CHANNING, William Ellery Quotes
(1780-1842), American Unitarian clergyman
Our affections are our life.—We live by them; they supply our warmth.
Innocent amusements are such as excite moderately, and such as produce a cheerful frame of mind, not boisterous mirth; such as refresh, instead of exhausting, the system; such as recur frequently, rather than continue long; such as send us back to our daily duties invigorated in body and spirit; such as we can partake of in the presence and society of respectable friends; such as consist with and are favorable to a grateful piety; such as are chastened by self-respect, and are accompanied with the consciousness that life has a higher end than to be amused.
We never know a greater character unless there is in ourselves something congenial to it.
No man receives the full culture of a man in whom the sensibility to the beautiful is not cherished; and there is no condition of life from which it should be excluded.—Of all luxuries this is the cheapest, and the most at hand, and most important to those conditions where coarse labor tends to give grossness to the mind.
The incongruity of the Bible with the age of its birth; its freedom from earthly mixtures; its original, unborrowed, solitary greatness; the suddenness with which it broke forth amidst the general gloom; these, to me, are strong indications of its Divine descent: I cannot reconcile them with a human origin.
One anecdote of a man is worth a volume of biography.
Most biographies are of little worth.—They are panegyrics, not lives.—The object is, not to let down the hero; and consequently what is most human, most genuine, most characteristic in his history, is excluded.—No department of literature is so false as biography.
God be thanked for books; they are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages.
Books are the true levellers.—They give to all who faithful!; use them, the society, the spiritual presence of the greatest and best of our race.
The best books for a man are not always those which the wise recommend, but often those which meet the peculiar wants, the natural thirst of his mind, and therefore awaken interest and rivet thought.
The great hope of society is in individual character.
It is far more important to me to preserve an unblemished conscience than to compass any object however great.
Whatever expands the affections, or enlarges the sphere of our sympathies—whatever makes us feel our relation to the universe and all that it inherits in time and in eternity, and to the great and beneficent cause of all, must unquestionably refine our nature, and elevate us in the scale of being.
Dancing is an amusement which has been discouraged in our country by many of the best people, and not without some reason.—It is associated in their mind with balls; and this is one of the worst forms of social pleasure.—The time consumed in preparing for a ball, the waste of thought upon it, the extravagance of dress, the late hours, the exhaustion of strength, the exposure of health, and the languor of the succeeding day—these and other evils connected with this amusement, are strong reasons for banishing it from the community.—But dancing ought not, therefore, to be proscribed.—On the contrary, balls should be discouraged for this among other reasons, that dancing, instead of being a rare pleasure, requiring elaborate preparation, may become an everyday amusement, and mix with our common intercourse. —This exercise is among the most healthful.—The body as well as the mind feels its gladdening influence.—No amusement seems more to have a foundation in our nature.—The animation of youth overflows spontaneously in harmonious movements.—The true idea of dancing entitles it to favor.—Its end is to realize perfect grace in motion; and who does not know that a sense of the graceful is one of the higher faculties of our nature.
The more discussion the better, if passion and personality be eschewed.—Discussion, even if stormy, often winnows truth from error—a good never to be expected in an uninquiring age.
No human being, man or woman, can act up to a sublime standard without giving offence.
A man in earnest finds means, or if he cannot find, creates them.
He is to be educated not because he is to make shoes, nails, and pins, but because he is a man.
Every day's experience shows how much more actively education goes on out of the schoolroom, than in it.
Men are every day saying and doing, from the power of education, habit, and imitation, what has no root whatever in their serious convictions.
All noble enthusiasms pass through a feverish stage, and grow wiser and more serene.
The consistency of great error with great virtue, is one of the lessons of universal history.—But error is not made harmless by such associations.—False theories, though held by the greatest and best of men, and though not thoroughly believed, have wrought much evil.
Even in evil, that dark cloud that hangs over creation, we discern rays of light and hope, and gradually come to see, in suffering and temptation, proofs and instruments of the sublimest purposes of wisdom and love.
The ties of family and of country were never intended to circumscribe the soul.—If allowed to become exclusive, engrossing, clannish, so as to shut out the general claims of the human race, the highest end of Providence is frustrated, and home, instead of being the nursery, becomes the grave of the heart.
Without depth of thought, or earnestness of feeling, or strength of purpose, living an unreal life, sacrificing substance to show, substituting the fictitious for the natural, mistaking a crowd for society, finding its chief pleasure in ridicule, and exhausting its ingenuity in expedients for killing time, fashion is among the last influences under which a human being who respects himself, or who comprehends the great end of life, would desire to be placed.
Fiction is no longer a mere amusement; but transcendent genius, accommodating itself to the character of the age, has seized upon this province of literature, and turned fiction from a toy into a mighty engine.
The only freedom worth possessing is that which gives enlargement to a people's energy, intellect, and virtues. The savage makes his boast of freedom. But what is its worth? He is, indeed, free from what he calls the yoke of civil institutions. But other and worse chains bind him. The very privation of civil government is in effect a chain; for, by withholding protection from property it virtually shackles the arm of industry, and forbids exertion for the melioration of his lot. Progress, the growth of intelligence and power, is the end and boon of liberty; and, without this, a people may have the name, but want the substance and spirit of freedom.
He is our friend who loves more than admires us, and would aid us in ous great work.
Friends should not be chosen to flatter.—The quality we prize is that rectitude which will shrink from no truth.—Intimacies which increase vanity destroy friendship.
The less of government the better, if society be kept in peace and prosperity.
The greatest man is he who chooses the right with invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menace and frowns; and whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God, is most unfaltering.
Immortality is the glorious discovery of Christianity.
Others are affected by what I am and say and do. And these others have also these spheres of influence. So that a single act of mine may spread in widening circles through a nation of humanity.
Men are won, not so much by being blamed, as by being encompassed with love.
They who have read about everything are thought to understand everything, too, but it is not always so; reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours. We are of the ruminating kind, and it is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of collections—we must chew them over again.
The spirit of liberty is not, as multitudes imagine, a jealousy of our own particular rights, but a respect for the rights of others, and an unwillingness that any one, whether high or low, should be wronged or trampled under foot.
Science and art may invent splendid anodes of illuminating the apartments of the opulent; but these are all poor and worthless compared with the light which the sun pours freely, impartially, over hill and valley, which kindles daily the eastern and western sky; and so the common lights of reason and conscience and love are of more worth and dignity than the rare endowments which give celebrity to a few.
A beautiful literature springs from the depth and fulness of intellectual and moral life, from an energy of thought and feeling, to which nothing, as we believe, ministers so largely as enlightened religion.
Were the labor and capital, now spent on pernicious luxuries, to be employed in the intellectual, moral, and religious culture of the whole people, how immense would be the gain, in every respect, though for a short time material products were diminished. A better age will look back with wonder and scorn on the misdirected industry of the present times.
Every man is a volume, if you know how to read him.
The world is governed much more by opinion than by laws. It is not the judgment of courts, but the moral judgment of individuals and masses of men: which is the chief wall of defence around property and life. With the progress of society, this power of opinion is taking the place of arms.
Every human being is intended to have a character of his own; to be what no other is, and to do what no other can do.
The father and mother of an unnoticed family, who in their seclusion awaken the mind of one child to the idea and love of goodness, who awaken in him a strength of will to repel temptation, and who send him out prepared to profit by the conflicts of life, surpass in influence a Napoleon breaking the world to his sway.
We smile at the ignorance of the savage who cuts down the tree in order to reach its fruit; but the same blunder is made by every person who is over eager and impatient in the pursuit of pleasure.
People should be guarded against temptation to unlawful pleasures by furnishing them the means of innocent ones. In every community there must be pleasures, relaxations, and means of agreeable excitement; and if innocent are not furnished, resort will be had to criminal. Man was made to enjoy as well as labor, and the state of society should be adapted to this principle of human nature.
Poetry reveals to us the loveliness of nature, brings back the freshness of youthful feeling, revives the relish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched the enthusiasm which warmed the springtime of our being, refines youthful love, strengthens our interest in human nature, by vivid delineations of its tenderest and softest feelings, and, through the brightness of its prophetic visions, helps faith to lay hold on the future life.
Let our prayers, like the ancient sacrifices, ascend morning and evening. Let our days begin and end with God.
They that have read about everything are thought to understand everything too; but it is not always so. Reading furnishes the mind only with the materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours. We are of the ruminating kind, and it is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of collections. Unless we chew them over again, they will not give us strength and nourishment.
It was religion, which, by teaching men their near relation to God, awakened in them the consciousness of their importance as individuals. It was the struggle for religious rights, which opened their eyes to all their rights. It was resistance to religious usurpation which led men to withstand political oppression. It was religious discussion which roused the minds of all classes to free and vigorous thought. It was religion which armed the martyr and patriot in England against arbitrary power; which braced the spirits of our fathers against the perils of the ocean and wilderness, and sent them to found here the freest and most equal state on earth.
Religion, if it be true, is central truth; and all knowledge which is not gathered round it, and quickened and illuminated by it, is hardly worthy the name.
Every human being has a work to carry on within, duties to perform abroad, influences to exert, which are peculiarly his, and which no conscience but his own can teach.
Do anything innocent rather than give yourself up to reverie. I can speak on this point from experience; for at one period of my life, I was a dreamer and castle-builder. Visions of the distant and future took the place of present duty and activity. I spent hours in reverie. The body suffered as much as the mind. The imagination threatened to inflame the passions, and I found, if I meant to be virtuous, I must dismiss my musings. The conflict was a hard one; but I resolved, prayed, resisted, sought refuge in occupation, and at length triumphed.
Contempt of all outward things that come in competition with duty fulfils the ideal of human greatness.—It is sanctioned by conscience, that universal and eternal lawgiver, whose chief principle is, that everything must be yielded up for right.
Is it asked, how can the laboring man find time for self-culture? I answer, that an earnest purpose finds time, or makes it. It seizes on spare moments, and turns fragments to golden account. A man who follows his calling with industry and spirit, and uses his earnings economically, will always have some portion of the day at command. And it is astonishing how fruitful of improvement a short season becomes, when eagerly seized and faithfully used. It has often been observed, that those who have the most time at their disposal profit by it the least. A single hour in the day, steadily given to the study of some interesting subject, brings unexpected accumulations of knowledge.
Did any man, at his death, ever regret his conflicts with himself, his victories over appetite, his scorn of impure pleasure, or his sufferings for righteousness' sake?
Sensuality is the grave of the soul.
A general loftiness of sentiment, independence of men, consciousness of good intentions, self-oblivion in great objects, clear views of futurity, thoughts of the blessed companionship of saints and angels, trust in God as the friend of truth and virtue—these are the states of mind in which I should live.
The sin that now rises to your memory as your bosom sin, let this be first of all withstood and mastered.—Oppose it instantly by a detestation of it, by a firm will to conquer it, by reflection, by reason, by prayer.
Here lies the evil of slavery: Its whips, imprisonments, and even the horrors of the middle passage, are not to be named, in comparison with the extinction of the proper consciousness of a human being—with the degradation of a man into a brute.
We can apply to slavery no worse name than its own. Men have always shrunk instinctively from this state, as the most degraded. No punishment, save death, has been more dreaded; and, to avoid it, death has often been endured. Slavery virtually dissolves the domestic relations. It ruptures the most sacred ties upon earth. It violates home. It lacerates best affections; produces and gives license to cruelty; compels the master systematically to degrade the mind of the slave; and to resist that improvement which is the design and end of the Creator.—Millions may rise up and tell me that the slave suffers little from cruelty. I know too much of human nature, human history, and human passion, to believe them.
Everything here, but the soul of man, is a passing shadow.—The only enduring substance is within.—When shall we awake to the sublime greatness, the perils, the accountableness, and the glorious destinies of the immortal soul?
A theology at war with the laws of physical nature would be a battle of no doubtful issue. The laws of our spiritual nature give still less chance of success to the system which would thwart or stay them.
All that a man does outwardly is but the expression and completion of his inward thought. To work effectually, he must think clearly; to act nobly, he must think nobly. Intellectual force is a principal element of the soul's life, and should be proposed by every man as the principal end of his being.
Secret study, silent thought, is, after all, the mightiest agent in human affairs.
Be true to your own highest convictions. Intimations from our own souls of something more perfect than others teach, if faithfully followed, give us a consciousness of spiritual force and progress never experienced by the vulgar of high life, or low life, who march as they are drilled to the step of their times.
The chief evil of war is more evil. War is the concentration of all human crimes. Here is its distinguishing, accursed brand. Under its standard gather violence, malignity, rage, fraud, perfidy, rapacity, and lust. If it only slew man, it would do little. It turns man into a beast of prey.