Perhaps, the most highly organized form of liberal Religious Church life in Europe may be found among the Unitarians in England, Scotland and Ireland. But as the prescribed limits of this booklet have already been exceeded and as literature under the various heads of this subject is most efficiently being made available both for the masses and the classes by the British and Foreign Unitarian Association of London (Essex, Hall, Essex Street Strand), and the American Unitarian Association, Boston, it is only possible and necessary to give here a very brief sketch.
“Perhaps nothing more practically fostered the growth of liberal religious thought than the establishment in London of the Strangers’ Church. It was formed in 1550 under a charter from Edward VI allowing Germans and other strangers to worship according to their own customs. This charter was a herald of religious liberty…. Many connected churches were established by bands of foreign religious refugees not only in London but at Canterbury, Colchester, Southampton, Norwich, etc. In these churches discussion on heretical subjects came up, and the under current of dissent from orthodoxy was strengthened”. After a few martyrs not much known to history, in the reign of James. I John Biddle first founded a Unitarian Congregation during the Cromwellian period, and had to perish in prison, after the death of Cromwell, on 22nd September, 1662. Milton, Locke, Newton and other great men were quieter Unitarians who have left records of their final judgment in favour of Unitarianism. Prior to (The theistic Directory by V. R. Shinde published in 1912 pages 90 to 105) Lindsey founding Essex-Street Chapel, London, in 1774 the Rev. John Cooper of Cheltenham opened a Unitarian meet house on Sunday 17th Aril, 1774. Theophilus Lindsey held in Essex Street, his first service as a Unitarian Minister in a hall in Essex Street the site of which is now occupied by the B. and F. Unitarian Association. In 1771 Lindsey petitioned Parliament for relief and resigned his position on the final refusal of the Parliament in 1773. He died in 1808 having lived to see great changes in the public attitude to his work. Dr. Joseph Pristley, the discoverer scientist and scholar, to whom English Unitarianism owes much for his theological writings, was among the friends and sympathisers of Lindsey. He suffered much for the cause and died in America in 1804.
In the list of Unitarian Ministers given in the Unitarian Pocket Book for 1912, are 385 names. The three Colleges in which the Ministers are qualified are the Manchester College (founded in 1780), the Unitarian Home Missionary College, Manchester, (founded in 1854), Presbyterian College, Carmarthen the British and Foreign Unitarian Association constituted in 1825 in London arose out of the three Societies, (1) The Unitarian Society for promoting Christian Knowledge (Ested.1791), (2) The Unitarian Fund (Estd.1806), (3) The Association for protecting the civil rights of the Unitarians formed in 1881 with a view to bring together Ministers and Laymen of the denomination for common deliberations and has been meeting after every three years.
But with all this the Unitarian body is a very small one and is often pointed out by its unsympathetic critics as not suited to the masses at large. In this respect, Dr. Brooke Hereford observed in an lecture in America :- “In England, too, Unitarians have labored under difficulties, unknown here, from the tremendous social prestige and attraction of the great “Established” Episcopal Church. As the last half century has also seen a great revival of religious earnestness as the Epischopal body, it gradually drew away from us, many of the great country families which had held by the “Old Dissent” as a sort of tradition and who would never leave it, as long as it was under any of the old persecuting disabilities. If they have lost somewhat among the wealthy and cultivated classes, they have gained far more among the people; and now, almost everywhere in England, one of their strongest element is the thoughtful intelligent artisan-life, which has gathered to them during forty years”. Regarding the “Domestic Missions” which closely correspond to the Depressed classes Missions conducted by the Brahma in India, and which were inaugurated in England by the visit of Dr. Tuckerman from America in 1853, Dr. Hereford says, “Dr. Tuckerman’s preaching and the story of his own Ministry at large in Boston interested our English Churches very deeply. Hi awoke our people in the large city churches to a new concern for the sad, ignorant perishing masses around them. Within two or three years of his visit similar ministries-at-large ‘Domestic Missions’ they are called in England, were started in London, Manchester, Liverpool Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, and several other places. They were to be pure agencies for helping and doing good, without a thought of any sectarian gain. It was about as noble a kind of sectarian self-abnegation as has ever been. But perhaps on that very account its benefit reacted all the more upon the doors. It put into our strongest city churches a new interest in doing good, and with that came new life more interest in religion, every way”.
Unitarianism or the modern gospel of freedom, sympathy and large hearted fellowship, seems to have found a still warmer home in the breezy, liberty-loving, unconventional land of America, then the prestige bound old country. Channing, Parker and Emerson are the three names enough to send a thrill of new life into a hear of very stone. In 1794, Dr. Priestly went to America and his influence was felt there. About the beginning of the 19th century there was a great commotion among the Ministers of the Congregational Church in America at the spread of Unitarian sentiments among that body. The conflict raged till 1815 when soon many Unitarian Churches were formed. “The preaching of Dr. Channing was most remarkable in its power and influence. He was listened to, by thousands and his sermous were printed and circulated by tens of thousands. His works have been printed and reprinted, in almost every European language”. In 1825, Drs. Channing and Gannet formed the American Unitarian Association, on the day previous to that on which the B. and B. Unitarian Association was started in London. The American Unitarian Year Book for 1911 gives a list of 503 Churches and 540 Ministers. American Unitarianism shows comparatively a greater vitality both in extent and in intent in as much as the movements in England such as the “Domestic Missions”, “Postal Mission”, The Triennial Conference, etc., and the Unitarian Mission in Japan take their rise from an impetus from America; while lastly the International Council of Liberal Religious Thinkers and Workers which has been meeting since 1901 after, every two years, in America and the different countries of Europe, is essentially, an American idea so successfully being realized by the Zealous Secretary Rev. Charles Wendte ob Boston.
Like the Arya Samaj to the Brahma Samaj in India, Universalism is a sister-movement to Unitarianism in America based upon a doctrine of Universal salvation or that all mankind is doomed to be saved as opposed to the Calvinistic doctrine of the elect. The first Universalist sermon was preached in America on September, 30th 1770, by John Murray, who emigrated from England. In 1793, a creed was drawn up by the Rev. Abiel Sargent of New Jersey and was adopted by several Universalist Churches. Its language is unambiguous Unitarianism. The most rapid and general spread of Unitarian view among Universalists was due to the Rev. Hosea Ballon who avowed himself a Unitarian in 1795. In 1870 the great Murry Centenary Convention met at Gloucester, where John Murry had this Parish in America. It was the last gathering of the Universalists that the world has yet seen. The Murray Fund was reported as having reached in cash and good pledge the total of 1,35,000 dollars. The income is used in the aid of Theological education, the distribution of literature, Church extension and Missionary cause. In 1882, Rev. T. B. Thayer made a stirring address before the Massachusetts Convention on Foreign Missions Dr. Perin’s spirited canvass collected a fund of 60,000 dollars for the Japan Mission and in the spring of 1890, Dr. Perin landed in Japan as the first Missionary. There are now five ordained native Japanese Ministers. A new Church edifice was erected in Tokiyo in 1903, and the Blackmer Girls’ Home was also opened in that year. The statistical recapitulation on page 80 of the Universalist Register is as follows :- Parishes 922; families 54,609; Churches 843 : Sunday Schools 845; Church Property 10,741,630; Young Peoples’ Organizations 238.
Free Protestant Unitarian Church, Hent Street, Cape Town (1869-73), Minister, Rev. Ramsden Balmforth. The church at Grant Reinet had no Minister in 1906.
Southi Australia :- Rev. John Reid, M. A. Queen Street, Norwood, Adelaide; Victoria-Rev. R. H. Lambely, M. A. 49 Denham Street, Hawthron, Melbourne : New South Wales- Rev. George T. Watters, Yelverton, Ridge Street, North Sydney.
V. R. SHINDE.
गोवर्धन चळवळीसंबंधी मत
“श्री. चौंडेमहाराज यांचा आणि त्यांच्या कर्याचा काही वर्षे मला परिचय आहे. वाई व मुंबई येथील काही कार्ये मी स्वत: पाहिली आहेत. महाराजांचा स्वार्थत्याग, चिकाटी स्तुत्य आहे. खेड्यातील जनतेला या कार्याचा फायदा होण्यासारखा आहे. मात्र तो फायदा खेड्यातील जनता कितपत घेते, याची मला अटकळ नाही. तथापि, मी महाराजांना उदंड आयुष्य आणि कार्याला यश चिंतण्याचे माझे कर्तव्य समजतो.” (श्री. डोळेकृत चौंडेमहाराज-चरित्र, शके १८६०. पृष्ठांक ५३६.)
महर्षी शिंदे ह्यांचे श्री. न. चिं. केळकर ह्यांना पत्र
अस्पृश्योद्धारक चळवळीचे सन्मान्य पुढारी रा. विठ्ठल रामजी शिंदे यांनी जे खालील पत्र लिहिले त्यामुळे ब्राम्हणेतरीं मला शिव्यांची जी लाखोली वाहिली तिची भरपाई झाली, असे मी मानतो. ते पत्र असे-
प्रिय नरसोपंत यास
सा. न. वि. वि.-
श्री. ल. ब. भोपटकर यांचे छापील आमंत्रण ‘केसरी-प्रबोध’ आपल्यास अर्पण करण्याच्या समारंभास येणेचे आताच पोचले. पाडव्याचे दिवशी सायंकाळी आंबेगाव पेट्यात घोडेगावी शेतकरी संघाचे उद्घाटन करण्यास मला जावे लागेल. म्हणून आपल्या समारंभास येणे होणार नाही, याचे वाईट वाटते. तरी केसरीविषयी पुन्हा एकदा मला स्वत:ला प्रांजलपणे काय वाटते ते ह्या पत्रात लिहिल्याशिवाय राहवत नाही.
गेल्या शुक्रवारचा व आज मंगळवारचा असे केसरीचे अग्रलेख मी समग्र वाचले. प्रत्येक अक्षर त्यातलेमला इतके आवडले की जणू ते माझ्या हृदयाच्या मुळातूनच निघाले होते. शुक्रवारच्या लेखाचा समतोलपणा आणि आजच्या लेखाची गहनदृष्टी ही दोन्ही कोणत्याही कसलेल्या संपादकास अत्यंत नमुनेदार खात्रीने आहेत तुमच्या कट्टया शत्रुसही हे दोन लेख मान डोलवावयाला लावतील. प्रस्तुत समेटामुळे माझे स्वत:चे मन फार दुखले आहे. तसे मी ता.७ मार्चच्या शनिवारवाडयापुढील सभेत उघड बोलूनही दाखविले. त्या आठवड्यात मला जी दु:स्वप्ने पडत होती, त्यांचे यथातथ्य शब्दचित्र केसरीच्या अग्रलेखात आज उठावदार पाहून मला आश्चर्य वाटले. मी केसरी सांप्रदायाचा मुळीच अनुयायी नाही; पण मी कोणत्याच सांप्रदायाचा अनुयायी नाही. तरी पण केसरीतील लेखांचा चहाता आहे म्हणून तर माझ्या चहाची विशेष किंमत नाही (गतगोष्टी अर्थात् माझी जीवनयात्रा, लेखक: श्री. न. चिं. केळकर पान ९५७/९५८ वरून उदधृत.) काय? सर्व संबंधी जनांस दाखवाच. म्हणजे मी समारंभास येऊ न शकल्याबद्दल ते सर्व क्षमा करतील.
प्रिय नरसोपंत, चालू ‘रत्नाकरातील’ रा. दिवेकरांचा तुमच्याविषयीचा लेख मी वाचला. तोही मला फार आवडला. तुमच्या चरित्र्याचे व चारित्र्याचे रहस्य प्रत्यक्ष तुम्हाला तरी इतके सुरेख वठविता येईल का हो? मी पुष्कळ वेळा तुम्हावर जाहीरीतीने स्तुतिनिंदेचे आघात केले आहेत. तथापि, महाराष्ट्रीय पुढारी या नात्याने माझ्या नजरेत तुमची जी नैतिक उंची भरली आहे. तिच्यातील एक तीळही कमी झालेली नाही. म्हणूनच दिवेकरांचा लेख मला तुम्हाकडून व तुमच्या अनुयायांकडून चिरकाल घडो, अशी अत्यंत नम्र व सहज प्रार्थना आहे.
हे पत्र प्रसिद्धीच्या दृष्टीने मुळीच लिहिले नाही. तरी पण तुमच्या सांप्रदायाला हे प्रसिद्ध करण्यापासून काही लाभ होत असेल म्हणून तुम्ही मला न विचारता प्रसिद्ध कराल तरी त्यातील एक अक्षरही परत घेण्यास मी तयार नाही. हे लिहिण्याचे कारण मी हे पत्र अगदी निर्व्याज हेतूने लिहिले आहे. मग ते मला कसे लपविता येईल? पुन्हा आपले शुभ चिंतून रजा घेतो.
विठ्ठल रामजी शिंदे.
वेताळ पेठ, पुणे.
१७ मार्च १९३१