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Title: Our Unitarian Gospel
Author: Minot Savage
Release Date: June 13, 2006 [EBook #18578]
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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK OUR UNITARIAN GOSPEL ***
TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THE MESSAGE OF GOD TO HIS CHILDREN MUST BE
ONE OF LIFE AND HOPE INSTEAD OF A THEOLOGY WHICH TEACHES DEATH AND
NOTE. The sermons which make up this volume were spoken in the Church
of the Messiah during the season of 1897-98. They are printed as
delivered, not as literature, but for the sake of preaching to a larger
congregation than can be reached on Sunday morning.
UNITARIANISM "WHAT DO YOU IN PLACE OF WHAT YOU TAKE AWAY?"
ARE THERE ANY CREEDS WHICH IT IS WICKED FOR US TO QUESTION?
WHY HAVE UNITARIANS NO CREED?
THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PRESENT RELIGIOUS DISCUSSION
DOUBT AND FAITH - BOTH IS LIFE A PROBATION ENDED BY DEATH?
SIN AND ATONEMENT PRAYER, AND COMMUNION WITH GOD
THE WORSHIP OF GOD
MORALITY NATURAL, NOT STATUTORY
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT
THINGS WHICH DOUBT CANNOT DESTROY
EVOLUTION LOSES NOTHING OF VALUE TO MAN
WHY ARE NOT ALL EDUCATED PEOPLE UNITARIANS?
THROUGH the lack of having made themselves familiar with the matter, there is a common and, I think, a widespread impression among people generally that Unitarianism is a new-fangled notion, a modern fad, a belief held only by a few, who are one side of the main currents of religious life and advance.
Even if it were new, even if it were confined to the modern world, this would not necessarily be anything against it. The Copernican theory of the universe is new, is modern. So are most of the great discoveries that characterize and glorify the present age.
But in the case of Unitarianism this cannot be said. It is not new: it
is very old. And, before I come to discuss and outline a few of its
great principles, it seems to me well that we should get in our minds a
background of historic thought, that we may see a little what are the
sources and origins of this Unitarianism, and may understand why it is
that there is a new and modern birth of it in the modern world.
All races start very far away from any Monotheistic or Unitarian
belief. The Hebrews are no exception to that rule. The early part of
the Bible shows very plain traces of the fact that the Jews were
polytheists and nature-worshippers. If I should translate literally the
first verse of the Bible, it would read in this way: In the beginning
the Strong Ones created the heavens and the earth. "The word that we
have translated God is in the plural; and I have already given you its
meaning. This is only a survival, a trace, of that primeval belief
which the Jews shared with all the rest of the world."
From this polytheistic position the people took a step forward to a
state of mind which Professor Max Muller calls henotheism; that is,
they believed in the real existence of many gods, but that they were
under allegiance to only one, their national Deity, and that him only
they must serve.
I suppose this state of thought was maintained throughout the larger
part of the history of the Hebrew nation. You will find traces
constantly, in the early part of the Old Testament, at any rate, of the
belief of the people in the other gods, and their constant tendency to
fall away to the worship of these other gods. But by and by all this
was outgrown, and left behind; and the Hebrew people came to occupy a
position of monotheism, spiritual monotheism, that is, they were
passionate Unitarians, so far as the meaning of that word is concerned.
Though, of course, I would not have you understand that many, perhaps
most, of the principles which are held today under the name of
Unitarian were known to them at that time, or would have been accepted,
had they been known.
the assumption on the part of most of the old- time churches that Jesus
made it perfectly plain to his disciples that he was a divine being,
that he claimed to be one himself, and that the claim was recognized.
So far, however, as any authentic record with which we are familiar
goes, Jesus himself was a Unitarian. All the disciples were Unitarians.
Paul was a Unitarian. The New Testament is a Unitarian book from
beginning to end. The finest critics of the world will tell you that
there is no trace of any other teaching there. And so, for the first
three hundred years of the history of the Church, Unitarianism was its
I have no very good memory for names. So I have brought here a little
leaflet which contains some that I wish to speak of. Among the Church
Fathers, Clement, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and
Lactantius, all of them in their writings make it perfectly clear and
unquestioned that the belief of the Church, the majority belief for the
first three centuries, was Unitarian. Of course, the process of thought
here and there was going on which finally culminated in the doctrine of
the Trinity. That is, people were beginning more and more to exalt, as
they supposed, the character, the office, the mission of Jesus; coming
more and more to believe that he was something other than a man, that
he was above and beyond humanity.
But one other among the Fathers, Justin Martyr, one of the best known of all, takes care to point out explicitly his belief. I will read you just two or three words from it. He says: "There is a Lord of the Lord Jesus, being his Father and God, and the Cause of his existence."
This belief, then, was universal, practically universal, throughout the
first three centuries. But the process of growth was going on which
finally culminated in the controversy which was settled by the Council
of Nicaea, held in the early part of the fourth century; that is, the
year 325. The leaders of this controversy, as you know, were Arius, on
the Unitarian side, and Athanasius, fighting hard for the doctrine then
new in the Church, of the Trinity.
The majority of the bishops and leading men of the Church at that time
were on the side of Arius; but at last the Emperor Constantine settled
the dispute. Now you know that the sceptre of a despotic emperor may
not reason, may not think; but it is weightier than either reason or
thought in the settlement of a controversy like this at such a period
in the history of the world. So Constantine settled the controversy in
favor of the Trinitarians; and henceforth you need not wonder that
Unitarianism did not grow, for it was mercilessly repressed and crushed
out for the next thousand years.
Unitarianism, however, is not alone in this. Let me call your attention
to a fact of immense significance in this matter. All this time the
study of science and philosophy, that dared to think beyond the limits
of the Church's doctrine, were crushed out. There was no free
philosophy, there was no free study of science, there was no free
anything for a thousand years. The secular armed forces of Europe, with
penalties of imprisonment, of the rack, of the fagot, of torture of
every kind, were enlisted against anything like liberty of thinking.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?