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they may lay their hands, and in destroying which, they may give employment to a mind that loves not to commune with itself. Nor, in such a world as ours, have they need to look far. Gigantic evils rise up on every hand. İntemperance, war, and slavery, are exerting a balesul influence on the world, and must be be abolished. Here is something to be done,-something to be attacked. Before these strong-holds of wickedness they can plant their batteries of opposition, and play off their destructive missiles. Such warfare is much easier than that inward spiritual conflict appointed for every believer. While it furnishes an ample task for the active energies, it engrosses the mind and draws it away from sell-inspection.
That this is the secret power of impulsion by which many of our zealous reformers are actuated, cannot admit of a rational doubt. They may not be aware of the fact, and yet it may be none the less true. They may be under the practical influence of this power, and yet not know what the power is. In saying this, we trust no injustice is done them. The majority of men are always more mastered by, than masters of the actuating principles in obedience to wbich they move. It is the reflecting mind only, that knows itself
, and controls its secret springs of action. How then shall they whose constant employments forestall reflection, be aware of all the motives by wbich they are governed ? Certainly they cannot. The objective motive, or immediate occasion of particular acts, they may indeed be able to assign ; but the subjective cause, which always impels them in the same line of external effort, is not a matter of distinct consciousness. But their ignorance of this cause, although it may indicate the degree of their subjection to it, does not diminish in the least its power over them. It is everinore sending them forth into the world without, to find among its thousand forms of evil something against which they may direct their energies.
To this restless spirit, which is at home only in scenes of bustling activity, we must attribute the fact, that so many speak and act in reference to the aggressive enterprises of the church, as if therein consisted the whole duty of man. Many of these enterprises originated in the purest benevolence and ihe most enlightened wisdom; and they must be sustained. But still we consess, that to give them an almost exclusive attention,-throwing into the background the more unobtrusive though not less iinportant duties of the family and the closet,-is in our view, dangerous to the piety of the church, and will in the end prove fatal to the very objects we would promote. We should be sorry to say any thing which might retard the progress of genuine reform; but we must be allowed to express a doubt, whether all that passes under the name of improveinent has a just claim to that title. Change is not necessarily amendment. We see many changes in these days; we should rejoice to believe they are all for the better. We give due credit to the motives of those who devote themselves exclusively to the removal of long-established evils; who are considered, and consider themselves, as reformers of the age, par eminence ; but in our opinion, the wisdom of some of their measures may sasely be called in question.
Could we meet the whole community of public opinion and society-making reformers, and obtain their favorable audience, we should be disposed, with all respect and candor, to throw out a few suggestions for their consideration. We should tell them, for instance, that before bringing their inachinery to bear on any particular sin, it would be wise to ascertain, if possible, whether there is any rational hope of success. The evil may be real; it may be great; and yet, to attempt its removal at once, by a combination of all the moral energies of the church, may savor more of zeal iban wisdom. It may be of such a nature, that nothing can be done to advantage until the mass of the people are more thoroughly imbued with the gospel. It may be so intrenched in the hearts of the ungodly, that an attack, by rallying them in its defense, would establish it more firmly than ever. The Sundaymail question may serve as an illustration of our meaning. Perhaps ibere never has been an object of moral reform brought forward in this country, which was supported by so much talent, respectability, and piety. Men of all denominations and all parties exerted their influence in its favor. But it was utterly in vain. Our labor was lost. We undertook too much. We ventured beyond our depth; there was not moral principle enough in the nation to bear us up. No one would think of making such an effort now; for it is persectly obvious, that we never can succeed until the gospel shall have more power on the hearts of men. A desperate effort to revive that subject might seem very heroic to some persons; but it would resemble the heroism of a Coriolanus, throwing binself, unsupported by his soldiers, within the walls of a hostile city. It would be time and labor lost. A certain amount of christian principle in the community is necessary, as a basis whereon to commence our operations against popular vices. Aggressive movements are out of the question, until we have secured a stand-point, a TOU OFW, sufficient 10 sustain us.
We think it important, therefore, before agitating the coinmunity in regard to any prevalent evil, to ascertain, if possible, whether such agitation will do any good. It is always unsafe to raise an excitement, unless we have something to do with it; unless a channel be prepared through which it may be turned to some usesul purpose. For it will either be expended in abortive and even pernicious efforts, or re-act on the subjects of it with exbausting effect. If this consideration had been allowed its due weight, we ihink ceriain movements, not to say certain men, would never have been known to the public.
If it appears that we have sufficient encouragement to commence a distinct altack upon any deep-rooted evil, still we must carefully distinguish between the evil and the custom, or institution, (as the case may be,) with which it is connected. There is scarcely any thing, however good in itself, that may not, in the hands of fallen men, be perverted to unlawful uses. An institution may be well calculated to benefit society, although it may not be entirely free from evil. A government may be very badly administered, and yet be vastly better than no government at all. A custom may be very much abused by some, and yet be a good custom. Society may gain more by its continuance than its re
The history of our times shows how possible it is to magnify partial evil, until it shall obscure all associated good. We may put a sixpence so near to the eye, as to shut out the heavens and the earth. Looking thus at the defects, and never at the excellences of any institution or custom, we soon come to think that all is wrong, and must at once be swept away. It should be borne in mind, that our object is not rerolution, but reform. We wish to improve that which already exists ; not destroy in order 10 make a new creation. Reform is a restorative, revolution is a destructive operation. Reform seeks to redress partial evil, by the application of a remedy to the seat of the disease ; revolution breaks up the constitution itself. Reform applies its knife to the cancerous excrescences that bave grown upon the surface, still learing the substance unaltered; revolution annihilates excrescences, substance and all. Wise men will always preser reform 10 revolution. They will consider that violent l'eniedies are to be resorted to only in great emergencies. They will not make the extreme medicine of the constitution its daily food.”
Sudden changes in the long-established customs of society are dangerous. People will not easily consent that the ancient institutions and
which have come down to thein " covered with the awful hoar of ages,” should be wrested at once from their grasp. Man is a creature of reverence and affection :
« And custom is his nurse! Woe then to them
And what is gray with age becomes religiou." No good man, it is hoped, who is aware how much the peace and stability of society depends on these fond attachments, will Jay a rash hand on the objects of popular reverence. Even if these objects are productive of more evil than good, still we must pro
ceed cautiously; for the people cannot be divorced from them a once, any more than a child can be weaned in a day. There mus be a work of preparation; the
" thousand tough and stringy roots
Fix'd to (their) nursery.faith," must be loosened before they are wrenched from their beds; and new objects of interest should be supplied as fast as the old are taken away. It is an instructive fact, that all the healing processes of nature are gradual. It is only when she arms herself fur destruction, that we behold her rushing on her errand with whirlwind speed.
It cannot be too often repeated, therefore, nor too much insisted on at the present day, that time is an indispensable agent in every genuine reforın. We are altogether too impatient; we cannot wait until the medicine we have administered has had opportunity to take effect; but follow it up with repeated and continually icreasing potions, railing, meanwhile, at the patient, because be does not gel well in a moment. Why will not men exercise a little common-sense on this subject ? 'Truth cannot be crainmed into the mind, any more than medicine into the body, without producing a surfeit. A mind diseased with error, rejects truth when so forced upon it, just as a morbid stomach rejects food. Paul fed his " babes" with milk, and not with meat ; for they were not able to bear meat. Shall we not profit by his wisdom? or shall we require of men whom we conceive to be far-gone in error, an inmediale assent to our strongest doctrines ? And if they do not yield it, shall we reproach and threaten them? Far be ibat from us! We do not receive propositions urged upon us in such a manner. We must have time to reflect upon, and inwardly digest them. Nor will they receive them without a similar process; and if they are so infected with the influence of error, as not to endure strong meat, we must give them such food as they can endure, and that too with a gentle hand. Thus in the lapse of time, the moral sense may be so far raised in its tone, as to relish that which at first it would have rejected with disgust.
This, if it be a slow, is in our view the only safe and sure method of reform. We must satisfy the reason of men, or nothing of any lasting benefit will be gained. There is indeed a shorter course, supposed by some to lead to the same result; and we are sorry to see that so many prefer it. It is greatly to be lamented, that so much more confidence should be placed in the power of opinion than in the power of truth. If a majority of voices can be secured in favor of any measure, nothing more seems desired. This "public sentiment" is then made use of as a triumphant answer to all arguments. Nay, it is brandished over the
heads of the unconvinced, till through fear of the odium with which they are threatened, they yield a reluctant and insincere obedience. Such a procedure may not be quite so gross as the practice of mobbing people into correct opinions; but it is not less a violation of personal rights. We have no more right to disturb our neighbor in the enjoyment of his private opinion, by threatening bim with public odiuin, than a mob has to do the same thing by means of brick-bats. We are not surprised, that those who rely on this method of accomplishing their objects, should have less confidence in the truth than in prudential measures. It is to be expected, that they will entertain a bad opinion of their fellow-men, and speak of them accordingly ; and that when once they have persuaded the unthinking multitude to echo their decisions, that echo will be deified as the authoritative voice to which all must yield implicit obedience. That voice becomes a power in the hands of those whose spells conjured it up, with which all opposition is crushed. And thus the reformation is said to be effected; although few perhaps can give any reason for the change, other than that “public opinion” demanded it: while many more, who are silenced hut not convinced, still champ their curb and watch for the hour of revenge. We do not call this reform. It is a change produced by fear; the heart is not in it; it was not wrought by truth enlightening the mind, and securing the affections. We may call it the "triumph of principle," but that will not make it so. People who can be frightened into an opinion, may be frightened out of it. There is no stability to the mind that is not rooled and grounded on the truth. A reformation to be worthy of the dame, must carry with it the reason of men. And he who is not willing to spend the time and perform the labor necessary to secure ihis result, is the last person who should be intrusted with the management of social evils. Few employments demand greater abilities, more profound wisdom, or more enlarged benevolence, than that of a reformer. Scarcely any requires so little as that of a revolutionist. Talent is not necessary 10 the work of destruction. A gang of carmen may pull down in an hour, what nothing less than the wisdom of ages could have reared. It is an easy thing to rail at ancient opinions and institutions, and hold them up to the ridicule of the unreflecting many, -any upstart can do it; but to separate them from the accidental errors and evils with which they have become associated, and make their intrinsic excellences manisest to all, is a more serious task. He wlio will not trouble himself to distinguish between the true and false, the precious and the vile; but would abolish every custom, destroy every institution, and deny every doctrine with which abuses are connected; is bearing significant testimony to the obtuseness of his own intellect. Alexander found it easier to cut the