One Solitary Life
Here is a young man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30, and then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.
While he was still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth, and that was his coat. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that were ever built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as has that One Solitary Life.
Quoted in The Presidio
(edited by the men of Iowa State Penitentiary).
Over a period of years the foregoing anonymous tribute has appeared in many anthologies and has been often quoted in sermons. It has been attributed to Phillips Brooks but a search of his published works reveals no trace of it. To try to determine its origin the editors have consulted libraries and prominent ministers. All agree that it is a piece of great distinction, but none can name the author.
January 1954 (36)