Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

introduce, they must not expect that it would be an easy task to lead the bulk of the people to the practice of their duties; but they must not sink under disappointment, and above all things, they must preserve the precious deposit which had been in his custody, which he should now transfer to them, and which it must be their study to employ to the advantage of future generations. After this, he divested himself of the character of “master," admitting them only as friends, to enjoy the pleasure of his conversation.

The last public act of his life was to ensleavour to excite the king of Loo to take arms against a treacherous minister of Tse, who had dethroned and murdered his sovereign. After this, he seldom appeared out of his house, beginning to experience the weight of years and its attendant infirmities. One day, his young grandson, Tsze-sze, perceiving him more serious and sorrowful than ordinarily, knelt before him, asked him why he was dejected : " Is it,” said the boy, “because you think the doctrine of Yaou " and Shun will become extinct in the world, that you are so grieved ? I " have heard you say that, when the sire labours, the son should not be idle,

seeing you so sad, I fear I may resemble such an idle son, if, being unable "to divert your vexation, I do not try to share it." Confucius smiled, and said : “You have filial piety engraven on your heart. May the other virtues “ find a place there, and you will deserve the favour of heaven."

This indisposition was the prelude to a severe malady, from which he recovered, but its effects left him in a state of languor. He was constantly visited by his disciples, particularly by Tsze-kung. One day, Confucius met him at the door, supporting himself on a staff, and when he entered, the philosopher gave evident tokens of decay. He shed tears, and complained that his strength was failing and his eyes were dim, expressing himself in a rhym ing triplet :

The great mountain is broken,
The strong beams are thrown down,

The sage is a dying plant.
He added : “The princes of the Shang dynasty are interred between two

pillars ; I am of that house, and I dreamed last night I was between two pillars, where I offered a sacrifice to my ancestors. This dream convinces me that I have not long to live; but this is not the source of my

affliction ; “it is because I see that every monarch has degenerated from the virtues of

his forefathers, and that all reject my doctrine." Tsze-kung consoled the sorrowing sage by telling him that he had disciples, who would tread in his paths, and complete what he had so well begun. He revived a little; but this was but a spark, which another incident extinguished.

Whilst hunting on the western frontier, the king met with an extraordinary quadruped, which was killed by his suite, and which proved to be a lin.* Confucius saw the beast, and pronounced it to be the symbol of charity and sound doctrine. The destruction of an animal which had announced his birth, was considered by him as an omen of his death. He prepared for this event, and read over his writings once more, making a few corrections in them ; after which he fell into a lethargy, which lasted seven days; and, ät length (B.C. 479), he died at the age of seventy-three.

His grandson, Tsze-sze, being too young to perform his funeral rites, two of his disciples, who were present when he expired, undertook the office. According to custom, after closing his eyes, they put three pinches of rice

* The lin is the female of this miraculous animal; the ke the male; they are usually spokon of conjointly, like the fung-whang, thus, ke-lin.

:

[ocr errors]

CC

into his mouth, and proceeded to array the body in the sumptuous habits of a minister of state. They purchased a piece of ground, at some distance to the north of the city, where they interred the mortal remains of the philosopher, erecting three mounds of earth to mark the spot, and planting a tree, the trunk of which is said to be still seen. All the ceremonies required by the ancient ritual were duly observed. Tsze-kung extended his period of mourning to six years, during which he resided near the tomb. Disciples from all the different states soon flocked to do homage to the memory of the sage; they congregated about the place with their families, and at length a village arose near the grave, which was called Kung-le, or “ the village of kung."

The remote age of Confucius, the slight attention paid to Chinese literature in Europe, a want of confidence in the ancient records of China, and other causes, have conspired to obscure the fame of this wonderful man, who is often regarded almost in the light of a fabulous personage. His biography, however, can be discredited only upon grounds which would destroy all historical evidence; and, assuming its truth, and that the writings and apophthegms attributed to him are genuine (and neither can be reasonably ques tioned), he must be ranked amongst the greatest characters of antiquity. He was, perhaps, the only reformer and legislator in early times who did not betray the natural weakness of aspiring to supernatural distinction, for even Socrates had his familiar genius. His persevering efforts to lead men into the path of reason and of natural religion were the offspring of pure philanthropy, without the least taint of ambition or of selfishness. His moral doctrine discovers none of the ingenious subtleties and incomprehensible logomachies of the Hiudu school, and its severe simplicity forms a strong contrast with the ethical systems of ancient Greece. His maxims of conduct are of a practical, not of a speculative, character ; applicable to all the pursuits and to all conditions of life, being based upon human nature : herein differing essentially from the mysticism of Laou-tsze and the sect of " the immortals.” By disclaiming the original discovery of the truths he taught, he obviated at once the imputation of egotism and the dread of innovation, and they could not be better enforced than by the rectitude and blamelessness of his own life. *

66

CHARITY AND THE CLAIMS OF THE POOR.

A LECTURE BY THE EDITOR.

(Concluled from p. 137.) In place of looking to the extension of charitable efforts, I look to the spread of a practical education, as affording the only means of rendering any permanent service to the working classes. And in laying stress upon the word practical, I wish to impress upon your mind the fact, that what is called education in modern days is but a poverty-stricken affair.

There are more children of the working classes sent to school now than there were forty or fifty years ago; still, in practical education, the working man is worse off now than ever he was.

In former times the " respectable classes, "the wealthy and educated, were in the habit of visiting the cottages of the poor, and there, in a kindly motherly way, the thrifty housewife poured a few lessons on good housewifery into the ears of the newly married cottar's daughter. They gave advice which was far above the gift of money it was of worth far above what money could

* Asiatic Jour., vol. 1. p. 375, New Séries.

a

purchase--and certainly never without good effect. If a difficulty arose about making both ends meet, the young wife felt that she could go and consult the lady of the squire, parson, doctor, lawyer or farmer, and be instructed ; so that, although not educated according to the methods of any school system, she was practically advised and instructed in the method of making the most of what she had at her disposal. But things go no longer in that old groove. The cottager's or the mechanic's daughter becomes a wife, and must just make her own way as best she can. Trained probably in a miserable hut, or as one of a large family living in two rooms, she has never had any chance of learning how to do the best with her means; and if she makes but a poor hand of housewifery, who can honestly condemn her incompetence ? To all who know the real difficulties attending the use of small means, she will appear as one who deserves far more of pity than condemnation, and unless some educational steps be taken, through which to compensate these daughters of the poor for what they have lost through the break up of the old system, it will be vain to hope for any amendment. If they have not even straw given them, why should we expect the tale of brick ? The method of doing it may be safely left to the discretion of those who are Jearned in such matters. They would soon devise some practical scheme of operations. All I know is this, that if a few practically-minded ladies would take the matter up, all being workers, and not leaving the business to be attended to by paid officials, a measure of success would follow their efforts that would shed far more comfort over the working man's home than can be obtained by the gift of money or an endowment of coals.

And the same fact holds good with the workman. In other times the master felt himself bound to advise his journeyman. There was no gulf between master and man, for they worked together, and were, as the natural consequence, interested in each others' welfare. If the man wasted his means, the master gave him good advice in a plain, manly style, and generally with effect. He told of how he had got on through industry and thrift; showed that all who would rise must do the same; and thus, in a generous and moderate manner, threw a measure of his own wisdom and experience out as a buoy to save his journeyman from being wrecked and lost. This is no longer the case. There is now—especially in our great cities–no sympathy between the mechanic and his master. They seldom see, and rarely know each other. And as they who stand between the two are merely hired servants, they do not care to play the protecting and advising part which was played by the old masters. Thus the workman is left to find, through ruin and misery, how to use his means. He has no adviser wiser than himself, except, perhaps, the minister, who grows eloquent on Sundays about “not “laying up treasure," and upon “ the impropriety of being thoughtful for the “morrow, and that rather adds to his weakness than operates to preserve him from the social ruin to which he is hurrying.

It must be granted that there is no hope, no possibility, of inducing the masters to resume their old position, but some way must be found through whieh to compensate the workman for what he has lost, and there is no other than that of rendering his education practical. Let him be taught to understand the laws which regulate labour, wages, and social progress. In every city places should be opened in which free lectures upon the laws of social economy should be given ; and if they who take an interest in the progress of society would but turn their attention in this direction they would accomplish more practical good than can be achieved in any other way, even although millions

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

a

To what purposes

were expended. If they make the poor wiser, they will be doing all that lies in their power to improve their condition. And while they are at it, there is no reason to hinder them from pressing on in other directions, so that free lectures should be delivered in this and other halls which would embrace all the subjects that are interesting to intelligent beings and free citizens.

It is only the thoughtless who oppose the diffusion of knowledge ; but the time is not far distant when a practical step in the educational direction will be taken. The people must be taught or they will sink into worse conditions; and, as the knowledge which even the wisest possess is but small in amount, there can be no reason to hinder its diffusion. Doubtless, there are numerous expenses attending upon such a proceeding, but after all it is cheaper to teach a man how to preserve himself from poverty than it is to keep him when he is plunged into it

. In this district you could

. easily find the necessary funds. The doubt, in my mind, is whether funds are required; for I know of no reason why the clergy should not do the work. It has been suggested that they should undertake to deliver discourses, or even preach sermons upon social science, so as to render clear to all the art of making the most of a little ; but, by the sballow and thoughtless, the proposal has been gwanted down. There is, however, some consolation in knowing that, being a wise one, it will rise up again ; and in time it will be a realised fact. In our hours of authority we may be able to spread a mantle over a noble truth; but intolerance cannot destroy it, it can only briefly hide.

Why not use the churches for such lectures ? are they put all through the working week? People go up to them on Sundays, but why not on Mondays also ? A true preacher does the best that can be done for his congregation, to instruct and fill their minds with truth pertaining to all subjects. Why not call upon the rectors and vicars to deliver weekly discourses in their churches, upon geology or physiology, chemistry or botany ? Why not demand that they shall deliver lectures upon poetry, art, and history? Trảe. it is, that, as a rule, there are not many of them who could sufficiently master all these subjects, so as to discourse intelligently; but having an earnest desire that way it is hard to say that they could not (lo so with three or four of the subjects. A man of due fixity of purpose can accomplish far more than is generally imagined. But

say

that they could not do much in this way, they at least could make provision for its being done by others. And fancy the beneficial effect of our churches being thus used. People would crowd into them readily enough, for the great

desire to have knowledge supplied in such a form as brings it within their comprehension.

But, alas ! so blind are many to the higher interests, that they would object to the churches and chapels being used for such purposes. In their estimation it would be profane. Wherein lies the profanity? What is a church if it be not a place wherein a man shall have his soul lifted Godward -wherein both his heart and mind shall be so filled and exalted with the knowledge of what God has accomplished in the world, that he can return homeward alike purer, nobler, and wiser ? And all the things He has made are fitted, when properly described, to call forth such feelings as exalt and refine our better nature. The rocks and grasses, the birds and fishes, the stars and oceans, teem with evidences of His wisdom and care for His creatures --- why should the poor man be shut out from a knowledge of all these things ? Beneath our feet are the mighty ribs of gigantic animals, all of which lived

upon them

mass

upon the surface of our earth, but eventually gave way for higher and more perfect forms. To my mind they are full of instruction, and I cannot understand why the working-man should not share it, and reap the advantages it beslows. They all bear the stamp of the same Author which we bear. And if man may be spoken of in a church, why not these also ?

Some, however, are far more afraid of spreading knowledge itself than they are of giving it in churches. They seem to labour under the impression that the spread of knowledge is not good. Surely they will not say that God needs that man should be kept in ignorance—that the more ignorant the man the more likely God will be to love him. For, if so, then what shall we say of the clergy? They are spoken of as being the most learned class, and it will logically follow that God must hate them more than He hates

any

other class. They read and learn all about these things; the study of these marrels is to them a joy and recreation which operates to preserve them from plunging into those vices and rude enjoyments which destroy the labourer. They can look with disgust at what he does ; but if he were so educated that his mind would seek delight in the pursuits which gladden them, he would be as much disgusted at what he now does as they are. And if men would turn their attention to this; would open schools, churches, chapels, and public rooms for such purposes, saying unto all, “ Come, come freely without price!" there is no way in which charitable funds could be more beneficially enployed; for by elevating the mind they would improve the habits of the working-classes.

It is in earnestness and with confidence that I press these matters upon your attention, being assured that it is our duty as Englishmen to use every available means towards blotting out pauperism, and the miseries it brings in its train. This is our duty. Our ancestors were called upon to do other work, which they did right nobly, or we should not be so free this day as we are. They strove in a thousand ways to promote the interests of their country; and when convinced of the existence of an evil-no matter if it were in the form of spiritual or kingly despotism, bad laws, or injurious physical agencies--they bent all their energies to the task, and paused not until the wrongs were redressed, or the evils were extinguished. They fought against wrong

in every degree, in favour of freedom in every form. But it was not in their power to do all that needed to be done ;-they did their best, and neyer bated a jot of heart or hope while life and the power of action remained. Shall we dare to enjoy the fruit of their labours without working in the spirit which animated them ? Are we to sit down saying, Soul take thine ease ! while doing nothing to extend the circle of good which they created for us? If so, then, in truth, we have become unworthy of their labours, and can only cumber the ground which should boast of sons worthy such noble sires.

I cannot believe that at heart Englishmen desire to live so ignobly. The very ait we breathe, must operate to imbue us with a better spirit. All that men want is to see clearly what they should do, and they would act as earnestly as their ancestors acted. I have endeavoured to show in what way action should be taken, and the platform is free to others to propose more efficient means. I hold no bigoted attachment to my method, but should be glad to promote any which promises even a small measure of success. "That which I feel most strongly, is not love for my own method, but hatred against hopeless inaction, and leaving all to the chapter of accidents.

They who are content to wait for chance to work cures which themselves have no courage to attempt, are like men at a fire who will not work the

[ocr errors]

a

« EelmineJätka »