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"Old things shall pass away."
That an integral reform will comprise, not only an amendment in our (1) Corn Laws, (2) Monetary Arrangements, (3) Penal Code, (4) Education, (5) the Church, (6) the Law of Primogeniture, (7) Divorce; but will extend to questions yet publicly unmooted, or unfavorably regarded, such as (1) that of a reliance on Commercial Prosperity, (2) a belief in the value of the purest conceivable Representative Legislature, (3) the right of man to inflict Pain on man, (4) the demand for a purer Generation in preference to a better Education, (5) the reign of Love in Man instead of human Opinions, (6) the restoration of all things to their primitive Owner, and hence the abrogation of Property, either individual or collective, and (7) the Divine Sanction, instead of the Civil and Ecclesiastical authority, for Marriage.
That the obstacles encountered, in any endeavor to secure the smallest proposed public reform, are not to be taken as a measure for the difficulties in realizing those of a deeper character, as above enumerated; for as the latter are more vital and real, so are they less dependent on public concurrence, and need rather an individual practice than an associative appeal.
That while the benevolent mind perceives and desires the entire reform which should be accomplished, the practical reformer will bound his aims by that which is possible at the moment; for while a twenty years' agitation is insufficient to procure the slighest modification in the Corn Laws, of little value when attained, and fifty years' advocacy shall not accomplish a reform in parliament, declared worthless and delusive as soon as it is conceded, the abiding, and real, and happy reforms are much more within our own power, at the same time that their value is, under every consideration, undoubted.
That however extensive, grand, or noble may be the ultimate measures proposed, it is thus the imperative duty of the sincere reformer at once to commence that course of conduct, which must not less conduce to his own than to the universal good.
That a reform in the relation of master and servant, in faith in money, in deference to wealth, in diet, habits of life, modes of intercourse, and other particulars, almost or entirely under the control of each individual, is the first series of practical measures to be adopted, at once the proof of sincerity, and the earnest of future success.
That a personal reform of this kind, humble as it may ap
pear, is obviously the key to every future and wider good. By reformed individuals only can reformed laws be enacted, or reformed plans effected. By him alone, who is reformed and well regulated, can the appeal fairly be made to others, either privately or publicly, to submit to a superior rule. By such as have themselves become somewhat purified must the purer life and measures be indicated. The greatest Apostle of Reform is the most reformed.
The speaker added as a comment on this paper, Human institutions and human habits are but the histories of men's natures, and have in all times disclosed the heaven-wandering attributes of their projectors. At present, institutions are extremely complex, and so wreathed together, that one reform compels a hundred, and of course every attempt to reform in one part is resisted by the establishment in all parts. But the divine thought permits us not to remain in quietude. That, which we are not, rises before us, as that, which we are to be. Our aspirations are the pledge of their own fulfilment. Hope drives forward with the speed of wind, and affirms that the unallowable of to-day shall be to-morrow within our reach; if that which is to-day only attainable shall to-morrow be a realized fact.
Beneath the actual which a man is, there is always covered a possible to tempt him forward, and beneath that an impossible. Beneath sense lie reason and understanding; beneath them both, humility; and beneath all, God. To be Godlike, we must pass through the grades of progress. We may make the experiences of the rational the humane life, and at last the life of God. But our precessions are not so much of time as of being. Even now the God-life is enfolded in us, even now the streams of eternity course freely in our central heart. If impelled by the spirit to intermingle with the arrangements of polities of the world in order to improve them, we shall discover the high point, from which we begin by the God-thought, in our interference. Our act must be divine. We seem to do; God does. God empowers legislators, and ennobles them for their fidelity. Let them, however, be apostles, not apostles' representatives; men of God, not men of men. Personal elevation is our credentials. Personal reform is that which is practicable, and without it our efforts on behalf of others are dreams only.
After this had been considered and approved, another of our friends offered the following scripture.
"Bring no more vain oblations."
As men sincerely desirous of being that which we have conceived in idea, earnestly longing to assert the transcendency of divine humanity over all creeds, sayings, and theories, the question occured to us, "How shall we find bread for the support of our bodies?" We proposed reducing our wants to nature's simplest needs; but on due consideration, we perceived that the restrictions on food precluded our obtaining it, and we learned with dismay that the spirit, which monopolizes bread and other constituents of life, denounced from the bosom of society, "You shall not live a conscientious life."
Not abashed, however, by this decree, we resolved to press our investigations, and we asked who had uttered this practical blasphemy in the face of high heaven? And all voices answered, that "the men trusting in property had done it." We took up this question of property, and asked, "By what tenure is it held?" And society answered, "On the tenure of might and immemorial custom." But when we interrogated our own hearts, and asked, "Did Divinity ever thus sanction possession?" our hearts, indeed, answered not; but the God within spoke plainly, that "Pure Love, which is ever communicative, never yet conceded to any being the right of appropriation." But when society urged further, that government had legitimated possession, we began to inquire on what authority government itself rested. And the government's answer was immediately proffered, "We protect the rights of property, and devise means for the accumulation of more. We shield the good from adversities, and we punish the evil-doers." Is this true? we thought.... No; government had not redeemed its promise to us, and we would no longer care for its provisions. The first law, too, of Heaven is Love, and government is founded on force. We were not believers in force; we believed that moral majesty was far more protection to man than the shield of a mighty empire; believed that a man encased in his own humanity was more secure, than he who was protected by a thousand bayonets. Our faith was in moral uprightness, and not in the prowess of armies. We would be established in love, and not in fear; and government is, in all these respects, infidel to the good. We asked, "Whether domination was of God?" and God answered, "No."
But we thought that the religious institute would do something for humanity, that the priest would succor the oppressed, and loose the burdens of the heavy laden. But the priest told us, he too loved, above all things, domination and homage.
He laughed at human perfectibility. He declared, that loyalty to the prince, and pecuniary reverence to the church, were his only hope of salvation.
We, therefore, ignore human governments, creeds, and institutions; we deny the right of any man to dictate laws for our regulation, or duties for our performance; and declare our allegiance only to Universal Love, the all-embracing Justice.
In addition to this statement of his thought the second speaker asked, Why does a man need an outward law? Simply because the law of love has been hidden. Men, are they not bankers and capitalists, whose Bank and Capital is God? Why should they borrow of men? Why should the all-wealthy seek the substitutes of riches? If we assert our manhood, what do we need of learning, precedent, or government? Let the impoverished seek for notes of hand; let the timid and lawless ask protection of the arm of power. Let the foolish still dream, that the vanity of book-miners will be their wisdom for us, we claim wealth, love, and wisdom, as essential informations of the Divinity. Besides, human institutions bear no fruit. If you plant them, they will yield nothing. Prohibitions and commands stand for nothing. "Thou shalt not kill," which is a history recording to sense what the divine law of purity suggests in every unperverted heart, is held binding by none. What shall I not kill? asks the butcher, the poulterer, the fishmonger, and he answers, All things in which I do not trade. And what shall the soldier not kill? All men, except his enemies. These exceptions make the law nugatory. The command is universal only for the pure soul, that neither stabs nor strangles. The laws of men inculcate and command slaughter. Nor will they exculpate rebellion on the ground, that holiness has rendered obedience impossible. But we must ignore laws which ignore holiness. Our trust is in purity, not in vengeance.
A third person had written down his thought as follows.
"Behold I make all things new."
That in order to attain the highest excellence of which man is capable, not only is a searching Reform necessary in the existing order of men and things, but the Generation of a new race of persons is demanded, who shall project institutions and initiate conditions altogether original, and commensurate with the being and wants of humanity.
That the germs of this new generation are even now dis
coverable in human beings, but have been hitherto either choked by ungenial circumstances, or, having borne fruit prematurely or imperfectly, have attained no abiding growth.
That the elements for a superior germination consist in an innocent fertile mind, and a chaste healthful body, built up from the purest and most volatile productions of the uncontaminated earth; thus removing all hinderances to the immediate influx of Deity into the spiritual faculties and corporeal organs. Hence the true Generator's attention will be drawn to whatsoever pertains to the following constituents of Man and of Society :
Primarily, Marriage and the Family Life, including of course, the Breeding and Education of Children. Secondly, Housewifery and Husbandry.
Thirdly, The relations of the Neighborhood.
It is obvious, that society, as at present constituted, invades all and every one of these relations; and it is, therefore, proposed to select a spot whereon the new Eden may be planted, and man may, untempted by evil, dwell in harmony with his Creator, with himself, his fellows, and with all external natures.
On a survey of the present civilized world, Providence seems to have ordained the United States of America, more especially New England, as the field wherein this idea is to be realized in actual experience; and, trusting in the faith which inspires, the hope which ensures, and the power which enacts, a few persons, both in the new country and the old, are uniting their efforts to secure, at the earliest possible moment, and by the simplest possible means, a consummation so sublime, so humane, so divine.
After reading this paper, he added words to this effect. Reformation belongs not to us, it is but a chimera. pose not to make new combinations of old substances, the elements themselves shall be new. The great enigma, to solve which man has ever labored, is answered in the one fact, Birth. The disciplines, the loves, the wishes, the sorrows, the joys, the travail of many years, are crowded into conception, gestation, and Birth. If you ask where evil commences, the answer is, in Birth. If you ask what is the unpardonable sin, the answer is an unholy birth. The most sacred, the most profane, the most solemn, the most irreverent, the most godlike, yet possibly the most brutal of acts. This one stands as a centre to all extremes, it is the point on which God and Devil wage most irreconcilable warfare. Let Birth be surrendered to the spirit, and the results shall be blessed.