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this extreme attraction which persons have for us, but that they are the Age ? they are the results of the Past; they are the heralds of the Future. They indicate,—these witty, suffering, blushing, intimidating figures of the only race in which there are individuals or changes, how far on the Fate has gone, and what it drives at. As trees make scenery, and constitute the whole hospitality of the landscape, so persons are the world to persons. A cunning mystery by which the Great Desart of thoughts and of planets takes this engaging form, to bring, as it would seem, its meanings nearer to the mind. Thoughts walk and speak, and look with eyes at me, and transport me into new and magnificent scenes. These are the pungent instructors who thrill the heart of each of us, and make all other teaching formal and cold. How I follow them with aching heart, with pining desire! I count myself nothing before them. I would die for them with joy. They can do what they will with me. How they lash us with those tongues! How they make the tears start, make us blush and turn pale, and lap us in Elysium to soothing dreams, and castles in the air! By tones of triumph; of dear love ; by threats ; by pride that freezes; these have the skill to make the world look bleak and inhospitable, or seem the nest of tenderness and joy. I do not wonder at the miracles which poetry attributes to the music of Orpheus, when I remember what I have experienced from the varied notes of the human voice. They are an incalculable energy which countervails all other forces in nature, because they are the channel of supernatural powers. There is no place, or interest, or institution, so poor and withered, but if a new strong man could be born into it, he would immediately redeem and replace it. A personal ascendancy,—that is the only fact much worth considering. I remember, some years ago, somebody shocked a circle of friends of order here in Boston, who supposed that our people were identified with their religious denominations, by declaring that an eloquent man,- let him be of what sect soever,—would be ordained at once in one of our metropolitan churches. To be sure he would; and not only in ours, but in any church, mosque, or temple, on the planet; but he must be eloquent, able to supplant our method and classification, by the superior beauty of his own. Every fact we have was brought here by some person; and there is none that will not change and pass away before a person, whose nature is broader than the person which the fact in question represents. And so I find the Age walking about in happy and hopeful natures, in strong eyes and pleasant thoughts; and think I read it nearer and truer so, than in the statute book, or in the investments of capital, which rather celebrate with mournful music the obsequies of the last age. In the brain of the fanatic; in the wild hope of a mountain boy, called by the city boys very ignorant, because they do not know what his hope has certainly apprised him shall be ; in the love-glance of a girl ; in the hair-splitting conscientiousness of some eccentric person, who has found some new scruple to embarrass himself and his neighbours withal ; is to be found that which shall constitute the times to come, more than in the now organized and accredited oracles. For whatever is affirmative and now advancing, contains it. I think that only is real, which men love and rejoice in; not what they tolerate, but what they choose ; what they embrace and avow, and not the things which chill, benumb, and terrify them.
And so why not draw for these times & portrait gallery ? Let us paint the painters. Whilst the Daguerreotype professor, with camera-obscura and silver plate, begins now to traverse the land, let us set up our Camera also, and let the sun paint the people. Let us paint the agitator, and the man of the old school, and the member of Congress, and the college-professor, the formidable editor, the priest and reformer, the contemplative girl, and the fair aspirant for fashion and opportunities, the woman of the world who has tried and knows ;–let us examine how well she knows. Good office it were, with delicate finger, in the most decisive, yet in the most parliamentary and unquestionable manner, to indicate the indicators, to indicate those who most accurately represent every good and evil tendency of the general mind, in the just order which they take on this canvas of Time; so
that all witnesses should recognise a spiritual law, as each well-known form fitted for a moment across the wall. So should we have, if it were rightly done, a series of sketches which would report to the next ages the colour and quality of ours.
Certainly, I think, if this were done, there would be much to admire as well as to condemn; souls of as lofty a port as any in Greek or Roman fame, might appear; men of might, and of great heart, of strong hand, and of persuasive speech; subtle thinkers, and men of wide sympathy, and an appre"hension which looks over all history, and everywhere recognises its own. To be sure, there will be fragments and hints of men, more than enough : bloated promises of men, which end in nothing or little. And then truly great men, but with some defect in their composition which neutralizes their whole force. Here is a Damascus blade of a man, such as you may search through nature in vain to parallel, laid up on the shelf in some village to rust and ruin. And how many seem not quite available for that idea which they represent! Meantime, there comes now and then a bolder spirit, I should rather say, a more surrendered soul, more informed and led by God, which is much in advance of the rest, quite beyond their sympathy, but predicts what shall soon be the general fulness; as when we stand by the sea-shore, whilst the tide is coming in, a wave comes up the beach far higher than any foregoing one, and recedes ; and for a long while none comes up to that mark; but after some time the whole sea is there and beyond it.
But we are not permitted to stand as spectators at the pageant which the times exhibit: we are parties also, and have a responsibility which is not to be declined. A little while this interval of wonder and comparison is permitted us, but to the end that we shall play a manly part. As the solar system moves forward in the heavens, certain stars open before us, and certain stars close up behind us ; so is man's life. The reputations that were great and inaccessible they change and tarnish. How great were once Lord Bacon's dimensions! he is become but a middle-sized man; and many another star has turned out to be a planet or an asteroid : only a few are the fixed stars which have no parallax, or none for us. The change and decline of old reputations are the gracious marks of our own growth. Slowly, like light of morning, it steals on us, the new fact, that we, who were pupils or aspirants, are now society: do compose a portion of that head and heart, we are wont to think worthy of all reverence and heed. We are the representatives of religion and intellect, and stand in the light of Ideas, whose rays stream through us to those younger and more in the dark. What further relations we sustain, what new lodges we are entering, is now unknown. Let us give heed to what surrounds us. To-day is a king in disguise. To-day always looks trivial to the thoughtless, in the face of an uniform experience, that all good and great and happy actions are made up precisely of these blank to-days. Let us not be so deceived. Let us unmask the king as he passes. Let us not inhabit times of wonderful and various promise without once divining their tendency. Let us not see the foundations of nations, and of a new and better order of things laid, with roving eyes, and an attention pre-occupied with trifles. But it is time to check the course of these miscellaneous and introductory remarks, and proceed to some sketches of the aspect which our times exhibit to one who looks in the class of the most intelligent and responsible minds for the omens of the future.
The two omnipresent parties of History, the party of the Past and the party of the Future, divide society to-day as of old. Here is the innumerable multitude of those who accept the state of the church from the last generation, and stand on no argument but possession. They have reason also, and, as I think, better reason than is commonly stated. No Burke, no Metternich, has yet done full justice to the side of conservatism. But this class, however large, relying, not on the intellect but on instinct, blends itself with the brute forces of nature, is respectable only as nature is, but the individuals have no attraction for us. It is the dissenter, the theorist, the aspirant, who is quitting this ancient domain to embark on seas
of adventure, who engages our interest. Omitting then for the present all notice of the stationary class, we shall find that the movement party divides itself into two classes, the actors, and the students.
The actors constitute that great army of martyrs who, at least in America, by their conscience and philanthropy occupy the ground which Calvinism occupied in the last age, and do constitute the visible church of the existing generation. The present age will be marked by its harvest of projects, for the reformn of domestic, civil, literary, and ecclesiastical institutions. The leaders of the crusades against War, Negro slavery, Intemperance, Government based on force, usages of trade, Court and Custom-house Oaths, and so on to the agitators on the system of Education, and the laws of Property, are the right successors of Luther, Knox, Robinson, Fox, Penn, Wesley, and Whitfield. They have the same virtues and vices; the same noble impulse, and the same bigotry. These movements are on all accounts inportant; they not only check the special abuses to which they address themselves, but they educate the conscience and the intellect of the people. How can such a question as the Slave trade be agitated for forty years by all the Christian nations, without throwing great light on ethics into the general mind ? The fury with which the Slave-trader defends every inch of his bloody deck, and his howling auction-platform, is a trumpet to alarm the ear of mankind, to wake the dull, and drive all neutrals to take sides, and listen to the argument and the verdict which justice shall finally pronounce. The Temperance-question, which rides the conversation of ten thousand circles, and is tacitly re-called at every public and at every private table, drawing with it all the curious ethics of the Pledge, of the Wine-question, of the equity of the manufacture and the trade, is a gymnastic training to the casuistry and conscience of the time. Anti-masonry had a deep right and wrong, which gradually emerged to sight out of the turbid controversy. The political questions touching the Banks; the Tariff; the limits of the executive power ; the right of the constituent to instruct the representative;