« AnteriorContinuar »
and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread; till thou return unto the ground.o.o. • Were it possible to release all men from the necessity of labor, would there be any reason to hope that the amount of happiness would be increased?oin the present state of society; who is the most virtuous, and who partakes most fully of earthly felicity—the man of wealth and leisure, or the industrious husbandman?' Should we survey the manners of the idle; masters of slaves in the tropical climatés, could we’think that they are as uncontaminated, pure, and virtuous, as the hardy cultivators of the soil where slavery is unknown? -It may well be doubted whether, with the present relative power of virtue and vice in the world, there would be any moral advantage in the diminution of the necessity of labor. If the man of leisure is likely to suffer his faculties to rust in indolence; or if, when excited to action, his course is likely to be ingoverned and disastrous, it were better for him and for the community that he should be subjected to constant and innocent toil. If, however, while mechanical philosophy shall create leisure for men, they shall be taught to live for objects for which only life is of any value, then the influence of mechanism, or of labor-saying inventions and improvements will be favorable to the world. But in mere leisure, by reason of the easy supply.9f physical wants—in leisure unguided and unemployed in wise mental and moral pursuits-there is no promise of
8. The influence of General Education and the prevalence of Free Institutions through the earth, however important, will not alone secure the happiness of man. Never perhaps was there so great confidence as at the present moment in the power of education. When the unthinking people shall be roused to thought, and their wild, uninstructed children shall be trained up in various useful branches of learning, then, it has been supposed, the golden age will come. There are doubtless important effects which would result from the general-diffusion of knowledge. Men, now ground to the dust, if they become. enlightened and discern their natural rights, and perceive how they have been despoiled of them, will cast off the yoke of debasing servitude. Old and flagrant abuses will no longer be tolerated. Could all the inhabitants of Europe be made intelligent, and have before them in distinct vision the miserable degradation to which they are reduced, not by any necessity of nature, but by the sensuality, the vanity, the pride, the ambition of their rulers, and particularly by the spirit of war, which in the last fifty years has expended five thousand millions of dollars, and which annually extorts from them five hundred millions of dollars for the support of the pageantry and murder of several millions of soldiers; think you that they would approve of a system which overwhelins.them with the most oppres: sive taxest. Think you that half a million of intelligent, undeluded, unenslaved men would; at the call of a demon-spirit, march.into the wilds of Russia to perish by cold, and famine, and the avenging sword? Could the beams of knowledge be poured upon the mind of the Turk, would he any longer, cheerfully and as a matter of duty, yield his neck to the sultan's scimitar; or would he not be likely to strike for liberty to But oppression is only one of the evils to which the family of man is subjected; and such is the condition of the world, that sometimes submission to injustice is a matter of prudence, and resistance often aggravates the-misery which it aims to remove. - * In countries already free, useful knowledge may easily be diffused among the people, and great improvements may be made in the methods of education; but
perhaps with an emire failure of the grand anticipated results. If with the culture of the mind there should be no culture of the heart; if...a moral and religious influence is to be banished from our schools and colleges; if man, an immortal being, shall study only the laws of the "material world, and overlook his relation to God and to the scenes of eternity; if he is taught every thing excepting that which it is ineffably the most important that he should understand; then we shall find that a new and terrible energy is given to unholy passion, . and, although knowledge is power, that undirected, misapplied, perverted power is an object of dread, * - , - .
''. For the advantages of civil liberty in our country we have great occasion of gratitude to God. Our rulers proceed from ourselves, and are responsible to the people. The church is distinct from the state. Our ministers of religion are not titled dignitaries, with princely incomes, idle shepherds who care not for the flock, yet clothe themselves with the fleece, died in scarlet. Our ministers, happily for our country, are working men; not working in the cause of superstition and delusion, but in the cause of the people and in the cause of God; and every man is allowed to worship God agreeably to the dictates of his own conscience, and is under no compulsion to support any form of religion whatever. The Jew and the Mahommedan may live among us undisturbed; the infidel and the atheist have nothing to fear excepting from truth, and their own conscience, and God. Never can we be sufficiently grateful to Heaven that we behold the temple of liberty rising in fair proportions, capacious, easy of access, an asylum to the oppressed of all nations. But while the people are free from external restraint, are they also free from the malignant influence of party, and the sway of unholy passions ! Is there not something else necessary to their happiness besides the knowledge and enjoyment of their natural rights, and the protection. of the most perfect government on the face of the earth? Have we not seen, and do we not see in our country exemplified and verified, the maxim, that “party or faction is the madness of many for the benefit of a few f" We are apt to attach great importance to the party distinctions which have prevailed since the adoption of the federal constitution. The success or the defeat of a particular party has been thought to have a decided bearing on the welfare of the community and the great interests of republican liberty. But on this point listen to an eminent statesman, who says, “Our collisions of principle have been little, very little more than conflicts for place.” Such is the humiliating result of the experience and observation, for forty years, of one who has witnessed all the conflicts of party, and has occupied the highest place in the government
of the United States. -- . . * - - - If this be a true account of the past, then is it not probable that, unless some new influence be felt, the future will resemble it, and that hereafter, as heretofore, the earnest struggles of party will be struggles for office : Our citizens will be arrayed against each other for bitter &onflict; but the end will be like that of most of the wars which have ravaged the earth; after the battle is over, at the expense of the hardships and sufferings of the combatant dupes and slaves, a few men, their leaders and masters, reap all the little honor and profit of the warfare. Were this evil remediless, it were idle to dwell upon it; but a cure may be found in the diffusion of moral and religious instruction, in connexion with literary and scientific improvement. Let there be a firm and immovable principle of Christian virtue, conjoined with intelligence, among the people, and they will prefer the triumph of right to that of party, and they will ask for no other victory but that of truth. A calm and virtuous mind will detect the imposture of the pretended patriot, who speaks much of the public good, meaning only his own. To the ..man of covetousness and greedy ambition, what is the peace of the community?— what are the great interests of morality and order, of virtue and religion ? The welfare of the people is the pretence, the lure; but self is the moving power. Let the people be disciplined in virtue; let a spirit of mutual kindness and goodwill govern them instead of a spirit of scorn, and hatred, and defiance; and they will not suffer themselves to become the instruments by which the unprincipled and worthless may lift themselves to office and power. Let them unite virtue with intelligence; and then will wholesome laws be uniformly carried into effect.
But were the energy of our laws always sustained; were our magistrates always men of upright, noble, disinterested views, having no aim but the public welfare; what is the amount of good which would spring from this perfection of government but this, that the facilities of procuring a subsistence or of acquiring wealth are increased, and that the people are protected in the enjoyment of their rights? Let it be, that a good government will shield from injustice the lowest as well as the highest; let it be, that such a government will shut out the losses, the corrupting influence, the desolating miseries of war. But can government stay the destroying plague, which, in its march from India, has trampled on the lives of fisty millions, and has come to our shores? Or can government stay the prevalence of error and vice which infect our whole atmosphere, predisposing and preparing victims for eternal death? No. This freedom from sin and consequent misery is not the direct result of government; but of the truth of God. The gospel must come with its purifying energy to the hearts of mankind, or the deadly plague of sin will still prevail, and continue to
people hell with its victims.
4. The confidence, which is placed in Philosophy for the advancement of human happiness, will be found fallacious. If even the general education of the people will not of itself secure the public welfare; what shall we think of those grand anticipations of human improvement and perfectibility, which are founded upon the progress of science among the learned 2 Are they any thing more than the creations of fancy? The most learned nations, nations which have been the most prolific of philosophers, have not always been the most virtuous and happy. Science has ever been attended with a corruption of manners. It might be an error to regard them as bearing the relation of cause and effect. Both may have a common origin in a high degree of civilization and national prosperity, affording, on the one side, leisure and opportunity for intellectual culture in minds eager for philosophical inquiry; and, on the other side, furnishing scope for depraved and degrading indulgence. Who is not aware, that some of the most learned men have been abandoned to enormous vices ! And who is not aware also, that, among nations holding a proud rank in science, the moral virtues have been, like the plants in a sandy desert, rarely seen, and, when seen, struggling for life in the arid plain and under a parching sun ?
Of all the sciences of the present day the most boastful as to its effect on human happiness is Political Economy. Its aim is the production and distribution of wealth: but is wealth the highest good of man Let it be, that this science may lead to the abrogation of many absurd laws, which put chains upon human activity, and may teach the few, who have leisure for its study, to add wisely to their individual wealth. But can political economy ever abrogate that law of God, which is stamped upon the condition of man, and which subjects him to the necessity of procuring his bread by the sweat of his face? Can the six
hundred millions of men live without food, and clothing, and habitations?—and will the stubborn earth yield its fruit, without human labor, at the call of political economy?—or, while the hand of man is idle, will the prolific ocean deliver its finny tribes upon the shore for our subsistence? Though the wheel and the loom may move without human power-yet can the materials for clothing be raised and collected by the magic of science, or will the rocks, and the clay, and the trees of the forest fashion themselves into houses for indolent, happy man? Political economy has for a few years past been the pride of Great Britain. What has it effected? Let the ten thousands of the degraded and starving population of Britain, who have been poured upon our shores in pursuit of work and of bread, bear witness. It is Metaphysical Philosophy, which peculiarly and emphatically claims the name of philosophy, and which in different ages has called forth the utmost efforts of men of the most powerful intellect. If the truth makes men free, how can philosophy have any effect in promoting the liberation of man, unless it be true? And what has been the character of human philosophy? What has been its relation to truth? What have been the proud theories, which learned, contemplative men have constructed by the toil of years, and what have been most of the celebrated schools, which have succeeded each other from age to age down even to the present day, but theories and schools of error and folly? What shall we think of the system of Pantheism, which makes all nature, all worlds, every plant and animal, a part of God? and what of the opposite system, which asserts, in the metaphysical language, an absolute unity, exclusive of all plurality, and which regards the world as having merely a shadowy existence, and our relation to it as an illusion ? Yet for these theories have learned philosophers in different ages contended,—for a world without a God and Creator, or for a God without a world;—for a visible God to the denial of spirit, or for an invisible God to the denial of matter. - What shall we think of a philosophy, which wastes its strength in the discussion of Ideas as the eternal essence of things residing in absolute intelligence, and as general existences, which make the foundation of all true knowledge? Yet such was the philosophy of Plato, which still clouds the minds of many learned men. What shall we think of the philosophy, which asserts that pain is no evil? or of that, which says that motion is impossible, and that nothing is certain excepting its own skepticism : What shall we think of the philosophy, which asserts that all human volitions result from causes beyond the control of man, who is thus made a machine, instead of being a moral agent, and which infers, that man has no occasion for the sentiment of remorse, and cannot be exposed to future punishment Yet such is the doctrine of modern Socinianism and of ancient materialism. The same philosophy is that of Kapila in India, maintaining, that our determination or volition, which we imagine to be free, is only a necessary effect, thus subjecting man to fatalism. We might let huge errors or absurdities pass unnoticed, were they harmless; but if philosophical theories, which God permits in order to humiliate the pride of reason, are perilous to morals and religion, then it is time to examine the foundation on which they are built. If the ancient atomists deduced from the doctrine of fatalism consequences unfriendly to virtue; if the same consequences were deduced by the materialists of India; if the infidels of France and Great Britain have as an inference denied the guilt of man or transferred it to God; if Socinianism concludes confidently, that the necessarian has no cause for self-reproach; and if modern universalism, in its influence blasting to morals and piety, derives all the nourishment at its root from the conceit, that God absolutely and irresistibly forms every man's sinful character; then surely they who hold to the doctrine of necessity must have a difficult task to prove, that all these conclusions, in which men of different ages and nations and intellect and moral character have concurred, are really illegitimate deductions, and that man, though bound in chains of iron, walks forth unshackled, free, and moveable as the air of heaven. The present most distinguished philosopher in France, after describing the succession of what he deems the four great and best systems, into which the philosophy of every age may be resolved, sensualism, idealism, skepticism, and , mysticism,-all, in his opinion, very good and useful, though in part erroneous, comes to this conclusion, which strikes as with a thunderbolt the pretensions of philosophy, “Error is the law of our nature; we are condemned to error; and in all our opinions, in all our words, there is a great mixture of error and even of absurdity.” Such is the sentence, which the eloquent lecturer at Paris pronounces upon the host of philosophers, who have preceded him for three thousand years. His own attempt to present an eclectic system, in which the wheat is winnowed from the chaff, shows very clearly, that his sentence upon others is not inapplicable to himself. Such is the judgment of a distinguished metaphysical philosopher: “Error is the law of our nature.” But Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. He that believeth in me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” * After examining the history of philosophy in the different ages of the world one is constrained to believe, that, by the wild, contradictory, incredible, monstrous philosophical systems, which have risen one upon the ruins of another, it has been the purpose of Providence to “stain the pride” of human reason, and to show to the universe, that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” The mere philosophy of man is thus brought into contempt, that the revelation from God might be honored, and that men might see the wisdom of receiving with the docility and the implicit confidence of children the instructions which their omniscient Father has given them. • . The conclusion from this survey of philosophy is this, we must come to the Bible as the fountain of moral and religious wisdom. When the Scriptures are proved to be the word of God, and the plain, obvious meaning of the revelation from heaven is unfolded; when the truth is thus brought to the mind of the sinner; then and then only can we hope to see the blessings of salvation descend upon the soul. Philosophy is powerless in this work of saving. If it does not lead down to hell, it can never guide up to heaven. The Bible, the Bible only, contains the true philosophy, which, accompanied by the Divine Spirit, reconciles man to God, changes the depraved character into the form of excellence, and conducts the poor child of mortality through the dark valley of death to mansions of eternal light and glory. - - *
5. The general happiness of the world can never be secured by irreligion, nor by any erroneous and corrupt form of religion.
What has been accomplished by atheism and infidelity for the benefit of mankind? You may learn by looking at ancient Rome, when the retraints of superstition were loosened by the prevalence of the atheistic system: for soon the general dissolution of manners destroyed the foundations of public order, and despotic power rose upon the ruins. From the horrors of the revolution in France, at the close of the last century, it is impossible to separate the systems of atheism and infidelity, which, by the banishment of all moral restraints, had