Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or, lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain." Our Saviour bas desired us to pray, that we may not be led into temptations, because he was conscious, that the weakness of human nature was frequently unable to resist them. But it is evident, in the present state of the world, that these temptations are so numerous and powerful, that thousands, and tens of thousands, are led into all manner of wickedness. Are not many of the rich proud, selfish, and tyrannical, because they are placed above their fellow-creatures, and are, therefore, tempted to commit evil? and are not the poor often envious, and given to stealing, because they see others in the possession of the good things of this life, while they are compelled to remain in penury and want? What is also the cause of lying and hypocrisy, but the fear of danger, and the hope of reward; and why are so many addicted to drinking and licentiousness, if it were not for the wretchedness of their homes,* or the total ignorance of their duty

* It is a common saying, that home is home, be it ever so homely; but many are the homes which are no homes. The poor man's home is one of this description. Crowded places of cheap entertainment, and the benches of alehouses, if they could speak, might bear mournful testimony to the first of our assertions. To them the very poor man resorts, for an image of the home that he cannot find at home. For a starved grate and a scanty firing, that is not enongh to keep alive the natural heat of so many shivering children with their mother, he finds, in the depth of winter, always a blazing hearth and a hob to warm his pittance of beer by. Instead of the clamours of a wife, made gaunt by famishing, he meets with a cheerful attendance, beyond the merits of the trifle which he can afford to spend. He has mpanions, which his home denies him; for the very poor man can ask no visitors. He can look into the goings on of the world, and speak a little to politics. At home, there are no politics stirring, but the domestic. All interests, real or imaginary, all topics that should expand the mind of man, and connect him with a sympathy to general existence, are crushed in the absorbing consideration of food to be obtained for the family. Beyond the price of bread, news is senseless and impertinent. Prosperous men who object to this desertion of home, imagine to themselves some clean contented family, like that which they go home to. But look at the countenance of the poor wives, who follow and persecute their good-man to the door of the public-house which he is about to enter, when something like shame would restrain him, if stronger misery did not induce him to pass the threshold. That face ground by want, in which every cheerful, every conversable lineament, has been long effaced by misery—is that a face to stay at home with? Is it more a woman or a wild cat? Alas! it is the face of the wife of his youth, that once smiled upon him. It can smile no longer. What comforts can it share? What burthens can it lighten? Oh, it is a fine thing to talk of the humble meal shared together. But what, if there be no bread in the cupboard ?--Elia.

to God and man? If then, these evils have always existed to a most alarming and distressing extent, in every town and kingdom in the world, and if they all necessarily proceed from the encouragement which is given to selfishness, by the present constitution of society, ought not every friend of religion and mankind, to be zealous in encouraging the liberal and benevolent views of those philanthropists who are engaged in establishing communities, where almost every temptation to transgress the laws of God and his Christ, is removed or destroyed?

In these communities, no man would be tyrannical or proud, because all the members would be upon an equality. No one would defraud his neighbour, because he would be sure to injure himself by his criminality. Lying and bypocrisy must be seldom practised, for where would be the motives for the commission of these vices; and, in fact, drinking, licentiousness, and almost every other immorality, would be unknown in establishments, where every man would have the necessaries and comforts of life—where the mind would be enlightened, and where the greatest discountenance would be given to every species of sin and iniquity. Be assured, if we remove the cause of immorality, immorality will cease to spread wretchedness and want. The great cause, as I have mentioned, is temptation, or a violent motive to prefer vice to virtue. The present state of society holds out that motive; and until it be removed, it is impossible to expect any great improvement in the condition of our fellow-creatures. It is also clear, that if a community of goods were generally adopted, we should have no tive to transgress the moral laws of God, and the public benefit would be the main object of every individual, as here, in fact, self-love and social would be the same; and he who should plot mischief against his neighbour, would injure his own welfare.*

We should likewise consider, that religion would have much greater influence upon the heart and conduct, if men were to have all things in common. It is truly lamentable to reflect, how few know their duty to God and man, and how few are acquainted with the evidences of Christianity,* and have a proper knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. The consequence of this blind ignorance, is seen in the increase of fanaticism, and infidelity, and a great disregard to the happiness of others. Pure benev. olence is but rarely felt, and the heart becomes hardened by the prejudices which bigotry and illiberality have instilled into the understanding. That disinterested charity, so strongly recommended and enforced by Jesus, is confined to a few individuals; and we seldom see brotherly love warming the bosom and actuating the conduct. But if we picture to our minds, a society, where men live together as friends and brothers, we should continually have the pleasure of beholding our fellow-creatures reciprocally benefiting one another, by acts of kindness and affection. Those delightful emotions which are now confined to friends and relatives, would burn with ardour for the members of that community to wbich we had united ourselves. Those unholy feelings which too frequently cause one nation to raise the sword against the other, or that perse. cuting spirit, which, alas! makes so many look upon the worshippers of another creed with abhorrence, would find no admittance among this holy community. In the adoration of Almighty God, their prayers would be sweeter than the incense of a thousand altars, for they would be the praises and supplications of men, who live together in unity. The Scriptures would be read with pleasure, because they would be properly understood and appreciated, and the gospel would, indeed, proclaim peace on earth, and good will towards men, for its fruits would be holiness of life, and joy in believing.

* If it has been justly said, that a man wounds himself by hurting his family; how much more truly may it be urged, that every man would injure his character and property, by injuring the members of his cooperative society.

Here a very important question will be naturally asked, by those who are required to approve of the system I have been advocating. It will be inquired, Have co-operative societies been established with any prospect of reasonable success? Have men been found to unite together, in the manner I have so strongly recommended, and have they been content to lay aside their individual advantages, for the good of the community?

* Christianity is adopted by the multitude, without inquiry and without rational conviction. They know not what they believe, and, consequently, their faith is without its proper efficacy, and subject every moment to be shaken by the unbeliever." To counteract, in some measure, this unfortunate state of the Christian world, permit me to recommend, among other excellent works, Paley's Horæ Paulinæ, and Knowles's Plain Statement of the Evidences of Christianity.

In answer to these inquiries, it must be remembered, that it does not follow that no alteration should take place in society, because it may interfere with established opinions. The only inquiries a truly philosophical mind makes, are, whether a community of goods is beneficial to mankind, and whether it can be carried into execution. These two points, I trust, I have already proved; and I might here let the question rest upon its own intrinsic merits. It can, however, be shown, that there have been societies of men, who have lived together in the way I have recommended, and that the very meaning of the term society, implies, to dwell together in safety.

The ancient Spartans are a memorable instance of the stability and advantage of a community of goods. Without defending the morals of those people, * it cannot be denied, that, for the space of five hundred years, they existed as a land of patriots, without the aid of money, and without that selfish spirit which so generally prevails in other couutries. Need the well-informed be told, that these patriotic Greeks, willingly sacrificed their lives for the public good, and that every distinction of persons was unknown in a nation where all things were in common, where the people lived as a family, and where only virtue and wisdom were respected? That spirit of legislationa name as applicable to himself, as the Spirit of Law is to bis work—the great Montesquieu says, the laws of Crete were the models of those of Sparta, and as I have shown, a community of property was the principle of those laws. View, then, the ancient Cretans and Spartans. Look at the communities of nuns and friars. Observe the societies of Harmonists,t and, in some degree, of Moravians, and Friends, or Quakers. Behold even the tribes of North American Indians, who, it is generally allowed, have diverged less than the offspring of civilization from the truth of nature, who are, as it were, fresher from her hand, and have swerved less from her dictates. Who that contemplates these instances, can imagine, that a community of property, the part deemed most visionary in our system, is impracticable?*

* Should it be urged, that the gross immorality of some of the lives of the Spartans, is a sufficient argument against their peculiar mode of government, I answer, that until it can be proved that a community of goods was the cause of that immorality, the objection is altogether untenable. The education of the Spartans was very defective-their notions respecting industry absurd-their equality very imperfect their love of war, monstrous and debasing—and their religion without piety, and without

any moral tendency. These are sufficient causes to account for the vices of this extraordinary people; while I think it can be de monstrated, that a community of goods was the cause virtues.

+ While I am happy to acknowledge, that the world is greatly indebted to the benevolence and wisdom of Mr. Owen, in forwarding the plans recommended in this essay; yet candour obliges me to say, that I am truly sorry that he has greatly injured the good cause, in the eyes of his enemies, by attacking natural and revealed religion. It would surely have

many of their H. H.

(To be Continued.)

Let earth's distinctions ne'er be mine,

For me no wealth increase
So I possess, till life decline,

Contentment, virtue, peace!
Give me the smile of conscience still,

The world's reproof I'll bear;
That smile my breast with joys shall fill,

Which leave no place for care.
Give me the faith which rests on God,

Through scenes of weal and woe;
And I will kiss affliction's rod,

Nor fear the threaten'd blow.
Give me the hope which beams in death,

To light the valley's gloom;
And praise shall tune my latest breath,

While passing to the tomb.
Give me at last the glorious crown,

Which Christ's true friends shall gain;
And need I start at danger's frown,

Since bliss shall grow from pain!
Birmingham.

been much better, if he had left religion alone. I firmly believe, that both natural theology and Christianity are true, and sanction the cooperative system. If Mr. Owen and some of his friends think otherwise, I would only say to them, as I would say to all my fellow-creatures, let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Follow the dictates of your consciences, and, at seasonable opportunities, avow and defend your sentiments; but in every civil association, intrude not upon the faith of your brethren. To God, and to God only, are they accountable for the hope that is in them. I have made these remarks merely to show, that a community of goods is not less desirable, because some of its friends may act inconsistently, and to guard my readers from identifying opinions with persons. The former may be excellent, while the latter may be, and often are, unworthy their holy profession.

* See the Co-operative Magazine, Vol. I.

« AnteriorContinuar »