« ZurückWeiter »
propelled outward from the centre to afford a possibility of its successfully working on a scale so vastly eu larged as this supposition assumes. Thus continued, it must infallibly dislocate and dissever the system, so soon as the distances and the masses increase to proportions considerably beyond their present dimensions. Such collisions of interest between great sections of country, as we have seen to grow out of the vicious federal legislation of former times on Tariffs, National Banks, &c., must never be suffered again to g row out of similar causes. The danger is now happily past, and North and South are coming cordially together again on common ground ; but its repetition might be fatal even at our present rate of population --with such an increase as will ere long have taken place, it must certainly be so.
CHANNING ON “SELF.CULTURE.".
When we behold a man gifted by his Creator with high and rare endowments for his mission in societywith intellect unsubdued, spirit unbowed, hope undimmed, and heart unsaddened, by the perpetual pressure of the infirm health which wastes and weakens his physical powers-like the lamp whose steady, clear, and heavendirected Aame shines with a mild brightness through the attenuated transparency of the alabaster vase within which it is enclosedcombining in an admirably tempered character the piety of the Christian minister, the cultivated wisdom of the sage, the cheerful confidence in human nature, and in the future, of the philanthropic enthusiast with a fervor, elevation, simplicity and purity, which seem to convey to those approaching him a better idea of the term apostolic than they before entertained—when we look upon such a man from a distance, in the quiet seclusion of his modest course of life, though haply known to us only by the writings that well attest the preeminent reputation of an eloquence, which is as of lips that have been touched by a coal of the sacred fire from the allar of all truth and holiness-it is with an affectionate reverence which is a thousand-fold nobler tribute of the human heart, than the homage which millions may pay to the vulgar glory or greatness of emperor or conqueror. And such are the feelings perhaps more extensively and earnestly entertained towards Dr. Channing than towards any other individual of our country and time. Of the justice of the
* Self-Culture. An Address introductory to the Franklin Lectures, delivered at Boston, September, 1838, by Wm. E. Channing. Boston : Dutton & Wentworth, Printers. 1838. sentiment, we do not care to speak. It is one of those sentiments which prove their own justice-like that with which the hearts of year.y multiplying millions turn to the high national Ideal which Washington has bequeathed as a perpetual patrimony to his country-a better and richer possession than all the prosperity that may grow out of the independence which he was one of the chief instruments to achieve for it. We only state the fact, as it unquestionably exists, and as an introduction to the brief notice which our limits permit, of the recently published pamphlet by Dr. Channing, of the above title.
It was delivered as an Introductory Address to a course of annual lectures in Boston, instituted in 1831, designed for and chiefly attended by the mechanical and laboring classes of men of that city. It is so thoroughly imbued with that spirit of elevated democracy and expansive philanthropy that have long eharacterized its author, that democracy which is the natural fruit of a lofty and pure Christian philosophy, that without wasting our allotted space with remarks of our own, we will extract from its pages as copions quotations as possible, to direct the attention of our readers to it; and in the hope that the interest which may be thus excited may cause its republication and wider diffusion in the sections of the country than those to which its circulation might otherwise probably be confined. Short and simple as it is, it is a book that we should like to see cross every threshold, and become an inmate under every roof in our broad and beautiful land.
After a few opening remarks, Dr. Channing proceeds to his subject, the duty of Self-Culture by all classes of society, in the following fine introduction, which will find a deep response in the bosom of every right-minded reader:
"I have expressed my strong interest in the mass of the people; and this is founded not on their usefulness to the community so much as on what they are in themselves. Their condition is indeed obscure, but their importance is not on this account a whit the less. The multitude of men cannot, from the nature of the case, be distinguished; for the very idea of distinction is, that a man stands out from the multitude. They make little noise and draw little notice in their narrow spheres of action; but still they have their full proportion of personal worth, and even of greatness. Indeed every man, in every condition, is great; it is only our own diseased sight which makes him little. A man is great as a man, be he where or what he may. The grandeur of his nature turns to insignificance all outward distinctions. His powers of intellect, of conscience, of love, of knowing God, of perceiving the beautiful, of acting on his own mind, on outward nature, and on his fellow creatures-these are glorious prerogatives. Through the vulgar error of undervaluing what is common, we are apt indeed to pass these by as of little worth. But as in the outward creation, so in the soul, the common is the most precions. Science and art may invent splendid modes of illuminating the apartments of the opulent, but these are all poor and worthless, compared with the common light which the sun sends into all our windows, which he pours freely, impartially, over hill and valley, which kindles daily the eastem and western sky; and so the common lights of reason, and conscience, and love, are of more worth and dignity than the rare endowments which give celebrity to a few. Let us not disparage that nature which is common to all men; for no thought can measure its grandeur. It is the image of God, the image even of his infinity, for no limits can be set to its unfolding. He who possesses the divine powers of the soul is a great being, be his place what it may. You may clothe him with rags, may immure him in a dungeon, may chain him to slavish tasks; but he is still great. You may shut bim out of your houses, but God opens to him heavenly mansions. He makes no show, indeed, in the streets of a splendid city; but a clear thought, a pure affection, a resolute act of a virtuous wi'!) have a dignity of quite another kind, and far higher than accumulations of brick and granite, and plaster and stucco, however cunningly put together, or though stretching far beyond our sight. Nor is this all If we pass over this grandeur of our common nature, and turn our thoughts to that comparative greatness, which draws chief attention, and which consists in the decided superiority of the individual to the general standard of power and character, we shall find this as free and frequent a growth among the obscure and unnoticed, as in more conspicuous walks of life. The truly great are to be found every where, nor is it easy to say in what condition they spring up most plentifully. Real greatness has nothing to do with a man's sphere; it does not lie in the magnitude of his outward agency, in the extent of the effects which he produces. The greatest men may do comparatively little abroad. Perhaps the greatest in our city at this moment are buried in obscurity. Grandeur of character lies wholly in force of soul--that is, in the foroe of thought, moral principle, and love; and this may be found in the humblest condition of life. A man brought up to an obscure trade, and hemmed in by the wants of a growing family, may, in his narrow sphere, perceive more clearly, discriminate more keenly, weigh evidence more wisely, seize on tho right means more decisively, and have more presence of mind in difficulty, than another who has accumulated vast stores of knowledge by laborious study. And he has more of intellectual greatness. Many a man, who has gone but a few miles from home, understands human nature better, detects motives and weighs character more sagaciously, than another who has travelled over the known world, and made a name by his reports of different countries. It is force of thought which measures intellectual, and so it is force of principle which measures moral greatness, that highest of human endowments, that brightest manjfestation of the Divinity. The greatest man is he who chooses the Right with invincible resolution, who resists the sorest temptations from within and without, who bears the heavi. est burdens cheerfully, who is calmest in storms and most fearless under menace and frowns, whose reliance on truth, on virtue, on God, is most un faltering; and is this a greatDess which is apl to make a show, or which is most likely to abound in conspicuous station ? The solemn conflicts of reason with passion; the victories of moral and religious principle over urgent and almost irresistible solicitations to self-indulgence; the hardest sacrifices of duty, those of deep-seated affection and of the heart's fondest hopes; the consolations, hopes, joys, and peace of disappointed, persecuted, scorned, deserted virtue: these are of course unseen, so that the true greatness of human life is almost wholly out of sight. Perhaps in our presence, the most heroic deed on earth is done in some silent spirit, the loftiest purpose cherished, the most generous eacrifice made, and we do not suspect it. I believe this greatness to be most common among the multitude, whose names are never heard. Among common people will be found more of hardship berne manfully, more of unvarnished truth, more of religious trust, more of that generosity which gives what the giver needs himself, and more of a wise estimate of life and death, than among the more prosperous. And even in regard to influence over other beings, which is thought the peculiar prerogative of distinguished station, I believe, that the difference between the conspicuous and the obbcure does not amount to much. Insuence is to be measured, not by the extent of surface it covers, but by its kind. A man may spread his mind, his feelings and opinions, through a great extent; hut if his mind be a low one, he manifests no greatness. A wretched artist may fill a city with daubs, and by a false showy style achieve a reputation; but the man of genius, who leaves behind him one grand picture, in which immortal beauty is embodied, and which is silently to spread a true taste in his art, exerts an incomparably higher influ
Now, the noblest influence on earth is that exerted on character;. and he who puts forth this does a great work, no matter how narrow or obscure his sphere. The father and mother of an unnoticed family, who, in their seclusion, awaken the mind us one child to the idea and love of perfect goodness, who awaken in him a strength of will to repel all temptation, and who send him out prepared to profit by the conflicts of life, surpass in influence a Napoleon breaking the world to his sway. And not only is their work higher in kind; who knows but that they are doing a greater work, even as to extent of surface, than the conqueror? Who knows but that the being, whom they inspire with holy and disinterested principles, may communicate himself to others; and that, by a spreading agency, of which they were the silent origin, improvements may spread through a nation, through the world ?
In these remarks you will see why I feet and express a deep interest in the obscure, in the mass of men. The distinctions of society vanish before the light of these truths. I attach myself to the multitude, not because they are voters and have political power, but because they are men, and have within their reach the most glorious prizes of humanity."
After then explaining the term, and exhibiting the practicability of Self-Culture, in its several branches of Moral, Religious, Intellectual, Social, Practical--all' in the finest spirit—we come to the following passage, which touches upon a subject which we regard as of the highest interest to American Democracy, though heretofore lamentably neglected :
" In looking at our nature, we discover, among its admirable endowments, the sense or perception of Beauty. We see the germ of this in every human being, and there is no power which admits greater cultivation; and why should it not be cherished in all? It deserves remark, that the provision for this principle is infinite in the universe. There is but a very minute portion of the creation which we can turn into food and clothes, or gratification for the body; but the whole creation may be used to minister to the sense of beauty. Beauty is an all-pervading presence. It unfolds in the numberless flowers of the spring. It waves in the branches of the trees and the green blades of grass. It haunts the depths of the earth and sea, and gleams out in the hues of the shell and the precious stone. Apd not only these minute objects, but the ocean, the mountains, the clouds, the heavens, the stars, the rising and setting sun, all overflow with beauty. The universe is its temple; and those men who are alive to it cannot lift their eyes without feeling themselves encompassed with it on every side. Now, this beauty is so precious, the enjoyments it gives are so refined and pure, so congenial with our tenderest and noblest feelings, and so akin to worship that it is painful to think of the multitude of men as living in the midst of it, and living almost as blind to it, as if, instead of this fair earth and glorious sky, they were tenants of a dungeon. An infinite joy is lost to the world by the want of culture of this spiritual endowment. Suppose that I were to visit a cottage, and to see its walls lined with the choicest pictures of Raphael, and every spare nook filled with statues of the most exquisite work. manship, and that I were to learn that neither man, woman, nor child ever cast an eye at these miracles of art, how should I feel their privation; how should I want to open their eyes, and to help them to comprehend and feel the loveliness and grandeur which in vain Courted their notice. But every husbandman is living in sight of the works of a diviner artist ; and how much would his existence be elevated, could he see the glory which shines forth in their forms, hues, proportions, and moral expression! I have spoken only of the beauty of nature; but how much of this mysterious charm is found in the elegant arts, and especially in literature? The best books have most beauty. The greatest truths are wronged it not linked with beauty, and they win their way most surely and deeply into the soul when arrayed in this their natural and fit attire. Now, no man receives the t. ue culture of a man, in whom the sensibility to the beautiful is not cherished; and I know of no condition in life froin which it should be excluded. of all luxuries, this is the cheapest and most at hand; and it seems to me to be most important to those conditions, where coarse labor tends to give a grossness to the mind. From the diffusion of the sense of beauty in ancient Greece, and of the taste for music in modern Germany, we learn that the people at large may partake oforefined gratifications, which have hitherto been thought to be neces. sarily restricted to a few.
"What bearly is, is a qnestion which the most penetrating minds have not satisfactorily answered; nor, were I able, is this the place for discussing it. But one thing I would say: the beauty of the outward creation is intimately related to the lovely, grand, interesting at. tributes of the soul. It is the emblem or expression of these. Mater becomes beautiful 10 us when it seems to lose its material aspect, its inertnes, fineness, and grossness, and by the ethereal lightness of its forms and motions seenis to approach spirit; when it images to us pure and gentle afiections; when it spreads out into a vastness which is a shadow of the Infinite; or when, in more awful shapes and movements, it speaks of the Omnipotent. Thus outward beauty is akin to something deeper and unseen, is the reflection of spiritual attributes; and of consequence the way to see and feel it more and more keenly is to culti. vate those moral, religious, intellectual, and social prineiples of which I have already svom
ken, and which are the glory of the spiritual nature; and I name this, that you may see, what I am anxious to show, the harmony which subsists among all branches of human cul ture, or how each forwards and is aided by all.”.
This branch of the Discourse closes with the following passage, replete with lofty and noble truth :
"I have now given a few views of the culture, the improvement, which every man should propose to bimself. I have all along gone on the principle, that a man has within him capa. cities of growth, which deserve and will reward intense, unrelaxing toil. I do not look on a human being as a machine, made to be kept in action by a foreign force, to accomplish an unvarying succession of motions, to do a fixed amount of work, and then to fall to pieces at death, but as a being of free spiritual powers; and I place little value on any culture but that which aims to bring out these, and to give them perpetual impulse and expansion. I am aware that this view is far from being universal. The common notion has been, that the mass of the people need no other culture than is necessary to fit them for their various Lrades; and though this crror is passing away, it is far from being exploded. But the ground of a man's culture lies in his nature, not in his calling. His powers are to be unfolded on account of their inherent dignity, not their out ward direction. He is to be educated because he is a man, not because he is to make shoes, nails, pins. A trade is plainly not the great end of his being, for his mind cannot be shut up in it; his force of thought cannot be exhausted on it. He has faculties to which it gives no action, and deep wants it cannot answer. Poems, and systems of theology and philosophy, which have made soine noise in the world, have been wrought at the work-bench and amidst the toils of the field. How often, when the arms are mechanically plying a trade, does the mind, lost in reverie or daydreams, escape to the ends of the earth! How often does the pious heart of woman mingle the greatest of all thoughts, that of God, with household drudgery! Undoubtedly a man is lo perfect himself in his trade, for by it he is to earn his bread and to serve the community. But bread or subsistence is not his highest good; for if it were, his lot would be harder than that of the inferior animals, for whom nature spreads a table and weaves a wardrobe, without a care of their own. Nor was he inade chiefly to minister to the wants of the community. A rational moral being cannot, without infinite wrong, be converted into a mere instrument of others' gratification. He is necessarily an end, not a means. A mind, in which are sown the seeds of wisdom, disinterestedness, firmness of purpose, and piety, is worth more than all the outward material interests of a world. It exists for itself, for its own perfection, and must not be enslaved to its own or others' animal wants. You tell me that a liberal culture is needed for men who are to fill high stations, but not for such as are doomed to vulgar labor. I answer, that Man is a greater name than President or King. Truth and goodness are equally precious, in whatever sphere they are found. Besides, • men of all conditions sustain equally the relations which give birth to the highest virtues, and demand the highest powers. The laborer is not a mere laborer. He has close, tender, responsible connections with God and his fellow creatures. He is a son, husband, father, friend, and Christian. He belongs to a home, a country, a church, a race; and is such a man to be cultivated only for a tradc ? Was he not sent into the world for a great work? To educate a child perfectly requires profounder thought, greater wisdom, than to govern a state ; and for this plain reason, that the interests and wants of the latter are more superficial, coarser, and more obvions, than the spiritual capaciiies, the growth of thought and feel. ing, and the subtle laws of the mind, which must all be studied and comprehended before the work of education can be thoroughly performed; and yet to all conditions this greatest work on earth is equally committed by God. What plainer proof do we need that a higher culture, than has yet been dreamt of, is needed by our whole race.
The next branch treats of the Means of Self-Culture, resolute purpose, earnest faith, the control of the animal appetites, temperance, intercourse with superior minds in books and conversation, independence of mind, &c. ; from which we can extract only the following:
"I have time to consider but one more means of self-culture. We find it in our Free Government, in our political relations and duties. It is a great benefit of free institutions that they do much to awaken and keep in action a nation's mind. We are told, that the