« PredošláPokračovať »
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
are not philosophers of the kind who suppose that the 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 super
annuated 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
LL experience goes to teach us, that among men of average intellect the most useful members of society are the dissectors, 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 elements 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 country, until you make it a simple and plain business, providing 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.
IN MANY matters of opinion, our first and last coincide, though 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
Y FAR the greater part of the suffering and crime which exist 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.
HEREVER 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.
T MAY perhaps be said that I attach too much importance to the 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.
HE most helpless and sacred work which can at present be done for humanity is to teach people (chiefly by example, as all best teaching must be done) not how to "better themselves," but how to "satisfy themselves." It is the curse of every evil nature and creature to eat and not be satisfied. The words of blessing are, that they shall eat and be satisfied; and as there is only one kind of water which quenches all thirst, so there is only one kind of bread which satisfies all hunger,- the bread of justice or righteousness, which, hungering after, men shall always be filled, that being the bread of heaven; but hungering after the bread of wages of unrighteousness shall not be filled, that being the bread of Sodom. And in order to teach men how to be satisfied, it is necessary fully to understand the art of joy and humble life-this, at present, of all arts or sciences, being the one most needing study. Humble life, that is to say, proposing to itself no future exaltation, but only a sweet continuance; not excluding the idea of foresight, but wholly of fore-sorrow, and taking no troublous thought for coming days; so also not excluding the idea of providence or provision, but wholly of accumulation; the life of domestic affection and domestic peace, full of sensitiveness to all elements of costless and kind pleasure; - therefore, chiefly to the loveliness of the natural world.