Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
My God! in morning's radiant hour
To Thee will I lift up my heart;
The shades of night obey Thy power,
And at Thy sun's bright beams depart.
Father and Guardian! to Thy shrine
The life Thou shieldest will I bring;
All, great Creator! all is Thine;
The heart my noblest offering.
The morning light shall see my prayer,
The noonday calm shall know my praise;
And evening's still and fragrant air
My grateful hymn to Thee shall raise.
So shall sweet thoughts and hopes sublime
My constant inspirations be;
And every shifting scene of time
Reflect, my God, a light from thee.
Have a wonderful Sabbath. Blessings
Friday, November 21, 2008
So it was with Henry Ware (see all posts Ware Jr.) We left Brother Ware Meditating as the second (after reading) of his "Means of Religious Improvement." Meditation is followed in turn by Prayer. Some exerpts:
As there is no duty more frequently enjoined in the New Testament by our Saviour and the Apostles, so there is none which is a more indispensable and efficacious means of religious improvement, than Prayer... He who truly prays, feels, during the act, a sense of God's presence, authority, and love; of his own obligations and unworthiness ; of his need of being better. He feels grateful, humble, resigned, anxious for improvement. He who prays often, often has these feelings, and by frequent repetition they become customary and constant. And thus prayer operates as an active, steady, powerful means of Christian progress. Indeed nothing effectual is to be done without it That it is a chief duty, even natural reason would persuade us. That it is a condition on which divine blessings are bestowed, Christianity assures us. That it is a high gratification and enjoyment, every one knows who has rightly engaged in it. And that it is of all means of moral restraint and spiritual advancement the most effective, no one can doubt, who understands how powerfully it stirs and agitates the strongest and most active principles of man, and how complete is the dominion which those principles have over his character and conduct. All this is clear and sufficient, without adding the assurance of the Saviour, that it is effectual to draw down spiritual aid from heaven. Add this, and the subject is complete. It is, both naturally and by appointment, a chief duty of man ; from the nature of the soul and the intercourse it opens with God, it is the first enjoyment; and through its own intrinsic power and the promise of Jesus, it is the most effectual instrument of moral and spiritual culture."
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tender mercies, on my way
Falling softly like the dew,
Sent me freshly every day,
I give thanks to God for you.
Though I have not all I would,
Though to greater bliss I go,
Every present gift of good
To Eternal Love I owe.
Source of all that comforts me,
Well of joy for which I long,
Let the song I sing to thee
Be an everlasting song.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There is no question that they were often understated and they certainly emphasized character as the chief religious expression and virtue which can make them sound moralistic and dull. For me, however, this very emphasis has become deeply and spiritually enriching. It elevates and promotes the sacredness of the everyday, and gives spiritual import to each and every action.
The nature and the position of Jesus was often at the center of these criticisms, Ephraim Peabody (see post Nov. 17th), in his sermon, "Christ our Life" seeks to navigate these waters with a pasionate appeal for the centrality of Jesus. Some exerpts:
"Christ our Life"
"The constant teaching of the Gospels is, that Almighty God sent the saviour into the world to be the centre and source of a higher spiritual life; and that the degree in which any one of us recieves this life depends very much on the nearness which, through faith and reverence and love, we maintain to him...We confess that in Christ we have disclosed to us a perfect example of the character which God most approves and requires...In him were combined in their perfection those qualities which make the perfection of all moral beings;-the gentleness that won the heart of the child, a courage that was tranquil when confronted by a condemning world and by the terrors of a lingering death, a magnanimity that rose above outrage, a benevolence that forgot wrong and thought only of the salvation of the wrong-doer, a tenderness that wept at the grave of Lazarus and over the forseen sorrows of Jerusalem, and a rectitude by which he was the fitting judge of the world...Now, however we may describe it, that is the character around which gather all immortal hopes. Compared with the attainment of this in the least degree, all other attainments are cheap and poor. We wear out life in collecting some handfuls of golden dust. And yet one ray of that spiritual brightness in our souls is worth more than all human treasures."
This morning was my near weekly trip to Boston and to the Athenaeum, and a very cold and windy morning it was. On my walk back to the ferry boat, I was able to stop in at King's Chapel (where Peabody served) for their midweek communion service. On my way out, I said hello to Ephraim Peabody (see photo) and a thank you, and found myself a little warmer than when I went in. Blessings
Monday, November 17, 2008
This beautiful letter of "dedication and rememberance" was written by Rev. Ephraim Peabody to the people of the churches he served. Written only a few days before his death, it serves as the dedication for a book of his sermons.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
This morning I read a sermon by Ephraim Peabody (see Post Oct. 27th,) called "Stillness of Mind." An exerpt: Be still, and know only that with you is God. One hour in these summer fields alone, in the silence of nature, with a heart that looks in prayer to Him, who is above the open heavens, is worth more in determining a question of duty, than ages of rhetoric and libraries of logic. An hour in this place (Church), before the memorials of Christ, with the heart seeking God's guidance, has in it more wisdom than all the oracles philosophy ever uttered. Evil suggestions fade away from the consciousness of the Divine presence. The mind acts in an unembarrassed sphere; it is placed in a right position, and is open to the unbewildered light of truth. The intellect will seek truth most faithfully when the heart seeks God most truly. Prayer does not take the place of reasoning, but the reason finds guidance and protection in prayer...With a prayerful heart, be still, and alone, conscious that God is with you.
And this from Hymns of the Spirit (1865):
The Still Hour
Gently the shades of night descend;
Thy temple, Lord, is calm and still
A thousand lamps of ether blend
A thousand fires that temple fill
Thou bidd'st the cares of earth depart;
Heaven's peace is wafted from above;
A sabbath stillness fills the heart,
Devotion's calm and holy love
And man, even from the dust, may rise
Born on the pinions of thy grace,
Up to angelic mysteries
And find in Thee his resting place
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Freeman, a Socinian Unitarian, differed from most of the "Boston Unitarians" who tended to Arianism. They shared, however, a deep piety which is much on display in this sermon exerpt:
"A Summary of several important duties"
The fear of the Lord, says the wise man, is the beginning of wisdom. I exhort you therefore, my brethren, in the first place, to build the whole of your duty on the foundation of piety. Love God above every other object; and dread the violation of his commands as the worst of evils. Elevate your minds with contemplation of his attributes. Let his power and wisdom excite your admiration; let his justice inspire you with fear; let his goodness fill your hearts with joy. Contemplate him, not only as your creator and judge, but as your tender father and best friend.
For an excellent brief biography of Freeman, go to the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography at: http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/jamesfreeman.html
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Scott (1771-1832) was one of the favorite writers of the Boston Unitarians and of much of America during the heyday (brief as it was) of Boston Unitarianism. Why? The historian Daniel Walker Howe put it this way. The delicate, escapist, and artificial emotions of Walter Scott...appealed to the Unitarians (Though I love Daniel Walker Howe, I think he is a little hard on Sir Walter!)
Scott is probably best know today for his novel "Ivanhoe." His "Waverly Novels" of which Ivanhoe is one, are massive, historical and, in a very real sense, helped define modern Scotland.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Rev. Dr. Parkman, was, in his way, a remarkable man, — not a great man, not a distinguished man, not a powerful or impressive man, but a cultivated and attractive one. He was graduated at Harvard College, studied theology under the Rev. William E. Channing, contributed a series of papers on moral and religious subjects to one of the Boston journals... heard medical lectures in Edinburgh, attended theological lectures given by Dr. Ritchie, then Professor of Theology there, read a discourse which received the approbation of the professor, preached in London, was invited to become the associate minister with Mr. Lewin in Liverpool, preached in the First Church, Boston, and in 1813 was ordained pastor of the " New North " Church (pictured). In 1829, he founded the Professorship of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care in the Theological Department of Harvard College, and took an active part in the concerns of the Society for the Relief of Aged and Indigent Clergymen, which was fbrmed in 1849. He was a man of various information, kindly spirit, simple and yet polished manners..." one who loved his calling and discharged all its duties with untiring devotedness. As a preacher he was practical and evangelical ; as a pastor tender and affectionate. He was a man of active and useful charities, a friend to learning, a punctual member or an energetic officer of many literary, philanthropic, and religious associations, as well as a true friend of the worthy poor...
The very model of the Boston Unitarian and an exemplar of why I admire them. Rest in peace.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Many could be named including Thomas Wentworth Higginson who was a Unitarian minister and the Colonel of the first African American Regiment in the Civil War. Higginson went on to a varied and fascinating career in literature and reform. He is often remembered (and not very fondly) for his relationship with Emily Dickinson (see the fascinating new book White Heat for a more judicious view of Higginson.)
Pictured above is Arthur Buckminster Fuller, brother of Margaret Fuller, passionate Unitarian Minister and Civil War Chaplain who gave his life for the cause. James Freeman Clarke (who has been mentioned in these pages before) said of him, "Arthur Fuller was, like most of us, a lover of peace, but he saw, as we have had to see, that sometimes true peace can only come through war. So he went, with a courage and devotion which all must admire, and fell, adding his blood also to all the precious blood which has been shed as an atonement for the sins of the nation. May that blood not be shed in vain." For a fine brief biography of Fuller (including this quote) see the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography at: http://www25-temp.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/arthurbuckminsterfuller.html
No matter your view of war as atonement or necessity, Fuller, Higginson, and so many before and since have seen their duty and done it selflessly. Again, thank you Veterans, and may your service and sacrifice point to a world in which such sacrifice is no longer required. Blessings
Monday, November 10, 2008
In Chapter 4, "The Means of Religious Improvement," he proposes to explain The means to be used in order to render permanent your religious impressions, and promote the growth of your character
First on his list, in good Unitarian fashion, is Reading...because it is in the perusal of the Scriptures that the beginning of religious knowledge is to be found. He begins by exhorting his readers, no matter their condition or circumstances, to set aside some reugualr time for the reading of scripture if even five minutes a day and chastises those with time, education and leisure who, in spite of their good fortune, neglect this duty. What to read? In your selection of books, the Bible will, of course, hold the first place. This is to be read daily, and to be your favorite book. A warning: Remember, however, that it may be perused in such a manner, that it were better never to have opened it. If studied inattentively, for form's sake, or only for the purpose of gathering arguments to support your opinions, it is read irreligiously, and therefore unprofitably. So: You will therefore always have in view two objects — to understand the book, and to apply it to your own heart and character.
As to the first object: The study of the Bible, for the purpose of understanding it, is an arduous labor. Dr. Johnson said of the New Testament...No book requires greater and more various aid. Its thorough interpretation is a science by itself...And be not afraid of examining the text scrupulously, and employing the utmost energy of your mind in discovering and determining its true sense. It is a duty to do this. You can decide between opposing and possible interpretations only by applying your own mind to judge between them ; and the more keenly, impartially, and fearlessly you proceed, the greater the probability that your decision will be correct... in deciding upon the meaning of scripture, you cannot use your intellectual powers too much or too acutely. Use them constantly, coolly, impartially, with the best aid you can obtain from human authors, and then you may rest satisfied that you have done your duty, — have done all which you could do toward learning the truth ; and if you have accompanied it with prayer for a blessing from the Source of truth and wisdom, you cannot have failed, in any essential point, to ascertain the will of God.
As to the second object, the application of scripture to the forming of the heart and character. This is a higher object than the other, and may be effected in cases where very little of rigid scrutiny can be made into the dark places of the divine word. Blessed be God, it is not necessary, in order to salvation, that one should comprehend all the things hard to be understood, or be able to follow out the train of reasoning in every Epistle, and restore the text in every corruption. Do all this as much as you can. But when you read, as it were for your life ; when you take the Bible to your closet, to be the help and the solitary witness of your prayers; when you take it up as a lamp which you are to hold to your heart, for the purpose of searching into its true state, that you may purify and perfect it; — then put from your mind all thoughts of differing interpretations and various readings, and the perplexities of criticism and translation. You have only to do with what is spiritual and practical. You are no more a scholar, seeking for intellectual guidance, but a sinful and accountable creature, asking for help in duty, and deliverance from an evil world and an evil heart. Read, therefore, as if on your knees.
You are not to suppose, from what has been said, that you are altogether to separate these two modes of reading the Scriptures...The cautions thus briefly sketched are important for two reasons ; one, that there is a tendency in him who has become interested in the critical examination of the sacred writings, to continue to read them critically and with a principal regard to their elucidation, when he ought to be imbibing their spirit; and the other, that the perception of this tendency has been an apology to many for not engaging in such inquiries at all. They esteem it better to go on with their crude, unconnected, and undigested knowledge, which in many cases is only ignorance.
Reading the Bible with head and heart and on your knees. Blessings
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Furness was the minister of First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia from 1825 to 1875.
I will write and exerpt much from Rev. Furness on this blog, but for today this prayer from his wonderful collection of Morning, Evening, and Occasional Prayers called Domestic Worship.
OUR Father who art in heaven, again the sun has risen at thy command. Through thine unsleeping providence, refreshed by slumber, we stand upon the threshold of another day, a day of rest, of meditation, of worship and of prayer. May it be sanctified in the outward observance and in spirit and in truth. Let that holy light, of which the sun shining in the firmament is but a dim symbol, dawn upon our souls, dispelling unhallowed thoughts, revealing thy glorious presence, and leading us onward to that better life upon which, through thy grace, we may enter when we will. May this day, by the use which we make of its opportunities, by the answers of peace which it brings to our prayers, by the cleansing influences which it dispenses, prove a day never to be forgotten, a day worth ten thousand spent in the ways of the world.
O God, our Maker, who alone canst give us the light that we need, unseal our spiritual vision. Make us to discern the greatness of the grace which this day commemorates. It speaks of thine abundant mercy, of that best gift of thine, thy holy child Jesus, who appeared among men in the power of thy spirit and in the fulness of thy divinity, and the world saw in him the glory as of an only Son of God. Glad tidings of great joy he .brought from heaven to earth, tidings of infinite love and immortal hope. Teach us the value of these gracious messages, that we may know how to thank Thee, that the hymns and praises that we utter this day may be the prompting and the tribute of our souls. Let our faith be not in word but in power. May the spirit of thy Son be our spirit, the spring of our conduct, giving us strength to avoid every form of evil, and to cleave amidst all temptations to thy law, even although it should command the cutting off of the right hand or the plucking out of the right eye. And then, when Christ is thus formed within us, enthroned among our affections, then shall we be found meet for thy sanctuary ; for who, O Lord, shall stand before Thee but they that have clean hands and pure hearts. Then too shall we know its priceless worth, when we have once tasted, by personal experience, of the heavenly gift. Then shall we bring no dead offering, but a living sacrifice, and our praises shall rise like incense up to the very throne of God. And Thou, ever more ready to give than we are to ask, wilt delight to pour down upon us more abundant measures of truth and holiness. So, by true spiritual worship, by the private meditations and the public services of this day, we shall go from grace to grace and from strength to strength, until we stand for ever in thy presence. Merciful Father, we mourn that these our best desires are so faint, that we are so fondly attached to the things that perish, to the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, so seldom and so faintly impressed with the guilt of our ingratitude and disobedience, and that we live so willingly without God and a true hope. Increase our sorrow for our un- worthiness, and make it that godly sorrow which will quicken us to instant and thorough amendment. Encompass our minds this day with thoughts of heaven. Give thine angels charge concerning us that our feet may never more stumble, that we may run with patience the race that is set before us, in the straight and narrow way, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and flinging aside every besetting sin. O come, thou Spirit of truth, come and take up thine abode evermore in our souls. Be the life of our lives, a fountain springing up within us to everlasting life, that we may never thirst again, and that these waste places, our hearts, may become like Eden, like the garden of the Lord. Almighty God, may thy kingdom be advanced in all hearts this day. May the truth, as it is in Jesus, be everywhere faithfully proclaimed, and received into honest and good minds, where it shall spring up and bring forth the immortal fruits of holy living. Send its blessed consolations into afflicted souls, and let it bind up the broken hearted and give liberty to the captive. May it be like a sword to pierce the hearts of the thoughtless and the rebellious ; and let all who profess and call themselves Christians depart from iniquity, and lead godly and peaceable lives, and glorify thy Son and his gospel, and Thee, the God and Father of all ; and thine shall be the praise for ever and ever. Amen.
Make the Sabbath "a day worth ten thousand spent in the ways of the world." Amen
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Though plagued by headaches and poor health, Parkman would travel much and his work would reflect his knowledge and love of the land he chronicled.
Many of his historical judgements have stood well the tests of time though his reputation has suffered the ineveitable vicissitudes (especially around his treatment of Native Americans). The literary quality of his work, however, is unassailable. An exerpt (taken at random) from "Montcalm and Wolf," perhaps the greatest of his works, shows his love of the landscape, his romantic literary style, and the benefits that his travels had on his writing. He describes Louisbourg (Nova Scotia) shortly after vistiting the sight himself:
Stand on the mounds that were once the King's Bastion. The glistening sea spreads eastward three thousand miles, and its waves meet their first rebuff against this iron coast. Lighthouse Point is white with foam; jets of spray spout from the rocks of Goat Island ; mist curls in clouds from the seething surf that lashes the crags of Black Point, and the sea boils like a caldron among the reefs by the harbor's mouth; but on the calm water within, the small fishing vessels rest tranquil at their moorings. Beyond lies a hamlet of fishermen by the edge of the water, and a few scattered dwellings dot the rough hills, bristled with stunted firs, that gird the quiet basin; while close at hand, within the precinct of the vanished fortress, stand two small farmhouses. All else is a solitude of ocean, rock, marsh, and forest.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Deep religious impressions are always accompanied by a sense of personal unworthiness, and not unfrequently commence with it. It is man's acquaintance with himself, which leads him most earnestly to seek the acquaintance of God, and to percieve the need of his favor...He sees at one view all his past sins, open and secret, his thoughtlessness, ingratitude, negligence, and omissions, his depraved inclinations, evil desires, and cherished lusts, which no one else knows, and which no one else could compare, as he an, with his privileges and obligations...And in such a comarison, at such a moment, he cannot but regard himself as most unworthy and depraved...But such a state of mind as I have described, though not uncommon...is by no means universal...and cannot be regarded as essential...But however this may be, and however the humiliation of one may wear a different complexion from that of another, it is a state of mind sincere and heartfelt in all, to be studiously cherished, and to be made permanent in the character... In the beginning of the Christian life, this feeling assumes the form of anxiety, as it afterward leads to watchfulness...This is a most reasonable solicitude. What can be more reasonable than such a solicitude for the greatest and most lasting good of man?...Remember that much depends, I might say, every thing depends, on the use you make of this your present disposition. Be faithful to it, obey its promptings, let it form in you the habit of devout reflection and religious action, and all must be well...Be sensible, therefore, that this is a critical moment in the history of your character...For now it is, in all probability, tha the bias of your mind is to be determined for good or evil. Be sensible, then, how necessary it is that you keep alive, and cultivate by all possible means, this tenderness of heart...For you are engaging in a great work, the giving your heart a permanent bias toward God, and it ought not to be inturrupted."
It is language that is, no doubt, difficult for many liberal religionists to listen to these days but I find it deeply true. What drives us to a spiritual search but a lack of completeness, or a sense of something not right. As Ware knows, it may be dramatic and it may simply be a feeling of anxiety, of restlessness, irritability, or dis-ease...When it arises, it must be protected, cultivated and grown or wither and die. What do you think?
ps. Many thanks to the Eclectic Cleric for sharing the fruits of his scholarship on the Ware family (see comment on God Bearers post, Nov. 2nd-I enourage everyone to read it!) I will have more concerning your comments on the Personality of the Deity at a later date. Blessings
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
On election eve, the Boston Unitarian salutes and endorses an Illinois liberal egghead politician ...Adlai Stevenson! (and a Unitarian to boot!)
So vote Unitarian, vote early, vote well, and get up on Wednesday morning determined to make our nation better no matter who wins. Blessings
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Many of mine are, of course, the Boston Unitarians, especially right now, Henry Ware Jr. And speaking of...
Peacebang(http://www.peacebang.com/) asks in response to Henry Ware (see Arduous and Delightful post) "BU, what do you make of "charitable" and "humble" for those of us who seem designed to be more fiery and, well, fiercely loving rather than gently loving? Is "niceness" part of what Ware is talking about, here? Can I be a decent Christian without being a nice person? Or is the virtue in the effort?"
Its a great question that gets at the heart of what was wonderful about the Boston Unitarians and what was sometimes lacking. I am afraid that for the most part, Peacbang, you would have made the BU's pretty dang nervous! They were not, as a group, fiery and fierce, especially in expression, and people that were (even if they admired them-say Andrews Norton) made them decidedly uncomfortable.
I have to believe, however, (and this requires a bit of a hermeneutical leap) that your desire (and great ability) to look at all things (from the sublime to the ridiculous) in a moral and religious light would have won many of them over, had they read enough of your writing to see the light themselves.
I think also of more "transcendentally" minded BU Christians such as James Freeman Clarke (a particular hero of mine.) Clarke was a great friend and admirer of Margaret Fuller and would have, I feel safe to say, thought Peacebang a pretty "decent Christian".
Finally, Ware probably would not think one could be a decent Christian without being a nice person, but the question, of course, is what is "nice." Ware believed that one who subjected their mind, heart and body (actions) to God and earnestly sought to "use the faculties which God has given them" (see below) was living a religious life. Sounds like Peacebang to me!
Many thanks also to the Eclectic Cleric. It's great to hear your insights on the Ware family and I would love to read more! I agree with all you say about them and was especially informed by your discussion of the "metaphor of family" in their theology. It was certainly applicable to today's devotional reading in Chap. 2 of "Formation" Our Power to Obtain That Which We Seek. An exerpt:
As soon as he can love and obey his parents, he can love and obey God; and this is religion...There is an animal life, and there is a spiritual life. Man is born into the first at the birth of his body; he is born into the second when he subjects himself to the power of religion, and prefers his rational and immortal to his sensual nature...He has a nobler nature and nobler interests. He must learn to live for these...this is to be born into the spiritual life...Cherish therefore the conviction of this necessity. Cultivate by every possible means a deep persuasion of the truth, that the service and love of God are the only sufficient sources of happiness...Feeling thus the importance of a religious life, let them next be persuaded that its attainment is entirely in their power. It is but to use the faculties which God has given them, in the work and with the aid which God has appointed...It were as reasonable to urge that a child cannot love and obey its father and mother, as that a man cannot love and obey God.
We can do it, Ware can help. Blessings
Saturday, November 1, 2008
"It is plain, then, that the work to which you address yourself is arduous as well as delightful. It is not to be done in a short time, nor by a few indolent or violent efforts...but only by a surrender of the whole man and the entire life to the will of God, in faith, affection, and action: by a thorough imitation of Jesus in the devout and humble temper of his mind, in the spirtuality of his affections and in the purity and loveliness of his conduct...Be on your guard, therefore, from the first, against setting your mark too low. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded that anything less is Religion, or will answer for you, than its complete and highest measure...Remember always, that you are capable of being more devout, more charitable, more humble, more devoted and earnest in doing good, better acquainted with religious truth...Happy they who are so filled with longings after spiritual good, that they go on improving to the end of their days."
The great Zen teacher Dogen said that when we sit in meditation, for that moment we are already enlightened. For Ware, and many of the Boston Unitarians, the moment by moment practice of doing the next right thing (no matter how small) and doing it intentionally, is living a religious life. It may not be, in itself, poetic or dramatic, but it is a higher and nobler life, and it is available to everyone. Blessings