Thursday, December 4, 2008

Drainage, drunkenness, and divorce

Francis Greenwood Peabody (1847-1936) was born on this day to Mary Jane and Rev. Ephraim Peabody (see several recent posts) Peabody served as Minister at First Parish in Cambridge before entering on what would become a wide-ranging career at Harvard, eventually becoming the Dean of the Divinity School.
Peabody would become best know for his work in Social Ethics and would be instrumental in introducing this discipline at Harvard Divinity School. His Social Ethics course would famously be called, by his students, “Peabody’s drainage, drunkenness, and divorce” class.
Among his numerous writings was the influential "Jesus Christ and the Social Question" Some brief excerpts:

"WHEN one turns from the problem of the existence of the rich to the problem of the care of the poor, he enters a region of thought and duty much more familiar to the follower of Jesus Christ. From the first days of Christian history until now the duties of compassion for the unfortunate and of help for the helpless have been among the elementary virtues of the Christian life. The transition made by the ministry of Jesus in the history of philanthropy is hardly less remarkable than the transition made in the history of theology. With the new thought of God came a new love for man... No body of Christians, however humble, can maintain its self-respect without an elaborate organization of compassion and relief. The Church welcomes for itself not only the test of truth, but the test of public utility. " I by my works will shew thee," it says, "my faith."

(For the full text of "Jesus and the Social Question" see


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