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DISCOURSES



BY



w. H. fue:n'ess

PASTOR OP THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITARIAN CHURCH
IN PHILADELPHIA.



PHILADELPHIA:

a. COLLINS, No. 1 SOUTH SIXTH STREET.

BOSTON:. ..CROSBY, NICHOLS & CO.

NEW YORK:... C. J. FRANCIS.

1855.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855,

BY W. H. FUKNESS,

In the Clerk's Oflace of the District Court for the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania.




r. SHERMAN & SON, PRINTERS,

19 St. James Street.



TO

THE MEMBERS



FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITARIAN CHURCH



IN PHILADELPHIA



%\u ^filunxt



IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.



Cffiiteiits.



DISCOURSE I.



STAND UPON THY FEET.



Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto
thee. — EzEKiEL ii. 1, 13



DISCOURSE 11.

THE WAY OF SALVATION.

What must I do to be saved ?— Acts xvi. 30, . , . 36
DISCOURSE III.

THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL.

The glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope
of glory. — CoLoss. i. 27, 61



VI CONTENTS.

DISCOURSE IV.

THE INSPIRATION OF CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES.

Holy men of God spake as tbey were moved by the
Holy Spirit.— 2 Pet. i. 21, 90

DISCOURSE V.

THE PEACE OF JESUS.

My peace I give unto you. — John xiv. 27, . . . 115
DISCOURSE VL

THE EXAMPLE OF GOD.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in
Heaven is perfect. — Matth. v. 48, . . . .139

DISCOURSE VII.

DEATH, A CHANGE.

But some will say, How are the dead raised iip ? And with
what body do they come? — 1 Cor. xv. 35, . . . 162

DISCOURSE VIII.

sources of false doctrine.

Didst not thou sow good seed in thy field ? Whence, then,

.... 196



CONTENTS. Vll

DISCOURSE IX.

CHRIST CRUCIFIED.

For I determined not to know anything among you, save
Jesus Christ and him crucified. — 1 Cor. ii. 2, . . 206



DISCOURSE X.



JESUS AND LITTLE CHILDREN.



Of such is the kingdom of God. — Luke xviii. IG, . , 229



DISCOURSE XL .

ORGANIZED WRONG.

What wilt thou have me to do ? — Acts ix. 6, . .251

DISCOURSE XIL

THE PRAYER OF JESUS.

Sanctify them through thy truth.' — JoHNxvii. 17, , ,271
DISCOURSE XII L

THE SIGN OF DIVINE AUTHORITY.

Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all
mysteries, and aU knowledge ; and though I have all
faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not
charity, I am nothing. — 1 CoR. xiii. 2, . . .



DISCOUESE I.

STAND UPON THY FEET.



EZEKIEL II. 1.

SON OF MAN, STAND UPON THY FEET, AND I WILL SPEAK
UNTO THEE.

Such is the word of the Lord that came to
an ancient prophet. How truly is the same
word addressed to every son of man ! " Stand
upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee."

Truth is the word of the Lord. To hear that
word spoken to us hy God himself, or, in other
words meaning exactly the same thing, to know
the Truth as clearly as if it were sounded in our
ears by a supernatural voice, the indispensable
condition is, that we stand upon our feet,
upright.

Who is there that is thus standing ? Thou-
sands lie bound hand and foot by those appe-
tites that seek their food in the dust, and are
2



1-4 STAND UPON THY FEET.

deaf to everything but tlieir own indulgence.
And they hear not the voice of Truth, even when
the very ground under them shakes and yawns
at its thunders. Others again, a great multi-
tude, are prostrate with their faces to the earth,
trembling with superstitious fear, and mistaking
every noise for the voice of the Eternal. How
many are there, sitting slothful and heedless,
with folded arms and half-shut eyes, leaning on
one another, or upon the precarious circum-
stances in which they chance to be, never
aroused into anything like earnestness unless
when some solitary individual ventures to rise
and stand upon his feet, and utter aloud the
Divine Word, that comes to every man that as-
sumes this attitude. Instead of standing on our
feet, in the consciousness every one of his in-
communicable responsibility, knowing that we
must be judged, each for himself and not one
for another, we are in such a state of moral
weakness, propped up with all manner of exter-
nal supports, resting with our whole weight
upon human authorities, that the dead in their
graves will hear the voice of God as soon as we.
We do not stand up ourselves. JSTor, what is
still worse, will we suffer any man to stand



STAND UPON THY FEET. 15

upon his own feet. From the beginning of the
world, the attitude has been denounced as inso-
lent and impious; and whenever it has been
taken, it has been at the peril of being assaulted
with brutal violence and put down.

And why is it that we are so willing to lie
down, or lean upon others, so reluctant to take
that erect position, so fitting to our nature, and
in which the voice of the great God may be
heard speaking in our hearts, and reverberated
by the whole Universe of things ? It may well
be doubted whether we believe in God at all.
Indeed there can be very little doubt about it.

"We are, or profess to be, greatly shocked by
any speculations that so much as seem to bring
into question the being and providence of God.
Yet we are ourselves, to all vital puq:)Oses, fear-
fully atheistic. There is an atheism that infects
us, which is the only kind of this form of unbe-
lief that is worthy of any attention, or should
cause any alarm. And this it is, alienation
from the great Source of Life, that causes beings
BO rarely organized, so miraculously endowed,
to live and die without exerting the power that
we may. We vegetate merely. Or we are ma-
chines set in motion by external influences, or



1-6 STAND UPON THY FEET.

the abject victims, broken in spirit and strength,
of low desires which use us at their wilh "We
might be godlike spirits, in intimate commu-
nion with the Highest Power, victorious over
all obstructions, and rendering all things sub-
servient to our triumphs. But we are not. And
the reason why we are not is, that we have not
centred ourselves in God. We have no convic-
tion of His being overpowering all other loves
and fears. There is a superstitious reverence
for His name ; but He, whom even religious peo-
ple profess to believe in, is scarcely anything
more than a name, the tradition, the phantom,
of a God. As He, who is alone real, is unreal
to us, our life becomes as sluggish and dreamy
as our faith. "We lack energy to assert or to
deny. "We are not in earnest in regard to any-
thing which can really make us earnest. Sur-
rounded by the infinite energy of God, we flit
through time, and disappear like apparitions;
and life, instead of being an angel's hymn as-
cending and echoing through celestial spheres,
filling them all with harmony, dies away a moan
of discontent and despair, or a cry of agony.
And the reason, I repeat, is, we are sundered in
faith and affection from the great Spring of Life.



STAND UPON THY FEET. 17

In practice, in science, in religion, we are with-
out God. Never abjuring him in form, to all
the purposes of life, we have no faith to inspire
us to stand erect and stand in awe, to yield our-
selves implicitly without reserve or stipulation
to the Almighty Will. What we call our faith
retreats before temptation, and opposition, and
we are left prostrate and exposed, and the
powers of darkness come and rule us to the
end.

There are various causes that conspire to
alienate us from the Highest, and reduce us to a
condition of lamentable weakness.

1. In the first place, there is an uncomfortable
consciousness of a want of harmony with the
Best. Fixed as we may be in our self-indulgent
habits, and ingenious as we are in deceiving
ourselves, we cannot wholly escape a misgiving
that there is a better than we are, which we are
not, and that it is our own fault that it is so.
But let our minds misgive us as much as they
may on this score, we must guard and keep our
self-esteem as the apple of the eye. It will
never do to part with that. We should have no
comfort in life, were our self-satisfaction tum-
bled in the dust ; it would embitter every drop

2*



18 STAND UPON THY FEET.

of the poor peace that we contrive to maintain.
Accordingly, we are afraid to deal honestly with
ourselves. We are afraid to change the com-
fortahle posture of our self-ignorance, and stand
up upon our feet, and look, and hearken, for the
True Voice. We fear lest, finding ourselves
standing in the presence of God, with a clearer
vision of his perfections, and a more vivid ap-
prehension of the Holiness, Eectitude, and Love,
which are the attributes of God, we should be
forced to see with grief and shame how impure,
unjust and selfish we are. And, therefore, that
we may keep ourselves, as well as we can, justi-
fied in our own eyes, we preserve the greatest
possible distance from what will wound and
condemn us ; and lie down and let the music of
this world's enchantments fill our ears. We
desire only to be let alone, that we may sleep
and dream. We will harm nobody if we can
help it. We want only our pleasurable sensa-
tions undisturbed. We do not desire to see
God as He is, lest we should see ourselves as we
are. And so, although a sense of obligations
unfulfilled haunts and troubles us, we evade
and put ofi*, living at best very precariously, aud
yet satisfied on the whole so to live ; having the



STAND UPON THY FEET. 19

countenance of so many, leaning on others,
kneeling now and then, professing to pray, but,
in reality, doing no such thing ; only pretending
and trying to persuade ourselves that our
prayers are what they purport to be. Thus, a
vital atheism is produced, and we cut ourselves
off from the Supreme Good, by the love and
pursuit of which the real life of man is nour-
ished and matured. jN'o wonder that our life,
instead of power, becomes weakness, instead of
honor, shame, instead of a triumphant conflict,
a camp of vanity and sloth.

2. Again, all faith in God is destroyed within
us, by our most abundant prosperity. We are
heaped with the means and appliances of self-
indulgence. The Giver is lost in his gifts. JSTo
observation is more common. N'othing does
experience more abundantly attest. "We are
carried along by the rich full stream of the
Divine Bounty, far away from its source ; and
we lose, as we go, all sensibility to generous
emotions. Even natural affection and common
humanity die away from our hearts. We lose
faith in God and man. How little do the self-
indulgent care to quit their luxuries, and follow
the guidance of self-denying duty ! How deaf



20 STAND UPON THY FEET.

are we to the cry of our suffering brother ! It
is not of necessity that prosperity should have
this effect upon us. But it does have this effect.
It makes men so hard and selfish, that one feels
as if he were committing an impertinence in
suggesting to them the claims of humanity.
The very stones in the streets, will crj out in
answer to those claims as soon as they. Where
common human sympathy has ceased to be, it
is in vain to seek God.

3. In the third place. Science, popularly so
called, is atheistic, not professedly, not con-
sciously so perhaps, but still it is so, in much of
the phraseology which it employs, and in the
ways of thinking to which it leads. It deifies
nature, and by nature is understood a mechani-
cal deity, a power, acting only through blind
mechanical laws, a simple force.

In truth. Creation is the expression of an un-
known Power, alike present and alike inscru-
table in the least thing and in the greatest.
"What we call nature is the embodied thought of
an Unsearchable Intelligence. And when we
study nature aright, the more of its forms and
processes are brought within the sphere of our
contemplation, only the more deeply awe-struck



STAND UPON THY FEET. 21

are we, only the more profoundly impressed
with the conviction that there is One present
here, forever above our comprehension. The
more we comprehend of creation, the more in-
comprehensible is the Creator. At all points,
as well as at every one, the Unknown presents
himself veiled in impenetrable darkness. When
men knew but little of nature, they found it
easy to conceive of the Unseen Maker as clothed
in a human shape. But as true Science, which,
as the business of the intellect concerns itself
only with phenomena, advances, God as steadily
retires, beyond the reach of the intellect ; but
he comes ever nearer to the heart in the grow-
ing sense of wonder and of awe, which he in-
spires. Such is the true course and office of
Science. It brings God nearer to us, not be-
cause it explains him, not because it defines his
nature, or can ever approximate a definition of
it; but, because, in presenting us with new
facts, in tracing the history and revealing the
order of things, it gives us new occasions of
adoration, in showing that the Creator trans-
cends every form of thought, as well as every
form of wood, of marble, or of words. It
searches his works to discover that He is the



22 STAND UPON THY FEET.

Unsearchable. Such, I repeat, is the rightful
relation of Science to the Supreme Object.

But, in fact. Science has been pursued as if it
were expected that by searching with the finite
understanding we could, sooner or later, find
out and define the Infinite. Because things are
arranged in an invariable order, men have
imagined that they have discovered in what
precedes the power to produce what follows.
Because light, heat and moisture precede vege-
tation, we fancy we have detected in these things
the causes, the creative power, that makes the
grass grow and the flowers bloom. Whereas,
we have found no intrinsic vital power in the
light. We know no reason why it might not
destroy as well as vivify. It seems to be thought
that as soon as we can say a thing is natural, all
wonder must cease. This one word has been
used to explain all. Thus God has been ex-
cluded from Creation. Out of deference to the
general sentiment of mankind. His existence
has not been formally denied ; but He is repre-
sented as outside of his works, far up in heaven,
at an immeasurable distance, looking idly on,
while the Universe keeps moving like a machine
by a blind mechanical power of its own. Is not



STAND UPON THY FEET. 23

this equivalent to denying the Divine Being
altogether ? It puts Him far away from us, and
between Him and us, like bars of iron, there are
certain inexorable general laws, so represented,
that power is taken both from God and man.
We seem, by Science, to be driven out of a
garden fresh and beautiful, where we were sur-
rounded by miracles of grace, in the flowers,
and the birds, and the waving of trees, and the
fall of waters, all thrilling with the life of un-
utterable love ; and now we are imprisoned in a
huge machine-shop or factory, where everything
goes on smoothly enough, but the awe of a pure
intelligent Presence, of the Holy One, falls not
on our spirits. We are not brought nearer to
God, but something is interposed between Him
and us. There is no glow in our hearts, only a
cold light, as of the moon, illuminates the intel-
lect.

The old French Revolution, as has often been
said, was omng in great part to the dying out
of all religious awe in the heart of the nation.
The men of science and philosophy of that day
fancied- they were going to analyze everything,
pick all nature to pieces, and get within the
clutch of their understanding the Original Cause.



24 STAND UPON THY FEET.

Science, they flattered themselves, would soon
show how things were made, and what they
were made of, and what for ; and in the midst
of impenetrable mysteries and miracles, they
looked about almost with contempt, saw nothing
that could not easily be set right, nothing more
admirable than their own sagacity, which was
soon to solve the mighty riddle, when it might
possibly appear that the Universe was no very
great things after all ; that it was full of defects,
and improvements might be suggested. Then
all sense of sacredness, everything that could
prompt men to walk humbly before God, va-
nished ; and the nation, being without God,
plunged into an abyss of blood and crime, and
men were stript of the common attributes of
humanity. The same absence of a faith, that
adores the Unsearchable, is always and every-
where followed by sin and woe : without faith
in a holy and mysterious Presence, the world
ceases to be sacred as a temple. It is only a
quantity of matter, blindly obedient to certain
laws impressed upon it, and man degenerates
into an animal, living only for his own pleasure.
He grovels. He no longer stands upon his feet.



STAND UPON THY FEET. 25

The meclianical theory of nature takes all life
from us.

The inevitable consequence of our prostrate
estate is, that God does not speak to us; Or,
when he speaks, we cannot hear. In other
words — to drop the metaphor — we do not know
w^hat is True as a thing of complete personal con-
viction. "We are never perfectly sure that it is
Truth. It is not what it was to prophets and
holy men of old, the word of the Lord, the voice
of Almighty God, beyond every audible voice,
and heard where no other voice can sound, in
the heart, and to be obeyed instantly, let what
may be the cost. So far are we from all autho-
ritative conviction of this sort, that it is every-
where maintained that, without an interposing
miracle, it is, and always has been, impossible
for God to speak to man ; in other words, that
man cannot possibly know the truth as certainly
as if God had spoken with him by a miracle ;
that the individuals who, from time to time,
have appeared in the world speaking Truth with
authority, were the subjects of miraculous illu-
mination. Such being the almost universal be-
lief, we never stand up to listen for the Divine
Voice. We fold our arms and shut our eyes, or



26 STAND UPON THY FEET.

lie clown and go to sleep, muttering in our
dreams some unintelligible creed. And Religion,
instead of being tlie recognition of man's imme-
diate and intimate relationship to tbe Highest,
becomes a phrase and a form ; and, at the best,
we only think, or fancy, or incline to believe,
we do not know, the Truth. We cannot hear
God when we have decided that it is impossible
for Him to speak to us.

What was it that He spake to the saints of
old? What was it that they received as the
word of the Lord, and knew to be true with a
strength of conviction which a world in arms
against them could not overpower ? " Cease to
do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice. Relieve
the oppressed. Hide not thyself from thine oivn
flesh. Hide the outcasts. Betray not him that
wandereth. Let the wicked forsake his way, and
the unrighteous man his thoughts. Love God with
thy whole heart, and thy neighbor as thyself. Bo
to others as ye would they should do to you.''
Such, substantially, were the Divine communi-
cations made to the great teachers of our race.
These were the things which God spake to them.
And blessed were they in that they received
these and similar injunctions as the spoken



STAND UPON THY FEET. 27

words of the Most High God, borne in upon
their consciences with an authority which they
dared not for a single instant trifle with. They
must obey, if they perished in the act.

But we, while we assent to these same com-
mandments, and never think of directly ques-
tioning their truth, we have no assured convic-
tions of their Divine authority, only a confident
opinion of their truth and sacred obligation;
and not very confident either, for it does not
require much to induce us to take our own short-
sighted, politic wisdom as a guide, instead of
the unqualified dictate of Truth and Right. Let
it appear to be proved — it can only appear, it
can never be really proved — that a confessed
evil will promote Civil Order and Union, then we
do not hesitate to disobey the command which
bids us cease to do evil. We persist in doing
evil, in committing the grossest injustice, or in
countenancing others in committing it. "We
thrust aside the sacred injunction as a doubtful
matter, as a point upon which opinions may
safely differ, and in regard to which it would be
sheer arrogance to be confident. Or again, let
it be boldly insisted that, for the sake of the
public welfare, the wanderer, fleeing from cruel



28 STAND UPON THY FEET.

wrong, shall be betrayed into tlie hands of his
oppressors, we are ready to betray him. We
legalize the inhuman treachery. Time would
fail me were I to attempt to enumerate the ways
in which we show that we have no sure convic-
tions of Truth and Right, no convictions that do
not bend and give way to policy ; no convictions
which we can sooner cease to breathe than cease
to obey ; no convictions produced within us as by
the great voice of the living God ; no convictions
that we are not prepared, for the sake of life, or
much less than life, to compromise and sur-
render.

What are these simple precepts, — these that I
just now specified ? We call them the dictates
of humanity, of man's natural sense of right,
the promptings of the human heart. They may
well be called so, since they are universal ; since,
when they are fairly stated, all men admit them.
But are they the creatures of man's fancy? Did
he invent them ? Did he establish them just as
he establishes civil constitutions and municipal
regulations ? Are they his conventionalisms,
which he can set up and pull down at his plea-
sure, and none can stay his hand, or say unto
him, what doest thou ? Let him attempt to put



STAND UPON THY FEET. 29

them down at liis peril. Let him summon all
his principalities and powers, Congresses and
Churches, to invest with all the sanctities of
Eeligion and Law, the abrogation of ISTatural
Eight. It will grind them all to powder. Did
he create it that he may abolish it, or set one jot
or tittle of it aside ? As well might you ask,
did he make the sun shining there in the heavens
that he may quench its light, or hurl it from its
sphere ? The sacred dictates of Justice and
Mercy, come they not from God as surely as the
Universe comes from Him ? Did not the Lord
possess them in the beginning of His way, before
His works of old ? Before the mountains were
settled ; before the hills were they brought forth :
when He appointed the foundations of the earth,
then were they with Him ; they were daily His
delight, rejoicing always before Him ; rejoicing
in the habitable parts of His earth ; and their
delights were with the sons of men. yes,
these are true, and they are the Highest Truth.
There is no dogma of the creeds greater, or so
great as these. They are Divine, the voice of
God in the being of man. In these He speaks,
or He speaks nowhere. Here the Infinite and
3*



30 STAND UPON THY FEET.

Unnameable comes directly to every soul of flesh
to teach and to bless.

O the blessedness of the man who, leaning on
no human support, standing on his own feet,
yields himself like a little child to the Divine
Guide in the heart ! In the sacred monitions
that come to him from within, he hears the music
of the Eternal Voice, majestic in its authority,
unutterably tender in its love. Contradiction
and violence cannot even ruffle the flow of his
good will ; for the Everlasting Mercy of God is
in his bosom, and, as a bird gathereth her young
under her wings, that would take under its pro-
tection the meanest and the most unworthy.
He may be reviled, persecuted, crucified, but
while his innocent blood is flowing away, the
sacred stream of pity and forgiveness, at once
human and divine, gushes forth from his in-
most heart, only the more abundantly upon his
destroyers. He never loses himself in a vague
and barren ecstasy. He flings himself, heart and
soul, into the dear cause of human welfare, even
though every pleasant tie of life is sundered in
the act. Though, at the Divine bidding, he is
ready to give up his life at any moment, yet he
has an interest in living, which we, who live



STAND UPON THY FEET. 31

only for some small purpose of our own, know
not of. Standing on liis own feet, seeing with
his own eyes, hearing with his own ears the
voice of God, he knows by his own experience,
that such is the possible privilege of every living
man ; and he cannot be silent or inactive when
those who might hear God, who might know the
Truth, are prostrate in the dust, under the weight
of heavy chains, or weakly leaning upon others
as weak as themselves. My friends, we may
agonize to feel for our fellow-men the profound


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