Wednesday, July 22, 2009

habitual attention to God's agency...

The rational, empirical, John Lockean element of Unitarianism has long been dominant in the view of those who think about such things. It was the kind of Unitarianism that Emerson famously called "corpse cold."

Often forgotten is the deep piety of many of the early American Unitarians (even many of the more "rationalistic" among them were noted for their piety.) Channing, of course, was the Father of the spiritualistic wing of the movement and Henry Ware Jr. was one of its guiding lights. I continue to explore this expression of Unitarianism with this from John Emery Abbot who explores the piety of Jesus in this sermon:

LUKE VI. 12.

The peculiar efficacy of teaching by example has always been felt and acknowledged. In order to having just notions of our duty, it is important, not only that principles be laid down for our direction, but that we be shewn how they are to be applied, and be enabled to trace their influence on the character and conduct of others. And when an example is presented in a light which interests, there will be awakened an involuntary feeling of emulation, a desire of resembling the character which we are taught to admire and love.

In this view, the life of our Saviour is a very important part of the moral system of the Gospel. He came to be the example as well as the teacher of men. In order to become so, it was necessary that he should be placed in situations like ours; that, bearing the infirmities of our nature, encompassed by our wants, and exposed to our temptations, he might mark out by his own conduct, the course in which we should walk through trial, and difficulty, and danger

This view of the character of our Saviour, as one of common life, as one which we may imitate and resemble, is peculiarly applicable to a disposition of which the text is a signal expression. I mean the Piety of our Saviour; and I hope, that by dwelling on a few of the modes in which his piety expressed itself, we may better know our own duties, and also attain some more distinct and interesting views of his character

1. The first thing to be noticed in respect to the piety of our Saviour, is the devotional frame of mind in which he seems habitually to have been. This devotional spirit, we see continually manifesting...There is almost no disposition which it is equally important to acquire as this spirit of devotion. It comprehends all other dispositions of piety. And our Saviour's habit of considering the objects around him, in their connexion with Him who created and governs all, is not only the natural expression of a devotional temper, but also the greatest means of acquiring and maintaining it. God is acting all around us, though veils of flesh conceal him from our sight.

The influence of this habitual attention to God's agency would be to produce a spirit of cheerful, affectionate devotion. Our ideas of the divine perfections would become continually more distinct, noble and elevated. His character would be continually presenting itself in a manner to interest the feelings. His constant presence would be more realized by our hearts, and our own intimate relation and dependence, with all the associated affections it awakens, would be more vividly and permanently felt. By encouraging, and, by deliberate effort, maintaining this habit, the thought of God would become the leading characteristic of our minds, and subordinate to itself all subjects of meaner interest. When silent and alone, our minds would involuntarily rise to Him; and his character, and agency, and relation to us, would become the natural objects of our meditations, when unoccupied by any immediate concerns. It was such a devotional spirit as this, which was the origin of all the expressions of piety in the life of our Saviour. And would we imitate that piety, we must acquire and maintain with much attention and care, that habitual frame of mind which was thus in him."


1 comment:

PeaceBang said...

I love that illustration. It's so endearing. "Quick, Prudence, set an extra place! Our Lord Jesus dropped by for dinner!"