Page images
[ocr errors]

professes to give a statement of their opinions, but not to controvert them. The author, however; wrote under a feeling of deadly hostility to the sentiment; and, although there are not such gross perversions as we have sometimes seen, it would not be possible for one who wished to gain a correct knowledge of the doctrine, to derive it from that source. The reviewer was deficient in means of information; for, although his authorities are good as far as he goes, he had but few of them. It could hardly have been possible for any man to give. a just statement of the views of Universalists generally, from the means in his possession. The most correct definition which can be given of Universalism, in the form in which it is held by the whole body, is this, that God is truly the Father of men; that in his purpose of grace and mercy he has secured the eternal interests of all; that all chastisements are administered in mercy; and that at last God will reconcile all things unto himself.' The opinions of no individual, however eminent, are to be received as the opinion of the order generally. Each one is accountable for what he himself says. Many individuals among us are distinguished by their peculiar opinions; but the order as such is distinguished by no doctrine but this 'the salvation of all mankind by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.' Having rejected all human authority at the beginning, it is not to be expected that Universalists will consent to accept the opinions of any one as the standard of the whole.

[ocr errors]

It becomes us to notice in this place, the work just issued from the press, entitled Friendly Letters to a Universalist, on Divine Rewards and Punishments,' by Rev. Bernard Whitman, of Waltham, Mass. This gentleman is a clergyman of the Unitarian denomination; and, although not sustaining an exalted rank in the order to which he belongs, yet he has made himself popular in the estimation of the public, by his Letters to Prof. Stuart, and the defence of that publication. It may be that the praise bestowed on his efforts in that case, has been a disadvantage to him.

The work of which we propose now to speak, is not an attack on Universalism, in its simple form, but rather on the views of a certain class of Universalists; though it is somewhat doubtful whether Mr. Whitman represents their views correctly. The occult design evidently is, to widen the distinction between those who hold the doctrine of future punish


ment for the sins of this life, and those who do not. the main object of the writer is to represent that sentiment as

great importance, and the views of those who reject it, as false and deleterious in the extreme. Whether he believes in endless misery, or the final salvation of all mankind, or the middle doctrine of annihilation, or whether he holds that there is no certain revelation on either of these topics in the Bible, we have not been able to learn from the book. The fact that strikes one first on almost every page, is, that Mr. Whitman is an opponent of the sect of Universalists, and that none are Universalists, except such as reject the doctrine of future punishment. We are here compelled to join issue with him. All those are Universalists who hold to the salvation of all mankind through Jesus Christ; and whatever may be their opinions on unessential, speculative points, they may safely and with great propriety unite in the defence and maintenance of

their common faith.

It is one of the great faults of this work, that it attempts to make the opinions of one or two individuals the doctrinal standard of the whole body. We have already, in this article, put in our protest against such a practice. Universalists acknowledge no earthly lords or masters, more especially in articles of faith. No one person has been delegated to make ' official statements' in regard to their faith. The only official' declaration of their views, is that published several years since by the General Convention of Universalists, in which the doctrine of the eventual salvation of all men is maintained; and other subjects, of comparatively small importance, are left entirely to each one's judgment and convictions, and cannot be made a test of membership.

The precise effect that will follow Mr. Whitman's book, we are not able now to point out. We think, however, we may say, without laying claim in the least to the spirit of prophecy, that so far as the author intended to effect a division in the body of Universalists, he will be utterly disappointed. As a defence of the peculiar doctrine of future punishment, we think the Friendly Letters do by no means rank above the work of Mr. Hudson on that subject. Our ears have been open, but we have heard no one express an opinion that the work required an answer, or would obtain one. The public is not disposed to patronize works on that controversy, which side soever they may defend of the disputed question. The

edition of Mr. Hudson's book has never been sold; and we should not be surprised to learn, that the same fate at last attended Mr. Whitman's. We have watched the Unitarian journals, to catch their opinions of it. Very few words have been offered in regard to it; and but a small patronage can be anticipated, we judge, from that quarter. As to the patronage that may be expected from Universalists, we think it must be very small. They have little confidence, so far as we have the means of knowing, in the author's ability to communicate any additional information respecting the subject which he attempts to discuss.

In regard to seminaries of learning among Universalists, we have but little to add to our former account. The Institution at Clinton, N. Y. is in the course of happy operation. It is not a theological, but strictly a scientific institution, designed as a place where a refined education may be obtained, aside from the bias of sectarism. It has about fifty male students, and nearly as many female. The Principal is at present Professor of Languages. Besides the Principal, there are now a Professor of Mathematics and one Assistant. The course of instruction embraces every branch of education usually taught in our American colleges. New professorships will be added whenever circumstances shall require.

The Westbrook Seminary, at Westbrook, Me., is yet in its incipient stages. The legislature of that state, ever bountiful to the literary institutions within its borders, has made a second grant of one thousand dollars. An edifice of brick, 37 by 70 feet, is now being built, and the purposes of the organization are to be carried into effect without delay.

The Universalists in the West are engaged in establishing a seminary of learning in the state of Indiana. An act of incorporation has been obtained, the trustees have been organized, and a Principal has been elected. The school will go into operation in about three months, when the first building, now being erected, will be ready to receive students. Shops for mechanics are preparing, and lands are laid out, that manual labor may be connected with the literary pursuits.

In Massachusetts, the want of an institution in which young men may be qualified for the gospel ministry, is very seriously felt. Candidates have no small difficulty now, in finding a suitable place where they may have an experienced guide in their studies, the use of suitable books, and the advantage of

listening to the labors of some approved preacher. The course hitherto has been, for the young men either to commence preaching without study, or to pursue such a course of studies as they please where they may happen to reside, or to enter the family of some clergyman, and enjoy the benefit of his advice, his books, and his pulpit ministrations. The latter method is, of course, preferable; but there are disadvantages attending either. We fear that young men of many virtues and strong talents have been deterred from entering the ministry, by the want of proper accommodations for their studies. To preach Universalism acceptably, an education is necessary, distinct from the common academical and collegiate branches. The Bible must be well understood; just rules of biblical criticism and interpretation must be known; the customs of the oriental nations must be faithfully studied; the commentaries on the Bible by all denominations, should be examined; the standard works of Universalist authors, so far as they tend to elucidate the true sense of the sacred writings, should be faithfully and repeatedly perused. Students should be exercised in the writing of sermons, and in reading them correctly and forcibly; speaking without notes should be a part of the exercises; extemporaneous prayer should be repeatedly indulged in; and the duties of the pastoral office should be defined, and the best method of performing them established. No man can be well qualified for the ministry in the denomination of Universalists, who has not pursued a course of studies similar to this. But how few can follow up such a course under the care of a clergyman, who, much of his time, is absent from home, and who, when at home, is entirely engrossed in his parochial duties? In an institution specially for the purpose, a Principal with one faithful Assistant could conduct this course of studies, at least while the number of students was less than fifty. The advantages of such an institution can scarcely be estimated, sending out as it would a succession of well-instructed and devoted ministers of universal mercy.

But the question may arise, Can the Universalists get up such an institution? and if so, can they sustain it? We think both these questions can be answered in the affirmative with truth. New York has raised up its Institute without difficulty, Maine is going briskly on with the Westbrook Seminary, by the aid of two thousand dollars from the legislature. Ohio and Indiana have commenced a Seminary in the heart of a

forest. A new town is laid out; mills are erecting; a building for the Seminary is begun; a teacher engaged. Is it possible that Massachusetts is more feeble than all? We should not however speak of Massachusetts, alone; for, in the object we propose, every state in the Union where there are Universalists, is interested. We propose an institution solely for the object of qualifying young men as preachers in the Universalist denomination. Let the laymen understand this; let it be laid before the wealthy individuals of the order; let settled ministers lay it before their societies; let it be mentioned at Conventions and Associations; and there is little doubt that the means would be afforded to carry the design vigorously into effect. When once the location and the buildings are obtained, the Institution will support itself; for if candidates have not the means at the beginning, their obligations can be received as security for the payment of their board and tuition, which they may redeem shortly after commencing their ministerial labors.

A project of this importance, involving, as it must, no small expense, can be effected only by the joint exertions of clergy and laymen. With a proper understanding, co-operation and energy, there can be no doubt of the accomplishment of the object. We would suggest whether the proper body to commence the undertaking, would not be the Boston Association. Its sanctions would give our community confidence in the design; and to begin in earnest, to go forward with perseverance, and thus lead the public to see that something is to done, will insure ultimate success.

T. W.

« PreviousContinue »