Page images
PDF
EPUB

by this sublime lesson. When you are called upon to desist from some high undertaking, because it happens to be in advance of public sentiment, remember then,

"To suffer woes that hope thinks infinite,

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night,
To defy power that seems omnipotent,

To love and bear, to hope till hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates,
Neither to change, nor flatter, nor repent,

This, like the Titan's glory, is to be
Great, good and holy, innocent and free;
This is alone life, joy, empire and victory."

6

THE LIGHTNING KING.

INNATE and total depravity is predicated of the whole human race, by the orthodox creed of the contemporaneous Christian Church. We were all taught in infancy that our hearts are by nature corrupt and prone to "evil and only evil, and that continually ;" that no tendency to virtue inheres in our constitution, while we are full of passions ever impelling us almost irresistibly to vice. And this maternal teaching sunk deep into our souls, as do all well-learned lessons at that impressible seed-time of our being, especially when they come from a parent's venerated lips. What they, with care and love for us, implanted, it seems almost sacrilege to eradicate, and nothing could justify the attempt but the tender reflection that God has ever loved us with more than a mother's affection, and that he has not only given us parents to rely on, obey and believe, during our immature years, but has also endowed us with a noble faculty of reason, to lead us to the truth, which in adult years is the only legitimate object of intollectual homage. Bowing to it alone, we would calmly and earnestly inquire whether the old tenet of depravity is its response to reason, asking about the moral nature of the soul. If we have heard aright, a thousand tones come back from nature, and the harmonious answer is a mighty

No. Virtue is not an art, the first principles of which are to be laboriously learned or miraculously inspired. It is no unknown mystery to our nature, requiring for its knowledge therefore an Elusinian initiation. Oh, no! It exists and moves, feebly perhaps and unworthily, but nevertheless vitally. Within us, within every man, however low and base and criminal, still remains something of his humanity, something therefore of his brother Christ's exalted nature. Else whence the universal instinct which prompts us to admire and love virtue, to detest and abhor vice, whatever and however numerous may be the defects in our own character? This instinct is equally prevalent and potent. It is present no less in the savage heart than in the breast of the enlightened and refined. The wild barbarian feels it, as he chants his uncouth war-song and rushes to his brutal battle, inspiring him to emulate what he admires; and perhaps its influence on him is ever greater than on the sage philosopher, who analyzes thought and feeling in the alembic of metaphysic, or surveys the works of nature, contemplating the intricate machinery and harmonious movements of worlds and systems infinite; or the intelligent scholar, who peruses the history of by-gone days and holds exciting converse with spirits of the mighty dead. It is every where present, prevading the universal heart of man. It will be found a constituent of every soul, affording conclusive proof that our noble, God-born nature, never has been and never can be totally changed, even by the frightful transforming power of temporarily triumphant animal passions. To this deep-seated and divine instinct I refer, as a demonstration that man is not entirely depraved; that he still retains, even in his admitted and lamentable degradation, some resembling lineaments of the great universal Sire in whose image he was made. It is the action f

this holy instinct, that leads us to praise the hero, the man of lofty soul; to hate wickedness wherein we are uninterested, and to despise the niggard whose only thought, object, hope, is self in its narrow sense, as the eating, drinking, sleeping animal me, forgetful of other senses, of more elevated desires, of nobler motives; unmindful that his highest interest, his most enduring good, is always and can but be inseparably joined with the greatest advantage of the race. I affirm that we cannot restrain our feeling of approbation not only, but of admiration, for moral word. We are unable to stifle in our bosoms any of those powerful instincts that are there implanted by a mighty hand and for a glorious purpose. We must bow before a great soul; our nature tells us he is worthy and imperatively commands our reverence. But, alas! how perverted and misdirected do we often find this noble sentiment of respect! How prone have all men, in all ages and in every clime, been found, to mistake its proper object and to admire, almost to adore, many whose characters as revealed by their whole lives are justly regarded as foul disgraces to humanity! We find, conspicuous on the page of human greatness and immortality, many names of monsters whose baneful example has proved contagious; whose greatness / really consisted in the magnitude and enormity of their crimes; whose minds were doubtless mighty, their talents undeniably brilliant, but all were prostituted at the polluted shrine of a mad ambition, or some other equally selfish and unholy passion; and a complete disregard for the rights of others, where they in the least degree interfered with the accomplishment of their own favorite designs. An unhesitating abandonment of every great and worthy principle where its observance required anything incompatible with their plans for selfish aggrandisement, an

« PreviousContinue »