Sunday, May 29, 2011

I must pray...

This from William Phillips Tilden on the agonizing decision to support the American Civil War.
Deeply powerful...

"Autobiography of William Phillips Tilden

Never can I forget the intense excitement and deep solemnity of the day when the news of the attack on Fort Sumter first reached us. It was as if a wayward child had smitten its own mother on the cheek,—-nay, fired a bullet in her heart. Each felt the death-dealing missile as aimed at him. "Then you and I and all of us fell down, and bloody treason flourished over us." Over Main Street the stars and stripes waved slowly and solemnly as if heavy with the tears of a nation's grief. It seemed to me as if I never saw "our flag" till then. The insult offered to it gave it a new meaning and preciousness. As a disciple of Jesus, I had felt myself forbidden to fight even in self-defence. But here something far higher and greater than self was in peril. Not I, but my country, was assailed. I would not fight for my own life, for I would sooner lose that than take another's; but how about our national, or common mother's, life? That was the question now. I could not answer it at once. I had been a non-resistant for years. I could not change in a day. I must be silent, I must think, I must pray. I must go up into the mount alone, and ask counsel of Him who guides nations as well as individuals in paths they know not. All the week I was in mental agony. What should I say to my parishioners on the coming Sunday? The question was yet unanswered when I went into my pulpit, worn with anxious thought, and told them all my struggles. I just opened my heart to them, and let them see how it was torn by conflicting ideas and emotions. My anti-slavery convictions had not been deeper than my anti-war convictions; but here was no question of self-defence, but the defence of great national principles, involving the liberty and highest welfare of millions of people. I must wait till I could adjust myself to the new conditions.
The people received the sermon kindly, for they knew I was honest; and I think they respected me none the less for not being hasty in changing the conviction of years. I did not have to wait long. A new sense of the value and necessity of a just government broke upon me, until I saw clearly that, when our national life was assailed with brutal violence, and especially for the purpose of perpetuating sectional slavery and making it national, violence must be met by violence, or the republic would fall, and Senator Toombs would carry out his threat of "calling the roll of his slaves in the shadow of Bunker Hill monument"
I came to this conviction, which seems so plain to those who had never thought otherwise, only through great tribulation and anguish of spirit. It seemed like going down from some serene mountain height into the valley of the shadow of death. But it was there the great and final battle with slavery was to be fought; and as I heard the bugle-call, and saw our truest and bravest men fall into line, and leave all for the great conflict, not in defence of self, but in defence of national honor and life, I felt that it was right, and that a God of justice would not suffer our cause to fail.
But I was spoiled for the war. I could not enter into it with any heart. I had served too many years under another banner to become enthusiastic. I bowed to the stern necessity, and read the lesson so difficult to learn,— that God has many ways of accomplishing his purposes, and may in great national crises be as truly served on the battle-field as in the house of prayer"


Friday, May 27, 2011

such bravery, Christian bravery...

Excerpts from the "Harvard Memorial Biographies" entry on Henry May Bond who served with the 45th Mass. and, finally, with the "Harvard Regiment" (20th Mass.) during the Civil War. The last full measure of devotion...

"With a keen susceptibility to all the pleasures of the senses, he was perfectly pure and temperate. General Macy says of him, " He was the purest man I ever knew." He knew where to turn for strength. In his Junior year he joined the Church; his father's pastor and warm friend, James Freeman Clarke, becoming his also. He carried into his relations with the Church the same frank kindliness, the same hearty earnestness, that he showed in the other relations of life. His religion, like all else in him, was practical. Mr. Clarke summed it up in a few words, as " a simple honest purpose to do right and be right."...

After graduating in 1859, he became partner in the house of Walker, Wise, & Co., booksellers and publishers in Boston. When war threatened, he with his brother William joined the Cadets, in order to prepare themselves to do their part...

he...won the hearts of his men, and left stamped upon them the memory of a Christian soldier. As one of them said on his return to a friend of the family, inquiring about the Bonds:—
" Lieutenant Bond was a good officer and a brave man, and the men liked him; but Orderly Bond the men would follow anywhere. He was a brave man; and such bravery, Christian bravery!"
He was first under fire at Kinston. He writes: —
" I had sometimes expressed a fear that I might prove myself a coward in battle, but I was determined, if my will could effect anything, my friends should not be thus disgraced. The last few moments before going into the Kinston fight I felt perfectly calm, and was exhorting my men, whenever I got a chance, to keep cool and take a deliberate aim; my only prayer being, as we advanced into line of battle, that which I have heard our Mr. Clarke say never failed to be heard,' God help me! — help me to keep my selfpossession for the sake of my men.' I somehow felt as if my prayer was answered immediately ; for I felt perfectly cool and fearless, although we were led into a nasty place, if there ever was one. .... I could not help feeling a little pleased to overhear some of my men say when I passed by their camp-fire at night, without their knowing that I was near, (this is strictly private, mother,) ' Sergeant Bond fought bully !' Pardon my seeming vanity in repeating this remark (which I dare say will not wholly please you), but it struck me with a sort of astonishment to hear that I had done anything to call forth the praise of such a plucky set of fellows as we have in our company."

To a friend and brother officer of the Forty-fifth he writes, April 13th: —
" As for myself, in the hour of personal danger, I am strong and courageous only in the faith that, should it please God to take my life while in the discharge of what I deem to be my highest duty here on earth, all will be well with me. Coward as I am by nature, I should be worth nothing either to my friends or my country without that faith in God, however short I fall of doing what I know to be right."...

In the terrible battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, Henry was wounded in the jaw. General Macy writes: —
" So faithful to what he considered his duty was he, that after receiving this wound, he sought me to report before leaving, subjecting his life to a thousand chances to do so, as he was walking through a storm of bullets. I however saw him coming towards me, and made a sign for him to go to the rear, which he did, and where I joined him in a few moments. Through two hours of such fighting Henry was of great service to me."
He wrote this letter from the hospital at Fredericksburg, Monday, May 9,1864: —
" My Dear Mother, — I fear, before you see this letter, you may hear from other sources that I have been wounded. But there has
been no possible means in my power of sending word to you
My right jaw-bone is fractured; to what extent, other than that it is not crushed into little pieces, the doctor could not tell. The ball
entered my cheek and lodged against the jaw-bone I think I
am very fortunate in my wound, when I look at the frightfully mangled bodies around me. I am debarred the privilege of eating at present (taking only liquids, such as beef-tea, &c). I long for ice-cream to quench the fever; we fortunately have ice here, which is a great relief."
Yet despite the fever, he would not touch a lemon given him by a dear friend who happened upon him while engaged in hospital duty, but gave it to those more severely wounded than himself. To this same friend he expressed his regret that his wound should take him from the field when there was so much need of men. He never lost his spirits, and amused his wounded comrades around him by making wry faces at them.
On Wednesday, May 11th, about three, P. M., he left Fredericksburg in an ambulance for Belle Plain, some eight miles distant. At two o'clock the next morning they had only reached White Oak Church, a distance of about five miles. Here the ambulance was attacked by Mosby's guerillas. Henry was sitting on the front seat with the driver; Captain Mali and Captain Perkins of his regiment were inside, being very severely wounded. The order was given by the guerillas to get out and unhitch the horses. Before those who were able could obey, they were fired into. Henry then asked Captain Mali for his pistol; but before he received it he was shot through the body from behind, the ball entering between the shoulder-blades, passing just above the heart, and coming out through the left lung and breast.
He fell forward to the ground, and there he lay during the night. The horrors of that night let its own darkness cover. Captain Mali says, " I never felt so bad in my life before; both Perkins and myself being unable to move, and he lying dying four or five feet from us." Sergeant Dunn of the Massachusetts Fifty-sixth found him in the morning insensible from loss of blood; and though at first thought dead, he was at length placed in an ambulance, and had his wound dressed. His father, who had gone to the front to attend to the wounded upon the first news of the battle, met him about two miles beyond Belle Plain at ten o'clock that morning. He was taken on board a transport to Washington, and carried to the house of a friend. His father, warned by the surgeon that the time was short, said to him, " Whatever may be the issue, I know from your life and your letters that you are prepared for it." He replied, " I don't know as to that, father; I have always tried to do my duty." His father says: —
" He then went on, as calmly as if I were visiting him and about to leave, to give me kind and affectionate messages for his friends. .... He gave a most beautiful one for his mother, which I most deeply regret that I did not remember verbatim. He said she was the only mother he had ever known; and had she been his own, could not have been more kind and loving to him, or have had his love more fully. After this I restrained him from talking as much as possible."
He had wished for his mother's and his sisters' hands to dress his wound ; and his wish was, at least partly, fulfilled. His youngest sister and a favorite cousin were with him at the last. He knew them both and greeted them in his own cheery way. As always, he was thoughtful for others, and not for himself. Even in his wanderings he spoke only of the regiment or the wounded; no word of his own sufferings, no word of reproach against his murderers.
There was hardly a hope from the first; and on Saturday, May 14th, at ten minutes before two, P. M., he breathed his last."


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

go and be dumb...

Ralph Waldo Emerson from "Literary Ethics" (Happy Birthday RWE)

"Come now, let us go and be dumb. Let us sit with our hands on our mouths, a long, austere, Pythagorean lustrum. Let us live in corners, and do chores and suffer, and weep, and drudge, with eyes and hearts that love the Lord. Silence, seclusion, austerity, may pierce deep into the grandeur and secret of our being, and so diving, bring up out of secular darkness the sublimities of the moral constitution."


Monday, May 23, 2011

Massive growth...

As a South Dakota boy, I would like to note the massive growth of UUism...

an eternal torture house...

Our recent Apacolyptic dust-up did what such things largely do-provide entertainment and mirth for those that believe God does not exist, or if he does, is mean and nasty. Not a new discussion. This from a 1908 issue of "The Unitarian" magazine...

"Speculative and Practical Atheism
THERE seems to be little danger, in an age of intelligence like ours, of an increase of speculative atheism. Such danger as exists appears to be from practical atheism. The two are not the same. Speculative atheism is denial of God's existence. Practical atheism is not that, it is much worse. It is any form of theological thought which represents God as having a character so low and imperfect that good men feel called upon to apologize for him,—any form of thought or doctrine which represents him ever, under any circumstances, as angry, vengeful, jealous, immoral, inhuman,—as punishing the innocent for the guilty, much less as doing so unutterably unjust and cruel a thing as to burn his own children forever. Such representations of God, strange to say widely made in the name of piety, of religion, of orthodoxy—are clearly worse than denying his existence. For does not every right-thinking mind agree at once with Plutarch when he said: "I would rather by a good deal that men should deny that there ever was a Plutarch, than say, 'Yes, there was a Plutarch, but he devoured his own children.'" So, if it is a dreadful thing for men to say: "There is no God", let us reflect that it is far more dreadful to say: "There is a God, but off in one corner of his universe he keeps an eternal torture house."


Sunday, May 22, 2011

renew thyself...

The Unitarian minister James Vila Blake was, in his day, well known, as a poet. This from his book "Sonnets Based on the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius" published in 1920...

Marcus Aurelius:

"Therefore provide for thyself to have continually this manner of quiet refuge, and renew thyself in thy self, and have about thee always some few brief and underlying or elemental principles, which straightway when you recur to them will be able to wash away all discontents, and send you back ready and willing to the affairs you must return to."

Blake's Sonnet:

" I make my constant prayer unto all men,
And unto Him who bringeth all to pass,
And pray my fellows to afford me ken,
And pray Him heartily the heavy mass
Of my sole mind to lighten with design,
And pray and pray them all that my soul move
By some brief constancies whose antique line
None ever scoff or doubt or disapprove.
For as one mountain mightily upbears
Ten thousand things upon its skyward slope,
So by one truth, or few, my spirit fares
To empire and immeasurable scope.

Then go I to my business well content,
Doing what I and Nature too have meant."

Have a blessed Sabbath

Thursday, May 19, 2011

some sort of revolving...

 "Is it not imperative on us that we do something, if we only work on a treadmill? And, indeed, some sort of revolving is necessary to produce a center and nucleus of being.    

Henry David Thoreau, Letters to a Spiritual Seeker


You Unitarians...

This from A.B Muzzey's recollections of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"At the annual Unitarian festival, among those invited to give addresses was Father Taylor, of the Methodist Bethel Church in Boston. 'You Unitarians,' he said in his speech,'are awfully honest...What is to become of your heretic Emerson? I don't know where he will go when he dies. He is hardly good enough to be accepted in Heaven, and yet...Satan wouldn't know what to do with him." (For a similar Fr. Taylor/Emerson quote,go here)


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

a four-legged perversity...

James Vila Blake was a poet, hymn writer, and Unitarian Minister in Quincy and Chicago Illinois. This from his essay, "Of Constancy" from an 1890 issue of the "Unitarian Review"

"It is a saying of Seneca, "This is grand, to act always like the same man." This means not that we ought never to change. For then is cut off growth, which is the grandest of all facts in things or creatures. Still less it teaches stubbornness or perversity, sticking and fixed like a humorsome mule. For it is a high trait to change instantly when we see reason; yes, and easily to see reason, too, when it is set before us. Neither does this saying of Seneca censure differences of mood. For no man can be the same at all moments, unless he be such a lump of clay as never feels. I find in Burton's Anatomy another saying of Seneca touching a saying of Epicurus,— " Seneca calls that of Epicurus, magnificam voeem, an heroical speech, 'A fool still begins to live,' and accounts it a filthy lightness in men, every day to lay new foundations of their life." This shows well enough what Seneca means by that other saying of his, his own words, that it is grand "to act always like the same man,"— not that a man shall not change if he will grow; nor stick in a posture, like a four-legged perversity that knows no reason ; nor ever have any mind, as if but modelled in clay; but that he is to have a steadiness in his motion, by which every day he gets along somewhat in one direction, and this the direction of the day before, and likewise a good direction, like a building always going one way from a good foundation, and that way upward."


Sunday, May 15, 2011

true rest...

This today's daily devotional from the AUA's 1873 volume, Day Unto Day. Have a blessed Sabbath everyone.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. —Matt, xi. 28.

Though rest be lost by over-anxiety, it is not found in idleness or lack of purpose: it comes most surely where life is most wisely spent; where we do most faithfully the duty God calls us to, and yet stop to appreciate and to possess the many healthful enjoyments God has provided for us by the way. — S. B.

Rest is not quitting
The busy career:
Rest is the fitting
Of self to one's sphere.

"Tis loving and serving
The highest and best:
'Tis onward, unswerving;
And this is true rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls Matt. xi. 29."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

warbles trust and piety...

The birds are particularly cacophonous this morning and I had just made a note of it when I found in my daily devotions this entry for May 14th in "Day Unto Day" a Unitarian devotional from 1873.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Ye are of more value than many sparrows. — Luke xii. 6, 7

See, Christ makes the birds our masters and teachers! So that a feeble sparrow, to our great and perpetual shame, stands in the gospel as a doctor and preacher to the wisest of men. — Martin Luther.

Hark to Nature's lesson, given
By the blessed birds of heaven!
Every bush and tufted tree
Warbles trust and piety:
Mortals, banish doubt and sorrow,
God provideth for the morrow.

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they ? —Matt. vi. 26."


Thursday, May 12, 2011

what is this that stirs within...

This poem from the quite wonderful minister in Philadelphia, William Henry Furness...

What is this that stirs within,
Loving goodness, hating sin,
Always craving to be blest,
Finding here below no rest?

Nought that charms the ear or eye
Can its hunger satisfy;
Active, restless, it would pierce
Through the outward universe.

What is it? and whither? whence?
This unsleeping, secret sense,
Longing for its rest and food
In some hidden, untried good?

'T is the soul! Mysterious name!
Him it seeks from whom it came;
It would, Mighty God, like thee,
Holy, holy, holy be!"


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

see all things as they are...

I often turn, in my morning devotions, to William Henry Furness' collection of prayers, "Domestic Worship." I find them especially valuable during those times when my prayer life is a little...dry. This, the conclusion to a morning prayer...(See here or search this blog for Furness for much more)

"Grant, O our Father, that this day, whether it be a day of gladness or of sorrow, may be spent acceptably to Thee, and profitably to ourselves. Sanctify to our best good whatever trials it may bring, and may thoughts of thy love heighten all its enjoyments. As we have eyes to see, let us not look idly and in vain upon the great spectacle of life, but from all its changes may we draw wisdom and strength, and see all things as they are, and neglect nothing that is important, and magnify nothing that is trifling. Through all events, thy spirit is for ever teaching lessons of heavenly import. As we have ears to hear, may we take heed how we hear. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever. Amen."


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I had not thought him mortal...

John Emery Abbot, Minister at Salem, has often been excerpted in these pages. His piety, and his longtime illness and early death made him much loved and remembered. This recollection and tribute from his friend Henry Ware Jr. in his autobiographical poem, "My Dream of Life"

"I had not thought him mortal. For he seemed
So fitted for some chosen work on earth,
That, in my rash fatuity, I thought,
God cannot spare him from this suffering sphere;
Life shall be long to him, and crowned at length,
In the calm evening of a gray old age,
With heaven's bright chaplet of successful toil,
And earth's of reverend honor. So I dreamed;
And all my future projects, plans, and hopes
Twined with his presence..........
Tell me, you that can,
The colored language that shall paint his soul.
Give me the words, that I may draw him true,
And lovely as he was to those he loved.
Gentleness sat upon his even brow,
And from his eye beamed meek benignity;
While its peculiar, almost tearful gaze,
Went to the soul of all it fell upon.
If we might think some spirit, purified
From evil stains, robed once again in flesh,
And sent on messages of love to men,
Such we might deem my friend; so pure; so calm;
So unregardful of the petty cares
And small impertinences that annoy
All other men; so thoughtless of himself;
So bent on others' good; so seemingly
Unconscious of the tempting things of earth,
And musing ever on some purer scenes.
How quietly, yet forcibly, he stood!
Humble, yet bold; not eloquent, indeed,
But something better; winning, clear, and sweet;
Where his fond flock looked up to hear and learn.
No thunder from his voice, and from his eye
No lightning; but the gentle breath of spring
Recalling flowers to life,—the summer shower
Softly refreshing the luxuriant herb, —
The placid sun, whose penetrating beams,
Steadfast and gradual, lead the season on,—
The quiet dew, that nourishes unseen, —
These are the holy images that tell
The style and efficacy of his work;
While from the sacred rostrum he came down
To cheer the humble, and reclaim the bad,
And as a friend, from house to house to spread
Improvement, consolation, joy, reproof,
And turn his parish walks to walks of heaven.


Monday, May 9, 2011

the practice of theories...

This from an early Journal of Bronson Alcott (April 28th, 1834...

"Here I am, removed from the third to the fourth story-blessed at last with my one little window fronting the City Library and the Athenaeum, with a bed, a trunk for my clothes, a wash-stand, two chairs, and my books. On these I am to feed and content myself during the summer.
Well, it matters little, after all, what surrounds us, how few are the things in which we feel a property and to which we attach ourselves, if the mind have wherewith to feed and the heart to comfort itself. Man can live on his own faith is his faith be fastened on Love and Wisdom. 'Tis not necessary that external goods should enter into the supply. Wiser is he who, in the absence of these, retreats into his own spirit and, in the abstractions of contemplation, and the practice of theories, lives out the delights of the inner life, triumphing over space and time by the activity of his own thought!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

small fields...

Best advice I have heard in a long time. This from Virgil via Bronson Alcott in his "Tablets."

"Commend large fields, but cultivate small ones."


Monday, May 2, 2011

our petty selves...

This from Henry David Thoreau from a letter to Harrison Blake and collected in the volume, "Letters to a Spiritual Seeker."

"If for a moment we make way with our petty selves, wish no ill to anything, apprehend no ill, cease to be but as the crystal which reflects a ray,-what shall we not reflect! What a universe will appear crystallized and radiant around us!"