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for his own eternal ends; its strength, an agent of man's highest moral and spiritual being. The circle, the ancient emblem of eternity, the symbol of completeness, the line of all natural motion, the figure which God has wrought into the heavenly bodies, into their orbits, possibly into the whole universe itself, and into its ultimate atoms, it is this same circle, with all its ancient wonder and significance, which is now embodied in wheels, an element which, curiously enough, goes to make up nine-tenths of all machinery. It is a matter of no small meaning, that Christ, the highest type of the spiritual worker, was also a mechanic. The true idea is that of the Old Testament writer who represents Bezaleel, the son of Uri, and Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, cunning artificers in gold and silver and brass and stone and timber, as operating by the direct inspiration of God as much as Moses when he led the people up from Egypt; or Aaron, when he performed the offices of religion about the altar. And it may serve to show all workers with machinery the grandeur of the thing to which they are called; yea, help to a better opinion of our nation and age than is sometimes entertained; to leave the consideration of its material utility, on which attention is often so exclusively fastened, and point out its close connection with the work of religion.
First, the genius which creates machinery is kindred in its development with that which runs through all great social manifestations, including the highest ones of spiritual life; is itself in no small degree a religious evidence. Every marked age has had some special form, into which it has thrown its highest life and energy. With the early days of Greece, it was poetry; with its golden prime, it was sculpture; Rome had it in law; the first age of Christianity, in miracles; the second, in monastic piety; the third, in ecclesiasticism; it broke out in the Middle Ages as architecture and poetry; four centuries ago, it took the shape of geographical discovery; at the close of the last century it embodied itself in a grand struggle for freedom and democracy; and, to-day, it is evinced in natural science, and in its handmaid mechanical invention. Not one or two individuals, but the people at large, the force and civil
ization of the age, in each case are affected by it. A great invisible breath seems to sweep over human activities, giving something of its power even to the humblest mind. It is in the air; and, as in the palmy days of Greece, it was not Phidias and Praxiteles alone who were sculptors, but every stone-mason who had a taste for and touch of the same art, filling the land with works of beauty, which the plunder of two thousand years has not destroyed; as at the end of the fifteenth century it was not Columbus and Balboa and Vespucci alone, but thousands of adventurers from all over Europe, that went forth in quest of new worlds; so now the spirit of invention has been confined to no Watts and Arkwright, Fulton and Ericsson, but all through England and America every workman, almost every apprentice boy, touched with the same life, is putting his material together in new shapes, and devising machinery for shortening the processes of labor, filling the Patent Office with wonders, and making possible every year a grand exhibition like that of the recent Mechanics' Fair. Is it body or soul that feels such enthusiasm? a vapor of earth, which creates this furor, or one Eternal Spirit, reaching from age to age, that breathes down from on high its inspiration? separate orders of men, some earthly and some divine, who feel it, or one mighty kindred born alike, whether in the study or the workshop, of its universal touch?
And the special form it takes in our own time, who shall say it is not of itself as exalted as any it has had in the past? The impression prevails with many persons that painting and sculpture, philosophy and poetry, embody somehow grander truths, and call out in their production finer qualities of mind and character, than any thing which comes from mechanical genius. But will it stand the test of analysis? Take painting and sculpture. With all their grandeur, and all their undeniable claims as a refining influence, a help to make beauty available for common daily use, they are only of themselves an imitation, or, at most, an idealization, of the outside of things, only a surface expression of ideas. There is an element of falsity runs through them all. It is not passion
and power, beauty and sublimity, themselves, which they set before us, but their appearance. Their mission, or at least their means, is to deceive. Their study never carries man to the heart of things, never gives him the real secret, even of beauty itself, as it is in the mind of God. The nations and ages which have had them most, Greece and Italy for instance, have always evinced a false, artificial, trivial element in their characters, a divergence of faith and life corresponding with this of art from Nature. And I am not sure but that the old Puritan hatred of them was founded on something deeper than their associations with Episcopacy and the Scarlet Woman, was a grim hatred of all lies, however fair; and the affinity displayed for them in the Roman Catholic Church, based on something less profound than æsthetic taste, the connection there is between them and her way of dealing with truth. Poetry and music, not painting and sculpture, are the real heart companions of the highest religion.
Machinery, however, is not imitation, but the embodiment, of real forces, laws, and principles, which are made to act. The steam-man that walked about the streets of Boston a year or two ago, ludicrous as it seemed in some of its aspects, had that within it which was deeper and diviner than any Venus de Medici or Apollo Belvidere. It was, so far as it went, true. It had, in steel and iron, many of the same devices for motion that are found in the human body. It was force, always nearer God than any form. And the study for it had gone beyond the query what is or could be the scope of art, and asked the deeper question, how. So with all inventions. The qualities of mind they call for are those which deal with inside principles, with truth itself. In order to work they must not only seem, but be. A lie in them is absolutely fatal. What would be the worth of a sewing machine, however highly ornamented, which, like a picture, only looked as if it sewed? Machinery bears something of the same relation to art that real life does to the stage, that the hero who performs a deed does to the actor who shows it forth. It is the making of real effects out of real laws and forces.
It is in this respect that the genius of the inventor comes
nearer to that of the Creator than the skill of any artist ever does. God does not paint or carve; but he does invent, does mechanize. No real analogy can be found for art in the world around us, no picture or statue, but always the thing itself. The flower, with all its beauty, is produced, not by the brush, but by an elaborate machinery; yea, is itself a machine, its very colors having a use. The human face, with all its marvellous play of sentiment and passion, is not carved from without, but has under it, as cause, a most intricate network of bone, nerve, and muscle. The whole outward universe, atoms below, and wheeling orbs above, is but a vast machine. And though piety has long separated soul and body, as it has God and nature, making all the processes of the one spiritual, and of the other mechanical; yet recent discoveries have tended to show that life itself, with all the infinite reaches art loves to display, has mechanism and chemistry underneath it in startling proportions, uses phosphorus and galvanism, for instance, in producing even religion, as truly as the foundry does air and coal in a casting of iron. And the inventor takes these same elemental forces, laws, and materials with which God works, and puts them together in productions of his own. The steam-engine is a creation as much as an animal or plant. Every factory is in itself a little world. The sewing and knitting machines are parallels to that wonder of ingenuity, the human hand; the telescope is another eye; and the soldier, who has lost his arm or leg, needs only wait till his next visit to the city, when he is supplied with one of art to take its place. It is the fashion in certain quarters to disparage all such things in comparison with what Nature does. They are called distortions, mockeries, caricatures. Piety looks upon them aghast, as though usurping the place of God, - used to regard them in past ages as works of the devil. Even common sense regards them at times as hardly worthy of an immortal soul. But why? To the larger view, the real lesson they teach is very different from that of irreligion. They show the affinity of man with God; show the child has inherited something of the Father's skill. I knew a master mechanic, whose
VOL. LXXXVII. — NEW SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. III.
little boy, before he could talk, or even stand up, was found one day out among the shavings of the shop, where he had crept, nailing together two bits of board. Did his father regard it as mockery and unfilial rivalry? No: he clasped him in his arms, and felt he was his own as he never had before. The mechanic gets near the mind of God as the Christian does near his spirit, and he who loves, near his heart. Every new invention is but a converse of the glorious truth which Christ proclaimed ages ago, an assertion that if God is the Father of man, man is, with equal certainty, the son of God.
Then, as regards poetry, music, and philosophy, — departments of thought which do deal with realities, — the special qualities of mind called forth in mechanism are often the very same as the ones which belong to these, even in their highest forms. Because machines are made of matter, it is the silliest of all things to count it as degrading their rank. It might as well be said that a poem is only earthly and material, because it is set up in metallic type; or that a statue can have nothing at all divine about it, because it is moulded out of marble. Machines are ideas, thoughts: whole series of them, often, linked together as logically as any that are ever set forth in books, are carved out of truths quite as much as out of matter. The place, too, in which they are always set up at first is mind, the highest faculty of mind, the imagination. The man who invents a new lock, or gets up a pegging machine, goes to work in the same way as the one who invents a new poem. His soul reaches forth into the unknown. It is the image of it first that he forms down in the silent depths of spirit. Unseen things are put together, matched and jointed and squared with eternal order, where no matter ever goes; and it is only afterwards in the workshop, with hammer and forge, that he gives these airy nothings a local habitation and a name. There is as much of the genius and faculty divine in the steam-engine as in "Paradise Lost;" a dealing with fundamental harmonies as real and bold in a first-class sailing ship as in "the Creation; "a system of truth hardly less grand and complete in the printing press, or the spinning-jenny, or the