Theodore Parker


American Unitarian Theologian, Transcendentalist and Reforming Minister

Author Quotes

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.

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

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.

No man is so great as mankind.

The people are not satisfied with any form of government, or statute law, until it comes up to their sense of justice; so every progressive State revises its statutes from time to time, and at each revision comes nearer to the absolute right which human nature demands. Mankind, always progressive, revolutionizes constitutions, changes and changes, seeking to come close to the ideal justice, the divine and immutable law of the world, to which we all owe fealty, swear how we will.

You and I toiling for earth may at the same time be toiling for heaven, and every day's work may be a Jacob's ladder reaching up nearer to God.

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

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.

Outward judgment often fails, inward judgment never.

The union of men in large masses is indispensable to the development and rapid growth of their higher faculties. - Cities have always been the fireplaces of civilization, whence light and heat radiated out into the dark, cold world.

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.

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.

Politics is the science of exigencies.

The world no doubt grows better; comfort is increased from age to age. What is a luxury in one generation, scarce attainable by the wealthy, becomes at last the possession of most men. Solomon with all his wealth had no carpet on his chamber-floor; no glass in his windows; no shirt to his back. But as the world goes, the increase of comforts does not fall chiefly into the hands of those who create them by their work. The mechanic cannot use the costly furniture he makes. This, however, is of small consequence; but he has not always the more valuable consideration, time to grow wiser and better in. As Society advances, the standard of poverty rises. A man in New England is called poor at this day, who would have been rich a hundred and fifty years ago; but as it rises, the number that falls beneath that standard becomes a greater part of the whole population. Of course the comfort of a few is purchased by the loss of the many. The world has grown rich and refined, but chiefly by the efforts of those who themselves continue poor and ignorant. So the ass, while he carried wood and spices to the Roman bath, contributed to the happiness of the state, but was himself always dirty and overworked. It is easy to see these evils, and weep for them. It is common also to censure some one class of men — the rich or the educated, the manufacturers, the merchants, or the politicians, for example — as if the sin rested solely with them, while it belongs to society at large. But the world yet waits for some one to heal these dreadful evils, by devising some new remedy, or applying the old. Who shall apply for us Christianity to social life?

Disappointment is often the salt of life.

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

Politics is the science of urgencies.

There is what I call the American idea. I so name it, because it seems to me to lie at the basis of all our truly original, distinctive, and American institutions. It is itself a complex idea, composed of three subordinate and more simple ideas, namely: The idea that all men have unalienable rights; that in respect thereof, all men are created equal; and that government is to be established and sustained for the purpose of giving every man an opportunity for the enjoyment and development of all these unalienable rights. This idea demands, as the proximate organization thereof, a democracy, that is, a government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people; of course, a government after the principles of eternal justice, the unchanging law of God; for shortness' sake, I will call it the idea of Freedom.

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.

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

Remorse is the pain of sin.

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American Unitarian Theologian, Transcendentalist and Reforming Minister