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that its malign influence should extend to every subject, and impede all good works.
It is one of the dark signs of the times, - this want of faith in the power of correcting and removing evils. There are, every one sees, remarkable and noble exceptions. There are true manifestations of the opposite spirit. Exertions are made, plans are devised, energies directed, objects proposed and accomplished, which seem to contradict, and, so far as they go, do contradict the fact which we have asserted to be common. We mean not to say, that there is less faith than formerly, in moral truth and Christian influences. We speak not of comparative periods, but of duties and defects in comparison with opportunities, in view of our age, our religion, our professions, and the nature of the evils in question. We speak of faith in moral influences, compared with faith in physical, mechanical, or any other. The first bears no proportion to the last, and seems often to fail entirely where it should exist peculiarly. Instead of it, we find a spirit of morbid inaction or dependence, often a sort of skepticism and infidelity, which were not to be expected. We see it in the smile of contempt with which the practical man, as he is called, looks upon the schemes of the theoretical man; as if theory must not precede practice; as if study, opinion, conviction, faith, were not stimulants to action, and the moving powers of the world. We see it in the indifference with which many good men look upon enormous evils, as too distant to be reached, too extended to be compassed, or too old to be eradicated; when they know they must be eradicated, or Christianity fails of its avowed purpose, and refutes its own predictions and promises. We see it in the common assertion, that we are
not accountable for evils that are entailed upon us, even if we do nothing to remove them, and that it is extreme folly to
trouble ourselves about the sins and sufferings of other nations or distant places; while our religion allows us to regard no people so distant as not to be our very neighbours in their claims upon our regard, and throws upon us a portion of the burden of all sins, however caused, if we do nothing, when we could do something, to bring those who commit them to repentance and reformation. We see it, perhaps, most of all, in the loud demand, at the present day, for speedy results, visible effects, definable and tangible good, to crown every exertion; all in the face of the admitted truth, that it is the distinction of our nature to grasp the distant, and act upon the future, while it is the very purpose of
our religion to aid this capacity, to inspire faith in the ultimate good effect of every high principle and right action, however invisible the operation now, or remote the blessings.
We are not disposed to make extravagant demands on men's faith or service. We have no sanguine expectations in regard to the special moral enterprises of our day. We attach no supreme importance to the formation of societies or the benefit of associations. But we do attach importance to the duty of forming and expressing opinions, and diffusing right views. It does not trouble us, that there is some skepticism and opposition to benevolent effort. It is well that there are always those who are determined to bring every scheme, for however good a purpose, to the rigid test of cold investigation, and to follow it withi narrow scrutiny. It may be well that this scrutiny should be even suspicious, and that all enterprises should encounter distrust, obloquy, and opposition. This would seem to have been designed, and we can easily see that good may come of it. If there were no suspicion or opposition, errors would more often be unseen, and impositions go undetected. With less caution, there would of course be greater danger of mistake and extravagance.
But this can
never furnish the slightest excuse for him, whose caution becomes inaction and indifference, whose skepticism creates the darkness and difficulty of which it complains, and whose selfish or obstinate opposition prevents the good and aggravates the evil. It is a great truth, little heeded, that, though it must needs be that offences come, there is a woe for that man by whom the offence cometh.
No, we would not be exorbitant in any demand, nor extravagant in any expectation. There is too much of both these follies in the community. Let us not add to them. But let us not forget or betray the trust committed to us in our nature and by our condition. Let us take our stand on the principle, that in morals there is no such thing as an incurable disorder; since for every disorder there must be a remedy somewhere, under the providence of a perfect Being, and it is the duty of every man to seek and apply that remedy, as soon and as faithfully as possible, though the disorder be ever so old or remote, and the time ever so distant when he can hope it will be fully removed. Let us stand upon another related principle ; that for the removal of moral evils, we must use moral means; and that moral means are not imposing in their form, nor instant nor
always visible in their effects. Still there is nothing, - and this, while we own, we are to remember and act upon, -there is nothing, whose power or effects will compare with those of moral means. They constitute the vital principle, the mighty, often moderate, often secret, but ever mighty and resistless energy of Christianity. No man has a right to say, that moral means and influences will not avail, in any case. For they are of God, — and the power and kingdom and glory of God are given them. The world has bowed to them, though it has so often forgotten and defied them. They use the resources of the world, they command all its instruments, its forms of good and evil, its strength and weakness, its faith and its scorn. The world is already full of the proof and power of these influences; not in the vision of prophecy alone, or the fancy of faith, but in the reality of history. Trace the world's history, note the changes that have passed over its face, in the condition of its inhabitants, their physical, intellectual, social, moral character. Changes, how many, how marked! And where is the power that has wrought these changes and secured their blessings? Where is the agent, that has rolled the world on, from its infancy and barbarity, to its present state of civilization, religion, manifold wealth and power? Where, but in moral influence ? What but the power of truth, faith, knowledge, private principle, enterprise, and action, beginning always with individuals, then wielded by masses and moulding nations ? Are these changes to cease? Is this power to die? Not while God reigns, and man has faith in God, and uses the powers he has given, and seeks the influences he has promised, and moves on, unwearied and unwavering, in the WAY TO DO Good.
E. B. H.
Art. IV. – 1. My Prisons, Memoirs of Silvio Pellico of
Saluzzo. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1836. 12mo.
2. Additions to “My Prisons, Memoirs of Silvio Pellico,"
with a Biographical Notice of Peilico. By PIERO MARONCELLI, of Forli. Translated from the Italian, under the Superintendence of the Author. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 12mo. 276.
Some years ago, we met with an ingenious article by Miss Taylor, entitled, “How it strikes a Stranger!” Should her “stranger," in this populous world of ours, observe how much of the time allotted to man is spent in that most passive of employments, reading, how many hundreds of human beings are apparently yielding their souls, day after day, to the sway of other men's minds, --seeking professions which make books the instruments with which they work, or stealing hours from bustling and mechanical tasks, that they may pore over the pages rushing in millions from the ever-teeming press, - would not this sagacious stranger naturally inquire, “What do they read?” Would he not seek to learn the character of the works most popular among these insatiable consumers of literary food ? Would he not fairly draw some inferences respecting their minds and dispositions after ascertaining the quality of the literature most acceptable to their tastes ? We think he would. We think too he would judge kindly of human nature on observing the wide-spread popularity of the work before us. It does not enthral the readers with the spell of genius; its pages do not glow with poetry or eloquence; they offer no reflections fresh with originality, for the profound thinker to seize upon with delight; they disclose no secrets in the philosophy of nature; they charm not the lover of romance by variety of incident and intricacy of plot; they cater not to a depraved appetite for scandal. Yet they have riveted all classes of readers, from the philosopher, who reads to find materials for his meditations, down to the veriest sofa-lounger, who reads only to avoid the trouble of thinking.
What is then the secret of their enchantment? - Let him who thinks ill of his fellow-creatures, observe what these volumes depict. Is it not oppressed virtue? They appeal to some of the best feelings of our nature; to our sympathy with
distress, to our sympathy with goodness. They sketch scenes of cruel suffering, both mental and physical; but they sketch too the consolations afforded by sincere piety. They paint the depth of human woe; but they paint that solace in actual operation of which man cannot be deprived, and we feel that they paint from life. There is the impress of truth on every page, and it gives an intensity of interest which the most highlywrought fiction must for ever want. We cannot throw down the book when sympathy becomes too painful, shake off the magician's spell, and exclaim, “After all, these things have never been ! We know that the most fearful details are bare, unadorned facts; and we behold what it was that supported the mind under calamities the most crushing in their nature: calamities beyond all that the most unfortunate of us will probably be called to endure in our probation. That which the moralist in his closet, the preacher in his pulpit, the pious mother at her fire-side, are all laboring to instil into the heart of man, religion, as an active, strengthening principle, is here visibly, gloriously operating under our eyes. It is not in the character of Silvio Pellico alone that we watch its developement; though he speaks of his religious exercises, his spiritual trials, his backslidings, lis penitences, and his prayers, with a freedom and communicativeness somewhat repugnant to Christians of more delicate reserve on such topics, yet he is not the only tenant of the dungeon whom we see looking upward to catch the unearthly light of the gospel as it streams into his cell. In an auto-biography, no matter with how much simplicity and modesty it may be written, the hero of the tale must always be one whose impartiality the suspicious may impeach; but among the characters grouped around the principal figure, among the forms that come and go with more or less distinctness, will be some that leave a strong impression on the memory. The side-lights will fall on some striking attitude of a minor personage, and we shall not easily forget it. Who can help paying homage to the long-tried resignation of an Oribono, dying in a foreign prison, by the slow murder of scant food, unwholesome atmosphere, and want of exercise, — yet looking through his prison-bars on the foreign grave where his bones were to be laid, with a calmness which nothing but Christianity could inspire? Who can study the beautiful character of a Maroncelli, under bodily torments, needlessly increased by neglect, seeking only to alleviate the distress of his beloved friend, and not perceive that the