Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

crowded population which it collects is degraded, may not these put in some little claim to forbearance of censure ? Ought they not to be commiserated ? The fabric must be produced. Not less of wool and cotton and silk are to be wrought. And yet all that is associated with human efforts, and natural agents, is to receive high and overbearing scorn! There may be doomed to live in these noisy and smoky neighbourhoods those who once sported in the mountain breeze and on the ocean wave. They shrunk, it may be, when they first caught sight of their future habitation : “Is this the region, this the soil, the clime ?” High purposes have made them willing to share every disadvantage of the scene. But would they have looked unmoved on cruel wrongs and truculent oppressors ? Could they be silenced? Could they be bribed ? Have they not championed the claims of the child, the operative, the decrepit ? We enquire, in simple wonder, how it is that the trade of manufacture must be mean, while the trade of agriculture is noble? Trade is the employment of capital in labour upon some work of God. The raw material may be flax, or it may be land. Each is the subject of change. There is the fine linen. There is the abundant harvest. The producers of food are worthy of all honour, but not more than the producers of that which gives food its social value. Food cannot of itself be riches. It is to be sold, it is to be exchanged for other commodities, and then the country is filled with plenty. We have not to cross wide seas to certify this. A country may be a granary : its hills covered with flocks, its fields waving with fruits, and yet its people famish. The money is not in the sack's mouth. That corn must be turned into means of barter, that it may be eaten. Thus only can commonwealths become strong and great. Instead of being ashamed of factory and shop, we see in them the freight of our ships, the wealth of our colonies, the life of our commerce. But there is a nobler defence. The Medicean princes, the offspring of trade, scarcely were more true to literature than have been our successful traffickers. Mark the Portico and Atheneum of our towns. Observe the schools and institutions of learning. Here, too, freedom finds its favoured refuge. The law of opinion goes forth from thence and rules the land. These are the busy scenes in which principles are tested, truths discovered, and experiments assured. They may have a fault in the esteem of a constantly diminishing feudalism. It is the power which their knowledge gives: it is the improvement which their inquisitiveness accelerates : it is the liberty which their intelligence demands. Extinguish the manufacturing system of your country, and even if you could yet till your land and meet your debt,-knowledge would have lost its firmest hold, and independence be driven from its noblest asylum !

Our country must become more and more civic.t There is none other option, were it to be craved. She

" Britain can stand the days incom.

must stand forth with her walls as well as her fields, and those walls must still encroach upon those fields. Her agriculture may increase in its production, but its area must be narrowed. Yet this prospect awakens no reasonable fear. The arable soil will always incomparably exceed that on which stand the dwelling-places of man. But if Britain can hold her place among the powers of the earth, it must be as a trading nation. None other means can sustain her increasing offspring or her mighty state. Wants are pressing upon her, duties are springing from those wants, which would distract the policy of any other land. Let her not listen to the raven-cry of men who can only see the present, and who but ill remember the past. She wants true watchmen and seers. She calls for those who can espy afar. New circumstances demand new measures. Yet how plain is her path, beset as it is with difficulties, if she will but go right forward in it ! Let her remember whence she derives her wealth, and gratefully requite its producers! And who are they ? Not the chaplet of flowers, not the cornucopia of fruits, may express her greatness: she does not dispense with such emblems, - like Cybele, they are painted on her robe, they are clustered in her hand, — but she bears the turret on her head, and hers is a towered brow!

CHAPTER IV.

ON THE KIND OF EDUCATION ADAPTED TO

THE POOR.

WHATEVER religious knowledge may be necessary for one human being, must be essential for all. The ground on which this knowledge rests, cannot be changed to any. We are in equal need of salvation, though our social circumstances are most unequal. The monarch and the peasant are in one moral dilemma of guilt and depravity: they are addressed by the same gospel. Nor can they receive it in different ways: personal conviction is the only medium for both. We know that we here combat a prejudice. It is supposed that the religion of the poor must be adopted on some State-dictate, —upon the authority of some living, docent, tribunal,-upon an indirect, mediate, power of earth which may overawe the popular mind. How, it is asked, can the humbler orders investigate the question ? How can they understand it? Must they not leave themselves in the hands of others? Is not individual responsibility lost in their actual position ? But we may reply,—Suppose that they must be abandoned to the dogmatic instructions of some such guide, which guide ought it to be? Have all Churches the same claim ? How are they to determine between the better, and the worse, supported title? Here is, then, the original difficulty,– the selection of the Guide. If man must not choose his religion, he must at least select the party which shall teach a religion to him. He will find this far more perplexing than to decide upon the true religion. However this argument be put, it obviously is circular and vicious. But another difficulty starts into view. Until persuaded in his own mind, it is not religion. So long as he leans on ecclesiastical or popular assumption, his faith is in the wisdom of man and not in the power of God. He must believe from the heart, on the credibility of the gospel testimony as a Divine record; he must believe for himself. The Christian evidence, in this its greatest department, is as applicable to those of narrow, as to those of ample, learning. For its most convincing argument is in its correspondence to the wants of our nature. It meets our case. Its “words do good.” They detect, they rebuke, they heal. “He who believeth hath the witness in himself.” The poor may close with this “demonstration of the Spirit.” It is the internal, or more properly, the experimental proof. The philosopher and the mechanic must appreciate it in like manner. The one has little advantage over the other. To speak, therefore, of giving a religion to the poor,—of doling only so much of it as their

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »