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Art. II. Moral Views of Commerce, Society, and Politics ; in Twelve
Discourses. By the Rev. ORVILLE Dewey. 12mo. Fox, Paternoster Row.
THRICE honored be the man of whatever country, creed,
or party, who should prevail to introduce and give efficiency to another and a purer morality than that which at present presides over, or rather leaves lawless, both the commerce and the politics of Christendom—and surely above all parallel or precedent, the politics of our own country. The curse of selfishness -of blind, grasping covetousness, ravenous for gain, vigorously and intensely set to its purpose, is indeed but too odiously visible in many of the transactions of commerce. Yet this is a dull and innocuous demon in comparison with the fierce and reckless fiend that has taken upon him to rule the region of politics, and to whom his votaries seem to have conceded by acclamation, not only an unlimited, but an utterly reckless domination. The god of their idolatry is a most perfect and consummate diabolus, accomplished in every art of satanic policy, and equipped with every weapon of the infernal armory. Yet, strange to tell, he is transformed into an angel of light, invokes the name of Christ, sprinkles himself with holy water, and claims both the sanction and protection of the cross.
Moderate men and pious men are weeping in secret places, and sighing in spirit, for the abominations that are perpetrated at noon-day, but no one appears to lift up a standard for outraged truth, and forgotten justice, and banished honor. The press has become a bottomless pit, pouring forth its daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly volumes of fire and brimstone, which not only outtop and overpower all the barriers of morality, but threaten to convulse and devastate society to its lowest foundations. The very, pulpits of the land are now becoming usurped by this political demon, from whence he is hurling firebrands, arrows, and death, in all directions and at high places.
In defiance of decency, truth, and conscience, our would-be dictators, and soi-disant expositors of public opinion, are at the present moment insulting humanity, belying patriotism, and trampling christianity under their iron hoofs. The men who ought, from their office, and their profession, to be foremost in quelling the spirit of party, and enforcing the claims of candor, truth, and justice, whose very names and countenances, in places of assembly and concourse, should prove like oil upon the troubled waters, or as old Nestor's eloquence upon the infuriated hosts of the Greeks, are possessed by that rabid demon of party politics, which, like the man among the tombs, snaps asunder all chains, and despite the alleged apostolicity of the whole bench
of bishops, defies the twelve apostles themselves, to cast him out; unless indeed they were at once to disown the entire succession, because of the spirit which animates it—a circumstance which many might think not at all improbable, considering that they bave cautioned us against false apostles, and affirmed that, if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.'
It seems, however, utterly hopeless to remind the whole party, lay and clerical, of any pledges they have given, or of any professions by which they are bound. To tell them of the gentle spirit of their divine Saviour, or of the refined and impartial laws of his religion-to allege your rights as men, your feelings as christians, or your liberties as British subjects, it is like preaching to the winds, or reasoning with madness.
The times in which we live, present a large class foremost in politics, and foremost in the church, whom no force of reasoning can convince, and no pleas of equity or humanity can move. Self-us-and our, are the words that limit all that is great, good, or precious. These fill that narrow circle to which all their ideas and all their sympathies are restricted. Beyond that circle no persuasion, no argument, can by any possibility induce them to look. This is their centre and their circumference. Every thing is there. Out of it there is nothing interesting, nothing worth a thought. This is their infinity. The rancor of their spirit outstrips all parallel-the dishonesty and unfairness of their proceedings mock all morality, and laugh at conscience. Whatever may be said, and said perhaps but too justly, of the recklessness of speculation, the want of honor and good faith in business, yet the exchange and the market are virtuous and moral, we had almost said immaculate, when compared with the different arenas of political contention, and even the platforms of some of our public societies. Religion is profaned, literature is disgraced, science is defiled, social life is embittered and become exclusive or clanish. The spirit of a Bradshaw may be taken as the personification of a host of laymen, while the bigoted and reckless ravings of a Close, a M'Neil, and a Gathercole, are rousing the clergy in all directions. The pulpit is rivalling the daily press in ebullitions of political rancor and treasonable insolence. We have heard of an instance of a clergyman in one of our populous cities, who has passed beyond all competitors in a fifth of November sermon, and out-Bradshawed Bradshaw himself.
If the infuriated party had any conscience or any shame, should we after this ever hear again of political dissenters? Will the Record hereafter have the effrontery to upbraid dissenters with the sin of interfering in politics, when its own cherished party have rushed forward into the fiercest and thickest of the onslaught? The hypocrisy of the hue and cry against political dissenters is amply demonstrated by the gratulations with which
a dissenter is always hailed when his politics are of the right sort, and the zest with which the politieal speeches of the evangelical clergy are recorded and read. The unpardonable sin of the dissenters, in the eyes of such parties, is not that they are political at all, but that their politics are on the wrong side; for these gentlemen have obviously no antipathy to politics, as such, but only to every body's politics except their own. Orthodory, said Franklin,' means your own doxy; heterodoxy is any other 'man's doxy.' True, Franklin, thy definition hits the case. It is not that all politics are sinful, nor the degree to which they are pushed, abstractedly considered, but the heterodoxy of them is the sin. Political dissenters would be as much commended and petted as political churchmen, did they but symbolize with the right party. But because they do not and cannot sacrifice their consciences, write them down, talk them down, vote them down, beat them down, and trample them down-all shall be fair, moral, and evangelical, so that they may but be down, and kept down, and ourselves kept up. This is the kind of morality, not only of the newspaper editors, but, alas, of our clergy, evangelical and anti-evangelical, to an extent that scarcely admits of exception.
What is to be the issue of all this? Will it subserve the cause of truth, religion, and national virtue? Will it convince opponents and make them friends ? Is it not rather calculated to dishonor christianity and dissolve the bonds of all moral and social order? It is with deep grief we daily witness the excesses of party spirit--the direct immorality which is practised in controversy, and the palpable trifling with the interests of truth, honor, and candor, which disgraces not merely the newspapers, but our literature, and to a great extent our theology. It is scarcely to be believed but that many of our party scribes must be perfectly conscious of all this violence and villany, however fair they may deem it, to render an opponent or an opposite party odious and hateful, to present them belabored or bespattered by mere Billingsgate, for the amusement or triumph of their own friends. Yet all this is unquestionably base in principle, disgusting in practice, and injurious to the morals of society.
It is indeed high time that some honorable and right-feeling men, of all parties, should step forward to remind the belligerents that they are human and rational ; and that at all events, if they must and will contend, there are laws of honorable war, to which all civilized nations have acceded, and which none would disregard but savages and cannibals. It might befit the infidel bloodhounds of the first French revolution to rave round the Thuilleries like tigers and wolves with the palpitating limbs of their victims in their mouths ; but does it behove christian men and
Englishmen to emulate the rage of beasts and the violence of maniacs ? When rational beings feel that they must inevitably differ in opinion upon subjects of high importance and interest, surely they are mutually bound to lessen the inconvenience and unhappiness of such difference by all the means in their power. It is evil enough to be conscientiously compelled to disagree, without adding to this the rancor of enmity, and breaking up society into hostile bands intent upon nothing but mutual destruction, It is indeed a pestilent evil which has grown upon us in the heat of party strifes, to count every man that differs from us an enemy; and it is still worse to push this feeling out into all the relations of life, and all the business and intercourse of society—to scruple no means of effecting the disgrace and ruin of an adversary.
In the name of humanity, of truth, and candor, and our common religion, we reclaim against this diabolical spirit which is openly stalking forth and transforming men into furies, gladiators, assassins-habituating them to every thing that is base, false, and violent; openly shouting war to the knife! and proclaiming the lawfulness of all means for the good of our church, and the suppression of dissenters and liberals. Surely there is patriotism, morality, and moderation enough among us to rebuke this foul spirit and chain this Leviathan. Let the men of candor, justice, and conscience, protest against all this violence, and frown at these fiery zealots as the men of Canterbury have done. Let the intolerable insolence of the state-clergy be condemned by their parishioners; and let the sacredness of the pulpit be defended by the people, when it is desecrated by the clergy, or let them leave the mock thunderers to launch their bolts in empty space. If peace is dearer to us than the cause of factions, and the interests of truth, virtue, and religion above those of party and of politics, then let all honest, and christian, and candid men join to decry and condemn the virulence, and violence, and disloyalty which are fast hastening on a crisis of the most alarming kind. Happy indeed would it be for the country if a respite could be obtained a breathing time allowed when each might consider to what all this immorality will ultimately tend, if unchecked and unreproved. Violence on the one side will undoubtedly provoke violence on the other. The tories and the churchmen may foster and encourage the outrages of the physical force men against the liberals and the middle classes; but can they imagine that they would themselves be safe in the event of a chartist rebellion? Or that the men who say that the whigs are beating them with rods, would in the event of throwing off the yoke, hug those who have always chastised them with scorpions ? How insane then is the policy which is at the present moment exacerbating all the feelings of hostile parties; and instead of aiming to
uphold morality and social order, is setting an example of outrageous insolence, immorality, disloyalty, and sedition to that rude and ignorant class which is known to be extensively organized and ripe for rebellion. Has not all this violence in the lower orders been stimulated, fostered, and called forth, by the ex.. ample of their betters; and is it not at the present moment in danger of being imitated by those betters ? Would it not be at once imitated by them on behalf of their Hanoverian Orangeman, if the favorable moment should occur, and if they could but persuade themselves that they had as strong a physical force to work with, as the unhappy and deluded chartists supposed they had? It is evident that there are clergymen who would not hesitate to rival Stephens, yea, ten to one, who would be zealous to sanctify the rebellion with prayers, in the name of the apostolical succession; and laymen, like Bradshaw, or even peers that must be nameless, who would rush from their castles or their club houses, to rival Frost or Lovett on the mountains of Wales.
The little unpretending volume before us has suggested to us the propriety of repeating the protest against party violence and rancor, which we have on former occasions not hesitated to put forth. Glad indeed should we be to find that our example had been imitated by other and more influential caterers for the reading and thinking public. We cannot but believe that the republication of this work in England, may be eminently serviceable at the present time, if men of all parties will but read it, and if perchance they retain any respect for the name of Christian by which they are designated.
The volume, indeed, discloses to us one fact of which, we confess, we were not fully aware ; that the state of feeling in America, though of course depending on very different questions, singularly and lamentably harmonizes with that of the mother country. So much so, that if the references to particular facts and circumstances had been omitted, and America had not been mentioned, we should have received the work as eminently adapted to our own case. Take, for instance, the following as applicable to the state of political morality in America. Nothing could be written more appropriate to our own country at the present moment.
• There is also a theory of opposition to the government, the beau ideal of an opposition man, which, it were to be wished, were more considered than it is. To pull down and destroy, is not, in ordinary circumstances, the legitimate end of an opposition ; but it is to limit, to control, to correct, and thus ultimately to assist. It is not to look upon the government as a hostile power, that has made a lodgment in the country, and is to be expelled by a party war, but as a lawfully constituted power, that is to be watched, restrained, and kept from