“The Duties of Hard Times”

As a way of testing my PDF scanning workflow, I wanted to publish a document that was plainly in the public domain and potentially interesting to my readership.

I had on hand a sermon by the Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham, the minister of the (Unitarian) First Church of Boston, preached there April 23, 1837, entitled “The Duties of Hard Times”. The United States was in first spasms of a major financial crisis, so it seemed timely and appropriate.

On the whole, it is rather telling of its merchant-to-Brahmin readership — do read it aloud to yourself, as printed sermons ought to be read — in its praise of commercial forces and uncritical handling of the mysteries of economics. And classic Unitarianism in its appeals to the strength of character and the implicit priority given to moral over material joy.

A telling line:

In the instance now before us, the question is to how we shall make the times any better; — that were a hopeless undertaking; — but how we shall make ourselves better by the reasons of the times. (pp. 8-9)

In short: keep a cool head; our situation could be a lot worse (to which I tend to agree) and America is a prosperous and peaceful land. Of interest to my readers from Spain, Frothingham cites as recent example of how bad things could be in the siege of Bilbao, during the First Carlist War.

Colophon: I created this PDF in the same way as the Esperanto hymnal, except that I set format to line art and the threshold to 40. Tried to generated a text using OCR — and while the tesseract modules did a much better job than the GOCR ones — I didn’t find an easy way to automate distinguishing between the two pages per scan. I’ll try OCR again when I have modern typed pages to work on.

Download “The Duties of Hard Times” (2.1 Mb)

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

1 comment

  1. Hi Scott. Thanks for this. I am working on my “spring semester” service titles and themes, and am going to include this sermon title as one of the Sunday offerings. I’ll attempt to provide an overview of what this sermon is about, let people read it online to see what a sermon looked like in 1830 or whatever, and provide a Roger take on the sermon for our own context and time.
    Thanks for this==very perspective providing (which I believe is the whole point of what all of us are trying to do and be).
    Roger Butts
    in warming up after a brutal start to winter Davenport, IA

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