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

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

Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
Sermons: Apostolic Succession; The Soul’s Rest; God in Nature; Mercy and Judgment; Self-Sacrifice; The Religion of the Affections; Endurance; Childhood’s Instinct and Manhood’s Faith; Pure Religion; Christmas Legend and Fact; The Eden of the Sense and the Eden of the Soul
Thoughts and Conduct; Easter Truths and Traditions; Optimism; Mutual Social Responsibility; Heart in Nature; Waiting for One’s Self; The Silent Revelation; The Religion of Humanity; What do We Worship?; God in Humanity; The Permanence of Morality; The Practicality of Thought; The Glorious God; A Twenty-five Years’ Ministry