William Ellery Channing: Selected Writings

William Ellery Channing: Selected Writings

William Ellery Channing: Selected Writings

William Ellery Channing: Selected Writings

Excerpt

William Ellery Channing "differed from the rest of us, not so much in severity of practice, as in spirituality of mind." So wrote Frederic Henry Hedge, one of the many New England liberals who looked to Channing as the source of their movement in theology.

In that, he had no equal among all the men whom I have known. And that I conceive to be the characteristic thing in Channing,—Spirituality: living in the contemplation and pursuit of the highest; the habit of viewing all things in reference to the supreme good. All questions, movements, institutions, enterprises, all discoveries and inventions, he judged by this standard.

Hedge's sense of Channing's characteristic "spirituality" was one of many attempts to account for the enormous influence of Channing, an influence felt most keenly by the generation of thinkers who not only secured the Unitarian movement in New England, but in many cases pushed beyond Unitarianism into the modernist radicalism of that day, Transcendentalism. Upon Channing's death in 1842, Theodore Parker, who was then emerging as a champion of Transcendentalism, made this sweeping claim: "It is speaking with moderation to say, that no man, of our century, who writes the English tongue, had so much weight with the wise and pious men who speak it." The accumulated weight of tributes like these suggests the deep chord which Channing struck among his contemporaries. That influence is most readily seen in the formation of the Unitarian . . .

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