Images de page
PDF
ePub

passage describing the peace and repose of the wise man, introduces as one of the features his being exempted from feeling pity for the necessitous person. The condition of the poor can hardly be described more elegantly than in the following words, which I quote with pleasure: “When we attempt to inquire about the poor, in ancient times, the most ominous thing that meets us is the deficiency of records. Here and there at intervals we may discover some track of their existence, some bloody footprint marking where man has been and struggled; a wild outbreak against intolerable oppression; a servile war; a cry of famishing multitudes; and then a long death-like silence. This is all.

“They have shewn themselves in their misery and impotence, and then vanished. For a moment a helpless hand has been raised above that tumultuous and stormy ocean, and then the waters have covered it again. They are a

. race without name, memorial, or relic. They have left nothing by which they may be remembered on earth. Their history has never been written. The most barbarous tribes have bequeathed tokens of their existence for the curious to investigate; some rude monument or cluster of graves in the wilderness; a weapon of war, or an article of domestic use; the deeds of the chief, or the wisdom of the sage, embalmed in tale or song,—but these are a people who have lived and died in silence. Spread through all lands, and numerous in every age, they have done nothing to perpetuate their memory. They have had neither champion nor teacher; they have left neither token nor monument; in life and death they are as if they had never been. Now there is something more profoundly expressive in this great and solemn silence regarding a vast portion of the human race, than if we were furnished with the most minute details of their condition and sufferings. It is as much as to say that for age after age their claims, their wants, their miseries, their very existence, made no impression on the rest of the world; that they were unable to effect anything for themselves or make their presence felt, and so have passed away the objects of a cold and merciless indifference.”1

i Georg. ii. 499.

This was inevitable; superior power constituted right, and beneath the heel of the mighty the weak and the poor were pulverized. But with the Incarnation, right became dogmatic. The rights of man are at the present day acknowledged on all sides, though their exercise is not everywhere allowed; but that which constitutes rights and that which constitutes them equal in all men has been forgotten.

This is the basis of rights now:--They are derived from God; men are responsible to God for their exercise. All men are brethren with equal rights, for all men are sprung from one father and one mother; and all men are one family in Christ the universal Man.

Has the Australian savage a right to live and appropriate the results of his toil in the face of the active and intelligent English colonist? If that savage be only a tail-less ape, the colonist may shoot him and seize on his store of kangaroo-meat; but if that savage be his brother, rived from one primeval stock, and deriving his rights and responsibilities from the same God-Man, then his life and his kangaroo-meat are his own, and he cannot be robbed of either without violation of God's law.

The state of woman was not much better than that of a slave. She was the property of the man because she was

1 Dr. Maturin: Two Sermons, Dublin, 1866.

[ocr errors]

weaker than man, and right must be either dogmatic or forcible. Right if not dogmatic is nothing at all, and right if dogmatic is equal for all. The National Assembly of 1789 proclaimed the rights of man, but without founding them on any principle. They therefore reposed merely on the will of the Assembly, and when the Assembly became the Convention, superior force constituted the only right that was acknowledged.

Aristotle boasted of the advantage to the Greeks over the barbarians, that woman amongst them had been raised to be the real helpmate of man, and not degraded to the level of the slave. But that position was accorded her not as hers by right, but as rendered necessary. Socrates endeavoured to place the relations of man and wife in a higher, purer light, but utility as its end appears in his description of the compact. “God has given to woman a nature adapted to the cares within doors, to man one suitable for out-door cares. He has prepared the soul and the body of man to support cold and heat, long journeys and expeditions; He has given less strength to the woman. As He has confided to her the nutrition of the new-born infant, He has inspired her with more tenderness for the new progeniture than He has man. He has destined her to look after the goods brought home, and He knew that fear is not a bad guardian, therefore He has given to her a soul more timorous than her husband's. Knowing also that the workman outside must sometimes defend himself against aggression, He has endowed man with more intrepidity. Nature not having made either of them perfect, they have need of each other, and their union is the most useful, because they mutually complete one another. We must therefore fulfil as best we can the duties God has assigned to each of us. What nature has prescribed, the law has approved by uniting man and woman. If God gives them a community of children, the law imposes on them the government of the house, and the law declares honourable the functions which God attributes specially to each of the two sexes. In fact, it is more honest for the woman to remain within than to gad about without; it is more shameful for the man to shut himself within than to occupy himself with exterior cares.”

1 Polit. i. 1, 5.

But as the object of marriage was utility, the law and custom allowed of practices inconsistent with a recognition of the woman being free of her person.

Citizens, says Plutarch, should not be jealous and exclusive about the possession of their wives, as the object of marriage is the production of sturdy soldiers, but rather should share them with others, an oldish man ought to give up his wife to a younger for a time, in order to have children of her; and so it was accounted a proper thing, as Polybius tells us, for a husband who had already several children by his wife to lend her to his friend. Therefore, in Sparta, if a man was desirous of children without burdening himself with a wife, he would borrow his neighbour's wife for a period; and this promiscuousness was carried so far that three, and sometimes four, Spartans, had one woman for a wife in common.

In Rome the wife held an honourable place at her husband's side, but she was, nevertheless, entirely dependent on her lord. In the earlier times, the will of the father of the household was despotic, with right of life and death; Egnatius Mecenius put his wife to death for having drunk every one else, to hate the man who is wiser, richer, and more powerful than himself, and to spurn from him the ignorant, the poor, and the weak.

| Xenophon : Econ. c. vii.

? Xen. de Rep. Lac. i. 8; Polyb. Fragm. in Script. Vet. Nov. Coll. ed. Hav. ii. 384.

The Protestant spirit is not confined to sectarian bodies, it has invaded the Roman Church. If Anglican bishops in their charges attack all those religious truths to which they are themselves colour-blind, Roman prelates assail all those scientific truths of which they are themselves ignorant, as though they were inevitably destructive to religion. That same narrow spirit animates equally the Roman curia and the Puritan press, the Inquisition and the “Church Association.” It is that same spirit which urges Pius IX. to proclaim his own personal infallibility, and which makes the sects split and splinter into smaller and yet smaller fragments, till each man's opinion becomes his only truth, and every man becomes his own god.

The principle of Persecution is by its very nature unCatholic. The development of the spirit of intolerance in the Roman communion inevitably followed the introduction of the autocratic principle,—the erection of the Papacy into a spiritual sovereignty. One evil led to another. Whether compulsion be used to make a man believe twelve articles of belief when he can only mentally grasp three, or to make a man surrender nine because the persecutor can only tolerate three, is immaterial, the principle is identical, the setting up of the belief of one man as the measure of belief to other men—a principle eminently Protestant. Consequently, Philip II. of Spain was more of a Protestant than a Catholic at heart, and William the Silent, ready to tolerate all religions, was a truer Catholic than his foe.

Luther and Calvin introduced the wedge to drive apart religion and morality, and Puritanism has forced apart religion and æsthetics. The beauty of holiness is taught to

« PrécédentContinuer »