Изображения страниц

the plot, were the simple attempt. So far it was necessary : but this was all. There was no searching out of the cause. There was no redress of the visitation. Two Commissions have recently been sent forth, of a more healing character. Judges were not heralded into cities and towns for the punishment of offence. Enquiries were made into the state of things. Referees were constituted for every complaint. It is of the principle, the temper, of such provisions that we speak. They intimate another system. That which was conducted in Wales, has actually worked its good. That which was extended to Ireland, has brought to light the evils of uncertain tenure in a manner which promises their early extinction. This is the way to meet a people : it is true policy, it is Christian legislation.

It is high time that they who profess Christianity should entertain both kindlier and juster feelings towards our common humanity. We are too much swayed by the extrinsic. We narrow our interest too much by the caste. We owe more to man as man. He may make himself vile, but he cannot make himself indifferent. His greatness will burst forth in spite of all his humiliations. We ought to reckon with him according to his true capacity and being. We are bound to set store upon him according to his unseen and predicted worth. We must follow him forth into his futurities of existence. Where we cannot give our homage, we can but the less withhold our suspense.

What is the possible of such a creature ! How tremendous are the alternatives which lie in the infinite of his duration !

Many writers suppose us inconsistent. They speak of man as unfallen. They regard him as now existing in his original condition. They treat him with scorn. They throw an air of ridicule around him. They mock and jeer him. They press us to unite with them in this contempt. They rely upon our concert, because of our avowed conviction that he is a degenerate creature. But our animadversions are of another kind. We cannot despise the lowest of the low, the vilest of the vile. We may shudder at their debasement. We may tremble for their doom. But our feelings are at the farthest remove from any sympathy with them who speak lightly of human nature. We see in it a fearful lapse. How different is their tone from ours! We regret it,—they make selfish use of it. We speak with pity, they sport with it in scoff. We respect the original,—they see no trace of a higher state. We attempt its retrieval,—they despair. We behold in each individual man, the immortal, the charge of a Providence, the subject of an Atonement, the heir of an eternal Retribution. We mark the remains of greatness. We recognise the capacity and pledge of a restoration to that greatness. We see what was the innocence in the defilement. We learn the majesty from the ruins. Never will we consent to the disparagement of such a being !

The nature of man is the shoal on which all infidel philosophy, and, if it can be, all infidel benevolence, are wrecked. These cannot explain him. They mark contrasts in him which they cannot reconcile. The great and the little, the strong and the weak, the divine and the infernal, they cannot adjust. His origin they cannot deduce. His recovery they cannot meditate. They may explore all secrets, and master all difficulties, but this. Christianity alone makes it plain. Man is great but fallen, is strong but sinning, is divine but debased : therefore is he spiritually little, weak, infernal. It brings him back to spiritual greatness, strength, and divinity. It shows him all that he was, is, shall be. It explains the intermediate stages and processes. It accounts for all. Man! taught by this religion, I can abhor thee, dread thee, reverence thee, bemoan thee, shun thee, flee thee! But, О fearful, mysterious, being, I cannot slight thee !

There is something that may be regarded of the incidental and the adventitious in man, not affecting the intimacies of his nature. Of this kind are his secular connections, conditions, and pursuits. He is a kinsman, bound in ties of household and of relationship, but soon the stream of his life - blood will cease to flow. He is a citizen, held by many political duties, but soon the noblest empires will have faded from the world. He is linked to this earth as his local habitation, but soon the earth will have been

consumed in flames. He may have been rich or poor, exalted or depressed, influential or inert. But whatever he has been, and though all these revolutions overtake him, there is an essence in him, a self, which it is even awful to contemplate.

Let us conceive of two such men as they pass away from this present scene to realise the life to come. While inhabitants of earth, let them have filled the most extreme stations of society, restrained from every contact, and alienated from every sympathy. The affinities of the same nature may have not been attributed to them. They may have been practically regarded as different creatures. The one shall be the monarch, --surrounded by courtiers, heralds, guards,

-revelling in luxuries to which every clime contributes, -holding the fate of nations on a nod. The other shall be the beggar, scorned by every eye, reviled by every tongue, spurned by every foot. The day has come when both must die, — the moment is common to their death. The first presses the couch of softest down, and reclines beneath the canopy of lofty state. The chamber is hung with embroideries, and is redolent of perfumes. The cordials of pain and weakness stand rife around the sufferer on tables of cedar and gold. The arras waves not to the lightest wind. The palace is hushed in silence. The corridor echoes to no step. The portal is disturbed by no entrance. An ominous stillness reigns. A nation is motionless in suspense. An empire scarcely breathes. The second drags himself to the dunghill, and, without a soothing word or an alleviating office or an affectionate tear, gasps alone. It is at this appointed moment that their spirits break away! Two souls are on the wing! Two souls are tracking their way to their final account! Pursue, if you can, their course! Ascertain, if you can, their condition! Tell us, which is the monarch's, which is the beggars, soul! By what impressions do you recognise, by what marks do you distinguish, them? You know not either by its robes or by its rags! All such things are left below. The funeral, of royal state and of pauper meanness, has committed their equal bodies to the earth, and their equal souls have been weighed in the balances of a common immortality!

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »