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resurrection at the last day in order to see the use of the things which they suffer here; and who, being more intent upon growing better now than of being received into heaven hereafter, are therefore permitted to see the ends of providence before that final consummation ;—who regard the providence of the Lord as their teacher, their leader, and their regenerator and saviour, which does not purge us for the sake of the suffering which it occasions, but that we may be pure. And, as their own desire is to be purified, the darkness with which divine providence is to the worldly eye involved, is in a great degree dispelled, and the misery which certain dispensations are apt to produce, is greatly alleviated; for, by our having the same end in view for ourselves that is designed by providence, we can see the intentions of providence, so that it is no longer dark, and we can see that it is merciful, so that our misery is diminished, if not removed.
But to those who do not desire to grow better, the providence of the Lord, like the Word of the Lord, comes in parables. Their minds being occupied merely by the concerns of this world, they have no desires coincident with the designs of providence-no affections which can be reconciled with the ends of providence. They do not look into themselves to see what their evils aredo not desire to have them removed, and therefore know nothing of the good which would flow in upon their removal; and consequently all the efforts of divine providence to remove their evils, and to implant good affections, appear to them dark and malevolent,—dark, because opposed to what they call light, and malevolent, because opposed to their wishes.
But they who are represented by Martha, have not only a general faith that all things will finally terminate in good, -as that the dead will rise again in the resurrection at the last day,—but they have also a particular faith, which is more or less clear according as the divine ends have become their ends, that present events are designed to effect present good. They have approached so near unto the Lord and his providence, that they begin to discern the particulars of which the whole is composed; they have passed through the clouds and darkness which surround the throne of Jehovah, and begin to perceive the justice and judgment upon which it is founded.
Jesus saith unto her, I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.-Our Lord calls himself the resurrection and the life, because he is continually raising man from one degree of spiritual life to another. And as a resurrection implies a previous death, so the reception of new life implies the extinction of that which preceded. There is, in the process of regeneration, a perpetual succession of death and resurrection, of fall and spring, of evening and morning. As it was by going and returning that the flood subsided from off the face of the earth, so it was according to the same fluctuation and succession that the dry land appeared. As all things in nature are, in their growth and progress towards perfection, perpetually casting off the more external covering, and unfolding that which is new, so it is with all things in man, and also with the man himself.
But it is to be observed, that the inward vital principle, the life, does not die, but only its external form, or body; and that this is cast off by the expansion, development, and maturity of the inward life. The body may be cast off, and a more spiritual appear
in its place, but the life itself is only the more fully brought forth to view. Thus all the principles which govern our conduct, all our affections and thoughts, are, as to their essential life, from the Lord, who is the resurrection and the life; but they receive their forms, or bodies, from ourselves. They are, as they descend into our minds, clothed with something selfish and worldly. Honesty is embodied in the best policy; rectitude, in expediency; truth, in a name for veracity or rationality; charity, in the desire that our neighbour may love us; great uses, in a great name, or in great profits; and heaven, in a glorious reward. Thus there is an indefinite number of forms, in which the same principle may appear in our progress; and we are continually ascending from one to another. The inward vital principle of honesty, of rectitude, of charity, and of use, is from the Lord. It is the influx of his love and wisdom through the interiors of the soul. But the body of it, the form, the mode of its operation, is from ourselves. We receive it, and it operates within us, according to our state. It is from above; but we explain it, we annex the motive to it, and we execute it. The power of the Highest overshadows us, but we give the body. Thus the principles of heavenly life, the laws of God, are born in us, receiving a form according to our state. But, as we obey them, in adherence to their spirit, the external, selfish, worldly forms which we give them, will successively die and be removed, and that which is within, and from within, will come forth in its own essential innocence, truth, and omnipotence. They descend into us for our redemption. We are perunitted to understand, to explain them according to our own state and character. But if, in the course of our obedience to them, we receive any thing of their spirit; if we acquire any affection for them in themselves; they will gradually put off whatever they receive from us, and shine forth in their own brightness, and be glorified with the glory which they had before they came into our world.
These acts of putting off the externals, these deaths, or divestures, are at first attended with pain and anxiety; for the bodies of truths are all that we have given them, all that we regard as belonging to us, all that we have had any affection for, all that we have communicated to others, all that we have confirmed, and contended for, all that we feel any personal interest in, or feel responsible for. It therefore requires in us the exercise of much selfdenial to give them up and relinquish them. And we can by no means be reconciled to the separation, but by previously being affected with their spirit—with that internal vital spark of them which is from God, and can never die. And we must be affected by it in such a degree as to feel in unison with it, and sympathize with it, and even desire to cooperate with it in casting off all that we have of ourselves superinduced upon it,--all that is born of bloods, of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, and then
receive it and behold it as it is, born of God. This is at first painful; but the very pain is itself instructive: for by it we learn, and we are persuaded to make no likenesses, no graven images; to have no other gods before Jehovah; to give no form to truth which is not of truth to circumcise it in its infancy; to perpetuate the covenant—to perpetuate its birth and descent for ever. Then, although truth will still, in its descent, come into a form according to the state of our minds; and although these forms must consequently for ever be imperfect, and therefore will need to be put off as we advance; yet we shall not be tenacious of them, but can part with them without pain or regret: for it was not the form that we valued, but the truth, and the spirit of truth.
Natural death, when taken in connexion with its pains and its terrors, represents that change of life when the forms which we have of our own selves wilfully superinduced upon the truth, are separated from it, and we are thenceforth affected by its spirit, and are willing to receive it as it is. Hence it is that life and progress in heaven are not painful. And hence it is that, even in this world, those who rest in that which is from above, and are therefore willing that what is derived from themselves should be put off, can view the separation without pain and regret; for they are in union and sympathy with that which cannot suffer, nor die. They believe that it is the spirit which quickeneth; that the flesh profiteth nothing; that the words of the Lord are spirit and are life: and, believing this, they are willing that every thing which is from beneath should be removed; that the dust should return to the dust, and that the spirit should return to God, who gave it. They believe that nothing of spiritual communion is interrupted by death. They believe that the Lord is the resurrection and the life; for they hear a great voice from heaven, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
1. Discourse, preached at the Dedication of the Second Congre
gational Unitarian Church, New York, December 7, 1826. By William Ellery Channing. New York. 1821. 8vo.
2. A Review of the Rev. Dr. Channing's Discourse, preached
at the Dedication of the Second Congregational Unitarian Church, New York, December 7, 1826. Boston. Hilliard, Gray, Little, & Wilkins. 1827. 8vo. pp. 91. A Review of the Rev. Dr. Channing's Discourse, preached, &c. First published in the “ Rhode Island Religious Messenger.” By a Layman. Providence. 1827. 12mo. pp. 57. . The present freedom of religious inquiry and discussion, is both indicative and productive of much good. We are more nearly at perfect liberty to state our own views, and examine fearlessly the views of others, respecting the relation between God and his creatures, than were the men of any past generation. There have always been individuals who willingly encountered the dangers that opposed free inquiry; but the peril has now passed away; the way of the seeker has become a way of safety, if not of pleasantness and peace; the excitement of daring is taken from the courageous, and the oppressive restraint of fear from the
and opinions now stand to be scrutinized, in a stronger and clearer light than ever before illustrated them.
This is an effect, and, in its turn, a cause of an improvement in our intellectual nature. Men advance far in knowledge and in wisdom before they come to value aright absolute liberty of mind; and when this liberty is respected, firmly established, and jealously guarded, a foundation is laid upon which may be raised a structure that will reach to heaven. Such is the case now; not perfectly, but more nearly so than it ever has been. And, if means and facilities for intellectual advancement exist now which have not existed until now, it is wise to hope that there will be an accession of knowledge and of wisdom, an exhibition of unclouded truth, an opening of the eye and of the ear, which other generations have not known.
“ In the first age, the religion was administered with a wise and merciful conformity to the capacities of its recipients. With the progress of intelligence, and the development of the moral faculties, christianity is freeing itself, and ought to be freed from the local, temporary, and accidental associations of its childhood.
Its great principles are coming forth more distinctly and brightly, and condemning abuses and errors which have passed current for ages.”_“The time is coming when the human intellect is to strike into new fields, and to view itself, and its creator, and the universe, from new positions; and we trust the darkness which has so long hung over our moral nature, will be gradually dispersed."* Gladly do we adopt such sentiments as these; gladly do we hear them uttered by one who speaks with so much power as their reputed author; gladly do we hail the hues of the morning.
Many are the points in dispute between unitarianism and orthodoxy,—which terms we use, because custom has made them convenient, and not because they mean precisely what they are used to express. Among these points, is the respective antiquity of the systems; each claiming to be the first-born. We believe them to be about coequal in age. The apostles belonged to neither sect. The books of the New Testament support neither system, exclusively or distinctly. There is almost proof that this is so, in the fact that both sects, bringing to the work equal learning and sagacity, discover in the scriptures, each its own set of texts, upon which they rely with equal confidence. They both come to the Word of God as to a common quarry, and find there, made ready to their hands, stones wherewith to build their temples of worship. The bigoted of each sect explain this fact to their own satisfaction, by charging their opponents with folly, with abandonment of common sense and right reason, in construing the scriptures. A candid man, who wishes not to protect, but to remove his ignorance; who inquires, not to confirm, but to form his opinion; needs an explanation of this phenomenon somewhat more satisfactory. It seems to him reasonably inferable from it, either that the scriptures may bear two strictly opposite significations, one of which cannot be true if the other is; or that the most strenuous exertions of the best human intellects are unequal to the just understanding of scripture. We would suggest to him to consider, whether the difficulty and doubt may not be referred to the supposition that the christian scriptures must contain in their literal sense a full and final development of the way of God in saving man.
The Jewish scriptures promise a redeemer as distinctly as the christian scriptures reveal a redeemer. The firmest christian does not believe in the being of a messiah, or in the absolute efficacy of his act of redeinption, more fully or zealously than the Jew; but the views of his origin, nature, and person, and of the character and purpose of his act, entertained by the Jew and the christian, are widely different. Now, we suppose neither calvinist nor unitarian would explicitly impeach the
* Review of Milton's Treatise on Christian Doctrine, in the thirteenth number of the Christian Examiner ; pp. 59 and 67.