Sunday, August 30, 2009

the supreme gift...

My devotional reading this morning included 1 Timothy 4-"Train yourself in godliness, for while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way. While I would love to take this as divine sanction to not go to the gym today, I don't suppose I can get away with that...
William Ellery Channing's "Likeness to God" gives a passionate explanation of godliness.

Ephesians v. i: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children."

"The text calls us to follow or imitate God, to seek accordance with or likeness to him ; and to do this not fearfully and faintly, but with the spirit and hope of beloved children. The doctrine which I propose to illustrate is derived immediately from these words, and is incorporated with the whole New Testament. I affirm, and would maintain, that true religion consists in proposing, as our great end, a growing likeness to the Supreme Being. Its noblest influence consists in making us more and more partakers of the Divinity. For this it is to be preached. Religious instruction should aim chiefly to turn men's aspirations and efforts to that perfection of the soul which constitutes it a bright image of God. Such is the topic now to be discussed ; and I implore Him whose glory I seek to aid me m unfolding and enforcing it with simplicity and clearness, with a calm and pure zeal and with unfeigned charity.

I begin with observing, what all indeed will understand, that the likeness to God, of which I propose to speak, belongs to man's higher or spiritual nature. It has its foundation in the original and essential capacities of the mind. In proportion as these are unfolded by right and vigorous exertion, it is extended and brightened. In proportion as these lie dormant, it is obscured. In proportion as they are perverted and overpowered by the appetites and passions, it is blotted out. In truth, moral evil, if unresisted and habitual, may so blight and lay waste these capacities, that the image of God in man may seem to be wholly destroyed.

The importance of this assimilation to our Creator is a topic which needs no labored discussion. All men, of whatever name, or sect, or opinion, will meet me on this ground. All, I presume, will allow that no good in the compass of the universe, or within the gift of omnipotence, can be compared to a resemblance of God, or to a participation of his attributes. I fear no contradiction here. Likeness to God is the supreme gift. He can communicate nothing so precious, glorious, blessed as himself. To hold intellectual and moral affinity with the Supreme Being, to partake his spirit, to be his children by derivations of kindred excellence, to bear a growing conformity to the perfection which we adore,—this is a felicity which obscures and annihilates all other good."


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