A New Year's Message from 100 Years Ago

This letter written by John Ruskin was published over 100 years ago but one can still draw wisdom and application from its words. Good advice not only to young people but to people of all ages. The overall message is summarized in the last paragraph - be honest in their work in this life.



Published in The Aberdeen Journal, Wednesday, January 8, 1873

New Year's Address - A novelty in the New Year's addresses to the young is presented in those given to the Bible Class of Blackfriars Street Church, conducted by Mr. John Leith. Written addresses from several gentlemen were read and have been published. One of them is from John Ruskin and a very characteristic one it is. It preaches the necessity of people troubling themselves less about what they ought not to do, than about what they ought to do. If they do what they ought with all their heart, the ought-nots will be easily got over. The letter is as follows: -

Corpus Christi College,
Oxford, Christmas Eve, 72

My Dear Sir,
I am always much interested in any efforts such as you are making on the part of the laity.

If you care to give your class a word directly from me, say to them, that they will find it well, throughout life, never to trouble themselves about what they ought
not to do, but about what they ought to do.

The condemnation from the judgment throne - most solemnly described - is for the
undones, not the dones.

People are perpetually afraid of doing wrong; but unless they are doing its reverse energetically, they do it all day long, and the degree does not matter.

The Commandments are necessarily negative, because a new set of positive ones would be needed for every person; while the negatives are constant. But Christ sums them all into two vigorous positives. And the first positive for young people is active and attentive kindness to animals, supposing themselves set by God to feed His real sheep and ravens before the time comes for doing either figuratively. There is scarcely any conception life of the character which animals and birds might have if kindly treated in a wild state.

Make your young hearers resolve to be honest in their work in this life - Heaven will take care of them for the other.

Truly yours,
John Ruskin


Inspirational Quotes by John Ruskin
Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books.
John Ruskin

A thing of worth is what it can do for you, not what you choose to pay for it.
John Ruskin

He who has truth at his heart need never fear the want of persuasion on his tongue.
John Ruskin

It is better to lose your pride with someone you love rather than to lose that someone you love with your useless pride.
John Ruskin

Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.
John Ruskin

Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become.
John Ruskin

It is far better to give work that is above a person, than to educate the person to be above their work.
John Ruskin

No good work whatever can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.
John Ruskin

The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.
John Ruskin

Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.
John Ruskin

To be taught to read - what is the use of that, if you know not whether what you read is false or true?
John Ruskin

Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.
John Ruskin

To be able to ask a question clearly is two-thirds of the way to getting it answered.
John Ruskin

You should read books like you take medicine, by advice, and not by advertisement.
John Ruskin

The really precious things are thought and sight, not pace. It does a bullet no good to go fast; and a man, if he be truly a man, no harm to go slow; for his glory is not at all in going, but in being.
John Ruskin

Nothing can be beautiful which is not true.
John Ruskin

You can only possess beauty through understanding it.
John Ruskin

All great art is the expression of man's delight in God's work, not his own.
John Ruskin


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