With all the attention that’s being paid to the two hundredth anniversary of Theodore Parker’s birth, I somehow missed two other two hundredth birthdays — one of a Unitarian and one of a Universalist.
The Unitarian first: James Freeman Clarke was born on April 4, 1810. Unitarian minister, abolitionist, and Harvard professor, Clarke also published the Western Messenger, which historian David Robinson has called the first Transcendentalist periodical; some of Margaret Fuller’s earliest work was published in the Western Messenger. Robinson adds, “Few Unitarians of his day or after have made a larger contribution to Unitarianism.”
In 1886, Clarke printed a revision of the Five Points of Calvinism into “Five Points of the New Theology,” an optimistic statement of Unitarian faith, in which he said he believed in the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the leadership of Jesus, salvation by character, and progress onwards and upwards forever. This affirmation of faith became widely popular in Unitarian circles, and remained popular for decades — I remember hearing it in the Unitarian church of my childhood in the late 1960s.
You can read more about Clarke in the article at the UU Historical Society’s Dictionary of UU Biography. And tomorrow I’ll tell you about the Universalist who was born two hundred years ago this year — possibly the most famous Universalist that ever lived.