So Wondrous Is This Human Life
Several times in my life has it happened that I have met with what seemed worse than death, and, in my short-sighted folly, I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest!" Yet my griefs all turned into blessings; the joyous seed I planted came up discipline, and I wished to tear it from the ground; but it flowered fair, and bore a sweeter, sounder fruit than I expected from what I set in the earth. As I look over my life, I find no disappointment and no sorrow I could afford to lose; the cloudy morning turned out the fairer day; the wounds of my enemies have done me good. So wondrous is this human life, not ruled by Fate, but Providence, which is Wisdom married unto Love, each infinite! What has been, may be. If I recover wholly, or but in part, I see new sources of power beside these waters of affliction I have stooped at.
— Theodore Parker (born August 24, 1810)
Prophets and Protestants
Prophets and protestants these men were, but never iconoclasts. Their ideals were constructive. They were self-controlled, and avoided violent speech because they knew that exaggeration is an indication of weakness. They dwelt in temperate zones. They did not deal in criticism or invective. They did not scold or reproach their more conservative brethren. They broadened slowly from precedent to precedent. They fulfilled Goethe's saying: "He who wishes to have a useful influence on his time should insult nothing. Let him not trouble himself about what is absurd, let him concentrate his energy on this, — the bringing to light of good things." Their listeners were treated not as adversaries, not as unsympathetic jurymen who must be persuaded and converted, but as co-operative, friends. They did not threaten or try to humiliate their congregations. They conceived that their mission was not to antagonize older forms of faith, but to satisfy in a new way the ineffable longings which those older faiths once satisfied. Instead of directly attacking outgrown ideas, usages, or institutions, they tried to expel error by teaching truth. They desired not to destroy, but to fulfil. The method of destruction fastens instinctively upon the evils in existing conditions, and tries to abolish them by external assault. The method of fulfilment discovers and emphasizes the good in existing conditions, and tries to complete imperfect thought and conduct. We may be sure that the latter is the nobler method because of the nobler powers it employs. It is easy to criticize and denounce, it is easy to abuse society for its superstitions, its conservatism, or its provinciality; but to take the latent generosity of a community or an individual's half-conscious hope of better things and encourage it, to find the elements of good in the meanest emergencies and develop them, to catch the indefinite desires and ideals of a man or a nation and direct and uplift them,—that is hard and slow. The method of destruction requires a spirit intolerant toward error or falsehood, a keen sense of justice, and a vehement vigor. The method of fulfilment requires sympathy, patience, and hopeful persistence.
— Samuel A. Eliot (born August 24, 1862)