People doing the will of God have perpetrated much good and much ill, so we are well to be wary of anyone claiming to know that will and even more so, those who urge "righteous action" in carrying it out. Yet, in the heart of William Ellery Channing, knowing and doing God's will simply comes down to "goodness." Excerpts from the 11th Sermon in the series, "The Perfect Life"
"PERFECT LIFE THE END OF CHRISTIANITY."
Matthew vii. 21 : " Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
IN these words we have a light to guide us through the intricate paths and imprisoning walls, which perverse ingenuity has reared around the Temple of God in Man. Here we learn what is central in religion. Here is revealed the immortal good, that Jesus, in his life and death, proposed as his Great End.
To do God's Will,—Duty—Moral and Religious Integrity—Rectitude in principle and practice—the Love of the Father and of all His intelligent offspring in truth and in deed,—this holds the supreme place of dignity, alike on earth and in heaven. Just in so far as we attain to this, we enter even now the Kingdom of Heaven. Would that this Truth might emerge in full glory, out of the obscurity with which false systems of Theology have enveloped it; that it might break through the clouds of mystery, which have so long shrouded it, and shine with sunlight splendour on our souls. Never can God's Will be done with our whole energy, until we learn that there is nothing in time, nothing in eternity, to be compared with the Perfect Life...
The common doctrine is, that Christ came to confer other benefits, and especially to reconcile the offended Deity to His sinful creatures, to shield men from Divine anger and from outward punishment. I believe, on the contrary that his Great End is to work a change within the mind, spirit, character of men, and that the glory of this change constitutes the glory of his office. Virtue, rectitude, purity, love of God, love to man,—in one word, Goodness,—this is the great good which flows to us from Jesus Christ. This is the Redemption he confers...
I consider Righteous Action, the Doing Of God's Will, as the Beginning and End of Christianity. I regard the Precepts of Jesus— which he gave on the Mount, and which he illustrated so gloriously in his life—as the Essential Element of his Religion, and to which all other parts are but subservient. Obey these, and the purpose of his religion is fulfilled in you. Regard these as your Rule of Life, and you build your house upon a rock. Live them out in deed, and you have entered the Kingdom of Heaven—you even now enter it. Christ's Precepts then—declaring God's Will or Perfect Virtue—are what chiefly concern us. To secure obedience to his Precepts is the great aim of all the Doctrines, Promises, and other Teachings of Christ. And to exalt these above the Precepts is to prefer the means to the End.."