Unitarianism in America
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The North American version has much in common with the UK version but includes additional ideas brought in when Universalist Church of America founded in and the American Unitarian Association founded in merged in to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. The Canadian Unitarian Council represents the Canadian congregations. The North American church has for many decades been much more 'humanist' than Unitarian churches elsewhere in the world.
Recently, however, there has been a movement in the Unitarian Universalist Association to be more accepting of what its President calls the "language of reverence". This seems to be the result of the rising influence of a younger generation that is more attuned to spiritual values or that has had fewer bad traditional church experiences.
Today Unitarian Universalism encompasses liberal Christians , Jews , Buddhists , humanists and followers of earth-centred spirituality neo-pagans within its ranks. Historically, the North American Unitarian movement is not a child of the European movement. Although it benefited from immigrants and visitors from Europe such as Joseph Priestley, who also discovered oxygen , it was largely a reaction against the "Great Awakening" of the s and the Calvinist ideas that it contained.
Although the early American Unitarians did abandon the doctrine of the Trinity , they gave greater importance to moving to a religion based on reason, and in adopting a hopeful view of human nature rather than seeing humanity as fallen and sinful. A turning point came in when William Ellery Channing gave the sermon 'Unitarian Christianity', which became the key text for liberal religion in North America.
Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith
In this sermon he set out the foundation stones:. Within 20 years the movement was influenced by the Transcendentalist ideas of Emerson and Thoreau. These distinguished American writers emphasised intuition as the source of knowledge and believed that that God is present in every individual and throughout the natural word. Much alarm was caused to the conservative party by the negative form given these questions, which, it was said, "had the plain face of Arianism. After these and other efforts to control the religious position of the college the strict Calvinists for the time withdrew their efforts and concentrated them upon Yale College, in which institution the faculty were now required for the first time to accept the Assembly's Catechism and Confession of Faith.
When the legislature of Connecticut, during the great awakening, passed a law prohibiting ministers from preaching as itinerants, several of the members of the Senior Class subscribed the money necessary for the publication of an edition of Locke's essay On Toleration. When this was known to the faculty, they forbade the publication; and all the students apologized but one, who learned a few days before commencement that his name was to be dropped from the roll of graduates. He went to the faculty with the statement that he was of age, that he possessed ample means, and that he would carry his case to a hearing before the crown in England.
Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith | platworhy.tk
In a few days he was quietly informed that he would be permitted to graduate. This is but a straw, and yet it shows clearly enough the direction of the current at this time. A demand for toleration was made because it was felt that there was a need for it. The names of no less than thirty-three ministers have been given who, during the period from to , did not teach the Calvinistic doctrines in their fulness, and who had adopted more or less distinctly some form of Arminianism or Arianism. These men were among the best known, most successful, and most scholarly men in Eastern Massachusetts, though they were not wholly confined to that neighborhood.
We find here and there some hint of the books these men read; and in that way we not only ascertain the cause of their departure from Calvinism, but we also obtain some clew to the nature of their opinions. Among the charges brought by Whitefield against Harvard in was that "Tillotson and Clarke are read instead of Shepard and Stoddard, and such like evangelical writers. Wigglesworth, the divinity professor at Harvard, said that Tillotson had not been taken out of the college library in nine years, and Clarke not in two; and he gave a long list of evangelical writers who were frequently read.
In spite of this disclaimer, however, it is evident that the methods of the rationalistic writers were coming into vogue at Harvard, and that even Dr. Wigglesworth did not teach theology in the manner of the author of the Day of Doom. Writing in , Dr. Joseph Bellamy, one of the chief followers and expositors of the teachings of Jonathan Edwards, said that the teachings of the liberal men in England had crossed the Atlantic; "and too many in our churches, and even among our ministers, have fallen in with them.
Books containing them have been imported; and the demand for them has been so great as to encourage new impressions of some of them.
Others have been written on the same principles in this country, and even the doctrine of the Trinity has been publicly treated in such a manner as all who believe that doctrine must judge not only heretical, but highly blasphemous. Soon after he was reading the works of the great Protestant theologians of the seventeenth century, including Milton, Chillingworth, and Tillotson; and the eighteenth-century works of Locke, Samuel Clarke, Taylor, Wollaston, and Whiston.
He also probably read Cudworth, Butler, Hutcheson, Leland, and other authors of a like character, some of them deists. Not one of these writers was a Calvinist for they found the basis of religion either in idealism or in rationalism. The biographer of Mayhew says it "is evident from some of his discourses that he was a great admirer of Samuel Clarke, whose voluminous works were in his day much read by the liberal clergy. At a later period he defended the two propositions, that "no article of Christian faith delivered in the holy Scriptures is disagreeable to right reason," and that "without liberty of human actions there can be no real religion or morality.
It was "the great awakening" that showed how marked had been the growth of liberal opinions throughout New England in the forty years preceding.
Unitarianism and Universalism
Silently, a great change had gone on, with little open expression of dissent from Calvinism, and without a knowledge on the part of most of the liberal men that they had in any way departed from the faith of the fathers. It was only with the coming of Whitefield and the revival that this change came to have recognition, and that even the slightest separation into parties took place.
The revival was an attempt to reintroduce the stricter Calvinism of the earlier time, with its doctrines of justification by faith alone, supernatural regeneration, and predestination made known to the believer by the Holy Ghost. The liberal party objected to the revival because it was opposed to the good old customs of the Congregational churches of New England. The itinerant methods of the revivalists, the shriekings, faintings, and appeals to fear and terror, were condemned as not in harmony with the established methods of the churches.
In his book against the revivalists, Dr. Chauncy said that "now is the time when we are particularly called to stand for the good old way, and bear testimony against everything that may tend to cast a blemish on true primitive Christianity. When the great awakening came to an end, the liberal party was far stronger than before, partly because the members of it had come to know each other and to feel their own power, partly because men had been led to declare themselves who had never before perceived their own position, and partly because the agitation had set men to thinking, and to making such scrutiny of their beliefs as they had never made before.
The testimonies of Harvard College and various associations of ministers against the methods of the revivalists were signed by sixty-three men, while those in favor of the revival were signed by one hundred and ten. These numbers represent the comparative strength of the two parties. It must be said, however, that the leading men in nearly every part of New England were among those opposing the revival methods, while in Eastern Massachusetts at least two-thirds of the ministers were of the liberal party. The strong feeling caused by the revival soon subsided, and no division between the Calvinist and the Arminian parties took place.
The progressive tendencies went quietly on, step by step the old beliefs were discarded; but it was by individuals, and not in any form as a sectarian movement. The relations of the church to the state at this time would have made such a result impossible. Looking over the whole field of the theological advance from to , we find that three conclusions had been arrived at by the men of the liberal movement. The first of these was that what they stood for as a body was a recovery and restoration of primitive Christianity in its simplicity and power.
It was said of Dr. Mayhew by his biographer that he "was a great advocate of primitive Christianity, and zealously contended for the faith once delivered to the saints. The second opinion, to which they gave frequent utterance, was that the Bible is a divine revelation, the true source of all religious teaching, and the one sufficient creed for all men.
clublavoute.ca/ficop-grupos-para-conocer.php In his sermon against the enthusiasm of the revivalists, Chauncy said that a true test of all religious excitement, and of every kind of new teachings, was to be found in their "regard to the Bible, and its acknowledgment that the things therein contained are the commandments of God. Fix it in your minds as a truth you will invariably abide by, that the Bible is the grand test by which everything in religion is to be tried. The third position of the men of the liberal movement was that Christ is the only means of salvation, and they yielded to him unquestioning loyalty and faith.
Turning away from the creeds of men, as they did in so far as they could see their way, they concentrated their convictions upon Christ, and found in him the spiritual and vital centre of all faith that lives with true power to help men. Mayhew held that God could not have forgiven men their sins without the atonement of Christ, for his life and his gospel are the means of the great reconciliation by which man and God are brought into harmony with each other.
In three publications may be seen what the Arminians had to teach that was opposed to Calvinism. In appeared in Boston a book of two hundred and eight pages by Rev. Experience Mayhew, one of a devoted family of missionaries to the Indians of Martha's Vineyard.
He called his book "Grace Defended, in a Modest Plea for an important Truth: namely, that the offer of Salvation made to sinners comprises in it an offer of the Grace given in Regeneration. Mayhew claimed that he was a Calvinist, yet he rejected the teaching that every act of the unregenerate person is equal in the sight of God to the worst sin, and claimed that even the sinner can live so well and so justly as to favor his being accepted of God.
Mayhew maintained that Christ died for all men, not for the elect only. It condemned reliance on Christ's merits without effort to live his life, and showed that it is the duty of the Christian to live righteously. Briant said that to hold any other view was hurtful and blasphemous. He claimed that "the great rule the Scriptures lay down for men to go by in passing judgment on their spiritual state is the sincere, upright, steady, and universal practice of virtue.
A pamphlet of thirty pages appeared in , written by Samuel Webster, the minister of Salisbury, with the title "A Winter Evening's Conversation upon the doctrine of Original Sin, wherein the notion of our having sinned in Adam, and being on that account only liable to eternal Damnation, is proved to be Unscriptural. That all have sinned in Adam the minister pronounces "a very shocking doctrine. I can as easily conceive of one man's knowledge being imputed to another as of his sins being so. No imputation in either case can make the thing to be mine which is not mine any more than one person may be another person.
I am persuaded that many of those who think they believe this doctrine do not really believe it, or else they do not consider how it represents their heavenly Father. Bellamy denied the teachings of Webster, and Chauncy defended them.
A History of its Origin and Development
So bold a pamphlet as this showed how men had come to reason without compromise about the old doctrines, and gave evidence that the growing spirit of humanity would no longer accept what was harsh and cruel. The New England churches were thus not standing still as regards doctrines, moral conduct, the methods of worship, or the relations they held to the state; but step by step they were moving away from the methods and the ideas of the fathers. The "lining out" of hymns was slowly abandoned, and singing by note took its place. The agitation that followed this attempt at reform was great and wide-spread.
The introduction of an organized and trained choir was also in the nature of a genuine reform. When the liberal Thomas Brattle offered an organ to the new church in Brattle Street, it was voted "that they do not think it proper to use the same in the public worship of God. It was not until that the church in Providence procured an organ, the first used in a Congregational church in New England.
When Dr. Jonathan Mayhew died, in , Dr. Chauncy prayed at his funeral; and this was said to have been the first prayer ever made at a funeral in Boston, so strong was the Puritan dislike of the customs of the Catholic Church. Perhaps the most marked tendency of this kind was the introduction of the reading of the Bible into the services of the churches as a part of the order of worship.
This innovation was distinctly due to the liberal men and the high esteem in which they held the Scriptures as a means of giving sobriety and reasonableness to their religion. The First Church in Boston, in May, , voted that the reading of the Scriptures, instead of the old Puritan way of expounding them, be thereafter discretionary with the ministers of that church, but "that the mind of the church is that larger portions should be publicly read than has been used.
This custom of reading the Bible as a part of the service of worship came slowly into general acceptance, for there was a strong feeling against it.