Thursday, August 6, 2009

mummy wrappings

This from William Phillips Tiden's first lecture to Meadville students:

"Tis true that every now and then we are told that the ministry has lost its power, that Christianity itself is outgrown and must give place to something higher. This is no new cry. Some of us heard it a half-century ago, and learned to respect it as coming from honest minds. The cry has done good in helping us to discriminate between the letter and the spirit. That what passes for Christianity is very defective, very far from the simple teaching of Jesus, that many of its beliefs are unbelievable, an offence to reason, a libel on God and man, and a gross perversion of pure and undented religion, is only too painfully apparent. But these beliefs are only the mummy wrappings in which devout but mistaken worshippers have tried to embalm the body of Christianity, not perceiving that her soul is ever making new bodies for herself to meet the new exigencies of redeeming love. It is this soul that lives on from age to age, in the face of all the confident assertions that it is dead or dying. Beliefs change, but the spirit lives,— lives to clear its throat, and speak in truer and sweeter tones of God, man, and religion.

It is to study this spirit of Christianity you are here. You will not, therefore, be greatly alarmed by such as tell you that you have enlisted in a lost cause, that you have joined the corps of a forlorn hope. The cause of religion, pure and undefiled, never can be a lost cause while God lives and man is his child. And that can never be a forlorn hope which works for the uplifting of humanity in the spirit of him who shows us how "one with God is always a majority."
There are always bright tokens of encouragement in our sky, if we have only an eye to see them; and it does seem to me that as a Church we were never in a more hopeful and inspiring condition than now. But of this I shall speak more fully in my next lecture.

On this, my first meeting with you, we cannot do better perhaps than to think together of the high and sacred work of the Christian ministry. It is an old theme, of course, as the everlasting gospel is old; but if, like that, it were not always new, you would not be here to fit yourselves for it. That it has already won your hearts, and waked in you a desire to give your lives to it, shows that you have already given it your serious thought. But it is a work that grows as we ponder it. Its real glory and blessedness do not appear at first. It rises as we rise to the contemplation of it from the watch-towers of Christian thought, where alone we can see it as it is in the real glory of its aim and end."

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