Sunday, January 31, 2010

a day worth ten thousand...

This Sabbath morning prayer from the collection, "The Alter at Home: Prayers for the Family and the Closet by Clergymen in and near Boston."  Compiled by Henry A. Miles, it was published by the American Unitarian Association (Google books has the 14th edition, 1866)

"Our Father who art in heaven, again the sun has risen at thy command. Through thine unsleeping providence, refreshed by slumber, we stand upon the threshold of another day,—a day of rest, of meditation, of worship, and of prayer. May it be sanctified in the outward observance, and in spirit, and in truth. Let that holy light, of which the sun shining in the firmament is but a dim symbol, dawn upon our souls, dispelling unhallowed thoughts, revealing thy glorious presence, and leading us onward to that better life upon which, through thy grace, may we enter. May this day, by the use which we make of its opportunities, by the answers of peace which it brings to our prayers, by the cleansing influences which it dispenses, prove a day never to be forgotten, a day worth ten thousand spent in the ways of the world.

0 God, our Maker, who alone canst give us the light we need, unseal our spiritual vision. Make us to discern the greatness which this day commemorates. It speaks of thine abundant mercy ; of that best gift of thine, thy holy child Jesus, who appeared among men in the power of thy Spirit, and in the fulness of thy divinity, and in whom the world saw the glory as of thy only-begotten Son. Glad tidings of great joy he brought from heaven to earth. Teach us the value of those gracious messages, that we may know how to thank thee, and that the hymns and praises that we sing this day may be the prompting and tho tribute of our souls.

0 God, let our faith be not in word only, but in power. May the spirit of thy Son be our spirit, the spring of our conduct, giving us strength to avoid every form of evil, and to cleave, amidst all temptations, to thy law. Thus open to us the gates of righteousness, that we may enter therein and praise the Lord. Then shall we know its priceless worth, when we have once tasted, by personal experience, of the heavenly gift. Then shall we bring no dead offering, but a living sacrifice, and our praises shall rise like incense up to the throne of God, and thou, ever more ready to give than we are to ask, wilt delight to pour down upon us more abundant measures of truth and holiness. So by true spiritual worship, by the private meditations and the public services of this day, may we go from grace to grace, and from strength to strength, until we stand forever in thy presence.

Merciful Father, we mourn that these our best desires are so faint; that we are so fondly attached to the things that perish, to the lust of the eyes and the pride of life; so seldom and so faintly impressed with the guilt of our ingratitude and disobedience, and that we live so willingly without God and a true hope. Increase our sorrow for our unworthiness, and make it that godly sorrow which will quicken us to instant and thorough amendment. Encompass our minds this day with thoughts of heaven. Give thine angels charge concerning us, that our feet may never more stumble, that we may run with patience the race that is set before us, in the straight and narrow way, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. 0 come, thou Spirit of truth, come and take up thine abode evermore in our souls! Be the life of our lives, a fountain springing up within us to everlasting life, that we may never thirst again, and that these waste places, our hearts, may become like the garden of the Lord!

Almighty God, may thy kingdom be advanced in all hearts this day. We pray for our brethren of every order and denomination. Dwell in the midst of all worshipping people. Let not this day be abused into an occasion of selfish indulgence, but may men hearken to the strong cries of their immortal souls, and be fed this day with bread from heaven. May the truth as it is in Jesus be everywhere faithfully proclaimed and received into honest and good minds, where it shall spring up and bring forth the immortal fruits of holy living. Send its blessed consolations into afflicted souls; let it bind up the broken-hearted, and give liberty to the captive. May it be like a sword to pierce the hearts of the thoughtless and rebellious; and let all who profess and call themselves Christians depart from iniquity, and lead godly and peaceable lives, glorifying thy Son, and thee the God and Father of all. To thee shall be the praise for ever and ever. Amen."

Have a blessed Sabbath

Friday, January 29, 2010

members of one another...

PolityWonk had nice words to say about this blog yesterday (which I appreciate) and very thoughtful words about Charles Timothy Brooks and his engagement with the Trinity, a subject that is, to the degree it is spoken of at all, a bit bewildering.  Growing up Lutheran, and then spending some years as an Episcopalian, I remember many Trinity Sunday sermons that began, "I know I should talk about the Trinity but..."   Today, one more on the Unity of God from Rev. Brooks, the conclusion of his sermon, "The Unitarian Idea":

"Finally, there is one aspect of the text to which before leaving the whole subject with you, I must briefly allude. The doctrine of the Divine Unity is the doctrine of the oneness of humanity. The expression, " To us there is One God, the Father," means not merely to each of us, but to all of us, one and the same Father. Sectarian or social influences may make us feel or live as if we really had different origins and destinies, but reason and revelation assure us with combined utterance, that we are all the offspring of one and the same Being, " of whom and through whom and to whom are all things."

God, the Father, is one, and in Him we are one, members one of another. The loss or gain, the degradation or elevation, the distress or deliverance of one, is the affair of all. In a thousand ways men ignore this profound fact, judging instead of helping each other; coldly and sternly they go on their way, serving their several private gods, Chance, Power, or whatever the idol may be they darkly worship, but they only punish themselves by thus banishing themselves from the presence of the all-loving Father into the wintry land of selfishness; and daily one sees the curse written on many a hard and haggard brow, in many a stolid, stony eye, on many a sullen, envious lip.

I have given you a glimpse, an impression, perhaps, of what I call the great Christian revelation of the Unities, of the Unitarian idea, in a word, concerning the highest matters of religion. It gives us unity in our theology; unity between theology and humanity; unity in the upper world ; unity between that world and this lower and preparatory one, — the unity realized in the true Church-life.

To-day again we confess One who invites men to come to Him and find rest for their souls, — rest from the confusion of self-contradictory speculations ; rest from the heavy burdens thus laid upon the mind; rest from the heavier burdens the dreary and desperate demands of self-idolizing passion lay upon the heart; rest in the bosom of the Father whose love he images, — the rest of conscious and confiding oneness with the " great Parent-mind " that made and governs the universe, — that rest which remaineth for the people of God, who through faith and patience seek to inherit the promises. Let us come to Him and partake in the great atonement I have endeavored to describe and commend."

I would encourage everyone's  thoughts about their engagement with the Trinity over at PolityWonk...and


Thursday, January 28, 2010

the superstition of worldliness...

To assert the unity of God is not necessarily to assert a dry academic position, but a living basis for a vibrant religion.  Part two of Charles Timothy Brooks' sermon, "The Unitarian Idea:"

"To say that the Father is our one God is to say that parental love, in perfection, reigns through the universe, — it is the Unitarianism which asserts a perfect unity among all the attributes of the Godhead, between justice and mercy, between holiness and love. It is fatal to the blighting dogma of everlasting reprobation. If God can ever cease to deal as a father with his children, if he can ever disown them,— the moment we admit the possibility of such a time's coming, we give up our faith in the truth that to us there is one God, the Father. And He whom no change of worlds can change, is without variableness here.

Bewildering, indeed, is it to the mind and heart, — " reason stands aghast and faith itself is half confounded," — when we are required to acknowledge three supreme objects of worship ; — but even this, however distracting and distressing, is a far smaller evil than the practical polytheism in which the slaves of sense and passion cringe and burn incense before the " gods many and lords many," which the superstition of worldliness sets up, simultaneously or successively, in the place of the true God and Father of the spirit. Luck and chance, fate and fortune, custom and opinion, power, wealth, and fashion, such are some of the gods against which the revelation of One God, the Father, has to be held up before the eyes and hearts of men.

When the heart is once established in the faith of the unity of God, the Father, a beautiful and blessed unity will follow in that life which, under the One Father's Providence, man is called to live. In the expressive language of the apostle, he will be enabled to " wait upon the Lord without distraction..."

(illustration is the trading pit on Wall Street in the 1800's)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

the doctrine of the unities...

It is no secret that Unitarian Universalism has some occasional troubles in self-definition.  Efforts to try stretch back to the beginning and range from theological wailing and gnashing of teeth to the more recent "elevator speech" movement.  For the next few days, Charles Timothy Brooks' contribution to this great conversation given in two sermons, the first begun today and originally "preached as a review of the May Meeting of the American Unitarian Association in 1859"



For several years, at all our great gatherings, three questions have, under one or another name and form, more or less distinctly, always, I think, more deeply than any others, exercised the mind and heart of our denomination; and well may they do so, in my opinion, until we come to comprehend and feel, far more vividly than we yet do, the vantage-ground and place of responsibility, at once, which we hold before God and in relation to our fellow-men, by virtue of the simple and sublime, the soul-stirring and soul-satisfying faith committed to our branch of the Church of Christ.

The first of these three questions I am about to call your attention to is a question of name...

Every church must be built upon an idea. Of course, when I say idea, I do not mean merely a notion, nor merely an image of truth ; I mean a conviction of the mind, a judgment of the reason ; I mean, too, something which includes feeling; only, in this case, the feeling springs from faith, whereas, in the case of religious sentimentalism, the faith is a creature of feeling and fancy.

Now, then, what is this grand idea, this mighty source of the best feeling and the best works, if we truly have and believe it, this idea towards which the heart of humanity struggles, but which the prevailing creed of Christendom does so much to confuse, and obstruct, and keep in the background ? The very name Unitarian expresses it; Paul expresses it in our text. Interpret the name by the text. You will perceive that it designates no such narrow notion as those who have assailed, and perhaps many who have assumed it, have sometimes ascribed to it. Unitarianism means not merely the doctrine of the unity, but of the unities. It declares not merely the oneness of the Godhead, in the controversy touching the Divine existence, but, in the greater, moral question, the harmony and identity of so many sacred things which God has united, or rather which in God are united, but which man has put asunder."

(illustration:  a classic album cover for the fascinating Jazz saxaphone player Albert Ayler)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

awe, and love, and insatiable curiosity...

This from Ralph Waldo Emerson In his later lecture on "Character" (not to be confused with the essay by that name in "Essays:  Second Series:

"There is a fear that pure truth, pure morals, will not make a religion for the affections. When-ever the sublimities of character shall be incarnated in a many, we may rely that awe and love and insatiable curiosity will follow his steps. Character is the habit of action from the permanent vision of truth. It carries a superiority to all the accidents of life. It compels right relation to every other man, - domesticates itself with strangers and enemies."...

It confers perpetual insight. It sees that a man's friends and his foes are of his own house-hold, of his own person. What would it avail me, if I could destroy my enemies? There would be as many to-morrow. That which I hate and fear is really in myself, and no knife is long enough to reach to its heart...

There is no end to the sufficiency of character. It can afford to wait ; it can do without what is called success ; it cannot but succeed. To a well-principled man existence is victory. He defends himself against failure in his main design by making every inch of the road to it pleasant. There is no trifle, and no obscurity to him : he feels the immensity of the chain whose last link he holds in his hand, and is led by it. Having nothing, this spirit bath all."


Monday, January 25, 2010

the things of earth...

Seriousness, we were told by John Emery Abbot on Saturday, is not opposed to cheerfulness.  It is, however, the opposite of the mind and heart that "seeks first the things of earth." Part two of his sermon, "Seriousness:"

"1. Such a disposition, in the first place, is here represented as a great security against sin; and reason and experience confirm the truth of the assertion.

By the phrase "stand in awe," and by the term seriousness, we are to understand a disposition to reflect on the truths and objects of religion, an habitual sense of our own personal interest and deep concern in it; a habit of regarding all events and objects a religious point of view.

Many temptations arise from the fascinating influence of the world, its flattering distinctions, the splendor which riches throw around those who possess them, and the excitements of its various pleasures. On a light and giddy disposition the full effect of these worldly influences is felt; they seize upon all its thoughts, continually kindle its desires, fill its imagination with earthly visions, and prevent its affections from being formed into a devotional spirit, and from soaring to a better world than this. But a serious mind implies a state of feeling over which these fascinations have little power; vain wishes are there excited with difficulty and subside without effect; the habit of considering the objects around us in a religious light; soon detects the delusions of fancy and the insufficiency of the brightest promises of earth. We learn to regard them as they really are, capable of giving enjoyment, but an enjoyment which is uncertain in its duration, disturbed by many anxieties, and insufficient to satisfy the heart; as perfectly unable to support us in the trials and sorrows of life; and from which at all events death will soon separate us for ever...By seeking first the things of earth, we may leave behind us more abundant wealth or a prouder name, or life while it lasts may pass away in hurried amusement, and careless dissipation. But what shall compensate us for the loss of a kingdom in heaven ! " Stand in awe, and sin not."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

our brother's keepers...

Our church pulpit guest this morning is from the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry.  James Freeman Clarke's words, from the daily devotional "Messages of Faith, Hope, and Love" for January the 24th seem appropriate:

"HOW many noble enterprises there are in this community to which men and women are devoting time, thought, strength, heart, life, and only ask of us a little sympathy and a little aid! Some labor for the poor, some for the children who have no homes nor friends, some for those who have fallen into temptation, some for the poor animals, mute sufferers, unable to complain of their wrongs, some for neglected infants, some for aged people left alone in the world, some for young men thrown amid the risks of a great city. All they ask of us is to help them in their work; but how many of us think that, on the whole, we are not our brother's keeper!"


Saturday, January 23, 2010

are you serious...

John Emery Abbot was a serious young man.  His piety (and his delicate health) insured that this would be so. In his sermon, "Seriousness," though, he begins with the distinction between gloom and a serious disposition...part one of:


Cheerfulness of spirit and manners, is not merely an amiable grace, but a religious duty. We are called, as Christians, to let our light shine before men, and by the influence of our example, to place religion in a conciliating and attractive point of view. The influence of Christianity has doubtless been sometimes prevented and impaired by the repulsive austerity displayed by many of its sincere professors...

Habitual cheerfulness is the natural result and expression of that love of God, that grateful reception of his blessings, and that pious trust in his providence, which we are ever bound to maintain and to manifest. If we have an unwavering confidence in his protecting care, why should we be anxious and desponding ? If we indeed can look up to him with a heartfelt affection, why should we be gloomy ? Cheerfulness is a duty, because it conduces to benevolence ; it nourishes feelings of kindness towards others and disposes us to rejoice in their happiness, and to make exertions to prevent their sufferings, and promote their good...

Though cheerfulness be thus important in itself and in its connexion with other duties, there is another disposition enjoined in the text which is yet more important, and with which the vigor, steadiness and continued improvement of the christian character is intimately connected. " Stand in awe and sin not." The text exhorts us to maintain habitual seriousness of spirit. This disposition is often confounded with the sternness and gloom which have already been reprobated; but they are entirely dissimilar, and have no connexion with each other. Seriousness of disposition is often supposed to be at variance with that cheerfulness which has been represented as a duty; but it is not so. It is not only perfectly consistent with uniform cheerfulness, but is in fact its surest foundation and best support...
Without dwelling longer on the perfect consistency between great seriousness and uniform cheerfulness, I wish to consider the importance of the temper enjoined in the text in reference to the religious character. " Stand in awe and sin not..."     (and that will be our subject for tomorrow)
(special thanks to Catharina Slautterback at the Boston Athenaeum for tracking down this image of Rev. Abbot some time ago)

Friday, January 22, 2010

strait is the gate...

Charles Timothy Brooks gets to the heart of things in this second part of his sermon, "Doing and Believing."  Faith is not the work of a moment but a "patient continuance..." 

" is, or should be, the design of our Sabbathkeepings and public services to awaken and establish in us that faith which is the one thing needful. Once believe in Christ, and you will not be asking " What must I do ? " but " what can I do ?"

In conclusion, I would revert to the matter of getting this faith which is so essential. It does not come by what is called hearing, the hearing of custom or curiosity; it comes only by meditation, by study, by practice, and by prayer. We must fix our minds on the appeal which comes to us out of the life of Christ; we must see and judge for ourselves what he teaches and what he requires; we must look into ourselves and consider whether God is or is not speaking to us in the revelation and the example here presented ; and above all, we must maintain a spirit that is neither too indolent nor too timid nor too time-serving to really desire truth more than anything else.

But just here is the great trouble...we want to be saved in some easier way than by thinking for ourselves, wrestling with ourselves, watching and ruling over ourselves. We want to be carried into Heaven passively, rather than to make an effort for it. On the wing of a Sabbath dream, on the soft pillow of a Sabbath melody, by the storm of persuasion, or terror, or sympathy, we would fain be borne into the kingdom of faith, anyhow but by calmly considering and embracing the truth as it is in Jesus. But the admonition comes to us as to them of old, " strait is-the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life ;" it is not the beaten way of custom, not the thronged way of fashion, but the way the Master trod, — the road of independent reliance upon God, of patient continuance in believing."

(iillustration is an etching by Jan Luyken)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

the great business of being...

Belief and works are the great themes of Charles T. Brooks' sermon, "Doing and Believing" in which he finds that the spirit of the scriptures does not separate the two.  Some excerpts...

"... in the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of faith, doing is believing and believing is doing. I call this a double doctrine, for it does serve the double purpose of affording us a plain test by which to judge whether our belief is a reality, and at the same time enabling us to try whether our works are dead works, or the live works of the spirit.

Our Maker and Father continues to call his children, bidding them, I will not say to go, for we are taught that he is everywhere, but to come and work for him and with him in his vineyard. In the life and teachings and death of Jesus; in all the institutions and influences that have sprung from his words and labors; in the silent appeals of conscience through the frequent mortification of pride and selfishness, and the unsatisfactoriness of their triumph when they seem to be successful; in all the sacred voices of life and death and eternity, He, who is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, invites us to take his yoke upon us and enter into the service and into the joy of our Lord. And there can hardly be one of us, I conceive, upon whose heart that urgent call is not often pressing, even if there are many to whose conscious thought it seldom distinctly shapes itself...

" What services must I perform, — what are those good and perfect and acceptable works of God ?" asks the distracted spirit, perplexed, it may be, by the cry of Lo here! and lo there! and again the simplicity of Christ answers, " Call home your wandering thoughts. Really to believe in my Father and in me is what you want. Where there is a belief there is a will, and where there is a will there is a way."...

This, then, I would say: that to believe is the work of God, because it is the spirit of God working' in all our works to make them be clean and satisfying and successful, all religious works, outgoings of a devout and divine life. And it is the work of man — his one great work — because he is called upon to do it; because the distractions and delusions of the world make it a hard thing for many to take upon them even the yoke that is, in itself, light and easy; and finally, because, this work once done, all is done; that is to say, duty no longer is drudgery, toil is no longer torment, the work of life is felt to be the work of the Lord, and the work of the Lord not the affair of days and months and times merely, but the great business of man's being."

(Painting is "Work" by Ford Maddox Brown)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lo here! and Lo there!...

This morning one of the finest statements I have yet come across of the religious temperament that I find so admirable in the "Boston Unitarians."  It comes from the sermon, "A Revival of Knowledge Needed" by Charles T. Brooks...

"It is often said that our Unitarian discourses (and the remonstrance has sometimes been made with regard to those delivered from this pulpit) appeal too much to the reason, and too little to the feelings. But I remember with what clear and conclusive majesty of statement the great preacher who, twenty-one years ago, gave me the charge on taking this ministry, and who being dead, yet speaketh, exhorted me to " put confidence in the power of pure, unsophisticated truth," — to " be willing to seem cold, rather than  o'erstep the modesty' of truth," — how he cautioned me " against distrust of simple truth," " against artificial processes," " against straining for effect," insisting that " in the long run, nothing is so strong as simplicity." " Truth is the power," he said, " which is to conquer the world ; and you cannot toil too much to give clear perceptions of it. I may seem to waste words," he added," on so plain a point; but I apprehend, that few ministers understand the importance of helping men to see religious truth distinctly. No truth, I fear, is so faintly apprehended. On the subject of religion, most men walk in a mist." And never shall I forget the emphasis with which he turned to me and said, " My brother, help men to see." I believe I have always had the spirit of this exhortation about me in all my efforts to promote the great object of the gospel ministry, not because it was the exhortation of a man, even one so spiritually gifted, but because my whole soul told me, and every year's reflection has confirmed me in the conviction, that he uttered the very word of truth and soberness.

I do not think that we have, by any means, entirely recovered yet from the grievous injury which has been done to our religious interests by the disparagement of individual judgment in the matter of religion. There are, indeed, two extremes against which Christian simplicity requires us to be on our guard, — the stoical pride of rationalism on the one hand, and the insidious Epicureanism of sentimentality on the other. I know no better way of securing the safe middle course, than by recognizing and following the doctrine that reason is the foundation of religion; but, at the same time, that this is no ground for idle self-complacency, because reason is the light of God in the soul, and, therefore, instead of a self-exalting, the consciousness of this should be a self-humbling, and yet quickening, sentiment to one who will see how that light strikes on his own character.

There are some who seem as if they could never hear of religion's great appeal being to man as a rational nature, without persisting in misunderstanding you ; as if, in referring to reason, you meant merely a speculative, negative principle; as if reason were only a faculty which disproves, and denies, and throws away error; or as if you were foisting into the sphere of religion a faculty which was meant merely to guide man in the secular affairs of life. They will not see that this equally modest and sacred faculty of reason is that in man which not merely disproves what is to be disbelieved, but proves what is to be believed, and revered, and obeyed; which lays the foundation of that faith, that religion, which alone glorifies God and benefits man; and especially will they not see that one of reason's best offices is to do away that unworthy distinction between holy duties and common duties, which has ever been one of the greatest stumbling-blocks in the way of religious belief and life.

When many are running to and fro to meet the spirit, is the very time, it seems to me, for those who believe that the spirit of the ever-present and omnipresent One, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, is always striving and struggling with our spirits, always knocking at the door of our hearts, in every vicissitude of life, and even in that dullness which seems like death,— it is the very time for those who believe this, to say so. When many are running to and fro to seek religious feelings, then is the time for those who believe that, after all, individual thought alone can make feeling genuinely and practically religious, to say so. When many are crying, Lo here! and lo there! then is the time for those who believe, and are impressed with the importance of the truth, that the fountain of peace and purification is within, to say so, humbly, indeed, but honestly...

I end...with echoing the prayer of the Apostle... and this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in all knowledge and judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."

(Painting is "Allegory of Wisdom" by Benedetto Luti)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the noiseless electricity of thought...

The transcendentalist minister, poet and translator Charles T. Brooks collected the sermons that make up the volume "The Simplicity of Christ's Teachings, set forth in Sermons" in part because he had been persuaded that they " speak forth the words of truth and soberness, in a wholesome way, for an age vibrating uncomfortably between extremes of religious thought and feeling, and yearning, at heart, for that unity in faith and in life, which Unitarianism, in its best and true sense, seems to him to mean"  An excerpt from sermon one:


...The question which Pilate put to Jesus stands there, on the page of Scripture, to this day and forever, as a representation of the attitude of worldly policy towards the greatest interest of man, the living and immortal soul... The common reading of the words hides from our view the mighty and momentous question which lies far under it, — no mere speculative question, but the great, practical question which the Spirit, the ever-living witness and judge, is continually pressing home upon all our hearts, amidst the distractions and delusions of life. The question is, unfortunately, crowded out by the superficial one, " What truth is there that we can be sure of, amidst the endless variety and antagonism of sects and parties and opinions?" and the sceptical one to which that leads, (or which leads to that,) " What is truth, but a glittering and sounding abstraction ? " — but the first of these questions loses its power to delude our minds when we once feel the true meaning and moral of the sublime announcement of Jesus, as King of Truth and of the true, and learn that truth of character (not merely truth of creed) is the test of loyalty to his kingdom ; and, when we once feel this, the second sophistical form of the question " what is truth ? " falls to the ground, as we see that truth, in the Christian religion, is a thing not of the fancy merely, but of the heart, out of which are " the issues of life." Undoubtedly, Christ came into the world to bear witness to certain great truths of fact, — truths for men to believe, in regard to God's government, and man's relations, duties, and destiny, which whoso comes to him will believe ; but no man will come to him, as he himself said, who has not first 1he spirit of truth ; and, to the prior importance and prime excellence of the truthful spirit, he testified, when he said, " Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice ; " that is, every true man is the subject of my kingdom.

" What is truth ? " askest thou, O Pilate ! This is our answer to thee and to all who, like thee, in every age and nation, are repeating the question in their hearts and in their actions, or in their neglect of action : — Truth is the strongest, the only sure thing in the world or the universe; Truth is almighty, for it is God himself, infusing himself into the relations and laws of the universe, which is the emanation of his own being, the expression of his infinite thought. So far, therefore, as a man has, nay, so far as he seeks the truth, the strength of God is his. What though our creeds do but dimly and distantly suggest the actual truth of things ? It is the truth as it dwells in the inward parts, — the truth informing our convictions and characters; in a word, the persuasion that there is such a thing as truth, and that it is the only thing we can live by and should live for; — this is the truth that we want,— this is the truth that really saves the soul, all the croakings of bigotry to the contrary notwithstanding. " What is truth ? " dost thou ask ? Truth is the foundation of right, and it is that which must prevail. " What is truth ?" It is the light, the heat, the lightning, of the world of thought. The atmosphere of society is continually shaken by those thunders of passion, which the dwellers upon the surface of things now tremble at, and then despise; but the noiseless electricity of thought is, meanwhile, at work, cleansing the moral atmosphere, and smiting one after another of the branches of the giant poison-tree, which it will one day smite to the root with a mortal stroke."


Monday, January 18, 2010

The profane Mr. Brooks...

Charles Timothy Brooks (June 20, 1813 – June 14, 1883) was born in Salem MA, educated at the Harvard Divinity School and served for many years the Unitarian Church in Newport, RI.  He was a writer, poet and important translator (especially of German literature.)  I came across this "anecdote" this morning and was quite taken with it. It comes from an 1883 "Unity" article (Unity's masthead declared itself for "Freedom, Fellowship and Character in Religion." Based in Chicago, it was founded by Jenkin Lloyd Jones and William Channing Gannett as a "organ of western radicalism.)  More in the next couple of days from the profane Mr.  Brooks: 

"Is Profanity Ever Justifiable?—The death of the Rev. Charles T. Brooks, of Newport, R. I., recalls a little anecdote about him. At a tea-party, given by a member of the Rev. Dr. Thayer's church a few years ago, a lady playfully remonstrated with Dr. Thayer for his intimacy with the Unitarian divine. " It is true," said Dr. Thayer," that Mr. Brooks and I are very good friends and that I am really very fond of him. He is a most delightful companion, and we often go fishing together. To-day, however, while we were on the fishing-ground, he shocked me by a little exhibition of profanity." "Profanity!" exclaimed the orthodox sister, " you don't really mean that Mr. Brooks is profane ?" " I must confess that he was somewhat so to-day," said good Dr. Thayer. " You see, it happened thus: we were at anchor with our lines out, Brother Brooks, the skipper, and I, when, after some tedious waiting, the skipper cried out: 'I had a d -n good bite then'; whereupon my Brother Brooks quickly responded: 'So did I!"—"


Sunday, January 17, 2010

the core of our civilization...

In Emerson's lecture, "Character" (not to be confused with the essay by the same name in "Essay: Second Series," the "trappings of orthodox religion don't come out too well.  The importance of the Sabbath, however, does a little better:

"Religion is as inexpugnable as the use of lamps, or of wells, or of chimneys. We must have days and temples and teachers. The Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence. It invites to the noblest solitude and the noblest society, to whatever means and aids of spiritual refreshment. Men may well come together to kindle each other to virtuous living. Confucius said, " If in the morning I hear of the right way, and in the evening die, I can be happy."

Have a blessed Sabbath

Saturday, January 16, 2010

some place of cheerful and innocent resort...

Temperance was one of the great liberal movements of the 19th century and one manifestation of this was the coffee-house movement. Begun in England, many, including some Boston Unitarians, sought to bring more temperance coffee houses to the United States. This from a pamphlet compiled by James Freeman Clarke towards that end called:

"Coffee Houses and Coffee Palaces in England"

An association of friends interested, like myself, in establishing coffee-houses in Boston as one means of promoting temperance, have requested me to print for their use an account of this movement in Great Britain...[the bulk of the essay contains extracts from English Pamphlets on the subject including the following on the purpose of the coffee houses]

"The evils of intemperance, especially among laboring men and their families, are so great that every method should be tried to prevent them. Thus far, and at present, two practical plans — one the Pledge of Total Abstinence, the other a Prohibitory Law — have mostly absorbed the interest of the friends of temperance. A portion of the community are not satisfied with either of these methods, and there is a large amount of intemperance not met by them. If you could induce every one to abstain entirely from intoxicating drink, or if you could absolutely and entirely prohibit its sale, you would no doubt put an end to intemperance. But neither of these results seems near at hand. Meantime there is a large class of hard-working men and women who want a little pleasure, a little excitement, a bright half-hour in a dreary life. They go to the drinking saloons because they can find these pleasures. There, they find light, warmth, society, and the stimulus of liquor. In such places habits of intemperance are often formed...It was to meet this state of things that societies were formed in England and Scotland. They were incorporated with sufficient capital, and opened coffee public houses with rooms as bright, warm, and attractive as the gin palaces.

[JFC Concludes...]
In this country, little has thus far been done. In Philadelphia, one or more coffee-houses have been established, and are now attractive and self-supporting. In New York, the coffee-houses have been suspended, owing to causes which are believed to be temporary. The coffee-house in Boston, recently opened at 851 Washington Street, has met with such success that the " Oriental Coffee House Company " are now proposing to establish five others in different parts of the city. But many more will be necessary. With two thousand drinking-saloons licensed by the city government, we want at least fifty or a hundred bright and pleasant coffee-houses, to present better attractions to those who need some place of cheerful and innocent resort.

(This description of the Oriental Coffee House Company in Boston, from: "A DIRECTORY of Charitable and Beneficent Organizations OF BOSTON, 1914:

ORIENTAL COFFEE-HOUSE COMPANY (incor. 1881). Casino, 985 Washington st.; Alhambra, 11 Green .st. Open all the time, day and night. Both connected by telephone. Aims to substitute the coffee-house for the liquor saloon. Philanthropic in purpose, but purely business-like in method. Provides coffee at 2, 4, and 6 cents per cup, and meals at low prices. Reading, smoking, pool, and billiard rooms. Betting not allowed.)


Friday, January 15, 2010

a burden that uplifts...

The call of Jesus to deny ourselves and take up the cross and follow him was the subject of my scripture reading this morning.   I have discussed this deeply important idea  here and here.  This view
from "The Unitarian" magazine, vol. 12,  1897 in a series of Questions also made into pamphlets for the "church porch"...


This series of "Questions" is designed to meet the earnest inquiries of our young people, as they face the real demands of the religious life.

The Second Question, "Can I follow Jesus ?" is prepared by Rev. Frederick B. Mott.

(Each "Question" will be republished in very small leaflet form, especially intended for the church porch, and can be ordered from the Unitarian, 2 cents each, 10 cents per dozen, 50 cents per one hundred.)


I. Jesus said so. Doubtless he knew. His words are :—
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me."

П. It is not Christ's cross that I am to carry, but my own. Not the cross of crucifixion to death, but the cross of devotion to life. If I were asked to bear the cross he bore I should not have the courage to attempt it; but I suppose I ought to be able to lift my own cross.

Ш. Jesus said not only, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me," but also "I must be about my Father's business" ; i.e., 1 must not only trust in God, and feel his presence, hut I must work for him, take an active part in the great enterprise of life. This is bearing my own cross.

IV. Is this all I have to do to follow Jesus ? No, it is only the beginning : after resolving to take up my own cross daily, then I have to make sure that I carry it along the right path. There is only one way Jesus went ; to follow him I must go that way. He shows me just where to set my feet when he says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these my brethren, even the least, ye have done it unto me." It is the path of service.

V. To follow Jesus must I then be a burden bearer? weighed down by my daily load, always suffering and sad? Not at all, Jesus declared "My yoke is easy and my burden light." This seems like a contradiction. I have always thought that which a man carried weighed him down ; yet Jesus, though he was a great burden bearer, was never oppressed or disheartened. Indeed, though he carried the sorrows and sufferings of humanity, the burden exalted him. There seems a wonderful possibility of joy in this thought, a burden that uplifts, a cross that exalts.

VI. The fact is, the path of service, with the daily cross on one's back, while it is a steep ascent, yet leads into such higher atmosphere and such spiritual companionship that the heart and soul are refreshed. More light, more faith, more hope, flow in from the divine life above as one ascends. To "Reckon not the gain, But count the hardest duty light that lifts another's pain" is in fact not only to count it so but to find it has become so. The burden itself, when borne as the daily cross of service to the world, becomes possessed of a divine buoyancy.
VII. To follow Jesus is not then so hard : it is an open way to all who are willing to walk in it. It promises the highest and purest joy, for it leads onward and upward forever.
"And he said unto All, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."


Thursday, January 14, 2010

fill life full...

No adequate spiritual explanation can be given for the horrible devastation in Haiti and the region (despite the efforts of Pat Robertson to do so.)  We are left with our response:

This from James Freeman Clarke:

"YOU can put into a minute of time only just so much manual labor; but you can add to the same minute thought and love. It is the action of the higher human powers which lengthen life, which turn an hour into a day and one year into ten. Some of the greatest souls who have lighted up the earth have had a short life, if measured by years, but how long, if we consider the number of their great endeavors and accomplishments. Not only genius, but goodness, lengthens our days. How long are the lives of those generous souls who live for others! Most of us each day think of what we can get or do for ourselves; but there are those who acquire the habit of helping others, of comforting, of adding cheerfulness and strength, wherever they go. To those who thus give much is given in return,— contentment, trust in God, confidence in their fellow-men, sweet hopes, peaceful memories.

To fill life full, you must open it upwards toward truth, beauty, goodness. Mere excitement is not life; for all excitements weary, and are succeeded by depression. The hard routine of work into which no love and no thought enter, and which is done from necessity, not duty, leaves us in a lethargy. In order to "redeem time," we must look up, and not down. Seeking things below takes our strength out of us: waiting on the Lord for his higher gifts renews our strength day by day."

Seems pretty hard even on the good days.  And yet...

Prayers and Blessings

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

we're no angels...

I think I have mentioned before that my children enjoy an animated series in which a young man begins as the sworn enemy of the "heroes" of the story and then, over time, joins them in their fight against the forces of evil.  Things don't go so well at first, however, and at one point he yells in frustration, "Why am I so bad at being good?"  Henry Ware Jr. asks the same question in his sermon, "Sources of Moral Weakness and Moral Strength."  Some excerpts:

"Psalm 31:10  "My strength faileth because of my iniquity"

:Let us ascertain the causes of moral weakness and seek the sources of moral strength. 
   First we are to look at our nature and moral constitution...Man is not an (human nature) has within itself an innate love of ease and of self-indulgence...With these traits it becomes an easy prey to temptation; it quails before trial; it avoids effort.  So that the whole history of our race, wherever we find it recorded, exhibits a downward tendency, a proneness to degeneracy, which it has required perpetual effort on the part of the greatest minds to counteract...

   Every man experiences in himself this proneness; his own life is a continual struggle to maintain the better principles of duty, against the inclinations to ease and self-indulgence, which would bear him down...So true is this that no proverbial saying is more common or easily assented to than this:-

"I know the right and I approve it too:
 I know the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue."

Or, as it is in scripture, "For what I would do, that I do not; but what I hate, that i do."...Therefore we are not made angels.  We are only men..."

Have a nice day!  and

Monday, January 11, 2010


Plutarch was a favorite of the Boston Unitarians and this brief excerpt from his life of the Roman Camillus shows why. 

 "After the city was pillaged, he determined, pursuant lo his vow, to remove this statue of Juno to Rome. The workmen were assembled for the purpose, and he offered sacrifice to the goddess, "Beseeching her to accept of their homage, and graciously to take up her abode among the gods of Rome." To which, it is said, the statue softly answered, "She was willing and ready to do it." But Livy says, Camillus, in offering up his petition, touched the image of the goddess, and entreated her to go with him, and that some of the bystanders answered, "She consented, and would willingly follow them."

Those that support and defend the miracle, have the fortune of Rome on their side, which could never have risen from such small and contemptible beginnings to that height of glory and empire, without the constant assistance of some god, who favoured them with many considerable tokens of hie presence. Several miracles of a similar nature arc also alleged; as, that images have often sweated; that they have been heard to groan; and that sometimes they have turned from then votaries, and shut their eyes. Many such accounts we have from our ancients; and not a few persons of our own times have given us wonderful relations, not unworthy of notice. But to give entire credit to them, or altogether lo disbelieve them, is equally dangerous, on account of human weakness. We keep not always within the bounds of reason, nor are masters of our minds. Sometimes we fall into vain superstition, and sometimes into an impious neglect of all religion. It is best to be cautious, and to avoid extremes."

(Painting is by Biagio d’Antonio (1446–1516)  "Camillus Brings Statue of Juno to Rome"

Saturday, January 9, 2010

guarded lips...

This from Ralph Waldo Emerson's "The Superlative"...

"There is a superlative temperament which has no medium range, but swiftly oscillates from the freezing to the boiling point, and which affects the manners of those who share it with a certain desperation. Their aspect is grimace. They go tearing, convulsed through life, - wailing, praying, exclaiming, swearing. We talk, sometimes, with people whose conversation would lead you to suppose that they had lived in a museum, where all the objects were monsters and extremes...they use the superlative of grammar : " most perfect," " most exquisite," " most horrible."... they are enchanted, they are desolate, because you have got or have not got a shoe-string or a wafer you happen to want, - not perceiving that superlatives are diminutives, and weaken ; that the positive is the sinew of speech, the superlative the fat. If the talker lose a tooth, he thinks the universal thaw and dissolution of things has come. Controvert his opinion and he cries "Persecution! " and reckons himself with Saint Barnabas, who was sawn in two...

How impatient we are, in these northern latitudes, of looseness and intemperance in speech! Our measure of success is the moderation and low level of an individual's judgment. Doctor Channing's piety and wisdom had such weight that, in Boston, the popular idea of religion was whatever this eminent divine held. But I remember that his best friend, a man of guarded lips, speaking of him in a circle of his admirers, said : I have known him long, I have studied his character, and I believe him capable of virtue."


Friday, January 8, 2010

this great cloud of witnesses...

Begun at the beginning of Advent, this series from "The Perfect Life" by William Ellery Channing ends appropriately today with a continuation of his sermon, "The Church Universal."  The Boston Unitarian emphasis on virtue and duty can sometimes seem somewhat solitary and, to some, as somewhat bloodless and cold.  Channing shows it to be just the opposite (it also gives a pretty good reason for remembering our history...) 

"In these views we discover a peculiarity and a supremely honourable one, of the relationship formed by Christianity among its disciples. It is a perpetual and ever-growing relationship. The toils and sufferings for a Nation, which has its date and is hastening to its appointed term ; which is soon to be joined, in its decline and fall, with past and almost forgotten empires,—may fade from the mind of the patriot. Death may break the bond which joined him to it, and put an end not only to his efforts for its welfare, but to his sympathies in its fate. But not so can it be with the Christian. Labourer and sufferer for the Church Universal as he has been on earth, his energies are consecrated to an Immortal Cause; to the interests of a Community which will outlive sun and stars ; and which, being of heavenly origin, tends towards and will be perfected in Heaven. Death cannot take him out of this Church, nor in the least degree loosen his connections with it. On the contrary, he goes to join the triumphant, purified, blessed portion of this Community, among whom his affections for his militant brethren here, instead of being extinguished, will gain new fervour...

3. In the next place, how does the Christian on Earth contribute his part to this union ? I answer, by recollection, and by hope; by looking back to the lives and characters of departed Saints while they were inhabitants of this world; and by anticipating joyfully their society in the world to come. The Christian, imbued with the spirit of his religion, maintains communion by grateful remembrance with those who have gone before...He does not regard his Religion merely as a blessing of the present moment, but studies with profoundest interest its past history. He remembers that it has come down to him through a long procession of ages, and that it has been transmitted through the professions, sufferings, prayers, and virtues of millions, who have lived and died for it before his birth. He delights to think of his Religion under the similitude which Jesus gave, of a seed sown upon earth centuries ago, and to trace its growth— nourished as it has been with tears and sweat, the blood and anxious care, of the holiest persons in the records of the past. To the true Christian no history is so affecting as that of the Church Universal. His soul unites with the pure and pious, who have clung to it in danger; who have fought beneath the banner of the Cross with spiritual weapons; who have conquered the powers of evil by self sacrifice, suffering, and death.... He feels his personal debt to the faith and loyalty of these tried followers of Christ, and blesses them for those labours of which he daily reaps the fruits. Thus, by memory, we have connexion as truly with the Saints risen in glory, as we have with those yet dwelling here. Though dead, they still speak to us. And happy is it for us when we open our minds to the influences of the departed, and form intimacies with the great and good who have preceded us into the world of peace!"

III.—My friends, I should not have insisted so long upon this Communion between Christians in Heaven and Christians on Earth, did I not think this truth an eminently practical one..." Compassed about by this great cloud of Witnesses," let us with firm and cheerful trust endure all trials, discharge all duties, accept all sacrifices, fulfil the law of universal and impartial love, and adopt as our own that cause of truth, righteousness, humanity, liberty and holiness,— which, being the cause of the All-Good, cannot but triumph over all powers of evil. Let us rise into blest assurance that everywhere and for ever we are enfolded, penetrated, guarded, guided, kept by the power of the Father and Friend, who can never forsake us ; and that all Spirits who have begun to seek, know, love, and serve the All-Perfect ' One on earth, shall be re-united in a Celestial Home, and be welcomed together into the Freedom of the Universe, and the Perpetual Light of His Presence."


Thursday, January 7, 2010

a real communion of saints...

I delight to serve a church that was gathered in 1642.  Our present Meetinghouse was built in 1830 and I often spend a few minutes during the day sitting in the pews.  The rich presence of the many thousands who have worshipped, loved, suffered, and brought their highest aspirations through our doors during these hundreds of years is a constant inspiration.  On Sunday mornings they join with our present congregation (and, I believe, all who will follow), a true Church Universal.
   In this final sermon in the series "The Perfect Life,"  William Ellery Channing speaks of this Universal Church including all who have gone before.   Part one...


Ephesians iv. 4: " There is One Body, and One Spirit, even as ye are called in One Hope of your calling."

THIS passage declares the living Unity that will bind all Christians together, in proportion as they are filled with the Spirit of their Religion, and are joined vitally to their common Head. They constitute One Body. Christians are not distinct, separate, independent followers of Christ, each walking in a lonely path, living by an undisclosed faith, locking up in the breast an unparticipated love. Christ came not merely to teach a Doctrine, but to establish a Church to form a Religious Society, to organize a Spiritual Community. His religion was revealed to be a common possession, a common joy, a common ground of gratitude and praise, of sacrifice and work, for the whole Human Race...

...let us consider more nearly the extent of this Unity in the Church Universal,—how far it reaches, how many it embraces,—in order that we may gain a correspondent largeness and elevation of views and affections, of hopes and principles of action.

There is One Body and One Spirit. Christ has One Church, not many Churches. All Christians are comprehended in One Community. However scattered, separated, and divided,—in their fellowship with One Head, in their participation of One Faith and Spirit, they are attracted by a combining principle,—which, though counteracted now, can never be destroyed; and which will ultimately manifest itself in blending all unbelievers, visibly and indissolubly, into One. From the very nature of the Christian Religion—as a Religion of Love—all who embrace it must be gathered into One Society. Christian Union cannot but be co-extensive with the Christian Religion, and diffused with it wherever it is spread. Such is the general doctrine of the text.

1. Now if all Christians constitute One Community only, then it is implied not merely that Christians of the different denominations, which are scattered through the world, are nearly connected with one another here below, but that Christians on Earth and Christians in Heaven are lovingly bound in fellowship. Being equally united to Christ, these two classes are necessarily comprehended in that One Body, which is quickened by the One Spirit of adoption, that animates the whole vast Family of the Children of God. Consequently they sustain most intimate relations with one another, instantly and everywhere.

It is common to speak of these two classes under the names of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.   But these words merely denote the respective circumstances, amidst which different members of the same Community are for a season placed. The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant are One Church; and the time is approaching in which these distinctions shall vanish away, and when all Christ's followers, crowned with the same triumph, shall be gathered into the same Visible Communion, around their common exalted Head. This doctrine is announced in a passage of singular magnificence and elevation, both of thought and language, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the writer says: "Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." In other words, by unity of soul with Christ's Church, we are admitted into a real Communion of Saints, tender and confidential, which will gain strength and largeness as we and they advance towards celestial excellence..."


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

coffee and prayer...

Ralph Waldo Emerson, who liked his two cups of coffee in the morning with his pie, wrote in his journal  "Coffee is good for talent, but genius wants prayer."  Though coffee doesn't come out too well in this quote (talent was not particularly a great virtue for Emerson,) most days I feel I need both just to rise to the level of mediocrity! 


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

the Purest Ideal of Goodness...

We have just passed the season of "you better be good for goodness sake"(what a bunch of conflicting moral messages that song projects-its only virtue is that Bruce Springsteen recorded it...) but William Ellery Channing takes it up in this conclusion to his sermon, "Perfect Life the End of Christianity." 

"My friends, I have stated in this discourse the Great Good which Jesus Christ came to spread through the earth—the highest benefit which he can confer. I know nothing of equal worth with Moral Excellence; with an enlightened, powerful, disinterested and holy mind ; with a love to God which changes us into His likeness. L know nothing so important to us as the Perfection of our own Spirits. Perfect Goodness is the Supreme Good, may I not say the only good ? We often hear, indeed, of the Rewards of virtue, as if they were something separate from virtue, and virtue was but the means. But I am sure that Virtue itself is worth more than all outward rewards ; its truest recompense is found in itself, in its own growing vigour, in its own native peace, in the harmony which it establishes between our souls and God, in the sympathy and friendship by which it identifies us with the Universe. So we hear of the Punishments of sin as if they were the greatest evils to be dreaded. But Sin, I am sure, is itself more terrible than all its consequences, more terrible than any hell; and its chief misery is bound up in its own hateful nature. Of course, the only redemption of a human being is the recovery of his Spirit from moral evil, from whatever stains and debases it, to the purity, philanthropy, piety, and perfectness of a Child of God, such as was manifested in the Beloved Son.

To do the Will of our Heavenly Father,—to form ourselves after the purest Ideal of Goodness, which Nature, Conscience, Revelation present as a pattern,—is the great work of earthly existence. This practical use of the Gospel is the only saving Faith in Jesus Christ. For we know him, and believe in him, only in so far as we recognize, love and imitate the Perfection of his Character and Life. To prefer Universal Rectitude, the boundless Love of God and fellow beings, the Perfect Life, before all other good, is the only true wisdom, is the only real worship. We know nothing of a Future World, unless we hear proceeding from it a Voice of Benediction, that warns and welcomes us to enter now into that Purity, Integrity, Charity, Holiness, Peace and Joy, which are the bliss of Heaven."


Monday, January 4, 2010

Righteous Action...

People doing the will of God have perpetrated much good and much ill, so we are well to be wary of anyone claiming to know that will and even more so, those who urge "righteous action" in carrying it out.  Yet, in the heart of William Ellery Channing, knowing and doing God's will simply comes down to "goodness."  Excerpts from the 11th Sermon in the series, "The Perfect Life"


Matthew vii. 21 : " Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

IN these words we have a light to guide us through the intricate paths and imprisoning walls, which perverse ingenuity has reared around the Temple of God in Man. Here we learn what is central in religion. Here is revealed the immortal good, that Jesus, in his life and death, proposed as his Great End.

To do God's Will,—Duty—Moral and Religious Integrity—Rectitude in principle and practice—the Love of the Father and of all His intelligent offspring in truth and in deed,—this holds the supreme place of dignity, alike on earth and in heaven. Just in so far as we attain to this, we enter even now the Kingdom of Heaven. Would that this Truth might emerge in full glory, out of the obscurity with which false systems of Theology have enveloped it; that it might break through the clouds of mystery, which have so long shrouded it, and shine with sunlight splendour on our souls. Never can God's Will be done with our whole energy, until we learn that there is nothing in time, nothing in eternity, to be compared with the Perfect Life...

The common doctrine is, that Christ came to confer other benefits, and especially to reconcile the offended Deity to His sinful creatures, to shield men from Divine anger and from outward punishment. I believe, on the contrary that his Great End is to work a change within the mind, spirit, character of men, and that the glory of this change constitutes the glory of his office. Virtue, rectitude, purity, love of God, love to man,—in one word, Goodness,—this is the great good which flows to us from Jesus Christ. This is the Redemption he confers...

I consider Righteous Action, the Doing Of God's Will, as the Beginning and End of Christianity. I regard the Precepts of Jesus— which he gave on the Mount, and which he illustrated so gloriously in his life—as the Essential Element of his Religion, and to which all other parts are but subservient. Obey these, and the purpose of his religion is fulfilled in you. Regard these as your Rule of Life, and you build your house upon a rock. Live them out in deed, and you have entered the Kingdom of Heaven—you even now enter it. Christ's Precepts then—declaring God's Will or Perfect Virtue—are what chiefly concern us. To secure obedience to his Precepts is the great aim of all the Doctrines, Promises, and other Teachings of Christ. And to exalt these above the Precepts is to prefer the means to the End.."


Sunday, January 3, 2010


And the snow continues...the driveway will need yet another shovelling in a few minutes so I console myself with another beautiful photograph (taken by daughter Molly-see here for more,) and a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson from his "Demonology"...

"One moment of is a fact so stupendous as to take the lustre out of all fiction."

Have a blessed Sabbath everyone.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

keep us through life's wintry days...

I just posted this old and wonderful hymn a couple of weeks ago but the snows are back and yesterday (New Year's Day) my daughter Molly (who is turning 13 in a few days) took these beautiful photographs during a family walk around the neighborhood..


' T is Winter now-; the fallen snow
Has left the heavens all coldly clear;
Through leafless boughs the sharp winds blow,
And all the earth lies dead and drear.

And yet God's love is not withdrawn ;
His life within the keen air breathes,
His beauty paints the crimson' dawn,
And clothes the boughs with glitt'ring wreaths.

And though abroad the sharp winds blow,
And skies are chill, and frosts are keen,
Home closer draws her circle now,
And warmer glows her light within.

O God! who giv'st the winter's cold
As well as summer's joyous rays,
Us warmly in Thy love enfold,
And keep us through life's wintry days !"


a far and mortifying distance...

I am usually a pretty dedicated resolution maker, and an "earnest" if largely unsuccessful resolution keeper.  This year I have decided to make no formal resolutions but to try to live more fully in a certain spirit-it is the spirit put forth this morning first by James Freeman Clarke:

"TO get the most out of the coming year, we must put the most into it. And we put the most into it by living in a spirit of earnestness, doing with our might what our hand finds to do, not trifling with the golden hours, but receiving each as a precious gift from God. Only such earnest purpose makes the day a blessing, insures progress from good to better, and causes us to live in eternity while we are in time. They are the happiest who value every hour, who put good work into it, who do not procrastinate, who do everything now, and do it as well as it can be done. These make of life a fine art....So we "redeem the time,"

And next by Henry Ware Jr. in his New Year's sermon (begun here on New Year's Eve)

"And what is the business, this object for which God has placed man here? It is, in few words, to form his character for eternity. And what is this character to be? Holy, disinterested and pure; devout toward God and benevolent towards men, self-governed and free from sin-a character of which earth has yet seen but one perfect model...and that in the person of Jesus Christ-the meek and lowly, the holy, harmless and undefiled, and separate from sin. Him we are to imitate. His character is to become ours.

And is this to be done in a day? or in a year? or in many years?...Fashion to yourself what manner of man you should be, if you had the spirit of Jesus, if you had made it your great and chief concern to imitate his excellences. Do you find yourself near to it now?...Alas! it is at a far and mortifying distance, that we follow his glorious steps; scarcely do we seem to reflect a ray from his bright excellence. Yet that is our pattern. There is our business in this world..."

May we all seek to redeem a few more days this year...Blessings

Friday, January 1, 2010

a great unspeakable gift...

I was going to excerpt this morning more of Henry Ware Jr's passionate and duty filled New Year's sermon begun yesterday. But as the sun starts to rise revealing a beautiful New England morning, the trees white with yesterday's snow, the world's aspect pure, I am more inclined to pass on these words from James Freeman Clarke...Happy New Year to all.!  (tomorrow, back to Ware and Duty!)

"WHAT a wonderful thing it is that we should be alive! If we live millions of years, nothing can happen to us more wonderful than this,— that we have begun to be, that we are born into this great universe, infinite in extent, everlasting in duration, and filled with the presence of divine power, wisdom, and love. We have been created, by a divine foreknowledge and purpose, to be living souls, capable of knowledge, love, action, progress, goodness, joy. We have been placed in one of the many mansions of our Father's house, to grow up into what he means us to be. This entrance into the universe is such an amazing event that it might easily overwhelm us with its wonder. We are so softly cradled into being that we do not feel the enormous change. But, to make the most of life, we must see this wonder of existence. We must feel what a great, unspeakable gift was bestowed on each of us in that we live."

Amen and blessings