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:
"THE GOODNESS OF GOD LEADETH MEN TO REPENTANCE.
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...)
Yeah Nathan Parker probably could have benefited from an antidepressant had they been available in his days.
The idea of God as a Father figure does very little for my spirituality.
Do human thoughts turn existential in times of calamity and catastrophe? Certainly they do but it is symptom of human loss of control, not some religious epiphany.
At any rate, it's interesting to read this early 19th century religious thinking.
All the best,
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