Infomotions, Inc.The Growth of Thought As Affecting the Progress of Society / Withington, William

Author: Withington, William
Title: The Growth of Thought As Affecting the Progress of Society
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Title: The Growth of Thought
       As Affecting the Progress of Society

Author: William Withington

Release Date: April 18, 2006 [EBook #18202]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Jared Fuller


By William Withington.



Part I.

Life Defined.  Intellectual Culture and Intellectual Life,
Distinguished.  Human Life, a Problem.  The Evil to be Managed.
Self-Love Considered under a Three-fold Aspect.  Three Agencies for
meliorating the Human Condition.  The Growth of Thought, Slow; and oft
most in unexpected quarter.

Part II.

Welfare as dependent on the Social Institutions.  Limited Aim of the
Received Political Economy.  An Enlightened Policy but the Effective
Aim at managing Self-Love, directed towards Present Goods, vulgarly
understood.  The Political Fault of the Papacy.  Its Substantial
Correction by the Reformation.  Republicanism carried from Religion
into Legislation; still without a clear perception of its Principle.
Its Progress accordingly Slow.

Part III.

Philosophy the Second Agency for promoting General Welfare, as the
Educator of Self-Love; the Corrector of mistaken apprehensions of
Temporal Good; the Revealer of the ties which bind the Members of the
Human Family to One Lot, to suffer or rejoice together.  Progress in
estimating Life.

Part IV.

Mightier Influences yet needed, to contend with the Powers of Evil.
Supplied by Man's recognizing the whole of his Being; the extent of his
Duties; the Duration of his Existence.  Religion, supplying the defects
of the preceding Agencies; Considered in nine particulars.


Recapitulation.  Suggestions to Christian Ministers.


A contemporary thus reveals the state of mind, through which he has
come to the persuasion of great insight into the realities, which stand
behind the veil: "What more natural, more spontaneous, more imperative,
than that the conditions of his future being should press themselves on
his anxious thought!  Should we not suppose, the 'every third thought
would be his grave,' together with the momentous realities that lie
beyond it?  If man is indeed, as Shakespeare describes him, 'a being of
large discourse, looking before and after,' we could scarcely resist
the belief, that, when once assured of the possibility of information
on his head, he would, as it were, _rush_ to the oracle, to have his
absorbing problems solved, and his restless heart relieved of its load
of uncertain forebodings."* [Bush's Statement of Reasons, &c.,
p. 12.]

Not less frequently or intensely, the writer's mind has turned to the
problem of applying know truth to the present, reconciling self-love
with justice and benevolence, and vindicating to godliness, the promise
of the life that now is.  If, meanwhile, he has been "intruding into
those things which he hath not seen," like affecting an angelic
religion,--then it were hardly possible but that he should mistake
fancy for fact.  But if his inquiries have been into what it is
given to know, then he cannot resist the belief, that some may derive
profit from the results of many fearfully anxious years, here
compressed within a few pages.  He might have further compressed, just
saying: Mainly, political wisdom is the management of self-love;
civilization is the cultivation of self-love; the excrescenses of
civilization are the false refinements of self-love; while unselfish
love is substantial virtue,--the end of the commandments,--the
fulfilling of the law: Or, he might have enlarged indefinitely; more
especially might have been written on practically applying the
principles to the advancement of society.  He may yet produce something
of the kind.  Of the substance of the following pages he has only to
say, that, if false, the falsehood has probably become too much a part
of his nature to be ever separated.  As to such minor considerations,
as logical arrangement and the niceties of style, he asks only the
criticism due to one, whose hands have been necessitated to guide the
plough oftener than the pen, through the best years of life.

The Growth of Thought, As Affecting the Progress of Society.

Part I.


The meditation on human life--on the contrast between what _is_, and
what _might be_, on supposing a general concurrence to make the best of
things-yields emotions both painful and pleasing;--painful for the
demonstrations every where presented, of a love of darkness, rather
than light; pleasing, that the worst evils are seen to be so
remediable; and so clear the proofs of a gradual, but sure progress
towards the remedy.

The writer is not very familiar with those authors, who have so much to
say on the problem of life--the question, What is life?  He supposes
them to follow a train of thought, something like this: The life of a
creature is that perfection and flourish of its faculties, of which its
constitution is capable, and which some of the race are destined to
reach.  Thus, the life of the lion is realized, when the animal ranges
undisputed lord of the sunny desert; finds sufficiency of prey for
himself and offspring, which he raises to inherit dominion; lives the
number of years he is capable of enjoying existence, and then closes
it, without excessive pains, lingering regrets, or fearful

Life differs from happiness.  It is supposable, that the lion, tamed
and petted, trained to feed somewhat after man's chosen manner, may be
as happy as if at liberty in his native range.  But such happiness is
not the animal's life; since this implies the kind of happiness proper
to the creature's constitution, in distinction from that induced by
forced habits.

To happiness add knowledge and intellectual culture, and all together
do not realize the idea of life.  The tame lion may be taught many
arts, assimilating him to the intelligence of man; but these remove him
so much further from his appropriate life.  Thus there may be a
cultivated intelligence, which constitutes no part of the creature's
life; and this without considering the same as a moral agent.

Macauley remarks, that the Jesuits seem to have solved the problem, how
far intellectual culture may be carried, without producing intellectual
emancipation.  I suppose it would be only varying the expression of his
thought to say, Jesuitical education strikingly exemplifies, how much
intellectual culture may be superinduced upon the mind, without
awakening intellectual life--without developing a spontaneous aptness
to appreciate, seek, find, embrace the truth.  The head is filled with
the thoughts of others-many ascertained facts and just conclusions.  It
can reason aright in the circles of thought, where it has been trained
to move; but elsewhere, no spontaneous activity--no self-directed power
of thinking justly on new emergencies and questions not yet settled by
rule--no spring within, from which living waters flow.

The difference between intellectual culture and intellectual life
appears in the fact, that in regard to those mastering ideas, which to
after times mark one age as in advance of the preceding, the classical
scholars, the scientific luminaries, the constitutional expounders of
the day, are quite as likely to be behind the general sense of the age,
as to be in advance.

The question, What is human life? arises on a contemplation like this:
There is no difficulty in determining the life of all the other tenants
of earth; unless, indeed, those which man has so long and so
universally subjected to his purposes, that the whereabouts, or indeed
the existence of the original stock, remains in doubt.  The inferior
animals, left to themselves in favorable circumstances, manifest one
development, attain to one flourish, live the same life, from
generation to generation.  Man may superinduce upon them what he
calls _improvements_, because they better fit them for _his_ purposes.
But said improvements are never transmitted from generation to its
successor; left to itself, the race reverts to proper life, the same it
has lived from the beginning.

Man here presents a singular exception to the general rule of earth's
inhabitants.  The favorite pursuits of one age are abandoned in the
next.  This generation looks back on the earnest occupations of a
preceding, as the adult looks back on the sports and toys of childhood.
It is more than supposable, that the planning for the chances of
office, the competition for making most gain out of the least
productiveness--these earnest pursuits of the men of this age--in the
next will be resigned to the children of larger growth; just as are
now resigned the trappings of military glory.  Where then is the human
mind ultimately to fix?  Where is man to find so essentially his good,
as to fix his earnest pursuit in one direction, in which the race is
still to hold on?  Such seems to be the question, What is life?

The elements of that darkness, which excludes the light of life, may be
considered as these three: First, the excessive preponderance of
self-love, as the ruling motive of human conduct.  Secondly, the
short-sightedness of self-love, in magnifying the present, at the cost
of the distant future.  And, Thirdly, the grossness of self-love, in
preferring of present goods the vulgar and the sensible, to the refined
and more exquisitely satisfactory.  And there are three ways, in which
we may attempt the abatement of existing evils; or, there are three
agencies we may call in for this purpose.

In the first place, leaving individuals to the operation of the common
motives, we may labor at the social institutions, to adjust them to the
rule, that, each seeking his own, after the common apprehension of
present interests, may do so consistently with acting the part of a
good citizen--contributing something to the general welfare; or, at
least, not greatly detracting therefrom.  Here, the agency employed,
the Greeks would have called by a name, from which we have derived the
word _politics_; which word, from abuse, has well nigh lost its
original sense, _The science of social welfare_.  _Policy_, we might
say, for want of an exacter word.

The second way, in which we may seek the same result, is, to inculcate
juster apprehensions of present good--to inform and refine self-love;
to show, that the purest of present enjoyments, are like the loaves and
fishes distributed by divine hands, multiplying by division and
participation--the best of all being such as none can enjoy fully, till
they become the common property of the race.  For want of a more
accurately defined term, the agent here introduced may be called
Philosophy; understanding by the term, the search, what would be the
conduct and preferences of a truly wise man, dispassionately seeking
for himself the best enjoyment of this life, uninformed of another to

Or, thirdly, we may seek to infuse a nobler principle than self-love,
however refined--even the charity, whose essence is, to love one's
neighbor as one's self; while, at the same time, this life being
earnestly contemplated as but the introductory part of an immense
whole, additional security is provided for the coincidence of interest
with duty.  In a word, the third agency to be employed is _Religion_.

The whole subject thus sketched is one of which the writer is not
aware, that it has been distinctly defined, as a field for thought and
investigation.  He has little to learn from the successes or the
failures of predecessors.  Be this his excuse for seeming prosy and
dull; possibly for mistakes and crudities.  He has the doubly
difficulty of attempting to turn thought into trains to which it is
not accustomed; and yet of offering no results so profound as to have
escaped other observers; or so sublime as to be the due prize of
genius, venturing where few can soar.  If he offers any thoughts new,
just, and important, they have rather been overlooked for their
simplicity and obviousness.  One may dive too deep for that which
floats on the surface.  Here are to be expected none of the splendid
results, which dazzle in the popular sciences.  The cultivator of this
field can hope only to favor, imperceptibly it may be, the growth of
thoughts and sentiments, tending slowly to work out a better condition
of the human family.  And he begs to commend that advice of Lacon,
which himself has found so profitable: "In the pursuit of knowledge,
follow it, wherever it is to be found; like fern, it is the produce of
all climates; and like coin, its circulation is not restricted to any
particular class. * * * * Pride is less ashamed of being ignorant, than
of being instructed; and she looks too high to find that, which very
often lies beneath her.  Therefore condescend to men of low estate, and
be for wisdom, that which Alcibiades was for power."  (Vol. I., p.

The difficulty with us Americans, in the way of being instructed, has
been, that too proud, as if already possessed of the fullness of
political wisdom, we have withal cherished a self-distrust, forbidding
us to harmonize our institutions and modes of thinking into conformity
with our work and altered situation.  We have seen the British nation,
choosing by the accident of birth a baby for its future sovereign, and
training it in a way the least possible calculated to favor relations
of acquaintance and sympathy with varied wants of the many; and our
first impression, I fear, has been our last: What drivellers!
Obstinately blind to the clearest lights of common sense!  Whereas
wiser for us would it be, to derive from the spectacle these general
conclusion: that hard is it for the human mind to proceed in advance
of ideas received and fashionable; that the so-called independent and
original thinkers--leaders of public sentiment-are such as anticipate
by a little the general progress of thought, as our hill-tops catch
first by a little the beams of the rising sun, before they fill the
intervening valleys; that men's superiority in profound thought or
liberal ideas, in one direction, affords no security for their
attaining to mediocrity in others; and that one familiar with the
history of thought, may pronounce, with moral certainty, that such and
such ideas were never entertained in such or such society, where due
preparation did not exist.  As we may confidently say, No mountain-top
can tower high enough, to catch the sunbeams at midnight; with equal
confidence we may say of many ideas now familiar as school-boy truths:
no intellect in ancient Greece or Rome soared high enough above the
mass to grasp them.

Part II.

Welfare as Dependent on Policy.

As generally at all points, so the materialism of the age particularly
appears, in that the political economists take _wealth_, defining their
science in the vulgar acceptation, rather than in the good old English
sense, _welfare_, _well-being_.  If they occasionally venture a remark
of a more liberal bearing on the general subject of public welfare;
such is the exception to the general rule.  Money, with its equivalents
and exchangeables, is their usual theme in treating of wealth; thought
the common use of the word economy might suggest a higher science.  For
he does not exhaust our idea of a good economist, who manages to have
at command abundant materials for rendering home happy; while, for lack
of wisdom to turn such materials to account, that home may be less
happy than the next-door neighbor's, where want is hardly staved off.
We exact, for fulfilling that character, wisdom in using the material
means--provision for physical, intellectual, and moral training of the
household--the just apportionment between labor and recreation-the
true contentment, which frets not at present imperfection, while it
still presses on to that perfection conceived to be attainable.  Our
writers on political economy would do well, to give the word as liberal
a latitude of sense, as it legitimately assumes, when used in its
primitive meaning of _household management_.

But, rather than attempt to raise a scientific term so much above its
received sense, I use another word, and say, Policy must begin with the
admission, that self-love is the mightiest mover of human conduct; and
not a self-love enlightened, deep, calculating, directed to the sources
of fullest contentment; but following the groveling estimate, that
riches, power, office, ease, being the object of envy or admiration,
are the chief goods of life.

Every business man admits, that his security for men's conduct must be
found in their self-interest.  He admits thus much practically, so for
as his own business is concerned; the exceptions being so rare, as not
to justify neglect of the general rule.  Yet, neither business men nor
politicians grasp the principle clearly, nor consequently apply it
consistently.  And he who would make a new application of it, is met
with charges of great uncharitableness.

This backwardness to generalize a rule, found so necessary practically
to be followed, may be resolved into that flattering conceit of human
dignity, which is yielded reluctantly, inch by inch, as plain
demonstration wrests it away.  And further, self-love conceals itself,
because generally it operates first to pervert the judgment.  The
consciousness of preferring private interest to worthier
considerations, is too painful to be endured.  The man therefore
strives, but too successfully, to misrepresent the case to himself.
He contrives to make that seem right, which tends to his own advantage.
But though indirect, the operation of self-love is none the less sure.
Whether the individual be any the less blamable, because self-love
assumes this disguise, is not now to be considered.

There are individuals, to whom implicit confidence in their unguarded
honesty, proves but an added motive to be more tremulously sensitive,
not to abuse such confidence.  There are, whom respect for their
calling binds wholly to more carefulness, to prove worthy of such
respect.  So always if one is thoroughly pervaded with the right
spirit.  But dealing with bodies of men, as men yet are, these two
rules should shape political institutions and social relations.

First, so far as men can command confidence and respect, for the sake
of birth, calling, or office, so far they are relieved from the
necessity of seeking the same by personal qualifications; and
accordingly a body of men so protected, will perceptibly fall short
of the average, in the staple elements of respectability.

Respect for station or calling so ample is here meant, as to satisfy
the average desire of approbation.  The extent, to which this is
satisfied by the respect paid by the child, to the parent, for the
relation's sake, is so moderate, as one of the elements tending to the
formation of character, that it may be expected to operate generally as
it universally would, where the right spirit fully reigns.  The remark
holds good, with moderate abatement, in the relation of teacher and

In the infancy of the Christian church, the relation between pastor and
flock was closely analogous to that between parents and children.  On
the one side were men of a disinterested and paternal spirit, so
earnestly living the new life hid with Christ in God, that hardly the
possibility could be conceived of a desire to exalt and magnify self,
over the ignorance and degradation of their spiritual charge.  On the
other side were men, children in knowledge, incapable of estimating the
ministry simply after the consciousness of benefits received.  We are
not then to condemn the arrangement, which clothed the ministry with an
official dignity, the office being revered independently of the claims
of the man; nor to wonder, if the arrangement outlived the necessity,
or passed the bounds of moderation; or if it was not fully calculated,
the danger, lest men of the primitive spirit yield places to those of
an inferior stamp; and how truly eternal vigilance is the cost, at
which all things here must be saved from their tendencies to
deterioration.  Accordingly the history of the Papacy for centuries
has been, that its ministers are sure of unbounded respect from the
populace, independently of their personal claims.  The consequence is,
that while a few are thus moved to heroic and almost angelic devotion
to the spiritual good of their flocks, the many would never command
respect for what they are as men.

Similar remarks may be applied to the infancy of civil society.  The
prevalence of monarchy and aristocracy has been too universal, to be
charged wholly upon force or chance.  And yet in the origin, rational
considerations can hardly be supposed to have been distinctly
entertained.  Still there may have been a dim consciousness of thoughts
like these: It is so necessary that civil rulers be at all events
respected, and so uncertain how to secure due respect to men meriting
it, that we must invest a class of men with a factitious official
dignity, and take the risk--rather the certainty--of its proving, in
most cases, a cover for personal unworthiness, some degrees below the
ordinary standard of humanity.  If there existed a dim consciousness of
such reasoning, it might have been well entertained.

The second rule of Policy--the master maxim of political wisdom--is,
that no class of men must be expected to concur heartily, for
extirpating the evils, from which its own revenues and importance are
derived.  Speaking of men acting in a body, there is no room for the
many exceptions, necessarily admitted to the rule, that with the
individual self-love is the ruling motive.  The individual sometimes
yields to nobler considerations, than the calculations of self-interest.
In the corporation, the _esprit du corps_--the clannish
spirit--is sure to master it over public spirit.  Devotion to the
honor, aggrandizement, wealth and power of the order, company, or
corporation, is more sure to control their acts as individuals.  It is
less liable to self-rebuke for conscious meanness.  It looks somewhat
more like the public spirit which ought to be.  It is less liable to
occasional counteractions from impulses of honor, humanity, or regard
to reputation.

Accordingly a body of men, so constituted as to find its best flourish
short of the perfection of the whole social system, will inevitably,
sooner or later, prove an obstacle to the onward march of improvement.

A corporation is not necessarily a grievance and a sore on the body
politic.  If it can have its full flourish, without let to the progress
of society, it may be harmless or beneficent.

"_Sooner or later_;" be this condition marked, in estimating the
spiritual policy of Rome.  The body of reverends, which mediates
between God and men, finds its best flourish, in just such degree of
popular intelligence as suffices for comprehending the specious
arguments, on which rest the claims of Holy Mother Church; and such
amount of conscientiousness as galls the offender, till he has
purchased absolution.  More intelligence generally prevailing, and
better appreciation of the divine law as a living rule of duty, would
abate the awe in which the priesthood is held, and diminish the
revenues accruing from mediating between offending man and his offended
Maker.  But Christianity found the world sunk below this moderate
standard of intelligence and morals.  The best flourish of the
priesthood required in the people cultivation of understanding and
conscience, up to the point of caring for their account in heaven's
record.  So the faulty relation between priesthood and people did not
at once appear in the results; and, accordingly, the weight of the
qualification, _sooner or later_.

But in the early growth of society, considerations like the above have
been little attended to, compared with the obvious advantages of the
division of labor.  As ordinarily each handicraft is best exercised by
those earliest and steadiest in their devotion to the trade; so it is
argued, universally, that the several departments of the public service
will be best attended to, by being left to their respective trades,
guilds, faculties, orders, or corporations, each strictly guarded from
unhallowed intrusion.  So religion has been left to its official
functionaries, prescribing articles of belief and terms of salvation by
a divine right,--legislation to princes and nobles, equally claiming by
the same right to give law in temporals; and so of other general

Now a movement has been slowly going on, through some centuries, for
working society into conformity with a rational rule; a rule not
overlooking the advantages of the division of labor, but taking in too
such qualifying considerations as the healthful stimulus of free
competition, watchfulness over public functionaries, and the necessity
of harmonizing private and corporate interests, with public duty.

The movement has been slow; for the actors have dimly apprehended the
part they were acting, and the principles by themselves vindicated.
It has consisted of two principle acts.  The Reformation carried
republicanism into religion: our own Revolution into legislation.
The two movements were parts of one whole; and, to get at the
principles at bottom, either will serve for both, as well as for what
may remain for finishing the work begun.

The Reformation having been conducted by theologians, it was natural
that disproportionate importance should have been attached to
theological niceties.  So far as Luther was right in regarding the
doctrine of justification by faith only as the great article at issue,
it must have been, because the opposite doctrine favored the conceit of
a mysterious mediating power vested in a priesthood--a conceit so
favorable to the aggrandizement of the order thus distinguished.  But
considered as a _politic_ movement--as an advance in rightly adjusting
the social relations--the Reformation aimed principally at that ill
arrangement, by which the authorized expounders of the law divine found
their account, in involving that law in a glorious uncertainty, and
entrapping people in a frequent violation thereof.  Considered as a
politic institution, Protestantism differs essentially from Popery, in
that it makes more of prevention than of remedy; gives the ministry its
best flourish, in the best welfare of the whole body; and pays for
spiritual health, rather than for spiritual sickness.  If all
Protestants do not consistently so, the fact accords with the dim
understanding, on both sides, of the essential points contested.

This dim understanding further appears, in that after all the political
discussion which has been, the success of republican institutions is
still appealed to, as vindicating the reign of justice and benevolence
in the public mind; mankind have within so much of the divine, are so
self-disposed to do right, that they do not need much control, but may
pretty safely be left to their own guidance.  Nor is it left to the
mere demagogue to talk thus.

Doubtful it may be, whether it should be called dimness of
understanding, or rather perverse ingenuity, that men reason thus, when
the facts are: So general is the disposition to abuse power, that
wherever it is accumulated, it will surely be abused; accordingly it
must be distributed as equally as possible.  If government be made the
business of one part of the community--one tenth, or one hundredth, or
one thousandth--that part will inevitably exalt self, at the cost of
the others.  So strong is self-love, turned towards temporal interests,
so acute to discern what tends to the one desired end, and so sure to
bend every thing that way, that men's temporal interests are pretty
safe in their own hands, and safe no where else.  Now the legitimate
end of civil government being, to secure the temporal welfare of _all_,
_all_ must have a share in it, or the excluded portions must find their
rights neglected.

It may have favored the common mistake, that the leaders in successful
republican movements have so often shown a heroic self-devotion and
disinterestedness--men like Luther, and Washington.  But these are the
exceptions, the rare gems of humanity.  If they were the fair
specimens, their work would never have been needed.  Then we might
leave to a class the regulation, whether of our spirituals or
temporals, with the like advantage, that we leave the making of our
watches or our shoes to their respective trades.  But the indistinct
apprehension, why the advantages of the division of labor fail in the
matter of government, accords well with the observation, that
republican principles make slow progress in the world, are held in
gross inconsistencies; and the most zealous assertors thereof in one
department, are oft found most strenuously opposed in others.

It is thus that we are so slow to conform to one rule, our arrangements
for spiritual instruction; for preserving health; for preventing crime;
for cheaply, expeditiously, and satisfactorily settling disputed
claims; for furnishing the whole people with instruction in their
rights, interests, and duties; as well as that thorough cultivation of
the whole man, which the full success of republicanism requires.

Part III.

Welfare as Dependent on Philosophy.

But the whole office of Policy, in arranging the social relations,
supposes the prevalence of an ill-informed and misdirected self-love.
And, accordingly, the second way of attempting the promotion of general
welfare is, to convey and impress just estimates of its constituents.
Such is the office of Philosophy: the study of the truly wise man-wise
for the present life--still leaving out man's hold on a future, and his
relations to his Maker.  What would such an one pursue; as life's chief
ends--covet, as life's best goods?

We still suppose self-love to be as really as ever the main-spring
to human conduct; but that self-love enlightened, regulated, refine--
choosing first the goods which satisfy the nobler parts of man's
nature, and on a liberal estimate of the ties which bind society
together; in virtue of which, if one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it.

The items, claiming to constitute life's happiness, may be divided into
two classes, distinguished by this important difference: one class
essentially such, that only a limited number of mankind can obtain
them;--if some succeed in the pursuit, their success involves the
failure of others: The other class are such, as to involve no
contradiction in the supposition of their becoming the common property
of all.  The success of a part, far from obstructing, rather
facilitates the success of others; they constitute a store of wealth,
from which each may take his fill; and the more he takes, the more he
leaves, to satisfy the desires of all who come after.

Now, in view of the case, Philosophy inquiring for life's chief goods,
cannot make them to be fortune's prizes, scattered to tempt the
cupidity of all; but which a few only can catch, while their luck
proves the disappointment and vexation of the many.  The supposition
were monstrous.  We so instinctively recoil from supposing such to be
the appointment of nature's Author, and so consciously grasp it for a
truth clear by its own light--the conviction of a provision fully made
in nature for all, whenever nature's wants are truly consulted--that we
may safely reject, by this test, every notion of temporal good, which
makes it consist preeminently in whatever, by the nature of the case,
can be the lot of but a limited number.

Eminent above all other conceptions of temporal good, is that which
makes it to consist emphatically in the possession of money, or the
ability to command it by its equivalents.  And because the capacities
of enjoyment have never been measured, nor material wealth rationally
estimated as a means of meeting those capacities, riches are prized,
not as a means, but an end; and becoming themselves the end, no amount
of possession lessens the desire to accumulate.

A just philosophy argues on the case, that all cannot be rich, in the
common acceptation of the term, whether be considered the limits to
earth's productiveness, and the possibility of increasing material
wealth; or whether, _rich_ being more a relative than an absolute term,
that the supposition of _all rich_ is self-contradictory: therefore,
in a juster sense, the supposition of all rich must be admissible;--the
sense, namely, that whenever riches shall be reasonably estimated
simply as the means of meeting capacities of enjoyment surveyed and
known, then it will be found that the earth's productiveness, and the
stock of material wealth, admit each to take to the fullness of his
wants, leaving enough for all who come after.

It is further the office of Philosophy to show in detail, what is thus
wrought out as a conclusion from general principles; to show how much
is consumed by artificial wants, and subjection to the tyranny of
fashion; to show how the correction of factitious desires would leave
natural and rational desires for better enjoyment than is now found, so
that self-love would find not occasion for envy, or repining at a
brother's prosperity.

The unceasing desire to become richer would be, however, but a
mitigated evil, if men sought only wealth by production.  The
aggravation of the case is, that they whom the desire most impels, seek
the increase of their own store, not by producing, but by contriving to
turn to their own stock the avails of the industry of others.  Our
young men, in deplorable numbers, slide into the persuasion, that any
means of living and thriving are better than productive industry.
Hence the rush into trade, the professions, into speculations, where
the hazards are such, that the cool calculations of pure avarice would
rather incline a man to prefer the prospect of growing rich by digging
the earth.  So much the preference of contrivance to labor overmaster
the mastering desire to become rich.

But there is a strange hankering after whatever is of the nature of a
lottery.  So the prizes are but splendid, no matter, if they are but
few compared with the blanks.  We are given to presuming each on his
own good fortune.  "Nothing venture, nothing have," has become a
proverb.  So agriculture is treated as if it had no rewards, because
one ventures so little by engaging therein.  And one might almost think
that the conscious earth resented the indignity.

Aided by Philosophy, we shall argue on this matter thus: All cannot
live by their wits; the many must produce with the hands; and, the
greater the part who shuffle off the charge, the more heavily it falls
on others.  The first law given to man in innocency, was, to keep the
garden and till it; the first after the loss of innocency, "In the
sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread;"--so a dispensation from such
law, given by Him, who best knows what is good for man, in whatever
state, is not worthy to stand high among life's blessings.

More particularly we are taught in the same school, that the good thus
contemplated must cost something at least on the score of that best of
physical enjoyments--health.  If it were duly appreciated, how high
this stands among life's goods, and how much its perfection depends on
freedom to the mind from the anxieties of hazardous speculation, and a
goodly amount of manly labor, of which the varied occupations of
agriculture are the most favorable of all; this consideration would
check the prevalent ambition to make the contrivance of the brain
supply the place of the labor of the hands.

Health is commended to us, not only as among the first of present
goods, but as one, the security of which is placed very much in our own
power; if we will but study and practise the means.  It is remarkable,
that, while the healing art is proverbial for its sects and
uncertainties--amid the disputes of homoeopaths and allopaths,
mineralists and herbalists, stimulators and depletors--there is a pretty
general agreement of parties on the laws of hygiene, or the art of
preserving health.  We might find here a law, taught by the
constitution of nature, that its Author never intended healing to hold
an important place in the cause of human welfare.  He meant it should
be well nigh dispensed with, by the obedience men should pay to laws,
which they may understand.

The full appreciation of these considerations would tend greatly to
establish friendly relations in society; because, first, the good
contemplated is such, that the success of one in seeking, facilitates
the success of all.  Secondly, it would abate the strife for
luxuries,--amassing without producing, and cultivating artificial
wants,--most fertile sources of discord.  And, thirdly, it would
establish between physicians and their employers, relations the most

Another most unmanageable misconception of life's good, makes one of
its choicest items to be, the possession of power and superiority.
To what depths of degradation will man depress his fellows, just to
contemplate the distance between his might and their weakness!  If this
ambition seems less general than the desire of accumulating, or of
substituting contrivance for productiveness, it may be, because the
necessity of the case more limits the number who can bear rule;
otherwise, the passion for power might find as ready an entrance to as
many hearts as are taken by the love of gain, or the dislike to labor.
We may find in this thought a partial explanation of the fact, that the
thrift of the non-slaveholding States contrasted with the stagnation at
the South, is so powerless an argument addressed to the slaveholders
there; for you have not only to satisfy avarice of the superior
profitableness of free labor; you have still to contend with the lust
of dominion--the passion for power and superiority.  To manage this
passion is the heaviest charge of policy--to provide that the offices
which must be intrusted to human hands, be filled peaceably and

Philosophy explodes this notion of good (as claiming to be eminently
such), in that it cannot stand the general test: It is a good, which a
few must share by detracting so much from the happiness of others.

And further, to the love of power is submitted the consideration, that
knowledge is power.  It may be feared, this maxim oft suggests scarce
other sense, that that deeper insight into the tricks of trade or
politics enables the possessor to outwit competitors for riches or
honors in the game.  It is still a low understanding, that knowledge of
nature's laws multiplies the means of physical enjoyment.  Knowledge is
power in a higher sense, in that it empowers the possessor to call
forth stores of enjoyment form objects, which seem to vulgar
apprehension most barren of utility.  But knowledge--taken for the
round of mental cultivation--is power, in that it is competent to
yield to all more than the delightful sense of conscious superiority,
which vulgar ambition may afford to a few of its successful votaries;
a store, from which each in taking does but multiply the remainder.

But to find it so one must look well, that he apprehend knowledge to be
a good of itself, independently of the distinction it confers.  For a
vain ambition often takes this direction; and then it matters little to
one whether himself advance, or others be kept back--since, in either
case, the difference between him and them, the distinction chiefly
enjoyed, is the same.

Now, the love of knowledge is prior in time to the love of distinction;
it should seem then, that, with proper care, it might maintain the
mastery over its rival.  The child is delighted with the acquisition of
new ideas, before it thinks of turning them to a vain-glorious account.
It deserves to be considered, whether our modes of education, offering
prizes and honors of scholarship, do not train into the ascendancy that
love of distinction, which education ought and might keep subordinate;
which in fact is one of the greatest hinderances to progress;--for when
one's immediate aim is not truth itself, but the glory which attends
the acquisition, he meets a thousand sidelong impulses from the
straightforward search.

That knowledge is a good which grows by being shared, is a truth more
fully apprehended, as the idea of knowledge is enlarged.  It is
measurably so, while taken for eminence in common studies and the
received sciences.  One's advance is facilitated by the advance of

Much more does this hold, when the distinction between intellectual
culture and intellectual life is made, and the preference due to the
latter apprehended.

When the missionary enterprize was a new thing, in favor of the
missionary's being a married man was argued the advantage of having
children trained up in a Christian way before the eyes of the heathen.
But so completely has that expectation been disappointed, that now the
missionaries send home their children to be educated; alleging the
danger, lest their children become stumbling blocks, through the
apparent little difference between them and the heathen children.
And the difficulty is not, that they cannot there, as well as here, be
taught Latin, Greek, Mathematics--all the received sciences-the
branches of what is nominally education.  It is not so much, that they
cannot there be shielded from evil influences abroad; as that their
children there want, what our children enjoy--the sight of magnificent
enterprises; a spirit of inquiry and freedom breathing all around them;
and the healthful contact and stimulus of multitudes of young minds, in
the like process of intellectual and moral training.  It is such
nameless imperceptible influences, that awaken intellectual life, from
the mind, and determine the future man more than the teaching, which is
nominally education.  Why else does the acknowledged excellence of the
teaching in the Prussian schools do so little to quicken intellectual
life--to form men of progressive thoughts?

We should be repaid the whole cost of the missionary enterprize, were
it only in the clearness and importance of the lesson thus taught us,
as otherwise we should hardly have suspected--the doctrine of our
mutual dependencies and tendencies to a common average--how our
intellectual life is subject to the law, "Whether one member suffer,
all the members suffer with it."

We may hence take instruction, first, in the matter of educating our
children.  We have but half done our duty as parents, when we have
joined with such of our neighbors as better appreciate, or readier
furnish the means, of good instruction, to unite our children in a
select school, furnished with competent masters and ample apparatus.
The children of one neighborhood educate one another mainly.  They
receive from one another more of those impressions which form the mind
and fix the after character, than all they get from their masters.
The carefully trained will receive a deleterious impression from the
neglected portion, despite of care to ward off evil influences.  Or,
however successfully care may be applied, that is but negative success.
Our children still want the kindly stimulus to mental growth, to be
realized in a whole community of young minds, all sharing the like wise

We may hence take occasion, secondly, to mark (what is not so obvious),
that through life the same law binds us: the law, that our intellectual
life depends more on the state of society in which we exist, than on
our direct efforts at self-culture.  Individual effort may give one
great preeminence before his associates in any of the acknowledged
sciences, though even in such their success facilitates his; and if he
prizes the knowledge--the truth--for itself, rather than for the
attending glory, he will find in another's success, that, "whether one
member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."  But distinctively
is it so, in regard to the general progress of universal mind in
justness of thought and sentiment--those new developed master ideas
which mark the place of each successive age in the line of progression;
and in regard to which, the masters in the received sciences are quite
as often found lagging behind, as going before.

In regard to this, we are all of us individually very like the several
drops which compose the mighty current of the Mississippi, moving with
resistless force to its destination.  A few may outstrip by a little
the general progress of thought, and but a little; just as one drop in
the current may receive an impulse, carrying it a little in advance;
or, if we might suppose the drops gifted with intelligence, some by
self-directed effort and seizing opportunities, might speed themselves
a little.  So study and determination will enable one to anticipate by
a little the birth of ideas.

And, on the other hand, the current of thought none can resist.
Sometimes a man resolves to be so conservative, as to stick fast by the
old moorings--_he_ is not going to yield to popular impulses.  But it
fares with him very much as it would with the single drop in the
Mississippi, which should resolve to stop in its place, and so reluct
against impulses and take advantage of all impediments. The result from
day to day would be, not that it had stopped in its place, or any thing
like it; but that its daily approach to the ocean was a little less
than that of its fellows.

Thus we are brought round to the same position--that the attempt to
monopolize Heaven's best gifts to man, must be a very small affair--
that the individual best consults his own attainments in knowledge,
after the sublimest sense of the term, by consulting the progress of
his neighbors and the race; just as the single drop in the Mississippi
sees its best hope of speedily reaching the ocean, in whatever gives
onward impulse to the whole current.

The thought receives force from the consideration, that here
emphatically is that knowledge, which he who increaseth beyond the
average increase, increaseth sorrow.  A saying of so much currency must
have some foundation in reality.  And yet is not knowledge commended to
us as one of the richest sources of enjoyment?

      "Happy the mortal, who has traced effects
       To their first cause."

Where is the reconciling link between these seeming contradictions?

Now eminence in any of the received sciences, or branches of
literature, has rich capabilities of affording happiness.  To penetrate
the depths of mathematics, chemistry, or astronomy--to revel in the
stores of ancient lore;--all such pursuits generally become more
delightfully attractive, the further one advances; or, after the
ancient indefinite use of terms, _knowledge_ might be taken for the
just proportionate training of all the faculties, in distinction from
the teaching, which impresses so many items of truth.  And such
education preeminently fits one to pass time happily.

The maxim in question then applies emphatically to the forethought,
which anticipates the dawn of ideas.* [Or, more generally, we might
define, an accurate perception of the difference between _what is_ and
_what ought to be_--between reality and ideal perfection.  Perhaps we
might say, _insight into logical futurity_.]  And although, as above
said, none do greatly anticipate beyond the general sense of the age,
yet some may too much for their own comfort.

This thought Schiller finely sets forth in his Cassandra.  At the hour
of her sister's nuptials, while the rest give loose to merriment at the
festival, the prophetess wanders forth alone, complaining, that her
insight into futurity debars her from participation in the common joy.

    "To all its arms doth mirth unfold,
          And every heart foregoes its cares,
     And hope is busy in the old;
          The bridal robe my sister wears,
     And I alone, alone am weeping;
          The sweet delusion mocks not me;
     Around these walls destruction sweeping,
          More near and near I see.

     A torch before my vision glows,
          But not in Hymen's hand it shines;
     A flame that to the welkin goes,
          But not from holy offering shrines:
     Glad hands the banquet are preparing,
          And near and near the halls of state,
     I hear the god that comes unsparing,
          I hear the steps of fate.

     And men my prophet wail deride!
          The solemn sorrow dies in scorn;
     And lonely in the waste I hide
          The tortured heart that would forewarn.
     And the happy, unregarded,
          Mocked by their fearful joy, I trod:
     Oh! dark to me the lot awarded,
          Thou evil Pythian god!

     Thine oracle in vain to be,
          Oh! wherefore am I thus consigned,
     With eyes that every truth must see,
          Lone in the city of the blind?
     Cursed with the anguish of a power
          To view the fates I may not thrall;
     The hovering tempest still must lower,
          The horror must befall.

     Boots it, the veil to lift, and give
          To sight the frowning fates beneath?
     For error is the life we live,
          And, oh, our knowledge is but death!
     Take back the clear and awful mirror,
          Shut from mine eyes the blood-red glare;
     Thy truth is but a gift of terror,
          When mortal lips declare.

     My blindness give to me once more,
          The gay, dim senses that rejoice;
     The past's delighted songs are o'er
          For lips that speak a prophet's voice.

     To me _the future_ thou has granted;
            I miss the moment from the chain--
     The happy present hour enchanted!
          Take back thy gift again!"* [Bulwer's translation.]

These lines express more than the trite observation, that a knowledge
of futurity would prove a torment to the possessor.  Beneath that
obvious is couched the deeper moral, which expresses the sufferings of
the philosophic prophet--of the man who, too much for his own quiet,
anticipates reasonings, conclusions, sentiments, forms of social life
yet to prevail--the man to whom not coming events, but coming ideas,
cast their shadows before.  If we could suppose one at the time of the
crusades, educated to associate and sympathize with the choice spirits
of the age, yet anticipating the sense of their age, in making the
comparative estimate of chivalrous adventure, and successful
cultivation of the arts of peace and industry; he must have felt
somewhat like Cassandra among the less gifted.  If we could look on
life, as our successors will two hundred years hence, we too might
complain of being "lone in the city of the blind;" unless large Hope
and Benevolence enabled us to live on the future.  Thus we find
additional motive to desiring a united and absolute, rather than an
individual and relative progress, in the consideration that knowledge
most worthily so called--whoso increaseth greatly beyond the average
attainment, doth so to his own sorrow.

To complete the list of false estimates of good, refuted by one test,
we should allude to the frivolities of gentility and fashion-the
passion for wearing badges of distinction, however impotent or
unmeaning such may be.  This is the very poorest form of finding
delight, in what from the nature of the case can be shared by few.
For its incommunicableness is its only recommendation.  It is an icy
repellant, freezing up the kindly flow of sympathy with universal
humanity; and uncompensated loss of that best ingredient of earthly
felicity--the interchange of friendly feelings and offices; that store
of wealth, from which the more that take, and the fuller their share,
the more they leave to be taken by others.

The foregoing may be treated as a fine and just speculation, but as
what ever must remain a barren speculation; as if it were after the
example of all ages, that men should mistake the material of happiness
for happiness itself.  So it always has been, so it always will be,
that false notions of good usurp the place of the true, despite the
demonstrations of moralists and divines to the contrary.

Mind, however, has not stood still in this matter.  It has moved, and
that in the right direction.  We may note a progress from age to age,
in coming to a just estimate of life.  Start not at the use of terms,
rendered suspicious by the extravagancies of which they have been made
the vehicle.  But we must not reject ideas great, just, or new, because
of the distortions and caricatures of little minds.  If one idea
occupies the mind all them more for being great and just, it will be
likely to overmaster that mind, so as not to be produced in its fair
proportions, or rightly applied.  So fare they, with whom the one idea
is, the progress of society--the growth of thought.  The Mississippi in
its progress throws froth and scum on its surface, more conspicuous
than the under-running current.  So radical folly and transcendental
nonsense is obtruded on the sight, from the sympathy of little minds
with the deeper current of thought.  To gauge the progress of mind from
those who are most noisy on the matter, would be, like taking the
direction and rapidity of the Mississippi, from the froth, which the
wind blows hither and thither over its surface.

"Let us go on to perfection"--"Forgetting the things behind, and
pressing onward to the things before."  Such language describes
distinctively the American character, and the spirit of Christianity.
Only, where is perfection?  What are the things before?  If, as a
people, we do fully take these expressions in their author's sense, we
may hope there is one element of agreement, betokening good for the

It is encouraging, that the two rival systems, most boldly promising to
lead to perfection, both had their birth under political and mental
bondage.  So evidently with Romanism, whether under its proper form and
name, or refined and disguised after the modern fashion.  And the same
is true of the baptized infidelity imported from Germany.  The German
mind is cramped and diseased by the bands which confine it.  It is not
allowed to speculate freely on politics, and the many questions most
nearly touching present interests.  Therefore, on the records and on
the doctrines which pertain to eternal interests, it falls with an
insane avidity for innovation, and runs into licentiousness a liberty
no where else enjoyed.  Hence the levity, in dealing with things
sacred, in Germany often found in minds of the first and second orders,
here is taken up by those to the third and fourth--the copyists and
imitators; nay, by the buffoons who figure at the farces of mock
philanthropy.  Now, though every folly must find minds whose caliber it
fits, we may hope the genuine American mind will not be extensively
beguiled by either of the misbegotten offspring of Europe's mental

But, to the point--progress made in estimating life.  A few centuries
ago, a torrent of enthusiasm set in the direction of bearing the cross
into Asia, to fight for glory, and the propagation of Christianity, on
the fields of Palestine.  Already the old Roman military character was
greatly improved on.  Virtue, (_manliness_, a` vir-_man_) was no longer
supposed to fulfil its highest office in

      Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.

A delicate sense of honor, of the courtesy due to a foe and the
gallantry to the other sex, betoken a type of humanity in advance of
the brute ferocity of the best days of Rome.

But, notwithstanding Mr. Burke's eloquence, and the opinion sometimes
expressed, that the courtly knight of the middle age, realized the
perfection of humanity; we have no reason to regret that the age of
chivalry is gone by, and that the age of speculation, and money-making,
and industrial enterprize has succeeded.  The materialism of this age,
with all its faults, is better than the chivalry of an age gone by.
It tends to keep the world at peace; _that_ tended to perpetual
turmoil.  The supposition _all rich_, according to modern ideas, is not
so flat a contradiction as the supposition _all glorious_, in military
heroism.  As the past age estimated life's supreme good, the enjoyment
of a few _required_ the exclusion of the many from its benefits: as
this age estimates the enjoyment of some, _admits_ the exclusion of
others.  Whether the mercantile spirit thoroughly entered into makes a
better man than did the spirit of chivalry, may be doubted; not so,
which best comports with the welfare of society.

Now if one, at the time of the crusades, had so anticipated the spirit
of the age, as to picture to himself modern Europe and America,
manufacturing, trading, flocking to California, as if there a holy
sepulcher was to be rescued from hands profane, glorying chiefly in
mechanical development and mercantile enterprize; and had ventured to
suggest, that instead of trooping to Asia to fight for glory, and the
fancy of promoting religion by arguments of steel, it would be worthier
of the choice spirits of the age to stay at home, and by industry and
enterprize aim at multiplying the means of content to quiet life:
he might have found a harder task than now devolves on him, who urges,
that the materialism of this age must pass away, as has passed the
chivalry of the crusades; both for the same reason; the progress of
thought must outgrow the one, as it has outgrown the other.

A new age with another spirit will be ushered in.  What is to be the
spirit of that age?  Are we to find the forebodings in the dreamy
sentimentalism, which boasts so much its flights beyond common material
ideas?  I trow rather, we may trace the character of the coming age in
an increasing estimation of health, knowledge, mental cultivation,
intellectual life, and the flow of the social affections, as the prime
of earthly felicities--in an approximation towards rationally
estimating money (with the ability to command it) as the means of
meeting one's capacities of enjoyment--to be no longer worshipped as
itself the idol or the end.

When a pestilential disease breaks out in the city, the plainness and
urgency of the case compel all to see in the sickness of one the danger
of all.  Wants and discomforts, which charity had been too cold to
attend to, now considered as sources of contagion, are administered to
with a ready alacrity.  The law is recognized, according to which, "if
one member suffers, all the members suffer with it."  And this law will
be more fully recognized, as self-love is educated--as men better
understand their own welfare, and choose with reference to the whole of
their nature, and the duration of their existence.

Self-love is a motive of the indifferent kind--not of itself
essentially good or bad.  This appears from its being an essential part
of our nature.  Indeed, we can hardly conceive it as within the
province of Omnipotence, to create a rational sentient being, who
should be indifferent to his own happiness.

The advantages accruing from an educated self-love are:

First, additional security, that the good work of charity be done; and
to all but the individual doer, it may matter little what be the
prompting motives.

Secondly, the expansion of yet nobler principles.  Each act favors the
growth of the sentiments, of which it is the expression.  So he who
does as benevolence bids, though from a motive secondary on the score
of purity, will be likely again to do the same from yet purer motives.
So at least if the essential principle be there, though appearing no
more vividly than as a cold sense of duty.

But, thirdly, self-love is made the rule and standard of charity: "Thou
shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."  One must then first love himself,
in order to loving his neighbor.  Keeping this rule, there is no danger
of loving thyself too well; rather, the more truly thou lovest thyself,
the more truly thou lovest thy neighbor.

Suppose one to cherish the vulgar notion of life--that it consists in
the abundance of the things which one possesses, in the ability to live
without exertion, amid plenty of good cheer.  Suppose him to love his
neighbor as himself.  His charity must partake of the contraction and
grossness of his self-love.  Suppose another to prize duly intellectual
riches.  To him the discovery of a new principle in the physical,
intellectual, or moral world, brings a joy unsurpassed by the
merchant's, on the return of his heavily laden ship from a successful
voyage.  As the best legacy to his children, he would leave them a good
education; and, knowing the natural influences and dependencies
existing between young minds, he aims to have all the children in
the neighborhood well educated, as the best security against failure in
the attempt to educate his own.  If all is but a refined calculation,
how best to benefit himself and household; it is far more estimable and
amiable than the gross selfishness which grovels after vulgar goods,
and in the success of a brother sees an obstacle to its own success.
But if he too loves his neighbor as himself, why how far his self-love
is educated to find its satisfaction in nobler ends, by so much his
charity is better than the other's.

There is hope for the future in the consideration, that self-interest,
the first, as well as love of approbation, the second, of the great
powers which move the world, indeed all the indifferent motives, are
getting still more into coincidence of action with justice and

When Jesus enforced a duty by the consideration, "Then shalt thou have
worship [respect, approval,] in the presence of them that sit at meat
with thee," he implied two things; first, that regard to the world's
respectful esteem is not a censurable motive; and, secondly, that the
same operates to good, rather than to evil.  So it must have been even
in that corrupt generation, so disposed to call evil good and good
evil.  It must be much more so now, when public sentiment has so much
improved.  Notwithstanding the danger of loving the praise of man more
than the praise of God, and the mischiefs resulting from such
preference, we should lose, on the whole, by eradicating the love of
human praise.  Witness the accounts of the atrocious outbreaks of
depravity at the gold diggings, while society was yet unformed.
Witness, wherever cease the common restraints of civilization.

Thus agents--so often the authors of discord and confusion, so often
the fire-brands to set the world in fumes--philanthropy is more and
more firing as her sure allies.

      "Even so, the torch of hellish flames
           Becomes a leading light to heaven:
       And so corruption's self becomes
           To bread of life the living leaven."

All analogies point to a still increasing vigor in the growth of the
kingdom of heaven.  If the mustard tree is never seen growing, but only
to have grown; yet the greater the tree, the greater its power of daily
making large growth, without its growing being perceived.

All considerations indicate the power of each to do something to
forward the consummation.  No member of society is so insignificant,
that his spiritual life does not affect the health of the whole.  The
obscurest, who cherishes a preference of ideal wealth over material
riches and sensual delights, does something towards forming a sane
public sentiment, just as surely as the tenant of the humblest city
dwelling, who keeps clean his own premises, does something towards
promoting the general health.

It is well to review the progress made in estimating life--to impress
our minds with its existence as a reality; because mind and enterprize
just now tend so strongly to the material and mechanical, that we might
be tempted to doubt, whether any other improvement were to be thought
of.  If so, we might well enough stop where we are.  But we shall
contemplate with most satisfaction our multiplied facilities for
manufacturing, transportation, fertilizing the earth, and conveying
intelligence, if we see in the whole a store, from which we may draw
with good effect for promoting general welfare, whenever the true end
of these means shall be earnestly studied.  Otherwise the discovery,
how to make two kernels of corn grow where one grew before, would all
redound to the tyranny of fashion, and only foreshadow an increase of
artificial wants, quite up to the increased supply; so that want would
still be as close treading on our heels as ever.

But if we yet scarce attain to longer life, better health, or more
content, than fell to the lot of our fathers, with their simpler arts
and manner, because we are forgetting to discriminate between true and
false wants--between real and imaginary happiness: the true voice of
history still is, not that the material means must always thus fall
short of their legitimate end; but that, though the material and the
mechanical travel first and fastest, the moral and the spiritual are
following after.  These in due time will reveal the meaning and the
value of our stored acquisitions.

Dr. Franklin calculated, that the labor of all for three or four hours
a day, would furnish all the necessaries and all the conveniences of
life; supposing men freed from the exactions of an arbitrary fashion.
If he was near correctness, his time must be abundant in our day, when
the productiveness of machinery, and skill in the arts, are so much
improved.  Then it is within existing possibilities, that every mind be
thoroughly cultivated; and every body taxed for labor, only to the
extent required by the conditions of its own best vigor and that of the
inhabiting mind.  So far afield from truth is the common supposition,
that the many can receive but the elements of learning; while the few
must sacrifice bodily vigor to excessive intellectual cultivation.
Connect with this thought that before advanced of the irresistible
tendencies of our intellectual life to one average; and what a
boundless vista, in the direction of human progress, opens before us.

As citizens of the republic, we have comparatively little cause to
exult in the conceit of being freer or happier than other communities;
much more in the chance, having broken the fetters of superstition and
tyranny, next to rend those of false habit and fashion--to enthrone
reason over the authority of one another's eyes and prejudices: to say
in truth,--

     "Here the free spirit of mankind at length
            Throws its last fetters off; and who shall place
      A limit to the giant's untamed strength,
            Or curb his swiftness in the forward race?
      Far, like the comet's way through infinite space,
            Stretches the long untravelled path of light
      Into the depth of ages; we may trace,
            Distant the brightening glory of his flight,
      Till the receding beams are lost to human sight."


Part IV.

Welfare as Dependent on Religion.

But in all our attempts to educate self-love into harmony with
Universal benevolence, we contend with the enemy, somewhat as Hercules
wrestled with Antaeus:--

      Und erstickst du ihn nicht in den Luften frei,
      Stets wachst ihm die Kraft anf der Erde neu.*
      [If thou strangle him not high lifted in air,
      Fresh strength from the earth he continues to share.]

Thus we come to speak of present welfare, as dependent on the
cultivation of the whole man--on a recognition of his immortality, his
allegiance to his Maker, and his capacity for more disinterested
sentiments, than self-love, however modified.

The influences thus accruing are a confirmation, from higher authority,
of the conclusions approved by philosophy, ethics, the prudence which
calculates how man should live with man, considered as but creatures of
earth--a _re-binding_--a _re-ligation_ to what was _obligation_ before;
and such precisely is the proper sense of the word _religion_.

That the promise of the life that now is attaches to godliness-the
vivid recognition of a Father in heaven, with the union of reverence
and love cherished by a dutiful child--and that naught else secures the
possession, might be argued,--

1.  First, as anticipated from the nature of the case.  If man is
formed to own allegiance to his Maker, and to spend this life as
preparatory and introductory to a coming existence, then, till these
conditions are fulfilled, he must be expected, not to fill worthily his
place, as possessor of the present life; but must, in important points,
compare disadvantageously with the beasts that perish.  If, like the
inferior races, ours attained to a life which should be the full
flourish of its demonstrable capacities, while immortality entered not
into account, then would fail one argument to prove us destined to an
hereafter.  If the philosopher, from the examination of the chick
eaglet in the shell, knowing naught else of the animal, could make out
for it, within its narrow walls, a life answering to the indications of
its organization; he might fitly question, whether it were destined to
burst its prison, and soar aloft.  And such embryo eaglet is man,
considered only as to what this life realizes.

2.  Historically, we are in little danger of being confounded on this
argument.  The evidence from fact is very plain and positive, that men
have never become wise for the life that now is, but as they have first
become wise for the life that is to come; that self-love never becomes
a just prudence, till informed by the faith, hope, and charity of
Jesus; in a word, that in Him is life, and only through the light
derived from him is life realized to men.

Seeking the lowest form of worldly wisdom--political science applied as
the agent for promoting general welfare--we may look in vain for a
beginning thus to apply such science, in any nation unblest by

They on whom the light has shone, have generally so imperfectly
comprehended it, that they have only attained to that vulgar love of
liberty, which Guizot defines to be removed but a step from the love of
power.  Rather, we might say, that step is not--the two are but the
same thing.  Viewed on one side, it is the hatred of being domineered
over; on the other, it is the love of domineering.

Only where the Christian account of human character has been taken for
a sober reality, has been taken for a sober reality, has been
practically understood the rule of dividing power equally, because so
universal is the tendency to grasp it inordinately.  Only (we may add)
where, better still, some good deference has been paid to the charge,
"Call no man master on earth, for one is your Master in heaven."  If
this is the instruction, after which one becomes a republican, and
shapes his love liberty; the conclusion is equally obvious and
inevitable-call no man slave or vassal on earth, for One in heaven
is the common Master of all.

Mistaking here, France has gone through a series of signal failures.
Her Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, still prove empty names; while want
and oppression stare millions in the face, despite the promises of more
than half a century's experimenting with revolutions.  A vision of
political blessedness mocks her sight, which, like fabled enchanted
island, ever and anon seeming just within the grasp, still escapes, and
flies the faster, the faster it is pursued.  O my country! mercy spare
thee from thus mistaking Heaven's high decree!

But if we should allow to some of the more enlightened Gentiles of
antiquity, some degree of political wisdom; we might still look in vain
for their progress in that estimation of temporal wealth, which reveals
our community of interests, thus divesting self-love of its
hatefulness, by training it to its best satisfaction.  Historically, we
every where find self-love too blind, freakish, springing upon
immediate results, too envenomed with maliciousness to calculate

3.  Religion affords altogether the readiest, shortest, directest way
to the conclusion, that interest and duty most coincide.  It brings the
man of humblest intellectual attainments at once to the conclusion,
which the prudent calculator may reach, after long research and
extensive induction of particulars; namely, that he cannot add
ultimately to his own stock of enjoyment, by detracting from another's
share.  What might seem prudence at the expense of justice and
benevolence, may assume a contrary aspect, at the first flush of
conviction, that another life shall rectify the inequalities of this.

Philosophy, having done its best at showing the interest of each in the
welfare of all, and how much would redound to the happiness of all if
all heartily concurred in thus regarding life, still labors at the
question, as the world goes, how the individual will fare, who takes a
course so different from the general current, as to devote his best
zeal to bettering the condition of that world, which will be likely so
little to appreciate his devotion.  So that, as matter of fact, one is
little likely to see first (in earnestness) the reign of righteousness,
as the best security for the necessaries and conveniences of life,
unless in the faith which apprehends, that "all these things shall be
added" to those thus devoted to promoting the holy cause of humanity.

4.  Again; to the great majority of mankind, religion is the best spur
to the understanding, towards the conclusions of a just prudence.  "The
entrance of the word giveth understanding to the simple," says the
Psalmist.  How often have we found its so!  How often the first impulse
to intellectual activity is given by the man's religious interest!  How
often they, in whom a taste for reading could never be formed
otherwise, begin to read for satisfying their spiritual wants, and so
develop mental powers which else had ever lain dormant.

If we mark those extremes of social humanity, the masses of Hindostan
and the people of New England--the monotonous stagnation there, and the
progressive enterprize here--we see a difference mainly attributable to
a religion whose very spirit is, forgetting the things behind, and
pressing onward to the things before.  And, though this spirit may not
always go forth in accordance with the teaching of that religion, it is
none the less true, that such was its source; mind being awake,
enterprising, on the track of improvement, only where a lively faith in
Christianity has kindled the flame.  Every where else, policy at best
presses so hard on the subject individuals, as tolerably to restrain
the passions from breaking out of one against another.  Only "where the
spirit of the Lord is," ventured the experiment, of making the pressure
on each so light, as to become the best security for his keeping in

5.  Philosophy fails (once more), because it has no adequate malady for
the moral malady under which our race labors.  When we speak of men
weighing fairly the present and the future, comparing impartially the
substantial with the showy, the gross with the refined, and choosing
after the decision of a fully informed prudence, we suppose what does
not exist; "The good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would
not, that I do."

      "The better seeing and approving,
       Towards the worse I still am moving:"

Such is the united testimony of Christian and heathen to that "law of
sin and death," through whose tyranny the united decisions of reason,
prudence and conscience are powerless, till what the law could not do,
"in that it was weak through the flesh," the grace of the Gospel
accomplishes; restoring reason and conscience to the throne, giving
effect to the conviction, how fully coincident are interest and duty--
"that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled by us, who walk
not after the flesh, but after the spirit."

Paul's account of this matter may have accommodated to it, what John
says of the command to mutual Christian love; that it is an old
history, and yet not an old but a new one.  _Old_, in the sense, that,
from what time by one man sin came into the world and death by sin,
every one in earnest to fulfil the true end of his being, has found the
dame impotence attached to good resolves; the same supremacy gained by
the baser impulses, in the hour of trial; the same temptation to find
an excuse in what seems so like a law unavoidable, as if it were no
more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me, as if it were not the
responsible _I_ that did wrong: this _I_ being controlled by sin, which
is fancied as a foreign agent taking up a residence within, and
controlling the man in spite of him.  And, escaped from this and the
like deceits, all have been brought to the stand, "O wretched man that
I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!"--that species
of self-despair, finishing the preparation for that renewing influence,
which "is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God
that showeth mercy."  Thus the enemy is raised _in die Luften frei_, no
more to receive fresh strength from mother Earth, to renew the contest

But this account, so old in one sense, is not so in another--in the
sense of being obsolete, or out of date.  It still retains the
freshness of novelty, to answer to the last example of a man's ordering
life, as, he knows, meets the approval of his Judge, and his own truest

6.  But "the end of the commandment," or the result of the process by
which the soul is put into condition to contend successfully with the
powers of evil, "is charity."  So religion preeminently rebinds men to
the rule of not seeking their own advantage at the cost of others;
because it implants a principle, which might dispense with the
certainty of always calculating prudently in doing right.  Charity
seeketh not her own--not one's own welfare calculated on the largest
scale, exclusively, or at the cost of the greatest good of the whole.
Thus it is essentially distinct from a prudence, however refined, and
calculating its ends through eternity.  It is called "the bond of
perfectness," or a most perfect bond; because, if men were all devoted
thus disinterestedly, each to the good of the whole, society would be
perfectly held together, without other bond.  All forms of civil
compact and voluntary association might be dispensed with.  Even
prudence might fail to calculate, how the present sacrifice to general
good is to be compensated; and charity would rebind the man to love his
neighbor as himself, and do as he would receive again.

It is further called "the perfect law of liberty;" as by a simple rule
it perfectly secures to individuals those immunities, which
constitutional provisions at best secure but imperfectly by complicated
apparatus, and where philosophy halts at the perversities of human

7.  Faith alone is the sure foundation, whereto to add virtue
[courage], and that for the further addition of knowledge.  This
courage is _du Coeur_--of  the heart, and alone gives that simple love
of truth, which, for _its_ sake, dares equally to be new and singular,
or to be vulgar and common-place.  Without that foundation, assuming to
be courageous enough to leave the beaten track, and reject received
opinions, one does but attain to the bravery, which, in its efforts to
dare danger or opposition, is sure to overact its part.  Who holds an
even balance in weighing evidence, equally guarded against rejecting
the old, because it is old, or the new, because it is new?  I know not,
unless such as have apprehended the _urwahr_--the essential truth,
which throws all temporal considerations into the shade.

There are two difficulties in the way of attempting changes in the
existing state of things, with good prospect of improvement.  The first
arises from the force of habit, and a reluctance to try a new, it may
be, hazardous course.  The other form the little discrimination
exercised, when men set about in earnest exchanging the old for the
new--discrimination to avoid treating the old as necessarily
antiquated, and the presumption of "laying again the foundation" of
all things.  And these difficulties will hardly be met successfully,
except by men, in whom the fear of God has cast out other fear.

The intelligent part of the people of southern Europe have been, for
many years, more thoroughly divested of reverence for the papacy, than
was Luther in the days of his greatest vehemence.  But they have
quietly taken things as they are.  They have wanted Luther's substitute
for superstition--a fervently religious spirit.  They have had only
worldly and political motives, for wishing to see the old imposition
done away; and these have been powerless against natural apathy, and
the fixedness of old establishment.  Infidelity and indifferentism
prove poor antagonists to superstition.

But when this apathy is one overcome, then the difficulty is, to temper
with discretion the zeal for innovation.  Throughout, such only as
heartily prize the true, because it is true, will be likely to shun
alike, rejecting the old for its antiquity, and the new for its

The first lesson is, to learn how much of human wisdom is but folly:
the second, that it is not yet all folly, but a good deal of it genuine
wisdom.  And he will be most likely to unite these in the habit of
thinking soberly, who first moderates his estimate of human power and
wisdom, by marking how far their utmost flights had failed to
anticipate, what has proved the power of God and the wisdom of God to
the world's renovation.  Such is the best preparation for still
learning, how much that wears the appearance of wisdom and science
unsubstantial.  This best teaches so to reason soberly and
conscientiously, as not to run into licentiousness the liberty of
thinking.  Religious zeal indeed has hitherto been little enough
tempered with discretion; but no other zeal has glowed so intensely,
without still more disastrous consequences, in setting the world on

It is yet a consideration in point, that, as in all undertakings hope
of success best stimulates and sustains exertion; so the hope, that the
world's disorders will yet be cured, is best furnished by the faith,
which recognizes a Sovereign ordering and disposing all, bringing light
out of darkness; making the wrath of man to praise him, and the
remainder thereof pledged to restrain.  Judging from history and
appearances, the philanthropist may often doubt, whether the race be
not destined still to go a ceaseless round; ever exchanging one
delusion for another, but no real progress.

As it was in character for the prophetess of Apollo, it complain:
           "My youth was by my tears corroded,
                   My sole familiar was my pain;
            Each coming ill my heart foreboded,
                   And felt at first--in vain."
So the philosophic prophet may lament, that he anticipates so much more
clearly, what _ought_ to be, than what _will_ be; that he finds the
increase of knowledge, beyond the general sense of the age, to be but
the increase of sorrow.  But the religious insight into futurity saves
from such anguish, by the hope which gilds and realizes the future:
hope for the race, armed with a higher assurance than philosophy can
work out, that and right and peace shall reign triumphant; and personal
hope, inasmuch as, however dark the prospect for earth's races may be,
the individual has a future, whose joy is his strength.

9.  And this habitual reference of the government of earth to its
Supreme Ruler, is not more necessary to the hope, that sustains
endurance, than to the patience which bides the time, in opposition to
the indecent, passionate haste, which defeats its own end.  "He that
believeth shall not make haste."  There is much fruitless haste to
bring the world to rights, for want of a lively belief in a sovereign
controlling Power; whose wisdom, whose goodness, whose resources, whose
interest, to bring the world to order and happiness, infinitely
transcend ours.  Thus is missed the conclusion, if He can endure to see
the stream of evil flow on age after age; then discretion would set
some bounds to our zeal, to see all evil rectified.  And the clearer
this conclusion is the result of faith, the surer the bounds will be
just such, as to save from losing all by a headlong precipitancy.

In short, that habit of mind equally ready to accept the right and the
true, whether it come with a suspicious air of novelty and singularity,
or whether as old and vulgar it be scouted for being behind the age--
that habit which neither yields to discouragements, nor favors the
fool-hardy haste, which calculates neither time nor its own strength;
which discriminates, when to "contend earnestly," and when to "let them
alone," the dogged adherents to falsehood and wrong, to the teachings
of time and circumstances, their conscience and their God, till every
plant which he hath not planted be rooted up by these mightier
energies--the habit, realizing all the good of the radical, in proving
all things, and all the glory of the conservative, in holding fast what
is good;--this habit, so favorable to human progress, but involving so
rare a combination of seemingly opposite qualities, as scarcely to be
accounted for on all apparent influences, has been well described, as a
"life hid with Christ in God."  And truly has it been remarked, in view
of the general result of ordinary tendencies and influences in forming
one-sided characters, that _becoming as a little child_, expresses no
less fittingly the conditions of entering the kingdom of nature, and
thinking with the wise, than of entering the kingdom of heaven, and
worshipping with the holy.

Of the spiritual more grievously than of the intellectual life is it
true, that, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with
it."  Here emphatically does the individual labor hardly, to digest
into his life the conclusions of reason and conscience, in advance of
the average understanding of the age.  Professor Lyell, speaking of the
Millerite phrenzy, and how some men of pretty sound mind were carried
away with it, remarks to this effect: "Religious delusion is like a
famine fever, which attacks first the hungry and emaciated, but in its
progress cuts down many of the well-fed and robust."

So it is.  So strong are our tendencies to one tone, that the
Christian, in setting to his worldly desires the bounds which his
religion exacts, feels to be exercising a self-denial--yielding the
temporal to the eternal.  He scarce seems to himself to be acting the
part of true worldly wisdom.  In reading the life of Dr. Payson, it is
obviously manifest, that his deeply spiritual views were not inwrought
harmoniously into his life's web, as would have been, if he had carried
along with him a whole community.

The materialism of this age must pass away, as has passed the quixotism
of the crusades.  Each has but expressed a stage in the progress of
thought; and neither measures the mature life of the soul.  It is not
so certain to sight, what will be next grasped by this reaching onward
to the things before; whether a better reconcilement of the life that
now is with that which is to come, or whether a vaporing, misty
sentimentalism is to be the spirit of the next age.  There are not
wanting indications, that the materialism of this age is to be followed
by a dreamy spiritualism, raising men above the observance of vulgar
duties, but not above the practice of the grossest vices.  It is not
uncharitable to mark such tendencies, where we see canonized Rousseau,
the very embodiment of sensuality, egotism, and misanthropy; and
progress _so_ taught to be the law of _individual_ man, that, whether
going to commit his crimes at the brothel, or to expiate them on the
gallows, his tendencies are still and forever upward.

We need better evidence than sight can afford, to say,--

      "O no! a thousand cheerful omens give
       Hope of yet happier days, whose dawn is nigh:
       He who has tamed the elements, shall not live
       The slave of his own passions; he whose eye
       Unwinds the eternal dances of the sky,
       And in the abyss of brightness dares to span
       The sun's broad circle, rising yet more high,
       In God's magnificent works his will shall scan;
       And love and peace shall make their paradise with man."


The matter of the preceding thoughts may be thus summed up.

A progressive movement has been going on towards the rule, that,
self-love directed towards the material, the sensible, the showy, the
distinguishing, is so the ruling motive of human conduct, as to
constitute it the first requisite in adjusting the social relations,
that private interests, and class interests may not flourish best,
short of the best attainable flourish of the whole.  When this point
shall be so thoroughly understood, that it shall be taken for no
reproach of any class of men to regard them practically as subject to
the common influences which control human conduct; we may expect an
effective move, for giving to the lawyer and to the physician a
relation to society, analogous to that sustained by the pastor among
Protestants; instead of leaving their professions to find their best
flourish, at about the vigor of intellectual and moral life, which just
now we live.

But this idea loses its importance as another comes into appreciation,
--namely, that the conflicts of self-love with self-love, suppose
mistaken estimates of happiness to be uppermost; and, just in
proportion as men rightly estimate life, and truly love themselves,
they appreciate those strong, numberless, delicate, indissoluble ties,
which bind the members of the social body to suffer, or to rejoice

And this idea again lessens in importance, as yet a third gains the
ascendancy--the living conviction, that time is but the portal to
eternity; the soul meanwhile tasting "the powers of the world to come;"
and knowing the persuasiveness of that strongest call to mutual
endearment, "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."

And now the consideration of these three points is commended especially
to the attention of those, who, in the execution of their office and
ministry, have weekly access to the mind of the people.  We mourn the
waning influence of the American pulpit.  Where the power thence
emanating in the stirring days of trial to men's souls,--when its
ministers stood on that commanding point, where they caught the first
beams of rising day, and reflected the light in the face of the people?
At our Revolutionary period, ministers, in their earnestness to preach
to the times, might have come short in preaching eternity.  So far
there was a mistake to be rectified; but they did well to preach to the
times.  It is among the reasons, why religious so tempered political
zeal; and, accordingly, why, as our Revolution _was_ without a model,
so it _remains_ without a rival.  It is well that the struggle came,
before the toad-eaters to capital's feed agents in legislative halls
occupied the high seats of moral influence.

The true successors to the fathers are not the preachers of party
politics, but they who aim to supply the lack of all parties, in that
they fail to make liberty a means, valuable only as affording
facilities to improvement.

We are exceedingly contracted in our notions of the Christian
preacher's just province.  If we confine it to administering directly
to the soul's spiritual wants and everlasting interests, we stray wide
from the example, which God himself sets, when he writes a revelation
for man.  The Bible is full of histories, maxims, laws, just as might
be expected in a book, which ignored any other life, than that which
now is.  One half of it (within bounds) might remain as it is, on the
supposition, that men have neither hopes nor duties, but such as
pertain to them as joint tenants of this earthly life.

If we would keep people superior to the impulses of appetite, and the
solicitations of sensual pleasure, we must attempt _servitute corporis
uti_ by _imperio animi_* [In Sallust's well known sentence _servitute_
may be the object of _utimur_, _imperio_ the ablative of the means; or,
reversing the construction, the sense may be, by keeping the body in
subjection, we better maintain the mind's supremacy.  Neither, I
believe, is the common understanding of the passage.]--by training the
mind to know its capacities and powers.  If this be neglected, purely
spiritual influences, supposing them forthcoming, will hardly save the
body from unduly controlling the man.  Vulgar ambition is to be
forestalled in the same way.  _Imperium populi_ may be expected to be
attractive, in proportion as _imperium animi_ is unstudied, unknown;
and of course the full sense missed, in which knowledge is power.  He
who knows the greatness of the world within, hears nothing strange in
the declaration-that "greater is he who ruleth his own spirit, than he
who taketh a city."  That the recipients of a (so called) liberal
education so often become the votaries of vulgar ambition, and vulgar
pleasure too, is to be accounted for on the three-fold consideration:
first, that what passes for a liberal education is often a very
illiberal thing, doing very little to unfold the spirit to itself,
and so impress the greatness of mastering its capabilities; secondly,
that merely intellectual without moral influences, do not suffice; and
thirdly, the law is supreme, which binds all to suffer, in their
intellectual and spiritual life, from the mental and moral degradation
of a part.

Jesus thought it not beneath the dignity of his office, nor the
sacredness of the Sabbath, nor the proprieties of the synagogue, to
discourse to people on politeness and good breeding; nor to enforce
attention to decorum, by the comparatively low consideration, "Then
shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with
thee."  Unworthy alike, both the lesson and the motive, would cry a
false spirituality, if the example of such preaching were set by any
lower authority.  A false spirituality it is, for it originates in
missing the close connection between the temporal and the spiritual,
the outward and the inward, the life that now is, and that which is to

In faithfully delivering the whole counsel of God, we may encounter
something like the wrath of the ruler of the synagogue, whose
spirituality was offended at the restoration of a withered hand on the
Sabbath.  We may find, that we have cast pearls before swine.  We may
be referred to Paul's determination to know nothing among the
Corinthians, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And, if we
minister to a people who, like the Corinthians, need to be fed with
milk and not meat; like them carnal, factious, party-spirited, and if
we would delicately hint to them their character--let us do it
indirectly, following Paul's example, when he put restraint on the
fullness of matter within, and discoursed only on the elements of
Christian doctrine.  But shall the strong man be confined to a
milk diet, because the careful nurse ventures to supply nothing else to
the tender infant?  If when for the time our people ought to be
teachers, they need to be taught again the first principles of the
oracle of God, we may reserve pearls for a worthier reception.  But, if
they are well-grounded in the elements, let us lead them on to

      Society's pillars, the temple's three P.s,
      Philosophy, Policy, Piety--these
      I commend to your notice.  My labor is done:
      May we meet in that city where temple is none,
      Nor sun supervenes on the shadows of night;
      Jehovah--the Lamb--are its temple and light.

End of Project Gutenberg's The Growth of Thought, by William Withington


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