Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Theodore Parker

American Unitarian Theologian, Transcendentalist and Reforming Minister

"Every man has, at times, in his mind the ideal of what should be, but is not. In all men that seek to improve, it is better than the actual character."

"Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect."

"Our reverence for the past is just in proportion to our ignorance of it."

"Temperance is corporal piety; it is the preservation of divine order in the body."

"The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward righteousness."

"All men need something to poetize and idealize their life a little - something which they value for more than its use and which is a symbol of their emancipation from the mere materialism and drudgery of daily life."

"Mankind never loses any good thing, physical, intellectual, or moral, till it finds a better, and then the loss is a gain. No steps backward, is the rule of human history. What is gained by one man is invested in all men, and is a permanent investment for all time."

"The books which help you most are those which make you think the most. The hardest way of learning is by easy reading. But a great book that comes from a great thinker - it is a ship of thought, deep-freighted with truth and with beauty."

"The earnestness of life is the only passport to the satisfaction of life."

"The miser, poor fool, not only starves his body, but also his own soul."

"I ask no risen dust to teach me immortality; I am conscious of eternal life."

"To know whom you worship, let me see you in your shop, let me hear you in your trade, let me know how you rent your houses, how you get your money, how you kept it and how you spent it."

"Truth never fell dead in the streets; its has such affinity with the soul of man, the seed however broadcast will catch somewhere and produce it hundredfold."

"The heresy of one age is the orthodox belief and “only infallible rule” of the next."

"A democracy,—that is a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; 1 of course, a government of the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness’ sake I will call it the idea of Freedom."

"A life merely of pleasure, or chiefly of pleasure, is always a poor and worthless life, not worth the living; always unsatisfactory in its course, always miserable in its end."

"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."

"All men desire to be immortal."

"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."

"As society advances the standard of poverty rises."

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

"Covetous men need money least, yet most affect and seek it; prodigals who need it most, do least regard it."

"Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people."

"Did the mass of men know the actual selfishness and injustice of their rulers, not a government would stand a year. - The world would foment with revolution."

"Disappointment is often the salt of life."

"Every man has at times in his mind the Ideal of what he should be, but is not. This ideal may be high and complete, or it may be quite low and insufficient; yet in all men, that really seek to improve, it is better than the actual character. Perhaps no one is satisfied with himself, so that he never wishes to be wiser, better, and more holy. Man never falls so low, that he can see nothing higher than himself."

"Every rose is an autograph from the hand of God on his world about us. - He has inscribed his thoughts in these marvelous hieroglyphics which sense and science have, these many thousand years, been seeking to understand."

"Everything gives way to money, and money gives way to nothing, neither to man nor to God."

"Gratitude is a nice touch of beauty added last of all to the countenance, giving a classic beauty, an angelic loveliness, to the character."

"Gratitude is one of the rarest of virtues."

"Greatness is its own torment."

"Humanity is the sin of God."

"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."

"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."

"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."

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

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

"It is very sad for a man to make himself servant to a single thing; his manhood all taken out of him by the hydraulic pressure of excessive business. — I should not like to be merely a great doctor, a great lawyer, a great minister, a great politician.—I should like to be, also, something of a man."

"Justice is moral temperance in the world of men. It keeps just relations between men; one man, however little, must not be sacrificed to another, however great, to a majority, or to all men. It holds the balance betwixt nation and nation, for a nation is but a larger man; betwixt a man and his family, tribe, nation, race; between mankind and God. It is the universal regulator which coordinates man with man, each with all, — me with the ten hundred millions of men, so that my absolute rights and theirs do not interfere, nor our ultimate interests ever clash, nor my eternal welfare prove antagonistic to the blessedness of all or any one. I am to do justice, and demand that of all, — a universal human debt, a universal human claim."

"Justice is the constitution or fundamental law of the moral universe, the law of right, a rule of conduct for man in all his moral relations. Accordingly all human affairs must be subject to that as the law paramount; what is right agrees therewith and stands, what is wrong conflicts and falls. Private cohesions of self-love, of friendship, or of patriotism, must all be subordinate to this universal gravitation towards the eternal right."

"Justice is the idea of God; the ideal of men; the rule of conduct writ in the nature of mankind."

"Justice is the keynote of the world, and all else is ever out of tune."

"Kodak sells film, but they don't advertise film. They advertise memories."

"Let others laugh when you sacrifice desire to duty, if they will. You have time and eternity to rejoice in."

"Let us do our duty in our shop or our kitchen; in the market, the street, the office, the school, the home, just as faithfully as if we stood in the front rank of some great battle, and knew that victory for mankind depended on our bravery, strength, and skill. - When we do that, the humblest of us will be serving in that great army which achieves the welfare of the world."

"Let your pleasures be taken as Daniel took his prayer, with his windows open-pleasures which need not cause a single blush on an ingenuous cheek."

"Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. 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. Things refuse to be mismanaged long."

"Magnificent promises are always to be suspected."

"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."

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