Tuesday, June 30, 2009

derangement of the animal economy...

One of the greatest virtues or ideals of life promoted by the Boston Unitarians was balance or quiet moderation. They saw balance as a dominant quality of Jesus and they sought it in their own lives. Having taken us through the guarding of our thoughts and our tempers in the last couple of posts, Henry Ware now gets to the appetites.

"The Religious Discipline of Life" cont...

"...when the Saviour pronounced his benediction on the pure, peaceful, humble-minded, and meek, he taught, not only the great requisite of his spiritual kingdom, but the great secret of human felicity.

When the frame of your mind is thus a constant care, you will find little difficulty in the control of the Appetites. These things are connected together; and, an ascendancy over the former being secured, the subjection of the latter easily follows. But take good heed that it does follow. Do not be thoughtless about it, because you fancy that it will of course accompany a regulated mind. Otherwise it is here that corruption may begin. The enemy will enter at any place, however improbable, which shall be left unguarded. And it only needs that the body become disordered through the immoderate indulgence of the appetites, to raise a rebellion throughout the whole moral system; or, to speak more plainly, this indulgence will create cloudiness of mind, indisposition to thought, activity, and duty, irritability of temper, sluggishness of devotional feeling, and at length a general spiritual lethargy. There can be little doubt, that much of our dullness of apprehension and deadness of feeling on spiritual topics, as well as our strange sensibility to minor trials, is owing to a derangement of the animal economy, which is again owing to want of moderation in gratifying our animal desires...

...' let your moderation be known unto all men.' For temperance is not only the observance of an express injunction, but is essential to that quietness and self-control which should mark the religious character."

Monday, June 29, 2009

the little crosses...

We left Henry Ware Jr. guarding our thoughts. Today he continues on the Temper and Feelings. I must confess that the "little crosses and petty disappointments" are often a trial for me and Ware's view of what constitutes a Christian Character seems far in the hazy distance. But now and again...

From: "The Religious Discipline of Life" cont.

"If the thoughts, which may be expressed in words, are to be thus guarded, the Temper and Feelings, which are often so indefinable in language, require a no less anxious guardianship. In the perplexities and trials of daily life, in the conflict with the various tempers and frequently perverse dispositions of those around us, in the little crosses, the petty disappointments, the trifling ills which are our perpetual lot, we are exposed to lose that calm equanimity of mind which the Christian should habitually possess. We are liable to be ruffled and irritated, and to feel and display another spirit than that gentleness which ' bears all things and is not easily provoked.' The selfishness of some, the obstinacy of other?, the pride of our neighbor, the heedlessness of our children, and the unfaithfulness of our dependents, tire our patience, and disturb our self-possession; while bodily infirmity and disordered nerves magnify insignificant inconveniences into serious evils, and irritate to peevishness and discontent the temper which duty calls to cheerfulness and submission. Some are blessed with a native quietness of temperament which hardly feels these hourly vexations. But of some they form the great trial, and peculiar cross; they can bear any thing better. And to all persons they constitute an exposure full of hazard, and demanding cautious vigilance. The very spirit and essential traits of the Christian character require watchfulness against them, and imply conquest over them. The humility, meekness, forbearance, gentleness, and love of peace ; the long- suffering, the patience, the serenity, which form so lovely a combination, which portray a character that no one can fail to admire and love ;—these are to be maintained only by much and persevering watchfulness.

Without this, the most equable disposition by nature may become irritable and unhappy. With it, under the authority and guidance of Christian faith, the most unfortunate natural temper is subdued to the gentleness of the lamb. Without it, the internal condition of man is restless, rebellious, full of wretchedness, having no peace in itself, and enjoying nothing around. With it, the aspect of the world becomes changed ; every thing is bearable, if not pleasant; the sweet light which beams within, shines on all without, making pleasant the aspect of all men, and smoothing the roughnesses of all affairs."

May your rough places be made smooth. Blessings

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Alphabet of the nations...

I just picked up Wendy Doniger's "The Hindus: An Alternative History." Huge, controversial, and, so far, showing an excellent sense of humor, the book purports to illuminate how the Hindu religion has changed and, especially, how it was influenced, practiced, and felt by groups usually not included in the history books.
The Boston Unitarians, of course, were among the first Americans to take seriously the scriptures of other traditions. Much has been written about Thoreau's attractions to the "Laws of Manu" and other early translations. The Dial magazine, the house organ of transcendentalism, for a time had a regular section for "oriental" scripture. Though they often were textbook examples of what Edward Said called "Orientalism," their promotion and engagement with the texts was sincere...

This from Moncure Conway (pictured) on Emerson on Scripture:

"Emerson was among the earliest students of Oriental scriptures, from which some of the finest passages were inserted in the " Dial." In the paper which we have been mainly reading, " Thoughts on Literature," he writes: " The Bible is the most original book in the world. This old collection of the ejaculations of love and dread, of the supreme desires and contritions of men, proceeding out of the region of the grand and eternal, by whatsoever different mouths spoken, and through a wide extent of times and countries, seems, especially if you add to our canon the kindred sacred writings of the Hindoos, Persians, and Greeks, the alphabet of the nations."


Friday, June 26, 2009

polluting the chambers of the soul...

I am very curious as to how those who happen to read the excerpts on this blog approach them. Is it largely an historical or academic exercise? Do you find the Boston Unitarians moralistic? Or does an occasional statement drive you to contemplation?
Today, Henry Ware Jr. tells us to mind our thoughts...

"You perceive, then, how the Christian life must consist in watchfulness and self-discipline ; how it must be your great business to keep a faithful guard over yourself, that, both in mind and conduct, nothing may exist contrary to the spirit and precepts of Jesus Christ.

First of all, this guard is to be placed upon the Mind. It is an intellectual, internal, spiritual discipline; the oversight and management of the thoughts and affections...

Is it not the mind which gives its moral complexion to the conduct? Is it not certain, that the same conduct which we applaud as indicating an upright character, we should disapprove and condemn, on discovering that it proceeded from base and improper motives?...

This implies several things. First, a careful guard over the Thoughts. It is in the heedless disregard of the thoughts that corruption often takes its rise. They are suffered to wander without restraint, to attach themselves without check to any objects which attract the senses, or are suggested in conversation, and to rove uncontrolled from one end of the world to another. How many hours are thus wasted in unprofitable musing, which leaves no impression behind! How much of life is made an absolute blank! Worse still, how often do sinful fancies, sensual images, unlawful desires, take advantage of this negligence to insinuate themselves into the mind, and make to themselves a home there, polluting the chambers of the soul, and rendering purity unwelcome! This is the beginning of evil with many a one, who, from this want of vigilance over the course of his thoughts, has surrendered himself to frivolity and sensuality, without being aware that he was in peril. Thoughtlessness, mere thoughtlessness, has left the door open to sin, and the same thoughtlessness prevents the detection of the intruder...

Let your morning and evening prayer be, that you may live thoughtfully. And when, in the business of the day, your hands are occupied, but your mind free to think, keep yourself attentive to your thoughts. Inquire frequently how they are engaged. Direct them to useful and innocent subjects. Think over the books you have been reading; rehearse to yourself the knowledge you have gained; call up the sermons you have heard ; repeat the passages of scripture you know. By methods like these, take care that even your empty hours minister to your improvement. Paley has truly observed, that every man has some favorite subject, to which his mind spontaneously turns at every interval of leisure; and that with the devout man the subject is God. Hence the watching over your thoughts furnishes you with a ready test of your religious condition; it exposes to you the firs) and faintest symptoms of religions decline, and enables you to apply an immediate remedy."


Thursday, June 25, 2009

buckle up!

I am a peace man-a near pacifist. I must admit, however, that I have always liked the armor of God image. Henry Ware Jr. uses it today in relation to living regular daily life. The "Formation of the Christian Character" continued:

V. The Religious Discipline of Life

Thus it is plain, that your chief business, as well as your great trial, in forming a Christian character, lies in the ordinary tenor of life. The World is the theatre on which you are to prove yourself a Christian. It is in the occurrences of every day, in the relations of every hour, in your affairs, in your family, in your conversation with those around you, in your treatment of them, and your reception of their treatment;—it is in these that you are to cultivate and perfect the character of a child of God. It is in these that your passions are exercised, and your government of them proved; in these that your command over that unruly member, the tongue, is made known ; in these that temptations to wrong doing and evil speaking beset you, and that you are to apply your religious principle in resisting them. In these it is, consequently, that you discover whether your principle is real and genuine, or whether it lies only in feeling and in words. In the quiet of your chamber, in the devout solitude of your closet, when the world is shut out, and your solemnized spirit feels itself alone with God, you may be so exalted by communion with Heaven, and by meditation on heavenly truth, that all things earthly shall seem worthless and paltry, and every desire be set upon things above. How often, at such times, does it appear as if the world had no longer any charms, as if its pleasures and pomp could never again entice or delight us! Our souls are above them. We have no more relish for them than have the angels. And if this were all which is required of us, if nothing opposed to this delightful frame of mind were ever to cross our path, the Christian prize would be already won. But, alas! jn the closet, and in the third heaven of contemplation, we can live but a small portion of the time. We must come down from the mount. We must enter the crowd and distractions of common life. We must engage in common and secular affairs. And there, how much do we encounter that is opposed to the calm and serene spirit of our contemplative hours! how much to irritate and disturb our quiet self-possession! how much to drive from our thoughts the subjects on which we have been musing! how much to revive the relish for transient pleasures and worldly enjoyments, and a love for the things which minister gratification to pride and to the senses! In the midst of these things, dangerous, enticing, seductive, you are to live and walk unchanged, unseduced, unde- fiied; your heart true to its Master, your spirit firm in its allegiance to God, and your soul as truly devout and humble as when worshipping at the altar. Is this easy ? I will not ask ; but is it not your great, your paramount, trial? Is it not here, that the very battle of your soul's salvation is to be fought ? Is not this, as I said, the very field of actual and decisive war, the very seat of the fearful and final campaign ? And the prayers and studies, and observances of your more special devotion, are they not the buckling on of the armor, and the refreshing and preparing of the soul for its real combat ?

Buckle up! and Blessings

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

be always watchful...

I always feel vaguely (and sometimes not so vaguely) unworthy reading and posting the Boston Unitarians and never more so than when Henry Ware Jr. is the subject. His "Formation of the Christian Character" is a foundational book for me and today I continue the process of excerpting it (for all posts Ware see here.)
Ware has taken us thus far through what we are to seek, and the means by which we are to seek it. Today in Chap. 5, "The Religious Discipline of Life" the rubber hits the road:



Next to the means to be employed in the promotion of personal religion, we must attend to the oversight and direction of the character in general. The means of which we have taken notice, consist of a series of special and stated exercises, whose object is to prepare us for the right conduct of actual life; and they may be compared to the daily drill of the soldier, by which he is made ready for the field. Watchfulness and self- discipline belong to all times and occasions, and may be compared to the actual use which the soldier makes of his preparation in the camp and the field...

Why you are to be always watchful over yourself, is easily perceived. In this world of sensible objects and temporal pursuits, you are constantly exposed to have your thoughts absorbed by surrounding things, and withdrawn from the spiritual objects to which they should be primarily attached. You are incited to forget them, to slight them, to counteract them. The engagements, the anxiety, hurry, and pleasures of life, thrust them from your thoughts; and desires, propensities, passions, are excited quite inconsistent with the calm and heavenward affections of Christ. All these tendencies in your situation are to be resisted...

Now, while your mind is warm with its early interest in divine things,—now, while they press upon you in all their freshness,—now, take heed that you do not concentrate that interest, and use all its strength, in the luxury of devout musing or the excitements of study and devotion ; but carry it into your whole life; let it be always present to you in all you do, in all you say; let it form your habitual state of feeling, your customary frame of mind and temper. Make it your constant study that nothing shall be inconsistent with it, but every thing partake of its power. This is the watchfulness in which you must live. This is the purpose for which you must exercise over yourself an unremitting and ever-wakeful discipline; seeing to it, like some magistrate over a city, or some commander over an army, that all your thoughts, dispositions, words and actions be subject to the law of God, and the principles of the Christian faith."

Easiest thing in the world...Blessings

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

count thy actions...

The Unitarian Miscellany and Christian Moniter was an early propounder of Unitarianism and was edited by FWP Greenwood among others. One of its goals was to:

"...endeavour, in every number of the Miscellany, to introduce one or more essays, entirely free from controversy, which shall have for their sole purpose the excitement and exercise of the pious affections, and the inculcation of the pure and holy morality of the Gospel. And it is our earnest prayer to God, that they may be productive of good"

I found this poem, a fine exposition of the Boston Unitarian position, in v. 4 from 1823:

"Rules for long Life

The following energetic lines are by Thomas Randolph, a poet who wrote with considerable reputation near the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Take thou no care how to defer thy death,
And give more respite to this mortal breath.
"Would'st thou live long? the only means are these,
'Bove Galen's diet, or Hippocrates'.
Strive to live well; tread in the upright ways;
And rather count thy actions than thy days.
Then thou hast lived enough amongst us here,
For every day well spent I count a year.
Live well; and then, how soon soe'er thou die.,
Thou art of age to claim eternity.
But he that outlives Nestor, and appears
T'have past the date of grave Methuselah's years,
If he his life to sloth and sin doth give,
I say he only was, he did not live."


Monday, June 22, 2009

Caroline Healey Dall

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Caroline Dall (see full biography at the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography here) An advocate for women's rights, writer, Sunday School Superintendent for James Freeman Clark's Church of the Disciples, Dall was a fascinating figure among the Boston Unitarians. Here is an advertisment with contemporary reviews of her, "Women's Right to Work." (Click here to see full size and readable)

Happy Birthday and Blessings

Sunday, June 21, 2009

the day indeed be blest...

This morning marks the end of another regular program year at our church (During the summer we hold bi-weekly lay led services.) May the peace and rest of the sabbath be with us and with everyone. This hymn from the 1865 edition of the "Hymns of the Spirit":

"The Day of Prayer and Rest

Earth's busy sounds and ceaseless din
Wake not this morning air!
A holy calm should welcome in
This solemn hour of prayer.

Now peace, be still, unhallowed care,
and hushed within the breast!
A holy joy shall welcome there
This happy day of rest

Each better thought the spirit knows,
This hour, the spirit fill!
And thou, from whom its being flows,
O, teach it all Thy will!

Then shall the day indeed be blest,
And send its hallowing power,
Its sacred calm and inward rest,
Through many a busy hour."


Saturday, June 20, 2009

let the morning be...

The virtue of a day fully lived is the theme of Ralph Waldo's "Works and Days" from the later collection, "Society and Solitude". Some glosses:

"He only is rich who owns the day...

One of the illusions is that the present hour is not the critical, decisive hour. Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. No man has learned anything rightly until he knows that every day is Doomsday. 'T is the old secret of the gods that they come in low disguises...

The use of history is to give value to the present hour and its duty. ..

Another illusion is that there is not time enough for our work....A poor Indian chief of the Six Nations of New York made a wiser reply than any philosopher, to some one complaining that he had not enough time. “Well,” said Red Jacket, “I suppose you have all there is.”...

He only can enrich me who can recommend to me the space between sun and sun. 'Tis the measure of a man, — his apprehension of a day...

You must treat the days respectfully, you must be a day yourself, and not interrogate it like a college professor. The world is enigmatical, — everything said, and everything known or done, — and must not be taken literally, but genially. We must be at the top of our condition to understand anything rightly. You must hear the bird's song without attempting to render it into nouns and verbs. Cannot we be a little abstemious and obedient? Cannot we let the morning be?...

In stripping time of its illusions, in seeking to find what is the heart of the day, we come to the quality of the moment, and drop the duration altogether. It is the depth at which we live and not at all the surface extension that imports..."

Have a good day and


Thursday, June 18, 2009

a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

I have, for various reasons, had several conversations lately all in some way related to neighborhood, or home. Growing up in very small towns in South Dakota, my entire life (for better and for worse-though mainly for the better) was neighborhood. This morning I was reading Emerson's "Considerations by the Way" from "Conduct of Life."
One of his most accessible essays, it is full of wisdom and, unfortunately, some of his more negative provincialism. As usual, I focused on the former, including this on living in neighborhoods...

"It makes no difference, in looking back five years, how you have been dieted or dressed; whether you have been lodged on the first floor or the attic; whether you have had gardens and baths, good cattle and horses, have been carried in a neat equipage, or in a ridiculous truck: these things are forgotten so quickly, and leave no effect. But it counts much whether we have had good companions, in that time; -- almost as much as what we have been doing. And see the overpowering importance of neighborhood in all association. As it is marriage, fit or unfit, that makes our home, so it is who lives near us of equal social degree, -- a few people at convenient distance, no matter how bad company, -- these, and these only, shall be your life's companions: and all those who are native, congenial, and by many an oath of the heart, sacramented to you, are gradually and totally lost. You cannot deal systematically with this fine element of society, and one may take a good deal of pains to bring people together, and to organize clubs and debating societies, and yet no result come of it. But it is certain that there is a great deal of good in us that does not know itself, and that a habit of union and competition brings people up and keeps them up to their highest point; that life would be twice or ten times life, if spent with wise and fruitful companions...

The secret of culture is to learn, that a few great points steadily reappear, alike in the poverty of the obscurest farm, and in the miscellany of metropolitan life, and that these few are alone to be regarded, -- the escape from all false ties; courage to be what we are; and love of what is simple and beautiful; independence, and cheerful relation, these are the essentials, -- these, and the wish to serve, -- to add somewhat to the well-being of men."


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

same enjoyment of celestial realities...

Ezra Stiles Gannett was the great promoter and defender of "traditional Unitarianism" and, thus, was opposed to the general drift of transcendentalism. Regular readers of this blog know that I love the traditionalists AND the transcendentalists, and today's words from ESG are part of the reason why. This from his sermon, "The Soul's Salvation Through Faith in Christ"

"For us, my friends, it is sufficient to know Christ as the channel and manifestation of a Divine influence, by which the believer is so instructed, animated, enriched, and fortified, that he becomes conscious of a new experience working in him to disclose unknown capacities of life, and through this inward change spreading a new aspect over life as it lies around him...

Holiness, — it once was a more common word in Christian discourse and Christian conversation than now. Holy men and women, — why, we regard them with somewhat the same distant admiration with which we look back on the saints or martyrs of other times. Here and there we see one — a godly man, a saintly woman — standing in society like spiritual eminences that rise above the clouds of our familiar experience and enjoy the clear sunshine of God's presence. But why, tell me, I pray you, explain to yourselves, if you can, my friends, why every one of us should not aspire to the same enjoyment of celestial realities. " Be ye holy even as your Father in heaven is holy," said Jesus to the same persons to whom he delivered his instruction respecting the forgiveness of injuries and the distribution of alms. Away with the notion, which multitudes cherish, that only a few are called to be saints! Lend no countenance to this half-gospel. Every one, every one, should be a partaker of that life through which man has his fellowship with the Eternal Father and the sinless Son.

My friends, hear the words of Christ, " Whosoever — whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a fountain springing up into everlasting life." Has your experience been a confirmation of those words ? Have you ever thought that the " whoso ever " includes you ? Have you still unsatisfied wants, a restless heart, an impatient will? Do you know what distress or discontent is of which you say nothing because you but half understand it, that thirst of the soul which can be slaked only in the water of Christian salvation, that longing after peace, that dim outline of satisfaction which mocks the feeling of which it is the shadow, — do you know this ? Then take into your innermost being the influences of which Christ is the symbol and the source, —drink, drink freely, abundantly, continually, of the water that He shall give you, and you will find the relief, the rest, the satisfaction which you want."
Emerson said much the same thing when he asked "Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?" Somewhere else in Emerson is this wonderful line. "What can we excel in, if not in holiness? Many blessings

Sunday, June 14, 2009

the noblest work...

We will honor our Lifespan Religious Education Committee today in church. William Ellery Channing said of Sunday School teachers, "The noblest work on earth is to act with an elevating power on a human spirit."
Thank you religious educators, fellow DRE's, all teachers and parents. It is indeed the noblest work.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

clicking along the sidewalks...

The first time I ever stepped foot in a Unitarian Church was about eight years ago. I was a full-time stay at home father for then two very young children and a retired couple with a granddaughter the same age as my oldest became good friends. In the course of one of our weekly talks, with children running about, they mentioned that they were Unitarians and I allowed as to how I (though an Episcopalian at the time) had, for some time studied Unitarian history and found many of the founding generation of American Unitarians to be my spiritual teachers.

The couple invited me to give three lay talks at their church. At one of those talks, I happened to see a small shelf of six or eight fairly nondescript books and one old book. I have written before of my love for old books, so I gave it a look. It was "Ezra Stiles Gannett: Unitarian Minister in Boston" I borrowed and read it and have since found my own copy. Written by his son, I was struck with the honesty of the book and the person that emerged from its pages.

Many things about ESG resonated with me but I think the most profound was his life-long, often near paralyzing struggle with self-distrust and feelings of inadequacy. And yet, he did the work...

In early middle age, ESG suffered a stroke that necessitated the use of two small hand crutches which became his constant companions from then on. His son puts it thus, "They (the canes) became a part of him, the signal to eye and ear, by which everyone knew 'Dr. Gannett' in Boston streets. When in a hurry for the cars, and he always was,-his quick-leaps between them, as he fled clicking along the sidewalks, used to make the boys turn and shout; a tribute that he never seemed to notice..." (the illustration above is a wood-cut illustration from the book)

And yet he did the work...


Friday, June 12, 2009

the root and the branch...

A powerful post from Peacebang yesterday. As a longtime teacher and a onetime worker in politics, I long looked to education and government as the cure for our ills and, of course compassionate government and enlightened education can and have done much. But, ultimately, for me it comes down to acceptance of our limitations and, most importantly, faith. To quote Peacebang, "Reverence, mystery, humility, service and love are the antidote."
One more from Ezra Stiles Gannett-this from sermons delineating what Unitarians believe (its not a new exercise...)


We are told that we care very little about faith. " Unitarians," it is said, " talk about goodness; hope to be saved by their own good works, their own good temper;" or, when the charge is more mildly brought, it is said we exaggerate the importance of righteousness, and therefore underrate the necessity of faith. With all modesty, and yet with all firmness, such as belongs to the subject, would I deny this allegation. I say we do not undervalue faith, but we hold it to be essential to a religious experience and to a happy life. Now there are two kinds of faith, and we believe in the necessity of both kinds.

There is a faith of the mind, an intellectual faith; which receives certain truths, and endeavors to extract from them their meaning, lays up that meaning among the stores of mental learning, and there leaves it. Now, that kind of faith, though it be called barren, is yet needful, for there can be no other faith without it. That is the root. If you plant a root in the ground, and cover it up, and prevent its springing up and spreading out and bringing forth fruit, you may say it is of no use; but the root must be in the ground, or there will be no tree, no foliage, and no fruit. So ideas must be lodged in the mind, — religious ideas, — and they are the roots of character. But we are sometimes reminded that religious sentiment lies at the basis of religious life. It does sometimes; but it is not a safe reliance, friends. In the common course of events, religious sentiment may carry one forward toward perfection; but in the strain and stress of life, and when doubts come up and questions arise on this side and on that, we must have thought, and thought must grasp ideas, and those ideas must be religious ideas, and religious ideas make up one kind of faith.

But there is another kind of faith. To return again to our comparison: the root must appear before the branch, and must bring forth whatever is its characteristic product; and so faith must bring forth its own kind of excellence. Christian faith must produce Christian graces. The faith of the Gospel being planted in the soul must then quicken all the energies of the soul and cause them to expand; that is, to ripen, and to yield the fruits of salvation and life. If the faith of the mind does not thus become the faith of the heart, the intelligence, the will, it may be called, as it was by the Apostle, a " dead " faith. Sensible men will say it is an absurdity. We must invest our religious ideas in character, in life, and then they will not only be safe, but they will be profitable.
We believe, then, in the importance of faith, and we show you its twofold nature. We stand where Paul stood, when he said that " a man is justified by faith," — that is, made acceptable before God, and led by the Divine goodness toward righteousness, in consequence of his belief in, and use of, the great Christian ideas; and we stand where James stood, when he said that the mere mental reception of such ideas was insufficient, and that we must show their reality and their power in good works."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

the spiritual nature unfolded and excercised...

I want to put in a good word for Religion today. Religion has a bad reputation in the liberal neighborhood-have you ever heard (or said) "I am spiritual but not religious?" Ezra Stiles Gannett tells us why its difficult to have one without the other in these opening words of a sermon from 1828:


Rom. viii. 6: "To be spiritually minded is life."

Man is connected with two states of existence, is an inhabitant of two worlds, one material and visible, the other spiritual and eternal. Bv his senses he communicates with that which is seen and present, with the objects and circumstances of earth, in affected by them, lives in them. By his mind he holds intercourse with that which is unseen yet present, with the beings and hopes of heaven, is influenced by them, lives among them, Man, therefore, is a partaker of a double life,—the one the life, of sense, the other the life of faith, — the one outward, the other interior. For this twofold existence he was designed by his Creator. It is his natural being. The foundation of religion, I repeat because it is often denied, the foundation of religion is laid in man's nature by the hand of his Creator in his religious capacities and affections, which as truly belong to his nature as do his intellectual faculties and social affections; and, if the consciousness of these latter indicates that man is designed for an intellectual or social life, the consciousness of the former indicates that he is designed for a religious or spiritual life. The poverty of language, however, obliges us when speaking of the soul to employ terms originally appropriated to the body. Thus we discourse on the spiritual vision, the inward ear, the moral taste.

It is the office of Religion to excite and cultivate these interior senses. Religion opens and purges the eye of the soul, enables it to hear spiritual truths, and causes them to be felt. Its chosen province is the soul. Its kingdom is within us, its rule is spiritual, its subject is what the apostle Peter styles the hidden man of the heart. Wonder not that man often seems to be, and is, unconscious of the elements that lie in his soul as the life of the plant in the seed, which, apparently destitute of a vital principle, needs only heat and moisture to stimulate it into action. The vital principle of religion must be excited by causes that are without it, that yet combine themselves with it. The spiritual nature must be unfolded and exercised upon suitable objects of thought, affection, desire, hope. These it does not find in human society, nor among sensible things. They are revealed and embraced through faith. By this, man is introduced to a new society, and to the knowledge of higher relations than those of time. As he becomes more conversant with the beings and hopes of a spiritual world, their relative importance grows in his estimation. His affections fasten themselves with strength on worthy objects. He perceives that he stands in the midst of infinite relations. There is a light within him brighter than the rays of the sun, and in this light he beholds spiritual and everlasting things."


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

heart opened in its confidence...

Some years ago, while serving on the vestry of a small Episcopal Church, a man whom I had seen often but rarely heard speak (he was a retired doctor and I had always seen him as somewhat aloof) mentioned in a meeting about worship that he went for the mystery. It was all he said but it had a big impact on me. Now, years later and a Unitarian, I must confess that I sometimes miss the focus on the mystery in the larger denomination. In our exalting of reason and rationality, it is too easy to forget the wonder of what we do not know. Ezra Stiles Gannett speaks of this in his sermon (from 1857) appropriately called, "The Mysteries." Some excerpts:

"1 Tim. iii: 9: " Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience."

Our life is embosomed in mystery, the universe is wrapped in a garment of mystery. The unknown infinitely exceeds the known; the incomprehensible outweighs beyond all comparison the intelligible. To some persons this is an unpleasant fact. Yet, properly regarded, it would give them great comfort. Religion conducts us to the borders of mystery. Whatever direction we pursue in our religious inquiries, we are soon brought to a pause by limits which we cannot pass. With some persons this is a special occasion of surprise, disappointment, and complaint, while it should, on the contrary, strengthen their faith and enliven their gratitude...

...there are profound and solemn mysteries to which we are guided by faith ; and our persuasion of the existence of these hidden realities is one of the most comforting and strengthening elements in the soul's experience. Everywhere, as we have said, we encounter mystery. Why? Because everywhere we meet the thoughts of an Infinite Mind expressing themselves in the forms which He has seen fit to adopt. Now the thoughts of an Infinite Mind are not such thoughts as our minds can entertain. As no mirror which man could make would reflect an image of the sun that should correspond in its dimensions to the sun's magnitude, so no conception of ours can represent the Divine Intelligence...

Religion, then, has its revealed truths and its hidden truths. In the former we are interested as rules of life ; how, it may be asked, can the latter become sources of benefit? By the assurance they give us of God. By the assurance they give us of God. The unknown belongs to Him whom no eye hath seen...

This difference between known truths and truths unknown, or between faith and mystery, is one of great practical importance. If properly considered, it would prevent a large amount of presumption, bigotry, and unbelief,—the bigotry and presumption of some persons driving others into the opposite extreme of unbelief. Truths which God has brought to light through the gospel, we may press upon the reception of men, by all the arguments which reverence and gratitude towards God, or love and hope for man, can prompt us to use ; but our solution of the mysteries which He has kept within His own knowledge, or has disclosed only to beings in a higher condition than ours, should be proposed with a modest distrust, as possibly or, at most, probably true, and only, therefore, worthy of attention. Let this rule be observed, and three-fourths of the controversies which have tormented the Christian Church would disappear...

There are mysteries in religion, and I am glad that there are ; for by them is my heart opened in its confidence towards God. In him is mystery that no created mind can comprehend; and therefore may the universe of created minds trust while they adore. There are mysteries of which the gospel is an intimation, and for them I am thankful; for by them I am established in my conviction that it came from the Being whose ways are past my finding out. There is that in Christ which I cannot understand. I dare not attempt to explain all I read in the New Testament, as if it were a child's elementary reading-book... what is above and beyond my reason, I expect to find there, and I will gratefully receive it. There are mysteries in my. life, — God be thanked that they are many; for so does He multiply the proofs of my dependence on Him, and the testimonies of His interest in me. There are mysteries in my spiritual experience. If there were not, how poor would that experience be,—poorer than my social or my bodily condition ! He who is impatient whenever he encounters the unintelligible must be continually offended with himself. He who would live without mystery must live without faith, without religion, without God."

Amen and blessings

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

a grand spectacle...

Ezra Stiles Gannett was an excellent evangelist for the new AUA and an early officer. It was said by a contemporary that if they had had 50 Gannetts Unitarianism would have swept the country. At the same time, he was often nearly crippled with insecurity about his gifts (replacing William Ellery Channing will do that to a preacher...)
In this sermon, Gannett presents a very central, and very positive, view of what Unitarianism is about-life.

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John x:x

The doctrine of " Life," though it has not received from Christian men the attention to which from its place in the Gospel it is entitled, is really the heart of the Gospel, the innermost of what may justly be styled the doctrines of grace. " I am come," said Jesus, " that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." How could he have described the design of his mission in plainer words? Abundance of life, — growth, force, satisfaction, — all that enters into our idea of a vigorous vitality,—this is the ultimate purpose of the Divine economy in Christ.

What a grand spectacle is a true life, — severe in its rectitude, sublime in its purpose, beneficent in its action; a life devoted to God, though spent among men; a life sincere and therefore fresh, laborious and therefore useful, above low aims and mean arts; wise in its faith, generous in its ardor, sweet in its spirit, devout in its aspiration! How do the honors and praises and pleasures of the world fade into dimness before the splendor of a righteousness like this! What a depth of Divine philosophy was there in that saying, commonplace as it may seem to us who have heard it read from our childhood, " A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth "!...

Now I say that the truth which distinguishes our religious body is that of which our text is the concise yet sufficient expression ; which other portions of the Church, indeed, have not always failed to recognize as a part of the gospel, — how could they, when it was so plain ? — but which they have treated with comparative neglect. It is our office to rescue it from such neglect. I claim for it priority and sovereignty...

Our whole life, outward and inward, may be " hidden with Christ in God," because it shall all — all, from meanest toil to holiest prayer — be that living sacrifice, of which Christ is both the author and the type...

Oh for the men who shall preach " Christ the life of the world," with a zeal ready to cry out, Woe is me, if I preach not the living gospel! O God! raise thou up another Wesley, another Luther, another Paul, with the gospel of life in their hearts and on their tongues, to send it through the land, across the sea, around the earth! O Christ! inspire thou another John with thine own temper, that his words, like those of thine apostle, may be full of persuasion, declaring that " God so loved us, that He sent His only begotten Sou into the world, that we might live through him."

"That we might live through him." Bear these words in your remembrance, believer, wherever you go: they shall be your defence and your solace. Repeat them in the ears of your fellow-men: the weary heart of society will listen and rejoice. Pronounce them where sin gathers its votaries, and the dead shall start into life. Inscribe them on the tomb, and our burial- places shall be known as the gateways of immortality."


Sunday, June 7, 2009

most common details of life...

One of my favorite books is "Ezra Stiles Gannett: A Unitarian Minister in Boston" written by his son, the Unitarian minister William C. Gannett. I discovered it in the very early days of my exposure to Unitarianism and was struck by the character and qualities of this man (see the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography for more...) This from his sermon:


Luke xvi. 10: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much."

One of the most remarkable peculiarities of our religion is its connection of the sublimest truths with the most common details of life. The revelation of the Christian faith, how grand ! the duties of the Christian life, how simple...

In the life of Jesus, that best commentary upon his religion, we find the same union of great principles with the incidents of daily life. It is the character of Jesus that gives grandeur to the situations in which he is placed, not the situations that make the character appear extraordinary. He never sought to draw attention to himself by an unusual manner of life; he affected no dignity, studied no arts of impression, and in his outward relations exhibited no desire to be unlike the men among whom he lived...

These domestic affairs, this worldly business, must not be neglected, but they must be Christianized, spiritualized, beatified. Christianity is a religion for the earth and the world, for home and society, a religion which the statesman, the merchant, and the day-laborer, the rich man, the poor man, the sick man, the mother, the girl, the child, must all feel in its continually restraining, moulding, and quickening influence, as they fulfil the engagements of their several positions...How? By bringing great principles into connection with little matters...

The idea of duty our religion binds in with all our mental and physical experience. For, in revealing the moral character of our present life, the responsibleness under which we are placed in the midst of the circumstances that surround us, the obligation to make every thing subservient to the growth and perfection of character, it compels the true disciple, the man who believes with a steady faith, to recognize a law that touches on every relation and act of his being. He can do nothing so small that it has not a moral value...

We may now perceive both the justice and the extent of the law of which our text is the expression, " He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much ; " a law inseparable from the rectitude of the Divine Providence, and conducive to the welfare of man. I will but add two brief remarks, which are suggested as of most practical value. First, in regard to ourselves. Let it be our object to establish Christian habits. Our habits constitute our character. Let them be pervaded and moulded by the religion of Christ. Let our faith become habitual, our piety habitual, our benevolence habitual. Let duty become a habit. Then shall we be safe; then will life be pleasant and holy.

Secondly, in regard to our children. Let us implant in them right principles. They must form their own habits, but we can fix their principles. Out of the latter will arise the former. Let us establish in their hearts the great principles of piety and duty, and they will be prepared to meet the temptations and bear the responsibilities of life.

With good habits growing out of right principles in ourselves, and right principles growing up into good habits in our children, why should we not be as happy as in this life of vicissitude man can ever be ? We shall have nothing to fear on this side the grave, since we shall be prepared for all change in outward condition by the inward stability we shall maintain. Nor shall we have reason to dread what we may encounter hereafter; since, having been faithful in that which is least, as it arose under the various relations of life, we shall receive the approbation of Him whose welcome voice shall pronounce the sentence: " Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

Have a wonderful Sabbath. Blessings

Saturday, June 6, 2009

the divinity of that fulness...

This blog has often excerpted Boston Unitarian views of Jesus. This morning we hear from Samuel Barrett in his sermon, "CHRIST, HIS NATURE, MISSION, AND CHARACTER."

1 Cor. xi. 3: I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ and the head of Christ is God"

"The subject to which I am to ask your attention this morning is the character of Jesus Christ, — not his moral character, but his official character; a subject involving the long-agitated questions as to his divinity, and the rank he sustains relatively to the great Father of all...

I begin with requesting such as are not much accustomed to reading our books on this subject, to fix it in their minds, in the outset, that we make a distinction between Christ's divinity and Christ's deity. We do not believe in his deity; i.e., we cannot admit that he was Cod. But we do believe in his divinity. Let me explain.

The expression," the deity of Christ" relates to his person, and means that he is God by nature. The phrase, " the divinity of Christ," may indeed have the same signification; but it may also have a very different one. It may have no relation to his abstract nature and person, but simply to something which he has received from God. Consequently, divinity may be ascribed to him, though, in his nature and person, he is a being distinct from, and inferior to, and dependent upon, the eternal and almighty Father.

In a sense like this, we do ascribe divinity to our Saviour. We would by no means represent him as merely a common man, destitute of everything superhuman and divine. On the contrary, we believe in, and on all proper occasions would assert, his divinity, according to the just import of the text, and of the Scriptures generally. We have no sympathy with those, if any there he, who delight to degrade the Author and Finisher of our faith below his true rank. No: it is rather our wish and aim to exalt, in our conception, the Son of God, so far us is consistent with the peerless majesty, the absolute supremacy, and the incommunicable glory of the infinite and everlasting Creator, as revealed in the Bible.

1. First, We believe in the divinity of our Saviour's mission. He uniformly declared that he was sent of God; and he proved the truth of his declaration by doing what no one could have done, had not God been with him...

2. Secondly, We believe in the divinity of his office. His office as the Messiah is peculiar. Ho had no predecessor, and will have no successor, in it. It was constituted by God alone...

3. Thirdly, We believe in the divinity of his powers. " God," saith Scripture, " anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power."...

4. Fourthly, We believe in the divinity of his doctrine. What he taught originated with and came from God. He said, " My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me." — "I have not spoken of myself; but the Father, who sent me...

5. Fifthly, We believe in the divinity of his works. Jesus performed miracles, which no unaided man could perform. They were proofs, because effects of supernatural power. He said, " The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works."...

6. Sixthly, We believe in the divinity of that fulness which the Scriptures ascribe to him,— fulness of spiritual gifts and blessings, flowing from God through him to the race. He himself was not the source of them; but, as we are told in sacred writ, " it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell." The inestimable benefits of the gospel which come to us by Jesus Christ could have had their ultimate source in no created being. They are to be traced through the Son of God to God himself, and are the riches of his infinite grace. The fulness of the Saviour was divine, not as self-produced, but as supplied by the great and good Being who is above all...


Friday, June 5, 2009

Well done! Well done!

Samuel Barrett (August 16, 1795-June 24, 1866), was a part of the founding generation of American Unitarianism. Longtime Minister of the 12th Congregational Society (which, reports the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography, was the first church built in Boston after the Unitarian schism) Barrett was involved in most of the activities surrounding the creation of the AUA and the Boston Sunday School Society. This memorial poem by Lewis Glover Pray...

DIED JUNE 24, 1866.

"Pastor, Teacher, Parent, Guide, and Friend,
As o'er thy life-like, sainted form we bend,
We grieve, with heart-struck grief, to feel and
know That e'en the best must leave us here below.

Strong in the faith, the pulpit for thy throne,
How winning, glowing, earnest was thy tone !
Its charm was truth, and bore with mighty sway
Thousands of souls to seek the better way.

At that sweet feast the gracious Master spread,
With bread from heaven thy loving flock was fed ;
There in our hearts were stirred all thoughts divine,
As Christ was symbolled forth by bread and wine.

Thou lov'dst the lambs, and loved the lambs to lead
To wisdom's flowery fields, in peace to feed ;
And they in turn wouldst gather at thy knee,
To catch the kind, approving word from thee.

With deepest sympathies, the homes of grief
Roused all thy latent powers for their relief;
The grasp was warm, the fitting words were few,
But reached the bleeding wound, and healed it too.

With what a glow did learning's living light
Fill thy pure heart with ever new delight;
And as its torch was passed from hand to hand,
Hope smiled anew to bless thy natal land.

With wide survey, and earnest, melting soul,
Of human errors thou didst grasp the whole;
And, as thou couldst, from earliest dawn of youth,
Urged on the cause of purest Christian truth.

Deep insight thine to track the wastes of sin,
And back to right its victims sought to win
Pitied the poor, and sent forth angels fair,
To give relief, and all their burdens share.

In council wise, in judgment strong and clear,
Prudent and calm through dubious paths to steer,
On wings of thought thine influence silent sped,
And thus to God and good opinions led.

At home, — but here the hand and heart denies
To touch those tender, loving, home-bound ties,
Around which clustered all endearments sweet,
Their lodgement hallowed in life's dearest seat.

Though yet in armor, life's great battle fought,
Thy chosen work all well and nobly wrought,
Resigned in faith to time and Heaven's decree,
Thou gav'st thy soul to Him who gave it thee.

But first a vision ! lo, heaven's gate set wide,
And angels, beckoning, came to be thy guide!
And then the curtain fell, — the goal was won, —
And God's own voice proclaimed, " Well done ! Well done !"

Oh may our eyes in waking visions see
How great, dear saint, thy heavenly bliss must be !
And this one sweet thought sooth every breast,
Till all shall share with thee thy joy and rest. "

Not great poetry perhaps-but a wonderful vision of a Boston Unitarian! blessings

Thursday, June 4, 2009

no bounds to a forgiving temper...

Today is also the anniversary of the birth of Rev. Francis Parkman (see here.) This from his sermon, "Forgiveness of Injuries"


"...the meaning obviously is, that we are to set no bounds to a forgiving temper; that we must never be weary of receiving the returning brother. And this, as for many other reasons, so especially from the conviction that we continually need for ourselves the mercy of our heavenly Father, and are required to be imitators of Him, who is long-suffering to us-ward, abundant in goodness, and even 'waiteth to be gracious."...

1. Take now the question as proposed by Peter to his Lord, 'How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?' And before we attempt to answer it, let us revolve in our own breasts such inquiries as these. 'How often do I need the forgiveness of God and of my fellow creatures, and what would be my condition if forgiveness were refused to me?...He may not indeed, as we have all the while been supposing, have committed any flagrant enormities. He may be pure from the greater transgressions. But he may know of himself what he cannot know of another, that even his lesser offences are attended with many aggravations; that he may have sinned against light and knowledge and numberless advantages, which his neighbor or his friend, who has offended him, may never have enjoyed. And when he realizes that all his dependence must be upon the mercy of his God; that without that mercy, as declared by the son of his love, Jesus Christ, he must be helpless and miserable, how can he refuse to exercise charity for his brother...

III. From the frequent occasions for the exercise of forgiveness, we may easily deduce the wretchedness as well as baseness of an unforgiving temper. It dooms a man to endless contests. It may keep his soul in a continual tempest. By the constitution of our nature, suffering is connected with all sin, but especially with the sins of malice and ill-will. He that yields himself to his rancorous feelings, and cherishes anger in his breast, he who suffers his imagination to feed itself upon the wrongs he has received, or only thinks ho has received—that man is the destroyer of his own happiness. 'To him,' as saith God of the wicked, there is no peace...

IV. Should I speak of the fitness and reasonableness of this virtue, I should ask you to observe, how well suited it is by its very nature, and in all its influences to the nature and condition of man; how reasonable and how becoming, that creatures as we are, frail, sinful and dependant, should not only be humble before God, but kind to our fellow-men, pitiful and tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Jesus Christ hath forgiven us...


Jeremy Belknap

Jeremy Belknap was born on this day in 1744. Born in Boston and graduated from Harvard, Belknap began his ministerial career in New Hampshire. He was a supporter of the Patriot cause and preached popular pro-revolutionary sermons. He later became William Ellery Channing's predecessor at what became the Federal Street Church.
Belknap was an antiquarian and one of America's first historians. He was a compiler of documents and and assiduous researcher. Finally, he was a founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

And if all that wasn't enough, he compiled a hymn-book that was much used in New England.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

qualities indispensible

The character of Jesus and its imitibility was a very common Boston Unitarian theme (find several takes in past posts on this blog including here.) This morning it's Brother Buckminster's



It was no small part of the great design of God, when he interposed to reveal himself among men by his Son, to give us a living, visible specimen of human nature, such as it may become when the operation of the gospel has its full influence. Hence it is a remarkable circumstance in the character of Jesus, that, though he was so intimately united with God, and had power committed to him in heaven and in earth, his example is in every moral respect strictly practicable. It is an example to men in every condition. It teaches us how to live on earth, as well as to prepare ourselves for heaven. In every useful point of view it is accommodated to the imitation of common men...

I will proceed now to mention some of the traits in the character of Jesus, which bear upon the main subject which I would keep in view, the practicalness of his example.

His conversation and conduct are complete specimens of what may be called coolness and soundness of mind, qualities indispensably necessary in one who would do good to the best effect, without defeating his own purposes by precipitancy, or endangering his life by imprudence. He discovers at all times a disposition to avoid dangers where it was consistent with his duty, but he encounters the most dreadful hazards when the destination of his Heavenly Father made it necessary for the accomplishment of his purposes...

Again; I would mention a trait in our Saviour's character which is peculiarly deserving our notice and imitation. I mean his constant superiority to motives of fame or reputation. The great sin, which pollutes even the most illustrious actions of men, is the mixture of vanity. We find it in characters otherwise almost faultless ; we detect it in our best services... Jesus was at an infinite distance from desiring to receive honor from men. Possessed of powers which could in an instant have drawn around him a body of enthusiastic and devoted followers and have elevated him to any station or authority he could desire, he is yet employed in teaching humility to a few ambitious disciples...

With his disciples, the most striking part of his conduct, is, I think, his wonderful patience... He would discourse to them of humility, of suffering, of contempt, of painful exposures ; yet, their fancies were continually employed in sketching out plans of his future royalty and their own advancement, and at the end of a discourse calculated to suppress all their ambitious imaginations, they could coolly ask him, which of them should be greatest ? Without expressing any impatience, he would repeat again his lessons of meekness, and try, by every variety of instruction, to correct their presumptuous hopes...

It appears to have been one principal aim in the public character of Jesus, to do the greatest good in the most private and unobtrusive manner. ' He neither strove, nor cried, nor was his voice heard in the street.' Acting always upon the great principle that mercy was better than sacrifice...

I have selected these parts of our Saviour's character with a sparing hand, and with the single view of illustrating what I have called the practicableness of his example. Every one of these qualities is not only attainable by us, but of great practical importance. His unsuspected purity of life, his unwearied and benevolent activity, his equanimity, coolness, and prudence, mingled with a fortitude which nothing could crush, and a boldness which disdained to equivocate with the wicked ; his contempt for mere applause, and superiority to personal convenience; his unequalled affection for his disciples, and to crown all, a superintending piety, which always led him to the most complete acquiescence in the will of God ; these are not the qualities of enthusiasm. They do not depend either upon the supernatural character, or the miraculous power of Christ; neither are they peculiar to him in his character of a teacher ; but they are qualities, without which no man's virtue can be sound, no man's character perfect in practice or in principle. They are qualities indispensable to man in society; they are not the excellences of a recluse, who shuns the world to keep himself pure; they are not the virtues of supererogation, like the practices of monks and ascetics, but they are the essential constituents of a substantially good character, proper for the world, as well as inseparable from greatness and elevation of mind...

My friends, may his courage fortify us, may his devotion warm our hearts, and may we never think his commandments grievous, or his example impracticable."

Sounds easy enough...Blessings

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the fruit of this spirit...

Computer Check Spellingproblems and a busy weekend kept me away from a new post for a few days. Rev. Buckminster returns this morning with a wonderful sermon that locates our misapprehensions about religion, not in doctrine but in temper...no matter your religious views, may the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy be yours.



In these words are described, with much truth and conciseness, the nature and the effect of religion. It consists in the practice of righteousness, and it is accompanied with a spirit of peace and joy, resulting from an habitual confidence in God, the author of all moral and religious happiness... that contented and joyful state of mind, which belongs to a man of real devotion, who possesses confidence towards God, and that filial spirit which makes duty easy, afflictions light, death harmless, futurity promising, and the whole course of the Christian life cheerful, active, and full of expectation...

The spirit of Christianity is that which is peculiar and essential to it, and which may exist where its forms are impracticable, and where the terms of belief are not defined. It is that which constitutes a man a Christian always, and everywhere ; in his church or in his family, in his prayers or his pleasures, in the fullness of his strength or in the last fainting exercises of his expiring life.

1. The spirit of our religion is, first, then, a spirit of faith. This always has been, and always must be the earliest principle of a religious character. For it approximates what is remote, it illustrates what is obscure, makes us see what is invisible, feel what is intellectual, realize as present what is actually future, and receive as strictly certain, what is in truth only highly probable. As the apostle says, it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen and future. The spirit of faith is also a spirit of confidence in God, like that of a child in the paternal character of a father, or like that of a pupil in the superior wisdom and information of a master. The Christian feels the highest trust in the wisdom of God, and a tranquillizing persuasion of the benevolence of his designs

2. The spirit of Christianity is, secondly, a spirit of devotion. God, who compasseth the path of his servants is also in all their thoughts. The idea of God can never present itself to the mind of a real Christian, when he is not prepared to entertain it; therefore it is never unpleasant, never oppressive. He sees God in everything; the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, the minute, as well as the vast; the painful, the pleasant, the material, the intellectual...

3. The spirit of Christianity is, thirdly, a spirit of love. I need not here repeat the passages, which assure us that he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God and God in him. If there ever was a scheme which had love for its origin, its tendency, and its consummation, it is that of the gospel. The man who embraces it, shares a benefit with millions of individuals, it may be of worlds. It is impossible for a man, who is interested in the mediation of the Son of God, ever to feel as if he were alone in the world; for, in his relation to Jesus, he is bound to others by that fine union of sentiment, which cannot be felt in the perishing connexions of time. Christianity binds us so closely to the happiness of the universe, that the Christian rejoices continually in the prospect of good...

4. Once more ; the spirit of Christianity is a spirit of joy. Not that the tranquillity of a Christian is not liable to be disturbed by the pains and sufferings of human nature, or that he exhibits the inconsiderate folly of the perpetually riotous and gay. But the state of his affections should be that of humble and devoted tranquillity. To rejoice in the paternal character of a being of whose presence you can never be unconscious, to adore a being of whose protection you can never despair, or whose direction of your lot you can never suppose to be otherwise than merciful and just, is surely all that can be necessary to permanent joy...

My friends, I can extend these remarks no further. Believe me, whatever we may call ourselves, whatever, in the hour of occasional reflection, we may wish to be, it remains as certain as the word of God, he that hath not the spirit of Christ is none of his, and the fruit of this spirit will always be righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. May God correct our errors, inspire our breasts, and teach us to feel the spirit of his religion."