A Backward Glance 0’er Traveled Roads

 

Being an historical sketch of

May Memorial Church

(Unitarian Congregational Society in Syracuse)

on the occasion of its

Centennial Anniversary

 

1838-1938

 

October, 1938

Syracuse, New York

 

 

Foreword

 

IT WAS with trepidation that we undertook to write this history and with discouragement that we discovered the paucity of material. Many of the records were faulty and some were altogether lacking. The official records of the church from its founding up to 1890 have completely disappeared, whether lost, stolen or destroyed no one can say. For much of our material we were forced to depend on reminiscences from some of the older members of the parish. We would particularly acknowledge our debt and gratitude to Mrs. Burton N. Bump, Mrs. A. M. York, and Mr. Franklin Chase of the Onondaga Historical Society. The present officials of the church have also aided us.

 

Helen Saddington

Elizabeth Walsh

October, 1938

 

Dedication

 

"THERE IS properly speaking no history, only biography." Thus wrote Emerson just one hundred years ago. How utterly impossible it is to record the history of organizations without at the same time finding it inseparably interwoven with the lives of men and women. To write an accurate history of May Memorial Church would imply a detailed appraisal of every man, woman and child, who thru their devotion have made its story luminous. That such an undertaking is impossible because of the obliterating effects of time in bleaching out details, is of course obvious. However, it is the stately beauty and quiet nobility of these lives that has made the story of May Memorial Church a mosaic of fascinating loveliness and charm. In the living organism of the Church they live to make radiant our lives today and in the mystic tomorrow.

 

Greatly indebted are we to Mrs. Arthur Saddington and Mrs. Warren B. Walsh for their patience in gathering this material from many obscure places. Of necessity there will appear omissions which someone's memory will supply, or errors arising from faulty information. For such as these we implore the exercise of a gracious charity in those who read.

 

It is both a privilege and an honor to be a part of a great tradition. May Memorial Church belongs to us, as we belong to it. Whether its glory shall be only that of history depends upon us in whom it lives today. "O God be thanked who hath matched us for this hour!"

 

To the men and women whose great day is done; to those of lesser mould but of benign nobility; to those in mid-years-the toilers at the helm; and to the little children who are God's great tomorrow, we dedicate the song of our achievement!

 

W. Waldemar W. Argow

October, 1938.

 

The History of May Memorial Church

 

THE EARLY history of the Unitarian Society in Syracuse is fascinating and impressive. In the early nineteenth century Unitarianism existed almost exclusively in New England with Boston as its center. The West, which included Syracuse, had been little affected by its radical views and doubtless hoped it would not be. At that time, the city was all "Orthodox of the Hell-fire and Damnation Stripe" (From a letter written to Rev. Calthrop by C. F. Williston, former mayor of Syracuse, in January, 1887) and had no toleration for any man holding liberal views. However, several families of this denomination had moved to Syracuse and determined to establish a society in spite of all opposition which frequently went as far as persecution. The members who constituted this first group were strong, courageous, and of great faith.

 

In 1836 and 1837, on the invitation of this group, a few Unitarian ministers would occasionally stop on Sunday to preach but such visits were rare. The services were held sometimes in homes, sometimes in an unoccupied schoolhouse, and, occasionally, in the old Baptist Church on West Genesee Street. In this way the few members were privileged to hear such New Englanders as Rev. Channing, Allen, and Samuel Barrett. After two years of these intermittent services a meeting was held in Dr. Mayo's schoolhouse on Church Street on Oct. 4, 1838, for the purpose of organizing. Dr. Hiram Hoyt and Stephen Abbott presided and Elisha Walter, Joel Owen and Stephen Abbott were elected Trustees. The proceedings were legally recorded in the office of the County Clerk on Jan. 2, 1839, thus completing the organization.

 

Immediately after the first steps toward organization had been taken, a subscription was begun for the building of a wooden church on East Genesee Street. The building, which cost $607, was completed and ready for use in January, 1839. Eastern ministers, among whom were J. M. Merrick, George Ripley, Rufus Ellis, and B. F. Barrett, were sent out by the American Unitarian Association to serve from four to six Sundays each. The last of this group was Rev. John P. B. Storer of Walpole, Mass. Mr. Storer was so well liked that a committee, headed by Captain Putnam, was instructed to invite him to become the first regular minister of the Unitarian Congregational Society of Syracuse. Mr. Storer accepted and was installed on June 20, 1839, in the First Methodist Church which had been generously offered for that purpose.

 

At the beginning of Mr. Storer's ministry the largest attendance of the church was about forty, but in spite of the bitter opposition the membership in the society increased to such a number that the church building became too small. In August, 1840, a committee composed of Hiram Putnam, John Wilkinson, William Malcolm, Parley Bassett, and Thomas Spencer was appointed to select and purchase a lot upon which to erect a bigger building. This group recommended the purchase for $1,000 of two lots on Burnett and Lock Streets (State Street) where the Church of the Messiah now stands. On December 27,1842, another committee, which included the trustees, was instructed to have plans drawn for the structure. This was done, and the contract, signed on June 12, 1843, called for the work to be finished by January, 1844. However, the church was completed ahead of schedule, and was dedicated as the Church of the Messiah on November 23, 1843. The building cost $5,000, about $1,800 of which was solicited by Mr. Storer from friends in New England. It is interesting to note that several contributions to the building fund were from people belonging to other denominations.

 

During these developments and even much later these faithful Unitarians met with continued bitterness and intolerance. However, a group of young men did "brave the Storm and Sneers of Orthodoxy" and join the Society. Social ostracism was so strong that few young women could face it. The Unitarian views were caricatured by the Orthodox preachers; and, as Mr. Williston wrote in a letter, "Revivalists found plenty of material for their nightly sermon tirades." He continued, "The notorious Elder Knapp used the Baptist Pulpit almost nightly for weeks in denouncing the Unitarian 'Devils' as he called us, at the same time asked pardon of 'Old Satan' for slandering him in that manner." However, as the number of families who joined the Society increased, a larger group of young people attended church and the social activities, thus building up a new generation to carry on the work of the founders.

 

Shortly after the dedication of the Church of the Messiah, it was necessary for Mr. Storer to resign because of failing health. Not willing to accept his resignation, the congregation gave him an unlimited leave of absence, beginning on Saturday, March 16, 1844. He died the following Sunday, "thus ending a short but eventful Pastorate which had under trying circumstances formed and moulded into form a living Society of the Liberal Faith in Syracuse. Outside of the circle of Orthodoxy few men could have accomplished the work which Mr. Storer did and yet have maintained such a hold upon the respect, regard, and esteem of the Community in Syracuse and its vicinity" (from the previously mentioned Williston letter).

 

During the following year regular services were held with different ministers supplying. One of these men was Rev. Samuel J. May who was asked to succeed Mr. Storer. An agreement between the pastor and congregation was reached on February 5, 1845, and a contract for five years at one thousand dollars a year was signed. At the end of this period a second invitation was given to and accepted by Mr. May to continue as minister as long as both parties were mutually satisfied.

 

Under Mr. May the congregation celebrated the Lord's Supper the first Sunday of every other month and invited "all persons present to partake with us . . . leaving it for everyone to act in this matter according to his own light." Mr. May did not know what right we have to appropriate the Lord's Supper to a part of the Society--or to judge who is worthy and who is not worthy to unite in commemorating the death of Christ."

 

In 1847 Mr. May inaugurated Sunday afternoon "conversations," "hoping to draw out as much as I can the thoughts of those who attend, and find out what they think. Most persons of all Sects, seem to me to have very indistinct ideas of religion, its nature, its doctrines, its requirements. They may be familiar with the language of their creeds, but they know not what the language means."

 

In the fall of 1850, at a cost of over $3,000 the church was redecorated and enlarged to hold 28 more pews. At this time 53 pews were sold for $1040 more than the appraisal.

 

On Feb. 29, 1852 the church was destroyed "by a hurricane which struck the spire; threw it directly upon the ridge pole, crushed down the whole roof, burst out the side and end walls, and in one movement demolished the entire building excepting the front and the foundation." The rear wall fell on and destroyed the house of Mr. and Mrs. Northrup. Fortunately, no one was injured but the church felt obligated to pay for the damage done to the house as well as that done to the church, the total of which amounted to nearly $6,000.

 

Preceding the storm a bitter theological controversy had been raging over the Unitarian doctrines. Dr. Luther Lee represented the extreme Orthodox and Mr. May the Liberalists. When the steeple of the church fell, the Orthodox "exulted over the penalty" that the Almighty had exacted from the 'unbelievers' and for weeks the town was rife with opinions on the matter of the punishment of unbelievers." Mr. and Mrs. Northrup, on whose house part of the church fell, were Methodists. After the accident Mr. Northrup asked: "If the storm was God's punishment for unbelief, why was the steeple allowed to fall on our house? We are Orthodox." On telling the story to Mr. John T. Roberts as a boy, Mr. Northrup said, "My boy, don't make out God to be meaner than man. If your house falls down don't change your religion but change your carpenter."

 

The new building which was dedicated on April 14, 1853, cost nearly $10,000. Most of the rebuilding fund was raised by the sale of pews. However, $2,000 was contributed by friends in New York and New England, and $750 by members of other denominations in Syracuse. It is interesting to note the comment on the account of the dedication, made by one of the Syracuse newspapers: "We publish this week, at the request of several citizens, an account of the Dedication of the 'Church of the Messiah' of Syracuse, by Rev. S. J. May, its Pastor (see the Appendix) Doubtless some of our friends will differ somewhat with the doctrinal expose contained in the address. -- But the clear, catholic views contained in the dedicatory portion, will, we apprehend, meet with a cordial response from every Christian heart. There is a broad freedom, a purity and Christian fullness about them, worthy of all commendation. God's house is there recognized as the proper place for the execution of his work, whether it be to 'Remember those in bonds as bound with them' or 'those in adversity as being also in the flesh' or 'an effort to prevent men from putting the bottle to their neighbors' mouth, and making him drunken also"' (Post Standard, March 21, 1922).

 

In 1858 and 1859 Mr. May was given a year's absence on which he hoped to regain his health which had been affected by thirteen years of hard work. In 1867 Mr. May's failing health made it necessary for him to resign but, with his consent, his resignation was not accepted until March, 1868. In appreciation of a long and valuable ministry a life annuity was given to him.

 

By the following month a successor to Mr. May had been found, Rev. Samuel R. Calthrop of Roxbury, Mass., a man of a remarkably wide range of interests and talents. He was installed on April 29, 1868, and remained as minister for 43 years. During his ministry numerous projects were started and carried on by both minister and members of his congregation. Several developed into permanent civic and religious organizations which are still doing great good.

 

In 1883 "after the invasion of the neighborhood by the tracks of a railway," the congregation was forced to move from the Church of the Messiah. The railway was a source of great annoyance to the people as well as a hazard to the building itself. On March 13 the Trustees appointed a committee to "inaugurate measures looking toward a new church to be styled 'The May Memorial Church"'. On October 25 it was resolved that "a new church should be built." On October 30 the Trustees authorized Horatio N. White "to receive proposals, by advertising or otherwise, for furnishing the society with a lot for its new church." Early the following year a vote designated the "Chase Lot" on James Street, whereupon the following resolution was passed: "That more than two-thirds in amount, as required by the terms of the subscriptions to the May Memorial Church Fund, having voted to purchase the lot on the south side of James Street owned by Mr. A. C. Chase, for the sum of $9,500, payable May 1, 1884, we hereby appoint Martin A. Knapp and A. N. Wright to make a contract for the same, with power."

 

At subsequent meetings in April it was resolved that "the material for the structure be Onondaga Limestone with the rough Ashler finish and that H. N. White be appointed as architect. On May 15 a design was approved with the addition of a stone porch on the front of the church. On June 7, the building committee made a contract with Mr. E. M. Allen for the building complete at the price of $29,000. However, it was later found that the total cost would be approximately $50,000, $12,000 more than available funds. To meet this deficit the Trustees then asked for and received the necessary additional subscriptions to the building fund. The construction proceeded satisfactorily and the date of dedication was designated as Oct. 20. Participating in the ceremony were Dr. Calthrop, Rev. H. M. Mann, Mr. Dupee of Boston, Rev. Robert Collyer, and Mr. May's son, Rev. Joseph May of Philadelphia.

 

The memorial windows were given by Mr. James A. Dupee of Boston in memory of Rev. J. P. B. Storer, by relatives and friends to Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Wallace, Hiram Putnam and D. P. Phelps, by pupils to Miss A. Bradbury, to Dr. H. C. Powers, to Mrs. Dana and Mrs. Cogswell, to Lyman and Fanny Ware Clary, to Edward Barker Judson, and to James G. and Sarah Osgood Tracy.

 

In 1901 Dr. Calthrop recommended the installation of a paid Sunday School Superintendent, offering to donate $200 out of his salary for that purpose. It was not until a year later that Dr. Heffron was engaged as the superintendent. That same year Mr. Albert W. Clark, a post graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, became assistant minister to relieve Dr. Calthrop of some of his heavy duties.

 

During this period and until 1919 the finances of the church were met by the proceeds from the rental of pews. In many years the income from this sale exceeded estimated expenditures. As far back as 1890 the income amounted to $4,855 while expenses, exclusive of music, were $4,550. This achievement was due to the ability of Mr. Amos Padgham, long-time clerk and treasurer.

 

Usually on Sunday evenings the congregation met at Dr. Calthrop's home for a social meeting and a talk by the minister on any one of his many interests: astronomy, botany, and the like.

 

After Dr. Calthrop's resignation in 1911, Dr. John H. Applebee became the minister, serving the church until 1930. It was during his ministry, in 1919, that the financial arrangements of the church were changed. In October the motion was adopted that "the financial support of the Church should be independent" of the pew rentals. The income was to be raised by voluntary subscriptions. This system proved satisfactory for in 1921 $18,135.52 was contributed, $3,135.52 more than was needed.

 

In 1920 Dr. Applebee was given a leave of absence until May 1 and longer if necessary as a vacation. At that time his salary was increased from $3,600 to $4,000 and repairs to the church amounting to $625 were made. The following year $6,500 was spent on redecorating the church. In 1922 the Sunday School consisted of 43 children and 7 teachers. In 1928 Miss Elizabeth Murphy was appointed Sunday School Superintendent at a salary of $1,500.

 

After Dr. Applebee's resignation Rev. Evans A. Worthley substituted until a successor should be named, at a salary of $35 a Sunday. In October, 1929, it was voted to retain Mr. Worthley as "interim minister" for $500 for five months and four months later $50 a month was added to his salary.

 

On May 19, 1930, Dr. W. Waldemar W. Argow, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was elected as Mr. Applebee's successor. In 1931 Dr. and Mrs. Argow gave ten percent of their salary to meet "the unusual financial situation" of the church. On his arrival Dr. Argow found the church to be at one of the lowest points in its history. The membership and attendance of the congregation and Sunday School had dropped considerable. On that first Sunday as minister there were eighteen pupils in a Sunday School which lacked all organization. In 1931 Miss Mildred Keefe was appointed Superintendent and from that time to the present, the Sunday School has grown continually as is shown in the following table:

 

Year

No. of Teachers

Enrollment

1930-31

008

055

1932-33

010

068

1934-35

011

093

1936-37

014

101

1937-38

021

156

 

 

The Sunday School has had able leaders in Mrs. M. S. Dooley and in Dr. Elizabeth Manwell, the present superintendent.

 

Similarly the attendance and membership of the church have increased. In 1928 the membership was 190; today it is 292.

 

Up until this time the church had had no Constitution but in January of 1931 a Constitution was adopted at an annual meeting. That same year the Society joined the Syracuse Council of Churches.

 

The church has undergone several renovations in recent years. During the latter years of Dr. Calthrop's ministry the interior was changed by moving the choir loft from the front of the church to the rear. The chimes were given by Mrs. Hiscock in memory of her parents. In 1935 Mrs. Charles M. Crouse left a sum of money to remodel the Parish House. The most recent redecoration, completed in September of this year, was made possible by the generosity of the late Mrs. Frank H. Hiscock, who, with her husband, Judge Frank H. Hiscock, has been among the most helpful members of the church. The committee in charge was Mrs. William H. Eager, Mr. Fraser McLennan, and Mr. William F. Canough, assisted by Mr. Severin Bischof, a friend of the church.

 

The circle of the church's influence has been widened by the radio. Intermittently since 1931 the sermons and part of the services have been broadcast. This year the broadcast, carried by WSYR, is on a regular schedule, the first Sunday of every month.

 

"Press on! press on! through toil and woe,

"Calmly resolved to triumph go,

" And make each dark and threatening ill

"Yield but a higher glory still.

(From a hymn by William Gaskell.)

 

Biographical Sketches of The Ministers

 

THE UNITARIAN Congregational Church in Syracuse has been blessed with a succession of able and devoted pastors. The first regular minister of the Society, Mr. J. P. B. Storer, set a high standard which the succeeding four men have well upheld.

 

The record we have of Mr. Storer's early life is very incomplete. He was born in 1794 in Portland, Maine. Of his elementary education we know very little but the records show that in 1812 he was graduated from Bowdoin College. From that time on he devoted himself to the work of the ministry. In 1838 he came to Syracuse from Walpole, Mass., where he had served the church for twelve years.

 

Though these details are meager, members of his Syracuse congregation have left us a picture of the kind of man he was. When he first came to Syracuse he was slighted and insulted by the people and ministers of other denominations. His ministry here was one almost of martyrdom in many ways. Yet such was the power of his spirit, the charm of his manner, and the goodness of his works, that when he died of a heart ailment in March, 1844, a short five years after coming here, his loss was sincerely felt by many of those who had at first been bitterly prejudiced against him. We have the words of Mr. Phelps, a member of the Church of the Messiah, written of this time. "Mr. Storer was an educated Christian gentleman as well as a Christian minister. Earnest and zealous in the work to which he felt himself called in this then missionary field, he strove by all proper means to make that work a success. With the spirit of a martyr for five years he kept bravely to his task. When he died he left the impress of his noble Christian character and example, his talents and teachings, upon a community whose strong prejudices he had lived down and finally overcome purely by his life faithfully and earnestly devoted to his Master's service."

 

Miss Caroline Wallace, daughter of E. F. Wallace, a charter member of the Society, described Mr. Storer as “a man of magnificent presence, of courtly bearing, and finished culture, whose charming personality added to his scholarly attainments attracted a choice following of prominent and appreciative young men and women of that day, over whom, till death suddenly removed him from the scene of his earthly ministrations, he ever retained a strong and ennobling influence."

 

For a year after Mr. Storer's death there was no permanent minister at the Church of the Messiah. But in September, 1844, Rev. Samuel J. May was asked to come to Syracuse. He had made a brief visit the year before and had impressed the congregation very favorably. Mr. May accepted the invitation and in a two weeks' stay he covered in sermons and in conversations his theological views and his views on the social questions of the day. When he went back to Massachusetts he kept up a lengthy correspondence with the members of the committee in charge of selecting a new minister. In these letters he again set forth his beliefs with complete candor for he said he wished that "they should understand whom they were calling if they called me."

 

Samuel J. May was born in Boston, Sept. 12, 1797, the tenth of twelve children. His father was Joseph May of an old New England family and his mother the daughter of Samuel Sewell of Boston, a descendant of Chief Justice Sewell who was one of the first to suspect and finally expose witchcraft delusion in Massachusetts.

 

Samuel May went to Chauncey Hall School in Boston and from there to Harvard University, graduating in the class of 1817. For a year after graduation Mr. May taught school. In 1818 he entered the Divinity School at Cambridge, Mass., and graduated in 1820. It was while he was at Cambridge that he learned to distrust creeds and articles of belief. Speaking of these days later he said, "It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, the highest impertinence, egregious presumption in any Doctor of Divinity to prescribe a creed as comprising the essential faith, which is nowhere to be found in the words of the Master. . . . It seemed to me self-evident that Christianity was to be learned from Jesus Christ."

 

Mr. May had a varied experience between the time of his graduation from Divinity School and his coming to Syracuse. He was ordained in King's Chapel, Boston, on March 13, 1822. He preached for fourteen years at Brooklyn, Conn. He edited the "Liberal Christian" for several years. For eighteen months he was General Agent of the Mass. Anti-Slavery Society -- an earlier visit to Richmond, Va. having shown him at first hand the evils of slavery. He preached at South Scituate, Mass., for six years and was for two years principal of a Female Normal School at Lexington. He came to Syracuse after successfully settling a property difference in the church at Lexington. The congregation there had split into two factions, one Unitarian and the other Evangelical.

 

The rest of Samuel May's life story is closely bound up with life in Syracuse. From 1845 till his death in 1871 he was an active spirit in all movements for the betterment of the church and of the nation. President Andrew D. White of Cornell University described Mr. May as "the most truly Christian man I have ever known; the purest, the sweetest, the fullest of faith, hope and charity; the most like the Master."

 

His kindliness and tenderness toward all living beings shone in his face and showed itself in all his actions. Children were drawn to him and loved him, every distressed or persecuted group of his day found in him a staunch friend. Along with his tenderness went a great patience. He was ever ready to hear the plans of others, to make allowance for the shortcomings of all those with whom he came in contact. Especially did this patience show itself in his dealing with those who refused to work with him and reviled him. In no relation of life did he exhibit pettiness.

 

His keen sense of humor endeared him to his friends. It showed itself at every turn and we are told many stories of his wit. One evening Mr. May attended a dinner at which mince pie was served for dessert. He was very fond of it but knew it did not agree with him. Nevertheless he ate not one but two pieces of the pie! That night he was seized with such a violent attack of indigestion that Dr. Clary had to be called. The old doctor noting the sick man's keen distress said, "Come, Mr. May. You're not afraid to die!" " No," replied his irrepressible patient, "I'm not afraid, just ashamed to." On another occasion Mr. May was called upon by a committee of the village's most prominent ladies -- not of his own congregation. They were incensed at a campaign he had begun in the public press against the fashions of the day, especially against the tightly laced corsets the women wore. When the knock came at his door, he ushered the ladies in and in his courtly manner said, "Ladies, what may I do for you?" "Mr. May," said the spokesman, "We have come to you with a message, a message from the Lord." "Ladies," he replied, "I do not doubt that you have come with a message, but I do doubt its authorship."

 

His complete honesty of mind showed itself in all his actions. He would not accept the call to Syracuse until he was absolutely certain the people knew his views and were still anxious to have him come. He refused to compromise in the smallest way with what he felt to be wrong. There is on record a letter written by one of his parishioners telling of an invitation Mr. May received to speak at a Fourth of July celebration in Utica. He replied that he would be very glad to speak provided there was to be no military display and no liquor furnished for the affair. These terms were not met, so he did not go to Utica. Brewerton, that same year, made a like request. It received a similar answer. So keen was the man in charge there to have Mr. May speak that he cancelled the arrangements both for the military review and for the liquor.

 

Mr. May's courage was a very prominent trait. He never exhibited fear and he never took an easy way out of a situation. We have stories of him which show his physical and spiritual courage. One day he was driving over a lonely road when a very unprepossessing young man asked for a ride. He stopped and the young man climbed in. During the drive Mr. May talked in his kindly, friendly, interesting way. When he reached his destination the young man got out and said, "When I got in with you I intended to rob you." "Yes," said Mr. May quietly, "I know you did."

 

He never allowed public demonstration of anger at his views to swerve him nor to silence him. When his advocacy of peace during the Mexican War brought down condemnation upon him he replied boldly through the public press, "Much rather would I be called a Tory than a soldier -- a butcher of men. Much rather would I be called a traitor to my country than a traitor to Mankind. . . War is the greatest of human crimes for it includes all others."

 

Mr. May was a man of great intellectual capacity also. Mr. C. D. B. Mills who knew him well tells us that intellectually Mr. May had few superiors but that these powers were frequently overlooked because people noticed more his kindliness, patience, and humanitarianism. A little knowledge of this man's character makes it easier for us to understand his wide-spread interests and the fervor with which he helped every cause he deemed worthy of support. Perhaps he is best known for his work in the Anti-Slavery movement. He never lost an opportunity to speak against the practice of slavery. He gave active and public support to every effort made in behalf of the Negroes. His own home in Syracuse was a station for the underground railway by which the slaves escaped. Many were the wretched men he helped, cheered and sped on their way to Canada and to freedom.

 

There was much opposition to the anti-slavery campaign in Syracuse. So high did feeling run against it that at one time when an Anti-Slavery convention was scheduled here rioters filled the hall which had been hired for the occasion and forced the delegates to disperse. Then they marched through the town and burned an effigy of Mr. May in the centre of the business section.

 

But the Anti-Slavery group did not always come off second best, as the Jerry Rescue shows. In 1850 a group of the best citizens in Syracuse made an agreement to stand together in resisting the Fugitive Slave Law and to help any Negro who was in danger in Syracuse under this law. In June, 1851, word came that Jerry McHenry had been arrested as a fugitive slave. Mr. May was asked by the Chief of Police to try to quiet Jerry who was in a highly wrought-up state. This he did and had success in his task for he told the terrified Negro that the men of Syracuse were going to see that he got free. Later at the office of Dr. Hiram Hoyt twenty or thirty picked men including Mr. May and Gerrit Smith, who was in the city at the time attending a convention, made plans to rescue the unfortunate Negro. That evening they stormed the police office, freed Jerry, and started him on his way to Canada and safety. Some of the least influential men concerned in this plot were arrested and taken to Auburn. Mr. May, Gerrit Smith, and Charles Wheaton were not arrested but they publicly declared that they had all helped. In the end all those who had taken part were freed.

 

Mr. May's work on behalf of education in Syracuse and elsewhere was one of great importance. He had been a teacher himself for several years and he felt very keenly the need for liberal education in a democracy. He served on the Board of Education for many years and was for some time president of that body. He was ever concerned with improving and increasing educational facilities and in raising as high as he could the personal qualifications of teachers, for he was certain that teaching by precept was much inferior to teaching by example. He campaigned vigorously against corporal punishment in the schools and succeeded in having it abolished in Syracuse.

 

He was not content with improving the educational standards of the white children alone. He collected funds for the erection of a school on the Onondaga Indian Reservation, hired a teacher, and then persuaded the Superintendent of Public Instruction to grant an annual sum for her payment. After the Civil War he was very active in arousing interest in educational projects for the freed Negroes.

 

In a wider field he was largely instrumental in the forming of the State Teachers Associations both in Connecticut and in New York. At the first state convention in Connecticut he met Mr. Bronson Alcott and the two men became firm friends. Later Mr. Alcott married one of Mr. May's sisters.

 

As early as 1826 Mr. May gave himself whole-heartedly to the cause of temperance. While in Boston that year he attended a meeting of ministers who discussed their especial duty in this matter. Dr. Lowell felt it was the duty of every minister to set an example of total abstinence. Mr. May agreed and from that day gave up his usual glass of wine with his meals. He preached on the evils of intemperance from his pulpit and aided in the organizations of temperance unions.

 

In the first half of the nineteenth century peace organizations were neither as numerous nor as vocal as they are today. It took courage to be outspoken against all war. Here again Mr. May showed his interest in mankind and in the gospel of Christ. In his Journal, April 12, 1846, we find this entry, "The present aspect of our country is threatening. There is danger of war with Mexico and also with England. And I am surprised at the apathy of Christians. Indeed I begin to suspect that there are not many in the country who deserve to wear that name. If there are many of the followers of the Prince of Peace they ought to be earnest in their remonstrances against war and refuse all cooperation, all aid."

 

Mr. May felt the best place to begin teaching this doctrine of peace was with the children. While in South Scituate he organized a Peace Society in the Sunday School. Indeed he lost no opportunity to enlist the young in all his reform projects.

 

The Civil War greatly strained his loyalties, such was his love of peace; yet so deep was his hatred of slavery. He gave much of his time during that sad struggle helping the soldiers by collecting supplies to be sent to them, by visiting the camps and indeed by doing much of the work that the Sanitary Commission took over later.

 

The issue of Women's rights was a live one during Mr. May's ministry at Syracuse. Here again he was in the forefront of the controversy ever encouraging and advising the women who worked so hard for the cause. Susan B. Anthony paid tribute to him for this work during the celebrations held at the time of the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. She told how he took the part of the women who were denied a voice in a temperance convention. He helped them organize their own meeting and from that time on was one of the chief advisors of the group working for women's suffrage.

 

Among other interests of Mr. May's we could list the founding of the Orphan's Home, the opening of a hospital under the Sisters of Charity -- now known as St. Mary's Hospital -- and the attempt to found a communistic group on land near Skaneateles Lake.

 

Mr. May occupies a high place in Syracuse and in the Unitarian history. At his death the grief of his people in Syracuse was shared by his many friends and admirers everywhere. We have a letter written by Charles Lowe, former secretary of the American Unitarian Association, to Mr. Tilden of Boston at that time which shows the high regard in which Mr. May was held by the leaders of his denomination.

 

"My dear Mr. Tilden,

I write a line to express my earnest hope that you will represent the association as they have asked you to, at the funeral of Mr. May. If I could go I would accompany you, for not only is my personal feeling for him very tender and near but I recognize so strongly his eminent service to our cause that I should be glad by my presence to express it.

I hope if you go you will say something publicly to testify to his connection with the association and his efficient service. He has been active as missionary ever since he left the charge of his society with only such interruptions as his health and other engagements made necessary; and the peculiar respect he had won all through the state in which his work had been given -- and his rare faculty of saying the right word enabled him to do what no one else could have done so well."

 

At the funeral his many friends of different races and creeds, the eminent in his own denomination, his people in Syracuse and especially the children who had loved him so well, all took part in paying tribute to a great man great in the way his Master was great.

 

Upon Mr. May's resignation, the trustees called as minister a man of remarkable talents and truly catholic interests, Samuel R. Calthrop. Installed on April 29, 1868, Mr. Calthrop served the May Memorial Church for forty-three years. His was the longest pastorate in the history of the church and one of the longest in the history of the denomination.

 

Born at Swineshead Abbey, Lincolnshire, in 1829, Mr. Calthrop received his early university training at Cambridge, then a bulwark of Tory Anglicanism. A dissenter, he was denied a degree because of his refusal to accept the 39 Articles of the Church of England. Shortly thereafter, he came to America, becoming first a pastor of a Universalist Church on Long Island and later a teacher at a school in Bridgeport, Conn. It is interesting to note that Luisa May Alcott visited this school and based part of “Little Men” on her observations of it. From the Bridgeport school Mr. Calthrop went to Harvard where he not only received a master's degree but also lectured for several years. In 1860 he was ordained a Unitarian minister and had his first charge at the Unitarian Church in Marblehead, Mass. From there he went to Newburyport where he stayed until he was called to Syracuse in 1868. Prior to his ordination Dr. Calthrop married, in 1857, Miss Elizabeth Primrose of Canada. The youngest of their six children, Mrs. Burton N. Bump, is an active member of the congregation.

 

The most amazing characteristic of Dr. Calthrop was his versatility. He was a preacher, scientist, lecturer, inventor, teacher, writer, and athlete. As an athlete he participated in numerous sports. While at Marblehead he founded the first cricket club in this country. Later he coached the West Point cadets in cricket, trained crews at Harvard, Yale, Cornell, and Syracuse, was a fine tennis player, and an expert at chess. In Marblehead he founded also the first chess club in the United States. It was a source of great delight to the young members of the Syracuse Boy's Club when Dr. Calthrop played chess with them blindfolded. In Marblehead he also formed and drilled a company of mechanics whose services were offered to and accepted by the government in the Civil War.

 

Among Mr. Calthrop’s numerous interests was that in science. He was one of the first men to forecast the weather from sunspots. He held classes in botany and geology out of which eventually grew the present Botany and Geology Clubs of the city. After the church picnics which were held on the lawn of his home, Primrose Hill, he gave lectures on astronomy, using a telescope which had been given to him by his congregation. At one time he announced a lecture on evolution but was severely reprimanded by men of the congregation. After hearing the lecture, however, this group withdrew their opposition. He designed a streamlined train, the forerunner of the current trains, and patented it in 1865. His remarkable and multiform contributions to the advancement of knowledge were recognized by his Alma Mater, Cambridge, and Syracuse University. Both awarded him the honorary degree of L.H.D.

 

He was a prolific writer in both prose and poetry. Some of his best known prose is "Gold and Silver as Money" and "One Lord and His Name are One." Much of his poetry was written for periodicals.

 

Not the least amusing of his characteristics was his absentmindedness. While living in Marblehead, Dr. Calthrop was left in charge of his oldest daughter, then a baby. He had occasion to go out in the afternoon so took the child to a neighbor's house to be cared for during his absence. On returning home he was asked by Mrs. Calthrop where the baby was. Dr. Calthrop had no idea. After a frantic search the child was discovered at the neighbor's house where he had left it. On another occasion in Syracuse Dr. Calthrop rode his horse to the Post Office and asked Dean Hathaway, standing outside, to hold his horse while he went in for the mail. Dr. Calthrop came out of the building reading and walked home. When he discovered that he was minus the animal, he returned to the Post Office and found Dean Hathaway still holding it. "Why didn't you call to me when I came out?" Dean Hathaway replied, "I just wanted to see how long it would take you to remember the horse."

 

At one time when Dr. Calthrop was given charge of the children, he had to put them to bed. One of the children objected strenuously but after much persuasion he was finally subdued. On Mrs. Calthrop's return she inquired as to how her husband had managed during her absence. He told her that all but one of the children had gone to bed quite properly but with that one he had had quite a struggle. Mrs. Calthrop went in to inspect the children and found, to her great surprise, that the child who had objected going to bed was not hers but that of a neighbor.

 

One of the most amusing stories was that told by Mrs. Bump. During a visit to the city by President Taft, Dr. Calthrop, along with other prominent Syracusans, attended a luncheon in honor of Mr. Taft. Each person received and wore on his lapel a large button on which were the words "Welcome to our City." It so happened that that afternoon Dr. Calthrop was to conduct a funeral for the brother of a member of the congregation. In the rush to get from the luncheon to the church Dr. Calthrop forgot to remove the badge. The minister appeared at the funeral wearing the button "Welcome to our City," which was particularly appropriate since the deceased, having died in the far West, had been brought to Syracuse that morning for burial.

 

During his ministry numerous social and philanthropic activities were started and carried on by Dr. Calthrop and members of his congregation. A few of these were begun as projects of the church or of the Alliance.

 

Throughout this period there was still much opposition from the Orthodox churches. Frequently, on seeing Dr. Calthrop coming down the street, members of different denominations would cross over to the other side in order to avoid meeting the Unitarian minister. In spite of this general feeling two of Dr. Calthrop's closest friends and favorite chess players were a Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest.

 

After a long and valuable ministry of forty-three years at May Memorial Church, Dr. Calthrop retired in 1911. He died on May 11, 1917, and the secular as well as the religious world lost a remarkable leader and worker.

 

John H. Applebee served as the fourth pastor of May Memorial Church from 1911 until his retirement in 1929. He was born in England in 1867 where his father, Rev. James Kay Applebee, was a Unitarian minister. The family came to America in 1878, living in Sparta, Wisconsin, where the elder Applebee was pastor of a Unitarian Church. He later moved to Marblehead, Mass. where he succeeded Dr. Calthrop when the latter became minister of May Memorial Church.

 

After graduation from a Boston High School John Applebee studied at Meadville from which he graduated in 1894. He then went to Buffalo where he was pastor of the Park Side Unitarian Church for four years. His next charge was at a church in West Roxbury where he stayed until 1905. He moved to Attleboro, Mass., where he was pastor of the Pilgrims Church until he was called to Syracuse in 1911 as associate pastor with Dr. Samuel R. Calthrop. On Dr. Calthrop's retirement that same year Mr. Applebee became pastor. During his ministry in Syracuse Mr. Applebee was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Meadville Divinity School in 1924.

 

Like his predecessors Mr. Applebee combined his work as minister with activities outside the church. He headed several civic and charitable organizations and participated in others. Among these he was interested in the Association of Workers for the Blind and learned Braille so that he could transcribe literature. With Dr. Frederick W. Betts, former minister of the Universalist Church, he was active in a moral survey of Syracuse. In an outburst of patriotic enthusiasm during the World War the church not only granted Dr. Applebee a leave of absence so that he might engage in active war service but also gave him half a year's salary. For two years he served as an officer of the American Red Cross in France. For several months after the armistice was signed he was with the army of occupation in Germany. During his absence the pulpit was filled by Wilton E. Cross, senior student at Meadville.

 

On June 3, 1897, he married Alice Elizabeth Roddy of Meadville, Pa. She, too, was a zealous and valuable worker in both religious and civic activities. After several months of study in New York during the war, Mrs. Applebee worked unceasingly in the home service work carried on by the Red Cross. She was instrumental in founding and carrying on the Girls' Patriotic League which later became the Huntington Foundation. For several months an invalid, Mrs. Applebee died on June 4, 1923.

 

Deprived of his wife and help-mate, Dr. Applebee steadily limited his activities until his retirement in 1929. Dr. Applebee proposed that he retire on his sixtieth birthday (March 29, 1927) but his proposal was rejected. Again in October, 1928 Dr. Applebee tendered his resignation to become effective in June, 1929. This, too, was rejected at that time but poor health caused his resignation to be accepted in March, 1929. Confined to his bed since August, 1936, Dr. Applebee died in January, 1938.

 

W. Waldemar W. Argow, fifth and present minister of May Memorial Church, was installed on Oct. 28, 1930. Dr. Argow, born in Dayton, Ohio on Aug. 9, 1891, was the fifth generation of his family to be in the ministry. The background of his three given names is interesting: Wendelin, father of transcendental philosophy; Waldemar, bishop of West Goths, who was a missionary to the Teutons in 390; and Weiland "Father of the spiritualistic or idealistic interpretation of poetry" (Syracuse Journal, January 8, 1938). Part of his boyhood was spent in Dayton, Toledo, and Canton and then the family moved to Louisville, Ky. Dr, Argow attended the University of Louisville, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, University of New York and was ordained in 1913 into the Baptist ministry. In 1914 he accepted a call to the Baptist Church in Lorain, Ohio where he stayed for five years. Because he could not reconcile war with religion, he resigned as pastor.

 

During the World War Dr. Argow was an ardent worker among the underprivileged. He became a member of the commission on living conditions created by the Department of Labor, and was sent into the munitions towns to recondition people morally, mentally, and physically. During the flu epidemic Dr. Argow was night superintendent of a hospital in Lorain while Mrs. Argow was in charge of women and children. For three weeks he was stationed at Camp Sherman working among the 40,000 soldiers. From there he went to New York City where he had charge of the social and religious education in the 23rd Street Y.M.C.A., a community settlement house.

 

In 1920 he became a Unitarian and a year later went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as pastor of the People's Unitarian Church. He stayed there until 1930 when he was called to Syracuse. On Oct. 28, 1930 Judge Hiscock installed Dr. Argow as minister. Dr. Applebee delivered the charge to the minister, Dr. Preston Bradley of Chicago preached the sermon, and Rev. David R. Williams of Rochester delivered the charge to the congregation. Dr. Argow was then welcomed by Chancellor Flint, representing Syracuse University, by Dr. Albert C. Fulton, speaking for the Protestant Churches, and Mr. T. Aaron Levy, coming from the Jewish people.

 

In 1933 in recognition of outstanding contributions in Religious Philosophy Dr. Argow was appointed a member of the "Institut Litteraire et Artistique de France."

 

Though statistics give but a cold and unfeeling picture of pastoral duties well-performed, the following figures may perhaps convey some conception of Dr. Argow's ministerial activities. During the eight years of his incumbency at May Memorial Church he had preached a total of 446 sermons and given 649 addresses, made a total of 3,563 calls, written 544 articles and 9,649 letters, and has further given of his time in 11,764 interviews and attended 770 committee meetings. Dr. Argow's denominational activities have not been confined to this parish. He has five times been one of the conference speakers at the Isles of Shoals and twice at Rowe Camp. He has served as Vice-President of the Unitarian Ministerial Union, as a member of the Board of Preachers at the Arlington Street Church in Boston, and has also been a member of several important committees of the American Unitarian Association.

 

Like his predecessors in May Memorial Church, Dr. Argow maintains a lively interest in civic affairs. His deep concern for social service is demonstrated by his active membership in the Onondaga Health Association, the Mayor's committee for the study of recreational facilities, and the preliminary committee from which has grown the present Housing project. That his fellow-ministers hold him in high regard is evidenced by the fact that he has been a member of the Civic Lenten Service Committee ever since he has been in Syracuse. In addition he has found time in his crowded life to serve on the editorial staffs of "Unity" and "The Living Age."

 

Contributions of May Memorial Church

 

THE UNITARIAN Church in Syracuse has been closely identified with most of the worthwhile projects in the city and with the beginnings of a long list of important civic and national organizations. The place the church and its people hold in the community has been brought home to us recently. A World's Fair Committee selected as the county's two most representative and worthwhile men Dr. Samuel J. May and Dr. Andrew D. White, both long associated with our church.

 

The Association here has been known for its liberal attitude. Mr. Joseph Allen, speaking at the celebration held on the hundredth anniversary of Mr. May's birth, said that perhaps no other influential society in the country would have invited a man of his strong views on peace, anti-slavery, and women's rights, to become its pastor. Perhaps no other society would have allowed him perfect liberty of speech when many of the congregation did not see eye to eye with him on these questions.

 

Mr. May's active work in the cause of abolition was greatly strengthened by the help of his congregation. Financial support was frequently given runaway slaves and the activities of the Unitarian group here contributed greatly to the reputation Syracuse acquired as a leader in the abolition movement.

 

Enthusiastic reform groups the world over often find it hard to secure a meeting place and a fair hearing. The old Church of the Messiah and later May Memorial Church provided a refuge for such groups. Those working for women's suffrage frequently met in the Unitarian auditorium. Indeed, if we look for the leaders of the movement here we find them among the members of the Association. No one thinks of the agitation for women's rights in Syracuse without recalling the names of Harriet May Mills, Alice Roddy Applebee, and Ina Bagg Merrill.

 

The cause of peace has always found loyal supporters at May Memorial. All his life Mr. May worked hard for peace. His opinion on war has already been mentioned. Dr. Calthrop's ideas were not of the same kind for although he was an advocate of peace he did not recommend non-resistance. Instead he believed in a strong state of preparedness. In the church records we find that Dr. Applebee and his congregation were often thinking of peace and the means by which they might advance its cause. There are references to motions made expressing gratitude to President Taft in 1911 for his efforts on behalf of international peace and goodwill, of committees appointed to arouse interest in treaties on international arbitration which were being discussed in the Senate, and other items of a like nature. Those of us in the church today know the keen interest in and the desire for peace that Dr. and Mrs. Argow -- and indeed the whole congregation -- feel.

 

But when war came, the church always tried to do its part in alleviating the distress that comes in its strain. At the time of the Civil War Mr. May had the loyal support of his people in the work he did both before and after the organization of the Sanitary Commission. During the World War the church did what it could for the soldiers who were in training camp here. Showers were installed in the basement, a moving picture machine was placed in the church auditorium and the men used the church parlors for game rooms. The use of the church rooms was offered to the American Red Cross Society, the women worked making bandages and dressings and other needed supplies. Also Dr. Applebee was granted a leave of absence to go overseas with the Red Cross.

 

While the Unitarians in Syracuse have ever been alive to national problems and issues, it is in the work of civic improvements that their greatest efforts have been spent. The list of beneficial local organizations and projects which have had their beginnings under the auspices of this church is a long one. Going back to Mr. May's day here we have the beginning of the Temperance Society, the Onondaga Orphan's Home, the School for the Onondaga Indians, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the organization of the State Educational Society, the Women's Rights Society, and the beginning of social work for the negroes which the Commonweal Club later extended into the Dunbar Center project. It was at this time, too, that Mrs. Bigelow was instrumental in starting the Women's and Children's Hospital, now known as the Syracuse Memorial Hospital. Mrs. Stewart Hancock is at present an active member of its Board of Directors.

 

One of the monuments to Dr. Calthrop here is the Syracuse Boy's Club which began in May Memorial Church as "The Boys' Evening Home." He it was who conceived the idea of club rooms and supervised recreational activities for the underprivileged boys in the city. When the waifs met for the first time they were lured by the promise of free cookies and cocoa. So great was the response that those in charge were nearly swamped by the crowd of hungry boys. When the club got under way game rooms were provided at the church. Dr. Calthrop's presence was always hailed with delight by his appreciative young friends. Many other members of the church were ardent workers in this project. For years Mr. C. F. Bennett was secretary and Mr. Salem Hyde, that great worker for civic good in Syracuse, was an active helper in the club.

 

Dr. Calthrop's interest in healthy recreation went beyond the Boys' Club. He was the moving spirit behind the project to provide tennis courts for the people of the city. The first ones were built at what is now Sedgwick Farms. He was also very much interested in the drive to increase the number of parks and playgrounds in the city.

 

Another of his fine projects was carried out during the depression of 1893. At that time there was widespread distress in the city and no municipal department or funds for relieving it. Dr. Calthrop with characteristic energy organized the city into districts with the schools as headquarters. He supervised the collecting of food and clothing and saw that they were distributed from the school centers.

 

The first Boys' Scout Troop in Syracuse was organized in May Memorial Church and Mr. Charles Trump was the first Scout Master in the city. The Art Museum also had its inception in May Memorial Church.

 

Dr. Betts of the Universalist Church was the instigator of the moral survey made some years ago in the city. However, his work would have been almost impossible had it not been for the strong financial support which he received from members of May Memorial Church.

 

The women of the Unitarian church in Syracuse have always constituted an active group with a strong civic conscience. They have done many worthwhile things for the city as well as for the church itself. Among the former projects we shall attempt to list only a few. One very important undertaking was the providing of playground equipment for the Onondaga Orphanage. Mrs. James G. Tracy was the dynamic leader in this project. Before the city felt its duty to the needy as fully as it does now, the Women's Alliance raised money to buy milk to be supplied to the undernourished children in the schools. During the recent depression when the Public Health Nursing Bureau found its funds curtailed, the members of the Alliance saved all the grease from their cooking and had soap made from it to be used by the Nursing Bureau. The Alliance also paid for the education of an Indian girl at Hampden School.

 

Probably we should not fail to mention the many clever theatrical performances the church produced in days gone by. These were famous in the city at a time when the moving picture theatres did not provide wholesale entertainment. Mrs. Julia Jenney is a name that the city will remember whenever amateur dramatics are thought of. Dr. John Applebee was another staunch supporter of dramatics. He often helped with the production of plays in the Little Theatre on East Fayette Street.

 

At May Memorial Church have begun many social projects which have later been taken over by the city or by larger cooperative groups when their great scope and worth was recognized. Among these undertakings are the purchasing of milk for undernourished school children, the Rummage Shop, the Employment Society, and the local Associated Charities. More recently in the early 1930's when the unemployed men of the city had no place to go for recreation of any kind, reading and social rooms were provided for them at the church. Mrs. Frederick R. Hazard, always devotedly and generously interested in the social work of the church, supplied these men with refreshments, games and reading material, and sent flowers from her conservatory to adorn the rooms. Out of this project grew the city-supported Jackson Lodge.

 

This story of the achievements of our church in the past one hundred years is one to make us all proud. But it should have a more important effect upon everyone of us. In it there is an inspiration and a challenge to go forward into the new century strongly maintaining the traditions of liberalism and service of the past and building a fine record of solid achievements for the future.

 

Appendix

 

"This is the original draft of the Covenant of the Unitarian Congregational Church of Syracuse in the handwriting of Rev. George Ripley; and the signatures of the first members made and signed Sept. 3, 1838."

 

"We, the undersigned professing our belief in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, and the Saviors of the world; in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as containing the revelations of God to man, and as a sufficient rule of faith and practice; and desiring to walk in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord blameless, do hereby form ourselves into a Christian Church, under the name of the Unitarian Congregational Church of Syracuse.

We agree and covenant with each other, as in the presence of Almighty God, to continue in the fellowship of this Church, in a regular attendance on Christian ordinances, in the exercise of Christian affections, in the maintenance of Christian liberty, and in the pursuit of Christian truth, so long and so far as shall appear to us to be our duty.

 

(Signed) Joshua Leonard

Elisha F. Wallace

Stephen Abbot

Hiram Hoyt

John White

M. Williams

Ezra Buss

Elihu Walter

B. F. Marden

Wm. Pay

Nancy W. Abbot

Julia Ann White

Betsy Marden

Mary W. Buss

Susan Pay

 

"This paper has been kept by E. F. Wallace, Esq. until today Oct. 18, 1868 -- he has given it to me to be put into our book of Records."

(Signed) S. J. May

 

Following are excerpts from the address given by Mr. May at the Dedication services of the Church of the Messiah, April 14, 1853:

 

"But why, brethren, did you build your first Bethel? And why your last? And, when that was demolished, why have we reared this larger edifice? What impelled you in the beginning, and why do we still feel obliged to withdraw from the churches of other denominations, and stand up alone in this city in the advocacy of unpopular religious opinions, of a system of faith that may, by most persons in this region, be deemed heretical?

 

Frankly I reply, Because, before God, we are fully persuaded that that which is held up in most of the churches about us as religion is not pure Christianity, but a compound of the gospel with Judaism and Platonism, and some admixtures of other heathen and oriental philosophies. We believe that Jesus Christ, and not Paul nor Cephas, nor Augustine nor Calvin, not Edwards nor Wesley, but Jesus Christ is the best teacher of Christianity. We are persuaded that the Sermon on the Mount, and not the Athanasian nor the Nicene Creed, not the Westminster Assembly's Confession nor the Thirty-nine Articles of the Episcopal Church, but the Sermon on the Mount is the best body of divinity. We believe that whosoever heareth these sayings of Christ and doeth them, hath built his house upon that rock which alone shall never be removed. We insist that neither the Pope of Rome, nor the Bishops of the Church of England, nor the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, nor any consociation nor any associated body of men, however learned, grave and reverend, have any authority, but that which is usurped, to interpose their expositions of divine truth between the mind of the humblest individual and the mind of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth -- the anointed of God -- is the great teacher, to whose authority we bow. All who would be Christians, we insist, should learn of him; and the legitimate office of every Christian minister, whatever be his title -- deacon, elder, priest, presbyter or bishop -- his only legitimate office is to persuade men to come to Jesus and learn of him -- of him, whose instructions are best adapted alike to the mightiest and to the humblest soul. Whoever would do more than this, transcends the province of a minister, and becomes a usurper in the kingdom of heaven. He who dares not leave a fellow being to learn what he may of Jesus Christ, cannot have much faith in that Son of God as the best teacher of that religion which he "was sanctified and sent into the world to teach." He or they who insist upon the reception of a creed, which Jesus never prescribed, or the observance of a ritual, which Jesus did not institute, have obviously taken the management of the Church out of the hands of Him by whom it was founded. And he or they who, when they see that a man has so learnt of Christ as to deny ungodliness and to live soberly, righteously, and piously, are not satisfied that that man (whatever be his speculative opinions) has attained to a faith which is saving, they evidently know not what Christian salvation is.

 

It is mainly because of the usurpation of the so-called orthodox or self-styled evangelical churches and ministers that we have separated from them, although we have in those enclosures many individuals whose characters we cordially acknowledge to be luminous with the Christian graces.

 

Relying, as we do, chiefly upon the teachings of Christ and his Apostles, we have been led to more consistent, more worthy, more delightful views of God, and more encouraging views of man, than those that are held up by the" evangelical churches."

 

We have been brought to regard God as the Merciful Father, rather than the stern, jealous, relentless Monarch of the universe. His benignity is revealed to us in the character of Jesus Christ, who is set before the world as "the express image" of God.

 

We have been brought no longer to regard man as by nature wholly alienated from God and holiness, wholly prone to evil and indisposed to all good. We believe him to have been made in the image of God, a partaker of the Divine nature, which, however it may be sullied and seared, can never by wholly obliterated.

 

We have been brought to believe, not that much the larger part of the race of Adam (all, indeed, save "the elect") will have cause throughout eternity to rue the day that they were born, but that "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall be made alive;" and that as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." We believe that it is the gracious design of the Father so to deal with us all in this life and the life to come, that, notwithstanding the diversity of our gifts, our talents, or our temperaments, we shall all be brought, sooner or later, in this life, or in some future state of being, by just so much discipline and sufferings as may be necessary, to bear a resemblance to Christ, the dearly beloved Son, and so be reconciled to God and rejoice in him evermore. “We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe." By faith while in this life, and by faith alone are men led unto that righteousness which can save them from the fear of death and the retributions of the future state.

 

We consider the Calvinistic or Orthodox scheme of salvation a theological system of man's device, which in the dark ages was foisted into the place of Christianity, and still holds its place, to the exclusion of the gospel. Whatever may have been the virtue and piety exhibited in connection with the Roman Catholic, the Episcopal, the Presbyterian, or any other phase of the "Orthodox" faith, mankind will never be wholly redeemed from sin and misery but by the pure and undefiled religion of Jesus.

 

For these reasons, we have been impelled to claim for ourselves, and to summon others to exercise a larger liberty than is allowed in any of the popular or evangelical churches of the land. We renounce all master of our faith but God and his Christ. And we call upon all who have minds to comprehend what is true and hearts to love what is right, to make religious doctrine and religious duty the subjects of their own personal investigation. And we insist that not the reception of this or that theological system is the true test of the religious character of any man, but his filial submission and obedience to the Heavenly Father, and his brotherly love of his fellow-beings.

 

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