Saturday, August 22, 2009

confident of good...

The theology of James Freeman Clarke could arguably be summed up in the phrase, "confident of good." It is his context and starting point. This from his sermon, "The Two Handles" continued:

Christianity may be taken hold of by the handle of Love, or by that of Fear. The Church has too often taken hold of it by the handle of Fear, making God an arbitrary King and Christ a Judge, instead of showing us God as a Father and Christ as a Friend. In the funereal papyri of Egypt there are pictures illustrating the judgment of each soul before Osiris. There is a pair of scales — in the one are put the good deeds of the man, in the other his evil deeds, and his fate depends on which scale is the heaviest. In like manner hell and heaven are presented by many Christian teachers as the only alternatives hereafter. But the probability is that there, as here, we may often be in heaven and in hell, too ; or pass from hell to heaven as we choose the good and reject the evil. There, as here, we may be working our way up with occasional or frequent relapses. Christians backslide here, — why not there ? Who has told us, with authority, that the Eternal World may not have its varieties and alternations, its progress and its arrested progress, no less than this ? This is probable ; but what is certain is that Christianity was taught by Jesus and his apostles as good news ; that it was a gospel of hope, not of fear ; that its primary announcement was not " Hell is at hand," but " The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand ; " that Jesus came not as the Judge of sinners, but as their Friend ; that he did not favor the self-satisfied Pharisee, but the penitent Publican ; that the word which fell most easily from his lips was " Thy sins are forgiven thee ; go, and sin no more." What is certain is, that the essential power of the gospel is in revealing a Father loving all his children, letting His sun shine on the evil and the good, and sending rain on the just and the unjust; revealing a Father who provides for all his children, forgetting and neglecting none. It reveals a Father accepting our love for each other as identical with love for himself, and charity as one form of piety...

These, then, are the two handles always presented to us, and every day, if we listen, we shall hear God say to us, " Choose to-day which to take ! " We can take hold, in everything which befalls us, of the handle of doubt, of anxiety, of fault-finding, of fear; of pleasure, custom, expediency, personal gratification and self-seeking; or we can take hold of the handle of trust, of hope, of candid liberal judgment, of duty, of personal conviction, of right, of generous, self-forgetting good-will. Our days will be sweet or bitter, events will seem gloomy or bright, the world a good world, or a bad world, according as we take everything by one handle or the other. The art of life consists in taking each event which befalls us with a contented mind, confident of good. This makes us grow younger as we grow older, for youth and joy come from the soul to the body more than from the body to the soul. With this method and art and temper of life, we are well known even if unknown ; we live, though we may be dying; we rejoice always, though in the midst of sorrows, and possess all things, though destitute of everything.


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