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´╗┐Title: Lessons in Life; A Series of Familiar Essays
Author: Holland, J. G. (Josiah Gilbert)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lessons in Life; A Series of Familiar Essays" ***

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LESSONS IN LIFE.

A SERIES OF FAMILIAR ESSAYS.


BY

TIMOTHY TITCOMB,
AUTHOR OF "LETTERS TO THE YOUNG," "GOLD-FOIL," ETC.



PREFACE.


The quick and cordial reception which greeted the author's
"Letters to the Young," and his more recent series of essays
entitled "Gold Foil," and the constant and substantial friendship
which has been maintained by the public toward those productions,
must stand as his apology for this third venture in a kindred
field of effort. It should be--and probably is--unnecessary for
the author to say that in this book, as in its predecessors, he
has aimed to be neither brilliant nor profound. He has endeavored,
simply, to treat in a familiar and attractive way a few of the
more prominent questions which concern the life of every
thoughtful man and woman. Indeed, he can hardly pretend to have
done more than to organize, and put into form, the average
thinking of those who read his books--to place before the people
the sum of their own choicer judgments--and he neither expects nor
wishes for these essays higher praise than that which accords to
them the quality of common sense.

SPRINGFIELD, MASS., _November_, 1861.



CONTENTS.

LESSON I. MOODS AND FRAMES OF MIND
LESSON II. BODILY IMPERFECTIONS AND IMPEDIMENTS
LESSON III. ANIMAL CONTENT
LESSON IV. REPRODUCTION IN KIND
LESSON V. TRUTH AND TRUTHFULNESS
LESSON VI. MISTAKES OF PENANCE
LESSON VII. THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
LESSON VIII. AMERICAN PUBLIC EDUCATION
LESSON IX. PERVERSENESS
LESSON X. UNDEVELOPED RESOURCES
LESSON XI. GREATNESS IN LITTLENESS
LESSON XII. RURAL LIFE
LESSON XIII. REPOSE
LESSON XIV. THE WAYS OF CHARITY
LESSON XV. MEN OF ONE IDEA
LESSON XVI. SHYING PEOPLE
LESSON XVII. FAITH IN HUMANITY
LESSON XVIII. SORE SPOTS AND SENSITIVE SPOTS
LESSON XIX. THE INFLUENCE OF PRAISE
LESSON XX. UNNECESSARY BURDENS
LESSON XXI. PROPER PEOPLE AND PERFECT PEOPLE
LESSON XXII. THE POETIC TEST
LESSON XXIII. THE FOOD OF LIFE
LESSON XXIV. HALF-FINISHED WORK



LESSONS IN LIFE.



LESSON I.

MOODS AND FRAMES OF MIND.


                "That blessed mood
   In which the burden of the mystery,
   In which the heavy and the weary weight
   Of all this unintelligible world
   Is lightened." WORDSWORTH.

  "Oh, blessed temper, whose unclouded ray
   Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day."
   POPE.

  "My heart and mind and self, never in tune;
   Sad for the most part, then in such a flow
   Of spirits, I seem now hero, now buffoon."
   LEIGH HUNT.

It rained yesterday; and, though it is midsummer, it is
unpleasantly cool to-day. The sky is clear, with almost a
steel-blue tint, and the meadows are very deeply green. The
shadows among the woods are black and massive, and the whole
face of nature looks painfully clean, like that of a healthy
little boy who has been bathed in a chilly room with very cold
water. I notice that I am sensitive to a change like this, and
that my mind goes very reluctantly to its task this morning.
I look out from my window, and think how delightful it would be
to take a seat in the sun, down under the fence, across the
street. It seems to me that if I could sit there awhile, and get
warm, I could think better and write better. Toasting in the
sunlight is conducive rather to reverie than thought, or I should
be inclined to try it. This reluctance to commence labor, and
this looking out of the window and longing for an accession of
strength, or warmth, or inspiration, or something or other not
easily named, calls back to me an experience of childhood.

It was summer, and I was attending school. The seats were hard,
and the lessons were dry, and the walls of the school-room were
very cheerless. An indulgent, sweet-faced girl was my teacher; and
I presume that she felt the irksomeness of the confinement quite
as severely as I did. The weather was delightful, and the birds
were singing everywhere; and the thought came to me, that if I
could only stay out of doors, and lie down in the shadow of a
tree, I could get my lesson. I begged the privilege of trying the
experiment. The kind heart that presided over the school-room
could not resist my petition; so I was soon lying in the coveted
shadow. I went to work very severely; but the next moment found
my eyes wandering; and heart, feeling, and fancy were going up and
down the earth in the most vagrant fashion. It was hopeless
dissipation to sit under the tree; and discovering a huge rock on
the hillside, I made my way to that, to try what virtue there
might be in a shadow not produced by foliage. Seated under the
brow of the boulder, I again applied myself to the dim-looking
text, but it had become utterly meaningless; and a musical cricket
under the rock would have put me to sleep if I had permitted
myself to remain. I found that neither tree nor rock would lend me
help; but down in the meadow I saw the brook sparkling, and
spanning it, a little bridge where I had been accustomed to sit,
hanging my feet over the water, and angling for minnows. It seemed
as if the bridge and the water might do something for me, and, in
a few minutes, my feet were dangling from the accustomed seat.
There, almost under my nose, close to the bottom of the clear,
cool stream, lay a huge speckled trout, fanning the sand with his
slow fins, and minding nothing about me at all. What could a boy
do with Colburn's First Lessons, when a living trout, as large and
nearly as long as his arm, lay almost within the reach of his
fingers? How long I sat there I do not know, but the tinkle of a
distant bell startled me, and I startled the trout, and fish and
vision faded before the terrible consciousness that I knew less of
my lesson than I did when I left the school-house.

This has always been my fortune when running after, or looking
for, moods. There is a popular hallucination that makes of
authors a romantic people who are entirely dependent upon moods
and moments of inspiration for the power to labor in their
peculiar way. Authors are supposed to write when they "feel like
it," and at no other time. Visions of Byron with a gin-bottle at
his side, and a beautiful woman hanging over his shoulder, dashing
off a dozen stanzas of Childe Harold at a sitting, flit through
the brains of sentimental youth. We hear of women who are seized
suddenly by an idea, as if it were a colic, or a flea, often at
midnight, and are obliged to rise and dispose of it in some way.
We are told of very delicate girls who carry pencils and cards
with them, to take the names and address of such angels as may
visit them in out-of-the-way places. We read of poets who go on
long sprees, and after recovery retire to their rooms and work
night and day, eating not and sleeping little, and in some
miraculous way producing wonderful literary creations. The mind of
a literary man is supposed to be like a shallow summer brook, that
turns a mill. There is no water except when it rains, and the
weather being very fickle, it is never known when there will be
water. Sometimes, however, there comes a freshet, and then the
mill runs night and day, until the water subsides, and another dry
time comes on.

Now, while I am aware, as every writer must be, that the brain
works very much better at some times than it does at others, I can
declare without reservation, that no man who depends upon moods
for the power to write can possibly accomplish much. I know men
who rely upon their moods, alike for the disposition and the
ability to write, but they are, without exception, lazy and
inefficient men. They never have accomplished much, and they never
will accomplish much. Regular eating, regular sleeping, regular
working--these are the secrets of all true literary success. A
man may throw off a single little poem by a spasm, but he cannot
write a poem of three thousand lines by spasms. Spasms that
produce poems like this, must last from five to seven hours a day,
through six days of every week, and four weeks of every month,
until the work shall be finished. There is no good reason why the
mind will not do its best by regular exercise and usage. The mower
starts in the morning with a lame back and with aching joints; but
he keeps on mowing, and the glow rises, and the perspiration
starts, and he becomes interested in his labor, and, at length, he
finds himself at work with full efficiency. He was not in the mood
for mowing when he began, but mowing brought its own mood, and he
knew it would when he began. The mind is sometimes lame in the
morning. It refuses to go to work. Our wills seem entirely
insufficient to drive it to its tasks; but if it be driven to its
work and held to it persistently, and held thus every day, it will
ultimately be able to do its best every day. A man who works his
brains for a living, must work them just as regularly as the
omnibus-driver does his horses.

We sometimes go to church and hear a preacher who depends upon his
moods for the power to preach his best. He preaches well, and we
say that he is in the mood; and then again he preaches poorly, and
we say that he is not in the mood. A public singer who has the
power to move us at her will, comes into the concert-room, and
gives her music without spirit and without making any apparent
effort to please. We say that Madame or Mademoiselle is "not in
the mood to-night." A lecturer has his moods, which, apparently,
he slips on and off as he would a dressing-gown, charming the
people of one town by his eloquence and elegance, and disgusting
another by his dullness and carelessness. We are in the habit of
saying that certain men are very unequal in their performances,
which is only a way of saying that they are moody, and dependent
upon and controlled by moods. I think that, in any work or walk of
life, a man can in a great degree become the master of his moods,
so that, as a preacher, or a singer, or a lecturer, he can do his
best every time quite as regularly as a writer can do his best
every time. Mr. Benedict somewhat inelegantly remarked, when in
this country, that the reason of Jenny Lind's success was, that
she "made a conscience of her art." If we had asked Mr. Benedict
to explain himself, he probably would have said that she
conscientiously did her best every time, in every place. This was
true of Jenny Lind. She never failed. She sang just as well in the
old church where the country people had flocked to greet her, as
in the halls of the metropolis. Yet Jenny Lind was decidedly a
woman of moods, and indulged in them when she could afford it.

The power of the will over moods of the mind is very noticeable in
children. Children often rise in the morning in any thing but an
amiable frame of mind. Petulant, impatient, quarrelsome, they
cannot be spoken to or touched without producing an explosion of
ill-nature. Sleep seems to have been a bath of vinegar to them,
and one would think the fluid had invaded their mouth and nose,
and eyes and ears, and had been absorbed by every pore of their
sensitive skins. In a condition like this, I have seen them bent
over the parental knee, and their persons subjected to blows from
the parental palm; and they have emerged from the infliction with
the vinegar all expelled, and their faces shining like the
morning--the transition complete and satisfactory to all the
parties. Three-quarters of the moods that men and women find
themselves in, are just as much under the control of the will as
this. The man who rises in the morning, with his feelings all
bristling like the quills of a hedge-hog, simply needs to be
knocked down. Like a solution of certain salts, he requires a rap
to make him crystallize. A great many mean things are done in the
family for which moods are put forward as the excuse, when the
moods themselves are the most inexcusable things of all. A man or
a woman in tolerable health has no moral right to indulge in an
unpleasant mood, or to depend upon moods for the performance of
the duties of life. If a bad mood come to such persons as these,
it is to be shaken off by a direct effort of the will, under all
circumstances.

There are moods, however, for which men are not responsible, and
the parent of these is sickness--the feeble or inharmonious
movements of the body. When my little boy wakes in the morning,
his smile is as bright as the pencil of sunlight that lies across
his coverlet; but when evening comes, he is peevish and fretful.
The little limbs are weary, and the mood is produced by weariness.
So my friend with a harassing cough is in a melancholy mood, and
my bilious friend is in a severe and savage mood, or in a dark and
gloomy mood, or in a petulant mood, or in a fearful or foreboding
mood. In truth, bile is the prolific mother of moods. The stream
of life flows through the biliary duct. When that is obstructed,
life is obstructed. When the golden tide sets back upon the liver,
it is like backwater under a mill; it stops the driving-wheel.
Bile spoils the peace of families, breaks off friendships, cuts
off man from communion with his Maker, colors whole systems of
theology, transforms brains into putty, and destroys the comfort
of a jaundiced world. The famous Dr. Abernethy had his hobby, as
most famous men have; and this hobby was "blue pill and ipecac,"
which he prescribed for every thing, with the supposition, I
presume, that all disease has its origin in the liver. Most moods,
I am sure, have their birth in the derangements of this important
organ; and while the majority of them can be controlled, there are
others for which their victims are not responsible. There are men
who cannot insult me, because I will not take an insult from them
any more than I would from a man intoxicated. When their bile
starts, I am sure they will come to me and apologize.

We all have acquaintances who are men of moods. Whenever we meet
them, we try to determine which of their moods is dominant, that
we may know how to treat them. If the severe mood be on, we would
just as soon think of whistling at a funeral as indulging in a
jest; but if the cloud be off, we have a sprightly friend and a
pleasant time with him. Goldsmith's pedagogue was a man of moods,
and his pupils understood them.

  "A man severe he was, and stern to view;
   I knew him well, and every truant knew:
   _Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
   The day's disasters in his morning face_;
   Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee
   At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
   Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
   Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned."

While I maintain that a man can generally be the master of his
moods, I am very well aware that but few men are; and it is wise
for us to know how to deal with them. The secret of many a man's
success in the world resides in his insight into the moods of men,
and his tact in dealing with them. Modern Christian philanthropists
tell us that if we would do good to the soul of a starving child, we
must first put food into his mouth, and comfortable clothing upon
his body. This, by way of manifesting a practical interest in his
welfare, and paving our way to his heart by a form of kindness which
he can thoroughly appreciate. But there is more in such an act than
this,--we change his mood. From a mood of despair or discouragement,
we translate him into a mood of cheerfulness and hopefulness; and
then we have a soul to deal with that is surrounded by the
conditions of improvement. There is much more than divine duty and
Christian forgiveness in the injunction: "if thine enemy hunger, feed
him;  if he thirst, give him drink." The highest wisdom would dictate
such a policy for changing his mood, and bringing him into a condition
in which he could entertain a sense of his meanness.

It is curious to see how much fulness and emptiness of stomach
have to do with moods. A business man who has been at work hard
all day, will enter his house for dinner as crabbed as a hungry
bear--crabbed because he is as hungry as a hungry bear. The wife
understands the mood, and, while she says little to him, is
careful not to have the dinner delayed. In the mean time, the
children watch him cautiously, and do not tease him with
questions. When the soup is gulped, and he leans back and wipes
his mouth, there is an evident relaxation, and his wife ventures
to ask for the news. When the roast beef is disposed of, she
presumes upon gossip, and possibly upon a jest; and when, at last,
the dessert is spread upon the table, all hands are merry, and the
face of the husband and father, which entered the house so pinched
and savage and sharp, becomes soft and full and beaming as the
face of the round summer moon. Children are very sensitive to the
influence of hunger; and often when we think that we are
witnessing some fearful proof of the total depravity of human
nature in a young child, we are only witnessing the natural
expression of a desire for bread and milk. The politicians and all
that class of men who have axes to grind, understand this business
very thoroughly. If a measure is to be carried through, and any
man wishes to secure votes for it, he gives a dinner. If a man
wishes for a profitable contract, he gives a dinner. If he is up
for a fat office, he gives a dinner. If it is desirable that a pair
of estranged friends be brought together, and reconciled to each
other, they are invited to a dinner. If hostile interests are to be
harmonized, and clashing measures compromised, and divergent forces
brought into parallelism, all must be effected by means of a dinner.
A good dinner produces a good mood,--at least, it produces an
impressible mood. The will relaxes wonderfully under the influence
of iced champagne, and canvas-backs are remarkable softeners of
prejudice. The daughter of Herodias took Herod at a great
disadvantage, when she came in and danced before him and his friends
at his birth-day supper, and secured the head of John the Baptist.
No one, I presume, believes that if she had undertaken to dance before
him when he was hungry, she would have had the offer of a gift equal
to the half of his kingdom. It is more than likely that, under any
other circumstances, he would have been told to "sit down and show
less." It is by means of food and drink, and various entertainments
of the senses, that moods are manufactured, and used as media of
approach to the wills which it is desirable to bend or direct.

I have found moods to be very poor tests of character. Having cut
through the crust of a most forbidding mood, produced by bodily
derangement or constant and pressing labor of the brain, I have
often found a heart full of all the sweetest and richest traits of
humanity. I have found, too, that some natures know the door that
leads through the moods of other natures. There are men who never
present their moody side to me. My neighbor enters their presence
and finds them severe in aspect, hard in feeling, and abrupt in
speech. I go in immediately after, and open the door right through
that mood, into the genial good heart that sits behind it, and the
door always flies open when I come. I know men whose mood is
usually exceedingly pleasant. There is a glow of health upon their
faces. Their words are musical to women and children. They are
cheerful and chipper and sunshiny, and not easily moved to anger;
and yet I know them to be liars and full of selfishness. Under
their sweet mood, which sound health and a not over-sensitive
conscience and the satisfactions of sense engender, they conceal
hearts that are as false and foul as any that illustrate the reign
of sin in human nature. Many a Christian has times of feeling that
God is in a special manner smiling upon him, and communing with
him, and filling him with the peace and joy that only flow from
heavenly fountains, when the truth is that he is only in a good
mood. He is well, all the machinery of his mind and body is
playing harmoniously, and, of course, he feels well, and that is
all there is about it. He is not a better Christian than he was
when he slipped into the mood, and no better than he will be when
he slips out of it. If he really be a good Christian, his moods
operate like clouds and blue sky. The sun shines all the time, and
the cloudy moods only hide it;--they do not extinguish it.

There are many sad cases of insanity of a religious character
which originate in moods. A man, through a period of health, has a
bright and cheerful religious experience. The world looks pleasant
to him, the heavens smile kindly upon him, and the Divine Spirit
witnesses with his own that he is at peace and in harmony with
God. Joy thrills him as he greets the morning light, and peace
nestles upon his heart as he lies down to his nightly rest. He
feels in his soul the influx of spiritual life from the Great
Source of all life, as he opens it in worship and in prayer. But
at length there comes a change. A strange sadness creeps into his
heart. The sky that was once so bright has become dark. The prayer
that once rose as easily as incense upon the still morning air,
straight toward heaven, will not rise at all, but settles like
smoke upon him, and fills his eyes with tears. Something seems to
have come between him and his God. Strange, accusing voices are
heard within him. However deep the agony that moves him, he cannot
rend the cloud that interposes between him and his Maker. This,
now, is simply a mood produced by ill health; and I hope that
everybody who reads this will remember it. Remember that God never
changes, that a man's moods are constantly changing, and that when
a man earnestly seeks for spiritual peace, and cannot find it, and
thinks that he has committed the unpardonable sin without knowing
it, he is bilious, and needs medical treatment. Alas! what
multitudes of sad souls have walked out of this hopeless mood into
a life-long insanity, when all they needed in the first place,
perhaps, was a dose of blue pills, or half a dozen strings of
tenpins, or a sea-voyage sufficiently rough for "practical
purposes."

This subject I find to be abundantly prolific, and I see that I
have been able to do hardly more than to hint at its more
prominent aspects. It seems to me that moods only need to be
studied more, and to be better understood, to bring them very much
under the domain of our wills. A great deal is learned when we
know what a mood is, and know that we are subject to varying
frames of mind, resulting from causes which affect our health. If
I know that I am impatient and cross because I am hungry, then I
know how to get rid of my mood, and how to manage it until I do
get rid of it. If I feel unable to labor, not because I am
feeble, but because I am not in the mood, then I have the mood in
my hands, to be dealt with intelligently. If my reason tell me
that it is only a mood that hides from me the face of my Maker, my
reason will also tell me that my first business is to get rid of
my mood, and that my will must approach the work, directly or
indirectly. We are always and necessarily in some mood of mind--in
some condition of passion or feeling. It is the intensification
and the dominant influence of moods that are to be guarded against
or destroyed. Moods are dangerous only when they obscure reason,
and destroy self-control, and disturb the mental poise, and become
the media of false impressions from all the life around us and
within us.



LESSON II.

BODILY IMPERFECTIONS AND IMPEDIMENTS.


  "I that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
   Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
   Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
   Into this breathing world, scarce half made up."
   RICHARD III.

  "None can be called deformed but the unkind."
   SHAKSPEARE.

  "'Tis true, his nature may with faults abound;
   But who will cavil when the heart is sound?"
   STEPHEN MONTAGUE.

It is a bright June morning. The fresh grass is loaded with dew,
every bead of which sparkles in the light of the brilliant sun. A
big, yellow-shouldered bee comes booming through the open window,
and buzzes up and down my room, and threatens my shrinking ears,
and then dives through the window again; and his form recedes and
his hum dies away, as if it were the note of a reed-stop in the
"swell" of a church organ. There is such confusion in the songs of
the birds, that I can hardly select the different notes, so as to
name their owners. There is a great deal of bird-singing that is
simply what a weaver would call "filling." Robins and bobolinks
and blue-birds and sundry other favorites furnish the warp, and
color and characterize the tapestry of a flowing, vocal morning;
while the little, gray-backed multitude work in the neutral ground
tones, and bring the sweeter and more elaborate notes into
beautiful relief. Thus, with a little aid of imagination, I get up
some very exquisite fabrics--vocal silks and satins:--robins on a
field of chickadees; bobolinks and thrushes alternately on a
hit-or-miss ground of blackbirds, wrens, and pewees. Into the midst
of all this delicious confusion there breaks a note that belongs to
another race of creatures; and as I look from my window, and see
the singer, my eyes fill with tears. It is a little boy, possibly
twelve years old, though he looks younger, walking with a crutch.
One withered limb dangles as he goes. He is a cripple for life;
yet his face is as bright and cheerful as the face of the morning
itself; and what do you think he is singing? "Hail Columbia, happy
land," at the top of his lungs! The birds are merrily wheeling
over his head, and diving through the air, and moving here and
there as freely as the wind, yet not one among them carries a
lighter heart than that which he is jerking along by the side of
the little crutch.

As I see how cheerfully he bears the burden of his hopeless
halting, there comes back to me the story of the lame lord who
sang a different sort of song--the lame lord who died at
Missolonghi, and whose friend Trelawny--human jackal that he was--
stole to his bedside after the breath had left his body, and
examined his clubbed feet, and then went away and wrote about
them. Here was a man with regal gifts of mind--a poet of splendid
genius--a titled aristocrat--a man admired and praised wherever
the English language was read--a man who knew that he held within
himself the power to make his name immortal--a man with wealth
sufficient for all grateful luxuries--yet with clubbed feet; and
those feet! Ah! how they embittered and spoiled that man of
magnificent achievements and sublime possibilities! It would
appear, from the disgusting narrative of Mr. Trelawny, that he was
in reality the only man who had ever seen Byron's feet. Those feet
had been kept so closely hidden, or so cunningly disguised, that
nobody had known their real deformity; and the poor lord who had
carried them through his thirty-six years of life, had done it in
constantly tormented and mortified pride. Those misshapen organs
had an important agency in making him a misanthropic, morbidly
sensitive, unhappy, desperate man. When he sang, he did not forget
them; and the poor fools who turned down their shirt-collars, and
imitated his songs, and thought they were inspired by his winged
genius, had under them only a pair of halting, clubbed feet.

There is a class of unfortunate men and women in the world to whom
the boy and the bard have introduced us. They are not all lame:
but they all think they have cause to be dissatisfied with the
bodies God has given them. Perhaps they are simply ugly, and are
aware that no one can look in their faces with other thought than
that they are ugly. Now it is a pleasant thing to have a pleasant
face, and an agreeable form. It is pleasant for a man to be large,
well-shaped, and good-looking, and it is unpleasant for him to be
small, and to carry an ill-shaped form and an ugly face. It is
pleasant for a woman to feel that she has personal attractions for
those around her, and it is unpleasant for her to feel that no man
can ever turn his eyes admiringly upon her. A misshapen limb, a
hump in the back, a withered arm, a shortened leg, a clubbed foot,
a hare-lip, an unwieldy corpulence, a hideous leanness, a bald
head--all these are unpleasant possessions, and all these, I
suppose, give their possessors, first and last, a great deal of
pain. Then there is the taint of an unpopular blood, that a whole
race carry with them as a badge of humiliation. I have heard of
Africans who declared that they would willingly go through the
pain of being skinned alive, if, at the close of the operation,
they could become white men. There are men of genius, with plenty
of white blood in their veins--with only a trace of Africa in
their faces--whose lives are embittered by that trace; and who
know that the pure Anglo Saxon, if he follows his instincts, will
say to him: "Thus far,"--(through a limited range of relations,)--
"but no further."

From the depths of my soul I pity a man or woman who bears about
an irremediable bodily deformity, or the mark of the blood of a
humiliated race. I pity any human being who carries around a body
that he feels to be in any sense an unpleasant one to those whom
he meets. I pity the deformed man, and the maimed man, and the
terribly ugly man, and the black man, and the white man with black
blood in him, because he usually feels that these things bear with
them a certain degree of humiliation. I pity the man who is not
able to stand out in the broad sunlight, with other men, and to
feel that he has as goodly a frame and as fine blood and as
pleasant a presence as the average of those he sees around him. I
do not wonder at all that many of these persons become soured and
embittered and jealous. A sensitive mind, dwelling long upon
misfortunes of this peculiar character, will inevitably become
morbid; and multitudes of humbler men than Lord Byron have cursed
their fate as bitterly as he, and have even lifted their eyes to
blaspheme the Being who made them.

The two instances which I have mentioned show us that there are
two ways of taking misfortunes of this character; and one of them
seems to a good deal better than the other. Between the boy who
ignored the withered leg and the crutch, and the proud poet who
permitted a slight personal deformity to darken his whole life,
there is a distance like that between heaven and earth.

I believe in the law of compensation. Human lot is, on the whole,
well averaged. A man does not possess great gifts of person and of
mind without drawbacks somewhere. Either great duties are imposed
upon him, or great burdens are put upon his shoulders, or great
temptations assail and harass him. Something in his life, at some
time in his life, takes it upon itself to reduce his advantages to
the average standard. Nature gave Byron clubbed feet, but with
those feet she gave him a genius whose numbers charmed the world--
a genius which multitudes of commonplace or weak men would have
been glad to purchase at the price of almost any humiliating
eccentricity of person. But they were obliged to content
themselves with excellent feet, and brains of the common kind and
calibre. Providence had withered the little boy's leg, but the
loudest song I have heard from a boy in a twelvemonth came from
his lips, as he limped along alone in the open street. The
cheerful heart in his bosom was a great compensation for the
withered leg; and beyond this the boy had reason for singing over
the fact that he was forever released from military duty, and
firemen's duty, and all racing about in the service of other
people. There are individual cases of misfortune in which it is
hard to detect the compensating good, but these we must call the
"exceptions" which "prove the rule."

But the best of all compensation for natural defects and
deformities, is that which comes in the form of a peculiar love.
The mother of a poor, misshapen, idiotic boy, will, though she
have half a score of bright and beautiful children besides,
entertain for him a peculiar affection. He may not be able, in his
feeble-mindedness, to appreciate it, but her heart brims with
tenderness for him. The delicate morsel is reserved for him; and,
if he be a sufferer, the softest pillow and the tenderest nursing
will be his. A love will be bestowed upon him which gold could not
buy, and which no beauty of person, and no brilliancy of natural
gifts could possibly awaken. It is thus with every case of defect
or eccentricity of person. So sure as the mother of a child sees
in that child's person any reason for the world to regard it with
contempt or aversion, does she treat it with peculiar tenderness;
as if she were commissioned by God--as indeed she is--to make up
to it in the best coinage that which the world will certainly
neglect to bestow.

With the world at large, however, there are certain conditions on
which this variety of compensation is rendered; and a man who
would have compensation for defects of person, must accept these
conditions, or furnish them. Such a man as Lord Byron would have
been offended by pity. To have been commiserated on his
misfortune, would have made him exceedingly angry. He would not
allow himself to be treated as an unfortunate man. He bound up his
feet, and made efforts to walk that ended in intense pain, rather
than appear the lame man that he really was. Of course, there was
no compensation in the tender pity and affectionate consideration
of the world for him; nor is there any for the sad unfortunates
who inherit and exercise his spirit. But for all those who accept
their life with all its conditions, in a cheerful spirit, who give
up their pride, who take their bodies as God formed them, and make
the best of them, there is abundant compensation in the affection
of the world. A cheerful spirit, exercised in weakness, infirmity,
calamity--any sort of misfortune--is just as sure to awaken a
peculiarly affectionate interest in all observers, as a lighted
lamp is to illuminate the objects around it. I know of men and
women who are the favorites of a whole neighborhood--nay, a whole
town--because they are cheerful, and courageous, and self-respectful
under misfortune; and I know of those who are as much dreaded as
a pestilence, because they will not accept their lot--because
they grow bitter and jealous--and because they will persist in
taunts and complaints.

The number of those who are, or who consider themselves,
unfortunate in their physical conformation, is larger than the
most of us suppose. I presume that at least one-half of the
readers of this essay are any thing but well satisfied with the
"tabernacle" in which they reside. One man wishes he were a little
larger; one woman wishes she were a little smaller; one does not
like her complexion, or the color of her eyes and hair; one has a
nose too large; another has a nose too small; one has round
shoulders; another has a low forehead; and so every one becomes a
critic of his or her style of structure. When we find a man or a
woman who is absolutely faultless in form and features, we usually
find a fool. I do not remember that I ever met a very handsome man
or woman, who was not as vain and shallow as a peacock. I recently
met a magnificent woman of middle age at a railroad station. She
was surrounded by all those indescribable somethings and nothings
which mark the rich and well-bred traveller, and her face was
queenly--not sweet and pretty like a doll's face--but handsome and
stylish, and strikingly impressive, so that no man could look at
her once without turning to look again; yet I had not been in her
presence a minute, before I found, to my utter disgust, that the
old creature was as vain of her charms as a spoiled girl, and
gloried in the attention which she was conscious her face
everywhere attracted. It would seem as if nature, in making up
mankind, had always been a little short of materials, so that, if
special attention were bestowed upon the form and face, the brain
suffered; and if the brain received particular attention, why then
there was something lacking in the body.

This large class of malcontents generally find some way of
convincing themselves, however, that they are as good-looking as
the average of mankind. They make a good deal of some special
points of beauty, and imagine that these quite overshadow their
defects. Still, there is a portion of them who can never do this;
and I think of them with a sadness which it is impossible for me
to express. For a homely--even an ugly man--I have no pity to
spare. I never saw one so ugly yet, that if he had brains and a
heart, he could not find a beautiful woman sensible enough to
marry him. But for the hopelessly plain and homely sisters--"these
tears!" There is a class of women who know that they possess in
their persons no attractions for men,--that their faces are
homely, that their frames are ill-formed, that their carriage is
clumsy, and that, whatever may be their gifts of mind, no man can
have the slightest desire to possess their persons. That there
are compensations for these women, I have no doubt, but many of
them fail to find them. Many of them feel that the sweetest
sympathies of life must be repressed, and that there is a world of
affection from which they must remain shut out forever. It is hard
for a woman to feel that her person is not pleasing--harder than
for a man to feel thus. I would tell why, if it were necessary--
for there is a bundle of very interesting philosophy tied up in
the matter--but I will content myself with stating the fact, and
permitting my readers to reason about it as they will.

Now, if a homely woman, soured and discouraged by her lot, becomes
misanthropic and complaining, she will be as little loved as she
is admired; but if she accepts her lot good-naturedly, makes up
her mind to be happy, and is determined to be agreeable in all her
relations to society, she will be everywhere surrounded by loving
and sympathetic hearts, and find herself a greater favorite than
she would be were she beautiful. A woman who is entirely beyond
the reach of the jealousy of her own sex, is an exceedingly
fortunate woman; and if personal homeliness has won for her this
immunity, then homeliness has given her much to be thankful for. A
homely woman who ignores her face and form, cultivates her mind
and manners, good-naturedly gives up all pretension, and exhibits
in all her life a true and a pure heart, will have friends enough
to compensate her entirely for the loss of a husband. Friendship
is unmindful of faces, in the selection of its objects, even if
love be somewhat particular, and, sometimes, foolishly fastidious.

Life is altogether too precious a gift to be thrown away. A man
who would permit a field to be overgrown with weeds and thorns
simply because it would not naturally produce roses, would be very
foolish, particularly if the ground should only need cultivation
to enable it to yield abundantly of corn. Far be it from me to
depreciate physical symmetry and personal comeliness. They are
gifts of God, and they are very good; but there are better things
in this world than a good face, and better things than the
admiration which a good face wins. I am more and more convinced,
as the years pass away, that the choicest thing this world has for
a man is affection--not any special variety of affection, but the
approval, the sympathy, and the devotion of true hearts. It is not
necessary that this affection come from the great and the
powerful. If it be genuine, that is all the heart asks. It does
not criticize and graduate the value of the fountains from which
it springs. It is at these fountains particularly that the
unfortunates of the world are permitted to drink. They have only
to accept cheerfully the conditions of their lot, and to give free
and full play to all that is good and generous in them, to secure
in an unusual degree the love of those into whose intimate
society Providence has thrown them.

It is stated by Dr. Livingstone, the celebrated explorer of
Africa, that the blow of a lion's paw upon his shoulder, which was
so severe as to break his arm, completely annihilated fear; and he
suggests that it is possible that Providence has mercifully
arranged, that all those beasts that prey upon life shall have
power to destroy the sting of death in the animals which are their
natural victims. I do not believe that this power is mercifully
assigned to beasts of prey alone, but that the misfortunes that
assail our limbs and forms, in whatever shape and at whatever time
they may come, bring with them something which lightens the blow,
or obviates the pain, if we will accept it. There is a calm
consciousness in every soul, however harshly the lion's paw may
fall upon the body which it inhabits, that it is itself
invulnerable--that whatever may be the condition of the body, the
soul cannot be injured by physical forms or forces.

Physical calamity never comes with the power to extinguish that
which is essential to the highest manhood and womanhood, and never
fails to bring with it a motive for the adjustment of the soul to
its conditions. The little boy whose "Hail Columbia" has been
ringing in my ears all day, accepted the conditions of his life,
and the sting of his calamity has departed. It is pleasant to say
to him, and to all the brotherhood and sisterhood of ugliness and
lameness, that there is every reason to believe that there is no
such thing in heaven as a one-legged or a club-footed soul--no
such thing as an ugly or a misshapen soul--no such thing as a
blind or a deaf soul--no such thing as a soul with tainted blood
in its veins; and that out of these imperfect bodies will spring
spirits of consummate perfection and angelic beauty--a beauty
chastened and enriched by the humiliations that were visited upon
their earthly habitation.



LESSON III.

ANIMAL CONTENT.


  "By sports like these are all their cares beguiled;
   The sports of children satisfy the child." GOLDSMITH.

  "Ay, give me back the joyous hours
   When I, myself, was ripening too;
   When song, the fount flung up its showers
   Of beauty, ever fresh and new." GOETHE'S FAUST.

I have been watching a family of kittens, engaged in their
exquisitely graceful play. Near them lay their mother, stretched
at her length upon the flagging, taking her morning nap, and
warming herself in the sun. She had eaten her breakfast, (provided
by no care of her own, but at my expense,) had seen her little
family fed, and having nothing further to attend to, had gone off
into a doze. What a blessed freedom from care! Think of a family
of four children, with no frocks to be made for them, no hair to
brush, no shoes to provide, no socks to knit and mend, no
school-books to buy, and no nurse! Think of a living being with the
love of offspring in her bosom, and a multitude of marvellous
instincts in her nature, yet knowing nothing of God, thinking not
of the future, without a hope or an expectation, or a doubt or a
fear, passing straight on to annihilation! At the threshold of this
destiny the little kittens were carelessly playing; and they are
doubtless still playing, while I write. They have no lessons to
learn, they do not have to go to Sunday-school, they entertain no
prejudices, except against dogs which occasionally dodge into the
yard; and I judge, by the familiar way in which they play with
their mother's ears, and pounce upon her tail, that they are not
in any degree oppressed by a sense of the respect due to a parent.
Cat and kittens will eat, and frolic, and sleep, through their
brief life, and then they will curl up in some dark corner and
die.

I remember that in one of the late Mr. Joseph C. Neal's "Charcoal
Sketches," he puts into the mouth of a very sad and seedy loafer
the expression of a wish that he were a pig, and a statement of
the reasons for the wish. These reasons, as I recall them, related
to the freedom of the pig from the peculiar trials and troubles of
humanity. Pigs do not have to work for a living; they undertake no
enterprizes, and of course fail in none; they eat and sleep
through a period of months, and then come the knife and a grunt,
and that is the last of them. Now I suppose this thought of Mr.
Neal's loafer has been shared by millions of men. Not that
everybody has at some time in his life wished he were a pig, but
that nearly everybody who has had his share of the troubles and
responsibilities of life, has looked upon simple animal
carelessness and content with a certain degree of envy. It is not
necessary to go among brutes for instances of this animal content.
It can be found among men. Who does not know good-natured,
ignorant, healthy fellows, who will work all day in the field,
whistle all the way homeward, eat hugely of course food, sleep
like logs, and take no more interest in the great questions which
agitate the most of us, than the pigs they feed, and that, in
return, feed them? Who has not sighed, as he has seen how easily
the simple wants of certain simple natures are supplied? I
remember an old man who quite unexpectedly was drafted into the
grand jury, which sat in the county town less than ten miles
distant from his home; and this was the great event of his life.
He never tired of talking about it--(never tired himself, I mean,)
and a stranger could not carry on a conversation with him for five
minutes, without hearing of something which occurred when
"I was in Blanktown, on the Grand Jury." It is doubtful whether
Napoleon ever contemplated a victory with the complacent
satisfaction that filled my old friend when he alluded to his
connection with "the _grand_ jury," and emphasized the adjective
which magnified the jury and glorified him.

I confess that, when I pass through a rural town, and see the
laborers among the corn, and the boys driving their cattle, and
the girls busy in the dairies, and life passing away quietly, I
cannot avoid a twinge of regret that it would be impossible for me
to be content with the kind of life that I see around me,
especially as I know that there is one kind of pleasure--negative,
perhaps, rather than positive--which that kind of life enjoys, and
in which I can never share. Relief from great responsibilities,
and contentment with humble clothing, humble fare, humble society,
humble aims and ambitions, humble means and humble labors--ah! how
many weary, overloaded men--how many disappointed hearts--have
sighed for such a boon, and sighed knowing they could never
receive it.

It has been the habit of poets to surround simple pleasures and
pursuits with the golden atmosphere of romance,--not because they
would enjoy such pleasures and pursuits at all, but rather because
they are forever beyond their possession. A poet is always
reaching toward the unattainable, and he may reach forward to the
perfections of a life of which the best that he sees around him is
an intimation, or backward to the animal content of a life as yet
undisturbed by the intimation of something better. Bucolics are very
sweet, but their writers do not believe in them. "A nut-brown maid,"
with bare, unconscious feet and ancles, is very pretty in a picture,
but the man who painted her ascertained that she was green, and not
the most entertaining of companions. The truth is, that when we have
got along so far that we can perceive that which is poetical and
picturesque in the simplest form of rustic life, we have got too
far along to enjoy it.

I suppose that much of the charm which simple animal content has
for us, is connected with the memories of childhood. We can all
recall a period of our lives when there was joy in the consciousness
of living--when animal life, in its spontaneous overflow, flooded all
our careless hours with its own peculiar pleasure. The light was
pleasant to our eyes, vigorous appetite and digestion made ambrosia
of the homeliest fare, the simplest play brought delight, and
life--all untried--lay spread out before us in one long, golden
dream. We now watch our children at their sports, and see but little
difference between their sources of happiness and those which supply
the kittens in their play. "Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a
straw," they skip from pleasure to pleasure, and find delight in the
impulsive exercise of their little powers. We were once like them.
Life was once as fresh, and flowing, and impulsive, and objectless,
as it is with them; and when we are weary and oppressed with labor,
and loaded down with responsibility, and filled with thoughts of the
great destiny before us, we turn our eyes backward with a sigh for
days once ours, but lost forever. Lost forever! This is the romantic
pain that fills us in all our contemplations of simple animal
content. It is lost to us, because we are lost to it. Like a
passenger far out upon the sea, adventuring upon a long voyage, we
look back upon the fading hills of our native land, and sigh to
think that the breeze which bears us away can never bring us back.

The question comes to us: "What is there in our present life to
repay us for this loss?" There are multitudes who can ask this
question, and answer honestly, "Nothing." It is sad, but true,
that countless men and women have never found any thing in life
which compensates them for the loss of the simple animal enjoyment
and content of childhood. Sickness, perhaps, has imposed upon them
years of pain. Poverty has condemned them to labor through every
waking hour to win sustenance for themselves and their dependents.
The heart has been cheated of its idol. Friends have proved false,
and fortune fickle. Life has gone wrong through all the avenues of
their being. Yet there are others who, while looking with pleasure
upon the innocent sports of animal life, and recalling the simple
joys of childhood with delight, are content with the lot of
manhood and womanhood, and would look upon a return to their
simpler age as the greatest calamity that could be inflicted upon
them. With brows wrinkled by care and toil, and heads silvered by
premature age, and great burdens upon heart and brain, they glory
in a life within and before them, by the side of which the life of
childhood is as flavorless and frivolous as that of a fly.

I have been much impressed by a passage in the "Recreations of a
Country Parson,"--which, by the way, is one of the best and
cleverest books of its kind in the English language--in which this
question is incidentally touched upon, and so happily touched
upon, that I cannot refrain from transcribing the whole passage.
The writer represents himself to be seated upon a manger, writing
upon the flat place between his horse's eyes, while the docile
animal's nose is between his knees; and it is the horse that he
addresses:--

"For you, my poor fellow-creature, I think with sorrow as I write
here upon your head, there remains no such immortality as remains
for me. What a difference between us! You to your sixteen or
eighteen years here, and then oblivion!--I to my threescore and
ten, and then eternity! Yes, the difference is immense; and it
touches me to think of your life and mine, of your doom and mine.
I know a house where at morning and evening prayer, when the
household assembles, among the servants there always walks in a
shaggy little dog, who listens with the deepest attention and the
most solemn gravity to all that is said, and then, when prayers
are over, goes out again with his friends. I cannot witness that
silent procedure without being much moved by the sight. Ah! my
fellow-creature, this is something in which you have no part! Made
by the same hand, breathing the same air, sustained like us by
food and drink, you are witnessing an act of ours which relates to
interests that do not concern you, and of which you have no idea.
And so here we are, you standing at the manger, old boy, and I
sitting upon it; the mortal and the immortal, close together; your
nose on my knee, my paper on your head; yet with something between
us broader than the broad Atlantic."

Here we find one man pitying his poor, dumb, unconscious
companion, and the little dog that trots in to attend the morning
prayers, because their life is so brief, and, more particularly,
because it is so insignificant. He recognizes the feeble likeness
between himself and them, and appreciates also the tremendous
difference. He does not think that he would be glad to exchange
his lot of labor and care for their carelessness and content, but,
reaching forward to grasp the hand of an immortal destiny, he
sorrows that he must leave his dumb servants and companions behind
him.

And this is the normal view of the question. We rise out of
semi-conscious infancy into a life of the senses, which goes on to
perfection in our childhood. We come into a state in which the
mechanism of the body enjoys its freest play, in which the senses
imbibe their sweetest satisfactions, and in which life either
swells into irrepressible overflowings, or subsides into careless
content. Looking at her children at this period of their life,
many a mother has said, "Let them play while they can; let them be
merry while they may; for they are seeing their happiest days."
But this animal life is not all. In its perfection it is very
beautiful, and it is good because God made it; but it is only the
coarse basis upon which rises a shaft, whiter than marble--wrought
with divine devices--crowned by the light of Heaven. It is only
those who have failed to secure a distinct perception of the
highest aspect of human life, and of that which makes it
characteristically human life, who can say to a child that he is
seeing his happiest days.

I remember with entire distinctness the moment when the
consciousness possessed me that my childhood was transcended by
initial manhood, and I can never forget the pang that moment
brought me. It was on a bright, moonlight night, in midwinter,
when my mates, boisterous with life, were engaged in their usual
games in the snow, and I had gone out expecting to share in their
enjoyment. I had not played, or rather tried to play, five
minutes, before I found that there was nothing in the play for me--
that I had absolutely exhausted play as the grand pursuit of my
life. Never since has the wild laugh of boyhood sounded so vacant
and hollow, as it did to me that night. In an instant, the
invisible line was crossed which separated a life of purely animal
enjoyment from a life of moral motive and responsibility, and
intellectual action and enterprise. The old had passed away, and I
had entered that which was new; and I turned my steps homeward,
leaving behind me all my companions, to spend a quiet evening in
the chimney-corner, and dream of the realm that was opening before
me. Such a moment as this comes really, though not always
consciously, to every man and woman. To-day we are children;
to-morrow we are not. To-day we stand in life's vestibule;
to-morrow we are in the temple, awed by the sweep of the arches
over us, humbled by the cross that fronts us, and smitten with
mysteries that breathe upon us from the choir, or gaze at us from
the flaming windows.

Manhood and womanhood have their infancy entirely distinct from
the infancy of childhood. The child is born into the world a
simple, animal life--less helpful than a lamb, or a calf, or a
kitten. There is no power in it, and but little of instinct. There
is no form of life, bursting caul or shell, that awakes in vital
air to such stupid, vacant helplessness, as a baby. It is out of
this lump of clay, with its bones only half hardened, and its
muscles little more than pulp, and its brain no more intelligent
than an uncooked dumpling, that childhood is to be made. And this
childhood consists of little more than a well-developed animal
organism. Nature keeps the child playing--makes it play in the
open air--impels it to bring into free and joyous use all the
powers of its little frame--and when that is done, and the
procreative faculty has crowned all, the child is born again, and
comes into a new infancy--the infancy of manhood and womanhood.
Here a new life opens. That which gave satisfaction before, gives
satisfaction no longer. Love takes new and deeper channels.
Ambition fixes its eye upon other and higher objects. Fresh
motives address the soul, and urge it into new enterprises. Great
cares and responsibilities settle slowly down upon its shoulders,
and it braces itself up to endure them. It apprehends God and its
relations to Him, and to its fellows; it confronts destiny; it
arms itself for the conflicts of life; it prepares for the
struggle which it knows will issue in a grateful success or a sad
disappointment; in short, it grows from man's infancy into man's
full estate.

Now the reason why a mother looks with a sigh upon her children,
and says that they are seeing the happiest days of their life, is
that she has never become a true woman. She has never grown out of
the infancy of her womanhood. She has never comprehended what a
glorious thing it is to be a woman--she has not comprehended what
it is to be a woman at all. What can be that woman's ideas of
life, who thinks and declares that the happiest moments of her
experience were those which were filled with the frolic of animal
life? If I felt like this, I should wish that my children had been
born rabbits, or squirrels, or lambs, or kittens, because they,
having enjoyed the pleasures of the animal, will never awake to
the woes of another type of life. The real reason why any man
sings from the heart,

  "O, would I were a boy again,"

is, that he is "stuck"--to use a homely but expressive word--
between boyhood and manhood, and, not feeling up to his position,
has a very strong disposition to back out of it. The man who
really wishes he were a boy, is either painfully conscious of the
loss of the purity of his boyhood, or he has the cowardly
disposition to shirk the responsibilities of his life. The
romantic regard which we all entertain for the simple animal
content and joy of childhood, is a very different thing to this.
It was Mr. Neal's loafer that really wished he were a pig; and it
is a loafer always who would retire from man's duties and estate,
into the content either of childhood or kittenhood.

It is very natural that a man should be blinded and pained by
passing from a shaded room into dazzling sunlight. It is a serious
thing to leap from a luxurious, enervating warm bath into cold
water. All sudden transitions are shocking; and God has contrived
the transitions of our lives so that they shall be mainly gradual.
It is not to be wondered at that many men and women, by having
the responsibilities of men and women thrust upon them too early,
are shocked, and look back upon the shady places they have left,
and long to rest their eyes there. It is not strange that men
recoil from a plunge into the world's cold waters, and long to
creep back into the bath from which they have suddenly risen. But
that man or woman, having fully passed into the estate of man and
woman, should desire to become children again, is impossible. It
is only the half-developed, the badly-developed, the imperfectly
nurtured, the mean-spirited, and the demoralized, who look back to
the innocence, the helplessness, and the simple animal joy and
content of childhood with genuine regret for their loss. I want no
better evidence that a person's life is regarded by himself as a
failure, than that furnished by his honest willingness to be
restored to his childhood. When a man is ready to relinquish
the power of his mature reason, his strength and skill for
self-support, the independence of his will and life, his bosom
companion and children, his interest in the stirring affairs of
his time, his part in deciding the great questions which agitate
his age and nation, his intelligent apprehension of the relations
which exist between himself and his Maker, and his rational hope
of immortality--if he have one--for the negative animal content,
and frivolous enjoyments of a child, he does not deserve the name
of a man;--he is a weak, unhealthy, broken-down creature, or a
base poltroon.

Yet I know there are those who will read this sentence with tears,
and with complaint. I know there are those whose existence has
been a long struggle with sickness and trial--whose lives have
been crowded with great griefs and disappointments--who sit in
darkness and impotency while the world rolls by them. They have
seen no joy and felt no content since childhood, and many of them
look with genuine pity upon children, because the careless
creatures do not know into what a heritage of sin and sorrow they
are entering. I have only to say to them, that the noblest
exhibitions of manhood and womanhood I have ever seen, or the
world has ever seen, have been among their number. A woman with
the hope of heaven in her eyes, incorruptible virtue in her heart,
and honesty in every endeavor, has smiled serenely, a million
times in this world, while her life and all its earthly
expectations were in ruins. Patient sufferers upon beds of pain
have forgotten childhood years ago, and, feeding their souls on
prayer, have looked forward with unutterable joy to the transition
from womanhood to angelhood. Men, utterly forsaken by friends--
contemned, derided, proscribed, persecuted--have stood by their
convictions with joyful heroism and calm content. Nay, great
multitudes have marched with songs upon their tongues to the rack
and the stake. The noblest spectacle the world affords is that of
a man or woman, rising superior to sorrow and suffering--
transforming sorrow and suffering into nutriment--accepting those
conditions of their life which Providence prescribes, and building
themselves up into an estate from whose summit the step is short
to a glorified humanity.

Before me hangs the portrait of an old man--the only man I ever
loved with a devotion that has never faded, though long years have
passed away since he died. His calm blue eyes look down upon me,
and I look into them, and through them I look into a golden
memory--into a life of self-denial--into a meek, toiling, honest,
heroic Christian manhood--into an uncomplaining spirit--into a
grateful heart--into a soul that never sighed over a lost joy,
though all his earthly enterprises miscarried. The tracery of care
and of sickness is upon his haggard features, but I see in them,
and in the soul which they represent to me, the majesty of
manliness. While I look, the kittens still play at the door, and
the noise of shouting children is in the street; but ah! how
shallow is the life they represent, compared with that of which
this dumb canvas tells me! It is better to be a man or a woman,
than to be a child. It is better to be an angel than to be either.
Let us look forward--never backward.



LESSON IV.

REPRODUCTION IN KIND.


  "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
   ST. PAUL TO THE GALATIANS.

  "Ye shall know them by their fruits: Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles?"  ST. MATTHEW'S GOSPEL.

It was fitting that one of the most characteristic and beautiful
laws of life should be announced in the opening chapter of the
Holy Bible. It was clothed in the form of an ordinance, as became
it: "Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind,
and every thing that creepeth upon the earth, after his kind."
From that day to this, every living thing--beast, bird and insect,
tree, shrub and plant--has produced after its kind. It is a law
that runs through all animal and vegetable life. Each family in
the great world of living forms was created for a special purpose,
and was intended to remain pure and distinctive until the
termination of its mission. Whenever the family boundaries are
overstepped, the curse of nature is breathed upon the generative
functions, and the illegitimate product dies out, or subsides into
hopeless degeneration. The mule is a monster, and has no progeny.

A plant, or a tree, never forgets itself. Cheat it of its root,
and the stem remains faithful. The minutest twig, put out to nurse
upon the arm of a foreign mother, feels the thrill of the great
primal law in its filmiest fibre, and breathes in every expression
of its life its fidelity. If you will walk with me into the
garden, I will show you a mountain-ash in full bloom; but on the
top of it you will see a strange little cluster of pear-blossoms.
A twig from a Seckel pear-tree was, two or three years since,
engrafted there. It had a hard time in uniting its being to that
of the alien ash, but it loved life, and so, at length, it
consented to join itself to the transplanted forest tree. It was
weak and alone, but it kept its law. Spring bathed the ash with
its own peculiar bloom, and autumn hung it with its clusters of
scarlet berries, and it was hidden from sight by the redundant
foliage, but it kept its law. The roots of the mountain-ash,
blindly reaching in the ground and imbibing its juices, knew
nothing of the little orphaned twig above, that waited for its
food; but they could not cheat it of its law. Up to a certain
point of a certain bough the rising fluids came under the law of
the mountain-ash, and there they found a gateway, guarded by an
angel that gave them a new commandment. "Thus far--mountain-ash:
beyond--Seckel pear;" and if, in October, you will walk in the
garden again with me, I will show you among the scarlet berries,
bending heavily toward you, the clustered succulence of the
Seckel.

A seedsman may cheat you, but a seed never does. If you plant
corn, it never comes up potatoes. If you sow wheat, it never comes
up rye. Wrapped up in every capsule, bound up in every kernel,
packed into every minutest germ, is this law, written by God at
the beginning, "Produce thou after thy kind." So the whole living
world goes on producing after its kind. Year after year we visit
the seedsman, and read the labels on his drawers and packages, and
bear home and plant in our gardens the little homely germs that
keep God's law so well; and summer rewards our trust in them with
beautiful flowers, and autumn with bountiful fruition. Robins sang
the same song to the Pilgrim Fathers that they sing to us. The
may-flower breathes the same fragrance now that it breathed in the
fingers of Rose Standish; and man and woman, producing after their
kind, are the same to-day that they were three thousand years ago.

Now there is a significance in all the laws of material life,
above and beyond their special office. They do the work they were
set to do; they rule the life they were appointed to rule; but the
laws, themselves, belong to a family whose branches run through
all intellectual, moral, and spiritual life. Laws live in groups
no less uniformly than the existences which they inform and
govern. It is a law, both of animal and vegetable structures, that
they shall grow by what they feed on; but this law passes the
bounds of matter, and finds its widest meaning and its most
extended application beyond. The mind grows by what it feeds on;
the heart grows by what it feeds on; love, hate, jealousy,
revenge, fortitude, courage, grow by what they feed on;
spirituality grows by what spirituality feeds on. Wherever growth
goes, through all the realm of God, this law goes; and the law
that every thing that produces shall produce after its kind, is
just as universal as this. It begins in material life, and runs up
through all life. Rather, perhaps, I should say, that it begins in
spiritual life, and seeks embodiment in material life, so that we
may apprehend it. The clouds were in heaven before there was any
rain, and the rain comes down from heaven to tell us what the
clouds are made of. I might go further, and say that every form,
of matter is but the embodiment of a divine thought, and that,
with that thought, there passes into matter the laws that reside
in divine things of corresponding nature and office.

But I am becoming abstruse--quite too much so, considering the
simple, practical truths to which I am seeking to introduce my
reader. I have been thinking how, in accordance with this law of
which we are talking, our moods, our passions, our sympathies, our
moral frames and conditions, reproduce themselves, after their
kind, in the minds and lives around us. I call my child to my knee
in anger; I strike him a hasty blow that carries with it the
peculiar sting of anger; I speak a loud reproof that bears with it
the spirit of anger; and I look in vain for any relenting in his
flashing eyes, flushed face, and compressed lips. I have made my
child angry, and my uncontrolled passion has produced after its
kind. I have sown anger, and I have reaped anger instantaneously.
Perhaps I become still more angry, in consequence of the passion
manifested by my child, and I speak and strike again. He is weak
and I am strong; but, though he bow his head, crushed into
silence, I may be sure that there is a sullen heart in the little
bosom, and anger the more bitter because it is impotent. I put the
child away from me, and think of what I have done. I am full of
relentings. I long to ask his pardon, for I know that I have
offended and deeply injured one of Christ's little ones. I call
him to me again, press his head to my breast, kiss him, and weep.
No word is spoken, but the little bosom heaves, the little heart
softens, the little eyes grow tenderly penitent, the little hands
come up and clasp my neck, and my relentings and my sorrow have
produced after their kind. The child is conquered, and so am I.

If I utter fretful words, they come back to me like echoes. If I
bristle all over with irritability, the quills will begin to rise
all about me. One thoroughly irritable person in a breakfast-room
spoils coffee and toast, sours milk, and destroys appetite for a
whole family. He produces after his kind.

Generally, a man has around him those who are like him. If he be a
man of strong nature and positive qualities, he will plant his
moods and grow them in the natures next to him. Of course there
must be exceptions to this rule, because the will is free and man
is reasonable, and the motive and power to pluck up unwelcome
seed, and unpleasant growths, inheres in all men. I have known a
good-natured man to live with a pettish, ill-natured, jealous,
fault-finding wife through all the years of my acquaintance with
him, he meantime growing no worse, and she growing no better. They
had voluntarily and effectually shut themselves each from the
influence of the other. He had closed his spirit against that
which was bad in her, and she had closed her spirit against that
which was good in him; so she went on fretting through life, and
he very good-naturedly laughing at her. We see this thing through
all society. We see innocent girls grow up into virtue, though
surrounded on every side by vicious example. We see natures and
characters everywhere which refuse to receive the seed that falls
upon them from the natures and characters of others; but this
makes nothing against the universality of the law we are
considering. Generally, I repeat, a man has around him those who
are like him. The soil of a social circle is usually open, and
whatever falls into it produces after its kind, whether it be good
nature or ill nature, purity or impurity, faith or skepticism,
love or hate.

It would appear, therefore, that there is no way by which we can
surround ourselves by good society so readily as by being good
ourselves. If we plant good seed, we may calculate with a great
degree of certainty upon securing good fruit. If I plant frankness
and open-heartedness, I expect to reap them; and I have no right
to expect to reap them unless I plant them. If I go to a man with
my heart in my hand, I have good reason for expecting to meet a
man with his heart in his hand. Frankness begets frankness, just
as naturally and just as certainly, under the proper conditions,
as like produces like in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. There
are men who do every thing by indirection who meet one as warily
as if words were traps; and pitfalls who manage a friendly
interview as a general would manage a campaign; and if they make
their demonstration first, we are placed upon our guard. We
unconsciously become wary and distrustful. They plant distrust and
secretiveness, and they produce in us after their kind. No man can
be treated frankly in this world unless he himself be frank. If we
would win confidence to ourselves, we must put confidence in
others. The soul is like a mirror, reflecting that which stands
before it.

The young naturally take on the moods and accept and reflect the
influences around them more readily than the old, just as a new
piece of land will produce a better crop than one which is worn or
pre-occupied. A virgin mind is like a virgin soil. It contains all
the elements of fertility, and is adapted to the production of any
crop. It has been exhausted in no department of its constitution.
It is not occupied by roots, and shaded by foliage. It is not
turf-bound and dry; but it is soft and open, and clean and moist,
and ready for the reception of any seed that may fall upon it.
Until age brings individuality, the mind seems to have little
choice as to what it will receive. Then, indeed, it does reject
much seed that falls upon it, and much fails to take root because
of the pre-occupation of the surface. A sensual seed is planted in
the soul of a young man, and it springs up readily, and produces
after its kind; but the same seed tossed upon an older soil fails
to sink and germinate, because the surface is pre-occupied, or,
more frequently, because that peculiar element on which the germ
must rely for quickening and sustentation has been exhausted. Some
manly or Christian grace falls upon a young mind, and quickly
strikes root and rises into flower and fruit; while the same grace
thrown upon an adult mind would fail to reach the soil, through
the vices that cumber and choke it. It is thus that home and the
school-room are literally seminaries--places where seed is sown--
and it is in these that we expect and intend that every seed shall
produce after its kind. Let us talk about this a little.

I once heard a person say that one of his acquaintances, whom he
named, had no moral right to have a child. Why was this harsh
judgment uttered? Because he was hereditarily scrofulous, and
would necessarily entail upon his offspring the family taint. If
there were even a show of justice in this, what must be said of a
parent who does not possess a single moral quality, that even he,
in the selfishness of his parental love, would desire to see
implanted in his child? How many homes are scattered over
Christendom in which no good seed is sown! How many selfish,
niggardly, vicious parents are there, who, producing after their
kind, by generation and by influence, are filling the world with
selfish, niggardly, and vicious children! How many homes are there
in which the gentle words of love are never heard; in which the
tender graces of a Christian heart are never unfolded; in which a
prayer is never uttered! How many fathers are there whose lips are
black with profanity and foul with obscenity, and whose lives are
mean and unwholesome! How many mothers are there whose tongues are
nimble with scandal and bitter with scolding, and whose brains are
busy with vanities and jealousies! Ah! if there be any man or
woman in this world who has no moral right to have a child, it is
one who has not a single trait of character desirable to be
reproduced in a child. Scrofula may be bad, but sin is worse.
Bodily taint may be terrible, but spiritual taint is horrible.

It is a general truth, under the law that every thing produces
after its kind, that children become what their parents are. A
simple people, virtuous and healthy, will produce virtuous,
healthy, and true-hearted children, A luxurious people--lazy,
sensual, wasteful--will produce children like themselves. If we go
through the vicious quarters of a great city, where licentiousness
and drunkenness and beastly vices prevail, we shall find that
though all die before old age, the communities are abundantly
recruited by the children which they produce. Men, principles,
habits, ideas, vices, all have children, whose features betray
their parentage; so that no parent has a right to expect a child
to be better than its father and mother. On the contrary, he has
every reason to believe that every thing that a child sees wrong
in the parents, will be imitated. There is no way by which bad
parents can bring up a family well. There must be in the parental
life good principles, a sweet and equable temper, a tender and
loving disposition, a firm self-control, a pleasant deportment,
and a conscientious devotion to duty, or these will not be found
in the life of the children. Bad seed, sown in the quick soil of a
child's mind, is sure to spring up, and to bear fruit after its
kind. No sensible man ever dreams of gathering figs from thistles,
or grapes from bramble-bushes, and no man has the slightest right
to suppose that he can bring up a family to be better than he is.
The plant will be true to the seed.

We are in the habit of hearing that the children of a certain
neighborhood, or school, or town, are extraordinarily bad
children. Great wonder is sometimes expressed in regard to such
instances, when, really, they are not wonderful at all. When
children are unusually bad, parents are unusually bad, or, if they
are not bad-hearted, they are wrong-headed. I ought, perhaps, to
say here that I have known an irascible, tyrannical, unjust and
cruel school-teacher to spoil a neighborhood of children, when the
parents were without any special fault, save that of failing to
thrust him out of the charge which he had abused. But usually the
fault is at home. If the seed planted there be good, it will
produce good fruit. Yet my reader will say that the best man he
ever knew, had the worst children he ever saw. The truth of the
statement is admitted, but what do you know of the home life of
that family? How much unreasonable restraint has been exercised
upon those children? From how many exhibitions of stern and
unrelenting injustice have these children suffered? What laxity of
discipline and carelessness of culture have reigned in that
family? I know many who seem to be excellent men in society, but
who are any thing but amiable men at home. In one they are
pleasant, affable, kind, and charitable; in the other, cross-grained,
hard, unkind, and unjust. I declare with all positiveness, that when
a family or a neighborhood of children is bad, there is a reason for it
outside of the children. There are bad influences which descend
upon them, and work out their natural results in them.

It is astonishing to see how long a seed will lie in the ground
without germinating, and how true it will remain to its kind
through untold years. Cut down a pine forest, where an oak has not
been seen for a century, and oak shrubbery will spring up. Heave
out upon the surface a pile of earth that has lain hidden from the
eyes of a dozen generations, and forthwith it will grow green with
weeds. Plough up the prairie, and turn under the grass and flowers
that have grown there since the white settler can remember, and
there will spring from the inverted sod a strange growth that has
had no representative in the sunlight for long ages. Soul and soil
are alike in this. I once heard a man say of his father, who had
been dead many years--"I hate him: I hate his memory." The words
were spoken bitterly, with a flushed face and angry eyes, yet he
who spoke them was one of the kindest and most placable of men.
Deep down in his heart, under love for his mother which was almost
worship, and under affection for wife, children, and sisters which
was as deep as his nature, and under multiplied friendships, there
had been planted this seed. The father had treated the boy harshly
and unjustly; and the young soul was stung as the tender fruit is
stung by an insect. Where anger and resentment were sown, anger
and resentment were ready to spring up the moment the seed was
uncovered. I have known men to carry through life a revenge
planted in their hearts by some unjust and cruel schoolmaster. How
many men are there are in the world who have sworn to revenge
themselves upon one who had stung them with anger or injustice
when in childhood!

So we come to the grand lesson, that if we would have good
children, we must ourselves be exactly what we would have them
become; if we would govern our families, we must first govern
ourselves; if we would have only pleasant words greet our ears in
the home circle, we must speak only pleasant words. We should see
to it that we plant nothing, the legitimate fruits of which we
shall not be willing and glad to see borne in the lives of our
children. If our children are bad, the fault is, ninety-nine cases
in a hundred, our own, in some way. If we would reform society, or
make it better in any respect, our quickest way to do it is to
reform and make ourselves better. If I would reap courtesy and
hospitality and kindness and love, I must plant them; and it is
the sum of all arrogance to assume that I have a right to reap
them without planting them. A man who receives courtesy without
exercising it, reaps that which he has not sown. He is a thief,
and ought in justice to be kicked out of society. Blessings on the
man who sows the seeds of a happy nature and a noble character
broadcast wherever his feet wander,--who has a smile alike for joy
and sorrow, a tender word always for a child, a compassionate
utterance for suffering, courtesy for friends and for strangers,
encouragement for the despairing, an open heart for all--love for
all--good words for all! Such seed produces after its kind in all
soils, when it finds lodgment; and that which the sower fails to
reap, passes into hands that are grateful for the largess.



LESSON V.

TRUTH AND TRUTHFULNESS.


  "For truth is as impossible to be soiled by any outward touch as
a sunbeam." MILTON.

  "Odds life! must one swear to the truth of a song?" MATTHEW PRIOR.

  "Get but the truth once uttered, and 'tis like
   A star new-born that drops into its place,
   And which, once circling in its placid round,
   Not all the tumult of the earth can shake." LOWELL.

One of the rarest powers possessed by man is the power to state a
fact. It seems a very simple thing to tell the truth, but, beyond
all question, there is nothing half so easy as lying. To
comprehend a fact in its exact length, breadth, relations, and
significance, and to state it in language that shall represent it
with exact fidelity, are the work of a mind singularly gifted,
finely balanced, and thoroughly practiced in that special
department of effort. The greatness of Daniel Webster was more
apparent in his power to state a fact, or to present a truth,
than in any other characteristic of his gigantic nature. It was
the power of truth that won for him his forensic victories.
Whenever he was truest to truth, then was truth truest to him. He
was a man who implicitly believed in the power of truth to take
care of itself when it had been fairly presented; and the failures
of his life always grew out of his attempts to make falsehood look
like truth--a field of effort in which the most gifted of his
cotemporaries won the most brilliant of his triumphs.

The men are comparatively few who are in the habit of telling the
truth. We all lie, every day of our lives--almost in every
sentence we utter--not consciously and criminally, perhaps, but
really, in that our language fails to represent truth, and state
facts correctly. Our truths are half-truths, or distorted truths,
or exaggerated truths, or sophisticated truths. Much of this is
owing to carelessness, much to habit, and, more than has generally
been supposed, to mental incapacity. I have known eminent men who
had not the power to state a fact, in its whole volume and
outline, because, first, they could not comprehend it perfectly,
and, second, because their power of expression was limited. The
lenses by which they apprehended their facts were not adjusted
properly, so they saw every thing with a blur. Definite outlines,
cleanly cut edges, exact apprehension of volume and weight, nice
measurement of relations, were matters outside of their
observation and experience. They had broad minds, but bungling;
and their language was no better than their apprehensions--usually
it was worse, because language is rarely as definite as
apprehension. Men rarely do their work to suit them, because their
tools are imperfect.

There are men in all communities who are believed to be honest,
yet whose word is never taken as authority upon any subject. There
is a flaw or a warp somewhere in their perceptions, which prevents
them from receiving truthful impressions. Every thing comes to
them distorted, as natural objects are distorted by reaching the
eye through wrinkled window-glass. Some are able to apprehend a
fact and state it correctly, if it have no direct relation to
themselves; but the moment their personality, or their personal
interest, is involved, the fact assumes false proportions and
false colors. I know a physician whose patients are always
alarmingly sick when he is first called to them. As they usually
get well, I am bound to believe that he is a good physician; but I
am not bound to believe that they are all as sick at beginning as
he supposes them to be. The first violent symptoms operate upon
his imagination and excite his fears, and his opinion as to the
degree of danger attaching to the diseases of his patients is not
worth half so much as that of any sensible old nurse. In fact,
nobody thinks of taking it all; and those who know him, and who
hear his sad representations of the condition of his patients,
show equal distrust of his word and faith in his skill, by taking
it for granted that they are in a fair way to get well.

It is impossible for bigots, for men of one idea, for fanatics,
for those who set boundaries to themselves in religious, social,
and political creeds, for men who think more of their own selfish
interests than they do of truth, and for vicious men, to speak the
truth. We are all, I suppose, bigots to a greater or less extent.
We all have a creed written in our minds, or printed in our books;
and to this we are more or less blindly attached. We set down an
article of faith, or adopt an opinion, and nothing is allowed to
interfere with it. If a sturdy fact comes along, and asks
admission, we turn to our creed to see if we can safely entertain
it. If the creed says "No," we say "No," and the fact is turned
out of doors, and misrepresented after it is gone. Our creeds are
our dwellings. They come next to us, and nothing can come to us,
or go out from us, without going through our creeds. The simple
fact of the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross, reaching the
mind through various creeds, and passing out again, goes through
as many phases as there are creeds, ranging through a scale which
at one extreme presents a God dying to redeem the lost millions of
a world, and, at the other, a benevolent, sweet-tempered man,
yielding his life in testimony of the honesty of his teachings.

No new truth presents itself, which does not have to run the
gauntlet of our creeds. If it get through alive, and seem disposed
to be peaceable, and to remain subordinate to them, then we let it
live, and receive it into respectable society;--otherwise, we
entreat it shamefully. Sometimes the truth is too much for us, and
asserts its power to stand without our help, and then we
compromise with it. The world will turn on its axis, and wheel
around its orbit, though we stop the mouth of the profane wretch
who declares it; so, after a while, we get tired of fighting the
fact, and shape our creeds accordingly. We fight the sturdy truths
of geology, because they interfere with our creeds, but after
awhile the sturdy truths of geology become too sturdy for us, and
then we begin to patronize them, and to confer upon them the honor
of harmonizing with our creeds. A man who has adopted the creed of
a materialist, is entirely incompetent to receive, entertain, and
represent a spiritual fact. My creed is the window at which I sit,
and look at all the world of truth outside of me. All truth is
tinted by the medium through which it passes to reach my mind; and
such is my imperfection and my weakness, that I could not raise my
window immediately, and place my soul in direct, vital contact
with the great atmosphere of truth, if I would.

But if bigotry be such a bar to the correct perception of truth,
what shall be said of self-interest and personal vices of appetite
and passion? It is possible for no man who owns a slave and finds
profit in such ownership, to receive the truth touching the right
of man to himself, and the moral wrong of slavery. We have too
much evidence that even creeds must bend to self-interest, and
that any traffic will be regarded as morally right which is
pecuniarily profitable. Once, in the creed of the slaveholders,
slavery was admitted to be wrong, but that was when it was looked
upon as temporary in its character, and, on the whole, evil in its
results to all concerned. Now, when it is sought to be made a
permanent institution, because it seems to be the only source of
the wealth of a section, it has become right; and even the
slave-trade logically falls into the category of laudable and
legitimate commerce. It is impossible for a people who have allowed
pecuniary interest to deprave their moral sense to this extent,
to perceive and receive any sound political truth, or to apprehend
the spirit and temper of those who are opposed to them. The same
may be said of the liquor traffic. The act of selling liquor is
looked upon with horror by those who stand outside, and who have
an eye upon its consequences; but the seller deems it legitimate,
and looks upon any interference with his sales as an infringement
of his rights. Our selfish interest in any business, or in any
scheme of profit, distorts all truth either directly or indirectly
related to such business or scheme, or living in its region and
atmosphere. The President of the United States, or the governor of
the commonwealth, may be an excellent man; but if I want an
office, and he fails to appoint me to it, why I don't exactly
regard him as such. He becomes to me a very ordinary and vulgar
sort of man indeed; but if he give me my office, then, though he
may be all that his enemies think him, he seems to me to be
invested with a singular nobility of character that other people
do not apprehend at all.

The vices of humanity are sad media through which to receive
truth--often so opaque that no truth can reach the mind at all. It
is impossible for a man whose affections are bestialized, whose
practices are libertine, and whose imaginations are all impure, to
receive the truth that there are such things as purity and virtue,
and that there are men and women around him who are virtuous and
pure. There is no truth which personal vice will not distort. The
approaches to a sensual mind are through the senses, and the same
may be said of all minds in a general way; but the approaches to a
sensual mind are only through the senses, and they, being
perverted, abused, exhausted, or unduly excited, furnish the
utterly unreliable avenues by which truth reaches the soul. The
grand reason why truth, published from the pulpit and the
platform, revealed in periodicals and books, and embodied in
pictures and statues, works no greater changes upon the minds and
morals of men, is, that it never gets inside of men in the shape
in which it is uttered. It passes through such media of bigotry,
or self-interest, or vice, that its identity and power are lost.

It is not, therefore, remarkable that so little truth is told
when so little is received--that so little is expressed when so
little is apprehended. The largest field will not produce an
oat-straw that will stand alone, if there be no silica in the soil,
and the largest mind cannot express a pure truth if it has lived
always so encased that pure truth could not find its way into it.
All truth reaches our minds through various media, by which it is
more or less colored and refracted; and it is very rare that a man
has the power to embody in language and utter a truth in the
degree of perfection in which he received it. As I said at
beginning, the power to state a fact correctly, or to express a
pure truth, is among the rarest gifts of man. It never struck me
that David was remarkably hasty, when he said that all men were
liars. All men are liars, in one respect or another. They are
divisible into various classes, which may legitimately be
mentioned under two heads, viz., unconscious liars and conscious
liars.

Of those who lie, and suppose they are telling the truth, I have
already spoken. They are a large and most respectable class of
people, and their apology must be found in the theory I have
advanced; yet among these may be found men and women who will
require all the amplitude of our mantles of charity to cover them.
I have been much impressed with a passage in Dr. Bushnell's recent
volume, entitled "Christian Nurture," which incidentally touches
upon this subject, in the writer's characteristically powerful
way; and as I cannot condense it, I will copy it:

"There is, in some persons who appear in all other respects to be
Christian, a strange defect of truth, or truthfulness. They are
not conscious of it. They would take it as a cruel injustice were
they only to suspect their acquaintances of holding such an
estimate of them. And yet, there is a want of truth in every sort
of demonstration they make. It is not their words only that lie,
but their voice, air, action; their every putting forth has a
lying character. The atmosphere they live in is an atmosphere of
pretence. Their virtues are affectations. Their compassions and
sympathies are the airs they put on. Their friendship is their
mood, and nothing more; and yet they do not know it. They mean, it
may be, no fraud. They only cheat themselves so effectually as to
believe that what they are only acting is their truth. And, what
is difficult to reconcile, they have a great many Christian
sentiments; they maintain prayer as a habit, and will sometimes
speak intelligently of matters of Christian experience."

It was the oracular sage, Deacon Bedott, who, in view of the
imperfections of his kind, remarked several times in his life:
"we are all poor creeturs"--a remark that comes as near to being
pure truth as any we meet with outside of the Bible and the
standard treatises on mathematics. We are, indeed, poor creatures.
Our highest conceptions of truth are contemptible, our best
utterances fall short of our conceptions, and our lives are poorer
than our language.

Of all conscious and criminal lying, I know of none that exceeds
in malignity and magnitude that of a political campaign. In such a
struggle, men get in love with lies. They seek apologies for the
circulation of lies. They hug lies to their hearts in preference
to truth. It is the habit of hopeful philosophers to enlarge upon
the benefit to our people of the annual and quadrennial contests
for place, which occur in our country, as if principles were the
things really at stake, and personalities were out of the
question, as the lying politicians would have us believe. What, in
honesty, can be said of the leading speakers and the leading
presses which sustain a party in a contest for power, but that
they studiously misrepresent their opponents, misstate their own
motives, give currency to false accusations, suppress truth that
tells against them, exaggerate the importance of that which favors
them, seize upon all plausible pretexts for fraud, skulk behind
subterfuges, and lie outright when it is deemed necessary. And
what can be expected more and better than this, when the leaders
are office-seekers, who live and thrive on the grand basilar lie
that the motive which inspires all their action is a regard for
the popular good? Of course I speak generally. There are
politicians and presses that are above personal considerations;
but even these become infected with the prevalent poison of
falsehood that is everywhere associated with their efforts.

The social lying of the world has found multitudinous satirists,
and furnished the staple of a whole school of writers. We touch
our hats in token of respect to men whom in our hearts we despise.
We inquire tenderly for the health of persons for whom we do not
care a straw. We who cannot afford it wear expensive clothing, and
display grand equipage, and give costly entertainments, not
because we enjoy it, but because we wish to impress upon the world
the belief that we can afford it. It is our way of expressing a
lie which seems to us important to the maintenance of our social
standing. We receive with a kiss a visitor whom we wish were in
Greenland, and betray her to the next who comes in. We pretend to
ourselves and our neighbors that there is nothing which we so much
esteem as the simple friendships of life, and the straight-forward
love and hearty good will of the honest hearts around us, yet when
the rich and the titled are near, we are gladdened and flattered,
and look with supercilious contempt upon the humble friendships
which we affected to cherish supremely. In our conscience and
judgment, we appreciate the genuine values of social life, and we
profess in our language to hold them in just estimation, but in
our life and practice we honor that which is fictitious and
conventional, apprehending in our conscience and judgment that we
are acting a lie. Socially I cannot but believe that there is far
more of truthfulness in humble than in high life. The more nearly
we come down to hearty nature, and the further we go from, the
artificial and conventional, the nearer do we come to truth. Truth
is indeed at the bottom of this well, and not in the artificial
wall that rises above it, nor the buckets that go up and down as
caprice or selfishness turns the windlass.

Business lying is, after all, the most universal of any. It is
confined to no age and no nation. Solomon understood the world's
great game when he wrote: "It is naught, it is naught, saith the
buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth;" and from
Solomon's day down to ours, buyers have depreciated that which
they would purchase, and then boasted of their bargains. When two
selfish persons meet on opposite sides of a counter, there rises
between them a sort of antagonism. One is interested in selling an
article of merchandise at the highest practicable profit, and the
other is interested in obtaining it at the lowest possible price.
Of the small, cunning lies that pass back and forth over that
counter, of the half-truths told, and the whole truths suppressed,
of deceptions touching the quality of goods on one side and the
ability to buy on the other, it would be humiliating to tell. If
every lie told in the shops, across mahogany and show-case, by
buyers and sellers, were nailed like base coin to the counter,
there would be no room for the display of goods. It is considered
no mean compliment to a business man to say that he is sharp at a
bargain; yet this sharpness is rarely more than the faculty of
ingenious lying. A man who sells to me an article worth only five
dollars for twice that sum is a "sharp man;" but he cannot make
such a sale to me without telling me, in some way, a lie. The
price he puts upon his merchandise is a lie, essentially, in
itself.

There is a great deal of business lying that by long habit becomes
unconscious. If we take up a newspaper, we shall find that quite a
number of the stores around us, kept by our excellent friends,
have "the largest and finest stock of goods ever displayed in the
city." We shall find that they have been selling for years at
"unprecedentedly low prices," that they are "selling at less than
cost," that they are pushing off goods at rates "ruinously low,"
and that they can offer bargains to buyers that will confound
their competitors. I suppose that none of these advertisers think
they are lying, or, if they do, that their lying is of a harmful
character. Lying in this way is supposed to be part of the
legitimate machinery of trade. Promising definitely to finish work
without the expectation of keeping the promise, or being able to
keep it, is another kind of half unconscious lying. There are men
engaged in various trades, in all communities, whose word is of no
more value, when in the form of a promise to finish within a
certain period a certain piece of work, than the fly-leaf of a
last year's almanac. There are men whom every one knows who will
lie without blushing about their work, and who will stand at their
counter and lie all day, and then sleep with a peaceful conscience
at night, having failed to fulfil a single pledge during their
waking hours. Then there are people who will promise to pay bills,
and promise a hundred times over, and never pay, and never expect
to pay. When a bill is presented, they promise to pay, as a matter
of course; and that is considered as good as the gold, until it is
presented again; and then comes another promise, and another and
another. The creditor knows the debtor lies, but many a debtor of
this kind would feel insulted and injured by any spoken doubts of
his truthfulness.

But the field is large, and I am already beyond the limits which I
set for myself in these essays. It will be seen that I regard
truthfulness as, on the whole, a rare article in this world. It
is in some respects necessarily so. Many men are incapable of
stating a fact or telling a truth. They have not the power to
comprehend or express either. The majority of men receive truth
through such media of prejudice, selfishness, bigotry, sensuality,
and the like, that they never get it pure, and are therefore
incapable of uttering it correctly, even when their power of
expression equals their power of perception, which is not commonly
the case. So there is a world of unconscious lying; but I am sorry
to believe that there is just as large a world of conscious lying.
In politics, society, and business, the conscious and intentional
lie abounds. "Lord! how this world is given to lying!"

Well, all this can be improved. Men can cultivate the power to
apprehend and express truth. They can cast off the prejudice,
selfishness, bigotry, and sensuality that prevent them from
receiving truth. They can refrain from conscious lying; and no one
doubts that the world would be greatly improved by honest efforts
directed to these ends. Only the naked soul, in Eternity's white
light, can be wholly truthful; but we can all try for it, and we
shall find our highest account in trying.



LESSON VI.

MISTAKES OF PENANCE.


  "For of the soul the body form doth take,
   For soul is form and doth the body make."
   SPENSER.

  "Can sackcloth clothe a fault or hide a shame?
   Or do thy hands make Heaven a recompense,
   By strewing dust upon thy briny face?
   No! though thou pine thyself with willing want,
   Or face look thin, or carcass ne'er so gaunt;
   Such holy madness God rejects and loathes
   That sinks no deeper than the skin or clothes."
   QUARLES.

  "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." KEATS.

I have every reason to believe that God loves Shakers, but I do
not think He admires them. I do not see how He can; but perhaps
this is not a competent reason to offer in the premises. I saw a
wagon-load of what I supposed to be Shakers of both sexes, riding
along the street, the other day; and I wondered what I should
think of them if I had made them. I think I should have been
about equally vexed and amused to see the lines that I had made
beautiful, disguised, and every grace-giving swell of limb and
bust, upon which I had exercised such exquisite toil, carefully
hidden. They sat up very straight and prim, in a very square
wagon, behind a square-trotting horse, driven by "right lines" in
a pair of hands that seemed to grow out of the driver's stomach,
while his elevated, rectangular elbows cut rigidly against the air
on either side. It was a vision for a painter--a house painter--
"a painter by trade." The long-haired, meek-looking men,
with their flat-crowned, broad-brimmed hats, straight coats and
neutral colors, and the women with their sugar-scoop bonnets,
white kerchiefs and straight waists, looked like a case of faded
wax-figures, in prison uniform, that had "come down to us from a
former generation."

I heaved a sigh as the wagon-load of mortified and badly-dressed
flesh passed out of sight, and wondered if the souls inside of
those bodies were as angular as their covering. I did not believe
it--I do not believe it. I have no doubt that underneath those
straight waistcoats hearts have throbbed at the sight of woman and
child, and longed for home and family life, with yearnings that
could not be uttered. Those straightlaced sensibilities have been
thrilled by beauty, and bathed in the grace and glory of the life
around them. Trees have whispered to them, flowers have looked up
and rebuked them, brooks have called to them with laughter, rivers
have smiled upon them in sunshine, the great sky has bent over
them with infinite tenderness and fulness of beauty, and they have
felt what they could not define. It was something very wrong, they
supposed, and so they buttoned their straight jackets around them,
turned their eyes away from beholding vanity, and thought they had
done an excellent thing. I know that those young women, with their
abominable clothing outside, and their crushed and abused
sympathies inside, are unhappy, unless they have all been
mercifully transformed into fanatics. It is useless to tell me
that a man can ignore or trample to death the strongest passion of
his nature--the strongest, the purest, and the most ennobling--and
be a happy man. It is useless to say that a man or woman can walk
through a world of beauty--themselves the most beautiful of all
things--and bind themselves up in unbecoming drapery, and smother
all their impulses to express the beauty with which God inspires
them, and do it with content and satisfaction. It cannot be done.

So, when this wagon-load of Shakers drove out of sight, I heaved a
sigh, for I knew that not to be unhappy in the life which was
typefied in their dress and establishment, would be a greater
misfortune, essentially, than dissatisfaction and discontent would
be. If they were happy in their life, they must have become
perverted in their natures, or indurated beyond the susceptibility
to receive the impressions of healthy men and women. If God ever
put any thing majestic and noble into a man, and gave him a
fitting frame for it, He never intended that it should be hidden
in a meal-bag, or permanently quenched under a smock-frock. In the
infinite variety which he has introduced into human character and
into human forms and faces, there is no warrant for dressing men
in uniform, but a most emphatic protest against it. If God made
woman beautiful, He made her so to be looked at--to give pleasure
to the eyes which rest upon her--and she has no business to dress
herself as if she were a hitching-post, or to transform that which
should give delight to those among whom she moves, into a
ludicrous caricature of a woman's form.

I repeat that I have every reason to believe that God loves
Shakers, but I do not think He admires them. If God admires the
bodies He has made, He cannot admire them when they are covered by
the Shaker dress, for it spoils the looks of them, and differs
essentially from the plan which He pursues in draping all other
forms of life. There is no grace about it, and no beauty of color.
God admires clouds, I doubt not, when painted by the setting sun,
and stars flashing in the heavens, and the flowers of myriad hues
that are scattered over the earth, but if these are objects of His
special admiration, as they are of ours, what can He think of a
drab Shaker bonnet? What can He think when man and woman, the
glory and crown of His creation, are entirely overtopped and
thrown into the shade by birds and bees and blossoms, and go
poking around the world in unexampled and ingeniously contrived
ugliness? What does He think of men and women who take that
passion of love, which was intended to make them happy, and give
them sweet companionship, and bear young children to their arms,
and trample it under their feet as an unholy thing, and to welcome
to their hearts, in its stead, blackness, and darkness, and
tempest? What does He think of lives out of which are shut all
meaning and all individuality, and all love and expression of
beauty, and all vivifying, liberalizing, and humanizing
experience?

I owe no grudge to the Shakers. I like their apple sauce, (they
ask a thrifty price for it,) and have faith in the genuineness and
the generation, under favorable conditions, of their garden seeds;
but I object to their style of life and piety, and to every thing
outside of Shakerdom which looks like it. I object to this whole
idea, (and the Shakers have not monopolized it,) that God takes
delight in the voluntary personal mortification of His children,
and that He approves of their going about, sad-faced and
straight-laced, studiously avoiding all temptation to enjoy
themselves.

I have seen a deacon in the pride of his deep humility. He combed
his hair straight, and looked studiously after the main chance;
and while he looked, he employed himself in setting a good
example. His dress was rigidly plain, and his wife was not
indulged in the vanities of millinery and mantua-making. He never
joked. He did not know what a joke was, any further than to know
that it was a sin. He carried a Sunday face through the week. He
did not mingle in the happy social parties of his neighborhood. He
was a deacon. He starved his social nature because he was a
deacon. He refrained from all participation in a free and generous
life because he was a deacon. He made his children hate Sunday
because he was a deacon. He so brought them up that they learned
to consider themselves unfortunate in being the children of a
deacon. They were pitied by other children because they were the
children of a deacon. His wife was pitied by other women because
she was the wife of a deacon. Nobody loved him. If he came into a
circle where men were laughing or telling stories, they always
stopped until he went out. Nobody ever grasped his hand cordially,
or slapped him on the shoulder, or spoke of him as a good fellow.
He seemed as dry and hard and tough as a piece of jerked beef.
There was no softness of character--no juiciness--no loveliness
in him.

Now it is of no use for me to undertake to realize to myself that
God admires such a character as this. I do not doubt that He loves
the man, as He loves all men; but to admire his style of manhood
and piety is impossible for any intelligent being. It lacks the
roundness and fulness, and richness and sweetness, that belong to
a truly admirable character. Such a man caricatures Christianity,
and scares other men away from it. Such a man ostentatiously
presents himself as one in whose life religion is dominant. It is
religion that is supposed to rub down that long face, and inspire
that stiff demeanor, and to make him at all points an unattractive
and unlovable man. Of course it is not religion that does any
thing of the kind, but it has the credit of it with the world, and
the world does not like it. It looks around, and sees a great many
men who do not pretend to religion at all, and yet who are very
lovable men. If religion can transform a pleasant man into a most
unpleasant one, and change a free, bright, and happy home into a
dismal place of slavery, and blot out a man's aesthetic and social
nature, the world naturally thinks that getting religion would be
almost as much of a misfortune as getting some melancholy chronic
disease, and I do not blame it. It is not to be wondered at that
the world should mistake, very much, the true nature of
Christianity, when Christians themselves entertain such grievous
errors about it.

I suppose God is attracted to very much the same style of
character that men are. Christ loved a young man at first sight,
who lacked the very thing essential to his highest manhood. But
He loved the kind of man He saw before Him. He was upright,
frank-hearted, open-minded, and bright; and "Jesus beholding him,
loved him." There are men whom one cannot help loving and admiring
though they lack a great many things--things very "needful" to
make them perfect men. Now I put it to good, conscientious,
Christian men and women, whether they do not take more pleasure in
the society of a warm-hearted, generous, chivalrous, well-fed, man
of the world, than in the society of any of that class of
Christians of whom the deacon I have mentioned is a type. I know
they do, and they cannot help it. There is more of that which
belongs to a first-class Christian character in the former than in
the latter, and if I were called upon to test the two men by
commanding them respectively to sell what they have and give to
the poor, I should be disappointed were the deacon to behave the
best. A character which religion does not fructify--does not
soften, enlarge, beautify, and enrich--is not benefited by
religion--or, rather, has not possessed itself of religion. God
loves that which is beautiful and attractive in character, just as
much as we do, and it makes no difference where he sees it. He
does not dislike the amiable traits of a sinner because he is a
sinner, nor does he admire those traits of a Christian which we
feel to be contemptible, simply because they belong to a
Christian. A Christian sucked dry of his humanity, is as juiceless
and as flavorless as a sucked orange, and I believe that God
regards him in the same light that we do. He will save such I
doubt not, for their faith; and, in the coming world, they will
learn what they do not know here; but the question whether they
are as well worth saving as some of their neighbors, may, I think,
be legitimately entertained. In saying this, I mean to be neither
light or irreverent. I mean simply to indicate that some men are
worth a great deal more to themselves and to their fellows than
others.

So, when I look abroad upon the world, and see men shaving their
heads, and wearing nasty hair shirts, and shutting themselves up
in cells, and living lives of celibacy, and when I see women
retiring from the world which they were sent to adorn, populate,
and bless, and Shakers driving around in square wagons and
studiously ugly garments, and Christians who should know better
abandoning all the bright and cheerful things of life, and feeling
that there is merit in mortification, I cannot but feel that God
looks down upon it all with sadness and pity. After doing every
thing in His power to make His children happy--after filling the
world with good things for their use, and giving them abundant
faculties for enjoying them--after endowing them with beauty, and
a sense of that which is beautiful--it must be sad to Him to see
them wandering about in strange disguises, hugging to their
half-rebellious hearts the awful mistake that, however much they
may suffer, they are gaining favor thereby in the sight of their
Maker. Of course, I believe in self-denial, and in the nobility
of self-denial, for the good of others; but I believe that all
self-denial that partakes of the character of penance, in whatever
form and under whatever circumstances it may develop itself, is
always a thing of mischief, and always a thing of error. It has its
basis in the miserable theory that there is something in the
passions and appetites with which God has constituted man that is
essentially bad--a theory as impious as it is injurious--as
fatal to all just conceptions of the divine Being and of man's
relations to Him, as to all human happiness.

Every thing which is truly admirable is good, and good and
desirable in the degree by which it is admirable. A beautiful face
and form are admirable, and just as good as they are admirable--
just as good in their element of beauty. They are good for that
quality, and in that quality, which excites our admiration. A
beautiful bonnet, a beautiful dress, a beautiful brooch or
necklace, are all admirable, and good because they are admirable,
or good because every thing admirable is necessarily good. A
family over which the father presides with tender dignity, and in
which the mother moves with love's divinest ministry--where the
faces of innocent children are shining, while their voices make
music sweeter than the morning songs of birds--is admirable, and
it is good in all those respects which make it admirable. A
well-dressed man or woman is admirable, and that thing is good in
itself which makes them so. A man who carries his heart in his
hand, who deals both justly and generously by men, who bears a
sunny face and pleasant words into society, whose cultured mind
enriches freely all with whom it is brought into relation, who has
abundant charity for the weak and erring, and who takes life and
what it brings him contentedly, is an admirable man, and good in
all the points which make him admirable. A house that presents a
harmonious and handsome interior to the eye of the passenger, and
whose exterior combines equal convenience and elegance, is
admirable, and, by that token, good.

Now these very simple propositions have their correlatives, which
it is not necessary to set down in order, any further than fairly
to illustrate my point. Things that are not admirable are not
good. If the dress of a Shaker is not admirable, it is not good.
If that sort of life which is led in a cloister, by monks or nuns,
is not admirable, it is not good. If a man who professes to be a
Christian lives a life out of which is shut all with which an
unsophisticated humanity sympathizes--a life barren of attractive
fruit--a life bare in all its surroundings--a life with no genial
outflow and expression--a life of niggardly negatives rather than
of generous positives--then that life is not admirable, and if it
be not admirable it cannot be good in those respects. A man may
carry along with such a life as this a spotless conscience and a
strict devotion to apprehended duty, and these may be admirable
and good, but the other characteristics cannot be either; and
however much God may approve his honest heart and honest endeavor,
He cannot admire the style of manhood in which they have their
dull and difficult illustration. The idea that I wish definitely
to convey is this: that on the basis of a right heart, God would
have us build up a bright, generous, genial, expressive Christian
character, and use gratefully and gladly all those things which He
has prepared to make life cheerful and admirable. I believe a
saint ought to have a better tailor than a sinner, and be in all
manly ways a better fellow. I believe a true Christian should be
in every thing that constitutes and belongs to a man the most
admirable man in the world.

I have an idea that God looks with the same kind of contempt on
the prominent characteristics of certain styles of Christian men
and women, that men of the world do. There is nothing admirable in
cant and whine, and nasal psalm-singing, and men whose hearts are
livers and whose blood is bile; and I cannot believe that He
blames people for not admiring them, and not being attracted to
them. I do not believe that an admirable Christian life is
repulsive to the men of the world. I believe that wherever the
human mind recognizes a rounded, chastened, rich, and outspoken
Christian character, whether it belong to manhood or womanhood, it
admires it, and feels attracted to it, by the degree in which it
admires it. I believe, moreover, that the Christianity which
discards as vanities those things which God has provided for the
pleasure of His children, and mortifies the love of beauty, and
adopts the theory that God is pleased with penance, and degrades,
abuses, and traduces the body to win greater sanctity of soul, and
finds a sin in every sweet of sense, is a bastard Christianity.
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.



LESSON VII.

THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN.


  "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
   Are sweeter; therefore ye soft pipes play on;
   Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
   Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tones."
   JOHN KEATS.

  "I am as free as Nature first made man." DRYDEN.

                 "What she wills to do or say
   Seems wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best."  MILTON.

It was the sarcastic remark of a crusty old parson of Connecticut
that woman has the undoubted right to shave and sing bass, if she
chooses to do so. I question the right of bearded man to shave
himself, and I will not concede that woman has a superior right,
based on inferior necessities; but believing that man has an
undoubted right to sing bass, I am inclined to accord the same
right to woman. Woman is a female man, and there is no reason
that I know of why she should not have the same rights, precisely,
that a male man has. I claim for myself, and for man, the
privilege of singing treble, under certain circumstances; and why
should I not accord to woman the right to sing bass? The brave old
chorals of Germany would hardly be sung with much effect were the
airs denied to the masculine voice, yet if it be man's prerogative
to sing bass, it is surely woman's to sing treble. If it be
usurpation for her to grope among the gutturals of the masculine
clef, it is gross presumption for him to attempt to leap the
five-rail fence that stands between him and high C. I put this
consideration forward for the purpose of stopping every caviller's
mouth upon the subject, until I present arguments of a broader and
more comprehensive character, in support of woman's right to sing
bass.

It is claimed by those who deny woman's right to sing bass that
she is needed for the treble and alto parts. Needed by whom?
Needed by man? But who gave man the right to set up his needs as
the law of woman's life? If man needs treble and alto, I hope he
may get them. He has the undoubted right to sing both parts to
suit his own fancy, or to hire others to do it for him. Man needs
buttons on his shirts, and clean linen, but for the life of me I
cannot see why that need defines a woman's duty in any respect.
Let him do his own washing, and sew on his own buttons. Suppose a
woman should need to have hooks and eyes sewed upon her dress, as
some of them do, sometimes, after taking a very long breath, would
that determine it to be man's duty to sew them on? "It is a poor
rule that will not work both ways." This is one of the illustrations of
man's selfishness--that he sets up his needs as the rule by which the
rights of one-half of the human race are to be determined.

This same selfishness of man will demand that I reconsider this
talk, and will accuse me of sophistry. It will declare that I do
not state the case fairly. It will say that woman needs money with
which to buy her dresses and procure her food, and strong hands to
labor for her and protect her, and that these needs do indeed
define man's duty with respect to her. But I place all this on the
ground of gallantry and humanity. Of course, we are all very glad
to do these things, you know,--we who have human feelings--but
woman has no right to them, based upon her need--particularly if
she be a woman who insists, as I do, upon her indefeasible right
to sing bass. I know that it helps things along for a woman to
look after a man's linen and buttons, and do his fine work
generally, because she seems to have a kind of natural knack at
the business. I am aware that it is exceedingly pleasant to hear a
woman sing treble, if she sings it well, but I am talking, be it
remembered, of woman's right to sing bass. Let us stick to the
question.

The enemies of this highest among the rights of woman are fond of
alluding to the fact that only here and there a woman can be found
who wishes to avail herself of her right, and practically to enter
upon the work of singing bass. The large majority of women prefer
to sing the soprano, while a few, of moderate views, adopt alto as
a kind of compromise. But what has this fact to do with the matter
of right in the premises? Most people prefer beef-steak without
onions, but I never knew that fact to be brought forward as an
argument against the right of a man to eat it with onions. It is
possible, indeed, that if people were more accustomed to eating
beef-steak with onions, or those savory vegetables were less
objectionable in their style of perfume, there would be a majority
in favor of the associated luxuries. We must remember, too, in
considering this aspect of the question, that woman is, to a
certain extent, a creature of whims. (She is exceedingly apt to
adopt a practice because it is fashionable.) If it were
fashionable for woman to sing bass, how long would it be before
the lower tones would find full development? And how long would it
be before the men themselves would repeat those words of the
immortal bard:--

                             "Her voice was ever soft,
  Gentle and _low_,--An excellent thing in woman"?

After all, this sort of argument against woman's right to sing
bass answers itself. If the preference of women generally for the
soprano and alto be a good reason for their confining themselves
to the performance of those parts, then a change of preference
would be a valid reason for their leaving them. If individual
right goes with general preference, then the pillars of the
universe are uprooted, or we have no pillars worth mentioning. I
suppose that women generally prefer in-door to out-of-door
employments--labor that draws less upon muscle, and more upon
ingenuity and delicate-fingered facility; but that settles nothing
as to their right to engage in muscular toils in the open air. The
German peasant-woman has labored out-of-doors for many generations.
The result has been the gradual approach to each other of her hips
and shoulders, the extinguishment of that portion of her person known
as the waist, and some noticeable flatness over the cerebral organs;
but the German peasant-woman has her right, and that is worth any
sacrifice, you know. If she prefers hoeing cabbages to spinning flax,
who shall hinder her? If all women should prefer hoeing cabbages to
spinning flax, or any variety of yarn, who shall hinder them? So far
as man is concerned, woman has a right to grow her shoulders just as
near her hips, and wear a head as flat as she pleases. In short, the
general preference of women with respect to any thing decides no
question of individual right, whatever.

I will not admit that the general preference of women for private
life imposes any obligation upon any woman to abstain from public
life, or affects in any way her right to enter upon public life. I
am aware that one would not like to have one's wife or sister an
opera-singer, or a public dancer, or a preacher, or a doctor in
general practice, or a circus-rider, or a popular lecturer, or an
actress; but I am talking about the question of right. Most women
would shrink from war--from its fatigues, its dangers, its bloody
strife; but Joan of Arc asserted her right to go into war; and her
name is engrossed upon the scroll of fame. All women have the same
right to go to war that she had. I confess that I should like to
see a regiment of women six feet high, officered by women, all
dressed in Balmorals illustrating the national colors, marching to
battle in as close order as the peculiarity of their garments would
permit, and accompanied by a corps of cavalry in sidesaddles.
Such an assertion of woman's right would be grand beyond
description. I should not care to live on very intimate terms with
the colonel of the regiment, but I don't know as that has any thing
to do with this question.

I was talking, however, about the right of women to sing bass, and
must go on. It is declared by those who oppose this right that
woman has no natural organs and aptitudes for bass. This is the
strong-point of the enemy, but it amounts to nothing. If woman
fails, apparently, in organs and aptitudes for this part, it only
shows what long years of abuse will accomplish. Let us never
forget in this discussion that woman is only a female man, that
there is no such thing as "sex of soul," and that woman's vocal
organs are built exactly like man's--as much like man's as her
hands and her feet and her head are like his--a little smaller,
perhaps,--that's all. It is a familiar fact, I presume, that the
little colts born of South American dams take to ambling as their
natural step, simply because the men of South America have taught
the fathers and mothers of these colts to amble through uncounted
generations. Now in North America we train horses to trot, and the
consequence is that amblers are scarce, and in most cases have to
be educated to their gait. This is the way in which nature adapts
herself to popular want and popular usage. The large variety of
apples which load our orchards were developed from the insignificant
crab, and the peach was the child of the almond, or the almond of
the peach--I have forgotten which. Now I suppose (with some feeble
doubts about it) that man and woman started exactly together, that
her singing treble better than she does bass results from usage,
and that her singing treble rather than bass was purely a matter of
accident at first. All analogy teaches me that if she had begun on
bass, and the other part had been given to man, we should be hearing
today of Ma'lle Patti, "the charming new baritone," and "the
magnificent basso," Madame Jenny Lind Goldschmidt, while admiring
crowds would toss flowers to Carl Formes, "the unapproachable
soprano," or Mario, "the king of contraltos."

I suppose that those who maintain that woman has no natural organs
and aptitudes for singing bass, would say that she has no natural
organs and aptitudes for boxing and playing at ball. Just because
woman holds her fists the wrong side up, as if she were kneading
bread rather than flesh, it is claimed that she was not made for
the "manly art of self-defence," and from the wholly incompetent
facts that she cannot throw a ball three feet against a common
north-west wind, and is not as fleet as a deer, it is judged that
she has no right to engage in base-ball. But suppose all women had
been accustomed to boxing and playing ball as much as the men have
been; would they not have arrived at corresponding excellence? I
know that as women are now (and they please me exceedingly) they
have not muscle to "hit from the shoulder" with force sufficient
to make them formidable antagonists; and I am aware that they lack
something in the length of limb requisite for the rapid locomotion
of the ball-ground; but they have never had a chance. See what
the washerwomen have done for themselves. They seem to be a
separate race of beings, for they all have large arms, and
shoulders that would do honor to Tom Sayers. I have seen negro
slave women at work in the field, with a muscular development that
would be the envy of a Bowery boy. The washerwoman and the field
slave show what can be done by cultivation. I know that their
style of figure is not quite so attractive as I have seen, and I
know that wherever there is an extraordinary tax upon muscle there
is an extraordinary repression of mind and blunting of the
sensibilities, but it must be remembered that we are talking about
rights, now. I claim and maintain, (I may as well come out with
the whole of it,) that a woman has a right to do any thing she
chooses to do, with perhaps the unimportant exception of becoming
the father of a family.

The truth is that women have never had a fair chance. They can do
any thing they are trained to do. The proper physical culture of
woman, carried on through a competent number of generations, would
develop her beyond all our present conceptions. She would be
likely to arrive at a high condition of muscle and a low condition
of mind, very unlike our present idea of the noblest type of
womanhood; but very possibly our ideals of womanhood are
conventional, or traditional. She has hands, and has a right to
use them; a tongue, and the right to wag it in her own way;
powers corresponding to those of man in all important respects,
and the right to develop and employ them according to her taste
and choice. I deny, to man, the privilege of defining the rights
and duties of woman. A woman is mistress of her own actions and
judge of her own powers and aptitudes; and if any woman thinks
that she can do a man's work better than what society considers
her own, then she has an undeniable right to do it, if she can get
it to do, and is willing to accept the work with the conditions
that attend it.

I am a firm believer in "woman's rights"--especially her right to
do as she pleases. It is possible that, before the law, she is not
in possession of all her rights, but all wrongs in this direction
will be corrected as time progresses. I speak particularly at this
time of her right to sing bass, because it is a representative
right, and covers, as with a lid, a whole chest full of others.
Yet while I claim this right, I confess that I should not care to
see it exercised to any great extent, for I think that treble is,
by all odds, the finer and more attractive part in music. Is it
worth while to exercise the right of singing bass, when it costs a
good deal to get up a voice for it, and when treble comes natural
and easy, and is very much pleasanter to the ear? Bass would be a
bad thing for a lullaby, and could only silence a baby by scaring
it. If I should have committed to me the melodies of the world, I
would care very little about my right to sing those subordinate
parts that gather around them in obedient harmonies. At least, I
think I would, unless some upstart man should deny my right to
sing any thing but melodies. If it were committed to me to sing
like a bird, I would not care, I think, to exercise my right to
roar like a bull. If I can witch the ears and win the hearts of
men and women by doing that which I can do easily and naturally
and well, then I shall do best not to exercise my right to do that
which I can only do difficultly, and unnaturally, and ill.

Woman, in my apprehension, is the mistress, not alone of the
melody of music, but of the melody of life. Whatever it may be
possible to do by cultivation and a long course of development, it
is doubtful whether a woman would ever sing bass well. I am aware
that she has the right, and the organs, but I question whether her
bass would amount to any thing--whether it would be worth singing.
When women talk with me about their right to vote, and their right
to practise law, and their right to engage in any business which
usage has assigned to man, I say "yes--you have all those rights."
I never dispute with them at all. Indeed, you see how I have put
myself forward as the defender of these same rights; yet I should
be sorry to see them exercised by the women I admire and love.
It is all very well to say that the presence of woman at the ballot-box
would purify it, and restrain the manners of the men around it; but
I have seen enough of the world to learn that all human influence
is reciprocal and reactionary. Man and the ballot-box might gain, but
woman would lose, and men and the ballot-box themselves would lose
in the long run. The ballot-box is the bass, and it should be man's
business to sing it, while woman should give him home melody with
which it should harmonize.

In the matter of rights, I suppose that I should not differ
materially with any strong-minded woman; but I have always
observed that the most truly lovable, humble, pure-hearted,
God-fearing and humanity-loving women of my acquaintance, never
say any thing about these rights, and scorn those of their sex
who do. I have never known a woman who was at once satisfied in her
affections and discontented with her woman's lot and her woman's
work. There is a weak place, or a wrong place, or a rotten place,
in the character or nature of every woman who stands and howls
upon the spot where her Creator placed her, and neglects her own
true work and life while claiming the right to do the work and
live the life of man. I will admit all the rights that such a
woman claims--all that I myself possess--if she will let me alone,
and keep her distance from me. She may sing bass, but I do not
wish to hear her. She is repulsive to me. She offends me.

I believe in women. I believe they are the sweetest, purest, most
unselfish, best part of the human race. I have no doubt on this
subject, whatever. They do sing the melody in all human life, as
well as the melody in music. They carry the leading part, at least
in the sense that they are a step in advance of us, all the way in
the journey heavenward. I believe that they cannot move very widely
out of the sphere which they now occupy, and remain as good as they
now are; and I deny that my belief rests upon any sentimentality,
or jealousy, or any other weak or unworthy basis. A man who has
experienced a mother's devotion, a wife's self-sacrificing love,
and a daughter's affection, and is grateful for all, may be weakly
sentimental about some things, but not about women. He would help
every woman he loves to the exercise of all the rights which hold
dignity and happiness for her. He would fight that she might have
those rights, if necessary; but he would rather have her lose her
voice entirely, than to hear her sound a bass note so long as a
demi-semi-quaver.



LESSON VIII.

AMERICAN PUBLIC EDUCATION.


               "Keen are the pangs
   Advancement often brings. To be secure,
   Be humble. To be happy, be content." JAMES HURDIS.

  "For not that which men covet most is best;
   Nor that thing worst which men do most refuse.
   But fittest is that each contented rest
   With that they hold." SPENSER.

  "Men have different spheres. It is for some to evolve great
moral truths, as the Heavens evolve stars, to guide the sailor on
the sea and the traveller on the desert; and it is for some, like
the sailor and the traveller, simply to be guided."--BEECHER.

A venerable gentleman who once occupied a prominent position in a
leading New England college, was remarking recently upon the
difficulty which he experienced in obtaining servants who would
attend to their duties. He had just dismissed a girl of sixteen,
who was so much "above her business" as to be intolerable. The
girl's father, who was an Englishman, called upon him for an
explanation. The employer told his story, every word of which the
father received without question, and then remarked, with
considerable vehemence: "_It is all owing to those cursed public
schools_." The father retired, and the old professor sat down
and thought about it; and the result of his thinking did not
differ materially from that of the father. It was not, of course,
that there was any thing in the studies pursued which had tended
to unfit the girl for her duties. It was very possible indeed for
the girl to have been a better servant in consequence of her
intelligence. There was nothing in English grammar or the
multiplication table to produce insubordination and discontent.
There was nothing in the whole case that tended to condemn public
schools, as such; but it was the spirit inculcated by the teachers
of public schools, which had spoiled this girl for her place, and
which has spoiled, and is still spoiling, thousands of others.

Let us look for a moment into the influence of such a motto as the
following, written over a school-house door--always before the
eyes of the pupils, and always alluded to by school committees and
visitors who are invited to "make a few remarks":

  _"Nothing is impossible to him who wills."_

This abominable lie is placed before a room full of children and
youth, of widely varying capacities, and great diversity of
circumstances. They are called upon to look at it, and believe in
it. Suppose a girl of humble mental abilities and humble
circumstances looks at this motto, and says: "I 'will' be a lady.
I 'will' be independent. I 'will' be subject to no man's or
woman's bidding." Under these circumstances, the girl's father,
who is poor, removes her from school, and tells her that she must
earn her living. Now I ask what kind of a spirit she can carry
into her service, except that of surly and impudent discontent?
She has been associating in school, perhaps, with girls whom she
is to serve in the family she enters. Has she not been made unfit
for her place by the influences of the public school? Have not her
comfort and her happiness been spoiled by those influences? Is her
reluctant service of any value to those who pay her the wages of
her labor?

It is safe, at least, to make the proposition that public schools
are a curse to all the youth whom they unfit for their proper
places in the world. It is the favorite theory of teachers that
every man can make of himself any thing that he really chooses to
make. They resort to this theory to rouse the ambition of their
more sluggish pupils, and thus get more study out of them. I have
known entire schools instructed to aim at the highest places in
society, and the most exalted offices of life. I have known
enthusiastic old fools who made it their principal business to go
from school to school, and talk such stuff to the pupils as would
tend to unfit every one of humble circumstances and slender
possibilities for the life that lay before him. The fact is
persistently ignored, in many of these schools, established
emphatically for the education of the people, that the majority of
the places in this world are subordinate and low places. Every boy
and girl is taught to "be something" in the world, which would be
very well if being "something" were being what God intended they
should be; but when being "something" involves the transformation
of what God intended should be a respectable shoemaker into a very
indifferent and a very slow minister of the Gospel, the harmful
and even the ridiculous character of the instruction becomes
apparent.

There are two classes of evil results attending the inculcation of
these favorite doctrines of the school teachers--first, the
unfitting of men and women for humble places; and, second, the
impulsion of men of feeble power into high places, for the duties
of which they have neither natural nor acquired fitness. There are
no longer any American girls who go out to service in families.
They went into mills from the chamber and the kitchen, but now
they have left the mills, and their places are filled by Scotch
and Irish girls. Why is this? Is it because that among the
American girls there are none of poverty, and of humble powers?
Is it because they are not wanted? Or is it because they have
become unfitted for such services as these, and feel above them?
Is it not because they have become possessed of notions that would
render them uncomfortable in family service, and render any
family they might serve uncomfortable? An American servant, who
good-naturedly accepts her condition, and knows and loves her place,
who is willing to acknowledge that she has a mistress, and who
enters into her department of the family life as a harmonious and
happy member, may exist, but I do not know her. People have ceased
inquiring for American servants. They would like them, generally,
because they are intelligent and Protestant, but they cannot get
them because they are unwilling to accept service, and the
obligations and conditions it imposes. Where all the American girls
are, I do not know. I can remember the time when thrifty farmers,
mechanics, and tradesmen took wives from the kitchens of gentlemen
where they were employed,--good, intelligent, self-respectful women
they were, too--who became modest mistresses of thrifty families
afterward;--but that is all done with now. Under the present mode
of education, nobody is fitted for a low place, and everybody is
taught to look for a high one.

If we go into a school exhibition, our ears are deafened by
declamation addressed to ambition. The boys have sought out from
literature every stirring appeal to effort, and every extravagant
promise of reward. The compositions of the girls are of the same
general tone. We hear of "infinite yearnings," from the lips of
girls who do not know enough to make a pudding, and of being
polished "after the similitude of a palace" from those who do not
comprehend the commonest duties of life. Every thing is on the
high-pressure principle. The boys, all of them, have the general
idea that every thing that is necessary to become great men is to
try for it; and each one supposes it possible for him to become
Governor of the State, or President of the Union. The idea of
being educated to fill a humble office in life is hardly thought
of, and every bumpkin who has a memory sufficient for the words
repeats the stanza:--

  "Lives of great men all remind us
    We can make our lives sublime,
   And departing, leave behind us
    Footprints on the sands of time."

There is a fine ring to this familiar quatrain of Mr. Longfellow,
but it is nothing more than a musical cheat. It sounds like truth,
but it is a lie. The lives of great men all remind us that they
have made their own memory sublime, but they do not assure us at
all that we can leave footprints like theirs behind us. If you do
not believe it, go to the cemetery yonder. There they lie--ten
thousand upturned faces--ten thousand breathless bosoms. There was
a time when fire flashed in those vacant orbits, and warm
ambitions pulsed in those bosoms. Dreams of fame and power once
haunted those hollows skulls. Those little piles of bones that
once were feet ran swiftly and determinedly through forty, fifty,
sixty, seventy years of life; but where are the prints they left?
"He lived--he died--he was buried"--is all that the headstone
tells us. We move among the monuments, we see the sculpture, but
no voice comes to us to say that the sleepers are remembered for
any thing they ever did. Natural affection pays its tribute to its
departed object, a generation passes by, the stone grows gray, and
the man has ceased to be, and is to the world as if he had never
lived. Why is it that no more have left a name behind them? Simply
because they were not endowed by their Maker with the power to do
it, and because the offices of life are mainly humble, requiring
only humble powers for their fulfilment. The cemeteries of one
hundred years hence will be like those of to-day. Of all those now
in the schools of this country, dreaming of fame, not one in
twenty thousand will be heard of then,--not one in twenty thousand
will have left a footprint behind him.

Now I believe that a school, in order to be a good one, should be
one that will fit men and women, in the best way, for the humble
positions that the great mass of them must necessarily occupy in
life. It is not necessary that boys and girls be taught any less
than they are taught now. They should receive more practical
knowledge than they do now, without a doubt, and less of that
which is simply ornamental, but they cannot know too much. An
intelligent gardener is better than a clod-hopper, and an educated
nurse is better than an ignorant one; but if the gardener and the
nurse have been spoiled for their business and their condition, by
the sentiments which they have imbibed with their knowledge, they
are made uncomfortable to themselves, and to those whom they
serve. I do not care how much knowledge a man may have acquired in
school, that school has been a curse to him if its influence has
been to make him unhappy in his place, and to fill him with futile
ambitions.

The country has great reason to lament the effect of the kind of
instruction upon which I have remarked. The universal greed for
office is nothing but an indication of the appetite for
distinction which has been diligently fed from childhood. It is
astonishing to see the rush for office on the occasion of the
change of a State or National Administration. Men will leave quiet
and remunerative employments, and subject themselves to mean
humiliations, simply to get their names into a newspaper, and to
achieve a little official importance and social distinction. This
desire for distinction seems to run through the whole social body,
as a kind of moral scrofula, developing itself in various ways,
according to circumstances and peculiarities of constitution. The
consequence is that politics have become the pursuit of small men,
and we no longer have an opportunity to put the best men into
office. The scramble for place among fools is so great and so
successful, that men of dignity and modesty retire from the field
in disgust. Everybody wants to "be something," and in order to be
something, everybody must leave his proper place in the world, and
assume a position which God never intended he should fill. Look in
upon a State legislature once, and you will find sufficient
illustration of my meaning. Not one man in five of the whole
number possesses the first qualification for making the laws of a
State, and half of them never read the constitution of the
country. I mean no contempt for the good, honest men of whom our
State legislatures are principally composed, but I wish simply to
say that there is nothing in their quality of mind, habits of
thought, intellectual power, or style of pursuits that fits them
for the great and momentous functions of legislation. They are
there, a set of "nobodies," mainly for the purpose of becoming
"somebodies," and not for any object connected with the good of
the State.

Somehow, all the students in all our schools get the idea, that a
man in order to be "somebody" must be in public life. Now think of
the fact that the millions attending school in this country have
in some way acquired this idea, and that only one in every one
thousand of these is either needed in public life, or can win
success there. Let this fact be realized, and it is easy to see
that the nine hundred and ninety-nine will feel that they are
somehow cheated out of their birthright. They desired to be in
public life, and be "somebody," but they are not, and so their
life grows tame and tasteless to them. They are disappointed. The
men solace themselves with a petty justice's commission, or a town
office of some kind, and the women--some of them--talk about
"woman's rights," and make themselves notorious and ridiculous at
public meetings. I think women have rights which they do not at
present enjoy, but I have very little confidence in the motives of
their petticoated champions, who court mobs, delight in notoriety,
and glory in their opportunity to burst away from private life,
and be recognized by the public as "somebodies." I insist on
this:--that private and even obscure life is the normal condition
of the great multitude of men and women in this world; and that,
to serve this private life, public life is instituted. Public life
has no legitimate significance save I as it is related to the
service of private life. It requires peculiar talents and peculiar
education, and brings with it peculiar trials; and the man best
fitted for it would be the last man confidently to assert his fitness
for it.

Thousands seek to become "somebodies" through the avenues of
professional life; and so professional life is full of "nobodies."
The pulpit is crowded with goodish "nobodies"--men who have no
power--no unction--no mission. They strain their brains to write
common-places, and wear themselves out repeating the rant of their
sect and the cant of their schools. The bar is cursed with
"nobodies" as much as the pulpit. The lawyers are few; the
pettifoggers are many. The bar, more than any other medium, is
that through which the ambitious youth of the country seek to
attain political eminence. Thousands go into the study of law, not
so much for the sake of the profession, as for the sake of the
advantages it is supposed to give them for political preferment.
An ambitious boy who has taken it into his head to be "somebody,"
always studies law; and as soon as he is "admitted to the bar" he
is ready to begin his political scheming. Multitudes of lawyers
are a disgrace to their profession, and a curse to their country.
They lack the brains necessary to make them respectable, and the
morals requisite for good neighborhood. They live on quarrels, and
breed them that they may live. They have spoiled themselves for
private life, and they spoil the private life around them. As for
the medical profession, I tremble to think how many enter it
because they have neither piety enough for preaching, nor brains
enough to practice law. When I think of the great army of little
men that is yearly commissioned to go forth into the world with a
case of sharp knives in one hand, and a magazine of drugs in the
other, I heave a sigh for the human race. Especially is all this
lamentable when we remember that it involves the spoiling of
thousands of good farmers and mechanics, to make poor professional
men, while those who would make good professional men are obliged
to attend to the simple duties of life, and submit to preaching
that neither feeds nor stimulates them, and medicine that kills or
fails to cure them.

There must be something radically wrong in our educational system,
when youth are generally unfitted for the station which they are
to occupy, or are forced into professions for which they have no
natural fitness. The truth is that the stuff talked to boys and
girls alike, about "aiming high," and the assurances given them,
indiscriminately, that they can be any thing that they choose to
become, are essential nuisances. Our children all go to the public
schools. They are all taught these things. They all go out into
the world with high notions, and find it impossible to content
themselves with their lot. They had hoped to realize in life that
which had been promised them in school, but all their dreams have
faded, and left them disappointed and unhappy. They envy those
whom they have been taught to consider above them, and learn to
count their own lives a failure. Girls starve in a mean poverty,
or do worse, because they are too proud to work in a chamber, or
go into a shop. American servants are obsolete, all common
employments are at a discount, the professions are crowded to
overflowing, the country throngs with demagogues, and a general
discontent with a humble lot prevails, simply because the youth of
America have had the idea drilled into them that to be in private
life, in whatever condition, is to be, in some sense, a "nobody."
It is possible that the schools are not exclusively to blame for
this state of things, and that our political harangues, and even
our political institutions, have something to do with it.

What we greatly need in this country is the inculcation of soberer
views of life. Boys and girls are bred to discontent. Everybody is
after a high place, and nearly everybody fails to get one; and,
failing, loses heart, temper, and content. The multitude dress
beyond their means, and live beyond their necessities, to keep up
a show of being what they are not. Farmers' daughters do not love
to become farmers' wives, and even their fathers and mothers
stimulate their ambition to exchange their station for one which
stands higher in the world's estimation. Humble employments are
held in contempt, and humble powers are everywhere making high
employments contemptible. Our children need to be educated to
fill, in Christian humility, the subordinate offices of life which
they must fill, and taught to respect humble callings, and to
beautify and glorify them by lives of contented and glad industry.
When public schools accomplish an end so desirable as this, they
will fulfil their mission, and they will not before. I seriously
doubt whether one school in a hundred, public or private,
comprehends its duty in this particular. They fail to inculcate
the idea that the majority of the offices of life are humble, that
the powers of the majority of the youth which they contain have
relation to those offices, that no man is respectable when he is
out of his place, and that half of the unhappiness of the world
grows out of the fact, that, from distorted views of life, men are
in places where they do not belong. Let us have this thing
altogether reformed.



LESSON IX.

PERVERSENESS.


  "Because she's constant, he will change.
    And kindest glances coldly meet,
   And all the time he seems so strange,
    His soul is fawning at her feet."
   COVENTRY PATMORE.

  "All that we seem to think of is to manage matters so as to do as
little good and plague and disappoint as many people as possible."
--HAZLITT.

It seems to me, either that there is a great deal of human nature
in a pig, or that there is a great deal of pig in human nature. I
find myself always sympathizing with a pig that wishes to go in an
opposite direction to that in which its owner would drive it. It
would be a sufficient reason for me to desire to go eastward, that
a man was behind me, with an oath in his mouth and a very heavy
boot on his foot, endeavoring to drive me westward. We are jealous
of our freedom. We naturally rise in opposition to a will that
undertakes to command our movements. This is not the result of
education at all; it is pure human nature. Command a child--who
shall be only old enough to understand you--to refrain from some
special act, and you excite in his heart a desire to do that act;
and he will have, nine times in ten, no reason for his desire to
do it but your command that he shall not. The youngest human soul
that has a will at all, takes the first occasion to declare its
independence.

Now, I believe this principle in human nature to be, in itself,
good. It is that which declares a man's right to himself--that
which asserts personal liberty in thought, will, and movement. I
believe it existed in Adam and Eve, and that it is more than
likely that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was
despoiled because our beautiful great-grandmother, (for whom I
confess much sympathy and affection,) was forbidden to touch it.
It is a principle which should always be carefully distinguished
from perverseness, in all our dealings with young and old, and in
all our estimates of human character. When a child obeys a man, or
when one man obeys another, it should always be for good and
sufficient reason. Neither child nor man should be expected to
surrender his right to himself without the presentation to him of
the proper motive. When, yielding to this motive, the soul
consents to be directed or led, it becomes obedient. Compulsion
may secure conformity, but never obedience. If I, as a child or
man, am to yield myself to the direction of any other man, that
man is bound to present to me an adequate motive for the
surrender. God throws upon me personal responsibility--gives me to
myself--and no man, parent or otherwise, can make me truly
obedient without giving me the motive for obedience. When a child
or a man fails to yield to the legitimate motives of obedience, he
is perverse, and it is about perverseness in some of its forms of
manifestation that I propose to talk in this article.

At starting, I must give perverseness a somewhat broader meaning
than that thus far indicated. I will say that that person is
perverse who, from vanity, or pride of opinion and will, or
malice, or any mean consideration, refuses to yield his conduct
and himself to those motives and influences which his reason and
conscience recognize to be pure and good and true. In its least
aggravated form, perhaps, we find it among lovers. Women will
sometimes persistently ignore a passion which they know has taken
full possession of them, and grieve the heart that loves them by a
coldness and indifference which they do not feel at all. Rather
than acknowledge their affection for one whose loss would kill
them, or, what would be the same thing, kill the world for them,
they have lied, grown sick, and gone nearly insane. This is a
perverseness very uncommon. Sometimes lovers have been very tender
and devoted so long as a doubt of ultimate mutual possession
remained to give zest to their passion, but the moment this doubt
has been removed, one or the other has become incomprehensibly
indifferent.

I have noticed that very few married pairs are matches in the
matter of warmth and expression of passion between the parties.
The man will be all devotion and tenderness--brimming with
expressions of affection and exhibitions of fondness, and the
woman all coolness and passivity, or (which is much more common)
the woman will be active in expression, lavishing caresses and
tendernesses upon a man who very possibly grows harder and colder
with every delicate proof that the whole wealth of his wife's
nature is poured at his feet, as a libation upon an altar. It is
here that we see some of the strangest cases of perverseness that
it is possible to conceive. I know men who are not bad men--who,
I suppose, really love and respect their wives--and who would deny
themselves even to heroism to give them the comforts and luxuries
of life, yet who find themselves moved to reject with poorly-covered
scorn, and almost to resent, the varied expressions of affection to
which those wives give utterance. I know wives who long to pour
their hearts into the hearts of their husbands, and to get sympathetic
and fitting response, but who are never allowed to do it. They live
a constrained, suppressed, unsatisfied life. They absolutely pine
for the privilege of saying freely what they feel, in all love's varied
languages, toward men who love them, but who grow harder with
every approach of tenderness and colder with every warm, invading
breath. A shower that purifies the atmosphere, and refreshes the
face of heaven itself, sours cream, just as love's sweetest expression
sours these men.

I have known wives to walk through such an experience as this into
a condition of abject slavery--to waste their affection without
return, until they have become poor, and spiritless, and mean. I
have known them to lose their will--to become the mere dependent
mistresses of their husbands--to be creeping cravens in dwellings
where it should be their privilege to move as radiant queens. I
have known them thrown back upon themselves, until they have
become bitter railers against their husbands--uncomfortable
companions--openly and shamelessly flouting their affection. I do
not know what to make of the perverseness which induces a man to
repel the advances of a heart which worships him, and to become
hard and tyrannical in the degree by which that heart seeks to
express its affection for him. There are husbands who would take
the declaration that they do not love their wives as an insult,
yet who hold the woman who loves them in fear and restraint
through their whole life. I know wives who move about their houses
with a trembling regard to the moods and notions of their
husbands--wives who have no more liberty than slaves, who never
spend a cent of money without a feeling of guilt, and who never
give an order about the house without the same doubt of their
authority that they would have if they were only housekeepers,
employed at a very economical salary. I can think of no proper
punishment for such husbands except daily ducking in a horse-pond,
until reformation. Yet these asses are so unconscious of their
detestable habits of feeling and life, that, probably, not one of
them who reads this will think that I mean him, but will wonder
where I have lived to fall in with such outlandish people.

The most precious possession that ever comes to a man in this
world is a woman's heart. Why some graceful and most amiable women
whom I know will persist in loving some men whom I also know, is
more than I know. I will not call their love an exhibition of
perverseness, though it looks like it; but that these men with
these rich, sweet hearts in their hands, grow sour and snappish,
and surly and tyrannical and exacting, is the most unaccountable
thing in the world. If a pig will not allow himself to be driven,
he will follow a man who offers him corn, and he will eat the
corn, even though he puts his feet in the trough; but there are
men--some of them of Christian professions--who take every
tenderness their wives bring them, and every expression of
affection, and every service, and every yearning sympathy, and
trample them under feet without tasting them, and without a look
of gratitude in their eyes. Hard, cold, thin-blooded, white-livered,
contemptible curmudgeons--they think their wives weak and
foolish, and themselves wise and dignified! I beg my readers to
assist me in despising them. I do not feel adequate to the task of
doing them justice.

There is another exhibition of perverseness which we sometimes see
in families. There will be, perhaps, from two to half a dozen
sisters in a family, amiable all of them. Now, think of the
reasons which should bind them together in the tenderest sympathy.
They were born of the same mother, they were nursed at the same
heart, they were cradled under the same roof by the same hand,
they have knelt at the side of the same father, their interests,
trials, associates, standing--every thing concerning their family
and social life--are the same. The honor of one intimately
concerns the honor of the other, yet I have known such families of
sisters fly apart the moment they became in any way independent of
each other, as if they were natural enemies. I have seen them take
the part of a friend against any member of the family band, and
become disgusted with one another's society. Where matters have
not gone to this length, I have seen sisters who would never
caress each other, or, by any but the most formal and dignified
methods, express their affection for each other. I have seen them
live together for months and years as inexpressive of affection
for each other as cattle in a stall,--more so: for I have seen a
cow affectionately lick her neighbor's ear by the half-hour, while
among these girls I have failed to see a kiss, or hear a tender
word, or witness any exhibition of sisterly affection whatever.

One of the most common forms of perverseness, though one of the
most subtle and least known, is that shown by people who study to
shut everybody out from a knowledge of their nature and their
life. They make it their grand end and aim to appear to be exactly
what they are not, to appear to believe exactly what they do not
believe, and to appear to feel what they do not feel at all. This
is not because they are ashamed of themselves, or because they
really have any thing to conceal. They have simply taken on this
form of perverseness. They will not, if they can help it, allow
any man to get inside of their natures and characters. If they
write you a letter, they will mislead you. They will say to you
irreverent and shocking things, to prove to you that they are
bold, and unfeeling, and unthoughtful, when they tremble at what
they have written, and really show by their language that they are
afraid, and full of feeling, and very thoughtful. If they have a
sentiment of love for anybody, they take it as a dog would a bone,
and go and dig a hole in the ground and bury it, only resorting to
it in the dark, for private crunching. Very likely they will try
to make you believe that they live a most dainty and delicate life
--that the animals of the field, and the fowls of the air love
them, and come at their call--that clouds arrange themselves in
heaven for their benefit, and are sufficiently paid for the effort
by their admiration--that flowers excite them to frenzy--a very
fine frenzy, indeed--and that all sounds shape themselves to music
in their souls. They would have you think that they live a kind of
charmed life--that the sun woos them, and the moon pines for them,
and the sea sobs because they will not come, and the daisies wait
lovingly for their feet, yet, if you knew the truth, you would see
that they sit discontentedly among the homeliest surroundings of
domestic life, with their sleeves rolled up--confound them!

This variety of perverseness seems very inexplicable. I have seen
much of it, but do not know what to make of it. There is doubtless
something morbid in it. It is often carried to such extremes, and
managed so artfully, that multitudes are deceived by it. I know
of some very beautiful natures that pass in the world for rough
and coarse. I know men who have the reputation of being hard and
harsh, yet who are, inside, and in their own consciousness, as
gentle and sensitive as women--who put on a stern air and a
repellent manner, when they are really yearning for sympathy. I
have seen this air and manner broken through and battered down by
a friendly man, who found what he suspected behind it--a generous,
warm, noble heart. This perverseness seems to be akin to that of
the miser who knows he is rich, takes his highest delight in being
rich, and yet dresses meanly, and fares like a beggar rather than
be thought rich. Women hide themselves more than men. They are
generally more sensitive, and their life and circumscribed habits
have a tendency to the formation of morbid moods, and this among
the number.

Of the perverseness of partisanship in politics much is written, and
my pen need not dip into it; but there is a perverseness exhibited by
Christian churches in their quarrels that should be exposed and
discussed, because some people have an impression that it may
possibly be piety. "For _dum squizzle_, read _permanence_,"
said an editor, correcting a typographical error that had found its
way into his journal. It seems as strange that perverseness should
be mistaken for piety, as that "permanence" should be mistaken for
"dum squizzle," but I believe it often is. Let some little cause of
disturbance arise, and become active in a church, and it is astonishing
how both parties go to work and pray over it. The pastor, perhaps,
has said something on the subject of slavery, or he does not preach
doctrine enough, or he preaches the wrong sort of doctrine, or he
does not visit his people enough, or there is "a row" about the
singing, or about a change in the hymn-books, or about repairing
the church, or buying an organ, or something or other, and
straightway sides are taken, and the wills of both parties get
roused. It is sometimes laughable--it would always be, only that
it is too sad--to see how quickly both parties grow pious, as they
grow perverse. It would seem, as the strife waxes hot, that the
glory of God was never so much in their hearts as now. They pray
with fervor, they are constant in their public religious duties,
they pass through the most scrupulous self-examinations, and then
fight on to the bitter end; believing, I suppose, that they are
really doing God service, when they are only gratifying their own
perverse wills.

Churches have been ruined, or divided, or crippled in their power,
by a cause of quarrel too insignificant to engage the minds of
sensible worldly men for an hour. I have heard it said that church
quarrels are the most violent of all quarrels, because religious
feelings are the strongest feelings of our nature. I confess that
I do not see the force of this statement, for it does not appear
to me that religious feelings have much to do with these quarrels.
I can much more easily see why all personal differences should be
adjusted peaceably in a church, for there it is supposed that the
individual will is subordinated to the cause of religion and the
general good. The real basis of the bitterness of church quarrels
is women. There are no others, except neighborhood quarrels, in
which women mingle, and a neighborhood quarrel will at once be
recognized as more like a church quarrel than any other. Women
have strong feelings, are attracted or repulsed through their
sensibilities, conceive keen likes and dislikes, do not stop to
reason, and are, of course, the readiest and the most devoted
partisans. If the mouths of the women could only be smothered in a
church quarrel, it would be settled much easier. Of all the
perverse creatures in this world, a woman who has thoroughly
committed herself to any man, or any cause, is the least tractable
and reasonable. I hope this statement will not offend my sweet
friends, because it is so true that I cannot conscientiously
retract it.

What the books call pride of opinion, is, nine cases in ten,
simple perverseness. I know a most venerable public teacher of
physiology, whose early theory of the production of animal heat--
very ridiculous in itself--is still yearly announced from his
desk, notwithstanding the fact that the whole world has received
another, whose soundness is demonstrated beyond all question. As
he, year after year, declares his belief that animal heat is
produced by corpuscular friction in the circulating blood, there
is a twinkle of the eyes among his amused auditors which says very
plainly--"the old gentleman does not believe this, himself." The
youngest student before him knows better than to give his theory
a moment's consideration. Well, the old Doctor is not alone. The
world is full of this kind of thing. Men adhere to old opinions
and old policies long after they have learned that they are
shallow or untenable, not from a genuine pride of opinion, (I
doubt very much whether there really is any thing that should be
called pride of opinion,) but from genuine perverseness of
disposition. Men will give, in some heated moment, an opinion
touching some one's character or powers, and, though that opinion
be proved to be wrong a thousand times, they will never
acknowledge that they have made a mistake. This is simple
perverseness, of the meanest variety. There are some kinds of
perverseness which impress one not altogether unpleasantly, but
this affects a man with equal anger and disgust.

Perverseness is a sign of weakness--nay, an element of weakness--
in man or woman. It is no legitimate part of a true character. The
generous, outspoken man, who is not afraid to show himself, and
what there is in him, who cares more about the right way than his
way, who throws away an opinion as he would throw away an old hat,
the moment he finds it is worthless, and who good-naturedly allows
the frictions of society to straighten out all the kinks there are
in him, is the strong man always, and always the one whom men
love. Perverseness is really moral strabismus, and I am shocked to
think what a multitude of squint-eyed souls there will be, when we
come to look into one another's faces in the "undress of
immortality."



LESSON X.

UNDEVELOPED RESOURCES.


  "The world is God's seed-bed. He has planted deep and
multitudinously, and many things there are which have not yet
come up."--BEECHER.

One of the richest and best of the smaller class of American
cities is New Bedford; and the secret of its wealth and beauty is
_oil_. It is but a few years since the immense fleet of vessels
that made that thrifty port their home went out with certainty of
success in their dangerous enterprises, and came back loaded
down with spoil. All that beautiful wealth was won from the
deep, and for years as many ships came and went as there were
dwellings to give them speed and welcome. But the glory and the
gain of the whale-fishery are past. The noble prey, too
persistently and mercilessly pursued, has retired northward, and
hidden among the icebergs. Now, when a ship's crew win a cargo,
they win it from the clutches of eternal frost. It seems certain
that the fishery will dwindle, year after year, until, at last,
only a few adventurers will linger near the pole, to watch for
the rare game that once furnished light for the civilized world.
All this is very unpleasant for New Bedford; but are we to have
no more oil? Is nature failing? Will the time come when people must
sit in darkness?

A few months ago a man in Pennsylvania took it into his head to
probe the ground for the source of a certain oil that made its
appearance upon the surface. Down, down into the bowels of the
earth he thrust his steam-driven harpoon, until he touched the
living fountain of oil, which, gushing up, half drowned him. Now,
all the region round about him swarms with industry. Thousands of
men are hurrying to and fro; the puff of the engine is heard
everywhere; tens of thousands of barrels of oil are rolled out and
turned into the channels of commerce; eager-eyed speculators
throng all the converging avenues of travel, and a waiting world
of consumers take the oil as fast as it is produced. Men in
Virginia, New York, and Ohio are awaking to the consciousness
that, while they have been paying for oil from the far Pacific,
they have been living within three hundred feet of deposits
greater than all the cargoes that ever floated in New Bedford
harbor. For hundreds, and, probably, for thousands of years, men
have walked over these deposits with no suspicion of their
existence. Geologists have looked wise, as is their habit, but
have given no hint of them.

The simple truth appears to be that when, in the history of the
world, it became necessary for these firmly-fastened store-houses
of oil to be uncovered, they were uncovered. Nature had held them
for untold thousands of years for just this emergency. When the
whales ceased spouting, the earth took up the business; and "here
she blows" and "there she blows" are heard in Tideoute and
Titusville, while New Bedford sits sadly by the sea, and thinks of
long absent crews to whom the cry has become strange.

I cannot but look upon this discovery of oil in the earth as one
of the most remarkable and instructive revelations of the age. It
has shown to me that, whenever human necessity demands any thing
of the world of matter, the demand will be honored. Whenever
animal life, or the muscle of man or brute, has shown itself
unequal to the wants of an age, Nature has always responded to the
cry for help. Inventors are only men who act as pioneers, and who
go forward to see what the human race will want next, and to make
the necessary provisions. An inventor has profound faith in the
exhaustless resources of nature. He knows that if he bores far
enough, and bores in the right direction, he will find that which
the world needs. He is often no more than the discoverer of a
secret which nature has kept for the satisfaction of the wants of
an age. A lake yoked to a coal-bed would generally be voted a slow
team, but the inventor of the steam engine saw how it could be
made a very fast and a very powerful one; and we who live now are
able to see that the discovery was made at the right time, and
that, for the emergencies of this latter day, it has really
quadrupled the power of civilized man.

Think how nature has risen grandly up to meet every occasion for
new resources. The revolution wrought by steam in the business of
the world created great wants, every one of which was filled as
soon, as felt. Quicker modes of communicating thought were needed
to give us all the advantages of the increased facility of
carriage, and Mr. Morse was permitted to uncover the telegraph.
More money was wanted for the increased business of the world, and
the gold fields of California and Australia were unveiled. It has
always been so. In the march of the human race along the track of
history, nature has pulled aside the veil in which she hides her
treasures, to display that which she has kept in store for every
epoch. In all the future I have no doubt that whenever oil shall
be wanted, oil will be had for the boring. The world is fitted up
with supplies for all the probable and possible wants of the human
race. We are treading every day upon the lids of great secrets
that await the wants of the larger style and finer type of life
that lie before us. Discovery has but just begun, and will, I
doubt not, be as rife in future ages as in this. There is no end
of it: yet the world is a thing to be weighed and measured. It is
so many miles around it, and so many miles through it. Never mind;
it has more in it than humanity can exhaust.

When we talk of the material world, especially in its relation to
the constantly developing wants of man, we talk simply of the
kitchen and larder of humanity. We have not ascended into the
drawing-room, or conservatory. The moment we step out of the
consideration of manifested nature, we come into a world which may
neither be weighed nor measured--the world of thought. I suppose
that no author has ever entered a large library and stood in its
alcoves and studied its titles long without asking himself the
question: "what is there left for me to do?" It seems as if men
had been reaching in all directions for the discovery of thought
since time began, and as if there were absolutely nothing new to
be said upon any subject. Yet every age has always demanded its
peculiar food, and every age has managed to get it. Certain great
and peculiarly fruitful subjects, blowing in the sea of thought,
have attracted whole fleets of authors for many years, and they
are doubtless chased away no more to return; but, here and there,
while time shall last, strong men will bore down to deposits of
thought unsuspected by any of the preceding generations of men,
and there will gush up streams to light the nations of the world.
For the world of thought is, by its nature, exhaustless. The world
of thought is the world in which God lives, and it is infinite
like himself. We reach our hands out into the dark in any
direction, and find a thought. It was God's before it was ours;
and on beyond that thought, lies another, and still another, _ad
infinitum_. If our arms were long enough, we should be able to
grasp them as well as the first. All that it wants is the long arm
to give us the command of deposits that would astonish the world.
Authors have become eminent according to their power to reach
further than others out into the infinite atmosphere of thought
which envelops them.

Authors, like inventors, are rarely more than discoverers. If God,
who is omniscient, sees all truth, and apprehends the relations of
every truth to every other truth, all an author can do is, of
course, to find out what God's thoughts are. And every age is
certain to find out the thought that is essential to it. When the
world had exhausted Aristotle, and the wide school of philosophers
who embraced him in their systems, Bacon, self-instituted, stepped
before the world as its teacher. He came when he was wanted, and
his age gave him audience, and took the better path which he
pointed out to it. It was in the golden age of the drama--the age
in which the drama was what it never was before, and will never be
again--a great agent of civilization--that Shakspeare appeared. We
call his plays creations, but surely they were not his. He no more
than discovered them. The reason why they stir us so much is that
God created them. His age wanted them, and he had the insight into
the world of thought which enabled him to enter in and lead them
out. The reason why we have not had any great dramatist since, is,
that succeeding ages have not needed one. The great men of later
ages have not recognized the drama as a want of their particular
time. I am aware that there is nothing in this to feed human
pride, but I do not recognize food for human pride as a want of
any age.

We are in the habit of talking of the old authors; and we read
them as if we supposed them wiser than ourselves. We try to feed
on the thought which they discovered, but it is in the main very
innutritious fodder, and the world is learning the fact. We read
and reverence old books less, and read and regard newspapers a
great deal more. The thought which our own age produces is that
which we are learning to prize most. We buy beautiful editions of
Scott, but we read Dickens and Thackeray and Mrs. Stowe, in weekly
and monthly numbers. Milton, in half-calf, stands upon the shelves
of our library undisturbed, while we cut the leaves of "Festus;" and
Keats and Byron and Shelley are all pushed aside that we may
converse with Longfellow and Mrs. Browning. It is not, perhaps,
that the later are the greater, but, being informed with the spirit
of the age in which we have our life, moving among the facts which
concern us, and conscious of our want, they apprehend the true
relations of their age to the world of thought around them. They see
where the sources of oil are exhausted, and bore for new deposits.
It is a comfort to know that they can never bore in vain.

We may be sure that literature will always be as fresh as it has
been. It is possible that we may never have greater men than
Shakspeare and Milton, and Dante and Goethe; but there is nothing
to hinder our having men just as great. Those who are to come will
only bore in different directions, and find new deposits.
Shakspeare and Milton were great writers, but the fields they
occupied were their own. They do not resemble each other in any
particular. Dante and Goethe were great writers, but there are no
points of resemblance between them. When Scott was issuing his
wonderful series of novels, it seemed to his cotemporaries, I
suppose, that there was no field left for a successor; yet
Dickens, in the next generation, won as many readers and as much
admiration as he, in a field whose existence Scott never
suspected. Very different is the world of thought from the world
of matter, in the fact that its deposits are found in no
particular spot. The mind can go out in quest of thought in no
direction without reward; and every man receives from his age
motive and culture which peculiarly prepare him for the work of
supplying its needs. There are some who seem to think that the
golden age of literature is past--that nothing modern is worthy of
notice, and that it is one of the vices of the age that we discard
so much the teachings of the literary fathers. But the world of
thought is exhaustless, and we have only to produce a finer
civilization than the world has ever seen, to secure, as its
consummate flower, a literature of corresponding excellence.

What has been said of the world of matter and the world of
thought, may be said, and is implied, of the world of men. We are
accustomed to say that great emergencies make great men. But this
is not true. Great men are always found to meet great emergencies:
but God makes them, and leads them through a course of discipline
which prepares them for their work. It is one of the remarkable
facts of history, so patent that all have seen and acknowledged
it, that to meet every great epoch a man has been prepared. I mean
it in no irreverent or theological sense when I say that there has
been a series of Christs, whose appearance has denoted the
departure of old dispensations and the inauguration of new. Men
have arisen who have torn down temples, and demolished idols, and
swept away systems, and knocked off fetters, and introduced their
age into a freer, better, and larger life; and it will always be
so while time shall last. Men will arise equal to the wants of
their age wherever men are civilized. The causes which produce
emergencies are the agents which educate men to meet them; and
nature is prodigal of her material among men, as among the things
made for his service.

When, in the history of Christianity, it became necessary to re-assert
and emphasize the truth that "the just shall live by faith," Luther
was raised up; and nothing is more apparent to the student than that
the age which produced him demanded him--that he fitted into his
age, supplied its wants, and cut a new channel, through which the
richest life of the world has flowed for centuries. He found his country
tied up to formalism, scholasticism, and tradition; and by strokes as
remarkable for boldness as strength he set it free. He stands at the
head of a great historical epoch, which was prepared to receive and
crown him. In another field, we have, even in this day, a reformer
whom his age has called for, and who will surely do in the world of
art what Luther did in religion. No one can read Ruskin, and mark his
enthusiasm, his splendid power, his earnestness, his love of truth,
his reverence for nature, and above all, his love of God, without
feeling that he has a great mission to fulfil in the world. I bow myself
in homage before this man, and acknowledge his credentials. He
speaks with authority, and not as the common run of scribes, at all.
Fearlessly he tears the mask away from conventionalism and pretension,
sparing neither age nor nation, and scattering critics right and left

  "Like chaff from the threshing-floor."

It seems to me that the sight of this single, unsupported man,
plunging boldly into a fight with a whole world full of liars and
lies, thrusting right and left, anxious only for the triumph of
truth, and everywhere devoutly recognizing God and his glory, and
Christ and his honor, as the ultimate end of true art, is one of
the most striking and beautiful the world has ever seen. Was there
not need of him? Had not art become superstitious and infidel and
missionless? Had it not faded to little more than the repetition
of old inanities, traditional mannerisms, stereotyped lies? Ruskin
came to tell his age that art was doing nothing toward making the
world better--that, instead of lifting the heart toward God, and
enlarging the field of human sympathy, it was only ministering to
the vanity of men--that nature was dishonored that men might win
the applause of vulgar crowds by falsehood and trickery. Nobly
has he done and nobly is he still doing his work; and the world is
reading him. It matters not that critics carp, and scold, and
whine--the world is reading, and will regard him. The eternal
truth of God and nature is on his side; and we are to see, as I
firmly believe, resulting from his noble labors, a beautiful
resurrection of art from the grave in which its friends have laid
it. It shall come forth, though now bound hand and foot, and be
restored to the sisterhood whose happiness it is to serve and sit
at the feet of Jesus Christ.

But time and space would fail to give illustrations of the truth
that God has always a man ready for an emergency. It is not
necessary to speak of Washington. It would not be wise, perhaps,
to speak of the first Napoleon, because men differ so widely in
their estimate of his work. But of the last Napoleon, it may be
said that he furnishes one of the most notable instances the world
has ever seen of a man prepared for his age. I suppose that no one
believes that there is another man in existence who could have
done for France, and would have done for Europe, under the
circumstances, what Louis Napoleon has done. Never did the central
figure of an elaborate piece of mosaic fit more nicely into its
place, than did Louis Napoleon into the complicated affairs of his
age. They were made for him, and he for them.

Shall the world of matter never fail--shall the world of thought
be exhaustless--shall men be found for all the emergencies of their
race, and, yet, shall divine truth be contained in a nut-shell?
Must the human soul lack food--fresh food--because a generation
long gone has decided that only certain food is fit for the human
soul? I believe that the Bible is a revelation of divine truth to
men, and, believing this, I believe that its most precious deposits
have hardly been touched. I believe that in it, there is special food
prepared for all the wide variety of human souls, and that, as
generation after generation passes away, new deposits will be struck,
so rich in illuminating power that their discoverers will wonder
they had never been seen before. I know that just before me, or
somewhere before me, there is a generation of men who will think
less of being saved, and more of being worth saving, less of dogma,
and more of duty, less of law, and more of love; whose worship will
be less formal, and more truthful and spiritual, and whose God will
be a more tender and considerate father, and less a lawgiver and a
judge. For such a generation, there exists a deposit of divine truth
almost unknown by Christendom. Only here and there have men gathered
it, floating upon the surface. The great deposit waits the touch of
another age.



LESSON XI.

GREATNESS IN LITTLENESS.


    "This earth will all its dust and tears
     Is no less his than yonder spheres;
     And rain-drops weak and grains of sand
     Are stamped by his immediate band."
     STERLING.

                "There is a power
  Unseen, that rules the illimitable world;
  That guides its motions, from the brightest star
  To the least dust of this sin-tainted world."
  THOMSON.

Infinity lies below us as well as above us. There is as much
essential greatness in littleness as in largeness. Mont Blanc--
massive, ice-crowned, imperial--is a great work of nature; yet it
is only an aggregation of materials with which we are thoroughly
familiar. It is only a larger mountain than that which lies within
sight of my window. A dozen Monadnocks or Ascutneys or Holyokes,
more or less, make a Mont Blanc, with glaciers and avalanches and
brooding eternity of frost. Such greatness, though it impresses me
much, is not beyond my comprehension. It can be reckoned by cubic
miles. So with the sea: it is only an expanse of water larger than
the river that winds through the meadows. It is great, but it is
only an aggregate of numerable quantities that my eyes can
measure, and my mind comprehend. These are great objects, and they
are great particularly because they are large. They are above me,
and they lead me upward toward creative infinity.

If I turn my eyes in the other direction, however, I lose myself
in infinity quite as readily. If I pick up a pebble at the foot of
Mont Blanc, and undertake the examination of its structure,--the
elements which compose it, the relations of those elements to each
other, the mode of their combination--I am lost as readily as I
should be in following the footsteps of the stars. If I undertake
to look through a drop of water, I may be arrested at first,
indeed, by the sports and struggles of animalcular life; but at
length I find myself gazing beyond it into infinitude--using it as
a lens through which the Godhead becomes visible to me. I can
dissect from one another the muscles and arteries and veins and
nerves and vital viscera of the human body, but the little insect
that taps a vein upon my hand does it with an instrument and by
the operation of machinery which are beyond my scrutiny. They
belong to a life and are the servants of instincts which I do not
understand at all.

These thoughts come to me, borne by certain memories. I know a
venerable gentleman of Buffalo--Dr. Scott--who did, and who still
does, very great things in a very small way. At the age of seventy
he
became conscious of decaying power of vision. Being professionally a
physician and naturally a philosopher, he conceived the idea that
the eye might be improved by what he denominated a series of
"ocular gymnastics." He therefore undertook to exercise his eyes
upon the formation of minute letters--working upon them until the
organs began to be weary, and then, like a prudent man, resting for
hours. By progressing slowly and carefully, he became, at last,
able to do wonders in the way of fine writing, and also became able
to read the newspapers without glasses. (Here's a hint for some
clever Yankee--as good as a fortune.) Now, reader, prepare for a
large story; but be assured that it is true, and that my hands have
handled and my eyes seen the things of which I tell you. At the age
of seventy-one, Dr. Scott wrote upon an enamelled card with a stile,
on space exactly equal to that of one side of a three-cent
piece,--The Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, the Parable of the
Ten Virgins, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Beatitudes,
the fifteenth Psalm, the one hundred and twentieth Psalm, the one
hundred and thirty-third Psalm, the one hundred and thirty-first
Psalm, and the figures "1860." Every word, every letter, and every
point, of all these passages was written exquisitely on this minute
space; and that old man not only saw every mark he made, but had the
delicacy of muscular action and steadiness of nerve to form the
letters so beautifully that they abide the test of the highest
magnifying power. They were, of course, written by microscopic
aid.

Now who believes that it does not require more genius and skill to
execute this minute work than it does to bore a Hoosac tunnel, or
build a Victoria bridge, or put a dam across the Connecticut, or
construct an Erie canal? I do not speak of the relative importance
of the great works and the small, but of the relative amount and
quality of the power that is brought to bear upon them. In a very
important sense the greatest thing a man can do is the most
difficult thing he can do. The most difficult thing a man can do
may not be the most useful, or in any sense the most important;
but it will measure and show the limits of his power. Work grows
difficult as it goes below a man, quite as rapidly as it does when
it rises above him. It costs as much skill to make a dainty bit of
jewelry as it does to carve a colossal statue. It actually costs
more power to make the chain of gold that holds the former, than
it does to forge the clumsy links by which the latter is dragged
to its location. Thus, whether man goes down or up, he soon gets
beyond the sphere of his power. The further he can carry himself
in either direction the more does he demonstrate his superiority
over the majority of men. The more difficult the task which he
performs the further does he reach toward infinity.

In the town of Waltham there is a manufactory of watches which I
have examined with great interest. It is here undertaken to
organize the skill which has been achieved by thousands of patient
hands, and submit it to machinery; and it is done. Every thing is
so systematized, and the operations are carried on with such
exactness, that, among a hundred watches, corresponding parts may
be interchanged without embarrassment to the machinery. The
different parts are passed from hand to hand, and from machine to
machine, each hand and each machine simply doing its duty, and
when from different and distant rooms these parts are assembled,
and cunning fingers put them together, every wheel knows its
place, and every pivot and every screw its home, though it be
picked without discrimination from a dish containing ten thousand.
Yet among these parts there are screws of which it takes one
hundred and fifty thousand to make a pound, and shafts and
bearings which are so delicately turned that five thousand
shavings will only extend a lineal inch along the steel. This is
the way American watches are made, and this is the way in which
the highest practicable perfection is reached in the manufacture
of these pocket monitors.

Here we have small work, organized, and great elaboration of
related details. When Dr. Scott wrote his passages on the card,
his work was very simple. He did only one thing--he made letters.
When he had made letter after letter until the little space was
filled, his work was done. It was not a part of some complicated
and inter-dependent whole, related to a thousand other parts in
other hands. I suppose it may be as delicate work to drill a jewel
with a hair of steel, armed with paste of diamond-dust, as to
write "Our Father" under a microscope; but when the jewel has to
be drilled with relation to the reception of a revolving metallic
pivot, the process becomes very much nicer. So here are a hundred
processes going on at the same time, in different parts of a
building, all related to each other, each delicate almost beyond
description, and effected with such precision that a mistake is so
much an exception that it is a surprise. I have seen the huge
steam engines at Scranton which furnish power for the blast of the
furnaces there, and their magnitude and power and most impressive
majesty of movement have made me tremble; yet as works of man they
are no greater than a Waltham watch.

It seems to me that man occupies a position just half way between
infinite greatness and infinite littleness, and that he can
neither ascend nor descend to any considerable degree without
bringing up against a wall which shows where man ends and God
begins. It seems, too, that that kind of human power which can
reach down deepest into the infinite littleness, is more
remarkable than that which rises highest toward the infinite
greatness. It is a more difficult and a more remarkable thing to
write the Lord's Prayer on a single line less than an inch long,
than it would be to paint it on the face of the Palisades, upon a
line a mile long, in letters the length of the painter's ladder. I
have heard of a watch so small that it was set in a ring, and worn
upon the finger; and such a watch seems very much more marvellous
to me than the engines of the Great Eastern.

We are in the habit of regarding God as the author of all the
great movements of the universe, but as having nothing to do
directly with the minor movements. Mr. Emerson becomes equally
flippant and irreverent when he speaks of a "pistareen Providence."
We kindly take the Creator and upholder of all things under our
patronage, and say, "it is very well for him to swing a star into
space, and set bounds to the sea, and order the goings of great
systems, and even to minister to the lives of great men, but when
it comes to meddling with the little affairs of the daily life of
a thousand millions of men, women, and children--pshaw! He's
above all that."

Not so fast, Mr. Emerson! The real reason why you and all those
who are like you do not believe in God's intimate cognizance and
administration of human affairs is, that you cannot comprehend
them. You have not faith enough in God to believe that he is able
to maintain this knowledge of human affairs, this interest in
them, and the power and the disposition to mould them to divine
issues. You are willing to admit that God can do a few great
things, but you are not willing to admit that he can do a great
many little things. It is well enough, according to your notion,
for God to make a mastodon, or a megatherium, but quite
undignified for him to undertake a mosquito or a horse-fly. It
would not compromise His reputation with you were you to catch Him
lighting a sun, or watching with something of interest the rise
and fall of a great nation, but actually to listen to the prayer
of a little child, and to answer that prayer with distinctness of
purpose and definite exercise of power, would not, in your
opinion, be dignified and respectable business for a being whom
you are proud to have the honor of worshipping!

I do not know how these people who do not believe in the intimate
special providence of God can believe in God at all. I can
conceive how God could rear Mont Blanc, but I cannot conceive how
He could make a honey bee, and endow that honey bee with an
instinct--transmitted since the creation from bee to bee, and
swarm to swarm--which binds it in membership to a commonwealth,
and enables it to build its waxen cells with mathematical
exactness, and gather honey from all the flowers of the field. It
is when we go into the infinity below us that the infinite power
and skill become the most evident. When the microscope shows us
life in myriad forms, each of which exhibits design; when we
contemplate vegetable life in its wonderful details; when
chemistry reveals to us something of the marvellous processes by
which vitality is fed, we get a more impressive sense of the power
and skill of the Creator than we do when we turn the telescope
toward the heavens. Yet Mr. Emerson would have us believe that the
Being who saw fit to make all these little things, to arrange and
throw into relation all these masses of detail, to paint the
plumage of a bird, and the back of a fly, as richly as he paints
the drapery of the descending sun, does not condescend to take
practical interest in the affairs of men and women! My God, what
blindness! Bird, bee, blossom--be my teacher. I do not like Mr.
Emerson's lesson.

The logical sequence of disbelief in what Mr. Emerson calls a
"pistareen Providence" is a belief in pantheism or polytheism.
There is certainly nothing ridiculous in the faith that the Being
who contrived and arranged, and adjusted the infinite littlenesses
of creation, and ordained their laws, and who continues their
existence, maintains an intimate interest in the only intelligent
creatures he has placed in this world. The little bird that sings
to me, the bee that bears me honey, the blossom that brings me
perfume, all testify to me that He who created them will not
neglect nor forget His own child. If I look up into the firmament,
and send my imagination into its deep abysses, and think that
further than even dreams can go, those abysses are strewn with
stars; if I think of comets coming and going with the rush of
lightning, and yet occupying whole centuries in their journey; or
if I only sit down by the sea, and think of the waves that kiss
other shores thousands of miles away, I am oppressed by a sense of
my own littleness. I ask the question whether the God who has such
large things in His care, can think of me--a speck on an infinite
aggregate of surface--a mote uneasily shifting in the boundless
space. I get no hope in this direction; but I look down, and find
that the shoulders of all inferior creation are under me, lifting
me into the very presence of God. I find that God has been at work
below me, in a mass of minute and munificent detail, by the side
of which my life is great and simple, and satisfyingly significant.

So, if I may not believe in a "pistareen Providence," I must make
a God of the universe itself, or pass into the hands of many Gods
the world's creation and governance. If the God that made the bee,
and the ant, and the daisy, made me, then He is not above taking
care of me, and of maintaining an interest in the smallest affairs
of my life. The faith that lives in reason is never stronger than
when it stands on flowers. There is not a fly that floats, nor a
fish that swims, nor an animalcule that navigates its little drop
of sea-spray, but bears a burden of hope to despairing humanity.
"If God so clothe the grass which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast
into the oven," then what, Mr. Emerson?

This subject is a very large one, and I can present only one more
phase of it. A great multitude--the larger part, in fact--of the
human race are engaged in doing small work. It may be a comfort
for them to know that the Almighty Maker of all things has done a
great deal of the same kind of work, and has not found it unworthy
or unprofitable employment. Let them remember that it is just as
hard to do a small thing well as a large thing, and that the
difficulty of a deed is the gauge of the power required for its
doing. Let them remember that when they go down, they are going
just as directly toward infinity as when they go up, and that
every man who works Godward, works in honor.

It was a very forcible reflection to which a visitor at Niagara
Falls gave utterance, when he said that, considering the relative
power of their authors, he did not regard the cataract as so
remarkable a piece of work as the Suspension Bridge; and it may be
said with truth that there is no work within the power of man--so
small that God has not been below it in a work smaller and
possibly humbler still,--certainly humbler when we consider the
infinite majesty and the ineffable dignity of His character. My
maid is too proud to go into the street for a pail of milk; my God
smiles upon me in flowers from the very gutter. My neighbor thinks
it beneath him to till the soil, working with his hands, but the
Being who made him, breathes upon that soil, and works in it, that
it may bear food to keep human dignity from starving. There are
men who set themselves above driving a horse, no part of which the
King of the universe was above making. Ah! human pride! Alas!
human dignity! I do not know what to make of you.



LESSON XII.

RURAL LIFE.


 "Going into a village at night, with the lights gleaming on each
side of the street, in some houses they will be in the basement
and nowhere else."--BEECHER.

  "The little God o' the world jogs on the same old way,
   And is as singular as on the world's first day.
   A pity 'tis thou shouldst have given
   The fool, to make him worse, a gleam of light from heaven;
   He calls it reason, using it
   To be more beast than ever beast was yet.
   He seems to me, (your grace the words will pardon,)
   Like a long-legged grasshopper, in the garden,
   Forever on the wing, and hops and sings
   The same old song, as in the grass he springs."
   GOETHE'S FAUST.

It is a common remark that a railroad car is an excellent place in
which to study human nature; but the particular phase of human
nature which is usually presented there is not, I think,
sufficiently attractive to engage a man who desires to maintain a
good opinion of his race. I would as soon think of studying human
nature in a pig-pen as in a railroad car. I do not like to study
even my own nature there, for I find that the more I ride, the
more selfish I become, and the more desirable it seems to me that
I should occupy the space usually assigned to four men, viz,: two
seats for my feet, and two for such other portions of my person as
are not required for spanning the space between the sofas. It must
be a matter of regret to most persons, I am sure, that they are
not large enough to cover twice as many seats as they do, and thus
drive those who travel with them into more close and inconvenient
quarters. Whenever I witness an instance of genuine, self-sacrificing
politeness in a railroad car, I become aware that there is at least one
man on the train who has travelled very little. No; when I travel I turn
my observation upon things outside--upon the farms and streams, and
mountains and forests, and towns and villages through which the
train bears me. I am particularly interested in the faces of those
who gather at the smaller stations to gaze at the passengers, get
the papers, and feel the rush, for a single moment, of the world's
great life. I love to listen to the smart remarks of some rustic wit in
shirt-sleeves, who, if the train should happen to be behind time,
intimates to the brakeman that the old horse didn't have his
allowance of oats that morning, or commiserates the loneliness of
the conductor of a train not crowded with passengers, all of which
is intended for the ears of a village girl who stands in the door
of the "Ladies' Room," with the tip of a parasol in her teeth, and
a hat on her head that was jaunty last year.

Riding into the country recently, I saw at one of these little
stations a pair of young men, leaning against the station-house.
They had evidently been waiting for the approach of the train, but
they did not stir from their positions. They were young men whose
life had been spent in severe and unremitting toil. Their hands
were large, and coarse, and brown; their faces and necks were
bronzed; their clothing was of the commonest material and pattern,
and was old and patched besides; and they had a hard look
generally. There was the usual bustle about them, but they did not
seem to mind it. At last, they started, and these are the words
that one of them spoke: "Come, Bob, let's go over and see if we
can't tuck away some of that grub." So both turned their backs
upon the train, and upon me; and as they went over to see if they
couldn't "tuck away some of that grub," I got a view of their
heavy shoulders, and their shambling, awkward gait. A pair of old
draft horses, going out in the morning to take their places in
front of their truck, would not move more stiffly than those
fellows moved.

Now these young men taught me nothing, for I had seen many such
before; but through them I took a fresh and a very impressive
glimpse into a style of life that abounds among the rural
population of America, and shows but feeble signs of improvement.
These men, who, when they eat, only "tuck away grub," of course
"go to roost" when they sleep. They call the sun "Old Yaller,"
naming him in honor of a favorite ox. When they undress themselves
"they peel off," as if they were onions or potatoes; and when they
put themselves into their Sunday clothing, they "surprise their
backs with a clean shirt." When they marry, they "hitch on," as if
matrimony were a sled, and a wife were a saw-log. Every thing in
their life is brought down to the animal basis, and why should it
not be? They labor as severely as any animal they own; they are
proud of their animal strength and endurance; they eat, and work,
and sleep, like animals, and they do nothing like men. Their
frames are shaped by labor; and they are only the best animals,
and the ruling animals, on their farms. As between the wives and
children who live in their houses, and the horses and cattle that
live in their barns, the latter have the easier time of it.

Having brought every thing down to the animal basis in their homes
and in their lives, their intercourse with other men will
naturally betray the ideas upon which they live. They are usually
very blunt men, who "never go round" to say any thing, but who
blurt out what they have to say in a manner entirely regardless
of the feelings of others. They enter each other's houses with
their hats on, and "help themselves" when they sit at each other's
tables, and affect great contempt for the courtesies and forms of
polite life. They are exceedingly afraid of being looked upon as
"stuck up;" and if they can get the reputation of being able to
mow more grass, or pitch more hay, or chop and pile more wood, or
cradle more grain, than any of their neighbors, their ambition is
satisfied. There is no dignity of life in their homes. They cook
and eat and live in the same room, and sometimes sleep there, if
there should be room enough for a bed. There is no family life
that is not associated with work, and no thought of any life that
is not connected with bodily labor; and if they sit down five
minutes, either at home or at church, they go to sleep. Their
highest intellectual exercise is that which is called out by the
process of swapping horses, and the selling of their weekly
product of eggs and butter at the highest market price. They
invariably call their wives--"the old woman," or "she;" and if
they should stumble into saying, "my dear," in the presence of a
neighbor, they would blush at being self-convicted of unjustifiable
politeness and unpardonable weakness.

These men have learned to read, but they rarely read any thing,
except the weekly newspaper, taken exclusively for the probate
notices. The only books in their houses are the Bible and two
or three volumes forced upon them at unguarded moments by
book-agents, who made the most of internal wood-cuts, and external
Dutch metal to place them in possession of the "History of the
World," or the "Lives of the Presidents," or some other production
equally extensive and comprehensive. There is no exhibition of
taste about their dwellings. Every thing is brought down to the
hard standard of use. If their wives should desire a border for
flowers, they regard them as very silly, and look upon their
attempts to "fix up things" as a great waste of labor. They never
go out with their wives to mingle in the social life of their
neighborhood; and if the wives of their neighbors come to spend an
afternoon, they harness their horses, and drive off to attend to
some distant business that will detain them until the women get
away. It is useless to say to me that this is an extreme picture,
for I know what I am writing about, and know that I am painting
from the life. I know that there are hundreds of thousands of
American farmers whose life and whose ideas of life are cast upon
these models. Some of these are as coarse and hard as I paint
them, and others are only a little better. Such a farmer's boy is
brought up to the idea that work is the grand thing in life. Work,
indeed, is supposed by him to be pretty much all of life. It is
supposed to spoil farmers to get any thing but work into their
heads; and scientific agriculturists will bear witness that they
have been obliged to fight the popular prejudices against "book
farming" at every step of their progress. They will also testify
that the improvements made in farming and in the implements of
agriculture have not been made by farmers themselves, but by
outsiders--mechanics, and men of science--who have marvelled at
the brainless stupidity which toiled on in its old track of
unreasoning routine, and looked with suspicion and discouragement
upon innovations. The reason why the farmer has not been foremost
in improving the instruments and methods of his own business, is,
that his mind has been unfitted for improvement by the excessive
labors of his body. A man whose whole vital energy is directed to
the support of muscle has, of course, none to direct to the
support of thought. A man whose strength is habitually exhausted
by bodily labor becomes, at length, incapable of mental exertion;
and I cannot help feeling that half of the farmers of the country
establish insuperable obstacles to their own improvement by their
excessive toil. They are nothing more than the living machines of
a calling which so far exhausts their vitality that they have
neither the disposition nor the power to improve either their
calling or themselves.

To a student or a literary man, it is easy to explain the
necessity of the proper division of the nervous energies between
the mind and the body. Any student or literary man who has a daily
mental task to do, will do it before he exercises his body to any
great extent. If I wished to unfit my mind for a day of literary
labor, I would use the hoe in my garden for an early hour in the
morning. If I wished utterly to unfit a pupil for his daily task
of study, I would put him through an exhausting walk before
breakfast. The direction of all the nervous energies to the
support of the muscular system, and the necessary draft upon the
digestive and nutritive functions to supply the muscular waste,
leave the mind temporarily a bankrupt. I have never seen a man who
was really remarkable for acquired muscular power, and, at the
same time, remarkable for mental power. A man may be born into the
world with a fine muscular system and a fine brain, and in early
life his muscular system may have a fine development. Such a man
may subsequently have a remarkable mental development, but this
development will never be accompanied by large and regular
expenditures of muscular power. If I wished to repress the mental
growth and manifestation of a man, I would undertake to educate
him up to the point of lifting eight or ten kegs of nails. There
is danger at first of overdoing our "muscular Christianity"--
danger of getting more muscle than Christianity; and there is a
good deal more danger of overdoing our muscular intellectuality.
The difference between the kind and amount of exercise necessary
to produce a healthy machine and the kind and amount necessary to
produce a powerful one, is very great. We are never to look for
great intellectuality in a professor of gymnastics, nor to expect
that the time will come when a man will not only walk a thousand
miles in a thousand hours, but compose a poem of a thousand lines
at the same time.

If the temporary diversion of the nervous energy from the brain
have this effect, what must a permanent diversion accomplish? It
will accomplish precisely what is indicated by the look and
language of our two young friends at the station-house. It will
develop muscle for the uses of a special calling, and make ugly
and clumsy men of those who should be symmetrical; and at the same
time it will repress mental development, and permanently limit
mental growth--at least, so long as the mind shall be associated
with the body. I suppose that every fecundated germ of human being
is endowed with a certain possibility of development--a
complement of vital energy which will be expended in various
directions, according to the circumstances which may surround it
and the will of its possessor. If it shall be mainly expended upon
the growth and sustentation of muscle, it will not be expended
upon the growth and sustentation of mind; and I have no hesitation
in saying that it is an absolute impossibility for a man who
engages in hard bodily labor every day to be brilliant in
intellectual manifestation. The tide of such a man's life does not
set in that direction. An hourglass has in it a definite quantity
of sand; and when I turn it over, that sand falls from the upper
apartment into the lower; and while it occupies that position it
will continue to fall until the former is exhausted and the latter
is filled. Moreover, it will never take its place at the other end
of the instrument, until it is turned back. It is precisely thus
with a human constitution. The grand vital current moves only in
one direction, and when it is moving toward muscle it is not
moving toward mind, and when it is moving toward mind it is not
moving toward muscle. This fact is illustrated sufficiently by the
phenomena of digestion. After a man has eaten a hearty dinner, he
becomes dull, even to drowsiness or perfect sleep. Why? Simply
because the tide of nervous energy sets towards digestion, and
there is not enough left to carry on mental or voluntary muscular
operations.

A resident of a city riding into the country, especially if he be
an intellectual man, and engaged in intellectual pursuits, will be
thrilled by what he sees around him. The life of the farmer, planted
in the midst of so much that is beautiful, having to do with nature's
marvellous miracles of germination and growth, moving under the
open heaven with its glory of sky and meteoric change, and
accompanied by the songs of birds and all characteristic rural sights
and sounds, will seem to him the sweetest and the most enviable
that falls to human lot. But the hard-working farmer sees nothing
of this. What cares he for birds, unless they pull up his corn?
What cares he for skies, unless he can make use of them for drying
his hay, or wetting down his potatoes? The beautiful changes of
nature do not touch him. His sensibilities are deadened by hard
work. His nervous system is all imbedded in muscle, and does not lie
near enough to the surface to be reached by the beauty and music
around him. All he knows about a daisy is that it does not make
good hay; and he draws no appreciable amount of the pleasure
of his life from those surroundings which charm the sensibilities of
others.

We are in the habit of regarding the farming population of the
country as the most moral and religious of any, yet if we look at
them critically, we shall find that their piety is of a negative,
rather than a positive character. They are men in the first place
who have very few temptations, either from without or from within.
There are no professional tempters around them to lure them into
the more seductive paths of sin. The woman whose steps take hold
on hell does not pass their doors; the gambler spreads no snares
for them; no gilded palace invites them to music and intoxicating
draughts; they are not maddened by ambition; and they have no
vanity that leads them to degrading and ruinous display. If they
are little assailed from without, they are not more moved toward
vice from within. The fact that their vital energies are all
expended upon labor relieves them from the motives of temptation.
Men whose muscles are overworked have no vitality to expend upon
vices. The devil cannot make much out of a man who is both tired
and sleepy. If we inquire of the ministers who have charge of
rural parishes, they will usually tell us that an audience of
mechanics is better than an audience of farmers, and that the
miscellaneous audience of a city is better than either. It is
impossible for men who have devoted every bodily energy they
possess to hard labor during the waking hours of six days, to go
to church and keep brightly awake on the seventh. Country
ministers will also admit that they have in their parishes less
help in social and conference meetings than the pastors of city
parishes, and that no great movements of benevolence ever
originate in, or are carried on by, rural churches.

As a matter of course, life cannot have much dignity or much that
is characteristically human in it unless it be based upon active
intellectuality, genuine sensibility, a development of the finer
affections, and positive Christian virtue. When a man is a man, he
never "tucks in grub." When a man lies down for rest and sleep he
does not "go to roost." To a man, marriage is something more than
"hitching on," and a dirty shirt is a good deal more of a
"surprise" to a man's back than a clean one. There is no doubt
about the fact that a life whose whole energies are expended in
hard bodily labor is such a life as God never intended man should
live. I do not wonder that men fly from this life and gather into
the larger villages and cities, to get some employment which will
leave them leisure for living. Life was intended to be so adjusted
that the body should be the servant of the soul, and always
subordinate to the soul. It was never meant by the Creator that
the soul should always be subordinate to the body, or sacrificed
to the body.

I am perfectly aware that I am not revealing pleasant truths. We
are very much in the habit of glorifying rural life, and praising
the intelligence and virtue of rural populations; and if they
believe us, they cannot receive what I write upon this subject
with pleasure. But the question which interests these people most
is not whether my statements are pleasant but whether they are
true. Is the philosophy sound? Are the facts as they are
represented to be? Does a severe and constant tax upon the
muscular system repress mental development, and tend to make life
hard and homely and unattractive? Is this the kind of life
generally which the American farmer leads? Is not the American
farmer, generally, a man who has sacrificed a free and full mental
development, and all his finer sensibilities and affections, and a
generous and genial family and social life, and the dignities and
tasteful proprieties of a well-appointed home, to the support of
his muscles? I am aware that there are instances of a better life
than this among the farmers, and I should not have written this
article if those instances had not taught me that this everlasting
devotion to labor is unnecessary. There are farmers who prosper in
their calling, and do not become stolid. There are farmers who are
gentlemen--men of intelligence--whose homes are the abodes of
refinement, whose watchward is improvement, and whose aim it is to
elevate their calling. If there be a man on the earth whom I
honestly honor it is a farmer who has broken away from his slavery
to labor, and applied his mind to his soil.

Mind must be the emancipator of the farmer. Science, intelligence,
machinery--these must liberate the white bondman of the soil from
his long slavery. When I look back and see what has been done for
the farmer within my brief memory, I am full of hope for the
future. The plough, under the hand of science, is become a new
instrument. The horse now hoes the corn, digs the potatoes, mows
the grass, rakes the hay, reaps the wheat, and threshes and
winnows it; and every day adds new machinery to the farmer's
stock, to supersede the clumsy implements which once bound him to
his hard and never-ending toil. When a farmer begins to use
machinery and to study the processes of other men, and to apply
his mind to farming so far as he can make it take the place of
muscle, then he illuminates his calling with a new light, and
lifts himself into the dignity of a man. If mind once gets the
upper hand, it will serve itself and see that the body is properly
cared for. Intelligent farming is dignified living. For a farmer
who reads and thinks, and studies and applies, nature will open
the storehouse of her secrets, and point the way to a life full of
dignity and beauty, and grateful and improvable leisure.



LESSON XIII.

REPOSE.


  "Peace, greatness best becomes; calm power doth guide
   With a far more imperious stateliness
   Than all the swords of violence can do,
   And easier gains those ends she tends unto." DANIEL.

  "When headstrong passion gets the reins of reason,
   The force of nature, like too strong a gale,
   For want of ballast oversets the vessel." HIGGONS.

                     "Give me that man
   That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
   In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of hearts,
   As I do thee." SHAKSPEARE.

Mrs. Flutter Budget was at church last Sunday, She always is at
church; and she never forgets her fan. I have known her for many
years, and have never known her to be in church without a fan in
her hand, and some article upon her person that rustled
constantly. Her black silk dress is death to devotion over the
space of twenty feet on all sides of her. She fixes the wires in
the bonnets of her little girls, then takes their hats off
entirely, then wipes their noses, then shakes her head at them,
then makes them exchange seats with each other, then finds the
text and the hymns for them, then fusses with the cricket, and
then fans herself unremittingly until she can see something else
to do. During all this time, and throughout all these exercises,
the one article of dress upon her fidgety person that has rustle
in it, rustles. It chafes against the walls of silence as a caged
bear chafes, with feverish restlessness, against the walls of his
cell; and as if the annoyance of one sense were not sufficient,
she seems to have adopted a bob-and-sinker style of trimming, for
hat and dress, and hair and cloak, and every thing that goes to
make up her externals. Little pendants are everywhere--little
tassels, and little balls, and little tufts--at the end of little
cords; and these are all the time bobbing up and down, and
trembling, and threatening to bob up and down, like--

  "The one red leaf, the last of its clan
   That dances as often as dance it can,
   Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
   On the topmost bough that looks up at the sky."

Any person who sits near Mrs. Flutter Budget, or undertakes to
look at her during divine service, loses all sense of repose, and
all power of reflection. The most solemn exercises in which the
mind engages cannot be carried on with a fly upon the nose, and
any teasing of a single sense, whether of sight, or sound, or
touch, is fatal to religious devotion. I presume that if the
pastor wishes to find the most sterile portion of his field, he
needs only to ascertain the names of those who occupy pews in the
vicinity of this lively little lady. Her husband died two years
ago, of sleeplessness, and a harassing system of nursing.

The Flutter Budgets are a numerous family in America. They are not
all as restless as Madame, but the characteristics of the blood
are manifest among them all. They never know repose; and, what is
worse than this, they dread if they do not despise it. They are
immense workers--not that they do more work, and harder than their
neighbors, but they make a great fuss about it, and are always at
it. They rise early in the morning, and they sit up late at night;
and they do this from year's end to year's end, whether they
really have any thing to do or not. They cannot sit still. They
have an unhealthy impression that it is wrong for them not to be
"doing something" all the time. Nothing in the world will make
them so uncomfortable and so restless as leisure. Mrs. Flutter
Budget could no more sit down without knitting-work, or a sock to
darn, in her hands, than she could fly. As she has many times
remarked, she would die if she could not work. To her, and to all
of her name and character, constant action seems to be a
necessity. The craving of the smoker for his pipe or cigar, the
incessant hankering of the opium-eater for his drug, the terrible
thirst of the drunkard for his cups--all these are legitimate
illustrations of the morbid desire of the Budgets for action or
motion. The man who has the habit of using narcotics is not more
restless and unhappy without his accustomed stimulus, than they
are with nothing to do. In truth, I believe the desire for action
may become just as morbid a passion of the soul as that which most
degrades and demoralizes mankind.

If I were called upon to define happiness, I could possibly give
no definition that would shut out the word repose. I do not mean
by this that no person can be happy except in a state of repose,
but I mean, rather, that no man can be happy to whom repose is
impossible. The highest definition of happiness would probably
designate the consciousness of healthy powers harmoniously
employed as among its prime elements; but there can be no
happiness that deserves its name without the consciousness of
powers that are able to subside from harmonious action into
painless repose. I know a little girl who plays out of doors at
night as long as she can see, and who, when called into the house,
takes up a book with restless greed for mental excitement, and
then begs to be read to sleep after she has been required to put
down her book and go to bed. She would be called a happy child by
those who see her playing among her mates, yet it is easy to
perceive that her happiness is limited to a single attitude and
condition of body and mind. A happier child than she is one who
can enjoy open-air play, and then quietly sit down at her mother's
side and enjoy rest. That is an inharmonious and unhealthy state
of mind which chafes with leisure; and he is an unhappy man who
cannot sit down for a moment without reaching for a newspaper, or
looking about him for some quid for his morbid mind to chew upon.
So I count no man truly happy who cannot contentedly sit still
when circumstances release his powers from labor, and who does not
reckon among the rewards of labor a peaceful repose.

No; Mrs. Flutter Budget is not a happy woman; and, as I have
intimated before, she seriously interferes with the happiness and
the spiritual prosperity of those about her. When she can find
nothing to do, then she worries. Those children of hers are
worried nearly to death. If, in their play, they get any dirt upon
their faces, they are sent immediately to make themselves clean.
If they soil their clothes, they are shut up until reduced to a
proper state of penitence. They are kept out of all draughts of
air for fear of a cold; and if they should take cold, why, they
must take medicine of the most repulsive character as a penalty.
If they cough out of the wrong corner of their mouths, she
suspects them of croupy intentions; and if they venture, at some
unguarded moment, on a cutaneous eruption, they are immediately
charged with the measles, or accused of small-pox. If they quietly
sit down for a moment of repose, she apprehends sickness, and
stirs them about to shake it off. Even sleep is not sacred to her,
for if she finds a flushed face among the harassed little
slumberers, she wakes its owner to make affectionate inquiries.
Her husband, as I have already stated, died two years ago. She
worked upon his nervous system to such an extent that he was glad
to be rid of the world, and of her. I think a man would die, after
awhile, with constantly looking at the motion of a saw-mill. The
jar of a locomotive makes the toughest iron brittle at last; and
the wear and tear of a restless wife are beyond the strongest
man's endurance.

I have noticed that persons who have influence upon the minds of
others, maintain constantly a degree of repose. I do not mean that
those have most influence who use their powers sparingly, but that
a certain degree of mental repose--or what may possibly be called
imperturbableness--is necessary to influence. Mrs. Flutter Budget
always talks in a hurry, and talks of a thousand things, and is
easily excited. Her neighbor, carefully avoiding the causes which
ruffle her, and preserving the poise of her faculties, insists on
her point quietly, and carries it. The repose of equanimity is a
charm which dissolves all opposition. The mind which shows itself
open to influences from every quarter, and is swayed by them, is
not its own master. The mind that never rests is invariably full
of freaks and caprices. The mind that has no repose shows its
dependence and its lack of self-control. There cannot go out of
such a mind as this a positive influence, any more than there can
go forth from a candle a steady light, when it stands flickering
and flaring in the wind, having all it can do to keep its flame
from extinction. There must be that repose of mind which springs
from conscious self-control and consciousness of the power of
self-control, under all ordinary circumstances, before a man can
hope to have influence of a powerful character upon the minds
about him. The driver of a coach-and-six, with all the ribbons in
his hands, and a thorough knowledge of his horses and his road,
sits upon his box in repose; and that repose inspires me with
confidence in him; but if he should be constantly on the look-out
for some trick, and constantly examining his harnesses, and
constantly fussy and uneasy, I should lose my confidence in him,
and wish I were in anybody's care but his.

We do not need to be taught that a restless mind is not a reliable
mind. There is an instinct which tells us this. There can be no
reliableness of character without repose. If I should wish to take
a ride, and two horses should be led before me to choose from, I
would take the one that stands still, waiting for his burden and
his command, rather than the one that occupies the road and his
groom with his caracoling and curveting and other signs of
restlessness. I should be measurably sure that one would bear me
through my journey safely and speedily, and that the other would
either throw me, or wear himself out, and so fail of giving me
good service. Saint Peter was a restless man--an impatient man. He
was always the most impulsive, and the most ready to act, as the
servant of the high priest had occasion to remember; but he both
lied and denied his Lord. It was John reposing upon the breast of
Jesus, who most drew forth the Lord's affection. Martha, worrying
about the house, cumbered with much serving, chose a part inferior
to that of Mary who reposed at the feet of Jesus. It is only in
repose that the powers of the mind are marshalled for great
enterprises and for progress. It is in repose, when passion is
sleeping and reason is clear-eyed, that the military chieftain
marks out his campaign and arranges his forces. He is a poor
commander who throws his troops into the field, and fights without
order, or struggles for no definite end; and there are multitudes
of men who throw themselves into life with an immense splutter,
and fight the fight of life with a great deal of noise, but who
never make any progress, because they have never drawn upon repose
for a plan.

Repose is the cradle of power. It is the fashion to say that great
men are men of great passions, as if their passions were the cause
rather than the concomitant of their greatness. Great elephants
have great legs, but the legs do not make the elephants great.
Great legs, however, are required to move great elephants, and
wherever we find great elephants, we find great legs. Small men
sometimes have great passions, and these passions may so far
overcome them that they shall be the weakest of the weak. The
possession of great passions is often a disadvantage to weak men
and strong men alike, because they furnish so many assailable
points for outside forces. A fortress may be very strongly built,
but if its doors are open, and scaling ladders are run permanently
down from its walls for the accommodation of invading forces, its
strength will be of very little practical advantage. Great
passions are oftener the weak, than the strong points of great
men. Now I do not believe it possible for a man to exercise a high
degree of power upon the hearts and minds of others, and, at the
same time, be under the influence of any variety of passion. A man
cannot be the shivering subject of an outside force, acting upon
him through his passions, and at the same time a centre of
effluent power. Action and passion are opposed to each other; and
when one has possession of the soul the other is wanting. They
involve two distinct attitudes of the mind, as truly as do
thanksgiving and petition.

The world often finds fault with great men because they are cold;
but they could not be great men if they were not cold. A physician
is often preferred by a family or patient because he is "so
sympathizing," as they call it. They forget that a physician is
necessarily untrustworthy in the degree that he is sympathetic
with his patients. A physician may be thoroughly kind, and out of
his kindness there may grow a gentle manner which seems to spring
from sympathy; but I say unhesitatingly that in the degree by
which a physician is sympathetic with his patients, is he unfitted
for his work. A dentist who feels, in sympathy, the pain that he
inflicts upon a child, is unfitted to perform his operation. The
surgeon who sensitively sympathizes with a man whose diseased or
crushed limb it has fallen to his lot to remove, has lost a
portion of his power and skill, and has become a poorer surgeon
for his sympathy. Physicians themselves show that they understood
this when a case for medical or surgical treatment occurs in their
own families. If their wives or their children are sick, they
cannot control their sympathies; and the moment they are aware of
this, they lose all confidence in themselves. They cannot reduce
the fracture of a child's limb, or prescribe for a wife lying
dangerously ill, because their sympathies are so greatly excited
that their judgment is good for nothing. In other words, they are
in an attitude or condition of passion--they are moved and wrought
upon by outside forces, to such a degree that they cannot act.

If an orator rise in his place, and show by the agitation of his
nerves, his broken sentences, and his choked utterances, that
emotion is uppermost in him, he has no more power upon his
audience than a baby. We pity his weakness, or we sympathize with
him; but he cannot move us. He is a mastered man, and until he can
choke down his passion he cannot master us. A man rises in an
audience in a state of furious excitement, and fumes, and yells,
and gesticulates, but he only moves us to pity, or disgust, or
laughter. His passion utterly deprives him of power. We call Mr.
Gough an actor, as he undoubtedly is; and we pretend to be
disgusted with him for simulating every night, for a hundred
nights in succession, the emotions which move us. We forget that
if Mr. Gough should really become the subject of the passions
which he illustrates, he would lose his power upon us, and kill
himself besides. He takes care never to be mastered, and takes
care also that all the machinery which he uses shall contribute to
his mastery of us. I do not deny that passion may be made
tributary to the power of men. Oil is tributary to the power of
machinery by lubricating its points of friction; and warmth, by
bringing its members into more perfect adjustment; but if the
machinery were made to wade in oil, or were heated red hot, oil
and heat would be a damage to it.

I repeat the proposition, then, that repose is the cradle of
power. The man who cannot hold his passions in repose--in perfect
repose--can never employ the measure of his power. These "cold
men," as the world calls them, are the men who move and control
their race. But it is not necessary to cling to great men for the
illustration of my subject. To say that a Christian philanthropist
should not be a sympathetic man would be to say that he should not
be a man at all; but nothing is more certain than that if a man
should surrender himself to his sympathies it would kill him. In a
world where sin and its bitter fruits abound as they do in this,
where little children cry for bread, and whole races are sunk in
barbarism, and villainy preys upon virtue, and the innocent suffer
in the place of the guilty, and sickness lays its hand upon
multitudes, and pain holds its victims to a life-long bondage, and
death leads throngs daily to the grave, and leaves other throngs
wild with grief, a sensitively sympathetic man, surrendering
himself to all the influences that address him, would lose all
power to help the distressed, or even to speak a word of comfort.
We are to apprehend the woes of others through our sympathies, and
to hold those sympathies in such repose that all the power of our
natures will be held ready for, and subject to, intelligent
ministry. The woman who faints at the sight of blood is not fit
for a hospital. The man who grows pale at hearing a groan, will
not do for a surgeon. If we mean to do any thing in this world for
the good of men, we must first compel our sympathies and our
passions into repose.

That which is true of power in this matter is true of judgment. It
is a widely bruited aphorism that "all history is a lie," and this
aphorism had its birth in the fact that historians become, as it
were, magnetized by the characters with which they deal. A man who
writes the life of Napoleon finds himself either sympathizing with
him, or roused into antipathy by him. In short, he becomes the
subject of a passion, wrought upon him by the character which he
contemplates and undertakes to paint; and from the moment this
passion takes possession of him, he becomes unfitted to write an
impartial and reliable word about him. All positive historical
characters have all possible historical portraits, simply because
the writers are subjects of passion. It is because no man can
write of positive characters without being the subject of an
influence from them, that no man can be an impartial historian,
and that all history must necessarily be a lie. If ever a perfect
history shall be written, it will be written by one whose passions
are under entire control, and kept in a condition of profound
repose--who will look at a historical character as he would upon
an impaled beetle in an entomological collection. A man is no
competent judge of a character, either in history or in life, with
which he strongly sympathizes. I have known many a man utterly
unfitted to read the proofs of the villainy of one to whom he had
surrendered his sympathies. A woman in love is a very poor judge
of character. She can see nothing but excellence where others see
nothing but shallowness and rottenness.

Once more, there is no dignity without repose. A restless, uneasy
man, can never be a dignified man. There can be no dignity about a
man or a woman who fumes, and frets, and fusses, and is full of
freaks and caprices. Dignity of manners is always associated with
repose. Mrs. Flutter Budget always enters a drawing-room as if she
were a loaded doll, tossed in by the usher, and goes dodging and
tipping about to get her centre of gravity, without getting it. Her
queenly neighbor comes in as the sun rises--calmly, sweetly, steadily,
and all hearts bow to her dignified coming. What would an Archbishop
be worth for dignity, who should be continually scratching his ears,
and brushing his nose, and crossing and re-crossing his legs, and
drumming with his fingers? Who would not deem the ermine degraded
by a chief justice who should be constantly twitching about upon his
bench? It is a fact that has come under the observation of the least
observant, that the moment a man surrenders himself to his passions
he loses his dignity. A fit of anger is as fatal to dignity as a dose of
arsenic to life. A fit of mirthfulness is hardly less fatal. So it is in
repose, and particularly in the repose of the passions, that we find
the happiness, the influence, the power, and the dignity of our life.
Let us cultivate repose.



LESSON XIV.

THE WAYS OF CHARITY.


  "The Holy Supper is kept indeed,
   In whatso we share with another's need;
   Not that which we give, but what we share.
   For the gift without the giver is bare:
   Who bestows himself, with his alms feeds three,--
   Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me."
   LOWELL.

  "It may not be our lot to wield
   The sickle in the ripened field;
   Nor ours to hear on summer eves,
   The reaper's song among the sheaves;
   Yet, when our duty's task is wrought,
   In unison with God's great thought,
   The near and future blend in one,
   And whatsoe'er is willed is done."
   WHITTIER.

I have come to entertain very serious doubts about my "orthodoxy"
on the subject of doing good. If I know my own motives, I
certainly have a desire to do good; but this desire is yoke fellow
with the perverse wish to do it in my own way. I do not feel
myself inclined to accept the prescriptions of those who have
taken out patents for various ingenious processes in this line of
effort. My attention has just been attracted to this subject, by
the perusal of a long story, which must be not far from the one
hundred and ninety-ninth that I have read during the past twenty
years, all tipped with the same general moral. A good-natured
lady, in easy circumstances, and of benevolent impulses, is
appealed to by a poor man in the kitchen. She feeds him, gives him
clothes, sends him away rejoicing, and feels good over it. The man
comes again and again, tells pitiful stories, excites her
benevolence of course, and secures a reasonable amount of
additional plunder. Months pass away; and being out upon a walk
one pleasant afternoon, and finding herself near the poor man's
residence, the fair benefactress calls upon him. She finds the
wife (who was reported dead) very comfortable indeed, and the
destitute family of four children reduced to a single fat and
saucy baby, and the poor liar himself smelling strongly of rum.
Then come the denouement, and a grand tableau: lady very much
grieved and astonished--wife, who has known nothing of her
husband's tricks, exceedingly bewildered--fuddled husband, blind
with rum and remorse, owns up to his meanness and duplicity. He
found (as he confessed) that he could work upon the lady's
sympathies, got to lying and couldn't stop, and, finally, felt so
badly over the whole operation, that he took to drink to drown his
conscience! _Moral:_ Women should not help poor people without
going to see them, and finding out whether they lie.

Now that woman did exactly as I should have done, under the same
circumstances. In the first place, I should never have had the
heart to doubt a man who carried an honest face, and was cold,
hungry, and ragged. I should have regarded his condition as a
claim upon my charity. In the second place, I should have had no
time to call upon his family, and satisfy myself with regard to
their circumstances; and in the third place, I should have felt
very delicate about putting direct questions to them if I had. The
same story tells incidentally of one of these men who do good in
the proper way. He visited a house which presented all the signs
of poverty; but the angel of mercy was too 'cute' to be taken in;
so he walked up stairs. Every thing presenting there the same
aspect of abject poverty that prevailed below, the angel of mercy
looked around him, and discovered a ladder leading to the garret.
The angel of mercy "smelt a rat," and mounted the ladder. In the
garret he found half a cord of wood, and any quantity of goodies
for the table. Another denouement and tableau. _Moral:_ as
before. If the story has taught me any thing, it is that it is my
duty to question every beggar that comes to my door, visit his
house, explore it from cellar to garret, and satisfy myself of
the truth or falsehood of his representations. Otherwise, my
charity goes for nothing, and I do my beggar an absolute
unkindness. In other words, while the law holds every man innocent
until he is proved to be guilty, charity holds every man guilty
until he is proved to be innocent.

It has become the fashion in certain circles to decry that
benevolence which sits at home in slippers, and gives its money
without seeing where it goes; but it is forgotten that the money
dispensed in slippers was earned in boots, and that the man who
has money to give, has usually so much business on hand that he
can make no adequate personal examination of the cases which are
referred to his charity. I can never forget Mr. Dickens' Cheeryble
Brothers, who were so very much obliged to a friend for calling
upon them, and telling them of the circumstances of a poor family.
It was taken as a great personal kindness when they were informed
how and where they could relieve want and distress. They had no
genius for going about and looking up cases of charity, but their
hearts leaped at the opportunity to do good. They did their work
in their counting-room, and had no time and no talent for visiting
those whom they benefited; but who would question either the
genuineness or the judiciousness of their benevolence? The
applications for aid made at the doors of our dwellings come
oftener to the mistresses of those dwellings than to the masters;
and these mistresses, four times in five, are women with the care
of children on their hands, or household duties which demand
almost constant attention. If a beggar come to the door, they are
grateful for the opportunity to afford relief; but they have no
time to visit another quarter of the town, to learn whether their
charities have been well bestowed, nor do they withhold their
charities through fear of being imposed upon.

In my judgment, the character and circumstances of a man determine
his office in the work of charitable relief. I know there are some
persons who have a peculiar natural adaptation to the work of
visiting the subjects of sickness and of need. Their presence and
their sympathy are grateful to those to whom they delight to
minister. They are masters and mistresses of all those thrifty
economies which enable them to manage for the poor. They have
genuine administrative talent in this particular department. They
are cheerful and active, and sympathetic and ingenious; and they
can do more for a poor, discouraged family with ten dollars than
others can do with fifty. I do not suppose that these people are
one whit more benevolent than those whose purses are always open
to the poor, and who at the same time would feel very awkward upon
a visit of charity, and would make the family visited feel as
awkward as themselves. The poor we have always with us; and every
man and woman who possesses means for their relief owes a duty to
them which is to be discharged in the most efficient way. If I
have money, and do not feel that I am the proper person to look
after the details of its dispensation, I will put it into the
hands of one more competent to the business, and I will rationally
conclude that I have done my duty. In the mean time, if a man come
to my door, and ask for the supply of his immediate necessities,
he shall not be turned empty away because I do not happen to have
the means at hand for verifying his story.

I know that there are multitudes of tender-hearted women--women of
abounding benevolence and sensitive conscience--who are troubled
upon this subject. They have a desire to do good, and to do it in
the right way; but, somehow, they find if impossible to do it
according to the views of the story-writers. They are any thing
but rugged in health, perhaps, or they have a dependent family of
young children around them, or the care of their dwellings absorbs
their time. They fail to find the opportunity to visit the poor,
or they do not feel themselves adapted to the office; and still
they carry about with them the uncomfortable suspicion that they
are meanly shrinking from duty. My thought upon this point is that
my duties never conflict with one another, and that if I can do
good in one way better than another, then that is my way to do
good. I shall not permit the story-writers to prescribe for me,
nor shall I allow them to make me uncomfortable.

There is a class of men and women in all Protestant communities
who think it a very neat thing to do good at random. They sow
broadcast of cheap seed, content to reap nothing at all, and
pleasantly disappointed if they find here and there a stalk of
corn to reward their sowing. They do not prepare their ground,
they do not cultivate it at all, but they sow, hoping that in some
open place a seed may fall and germinate. Some of these people
regard this method of doing good as a kind of holy stratagem--a
Christian trick--which takes the devil at a disadvantage. I once
knew a kind old gentleman who did a business that brought him
considerably into contact with rough and profane persons; and as
he wished to do something for them, he kept his pockets filled
with little printed cards entitled "The Swearer's Prayer;" and
whenever an oath came out, the utterer was immediately presented
with this card with a little story on it, and a statement that "to
swear is neither brave, polite, nor wise." I very well remember
hearing the old gentleman say that, though he had given away
hundreds of these cards, he had never learned that one of them had
done any good. I do not wonder at it. It was a sneaking way of
doing good, or of trying to. If the old man had remonstrated
personally with these swearing fellows, and told them that their
habit was both vulgar and wicked, does any one suppose that the
result would have been so unsatisfactory? He had not pluck enough
to do this; so he gave them a card, and they either threw it in
his face or threw it away. But then, the cards didn't cost much!

I have been much interested in watching a car-load of passengers,
while receiving each from the hands of a professional distributor
a religious tract. All have received the gift politely, in
deference to the motive which prompted, or was supposed to prompt,
its bestowal; yet I have never failed to perceive that politeness
was really taxed in the matter. Now let me be candid, and confess
that I was never pleasantly impressed by being presented with a
tract in a railroad car. This fact cannot be attributed to any
lack of disposition to contemplate religious subjects; but there
is something which tells me that it is improper and indelicate for
any man to come into a public vehicle, and thrust upon me and upon
my fellow-passengers a set of motives and opinions on religion
which may or may not accord with my own and theirs--just as it
happens. I think the natural action of the mind is to brace itself
against influences sought to be sprung upon it in this manner;
and I am yet to be convinced that this indiscriminate and
wholesale distribution of religious tracts in railroad stations
and public conveyances is not doing, and has not done, more harm
than good. I know that multitudes of men--not vicious--are
disgusted with it, and offended by it, and that there is
something--call it what you may--in the emotions excited by the
presentation of a tract under such ill-chosen circumstances, which
counteracts any good influence it was intended to produce. A
gentleman will receive a tract politely, and read it or not
according to his whim; but it will be very apt to disgust him with
the style of Christianity which it represents.

I am aware that the secretary and the agents of the tract
societies make very encouraging reports of the results of their
operations. I am always interested in these details, and do not
discredit at all the statements which they make. Nay, I am
convinced that in certain departments of their effort they are
successful in doing much good. I believe that their noble army of
colporteurs, going from lonely neighborhood to neighborhood, and
carrying with them an unselfish, devoted life, and the living
voice of prayer, exhortation, and counsel, win many souls to
Christian virtue. I am willing to acknowledge, further, that here
and there a tract, chance-sown, may fall into ground ready to
receive it; but I have a right to question whether the same
outlay of effort and money, applied directly in other fields,
would not bring very much larger returns. My point is that in all
efforts to do good, in this way, appropriateness of time and place
is always to be consulted. I once took my seat in a dentist's
chair to have an operation performed upon my teeth. If I remember
correctly, an ugly fang was to be removed,--at any rate, pain was
involved in the matter; but no sooner was the dentist's arm around
my head, and his instrument in my mouth, than the well-meaning and
zealous operator began to question me upon the subject of personal
religion. Now it seemed quite as bad to undertake to propagate
Christianity at the point of a surgical instrument, as it would be
to win proselytes by the sword; and the utter incongruity of the
two operations disgusted me. At any rate, _I changed my dentist_.
I felt like the man who found upon his landlady's table an article
of butter that was inconveniently encumbered with hair, and who
informed her that he had no objection to hair, but would prefer to
have it served upon a separate dish.

A good many years ago, I read a Sunday-school book entitled, if I
remember correctly, "Walks of Usefulness." It represented a man
going out into the street, and "pitching into" every person he met
with, upon the subject of religion, or starting a conversation and
immediately giving it a spiritual twist. I thought then that he
was a remarkably ingenious man--a wonderful story-teller, to say
the least of him. I am inclined to think now that he romanced a
little. Every operation was so neatly done, and turned out so
well, that I really suspect it was pure fiction. I have this to
say, at any rate, that if he did and said what he professed to
have done and said, under the circumstances which he described, he
owed it to the politeness of those whom he addressed that he was
not dismissed with a decided rebuff, and told to go about his
business. "A word fitly spoken, how good it is!" Ah yes! how very
good it is! Christian zeal is no excuse for bad taste, nor is
Christian effort exempt from the laws of fitness and propriety
which attach to human effort of other aims in other fields. If I
wish to reach a man's mind upon any important subject, and
circumstances do not favor me, I wait for circumstances to change,
or I pave my way to his mind by a series of carefully-adjusted
efforts. Abrupt transitions of thought and feeling, and violent
interruptions of the currents of mental life and action, are never
favorable to reflection. If I wish to cheer a man who is bowed to
the earth in grief for the loss of a companion, I will not break
in upon his mourning with a lively tune upon a fiddle. If I wish
to attract him to a religious life, I will not interrupt the flow
of his innocently social hours by some terrible threat or warning.
In truth, I know of nothing that calls for more care, or nicer
discrimination, or choicer address, than a personal attempt to
move an irreligious mind in a religious direction. The word of
gold should always have a setting of silver.

There seems to be a prevalent disposition in the religious world
to do good by indirection and stratagem. If a man can reach one
mind by scattering ten thousand tracts, the result is more
grateful than it would be if that mind were reached by direct
personal effort without any tracts; and it makes a larger and more
interesting show in the reports. This disposition is manifest in
the matter of charitable fairs. The women of a religious society
will make up a batch of little-or-nothings, freeze a few cans of
ice cream, hire a hall, and advertise a sale. We all go, and buy
things that we do not want, with a good-natured and gallant
disregard of prices, and the footings of receipts are published in
the newspapers. The charitable women feel pleasantly about it, and
think that they have done a great deal of good at a small cost,
without remembering that all the money they have made has cost
somebody the amount of the declared figures. It seems to be a
great deal pleasanter to get possession of the money in this way,
than it would be to obtain it by a general subscription. They
forget that all they have done is to obtain a subscription by a
graceful and attractive stratagem, and that the motives which they
have pocketed with the money would not stand the test of a
scrupulous analysis. The main point seems to be to get the money,
and do the good with the least possible sense of sacrifice; as a
man goes to a charitable ball, and pays two dollars for the
privilege of dancing all night, in order to give a shilling of
profits to the widow and fatherless without feeling the burden of
the charity.

Of all the means of doing good, I know of none so repulsive as
that which is purely professional. I think we do not have so much
of this in these days as our fathers had. Our pastors are more
thoroughly our companions and friends than they used to be. They
do not assume to be our dictators and censors as they did in the
earlier days of Puritanism. The idea of the regular parochial
visit is essentially changed. But I know clergymen, even now, who
visit the house of mourning professionally, and give their
professional consolation in a professional way, and depart feeling
that they have faithfully performed their professional duty. I
know clergymen who go round from house to house with their
professional inquiries, and do up any quantity of professional
work in a day. The family come in, (those who do not run away,)
and take seats around the room, and answer questions, and listen
to a prayer, and then they bid their pastor a good afternoon with
a sense of relief, and go about their business again, while he
pushes on to his next parishioner, and repeats the professional
task. It is all a dry and unfruitful formality on the part of the
families visited, and a professionally-discharged duty on the
part of the pastor, and a pitifully-ridiculous caricature of the
visit of a religious teacher to his disciples every way. What
shall be said of an interview of which the pastor's part consisted
of these words: "Very late spring--Hem!" (looking out of the
window)--"who is building that barn?--potatoes seem to be getting
along very well;" (turning to a member of the family)--"Jane, how
do you enjoy your mind?" A spiritual frame that could stand such a
transition as that, without taking a fatal cold, must be based
upon a very sound constitution, and toughened by frequent
repetition of the process.

I suppose there will always be obtuse men in the pastoral office--
men who know no way of getting into a sensitive soul except by
knocking in the door and walking in with their boots on; but all
such men are out of their place. The souls of an average people--
tied to the tasks of life, burdened by care, oppressed by
routine, and depressed in many instances by bodily weakness--need
sympathy more than counsel, and encouragement and inspiration more
than a solemn, professional catechetical probing of their
religious state. But I think, as I have already said, that the
world is improving in this matter. Our pastors are more social,
more facile, more appreciative of the fact that, in all their
personal intercourse with their people, they must win love and
give sympathy if they would do good in the line of their
profession.

So much in the vein of criticism; and if I am asked what guide a
man shall have in the matter of doing good in the world, I shall
answer: a loving, honest, and brave heart, and a mind that judges
for itself. The heart that loves its fellow-men will move its
possessor to do good; and the mind that thinks and judges for
itself will decide in what direction its efforts ought to be made.
If a man be moved to do good, he will do it, and his heart will
lead him in the right direction. Under a mistaken sense of duty,
inculcated by incompetent counsellors, men find themselves in
fields of benevolent action to which they are very poorly adapted;
and the world is full of these blunders; but an honestly-loving
heart and an ordinarily clear brain, that nobody has been allowed
to meddle with and muddle, will tell a man where he belongs and
what he ought to do. If a man have a gift for ministering to the
sick, let him do it. If he have a gift for dealing personally with
the poor, let him do that. If he have a gift for making money, and
none for properly applying his charities, let him hand his money
to those who are competent to dispense it. I do not believe that
many loving hearts, coupled with unsophisticated judgments, are
engaged in indiscriminate and random efforts to act for religious
ends upon the minds they meet with. I believe that with all such
hearts and judgments there is connected a sense of that which is
fit and proper in time, place, and circumstance, so that wherever
they strike they leave their mark. I believe that such hearts and
judgments will scorn to do that by indirection which they can do
better directly, and that if it be fit and proper for them to
offer reproof to a man, they will do it by the brave word of
mouth, and not sneak up to him and put a card or a tract into his
hand. I believe that men with such hearts and judgments would
prefer making a subscription directly to a charitable object, to
making one indirectly by paying double price for articles they do
not want. And last, I think that pastors, with such hearts and
judgments, are not at all in danger of becoming coldly professional
in their noble duties. A life in any sphere that is the expression
and outflow of an honest, earnest, loving heart, taking counsel only
of God and itself, will be certain to be a life of beneficence in
the best possible direction.



LESSON XV.

MEN OF ONE IDEA.


  "Cultivate the physical exclusively, and you have an athlete
or a savage; the moral only, and you have an enthusiast or a maniac;
the intellectual only, and you have a diseased oddity--it may be a
monster. It is only by wisely training all three together that the
complete man can be formed."--SAMUEL SMILES.

When the heats of summer have dried up the streams, and cataracts
only trickle and drip, and the dams of brooks and rivers cease to
pour the arching crystal from their lips, I have always loved to
explore the forsaken water-courses. An imprisoned fish, a shell
with rainbow lining, a curiously-worn rock, a strangely-tinted
and grotesquely-fashioned stone--these are always objects of
interest. Then to sit down upon a ledge that has been planed off
by ice, and smoothed by the tenuous passage of an ocean's
palpitating volume, and watch the shrunken stream slipping around
its feet, and hear the gurgle of the faintly-going water, and
growl so drowsy with the song that it breaks at last into
surprising articulations, and talks and laughs, and shouts and
sings--ah! this, indeed, is enchantment! There are few men,
I suppose, so fortunate as to have enjoyed a country breeding,
who do not recall scenes like this,--who do not remember a
half-holiday, at least, spent in the bed of a summer stream,
and at the feet of scanty cataracts, making fierce attacks on
water snakes, watching lizards lying among the stones of an old
raceway, creeping up, hat in hand, to a gauze-winged devil's needle
that shivered on a sunny point of rock, and looked as if it might
be the ghost of a humming-bird, starting to mark the sudden flight
and hear the chattering cry of the king-fisher as he darted
through the shadows and disappeared, and noting the slim-legged
wagtail, racing backward and forward upon the border of the
stream.

Among the objects of interest very often, if not always, to be
found at the feet of dams and cataracts, are what people call
"pot-holes." They are round holes worn in the solid rock by a
single stone, kept in motion by the water. Some of them are very
large and others are small. When the stream becomes dry, there
they are, smooth as if turned out by machinery, and the hard,
round pebbles at the bottom by which the curious work was done.
Every year, as the dry season comes along, we find that the holes
have grown larger and the pebbles smaller, and that no freshet
has been found powerful enough to dislodge the pebbles and release
the rock from their attrition. Now if a man will turn from the
contemplation of one of these pot-holes, and the means by which it
is made, and seek for that result and that process in the world of
mind which most resemble them, I am sure that he will find them in
a man of one idea. In truth, these scenes that I have been
painting were all recalled to me by looking upon one of these men,
studying his character, and watching the effect of the single idea
by which he was actuated. "There," said I, involuntarily, "is a
moral pot-hole with a pebble in it; and the hole grows larger and
the pebble smaller every year."

I suppose it is useless to undertake to reform men of one idea.
The real trouble is that the pebble is in them; and whole freshets
of truth are poured upon them, only with the effect to make it
more lively in its grinding, and more certain in its process of
wearing out itself and them. The little man who, when ordered by
his physician to take a quart of medicine, informed him with a
deprecatory whimper, that he did not hold but a pint, illustrates
the capacity of many of those who are subjects of a single idea.
They do not hold but one, and it would be useless to prescribe a
larger number. In a country like ours, in which every thing is new
and everybody is free, there are multitudes of self-constituted
doctors, each of whom has a nostrum for curing all physical and
moral disorders and diseases,--a patent process by which humanity
may achieve its proudest progress and its everlasting happiness.
The country is full of hobby-riders, booted and spurred, who
imagine they are leading a grand race to a golden goal, forgetful
of the truth that their steeds are tethered to a single idea,
around which they are revolving only to tread down the grass and
wind themselves up, where they may stand at last amid the world's
ridicule, and starve to death.

Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds
out of the mouth of God, whether spoken through nature or
revelation. There is no one idea in all God's universe so great
and so nutritious that it can furnish food for an immortal soul.
Variety of nutriment is absolutely essential, even to physical
health. There are so many elements that enter into the structure
of the human body, and such variety of stimuli requisite for the
play of its vital forces, that it is necessary to lay under
tribute a wide range of nature; and fruits and roots and grain,
beasts of the field, fowls of the air, and fish of the sea, juices
and spices and flavors, all bring their contributions to the
perfection of the human animal, and the harmony of its functions.
The sailor, kept too long upon his hard biscuit and salt junk,
degenerates into scurvy. The occupant of the Irish hovel who
lives upon his favorite root, and sees neither bread nor meat,
grows up with weak eyes, an ugly face, and a stunted body. It is
precisely thus with a man who occupies and feeds his mind with a
single idea. He grows mean and small and diseased with the diet.
The soul bears relation to such a wealth of truth, such a
multitude of interests cluster about it, it has such variety of
elements--as illustrated by its illimitable range of action and
passion--it touches and receives impressions from all other souls
at such an infinite variety of points, that it is simply absurd to
suppose that one idea can feed it, even for a day.

A mind that surrenders itself to a single idea becomes essentially
insane. I know a man who has dwelt so long upon the subject of a
vegetable diet that it has finally taken possession of him. It is
now of such importance in his eyes that every other subject is
thrown out of its legitimate relations to him. It is the constant
theme of his thought--the study of his life. He questions the
properties and quantities of every mouthful that passes his lips,
and watches its effects upon him. He reads upon this subject
everything he can lay his hands on. He talks upon it with every
man he meets. He has ransacked the whole Bible for support to his
theories; and the man really believes that the eternal salvation
of the human race hinges upon a change of diet. It has become a
standard by which to decide the validity of all other truth. If
he did not believe that the Bible was on his side of the question,
he would discard the Bible. Experiments or opinions that make
against his faith are either contemptuously rejected or
ingeniously explained away. Now this man's mind is not only
reduced to the size of his idea, and assimilated to its character,
but it has lost its soundness. His reason is disordered. His
judgment is perverted--depraved. He sees things in unjust and
illegitimate relations. The subject that absorbs him has grown out
of proper proportions, and all other subjects have shrunk away
from it. I know another man--a man of fine powers--who is just as
much absorbed by the subject of ventilation; and though both of
these men are regarded by the community as of sound mind, I think
they are demonstrably insane.

If we rise into larger fields, we shall find more notable
demonstration of the starving effect of the entertainment of a
single idea. Scattered throughout the country we shall find men
who have devoted themselves to the cause of temperance, or
abstinence from intoxicating liquors. Here is a grand, a humane, a
most worthy and important cause; yet temperance as an idea is not
enough to furnish food for a human soul. Some of these men have
only room in them for one idea, and, so far as they are concerned,
it might as well be temperance as any thing, though it is bad for
the cause; but the majority of them were, at starting, men of
generous instincts, a quick sense of that which is pure and true,
and a genuine love of mankind. They dwelt upon their idea--they
lived upon it for a few years--and then they "showed their
keeping." If I should wish to find a narrow-minded, uncharitable,
bigoted soul, in the smallest possible space of time, I would look
among those who have made temperance the specialty of their
lives--not because temperance is bad, but because one idea is bad;
and the men afflicted by this particular idea are numerous and
notorious. They have no faith in any man who does not believe
exactly as they do. They accuse every man of unworthy motives who
opposes them. They permit no liberty of individual judgment and no
range of opinion; and when they get a chance, they drive
legislation into the most absurd and harmful extremes. Men of one
idea are always extremists, and extremists are always nuisances. I
might truthfully add that an extremist is never a man of sound
mind.

The whole tribe of professional agitators and miscalled reformers
are men of one idea. That these men do good, sometimes directly
and frequently indirectly, I do not deny; and it is equally
evident that they do a great deal of harm, the worst of which,
perhaps, falls upon themselves. Like the charge of a cannon, they
do damage to an enemy's fortifications, but they burn up the
powder there is in them, and lose the ball. Like blind old Samson,
they may prostrate the pillars of a great wrong, but they crush
themselves and the Philistines together. The greatest and truest
reformer that ever lived was Jesus Christ; but ah! the difference
between his broad aims, universal sympathies, and overflowing
love, and the malignant spirit that moves those who angrily beat
themselves to death against an instituted wrong! As an illustration,
look at those who have been the prominent agitators of the slavery
question in this country for the last twenty years. Are they men of
charity? Are they Christian men? Is not invective the chosen and
accustomed language of their lips? Do they not follow those against
whom they have opposed themselves, whether for good cause or
otherwise, into their graves with a fiendish lust of cruelty, and do
they not delight to trample upon great names and sacred memories?
Are they men whom we love? Do we feel attracted to their society?
Teachers of toleration, are they not the most intolerant of all men
living? Denouncers of bigotry, are they not the most fiercely bigoted
of any men we know? Preachers of love and good will to men, do
they not use more forcibly than any other class the power of words
to wound and poison human sensibilities?

It is not the quality of the idea which a man entertains that
kills him. Freedom for every creature that bears God's image--the
breaking of the rod of the oppressor and letting the oppressed go
free--this is a good idea. It is so great, so broad, so full, so
flowing, that a world of men might gather around it for a time as
they do around Niagara, and grow divine in its majestic music and
the vision of the wreath of light which heaven holds above it. If
a man undertake to live upon a single idea, it really makes very
little difference to him whether that idea be a good or a bad one.
A man may as well get scurvy on beans as beef. I suppose a diet of
potatoes would be quite as likely to support life comfortably as a
diet of peaches. It is because the human soul cannot live upon one
thing alone, but demands participation in every expression of the
life of God, that it will dwarf and starve upon even the grandest
and most divine idea.

The agitators and reformers are very ready to see the dwarfing
effect of a single idea or a single range of ideas upon the
Christian ministry, and a large number of Christian men. I admit
the accuracy of their observations in this matter, and, admitting
this, I can certainly ask the question whether they hope to escape
depreciation when the Christian idea--the divinest of all---is
insufficient of itself to make a man, and fill him, and give him
all desirable health and wealth and growth. As I have touched upon
this point, I may say that it is coming to be understood that a
man or a minister, in order to be a Christian, must be something
else--that Christianity received into nature and life is only one
of the elements of manhood--and that a man may become starved and
mean and bigoted and essentially insane by feeding exclusively
upon religion. What means the vision of these sapless, sad, and
sanctimonious Christians--these poor, thin, stingy lives--but
that all ideas save the religious one have been shut out from
them? Is it not notorious that a minister who has fed exclusively
upon religion is a man without power upon the hearts and minds of
men? Is it not true that he has most efficiency in pulpit
ministration who has the largest knowledge of and sympathy with
men, the broadest culture, and the widest acquaintance with all
the ideas that enter as food and motive into human life? Is it not
true that in the life-long, absorbing anxiety and carefulness of
a multitude of souls to secure their salvation, those souls are
constantly becoming less valuable, and thus--to use the language
of the market--less worth saving?

I cannot fail, however unwilling, to see much that is dry and
stiff and unlovely in the style of Christianity around me. It has
no attraction for me. I do not like the people who illustrate it;
and the reason is, not that they have got too much of Christianity,
but that they have not got enough of any thing else. Flour is good,
but flour is not bread. If I am to eat flour, I must eat it as bread;
and either milk or water must be used to make it bread. If a little
milk is used, the bread will be dry and heavy and hard. If a good
deal is used, the flour will be transformed into a soft and plastic mass,
which will rise in the heat, and come to my lips a sweet and fragrant
morsel. Christianity is good, but it wants mixing with humanity before
it will have a practical value. If only a little humanity be mixed with
it, the product will be dry and tasteless; but if it be combined with
the real milk of humanity, and enough of it, the result will be a loaf
fit for the tongues of angels. No: the divinest idea that has yet been
apprehended by the human mind is not enough for the human mind.
That which God made to be fed by various food cannot be fed with
success or safety by a single element. We cannot build a house of
dry bricks. It takes lime and sand and water in their proper proportions
to hold the bricks together.

This selection of a single idea from the great world of ideas to
which the mind is vitally related, and making it food and drink,
and motive and pivotal point of action, and supreme object of
devotion, is mental and moral suicide. It makes that a despotic
king which should be a tributary subject. It enslaves the soul to
a base partisanship. It is right to make money, and it is right to
be rich when wealth is won legitimately; but when money becomes
the supreme object of a man's life, the soul starves as rapidly
as the coffers are filled. It is right to be a temperance man and
an anti-slavery man, and an advocate of any special Christian
reform; but the effect of adopting any one of these reforms as the
supreme object of a man's pursuit, never fails to belittle him.
One of the most pitiable objects the world contains is a man of
generous natural impulses grown sour, impatient, bitter, abusive,
uncharitable, and ungracious, by devotion to one idea, and the
failure to impress it upon the world with the strength by which it
possesses himself. Many of these fondly hug the delusion to
themselves that they are martyrs, when, in fact, they are only
suicides. Many of these look forward to the day when posterity
will canonize them, and lift them to the glory of those who were
not received by their age because they were in advance of their
age. So they regard with contempt the pigmy world, wrap the
mantles of their mortified pride about them, and lie down in a
delusive dream of immortality.

Whether the effect of devotion to a single idea be disastrous or
otherwise to the devotees, nothing in all history is better
proved--nothing in all philosophy is more clearly demonstrable--
than the fact that it is a damage to the idea. If I wished to
disgust a community with any special idea, I would set a man
talking about it and advocating it who would talk of nothing
else. If I wished to ruin a cause utterly, I would submit it to
the advocacy of one who would thrust it into every man's face, who
would make every other cause subordinate to it, who would refuse
to see any objections to it, who would accuse all opponents of
unworthy motives, and who would thus exhibit his absolute slavery
to it. Men have an instinct which tells them that such people as
these are not trustworthy--that their sentiments and opinions are
as valueless as those of children. If they talk with a pleasant
spirit, we good-naturedly tolerate them; if they rant and scold
and denounce, we hiss them if we think it worth while, or we
applaud them as we would the feats of a dancing bear. If they say
devilish things in a heavenly sort of way, and clothe their black
malignities in silken phrases, we hear them with a certain kind of
pleasure, and take our revenge in despising them, and feeling
malicious towards the cause they advocate. It would kill us to
drink Cologne water, but the perfume titillates the sense, and so
we sprinkle it upon our handkerchiefs.

No great cause can be forwarded by the advocacy of men who have no
character, and no man can devote himself to an idea without the
loss of character. When a man comes forward to promulgate an idea,
we inquire into his credentials. How large a man is this? How
broad are his sympathies? How wide is his knowledge? What
relation does he bear to the great world of ideas among which
this is only one, and very likely a comparatively unimportant one?
Is he so weak as to be possessed by this idea, or does he possess
it, and entertain a rational comprehension of its relations to
himself and the community? I know that multitudes of good men have
been so disgusted with the one-sided, partisan character of the
advocates of special ideas and special reforms, that they would
have no association with them. We have only to learn that a man
can see nothing but his pet idea, and is really in its possession,
to lose all confidence in his judgment. When in a court of justice
a man testifies upon a point that touches his personal interests
or feelings or relations, we say that his testimony is not
valuable--not reliable. It decides nothing for us. We say that the
evidence does not come from the proper source. We do not expect
candor from him, for we perceive that his interests are too deeply
involved to allow sound judgment and utterly truthful expression.
It is precisely thus with all professional agitators and
reformers--all devotees of single ideas. They are personally so
intimately connected with their idea--have been so enslaved by
their idea--are so interested in its prosperity---that they are
not competent to testify with relation to it.



LESSON XVI.

SHYING PEOPLE.


           "It is jealousy's peculiar nature
  To swell small things to great; nay, out of naught
  To conjure much: and then to lose its reason
  Amid the hideous phantoms it has formed." YOUNG.

  "I will not shut me from my kind;
    And, lest I stiffen into stone,
    I will not eat my heart alone,
   Nor feed with sighs a passing wind."
   TENNYSON.

  "Fear is the virtue of slaves; but the heart that loveth is
willing." LONGFELLOW.


Reader, did you ever drive a horse that had the mean habit of
shying? If so, then you will remember how constantly he was on the
lookout for objects that would frighten him. He would never wait
for the bugbear to show its head; but he conjured it up at every
point. Every hair upon his sides seemed transformed into an eye;
and there was not a colored stone, nor a stick of wood, nor a bit
of paper, nor a small dog, nor a shadow across the road, nor any
thing that introduced variety into his passage, that did not seem
to be endowed with some marvellous power of repulsion. First he
dodged to the right, after having foreseen the evil from afar, and
wrought himself up to a fearful pitch of sidelong excitement; and
then he dodged to the left, having been surprised into passing a
cat without alarm; and so, dodging to the right and left, he has
half worried the life out of you. Being constantly on guard, and
always watching for objects of alarm, and suspicious of dangers in
disguise, he has had no difficulty in maintaining a condition of
permanent fright, which has worked itself off in spasms of shying.
To a man who has driven a horse up to a locomotive without danger
or fear, such an animal as this seems to be unworthy of the name
of a horse; and to one who has read of the spirit and fearlessness
of the war-horse, a shying horse seems to be the most contemptible
of his race.

Well, I have met shying men, and I meet them upon the sidewalk
almost every day. I have watched them from afar, and known by
their eyes and a certain preparatory nervousness of body, that
they would "shy" at me. I have been conscious, however, that there
was nothing in me to shy at. I have had no pistols in my pocket,
and no Bowie knife under my coat-collar. I have been innocent of
any intention to leap upon and throttle them. I have had no
purpose to trip their heels by a sudden "flank movement," and not
even the desire to knock their hats off. Indeed, I have felt
toward them a degree of friendliness and kindness which I would
have been very glad to express, had they afforded me an
opportunity; but they were shying men by nature, or by habit, or
by whim. So far as I have been able to ascertain the causes of
their infirmity, it is the result of a suspicion that they are not
quite as good as other people, and a belief that other people
understand the fact. Far be it from me to deny that their
suspicions touching themselves are well-grounded; but that is no
reason why other people should not speak to them politely. There
is a class of men and women who are always looking out for, and
expecting, slights from those whom they suppose to be their
superiors. They get a suspicion that a certain man feels above
them; so when they pass him in the street, they shy at him--go
around him--will not give him an opportunity to be polite to them.
They are martyrs, as they suppose, to unjust social distinctions.
They act as if they were painfully uncertain as to whether they
are men and women or spaniels.

Now by the side of the person who carries an unsuspicious,
self-respectful, open face, into any presence, such people as
these seem unworthy of the race to which they belong. It is not
the bold, brassy, self-asserting man who is their superior, because
his sort of offensive forwardness originates in even a worse state
of mind and heart than the habit of shying. When a man shies, he
only suspects that he is inferior to his surroundings. When a man
offensively puts himself forward, and talks loudly among his
betters, he knows he is mean, and knows that he is not where he
belongs. You will find a professional gambler to be a loudmouthed
man, who not only does not shy at his betters, but who seeks all
convenient opportunities for associating with them, and claiming
an equality with them. The shying man is one who has not much
respect for himself, who is envious and jealous of others, and
who, however strongly he may protest against the charge, has the
most abject respect for social position and arbitrary social
distinctions. If he see a man who either assumes or seems to be
above him, it is a reason in his mind why that man should not
notice him. The result is that decent men soon take him at his own
valuation, and notice him no more than they would a dog; and they
serve him right.

I know of no more thankless task than the attempt to assure shying
people that we love them, respect them, and are glad to continue
their acquaintance. The instances in which old school-mates meet
in the journey of life with a sickening coolness, in consequence
of changed circumstances and relations, are of every-day
occurrence. Two persons who separated at the school-house door in
dawning manhood, with equal prospects, come together later in
life. One has risen in the world, has won hosts of friends, has
been put forward by them into public office, perhaps, and has
acquired a competence. The other has remained upon the old
homestead, has had a hard life, and has won neither distinction
nor wealth. The fortunate man grasps the hand of the other with
all the cordiality of his nature and of his honest friendship; but
he meets a reserve which may be almost sullen. He strives to call
up the scenes gone by--the old school-sports--the school
companions, boys and girls--the old neighborhood friendships--but
they will not come. All attempts to touch the heart of his former
schoolmate, and bring him into sympathy through the power of
association, fail. The poor fool suspects his friend of
patronizing him, and he will not be patronized. Feeling that his
friend has got along in the world better than himself, he cannot
understand why he should not be regarded as an inferior, and
treated as such. Thenceforward, the fortunate man must seek the
society of the unfortunate man, or he will never have it. The
former may give practical recognition of entire equality, to the
best of his ability, but it will avail nothing, for the latter
will not "toady" to his friend, nor be "patronized" by him. At
last the fortunate man becomes tired of the effort to make his
unfortunate friend understand him, and he kicks him and his memory
aside, and calls it a friendship closed forever, without fault
upon his part.

I have often wished that it could be understood by these people
who are so uncertain in regard to their position, and so
suspicious that everybody has the disposition to slight them, and
so much afraid of being patronized, and so averse to the thought
of "toadying" that they stand stiffly aloof from the society which
they envy, and so much offended with people for feeling above
them, that their sentiments and feelings are sufficient reasons
for society to hold them in contempt. There is a lack of
self-respect--a meanness--in their position, that is really a
sufficient apology for treating them with entire social neglect.
They habitually misconstrue those among whom they move; they are
exacting of attention to the last degree; they are always
uncomfortable, and they are ready to take offense at the smallest
fancied provocation. I have now in my mind an artisan whom I had
occasion to get acquainted with a dozen years ago; and I have
compelled him to speak to me every time I have met him since. I
really do not know what he had done to make him regard himself so
contemptuously, but I think he has never to this day fully
believed that I have the slightest respect for him. He has tried
to dodge me. He has shied repeatedly, but I have compelled him to
make me a good-natured bow, till he begins to like it, I think--
till he expects it, at least.

Many children are bred to the idea that certain families are
socially above them. They are taught from their cradles to
consider themselves in a certain sense inferior. How few American
children are taught that there is no degradation in poverty, and
that a humble employment and an obscure position are entirely
consistent with self-respect, under all circumstances, in whatever
society. I do not mean to say that they have not heard their
parents remark that they were "as good as anybody." There is
enough of this talk; and it is precisely this which teaches
children that they are born to what their parents consider
dishonor,--inferiority to their neighbors. It is impossible for
children who have been bred in this way ever to outgrow, entirely,
their feeling of inferiority. The people who are entirely
self-respectful never have any thing to say about their position in
the presence of their children; and it is a cruel thing to teach a
child, not that there is a grade of society which is actually
above him, but that the persons who occupy that grade look down
upon him--and, in the constitution of society, have the right to
look down upon him--with contempt. To see an honest lad in humble
clothing actually awed by finding himself in the presence of a
well-dressed child of affluence, is very pitiful; and there are
thousands of these poor boys who, having won wealth and
distinction, never in their consciousness lose their early estate
sufficiently to feel at home with those among whom the advance of
fortune has brought them.

A thoroughly self-respectful person will command respect anywhere.
A man who carries into the world an unsuspecting, unassuming face,
who is polite to everybody, minds his own business, and does not
show by his demeanor that he bears about with him a sense of
degradation and inferiority, and who gives evidence that he
considers himself a man, and expects the treatment due to a man,
will secure politeness and respect from every true gentleman and
gentlewoman in the world. The man who shies, and suspects, and
envies, and is full of petty jealousies, and is always afraid that
he shall not get all that is due to him in the way of polite
attention, and manifests a feeling of great uncertainty and
anxiety concerning his own social position, is sure to be shunned
at last, and he will well deserve his fate. No real gentleman, and
no true gentlewoman, ever has feelings like these. It is only
those who are neither, and who do not deserve the position of
either, that are troubled in this way. I give it as a deliberate
judgment that there is far less of contempt for the poor and
obscure among what are denominated the higher classes of society
than there is of envy and hatred of the rich and renowned among
the poor and humble; and that the principal bar to a more cordial
and gentle intercourse between the two classes, is the lack of
self-respect which pervades the latter, and the mean, degrading
humility which they manifest in all their relations with those
whom they consider above their level.

American society is mixed--heterogeneous--more so, probably, than
that of any other country. There is no such thing as well-defined
classification. There is no nobility, no gentry, no aristocracy,
no peasantry. The owners of palaces were bred in log cabins; men
of learning are the children of boors; and one can never tell by a
man's position and relations in society into what style of life he
was born. The boy goes into the city from his father's farm,
carrying only a hardy frame, a good heart, and a suit of homespun,
and twenty years frequently suffice to establish him as a man of
fortune, and marry him to a woman of fashion. There is no bar to
progress in any direction for the ambitious man, except lack of
brains and tact. Society erects no barriers of caste which define
the bounds of his liberty. Notwithstanding this, there is always,
in every place, a body of people who assume to be "the best
society." The claim to the title is rarely well substantiated, and
is based on different ideas in different places. We shall find in
some places, that society crystallizes around the idea of wealth;
in others, around the idea of literary culture; in others, around
certain religious views, so that, as it may happen, the "best
society" is constituted of the Presbyterian, or Episcopalian, or
Unitarian, or other sectarian element. In other places, an old
family name is the central power, and, in others still, a certain
style of family life attracts sympathetic materials which assume
the position of "the best society."

Whatever may be the central idea of the self-constituted elite,
they are always the objects of the envy of a large number of
minds. Silly people "lie awake nights" to get into the best
society. Those who are securely in, of course sleep soundly in
their safety and their self-complacency; and those who are too low
to think of rising to it, and those who do not care for it, go
through the six to ten hours of their slumber "without landing,"
as the North River boatmen say. But a middle class, who range
along the ragged edges of society, know no rest. They sail along
in an uncertain way, like the moon on the border of a cloud--
sometimes in and sometimes out--feeling naked and very much
exposed among the stars, and rather foggy and confused in the
cloud, as if, after all, they did not belong there. It is in this
class that we meet with shying men and shying women. It is in this
class that we find heart-burnings, and jealousies, and envyings,
and sensitive misunderstandings. It is a sort of purgatory through
which the rising man and woman pass to reach the paradise of their
hope, and from which an unhappy soul is never lifted. These people
do not stop to inquire whether they have any sympathy, or any
thing in common with the society which they seek--whether they
would be lost, or whether they would be at home in it. They do not
even seem to suspect that much of that which is called the best
society, is the last society that a sensible, good man should
seek.

Let us suppose that wealth is the central idea of the best
society, and then let the aspirant to this society ask himself
whether he has wealth. Has he a fine house and an elegant turnout?
Does he dress expensively, and is he able to give costly
entertainments? Is he prepared to unite, on a plane of perfect
equality, with those who give the law to this society? If so, it
will not be necessary for him to seek it, for the society will
seek him,--that is, if he be an agreeable man. If he be very rich
indeed, why, it is not necessary that he be agreeable at all. But
suppose literary culture be the central force of this society--has
the aspirant any fitness for, or sympathy with it? Can he meet
those who form this society as an equal, or mingle in it as a
thoroughly sympathetic element? Would he feel happy and at home in
a literary atmosphere? Those questions indicate a legitimate
direction of inquiry, touching every case of this kind. Multitudes
of those who are dissatisfied with their position have nothing in
common with the society to which they aspire, and would be so much
out of place there that they would be very unhappy. My idea, then,
is, that so far as society is concerned, men and women naturally
find their own place. A true gentleman and a genuine gentlewoman,
wherever they may appear, and whoever they may be, are as readily
known as any objects; and really good society recognizes its
affinities for them at once. They do not have to seek for a place,
for they fall into their place as naturally as a soldier falls
into, and joins step with, his company.

Now what can be meaner than the jealousy which sits in the circle
where it is really most at home, and regards with its green and
greedy eyes, a circle for which it has no affinities, except the
affinities which envy has for that which it considers above
itself? It is a meanness, too, which has two sides to it. It is
notorious that the black overseer upon the plantation is severer
with his companions in slavery than a white man would be, and it
is just as notorious that the man who has abjectly bowed before
the distinction of wealth and social standing, always becomes
insufferably pretentious when fortune or favor lifts him to the
place of his desire. The man who shies those he esteems his
betters is always a proud man at heart, or if the adjective be
allowable, an aristocratic man; and he is very careful to preserve
his position of comparative respectability with relation to those
below him. He will always be found to be pretentious in his own
circle, and supercilious with relation to those in lower life. Is
it not true that half of the neighborhood quarrels that take
place, and three-quarters of the slander, and all the gossip that
are indulged in, result from these petty jealousies between
circles, and the sensitiveness that is felt regarding social
standing on the part of those who are not quite so high in the
world as they would like to be?

I can only notice briefly the shying that is done by the other
side of society. In effect, I have done this already, perhaps, but
it is proper to say directly that there are many moving in what is
called the best society, who, with a suspicion that they do not
belong there, or a feeling that their position is not secure
there, shy a humble man when they meet him, and dodge all vulgar
associations. I suppose that no true gentleman is ever afraid of
being mistaken for any thing else. A gentleman knows that there is
nothing which is more unlike the character of a gentleman than the
supercilious treatment of the humble, and the fear of losing caste
by treating every class with kindness and politeness. I recognize
no difference between the two shying classes--the men who shy
their fellow-men because they are high, and the men who shy their
fellow-men because they are low. Both are mean, both are unmanly,
and both are deficient in the self-respect necessary to the
constitution of a gentleman. There are no better friends in the
world--no men who understand each other better--none who meet and
converse more freely at their ease--none who have more respect for
each other--than a genuine gentleman and a self-respectful humble
man, who knows his place in the social scale, and is abundantly
satisfied with it. There is no need of any intercourse between
men, of whatever difference of social standing, less dignified and
gentle than this.



LESSON XVII.

FAITH IN HUMANITY.


  "Say, what is honor? 'Tis the finest sense
   Of justice which the human mind can frame,
   Intent each lurking frailty to disclaim,
   And guard the way of life from all offense,
   Suffered or done." WORDSWORTH.

  "A child of God had rather ten thousand times suffer for Christ,
than that Christ should suffer by Him."--JOHN MASON.

  "For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along
   Round the earth's electric circle the swift flash of right or
     wrong;
   Whether conscious or unconscious, yet humanity's vast frame
   Through its ocean-sounded fibres feels the gush of joy or
     shame;--
   In the gain or loss of one race, all the rest have equal claim."
   LOWELL.

One of the most reliable supports of that which is best in man is
faith in other men. In truth, I believe that no man can lose his
faith in men and women, and remain as good a man as he was before
the loss. Better evidence that a man is rotten in some portion of
his character, or rotten clean through his character, cannot be
found than real, or pretended, loss of faith in his fellows. When
a young man tells me that he has no doubt that certain persons,
publicly reputed to be good, take sly drinks in their own closets,
and descend into grosser indulgences when in strange places; that
the best men are hypocrites; that there is no such thing as
womanly virtue; and that appetite and selfishness outweigh
everywhere principle and manly honor, I know that, ninety-nine
times in one hundred, he finds a reason in his own heart and life
for his declarations. I know that he simply wishes to maintain a
certain degree of self-respect, and that he finds no way to do
this save by bringing everybody around him down to his own level.
A man who has lost his virtue, and is still suffering under the
blows of conscience, is very both to believe that there is any
virtue in the world.

Yet there are circumstances in which faith in humanity is lost
without fault, though never without damage, on the part of the
loser; and very sad cases they are. I remember an abused,
broken-hearted, and forsaken wife, who declared to me her belief
that her husband was no worse than other men (pleasant for me,
wasn't it?)--that there was not a man in the world who could
withstand temptation, or who would have done differently from her
husband under the same circumstances. Why was this? She had loved
this man with all the devotion of which her warm woman's heart was
capable; she had respected him as an embodiment of all manly
qualities; he had impersonated her _beau ideal_. If he--the
peerless, the prince--could fall, and forsake, and forget, who
would not? He who had once been to her the noblest and best man in
the world, could never become worse than the rest of the world.
Now one of the foulest wrongs and one of the deepest injuries
which this man had inflicted upon his wife was the destruction of
her faith in men. He had not only blotted out her faith in him,
but he had blotted out her faith in humanity, and, of course, her
faith in herself. What safeguards of her own virtue fell when her
faith in man was destroyed, she did not know; but, in her
innermost consciousness, she must have grown careless of herself--
possibly desperate.

Hardly a month passes by in which we do not hear of some
defalcation, some lapse from integrity, by a man who, through many
years of business life, had maintained an untarnished reputation.
I have half a dozen such cases in my memory now, and I do not know
what to make of them. When I see a character standing to-day above
all reproach, compacted through many years of manly, honest,
Christian living, overthrown to-morrow, and trodden in the mire, I
am shocked. If such men fall, where are we to look for those who
will not? If such men, with worthy natures, and long practice of
virtue, and myriad motives for the maintenance of an unspotted
character, yield to temptation, and are suddenly overthrown, what
reason have I to suppose that my partner, my brother, myself,
shall escape? I am scared, and grow cautious, and suspicious.

Did you ever think that there is one individual, at least, in the
world--that possibly there are ten individuals, possibly one
hundred, possibly more--who believe that you are, as a man or a
woman, just as nearly right as you can be? Did you ever think that
there are people who pin their faith to you, who believe in you,
who trust you, and that among those people your own reputation is
identified with the reputation of the race? I care not how humble
a man may be, there are always those who trust in him. Think of
the trust which a family of children repose in their parents, and
of the faith which the parents have in their children. Very humble
the parents may be--very untrustworthy as moral guides, and
judges, and authorities; but if they were angels, with the light
of heaven in their eyes, they would not be more confided in and
relied upon by the little ones who cling to their knees. So, at
all ages, we garner our faith in individuals; and so, all men and
women, however humble and unworthy they may be, become the objects
and recipients of this faith.

Now, if there be ten men and women who have garnered their faith
in me--who believe in me, through and through--and whose faith in
all humanity would be sadly shocked, if I should fall, and prove
to them that their confidence had been entirely misplaced, then I
hold for those ten persons the reputation of the human race in my
hands. If you, my reader, have attracted to yourself the honest
faith of a thousand hearts, then you hold in your hands, for those
hearts, the good name of humanity. Upon the shoulders of each man
in the community, there rests a great responsibility. He has not
only his own reputation to take care of, but he has the reputation
of his race. If all mankind are to be thought more meanly of by
mankind, to be less trusted, and less loved, because I have been
untrue, though my untruth touch but one person directly, I commit
a great crime against my race. Yet this crime is nothing by the
side of that which I commit against those who have trusted in me.
It injures them to think meanly of mankind--to have their
confidence shaken in humanity--much more than it injures humanity
to be thought meanly of. A man may as well stab me as to destroy
my faith in my kind, for the comfort and happiness of my life
depend upon the maintenance of this faith.

There are not a few men and women in this world who are thoroughly
conscious that not only their immediate personal friends think
better of them than they deserve, but that the community--all who
know them--accord to them a higher excellence of heart and life
than they really possess. There are some who seem fitted by nature
to attract the affection, and secure the respect of all those with
whom they come into contact, in a very remarkable degree; and,
yet, these persons may be painfully conscious, all the while, that
they are not so good as they are thought to be. They are not
hypocrites; they have never intended to deceive anybody; they have
never pretended to be what they are not; but people believe in
them without limit. A person who has this power of attracting the
confidence of men has forced upon him an immense responsibility.
To say nothing of his duty to himself and his God, he owes it to
his race to be, or to become, as good as he seems. It is
essentially a crime against humanity for one who draws the hearts
of men to him easily, to do any thing which will tend to
depreciate their estimate of his character. A man should carry a
life thus extravagantly over-estimated, as he would carry a cup of
wine--careful that none be spilled, and careful that no impurity
fall into it. It is a great blessing to be loved and respected--
nay to be admired for admirable qualities--and when men are
generous enough to pay in advance for excellence, they should
never be cheated in the amount and quality of the article.

There is such a thing as honor among men; there are such things
as modesty, truth, and integrity. They are qualities that belong
to humanity, irrespective of religion and of Christian culture.
There are men so true to their higher natures that I would trust
them with my name, my gold, my children, my all, without a doubt.
I am proud to claim kinship with such men. They confer dignity
upon the race of which I am a member. I am glad to take their
hands in mine. Suppose one of these--or such things have been--
should deceive me, and I should discover that my name had been
abused, my gold wasted or stolen, and my children ruined by this
man: could I ever trust again? Should I not be humiliated? Should
I not feel disgraced? Should I ever be willing to let another man
into my heart? Should I not doubt whether there are, indeed, such
things as honor, and modesty, and truth, and integrity, in the
world; and thus doubting, would not the strongest defences of my
own virtue be thrown down? The truth is, that no man can do an
unmanly thing without inflicting an injury on the whole human
race. No man can say "I will do as I choose, and it will be
nobody's business." Every man's sin is everybody's business,
literally. Every sin shakes men's confidence in men, and becomes,
whatever its origin, the enemy of mankind; and all mankind have a
right to make common cause in its extermination.

I once heard a careless fellow say that he "professed nothing and
lived up to it;" but "professing nothing" does not exonerate a man
at all, so far as relates to the personal maintenance of honor,
purity, and truth. The man who would excuse a lapse from virtue,
or any obliquity of conduct, on the ground that he did not profess
any thing, simply announces to me the execrable proposition that
every man has a kind or degree of right to be a rascal until he
pledges himself to be something better. There are altogether too
many men in the world who am keeping themselves easy with the
thought that if they are not very good, they never pretended or
professed to be,--as if this failure publicly to pronounce
themselves on the side of the highest morality, were a sufficient
apology for minor delinquencies! It seems to be a poultice of
poppies to some sensitively inflamed consciences, that, whatever
they may have done, they have never broken promises voluntarily
made, to do right--as if there were a release from the obligation
to do right, in failing to make the promise! If it will help a man
to do right, publicly to profess to do right, and to do good to
other men by placing his influence on the right side, then the
first duty a man owes to his race, is to make this declaration.
But I will not linger here, because my words have led me to the
discussion of the obligations of those who have made a profession
of Christianity, and taken upon themselves the vows of Christian
church-membership.

When a man joins a Christian church, he becomes related to that
church in the same way that nature makes him related to humanity.
The reputation of the church is placed in his keeping. He cannot
do an unchristian thing without injury to the church, or without
depreciating, in the eyes of the world, every other member. Think
what a blow is inflicted upon the church of Jesus Christ by such
scandalous immoralities as some of its most prominent members have
been guilty of--by forgeries, and adulteries, and drunkenness!
These cases are not common, but when they occur, they are blows
under which the church reels. The outside world looks on, and
scoffs: "Aha! That's your Christianity, is it?"

I declare that I do not know of a position that more strongly
appeals to a man's personal honor than that of membership in a
Christian church. Even if a man in such a position should say
within himself: "This costs more than it comes to. I love my vices
more than I love the Master whose name I profess. Either openly or
secretly, I will give rein to my appetites and passions"--he
should be arrested by the consideration that he proposes to do
that which will wound the feelings, and degrade the position, and
injure the influence, of thousands of the best men and women in
the world; that he proposes to inflict an irreparable injury upon
a cause which has never injured him, and whose office it is to
save him, and all mankind. Perhaps he is so weak, and temptation
is so strong, that he feels, in the stress of his trial, that he
can afford to perjure his own soul; but if he does, he has no
right to wound others. Better fight the devil until the animal
within us bleeds at every vein--until it dies, if that must be--
than "offend one of these little ones." A man who will join a
church, and then lead an unchristian life, not only demonstrates
before the world his hypocrisy, but he voluntarily undertakes to
prove that he has no personal honor. An honorable man will
sacrifice himself always before he will voluntarily inflict injury
upon a cause he has pledged himself to sustain, and upon men and
women whose good name is in his hands. When a member of a church
has become so hardened in a course of bad living, that no pang
comes to him when he thinks of the injury he is inflicting upon
the Christian church, he is bad enough for a prison. I would not
trust him the length of my arm.

We have had, within the last ten years, too many notable instances
of falls from virtue among the clergy; and every fall has been
like an avalanche. They come from a point so near to heaven, and
fall so far, that mountain-sides are scarred and whole communities
whelmed by the calamity. It takes, often, many years for the
villages that lie at their feet to smile again. All Christendom
feels the shock, and mourns with downcast eyes the consequences. I
freely grant that, as a class, the American clergy, of all
denominations, are the purest and best men whom I know; but I
cannot resist the conviction that there are many of them who
forget what the responsibility is that rests upon them. It was the
remark of an aged clergyman, retired from pulpit duties, that if
he were a layman he should watch with more anxiety and carefulness
than laymen do the relations that exist between pastors and the
women of their flock. I do not understand this as a statement that
there is any general looseness of conduct among the clergy at all;
but as one which covers a kind of impropriety for which there is
no name and no punishment. There are women whose affection for
their husbands is uprooted through their intercourse with their
pastors. There shall never be an improper word spoken; there shall
never be a deed committed that would bring a blush to the most
sensitive cheek; yet a susceptible woman in the society of a
minister of strong and magnetic sympathies, may become as passive
as a babe. Led toward him by her religious nature, attracted and
held by his intellectual power and the graces of his language,
yielding to him her confidence, it is not strange that, before she
is aware, she is a captive without a captor, a victim without an
enemy, a wreck without a destroyer.

Now I know that there is not a pastor of a strong and graceful and
sympathetic nature who reads these words without understanding
what I mean--who does not know that there are women in his
congregation who are, either consciously or unconsciously, the
slaves of his will. I have no doubt that there are some such
pastors who will read this essay with a flush of guilt upon their
faces. They have never meant these women any ill--they would not
harm them for the world--but they are conscious of a selfish and
most unchristianly pleasure in these conquests of female natures--
these parlor triumphs, God forgive them! Perhaps they go further,
and, by the lingering, fervent pressure of a hand, or the glance
of an eye, or the utterance of some bit of gallantry or flattery,
send into a woman's heart an unwomanly and an unchristian thought.
Perhaps they take special delight in the society of some half a
dozen female members of their flock, and find themselves dressing
for them--betraying to them their weaknesses--opening, in various
ways, avenues by which the quick eyes and instincts of these women
can see directly into them. The number of pastors is not small, I
think, who are not aware that there is one woman, or that there
are some women, who know more of what is in them, to their
disadvantage, than any man--that before certain lenient--possibly
sad and forgiving eyes--they stand as men who indulge in
essentially unchristian vanities of purpose and life.

Of all woman-killers in this world, I know of none so disgusting
as one whose chosen profession it is to preach the Gospel of
Jesus Christ. A clerical fop, a ministerial gallant, a man who
preaches the love of God on Sunday, and lays snares for an
innocent heart on Monday afternoon, is a disgrace to Christianity,
and a sad burden to the Christian cause. Does such a man think
that he can add a little zest to a leisure hour and a humdrum
life, by toying with a tender friendship, and giving lease and
latitude to his desire for personal conquest, and yet that no one
shall know it? Ah, the fallacy! I know of eminent clergymen--
earnest workers--who, by yielding to this desire once, have been
shorn of their power for good forever, so far as those are
concerned who really know them and their weakness. There are
ministers in America before whom strong men tremble, and great
congregations bow themselves, who could be laughed to scorn and
smothered in a cloud of blushes, by some girl to whom, in a weak
moment, they betrayed the vain heart that beats within them. Ah!
ye men of the black coat and the white neck-cloth--toying with
women, under whatever disguise; indulging in the vanity of
personal power, however ingeniously you mask it, is not for you.
You can never do it without an injury to the religion which you
profess to preach. If you find that you are too weak to resist
these temptations--and they are great to such as you--then you
should leave the desk forever. You, at least, are bound in
personal honor to quit the public advocacy of a cause which your
private life dishonors.

Easy to preach, you say? Easier to preach than practise? Nobody
knows it better than I--unless it be you. I do not expect perfection
in this world, of anybody;--I do not expect impossibilities of anybody.
But there are certain duties which men owe to humanity and their race,
and which members of Christian churches and teachers of Christian
churches owe to Christianity and to their brotherhood, which are
possible to be performed, and which I insist upon. I do not appeal
to the highest motives--at least I do not appeal to religious motives.
I appeal to personal honor. I say that every man, high or low, is bound
in honor so to conduct himself as not to disgrace humanity--as not to
shake the confidence of men in human honor. I say that every man
who belongs to a Christian church--no matter what his internal life
may be--is bound in honor so to carry himself before men and women,
that the Christian name receive no damage and the Christian cause no
prejudice in their eyes. Every man carries the burden of his race and
his brotherhood; and if he be a man, he will neither ignore it nor try
 to shake it off.



LESSON XVIII.

SORE SPOTS AND SENSITIVE SPOTS.


  "Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased;
   Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow;
   Raze out the written troubles of the brain?"
   SHAKSPEARE.

                "I have gnashed
  My teeth in darkness till returning morn,
  Then cursed myself till sunset; I have prayed
  For madness as a blessing; 'tis denied me."
  BYRON.

    _Alessandra_. Methinks thou hast a singular way of showing
  Thy happiness--what ails thee, cousin of mine?
  Why didst thou sigh so deeply?
    "_Castiglione_. Did I sigh?
  I was not conscious of it. It is a fashion,
  A silly--a most silly fashion I have
  When I am _very_ happy. Did I sigh?"
  POE.

There is a hill opposite to my window, up which, during all the
long and weary day, horses are drawing heavy loads. The majority
of them crawl patiently along, with their heads down and with
reeking flanks and shoulders, pausing occasionally as the
water-bars brace the wheels, and impatient only with the flies that
vex their ears, and the insufficiency of their short and stumpy
tails to protect their quivering sides. Some of these animals are
not so patient, but are nervous and spasmodic and unhappy. I have
noticed one among them particularly, that has a very bad time every
morning with his first load. He is what the teamsters call
"balky," though evidently an excellent horse. Much coaxing and not
a little whipping seem necessary to get him started; and then he
plunges into his work as if he were determined to tear his harness
and his load all in pieces. I notice that there are certain
unusual fixtures about his collar, and learn that the poor animal
has a galled shoulder, so raw and inflamed that all his first
efforts in the morning are attended by pain, and that he only
works well after the flesh has become benumbed by pressure. I ask
his driver why he does not turn the creature into the pasture, and
let the ulcer heal, and am told that he has been treated thus
repeatedly, but that it always returns when labor is resumed.
There is a livery stable that I visit frequently; and while I wait
to be served I notice what the grooms are doing. I see that when
the currycomb or brush touches a certain spot upon the horse's
skin there is a cringe, and usually a kick and a squeal,--
possibly a harmless nip at the groom's shoulder. I learn, too,
that there is a certain place upon the back of every horse that
the grooms are not permitted to bathe with cold water.

These sore spots and tender spots and sensitive spots on horses
have very faithful counterparts in the minds and characters of
men. I do not know that I ever met a man who had not on him,
somewhere, a sore spot, or a tender spot, or a sensitive spot--a
spot that would either gall under the collar of labor, or bring on
hysterics if harshly rubbed, or communicate a damaging shock to
the nervous system when suddenly cooled. Very few men arrive at
thirty-five years of age without getting galled, and very few
entirely recover from the abrasion while they live. The spot never
thoroughly heals, and the old collar only needs to be put on, even
after the longest period of rest, to develop the ulcer in the same
old place. I heard a young clergyman preach recently, and I
instantly learned that he had a sore spot under his collar. He was
a young man of fine powers, bold intellect, a strong love of
freedom, and a will determined to do honor to his convictions. He
had formed his own opinion upon certain points of doctrine, and
had insisted upon it in the presence of his elders. The
consequence was that he had been bitterly opposed, and was with
great difficulty settled over his parish. The screws had been put
tightly down upon him, and he had felt, in the very depths of his
sensitive soul, that the liberty wherewith Christ had made him
free had been tampered with. So he could neither pray nor preach
without showing that he had a sore spot on him. He did not betray
it by refusing to draw at all; but he drew violently, as if he had
been hitched to the leg of an obtuse Doctor of Divinity, and
intended to give all the other Doctors of Divinity notice to get
out of the way. Now that sore spot on that young man's shoulder is
sure to color all his efforts from this time henceforth, until he
puts on another kind of collar. The same old sting will be in all
his preaching--a tinge of personal feeling--that the masses of
those who hear him preach will not understand, and that he, at
last, will become unconscious of. Ministers have more sore places
under their harnesses than any class of men I know of.

A minister who has adopted unpopular views, and, in his advocacy
of them, has rubbed against the fixed opinions or prejudices of
the people to which he is called to preach, is very sure to get
sore; and he will either wince with the friction or oppose himself
to it with violence. His soreness will always be calling attention
to that which caused it, so that if his wound was procured in the
advocacy of some infernal doctrine like "infant damnation," why,
infant damnation will seem to become a very precious doctrine to
him, and he will always be talking about it, and enforcing it. If
he has preached against slavery, or intemperance, or any other
public wrong or popular vice, and been fiercely and persistently
opposed by any portion of his charge, he will betray the sore
under his collar on all occasions, and very possibly become so
fractious and violent that his flock will be obliged to turn him
out to pasture. A minister who gets sore under the friction of any
particular collar seems to feel that it is necessary for him to
wear that particular collar all the time; and he fails to remember
that the reason why he has so much feeling with this collar on, is
that it has made him sore. Not unfrequently he becomes so
sensitive and so nervous that he kicks out of the traces, and runs
away with, and smashes up, the vehicle to which he is attached.

No small degree of the sourness and bitterness and violence of the
advocates of special reforms comes from wearing too long the
collar of the public apathy, or the public contempt. The men are
very few, who, with the consciousness of being actuated by a good
motive, can work against opposition a long time, without getting
sore, and without betraying their soreness, either by stubbornness
or violence. Touch them anywhere but upon the galled spot, and
they will be as calm as clocks, and as good-natured as kittens;
touch them there, and we are sure to get a kick and a squeal, and
a nip at the shoulder. Heartless practical jokers understand where
"the raw" is, and know exactly what to say to provoke a galled
man to make a fool of himself.

The conscience is very liable to become sore with friction. One
entire section of the American nation became sore, even to
madness, with working in the collar of the world's condemnation.
The slave States of America were very comfortable with slavery so
long as they could hold it with self-respect, and so long as the
world regarded them rather with sympathy and pity than with
condemnation. As the popular opinion against slavery strengthened
and became intensified, both in this and other countries, they
became sore and sensitive. First, they tucked a constitutional rag
between the collar and the skin; and as that did not seem to
relieve them, they lined it with leaves from human philosophy; and
philosophy soon wearing out, they tore their Bibles into pieces
for materials with which to soften the cushion, and set the
Christian church to making padding. Every thing failing to produce
the desired result, and relieve them of their pain, they refused
to draw their portion of the national load, kicked the Union in
pieces, and ran away. They will never be happy again until slavery
is abolished, or the attitude of the nation and of the world
towards slavery is changed. This sore under the collar will never
heal, either in or out of the Union, until the cause shall in some
way be removed.

It is the same with individuals as with peoples. A man cannot long
wear a collar that presses upon his conscience, without getting
through the skin--down upon the raw. When a man who sells liquor
to his neighbors for drink, voluntarily apologizes to me for it,
or justifies himself in it, I know very well that his conscience
has a raw place upon it, and that it gives him trouble. When a
woman takes particular pains to tell me that she is exceedingly
economical, and that she really has had nothing for a year, I
cannot but conclude that she has been making some expenditure, or
some series of expenditures, that she knows she cannot afford, and
that there is a raw place upon her conscience in consequence. In
truth, I have never known a woman who wished to impress me with a
sense of her rigid economy, who was not more anxious to convince
herself of it than me. When a man undertakes to soften the
character of any crime by apologies, and by arguments, it is
invariably for the purpose of relieving its pressure upon a galled
conscience, or shaping it to a different place. I am afraid the
men are few who have escaped a galled spot upon their consciences.

Pride has had a terrible time of it in the world. It is, perhaps,
the most sensitive spot in human nature. Collars, curry-combs, and
cold water have alike served to torment it. A great multitude of
men and women have been obliged to work in the collar of poverty,
against a galled pride, during all their life. They never start in
the morning without flinching, and never work without violence,
until their pride has become entirely benumbed by pressure. Ah! if
society could be unveiled, how few would be found with pride free
from scars and raw places! I once heard a simple boy tell a young
man that his legs were crooked; and though the lad was very
innocent, and only supposed that he had made and announced a
pleasant discovery, he had, alas! hit the man's pride on the very
centre of its soreness and sensitiveness. One never knows, in
large things, where he will hit the sensitive places in the pride
of those he meets; but in little things he is pretty sure to learn
it concerning everybody. It is always safe to suppose that a very
small man is sore on the subject of bodily dimensions. It will
never do for a tall man to propose to measure altitude with him in
the presence of women. It is never safe to inquire the age of any
lady whom one knows to be more than twenty-five years old. There
is not one man or woman in a hundred who possesses an unpleasant
personal peculiarity, without getting a galled spot upon personal
pride in consequence. A long nose, a squint eye, a clumsy foot, a
low forehead, a hump in the back--any one of these will not bear
mention in the presence of its possessor.

It is quite amusing to witness the various methods resorted to for
cheating the world with regard to these sore places in personal
pride. Men who are conscious that they do not possess a particle of
musical taste, and are really ignorant of the difference between
Dundee and Yankee Doodle, will profess to be "very fond of music,"
and will not unfrequently convince themselves that they are so. Men
who are exceedingly sensitive touching any eccentricities of person,
will be constantly joking about their own long noses, or red hair,
or big feet, and run on about them in the pleasantest sort of way,
and persist in doing it on all occasions, as if the matter were
exceedingly amusing to them, when the fact is that their pride is
very sore in that particular spot. A woman who has passed her hour
of bloom, and feels with sensitive pain the creeping on of ancient
maidenhood, will talk charmingly, and with superfluous iteration,
about the usefulness of old maids, and the independence of their
lot--determined to cover up the galled spot that burns upon the
surface of her personal pride. The trick of keeping up the
appearances of wealth, after wealth is departed, is a familiar one;
and though if rarely deceives, it is likely to be persisted in to
the end of time. It is often very pitiful to witness the ingenuity
of the efforts that are made to cover from public observation the
soreness of personal pride, caused by a change of circumstances.
The Hepsibah Pynchons abound in houses of less than seven gables.

There is probably no harness so apt to gall the shoulder of personal
pride as that of ambition. The number of men in the world whose
personal pride has a sore on it, inflicted by disappointed ambition,
is sadly large. I have seen many a worthy man utterly spoiled by his
failure to reach the political, social, or literary eminence at
which he has aimed. Thenceforward, his hand has been against every
man, and he has imagined that every man's hand has been against him.
All who contributed to his defeat, and all in any way associated
with them, have become the subjects of his hatred and his
animadversion. He has retired into himself, sneering at every
thing and everybody, doubtful of the sincerity of all friendly
professions, and regarding himself as "a passenger," while the
poor fools among whom he once so gladly numbered himself, chase
the baubles by which his life has been so miserably cheated of its
meed. It is very hard for a proud man, with a strong will, to
feel that he has been baffled and beaten; and a really noble man,
defeated in his objects by trickery and meanness, will sometimes
become half insane with the wound which his pride has received. He
will never forget it; and the old sore can never be touched, even
in the most accidental way, without calling the fire into his eye,
and the color into his cheek. In the domain of politics, "sore
heads" notoriously abound, and I suppose they always will.

Literary life is probably as prolific of failures, and as full of
"sore heads" as political. The number of men and women who are
ambitious of literary distinction, and who make great efforts to
win it, is very large--larger than the world outside of the
publisher's private office dreams of. The number of manuscripts
rejected and never published is greater than the number published;
and of those which are published, not one in ten satisfies, in its
success, the ambition of its author. I suppose that it is within
the bounds of truth to say that nine authors in every ten are
disappointed men--men whose personal pride is wounded, who believe
that the world has treated them unjustly, and who cherish a sore
spot on their personal pride as long as they live. Some of these
refuse to draw in any harness, and give themselves up to poverty
and laziness, as the victims of the world's undiscriminating
stupidity. Some become critics of the works of successful authors,
and take their revenge in the hearty abuse of their betters.
Others enter into other departments of effort, but carry with them
through life the belief that they are out of their place, and the
conviction that if they had been born in a nobler age they would
have been recognized as the geniuses they imagine themselves to
be.

There is still another class which get sore with drawing in a
harness that God puts upon them, and in the adoption of which they
have had nothing to do. A man of poetic sensibilities finds himself
engaged in the pursuit of some humdrum calling. He sees how
beautiful poetry is; he feels its influence upon his soul; but
he has no power to create it. Another feels something of the
divinity of music, but muscular facility has been denied to him so
that he cannot play, and his voice is harsh or feeble so that he
cannot sing. He melts and glows under the sway of eloquence, and
worships at a distance the power of the orator over the hearts and
minds of men; but he knows that if he were in the orator's place,
he would break down and become the object even of his own
contempt. Great susceptibilities these people have--passive
spirits--open to all good impressions, appreciative of that which
is best in nature and art, yet without the power to act. They must
always be plates to receive the picture, and never suns and
cameras to imprint it. They must always live within sight of great
and beautiful powers, but never have the privilege of wielding
them. Doomed to the attitude of receptivity, they see that they
can never change it; and that they can never be to others what
others are to them. Thus they grow sore with the thought of their
weakness, and a sense of the circumscription of their faculties.
They see wonderful things--they apprehend the grace and the glory
of great actions--but they can achieve nothing. Many of these walk
as in a dream through life--with a sense of wings upon their
shoulders, clipped or lashed down. They see their companions
rising, but they cling to the earth, and feel the difference as a
humiliation. Alas! how many souls chafe against the consciousness
of inferior powers, till even the fine susceptibilities with which
nature endowed them are destroyed!

There would seem to be no end of the causes which produce sore and
tender and sensitive spots upon the human soul. I have said
nothing of grief and love and pity and anger, and a whole brood of
powerful passions, but they are all operative toward the results
which we are discussing. The cure for these sensitive sores is
obvious enough. I would prescribe for a man as I would for a
horse--go out to pasture, or adopt another kind of collar, and
never wear the old one again. If a man has become sore by working
against the apathy, the misconceptions, the misconstructions, and
the prejudices of the world, so that he feels the galling burden
of the collar in all his actions, let him change his style of
labor until the ulcer heal. If the conscience becomes sore,
relieve it of that which made it sore, and never believe that
padding can effect a cure. Even wounded pride will heal if we let
it alone, and refrain from opening the wound on all occasions, and
rubbing it against the causes which inflicted it. All the natural
peculiarities of our constitution which wound our pride may be
happily got along with by ignoring them. If my neighbor is a
lovable man, I do not love him any the less because he wears a
long nose, and I should never think of it if he were not always
joking about it, and trying to convince me that it did not offend
him. A man who quarrels with his own constitution, and questions
the benevolence that adjusted it to its conditions, quarrels with,
and questions, his Maker. I believe there are no sorenesses of the
sort we are considering which time or change will not heal.

It seems to me a very melancholy thing for a man to carry a mental
ulcer with him through life--to feel its prick and pang in every
effort--to be conscious of its presence every hour--to be engaged in
covering it from sight, or in the attempt to deceive the world with
regard to it. Life is altogether too good a thing to be spoiled by a
little sore, or a large one, when there exists an obvious mode of
cure. It is our immense and intense self-consciousness that stands
in our way always in this matter. The truth is that the world does
not think half so much about us as we imagine it does. A man may
walk through the city of New York with a face "as homely as a
hedge-fence," thinking about it all the time, and wondering what
people think of it, and not a man of all the throng will even see
it. It is so in the world at large. Our personal peculiarities, our
personal failures, our personal weaknesses, our personal affairs
generally possess very little interest for others. They have enough
to do in taking care of themselves, and have weaknesses, and
failures, and peculiarities enough of their own; and if the world
should spurn our well-meant efforts in its behalf, why, let it go.
It mends nothing to get sore and sensitive over it. When a man truly
learns how little important he is in the world, he is generally
beyond the danger of becoming galled by his harness, whatever it may
be.



LESSON XIX.

THE INFLUENCE OF PRAISE.


  "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things,
and keep the ordinances as I delivered them unto you."--ST. PAUL.

  "O popular applause! What heart of man
   Is proof against thy sweet seducing charms?"
   COWPER.

  "_Arbaces_. Why now, you flatter.
  "_Mardonius_. I never understood the word."
   A KING AND NO KING.

            "Praising what is lost
   Makes the remembrance dear." SHAKSPEARE.

It is pleasant to be praised. The man does not live who is
insensible to honest praise. The love of approbation is as natural
to every human soul as the love of offspring, or the love of
liberty. It was planted there by God's hand, and it is as useful
and important in its fruit, as it is fragrant and beautiful in its
flower. I repeat that the man does not live who is insensible to
honest praise. That great orator who seems to be a king in the
world, independent of his race, holding dominion over human
hearts, lifted far above the necessity of the plaudits of those
around him, will pause with gratified and grateful ear, to listen
to expressions of approval and admiration from the humblest lips.
The greatest mind drinks praise as a pleasant draught, if it be
honest and deserved. Perhaps you think that Doctor of Divinity who
weighs two hundred pounds more or less, and is clad in glossy
broad-cloth, and lifts his shining forehead above a white cravat,
as Mont Blanc pierces a belt of cloud, and talks articulated
thunder, and veils his wisdom behind gold-mounted spectacles, and
moves among men with ineffable dignity, is above the need of, and
the appetite for, praise. Ah! you don't know the soft old heart
under that satin waistcoat! It can be made as warm and gentle and
grateful, with just and generous praise, as that of a boy. Nay,
the barber who takes his reverent nose between his thumb and
finger, and sweeps the beard from his benevolent chin, understands
exactly what to say in order to draw from his pocket an extra
sixpence. There is no head so high, there is no neck so stiff,
there is no back so straight, that it will not bend to take the
flowers which praise tosses upon its path.

"It's a sign of weakness, after all," sighs my friend, who is not
praised quite as much as he would like to be. Begging your pardon,
sir, it is no such thing. The strongest Being in the universe--
the God of the universe--is the one who demands, receives, and
accepts the most praise. Listen for a moment to those marvellous
ascriptions which rise to Him from the bosom of Christendom as
ceaselessly and beautifully as clouds from the Heaven-reflecting
ocean: "Thou art the King, immortal, invisible. Thou art the
Source of all life, the Author of all being, the Fountain of all
light and love and joy. Thou art Love itself; Thou art the Sum of
all perfections. For what Thou art, we worship Thee; for what Thou
hast done for us, in Thy infinite loving-kindness, we praise Thee.
We bless Thy Holy Name. We call upon our souls and all within us
to magnify Thy name forever and ever." The Bible itself has given
us almost numberless forms of expression into which we may cast
our divinest adoration, and the broadest outpourings of our
hearts. The poets of all ages have been touched to their finest
utterances in the rapture of worship and of praise.

Now why should God want praise of us? It certainly is not because
He is weak. Can it be because He wishes by means of it to produce
some desired effect in us? Is there no hearing of this praise in
Heaven? Are we who sing and shout mere brawlers, who get a little
strength of lungs by the exercise? There are some poor souls,
doubtless, who believe this, as they believe that prayer has
significance only as a moral exercise, and effect only as it
reacts upon the soul. I believe that praise is pleasant to Him who
sits upon the throne--that the honest and sincere expressions of
love and adoration, and gratitude and praise, that rise to Him
from the earth are at least shining ripples upon the soundless
ocean of His bliss. Out from Him proceed, through myriad channels
of effluence, the expressions of His love for those whom He has
made and endowed with intelligence; and I believe that it is
requisite for His happiness that back along these lines of
manifestation there should flow a tide of grateful recognition and
adoring praise. Even a God would pine in loneliness and despair if
there should come back no echoes to His loving voice--no refluent
wave to the mighty bosom which makes all shores vocal with its
breath and beating. God demands of all men that which all men owe
to Him--that which His perfections and His acts deserve.

This love of approbation in men, then, is Heaven-born and Godlike.
The desire for approbation is as legitimate as the desire for
food. I do not suppose that it should be greatly a motive of
action--perhaps it should never be; but when a man from a good
motive does a good thing, he desires the approval of the hearts
that love him, and he receives their expressions of praise with
grateful pleasure. Nay, if these expressions of praise are denied
to him, he feels in a certain sense wronged. He feels that
justice has not been done him--that there is something due to him
that has not been paid. I met a friend the other day who unveiled
his heart to me; and I caught in the vision his heart's sense of
the world's injustice. He had been a very poor boy, and had been
bred under a poor boy's disadvantages; but a strong will, a good
heart, fine talents, and a favoring fortune, brought to him gold,
and lands, and equipage. They brought these not only, but they
brought the power to be a benefactor of his native town. He won
competence for himself, and then he became a public-spirited
citizen, and did that for his home which no other man had done.
Now he felt that he had done for himself and for those around him
nobly; and it was natural that he should desire some response--
some expression of praise. He did not get it. People either envied
him, or they misconstrued his actions; and he felt that his
townsmen had been and were unjust---that they owed him something
which they had failed to pay.

The world is so much accustomed to confound praise with flattery
that if I were to go to a man with an honest tribute like this:
"My friend, I admire you very much; I think you possess noble
talents, fine tastes, and an excellent heart; and I regard your
course of action and your life with the warmest approval," he
would, nine times in ten, look into my face either with
astonishment, or amusement, or offense. He would not know whether
I intended to insult him or to practice a joke upon him. Praise
between man and man is so rare that we neither know how to bestow
it nor how to receive it. This is carried to such an extent that
one-half of the family life of Christendom is deprived of it. The
husbands who never have a word of praise for their wives, the
wives who never have a word of praise for their husbands, and the
parents who only find fault with their children, are, I fear, in
the majority. I know that the women are numberless who devote
themselves throughout all their life to the comfort, the
happiness, and the prosperity of their husbands, and who lie down
in their graves at last, thirsty for their praise. Their patient
and ceaseless ministry is taken as a matter of course, without the
slightest recognition of its value as the expression of a loving
and devoted heart. Now I believe that praise is due to the love
and unselfish devotion of a wife, just as really as it is to the
loving-kindness and beneficent ministry of God, differing only in
kind and degree. Husbands may die worth millions, and leave it all
to their wives, (subject to the usual contemptible provision that
they do not marry again,) and yet be shamefully indebted to them
forever and forever.

Children are often spoiled because they get no credit for what
they do. Of censure, they get their due; but of praise, never.
They do a thing which they feel to be praiseworthy, but it is not
noticed. When a child takes pains to do well, it feels itself paid
for every endeavor by praise; and the most unsophisticated child
knows when praise is its due. It often comes to its mother's knee
in natural simplicity, and asks for it. It is very well for men to
say that "virtue is its own reward," and that the highest
satisfactions are those which spring from a sense of duty
accomplished; but praise is pleasant and precious to men who not
only say this, but feel it. Many a noble and sensitive pastor is
disheartened because no one of the multitude which he so carefully
and constantly feeds, ever tells him, with an open, honest
utterance, his good opinion of him, and his satisfaction with his
labors. Many an excellent author toils over his work in secret
distrust, and issues it in fear and trembling, feeling that a word
of praise will exalt him into a grateful and fruitful joy, and
that an unjust and unkind criticism will half kill him.

It is true that the mind is unhealthy which lives on praise; and
it is just as true that he is mean and unjust who fails to award
praise to those who earn it. The appetite for praise may become
just as morbid and greedy by improper stimulus and abuse, as any
other natural and legitimate appetite. It frequently does so, in
those who associate it very intimately with success and gain.
Actors and public singers, and all those whose success in life and
whose pecuniary income depend upon the amount of popular praise
they can win, are very apt to become greedy of praise, and will
not unfrequently receive it in its most disgusting forms. There
are lecturers and public speakers who depend upon praise for
strength to speak an hour--men who, if their performances are
repetitions, wait at certain points for applause, as a horse,
travelling over a familiar road, stops always at certain hills to
rest and take breath, and at certain wayside cisterns to drink.
Many of these men demand praise, talking about themselves
continually, and begging assent to their self-laudations. In these
cases, praise becomes the dominant motive, and degrades and
belittles its subjects always. The voluntary profanity and the
impure jests that so often offend the ears of decent people at the
theatre, are put forth to call out a cheer from groundlings whose
praise is always essential disgrace. The jealousy and the
quarrelsomeness of authors, actors, and singers, result from the
fact that praise has become so much the motive of their life that
they grudge the applause awarded to their fellows.

The difference between praise and flattery is as wide as that
between praise and blame. Praise is a legitimate tribute to worth
and worthy doing. It is entirely unselfish in its motive. It is
the discharge of a debt. Flattery originates always in a selfish
motive, and seeks by falsehood to feed an unhealthy desire for
praise. A man whom it is proper to praise cannot be flattered, and
a man who can be flattered ought not to be praised. It is always
safe to praise a man who really deserves praise. Such a man
usually knows how much he deserves, and will take only the exact
amount. Indeed, he will be very particular to give back the right
change. The flatterer is like the man who stands behind a bar to
deal out poison to a debased appetite for gain. The man who utters
honest praise is noble; the man who receives it does so without
humiliation, and is made strong by it. The flatterer is always a
scoundrel, and the glad receiver of his falsehoods is always a
fool--natural or otherwise.

The desire for praise is often very strong in those who never do
any thing to deserve it, and who are never ready to award it to
those who have earned it. There are men in every community who are
universally recognized as supremely selfish, yet supremely greedy
of praise. This desire does not arise from over-indulgence in the
article, for they never had even a taste of it. They are known to
be selfish and hard and mean, yet they long for praise and
popularity, with a desire that is almost ludicrous. They never
give a dollar to the poor, they never deny themselves for the good
of others, they are shut up in themselves--without any good or
great or generous qualities--yet they clutch at every word that
sounds like praise as if they were starved. The only use of the
desire in these men is to furnish the world with a nose by which
to lead them.

It is a mistake to suppose that praise should be rendered directly
in all cases to the persons to whom it is due, for the relations
between debtor and creditor may be such as to forbid it. I may be
a humble admirer of some great and good man, who has been the doer
of great and good deeds, but my personal relations to him may be
such that it is not proper for me to approach him, and pay my
tribute into his hands. Men are often careful of the channels
through which the response to their deeds, in the hearts of other
men, reaches them; but I may discharge my debt, nevertheless, by
sounding their praise in other ears. It is usually the work of
those who stand next to a man, to gather up the tributes of a
grateful and admiring community or people, and bear them to him to
whom they belong. Because I may not approach a praiseworthy man,
with the offering which I feel to be his due, it is none the less
incumbent upon me to discharge the debt. Just and generous praise
will come from every just and generous nature in some form, and
will be deposited in some bosom subject to the draft of the owner.

It is not easy for any man to work alone, out of the sight of
his fellows, and beyond the recognition of his deeds. However
self-sufficient he may be, he is stronger, and he feels stronger,
in the approbation of generous and appreciative hearts. We are very
much in the habit of thinking that men of great minds and noble
deeds and self-reliant natures do not need the approval of other
minds, and do not care for it; but God never lifted any man so far
above his fellows that their voices were not the most delightful
sounds that reached him. If this be true of great natures, how
much more evidently true is it of smaller natures! We, the people
of the world, go leaning on each other; and we totter sometimes,
even to falling, when a shoulder drops from underneath our hand.
We need encouragement with every step. In the path of worthy
doing, we need some loving voice to witness with our approving
consciences, that we have done that which becomes us as men and
women. We long to hear the sentence, "well done, thou good and
faithful servant," from day to day; and when we hear it, we are
ready for further labor. We need also to give this daily meed of
praise to those who deserve it, that we may keep ourselves
unselfish, and root out from ourselves all niggardliness. We owe
it to ourselves to pay off every debt as soon as it is incurred,
and never, under any selfish motive, to withhold it.

It is notorious that the finest spirits of the world, and the
world's greatest benefactors, have gone through life unrecognized.
They have lain down in their graves at last without having
received a tithe of the debt which their generation owed to them.
When the turf has closed over their bosoms, and the mean
jealousies of their cotemporaries have been vanquished by death,
then whole nations have thronged to do them honor. Songs have been
sung to their memory; and the words of praise which would have
done so much to cheer and strengthen them once, are poured out in
abundance when the need of them is past. Stately monuments are
erected to them, and their children are petted and caressed, and a
tardy, jealous, and hypocritical world strives to win self-respect
by the payment of a debt long overdue. "Speak nothing but good of
the dead" is a proverb that had its birth in the world's sense of
its own meanness,--the consciousness that it had not done justice
to the dead while they were living. Many a man is systematically
abused during all his active life, only to lie down in his grave
amid the laudations of a nation. I know of nothing in all the
exhibitions of human nature meaner than this. It amounts to a
virtual confession of fraud. It is the acknowledgment of a debt,
which, while the creditor could get any benefit from it, the world
refused to pay. Posthumous fame may be a very fine thing; but I
have never known a really worthy man, with a healthy nature and a
healthy character, who did not prize far above it the love, the
confidence, and the praise of the generation to which he gave his
life.

It is the mark of a noble nature to be quick to recognize that
which is praiseworthy in others, and ready on the moment to award
to it its fitting meed. Such a nature looks for that which is good
in men, sees it, encourages it, and gives it the strength of its
indorsal. All that is noble in other men thrives in the presence
of such a nature as this. It is sunshine and showers and healthful
breezes to all that is amiable and laudable in the souls around
it. Woman grows more womanly and lovable and happy in its
presence. Men grow heroic and unselfish by its side. Children
gather from it encouragement and inspiration, and impulse and
direction into a beautiful life. What knows the charming wife whom
we lay in the tomb, of the tears we shed above her, of the
endearments we lavish upon her memory, and of the praises of her
virtue with which we burden the ears of our friends? This same
wife would have drunk such expressions during her life with
satisfaction and gratification beyond expression. Why can death
alone teach us that those whom we love are dear? Why must they be
placed forever beyond our sight before our lips can be unsealed?
Why must it be that in our public, social, and family life we have
penalties in abundance, but no rewards--censure in profusion, but
no praise--fault-finding without stint of freedom, but approbation
dealt out by constrained and niggardly hands?



LESSON XX.

UNNECESSARY BURDENS.


  "I groan beneath this cowardice of heart
   Which rolls the evil to be borne to-day
   Upon to-morrow, loading it with gloom."
   ALEXANDER SMITH.

  "There are two ways of escaping from suffering; the one by
rising above the causes of conflict, the other by sinking below
them; for there is quiet in the soul when all its faculties are
harmonized about any centre. The one is the religious method; the
other is the vulgar, worldly method. The one is called Christian
elevation; the other, stoicism."--BEECHER.

There were few houses of the old time in New England that did not
contain a well-thumbed volume of the Pilgrim's Progress; and there
were few children who did not become acquainted with its contents,
either through its text or its pictures. I am sure that all the
children felt as I did--very tired with sympathy for the poor
pilgrim who was obliged to lug that ugly pack from picture to
picture, and very "glad and lightsome" when at last it fell from
his shoulders, and went tumbling down the hill. We did not marvel
that "he stood still awhile, to look and wonder," or that "he
looked, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his
head sent the waters down his cheeks." It was a great thing for a
man who was bent on progress to be freed from an unnecessary
burden; and it may be pleasant to know that at the foot of the
hill of life the same sepulchre which swallowed the burden of
Bunyan's Pilgrim, so that he "saw it no more," still stands open,
and has room in it for all the burdens of all the pilgrims there
are in the world.

I wonder whether all the pilgrims who have undertaken the journey
"from this world to that which is to come" ever lose the pack
whose fastenings were so quickly dissolved when our favorite old
Pilgrim looked upon the Cross? I doubt it. I hear many people
groaning throughout the whole course of their Christian experience
with the oppressive weight of this same burden. Instead of losing
it at the sight of the cross, they hold to it, and will not let it
go. They mean well enough; but they do not understand that the
cross was reared, and the meek sufferer nailed to it, that the
burden of the penitent soul might be forever rolled off. They
carry their own sins, and never yield the pack to Him who bore it
for them "in His own body, on the tree." They are never "light and
gladsome" with a sense of great relief; and their Christian
progress is sadly impeded by the burden from which the central
truth of the Christian scheme releases them. If there be any such
thing as forgiveness, then there is such a thing as release; but I
think there are many subjects of free and full forgiveness who
insist on carrying their old, dirty packs to their graves,
staggering under them all the way.

But this is not what I started to write about. A great many men
carry their life as an author carries a book which he is writing--
never losing the sense of their burden. When a writer undertakes a
book, and feels the necessity of perfect continuity of thought and
symmetry of structure, he can never lay it wholly aside. When once
he has taken up the first chapter, and comprehended his materials
and machinery and end, he does not dare to lay down his work, or
diverge from the grand channel of his thought, until the last
chapter is finished. He can take no three months' vacation; he can
read no books that do not contribute to his progress in the chosen
direction; he can never wholly lay aside the burden that is on
him. It is like lifting upon one's shoulder the end of a long
pole, and then walking under it from end to end. The burden upon
the shoulder is not relieved until the whole length has been
passed, and it drops as we walk from under it. Such is the way
that many men, and, perhaps, most men, carry life. If their
business troubles them, they have no power to throw it off, and no
disposition to try to do it. They are entirely aware that they
gain nothing by carrying their tedious burden, but they carry it.
Not content with doing their duty, and trying their best while
actively engaged, they take home with them a long face, breathe
sighs around them in the saddest fashion, and really unfit
themselves for the healthy exercise of their reason, and the
active employment of their faculties.

With men of this stamp, it makes little difference whether they
are prosperous or otherwise. If times are good, and they really
have no fault to find with matters as they exist, they become
troubled about bad times that may possibly lie just ahead. "Oh,
it's all well enough to-day," they say, "but you can't tell what
is coming;" so they bind the burden of the future upon them, and
undertake to steal a march on God's providence. Such a thing as
doing the duty of a single day, and doing it well, and then
throwing off the burden of care, and having a good time in some
rational way, until the hour comes for the commencement of the
next day's duty, they are strangers to. They walk into their
houses with a cloud upon their faces. They have no words of cheer
for those whom they have left at home during the day. They are
moody and sullen and sad--absorbed by their troubled thoughts--
taking no interest in the schemes, and having no sympathy with the
trials, of their wives and children, and making no effort to
relieve themselves of their burdens. If they pray at all, they
practically pray like this: "Give us this day our daily bread, and
to-morrow, and next day, and the day after, and next year, and
fifty years to come; and lest Thou shouldst forget it, or neglect
to answer us, we have undertaken to look after the matter
ourselves."

To say nothing of the constant sadness, uneasiness, and discomfort
of such a life as this, to all those who lead it, and to all who
are intimately associated with them, the permanent effect of it
upon the character of its subjects is to make them selfish and
hard, and small and mean. Whatever may be their circumstances,
they become sensitive upon any expenditure of money for purposes
beyond the simplest necessities of personal and family life. This
result is both natural and inevitable. A man whose life, in and
out of his counting-room, is absorbed by business, ceases, at
last, to be any thing but a man of business; and his mind
contracts and hardens down to its central, motive idea. That which
becomes the dominant aim and the grand end of life, always
determines the character of life; and I have known young men, even
before they have approached middle age, to become mean and miserly
to such a degree as to disappoint and disgust their friends,
simply in consequence of a few years' absorption in business.
Business is not life, nor is it life's end. It is simply a means
of life; and all true living lies outside of it. Ministry is the
mission of business--ministry to necessity, to comfort, and to a
personal, family, and social life into which business never
enters, save with an unwelcome foot and a disturbing hand. This
everlasting hugging of the burden of business, is, therefore, not
only a painful task, but it is permanently damaging to all who
indulge in it.

"It is very easy to talk," says my friend, with a load upon his
shoulders, "but talking does not pay notes at the bank, and keep
creditors easy, and provide for one's family." Granted: and now
will you be kind enough to tell me how many notes you ever paid at
bank, and how much provision you ever made for your family by
"mugging" over your troubles out of business hours? If your retort
is good for any thing, mine is. You never accomplished one good
thing in your life by making yourself and others unhappy through
constant dwelling upon trouble when not engaged in active efforts
to extricate yourself from it. You never gained a single inch of
progress by dwelling upon miscarriages in business which you could
not avoid. All your absorption, all your sad reflection, all your
misgivings about the future, all your care beyond the exercise of
your best ability in action, has not only been utterly useless,
but it has injured the comfort of all around you, destroyed the
peace of your life, cheated you out of the reward of your labor,
and made a smaller, harder, meaner man of you. If any good result
could be secured by carrying the burden of your business into all
your life, then there would be some apology for it; but you know
that no such result can be secured. "It is very easy to talk," my
friend persists in saying, "but one cannot always command one's
mind, in such a matter as this." Did you ever try? Have you ever
systematically tried to do this? Is it your regular aim, after you
have discharged the business of the day, to throw off care until
the next day's business is undertaken? No? Then how do you know
whether it is easy or not?

I believe it is in the power of every man, who has not too long
abused himself, to lay aside every night his pack of mental care
and anxiety, and enter into life. Not only this, but I believe
that it is absolutely essential to his business success that he do
this. A man who dwells constantly upon the dark side of his
affairs, and is troubled and gloomy in his apprehensions
concerning the future, becomes a weak and timid man--disqualified
in many essential respects for the work of his life. His mind
needs rest and revivification. Suppose an ass were to be treated
in the manner in which men treat themselves. Suppose the burden
which we place upon him during the day were kept lashed to his
back at night, so that he must bear it, either standing or lying,
off duty as well as on. How long would he be worth any thing for
labor? The illustration is apposite in every particular. If the
mind is to be kept fit for business, it is at regular periods to
be kept out of business. A great multitude of business failures
are attributable, I have no doubt, to the debilitating and
damaging effect of carrying the burdens of business between
business hours. Men become in a measure sick and insane by
dwelling upon their affairs, when they should be receiving rest
and refreshment.

Again, men who insist upon keeping their packs upon their
shoulders, practically deny the existence of the providence of a
Being superior to themselves, and dominant in all human affairs.
If I were to say to one of these men: "you do not believe in
Providence at all," he would accuse me of a harsh judgment, and
feel injured by it; but it is certainly legitimate for me to ask
him what evidence he gives of his belief. All, indeed, profess to
believe in Providence, in a certain general way. The popular idea
is very foggy upon the matter. We somehow imagine that God knows
every thing in general and nothing in particular--that He takes
interest in, supervision of, and controlling influence over,
matters at large, with an imperial disregard of details--that He
moulds with a majestic hand the character and destiny of nations,
but never condescends to meddle with the small and insignificant
affairs of individuals. Providence, in this view, would seem to be
very much like certain tongs used in a blacksmith's shop, whose
jaws do not wholly close--convenient for handling large pieces of
iron, but incapable of grasping a nail. Or, Providence is like a
great general, who only directs the movements of large bodies of
men, deals only with the officers, and never thinks of so small a
thing as looking after the blanket of a private soldier, or
dressing a wounded finger.

It is very easy to perceive that such a Providence as this has no
practical value in every-day, individual life. Very evidently it
is not that Providence which numbers the hairs of men's heads, and
without whose notice not a sparrow falls to the ground. One is a
Providence made by men who undertake to measure God by themselves;
the other is the Providence revealed in the Bible. God exercises a
special providence, which reaches to the minutest affairs of the
most insignificant man, or we are all in a condition of essential
orphanage. A special Providence denied, and prayer becomes a
mockery, devotion a deceit, and the sense of individual
responsibility slavery to a superstitious idea. Now I do not
pretend to address myself to men who do not believe in prayer. I
know men well enough to know that there are very few of them who
do not believe in prayer, and that there are very few of them who
do not, particularly in moments of danger, pray. Deep down under
the thickest crusts of depravity there lies the conviction, always
ready to rise in painful emergencies, that God takes cognizance of
every man, and is able to help him. Smooth away the idea of
Providence as we may, into an unmeaning generality, the time
comes, in every man's life, when he recognizes the fact that God
is dealing with him; and he may as well recognize the fact all the
time as when he is driven to feel that he has no help in himself.

So, if there be a special Providence, it is a Providence to be
trusted; and the man who believes in it has no apology for
carrying a single unnecessary burden. This providence in all human
affairs, is like the principle of vitality in the vegetable world.
It does not release us from effort, in every legitimate and
needful way, for the accomplishment of our laudable purposes; but
when our efforts are complete, it takes care of the rest. What
should we think of the farmer who could never roll the burden of
his cornfield from his mind, and who, after hoeing his ground
repeatedly, and cutting or covering every weed, should go night
after night and sit up with it, and think of it, and dream of it
all the while? He has done all there is for him to do, and beyond
this he cannot control an hour of sunshine, a drop of dew, or a
single cloud-full of rain. He cannot influence the law of growth
in any particular. His field is in the control of a power entirely
above and beyond him; and every thought he gives to it, after
having done what he can for its prosperity, is utterly useless. It
is his business to trust. Having done what he can, the remainder
is in the hands of Him who feeds the springs of being with light
and heat and moisture. It is thus that man's affairs grow while he
sleeps. The hand that ministers to every plant will not fail to
minister to him for whose use the plant was made.

Why do not men trust in Providence? Simply because, in their usual
moods and in their usual circumstances, they do not believe in it.
There is no other explanation. You, my friend, who carry your
burdens around on your shoulders all the time, and who, perhaps,
pray every morning and every night, do not believe in Providence.
You do not feel that you can trust Providence. You assent to all
that I say upon the subject, but, after all, your belief in
Providence has no genuine vitality. You do not believe in it as
you believe in the purity of your wife or the honor of your
friend. You do not rely upon it for an hour. You do nod your head
and say--"yes, yes;" and you think you are sincere; but you
deceive yourself. So long as you persist in carrying your pack,
which is a very unpleasant burden, as you know, you do not believe
in Providence; else you would trust in it. You are tired and
harassed by your daily labor; and it is very natural to suppose
that if you could remove your burden each evening, and place it in
the charge of one whom you believe would take care of it, you
would do it with gladness. You fail to do it, and what is the
natural conclusion? It is that your belief in Providence is a
humbug. You believe in the honor of your friend, and you trust it.
You believe in the honesty and ability of your creditor, and you
trust him. You trust every thing and everybody that you firmly
believe in; and the only reason under heaven why you do not roll
off the burden that oppresses you, every day and every hour of
your life, and commit it to the care of Providence, is, that you
do not believe in Providence.

We are in the habit of talking about the world as a world of care,
and speaking of human life as inseparably accompanied by trouble.
This is, indeed, the truth; but if we were to remove from the
world all its useless care, and take from life all its unnecessary
trouble, they would be transformed into such bright and pleasant
things that we should hardly know them. I know very few men and
women who do not bear about with them care and trouble which God
never put upon them, and which He has no desire to see upon their
shoulders. It does not belong to them. It relates to things that
are in the realm of Providence alone, or to things over which they
have no control. The future is God's, but they voluntarily take it
upon their shoulders, and try to bear it. They pluck a section of
God's eternity out of His hands, and groan with the burden. They
assume care which is not their own--which belongs to the
Controller of their lives, and the Governor of the universe. It is
care for that which is beyond human care--anxiety for that which
anxiety cannot reach--trouble about that which we can neither
make nor mend--that oppresses humanity. We can bear our daily
burdens very well. We can go through our regular hours of bodily
and mental labor, and feel the better rather than the worse for
it; but to care for that which our care cannot touch, and to be
troubled about that which is entirely beyond our sphere--this is
the burden that breaks the back of the world--this is the burden
which we bind to our shoulders with obstinate fatuity.



LESSON XXI.

PROPER PEOPLE AND PERFECT PEOPLE.


             "I must have liberty
   Withal, as large a charter as the wind
   To blow on whom I please." SHAKSPEARE.

  "They say best men are moulded out of faults."
   THE SAME.

  "There's no such thing in nature, and you'll draw
   A faultless monster which the world ne'er saw."
   SHEFFIELD.

Nature calls for room and for freedom--room for her ocean and
freedom for its waves; room for her rivers and freedom for their
flowing; room for her forests and freedom for every tree to
respond to the influences of earth and sky according to its law.
Exceedingly proper things are not at all in the line of nature.
Nature never trims a hedge, or cuts off the tail of a horse.
Nature never compels a brook to flow in a right line, but permits
it to make just as many turns in a meadow as it pleases. Nature is
very careless about the form of her clouds, and masses and colors
them with great disregard of the opinions of the painters. Nature
never thinks of smoothing off her rocks, and cleaning away her
mud, and keeping herself trim and neat. She does very improper
things in a very impulsive manner. Instead of contriving some
safe, silent, and secret way to dispose of her electricity, she
comes out with a blinding flash and a stunning crash, and a rush
of rain that very likely fills the mountain streams to overflowing,
and destroys bridges and booms, and cabins and cornfields.
On the whole, though nature keeps up a respectable appearance,
I suppose that, in the opinion of my particular friend Miss Nancy,
she would be improved by taking a few lessons of a French gardener,
and reading savage criticisms on Ruskin.

I have alluded to my particular friend Miss Nancy. Perhaps I ought
to say, at starting, that Miss Nancy is a man, and that I use the
name bestowed upon him by his enemies, because it is, in a very
important sense, descriptive. Miss Nancy's boots are faithfully
polished twice a day. His linen is immaculate; and the tie of his
cravat is square and faultless. He never makes a mistake in
grammar while engaged in conversation. He is versed in all the
forms and usages of society, and particularly at home in gallant
attention to what he calls "the ladies." He seems to have lost
every rough corner, if he ever had one. In politics and religion,
he is just as proper as in social life. The most respectable
religion is his religion; and the politics that shun extremes are
his politics. I think he is what they call a conservative. At any
rate, I newer knew him to do a rash or impulsive thing, or speak
an improper word in his life. I think he is as nearly perfect as
any man I ever saw.

But, after all, Miss Nancy is not a popular man. He will probably
live and die an old bachelor, because all the women will persist
in laughing at him. He is certainly good-looking, his dress is
unexceptionable, his manners are "as good as they make them,"
and his morals are as proper as his manners; yet I have not yet seen
the woman who would speak a pleasant word of my friend. He is
decidedly a "woman's man," yet no woman will own him, and no
woman feels comfortable with him. His language is so carefully
guarded against all impropriety of style and structure, that she
feels as if he were criticizing every word she utters, as well as
measuring his own. His manners are so very proper that they are
formal and constrained, and make her uncomfortable. His sentiments
and opinions are so very conservative, that they have no vitality in
them. With a curious perverseness, the most gentle and  accomplished
women will turn from him with a sense of relief, to join in the society
of a hearty fellow with a loud laugh and a dash of slang, and a free
and easy way with him. It may be difficult to explain all this, but
it is true. An exceedingly proper man is never a popular man. That
life which is controlled by rigid and unvarying rules, and regulated
by conventionalities in every minute particular, and restrained in
every impulse by notions of propriety, is unlovely and unnatural,
and can never he otherwise.

The instincts of men are always right in this and all cognate
matters. All formalism is offensive to good taste. The painter
does not study landscape in a garden. Formal isles, closely-trimmed
trees, rose hushes on the top of tall sticks, flowers tied to
supports, vines trained upon trellises, lakes with clipped and
pebbled margins and India-rubber swans--these are not picturesque.
There is no more inspiration in them than there would be in a row
of tenement houses in the city. The painter looks for beauty out
where nature reigns undisturbed amid her imperfections,--where the
aisles are made by the deer going to his lick; where the trees are
never trimmed save by the lightning or the hurricane; where the
rose-bushes spread their branches and the vines trail themselves
at liberty; and where the lake looks up into the faces of trees
centuries old, and hems itself in with thickets of alders and
green reaches of flags and rushes, and throbs to the touch of the
mountain breeze, while on its bosom

  "The black duck, with her glossy breast
     Sits swinging silently."

A little child whose head is piled with laces and ribbons,
whose dress is a mass of embroidery, and who is booted and gloved
and otherwise oppressed by parental vanity and extravagance, is
not picturesque, any further than its face goes. The portrait
painter will cling to the face and let the clothes alone. All
this I trickery of art, brought into comparison or contrast with
the simple beauty of nature, is offensive. Yet a little beggar
boy, with an old straw hat on, and with bare, brown feet, and a
burnt shoulder which his torn shirt refuses to cover, would be a
painter's joy. Here would be drapery that he would delight to
paint, simply because there would be no formality about it. It is
impossible for us to know how ridiculous a dress-coat is until we
see it in a statue. We are obliged to put all our modern sages and
heroes into togas and blankets and long cloaks in order to make
them presentable to posterity.

We never find groups of accordant, striking facts like these--and
their number could be largely increased--without finding that they
are all strung together by an important law. All life demands room
and freedom--freedom to manifest itself in every way, according to
the law of its being and the range of its circumstances. All life
is individual and characteristic, and comes reluctantly under the
sway of outside forces. It is not natural to be proper, or to love
propriety. In saying this I simply mean that it is against nature to
bring one's individuality under the curbing and controlling hands
of others--to make the notions of the world the law and limit of
one's liberty, and to square every word and every act by arbitrary
rules imposed by cliques and customs. A man who has been
clipped in all his puttings-forth, and modelled by outside hands
and outside influences, until it is apparent that he is governed
from without rather than from within, is just as unnatural an object
as a tree that has been clipped and tied and bent until its top has
grown into the form of a cube. Thus the reason why Miss Nancy
is not popular, and why the women refuse to delight in him, is,
that he is not his own master--that he has, in himself, no independent
life. It is not proper that he give utterance to his impulses;--so
he suppresses them. It is not proper that he frankly reveal the
emotions of his heart; so he conceals them. It is not proper that
he enter enthusiastically into any work or any pleasure; so he is
a constant check to the enthusiasm of others. It is not proper
that he speak the words that spring to his lips when his weak
sensibilities are touched; so he studies his language, and shapes
his phrases to the accepted models. Thus is he shortened in on
every side, until his individuality is all gone, and the humanity
in him becomes as characterless as its expression. Every utterance
of his life is made with a well-measured reference to certain
standards to which he is an acknowledged slave.

A scrupulously proper man is often a self-deceiver, and not
unfrequently an intentional deceiver of others. I do not say that
he is necessarily a scoundrel or a fool. He may be very little of
either, and he may be a little of both. These two words, which
sound rather roughly, will give us, I think, a faithful index to
his character. A man who is punctiliously proper has usually
become so in consequence of an attempt to cover up his mental
deficiencies or his moral obliquities. Punctilious propriety is
always pretentious, and pretentiousness is always an attempt at
fraud. A shallow mind is very apt to clothe itself with propriety
as with a garment. A brain that cannot handle large things very
often undertakes to manage a multiplicity of little things, and
runs naturally into those minute proprieties of life which are
showy, and which appear to the ignorant to indicate great powers
and acquisitions in reserve. Most proper men are nothing but a
shell, although many of them pass with the world for more. Their
life is all on the outside, and is placed and kept there for show.
We approach them, and very frequently find them so well guarded
that we do not get a look into their emptiness for a long time. We
examine them as we would a hillside strewn with fragments and
planted with boulders of marble. We are obliged to dig to learn
whether the signs we see are from an out-cropping ledge, or an
outside deposition. Sometimes the plunge of a single question will
reveal the whole story. A man with large brains and a large life
in him has something to do besides attending to the notions of
other people. He has at least no motive to deceive the world by
striving to appear to be more than he is.

I have said that there are some men who are punctiliously proper
for the purpose of covering their moral obliquities. The virtue of
a prude is always to be suspected. "So you have been looking after
the bad words," was savage old Dr. Johnson's reply to the very
proper woman who found fault with him for introducing so many
indecent words into his dictionary. There are few men who have not
frequently, during their lives, broken their way through a crust
of punctilious propriety into hearts full of all the blackness of
sensuality and sin. The world is full of hypocrisy, and hypocrisy
is nothing more than appearing to be what one is not. Indeed, I
believe that one of the strongest motives operative in the world
to render men scrupulously proper in their deportment and behavior
is sin. I make no hesitation in saying that shallowness and
sensuality are the leading ingredients in the majority of the
exceedingly proper characters with which I am acquainted.

Leaving this particular phase of my subject, I wish to call
attention to the well-recognized fact that all perfect people are
bores. A perfect character in a novel has no more power over a
reader--no more foothold among his sympathies--than a proposition
in mathematics would have. Of all stupid creations that the brain
of man has given birth to, there are none so stupid as the perfect
men and women whom we find upon the pages of fiction. Sometimes we
find in actual life a character so symmetrical, so rounded off at
the corners, and smoothed at the edges, and polished on the sides,
and unexceptionable in all its manifestations, that we cannot find
fault with it; yet we find it impossible for us to love it. Such a
character gets beyond the reach of our sympathies. Human affection
is like ivy. It cannot cling to glass; it must plant its feet in
imperfections. It is not to be denied that imperfection is the
true flavor of humanity. The mind refuses to sympathize where it
does not exist. What the world would call a perfect man--what
would be adjudged a perfect man by the best standards--would be as
tasteless as a last year's apple. A perfect woman could no more be
loved than she could be hated. I never saw a man with a perfect
face--a face modelled so symmetrically and so perfectly that no
fault could be found with it--who was not more or less a numskull.
A pretty man is always a pretty fool; and the more symmetrical the
features of a woman are, the more does she approach to the style
of beauty and expression and native gifts of a porcelain doll. The
mind and the character can be so symmetrical that they will lose
all charm and all significance. They descend into simple
prettiness, which is simple insipidity.

I say that imperfection is the true flavor of humanity. In
explanation, I ought to say that all individuality is either based
upon it or pre-supposes it. For instance: the preponderance of
certain powers and qualities of mind and character in me, over
certain other powers and qualities, and the weakness and
imperfection of these latter as related to the former, and to the
individualities of others, make my individuality what it, is. If
in me all mental and moral powers were in equipoise--if I were a
symmetrical man, as the first Adam may possibly have been--I
should have no individuality, no qualities that would distinguish
me--no weaknesses that would furnish footholds for human
sympathy--no freshness and flavor. A whole world full of perfect
men and women, each one like every other, would be unutterably
stupid. Where there is no weakness there is no individuality;
where there is no individuality there is no true humanity; where
there is no true humanity there is no sympathy; and where there is
no sympathy there is no pleasure. We demand that a man shall live
according to his law--develop himself according to his law--
manifest and express himself according to his law; and then he
will become the object of our sympathy or antipathy, according to
our law. We demand that the true flavor of every individuality
shall be declared, and not be masked by the imposition of
conventional regulations.

If every tree in the world were perfect, according to any
recognized standard, then all the trees would be alike, and would
cease to be attractive and picturesque. We keep all perfect things
out of pictures, because they are formal and tasteless. A bran new
cottage, with a picket fence around it, and every thing cleaned up
about it, is too perfect to be picturesque. An old, tumble-down
mill, with rude and rotten timbers, and a wheel outside, is
decidedly picturesque, because its imperfections make it informal.
The most unattractive of all houses is a model house. A house that
no man can find fault with, is a house that no man can love. It is
precisely thus with human character and with men. A proper,
perfect, "model" man, is an unlovable man. A sphere cannot be made
to fit an angle, and a spherical character has no point of
sympathy with one that is thrown into the angles necessary for
individuality. So we neither love symmetry and perfection in men,
according to any recognized standard, nor the appearance of them.
We demand not only that men shall have individuality, but that
they shall express it in their language and their lives. In
society we demand variety; and in order to have it, men must act
out themselves. The harmony and sweetness of social life consist
in the adjustment of the strong points of some to the weak points
of others.

With these facts so very evident as they must be to all thoughtful
minds, it is strange that such an effort is made to bring all men
to a certain standard and style of life. I do not believe there is
a country on the face of the earth where public opinion and
fashion and conventional and individual notions, exercise so
despotic a sway as they do in America. There is, in this "free
country," no play to individuality tolerated. No room is made for
the peculiarities of a man--no freedom is given to his mode of
manifestation. A man who has peculiar manners, and whose style of
individuality is marked, has no room allowed to him at all. He is
very likely to be called a fool, and laughed at by his inferiors.
We take no pains to look through the outside to find the heart and
soul, and refuse to see excellence behind manifestations that
offend our notions or our tastes. We go to hear a preacher, and if
he do not happen to have the externals, and the style of delivery
which we most admire, we condemn him at once. We make no room for
his individuality, and allow to it no freedom of manifestation.
Room and freedom--that which the ocean has, that which the rivers
have, that which the forest has, and that from which all of them
derive their beauty and their glory--room and freedom are denied
to men by men who need both, quite as much as their fellows.

The choicest food of the gossips is the personal peculiarities of
their acquaintances. The grand staple of ridicule is this same
individuality, whose importance I have endeavored to illustrate.
All the small wits of society busy themselves upon the eccentricities
of those around them. Church and creed, party and platform,
fashion and custom, all direct themselves against the development
of individuality. Sensitive natures shrink before such an array of
influences, and retire into themselves, drawing back and keeping
in check all their out-reaching individuality. Many a man, indeed,
who would face a cannon's mouth without trembling, flinches
when beset by ridicule. It is not the fault of society that the
whole race of mankind are not reduced to a dead level of character,
and a tasteless uniformity of life. Were it not that God does His
work so strongly, it would have been undone long ago. As it is, we
always have a few men and women who are true enough to God and
themselves to keep the world from stagnation, and give zest to life.
They sometimes shock Miss Nancy, but as they do not happen
to care what Miss Nancy thinks of them, they manage to live
and do something to keep Miss Nancy's friends from settling into
chronic inanity.



LESSON XXII.

THE POETIC TEST.


      "I walked on, musing with myself
  On life and art, and whether, after all,
  A larger metaphysics might not help
  Our physics--a completer poetry
  Adjust our daily life and vulgar wants
  More fully than the special outside plans,
  Phalansteries, material institutes,
  The civil conscriptions and lay monasteries,
  Preferred by modern thinkers." MRS. BROWNING.

The highest poetry is the purest truth. To learn whether any thing
is as it ought to be, we have only to learn whether it is truly
poetical. It is a popular fallacy to suppose that poetical things
are necessarily fanciful, or imaginative, or sentimental in other
words, that poetry resides in that which is both baseless and
valueless. In the popular thought, poetry is shut out of the realm
of truth and reality. The reason, I suppose, is, that poetry demands
more of truth and harmony and beauty than is commonly found in the
actualities of human life.

Let us suppose that in a country journey we arrive at the summit
of a hill, at whose foot lies a charming village imbosomed in
trees from the midst of which, rises the white spire of the
village church. If we are in a poetical mood, we say: "How
beautiful is this retirement! This quiet retreat, away from the
world's distractions and great temptations, must be the abode of
domestic and social virtue--the home of contentment, of peace, and
of an unquestioning Christian faith. Fortunate are they whose lot
it is to be born and to pass their days here, and to be buried at
last in the little graveyard behind the church." As we see the
children playing upon the grass, and the tidy matrons sitting in
their doorways, and the farmers at work in the fields, and the
quiet inn, with its brooding piazzas like wings waiting for the
shelter of its guests, the scene fills us with a rare poetic
delight. In the midst of our little rapture, however, a
communicative villager comes along, and we question him. We are
shocked to learn that the inn is a very bad place, with a drunken
landlord, that there is a quarrel in the church which is about to
drive the old pastor away, that there is not a man in the village
who would not leave it if he could sell his property, that the
women give a free rein to their propensity for scandal, and that
half of the children of the place are down with the measles.

The true poet sees things not always as they are, but as they
ought to be. He insists upon congruity and consistency. Such a
life should be in such a spot, under such circumstances; and no
unwarped and unpolluted mind can fail to see that the poet's ideal
is the embodiment of God's will. The poet's Indian is very
different from the real native American who has been exposed to
the corrupting influences-of the white man's civilization. The
poet insists on seeing in the American Indian a noble manhood,
simple tastes, freedom from all conventionality, heroic fortitude,
and all those romantic qualities which a free forest life seems so
well calculated to engender. He looks upon the deep, mysterious
woods, traversed by nameless streams; the majestic mountains,
haunted by shadows; the broad lakes, swept only by the wind and
the wild man's oar, and he says: "it is fitting, and only fitting,
that out of such a realm should come such a life." Which is the
better and the more truthful Indian--that of the poet, or he who
drank the rum of our fathers and then scalped them? The poet's
village is the model village, and the poet's Indian is the model
Indian. Both are built of the best and truest materials that God
furnishes, and we see that when the actual village and the real
Indian are tried by the poetic standard, they are tried by the
severest standard that can be applied to them. The poet's ideal
embodies God's ideal of a village and an Indian.

The grand, basilar idea of American institutions is human
equality--the idea embodied in the American Declaration of
Independence, that men are created free and equal, each with an
independent, and all with a co-ordinate, right to life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness. There is in this idea the highest
poetry, because it is the transcendent truth; and there is no true
poetry this side of the highest truth. Poetry follows the
universal law, and is dependent for its quality upon its
materials. In the degree in which its materials are fictitious and
artificial, is it poor and false. The Pilgrim's Progress is
essentially better poetry than the Paradise Lost, because it
contains more of the truth as it is in the divine life of man.

The poetic test, then, is practically a very valuable one, in all
the important matters that relate to our life. Much of that which
is miscalled poetry has been based upon arbitrary and artificial
distinctions in human society and human lot. The poet has often
sung of thrones and palaces, of kings and queens, of men and women
of gentle blood, of barons and knights and squires, of retainers
and dependents, of patricians and plebeians, and thus drawn his
grand interest from distinctions in which God and Nature have had
no hand. There may be romance, fancy, imagination, sentiment, and
even instruction in such compositions as these, but there is no
poetry. They have not in them the immortal life and the motive
power of truth. We have only to carry distinctions thus attempted
to be glorified to their logical results to land in the slavery of
the masses to the over-mastering few. Now there never was, and
there never can be, any poetry in slavery. Since time began no
true poet has undertaken to write a line in praise of slavery.
Poets have always been, and they must necessarily forever be, the
prophets and priests of freedom. Multitudes of men have undertaken
to justify slavery by the Bible, by expediency, by history, by
necessity, by philosophy, by the constitution of the country; but
no man ever undertook to justify it by poetry. The most brilliant
prize offered by a national committee for the best poem in praise
of human slavery, would not be able to draw forth a single
stanza from any man capable of writing a line of true poetry.
Philosophical defences of slavery can be purchased, political
justifications can be had at the small price of a small office,
and Christian apologies to order, but, thank God! not one line in
praise of slavery could be written by a true poet, if the wealth
of the world were to be his reward.

We have in the present age a sickly, sentimental humanity which is
busily endeavoring to pervert the sense and love of justice in
mankind. It regards the disposition to do wrong as a disease, to
be treated with appropriate emollients applied over the heart, or
some gentle opiate or alterative taken through the ears. It pities
the murderer, and aims to give the impression to him and to the
world that he is a victim to the barbarous instincts of society in
the degree by which his punishment is made severe. It aims to
transform prisons into comfortable asylums, where those who have
been so unfortunate as to burn somebody's house, or steal
somebody's horse, or insert a dirk under somebody's waistcoat, may
retire and repent of their little follies, and in the mean time
get better food and lodging than they were ever able to steal.
Punishment--retribution--these are words which make them shudder.
Nothing in their view is proper but such treatment of the
criminal, be it soft or severe, as will contribute to his
reformation. The criminal has forfeited no rights, and society has
no claims upon him, if he only repents; and all punishment
inflicted beyond the measure necessary to secure repentance is
cruel. We have a great deal of this; and more or less it is
modifying theological systems and vitiating public policy. It is
carried to such an extent, often, as to make of the greatest
criminals notable martyrs. Society and the victim of wrong-doing
are both forgotten in sympathy for the wrong-doer.

Now these sentimental sympathizers with criminals, call
themselves Christians, and are not willing to believe that any man
can, in a truly Christian spirit, oppose their theories and their
influence. They have been able to blind almost every sense in a
man except the poetic sense; but to this they appeal in vain.
"Poetic justice" maintains its purity. The reader of a novel, no
matter how good or how bad he may be, demands that the villain of
the book shall be punished as a matter of justice alike to him.
and to those who have been his victims. Nothing but justice--
nothing but a fitting retribution--will satisfy. The poetic
instinct demands a perfect system of rewards and punishments, and
is as little satisfied when a hero succeeds indifferently, as when
a scoundrel fails to be punished according to his deserts. There
is no poetic fitness without justice--retribution, pound for
pound, and measure for measure. Set any audience that can be
gathered to watching a play in which criminal and crafty art is
made to meet and master a guileless spirit and pollute a spotless
womanhood, and the sympathies of the vilest will follow the
victim, and, in the end, demand the punishment of the victor.
Nothing will seem to any audience so entirely out of place as kind
and gentle treatment toward the artful brute, and nothing more
outrageously unjust than the idea that repentance is the principal
end of his punishment. The poetic instinct of fitness once
thoroughly roused, as it is in a story, a poem, or a play, will
be satisfied with nothing but full suffering for every sin. Now I
would trust this poetic instinct of fitness further than I would
all the sympathies of the humanitarians, all the sophistries of
the philosophers, all the subtleties of the theologians, and all
the milder virtues of Christianity itself. To me, it is as
authoritative as a direct revelation from God, and is equivalent
to it.

Again, nothing is more apparent in American character and American
life than a growing lack of reverence. It begins in the family,
and runs out through all the relations of society. The parent may
be loved, but he is much less revered than in the olden time.
Parental authority is cast off early, and age and gray hairs do
not command that tender regard and that careful respect that they
did in the times of the fathers. In politics, it is the habit to
speak in light and disrespectful terms of those whose experience
gives them the right to counsel and command. Young men talk
flippantly of "fossils," and "old fogies," and wonder why men who
have been buried once will not remain quietly in their graves. Of
course, when such a spirit as this prevails, there can be no
reverence for authority, no respect for place and position, and no
genuine and hearty loyalty. We nickname our Presidents; and "old
Buck" and "old Abe" are spoken of as familiarly as if they were a
pair of old oxen we were in the habit of driving. Every man
considers himself good enough for any place, and great enough to
judge every other man. If a pastor does not happen to suit a
parishioner, the parishioner has no feeling of reverence for him
that would hinder him from telling him so to his face. Every man
considers himself not only as good and as great as any other man,
but a little better and a little greater. No being but God is
revered, and He, I fear, not overmuch. What we call "Young
America" is made up of about equal parts of irreverence, conceit,
and that popular moral quality familiarly known as "brass."

It is the habit to applaud Young America--to magnify the superior
wisdom and efficiency of young men, to treat old age familiarly,
and to compel those of superior years to ignore the honors with
which God has crowned them. "Every dog has his day," we say, and
we are impatient of a man who declines to step into retirement the
moment that his hair turns gray, to make room for some specimen of
Young America with a snub nose and a smart shirt-collar. Now,
however this irreverence may be justified--and it is not only
justified but shamelessly gloried in--it is not poetical. Poetry
cannot be woven of improprieties. A people bowing with reverence
to those in authority, and regarding with profound respect high
official station; a family of children clinging, even through a
long manhood and womanhood, around the form of an aged parent with
assiduous attentions and tender reverence; a community or a nation
of young men looking to age for wisdom and for counsel; universal
respect for years on the part of the young--these are, and must
forever remain, poetical. Out of reverence can be woven the most
beautiful pictures which the poet's brain can conceive; but Young
America can no more excite poetic sentiment, or inspire poetic
imaginations, than the sham Havana it smokes, or the mongrel horse
it drives. There is no poetry in an irreverent character, or in an
irreverent community. Irreverence in any form will not stand the
poetic test.

Americans boast habitually of their country, and their boastings
always assume the poetic form. The ballot-box that they talk about
is the ballot-box that ought to be and not the ballot-box that is.
One would think, to hear what is said of the ballot-box, that it
literally shines with glory, so that every American freeman who
marches up to it to deposit the paper embodiment of his will,
glows like a God in its light, and grows godlike by his act. If we
are to believe Mr. Whittier, the poor voter sings on election day:

  "The proudest now is but my peer,
    The highest not more high;
  To-day, of all the weary year,
    A king of men am I.

  To-day, alike are great and small,
    The nameless and the known;
  My palace is the people's hall,
    The ballot-box my throne!"

This is a very splendid sort of a ballot-box, and he is a very
fine sort of an American who sings about it; but what are the
facts? There are a good many chances that the box stands in a
corner grocery, and that the poor voter is led up to deposit his
priceless ballot so drunk that he cannot walk without help. Mr.
Whittier would have us believe that the poor voter sings:

  "To-day shall simple manhood try
    The strength of gold and land;
  The wide world has not wealth to buy
    The power in my right hand."

The truth is that gold and land try the very "simple manhood" as
a rule, and very much less than the wide world is sufficient to
buy the power in a great multitude of poor voters' hands. The
poet sees what the ballot-box may be, ought to be, and, in some
rare instances, really is. He unerringly seizes upon the dignity
and majesty of self-government, the equal rights and privileges
of manhood, and the dissipation of all distinctions in the exercise
of the political franchise among freemen. The great truth of
human equality inspires him, and he uses the ideal and possible
ballot-box to illustrate it, and thus furnishes the standard by
which the real ballot-box is to be judged.

The poetical view of our American system of government is that all
men have a voice in the government; that we choose our own rulers
and make our own laws; that no man has a hereditary right to rule,
and that men are selected for the service of the people, in the
construction and the execution of the laws, because of their
fitness for office. Outside of this view, the American system of
government has no beauty and no foundation in truth and justice.
If we undertake to argue with a monarchist, we never bring forward
any other. It has in it the essential element of poetry, because
it does justice to the nature and character of man, and describes
a perfect political society. The poetical view of the American
system of government, is, then, the highest view. It covers the
sovereignty of the citizen, and the wisdom of the popular voice.
Around this idea the poets have woven their noblest songs; but
again we ask what are the facts? The people are led by the nose by
politicians; and not one officer of the government in one hundred
is chosen to his place because of his fitness for it. The people
do not nominate those who shall rule them, or those who shall make
laws for them. Those whom the politicians do not nominate for
office, nominate themselves. The political machinery of America
practically takes the choice of rulers and officers out of the
hands of the people, and puts it into the hands of a set of
self-appointed leaders, whose patriotism is partisanship, and whose
principal aim is to serve themselves and their friends, and use
the people for accomplishing their purposes. No greater fiction
was ever conceived than the pleasant one that the people of
America govern America. The people of America, except in certain
political revolutions, have always been governed by a company of
self-appointed and irresponsible men, whose principal work was to
grind axes for themselves. The poetry of American politics is then
the severest standard by which to judge the reality of American
politics.

Religious freedom is another poetical idea in which the American
glories. It is essentially a poetical thought that every man is
free to worship God according to the dictates of his own
conscience--that there is no Church to domineer over the State,
and no State to domineer over the Church, that the Bible is free,
and that each individual soul is responsible only to its Maker.
This great and beautiful liberty stirs us when we think of it as
music would stir us, breathed from heaven itself. It is grand,
God-begotten, belonging in the eternal system of things, full of
inspiration. This religious freedom we claim as Americans. Some of
us enjoy it; but the number is not large. The freedom of the sect
is not greatly circumscribed, but the freedom of the individual is
hardly greater in America than it is in those countries where an
established church lays its finger upon every man. I would as
soon be the slave of the Pope or the Archbishop as the slave of a
sect. I would as readily put my neck under the yoke of a national
church as under the yoke of a sect. It does not mend the matter
that the multitude are willing slaves, and it certainly mars the
matter that the sects themselves do what they can, in too many
instances, to circumscribe each the other's liberty. Sects are
religiously and socially proscribed by sects. Take any town in
America that contains half a dozen churches, representing the same
number of religious denominations, and it will be found that, with
one, and that probably the dominant sect, it will be all that a
man's reputation and position are worth to belong to another sect.
Perfect religious freedom in America there undoubtedly is; but it
is the possession of only here and there an individual. Prevalent
uncharitableness and bigotry are incompatible with the existence
of religious liberty anywhere.

It is thus that the poetic instinct grasps at truth and beauty,
and fitness and harmony, wherever it sees it, and it is thus that
it furnishes us (subordinate only to special, divine revelation)
with the most delicate tests of human institutions, customs, and
actions. Litmus-paper does not more faithfully detect the presence
of an acid than the poetic instinct detects the false and foul in
all that makes up human life. All that is grand and good, all
that is heroic and unselfish, all that is pure and true, all that
is firm and strong, all that is beautiful and harmonious, is
essentially poetical, and the opposite of all these is at once
rejected by the unsophisticated poetic instinct.

Verily the poets of the world are the prophets of humanity! They
forever reach after and foresee the ultimate good. They are
evermore building the paradise that is to be, painting the
millennium that is to come, restoring the lost image of God in the
human soul. When the world shall reach the poet's ideal, it will
arrive at perfection; and much good will it do the world to
measure itself by this ideal, and struggle to lift the real to its
lofty level.



LESSON XXIII.

THE FOOD OF LIFE.


  "To the soul time doth perfection give,
    And adds fresh lustre to her beauty still;
   And makes her in eternal youth to live
    Like her which nectar to the Gods doth fill.
   The more she lives, the more she feeds on truth;
    The more she feeds, the strength doth more increase;
   And what is strength, but an effect in youth
    Which, if time nurse, how can it ever cease?"
   SIR J. DAVIES.

A horse can live, and do a good deal of dull work, on hay; but
spirit and speed require grain. There is no self-supplied,
perennial fountain within the animal that enables him to expend
more in the way of muscular power than he receives in the way of
muscular stimulus and nourishment. Food, in its quality and
amount, up to the limit of healthful digestion, is set over
against, and exactly measures, under ordinary circumstances, the
quality and amount of labor of which a horse is capable. So, a
cow can live on straw and corn-stalks; but it would not be
reasonable to suppose that she would give any considerable amount
of milk upon so slender a diet. We do not expect rich milk, in
large quantities, to be yielded by a cow that is not bountifully
fed with the most nutricious food. The same fact attaches to land.
We cannot get out of land more than there is in it; and having
once exhausted it, we are obliged to put into it, in fertilizers,
all we wish to take from it in the form of vegetable growths.
Wherever there is an outgo, there must be an equal income, or
exhaustion will be the inevitable consequence.

The principle which these familiar facts so forcibly illustrate is a
very important one, in its connection with human life. We cannot get
any more out of human life than we put into it. All civilization is
an illustration of what can be accomplished by feeding the human
mind. All barbaric and savage life is an illustration of mental and
moral starvation. The differences among mankind are the results of
differences in the nourishment upon which their minds are fed.
Eunice Williams, who was taken captive by the savages of Canada a
hundred and fifty years ago, was the daughter of a most godly
minister, of the old Puritan stamp; but a very few years of savage
feeding made her a savage. Her mind was cut off from all other
varieties of nourishment, and could only tend to savage issues. She
kept a knowledge of her history, and many years after her capture
revisited her home, accompanied by her tawny husband; but no
persuasions could call her from her savage life and companionship.
The conversion of men from heathenism to Christianity and Christian
civilization is accomplished by introducing new food into their
moral and mental diet. "A change of pastures makes fat calves," we
are told; and any one who has noticed the effect upon an active mind
of its translation from one variety of social and moral influences
to another, will recognize the truth of the proverb.

If a man will call up his acquaintances, one by one, and mentally
measure the results of their lives, he will be astonished to see how
small those results are. He will also see that they are, under
ordinary circumstances, in the exact proportion to the amount, and
in correspondence with the variety, of the food they take in. It is
astonishing to see how little it takes to keep some people, and how
very little such people become on their diet. A man who shuts
himself away from all social life, and lays by his reading, and
declines all food that addresses itself to his sensational and
emotional nature, and refuses that bread of life which comes down
from heaven, and feeds himself only with relation to the
accomplishment of some petty work, will become as thin and scrawny,
mentally and morally, as the body of a half-starved Hottentot. It is
the one curse of rural life that it does not have a sufficiency and
a sufficient variety of food. The same scenes, the same faces, the
same limited range of books, the same dull friends, exhausted long
ago--no new nourishment for powers cloyed with their never-varying
food--these are what make rural life, as it is usually lived,
unattractive and most unfruitful. The fruits--the issues--of this
life cannot be greater than the food it gets, and the food is very
scanty. It is not necessary that it should be so, and sometimes it
is not so; but the rule of common rural life is insufficiency of
mental food, and consequent poverty of manifestation.

The utilitarian habits of New England, originating in necessity, and
far outliving the circumstances in which they had their birth, have
tended more than any other cause to make New England character
unlovable. The saving of half-pence to add to one's store, and the
denial to one's self and children of that which will delight the
famished senses, and stir the thin emotions, and enlarge the range
of experience, is the direct way of arriving at meanness of life.
There are those who will not allow their families to cultivate
flowers, because flowers are not useful, and they involve a waste of
time and land. They will not have an instrument of music in their
houses, because music is not useful, and it involves an expenditure
of money, and the throwing away of a great deal of time. They will
not buy pictures, because pictures are not useful, and because they
cost money; so that many a rich man's parlor is as bare of ornament
as a tomb would be. They will not attend a lecture, because, though
it might furnish them with mental food for a month, it would not
bring their shillings back to them. They will not attend a concert,
because a concert is not useful. They will not hire a minister who
possesses fine gifts--gifts that would enrich them mentally,
morally, and socially--because they cannot afford it. So they take
up with ministerial dry nursing, and one another's dry experiences,
as spiritual food, in order to save a few more dollars.

There are a few of the severer virtues that will live upon a diet of
this kind. Endurance, industry, a negative purity, thrift,
integrity--these can live, and do live, after a sort, on a plain and
scanty diet, and these, as we know, abound in New England. But
generosity, hospitality, charity, liberality--all those qualities
that enrich the character, and all those virtues that enlarge it and
give it fulness and beauty and attractiveness, are always wanting
among the class that sacrifices every thing for use. More cannot be
got out of any life than is put into it. Modern chemistry analyzes
soils, and ascertains exactly what they need to make them produce
bountifully of any kind of grains and fruits. Wheat cannot be grown
on land that does not contain the constituents of wheat; and if it
be desirable to grow wheat, those constituents must be added to the
soil. If any mental soil does not produce those vital manifestations
and results which characterize a large, rich, and attractive life,
then the constituents of that life must be introduced as nutriment.

One of the common experiences in the world of authorship is the
writing of a single successful book, and the failure of all that
follow it from the same pen. The explanation is, that the first book
is the result of a life of feeding, and those that follow it come
from an exhausted mind. There are many writers who, as soon as they
begin to write, stop feeding, and in a very short time write
themselves out. The temptation of the writer is to seclusion. His
labors in a measure unfit him for social life, and for mingling in
the every-day affairs of men. He is apt to become warped in his
sentiments, and morbid in his feelings, and to grow small and weak
as his works increase. The greatest possible blessing to an author
is compulsory contact with the world--every-day necessity to meet
and mingle with men and women--social responsibilities and business
cares, and the consequent necessity of keeping up with the events
and the literature of his time. An author in this position not only
keeps a healthy mind, but he takes in food every day which his
individuality assimilates to itself, and utters as the expression of
its life. I have no belief that Shakspeare would ever have given us
his immortal plays, but for the necessities which brought him so
much into contact with men. Outside of his authorship, he lived an
active, practical life--trod the boards of a theatre, managed men,
looked after his money, rubbed against society in multiplied ways--
and kept himself strong, healthy, and abundantly fed with that food
which was necessary to him.

Shakspeare had genius, it is true, but genius without food is quite
as helpless as a barren acre. All great geniuses are immense
feeders. All true and healthy geniuses fasten for food upon every
thing and every body. Their antennas are always out for the
apprehension of ideas, and their mouths always open for their
reception. Walter Scott was engaged in the active duties of the
legal profession when writing his novels, and there was not a legend
of Scotland, nor a bit of history or gossip, nor an old story-teller
that lived within fifty miles of him, that he did not lay under
tribute for mental food. It is declared, to the everlasting disgrace
of Goethe, that he practiced upon the affections of women, even to
old age, that he might gather food for poetry. Byron traversed
Europe in search of adventure, and rummaged the scenes of legend and
story for food for his voracious senses and sensibilities. His
Childe Harold is nothing but the record of his tireless foraging.
All men who have produced much have fed bountifully.

The writers are few in whom we do not notice something painfully
wanting. We do not always understand what it is, but we know that,
while we may accord to them good sense, and even genius, they fail
to satisfy us. There is some good thing which they lack--something
unbalanced and partial and one-sided about them. We presume that
this is often the result of a constitutional defect, but in most
instances it is attributable to insufficient nourishment in some
department of their nature. "All but," is the appropriate epitaph
for the tombstone of many an author; and if we look carefully into
his history we shall find an answer to the question: "All but what?"
We shall find, perhaps, that he is a recluse, that his social nature
is not fed at all, and that be is, of course, unsympathetic. This is
a very frequent cause of dissatisfaction with an author, as it
always gives a morbid tinge to his writings. Dickens is eminently a
social man, and eminently healthy and sympathetic. Possibly an
author may starve his senses and become purely reflective, yielding
up his points of contact with the outside world, and shutting the
channels by which the qualities of things find their way to his
mind. Not unfrequently a man's domestic affections may be starved,
or ill fed, and if so, the fact is sure to be betrayed in his
writings. And if a writer's religious nature be starved, it
invariably vitiates all his characteristic works. No man who shuts
out God and heaven from his life can write without betraying the
poverty of his diet. If an author would write satisfactorily,
touching all kinds of human nature and all sides of human nature, he
must feed every department of his own nature, for he has nothing to
give that he does not receive.

As in animal, so in mental life, there are gormandizing and
gluttony, tending always to paralysis of voluntary effort. The
devouring of facts, as they are found both in nature and in books,
indulgence in social pleasures immoderately and constantly, pietism
that feeds exclusively upon the things of religion, the feasting of
the imagination upon the creations of fiction--all these are
debilitating; and a blessed thing to the world is it that they unfit
the mind for writing at all, as the overfeeding of the body unfits
its organs for labor. Plethoric minds do not trouble the world with
books, or with conversation, or with preaching. Activity simply
demands food enough, and in sufficient variety, to feed its powers
while operative, from day to day. This is the reason why immensely
learned men have rarely done much for the world. Many of them have
won reputations, like remarkably fat steers, for breadth of back and
depth of brisket, but they are never known to move more than their
own enormous bulks. Beyond a certain point of mental feeding, over
and above the necessities of labor, the mind gets sleepy and clumsy.

I have alluded to authors, particularly, because, unlike the world
in general, they give form and record to their life. The masses of
men live as authors live, but their lives are not put down in books,
so that the public may read and measure them. We will suppose that
two men are fed upon the same diet. Each shall have sufficient food
for his religious, social, esthetic, domestic, sensational, and
emotional natures, yet only one of them shall embody in books the
life which he draws from these varieties of nourishment. The other
lives essentially the same life, but it fails of record. It may be
as rich, and characteristic, in every particular, as that of the
author, but it fails of artistic form because, perhaps, he lacks the
peculiar mental gift required for its construction. So the real life
of the author and the life of his reader may be the same, the one
having advantage over the other in no particular, and the fact that
one is embodied in artistic forms conferring upon it no essential
excellence. What I have said about authors, therefore, applies to
all mankind, engaged in whatever calling or profession. If any
portion of any man's nature be not well fed, he will betray the fact
in his life. Poverty of food in any particular will surely bring
poverty of manifestation in that department of life which is
deprived of its natural nourishment.

A familiar illustration of the failure of a life to secure its
appropriate food, will be found in men and women who live unmarried.
An old bachelor will sooner or later betray the fact that his finer
affections are starved. It is next to impossible for him to hide
from the world the wrong to which he is subjecting himself. His
character will invariably show that it is warped and weak and lame,
and his life will be barren of all those manifestations which flow
from domestic affections abundantly fed. Here and there, one like
Washington Irving will nourish a love transplanted to Heaven, and
bring around him the sweet faces and delicate natures of women, to
minister to a thirsting heart, and preserve, as he did, his
geniality and tenderness to the last; but such as he are
comparatively few. An old bachelor, voluntarily single, always
betrays a nature badly fed in one of its important departments. So,
too, those who marry, but who are not blest with children, betray
the lack of food. Many of these hunger through life for children to
feed their affections, and take on peculiarities that betray the
fact that something is wrong with them. Some adopt children in order
to supply a want which seems imperative, and others take pets of
different kinds to their bosoms, ranging through the scale from
birds to bull-dogs. It is a familiar trick of starved faculties and
affections to take on a morbid appetite, and feed themselves on the
strangest of supplies.

So, if a man would live a full and generous life, he must supply it
with a full and generous diet. So far as his ability will go, he
should make his home the embodiment of his best taste. There should
be abundant meaning in its architecture. There should be pictures
upon its walls, and books upon its shelves and tables. All the
domestic and social affections should be abundantly fed there. His
table should be a gathering place for friends. Music should minister
to him. He should bring himself into contact with the great and wise
and good, who have embalmed their lives in the varied forms of art.
The facts that live in the earth under his feet, the beauty that
spreads itself around him, and all those truths which appeal to his
religious nature, are food which should minister to his life. An
irreligious man--no matter what his genius may be--is always a
starveling. An unsocial man can by no possibility lead a true life.
A man's nature should be thrown wide open at every point, to drink
in the nourishment that comes from the healthy sources of supply;
and thus only may his life become abundantly rich and beautiful. I
repeat the proposition that I started with: we cannot get more out
of human life than we put into it.

There is another aspect of this subject that I have barely space to
allude to. The illustration with which this article opens, touching
the effects of hay and grain respectively upon the life of the
horse, suggests that the food with which our bodies are nourished
may have an important bearing upon our mental and moral life. Of
this I have no doubt. Coarse food, made of material but feebly
vitalized, makes coarse men and women. Muscular tissues not formed
from choice material, brains built of poor stuff, nervous fibres to
which the finest and most delicate food has not ministered, are not
the instruments of the highest grade of mental life. The
dispensation of sawdust is passed away. It is pretty well understood
that the most complicated, the noblest, and the finest creature in
the world requires the best food the world can produce; and that he
requires it in great variety. If a man leads simply an animal life--
eating, working, and sleeping--let him feed as animals do; but if he
lives a life above animals, as a social and religious being, then
let him take food that gives pleasure to his palate, and pluck and
power to all the instruments of his mind. Hay may answer very well
for a mind that moves at the rate of only three miles an hour; but a
mile was never yet made "inside of 2:40" without grain.



LESSON XXIV.

HALF-FINISHED WORK.


           "Ah God! well, art is long!
  And life is short and fleeting.
  What headaches have I felt and what heart-beating,
  When critical desire was strong.
  How hard it is the ways and means to master
  By which one gains each fountain head!
  And ere one yet has half the journey sped
  The poor fool dies--O sad disaster!"
  BROOKS' TRANSLATION OF FAUST.

Mankind are "nothing, if not critical;" and nothing would seem to
be criticism with them but fault-finding. It is astonishing to see
what a number of architects there are in the world--how many people
there are who feel competent to give an opinion upon buildings in
course of erection on the public streets. If a dwelling is going up,
there is not a day of its progress in which its builder or architect
is not convicted of being a fool, by any number of wise people who
judge him on the evidence of a half-finished structure. When the
dwelling is completed, it usually "looks better than they ever
supposed it could;" but they learn nothing from this, though the
proverb that "only fools criticize half-finished work" is a good
deal older than they are. Every man who builds is obliged to take
this running fire of fault-finding. Passing a new church recently,
in the company of an architect, I asked him what he thought of the
building. "I can tell better when the staging is down," was his
reply. He knew enough not to criticize half-finished work, while
probably a hundred men, knowing nothing of architecture whatever,
had, during that very day, freely given their opinion of the
building in the most unqualified way.

Did it ever occur to the reader of this essay that nearly all the
judgments that are made up and expressed in this world relate to
half-finished work? We hear a great deal of criticism indulged in with
regard to American society. I have no doubt that this criticism is just,
in a certain sense, but American society is only a half-finished
structure. If it had arrived at the end of improvement and growth;
if the elements which enter into it had already organized themselves
in their highest form; if the creation of a high, refined, and beautiful
society were not a thing of time; if such a society did not depend
upon the operation of forces that require a great range of influences
and circumstances, then the criticism might be entirely just; but it is
as unreasonable to expect a high grade of social life in America,
at this point of American history, as it is to expect perfection in a
church before the carpenters get out of it, and the staging is down.
Wealth, learning, culture, leisure--these cannot be so combined in
this country yet as to give us the highest grade and style of social
life. We are all at work upon the structure, and unless American
ideas are incurably bad, and we are faithless to our duties, American
society will be good when the work upon it is completed. No society
is to be condemned so long as it is progressive toward a goodly
completeness.

Men and women are always judging one another before they are
finished. A raw boy, with only the undeveloped elements of manhood
in him, is denounced as a dunce. A light-hearted, sportive girl,
with an incontinent overflow of spirits, is condemned as a hoiden.
Neither boy nor girl is half made. There is only the frame-work of
the man and woman up, and it does not appear what they are to
become. A young man is wild, and judged accordingly. It is not
remembered that there are various modifying influences to be
brought to bear upon him, before he will be a man. We see the bold
outline of a new house, and we say that it is not beautiful.
Soon, however, a piazza is built here, and a dormer is pushed out
there, and gracefully modelled chimneys pierce the roof, and
cornice and verandah and tower are added, until the structure
stands before us complete in beauty, convenience, and strength.
When we condemn a young man we do not stop to think that he is not
done,--that there is a wife to place upon one side of him, and
children to be grouped upon the other, and sundry relations to be
adjusted before we can tell any thing about him at all.

There is nothing more common in experience and observation than
the partiality felt by young and unmarried men for the society of
married women, and the love of unmarried young women for the
society of married men. I suppose that nearly every young man and
young woman has a time of feeling that all the desirable matches
in the world are disposed of, and that the marriageable young
persons left are really very insipid companions. This is entirely
natural, but exceedingly unreasonable. To expect a man to be as
much of a man without a wife as with one, is just as reasonable as
to expect a half-finished house to be as beautiful as a finished
one. It is impossible for an unmarried man, other things being
equal, to be as agreeable a companion as a married man; and lest I
be suspected of a jest in this statement, I wish to assure my
reader that I am entirely in earnest. Intimate contact with the
nature of a good woman, in the relation of marriage, is just as
necessary to the completeness of manhood, as the details of an
architectural design are to the homely conveniences around which
they are made to cluster. Every man is a better man for having
children, and the more he extends those relations which grow out
of the family life, the more does he open up to culture and carry
to completeness the very choicest portions of his manly nature. It
is natural, therefore, that the unmarried woman should become
possessed of the notion that all the desirable men are married,
and that the unmarried man should be the subject of a similar mistake
with relation to the other sex. It must be remembered that men and
women are made desirable by matrimony, and that half-finished work
should not be subjected to any sweeping judgments.

Men and women are always turning out differently from what we
expected and predicted they would. Men who have been laughed at
and slighted during all their early life, become, quite to our
surprise, very important and notable persons, and we are mortified
to ascertain that we have been criticizing half-finished men. The
college faculty give a diploma to some very slow young man, with
great reluctance, but in the course of twenty years he completes
himself, and when he comes back to honor them with a visit they
make very low bows to him. All young people are pieces of
unfinished work, to be judged very carefully, and always to be
regarded as incomplete. We can say that we do not like their
general style, as we would say that we do not like the style of an
unfinished house. Grecian may not be to our liking, and we may
prefer Gothic.

It seems to me that the Christian Church suffers more from the
judgments of those who criticize unfinished work than any
organized body of men and women. Here is an organization whose
members do not pretend to perfection; whose whole theory forbids
any such idea. They are disciples--learners of the Divine Master.
They are members of a school in which none ever arrives at fulness
of knowledge. Their prayer is that they may grow; and they know
that if they have the true life in them they will grow while they
live. If there is one thing in the world of which they are
painfully conscious, it is that they are pieces of unfinished
work. Some of the members are very much lower in the scale of
completeness than others. In some there is only a confused pile of
timber and bricks. In others only a part of the frame is up, or
the walls are hardly more than begun. In others, perhaps, the roof
is on. In comparatively few do we see the outlines all defined and
the rooms in a good degree of completeness. In none of them is
there a perfected structure, and none see and acknowledge their
incompleteness more than those whose characters are farthest
advanced toward perfection.

Now I put it to the world outside of the Christian Church to say
if it has been entirely fair, and just in its judgments of the
Church. Has it not judged Christianity by these imperfect
disciples, and has it not condemned these imperfect disciples
because they are not what they never pretended to be? Has it not
criticized half-finished work, and condemned, not only the work,
but Christianity itself, because this work was not up to the
sample? It is very common to hear men say that such and such a
Christian is no better than the average of people outside of the
Christian Church, thus condemning the genuineness of his character
because he is not a perfect Christian. A house is a house, even if
it be only half-finished. At least, it is not any thing else; and
as Christians cannot by any possibility be perfected on the
instant, it follows that the large majority of Christians must be
in various stages of progress--nay, that most of this large
majority are not even half-finished. The Christian Church itself
is a piece of unfinished work, and every individual member is the
same. It is not pretended that either is any thing else. I never
knew a Christian to set himself up as a pattern. So far as I know,
they are very shy of pretension, and deprecate nothing more than
the thought that anybody should take them for finished specimens
of the work of Christianity in human life and character.

A sermon upon any important subject is always a piece of
unfinished work. I once heard a famous preacher say that he could
preach throughout his whole life on the text, "the heart is deceitful
above all things and desperately wicked," and even then have
something left to say. The statement illustrates the many-sidedness
of truth, and the multitude of its relations to the life of the individual
and the world. Any sensible preacher knows that, within the compass
of a single sermon, he can only present a single aspect of a great
and important truth, yet he is criticized as if it had been expected
that the work of a dozen volumes could be crowded into the
 utterances of half an hour. What is called an "exhaustive" sermon
would exhaust an audience long before it would its subject. A sermon
is only the dab of a brush upon a great picture, and if it gives a
single striking view of a single great truth, it accomplishes its object.
It must necessarily be an unfinished piece as regards its exposition
of truth; and the same may be said of any essay on any subject.
Every writer begins in the middle of things, and leaves off in the
middle of things; and every thing he writes relates at some point to
every thing that everybody has written. No man cleans up the field
over which he walks, and leaves nothing to be said; and the best
we do is unfinished work.

There are those who, in view of the sin and suffering which appear
on every hand, are moved to impugn the goodness and love of Him
who created the world by His power, and sustains and orders it by
His providence. Millions are whelmed in the darkness of
heathenism; other millions are bound by the chains of slavery; the
oppressor is clothed in purple and fine linen; the beautiful and
innocent are the victims of treacherous lust; children cry for
bread beneath the windows of luxury; justice is denied to the poor
by men who take bribes of wealth; and deceit circumvents and
baffles honor. Such a world as this the critics condemn as a
failure, which reflects alike upon the benevolence and power of
its Maker; but these men have an eminent place among the fools who
criticize half-finished work. If they could have witnessed the
creation of the earth, and watched it through all the processes by
which it was prepared for the reception of the human race, they
would doubtless have been quite as critical as they are now, and
quite as unreasonable. Suppose a man should visit his pear-trees
in midsummer, and on tasting the fruit upon them, should condemn
them and order them to be cut down and removed--how should we
characterize his folly? He has criticized half-finished fruit, and
made a fatal mistake. It is just as unreasonable to condemn a
half-finished world as a half-finished pear. Human society must be
brought to perfection by regularly instituted and slowly operating
processes. It may take as long to perfect society as it did to
create the world that it lives on; and God is not to be found
fault with for the flavor of a fruit slowly ripening beneath the
light of His smile and the warmth of His love, but not yet fully
ripe.

Mr. Buckle has undertaken to write a history of civilization, or,
rather, he has commenced to write an introduction to a history of
civilization. His progress has not been great, and he doubtless
realizes that he has undertaken a task which he can never finish.
He will probably labor upon it while he lives, and then some other
daring man will take up the thread where he will drop it, and go
on until he in turn will be obliged to relinquish his unfinished
task to a successor. When the work shall be finished, after its
original design, it will doubtless be found to be antiquated. It
undertook to organize a half-finished life--to reason upon forces
that had only half revealed their nature and their power--to
develop principles whose relations were imperfectly known. In
short, it must necessarily prove to be a half-finished history of
a half-finished civilization, whose every newly-opened event will
throw a modifying light on all that shall have preceded it.

We have, therefore, but little finished work in this world. Not a
finished character lives among mankind. No nation of the world
illustrates a consummate civilization. All presentations of truth,
of whatever nature and relation, are necessarily incomplete. Life
is too short, comprehension too limited in its grasp, and
expression too feeble or too clumsy, to allow the mind fully to
organize, vitalize, and fill out to roundness and just proportion,
a single creature of legitimate art. It is, therefore, literally
true that the criticisms of the world are the judgments of the
world's half-finished men on the world's half-finished affairs.
Imperfection sits in judgment on incompleteness, and the natural
consequence is that criticism, in whatever field of demonstration,
is little more than a record of notions which assume to array
themselves against other notions, which may be better or worse
than those that oppose them.

It is with a depressing sense of the incompleteness of these
lessons in life, that I now indite their closing paragraph. I
cannot but be aware that the criticisms I have indulged in relate
very largely to half-finished work, and I painfully feel that they
are the product of a most imperfect judgment. If the reader has
found them kind, charitable, hopeful--tending toward that which is
good--and lenient toward human frailty, loyal to common sense, and
faithful to virtue; if he has found in them that which leaves him
a larger and a more liberal man--advanced in some degree toward
that perfection which we are ever striving for, but which we never
reach, then my aim has been accomplished, bid him God speed!

THE END.





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