Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

An Essay on the Evils of Popular Ignorance by John Foster

Part 4 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

augmented to you, by the mortification of observing impatience of this
suspension of their usual and favorite tenor of discourse, betrayed in
marks of suppressed irritation, or rather by the withdrawing of one, and
another, from the company. But it was quite enough to render the moments
and feelings some of the most disconsolate you had ever experienced, to
have thus immediately before you a number of rational beings as in a dark
prison-house, and to feel the impotence of your friendly efforts to bring
them out. Their darkness of ignorance infused into your spirit the
darkness of melancholy, when you perceived that the fittest words you
could think of, in every change and combination in which you could
dispose them, failed to impart to their understanding, in the meaning you
wanted to convey, the most elementary and essential ideas of the most
momentous subject.

You thought again, perhaps, and again, Surely _this_ mode of expression,
or _this_, as it is in words not out of common usage, will define the
thing to their apprehension. But you were forced to perceive that the
common phraseology of the language, those words which make the substance
of ordinary discourse on ordinary subjects, had not, for the
understandings of these persons, a general applicableness. It seemed as if
the mere elemental vehicle, (if we may so name it,) available
indifferently for conveying all sorts of sense, except science, had become
in its meaning special and exclusive for their own sort of topics. Their
narrow associations had rendered it incapable of conveying sense to them
on matters foreign to their habits. When used on a subject to which they
were quite unaccustomed, it became like a stream which, though one and the
same current, flows clear on the one side, and muddy (as we sometimes see
for a space) on the other; and to them it was clear only at their own
edge. And if thus even the plain popular language turned dark on their
understandings when employed in explanation of religion, it is easy to
imagine what had been the success of a more peculiarly theological
phraseology, though it were limited to such terms as are of frequent use
in the Bible.

You continued, however, the effort for a while. As desirous to show you
due civility, some of the persons, perhaps the oldest, would give assent
to what you said, with some sign of acknowledgment of the importance of
the concern. The assent would perhaps be expressed in a form meant and
believed to be equivalent to what you had said. And when it gave an
intelligible idea, it might probably betray the grossest possible
misconception of the first principles of Christianity. It might be a crude
formation from the very same substance of which some of the worst errors
of popery are constituted; and might strongly suggest to you, in a glance
of thought, how easily popery might have become the religion of ignorance;
how naturally ignorance and corrupt feeling mixing with a slight vague
notion of Christianity, would turn it into just such a thing as popery.
You tried, perhaps, with repeated modifications of your expression, and
attempts at illustration, to loosen the false notion, and to place the
true one contrasted with it in such a near obviousness to the
apprehension, that at least the difference should be seen, and (perhaps
you hoped) a little movement excited to think on the subject, and make a
serious question of it. But all in vain. The hoary subject of your too
late instruction, (a spectacle reminding you painfully of the words which
denominate the sign of old age "crown of glory,") either would still take
it that it came all to the same thing, or, if compelled to perceive that
you really were trying to make him _unthink_ his poor old notions, and
learn something new and contrary, would probably retreat, in a little
while, into a half sullen, half despondent silence, after observing, that
he was too old, "the worse was the luck," to be able to learn about such
things, which he never had, like you, the "scholarship" and the time for.

In several of the party you perceived the signs of almost a total blank.
They seemed but to be waiting for any trifling incident to take their
attention, and keep their minds alive. Some one with a little more of
listening curiosity, but without caring about the subject, might have to
observe, that it seemed to him the same kind of thing that the methodist
parson, (the term most likely to be used if any very serious and earnest
Christian instructor had appeared in the neighborhood,) was lately saying
in such a one's funeral-sermon. It is too possible that one or two of the
visages of the company, of the younger people especially, might wear,
during a good part of the time, somewhat of a derisive smile, meaning,
"What odd kind of stuff all this is;" as if they could not help thinking
it ludicrously strange that any one should be talking of God, of the
Saviour of mankind, the facts of the Bible, the welfare of the soul, the
shortness and value of life, and a future account, when he might be
talking of the neighboring fair, past or expected, or the local quarrels,
or the last laughable incident or adventure of the hamlet. It is
particularly observable, that grossly ignorant persons are very apt to
take a ludicrous impression from high and solemn subjects; at least when
introduced in any other time or way than in the ceremonial of public
religious service; when brought forward as a personal concern, demanding
consideration everywhere, and which may be urged by individual on
individual. You have commonly enough seen this provoke the grin of
stupidity and folly. And if you asked yourselves, (for it were in vain to
ask _them_,) why it produced this so perverse effect, you had only to
consider that, to minds abandoned through ignorance to be totally
engrossed by the immediate objects of sense, the grave assumption, and
emphatic enforcement, of the transcendent importance of a wholly unseen
and spiritual economy, has much the appearance and effect of a great lie
attempted to be passed on them. You might indeed recollect also, that the
most which some of them are likely to have learnt about religion, is the
circumstance, that the persons professing to make it an earnest concern
are actually regarded as fit objects of derision by multitudes, not of the
vulgar order only, but including many of the wealthy, the genteel, the
magisterial, and the dignified in point of rank.

Individuals of the most ignorant class may stroll into a place of worship,
bearing their character so conspicuously in their appearance and manner as
to draw the particular notice of the preacher, while addressing the
congregation. It may be, that having taken their stare round the place,
they go out, just, it may happen, when he is in the midst of a marked,
prominent, and even picturesque illustration, perhaps from some of the
striking facts or characters of the Scripture history, which had not made
the slightest ingress on their thoughts or imagination. Or they are
pleased to stay through the service; during which his eye is frequently
led to where several of them may be seated together. Without an appearance
of addressing them personally, he shall be excited to direct a special
effort toward what he surmises to be the state of their minds. He may in
this effort acquire an additional force, emphasis, and pointedness of
delivery; but especially his utmost mental force shall be brought into
action to strike upon their faculties with vivid, rousing ideas, plainly
and briefly expressed. And he fancies, perhaps, that he has at least
arrested their attention; that what is going from his mind is in some
manner or other taking a place in theirs; when some inexpressibly trivial
occurring circumstance shows him, that the hold he has on them is not of
the strength of a spider's web. Those thoughts, those intellects, those
souls, are instantly and wholly gone--from a representation of one of the
awful visitations of divine judgment in the ancient world--a description
of sublime angelic agency, as in some recorded fact in the Bible--an
illustration of the discourse, miracles, or expiatory sorrows of the
Redeemer of the world--a strong appeal to conscience on past sin--a
statement, perhaps in the form of example, of an important duty in given
circumstances--a cogent enforcement of some specific point as of most
essential moment in respect to eternal safety;--from the attempted grasp,
or supposed seizure, of any such subject, these rational spirits started
away, with infinite facility, to the movements occasioned by the falling
of a hat from a peg.

By the time that any semblance of attention returns, the preacher's
address may have taken the form of pointed interrogation, with very
defined supposed facts, or even real ones, to give the question and its
principle as it were a tangible substance. Well; just at the moment when
his questions converge to a point, which was to have been a dart of
conviction striking the understanding, and compelling the common sense
and conscience of the auditors to answer for themselves,--at that moment,
he perceives two or three of the persons he had particularly in view
begin an active whispering, prolonged with the accompaniment of the
appropriate vulgar smiles. They may possibly relapse at length, through
sheer dulness, into tolerable decorum; and the instructor, not quite
losing sight of them, tries yet again, to impel some serious ideas
through the obtuseness of their mental being. But he can clearly
perceive, after the animal spirits have thus been a little quieted by the
necessity of sitting still awhile, the signs of a stupid vacancy, which
is hardly sensible that anything is actually saying, and probably makes,
in the case of some of the individuals, what is mentally but a slight
transition to yawning and sleep.

Utter ignorance is a most effectual fortification to a bad state of the
mind. Prejudice may perhaps, be removed; unbelief may be reasoned with;
even demoniacs have been compelled to bear witness to the truth; but the
stupidity of confirmed ignorance not only defeats the ultimate efficacy of
the means for making men wiser and better, but stands in preliminary
defiance to the very act of their application. It reminds us of an
account, in one of the relations of the French Egyptian campaigns, of the
attempt to reduce a garrison posted in a bulky fort of mud. Had the
defences been of timber, the besiegers might have set fire to and burned
them; had they been of stone, they might have shaken and ultimately
breached them by the battery of their cannon; or they might have
undermined and blown them up. But the huge mound of mud had nothing
susceptible of fire or any other force; the missiles from the artillery
were discharged but to be buried in the dull mass; and all the means of
demolition were baffled.

The most melancholy of the exemplifications of the effect of ignorance, as
constituting an incapacity for receiving religious instruction, have been
presented to those who have visited persons thus devoid of knowledge in
sickness and the approach to death. Supposing them to manifest alarm and
solicitude, it is deplorable to see how powerless their understandings
are, for any distinct conception of what, or why, it is that they fear, or
regret, or desire. The objects of their apprehension come round them as
vague forms of darkness, instead of distinctly exhibited dangers and foes,
which they might steadily contemplate, and think how to escape or
encounter. And how little does the benevolent instructor find it possible
for him to do, when he applies his mind to the painful task of reducing
this gloomy confused vision to the plain defined truth of their unhappy
situation, set in order before their eyes.

He deems it necessary to speak of the most elementary principles--the
perfect holiness and justice of God--the corresponding holiness and the
all-comprehending extent of his law, appointed to his creatures--the
absolute duty of conformity to it in every act, word, and thought--the
necessary condemnation consequent on failure--the dreadful evil,
therefore, of sin, both in its principle and consequences. God--perfect
holiness--justice--law--universal conformity--sin--condemnation! Alas!
the hapless auditor has no such sense of the force of terms, and no such
analogical ideas, as to furnish the medium for conveying these
representations to his understanding. He never had, at any time; and now
there may be in his mind all the additional confusion, and incapacity of
fixed attention, arising from pain, debility, and sleeplessness. All this
therefore passes before him with a tenebrious glimmer; like lightning
faintly penetrating to a man behind a thick black curtain.

The instructor attempts a personal application, endeavoring to give the
disturbed conscience a rational direction, and a distinct cognizance. But
he finds, as he might expect to find, that a conscience without knowledge
has never taken but a very small portion of the man's habits of life under
its jurisdiction; and that it is a most hopeless thing to attempt to send
it back reinforced, to reclaim and conquer, through all the past, the
whole extent of its rightful but never assumed dominion. So feeble and
confined in the function of judgment through which it must see and act, it
is especially incapable of admitting the monitor's estimate of the measure
of guilt involved in omission, and in an irreligious state of the mind, as
an exceedingly grave addition to the account of criminal action. The man
is totally and honestly unable to conceive of the substantial guilt of
anything of which he can ask, what injury it has done to anybody. This
single point--whether positive harm has been done to any one--comprehends
the whole essence and sum of the conscious accountableness of very
ignorant people. Material wrong, _very_ material wrong, to their fellow
mortals, they have a conscience that they should not do; a conscience,
however, which they would deem it hard to be obliged to maintain entire
even to this confined extent; and which therefore admits some compromise
and gives some license, with respect especially to any kind of wrong which
has the extenuation, as they deem it, of being commonly practised in their
class; and against which there is a sort of understanding that each one
must take the best care he can of himself. At this confine, so undecidedly
marked, of practical, tangible wrong, these very ignorant persons lose the
sense of obligation, and feel absolved from any further jurisdiction. So
coarse and narrow a conscience as to what they _do_, is not likely to be
refined and extended into a cognizance of what they _are_. As for a duty
absolute in the nature of things, or as owing to themselves, in respect to
their own nature, or as imposed by the Almighty--_that their minds should
be in a certain prescribed state_--there does really require a perfectly
new manner of the action of intellect to enable them to apprehend its
existence. And this habitual insensibility to any jurisdiction over their
internal state, now meets, in its consequences, the supposed instructor.
In consideration of the vast importance of this part of a rational
creature's accountableness, and partly, too, from a desire to avoid the
invidiousness of appearing as a judicial censor of the sick man's
practical conduct, he insists in an especial manner on this subject of the
state within, endeavoring to expose that dark world by the light of
religion to the sick man's conscience. But to give in an hour the
_understanding_ which it requires the discipline of many years to render
competent! How vain the attempt! The man's sense of guilt fixes almost
exclusively on something that has been improper in his practical courses.
He professes to acknowledge the evil of this; and perhaps with a certain
stress of expression; intended, by an apparent respondence to the serious
emphasis which the monitor is laying on another part of the
accountableness and guilt, to take him off from thus endeavoring, as it
appears to the ignorant sufferer, to make him more of a sinner than there
is any reason, so little can he conceive that it should much signify what
his thoughts, tempers, affections, motives, and so forth, may have been.
By continuing to press the subject, the instructor may find himself in
danger of being regarded as having taken upon him the unkind office of
inquisitor and accuser in his own name, and of his own will and authority.

When inculcating the necessity of repentance, he will perceive the
indistinctness of apprehension of the difference between the horror of
sin merely from dread of impending consequences, and an antipathy to its
essential nature. And even if this distinction, which admits of easy
forms of exemplification, should thus be rendered in a degree
intelligible, the man cannot make the application. The instructor
observes, as one of the most striking results of a want of disciplined
mental exercise, an utter inability for self-inspection. There is before
his eyes, looking at him, but a stranger to himself, a man on whose mind
no other mind, except One, can shed a light of self-manifestation, to
save him from the most fatal mistakes.

If the monitor would turn, (rather from an impulse to relieve the gloom of
the scene, than from anything he sees of a hopeful approach toward a right
apprehension of the austerer truths of religion,) if he would turn his
efforts, to the effect of directing on this dark spirit the benign rays of
the Christian redemption, what is he to do for terms,--yes, for very
terms? Mediator, sacrifice, atonement, satisfaction, faith; even the
expression, believing in Christ; merit of the death of Christ, acquittal,
acceptance, justification;--he knows, or soon will find, that he is
talking the language of an occult science. And he is forced down to such
expedients of grovelling paraphrase, and humiliating analogy, that he
becomes conscious that his method of endeavoring to make a divine subject
comprehensible, is to divest it of its dignity, and reduce it, in order
that it may not confound, to the rank of things which have not majesty
enough to impress with awe. And after this has been done, to the utmost of
his ability, and to the unavoidable weariness of his suffering auditor, he
is distressed to think of the proportion between the insignificance of any
ideas which this man's mind now possesses of the economy of redemption,
and the magnitude of the interest in which he stands dependent on it. A
symptom or assurance which should impart to the sick man a confidence of
his recovery, would appear to him a far greater good than all he can
comprehend as offered to him from the Physician of the soul. Some crude
sentiment, as that he "hopes Jesus Christ will stand his friend;" that it
was very good of the Saviour to think of us; that he wishes he knew what
to do to get his help; that Jesus Christ has done him good in other
things, and he hopes he will now again at the last; [Footnote: Such an
expression as this would hardly have occurred but from recollection of
fact, in the instance of an aged farmer, (the owner of the farm,) in his
last illness. In the way of reassuring his somewhat doubtful hope that
Christ would not fail him when now had recourse to, at his extreme need,
he said, (to the writer,) "Jesus Christ has sent me a deal of good
crops."]--such expressions will afford little to alleviate the gloomy
feelings, with which the serious visitor descends from the chamber in
which, perhaps, he may hear, a few days after, that the man he conversed
with lies a dead body.

But such benevolent visitors have to tell of still more melancholy
exemplifications of the effects of ignorance in the close of life. They
have seen the neglect of early cultivation, and the subsequent
estrangement from all knowledge and thinking, except about business and
folly, result in such a stupefaction of mind, that irreligious and immoral
persons, expecting no more than a few days of life, and not in a state of
physical lethargy, were absolutely incapable of being alarmed at the near
approach of death. They might not deny, nor in the infidel sense
disbelieve, what was said to them of the awfulness of that event and its
consequences; but they had actually never thought enough of death to have
any solemn associations with the idea. And their faculties were become so
rigidly shrunk up, that they could not now admit them; no, not while the
portentous spectre was unveiling his visage to them, in near and still
nearer approach; not when the element of another world was beginning to
penetrate through the rents of their mortal tabernacle. It appeared that
literally their thoughts _could not_ go out from what they had been
through life immersed in, to contemplate, with any realizing feeling, a
grand change of being, expected so soon to come on them. They could not go
to the fearful brink to look off. It was a stupor of the soul not to be
awaked but by the actual plunge into the realities of eternity. In such a
case the instinctive repugnance to death might be visible and
acknowledged. But the feeling was, If it must be so, there is no help for
it; and as to what may come after, we must take our chance. In this temper
and manner, we recollect a sick man, of this untaught class, answering the
inquiry how he felt himself, "Getting worse; I suppose I shall make a die
of it." And some pious neighbors, earnestly exhorting him to solemn
concern and preparation, could not make him understand, we repeat with
emphasis, _understand_ why there was occasion for any extraordinary
disturbance of mind. Yet this man was not inferior to those around him in
sense for the common business of life.

After a tedious length of suffering, and when death is plainly
inevitable, it is not very uncommon for persons under this infatuation to
express a wish for its arrival, simply as a deliverance from what they
are enduring, without disturbing themselves with a thought of what may
follow. "I know it will please God soon to release me," was the
expression to his religious medical attendant, of such an ignorant and
insensible mortal, within an hour of his death, which was evidently and
directly brought on by his vices. And he uttered it without a word, or
the smallest indicated emotion, of penitence or solicitude; though he had
passed his life in a neighborhood abounding with the public means of
religious instruction and warning.

When earnest, persisting, and seriously menacing admonitions, of pious
visitors or friends, almost literally compel such unhappy persons to some
precise recognition of the subject, their answers will often be faithfully
representative, and a consistent completion, of their course through
mental darkness, from childhood to the mortal hour. We recollect the
instance of a wicked old man, who, within that very hour, replied to the
urgent admonitions by which a religious neighbor felt it a painful duty to
make a last effort to alarm him, "What! do you believe that God can think
of damning me because I may have been as bad as other folk? I am sure he
will do no such thing: he is far too good for that."

We cannot close this detailed illustration of so gloomy a subject, without
again adverting to a phenomenon as admirable as, unhappily, it is rare;
and for which the observers who cannot endure mystery in religion, or
religion itself, may go, if they choose, round the whole circle of their
philosophy, and begin again, to find any adequate cause, other than the
most immediate agency of the Almighty Spirit. Here and there an instance
occurs, to the delight of the Christian philanthropist, of a person
brought up in utter ignorance and barbarian rudeness, and so continuing
till late in life; and then at last, after such a length of time and habit
has completed its petrifying effect, suddenly seized upon by a mysterious
power, and taken, with an alarming and irresistible force, out of the dark
hold in which the spirit has lain imprisoned and torpid, into the sphere
of thought and feeling.

Occasion is taken this once more of adverting to such facts, not so much
for the purpose of magnifying the nature, as of simply exhibiting the
effect, of an influence that can breathe with such power on the obtuse
intellectual faculties; which it appears, in the most signal of these
instances, almost to create anew. It is exceedingly striking to observe
how the contracted, rigid soul seems to soften, and grow warm, and expand,
and quiver with life. With the new energy infused, it painfully struggles
to work itself into freedom, from the wretched contortion in which it has
so long been fixed as by the impressed spell of some infernal magic. It is
seen filled with a distressed and indignant emotion at its own ignorance;
actuated with a restless earnestness to be informed; acquiring an unwonted
pliancy of its faculties to thought; attaining a perception, combined of
intelligence and moral sensibility, to which numerous things are becoming
discernible and affecting, that were as non-existent before. It is not in
the very extreme strength of their import that we employ such terms of
description; the malice of irreligion may easily parody them into poetical
excess; but we have known instances in which the change, the intellectual
change, has been so conspicuous, within a brief space of time, that even
an infidel observer must have forfeited all claim to be esteemed a man of
sense, if he would not acknowledge,--This that you call divine grace,
whatever it may really be, is the strangest awakener of faculties after
all. And to a devout man, it is a spectacle of most enchanting beauty,
thus to see the immortal plant, which has been under a malignant blast
while sixty or seventy years have passed over it, coming out at length in
the bloom of life.

We cannot hesitate to draw the inference, that if religion is so
auspicious to the intellectual faculties, the cultivation and exercise of
those faculties must be of great advantage to religion.

These observations on ignorance, considered as an incapacitation for
receiving religious instruction, are pointed chiefly at that portion of
the people, unhappily the largest, who are little disposed to attend to
that kind of instruction. But we should notice its prejudicial effect on
those of them to whom religion has become a matter of serious and
inquisitive concern. The preceding assertions of the efficacy of a strong
religious interest to excite and enlarge the intellectual faculty will not
be contradicted by observing, nevertheless, that in a dark and crude state
of that facility those well-disposed persons, especially if of a warm
temperament withal, are unfortunately liable to receive delusive
impressions and absurd notions, blended with religious doctrine and
sentiment. It would be no less than plain miracle or inspiration, a more
entire and specific superseding of ordinary laws than that which we have
just been denominating "an immediate agency of the Almighty Spirit," if a
mind left uncultivated all up through the earlier age, and perhaps far on
in life, should not come to its new employment on a most important subject
with a sadly defective capacity for judgment and discrimination. The
situation reminds us of an old story of a tribe of Indians denominated
"moon-eyed," who, not being able to look at things by the light of the
sun, were reduced to look at them under the glimmering of the moon, by
which light it is an inevitable circumstance of human vision to receive
the images of things in perverted and deceptive forms.

Even in such an extremely rare instance as that above described, an
example of the superlative degree of the animating and invigorating
influence of religion on the uncultivated faculties, there would be
visible some of the unfortunate consequences of the inveterate rudeness; a
tendency, perhaps, to magnify some one thing beyond its proportionate
importance to adopt hasty conclusions; to entertain some questionable or
erroneous principle because it appears to solve a difficulty, or perhaps
falls in with an old prepossession; to make too much account of variable
and transitory feelings; or to carry zeal beyond the limits of discretion.
In examples of a lower order of the correction or reversal of the effects
of ignorance by the influence of religion, the remains will be still more
palpable. So that, while it is an unquestionable and gratifying fact, that
among the uneducated subjects of genuine religion many are remarkably
improved in the power and exercise of their reason; and while we may
assume that _some_ share of this improvement reaches to all who are really
under this most beneficent influence in the creation, [Footnote: _Really_
under this influence, we repeat, pointedly; for we justly put all others
out of the account. It is nothing (as against this asserted influence on
the intelligent faculty) that great numbers who may contribute to swell a
public bustle about religion; who may run together at the call of whim,
imposture, or insanity, assuming that name; who may acquire, instead of
any other folly, a turn for talking, disputing, or ranting, about that
subject: it is nothing, in short, that _any_ who are not in real,
conscientious seriousness the disciples of religion, can be shown to be no
better for it, in point of improved understanding.] it still is to be
acknowledged of too many, who are in a measure, we may candidly believe,
under the genuine efficacy of religion, that they have attained, through
its influence, but so inferior a proportion of the improvement of
intellect, that they can be well pleased with the great deal of absurdity
of religious notions and language. But while we confess and regret that it
is so, we should not overlook the causes and excuses that may be found for
it, in unfortunate super-addition to their lack of education; partly in
the natural turn of the mind, partly in extraneous circumstances. Many
whose attention is in honest earnestness drawn to religion, are endowed by
nature with so scanty an allotment of the thinking power, strictly so
denominated, that it would have required high cultivation to raise them to
the level of moderate understanding. There are some who appear to have
constitutionally an invincible tendency to an uncouth, fantastic mode of
forming their notions. It is in the nature of others, that whatever
cultivation they might have received, it would still have been by their
passions, rather than, in any due proportion, by their reason, that an
important concern would have taken and retained hold of them. It may have
happened to not a few, that circumstances unfavorable to the understanding
were connected with the causes or occasions of their first effectual
religious impressions. Some quaint cast in the exposition of the Christian
faith, not essentially vitiating, but very much distorting and cramping
it, or some peculiarity or narrow-mindedness of the teachers, may have
conveyed their effect, to enter, as it were, at the door at the same
moment that it was opened by the force of a solemn conviction, and to be
retained and cherished ever after on the strength of this association.
This may have tended to give an obliquity to the disciple's understanding,
or to arrest and dwarf its growth; to fix it in prejudices instead of
training it to judgments; or to dispense with its exercise by merging it
in a kind of quietism; so that the proper tendency of religion to excite
intellectual activity was partly overruled and frustrated. It is most
unfortunate that thus there may be, from things casually or
constitutionally associated with a man's piety, an influence operating to
disable his understanding; as if there had been mixed with the incense of
a devout service in the temple, a soporific ingredient which had the
effect of closing the worshipper's eyes in slumber.

Now suppose all these worthy persons, with so many things of a special
kind against them, to be also under the one great calamity of a neglected
education, and is it any wonder that they can admit religious truths in
shapes very strange and faintly enlightened; that they have an uncertain
and capricious test of what is genuine, and not much vigilance to
challenge plausible semblances; that they should be caught by some
fanciful exhibition of a truth which would be of too intellectual a
substance as presented in its pure simplicity; and should be ready to
receive with approbation not a little of what is a heavy disgrace to the
name of religious doctrine and ministration? Where is the wonder that
crudeness, incoherence, and inconsistency of notions, should not
disappoint and offend minds that have not, ten times since they came into
the world, been compelled to form two ideas with precision, and then
compare them discriminately or combine them strictly, on any subject
beyond the narrow scope of their ordinary pursuits? Where is the wonder,
if many such persons take noise and fustian for a glowing zeal and a lofty
elevation; if they mistake a wheedling cant for affectionate solicitude;
if they defer to pompous egotism and dogmatical assertion, when it is so
convenient a foundation for all their other faith to believe their teacher
is an oracle? No marvel if they are delighted with whimsical conceits as
strokes of discovery and surprise, and yet at the same time are pleased
with common-place, and endless repetition, as an exemption from mental
effort; and if they are gratified by vulgarity of diction and
illustration, as bringing religion to the level where they are at home?
Nay, if an artful pretender, or half-lunatic visionary, or some poor set
of dupes of their own inflated self-importance, should give out that they
are come into the world for the manifestation, at last, of true
Christianity, which the divine revelation has failed, till their advent,
to explain to any of the numberless devout and sagacious examiners of
it,--what is there in the minds of the most ignorant class of persons
desirous to secure the benefits of religion, that can be securely relied
on to certify them, that they shall not forego the greatest blessing ever
offered to them by setting at naught these pretensions?

It is grievous to think there should be an active extensive currency of a
language conveying crudities, extravagances, arrogant dictates of
ignorance, pompous nothings, vulgarities, catches of idle fantasy, and
impertinences of the speaker's vanity, as religious instruction to
assemblages of ignorant people. But then for the means of depreciating
that currency, so as to drive it at last out of circulation? The thing to
be wished is, that it were possible to put some strong coercion on the
_minds_ (we deprecate all other restraint) of the teachers; a compulsion
to feel the necessity of information, sound sense, disciplined thinking,
the correct use of words, and an honest, careful purpose to make the
people wiser. There are signs of amendment, certainly; but while the
passion of human beings for notoriety lasts, (which will be yet some
time,) there will not fail to be men, in any number required, ready to
exhibit in religion, in any manner in which the people are willing to be
pleased with them. Let us, then, try the inverted order, and endeavor to
secure that those who assemble to be taught, shall already have learnt so
much, _by other means_, that no professed teacher shall feel at liberty to
treat them as an unknowing herd. But by what other means, except the
discipline of the best education possible to be given to them, and the
subsequent voluntary self-improvement to which it may be hoped that such
an education would often lead?

We cannot dismiss this topic, of the unhappy effect of extreme ignorance
on persons religiously disposed, in rendering them both liable and
inclined to receive their ideas of the highest subject in a disorderly,
perverted, and debased form, mixed largely with other men's folly and
their own, without noticing with pleasure an additional testimony to the
connection between genuine religion and intelligence. It arises from the
fact, apparent to any discriminating observer, that as a _general_ rule
the most truly pious of the illiterate disciples of religion, those who
have the most of its devotional feeling and its humility, do certainly
manifest more of the operation of judgment in their religion than is
evinced by those of less solemn and devout sentiment. The former will
unquestionably be found, when on the same level as to the measure of
natural faculty and the want of previous cultivation, to show more
discernment, to be less captivated by noise and extravagance, and more
intent on obtaining a clear comprehension of that faith, which they feel
it is but a reasonable obligation that they should endeavor to understand,
if they are to repose on it their most important hopes.

Section VI.

Thus it has been attempted, we fear with too much prolixity and
repetition, to describe the evils attendant on a neglected state of the
minds of the people. The representation does not comprehend all those even
of magnitude and prominence; but it displays that portion of them which is
the most serious and calamitous, as being the effect which the people's
ignorance has on their moral and religious interests. And we think no one
who has attentively surveyed the state and character of the lower orders
of the community, in this country, will impute exaggeration to the
picture. It is rather to be feared that the reality is of still darker
shade; and that a more strikingly gloomy exhibition might be formed, by
such a process as the following:--That a certain number of the most
observant of the philanthropic persons, who have had most intercourse with
the classes in question, for the purposes of instruction, charitable aid,
or perhaps of furnishing employment, should relate the most characteristic
circumstances and anecdotes within their own experience, illustrative of
this mental and moral condition; and that these should be arranged,
without any comment, under the respective heads of the preceding sketch,
or of a more comprehensive enumeration. Each of them might repeat, in so
many words, the most notable things he has heard uttered as disclosing the
notions entertained of the Deity, or any part of religion; or those which
have been formed of the ground and extent of duty and accountableness; or
the imaginations respecting the termination of life, and a future
retribution. They might relate the judgments they have heard pronounced on
characters and particular modes of conduct; on important events in the
world; on anything, in short, which may afford a test of the quality and
compass of uncultivated thought. Let the recital include both the
expressions of individual conception, and those of the most current maxims
and common-places; and let them be the sayings of persons in health, and
of those languishing and dying. Then let there be produced a numerous
assortment of characteristic samples of practical conduct; conduct not
simply proceeding, in a general way, from wrong disposition, but bearing
the special marks of the cast and direction which that disposition takes
through extreme ignorance: samples of action that is wrong because the
actor cannot think right, or does not think at all. The assemblage of
things thus recounted, when the actual circumstances were also added of
the wretchedness corresponding and inseparable, would constitute such an
exhibition of fact, as any description of those evils in general terms
would incur the charge of rhetorical excesses in attempting to rival. We
can well imagine that some of these persons, of large experience, may have
accompanied us through the foregoing series of illustrations, with a
feeling that they could have displayed the subject with a far more
striking prominence.

And now again the mortifying reflection comes on us, that all this is the
description of too probably the major part of the people of our own
nation. Of this nation, the theme of so many lofty strains of panegyric;
of this nation, stretching forth its powers in ambitious enterprise, with
infinite pride and cost, to all parts of the globe;--just as if a family
were seen eagerly intent on making some new appropriation, or going out to
maintain some competition or feud with its neighbors, or mixing perhaps in
the strife of athletic games, or drunken frays, at the very time that
several of its members are lying dead in the house. So that the fame of
the nation resounded, and its power made itself felt, in every clime, it
was not worth a consideration that a vast proportion of its people were
systematically consigned, through ignorance and the irreligion and
depravity inseparable from it, to a wretchedness on which that fame was
the bitterest satire. It is matter for never-ending amazement, that during
one generation after another, the presiding wisdom in this chief of
Christian and Protestant States, should have thrown out the living
strength of that state into almost every mode of agency under heaven,
rather than that of promoting the state itself to the condition of a happy
community of cultivated beings. What stupendous infatuation, what
disastrous ascendency of the Power of Darkness, that this energy should
have been sent forth to pervade all parts of the world in quest of
objects, to inspirit and accomplish innumerable projects, political and
military, and to lavish itself, even to exhaustion and fainting at its
vital source, on every alien interest; while here at home, so large a part
of the social body was in a moral and intellectual sense dying and
putrefying over the land. And it was thus perishing for want of the
vivifying principle of knowledge, which one-fifth part of this mighty
amount of exertion would have been sufficient to diffuse into every corner
and cottage in the island. Within its circuit, a countless multitude were
seen passing away their mortal existence little better, in any view, than
mere sentient shapes of matter, and by their depravity immeasurably worse;
and yet this hideous fact had not the weight of the very dust of the
balance, in the deliberation whether a grand exertion of the national
vigor and resource could have any object so worthy, (with God for the
Judge,) as some scheme of foreign aggrandizement, some interference in
remote quarrels, an avengement by anticipation of wrongs pretended to be
foreseen, or the obstinate prosecution of some fatal career, begun in the
very levity of pride, by a decision in which some perverse individual or
party in ascendency had the influence to obtain a corrupt, deluded, or
forced concurrence.

The national _honor_, perhaps, would be alleged, in a certain matter of
punctilio, for the necessity of undertakings of incalculable consumption,
by men who could see no national _disgrace_ in the circumstance that
several millions of the persons composing the nation could not read the
ten commandments. Or the national _safety_ has been pleaded to a similar
purpose, with a rant or a gravity of patriotic phrases, upon the
appearance of some slight threatening symptoms; and the wise men so
pleading, would have scouted as the very madness of fanaticism any
dissuasion that should have advised,--"Do you, instead, apply your best
efforts, and the nation's means, to raise the barbarous population from
their ignorance and debasement, and you really may venture some little
trust in Divine Providence for the nation's safety meanwhile."

If a contemplative and religious man, looking back through little more
than a century, were enabled to take, with an adequate comprehension of
intellect, the sum and value of so much of the astonishing course of the
national exertions of this country as the Supreme Judge has put to the
criminal account of pride and ambition; and if he could then place in
contrast to the transactions on which that mighty amount has been
expended, a sober estimate of what so much exerted vigor _might_ have
accomplished for the intellectual and moral exaltation of the people, it
could not be without an emotion of horror that he would say, Who is to be
accountable, who _has been_ accountable, for this difference? He would no
longer wonder at any plagues and judgments which may have been inflicted
on such a state. And he would solemnly adjure all those, especially, who
profess in a peculiar manner to feel the power of the Christian Religion,
to beware how they implicate themselves, by avowed or even implied
approbation, in what must be a matter of fearful account before the
highest tribunal. If some such persons, of great merit and influence,
honored performers of valuable public services in certain departments,
have habitually given, in a public capacity, this approbation, he would
urge it on their consciences, in the evening of life, to consider whether,
in the prospect of that tribunal, they have not one duty yet to
perform,--to throw off from their minds the servility to party
associations, to estimate as Christians, about to retire from the scene,
the actual effects on this nation of a policy which might have been nearly
the same if Christianity had been extinct; and then to record a solemn,
recanting, final protest against a system to which they have concurred in
the profane policy of degrading that religion itself into a party.

Any reference made to such a prospect implies, that there is attributed to
those who can feel its seriousness a state of mind perfectly unknown to
the generality of what are called public men. For it is notorious that, to
the mere working politician, there is nothing on earth that sounds so idly
or so ludicrously as a reference to a judgment elsewhere and hereafter, to
which the policy and transactions of statesmen are to be carried. If the
Divine jurisdiction would yield to contract its comprehension, and retire
from all the ground over which a practical infidelity heedlessly
disregards or deliberately rejects it, how large a province it would leave
free! If it be assumed that the province of national affairs _is_ so left
free, on the pretence that they _cannot_ be transacted in faithful
conformity to the Christian standard, that plea is reserved to be tried in
the great account, when the responsibility for them shall be charged. For
assuredly there will be persons found, to be summoned forth as accountable
for that conduct of states which we are contemplating. Such a moral agency
could not throw off its responsibility into the air, to be dissipated and
lost, like the black smoke of forges or volcanoes. This one grand thing
(the improvement of the people) left undone, while a thousand arduous
things have been done or strenuously endeavored, cannot be less than an
awful charge _somewhere_. And where?--but on all who have voluntarily
concurred and co-operated in systems and schemes, which could deliberately
put _such_ a thing last? Last! nay, not even that; for they have, till
recently, as we have seen, thrown it almost wholly out of consideration. A
long succession of men invested with ample power are gone to this audit.
How many of those who come after them will choose to proceed on the same
principles, and meet the same award?

We were supposing a thoughtful man to draw out to his view a parallel and
contrast, exhibiting, on the one side, the series of objects on which,
during several ages, an enormous exertion of the national energy has been
directed; and on the other, those improvements of the people which might
have been effected by so much of that exertion as he deems to have been
worse than wasted. In this process, he might often be inclined to single
out particular parts in the actual series, to be put in special contrast
over against the possibilities on the opposite line. For example; there
may occur to his view some inconsiderable island, the haunt of fatal
diseases, and rendered productive by means involving the most flagrant
iniquity; an iniquity which it avenges by opening a premature grave for
many of his countrymen, and by being a moral corrupter of the rest. Such
an infested spot, nevertheless, may have been one of the most material
objects of a widely destructive war, which has in effect sunk incalculable
treasure in the sea, and in the sands, ditches, and fields of
plague-infested shores; with a dreadful sacrifice of blood, life, and all
the best moral feelings and habits. Its possession, perhaps, was the chief
prize and triumph of all the grand exertion, the equivalent for all the
cost, misery, and crime.

Or there may occur to him the name of some fortress, in a less remote
region, where the Christian nations seem to have vied with one another
which of them should deposit the greatest number of victims, securely kept
in the charge of death, to rise and testify for them, at the last day, how
much they have been governed by the peaceful spirit of their professed
religion. He reads that his countrymen, conjoined with others, have
battled round this fortress, wasting the vicinity, but richly manuring the
soil with blood. They have co-operated in hurling upon the abodes of
thousands of inhabitants within its walls, a thunder and lightning
incomparably more destructive than those of nature; and have put fire and
earthquake under the fortifications; shouting, "to make the welkin ring,"
at sight of the consequent ruin and chasm, which have opened an entrance
for hostile rage, or compelled an immediate submission, if, indeed, it
would then be accepted to disappoint that rage of its horrible
consummation. They have taken the place,--and they have surrendered it.
The next year perhaps they have taken it again; to be again at last given
up, on compulsion or in compromise, to the very same party to which it had
belonged previously to all this destructive commotion. The operations in
this local and very narrow portion of the grand affray of monarchies, he
may calculate to have cost his country as much as the amount earned by the
toils of half the life of all the inhabitants of one of its populous
towns; setting aside from his view the more portentous part of the
account,--the carnage, the crimes, and the devastation perpetrated on the
foreign tract, the place of abode of people who had little interest in the
contest, and no power to prevent it. And why was all this? He may not be
able to divest himself of the principles that should rule the judgment of
a moralist and a Christian, in order to think like a statesman; and
therefore may find no better reason than that, when despots would quarrel,
Britain must fancy itself called upon to take the occasion to prove itself
a great power, by bearing a high hand amidst their rivalries; or must
seize the opportunity of revenging some trivial offence of one of them;
though this should be at the expense of having the scene at home chequered
between children learning little more than how to curse, and old persons
dying without knowing how to put words together to pray.

The question may have been, in one part of the world or another, which of
two wicked individuals of the same family, competitors for sovereign
authority, should be actually invested with it, they being equal in the
qualifications and dispositions to make the worst use of it. And the
decision of such a question was worthy that England should expend what
remained of her depressed strength from previous exertions of it in some
equally meritorious cause.

Or the supposed reviewer of our national history may find, somewhere in
his retrospect, that a certain brook or swamp in a wilderness, or a stripe
of waste, or the settlement of boundaries in respect to some insignificant
traffic, was difficult of adjustment between jealous, irritated, and
mutually incursive neighbors; and therefore, national honor and interest
equally required that war should be lighted up by land and sea, through
several quarters of the globe. Or a dissension may have arisen upon the
matter of some petty tax on an article of commerce: an absolute will had
been rashly signified on the claim; pride had committed itself, and was
peremptory for persisting; and the resolution was to be prosecuted through
a wide tempest of destruction, protracted perhaps many years; and only
ending in the forced abandonment by the leading power concerned, of
infinitely more than war had been made in the determination not to forego;
and after an absolutely fathomless amount of every kind of cost, financial
and moral, in this progress to final frustration.--But there would be no
end of recounting facts of this order.

Now the comparative estimator has to set against the extended rank of such
enormities the forms of imagined good, which might, during the ages of
this retrospect, have been realized by an incomparably less exhausting
series of exertion, an exertion, indeed, continually renovating its own
resources. Imagined good, we said;--alas! the evil stands in long and
awful display on the ground of history; the hypothetical good presents
itself as a dream; with this circumstance only of difference from a dream,
that there is resting on the conscience of beings somewhere still
existing, a fearful accountableness for its not having been a reality.

For such an _island_, as we have supposed our comparer to read of, he can
look, in imagination, on a space of proportional extent in any part of his
native country, taking a district as a detached section of a general
national picture. And he can figure to himself the result, resplendent
upon this tract, of so much energy, there beneficently expended, as that
island had cost: an energy, we mean _equivalent in measure_, while put
forth in the infinitely different _mode_ of an exertion, by all
appropriate means, to improve the reason, manners, morals, and with them
the physical condition of the people. What a prevalence of intelligence,
what a delightful civility of deportment, what repression of the more
gross and obtrusive forms of vice, what domestic decorum, attentive
education of the children, appropriateness of manner, and readiness of
apprehension in attendance on public offices of religion, sense and good
order in assemblages for the assertion and exercise of civil and political
rights! All this he can imagine as the possible result.

We were supposing his attention fixed a while on the recorded operations
against some strongly fortified place, in a region marked through every
part with the traces and memorials of the often-renewed conflicts of the
Christian states. And we suppose him to make a collective estimate of all
kinds of human ability exerted around and against that particular devoted
place; an estimate which divides this off as a portion of the whole
immense quantity of exertion, expended by his country in all that region
in the campaigns of a war, or of a century's wars. He may then again
endeavor, by a rule of equivalence, to conceive the same amount of
exertion in quite another way; to imagine human forces equal in
_quantity_ to all that putting forth of strength, physical, mental, and
financial, for annoyance and destruction, expended instead, in the
operation of effecting the utmost improvement which they _could_ effect,
in the mental cultivation and the morals of the inhabitants of one large
town in his own country.

In figuring to himself the channels and instrumentality, through which
this great stream of energy might have passed into this operation, on a
detached spot of his country, he will soon have many specific means
presented to his view: schools of the most perfect appointment, in every
section and corner of the town; a system of friendly but cogent dealing
with all the people of inferior condition, relatively to the necessity of
their practical accordance to the plans of education;[Footnote: It is here
confidently presumed, that any man who looks, in a right state of his
senses, at the manner in which the children are still brought up, in many
parts of the land, will hear with contempt any hypocritical protest
against so much interference with the discretion, the liberty of
parents;--the discretion, the liberty, forsooth, of bringing up their
children a nuisance on the face of the earth.] an exceedingly copious
supply, for individual possession, of the best books of elementary
knowledge; accompanied, as we need not say, by the sacred volume; a number
of assortments of useful and pleasing books for circulation, established
under strict order, and with appointments of honorary and other rewards to
those who gave evidence of having made the best use of them; a number of
places of resort where various branches of the most generally useful and
attainable knowledge and arts should be explained and applied, by every
expedient of familiar, practical, and entertaining illustration, admitting
a degree of co-operation by those who attended to see and hear; and an
abundance of commodious places for religious instruction on the Sabbath,
where there should be wise and zealous men to impart it. Our speculator
has a right to suppose a high degree of these qualifications in his public
teachers of religion, when he is to imagine a parallel in this department
to the skill and ardor displayed in the supposed military operations. He
may add as subsidiary to such an apparatus, everything of magistracy and
municipal regulation; a police, vigilant and peremptory against every
cognizable neglect and transgression of good order; a resolute breaking up
of all haunts and rendezvous of intemperance, dishonesty and other vice;
and the best devised and administered institutions for correcting and
reclaiming those whom education had failed to preserve from such
depravity; and besides all this, there would be a great variety of
undefinable and optional activity of benevolent and intelligent men of
local influence.

Under so auspicious a combination of discipline, he will not indeed fancy,
in his transient vision, that he beholds Athens revived, with its bright
intelligence all converted to minister to morality, religion, and
happiness; but he will, in sober consistency, we think, with what is known
of the relation of cause and effect, imagine a place far surpassing any
actual town or city on earth. And let it be distinctly kept in view, that
to reduce the ideal exhibition to reality, he is not dreaming of means and
resources out of all human reach, of preternatural powers, discovered
gold-mines, grand feats of genius. He is just supposing to have been
expended, on the population of the town, a measure of exertion and means
equal, (as far as agencies in so different a form and direction can be
brought to any rule of comparative estimate) to what has been expended by
his country in investing, battering, undermining, burning, taking, and
perhaps retaking, one particular foreign town, in one or several
campaigns.

If he should perchance be sarcastically questioned, how he can allow
himself in so strange a conceit as that of supposing such a quantity of
forces concentrated to act in one exclusive spot, while the rest of the
country remained under the old course of things; or in such an absurdity
as that of fancying that _any_ quantity of those forces could effectually
raise one local section of the people eminently aloft, while continuing
surrounded and unavoidably in constant intercourse with the general mass,
remaining still sunk in degradation--he has to reply, that he is fancying
no such thing. For while he is thus converting, in imagination, the
military exertions against one foreign town, into intellectual and moral
operations on one town at home, why may he not, in similar imagination,
make a whole country correspond to a whole country? He may conceive the
incalculable amount of exertion made by his country, in martial operations
over all that wide foreign territory of which he has selected a particular
spot, to have been, on the contrary, expended in the supposed beneficent
process on the great scale of this whole nation. Then would the
hypothetical improvement in the one particular town, so far from being a
strange insulated phenomenon, absurd to be conceived as existing in
exception and total contrast to the general state of the people, be but a
specimen of that state.

He may proceed along the series of such confronted spectacles as far as
bitter mortification will let him. But he will soon be sick of this
process of comparison. And how sick will he thenceforward be, to perpetual
loathing, of the vain raptures with which an immortal and anti-Christian
patriotism can review a long history of what it will call national glory,
acquired by national energy ambitiously consuming itself in a continual
succession and unlimited extent of extraneous operations, of that kind
which has been the grand curse of the human race ever since the time of
Cain; while the one thing needful of national welfare, the very _summum
bonum_ of a state, has been regarded with contemptuous indifference.

These observations are not made on an assumption, that England could in
all cases have kept clear of implication in foreign interests, and remote
and sanguinary contests. But they are made on the assumption of what is
admitted and deplored by every thoughtful religious man, whose
understanding and moral sense are not wretchedly prostrated in homage to a
prevailing system, and chained down by a superstition that dares not
question the wisdom and probity of high national authorities and counsels.
What is so admitted and deplored by the true and Christian patriots is,
that this nation has gone to an awfully criminal extent beyond the line of
necessity; that it has been extremely prompt to find or make occasions for
appearing again, and still again, in array for the old work of waste and
death; and that the advantage possessed by the preponderating classes in
this protestant country, for being instructed (if they had cared for such
instruction) to look at these transactions in the light of religion, has
reflected a peculiar aggravation on the guilt of a policy persevered in
from age to age, in disregard of the laws of Christianity, and the warning
of accountableness to the Sovereign Judge.

These observations assume, also, that there _cannot_ be such a thing as a
nation so doomed to a necessity and duty of expending its vigor and means
in foreign enterprise, as to be habitually absolved from the duty of
raising its people from brutish ignorance. _This_ concern is a duty at all
events and to an entire certainty; is a duty imperative and absolute; and
any pretended necessity for such a direction of the national exertion as
would be, through a long succession of time, incompatible with a paramount
attention to this, would be a virtual denial of the superintendence of
Providence. It would be the same thing as to assert of an individual, that
his duties of other kinds are so many and great, as to render it
impossible for him to give a competent attention to his highest interests,
and that therefore he stands exempted from the obligations of religion.

Such as we have described has been, for ages, the degraded state of the
multitude. And such has been the indifference to it, manifested by the
superior, the refined, the ascendant portion of the community; who,
generally speaking, could see these sharers with them of the dishonored
human nature, in endless numbers around them, in the city and the field,
without its ever flashing on conscience that on them was lying a solemn
responsibility, destined to press one day with all its weight, for that
ill arrangement of the social order which abandoned these beings to an
exclusion from the sphere of rational existence. It never occurred to many
of them as a question of the smallest moment, in what manner the mind
might be living in all these bodies, if only it were there in competence
to make them efficient as machines and implements. Contented to be gazed
at, to be envied, or to be regarded as too high even for envy, and to have
the rough business of the world performed by these inhalers of the vital
air, they perhaps thought, if they reflected at all on the subject, that
the best and most privileged state of such creatures was to be in the
least possible degree morally accountable: and that therefore it would be
but doing them an injury to enlarge their knowledge. And might not the
thought be suggested at some moment, (see how many things may be envied in
their turns!) how happy _they_ should be, if, with the vast superiority of
their advantages, they could still be just as little accountable? But if
even in this way, of envy, they received an unwelcome admonition of their
own high responsibility, not even then was it suggested to them, that they
should ever be arraigned on a charge to which they would vainly wish to be
permitted to plead, "Were we our brothers' keepers?" And if an office
designated in those terms had been named to them, as a part of their duty,
by some unearthly voice of imperious accent, their thoughts might have
traversed hither and thither, in various conjectures and protracted
perplexity, before the objects of that office had been presented
explicitly to their apprehension as no other than the reason, principles,
consciences, and the whole moral condition of the vulgar mass. They would
understand that its condition was, _in some way or other_, a concern lying
at their door, but probably not in this.--We speak generally, and not
universally.

* * * * *

But we would believe there are signs of a revolution beginning; a more
important one, by its higher principle and its expansive impulse toward a
wide and remote beneficence, than the ordinary events of that name. What
have commonly been the matter and circumstance of revolutions? The last
deciding blow in a deadly competition of equally selfish parties; actions
and reactions of ambition and revenge; the fiat of a conqueror; a burst of
blind fury, suddenly sweeping away an old order of things, but
overwhelming to all attempts to substitute a better institution; plots,
massacres, battles, dethronements, restorations: all actuated by a
fermentation of the ordinary or the basest elements of humanity. How
little of the sublime of moral agency has there been, with one or two
partial exceptions, in these mighty commotions; how little wisdom or
virtue, or reference to the Supreme Patron of national interests; how
little nobleness or even distinctness of purpose, or consolidated
advantage of success! But here is, as we trust, the approach of a
revolution with different phenomena. It displays the nature of its
principle and its ambition in a conviction, far more serious and extensive
than heretofore, of the necessity of education to the mass of the
population, with earnest discussions of its scope and methods by both
speculative and practical men; in schemes, more speedily animated into
operation than good designs were wont to be, for spreading useful
knowledge over tracts of the dead waste where there was none; in exciting
tens of thousands of young persons to a benevolent and patient activity in
the instruction of the children of the poor; in an extended and extending
system of means and exertions for the universal diffusion of the sacred
scriptures; in multiplying endeavors, in all regular and all uncanonical
ways, to render it next to impossible for the people to avoid hearing some
sounds at least of the voice of religion; in the formation of useful local
institutions too various to come under one denomination; in enterprises to
attempt an opening of the vast prison-houses of human spirits in dark
distant regions; in bringing to the test of principles many notions and
practices which have stood on the authority of prejudice, custom, and
prescription: and all this taking advantage of the new and powerful spirit
which has come on the world to drive its affairs into commotion and
acceleration; as bold adventurers have sometimes availed themselves of a
formidable torrent to be conveyed whither the stream in its ordinary state
would never have carried them; or as we have heard of heroic assailants
seizing the moment of a tempest to break through the enemy's lines.--Such
are some of the insignia by which it stands distinguished out and far off
from the rank of ordinary revolutions.

We are not unaware that, with certain speculators on this same subject of
meliorating the state and character of the people, some of the things here
specified will be of small account, either as signs of a great change, or
as means of promoting it. The widely spreading activity of a humble class
of laborers, who seek no fame for their toils and sacrifices, is but a
creeping process, almost invisible in the survey. The multiplied,
voluntary, and extraordinary efforts to diffuse some religious knowledge
and sentiment among the vulgar, appear to them, if not even of doubtful
tendency, at least of such impotence for corrective operation, that any
confidence founded on them is simple fanaticism; that the calculation is,
to use a commercial term, mere moonshine. We remember when a publication
of great note and influence flung contempt on the sanguine expectations
entertained from the rapid circulation of Bibles among the inferior
population. At the hopeful mention of expedients of the religious kind
especially, the class of speculators in question might perhaps be reminded
of Glendower's grave and believing talk of calling up spirits to perform
his will; or (should they ever have happened to read the Bible) of the
people who seized, in honest credulous delight, the mockery of a proposal
of pulling a city, to the last stone, into the river with ropes, as a
prime stroke of generalship.

When we see such expedients rated so low in the process for raising the
populace from their degradation, we ask what means these speculators
themselves would reckon on for the purpose. And it would appear that their
scheme would calculate mainly on some supposed dispositions of a political
and economical nature. Let the people be put in possession of all their
rights as citizens, and thus advanced in the scale of society. Let all
invidious distinctions which are artificial, arbitrary, and not
inevitable, be abolished; together with all laws and regulations
injuriously affecting their temporal well-being. Give them thus a sense of
being _something_ in the great social order, a direct palpable interest in
the honor and prosperity of the community. There will then be a dignified
sense of independence; the generous, liberalizing, ennobling sentiments of
freedom; the self-respect and conscious responsibility of men in the full
exercise of their rights; the manly disdain of what is base; the innate
perception of what is worthy and honorable, developing itself
spontaneously on the removal of the ungenial circumstances in the
constitution of society, which have been as a long winter on the
intellectual and moral nature of its inferior portions. All this will
conduce to the practicability and efficacy of education. It will be an
education _to fit them for an education_ to be introduced with the
progress of that fitness; intellectual culture finding a felicitous
adaptation of the soil. We may then adopt with some confidence a public
system, or stimulate and assist all independent local exertions for the
instruction of the people in the rudiments of literature and general
knowledge; and religion too, if you will.

But, to say nothing of the vain fancies of the virtues ready to disclose
themselves in a corrupt mass, under the auspices of improved political
institutions, it is unfortunate for any such speculation that what it
insists on as the primary condition cannot as yet, but very imperfectly,
be had. The higher and commanding portion of the community have, very
naturally, the utmost aversion to concede to the people what are claimed
as theoretically their rights. They have, indeed, latterly been
constrained to make considerable concessions in name and semblance. But
their great and various power will be strenuously exerted, for probably a
long while yet, to render the acquisitions made by the people as nearly as
possible profitless in their hands. And unhappily these predominant
classes have to allege the mental and moral rudeness of the lower, in
vindication of this determined policy of repression and frustration; thus
turning the consequences of their own criminal neglect into a defence of
their injustice. They will say, If the subordinate millions had grown up
into a rational existence; if they had been rendered capable of thinking,
judging, distinguishing, if they were in possession of a moderate share of
useful information, and withal a strong sense of duty; then might this and
the other privilege, or call it right, in the social constitution be
yielded to them. But as long as they continue in their present mental
grossness they are unfit for the possession, because unqualified for the
exercise, of any such privileges as would take them from under our
authoritative control.

Since they can and will, for the present, maintain this controlling power,
to the extent of nearly invalidating any political advancement attained,
or likely to be soon attained, by the lower grades, a speculation that
should place on that advancement, as a pre-requisite, our hope of a great
change in the mental condition of the people, would be, to adopt a humble
figure, setting us to climb to an upper platform without a ladder, or
rather telling us not to climb at all. And while this supposed
pre-requisite will be refused, on the allegation that the uncultivated
condition of the people renders them unfit for a liberal political
arrangement, the parties so refusing will be little desirous to have the
obstacle removed; foreseeing, as the inevitable consequence of a highly
improved cultivation, a more resolute demand of the advantages withheld, a
constantly augmenting force of popular opinion, and therefore a diminution
of their own predominant power. They will deem it much more commodious for
themselves, that the people should not be so enlightened and raised as to
come into any such competition. And since they, with these dispositions,
have the preponderance in what we denominate the State, we fear we are not
to look with much hope to the State for a liberal and effective system of
national education.

* * * * *

What then is to be done?--We earnestly wish it might please the Sovereign
Ruler to do one more new thing in the earth, compelling the dominant
powers in the nations to an order of institutions and administrations that
_would_ apply the energy of the state to so noble a purpose. Nor can we
imagine any test of their merits so fair as the question whether, and in
what degree, they do this; nor any test by which they may more naturally
decline to have those merits tried. But since, to the shame of our nature,
there is no use to which we are so prone to turn our condemnation of evil
in one form, as that of purchasing a license for it in another, the
persons who are justly arraigning the powers at the head of nations should
be warned that they do not take from the guilty omissions of states a
sanction for individuals to do nothing. Let them not suffer an imposition
on their minds in the notion entertained of a state, as a thing to be no
otherwise accounted of than in a collective capacity, acting by a
government; as if the collective power and agency of a nation became, in
being exerted through that political organ, an affair altogether foreign
to the will, the action, the duty, the responsibility, of the persons of
whom the nation is composed. Let them not put out of sight that whatever
is the duty of the national body in that collective capacity, acting
through its government, is such only because it is the duty of the
individuals composing that body, as far as it is in the power of each; and
that it would be their duty individually not the less, though the
government, as the depositary of the national power, neglect it. But more
than this; to speak generally, and with certain degrees of possible
exception, we may affirm that a government _cannot_ be lastingly
neglectful of a great duty but because the individuals constituting the
community are so. An assertion, that a government has been utterly and
criminally neglectful of the moral condition of the inferior population,
age after age, and through every change of its administrators; but that,
nevertheless, the generality of the individuals of intelligence, wealth,
and influence, have all the while been of a quite opposite spirit,
zealously intent on remedying the flagrant evil, would be instantly
rejected as a contradiction. Such an enlightened and philanthropic spirit
prevailing widely among the individuals of the nation would carry its
impulse into the government in one manner or another. It would either
constrain the administrators of the state to act in conformity, or
ultimately displace them in favor of better men. Even if, short of such a
_general_ activity of the respectable and locally influential members of
society, a large proportion of them had vigorously prosecuted such a
purpose, it would have compelled the administrators of the state to
consider, even for their own sake, whether they should be content to see
so important a process going on independently of them, and in contrast
with their own disgraceful neglect.

But at the worst, and on the supposition that they were obstinately
inaccessible to all moral and philanthropic considerations, still a grand
improvement would have been accomplished, if many thousands of the
responsible members of the community had attempted it with zealous and
persevering exertion. The neglect, therefore, of the improvement of the
people, so glaring in the review of our conduct as a nation, has been, to
a very great extent, the insensibility of individuals to obligations lying
on them as such, independently of the institutions and administration of
the state.

And are individuals _now_ absolved from all such responsibility; and the
more so, that the conviction of the importance of the object is come upon
them with such a new and cogent force? When they say, reproachfully, that
the nation, as a body politic, concentrating its powers in its government,
disowns or neglects a most important duty, is it to be understood that
this accusatory testimony is _their_ share, or something equivalent in
substitution for their share, of that very duty? Does a collective duty of
such very solid substance, vanish into nothing under any attempted process
of resolving it into fractions and portions for individuals? And do they
themselves, as some of the individuals to whom this duty might thus be
distributively assigned,--do they themselves, in spite of self-love,
self-estimation, and all the sentiments which they will at other times
indulge in homage of their own importance,--do they, when this assignment
is attempted to be made to them, instantly and willingly surrender to a
feeling of crumbling down from this proud individuality into an
undistinguishable existence in the mass; and, profaning the language of
religion, say to the State, "In thee we live, move, and have a being?" Or,
will they, (in assimilation to eastern pagans, who hold that a divinity so
pervades them as to be their wills and do their actions, leaving the mere
human vehicle without power, duty, or accountableness,) will they account
themselves but as passive matter, moved or fixed, and in all things
necessitated, by a sovereign mythological something denominated the state?

No, not in all things. It is not so that they feel with respect to those
other interests and projects, which they are really in earnest to promote,
though those concerns may lie in no greater proportion than the one in
question does within the scope of their individual ability. The incubus
has then vanished; and they find themselves in possession of a free
agency, and a degree of power, which they will not patiently hear
estimated in any such contemptuous terms. What is there then that should
reduce them, as individual agents, to such utter and willing
insignificance in the affair of which we are speaking? Besides, they may
form themselves, in indefinite number, into combination. And is there no
power in any collective form in which they can be associated, save just
that one in which the aggregation is constituted under the political shape
and authority denominated a state? Or is it at last that some alarm of
superstitious loyalty comes over them; that they grow uneasy in conscience
at the high-toned censure they have been stimulated and betrayed to
pronounce on the state; that they relapse into the obsequiousness of
hesitating, whether they should presume to do good of a kind which the
"Power ordained of God" has not seen fit to do; that they must wait for
the sanction of its great example; that till the "shout of kings is among
them" it were better not to march against the vandalism and the paganism
which are, the while, quite at their ease, destroying the people?

But if such had always been the way in which private individuals, single
or associated, had accounted of themselves and their possible exertions,
in regard to great general improvements, but very few would ever have been
accomplished. For the case has commonly been, that the schemes of such
improvements have originated with persons not invested with political
power; have been urged on by the accession and co-operation of such
individuals; and at length slowly and reluctantly acceded to by the
holders of dominion over the community, always, through some malignant
fatality, the last to admit what had long appeared to the majority of
thinking men no less than demonstrative evidence of the propriety and
advantage of the reformation.

In all probability, the improvement of mankind is destined, under
Providence, to advance nearly in proportion as good men feel the
responsibility for it resting on themselves as individuals, and are
actuated by a bold sentiment of independence, (humble at the same time, in
reference to the necessity of Divine intervention,) in the prosecution of
it. Each person who is standing still to look, with grief or indignation,
at the evils which are overrunning the world, would do well to recollect
what he may have read of some gallant partisan, who, perceiving where a
prompt movement, with the comparatively slender force at his own command,
would make an impression infallibly tending to the success of the warfare,
could not endure to lose the time till some great sultan should find it
convenient to come in slow march, and the pomp of state, to take on him
the direction of the campaign.

In laying this emphasis of incitement and hope on the exertions of good
men as individuals, we cannot be understood to mean that the government of
states, if ever they did come to be intent on rendering the condition of
society better and happier, could not contribute beyond all calculation to
the force and efficacy of _every_ project and measure for that grand
purpose. How far from it! it is melancholy to consider what they might do
and do not. But it is because their history, thus far, affords such feeble
prognostics of their becoming, till some better age, actuated by such a
spirit,--it is because the Divine Governor has hitherto put upon them so
little of the honor of being the instruments of his beneficence,--that the
anticipations of good, and the exhortations to attempt it, are so
peculiarly directed to its promoters in an individual capacity.

Happily, the accusatory part of such exhortations is becoming, we trust we
may say fast becoming, less extensively applicable; and we return with
pleasure to the animating idea of that revolution of which we were noting
the introductory signs. It is a revolution in the manner of estimating the
souls of the people, and consequently in the judgment of what should be
done for both their present and future welfare. Through many ages, that
immense multitude had been but obscurely presented to view in any such
character as that of rational, improvable creatures. They were recognized
no otherwise than as one large mass of rude moral substance, but faintly
distinguishable into individuals; existing, and to be left to exist, in
their own manner; and that manner hardly worth concern or inquiry. Little
consideration could there be of how much spiritual immortal essence must
be going to waste, absorbed in the very earth, all over the wide field
where the inferior portion of humanity was seen only through the gross
medium of an economical estimate, by the more favored part of the race.
But now it is as if a mist were rising and dispersing from that field, and
leaving the multitude of possessors of uncultivated and degraded mind
exhibited in a light in which they were never seen before, except by the
faithful promoters of Christianity, and a few philanthropists of a less
special order.

It is true, this manifestation forms so tragic a vision, that if we had
only to behold it _as a spectacle_, we might well desire that the misty
obscurity should descend on it again, to shroud it from sight; while we
should be left to indulge and elate our imaginations by dwelling on the
pomps and splendors of the terrestrial scene,--the mighty empires, the
heroes, the victories, the triumphs; the refinements and enjoyments of the
most highly cultivated of the race; the brilliant performances of genius,
and the astonishing reach of science. So the tempter would have beguiled
our Lord into a complacent contemplation of the kingdoms and glories of
the world. But he was come to look on a different aspect of it! Nor could
he be withdrawn from the gloomy view of its degradation and misery. And a
good reason why. For the sole object for which he had appeared in the only
world where temptation could even in form approach him was to begin in
operation, and finish in virtue, a design for changing that state of
degradation and misery. In the prosecution of such a design, and in the
spirit of that divine benevolence in which it sprung, he could endure to
fix on the melancholy and odious character of the scene, the contemplation
which was vainly attempted to be diverted to any other of its aspects.
What, indeed, could sublunary pomps and glories be to him in any case; but
emphatically what, when his object was to redeem the people from darkness
and destruction?

Those who, actuated by a spirit in some humble resemblance to his, have
entered deeply into the state of the people, such as it is found in our
own nation, have often been appalled at the spectacle disclosed to them.
They have been astonished to think, what _can_ have been the direction,
while successive ages have passed away, of so many thousands of acute and
vigilant mental eyes, that so dreadful a sight should scarcely have been
descried. They have been aware that in describing it as they actually saw
it, they would be regarded by some as gloomy fanatics, tinctured with
insanity by the influence of some austere creed; and that others, of
kinder nature, but whose sensibility has more of self-indulging refinement
than tendency to active benevolence, would almost wish that so revolting
an exhibition had never been made, though the fact be actually so. There
may have been moments when they themselves have experienced a temporary
recoil of their benevolent zeal, under the impression at once of the
immensity of the evil, so defying the feebleness of their remedial means
and efforts, and of its noisome quality. At times, the rudeness of the
subjects, and perhaps the ungracious reception and thankless requital of
their disinterested labors, aggravating the general feeling of the
miserableness (so to express it) of seeing so much misery, have lent
seduction to the temptations to ease and self-indulgence. Why should they,
just _they_ of all men, condemn themselves to dwell so much in the most
dreary climate of the moral world, when they could perhaps have taken
their almost constant abode in a little elysium of elegant knowledge,
taste, and refined society? Then was the time to revert to the example of
Him "who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor."

Or, again, they may have been betrayed to indulge too long in the bitter
mood of thinking, how entirely the higher and more amply furnished powers
leave such generous designs to proceed as they can, in the mere strength
of private individual exertion. And they may have yielded to depressive
feelings after the fervor of indignant ones; for such indignation, unless
qualified by the purest principle--unless it be the "anger that sins
not"--is very apt, when it cools, to settle into misanthropic despondency.
It is as if (they have said) armies and giants would stand aloof to amuse
themselves, while we are to be committed and abandoned in the ceaseless,
unavailable toil of a conflict, which these armies and giants have no
business even to exist as such but for the very purpose of waging. We are,
if we will,--and if we will we may let it alone--to try to effect in
diminutive pieces, and detached local efforts, a little share of that, to
the accomplishment of which the greatest human force on earth might be
applied on system, and to the widest compass. So they have said, perhaps,
and been tempted to leave their object to its destiny.

But really it is now too late for this resentful and desponding
abandonment. They cannot now retire in the tragic dignity of despair. It
must be some more forlorn predicament that would allow them any grace of
rhetoric in saying, as in parody of Cato, "Witness heaven and earth, that
we have done our duty, but the stars and fate are against us; and here it
becomes us to terminate a strife, which would degenerate into the
ridiculous, if prosecuted against impossibilities." On the contrary, the
zeal which could begin so onerous a work, and prosecute it thus far, could
not now remit without convicting its past ardor of cowardice lurking under
its temporary semblance of bravery. Is it for the projectors of a noble
edifice of public utility, to abandon the undertaking when it has risen
from its foundation to be seen above the ground; or is just come to be
level with the surface of the waters, in defiance of which it has been
commenced, and the violence of which it was designed to control, or the
unfordable depths and streams of which it was to bear people over? Let the
promoters of education and Christian knowledge among the inferior classes,
reflect what has already been accomplished; though regarding it as quite
the incipient stage. It is most truly as yet "the day of small things;"
and shall they despise it, from an idea of what it might have been if the
great powers had been directed to its advancement? They have found that in
the good cause thus unaided they have not wholly labored in vain; that it
_can_ be brought in contact with a considerable portion of what would
otherwise be so much human existence abandoned; and that already, as from
the garments of the Divine Healer of diseases, a sanative virtue goes out
of it. Let them recount the individuals they have seen, and not despond as
to many more, rescued from what had all the signs of a destination to the
lowest debasement, and utter ruin; some of whom are returning animated
thanks, and will do so in the hour of death, for what these, their best
human friends, have been the means of imparting to them. Let them
recollect of how many families they have seen the domestic condition
pleasingly, and in some instances eminently and delightfully amended. And
let them reflect how they have trampled down prejudices, nearly silenced a
heathenish clamor, and provoked the imitative and rival efforts of many
who would, but for them, have been willing enough for all such schemes to
lie in abeyance to the end of time. Let them think of all this, and
faithfully persist in the trial what it may please God that they shall
accomplish, whether the possessors of national power will acknowledge his
demand for such an application of it or not; whether, when the infinite
importance of the concern is represented to them, they will hear, or
whether they will forbear.

But let them not doubt that the time will come, when the rulers and the
ascendant classes in states will comprehend it to be their best policy to
promote all possible improvement of the people. It will be given to them
to understand, that the highest glory of those at the head of great
communities, must consist in the eminence attained by those communities
generally, in whatever it is that constitutes the worth, the honor, the
happiness, of individuals; a glory with which would be combined the
advantage that the office of presiding over such a nation could be
administered in a liberal spirit. They will one day have learned to esteem
it a far nobler form of power to lead and direct an immense society of
intelligent minds, than to delude, coerce, and drive a vast semi-barbarous
herd. Providence surely will one day, in the progress of society, confer
on it such wise and virtuous rulers as can feel, that it is better for
them to have a people who can understand and rationally approve, when
deserving of approbation, their system and measures, than one bent in
stupid submission, even if ignorance could henceforward suffice (which it
cannot) to retain the people in that posture; better, therefore, by a
still stronger reason, than to have a people fermenting in ignorant
disaffection, constantly believing the governors to be in the wrong, and
without the sense to comprehend any arguments in justification, excepting
such as might be addressed in the shape of bribes to corruption. And a
time will come when it will not be left to the philanthropic or censorial
speculatists alone, to make the comparative estimate between what has been
effected by the enormously expensive apparatus of coercive and penal
administration--the prisons, prosecutions, transportations, and a large
military police, (things quite necessary in our past and present national
condition,)--and what _might_ have been effected by one half of that
expenditure devoted to popular reformation, to be accomplished by means of
schools, and every practicable variety of methods for placing men's
judgment and conscience as the "lion in the way," when they are inclined
and tempted to go wrong.--All this will come to pass at length. And if the
promoters of the best designs see cause to fear that the time is remote,
this should but enforce upon them the more strongly the admonition that no
time is _theirs_, but the present.

It was not possible to pursue the long course of these observations so
nearly to the conclusion, without being reminded still again of what we
have adverted to before, that there will be persons ready to impute
sanguine extravagance to our expectations of the result of such an order
of means and exertions, for the improvement of the education and mental
condition of the people, as we see already beginning to work. When the
means are of so little splendid a quality, it will be said, by what
inflation of fancy is their power admeasured to such effects?

And what _is_ it, then, and how much, that is expected as the result, by
the zealous advocates of schools, and the whole order of expedients, for
the instruction of that part of the rising generation till lately so
neglected? Are they heard maintaining that the communication of knowledge,
or true notions of things, to youthful minds, will _infallibly_ ensure
their virtue and happiness? They are not quite so new to the world, to
experimental labor in the business of tuition, or to self-observation.
Their vigilance would hardly overlook such a circumstance as the very
different degree of assurance with which the effects may be predicted, of
ignorance on the one hand, and of knowledge on the other. There is very
nearly an absolute certainty of success in the method for making clowns,
sots, vagabonds, and ruffians. You may safely leave it to themselves to
carry on the process for becoming complete. Let human creatures grow up
without discipline, destitute therefore of salutary information, sound
judgment, or any conscience but what will shape itself to whatever they
like, serving in the manner of some vile friar pander in the old
plays,--and no one takes any credit for foresight in saying they will be a
noxious burden on the earth; except indeed in those tracts of it where
they seem to have their appropriate place and business, in being matched
against the wolves and bears of the wilderness. When they infest what
should be a civilized and Christianized part of the world, the
philanthropist is sometimes put in doubt whether to repress, or indulge,
the sentiment which tempts him to complacency in the operation of an
epidemic which is thinning their numbers.

The consequences of ignorance are certain, unless almost a miracle
interpose; but unhappily those of knowledge are of diffident and
restricted calculation; unless we could make a trifle of the testimony of
all ages, and suppress the evidence of present experience, that men may
see and approve the better, and yet follow the worse. It is the hapless
predicament of our nature, that the noblest of its powers, the
understanding, has but most imperfectly and precariously that commanding
hold on the others, which is essential to the good order of the soul. Our
constitution is like a machine in which there is a constant liability of
the secondary wheels to be thrown out of the catch and grapple of the
master one. And worse than so, these powers which ought to be subordinate
and obedient to the understanding, are not left to stand still when
detached from its control. They have a strong activity of their own, from
the impulse of other principles: indeed, it is this impulse that _causes_
the detachment. It is frightful to look at the evidence from facts, that
these active powers _may_ grow strong in the perversity which will set the
judgment at defiance, during the very time that it is successfully
training to a competence for dictating to them what is right. The
assertions of those who are determined to find the chief or only cause of
the wrong direction of the passions and will in misapprehension of the
understanding, are a gross assumption, in a question of fact, against an
infinite crowd of facts pressing round with their evidence. This evidence
is offered by men without number distinctly and deliberately acknowledging
their conviction of the evil quality and fatal consequences, of courses
which they are soon afterwards seen pursuing, and without the smallest
pretence of a change of opinion; by the same men in more advanced stages
still owning the same conviction, and sometimes in strong terms of
self-reproach, in the checks and pauses of their career; and by men in the
near prospect of death and judgment expressing, in bitter regret, the
acknowledgment that they had persisted in acting wrong when they knew
better. And this assumption, made against such evidence, is to be
maintained for no better reason, that appears, than a wilful determination
that human nature cannot, must not, shall not, be so absurd and depraved
as to be capable of such madness: as if human nature were taking the
smallest trouble to put on any disguise before them, to beguile them into
a good opinion; as if it could be cajoled by their flattery to assume even
a semblance of deserving it; as if it had the complaisance to check one
bad propensity, to save them from standing contradicted and exposed to
ridicule for speaking of it with indulgence or respect; as if it stayed or
cared to thank them for their pains in attempting to make out a plausible
extenuation. It has, and keeps, and shows its character, in perfect
indifference to the puzzled efforts of its apologists to reduce its moral
turpitude to just so much error of the understanding. But, as for
understanding--it should be time to look to their own, when they find
themselves asserting, in other words, that there is actually as much
virtue in the world as there is knowledge of its principles and laws. We
should rather have surmised that, deplorably deficient as that knowledge
is, the reduction of a fifth or tenth part of it to practice would make a
glorious change in England and Europe.

The persons, therefore, whose zeal is combined with knowledge in the
prosecution of plans for the extension of education, proceed on a
calculation of an effect more limited, in apparent proportion to the
means, and with less certainty of even that more limited measure in any
single instance, than they would have been justified in anticipating in
many other departments of operation. They would, for example, predict more
positively the results of an undertaking to cultivate any tract of waste
land, to reclaim a bog, or to render mechanical forces available in an
untried mode of application; or, in many cases, the decided success of the
healing art as applied to a diseased body. They must needs be moderate in
their confidence of calculation for good, on a moral nature whose
corruption would yield an enemy of mankind a gratifying probability in
calculating for evil. In comparing these opposite calculations, they would
be glad if they might make an exchange of the respective probabilities.
That is to say, let a man, if such there be, who could be pleased with the
depravity and misery of the race, a sagacious judge too, of their moral
constitution, and a veteran observer of their conduct,--let him survey
with the look of an evil spirit a hundred children in one of the
benevolent schools, and indulge himself in prognosticating, on the
strength of what he knows of human nature, the proportion, in numbers and
degree, in which these children will, in subsequent life, exemplify the
_failure_ of what is done for their wisdom and welfare;--let him make his
calculation, and, we say, there may be times when the friends of these
institutions would be glad to transfer the quantity of probability from
his side to theirs; would feel they should be happy if the proportion in
which they fear he may be right in calculating on evil from the nature of
the beings under discipline, were, instead, the proportion in which it is
rational to reckon on good from the efficacy of that discipline. "Evil, be
thou my good," might be their involuntary apostrophe, in the sense of
wishing to possess the stronger power, transmuted to the better quality.

But we shall know where to stop in the course of observations of this
darkening color: and shall take off the point of the derider's taunt, just
forthcoming, that we are here unsaying, in effect, all that we have been
so laboriously urging about the vast benefit of knowledge to the people.
It was proper to show, that the prosecutors of these designs are not
suffering themselves to be duped out of a perception of what there is, in
the nature of the youthful subjects, to counteract the intention of the
discipline, and with too certain a power to limit its efficacy to a very
partial measure of the effect desired. These projectors might fairly be
required to prove they are not unknowing enthusiasts; but then, in keeping
clear of the vain extravagances of expectation, they are not to surrender
their confidence that something great and important can be done; it should
be possible for a man to be sober, short of being dead. They are not to
gravitate into a state of feeling as if they thought the understanding and
the moral powers are but casually associated in the mind; as if an
important communication to the one, might, so to speak, never be heard of
by the others; as if these subordinates had just one sole principle of
action--that of disobeying their chief, so that it could be of no use to
appeal to the master of the house respecting the conduct of his inmates;
as if, therefore, _all_ presumption of a relation between means and ends,
as a ground of confidence in the efficacy of popular instruction, must be
illusory. It might not indeed be amiss for them to be _told_ that the case
is so, by those who would desire, from whatever motive, to repress their
efforts and defeat their designs. For so downright a blow at the vital
principle of their favorite object would but serve to provoke them to
ascertain more definitely what there really is for them to found their
schemes and hopes upon, and therefore to verify to themselves the reasons
they have for persisting, in assurance that the labor will be far from
wholly lost. And for this assurance it is, at the very lowest,
self-evident, that there is at any rate such an efficacy in cultivation,
as to give a certainty that a well-cultivated people _cannot_ remain on
the same degraded moral level as a neglected ignorant one--or anywhere
near it. None of those even that value such designs the least, ever
pretend to foresee, in the event of their being carried into effect, an
undiminished prevalence of rudeness and brutality of manners, of delight
in spectacles and amusements of cruelty, of noisy revelry, of sottish
intemperance, or of disregard of character. It is not pretended to be
foreseen, that the poorer classes will then continue to display so much of
that almost desperate improvidence respecting their temporal means and
prospects, which has aggravated the calamities of the present times. It is
not predicted that a universal school-discipline will bring up several
millions to the neglect, and many of them in an impudent contempt, of
attendance on the ministrations of religion. The result will at all
hazards, by every one's acknowledgment, be _the contrary of this_.

But more specifically:--The promoters of the plans of popular education
see a most important advantage gained in the very outset, in the obvious
fact, that in their schools a very large portion of time is employed well,
that otherwise would infallibly be employed ill. Let any one introduce
himself into one of these places of concourse, where there has been time
to mature the arrangements. He should not enter as an important personage,
in patronizing and judicial state, as if to demand the respectful looks of
the whole tribe from their attention to their printed rudiments and their
slates; but glide in as a quiet observer, just to survey at his leisure
the character and operations of the scene. Undoubtedly he may descry here
and there the signs of inattention, weariness or vacancy, not to say of
perverseness. Even these individuals, however, are out of the way of
practical harm; and at the same time he will see a multitude of youthful
spirits acknowledging the duty of directing their best attention to
something altogether foreign to their wild amusements; of making a rather
protracted effort in one mode or another of the strange business of
_thinking_. He will perceive in many the unequivocal indications of a
serious and earnest effort made to acquire, with the aid visible signs and
implements, a command of what is invisible and immaterial. They are thus
rising from the mere animal state to tread in the precincts of an
intellectual economy; the economy of thought and truth, in which they are
to live forever; and never, in all futurity, will they have to regret, for
itself, [Footnote: _For itself_--a phrase of qualification inserted to
meed the captious remark, that there have been instances of bad men, under
the reproach of conscience of the dread of consequences, expressing a
regret that they had ever been well instructed, since this was an
aggravation of their guilt, and perhaps had subserved their evil
propensities with the more effectual means and ability.] _this_ period and
part of their employments. He will be delighted to think how many
regulated actions of the mind, how many just ideas distinctly admitted,
that were unknown or unimpressed at the beginning of the day's exercise,
(and among these ideas, some to remind them of God and their highest
interest,) there will have been by the time the busy and well-ordered
company breaks up in the evening, and leaves silence within these walls.
He will not indeed grow romantic in hope; he knows the nature of which
these beings partake; knows therefore that the desired results of this
process will but partially follow; but still rejoices to think those
partial results which will most certainly follow, will be worth
incomparably more than all they will have cost to the learners, or the
teachers, or the patrons.

Now let him, when he has contemplated this scene, consider how the
greatest part of this numerous company would have been employed during the
same hours, whether of the Sabbath or other days, but for such a provision
of means for their instruction. And, for the contrast, he has only to
leave the school, and walk a mile round the neighborhood, in which it will
be very wonderful, (we may say this of most parts of England,) if he shall
not, in a populous district, especially near a great town, and on a fine
day, meet with a great number of wretched, disgusting imps, straggling or
in knots, in the activity of mischief and nuisance, or at least the full
cry of vile and profane language; with here and there, as a lord among
them, an elder larger one growing fast into an insolent adult blackguard.
He may make the comparison, quite sure that such as they are, and so
employed, would many now under the salutary discipline of yonder school
have been, but for its institution. But the two classes so beheld in
contrast, might they not seem to belong to two different nations? Do they
not seem growing into two extremely different orders of character? Do they
not even seem preparing for different worlds in the final distribution?

The friends of these designs for a general and highly improved education,
may proceed further in this course of verifying to themselves the grounds
of their assurance of happy consequences. A number of ideas, the most
important that were ever formed in human thought, or imparted to men from
the Supreme Mind, will be so communicated and impressed in these
institutions, that it is absolutely certain they will be fixed irrevocably
in the minds of the pupils. And in the case of many, if not the majority
of these destined adventurers into the temptations of life, these
important ideas, thus inserted deep in their souls, will distinctly
present themselves to judgment and conscience an incalculable number of
times. What a number, if the sum of all these reminiscences, in all the
minds now assembled in a numerous school, could be conjectured! But if one
in a hundred of these recollections, if one in a thousand, shall be
efficacious, who can compute the amount of the good resulting from the
instruction which shall have so enforced and fixed these ideas that they
shall inevitably be thus recollected? And is it altogether out of reason
to hope that the desired efficacy will, far oftener than once in a
thousand times, attend the luminous rising again of a solemn idea to the
view of the mind! Is still less than _this_ to be predicted for our
unhappy nature, while, however fallen, it is not abandoned by the care of
its Creator!

The institutions themselves will gradually improve, in both the method and
the compass of their discipline. They will acquire a more vigorous
mechanism, and a more decidedly intellectual character. In this latter
respect, it is but comparatively of late years that schools for the
inferior classes have ventured anything beyond the humblest pretensions.
Mental cultivation--enlarged knowledge--elements of science--habit of
thinking--exercise of judgment--free and enlightened opinion--higher
grade in society--were terms which they were to be reverently cautious of
taking in vain. There would have been an offensive sound in such phrases,
as seeming to betray somewhat of the impertinence of a _disposition_, (for
the idea of the _practicability_ of any such invasion would have been
scorned,) to encroach on a ground exclusively appropriate to the superior
orders. Schools for the poor were to be as little as possible scholastic.
They were to be kept down to the lowest level of the workshop, excepting
perhaps in one particular--that of working hard: for the scholars were to
throw time away rather than be occupied with anything beyond the merest
rudiments. The advocates and the petitioners for aid of such schools, were
to avow and plead how little it was that they pretended or presumed to
teach. The argument in their behalf was either to begin or end with
saying, that they taught _only_ reading and writing; or if it could not be
denied that there was to be some meddling with arithmetic and grammar,--we
may safely appeal to some of the veterans of these pleaders, whether they
did not, thirty or forty years since, bring out this addition with the
management and hesitation of a confession and apology. It is a prominent
characteristic of that happy revolution we have spoken of as in
commencement, that this aristocratic notion of education is breaking up.
The theory of the subject is loosening into enlargement, and will cease by
degrees to impose a niggardly restriction on the extent of the
cultivation, proper to be attempted in schools for the inferiors of the
community.

As these institutions go on, augmenting in number and improving in
organization, their pupils will bring their quality and efficacy to the
proof, as they grow to maturity, and go forth to act their part in
society. And there can be no doubt, that while too many of them may be
mournful exemplifications of the power with which the evil genius of the
corrupt nature, combined with the infection of a bad world, resists the
better influences of instruction, and may, after the advantage of such an
introductory stage, be carried down towards the old debasement, a very
considerable proportion will take and permanently maintain a far higher
ground. They will have become imbued with an element, which must put them
in strong repulsion to that coarse vulgar that will be sure to continue in
existence, in this country, long enough to be a trial of the moral taste
of this better cultivated race. It will be seen that they cannot associate
with it by choice, and in the spirit of companionship. And while they are
thus withheld on their part, from approximating, it may be hoped that in
certain better disposed parts of that vulgar, there may be a conversion of
the repelling principle into an impulse to approach and join them on their
own ground. There will be numbers among it who cannot be so entirely
insensate or perverse, as to look with carelessness at the advantages
obtained through the sole medium of personal improvement, by those who had
otherwise been exactly on the same level of low resources and estimation
as themselves. The effect of this view on pride, in some, and on better
propensities, it may be hoped, in others, will be to excite them to make
their way upward to a community which, they will clearly see, could commit
no greater folly than to come downward to them. And we will presume a
friendly disposition in most of those who shall have been raised to this
higher standing, to meet such aspirers and help them to ascend.

And while they will thus draw upward the less immovable and hopeless part
of the mass below them, they will themselves, on the other hand, be
placed, by the respectability of their understanding and manners, within
the influence of the higher cultivation of the classes above them; a great
advantage, as we have taken a former occasion to notice:--a great
advantage, that is to say, if the cultivation among those classes _be_
generally of such a quality and measure, that the people could not be
brought a few degrees nearer to them without becoming, through the effect
of their example, more in love with sense, knowledge, and propriety of
conduct. For it were somewhat too much of simplicity, perhaps, to take it
for quite a thing of course that the people would always perceive such
intellectual accomplishments as would keep them modest or humble in their
estimate of their own, and such liberal spirit and manners as would at
once command their respect and conduce to their refinement, when they made
any approach to a communication with the classes superior in possessions
and station. If this _might_ have been assumed as a thing of course, and
if therefore it might have been confidently reckoned on, that the more
improving of the people would receive from the ranks above them a salutary
influence, similar to that which we have been supposing they will
themselves exert on a part of the vulgar mass below them, there had been a
happy omen for the community; and if it may not be so assumed, are we to
have the disgraceful deficiencies of the upper classes pleaded as an
argument against raising the lower from their degradation? Must the
multitude flounder along the mud at the bottom of the upward slope,
because their betters will not be at the cost of making for themselves a
higher terraced road across it than that they are now walking on?

* * * * *

But it would be an admirable turn to make the lower orders act
beneficially on the higher. And it is an important advantage likely to
accrue from the better education of the common people, that their rising
attainments would compel not a few of their superiors to look to the state
of their own mental pretensions, on perceiving that _this_, at last, was
becoming a ground on which, in no small part, their precedence was to be
measured. Surely it would be a most excellent thing, that they should find
themselves thus incommodiously pressed upon by the only circumstance,
perhaps, that could make them sensible there are more kinds of poverty
than that single one to which alone they had hitherto attached ideas of
disgrace; and should be forced to preserve that ascendency for which
wealth and station would formerly suffice, at the cost, now, of a good
deal more reading, thinking, and general self-discipline. And would it be
a worthy sacrifice, that to spare some substantial agriculturalists, idle
gentlemen, and sporting or promenading ecclesiastics, such an afflictive
necessity, the actual tillers of the ground, and the workers in
manufacture and mechanics, should continue to be kept in stupid ignorance?

It is very possible this may excite a smile, as the threatening of a
necessity or a danger to these privileged persons, which it is thought
they may be comfortably assured is very remote. This danger (namely, that
a good many of them, or rather of those who are coming in the course of
nature to succeed them in the same rank, will find that its relative
consequence cannot be sustained but at a very considerably higher pitch of
mental qualification) is threatened upon no stronger presages than the
following:--Allow us first to take it for granted, that it is not a very
protracted length of time that is to pass away before the case comes to
be, that a large proportion of the children of the lower classes are
trained, through a course of assiduous instruction and exercise in the
most valuable knowledge, during a series of years, in schools which
everything possible is done to render efficient. Then, if we include in
one computation all the time they will have spent in real mental effort
and acquirement there, and all those pieces and intervals of time which we
may reasonably hope that many of them will improve to the same purpose in
the subsequent years, a very great number of them will have employed, by
the time they reach middle age, many thousands of hours more than people
in their condition have heretofore done, in a way the most directly
tending to place them greatly further on in whatever of importance for
repute and authority intelligence is to bear in society. And how must we
be estimating the natural capacities of these inferior classes, or the
perceptions of the higher, not to foresee as a consequence, that these
latter will find their relative situation greatly altered, with respect to
the measure of knowledge and mental power requisite as one most essential
constituent of their superiority, in order to command the unfeigned
deference of their inferiors?

Our strenuous promoters of the schemes for cultivating the minds of all
the people, are not afraid of professing to foresee, that when schools, of
that completely disciplinarian organization which they are, we hope,
gradually to attain, shall have become general, and shall be vigorously
seconded by all those auxiliary expedients for popular instruction which
are also in progress, a very pleasing modification will become apparent in
the character, the moral color, if we might so express it, of the people's
ordinary employment. The young persons so instructed, being appointed, for
the most part, to the same occupations to which they would have been
destined had they grown up in utter ignorance and vulgarity, are expected
to give evidence that the meanness, the debasement almost, which had
characterized many of those occupations in the view of the more refined
classes, was in truth the debasement of the men more than of the callings;
which will come to be in more honorable estimation as associated with the
sense, decorum, and self-respect of the performers, than they were while
blended and polluted with all the low habits, manners, and language, of
ignorance and vulgar grossness. And besides, there is the consideration of
the different degrees of merit in the performance itself; and who will be
the persons most likely to excel, in the many branches of workmanship and
business which admit of being better done in proportion to the degree of
intelligence directed upon them? And again, who will be most in
requisition for those offices of management and superintendence, where
something must be confided to judgment and discretion, and where the value
is felt, (often vexatiously felt from the want,) of some capacity of
combination and foresight?

Such as these are among the subordinate benefits reasonably, we might say
infallibly, calculated upon. Our philanthropists are confident in
foreseeing also, that very many of these better educated young persons
will be valuable co-operators with all who may be more formally employed
in instruction, against that ignorance from which themselves have been so
happily saved; will exert an influence, by their example and the steady
avowal of their principles, against vice and folly in their vicinity; and
will be useful advisers of their neighbors in their perplexities, and
sometimes moderators in their discords. It is predicted, with a confidence
so much resting on general grounds of probability, as hardly to need the
instances already afforded in various parts of the country to confirm it,
that here and there one of the well-instructed humbler class will become a
competent and useful public teacher of the most important truth. It is, in
short, anticipated with delightful assurance, that great numbers of those
who shall go forth from under the friendly guardianship which will take
the charge of their youthful minds, will be examples through life and at
its conclusion, of the power and felicity of religion.

Here we can suppose it not improbable that some one may, in pointed terms,
put the question,--Do you then, at last, mean to affirm that you can, by
the proposed course, by any course, of discipline, absolutely secure that
effectual operation and ascendency of religion in the mind, which shall
place it in the right condition toward God, and in a state of fitness for
passing, without fear or danger, into the scenes of its future endless
existence?

We think the cautious limitation of language, hitherto observed in setting
forth our expectations, might preclude such a question. But let it be
asked, since there can be no difficulty to reply. We do _not_ affirm that
any form of discipline, the wisest and best in the power of the wisest and
best men to apply, is competent of itself thus to subject the mind
decidedly and permanently to the power of religion. On the contrary, we
believe that grand effect can be accomplished only by a special influence
of the Divine Being, operating by the means applied in a well-judged
system of instruction, or, if he pleases, independently of them. But next,
it is perfectly certain, notwithstanding, that the application of these
human means will, in a multitude of instances, be efficacious to that most
happy end.

This certainty arises from a few very plain general considerations. The
first is, that the whole system of means appointed by the Almighty to be
employed as a human process for presenting religion solemnly in view
before men's minds, and enforcing it on them, is an appointment _expressly
intended_ for working that great effect which secures their final
felicity; though to what extent in point of number is altogether unknown
to the subordinate agents. They are perfectly certain, in employing the
appointed expedients in prosecution of the work, that they must be
proceeding on the strength of a positive relation subsisting between those
means and the results to be realized, in what instances, in what measure,
at what time, it shall please the sovereign Power. The appointment cannot
be one of mere exercise for the faculties and submissive obedience of
those who are summoned to be active in its execution.

Accordingly, there are in the divine revelation very many explicit and
animating assurances, that their exertions shall certainly be in a measure
effectual to the proposed end. And if these assurances are made in favor
of the exertions for inculcating religion generally, that is, on men of
all conditions and ages, they may be assumed as giving special
encouragement to those for impressing it on young minds, before they can
be preoccupied and hardened by the depravities of the world. There is
plainly the more hope for the efficacy of those exertions the less there
is to frustrate them. But besides, the authority itself, which has assured
a measure of success to religious instruction as administered generally,
has marked with peculiar strength the promise of its success as applied to
the young; thus affording rays of hope which have in ten thousand
instances animated the diligence of pious parents, and the other
benevolent instructors of children.

There is also palpable matter of fact to the point, that an education
which combines the discipline of the conscience and the intellectual
faculty will be rendered, in many instances, efficacious to the formation
of a religious character. This obvious fact is, that a much greater
proportion of the persons so educated do actually become the subjects of
religion, than of a similar number of those brought up in ignorance and
profligacy. Take collectively any number of families in which such an
education prevails, and the same number in which it does not, and follow
the young persons respectively into subsequent life. But any one who hears
the suggestion, feels there is no need to wait the lapse of time and
follow their actual course. As instructed by what he has already seen in
society, he can go forward with them prophetically, with perfect certainty
that many more of the one tribe than that of the other, will become
persons not only of moral respectability but decided piety. Any one that
should assert respecting them that the probabilities are equal and
indifferent, would be considered as sporting a wilful absurdity, or
betraying that he is one of those who did not come into the world for
anything they can learn in it. And the experience which thus authorizes a
perfect confidence of prediction, is evidence that, though discipline must
wholly disclaim an absolute power to effect the great object in question,
there is, nevertheless, such a constitution of things that it most
certainly will, as an instrumental cause, in many instances effect it.

The state of the matter, then, is very simple. The Supreme Cause of men's
being "made wise to salvation," in appointing a system of means, to be put
by human activity in operation toward this effect, has also appointed that
in this operation they shall infallibly be attended with a measure of
success in accomplishing that highest good,--a measure which was not to be
accomplished otherwise than by such means. So much he has signified to men
as an absolute certainty: but then, he has connected this certainty in an
arbitrary, and as to our knowledge, indefinite manner with the system. It
is a certainty connected with the system _as taken generally and
comprehensively_; and which it is not given to us to affix to the
particular instances in which the success will take place. It is a Divine
Volition suspended over the whole scene of cultivation; like a cloud from
which we cannot tell where precisely the shower to fertilize it will fall,
certain, however, that there are spots whose verdure and flowers will tell
after awhile. The agents under the Sovereign Dispenser are to proceed on
this positive assurance that the success _shall be somewhere_, though they
cannot know that it will be in this one instance, or in the other: "In the
morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou
knowest not whether shall prosper, this, or that." If they rate the value
of their agency so high, as to hold it derogatory to their dignity that
any part of their labors should be performed under the condition of
possibly being unsuccessful, they may be assured that such is not exactly
the estimate of Him to whom they look for the acceptance of their
services, and for the reward.

But it may be added, that the great majority of those who are intent on
the schemes for enlightening and reforming mankind, are entertaining a
confident hope of the approach of a period, when the success will be far
greater in proportion to the measure of exertion in every department of
the system of instrumentality for that grand object. We cherish this
confidence, not on the strength of any pretension to be able to resolve
prophetic emblems and numbers, into precise dates and events of the
present and approaching times. It rests on a more general mode of
apprehending a relation between the extraordinary indications of the
period we live in, and the substantial purport of the divine predictions.
There unquestionably gleams forth, through the plainer lines, and through
the mystical imagery of prophecy, the vision of a better age, in which the
application of the truths of religion to men's minds will be irresistible.
And what should more naturally be interpreted as one of the dawning signs
of its approach, than a new spirit come into action with insuppressible
impulse, at once to dispel the fog from their intellects and bring the
heavenly light to shine close upon them; accompanied by a prodigious
convulsion in the old system of the world, which hardly recognized in the
inferior millions the very existence of souls to need or be worth such an
illumination? It is true that an eruptive activity of evil, beyond what
was witnessed by our forefathers, has attended and followed that
convulsion; as mephitic exhalations are emitted through the rents of an
earthquake. Viewed in itself, this outbreak of the bad principles and
passions might seem to portend anything rather than a grand improvement in
the state of a nation or of mankind. It appears like an actual
augmentation of the evil previously existing. But it should rather be
regarded as the setting loose of the noxious elements accumulated and
rankling under the old system; a phenomenon inevitably attendant on its
breaking up, by a catastrophe absolutely necessary to open and clear the
field for operations on the great scale against those evils themselves,
and to give scope and means for the advancement toward a better condition
of humanity.

The laborers in the institutions for instructing the young descendants of
an ill-fated generation, may often regret to perceive how little the
process is as yet informed with the energy which is ultimately to pervade
the world. But let them regard as one great undivided economy and train of
operation, these initiatory efforts and all that is to follow, till that
time "when all shall know the Lord;" and take by anticipation, as in
fraternity with the happier future laborers, their just share of that
ultimate triumph. Those active spirits, in the happier periods, will look
back with this sentiment of kindred and complacency to those who sustained
the earlier toils of the good cause, and did not suffer their zeal to
languish under the comparative smallness of their success.

* * * * *

We shall conclude with a few sentences in the way of reply to another
question, which we can surmise there may be persons ready to ask, after
this long iteration of the assertion of the necessity of knowledge to the
common people. The question would be to this effect: What do you, all this
while, mean to assign as the _measure_ of knowledge proper for the people
to be put in possession of?--for you do not specify the kinds, or limit
the extent: you talk in vague general terms of mental improvement; you
leave the whole matter indefinite; and for all that appears, the people
are never to know when they know enough.

It is answered, that we _do_ leave the extent undefined, and should
request to be informed where, and why, the line of circumscription and
exclusion should be drawn.

Is it, we could really wish to know, a point at all yet decided, wherein
consist the value and importance of the human nature? Any liberal scheme
for its universal cultivation is met by such a jealous parsimony toward
the common people, such a ready imputation of wild theory, such protesting
declamations against the mischief of practically applying abstract
principles, such an undisguised or betrayed precedence given to mere
interests of state, and those perhaps very sordid ones, before all others,

Book of the day: