« PrécédentContinuer »
tianity. In the first age of the Church there was a need for the sacrifice of property; therefore it was enjoined. The rule that all was to be forsaken was a means to an end adapted to that time and to the circumstances then existing, but not intended for all time and for all circumstances. The duty of every man is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; all that is consistent with that rule is permissible.
It is not possible to answer in a manner so satisfactory the second complaint as the first. There is very much of truth in the charge that the working men have been unfairly dealt with by society in the differences which have at times arisen between them and their employers. It does not apply to Christian ministers or Churches specially, except that they ought to know better, and to act more' impartially. It applies to the middle and trading classes generally. It must be admitted that they have almost invariably believed, whenever a dispute has arisen, that the masters were perfectly right, and, in consequence, the workmen completely wrong. Persons utterly ignorant of political economy have invoked its name as that of an unknown god who must, as a matter of course, be on the side of the three per cents. Strikes are usually held to be illegal, even in spite of the fact that the law is not visited upon the strikers. Fierce denunciations are often heard against the wickedness of men who are driving all the trade out of the country by their strikes, and the masters are painfully painted as unresisting lambs under the operation of fleecing. There are some who think not only that strikes are illegal and necessarily immoral, but that connection with a trade union is irreligious. We heard a short time ago of a gentleman who expressed the utmost surprise that a church should be found willing to permit membership to Mr. George Potter. He consoled himself with the reflection, Well, he could never have entered ours.
Now it is quite time that this stupid prejudice and pernicious ignorance were removed. It is impossible to talk reasonably about the best means of curing the evils to meet which strikes are designed, while the mind is charged with this partiality and hostility. We shall help in this direction if we can remove these errors from the minds of some of our readers. We will take the worst and most common mistake first, which is the suspicion that combinations among workmen to affect the rate of wages is wrong, and, if not illegal, is nevertheless tyrannical and oppressive to the masters. The least acquaintance with the subject would show us that it is not illegal, since the laws which prohibited the practice among workmen were abolished more than forty years ago. This offering to justice was presented by an unreformed
House of Parliament, and we may therefore infer that the combination laws were unquestionably and manifestly unjust and unjustifiable. Since that time workmen as well as masters have been allowed to concert together, and to combine for the defence of their own interests. A little consideration would further lead us to the conclusion that it is not wrong in any sense to combine for the purpose of obtaining a higher rate of wages, since wages are the price of labour, and no one thinks it wrong to get as much as he can for the article he offers for sale. If it is not wrong for one person to refuse to take the price offered by a person who wishes to buy any article, it is not wrong for two persons who have the same article to sell to agree not to take less than a certain sum; and if it is not wrong for two persons so to agree, it is not wrong for any number of persons to do the same. The larger the number of persons the more difficult it is to obtain agreement; but the right or the wrong of the matter is not affected by the numbers involved. Some time ago it was suspected that the butchers in London had agreed to keep the price of meat very high under pretence of there being but a short supply owing to the cattle plague. It was suggested in the newspapers that all London should abstain from eating meat for a week in order to reduce the price. The suggestion was not acted upon, not because it was thought to be wrong, but because it was feared that unanimity could not be obtained. If the plan had been carried out it would have been a strike among the consumers of meat, and would probably have had the desired effect. It would have been a serious loss to the butchers, especially as their stock of meat would have perished; but would it have been denounced by housekeepers as tyrannical or oppressive? So far, then, from combinations being necessarily mischievous and wrong, they may be most useful, and are always legal. On this point we may be allowed to quote Mr. Mill, who says, “I do not hesitate to say that associations of labourers, of a nature similar to trades unions, far from being a hindrance to a free market for labour, are the necessary instrumentality of that free market; the indispensable means of enabling the sellers of labour to take due care of their own interests under a system of competition.” It iş useful to shield the argument under the authority of the first economist of the age, because his science is generally shaken in the face of any one who dares to speak a word on behalf of workmen on strike. But, it is often said, Strikes always fail; the masters are sure to get the better of the men in the end, and therefore, if they are not wrong, they are foolish. This is another of the many errors common in society upon this subject. Strikes do not always fail. Foolish strikes do—that is to say, strikes which seek to restrict the methods of work, and to repress skill. And strikes that are made up of large and unmanageable numbers of men, who may be distributed over wide districts, sometimes fail. But a just demand, enforced by a well-directed and compact combination, is usually granted. Mr. Fawcett, in his work on political economy, while he admits most fully the evils attendant upon strikes, shows that they do not always fail. He gives half-adozen instances of successful strikes, all prior to the year 1860; many might now be added which have occurred since that time. The most recent instance is that of the engine-drivers on the South-Eastern Railway. They were successful in so far as they were just: they failed in carrying an unreasonable proposal
. They demanded higher wages and fewer hours of labour. Their demand was acceded; and they then required that every man should be paid alike, quite independently of his skill. In this
failed, and not unreasonably. There must be differences of ability, even in engine-driving, though it is but a mechanical work; and those differences should be recognized in the payment received. But supposing that thus far we have gained the assent of our readers, it may be said that, admitting a strike may be successful, the gain in higher wages is never worth the cost of obtaining. The men and their families on strike have been sustained out of the wages fund; they have been wasting the capital of their masters; they have been losing week by week so many hundreds of pounds which they might have received. Can this waste, it is asked, ever be recovered? We reply, it may be, and sometimes is. Men are capable of working much harder than they usually do, and of earning more than their average wages; and this is the case after a strike. Many more contracts are made, owing to the stoppage which has taken place in production. The men are in good humour, and anxious to make up for loss in time and wages; and so the capital of the country in that branch of industry is increased to an unusual extent. The price paid may not always be a loss if it tends to prevent strikes for many years. The power possessed by the men is known to the masters, and has, even when latent, the effect of equalizing profits and wages. The demands of labourers for higher wages are sometimes anticipated by masters, who, in a season of prosperity, spontaneously make them sharers of it.
There is no doubt, however, that it is precisely at this point we reach the evils of trades unions. These evils are not essential to them, but incidental; they are not necessarily connected with them, though they usually are. Strikes are useful only so far as their object is just, and their formation is perfectly voluntary. It is hardly likely that justice is always on the side of the men, and it is to be feared that the liberty of individual workmen is sometimes invaded. No doubt the life of a knobstick is anything but a pleasant one; hitherto his misery, whatever it may have been, has been secret. We may expect shortly to have his experience told in a parliamentary blue-book, if not in a very picturesque manner, at least with truth. Till then we will postpone the further consideration of him, trusting that the day of his deliverance draweth nigh.
Trades unions are the standing armies of the workmen, kept up, it must be admitted, at the present time on a war footing. Like all standing armies, they are expensive and dangerous ; provocative of hostility, and apt to become oppressive. A strike is a state of open war, an appeal to force and patience. Unfortunately, too often victory is determined not by right, but by the capacity of endurance. At the best, it is but a rude and uncivilized method of gaining the end sought. Its existence among us shows that we are still wanting in a perfect science of economics. The principle of reconciliation between the interests of the individual master and workman has not been found. The nearest approach to it seems to be that of giving the latter a share in the concern for which he labours; but that hardly differs from the demand he makes that profits and wages shall be more equal. Meanwhile, what has the Christian Church to say on the subject? “Much every way,” but chiefly in this direction. It can point out the cause of these disputes and combinations ; it is to be found in the selfishness of the two classes, that they arise from every man looking on his own things and not on the things of others. It can assert the principle of the Gospel that men are brethren, masters and servants; that they are to regard each other as such ; that they are each to seek, not their own, but the other’s good. For saying this it will probably be laughed at, even by some of its own professors, who narrow the brotherhood to members of the church to which they belong, or who exclude the exercise of Gospel rules from the market and the factory. The distrustful always think the attempt to apply the principles of Christianity to society Utopian; they forget that the loving of those who love us is the highest exercise of the virtue of the Publican, but the lowest in the Christian. There is a reward for blessing those who use us despitefully; and the Christian slave was advised to count his master worthy of all honour, “ that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.” The Gospel has many foes; the worst are they of its own household, who believe that it is for individuals merely, and not for societies. We are fast becoming a nation of covetous atoms, connected by common opinions and antipathies, not by the sense of a common origin, destiny, and God. A common faith can alone unite us and sustain the life of the nation.
THE GIFT OF TONGUES.
The nature of the gift of tongues, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, and the first Epistle to the Corinthians, is certainly a subject of much interest and importance; and neither the common popular view, that it was simply the power to preach the Gospel in a foreign language, nor that which is held by many modern commentators, that it was an impulsive unintelligible utterance, can be regarded as altogether satisfactory. The very able paper which appeared in the April number of the CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR removes some difficulties, and is free from some objections to which other opinions are liable. In many things it will gain, as it deserves, the approval and admiration of most readers. But there are a few things to which exception may be taken, and as I am sure the writer would desire fair criticism more than any compliment, so probably to others, a further consideration of this subject may not be unacceptable.
It is justly maintained that the gifts mentioned in the history, and those referred to in the Epistle, are of the same nature, the terms by which they are designated being the same or similar. The properly miraculous character of the endowment is also upheld, as plainly declared in the narrative, and implied in the references. It is likewise shown that the language used must have been intelligible to the speaker, or his words would be as useless to himself as to others by whom they were not understood.* But it is supposed that the new tongue was not an earthly language which would naturally be intelligible to some, but a heavenly dialect, which was understood only by those hearers who received a spiritual gift corresponding to that which was imparted to the speaker. Now this view seems to me to be contrary to the statements of the history concerning the languages spoken at the day of Pentecost; it introduces a second miracle of which the narrative says nothing, and which does not agree with what is stated; and it lessens much the use and significance of the first miracle. It is explicitly declared of the Apostles, that they “began to speak in other tongues” (Acts ii. 4); and of the foreigners present, that they heard them speak each in his own language" (v. 6). If the sounds uttered were not intelligible to some, they would not be a lan
* The argument of Archbishop Whately will, to most persons, suffice for the establishment of this point. All spiritual gifts are for edification. No unintelligible discourse is for edification. No unintelligible discourse is a spiritual gift.