Theodore Parker


American Unitarian Theologian, Transcendentalist and Reforming Minister

Author Quotes

A nation's welfare depends on its ability to master the world; that on its power of work; and that on its power of thought.

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight, I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Man is the highest product of his own history. The discoverer finds nothing so grand or tall as himself, nothing so valuable to him. The greatest star is at the small end of the telescope, the star that is looking, not looked after nor looked at.

The greatest star is that at the little end of the telescope,—the star that is looking, not looked after, nor looked at.

When I am a baby, in my undeveloped moral state, I do not love justice, nor conform to it; when I am sick, and have not complete control over this republic of nerves and muscles, I fail of justice, and heed it not; when I am stung with beastly rage, blinded by passion, or over attracted from my proper sphere of affection, another man briefly possessing me, I may not love the absolute and eternal right, private capillary attraction conflicting with the universal gravitation. But in my maturity, in my cool and personal hours, when I am most myself, and the accidents of my bodily temperament and local surroundings are controlled by the substance of my manhood, then I love justice with a firm, unwavering love. That is the natural fealty of my conscience to its liege-lord. Then I love justice, not for its consequences for bodily gain, but for itself, for the moral truth and loveliness thereof. Then if justice crown me I am glad, not merely with my personal feeling, because it is I who wear the crown, but because it is the crown of justice. If justice discrown and bind me down to infamy, I still am glad with all my moral sense, and joy in the universal justice, though I suffer with the private smart. Though all that is merely selfish and personal of me revolts, still what is noblest, what I hold in common with mankind and in common with God, bids me be glad if justice is done upon me; to me or upon me, I know it is justice still, and though my private injustice be my foe, the justice of the universe is still my friend. God, acting in this universal mode of moral force, acts for me, and the prospect of future suffering has no terror.

All men desire to be immortal.

I recommend no sour ascetic life. I believe not only in the thorns on the rosebush, but in the roses which the thorns defend. Asceticism is the child of sensuality and superstition. She is the secret mother of many a secret sin. God, when he made man's body, did not give us a fibre too much, nor a passion too many.

Man is the jewel of God, who has created this material world to keep his treasure in.

The joys of heaven will begin as soon as we attain the character of heaven and do its duties. - Try that and prove its truth. - As much goodness and piety, so much heaven.

Who escapes a duty, avoids a gain.

America is a rebellious nation. Our whole history is treason; our blood was attained before we were born; our creeds were infidelity to the mother church; our constitution treason to our fatherland.

If you lend me your ears, I shall doubtless take your hearts too. That I may not lead you into any wrong, let me warn you of this. Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect. Be true to your own mind and conscience, your heart and your soul. So only can you be true to God.

Man naturally loves justice, for its own sake, as the natural object of his conscience. As the mind loves truth and beauty, so conscience loves the right; it is true and beautiful to the moral faculties. Conscience rests in justice as an end, as the mind in truth. As truth is the side of God turned towards the intellect, so is justice the side of Him which conscience looks upon. Love of justice is the moral part of piety.

The lottery of honest labor, drawn by time, is the only one whose prizes are worth taking up and carrying home.

Work is the only universal currency which God accepts. A nation’s welfare will depend on its ability to master the world; that, on power of work; that, on its power of thought.

As society advances the standard of poverty rises.

It is not from the tall, crowded work house of prosperity that men first or clearest see the eternal stars of heaven.

Man never falls so low that he can see nothing higher than himself.

The man of the true quality is not he who labels himself with genealogical tables, and lives on the reputation of his fathers, but he in whose conversation and behavior there are references and characteristics positively unaccountable except on the hypothesis that his descent is pure and illustrious.

Yet, if he would, man cannot live all to this world. If not religious, he will be superstitious. If he worship not the true God, he will have his idols.

Cities have always been the fire-places (i.e., foci) of civilization, whence light and heat radiated out into the dark, cold world.

It is vain to trust in wrong; as much of evil, so much of loss, is the formula of human history.

Marriages are best made of dissimilar material.

The miser, starving his brother's body, starves also his own soul, and at death shall creep out of his great estate of injustice, poor and naked and miserable.

You and I may perish. Temptation which has been too strong for thousands of stronger men, may be too great for me; I may prove false to my own idea of religion and of duty; the gold of commerce may buy me, as it has bought richer men; the love of the praise of men may seduce me; or the fear of men may deter my coward voice, and I may be swept off in the earthquake, in the storm, or in the fire, and prove false to that still small voice. If it shall ever be so, still the great ideas which I have set forth, of man, of God, of religion, — they will endure, and one day will be a flame in the heart of all mankind. To-day! why, my friends, eternity is all around to-day, and we can step but towards that. A truth of the mind, of the conscience, of the heart, of the soul, — it is the will of God; and the omnipotence of God is pledged for the achievement of that will. Eternity is the life-time of Truth.

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American Unitarian Theologian, Transcendentalist and Reforming Minister