Monday, August 8, 2011

A Gospel of Practical Righteousness...

The next couple of days will feature Henry Bellows' address to the Semi-centennial meeting of the American Unitarian Association (1875)

My friends, as I was to say a word on Unitarianism considered as a gospel of practical righteousness, I have an idea that the best exhibition I can give of practical righteousness is to consider your disposition to go home, and to let you off from listeningoto a speech which I am very sure would add exceedingly little to the over-full vessel which you now carry. Indeed, I must only put the cork into the bottle, that you may safely carry home all this rich freight of thought and feeling that has been steadily, all the day, pouring into the vessels of your hearts and minds.
I wish I could have used an opportunity (which I do not mean to avail myself of) to say a word in the interest of that practical righteousness for which we sometimes think we stand. My own feeling is that " boasting is excluded" by the truly righteous man, and by practical Christians, and that it would neither become us, nor be according to the absolute truth, if we set ourselves up to be any better than our neighbors in respect of practical living. But we ought to be a great deal better. Our system grew out of the convictions of a deeper morality, which compelled us to change the whole theology of our sect to match a moral sense which refused to believe that the conscience of God was otherwise than higher and holier than the conscience of man, — to match it as the original sound matches the echo and the echo the sound. And if we changed our theology on grounds of moral conviction, and under the leadings of moral sense, the theology we have adopted ought to be more practically righteous in its roots than the theologies which have boasted themselves of being based upon conceptions of God that refused to be corrected by the conscience of man, and despised that very reason which is the only vehicle, or instrument, or medium by which any thing like rational intercommunication can take place between God and man."

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