Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things are looking up!

This famous story from the boyhood of William Ellery Channing taken from William Henry Channing's Memoir:

"The most significant anecdote to illustrate the religious impressions made upon his mind in childhood is one thus related by himself. His father, with the view of giving him a ride, took William in his chaise one day, as he was going to hear a famous preacher in the neighbourhood. Impressed with the notion that he might learn great tidings from the unseen world, he listened attentively to the sermon. With very glowing rhetoric, the lost state of man was described, his abandonment to evil, helplessness, dependence upon sovereign grace, and the need of earnest prayer as the condition of receiving this divine aid. In the view of the speaker, a curse seemed to rest upon the earth, and darkness and horror to veil the face of nature. William, for his part, supposed that henceforth those who believed would abandon all other things to seek this salvation, and that amusement and earthly business would no longer occupy a moment. The service over, they went out of the church, and his father, in answer to the remark of some person, said, with a decisive tone, — " Sound doctrine, Sir." " It is all true," then, was his inward reflection. A heavy weight fell on his heart. He wanted to speak to his father ; he expected his father would speak to him in relation to this tremendous crisis of things. They got into the chaise and rode along, but, absorbed in awful thoughts, he could not raise his voice. Presently his father began to whistle ! At length they reached home ; but instead of calling the family together, and telling them of the appalling intelligence which the preacher had given, his father took off his boots, put his feet toward the fireplace, and quietly read a newspaper. All things went on as usual. At first, he was surprised ; but not being given to talking, he asked no explanations. Soon, however, the question rose, — "Could what he had heard be true ? No ! his father did not believe it ; people did not believe it ! It was not true ! "

Friday, November 28, 2008

Save us from a thankless heart. (Ephraim Peabody, RIP)

Ephraim Peabody (see posts Nov. 16th, 17th and 19th) has been my devotional companion for the past couple of weeks or so and this morning I note that it was on this day in 1856 that he passed. Samuel Eliot said of Peabody:

"His life was his best preaching. His sermons were but the explanation and enforcing to others of the rules exemplified in his daily intercourse with those around him. It was plain he thought that a sermon should not be merely a dissertation to instruct, nor an oration to surprise and excite, but an earnest, thoughtful, and moving exhortation, addressed to those who, by self-examination, as well as by observation of others, were capable of being stimulated to improvement."

So has he been such a stimulation for me and I am grateful. An excerpt from Peabody's sermon "Confidence in God"

"When I look back over the past, I am compelled to acknowledge, however little I may feel it, that my life has been loaded with undeserved blessings. From the time that the child is laid in the cradle, till the aged man is borne on the bier to his grave, the sunshine and the air are not more constant than those blessings which come, not through casual, but fixed arrangements of Providence,...A mercy most patient and most pitiful, which would reclaim all who go astray, which blesses man on the earth almost in spite of himself, and reveals a higher and holier world, which, little as the best may deserve to enter it, is promised to the weakest and the humblest who strive in their place to walk in the paths of duty...for this, what shall we render unto God? We can render nothing; and all that he asks is, that we shall not be insensible to it. Let our morning and our nightly prayer then be. 'Save us, O God, from the sin of the thankless heart; save us from the guilt of remembering everything else and forgetting thee.' We can return nothing to Him who giveth all. May we at last, when life draws to a close, be able to feel that in the midst of our blessings we were mindful of their magnitude and of their source; and may we be able also to remember that these blessings were not all used for selfish ends, but were the source of happiness and of good to those who knew more of the deprivations and less of the enjoyments of life that we."

A fitting benediction for Rev. Peabody and a timely reminder this "Black Friday", the day after Thanksgiving, to maintain a thankful heart each and all of our days. Blessings

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

May Our Thanksgiving Be Worthy...

A prayer by Theodore Parker given on Thanksgiving 1856...They don't pray em like this anymore. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving.


"O THOU Infinite Spirit, who art everywhere that the light of day sheds down its glorious lustre, and in the caverns of the earth where the light of day cometh not, we would draw near to thee and worship thy spirit, which at all times is near to us. O Thou Infinite One, who art amidst all the silences of nature, and forsakest us not with thy spirit where the noisy feet of men are continually heard, we pray thee that the spirit of prayer may be in us while we lift up our hearts unto thee. Thou askest not even our gratitude, but when our cup is filled with blessings to the brim and runneth over with bounties, we would remember thee who fillest it, and givest every good and precious gift. Father, we thank thee for the special material blessings which we enjoy ; for the prosperity which has attended the labors of thy children in the months that are past, for the harvest of corn and of grass which the hand of man, obedient to his toilsome thought, has gathered up from the surface of the ground. We bless thee that when our toil has spoken to the earth, the furrows of the field have answered with sufficient, yea, with abundant returns of harvest to our hand. We thank thee for the blessings of the deep, and treasures hid in the sands, which thy children have gathered. We bless thee for the success which has come to those who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters. We thank thee for the treasures which our mining hand has gathered from the foldings of the earth, the wealth which we have quarried from the mountain, or digged out from the bosom of the ground. And we bless thee for the other harvests which from these rude things the toilsome hand and the laborious thought of men have created, turning use into beauty also, and so adorning and gladdening the world. We thank thee for the special blessings that come near to us this day. We bless thee for the health of our bodies, and we thank thee for those who are near and dear to us; and for all the gladsome gatherings together which this day will bring to pass, of parents and their children, long severed, or of the lover and his beloved, who so gladly would become one. We bless thee for all those who this day shall break their bread in common, lifting up their hearts unto thee, and blessing the hand which lengthens out our days and keeps the golden bowl from breaking at the fountain ; and we thank thee for those who in many a distant place are still of us, — - severed in the body, but with us yet in soul. We remember before thee not only our families and our homes, but likewise the great country in which thou our homes, but likewise the great country in which thou hast cast the lines of our lot. We thank thee for its wide extent, for the great riches which the toil of man has here gathered together and stored up. We bless thee for the multitudes of people, an exceeding great company of men and women, who here have sprung into existence under thy care. We bless thee that in this land the exile from so many a clime can find a home, with none to molest nor to make him afraid. We thank thee for every good institution which has here been established, for all the truth that is taught in the church, for what of justice has become the common law of the people, and for all of righteousness and of benevolence which goes forth in the midst of our land. We bless thee for our fathers who in centuries past, in the name of thy holy spirit, and for the sake of rights dearest to mankind, went from one country to another people, and in their day of small things came here. Yea, we thank thee for those whose only communion was an exile, and we bless thee for the bravery of their spirit which would not hang the harp on the willow, but sung songs of thanksgiving in a strange land, and in the midst of their wilderness builded a new Zion up, full of thanksgiving and song and praise. We bless thee for our fathers of a nearer kin, who in a day of peril strove valiantly that they might be free, and bequeathed a noble heritage to their sons and daughters who were to come after them. Yea, we thank thee for those whose sacrament was only a revolution, and the cup of blessing was of blood drawn from their own manly veins ; and we bless thee for the hardy valor which drew their sword, and sheathed it not till they had a large place, and their inalienable rights secured to them by their own right hand, toiling and striving under the benediction of thy precious providence. Now, Lord, we thank thee that the few have become a multitude, and the little vine which our fathers planted with their tears and watered with their blood, reaches from sea to sea, great clusters of riches hanging on every bough, and its root strong in the land. But we remember before thee the great sins which this nation has wrought, and while we thank thee for the noblest heritage which man ever inherited from man, we must mourn also that we have blackened the ground with crimes such as seldom a nation has committed against thee. Yea, Lord, even our thanksgiving prayer must be stained with our tears of mourning, and our psalm of thanksgiving must be mingled with the wail of those who lament that they have no hope left for them in the earth. Father, we remember our brothers of our own kin and complexion whom wickedness has smitten down in another land, whose houses are burned and their wives given up to outrage. We remember those who walk only in chains this day, and are persecuted for their righteousness' sake. And still more in our prayer we remember the millions of our brothers whom our fathers chained, and whose fetters our wicked hands have riveted upon their limbs. O Lord, we pray thee that we may suffer from these our transgressions, till we learn to eschew evil, to break the rod of the oppressor, and to let the oppressed go free ; yea, till we make our rulers righteousness, and those chief amongst us whose glory it is to serve mankind by justice, by fidelity, and by truth. We pray thee, on this day of our gratitude, that we may rouse up everything that is humanest in our heart, pledging ourselves anew to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before thee, O Thou our Father and our Mother on earth and in the heavens too. Thus, Lord, may our thanksgiving be worthy of the nature thou hast given us and the heritage thou hast bequeathed. Thus may our psalm of gratitude be a hymn of thanksgiving for millions who have broken off their chains, and for a great country full of joy, of blessedness, of freedom and of peace. So may thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BU on TP

Peacebang ( asks for more on why I think Parker had such a negative impact on Unitarian Christianity and why "reading his entire corpus messed with my mind" (see yesterday's post.)

Answering the first question requires a little personal background. I grew up a Lutheran in the Midwest and later became an Episcopalian in the Southwest and now am Unitarian in the Northeast. The first I ever heard of Unitarianism was in discovering Ralph Waldo Emerson in college (an alarming 25 plus years ago.) I was immediately drawn to Emerson and in reading more about him kept coming across unflattering references to a people called "Unitarian."

As time went on, I started to track down and read some of these "corpse cold" personages and found that they (at least a few of them) spoke to my need in a profound way. I became fascinated with the short life of Unitarian Christianity (I should say of Christian "dominance" within Unitarianism as Unitarian Christianity is still very much alive)

So, to speak to your first question...Unitarianism was often seen by its detractors as a "negative" religion in that it came out of congregational orthodoxy. This is inevitable in reform movements and the hope is that with maturity, the "negative" expressions are replaced, or at least balanced, by positive expressions of the "new" faith. Part of the problem with Unitarian Christianity is that it did not have time to ripen into maturity. Parker must take a large part of the blame for this.

Emerson undoubtedly had the more original mind and the greater impact on the larger American culture. Denominationally, however, it was Parker who had the greatest impact. Because he stayed in the church, was so intemperate in his attacks, and, not least, because his church was so large and popular (the first and only Unitarian mega-church) he forced discussions that drove the denomination into a constant defend mode and didn't allow it to settle into a calm and positive maturity.

Well I could go on and on (I haven't even mentioned slavery or politics, both of which were crucial to this discussion) but will stop there for now.

As to the second question...Much of the Parker corpus is occasional and not systematic. It is, therefore, fairly topical and often deeply intense (see the photo above for his intensity.) A little Parker goes a long way and a lot of Parker goes a little too far (and all 14 volumes in one summer-well you see my point!)

Thanks for the questions Peacebang and...


Monday, November 24, 2008

Brother Parker

My Bible reading this morning was in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal) and my mind went to the famous and very divisive "Transient and Permanent" sermon of Theodore Parker. Now I must admit a deep
ambivalence towards Brother Parker. On the one hand, his personal piety and deep and passionate commitment to abolition are much to be admired. On the other, his lack of temperance in advancing his theology wedded to a deep personal sensitivity to like criticism from others are less attractive. I also believe that Parker, even more than Emerson, contributed to the too early demise of Unitarian Christianity. Finally, three years or so ago, I read Parker's Works during a summer reading frenzy and my mental state has never been the same! A bit of Transient and Permanent:
"Real Christianity gives men new life. It is the growth and perfect action of the Holy Spirit God puts into the sons of men. It makes us outgrow any form, or any system of doctrines we have devised, and approach still closer to the truth. It would lead us to take what help we can find. It would make the Bible our servant, not our master. It would teach us to profit by the wisdom and piety of David and Solomon; but not to sin their sins, nor bow to their idols. It would make us revere the holy words spoken by "godly men of old," but revere still more the word of God spoken through Conscience, Reason, and Faith, as the holiest of all. It would not make Christ the despot of the soul, but the brother of all men. It would not tell us, that even he had exhausted the fullness of God, so that He could create none greater; for with Him "all things are possible," and neither Old Testament or New Testament ever hints that creation exhausts the creator. Still less would it tell us, the wisdom, the piety the love, the manly excellence of Jesus, was the result of miraculous agency alone, but, that it was won, like the excellence of humbler men, by faithful obedience to Him who gave his Son such ample heritage. It would point to him as our brother, who went before, like the good shepherd, to charm us with the music of his words, and with the beauty of his life to tempt us up the steeps of mortal toil, within the gate of Heaven. It would have us make the kingdom of God on earth, and enter more fittingly the kingdom on high. It would lead us to form Christ in the heart, on which Paul laid such stress, and work out our salvation by this. For it is not so much by the Christ who lived so blameless and beautiful eighteen centuries ago, that we are saved directly, but by the Christ we form in our hearts and live out in our daily life,that we save ourselves, God working with us, both to will and to do."
Parker's piety, more than his disdain, are much on display here and the Boston Unitarians who were often so vexed by Parker could easily embrace the vision of life that Parker here puts forward. Form Christ in our hearts and live it out in daily life. So may it be. Blessings

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet thoughts and hopes sublime

For this Sabbath Day, a hymn from the 1865 "Hymns of the Spirit" by my favorite hymn writer, Anonymous:

My God! in morning's radiant hour
To Thee will I lift up my heart;
The shades of night obey Thy power,
And at Thy sun's bright beams depart.

Father and Guardian! to Thy shrine
The life Thou shieldest will I bring;
All, great Creator! all is Thine;
The heart my noblest offering.

The morning light shall see my prayer,
The noonday calm shall know my praise;
And evening's still and fragrant air
My grateful hymn to Thee shall raise.

So shall sweet thoughts and hopes sublime
My constant inspirations be;
And every shifting scene of time
Reflect, my God, a light from thee.

Have a wonderful Sabbath. Blessings

Friday, November 21, 2008


For much of my childhood, the above image was prayer to me. It hung in my Lutheran Church-not in a prominant place-but I have memories of often pausing before it. I don't remember having any particularly profound thoughts in relation to it exept maybe that the praying man looked alone yet not lonely. I grew up a midwestern Lutheran and, as the novelist John Cheever once wrote, that is a "sober" way of worshipping God. So it is. And yet it is a beautiful way and not unlike the way of the Boston Unitarians in its lack of ostentation, its simplicity, and its focus on doing the next right thing-living a decent life.
So it was with Henry Ware (see all posts Ware Jr.) We left Brother Ware Meditating as the second (after reading) of his "Means of Religious Improvement." Meditation is followed in turn by Prayer. Some exerpts:

As there is no duty more frequently enjoined in the New Testament by our Saviour and the Apostles, so there is none which is a more indispensable and efficacious means of religious improvement, than Prayer... He who truly prays, feels, during the act, a sense of God's presence, authority, and love; of his own obligations and unworthiness ; of his need of being better. He feels grateful, humble, resigned, anxious for improvement. He who prays often, often has these feelings, and by frequent repetition they become customary and constant. And thus prayer operates as an active, steady, powerful means of Christian progress. Indeed nothing effectual is to be done without it That it is a chief duty, even natural reason would persuade us. That it is a condition on which divine blessings are bestowed, Christianity assures us. That it is a high gratification and enjoyment, every one knows who has rightly engaged in it. And that it is of all means of moral restraint and spiritual advancement the most effective, no one can doubt, who understands how powerfully it stirs and agitates the strongest and most active principles of man, and how complete is the dominion which those principles have over his character and conduct. All this is clear and sufficient, without adding the assurance of the Saviour, that it is effectual to draw down spiritual aid from heaven. Add this, and the subject is complete. It is, both naturally and by appointment, a chief duty of man ; from the nature of the soul and the intercourse it opens with God, it is the first enjoyment; and through its own intrinsic power and the promise of Jesus, it is the most effectual instrument of moral and spiritual culture."


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tender Mercies

On this very cold night, a warm hymn by Anna Waring from the 1865 edition of "Hymns of the Spirit"

Tender mercies, on my way
Falling softly like the dew,
Sent me freshly every day,
I give thanks to God for you.

Though I have not all I would,
Though to greater bliss I go,
Every present gift of good
To Eternal Love I owe.

Source of all that comforts me,
Well of joy for which I long,
Let the song I sing to thee
Be an everlasting song.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Ray of Spiritual Brightness

The Boston Unitarians were (and are) often derided as cold, rationalistic figures, narrow and provincial in view. Emerson, of course, famously called some of them "corpse cold"
There is no question that they were often understated and they certainly emphasized character as the chief religious expression and virtue which can make them sound moralistic and dull. For me, however, this very emphasis has become deeply and spiritually enriching. It elevates and promotes the sacredness of the everyday, and gives spiritual import to each and every action.
The nature and the position of Jesus was often at the center of these criticisms, Ephraim Peabody (see post Nov. 17th), in his sermon, "Christ our Life" seeks to navigate these waters with a pasionate appeal for the centrality of Jesus. Some exerpts:

"Christ our Life"

"The constant teaching of the Gospels is, that Almighty God sent the saviour into the world to be the centre and source of a higher spiritual life; and that the degree in which any one of us recieves this life depends very much on the nearness which, through faith and reverence and love, we maintain to him...We confess that in Christ we have disclosed to us a perfect example of the character which God most approves and requires...In him were combined in their perfection those qualities which make the perfection of all moral beings;-the gentleness that won the heart of the child, a courage that was tranquil when confronted by a condemning world and by the terrors of a lingering death, a magnanimity that rose above outrage, a benevolence that forgot wrong and thought only of the salvation of the wrong-doer, a tenderness that wept at the grave of Lazarus and over the forseen sorrows of Jerusalem, and a rectitude by which he was the fitting judge of the world...Now, however we may describe it, that is the character around which gather all immortal hopes. Compared with the attainment of this in the least degree, all other attainments are cheap and poor. We wear out life in collecting some handfuls of golden dust. And yet one ray of that spiritual brightness in our souls is worth more than all human treasures."

This morning was my near weekly trip to Boston and to the Athenaeum, and a very cold and windy morning it was. On my walk back to the ferry boat, I was able to stop in at King's Chapel (where Peabody served) for their midweek communion service. On my way out, I said hello to Ephraim Peabody (see photo) and a thank you, and found myself a little warmer than when I went in. Blessings

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Only Permanent Happiness

The Members of
The First Congregational Society
In Cincinnati and New Bedford
and to those of
Kings Chapel, Boston
With all of you I have been connected as your regularly chosen and settled minister. We were separated for no reason that I am aware of, ecept that frail health which now separates me from you all. The great interests, and no small part of the dearest friendships of life, are associated with you. I want you to believe that every word I have uttered to you, urging on you the importance of a religious life, has been spoken with the most intense conviction that the only permanent happiness of this life, the only true hope for the life to come, are to be drawn from a religious consecration of one's self to God, and to the performance of the duties whch he, in his love, appoints.
I would impress this on you if it were possible with my last words. Now that I stand on the brink of that river (not always dark), I wish that my farewell words may be those that I have expressed in preceding years when that could be no more an object of faith which is now fast becoming a reality.
May God bless, forgive, and help us all, is the prayer of one who cannot cease to feel an affection for you so long as memory remains and his nature is unchanged.
E. Peabody
November 17, 1856

This beautiful letter of "dedication and rememberance" was written by Rev. Ephraim Peabody to the people of the churches he served. Written only a few days before his death, it serves as the dedication for a book of his sermons.
This morning, during my devotions, I happened to re-read it and noticed it was written on this day in 1856. Blessings

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Be Still: A Boston Unitarian Sabbath

I am the DRE at a wonderful and vibrant Unitarian Universalist Church so the last thing I am usually able to do on a Sunday is to "be still." I have been trying to begin my Sabbath on Saturday evening with as much peaceful reading and reflection as possible and then to wake early and begin with reading , meditation and prayer. The goal, of course, is to be mindful and focused even amidst the busyness of a typical Sunday morning.

This morning I read a sermon by Ephraim Peabody (see Post Oct. 27th,) called "Stillness of Mind." An exerpt: Be still, and know only that with you is God. One hour in these summer fields alone, in the silence of nature, with a heart that looks in prayer to Him, who is above the open heavens, is worth more in determining a question of duty, than ages of rhetoric and libraries of logic. An hour in this place (Church), before the memorials of Christ, with the heart seeking God's guidance, has in it more wisdom than all the oracles philosophy ever uttered. Evil suggestions fade away from the consciousness of the Divine presence. The mind acts in an unembarrassed sphere; it is placed in a right position, and is open to the unbewildered light of truth. The intellect will seek truth most faithfully when the heart seeks God most truly. Prayer does not take the place of reasoning, but the reason finds guidance and protection in prayer...With a prayerful heart, be still, and alone, conscious that God is with you.
And this from Hymns of the Spirit (1865):
The Still Hour

Gently the shades of night descend;
Thy temple, Lord, is calm and still
A thousand lamps of ether blend
A thousand fires that temple fill

Thou bidd'st the cares of earth depart;
Heaven's peace is wafted from above;
A sabbath stillness fills the heart,
Devotion's calm and holy love

And man, even from the dust, may rise
Born on the pinions of thy grace,
Up to angelic mysteries
And find in Thee his resting place


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Torrents of bitter Water

This is a great and essential means of improvement. It is essential to self-examination and self-knowledge, without which the hope of progress and of virtue is vain. Henry Ware, Jr. is speaking of Meditation, the second of his Means of Religious Improvement (see all posts Ware Jr.) No one, he continues, can know his own character, or be aware of the dispositions, feelings and motives by which he is actuated, except by means of deep and searching reflection...Meditation, too, is necessary in order to the digesting of religious truth, making familiar what we have learned, and incorporating it with our own minds...In attempting, therefore, the acquisition of a religious character, it is important that you maintain an habitual thoughtfulness of mind. Specific times for meditation are also necessary and: The proper season for this is the season of your daily devotion ; when, having shut out the world, and sought the nearer presence of God, your mind is prepared to work fervently. Then, contemplation, aided by prayer, ascends to heights which it could never reach alone : and sometimes, whether in the body or out of the body it can hardly tell, soars, as it were to the third heaven, and enjoys a revelation to which, at other hours, it is a stranger. This, however, is an excitement of mind which is rarely to be expected. Those seasons are ' few as angel's visits,' which lift the spirit to any thing like ecstasy. They are glimpses of heaven, which the soul, in its present tabernacle, can seldom catch, only frequently enough to afford a brief foretaste of that bliss to which it shall hereafter arrive. Its ordinary musings are less ethereal ; happy, undoubtedly, though oftentimes clouded by feelings of sadness, arid doubt, and by a sense of umvorthiness and sin. But however mixed they may be, they are always salutary... Ware goes on to give comfort to those suffering from "arid doubt" and feelings of distance from God. These times are shared by everyone, even the greatest of saints...But, Ware warns, Do not let this apology, which is designed only for the comfort of the humble and watchful, be used by you as a cover for negligence and "sinful self-confidence. Remember that your unsatisfactory state of religious sensibility may be possibly your fault ; and you are not to presume that it is otherwise, until you have faithfully searched and tried. Have you not, for a time, been unreasonably devoted to amusement, or engrossed by unnecessary cares, so as to have neglected the watching of your heart ?
Ware concludes,... after all, remember that you are to judge of the real worth of these seasons, not by your enjoyment of them as they pass, not by the luxury or rapture of your contemplation, but by their effect upon your character and principles, by the religious power you gain from them toward meeting the duties and sufferings, the joys and sorrows, the temptations, trials and conflicts of actual life. Meditation is a means of religion ; not to be rested in as a final good, nor allowed to satisfy us, except so far as it imparts to the character a permanent impress of seriousness and duty, and strengthens the principles of faith and self-government...It is easy to see, therefore, that there are three purposes which you have in view ; the cultivation of a religious spirit, the scrutiny of your life and character, the renewing of your good purposes...A renewal of your resolutions is to follow this inquiry. Knowing where you are and whal you need, you are to arrange your purposes accordingly. It is a sad error of some to fancy that seeing and acknowledging their faults is all which is required of them. They sit down and bewail them, and in weeping and sorrow waste that energy of mind which should have been exerted in amendment. But it is surely far better, with manly readiness, to rise and act without a tear, than to shed torrents of bitter water, and still go on as before. Regret and remorse naturally express themselves in weeping ; but repentance shows itself in action. It may begin in sorrow, but it ends in reformation. And you have little reason to be satisfied with your reflections and your penitence, if they do not issue in prompt and resolute action.

One of the great virtues of the Boston Unitarians was their striving after balance. They sought to achieve and promote a theology and way of living that carved out a middle way. Times of great, almost ecstatic illumination are balanced by long arid stretches. It is a practical truth. Shed your torrents of bitter water, but then repent(a wonderful word not often enough used) and resolve in your next action to do a little better. Blessings

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tender father and best friend

On this day in 1835, James Freeman (1759- 1835) Minister at King's Chapel in Boston for over 40 years, died.

Freeman, a Socinian Unitarian, differed from most of the "Boston Unitarians" who tended to Arianism. They shared, however, a deep piety which is much on display in this sermon exerpt:

"A Summary of several important duties"
The fear of the Lord, says the wise man, is the beginning of wisdom. I exhort you therefore, my brethren, in the first place, to build the whole of your duty on the foundation of piety. Love God above every other object; and dread the violation of his commands as the worst of evils. Elevate your minds with contemplation of his attributes. Let his power and wisdom excite your admiration; let his justice inspire you with fear; let his goodness fill your hearts with joy. Contemplate him, not only as your creator and judge, but as your tender father and best friend.
For an excellent brief biography of Freeman, go to the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography at:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In Praise of Artificial Emotions

Each summer I assign myself a reading project centered around one writer or subject and this past summer it was Sir Walter Scott's turn. Its just possible that you are wondering why anyone would subject himself to such heavy doses of Sir Walter.
Scott (1771-1832) was one of the favorite writers of the Boston Unitarians and of much of America during the heyday (brief as it was) of Boston Unitarianism. Why? The historian Daniel Walker Howe put it this way. The delicate, escapist, and artificial emotions of Walter Scott...appealed to the Unitarians (Though I love Daniel Walker Howe, I think he is a little hard on Sir Walter!)
Scott is probably best know today for his novel "Ivanhoe." His "Waverly Novels" of which Ivanhoe is one, are massive, historical and, in a very real sense, helped define modern Scotland.
John Buchan described his merits thus, His greatness consists in the fact that to a soaring imagination and profound emotions he joined commen sense-the vision of the plain man: that he was an adventurer and dreamer who never forgot the standards of ordinary one has excelled him in taking a large tract of human life, with all its complexities, and shaping it to the purposes of art by eliciting its beauty and drama...He was a great gentleman, for he had the highest and strictest code of honor; and he was a great domocrat, for he took all men for his brothers, and spoke to everybody, as if he were their blood relation.
Finally, this from Scott himself, in a postscript to one of his greatest novels, "The Heart of Midlothian": Reader-This tale will not be told in vain, if it shall be found to illustrate the great truth, that guilt, though it may attain temporal splendour, can never confer real happiness; that the evil consequences of our crimes long survive their commission, and like the ghosts ofthe murdered, forever haunt the steps of the malefactor; and that the paths of virtue, though seldom those of worldly greatness, are always those of pleasentness and peace.
A gentleman and democrat illuminating the paths of virtue. If these things are "artificial", "escapist" and "delicate", may we have more of them. blessings

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Francis Parkman (Senior) RIP

On this day in 1852, the Rev. Dr. Francis Parkman Sr. died at the age of 64 (for Francis Parkman jr., see post on Nov. 8th.) This description of Parkman from O.B. Frothingham:

Rev. Dr. Parkman, was, in his way, a remarkable man, — not a great man, not a distinguished man, not a powerful or impressive man, but a cultivated and attractive one. He was graduated at Harvard College, studied theology under the Rev. William E. Channing, contributed a series of papers on moral and religious subjects to one of the Boston journals... heard medical lectures in Edinburgh, attended theological lectures given by Dr. Ritchie, then Professor of Theology there, read a discourse which received the approbation of the professor, preached in London, was invited to become the associate minister with Mr. Lewin in Liverpool, preached in the First Church, Boston, and in 1813 was ordained pastor of the " New North " Church (pictured). In 1829, he founded the Professorship of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care in the Theological Department of Harvard College, and took an active part in the concerns of the Society for the Relief of Aged and Indigent Clergymen, which was fbrmed in 1849. He was a man of various information, kindly spirit, simple and yet polished manners..." one who loved his calling and discharged all its duties with untiring devotedness. As a preacher he was practical and evangelical ; as a pastor tender and affectionate. He was a man of active and useful charities, a friend to learning, a punctual member or an energetic officer of many literary, philanthropic, and religious associations, as well as a true friend of the worthy poor...

The very model of the Boston Unitarian and an exemplar of why I admire them. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A lover of peace

On this Veteran's Day, the Boston Unitarian remembers and thanks all who have served (are are presently serving) and sacrificed so much, including the 19th Century Unitarian soldiers and chaplains who served in the Civil War.
Many could be named including Thomas Wentworth Higginson who was a Unitarian minister and the Colonel of the first African American Regiment in the Civil War. Higginson went on to a varied and fascinating career in literature and reform. He is often remembered (and not very fondly) for his relationship with Emily Dickinson (see the fascinating new book White Heat for a more judicious view of Higginson.)
Pictured above is Arthur Buckminster Fuller, brother of Margaret Fuller, passionate Unitarian Minister and Civil War Chaplain who gave his life for the cause. James Freeman Clarke (who has been mentioned in these pages before) said of him, "Arthur Fuller was, like most of us, a lover of peace, but he saw, as we have had to see, that sometimes true peace can only come through war. So he went, with a courage and devotion which all must admire, and fell, adding his blood also to all the precious blood which has been shed as an atonement for the sins of the nation. May that blood not be shed in vain." For a fine brief biography of Fuller (including this quote) see the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography at:

No matter your view of war as atonement or necessity, Fuller, Higginson, and so many before and since have seen their duty and done it selflessly. Again, thank you Veterans, and may your service and sacrifice point to a world in which such sacrifice is no longer required. Blessings

Monday, November 10, 2008

Read as if on your knees

We left Brother Ware (see all Posts Ware Jr.) at the end of Chapter Three. Thus far, in fairly standard devotional form, he has explained what it is we are to seek, reassured us that what we seek is attainable, and described the state of mind with which we are to seek it.
In Chapter 4, "The Means of Religious Improvement," he proposes to explain The means to be used in order to render permanent your religious impressions, and promote the growth of your character
First on his list, in good Unitarian fashion, is Reading...because it is in the perusal of the Scriptures that the beginning of religious knowledge is to be found. He begins by exhorting his readers, no matter their condition or circumstances, to set aside some reugualr time for the reading of scripture if even five minutes a day and chastises those with time, education and leisure who, in spite of their good fortune, neglect this duty. What to read? In your selection of books, the Bible will, of course, hold the first place. This is to be read daily, and to be your favorite book. A warning: Remember, however, that it may be perused in such a manner, that it were better never to have opened it. If studied inattentively, for form's sake, or only for the purpose of gathering arguments to support your opinions, it is read irreligiously, and therefore unprofitably. So: You will therefore always have in view two objects — to understand the book, and to apply it to your own heart and character.
As to the first object: The study of the Bible, for the purpose of understanding it, is an arduous labor. Dr. Johnson said of the New Testament...No book requires greater and more various aid. Its thorough interpretation is a science by itself...And be not afraid of examining the text scrupulously, and employing the utmost energy of your mind in discovering and determining its true sense. It is a duty to do this. You can decide between opposing and possible interpretations only by applying your own mind to judge between them ; and the more keenly, impartially, and fearlessly you proceed, the greater the probability that your decision will be correct... in deciding upon the meaning of scripture, you cannot use your intellectual powers too much or too acutely. Use them constantly, coolly, impartially, with the best aid you can obtain from human authors, and then you may rest satisfied that you have done your duty, — have done all which you could do toward learning the truth ; and if you have accompanied it with prayer for a blessing from the Source of truth and wisdom, you cannot have failed, in any essential point, to ascertain the will of God.
As to the second object, the application of scripture to the forming of the heart and character. This is a higher object than the other, and may be effected in cases where very little of rigid scrutiny can be made into the dark places of the divine word. Blessed be God, it is not necessary, in order to salvation, that one should comprehend all the things hard to be understood, or be able to follow out the train of reasoning in every Epistle, and restore the text in every corruption. Do all this as much as you can. But when you read, as it were for your life ; when you take the Bible to your closet, to be the help and the solitary witness of your prayers; when you take it up as a lamp which you are to hold to your heart, for the purpose of searching into its true state, that you may purify and perfect it; — then put from your mind all thoughts of differing interpretations and various readings, and the perplexities of criticism and translation. You have only to do with what is spiritual and practical. You are no more a scholar, seeking for intellectual guidance, but a sinful and accountable creature, asking for help in duty, and deliverance from an evil world and an evil heart. Read, therefore, as if on your knees.
You are not to suppose, from what has been said, that you are altogether to separate these two modes of reading the Scriptures...The cautions thus briefly sketched are important for two reasons ; one, that there is a tendency in him who has become interested in the critical examination of the sacred writings, to continue to read them critically and with a principal regard to their elucidation, when he ought to be imbibing their spirit; and the other, that the perception of this tendency has been an apology to many for not engaging in such inquiries at all. They esteem it better to go on with their crude, unconnected, and undigested knowledge, which in many cases is only ignorance.

Reading the Bible with head and heart and on your knees. Blessings

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Boston Unitarian (in Philadelphia) Sabbath Prayer

William Henry Furness (on the right with his lifelong friends Ralph Waldo Emerson and Samuel Bradford) was a Unitarian Minister and scholar best known for his abolitionism and his controversial works on Jesus of Nazareth.
Furness was the minister of First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia from 1825 to 1875.
I will write and exerpt much from Rev. Furness on this blog, but for today this prayer from his wonderful collection of Morning, Evening, and Occasional Prayers called Domestic Worship.

OUR Father who art in heaven, again the sun has risen at thy command. Through thine unsleeping providence, refreshed by slumber, we stand upon the threshold of another day, a day of rest, of meditation, of worship and of prayer. May it be sanctified in the outward observance and in spirit and in truth. Let that holy light, of which the sun shining in the firmament is but a dim symbol, dawn upon our souls, dispelling unhallowed thoughts, revealing thy glorious presence, and leading us onward to that better life upon which, through thy grace, we may enter when we will. May this day, by the use which we make of its opportunities, by the answers of peace which it brings to our prayers, by the cleansing influences which it dispenses, prove a day never to be forgotten, a day worth ten thousand spent in the ways of the world.
O God, our Maker, who alone canst give us the light that we need, unseal our spiritual vision. Make us to discern the greatness of the grace which this day commemorates. It speaks of thine abundant mercy, of that best gift of thine, thy holy child Jesus, who appeared among men in the power of thy spirit and in the fulness of thy divinity, and the world saw in him the glory as of an only Son of God. Glad tidings of great joy he .brought from heaven to earth, tidings of infinite love and immortal hope. Teach us the value of these gracious messages, that we may know how to thank Thee, that the hymns and praises that we utter this day may be the prompting and the tribute of our souls. Let our faith be not in word but in power. May the spirit of thy Son be our spirit, the spring of our conduct, giving us strength to avoid every form of evil, and to cleave amidst all temptations to thy law, even although it should command the cutting off of the right hand or the plucking out of the right eye. And then, when Christ is thus formed within us, enthroned among our affections, then shall we be found meet for thy sanctuary ; for who, O Lord, shall stand before Thee but they that have clean hands and pure hearts. Then too shall we know its priceless worth, when we have once tasted, by personal experience, of the heavenly gift. Then shall we bring no dead offering, but a living sacrifice, and our praises shall rise like incense up to the very throne of God. And Thou, ever more ready to give than we are to ask, wilt delight to pour down upon us more abundant measures of truth and holiness. So, by true spiritual worship, by the private meditations and the public services of this day, we shall go from grace to grace and from strength to strength, until we stand for ever in thy presence. Merciful Father, we mourn that these our best desires are so faint, that we are so fondly attached to the things that perish, to the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, so seldom and so faintly impressed with the guilt of our ingratitude and disobedience, and that we live so willingly without God and a true hope. Increase our sorrow for our un- worthiness, and make it that godly sorrow which will quicken us to instant and thorough amendment. Encompass our minds this day with thoughts of heaven. Give thine angels charge concerning us that our feet may never more stumble, that we may run with patience the race that is set before us, in the straight and narrow way, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and flinging aside every besetting sin. O come, thou Spirit of truth, come and take up thine abode evermore in our souls. Be the life of our lives, a fountain springing up within us to everlasting life, that we may never thirst again, and that these waste places, our hearts, may become like Eden, like the garden of the Lord. Almighty God, may thy kingdom be advanced in all hearts this day. May the truth, as it is in Jesus, be everywhere faithfully proclaimed, and received into honest and good minds, where it shall spring up and bring forth the immortal fruits of holy living. Send its blessed consolations into afflicted souls, and let it bind up the broken hearted and give liberty to the captive. May it be like a sword to pierce the hearts of the thoughtless and the rebellious ; and let all who profess and call themselves Christians depart from iniquity, and lead godly and peaceable lives, and glorify thy Son and his gospel, and Thee, the God and Father of all ; and thine shall be the praise for ever and ever. Amen.

Make the Sabbath "a day worth ten thousand spent in the ways of the world." Amen

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Francis Parkman (RIP)

On this day in 1893, the great Historian Francis Parkman died at the age of 70. I think that one of the reasons that I am drawn to the Boston Unitarians is that they had a great love and respect for the value and and the art of history and historical writing. Parkman was the son of the Unitarian Minister Francis Parkman, a "model" of Boston Unitarianism. Of frail health as a boy, Parkman the son was sent to Medford to live with his maternal grandparents. Here, Parkman fell in love with forest land and this, along with his reading of Cooper and the Waverly Novels of Sir Walter Scott, and the influence of the Harvard Historian and Unitarian Jared Sparks, let him to conceive of his great masterwork, a history of the French and English struggle over the North American frontier.
Though plagued by headaches and poor health, Parkman would travel much and his work would reflect his knowledge and love of the land he chronicled.

Many of his historical judgements have stood well the tests of time though his reputation has suffered the ineveitable vicissitudes (especially around his treatment of Native Americans). The literary quality of his work, however, is unassailable. An exerpt (taken at random) from "Montcalm and Wolf," perhaps the greatest of his works, shows his love of the landscape, his romantic literary style, and the benefits that his travels had on his writing. He describes Louisbourg (Nova Scotia) shortly after vistiting the sight himself:

Stand on the mounds that were once the King's Bastion. The glistening sea spreads eastward three thousand miles, and its waves meet their first rebuff against this iron coast. Lighthouse Point is white with foam; jets of spray spout from the rocks of Goat Island ; mist curls in clouds from the seething surf that lashes the crags of Black Point, and the sea boils like a caldron among the reefs by the harbor's mouth; but on the calm water within, the small fishing vessels rest tranquil at their moorings. Beyond lies a hamlet of fishermen by the edge of the water, and a few scattered dwellings dot the rough hills, bristled with stunted firs, that gird the quiet basin; while close at hand, within the precinct of the vanished fortress, stand two small farmhouses. All else is a solitude of ocean, rock, marsh, and forest.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Permanent Bias Toward God

From Chapter lll of Henry Ware's "Formation of the Christian Character"

Deep religious impressions are always accompanied by a sense of personal unworthiness, and not unfrequently commence with it. It is man's acquaintance with himself, which leads him most earnestly to seek the acquaintance of God, and to percieve the need of his favor...He sees at one view all his past sins, open and secret, his thoughtlessness, ingratitude, negligence, and omissions, his depraved inclinations, evil desires, and cherished lusts, which no one else knows, and which no one else could compare, as he an, with his privileges and obligations...And in such a comarison, at such a moment, he cannot but regard himself as most unworthy and depraved...But such a state of mind as I have described, though not by no means universal...and cannot be regarded as essential...But however this may be, and however the humiliation of one may wear a different complexion from that of another, it is a state of mind sincere and heartfelt in all, to be studiously cherished, and to be made permanent in the character... In the beginning of the Christian life, this feeling assumes the form of anxiety, as it afterward leads to watchfulness...This is a most reasonable solicitude. What can be more reasonable than such a solicitude for the greatest and most lasting good of man?...Remember that much depends, I might say, every thing depends, on the use you make of this your present disposition. Be faithful to it, obey its promptings, let it form in you the habit of devout reflection and religious action, and all must be well...Be sensible, therefore, that this is a critical moment in the history of your character...For now it is, in all probability, tha the bias of your mind is to be determined for good or evil. Be sensible, then, how necessary it is that you keep alive, and cultivate by all possible means, this tenderness of heart...For you are engaging in a great work, the giving your heart a permanent bias toward God, and it ought not to be inturrupted."

It is language that is, no doubt, difficult for many liberal religionists to listen to these days but I find it deeply true. What drives us to a spiritual search but a lack of completeness, or a sense of something not right. As Ware knows, it may be dramatic and it may simply be a feeling of anxiety, of restlessness, irritability, or dis-ease...When it arises, it must be protected, cultivated and grown or wither and die. What do you think?
ps. Many thanks to the Eclectic Cleric for sharing the fruits of his scholarship on the Ware family (see comment on God Bearers post, Nov. 2nd-I enourage everyone to read it!) I will have more concerning your comments on the Personality of the Deity at a later date. Blessings

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Reformer's Vow

(An anti-Abolitionist broadside from 1837)
This from the 1865 edition of Hymns of the Spirit (see post on October 19th), written by Samuel Johnson to be sung at "Reform Meetings":

The Reformer's Vow

God of the earnest heart,
The trust assured and still,
Thou who our strength forever art,-
We come to do Thy will

Upon that painful road
By saints serenely trod,
Whereon their hallowing influence flowed,
Would we go forth, O God!

Gainst doubt and shame and fear
In human hearts to strive,
That all may learn to love and bear,
To conquer self and live;

To draw Thy blessing down
And bring the wronged redress,
And give this glorious world its crown
The Spirit's Godlikeness.

No dreams from toil to charm
No trembling on the tongue,-
Lord, in Thy rest may we be calm,
Through Thy completeness, strong!

Thou hearest while we pray;
O deep within us write,
With kindling power, our God, to-day,
Thy word,-On earth be light!


A Still More Excellent Way

It was a fairly early evening. We knew early and with confidence that Barak Obama would be our new President. I sit for morning devotions today and read in I Corinthians 12. Paul has just talked of the many gifts that together make up the body of the Church (see yesterday's post.) Today he concludes with: "earnestly desire the higher gifts, and I will show you a still more excellent way."
For me, the greatest gift of this election is the desire that Barak Obama inspires in so many to cultivate and give the best that they have and are. That alone has shone us "a still more excellent way." Blessings

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


In this age of highly computerized, instant and copious information, it is still remarkable the degree to which the health of our economy and our polis depend on confidence. Whether consumer confidence, investor confidence or any other manifestation or lack thereof, cofiidence determines so much.
Today is a day of much trepidation and much hope, no matter your desired outcome. All agree that change is needed and all have varying degrees of confidence in the likelihood of that change.
I woke up with some trepidation, but following my morning devotions I am looking at the election and the world with more confidence.
The posts on this blog labeled Ware Jr. have, through exerpts and brief commentary, followed Henry Ware Jr. through his classic, Formation of the Christian Character, as a daily devotional excercise (along with Scripture readings in 1 Corinthians-the pairing is coincidental).
We left Paul in Chapter 11 and continue with Chap. 12's great discussion of "One Body, Many Members"

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit."

Brother Ware we left in Chap. 2: "Our Power to Obtain That Which We Seek." Exerpts continued:

For how is it that grace leads to salvation ? Is it by arbitrarily fitting the soul for it, and ushering it into heaven without its own cooperation ? Or is it not rather by opening a free highway to the kingdom of life, through which all may walk and be saved? This is what the Saviour has done ; he has made the path of life accessible and plain, has thrown open the gate of heaven, has taught men how to enter in and reach their bliss. Whoever pursues this path, and enters ' through the gate into the city,' is saved by grace. For though he has used his own powers to travel on this highway, yet he did not establish that highway ; nor could he have traversed it without guidance and aid; nor could he have opened for himself the door of entrance.
Nothing is truer than this, — that, your work is proportioned to your powers, and your trials to your strength.
The promise to Paul is fulfilled, ' My strength is made perfect in weakness.' ' The spirit helpeth our infirmities.' Let it be, then, that human nature is weak ; no work is appointed greater than its power, and it ' can do all things through Christ who strengtheth'
Be thoroughly persuaded, therefore, that the work before you is wholly within your power. Nothing has a more palsying efiect on one's exertions in any enterprise, than the doubt whether he be equal to it. Something like confidence is necessary to enable him to pursue it vigorously and perseveringly.
Grace gives us a "free highway to the Kingdom of Life" and we walk that highway together, whether "Jew or Greek" or even "Red State or Blue State." May we make the road a beautiful one and walk it with confidence. Blessings

Monday, November 3, 2008

Boston Unitarian's Presidential Endorsement

On election eve, the Boston Unitarian salutes and endorses an Illinois liberal egghead politician ...Adlai Stevenson! (and a Unitarian to boot!)

So vote Unitarian, vote early, vote well, and get up on Wednesday morning determined to make our nation better no matter who wins. Blessings

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"God Bearers"

Driving to Church this All Soul's Sunday morning, I heard a small fragment of a radio sermon in which the preacher asked all listening to think about who our "God Bearers" are. Who are the people who have personified the religious life and brought God nearer to us? It was, I thought, a great way to think about the day. Who are your "God Bearers?"
Many of mine are, of course, the Boston Unitarians, especially right now, Henry Ware Jr. And speaking of...

Peacebang( asks in response to Henry Ware (see Arduous and Delightful post) "BU, what do you make of "charitable" and "humble" for those of us who seem designed to be more fiery and, well, fiercely loving rather than gently loving? Is "niceness" part of what Ware is talking about, here? Can I be a decent Christian without being a nice person? Or is the virtue in the effort?"

Its a great question that gets at the heart of what was wonderful about the Boston Unitarians and what was sometimes lacking. I am afraid that for the most part, Peacbang, you would have made the BU's pretty dang nervous! They were not, as a group, fiery and fierce, especially in expression, and people that were (even if they admired them-say Andrews Norton) made them decidedly uncomfortable.

I have to believe, however, (and this requires a bit of a hermeneutical leap) that your desire (and great ability) to look at all things (from the sublime to the ridiculous) in a moral and religious light would have won many of them over, had they read enough of your writing to see the light themselves.

I think also of more "transcendentally" minded BU Christians such as James Freeman Clarke (a particular hero of mine.) Clarke was a great friend and admirer of Margaret Fuller and would have, I feel safe to say, thought Peacebang a pretty "decent Christian".

Finally, Ware probably would not think one could be a decent Christian without being a nice person, but the question, of course, is what is "nice." Ware believed that one who subjected their mind, heart and body (actions) to God and earnestly sought to "use the faculties which God has given them" (see below) was living a religious life. Sounds like Peacebang to me!

Many thanks also to the Eclectic Cleric. It's great to hear your insights on the Ware family and I would love to read more! I agree with all you say about them and was especially informed by your discussion of the "metaphor of family" in their theology. It was certainly applicable to today's devotional reading in Chap. 2 of "Formation" Our Power to Obtain That Which We Seek. An exerpt:

As soon as he can love and obey his parents, he can love and obey God; and this is religion...There is an animal life, and there is a spiritual life. Man is born into the first at the birth of his body; he is born into the second when he subjects himself to the power of religion, and prefers his rational and immortal to his sensual nature...He has a nobler nature and nobler interests. He must learn to live for these...this is to be born into the spiritual life...Cherish therefore the conviction of this necessity. Cultivate by every possible means a deep persuasion of the truth, that the service and love of God are the only sufficient sources of happiness...Feeling thus the importance of a religious life, let them next be persuaded that its attainment is entirely in their power. It is but to use the faculties which God has given them, in the work and with the aid which God has appointed...It were as reasonable to urge that a child cannot love and obey its father and mother, as that a man cannot love and obey God.
We can do it, Ware can help. Blessings

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Arduous and Delightful

It may sometimes seem that the earnestness and the pervasiveness of the religious life as described by Henry Ware thus far (see all posts labeled Ware Jr) sounds unreasonable or even dreary. This is deeply unfortunate because, in reality, Ware is in love with his God (so to speak) and wants his reader to be so as well. It is not a short or easy path, but the rewards of even walking it are great. Ware concludes Chapter One thus:
"It is plain, then, that the work to which you address yourself is arduous as well as delightful. It is not to be done in a short time, nor by a few indolent or violent efforts...but only by a surrender of the whole man and the entire life to the will of God, in faith, affection, and action: by a thorough imitation of Jesus in the devout and humble temper of his mind, in the spirtuality of his affections and in the purity and loveliness of his conduct...Be on your guard, therefore, from the first, against setting your mark too low. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded that anything less is Religion, or will answer for you, than its complete and highest measure...Remember always, that you are capable of being more devout, more charitable, more humble, more devoted and earnest in doing good, better acquainted with religious truth...Happy they who are so filled with longings after spiritual good, that they go on improving to the end of their days."
The great Zen teacher Dogen said that when we sit in meditation, for that moment we are already enlightened. For Ware, and many of the Boston Unitarians, the moment by moment practice of doing the next right thing (no matter how small) and doing it intentionally, is living a religious life. It may not be, in itself, poetic or dramatic, but it is a higher and nobler life, and it is available to everyone. Blessings