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Some account of the dedication of a second Unitarian church in the city of New-York, cannot but be acceptable to the readers of the Examiner. But in order to make the importance of this event better understood, it may be well briefly to trace the history of Unitarianism in this city.
Only a few years have passed since the very name of Unitarian was scarcely known among us. The number of those who professed Unitarian sentiments, was limited to about half a dozen persons who had acquired these views in another quarter of our country. If the 'Socinian' was sometimes denounced from the pulpit, with a holy abhorrence, ' as denying the Lord that bought him—and making the blood of the atonement an unholy thing'—the 'Socinian' was as little thought of or known as an existing sect, as would have been the Pelagian or the Donatist. In short, nothing could exceed the ignorance and bigotry that commonly prevailed in regard to the character and doctrines of Unitarianism.
In the year 1819, a year which will form an epoch in the history of Unitarianism in America, the Rev Mr Channing, on his journey to Baltimore to assist in the ordination of Mr Sparks, passed a Sunday in New-York, and preached to about thirty persons at the house where he lodged. A very large proportion of his hearers were orthodox, and his sermon was not doctrinal. It was a serious exposition of the dangers and temptations to which the dwellers in a large city are peculiarly exposed, and it left a favorable impression on the minds of his audience.— This was probably the first sermon delivered in New York by a Unitarian preacher, and may be considered as the germ of liberal views in this city.
Mr Channing was invited by a few friends to preach again on his return from Baltimore. In the expectation that a larger audience might be attracted, application was made to the Trustees of the Medical College for the use of their Hall. It was granted, but not without a spirited opposition on the part of some of the medical professors; and any subsequent application for the same purpose was prevented, by an intimation that it would probably prove unsuccessful, and would, at all events, be embarrassing to the personal friends of the applicants at the board.
This first public worship in this city of the One God in one person, was on the 16th May, 1819. The services were conducted by the Rev. Messrs Channing and Palfrey, and both morning and evening were attended by a crowded congregation of a highly respectable character. In the evening particularly, the hall was overflowing at a very early hour.
So great an interest appeared to have been excited in the public mind by the services of that day, that it was determined by the little band of Unitarians, to take measures to procure a suitable place for social religious worship. Their views, at first, did not extend beyond the means of availing themselves of those occasional opportunities for Unitarian worship, which circum. stances might offer, and which, since the establishment of the church at Baltimore, might now be expected more frequently to occur. The Presbyterian clergy of New York, in their visits to Boston, were then, and in former times, in the practice of preaching in the pulpits of their heretical brethren; but since the controversy which had opened the eyes of the people to the real state of religious sentiments in the capital of New England, there was no reciprocation of this courtesy. The pulpits in New York were religiously shut to the ' Socinian,' and those who would hear Unitarian preaching in that city must provide a place of their own. The meeting convened to consult on measures for this object, consisted of but eight persons, all young men, but little known, and of little influence or property. They had something of that character of enterprise, however, which still distinguishes their father-land, and a zeal for truth no less commendable; and, nothing daunted by paucity of numbers or resources, they resolved to call another meeting forthwith by a public notice. The advertisement on this occasion has been preserved, as having an interest in the recollections of 'this day of small things,' and as exhibiting a degree of prudent caution which harmonizes with the spirit that influenced the whole proceeding. It was in these words; 'All persons friendly to the establishment of an Independent Church in this City, upon the principles illustrated in the exercises of the last Lord's day at the Hall of the Medical College in Barclay Street, are requested to meet at the dwelling house, No. on Thursday evening.'
This meeting called together fourteen persons; but' not many rich, not many mighty were there.'—At this meeting a Committee was appointed to ascertain if any place suitable for public worship could be obtained, and if not, to report an estimate and plans for building one. In pursuance of these measures, a large room was hired in Broadway, at the corner of Reed Street; and here, from June, 1819, to January, 1821, with few intervals, religious services were performed by the ordained clergy of Boston and its vicinity. There were probably never heard in any place in the same period of time, so many sermons of equal excellence as were heard in this chapel. Yet few were permanently gathered to the congregation that worshipped there, and it perhaps would scarcely have held together much longer, but for the apparently bold resolution to build a church.
We have neither time nor room to enter into the difficulties and trials encountered by the few who undertook the responsibility of this enterprise. If there were at first those who opposed what appeared to them so rash a measure, there are none who do not now hail its success. The corner stone of the church in Chamber Street was laid on the 29th of April, 1820, with appropriate religious services by the Rev Henry Ware Jr., and was dedicated by the Rev. Edward Everett, on the 20th of January, 1821. If all the bright and glorious anticipations formed on that occasion, have not been fully realized, we yet trust, that in the great decisive day,
'It may before the world appear,
'That thousands were born to glory here.'
From the time this house was opened for religious worship, the society has been gradually increasing. Towards the close of the same year, they invited the Rev William Ware to become their pastor, and he was ordained on the 18th of December, 1821. Both before and since that period, they have been rudely opposed, but never discomfited. They have resisted every attack with truly christian prudence and mildness, and gained strength and vigor with every attempt to overthrow them. They have held on ' the even tenor of their way,' commanding respect for their opinions, where they could not inspire confidence, and refuting in their lives the calumny and reproach, which bigotry and intolerance would have fastened upon them.
It was not till about four years after the consecration of the first church, that the want of another began to be felt. We are apt to consider the progress of truth slow; but it is nevertheless sure; and it has often found its way to the mind long before its effects became distinctly visible. Jf Unitarianism in NewYork can boast of no great and sudden accessions to its numbers, it is the more secure of losing nothing of what it has gained. But who shall pretend to count the converts to its leading principles 1 It is well known that there are many who are restrained by various considerations, more or less laudable, from openly joining the ranks of a small minority. But we may seek and record its triumph elsewhere. It has effectually rebuked that violence which broke forth in wrath and denunciation, even at the altar of God. It has set inquiry on foot, and where it has not produced conviction, it has disarmed intolerance. The whole tone and temper of society here, has become softened by its influences,and few are now found bold enough to disturb its harmony.*
* The great changes which are taking place among the Quakers, may be partly referred to that introduction of Unitarianism into the city of New-York, which we have attempted to describe; but these changes ar« worthy of distinct consideration
In the Autumn of 1825, the corner stone of the Second Congregational Unitarian Church was laid in Mercer Street, at the corner of Prince Street, about a mile distant from the first church. The ceremonies were performed by the Rev. William Ware. This building was begun by a few members of the society in Chamber street, who have proceeded with great economy and order to its completion.*
This church was dedicated on Thursday, the 7th of December, the day appointed by the Executive of the State for a day of thanksgiving, and the anniversary occasion of laying the corner stone. At an early hour the house was thronged. The services were introduced by an original hymn from the pen of Bryant. The consecrating prayer was by the Rev. Wm. Ware; the concluding prayer by the Rev. Mr Walker of Charlestown; the sermon by the Rev. Dr Channing. All the services of the day were highly satisfactory. Of the seru.on it is difficult to speak in measured terms of approbation. It has been pronounced the noblest production of the very pure and original mind which composed it, and was delivered with an effect which will never be forgotten by those who heard it. It occupied an hour and a quarter, and it was regretted that the failure of the preacher's strength, compelled him to omit some interesting topics of illustration.
It may be thought a too sanguine expectation, but it can hardly be doubted, by those who are best informed of the state of religious feeling in the city of New-York, that nothing is wanting but a preacher of talents and fervency to gather, almost immediately, a full congregation in the Second Unitarian Church. The few members of the first church, who will be drawn to the second by the greater convenience of local situation, will have their places soon occupied, while they will carry with them the order and system which they have learned in the regulation of the church they leave. They will serve to harmonize the two societies, which, it is hoped, will act with a combined impulse for
* It is 80 feet long and 63 feet wide, of the Doric order, with a receding portico or vestibule. Four large columns in front support a pediment, which, with the wings, is surmounted by a broad tower, extending the whole width of the front. The entablature is without blocks or triglyphs, the design having been taken in part from the Chorngic monument of Thrasyllus at Athens. The walls and columns are of brick covered with cement in imitation of marble. The pedestals and steps are of granite. The interior is beautifully arranged; the principal floor containing one hundred and thirtytwo, and the gallery or organ loft, twenty four pews. The pulpit is of a pedestal form, with a pedestal and balustrade on each side. The whole is correct in proportion, chaste and neat in design and execution
the common good and the advancement of the common cause of christian truth and christian righteousness.
Installation at Groton. Rev. Charles Robinson, late of Eastport, in Maine, was on the 1st of November, installed as the pastor of the first parish in Groton. The services were performed by Rev. Mr Field, of Weston, who offered the Introductory Prayer and read portions of the Scriptures; Rev. Mr Walker, of Charlestown, who preached the Sermon; Rev. Dr Kirkland, who made the Installing Prayer; Rev. Dr Thayer, of Lancaster, who gave the Charge; Rev. Mr Barrett, of Boston, who presented the Right Hand of Fellowship; Rev. Mr Ware, of Boston, who Addressed the Church and Society; and Rev. Mr Bascom, of Ashby, who offered the Concluding Prayer. Mr Walker's text was Isa. lxv. 5; 'Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.' The exclusive system, as he called it, was accordingly the subject of his sermon, aud he spoke of its origin, traced its history, examined the grounds on which it is defended, noticed the pleas respecting fundamentals, conscience, concern for souls, <Stc, showed the injustice of the whole scheme, and remarked that its operation left us little cause to congratulate ourselves, that we have no civil penalties to incur in consequence of our religious belief. We are not sure we are exactly correct in this abstract ; but we know that the sermon was marked with the usual characteristics of Mr Walker's discourses, clearness, directness, and power.
Congregutional Society in Purchase Street. On the 8th of November, Mr George Ripley was ordained as the pastor of this church and society. The services were uncommonly solemn and impressive. Rev. Mr Young offered an Introductory Prayer, and read appropriate Selections from the Scriptures. Rev. Dr Kirkland preached a Sermon from 1 Thess. ii. 4 ; ' But as we are allowed of God to be put in trust with the Gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.' After reconciling the apparent inconsistency between these words of St Paul and those he used to the Corinthians,— 'I please all men in all things,'—by showing that what by his text is in terms excluded, is in fact only postponed, :\s if the Apostle had said, that in speaking, the teacher of the Gospel should have a supreme reference to pleasing God, and is only to please men when it may be done without displeasing Him,—the preacher spoke of the office and duties of a christian minister with reference to this rule. He described the character he ought to pos