Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

—that the moral sense is not obliterated, but only overmastered by other influences—and that many, very many criminals, are made what they are by their destitution of physical comfort—they would often drop a tear where they now let fall a malediction, and pity and forgive where they most harshly censure and condemn Take an illustration : Here is a man who, by misfortune and the dishonesty of others, has been reduced to abject poverty. We must look at him now as a ruined man, and ruined, too, by his fellow-man. He goes out to look for the means of supplying the necessities of himself and family. He asks for the poor privilege of serving another. But he asks in vain. None will hire him. Meantime visions of suffering and want are floating before him. He returns to his house, and meets the dear ones in whom his affections are centred; and dark shadows cross his brow, and fearful thoughts grow up in his soul, as he sees in prospect poverty, rags, and hungry famine itself. Again he seeks the means of satisfying the wants of those around him ; and again he fails. He applies to friends, but finds, alas ! they are friends no longer. He knows that the coffers of the rich are full, and the garners overflowing with food, and yet his children cry in vain for bread. His confidence in the Divine care fails him. He curses his hard fate, and blasphemes God. He becomes desperate, and swears that there is enough for all, and he will not suffer or starve. He steals | Then come the officers of the law, and take him to the court and the

[ocr errors]

prison. And when after a period of suffering he emerges from that living tomb, he finds his children in the poorhouse, and his friends gone. No kind hand is extended for his relief—no voice whispers a word of encouragement or hope. But men shun him as a loathsome, leprous thing, and pass him by, as of another race. What shall he do? God help him, what can he do? One refuge is left. He seeks the society of the vicious and the profligate, and panders to their iniquity, because (with shame be it confessed) they will give him what all the charities of a professedly Christian people fail to supply —bread. Here, sick of the world, and mad with all his race, he becomes an apt pupil in the school of vice. Who does not see that poverty—abject, sinking poverty —was the cause of the first step in this downward course? Want pressed upon him, and thus strand after strand that bind to truth and duty was broken, until all was lost. And who does not perceive that a little melioration of the outward condition of the man in the outset might have saved him from moral ruin 7 It may be that the father himself is sick. The arm that toiled so patiently and stoutly for the support of a family is weak and helpless. The usual supplies are cut off. The hungry wolf looks in upon that once happy family. The watch, the table, the cloak, the wedding-ring itself, disappears for the means of satisfying the wants of that now wretched family. At length, all is gone; and that dear arm upon which a wife leaned so trustfully, and in which children hoped so confidently, is still nerveless and weak, and they must beg or starve. That wife, or that blooming daughter, go out to beg | She meets the rude gaze of the cold world’s eye. She is cut to the heart by unfeeling refusals of her petition, or—what is worse—by suspicions of imposture. Shall we wonder if principle falters, and she steals 7 Alas! there are demons in human form who will, seize this favorable moment to lead to a worse fate | True, there are trusting spirits that can endure all this. Confiding souls there are, worthy a diadem and a crown, who will bend before that dreadful tempest, and remain unbroken by its utmost fury. But there are others who . . . . . . I pause—the reader knows the rest. Ye prudes, who toss your heads so contemptuously, and pass so disdainfully, remember, that fallen one hath a human soul, like thine own: and hadst thou given but a tithe the cost of that gilded, useless bauble on thy breast, that SISTER of thine might have been saved Spare thy harsh condemnation!— “Ye high, exalted, virtuous dames, Tied up in godly laces, Before ye gie poor Frailty names, Suppose a change o” places !”

It is not contended, that all instances of crime originate in causes like these, but charity would at least hope, that

the instances of moral degradation, without some pressing

necessity, are comparatively few. And all who are acquainted with the world know, that the sun of heaven shines every day upon the reality of the picture above faintly sketched. And what are the means in operation for preventing this moral desolation ? Preventing !! Human institutions and human laws have been so busily employed in punishing, that they have had no thought to spare upon the means of preventing crimes. We have laws framed with nice regard to every form and grade of crime, measuring out punishment as by strictest weight and measure. We build our prisons and houses of correction, and send out our Argus-eyed officers to arrest and punish the offender. And what is the result Such is the omnipotence of wealth, that it usually manages to escape the penalty of its crimes; and as for the poor, they are cast into prison, and, having served their time, they come out again to the light of day. But how do they come 7 With the same poverty around them—the same want pressing upon them —with characters blasted—reputation gone—all hope of decent and respectable livelihood cut off; and however good their resolutions, all outward circumstances are against them, and they feel that they must steal or starve. What now is the power of all your laws? What your “act of assembly,” or your “act to amend an act” 2 What your prisons and fines, and officers and courts? The truth is, Nature’s law, the irresistible law of NECEssity, is stronger than all other laws, and it will defy them all. The whole vast machinery of government Can not penetrate below the skin, in an attempt to probe this ulcer upon the soul of man. It festers in poverty and abject want; and the cause must be removed, ere the effect will cease to flow. By this law, also, the power of the church is defied; for, unhappily, the church has not yet sufficiently learned, that the soul can not be much improved while the body is starving. What avails it to preach to a man one day in seven, and leave him for the balance of the time to battle with cold, nakedness, and hunger? Or what success can attend the exhortations of a sabbath, when the week must be spent in an exposure to the hardening, faith-destroying influences of poverty and distress 7 The great truth should be known, that the body must be placed in a tolerable condition of physical comfort, as an indispensable prerequisite to moral improvement. And it is precisely here that the moral influences of Odd-Fellowship exhibit themselves in their greatest perfection. Its laws and regulations are such, that extreme suffering, from poverty, can not befall any of its members. It goes to the house of sickness before the little store, laid up for the day of need, is exhausted, and by its timely aid keeps famine far from the door. It relieves from many anxieties in regard to future want, from sickness and distress. It makes the unfortunate feel that they have friends left, and that there is hope for them in the darkest hour of trial; so that necessity can never drive them to a yielding up of a fraction of their integrity for the sake of the means of subsist

« AnteriorContinuar »