Written By: Albert Schweitzer Translated By: David Larrimore Holland Original English Edition: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1988 Hardcover, 130 Pages ISBN 0-02-607811-2 Quotes Table of Contents
This book contains the text of twelve of Dr. Schweitzer's sermons from the years 1918 and 1919. They were preached in the Saint Nicolai parish church in Strasbourg. Schweitzer had just been released from a German prisoner of war camp in a prisoner exchange, and submitted in 1918 to the first of a pair of operations which kept him weak for several years. Nevertheless, as these sermons show, he never relented from grappling with the most fundamental questions of life.
The sermons range over a variety of topics, including reverence for life, the ethics of personal property, personal morality, and the importance of gratitude. The sermons on reverence for life are powerful statements of his remarkable philosophy. I found the sermon on gratitude particularly inspiring, perhaps because it is unusual to find a thoughtful treatment on the subject.
The introduction indicates that Schweitzer typically did not preach the exact text as it is preserved here, but rather used it as a basis for exposition. Three of the sermons are not finished; they have only outlines or sketches of their final passages. There is no technical theological language in the sermons.
"And reason discovers the connecting link between love for God and love for man: love for all creatures, reverence for all being, a compassionate sharing of experiences with all of life, no matter how externally dissimilar to our own.
I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is called life. I can do no other than to have compassion for all that is called life. That is the beginning and the foundation of all ethics. Once one has experienced this and continues to experience it--and whoever experiences it once always continues to experience it!--he is ethical. He bears his morality in him and can never lose it, and it continues to develop in him."
"Reverence for life and sharing the life of others are what is important for our world. Nature knows no reverence for life. It produces life in thousands of the most meaningful ways and destroys it in thousands of the most senseless ways. ... The great will to survive, by which nature is preserved, is in puzzling self-contradiction with itself. Creatures live at the cost of the lives of other creatures. Nature allows them to commit the most terrible cruelties. It leads insects instinctively to bore holes into other insects with their ovipositors and to lay their eggs in them so that their young may live from the caterpillar and torture it to death. Nature leads ants to band together and to attach a small creature and hound it to death. Look at the spider! How gruesome is the craft nature taught it!" [Italics in the original]
"Directed toward animals, reverence for life means, first, that killing animals may be neither drama nor sport!" [Italics in the original]
"These decisions can go either way. If only you act responsibly and according to conscience, and not thoughtlessly, you are justified."
"Therefore do good in gratitude for the good from which you have benefited. Make your own tally and see if you are repaying the full amount you owe to unknown people and to fate itself. Have you been helped in time of illness? Then know that you must help someone else who is sick. Did someone make you a loan in your time of need? If you know someone else is in a similar situation, assist him in gratitude for what you have received. ... This is what you must do all your life, in matters both great and small. Say little about it. It's a bookkeeping matter into which you alone can or ought to see. It is nobody else's business. Only be sure the balance is correct." [Italics in the original]
Translator's Preface Foreword to the New Edition A Word Beforehand
Afterward to the First Edition by Martin Strege
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