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My impressions of Dr. Channing were, that he was1 somewhat cold in temperament, timid in spirit, and oracular in2 feeling. But these have been greatly, if not entirely, removed by a perusal of this Memoir. I see him now in a new phase—in a better light. He certainly had no ardor of soul, but a mild and steady warmth of character appears to have been natural to him. I do not now think that he was timid, in a condemnatory sense; but his circumspection was almost excessive, his veneration large, and distrust of himself, rather than a fear of others, led him to appear to shrink from an uncompromising application of the principles he cherished. In the theological arena he exhibited more courage than elsewhere; yet, even there, he was far from being boldly aggressive, for controversy was not to his taste. In striving to be catholic and magnanimous, he was led to apologize for those who deserved severe condemnation. He was ever reluctant to believe that men sin wilfully, and, therefore, preferred to attack sin in the abstract than to deal with it personally. He was ready to condemn the fruit, but not the tree; for, by a strange moral discrimination, he could separate the one from the other. Hence, his testimonies3 were not very effective. In the abstract, the vilest of men are willing to admit that their conduct is reprehensible; but, practically, they demand exemption from condemnation.

In a pioneering sense, Dr. Channing was not a reformer; sympathetically, and through a conscientious conviction, he was. If he had lived in the days of the prophets or the apostles, he would have deplored their excessive zeal, their denunciatory spirit, their indiscriminate condemnation, their rash procedure, their lack of charity and gentleness; yet he would have had no hand in their persecution, but would have commended them as4 actuated by a sincere purpose, and as having a righteous object in view. He would have felt that the priests and rulers who were subjected to their terrible rebukes were dealt with far too roughly; and this would have moved him to say a word in their favor, in order to mitigate the severity of the punishment; yet he would have confessed, and wept over, the prevalent guilt in the land, and acknowledged that both priest and ruler were largely to blame for it. This, it seems to me, was a serious defect in his character, and greatly impaired his moral usefulness.

For example—he saw with great clearness, and deplored with much sincerity, the horrors of slavery and the injustice of slaveholding; but he did not like to hear slaveholders denounced,

1 Lib. 18.82.

2 Ante, 2.57, 61, 65.

3 Ante, 2.222.

4 Ante, 2.205.

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William Henry Channing (2)
W. L. G. Lib (1)
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