Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Paley, Archdeacon of Saragossa

English Theologian, Philosopher

"A large part of virtue consists in good habits."

"Who can refute a sneer?"

"Command is anxiety; obedience, easy."

"I have seldom known any one who deserted truth in trifles that could be trusted in matters of importance."

"If the cause and end of war be justifiable, all the means that appear necessary to the end are justifiable also."

"In strictness of language there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom; wisdom always supposing action and action directed by it."

"No man’s spirits were ever hurt by doing his duty; on the contrary, one good action, one temptation resisted and overcome, one sacrifice of desire or interest, purely for conscience’ sake, will prove a cordial for weak and low spirits, far beyond what either indulgence or diversion or company can do for them."

"Old age brings us to know the value of the blessings which we have enjoyed, and it brings us also to a very thankful perception of those which yet remain. Is a man advanced in life? The ease of a single day, the rest of a single night, are gifts which may be subjects of gratitude to God."

"That man is to be accounted poor, of whatever rank he be, and suffers the pains of poverty, whose expenses exceed his resources; and no man is, properly speaking, poor, but he."

"The four cardinal virtues are prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice."

"The Lord’s Prayer, for a succession of solemn thoughts, for fixing the attention upon a few great points, for suitableness to every condition, for sufficiency, for conciseness without obscurity, for the weight and real importance of its petition, is without an equal or a rival."

"A contract is a mutual promise."

"A law presupposes an agent; this is only the mode according to which an agent proceeds; it implies a power, for it is the order according to which that power acts. Without this agent, without this power, which are both distinct from itself, the law does nothing, is nothing."

"Be ye angry, and sin not; therefore all anger is not sinful; I suppose because some degree of it, and upon some occasions, is inevitable. It become sinful, or contradicts, however, the rule of Scripture, when it is conceived upon slight and inadequate provocation, and when it continues long."

"Education, in the more extensive sense of the word, may comprehend every preparation that is made in our youth for the sequel of our lives."

"But whatever may be the fortune of our lives, one great extremity at least, the hour of approaching death, is certainly to be passed through. What ought then to occupy us? What can then support us? Prayer. Prayer with our blessed Lord was a refuge from the storm: almost every word he uttered during that tremendous scene was prayer—prayer the most earnest, the most urgent; related, continued, proceeding from the recesses of the soul; private, solitary; prayer for deliverance; prayer for strength; above everything, prayer for resignation."

"Eternity is a negative idea clothed with a positive name. - It supposes, in that to which it is applied, a present existence, and is the negation of a beginning or an end of that existence."

"All anger is not sinful, because some degree of it, and on some occasions, is inevitable. - But it becomes sinful and contradicts the rule of Scripture when it is conceived upon slight and inadequate provocation, and when it continues long."

"A lie is a breach of promise: for whoever seriously addresses his discourse to another tacitly promises to speak the truth, because he knows that truth is expected."

"Amongst the causes assigned for the continuance and diffusion of the same moral sentiments amongst mankind, may be mentioned imitation. The efficacy of this principle is more observable in children; indeed, if there be anything in them which deserves the name of an instinct, it is their propensity to imitation. Now, there is nothing which children imitate or apply more readily than expressions of affection and aversion, of approbation, hatred, resentment, and the like; and when these passions and expressions are once connected, which they soon will be by the same association which unites words with their ideas, the passion will follow the expression, and attach upon the object to which the child has been accustomed to apply the epithet."

"Extremists are seldom just."

"General infidelity is the hardest soil which the propagators of a new religion can have to work upon."

"God has been pleased to prescribe limits to his power and to work out his ends within these limits."

"Health and sickness, enjoyment and suffering, riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, power and subjection, liberty and bondage, civilization and barbarity, have all their offices and duties: all serve for the formation of character."

"How many bitter thoughts does the innocent man avoid! Serenity and cheerfulness are his portion. Hope is continually pouring its balm into his soul. His heart is at rest, whilst others are goaded and tortured by the stings of a wounded conscience, the remonstrances and risings up of principles which they cannot forget; perpetually teased by returning temptations, perpetually lamenting defeated resolutions."

"I seem, for my own part, to see the benevolence of the Deity more clearly in the pleasures of very young children than in anything else in the world."

"I should wish to act, no doubt, in every instance as I pleased; but I reflect that the rest also of mankind would then do the same; to which state of universal independence and self-direction I should meet with so many checks and obstacles to my own will, from the opposition and interference of other men’s, that not only my happiness but my liberty would be less than whilst the whole community were subject to the domination of equal laws. The boasted liberty of a state of nature exists only in a state of solitude. In every kind and degree of union and intercourse with his species it is possible that the liberty of the individual may be augmented by the very laws which restrain it; because he may gain more from the limitation of other men’s freedom than he suffers from the diminution of his own."

"In a numerous collection of our Saviour’s apophthegms there is not to be found one example of sophistry or of false subtilty, or of anything approaching thereunto."

"An eloquent historian, beside his more direct, and therefore fairer, attacks upon the credibility of evangelic story, has contrived to weave into his narration one continued sneer upon the cause of Christianity, and upon the character and writings of its ancient patrons. Who can refute a sneer?"

"An instinct is a propensity prior to experience and independent of instruction."

"In all things preserve integrity, and the consciousness of thine own uprightness will alleviate the toil of business, soften the hardness of ill-success and disappointment, and give thee an humble confidence before God when the ingratitude of men, or the iniquity of the times may rob thee of other reward."

"In the species with which we are best acquainted, namely, our own, I am far, even as an observer of human life, from thinking that youth is its happiest season, much less the only happy one."

"It is not the rigor, but the inexpediency, of laws and acts of authority, which makes them tyrannical."

"It is willful deceit that makes a lie. A man may act a lie, as by pointing his finger in a wrong direction when a traveler inquires of him his road."

"Lactantius also argues in defense of the religion from the consistency, simplicity, disinterestedness and sufferings of the Christian historians."

"Let not a father hope to excuse an inofficious disposition of his fortune by alleging that every man may do what he will with his own."

"Manners are minor morals."

"Natural liberty is the right of common upon a waste; civil liberty is the safe, exclusive, unmolested enjoyment of a cultivated enclosure."

"Of all views under which human life has ever been considered, the most reasonable, in my judgment, is that which regards it as a state of probation."

"Of the origin of evil no universal solution has been discovered; I mean, no solution which reaches all cases of complaint."

"One great cause of our insensibility to the goodness of our Creator is the very extensiveness of His bounty."

"One very common error misleads the opinion of mankind, that authority is pleasant, and submission painful. In the general course of human affairs the very reverse of this is nearer to the truth. - Command is anxiety; obedience is ease."

"Pain itself is not without its alleviations. It is seldom both violent and long-continued; and its pauses and intermissions become positive pleasures. It has the power of shedding a satisfaction over intervals of ease, which few enjoyments exceed."

"Positive virtues are of all others the severest and most sublime."

"Prayer, with our Lord, was a refuge from the storm; almost every word He uttered during that last tremendous scene was prayer; prayer the most earnest, the most urgent, repeated, continued, proceeding from the recesses of the soul, private, solitary; prayer for deliverance, prayer for strength; above everything prayer for resignation."

"Property communicates a charm to whatever is the object of it. It is the first of our abstract ideas: it cleaves to us the closest and the longest. It endears to the child its plaything, to the peasant his cottage, to the landholder his estate. It supplies the place of prospect and scenery. Instead of coveting the beauty of distant situations, it teaches every man to find it in his own. It gives boldness and grandeur to plains and fens, tinge and colouring to clays and fallows."

"The art in which the secret of human happiness in a great measure consists, is to set the habits in such a manner that every change may be a change for the better. The habits themselves are much the same; for whatever is made habitual becomes smooth, and easy, and nearly indifferent. The return to an old habit is likewise easy, whatever the habit be. Therefore the advantage is with those habits which allow of an indulgence in the deviation from them."

"The characteristic symptom of human madness is the rising up in the mind of images not distinguishable by the patient from impressions on the senses."

"The common course of things is in favor of happiness. - Happiness is the rule, misery the exception. - Were the order reversed, our attention would be called to examples of health and competency, instead of disease and want."

"The fair way of conducting a dispute is to exhibit, one by one, the arguments of your opponent, and, with each argument, the precise and specific answer you are able to make to it."