« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Christians of all denominations unite and adopt the same saving policy for both species of intemperance — and resolve on total abstinence from party-spirit as well as from liquid fire?'. pp. 102, 103.
It is beyond a question, that comparatively but a small number of persons, and they mostly from other States, are alone responsible for the existence, among us, of what Dr. Codman calls 'polemic war.' The great body of the people would take no part, and feel no interest in these struggles, if they were not set on by their religious guides. It would be sure, in a little time, to restore amity and a good understanding, if ministers and periodical journals, on all sides, would give heed to the judicious counsels offered in these Letters. Speaking of the former, Dr. Worcester says;
'In a time of great excitement and party strife, a minister sits down to write a sermon in vindication of some disputed doctrine, which he believes to be of great importance. But having failed to call humility to his aid, he writes under the influence of party passions. As he proceeds, he grows warmer and warmer, with feelings of contempt or resentment towards all who have opposed his doctrine. He is not contented with producing arguments in its favor; he must give vent to his passions against dissenters. He boldly accuses them of gross errors in their interpretations of the Scriptures; and imputes these errors to the wickedness of their hearts; and fails not to reproach them either as heretics or as bigots. Thus, while he wantonly calumniates others as destitute of the gospel temper, he evinces a deplorable defect in his own heart. But prior to the time for delivering his discourse, some affecting event of Providence occurs that calls him to deep reflection, occasions a favorable change of feeling, gives humility leave to rise and speak for herself. Hence occurs the following soliloquy:
6" What have I written for a sermon to be delivered by myself, as the ambassador of Him who was ‘meek and lowly of heart'? He exercised forbearance towards his erring Apostles, during the whole course of his ministry, though he knew them to be in gross errors of opinion; yet I have reproached hundreds of his professed disciples as his enemies; and have said much to excite against them the contempt of others. But why all this rashness? They indeed differ from me in their interpretations of some passages of Scripture; but if this be a good reason for me to be offended with them, why may not they as justly be offended with me? Are not some of them at least possessed of
wrong in them?
as good talents as myself? May they not have had as good advantages for acquiring knowledge and how do I know that they have been less honest and impartial in their inquiries than I have been in mine? How has it happened that I have been so forward to accuse them, and yet so backward in regard to suspecting myself? Could this be the work of humility or benevolence ? Have I done to others as I would that they should do to me? Even taking it for granted that they are bad men, is my sermon adapted to do them or any body else any good? Will it not give far more proof of wrong in me than of
I indeed have accused them; but I have done it with a temper which is the reverse of what is required in the gospel of every disciple of Christ. I will therefore revise the sermon, and erase every word which shall appear to me inconsistent with that love which worketh no evil to its neighbour."
pp. 110 — 112.
Our limits will permit us to give but one more extract, which is in the same strain.
' In extempore speaking, men have not always sufficient time for premeditation, and in the heat of their zeal, they are very liable to utter things which will not bear an impartial review, and which are unjustly reproachful to others. But in writing for the pulpit or the press, I think it would be a good rule, after having written, seriously to examine the copy and inquire, whether nothing has been penned which is contrary to the New Commandment, or the Golden Rule, nothing which evinces the disposition to take the highest place, or that must excite the idea that the writer is one of those who “ trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others.” In such a review of what has been written, it might be useful for the writer to inquire, how the language and tone he has used would be likely to appear to him, if adopted by a person of another denomination against himself; and then erase whatever he would deem antichristian and unkind, if used by another in an exchange of circumstances. Should the parable of our Lord be duly regarded in future, in conducting religious Newspapers and other Periodicals, the effects may be happy in relation to the progress of religion, and the peace of the Christian world.'
An interesting question arises here, respecting what may be called the rights of self-defence in controversy. Coarse language, misrepresentation, and malice, are alike inexcusable in the assailants, and in the assailed; but perhaps it is a little too much to expect from the latter, if their religious rights
are wrested from them, if their sincerity and piety are called in question, if they are stigmatized as enemies to the truth and enemies to God, and held up as such to public scorn and indignation, that they should bear it without some feeling of resentment, and some expression of this feeling. In all such cases, it is obvious that those who causelessly and wantonly give the provocation, are responsible not only for the bad spirit which they manifest themselves, but also, in a degree, for the bad spirit which they awaken in others. Besides, when the controversy becomes one, not of speculative opinions merely, but of personal rights, the aggrieved party must look on the aggressor, not merely as in error, but as guilty of injustice and crime. Now even supposing that we can, and that we ought, to set aside altogether personal considerations, is it expected that we shall meet and repel what we believe to be injustice and crime, with the same feelings with which we should endeavour to reconcile an honest difference of opinion? At the same time, we believe that there is no party, as such, which is entirely without blame in this matter; and none which may not find much in these Letters “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.'
ART. IV.- A Comparative View of the Social Life of
England and France, from the Restoration of Charles the Second to the French Revolution. By the Editor of Madame du Deffand's Letters. London, 1828.
The work before us is a lively picture of the state of society in England and France during certain periods of their history, exhibited chiefly in the contrasts they present to each other. We have thought it might not be wholly without advantage to call the attention of our readers to the same subject in relation to our own country, and especially to our own Commonwealth. We do this with no desire to institute an invidious comparison with any other community, at home or abroad, but because the state of social life, or the spirit of society, as it is sometimes called, is every where, but espe
cially among a free people, one of the most powerful agents in forming the character and affecting the happiness of every individual. It is an important, because a practical subject, less imposing perhaps, less calculated for striking effect, but of more personal consequence than the mightier matters, which form the materials of national history, and become, by something of an artificial consequence, subjects of regular study and delight.
By social life we mean the ordinary intercourse of private individuals ; the state, condition, habits, and manners by which that intercourse is regulated; the prevailing tone of thought, feeling, and affection; that atmosphere of opinion, as impalpable as the one we breathe, operating on the moral health and personal comfort of a community, as air does the functions of animal life.
By doing so much for individual happiness, this social spirit does no little for the wider and more generous feelings of benevolence and philanthropy. Men are never better inclined to assist others, than when they are pleased with themselves. The rays of personal good feelings are constantly diverging, and a happy man is made more happy by cheering, and smiling, and brightening countenances around him. We remember, indeed, the declaration of the poet,
• Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco'; but while past calamity has a tendency to soften the heart, present gratification and tranquillity raise a tide of affection, which naturally flows in kindness and good will.
We hope, indeed, that the exceptions are not many to this position, because the most obvious remark to be made in regard to our domestic society is its state of perfect security. When we consider what is the amount of all those public evils of which the most fretful among us complain, as affecting individuals in society, we must certainly admit that they are few in number and inconsiderable in amount. Our state of internal tranquillity is almost unprecedented in the history of mankind. We have no foreign enemies; the evils of war, the fears and anxiety which are inseparable from a state of hostility, are unknown to us. At home all is peaceable. There is no military array, no armed police, no domiciliary visitations. Crimes, which are calculated to excite terror, are too rare among us to cause previous inquietude. Our people literally repose without any one to make them afraid. We do not mean to say that this fortunate condition of affairs does not produce the gratitude and sensibility that it ought; but we think, when the condition of mankind from the beginning of the Christian era is considered, that so much cause for gratitude has never been accorded to any other people. The general state of prosperity, the flourishing condition of the great establishments which give opportunity for profitable industry, and the unexampled prevalence of health, throughout the country, combine to increase the motives for a rational sentiment of joy. It is obvious, therefore, that the dangers to which our society is exposed, are not those of calamity, but prosperity ; not of poverty, but affluence; not those which threaten in the whirlwind and the storm, against which we may arm ourselves with courage and resolution as against open and determined foes, but those which are generated in sunshine under a summer sky, more insidious and delusive as they come in the soft breeze which we court for its salubrity, and steal upon us in the lassitude of that indolence and ease, to which we surrender ourselves without apprehension.
The existence of a given state of society, which they who live in it may alter at their pleasure, implies a satisfaction which secures its continuance. But many of its institutions remain, not because they are approved, but because no one is bold enough to break through them. They are ancient, and have custom and familiarity on their side ; and the risk of attacking them is too dangerous to be lightly essayed. We have no royal edict to change them, and no popular representation which has authority to reform them, and they continue by force of antiquity even against the inclination of an improved age.
Hence the spirit of society may not keep its appropriate place. It should do so. It should not be allowed to linger behind the improvements which learning and experience may introduce. It should be kept up to the expectations of an intelligent and educated people, and be made to advance the moral character and promote the happiness of the community.
Next to the general tranquillity, by which our society is distinguished, the most obvious appearance is its perfect