Sunday, February 28, 2010

Joy, temperance, and repose...

... slam the door on the doctor's nose."  So said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who, James at Monkey Mind reminds us, celebrated a birthday yesterday.  Longfellow has long been a particular favorite of mine. So this morning, a belated happy birthday and wishes for a blessed sabbath for all.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

drudgerie divine...

  It may be time for some internal housekeeping...I was reading Thoreau this morning and came across this:

"Of course it is the spirit in which you do a thing which makes it interesting whether it is sweeping a room or pulling turnips."

...which put me in mind of George Herbert's "The Elixir" which includes this:

"A servant with this clause
Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine."


Friday, February 26, 2010

the great moral struggle of humanity...

After what was, to me at least, a surprising beginning, Ephraim Peabody, in his sermon, "Temptation of Christ," moves into more familiar territory:

"There is scarcely a passage in the Gospels that contains instruction which it becomes us more to lay to heart. In this temptation, he who is our Head and our Guide and our Lord, became an example in that wherein lies either the disastrous failure, or the triumph of life. The great moral struggle of humanity was symbolized in that event—humanity in its struggle with evil, not yielding, but triumphing, and triumphing in the name of God—the great mystery of temptation and of rescue revealed through the divinest life. Let us try and gather from it that instruction which belongs to us all.

It is observable that the temptation followed immediately the baptism. Scarcely had a voice from heaven declared, " This is my beloved Son," when he was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Do you think it strange, that oftentimes the worst temptations seem to follow closely on your best purposes ? In your retirement, your thoughts, strengthened by prayer, have risen into a higher region—you have resolved that henceforth life should be dedicated to God, to man, and to all holy uses. It seems as if in the silence you had heard a divine call, and your heart has said, I am here, O God, to do thy will; and you have hardly gone forth into the world, when it seemed as if all the powers of evil met you, scattering these blessed thoughts and purposes, awakening all selfish inclinations, and crowding on the mind their evil suggestions —often coming like angels of light, and offering excuses, defences, and reasons, for going with them. Yet such an experience was his who was the Son of God, and he has narrated it for your encouragement. It is as if his voice spake to you, saying, the whole mystery of this struggle I understand. But learn of me also to resist, and these tempting forms of evil shall be repelled and vanish. The greatest struggles of our lives are pictured in this narrative, and pictured that we might have help and courage, and a divine guidance. It seems as if this narrative had been placed at the beginning, that all his followers in every age might be sure that he was no stranger to their condition, that he had entered into their feelings, passed through their struggles, and undergone their trials, and that thus in life, as in doctrine, was their guide."


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

fill the hour...

For another Lenten season, Boston Unitarian (transcendentalist,) take on repentance, here is Ralph Waldo:

“To fill the hour, that is happiness; to fill the hour, and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval”

I would like to do that...Blessings

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the suburbs of visible nature...

The beginning of Ephraim Peabody's sermon on:


Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew iv. i.

The lesson for the day contains an account of the temptation of our Lord. This event in our Saviour's history has filled commentators with perplexity. For myself, I see nothing in the literal account, as such, so far, I mean, as the idea of spiritual agency is concerned, to give any special embarrassment to my faith. I am not satisfied with the reasoning of those, who imagine that they have discovered the absurdity of believing in the existence of wicked spirits invisible to the mortal eye. It seems to me a surprising stretch of presumption for an unimportant creature like man, lodged on this unimportant planet, to imagine that he is the only creature in the universe, excepting God ; and it seems quite as absurd for us to imagine that we, who do not understand more than the surface of natural laws, who only penetrate into the suburbs of visible nature, are competent to speak loudly of the mysteries and laws and relations of the spiritual world. I judge not for others, but for myself. I do not suppose that the interval between man and the Almighty is a blank and lifeless void, but that planets, and suns, and stars, and the immeasurable spaces of the heavens, are peopled with living creatures. I find no difficulty in supposing that beings with higher faculties than ours, have, within such limits as God appoints, and in harmony with the laws of the human mind, the ability to act on us, to awaken thoughts, and to help our purposes. And that this is not the case is, I think, more than any logic or philosophy ever yet has proved. I do not mean to say that the pictures of Dante, or of Milton, give just ideas of the invisible world; but the mere fact that the greatest minds, when stirred and roused to the highest action, are so impelled to soar into these unseen realms, and to hold communion with unseen beings, would suggest at least the possibility, that there are realities that correspond to these constitutional tendencies of the intellect. And when, throughout the world, I find that good men, struggling with evil, have not only been impelled to believe that they might look for the helping influences of Providence, but have also felt that in the persistent and returning temptations that beset the will, there were besieging powers of evil, external to themselves, I am slow to brand these convictions with absurdity. As to the how, and the when, and the what, revelation only could inform us ; and in regard to these subjects, revelation says little. It leaves us very much as it found us,—with a vague human consciousness and persuasion that we live, but a veil between, on the borders of an invisible world. Sometimes, through that momentarily rent veil, a gleam of light, sufficient to disclose the brightness beyond, but not to disclose what is there, seems to break in on our darkness. And there I would leave it—one of the great mysteries which encompass our mortal being, which associate our destiny with the great order and agencies of Providence, and give dignity to this poor earthly lot, by connecting it with what is above the earth."


Monday, February 22, 2010

Imagine...or not

We return to Ephraim Peabody with a sermon for the First Sunday in Lent:  "Temptation of Christ." This the reading before the sermon:

"We should always regard a disposition to indulge in any wicked imagination as a warning of the direction in which our moral dangers lie. Like those little sea-birds seen in all climes, which, when they came glancing over the sea and through the spray, flocking together and taking shelter under the lee of the vessel, are deemed the precursors and prophets of an approaching tempest, so when wicked imaginations flock to the mind, and take shelter there and are permitted to remain, we should consider them as the heralds and warnings of evil deeds to which we shall be tempted, and which, if there be opportunity, we are in danger of committing. "


Saturday, February 20, 2010

moved, melted, and won...

Part of my practice this Lenten season is to read daily in the Church Fathers.  Yesterday, I came across this from "The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians". "The all-merciful and beneficent Father," wrote Clement, "has bowels of compassion towards those that fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind.."  Nathan Parker speaks of that compassion in this continuation of a sermon begun here.

 "What then is the designed effect of the divine goodness ?

The benevolence of God is a theme, to which the devout man ever delights to direct his thoughts. He rejoices in the divine mercy. All that he beholds of order, of power, of beauty and wisdom in the works and providence of God, is regarded by him as illustrative of his goodness ; for it has reference to the happiness of his creatures. In the joyous passages of life he rejoices in the smiles of an affectionate Parent, and regards them as the pledges, as well as the proofs of his love. When darkness gathers around him, the hand of mercy is seen. At such seasons his heart, though it may bleed, murmurs not. Deeply sensible of the imperfections of his own character, and of the necessary relation of holiness to happiness, he does not think it either strange or unkind, that he is occasionally called to endure affliction ; but while he suffers he clings more closely to the perfections of his God, rejoicing that infinite love is guarding him in his conflicts. He, therefore, improves afflictions. They are made to minister to the perfection of his character, to the fulness of his joy...

Nature and providence act in perfect harmony with the gospel of God's grace. The general expression around us is that of benevolence. God is not perpetually walking forth in the whirlwind, or sending abroad the terrors of his thunder, or desolating the earth with pestilence and famine. The general voice of nature and of providence is that of mildness and love. Judgment is a strange work. Jesus also speaks to men in accents of compassion, of kindness. He proclaims peace, not peace to the wicked, but to those who are moved, melted, and won by his love..."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the temper of a grateful and confiding child...

Almost by accident this morning, I came across this sermon by Nathan Parker who served for many years as minister in Portsmouth New Hampshire.  Published in "The Liberal Preacher" in 1829, it uses the same scripture and carries the same title as Peabody's Ash Wednesday sermon posted here the past two days.  Of Nathan Parker, Henry Ware Jr. said, "The single aim of his preaching seems to have been usefulness. In the choice of his subjects, and in his mode of composition and delivery, he sacredly excluded all consideration of himself, his own reputation or the mere taste of his hearers; he considered simply what would do good. His sermons were thus remarkably characteristic of himself, — plain, unpretending, unambitious, but strong in manly sense, and pre-eminently serious and evangelical.."  The first part of:

Romans ll. 4. "Or despiscst thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance."

1. Men are indisposed to make the goodness of God a subject of serious and grateful reflection. In proof of this assertion it is unnecessary to go into an examination of facts, transmitted to us by history. Personal observation and consciousness will afford sufficient evidence to all, who will impartially attend to their testimony...

We are surrounded by God. He is spreading out his perfections on every side to interest our hearts, and to inspire us with love for his character. But when we listen to descriptions given of the works of God. how little do we hear of him, who has made all things. The sun sheds its light around us, we behold its ever varying and benevolent influence ; but how seldom are its beams made by man to praise him who causes them to spread light and comfort over the earth ! When we should behold and adore the Author of all good, we think only of ourselves, or of some trifling, fleeting interest or gratification...

The indisposition of man to make the divine goodness the subject of habitual thought is particularly apparent, when he is suffering severe afflictions. How often, when calamity overwhelms him, is he seen prostrate in hopeless anguish ! Darkness presses upon him on every side. He writhes and murmurs and struggles, as if the hand of an enemy were upon him ; or calls upon his pride to sustain him, and in sullen sadness poorly conceals the awful emotions of his soul ; or he sinks under the weight of his sorrows, as if almighty power were exerting itself to crush him in the dust. Are not these states of feeling, which are frequently witnessed ? But how could they exist with any permanency in the bosom of a man, who was embued with the spirit, which is gathered from familiar converse with the goodness of God ? The subject of his most cherished thoughts could not desert him in the season of severe trial. The temper of a grateful and confiding child would accompany him through every scene of severe discipline. It would be his consolation and support, that he was under the care of a Father. He would recognize in afflictions the hand, from which all good is derived ; the hand which guides the movements of worlds, and the fall of a sparrow. In the hour of darkness he would feel more deeply the necessity and the privilege of leaning upon a Parent's arm for support, and trusting to his counsels for direction. Then, if ever, he would open his bosom in prayer to the guardian of human virtue and happiness."

(Rev. Parker was apparantly not thinking of the goodness of God while sitting for the above photograph...)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the essential, absolute condition...

It is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  The uses and abuses of this season of self-examination and repentance are legion.  If anyone is looking for a course of daily reading for Lent this year, I would humbly commend to you William Phillips Tilden's "Leaflets for Lent."  I blogged the entire text last year and those posts can be found here.  The book itself can be found here. 
   This morning I continue with Ephraim Peabody's Ash Wednesday writing, "The Goodness of God Leadeth us to Repentance" begun yesterday.
   (On a personal note, I would ask for the thoughts and prayers of all for my wife who is across the country this week taking care of her very ill mother.  Many thanks)

"The goodness of God leadeth us to repentance. But do not therefore think it an unimportant thing. Its necessity is seen when we consider that it is the essential, absolute condition of all true peace in this life. For what is wanting here to satisfy the worn and weary heart of man ? It is not more or less success in the affairs of the world. It is a heart at peace with God ! It is a heart which, renouncing itself and the dominion of the passions and the world, says, Where God calls I will go; what He bids I will do ; his will shall be mine. Give this, and the light that shines on the outward world shall not compare with the light that fills the heart within.

There is such a thing as a Christian life, and there is a life which is not a Christian one. And these courses are not separated by narrow and indefinite boundaries, but by the controlling principles on which they are built up—by the love of worldly pleasure and advantage on one side, and by the controlling reverence for God and love of man on the other. What is there which he can look forward to in the future without fear, whose whole life has been spent in the neglect of those great principles which Christ has given as the controlling laws of life ? Every thing which our Saviour has revealed as the result of such a course is covered with clouds and darkness...

We stand on the borders of the eternal world, and before we pass under its shades, a voice from heaven echoing the words, tenderly and solemnly says, Repent!"

May this season of Lent be a blessing to all
(the illustration is "Repentance of Peter" by Carl Heinrich Bloch)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the power of self-recovery...

"Christian Days and Thoughts" is a devotional volume collected from the works of Ephraim Peabody of Kings Chapel.  Published in 1858, the editor describes the volume thus: "The book will do little good where it is hastily read and put aside. Its voice is not one to be heard in the streets, or to join in the discussions of the day. It rather asks to be admitted to the confidence of those who will receive it, in the stillness of their most retired and private hours. Its calm tones of religious tenderness and trust would find their way into the closet. It offers itself as a companion to the thoughtful in their seasons of meditation and their times of trial. It would touch their religious sensibilities. It would feed them with devout thoughts. It would store their minds with images of Divine purity and love."

Following, and for the next few days, selections from Peabody's writings on Ash Wednesday...


Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing which thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; create and make in us new and contrite hearts; that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


" Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth men to repentance." So do the Scriptures speak of repentance. In them it is nothing of gloom, or arbitrary exaction. It is an act illumined with the highest and most glorious hopes. Their language is, Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is leaving behind all things base and bad and degrading, and ascending into the light. God smiles upon it; the angels rejoice over it; the earth is blessed by it.

The opportunity and ability to repent, is one of the highest privileges that God has granted to man. Let decay commence at the heart of the oak, the tree has no self-restoring power, but must go on decaying till it falls. The temple whose foundations begin to crumble cannot restore itself, but, faster or slower, will crumble till it sinks in the dust. Bird and beast, could they wander from their instincts, know not how to correct their errors. But to man, within certain limits, and to man alone, Almighty God has seen fit to give the power of self-recovery. If moral decay touch his heart, and the innocence of childhood be gone, and sin have darkened his way and his bosom, still all hope is not gone. There is still a power at the centre to resist evil. And through its exertion, difficult though it may be, he may be raised from the darkness and the night into the day. Is the use of this power—is repentance, to be spoken of as a thing of gloom ? No : for the possession of it, so frail and sinful as we are, we ought to give loudest thanks. What were we without the power of repentance?...

Repentance rescues the man from sin to holiness, from earth to heaven. It takes him from the sympathies of the bad indeed, but it is to raise him to the society of the good—to the sympathy of all pure spirits, to the companionship of angels—yes, of angels ; for they look on and rejoice over but one sinner who repenteth."


Monday, February 15, 2010

How to get good out of Lent...

This from the March 1891 issue of "The Unitarian: A Monthly Magazine of Liberal Christianity," quoting and commending the approach to Lent advocated by Dr. Heber Newton (the Episcopal rector of All Souls Church, at least twice tried for heresy for his views of the Bible)


   Unitarians usually make much less of Lent than do their Episcopalian or Catholic brethren. Indeed, many do not observe it at all, having no sympathy either with the abuses which they see so widely prevailing in connection with its observance, or with the theology that prompts the same. There are some of our ministers and churches, however,—and we think an increasing number,—who recognize in Lent possibilities of good too valuable to be cast aside. They see in it a season which may be used to advantage by our churches for a quiet and healthful quickening of their spiritual life. To this end some of our ministers hold special services or series of meetings of one kind or another. Others have confirmation classes, or classes of the young for special religious study. Many impress upon their people the importance of making it a time for private self-examination and the deepening of the streams of their personal faith and practical beneficence.

Dr. Heber Newton, in the last number of his All Souls Monthly, urges upon his people some thoughts as to the true use of Lent that ought to commend themselves to all Christian people who care more for reality than for forms. With such an observance of the season as he proposes, none should be in more sympathy than Unitarians. Says Dr. Newton :—

"Lent returns to us once more. Shall we make a serious and systematic use of it, or shall we play with it in formal observances?

"Wisely and systematically to use it, let every one resolve upon these few points. First, let some special time be set apart for that which is crowded out of the rest of the year,—a chance for each one to be alone with himself. In the incessant round of social duties, always living in the presence of others, one is surprised at times to find how little of the year he really has had to himself and with himself. If Lent means anything at all, it means a retreat from the society of others to that best society which is found within every man. It may be well to know others: it is indispensable, now as of old, to know ourselves.

"That self which is within every man, if he will go far enough into the inner shrine of his being to find it, is always God. 'Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost?,' Into that inner and most holy place of the true temple we rarely enter. Is it any wonder that we are found so often asking, Where is God? 'Oh, that I knew where I might find him!' Turn within, and search. Never is a man alone with himself but that he is in the presence of God.

"Take up some book for systematic reading during the Lenten season,—some book that bears directly on the culture of character, on the inspiration of the inner life. Such books are, happily, in abundance. No one need look far to find them. Every one must have his own favorites in this line, or, if he has not, it is high time that he has found out such favorites. Take them down from the shelves, and read them again carefully. We need, every one, to be at home in the great classics of the soul.

"Order for yourself some real self-discipline. We talk much about it; but how little do we practise it! Even in minor matters it is well at such a season for one to seriously discipline self, if for nothing else, that he may have himself well in hand and strengthen his will, and may thus create habits of self-control which may serve him in good stead in some hour of temptation. It matters little what direction the disciplining take, so that it be a curbing of our desires and inclinations, a checking of our too easy self-indulgence, and the making of a fast, not for our stomachs, but for our sins.

"Let your children learn through this Lent to deny themselves in something of which they are fond, and bring the proceeds to offer at Easter. It will do them good, and be a means of doing good to others.

"Attend the special services that shall be ordered in the parish, and attend them as regularly as possible. Engage in some real practical bit of human helpfulness."
"He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city."


Sunday, February 14, 2010

the way to return...

 So to paraphrase Mark Twain, my own reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Happy Valentine's Day everyone.
    This from James Freeman Clarke's  "Messages of Faith, Hope and Love" for Feb.14th. 

"FOR here in truth, to my mind, lie the emphasis and essence of Christ's teaching. He leads us, through the law to the gospel, through duty to trust, through work to prayer, through the sense of responsibility to the sense of dependence. Christian faith is not a doctrine or a ritual, not a system of ethics or an emotion of piety, not profession or form. It is the law of God fulfilled by faith in the love of God. It is inflowing strength with which to do our daily work. It is the happy consciousness that God is around us with his perpetual care, beneath us with his supreme power, above us with his providential blessing, within us with his constant inspiration. This faith is the saving faith. It saves us from doubt and despair. It fills the heart with hope. It causes each day to dawn serene and peaceful, each night to close quiet and full of content. Trials may come, will come, lonely hours, the loss of those we love, disappointed hopes. But with these trials strength also will come with which to bear them. More than this, we may go wrong. We may neglect and forget opportunities. We may forget to pray, and then we shall find ourselves relapsing into the old routine of weakness and sin. But with this difference,— that we know the way to return. We know that we have only to turn round and begin again, with a greater humility and distrust of ourselves, with a greater trust in God, and that the sense of his forgiving love will descend once more into our hearts. For forgiveness, too, comes not by caprice, but by law. " If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Observe, not " He is merciful," but " He is faithful and just." It is, then, a law that, when we are willing to look our sins in the face, and see ourselves as we are, with that sight and confession of evil we are helped out of the evil into good.

This is the sum and substance of personal religion. This is the " life hid with Christ in God." It is the steady purpose of doing what we can in the direction of duty, and the steady trust in God for power with which to do it. Either of the two alone is not enough. But, joined together, they are sufficient to lift us above the danger of lost opportunities."


Friday, February 5, 2010

home, friends, love...

From James Freeman Clarke's "Messages of Faith, Hope, and Love" for February 5th.  

"I MUST stand still each day, and think of what God has done for me,— how he has blessed me with home, friends, love, opportunity of knowledge, and rich influences of culture. I must consider how he has sent to me wise teachers and generous, loving hearts to stand by me amid the storms of life. I must remember how he has put dear little children in my arms, and wise and holy men and women near me; how he has borne with me in my wilfulness and pride and folly, and restrained me from going into irremediable evil; how, when I have prayed, because I could not do any longer without prayer, he has hastened to meet my ignorant supplication, and answered it, oh, so sweetly! filling my soul down to its very depths with the peace of God passing all understanding."

Amen and Blessings

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

take heed how ye hear...

My Scripture reading this morning included the passage in Luke concerning how the parables should be heard.  Later I found this list in the January 1861 issuse of "The Monthly Journal of the American Unitarian Association:"


[The following list of the parables of the New Testament mny be useful to some of our readers.]

1. Of the Blind lending the Blind Lnko vi.
2. Of the House built on a Rock Matt. vii.; Luke vi
3. Of the Two Debtors Lnke vii.
4. Of the relapsing Demoniac Matt. xii.; Luke xi.
5. Of the Rich Man ami his Vain Hopes Luke xii.
6. Of the Lord returning from a Wedding Luke xii.
7. Of the Barren Fig-tree Luke xiii.
8. Of the Sower Matt, xiii.; Mark iv.; Luke xiii.
9. Of the Tares Matt. xiii.
10. Of the Seed sown Mark iv.
11. Of the Mustard-seed Matt. xiii.; Mark iv.
12. Of the Leaven Mutt. xiii.
13. Of the Hid Treasure Matt. xiii.
14. Of the Merchant seeking Pearls Matt. xiii.
15. Of the Net cast into the Sea Matt. xiii.
16. Of the Good Householder Matt. xiii.
I7. Of the New Cloth and Old Garment, Matt. ix.; Mark ii.; Luke v.
18. Of the New Wine and Old Bottles, Matt, ix.; Mark ii.; Luke v.
19. Of the Plant not planted by God Matt. xv.
20. Of the Lost Sheep Matt . xviii.; Luke xv.
21. Of the Unmerciful Servant Matt, xviii.
22. Of the Shepherd and the Sheep Johu x.
23. Of the Good Samaritan Luke x.
24. Of the Guest choosing the Highest Seat Luke xiv.
25. Of the Great Supper Luke xiv.
26. Of the building a Tower Luke xiv.
27. Of the King preparing for War Luke xiv.
28. Of the Salt Luke xiv.
29. Of the Piece of Silver lost Luke xv.
30. Of the Prodigal Son Luke xv.
31. Of the Unjust Steward Luke xvi.
32. Of the Rich Man and Lazarus Luke xvi.
33. Of the Master commanding his Servant Luke xvii.
34. Of the Unjust Judge and Widow Luke xviii.
35. Of the Pharisee and Publican Luke xviii.
36. Of the Laborers hired at different Hours Matt. xx.
37. Of the Ten Pounds nnd Ten Servants Luke xix.
38. Of the Professing nnd the Repenting Son .... Matt. xxi.
39. Of the Wicked Husbandmen . Matt, xxi.; Mark xii.; Luke xx.
40. Of the Guests bidden and the Wedding Garment . . Matt. xxii.
41. Of the Fip-tree putting forth Leaves, Mat.xxiv.; Markxiii.; Luke xxi.
42. Of the Thief in the Night llntt. xxiv.
43. Of the Man taking a long Journey Murk xiii.
44. Of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servant Matt. xxiv.
45. Of the Ten Virgins Matt. xxv.
46. Of the Talents Matt. xxv.

Perhaps also the following may be added: —

47. Children in the Marketplace Mutt, xi.; Luke vii.
48. The Strong Man keeping his House, Mat. xii. ; Murk iii.; Luke ix."


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

a precocious piety...

Francis Greenwood Peabody was the son of Ephraim Peabody, Minister at Kings Chapel from 1846 until just before his death in 1856. Francis was six years old when his father died and in his "Reminiscences of Present Day Saints" he bemoans the lack of memories he has of the "gaunt figure in the high pulpit of King's Chapel. This memory remains:

"The only vivid recollection which survives of worship during my childhood in the beautiful old church is of so frivolous a nature that it should perhaps be resolutely forgotten; yet it persists in recurring whenever, after seventy years, I glance upward to the noble Corinthian columns and their ornate capitals. Round the ceiling of the chancel are ranged a series of projecting and decorated brackets, know, I believe, in the language of Greek architecture, as modillions; and the intervening spaces seemed to the discerning eyes of a little boy created to serve as stalls where one might keep a stud of imaginary horses. Perched on a high cricket and propped against my mother's knees, my eyes looked upward with a fixity and rapture of gaze which may have indicated a precocious piety, but which was in fact watching my chariots, as they emerged from their little stalls and raced round the track laid out on the ceiling of the entire church. In so entrancing and exhilarating an occupation no sermon seemed too long, and my only apprehension was that the closing hymn might be announced before I had safely stabled my panting steeds."

Monday, February 1, 2010

let your speech be always with grace...

 A devout Catholic friend of mine visited our church yesterday morning because I was preaching and then, before church, a woman who is fairly new to our community pulled me aside and said, "I really like this church, and I wonder, do Unitarians believe in God?, because I do sometimes."  We had a good talk and it got me thinking about true "Catholicity" in a worship service.  That, in turn, put me in mind of this description of John A. Andrew's (who became the Civil War time Gov. of Mass.) first exposure to James Freeman Clarke, who would become his minister...

John A. Andrew, after hearing him  (JFC) preach for the first time, in 1841, wrote to a friend : —

" I have forgotten to give you my impressions of Rev. J. F. Clarke. In the first place I liked the flavor of the man. He carried his service as though he felt it a good thing to worship God and wanted the people to feel the same. I liked his sermon thoroughly. It was upon well-seasoned speech. ' Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.' And the sermon was itself a good illustration of the theme. Its spirit was Christian to the core, and did not disturb my Orthodox conscience in the least. I think I felt the catholicity of the man : he did not say a word that could be fairly understood to touch any man's honest convictions uugeutly. The whole service I enjoyed heartily ; and not the least agreeable experience was the being invited to seats at least half-a-dozen times while I was waiting for my friend at the entrance."