Page images

He was also much interested in the plans for any of the anti-slavery societies, and is said to the suppression of intemperance, and disclosed have doubted the wisdom of such associations ; the depths of its causes and the essential re- but he was unhesitating and uncompromising medies which it demanded in a discourse in his opposition to slavery, and his tracts on which indicates a deep thoughtfulness up the Annexation of Texas and the Duties of the on our social relations and necessities, and Free States, and others of a similar purpose and a true apprehension of the general capacity spirit, with the book on Slavery which he pubfor a higher range of duties and enjoyments. lished in 1841, had a more powerful influence This was preliminary to, and should be con- on the question than any other writings that sidered with his two noblest productions, have been published in this country. The those which bespeak most truly the nature of last public act of his life was an address dehis ambition, and are likely, from the sagacity | livered at Lenox in Massachusetts on the first and rational views they display, and their rare of August, 1842, in commemoration of Emanadaptation to raise the mass of men from the cipation in the British West Indies. degradation of mind and heart in which they Doctor Channing's discourses on The Eviare sunk, to be longest remembered. These dences of Revealed Religion, embracing a phiare the Address on Self-Culture, delivered in losophical and perspicuous statement of the Boston in the fall of 1838 as an introduction true principles upon which our belief in huto a course of lectures attended chiefly by me- man testimony is regulated, are the most crechanics, and the Lectures on the Elevation of ditable of his writings of this description. the Labouring Portion of the Community, de- Some of his sermons inculcating the practical livered before an Apprentices' Library Associa- duties of religion are of the first order of extion in that city in the winter of 1840. They cellence. He had neither the learning nor are built upon the principles of the absolute the metaphysical power to be a great theoloessential equality of all men, and of the dignity gian. In one volume he claims for reason of human nature, which makes all assumption supremacy, and appeals to it as the last umof superiority on account of outward privileges pire; and in another derides the results of the a violation of the divine purposes, as well as most rigid induction as opposed to his own an infringement of the fundamental law of our consciousness. Consciousness was the law social organization. He was far from con- of his belief. Logic was resorted to, relucttending that the mass are competent to form antly, for its defence: never for its formation. just estimates of the great matters which have Let no one suppose that this excellence in relation to their moral and material interests, " practical preaching" is to be lightly esteemed without previous initiation and discipline; but even in comparison with the far higher inteldemanded of society the encouragement to lectual force of such men as Edwards. The unfold and exercise, and of every individual theory of beauty which Edwards taught, Chanthe development and use, of the highest ca- ning understood and appreciated, and the pure pacities. He claimed mutual respect, accord- and ardent benevolence which it inculcated ing to virtue, intelligence, and genius, without he practised. Whether his abstract notions regard to any factitious distinctions of birth, were right or wrong, he really loved virtue wealth, or position. But however radical were “for its own beauty and sweetness," and was his views on this subject, he was no leveller eminently successful in implanting a love of in the common acceptation of the term; he it in others. His mind, without being of the would take nothing from the high but their first, was of a very high order, his taste was pride, reserve, and contempt, and nothing from elegant, but not faultless, and he is justly adthe low but their envy, hatred, and jealousy. mired for his honesty and heroism. His works He would not elevate the labourer above his will undoubtedly fail to sustain his reputation occupation, but in it; he would dignify the as a thinker and man of letters.

most humble pursuits

, that are necessary to Dr. Channing passed the last few years of

human happiness, and persuade their followers his life in much privacy, at Boston in the that if they had the will and the energy, there winter and at Newport in the summer. He was was nothing to prevent their elevation to the seized with a typhus fever, while travelling, highest range of cultivation and enjoyment. at Bennington, Vermont, where he died, on the

Doctor Channing was never a member of second of October, 1842.


light on the mysteries of our being. In poetry, when the letter is falsehood, the spirit is often pro

foundest wisdom. And, if truth thus dwells in We believe that poetry, far from injuring society, the boldest fictions of the poet, much more may it is one of the great instruments of its refinement be expected in his delineations of life; for the preand exaltation. It lifts the mind above ordinary sent life, which is the first stage of the immortal life, gives it a respite from depressing cares, and mind, abounds in the materials of poetry, and it is awakens the consciousness of its affinity with what the high office of the bard to detect this divine is pure and noble. In its legitimate and highest element among the grosser labours and pleasures efforts, it has the same tendency and aim with of our earthly being. The present life is not Christianity; that is, to spiritualize our nature. wholly prosaic, precise, tame, and finite. To the True, poetry has been made the instrument of gifted eye it abounds in the poetic. The affections vice, the pander of bad passions; but, when genius which spread beyond ourselves and stretch far into thus stoops, it dims its fires and parts with much futurity; the workings of mighty passions, which of its power; and, even when poetry is enslaved seem to arm the soul with an almost superhuman to licentiousness or misanthropy, she cannot energy; the innocent and irrepressible joy of inwholly forget her true vocation. Strains of pure fancy; the bloom, and buoyancy, and dazzling feeling, touches of tenderness, images of innocent hopes of youth ; the throbbings of the heart, wben happiness, sympathies with suffering virtue, bursts it first wakes to love and dreams of a happiness of scorn or indignation at the hollowness of the too vast for earth; woman, with her beauty, and world, passages true to our moral nature, often grace, and gentleness, and fulness of feeling, and escape in an immoral work, and show us how depth of affection, and blushes of purity, and the hard it is for a gifted spirit to divorce itself wholly tones and looks which only a mother's heart can from what is good. Poetry has a natural alliance inspire ;-these are all poetical. It is not true that with our best affections. It delights in the beauty the poet paints a life which does not exist. He and sublimity of the outward creation and of the only extracts and concentrates as it were life's soul. It indeed portrays, with terrible energy, the ethereal essence, arrests and condenses its volatile excesses of the passions; but they are passions fragrance, brings together its scattered beauties, which show a mighty nature, which are full of and prolongs its more refined but evanescent joys. power, which command awe, and excite a deep And in this he does well; for it is good to feel though shuddering sympathy. Its great tendency that life is not wholly usurped by cares for subsistand purpose is to carry the mind beyond and above ence and physical gratifications, but admits, 'in the beaten, dusty, weary walks of ordinary life; to measures which may be indefinitely enlarged, senlift it into a purer element; and to breathe into it timents and delights worthy of a higher being. more profound and generous emotion. It reveals This power of poetry to refine our views of life to us the loveliness of nature, brings back the and happiness, is more and more needed as society freshness of early feeling, revives the relish of sim- advances. It is needed to withstand the encroachple pleasures, keeps unquenched the enthusiasm ments of heartless and artificial manners, which which warmed the spring-time of our being, refines make civilization so tame and uninteresting. It is youthful love, strengthens our interest in human needed to counteract the tendency of physical scinature by vivid delineations of its tenderest and ence, which, being now sought, not, as formerly, loftiest feelings, spreads our sympathies over all for intellectual gratification, but for multiplying classes of society, knits us by new ties with uni- bodily comforts, requires a new development of versal being, and, through the brightness of its imagination, taste, and poetry, to preserve men prophetic visions, helps faith to lay hold on the from sinking into an earthly, material, Epicurean future life.

life. We are aware that it is objected to poetry, that it gives wrong views and excites false expectations of life, peoples the mind with shadows and illu

DANCING. sions, and builds up imagination on the ruins of wisdom. That there is a wisdom against which poetry wars, the wisdom of the senses, which Dancing is an amusement which has been dismakes physical comfort and gratification the su- couraged in our country by many of the best peopremne good, and wealth the chief interest of life, ple, and not without reason. Dancing is associated we do not deny; nor do we deem it the least ser- in their minds with balls, and this is one of the vice which poetry renders to mankind, that it re- worst forms of social pleasure. The time condecins them from the thraldom of this earthborn sumed in preparation for a ball, the waste of prudence. But, passing over this topic, we would thought upon it, the extravagance of dress, the observe, that the complaint against poetry, as late hours, the exhaustion of strength, the exposure abounding in illusion and deception, is in the of health, and the languor of the succeeding day,– main groundless. In many poems there is more these and other evils connected with this amuseof truth then in many histories and philosophicment are strong reasons for banishing it from the theories. The fictions of genius are often the community. But dancing ought not therefore to vehicles of the sublimest verities, and its flashes be proscribed. On the contrary, balls should be often open new regions of thought, and throw new discouraged for this among other reasons, that


dancing, instead of being a rare pleasure, requiring bare to us the human heart in its most powerful, elaborate preparation, may become an everyday appalling, glorious workings. But how little does amusement, and may mix with our common inter- the theatre accomplish its end? How often is it course. This exercise is among the most health- disgraced by monstrous distortions of human naful. The body as well as the mind feels its glad-ture, and still more disgraced by profaneness, dening influence. No amusement seems more to coarseness, indelicacy, low wit, such as no woman, have a foundation in our nature. The animation worthy of the name, can hear without a blush, and of youth overflows spontaneously in harmonious no man can take pleasure in without self-degramovements. The true idea of dancing entitles it dation. Is it possible that a Christian and a reto favour. Its end is to realize perfect grace in fined people can resort to theatres, where exhibimotion; and who does not know that a sense of tions of dancing are given fit only for brothels, the graceful is one of the higher faculties of our and where the most licentious class in the cominunature ? It is to be desired, that dancing should nity throng unconcealed to tempt and destroy ? become too common among us to be made the That the theatre should be suffered to exist in its object of special preparation as in the ball; that present degradation is a reproach to the commumembers of the same family, when confined by nity. Were it to fall, a better drama might spring unfavourable weather, should recur to it for exer- up in its place. In the mean time, is there not cise and exhilaration; that branches of the same an amusement, having an affinity with the drama, family should enliven in this way their occasional which might be usefully introduced among us? meetings; that it should fill up an hour in all the I mean Recitation. A work of genius, recited by assemblages for relaxation, in which the young a man of fine taste, enthusiasm, and powers of form a part. It is to be desired that this accom- elocution, is a very pure and high gratification. plishment should be extended to the labouring Were this art cultivated and encouraged, great classes of society, not only as an innocent pleasure, numbers, now insensible to the most beautiful but as a means of improving the manners. Why compositions, might be waked up to their excelshall not gracefulness be spread through the whole lence and power. It is not easy to conceive of a community ? From the French nation we learn more effectual way of spreading a refined taste that a degree of grace and refinement of manners through a community. The drama undoubtedly may pervade all classes. The philanthropist and appeals more strongly to the passions than recitaChristian must desire to break down the partition tion; but the latter brings out the meaning of the walls between human beings in different condi- author more. Shakspeare, worthily recited, would tions; and one means of doing this is, to remove be better understood than on the stage. Then, in the conscious awkwardness which confinement to recitation, we escape the weariness of listening to laborious occupations is apt to induce. An ac- poor performers, who, after all, fill up most of the complishment, giving free and graceful movement, time at the theatre. Recitation, sufficiently varied, though a far weaker bond than intellectual or so as to include pieces of chaste wit, as well as of moral culture, still does something to bring those pathos, beauty, and sublimity, is adapted to our who partake it, near each other.

present intellectual progress, as much as the drama falls below it. Should this exhibition be introduced among us successfully, the result would be,

that the power of recitation would be extensively THE THEATRE.

called forth, and this would be added to our social and domestic pleasures.



Is its present state, the theatre deserves no encouragement. It is an accumulation of immoral influences. It has nourished intemperance and RELIGION AND PLEASURE. all vice. In saying this, I do not say that the amusement is radically, essentially evil. I can conceive of a theatre which would be the noblest To some, perhaps to many, religion and amuseof all amusements, and would take a high rank ment seem mutually hostile, and he who pleads among the means of refining the taste and elevat- for the one may fall under suspicion of unfaithfuling the character of a people. The deep woes, ness to the other. But to fight against our nature the mighty and terrible passions, and the sublime is not to serve the cause of piety or sound morals. emotions of genuine tragedy, are fitted to thrill us God, who gave us our nature, who has constituted with human sympathies, with profound interest in body and mind incapable of continued effort, who our nature, with a consciousness of what man can has implanted a strong desire for recreation after do and dare and suffer, with an awed feeling of labour, who has made us for smiles much more the fearful mysteries of life. The soul of the spec- than for tears, who has made laughter the most tator is stirred from its depths; and the lethargy contagious of all sounds, whose Son hallowed a in which so many live is roused, at least for a marriage-feast by his presence and sympathy, who time, to some intenseness of thought and sensi- has sent the child fresh from his creating hand to bility. The drama answers a high purpose, when develope its nature by active sports, and who has it places us in the presence of the most solemn endowed both young and old with a keen susceptiand striking events of human history, and lays | bility of enjoyment from wit and humour,– He

who has thus formed us, cannot have intended us beauty, and they win their way most surely and for a dull, monotonous life, and cannot frown on deeply into the soul when arrayed in this their pleasures which solace our fatigue and refresh our natural and fit attire. Now no man receives the spirits for coming toils. It is not only possible to true culture of a man, in whom the sensibility to reconcile amusement with duty, but to make it the the beautiful is not cherished; and I know of no means of more animated exertion, more faithful condition in life from which it should be excluded. attachments, more grateful piety. True religion of all luxuries this is the cheapest and most at is at once authoritative and benign. It calls us to hand; and it seems to me to be most important suffer, to die, rather than to swerve a hair's breadth to those conditions, where coarse labour tends to from what God enjoins as right and good; but it give a grossness to the mind. From the diffusion teaches us that it is right and good, in ordinary of the sense of beauty in ancient Greece, and of circumstances, to unite relaxation with toil, to ac the taste for music in modern Germany, we learn cept God's gifts with cheerfulness, and to lighten that the people at large may partake of refined the heart, in the intervals of exertion, by social gratifications, which have hitherto been thought pleasures. A religion giving dark views of God, to be necessarily restricted to a few. and infusing superstitious fear of innocent enjoyment, instead of aiding sober habits, will, by making men abject and sad, impair their moral force, and prepare them for intemperance as a refuge

BOOKS. from depression or despair.



It is chiefly through books that we enjoy inter

course with superior minds, and these invaluable THE SENSE OF BEAUTY.

means of communication are in the reach of all. In the best books great men talk to us, give us

their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls Beauty is an all-pervading presence. It un into ours. God be thanked for books. They are folds in the numberless flowers of the spring. It the voices of the distant and the dead, and make waves in the branches of the trees and the green us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages. Books blades of grass. It haunts the depths of the earth are the true leveller They give to all, who will and sea, and gleams out in the hues of the shell faithfully use them, the society, the spiritual preand the precious stone. And not only these mi sence of the best and greatest of our race. No nute objects, but the ocean, the mountains, the matter how poor I am. No matter though the clouds, the heavens, the stars, the rising and set prosperous of my own time will not enter my obting sun, all overflow with beauty. The universe scure dwelling. If the Sacred Writers will enter is its temple; and those men who are alive to it, and take up their abode under my roof, if Milton cannot lift their eyes without feeling themselves will cross my threshold to sing to me of Paradise, encompassed with it on every side. Now this and Shakspeare to open to me the worlds of imabeauty is so precious, the enjoyments it gives are gination and the workings of the human heart, so refined and pure, so congenial with our tender and Franklin to enrich me with his practical wisest and noble feelings, and so akin to worship, dom, I shall not pine for want of intellectual comthat it is painful to think of the multitude of men panionship, and I may become a cultivated man as living in the midst of it, and living almost as though excluded from what is called the best soblind to it as if, instead of this fair earth and glo- ciety in the place where I live. rious sky, they were tenants of a dungeon. An infinite joy is lost to the world by the want of culture of this spiritual endowment. Suppose that I were to visit a cottage, and to see its walls lined

THE BOOK OF BOOKS, with the choicest pictures of Raphael, and every spare nook filled with statues of the most exquisite workmanship, and that I were to learn that neither The poor might enjoy the most important adman, woman, nor child ever cast an eye at these vantages of the rich, had they the moral and relimiracles of art, how should I feel their privation; gious cultivation consistent with their lot. Books how should I want to open their eyes, and to help find their way into every house, however mean; them to comprehend and feel the loveliness and and especially that book which contains more nugrandeur which in vain courted their notice! But triment for the intellect, imagination, and heart, every husbandman is living in sight of the works than all others; I mean, of course, the Bible. of a diviner Artist; and how much would his ex And I am confident that among the poor are those istence be elevated, could he see the glory which who find in that one book more enjoyment, more shines forth in their forms, hues, proportions, and awakening truth, more lofty and beautiful imagery, moral expression! I have spoken only of the more culture to the whole soul, than thousands of beauty of nature, but how much of this mysterious the educated find in their general studies, and charm is found in the elegant arts, and especially vastly more than millions among the rich find in in literature? The best books have most beauty. that superficial, transitory literature which conThe greatest truths are wronged if not linked with sumes all their reading hours.



I call that mind free, which jealously guards its FROM A DISCOURSE PREACHED AT THE ANNUAL ELECTION IN intellectual rights and powers, which calls no man 1830.

master, which does not content itself with a pasI may be asked what mean by “inward spi- sive or hereditary faith, which opens itself to light ritual freedom ?” The common and true answer whencesoever it may come, which receives new is, that it is frcedom from sin. I apprehend, how-truth as an angel from heaven, which, while conever, that to many, if not to most, these words are sulting others, inquires still more of the oracle too vague to convey a full and deep sense of the within itself, and uses instruction froin abroad, greatness of the blessing. Let me then offer a not to supersede, but to quicken and exalt its own brief explanation; and the most important remark energies. in illustrating this freedom is, that it is not a nega I call that mind free, which sets no bounds to tive state, not the mere absence of sin; for such a its love, which is not imprisoned in itself or in a freedom may be ascribed to inferior animals, or to sect, which recognises in all human beings the children before becoming moral agents. Spiritual image of God and the rights of his children, which freedom is the attribute of a mind in which reason delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering and conscience have begun to act, and which is wherever they are seen, which conquers pri:Je, free through its own energy, through fidelity to anger, and sloth, and offers itself up a willing victhe truth, through resistance of temptation. I tim to the cause of mankind. cannot therefore better give my views of spiritual I call that mind free, which is not passively freedom than by saying, that it is moral energy, framed by outward circumstances, which is not or force of holy purpose, put forth against the swept away by the torrents of events, which is not senses, against the passions, against the world, and the creature of accidental impulse, but which thus liberating the intellect, conscience, and will, bends events to its own improvement, and acts so that they may act with strength and unfold from an inward spring, from immutable principles themselves for ever. The essence of spiritual free- which it has deliberately espoused. dom is power. A man liberated from sensual I call that mind free, which protects itself against lusts by palsy, would not therefore be inwardly the usurpations of society, which does not cower free. He only is free who, through self-conflict to human opinion, which feels itself accountable and moral resolution, sustained by trust in God, to a higher tribunal than man's, which respects a subulues the passions which have debased him, higher law than fashion, which respects itself too and, escaping the thraldom of low objects, binds much to be the slave or tool of the many or the himself to pure and lofty ones. That inind alone few. is free, which, looking to God as the inspirer and I call that mind free, which, through confidence rewarder of virtue, adopts his law, written on the in God, and in the power of virtue, has cast off all heart and in his word, as its supreme rule, and fear but that of wrong doing, which no menace or which, in obedience to this, governs itself, reveres peril can enthral, which is calın in the midst of itseif, exerts faithfully its best powers, and unfolds tumults, and possesses itself, though all else be itself by well doing in whatever sphere God's pro lost. vidence assigns.

I call that mind free, which resists the bondage It has pleased the all-wise Disposer to encom of habit, which does not mechanically repeat itself pass us from our birth with difficulty and allure and copy the past, which does not live on its old ment, to place us in a world where wrong doing virtues, which does not enslave itself to precise is often gainful, and duty rough and perilous, rules, but which forgets what is behind, listens where many voices oppose the dictates of the in- for new and higher monitions of conscience, and ward monitor, where the body presses as a weight rejoices to pour itself forth in fresh and higher on the mind, and matter, by its perpetual agency exertions. on the senses, becomes a barrier between us and I call that mind free, wbich is jealous of its own the spiritual world. We are in the midst of influ freedom, which guards itself from being merged in ences which menace the intellect and heart, and to others, which guards its empire over itself as nobe free is to withstand and conquer these.

bler than the empire of the world. I call that mind free, which masters the senses, In fine, I call that mind free, which, conscious which protects itself against animal appetites, of its affinity with God, and confiding in his prowhich contemns pleasure and pain in comparison mises by Jesus Christ, devotes itself faithfully to with its own energy, which penetrates beneath the unfolding of all its powers, which passes the the body and recognises its own reality and great bounds of time and death, which hopes to advance ness, which passes life, not in asking what it shall

and which finds inexhaustible power, both eat or drink, but in hungering, thirsting, and scek for action and suffering, in the prospect of immoring after righteousness.

tality. I call that mind free, which escapes the bondage Such is the spiritual freedom which Christ of matter, which, instead of stopping at the mate came to give. It consists in moral force, in selfrial universe and making it a prison-wall, passes control, in the enlargement of thought and affecbeyond it to its Author, and finds, in the radiant tion, and in the unrestrained action of our best signatures which it everywhere bears of the In powers. This is the great good of Christianity; finite Spirit, helps to its own spiritual enlarge nor can we conceive a greater within the gift of


for ever,


« EelmineJätka »