PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF
Go Straight to Chapter One
THERE is a great deal of philanthropy afloat in this our
day. At no period, perhaps, in the history of the human mind, did a desire of
doing good so earnest, meet with a spirit of inquiry so eager, after the best
and likeliest methods of carrying the desire into accomplishment. Amid all that
looks dark and menacing, in the present exhibitions of society, this, at least,
must he acknowledged, - that never was there a greater quantity of thought
embarked on those speculations which, whether with Christian, or merely
economical writers, have the one common object of promoting the worth and
comfort of our species.
It must be confessed, at the same time, that much of this benevolence, and more particular]y, when it aims at some fulfilment, by a combination of many individuals, is rendered abortive for want of a right direction. Were the misleading canscs to which philanthropy is exposed, when it operates among a crowded assemblage of human beings, fully understood, then would it cease to be a paradox, why there should either be a steady progress of wretchedness in our land, in the midst of its charitable institutions; or a steady progress of profligacy, in the midst of its churches, and Sabbath schools, and manifold reclaiming societies.
The Author of the following work has been much in the way of comparing the habitudes of a city with those of a country population; and he cannot more fitly express its subject than by assigning to it the title of "The Christian and Civic Economy of our Large Towns."
Through he counts himself in possession of rnaterials ample enough for an immediate Volume, yet it suits better with his other engagements, to come forth in quarterly numbers, with the successive chapters of it.
The Advantage and Possibility of assimilating a Town to a Country Parish.
THERE are two classes of writers, whose prevailing topics stand intimately connected with the philosophy of human affairs, but who, in almost all their habitudes of thinking, have hitherto maintained an unfortunate distance from each other. There are political economists, who do not admit Christianity, as an element, into their speculations; and there are Christian philanthropists, who do not admit political science, as an element, into theirs. The former very generally regard the professional subject of the latter, if not with contempt, at least with unconcern; and the latter as generally regard the professional subject of the former, with a somewhat sensitive kind of prejudice, bordering upon disapprobation and dislike. It is thus, that two classes of public labourers, who, with a mutual respect and understanding, might have, out of their united contributions, rendered a most important offering to society have, in fact, each in the prosecution of their own separate walk, so shut out the light, and so rejected the aid, which the other could have afforded, as either, in many instances, to have merely amused the.intelleetual public, with inert and unproductive theory, on the one hand, or as to have misled the practically benevolent public, into measures of well-meaning, but mischievous, and ill-directed activity, on the other.
And indeed, it is only in the later walks of political science, that the aid of Christianity has obviously become of practical importance to her; nor did this aid appear to be at all requisite for the purpose of giving effect to her earlier speculations. Till within these last fifteen years, the great topic of inquiry among our abstract politicians, was the theory of commerce; and the moral habit of the labouring classes, as founded on their religion, did not enter, as an element, or as a component part, into that theory. By the simple fiat of an enlightened parliament, the freedom of trade could be established; and every artificial restraint or encouragement, alike be done away; and all intermeddling with a concern, which is best provided for on the part of government, by its being simply let alone, could henceforth be left to the operation of natures own principles, and natures own processes.
And thus, without. borrowing any other aid from the religion of the New Testament, than that general benefit which she has conferred upon society, by the greater currency she has given to the virtues of truth, and justice, and liberality, among men, may all that is sound in the political economy of Smith, and his immediate followers, have been carried into accomplishment, by a series of enactments, or rather of repeals, on the part of a countrys legislature, without any concurrence of principle and habit whatever, either sought after or obtained, on the part of a countrys population.
But the case is widely different, with respect to the later contributions, which have been rendered to this science. We allude more especially to the Essay of Mr Malthus, whose theory of population, had it been present to the mind of Mr Smith, would, we think, have modified certain of those doctrines and conclusions, which he presented to the world, in his Essay on the Theory of Commerce. It is true, that government, by her obtrusive interferences, has put the country into a worse condition, in respect of her population, than it would have been in, had this branch of its economy been left altogether to itself just as she has put the country into a worse condition, in respect of its trading prosperity, than it would have been in, had this branch of its economy been also left to itself.
There are certain artificial encouragements to population, which government ought never to have sanctioned, and which it were the wisdom of government, with all prudent and practicable speed, to abolish. There are certain bounties that the law has devised upon marriage, in every way as hurtful and impolitic, as her bounties upon trade, and which it were greatly better for the interest of all classes, and more especially of the labouring classes, that she should forthwith recall. There is a way, in which, by stepping beyond her province, and attempting to provide for that which would have more effectually been provided for without her, by the strong principle of self-preservation, on the one hand, and the free, but powerful sympathies of individual nature, on the other there is a way, in which she has lulled the poor into improvidence, and frozen the rich into apathy towards their wants and their sufferings; and this way, it were surely better that she had never entered upon, and better now, that she should retrace, with all convenient expedition.
Now, all this may be done, and with a certain degree of benefit, even in the midst of an unchristian population. Their comfort would be advanced so far, merely by the principles of nature being restored to their unfettered operation; and this is desirable, even though we should fall short of that additional comfort, which would accrue from the principles of Christianity being brought more prevalently amongst them, than before. And thus, it is a possible thing, that government, acting exclusively in the temper, and with the views of the wisdom of this world, may exert herself, with beneficial influence, on that great branch of political economy, which relates to the population of a state, just as she may on that other great branch of it, which relates to the commerce of a state. She may at least erase her own blunders from the statute-book, and conclusively do away the whole of that mischief, which the erroneous policy of our ancestors has entailed on the present generation.
But there is one wide and palpable distinction between the matter of commerce, and the matter of population. Government may safely withdraw from the former concern altogether; and abandon it to the love of gain, and the spirit of enterprise, and the sharp-sighted sagacity, that guides almost all the pursuits of interest, and the natural securities for justice, between man and man in society. Let her simply commit the cause of commerce to the joint operation of these various influences, and she will commit it to the very elements which are most fitted to prosper it forward to the pitch of its uttermost possible elevation. And it were also well, that government withdrew from the concern of ordinary pauperism altogether, which stands so nearly associated with the question of population. She would, in this way, do much to call forth a resurrection of those providential habits, which serve both to restrain the number, and to equalise the comforts of our people; and she would also do much to bring out, those otherwise checked and superseded sympathies, that, in the flow of their kindly and spontaneous exercise, are more fitted to bind the community in gentleness together, than all the legalised charities of our land.
But though she may thus do much, she cannot do all; and there will still be left a mighty reversion of good, that can only be achieved by the people themselves. For, though the unfettered principles of natme may suffice, for carrying all that interest which is connected with the state of a countrys commerce, onwards to the condition that is best and safest for the public weal; the mere principles of nature will not suffice for carrying the interest that is connected with the state of a countrys population, onwards to the condition that is best and safest for the public weal. It is very true, that a compulsory provision for the poor, aggravates the poverty of the land, by augmenting the pressure of its population upon its subsistence; and that by the repeal of such a system, the whole amount of this aggravation would be reduced. But the reduction were only partial. For, so long as profligacy remains, the pressure in question, will, though lessened in amount, remain along with it. So long as the sensual predominates over the reflective part of the human constitution, will there be improvident marriages, and premature families, and an overdone competition for subsistence, and a general inadequacy in the wages of labour to the fair rate of human enjoyment; and, in a word, all the disorder and discomfort of an excessive population. So long as there is generally a low and grovelling taste among the people - instead of an aspiring tendency towards something more in the way of comfort, and cleanliness, and elegance, than is to be met with in the sordid habitations of a rude and semi-barbarous country will they rush with precipitation into matrimony; and care not how unable they are to meet its expenses; and forfeit the vhole ease and accommodation of the future, to the present ascendancy of a blind and uncalculating impulse.
And thus, while government may reduce this pressure up to the amount of what it has brought on by its own mismanagement - it is a pressure which it can never wholly, and never nearly extinguish. The tendency to excessive population can only find its thorough and decisive counteraction, among the amended habits, and the moralised characters, and the exalted principles of the people themselves. To bring the economy of a nations wealth into its best possible condition, it may suffice to go up to the legislature; and beg that she may withdraw her intermeddling hand from a concern, which her touch always mars, but never medicates. To bring the economy of its population into the best possible condition, it is right to go up to the legislature, and beg that she may recall the mischief of her own interferences. But it is further necessary, to go forth among the people; and there to superinduce the principles of an efficient morality, on the mere principles of nature; and there to work a transformation of taste and of character; and there to deliver lessons, which, of themselves, will induce a habit of thoughtfulness, that must insensibly pervade the whole system of a mans desires and his doings-making him more a being of reach, and intellect, and anticipation, than he was formerly - raising the whole tone of his mind; and infusing into every practical movement, along with the elements of passion and interest, the elements of duty, and of wisdom, and of self-estimation.
It is thus, that the disciples of political science, however wisely they may speculate upon this question, are, if without the element of character among the general population, in a state of impotency as to the practical effect of their speculation. So long as the people remain either depraved or un-enlightened, the country never will attain a healthful condition in respect of one of the great branches of her policy. This is an obstacle which stands uncontrollably opposed to the power of every other expedient for the purpose of mitigating the evils of a redundant population; and, till this be removed, legislatures may devise, and economists may demonstrate as they will, they want one of the data, indispensable to the right solution of a problem, which, however clear in theory, will, upon trial, mock the vain endeavours of those who overlook the moral principles of man, or despise the mysteries of that faith, which can alone inspire them.
It is thus that our political writers, if at all honestly desirous of obtaining a fulfilment for their own speculation, should look towards the men who are fitted to expatiate among the people, in the capacity of their most acceptable and efficient moralists. It is evident that they themselves are not the best adapted for such a practical movement trough a community of human beings. It is not by any topic or any demonstration of theirs, that we can at all look for a general welcome and admittance amongst families. Let one of their number, for example, go forth with the argument of Malthus, or any other of the lessons of political economy, and that, for the purpose of enlightening the practice and observation of his neighbourhood. The very first reception that he met with, would, in all likelihood, check the farther progress of this moral and benevolent adventure, and stamp upon it all the folly and all the fruitlessness of Quixotism. People would laugh, or wonder, or be offended; and a sense of the utterly ridiculous, would soon attach itself to this expedition, and lead him to abandon it.
Now, herein lies the great initial superiority which the merely Christian has over the merely civil philanthropist. He is armed with a topic of ready and pertinent introduction, with which he may go round a population, and come into close and extensive contactwith all the families. Let his errand be connected with religion; and, even though a very obscure and wholly unsanctioned individual, may he enter within the precincts of nearly every household, and not meet with one act of rudeness or resistance during the whole of his progress. Should he only, for example, invite their young to his Sabbath-School, he, with this for his professed object, would find himself in possession of a passport, upon which, and more especially among the common ranks of society, he might step into almost every dwelling-place; and engage the inmates in conversations of piety; and leave, at least, the sensations of cordiality and gratitude behind him; and pave the way for successive applications of the same influence; and secure this acknowledgment in favour of his subject, that it is worthy of being proposed on the one side, and worthy of being entertained and patiently listened to, on the other.
It is not of his final success that we are now speaking. It is of his advantageous outset. It is of that wide and effectual door of access to the population, which the Christian philanthropist has, and which the civil philanthropist has not - and from which it follows, that if the lessons of the former are at all fitted to induce a habit favourable to the objects of the latter, the economist who underrates the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the zeal of its devoted labourers, is deposing from their rightful estimation, the best auxiliaries of his cause.
And it would save a world of misconception, were it distinctly kept in mind, that, for the purpose of giving effect to the lessons of the economist, it is not necessary for him who labours in the gospel vineyard, either to teach, or even so much as to understand, these lessons. Let him simply confine himself to his own strict and peculiar business - let him labour for immortality alone - let his single aim be to convert and to christianise, and, as the result of prayer and exertion, to succeed in depositing with some the faith of the New Testament, so as that they shall hold forth to the esteem and the imitation of many, the virtues of the New Testament; and he does more for the civil and economical well-being of his neighbourhood, than he ever could do by the influence of all secular demonstration. Let his desire and his devotedness be exclusively towards the life that is to come, and without borrowing one argument from the interest of the life that now is, will he do more to bless and to adorn its condition, than can be done by all the other efforts of patriotism and philosophy put together.
It were worse than ridiculous, and it most assuredly is not requisite, for him to become the champion of any economic theory, with the principles of which he should constantly be infusing either his pulpit or his parochial ministrations. His office may be upheld in the entire aspect of its sacredness; and the main desire and prayer of his heart towards God, in behalf of his brethren, may be that they should be saved; and the engrossment of his mind with the one thing needful, may be as complete as was that of the Apostle, who determined to know nothing among his hearers, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified - and yet, such is the fulness of the blessing of the gospel with which he is fraught, that while he renders the best possible service to the converts whom, under the Spirit of God, he has gained to its cause; he also, in the person of these converts, renders the best possible contribution to the temporal good of society. It is enough, that they have been rescued from the dominion of sensuality ; - it is enough, that they have become the disciples of that book, which, while it teaches them to be fervent in spirit, teaches them also to be not slothful in business ; - it is enough, that the Christian faith has been formed with such power in their hearts, as to bring out the Christian morals into visible exemplification upon their history ; - it is enough, that the principle within them, if it do not propagate its own likeness in others, can at least, like the salt to which they have been compared, season a whole vicinity with many of its kindred and secondary attributes.
There is not a more familiar exhibition in humble life, than that alliance, in virtue of which a Christian family is almost always sure to be a well-conditioned family. And yet its members are utterly unversant either in the maxims or in the speculations of political science.. They occupy the right place in a rightly- constituted and well-going mechanism; but the mechanism itself is what they never hear of, and could not comprehend. Their Christian adviser never reads them a lesson from the writings of any economist; and yet the moral habit to which the former has been the instrument of conducting them, is that which brings them into a state of practical conformity with the soundest and most valuable lessons which the latter can devise. And now that habit and character and education among the poor, have become the mighty elements of all that is recent in political theory as well may the inventor of a philosophical apparatus, disown the aid of those artisans, who, in utter ignorance of its use, only know how to prepare and put together its materials - as may the most sound and ingenious speculator in the walks of civil economy, disown the aid of those Christian labourers, who, in utter ignorance of the new doctrine of population, only know how to officiate in that path of exertion, by which the members of our actual population may be made pure, and prudent, and pious.
And if we revert to the habit of the last generation in Scotland, which is still fresh in the remembrance of many who are now alive, we shall find an ample verification of all these remarks. At that time, Malthus had not written, and his speculation had little more than an embryo existence in the 37 pages of Wallace; and, certain it is, that, in the minds of our solid and regular and well-doing peasantry, it had no existence at all. It was acted upon, but without being at all counted upon. It was one of the cherished and domestic decencies of a former age, transmitted from every matron to her daughters, not to marry without a costly and creditable provision; and the delay of years, was often incurred, in the mighty work of piling together, the whole materiel of a most bulky and laborious preparation; and the elements of future comfort and future respectability, behoved to be accumulated to a very large extent, ere it was lawful, or at least reputable, to enter upon the condition of matrimony - and thus the moral preventive check of our great economist, was in full and wholesome operation, long before it was offered by him to public notice, in the shape of a distinct and salutary principle.
And, if we wish to revive its influence among the people, this will not be done, we apprehend, by cheapening the currency of his doctrine, and bringing it down to the level of the popular understanding. It must be by other tracts than those of political economy, that we shall recover the descending habit of our countrymen. It must be by addresses of a more powerful character, than those which point to the futurities of an earthly existence. It must be, not by men labouring, however strenuously, after some great political achievement, but by men labouring for the good of imperishable spirits by men who have their conversation in heaven, and who, with their eye full upon its glories, feel the comparative insignificance of the pilgrimage which leads to it. And not till we recall the Christianity - shail we ever recall the considerate sobriety, the steady equalised comfort, the virtuous independence of a generation, the habit and the memory of which are so fast departing away from us.
Let me finish my observations on this part of the subject, with adverting to the way in wkich the re-action of a peoples turbulence is ever sure to follow the neglect of a peoples Christianity, how, of all modes of intolerance, that intolerance of religion, which denounces the faith of the New Testament as fanaticism, brings, in its train, the most woful forfeiture of all civil and all political advantages: Insomuch, that the deadliest enemy of our state, is not what has been called a methodistical spirit among the people; but its deadliest enemy, by far, is a persecuting church, which would thwart all that is serious and evangelical in the desires of the people - and which, in so doing, tramples on those sacred accommodations that God has established between the longings of an awakened heart, and the truth that is unto salvation.
So much for the prevailing tendency of the civil to underrate or disregard the labours of the Christian philanthropist. But there is no less prevailing a tendency, on the part of the latter, to neglect many of the principles, and to underrate many of the propositions of the former. It is certainly to be regretted, that many of our most pious, and even our most profound theologians, should be so unfurnished as they are with the conceptions of political economy. But it is their active resistance to some of its clearest and most unquestionable principles - it is their blindly sentimental dislike of a doctrine, which stands on the firm basis of arithmetic it is their misrepresentation of it, as hostile to the exercise of our best feelings, when, in fact, all its hostility is directed against such perverse and unfortunate arrangements, as have served to chill and to counteract the sympathies of our nature - it is the dogmatism of their strenuous assevcrations, against tbat which experience and demonstration are ever obtruding upon the judgment as irrefragable truth - it is this which is mainly to be regretted, for it has enlisted the whole of their high and deserved influence on the side of institutions pernicious to society.
And, what perhaps is still worse, it has led a very enlightened class in our land, to imagine a certain poverty of understanding as inseparable from religions zeal - thus bringing down our Christian labourers, from that estimation, which, on their own topic, so rightfully belongs to them; and deducting from the weight of that professional testimony, which it were the best interest of all classes most patiently to listen to, and most respectfully to entertain.
But the mischief which has thus been inflicted on the good of humanity, is not to be compared with the still deadlier mischief of a certain error, which has received the utmost countenance and support from a large class of religionists. What we allude to, is their distaste towards all kinds of external machinery, for the furtherance of any Christian enterprise founded on their misapplication of an undoubted doctrine, that all the ebbs and all the revivals of Christianity, are primarily to be traced to the alternations of a direct influence from heaven. They look, and they rightly look, to the Spirit of God, as the agent of every prosperous revolution in the Christianity of our land. When there is a general torpor of irreligion amongst us, it is because there is a famine of spiritual nourishment; and God has withdrawn the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, from a careless and thoughtless and worldly generation. When there is the awakening of a thoughtful and repentant seriousness, it is because the spirit of it has been poured out of that upper Sanctuary, into which prayer has ascended from beneath; and from which a regenerating influence has come down, as a descending return, for the intercessions of the devoted few, in behalf of a world lying in wickedness.
All this is sacred and substantial truth, which no speculation can impair; and it were folly to think, that, by the mere erection of a material frame-work, the cause of Christianity can be advanced, by a single hairbreadth, should there be a withholding of that especial and sanctifying grace, without which, the builders labour in vain, and the watchmen wake but in vain. And hence, with many, is there a total indolence and unconcern as to all outward arrangements; and every thing like a visible apparatus, appears insignificant in their eyes; and with something like the complacency of one who fancies himself in possession of the recondite principle of a given operation, do they view with contempt, all that man can do externally, and with his hands, for the purpose of achieving it: and thus do they hold in a kind of ineffable disdain, the proposal of building more churches, for the increase of Christianity in our land; and this is only one out of the many instances, in which, under a sense of the utter impotency of all mechanism, they would restrain human activity from putting itself forth on any palpable subject, and would sit in a sort of mystic and expectant quietism, till there come down upon us from the skies, the visitation of that inspiring energy, which is to provide for all, and to do all.
It may serve to reconcile these people, and perhaps to engage them in the work of outward arrangements, if we point their regards to that season in the history of the world, which was most signalised by the visitations of a moral and spiritual energy from heaven. We instance the apostolic age, when living water flowed more abundantly than it has ever done since, among those who wear the denomination of Christians; and yet, if we may extend the simile, did the leaders of the church give much of their earnestness to the work of providing it with ducts of conveyance. There never was perhaps so goodly and so various an external apparatus, for the transmission of Christianity from one human being to another, as at that period, when the Spirit descended most plentifully; and that too, for the purpose of depositing Christianity in the hearts of men. Paul, who prayed without ceasing for the supply of this essential influence, also pondered without ceasing such a constitution of offices, and such a routine of services, as would ensure the right distribution of it.
The falling of rain from the clouds, no more supersedes the preparation of receptacles for gathering, and of channels for conveying it - than the descent of living water, as the aliment of all that is acceptable in human virtue and spiritual in human discernment, supersedes the question of the best and fittest construction of an external system, for the circulation of it through a neighbourhood. The apostle, who felt most his dependence on the Spirit for the conversion of the souls of men, laboured most in the rearing of an outward and a visible agency, for the furtherance of the cause. And whether we read of the great variety of offices in the Christian church - as of prophets, and interpreters, and evangelists, for the edifying of the body of Christ; or observe the labour of the great apostle to set things in order, and the provision he made for ordaining elders in every city - we may perceive, that the age of greatest spiritual influence, was also an age of busy external regulation. Nor does it follow, that he who places all his confidence on the former, should neglect and undervalue the latter; or that he who expends thought and judgment upon the machinery of a Christianising process, thereby disowns the Holy Spirit of that supremacy which belongs to Him.
It was at a period when the religions spirit run high, that schools were instituted in Scotland; and such a system of education was devised and established, as has at least struck out a fountain of scholarship in every parish, which has been the place of uniform repair for the young of many successive generations. In this we see the good of what may be called a material organization. It survives all the ebbs and alternations of the spirit which gave it birth; and who can fail to perceive, that in virtue of its existence, when this spirit re-appears in the country, it finds channels for a readier and more abundant access into all the families, than it would do in a country where there was no parochial endowment, and no regular or universal habit of scholarship among the population? But what is more, the religious spirit may decline in a country, when, of course, it will move scantily through those conveyances which have been established in it, between the teacher and the taught. And yet it must not be denied, that there continues to move such an influence, as is still favourable to the temporal well-being of society. Even in seasons of the greatest abandonment, as to the light and faith of the gospel, there are an intelligence, and an enlargement, and a reflective sobriety, gotten at these schools, all of which have stamped a great civic and economic superiority of character on the peasantry of Scotland.
Such a machinery, with its numerous rills of distribution, is well adapted to the object of propagating the dominant spirit of the times through the nation at large. When that happens to be the warm, and affectionate, and evangelical spirit of the New Testament, there will be a far wider and more effectual door of access for it through the families of that land which has the apparatus, than of that land which has it not. So that it is well for the Christian economy of every country to have such an establishment. And even where the evangelical spirit has declined, there is still in the quiet and ordinary tenor of every nations history, a spirit among the public functionaries, on the side of order and good conduct; so that, with the softening and humanising effect of scholarship, on the habit of the mind, it is further well, for the civic economy of every country, to have such an establishment.
We hold the very same principles to be applicable to the question of religious establishments. It is true, that our present goodly apparatus of churches and parishes was reared and perfected in days of thickest darkness. But when the light of reformation arose, it broke its way with greater force and facility, because of the very passages which Popery had opened; and let our ecclesiastical malcontents ascribe what corruption they may to the establishments of England and Scotland, we hold them to be the destined instruments both for propagating and for augmenting the Christianity of our land, and should never cease to regret the overthrow of this mighty apparatus, as a catastrophe of deadliest import to the religious character of our nation.
We are the more in earnest upon this subject, that we believe the difference, in point of moral and religious habit, between a town and country population, to be more due to the difference, in point of adequacy, between the established provision of instruction, for the one and the other, than to any other cause which can be assigned for it. The doctrine of a celestial influence does not supersede, but rather calls, for a terrestrial mechanism, to guide and to extend the distribution of it; and it is under the want of the latter, that a mass of heathenism has deepened, and accumulated, and attained to such a magnitude and density in our large towns. The healing water is a treasure which must be looked for and prayed for from heaven; but still, it is put into earthen vessels, and is conveyed through the whole body of corruption by earthen path-ways. Nor do we think it more rational to look for the rise of Christianity in Pagan lands, without a missionary equipment, and mission ary labour, than to look for its revival among the enormous and now unpervaded departments of the city multitude, without such a locomotive influence, as shall bring the Word of God into material contact with its still, and sluggish, and stationary families.
We hold the possibility, and we cannot doubt the advantage of assimilating a town to a country parish. We think that the same moral regimen, which, under the parochial and ecclesiastical system of Scotland, has been set up, and with so much effect, in her country parishes, may, by a few simple and attainable processes, be introduced into the most crowded of her cities, and with as signal and conspicuous an effect on the whole habit and character of their population - that the simple relationship which obtains between a minister and his people in the former situation, may be kept up with all the purity and entireness of its influences in the latter situation; and be equally available to the formation of a well-conditioned peasantry: in a word, that there is no such dissimilarity between town and country, as to prevent the great national superiority of Scotland, in respect of her well- principled and well-educated people, being just as observable in Glasgow or Edinburgh, for example, as it is in the most retired of her districts, and these under the most diligent process of moral and religious cultivation. So that, while the profligacy which obtains in every crowded and concentrated mass of human beings, is looked upon by many a philanthropist as one of those helpless and irreclaimable distempers of the body politic, for which there is no remedy - do we maintain, that there are certain practicable arrangements which, under the blessing of God, will stay this growing calamity, and would, by the perseverance of a few years, land us in a purer and better generation. One most essential step towards so desirable an assimilation in a large city parish, is a numerous and well-appointed agency.
The assimilation does not lie here in the external framework; for, in a small country parish, the minister alone, or with a very few coadjutors of a small session, may bring the personal influence of his kind and Christian attentions to bear upon all the families. Among the ten thousand of a city parish, this is impossible; and, therefore, what he cannot do but partially and superficially in his own person, must, if done substantially, be done in the person of others. And he, by dividing his parish into small manageable districts - and assigning one or more of his friends, in some capacity or other, to each of them - and vesting them with such a right either of superintendance or of inquiry, as will always be found to be gratefully met by the population - and so, raising, as it were, a ready inter-medium of communication between himself and the inhabitants of his parish, may at length attain an assimilation in point of result to a country parish, though not in the means by which he arrived at it. He can in his own person maintain at least a pretty close and habitual intercourse with the more remarkable cases ; and as for the moral charm of cordial and Christian acquaintanceship, he spread it abroad by deputation over that part of the city which has been assigned to him.
In this way, an influence, long unfelt in towns, may be speedily restored to them;. and they, we affirm, know nothing of this department of our nature, who are blind to the truth of the position - that out of the simple elements of attention, and advice, and civility, and good-will, conveyed through the tenements of the poor, by men a little more elevated in rank than themselves, a far more purifying and even more gracious operation can be made to descend upon them, than ever will be achieved by any other of the ministrations of charity.'
And here, let it be remarked, that just as the material apparatus of schools subserves the civic as well as the Christian economy of a nation, by its operating as a medium for other good influences than those which are purely sacred - so this eminently holds true of every such arrangement as multiplies the topics and the occurrences of intercourse, between the higher and the lower orders of society. There is no large city which would not soon experience the benefit of such an arrangement. But when that city is purely commercial, it is just the arrangement which, of all others, is most fitted to repair a peculiar disadvantage under which it labours. In a provincial capital, the great mass of the population are retained in kindly and immediate dependence on the wealthy residenters of the place. It is the resort of annuitants, and landed proprietors, and members of the law, and other learned professions, who give impulse to a great amount of domestic industry, by their expenditure; and, on inquiring into the sources of maintenance and employment for the labouring classes there, it will be found that they are chiefly engaged in the immediate service of ministering to the wants and luxuries of the higher classes in the city. This brings the two extreme orders of society into that sort of relationship, which is highly favourable to the general blandness and tranquillity of the whole population.
In a manufacturing town, on the other hand, the poor and the wealthy stand more disjoined from each other. It is true, they often meet, but they meet more on an arena of contest, than on a field where the patronage and custom of the one party are met by the gratitude and good-will of the other. When a rich customer calls a workman into his presence, for the purpose of giving him some employment connected with his own personal accommodation, the general feeling of the latter must be altogether different from what it would be, were he called into the presence of a trading capitalist, for the purpose of cheapening his work, and being dismissed for another, should there not be an agreement in their terms. We do not aim at the most distant reflection against the manufacturers of our land; but it must be quite obvious, from the nature of the case, that their intercourse with the labouring classes is greatly more an intercourse of collision, and greatly less an intercourse of kindliness, than is that of the higher orders in such towns as Bath, or Oxford, or Edinburgh.
In this way, there is a mighty unfilled space interposed between the high and the low of every large manufacturing city, in consequence of which, they are mutually blind to the real cordialities and attractions which belong to each of them; and a resentful feeling is apt to be fostered, either of disdain or defiance, which it will require all the expedients of an enlightened charity effectually to do away. Nor can we guess at a likelier, or a more immediate arrangement for this purpose, than to multiply the agents of Christianity amongst us, whose delight it may be to go forth among the people, on no other errand than that of pure goodwill, and with no other ministrations than those of respect and tenderness.
There is one lesson that we need not teach, for experience has already taught it, and that is, the kindly influence which the mere presence of a human being has upon his fellows. Let the attention bestowed upon another, be the genuine emanation of good-will, and there is only one thing more to make it irresistible. The readiest way of finding access to a mans heart, is to go into his house; and there to perform the deed of kindness, or to acquit ourselves of the wonted and the looked for acknowledgment. By putting ourselves under the roof of a poor neighbour, we in a manner put our selves under his protection. - we render him for the time our superior we throw our reception on his generosity, and we may be assured that it is a confidence which will almost never fail us.
If Christianity be the errand on which the movement is made, it will open the door of every family; and even the profane and the profligate will come to recognise the worth of that principle, which prompts the unwearied assiduity of such services. By every circuit which is made amongst them, there is attained a higher vantage-ground of moral and spiritual influence; and, in spite of all that has been said of the ferocity of a city population, in such rounds of visitation there is none of it to be met with, even among the lowest receptacles of human worthlessness. This is the home walk in which is earned, if not a proud, at least a peaceful popularity the popularity of the heart - the greetings of men, who, touched even by the cheapest and easiest services of kindness, have nothing to give but their wishes of kindness back again; but, in giving these, have crowned such pious attentions with the only popularity that is worth the aspiring after - the popularity that is won in the bosom of families, and at the side of death-beds.
We must refer to the following chapter, on the effect of locality in towns, for a more full elucidation of this influence, and of its beneficial operation. And, indeed, we can do little more at present, than clear and open our way to the task of demonstrating the various facilities by which a city may be likened, in constitution and effect, to a country parish. We shall therefore confine ourselves to what, in the main, may be regarded as preliminary. And as we have already adverted to the trivial estimation in which the work of purely Christian labourers is apt to be held by our political theorists, let us now expose a very sore and hurtful invasion that has been actually made upon them by our political practitioners, by which their religious usefulness has been grievously impaired, and even their civil and political usefulness has been impaired along with it. It is indeed a topic altogether pertinent to the title of our present chapter, as standing intimately associated with the cause of one of the greatest dissimilarities that obtains between a town and a country parish. It is an example of the slender homage which is rendered to Christianity by our political economists, embodied into shape and practice by our political functionaries; and in virtue of which, the best objects of all civil and legislative policy are in danger of being entirely frustrated.
What we alude to, is, the mischief of those secularities, which have been laid on the clerical office; and for the purpose of exposing it, do we offer a short narrative of the way in which the sanctity of a profession, that ought ever to have been held inviolable, has been laid open to all the rude and, random invasions which are now ready to overwhelm it, - though we shall find it impossible to advert to every one item in that strange medley of services, by which the minister of a large city parish now feels himself plied at every hour, and beset at every path, and every turning point, in the history of his movements.
Among the people of our busy land, who are ever on the wing of activity; and, whether in circumstances of peace or of war, are at all times feeling the impulse of some national movement or other - it is not to be wondered at, that a series of transactions should be constantly flowing between the metropolis of the empire, and its distant provinces. There are the remittances which pass through our public offices, from soldiers and sailors, to their relatives ut home ; - there are letters of inquiry sent back again from these relatives ; - there is all the correspondence, and all the business of drafts, and other negociations, which ensue upon the decease of a soldier, or a sailor ; - there is the whole tribe of hospital allowances, the payment of pensions, and a variety of other items, which, all taken together,would make out a very strange and tedious a enumeration.
The individuals with whom these transactions are carried on, need to be verified. They live in some parish or other; and who can be fitter for the required purpose, than the parish minister? He is, or he ought to be, acquainted with every one of his parishioners; and this acquaintance, which he never can obtain in towns, but by years of ministerial exertion amongst them, is turned to an object destructive of the very principle on which he was selected for such a service. It saddles him with a task which breaks in upon his ministerial exertions - which widens his distance from his people; and, in the end, makes him as unfit for certifying a single clause of information about them, as the most private individual in his neighbourhood.
Yet so it is. The minister is the organ of many a communication between his people and the offices in London; and many a weary signature is exacted from him; and a work of management is devolved upon his shoulders; and, instead of sitting like his fathers in office, surrounded by the theology of present and of other days, he must now turn his study into a counting-room, and have his well arranged cabinet before him, fitted up with its sections and its other conveniences, for notices, and duplicates, and all the scraps and memoranda of a manifold correspondence.
But the history does not stop here. The example of Government has descended, and is now quickly running through the whole field of private individual agency. The regulation of the business of prize-moneys, is one out of several examples -that occur to us. The emigration of new settlers to Canada, was another. The business of the Kinloch bequest, is a third. It does not appear, that there is any act of Government authorising the agents in this matter to fix on the clergy, as the organs either for the transaction of their business, or the conveyance of their information to the people of the land. But they find it convenient to endow the example of Government, and have accordingly done so ; and, in this way, a mighty host of schedules, and circulars, and printed forms with long blank spaces, which the minister is required to fill up, accordiug to the best of his knowledge, come iuto mustering competition with the whole of his other claims, and ins other engagements. It is true, that the minister may, in this case decline ; but, then, the people are apprised of the arrangement, and, trained as they have been, too well, to look up to the minieter as an organ of civil accommodation, will they lay siege to his dwelling - place, and pour upon him with their inquiries ; and the cruel alternative is laid upon him either to ohstruct the convenience of his parishioners, and bid them from his presence, or to take the whole weight of a management that has been so indiscreetly and so wantonly assigned to him.
If, for the expediting of business, we are made free with, even by private individuals, it is not to be wondered at, if charitable bodies should, at all times, seek for our subserviency to their schemes and their operations of benevolence. When a patriotic fund, or a Waterloo subscription, blazons in all the splendour of a nations munificence, and a nations gratitude, before the public eye, - who shall have the hardihood to refuse a single item of the bidden co-operation that is expected from him? Surely, such a demand as this is quite irresistible; and, accordingly, from this quarter too, a heavy load of consultations and certificates, with the additional singularity of having to do with the drawing of money, and the keeping of it in safe custody, and the dealing of it out in small discretionary parcels according to the needs and circumstances of the parties : - - all, all is placed upon the shoulders of the already jaded and overborne minister.
We know not where this is to end, or what new and unheard-of duties are still in reserve for us. But this much we know, that they are in the way of an indefinite augmentation. We have heard obscurely of some very recent additions to our burdens ; but of what it particularly is, we have not got the distinct or the authentic information. We are not civilians enough to know, enen if an act of Parliament carry such an omnipotence along with it, as to empower this strange series of wanton and arbitrary infringements on the individual homes and liberties of clergymen. But we are patriots enough to feel, that the rulers of our country are, for an accommodation which might be easily rendered to them by another method, bartering away the best interests of its people, that, through the side of its public instructors, they are reaching a blow to the morality and principle of the commonwealth, - that, by every such impolitic enactment as we have now attempted to expose they are slackening the circulation of Christianity, and of all its healthful and elevating influences amongst our towns and families, - that they are sweeping away from the face of every large city, the best securities for order, and contentment, and loyalty ;-nor should we wonder, if. in some future period of turbulence and disorder, they shall rue the infatuation which led them to tamper so with the religion of our land, by the inroads they are now making, and the cruel profanation they are now inflicting, on the sacredness of its officiating ministers.
It is needless to expatiate on the mischievous effect of all this upon the great mass of our population. In virtue of the grievous desecration that has thus been inflicted on the office, we hold out, in their eyes, a totally different aspect from the ministers of a former age. We are getting every year more assimilated, in look and in complexion, to surveyors, and city-clerks, and justices, and distributors of stamps, and all those men of place, who have to do with the people, in the matters of civil or municipal agency. Every feature in the sacredness of our character is wearing down, amid all the stir, and hurry, and hard driving, of this, manifold officiality. And thus it is, that our parishioners have nearly lost sight of us altogether, as their spiritual directors, and seldom or never come near to us, upon any spiritual errand at all - but, taking us, as they are led by the vicious system that is now in progressive operation to find us they are, ever and anon, overwhelming us with consultations about their temporalities; and the whole tact of a spiritual relationship between the pastor and his flock is thus dissipated and done away. There is little of the unction of Christianity, at all, in the intercourse he holds with them - and every thing that relates to the soul, and to the interests of eternity, and to the religious care of themselves, and of their families, is elbowed away by the work of filling up their schedules, and advising them about their moneys, and shuffling, along with them, amongst the forms and the papers of a most intricate correspondence.
The principle which we lay down is, - that the work of a Christian teacher is enough, by itself, to engross and take possession of the entire powers of any single man. The business of meditation is a fatiguing business, and leaves a general exhaustion behind it. There is such a thing as a weariness of the mind; and surely, if the right ministration for weariness be repose - then, there must be an overworking, of the mind, when after having taken exercise up to the limits of its strength, it is plied with a multiplicity of other and overbearing demands on its attention, and its memory, and its judgment, and the various faculties which belong to it. The likest thing to it, in the experience of ordinary citizens, which we can imagine, is the case of a merchant exhausting himself by the forenoon labours of his desk, or his counting-house, and retiring to the sweets of a comfortable home, and there solacing himself with the conversations of friendship, or recruiting the languor of his worn-out spirits among the endearments of a family. There is a wall of defence, which, we understand, many of them have thrown around their persons, in virtue of which, no one application about business is at all entertained, or listened to, excepting on business hours.
Let them just guess, then, how much they would be teased, and jaded, and positively enfeebled, were this wall of defence broken down; and there regularly passed through the breach, in force and in frequency, every evening, upon them, a host of invaders armed with their miscellany of mixed and multiform applications. Let them take this back to the case of a man, whose business is meditation., They, perhaps, may never have engaged to any great extent in this business Then, we do not wait for the conviction of their personal experience on the subject; but we demand it as a right, that the man who has the experience should be believed. His positive testimony should be made to outweigh all that inexperience may conceive, or may utter, on such a case. If he happen to stand confronted with a public, who are utter strangers to the labour of intense thoughtfulness, the voice of such a public, if lifted in condemnation against him, should not be sustained as a voice of authority. They are not a competent jury upon this question. And, having premised this, we assert what we are not afraid to carry, by appeal, to the higher reason of the country - that the labour of intense study, if persisted in, for a few hours, is just as exhausting as the busiest and most lengthened forenoon of an ordinary citizen. He who has borne this labour through the day, has purchased by it, as good a right to exemption from all that can disturb or annoy him-and if, nevertheless, these annoyances shall be obstinately presented to him, he is put into a state of mental and bodily suffering. There is a pressure upon his whole constitution, greater than the strength of it can enable him to carry. And, under these circumstances, he must cast about for relief, in some change of his daily and habitual arrangements.
We are all aware of the restless appetite of a sentient being, for a comfortable state of existence. In the case which we have now specified, this principle must tell. If a student was in the habit of labouring at his own peculiar exercise, up to the measure of his constitutional ability, then the additional labour that is thus laid upon him, lays also upon him the necessity of an abridgement upon his studies. He must just make a curtailment upon his business hours.
There is a familiar advice, that is often given to a man under hardship, and which will come upon him with all the power of a most insinuating temptation: Take matters easily. Are you busied with foreign applications? Take them easily. Are you cumbered with official patronage? Take it easily,. Are you plied for your personal attendance on the work of secularities? Take it easily. Are you put into requisition, through the week, for a variety of manifold engagements? Take them all easily. Are you, in addition to other things, burdened with the duty of Sabbath preparation? It is true, that there is something in this employment, which may well weigh a man down with a feeling of its importance. He is to address a number of unperishable creatures, about the affairs of immortality. But he has no other resource, than just to do with them what he does with the crowd and the frequency of his other affairs. He must throw together such thoughts as he can, and get up a half-hour exhibition, in some way or other; but, in self-defence, and as he values the great objects of comfort and endurance, he must, by all means, take the matter easily.
We need not say more about the direct blow which the prevailing system of our towns must, at length, in this way, give to the cause of practical Christianity, in our congregations and parishes. We proceed to another effect, still more palpable, if not more prejudicial, than the former. It will keep back and degrade the theological literature of Scotland.
There is nothing in the contrast which we are now to offer, between the theology of one age and that of another, which is not highly honourable to the present race of clergymen. The truth is, that they have kept their ground so well, against the whole of this blasting and degenerating operation, as to render it necessary, for the purpose of giving full effect to our argument, that we should look forward, in perspective, to the next age, and compute the inevitable difference which must obtain between its literature and that of the last generation.
On looking back to the distance of half a century, we behold the picture of a church adorned by the literature of her clergy. It is of no consequence to the argument, that the whole of this literature was not professional. Part of it was so; and every part of it proved, at least, the fact, that there was time, and tranquillity, and full protection from all that was uncongenial for the labours of the understanding. We cannot but look back with regret, bordering upon envy, to that period in the history of our church - when her ministers companied with the sages of philosophy, and bore away an equal share of the public veneration when the levities of Hume, as he sported his unguarded hour, among the circles of the enlightened, were met by the Pastors of humble Presbyterianism, who, equal in reach and in accomplishment to himself, could repel the force of all his sophistries, and rebuke him into silence - when this most subtle and profound of infidels aimed his decisive thrust at the Christian testimony, and a minister of our church, and he, too, the minister of a town, dared all the hazards of the intellectual warfare, and bore the palm of superiority away from him.
In a word, we look back, as we do upon a scene of departed glory, to that period, when the clergy of our cities could ply the toils of an unbroken solitude, and send forth the fruits of them, in one rich tide of moral and literary improvement over our land. It is true, that all the labours of that period were not rendered up, in one consecrated offering, to the cause of theology. It is true, that among the names of Wallace, and Henry, and Robertson, and Blair, and Macknight, and Campbell, some can be singled out, who chose the classic walk, or gave up their talent to the speculations of general philosophy. Yet the history of each individual amongst them, proves that, in these days, there was time for the exercise of talent, that these were the days, when he, among the priesthood, who had an exclusive taste for theology, could give the whole force of his mind to its contemplations; that these were the days, when a generous enthusiasm for the glories of his profession, met with nothing to stifle or vulgarise; that these were the days, when the man of prayer, and the man of gospel ministrations, could give himself wholly to these things, and bring forth the evidence of his profiting, either in authorship to all, or in weekly addresses to the people of, his own congregation.
It is true, that the names which we have now gathered, are all from the field of a lofty and conspicuous literature. Yet we chiefly count upon them, as the tokens of such a leisure, and of such a seclusion, and of such an habitual opportunity, for the exercises of retirement, as would give tenfold effect to the worthiest and most devoted ministers of a former generation - as enabled the Hamilton and Gillies of our own city, (Glasgow) to shed a holier influence around them, and have throned, in the remembrance of living men, the Erskine, and Walker, and Black, of our metropolis, who maintained, throughout the whole of their history, the aspect of sacredness, and gave every hour of their existence to its contemplations and its labours.
What is it that must cause all resemblance of this to disappear from a future generation? Not that their lot will be cast in an age of little men. Not that Nature will send forth a blight over the face of our establishment, and wither up all the graces and talents, which, at one time, signalised it. Not that some adverse revolution of the elements will bring along with it some strange desolating influence on the genius and literature of the priesthood. The explanation is nearer at hand, and we need not seek for it among the wilds or the obscurities of mysticism. Nature will just be as liberal as before; and bring forth the strongest and the healthiest specimens of mind, in as great abundance as ever; and will cast abroad no killing influence at all, to stunt any one of its aspiring energies; and will just, if she have free play, be as vigorous with the moral as with the physical productions of a former generation.
This change, of which the fact will be unquestionable, however much the cause may elude the public observation, will not be the work of Nature, but of man. There will be no decay of talent whatever, in respect to the existence of it. The only decay will be in the exercise of talent. It will be that her solitudes have all been violated - that her claims have all been unheeded and despised - that her delicacies have all been overborne - above every thing, that her exertions and her capabilities have been grossly misunderstood. It not being known how much restraint stifles her; and the employments of ordinary business vulgarise her; and distraction impedes the march of her greater enterprises; and the fatigue she incurs by her own exercises, if accumulated by the fatigue of other exercises, which do not belong to her, may, at length, enervate and exhaust her altogether.
Thus it is, that an unlearned public may both admit the existence of the mischief, and lament the evils of it, and yet be utterly blind to the fact, that it is a mischief of their own doing. They lay their own rude estimate on a profession, of the cares and the labours of which they have no experience and, instead of cheering, do they scowl upon the men who vindicate the privileges of our order. They are perpetually measuring the habits and the conveniences of literary business, of which they know nothing, by the habits and the conveniences of ordinary business, of which they know something.
And thus it is, that instead of the blind leading the blind, the blind, in the first instance, turn upon their leaders - they give the whole weight of their influence and opinion to that cruel process, by which the most enlightened priesthood in the world, if they submit to it, may, by the lapse of one generation more, sink down into a state of contentment with the tamest, and the humblest, and the paltriest attainments. Nor will it at all alleviate, but fearfully embitter, the whole malignity of this system, should its operation be such, that, in a succeeding age, both our priests and our people will sit down in quietness, and in great mutual satisfaction with each other - the one, fired by no ambition for professional excellence; the other, actuated by no demand for it - the one, peaceably leaning down to the business of such services as they may be called to bear; the other, not seeking, and not caring for higher services.
Every thing that is said for the evils of such a system, should elevate, in public estimation, all our living clergymen. It came upon them in the way of gradual accumulation; and, at each distinct step, it wore the aspect of a benevolent and kind accommodation to the humbler orders of society. They are not to blame that it has been admitted; and we call upon the public to admire, that they have stood so well its adverse influence on all their professional labours. But there is one principle in human nature, which, if the system be not done away, will, in time, give a most tremendous certainty to all our predictions. It does not bear so hard on the natural indolence of man, to spend his life in bustling and miscellaneous activity, as to spend his life in meditation and prayer. The former is positively the easier course of existence. The two habits suit very ill together; and, in some individuals, there is an utter incompatibility betwixt them.
But should the alternative be presented, of adopting the one habit or the, other singly, the position is unquestionable - that it were better for the ease, and the health, and the general tone of comfort and cheerfulness, that a man should lend out his person to all the variety of demands for attendance, and of demands for ordinary business, which are brought to bear upon him, than that he should give up his mind to the labours of a strenuous and sustained thoughtfulness. Now, just calculate the force of the temptation to abandon study, and to abandon scholarship, when personal comfort and the public voice, both unite to lure him away from them - when the popular smile would insinuate him into such a path of employment, as, if he once enter, he must bid adieu to all the stern exercises of a contemplative solitude; and the popular frown glares upon that retirement, in which he might consecrate his best powers to the best interests of a sadly misled and miscalculating generation - when the hosannahs of the multitude cheer him on to what maybe comparatively termed, a life of amusement; and the condemnation both of unlettered wealth and unlettered poverty, is made to rest upon his name, should he refuse to let down the painful discipline of his mind, by frittering it all away amongst those lighter varieties of management, and of exertion, which, by the practice of our cities, are habitually laid upon him.
Such a temptation must come, in time, to be irresistible; and, just in proportion as it is yielded to, must there be a portion of talent withdrawn from the literature of theology. There must be the desertion of all that is fine, and exquisite, and lofty, in its contemplations. There must be a relapse from the science and the industry of a former generation. There must be a decline of theological attainments, and theological authorship. There must be a yearly process of decay and of deterioration, in this branch of our national literature. There must be a descending movement towards the tame, and the feeble, and the common-place. And thus, for the wretched eclat of getting clergy to do, with their hands, what thousands can do as well as they, may our cities come, at length, to barter away the labour of their minds, and give such a blow to theology, that, amongst men of scholarship and general cultivation, it will pass for the most languishing of the sciences.
And here we cannot but advert to the observation of Hume, who, be his authority in religion what it may, must be admitted to have very high authority in all matters of mere literary experience. He tells us, in the history of his own life, that a great city is the only fit residence for a man of letters; and his assertion is founded on a true discernment of our nature. In the country, there may be leisure for the pursuits of the understanding; but there is a want of impulse. The mind is apt to languish in the midst of a wilderness - where, surrounded perhaps, by uncongenial spirits, it stagnates and gathers the rust of decay, by its mere distance from sympathy, and example, and the animating converse of men who possess a kindred taste, and are actuated by a kindred ambition. Transport the possessor of such a mind to a town, and he there meets with much to arouse him out of all this dormancy. He will find his way to men, whose views and pursuits are in harmony with his own; and he will be refreshed for action, by the encouragement of their society; and he will feel himself more linked with the great literary public, by his personal approximation to some of its most distinguished members; and communications from the eminent, in all parts of the country, will now pour upon him in greater abundance; and above all, in the improved facilities of authorship, and from his actual position within the limits of a theatre, where his talents are no sooner put forth into exercise, than the fruits of them may be brought out into exhibition
In all this, we say, there is a power and a vivacity of excitement, which may set most actively agoing, the whole machinery of his gears; and turn to its right account, those faculties which, else, had withered in slothfulness, and, under the bleak influences of an uncheered and unstimulated solitude, might finally have expired. This applies, in all its parts, to the literature of theology,, and gives us to see, how much the cities of our land might do for the advancement of its interests. They might cast a wakeful eye over the face of the country; and single cut all the splendour and superiority of talent which they see in our establishment; and cause it to emerge out of its surrounding obscurity; and deliver it from the chill and languor of an uncongenial situation; and transplant it into a kindlier region, where, shielded from all that is adverse to the play or exercise of mind, and encouraged to exertion by an approving and intelligent piety, it may give its undivided labour to things sacred - and have its solitude for meditation on these things, varied only by such spiritual exercises out of doors, as might have for their single object the increase of Christian worth and knowledge amongst the population.
This is what cities might do for Theology. But what is it that they in fact do for it? The two essential elements for literary exertion, are excitement and leisure. The first is ministered in abundance out of all those diversities of taste and understanding which run along the scale of a mighty population. The second element, if we give way much longer to the system which prevails among them - if we lay no check upon their exertions, and make no stand against the variety of their inconsiderate demands upon us - if we resign our own right of judgment upon our own habits and our own conveniences, and follow the impulse of a public, who, without experience on the matter, can feel no sympathy and have no just calculation about the peculiarities of clerical employment - then shall we be robbed of this second element altogether. We shall lie under the malignity of an Egyptian bondage, - bricks are required of us, and we have no straw. The public would like to see all the solidities of argument, and all the graces of persuasion, associated with the cause of sacred literature. But then they would desolate the sanctuaries of literature. They would drag away mind from the employments of literature. They would leave not one moment of time or of tranquillity for the pursuits of literature. They would consume, by a thousand preposterous servilities, all those energies of the inner man, which might, every one of them, be consecrated with effect, to the advancement of literature. in one word, they would dethrone the guardians of this sacred cause from the natural eminency of their office altogether; and, weighing them down with the burden of other services, they would vulgarise them out of all their taste and all their generous aspirings after literature.
Here, then, is the whole extent of this sore and two-edged calamity. In the country, there is time for the prosecution of a lofty and laborious walk; but there is not the excitement. In the town, there is the excitement; but under the progress of such a system as we have attempted to expose, there will not be the time. There is a constant withdrawment of the more conspicuous members of our establishment from the solitude of their first parishes. But it is withdrawment into a vortex which stifles and destroys them. Those towns, which, with a few most simple and practicable reformations, might be the instruments of sustaining the cause of theology, and of sending abroad over the face of our country, a most vigorous and healthful impulse towards the prosecution of theological learning, may, under that yearly process of extinction, which is now going forward, depress the whole literature of our profession, and by every translation from the country, may, in fact, absorb so much of promise and ability from the cause of the gospel.
The atmosphere of towns, may at length become so pestilential, as to wither up the energies of our church, and shed a baleful influence over all that lustre of ministerial accomplishment, which otherwise might adorn it. And we have only to look to the last fifty years, and think of the new direction to our habits which has taken place in that period, in order to compute how soon our national establishment may, by the simple cause of its ministers being turned to the drudgery of other services, be shorn of her best and most substantial glories, and how soon that theology of which she is the appointed guardian, may come to sink both in vigour and illustration, beneath the spirit, and literature, and general philosophy, of the times.
Should no arrest be laid on this mischievous operation, then, by another age, will we behold two great absorbing eddies for the theology of our land. An Argus is stationed at each of them, whose office now, is to watch for all the rising excellence that shoots into visibility on the face of our establishment - and whose office then, will be to lure it to inevitable destruction. In the short-lived whirl of some fair and even brilliant exhibitions, may it be able, in each individual case, to sustain itself for a few circling years above the surface of mediocrity, when it will at length touch the brink of its final engulfment, and disappear for ever. Should any reader think that we have drawn the above picture with too faithful, or even with too strong a hand, we ask him further to think, that it is such a picture, as, by its very exhibition, may scare away the realities which it anticipates. The case, we are persuaded, requires only to be understood, and then will it be provided for, since the restoration of the clergy to their own proper and peculiar influence over the hosts of a city population, must appear both to the Christian and the general philanthropist, one of the most important of all our national desiderata.
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