Tuesday, December 1, 2009

peace, silent as dew...

In the first part of his sermon (begun yesterday) "The Religious Principle in Human Nature" William Ellery Channing spoke of our "capacity for religion."  Today, in the conclusion, the means of attaining and "perfecting" that capacity...

"III.—My friends, we all possess indeed this capacity for religion. Let us not wrong it by neglect. It is, as we have seen, the central and all-pervading principle of Human Nature. And by proper means it may be cultivated, expanded, and made supreme. To give it life and vigour should be our highest aim. Here is the great field for our activity. By turning our chief energies abroad, we frustrate the end and defraud ourselves of the proper happiness of our being. The world within is our great domain, worth infinitely more than the world without. To enthrone God in our inmost being is an immeasurably grander aim than to dispose of all outward realms.

What might we not become, were we but just to ourselves and to the means of religious life thus bountifully afforded from heaven!... we can attain to more than cold belief, to more than formal worship, or to transient emotions of gratitude. The religious principle may become the very Life of our souls. God, now so distant, and perhaps little more than a name, may become to us the nearest and most real of all beings.

Do you ask by what means this end of entering into living communion with God can be attained ?...

Would you then attain to the love of God with all the heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, begin with purifying yourself from all known evil. Let your fervent prayer be to Him to animate you in your conflict with bad passions and habits, and in steadfast obedience to His Will. With this purifying purpose of obedience, read the Scriptures ; and the simple passages, in which Jesus speaks of his Father, will open on your minds with new brightness. In this temper study the character of Jesus ; and in him, who was the image of the Father, you will learn to see more and more distinctly the fulness and freeness of Divine Benevolence. In this spirit of obedience look on nature, and observe the works of the Creator, and their beauty and harmony will become more touching, till gradually heaven and earth will grow eloquent in their Author's praise. In this spirit look into your own minds, observe what is good and great in the minds of others, and the Infinite Mind will more and more appear to you in his crowning creation, the human soul. And finally, with this purifying purpose of duty, pray for the Divine Spirit, and you will receive it. A secret Influence will aid your efforts after oneness with the Holy One. Peace, silent as dew, will distil on you from heaven. I believe too, that with such a temper and life, you may enjoy something more than distant communications from the Father of Spirits ; that you may be favoured with those blessed seasons of universal light and strength, of which good men have often spoken, in which the mind seems warmed by a new flame, and quickened by a new energy from on high, and which, though not miraculous, still bring with them a near consciousness of the Divine Original, and come like the very Breath of God upon the soul. Through these various methods, you will ascend,/ by degrees to a living communion with our Creator, which, however low compared with what awaits you in another life, will yet be lofty in contrast with all you could have conceived of, in the beginning of your religious course.

I close with re-affirming the truth that I have aimed to impress. Religion is not an unnatural or unattainable good. Its germs exist in us all. We have, each of us, the spiritual eye to see, the mind to know, the heart to love, the will to obey God. We have a Spiritual Nature that may bear the image of Divine Perfection. Glorious privilege ! Let us not cast it away."


1 comment:

David G. Markham said...

Dear BU:

I was wrong in my assessment yesterday of WEC seeing God as an object which humans should aspire to copy. In the passages today he discribes the soul as becoming one with God and sharing in the divine being.

Are there any ministers today who preach on such subjects encouraging similar spiritual efforts? Most sermons today, seem to me to be more psychobabble than spiritual instruction.

Thank you for the ongoing series on WEC's spirituality and sermons.

David Markham