Page images

for your own approbation, when you ought to approve and when you ought to disapprove of yourselves.

Your being poor and devoid of book-learning need not prevent your doing this; the plainest advice will, as I have said, put the most unlearned in the way of setting about so desirable a work.


Cultivation of benevolence. Each of you can, for instance, cultivate the natural instinct of benevolence, by doing every kindly, every obliging action in your power, and by seeking occasions to do such. For this purpose it is not necessary to be rich enough to give away money or goods; there are a thousand other ways of contributing to the happiness and relieving the sufferings of our fellow-creatures, especially in the family relations, where the mere soft word, the kindly expression of countenance, and the cheerful tone of voice are the daily sweeteners of life, spreading a happiness and a sunshine around the cottage in which they dwell, that all the rank, the learning, and the riches in the world, cannot give without them. The costly pleasures you cannot afford, but gentle and obliging manners, and kindly words and looks do not cost anything; why should they be banished from the dwellings of the poor? Why should the poor wilfully deny themselves and their families such real and natural blessings; which not only do not deprive the person who gives them of anything, but which on the contrary, while he is giving them, fill his own bosom with a glow of satisfaction which disposes him each time more and more to do the like again. Nor is this feeling, as I have already pointed out, accidental; it is, as I have told you, God himself inducing you to be kindly and benevolent, by the promptings of your human sympathies and the pleasure you feel in obeying them; while he has given to your understanding the natural faculties which take notice of this and remember it, that you may feel encouraged by your own experience to do the like again, and so diffuse happiness around you and be happy yourselves.

Observe here the great difference when it is a mere animal instinct which you obey; the moment you carry its gratification beyond its lawful limit - as for instance, when you eat or drink too much-your understanding takes notice of the evil consequences which are produced; and therefore, instead of encouraging you to repeat such acts, warns you against them by your own experience. And when it is another person who suffers in consequencc of what you have done wrong, your human sympathy of benevolence murmurs, and makes your conscience refuse to approve of you, which

makes you uncomfortable. So that it comes to this, that there is no real lasting pleasure to be had out of doing a wrong, either to yourselves or to any one else. This is a law of nature, and there is no use in struggling against it. All the human beings in the world put together have not strength enough to upset one law of nature.

Can you stop the revolving seasons, or prevent the alternations of night and day?

The faculties of the human mind are characters in which the Mind which traced the laws of nature has legibly written this commandment:-Happiness shall be attained through moral order only.

CHAPTER IV. Cultivation of veneration, or admiration of goodness. You can also, without riches or learning, cultivate the natural faculty which, when it admires goodness, prompts your instinctive desire of your own approbation to urge you to make efforts to resemble what you admire.

This you can do by habitually thinking about, and talking over with your families, all the good, and kind, and just, and generous actions and people you have ever heard of, and then trying to form the idea in your own minds of these good qualities, carried to the greatest degree of perfection you are able to conceive; and this you will be able to do, without any learning, by looking within your own minds, and dwelling on the thought ; for God has given you all the natural faculties necessary to enable you to form to yourselves this idea of the greatest possible goodness, or of a real, perfect God, whom your mind cannot help admiring intensely (which is worshipping) as soon as it sees the idea. Not because the Great Mind of the universe, like an earthly prince, wants your worship to increase his glory, but because he knows that worshipping goodness will make you strive to be good.


Design and contrivance visible in the metaphysical laws of mind.

Volumes have been written to point out the evidences of design in physical creation. Here is design as manifest as ever was displayed by mechanical contrivance however admirable. First, the revelation of the idea of perfect goodness, which the power of conceiving the idea brings before the mind; then, the natural impulse

which cannot choose but admire this revelation; then, the natural instinct which craves for our own approbation, but which, having seen this revelation, cannot grant its entire approbation to anything short of this high standard, and, therefore, presses continually on the will to urge our whole being forward towards perfection. Here the mental machinery, with its mechanical contrivances, and the great motive or moral propelling power are both visible, as it were, to the naked eye!

When the finite imitates the Infinite, the distance in degree must, of course, be immeasurable. But it is the assimilation in nature, despite the distance in degree, which renders it ennobling to the mind of man to set itself to the great work of imitating the goodness of God. The immensity of the distance but opens before the soul an eternity of progress.

Some of the well-meaning among the poor Chinese, who have not been taught any religion, and who are thus without any holy object of worship to inspire them with a veneration for goodness, strive to supply this deficiency by putting up in their houses the picture of some very wise and virtuous old man, before which they constantly burn a lamp as a mark of respect.

This seems to be an instinctive effort to enlighten and stimulate natural conscience; for, when the instinct which admires is thus induced to reverence goodness, the instinct which craves for your own approbation prompts you to imitate what you reverence.

CHAPTER VI. Advantages of metaphysical instruction to the unlearned. Despite the popular prejudice, that of all studies metaphysical ones are the most difficult for the human mind to grapple with, and require the deepest learning and the greatest amount of leisure, the love of truth and the sincere desire to do good compel me to believe, and to declare my belief, that, on the contrary, the study of our own minds by means of consciousness, the convictions arising out of this study, and the practical application of those convictions to conduct, form a means of cultivating the moral faculties and elevating the human mind, which is peculiarly adapted to be the resource of those who have neither the leisure nor the opportunity to become learned. It is a resource which may be made available even to those who cannot read, if such persons, instead of wasting their time and their earnings in publichouses, were persuaded by worthy neighbours to attend the meetings of mechanics' institutions of an evening, where they might hear short essays on such subjects read aloud, and also hear lecturers who could direct their attention to their own minds, and make them observe their human sympathies and human instincts moving within them, so that they must feel sure that they do possess such, and then compel their understandings, by the plainest illustrations, to confirm every right impulse, as they led them to follow out the consequences of actions, till they arrived at the irresistible conclusion that happiness cannot be attained but. through moral order; taking care to keep always in view the main fact--namely, that the powers of mind by which they get at this conclusion are natural to the human species, and are to be found, in a greater or less degree of activity, in every human breast. For the great advantage of thus convincing every individual, and especially the unlearned, by their own consciousness, of the absosolute existence, within their own minds, of a certain set of natural instincts and natural powers, out of which, when attended to and compared, certain moral and religious convictions and obligations grow as naturally as the stem and branches of a tree from its roots, is, that such convictions can never afterwards be shaken. No arguments nor scoffs could persuade any being, however simple, however unlettered, however unprotected by all other answering arguments, that convictions thus arrived at were but the mistakes or the fabrications of other persons, pressed upon them by superstitious zeal or undue authority. Each individual must know that the revelation had been made to his own mind; nor would he need any library to pursue the subject, for the materials for study would be within his own breast; nor would his inability to read books prevent his thus reading his own thoughts, and talking them over with others similarly situated.

Such discussions would furnish each individual with additional convictions, that the human instincts and human sympathies which he would thus find that all felt more or less, and the rational conclusions he would find all were thus, in dispassionate moments, disposed to come to, must really be natural to the human soul. While the general approbation, which in moments of calm converse all are ready to grant to the kindly and just impulses would tend to raise, in such assemblies, a public opinion in favour of virtue, and a stronger sense of the responsibility consequent upon the possession of their human nature ; a responsibility which they would find, in trying to converse, that common parlance, by the consent, as it were, of a common instinct, acknowledges when it uses the expressions inhumanand “unnatural," to indicate cruelty, or unkindness, or even the absence of kindness.

When such convictions were thus arrived at, those to whom religious instruction had been given could not fail to feel a strong internal evidence that inspiration must have dictated the written revelation, which, in conformity with this natural revelation, kindly addresses the poor, and calls little children to its bosom to tell them to “ love as brethren, to be pitiful, to be courteous, and to do unto others as they would that they should do unto them;"

together with an equally strong internal evidence that all fierce, cruel, intolerant doctrines which are opposed to this perfect image of a good and merciful God are but“ the devices of men,” and that all warfare, whether religious or political, except in the strict defence of our own homes, or of the homes of those who are unable to defend themselves, is the most gigantic, the most all comprehensive of human crimes.


Yes, ye are free, the fields and bowers

Look gaily in this summer weather-
Free to enjoy some merry hours

Of harmless liberty together-
Mounting the green and breezy hill,

There to pursue your playful gambols,
Or wandering to the ivied mill,

Tbat sweetest of all summer rambles.

'Tis eve, and now by yonder brook,

Homeward I mark ye swiftly wending,
None wear a sad and troubled look

Because the day's glad sports are ending;
To study ye shall turn again

Refresh'd and cheer'd by healthful leisure,
And shall by diligence obtain

A passport to fresh hours of pleasure.
Alas! when in the school of life

We find in after years employment,
And from its paths of busy strife

Snatch a short season of enjoyment,
We hope “ free nature's grace" to share,

We hope to break the chains that bind us
But no, in spots most bright, most fair

We drag our fetters still behind us.

Our weary labours we resume,

But cannot bend to the transition,
Thoughts of streams and trees in bloom

Flit round us like a mocking vision.
We lack the light elastic mind

That varies with quick alternation
From flowery fields to scenes confined,

From care to mirthful recreation.

Ah, me! the longer that we live,

Spite of our boasted sense and reason,
The more we feel that years can give

No joy like youth's unclouded season,
When actively we toil'd to earn

Freedom to range 'mid nature's beauties,
Yet could from pleasures promptly turn

Whenever summon'd back to duties.

« PreviousContinue »