Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

religion of Jesus rests, and to present some views of it which appear to the author as acceptable to the intellect and the heart, as they are in unison with the teachings and the spirit of its divine founder. This remark is not to be understood as if the writer thought he had offered any thing in which the well-informed and culti vated Christian would discover novelty: it is enough for him if he has been able to present religion to the less informed, in a shape disencumbered of the repulsive dress in which it too commonly appears.

Nor does he profess to have exhausted any one of the topies of Christian truth on which he has written, for he considered it his duty to give a preference to those trains of thought and feeling which were least likely to encounter opposition, in the circumstances of the case.

There is a large and a most valuable class of persons—the teachers in our Sunday schools who, by their position and connexions, are much exposed to the assaults of the partisans of Socialist infidelity, and whom it is of high importance to furnish with some means of self-defence. If any of them, and, indeed, any of our working population, should find suitable information in this small volume, the chief object of its author will be answered, and one of his highest wishes gratified.

Salford, February, 1839.

LECTURE I.

AMONG the manifold evils of our present manufacturing and commercial systems, there are results which are not to be deplored in themselves, and which give promise of eventuating in a manner highly satisfactory to the friends of humanity. So long as the working classes were scattered over the country in agricultural pursuits, or here and there gathered in small numbers in our cities and towns, their minds, wanting collision and impulse, remained more or less torpid, and, in very rare instances only, rose to the dignity of individual thinking. Mental power was, in consequence, the heritage of the few whom nature and education favoured, and who were thus enabled to use the great bulk of the people as their passive instruments. No sooner, however, did the mechanical discoveries which have distinguished the last half century begin to bring masses of men together into one place, than the natural consequence ensued, in activity and fermentation of mind; the immense power of production of which the people found themselves capable, in conjunction with machinery, led to the formation, on their part, of a high estimate of their individual and social importance, which not only prompted an enquiry into their condition and their rights, but also encouraged that action of their mental faculties, which could not fail to augment their mental power, and give a deep earnestness and intensity to their enquiries.

The result of their investigations could not be otherwise than highly unsatisfactory to the people. The might which slumbered in a peasant's mind had been suddenly awakened ;-to behold what? A social position no less vicious than artificial ;-a position which had, indeed, lost the outward bonds of the serfism of darker ages, but retained too many of its necessary consequences. The body had been freed from actual chains, but remained enslaved to social customs and necessities which kept the mind inert, made the affections gross, and held he spirit in the fetters of superstition. The privileged orders, having wielded the power of the state and conciliated the efficient co-operation of the priesthood, had secured to themselves the greater portion of the good things of the land, and left to the many scarcely more than the crumbs which fell from their table. And although, in the new creation of wealth to which the manufacturing impulse gave birth, the few were compelled, as the essential condition of their own aggrandizement, to allow the people no inconsiderable share, yet it was found, such was the inequality of social arrangements—that the great current of influence bore in favour of the opulent and the elevated, and to the detriment of the humble labourer. Here, then, we have, in the same mind, a sense of social disqualification and a consciousness of power: we have, in face of each other, ancient institutions and observances which favour the few, and deep and powerful discontent which demands the rights of the many. Such discontent could not be expected to be very discriminating in its judgments, and it therefore came to look with an eye of jealousy on every thing connected, whether accidentally or otherwise, with the causes to which it owed its existence. A species of class morality, therefore, has

« ForrigeFortsett »