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“The Suspense of Faith”
An Address to the Alumni of Harvard Divinity School
Given July 19, 1859 by Henry W. BellowsThis 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?