Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Martyr's Spirit: Thoughts on Ministry

Channing's famous "Unitarian Christianity" address was, of course, delivered at the "Ordination of the Rev. Jared Sparks" in 1819. What a moment that must have been...In the bulk of the discourse, Channing seeks to delineate the Unitarian view on the Bible, God, Jesus, and morality. His concluding statements express the reason and motive for spreading the Unitarian message, and gives Rev. Sparks (and all since who answer this lofty call) a high charge. Some excerpts:

"I have thus given the distinguishing views of those Christians in whose names I have spoken. We have embraced this system not hastily or lightly, but after much deliberation: and we hold it fast not merely because we believe it to be true, but because we regard it as purifying truth...That we wish to spread it, we have no desire to conceal; but we think that we wish its diffusion because we regard it as more friendly to practical piety and pure morals than the opposite doctrines, because it gives clearer and nobler views of duty, and stronger motives to its performance, because it recommends religion at once to the understanding and the heart, because it asserts the lovely and venerable attributes of God, because it tends to restore the benevolent spirit of Jesus to his divided and afflicted church, and because it cuts off every hope of God's favor except that which springs from practical conformity to the life and precepts of Christ. We see nothing in our views to give offence save their purity, and it is their purity which makes us seek and hope their extension through the world."

And then to brother Sparks:

"My friend and brother,-you are this day to take upon you important duties; to be clothed with an office which the Son of God did not disdain; to devote yourself to that religion which the most hallowed lips have preached, and the most precious blood sealed. We trust that you will bring to this work a willing mind, a firm purpose, a martyr's spirit, a readiness to toil and suffer for the truth, a devotion of your best powers to the interests of piety and virtue...My brother, may your life preach more loudly than your lips! Be to this people a pattern of all good works..."


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