A Backward Glance 0’er Traveled Roads
Being an historical sketch of
(Unitarian Congregational Society in
on the occasion of its
IT WAS with trepidation that we undertook to write this history and with discouragement that we discovered the paucity of material. Many of the records were faulty and some were altogether lacking. The official records of the church from its founding up to 1890 have completely disappeared, whether lost, stolen or destroyed no one can say. For much of our material we were forced to depend on reminiscences from some of the older members of the parish. We would particularly acknowledge our debt and gratitude to Mrs. Burton N. Bump, Mrs. A. M. York, and Mr. Franklin Chase of the Onondaga Historical Society. The present officials of the church have also aided us.
"THERE IS properly
speaking no history, only biography." Thus wrote Emerson just one hundred
years ago. How utterly impossible it is to record the history of organizations
without at the same time finding it inseparably interwoven with the lives of
men and women. To write an accurate history of
Greatly indebted are we to Mrs. Arthur Saddington and Mrs. Warren B. Walsh for their patience in gathering this material from many obscure places. Of necessity there will appear omissions which someone's memory will supply, or errors arising from faulty information. For such as these we implore the exercise of a gracious charity in those who read.
It is both a privilege and an
honor to be a part of a great tradition. May
To the men and women whose great day is done; to those of lesser mould but of benign nobility; to those in mid-years-the toilers at the helm; and to the little children who are God's great tomorrow, we dedicate the song of our achievement!
W. Waldemar W. Argow
The History of
THE EARLY history of the
Unitarian Society in
In 1836 and 1837, on the
invitation of this group, a few Unitarian ministers would occasionally stop on
Sunday to preach but such visits were rare. The services were held sometimes in
homes, sometimes in an unoccupied schoolhouse, and, occasionally, in the old
Immediately after the first
steps toward organization had been taken, a subscription was begun for the
building of a wooden church on
At the beginning of Mr.
Storer's ministry the largest attendance of the church was about forty, but in
spite of the bitter opposition the membership in the society increased to such
a number that the church building became too small. In August, 1840, a
committee composed of Hiram Putnam, John Wilkinson, William Malcolm, Parley
Bassett, and Thomas Spencer was appointed to select and purchase a lot upon
which to erect a bigger building. This group recommended the purchase for
$1,000 of two lots on Burnett and Lock Streets (
During these developments and even much later these faithful Unitarians met with continued bitterness and intolerance. However, a group of young men did "brave the Storm and Sneers of Orthodoxy" and join the Society. Social ostracism was so strong that few young women could face it. The Unitarian views were caricatured by the Orthodox preachers; and, as Mr. Williston wrote in a letter, "Revivalists found plenty of material for their nightly sermon tirades." He continued, "The notorious Elder Knapp used the Baptist Pulpit almost nightly for weeks in denouncing the Unitarian 'Devils' as he called us, at the same time asked pardon of 'Old Satan' for slandering him in that manner." However, as the number of families who joined the Society increased, a larger group of young people attended church and the social activities, thus building up a new generation to carry on the work of the founders.
Shortly after the dedication
of the Church of the Messiah, it was necessary for Mr. Storer to resign because
of failing health. Not willing to accept his resignation, the congregation gave
him an unlimited leave of absence, beginning on
During the following year
regular services were held with different ministers supplying. One of these men
was Rev. Samuel J. May who was asked to succeed Mr. Storer. An agreement
between the pastor and congregation was reached on
Under Mr. May the congregation celebrated the Lord's Supper the first Sunday of every other month and invited "all persons present to partake with us . . . leaving it for everyone to act in this matter according to his own light." Mr. May did not know what right we have to appropriate the Lord's Supper to a part of the Society--or to judge who is worthy and who is not worthy to unite in commemorating the death of Christ."
In 1847 Mr. May inaugurated Sunday afternoon "conversations," "hoping to draw out as much as I can the thoughts of those who attend, and find out what they think. Most persons of all Sects, seem to me to have very indistinct ideas of religion, its nature, its doctrines, its requirements. They may be familiar with the language of their creeds, but they know not what the language means."
In the fall of 1850, at a cost of over $3,000 the church was redecorated and enlarged to hold 28 more pews. At this time 53 pews were sold for $1040 more than the appraisal.
Preceding the storm a bitter theological controversy had been raging over the Unitarian doctrines. Dr. Luther Lee represented the extreme Orthodox and Mr. May the Liberalists. When the steeple of the church fell, the Orthodox "exulted over the penalty" that the Almighty had exacted from the 'unbelievers' and for weeks the town was rife with opinions on the matter of the punishment of unbelievers." Mr. and Mrs. Northrup, on whose house part of the church fell, were Methodists. After the accident Mr. Northrup asked: "If the storm was God's punishment for unbelief, why was the steeple allowed to fall on our house? We are Orthodox." On telling the story to Mr. John T. Roberts as a boy, Mr. Northrup said, "My boy, don't make out God to be meaner than man. If your house falls down don't change your religion but change your carpenter."
The new building which was
In 1858 and 1859 Mr. May was given a year's absence on which he hoped to regain his health which had been affected by thirteen years of hard work. In 1867 Mr. May's failing health made it necessary for him to resign but, with his consent, his resignation was not accepted until March, 1868. In appreciation of a long and valuable ministry a life annuity was given to him.
By the following month a
successor to Mr. May had been found, Rev. Samuel R. Calthrop of
In 1883 "after the invasion of the neighborhood by the tracks of a railway," the congregation was forced to move from the Church of the Messiah. The railway was a source of great annoyance to the people as well as a hazard to the building itself. On March 13 the Trustees appointed a committee to "inaugurate measures looking toward a new church to be styled 'The May Memorial Church"'. On October 25 it was resolved that "a new church should be built." On October 30 the Trustees authorized Horatio N. White "to receive proposals, by advertising or otherwise, for furnishing the society with a lot for its new church." Early the following year a vote designated the "Chase Lot" on James Street, whereupon the following resolution was passed: "That more than two-thirds in amount, as required by the terms of the subscriptions to the May Memorial Church Fund, having voted to purchase the lot on the south side of James Street owned by Mr. A. C. Chase, for the sum of $9,500, payable May 1, 1884, we hereby appoint Martin A. Knapp and A. N. Wright to make a contract for the same, with power."
At subsequent meetings in
April it was resolved that "the material for the structure be Onondaga
Limestone with the rough Ashler finish and that H. N.
White be appointed as architect. On May 15 a design was approved with the
addition of a stone porch on the front of the church. On June 7, the building
committee made a contract with Mr. E. M. Allen for the building complete at the
price of $29,000. However, it was later found that the total cost would be
approximately $50,000, $12,000 more than available funds. To meet this deficit
the Trustees then asked for and received the necessary additional subscriptions
to the building fund. The construction proceeded satisfactorily and the date of
dedication was designated as Oct. 20. Participating in the ceremony were Dr.
Calthrop, Rev. H. M. Mann, Mr. Dupee of
The memorial windows were given by Mr. James A. Dupee of Boston in memory of Rev. J. P. B. Storer, by relatives and friends to Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Wallace, Hiram Putnam and D. P. Phelps, by pupils to Miss A. Bradbury, to Dr. H. C. Powers, to Mrs. Dana and Mrs. Cogswell, to Lyman and Fanny Ware Clary, to Edward Barker Judson, and to James G. and Sarah Osgood Tracy.
In 1901 Dr. Calthrop
recommended the installation of a paid Sunday School Superintendent, offering
to donate $200 out of his salary for that purpose. It was not until a year
later that Dr. Heffron was engaged as the
superintendent. That same year Mr. Albert W. Clark, a post graduate student at
During this period and until 1919 the finances of the church were met by the proceeds from the rental of pews. In many years the income from this sale exceeded estimated expenditures. As far back as 1890 the income amounted to $4,855 while expenses, exclusive of music, were $4,550. This achievement was due to the ability of Mr. Amos Padgham, long-time clerk and treasurer.
Usually on Sunday evenings the congregation met at Dr. Calthrop's home for a social meeting and a talk by the minister on any one of his many interests: astronomy, botany, and the like.
After Dr. Calthrop's resignation in 1911, Dr. John H. Applebee became the minister, serving the church until 1930. It was during his ministry, in 1919, that the financial arrangements of the church were changed. In October the motion was adopted that "the financial support of the Church should be independent" of the pew rentals. The income was to be raised by voluntary subscriptions. This system proved satisfactory for in 1921 $18,135.52 was contributed, $3,135.52 more than was needed.
In 1920 Dr. Applebee was given a leave of absence until May 1 and longer if necessary as a vacation. At that time his salary was increased from $3,600 to $4,000 and repairs to the church amounting to $625 were made. The following year $6,500 was spent on redecorating the church. In 1922 the Sunday School consisted of 43 children and 7 teachers. In 1928 Miss Elizabeth Murphy was appointed Sunday School Superintendent at a salary of $1,500.
After Dr. Applebee's resignation Rev. Evans A. Worthley substituted until a successor should be named, at a salary of $35 a Sunday. In October, 1929, it was voted to retain Mr. Worthley as "interim minister" for $500 for five months and four months later $50 a month was added to his salary.
No. of Teachers
The Sunday School has had able leaders in Mrs. M. S. Dooley and in Dr. Elizabeth Manwell, the present superintendent.
Similarly the attendance and membership of the church have increased. In 1928 the membership was 190; today it is 292.
Up until this time the church had had no Constitution but in January of 1931 a Constitution was adopted at an annual meeting. That same year the Society joined the Syracuse Council of Churches.
The church has undergone several renovations in recent years. During the latter years of Dr. Calthrop's ministry the interior was changed by moving the choir loft from the front of the church to the rear. The chimes were given by Mrs. Hiscock in memory of her parents. In 1935 Mrs. Charles M. Crouse left a sum of money to remodel the Parish House. The most recent redecoration, completed in September of this year, was made possible by the generosity of the late Mrs. Frank H. Hiscock, who, with her husband, Judge Frank H. Hiscock, has been among the most helpful members of the church. The committee in charge was Mrs. William H. Eager, Mr. Fraser McLennan, and Mr. William F. Canough, assisted by Mr. Severin Bischof, a friend of the church.
The circle of the church's influence has been widened by the radio. Intermittently since 1931 the sermons and part of the services have been broadcast. This year the broadcast, carried by WSYR, is on a regular schedule, the first Sunday of every month.
"Press on! press on! through toil and woe,
"Calmly resolved to triumph go,
" And make each dark and threatening ill
"Yield but a higher glory still.
(From a hymn by William Gaskell.)
Biographical Sketches of The Ministers
THE UNITARIAN Congregational
The record we have of Mr.
Storer's early life is very incomplete. He was born in 1794 in
Though these details are
meager, members of his
Miss Caroline Wallace, daughter of E. F. Wallace, a charter member of the Society, described Mr. Storer as “a man of magnificent presence, of courtly bearing, and finished culture, whose charming personality added to his scholarly attainments attracted a choice following of prominent and appreciative young men and women of that day, over whom, till death suddenly removed him from the scene of his earthly ministrations, he ever retained a strong and ennobling influence."
For a year after Mr. Storer's
death there was no permanent minister at the Church of the Messiah. But in
September, 1844, Rev. Samuel J. May was asked to come to
Samuel J. May was born in
Samuel May went to
Mr. May had a varied
experience between the time of his graduation from
The rest of Samuel May's life
story is closely bound up with life in
His kindliness and tenderness toward all living beings shone in his face and showed itself in all his actions. Children were drawn to him and loved him, every distressed or persecuted group of his day found in him a staunch friend. Along with his tenderness went a great patience. He was ever ready to hear the plans of others, to make allowance for the shortcomings of all those with whom he came in contact. Especially did this patience show itself in his dealing with those who refused to work with him and reviled him. In no relation of life did he exhibit pettiness.
His keen sense of humor endeared him to his friends. It showed itself at every turn and we are told many stories of his wit. One evening Mr. May attended a dinner at which mince pie was served for dessert. He was very fond of it but knew it did not agree with him. Nevertheless he ate not one but two pieces of the pie! That night he was seized with such a violent attack of indigestion that Dr. Clary had to be called. The old doctor noting the sick man's keen distress said, "Come, Mr. May. You're not afraid to die!" " No," replied his irrepressible patient, "I'm not afraid, just ashamed to." On another occasion Mr. May was called upon by a committee of the village's most prominent ladies -- not of his own congregation. They were incensed at a campaign he had begun in the public press against the fashions of the day, especially against the tightly laced corsets the women wore. When the knock came at his door, he ushered the ladies in and in his courtly manner said, "Ladies, what may I do for you?" "Mr. May," said the spokesman, "We have come to you with a message, a message from the Lord." "Ladies," he replied, "I do not doubt that you have come with a message, but I do doubt its authorship."
His complete honesty of mind
showed itself in all his actions. He would not accept the call to
Mr. May's courage was a very prominent trait. He never exhibited fear and he never took an easy way out of a situation. We have stories of him which show his physical and spiritual courage. One day he was driving over a lonely road when a very unprepossessing young man asked for a ride. He stopped and the young man climbed in. During the drive Mr. May talked in his kindly, friendly, interesting way. When he reached his destination the young man got out and said, "When I got in with you I intended to rob you." "Yes," said Mr. May quietly, "I know you did."
He never allowed public demonstration of anger at his views to swerve him nor to silence him. When his advocacy of peace during the Mexican War brought down condemnation upon him he replied boldly through the public press, "Much rather would I be called a Tory than a soldier -- a butcher of men. Much rather would I be called a traitor to my country than a traitor to Mankind. . . War is the greatest of human crimes for it includes all others."
Mr. May was a man of great
intellectual capacity also. Mr. C. D. B. Mills who knew him well tells us that
intellectually Mr. May had few superiors but that these powers were frequently
overlooked because people noticed more his kindliness, patience, and
humanitarianism. A little knowledge of this man's character makes it easier for
us to understand his wide-spread interests and the fervor with which he helped
every cause he deemed worthy of support. Perhaps he is best known for his work
in the Anti-Slavery movement. He never lost an opportunity to speak against the
practice of slavery. He gave active and public support to every effort made in
behalf of the negroes. His own
There was much opposition to
the anti-slavery campaign in
But the Anti-Slavery group
did not always come off second best, as the Jerry Rescue shows. In 1850 a group
of the best citizens in
Mr. May's work on behalf of
He was not content with improving the educational standards of the white children alone. He collected funds for the erection of a school on the Onondaga Indian Reservation, hired a teacher, and then persuaded the Superintendent of Public Instruction to grant an annual sum for her payment. After the Civil War he was very active in arousing interest in educational projects for the freed negroes.
In a wider field he was
largely instrumental in the forming of the State Teachers Associations both in
As early as 1826 Mr. May gave
himself whole-heartedly to the cause of temperance. While in
In the first half of the
nineteenth century peace organizations were neither as numerous nor as vocal as
they are today. It took courage to be outspoken against all war. Here again Mr.
May showed his interest in mankind and in the gospel of Christ. In his Journal,
Mr. May felt the best place
to begin teaching this doctrine of peace was with the children. While in
The Civil War greatly strained his loyalties, such was his love of peace; yet so deep was his hatred of slavery. He gave much of his time during that sad struggle helping the soldiers by collecting supplies to be sent to them, by visiting the camps and indeed by doing much of the work that the Sanitary Commission took over later.
The issue of Women's rights
was a live one during Mr. May's ministry at
Among other interests of Mr. May's we could list the founding of the Orphan's Home, the opening of a hospital under the Sisters of Charity -- now known as St. Mary's Hospital -- and the attempt to found a communistic group on land near Skaneateles Lake.
Mr. May occupies a high place
"My dear Mr. Tilden,
I write a line to express my earnest hope that you will represent the association as they have asked you to, at the funeral of Mr. May. If I could go I would accompany you, for not only is my personal feeling for him very tender and near but I recognize so strongly his eminent service to our cause that I should be glad by my presence to express it.
I hope if you go you will say something publicly to testify to his connection with the association and his efficient service. He has been active as missionary ever since he left the charge of his society with only such interruptions as his health and other engagements made necessary; and the peculiar respect he had won all through the state in which his work had been given -- and his rare faculty of saying the right word enabled him to do what no one else could have done so well."
At the funeral his many friends of different races and creeds, the eminent in his own denomination, his people in Syracuse and especially the children who had loved him so well, all took part in paying tribute to a great man great in the way his Master was great.
Upon Mr. May's resignation,
the trustees called as minister a man of remarkable talents and truly catholic
interests, Samuel R. Calthrop. Installed on
Born at Swineshead
The most amazing
characteristic of Dr. Calthrop was his versatility. He was a preacher,
scientist, lecturer, inventor, teacher, writer, and athlete. As an athlete he
participated in numerous sports. While at
Among Mr. Calthrop’s numerous
interests was that in science. He was one of the first men to forecast the
weather from sunspots. He held classes in botany and geology out of which
eventually grew the present Botany and Geology Clubs of the city. After the
church picnics which were held on the lawn of his home, Primrose Hill, he gave
lectures on astronomy, using a telescope which had been given to him by his
congregation. At one time he announced a lecture on evolution but was severely
reprimanded by men of the congregation. After hearing the lecture, however,
this group withdrew their opposition. He designed a streamlined train, the
forerunner of the current trains, and patented it in 1865. His remarkable and
multiform contributions to the advancement of knowledge were recognized by his
He was a prolific writer in both prose and poetry. Some of his best known prose is "Gold and Silver as Money" and "One Lord and His Name are One." Much of his poetry was written for periodicals.
Not the least amusing of his
characteristics was his absentmindedness. While living in
At one time when Dr. Calthrop was given charge of the children, he had to put them to bed. One of the children objected strenuously but after much persuasion he was finally subdued. On Mrs. Calthrop's return she inquired as to how her husband had managed during her absence. He told her that all but one of the children had gone to bed quite properly but with that one he had had quite a struggle. Mrs. Calthrop went in to inspect the children and found, to her great surprise, that the child who had objected going to bed was not hers but that of a neighbor.
One of the most amusing
stories was that told by Mrs. Bump. During a visit to the
city by President Taft Dr. Calthrop, along with other prominent Syracusans, attended a luncheon in honor of Mr. Taft.
Each person received and wore on his lapel a large button on
which were the words "Welcome to our City." It so happened
that that afternoon Dr. Calthrop was to conduct a funeral for the brother of a
member of :the congregation. In the rush to get from
the luncheon to the church Dr. Calthrop forgot to remove the badge. The
minister appeared at the funeral wearing the button "Welcome to our
City," which was particularly appropriate since the deceased, having died
in the far West, had been brought to
During his ministry numerous
social and philanthropic activities were started and carried on by Dr. Calthrop
and members of his congregation. A few of these were begun as projects of the
church or of the
Throughout this period there was still much opposition from the Orthodox churches. Frequently, on seeing Dr. Calthrop coming down the street, members of different denominations would cross over to the other side in order to avoid meeting the Unitarian minister. In spite of this general feeling two of Dr. Calthrop's closest friends and favorite chess players were a Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest.
After a long and valuable
ministry of forty-three years at
John H. Applebee served as
the fourth pastor of
After graduation from a
Boston High School John Applebee studied at
Like his predecessors Mr.
Applebee combined his work as minister with activities outside the church. He
headed several civic and charitable organizations and participated in others.
Among these he was interested in the Association of Workers for the Blind and
learned Braille so that he could transcribe literature. With Dr. Frederick W.
Betts, former minister of the
Deprived of his wife and
help-mate, Dr. Applebee steadily limited his activities until his retirement in
1929. Dr. Applebee proposed that he retire on his sixtieth birthday (
W. Waldemar W. Argow, fifth
and present minister of
During the World War Dr.
Argow was an ardent worker among the underprivileged. He became a member of the
commission on living conditions created by the Department of Labor, and was
sent into the munitions towns to recondition people morally, mentally, and
physically. During the flu epidemic Dr. Argow was night superintendent of a
In 1920 he became a Unitarian
and a year later went to
In 1933 in recognition of outstanding contributions in Religious Philosophy Dr. Argow was appointed a member of the "Institut Litteraire et Artistique de France."
Though statistics give but a
cold and unfeeling picture of pastoral duties well-performed, the following
figures may perhaps convey some conception of Dr. Argow's
ministerial activities. During the eight years of his incumbency at
Like his predecessors in
The Association here has been known for its liberal attitude. Mr. Joseph Allen, speaking at the celebration held on the hundredth anniversary of Mr. May's birth, said that perhaps no other influential society in the country would have invited a man of his strong views on peace, anti-slavery, and women's rights, to become its pastor. Perhaps no other society would have allowed him perfect liberty of speech when many of the congregation did not see eye to eye with him on these questions.
Mr. May's active work in the
cause of abolition was greatly strengthened by the help of his congregation.
Financial support was frequently given runaway slaves and the activities of the
Unitarian group here contributed greatly to the reputation
Enthusiastic reform groups
the world over often find it hard to secure a meeting place and a fair hearing.
The old Church of the Messiah and later May Memorial Church provided a refuge
for such groups. Those working for women's suffrage frequently met in the
Unitarian auditorium. Indeed, if we look for the leaders of the movement here
we find them among the members of the Association. No one thinks of the
agitation for women's rights in
The cause of peace has always found loyal supporters at May Memorial. All his life Mr. May worked hard for peace. His opinion on war has already been mentioned. Dr. Calthrop's ideas were not of the same kind for although he was an advocate of peace he did not recommend non-resistance. Instead he believed in a strong state of preparedness. In the church records we find that Dr. Applebee and his congregation were often thinking of peace and the means by which they might advance its cause. There are references to motions made expressing gratitude to President Taft in 1911 for his efforts on behalf of international peace and goodwill, of committees appointed to arouse interest in treaties on international arbitration which were being discussed in the Senate, and other items of a like nature. Those of us in the church today know the keen interest in and the desire for peace that Dr. and Mrs. Argow -- and indeed the whole congregation -- feel.
But when war came, the church always tried to do its part in alleviating the distress that comes in its strain. At the time of the Civil War Mr. May had the loyal support of his people in the work he did both before and after the organization of the Sanitary Commission. During the World War the church did what it could for the soldiers who were in training camp here. Showers were installed in the basement, a moving picture machine was placed in the church auditorium and the men used the church parlors for game rooms. The use of the church rooms was offered to the American Red Cross Society, the women worked making bandages and dressings and other needed supplies. Also Dr. Applebee was granted a leave of absence to go overseas with the Red Cross.
While the Unitarians in
One of the monuments to Dr.
Calthrop here is the Syracuse Boy's Club which began in
Dr. Calthrop's interest in healthy recreation went beyond the Boys' Club. He was the moving spirit behind the project to provide tennis courts for the people of the city. The first ones were built at what is now Sedgwick Farms. He was also very much interested in the drive to increase the number of parks and playgrounds in the city.
Another of his fine projects was carried out during the depression of 1893. At that time there was widespread distress in the city and no municipal department or funds for relieving it. Dr. Calthrop with characteristic energy organized the city into districts with the schools as headquarters. He supervised the collecting of food and clothing and saw that they were distributed from the school centers.
The first Boys' Scout Troop
Dr. Betts of the
The women of the Unitarian
Probably we should not fail
to mention the many clever theatrical performances the church produced in days
gone by. These were famous in the city at a time when the moving picture
theatres did not provide wholesale entertainment. Mrs. Julia Jenney is a name that the city will remember whenever
amateur dramatics are thought of. Dr. John Applebee was another staunch
supporter of dramatics. He often helped with the production of plays in the
Little Theatre on
This story of the achievements of our church in the past one hundred years is one to make us all proud. But it should have a more important effect upon everyone of us. In it there is an inspiration and a challenge to go forward into the new century strongly maintaining the traditions of liberalism and service of the past and building a fine record of solid achievements for the future.
"This is the original
draft of the Covenant of the Unitarian Congregational Church of Syracuse in the
handwriting of Rev. George Ripley; and the signatures of the first members made
"We, the undersigned professing our belief in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, and the Saviors of the world; in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as containing the revelations of God to man, and as a sufficient rule of faith and practice; and desiring to walk in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless, do hereby form ourselves into a Christian Church, under the name of the Unitarian Congregational Church of Syracuse.
We agree and covenant with each other, as in the presence of Almighty God, to continue in the fellowship of this Church, in a regular attendance on Christian ordinances, in the exercise of Christian affections, in the maintenance of Christian liberty, and in the pursuit of Christian truth, so long and so far as shall appear to us to be our duty.
(Signed) Joshua Leonard
Elisha F. Wallace
B. F. Marden
Nancy W. Abbot
Julia Ann White
Mary W. Buss
"This paper has been
kept by E. F. Wallace, Esq. until today
(Signed) S. J. May
Following are excerpts from
the address given by Mr. May at the Dedication services of the Church of the
"But why, brethren, did
you build your first
Frankly I reply, Because, before God, we are fully persuaded that that which
is held up in most of the churches about us as religion is not pure
Christianity, but a compound of the gospel with Judaism and Platonism, and some
admixtures of other heathen and oriental philosophies. We believe that Jesus
Christ, and not Paul nor Cephas, nor Augustine nor
Calvin, not Edwards nor Wesley, but Jesus Christ is the best teacher of
Christianity. We are persuaded that the Sermon on the Mount, and not the Athanasian nor the Nicene Creed, not the Westminster
Assembly's Confession nor the Thirty-nine Articles of the Episcopal Church, but
the Sermon on the Mount is the best body of divinity. We believe that whosoever
heareth these sayings of Christ and doeth them,
hath built his house upon that rock which alone shall never be removed. We
insist that neither the Pope of Rome, nor the Bishops of the Church of England,
nor the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, nor any consociation nor
any associated body of men, however learned, grave and reverend, have any
authority, but that which is usurped, to interpose their expositions of divine
truth between the mind of the humblest individual and the mind of Christ. Jesus
It is mainly because of the usurpation of the so-called orthodox or self-styled evangelical churches and ministers that we have separated from them, although we have in those enclosures many individuals whose characters we cordially acknowledge to be luminous with the Christian graces.
Relying, as we do, chiefly upon the teachings of Christ and his Apostles, we have been led to more consistent, more worthy, more delightful views of God, and more encouraging views of man, than those that are held up by the" evangelical churches."
We have been brought to regard God as the Merciful Father, rather than the stern, jealous, relentless Monarch of the universe. His benignity is revealed to us in the character of Jesus Christ, who is set before the world as "the express image" of God.
We have been brought no longer to regard man as by nature wholly alienated from God and holiness, wholly prone to evil and indisposed to all good. We believe him to have been made in the image of God, a partaker of the Divine nature, which, however it may be sullied and seared, can never by wholly obliterated.
We have been brought to believe, not that much the larger part of the race of Adam (all, indeed, save "the elect") will have cause throughout eternity to rue the day that they were born, but that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall be made alive;" and that as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." We believe that it is the gracious design of the Father so to deal with us all in this life and the life to come, that, notwithstanding the diversity of our gifts, our talents, or our temperaments, we shall all be brought, sooner or later, in this life, or in some future state of being, by just so much discipline and sufferings as may be necessary, to bear a resemblance to Christ, the dearly beloved Son, and so be reconciled to God and rejoice in him evermore. “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe." By faith while in this life, and by faith alone are men led unto that righteousness which can save them from the fear of death and the retributions of the future state.
We consider the Calvinistic or Orthodox scheme of salvation a theological system of man's device, which in the dark ages was foisted into the place of Christianity, and still holds its place, to the exclusion of the gospel. Whatever may have been the virtue and piety exhibited in connection with the Roman Catholic, the Episcopal, the Presbyterian, or any other phase of the "Orthodox" faith, mankind will never be wholly redeemed from sin and misery but by the pure and undefiled religion of Jesus.
For these reasons, we have been impelled to claim for ourselves, and to summon others to exercise a larger liberty than is allowed in any of the popular or evangelical churches of the land. We renounce all master of our faith but God and his Christ. And we call upon all who have minds to comprehend what is true and hearts to love what is right, to make religious doctrine and religious duty the subjects of their own personal investigation. And we insist that not the reception of this or that theological system is the true test of the religious character of any man, but his filial submission and obedience to the Heavenly Father, and his brotherly love of his fellow-beings.
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