صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

notice, viz., that the means to work with presents itself as a demand first in order of time, we proceed to offer one or two considerations of an opposite character. In the humbler charities of life—and perhaps it would not be unlawful to find here an argument for saying, that by the All-Seeing Eye such charities are regarded with special favor, over and above what is awarded to more pretentious schemes-in such charities no such difficulty is encountered. When individual benevolence finds itself side by side with individual want, offering friendly arm to the wayworn, travel-stained pilgrim, as his step falters along the rugged paths, housing him when benighted, clothing him when naked, feeding him when hungry, when thirsty giving him but a cup of cold water to drink, no warning, prudential voice, nu misgivings as to wasted or misapplied effort, interposes between the generous, ready almsgiving, and the ready-waiting beneficiary. But would you have return from vast schemes of human invention, and possibly, too, of human ambition, which aim at wholesale results, which exhibit a restive rebellion, an irreverent impatience, because great organic evils do not presently yield to your patent specific, know ye, ye must be content with such return as an uncovenanted reward may afford. The still small voice may accomplish that to which the earthquake was not equal. The benefit you claim to the world from these your systems of human invention, and of human fallibility too, is a benefit, if one at all, procured by your distributing and applying, in the capacity of agent, or, if you will have it so, co-operation with another, a wealth not your own-the good which springs up in thine own heart, and so a benefit to the world springs up there by the immediate touch of an Infinite hand, put forth especially to heal thy wounds and cure thee of thy sickness. It is a benefit bestowed through no intervening human medium ; first designed and ordered by an infinite intelligence, and then made to flow directly into thy heart by a direct interposition in thy behalf, such gift not otherwise to be had of thee at all. And which of the two instruments wilt thou have it shall be the greaterthat which comes through the agent, or that other which comes directly from him who is not an almoner of another's bounty, but who is himself the great All-giver ? Sayest thou—often we fear only shallow pretext to cover shallower philanthropy-charity begins at home, and wilt thou then deny that this wrongfully applied maxim of thine may, in the Infinite mind, be the germ of a larger growth, quite beyond thy power to comprehend ?

Sayest thou, then, the enlarged capacity to receive will be forthcoming, whenever the readiness to bestow lacks field for exercise? We reply, how knowest thou that? Readiness to bestow is here already. Canst thou point to the waiting multitude without, ready for the gift thou art impatient of so long retaining? Wilt thou give a sword to the first man thou meetest, not asking first whether peradventure he be not mad ?

What is so often and so confidently predicted, may indeed be true, and new, and perhaps more efficient external instrumentalities may await a continued and an enlarged investigation. But it is important to consider that the argument here exhibited in no wise forbids the supposition of such new accessions. For how a corresponding enlarged capacity of receiving is to keep pace in the future, more than it has in the past, with such supposed new accessions, doth not appear, so that the premises admitted, the conclusion insisted upon still is wanting. An impartial retrospect of the past, disclosing, as it does, a wave-like succession of stupendous inventions and astounding discoveries in physical science, so far as such instruments of progress have failed to be attended by a proportionate enlarged capacity for receiving, instead of furnishing ground of hope or encouragement, is an omen significantly portentous of limitation and of failure, since it thus appears, that even in man's much-vaunted field of eminent success, he takes with him this inevitable neutralizing element of weak

And what is the lesson to be learned of us from such impartial retrospect? Beginning with the discovery of the art of printing—that most counted upon of them all—and adding thereto the whole vast subsequent host, with its serried ranks, and its countless devices, arranged in compact, sublime order-bearing in mind how all these, not to be here particularly enumerated, with the discovery of this vast continent thrown into the scale, have had their birth, if not simultaneously, at such wisely-adjusted intervals, as by their subsequent union and reciprocal aid, each to the other, to constitute one gigantic, doubly-effective whole, suggesting the thought, that Nature, long enslaved and condemned to grind in her prisonhouse, was at length rallying and concentrating all her energies for one final struggle against her enemies—we say following out such a train of thought, and seeing how in the past is vast accumulation of forces incapable, as it appears, of profitable application—that is, for the purpose in hand—may we not well ask how an agency, imperfect, if not impotent, in itself is to acquire strength, and a working availability, merely by an addition similarly tainted with imperfection or impotency? Having bestowed upon us, in order to the proposed achievement-especially in the art of diffusing written thoughtsprecisely what we may suppose the congregated wisdom of an assembled world would have asked for, had such privilege been granted it, as sufficient for such achievement, with what propriety may we now seek to amend our prayer, or with what reason expect from it, when granted, a better result than has happened to us aforetime! If the world is in possession to-day of more truth than it can at all apply with commensurate return, how, by a mere increase of such dead capital, is a more remunerative result to be looked for?

ness.

And whatever be the reply to these questions, the other inquiry which for the time we partly surrendered—the way having been now opened for its introduction-is worth a moment's notice, viz., whether there be, indeed, reasonable ground to expect that any similar space of time in the future shall be so much more crowded with great events and imposing displays, as to contribute, in a greatly increased ratio—incapacity to receive no longer insisted upon—toward that upward movement so often and so confidently predicted? To refer again to the art of printing : “Give me a place to stand upon, and I will move the world,” said the ancient philosopher. So, if we will listen attentively to a cry that was uttered before that art was given us, we may hear a voice, not of some single philosopher, but a voice going up from every spot on this wide earth, where wisdom had her tabernacle and phil osophy her sanctuary, until one united, swelling chorus proclaimed-Give us the art of diffusing written thoughts, and we will do more than Archimedes promised; we will move not a material, but a moral and a spiritual world! Not only shall war, and famine, and pestilence, and intemperance, and slavery, cease from the earth, but those insatiate lusts, those immoderate desires, those headlong passions, now the fruitful source of such manifold evil-- these, too, shall also disappear. Nor, indeed, would it seem altogether unreasonable to require that the emptiness of such promise should have been detected beforehand, experience not yet at hand to demonstrate it-certainly not reasonable for us, who having got such experience, and in large measure still allow ourselves to be so often betrayed into a similar mistake. And we will tarry here no longer, only to observe that when it is considered how very little the acquisition of such new physical forces contributes even towards man's average material condition, where their chief effect is to be looked for--some new leak in the reservoir generally occurring to maintain the level at about the same point—it may serve to moderate our expectations as to any indirect aid, from the same source, towards a spiritual growth.

To conclude, then, under a condensed formula, what we have attempted to exhibit in the foregoing pages, we remark-licentiousness of logic, in dealing with questions of reform, assumes that inconvenience—a failure to meet its pre-established views, its ill-regulated fancies, its arbitrary decisions; and incongruity—a failure to comply with what it is pleased magisterially to term the fitness of things—afford a legitimate argument for or against a given theory. It is twice guilty-first, it arbitrarily decides what should be and what should not be, and then, it no sooner discovers somewhat seemingly inconsistent with such affirmation or negation, than the argument is complete and final.

Given to it, to construct an elaborate, curious mosaic, of ingenius device, the pieces ready-made therefor; or allowed to enter at some point in the process, to complete the yet unfinished handiwork of another-whenever it chances upon a piece that refuses to adjust itself exactly and at all points to that position which to it seems food, or which it predetermines to be legitimate ; that, it instantly rejects as spurious altogether and entitled to no part or lot in the matter. The secession of a State from this great family of States--if we may be allowed to find illustration here, intending that only, and not wishing, even by implication, to offer anything towards the adjustment of this crur politicorum-afford an instance in point. The theory of such secession is at once, and by everybody, pronounced inconvenient. And for several reasons. It is not fit that, with no consent of ours, a thing for which a great price has been paid to-day, shall pass out of our hand without price tomorrow. It is not fit that a great whole should be injured by the abstraction of a part, to an extent greatly beyond the intrinsic value and importance of such part. It is not fit that a precedent, even though such precedent were in itself innocent, should be established, which is likely at a future time to entail mischievous consequence. All this, and more of a like nature, are undeniably true. But it does not necessarily determine anything as to the right belonging to such State. For aught that appears, it may have been known beforehand, and it may too, or may not, have been considered beforehand, that such State joined the confederacy with a contemplated benefit thereto, these damaging contingencies being included in the act as also possible, and yet their existence not of sufficient force to countervail, upon the whole, the policy of admission. It may have seemed desirable that there should be at hand some penalty, of easy and sure application, to render such withdrawal difficult or impossible ; but upon its appearing that this could not be had, or was only to be had upon such terms as to destroy, or greatly impair the very spirit and design of the confederacy, then there was nothing in the nature of things, to forbid a final acceptance of the mere voluntary arrangement, attended, though it confessedly was, with certain very considerable disadvantages, and for several reasons open to objections.

« السابقةمتابعة »