Friday, April 24, 2009

a living embodied religion

Yesterday we had Bartol's take on what it means to "put on Christ" and it reminded me of a discourse by William Ellery Channing called "The Imitableness of Christ's Character." Jesus is too often admired, says WEC, and not often enough imitated. Of course many in Channing's day felt the same about fact Jesus sounds, in this discourse, much like Channing himself which, I suppose, is the point.
Some excerpts:
"The Imitableness of Christ's Character"
The example of Jesus is our topic. To incite you to follow it is the aim of this discourse...He came not only to teach with his lips, but to be a living manifestation of his religion,-to be in an important sense, the religion itself.
This is a peculiarity worthy of attention. Christianity is not a mere code of laws, not an abstract system, such as theologians frame. It is a living, embodied religion. It comes to us in a human form...It breathes, it moves in our sight. It is more than precept: it is example and action...
The importance of example, who does not understand?...I hardly need say to you that it is impossible to place ourselves under any quickening as the example of Jesus. This introduces us to the highest order of virtues. This is fitted to awaken the whole mind...
Multitudes-I am afraid great multitudes-think of Jesus as a being to be admired rather than approached...Men think, indeed, to honor Jesus when they place him so high as to discourage all effort to approach him. They really degrade him...This vague admiration is the poorest tribute which they can pay him...
Genuine greatness is marked by simplicity, unostentatiousness, self-forgetfulness, a hearty interest in others, a feeling of brotherhood with the human family, and a respect for every intellectual and immortal being as capable of progress towards its own elevation.
The mind of Jesus Christ, my hearer, and your mind are of one family...He always invited men to believe on and adhere to him, that they might receive that very spirit, that pure, celestial spirit, by which he was himself actuated...
We were made to grow. Our faculties are germs,and given for an expansion...Jesus respected human nature; he felt, as no other felt, a union of mind with the human race, felt that all had a spark of that same intellectual and immortal flame which dwelt in himself.
My friends, we may all approach Jesus Christ. For all of us he died to leave us an example that we should follow his steps. By earnest purpose, by self-conflict, by watching and prayer, by faith in the Christian promises...we may all unite ourselves in living bonds to Christ."

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