Duty of God to Man Inquired

Mrs. Laura Ormiston Chant, 1893

Laura Ormiston Chant
Laura Ormiston Chant. Portrait from Rev. John Henry Barrows, The World's Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893.

Mrs. Laura Ormiston Chant presented this address to the 1893 Parliament of the World's Religions, held in Chicago in conjunction with the Columbian Exposition.

Laura Ormiston Chant was an English nurse, writer and reformer.  She wrote hymns and poetry, and also wrote and lectured on temperance, women's rights, and social purity (a movement for chastity that also opposed prostitution). She was active in the Unitarian church. Some of her writings advocated physical exercise for children , and included ideas for such exercises.  After appearing at the Parliament in 1893, she aided refugees in Bulgaria who had fled the Hamidian massacres, in which 100,000 to 300,000 Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire in 1894 - 1896 under the leadership of Sultan Abdul Hamid II).


  • Religion's purpose is to make people good and happy, is about spiritual growth.
  • Religion needs to make people brave to bring optimism to the terrible evils of the world.
  • Dead forms of religion are distinguished from living forms.
  • in history, man asked about his duty to God. Today, we ask about the duty of God to man. "If I can throw the whole of my being into the arms of God and be certain He will do His duty by me, that duty will first of all be to succeed in me; it will not be to fail in me."
  • Beyond the "intellectual jugglers" theologians can be, religion is not about words, but about religion making humanity better.
  • Some people are safe to be with, some are unsafe. Religion should not be national, should not be particular to a creed or denomination, but needs to be universal.
  • Religion must include literature, art, the heart, nature, beauty.
  • She compares the many languages brought to the World Parliament of Religions to another Day of Pentecost, with speaking in tongues.  God has no creed, and all people are His children.
  • She also speaks for civility and good manners, rather than argument among those who differ.
  • After thanking God for the truth expressed in different ways at the Parliament, she closes with an excerpt from Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound."


It will have taught us that after all it is not the words that are the things, but it is the soul behind the words; and the soul there is behind this great Parliament of Religions to-day is this newer humility, which makes me feel that I am not the custodian of all or every truth that has been given to the world. That God, my Father, has made religious truth like the facets of the diamond -- one facet reflecting one color and another another color, and it is not for me to dare to say that the particular color that my eye rests upon is the only one that the world ought to see. Thank God for these different voices that have been speaking to us this morning.

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