As a "religious worker" I am often daunted by the importance of the responsibilities involved and the very deep sense of my inadequacy to carry them out as I would like.
And yet and yet...what an honor it is! William Ellery Channing talks about the very noble "office of religion"-a perfecting power available to all-in the first part of the sermon:
"THE PERFECTING POWER OF RELIGION
Matthew V. 48 : " Be ye therefore Perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is Perfect."
BY what influence is Religion our Supreme Good ? Much mystery would be removed from the Religious Life, and men would seek it more wisely and efficiently, if they understood with more precision the true Blessedness which it confers. On this point my views may be expressed in a few words. 'My belief is that the Supreme Good of an intelligent and moral being is the Perfection of its Nature. Nothing gives what is worthy of being considered Happiness, and nothing is of enduring benefit, unless it exalts us to that Excellence for which God designs us. Religion is the spring of peace and joy as the Iuspirer of Universal Virtue,—as pre-eminently a quickening principle, giving life and energy to the Intellect and the Heart, fortifying Conscience, and animating it with an unconquerable purpose of duty, awakening Love in its purest and most disinterested forms, raising Thought to its highest objects, and thus training our whole being to that fulness, harmony, and beauty, the union of which constitutes Perfection.
Religion gives Happiness by its inward influence. Too many ascribe to it a different operation. They regard it as a worship of God, in order to win His favour. They imagine that it serves and saves us by conciliating our Maker, by its effect upon another, not upon ourselves; by its procuring good from abroad, not by its unfolding and elevating our own souls. Few, indeed understand how essential is the growth of their own highest affections and energies,— that without this nothing can do them good, and that to promote this is the great function of religion.
This Truth is worthy of development. Let me re-state it so that it may be fully understood. I affirm, then, that the great office of religion is to call forth, elevate, and purify the Spirit of Man, and thus to conform it to its Divine Original. I know no other way in which Religion is to promote our Happiness; for I know no Happiness but that of a good, wise, upright, firm, powerful, disinterested, elevated Character. I look to religion for blessings, because it includes and promotes Universal Excellence, brings the soul into health and concord, enlarges it, unfolds it in due proportions, and exalts it to the beauty and power for which it was created. It is the office of religion, I repeat once more, to call forth the whole Spirit of Man, the Intellect, the Conscience, the Affections, the Will; to awaken Energy and holy purpose ; to inspire a calm and rational, yet a profound love of Truth and Goodness, against which all powers of the universe will be impotent. Did I not hope for this quickening influence from religion, I could not speak of it as the Supreme Good. For our Supreme Good is the Perfection of our being; and nothing which does not involve and promote this deserves the name."