Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 31, 2012 to January 6, 2013



Changes are coming fast upon the world. In the violent struggle of opposite interests, the decaying prejudices that have bound men together, in the old forms of society, are snapping asunder, one after another. Must we look forward to a hopeless succession of evils, in which exasperated parties will be alternately victors and victims, till all sink under some one power whose interest it is to preserve a quiet despotism? Who can hope for a better result, unless the great lesson be learnt, that there can be no essential improvement in the condition of society, without the improvement of men as moral and religious beings; and that this can be effected only by religious Truth? To expect this improvement from any form of false religion, because it is called religion, is as if, in administering to one in a fever, we were to take some drug from an apothecary’s shelves, satisfied with its being called medicine.

Andrews Norton (born December 31, 1786)


The village clergyman and the village doctor are great friends of mine; they come to visit me often, and smoke a pipe with me in my garden. The twain love and respect each other, but they regard the world from different points of view, and I am now and again made witness of a good-humoured passage of arms. The clergyman is old, unmarried, and a humourist. His sallies and his gentle eccentricities seldom provoke laughter, but they are continually awakening the pleasantest smiles. Perhaps what he has seen of the world, its sins, its sorrows, its death-beds, its widows and orphans, has tamed his spirit and put a tenderness into his wit. I do not think I have ever encountered a man who so adorns his sacred profession. His pious, devout nature produces sermons just as naturally as my apple-trees produce apples. He is a tree that flowers every Sunday. Very beautiful in his reverence for the Book, his trust in it; through long acquaintance, its ideas have come to colour his entire thought, and you come upon its phrases in his ordinary speech. He is more himself in the pulpit than anywhere else, and you get nearer him in his sermons than you do sitting with him at his tea-table, or walking with him on the country roads. He does not feel confined in his orthodoxy; in it he is free as a bird in the air. The doctor is, I conceive, as good a Christian as the clergyman, but he is impatient of pale or limit; he never comes to a fence without feeling a desire to get over it. He is a great hunter of insects, and he thinks that the wings of his butterflies might yield very excellent texts; he is fond of geology, and cannot, especially when he is in the company of the clergyman, resist the temptation of hurling a fossil at Moses. He wears his scepticism as a coquette wears her ribbons,—to annoy if he cannot subdue; and when his purpose is served, he puts his scepticism aside,—as the coquette puts her ribbons. Great arguments arise between them, and the doctor loses his field through his loss of temper,—which, however, he regains before any harm is done; for the worthy man is irascible withal, and opposition draws fire from him.

Alexander Smith (born December 31, 1830)



Maker of the new-born year,
Great Creator, bending, hear;
Lo! we bow in adoration,
Join the chorus of creation.
Thine the flowery spring’s perfume,
Thine the glowing summer’s bloom,
Thine the autumn’s varied dyes,
Freshening fruits and cloudless skies;
Thine the blush of rising day,
Thine the fervid beam of noon,
Thine the twilight’s fading ray,
Thine the midnight's hallowed gloom.
All the glowing orbs above,
Join to sing thy power and love;
While the smooth, revolving spheres,
Chime thy praise through endless years;
Day to night thy glory sings,
Night to day responsive rings;
All things in the vast creation,
Join in praise and adoration.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)


We begin on the new year the beginning of a new life if we will. How will you walk this coming year? Will you seek for liberty by independence or by obedience? Will you seek for success by selfishness or by service? Will you seek for happiness by self-indulgence or by sacrifice? ... God help us more and more to hear that higher and nobler and diviner voice, that the other may grow stiller and dimmer and more distant, till we shall hear it not at all.

Lyman Abbott (1835-1922)


The old year has slipped through the glass of time, taking with it a portion of my life. For me a face has faded, a voice is stilled, a chair is empty; precious ambitions lay scattered like broken alabaster boxes, and my sky is oft tarnished by the low-hanging clouds of failure.

But I stand again at the threshold of eternity—the Land of Beginning Again—where the New Year woos with an enchanting hope. So I plight my troth to the Mystic Comrade by my side, who teaches me to read the meaning of life in the light of its high hours. In my scars I see the ministry of redemption, and in my slow-healing wounds I read the gospel of Triumphant Life.

Each morn the world wrapped in winsome smiles unfolds, and I know the best is yet to be. All through the year I shall work and play, sing and pray, dream and hope, suffer and love; for I was as one lonely and have found anew a friend who walked ever by my side. And since I have come out of the Silence, and shall return again into the Silence, as a pilgrim of time I will walk with faith the streets of years.

W. Waldemar W. Argow (1891-1961)


However far we extend the field of vision, whether to stars of unimaginable distance, or to corpuscles of unimaginable minuteness, thought still passes beyond them in the endless search after the real, the invisible, the eternal. We stand as it were at a point between two infinities, neither of which we can ever hope to reach, yet both of which, by the pressure of some force unknown, we are perpetually urged to pursue.

Sir James G. Frazer (born January 1, 1854)


I do not believe in Belief. But this is an Age of Faith, and there are so many militant creeds that, in self defence, one has to formulate a creed of one's own. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy are no longer enough in a world where ignorance rules, and Science, which ought to have ruled, plays the pimp. Tolerance, good temper and sympathy — they are what matter really, and if the human race is not to collapse they must come to the front before long.

E.M. Forster (born January 1, 1879)



The essential doctrine of democracy is that each man, as a free human soul, lives of his free will in the service of the whole people. This ideal is no doubt hard to attain, but it is not hard to aim at. It is the only ideal permanently possible for any society that has emerged from the rule of mere custom or the divine right of kings.

In certain Greek cities a man, before casting a vote, swore in the presence of the gods that he was voting to the best of his judgment for the good of the whole city. And that is still the spirit in which every good citizen ought to vote, and as a rule does vote.

The externals of democracy as a form of government can be attained easily enough: parliamentary institutions, universal suffrage, abolition of privileges and the like. But democracy as a spirit is not attained until the average citizen feels the same instinctive loyalty toward the whole people that an old-fashioned royalist felt toward his king.

Gilbert Murray (born January 2, 1866)



In discussion it is not so much weight of authority as force of argument that should be demanded. Indeed, the authority of those who profess to teach is often a positive hindrance to those who desire to learn; they cease to employ their own judgment, and take what they perceive to be the verdict of their chosen master as settling the question. In fact I am not disposed to approve the practice traditionally ascribed to the Pythagoreans, who, when questioned as to the grounds of any assertion that they advanced in debate, are said to have been accustomed to reply ‘The Master said so,’ ‘the Master’ being Pythagoras. So potent was an opinion already decided, making authority prevail unsupported by reason.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (born January 3, 106 BCE)


We must trust to free discussion like this, and seek to inculcate right principles. Begin in time, and the truth will prevail without war, to the pulling down of all strongholds of injustice and wrong. As to the Bible, I would make a discrimination there, as in other writings, between truth and error. I cannot accept its inspiration as a whole, and cannot see why it should be read as a book of worship in the schools or in the churches. Ministers should dare take their texts from other books, modern or ancient, as well as from the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures. Let us recognize revelation and truth wherever we find it. If the question were, to what doctrine does the Bible give authority, I should say the Bible would overturn nearly all the theology in the various churches of the land. But let the motto ever be, Truth for Authority, and not Authority for Truth.

Lucretia Mott (born January 3, 1793)

From an Address to the Free Religious Association, May 26, 1870.



A Christian church should be a means of reforming the world, of forming it after the pattern of Christian ideas. It should therefore bring up the sentiments of the times, the ideas of the times, and the action of the times, to judge them by the universal standard. In this way it will learn much and be a living church, that grows with the advance of men’s sentiments, ideas and actions, and while it keeps the good of the past will lose no brave spirit of the present day. It can teach much; now moderating the fury of men, then quickening their sluggish steps. We expect the sins of commerce to be winked at in the street; the sins of the State to be applauded on election days ... we are used to hear[ing] them called the righteousness of the nation. There they are often measured by the avarice or the ambition of greedy men. You expect them to be tried by passion, which looks only to immediate results and partial ends. Here they are to be measured by conscience and reason, which look to permanent results and universal ends; to be looked at with reference to the laws of God, the everlasting ideas on which alone is based the welfare of the world. Here they are to be examined in the light of Christianity itself. If the church be true, many things which seem gainful in the street and expedient in the senate house, will here be set down as wrong, and all gain which comes there from seem to be but a loss. If there be a public sin in the land, if a lie invade the State, it is for the Church to give the alarm; it is here that it may war on lies and sins; the more widely they are believed in and practised, the more are they deadly, the more to be opposed. Here let no false idea or false action of the public go without exposure and rebuke. But let no noble heroism of the times, no noble man pass by without due honor. If it is a good thing to honor dead saints and the heroism of our fathers; it is a better thing to honor the saints of today, the live heroism of men who do the battle, when that battle is all around us. I know a few such saints, here and there a hero of that stamp, and I will not wait till they are dead and classic before I call them so and honor them as such ...

… In this way a Christian church should be a society for promoting true sentiments and ideas. If it would lead, it must go before men; if it would be looked up to, it must stand high.

Theodore Parker (1810-1860)

Theodore Parker was installed as minister of the Twenty-Eighth Congregational Society
in Boston on January 4, 1846. This is an excerpt from the installation sermon
he preached on that day: “The True Idea of a Christian Church.” 



We should be Universalists because characters are formed upon principles. The principles a man holds determine what the man is, gives direction to his efforts, and finally make his place in the world. Universalism is a consistent system of doctrines suited, to human needs. It holds men responsible for their conduct. "As ye sow, so must ye reap." It does not postpone judgment to a far-off future, but shows it here.

Universalism teaches of a God ever near, searching the innermost recesses of the heart. It teaches of a God of love, whose tender mercies are over all his works, and whose judgments are but a means of bringing men to righteousness,

Universalism sets forth the beauty of holiness and presents virtue as the only real good and righteousness its own all sufficient rewards

Our creed is found in the 13th Chapter of First Corinthians and our rules of conduct in the Sermon on the Mount.

Universalism has made noble characters in the past. It will make noble and beautiful the character of any one who will patiently study its doctrine, enter into its spirit and put in practice its principles.

Olympia Brown (born January 5, 1835)



To study the lives, to meditate the sorrows, to commune with the thoughts, of the great and holy men and women of this rich world, is a sacred discipline, which deserves at least to rank as the forecourt of the temple of true worship, and may train the tastes, ere we pass the very gate of heaven. ... We forfeit the chief source of dignity and sweetness in life, next to the direct communion with God, if we do not seek converse with the greater minds that have left vestiges on the world.

James Martineau (1805-1900)


I have remembered on this day a rhyme
Of old: "Were Christ ten times in Bethlehem born,
And not in thee, thy case is still forlorn."
'Tis faith's natural piety, plain and prime
And pure. The holy and angelic chime
Lovely saith this, that in a place of scorn,
A stable crib, he came: so do adorn
Souls simple his epiphany sublime.
O faithful Shepherd of the simple heart,
This one leal way to love thee is most true:
That now thy birth-place we avail to be.
In living fealty 'tis all my part
T' avouch not thou aforetime cam'st to view,
But see thou have a manger now in me.

James Vila Blake (1842-1925)


In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)

"The Four Freedoms" is excerpted from Roosevelt's State of the Union
Address to the United States Congress on January 6, 1941.