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simple, magnanimous, and majestic truth! Yes, it is the man who is true-true to himself, to his neighbour, and to his God-true to the right-true to his conscience and who feels that the slightest suggestion of that conscience, is more to him than the chance of acquiring a hundred estates.
Do I not speak to some such one now? Stands there not here, some man of such glorious virtue, of such fidelity to truth and to God? Good friend! I call upon you to hold fast to that integrity, as the dearest treasure of existence. Though storms of commercial distress sweep over you, and the wreck of all worldly hopes threaten you, hold on to that as the plank that shall bear your soul unhurt to its haven. Remember that which thy Saviour hath spoken—"what shall it profit à man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Remember that there is a worse bankruptcy than that which is recorded in an earthly court—the bankruptcy that is recorded in heaven-bankruptcy in thy soul—all poor, and broken down, and desolate there—all shame and sorrow and mourning, instead of that glorious integrity, which should have shone, like an angel's presence, in the darkest prison that ever spread its shadow over human calamity. Heaven and earth may pass away, but the word of Christ--the word of thy truth, let it pass from thee never!
ON THE USES OF LABOUR, AND THE
PASSION FOR A FORTUNE.
2 THESSALONIANS iii, 10: “For even when we were with you, this we com
manded you, that if any man would not work, neither should he eat.” I wish to invite your attention this evening to the uses of labour, and the passion for å fortune. The topics, it is obvious, are closely connected. The latter, indeed, is my main subject; but as preliminary to it, I wish to set forth, as I regard it, the great law of human industry. It is worthy, I think, of being considered, and religiously considered, as the chief law of all human improvement and happiness. And if there be any attempt to escape from this law, or if there be any tendency of the public mind, at any time, to the same point, the eye of the moral observer should be instantly drawn to that point, as one most vital to the public welfare. That there has been such a tendency of the public mind in this country, that it has been most signally manifest within a few years past, and that although it has found in cities the principle field of its manifestation, it has spread itself over the country too; that multitudes have become suddenly possessed with a new idea, the idea of making a fortune in a brief time, and then of retiring to a state of ease and independence—this is the main fact on which I shall insist, and of which I shall endeavour to point out the dangerous consequences.
But let me first call your attention to the law which has thus, as I contend, in spirit at least, been broken. What then is the law? It is, that industry-working, either with the hand or with the mind-the application of the powers to some task, to the achievement of some result, lies at the foundation of all human improvement.
Every step of our progress from infancy to manhood, is proof of this. The process of education, rightly considered, is nothing else but wakening the powers to activity. It is through their own activity alone that they are cultivated. It is not by the mere imposition of tasks, or requisition of lessons. The very purpose of the tasks and lessons is to awaken, and direct that activity. Knowledge itself cannot be gained, but upon this condition, and if it could be gained, would be useless without it.
The state into which the being is introduced is, from the first step of it to the last, designed to answer the purpose of such an education. Nature's education, in other words, answers in this respect to the just idea of man's. Each sense, in succession, is elicited by surrounding objects, and it is only by repeated trials and efforts that it is brought to perfection. In like manner does the scene of life appeal to every intellectual and every moral power. Life is a severe discipline, and demands every energy of human nature to meet it. Nature is a rigorous taskmaster, and its language to the human race is, "if a man will not work, neither shall he eat. We are not sent into the world like animals, to crop the spontaneous herbage of the field, and then to lie down in indolent repose: but we are sent to dig the soil and plough the sea; to do the business of cities and the work of manufactories.
The raw material only is given us, and by the processes of cookery and the fabrications of art, it is to be wrouglit to our purpose. The human frame itself is a most exquisite piece of mechanism, and it is designed in every part for work: the strength of the arm, the dexterity of the hand, and the delicacy of the finger, are all fitted for the accomplishment of this purpose.
All this is evidently not a matter of chance, but the result of desigu. The world is the great and appointed school of industry. In an artificial state of society, I know mankind are divided into the idle and the labouring classes; but such, I maintain, was not the design of Providence. On the contrary, it was meant that all men, in one way or another, should work. If any human being could be completely released from this law of Providence, if he should never be obliged so much as to stretch out his hand for anything, if everything came to him at a bare wish, if there were a slave appointed to minister to every sense, and the powers of nature were made, in like manner, to obey every thought, he would be a mere mass of inertness, uselessness, and misery.
Yes, such is man's task, and such is the world he is placed in. The world of matter is shapeless and void to all man's purposes, till he lays upon it the creative hand of labour. And so also is the world of mind. It is as true in mind as it is in matter, that the materials only are given us. Absolute truth, ready made, no more presents itself to us in one department, than finished models of mechanism ready made do in the other. Original principles there doubtless are in both; but the result-philosophy, that is to say—in the one case, is as far to seek, as art and mechanism are in the other.
Such, I repeat, is the world, and such is man. The earth be stands upon and the air he breathes are, so far as his improvement is concerned, but elements to be wrought by him to certain purposes. If he stood on earth passively and unconsciously, imbibing the dew and sap, and spreading his arms to the light and air, he would be but a tree. If he grew up capable neither of purpose nor of improvement, with no guidance but instinct, and no powers but those of digestion and locomotion, he would be but an animal. But he is more than this; he is a man; he is made to improve; he is made, therefore, to think, to act, to work. Labour is his great function, his peculiar distinction, his privilege. Can he not think so? Can he not see, that from being an animal to eat and drink and sleep, to become a worker—to put forth the hand of ivgenuity, and to pour his own thought into the worlds of nature, fashioning them into forms of grace and fabrics of convenience, and converting them to purposes of improvement and happiness-can he not see, I repeat, that this is the greatest possible step in privilege? Labour, I say, is man's great function. The earth and the atmosphere
I are his laboratory. With spade and plough, with mining-shafts and furnaces and forges, with fire and steam-amidst the noise and whirl of swift and bright machinery, and abroad in the silent fields beneath the roofing sky, man was made to be ever working, ever experimenting. And while he, and all his dwellings of care and toil, are borne onward with the circling skies, and the shows of heaven are around him, and their infinite depths image and invite his thought, still in all the worlds of philosophy, in the universe of intellect, man must be a worker. He is nothing, he can be nothing, he can achieve nothing, fulfil nothing, without working. Not only can he gain no lofty improvement without this; but without it, he can gain no tolerable happiness. So that he who gives himself up to utter indolence, finds it too hard for him; and is obliged in self-defence, unless he be an idiot, to do something. The miserable victims of idleness and ennui, driven at last from their chosen resort, are compelled to work, to do something; yes, to employ their wretched and worthless lives in—" killing time.” They must hunt down the hours as their prey. Yes, time—that mere abstractionthat sinks light as the air upon the eyelids of the busy and the weary, to the idle is an enemy clothed with gigantic armour'; and they must kill it, or themselves die. They cannot lice in mere idleness; and all the difference between them and others is, that they employ their activity to no useful end. They find, indeed, that the hardest work in the world is to do nothing!
This reference to the class of mere idlers, as it is called, leads me to offer one specification in laying down this law concerning industry. Suppose a man, then, to possess an immense, a boundless fortune, and that he holds himself discharged, in consequence, from all the ordinary cares and labours of life. Now, I maintain that, in order to be either an improving, worthy, or happy man, he must do one of two things. He must either devote himseif to the accomplishment of some public objects, or he must devote some hours of every day to his own intellectual cultivation. In any case, he must be, to a certain extent, a laborious man. The thought of his heart may be far different from this. He may think it his special privilege, as a man of fortune, to be exempt from all care and effort. To lounge on soft couches, to walk in pleasant gardens, to ride out for exercise, and to come home for feasting—this may be his plan. But it will never do. It never did yet answer for any human being, and it never will. God has made a law against it, which no human power ever could annul, nor human ingenuity evade. That law is, that upon labour, either of the body or of the mind, all essential well-being shall depend. And if this law be not complied with, I verily believe that wealth is only a curse, and luxury only a more slippery road to destruction. The poor idler, I verily believe, is safer than the rich idler: and I doubt whether he is not happier. I doubt whether the most miserable vagrancy, that sleeps in barns and sheds, and feeds upon the fragments of other men's tables, and leaves its tattered garments upon every hedge, is so miserable as surfeited opulence, sighing in palaces, sunk in the lethargy of indolence, loaded with plethory, groaning with weariness which no wholesome fatigue ever comes to relieve. The vagrant is, at least, obliged to walk from place to place, and thus far has the advantage over his fellow idler who can ride. Yes, he walks abroad in the fair morning-no soft couch detains him—he walks abroad among the fresh fields, by the sunny hodges and along the silent lanes, singing his idle song as he goes--a creature poor and wretched enough, no doubt ; but I am tempted to say, if I must be idle, give me that lot, rather than to sit in the cheerless shadow of palace roofs, or to toss on downy beds of sluggish stupor or racking pain.
I have thus endeavoured to state one of the cardinal and inflexible laws of all human improvement and happiness. I have already premised, that my purpose in doing so, was to speak of the spirit of gain, of the eagerness for a fortune, as characteristics of modern business, which tend to the dishonour and violation of the law of labour.
In proceeding to do this, let me more generally observe, in the first place, that there has always been a public opinion in the world, derogatory to labour. The necessity of exertion, though it is the very law under which God has placed mankind for their improvement and virtue, has always been regarded as a kind of degradation-has always been felt as a kind of reproach. With the exception of a few great geniuses, none so great as those who do nothing. Freedom from the necessity of exertion is looked upon as a privileged condition; it is en. circled with admiring eyes; it absolutely gathers dignity and honour about it. One might think that a man would make some apologies for it, to the toiling world. Not at all; he is proud of it. It is for the busy man to make apologies. He hopes you will excuse him; he must work, or he must attend to his business. You would think he was about to do some mean action. You would think he was about to do something of which he is ashamed. And he is ashamed of it!
The time has hardly gone by, when even literary labour-labour of the mind, the noblest of all labour-has suffered under this disparaging estimate. Authorship has always been held to be the proper subject for the patronage of condition. Some of the most distinguished authors have lived in obscurity, compared with the rich and fashionable around them, and have only forced their way into posthumous celebrity. The rewards of intellectual toil have usually been stinted to the provision of a bare, humble subsistence. Not seldom has the reward been scarcely a remove from starvation. But when we descend to manual labour, the comparison is still more striking. The labouring classes, operatives as they are significantly called in these days, are generally regarded but as a useful machinery, to produce and manufacture comforts and luxuries for those that can buy them. And the labouring classes are so regarded, mainly, not because they are less informed and cultivated, though that may be true, but because they are the labouring classes. Let any one of them be suddenly endowed with a fortune, let him be made independent of labour, and, without any change of character, he immediately, in the general estimation, takes his place among what are called the upper classes. In those countries where the favouritism ertended to the aristocracy has made many of its members the vainest, most frivolous, and useless of beings, it must be apparent, that many persons among the business classes are altogether their superiors in mind, in refinement, in all the noblest qualities; and yet does the bare circumstance of pecuniary independence carry it over everything. They walk abroad in lordly pride, and the children of toil on every side do homage to them. Let such a one enter any one of the villages of England or of this country, let him live there— with nothing to do, and doing nothing the year round — and those who labour in the field and