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I must not dismiss the subject and bind up my sheaf of country lessons for the city, and toss it into your laps, my hearers, without an enforcement of the crowning lesson of all, -the sublime lesson of aspiration and faith inculcated by the sky. It is true the sky overarches us in the city also; but, so thick are the dust and smoke, so impetuous the movements, so loud the clamors of the crowd of men, such the distracting multiplicity of sights and events, on our surrounding level, that we rarely look up at the mighty dome of space, and permit its immensity to impress us, and its unchangeableness to calm and uplift us. While in the country, on the contrary, there is so little to interfere between us and the open heaven, that, as we stroll or pause, by the sea, in the wood, beside the brook, or on the hill, we are ever and anon allured to gaze upward into the obstructless azure, into the inviting and mysterious infinite of space. The largeness of the horizon seems visibly to accompany us everywhere, and a sense of the openness of heaven is consciously with us. This is an incitement to aspiration, to faith, and devotion. For, as we look aloft, we think of supernal things, and yearn for their closer realization. The soul itself follows on the upward eye-beam; and, leaving that behind where it flags, penetrates, beyond the brooding firmaments of stars, into the angelic courts, to the imagined presence of the Most High. Wandering, one cloudless day, on the edge of a little pond in the woods, I observed that I could, at will, either see the deposit of mud and leaves that composed its bottom, or, far, far beneath that dim layer of decay, see the incorruptible sky, the august dome of speckless blue. So, in moral things, may we stay our vision on the changes and failures of time, the sins and griefs of life, the doubt, turmoil, hatred, and despair of the world; or, gazing straight through all these shifting and perishable shapes of ill, feast our souls on the sublime laws and beneficence of the whole, the perfect beauty of truth and good, the unperturbed peace of heaven, the all-embracing providence of God.
The sky not only awakens in us an upward yearning of love and trust, it likewise teaches us a generous lesson of
toleration and kindness Its amplitude offers impartial and unwearied hospitality to high and low, splendid and sordid, vast and little. Behold, ye acrid wranglers and bigots! the all-enfolding charity of the roofing heaven, and be ashamed of your exclusiveness. That unpillared dome stretches its span in equal grandeur and tenderness over every thing below, bending, with the same divine benignity, above the sublime and the mean. It seems to stand there, with its perpetual blessing and invitation, in rebuke of all narrow intolerance, overarching alike good and ill, fair and foul, toadstool and temple, the deploying of armies and the sports of children, the monarch's palace and the beggar's grave. Nature is no encourager of bigotry, but liberal to the very core. She loves diversity, admits extremes, hates not even contradictions, desires especially that each thing shall be true to its own law, and that all shall then smile on it. She affects both midnight and sunshine, hurricane and calm; holds in her blue embrace the shapeless crag (and the Parthenon; sheds her glory of light on the eyeball of the eagle, the sepulchre of the scarabæus, the wing of the butterfly, and the track of the slug; drops her necklaces of dew on grass and rose and palm; and wreathes her cloudy turban about the pine-top and the mountain peak. What a lesson is here given by Nature to arbitrary, domineering, and uncharitable men, who bicker with their neighbors over the least difference of opinion, are displeased with every thing not ĉut to their pattern, without tolerance for that largeness of liberty which so well becomes the offspring of God, and which the true foster-children of Nature must always claim as a birthright! Doth not even Nature itself teach a generous liberality?
Something of the primal divineness of Eden lingers with the country, and, as often as we recur to it, refreshes us with a sense of that immediate presence of God which we are too apt to forget amidst the hurrying schemes and scrambling of the city. Our ancestors dwelt in the country; and their experiences are organically imbedded in our nervous system, where the passing of many a subtile stimulus obscurely evokes them still. Most of us were born in the country; and,
whenever we return thither, if we carry the right mood, the holiest lessons of faith and love are taught us anew. In the city, we get out of connection with, cease to notice, sometimes almost forget, the great elementary phenomena of the seasons, sunrise and nightfall and rain and cloud and river and forest and stars and moon and frost and thunder. It is well, now and then, to strike our social tasks, and revisit the old homestead of Nature. And may we not all adopt for our own, in their essential drift, the words used on a similar occasion by a child of genius, who, thirty years ago, left our streets for a quiet nook in the country?
With these high words, my dear parishioners and friends, I close, simply saluting you with an affectionate greeting of congratulation on the return of our scattered families, and the recommencement of our congregational service. Let us, in the coming year, awake to a new interest, both in our personal improvement and in the prosperity of our church. With one mind and one heart, let us stand fast together, earnestly laboring alike to build up our souls in true faith, good works, and sound piety, and our society, in numbers, strength, and zeal. May we all work in unison, and each do his part. Then shall we exceedingly flourish and abound.
Thus, returning from my summer vacation in the country, I cast before you my pastoral sheaf. May your co-operation and the blessing of God make it bread of life!
INDIVIDUALISM is the clew which modern political thought has followed. The theorists set out with an individual conceived of as morally insulated; they assume that in this insulation he is a full-grown human being; they locate in him certain private rights and interests; and finally, they make it the work of political society to secure to him in its presence that which he is supposed to be fully endowed with in its absence.
This method of thought has its advantages, and will bring into prominence a class of truths that had been left too much in the background. Modern society has long been advancing, and by many roads, toward a condition of greater interior mobility. It is like the change from the wedged mass of the Macedonian phalanx to the more open texture of the Roman legion. But the more there is extended around each man a space for private choice, the more the law of correlation should be grounded in opinion and applied by discipline. Every soldier in the phalanx was more or less held in his place by sheer physical pressure; in the legion a moral force and effect took the place of that constraint, and must be stronger than in the former case to be adequate. The movement toward interior mobility and openness of texture in other words, toward personal freedom in society — should be a double one, deepening the sense and heightening the effect of unitary law, in proportion to the extension of individual liberty. Doctrines, therefore, which disguise the law of correlation and the grounds of discipline are more fatal in the degree that men are to be united without being packed in mass, to the loss of individual motive and character. It were not without some stretch of ingenuity, and the adroit turning of sharp corners, that one would derive the discipline of the legion from nothing but the native right of each soldier to be where, and do what, might please him best,— to fight and win booty, to go and come, advance or fly, upon his own ac
count and at his own pleasure. Discipline, military or polit ical, never really came from any such notion; and the notion is dangerous in proportion as freedom of individual movement is to be reconciled with organic integrity. The effect always is, for it has been many times exemplified, — that the attempt at any such noble reconcilement is abandoned in despair, or falls into a hopeless see-saw between two bad extremes. Chaos comes of it first, and despotism afterwards. From Rousseau to Robespierre, from Robespierre to Napoleon,
there lies the road! The Spanish "republics" in America swing to and fro between dissolution that makes the nation a mob, and tyrants that maul it into a momentary consistency. And though such examples be thought little pertinent to our case, yet the instructions of reason are always pertinent; and reason teaches that the notion of individualism as the primary law, and source of all other law, is never so pernicious as when the object of desire is a reconciliation of private liberty of choice with the regimen of public health.
Yet that conception has dominated political thought, and still more political impulse, for two centuries. From the time when it was systematically explained by John Locke, to be afterwards recast with more brilliancy and less sobriety by Jean Jacques, it has, to the present day, held undisputed, or ineffectually disputed, possession of the field. A protest against it of amazing power has indeed, in our time, been made by a great writer, Thomas Carlyle; but this protest, if I may say so with the respect due to a noble intelligence, seems urged a little beyond the bounds of sanity by the impulse of reaction. So it is that a violent prepossession, pervading an age, destroys on both sides the balance of thought, and permits only the concussion of jarring opposites.
The ground-fact of political society is natural community, or solidarity, *—not the insulation of the individual, but its
*The term "solidarity," which Kossuth brought into vogue among us, has been so much put to sentimental uses that I employ it with reluctance; but it stands for so great a truth, and one to which the modern customs of speech, dominated by nominalism and individualism are so little adequate, that it cannot well be spared.