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and it must be with a sigh for the future martyrs whom God raises up to bear the sins of unregenerate man.
But the gloomiest of all the pages of our human tale is perhaps the story of Religion; of what is deepest and highest in man; the cause of his greatest joy, or his most costly sacrifice. Under that name every imposture has found a shelter. The foulest rites, the most detestable doctrines, and hypocrisy the most shameful have here had a refuge, with none to molest por fray them away. True there is progress, from the sacrifice of a CHILD in the days of Abraham, to the offerings of a LAMB in the time of Moses, still more to a DIVINE LIFE in the time of Jesus. But at what cost was the progress made? What war between the two parties of the Past and the Future, the Actual and the Ideal?
If one would read but a brief history of the "Councils of the Christian church," or turn over the folios of some ponderous collection, it would be with a sad heart. Would he ask for a completer history of human folly and bigotry? Would he not find there that each new Idea, as it dawned on the race from the eternal heaven, was at first regarded by the Shepherds of men, as disastrous, a star of ruin? What said the household of Terah to the calling of Abraham; the wise men of Tarik to the mission of Moses; the Scribes and Pharisees of Jerusalem to the glad tidings that Jesus brought? Nay, what said the Council of Constance to Jerome and Huss; the Council of Trent to the words of Martin Luther? The chronicles of pirates; the annals of crime; Newgate calendars; the "last words and dying confessions" of scoundrels hanged, disclose but a single phase of the sin that walks or creeps the world. A rascal armed with a bludgeon; an assassin with a knife in his belt, or poison in his pocket, is a dangerous man; no doubt of that. But crime in a cassock; villany that is "banded," surpliced, and stoled, and set off with phylacteries or a sceptre, this is greatly more dangerous. It was real heroism, and that the noblest, in him who said, The Publicans and Harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you, Scribes and Pharisees, Hypocrites. The obvious foes of the race it is cheap to condemn; but to attack and expel the secret enemies of man was worthy of that great soul. No doubt "a saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn ;' at least the World says so. And if so, why may not a rogue in ruffles be worse than many a rogue in rags ?
One needs but little acquaintance with ecclesiastical affairs, to see, that the World and the Church differ very widely in name, and very little in the spirit with which they are managed. The early ecclesiastical synods, assembled for doctrinal purposes, were often planned and conducted by a spirit disgraceful to the human race; and an acute modern writer says well," Men of the ecclesiastical profession, however respectable or venerable in their individual capacities, have never met in bodies, but they have become examples of anything but toleration; and this must necessarily be the case, without any particular fault of theirs, from the mere operation of the most established principles of our common nature." Ecclesiastical courts, to speak of them as a whole, have been instruments of tyranny.* Is it a century since men's tongues were cut out, and their flesh torn off with red-hot pincers, by the command of ecclesiastical authority, because they would not bow to the Host, a God of bread? The fact is notorious. It was done in the "most enlightened country of Europe;" done by pious men, who really thought, no doubt, they did God service, by thus maltreating his image. We live in a better age, though in a land where women have been scourged naked from town to town for their religion; where "witches " and Quakers have been hanged, the one for serving the fancied devil, the other for worshipping the only God, and the ecclesiastical power defended both the whip and the gallows. But leaving what thoughts we have to offer respecting"councils of the church" in other times and under circumstances, to which we, fortunately, are strangers, we will address ourselves to the work before us, the farfamed Hollis Street Council.
It is a delicate matter to treat of, and we come to it with reluctance. The subject is full of difficulties; they increase at every step. There may be misunderstanding on all sides, but there must be BLAME somewhere. It is seldom all on one side. This council is a sore spot to some It should therefore be touched with tenderness and
*See some curious specimens of the tyrannical spirit of the Church in the middle ages, in Thierry, Histoire de la Conquête de l'Angleterre. Liv. I.
a practised hand. We have waited long and anxiously in hopes that some of the experienced and venerable men, the legitimate guides of public opinion, would open their mouth, and give justice its due. We have waited in vain. It is not with pleasure, but under a sense of duty, that we write. However, the fact of a Unitarian council being called in this city; its singular aspect; the character of the men who composed it; its long delays; its protracted sessions; the fame of the legal advisers retained by the two parties; the magnitude of the questions believed to be at issue; the deep interest in the case felt by the public, all these circumstances make it so significant, that we can in no wise allow it to pass over in silence.
An ecclesiastical council assembled in our city is a novel affair in this part of the century; a Unitarian council to try a minister has rather a singular aspect, considering the common views of church discipline taken by that sect. The accused was charged with no error in doctrine, but simply in practice, as we understand the case, and ecclesiastical bodies usually have contended more for the former than the latter. Some of the charges made against the Pastor, if we rightly understand them, are of a very unusual nature. The conduct of the council itself, considering the high character of some of its members, was very surprising, though no doubt substantial precedents could be quoted, both from legal and clerical usage, to justify the course pursued. But we shall not adduce them. Then again the "Result in Council" is curious and instructive; a matter every way worthy of comment in this Journal.
Now, before we proceed to the merits of this case, and in order to understand it the better, and come more successfully to our end, we must be allowed to say a word about the POSITION OF A MINISTER IN GENERAL. The real office of the Christian minister is twofold, abstract and concrete, namely, TO TEACH TRUTH and TO PROMOTE GOODHere then is a speculative and a practical work to be done. Now, in each of these divisions, it is obvious that there is a positive work to be performed, sowing the seeds of Truth and Goodness. But as the world is, a negative work also must be done, that of confuting Falsehood and exposing Crime. The soil must be ploughed before the
seed is sown. He that says "Truth is of God," though never so gently, says also, at least by implication, "a Lie is not of God, but of the Devil." If he goes seriously to work, while he says every day, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God," he must, now and then, say likewise, "Woe unto Scribes, and Pharisees, Hypocrites,' or, "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of God." Now this negative work is very ungrateful to the best of men, but it must be done. Who does not sympathize with that man who said, "Would I were as good as Jesus! Then I could call men by their right names and commit no sin?" No doubt, men no better than their brothers are always ready with their "Woe unto you." Still we repeat it, falsehood must be called Falsehood, and sin, Sin; wicked men be made to know they are wicked. This is a thankless task. We are sorry to say it, but the tellers of Truth and promoters of Goodness have rarely been popular till after death. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" may be asked in all ages. The Prophets, that are honored in our day, were murdered in their own, because they told the truth and exposed lies. Diogenes the cynic, if we remember rightly, says his father was banished because he marked bad money; always an invidious office which is certain to diminish the revenue.
Now a Christian minister, if he enters seriously into his calling, the greatest of all human vocations, - must turn to one or to both of the divisions; to the abstract course of teaching truth, and combatting falsehood, or to the concrete course of promoting goodness and exposing crime, in what is called a direct and practical way. The speculative man inclines one way, the practical man the other. The true "Scribe, well instructed unto the kingdom of heaven," of course does both.
We know there is a tertium quid sometimes heard of. A Christian minister who is not serious in his calling; one of those who "climb, and intrude, and steal into the fold," takes the general average of theological opinion in his district as the standard of truth, and the general average of popular virtue as the standard of goodness, and never goes beyond either; preaches profound, speculative sermons,
(sound in more than one sense,) on the antiquities of the Jewish Church; the color of the red heifer, it may be, or the size of the Ark, the manner in which Noah collected and disposed the animals he preserved; the times when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies, and the typical signification of all these mysteries to the present age; he preaches also smart practical sermons against obsolete vices, the worship of ancient idols; the sins of the Jewish Sadducees and Pharisees; against doubts that nobody shares, and extinct or unpopular classes of unbelievers. If he have still hours not occupied, and a mind that loves work better than the "rack of a too easy chair," and sleep after dinner, he busies himself with the trifles of literature; makes "collections" of "puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux ; " dabbles in the history of everything but Morals and Religion; plays on the surface of some easy science; catches butterflies; collects epitaphs and conundrums; gathers antiques;
"He has a fourth o' auld knick-knackets;
Wad haud the Lothians twain in plackets,
A two-mont' gude."
Such a man 66 never gets into trouble." His pulpit is neutral ground, "like some free-port of trade." Truth and falsehood shake hands; crime and goodness kiss each other. He is born for his tucker and his bib, and never sells his birth-right. Good dinners are got ready for him, and "wine of a noble mark." "He is always on the right side;" while he lives, has the reputation of a "mild, inoffensive man, who hurts nobody," and has not an enemy in the village; a man who never meddles with exciting topics and matters too high for him. When he dies, it will be recorded of him as of patriarchs before the flood, that "he lived and begat sons and daughters." The great representative of this class was the famous Vicar of Bray.
Now if a minister pursue either of the two courses first mentioned, he may "get into trouble." Yes, though he is "wise as serpents and harmless as doves." If he turn his attention to the speculative side, and ask, "what is truth?" then he must differ in some respects from the theological opinions of the public. He will differ just in proportion to his ability, activity, and honesty. He must