Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Robert Hall

English Baptist Minister, Bishop

"Christianity, issuing perfect and entire from the hands of its Author, will admit of no mutilations nor improvements; it stands most secure on its own basis; and without being indebted to foreign aids, supports itself best by its own internal vigor. When, under the pretense of simplifying it, we attempt to force it into a closer alliance with the most approved systems of philosophy, we are sure to contract its bounds, and to diminish its force and authority over the consciences of men. It is dogmatic; not capable of being advanced with the progress of science, but fixed and immutable."

"Civil restraints imply nothing more than a surrender of our liberty in some points in order to maintain it undisturbed in others of more importance. Thus we give up the liberty of repelling force by force, in return for a more equal administration of justice than private resentment would permit. But there are some rights which cannot with any propriety be yielded up to human authority, because they are perfectly consistent with every benefit its appointment can procure. The free use of our faculties in distinguishing truth from falsehood, the exertion of corporeal powers without injury to others, the choice of a religion and worship, are branches of natural freedom which no government can justly alter or diminish, because their restraint cannot conduce to that security which is its proper object. Government, like every other contrivance, has a specific end; it implies the resignation of just as much liberty as is needful to attain it; whatever is demanded more is superfluous, a species of tyranny, which ought to be corrected by withdrawing it."

"Combine the frequent and familiar perpetuation of atrocious deeds with the dearth of great and generous actions, and you have the exact picture of that condition of society which completes the degradation of the species,?the frightful contrast of dwarfish virtues and gigantic vices, where everything good is mean and little and everything evil is rank and luxuriant: a dead and sickening uniformity prevails, broken only at intervals by volcanic eruptions of anarchy and crime."

"Conceive but for a moment the consternation which the approach of an invading army would impress on the peaceful villages in this neighborhood. When you have placed yourselves for an instant in that situation, you will learn to sympathize with those unhappy countries which have sustained the ravages of arms. But how is it possible to give you an idea of these horrors? Here you behold rich harvests, the bounty of heaven and the reward of industry, consumed in a moment or trampled under foot, while famine and pestilence follow the steps of desolation. There the cottages of peasants given up to the flames, mothers expiring through fear, not for themselves but their infants; the inhabitants flying with their helpless babes in all directions, miserable fugitives on their native soil! In another part you witness opulent cities taken by storm; the streets, where no sounds were heard but those of peaceful industry, filled on a sudden with slaughter and blood, resounding with the cries of the pursuing and pursued; the palaces of nobles demolished, the houses of the rich pillaged, the chastity of virgins and of matrons violated, and every age, sex, and rank mingled in promiscuous massacre and ruin."

"Considered as a state of probation, our present condition loses all its inherent meanness; it derives a moral grandeur even from the shortness of its duration, when viewed as a contest for an immortal crown, in which the candidates are exhibited on a theatre, a spectacle to beings of the highest order, who, conscious of the tremendous importance of the issue, of the magnitude of the interest at stake, survey the combatants from on high with benevolent and trembling solicitude."

"Cowper has become, in spite of his religion, a popular poet, but his success has not been such as to make religion popular; nor have the gigantic genius and fame of Milton shielded from the ridicule and contempt of his admirers that system of religion which he beheld with awful adoration."

"Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and will draw lustre from reproach. The vapors which gather round the rising sun and follow it in its course seldom fail at the close of it to form a magnificent theatre for its reception, and to invest with variegated tints, and with a softened effulgence, the luminary which they cannot hide."

"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."

"Enthusiasm may be defined that religious state of mind in which the imagination is unduly heated, and the passions outrun the understanding."

"Eternity invests every state, whether of bliss or of suffering, with a mysterious and awful importance; entirely its own. It gives that weight and moment to whatever it attaches, compared to which all interests that know a period fade into absolute insignificance."

"Eternity, it is surely not necessary to remind you, invests every state, whether of bliss or of suffering, with a mysterious and awful importance entirely its own, and is the only property in the creation which gives that weight and moment to whatever it attaches compared to which all sublunary joys and sorrows, all interests which know a period, fade into the most contemptible insignificance."

"Faith is a practical habit, which like every other, is strengthened and increased by continual exercise. It is nourished by meditation, by prayer, and the devout perusal of the Scriptures; and the light which it diffuses becomes stronger and clearer by an uninterrupted converse with its object, and a faithful compliance with its dictates."

"Fame must necessarily be the portion of but few."

"Fanaticism is an inflamed state of the passions; and nothing that is violent will last long. The vicissitudes of the world and the business of life are admirably adapted to abate the excesses of religious enthusiasm."

"Fanaticism is such an overwhelming impression of the ideas relating to the future world as disqualifies for the duties of life."

"Fanaticism, as far as we are at present concerned with it, may be defined, Such an overwhelming impression of the ideas relating to the future world as disqualifies for the duties of life. From the very nature of fanaticism, it is an evil of short duration. As it implies an irregular movement or an inflamed state of the passions, when these return to their natural state it subsides. Nothing that is violent will last long. The vicissitudes of the world and the business of life are admirably adapted to abate the excesses of religious enthusiasm. In a state where there are such incessant calls to activity, where want presses, desire allures, and ambition inflames, there is little room to dread an excessive attention to the objects of an invisible futurity."

"Few sects have derived their sentiments purely from sacred oracles, but are the emanations of distinguished leaders."

"From the indisposition of mankind to direct their thoughts to a futurity; from their proneness to immerse themselves in present and sensible objects, and the ignorance which follows of course, it has been thought necessary to set apart a particular order of men to inculcate its truths and to exemplify its duties."

"From the notion that political society precludes an appeal to natural rights, the greatest absurdities must ensue. If that idea be just, it is improper to say of any administration that it is despotic or oppressive, unless it has receded from its first form and model. Civil power can never exceed its limits until it deviates into a new track. For if every portion of natural freedom be given up by yielding to civil authority, we can never claim any other liberties than those precise ones which were ascertained in its first formation."

"From the records of revelation we learn that marriage, or the permanent union of the sexes, was ordained by God, and existed, under different modifications, in the early infancy of mankind, without which they could never have emerged from barbarism. For conceive only what eternal discord, jealousy, and violence would ensue were the objects of the tenderest affections secured to their possessor by no tie of moral obligation: were domestic enjoyments disturbed by incessant fear, and licentiousness inflamed by hope, who could find sufficient tranquility of mind to enable him to plan or execute any continued scheme of action, or what room for arts, or sciences, or religion, or virtue, in that state in which the chief earthly happiness was exposed to every lawless invader; where one was racked with an incessant anxiety to keep what the other was equally eager to acquire? It is not probable in itself, independent of the light of Scripture, that the benevolent Author of the human race ever placed them in so wretched a condition at first: it is certain they could not remain in it long without being exterminated. Marriage, by shutting out these evils, and enabling every man to rest secure in his enjoyments, is the great civilizer of the world: with this security the mind is at liberty to expand in generous affections, and has leisure to look abroad, and engage in the pursuits of knowledge, science, and virtue."

"Genius may dazzle, eloquence may persuade, reason may convince; but to render popular cold and comfortless sophistry, unaided by these powers, is a hopeless attempt."

"Government is the creature of the people, and that which they have created they surely have a right to examine. The great Author of nature, having placed the right of dominion in no particular hands, hath left every point relating to it to be settled by the consent and approbation of mankind. In spite of the attempts of sophistry to conceal the origin of political right, it must inevitably rest at length on the acquiescence of the people."

"Happiness is not to be prescribed, but enjoyed; and such is the benevolent arrangement of Divine Providence, that wherever there is a moral preparation for it, it follows of course."

"He might have been a very clever man by nature, but he had laid so many books on his head that his brain could not move."

"He who considers what it is that constitutes the force of penal laws will find it is their agreement with the moral feelings which nature has implanted in the breast. When the actions they punish are such, and only such, as the tribunal of conscience has already condemned, they are the constant object of respect and reverence. They enforce and corroborate the principles of moral order by publishing its decisions and executing its sanctions. They present to the view of mankind an august image of a moral administration,?a representation in miniature of the eternal justice which presides in the dispensations of the Almighty."

"He who desires to strengthen his virtue and purify his principles will always prefer the solid to the specious; will be more disposed to contemplate an example of the unostentatious piety and goodness which all men may obtain than of those extraordinary achievements to which few can aspire: nor is it the mark of a superior, but rather of a vulgar and superficial taste, to consider nothing as great or excellent but that which glitters with titles or is elevated by rank."

"He who diffuses the most happiness and mitigates the most distress within his own circle is undoubtedly the best friend to his country and the world, since nothing more is necessary than for all men to imitate his conduct, to make the greatest part of the misery of the world cease in a moment. While the passion, then, of some is to shine, of some to govern, and of others to accumulate, let one great passion alone influence our breasts, the passion which reason ratifies, which conscience approves, which Heaven inspires,?that of being and doing good."

"He who has made the acquisition of a judicious and sympathizing friend may be said to have doubled his mental resources."

"He would never allow himself to employ those exaggerations and colors in the narration of facts which many who would shudder at a deliberate falsehood freely indulge; some for the gratification of their passions or the advancement of their interests, and others purely from the impulse of vanity and a wish to render their narratives more striking and their conversation more poignant."

"Heaven is attracting to itself whatever is congenial to its nature, is enriching itself by the spoils of earth, and collecting within its capacious bosom whatever is pure, permanent and divine."

"His [Burke?s] imperial fancy has laid all nature under tribute, and has collected riches from every scene of the creation and every walk of art."

"Hobbes, a man justly infamous for his impiety, but of extraordinary penetration, first set the example; which was not long after followed by Locke, who was more indebted to his predecessor than he had the candour to acknowledge. His celebrated Essay has been generally considered as the established code of metaphysics."

"However highly we may esteem the arts and sciences which polish our species and promote the welfare of society; whatever reverence we may feel, and ought to feel, for those laws and institutions whence it derives the security necessary for enabling it to enlarge its resources and develop its energies, we cannot forget that these are but the embellishments of a scene we must shortly quit?the decorations of a theatre from which the eager spectators and applauded actors must soon retire. The end of all things is at hand. Vanity is inscribed on every earthly pursuit, on all sublunary labor; its materials, its instruments, and its objects all alike perish. An incurable taint of mortality has seized upon, and will consume, them ere long. The acquisitions derived from religion, the graces of a renovated mind, are alone permanent."

"However some may affect to dislike controversy, it can never be of ultimate disadvantage to the interests of truth or the happiness of mankind. Where it is indulged to its full extent, a multitude of ridiculous opinions will no doubt be obtruded upon the public; but any ill influence they may produce cannot continue long, as they are sure to be opposed with at least equal ability and that superior advantage which is ever attendant on truth. The colors with which wit or eloquence may have adorned a false system will gradually die away, sophistry be detected, and everything estimated at length according to its value."

"Human excellence is blended with many imperfections and seen under many limitations. It is beheld only in detached and separate portions, nor ever appears in any one character whole and entire. So that when, in imitation of the Stoics, we wish to form out of these fragments the notion of a perfectly good and wise man, we know that it is a mere fiction of the mind, without any real being in whom it is embodied and realized. In the belief of a Deity these conceptions are reduced to reality: the scattered rays of an ideal excellence are concentrated, and become the real attributes of that Being with whom we stand in the nearest relation, who sits supreme at the head of the universe, is armed with infinite power, and pervades all nature with his presence."

"Human laws may debase Christianity, but can never improve it; and being able to add nothing to its evidence, they can add nothing to its force."

"Humility is the first fruit of religion."

"I am persuaded that the extreme profligacy, improvidence, and misery which are so prevalent among the laboring classes in many countries are chiefly to be ascribed to the want of education. In proof of this, we need only cast our eyes on the condition of the Irish compared with that of the peasantry of Scotland."

"Idolatry is not to be looked upon as a mere speculative error respecting the object of worship, of little or no practical efficacy. Its hold upon the mind of a fallen creature is most tenacious, its operation most extensive. It is a corrupt practical institution, involving a whole system of sentiments and manners which perfectly moulds and transforms its votaries. It modifies human nature under every aspect under which it can be contemplated, being intimately blended and incorporated with all its perceptions of good and evil, with all its infirmities, passions, and fears."

"If an uninterested spectator, after a careful perusal of the New Testament, were asked what he conceived to be its distinguishing characteristic, he would reply, without hesitation, ?That wonderful spirit of philanthropy by which it is distinguished.? It is a perpetual commentary on that sublime aphorism, ?God is love.?"

"If ever Christianity appears in its power, it is when it erects its trophies upon the tomb; when it takes up its votaries where the world leaves them; and fills the breast with immortal hope in dying moments."

"If liberty, after being extinguished on the Continent, is suffered to expire here, whence is it ever to emerge in the midst of that thick night that will invest it? It remains with you, then, to decide whether that freedom at whose voice the kingdoms of Europe awoke from the sleep of ages to run a career of virtuous emulation in everything great and good; the freedom which dispelled the mists of superstition, and invited the nations to behold their God; whose magic touch kindled the rays of genius, the enthusiasm of poetry, and the flame of eloquence; the freedom which poured into our lap opulence and arts, and embellished life with innumerable institutions and improvements, till it became a theatre of wonders; it is for you to decide whether this freedom shall yet survive, or be covered with a funeral pall, and wrapped in eternal gloom."

"If princely power had never been raised to a level with the attributes of the Divinity by Filmer, it had probably never been sunk as low as popular acquiescence by Locke."

"If the mere conception of the reunion of good men in a future state infused a momentary rapture into the mind of Tully,?if an airy speculation, for there is reason to fear it had little hold on his convictions, could inspire him with such delight,?what may we be expected to feel who are assured of such an event by the true sayings of God! How should we rejoice in the prospect, the certainty rather, of spending a blissful eternity with those whom we loved on earth; of seeing them emerge from the ruins of the tomb and the deeper ruins of the fall, not only uninjured, but refined and perfected, ?with every tear wiped from their eyes,? standing before the throne of God and the Lamb in white robes and palms in their hands, crying with a loud voice. Salvation to God that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever! What delight will it afford to renew the sweet counsel we have taken together, to recount the toils of combat 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 amid the splendor and fruitions of the beatific vision!"

"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 characters than our opinions have. The mind naturally takes its tone and complexion from what it habitually contemplates."

"If, after a serious retrospect of your past lives, of the objects you have pursued, and the principles which have determined your conduct, they appear to be such as will ill sustain the scrutiny of a dying hour, dare to be faithful to yourselves, and shun with horror that cruel treachery to your best interests which would impel you to sacrifice the happiness of eternity to the quiet of a moment."

"Ignorance gives a sort of eternity to prejudice, and perpetuity to error."

"In all well-ordered politics, if we may judge from the experience of past ages, the attachment of men to their country is in danger of becoming an absorbing principle, inducing not merely a forgetfulness of private interest, but of the immutable claims of humanity and justice. In the most virtuous times of the Roman Republic their country was their idol, at whose shrine her greatest patriots were at all times prepared to offer whole hecatombs of human victims: the interests of other nations were no further regarded than as they could be rendered subservient to the gratification of her ambition; and mankind at large was considered as possessing no rights but such as might with the utmost propriety be merged in that devouring vortex. With all their talents and their grandeur, they were unprincipled oppressors, leagued in a determined conspiracy against the liberty and independence of mankind. In the eyes of an enlightened philanthropist, patriotism, pampered to such an excess, loses the name of virtue: it is the bond and cement of a guilty confederation. It was worthy of the wisdom of our great legislator to decline the express inculcation of a principle so liable to degenerate into excess, and to content himself with prescribing the virtues which are sure to develop it as far as is consistent with the dictates of universal benevolence."

"In consequence of the collision of disputes, and the hostile aspect which rival sects bear to each other, they are scarcely in a situation to investigate truth with perfect impartiality. Few or none of them have derived their sentiments purely from the sacred oracles, as the result of independent inquiry; but almost universally from some distinguished leader, who at the commencement of the Reformation formed his faith, and planned his discipline, amid the heat and fury of theological combat. Terms have been invented for the purpose of excluding error, or more accurately defining the truth, to which the New Testament is a stranger, and on those terms associations and impressions ingrafted which, in some instances, perhaps, little corresponded with the divine simplicity of the gospel."

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