A Cry in the Wilderness

There are few men who have come into the inheritance of a larger and nobler opportunity than that of the distinguished preacher and journalist upon whose shoulders, eighteen years ago, the mantle of Henry Ward Beecher was laid. Whether as pastor and editor, or as lecturer and philanthropist, Dr. Lyman Abbott has ever displayed a breadth of sympathy, a purity of purpose, a vigor of thought, and a venturesomeness of faith which have enabled him to wield an influence that has been both signal and far-reaching.

Caring more for truth than for its human expressions, he has often evinced an indifference to conventional thought and stereotyped religious convictions, and one of his late utterances has begotten a tide of comment and criticism which well illustrates the fact that the declaration of a non-conformist is always no less interesting for the thought it begets, than for that which it contains. The nature of the echo which a given statement, at a given time, awakens, supplies one of the essential bases for the study and interpretation of history.

Speaking recently to the students of Harvard College, he entered a vigorous protest against the anthropomorphic sense of God, and declared that the "notion of an absentee God, an imperial Cæsar, sitting in the center of the universe ruling things, whose edicts are law, and who is approached only from afar by men," is unworthy of the Christian faith and is happily "gone, or going." No longer are we to conceive of God as "a Great First Cause, setting in motion secondary causes which frame the world; no longer a divine mechanic, who has built the world, stored it with forces, launched it upon its course, and now and again interferes with its operation if it goes not right," but we are to think of Him as "one great, eternal, underlying Cause, as truly operative to-day as He was in that first day when the morning stars sang together—every day a creation day." And for this,—for daring to recognize the unworthiness of past concepts of the infinite Father, and the naturalness of that spiritual awakening and advance of the race which is expressed in the evolution of Christian thought, he is stoned by not a few of his brother Christians and placarded with every condemnatory epithet from "Pantheist" to "An angel of darkness"!

Letters to our Leader
January 14, 1905

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