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come together, on this anniversary occasion, moved by a common impulse, animated by a common object. We meet as the representatives and members of a large and growing religious body, distinct from all other bodies, and allied only to each other and to God. We come together as a people, openly confessing the sin of sectarianism, and freely proclaiming to the world our principles and our design. Our compact is the welding of our natures by truth. Our position is that of activity. Our aims assume the dignity of a purpose. Our chief design, as a denomination, is two-fold. We remark, then,
I. That it is our purpose to assist in solving the problem whether Christianity, as a system, is a satisfactory religion, in its adaptation to the intellectual and the affectional nature of man.
We say that we are to assist in this work, for we would not arrogate to ourselves more than we may with justice claim. If there are others laboring with the same intent, we would readily share with them all incidental reproach, and accord to them all merited honor. We speak of Christianity, not as a “ life,” not as a “moral element,” but only as a system, - as a scheme
of simple but divine doctrines. We speak of the intellectual and the affectional nature of man distinctively, for the reason that mind, as such, would be satisfied with a religion which was purely rational, while such a religion could not address itself with success to the heart — the affections. And we say that it is our aim, as a people, to throw in our contributions towards the solution of the problem whether Christianity, as a religious theory, is fully adapted to meet and answer the wants of our complex nature.
Confessedly, we are undoubtedly in the wrong in esteeming this a question which yet waits for a demonstration. Christians of every modification of belief are ready to affirm its standing and triumphant demonstration at their hands. If they have not evolved all truth, they have at least exhausted all the needed powers of analysis, and shown the sufficient adaptations of their Christianity. But practically, actually, all this asseveration must go for cant and confusion. Where, and what is that interpretation of the Gospel which satisfies? Where, and who are those men whose easy natures have found such rare content? When, and how were such miracles of happiness
wrought in our midst? I look in vain for such wonders, for such demonstration. I go among those who scorn to come among us; and I everywhere find mournful evidences of an unsatisfying faith. I have been, as many of you have been, by the bedsides of some of their dying saints, and sought to catch from the intimations of death, verifications of a creed whose spirit a holy life had outlived, whose truth the latest consciousness denied. It is an unfortunate hour for Christianity-an unfortunate hour for the world, when sober minded men are compelled to regard it in its more common forms as having acceptably justified and commended itself to the understanding and the heart. From such a decision, reason instinctively appeals; nor can its acquiescence be won, except its functions are perverted and debased.
Nothing, in fact, is more evident; for a large proportion of these forms of religion insist upon the rejection of reason as the fundamental condition of their acceptance. Were reason not to recoil from their embrace -- were they to betray any intrinsic congeniality with this attribute, they would be directly regarded by their abettors
as carnal in infuence and false in principle.
In the monstrous philosophy which prevails, the simple predisposition of men to use their reason is adjudged the clearest proof, not only that they are not religious, but that they are incapable of becoming so, until they have rectified an error which originated with God, in conferring our primitive endowments: so that this great business of belief and devotion is based upon the ostensible negation of our nature.
And yet, this negation is never complete. Whatever miracle is needful to achieve conversion, it is never a miracle which fully accomplishes its work. The supernatural does not fully triumph over the natural; for after all the resources which have been so successfully applied, this enslavement of the understanding is not so thorough as to be wholly divested of the leaven of a rebellion which must generate dissatisfaction now, and, if the philosophy be true, inevitably lead to damnation in the end.
Christianity, as inculcated by Christ, and enforced by the Apostles, must have been a very simple, an essentially rational system. We do not now go to original records and facts. We .
put our appeal in another direction. Christianity as now taught is not only not such a system, but all pretence of this kind is expressly and authoritatively disclaimed. What then is the Christianity of to-day? Whence did it come? Men tell us with immovable gravity that they teach the truths Christ taught, and that we must receive them or inherit an immortality of ill. What, then, are those truths ? Suppose you seek for them under the general form of Calvinism, or the rival form of Arminianism. Could a reasonable man look grave, save through grief at the Father's dishonor, when told that one or the other of these schemes were the original Christianity? And, in mercy, which of them is so distinguished ? for, you will observe, that these schemes are antagonistic in point of fact and in point of principle. The substantiation of the claims of one is consequently the rejection of the claims of the other. In favor of which, then, shall the decision of truth be given ? I declare to you, that as to the result, it matters nothing, for if one or the other is Christianity, then it is a Christianity without Christ; and in its embrace we may well say, as the tearful Mary said at the grave of her Master