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DAVID SWING
American theologian
(1830 - 1894)

It is not a good spiritual policy for us who are now living to thank God only for the material progress of our times; because these material things will soon give place to something better, and then our prayers and hymns will seem lost, and we who lived for them will seem to perish with them; but if we bless God for the sun that has held us in its arms, and for the autumns that have painted the fields and have set in mezzotint the sky and sea and land, then have we a worship which the future cannot take away from our souls or memories. To nothing better can far-off times ever come. As in this worship of life we can all run back and bend with Bradford and Standish in their prayers, and sit down with them at their feast, thus can the far future come back to us, and see in our religious acts and sentiments something good enough for their more golden age. Man's world changes, but human life may easily find an unchanging greatness. As the goodness of old Governor Bradford shines out through his irregular verse and distorted syntax, thus the merit of our race often is mingled with little defects, but still it may possess a beautiful and everlasting part. As the game and fruits on the table in 1621 would be good for our table to-day, so their happiness would be all we could wish this week in our reunions at home, because man's happiness comes chiefly from the fact of a heart at peace with the universe. Man must, for the most part, give thanks for his life rather than for the field through which it flows.
      - [Thanksgiving Day]

The life of Lincoln should never be passed by in silence by young or old. He touched the log cabin and it became the palace in which greatness was nurtured. He touched the forest and it became to him a church in which the purest and noblest worship of God was observed. His occupation has become associated in our minds with the integrity of the life he lived. In Lincoln there was always some quality that fastened him to the people and taught their to keep time to the music of his heart.
      - [Lincoln's Birthday]

The modern Gamaliel should teach ethics. Ethics is the science of human duty. Arithmetic tells man how to count his money; ethics how he should acquire it, whether by honesty or fraud. Geography is a map of the world; ethics is a beautiful map of duty. This ethics is not Christianity, it is not even religion; but it is the sister of religion, because the path of duty is in full harmony, as to quality and direction, with the path of God.
      - [Ethics]

We must conclude, therefore, that the great hymn of thanksgiving is not of local origin; it was not written in our prairies alone, but it was composed by the human soul when it first sat down and pondered over the mysterious visit it was making to this realm; and it has been sung ever since by each person who has reached the power of mind that is capable of a deep or sweet or sad thought. This slumbering hymn or prayer simply broke out in 1621. There must have been in that Mayflower group some heart of man or woman which had no concealment. It sang aloud the thanksgiving song of the world, and prayed its prayer to the God of man's being. This one soul said, "Let us have a great autumn feast soon." When New England possessed only about a hundred people it was easy for a feast to become national. What a change since then! For now the feast is proclaimed to sixty-five millions of citizens, and eight hundred railroads are busy carrying the food for the banquet--roads from California with fruits, roads from the South with the products of a long summer-time, trains from the Northwest with bread, trains from the Atlantic coast with food from the tropics and from the sea. What a change since the four men went hunting! And yet the then and the now blend in one song, and that to the God of our life.
      - [Thanksgiving Day]


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