Thursday, June 11, 2009

the spiritual nature unfolded and excercised...

I want to put in a good word for Religion today. Religion has a bad reputation in the liberal neighborhood-have you ever heard (or said) "I am spiritual but not religious?" Ezra Stiles Gannett tells us why its difficult to have one without the other in these opening words of a sermon from 1828:

"RELIGION THE CONSCIOUSNESS AND CULTURE OF A SPIRITUAL LIFE AND OF SPIRITUAL RELATIONS.

Rom. viii. 6: "To be spiritually minded is life."

Man is connected with two states of existence, is an inhabitant of two worlds, one material and visible, the other spiritual and eternal. Bv his senses he communicates with that which is seen and present, with the objects and circumstances of earth, in affected by them, lives in them. By his mind he holds intercourse with that which is unseen yet present, with the beings and hopes of heaven, is influenced by them, lives among them, Man, therefore, is a partaker of a double life,—the one the life, of sense, the other the life of faith, — the one outward, the other interior. For this twofold existence he was designed by his Creator. It is his natural being. The foundation of religion, I repeat because it is often denied, the foundation of religion is laid in man's nature by the hand of his Creator in his religious capacities and affections, which as truly belong to his nature as do his intellectual faculties and social affections; and, if the consciousness of these latter indicates that man is designed for an intellectual or social life, the consciousness of the former indicates that he is designed for a religious or spiritual life. The poverty of language, however, obliges us when speaking of the soul to employ terms originally appropriated to the body. Thus we discourse on the spiritual vision, the inward ear, the moral taste.

It is the office of Religion to excite and cultivate these interior senses. Religion opens and purges the eye of the soul, enables it to hear spiritual truths, and causes them to be felt. Its chosen province is the soul. Its kingdom is within us, its rule is spiritual, its subject is what the apostle Peter styles the hidden man of the heart. Wonder not that man often seems to be, and is, unconscious of the elements that lie in his soul as the life of the plant in the seed, which, apparently destitute of a vital principle, needs only heat and moisture to stimulate it into action. The vital principle of religion must be excited by causes that are without it, that yet combine themselves with it. The spiritual nature must be unfolded and exercised upon suitable objects of thought, affection, desire, hope. These it does not find in human society, nor among sensible things. They are revealed and embraced through faith. By this, man is introduced to a new society, and to the knowledge of higher relations than those of time. As he becomes more conversant with the beings and hopes of a spiritual world, their relative importance grows in his estimation. His affections fasten themselves with strength on worthy objects. He perceives that he stands in the midst of infinite relations. There is a light within him brighter than the rays of the sun, and in this light he beholds spiritual and everlasting things."


Blessings

3 comments:

The Eclectic Cleric said...

Ironic. These are the "opening words" of an 1828 sermon, which nowadays (combined perhaps with a few jokes, quotes, and sentimental "illustrations") would easily serve as the entire message. Of course, we would also have to clean up the patriarchal language -- which is easily done. Even so, something to think about.

The Eclectic Cleric said...

Ironic. These are the "opening words" of an 1828 sermon, which nowadays (combined perhaps with a few jokes, quotes, and sentimental "illustrations") would easily serve as the entire message. Of course, we would also have to clean up the patriarchal language -- which is easily done. Even so, something to think about.

boston unitarian said...

Its always good to hear from you! I very much agree about the sermon. By the way, anyone wanting to view the entire text can find it at http://books.google.com/books?id=euEp_t5HzVkC&pg=PA449&ie=ISO-8859-1&output=html
I hope all goes well and
Blessings, BU