C. A. (Cyrus Augustus) Bartol.

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by


In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.













X. LAW 245








1 23086



WHAT legislators sometimes say is true of all
questions : they may be divided. Life looks
like a page disfigured with interrogation-points ; and
every answer breeds new curiosity, as if it were a
polyp. The child is an incarnate question, posing all
his elders ; and the widening circle of light subtends
such a broader round of darkness as to give color to
the old sage s remark, " One thing I know, that God
hates inquisitiveness ; " while many, like Lord Bacon,
value investigation superficially for its results of utility,
despairing of absolute truth. But experience and
memory are tests that all inquiry is intrinsically pre
cious. I call to mind a college excursion with the
mathematical professor, to measure with instruments,
by triangulation, the distance between some towns in
Maine. How far it was I have long since forgot,
but not the wonderful delight of the experiment, the
new dignity of the search for hill-tops of observation,
nor the cup of tamarind water a good woman, honor
ing our errand, gave to the thirsty, foot-sore wanderers
by the way. We are glad at every solution of a


problem ; yet queries are the intellectual miser s
hoard, in whose satisfaction by successful study he
would not rejoice, but that other queries take their
place. I fancy a shade of sadness tinged the exultation
of Columbus when the Western hemisphere showed
signs of its neighborhood to his vessel, to unbury the
mystery of the deep, and give an interpretation to the
magnificent dream he had so soon to exchange for
ungrateful facts. To guess pleases as to find out the
conundrum, riddle, or buried city. Our first concep
tion equals in pleasure any verification. The hen is
not happier among the brood she is so anxious about
than in her nest ; and in the mind s incubation there
are no heavy hours, but Time blends with Eternity, so
deep and peaceful is its flow.

In all pursuit there is a certain dignity. The
money-making we despise is nobler than profuseness,
and is often not avarice of acquisition, but activity of
worthy powers ; so that a sincere Croesus said, if his
children had as much comfort in spending as he in
accumulating his fortune, he should be content. It is a
pulpit lamentation, as shallow as it is doleful, that we
are but getting ready to live, as also that poet line,

" Man never is, but always to be blest."

Let me join the enterprise, share who will the fruit !
To go with Cortes was better than Mexican gold ; and
my friend s expedition to Alaska is of more worth than
any plant or precious fur. You buy your land and
build your house, arrange the orchard and trim the
garden-grounds, and then expect your reward. Fool
ish, if you count on any recompense sweeter than you


had as you went along ! No peach or pear will be
more delicious than your thought in setting out the
trees. My neighbor grew weary of his perfect situa
tion, and wanted to cross the bay and occupy a lonelier

There is a movement-cure for the mind. Of one not
established in his views, it is said in pity, " He is all
afloat ;" as if that were not the best condition, grander
and safer than to be ashore, as if there were a finer
spectacle of ships in port than of the yacht-squadron
racing along the coast, or the grating of my keel on
the beach could be such transport as to be rocked in
my boat on the waves. The anchor, said one, is a
true emblem : it holds the vessel fast, though it does
not hold the vessel still. But the eternal heaving
underneath is a signal that the true state is to hoist at
the windlass, and away ; and no figure of Hope leaning
on the fluke is just to its nature of exploration without
end. There is provision for further growth in the
bones of the skull and organs of the brain after the
sutures are closed : let there be space to expand in
the hardest understanding.

Freedom is not caprice, but room to enlarge. There
is a certain shock from the pavement to whoever
returns from roaming among the mountains or by the
sea. The city streets, like broad curtains or enormous
window-blinds, shut us in ; and we feel robbed of the
elements light, air, earth, and water which make
the liberty of our framej and are better than any
physician s medicine-chest for every nervous disease.
We want not only so much sun and oxygen as can be
got into a chamber, the drink a bottle will hold, and


ground enough, like a caged tiger, to pace to and fro
in, but to breathe the whole atmosphere, behold the
sky full of radiance, put our lips to the living spring,
and have no goal for our feet. Civilization increases
liberty, which is not, as jurists say, its price. When
institutions become bounds, the soul is cramped.
Forms and ordinances multiplied and made essential
to salvation feel sepulchral, like some walled town of
Quebec whose old defences stand against enemies long
since passed away. All creeds and rituals are on the
defensive against benefactors who open the question
of their truth, and stop them with a challenge for the
loyal pass-word. Jesus well prescribed for our com
munication, nay, nay, as well &s yea, yea. I admired
the little girl who to my questions rolled out a succes
sion of clear noes round as a revolver s bullets, a
sign that the footing I should be on with her would
never become a swamp of good-nature ; and was
pleased with the yearling boy who said, plain as he
could, " Hands oft ! " to those who would seize him,
issued his declaration of independence that he was
no lump of dough to be kneaded, but a block of
marble to be turned into beauty by some artist s skill.
Establishments must answer for themselves to him by
and by !

The dogmatic look is stupid ; the inquiring, bright,
like that of people eager in the chase. So we can
explain the extreme changes in the same countenances.
How uninteresting when they are close, with nothing
to impart or receive, like the shut bivalve on the tide-
less flats ! People who have made up their minds,
and are fixed, as they say, resemble merchants taking


account of stock, or householders making an inventory
of their goods, instead of venturing bold purchase,
exercising hospitality, or driving a brisk trade. Light
houses by day are useless for guides ; and your system
of theology, which no ever-burning thought illumi
nates, is an old vase or lantern that lost its lamp long
ago. I observe the face of that young woman settling
upon the lees of religious reflection, how plain and
ugly the features are ! Anon she comes to me, earnest
in study, ready to compare notes, and so handsome I
cannot believe my own eyes.

We are made for spiritual progress. Our organism
hints for its object perpetuation of the race. But the
easy propagation of vulgar specimens, and the num
ber of noble members of mankind without posterity ;
the decease of genius and virtue leaving no issue,
though the trustees of those shining glories have
descendants also from their loins ; or the too much or
little of some parental element, giving insanity, eccen
tricity, or idiocy, instead of the expected soundness,
force us to conclude there are ends beside earthly
inheritance and continuance. Jesus and Paul and
Washington have no heirs ; and to how many might
Shakspeare s sonnets to one who was cheating the
world with barren singleness be addressed ! Without
intentions of development outreaching fleshly designs,
men would come down to the level of. animals and
plants. In the unfolding of truth is the honor of our
species and the immortality of every soul ; and for this
all questions of truth must be opened. One thing is
sacred, the sincere thought ; and the being of God,
character of Jesus, ultimacy of Christianity, reality of


heaven, must be discussed. If, in the old Bible hyper
bole, the scheme of redemption is so fine the angels
desire to look into it, surely we are not forbid.

Doubtless, in the wide charter of freedom, offensive
and extravagant things will be said. The remedy is
not to mind them. Defy incendiaries not by watch
men and engines, but by building fire-proof! Why
be troubled everybody does not think like you of
Christ? Tell the defamer of your Master his battery
is too weak or your constitution too strong for a shock.
Not only children, but childish opinions, are the better
for a little wholesome neglect. Irrational rationalists,
rootless radicals, and infidels for pride or promi
nence of unbelief, are to be let severely alone. Only
they who have something to say are, with refutation
or welcome, to be met. Set your castle-walls and
windows too high for the malicious to bombard or
break with stones. Are you disturbed by a doctrine ?
Surely it has ground ! There must have been some
thing in the book, or Paine s " Age of Reason " would
not have hurt so much or lasted so long. Calvin
would not have burnt Servetus could he have other
wise answered his argument. Jonathan Mayhew said
the foes of freemen in Church and State, in default of
logic, knocked out their brains, and so furnished an
effectual reply. That man, you say, is a common
scold. Take no notice of him, if you would give him
better than he sends. Recrimination of others crimi
nates you, and is the recriminator s proof. Solomon
says a fretful wife is like a bitter rain. Let her rain
under as it rains on the roof, and heed either storm
alike ! Oaths and remonstrances in the street are


answered every day by not stopping to parley, but
simply keeping on. You resist only when wrestled
with : the most terrible are the speechless retorts.
What an iconoclast ! you say. I see not that he breaks
any thing. He is impotent who bolts or is schismatic
without cause. Outrageous expressions ! you declare.
I am not outraged. The community is not absorbed
in the barking of dogs. Treat the irritable controver
sialist, who makes a question of every statement, as
travellers do the brainless cur who thinks it his duty
to run every moment and growl at the gate. I walk
right by the guns on the Common bellowing so loud,
that have no shot in them for all the noise and blaze,
and despised the loud manifesto of a farmer s dog
when I learned he had no teeth, though I saw some
boys in an English preserve scared by a canine mon
ster alike destitute ; and there are critics that mouth
and bay, but draw no blood. I suspect the dogs Paul
told his friends to beware of had something to say, or
could bite.

So God himself sets limits to the objector in the
weakness of the objection, and dispenses us from all
need to bridle others tongues, or, like Louis Napoleon
with his throne of bayonets, to muzzle the press.
Truth cannot be disproved, purity cannot be libelled,
nor wisdom overthrown. Repression of free inquiry is
not too much ridiculed in the proverb that a cat may
look upon a king. I thought, said one, our house in
the great September gale would go, till I remembered
it was founded on a rock. A basis in the eternal rock
who can shake ? Pay not folly the compliment of fear.
It takes a deep sound to reverberate. What you do
not echo, do not dread.


But conservatives distinguish between questions of
science and questions of faith : the first are open ; not
the last, which no theories of nature can affect. To
all criticisms of the Scripture history or cosmogony
one answer is made : that the Bible does not mean to
teach natural knowledge. Doubtless the sentiment of
faith lies deeper than the understanding which the
peace of God passes. Yet articles of faith are ame
nable to the intellect. We distinguish that, too, as a
general power, from any logical conclusions. But it
is not true that any feeling is independent of the judg
ment. Jesus bids us love God with all our mind as
well as heart ; and the Divine way, not our imper-
ceptiveness, is the basis of our trust. We are learning
that horses do not travel better, with more courage or
safety, for blinders ; and the soul is no swifter for duty
or loftier in aspiration for being hoodwinked. Igno
rance is not the mother of devotion, but of superstition
and obsequious flattery ; not of service, but of servility.
We worship the King in the world he makes his crys
tal palace. Has our idea of the building nought to do
with our prayer? Had a Ptolemaist as much cause to
ascribe glory to God as a Copernican ? If to Alphonso
creation was on the old notion so misfashioned he
thought he could, if present, have given the Creator
useful hints, his regard for the Architect must have
been lessened by the faults of the house, which Scho
penhauer held so enormous he saw nothing to praise,
and could not adore at all, leaving us a book not deserv
ing to be opened, and a portrait we should fain turn
to the wall, save that the pessimist was so honest and
brave. The Deity in Genesis that made such short


business of the world, doing it up in six days, like
some master workman, called a driver because he
gets through and throws off so many affairs in the
twenty-four hours, or a jobber stopping a moment,
then off on some other errand, like Jehu with his team,

wins not the reverence we pay to Him who works in
spaces no geometry can measure, and through periods
no numerals can express.

Faith not touched by sight, taking no guidance or
glory from the eye of the mind ? The God that com
manded Abraham to sacrifice his son, or prompted
Jacob to plot with his mother to rob Esau by practis
ing on father Isaac with his anachronism of false hair,

there are people not a few, and ever becoming more,
who cannot believe. The old altar-fires are gone out,
and we can no more go back to the Hebrew notions
than to the lambs and goats of their sacrifice. Science
is to be minister in the new temple not completed yet,
and will bring abundant fuel to the shrine to feed the
flame. The one Jehovah of the Jews, presiding over
a narrow province, is expanding to the manifold Per-
vader of an infinite sphere. His unity is verified by
analogies, of whose extent and clearness Moses or
Jesus gave no hint, but modern investigation shows
the universe kindling and alive with. When from the
leafing of plants to the orbits of planets a law of rela
tion is traced, the words, / am, and there is none
beside me, gather a wider sense than in their first
utterance. As the soft aurora and the rending thunder
suggest a common electricity, whose spending is fol
lowed by cold, we catch a glimpse of threads that
stretch through the firmament and sew all parts of


God s live garment together finer than any handiwork
or conception of man.

The keeping open of the questions has, more than
any closure of them, promoted piety. Religion "would
have been crushed, if not quenched, by any authority
to solve them at whatever Hebrew or Christian time.
Could terms of salvation have been written down, and
the plenary verbal inspirationists have succeeded in
the final settlement they undertook, the Church would
have been banished from the circle of light, degraded
below the arena of controversy, and dismissed from
the region of intelligence as no subject of.reason, but a
motive to grovel and cringe like abject savages in a fit
of terror, too gloomy to be streaked with the twilight
of doubt for a reminder and herald of the dawn. If
we would be rid of denial, danger, and despair, we
must keep every thing open : the conventicle, com
munion, caucus, hall, and railway track, whose clog
ging by some untimely train is occasion of ruin and
death. The thought of vast assemblies for musical
celebrations of peace and international friendship
nobler than that division of the spoils at which the so-
called Internationals, are, let us trust, falsely under
stood to aim has had such fortune as to be accepted
now for an inspiration, till we at last invite to wave
together amid strains of harmony the flags of all the
kingdoms and republics of the earth, type of a Com
mune worthy to have. Eaith must not in its pro
portions fall below the generosity of amusement and
politics, or lag in corners out of sight. Let the Dog
matist give place to the Liberal ! When Jesus repre
sents the Judge as setting the goats on the left hand,


he may refer not to the lascivious but stubborn nature
of the beast, which even in tender years rears on its
hinder legs to butt at your kindest approach. If the
bigots are so typified, they will turn up in unexpected
places. Let them reasonably suffer the love that
would emancipate them from their fetters ; and not,
like the cross cow I saw, hook the benefactor that
would untether the bonds from their own feet.

Free inquiry is more than a prerogative of one man
against the interference of another. The variety of
questions we ask, as of wants we feel, is the length
of our scale, and measures the dignity of our being :
let us pity the angels if, as we are told, they have
found out the secret of Nature and know all. The
animals seem to inquire little, and may be classified
according to the signs they show, in their several tribes,
of wishing to learn. The summer-flies stiffen, curl
up, and wither in the autumn wind, without any
apparent queries what death is, or any dread of their
fate. Their incuriosity marks the degree of their in
feriority. Our interest in the subject, our constitution
to entertain the problem, Job s desire to understand,
If a man die, shall he live again ? is the token of
immortality ; for it is no creation of our will, no fiction
of man, but the instigation of God, who hints nothing
he will not carry out. Shall not the lower creatures
we lord it over, and are so cruel to, have his vindica
tion also ? The cook told the complaining duck, " Do
not cry : all these things will be explained to you
by and by." Of how much we are as ignorant as the
bird seized in the barn-yard, or under the doom of
the fowler s gun !


Every theological system or sect is an attempt to
close questions ; and every prophet s word a new erup
tion through the old crust of conventionality. The
denominations are so many extinct craters, only like
^Etna or Vesuvius showing signs of activity, and every
little while breaking out afresh. What is the deadest
conservatism is only a short lull, a temporary sleep.
Like the son of Agamemnon, the searching mind
comes terrible to purify. Unitarianism, Universalism,
Episcopacy, the English Church, and the Romish, are
all rumbling with pent-up commotions, and out of the
fiery contention in their own bowels ready to throw up,
like the aiguilles round Mont Blanc, rival summits of
belief; and any undertaking to shut up and seal the
questions respecting God and man and heaven, Bible
or Saviour, prophecy or worship, is like chaining
down the safety-valve of the engine or binding too
tight the breathing-holes of the globe. Destructive
explosions, earthquakes that swallow up cities, ensue.

But is every thing left at loose ends like a feather on
the wind ? No : questions of doctrine must be open,
but questions of conscience closed before the day
passes, and the opportunity is lost. No moral problem
has many links. Open questions in a house about
trivial matters are like open wounds. Of what bits
we build our heavy cross ! Do not spend the day
discussing whether you shall drive or walk, invite a
guest or accept an invitation, wear white or black,
write a letter, rub out a spot, be on speaking terms
with a neighbor, or have honest acquaintance with
any woman or man. Time is valuable, nerves are
precious. " I cannot," said a man, making thousands


every day, " consume my strength in debates with
boys whether they shall steal my grapes or run across
my shed." Have no open questions to quarrel about
and generate in your affections chronic disease. It is
better to decide a case wrongly than to get into a
wrong state of mind. You are sincere and conscien
tious in your respective views : do not, therefore, be
tyrannical to insist and urge them past all patience,
and reopen the topic for bickering without cessation
or fruit. Make not your conscience a torment. The
worst thing in the world may be a man s conscience,
or what, like Launcelot Gobbo, it is his humor to
call such. His sting is not that of the bee laden
with honey, but the barren wasp. As lief have a
hornet buzzing round your ears, or gad-fly searching
for the sore spot, as a domestic or social critic falling
fatally on your weak side. A duellist may be par
doned for finding out the armor s open joint or inex
pert pass of his adversary ; but there should be no
challenge between friends. Spare in your associate,
him or her that leans on your bosom, the tender place.
Aggravate not already existing inflammation, but heal
and soothe. " Dwelling together in unity is like oint
ment," says the Psalmist : there is no salve like silence,
and no blister of mustard or Spanish flies equal to a
fresh plaster of interrogatory words. I do not wonder
the poor Malay sailor begged the captain either to
whip or scold him, but not do both together ; for
that, like the multiplication-table to Marjorie Fleming,
is what human nature cannot endure. People are
prosecuted for assault and battery ; but the language
they fling is harder than their fists, It is against the


law for private persons to carry arms ; but what stiletto
or pistol is so dangerous as a tongue? It is harder to
hold than a bull by the horns. I fancy that excellent
actor, Walter Montgomery, followed to England by
the woman of ill repute, declaring she would be his
wife, who two days after the wedding destroyed him
self, whatever she suffered at his hands, suffered
something from her lips. Little vexations, more
than enormous crimes, lay waste our joy, and turn
life from a boon to a ban. They say the Inquisi-
.tion is abolished : it has an emissary in every house.
The mosquito has an open question whether he shall
insert his lancet, and take his fill of your blood, which,
to settle the matter, you might freely let him do, but
for the host of his peers on a like surgical errand
behind ; and there is a sort of mosquito-mind always
alert to consider where most to your disadvantage, and
the security of its satisfaction against your comfort, it
can make its petty attack. Be not that name for
Satan, the accuser of your brethren. Put your con
science to private use. Keep it in your closet for a
probe, not unsheathe it as a sword. The unhealthy
action of the human frame is rightly called disorder:
what shall be said of those that disease us with their
moral complaints and uncharitable judgments? They
are authors of the worst maladies, and most contagious.
Our Orthodox friends well bid us beware of the plague
of our own heart ; for it is catching, whether yellow
fever and cholera be so or not. Does anybody in your
circle desire to lead? Let him not communicate to
you that itch ! Ivy or the wild sumach is not poison
ous to some vigorous people. But we do not plant


the shrub or vine at our door-sill : we give a wide
berth to the deadly night-shade, even in the pasture ;
and we learn to avoid folks who envenom us with
their manners and speech, and by their very glance
disturb, as some cannot look at or brush by the evil
plant but their skin will prick and swell. " This
creature worries the life out of me," said one, of a dog
biting and scratching only in play. But ill-temper
has worse teeth and claws ; and, of all the gifts dis
tributed among human beings, the least to be coveted
is the positive genius some disputatious persons have
for making everybody unhappy, dealing in questions
only, and accepting no one s reply.

Questions of action and disposition are somehow, at

Online LibraryC. A. (Cyrus Augustus) BartolRadical problems → online text (page 1 of 28)