Page images


Political Life.


But unless the energy is summoned up to see them as they are, the feeling may very easily sink into hopeless gloom. The mother, for example, with her thoughtless girl or bold and stormy boys, becomes alarmed at their fierce gladness, still more at their occasional outbursts of passion, and very often, after some explosion of temper, folds her hands in desperation, feeling as if the end of all things was come. In her heart-sinking Millerism, she forgets that they are growing older, and that if, serenely true to her trust, she exerts the silent influence of character and love, these furious passions will tame themselves into strength and determination of spirit, giving force and firmness to their character in future days. But this kind of influence can never be exerted by one who sits down in despair; for this is weakness, and the confession of it. Character is manifested, by looking over the moment's confusion to future results, as the husbandman, when he has done his part, “ hath long patience,” knowing that God will send the harvest in his own good time. Go thy way then, thou of the sinking heart. Eat thy bread with joy. Do not become a Millerite when the least shadow falls upon the path. The fearful and unbelieving cannot be faithful, and in the Apocalyptic vision we see them sharing the sinner's doom.

Again : there is a Millerism of political life; a dismay and despair coming over us at the success of some opposite party. Whereas, it might be gathered from its very name, that the party is but a part; its efforts and successes are but partial. No one ever was able to give its own full direction to public affairs. One may for the time stand higher and exert a stronger influence than the other, but it is by their joint action, whether working with or against each other, that the machine is caused to go. It is natural enough for the losing side to dread the success of the other, but they might look back on their own history for consolation. Time was when they had their season of triumph ; and then they found, like nations aster great and glorious battles, that they had gained the victory indeed, but not much else with it, for all went on in a course substantially the same as before. These conflicts and successes attract attention; they are the noise and smoke of the engine; but they are not moving powers ; if they could be prevented, the train would do better without them. And mean

time they are listed into undue importance, when they lead so many good men to retire in disgust and despair from the field, leaving “ lewd fellows of the baser sort” to arrange all things at their own sweet will.

Does not this apprehension indicate the existence of a faith in chance, as a kind of God? Does it not forget, that there are fixed laws in action under all these changes, which deal with these small parties as the great ocean plays with its foam ? With all its angry heaving, the deep obeys the law of its tides : and so the waves of the people, however wild and stormy, are working out the purposes of a higher Providence, though they know not what they do. Why can we not understand that parties, while they seem to be doing their own selfish pleasure, are worked up and worked over by an unseen power for accomplishing purposes not their own; which often serves men best, when it most severely disappoints them, and tramples on human wishes, to advance human welfare. Sometimes in darkness, sometimes in light it pursues its resistless way. When we see it plunging into the deep future, “ we guess and fear;

but when we look over the former path in which it has travelled, we see that all things have been controlled by a wisdom diviner than ours. Success has always been the sharpest possible retribution to the undeserving, and events and changes which were most disastrous at the time, have been the means of most welcome blessing, and are now the subjects of gratitude and praise.

Again : there is the Millerism of reform. The social world is full of evils, which in their present forms are transmitted from the past, though their springs are found in passions which still exist and have power. Many sharp eyes and fervent hearts are looking into human ways and relations, and while some are found so mixed and blended, that it seems impossible to remove the tares without carrying the wheat with them, there are others which, there is no doubt, endeavors should be made to put away. But then comes the question, How shall we remove and redress them? What practice shall we apply to the disease ? One would suppose the answer would be, — let each apply the treatment in which he has most confidence to the cases within his reach, following his own sincere judgment and leaving others to follow theirs. While each pursues his own way,




there is no strife between the two. But when one turns aside from his own work to censure the course of the other, with which he has nothing to do, the disease is forgotten; the evil has time to breathe, and gather strength; and each becomes inclined to Millerism, feeling as if the end of all things were at hand. But it is not because the evil is incurable, but because the other will not see with his eyes and hear with his ears, as if unfurnished with eyes and ears of his own.

We seldom see any who despair on account of the magnitude of the evil : men despair, because others will not adopt their way to put it down. This is the very thing which they should not wish others to do. That which is right in his own eyes after weighing the subject, should be to each one his law of guidance. And yet when men exercise this privilege and perform this duty, there is discouragement and displeasure ; and hence the cause of the Second Advent found so many believers among the Millerites of reform.

Doubtless, it is no pleasant thing, to see others indifferent to what we consider wonderful truths and disclosures. But let not the reformer distress himself about the mote in the eye of others, unconscious of the timber in his own. It is not the good, which others reject, but only his way of doing it; and his way may not be worthy of adoption ; or if it should be good, it is quite possible that there may be a better. Many of these reformers, so called, are fond of abusing the Church, and proclaiming its short-comings and misdeeds; when they are themselves guilty, in a tenfold measure, of that selfish narrowness, which has done more than all other causes put together to lessen the influence of Christianity in the world. The self-same evil which locks the wheels of Christian influence, makes those of reform drive as heavily as the chariots of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. There is no concentration of effort; no union and singleness of power. The enemy laughs to see them spend against each other those energies, which would have been fatal to him, if united. Let the reformer shake hands with all who wish well to the cause of man, even if they do not follow with him, and for the first time a morning sunbeam of encouragement will shine into his soul. He will see that his discouragement came from within ; he will renounce his Millerism of feeling ; he

will consent that the world shall stand, at least till it shall have accomplished the purposes of its existence; he will see that the Creator was speaking not only of its physical adaptations, but of its moral use and fitness, when he pronounced it “good.”

The truth is, that the despondent state of mind can never lead to correct judgment nor to effective action, nor can it possibly comprehend “the lively oracles,” since it carries its own darkness to the Scriptures, instead of borrowing light from the word of God. Men bring away from the study of the Bible little more than what they carried with them; and this is the history of most of those dreary superstitions, in which the world abounds. And these are to be met, not with true interpretations only, for they are matters, not of reason, but of diseased feeling. The truth is welcome only to a healthy spirit; but there are so many whose inner sight is darkness, so many who are permitted to have no light except through the key-hole of their spiritual prison, so many who delight to make their fancy lord of all within them, that every wild imagination can be sure of a welcome, and if it have but the faintest coloring of Scriptural authority, men will cling with both hands to the delusion.

But the question arises, - how came this state of mind to prevail so generally at the time? How happened it that there were so many already Millerites in spirit, who, when that interpreter appeared, were ready to give him welcome? The explanation, undoubtedly, is found in the course pursued by some leading Christian sects.

For some years they had made it their endeavor to create excitement, and had measured their success by the extent and depth to which it spread. All manner of enginery had been employed for the purpose, and the public mind, wherever they could reach it, had been thrown into a feverish state, which treated sober religious feelings and the patient discharge of Christian duties with supreme disdain. All at once these sects became doubtful, as well they might, whether they were doing real service to the cause of their Master; their agitating efforts were suddenly suspended; and the result was, that the religious feeling of their several communities sank down into heavy collapse, like an uninflated balloon. A dispondent habit of feeling necessarily succeeded, and


Whewell's Ethics.



owing to this favorable position of circumstances the small prophet of doom acquired an influence, which he would not soon have gained by truth or talent alone.

There is much of this despondency always existing in the public mind, and though it does not everywhere appear, it is easy at any moment to rekindle it from its ashes. But the conclusion to which the wise man came, was a proof of his superior good sense and feeling ; after all his gloomy reflections on the downward tendency of all human things, he said, that to "fear God and keep his command

was the best that man could do. Whoever fears Him with right reverence, will leave times, seasons and all results, with cheerful confidence, to Him: for it is ours, to endeavor and be faithful; it is His, to arrange and determine : and this state of mind, if it do not enable us to see good in everything, can at least assure us that good will come out of the evil under which we suffer now. In the winter we have seen the crystal-plated woods bending and broken with their splendid weight, and have lamented this fatal gift of beariy as if their end was come: but when the spring returns, great nature from her deep treasures of verdure repairs and replaces the loss, and in a year or two it is difficult to remember the injury that was done. And so in everything, if we are but true-hearted : let us do our small part, and we shall see that the order of Providence is going on well, in full harmony and power; and so it will continue to go on long after we are in our graves. It will come to an end in His own good time. But that shall only be the commencement of a higher and better system, and they who have been faithful here shall pass on from glory to glory on high.

W. B. 0. P.


DR. WHEWELL has gained most of his reputation by works in mathematics and physics, and particularly by the

* The Elements of Morality, including Polity. By William WhE. WELL, D. D., Master of Trinity College,

and Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Cambridge. In Two Volumes, 8vo. London. 1845. Reprinted, 2 vols. 12mo. New York. 1845. VOL. XLI. - 4TH. S. VOL. VI. NO. I.


« PreviousContinue »