תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

part, with

what is better, take as much as may be your own unclouded thought as arbiter, and submit to its unprejudiced decisions. As reason with us should and must henceforth lead, it follows that it must always be in advance of the lower faculties of the mind; and hence to make its decision final, is to do the best we can ; the remaining duty being to educate this faculty up into purity and clearness. The former action being itself the greatest educator of all, reason thus rising through her mistakes and errors to a knowledge of the truth.

But constant (if slow) advance made the world cry out for a higher type of medicine ; and, though as yet she were ill prepared for it, yet Christianity was given her. She spat upon it at first ; then took it to heart, and loved it. Eighteen centuries passed, in which a great — much the greatest blind adoration, conjoint with priestly skill, warped and defiled Christianity into a foul mass of form, ceremony and superstition-her soul long since Aed from her ; while a limited and little few still upheld it in purity, making it a child of God, working and growing the fruit of truth in His vineyard. And so the nineteenth century has it. But early in its beginning the best minds, like stars among the ritted clouds, began to lift their voices up for a higher revelation. The best that yet was, had not in its folds the pearl of satisfaction to the progressive mind.

Right among us-indeed, in most every household, were it but knownrevolution is taking place, or germinating : in mind, I mean, and in silence too. From some unknown and unrecognized source there has gravitated to a mind some stray and growing thought, which the angel of progression in his soul has planted in the goodly soil there, and made a germinating point for the growth of mind, until by its growth and added love it has become a transforming power to the whole soul. In externals the same, pursuing the same even tenor of worldly way ; but internals must become externals at some time, and power will not always remain latent and inactive. So silent and quick has this been, and so little as we have thought of the change in those near us, how much less have we dreamed of the mighty revolution and changes which the whole world knows in the realm of religious ideas. Everywhere “Liberality” is the watchword of all religious advance. few years (criticise it as you may) has sprung into life that peculiar faith of spiritualism, which numbers its believers everywhere, and by the million. How quickly has universalism become popular in belief and numbers; universalism, the stepping-stone to the broader faith of unitarianism, which seems to have become a power wondrous quick, and almost the leader in religious liberality. But there is a church, broad, unnamed and unrecognized, in advance of, and distinct from, all the popular churches and beliefs of the day. It is the wide-spread community of Free Thinkers, who, each outside the pale of all organization, stand out and up as our only representatives of scientific and philosophical religious thought. Greater germinal hopes, I think, lie centered here, because here is better represented that distinct and individual awakening of religious growth than that where the

In how very

individual is lost in the mass. Unless pure, division from organization has a tendency to retrograde, or at least divide singleness and purity of purpose ; friends and associations will draw the heart back again, or partially, unless that heart be strong in its faith and knowledge of truth. In this class, as was said, can be more perfectly seen this distinctive religious advance which seems to be the nature of all awakening in our century. More rapid and purer has been its march, because minds, already to a great extent unprejudiced, and not vitally affected by church creeds and mythic superstitions, could be so much more easily entered by the spirit of liberalism, and broadened in all its beliefs, sympathies, hopes and faiths.

Chew, oh Catholicism ! your savory cuds of hope, and recalculate your highpressure

calculations, — that ere the twentieth century dawns upon us, your power, in numbers, will be so great that from your ipse dixit there will be no appeal ; and that the transfer of the seat of Pope and power from her beseiged home of the past will be to our own beloved America. We might hearken to the frowning prophecy, but heed it we couid not. God is law: law, in its action, progressive.

This much of America, the home and birth-place of free and practical liberalism. Of the old world—the home, in past time, of all the opposition which spiritual advance has had to encounter of her it would take a prophet's eye to pierce the future, so distant is it, when war between bigotry and liberality would, if at all, take place. I would not attempt it, but surely such sanguine hopes as one might have as to the peace of our own land would find a poor resting place when applied to the past home of spiritual ignorance. Here bigotry sits behind her breast-works, unstormed, but not untried-in mind, self-satisfied-thinking that she is safe from the world's intervention so long as she kept the sun of truth from lighting the thoughtclouds of her moral universe. But God will not sleep forever, nor indeed has he ; for even through the long length of dark years, mind, preparation and advance have been going on, not indeed superficial, but internal and un

Whether near or far in the distance the beginning of the struggle may be, none may tell; at present it would seem that the idea of commotion, upheaval -- yea, war!- is so general, so recognized, and preparations for it so active, though silent, that it were not far off : you may attribute causes, as some do, to political jealousies and revenge, yet see how thoroughly is mixed with it the church — theology in some form ; and looking thus deeply, we may, I think, see that primal causes lie here. The end, though, cannot but be afar off.

With us of the new world, it must be, that the dawn approacheth. But it is true, that as yet, with a majority, this is but a neuter development, neither pure liberalism, nor is it the narrow conservatism of the past. It would seem that many of our people were stopping at the half-way house, between the dogmatism and illiberality of the past and the advancement and religious illumination of the opening future. But it may be plainly seen, and by the least observant, that liberalism, or, as the church pleases to call it,

seen.

the inroads of infidelity,” are making gigantic strides everywhere, especially on the Western continent. To attempt to answer the question, “whither?" would be, to a great extent, but a flooding it with conjectures. Many hope, none know, what the church, the religion of the future, will be. Judging from the past, one would suppose that in a few years it would amount, from our present standing, to almost mad insanity : but with the rise of the religious sentiment to culture and liberality, reason, and science too, will rise, to stand pre eminent, and check the tendency to that wild extreme: the opposite of the past; — when will be established forever the temple of the science of religion. True, a sentiment now, but when the truth is known it can be nought but a science in the highest sense of the word; not fixed and unprogressive, but having as recognized and truthful a basis as the science of mathematics, and progressive ever. To say the least, and for the most immediate coming, a religion which is philosophical, and can stand all the tests which science may apply to her, is to be the religion of the future.

GEORGE M. GOULD.

[blocks in formation]

their exertions to exploits in the fieid, it is inevitable that the men who labor for the public in what is called civil life, are inadequately remem. bered or rewarded. The two men who have carried off the great prizes which have been awarded by the people to the heroes who fought the rebels in our war for freedom, are persons who never performed the slightest service for the good of their country in their private lives, and were utterly without influence either in educating the popular mind to a resistance of the nation's foes, or in providing means for carrying on the war which ended in establishing the nation's life. Yet, for the one or two exploits of Admiral Farragut on the water, and for the three or four battles of Grant, in which they would have been entirely powerless but for the influence and genius of three or four quiet men in Washington, these military officers are rewarded for life with the highest honors and the largest pay that the nation bestows upon any of its servants. The great heroes of the war were the Gar. risons, the Phillipses, the Stevenses, and the Stantons, the men who not only made victory possible to our soldiers and sailors, but have since pre. vented their victories from proving mere costly, but worthless, sacrifices of human life and human labor. The soldiers get the rewards, while the real heroes, the real saviors of the nation, get only the execrations of the disloyal part of the people.

Of all the men who have been conspicuous in public life during the past eight years there is none who is better entitled to the grateful homage of Americans than Thaddeus Stevens, whose death is a national calamity; for we are not so rich in great intellects that we can afford to lose from our national legislature an influential voice like his, which was always instinctively on the right side, and which was always courageously outspoken when the occasion required it. Mr. Stevens was not a party man: he allowed no convention to frame principles for his adoption; he followed no leader, but always led the way himself. He cared nothing for party discipline ; and when his political associates acted contrary to his convictions of right he never varied an inch from what he believed to be the best course of action. It was quite natural, therefore, when he died, that the New York Tribune should refuse to utter a word of commendation in his favor, and that the La Crosse Democrat should heap vile phrases upon him. Mr. Greeley and Brick Pomeroy are incapable of properly understanding the character of such a man as Thaddeus Stevens, who was not a politician, in its narrow sense, but a statesman. Even the professed admirers and political friends of this good man, in their post-mortem praises of him, have thought it necessary to qualify their laudations by ambiguous intimations, that in his prvate or social relations he was to be excommunicated from respectable society. But the truth, in respect of Mr. Stevens' private life, we believe, will bear the strictest scrutiny without damage to his personal character. He was never married, and never gave any attention to the little conventionalities of society which men with families are compelled to cultivate, whether they wish to or not. He had been educated in a rough school, and was necessarily rough in his speech and manners, but never ruffianly, for he had the tenderest regard to the rights and feelings of others, and gave his whole life to the promotion of public order and private liberty and happiness. His birth was in a poor little vil. lage in Vermont, and his poor, widowed mother sacrificed all her worldly store to give him the benefits of a college training. He suffered from a lameness, which prevented his engaging in robust out-door employment, and he went out into the world to seek his fortune as a school teacher. Happily he lighted upon a spot in Pennsylvania where the services of just such an apostle were sadly needed, and he taught with such excellent effect, and to so good purpose, that he converted the most stolidly Democratic population in the whole Union into a community of intelligent Republicans. By his personal influence he compelled the Pennsylvanians to adopt a system of public education similar to the free school system of Massachusetts, and convinced the people of the State that it was more for their interest to develop their own great mineral resources, than to depend upon Europe for the supply of the iron which lay in the bosom of their own hills. Free trade was the main dogma of the Democratic party, but Mr. Stevens made even the Democrats of Pennsylvania protectionists. After he took up his residence in the town of Lancaster, where he had to contend with the great political influence of James Buchanan, he soon became the leader of public opinion, the counsellor of the distressed, and the favorite of all classes. A bad man, a man of uncertain habits, of doubtful morals, one who outraged the moral sense of religious people, never could have gained the affections of a people, or have so controlled and shaped their political ideas and have won their confidence, as he did. He must have been a man of integrity, of great benevolence, of good practical common sense, as well as a man of great executive ability, to accomplish what he did.

But he was something more. He had rare gifts as an orator ; he was a great advocate ; he had a keen and biting wit ; he had strong powers of humor ; his sarcasms were terrible to his opponents, but he was always generous to a vanquished foe, and was tolerant almost to a fault to the weaknesses of others. Next to Franklin, he was the most serviceable citizen that Pennsylvania has possessed.

During the whole of our rebel war he was the leading spirit of Congress, and by his eloquence, in recommending the measures which his fertile genius originated, he did more towards bringing it to a victorious conclusion than any other man in the nation. And when the end came no man saw more clearly than he the dangers which still surrounded us, or more clearly indicated the only means of avoiding them. He has been fully justified in his extremest propositions by the occurrence of events, and we have yet to suffer the full penalty of not adopting his theory of territorial government for the rebel States. President Johnson seems to have been specially inspired to make good all of Mr. Stevens' predictions, and justify all the seemingly harsh measures he proposed for curbing the mischievous inclinations of our acci. dental executive. He had the sagacity to discern that Mr. Johnson meant to betray the party that elected him into the hands of their enemies, and he took early and bold steps to prevent it. Timid and compromising Republicans were frightened at the boldness of Mr. Stevens in attacking “the man at the other end of the avenue,” and thought it would be safer to adopt a policy of conciliation rather than one of defiance. But “old Thad” knew better, and no one will now accuse him of mistakes.

He lived nobiy, and died grandly, in the very scene of his highest labors. His bed-side was strangely attended in his last moments by persons of such opposite characters, that they are typical of the comprehensiveness of his sympathies and the wide extent of his personal influences. Besides his im. mediate friends and relatives who minis.ered to him, there were two of the sisters of a religious community in Washington who were assiduous in their attentions to him in his last illness, out of gratitude to him for the benefactions he had procured for their order. They sprinkled the dying patriot with their holy water, not at his request, but by his consent.

The same colored clergy man who had performed a similar office at the death-bed of the martyr Lincoln, prayed for the peace of his soul as he breathed his last breath. They could do him no harm. But if the long life of the dying legislator, who had devoted his more than three score years and ten to the service of his fellow man, who had always exerted his talents in behalf of the oppressed and suffering, had not secured rest for his soul in the possible hereafter, how fruitless and unavailing in the eyes of his Maker must have been the sprinkjing of holy water by those gentle sisters, or the sincere appeals in his behalf of that simple-hearted colored preacher.

« הקודםהמשך »