The Idea of a Christian Church. A Discourse . . .

THE IDEA OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH. A Discourse at the Installation of THEODORE PARKER as Minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Church in Boston, January 7th, 1846, delivered by himself and published at the request of the Society.

  All who have been interested, either for or against, by the movement made by Mr. Parker in New England should read this pamphlet with as dispassionate mind and impartial attention as possible. Whether they like its doctrine or not, they must respect one thing, the determined sincerity which animates every line, and they will find in it a concise account of the motives and views which actuate a large and growing class of minds.

  The following little extract from a speech, in which the chairman of the committee, who invited Mr. Parker to preside over the Society gave an account of its growth, might offer a convincing illustration to all who need it of the folly of persecution and of its inevitable results in strengthening the party to whom it seeks to put down:

  “It first began from certain influences which seemed hostile to the cause religious freedom. It was the opinion of many of those now present, that a minister of the Gospel, truly worthy of that name, was proscribed on account of his opinions, branded as a heretic, and shut out from the pulpits of this city.

  “At a meeting of gentlemen held January 22d, 1845, the following resolution was passed:

  “Resolved. That the Rev. Theodore Parker shall have a chance to be heard in Boston.”

  “To carry this into effect, this Hall was secured for a place of meeting and the numbers who have met here from Sunday to Sunday, have fully answered our most sanguine expectations. Our meetings have proved that though our friend was shut out from the temples, yet the people heard him gladly.’ Of the effects of his preaching among us I need not speak. The warm feelings of gratitude and respect expressed on every side are the best evidence of the efficacy of his words, and of his life.

  “Out of these meetings our Society has naturally sprung.”

  The following extract gives an adequate idea of the course Mr. Parker is determined to pursue:

  “Brothers and sisters: Let us be true to our Sentiment and Ideas. Let us not imitate another’s form unless it symbolize a truth to us. We must not affect to be singular, but not fear to be alone. Let us not foolishly separate from our Brothers elsewhere. Truth is yet before us, not only springing up out of the manly words of this Bible, but out of the ground; out of the Heavens; out of man and God. Whole firmaments of Truth hand ever o’er our heads, waiting the telescopic eye of the true-hearted see er. Let us follow Truth—of thought or sentiment—wherever she may call. God’s Daughter cannot lead us from the pain. The farther on we go, the more we find. Had Columbus turned back only the day before he saw the land, the adventure had been worse than lost.

  “We must practice a manly self-denial. Religion always demands that, but never more than when our Brothers separate from us, and we stand alone. By our mutual love and mutual forbearance, we shall stand strong. With zeal for our common work let us have charity for such as dislike us, such as oppose and would oppress us. Let us love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for such as despitefully use us. Let us overcome their evil speech with our own goodness. If others have treated us ill, called us unholy names, and mocked at us—let us forgive it all, here and now, and help them also to forget and outgrow that spirit which bade them treat us so. A kind answer is fittest rebuke to an unkind word!

  “If we have any truth it will not be kept hid. It will run over the lid of our urn and water our Brothers’ field. Were any truth to come down to us in advance from God—it were not that we might forestall the light, but shed it forth for all His children to walk by and rejoice in. ‘One candle will light a thousand’ if it be itself lighted. Let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds, and themselves praise God by a manly life. This we owe to them as to ourselves. A noble thought and a mean man make a sorry union. Let our Idea show itself in our life—that is preaching, right eloquent. Do this, and we begin to do good to men—and though they should oppose us, and our work should fail, we shall have yet the approval of our own heart, the approval of God; be whole within ourselves, and one with Him.

  “Some of you are venerable men. I have wondered that a youthful ardor should have brought you here. Your silvery heads have seemed a benediction to my work. But most of you are young. I know it is no [illegible]ing of a fashion that has brought you here. I have no eloquence to charm or please you with; I only speak right on. I have no reputation but a bad name in the churches. I know you came not idly—but seeking after Truth. Give a great Idea to an old man, and he carries it to his grave; give it to a young man, and he carries it to his life. It will bear both young and old through the grave and into eternal Heaven beyond.

  “Young men and women—the duties of the world fall eminently on you. God confides to your hands the Ark which holds the treasures of the age. On young shoulders he lays the burthen of life. Yours is the period of passion; the period of enterprise and of work. It is by successive generations that mankind goes forward. The old, stepping into honorable graves, leave their places and the results they won to you. But departing they seem to say—as they linger and look back:—Do ye greater than we have done! The young just coming into your homes seem to say:—Instruct us to be nobler than yourselves! Your life is the answer to your children and your sires. The next generation will be as you make it. It is not the Schools but the people’s character that educates the child. Amid the trials, duties, dangers of your life—Religion alone can guide you. It is not the world’s eye on you, but God’s; it is not the world’s religion that will suffice you, but the Religion of a Man, which unites you with Truth, Justice, Piety, Goodness—yes, which makes you one with God!

  “Young men and women—you can make this church a fountain of life to thousands of fainting souls. Yes, you can make this city nobler than city ever was before. A manly life is the best gift you can leave mankind; that can be copied forever. Architects of your own weal or woe—your destiny is mainly in your own hands. It is no great thing to reject the popular falsehoods; little and perhaps not hard. But to receive the great sentiments and lofty truths of real Religion, the Christianity of Christ, to love them, to live them in your business and your home,—that is the greatest work of man. Thereby you partake of the Spirit and Nature of God; you achieve the true destiny for yourself; you help your brothers do the same.”

  If the reader be offended at phrases and statements of doctrine on these pages, yet will he not wait? and accepting so fair a challenge to observe the lives of these men? By their fruits shall ye know them whether they be of God.*

“The Idea of a Christian Church. A Discourse . . . ,” New-York Daily Tribune, 18 February 1846, p. 1.