Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

use it for the good of our fellow-creatures. But we haven't wit. Of course, if we had influence with the hishops, we would use it for the good of the Church; but we haven't any influence with the bishops. Of course, if we had political ]>ower, we would use it for the good of the nation; but we have no political power; we have no talents entrusted to us of any sort or kind. It is true we have a little money, but the parable can't possibly mean anything so vulgar as money; our money's our own.

I believe, if you think seriously of this matter, you will feel that the first and most literal application is just as necessary a one as any other—that the story does very specially mean what it says—plain money; and that the reason we don't at once believe it does so, is a sort of tacit idea that while thought, wit, and intellect, and all power of birth and position, are indeed given to us, and, therefore, to be laid out for the Giver,—our wealth has not been given to us; but we have worked for it, and have a right to spend it as we choose. I think you will find that is the real substance of our understanding in this matter. Beauty, we say, is given by God—it is a talent; strength is given by God—it is a talent; position is given by God—it is a talent; but money is proper wages for our day's work—it is not a talent, it is a due. We may justly spend it on ourselves, if we have worked for it.

And there would be some shadow of excuse for this, were it not that the very power of making the money is itself only one of the applications of that intellect or strength which we confess to be talents. Why is one man richer than another? Because he is more industrious, more persevering, and more sagacious. Well, who made him more persevering and more sagacious than others? That power of endurance, that quickness of apprehension, that calmness of judgment, which enable him to seize the opportunities that others lose, and pergist iti the lines of conduct in which others fail—are these not talent ?—are they not in the present state of the world, among the most distinguished and influential of mental gifts? And is it not wonderful, that while we should be utterly ashamed to use a superiority of body, in order to thrust our weaker companions aside from some place of advantage, we unhesitatingly use our superiorities of mind to thrust them back from whatever good that strength of mind can attain. You would be indignant if you saw a strong man walk into a theatre or a lecture-room, and calmly choosing the best place, take his feeble neighbor by the shoulder, and turn him out of it into the back seats, or the street. You would be equally indignant if you saw a stout fellow thrust himself up to a table where some hungry children were being fed, and reach his arm over their heads and take their bread from them. But you are not the least indignant if when a man has stoutness of thought and swiftness of capacity, and, instead of being long-armed only, has the much greater gift of being longheaded—you think it perfectly just that he should use his intellect to take the bread out of the mouths of all the other men in the town who are of the same trade with him; or use his breadth and sweep of sight to gather some branch of the commerce of the country into one great cobweb, of which he is himself to be the central spider, making every thread vibrate with the points of his claws, and commanding every avenue with the facets of his eyes. You see no injustice in this.

But there is injustice; and, let us trust, one of- which honorable men will at no very distant period disdain to be guilty. In some degree, however, it is indeed not unjust; in some degree it is necessary and intended. It is assuredly just that idleness should be surpassed by energy; that the widest influence should be possessed by those who are best able to wield it; and that a wise man, at the end of his career, should be better off than a fool. But for that reason, is the fcol to be wretched, utterly crushed down, and left in all the suffer ing which his conduct and capacity naturally inflict ? —Not so. What do you suppose fools were made for? That you might tread upon them, and starve them, and get the better of them in every possible way? By no means. They were made that wise people might take care of them. That is the true and plain fact concerning the relations of every strong and wise man to the world about him. He has his strength given him, not that he may crush the weak, but that he may support and guide them. In his own household he is to be the guide ard the support of his children; out of his household he is still \-o be the father, that is, the guide and support of the weak and the poor; not merely of the meritoriously weak and the innocently poor, but of the guiltily and punishably poor; of the men who ought to have known better—of the poor who ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is nothing to give pension and cottage to the widow who has lost her son; it is nothing to give food and medicine to the workman who has broken his arm, or the decrepit woman wasting in sickness. But it is something to use your time and strength to war with the waywardness and thoughtlessness of mankind; to keep the erring workman in your service till you have made him an unerring one; and to direct your fellow-merchant to the opportunity which his dulness would have lost. This is much; but it is yet more, when you have fully achieved the superiority which is due to you, and acquired the wealth which is the fitting reward of your sagacity, if you solemnly accept Ihe responsibility of it, as it is the helm and guide of labor far and near. For you who have it in your hands, are in reality the pilots of the power and effort of the State. It is entrusted to you as an authority to be used for good or evil, just as completely as kingly authority was ever given to a prince, or military command to a captain. And, accordii g tc the quantity of it that you have in your hands, you are the arbiters of the will and work of England; and the whole issue, whether the work of the State shall suffice for the State or not, depends upon you. You may stretch out your sceptre over the heads of the English laborers, and say to them, as they stoop to its waving, "Subdue this obstacle that has baffled our fathers, put away this plague that consumes oui children; water these dry places, plough these desert ones, carry this food to those who are in hunger; carry this light to those who are in darkness; cany this life to those who are in death;" or on the other side you may say to her laborers: "Here am I; this power is in my hand; come, build a mound here for me to be throned upon, high and wide; come, make crowns for my head, that men may see them shine from far away; come, weave tapestries for my feet, that I may tread softly on the silk and purple; come, dance before me, that I may be gay; and sing sweetly to me, that I may slumber; so shall I live in joy and die in honor." And better than such an honorable death, it were that the day had perished wherein we were born, and the night in which it was said there is a child conceived.

[graphic]

I trust that in a little while, there will be few of our rich men who, through carelessness or covetousness, thus forfeit the glorious office which is intended for their hands. I said, just now, that wealth ill-used was as the net of the spider, entangling and destroying: but wealth well used, is as the net of the sacred fisher who gathers souls of men out of the deep. A time will come—I do not think even now it is far from us— when this golden net of the world's wealth will be spread abroad as the flaming meshes of morning cloud are over the sky; bearing with them the joy of light and the dew of the moaning, as well as the summons to honorable and peaceful toil. What less can we hope from your wealth than this, rich men of England, when once you feel fully how, by the strength of your possessions—not, observe, by the exhaustion, but by the administration of them and the power—you can direct the acts,—command the energies—inform the ignorance,—prolong the existence, of the whole human race; and how, even of worldly wisdom, which man employs faithfully, it is true, not only that her ways are pleasantness, but that her paths are peace; and that, for all the childrer of men, as well as for those to whom she is given, Length of days are in her right hand, as in her left hand Riches and Honor?

We are too much in the habit of considering happy accidents as what are called "special Providences;" and thinking that when any great work needs to be done, the man who is to do it will certainly be pointed out by Providence, be he shepherd or sea-boy; and prepared for his work by all kinds of minor providences, in the best possible way. Whereas all the analogies of God's operations in other matters prove the contrary of this; we find that "of thousand seeds, He often brings but one to bear," often not one; and the one seed which He appoints to bear is allowed to bear crude or perfect fruit according to the dealings of the husbandman with it. And there cannot be a doubt in the mind of any person accustomed to take broad and logical views of the world's history, that its events are ruled by Providence in precisely the same manner as its harvests; that the seeds of good and evil are broadcast among men, just as the seeds of thistles ana fruits are; and that according to the force of our industry, and wisdom of our husbandry, the ground will bring forth to us figs or thistles. So that when it seems needed that a certain work should be done for the world, and no man is there to do

« ZurückWeiter »