a digital library of Unitarian Universalist biographies, history, books, and media
the digital library of Unitarian Universalism
Home » Congregational Polity » Henry Bellows, “The Suspense of Faith”

Henry Bellows, “The Suspense of Faith”

“The Suspense of Faith”

An Address to the Alumni of Harvard Divinity School

Given July 19, 1859 by Henry W. Bellows

Henry Whitney Bellows

Courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist Association Archives

This talk is sometimes heralded as one of the half-dozen important Unitarian talks in the 19th Century. Though that may be, it is far less expressive of Bellows’ ideas on polity than the other documents from him included in this syllabus. A small part is included here mainly because the address has such a reputation and the text is not easily available.

1)   Is the distinction made between the visible and the invisible church (page 35) and Bellows’ dictum, “every radically important relationship of humanity is, and must be, embodied in an external institution,” really an attack on the transcendental view that the divine is best found in the individual spirit? Compare the view expressed here with that of Ralph Waldo Emerson in “the Divinity School Address” of 1838.

2)  Bellows declares, “the Church….is to be maintained and upheld in its external form as…separate and distinct” (page 41). Does this point get to the nub of the Unitarian problem or is his appeal really simply a new guise for the belief that institutions must have priority over persons?


Download (PDF, 3.55MB)

Series Navigation<< Henry Bellows, “The Relation of Liberal Christians to a True Theology and a Higher Religious Life”“Henry W. Bellows and the Organization of the National Conference,” by Conrad Wright >>

Notable in UU History
John Dos Passos

Dos Passos, John (1896-1970)

Biographical Introduction The writer who is celebrated for his historical triple novel, U.S.A., was born in ... Read More
Norman Lear

Lear, Norman (1922-)

Norman Lear had one of the most powerful and influential careers in the history of U.S ... Read More
Samuel R. Calthrop

Calthrop, Samuel R. (1829-1917)

Samuel R. Calthrop was one of the most unique and vital personalities in the Unitarian Fellowship ... Read More
Painting of Reinhardt

Reinhardt, Aurelia Henry (1877-1948)

An expectant audience was not disappointed when Frederick May Eliot, the president of the American Unitarian ... Read More