Sunday, August 1, 2010

we vegetate merely...

William Henry Furness (1802-1896) was born in Boston and attended Harvard Divinity School before becoming pastor of the then small Unitarian congregation in Philadelphia, a position he would hold for 50 years (followed by 21 as minister emeritus.)  More on Furness over the next few days.  Today, an excerpt from the sermon, "Stand Upon Thy Feet:"


Such is the word of the Lord that came to an ancient prophet. How truly is the same word addressed to every son of man! " Stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee."

Truth is the word of the Lord. To hear that word spoken to us by God himself, or, in other words meaning exactly the same thing, to know the Truth as clearly as if it were sounded in our ears by a supernatural voice, the indispensable condition is, that we stand upon our feet, upright.

Who is there that is thus standing ? Thousands lie bound hand and foot by those appetites that seek their food in the dust, and are deaf to everything but their own indulgence. And they hear not the voice of Truth, even when the very ground under them shakes and yawns at its thunders...

We are, or profess to be, greatly shocked by any speculations that so much as seem to bring into question the being and providence of God. Yet we are ourselves, to all vital purposes, fearfully atheistic. There is an atheism that infects us, which is the only kind of this form of unbelief that is worthy of any attention, or should cause any alarm. And this it is, alienation from the great Source of Life, that causes beings so rarely organized, so miraculously endowed, to live and die without exerting the power that we may. We vegetate merely. Or we are machines set in motion by external influences, or the abject victims, broken in spirit and strength, of low desires which use us at their will. We might be godlike spirits, in intimate communion with the Highest Power, victorious over all obstructions, and rendering all things subservient to our triumphs. But we are not. And the reason why we are not is, that we have not centred ourselves in God. We have no conviction of His being overpowering all other loves and fears. There is a superstitious reverence for His name; but He, whom even religious people profess to believe in, is scarcely anything more than a name, the tradition, the phantom, of a God."


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