A Christian church is a body of men and women united together in a common desire of religious excellence, and with a common regard for Jesus of Nazareth, regarding him as the noblest example of morality and religion - as the model, therefore, in this respect, for us.
The action of a Christian church seems to be twofold: first on its own members, and then, through their means, on others out of its pale.
Let a word be said of each. If I were to ask you why you came here today why you have often come to this house hitherto - the serious amongst you would say: That we might become better; more human; upright before God and downright before others, that we might be Christians, good and pious, after the fashion Jesus spoke of.
The essential of substance, which makes a church a religious body, is the union for the purpose of cultivating love to God and humanity; and the essential of form, which makes it a Christian body, is the common regard for Jesus, considered as the highest representative of God that we know.
It is not the form, either of ritual or of doctrine, but the spirit, which constitutes a Christian church.
The first design of such a church then is to help ourselves become Christians. Now the substance of Christianity is Piety - Love to God, and Goodness - Love to others.
It is a religion, the germs whereof are born in our hearts, appearing in our earliest childhoods, which are developed just in proportion as we become adults, and are indeed the standard measure of our lives.
Christianity, to be perfect and entire, demands a complete humanity, the development of the whole person - mind, conscience, heart, and soul.
It aims not to destroy the sacred peculiarities of individual character. It cherishes and develops them in their perfection.
We are born different, into a world where unlike things are gathered together, that there may be a special work for each.
Christianity respects this diversity in us, aiming not to undo but further God's will; not fashioning all people after one pattern, to think alike, act alike, be alike, even look alike. It is something far different than Christianity which demands that.
In becoming Christians let us not cease to be human; nay, we cannot be Christians unless we are human first. It were unchristian to love Christianity better than the truth, or Christ better than humanity.
The noblest monument to Christ, the fairest trophy of religion, is a noble people, where all are well fed and clad, industrious, free, educated, manly, pious, wise, and good.
(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Theodore Parker, ca. 1840.)