Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Hugh Blair

Scottish Divine

"Action, so to speak, is the genius of nature."

"All the principles which religion teaches, and all the habits which it forms, are favorable to strength of mind. It will be found that whatever purifies fortifies also the heart."

"Between levity and cheerfulness there is a wide distinction; and the mind which is most open to levity is frequently a stranger to cheerfulness."

"Compassion is an emotion of which we should never be ashamed."

"Dissimulation in youth is the forerunner of perfidy in old age; its first appearance is the fatal omen of growing depravity and future shame. It degrades parts and learning obscures the luster of every accomplishment and sinks us into contempt. The path of falsehood is a perplexing maze. After the first departure from sincerity, it is not in our power to stop; one artifice unavoidably leads on to another, till, as the intricacy of the labyrinth increases, we are left entangled in our snare."

"Gentleness, which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards and the fawning assent of sycophants."

"Graceful, particularly in youth, is the tear of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe; we should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and wrap us up in selfish enjoyment. But we should accustom ourselves to think of the distresses of human life, of the solitary cottage, the dying parent, and the weeping orphan. Nor ought we ever to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty."

"In the eye of that Supreme Being to whom our whole internal frame is uncovered, dispositions hold the place of actions."

"In vain we attempt to clear our conscience by affecting to compensate for fraud or cruelty by acts of strict religious homage towards God."

"Industry is not only the instrument of improvement, but the foundation of pleasure. He who is a stranger to it may possess, but cannot enjoy; for it is labor only which gives relish to pleasure. It is the appointed vehicle of every good to man. It is the indispensable condition of possessing a sound mind in a sound body."

"Life will frequently languish, even in the hands of the busy if they have some employment subsidiary to that which forms their main pursuit."

"Nothing leads more directly to the breach of charity, and to the injury and molestation of our fellow-creatures than the indulgence of an ill temper."

"Nothing, except what flows from the heart, can render even external manners truly pleasing."

"People first abandon reason, and then become obstinate; and the deeper they are in error the more angry they are."

"Pride makes us esteem ourselves; vanity makes us desire the esteem of others."

"Sentiment and principle are often mistaken for each other, though, in fact, they widely differ. Sentiment is the virtue of ideas; principle the virtue of action. Sentiment has its seat in the had; principle, in the heart. Sentiment suggest fine harangues and subtle distinctions; principle conceives just notions, and performs good actions in consequence of them. Sentiment refines away the simplicity of truth, and the plainness of piety; and "gives us virtue in words, and vice in deeds.""

"Such is the infatuation of self-love, that, though in general doctrine of the vanity world all men agree, yet almost everyone flatters himself that his own case is to be an exception from the common rule."

"That discipline which corrects the eagerness of worldly passions, which fortifies the heart with virtuous principles, which enlightens the mind with useful knowledge, and furnishes to it matter of enjoyment from within itself, is of more consequence to real felicity than all the provisions which we can make of the goods of fortune."

"The fatal fondness of indulging in a spirit of ridicule, and the injurious and irreparable consequences which sometimes attend the too severe reply, can never be condemned with more asperity than it deserves. Not to offend is the first step towards pleasing. To give pain is as much an offence against humanity as against good-breeding, and surely it is as well to abstain from an action because it is sinful, as because it is unpolite."

"The prevailing manners of an age depend, more than we are aware of, or are willing to allow, on the conduct of the women: this is one of the principal things on which the great machine of human society turns."

"The spirit of true religion breathes gentleness and affability; it gives a native, unaffected ease to the behavior; it is social, kind, cheerful; far removed from the cloudy and illiberal disposition which clouds the brow, sharpens the temper, and dejects the spirit."

"Willingness to be taught what we do not know, is the sure pledge of growth both in knowledge and wisdom."

"Anxiety is the poison of human life; the parent of many sins and of more miseries. In a world where everything is doubtful, and where we may be disappointed, and be blessed in disappointment, why this restless stir and commotion of mind? Can it alter the cause or unravel the mystery of human events?"

"There is no man in any rank who is always at liberty to act as he would incline. In some quarter or other he is limited by circumstances."

"Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner. "

"A fourth rule for constructing sentences with proper strength is to make the members of them go on rising and growing in their importance above one another. This sort of arrangement is called a climax, and is always considered as a beauty in composition."

"A joyless and dreary season will old age prove, if we arrive at it with an unimproved or corrupted mind. For this period, as for everything, certain preparation is necessary; and that preparation consists in the acquisition of knowledge, friends, and virtue. Then is the time when a man would especially wish to find himself surrounded by those who love and respect him,—who will bear with his infirmities, relieve him of his labors, and cheer him with their society. Let him, therefore, now in the summer of his days, while yet active and flourishing, by acts of seasonable kindness and benevolence insure that love, and by upright and honorable conduct lay the foundation for that respect which in old age he would wish to enjoy. In the last place, let him consider a good conscience, peace with God, and the hope of heaven, as the most effectual consolations he can possess when the evil days shall come."

"A good man acts with a vigor, and suffers with a patience, more than human, when he believes himself countenanced by the Almighty."

"Affectation is certain deformity. - By forming themselves on fantastic models the young begin with being ridiculous, and often end in being vicious."

"All the principles which religion teaches, and all the habits which it forms, are favorable to strength of mind. It will be found that whatever purifies, also fortifies the heart."

"An honest man will never employ an equivocal expression; a confused man may often utter ambiguous ones without any design."

"As if we did not suffer enough from the storms which beat upon us without, must we conspire also to harass one another?"

"As we advance from youth to middle age, a new field of action opens, and a different character is required. The flow of gay impetuous spirits begins to subside; life gradually assumes a graver cast; the mind a more sedate and thoughtful turn. The attention is now transferred from pleasure to interest; that is, to pleasure diffused over a wider extent and measured by a larger scale. Formerly the enjoyment of the present moment occupied the whole attention; now no action terminates ultimately in itself, but refers to some more distant aim. Wealth and power, the instruments of lasting gratification, are now coveted more than any single pleasure; prudence and foresight lay their plan; industry carries on its patient efforts; activity pushes forward; address winds around; here an enemy is to be overcome, there a rival to be displaced; competition warms, and the strife of the world thickens on every side."

"Between levity and cheerfulness there is a wide distinction; and the mind which is most open to levity is frequently a stranger to cheerfulness. It has been remarked that transports of intemperate mirth are often no more than flashes from the dark cloud; and that in proportion to the violence of the effulgence is the succeeding gloom. Levity may be the forced production of folly or vice; cheerfulness is the natural offspring of wisdom and virtue only. The one is an occasional agitation; the other a permanent habit. The one degrades the character; the other is perfectly consistent with the dignity of reason, and the steady and manly spirit of religion. To aim at a constant succession of high and vivid sensations of pleasure is an idea of happiness perfectly chimerical. Calm and temperate enjoyment is the utmost that is allotted to man. Beyond this we struggle in vain to raise our state; and in fact depress our joys by endeavoring to heighten them. Instead of those fallacious hopes of perpetual festivity with which the world would allure us, religion confers upon us a cheerful tranquillity. Instead of dazzling us with meteors of joy which sparkle and expire, it sheds around us a calm and steady light, more solid, more equal, and more lasting."

"By indulging this fretful temper you alienate those on whose affection much of your comfort depends."

"Adversity, how blunt are all the arrows of thy quiver in comparison with those of guilt."

"Compassion is an emotion of which we ought never to be ashamed. Graceful, particularly in youth, is the tear of sympathy, and the heart that melts at the tale of woe. We should not permit ease and indulgence to contract our affections, and wrap us up in a selfish enjoyment; but we should accustom ourselves to think of the distresses of human, life, of the solitary cottage; the dying parent, and the weeping orphan. Nor ought we ever to sport with pain and distress in any of our amusements, or treat even the meanest insect with wanton cruelty. Hugh Blair"

"Conscience is too great a power in the nature of man to be altogether subdued: it may for a time be repressed and kept dormant; but conjectures there are in human life which awaken it; and when once re-awakened, it flashes on the sinner’s mind with all the horrors of an invisible ruler and a future judgment."

"Dissimulation in youth is the forerunner of perfidy in old age. - It degrades parts and learning, obscures the luster of every accomplishment, and sinks us into contempt. - The path of falsehood is a perplexing maze. - One artifice leads on to another, till, as the intricacy of the labyrinth increases, we are left entangled in our own snare."

"Exercise is the chief source of improvement in our faculties"

"Fretfulness of temper will generally characterize those who are negligent of order."

"From reading the most admired productions of genius, whether in poetry or prose, almost every one rises with some good impressions left on his mind; and though these may not always be durable, they are at least to be ranked among the means of disposing the heart to virtue. One thing is certain, that without possessing the virtuous affections in a strong degree, no man can attain eminence in the sublime parts of eloquence. He must feel what a good man feels, if he expects greatly to move or to interest mankind. They are the ardent sentiments of honour, virtue, magnanimity, and public spirit, that only can kindle that fire of genius, and call up into the mind those high ideas which attract the admiration of ages; and if this spirit be necessary to produce the most distinguished efforts of eloquence, it must be necessary also to our relishing them with proper taste and feeling."

"Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manner."

"Gentleness, which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards, and the fawning assent of sycophants. It removes no just right from fear; it gives up no important truth from flattery; it is, indeed, not only consistent with a firm mind, but it necessarily requires a manly spirit and a fixed principle in order to give it any real value."

"He who goes no further than bare justice, stops at the beginning of virtue."

"How shocking must thy summons be, O death, to him that is at ease in his possessions! who, counting on long years of pleasure here, is quite unfurnished for the world to come."

"I have formerly given the general character of Mr. Addison’s style and manner as natural and unaffected, easy and polite, and full of those graces which a flowery imagination diffuses over writing."

"I will not go so far as to say that the improvement of taste and of virtue is the same, or that they may always be expected to co-exist in an equal degree. More powerful correctives than taste can apply are necessary for reforming the corrupt propensities which too frequently prevail among mankind. Elegant speculations are sometimes found to float on the surface of the mind while bad passions possess the interior regions of the heart. At the same time, this cannot but be admitted, that the exercise of taste is, in its native tendency, moral and purifying."

"If you delay till to-morrow what ought to be done to-day, you overcharge the morrow with a burden which belongs not to it. You load the wheels of time, and prevent it from carrying you along smoothly. He who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows out the plan, carries on a thread which will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life. The orderly arrangement of his time is like a ray of light which darts itself through all his affairs. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidents, all things lie huddled together in one chaos, which admits neither of distribution nor review."

"In the eye of that Supreme Being to whom our whole internal frame is uncovered, motives and dispositions hold the place of actions."