Essays and Sermons of William James Potter (1829-1893), Unitarian Minister and Freethinker

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William James Potter is best viewed as a radical minister in the American freethought tradition during the second half of the 19th century. He shifted from his Quaker foundation to Unitarian Christianity, influenced by Transcendentalist thinkers, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. Later, influenced by Charles Darwin, he modified his transcendental perspective for a more empirical orientation. This collection makes available many of his collected essays and sermons.


“Our understanding of the rich web of American religious thought in the nineteenth century has been expanded in recent years by scholarly research which has introduced us to previously little known thinkers. William James Potter is one such thinker….Although many of Potter’s sermons and essays were published during his time, they received limited circulation and are not available in most modern research libraries. The purpose of these two volumes is to make available significant writings by Potter which will expose the reader to an enriched perspective of the various issues of the last half of the nineteenth century in America. The volumes also contain a ‘Biographical Sketch’ of Potter by Francis Ellingwood Abbot (1836-1903) and a lengthy Introduction by W. Creighton Peden.” – Cedric Heppler, Reference Librarian Emeritus, North Carolina State University

“…deserves serious attention and wide and appreciative readership. Potter’s career and thought form an intriguing portrait of a questioning, spirited, freethinking clergyman who not only was a gif writer and preacher but a compassionate pastor and creative man of vision. The timeless principles upon which Potter focuses makes these volumes an important acquisition to an academic library.” – Frederick Nelson, UCC minister, ret.

Table of Contents

Volume 2: Lectures and Sermons
Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
Biographical Sketch of William Potter by Francis Ellingwood Abbot (includes correspondence)
Lectures and Sermons: Religious Sentiment in the Light of Science; The Twenty-third Psalm in the Nineteenth Century; The Trinity of Evolution; The World’s Parliament of Religions; Wheat and Tares; Courage of Convictions; Heroism in Daily Life; The Saving Power of Truth; The Voice of the Draft; The Dramatic Element in the Career of Lincoln

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