Gathers earth's whole good into his arms; Marching to fortune, not surprised by her,
and the secret of this conquest of fortune without being captivated by her lies in having, as Browning telling us,
One great aim, like a guiding star above, Which tasks strength, wisdom, stateliness, to lift His manhood to the height that takes the prize.
The shortcoming of the Stoics is not in the superiority to fortune which they seek; but in the fact that they seek it directly by sheer effort of naked will, instead of being lifted above subjection to fortune by the attractive power of generous aims, and high ideals of social service.
The virtue which maintains superiority over external things and forces is courage.—In primitive times the chief form of fortune was physical danger, and superiority to fear of physical injury was the original meaning of courage. Courage involves this physical bravery still; but it has come to include a great deal more. In a civilized community, physical danger is comparatively rare. Courage to do right when everyone around us is doing wrong; courage to say "No" when everyone is trying to make us say "Yes"; courage to bear uncomplainingly the inevitable ills of life;—these are the forms of courage most frequently demanded and most difficult to exercise in the peaceful security of a civilized community. This courage which presents an unruffled front to trouble, and bears bravely the steady pressure of untoward circumstance, we call by the special names of fortitude or patience. Patience and fortitude are courage exercised in the conditions of modern life. The essence of courage is superiority to outside forces and influences. When men were beset by lions and tigers, by Indians and hostile armies, then courage showed itself by facing and fighting these enemies. Now that we live with civilized and friendly men and women like ourselves, courage shows itself chiefly by refusing to surrender our convictions of what is true and right just because other people will like us better if we pretend to think as they do; and by enduring without flinching the rubs and bumps and bruises which this close contact with our fellows brings to us.
Moral courage.—The brave man everywhere is the man who has a firm purpose in his own breast, and goes forth to carry out that purpose in spite of all opposition, or solicitation, or influence of any kind that would tend to make him do otherwise. He does the same, whether men blame or approve; whether it bring him pain or pleasure, profit or loss. The purpose that is in him, that he declares, that he maintains, that he lives to realize; in defense of that he will lay down wealth, reputation, and, if need be, life itself. He will be himself, if he is to live at all. Men must approve what he really is, or he will have none of their praise, but their blame rather. By no pretense of being what he is not, by no betrayal of what he holds to be true and right, will he gain their favor. The power to stand alone with truth and right against the world is the test of moral courage. The brave man plants himself on the eternal foundations of truth and justice, and bids defiance to all the forces that would drive him from it.
Wordsworth, in his character of "The Happy Warrior," has portrayed the kind of courage demanded of the modern man:
'Tis he whose law is reason; who depends Upon that law as on the best of friends. Who if he rise to station of command Rises by open means, and there will stand On honorable terms, or else retire, And in himself possess his own desire: Who comprehends his trust, and to the same Keeps faithful with a singleness of aim; And therefore does not stoop nor lie in wait For wealth, or honors, or for worldly state; Whom they must follow, on whose head must fall Like showers of manna, if they come at all. 'Tis finally the man, who, lifted high, Conspicuous object in a nation's eye, Or left unthought of in obscurity, Who with a toward or untoward lot, Prosperous or adverse, to his wish or not, Plays in the many games of life, that one Where what he most doth value must be won: Whom neither shape of danger can dismay, Nor thought of tender happiness betray; Who, not content that former worth stand fast, Looks forward, persevering to the last, From well to better, daily self-surpast: This is the happy warrior; this is he That every man in arms should wish to be.
Courage universally honored.—There is something in this strong, steady power of self-assertion that compels the admiration of everyone who beholds it. When we see a man standing squarely on his own feet; speaking plainly the thoughts that are in his mind; doing fearlessly what he believes to be right; or no matter how widely we may differ from his views, disapprove his deeds, we cannot withhold our honor from the man himself. No man was ever held in veneration by his countrymen; no man ever handed down to history an undying fame, who did not have the courage to speak and act his real thought and purpose in defiance of the revilings and persecutions of his fellows.
To take one's fortune into his own hands and work out, in spite of opposition and misfortune, a satisfactory career tasks strength and resolution to the utmost.—It is so much more easy to give over the determination of our fate to some outside power that the abject surrender to fortune is a serious temptation. Air-castles and day-dreams, and idle waiting for something to turn up, are the feeble forms of this temptation. The impulse to run away from danger, and the impulse to plunge recklessly into risks, are the two forms of temptation which lead to the more pronounced and prevalent vices.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
Yielding to outward pressure, contrary to our own conviction of what is true and right, is moral cowardice.—In early times the coward was the man who turned his back in battle. To-day the coward is the man who does differently when people are looking at him from what he would do if he were alone; the man who speaks what he thinks people want to hear, instead of what he knows to be true; the man who apes other people for fear they will think him odd if he acts like himself; the man who tries so hard to suit everybody that he has no mind of his own; the man who thinks how things will look, instead of thinking how things really are. Whenever we take the determination of our course of conduct ultimately from any other source than our own firm conviction of what is right and true, then we play the coward. We do in the peaceful conditions of modern life just what we despise a soldier for doing on the field of battle. We acknowledge that there is something outside us that is stronger than we are; of which we are afraid; to which we surrender ourselves as base and abject slaves.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
There are forces in the world that can destroy us; we must protect ourselves against them.—To be truly brave, we must be ready to face these forces when there is a reason for so doing. We must be ready to face the cannon for our country; to plunge into the swollen stream to save the drowning child; to expose ourselves to contagious diseases in order to nurse the sick.
To do these things without sufficient reason is foolhardiness. To expose ourselves needlessly to disease; to put ourselves in the range of a cannon, to jump into the stream, with no worthy end in view, or for the very shallow reason of showing off how brave we can be, is folly and madness. Doing such things because someone dares us to do them is not courage, but cowardice.
Gambling, the most fatal form of this fondness for taking needless risks.—The gambler is too feeble in will, too empty in mind, too indolent in body to carve out his destiny with his own right hand. And so he stakes his well-being on the throw of the dice; the turn of a wheel; or the speed of a horse. This invocation of fortune is a confession of the man's incompetence and inability to solve the problem of his life satisfactorily by his own exertions. It is the most demoralizing of practices. For it establishes the habit of staking well-being not on one's own honest efforts, but on outside influences and forces. It is the dethronement of will and the deposition of manhood.
In addition to being degrading to the individual it is injurious to others. It is anti-social. It makes one man's gain depend on another's loss: while the social welfare demands that gains shall in all cases be mutual. It violates the fundamental law of equivalence.
Since the essence of gambling is the abrogation of the will, every indulgence weakens the power to resist the temptation. Gambling soon becomes a mania. Honest ways of earning money seem slow and dull. And the habit becomes confirmed before the victim is aware of the power over him that it has gained. Every form of gain which is contingent upon another's loss partakes of the nature of gambling. Raffling, playing for stakes, betting, buying lottery tickets, speculation in which there is no real transfer of goods, but mere winning or losing on the fluctuations of the market, are all forms of gambling. They are all animated by the desire to get something for nothing: a desire which we can respect when a helpless pauper asks for alms; but of which in any form an able-bodied man ought to be ashamed.
The shame of cowardice.—Man is meant to be superior to things outside him. When we see him bowing down to somebody whom he does not really believe in; when we see him yielding to forces which he does not himself respect; when living is more to him than living well; when there is a threat which can make him cringe, or a bribe that can make his tongue speak false—then we feel that the manhood has gone out of him, and we cannot help looking on his fall with sorrow and with shame. The penalty which follows moral cowardice is nowhere more clearly stated than in these severe and solemn lines which Whittier wrote when he thought a great man had sacrificed his convictions to his desire for office and love of popularity:
So fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn Which once he wore! The glory from his gray hairs gone Forevermore!
Of all we loved and honored, naught Save power remains,— A fallen angel's pride of thought, Still strong in chains.
All else is gone, from those great eyes The soul has fled: When faith is lost, when honor dies, The man is dead!
Then pay the reverence of old days To his dead fame; Walk backward, with averted gaze, And hide the shame.
Thus far we have been considering the uses to which we may put the particular things which nature places at our disposal. In addition to these special uses of particular objects, Nature has a meaning as a whole. The Infinite Reason in whose image our minds are formed and in whose thought our thinking, so far as it is true, partakes, has expressed something of his wisdom, truth, and beauty, in the forms and laws of the world in which we live. In the study of Nature we are thinking God's thoughts after him. In contemplation of the glory of the heavens, in admiration of the beauty of field and stream and forest, we are beholding a loveliness which it was his delight to create, and which it is elevating and ennobling for us to look upon. Nature is the larger, fairer, fuller expression of that same intelligence and love which wells up in the form of consciousness within our own breasts. Nature and the soul of man are children of the same Father. Nature is the interpretation of the longings of our hearts. Hence when we are alone with Nature in the woods and fields, by the seashore or on the moon-lit lake, we feel at peace with ourselves, and at home in the world.
The love of nature, like all love, cannot be forced.—It is not directly under the control of our will. We cannot set about it in deliberate fashion, as we set about earning a living. Still it can be cultivated. We can place ourselves in contact with Nature's more impressive aspects. We can go away by ourselves; stroll through the woods, watch the clouds; bask in the sunshine; brave the storm; listen to the notes of birds; find out the haunts of living creatures; learn the times and places in which to find the flowers; gaze upon the glowing sunset, and look up into the starry skies. If we thus keep close to Nature, she will draw us to herself, and whisper to us more and more of her hidden meaning.
The eye—it cannot choose but see; We cannot bid the year be still: Our bodies feel, where'er they be, Against or with our will.
Nor less I deem that there are powers Which of themselves our minds impress; That we can feed these minds of ours In a wise passiveness.
The more we feel of the beauty and significance of Nature the more we become capable of feeling.—And this capacity to feel the influences which Nature is constantly throwing around us is an indispensable element in noble and elevated character. Our thoughts, our acts, yes, our very forms and features reflect the objects which we habitually welcome to our minds and hearts. And if we will have these expressions of ourselves noble and pure, we must drink constantly and deeply at Nature's fountains of beauty and truth. Wordsworth, the greatest interpreter of Nature, thus describes the effect of Nature's influence upon a sensitive soul:
She shall be sportive as the fawn That wild with glee across the lawn Or up the mountain springs; And hers shall be the breathing balm, And hers the silence and the calm Of mute, insensate things.
The floating clouds their state shall lend To her; for her the willow bend: Nor shall she fail to see, Even in the motions of the storm, Grace that shall mold the maiden's form By silent sympathy.
The stars of midnight shall be dear To her; and she shall lean her ear In many a secret place Where rivulets dance their wayward round, And Beauty born of murmuring sound Shall pass into her face.
The uplifting and purifying power of nature.—Through communion with the grandeur and majesty of Nature, our lives are lifted to loftier and purer heights than our unaided wills could ever gain. We grow into the likeness of that we love. We are transformed into the image of that which we contemplate and adore. We are thus made strong to resist the base temptations; patient to endure the petty vexations; brave to oppose the brutal injustices, of daily life. This whole subject of the power of Nature to uplift and bless has been so exhaustively and beautifully expressed by Wordsworth, that fidelity to the subject makes continued quotation necessary:
Nature never did betray The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege, Through all the years of this our life, to lead From joy to joy: for she can so inform The mind that is within us, so impress With quietness and beauty, and so feed With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues, Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all The dreary intercourse of daily life, Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold Is full of blessings.
Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth; well pleased to recognize In Nature and the language of the sense The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being.
The very thoroughness and fidelity with which we fulfill one duty, may hinder the fulfillment of another.—We may become so absorbed in earning a living, and carrying on our business, and getting an education, that we shall give no time or attention to this communion with Nature. The fact that business, education, and kindred external and definite pursuits are directly under the control of our wills, while this power to appreciate Nature is a slow and gradual growth, only indirectly under our control, tempts us to give all our time and strength to these immediate, practical ends, and to neglect that closer walk with Nature which is essential to a true appreciation of her loveliness. Someone asks us "What is the use of spending your time with the birds among the trees, or on the hill-top under the stars?" and we cannot give him an answer in dollars and cents. And so we are tempted to take his simple standard of utility in ministering to physical wants as the standard of all worth. We neglect Nature, and she hides her face from our preoccupied eyes. In this busy, restless age we need to keep ever in mind Wordsworth's warning against this fatal temptation:
The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
This obtuseness does not come upon us suddenly. All children keenly appreciate the changing moods of Nature. It is from neglect to open our hearts to Nature, that obtuseness comes. It steals over us imperceptibly. We can correct it only by giving ourselves more closely and constantly to Nature, and trusting her to win back to herself our benumbed and alienated hearts.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Affectation the attempt to work up by our own efforts an enthusiasm for Nature.—True love of Nature must be born within us, by the working of Nature herself upon our hearts. By faith, rather than by works; by reception, rather than by conquest; by wise passiveness, rather than by restless haste; by calm and silence, rather than by noise and talk, our sensitiveness to Nature's charms is deepened and developed. That enjoyment of Nature which comes spontaneously and unsought is the only true enjoyment. That which we work up, and plan for, and talk about, is a poor and feeble imitation. The real lover of Nature is not the one who can talk glibly about her to everybody, and on all occasions. It is he who loves to be alone with her, who steals away from men and things to find solitude with her the best society, who knows not whence cometh nor whither goeth his delight in her companionship, who waits patiently in her presence, and is content whether she gives or withholds her special favors, who cares more for Nature herself than for this or that striking sensation she may arouse. Affectation is the craving for sensations regardless of their source. And if Nature is chary of striking scenes and startling impressions and thrilling experiences, affectation, with profane haste, proceeds to amuse itself with artificial feelings, and pretended raptures. This counterfeited appreciation, like all counterfeits, by its greater cheapness drives out the real enjoyment; and the person who indulges in affectation soon finds the power of genuine appreciation entirely gone. Affectation is worse than obtuseness, for obtuseness is at least honest: it may mend its ways. But affectation is self-deception. The affected person does not know what true appreciation of Nature is: he cannot see his error; and consequently cannot correct it.
The life of man can be no deeper and richer than the objects and thoughts on which it feeds.—Without appreciation and love for Nature we can eat and drink and sleep and do our work. The horse and ox, however, can do as much. Obtuseness to the beauty and meaning of Nature sinks us to the level of the brutes. Cut off from the springs of inspiration, our lives stagnate, our souls shrivel, our sensibilities wither. And just as stagnant water soon becomes impure, and swarms with low forms of vegetable and animal life, so the stagnant soul, which refuses to reflect the beauty of sun and star and sky, soon becomes polluted with sordidness and selfishness and sensuality.
Nature is incomplete. She leaves man to provide for himself his raiment, shelter, and surroundings. Nature in her works throws out suggestions of beauty, rather than its perfect and complete embodiment. Her gold is imbedded in the rock. Her creations are limited by the particular material and the narrow conditions which are at her disposal at a given time and place. To seize the pure ideal of beauty which Nature suggests, but never quite realizes; to select from the universe of space and the eternity of time those materials and forms which are perfectly adapted to portray the ideal beauty; to clothe the abodes and the whole physical environment of man with that beauty which is suggested to us in sky and stream and field and flower; to present to us for perpetual contemplation the form and features of ideal manhood and womanhood; to hold before our imagination the deeds of brave men, and the devotion of saintly women; to thrill our hearts with the victorious struggle of the hero and the death-defying passion of the lover;—this is the mission and the significance of art.
Art is creative. The artist is a co-worker with God. To his hands is committed the portion of the world which God has left unfinished—the immediate environment of man. We cannot live in the fields, like beasts and savages. Art has for its purpose to make the rooms and houses and halls and streets and cities in which civilized men pass their days as beautiful and fair, as elevating and inspiring, as the fields and forests in which the primeval savage roamed. More than that, art aims to fill these rooms and halls and streets of ours with forms and symbols which shall preserve, for our perpetual admiration and inspiration, all that is purest and noblest and sweetest in that long struggle of man up from his savage to his civilized estate.
Beauty is the outward and visible sign of inward perfection, completeness, and harmony.—In an object of beauty there is neither too little nor too much; nothing is out of place; nothing is without its contribution to the perfect whole. Each part is at once means and end to every other. Hence its perfect symmetry; its regular proportions; its strict conformity to law.
The mind of man can find rest and satisfaction in nothing short of perfection; and consequently our hearts are never satisfied until they behold beauty, which is perfection's crown and seal. Without it one of the deepest and divinest powers of our nature remains dwarfed, stifled, and repressed.
How to cultivate the love of beauty.—It is our duty to see to it that everything under our control is as beautiful as we can make it. The rooms we live in; the desk at which we work; the clothes we wear; the house we build; the pictures on our walls; the garden and grounds in which we walk and work; all must have some form or other. That form must be either beautiful or hideous; attractive or repulsive. It is our duty to pay attention to these things; to spend thought and labor, and such money as we can afford upon them, in order to make them minister to our delight. Not in staring at great works of art which we have not yet learned to appreciate, but by attention to the beauty or ugliness of the familiar objects that we have about us and dwell with from day to day, we shall best cultivate that love of beauty which will ultimately make intelligible to us the true significance of the masterpieces of art. Here as everywhere, to him that hath shall more be given. We must serve beauty humbly and faithfully in the little things of daily life, if we will enjoy her treasures in the great galleries of the world.
Beauty is a jealous mistress.—If we trifle with her; if we fall in love with pretentious imitations and elaborate ornamentations which have no beauty in them, but are simply gotten up to sell; then the true and real beauty will never again suffer us to see her face. She will leave us to our idols: and our power to appreciate and admire true beauty will die out.
Fidelity to beauty requires that we have no more things than we can either use in our work, or enjoy in our rest. And these things that we do have must be either perfectly plain; or else the ornamentation about them must be something that expresses a genuine admiration and affection of our hearts. A farmer's kitchen is generally a much more attractive place than his parlor; just because this law of simplicity is perfectly expressed in the one, and flagrantly violated in the other. The study of a scholar, the office of the lawyer and the business man, is not infrequently a more beautiful place, one in which a man feels more at home, than his costly drawing room. What sort of things we shall have, and how many, cannot be determined for us by any general rule; still less by aping somebody else. In our housekeeping, as in everything else, we should begin with the few things that are absolutely essential; and then add decoration and ornament only so fast as we can find the means of gratifying cherished longings for forms of beauty which we have learned to admire and love. "Simplicity of life," says William Morris, "even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement: a sanded floor and whitewashed walls, and the green trees, and flowery meads, and living waters outside. If you cannot learn to love real art, at least learn to hate sham art and reject it. If the real thing is not to be had, learn to do without it. If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
The refining influence of beauty.—Devotion to art and beauty in simplicity and sincerity develops an ever increasing capacity for its enjoyment. As Keats, the master poet of pure beauty, tells us,
A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep, Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
The refining influence of the love of beauty draws us mysteriously and imperceptibly, but none the less powerfully, away from what is false in thought and base in action; and develops a deep and lasting affinity for all that is true and good. The good, the true, and the beautiful are branches of a common root; members of a single whole: and if one of these members suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one is honored, all are honored with it.
Luxury the perversion of beauty.—Luxury is the pleasure of possession, instead of pleasure in the thing possessed. Luxury buys things, not because it likes them, but because it likes to have them. And so the luxurious man fills his house with all sorts of things, not because he finds delight in these particular things, and wants to share that delight with all his friends; but because he supposes these are the proper things to have, and he wants everybody to know that he has them.
The man who buys things in this way does not know what he wants. Consequently he gets cheated. He buys ugly things as readily as beautiful things, if only the seller is shrewd enough to make him believe they are fashionable. Others, less intelligent than this man, see what he has done; take for granted that because he has done it, it must be the proper thing to do; and go and do likewise. Thus taste becomes dulled and deadened; the costly and elaborate drives out the plain and simple; the desire for luxury kills out the love of beauty; and art expires.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
Ugly surroundings make ugly souls.—The outward and the inward are bound fast together. The beauty or ugliness of the objects we have about us are the standing choices of our wills. As the object, so is the subject. We grow into the likeness of what we look upon. Without harmony and beauty to feed upon, the love of beauty starves and dies. Our hearts become cold and hard. Not being called out in admiration and delight, our feelings brood over mean and sensual pleasures; they dwell upon narrow and selfish concerns; they fasten upon the accumulation of wealth or the vanquishing of a rival, as substitutes for the nobler interests that have vanished; and the heart becomes sordid, sensual, mean, petty, spiteful, and ugly. The spirit of man, like nature, abhors a vacuum; and into the heart from which the love of the beautiful has been suffered to depart, these hideous and ugly traits of character make haste to enter, and occupy the vacant space. What Shakspere says of a single art, music, is true of art and beauty in general:
The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils: The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
The hollowness of ostentation.—Man is never proud of what he really enjoys; never vain of what he truly loves; never anxious to show off the tastes and interests that are essentially his own. In order to take this false attitude toward an object, it is necessary to hold it apart from ourselves: a thing which the true lover can never do. He who loves beautiful things will indeed wish others to share his joy in them. But this sharing of our joy in beautiful objects, is a very different thing from showing off our fine things, simply to let other people know that we have them. Ostentation is the vice of ignorant wealth and vulgar luxury. It estimates objects by their expensiveness rather than by their beauty; it aims to awaken in ourselves pride rather than pleasure; and to arouse in others astonishment rather than admiration.
Vulgarity akin to laziness.—Art, and the beauty which it creates, costs painstaking labor to produce. And to enjoy it when it is produced, requires at first thoughtful and discriminating attention. The formation of a correct taste is a growth, not a gift. Hence the dull, the lazy, and the indifferent never acquire this cultivated taste for the beautiful in art. This lack of perception, this incapacity for enjoyment of the beautiful, is vulgarity. Vulgarity is contentment with what is common, and to be had on easy terms. The root of it is laziness. The mark of it is stupidity.
At great pains the race has worked out beautiful forms of speech, for communicating our ideas to each other. Vulgarity in speech is too lazy to observe these precise and beautiful forms of expression; it clips its words; throws its sentences together without regard to grammar; falls into slang; draws its figures from the coarse and low and sensual side of life, instead of from its pure and noble aspects.
Vulgarity with reference to dress, dwellings, pictures, reading, is of the same nature. It results from the dull, unmeaning gaze with which one looks at things; the shiftless, slipshod way of doing work; the "don't care" habit of mind which calls anything that happens to fall in its way "good enough."
From all that is precious and beautiful and lovely the vulgar man is hopelessly excluded. They are all around him; but he has no eyes to see, no taste to appreciate, no heart to respond to them. "All things excellent," so Spinoza tells us, "are as difficult as they are rare." The vulgar man has no heart for difficulty; and hence the rare excellence of art and beauty remain forever beyond his reach.
Animals stand midway between things and persons. We own them, use them, kill them, even, for our own purposes. Yet they have feelings, impulses, and affections in common with ourselves. In some respects they surpass us. In strength, in speed, in keenness of scent, in fidelity, blind instinct in the animal is often superior to reason in the man.
Yet the animal falls short of personality. It is conscious, but not self-conscious. It knows; but it does not know that it knows. It can perform astonishing feats of intelligence. But it cannot explain, even to itself, the way in which it does them. The animal can pass from one particular experience to another along lines of association in time and space with marvelous directness and accuracy. To rise from a particular experience to the universal class to which that experience belongs; and then, from the known characteristics of the class, to deduce the characteristics of another particular experience of the same kind, is beyond the power of the brute.
The brute likewise has feelings; but it does not recognize these feelings as parts of a total and permanent self. Pleasure and pain the animal feels probably as keenly as we do. Of happiness or unhappiness they probably know nothing.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition, They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins, Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
Animals can be trained to do right, but they cannot love righteousness. They can be trained to avoid acts which are associated with painful consequences, but they cannot hate iniquity. The life of an animal is a series of sensations, impulses, thoughts, and actions. These are never gathered up into unity. The animal is more than a machine, and less than a person.
We ought to realize that the animal has feelings as keen as our own.—We owe to these feelings in the animal the same treatment that we would wish for the same feelings in ourselves. For animals as for ourselves we should seek as much pleasure and as little pain as is consistent with the performance of the work which we think it best to lay upon them. The horse cannot choose for itself how heavy a load to draw. We ought to adapt the load to its strength. And in order to do that we must stop and consider how much strength it has. The horse and cow and dog cannot select their own food and shelter. We must think for them in these matters; and in order to do so wisely, we must consider their nature, habits, and capacities. No person is fit to own an animal, who is not willing to take the trouble to understand the needs, capacities, and nature of that animal. And acts which result from ignorance of such facts as can be readily learned are inexcusable.
Kindness is the recognition that a feeling of another being is of just as much consequence as a feeling of my own.—Now we have seen that in some respects animals are precisely like ourselves. Kindness recognizes this bond of the kind, or kinship, as far as it extends. Kindness to animals does not go so far as kindness to our fellow-men; because the kinship between animals and man does not extend as far as kinship between man and man. So far as it does extend, however, kindness to animals treats them as we should wish to be treated by a person who had us in his power. Kindness will inflict no needless suffering upon an animal; make no unreasonable requirement of it; expose it to no needless privation.
Kindness toward animals reacts upon our hearts, making them tender and sympathetic.—Every act we perform leaves its trace in tendency to act in the same way again. And in its effect upon ourselves it matters little whether the objects on which our kindness has been bestowed have been high or low in the scale of being. In any case the effect remains with us in increased tenderness, not only toward the particular objects which have called it forth, but toward all sentient beings. Kindness to animals opens our hearts toward God and our fellow-men.
He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.
We are tempted to forget this sensitive nature of the animal, and to treat it as a mere thing.—We have a perfect right to sacrifice the pleasure of an animal to the welfare of ourselves. We have no right to sacrifice the welfare of the animal to our capricious feelings. We have no right to neglect an animal from sheer unwillingness to give it the reasonable attention which is necessary to provide it with proper food, proper care, proper shelter, and proper exercise. A little girl, reproved for neglecting to feed her rabbits, when asked indignantly by her father, "Don't you love your rabbits?" replied, "Yes, I love them better than I love to feed them." This love which doesn't love to feed is sentimentality, the fundamental vice of all personal relations, of which we shall hear more later. The temptation arises even here in our relations to the animal. It is always so much easier to neglect a claim made upon us from without, than to realize and respect it.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
Ignorant or willful disregard of the nature and welfare of an animal is cruelty.—Overloading beasts of burden; driving them when lame; keeping them on insufficient food, or in dark, cold, and unhealthy quarters; whipping, goading, and beating them constantly and excessively are the most common forms of cruelty to animals. Pulling flies to pieces, stoning frogs, robbing birds' nests are forms of cruelty of which young children are often guilty before they are old enough to reflect that their sport is purchased at the cost of frightful pain to these poor innocent and defenseless creatures. The simple fact that we are strong and they are weak ought to make evident, to anyone capable of the least reflection, how mean a thing it is to take advantage of our superior strength and knowledge to inflict pain on one of these creatures which nature has placed under the protection of our superior power and knowledge, and lead us to resolve
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Subjection to animals degrading.—The animals are vastly inferior to man in dignity and worth. Many of them have strong wills of their own, and if we will allow it, will run over us, and have their own way in spite of us. Such subjection of a man or woman to an animal is a most shameful sight. To have dominion over them is man's prerogative; and to surrender that prerogative is to abrogate our humanity.
This subjection of a person to an animal may come about through a morbid and sentimental affection for an animal. When a man or a woman makes an animal so much of a pet that every caprice of the cat or dog is law; when the whole arrangements of the household are made to yield to its whims; when affections that are withheld from earnest work and human service are lavished in profusion on a pug or a canary; there again we see the order of rank in the scale of dignity and worth inverted, and the human bowing to the beast.
Inhumanity to brutes brutalizes humanity.—If we refuse by consideration and kindness to lift the brute up into our human sympathy, and recognize in it the rights and feelings which it has in common with us, then we sink to the unfeeling and brutal level to which our cruelty seeks to consign the brutes. Every cruel blow inflicted on an animal leaves an ugly scar in our own hardened hearts, which mars and destroys our capacity for the gentlest and sweetest sympathy with our fellow-men.
"Unus homo, nullus homo" is a Latin proverb which means that one man alone is no man at all. A man who should be neither son, brother, husband, father, neighbor, citizen, or friend is inconceivable. To try to think of such a man is like trying to think of a stone without size, weight, surface, or color. Man is by nature a social being. Apart from society man would not be man. "Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god." To take out of a man all that he gets from his relations to other men would be to take out of him kindness, compassion, sympathy, love, loyalty, devotion, gratitude, and heroism. It would reduce him to the level of the brutes. What water is to the fish, what air is to the bird, that association with his fellow-men is to a man. It is as necessary to the soul as food and raiment are to the body. Only as we see ourselves reflected in the praise or blame, the love or hate of others do we become conscious of ourselves.
Since our fellow-men are so essential to us and we to them, it is our duty to live in as intimate fellowship with them as possible.—The fundamental form of fellowship is hospitality. By the fireside and around the family table we feel most free, and come nearest to one another. Without hospitality, such intercourse is impossible. Hospitality, in order to fulfill its mission of fellowship, must be genuine, sincere, and simple. True hospitality welcomes the guest to our hearts as well as to our homes; and the invitation to our homes when our hearts are withheld is a hollow mockery. It is a dangerous thing to have our bodies where our hearts are not. For we acquire the habit of concealing our real selves, and showing only the surface of our natures to others. We become hollow, unreal, hypocritical. We live and move
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest Of men and alien to ourselves—and yet The same heart beats in every human breast.
Fellowship requires not only that we shall be hospitable and ask others to our homes, but that we shall go out of our way to meet others in their homes, and wherever they may be.
The deepest fellowship cannot be made to order. It comes of itself along lines of common interests and common aims.—The harder we try to force people together, and to make them like each other, the farther they fly apart. Give them some interest or enthusiasm in common, whether it be practical, or scientific, or literary, or artistic, or musical, or religious, and this interest, which draws both toward itself at the same time draws them toward each other. Hence a person, who from bashfulness or any other reason is kept from intimate fellowship with others, will often find the best way to approach them, not to force himself into their companionship, against his will and probably against theirs; but to acquire skill as a musician, or reader, or student of science or letters, or philanthropy or social problems. Then along these lines of common interest he will meet men in ways that will be at once helpful and natural.
Love is not soft, sentimental self-indulgence. It is going out of ourselves, and taking others into our hearts and lives.—Love calls for hard service and severe self-sacrifice, when the needs of others make service possible and self-sacrifice necessary. Love binds us to others and others to ourselves in bonds of mutual fidelity and helpfulness. A Latin poet sums up the spirit of love in the famous line:
Homo sum: humani nil a me alienum puto. [I am a man: and I count nothing human foreign to myself.]
Kant has expressed the principle of love in the form of a maxim: "Treat humanity, whether in thyself or in others, always as an end, never as a means." We have seen that the temptation to treat others merely as tools to minister to our gratification, or as obstacles to be pushed out of our pathway, is very strong. What makes us treat people in that way is our failure to enter into their lives, to see things as they see them, and to feel things as they feel them. Kant tells us that we should always act with a view to the way others will be affected by it. We must treat men as men, not as things. This sympathy and appreciation for another is the first step in love. If we think of our neighbor as he thinks of himself we cannot help wishing him well. As Professor Royce says, "If he is real like thee, then is his life as bright a light, as warm a fire, to him, as thine to thee; his will is as full of struggling desires, of hard problems, of fateful decisions; his pains are as hateful, his joys as dear. Take whatever thou knowest of desire and of striving, of burning love and of fierce hatred, realize as fully as thou canst what that means, and then with clear certainty add: Such as that is for me, so it is for him, nothing less. Then thou hast known what he truly is, a Self like thy present self."
The Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you, is the best summary of duty. And the keeping of that rule is possible only in so far as we love others. We must put ourselves in their place, before we can know how to treat them as we would like to be treated. And this putting self in the place of another is the very essence of love. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself includes all social law. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Love takes different forms in different circumstances and in different relations. To the hungry love gives food; to the thirsty drink; to the naked clothes; to the sick nursing; to the ignorant instruction; to the blind guidance; to the erring reproof; to the penitent forgiveness. Indeed, the social virtues which will occupy the remainder of this book are simply applications of love in differing relations and toward different groups and institutions.
Love the only true bond of union between persons.—The desire to be in unity with our fellow-men is, as John Stuart Mill tells us, "already a powerful principle in human nature, and happily one of those which tend to become more strong, even without express inculcation, from the influences of advancing civilization. The deeply rooted conception which every individual even now has of himself as a social being, tends to make him feel it one of his natural wants that there should be harmony between his feelings and aims and those of his fellow-creatures." The life of love is in itself a constant realization of this deepest and strongest desire of our nature. Love is the essence of social and spiritual life; and that life of unity with our fellow-men which love creates is in itself love's own reward. "Life is energy of love." Oneness with those we love is the only goal in which love could rest satisfied. For love is "the greatest thing in the world," and any reward other than union with its object would be a loss rather than a gain.
Kant remarks that a dove, realizing that the resistance of the air is the sole obstacle to its progress, might imagine that if it could only get away from the air altogether, it would fly with infinite rapidity and ease.—But in fact, if the air were withdrawn for an instant it would fall helpless to the ground. Friction is the only thing the locomotive has to overcome. And if the locomotive could reason it might think how fast it could travel if only friction were removed. But without friction the locomotive could not stir a hair's breadth from the station.
In like manner, inasmuch as the greater part of our annoyances and trials and sufferings come from contact with our fellow-men, it often seems to us that if we could only get away from them altogether, and live in utter indifference to them, our lives would move on with utmost smoothness and serenity. In fact, if these relations were withdrawn, if we could attain to perfect indifference to our fellows, our life as human and spiritual beings would that instant cease.
The temptation to treat our fellow-men with indifference, like all temptations, is a delusion and leads to our destruction. Yet it is a very strong temptation to us all at times. When people do not appreciate us, and do not treat us with due kindness and consideration, it is so easy to draw into our shell and say, "I don't care a straw for them or their good opinion anyway." This device is an old one. The Stoics made much of it; and boasted of the completeness of their indifference. But it is essentially weak and cowardly. It avoids certain evils, to be sure. It does so, however, not by overcoming them in brave, manly fashion; but by running and hiding away from them—an easy and a disgraceful thing to do. Intimate fellowship and close contact with others does bring pains as well as pleasures. It is the condition of completeness and fullness of moral and spiritual life; and the man who will live at his best must accept these pains with courage and resolution.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The outcome of indifference and lack of sympathy and fellowship is selfishness.—Unless we first feel another's interests as he feels them, we cannot help being more interested in our own affairs than we are in his, and consequently sacrificing his interests to our own when the two conflict. As George Eliot tells us in "Adam Bede," "Without this fellow-feeling, how are we to get enough patience and charity toward our stumbling, falling companions in the long, changeful journey? And there is but one way in which a strong, determined soul can learn it, by getting his heart-strings bound round the weak and erring, so that he must share not only the outward consequence of their error, but their inward suffering. That is a long and hard lesson."
It is impossible to overcome selfishness directly.—As long as our poor, private interests are the only objects vividly present to our imagination and feeling, we must be selfish. The only remedy is the indirect one of entering into fellowship with others, interesting ourselves in what interests them, sharing their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears. When we have done that, then there is something besides our petty and narrow personal interests before our minds and thoughts; and so we are in a way to get something besides mean and selfish actions from our wills and hands. We act out what is in us. If there is nothing but ourselves present to our thoughts, we shall be selfish of necessity; and without even knowing that we are selfish. If our thoughts and feelings are full of the welfare and interests of others we shall do loving and unselfish deeds, without ever stopping to think that they are loving and unselfish. Hence the precept, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." A heart and mind full of sympathy and fellow-feeling is the secret of a loving life; and an idle mind and an empty heart, to which no thrill of sympathy with others is ever admitted, is the barren and desolate region from which loveless looks and cruel words and selfish deeds come forth.
Love is not a virtue which we can cultivate in ourselves by direct effort of will, and then take credit for afterward.—Love comes to us of itself; it springs up spontaneously within our breasts. We can prepare our hearts for its entrance; we can welcome and cherish it when it comes. We cannot boast of it, for we could not help it. Love is the welling up within us of our true social nature; which nothing but our indifference and lack of sympathy could have kept so long repressed. "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own." Love "seeketh not its own" because it has no own to seek.
Selfishness on the contrary knows all about itself; has a good opinion of itself; never gets its own interests mixed up with those of anybody else; can always give a perfectly satisfactory account of itself.
Hence when we know exactly how we came to do a thing, and appreciate keenly how good it was of us to do it; and think how very much obliged the other person ought to be to us for doing it, we may be pretty sure that it was not love, but some more or less subtle form of selfishness that prompted it. Love and selfishness may do precisely the same things. Under the influence of either love or selfishness I may "bestow all my goods to feed the poor and give my body to be burned," but love alone profiteth; while all the subtle forms of selfishness and self-seeking are "sounding brass and clanging cymbal." Selfishness, even when it does a service, has its eye on its own merit, or the reward it is to gain. In so doing it forfeits merit and reward both. Selfishness never succeeds in getting outside of itself. From all the joys and graces of the social life it remains in perpetual banishment. Love loses itself in the object loved, and so finds a larger and better self. Selfishness tries to use the object of its so-called love as a means to its own gratification, and so remains to the end in loveless isolation. Many manifestations of selfishness look very much like love. To know the real difference is the most fundamental moral insight. On it depend the issues of life and death.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
The most flagrant mockery of love is sentimentality.—The sentimentalist is on hand wherever there is a chance either to mourn or to rejoice. He is never so happy as when he is pouring forth a gush of feeling; and it matters little whether it be laughter or tears, sorrow or joy, to which he is permitted to give vent. On the surface he seems to be overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He strikes us at first sight as the very incarnation of tenderness and love.
And yet we soon discover that he cares nothing for us, or for our joys and sorrows in themselves. Anybody else, or any other occasion, would serve his purpose as well, and call forth an equal copiousness of sympathy and tears. Indeed a first rate novel, with its suffering heroine, or a good play with its pathetic scenes, would answer his purpose quite as well as any living person or actual situation. What he cares for is the thrill of emotional excitement and the ravishing sensation which accompanies all deep and tender feeling. Not love, but love's delights; not sympathy, but the rapture of the sympathetic mood; not helpfulness, but the sense of self-importance which comes from being around when great trials are to be met and fateful decisions are to be made; not devotion to others, but the complacency with self which intimate connection with others gives: these are the objects at which the sentimentalist really aims.
The sentimentalist makes himself a nuisance to others and soon becomes disgusted with himself.—He cannot be relied upon for any serious service, for this gush of sentimental feeling is a transient and fluctuating thing; it gives out just as soon as it meets with difficulty and occasion for self-sacrifice. And this attempt to live forever on the topmost wave of emotional excitement defeats itself by the satiety and ennui which it brings. Whether in courtship, or society, or business, it behooves us to be on our guard against this insidious sham which cloaks selfishness in protestations of affection; pays compliments to show off its own ability to say pretty things; and undertakes responsibilities to make the impression of being of some consequence in the world. The man or woman is extremely fortunate who has never fallen a victim to this hollow mockery of love, either in self or others. The worst effect of sentimentality is that when we have detected it a few times, either in ourselves or in others, we are tempted to conclude that fellowship itself is a farce, love a delusion, and all sympathy and tenderness a weakness and a sham. Every good thing has its counterfeit. By all means let this counterfeit be driven from circulation as fast as possible. But let us not lose faith in human fellowship and human love because this base imitation is so hollow and disgusting:
For life, with all it yields of joy and woe, And hope and fear,—believe the aged friend,— Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love, How love might be, hath been indeed, and is; And that we hold thenceforth to the uttermost Such prize despite the envy of the world, And having gained truth, keep truth, that is all.
The penalty of selfishness is strife.—The selfish man can neither leave men entirely alone, nor can he live at peace and in unity with them. Hence come strife and division. Being unwilling to make the interests of others his own, the selfish man's interests must clash with the interests of others. His hand is against every man; and every man's hand, unless it is stayed by generosity and pity, is against him. This clashing of outside interests is reflected in his own consciousness; and the war of his generous impulses with his selfish instincts makes his own breast a perpetual battlefield. The lack of harmony with his fellows in the outward world makes peace within his own soul impossible. The selfish man, by cutting himself off from his true relations with his fellow-men, cuts up the roots of the only principles which could give to his own life dignity and harmony and peace. Selfishness defeats itself. By refusing to go out of self into the lives of others, the selfish man renders it impossible for the great life of human sympathy and fellowship and love to enter his own life, and fill it with its own largeness and sweetness and serenity. The selfish man remains to the last an alien, an outcast and an enemy, banished from all that is best in the life of his fellows by the insuperable obstacle of his own unwillingness to be one with them in mutual helpfulness and service.
Our fellow-men are so numerous and their conditions are so diverse that it is necessary to consider some of the classes and conditions of men by themselves; and to study some of the special forms which fellowship and love assume under these differing circumstances.
Of these classes or divisions in which we may group our fellow-men, the one having the first claim upon us by virtue of its greater need is the poor. The causes of poverty are accident, sickness, inability to secure work, laziness, improvidence, intemperance, ignorance, and shiftlessness. Those whose poverty is due to the first three causes are commonly called the worthy poor.
Whether worthy or unworthy, the poor are our brothers and sisters; and on the ground of our common humanity we owe them our help and sympathy.—It is easier to sympathize with the worthy than with the unworthy poor. Yet the poor who are poor as the result of their own fault are really the more in need of our pity and help. The work of lifting them up to the level of self-respect and self-support is much harder than the mere giving them material relief. Yet nothing less than this is our duty. The mere tossing of pennies to the tramp and the beggar is not by any means the fulfillment of their claim upon us. Indeed, such indiscriminate giving does more harm than good. It increases rather than relieves pauperism. So that the first duty of charity is to refuse to give in this indiscriminate way. Either we must give more than food and clothes and money; or else we must give nothing at all. Indiscriminate giving merely adds fuel to the flame.
The special form which love takes when its object is the poor is called benevolence or charity.—True benevolence, like love, of which it is a special application, makes the well-being of its object its own. In what then does the well-being of the poor consist? Is it bread and beef, a coat on the back, a roof over the head, and a bed to sleep in? These are conditions of well-being, but not the whole of it. A man cannot be well off without these things. But it is by no means sure that he will be well off with them.
What a man thinks; how he feels; what he loves; what he hopes for; what he is trying to do; what he means to be;—these are quite as essential elements in his well-being as what he has to eat and wear. True benevolence therefore must include these things in its efforts. Benevolence must aim to improve the man together with his condition or its gifts will be worse than wasted.
There are three principles which all wise benevolence must observe.
First: Know all that can be known about the man you help.—Unless we are willing to find out all we can about a poor man, we have no business to indulge our sympathy or ease our conscience by giving him money or food. It is often easier to give than to withhold. But it is far more harmful. When Bishop Potter says that "It is far better,—better for him and better for us,—to give a beggar a kick than to give him a half-dollar," it sounds like a hard saying, yet it is the strict truth. In a civilized and Christian community any really deserving person can secure assistance through persons or agencies that either know about his needs, or will take the trouble to look them up. When a stranger begs from strangers he thereby confesses that he prefers to present his claims where their merits are unknown; and the act proclaims him as a fraud. To the beggar, to ourselves, and to the really deserving poor, we owe a prompt and stern refusal of all uninvestigated appeals for charity. "True charity never opens the heart without at the same time opening the mind."
The second principle is: Let the man you help know as much as he can of you.—Bureaus and societies are indispensable aids to effective benevolence; without their aid thorough knowledge of the needs and merits of the poor would be impossible. Their function, however, should be to direct and superintend, not to dispense with and supplant direct personal contact between giver and receiver. The recipient of aid should know the one who helps him as man or woman, not as secretary or agent. If all the money, food, and clothing necessary to relieve the wants of the poor could be deposited at their firesides regularly each Christmas by Santa Claus, such a Christmas present, with the regular expectation of its repetition each year, would do these poor families more harm than good. It might make them temporarily more comfortable; it would make them permanently less industrious, thrifty, and self-reliant.
Investigations have proved conclusively that half the persons who are in want in our cities need no help at all, except help in finding work. One-sixth are unworthy of any material assistance whatever, since they would spend it immediately on their vices. One-fifth need only temporary help and encouragement to get over hard places. Only about one-tenth need permanent assistance.
On the other hand all need cheer, comfort, advice, sympathy, and encouragement, or else reproof, warning, and restraint. They all need kind, firm, wise, judicious friends. The less professionalism, the more personal sympathy and friendliness there is in our benevolence, the better it will be. In the words of Octavia Hill: "It is the families, the homes of the poor that need to be influenced. Is not she most sympathetic, most powerful, who nursed her own mother through her long illness, and knew how to go quietly through the darkened room: who entered so heartily into her sister's marriage: who obeyed so heartily her father's command when it was hardest? Better still if she be wife and mother herself and can enter into the responsibilities of a head of a household, understands her joys and cares, knows what heroic patience it needs to keep gentle when the nerves are unhinged and the children noisy. Depend upon it if we thought of the poor primarily as husbands, wives, sons, daughters, members of households as we are ourselves, instead of contemplating them as a different class, we should recognize better how the home training and the high ideal of home duty was our best preparation for work among them."
The third principle is: Give the man you help no more and no less than he needs to make his life what you and he together see that it is good for it to be.—This principle shows how much to give. Will ten cents serve as an excuse for idleness? Will five cents be spent in drink? Will one cent relax his determination to earn an honest living for himself and family? Then these sums are too much, and should be withheld. On the other hand, can the man be made hopeful, resolute, determined to overcome the difficulties of a trying situation? Can you impart to him your own strong will, your steadfast courage, your high ideal? is he ready to work, and willing to make any sacrifice that is necessary to regain the power of self-support? Then you will not count any sum that you can afford to give too great; even if it be necessary to carry him and his family right through a winter by sheer force of giving outright everything they need.
It is not the amount of the gift, but the spirit in which it is received that makes it good or bad for the recipient. If received by a man who clings to all the weakness and wickedness that brought his poverty upon him, then your gift, whether small or large, does no good and much harm. If with the gift the man welcomes your counsel, follows your advice, adopts your ideal, and becomes partaker in your determination that he shall become as industrious, and prudent, and courageous as a man in his situation can be, then whether you give him little or much material assistance, every cent of it goes to the highest work in which wealth can be employed—the making a man more manlike.
Our attitude toward the poor and unfortunate is the test of our attitude toward humanity.—For the poor and unfortunate present humanity to us in the condition which most strongly appeals to our fellow-feeling. The way in which I treat this poor man who happens to cross my path, is the way I should treat my dearest friend, if he were equally poor and unfortunate, and equally remote from personal association with my past life. The man who will let a single poor family suffer, when he is able to afford relief, is capable of being false to the whole human race. Speaking in the name of our common humanity, the Son of Man declares, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Sympathy "doubles our joys and halves our sorrows." It increases our range of interest and affection, making "the world one fair moral whole" in which we share the joys and sorrows of our brothers.
The man who sympathizes with the sufferings of others seeks and finds the sympathy of others in his own losses and trials when they come.—Familiarity and sympathy with the sufferings of others strengthens us to bear suffering when it comes to us: for we are able to see that it is no unusual and exceptional evil falling upon us alone, but accept it as an old and familiar acquaintance, whom we have so often met in other lives that we do not fear his presence in our own.
"Am I my brother's keeper?"—We are comfortable and well cared for. We are earning our own living. We pay our debts. We work hard for what we get. Why should we not enjoy ourselves? Why should I share my earnings with the shiftless vagabond, the good-for-nothing loafer? What is he to me? In one or another of these forms the murderous question "Am I my brother's keeper?" is sure to rise to our lips when the needs of the poor call for our assistance and relief. Or if we do recognize the claim, we are tempted to hide behind some organization; giving our money to that; and sending it to do the actual work. We do not like to come into the real presence of suffering and want. We do not want to visit the poor man in his tenement; and clasp his hand, and listen with our own ears to the tale of wretchedness and woe as it falls directly from his lips. We do not care to take the heavy and oppressive burden of his life's problem upon our own minds and hearts. We wish him well. But we do not will his betterment strongly and earnestly enough to take us to his side, and join our hands with his in lifting off the weight that keeps him down. Alienation, the desire to hold ourselves aloof from the real wretchedness of our brother, is our great temptation with reference to the poor.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The reluctant doling out of insufficient aid to the poor is niggardliness.—The niggard is thinking all the time of himself, and how he hates to part with what belongs to him. He gives as little as he can; and that little hurts him terribly. This vice cannot be overcome directly. It is a phase of selfishness; and like all forms of selfishness it can be cured only by getting out of self into another's life. By going among the poor, studying their needs, realizing their sufferings, we may be drawn out of our niggardliness and find a pleasure in giving which we could never have cultivated by direct efforts of will. We cannot make ourselves benevolent by making up our minds that we will be benevolent. Like all forms of love, benevolence cannot be forced; but it will come of itself if we give its appropriate objects a large share of our thoughts and a warm place in our hearts.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Regard for others as they happen to be, instead of regard for what they are capable of becoming, leads to soft hearted and mischievous indulgence.—The indulgent giver sees the fact of suffering and rushes to its relief, without stopping to inquire into the cause of the poverty and the best measures of relief. Indulgence fails to see the ideal of what the poor man is to become. Indulgence does not look beyond the immediate fact of poverty; and consequently the indulgent giver does nothing to lift the poor man out of it. Help in poverty, rather than help out of poverty, is what indulgent giving amounts to. The indulgent and indiscriminate giver becomes a partner in the production of poverty. This indulgent giving is a phase of sentimentality; and the relief of one's own feelings, rather than the real good of a fellow-man is at the root of all such mischievous almsgiving. It is the form of benevolence without the substance. It does too much for the poor man just because it loves him too little. Indulgence measures benefactions, not by the needs and capacities of the receiver, but by the sensibilities and emotions of the giver. What wonder that it always goes astray, and does harm under the guise of doing good!
Uncharitable treatment of the poor makes us alien to humanity, and distrustful of human nature.—We feel that they have a claim upon us that we have not fulfilled; and we try to push them off beyond the range of our sympathy. They are not slow to take the hint. They interpret our harsh tones and our cold looks, and they look to us for help no more. But in pushing these poor ones beyond our reach, we unconsciously acquire hard, unsympathetic ways of thinking, feeling, speaking and acting, which others not so poor, others whom we would gladly have near us, also interpret; and they too come to understand that there is no real kindness and helpfulness to be had from us in time of real need, and they keep their inmost selves apart, and suffer us to touch them only on the surface of their lives. When trouble comes to us we instinctively feel that we have no claim on the sympathy of others; and so we have to bear our griefs alone. Having never suffered with others, sorrow is a stranger to us, and we think we are the most miserable creatures in the world.
Humanity is one. Action and reaction are equal. Our treatment of the poorest of our fellows is potentially our treatment of them all. And by a subtle law of compensation, which runs deeper than our own consciousness, what our attitude is toward our fellows determines their attitude toward us. "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren," says the Representative of our common humanity, "ye did it not unto me."
Another class of our fellow-men whom it is especially hard to love are those who willfully do wrong. The men who cheat us, and say hateful things to us; the men who abuse their wives and neglect their families; the men who grind the faces of the poor, and contrive to live in ease and luxury on the earnings of the widow and the orphan; the men who pervert justice and corrupt legislation in order to make money; these and all wrongdoers exasperate us, and rouse our righteous indignation. Yet they are our fellow-men. We meet them everywhere. We suffer for their misdeeds;—and, what is worse, we have to see others, weaker and more helpless than ourselves, maltreated, plundered, and beaten by these wretches and villains. Wrongdoing is a great, hard, terrible fact. We must face it. We must have some clear and consistent principles of action with reference to these wrongdoers; or else our wrath and indignation will betray us into the futile attempt to right one wrong by another wrong; and so drag us down to the level of the wrongdoers against whom we contend.
The first thing we owe to the wrongdoer is to give him his just deserts. Wrongdoing always hurts somebody. Justice demands that it shall hurt the wrongdoer himself.—The boy who tells a lie treats us as if we did not belong to the same society, and have the same claim on truth that he has. We must make him feel that we do not consider him fit to be on a level with us. We must make him ashamed of himself. The man who cheats us shows that he is willing to sacrifice our interests to his. We must show him that we will have no dealings with such a person. The man who is mean and stingy shows that he cares nothing for us. We must show him that we despise his miserliness and meanness. The robber and the murderer show that they are enemies to society. Society must exclude them from its privileges.
It is the function of punishment to bring the offender to a realizing sense of the nature of his deed, by making him suffer the natural consequences of it, or an equivalent amount of privation, in his own person. Punishment is a favor to the wrongdoer, just as bitter medicine is a favor to the sick. For without it, he would not appreciate the evil of his wrongdoing with sufficient force to repent of it, and abandon it. Plato teaches the true value of punishment in the "Gorgias." "The doing of wrong is the greatest of evils. To suffer punishment is the way to be released from this evil. Not to suffer is to perpetuate the evil. To do wrong, then, is second only in the scale of evils; but to do wrong and not to be punished, is first and greatest of all. He who has done wrong and has not been punished, is and ought to be the most miserable of all men; the doer of wrong is more miserable than the sufferer; and he who escapes punishment more miserable than he who suffers punishment."
Punishment is the best thing we can do for one who has done wrong.—Punishment is not a good in itself. But it is good relatively to the wrongdoer. It is the only way out of wrong into right. Punishment need not be brutal or degrading. The most effectual punishment is often purely mental; consisting in the sense of shame and sorrow which the offender is made to feel. In some form or other every wrongdoer should be made to feel painfully the wrongness of his deed. To "spare the rod," both literally and metaphorically, is to "spoil the child." The duty of inflicting punishment, like all duty, is often hard and unwelcome. But we become partakers in every wrong which we suffer to go unpunished and unrebuked when punishment and rebuke are within our power.
Forgiveness is not inconsistent with justice. It does not do away with punishment. It spiritualizes punishment; substituting mental for bodily pains.—The sense of the evil and shame of wrongdoing, which is the essence and end of punishment, forgiveness, when it is appreciated, serves to intensify. Indeed it is impossible to inflict punishment rightly until you have first forgiven the offender. For punishment should be inflicted for the offender's good. And not until vengeance has given way to forgiveness are we able to care for the offender's well-being.
Forgiveness is a special form of love. It recognizes the humanity of the offender, and treats him as a brother, even when his deeds are most unbrotherly. But it cares so much for him that it will not shrink from inflicting whatever merciful pains may be necessary to deliver him from his own unbrotherliness. Forgiveness loves not the offense but the man. It hates the offense chiefly because it injures the man. Its punishment of the offense is the negative side of its positive devotion to the person. The command "love your enemies" is not a hard impossibility on the one hand, nor a soft piece of sentimentalism on the other. It is possible, because there is a human, loveable side, even to the worst villain, if we can only bring ourselves to think on that better side, and the possibilities which it involves. It is practical, because regard for that better side of his nature demands that we shall make him as miserable in his wrongdoing as is necessary to lead him to abandon his wrongdoing, and give the better possibilities of his nature a chance to develop. The parent who punishes the naughty child loves him not less but more than the parent who withholds the needed punishment. The state which suffers crime to go unpunished becomes a nursery of criminals. It wrongs itself; it wrongs honest citizens; but most of all it wrongs the criminals themselves whom it encourages in crime by undue lenity. The object of forgiveness is not to take away punishment, but to make whatever punishment remains effective for the reformation of the offender. It is to transfer the seat of suffering from the body, where its effect is uncertain and indirect, to the mind, where sorrow for wrongdoing is powerful and efficacious. Every wrong act brings its penalty with it. In order to induce repentance and reformation that penalty must in some way be brought home to the one who did the wrong. Vengeance drives the penalty straight home, refusing to bear any part of it itself. Forgiveness first takes the penalty upon itself in sorrow for the wrong, and then invites the wrongdoer to share the sorrow which he who forgives him has already borne. Vengeance smites the body, and often drives in deeper the perversity. Forgiveness touches the heart and gently but firmly draws the heart's affections away from the wrong, into devotion to the right.
Forgiveness, rightly received, works the reformation of the offender.—And to one who ardently loves righteousness there is no joy comparable to that of seeing a man who has been doing wrong, turn from it, renounce it, and determine that henceforth he will endeavor to do right. Contrast heightens our emotions. And there is "joy over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons that need no repentance." Deliverance from wrong is effected by the firm yet kindly presentation of the right as something still possible for us, and into which a friend stands ready to welcome us. Reformation is wrought by that blending of justice and forgiveness which at the same time holds the wrong abhorrent and the wrongdoer dear. Reformation is the end at which forgiveness aims, and its accomplishment is its own reward.
The sight of heinous offenses and outrageous deeds against ourselves or others tempts us to wreak our vengeance upon the offender.—This impulse of revenge served a useful purpose in the primitive condition of human society. It still serves as the active support of righteous indignation. But it is blind and rough; and is not suited to the conditions of civilized life. Vengeance has no consideration for the true well-being of the offender. It confounds the person with the deed in wholesale condemnation. It renders evil for evil; it provokes still further retaliation; and erects a single fault into the occasion of a lasting feud. It is irrational, brutal, and inhuman; it is dangerous and degrading.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The absence of forgiveness in dealing with wrongdoers leads to undue severity.—The end of punishment being to bring the offender to realize the evil of his deed and to repent of it, punishment should not be carried beyond the point which is necessary to produce that result. To continue punishment after genuine penitence is manifested is to commit a fresh wrong ourselves. "If thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him." To ignore an unrepented wrong, and to continue to punish a repented wrong, are equally wide of the mark of that love for the offender which metes out to him both justice and forgiveness according to his needs. All punishment which is not tempered with forgiveness is brutal; and brutalizes both punisher and punished. It hardens the heart of the offender; and itself constitutes a new offense against him.
These principles apply strictly to relations between individuals. In the case of punishment by the state, the necessity of self-protection; of warning others; and of approximate uniformity in procedure; added to the impossibility of getting at the exact state of mind of the offender by legal processes, render it necessary to inflict penalties in many cases which are more severe than the best interest of the individual offenders requires. To meet such cases, and to mitigate the undue severity of uniform penalties when they fall too heavily on individuals, all civilized nations give the power of pardon to the executive.
Whether the penalty be in itself light or severe, it should always be administered in the endeavor to improve and reform the character of the offender.—The period of confinement in jail or prison should be made a period of real privation and suffering; but it should be especially the privation of opportunity for indulgence in idleness and vice; and the painfulness of discipline in acquiring the knowledge and skill necessary to make the convict a self-respecting and self-supporting member of society, after his term of sentence expires.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Lenity ignores the wrong; and by ignoring it, becomes responsible for its repetition.—Lenity is sentimentality bestowed on criminals. It treats them in the manner most congenial to its own feelings, instead of in the way most conducive to their good. Forgiveness is regard for the offender in view of his ability to renounce the offense and try to do better in the future. Lenity confounds offender and offense in a wholesale and promiscuous amnesty. The true attitude toward the wrongdoer must preserve the balance set forth by the lawgiver of Israel as characteristic of Israel's God, "full of compassion and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin: and that will by no means clear the guilty." Lenity which "clears the guilty" is neither mercy, nor graciousness, nor compassion, nor forgiveness. Such lenity obliterates moral distinctions; disintegrates society; corrupts and weakens the moral nature of the one who indulges in it; and confirms in perversity him on whom it is bestowed.
Severity and lenity alike increase the perversity of the offender.—Severity drives the offender into fresh determination to do wrong; and intrenches him behind the conception that he has been treated unfairly. He is made to think that all the world is against him, and he sees no reason why he should not set himself against the world. Lenity leads him to think the world is on his side no matter what he does; and so he asks himself why he should take the trouble to mend his ways. Lenity to others leads us to be lenient toward ourselves; and we commit wrong in expectation of that lenient treatment which we are in the habit of according to others. Severity to others makes us ashamed to ask for mercy when we need it for ourselves. Furthermore, knowing there is no mercy in ourselves, we naturally infer that there is none in others. We disbelieve in forgiveness; and our disbelief hides from our eyes the forgiveness, which, if we had more faith in its presence, we might find. Hence the unforgiving man can find no forgiveness for himself in time of need; he sinks to that level of despair and confirmed perversity, to which his own unrelenting spirit has doomed so many of his erring brothers.
In addition to that bond of a common humanity which ought to bind us to all our fellow-men, there is a tie of special affinity between persons of congenial tastes, kindred pursuits, common interests, and mutually cherished ideals. Persons to whom we are drawn, and who are likewise drawn to us, by these cords of subtle sympathy we call our friends.
Friendship is regard for what our friend is; not for what he can do for us. "The perfect friendship," says Aristotle, "is that of good men who resemble one another in virtue. For they both alike wish well to one another as good men, and it is their essential character to be good men. And those who wish well to their friends for the friends' sake are friends in the truest sense; for they have these sentiments toward each other as being what they are, and not in an accidental way; their friendship, therefore, lasts as long as their virtue, and that is a lasting thing. Such friendships are uncommon, for such people are rare. Such friendship requires long and familiar intercourse. For they cannot be friends till each show and approve himself to the other as worthy to be loved. A wish to be friends may be of rapid growth, but not friendship. Those whose love for one another is based on the useful, do not love each other for what they are, but only in so far as each gets some good from the other. These friendships are accidental; for the object of affection is loved, not as being the person or character that he is, but as the source of some good or some pleasure. Friendships of this kind are easily dissolved, as the persons do not continue unchanged; for if they cease to be useful or pleasant to one another, their love ceases. On the disappearance of that which was the motive of their friendship, their friendship itself is dissolved, since it existed solely with a view to that. For pleasure then or profit it is possible even for bad men to be friends with one another; but it is evident that the friendship in which each loves the other for himself is only possible between good men; for bad men take no delight in each other unless some advantage is to be gained. The friendship whose motive is utility is the friendship of sordid souls. Friendship lies more in loving than in being loved; so that when people love each other in proportion to their worth, they are lasting friends, and theirs is lasting friendship."