Harry Emerson Fosdick is one of my favorite modern writers. A few years back I was at a conference and this powerful preacher got up and spoke. Being a young ministry student I wanted what he had. His advice was simple, “Read everything you can get your hands on by Harry Emerson Fosdick”. Fosdick was an influential Pastor in New York City who often spoke on the social elements of the Gospel (i.e. feeding the poor, clothing the needy, etc…). He believed the Gospel had a relational and social aspect which demanded more than a simple acceptance in words and thought of salvation. He was the Pastor of Riverside Baptist Church. Most of his writings are his sermons put to print. This is the second collection of his printed sermons. If you haven’t read this book I encourage you to. If you have read it or want to discuss the quotes, feel free to comment. Just keep it positive. I will be adding notes & quotes as I continue to read.


All quotes come from Harry Emerson Fosdick’s book “The Secret of Victorious Living” published by Harper & Brothers: New York & London. Copyright 1934 by Harper & Brothers
A PDF version is available free at http://dli.ernet.in/handle/2015/167149 as well as many of his books.


“What life in the long run does to us depends on what life finds in us.” opening statement pg 1 Chapter 1 “The Secret of Victorious Living”

“Nobody ever finds life worth living. One always has to make it worth living. All people to whom life has been abundantly worth living have made it so by an interior, creative, spiritual contribution of their own, and such people commonly are not in fortunate circumstances.” Pg 3 Chapter 1 “The Secret of Victorious Living”

“Despite the accumulated experience of the ages and the insights of the seers, many think of an untroubled life as the ideal and of trouble, therefore, as an intruder to be resented, to be removed if possible, and, if not, to be endured.” pg 11 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“Adversity, then, far from being a mere nuisance or cruelity, is one of constuent elements in all great living, to be finely used… When you and I have faced a personal calamity and have handled it well, we have always added a new dimension to our character.” pg 12 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“It is nonsense to call an untroubled life the ideal. What can an untroubled life know about living? How can that help anyone?” pg 15 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“Let every man say to his own soul: If you have had any experience with trouble use it now. Let it carry you out beyond the barricades which too commonly shut our understanding in, and make for you roads of insight into the life of people. Translate anything you know about trouble into such constructive care for individuals and for the social welfare that somebody will have cause to thank God that once you yourself faced adversity, so you can understand.” pg 16 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“Again, consider that trouble finely used can serve our intellects as well as our characters and can cleanse us of some dangerous illusions. In particular, it ought to cleanse us of the vain illusion that life is always just, or that we ought to expect it to be just, to the individual.” pg 16 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“No, the beginning of great character, like the beginning of deep wisdom, lies in renouncing the expectation that life will be just.” At any rate, without that there is no possibility of being a disciple of Jesus – “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me,” pg 17 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“Of all the shining instruments that life put into the hands of Jesus with which to change the world, nothing remotely compared with the cross.” pg 18 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“Finally, trouble nobly used can open up within is deep interior resources of spiritual power.” pg 18 Chapter 2 “The High Uses of Trouble”

“The fact that desperate trouble falls on multitudes does not indicate that the world is crazy. But what if a man could break all the laws of health and yet be healthy, break all the moral laws and still be loved and trusted – would not that indicate a crazy world? Well, our western civilization has broken all laws of social health, transgressed the principles of civilized society and the fact that in consequence we are now in trouble does not indicate that the world is crazy but, rather, that the foundations of the world are laid in moral law so that whatever a civilization soweth, that shall it also reap.” pg 25 Chapter 3 “The Cure of Disillusionment”

“Much of our disillusionment springs from self-pity. We feel sorry for ourselves so that we do not hear from others the call of help. Life is not fair to me, we say; life is not just to the individual. To which I answer, of course life is not just to the individual. The scales of God come level in the end, but seldom within the individual’s lifetime. Not since the day Christ was crucified has Christianity been able to teach that life is just to the individual.” pg 27 Chapter 3 “The Cure of Disillusionment”

“The tragedy of Christianity repeatedly has lain in the persistent, ingenious endeavor to make it costless. But that essentially ruins Christianity. The very charter of Christianity is difficult: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” pg 31 Chapter 4 “On Making Christianity Too Easy”

“Above the cross of Christ this superscription might well have stood : “He took it on Himself.” Without that principle of action no great thing has ever been done on earth – vicarious sacrifice where some one, who did not need to, voluntarily assumed a heavy task. Florence Nightingale did that for the wounded, John Howard for the prisoners; our mothers did that for us many a time; Christ did that for the world. The quality of spirit and mode of action exert the most tremendous, moral lifting power that the world has ever known, and if we are calling ourselves Christian without having a share in exercising it, we are making our Christianity too easy.” pg 32 Chapter 4 “On Making Christianity Too Easy”

“Some of you, I can imagine Jesus saying, are making your Christianity too easy. You build beautiful churches; you have glorious music; with loveliness you stimulate your souls to worship. So far, so good! I too loved the flowers, and when, swinging round the brow of Olivet, I saw the temple with its golden dome, I was moved to the depths. But to be a Christian is more than that.” pg 35 Chapter 4 “On Making Christianity Too Easy”

“Wherever one looks, this is a soiled and desperate world, where a merely aesthetic Christianity is of no more use than rose-water.” pg 35 Chapter 4 “On Making Christianity Too Easy”

Fosdick quotes Henry Ward Beecher “Religion means work. Religion means work in a dirty world. Religion means peril; blows given, but blows taken as well. Religion means transformation. The world is to be cleansed by somebody; and you are not called of God if you are ashamed to scour and scrub.” pg 35 Chapter 4 “On Making Christianity Too Easy”

“Again, some of us, especially we who are religious liberals, make our Christianity costless by watering down and thinning out our faith. We have tried to formulate our Christian ideas in easily credible forms, and, so doing, we have attenuated them so that hardly anything is left to believe at all… The woods of liberal religion are full of people whose faith is so vague and indefinite that nothing could be easier than to believe it. There lies the trouble of it – it costs nothing.” pg 36 Chapter 4 “On Making Christianity Too Easy”

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