Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday Sermon Blogging

Here are some excerpts from "The Dogma of Hell," as preached circa 1877 by the American minister Octavius Brooks Frothingham:

The doctrine of future punishment as held by the creeds of Christendom, has always been rejected with abhorrence by the natural conscience of men, as fundamentally inconsistent with rational notions of justice....

It is vulgarly thought that the belief in future punishment is important as a check on the inordinate passions of men; that it is valuable in keeping society in order, men being more readily swayed by fear than by any other motive. This impression is, I am persuaded, quite mistaken....That men should be influenced for good by fear seems to be something like an absurdity. Fear can do no more for a moral nature, than darkness can do for a plant, or lightning for a tree. Sunshine alone quickens. Love alone warms. Violence may stimulate, but how can it nourish? Fear may create fear; can it create trust? Vitality is coincident with passionate desire, but fear produces apathy and revulsion....

The truth is that the threat of Hell even in its most mitigated form is so vastly in excess of any consciousness of guilt as to be practically inoperative. The flames might as well be painted, for all the terror they carry. It is impossible to bring such fantasies home to the practical sense. They who have imagination to realize them are disgusted. They who have not are confounded and stunned. Instead of apprehending a decline of morality from the popular disbelief in the doctrine of hell torments, it will be more reasonable to apprehend such decline from its continued profession, and the more sincere the profession, the graver the cause for apprehension....

For one nature, hard and brutal, that the terrors of the hereafter may have restrained, it has probably deadened, discouraged or brutalized a hundred sensitive spirits that needed only a ray of hope to bloom in beauty and shed a delicious fragrance on the air. If all were known, as all can never be, it would probably appear that the doctrine of future punishment has demoralized and dehumanized the ages in which it prevailed, and has seriously retarded the progress of virtue by hindering the natural play of motive and preventing the standard of moral attainment. If all were known it would probably appear that the doctrine reflected the inhumanity of inhuman generations, and deepened it....

To talk about eternal torment is not difficult; to profess belief in it may be possible even for good natured people, but to think it, to bring it home to reason or heart, is what the stoutest cannot do. It may be questioned whether a single man, even a single priest, preacher or churchman, ever fully "realized" the import of this doctrine. We know the names of single men whom the far off contemplation of it drove to the madhouse. Nothing but dense ignorance, credulity, mental and moral apathy, wrapping human sensibility about as though with the hide of a rhinoceros, enabled them to bear the suggestion of it, and still go on their way believing, hoping and rejoicing. In proportion as men become intelligent, conscientious and sensitive, they throw the incubus off, though, with it, they cast over creed, church, scripture, and all the associations of religion.

1 comment:

roger said...

damn, phila, you do find some great stuff.

"...That men should be influenced for good by fear seems to be something like an absurdity."

that is tough on some parts of christianity.