Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

SPEECH ON THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, 1830.

LORD BROUGHAM. Sir, I trust that, at length, the time is come when parliament will no longer bear to be told, that slave-owners are the best lawgivers on slavery; no longer allow an appeal from the British public to such communities as those in which men are persecuted to death, for teaching the Gospel to the negroes; and others holden in affectionate respect for torture and murder; no longer suffer our voice to roll across the Atlantic in empty warnings and fruitless orders. Tell me not of rights—talk not of the property of the planter in his slaves. I deny the right-I acknowledge not the property. The principles, the feelings of our common nature, rise in rebellion against it. Be the appeal made to the understanding or to the heart, the sentence is the same that rejects it. In vain you tell me of laws that sanction such a claim! There is a law above all the enactments of human codes—the same throughout the world, the same in all times—such as it was before the daring genius of Columbus pierced the night of ages, and opened to one world the sources of power, wealth, and knowledge; to another all unutterable woes ;-such it is at this day, It is the law written by the finger of God on the heart of man; and by that law, unchangeable and eternal, while men despise fraud, and loathe rapine, and abhor blood, they will reject with indignation the wild and guilty phantasy, that man can hold property in man! In vain you appeal to treaties, to covenants between nations : the covenants of the Almighty, whether the old covenant or the new, denounce such unholy pretensions. To those laws did they of old refer who maintained the African trade. Such treaties did they cite, and not untruly ; for by one shameful compact you bartered the glories of Blenheim for the traffic in blood. Yet, in despite of law and treaty, that infernal traffic is now destroyed, and its votaries put to death like other pirates. How came this change to pass ! Not, assuredly, by parliament leading the way; but the country at length awoke ; the indignation of the people was kindled ; it descended in thunder, and smote the traffic, and scattered its guilty profits to the winds. Now, then, let the planters beware-let their assemblies beware

let the government at home beware—let the parliament beware ! The same country is once more awake,-awake to the condition of negro slavery ; the same indignation kindles in the bosom of the same people; the same cloud is gathering that annihilated the slave trade; and, if it shall descend again, they, on whom its crash may fall, will not be destroyed before I have warned them ; but I pray that their destruction may turn away from us the more terrible judgments of God.

FORGETFULNESS OF GOD.

JOHN FOSTER.

It is a cause for wonder and sorrow, to see millions of rational creatures growing into their permanent habits, under the conforming efficacy of every thing which it were good for them to resist, and receiving no part of those habits from impressions of the Supreme Being. They are content that a narrow scene of a diminutive world, with its atoms and evils, should usurp, and deprave, and finish their education for endless existence, while the Infinite Spirit is here, whose sacred energy, received on their minds, might create the most excellent condition of their nature, and in defiance of a thousand malignant forces attempting to stamp on them an opposite image, convey them into eternity in his likeness.

But while with reverential submission you contemplate the mystery of omnipotent benevolence forbearing to exert the agency, which could assume an instantaneous ascendency in every

mind over the causes of depravation and ruin, you will not avert your compassion from the unhappy persons who are practically “without God in the world.” And if your intellect could be enlarged to a capacity for comprehending the whole measure and depth of disaster contained in this exclusion (an exclusion under which a human being having the full and fearful truth of his situation revealed to him, would behold, as relatively to his happiness, the whole resources of the creation sunk as into dust and ashes, and all the causes of joy and hope reduced to insipidity and lost in despair), you would feel a distressing emotion at each recital of a life in which religion had no share ; and you would be tempted

to wish that some spirit from the other world, empowered with an eloquence that might threaten to alarm the slumbers of the dead, would throw himself in the way of this one mortal, and this one more, to protest in sentences of lightning and thunder, against the infatuation that can at once acknowledge there is a God, and be content to forego every connexion with Him, but that of danger. You would wish they should rather be assailed by the

terror of the Lord,” in whatever were its most appalling form, than retain the satisfaction of carelessness till the day of his mercy

be past.

But you will need no such enlargement of comprehension, in order to compassionate the situation of persons, who with reason sound to think, and hearts not strangers to feeling, have advanced far into life, perhaps near to its close, without having yielded to the influences of religion. If there is such a Being as we mean by the term “God,” the ordinary intelligence of a serious mind will be quite enough to see that it must be a melancholy thing to pass through life and quit it, just as if there were not. And sometimes it will appear as strange as it is melancholy, especially to a person who has been pious from his youth. He would be inclined to say to a person who has nearly finished an irreligious life-What would have been justly thought of you, if you could have been habitually in the society of the wisest and best men on earth, and have acquired no degree of conformity ; much more, if you could all the while have acquired progressively the meanness, prejudices, follies, and vices of the lowest society, with which you have been at intervals thrown into unavoidable contact? You might have been asked how that was possible. But, then, through what fatality have you been able, during so many years spent in the presence of a God, to continue even to this hour as clear of all signs of assimilation or impression, as if the Deity were but a poetical fiction, or an idol in some temple in Asia ? Evidently, as the immediate cause, through want of thought concerning Him. And why did you not think of Him? Did a most solemn thought of Him never once penetrate your soul, while admitting it true that there is is such a Being? If it never did, what is reason, what is mind, what is man? If it did once, how could its effects stop there? How could a deep thought on so transcendent a subject fail to impose on the mind a permanent necessity of frequently recalling it ; as some awful or magnificent spectacle would haunt you with a long recurrence of its image, even were the spectacle itself seen no more ?

Why did you not think of Him ? How could you estimate so meanly your mind with all its capacities, as to feel no regret that an endless series of trifles should seize and occupy, as their right, all your thoughts, and deny them both the liberty and the ambition of going on to the greatest object? How, while called to the contemplations which absorb the spirits of heaven, could you be so patient of the task of counting the flies of a summer's day?

Why did not you think of Him ? You knew yourself to be in the hands of some Being from whose power you could not be withdrawn ; was it not an equal defect of curiosity and prudence to indulge a careless confidence that sought no acquaintance with his nature, regarded in itself, and in its aspect on his creatures ; nor ever anxiously enquired what conduct should be observed toward him, and what expectations might be entertained from Him? You would have been alarmed to have felt yourself in the power of a mysterious stranger of your own feeble species ; but let the stranger be omnipotent, and you cared no more.

Why did you not think of Him? One would deem that the thought of Him must, to a serious mind, come second to almost every thought. The thought of virtue would suggest the thought of both a lawgiver and a rewarder ; the thought of crime, of an avenger ; the thought of sorrow, of a consoler; the thought of an inscrutable mystery, of an intelligence that understands it ; the thought of that ever-moving activity which prevails in the system of the universe, of a supreme agent ; the thought of the human family, of a great father; the thought of all being, not necessary and self-existent, of a Creator ; the thought of life, of a preserver : and the thought of death, of an uncontrollable disposer. By what dexterity, therefore, of irreligious caution did you avoid precisely every track where the idea of Him would have met you, or elude that idea if it came? And what must sound reason pronounce of a mind which, in the train of millions of thoughts, had wandered to all things under the sun, to all the permanent objects or vanishing appearances in the creation, but never fixed its thought on the Supreme reality ; never approached, like Moses, “to see this great sight?”

Foster's Essays.

THE CHARTERHOUSE MONKS.

J. A. FROUDE. The government, in the close of 1534, having clear evidence before them of intended treason, determined to put it down with a high hand; and with this purpose parliament met again. The first act of the session was to give the sanction of the legislature to the title which had been conceded by convocation, and to declare the king supreme head of the Church of England. This act was followed by another, declaring the denial of it to be treason. So extreme a measure can only be regarded as a remedy for an evil which was also extreme; and as on the return of quiet times the parliament made haste to repeal a law which was no longer required, so in the enactment of that law we are bound to believe that they were not betraying English liberties in a spirit of careless complacency ; but that they believed truly that the security of the state required unusual precautions. The nation was standing with its sword half drawn in the face of an armed Europe, and it was no time to permit dissensions in the camp.

Here, therefore, we are to enter upon one of the grand scenes of history ; a solemn battle fought out to the death, yet fought without ferocity, by the champions of rival principles. Heroic men had fallen, and were still fast falling, for what was called heresy ; and now those who had inflicted death on others were called upon to bear the same witness to their own sincerity. England became the theatre of a war between two armies of martyrs, to be waged, not upon the open field, in at the stake and on the scaffold, with the nobler weapons of passive endurance. Each party were ready to give their blood ; each party were ready to shed the blood of their antagonists; and the sword was single out its victims in the rival ranks, not as in peace among those whose crimes made them dangerous to society, but, as on the field of battle, where the most conspicuous courage most challenges the aim of the enemy. It was war, though under the form of peace ; and if we would understand the true spirit of the time, we must regard Catholics and Protestants as gallant soldiers, whose deaths, when they fall, are not painful, but glorious ; and whose devotion we are equally able to admire, even where we cannot equally approve their cause. Courage and

open action, but

« ПредишнаНапред »