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These motives have dominated in the Universalist Church in the past, as it has done its work among those who have needed to be redeemed from the awful errors which have been propagated in the Christian name ; and our labors have not been in vain, for in spite of the conservatism of an emi. nent few, the general tendency in Christian theology is unmistakably and rapidly towards that thought of God, His character, purposes, retributions, and the infinite resources of His love which has for a century been the burden of our preaching as interpreters of the New Testament. As our labors in this direction are being blessed with such cheering promise of success in the Lord's own house, may we not be . encouraged to continue them with fidelity and zeal, and pre
paring ourselves to reach out into other fields, and impelled by the same motives do our share in bringing the heathen to the love and service of the Father, thus hastening the time of the realization of the vision of the Apostle John : “ And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."
Richard Eddy, D. D.
Since Christianity has attained any considerable dimensions there has been amongst Christians great diversity of theological opinion. It may not be venturesome to say that nerer was there greater diversity than now. But yet in our own land at least, if we look into the hearts of the people, we shall find that there are three distinct groups of believers with characteristic marks. Leaving creeds and learned doctrinal divisions on one side, the people, guided by their own NEW SERIES. VOL. XXI.
traits and the education of prevailing theology, lay hold of the gospel in three different ways.
The firm hold of the mass of orthodox evangelicals is upon the redemptive phases of the gospel on the sacrificial basis. Notwithstanding recent theological changes, the real grip of the mass of this order is still upon the redemption bought by the blood shed to pay the debt due from humanity to God. Still is their aim the acceptance of Christ, who takes upon his own shoulders the burdens we ought to bear. This is the natural, the first great moving thought in that body. It is still the motive power of their religious life and of their church work. To place one's self where the offered ransom shall avail, to lay off the burden of guilt and the terrible penalty by means of the substitutional atonement has not ceased to be the chief desire and the great object of religious effort among the people of that order.
The second group of Christian believers is composed of Unitarians, largely the new orthodox, and withont doubt a percentage from every other sect or school of faith. They lay their firm hold on the saving power of the gospel on the ethical basis. They are students of life. Tliey would know the highest moral law. They would build character. They would lift the soul to its highest level. Their aim is to discover the principles of the grand life of Jesus the Christ, and to make these principles active in the hearts of men. Their work is in its very essence spiritual work. Their effort is to awaken the Christ spirit and to produce the Christ life.
The third group is the Universalists. The firm hold of our people is upon the consolatory phases of the gospel. This to us has been the natural first mode of apprehension. The doctrine of immortality, the certainty of salvation and its promised peace and joy, are the phases of the gospel upon which we instinctively dwell. We have made it chiefly a gospel of comfort. Its distinctive office for 118 has been at the grave. It lies in our thought as the great assurance of God's love. We delight to present it as assuaging deep griefs, as removing the terrible dread and doubt which the
Calvinistic doctrines left in earnest liearts. Our people dwell upon this phase more than any other. It is most in their thought, in their word. It is offered as the great riches of the gospel. It has been our great missionary motive; and it is still our pleasure to present to the world the Saviour who reveals God's infinite love, and the Father's purpose to redeem all the children of men.
Such are the prevalent popular conceptions of the gospel. These conceptions exist side by side. They are distinct one from the other. There is a radical difference between the first one and the others. The second and third are in 110 wise opposed. They supplement one another, and may exist as parts of the same whole. This is their proper relation. They belong together. To a large extent they do exist together. Assuming for the moment their union, the great conflict is between thein and the first.
Which is likely to be the prevailing method of apprehending the gospel in the time to come? Is it to be laid hold of as a means of salvation on the sacrificial basis of the old theology, or on the ethical basis of the new? The first form of apprehension has been the prevailing Christian thought for fifteen centuries. Venerable as it is with age, and having passed down through the hands of the learned and wise, as well as the unlearned and simple, it seems somewhat hazardous to predict its downfall. But a review of the history of these centuries shows very clearly, that for twelve of them this form of Christian faith was maintained by the strength and authority of an ecclesiastical system. It shows, too, that there were constant outbreaks here and there, which were suppressed by the mighty ecclesiastical arm. When the power of this system was broken by the Reformation, and the way was opened to some liberty of thought, then began the spread of different ideas. Since that time there has been a constant tendency towards the placing of theology upon a new foundation.
It is not, then, so hazardous, as at first it might seem, to predict that what is still the prevailing form of apprehension
of the gospel shall pass away. The conditions are now different from what they have ever been before. Science and thought in free range have contributed to undermine the old system. At first they were rude and undevout, but now are becoming tempered to eternal truths. They make no on. slaught upon Christianity as such, and only seek to establish truth and overthrow error. While science and philosophy are enemies of many of the old phases of Christian belief, they are allies of Christianity in its present broader and more securely founded theology. The strong attack of earlier times was against Christianity itself. The able defence strengthened the whole fabric and gave life to error as well as to truth. Then the attack was from those who were avowedly enemies of the faith ; or if from within, it was made by the power of the church equally to appear a blow aimed by enemies at the heart of Christianity itself. Now there is more discrimination. The promising movements against the time-honored theology are largely within the fold. The devotion of the movers to Christianity is not to be denied. Even Joseph Cook could not make the world believe that T. T. Munger is an enemy of Christianity. Every day it becomes easier within the church to step without question from old to new forms of faith. And the change is substantially this: to pass from allegiance to the substitutional, mechanical system of salvation, to defence of the saving power of the gospel on the basis of its pure ethics and its surpassing spiritual power. In the light of facts the venerable age and the long prevalence of the sacrificial idea of Christianity is no guarantee of its continuance, and now at least many signs point to its decay.
The union of the second and third forms of apprehending the gospel has been assumed. As a matter of fact on the side of Universalism the union is already to a great extent made. While it is true that our most prominent doctrine has been that of universal salvation, we have, at any rate in all these later years, based the saving power of Christianity on its pure ethics and renovating spiritual influence. We extend our view and our work over into fields which, earlier,
were more distinctively occupied by Unitarians, and into which of late the new orthodoxy has stepped. More and more are we doing this. More and more ought we to do it. For we must wed our doctrine of the salvation of all souls to practical and spiritually founded ethics. It is the tendency of the new orthodoxy to place all its energy upon actual work within the life of man, to bring to bear upon the soul every high spiritual influence, and to show as the result a man morally and spiritually Christ-like. In this regard new orthodoxy las made no new discovery. Nevertheless, though the vein has long been known to us, the new orthodox are working it with a great deal of energy.
The philosophy of Universalism derived from the letter and spirit of the gospel is grand. It furnishes the noblest theology, a perfect theodicy; it gives the most satisfying doctrines concerning Christ, and the grandest idea of salvation; it solves the maximum of problems and leaves the minimum of difficulties; it is most satislying to the intellect and most grateful to the heart. Wo ought to press it and urge it till it is established in Christian thought. But we must remember that this philosophy includes more than the bare idea that all souls will be saved, and that our work is wider than to administer the consolation which that doctrine affords. We must bind to that doctrine, which conforts, the spiritual life proceeding from Christ, which stimulates and saves. No church in the tiine to come will be strong which is not manifest to the world as a present and active saving power. Virility and vigor combined with the evidence of a good heart are never lost upon humanity. These qualities in the spirit of the Master the church must manifest.
In this age the work of Universalists must be in a largely new set of circumstances. The doctrine which was welcomed by many anxious, careworn souls, and was the prime cause of our early growth, can no longer be a powerful means of church extension. We cannot now, as once we could, live and grow upon that single doyma. Amongst a shipwrecked crew on the broad sea in an open boat the single cask of