Wednesday, August 19, 2009

our lamps will grow dim...

For the past four or five years, our church has carried on a bi-weekly Bible Study, usually centered around a particular book or group of books (letters of Paul.) This year, I am organizing our study by theme and, in a shameless bid for increased participation, am starting with SIN.
The "pious' John Emery Abbott speaks of two kinds of sin in this excerpt:

"DANGERS FROM WITHIN TO BE GUARDED AGAINST.

Besides the dangers which arise from without, there are dangers from within. Of these, I can mention but two. The first is, that there is a tendency within us to negligence and sloth. In the concerns of religion, we are continually urged to procrastinate our duties; to seek excuses for consulting our ease ; to rest contented with idle wishes; to compromise for our neglect, by forming fruitless resolutions; or to find in those external observances which cost us little, a substitute for the earnest piety and practical godliness, which demand constant vigilance and persevering labor. Most of what we term sins of infirmity, are indeed sins of carelessness, and arise, not from the weakness of nature, but from neglect of attention, of watchfulness, or of proper exertion. The christian character is one of progress,—of improvement. Its qualities are not like human knowledge, which, when once acquired, will, with very little effort, remain with us. We cannot for a time neglect the cultivation of our hearts, or the regulation of our lives, and return after long neglect and find them as they once were. We must watch over them, and spend our exertions upon them, with unwearied patience and persevering resolution, or we rapidly shall sink from the height we have gained. While we slumber, our lamps will grow dim. Whenever we consult our ease, whenever the vigor of our exertions is weakened, the religious character will decay. We may perceive, indeed, no sudden change, no alarming deficiency; but our progress will be like the decline of the day ; the light of life will gradually withdraw itself,—the shades of night will silently deepen over us, and melt imperceptibly into each other, till nothing at last remain, but coldness, darkness, and gloom.
The other danger is, that which arises from some peculiar evil propensity. No one, who reflects on his own character, can avoid being conscious, that there is a sin which most easily besets him, which, in spite of all his exertions, is continually rising up to trouble him. We are in peculiar danger from this source, not only because it is so deeply seated, because it operates so secretly and powerfully, and because it is so difficult to conquer; but also because, in the very point at which we are most weak and assailable, our conscience and moral judgments are most apt to be blinded. Where our peculiar sin is concerned, we are apt to interpret the requirements of the gospel in a lax and indulgent manner; to imagine that while in other points we strive to be faithful, our neglect in this single case, is pardonable. But, in truth, this propensity, whatever it be, is our peculiar trial; it is the very case in which our vigilance and exertion are most important, and by which the sincerity of our christian character is principally to be tested. We ought, then, to strive with the greatest earnestness to conquer the sin which thus besets us; to avoid, with peculiar care, whatever may tend to inflame and strengthen it; and to exercise a resolute self-denial as to many indulgences, which those around us, who have not the same disposition, may partake without danger."

Blessings

4 comments:

politywonk said...

Thanks for this. I have always wondered about John Emery Abbott, so much revered and mourned by his generation.

And the selection, to be specific, spoke to me well this morning. Your parishioners, I hope, will be rewarded for attending your series.

boston unitarian said...

Thank you so much for writing-Rev. Abbott was, indeed, revered by his generation and it is my great honor to help him, in some small way, to speak to ours.
Thanks also for the good word about our Bible Study.
Many blessings, BU

Bill Baar said...

via Wikipdeia,

Abbott, a Unitarian minister who died when only twenty-six, believed that “rational” religion should be complemented by an intensely devotionist piety.

Piety the counter weight to the sin above?

Kari said...

I love that you'll start with SIN to bring in the crowds! Thanks for the good post, I am inspired.