So, I've finally begun reading Universalism and Problems of the Universalist Church (1888) and I recognize some themes. The idea that their faith was so logical that it would prosper as an inevitability -- a theme maintained among Unitarian Universalists through the 1960s at least, with echoes, if embittered, today.
The author wasn't willing to accept the (falsely) inevitable, and notes the weaknesses of the lived faith, and these too have the ring of familiarity.
- p. xii
- p. xiv
- p. xv-xvi
Have we but to fold our arms and wait to see the salvation of the Lord? What of evolution?—Is it a cause or a method, only? Is evolution such an intelligent, vital force, as that, independent of the agency of man, right results may be predicated thereon? Is man of no value as a civilizing agent? Rather is not man the divinely appointed agent of the Most High in the furtherence of His plans? Can truth be propagated except as man becomes a co-worker with God? Do not many of the adherents of our church hold false views of Optimism, such that it leaves man as a moral agent out of the question and predicates all moral advancements upon God alone? Or, worse yet, do not some regard Evolution as the sole force in working out and shaping our destinies? Has man nothing to do in working out his own salvation? Do not the Bible, Reason and Nature all agree in holding man morally accountable?
While doubt has its value and proper sphere in the investigation of theological dogmas and the search for truth, yet should we not be wary how we deal with this subject? Does not the ventillating of their doubts become chronic with some ministers to the great detriment of our cause? And, when doubt becomes their “chief stock in trade”, ought not professional honor and honesty enable them to see that the door, by which they came into the ministry, has an outward swing, also?
Our church bears the name of being progressive; and, in a large measure this is true; but in the use of the best methods it is not so in fact. We ought to be progressive in the truest sense. Our faith is such that it ought to enable us to be abreast of the times in all that is good and helpful in extending and making permanent the cause of the Master as we understand it. But for some reason we do not concentrate our forces nor wield them to effect the best results. In some directions our work drags where it ought to soar. We seem to undervalue our abilities and our opportunities. We talk of this enterprise and that, and are enthusiastic in adopting them; but when it comes to execution of our plans the wind is pretty much out of our sails.