Tuesday, December 29, 2009

the current of a mighty stream...

James Freeman Clarke wrote of William Ellery Channing, "The ideas of human nature, of freedom, of reason, and of progress, filled him with prophetic enthusiasm, and caused him to speak with the tongue of men and of angels. Who that ever heard him can forget that solemn fire of his eye, that profound earnestness of tone, which took and held captive all minds, from the beginning to the end of his discourse ? There was nothing like it, nor second to it, in any pulpit of America. It was not oratory, it was not rhetoric: it was pure soul, uttering itself in thoughts clear and strong as the current of a mighty stream. " Here is sermon ten in the series "The Perfect Life"  

1 Tim. i. 11: " The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God."

'THESE words express the excellence of the Christian J- Religion. It is called the Gospel, that is, Good News. It is called the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God, to denote the magnificence of the truths and blessings which it reveals. In this discourse I propose to set before you what it is in Christianity that gives it the chief claim to this high praise...

I believe that Christianity has One Great Principle, which is central, around which all its truths gather, and which constitutes it the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God. I believe that no Truth is so worthy of acceptation and so quickening as this. In proportion as we penetrate into it, and are penetrated by it, we comprehend our religion, and attain to a living faith. This great Principle can be briefly expressed. It is the doctrine, that " God purposes, in His unbounded Fatherly Love, to Perfect The Human Soul ; to purify it from all sin; to create it after His own image ; to fill it with His own spirit; to unfold it for ever; to raise it to Life and Immortality in Heaven:—that is, to communicate to it from Himself a Life of Celestial Power, Virtue, and Joy." The elevation of men above the imperfections, temptations, sins, sufferings, of the present state, to a diviner being,—this is the great purpose of God, revealed and accomplished by Jesus Christ; this it is that constitutes the Religion of Jesus Christ—Glad Tidings to All People: for it is a Religion suited to fulfil the wants of every human being.

In the New Testament I learn that God regards the Human Soul with unutterable interest and love; that in an important sense it bears the impress of His own Infinity, its powers being Germs, which may expand without limit or end; that He loves it, even when fallen, and desires its restoration; that He has sent His Son to redeem and cleanse it from all iniquity; that He for ever seeks to communicate to it a Divine Virtue which shall spring up, by perennial bloom and fruitfulness, into Everlasting Life. In the New Testament I learn that what God wills is our Perfection ; by which I understand the freest exercise and perpetual development of our highest powers—strength and brightness of intellect, unconquerable energy of moral principle, pure and fervent desire for truth, unbounded love of goodness and greatness, benevolence free from every selfish taint, the perpetual consciousness of God and of His immediate Presence, co-operation and friendship with all enlightened and disinterested spirits, and radiant glory of benign will and beneficent influence, of which we have an emblem—a faint emblem only—in the Sun that illuminates and warms so many worlds. Christianity reveals to me this Moral Perfection of Man, as the great purpose of God.

When I look into man's Nature I see that Moral Perfection is his only true and enduring Good; and consequently the promise of this must be the highest truth which any religion can contain...There is a guide to felicity fixed by God in the very Centre of our being, and no other can take its place. Whoever obeys faithfully this principle of Duty has peace with himself and with all beings."


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