Sunday, December 6, 2009

heralds of this Better Day...

On this Sabbath Morning (we have our first snow today) William Ellery Channing applies the doctrine of the Universal Father (see yesterday's post) to the present day.  How well do we really do in bringing on "this better day?" I for one have some work to do...

"III.—Having briefly considered these plain but decisive proofs of God's Impartial and Universal Love, I proceed to make an application of this Principle to ourselves. We do not need the doctrine for the particular purpose for which Paul used it. But other distinctions between men remain, distinctions of outward rank and condition, of nation and colour, of character and culture, on the ground of which men separate themselves from one another. What a strangeness, coldness, reserve, and hardness of heart, what self-exaltation and exclusiveness, grow out of trifling differences, which are designed by God to create mutual dependence, and to bind us more closely to one another! Time will permit me to dwell upon two only of these illustrations now.

1. Let me first ask, is God the Father of the rich only ? Is He hot also The Father of the poor? How incredibly we exaggerate the distinctions of outward condition. The prosperous are prone to feel as if they are of a different race from the destitute. But to the Possessor of Heaven and Earth, to whom the treasures of all worlds belong, how petty must be the highest magnificence and affluence ! Does the Infinite Spirit select as His special abode the palace with its splendid saloons, rich tapestries, loaded tables, and blazing lamps ? Does He fly from the hut with its rugged walls and earthen floor, its cry of half famished childhood, its wearing cares, and ill-requited toil? On the contrary, if God has a chosen spot on earth, is it not the humble dwelling of patient, unrepining, trustful, virtuous poverty ?

2. Once more I ask, is God the.God of the good only, or is He not also the God of the wicked ?  God indeed looks, we may believe, with peculiar approval on the holy, upright, and disinterested. But He does not desire spiritual perfection and eternal happiness for them more than He does for the most depraved. The Scriptures even seem to represent God as peculiarly interested in the evil. Jesus illustrates God's love to the fallen by the parable of the shepherd, who, having a hundred sheep and losing one, leaves the ninety and nine to go after that which is lost, and he adds: " There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety-nine just persons that need no repentance." The good do not and ought not to absorb God's love. For the evil have within them equal capacities of goodness. In all men lies, however hidden, an infinitely precious germ of love and holiness waiting to be quickened. And to the all-seeing eye this is never lost. It calls forth unutterable love. Yes! God loves the most evil. We in our conceited purity may withdraw from them, may think it pollution to touch them, may say: " Stand off." But God says to His outcast child : " Come near."...

This spirit of Universal Humanity is the very soul of our religion. As yet its heavenly power is scarcely felt. Therefore it is that so few of the blessings of Christianity appear in Christendom. Alas, we lack humanity. We talk of it, we profess it, but we contradict its essential principles in character and in life. We rear partition walls of distinction between ourselves and fellow-beings. We exaggerate petty differences...Until men's eyes shall be purged to discern in one another, even in the most degraded and fallen, a ray of the Divinity, a reflection of God's image, a moral and a spiritual nature within which God works, and to which he proffers heavenly grace and immortal life; until they shall thus recognize and reverence the Eternal Father in all His human Children, the true bond of Communion will be wanting between man and man, and between man and God. Till then, under all forms of law and courtesy, will lurk distrust and discord, infusing pride, jealousy, and hate into the individual heart, into domestic life, into the intercourse of neighbourhoods, into the policy of nations, and turning this fair earth into the likeness of hell. But a Better Day is coming. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. A purer Christianity, however slowly, is to take the place of that which bears but its name. Cannot we become the heralds of this Better Day ? Let our hearts bid it welcome ! Let our lives reveal its beauty and its power."



David G. Markham said...

Powerful words, BU.

They seem for the most part to fall on deaf ears.

I like Peace Pilgrim's statement that she looks for the divine spark in every person and gently blows on it until it bursts into flame.

I called a colleague the other day, "dumber than a box of rocks", and it was said in a sarcastic and teasing way, but the remark has come back to me and I am ashamed of myself.

It is so easy to judge, to condemn, to separate ourselves from others so that we are better and they are "less than".

Thank you for your onging series.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. There is something here I think I don't understand clearly.

Channing writes: "God indeed looks, we may believe, with peculiar approval on the holy, upright, and disinterested."

He has used the word "disinterested" a couple of different times in the things he's written.

But what does that word mean in his context? "Disinterested" means, to my 21st century mind, someone who doesn't care about something, and I can't imagine God looks with favor upon people who don't care.

Have I missed something here?

boston unitarian said...

Hi Tracie!
Many thanks for writing and for the question about disinteresteness. It was a central idea for Channing for whom it meant a self sacrificing seeking after God and truth. As he put it himself in his sermon "Self Culture" "One thing above all is needful, and that is, the Disinterestedness which is the very soul of virtue. To gain truth, which is the great object of the understanding, I must seek it disinterestedly. Here is the first and grand condition of intellectual progress. I must choose to receive the truth, no matter how it bears on myself. I must follow it, no matter where it leads, what interests it opposes, to what persecution or loss it lays me open, from what party it severs me, or to what party it allies."
I hope that helps and that you are well. Thanks again for writing and
blessings, BU

IrreverendAmy said...

I think Tracie's confusion comes from the fact that the meaning of "disinterested" is so widely misunderstood that more often than not it's used incorrectly. It's used as a synonym for "uninterested," but it doesn't mean that; it means "impartial."

BU, thanks for this site.

boston unitarian said...

And thank you very much for writing! I appreciate your words. Many blessings, BU