William Ellery Channing reaches great heights of hope in this continuation of his sermon, "The Perfecting Power of Religion."
"We are made to be happy" he says, by what we are, not by what we have..." Not a bad note to sound during this Holiday Season...
"These remarks will show in what sense we are to believe that God gives us Happiness. He gives it to us through ourselves, through the improvement of our whole nature, and in no other way. And the knowledge, love, and service of God, or religion, is the means of Supreme Good, because it is the great quickening principle by which our being is perfected.
We are to be made happy then—let us never forget it— by what we Are, not by what we have, by the purity and power of our own minds, and not by what is given us from abroad. We are too apt with insane eagerness to gather round ourselves defences and means of enjoyment, whilst the mind is left uneducated, and the character untrained. We are too apt to use religion itself as a kind of outward charm, and to expect that it will make us happy by some mysterious agency, instead of looking to it as the Central, Life-giving Principle, and as the great refiner and purifier of the Soul.
I.—Am I asked how Religion is the impelling power towards Perfection, and how, in strengthening it, we fortify every noble principle ? I will give a few answers drawn, in the first instance, from our Moral Nature.
1. Religion gives infinite worth to Conscience. Religion does not create Conscience. For whether I am a religious man or not, I shall, as a man, still have some sense of duty, and of the distinctions between good and evil. But this Moral Principle lacks life, when not quickened and sustained by confidence in a Righteous God...
2. In another view, Religion is the great spring of Moral improvement...Hope is the gift of religion. Religion teaches not only that there is an Infinite Lawgiver, but an Infinite Inspirer of virtue. It teaches us that God delights to perfect His intelligent offspring ; that He has made us for the very end of imparting to us His own Spirit; and that there are no bounds to this communication of His Life. It teaches us that we are subjected to temptations, both within and without, as a trial to awaken effort, to remind us of our need of aid, and to prepare us for a higher mode of spiritual being. It teaches us that the Ever-Living has infinite love for each human soul, and that present virtue is but the germ of an ever-growing goodness. According to religion no effort can be lost...
I can set no bound to my hope of what man is to become under the purifying influence of Jesus Christ and his religion. I anticipate that here on earth, perhaps at no distant day, when Christianity shall be purified from its corruptions, human character will rise to greater dignity and beauty, than we can now conceive. And when I look forward to the Future World, to a succession of ages without end, I am overwhelmed with a sense of impotence to conjecture to what heights of power, love, happiness, a human being, loyal to God and to duty, is destined to attain. The most glowing language, in which genius and piety have sought to shadow forth the felicities of man's future being, seems but tame and inexpressive. Man, improving for ever under the influences of the Infinite and Immortal God, is assured of a destiny as incomprehensible now as is God's own being."
Do you think WEC captures the soul's yearning for God and its attainment?
He seems to reduce it to a moral righteousness which I don't think is his meaning. Becoming one with God is becoming one with love.
Jesus says that the way to the kingdom is "to love as I have loved". What does that mean?
I believe it is to live praying ceaselessly surrendering one's will to God's will. I don't know what that means though and I just wrote it.
All the best,
I know what you mean when you say you dont know what you mean...I often don't know what I mean though I mean what I say...(?)
WEC certainly does emphasize the moral as the road to God. For him, it is about love-love for God and love for humans. In seeking to conform our moral natures to the divine, we share in the attributes of the divine, the chiefest of which is love. I think that WEC would consider this effort to be what it means to pray ceaselessly...I very much appreciate the perspective you bring to these readings.
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