Kari has a fine "rant" over at chalice spark asking why go to church. It is becoming more and more prevalent to call oneself 'spiritual but not religious" but, as Henry Ware Jr. reminds us, that tends to be an excuse and really living there is the preserve of the near saintly. And that isn't me. So I will continue to be religious in the service of the spirit...Henry Ware Jr. and the "Progress of the Christian Life" continued:
"There is, undoubtedly, a distinction to be made between religion and the means of religion— a distinction, the want of attention to which has led to great abuses, and been the parent of fanaticism and superstition. Forms and ceremonies have been exaggerated into the essentials of faith; opinions have been made to take the place of character, and days and observances have usurped the respect which should have been paid to righteousness and true piety. In order to avoid this error of times past, it has become a favorite notion with many, that religion only, should have attention and honor — pure, unmixed, unaccompanied religion...
Common as something like this may be in the thoughts of many and the practice of more, it is yet wholly indefensible as a matter of reasoning, and utterly ruinous when applied to practice. Here and there a man may be found who can live on these principles uninjured; but they are extraordinary men ; the great majority would infallibly be destroyed by them.
They lead to a disregard of religious services, which will extend, in too many instances, to a disregard of religion itself, and will often inevitably cause the Christian character to fall into decay, because the props which are necessary to support it are removed. So serious an evil deserves to be carefully considered. There can be little hope of general advancement or great attainment in religion, when such opinions are prevalent...
(Note: My other blog, Wonderful Epoch has evolved from a celebration of Margaret Fuller and James Freeman Clarke during this the bicentennial year of their birth, to a daily posting from "Messages of Faith, Hope and Love" a posthumous collection of the writings of James Freeman Clarke designed as a daily devotional. This is not a slight of Margaret Fuller (who has more than one committee-one of which I serve-celebrating her anniversary.) Longtime readers of this blog know that James Freeman Clarke is a "hero" of mine and this blog is my small way of promoting his contribution.)
(Painting: Childe Hassam's "Church at Old Lyme")