Saturday, November 27, 2010

my deliberate and deepest convictions...

Frederick Dan Huntington was a Unitarian Minister, editor, and Plummer Professor at Harvard from 1855-1860.  Following are excerpts from letters written by Huntington after he had made the decision to become an Episcopalian.  He would later become the first Bishop of Central New York.

"The preaching of my deliberate and deepest convictions is the business of my life. For now I feel an assurance I never felt before, I feel certainty, now, of standing on "the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." Now I can join in without hesitation, or reserve, with the great multitudes of the Christian ages, and of all Christian lands, in the grand and glowing ascription, " Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen."

How unnatural it would be if I did not wish to impart this joy, and confidence, and peace, and consolation, which I am sure God has given me by the Cross of my Lord, — to all whom I love, — and it seems to me that I never loved so many, nor so much before.

You will not expect me in these narrow limits to give you the reasons by which my mind has been led to its present conclusions. Suffice it to say, the process has been steady, slow and always in one direction. In spite of all the external and friendly inducements to remain where I had a large hearing, position, honors, sympathies, enough to fill the human desires of any reasonable man, my mind has been lifted up and borne irresistibly along to another faith.

Do not suppose, because you have associated this other faith with dogmatism and bigotry, that I am going to be a dogmatist or a bigot. I don't believe I am. The truth is, those are faults of human nature, rather than of religious systems. I find them too prevalent everywhere; certainly they are too rife and bitter among Unitarians. There are most truly liberal and noble and generous Christians in all sects. But we want more of them; and I hope to see them multiplied. Certainly there is nothing inconsistent with such a spirit in an Evangelical theology. You refer to my past instructions very kindly. My dear friend, if you were willing to listen to me, and inquire with me then, listen to me and inquire with me all the more, now. What was positive and affirming in my preaching was true. What was negative and unscriptural, I hope may be forgiven. Pray come on, with me, to these still better and firmer views. These are two good texts for you: "Hold that fast which thou hast," and "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." Entreat the Holy One to enlighten you; to give you a fair, candid, unprejudiced spirit of investigation; to open your whole understanding and heart to the truth. And he will "lead you into all truth."

You refer to a sermon I once preached, giving seven reasons for disbelieving the Trinity. I remember it perfectly, tho' it is a long time since I have seen the manuscript, and I am not likely to look it up. It was written in good faith, — but not half so good a faith as the Master has been pleased to give me since. And I hope you will credit it, when I tell you that, as I look back upon the real state of my mind, when the discourse was delivered, it seems to me very plain that, after all, I was not satisfied, but only trying to be so; that I was defending what human lips had taught me rather than the Infinite One who is the Light of the world.
You speak — and I thank God you can — of your faith in "the divine Sonship of our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ." Now, if you carefully examine the real meaning of that language, will you not find it impossible to stop short of the absolute and perfect oneness of nature between the Son and the Father?

Dear Friend: — We will wait a little and see. The Master will show the way. It is not perfectly clear. Having waited on Him very deliberately, at every step so far, I must not anticipate His direction now. Only the independence must not be individualism, nor yet religious democracy. The independence must be in the souls of preacher and people, — but never mere isolation, nor living out-of-doors,—nor forgetting history, nor denying the Past and God's great Providence in His Church. We must take care and build on the Rock this time.

I believe in order, — in a Church Body and Form. Were I to sit down with you and the friends you speak of, I think I could satisfy some of you that the noblest and best way to bring the Gospel to the people — high and low, poor and rich, alike — would be to offer them the service of the Catholic Apostolic Church \ — with her strength and stability, her beautiful "Christian Year," her wonderful variety and impressive adaptations, her fixed order, true liberty, and free conditions of Communion, her gracious ordinances, constant appeal to Scripture, and tasteful worship, her superior culture of the spirit of reverence — the inmost spirit of religion — the constant celebration of Christ, the living Head of the Body, and His cross, her true theory of the training up of the young in relations with the Church, and looking to Confirmation as their own act, and her large, active, zealous spirit of Missions reaching out among the ignorant and poor. But I have no time to enumerate, and less to explain and enforce her claims.

It should be from me, and not from any other that you learn that, this week, on the Eve of Ash Wednesday, I sent in to the Standing Committee of the Diocese my papers making application to be considered a Candidate for Orders. Praise to Father, Son and Holy Ghost! I do not now regret that the process has been so slow, and so painful. It only emphasizes the joy of deliverance, and gives greater assurance. My study of the origin, history, constitution, and practical economy of the Sacred Body of Christ has been protracted enough to give me confidence; and my enthusiasm and loyalty of attachment will match yours. "The King's Daughter" already appears to me "all glorious within " as without. Thro' all this "strife of tongues" the Lord has remembered his promise, and kept me safe and warm in His pavilion. Sometimes averted and altered faces have been colder than the frosty skies; but there has been Spring within, and almost every mail has brought me strong and tender assurances of fellowship and blessing from the wise and good all over the land, — not a few from the Bishops and Clergy of our Church. Of course the Orthodox Congregationalists will be disappointed in me. But many of them are very generous, feeling the Evangelical faith to be greater than the Ecclesiastical difference.

Of course I have six months release from preaching, — a sound and wise provision, and one that I need for calmer thought and rest and study. Preaching never looked so attractive as now, and Church work altogether, for I never had so much to preach.



Anonymous said...

I read this and think "this is why I wish there was some way for Unitarians to have Holy Communion" and have it be precisely what it is, not changing the language about it or whatever. Let it be the beautiful mystery that it is.

Or perhaps I'm just a wee bit crazy. :)


slt said...

You and me both sister!