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us, but is suffering to some extent, either through his own concerns, or through that sympathy with others which is sometimes as keen a pain! The following reflections may help to soothe our minds a little:
1. The present commercial distress is in accordance with the constitution of the world. We cannot enter here on any lengthened remarks on the cause of evil; but these few words of Dr. Channing are a beautiful comment on its existence: they occur in his essay on Milton, where he is speaking of the serene happiness which the poet attributes to our first parents before their fall:- “ We will not say that we envy our first parents, for we feel that there may be higher happiness than their's—a happiness won through struggle with inward and outward foes. The happiness of power and moral victory; the happiness of disinterested sacrifices and widespread love; the happiness of boundless hope and of thoughts which wander through eternity.' It is scarcely possible to conceive of social progress, of indi. vidual improvement, of moral energy, or of faith, apart from the stimulus of evil. And this stimulus is everywhere active. There is no place, no object, nothing within the range of our knowledge, that is not subject to evil. A body does not cast a shadow more regularly, than good is accompanied by evil.
It is so in the outward world, in our own bodies, and in our souls. It is the same power which delights and refreshes us in the breeze, that frightens and endangers us in the storm; famine and blight are from the same sources as genial seasons; and the accidents and devastations, which we sometimes suffer from, are caused by those same natural laws, in whose application most of our mechanical and other inventions consist. The seeds of our bodily disease and dissolution are brought into the world at the same time with those of growth and enjoyment. Our spirits may be wickedly as well as righteously disposed; and we do not possess a single faculty, however spiritual and holy, but it may be abused. There is no virtue that we can name but suggests a corresponding vice; and the more heavenwards the one is, the deeper the other would sink us in hell.
It is the same in society. Is a highly civilised state a good? A drawback must be allowed for its evils: there are refinements in vice as well as in virtue. Do knowledge and virtue progress faster in populous than they do in thinly-peopled districts ? Vice can speed itself too. Is freedom a good? It is; and all history shows it to be essential to the production of a great and good people; but yet it has its dangers. The absence of the restrictions which constitute liberty, may be the cause of popular licentiousness and violence.
There is nothing—not one of the elements out of which our world is composed—not one of the means that contribute to life-not one of the faculties, even of a perfect man—not one of the principles on which society rests, but is often the occasion of evil. This is the tenure under which we hold everything God gives us. Even religion, that most heavenly possession, may be corrupted. What enormities has Christianity been made to sanction,-murders, imprisonments, and all uncharitableness ! Even the holiest objects are susceptible of an unholy use. God's word is frequently misunderstood; and there are prayers on record, that men have made, which are now universally acknowledged to contain most atrocious sentiments. It is the constitution of this world, that evil should be felt as well as good enjoyed; and the presence of the one is often the occasion of the other.
Our commerce, for instance, is a vast advantage to ourselves and to the world. It is not, then, to be wondered at, if it has some concomitant evils—and sometimes great evils. For, what a commerce is ours! There come, gathering around our little island, ships from every point of the compass; and always, as the tide fills our ports, here a few—there, more-and into some, whole fleets-enter, with their cargoes,- vessels that have been running a perilous race with northern icebergs—ships that were freighted under a tropical sun--with others from almost all the parallels of latitude that intervene between the poles! And with every ebbing tide, equal numbers may be seen bearing off over “ the highway of the nations,” the produce of our mines and factories, for distribution through nearly every country of the known world; and, as experience has shown, in more than one case, to be carried farther than the British name had penetrated, or than the foot of civilised man had ever previously reached! The commonest piece of print that is manufactured here--contemptible to look at, has by no means a contemptible history. Its material, grown in the cotton plantations of America, furnished work, and the means of life—a sorrowful life though it beto a considerable number of dark-skinned men; transported down the Mississippi and across the Atlantic, it employed more than one ship’s crew; and, carried into some factory here, it contributed to the employment of several hundred hands. The colouring matter which it contains, came, it may be, from two, three, or even more, different countries. And thus, the commonest piece of cotton print is the joint production of half-a-dozen different countries; and, directly or indirectly, of the labour of many hundreds of human beings. Scarcely a day passes in which we do not participate, to some extent, in the productions of more than half the globe. It is not strange, if such complicated relations as these sometimes get confused. It is natural that they should. The decree, old as our race, is, that “in sorrow shall man eat of the ground all the days of his life;” and, however commerce may refine on the cultivation of the ground, this decree will still exist in it ineradicable. A great blessing as commerce is, it is an earthly one. It has its admixture of evil, in accordance with the wise and good purpose of the Creator. We are feeling that evil now. be patient under it as men. Let us do what we can to counteract and cure it; and for the rest, submit, in the solemn spirit of those who know tbat they are under God's Providence-who believe, that all evil is for ultimate and greater good--and who trust, that for every individual sufferer, his misfortunes may be the means to higher happiness, unalloyed and everlasting. Whether it be in suffering for the Gospel, or in suffering in any other way in a Gospel spirit, ' our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” “ Be patient, therefore, brethren."
2. Prolonged, as have been our present difficultiesfearful, as are the sufferings of the poor--and grievous,
as have been, and are, the losses of others, yet we must all acknowledge, that on the whole the present generation is an improvement on its predecessors. Probably, there has never been one generation before us in England, in which an individual, thoroughly acquainted with it, would have preferred occupying the same relative situation that he holds now in society.
Even if we leave out of the account half the advantages that we have over those times, ours are still preferable. Nay, I do not know, but that, contrasting only our public sufferings, ours are the more tolerable; for what age is there, which reads so enticingly in English history? Not the Anglo-Saxon, of which it is enough to say, that the lives of two-thirds of the people were valued, in the law, at £7 a- head; not the turbulent period of the Danish rule, with its endless rapines, conflagrations, and massacres; not the Norman domination, when a great proportion of the people were still in as vile a slavery as can be imagined, wben English slaves were a regular article of export to Ireland, and when there was scarcely a Scotch cottage but possessed one;—a period, as was the case both before and long after it, when reading and writing were ungentlemanly accomplishments; when all the energies of the rich were intent only on war and mutual aggressions; and when it was the noblest thing a noble could conceive, to build a strong castle with deep dungeons—his proudest occupation being to sally forth with a picked band, for some choice work of murder! Nor yet was the time we could have preferred, at some later period than this, when there was not an old man in the country but recollected two or three visits of the plague; when, if men thought of commerce at all, they experienced much more general losses than our bad seasons cost; when foreign ports were closed against every English vessel; when all trade stopped in an infected town, and when, in the awful silence of its streets, scarcely a sound was heard but of the dead-cart with its melancholy burden!
When was that happier age? We suffer now, from variations in the price of food, and through bad legislation, more than we ought; but probably, sufferings from this cause were never, on the average, less than they are
Till supplies from foreigners became more accessible than they were even two centuries ago, our ancestors must have suffered dreadfully from defective harvests. In the summer of 1349, the price of corn was twelve times as much as it was in the autumn of that year. From our own knowledge of the misery that accompanies even a comparatively small rise in the price of corn, we may conjecture the fearful wretchedness that is betokened by such a fluctuation in the value of what was then, even more than now, a necessary of life.
When—when was that golden English age, into which we could have wished to have been exchanged? It may be before us; but, most certainly, it is not behind. “Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these?” Our imaginations deceive us. As we look back into antiquity, all our ancestors seem to have been princes and warriors, or, at the very least, to have been happy, well-clothed servitors! They seem, all of them, to have lived in stone castles, round which the wind bowled only to increase the merriment of those within; and to have had no other business than hunting and feasting, archery and tourneys, processions and holidays; or, if they engaged in war, to have been uniformly successful!
But were those the times that we would have preferred to our own? There were slaves in those times as well as lords, wickedness as well as bravery, and filth and misery as well as gaud and glitter. Bulwer says, I know not on what authority, that “in London, Birmingham, and Liverpool, deaths have decreased, in less than a century, from one to twenty, to one to forty, precisely onehalf.” I do not question it; but be that as it may, it is unquestionable, that the average duration of life amongst us is fully double what it was in the middle ages. We live at this present time, one-seventh part longer than men did even about the year 1780. Where a man lived to be sixty then, he reaches seventy now; and out of twenty children that are born now, three more attain maturity than did then. Men previously were curtailed of the years that we live to, because their wants and sufferings were more numerous and intense than ours. So much has the amount of evil which we are liable to