Imágenes de páginas

with that—but if there be any who really believe what they profess to do-what must they feel of satisfaction in the prospect of promoting the temporal welfare of the country, by contributing to the happiness here and for ever of a large number of her most miserable progeny !




THE details of the last Chapter can hardly

leave any doubt as to the fact, that the benefit derived from these schools have been both great and lasting. No accidental whim could influence so many

human beings of different dispositions, breeding, and locality, during several years;

and we must come to the conclusion that some great spring of human nature has been touched, which had not been reached before, at least not in this age. Once, only once before, within strictly historical times, have we seen an influence exerted as powerful and effectual: it was when Christ, and his immediate successors in the work, preached holiness and brotherly love to the world, and rich and poor abandoned all factitious distinctions, and met before God as equals. The slaves of Greece and Rome were as profligate as, and more brutalized, for the most part, than, the so-named “ Dangerous Classes" of modern Europe, but from among them was selected many a martyr, whose constancy the persecutors thought to overcome the more readily because of his degraded condition; courage being considered as the privilege of freedom. The ennobling tendency of Christianity disappointed their calculations, and slave and master frequently shared one fate, as they had shared one baptism.

The warmth of Christian feeling cooled as abstruser dogmata were brought forward: the heart is little influenced by what puzzles the comprehension; and when the belief of abstract doctrines began to be considered as essential to salvation, the understanding was too frequently so busied with their definition, that the simple rules of the early Christian teachers were neglected. With controversy came uncharitableness, and very soon, from loving, the Christians changed to hating one another. The ruling sect under the plea of caring for the salvation of the ignorant, punished all who attempted to preach any doctrine but the one established by edict; and every fresh sect made it more difficult to unite the family of Christ into anything like fellowship. “ Listen to us,” says one party, “we have the keys of heaven, and can give you free entrance there. All those who do not enter with us will most probably perish everlastingly." The denunciations are retaliated : the Dissenter asserts that the clergy of the Establishment do not preach the Gospel : the clergyman marks with severe reprobation all schismatics and heretics : a simple man listens to one and the other, and finds so little that is attractive in either, that he probably remains in a state of indifference, and sleeps while these uncivil epithets are bandied to and fro; saying, perhaps as a naval officer once told the writer, “ It is not my business to understand these theological points. I look to my own affairs, and they must settle theirs."

Was it then to found a theological faculty that Christ taught and died? Was it to set apart an ecclesiastical body zealous for abstract dogmata ? Surely not. It was to the poor and the needy, the weary and heavy-laden, that the good tidings were to be announced: what had they to do with abstruse discussions as to the mode in which grace is communicated ? It was enough for them that they asked and received it; that

courage came with the occasion, and that the heart felt the proffered peace. Holiness before a God of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; brotherly affection to all, integrity, and a strict fulfilment of all domestic duties; these were the characteristics of a Christian ; and many an one who had never

heard of abstruser doctrines, lived and died happily by following the simple rule of " Do unto others as ye would they should do unto you," and imitating the example of their meek and holy Master. Alas how many car suppose would be saved, if a strictly logical definition of all the doctrines of one church or sect were requisite to the process ? And if any can be saved without this, why not all ? The scholar may exercise his ingenuity ; that, to many, is a pleasant occupation : but let him be content to leave to the simple-minded the simple precepts of the first preachers of the Gospel.

Such would be the reasoning of a conscientious man approaching the subject without any previous prejudice ; but the best have the prejudices of education, at least, hanging about them ; for what has been taught us as essential, is not easily thrown aside, even though our better reason should be convinced that it ought to be so; and I will not undertake to say, that the worthy persons who have so cordially united in the work of the Ragged Schools, have entirely discarded theirs ; but here accident has done what perhaps reason would not have effected so easily; for persons of all sects having seen at once the desirableness of the work, saw also the

« AnteriorContinuar »