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A WORD TO OUR READERS.
Only that which is alive can impart life. And the magazine which we now introduce to our countrymen can not live but by the life it can supply. Such reciprocal vitality, we believe, must depend on the degree in which it shall be representative of the Spirit of the Age-a phrase which we fear is too common-place to carry with it always its deep purport. What can the Spirit of an Age mean but that leading tendency, coördinating all interests, which gives to that age an individual character and a special strength ? Why should not this individuality and specialty be as sacred in an age as in a man ? Every faithful man has found God at the core of the special task assigned to his life; with no other friend than his work, he' is upheld, inspired, empowered : there he is at home, there are the beacon-lights ; there it matters not whether wind and tide be ahead or astern. So does God draw nigh to an age in the spirit of that age. Christ declared that out of his Word. and Work should come a Spirit which should CONVINCE the world. The conviction of an age is its only possible Christianity : the deepest thing of its own time, Christianity must be the deepest thing of every time. To be alive and powerful, it must represent the conviction of the time that is, not of the time that was: it must not take a man whose every other sense and faculty is satisfied in the fulness of the Nineteenth Century, and set him, for the satisfaction of his religious sense, back in the Third ; it must not place a man's holiest day of the week fifteen hundred years behind his other days. Heine, the German poet, was asked, by his friend Alphonso, as they stood before the great
Cathedral of Rheims, “Why can not the present age build such cathedrals as that ?" "That structure,” replied Heine,
was reared by an age of convictions ; ours is an age of opinions."
There was a period when the Roman Catholic church represented that which was deepest, most immortal in the masses of men. The mitre was not then the crown of a despot; the crosier had not sharpened into the bayonet or coiled into the thumbscrew; and the loyal human heart, once won, will suffer long ere it recall a plighted faith. But the awful day came; a higher conviction arrived embodying that Spirit at whose touch the Right and the Wrong stand together at the bar of judgment; and from that day the Church which would not abandon the unveiled wrong could build no more great cathedrals ! “ Shall we not rather find,” says Ruskin, “that Romanism, instead of being a promoter of the arts, has never shown itself capable of a single great conception since the separation of Protestantism from its side ? So long as, corrupt though it might be, no clear witness had been borne against it, so that it still included in its ranks a vast number of faithful Christians, so long its arts were noble. But the witness was borne, the error made apparent, and Rome, refusing to hear the testimony, or forsake the falsehood, has been struck from that instant with an intellectual palsy, which has not only incapacitated her from any further use of the arts which were once her ministers, but has made her worship the shame of its own shrines, and her worshippers their destroyers.”
In course of time, Protestantism, in the forms which it assumed, became in turn a tradition rather than a conviction; a thing borne with sufferance, not with joy. As a conviction, it culminated in the planting of New England; then its spirit began a slow ebb. Then rose up the prophets of a new faith and hope ; and Channing, Freeman, Hollis, the Wares, the Buckminsters, easily gained the throne of American Thought. After them came a period of theological empyricism, confusing a specific and temporary movement with the eternal and progressive spirit on which the Unitarian movement was but another bead strung. Again was the witness borne, and the command FORWARD heard. But the prophets were stoned, the Lord at his coming denied. With what result? He who looks for Boston Unitarianism will see a series of stranded churches—churches once alive, now disintegrated, sold at auction to other sects, here and there a fusion of two or three in one to preserve even the “name that they live,” pastors leaving them for the fleshpots of orthodoxy, vainly crying to heaven or beyond the sea for shepherds. The tide of the spirit of the age beating so full on other shores has ebbed away, leaving them high and dry. Old fashioned Unitarianism, says Dr. Bellows, has become a Boston notion; and the faith of Christendom is in a state of suspense.
Has the spirit which convinces the world, which conquers human hearts, filling them with a courage and hope which have no “suspense,” left the world ? Surely, it must take some conviction to build up on half a continent free schools and colleges grand as the old cathedrals. Surely, it must be a somewhat active spirit which in a few years has multiplied a few anti-slavery men, holding hated conferences in garrets, into two millions of open lovers of and voters for freedom. And must it not have been something else than a suspense of faith which, in less than fifteen
years, has raised up twenty-seven ministers, and more than as many thousands of the laity, to stand boldly where in 1845 Theodore Parker and his congregation stood alone in the Unit States ? It is a law that nothing is ever superseded but by something better ; and our eyes have no tears for the old blossoms which are falling, because they are fixed on the swelling fruits for which they make way.
The soul which has had its new advent, and now has its star climbing the ecliptic, must needs organize itself into the members and features which worldly conditions have ever made necessary for a new-born spirit. It has built its Pulpit; it has ruled in the Lyceum ; it has impressed as servants those who would not be its sons ; it has married Science ; it now calls for the Press.
THE DIAL stands before you, reader, a legitimation of the Spirit of the Age, which ASPIRES TO BE FREE : free in thought, doubt, utterance, love and knowledge. It is, in our minds, symbolized not so much by the sun-clock in the yard, as by the floral dial of Linnæus, which recorded the advancing day by the opening of some flowers and the closing of others : it would report the Day of God as recorded in the unfolding of higher life and thought, and the closing up of old superstitions and evils; it would be a Dial measuring time by growth.
THE CHRISTIANITY OF CHRIST.
[ First Article. ]
CHRISTIANITY NOT OF CHRIST.
The Christianity of Christ : it should be needless to use this phrase ; for what is Christianity but the Christianity of Christ ? Platonism is the doctrine of Plato; Epicurism is the doctrine of Epicurus; Calvinism is the doctrine of Calvin ; Socinianism is the doctrine of Socinus; Buddhism is the religion of Buddha ; Mohammedanism is the religion of Mohammed. By the same rule of speech, Christianity is the religion of Christ : not any faith in him, or concerning him, but the faith that was his own, the faith which he held and taught. But the word Christianity, as commonly employed, bears no such meaning as this. In the widest sense, it denotes the prevailing opinions of all Christendom respecting Jesus ; in a narrower sense, it defines the doctrines of particular sects in Christendom. It includes every form of religion that has Christ for its centre, whether as Godhead, Logos, Prophet, Teacher, or Exemplar. It is applied to a system of speculative theology, within which there is room for every possible definition, and every imaginable notion. There is no infallible judgment in philosophy; there are no final dogmas in metaphysics ; every strong argument is valid, and none is conclusive ; every honest opinion is legitimate, and none is authoritative. There is no end, therefore, to the views that may be taken of Christianity. Anybody may prove himself a Christian in the vulgar sense who thinks the name worth claiming, and he forfeits all title to ingenuity who can not frame a pretext for assuming it, whether he be Hegelian or Swedenborgian, a disciple of Neander or of Feurbach. In speculation, the name Christian comprehends all, from the Roman Catholic to the dissenter from all dissenters. In practice, it comprehends the two extremes of saintliness and decency. To give it significance, it must be defined anew; we must say that Christianity is not any system of belief whatever respecting Christ, but is the faith which Christ himself as a person held and communicated ; and in order to learn what Christianity is, we must a lopt the new method of historical criticism, instead of the old one of dogmatic theology.