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ON THE BENEFITS WHICH WOULD FLOW TO THE WORLD,
WERE COVETOUSNESS UNDERMINED, AND AN OPPOSITE PRINCIPLE PREVAILING IN CHRISTIAN SOCIETY.
WERE the covetous principle completely undermined, and, consequently, were wealth applied to its legitimate objects, according to the intention of the Creator,-every thing requisite to promote the physical comfort, and the moral and intellectual enjoyment of man in this world, and his preparation for a future state of happiness, might, at no distant period, be speedily effected. Even the physical aspect of the globe might be renovated, and its barren deserts transformed into a scene of fertility and beauty, so that “the wilderness and the solitary place" might be made “to rejoice and blossom as the rose." Although the inordinate love of money is “the rool of all evil,” yet the proper distribution of it, on the foundation of Christian principles, may be pronounced to be the source of all good.
We have already shown, that the almost universal prevalence of covetousness, has been the cause of most of the wars and devastations which have convulsed the world, and the source of most of the evils and sufferings under which the human race have groaned in every age. And it might likewise be demonstrated, that the proper application of wealth would go far to undermine, and ultimately to destroy all such evils, and to diffuse among all ranks, a degree of happiness and comfort which has never yet been enjoyed in any period, since man first violated the law of his Creator. It is scarcely conceivable, at first view, what innumerable benefits, of every description, might be conferred on our fellow-men, and on the world at large, by an application, on liberal and
BENEFITS FROM THE UNDERMINING OF COVETOUSNESS. 189
Christian principles, of the riches which we at this moment possess. And, we may rest assured, that while we refuse to apply our treasures to the objects to which I allude, we do every thing in our power to frustrate the designs of our Creator in bestowing upon us such treasures, and to counteract the benevolent operations of his moral government.
A work of immense magnitude, however, requires to be accomplished, and vast exertions are indispensably requisite, before physical and moral evil can be undermined, and the way prepared for the universal improvement of mankind, and the spiritual regeneration of the world. But man has moral and intellectual powers and treasures of wealth, fully adequate to the enterprise, arduous and expensive as it is; and, under the agency of the Divine Spirit, who is promised to work in us both " to will and to perform the good pleasure of God,” he is able to accomplish every thing to which we allude, provided he is WILLING to consecrate his energies and his treasures to this work of faith and labour of love.
But, let us now attend more particularly to some departments of the work to be accomplished, and to the means to bring it into effect.
1. Were covetousness undermined, and an opposite principle acted upon, abundant provision would be made for the external comfort of the poor and destitute.
The God of nature has displayed his exuberant goodness towards our world in every age, in “ giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, and in supplying the inhabitants of every clime with what is requisite for their subsistence and comfort; though the earth has yielded the harvests of six thousand years, it has never yet lost its fertility, but pours forth its fruits, every autumn, in rich abundance; and could afford sustenance for hundreds of millions more than have ever, at any one time, traversed its surface, since the days of Noah. Yet find thousands and ten thousands pining in poverty and want; not only in bleak and barren deserts, but in the
most fertile countries, and in the midst of plenty and splendour; and, in some instances, absolutely perishing for lack of the necessuries of life, while pride and opulence are rioting within their view in luxurious abundance.
At this very moment in Ireland, and especially in the county of Limerick, the poor are literally dying of want, by hundreds. “The present state* of the poor in Ireland," says a member of Parliament, “is terrible not only to behold, but even to contemplate. In this neglected country, the poor are thrown on the industrious classes for relief in their wretchedness, as the rich not only guard their mansions by high walls and surly, porters, but actually drive the poor creatures away with dogs. In America, clearing the estates, means cutting down the timber, but here it means, cutting down human life. The poor, when driven from their
homes, have no asylum to fly to, but to leave their country, or lie down and die.”
Mr. Ingles, in his “ Journey throughout Ireland, in 1834,” gives the following description of the wretchedness he witnessed, in the same district, to which we now allude.
6. Some of the abodes I visited, were garrets, some were cellars, some were hovels on the ground floor, situated in narrow yards or alleys. I will not speak of the filth of these places; that could not be exceeded in places meant to be its receptacles. Let the worst be imagined, and it will not be beyond the truth. In at least threefourths of the hovels which I entered, there was no furniture of any description, save an iron pot, no table, no chair, no bench, no bedstead-two, three, or four little bundles of straw, with, perhaps, one or two scanty or ragged mats, were rolled up in the corners, unless when these beds were found occupied. The inmates were, some of them, old, crooked, and diseased, some younger, but emaciated, and surrounded by starving children, some
* November, 1835.
were sitting on the damp ground, some standing, and some were unable to rise from their little straw heaps. In scarcely one hovel, could I find even a potatoe.
In one which I entered, I noticed a small opening leading into an inner room. I lighted a piece of paper at the embers of a turf which lay in the chimney, and looked in. It was a cellar, wholly dark, and about twelve feet square: two bundles of straw lay in two corners; on one sat a bedridden woman; on another lay two naked children-literally naked, with a torn rag of some kind thrown over them both. But I saw worse than even this. In a cellar which I entered, and which was almost quite dark, and slippery with damp, I found a man sitting on a little sawdust. He was naked; he had not even a shirt; a filthy and ragged mat was around him. This man was a living skeleton; the bones all but protruded through the skin; he was literally starving.
“ In place of visiting forty hovels of this description, I might have visited hundreds. In place of seeing, as I did, hundreds of men, women, and children, in the last stage of destitution, I might have seen thousands. I entered the alleys and visited the hovels, and climbed the stairs at a venture; and I have no reason to believe that the forty which I visited, were the abodes of greater wretchedness than the hundreds which I passed by. I saw also another kind of destitution. The individuals I have yet spoken of were aged, infirm, or diseased; but there was another class fast approaching infirmity and disease, but yet able and willing to earn their subsistence. I found many hand-loom weavers, who worked from five in the morning till eight at night, and received from a task-master, from half a crown to four shillings a week. Many of these men had wives and families; and I need scarcely say, that confinement, labour, scanty subsistence, and despair, were fast reducing these men to the condition of the others, upon whom disease and utter destitution had already laid their hands. The subsistence of these men consisted of one scanty meal of dry potatoes daily.” “ To keep the bodies and souls of these miserable creatures together, many a humane citizen contributes more than the noble owner of all the property."
Yet all this happens in a Christian land! where thousands are wallowing amidst overflowing wealth!
In the city of Naples, there are above 30,000 persons, distinguished by the appellation Lazzaroni, the greater part of whom have no other home than the
arth for a floor, and the sky for a ceiling, who sleep every night under porticos, piazzas, or any other kind of shelter they can find. Although they are the object of detestation to travellers, yet they are in fact merely the poorer class of labourers, who, attached to no particular trade, are yet willing to work, and to take any job that is offered. 'If they are idle, it is not their own fault: since they are continually running about the streets begging for employment. If they are ignorant and debased, and frequently addicted to pilfering, it is more their misfortune than their crime; for no provision has been made for their instruction, nor arrangements for supplying them with the work they are willing to perform; although they are surrounded with 12,000 ecclesiastics living in opulence and splendour, and with numerous nobility rioting in extravagance upon princely fortunes. Those of them who have wives and families live in the suburbs of Naples, near Pensilippo, in huts, or in caverns or chambers dug out of that mountain.
These people, however, wretched as they are, have had a certain degree of moral influence. In opposition to the measures of the court, they prevented the establishment of the inquisition; and such was their disinterested patriotism, that they generously offered their services to save their sinking country from the French invasion, while the nobles had meanly abandoned the breach and forsaken their sovereign; and, it was merely owing to the want of leaders, that they reluctantly submitted to inaction. To what causes, then, but to crimi. nal apathy and avarice, are to be imputed the destitute and miserable state of these Lazzaroni, since the surrounding country is fertile and delightful; since wealth is