Imagens das páginas

peculiar exception to the general rule of mankind; I should know that for one who resembles a Howard, a Wilberforce, a Stephens, or a Thornton, thousands are devoting their time, talents, and property, to a very opposite purpose; while one is labouring to “put down the mighty from their seat, and exalt the humble and meek';in more classical words acting on the principle contained in the Heathen yet highly moral line

“Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos," thousands are adding to the rich,* and conspiring to keep down those who are down ; thousands are acting, through their positive or negative conduct and example, in a diametrically opposite course to that which is ascribed by the Psalmist to the benign Creator of the rebellious and puffed up creature, “The Lord upholdeth all such as fall: and lifteth ир all those that are down:” but “the ungodly hath made boast of his own heart's desire; and speaketh good of the covetous, whom God abhorreth :” “which have said, with our tongue will we prevail: we are they that ought to speak; who is Lord over us? Now for the comfortless trouble's sake of the needy: and because of the deep sighing of the poor, I will up, saith the Lord : and will help every one from him that swelleth against him, and will set him at rest." Therefore, I would rather, that public opinion took not my isolated example for its guidance, but I would cheerfully and dutifully submit to my own individual deprivation, rather than see a system continued, by which so many monopolize the temporal blessings of man, to the direct disadvantage of the poorer thousands around them, because they hold not their property as money lent by the Lord, and consider not that they are instruments ordained of God for the distribution of his blessings, and who, according to the direction of their wealth towards the distresses of the poor—for this is the essential distinction in God's word in the distribution of riches (see Matt. xxv. ; 1 Tim. vi.; Prov. xix ; Tobit iv.)—will be again bountifully repaid.

Now, I consider it as the essential feature of education, that it tends to equalize mankind, and to equalize them in that only legitimate mode, which our Saviour, as a leveller of all outward pomp and inward pride of heart, so eminently countenanced, and thereby fulfilled the lowly words of Simeon's prophecy concerning his reforming career on earth. Education substitutes the pen for the club; the parliamentary petition, in lieu of the mob harangue. We may be sure that our merciful God enforces no precept that is not favourable to the welfare of man; and well does Archbishop Tillotson say,

che that would do right to religion cannot take a more effectual course than by reconciling it with the happiness of mankind.” Now there is no duty mentioned in the Scriptures as more incumbent on man, in regard to his fellow-men, than education : and Jesus Christ was the great enlightener of the human mind. When I talk of education, I use the term in its fullest sense ; I mean the improvement of the mind in the arts and sciences and in general literature, but most especially in the knowledge of that light, “ the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."* Without this, education is wofully incomplete: through the neglect of this reduced to action, men of learning become famous for their bigotry and intolerant bearing towards others. Oxford sends forth myriads of learned men who unravel the antiquities of nations, but who humanize not their own. Spiritual knowledge in continual action is power eternal. It is this that Solomon calls wisdom, and of which he speaks so beautifully and lovingly in the eighth chapter of the book of Wisdom. This is the divine philosophy that is charming indeed, in contradistinction to the “knowledge that puffeth up.” And there is little doubt that this wisdom tends to equalize men's property, as well as moderate their passions. And thence education as fully administered, and not as partially eked out by affluent and indolent teachers,f or interested persons of any other denomination, decidedly promotes equality. There are two classes in every country, the educated and the ignorant; and the difference between the two is far greater, and the power far stronger, than between the titles of rich and poor. May we not infer, without being too sanguine, from the mass of intelligence that has of late years been aroused, that in this country we may in due time see an approximation between the two. I think that the splendour of the world, the unmerited rank, and the unjust distribution of temporal things, must yield before what, perhaps is too pompously called “ the march of intellect;" because I perceive the march of humanity alongside the advancing step of general intelligence. Some may say, that the idea of equality in this life is only the dream of the visionary and the enthusiast. I would go further, and say, that it is the dream only of the madman. For a state of equality is not consistent with the existence of evil. If all mankind were made equal to-morrow, as regards this world's goods, before the following night, one man's carefulness and another's profligacy, one man's sobriety and another's drunkenness—to say nothing of the differences in education and ability, would at once disturb the morning settlement. And so the question comes, Why then seek to promote that which can never be ? Let us answer it by another question, Why strive against sin, when the Scriptures tell us that sin shall never cease to exist in this world? On such a ground, we should never strive against any other moral vice which was introduced when inequality immediately succeeded the fall

* A singularly distressing case of this kind took place not long back, when a rich London merchant, on his death-bed, bequeathed the whole of his cast property to another merchant, even richer than himself.

Solomon says,

“he that giveth to the rich shall surely come to want," eternal want!

And though equality, and freedom from sin, alike are only promised in that heavenly rest where the people of God, small and great, shall meet on perfect terms of equality, yet the whole discourse

* By his creating power he lightens every man with the light of reason. By the publication of his Gospel to all nations, he dues, in effect, lighten every inan, Divine revelation is now to be diffused to all people. (Matt. v. 15). By the operation of his Spirit aed grace he lightens all those that are enligbtened to salvation: and those that are not enlightened by him, perish in darkness. Whatever light any man has, he is judebted to Christ for it, WHETHER IT BE NATURAL OR SUPERNATURAL.

Notes by Henry and Scott. + “I will not have the abuses of the church mixed up with the church itself.”

Lord John Russell,

of man.

of our Saviour bids us, as much as lies in our power, smooth the inequalities that exist in human society. When the principle of distribution is once inculcated, as an essential part of the Christian character; when the poor can claim the rich man's money as a right, and the follower of Christ is told that at the peril of his eternal soul he dares not turn away from any distress or any appearance of need, what then to the sincere and practical Christian becomes of the value of wealth? When I say that the poor can claim the rich man's money as a right, I mean not to say that any poor man can demand assistance of any rich man lawfully in a Christian sense, but I mean to say, that the poor collectively have a right to look to the rich collectively, for pecuniary aid. It would be more gratifying if donations of relief to the poor existed in this country more as a moral and religious, than a legal right; for at the same time that the poor-law system, under wholesome regulation, is a blessed institution, yet we must allow that it is derogatory to the character of a Christian nation that its alms-giving should be enforced by the iron hand of the law. It looks as if the spirit of mutual voluntary help, that animated the early Christian societies, when“ all that believed were together, and had all things common, a system, which though diverted from its original fulness by the defalcation of Ananias and Sapphira, yet we may be sure continued in scarcely unabated force among the true disciples, was marvellously degenerated in modern time; and as though that lust of power, which is so forcibly ascribed by our heavenly poet, as the essence of the disposition of the author of all evil, was the rather predominant among us

“ Who not content
With fair equality, fraternal state,
Will arrogate dominion undeserv'd
Over his brethren, and quite dispossess
Concord, and law of nature, from the earth.”

Paradise Lost, Book XII. However, when I come to speak of charity, I must greatly enlarge my arguments in favour of the absolute right of the poor, not inconsistent with a free disposal, to look for maintenance from the rich ; and I think I shall be able to enlist some sterling human authorities on my side : for I am intensely xious to behold Christianity under purer auspices, and marching with a holier influence. Happy indeed, should we be, could we see the universal love and charity which that religion teaches, universally embraced; and the world indeed, as the amiable Bishop Sumner has preached, "would be a society of friends.” Intolerance and bigotry, and every other species of uncharitableness, with all their pecuniary supports, would be universally unknown.*

* “True charity,” says the immortal Wilberforce, “is wakeful, fervent, full of solicitude, full of good offices, not so easily satisfied, not so ready to believe that every thing is going on well as a matter of course : but jealous of mischief, apt to suspect danger, and prompt to extend relief:” and of spiritual improvement, which must rank as far above intellectual as eternity is above time, from the grave he yet speaketh! “If when summoned to give an account of our stewardship, we shall be called upon to answer for the use which we have made of our bodily organs, and of our means of relieving the wants of our fellow-creatures : how much more for the exercise of the


But, as further objections to my expectations, some one may say, that education must fail in producing equality, inasmuch as God grants greater powers of mind to one man than to another. One, in

very childhood, shows signs of an eminent career in life; another, those of hopeless ignorance. One mother says, “ why is not my son as clever as another mother's son ?" and absolving herself, if she has done her duty, we can only refer her to the Almighty Disposer of all our gifts. But here the force of our argument is not entirely blunted; for this state of things only assures us, that in some cases, we must the more unceasingly apply the means of improvement. Let not the teacher desert the child, however seemingly indisposed to imbibe knowledge, but let him the more vigorously look out for that species of allurement which may draw the infant rebel to his studies, and eventually produce such an amendment as may set him on an equality with a great majority of his fellows. It is true that the very talented are few; but that is no reason why any single individual should be neglected. It may be true, that not one man in very many generations of millions, has the mind of a Bacon, or a Brougham; but is it not something, aye, and a vast power of enjoyment, to have the ability to comprehend the knowledge that such minds have discovered ? A man who never could have advanced one step in the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, can, by diligent research, understand the discovered system, and refute the theories of a Descartes, or any other erratic philosopher. Therefore, I say, the next thing to being a Bacon, a Newton, or a Brougham, is to be able to comprehend the sciencies on which these mighty minds have laboured. Indeed, if others derive not benefit from their labours, they have laboured in vain. And it is notorious that the splendid and unrivalled abilities of Lord Brougham have been much employed in works of instruction for the poor. The rapid progress of education in this country, within the last few years, has been mainly attributable to the efforts of Lord Brougham. In his own person he has shown, what talent and industry, in defiance of all interest, can do.* And he has excited a spirit of emulation, and a desire of improvement, which though not likely to meet with his success, yet that has been of eminent service to many a mind which might otherwise have not been aroused. The fruits of his mind have penetrated every valley, and climbed every hill-top in England. Intelligence has been conveyed in a thousand ways to the poor; for it has been spread abroad, and not hoarded by the few. The best specimens of the best authors of every age, may now be in a homely dress, in every man's hand. Another generation will see it still more extended. Meanwhile, let all hands promote its continued success, and let none despair. He who hates the labour of learning, will, in spite of himself, gain much knowledge from learned companions; for the nobler faculties of our nature-of Invention, Memory, Judgment; and for our employment of every instrument and opportunity of diligent application, and serious reflection, and honest decision.”

* I have it, on the best authority from a contemporary of Lord Brougham at the College, at Edinbugh, that so great has been his ardour in studies of the greatest difficulty, that he has been known never to change his clothes for sixteen days and nights consanntively!

mind must inevitably be raised and enlightened that comes in contact with the elevated thoughts and pursuits of others. Surely this must produce something like a state bordering on equality. But a very great deal remains to be done, and all that we can require, cannot be effected in this incongruous world. Therefore, let no philanthropist relax in his exertions, especially at this present time, for the phalanx of narrow-minded and selfish men is yet formidable, and is secretly at work continually, though it dare not act on the aggressive openly. Besides the two evils of social helplessness and intellectual frivolousness, that are infecting both the church and the world—if the world can be said to be infected by its own peculiarly inherent propertiesthere is among the pious and evangelical ranks, an absence of that liberal comprehensiveness which is necessarily required to guard the mind against yielding a single effort, or sacrificing a single opinion, on the shrine of that false alarm which the dread of innovation has induced interested persons so perseveringly to magnify, with the forlorn hope of entrapping a vast multitude besides the merely crcdulous. For this reason, the intellectual and evangelical citizen of this great country, must not cramp the universality of the Christian religion in precept and practice,—" should keep his spirit and his intellect continually refreshed, by constant recourse to the great springs of truth, Divine and human. It is a perilous employment for any man to be perpetually contemplating narrow-mindedness and weakness in conjunction with much of piety and goodness. It is perilous either to his understanding or his faith, according as the moral or intellectual part of his own nature may happen to be predominant." Thus speaks the truly talented and benevolent Dr. Arnold,* and his words are of inestimable value at this present time. Let the intellectual and highly religious portion of the community be liberal in their opinions : such liberality as the Christian religion inculcates, and there is little danger but that the most influential classes of the country will, out of liberal hearts and enlightened understandings, devise liberal and enlightened things. But now that such effort has been made, and

may yet continue, to extend the elective franchise; and since by the use or abuse of the right of voting, a reformed or unreformed church, a. humane or inhuman legislature, is to exist; in short, wherever the multitude are admitted to a share of political power, it is the height of inconsistency to neglect any means of instructing them how to make a good use of their advantages. Let education, intellectual, moral, and religious, be extended, and who would take alarm at universal suffrage? But let us be aware of calling into power ignorant and brutal constituencies, who with Cobbett, would cry out for pots of beer,f and hunks of bread and bacon, rather than enlist themselves on the side of refined pleasures. Ignorant and brutal men yet exist; but is it not to the disgrace of their superiors, that our countrymen have not long ago been emancipated from intellectual thraldom of so base and heart-rending a nature. And may we not, with Lord Denman,

* Head-Master of Rugby School. Preface to a third volume of Sermons, page 17. + Actually spoken in the House of Commons; but, as may be supposed, received with much merited derision,

« AnteriorContinuar »