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WANT OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
Alf the evil in this world comes from people not knowing 1 what they do like, not deliberately setting themselves to find
out what they really enjoy. All people enjoy giving away money, for instance: they don't know that,- they rather think they like keeping it; and they do keep it under this false impression, often to their great discomfort. Everybody likes to do good; but not one in a hundred finds this out.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A Rich MAN
A RICH man ought to be continually examining how he may spend A his money for the advantage of others; at present, others
are continually plotting how they may beguile him into spending it apparently for his own. The aspect which he presents to the eyes of the world is generally that of a person holding a bag of money with a stanch grasp, and resolved to part with none of it unless he is forced, and all the people about him are plotting how they may force him; that is to say, how they may persuade him that he wants this thing or that; or how they may produce things that he will covet and buy. One man tries to persuade him that he wants perfumes; another that he wants jewelry; another that he wants sugarplums; another that he wants roses at Christmas. Anybody who can invent a new want for him is supposed to be a benefactor to society; and thus the energies of the poorer people about him are continually directed to the production of covetable, instead of serviceable things; and the rich man has the general aspect of a fool, plotted against by all the world. Whereas the real aspect which he ought to have is that of a person wiser than others, intrusted with the management of a larger quantity of capital, which he administers for the profit of all, directing each man to the labor which is most healthy for him, and most serviceable for the community.
ART AND DECADENCE
W E DON'T want either the life or the decorations of the thir. V teenth century back again; and the circumstances with
which you must surround your workmen are those simply of happy modern English life, because the designs you have now to ask for from your workmen are such as will make modern English life beautiful. All that gorgeousness of the Middle Ages, beautiful as it sounds in description, noble as in many respects it was in reality, had, nevertheless, for foundation and for end, nothing but the pride of life — the pride of the so-called superior classes; a pride which supported itself by violence and robbery, and led in the end to the destruction both of the arts themselves and the States in which they flourished.
The great lesson of history is, that all the fine arts hitherto having been supported by the selfish power of the nobless, and never having extended their range to the comfort or the relief of the mass of the people — the arts, I say, thus practiced, and thus matured, have only accelerated the ruin of the States they adorned; and at the moment when, in any kingdom, you point to the triumphs of its greatest artists, you point also to the determined hour of the kingdom's decline.
That which we foolishly call vastness is, rightly considered, not
more wonderful, not more impressive, than that which we
insolently call littleness, and the infinity of God is not mysterious, it is only unfathomable, not concealed, but incomprehensible; it is a clear infinity, the darkness of the pure unsearchable sea.
THE SOCIETY OF NATURE
To the mediæval knight, from Scottish moor to Syrian sand,
the world was one great exercise ground, or field of ad
venture; the stanch pacing of his charger penetrated the pathlessness of outmost forest, and sustained the sultriness of the most secret desert. Frequently alone,- or if accompanied, for the most part only by retainers of lower rank, incapable of entering into complete sympathy with any of his thoughts, – he must have been compelled often to enter into dim companionship with the silent nature around him, and must assuredly sometimes have talked to the wayside flowers of his love, and to the fading clouds of his ambition.
ALL CARVING AND NO MEAT
The divisions of a church are much like the divisions of a ser1 mon; they are always right so long as they are necessary
to edification, and always wrong when they are thrust upon the attention as divisions only. There may be neatness in carving when there is richness in feasting; but I have heard many a discourse, and seen many a church wall, in which it was all carving and no meat.
THE simple fact, that we are, in some strange way, different 1 from all the great races that have existed before us, cannot
at once be received as the proof of our own greatness; nor can it be granted, without any question, that we have a legitimate subject of complacency in being under the influence of feel. ings, with which neither Miltiades nor the Black Prince, neither Homer nor Dante, neither Socrates nor St. Francis, could for an instant have sympathized.
Whether, however, this fact be one to excite our pride or not, it is assuredly one to excite our deepest interest. The fact itself is certain. For nearly six thousand years the energies of man have pursued certain beaten paths, manifesting some constancy of feeling throughout all that period, and involving some fellowship at heart, among the various nations who by turns succeeded or surpassed each other in the several aims of art or policy. So that, for these thousands of years, the whole human race might be to some extent described in general terms. Man was a creature separated from all others by his instinctive sense of an Existence superior to his own, invariably manifesting this sense of the being of a God more strongly in proportion to his own perfectness of mind and body; and making enormous and self-denying efforts, in order to obtain some persuasion of the immediate presence or approval of the Divinity.
THE CORONATION OF THE WHIRLWIND
M UCH of the love of mystery in our romances, our poetry, our M art, and, above all, in our metaphysics, must come under
that definition so long ago given by the great Greek, « speaking ingeniously concerning smoke.” And much of the instinct, which, partially developed in painting, may be now seen throughout every mode of exertion of mind,- the easily encouraged doubt, easily excited curiosity, habitual agitation, and delight in the changing and the marvelous, as opposed to the old quiet serenity of social custom and religious faith, is again deeply defined in those few words, the «dethroning of Jupiter," the coronation of the whirlwind.”
SACRIFICES THAT MAKE ASHAMED
THE vain and haughty projects of youth for future life; the giddy 1 reveries of insatiable self-exaltation; the discontented dreams
of what might have been or should be, instead of the thankful understanding of what is; the casting about for sources of interest in senseless fiction, instead of the real human histories of the people round us; the prolongation from age to age of romantic historical deceptions instead of sifted truth; the pleasures taken in fanciful portraits of rural or romantic life in poetry and on the stage, without the smallest effort to rescue the living rural population of the world from its ignorance or misery; the excitement of the feelings by labored imagination of spirits, fairies, monsters, and demons, issuing in total blindness of heart and sight to the true presences of beneficent or destructive spiritual powers around us; in fine, the constant abandonment of all the straightforward paths of sense and duty, for fear of losing some of the enticement of ghostly joys, or trampling somewhat “sopra lor vanità, che par persona”; all these various forms of false idealism have so entangled the modern mind, often called, I suppose ironically, practical, that truly I believe there never yet was idolatry of stock or staff so utterly unholy as this our idolatry of shadows; nor can I think that, of those who burnt incense under oaks, and poplars, and elms, because the shadow thereof was good,” it could in any wise be more justly or sternly declared than of us — «The wind hath bound them up in her wing, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”
OPPRESSION UNDER THE SUN
vou cannot but have noticed how often in those parts of the I Bible which are likely to be oftenest opened when people
look for guidance, comfort, or help in the affairs of daily life, namely, the Psalms and Proverbs, mention is made of the guilt attaching to the Oppression of the poor. Observe: not the neglect of them, but the Oppression of them; the word is as frequent as it is strange. You can hardly open either of those books, but somewhere in their pages you will find a description of the wicked man's attempts against the poor, such as, He doth ravish the poor when he getteth him into his net."
« His mouth is full of deceit and fraud; in the secret places doth he murder the innocent.”
«They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression.”
« Their poison is like the poison of a serpent. Ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.”
Yes: “Ye weigh the violence of your hands”; weigh these words as well. The last things we usually think of weighing are Bible words. We like to dream and dispute over them, but to weigh them and see what their true contents are - anything but that! Yet weigh them; for I have purposely taken these verses, perhaps more strikingly to you read in this connection, than separately in their places out of the Psalms, because, for all people belonging to the Established Church of this country these Psalms are appointed lessons, portioned out to them by their clergy to be read once through every month. Presumably, therefore, whatever portions of Scripture we may pass by or forget, these, at all events, must be brought continually to our observ. ance as useful for the direction of daily life. Now, do we ever ask ourselves what the real meaning of these passages may be, and who these wicked people are, who are “murdering the innocent"? You know it is rather singular language this!— rather strong · IX-208