Who said: "Use what talents you possess: The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."

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Use what talents you possess: The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best – Henry van Dyke

American author, poet, educator and clergyman Henry van Dyke (1852 – 1933) was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania.  His parents instilled a love of nature in him, which he energetically explored.  He graduated from Princeton University in 1873 and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1877, later returning as a professor of English literature for much of the period between 1900 and 1923.

After leaving Princeton he spent two years studying at the University of Berlin, returning to the USA in 1879 to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister.  While serving as pastor of a congregation in Rhode Island, during the first four years of his ministry, he married Ellen Reid; the couple went on to have nine children.  After leaving Rhode Island he served as the pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church of New York City for eighteen years gaining a reputation as one of the greatest preachers in New York City.  In 1908, he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Paris; and in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson, a friend and former classmate, appointed him as the ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg – which became an unexpectedly important position when, shortly after his appointment, World War I broke out and Americans from all over Europe rushed to Holland to seek refuge. After resigning as ambassador, he returned to the USA and joined the chaplain's corps of the U.S Naval Reserve.  He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received many other honors.

Van Dyke published his first book, The Reality of Religion, in 1884, the first of about a dozen books he would author.  One of his most popular stories is The Story of the Other Wise Man (1896), a parable about altruism which adds a fourth wise man to the story who is carrying jewels to the Christ child but, on the way, is delayed by people who need his help with the result that he gives away all his jewels without every seeing Jesus.  The story has been published in at least eighteen editions in the United States and England and translated into many languages. The following year he published The First Christmas Tree which has also stood the test of time.  His poems are collected at http://www.poemhunter.com.  He chaired the committee that compiled the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship in 1905, and helped prepare the revised in edition in 1932.

More Quotes from Henry van Dyke

  • A peace that depends on fear is nothing but a suppressed war.
  • Culture is the habit of being pleased with the best and knowing why.
  • Genius is talent set on fire by courage.
  • In the progress of personality, first comes a declaration of independence, then a recognition of interdependence.
  • It is with rivers as it is with people: the greatest are not always the most agreeable nor the best to live with.
  • Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live.
  • There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher.
  • Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.

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