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Unitarianism in America   By: (1848-1923)

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UNITARIANISM IN AMERICA A History of its Origin and Development





The aim I have had in view in writing this book has been to give a history of the origin of Unitarianism in the United States, how it has organized itself, and what it has accomplished. It seemed desirable to deal more fully than has been done hitherto with the obscure beginnings of the Unitarian movement in New England; but limits of space have made it impossible to treat this phase of the subject in other than a cursory manner. It deserves an exhaustive treatment, which will amply repay the necessary labor to this end. The theological controversies that led to the separation of the Unitarians from the older Congregational body have been only briefly alluded to, the design of my work not requiring an ampler treatment. It was not thought best to cover the ground so ably traversed by Rev. George E. Ellis, in his Half century of the Unitarian Controversy; Rev. Joseph Henry Allen, in his Our Liberal Movement in Theology; Rev. William Channing Gannett, in his Memoir of Dr. Ezra Stiles Gannett; and by Rev. John White Chadwick, in his Old and New Unitarian Beliefs. The attempt here made has been to supplement these works, and to treat of the practical side of Unitarianism, its organizations, charities, philanthropies, and reforms.

With the theological problems involved in the history of Unitarianism this volume deals only so far as they have affected its general development. I have endeavored to treat of them fairly and without prejudice, to state the position of each side to the various controversies in the words of those who have accepted its point of view, and to judge of them as phases of a larger religious growth. I have not thought it wise to attempt anything approaching an exhaustive treatment of the controversies produced by the transcendental movement and by "the Western issue." If they are to be dealt with in the true spirit of the historical method, it must be at a period more remote from these discussions than that of one who participated in them, however slightly. I have endeavored to treat of all phases of Unitarianism without reference to local interests and without sectional preferences. If my book does not indicate such regard to what is national rather than to what is provincial, as some of my readers may desire, it is due to inability to secure information that would have given a broader character to my treatment of the subject.

The present work may appear to some of its readers to have been written in a sectarian spirit, with a purpose to magnify the excellences of Unitarianism, and to ignore its limitations. Such has not been the purpose I have kept before me; but, rather, my aim has been to present the facts candidly and justly, and to treat of them from the standpoint of a student of the religious evolution of mankind. Unitarianism in this country presents an attempt to bring religion into harmony with philosophy and science, and to reconcile Christianity with the modern spirit. Its effort in this direction is one that deserves careful consideration, especially in view of the unity and harmony it has developed in the body of believers who accept its teachings. The Unitarian body is a small one, but it has a history of great significance with reference to the future development of Christianity.

The names of those who accept Unitarianism have not been given in this book in any boastful spirit. A faith that is often spoken against may justify itself by what it has accomplished, and its best fruits are the men and women who have lived in the spirit of its teachings. In presenting the names of those who are not in any way identified with Unitarian churches, the purpose has been to suggest the wide and inclusive character of the Unitarian movement, and to indicate that it is not represented merely by a body of churches, but that it is an individual way of looking at the facts of life and its problems... Continue reading book >>

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