Monday, November 28, 2011

the culture of our higher faculties...

I have read a fair number of 19th Century Unitarian Sermons in my time and a recurring theme, I think it safe to say, is the desire to square the Christian revelation with the increasing secularism and perceived rise in "the general activity of the intellect" of the time. 
   This an Advent collect and part one of a sermon from the more conservative end of the "squaring." It is by a Boston Unitarian staple, Ephraim Peabody...

ADVENT. Collect.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the living and dead, we may rise to the life immortal. And this we beg in the name of our Mediator; though whom we ascribe unto Thee all honour and glory, now and ever. Amen.



"But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Rom. xiii. 14.

In entering upon that period of the year which calls our attention to the advent of Christ and the beneficent influence of his religion in past ages, it becomes us to consider it in its relation to the wants of our own time. The fundamental characteristic of the age, the source of many other characteristics, and fostered by what itself creates, is the immense and general activity of the intellect, and the direction of this activity to secular affairs. By the education of schools and the severer education of practical life, by individual freedom, by the multiplied and multiplying careers open to the enterprising and aspiring, by the poverty which rebels against its restrictions, by the luxury which would make the world tributary to its pleasures, by the prizes held out on every side to the clear mind and the energetic will, the general intellect is stimulated to an activity in secular pursuits such as the world never saw before. One of the results of this intellectual and secular activity is seen in the theory, that, in some inexplicable way, the advance of knowledge supersedes the necessity of revelation; that, in the growing light of civilization, Christianity is less needed, that it is becoming obsolete, that it has been a good religion for rude ages, that it is good now for the ignorant, but that the intelligent and the cultivated may find, in the study of nature and the human heart, what answers their purposes quite as well and is more satisfactory.

The text, taken from the lesson of the day, implies that, in putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are laying aside what is low and sensual, and making provision for the higher faculties of our nature. The inference from this is, that in proportion to the culture of our higher faculties will be our need of His religion and the extent of its influence over us.

The precise point, however, which I would urge, is this ;—that the increased intellectual activity of the age, instead of diminishing, increases the need of an authoritative religious revelation, both in regard to the faith and practice of men."


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