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"I quite forgot it." Do you try to remember it? No doubt, when & thing has been important to yourselves, to your pleasure, to your profit, you have, before now, made a memorandum of it, or asked those around you to remind you of it. You hare tied a knot in your pocket-handkerchief, or fastened a riband round your wrist, or a thread round your finger; and resorted to other contrivances to assist your memory. Now, are you in the habit of doing the same things to assist you in the discharge of those duties which you so frequently quite forget? Be honest to yourself in replying to these questions.
My readers must remember that this hackneyed phrase, “I quite forgot it," is not confined to any class of people or grade of life. The child and the parent, the husband and the wife, the master and the servant, where conscience is not lively, and where principle sleeps, are too much accustomed to bring it into daily use.
I knew a kind-hearted husband, whose services (he being in a public situation) were required to be rendered with great exactness in regard to time, so that it was absolutely necessary to his comfort and peace that his meals should be prepared with great puuctuality. His wife knew this, and yet it was a rare thing for the good man to sit down to his dinner at the appointed time. His wife was often from home, or very busy, or prevented from attending to it, or one thing or another, but generally the ready excuse that reached the husband's ears was this, “ I quite forgot it.” Constant dropping wears away stone, and continual neglect will diminish the truest affection. No wonder that his temper was soured, and his love changed into severity. The man died, leaving his widow, among other things, the unwelcome remembrance that for years, by a culpable inattention to his comfort, she had robbed him of much peace, and helped to fill up his cup of bitterness to the brim.
I knew a son who, when at a distance from an afflicted mother, always forgot to write to her, when a letter would have given her comfort, and always remembered to write when he wished her to supply him with the means of extravagance. Was this, think you, & proof of a bad memory or of a bad heart ?
But I need not multiply instances to prove that the commonplace saying, "I quite forgot it," is, in general, nothing more than the poor, thin, flimsy, transparent veil with which we try to hide our neglect of duty; and that whether we are, or are not, we ought to be, altogether ashamed of it. If we forget either what we owe to our heavenly Father, for the yearly, daily, and hourly manifestations of his goodness, or what is due to our fellow beings of all classes around us, a time is coming when we shall have too much cause to remember it. Let, then, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, masters and servants, with Old Humphrey and all his readers, looking upwards for help, deter. mine together from this time henceforward, to have nothing at all to do with the sentence, "I quite forgot it ;" not doubting that this resolve will improve our memory, our integrity, our affection, and our peace.
The first and highest business and mission of every individual man is to glorify God by his own physical, mental, and moral elevation-to seek the perfection of his nature, by becoming all that he may become for bimself, for others, and for God.
Whenever any one is found earnest, by endeavoring to attain to this, his course commends itself to all men, and is openly praised as noble by the good, and silently acknowledged as such even by those who have not the will and the courage to attempt it for themselves.
It is pleasant to see even a seed that is planted unfolding itself to the full extent of its native capacity in the symmetrical plant and the perfected fruit; on the other hand, it is pitiful and painful io behold it enfeebled in the germ, pining in its growth, and falling short of its fruit. There is something in as which instinctively says: "Well, and bravely done, when in anything—be it plant, insect, bird, beast or man—we behold all its possibilities becoming actualities.
In man, the highest, this endeavor is the noblest, and its success the grandest. Would it not be strange were such an end reached without care and conflict. Even a grain of wheat in unfolding the possibilities that are in it, maintains the siege against the drought, the wet, the frost, the fly, the weevil, the rust, the hail—and only when it has kept the field against all these successive phalanxes of enemies lying in wait, and rushing upon it, does it present its golden ear to the joy of the reaper.
The hindrances to our development are yet more and greater. To overcome them is greater than to take a city. To know how to accomplish this is the highest knowledge; actually to attain it is the highest victory; to fall short of it is the most deplorable of failures.
What is the source or power by which individual man is, and may be elevated, so as to become what it is possible for him to be? We have been careful not to say, “How does he elevate himself !” because it is our design to show that his elevation requires a power beyond and around himself-that he needs a backing and support to his individual purposes and endeavors—a power underlying and surrounding his individual life in the element and energy of which alone the possibilities that lie in his nature are called forth and actualized. This power, whatever we may, in the course of our present investigation, find it to be—we figu. ratively call the power behind the throne-indicating thereby that a man in the highest earthly position, is not necessarily elevated in that which constitutes the perfection of his individual nature. A Herod on the throne was eaten by worms! He elevated himself, but he was not elevated. Greater than the King, which is an office, is the man, which is a being; and when this being is unfolded to all that it may be, it has attained to what a King cannot attain as a King, but only as a manby a power, therefore, behind the throne, and greater than it.
Human life, like all life, can only grow toward its full development, when it has its proper soil and surroundings. A seed may include in itself all the posssbilities of growth, but they are latent till it is brought intu connection with the proper outward conditions of growth--without these it remains forever a seed only. So the capability of excellence lies in every individual being; but it will never be developed unless it is nursed and incited by its proper outward conditions. d grain of wheat in the granary or in the dry sand has no power to put forth ; so an individual being has no power to unfold his possibilities of himself
, except as backed and moved by powers around, behind and beneath him. The latent power of will, the energies of mind, on the inmost throne of our being, are as helpless as lungs without air, or as a heart without blood, if not themselves vitalized by a power that is not inherent in them. When once a man shall lift himself over the fence by lay. ing hold of his own boot-straps, then may an individual unfold his owu being without external conditions. Every Archimedes must have a fulcrum beyond the world which is to be raised.
Take any number of children, and when they are one month old-let them be of the same capacity—place one in the wigwam of the Indian, one in the cave of the Hottentot, one in the tent of the Arab, one in a peasant's family in Spain, one in some boorish family in America, and one in sume refined Christian family, rich or poor—and after twenty years mark the difference between six children once inherently alike!
Does not the soil make the plant? Do not the surroundings—that which lies beyond our individual life-mould us into what we are ? Is there not something outside of ourselves on which we are dependent for our individual elevation ?
What is this soil ? You say at once, society. But you have not answere, the question. Society makes us what it is itself. You say society; and I ask what society ? Indian ? Hottentot ? Spanish ? Arab? You say the highest order of society. Very well—what makes the highest order of society? What is it that works, and has wrought back of society, that makes it what it is, or that will make it what it ought to be? What is it that elevates society? The same power that through it elevates the individual. But what is it ?-what is the power behind the throne ?
Look for a moment at society in its smallest elementary circle-the Family. Is it not a power of elevation or degradation according to its kind? "As is the mother so is the daughter"-as is the family so is the child. Is a child elevated above the moral level of the family to which it belongs; this has been done, not by the family, but by some foreign influence. The family itself plainly can furnish no power of elevation above its own level. Families differ; and they do so because one is elevated above the other by a power behind it. Then the same question recurs, and is unanswered, what is that elevating power ?
Take society in a wider circle, as a community. That the individual is silently and powerfully moulded by the bosom of that social life in the midst of which he lives and moves, is most sure. But after its kind and grade, ignorance nurses ignorance-vice begets_vice; so intelligence begets intelligence, and virtue cultivates virtue. But why does society here remain as it is-why there does it sink—and there rise ? What makes society good? What is the vitality that energises it to the noble and the pure? It cannot be a power inherent in society itself or it would be in all places alike. It cannot be the result of a longer period of development, for society is as old on the banks of the Ganges, the Euphrates and the Nile, as it is on the Rhine, the Thames, or the Delaware.
Take society in its widest circle as national social life. The spirit of a nation is in its people. It exerts a powerful influence on its social and individual life. But here again, after its kind—as evil as it is evil, and as good as it is good. Nor is the difference of nations explained by the period of time they have had for social development; for some of the oldest are the darkest and most effete. Nor is it to be accounted for by their form of government; the Monarchy and the Republic of Rome alike sustained the most barbarous and corrupt social practices, and are together buried amid the ruins of a civilization that has been outstripped and left far behind by nations whose chiefs they once bound to their chariots. There must be a power deeper, and broader, and more potent than nationalities which makes them what they are. literally behind Thrones.
As we cannot find the true source of human elevation in the sphere of social life, but find it retreating behind it, let us look for it in mental cultivation and development. There is a power and a glory in mind. It is born for masteries. The visible and invisible powers of the air, earth, and sea, come at its call, crouch like tamed lions at its feet and say, “Here are we! Speak, for thy servants hear !"
“Knowledge is power.” But here the same difficulty meets us. What kind of power is knowledge ? Power after its kind. Good or evil according as he is who possesses and wields it. Good as a sword is, to defend the king or to stab him—good in the hand of Washington, bad in the hand of Arnold. Knowledge is one thing in the head of Fenelon and another in that of Voltaire. Knowledge will enable & man to defend the right, and it will enable him to defend the wrong. A polished financier can manage a Bank ; he can also manage a defalcation. A genius can engrave the Last Supper, or he can engrave a counterfeit note-he can plate spoons, or he can plate bogus coin-he can preach a sermon to a Christian congregation, filling them with high hopes and holy purposes, or he can harangue a mob, inflaming them for sedition and riot. In short, knowledge is a nose of wax, which he who has it, turns into the lane which he himself desires to travel and whether
he is going for man or against man, for God or against Him-heavenward or hell-ward, it alike serves His purpose and helps him on! It simply makes him a greater saint or a greater sinner--nothing more.
Something must lie back of knowledge which makes its possession elevating. What is it? Do you say Goodness. Right. But what makes him Good? What is the power behind the throne ?
It cannot be knowledge, for we have seen that is neither good nor bad—and that it is both good and bad according as it is used. If knowledge had power to make men good, then all learned men would be good; but they are not. Then all ignorant men would be wicked ; but they are not. Knowledge in a man's head has no more power to make him good than money in his pocket has that power. With the money in his pocket he can buy a Bible or a bottle of whiskey ; with the knowledge in his head he can bless or curse his race !
Shall we try again, and seek the source of human elevation in the wonderful improvements which characterize our time; by which every power and activity is facilitated and every capacity multiplied ? Here we meet the same difficulty.
Is the press Good ? We must ask, who is behind it? Whose soul is it? What sheet is that that drops from it, at the rate of one hundred in a minute? The improvement is simply this, that it enables a good man to do good faster, and a bad man to do evil faster.
So it is in regard to steam. Who is behind it? It speeds the pirate ship and the slaver, as well as that of the merchant and missionary. The rail car will bear a man in a few hours to a distant point, alike to preach a sermon or to steal a horse! Threshing machines afford the Farmer Boys leisure in the winter to learn science in school, or to learn bad habits out of it.
These are mere particulars referred to, to illustrate the general principle, that all physical, mechanical improvements are related to human elevation and degradation alike—may be made, and are made, to serve the one as well as the other, according to the spirit of him who wields them.
We may at least, in this connection, submit the question whether a sharp devices in evil-keen and cunning schemes of rascality-fraudson superior scale—have not kept full pace with material progress in all other respects ? Try it-make two pens, gather the smart rogues into one and the dumb rogues into the other, and see which will contain the largest number. You say perhaps that the inmates of our prisons are generally ignorant criminals. So they are; but the scientific ones never get there! It would affect their standing in society. The well-known verse in Gray's Elegy might be altered thus :
Full many a rogue, of rich and scientific mien,
The dark unfathomed dens of cities bear;
And breathes pollution through the social air. The same difficulty is met in the problem in relation to the relief of pauperism. To relieve and elevate the suffering poor is a blessed work. But how is it to be done so as really to elevate them. Not by giving, in itself. The quarter you give will buy bread or liquor, as he may please who receives it. Your gift may relieve distress, and it may encouraeg