F. D. (Frederic Dan) Huntington.

Human society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y online

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Online LibraryF. D. (Frederic Dan) HuntingtonHuman society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y → online text (page 16 of 17)
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known only as the universal Parent, — no altar but

* Lettres Persanes.


the pure heart, and thanksgiving and grateful love
the sole sacrifice."

" Tlien comes the statelier Eden back to men ;
Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm ;
Then springs the crowning race of human kind,"

Such a result can stand second to no other in
the purposes of God for mankind. If Society is
the proper and pre-adapted theatre for the embodi-
ment and the free working out of the idtal ideas
of Christianity, then no other proof can be brought
forward, so clear and so decisive, that Society is
a practical illustration of the Power, and the Wis-
dom, and the Goodness of God. For these ideas
are the very hiding of his Power, and the Light
of his Wisdom ; the human souls they fill and ac-
tuate are the A^ery children of his Fatherhood, the
joy of his infinite heart of loA^e.

As I shall arrange and mention them, these
ideas are seven : 1. The Historic Unity of Man-
kind. 2. Dependent Trust, or Faith. 3. Moral Rec-
titude. 4. Charity. 5. Obedience. 6. The Balance
of Conservatism and Reform. 7. Voluntary Sacri-

I. Society is the appointed sphere of the spirit-
ual kingdom of Christ, because a moral and or-
ganic unity embraces its parts and links together


its successive generations. Were there no sucli
law of transmission, no chain of connection between
age and age, no hereditary conveyance of moral
qualities, then it is evident Christianity could get
no leverage, and no grasp on the world's motives.
We could not speak of the building of a kingdom,
or the unfolding of a method of progression. Each
rank of souls must then begin at the same starting-
place, and drop at the same goal. The operation of
Christian Truth on the ages would be only a mo-
notonous repetition of the same unfinished experi-
ment, ever begun with the birth, ever broken off
with the death, of the individual.

It requires only a moderate study of the actual
operation of Christian truth around us every day
to see how the hereditary relations are taken up
and made use of as an effectual remedial agency
to recover men from their evils. If souls fall out
of the Avay by these connections when they are
vitiated, so are they manifestly restored by them
w^hen they are sanctified. This line of thought has
been very ingeniously and eloquently pursued by a
writer of our own day,* who asks, " What intelli-
gent person ever supposed that this original consti-
tution, by which one generation derives its exist-
ence and receives the bent of its character from

* Rev. Horace Bushucil, D.D., in " Christian Nurture."


another, was designed of God to be the A^ehicle
only of depravity? The only supposition that
honors God is that the organic unity was ordained
originally for the nurture of holy virtue in the
beginning of each soul's history ; and that Chris-
tianity, or redemption, must of necessity take pos-
session of the abused vehicle, and sanctify it for
its own merciful uses."

In the language of another, " Philosophy ever
contemplates man as a concrete, — humanity entire
in its unity. Experience, with its broadest induc-
tions, confirms the existence of a law above that
which reigns in the individual, and which binds all
individuals in one community. The perpetuation of
the characteristic human form, and mental faculty,
and relative proportion of sex, and the one con-
secutive stream of historic development for men,
all evince that there is a persistent causahty, be-
fore and above all individual peculiarity." It is
plain that only on such a law of unity in the
race, and out of its practical energy, could there
be planted and reared a social institution, ever ad-
vancing to the realization of a heavenly ideal,
like the Christian church. " An unbroken and real
spiritual chain of instruction, example, influence,
fellowship, connects Abraham, the ^father of the
fiiithful,' with the lastest generation that shall walk


in the footsteps of his faith, — the cradle of the
Church in the tent of Mamre, and its school-days
in the temple at Jerusalem, with the widest and
most spiritual triumphs of its maturity."

Hence the secret current of transmitted and
generative life, in the order of successive spiritual
dispensations, — each an outgrowth of the foregoing,
— each prophesying and preparing its successor.
The bihlical dispensations are three, — types of three
great principles of moral action, — three stages in
the religious discipline of Societ}^ : the Patriarchal,
the Mosaic, the Christian ; impulse, law, love ;
nature, government, grace ; instinct, obedience, faith ;
Mamre, Sinai, Calvary. This is the order. Natural
impulse, when the parental arm is not pressed
around it, runs wild, and needs the restraining
hand of law. Moses comes with his command-
ments, ordinances, ritual, and manifold rules and
ceremonies, to yoke the wayward will in obedience,
— an age of legality. Afterwards, in the fulness
of time, wlien the schoolmaster has done his work,
when man by obeying has grown to the liberty
of choice, when, by being a servant under the
connnandment, he has learned the faith to which
grace can safely speak, then appears the Messiah :
the Desire of all nations, — He that was to come, —
the great Reality of all the symbols. Adam and


Christ are thus the two poles of history. " The
first Adam was made a living soul ; the second
Adam was the Lord from heaven." First, a nat-
ural creation, and an outward culture. Then a
spiritual creation, and a regeneration from within, —
Christ formed in the heart. This is for Societ}^
just as truly as for the individual ; historical no
less than personal. It is the whole procession of
the centuries that strews the ])ulm branches in the
way for the Saviour. The kingdom of the Son of
Man, in the future, is established on all the expe-
rience of the humanity that has gone before.
And from the fair beginnings in the elder Eden,
we look to the sublime redemptive consummation
in that other Paradise that is to spring up on
the earth, yet so beautiful that it shall seem to
descend, like a bride, out of heaven.

Nay, if we take our stand with the Scotch phi-
losopher, who joins faith with science,* we shall
descry the preparations of this final harmony of
the social and the evangelical systems far back
before the first man breathed, and catch the notes
of the august prelude among the inarticulate sounds
and motions of the pre-Adamic creation. " In the
history of the earth which we inhabit," he says,
" molluscs, fishes, reptiles, mammals, had, each in

* Hugh Miller.


succession, their periods of vast duration, and then
the human period began, — the period of a fellow-
worker with God, created in God's own image.
What is to be the next advance ? Is there to be
merely a repetition of the Past ? No. The geolo-
dst, in those tables of stone which form his rec-
ords, finds no example of epochs, once passed away,
again returning. There has been no repetition of
the dynasty of the fish, of the reptile, of the
mammal. The dynasty of the future is to have
glorified man for its inhabitant ; but it is to be
the dynasty, — ' the kingdom,' — not any longer of
man made in the image of God, but of God him-
self in the form of man. There we find the point
of elevation, never to be exceeded, meetly coinci-
dent with the final period, never to be terminated,
— the infinite in height harmoniously associated with
the eternal in duration. Creation and the Creator
meet at one point, and in one person. The long
ascending line from dead matter to man has been
a progress Godwards, — not an asymptotical progress,
but destined, from the beginning, to furnish a point
of union of man with his Maker. Like the Patri-
archal and Mosaic dispensations of grace, the Pa-
laeozoic, the Secondary and the Tertiary dispensa-
tions of creation were charged with ' the shadows
of better things to come.' The advent of man.


simply as such, was the great event prefigured
during the old geologic ages. The advent of that
divine Man, who hath abolished death and brought
life and immortality to light, was the great event
prefigured during the historic ages. It is these two
grand events, equally portions of one sublime scheme,
that bind together Past, Preoent and Future, the
geologic with the Patriarchal, Mosaic and Christian
ages, and all together with the new heavens, the
last of many creations, when there shall be no
more death nor curse, but the throne of God and
the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall
serve him."

II. The second of these primary ideas of Chris-
tianity is Dependence, — with its correlative senti-
ment, Faith. Sooner or later, man has to learn
that he is weak, and with a weakness that does
not necessarily degrade but is meant finally to
educate and exalt him. He has to learn that he
must lean upon the Power, and be guided by the
Wisdom, and be nouiished by the Goodness, that
is far, far above him. He is but a child in the
temple, crying, " Lord, here am I ; speak, for thy
servant heareth." He is but a suppliant asking
alms at the temple-gate of the abundant Provi-
dence. He is but the blind pilgrim of a wide sea,
— tempest and darkness riding the waters with


him, and only one unseen hand to make a safe
path over the deep. Pain and sickness, the swad-
dling bands of the cradle and the shroud with
which others' hands gird him, calamity and death,
accident and the frailties of age, — all these are the
stern preceptors and the sombre symbols of that
dependence. Till he feels it as a fact, till he con-
fesses it as a blessing, till he rejoices gratefully in
it as a religious bond pressing him ever back
closer and closer to the Fatherly Breast where his
life is hidj he is only an exile from his country,
and an orphan in his house.

The whole frame of Society is a nursery for
that faith. It is a network of dependencies, of
weak upon strong, of poor upon affluent, and not
less of the slender rich upon the laboring poor, —
of young upon old, of posterity upon ancestry, of
class upon class, of city and country on each
other, of subject upon ruler, of debtor upon cred-
itor, of enterprise upon combination, of every mem-
ber upon the social system he lives in. Helpless
we are born into parental arms, and lie dependent
there. Helpless, with our maturest strength and
readiest wit, we reach out our faculties towards
other persons, to hold by them, and live from
them. Helpless we grow old, and tremble toward
our graves, that some gentle reverence and love


may come, and uphold, and wait for, and forbear
Avith us. By these natural leanings we may learn
our heavenly lesson. They are the alphabet of
our immortal trust. Reposing in arms that shall
crumble one day to dust, we come to feel how an
Arm that is never shortened and never wastes is
under us. When the Master says, " Have faith in
God," or " Thy faith hath saved thee," our ten-
der human relationships have interpreted the pre-
cept and reecho the assurance ; and when his
apostle writes, " With the heart man believeth," or
" Faith is the evidence of things not seen," sweet
motherly faces, noble and manly foreheads, men we
have known, of unassailable truth and honor, or
women whose constancy finds no likeness in sun
or star — yes, the motherhood we have nestled
under or the manhood we have clung to, — throng
up for our witnesses that it is true ; till, turning
back from the dependencies of earth to that Arm
which never changes in the skies, we answer in
earnest, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!"
The social system is thus a nursery for religious
dependence and faith.

III. Next, we must remember that Christianity
is a system not only of spiritual affections but of
moral duties ; and to these moral duties Society is
essential. Indeed, they could have exercise nowhere


else but in its reciprocal relationships, of the
family, the neighborhood, traffic, politics, education,
charity. Morality is the right dealing of man with
man, — necessarily a social obligation. So of all its
several branches, which we call virtues, but wliich
are in fact only so many shoots of one great
stock of virtue, — the loyal love of the Right.
Take justice : where can it get such a discipline
as where social causes constantly create the tempta-
tion indeed to defraud, to overreach, to injure, in
dealings, in competitions, in slanderous speech, yet
where the social welfare is ever clearly seen to
stand exactly accordant with the precept, " Render
to every man that wliich is just and equal?"
Take veracity : the social world, with its conflict
of selfish and generous passions, you say, is a
tremendous nursery of falsehood ; but precisely in
the degree it is so, it reveals the glory, and
measures the value, of that simple and valiant
tongue of truth, without which all social peace
sinks in treachery and despair. Take purity : it is
only through the mixtures, solicitations and stimu-
lants of social scenes that we learn the meaning
of that holy beatitude, falling forever from the
Mount : " Blessed are the pure in heart, for they
shall see God." Take patience : how should we
ever learn to forbear, and forgive, and conquer


petulance, and be still, if, all the way, life
through, child with child in the nursery, disease
with health, differing temperaments with each
other, partners in business, wedded pairs, unlike
tastes and habits and cultures and tempers all
tossed and huddled together, — we did not find out
by vexing lessons how wonderful is the patience
of God ? I confess, the longer I live, no attribute
of his awes me so much. Take fortitude : and for
ever}^ hero that bravely adventures against nature,
and conquers polar ice, or vanquishes the omin-
ous terrors of spectral fears, I will show you a
grander heroism, a loftier, mightier courage, in the
youth that dares to do right in the boarding-
school, in the young girl that dares to be simple
in the evening assembly, in the woman that dares
to be independent of the despotism and sin of
fashion, in the man that dares to be righteous,
against his party, his promotion, or his pocket.
Here are the trial-places of the Christian moralities.
It is a terrible ordeal. But except it were a trial,
a choice, and a battle, there would be no morals
that Christ would accept. And the same social
world that plies the discipline, presents also the
motive, and points ever to the animating reward,
in that purified social condition of which the
kingdom of Christ is the name.


TV. Another of the cardinal ideas of the Chris-
tian kingdom is disinterested charity. Christ came
into the world to move men to lovo, to help, to
serve each other. He came washing poor men's
feet, sitting down with outcasts, dropping his bene-
diction with the widow's mite. So wherever his
religion has gone, mercy has been one of its fore-
most offices, and has been a test of its sin-
cerity. "If a man love not his brother whom he
hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath
not seen ?" The rude old European kings made
the high almoner the first ecclesiastical dignitary in
their dominions, and took the sacrament from his
hands. The offertory became as necessary a 2)art
of the ritual as the eucharist. We call the poor
Christ's poor; and we know that to neglect them
is to deny him.

And evidently man is charitable because he is
first social. The sphere of this Christian love can
be no other than the sphere of man's social sym-
pathies. The grand law of gospel charity was first
diml}^ written in the constitution of Society. But
Avhat Society so deeply needs, only the motives of
Christian fjiith can sustain. Paganism, if it cared
for the poor at all, was prompted only by fickle
impulse or a calculating policy. Christianity en-
courages the poor, lifts them out of their disabili-


ties, and reassures their better energies, — first of
all because it sees in every one of them the germ
of a spiritual and immortal life. So alms-giving is
transfigured into beneficence. Wise help takes the
place of impulsive bounty. Paupers are made
workers. Christian self-sacrifice is too real and too
patient to scatter largesses, and go complacently on
its way. The love of man grows out of the same
root with the love of God ; Brotherhood here out
of the Fatherhood there. The onlv sustainer of
philanthropy is piety. In many and many a holy
enterprise of quiet compassion, throughout Christen-
dom, we find just that to be true which is re-
lated of a hospital of Sisters of Charity, for the
most wretched and vile of bed-ridden paupers in
the Old World, v/here the religious women who
ministered to the miserable inmates confessed that
their only refuge from utter discouragement, in du-
ties so revolting, even after being years in the
holy work, was, by a special exercise of united
prayer, every morning, to dedicate themselves anew
to their task, "for the love of G-od." So that
in all those deeds of benevolence which bless
degradation, and are ever redeeming the want
which still cHngs to the robes of the Church,
Society and Christianity are expressly fitted to
each other.


V. Another of the cardinal principles of Chris-
tianity is obedience, or, more exactly, a balance of
personal liberty and law. That is but a soft and
sentimental moral system which excludes from its
circle of forces the awful energy of law. It is only
when we attribute to the lawgiver, or commander,
some touch of mortal imperfection, some taint of
caprice or selfishness, some despotic disposition,
some belittleing limitation, that we are obliged to
associate servility with obedience. Let the charac-
ter of the master be faultless and spotless, — nay,
gathering into itself all the energies of rectitude,
and all the graces of affection, and all the breadths
and depths of knowledge, — in a word, let him be
God, — and then obedience rises at once to moral
dignity, and we see that there are no grand, pro-
portioned, enduring, sinewy souls without it. It is
only they who have been schooled somewhere to
obey, that are "fit to command." Obedience breeds
some of the noblest traits we ever see in the
loftiest spirits. Do not confound it with fear.
Obedience may spring from veneration, from thought-
fulness, from love, — the highest of all sentiments.
God is the perfect Good, living. Obedience to him
is one form of gratitude, — which is always the
brother of magnanimity. God is better to every
miin than any man ever was to himself. There-


fore, says Christiaiiit}'^, thou shalt keep the com-
mandments of the Lord thy God.

But now, Society stands with this principle of
obedience for one of its chief pillars. The doctrine
of ''no master, no law, no command," is anarch}^,
and has been, ever since time began. Human So-
ciety is a tuition in law, very faulty because its
legislators are fallible, very fluctuating because all
its rulers are men. But, nevertheless, everywhere,
God honors it as the agent of order, and accepts
its honest attempt. Indeed, it may be said the
great object of social history is to find out what,
or who sought to be obeyed, and thus gradually to
transfer obedience from the undeserving to the
worthy. The writer who maintains* that the ob-
jects of government are only temporary, and that
government itself is only a proof of remaining bar-
barism, first confuses thought, and then abuses lan-
guage. Our obedience begins with our first con-
scious motives, — except where parentage is faithless
and abne2:ates its trust ; — it lasts on to the final
breath, except where rebel passions raise an insur-
rectionary signal on the way. The nursery, the
house, the debating club, the shop, the ofiice, the
school, the university, the army, the farm, the
professions, all are gii't about by law, and subsist

'" Herbert Spencers " Social Statics."


in obedience. Ofttimes this obedience is one of the
most voluntary and spontaneous acts of our souls,
and then it is nearest its perfection. Then you
have got for your commander, or master, the loved
and trusted man. That is the happy society.
Some human form, blending the honors of virtue
with the sanctities of years, looks upon you with
the benignant aspect of a wise, serene soul, and
commands your instantaneous allegiance. Some ben-
efactor, or lover, or hero of your private admira-
tion, makes his choice known, and instantly friend-
ship rears a throne of authority in the centre of
your heart, and you are constrained as effectually
as by any constable's staff, or cord about your
wrists. In all its sacred constitution. Society
preaches the sacredness of law, and so points,
with reverent finger, from human law to the di-
vine, and to him in whose bosom both have their
seat at last. By being servants we become chil-
dren and heirs. By law we gain liberty. By
waiting at the foot of Sinai, we are taken up
into Olivet and Tabor. The tables of stone lean
against the cross. Moses is followed by the Mes-
siah. Beyond the A^alleys of Subjection rise the
eternal hills of Peace. The years of unquestioning
and obedient toil ended, there is proclaimed the
great Sabbatic festival, — where law is love, and or-


der is choice, and government is Fatherhood, and
the Ruler's will is the impulse of every heart.

Throughout these discussions of the constitution
of Society, we have seen one great principle run-
ning through its activities, underlying all its forms,
reappearing in all its epochs, promoted by all its
development : this, viz., that the liberty and power
of the individual will are meant to be held in
even and perfect balance with the common good.
On the one side, individual man, — his freedom and
his rights sacredly guarded from infringement : on
the other side, association of strength, and commu-
nity of heart, never to be broken or invaded by
personal selfishness or interest. In the final adjust-
ment of these two ideas will be the harmony of
the world. Over their ultimate reconciliation will
be lifted the sublimest anthem ever sung since
that chorus over the birth at Bethlehem.

Now it is precisely these two ideas, and pre-
cisely the practical principle of their reconciliation,
that Christianity proposes, preaches and prepares.
In those poised and balanced doctrines of its apos-
tle we find this compendiously given : " Every
man shall bear his own burden." " Bear ye one
another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
Said the Master himself: "Except a man be born
ao:ain, he shall not enter into the kingdom of


heaven," — and, " Behold, a new commandment I
give unto you, that ye love one another." The
individualizing principle ultimates in personal char-
acter. Need I tell you that Christianity every-
where insists on that, — labors for it, exhorts to it,
and brings the whole cluster of its energetic forces
and doctrines to achieve it, — the regeneration, the
redemption, the growth, the edifying of individual
character, — its whole body fitly framed together
by that which every joint supplieth. The social
principle, on the contrary, signalizes itself in some
form of civil law. Not less does Christianity rec-
ognize and sanction that. It honors government.
It prizes order. It loves instituted right. It bids
us obey the magistrate and respect the rule. And
it does each for each. It keeps law sacred for
the individual ; it nurtures the individual for the
brotherhood. Thus the laws of Society and the
kingdom of Christ exactly and beautifully agree.

Sometimes, however, there comes a crisis where
the strong individual conviction of Right overrides
every form of human law. That is the period of
revolution and reformation. It comes because the
statutes of a people are only a proximate, and
never yet a perfect, expression of the highest con-
science of Society. It comes because, in some
quick-sighted and half-inspired soul, the true sense


of what is really best and really right transcends

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Online LibraryF. D. (Frederic Dan) HuntingtonHuman society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y → online text (page 16 of 17)