, our Father dear;
    And mercy, pity, peace, and love
    Is man, His child and care.

    For mercy has a human heart;
    Pity, a human face;
    And love, the human form divine
    And peace, the human dress.

    Then every man of every clime
    That prays, in his distress,
    Prays to the human form divine
    Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

    And all must love the human form
    In Heathen, Turk, or Jew;
    Where mercy, love, and pity dwell,
    There God is dwelling too.

In this country the same idea prevailed in the early period of
transcendentalism, and gradually worked its way into the common heart.
Channing lent it an impulse. His brilliant nephew, William Henry
Channing, exemplified it. The transcendental preachers all insisted on
it. The "Dial" was charged with it. The most kindling literature of my
growing days drew inspiration from it. Brook Farm, Fruitlands, and every
other attempt at association was built upon it. Modern socialism owes to
it the fascination it has for the heart; and we cannot listen to a
sermon now that does not throb with the emotion it excites.

For myself I must confess that I have no interest in another life, save
as it encourages the endeavor after this human excellence. My mental
constitution makes me insensible to sentimental considerations, to
arguments addressed to private affections. As my first sermon was about
the brotherhood of man, so my present hope is that love may increase,
and that the reign of theology may be succeeded by that of charity.

This was the dream of Abbot Joachim, in the twelfth century, the
Cistercian monk, founder of the monastery of Floris, author of "The
Everlasting Gospel." It was his notion that the existing era of
Christianity was passing away. According to him, there were three
dispensations, corresponding to the three persons in the Trinity--that
of the Father, that of the Son, that of the Spirit,--the dispensation of
Awe, the dispensation of Wisdom, and the dispensation of Love. The first
was represented by Peter, the organizer, the patron saint of Romanism;
the second, by Paul, the preacher of the Word, the bulwark of
Protestantism; the third by John, the seer, the beloved disciple, the
apostle of love. How much the pious man meant by this we cannot tell.
His own contemporaries were divided in opinion; but a pretty fair
commentary is furnished, in the fact that his writing was condemned by
two Councils--that of the Lateran in 1215, and of Arles in 1260,--and
that he has ever since been classed among the mystics--that is, the
unintelligible and the unbalanced in mind.

True the prophecy has not been literally fulfilled, inasmuch as the
first two dispositions are still in force, and are likely to be for many
a day, but the essence of it has come to pass. Romanism has been
deprived of its temporal authority, and is reduced to a picturesque form
of faith; its disciples easily throw off its bondage, while its new
professors never put it on. Protestantism is decomposing under the
influence of doubt and criticism. The thought of brotherhood is
extending. I have small faith that the time will ever come when all
people will worship under one form, or will accept the same mode of
believing. I cannot think that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,
or that every tongue will make confession of his Lordship; but I do
believe that the reign of justice and good-will shall be established. It
is a great deal to hope for a time when the many will submit to the law
of reason, becoming strong enough to withstand the force of authority in
church or creed, and content with charity.

We have gained much since Joachim's day. We have acquired knowledge,
industry, civilization, freedom, enterprise, intelligence, the sense of
mutual dependence. The bars of prejudice are being taken down. Class
distinctions are being abolished. Newly discovered arts are bringing men
nearer together, and weaving the ties of fraternity. All this is
opportunity--opportunity that immediately precedes performance. When we
see the road prepared for the Spirit, we may be sure that the Spirit
itself is not far off.



  Abbot, F. E., 117, 282
  Abbott, E. A., 256
  Abolitionists, 45, 183
  Adler, Felix, quoted, 268
  Alcott, A. B., 52
  Anti-slavery, 44, 46, 49
  Arminians, 1
  Arnold, M., 13


  Barnard, F. A. P., 226
  Barnard, T., 43
  Bartol, C. A., 119
  Baur, F. C., 57
  Beecher, H. W., 256
  Bellows, H. W., 63, 74, 76, 115, 116, 118, 184
  Blake, Wm., quoted, 299
  Boston, 17
  Brace, C. L., 226
  Brazer, John, 43
  Broad Church, 71, 257, etc.
  Brook Farm, 136, 227, 235, 236, 239, 240, 241, 244
  Brown, John, 104
  Browning, R., 4, 16, 145, 201
  Brownson, Orestes, 203


  Calvinism, 1
  Carlyle, 7, 124
  Carter, R., 226
  Cary, Alice, 225
  Cary, Phoebe, 225
  Chadwick, J. W., 187
  Channing, W. E., 47, 183, 186, 235, 300
  Channing, W. H., 236, 300
  Clarke, J. F., 44, 124
  Clerical Profession, The, 146, etc.
  Colonization, 181
  Communion Service, 66, etc.
  Comte, A., 217
  Conference, Unitarian, 115-117
  Curtis, G. W., 42


  Darwin, C., 259
  Deists, 61, 62
  Dewey, Mary, 176
  Dewey, Orville, 176, etc.
  Dillaway, C. K., 20
  Diman, J. L., quoted, 291
  Divinity Hall, 26
  Divinity School, 25-34
  Dixwell, E. S., 20
  Dwight, J. S., 236


  Eliot, George, 138
  Emerson, R. W., 21, 34, 42, 48, 68, 75, 122, 134, 135, 145, 166, etc.,
      196, 209, 245, 270, 292
  Endicott, John, 36
  Ethical Religion, 267, etc.
  Europe, 131
  Evolution, 145, 194, 217


  Field, H. M., 227
  Fourier, C., 240
  Francis, Convers, 27
  Fraternity Club, 128, 129
  Free Religious Association, 119, etc., 124-126, 209, 292
  Free Thought in America, 133, etc.
  Frothingham, Ann G., 14-17
  Frothingham, N. L., 2-14


  Gardner, F., 20
  Garrison, W. L., 44
  Greeley, H., 109, 226, 227
  Goethe, J. W. von, quoted, 280


  Haeckel, E., 217
  Harvard College, 21
  Hawthorne, N., 42, 236, 246
  Heath, 131
  Hecker, I. T., 226, 295
  Hedge, F. H., 257
  Higginson, T. W., 35, 122
  Hillard, G. S., 21
  Hitchcock, R. D., 226
  Holland, J. G., 227


  Independent Society, 126-131, 132, 138, 139
  Ingersoll, R. G., 227, 253, etc.


  James, H., quoted, 155
  Jersey City, 63, 65
  Jewett, Sarah O., quoted, 255
  Joachim (Abbot), 301
  Johnson, S., 50, 210, etc.
  Joy, Charles, 226


  King, T. S., 42, 191, note.
  Kirwan, R., 38


  Latin School, 19
  Laveleye, E. de, quoted, 272, 281
  Leverett, F. P., 20
  Longfellow, H. W., 51, 258, quoted
  Loring, E. G., 245
  Lyric Hall, 125, 128


  Mahomet, 124
  Martineau, J., 58, 165, 185, quoted, 275, 281, 282
  Masonic Temple, 127
  Maurice, F. D., 123, 264
  McQueary, Rev. H., 256
  Minister, Office of, in War Time, 106
  Ministry in New York, 131
  Mott, Lucretia, 121


  National Conference, 85
  Negroes, 111, 179
  Newman, F. W., 282, 299
  New York, 76
  "North Church," 42
  Noyes, G. R., 26


  Osgood, S., 92, etc.


  Paine, T., 248, etc.
  Parker, T., 44, 54, etc., 70, 122, 134, 135, 203, 233, 282
  Phillips, W., 9, 44, 292
  Poe, E. A., quoted, 134
  Prescott, W. H., 6, 21
  Priests in the Riot, 113
  _Prospective Review_, 299
  Protestantism, 275, 277
  Putnam, Eleanor, 36


  Reid, Whitelaw, 227
  Renan, J. Ernest, 58, 272-274, 276, 279, 293
  Riot in New York, 107, etc.
  Ripley, George, 227
  Romanism, 273, etc.
  Rood, O. N., 226
  Royce, J., 282
  Runkle, Mrs. Lucia, 227


  Salem, 35, etc., 51
  Sanitary Commission, 83
  Scherb, E. V., 51
  Schwegler, A., 57
  Slavery, 47
  Smith, S., 207
  Stearns, G., 245
  Stephen, Leslie, quoted, 249
  Strauss, D. F., 217, 280
  Sumner, C., 21, 221


  Taine, H. A., 217
  Taylor, Bayard, 226
  Thackeray, W. M., 8
  Ticknor, G., 6, 21
  Torrey, H. W., 20
  Transcendentalism, 47, 135-137, 214
  Tübingen School, 57
  Tyndall, J., 217, 297


  Unitarianism, 256, 278
  Unitarians, 47, 69, 102, 115, 117, 124, 183, 266


  Voltaire, 62


  War, Civil, The, 114
  Washburn, E. A., 227
  Washington, George (Gen.), 105
  Washington, L. W., (Col.), 105
  Wasson, D. A., 60, 119, 122
  Webster, D., 21, 180
  Webster, J. W., 22
  Weiss, J., 122, 190, etc., 284, quoted
  _Westminster Review_, 299
  White, R. G. 226
  Williams, R., 36
  Winthrop, T., 110
  Wise, H. A. (Gov.), 104
  Woman, Rights of, 221


  Youmans, E. L., 226


  Zeller, E., 58


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