« PreviousContinue »
ing truth, who, uniting the zeal of the Methodist with the views of the philosopher, should be personally among the poor, and teach them their duties in order that he may render them susceptible of their rights.
Yet by what means can the lower classes be made to learn their duties, and urged to practise them? The human race may perhaps possess the capability of all excellence; and truth, I doubt not, is omnipotent to a mind already disciplined for its reception ; but assuredly the over-worked laborer, skulking into an ale-house, is not likely to exemplify the one, or prove the other. In that barbarous tumult of inimical interests, which the present state of society exhibits, religion appears to offer the only means universally efficient. The perfectness of future men is indeed a benevolent tenet, and may operate on a few visionaries, whose studious habits supply them with employment, and seclude them from temptation. But a distant prospect, which we are never to reach, will seldom quicken our footsteps, however lovely it may appear ; and a blessing, which not ourselves but posterity are destined to enjoy, will scarcely influence the actions of anystill less of the ignorant, the prejudiced, and the selfish.
Preach the Gospel to the poor. By its simplicity it will meet their comprehension, by its benevolence soften their affections, by its precepts it will direct their conduct, by the vastness of its motives insure their obedience. The situation of the poor is perilous: they are indeed both
touch of extreme want. Domestic affections depend on association. We love an object if, as often as we see or recollect it, an agreeable sensation arises in our minds. But alas, how should he glow with the charities of father and husband, who gaining scarcely more than his own necessities demand, must have been accustomed to regard his wife and children, not as the soothers of finished labor, but as rivals for the insufficient meal? In a man so circumstanced the tyranny of the present can be overpowered only by the tenfold mightiness of the future. Religion will cheer his gloom with her promises, and by habituating his mind to anticipate an infinitely great revolution hereafter, may prepare it even for the sudden reception of a less degree of melioration in this world."
But if we hope to instruct others, we should familiarize our own minds to some fixed and determinate principles of action. The world is a vast labyrinth, in which almost every one is running a different way, and almost every one manifesting hatred to those who do not run the same way.
A few indeed stand motionless, and not seeking to lead themselves or others out of the maze, laugh at the failures of their brethren. Yet with little reason : for more grossly than the most bewildered wanderer does he err, who never aims to go right. It is more honorable to the head, as well as to the heart, to be misled by our eagerness in the pursuit of truth, than to be safe from blundering by contempt of it. The happiness of mankind is the end of virtue, and truth is the knowledge of the means; which he will never seriously attempt to discover, who has not habitually interested himself in the welfare of others. The searcher after truth must love and be beloved ; for general benevolence is a necessary motive to constancy of pursuit ; and this general benevolence is begotten and rendered permanent by social and domestic affections. Let us beware of that proud philosophy, which affects to inculcate philanthropy while it denounces every home-born feeling by which it is produced and nurtured. The paternal and filial duties discipline the heart and prepare it for the love of all mankind. The intensity of private attachments encourages, not prevents, universal benevolence. The nearer we approach to the sun, the more intense his heat: yet what corner of the system does he not cheer and vivify ?
The man who would find truth, mut likewise seek it with a
humble and simple heart, otherwise he will be precipitate and overlook it; or he will be prejudiced, and refuse to see it. To emancipate itself from the tyranny of association, is the most arduous effort of the mind, particularly in religious and political disquisitions. The assertors of the system have associated with it the preservation of order and public virtue; the oppugners, imposture and wars and rapine. Hence, when they dispute, each trembles at the consequences of the other's opinions instead of attending to his train of arguments. Of this, however, we may be certain, whether we be Christians or infidels, aristocrats or republicans, that our minds are in a state insusceptible of knowledge, when we feel an eagerness to detect the falsehood of an adversary's reasonings, not a sincere wish to discover if there be truth in them ;—when we examine an argument in order that we may answer it, instead of answering because we have examined it.
Our opponents are chiefly successful in confuting the theory of freedom by the practices of its advocates ; from our lives they draw the most forcible arguments against our doctrines. Nor have they adopted an unfair mode of reasoning. In a science the evidence suffers neither diminution nor increase from the actions of its professors ; but the comparative wisdom of political systems depends necessarily on the manners and capacities of the recipients. Why should all things be thrown into confusion to acquire that liberty which a faction of sensualists and gamblers will neither be able nor willing to preserve ?
A system of fundamental reform will scarcely be effected by massacres mechanized into revolution. We can not therefore inculcate on the minds of each other too often or with too great earnestness the necessity of cultivating benevolent affections. We should be cautious how we indulge the feelings even of virtuous indignation. Indignation is the handsome brother of anger and hatred. The temple of despotism, like that of Tescalipoca, the Mexican deity, is built of human skulls, and cemented with human blood ;-let us beware that we be not transported into revenge while we are levelling the loathsome pile ; lest when we erect the edifice of freedom we but vary the style of architecture, not change the materials. Let us not wantonly offend even the prejudices of our weaker brethren, nor by ill-timed and vehement declarations of opinion excite in them malignant feel
ings towards us. The energies of the mind are wasted in these intemperate effusions. Those materials of projectile force, which now carelessly scattered explode with an offensive and useless noise, directed by wisdom and union might heave rocks from their base, —or perhaps (apart from the metaphor) might produce the desired effect without the convulsion.
For this subdued sobriety of temper a practical faith in the doctrine of philosophical necessity seems the only preparative. That vice is the effect of error and the offspring of surrounding circumstances, the object therefore of condolence not of anger, is a proposition easily understood, and as easily demonstrated. But to make it spread from the understanding to the affections, to call it into action, not only in the great exertions of patriotism, but in the daily and hourly occurrences of social life, requires the most watchful attentions of the most energetic mind. It is not enough that we have once swallowed these truths :—we must feed on them, as insects on a leaf, till the whole heart be colored by their qualities, and show its food in every the minutest fibre.*
Finally, in the spirit of the Apostle,
Watch ye! Stand fast in the principles of which ye have been convinced ! Quit yourselves like men ! Be strong! Yet let all things be done in the spirit of love.
* I hope that this last paragraph, in all the fulness of its contrast with my present convictions, will start up before me whenever I speak, think, or feel intolerantly of persons on account of their doctrines and opinions.
30th Oct. 1818.