This again is the mystery and the dignity of our human nature, that we can not give up our reason, without giving up at the same time our individual personality. For that must appear to each man to be his reason which produces in him the highest sense of certainty ; and yet it is not reason, except so far as it is of universal validity and obligatory on all mankind. There is a one heart for the whole mighty mass of humanity, and every pulse in each particular vessel strives to beat in concert with it. He who asserts that truth is of no importance except in the signification of sincerity, confounds sense with madness, and the word of God with a dream. If the power of reasoning be the gift of the supreme Reason, that we be sedulous, yea, and militant in the endeavor to reason aright, is his implied command. But what is of permanent and essential interest to one man.must needs be so to all, in proportion to the means and opportunities of each. Woe to him by whom these are neglected, and double woe to him by whom they are withholden ; for he robs at once himself and his neighbor. That man's soul is not dear to himself, to whom the souls of his brethren are not dear.

As far as they can be influenced by him, they are parts and properties of his own soul, their faith his faith, their errors his burthen, their righteousness and bliss his righteousness and his reward—and of their guilt and misery his own will be the echo. As much as I love


fellow-men, so much and no more will I be intolerant of their heresies and unbelief-and I will honor and hold forth the right hand of fellowship to every individual who is equally intolerant of that which he conceives such in me. We will both exclaim— I know not what antidotes among the complex views, impulses and circumstances, that form your moral being, God's gracious providence may have vouchsafed to you against the serpent fang of this error,—but it is a viper, and its poison deadly, although through higher influences some men may take the reptile to their bosom, and remain unstung.'

In one of those poisonous journals, which deal out profaneness, hate, fury, and sedition through the land, I read the following paragraph. “ The Brahmin believes that every man will be saved in his own persuasion, and that all religions are equally pleasing to the God of all. The Christian confines salvation to the believer in his own Vedas and Shasters. Which is the more humane and philosophic creed of the two ?” Let question answer question. Self-complacent scoffer! Whom meanest thou by God? The God of truth?—and can He be pleased with falsehood, and the debasement or utter suspension of the reason which he gave to man that he might receive from him the sacrifice of truth? Or the God of love and mercy ?-and can He be pleased with the blood of thousands poured out under the wheels of Juggernaut, or with the shrieks of children offered up as fire offerings to Baal or to Moloch? Or dost thou mean the God of holiness and infinite purity ?--and can He be pleased with abominations unutterable and more than brutal defilements and equally pleased too as with that religion, which commands us that we have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but to reprove them ;--with that religion, which strikes the fear of the Most High so deeply, and the sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin so inwardly, that the believer anxiously inquires : Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?-and which makes answer to him, — He hath showed thee, O man, what is good ; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?* But I check myself. It is at once folly and profanation of truth, to reason with the man who can place before his eyes a minister of the Gospel directing the eye of the widow from the corpse of her husband upward to his and her Redeemer,—(the God of the living and not of the dead)—and then the remorseless Brahmin goading on the disconsolate victim to the flames of her husband's funeral pile, abandoned by, and abandoning, the helpless pledges of their loveand yet dare ask, which is the more humane and philosophic creed of the two ?-No! No! when such opinions are in question I neither am, nor will be, nor wish to be regarded as, tolerant. ESSAY XIV.

* Micah vi. 7, 8.-Ed.

Knowing the heart of man is set to be
The centre of this world, about the which
These revolutions of disturbances
Still roll; where all the aspects of misery
Predominate; whose strong effects are such,
As he must bear, being powerless to redress :
And that unless above himself he can
Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!


I HAVE thus endeavored, with an anxiety which may perhaps have misled me into prolixity, to detail and ground the conditions under which the communication of truth is commanded or forbidden to us as individuals, by our conscience; and those too, under which it is permissible by the law which controls our conduct as members of the state. But is the subject of sufficient importance to deserve so minute an examination ? readers would look round the world, as it now is, and make to themselves a faithful catalogue of its many miseries! From what do these proceed, and on what do they depend for their continuance ? Assuredly, for the greater part, on the actions of men, and those again on the want of a vital principle of action. We live by faith. The essence of virtue consists in the principle. And the reality of this, as well as its importance, is believed by all men in fact, few as there may be who bring the truth forward into the light of distinct consciousness. Yet all men feel, and at times acknowledge to themselves, the true cause of their misery. There is no man so base, but that at some time or other, and in some way or other, he admits that he is not what he ought to be, though by a curious art of self-delusion, by an effort to keep at peace with himself as long and as much as possible, he will throw off the blame from the amenable part of his nature, his moral principle, to that which is independent of his will, namely, the degree of his intellectual faculties. Hence, for once that a man exclaims, how dishonest I am! on what base and unworthy motives I act! we may hear a hundred times, what a fool I am! curse on my folly! and the like.*

O that my

* Epistle to the Countess of Cumberland.-Ed.

Yet even this implies an obscure sentiment, that with clearer conceptions in the understanding, the principle of action would become purer in the will. Thanks to the image of our Maker not wholly obliterated from any human soul, we dare not purchase an exemption from guilt by an excuse, which would place our melioration out of our own power. Thus the very man, who will abuse himself for a fool but not for a villain, would rather, spite of the usual professions to the contrary, be condemned as a rogue by other men, than be acquitted as a blockhead. But be this as it may, in and out of himself, however, he sees plainly the true cause of our common complaints. Doubtless, there seem many physical causes of distress, of disease, of poverty and of desolation--tempests, earthquakes, volcanos, wild or venomous animals, barren soils, uncertain or tyrannous climates, pestilential swamps, and death in the very air we breathe. Yet when do we hear the general wretchedness of mankind attributed to these? Even in the most awful of the Icelandic and Sicilian eruptions, when the earth has opened and sent forth vast rivers of fire, and the smoke and vapor have dimmed the light of heaven for months, how small has been the comparative injury to the human race ;—and how much even of this injury might be fairly attributed to combined imprudence and superstition ! Natural calamities that do indeed spread devastation wide (for instance, the marsh fever), are almost without exception, voices of nature in her all-intelligible language-do this ! or cease to do that! By the mere absence of one superstition, and of the sloth engendered by it, the plague would probably cease to exist throughout Asia and Africa. Pronounce meditatively the name of Jenner, and ask what might we not hope, what need we deem unattainable, if all the time, the effort, the skill, which we waste in making

* I do not consider as exceptions the thousands that abuse themselves by rote with lip-penitence, or the wild ravings of fanaticism; for these persons at the very time they speak so vehemently of the wickedness and rottenness of their hearts, are then commonly the warmest in their own good opinion, covered round and comfortable in the wrap-rascal of self-hypocrisy.



ourselves miserable through vice, and vicious through misery, were embodied and marshalled to a systematic war against the existing evils of nature ! No, It is a wicked world! This is so generally the solution, that this very wickedness is assigned by selfish men, as their excuse for doing nothing to render it better, and for opposing those who would make the attempt. What have not Clarkson, Granville Sharp, Wilberforce, and the Society of the Friends, effected for the honor, and if we believe in a retributive Providence, for the continuance of the prosperity of the English nation, imperfectly as the intellectual and moral faculties of the people at large are developed at present! What may not be effected, if the recent discovery of the means of educating nations (freed, however, from the vile sophistications and mutilations of ignorant mountebanks) shall have been applied to its full extent! Would I frame to myself the most inspiring representation of future bliss, which my mind is capable of comprehending, it would be embodied to me in the idea of Bell receiving, at some distant period, the appropriate reward of his earthly labors, when thousands and ten thousands of glorified spirits, whose reason and conscience had, through his efforts, been unfolded, shall sing the song of their own redemption, and pouring forth praises to God and to their Saviour, shall repeat his new name in heaven, give thanks for his earthly virtues, as the chosen instruments of divine mercy to themselves, and not seldom perhaps turn their eyes toward him, as from the sun to its image in the fountain, with secondary gratitude and the permitted utterance of a human love! Were but a hundred men to combine a deep conviction that virtuous habits may be formed by the very means by which knowledge is communicated, that men may be made better, not only in consequence, but by the mode, and in the process, of instruction ;-were but a hundred men to combine that clear conviction of this, which I myself at this moment feel, even as I feel the certainty of my being, with the perseverance of a Clarkson or a Bell, the promises of ancient prophecy would disclose themselves to our faith, even as when a noble castle hidden from us by an intervening mist, discovers itself by its reflection in the tranquil lake, on the opposite shore of which we stand gazing * What an awful duty, what a nurse of all other, the fairest vir

* This is, I fear, too complex, too accidental an image to be conveyed by words to those, who have not seen it themselves in nature. 1830.

« 上一页继续 »