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This Tract was delivered as the Annual Discourse before the Society for promoting Theological Education in Harvard College, on Sunday Evening, January 3, 1830. The Executive Committee of the AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION have obtained the permission of the writer, and of the Directors of the Society, to publish it in their series, being anxious to give the widest possible circulation to the statements and arguments, by which the great religious charity of the day,' is here recommended to attention.
BOSTON...I. R. BUTTS, PRINTER.
CAMBRIDGE DIVINITY SCHOOL.
All those who are interested in the great subject of theological instruction, may be supposed to feel some solicitude with regard to its character, and some preference for one kind over another.
Among the numerous sects into which the religious community is divided, it is not difficult to discern some great dividing lines which mark off the district into fewer and larger portions. According as they are convinced or disposed, most people take their stand on one side or the other of these general lines, and their views of almost all topics connected with religion are characterized by their respective localities. The creeds adopted by those who dwell in one of these territories, though differing from each other in perhaps many points, will all bear the same broad and distinctive features of a common resemblance; while the creeds of their neighbors of the opposite tract, with similar minor disagreements among themselves, will have a similar family likeness; and these two sets of creeds will be as unlike, each to each, as could be conceived possible, when we consider that both claim the same original, and refer to the same law and testimony. The general opinions always, and the minute and particular opinions often, which men prefer and adopt, they naturally wish to have inculcated by teachers who are in every way qualified to recommend and enforce them. Such a desire is the cause of the favor, patronage and support which are extended by different bodies of christian beleivers to different schools and institutions in which theological instruction is afforded to those, who in their turn are to instruct others. A restricted and exclusive institution, furnished with professors who stand on an exclusive creed, and who very probably are chained down to it, is favored by those who love and embrace an exclusive system of religion; and an institution which is more free in its character, will naturally be preferred by those whose faith is free, and whose charity is comprehensive.
It will be my endeavor, on this occasion, to describe the general features of that theology which many of our most enlightened and excellent citizens throughout the country, and especially in this portion of it, prefer, from honest conviction, and the dissemination of which is demanded by the state of religious parties among us, and the condition of the public mind, and demanded, as I believe, with a louder and louder call every day. In portraying these features, I am persuaded that I shall delineate such a theology as was in the mind, and heart, and purpose of those who first united to promote Christian education in Harvard University. It is such a theology, too, as is longed and panted after by thousands of our brethren who are so scattered abroad in our land, that they cannot unite, and who must therefore be satisfied to possess and cherish the solitary truth, as they can, each in his individual bosom. It is such a theology, too, as is the real object of the dim vision, and uncertain desire, and inexpressible want of thousands more, who, wearied and repelled by the strange forms of Christianity which are
constantly presented to them, know not where to turn for their soul's good, and at last give up the search in indifference or despair.
1. The first characteristic of this theology, which I shall mention, is liberality, in the purest sense of thit word. This is indispensable. It is the necessary demand of every free and enlarged spirit. A cry and a prayer is everywhere going up, from the midst of narrow, confining, choking schemes of religion, for a liberal theology. And by a liberal, I mean a free and a generous theology; free, in opposition to a timid and creed-bound, and generous, in opposition to an exclusive, opinionative and arrogant theology. It is not the variety of opinions which have been drawn from the same records of faith, nor the number of sects into which the church universal has been partitioned, which have been injurious to the christian cause, so much as the manner in which those opinions have been maintained, and the outrageous pretensions which those sects have, with hardly an exception, advanced. There has been a constant devotion to names, and a constant slavery to prescribed doctrines. Men have risen up from time to time, who, either by extraordinary fanaticism, or great genius united with great boldness and management, have gained a mighty ascendency over multitudes, and have fastened their own notions and expositions, and in many cases their own names, round the necks of generations, who have gone on, one after another, for the most part, not only willing but proud to wear the signs and badges of their servitude.
The lovers of a free or liberal theology, feel it impossible that they could submit to any such dominion. They know it to be not in the nature of things, that any man
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