William Ellery Channing.

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

. (page 19 of 169)
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can alone explain to you the characteristics of
that truth in preaching which all feel, though
none can describe. I would observe, how-
ever, that all who are distinguished by this
style bear one mark. They preach with
faith, hope, confidence. Truth, when seen
as a reality, alw'ays breathes faith and trust.
Doubt and despondence belong to error or
superficial views. Truth is of God, and is
bright with promise of that infinite good
which all his perfections make sure to his
creation. God s supreme interest and joy in

moral excellence ; the immutable glory and
the omnipotence of rectitude and disinterested
love ; and the utter feebleness of human pas-
sion and prejudice, of sects and armies, of
opinion and physical force, when arrayed
against the cause of holiness, of Christ, of
God, — these are among the clearest manifest-
ations of truth, and indeed its very essence ;
and, of consequence, he who knows the truth
must be strong in faith, must tread doubt and
fear under foot, and must speak with the
energy of a living hope. One great reason of
the inefficacy of the ministry is, the want of
faith in a higher operation of Christianity, in
a higher development of humanity, than is
now %vitnessed. As long as the present
wretched condition of the Christian world
shall be regarded as ultimate, as long as our
religion shall be thought to h.ive done already
its chief work on earth, as long as the present
corruptions of the church and the state shall
be acquiesced in as laws of nature, and shall
stir up no deep, agonizing desire of reform, so
long the ministry will be comparatively dead.

Mv Brother, may you receive from Christ
and nis disciples this glorious inheritance, a
spirit of faith ! May you read every truth of
the Gospel with a prophet's eye, and sec in it
the promise of that new spiritual creation
which Christ came to accomplish on earth !
May you discover in God's attributes, in the
perfection of the Saviour, in the virtues of
eminent men, and in the workings and aspira-
tions of your own soul, pledges, omens, pre-
dictions of a higher state of the church and
of humanity! This is indeed to know the
truth, and this is the knowledge which gives
power to preaching. Alas for that community,
civil or religious, which binds itself to the
past, and has no faith in a higher futurity !
That community which ceases to grow, begins
to decay. In losing hope, it loses the br^sith
of life. Where there is no faith there is no
courage, and, of consequence, no victoiy over
evil. You, in particular, will need faith ; for
you will have continually to do with what is
to many minds full of discouragement ; I mean
with Pauperism, that dark cloud which hangs
ominously over pur modem civilization. But
fear not. Study this great social evil, its causes,
its prevention, its cure, with full confidence,
that in society, as in the natural body, there
is a healing power, and that no evil is des>
perate except despair.

Had I time, 1 might suggest several niles
or cautions, particularly needed in such a
ministry as yours. I will offer but one or two
suggestions. In one important respect your
work is to differ from the common ministry —
that is, in the distribution of your time. Your
life is to be spent, not in retired study, but
very much in visits from house to house ; and
this has its advantages. It will brin^ you

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netr to the poor, awaken your sympathies
with them, acquaint job with their wants,
■ad give them a confidence in your attach-
neat which will open their hearts to your
pobfic instructions. But it has, too, its dis-
advantages. There is danger that your mind
may be frittered away by endless details, by
Iwtrning continually to frivolous communica-
tions and suspicious complaints. To escape
these narrowing influences, you should steadily
devote a part of every day to solitary study ;
tod, still more, you shoidd make it your rule
to regard the events and experiences of every
day as lessons, and strive to extract from
them general truths, so that the intellect may
enlarge itself in the midst of the humblest
concerns. In the meanest hovel, the great
principles of human nature and of God's
moral provideitce will be set before you for
study uid observation. Every man is a vo-
^arae, if you know how to read him. To
seiz e the Universal in the particular is the
fteat art of wisdom, and this is especially
important to one who is to live amidst details.
Another peculiarity of your ministry is, that
you are to see human nature more undis-
guised, naked, than as it falls under our
common notice. You are to go among those
«ho have not learned to cover up the
deformities of the soul by courtesy and
graceful speech. You will see more of the
coarser appetites and passions. Not that
yon are to meet more guilt than the rest
of OS. The selfishness and deceit of the
exchange or of fashionable life, however
wrapped up in refined manners, are not a
whit the fairer in God's sight than the artful
or grasping habits of the poor. Still, we are
in peaohar danger of losing our respect for
human nature when it offen itself to us in
repakive, uncouth, vulgar forms and language.
Remember to be candid and just to the poor.
Treasure np in memory the mstances, which
you will often meet among them, of genero-
sity, patience, domestic love, and s^-control ;
and do not forget that their destitution and
kolfering add to these virtues a moral worth
not beloiDgmg to the good deeds of prosper-
Ms Ufe. Ijodk beneath the outward to the
■piritaal. the inunortal. the divine. Feel
that each of the poor is as dear to God as
Hbe most exalted in condition, and approach
^hem with hmnantty and respect. I do not
•Man by this that you should use flattering
.iroids. Be true, honest, plain. Speak to them
xnx mmd. Rebuke wrong-doing openly,
irmly. The res|>ect won by manfy courage
Ad simpUdty will give you greater power
han any attachment gained by «>ft and sooth-
Dg words. Be rough rather than affectedly
iwnphicepL But with plain dealing you can
tt a sympathising heart, and in w UWOO
tbt» foa wiU find strength.

I might multiply instructions, and mdeed I
know not where to stop ; but I have aheady
transgressed the usual limits of this service,
and I will add but a single admonition,
which, if followed, will render all others
useless. Go to Jesus Christ for guidance,
inspiration, and strength in your office. This
precept is easily uttered, but not easily obeyed.
Nothmg, indeed, is harder than to place our-
selves near Jesus Christ. The way to him
is blocked up on every side. Interpreters,
churches, sects, past and present, creeds,
authorities, the influences of education, all
stand in our way. So manv voices, declaring
what Christ has said, break on our ears, that
his own voice is drowned. The old cry still
resounds, "Lo here! and lo there I" How
hard is it to get near the true Christ, to see
him as he was and is. to hear his own voice,
and to penetrate beneath his works and words
to his spirit, to his mind and heart, to the
great pnnciples of his religion, to the grand
spiritual purpose of all which he said and
did ! How hard to escape our age. to pene-
trate through the disguises in which works of
art and of theology have wrapped up Jesus,
and to receive immediate, unmixed impulses
from his teaching and Ufe ! And yet the
privilege of communing with such a spirit is
so great, and the duty of going from man to
Christ is so solemn, that you must spare no
effort to pUce yourself nearer and nearer to
the Dhrine Master. Learn Irom him how to
look on men. how to feel for them, how to
bear with them, how to meet them courage-
ously yet tenderly, how to awaken in them
the consciousness of their spiritual nature
and destiny, and how to stir them up to
the desire and pursuit of a new, inward,
everlasting life.

My Brother, I conclude with reminding
you of your great responsibilities. Your
office is important; but this is not all. You
enter on it at a critical moment. Tlie ministry
for the poor has indeed ceased to be an
experiment; its success has surpassed our
hopes ; and yet it is not established as firmly
as it should be. It awakens little interest in
our churches. It receives littie aid from
them. The contributions to it from most
of our congregations are small, and do little
honour to us as a body of Christians. The
success of the ministry thus far is due, under
Providence, not to the leal of the churches,
but to the devotion, the martyr-spirit of the
men who have been chamed with its duties.
More faithful labourers, I believe, are not to
be found in the ranks of the ministry through
Christendom. Our brother, that faithful
servant of God, who began this work, still
lives; but almost, if not quite, worn down
by unremitted toils, he is waging a doubtful
cgo^^t with disease brought on him in the


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pulpit and in tbo hovels of the poor. How
bis successor has laboured you need cot Iw
told. And now you are to enter ipto the
labours of these faithful men. and to commend
by like labours the cause for which they have
struggled, to the honour and confidence of
our churdies. Whether this good work shall
go on, rests not a Uttle with you. This I say.
not to stimulate you to labours beyond your
strength. I beseech you not to waste m a
few spasmodic efforts the strength and useful-
ness of years. I beseech you to regard the
care of your health as a duty to yourself, to
us, and to the poor. But. within this limit,
work with life, with courage, with strength

of purpose, with uofalteripg faith in God.
My Brother, go forth to your labours with th«
spirit and power of Him who first preached
the Gospel to the poor; and may yoii, in
fulfilment of his promise, perform grrater
works than those outwarvl miracles which
signaliced hii earthly ministry i Through
your teaching, may the spiritually blind see
and the deaf hear, the lost be found and the
dead raised } May the blessing of them that
are ready to perish come upon you I May
the poor, consoled, strengthened, sanctified
by your ministry, be your crowa and jqy ui
tho day of the L/>rd I


Delivered by reqtust of tlie Council of the Massachusetts Temperance
Society, at the OdeoUy Boston^ February 28, 1837, the day appointed
for the simultaneous Meeting of the Friends of Temperance
throughout the World.

I SEE before me the representatives of varioui
societies for the promotion of temperance. It
is a good and great cause, and I shall be
grateral to God if, by the service now allotted
me, I can in any degree encourage them in
their work, or throw new light on their path.
The present occasion may well animate a
Christian minister. What a noble testimony
does this meeting bear to the spirit and
influenoes of the Christian faith ! Why is
this multitude brought together? Not for
selfish gratification, not for any woridly end,
but for the purpose of arresting a great moral
and social eviU of promoting the virtue,
dignity, well-being of men. And whence
comes this sympathy with the fallen, the
guilty, the miserable? Have we derived' it
from the schools of ancient philosophy, Oi
from the temples of Greece and Rome ? No.
We inherit it from Tesus Christ. We have
caught it from his lips, his life, his cross.
This meeting, were vre to trace its origin,
would carry us back to Bethlehem and Calvary.
The impulse which Christ gave to the human
soul, having endured for ages, is now mani*
festing itself more and more in new and
increasing efforts of phiUmthropy for the
redemption of the world from every form of
evil. Within the^e walls the authority of
Christ has sometimes been questioned, hia
dmracter traduced. To the blasphemer of
that holy name, what a reply is furnished \x$

the crowd which these vralls now contain I
A religion, which thus brings and knits meri
together for the help, comfort, salvation of
their erring, lost fellow-creatures, bears on its
front a broad, bright, unambiguous stamp of
Divinity. Ijet us be grateful that we were
bom under its light, and more grateful still if
we have been, in any measure, baptised into
its disinterested and divine love.

I cannot hope, in the present sta^e of tho
temperance efifott, to render any important
aid to your cause by novelty of suggestion.
Its friends have thoroughly explored the
ground oVer which I am to travel. 3till.
every man who is accustomed to think for
himself is natiurally attracted to particular
views or points in the most familiar subiect ;
and, by concentrating his thoughts on these,
he sometimes succe^ in giving them a new
prominence, in vindicating their just rank,
and in securing to them an attention which
they may not have received, but which is
their due.

On the subject of intempeFsnoe, I have
sometimes thought, perhaps without founda^
tion, that its chid, essential evil was not
brought out as thoroughly and frequently as
its secondary evils, and that there was not a
sufficient conviction of the depth of its causes
and of the remedies which it demands. With
these impressions, I invite your attention to
the following to|)ics :— the great essential evil

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of intemperance,— the cjtept of if? tempta-
tions,— its causes, — the mean? of its preven-
tion or cure.

I. I begin with asking. What is the great,
essential e%il of intemperance > The reply is
given when I say that intemperance is the
votuntary extinction of reason. The great
evil is inward or spiritual. The intemperate
man divests himself, for a time, of bis rational
and moral nature, casts from himself self-
consciousness and self-command, brings on
frenzy, and, by repetition of this insanity,
prostrates more and more his rational and
moral powers. He sins immediately and
directly against the rational nature — that
divine principle which distinguishes between
truth and falsehood, between right and wrong
action, which distinguishes man from the
brute. This is the essence of the vice, what
constitutes its neculiar guilt and woe, and what
should particularly impress and awaken those
who are labouring for its suppression. All
the other cvijs of intemperance are light cpm?
pared with this, and almost all flow f^on)
this : and it is right, it is to be desired, that
aH other evils should be joined with and
follow this. It is to be desired, when a man
lifts a suicidal arm against his hi|;he?t life,
when be quenches reason and conscience, that
he and all others should receive solemQi
startling warning oi the greatness of his
guilt ; mat terrible outward calamities should
hear witness to the inward ruin which he is
woridng ; that the handwriting of judgment
and woe on his countenance, form, and whole
coadition, should declare what a fearfyl thing
it is for a man, Cod's rational ofispring, to
renounce hif reason and become a brute, I(
is common for those who argue against intem-
perance to describe the bloated countenance
of the drunkard, now flushed and now deadly
pals. They describe his trembling, i>alsied
limbB. They describe his waning prosperity,
his poverty, his despair. They descrioe his
descuate, cheerless home, his cold hearth, his
scanty bpard, his heart-broken wife, the
squaudnets of his diildren: and we p^roan in
spirit oy«r the sad redtaL But it is right that
all this should be. It is right that be who,
forewarned, puts out the lights of understands-
tng and conscience within him. who abandons
his rank among God's radonal creatures, and
takes his place among brutes, should stand a
moouraent of wrath among his fellows, should
be a teacher wherever be is seen— a teacher, in
every kx>k and mocion, of the awful guilt of
destroying reason. Were we so constituted
tiiat reason could be extinguished and th^
coun t ena n ce retain its freshness, the form its
grace, the body its vigour, the outward con-
ditioQ its prosperity, and no strilqng change
be seen in one's nome, so for fiiom beinp
gainers, we should lose some testimonies


God's parental care. His care and goodness, as
well as his justice, are manifested in the fparful
mark He has set on tbe drunkard, in the blight
which falls on all the drunHfrd's joys. These
outvirard evils, dreadful as tney seem, are but
faint types of the ruin within. We should see
in them God's respect to his own imaee in the
soul, his parental warnings against the prime
of quenching the intellectual and moral life.

We are too apt to fix our thoughts on the
consequences or punishments of crime, and to
overtook the crime itself. This is not turning
pimishment to its highest use. Punishment is
an outward sign of inward evil. It is meant
to reveal something more terrible than itself.
The greatness of punishment |s a mode of
embodying, making: visible, the magnitude of
the crime to which it is attached. The
miseries of intemperance, its loathsomeness,
ghastliness, and pains, are not seen aright if
they do not represent to us the more fearful
desolation wrought by this sin in the soul.

Among the evils of intemperance, much
importance is riven to the poverty of which it
is the cause, uut this evil, great as it is, is
yet light in comparison with the essential evil
of intemperance, which I am so anxious to
place distinctly before you. What matters it
that a man be poor, if he carry into his
poverty the spirit, energy, reason, and virtues
of a man ? What matters it that a man must,
for a few years, live on bread and water?
How ntiany of the richest are reduced by dis-
ease to a worse condition than this ? Honest,
virtuous, noble-minded poverty is a compara-
tively light evil. The ancient philosopher
chose it as the condition of virtue. It lias
been the lot of many a Christian. The
poverty of the intemperate man owes its great
misery to its cause. He who makes himself
a beggar, by having made himself a brute, is
miserable indeed. He who has no solace,
who has only agonizing recollections £\nd har-
rowing remorse, as he looks on his cold hearth,
his scanty table, his ragged children, has in-
deed to bear a crushing weight of woe. That
he suffers, is a light thing. That ho has
brought on himsoif this suflerin^ by the
voluntarv extinction of his reason, this is the
terrible tnought, the intolerable curse.

We are told tliat we must keep this or that
man from drunkenness, to save him from
"coming on the town," from being a burden
to the city. The motive is not to be over-
looked ; but I cannot keep my thoughts fixed
for a moment on the few hundred or thousand
dollars which the intemp^ate cost. When I

§0 to the poor-house, and see the degradation,
le spiritual weakness, the abjectness, the
half-idiot imbecility written on the drunkard's
countenance, I see a ruin which makes the
cost of his support a grain of dust in the scalQ.
I am pot soiry that society is taxed for thp
G 2

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drunkard. I would it were taxed more. I
would the burden of sustaining him were so
heavy that we should be compelled to wake
up, and adc how he may be saved from ruin.
It is intended, wisely intended by God, that
sin shall spread its miseries beyond itself, that
no human being shall suffer alone, that the
man who faUs shall draw others with him, if
not into his guilt, at least into a portion of his
woe. If one member of the social bodv suffer,
others must suffer too ; and this is well* This
is one of the dependencies by which we be-
come interested in one another's moral safety,
and are summoned to labour for the rescue oif
the fallen.

Intemperance is to be pitied and abhorred
for its own sake much more than for its out-
ward consequences. These consequences owe
their chief bitterness to their criminal source.
We speak of the miseries which the drunkard
carries into his family. But take away his
own brutality, and how lightened would be
these miseries ! We talk of his wife and
children in rags. Let the rags continue ; but
suppose them to be the effects of an innocent
cause. Suppose the drunkard to have been a
virtuous husband and an affectionate father,
and that sickness, not vice, has brought his
family thus low. Suppose his wife and chil-
dren bound to him by a strong love, which a
life of labour for their support and of un-
wearied kindness has awakened; suppose
them to know that his toils for their welfare
had broken down his frame; suppose him
able to say, " We are poor in this world's
goods, but rich in affection and religious
trust. I am going from you; but I leave
you to the Father of the fotherless and to
the widow's God." Suppose this, and how
changed these rags ! How changed the cold,
naked room I The heart's warmth can do
much to withstand the winter's cold ; and
there is hope, there is honour, in this virtuous
indigence. What breaks the heart of the
drunkard's wife ? It is not that he b poor,
but that he is a drunkard. Instead of that
bloated face, now distorted with passion, now
robbed of every gleam of intelligence, if the
wife could look on an affectionate counte-
nance, which had for years been the interpreter
of a well-principled mind and faithful heart,
what an overwhelming load would be Ufted
from her I It is a husband whose touch is
polluting, whose infirmities are the witnesses
of his guilt, who has blighted all her hopes,
who has proved false to the vow which made
her his ; it is such a husband who makes
home a hell, not one whom toil and disease
and providence have cast on the care of wife
and children.

We look too much at the consequences of
vk:e. top little at the vice itself. Jt is vice
which ii the chief weight of what wt call iu

consequence, vice which is the bitteiness In
the cup of human woe.

II. I proceed now to offer some remarks
on the extent of temptations to this vice. And
on this point I shall not avail myself of the
statistics of intemperance. I shall not attempt
to number its victims. I wish to awaken
universal vigilance, by showing that the temp-
tations to this excess are spread through all
classes of society. We are apt to speak as if
the laborious, uneducated, unimproved, were
alone in danger, and as if we ourselves had
no interest in this cause, except as others are
concerned. But it is not so; multitudes in
all classes are in danger. In truth, when we
recall the sad histories of not a few in every
circle, who once stood among the firmest and
then yielded to temptation, we are taught
that none of us should dismiss fear— that we
too may be walking on the edge of the abjrss.
The young are exposed to intempersmoe, for
youth wants forethought, loves excitement,
IS apt to place happiness in gaiety, is prone to
convivial pleasure, and too often finds or
makes this the path to hell ; nor are the old
secure, for age unnerves the mind as well as
the body, and silently steals away the power
of self-control. The idle are in scarcely less
peril than the over-worked labourer ; for un-
easy cravings spring up in the vacant mind,
and the excitement of intoxicating draughts
is greedily sought as an escape from the in-
tolerable weariness of having nothing to do.
Men of a coarse, unrefined character fall
easily into intemperance, because they see
little in its brutality to disgust them. It is a
sadder thought that men of genius and sensi-
bilitv are hardly less exposed. Strong action
of the mind is even more exhausting than the
toil of the hands. It uses up, if I may so say,
the finer spirits, and leaves either a sinking of
the system which craves for tonics, or a rest-
lessness which seeks relief in deceitful seda-
tives. Besides, it is natural for minds of great
energy to htmger for strong excitement ; and
this, when not found in innocent occupation
and amusement, is too often sought in crim-
inal indulgence. These remarks apply pecu-
liarly to men whose genius is poetical,
imaginative, allied with, and quickened by.
peculiar sensibility. Such men, Uving in
worlds of their own creation, kindling them-
selves with ideal beauty and joy, and too
often losing themselves m reveries, in which
imagination ministers to appetite, and the
sensual triumphs over the spiritual nature,
are peculiarly in danger of losing the balance
of the mind, of losing calm thought, clear
judgment, and moral strength of wiU. become
children of impulse, learn to despise simple
and common pleasures, and are hurried to
ruin by a feverish thfast of high-wrought,
delirious gratification. In suoh men, thsso

Online LibraryWilliam Ellery ChanningThe complete works of W.E. Channing: with an introduction → online text (page 19 of 169)