Friday, April 29, 2011

the lips of a Unitarian...

Resurrection week concludes with this gem from "The Epworth Herald" (March 1903) an organ of the Methodist young adult organization, The Epworth League. It features a hymn by Henry Ware Jr.

"Memory Guild for Learning Best Hymns
Bishop H. W. Warron.
Our Resurrection Demonstrated.
One year Kansas raised grain enough to load a train that would reach from San Francisco to New York, and project 100 miles into the ocean at either end. But one loaf supplies our daily bread. There are many jubilant hymns on the unique fact of the resurrection of Christ. Let us be sure of one.
This hymn is chosen because its bounding dactylic measure is easy to learn and remember, because it has the same ringing keynote as the whole gospel—joy—and because it follows the scriptures in making the resurrection of Christ the whole assurance of ours. It recognizes the real terrors that gathered around him, and brings the angelic world and ours together on this, as on every needful occasion. The contrasts of "fetters of darkness " and " resplendent in glory," of "if death were our end " and " immortal, to heaven ascend," are gloriously graphic.
It is good to hear the old Methodist and angelic shout of "Glory to God!" from the lips of a Unitarian. This is Boston at its best
Resurrection is revelation. There are plenty of hints—butterflies from grubs, waving wheat from decayed grain—which are recognized after resurrection is demonstrated, but never before.
None of these hints nor the great example require an identic body of flesh to be raised—even the living shall be changed as they are caught up in the air. "An appearance like lightning," and a "countenance as the sun shining in his strength," at sight of which one who had seen the transfiguration fell at his feet as dead, is not made of mortal flesh.
But let us turn to the bounding billows of the hymn:

Lift your glad voices In triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die;
Vain were the terrors that gathered around him,
And short the dominion of death and the grave;
He burst from the fetters of darkness that bound

Resplendent in glory, to live and to save:
Loud was the chorus of angels on high—
The Saviour hath risen, and man shall not die.

Glory to God! in full anthems of joy;
The being he gave us death cannot destroy:
Sad were the life we may part with to-morrow,
If tears were our birthright, and death were our

But Jesus hath cheered that dark valley of sorrow,
And hade us, immortal, to heaven ascend;
Lift, then, your voices in triumph on high,
For Jesus hath risen, and man shall not die.
(Henry Ware, Jr.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

the only survival...

This from an Easter sermon by James Luther Adams as resurrection week continues...

"Religion implies that there is something of utmost significance in our very appearance in the universal process. it urges us to recognize the fact that there have been a Socrates, a Shakespeare, a Confucius, a Buddha, a Christ. I do not propose to offer any arguments for immortality. Indeed, when anyone begins arguing for or against immortality, the effect on me is usually pretty cold. I would only remind you that there are some good evidences to show that there is meaning and purpose in that corner of the universe that we know. The fact that we are children of the universe and heirs to all it's glories is trustworthy.

What then about the bridge that leads across the valley of the shadow of death? We may answer that what is yet unknown will probably bear the same quality as the known. The bridge to the unknown is a bridge in which we may have some confidence. The possibilities are not yet exhausted. Thorton Wilder gave expression to this conviction with these words:

We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will be enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the corpse of the real...

Resurrection week continues (and takes a bit of a turn) with one of Bronson Alcott's " Orphic Sayings"...


"That which is visible is dead: the apparent is the corpse of the real; and undergoes successive sepultures and resurrections.  The soul dies out of organs; the tombs cannot confine her; she eludes the grasp of decay; she builds and unseals the sepulchres.  Her bodies are fleeting, historical.  Whatsoever she sees when awake is death; when asleep dream."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

a transient incident...

Resurrection week continues with this Easter Sermon by Charles Timothy Brooks...

"Whosoever liveth and believeth in me, said Jesus, shall never die. To him that does believe in Jesus, that is, in the spiritual truth, law, and providence which he represents, and which he lived and died to glorify, no other death is more than a transient incident, except the deadness of the mind and heart to the beauty of holiness, the gain of godliness, the preciousness of truth, the majesty of virtue. The waking up and living up of man to these great realities is the true resurrection to life immortal. By such awakening and such life, immortality begins even here. To-day, even now, the Lord, the Saviour, the captain of salvation, speaks to each one of us and says, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. I know that the commandments of the Father are life everlasting and thou shalt know it, when thou knowest me, and through me Him that sent me."

Monday, April 25, 2011

Resurrection week...

My thoughts this Monday are on resurrection so I have determined to excerpt, this week, views of that momentous occurrence by various of the "Boston Unitarians." Today, James Freeman Clarke from his "Orthodoxy: it's Truths and Errors...

"The gospel assures us that love is stronger than hatred, peace than war, holiness than evil, truth than error. It is the marriage of the goodness of motive and the goodness of attainment; goodness in the soul and goodness in outward life ; heaven hereafter and heaven here. It asserts that the good man is always in reality successful; that he who humbles himself is exalted, he who forgives is forgiven, he who gives to others receives again himself, he who hungers after righteousness is filled. This was the faith which Christ expressed, in which and out of which he lived and acted ; it was this faith which made him Christ the King, King of human minds and hearts. Was it then all false? Did his death prove it so? Was that the end, the earthly end, of his efforts for man ? Were truth and love struck down then by the power of darkness ? That was the question which his resurrection answered ; it showed him passing through death to higher life, through an apparent overthrow to a real trinmph; it gave one visible illustration to laws usually invisible in their operation, and set God's seal to their truth. Through that death which seemed the destruction of all hope Jesus went up to be the Christ, the King.

In this point of view we see the value and importance of the resurrection of Jesus, and why Easter Sunday should be the chief festival of Christianity. It was the great trinmph of life over death, of good over evil. It was the apt symbol and illustration of the whole gospel.
If, then, the resurrection of Christ means that Christ ascended through death to a higher state; if our resurrectiou means that we pass up through death, and not down; not into the grave, but into a condition of higher life; if the resurrection of the body does not mean the raising again out of the earth the material particles deposited there, but the soul clothing itself with a higher and more perfect organization ; if it is, then, the raising of the body to a more perfect condition of development,— then is there not good reason why such stress should be laid upon this great fact?...

The essential fact in the resurrection is, that Christ rose, through death, to a higher state. The essential doctrine of the resurrection is, that death is the transition from a lower to a higher condition in all who have the life which makes them capable of it."


Sunday, April 24, 2011

at times prevail...

This from the Unitarian Minister, poet and mystic Jones Very. Have a blessed Easter everyone...

That friends we loved, in dying did not die,
We do believe; but oft our faith is weak,
For error, doubt, and fear our minds will try,
And for our faith we confirmation seek.
Imagination promises its aid,
And pictures them to us as still alive;
And brighter scenes than earth by it are made,
By which our souls do strength and hope derive.
But most the Word of God new hope doth bring,
And with its light our spirits' depths illume;
For Christ is risen, Death's conqueror and king!
And banished from the earth its night of gloom,
Which with its terrors did the soul assail,
And even o'er our faith at times prevail."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a defect of cerebral development...

This from a review of Bronson Alcott's later book "Tablets" found in the "Boston Sunday Times"

"Messrs. Roberts Brothers of Boston have just published this volume from the pen of Mr. A. Bronson Alcott, a gentleman long known in this community, and whose " Orphic Sayings," in the days of that famous organ of New-England transcendentalists, " The Dial," excited the admiration of the judicious few, and the ridicule of the unthinking many.

A late number of " The Nation," the editor of which somewhat pretentious oracle seems to have been eager to strangle "Tablets " before it was born, contained a notice of the work, in which he showed a gross misapprehension of Mr. Alcott's meaning and drift. Probably through some defect of cerebral development, for which the critic is not responsible, he is about as competent to judge of Mr. Alcott's transcendent speculations as a blind man is to describe a rainbow. Having found much in this book to admire, when we have got at the meaning, we do not doubt, that, where we fail to recognize its beauties, the fault is not in the profound thinker who has given more than fifty years of study and meditation to these sententiously expressed meditations."

(painting by John Constable)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rev. Barstool...

I was reading yesterday, Cyrus Bartol's eulogy of Bronson Alcott and taking notes on my iPad. The autocorrect insisted on changing Bartol to barstool. Not sure if the good minister would have appreciated that...


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

the "Gastric Sayings"...

Our Alliance holds a regular Book Discussion and tomorrow is my yearly contribution. It is one of my favorite things to do and I always look very much forward to it. This year A. Bronson and Louisa May Alcott are my subjects. They have a strong historical connection to our church and are just plain fascinating.
Bronson Alcott was not famous for clear expression and his "Orphic Sayings" published in the Dial and elsewhere, were often ridiculed. One Boston Newspaper compared them to “a train of fifteen railroad cars with one passenger," and another called them the "Gastric Sayings." Though it is not difficult to see why they received such a reception, it is not unrewarding to read and wrestle with them today. Here are a few...


There is neither void in nature, nor death in spirit,—all is vital, nothing Godless.  Both guilt in the soul and pain in the flesh, affirm the divine ubiquity in the all of being.  Shadow apes substance, privation fullness; and nature in atom and whole, in planet and firmament, is charged with the present Deity.


Impious faith! witless philosophy! prisoning God in the head, to gauge his volume or sound his depths, by admeasurements of brain.  Know, man of skulls! that the soul builds her statue perpetually from the dust, and, from within, the spiritual potter globes this golden bowl on which thy sacrilegious finger is laid.  Be wise, fool! and divine cerebral qualities from spiritual laws, and predict organizations from character.


Hope deifies man; it is the apotheosis of the soul; the prophecy and fulfilment of her destinies.  The nobler her aspirations, the sublimer her conceptions of the Godhead.  As the man, so his God: God is his idea of excellence; the complement of his own being.


All life is eternal; there is none other; and all unrest is but the struggle of the soul to reassure herself of her inborn immortality; to recover her lost intuition of the same, by reason of her descent amidst the lusts and worship of the idols of flesh and sense.  Her discomfort reveals her lapse from innocence; her loss of the divine presence and favor.  Fidelity alone shall instaurate the Godhead in her bosom.


God organizes never his attributes fully in single structures.  He is instant, but never extant wholly, in his works.  Nature does not contain, but is contained in him; she is the memoir of his life; man is a nobler scripture, yet fails to outwrite the godhead.  The universe does not reveal, eternities do not publish the mysteries of his being.  He subjects his noblest works to minute and constant revision; his idea ever transcends its form; he moulds anew his own idols; both nature and man are ever making, never made."

All the sayings can, of course, be found easily on the internet...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

a good time coming...

Palm Sunday signifies much about the spiritual life and the revolution that Jesus brought to what that kind of life would look like. Rev. Tilden reminds reminds us that Holy week comes to all of us in one way or another by virtue of our being human. Today is about "good time coming" and yet we know so much more is before us (from his "Leaflets for Lent")

AND they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments
on him; and he sat upon him.
And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strewed them in the way.
Much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. . . .
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.
And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.

Matt. xxi. Mark xi. Luke xix. John xii.

PALM SUNDAY. PROMISE (Tilden's Meditation)

PASSION Week comes to us in our human life, not always in consecutive order, seldom crowded into so brief a space. Some spend a longer, some a shorter, time among the Palms, breathing the soft air of fond hopes, and feeding eye and heart on the tropical prophecy of a good time coming. We all have our palmy days, days of bright Promise; they are our spring seasons when the snow melts on the cold slopes of life, and the daffodils come out to greet us. This may be in youth, it may be in ripe manhood or even while nearing sunset. These days of promise come to every season of life, just as summer, autumn and winter have each their bright invigorating days. Our souls are awake. Every cause we have at heart is gaining strength and power. Song is not only in the air, but in our hearts. We think what we would do. We lay our plans. We map out our way, and gird up our loins to walk in it, thanking God that the stones in our path are so few, and the flowers so many. No lions in the way, no slough of despond to cross; a clear, smooth path seems opened right up to the City of God. Palm branches of great expectations are spread in our path. It is our Palm Sunday; we are on our way to Jerusalem."

May your Holy Week be a blessed experience

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The blandishments of a Southern Beauty...

Earlier this week marked the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War. I will post on occasion about Unitarianism during this fearful conflict. This from Charles A. Humphreys account of his time as Chaplain of the Second Mass. Cavalry...

"The hardest duty that ever fell to my lot as Chaplain was to prepare a deserter to die. He was one of our own regiment, and born in Massachusetts, but had early in life gone to California, where he led a wild and reckless career till he enlisted and came East. Now he had yielded to the fascinations of a Southern girl and been induced to desert, and was captured while fighting against us with a band of guerrillas. This offence was of course unpardonable in martial law; yet, as he chose me for his counsel at the trial by drum-head courtmartial, I pleaded, in extenuation, his youth and the blandishments of the Southern beauty, but to no effect. Perhaps one reason why I did not win the case was that the opposing counsel was Lewis S. Dabney, whose legal acumen made him then Judge Advocate, and later made him one of the leaders of the Bar in Boston. Still I had to admit in my own mind that in the existing military situation the sentence of death must be pronounced. The poor victim chose to lean on my arm as he walked to execution behind his own coffin borne by his old messmates, while the band marched beside playing a funeral dirge. And he leaned still more closely on my faith that, though his country could not forgive him, beset as she was with enemies, God would forgive if he was truly penitent; and the thought appealed to the native nobleness of his nature, and awoke in him the desire even then to redeem himself and to serve the cause that he had betrayed. And the more he revolved this in his mind, the more he felt the inspiration of noble feeling, and, being permitted to speak a few last words to his fellow-soldiers who were drawn up on three sides of a hollow square to witness the execution, he said: "Comrades! I want to acknowledge that I am guilty and that my punishment is just. But I want also that you should know that I did not desert because I lost faith in our cause. I believe we are on the right side, and I think it will succeed. But take warning from my example, and whatever comes do not desert the old flag for which I am proud to die." Everything being now ready, I offered prayer with him and commended him to the mercy of God; then I bound the handkerchief over his eyes, and at his request asked the marksmen to aim steadily and at his heart. Then shaking hands with him in farewell, I said, "Now die like a man." He sat down upon the foot of his coffin in perfect composure, and said, "I am ready." Fronting him were six men in line, with carbines, five of which were loaded. Each man could persuade himself that his own carbine was the unloaded one, and so was relieved from the otherwise necessary conclusion that he had shot his fellow. The sergeant in command of the shootingsquad gave the order—"Ready! Aim! Fire!" and the deserter in one moment was dead. The lesson of his punishment had never to be repeated in our brigade.
All this was Sunday morning. I did not feel like holding a service after it, and thought the ceremony of execution had preached more effectively than I could. One of the members of E Company, to which the deserter had belonged, said to me, "I wonder how you got enough influence over him to lead him to declare that he died believing our cause was just." I replied, "It was not I that did it but the awful presence of death." That made him see clearly the truth and his own terrible mistake. I doubt not that the intense self-examination and marvellous insight of his last hours influenced his character more than any other hours of his life, indeed more than whole years of thoughtless wandering and heedless sin. I was glad that I could induce him to keep up such good courage and die in so true a spirit, but hope I shall never have to witness such another scene."


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

a clean heart...

Amongst my favorite scripture, this an evening prayer from the Unitarian devotional "Altar at Home"

"Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence ; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted to thee.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
For thou deeirest not sacrifice: else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt-offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise.

0 Lord, our Heavenly Father, the day is thine, and the night also thine. The light and the darkness, thou hast created them. They are both alike unto thee, who seest through the thickest shades, and whose care never slumbers nor sleeps; and they both alike unto us reveal thy gracious providence. We would show forth thy loving-kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.

We thank thee for thy goodness to us during the day that is now past. We thank thee that we have been preserved from its various perils, seen and unseen, and kept in our going out and our coming in: that no calamity has befallen our condition, and no burthen more than we could bear been laid upon our strength. We thank thee for all the instruction we have received, whether through our outward experience or thy good Spirit; for all that we have tasted of thy bounty, and seen of thy truth. We thank thee for every social and domestic comfort that we have enjoyed; for every faithful exercise in which we have been allowed to partake; for every good purpose that t'nou hast strengthened us to fulfil; for whatever blessing has flowed through the senses, or been imparted to the soul. We owe all to thee, on whom we absolutely depend, and in whom alone we truly live.

0 Lord, who searchest the hearts of the children of men, with the acknowledgment 6f thy constant favors it becomes us to mingle the feeling of our sinfulness and ill-desert. We are not worthy of the least of thy mercies, though thou passest before us in innumerable benefits, and carest for us with all this care. May thy goodness lead us to repentance, that we may be ashamed of our unthankfulness, and turn from every thought of disobedience unto thee. Forgive us, we beseech thee, whatever we have done amiss this day, and whatever we have failed to do which thy law within us enjoined.

And now, Searcher of hearts, we would enter into a solemn self-examination. If we have indulged any evil habit or passion, if we have dealt unreasonably with our brother, or lost the control of ourselves, if we have allowed the hours of this opportunity and probation to run to waste, or if we have abused them to any corrupt affection or evil design, we entreat of thee, 0 Father, the pardon of these sins. Create within us clean hearts, and renew a right spirit within us; and let this entreaty fill us with earnest resolutions for the time to come, if we are permitted to see it, that it shall find us more truly inclined to thy will, and walking in thy way.

And now, Lord, we commit ourselves to thee this night. Draw around us with its shadows the peace of thy Spirit, and the strength of thy defence. When we can do nothing for ourselves, do all for us. Before we lose all will of our own in dreams and unconsciousness, we would solemnly renounce every intention of wrong; we would cast out from our hearts every disposition of enmity; we would be of a forgiving spirit; we would have no variance with the world that is soon to become to us for a season as if it were not; we would repose ourselves upon thy sovereign will, even thine only. And when we come to lie down in the last sleep, may thy mercies surround us with their security, and enfold us in their peace, and crown us with the redemption that has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

real bread...

This from William Phillips Tilden (continued from his "Work of the Ministry") is interesting in relation to the recent UU bloggers dust-up over "intellectual snobbery" in Unitarianism...

"New thought is admirable when it is proved true thought, but we must not be in too great haste to vouch for it. Rev. E. E. Hale is fond of telling the story that a classmate who graduated with him at Harvard took for a thesis "The Established Truths of Science." I have forgotten how many were named, but I remember Mr. Hale said that every one of them had since been exploded.
After listening to a masterly essay by one of our eminent thinkers and scholars on the various schools of thought,— theological, metaphysical, philosophical, from Augustine to Parker,— and hearing him say that the net result to mankind was little more than a clearer conception of the Golden Rule, I felt quite reconciled to my loss in not having been a metaphysician or philosopher, since I inherited the Golden Rule as my Christian birthright.
I repeat, then, that the object of preaching is not speculative, but moral and spiritual. This is the only kind of preaching that wears, even in our liberal Church. Many societies have been started among us and run bravely for a time, but soon run out, because the souls of the people were not fed,— because the preaching was so exclusively theoretical, dealing with the thought-problems of the age, and leaving its heart and life untouched. There will always be a few people who like this kind of preaching; and, when others in the congregation begin to drop off, they will tickle the minister's vanity with the suggestion that these uncultured folk cannot appreciate such high ideas. It is only the gods that flourish on ambrosia! In the mean time, the empty churches or halls are closed, and the ground lies fallow, until some one comes with a real evangel to preach,— with real bread from heaven, not all yeast, but bread for the nourishment of the soul's life. Then the withered plant revives again. It is so every time and everywhere, and will be so long as man has a religious nature which craves sustenance and strength."


Monday, April 11, 2011

the ministerial lance...

A powerful statement by William Phillips Tilden in his "Work of the Ministry" continued...

"Some time ago, I read and copied this passage from a sermon of one of our liberal ministers of fine culture, whom I have good reasons for regarding with personal esteem: "To desire truth, to make it your sole aim and sole ambition, to be willing to accept it at any cost, to be resolute in accepting it only, this is the true spirit of religion: it is the substance of religion."
This is tersely stated. It has a ring of heroism about it to which the hero within us responds. The minister who is not ready to follow the highest truth that is made known to him is unworthy the companionship of prophets and martyrs. Our first impulse is, with Ivanhoe, to make the naked blade of our spear ring against the lance point of any Bois-Guilbert who ventures to enter the grand Tournament of Truth against us.
But let us wait a moment, and not be in haste to split our ministerial lance till we assure ourselves it is for this alone we have girt on the gospel armor and become a Christian knight. Are the desire for truth and the acceptance of it at whatever cost the "substance of religion"? Is religion so purely an intellectual affair as this statement implies? Does not real religion consist quite as much in the application of truth to life as in the desire and search for it? Truth "sanctifies," when it is used for casting out evil and enthroning good. Truth makes "free," when it breaks the chains and opens the prison doors of selfishness and sin. We may not overestimate the importance of truth, or the value of truth-seekers in religion; but, in our common ministerial work, we may give to the popular desire for new truth a place so high as to cast into the shade the yet greater importance of applying the truth we already possess to the uplifting of man. Alas for our liberal ministry, if it be only another exploring expedition in search of that possibly open sea of Divine Truth on the frozen borders of which so many noble men have left their bones! If I believed that, I should feel very much like leaving the ship and taking to the ice-floes in the hope of finding land somewhere and starting another expedition to rescue the explorers, and bring them back into navigable seas. -But I do not think the desire for truth, or the search for it, needful and grand as they are, is the "substance of religion." The substance of religion includes right thinking, but in essence it is right living. If truth alone could redeem the world, the good time coming would have come long ago. High thinking is too often divorced from high living. Search for truth belongs to theology. The application of truth to heart and life is religion."


Sunday, April 10, 2011

a higher plane...

The "grand object of preaching" according to William Phillips Tilden in his "The Work of the Ministry"...

"Perhaps you may think that, with our broad view of religion, we should not speak of the object, but the objects of preaching, since they are so many. 'Tis true, indeed, that the proper themes of the pulpit are many and ever increasing. The earnest search after truth, and the application of it when found to all life, outward and inward, the history of the Church, the geography of the Holy Land, which to Renan was "a fifth Gospel," the origin and history of sects, creeds, church ceremonies, church schisms and healings, church days, their observance, their significance, the great religions of the world with their Bibles and the various views held of their inspiration, the conflict or harmony between science and faith, the sympathy of religions, and, above all, the application of eternal verities to all the wrongs, oppressions, and sins of the world,— how, it may be asked, with all these subjects, and many more that might be named, so legitimate, so inviting, so needful, if one would keep abreast of the times, and see that his people are informed concerning all the latest and freshest thought on all these themes,— how can one speak of the object of preaching as if there were but one? Is not every one of these subjects germane to the pulpit? Every one, I should say, and still more pastime may reveal their nature. And yet I think we may speak of the object of preaching. For, while the proper and legitimate subjects of the pulpit are beyond count, the grand object of preaching is ever the same,— to lift man to a higher plane of thought and life, to quicken and stimulate his religious nature, to wake up and wisely direct his moral and spiritual powers, to lift him out of the animal into the spiritual life, out of selfindulgence into self-sacrifice, out of hate into love, out of sin into righteousness, out of irreligion and the blighted life that goes with it into a God-trusting faith and a pure and noble life. No matter how various the themes of the pulpit, no matter how wide the range of topics, no matter how rich the stores of knowledge, how vast the reading or fine the culture brought to it, if only the great object of preaching be kept steadily in view."


Saturday, April 9, 2011

a holy enthusiasm...

Some time ago I began excerpting William Phillip Tilden's "Work of the Ministry." Brother Tilden is a true guiding spirit of Boston Unitarian and this work on ministry is a gem. Given as a series of lectures to Divinity Students at Meadville Theological School in 1889, the book is a passionate call that should resonate with all church workers. This from the lecture "Object of Preaching"

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, the composition and delivery of sermons come under your regular study of Homiletics, and of this I have nothing to say. But I wish this morning to speak of the object of preaching.

The obvious drift of thought among us is very plainly towards a deeper religiousness, a larger and profounder conception of the divine life. It is seen not only among ministers, but laymen as well. It is not limited to either wing of thought among us, right or left. Both wings are lifted by an impulse to rise. Whether the emphasis be laid on ethics or worship, on church extension or church life at home, on organized charities or the charities that lie too close to us to be organized, on philanthropies that reach out or spiritualities that reach in, on external doing or internal being, there is a manifest desire for reality, for life, to pass through the letter into the spirit, to rise out of routine, whether of worship or of work, into consecrated service for God and man.

I have been greatly cheered by the tokens of this spirit among our young ministers. Soon they will be our middle-aged ministers, our leaders in thought and work. The fathers are going. Young men are coming. And when we see them touched with a holy enthusiasm for their work,— an enthusiasm for making the future better than the past or present,— we may well thank God all along the line, front and rear, and take courage in the bright promise it gives of a "new heaven and a new earth," not separated as of old, but united,— a new heaven on earth, and a new earth made heavenly by a heavenly spirit."


Thursday, April 7, 2011

the mistaken charm of immaturity...

I quite like this from Eliza Thayer Clapp found this morning in her essay "Unitarianism"

"It is the inspiration in humanity of a life which abolishes all pride, merit, and distinction, revealing its own glory through man. The redemption into this divine life is, in this sphere of our consciousness, the object of faith and hope, not of fruition. This life is hidden in God, and by faith in it, and hope of it, we live'the natural life out to its end, whereever in space and time that end may be.
Consequently upon the exclusive belief in the natural order of thought and experience, which is the belief of the most prominent thinkers of the present age, are our views concerning the treatment and education of childhood.
Believers in the divineness of natural goodness, and looking upon children as morally innocent, we have exaggerated their innocence into sanctity, and have mistaken the charm of their immaturity for the beauty of holiness.
Our loving-kindness to them is cruelty. Instead of being instructed and subjected, childhood is consulted as authority, and respected as example. It is so entirely trusted that it is left unguarded, — so revered that it languishes unguided. For the same reason and under the same social surroundings, age is pushed aside as effete and useless. Youth despises it, because it has no future, — disregards its wisdom as obsolete — and in its broader and advancing generalizations, includes, as Dr. Holmes says, its own father.
For result we have childhood and youth, keen to perceive and eager to act, but neither self-distrustful, deferent, nor dependent. Age, dismantled of the glory and mystery of a new birth and nascent destiny, grasps backward at the fast receding merits of the natural order, as it finds itself without dignity or authority in a world where no longer is held sacred the crown of thorns, but of value only is the jubilant step and incisive will.
Childhood is overestimated and age is undervalued. Thus the increase in society of childish characteristics, superficiality, unreason, and love of pleasure."


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

to the gentle and good...

I came across this from the fascinating Eliza Thayer Clapp, teacher and poet and Transcendentalist. Her book "Studies in Religion" was, to Frederic Henry Hedge, "a revelation." This a poem from that volume...

" I saw, and behold, a white horse."
[John the Divine.]
I Saw in the midst of a sunny green plain,
A beautiful horse, without spur, bit, or rein;
And his delicate limbs were white as the snow
"When it shines fresh and smooth, in the morning's new
And his eyes were as bright as bright jewels are,
But soft in their light, as the light of a star:
And his feet were as fleet as the wing of a bird,
When it soars o'er the clouds to sing there unheard;
And you heard not the sound of his step, as it pass'd,
For he went like the wind, as silent and fast.

And the beautiful horse was gentle and mild,
And he that bestrode was a young, tender child:
But the mien of the boy was lofty and high,
And courage and cheer glanced out from his eye;
And he shouted aloud and sang in his glee,
"Huzza ! who will ride the white courser with mel "
And the words and the shout on the waiting air fell,
And rang in the ear like the ring of a bell.

Oh, tell us, thou child of the quick, daring eye,
That shines like the sun in the blue of the sky,
On whose forehead is gentleness blended with force,—
Who shall mount like to thee the snowy white horse?
Then came there a voice, as a mother's low song,
Blent with boyhood's rough shout, so sweet, yet so strong;
Forever, and more, to the faithful and true,
To the gentle and good, the race is to you !
But the low and the selfish, and sullen, we scorn,
None such on the neck of the courser are borne,
But lowly he bows to the truthful and free,
And bears them aloft, unto victory!"


Monday, April 4, 2011

upon the living soul...

Its been a long winter and the body hasn't come out well. I rode the bike to church yesterday and am suffering today. Maybe, with Jones Very, I should just stay home and work on my soul...

Not from the earth, or skies,
Or seasons as they roll,
Come health and vigor to the frame,
But from the living soul.

Is this alive to God,
And not the slave to sin?
Then will the body, too, receive
Health from the soul within.

But if disease has touched
The spirit's inmost part,
In vain we seek from outward things
To heal the deadly smart.

The mind, the heart unchanged,
Which clouded e'en our home,
Will make the outward world the same
Where'er our feet may roam.

The fairest scenes on earth,
The mildest, purest sky,
Will bring no vigor to the step,
No lustre to the eye.

For He who formed our frame
Made man a perfect whole,
And made the body's health depend
Upon the living soul.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

There we stand with vague distress...

Another by Christopher Pearse Cranch. this "The Ocean"

"In a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
That brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore"--

Tell me, brother, what are we?
Spirit bathing in the sea
  Of Deity!
Half afloat, and half on land,
Wishing much to leave the strand,
Standing, gazing with devotion,
Yet afraid to trust the ocean--
  Such are we.

Wanting love and holiness,
To enjoy the wave's caress;
Wanting faith and heavenly hope,
Buyantly to bear us up;
Yet impatient in our dwelling,
When we hear the ocean swelling,
And in every wave that rolls
We behold the happy souls
Peacefully, triumphantly
Swiming on the smiling sea,
Then we linger round the shore,
Lovers of the earth no more.

Once--'t was in our infancy,
We were drifted by this sea
To the coast of human birth,
To this body and this earth:
Gentle were the hands that bore
Our young spirits to the shore;
Gentle lips that bade us look
Outward from our cradle-nook
To the spirit-bearing ocean
With such wonder and devotion,
As, each stilly sabbath day,
We were led a little way,
Where we saw the waters swell
Far away from inland dell,
And received with grave delight
Symbols of the Infinite--
Then our home was near the sea;
"Heaven was round our infancy"--
Night and day we heard the waves
Murmuring by us to their caves--
Floated in unconscious life
With no later doubts at strife,
Trustful of the Upholding Power,
Who sustained us hour by hour.
Now we've wandered from theshore,
Dwellers by the sea no more;
Yet at times there comes a tone
Telling of the visions flown,
Sounding from the distant sea
Where we left our purity:
Distance glimpses of the surge
Lure us down to ocean's verge;
There we stand with vague distress,
Yearning for the measureless,
By half-wakened instincts driven,
Half loving earth, half loving heaven,
Fearing to put off and swim,
Yet impelled to turn to Him,
In whose life we live and move,
And whose very name is Love.

Grant me, courage, Holy One,
To become indeed thy son,
And in thee, thou Parent-Sea,
Live and love eternally."


Friday, April 1, 2011

the language celestial...

The cruelest month dawns white and windy on Boston's South Shore after a snowstorm that brought slippery roads causing two separate accidents in front of our house last night (both drivers unhurt-not so much their pickups.) Some Transcendentalism is in order. This from Christopher Pearse Cranch...


"All things in Nature are beautiful types to the soul that will read them;
  Nothing exists upon earth, but for unspeakable ends.
Every object that speaks to the senses was meant for the spirit:
  Nature is but a scroll--God's hand-writing thereon.
Ages ago, when man was pure, ere the flood overwhlmed him,
  While in the image of God every soul yet lived,
Everything stood as a letter or word of a language familiar,
  Telling of truths which now only the angels can read.
Lost to man was the key of those sacred hieroglyphics--
  Stolen away by sin--till with Jesus restored.
Now with infinite pains we here and there spell out a letter;
  Now and then will the sense feebly shine through the dark.
When we perceive the light which breaks through the visible symbol,
  What exultation is ours! we the discovery have made!
Yet is the meaning the same as when Adam lived sinless in Eden,
  Only long-hidden it slept and now again is restored.
Man unconsciously uses figures of speech every moment,
  Little dreaing the cause why to such terms he is prone--
Little dreaming that everything has its own correspondence
  Folded within it of old, as in the body the soul.
Gleams of the mystery fall on us still, though much is forgotten,
  And through our commonest speech illumines the path of our thoughts.
Thus does the lordly sun shine out a type of the Godhead;
  Wisdom and Love the beams that stream on a darkened world.
Thus do the sparkling waters flow, giving joy to the desert,
  And the great Fountain of Life opens itself to the thirst.
Thus does the word of God distil like the rain and the dew-drops,
  Thus does the warm wind breathe like to the Spirit of God,
And the green grass and the flowers are signs of the regeneration.

  O thou Spirit of Truth; visit our minds once more!
Give us to read, in letters of light, the language celestial,
  Written all over the earth--written all over the sky:
Thus may we bring our hearts at length to know our Creator,
  Seeing in all things around types of the Infinite Mind."