Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Robert Hall

English Baptist Minister, Bishop

"All attempts to urge men forward, even in the right path, beyond the measure of their light, are impracticable; and unlawful, if they were practicable; augment their light, conciliate their affections, and they will follow of their own accord."

"Corrupt as men are, they are yet so much the creatures of reflection, and so strongly addicted to sentiments of right and wrong, that their attachment to a public cause can rarely be secured, or their animosity be kept alive, unless their understandings are engaged by some appearance of truth and rectitude."

"Enthusiasm is an evil much less to be dreaded than superstition. Superstition is the disease of nations; enthusiasm that of individuals; the former grows inveterate by time; the latter is cured by it."

"If knowledge is power, patience is powerful."

"If we look back upon the usual course of our feelings, we shall find that we are more influenced by the frequent recurrence of objects than by their weight and importance; and that habit has more force in forming our habits than our opinions have. The mind naturally takes its tone and complexion from what it habitually contemplates."

"In all our reasonings concerning men we must lay it down as a maxim that the greater part are moulded by circumstances."

"In matters of conscience first thoughts are best; in matters of prudence last thoughts are best."

"In the power of fixing the attention lies the most precious of the intellectual habits."

"Infidelity and faith look both through the perspective glass, but at contrary ends. Infidelity looks through the wrong end of the glass; and, therefore, sees those objects near which are afar off, and makes great things little - diminishing the greatest spiritual blessings, and removing far from us threatened evils. Faith looks at the right end, and brings the blessings that are far off in time close to our eye, and multiplies God’s mercies, which, in a distance, lost their greatness."

"It has always struck me that there is a far greater distinction between man and man than between many men and most other animals."

"It is not sin that kills the soul, but impenitence."

"Let your words be few and digested, it is a shame for the tongue to cry the heart mercy, much more to cast itself upon the uncertain pardon of others’ ears."

"Neutrality in things good or evil is both odious and prejudicial; but in matters of an indifferent nature is safe and commendable. Herein taking of parts maketh sides, and breaketh unity. In an unjust cause of separation, he that favoreth both parts may perhaps have least love of either side, but hath most charity in himself."

"Some men have a Sunday soul, which they screw on in due time, and take off again every Monday morning."

"Surely he is not a fool that hath unwise thoughts, but he that utters them."

"The best ground untilled, soonest runs out into rank weeds. A man of knowledge that is negligent or uncorrected, cannot but grow wild and godless."

"The opportunities of making great sacrifices for the good of mankind are of rare occurrence; and he who remains inactive till it is in his power to confer signal benefits or yield important services is in imminent danger of incurring the doom of the slothful servant."

"The proud man hath no God; the envious man hath no neighbor; the angry man hath not himself."

"There would not be so many open mouths if there were not so many open ears."

"Vices are seldom single."

"War is nothing less than a temporary repeal of the principles of virtue. It is a system out of which almost all the virtues are excluded, and in which nearly all the vices are included."

"We should be more anxious that our afflictions should benefit us than that they should be speedily removed from us."

"What delight will it afford to renew the sweet counsel we have taken together, to recount the toils, the combats, and the labor of the way, and to approach, not the house, but the throne of God, in company, in order to join in the symphonies of heavenly voices, and lose ourselves amidst the splendors and fruitions of the beatific vision."

"Wisdom and truth, the offspring of the sky, are immortal; while cunning and deception, the meteors of the earth, after glittering for a moment, must pass away."

"Worldly ambition is founded on pride or envy, but emulation, or laudable ambition, is actually founded in humility; for it evidently implies that we have a low opinion of our present attainments, and think it necessary to be advanced."

"A consideration of the benefit of afflictions should teach us to bear them patiently when they fall to our lot, and to be thankful to Heaven for having planted such barriers around us, to restrain the exuberance of our follies and our crimes."

"A friend should be one in whose understanding and virtue we can equally confide, and whose opinion we can value at once for its justness and its sincerity. He who has made the acquisition of a judicious and sympathizing friend, may be said to have doubled his mental resources."

"A generous competition is the animating spirit of every profession, without which it droops and languishes. If we look around us, we shall perceive that all the discoveries which have enriched science, and the improvements which have embellished life, are to be ascribed to the competition of nations with nations, of cities with cities, and of men with men."

"A good man is accustomed to acquiesce in the idea of his duties as an ultimate object, without inquiring at every step why he should perform them, or amusing himself with imagining cases and situations in which they would be liable to limitations and exceptions."

"A hard and unfeeling manner of denouncing the threatenings of the word of God is not only barbarous and inhuman, but calculated, by inspiring disgust, to rob them of all their efficacy. If the awful part of our message, which may be styled the burden of the Lord, ever fall with due weight on our hearers, it will be when it is delivered with a trembling hand and faltering lips; and we may then expect them to realize its solemn import when they perceive that we ourselves are ready to sink under it. ?Of whom I have told you before,? said St. Paul, ?and now tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.? What force does that affecting declaration derive from these tears! An affectionate manner insinuates itself into the heart, renders it soft and pliable, and disposes it to imbibe the sentiments and follow the impulse of the speaker. Whoever has attended to the effect of addresses from the pulpit must have perceived how much of their impression depends upon this quality, which gives to sentiments comparatively trite a power over the mind beyond what the most striking and original conceptions possess without it."

"A religion without its mysteries is a temple without a God."

"An eminent degree and vigor of the religious affections, then, ought not to be denominated fanaticism, unless they arise from wrong views of religion, or are so much indulged as to disqualify for the duties of society. Within these limits, the more elevated devotional sentiments are, the more perfect is the character, and the more suited to the destination of a being who has, indeed, an important part to act here, but who stands on the confines of eternity."

"An event has taken place which has no parallel in the revolutions of time, the consequences of which have not room to expand themselves within a narrower sphere than an endless duration. An event has occurred the issues of which must forever baffle and elude all finite comprehensions, by concealing themselves in the depths of that abyss, of that eternity, which is the dwelling-place of Deity, where there is sufficient space for the destiny of each, among the innumerable millions of the human race, to develop itself, and without interference or confusion to sustain and carry forward its separate infinity of interest. That there is nothing hyperbolic or extravagant in these conceptions, but that they are the true sayings of God, you may learn from almost every page of the sacred oracles. For what are they, in fact, but a different mode of announcing the doctrine taught us in the following words:?What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul; or what shall he give in exchange for his soul?"

"An inquiry into the sources of great events, an attempt to develop the more hidden causes which influence, under God, the destiny of nations, is an exercise of the mental powers more noble than almost any other, inasmuch as it embraces the widest field, and grasps a chain whose links are the most numerous, complicated, and subtle. The most profound political speculations, however, the most refined theories of government, though they establish the fame of their authors, will be found, perhaps, to have had very little influence on the happiness of nations."

"Apart from the personal character of rulers, which are fluctuating and variable, you will find the apostles continually enjoin respect to government, as government, as a permanent ordinance of God, susceptible of various modifications from human wisdom, but essential, under some form or other, to the existence of society; and affording a representation, faint and inadequate it is true, but still a representation, of the dominion of God over the earth."

"As pride has been transferred from the list of vices to that of virtues, so humility, as a natural consequence, has been excluded, and is rarely suffered to enter into the praise of a character we wish to commend, although it was the leading feature of that of the Savior of the world, and is still the leading characteristic of his religion; while there is no vice, on the contrary, against which the denunciations are so frequent as pride."

"As the art of criticism never made an orator or a poet, though it enables us to judge of their merits, so the comprehensive speculation of modern times, which has compared and reviewed the manners of every age and country, has never formed a wise government or a happy people."

"As the physical powers are scarcely ever exerted to their utmost extent but in the ardor of combat, so intellectual acumen has been displayed to the most advantage and to the most effect in the contests of argument. The mind of a controversialist, warmed and agitated, is turned to all quarters, and leaves none of its resources unemployed in the invention of arguments, tries every weapon, and explores the hidden recesses of a subject with an intense vigilance, and an ardor which it is next to impossible in a calmer state of mind to command."

"As the power of acquiring knowledge is to be ascribed to reason, so the attainment of it mightily strengthens and improves it, and thereby enables it to enrich itself with further acquisitions. Knowledge in general expands the mind, exalts the faculties, refines the taste of pleasure, and opens numerous sources of intellectual enjoyment. By means of it we become less dependent for satisfaction upon the sensitive appetites, the gross pleasures of sense are more easily despised, and we are made to feel the superiority of the spiritual to the material part of our nature. Instead of being continually solicited by the influence and irritation of sensible objects, the mind can retire within herself and expatiate in the cool and quiet walks of contemplation."

"As the present world, on skeptical principles, is the only place of recompense, whenever the practice of virtue fails to promise the greatest sum of present good,?cases which often occur in reality, and much oftener in appearance,?every motive to virtuous conduct is superseded; a deviation from rectitude becomes the part of wisdom; and should the path of virtue, in addition to this, be obstructed by disgrace, torment, or death, to persevere would be madness and folly, and a violation of the first and most essential law of nature. Virtue, on these principles, being in numberless instances at war with self-preservation, never can, or ought to, become a fixed habit of the mind."

"At the day of judgment, the attention excited by the surrounding scene, the strange aspect of nature, the dissolution of the elements, and the last trump, will have no other effect than to cause the reflections of the sinner to return with a more overwhelming tide on his own character, his sentence, his unchanging destiny; and amidst the innumerable millions who surround him, he will mourn apart. It is thus the Christian minister should endeavor to prepare the tribunal of conscience, and turn the eyes of every one of his hearers on himself."

"Be what it may, let the first whisper of the internal monitor be listened to as an oracle, as the still small voice which Elijah heard when he wrapped his face in his mantle, recognizing it to be the voice of God."

"Besides, an eternal succession of finite beings involves in it a contradiction, and is therefore plainly impossible. As the supposition is made to get rid of the idea of any one having existed from eternity, each of the beings in succession must have begun in time: but the succession itself is eternal. We have then the succession of beings infinitely earlier than any being in the succession; or, in other words, a series of beings running on ad infinitum before it reached any particular being, which is absurd. From these considerations it is manifest there must be some eternal Being, or nothing could ever have existed; and since the beings which we behold bear in their whole structure evident marks of wisdom and design, it is equally certain that he who formed them is a wise and intelligent agent."

"Between the period of national honor and complete degeneracy there is usually an interval of national vanity, during which examples of virtue are recounted and admired without being imitated. The Romans were never more proud of their ancestors than when they ceased to resemble them. From being the freest and most high-spirited people in the world, they suddenly fell into the tamest and most abject submission."

"Beware of fixing habits in a child."

"But the impotence of the world never appears more conspicuous than when it has exhausted its powers in the gratification of its votaries, by placing them in a situation which leaves nothing further to hope. It frustrates the sanguine expectations of its admirers as much by what it bestows as by what it withholds, and reserves its severest disappointment for the season of possession. The agitation, the uncertainty, the varied emotions of hope and fear which accompany the pursuit of worldly objects, create a powerful interest, and maintain a brisk and wholesome circulation; but when the pursuit is over, unless some other is substituted in its place, satiety succeeds to enjoyment and pleasures cease to please. Tired of treading the same circle, of beholding the same spectacles, of frequenting the same amusements, and repeating the same follies, with nothing to awaken sensibility or stimulate to action, the minion of fortune is exposed to an insuperable languor; he sinks under an insupportable weight of ease, and falls a victim to incurable deletion and despondency."

"But what, my brethren, if it be lawful to indulge such a thought, what would be the funeral obsequies of a lost soul? Where shall we find the tears fit to be wept at such a spectacle? or, could we realize the calamity in all its extent, what tokens of commiseration and concern would be deemed equal to the occasion? Would it suffice for the sun to veil his light, and the moon her brightness; to cover the ocean with mourning, and the heavens with sackcloth? Or were the whole fabric of nature to become animated and vocal, would it be possible for her to utter a groan too deep, or a cry too piercing, to express the magnitude of such a catastrophe?"

"By great and sublime virtues are meant those which are called into action on great and trying occasions, which demand the sacrifice of the dearest interests and prospects of human life, and sometimes of life itself: the virtues, in a word, which, by their rarity and splendor, draw admiration, and have rendered illustrious the character of patriots, martyrs, and confessors. It requires but little reflection to perceive that whatever veils a future world, and contracts the limits of existence within the present life, must tend, in a proportionable degree, to diminish the grandeur and narrow the sphere of human agency."

"Call things by their right names - Glass of brandy and water! That is the current, but not the appropriate name; ask for a glass of liquid fire and distilled damnation."

"Cant is not the vehicle, but the substitute of thought."