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good, as the best man on earth could desire him to be, -in short, that his perfections infinitely transcend the most enlarged conceptions of the human mind. Can we, as Universalists, contemplate such a being, especially in his relation to us as a Father, without feeling a holy reverence for his name, and a filial confidence in his goodness? Can we contemplate his impartial goodness to the children of men, as displayed in Providence and grace, without feeling that it is our duty to cherish a spirit of good-will towards all the human race?
Vital godliness, as thus explained, signifies, therefore, love to God, and love to man. If we love God, we shall keep his commandments. We shall delight to worship him. We shall delight to speak of his loving kindness and his tender mercy. We shall delight to recommend, and to exhort our fellow-men to trust in the goodness of our heavenly Father, as manifested through his beloved Son. And, if we cherish the genuine spirit of philanthropy in our hearts, we shall assuredly strive to promote the good of our fellow-creatures by every practicable means within the compass of our ability.
Reader, behold the mark of the prize of thy high calling in Christ Jesus, and put forth all thy energies for its attainment, and depend on it, thou shalt know from experience the power of religion in the soul.
ON THE FORMATION OF UNIVERSALIST SOCIETIES.
I. ALL religious societies should be formed agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the State to which they belong. In Massachusetts, the rights and duties of religious societies, and the privileges of members, are set forth in the Eleventh Article of Amendments to the Constitution, and in the Twentieth Chapter of
the Revised Statutes.
As Universalists should always be careful to pay the strictest deference to the laws, we shall here introduce the article from the Constitution, and give entire the chapter from the Statutes.
II. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ESTABLISHED.
"Article 11 [of Amendments]. Instead of the third article of the Bill of Rights, the following modification and amendment thereof is substituted.
"As the public worship of God, and instructions in piety, religion, and morality, promote the happiness and prosperity of a people, and the security of a republican government, therefore, the several religious societies of this Commonwealth, whether corporate or unincorporate, at any meeting legally warned and holden for that purpose, shall ever have the right to elect their pastors or religious teachers, to contract with them for their support, to raise money for erecting and repairing houses for public worship, for the maintainance of religious instruction, and for the payment of necessary expenses: And all persons belonging to any religious society shall be taken and held to be members, until they shall file with the clerk of such society a written notice declaring the dissolution of their membership, and thenceforth shall not be liable for any grant or contract which may be thereafter made or entered into by such society: And all religious sects and denominations, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good citizens of the Commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law."
REVISED STATUTES, CHAPTER 20.
"Section 1. Every parish or religious society heretofore established is declared to be a body corporate, with all the powers given to corporations by the forty-fourth chapter; and with the other powers, privileges, liabilities, and duties, expressed in this chapter.
"Sect. 2. All parishes or religious societies, whether corporate or unincorporate, shall continue to have and enjoy their existing rights, privileges, and immunities, except so far as the same may be limited or modified by the provisions of this chapter, and the eleventh article of the amendinents of the constitution.
"Sect. 3. The respective churches, connected and associated in public worship, with such parishes and religious societies, shall continue to have, exercise, and enjoy all their accustomed privileges and liberties respecting divine worship, church order, and discipline, and shall be encouraged in the peaceable and regular enjoyment and practice thereof.
"Sect. 4. All persons belonging to any religious society, shall be taken and held to be members, until they shall file, with the clerk of such society, a written notice declaring the dissolution of their mem bership, and thenceforth shall not be liable for any grant or contract, which may be thereafter made or entered into by such society; and no person shall hereafter be made a member of any parish or reli gious society, without his consent in writing.
"Sect. 5. Every parish and religious society may make by-laws, prescribing the manner in which persons may become members thereof; provided such by-laws be not repugnant to the laws of the Commonwealth.
"Sect. 6. No person shall have a right to vote in the affairs of any parish or religious society, unless he is a member thereof.
"Sect. 7. The qualified voters of every parish and incorporated religious society, and of every religious society organized according to the provisions of this chapter, shall meet in the month of March or April annually, at such time and place as shall be appointed by their assessors or standing committee, and shall choose a clerk, and two or more assessors, a treasurer, collector, who shall be sworn, and such other officers as they shall think necessary; all of whom shall continue in office for one year, and until others are chosen and qualified in their stead.
"Sect. 8. All meetings shall be warned in such manner, as the parish or society shall by any by-law or vote provide; and when they shall make no such order, the meetings shall be warned in such manner, as their assessors or standing committee shall, in their warrant for such meeting, direct.
"Sect. 9. At all such meetings, the clerk shall preside in the choice of a moderator; and, if there is no clerk, or if he is absent, the assessors or the standing committee, or any one of them, shall preside in the choice of a moderator; and a clerk may then be chosen, either pro tempore, or to fill the vacancy, as the case may require.
"Sect. 10. The moderator may administer the oath of office to the clerk; and the clerk may administer the oath to the assessors and collector; or the said oaths may be administered by any justice of the peace; and they shall all be substantially the same, as are required to be taken by the clerk, assessors, and collectors of towns.
"Sect. 11. The moderator shall have the same power, in governing the meeting, that is given to the moderator of a town meeting; and all persons guilty of disorderly behaviour at the meeting of any parish or religious society, shall be subjected to the same penalties and punishments, as are provided for the like offences in town meetings; all the pecuniary penalties to enure to the use of the parish or society, and to be recovered in the manner prescribed in the case of offences at town meetings.
"Sect. 12. The person chosen collector shall, if present, forthwith declare his acceptance or refusal of the office; and in case of non-acceptance, the parish or society shall proceed to a new choice, and so from time to time, until one shall accept and be sworn.
"Sect. 13. Any person so chosen, who shall be present and shall not declare his acceptance of the office of collector, or who shall, for the space of seven days, after being summoned by a constable or any other person, whom the clerk or assessors may appoint for that purpose, neglect to take the oath of office, shall be considered as refusing to accept the office.
Sect. 14. The prudential affairs of parishes and religious societies shall be managed by their assessors, or by a standing committee, to be specially appointed for that purpose; and the said assessors or committee shall have like authority, for calling meetings of the par ish or society, as selectmen have for calling town meetings.
"Sect. 15 All vacancies, that shall occur after the annual meeting, in any of the annual offices, may be filled at any other legal meeting.
· Sect. 16. When five or more of the qualified voters of any parish or religious society shall signify, in writing, their desire to have any matter inserted in a warrant for calling a meeting, the assessors or committee shall insert the same in the next warrant they shall issue for that purpose; and nothing acted upon shall have any legal operation, unless the subject matter thereof shall have been inserted in the warrant for calling the meeting.
Sect. 17. In case the assessors or committee of any parish or religious society shall unreasonably refuse to call a meeting, or if there are no assessors or committee qualified to call one, any justice of the peace for the county, upon the application of five or more of the qualified voters, may call a meeting, in the same manner as a justice of the peace is authorized to call a town meeting.
"Sect. 18. The qualified voters of every parish and religious society, at the annual meeting, or at any other meeting, regularly notified seven days at least before the holding thereof, may grant and vote such sums of money, as they shall judge necessary for the settlement, maintainance, and support of ministers or public teachers of religion; for the building or repairing of houses of public worship; for sacred music; for the purchase and preservation of burialgrounds; and for all other necessary parish charges: all which sums shall be assessed on the polls and estates of all the members of the parish or society, in the same manner and proportion as town taxes are by law assessed.
"Sect. 19. Nothing contained in this chapter shall enlarge or diminish the powers of taxation, enjoyed by any parish or religious society, by virtue of any special law or act of incorporation.
"Sect. 20. No corporation shall be taxed for any parochial purpose. "Sect. 21. None of the provisions of this chapter shall be construed to impair any existing rights of property of any territorial parish.
"Sect. 22. The inhabitants of every parish and religious society may, by vote, appoint one or more agents or attorneys to appear for and represent them, in any suit at law and upon any other occasion.
"Sect. 23. Every parish and religious society may appoint their treasurer to be the collector of their taxes; and, when so appointed, he shall have the like powers, and shall proceed in like manner, in enforcing the collection of such taxes, after the expiration of the time, fixed by the parish or society for the payment thereof, as is provided in the eighth chapter, for the collection of taxes by the collect
ors of towns.
"Sect. 24. Every parish and religious society may authorize their treasurer and collector to make an abatement of such sum, as they shall agree upon at their annual meeting, to all those who make voluntary payment of their taxes, within such period as shall be fixed on for that purpose by the parish or society.
"Sect. 25. In case any donation, gift, or grant, shall be made to any unincorporated religious society, such society shall have the like power to manage, use, and employ the same, according to the terms
and conditions, on which the same may be made, as incorporated societies now have, or may hereafter have, by law; to elect suitable trustees, agents, or officers therefor; and to prosecute and sue for any right which may vest in them, in consequence of such donation, gift, or grant; and such a society shall be a corporation, so far as may be necessary for the purposes expressed in this section.
"Sect. 26. Any parish, which, from the want of officers, or any other cause, may be unable to assemble in the usual manner, and any religious society, that is not incorporated, provided they contain respectively ten or more qualified voters, may organize themselves as a corporation, in the manner and for the purposes expressed in the following sections.
"Sect. 27. Any justice of the peace for the county in which such parish or religious society may be, upon application in writing by any five or more of the qualified voters thereof, may issue his warrant for calling a meeting of the same.
"Sect. 28. The warrant shall state the objects of the meeting, and shall be directed to some one of the applicants therefor, requiring him to warn the qualified voters of the parish or society to meet at such time and place as shall be appointed in the warrant; and, upon due return thereof, the same justice, or any other justice of the peace for the county, may preside at such meeting, for the choice and qualification of a clerk, who shall enter at large, upon the records of the parish or society, the proceedings had in the organization thereof; and the parish or society may thereupon proceed to choose a moderator, and to do all such other things, as parishes are by law authorized to do at their annual meetings; provided the subject matter thereof shall be inserted in said warrant.
"Sect. 29. Every parish and religious society, organized as provided in the three preceding sections, shall become a corporation, and shall have all the powers and privileges, and be subject to all the duties, liabilities, and requirements, which incorporated religious societies may, by law, have or be subject to, with power to have and hold so much estate, real or personal, as may be necessary for the objects of such organization, and no more; provided, that all the powers, derived from any such organization, may at any time be revoked by the legislature.
"Sect. 30. The assessors of every parish and religious society, in assessing taxes for the support of public worship, and for other parish charges, shall assess the same upon all the property, (not exempted by law from taxation,) of all the members of such parish or society, including all their real estate within the State, in whatever part thereof it may be situated, and all their personal estate, wherever the same may be; and no citizen shall be liable to pay any tax for the support of public worship, or for other parish charges, to any parish or religious society, other than to that of which he is a member.
"Sect. 31. Whenever the proprietors of any church, meeting. house, or other house of public worship, shall deem it expedient to alter, enlarge, repair, rebuild, or remove the same, it shall be lawful for them, at a legal meeting, called for that purpose, to raise such sums of money, as they may judge necessary, to carry any of said purposes into effect, and to purchase any land necessary for the