Theodore Parker -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 018:69 (Jan 1861)
Article: Theodore Parker
Author: Anonymous


Theodore Parker

There is an underlying character in men, and in their acts, of which they are themselves often unconscious, but which may prove, in the end, of momentous import. So, there is an underlying character in sects and parties, often of more consequence than anything that they profess or do. The creed and the reasoning of a philosophical or theological school, frequently presupposes principles not announced, but, on the contrary, disowned and scorned, which are yet, in reality, adopted and enthroned, and are sure to work their way forth into public acts and into acknowledged authority.

The Unitarians of Massachusetts separated from their Orthodox brethren, on the doctrines of Christ’s divinity and atonement and of human depravity and need of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. But, inasmuch as these doctrines are taught in the Bible, the Unitarian position involved theories of inspiration and of interpretation, with a general scheme of divine and human relations, which were not at first acknowledged, and which, perhaps, all the earlier adherents of the system would have summarily rejected. But the principles were really presupposed in the conclusions which Unitarians had reached; and, accordingly, there was, from

the first, a logical necessity that they should work themselves out into an open acknowledgment; and that, when thus publicly avowed, their further conclusions, also, should be owned and pushed. For a long time the process went on slowly and even timidly; for it was a loosening of the foundations of our Christianity, and involved the overthrow of its whole fabric. Men instinctively shrank from the conclusions of their own system and denied them. But the hour and the man came at last. On the 19th of May, 1841, at the ordination of a young minister over the Hawes Place Unitarian Church, in Boston, another Unitarian minister, then the pastor of a small church at West Roxbury, himself not yet thirty-one years of age, preached a sermon from Luke 21:33: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, bat my word shall not pass away;” which sermon, at a stroke, made Unitarian premises consistent with Unitarian conclusions, and logically developed from those premises further results of a startling tenor. The preacher’s subject was,” The Transient and Permanent in Christianity;” and he claimed that the most vital doctrines of Christianity had been as changeable as its forms of worship; while there is a “pure Religion which exists eternal in the constitution of the soul and the mind of God,” and “is always the same.” In this discourse, Christianity, stripped of the rags and tatters of beggarly superstitions, stands forth at last, in the words of the author, “a...

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