網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

to those feelings which I have thus feebly expressed for myself and those contributors whom I represent to-night, I commend this great power into your hands, convinced that you will so use it as to leave the generation that shall follow you better than the present."

The Chairman sat down amidst that applause which had continue ally cheered him throughout his long and eloquent address, and Mr. Barker rose, but to re-excite those echoes of feeling, and to stand for some time silent, amidst the loud congratulations and welcomes of his friends.

At length he said, after a great effort to calm his feelings, and command his usual clear utterance :-My friends,

I need scarcely tell you that I rise under the influence of very peculiar emotions. I cannot but be greatly delighted with what bas taken place, and cannot but feel the great responsibility that weighs upon my mind. This is a happy day for me, and one that must be remembered for ever. My desire is, that it may be the beginning of a better day to multitudes, and that a greater gift than that conferred on me, may, through that gift, be conferred on the great masses of my fellow creatures. I feel bound, in the first place, to give thanks to that Great Being, who is our kind and

mercifal Father, and our unfailing and everlasting Friend. It is He who has caused the brightness of this light to dawn upon us, and who has brought us to this happy day. To Him first, then, I render my most devout thanks, my most grateful acknowledgments, for that kind eye that has thus far watched over me, and that strong and faithful hand that has thus far guided and supported me.

That merciful Providence, I gratefully confess, notwithstanding many sorrows and afflictions which, young as I comparatively am, have thrown some bitterness into my cup of life, has still made that life one continued blessing to me, and I trust, that, by the assistance of my Friend and Father in Heaven, I may be able to make what remains of it also a blessing to my fellow-beings. Mr. Barker then proceeded to say, that he ought next to thank those kind friends, who, in their thoughtfulness, liberality, and kindness had imitated the Heavenly Father, and had conferred on him one of the greatest blessings of life, the means of blessing others. He next gave his thanks to Dr. Bowring, their excellent Chairman, who had shown so much interest in promoting the object,--to Dr. Bateman, who took the matter up at the beginning, or nearly so, and had persevered in it, through all difficulties, and brought it to a successful termination,—to Mr. Corkran, to Mr. Gibson, he owed his thanks, and to many more ; and also to the multitude of his poor and humble friends, who were the first to contribute out of their penury. It was a poor man that gave him the first piece of gold that he received for this object ; and it was the same poor man who had lately sent him ten shillings to purchase the first coals with, for the consumption of the engine. He was not there, but his son and daughter were, and he hoped that they would take back with them this expression of the sense he entertained of the kindness done him. He (Mr. Barker) was but a poor man, and not the most popular of men. He had excited alarm, bitter antipathy, and perhaps rage, in a thousand thousand opposing tongues, and hearts and hands. It had been his duty to oppose principles which many regarded as essential to Christianity, and to maintain principles which were everywhere spoken against, but which he believed to be the divinest, happiest, best. Comparatively few dared to avow themselves his enemies. Comparatively few dared to avow themselves his friends, but it was the way to patronage and favour to avow themselves his enemies. But there were men in high and honourable situations who had dared to come before the wide world and acknowledge him as a friend and "brother. It was easy to patronise those who stood well in public estimation, to help the strong, and to help those who did not want any help. They had that day conferred upon him a machine of vast influence, which might reach millions of minds; and it had been conferred by those who could gain nothing of earthly good from him ; by those, indeed, many of whom knew that they risked much by extending to him their countenance and assistance, but who yet preferred truth and light, and justice, to all that man could give. If he could tell them all that he felt, when he considered this honest self-devotion of theirs, he would; but he could not, and therefore he must try to live his feelings and act them, and he had some confidence that the result would be satisfactory. He begged them all to accept his thanks, and he would strive to recompense his friends, not by returning their gift, or anything for their gift, but by making their kindness an universal blessing. But, however, as he felt the good-will that had been shown him, it was not for personal favours that he felt the most gratitude. There were other feelings that had the largest place, and should have, therefore, the largest expression, in every corner of his heart. Their friend in the chair had given him much good advice as to the proper use of the press, and preached him a most excellent sermon, and he should now be glad to do something in that line also himself, and communicate a little wholesome counsel to others. In the first place, they were all, of course, Christians, and all bound to live and labour for that pure and god-like and benignant object for which their great Master had toiled and bled. Charity was not the only or the highest duty of life. They were bound, not in words only, but in deeds, to show themselves followers of him who went about doing good. To do good was the great and proper business of our lives. He who made men wise and good, conferred the highest blessings that could be conferred on man. An important question then came to be, by what means could this be most effectually promoted ? First, a man must be good himself ? secondly, to let the great principles of truth and love that filled his own breast run over into the cups of others, and talk the great prin. ciples of truth and love; thirdly, he must take his brother by the hand, and see what he could do for him-see how he could instruct and bless him-see how he could fill the world with those little colleges in which old and young might be collected and benefited. By the mightiest of all mighty means of spreading the good a man had in him. self was the press—the multiplication of good instructive works and tracts. For his own part, the most happy and most salutary influences that had been exerted in his spirit he owed to books. To books he owed the chief part of all he knew-to books he owed the chier of what he was, and that he was better than he might have been. In proportion as good books had been placed in the hands of nations, had those nations been made great and happy ; whereas the lowest nations in the world were those that had the fewest books. Excellent words had been spoken that evening, but where were they ? Some had left no record of themselves, but even these were not lost, for he trusted that they had fallen on honest and good hearts. But some were written,--and how much more good would be done by these--for the labour of the pen would perpetuate them. But how greatly were their good effects increased when what was transcribed. by the pen was printed by the press ; for those, what 600 or 800 people only had heard millions might read. Here was a mightier influence still, and one that might be eternal. The best words that had ever been uttered had first fallen on good ground, and then been written, and then printed. Jesus Christ did not commit his words to writing, but they fell upon the good hearts of his Apostles, and the rich, and touching and divine story of his life was the means of spreading the highest and most abundant blessings on all the generations of men that had succeeded, and would do on generations yet unborn. In this world of ours, there were immense natural treasures, and infinite means and sources of knowledge and goodness. If any portion of the world were poor, they had not to attribute it to niggardliness on the part of the great and good God, but to some dark error in the thoughts or conduct of man. The all-bounteous Providence had supplied us with stone and timber, wherewith to build our dwellings ; gold and silver and iron, wherewith to minister to human convenience and delight. If there be any want, it must be because there was some waste, or because there was some niggardliness. We either lost our means from carelessness and extravagance, or hoarded them, and refused to put them iuto circulation. Let them try to diffuse and circulate their means of happiness, and then they would not have long hours or oppressive toil to complain of, and yet there would be enough for all and to spare. Let no man murder himself, and others, by consuming more than he wants himself, and starving them ; and the whole universe would be happy in the enjoymeut of the riches of a good Providence. All ought to be rich in a rich world. For this reason he devoutly rejoiced that every unjust and wicked law that inter- 4 fered to prevent the happy object, such as the Corn-law and the Customs-law, made for the benefit of the few, and the loss of the many, should be abolished ; and then, without waiting for another world to be happy in, we might be happy in this, and bring down heaven upon the earth. But especially bad God multiplied spiritual treasures. He had never lived apart from the souls of his creatures. The spirit of God had ever been prompting and stirring men to their duty. We had right enough to make the world one blaze if we would use it. But some new part of it had got under a bushel, and of part of it men had contrived to make a monopoly, and thus light had not been, as it should, the universal patrimony of God's children. Some untrusting persons, indeed, might say that we must be careful of these treasures of body and soul, and not use them too lavishly ; that if so much iron was taken for making railroads and engines, there might not be enough left for the rim of a cartwheel : and so of coal, that if so much were used in our manufac

tories, perhaps there would not be enough left to light a fire with. But God knew from the first what would be wanted, and he had provided for the wants of his creatures, however extended and numerous they might be. But even if all the coal should be burnt up, there are other, living coals, which should never be consumed. The treasures of mental wealth were always abundant, and always increasing, and yet people had been poor-poor, not by necessity, but by bad arrangement and lack of opportunity ; but all should be, as all might be, rich. Men should consider the treasures of knowledge as God's ample and inexhaustible gift, designed for the enrichment and blessedness of the whole human race. The chief and almost sole object of his life would be to distribute those treasures, and as long as he had lungs and strength, he meant to talk and write. But he should also listen to others, and ascertain what he could learn from them; and then, whatever he found of good or wise in others he would send it abroad through that press-he would send it, if he could, into the head and heart and home of every man, woman, and child in the globe. He would tell them freely what he intended to do with the present. He hoped to aid the cause of freedom-freedom of mind, and body, limb and soul ; to help to obtain for them a thorough and everlasting emancipation. He wished to aid the cause of temperance ; he intended to multiply those lessons which had regenerated Ireland and improved England. He desired to aid free commerce, and nothing in the wide world would be sweeter to his soul than to aid that cause : for it was wicked for a rich man to rob a poor man, or for a poor man to rob the rich ; but what sort of wickedness was that, when it was the rich who robbed the poor? And all those laws which forbade those who had human sustenance to bring it to those who had it not—all those restrictions on free interchange—were only so many ways of rich robbing poor, and it was well that this should be seen and said plainly, for what would make a thief ashamed but daylight ? He intended his press to throw some daylight on such subjects, such a flood of daylight that none should have heart hard enough, or face brazen enough, to enable him to rob any more. With regard to temperance, if he advocated it when people mobbed him for doing so, he was not likely to forget to advocate it when the cause was become popular. If he had helped to roll the stone up the hill, he should not refuse to give a lift to it when it was near the top. He would devote his press also to the cause of sanatory reform,-i. e., to the cause of people having clean faces, and clean bodies, and clean houses ; and excluding, from within and from around their dwellings, all noisome exhalations ; and securing for themselves an unceasing supply of good, sweet, pure, fresh air. He wisbed men to have clean souls in clean bodies, and clean bodies in clean houses. Let any man put into his hands a good, sound, useful book or tract, on sanatory reform, and he would print it, and do his best to circulate it. He was described as an irreligious man, and one who was endeavouring to sink the world in unbelief. He would rather die at once, than injure true religion. He would not wish to live, except for religion. He could not have lived through the many troubles of his short life, if religion had not given him its support. He had toiled in hot, crowded rooms, night after night, and ridden home on the outside

of the coach on a cold winter's night, in order to be at home for his regular duty on the Sabbath, in the advocacy of Christianity. His old friends said how awfully changed he was ; but he had not ceased to advocate a single principle that he had then advocated. Religion was his all, his comfort, and his joy. If religion were checked, the world would go back. It was the lifter up of the down-trodden ; it came from God in love and mercy ; it was the fairest offspring of heaven ; it was the best, the eternal friend of man. He knew what people said. They said, “You don't teach this, and you don't teach that.” “No,” he answered, “and you ão, and you've taught it too long." He did not teach that God was a cruel and vindictive being, and that man was a degraded and corrupt slave. He did not and Jesus did not; and he would never consent to use his tongue or his press to slander the Fountain of Good-to advocate principles which held man chained down under unutterable terrors, and made him a mean, pitiful, wretched, trembling slave. He would not do this ; and God ever preserve him from doing it. He that made us all, loved us all.-[Mr. Barker then gave a description of what, in his view, was true religion.] Many people had had no other horn-book than a sign-post ; many more had learnt to read from tombstones. He was thankful for such things as sign-posts and tombstones, but he was also glad that there began to be now something better that was accessible. Some time since, a good book that a poor man wanted would perhaps cost sixteen shillings ; but that was nearly two hundred pence, and, perhaps, more than a week's wages. It came down, though, to twelve, ten, or even eight shillings ; but he would bring it down to eightpence. He knew how he had suffered from the want of means of knowledge, when he was young ; he knew how he had hungered after books ; and he remembered how he went crying to that poor mother-(Mrs. Barker was sitting with her aged husband at one of the tables near)—to give him threepence to buy a book. He would print two thousand copies of a twenty-four page tract in an hour, at the price of one penny, or even a halfpenny. He would print forty thousand in a day, and work no more than ten hours a-day. The paper would be a farthing, and the work a farthing ; but this could only be done by large quantities being printed. That same tract, if there were only one copy of it printed, would cost £5 ; and so it might be said more truly by the printer than by the old fruit-woman, who declared that she sold every apple at a loss, that he lost by every tract he printed ; and it was only by selling a great number that he could make it answer. Next to tracts, he would have pamphlets ; and next to pamphlets, books ; and next to books, a library. That project, of a poor man's library, was very dear to him. He wished to publish three hundred volumes, at eightpence each, in cloth ; and he would begin the moment he had five thonsand subscribers. They would come out at the rate, probably, of three volumes a fortnight ; this would cost one shilling per week. He might, in the long run, perhaps, want a new press or two; for there were a strange kind of creatures, called publishers, in London, and perhaps somewhere else, with whom, perhaps, their Chairman had had somcthing to do, that gave authors great trouble. He

« 上一頁繼續 »