Sunday, October 31, 2010

BeWare (Halloween edition...)

[Jackiepumpkin(2).jpg]This from my Halloween post from two years ago (slightly edited.)  My children, well two out of three, still love Halloween and its still not my favorite...

"Halloween is decidedly not my favorite holiday. In fact, during my years as a school teacher, I positively dreaded it. But as a father of three young children, one part of Halloween makes good sense. My children start talking about "what they are going to be for Halloween", the day after Halloween and throughout the year, every once in awhile, they will announce that they have a new idea for the coming year's costume...

The desire to "put on new garments" is, I suppose, universal and is certainly at the heart of most religious practice. To a certain degree, it is the reason Blogging has become so prevalent.

It is also why the Apostle Paul exhorts the Corinthians to imitate him (see post Oct. 25th). This morning, as I continued the study of 1 Corinthians and of Ware's Formation of the Christian Character, Paul, again, writes, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1.) In between these two posts, Paul has talked much about sex and diet, his conclusion being in v. 10:31, "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (Well, sort of...)

Henry Ware Jr. puts it this way in his, "The Formation of the Christian Character"

"Living thus with his chief sources of happiness within him, he (the seeker after Christian Character) bears with equanimity the changes and trials of earth, and tastes something of the peculiar felicity of heaven, which is 'righteousness, and peace, and joy in a holy spirit;'...But if you would discern the full excellence and loveliness of the religious life, do not rest satisfied with studying the law, or musing over the descriptions of it. Go to the perfect pattern, which has been set before the believer for his guidance and encouragement. Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith...This is the model which you are to imitate. And it is when you shall be imbued with this spirit, when you shall be filled with this sentiment, when your words, actions, and life, shall be only the spontaneous expression of this state of mind,-it is then that you will have attained the religious character, and become spiritually the child of God...To attain and perfect this character is to be the object of your desire, and the business of your life..."

"The Full excellence and loveliness of the religious life" may it be so for all. BeWare AND be Square (sorry.) Happy Halloween and


Saturday, October 30, 2010

to be a Christian...

Rufus Ellis has long and often graced this space.  These bits from his "Unpublished Sermons" on what it means to be a Christian...

1. To be a Christian one must have a very rich and positive religion. Christianity is belief in a God of perfect power and perfect goodness, in Divine Providence, and a very particular Divine Providence too, in the efficacy of prayer, and in the immortal life of the soul.

2. To be a Christian is to set a supreme value upon spiritual wealth, especially upon righteousness, to miss it when it is lacking as we miss bread and water when they fail, to have a very living conscience.

3. To be a Christian is to recognize the duty and to feel the desire of self-sacrifice for the good of others, to be born of God in being born into the love of man.

4. To be a Christian is to be of a gentle and merciful mind towards those whose works we disapprove and are earnestly striving to change, to be incapable of anything like retaliation, — not meeting strife with strife and railing with railing, but ever disarming opposition and seeking to change hatred and wrath into friendly feeling.

5. To be a Christian is to be able to count it a blessing when we are so true to our conviction and engaged in our purpose as to bring down upon ourselves loss and outward shame from those whom we are trying to help; a blessing even to lose a lower life for the sake of entering ourselves and carrying others with us into a higher life.

6. To be a Christian is to have a very solemn and settled regard for what is true, to rejoice only in the truth, to be unable to trifle with clear intellectual convictions, to have and hold our faith unto ourselves with absolute honesty, with persistent individuality, demanding and according intellectual freedom. Truth is a great word with the Christian. Truth is above opinions, as, if need be, against majorities.

7. To be a Christian is to find all these faiths and qualities gathered up and illustrated in One to whom we confess an ardent loyalty, One who guides, inspires, encourages, so that we are in the world as He was. "


Friday, October 29, 2010

no problem...

The Gita held strong appeal for Ralph Waldo and others of the transcendentalists.  I am currently reading "The Bhagavad Gita According to Gandhi" which is Gandhi's translation with commentary of what was, for him, the central scripture.  Gandhi on the "devotion required by the Gita"

"...the devotion required by the Gita is no softhearted effusiveness.  It certainly is not blind faith.  The devotion of the Gita has the least to do with externals.  A devotee may use, if he likes, rosaries, forehead marks, make offerings, but these things are no test of his devotion.  He is a devotee who is jealous of none, who is a fount of mercy, who is without egotism who is selfless, who is ever forgiving, who is always contented, whose resolutions are firm, who has dedicated mind and soul to God, who causes no dread, who is not afraid of others, who is free from exultation, sorrow, and far, who is pure, who is versed in action and yet remains unaffected by it, who renounces all fruit, good or bad who treats friend and foe alike, who is untouched by respect or disrespect, who is not puffed up by praise, who does not go under when people speak ill of him, who loves silence and solitude, who has a disciplined reason...."


Thursday, October 28, 2010

every vile practice...

I rarely speak of politics in this space. This morning, however, my devotional reading included James 3:13-18. 

" Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

In light of the current election cycle, I think everyone running for office in the future should take a "James 3:13

Here endeth the politics for this year...Blessings

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

the self removed...

Thomas Treadwell Stone gets passionate about the...

Mat. iv. 10, II.

"The first movement in the true life is self-renunciation; a renunciation, unqualified, absolute, complete. Only when man loses himself, can he find himself. This may be, perhaps, the great idea from which mythologies have derived their sayings of a final absorption of created things in the uncreated. A man absorbed in the Supreme Essence, so soon as, with the awful fear of he knows not what, in the immense possibilities of the universe, he lets the whole pass by leaving him desolate and alone, trusting only to the Unseen, finds himself no longer alone, no longer desolate. By losing even his life, he has found it. The demons are gone, and angels minister unto him. But there is one grand condition by which the blessing is guarded. The renunciation must be literally unqualified. If a person says within himself, "Now let me try some other way of happiness than has misled me hitherto. Now I will surrender these worldly pursuits, bringing me nothing but disappointment and anxiety, for those heavenly gifts which I believe will make me content and bring no care "; be sure he will be deceived. It is with him only a spiritual bargain. He sells off his present goods, to purchase a better stock; rather, he invests what he holds in something safer and yielding a larger income for the future. He may be satisfied to live somewhat poorly now, waiting for the Indian treasures and the luxurious paradise which a few days will bring him. Alas! his is an empty phantom, a bewildering shadow, a deathful delusion. What odds do time and place make in the great principles of the Divine Life? The selfishness, which asks for heaven, just as it grasps earth; which would find indulgence and grandeur and power after death, just as it seeks them before death; which is proud of spiritual attainments and turns them to means of aggrandizement, just as it is proud of any temporary thing and turns it to kindred use; is but the spirit of darkness transforming itself into angel of light, and seduces the wandering soul only the more surely, because the evil is more concealed and the good more obtrusive. Not in dying for the sake of living, but in dying to the self wholly without thought of reward, comes the true life. Not in giving up earth for the sake of heaven, is heaven won, but in sacrificing the world without demand of compensation, comes the real heaven. Not in worshipping the self through God, but in worshipping him alone, the self removed, is peace found. Then, never else, the Devil leaveth us: behold, then, never else, angels come and minister unto us."


Monday, October 25, 2010

confession houses...

ConfessionIt's just barely possible that the Lord is trying to tell me something.  Last Friday I led tours of our beautiful church for children in our local elementary school.  During question time, one earnest young man looked at me and asked, "Where are your confession houses?"  Today's devotional topic in "Altar at Home" was Confession of Sin.  Finally, in looking for prayers by Thomas Treadwell Stone, I found the following which, of course, turned out to be a prayer of confession...

"We confess unto thee how weak we are in ourselves, how powerless to do the work of life, how prone to selfishness and sin. We beseech Thee to grant us strength, the strength of Thy Spirit, the power of Thy Christ, wherein we can do all things. Enable us thus to repress every selfish propensity, every wilful purpose, every unkind feeling, every thought and word and deed of anger and impatience, and to cherish perfect love, constant kindness, to think pure thoughts, to speak gentle words, to do helpful and generous deeds. Raise our minds to the contemplation of Thy beloved Son, that, seeing His divine beauty, we may be drawn near unto Him, and changed into His image, and empowered to bring every thought into obedience to Christ, into harmony with His Spirit and His immortal life—Amen"


Sunday, October 24, 2010

a very angel of the Lord...

I think the second post ever made in this space was on Thomas Treadwell Stone and he is someone I return to often.  This excerpt from his sermon, "The Secret Attractions" illustrates why...

"The good...whose hearts are always open like day, whether dwelling amidst the dawn of their East, or surrounded by the shadows which persecution loves to cast, represent equally the higher principles; such, the wise men, loving and seeking the Truth; such, Joseph and Mary, types of the holiest qualities and relations of the man and the woman; such, he who is less type and representative than very substance and reality of whatever is enduring, the central form, as of this, so of all history, the Divine Child. Let it be next observed, that there are in every life, perhaps, certain hours of crisis,— hours when these different and opposite qualities and impulses appear, as it were, collected within the circle of open vision, as these their historical types were drawn together in Judea. A new star has risen in the East, inviting the soul to seek the Highest. Beneath this light of the Divine countenance sin looks dark and deformed, such as it really is, passion and pride and selfish pursuits seem as they are, worse than vain and ignoble. Evil is condemned, falsehood denied. Amidst shades and clouds, it may be, but really, the Beauty of the Lord shines from the heavens. The only greatness now is Love; the only reality, Truth. All betokens the approach of a life quickening and exalting the whole manhood. States or processes like these may be called by different names, and may be attended by different forms of conscious feeling and thought, as men are trained in unlike theologies and under unlike methods of discipline, or as their own temperaments are varied. But name and describe them as we may, they can never be other than realities to sincere souls. They present the celestial, appearing amidst the terrestrial. Love rises, even if darkened by hates. The Divine overlooks the clouded and tempestuous abyss. Mark now the secret movements of the roused spirit! All noble aspirations, all unselfish purposes, all kindlier affections, all lofty thoughts, move toward the birthplace of this immortal Promise. I have seen, when one is reading of a martyr deed or a transcendent word, or when he sees or hears either from another, how the eyes will fill, and the lips quiver, and the voice falter, overmastered by the power which is yet tenderness rather and entrancing beauty, taking the man from himself as into a holier Eden. T'is a dawning love, a rising wisdom, a very angel of the Lord coming down to stir the deep fountains, that we may bathe in them and live. Obedient to the heavenly vision, our better affections all come forth, as the star shines, and go toward the holy place of Truth, even onward to where the star rests over the infant life."


Saturday, October 23, 2010

the great Optimism...

At about this time of year in 1839, Ralph Waldo Emerson was contemplating a new series of lectures and fretting over the limitations of the "lecturer's desk." No wonder as he had some slightly large ambitions.

    " What shall be the substance of my shrift?" he asked himself in his journal.  "Adam in the garden, I am to new-name all the beasts in the field and all the gods in the sky; I am to invite men drenched in Time to recover themselves and come out of Time and taste their immortal air.  I am to fire, with what skill I can, the artillery of sympathy and emotion.  I am to indicate constantly, thought all unworthy, the ideal and holy life, the life within life, the forgotten Good, the unknown Cause in which we sprawl and sin.  I am to try the magic of sincerity, that luxury permitted only to kings and poets.  I am to celebrate the spiritual in their infinite contrast to the mechanical powers and the mechanical philosophy of this time.  I am to console the brave sufferers under evils whose end they cannot see, by appeals to the great Optimism self affirmed in all bosoms."

   His friend and biographer James Elliot Cabot reports that "When the lectures were over, he felt that he had come short of his mark."

Friday, October 22, 2010

an astounding spectacle...

John Brazer gets passionate about "The Great Salvation"

"But this is only a partial view of the great boon. It possesses, not only the negative character of preserving us from great evils, but the positive one of conferring upon us unspeakable benefits. But I cannot here enlarge upon this aspect of the " great salvation." The tongue of an apostle has faltered on this theme, and the language of inspiration only faintly essays to indicate it by saying that "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

But, " great" as is this salvation, it is not yet " great " or attractive enough to secure it from the neglect of those to whom it is offered. This is implied in the inquiry of the text, — " How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?" And how is this neglect manifested ?

In the hope of giving to the subject a practical turn, I shall attempt, very briefly, to answer this inquiry. And here, passing by in a single sentence, and that one of mingled pity and sorrow, the conduct of that unfortunate class of persons who live in a state of total unbelief in the " great salvation," and are hastening onwards towards their dread account in the dark and sterile path of a desolate skepticism ; — passing these, I observe that those may emphatically be said to neglect the great salvation who treat it with an habitual and cold indifference. This, if not the wickedest, is certainly the strangest state of mind that can prevail on the subject of religion. To see men living on in a world like this, amidst unnumbered cares, infirmities, sorrows; amidst conscious weakness and helplessness; liable constantly to dangers, seen and unseen ; exposed to death, and the consequences of death, whatever they may be, at every instant; continually feeling in their own souls irrepressible hopes, aspirations, misgivings, and fears; yet living on from childhood to old age in utter disregard of a light which purports, at least, to solve the mysteries of life ; of a revelation which claims, at least, to proceed from God; of a doctrine, which, whether true or not, has altered the whole tone of human thought; of a scheme of faith and duty, which, whether divine or not, has formed anew the whole system of human manners, and claims, whether rightfully or not, to be authenticated by the miraculous power of God in this world, and to be sanctioned by august hopes and awful fears in a world to come ; — to see, I say, men, claiming to be rational beings, passing through long lives in a state of total indifference and unconcern of calls and claims like these, is an astounding spectacle. And yet it is one that is not without a parallel in common life around us, and is to be regarded as an emphatic and most melancholy example of one class of those who neglect the " great salvation."

(painting is "Rainy Day, Boston" by Frederick Childe Hassam)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

the whole history of any single sin...

Rev. John Brazer uses the "S" words in this continuation of his sermon, "The Great Salvation...

"It rescues us from sin. It furnishes the only sufficient motive of true repentance and reform from a course and habit of sinning, in all its multifold forms. Other influences may come in aid of this, — such, for example, as expediency; reference to the opinions of others; a vague apprehension of consequences; that bodily pain which, like a sort of material conscience, always waits on excess. But these motives, even in all their united strength, are not, of themselves, sufficient to keep the sinner from his sin, as the observation of every day shows. They may serve to dam up some of the streams of sin, or alter their direction, but they have no power to break up or dry up their head-springs in the soul, out of which they flow. And until this is done, nothing is done that is worth doing. And this can only be effectually done through the stern, the searching, the imperative, the all but resistless motives that are brought to bear on the sin-bound soul through the "great salvation."

Again, it rescues us, not only from the prevalence, but from the power, of sin. The power of sin consists mainly in its deceitfulness, in its false shows, in its fair disguises, in its hollow professions, and in its lying arguments. Could we see, as we may suppose angels or higher intelligences do, the whole history of any single sin from its first suggestion to the mind, through its progress in this world to its inevitable results in a retributory state, we should as soon make playthings of serpents' fangs, or slake our thirst at poisoned fountains, as touch the perilous thing. But from these sad, these melancholy delusions, we may find a safe resort in the " great salvation."

(Illustration: temperance poster by Nathaniel Currier)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

light in the utter darkness...

Of the ministry of John Brazer, a parishioner said " The sick he comforted by his conversation and cheered with his attentions, while he opened to the dying such views of immortality as supported them through the valley which was darkening around them. Deeply sensible of the efficacy of prayer, he sought to bring the heart of the sufferer before the throne of the Almighty, a humble and resigned offering to his holy will."  His sermon, "The Great Salvation" continued:

"And who is the author of this salvation ? It is God, the Infinite, the Eternal One. The Majesty of heaven and earth took pity on the ignorant and erring children of men, and sent to them this means of grace and this hope of glory.

And by whom was this " great salvation" announced and perfected here on earth ? By the great and gracious Son of God, Jesus the sinless, Jesus the righteous, who lived and taught, and suffered and died, and rose from the grave and went to heaven, that he might render this great salvation efficacious to every earnest and devoted follower.

And from what does this " great salvation " rescue us? In the first place, from forlornness and utter despair under the trials, burdens, and sorrows of the present life. It does not, indeed, excuse us from the evils themselves. There would be no real salvation in this, since they are a part of that trial and discipline which are intended to lead the soul to the salvation which it needs. But it does offer solace when all other comfort fails; light in the utter darkness of all things else; sufficing help in the midst of spiritual decays; hope in despair. It enables us to bear what we cannot forego, to be resigned where we cannot choose but suffer, and to wrest, in our strugglings with the dark angel of sorrow, those priceless blessings which it is his prerogative, and his alone, to bestow."


Monday, October 18, 2010

aching clay...

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]Born the son of a baker in Worcester, MA in 1789,  John Brazer attended Harvard where his academic ability was clear. He was tutor in Greek and Professor in Latin before becoming minister at Salem, MA, where he served until his death in 1843.  This from his sermon


There are two thoughts of infinite concernment involved in this inquiry. One is, that there is a " great salvation " offered to our acceptance, and the other is, that there is great danger in neglecting to accept it and avail ourselves of it.

There is a " great salvation" offered to our acceptance. But, it may be asked, do we need to be reminded of this ? Have we not heard of it all our lives long ? Has it not been reiterated a thousand times, in a thousand ways? Has it not been taught to us in infancy, and repeated in every advanced step in life, and virtually recognized, even when not repeated, in the whole history of the past ? Yes, undoubtedly, in regard to most of us, this is the fact, and it is on this very account, paradoxical as it may seem, that this " great salvation " needs to be presented to the mind anew. Our very familiarity with the subject, or rather with certain forms of expression by which it is indicated, has served to deaden its impression on the mind. It has become a trite theme, and therefore, like the familiar murmur of a stream, falls upon our ears without any distinct significance. For this very reason, then, it becomes necessary to quicken our " spiritual apprehension " of it, to place ourselves in the position of those to whom it was first preached, and to listen to it as to a voice from heaven, which is intended to call the dead to life.
" So great salvation," says the writer to the Hebrews. Why great ? To what degree, in what manner, for what reason, " great " ?

It is great in its object. This is none other than the human soul. Its object is not that aching clay which forms our bodies, and which, by a resistless attraction, is hastening down to mingle with its parent earth. It is not that " life in others' breath " which is called reputation. It is not that wealth which must soon leave us or be left. It is not that little round of duties, cares, interests, and enjoyments that fill up these transitory hours. But its object is the human soul; that principle which lives and thinks and wills and feels ; that makes a man a man, that connects him with God, and endows him with a life which, outlasting suns and stars and worlds and all material things, shall still live on, eternal as is God himself. And is not a salvation great that can save, rescue from perdition, so august a creation as the human soul ?"


Friday, October 15, 2010

a city winter...

This from James Freeman Clarke (also posted at Wonderful Epoch)

"A CITY winter means nine months,—from October to July. In that time what may a church do ? What may not this church do ?

First of all, we may all of us come nearer to God; we may dedicate ourselves more fully to his service; we may increase our faith, our hope, our love. This is the one thing needful,— the root of the whole matter. To try to do Christian work without a fountain of Christian life within is like drawing water from a well by letting down buckets into it. This is better than not to have the water. Better act by a continual struggle and by hard work than not act at all. But when we have faith in God, in Christ, in the gospel, then it is like the flow of water which pours into a city by aqueducts from distant hills, sending its ever-fresh supplies by a power of its own into every home. Let us all, this winter, seek for more faith in the divine love, seek to live in it and from it: then we cannot help receiving good and doing good."


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the spirit of poetry

While serving the Unitarian Church in Springfield, Rev. William B.O. Peabody contributed articles on a wide variety of topics (including trees, insects, birds, literary reviews etc...) and poetry to "The North American Review."  A selection of these offerings were collected in the volume, "LITERARY REMAINS OF THE LATE  WILLIAM B. 0. PEABODY, D.D."  This an excerpt of his review of the book:

"Studies in Poetry; embracing Notices of the Lives and Writings of the best Poets in the English Language, a copious Selection of Elegant Extracts, a short Analysis of Hebrew Poetry, and Translations from the Sacred Poets ; designed to illustrate the Principles of Rhetoric, and teach their Application to Poetry. By George B. Cheever. Boston, 1830."  (They don't name em like that any more...)

(After  reviewing statements concerning the decline of poetry, Peabody writes)

"Even if the justness of these complaints be admitted, they would only prove, that the most delightful music is at all times heard with difficulty amidst the din and crash of the enginery of practical life. The spirit of poetry is still present with him who meditates at eventide; with the worshipper of nature in her solitary places; with the contemplative in their high and lonely tower; with him who is rapt and inspired by devotion ; and, even if it be driven from the haunts of crowded life, it still speaks to the soul in tones as thrilling and divine as ever."


Monday, October 11, 2010

so sweet the memory...

[graphic]Rev. William B.O.Peabody was a scholar, minister, and lover of nature.  Instrumental in the creation of the Springfield Cemetery a monument was dedicated some years after his death (pictured.)  The ceremony was concluded with the singing of this hymn written by Rev. Peabody...



Behold the western evening light!
It melts in deeper gloom ;
So calm the righteous sink away,
Descending to the tomb.

The winds breathe low—the yellow leaf
Scarce whispers from the tree !
So gently flows the parting breath,
When good men cease to be.

How beautiful, on all the hills,
The crimson light is shed ! '
Tis like the peace the dying gives
To mourners round his bed.

How mildly on the wandering cloud
The sunset beam is cast!
So sweet the memory left behind,
When loved ones breathe their last.

And, lo ! above the dews of night
The vesper star appears !
So faith lights up the mourner's heart,
Whose eyes are dim with tears.

Night falls, but soon the morning light
Its glories shall restore ;
And thus the eyes that sleep in death
Shall wake to close no more."


Sunday, October 10, 2010

something wrong in our souls...

William B.O. Peabody  (1799-1847) was ordained in 1820 in Springfield, MA where he served until his death. As a preacher, it was his single aim "to enkindle the spiritual life in the hearts of those who heard him,  "His manner" reported another,"...was simply the presence of a revered preacher and a beloved friend, telling what he knew about the gospel of Christ." More about Rev. Peabody during the coming week.


" The Father is with me." —John xvi. 32.

Have you never seen the time when you felt so desolate that the presence of any being would have been a relief to you ? Have you never seen the time when you have done some unworthy deed which you could not have done if you had felt that any being was near you ? Have you never gained some victory over your own passions, and wished for some witness of your triumph, some sharer of your joy ? Christianity supplies these wants of the soul. It teaches us that the greatest and best of all beings is always near us, — all we need is to learn to feel His presence in our souls.

There is no safeguard of human virtue half so powerful as the thought that a being is present, nor does that thought lose its power when we are told that a being is present, and that being is God. Do we not fear him because we cannot see him with our eyes ? If the simple presence of a human being has power over us, and the presence of God has no power, there must be something wrong in our souls.

There is something wrong in our souls, — this want of spirituality is wrong, — it is wrong to let our minds be enslaved to visible things as to think more of every created thing than of the God who made it. There is no such thing as being religious while we are strangers to God.

The spirit of religion consists in making the thought of God near, familiar, and welcome; and you can tell the amount of your own or any other man's religious improvement by ascertaining whether or not he loves to think of God. He who does not take pleasure in thinking of God has no claim to the name of Christian. It is true there are many in the Christian world who never think of God when they can avoid it, who pronounce his name often in profaneness, and never in prayer. They consider themselves Christians, they expect the Divine blessing, they hope to be saved; if so, they cannot be undeceived too soon. But let us learn from Jesus Christ how far he felt the presence of his Father,—from him we can learn our Christian duty."


Friday, October 8, 2010

from height to height...

This prayer from the Unitarian Devotional, "The Altar at Home" for "Aspiration."

"INFINITE Being, in whom all perfections meet, send thy Spirit down to lift our spirits up to thee. We would not grovel on the low level of time and sense, contented with things that perish. We would aspire evermore from height to height, through knowledge and trust, through obedience and love, still rising, till we reach our perfection. We thank thee for the sacred lures thou dost hold above us, to tempt our desires aloft. 0 may we forget the things which are below, and press forwards and upwards towards the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus. Lessen the attraction of ignoble things, and increase the power of all forms of celestial good to draw our souls to themselves. Especially, O God, reveal the glories of thine own being, the loveliness of thine own face to us, that, turning from all else, we may supremely strive to win and lose ourselves in thee. Pardon us, and bless us, O thou who in all and over all art God alone. Amen."


Thursday, October 7, 2010

even I am yogi...

Self culture, the practice of building character and making life an art, is, as longtime readers know, central to my love for the "Boston Unitarians."  I am giving a Lyceum lecture on "Self-culture" on Friday and am tracing the idea from the "visible saints" through the Transcendentalists.  This from a letter written by Henry David Thoreau::

"Free in this world as the birds in the air, disengaged from every kind of chains, those who practice the yoga gather in Brahma the certain fruits of their works.
   Depend upon it that, rude and careless as I am, I would fain practice the yoga faithfully.
   The yogi, absorbed in contemplation, contributes in his degree to creation; he breathes a divine perfume, he hears wonderful things.  Divine forms traverse him without tearing him, and united to the nature which is proper to him, he goes, he acts as animating original matter."
   To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I am yogi."


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

congregation of burning logs...

This gem from a summer sermon given at our church by Joanne Howard, a "resident historian." 

"Rev. David Barnes served as our Minister for an amazing 57 years. Physically and mentally, he outlived his ability to serve but remained among us after his successor, Samuel Deane, was called as our minister. Parish records seem to show an allocation of 109 pounds for Rev. Barnes expenses. Rev. Deane, our most prolific historian wrote: ‘Rev. Barnes spent the last years of his life sitting in front of a fireplace, wrapped in the warmth of a shawl, and preaching his old sermons – verbatim – to the congregation of burning logs.’

Blessings (and thanks Joanne!)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the angels smiled to see...

I am sure everyone is anxiously awaiting the fate of Ulrich the Norwegian Immigrant...We left him and his family having just been taken in by Mr. and Mrs. White, the moral "infidels."  William Henry Channing goes on to describe some of the reforms these good people have instituted.  The results...

"Four months or more had passed away. The boys had put aside their skates, thrown stones through the rotting ice, and paddled on boards along the canal; the crows skimming on low wings flew over the meadows ; the blackbirds in crowded orchestra chanted their chorus to spring on the beaches and maples ; in low grounds the long bending willows began to show their yellow green; and wind flowers opened their graceful bells in sunny nooks; once again the locks were to be opened, and canal boats awoke from their winter's sleep. Bugles blew a merry note, flags waved, stages rattled, loaded carts bore the accumulated goods from bursting storehouses, lazy hands were drawn from the pockets, loungers became bustling business men ; all were alive and laughing and eager in the warm bright morning ; when a little heart scene was acted in Mr. White's parlor, that angels smiled to see.

A good Norwegian priest who had left his own land to follow with words of comfort and counsel the scattered brethren of his church in America, had arrived from his winter's journeying at , and visited among others Ulric and his family. The whole dammed up river of their gratitude, which they had no words to tell in English, had been poured into his confiding bosom; nnd now when they were to bid farewell to their benefactors, he had come with them as their interpreter. There they stood, dressed in their native costume, neat though threadbare, parents and children hand in hand, and their honored pastor in front. And just risen from the breakfast table surprised and full of sensibility, at once joyful and sad, the good patriarch and his wife with a little boy whom they had adopted clinging round them, came forward with their welcome. There were too many thoughts and feelings on both sides for much speaking. Warm pressures of the hands, smiles mingling in the tears like gleams amid the showers, thanks spoken with sobs and deep tones in their broken tongue; and then as by one impulse the grateful band knelt down, and their minister in words simple and sweet, and gushing warm from the heart, called down the blessings of heaven upon those who had smoothed the path for weary feet, and been brother and sister to wanderers far away from fatherland and kindred. What heralds are such scenes of mankind's reunion upon earth in one great family, with one name and speech ; what prophecies of the grand reunion of all spirits hereafter in the mansions of our Heavenly Father."


Monday, October 4, 2010

on earth as it is in heaven...

From James Freeman Clarke's "Messages of Faith, Hope and Love" (published daily at "Wonderful Epoch") This plain, passionate charge to the church..   

 "SUPPOSE the Christian Church should really believe that what it asks in its daily prayer is possible ; believe that the kingdom of God can come here, is meant to come here ; and that God's will can be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Suppose this should be the chief aim and effort of the Church,— to put an end to war, to cruelty, to all wrong-doing; to make men honest, generous, pure, truthful, loving. If the Church should devote its main energy, as Jesus did, to seek the lost, and to save them from their present evils; to bind the wounds of the broken-hearted here; to give sight to the blind, feet to the lame, comfort to the sorrowful, help to the poor; to lead those who have gone astray back into the right paths; to make all men feel that God is in our midst to-day, that his infinite love is around us now, that Christ is with us here in this earthly life, that his heart is longing to save the world from its present sins,— if the Church believed this, would not the kingdom of God come and his will be done ? With the whole power of the Church put forth in this direction, how soon might we not see these divine results ?"

Amen and Blessings
(illustration "Christ Among the Poor" by Georges Rouault)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

like unto God...

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. 


moral infidels...

An activist for social reorganization and justice, William Henry Channing was born in Boston, served churches in New York, Liverpool, and Washington D.C. (during the Civil War) and was the Chaplain of  the House of Representatives in 1863-64.  While in New York, he started a Journal "The Present" from which comes the story I have been excerpting.  "The Norwegian Emigrant" continued...

"And who were Mr. and Mrs. White? If you had asked of the poor of , they would have said, " Who are they ? why they are honest employers who pay a dollar when wages are six shillings, and liberal counsel who give best advice without a fee. Who but he filled his house, parlors and chambers, and all with Irish families when the great fire burned the square in — street ? Who but he, old as he is and sometimes sick, went round with pails of coffee and soup when the flood drove the inhabitants from their homes on the river, and sheds and tents were put up for them on the hill there ? Who but they nursed us when the cholera broke out ? He sent Mrs. Lane's deaf and dumb boy to the Asylum, and put him in the stage himself and paid his fare. He bought the bible printed for the blind in raised letters for Mr. Wise, and Mrs. White sat by him whole afternoons teaching him to read. Who but he got the old jail, which was too dirty for pigs torn down, and the new one yonder built, and carries books to the prisoners and talks with them, and finds them work when they come out ? There are no black dungeons there we can tell you, where the crazy people are kept caged and whipped and starved on dirty straw, for he had all of them sent to the Hospital. And if you should go some day to the public school, you would find him there asking the children questions and bidding them good bye with some pleasant words that they never forget. And his wife, bless her angel heart, is just like him. Whom have they not helped ? It would take all day to tell the half they do of acts of love. They are friends to the friendless, practical Christians." But perhaps some of the " unco guid" as Burns calls them, would have responded : " Nay ! not so ! Mr. and Mrs. White are neighborly, quiet, harmless, kind; but they do not believe right, and are not orthodox. Pity such moral people should be Infidels."

If you had asked now good Mr. and Mrs. W. to give account of themselves against this heavy charge of heresy, they might have changed the subject, or kept silence, or plead guilty, or made a cheerful repartee; but the heart would have said through their calm smiling eyes and cloudless brows, " we are fellow mortals who believe that life as it is, is far too hard for the most, and that there is not the least danger of making it too happy; that we need not be afraid to help others, for we owe all we have and are to others help of us; that men seem worse than they really are, and that even the worst can mend ; that society breeds the crimes it punishes, and that kind words are surer cures of evil than legal penalties. We have too many faults ourselves to judge others; we hope for a time when justice and love will do away with these unnatural and monstrous contrasts of condition; and meanwhile we share as we can what our father has entrusted to our stewardship."

(the conclusion tomorrow...)

Friday, October 1, 2010

"Poor Ulric"...

My people are Midwestern Norwegians and Germans and, therefore, I was drawn to this story written by William Henry Channing and published in his short-lived journal "The Present."  Written in the somewhat melodramatic style of the times, it nonetheless paints a picture of the emigrant life.  "SCENES FROM ACTUAL LIFE. No. I. THE NORWEGIAN EMIGRANT" continued...

"Ulric had left Norway in the early summer with some score of his neighbors to settle in Iowa, with money enough in his purse from hard earnings to buy him a small farm, and with good hope of getting a shelter over the heads of his family before cold weather. But the oft repeated, only sadder because frequent tale, of imposition and outrage upon emigrants, had been true of him. A drunken captain in a leaky water-logged ship spun out their voyage to a most unexpected length; their store of provision was exhausted; famine, bad air, a closely packed crowd, the heat of calms, and above all, care and trouble, bred fever on board, and late in August he landed sick at quarantine. Recovery was slow; expenses, necessary and unnecessary of all kinds eat up his means ; the duplicity of a fellow lodger when they had actually reached New York lessened still more his little capital; in a dirty, crowded inn, amidst filth and noise his baby was born; his companions more fortunate had gone a month and more before him; he paid to a cheating agent who assured him that he could reach the far west his full fare round the lakes, with a company of Germans who did not speak his language, as he did not theirs, had he left Albany; and now where and how thought he, as with little Fritz's hand in his he trudged over the frozen ruts, where and how were he and his to winter. Pious parents had taught Ulric in maxims, written into his very heart, that the Providence which tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, counts the very hairs of the head of the humblest and poorest. And but for faith in this law of divine love which shines warm in adversity, his prospect in life would have seemed more cheerless and bleak than the bare trees and heathery hills of this strange land. But Fritz! what was hardship to a boy. He picked up the glossy chestnuts which the wind had shaken from the open burrs, laughed at the squirrels which chippered as they ran on the fences and hid, and echoed the caw of the crows as they flew southward overhead. "What bankrupts in happy love would grown men be in this hard world, were it not for the treasure of joy which youth stores in the heart.

Weeks passed, and December with its fogs and rains, and January with its snows and thaws had come, Ulric gaining as he could with the saw, for which he paid the last dollar, small sums amidst many rival applicants for the poor privilege of earning an honest livelihood by humble toil, when at last his goods were pawned, his funds exhausted, and one evening he found himself standing in the street holding his baby, while the children warmed their feet by stamping on the sloppy pavement, and their mother was for the first time in her life begging bread. The lamps shone,on the sad group. Many stopped for a moment and muttering "emigrants,"hurried on to comfortable houses. But at length a gentleman rather advanced in life, with a lady several years younger leaning on his arm, in the countenances of each of which a kindly smile lingered as if from pleased recollection of the visit of mercy from which they were returning, came to where they stood, and did not pass, but pressed poor Ulric's hand and patted the wet shoulders of the children, and drew from their imperfect words the story of their sufferings. " What can we do for them, Mary ; is not the room where the Carey's lived empty now ? There is a bed chamber adjoining, and a stove, and I think they will do very well. Let us get them there at once." To procure a cart, to place the children upon it, to find the mother, and give the driver his directions, was for this benevolent couple the work of a few moments; and then with Ulric they followed. It was an hour beyond their usual time of taking their evening meal, and it carried them far from their course through the melting snow and mild; but kindness was to them as daily food; the needy were ever their nearest kin, and love made the " longest way round their shortest road home," as they had often and often proved. Did not the face of Fritz, glowing red as he blew the fire, and the gentle form of the sick mother as sitting on the floor she rocked to sleep her infant, and the half bashful, half confiding group of the children hungrily eating their supper, and Ulric's courteous thanks, as cap in hand he bowed them from the door, mingle pleasantly in their dreams that night ?"    More tomorrow...