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lightened political economists of the day have contended. The old fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc is so common that it is not surprising to find a number of people ascribing calamities which are mani. festly due to an entirely different class of causes to Free Trade ; but a more extended and impartial induction would show that the nation has not been guilty of the egregious blunder which these theorists impute to it, and that if trade is suffering, that suffering is partly the righteous and necessary penalty of a commercial immorality, partly the price paid to secure a blessing for which a far greater sacrifice might cheerfully have been made.
The American War is the real centre of the history of the last ten years, for though, in the exciting events, especially in our own national life, that have since occurred, it seems almost like a thing of the distant past, its effects are felt to the present hour. A war means a time of high prices and daring speculation, producing such an inflation of trade as we saw in 1864 and 1865, to be followed by the disastrous collapse and panic which commenced with the Black Thursday of 1866, and has not yet run out its course. But this was the least of its consequences. The severe pressure which fell upon one great branch of our industry disturbed, and still disturbs, our whole commercial system to an extent which scarcely seems to be fully appreciated. Lancashire is not England, but a paralysis of trade in Lancashire must ultimately tell upon the trade of the whole country, and is doing so at the present hour. The county has never been able to recover the disastrous effects of the loss of a large portion of her most important cotton supply, and all other trade sympathises more or less with the depression under which her staple industry suffers. But so far as this is the cause of any of our present difficulties we ought surely to bear them without murmuring, and, instead of indulging in senseless clamour about Free Trade, submit cheerfully to the temporary interruption to our trade which was necessary to the overthrow of a gigantic system of iniquity with which, unhappily, we had become associated.
The abolition of American slavery is perhaps the grandest achievement of the period. In 1860 how strong, how impregnable, how assured of continued existence it looked! The distant mutterings of the storm by which it was to be overthrown might be heard, but few, if any, could have foretold when it would burst and what would be its result. James Buchanan was then President-one of the meanest, basest, and most servile tools whom the great slaveowning party had ever seated at the White House. Every department of the Government was crowded with men ready to do the bidding of the Southern planters. The army and navy were in their hands, the Slave States were under a reign of terror, and even in the States which called themselves free there were but few voices raised on behalf of the oppressed. What was still sadder, even among the ministers of Christianity were found numbers to side with the oppressor, and the churches disgraced themselves by the maintenance of regulations relative to the coloured race inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Gospel. Looking at that mighty phalanx of wealth and numbers, of political interests and class feelings, of Conservative instincts and of popular passions arrayed against the slave, who would have dared, in 1860, to predict that the day of his emancipation was drawing near? Yet, in spite of the fears of the timid and the selfishness of the interested, the rage of the oppressor and the disloyalty of many whose Christian principles should have made them stern enemies of his oppression, it was cast down. I know nothing more encouraging to the friends of progress or more fitted to strengthen the faith of those who cherish the assurance that because this is God's world“ truth must ever come uppermost, and justice must ever be done,” than the sudden and complete downfall of a system which appeared almost omnipotent up to the very hour when the sentence went forth, “Cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground ?”
In the excitement of the contest we did not realise all that was involved in the issue, but we see now how much human liberty would have lost by the triumph of the South, how mighty an impetus has been given to every noble movement by the complete victory of the North. To it, in conjunction with other causes undoubtedly, but still to it mainly, we owe the growing determination to look at questions in the light of truth and righteousness, rather than of inere interest and sentiment, which is so characteristic of the times. This was the secret of the fall of the Irish Church. There were numbers who were desirous to pacify Irish discontent who did not see how the redress of this particular grievance would materially affect the condition or alter the feelings of the mass of the people, but they saw that it was a grievance, and that it must not be perpetuated. Whatever the consequences, they (and they proved to be the majority of the people) were resolved simply to do the right. And the same principle is being carried more and more into our political action, under the guidance of a Prime Minister who has been assailed more bitterly perhaps than any of his predecessors in the high office which he holds, but who, beyond most of them, is influenced by a conscientious desire to see what is just, and to do it. The intention of dealing with the Irish land question, and the manner in which that question has been approached; the union of the best class of Churchmen with Nonconformists, to rescue a national heritage from the hands of one section of the people, by making the honours and emoluments of the universities accessible to all; the determination to establish a system of national education which shall meet the wants of all and offend the religious principles of none; the anxiety to remedy the defects of our Poor-law management, to end the stupid administration of Beadledom, and to render such scandals as those of St. Pancras impossible, are all indications of the same practical spirit of righteousness which is continually making itself more felt, and which is destined ultimately to work important changes.
Unquestionably we occupy a vantage-ground to-day as compared with the first day of 1860. We have made progress even commercially, despite the discouraging appearances of the hour. Still more decidedly have we advanced politically and socially, and I would fain hope that our religious life is higher in its tone and more powerful in its influence. There are plenty of evils to be corrected and wrongs to be redressed, wild wastes and desolations of human ignorance and wretchedness to be reclaimed, an amount of sin and suffering round about us which will tax the activity and benevolence of earnest Christian men, if it is to be wisely dealt with. Perhaps these things stand out even more prominently, and strike us more than they have done in past days; but, if so, the true reason is, not that they have increased, but that the feeling in relation to them has been deepened, and that the resolve to bring about a better state of things is more sincere and determined, more ready for work, more willing to make sacrifices in order to its success. Certainly prejudice is less rampant, old abuses are defended with less spirit and with continually decreasing success, the pleadings of reason and justice receive at all events a more attentive consideration, and it is to be hoped therefore will be attended with greater result. In all this sincere believers in the Gospel of Christ must rejoice. It is true that it, in common with everything else, may have to meet a more searching scrutiny. The foundation of facts on which it rests, the harmony of its teachings with science, the character of the influence it is exerting on mankind, will all be more narrowly tested. But from this inquiry it need not shrink. Much that belongs to human systems may and will pass away, but the Divine truth will only come out brighter and stronger from the crucible into which it has been cast. Even amid the attacks upon
Christian doctrine that are so rife we may rejoice in the practical recognition of the spirit of Christianity which is afforded in all movements towards reform and progress which are going on round us. Men who are casting out any of the devils of society are doing Christ's work even though they follow not with us, and do not in all cases honour and reverence the name of our Master. God forbid that we should attempt to hinder them or should under-rate the service which, though unconsciously and unwillingly, even they are rendering to the Gospel.
I have no desire to write in a strain too sanguine or to ignore symptoms of a less favourable character. What I desire is to guard against the spirit that is for ever dwelling upon discouragements, and is so oppressed with the thought of the evil that is to be found in our modern life as to be insensible to the good. It would be foolish and uncandid to deny that in a time of eager inquiry and mental activity such as that in which we live there is sure to be much that will fill the heart of a simple-minded believer with anxiety. The questioning of the truths which to him have long been the most precious certainties, the adoption of a style of criticism whose severe and unsparing iconoclasm seems to him a piece of daring irreverence, the assertion of principles which in his view threaten the very foundations of religion, perplex and alarm him. Perhaps he sits down to sorrow over the troubles which he fancies are coming, perhaps he resigns himself to the thought that he is of an old generation, and cannot understand the ways of the new one, perhaps (and this is the most unfortunate course of all) he gives himself to a mere bigoted resistance to all change. It is impossible not to feel with such men, for there is much in the attitude assumed by numbers to Christianity which those who hold it to be God's great plan for the redemption of the world cannot view without sorrow. In the reaction against the tyranny of creeds there is a senseless mode of talking about dogma which would leave men without a creed at all. In the demand for “ liberty of prophesying” there is often a singular disregard of truth and right; and it is assumed that, provided only liberty be secured, it matters little what obligations, moral or legal, be violated. In the boastful assertions of the power of Science the claims of Revelation are often quietly put aside as unworthy of serious refutation, and the very idea of a personal God is in danger of being lost in the omnipotence ascribed to Law. And, not least, all these views are set forth in a free and defiant tone, which grates on the feelings of those whose holiest instincts are wounded by the flippant levity with which these controversies are often conducted.
It is right enough to be alive to all this, and to guard against its dangerous tendencies, but it is not well to forget the brighter aspects of the case. We may have been hurried to one extreme, but counteractive influences are sure ere long to come into play and restore us to a wiser and more moderate state of feeling. We are in a state of transition, and while passing through it we are sensible to all the evils of change without realising the advantages which we may hope ultimately to secure. It is something, for example, to be delivered from the bard and fast lines of mere dogma; and though at present there is a fear that the importance of definite and correct belief may be under-rated, we may be assured that this is a natural and temporary excess, which will bring with it its own correction. In the crumbling of venerable institutions and time-honoured forms there may be in timid minds an anxious dread as to what may be involved in their fall, but the believing heart may surely cherish the confidence that in their ruin they will rise something nobler. It is not likely that we shall return to the old, but if experience does not all go for nothing, then, as the result of all this sifting and inquiry, we may look forward to a new that shall be better.
Meanwhile we are actors, not mere spectators. The age affects us, but we also to the measure of our power are telling upon it. We have testimony to bear, influence to exert, character to form, that in its turn it may act on others and on society at large. It is for us so to fill our place and do our work in the battle against evil both within and without that we may rest and stand in our lot in the end of the days. To the end we are rapidly passing on. Through tribulations which are testing our principles, through conflicts which are calling forth our faith and courage, and in which we may win the crown of life, through changes each of which leaves its impress upon us, we are passing to the end. On and on the stream of time rushes to the ocean of eternity, bearing on it all our hopes and fears. Another year gone means the end of another series of opportunities for doing manful and holy work, and the dawn of a new year is as a trumpet-call to wake us from every tendency to spiritual indifference, to remind us that already the day is far spent and the night is at hand, to inspire us with fresh energy and confidence to enter upon the new fields that are opening before us. The Master will soon call us to give an account of the work that we have done. “Oh! that each in the day of His coming may say, I have fought my way through; I have finished the work Thou didst give
me to do. Oh! that each from his Lord may receive the glad word, Well and faithfully done, enter into My joy and sit down on My throne.”
HESTER GOLDERING’S SACRIFICE.
BY MAGGIE SYMINGTON.
CHAPTER 1.-WHAT LED TO THE SACRIFICE. THE scene is laid in a little bird's nest of a room in one of those terrace rows of houses run up by builders without much regard to comfort, but with an eye to respectability, now so common upon