Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

language, we might, perhaps, call it — hearing it for the first time. Murder! and murder of innocent people! — nay, even a sort of cannibalism. Eating people,- yes, and God's people, too - eating my people as if they were bread! swords drawn, bows bent, poison of serpents mixed! violence of hands weighed, measured, and trafficked with as so much coin! where is all this going on? Do you suppose it was only going on in the time of David, and that nobody but Jews ever murder the poor? If so, it would surely be wiser not to mutter and mumble for our daily lessons what does not concern us; but if there be any chance that it may concern us, and if this description, in the Psalms, of human guilt is at all generally applicable, as the descriptions in the Psalms of human sorrow are, may it not be advisable to know wherein this guilt is being committed round about us, or by ourselves ? And when we take the words of the Bible into our mouths in a congregational way, to be sure whether we mean sincerely to chant a piece of melodious poetry relating to other people (we know not exactly whom) - or to assert our belief in facts bearing somewhat astringently on ourselves and our daily business. And if you make up your minds to do this no longer, and take pains to examine into the matter, you will find that these strange words, occurring as they do, not in a few places only, but almost in every alternate Psalm, and every alternate chapter of Proverbs or Prophecy, with tremendous reiteration, were not written for one nation or one time only, but for all nations and languages, for all places and all centuries; and it is as true of the wicked man now as ever it was of Nabal or Dives, that his eyes are set against the poor.”

MERCANTILE PANICS

N O MERCHANT deserving the name ought to be more liable to a IV "panic” than a soldier should; for his name should never

be on more paper than he could at any instant meet the call of, happen what will. I do not say this without feeling at the same time how difficult it is to mark, in existing commerce, the just limits between the spirit of enterprise and of speculation. Something of the same temper which makes the English soldier do aiways all that is possible, and attempt more than is possible, joins its influence with that of mere avarice in tempting the English merchant into risks which he cannot justify, and efforts which he cannot sustain; and the same passion for adventure which our travelers gratify every summer on perilous snow wreaths and cloud-encompassed precipices surrounds with a romantic fascination the glittering of a hollow investment, and gilds the clouds that curl round gulfs of ruin. Nay, a higher and a more serious feeling frequently mingles in the motley temptation; and men apply themselves to the task of growing rich as to a labor of providential appointment, from which they cannot pause without culpability, nor retire without dishonor. Our large trading cities bear to me very nearly the aspect of monastic establishments in which the roar of the mill wheel and the crane takes the place of other devotional music, and in which the worship of Mammon and Moloch is conducted with a tender reverence and an exact propriety: the merchant rising to his Mammon matins with the self-denial of an anchorite, and expiating the frivolities into which he may be beguiled in the course of the day by late attendance at Mammon vespers. But, with every allowance that can be made for these conscientious and romantic persons, the fact remains the same, that by far the greater number of the transactions which lead to these times of commercial embarrassment may be ranged simply under two great heads,- gambling and stealing; and both of these in their most culpable form, namely, gambling with money which is not ours, and stealing from those who trust us. I have sometimes thought a day might come, when the nation would perceive that a well-educated man who steals a hundred thousand pounds, involving the entire means of subsistence of a hundred families, deserves, on the whole, as severe a punishment as an ill-educated man who steals a purse from a pocket, or a mug from a pantry.

IMMORTALITY OF THE BIBLE

vou are not philosophers of the kind who suppose that the I Bible is a superannuated book; neither are you of those

who think the Bible is dishonored by being referred to for judgment in small matters. The very divinity of the Book seems to me, on the contrary, to justify us in referring everything to it, with respect to which any conclusion can be gathered from its pages. Assuming, then, that the Bible is neither superannuated now, nor ever likely to be so, it will follow that the illustrations which the Bible employs are likely to be clear and intelligible illustrations to the end of time. I do not mean that everything spoken of in the Bible histories must continue to endure for all time, but that the things which the Bible uses for illustration of eternal truths are likely to remain eternally intelligible illustrations.

DISSECTORS AND DREAMERS

ALL experience goes to teach us, that among men of average A intellect the most useful members of society are the dissec

tors, not the dreamers. It is not that they love nature or beauty less, but that they love result, effect, and progress more; and when we glance broadly along the starry crowd of benefactors to the human race, and guides of human thought, we shall find that this dreaming love of natural beauty - or at least its expression — has been more or less checked by them all, and subordinated either to hard work or watching of human nature.

THE USE OF BEAUTY EAUTY has been appointed by the Deity to be one of the eleD ments by which the human soul is continually sustained; it

is therefore to be found more or less in all natural objects, but in order that we may not satiate ourselves with it, and weary of it, it is rarely granted to us in its utmost degrees. When we see it in those utmost degrees, we are attracted to it strongly, and remember it long, as in the case of singularly beautiful scenery, or a beautiful countenance. On the other hand, absolute ugliness is admitted as rarely as perfect beauty; but degrees of it more or less distinct are associated with whatever has the nature of death and sin, just as beauty is associated with what has the nature of virtue and of life.

RESPECTABILITY OF ART BELIEVE that there is no chance of art truly flourishing in any 1 country, until you make it a simple and plain business, pro

viding its masters with an easy competence, but rarely with anything more. And I say this, not because I despise the great painter, but because I honor him; and I should no more think of adding to his respectability or happiness by giving him riches, than, if Shakespeare or Milton were alive, I should think we added to their respectability, or were likely to get better work from them, by making them millionaires.

OPINIONS

IN MANY matters of opinion, our first and last coincide, though I on different grounds; it is the middle stage which is furthest

from the truth. Childhood often holds a truth with its feeble fingers, which the grasp of manhood cannot retain,- which it is the pride of utmost age to recover.

THE NECESSITY OF WORK

DY FAR the greater part of the suffering and crime which exist B at this moment in civilized Europe arises simply from people

not understanding this truism,- not knowing that produce or wealth is eternally connected by the laws of heaven and earth with resolute labor; but hoping in some way to cheat or abrogate this everlasting law of life, and to feed where they have not furrowed, and be warm where they have not woven.

I repeat, nearly all our misery and crime result from this one misapprehension. The law of nature is, that a certain quantity of work is necessary to produce a certain quantity of good, of any kind whatever. If you want knowledge, you must toil for it; if food, you must toil for it; and if pleasure, you must toil for it. But men do not acknowledge this law, or strive to evade it, hoping to get their knowledge, and food, and pleasure for nothing; and in this effort they either fail of getting them, and remain ignorant and miserable, or they obtain them by making other men work for their benefit; and then they are tyrants and robbers. Yes, and worse than robbers. I am not one who in

the least doubts or disputes the progress of this century in many things useful to mankind; but it seems to me a very dark sign respecting us that we look with so much indifference upon dishonesty and cruelty in the pursuit of wealth. In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar it was only the feet that were part of iron and part of clay; but many of us are now getting so cruel in our avarice, that it seems as if, in us, the heart were part of iron, and part of clay.

ON WAR

JHEREVER there is war, there must be injustice on one side or

the other, or on both. There have been wars which were

little more than trials of strength between friendly nations, and in which the injustice was not to each other, but to the God who gave them life. But in a malignant war of these present ages there is injustice of ignobler kind, at once to God and man, which must be stemmed for both their sakes.

BASE CRITICISM

JT MAY perhaps be said that I attach too much importance to the 1 evil of base criticism; but those who think so have never

rightly understood its scope, nor the reach of that stern saying of Johnson's (Idler, No. 3, April 29th, 1758): “Little does he (who assumes the character of a critic) think how many harmless men he involves in his own guilt, by teaching them to be noxious without malignity, and to repeat objections which they do not understand.” And truly not in this kind only, but in all things whatsoever, there is not, to my mind, a more woeful or wonderful matter of thought than the power of a fool. In the world's affairs there is no design so great or good but it will take twenty wise men to help it forward a few inches, and a single fool can stop it; there is no evil so great or so terrible but that, after a multitude of counselors have taken means to avert it, a single fool will bring it down. Pestilence, famine, and the sword are given into the fool's hand as the arrows into the hand of the giant: and if he were fairly set forth in the right motley, the web of it should be sackcloth and sable; the bells on his cap, passing bells; his badge, a bear robbed of her whelps; and his bauble, a sexton's spade.

« AnteriorContinuar »