« ПретходнаНастави »
ernment. We can merely express our profound feeling of its importance-our conviction that, if our towns are to be beautified and cleared, if we must not relinquish every hope of such an artistic education for the mass of our people as is presented by the very streets of certain Continental towns—if, in one word, all those local duties and reforms are to be rightly performed, to which a central government can not, under any circumstances, be expected to direct its attention, the Municipal Institutions of a large empire must be in free and vigorous working.
We have thus, in faint and partial outline, traced at least the initial steps in what, without unsettling any part of our social system, without any startling innovation, and without the very possibility of revolution, might prove a thorough and all-embracing reform. We can imagine our words appearing to some to have an unreal and Utopian sound, and it had been easy to throw ourselves open to this charge; but we think we have not in any measure done so. It were surely a depressing consideration, if, to the calmest and most careful thought, it seemed an impossibility that freedom might yet achieve triumphs unexampled, perhaps undreamed of, in the history of the world. It were Utopian, indeed, if we represented the attainment as easy; and all we have said would deserve to be put aside with a pitying smile, if we fancied that by one effort, or through the wisdom, theoretic and practical, of any one scheme, a nation was to be regenerated. But if we confess that the realization of perfect freedom appears to us,
every aspect, a work of difficulty; and ground our hopes of this realization upon the gradual, almost or altogether imperceptible pervasion of the nation by a deeper nobleness and a more substantial intelligence; we see not on what a charge of Utopianism can be based. We can not even profess to entertain
immediate or sanguine hope; but we will not relinquish a profrund conviction of possibility, or a clear assurance of duty. And as we set out from Christianity, as we found in it the basis upon which a system of free social relations could be reared, it is only by returning to Christianity, and finding in it a golden band to unite the whole in safety, harmony, and beauty, that we can irrefragably demonstrate the possibility, while assured it is the sole possibility, of the execution of our scheme. The real happiness of freedom was never in the course of human history attained by a nation morally weak, licentious, irreverent, feeling itself bound by no relations to an unseen world. The alliance of freedom and irreligion, which we have seen attempted in these latter ages, is anomalous and impossible. Show me a sniffling, unbelieving, debauched, playacting thing, gesticulating on its platform or stump, swelling with conceit and self-importance, listening open-eared for any faint breath of applause, basely flattering the crowd before it, mere animal greed in its eye, and mere tirade about the felicity of the rich and the removal of taxes on its lips, and will show you that which no earthly power will ever make free. That heart has not width enough to hold the love of freedom, that poor head can not form its very conception; it is but an imaginary and absurd delusion of which that tongue is prating: freedom disowns the whole exhibition. But show me a working man, who, from his free fireside, with his own loving wife beside him, and his children smiling in his face, can look beyond earth and time, and see a King, from whom he holds a charter of freedom, seated on an eternal throne, the rays from His eye falling equally on the king and the peasant, the oak and the lichen ; who has not contracted his wishes and thoughts upon the spreading of his table and the covering of his back, or any thing which he will have to sur
render to the cold grasp of death ; who has not denied his immaterial existence, but knows that it is as a thinking, reasoning, loving spirit, that man has a real existence and a perennial nobleness; and I will show you one on whom freedom will look with hope. Hear the calm testimony of history on this point: the following passage, on the disbanding of the great army of Puritanism, with which we close this Book, is, we believe, a testimony to the power of Christianity to fit a nation for conjoining freedom with law, to which no philosophic system can even pretend to adduce a parallel, which stands absolutely alone, in the annals of man :
“Fifty thousand men, accustomed to the profession of arms, were at once thrown on the world: and experience seemed to warrant the belief that this change would produce much misery and crime, that the discharged veterans would be seen begging in every street, or would be driven by hunger to pillage. But no such result followed. In a few months there remained not a trace indicating that the most formidable army in the world had been absorbed into the mass of the community. The royalists themselves confessed that, in every department of honest industry, the discarded warrior prospered beyond other men, that none was charged with any theft or robbery, that none was heard to ask an alms, and that, if a baker, a mason, or a wagoner, attracted notice by his diligence and sobriety, he was in all probability one of Oliver's old soldiers.”
CHRISTIANITY THE BASIS OF INDIVIDUAL
INTRODUCTORY: A FEW WORDS ON MODERN DOUBT.
“THOSE,” says Mackintosh," who are early accustomed to dispute first principles, are never likely to acquire in a sufficient degree that earnestness and that sincerity, that strong love of truth and that conscientious solicitude for the formation of just opinions, which are not the least virtues of men, but of which the cultivation is the more especial duty of all who call themselves philosophers.” This is a weighty remark; not, perhaps, singularly recondite, but, beacon-like, giving warning of much, and peculiarly applicable to the present time. Behind us now we see a long roll of ages; as we look backward over the path of mankind, we discern opinions of all sorts maintained by- men of all orders of talent; from belief in transubstantiation to belief in nothing, all beliefs have had their able advocates. This prospect can not again be darkened, this fact can no longer be disguised: while newspapers, and mechanic institutes, and even ragged schools exist, men will know that the mode of their parish, of their country, of their. generation, is not the only conceivable mode. Even the body
of the people can not again, save by an iron despotism, be brought to any such state as subsisted in ages long gone by. It is therefore nothing wonderful, that a common phenomenon of the day is doubt.
In considering the aspects of the time, one can not fail to be struck with the singular spectacles which arise out of this characteristic. We have been forcibly reminded, in reflecting on certain of these, of a certain Arabian tale. We find there recorded the fate of a vessel, whose pilot unfortunately steered her into the too close vicinity of a magnetic mountain. The nails were all attracted, the planks fell asunder, and total wreck ensued. It is no uncommon thing at present, to see a man sailing in the vessel of his belief and appearing to do well enough. But he nears some new system of philosophic or theological thought, or comes within the influence of some man of overwhelming powers. This is the magnetic mountain. It at once draws out the connecting and riveting points of his faith, and his whole ship, himself sprawling among the severed timbers, lies scattered wide on the tossing sea.
But he manages to gather together the floating wreck, he repairs his belief, and again sets sail : Lo! another magnetic mountain; the nails are again flying; again he lies discomfited among waves and mere confused planks. His courage does not quite fail, however; yet again he gets piece to piece, and, under a new phase, once more sets forth: and so it proceeds, mountain after mountain, and phase after phase, the whole voyage being taken up either in refitting, or in proclaiming that now at last a balmy and salubrious region has been entered, that all ships ought to sail on this tack, and that the last magnetic mountain (the head of the next just becoming visible in the horizon) is positively the last in this world.
Now we think it can not be denied that there is an unwonted