William Ellery Channing.

The complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction online

. (page 1 of 169)
Online LibraryWilliam Ellery ChanningThe complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction → online text (page 1 of 169)
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4 JsnuaTy, 1892.

Prom tbe Library of

cop, <X

«* The pages of thy book I read.
And as I closed esch one
My heart, responding, ever said,
• Servant of God, well done I '

" Wdl done ! thy words are great and bold;
At times they seem to me,
Like Luther's, in the days of old,
.4j>df battles for the free t"

T^NOFELLOW (•* To W. B, CAonmMf^,


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/ttrcduttory Remarks i

S^-Culture lo

Hmtcnr due to all Men 30

Omih£ Elevation 0/ the Labouring Classes 35

Ministry for the Poor 60

Om Preaching the Gospel to the Poor 73

Ckmrge/or the Ordination of Mr, Robert C. IVaterston, as Minister at Large . 77

Address on Temperance 82

Rmtarks on Education ......* 96

MUlHar As on National Literature 103

M^arison Associations 115

T%$ Present Age 131

Iwmartance of Religion to Society 143

Sfritual Freedom 143

7% Great Purpose of Christianity 155

Mkns of Promoting Christianity 161

Tik Christian Ministry 164

T^ Oemands of the Age on the Ministry 174

T^^jEvidences of Revealed Religion i8a

B^iOences of Christianity 192

CttisHanity a Rational Religion 219

IMtness to God 230

Ck^racter of Christ 239

7% Imitableness of Christ s Character 246

Lne to Christ: /. 2:>i

tme to ChrUt: //. 25^

^H^hing Christ 261

S^'Dcnial 267

nk Evil of Sin 276

immortality 2bi

TMg Future Life 286

tkfitarian Christianity 292

Vltitartan Christianity most favourable to Piety ....... 306

Options to Unitarian Christianity considered 330

Cii$stian Worship 326

Tit Church 343

It* Sunday-School 358

Wtgf^emts of Religion and Morality in the Form of a Catechism . • . . $69

H^Aforal Arguwunt against Calvinism 370

Um^CatMi€itm * ^ ^7^

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The System of Exclusion and Denunciation in Religion considered • . ■ . 386

Extracts from a Letter on Creeds 393

The Duties of Children 395

Daily Prayer 399

On Theological Education 401

Charge at the Ordination of the Rev. John Sullivan Dxoi^ht . • . . . 404

Remarks on the Life and Character of Napoleun Bona f arte 411

Remarks on the Character and Writings of John Milton 442

Remarks on the Character and Writings of Fin4lon 462

A Discourse on the Life and Character of the Rev. Joseph Tucker man ^ D.D. . 478

The Philanthropist : A Tribute to the Memory of the Rev. Noah Worcester, D.D. 496

A Discourse occasioned by the Death of the Rev. Dr. Pollen 503

Memoir of John Gallison, Esq. , 512

Notice of the Rev. S. C. Thacher 517

Th^ Union 530

On War: L 531

On War: U. 541

On War: IIL 549

Duties of the Citizen in Times of Trial or Danger ...... 56a

Slavery ............... 570

The Abolitionists 615

A Letter to tlu Hon. Henry Clay on the Annexation of Texas . . . • 62a

Remarks on the Slavery Question in a Letter to Jonathan Phillips, Esq. . , 647

Emancipation 679

The Duty of the Free States 707

An Address delivered at Lenox on Emancipation in the British West Indies . , 1 751



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Titt foBowiBg tracts, having passed through
I ^itions at home and abroad, are now
to meet the wishes of those who
ne to possess them in a durable form.
la eimii4on with aU writings which have ob-
tsimpd aigood degree of notice, they have
baoicrit icised freely ; but as they have been
pdWiiM I not to dictate opinions, but to tX'
cmibtm ^ht and inquiry, they have not failed
of tfiek I md. even when they have provoked
do«U «i reply. They have, I think, the
merit d being earnest expressions of the
wrtier'i tnind, and of giving the results of
quiet, Jdttg-continued thought.

Some topics mil be found to recur often,
pcrhi^ ihe reader may think too often ; but
u Is te this way that a writer manifests his
mdirMMtlity, and he can in no other do justice
t* bia own mind. Men are distinguished
Ssom oMt another, not merely by difference of
th u^gl m^ but often more by the different
dtfe^wt of relief or prominence which they
give 10 ftie same thoughts. In nature, what
ense dissimilarity do we observe in
1 bodies, which consist of the same
or elements, but in which these are
I te great diversity of proportions i So,
la kaa what a man is, it is not enough to
dissect his mind, and see separately the
IbOQiefali and feelings which successively pos*
s«is him. The question is, what thoughts
flttd iftalings predominate, stand out most
dfetiQC%, and give a hue and impulse to the
conunoil actions of his mind ? What are his
0nat ideas? These form the man, and by
titoir Hwth and dignity be is very much to be

TSeibUowing writin^js will be found to be

distinguished by nothing more than by the
high estimate which they express of human
nature. A respect for the himian soul breathes
through them. The time may come for
imfolding my views more fidly on this and
many connected topics. As yet, I have given
but fragments ,* and, on this account, I have
been sometimes misapprehended. The truth
is, that a man, who looks through the present
disguises and humbling circumstances of hu-
man nature, and speaks with eamesmess of
what it was made for and what it may become,
is commonly set down by men of the world as
a romancer, and what is far worse, by the
religious, as a minister to human pride, per-
haps as exalting man against God. Mie»'
remarks on this pomt seem, therefore, a proper
introduction to these volumes.

It is not, however, my purpose in this place
to enter far into the consideration of the
greatness of human nature, and of its signs
and expressk>ns in the inward and outward
experience of men. It will be sufficient here
to observe, that the greatness of the soul is
especially seen in the intellectual energy which
discerns absolute, universal truth, in the idea
of God, in freedom of will and moral power,
in disinterestedness and self-sacrifice, in the
boundlessness of love, in aspirations after
perfection, in desires and affections, which
time and space cannot confine, and the world
cannot fill. The soul, viewed in these lights,
should fill us with awe. It is an immortal
germ, which may be said to contain now
within itself what endless ages are to unfold.
It is truly an image of the infinity of God,
and no words can do justice to its grandeur.
ITiere is, ho\vcver, another and very different


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aspect of our nature. When we look merely
at what it now is, at its present development,
at what falls under present consciousness, we
see in it much of weakness and limitation,
and still more, we see it narrowed and de-
graded by error and sin. This is the aspect
tmder which it appears to most men ; and so
strong is the common feeling of human in-
firmity, that a writer, holding higher views,
must state them with caution, if he would be
listened to without jprejudice. My language,
I trust, will be sufficiently measured, as my
object at present is not to set forth the great-
ness of human nature, but to remove difficul-
ties in relation to it, in the minds of roUgloDS

From the direction which theology has
taken, it has been thought, that to ascribe
anything to man, was to detract so much
from Grod. The disposition has been, to
establish striking contrasts between man and
God, and not to see and rejoice in the likenoss
between them. It has been thought, that to
darken the creation was the way to bring out
more clearly the splendour of the Creator.
The human being has been subjected to ft
stem criticism. It has been forgotten that
he is as yet as infant, new to existence, un-
conscious of his powers; and he has been
expected to see clearly, walk firmly, and act
perfectly. Es^^ecially in estimating his trans-
gressions, the chief r^ard has been had, not
to his finite nature ax^ present stage of de-
velopment, but to the infinity of the Being
against whom he had sinned ; so that God's
greatness, instead of being made a ground of
hope, has been used to plunge man into

I have here touched on a great spring of
error in religion, and of error among the most
devout. I refer to the tendency of fervent
minds to fix their thoughts exclusively or
unduly on God's infinity. It is said, in de-
votional writings, that exalted and absorbing
views of God enter into the very essence of
piety; that our grand labour should be, to
turn the mind from the creature to the Creator;
that the creature carmot sink too low in our
estimation, or God fill too high a sphere.
God, we are told, must not be limited ; nor
are his rights to be restrained by any rights in
his creatures. These are made to minister to
their Maker's glory, not to glorify themselves.
They wholly depend on Him, and have no
power which they can call their own. His
sovereignty, awful and omnipotent, is not to
be kept in check, or turned from its purposes,
by any claims of his subjects. Man's place
is the dust. The entire prostration of his
faculties is the true homage he is to offer
God. He is not to emit his reason or his
sense of right against die decrees of the
Almicfhty* He has but nnr Irsson io learn.

that he is nothing, that God is All in All.
Such is the common language of theology.

These views are exceedingly naturaL ThA^
the steady, earnest contemplation of tl»el
Infinite One should so dazzle the min4 aa toi
obscure or annihilate all things else. oiis:ti#
not to suiprise us. By looking at the sun. '
we lose the power of teeiog other o fc j^ct »»
It was, I conceive, one design of Okxl vrv
hiding Himself so ifar from us, in throwing
around Himself the veil of his works, to pre-
vent this very evil. He intended that our
faculties should be left at liberty to i*ct on
Other things besides Hiit)self, tKaC fne will
should not be crxished by his. overpowering
greatness, that we should be free agents, that
we should recognize rights in ourselves and
in others as well as in the Creator, and thus
be introduced into a wide and ever enlarging:
sphere of action and duty. Still the idea of
the Infinite is of vast power, and the mind,
in surrendering itself to it, is in danger of
becoming unjust to itself and other bcdngs.
of losing that sentiment of self-respect, which
should be inseparable from a moral nature, of
degrading the intellect \n the forced ibelitf
of contradictions which God is supposed to
sanction, and of losing that distinct conseioais^
ness of moral freedom, of power over ttieM,
without which the interest of life- and -th*
sense of duty are gone.

Let it not be imagined from these oeniarinf
that I would turn the mind from Godlfttef
finity. This is the grand truth; bi^ it mast
not stand alone in the mind. Thd fin it* is
something real as well as the infinite. We
must reconcile the two in oar theology. It fo
as dangerous to exclude the formir as^tte
latter. God surpasses all human Miougiit;^
yet human thought, mysterious, unboimdAd,
*• wandering through eternity," is not Id ba
contemned. God's sovereignty is IfanitleteJ
still man has rights. God's power is irresilli*
ble; still man is free. On God we enlirdlgr
depend; yet we can and do act from o^-
selves, and determine onr own characteSi
These antagonist ideas, if so they may Ate
called, are ec|ually true, and neither can Hm
spared. It will not do for an impassioned M-
an abject piety to wink one class of them out
of sight. In a healthy mind they live (»•
gether ; and the worst error in rdigion hii
arisen from throwing a part of them iito
obscurity. *"

In most religious systems, the tendency \m
been to seize exclusively on the idea of tW
Infinite, and to sacrifice to this the finite, tii
created, the human. This I have said is vdfy
natural. To the eye of sense, man Ikfodpa
mote in .the creation, his imperfections Md
sins are so prcunioent in his kistoiy, tia
changes of his life are so sudden, so awful, \A
vani^es into such darkness, the mvfttftrv of

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Ike tomb is so fearful* all his outward pos-
sessions are so fleeting, the earth which he
u«ads on so insecure, and all surrounding
oalure subject to such fearful revolutions, that
ih« reflective and sensitive mind is prone to
sm Nothingness inscribed on the human being
and on all thmgs that are made, and to rise
to God as the only reahty. Another more
iaAoential feeling contributes to the same end.
The mind of man, in its present infancy and
Ui»dness, is apt to grow servile through fear,
oad seeks to propitiate the Divine Being by
flattery and self-depreciation. Thus deep are
tbi springs of religious error. To admit all
the elements of truth into our system, at once
to adore the infinity of God and to give due
i]n]K>rtancc to our own free moral nature, is
BO very easy work. But it must be done.
Man's free activity is as important to religion
as Ood's infinity. In the kingdom of Heaven,
the moral power of the subject is as essential
at ^ omnipotence of the sovereign. The
richts of both have the same sacredness. To
BOO man of his dignity is as truly to subvert
fet|f ion, as to strip God of his perfection. We
Mttft believe in man's agency as truly as in
ths Divine, in his freedom as truly as in his
diyrndence, in his individual being as truly
m in the great doctrine of his living in
Oaa. Just as far as the desire of exalting
tbtt Divinity obscures these conceptionsi our
ateion is sublimated into mysticism or de-
eped into servility.

Sll the Oriental world, the human mind has
taaded strongly to fix on the idea of the Infi-
aiM^ the Vast, the Incomprehensible. In its
ipa^ilations it has started from God. Swal-
la«|d up in his greatness, it has annihilated
(Jh*4reature. Perfection has lieen thought to
9l|i self-oblivion, in losing one's self in the
Dh§iit} . in establishing exclusive communion
4llk God. The mystic worshipper fled from
w4fity to wildernesses, where not even nar
(ofc beauty might divert the soul from the
Ui||en. Living on roots, sleeping on the
i«4^ floor of his cave, he hoped to absorb
bM^f in the One and the Infinite. The
vj^ the consciousness of the individual was
j«i^and the more the will and the intellect
"Kie passive or yielded to the universal
I the more perfect seemed the piety.

such views naturally sprung Pan-
No being was at last recognized but
_. He was pronounced the only reaUty.
Hl^iverse seemed a succession of shows,
<mhw5, evanescent manifestations of the
** "^Jnef^lc Essence. The human spirit
lat an emanation, soon to be reabsorbed
ource. God, it was said, bloomed in
*er, breathed in the wind, flowed in
am. and thought in the human soul,
powers were but movements of one
). force. Under the deceptive spectacle

of InultipHed individuals intent on various
ends, there was but one agent. Life, with its
endless changes, was but the heaving of one
and the same eternal ocean.

This mode of thought naturally gave biril>
or strength to that submission to despotic
power, which has t characterized the Eastern
world. The sovereign, in whom the who!
power of the state was centred, became a^i
emblem of the One Infinite Power, and wa
worshipped as its representative. An unrc
sisting quietism naturally grew out of the con-
templation of God as the all-absorbing ami
irresistible energy. Man, a bubble, arising
out of the ocean of the universal soul, ami
fated soon to vanish in it again, had plainly
no destiny to accomplish, which could fill hint
with hope or rouse him to effort. In the East
the individual was counted nothing. In
Greece and Rome he was counted much, and
he did much. In the Greek and the Roman
the consciousness of power was indeed too
little chastened by religious reverence. Their
gods were men. Their philosophy, thouf;h
in a measure borrowed from or tinctured
with the Eastern, still spoke of man as
his own master, as having an indepen-
dent happiness in the energy of his own will
As far as they thus severed themselves from
God,- they did themselves great harm ; but m
their recognition, however imperfect, of the
grandeur of the soul, lay the secret of their '
vast influence on human afi^rs.

In all ages of the church, the tendency ot
the reUgious mind to the exclusive thought of
God. to the denial or forgetfulness of all other
existence and power, has come forth in various
forms. The Catholic Church, notwithstanci
ing its boasted unity, has teemed witii
mystics, who have soi^ht to lose themselves
in God. It would seem as if the human
mind, cut off by this church from free,
healthful inquiry, had sought liberty in th s
vague contemplation of the Infinite. In the
class just referred to were found many nobK*
spirits, especially F^n^on, whose quietism,
with all its amiableness, we must look on as a

In Protestantism, the same tendency t«>
e.xalt God and annihilate the creature ha
manifested itself, though in less pronounced
forms. We sec it in Quakerism, and Cal
vinism, the former striving to reduce the soul
to silence, to suspend its action, that in its
stillness God alone maybe heard; and the
latter making God the only power in the uni-
verse, and annihilating the free will, that one
will alone may be done in heaven and on earth.

Calvinism will complain of l)eing spoken of
as an approach to Pantheism. It will say.
that it recognizes distinct minds from the
Divine. But what avails this, if it robs these
minds of self-determining force, of original
B a

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activity, k ft makes them passive recipients
of the Universal Force; if it sees in human
action only the necessary issues of foreign im-
pulse ? The doctrine that God is the only Sab-
stance, which is Pantheism, differs little from
the doctrine that God is the only active power
of the universe. For what is substance with-
out power? It is a striking fact, that the
philosophy which teaches that matter is an
inert substance, and that God is the force
which perN'ades it, has led men to question
whether any such thing as matter exists;
whether the powers of attraction and repul-
sion, which are regarded as the in-dwelling
Deity, be not its whole essence. Take away
force, and substance is a shadow, and might
as well vanish from the universe. Without a
free power in man, he is nothing. The divine
agent within him is everything. Man acts
only in show. He is a phenomenal existence,
under which the One Infinite Power is mani-
fested; and is this much better than Pan-
theism ?

One of the greatest of all errors is the
attempt to exalt God, by making Him the
sole cause, the sole agent in the universe, by
denying to the creature freedom of will and
moral power, by making man a mere re-
cipient and transmitter of a foreign impulse.
This, if followed out consistently, destroys
all moral connection between God and his
creatures. In aiming to strengthen the phy-
sical, it ruptures the moral bond, which holds
them tog^ether. To extinguish the free will
is to strike the conscience with death, for
both have but one and the same hfe. It de-
stroys responsibility. It puts out the light of
the universe; it makes the universe a machine.
It freezes the fountain of our moral feelings,
of all generous affection and lofty aspirations.
Pantheism, if it leave man a free agent, is
a comparatively harmless speculation ; as we
see in the case of Milton- The denial of
moral freedom, could it really be believed,
would prove the most fatal of errors. If
Edwards's work on the Will could really an-
swer its end, if it could thoroughly persuade
men that they were bound by an irresistible
necessity, that their actions were fixed links
in the chain of destiny, that there was but
one agent, God, in the universe; it would be
one of the most pernicious books ever issued
from our press. Happily it is a demonstra-
tion which no man believes, which the whole
consciousness contradicts.

It is a fact worthy of serious thought and
full of solemn instruction, that many of the
worst errors have grown out of the religious
tendencies of the mind. So;necessary is it to
keep watch over our whole oature, to subject
the highest sentiments to th^ calm, conscien-
tious reason. Men starting from the idea of
God, have been so dazzled by it, as to forget

or misinterpret the universe. They have
come to see in Him the only force in creation,
and in other beings only signs, shadows,
echoes of this. Absolute dependence is the
only relation to God, which they have left to
human beings. Our infinitely nobler rela-
tions, those which spring from the power of
free obedience to a moral law, their theory
dissolves. The moral nature, of which free-*
dom is the foundation and essence, which
confers rights and imposes duties, which is
the ground of praise and blame, which lies
at the foundation of self-respect, of friend-
ship between man and man. of spiritual con-
nection between man and his Maker, which
is the spring of holy enthusiasm and heavenly
aspiration, which gives to Ufe its interest, to
creation its glory, this is annihilated by the
mistaken piety, which, to exalt God, to make
Him All in All, immolates to Him the powers
of the universe. .

This tendency, as we have seen, gave birth
in former ages to asceticism, drove some of

Online LibraryWilliam Ellery ChanningThe complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction → online text (page 1 of 169)