William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

A Defence of 'Lesser Lights'

Next notice that it would be well for us to imitate God in this: in not
forgetting the lesser lights. I do not know that great men are often good
examples. I am sorry when, because men have been clever and successful, they are
held up to imitation, though their motives and morals have been questionable. I
would sooner men were stupid and honest than clever and tricky; it is better to
act rightly and fail altogether than succeed by falsehood and cunning. I would
sooner bid my son imitate an honest man who has no talent, and whose life is
unsuccessful, than point him to the cleverest and greatest that ever lived,
whose life has become a brilliant success, but whose principles are condemnable.
Learn not from the great but from the good: be not dazzled by success, but
follow the safer light of truth and right. But so it is that men mainly observe
that only which is written in big letters; but you know the choicest part of
God's books are printed in small characters. They who would only know the
rudiments may spell out the words in large type which are for babes; but those
who want to be fully instructed must sit down and read the small print of God,
given us in lives of saints whom most men neglect. Some of the choicest virtues
are not so much seen in the great as in the quiet, obscure life. Many a
Christian woman manifests a glory of character that is to be found in no public
man. I am sure that many a flower that is "born to blush unseen," and, as we
think, to "waste its fragrance on the desert air," is fairer than the beauties
which reign in the conservatory, and are the admiration of all. God has ways of
producing very choice things on a small scale. As rare pearls and precious
stones are never great masses of rock, but always lie within a narrow compass,
so full often the fairest and richest virtues are to be found in the humblest
individuals. A man may be too great to be good, but he cannot be too little to
be gracious. Do not, therefore, always be studying Abraham, the greater
character. Does not the text say, "Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto
Sarah that bare you". You have not learned the full lesson of patriarchal life
until you have been in the tent with Sarah as well as among the flocks with her


Promoting a Greater Understanding of the Discovery of the Americas