Friday, 14 February 2014

19° century London, Unitarians and Evangelical Alliance

In our day we have seen something of an Evangelical Alliance, that is, a manifestation of the great fact that people are yearning after a Catholic union, and are caring less and less for denominational differences.  The Unitarians all speak and write of the orthodox as of a body of Christians perfectly distinct from themselves.  Yet there is an approximation between them, nevertheless.  Unitarianism, as it becomes a living faith — as it leans to the theology of the sweetest singers and most impassioned orators of the universal Church — becomes in sentiment and practice orthodox; while orthodoxy, as it grows enlightened, and burst the bonds of habit, and, laden with the spoils of time, gathers up the wisdom and the teaching of all the ages underneath the sun, sanctions the Rationalism and the spirit of free inquiry for which Unitarianism has ever pleaded and its martyrs have died in our own and other lands.

Sign on a UU church in the United States.
Sign on a UU church in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Actually, at the meeting of the British and Foreign Unitarian Society, an effort was made to get rid of the title altogether, and to call themselves instead a British and Foreign Free Christian Association, on the plea that the Christian Church consists of all who desire to be the children of God in the spirit of Jesus Christ His Son, and that, therefore, no association for the promotion of a doctrine which belongs to controversial theology can represent the Church of Christ.  To this Unitarianism has attained in our time.  This is the teaching of Foster, and Ham, and Ierson, and Martineau — a teaching seemingly in accordance with the spirit of the age.

Unitarian theology is always coloured with the philosophy of the hour, and consequently it is now spiritual and transcendental instead of material and necessitarian.

As regards London, the statistics of Unitarianism are easy of collection.  In their register we have the names of fifteen places of worship, where HolyScripture is the only rule of faith, and difference of opinion is no bar to Christian communion.  In reality Unitarians are stronger than they seem, as in their congregations you will find many persons of influence, of social weight, of literary celebrity.  For instance, Sir Charles Lyell and Lord Amberley are, I believe, among the regular attendants at Mr. Martineau’s chapel in Portland Street.  At that chapel for many years Charles Dickens was a regular hearer.  The late Lady Byron, one of the most eminent women of her day, worshipped in Essex Street Chapel, when Mr. Madge preached there.  In London the Unitarians support a domestic mission, a Sunday-school association, an auxiliary school association, and a London district Unitarian society.

- p. 196 - p 204 from The Religious Life of London by J. Ewing Ritchie
Release Date: June 16, 2010  [eBook #32844]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Religious Life of London, by J. EwingRitchie 
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