תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

Ah!' you say,

the frontiers ; no more police, or judges, or courts of law, or prisons: were we to leave open the doors of our houses ; were the buyer to pay no attention to weights or measures ; the merchant to take no account of his money; every one's word to be believed ; in short, were we to entrust one to the other, fortune, honour, family, life . if it could be thus.'

Well, it could be, it ought to be so, if men were all good. But, as they are, if such a state of things could be for only four and twenty hours, what a fearful scene of disorder should we behold! There would be in one day a greater amount of crime, more murders, thefts, and frauds, than in a whole cen. tury before. None will contradict this : and does all I have said prove the goodness of man? And, my friends, I beg you will especially observe that I have spoken only of externalsof what is seen, of the outside. Man has hardly appeared good, even judging by the surface.

What would he appear, could we see into his heart ? And think you that evil hidden, thought of, or desired, is less real than open or accomplished evil ? Indeed, it is not so. Suppose a man who has never stolen a pin; but he has said to himself twenty times, 'If I had a good opportunity of stealing a hundred thousand francs, I would do it.' That man is a thief. Suppose another, who has never injured a creature, but he feels a deep hatred towards his fellow-men, and burns with a desire for vengeance: but he fears the law, the prison, the scaffold. That man is a murderer. Another has never known intemperance or disorder; means or opportunity was wanting ; but he regrets it, and envies those who can wallow in the mire. That man is intemperate. And so of the rest. In short, however bad the outside may be, the inside is far worse. The heart is the poisonous. spring, from whence flow, as opportunities offer, all evils, — wicked thoughts, murders, adulteries, impurities, thefts, false witnesses, &c. Notice again, my friends, that I speak of all men, and that I maintain with regard to each individual, without excepting one, that he is naturally evil; that each one, more or less, has given up his heart to príde, ambition, hatred, the love of sinful pleasures and riches, to lying and self-seeking. Consequently, it is unnecessary to search through the world, or the prisons, or to descend into the very dregs of society for the proof of all I have said. You who are listening to me, you can find it within yourselves, as I have found it within myself. Let us look now within ourselves, to the bottom of our hearts ; What do we find ? Which of you has never felt the risings of sinful passion ? of anger, hatred, or

66

lust? Which of you has not yielded to the temptation? You, who but just now maintained that man is good; did you speak from experience ? Are you only of all the world exempt from evil ? And amongst you all, my friends, is there one who would dare to exclaim, I am good' ? You are silent; or rather, your conscience tells

you,

with mine, “I know not if there exist on earth a truly good man, but at all events it is not I. After that, is it not deplorable to hear repeated every day, at every turn-in newspapers, in books, in public lectures, that the natural state of man is all that is right, and beautiful, and good ? If those who say so believe it, they are fools and blind; if they do not believe it, they are miserable flatterers, and sacrificers of truth to their own fears or ambition.” I finished with these words, and my opponent began

“ No one denies," said he, “ that there is a large amount of evil in the world; but whose fault is it ? the fault of man ? of an individual ? No; it is the fault of society.”

Thereupon he drew a pretty correct picture of the defects in our social organization; of the inequalities, miseries, and vices which it engenders ; and finally, with an air of triumph, exclaimed, “Do not, then, accuse man, when the fault lies with society !" But,” I resumed, “ take care what you say; have

you ever thought what society is ? Let us examine, if you please; what is this society upon which you throw the blame of man's corruption ?

I

pray, Has society a conscience ? does society do anything ? believe anything? Is it an individual ? Say."

Society,” he said, “ Society is—" “Come, let us see ; you seem very much embarrassed. Do you not perceive that society is everybody, or it is nobody? It is you, it is I, it is all of us. When you say, ' Society is bad ;' you accuse yourself, you accuse me, you accuse all: and if

you say, 'Society corrupts man ;' I ask you, “Who corrupts society?' You show me a regiment of soldiers, and you say it is a cowardly regiment; I conclude immediately, that the soldiers of which it is composed are cowards. Change the men- not the arms or the uniform-and the regiment will be changed. Thus you say society - it is bad ; consequently I imagine that those who compose society are good for nothing. Cease, then, to accuse an imaginary being—a phantom, to which you give the name of society; say that men are vicious, and you will say the truth ; accuse them, and accuse them strongly; publish all their vices, and preach to all, that they need a complete change, and we shall be of one mind, and I will join with you in favour

Tell me,

66

of

of a total revolution--a revolution deep and radical, and fruitful in beneficial results,-the spiritual and moral regeneration of individuals."

“You perplex me," said my adversary, “ with your distinctions between man and society; but, however it may be, everyone will grant that education, instruction, and example, tend to make man wicked, but that at heart he is good.” “ I understand you,” I replied ;

you mean that the lessons of evil and corruption, which are transmitted from one generation to the next, induce men to imitate their predecessors. I grant it. But think you that bad example and education would have that effect on us, if we were not by nature inclined to evil ? Suppose a sober man, one who respects himself,—would the sight of drunkenness, and the pressing invitations of the drunken, induce him to imitate them ? On the contrary; virtue abhors vice; purity detests impurity; and the first impulse of a man not inclined to evil, would be, if evil were presented to him by word or example, to fly from it with abhorrence. Far from doing so, we yield to the first word, the first solicitation, which is a manifest proof that we are naturally inclined to it. The example of others, and the education we receive, are but as the passport, and the protector, by whose favour the natural vice of man introduces itself, and makes its way in the world. Education ! Example! Just think of it! We receive them from our fathers, they from theirs, and those again from preceding generations. Go back still further ; we must at last arrive at the first who gave to their children bad education and example; and those,—the first, who perverted them? Those who received only good themselves, how could they transmit evil? We can only say that they freely and voluntarily chose it. They were good; they became evil by their own act, and they left us, as our inheritance, not only their teaching and their example, but their nature also, by which we become evil like them.”

Here a voice in the crowd exclaimed, “God made us so, therefore the fault is His !”

Very well; you, who say that God made us thus, that the fault of our wickedness lies with Him, answer me, I

pray you; you believe in God, since you speak of him. Is not God a perfect, just, and holy Being ?”

“Certainly."

“ And do you think that the hands of a perfect workman can produce an imperfect work?"

“ It would appear not.”
“ Then here is your only choice: either man is not wicked,

THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE LONDON.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

66

-but we have seen that he is, -or else man is not God's workmanship."

“ That is impossible; God created man.”

“ But how? If you say that God created evil; that he formed a wicked and depraved being, it is as much as to say that God is neither wise nor good. But a God like that, wanting in wisdom, or in goodness, would be no God; and whoever believes that God is the author of evil, ought as well to believe that God does not exist. For either he is good, or he does not exist. What think you ?”

Truly I know not what to answer.” “ We must get out of this difficulty. If God created man good, but free, could not man, using his liberty"

“ Become bad ? "

“ Exactly. Man, an intelligent being, could only be created by God free; and it is thus, my friends, that man could become, as is the case, wicked, without having it in his power to accuse God; he can accuse none other than himself. And a further proof that man alone is responsible is this,—that in secret he accuses himself, he condemns himself, he fears. Why, I ask you my friends, why is it that; notwithstanding all the miseries, all the griefs of this life, we still fear the end of it ? We dread death, not only for itself, but for what follows. After death we see God as the judge of our life, the rewarder of our actions, and we tremble. What does this prove but that we acknowledge ourselves to be guilty, and that, in the sincerity of our consciences, we take to ourselves that responsibility which, in words, we so readily throw off upon society, education, example, and even upon God himself. This, my friends, is the true, real, miserable condition in which we are : corrupt, unhappy, frightened, and forced to avow that we alone should bear the responsibility of the evil which enslaves and destroys us.

I had scarcely concluded the sentence when twenty voices around me exclaimed, “ But the remedy! the remedy for this fearful state!”

“ Patience, my friends. You ask the remedy; so far well ; but before replying to you, permit one who believes that he knows it, to make a simple observation. Why, or rather for whom do you ask it ? Is it for others, or for yourselves ? Each one in particular. We constantly meet with persons who would, if it rested only with themselves, regenerate the universe they say, forgetting that it is with themselves they must begin. “They see the mote that in their brother's eye,' as the Scriptures say, “but they see not the beam that is in their own eye,' Luke vi. 41, 42. Thus, what happens ? Everyone says the same thing ; everyone wishes to see everyone better, but no one thinks of becoming so. Are riches to be obtained ? See with what anxiety and eagerness men press forward to grasp them, ready to overturn every obstacle which presents itself. But is the way of righteousness set before them? Oh, no! they do but cast a look towards it, saying, • If everyone would walk there!' but without the least intention of doing so themselves. That is the remark I wish to make, my friends ; does it apply to you? I know not. Now I will answer your question ; attend to me well. If my watch require repairs, to whom shall I take it? To a cartwright ? No, to a watchmaker. If a statue be damaged, it must be taken to a sculptor, and not to a shoemaker; and so on; to each work. man his proper work. But in the case before us, what is the spoiled and ruined work which requires repairing ? It is man. And who is the workman-the maker of man? GOD. God alone, then, can repair his own workmanship, which has been ruined by the fall. In other words, the remedy we need, and which you ask for, comes only from God.

Keep this truth in your minds, for it is one which we habitually disbelieve or forget. Humanity is like a picture of Raphael's, the greatest of painters, soiled and defaced. All the daubers in the world, with their brushes and colours, attempt to restore it; they work, and work, and at last, when they think they have succeeded, the picture is only worse than it was before. The hand of Raphael was necessary to repair it. Thus has it been with all, One only excepted, who have pretended, with their religions, or philosophies, or systems of all sorts, to regenerate man. They have toiled till they were exhausted ; they have died in the midst of their work; and their religions, their philosophies, and their systems have died with them. Humanity has remained the same. The hand of GOD was wanting. Therefore, I say to you, my friends, if you wish for cure --if

you desire to regain the holiness, the peace, the life, which you have lost ; trust not in yourselves; trust not in your own strength, nor in that of others. Some will say to you, Trust in me; listen to me; believe in me: I will pardon you ; I will purify and save you. Believe them not; they cannot save themselves; what then can they do for you? God alone can pardon. God alone can change the heart. Therefore, man must remain eternally guilty and miserable, or he must turn towards God to obtain deliverance. There is no other choice.

“ Thus far I have but shown you where the remedy is to be found. I have not told you what it is, or how it is to be applied. In two words, it is this :—The remedy for man's

« הקודםהמשך »