(A Sermon Preached at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, May 4th, 1851, in behalf of the Westminster Hospital.)
When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea, even for his enemies, that the Lord God might dwell among them.--PSALM lxviii. 18, and EPHESIANS iv. 8.
If, a thousand years ago, a congregation in this place had been addressed upon the text which I have chosen, they would have had, I think, little difficulty in applying its meaning to themselves, and in mentioning at once innumerable instances of those gifts which the King of men had received for men, innumerable signs that the Lord God was really dwelling amongst them. But amongst those signs, I think, they would have mentioned several which we are not now generally accustomed to consider in such a light. They would have pointed not merely to the building of churches, the founding of schools, the spread of peace, the decay of slavery; but to the importation of foreign literature, the extension of the arts of reading, writing, painting, architecture, the improvement of agriculture, and the introduction of new and more successful methods of the cure of diseases. They might have expressed themselves on these points in a way that we consider now puerile and superstitious. They might have attributed to the efficacy of prayer, many cures which we now attribute--shall I say? to no cause whatsoever. They may have quoted as an instance of St. Cuthbert's sanctity, rather than of his shrewd observations, his discovery of a spring of water in the rocky floor of his cell, and his success in growing barley upon the barren island where wheat refused to germinate; and we might have smiled at their superstition, and smiled, too, at their seeing any consequence of Christianity, any token that the kingdom of God was among them, in Bishop Wilfred's rescuing the Hampshire Saxons from the horrors of famine, by teaching them the use of fishing-nets. But still so they would have spoken--men of a turn of mind no less keen, shrewd, and practical than we, their children; and if we had objected to their so-called superstition that all these improvements in the physical state of England were only the natural consequences of the introduction of Roman civilisation by French and Italian missionaries, they would have smiled at us in their turn, not perhaps without some astonishment at our stupidity, and asked: "Do you not see, too, that THAT is in itself a sign of the kingdom of God--that these nations who have been for ages selfishly isolated from each other, except for purposes of conquest and desolation, should be now teaching each other, helping each other, interchanging more and more, generation by generation, their arts, their laws, their learning becoming fused down under the influence of a common Creed, and loyalty to one common King in Heaven, from their state of savage jealousy and warfare, into one great Christendom, and family of God?" And if, my friends, as I think, those forefathers of ours could rise from their graves this day, they would be inclined to see in our hospitals, in our railroads, in the achievements of our physical Science, confirmation of that old superstition of theirs, proofs of the kingdom of God, realisations of the gifts which Christ received for men, vaster than any of which they had ever dreamed. They might be startled at God's continuing those gifts to us, who hold on many points a creed so different from theirs. They might be still more startled to see in the Great Exhibition of all Nations, which is our present nine-days' wonder, that those blessings were not restricted by God even to nominal Christians, but that His love, His teaching, with regard to matters of civilisation and physical science, were extended, though more slowly and partially, to the Mahometan and the Heathen. And it would be a wholesome lesson to them, to find that God's grace was wider than their narrow theories; perhaps they may have learnt it already in the world of spirits. But of its BEING God's grace, there would be no doubt in their minds. They would claim unhesitatingly, and at once, that great Exhibition established in a Christian country, as a point of union and brotherhood for all people, for a sign that God was indeed claiming all the nations of the world as His own--proving by the most enormous facts that He had sent down a Pentecost, gifts to men which would raise them not merely spiritually, but physically and intellectually, beyond anything which the world had ever seen, and had poured out a spirit among them which would convert them in the course of ages, gradually, but most surely and really, from a pandemonium of conquerors and conquered, devourers and devoured, into a family of fellow-helping brothers, until the kingdoms of the world became the kingdoms of God and of His Christ.
But I think one thing, if anything, would stagger their simple old Saxon faith; one thing would make them fearful, as indeed it makes the preacher this day, that the time of real brotherhood and peace is still but too far off; and that the achievements of our physical science, the unity of this great Exhibition, noble as they are, are still only dim forecastings and prophecies, as it were, of a higher, nobler reality. And they would say sadly to us, their children: "Sons, you ought to be so near to God; He seems to have given you so much and to have worked among you as He never worked for any nation under heaven. How is it that you give the glory to yourselves, and not to Him?"
For do we give the glory of our scientific discoveries to God, in any real, honest, and practical sense? There may be some official and perfunctory talk of God's blessing on our endeavours; but there seems to be no real belief in us that God, the inspiration of God, is the very fount and root of the endeavours themselves; that He teaches us these great discoveries; that He gives us wisdom to get this wondrous wealth; that He works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. True, we keep up something of the form and tradition of the old talk about such things; we join in prayer to God to bless our great Exhibition, but we do not believe--we do not believe, my friends-- that it was God who taught us to conceive, build, and arrange that Great Exhibition; and our notion of God's blessing it, seems to be God's absence from it; a hope and trust that God will leave it and us alone, and not "visit" it or us in it, or "interfere" by any "special providences," by storms, or lightning, or sickness, or panic, or conspiracy; a sort of dim feeling that we could manage it all perfectly well without God, but that as He exists, and has some power over natural phenomena, which is not very exactly defined, we must notice His existence over and above our work, lest He should become angry and "visit" us . . . And this in spite of words which were spoken by one whose office it was to speak them, as the representative of the highest and most sacred personage in these realms; words which deserve to be written in letters of gold on the high places of this city; in which he spoke of this Exhibition as an "approach to a more complete fulfilment of the great and sacred mission which man has to perform in the world;" when he told the English people that "man's reason being created in the image of God, he has to discover the laws by which Almighty God governs His creations, and by making these laws the standard of his action, to conquer nature to his use, himself a divine instrument;" when he spoke of "thankfulness to Almighty God for what he has already GIVEN," as the first feeling which that Exhibition ought to excite in us; and as the second, "the deep conviction that those blessings can only be realised in proportion to"--not, as some would have it, the rivalry and selfish competition--but "in proportion to the HELP which we are prepared to render to each other; and, therefore, by peace, love, and ready assistance, not only between individuals, but between all nations of the earth." We read those great words; but in the hearts of how few, alas! to judge from our modern creed on such matters, must the really important and distinctive points of them find an echo! To how few does this whole Exhibition seem to have been anything but a matter of personal gain or curiosity, for national aggrandisement, insular self-glorification, and selfish--I had almost said, treacherous--rivalry with the very foreigners whom we invited as our guests?
And so, too, with our cures of diseases. We speak of God's blessing the means, and God's blessing the cure. But all we really mean by blessing them, is permitting them. Do not our hearts confess that our notion of His blessing the means, is His leaving the means to themselves and their own physical laws--leaving, in short, the cure to us and not preventing our science doing its work, and asserting His own existence by bringing on some unexpected crisis, or unfortunate relapse--if, indeed, the old theory that He does bring on such, be true?
Our old forefathers, on the other hand, used to believe that in medicine, as in everything else, God taught men all that they knew. They believed the words of the Wise Man when he said that "the Spirit of God gives man understanding." The method by which Solomon believed himself to have obtained all his physical science and knowledge of trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop which groweth on the wall, was in their eyes the only possible method. They believed the words of Isaiah when he said of the tillage and the rotation of crops in use among the peasants of his country, that their God instructed them to discretion and taught them; and that even the various methods of threshing out the various species of grain came "forth from the Lord of hosts, who is excellent in counsel, and wonderful in working."
Such a method, you say, seems to you now miraculous. It did not seem to our forefathers miraculous that God should teach man; it seemed to them most simple, most rational, most natural, an utterly every-day axiom. They thought it was because so few of the heathen were taught by God that they were no wiser than they were. They thought that since the Son of God had come down and taken our nature upon Him, and ascended up on high and received gifts for men, that it was now the right and privilege of every human being who was willing to be taught of God, as the prophet foretold in those very words; and that baptism was the very sign and seal of that fact--a sign that for every human being, whatever his age, sex, rank, intellect, or race, a certain measure of the teaching of God and of the Spirit of God was ready, promised, sure as the oath of Him that made heaven and the earth, and all things therein. That was Solomon's belief. We do not find that it made him a fanatic and an idler, waiting with folded hands for inspiration to come to him he knew not how nor whence. His belief that wisdom was the revelation and gift of God did not prevent him from seeking her as silver, and searching for her as hid treasures, from applying his heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven; and we do not find that it prevented our forefathers. Ceadmon's belief that God inspired him with the poetic faculty, did not make him the less laborious and careful versifier. Bishop John's blessing the dumb boy's tongue in the name of Him whom he believed to be Word of God and the Master of that poor dumb boy, did not prevent his anticipating some of the discoveries of our modern wise men, in setting about a most practical and scientific cure. Alfred's continual prayers for light and inspiration made him no less a laborious and thoughtful student of war and law, of physics, language, and geography. These old Teutons, for all these superstitions of theirs, were perhaps as businesslike and practical in those days as we their children are in these. But that did not prevent their believing that unless God showed them a thing, they could not see it, and thanking Him honestly enough for the comparative little which He did show them. But we who enjoy the accumulated teaching of ages--we to whose researches He is revealing year by year, almost week by weeks wonders of which they never dreamed--we whom He has taught to make the lame to walk, the dumb to speak, the blind to see, to exterminate the pestilence and defy the thunderbolt, to multiply millionfold the fruits of learning, to annihilate time and space, to span the heavens, and to weigh the sun-- what madness is this which has come upon us in these last days, to make us fancy that we, insects of a day, have found out these things for ourselves, and talk big about the progress of the species, and the triumphs of intellect, and the all-conquering powers of the human mind, and give the glory of all this inspiration and revelation, not to God, but to ourselves? Let us beware, beware--lest our boundless pride and self-satisfaction, by some mysterious yet most certain law, avenge itself--lest like the Assyrian conqueror of old, while we stand and cry, "Is not this great Babylon which I have built?" our reason, like his, should reel and fall beneath the narcotic of our own maddening self-conceit, and while attempting to scale the heavens we overlook some pitfall at our feet, and fall as learned idiots, suicidal pedants, to be a degradation, and a hissing, and a shame.
However strongly you may differ from these opinions of our own forefathers with regard to the ground and cause of physical science, and the arts of healing, I am sure that the recollection of the thrice holy ground upon which we stand, beneath the shadow of venerable piles, witnesses for the creeds, the laws, the liberties, which those our ancestors have handed down to us, will preserve you from the temptation of dismissing with hasty contempt their thoughts upon any subject so important; will make you inclined to listen to their opinion with affection, if not with reverence; and save, perhaps, the preacher from a sneer when he declares that the doctrine of those old Saxon men is, in his belief, not only the most Scriptural, but the most rational and scientific explanation of the grounds of all human knowledge.
At least, I shall be able to quote in support of my own opinion a name from which there can be no appeal in the minds of a congregation of educated Englishmen--I mean Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, the spiritual father of the modern science, and, therefore, of the chemistry and the medicine of the whole civilised world. If there is one thing which more than another ought to impress itself on the mind of a careful student of his works, it is this--that he considered science as the inspiration of God, and every separate act of induction by which man arrives at a physical law, as a revelation from the Maker of those laws; and that the faith which gave him daring to face the mystery of the universe, and proclaim to men that they could conquer nature by obeying her, was his deep, living, practical belief that there was One who had ascended up on high and led captive in the flesh and spirit of a man those very idols of sense which had been themselves leading men's minds captive, enslaving them to the illusions of their own senses, forcing them to bow down in vague awe and terror before those powers of Nature, which God had appointed, not to be their tyrants, but their slaves. I will not special-plead particulars from his works, wherein I may consider that he asserts this. I will rather say boldly that the idea runs through every line he ever wrote; that unless seen in the light of that faith, the grounds of his philosophy ought to be as inexplicable to us, as they would, without it, have been impossible to himself. As has been well said of him: "Faith in God as the absolute ground of all human as well as of all natural laws; the belief that He had actually made Himself known to His creatures, and that it was possible for them to have a knowledge of Him, cleared from the phantasies and idols of their own imaginations and understandings; this was the necessary foundation of all that great man's mind and speculations, to whatever point they were tending, and however at times they might be darkened by too close a familiarity with the corruptions and meannesses of man, or too passionate an addiction to the contemplation of Nature. Nor should it ever be forgotten that he owed all the clearness and distinctness of his mind to his freedom from that Pantheism which naturally disposes to a vague admiration and adoration of Nature, to the belief that it is stronger and nobler than ourselves; that we are servants, and puppets, and portions of it, and not its lords and rulers. If Bacon had in anywise confounded Nature with God--if he had not entertained the strongest practical feeling that men were connected with God through One who had taken upon Him their nature, it is impossible that he could have discovered that method of dealing with physics which has made a physical science possible."
No really careful student of his works, but must have perceived this, however glad, alas! he may have felt at times to thrust the thought of it from him, and try to think that Francis Bacon's Christianity was something over and above his philosophy--a religion which he left behind him at the church-door--or only sprinkled up and down his works so much of it as should shield him in a bigoted age from the suspicion of materialism. A strange theory, and yet one which so determined is man to see nothing, whether it be in the Bible or in the Novum Organum, but what each wishes to see, has been deliberately put forth again and again by men who fancy, forsooth, that the greatest of English heroes was even such an one as themselves. One does not wonder to find among the general characteristics of those writers who admire Bacon as a materialist, the most utter incapacity of philosophising on Bacon's method, the very restless conceit, the hasty generalisation, the hankering after cosmogonic theories, which Bacon anathematises in every page. Yes, I repeat it, we owe our medical and sanitary science to Bacon's philosophy; and Bacon owed his philosophy to his Christianity.
Oh! it is easy for us, amid the marvels of our great hospitals, now grown commonplace in our eyes from very custom, to talk of the empire of mind over matter; for us--who reap the harvest whereof Bacon sowed the seed. But consider, how great the faith of that man must have been, who died in hope, not having received the promises, but seeing them afar off, and haunted to his dying day with glorious visions of a time when famine and pestilence should vanish before a scientific obedience--to use his own expression--to the will of God, revealed in natural facts. Thus we can understand how he dared to denounce all that had gone before him as blind and worthless guides, and to proclaim himself to the world as the one restorer of true physical philosophy. Thus we can understand how he, the cautious and patient man of the world, dared indulge in those vast dreams of the scientific triumphs of the future. Thus we can understand how he dared hint at the expectation that men would some day even conquer death itself; because he believed that man had conquered death already, in the person of its King and Lord--in the flesh of Him who ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. The "empire of mind over matter?" What practical proof had he of it amid the miserable alternations of empiricism and magic which made up the pseudo-science of his time; amid the theories and speculations of mankind, which, as he said, were "but a sort of madness--useless alike for discovery or for operation." What right had he, more than any other man who had gone before him, to believe that man could conquer and mould to his will the unseen and tremendous powers which work in every cloud and every flower? that he could dive into the secret mysteries of his own body, and renew his youth like the eagle's? This ground he had for that faith--that he believed, as he says himself, that he must "begin from God; and that the pursuit of physical science clearly proceeds from Him, the Author of good, and Father of light." This gave him faith to say that in this as in all other Divine works, the smallest beginnings lead assuredly to some result, and that the "remark in spiritual matters, that the kingdom of God cometh without observation, is also found to be true in every great work of Divine Providence; so that everything glides on quietly without confusion or noise, and the matter is achieved before men either think or perceive that it is commenced." This it was which gave him courage to believe that his own philosophy might be the actual fulfilment of the prophecy, that in the last days many should run to and fro, and knowledge should be increased--words which, like hundreds of others in his works, sound like the outpourings of an almost blasphemous self-conceit, till we recollect that he looked on science only as the inspiration of God, and man's empire over nature only as the consequence of the redemption worked out for him by Christ, and begin to see in them the expressions of the deepest and most divine humility.
I doubt not that many here will be far more able than I am practically to apply the facts which I have been adducing to the cause of the hospital for which I am pleading. But there is one consequence of them to which I must beg leave to draw attention more particularly, especially at the present era of our nation. If, then, these discoveries of science be indeed revelations and inspirations from God, does it not follow that all classes, even the poorest and the most ignorant, the most brutal, have an equal right to enjoy the fruits of them? Does it not follow that to give to the poor their share in the blessings which chemical and medical science are working out for us, is not a matter of charity or benevolence, but of DUTY, of indefeasible, peremptory, immediate duty? For consider, my friends; the Son of God descends on earth, and takes on Him not only the form, but the very nature, affections, trials, and sorrows of a man. He proclaims Himself as the person who has been all along ruling, guiding, teaching, improving men; the light who lighteth every man who cometh into the world. He proclaims Himself by acts of wondrous power to be the internecine foe and conqueror of every form of sorrow, slavery, barbarism, weakness, sickness, death itself. He proclaims Himself as One who is come to give His life for His sheep-- One who is come to restore to men the likeness in which they were originally created, the likeness of their Father in Heaven, who accepteth the person of no man--who causeth His sun to shine on the evil and on the good, who sendeth His rain on the just and on the unjust, in whose sight the meanest publican, if his only consciousness be that of his own baseness and worthlessness, is more righteous than the most learned, respectable, and self-satisfied pharisee. He proclaims Himself the setter-up of a kingdom into which the publican and the harlot will pass sooner than the rich, the mighty, and the noble; a kingdom in which all men are to be brothers, and their bond of union loyalty to One who spared not His own life for the sheep, who came not to do His own, but the will of the Father who had sent Him, and who showed by His toil among the poor, the outcast, the ignorant, and the brutal, what that same will was like. With His own life-blood He seals this Covenant between God and man. He offers up His own body as the first-fruits of this great kingdom of self-sacrifice. He takes poor fishermen and mechanics, and sends them forth to acquaint all men with the good news that God is their King, and to baptize them as subjects of that kingdom, bound to rise in baptism to a new life, a life of love, and brotherhood, and self- sacrifice, like His own. He commands them to call all nations to that sacred Feast wherein there is neither rich nor poor, but the same bread and the same wine are offered to the monarch and to the slave, as signs of their common humanity, their common redemption, their common interest--signs that they derive their life, their health, their reason, their every faculty of body, soul, and spirit, from One who walked the earth as the son of a poor carpenter, who ate and drank with publicans and sinners. He sends down His Spirit on them with gifts of language, eloquence, wisdom, and healing, as mere earnests and first-fruits; so they said, of that prophecy that He would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, even upon slaves and handmaids. And these poor fishermen feel themselves impelled by a divine and irresistible impulse to go forth to the ends of the world, and face persecution, insult, torture, and death--not in order that they may make themselves lords over mankind, but that they may tell them that One is their Master, even Jesus Christ, both God and man-- that HE rules the world, and will rule it, and CAN rule it, that in His sight there is no distinction of race, or rank, or riches, neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free. And, as a fact, their message has prevailed and been believed; and in proportion as it has prevailed, not merely individual sanctity or piety, but liberty, law, peace, civilisation, learning, art, science, the gifts which he bought for men with His blood, have followed in its train: while the nations who have not received that message that God was their King, or having received it have forgotten it, or perverted it into a superstition and an hypocrisy, have in exactly that proportion fallen back into barbarism and bloodshed, slavery and misery. My friends, if this philosophy of history, this theory of human progress, or as I should call it, this Gospel of the Kingdom of God mean anything--does it not mean this? this which our forefathers believed, dimly and inconsistently perhaps, but still believed it, else we had not been here this day--that we are not our own, but the servants of Jesus Christ, and brothers of each other--that the very constitution and ground-law of this human species which has been redeemed by Christ, is the self-sacrifice which Christ displayed as the one perfection of humanity--that all rank, property, learning, science, are only held by their possessors in trust from that King who has distributed them to each according as He will, that each might use them for the good of all, certain--as certain as God's promise can make man--that if by giving up our own interest for the interest of others, we seek first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness between man and man, which we call MERCY, according to which it is constituted, all other things, health, wealth, peace, and every other blessing which humanity can desire, shall be added unto us over and above, as the natural and necessary fruits of a society founded according to the will of God, and declared in his Son Jesus Christ, and therefore according to those physical laws, whereof He is at once the Creator, the Director, and the Revealer?
This was the faith of our forefathers, both laity and clergy--that the Lord was King, be the people never so unquiet; that men were His stewards and His pupils only, and not His vicars; that they were equal in His sight, and not the slaves and tyrants of each other; and that the help that was done upon earth, He did it all Himself. Dimly, doubtless, they saw it, and inconsistently: but they saw it, and to their faith in that great truth we owe all that has made England really noble among the nations. Of the fruits of that faith every venerable building around us should remind us. To that faith in the laity, we owe the abolition of serfdom, the freedom of our institutions, the laws which provide equal justice between man and man; to that faith in the clergy, and especially in the monastic orders, we owe the endowment of our schools and universities, the improvement of agriculture, the preservation and the spread of all the liberal arts and sciences, as far as they were then discovered; so that every one of those abbeys which we now revile so ignorantly, became a centre of freedom, protection, healing, and civilisation, a refuge for the oppressed, a well-spring of mercy for the afflicted, a practical witness to the nation that property and science were not the private and absolute possession of men, but only held in trust from God for the benefit of the common weal: and just in proportion as in the 14th and 15th centuries those institutions fell from their first estate, and began to fancy that their wealth and wisdom was their own, acquired by their own cunning, to be used for their own aggrandizement, they became an imposture and imbecility, an abomination and a ruin. And it was this faith, too, in a still nobler and clearer form, which at the Reformation inspired the age which could produce a Ridley, a Latimer, an Elizabeth, a Shakspeare, a Spenser, a Raleigh, a Bacon, and a Milton; which knit together, in spite of religious feuds and social wrongs, the nation of England with a bond which all the powers of hell endeavoured in vain to break. Doubtless, there too there was inconsistency enough. Elizabeth may have mixed up ambitious dynastic dreams with her intense belief that God had given her her wisdom, her learning, her mighty will, only to be the servant of His servants and defender of the faith. Men like Drake and Raleigh, while they were believing that God had sent them forth to smite with the sword of the Lord the devourers of the earth, the destroyers of religion, freedom, civilisation, and national life, may have been unfaithful to what they believed their divine mission, and fancied that they might use their wisdom and valour that God gave them for their selfish ends, till they committed (as some say) acts of rapacity and cruelty worthy of the merest buccaneer. But THAT was not what made them conquer-- that was not what made the wealth and the might of Spain melt away before their little bands of heroes; but the same old faith, shining out in all their noblest acts and words, that "the Lord WAS King, and that the help that was done upon earth, He did it all Himself?" So again, Bacon may have fancied, and did fancy in his old age, that he might use his deep knowledge of mankind for his own selfish ends-- that he might indulge himself in building himself up a name that might fill all the earth, that he who had done so much for God and for mankind, might be allowed to do at last somewhat for himself, and tempted, by a paltry bribe, fall for awhile, as David did before him, that God, and not he, might have the glory of all his wisdom. But then he was less than himself; then he had but lost sight of his lode-star. Then he had forgotten, but only for awhile, that he owed all to the teaching of that God who had given to the young and obscure advocate the mission of affecting the destinies of nations yet unborn.
And believe me, my friends, even as it has been with our forefathers, so it will be with us. According to our faith will it be unto us, now as it was of old. In proportion as we believe that wealth, science, and civilisation are the work and property of man, in just that proportion we shall be tempted to keep them selfishly and exclusively to ourselves. The man of science will be tempted to hide his discoveries, though men may be perishing for lack of them, till he can sell them to the highest bidder; the rich man will be tempted to purchase them for himself, in order that he may increase his own comfort and luxury, and feel comparatively lazy and careless about their application to the welfare of the masses; he will be tempted to pay an exorbitant price for anything that can increase his personal convenience, and yet when the question is about improving the supply of necessaries to the poor, stand haggling about considerations of profitable investment, excuse himself from doing the duty which lies nearest to him by visions of distant profit, of which a thousand unexpected accidents may deprive him after all, and make his boasted scientific care for the wealth of the nation an excuse for leaving tens of thousands worse housed and worse fed than his own beasts of burden. The poor man will be tempted franctically to oppose his selfishness and unbelief to the selfishness and unbelief of the rich, and clutch from him by force the comfort which really belong to neither of them, in order that he may pride himself in them and misuse them in his turn; and the clergy will be tempted, as they have too often been tempted already, to fancy that reason is the enemy, and not the twin sister of faith; to oppose revelation to science, as if God's two messages could contradict each other; to widen the Manichaean distinction between secular and spiritual matters, so pleasant to the natural atheism of fallen man; to fancy that they honour God by limiting as much as possible His teaching, His providence, His wisdom, His love, and His kingdom, and to pretend that they are defending the creeds of the Catholic Church, by denying to them any practical or real influence on the economic, political, and physical welfare of mankind. But in proportion as we hold to the old faith of our forefathers concerning science and civilisation, we shall feel it not only a duty, but a glory and a delight, to make all men sharers in them; to go out into the streets and lanes of the city and call in the maimed, and the halt, and the blind, that they may sit down and take their share of the good things which God has provided in His kingdom for those who obey Him. Every new discovery will be hailed by us as a fresh boon from God to be bestowed by the rain and the sunshine freely upon us all. The sight of every sufferer will make us ready to suspect and to examine ourselves lest we should be in some indirect way the victim of some neglect or selfishness of our own. Every disease will be a sign to us that in some respect or other, the physical or moral laws of human nature have been overlooked or broken. The existence of an unhealthy locality, the recurrence of an epidemic, will be to us a subject of public shame and self-reproach. Men of science will no longer go up and down entreating mankind in vain to make use of their discoveries; the sanitary reformer will be no longer like Wisdom crying in the streets and no man regarding her; and in every ill to which flesh is heir we shall see an enemy of our King and Lord, and an intruder into His Kingdom, against which we swore at our baptism to fight with an inspiring and delicious certainty that God will prosper the right; that His laws cannot change; that nature, and the disturbances and poisons, and brute powers thereof, were meant to be the slaves, and not the tyrants of a race whose head has conquered the grave itself.
This is no speculative dream. The progress of science is daily proving it to be an actual truth; proving to us that a large proportion of diseases--how large a proportion, no man yet dare say-- are preventible by science under the direction of that common justice and mercy which man owes to man. The proper cultivation of the soil, it is now clearly seen, will exterminate fevers and agues, and all the frightful consequences of malaria. An attention to those simple decencies and cleanlinesses of life of which even the wild animals feel the necessity, will prevent the epidemics of our cities, and all the frightful train of secondary diseases which follow them, or supply their place. The question which is generally more and more forcing itself on the minds of scientific men is not how many diseases are, but how few are not, the consequences of man's ignorance, barbarism, and folly. The medical man is felt more and more to be as necessary in health as he is in sickness, to be the fellow-workman not merely of the clergyman, but of the social reformer, the political economist, and the statesman; and the first object of his science to be prevention, and not cure. But if all this be true, as true it is, we ought to begin to look on hospitals as many medical men I doubt not do already, in a sadder though in a no less important light. When we remember that the majority of cases which fill their wards are cases of more or less directly preventible diseases, the fruits of our social neglect, too often of our neglect of the sufferers themselves, too often also our neglect of their parents and forefathers; when we think how many a bitter pang is engendered and propagated from generation to generation in the noisome alleys and courts of this metropolis, by foul food, foul bedrooms, foul air, foul water, by intemperance, the natural and almost pardonable consequence of want of water, depressing and degrading employments, and lives spent in such an atmosphere of filth as our daintier nostrils could not endure a day: then we should learn to look upon these hospitals not as acts of charity, supererogatory benevolences of ours towards those to whom we owe nothing, but as confessions of sin, and worthy fruits of penitence; as poor and late and partial compensation for misery which we might have prevented. And when again, taking up scientific works, we find how vast a proportion of the remaining cases of disease are produced directly or indirectly by the unhealthiness of certain occupations, so certainly that the scientific man can almost prophesy the average shortening of life, and the peculiar form of disease, incident to any given form of city labour--when we find, to quote a single instance, that a large proportion--one half, as I am informed--of the female cases in certain hospitals, are those of women-servants suffering from diseases produced by overwork in household labour, especially by carrying heavy weights up the steep stairs of our London houses--when we consider the large proportion of accident cases which are the result, if not always of neglect in our social arrangements, still of danger incurred in labouring for us, we shall begin to feel that our debts towards the poorer classes, for whom this and other hospitals are instituted, swells and mounts up to a burden which ought to be and would be intolerable to us, if we had not some such means as this hospital affords of testifying our contrition for neglect for which we cannot atone, and of practically claiming in the hospital our brotherhood with those masses whom we pass by so carelessly in the workshop and the street. What matters it that they have undertaken a life of labour from necessity, and with a full consciousness of the dangers they incur in it? For whom have they been labouring, but for us? Their handiwork renders our houses luxurious. We wear the clothes they make. We eat the food they produce. They sit in darkness and the shadow of death that we may enjoy light and life and luxury and civilisation. True, they are free men, in name, not free though from the iron necessity of crushing toil. Shall we make their liberty a cloak for our licentiousness? and because they are our brothers and not our slaves, answer with Cain, "Am I my brother's keeper?" What if we have paid them the wages which they ask? We do not feed our beasts of burden only as long as they are in health, and when they fall sick leave them to cure themselves and starve--and these are not our beasts of burden; they are members of Christ, children of God, inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Prove it to them, then, for they are in bitter danger of forgetting it in these days. Prove to them, by helping to cure their maladies, that they are members of Christ, that they do indeed belong to Him who without fee or payment freely cured the sick of Judaea in old time. Prove to them that they are children of God by treating them as such--as children of Him without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, children of Him whose love is over all His works, children of Him who defends the widow and the fatherless, and sees that those who are in need or necessity have right, and who maketh inquiry for the blood of the innocent. Prove to them that they are inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven, by proving to them first of all that the Kingdom of Heaven exists, that all, rich and poor alike, are brothers, and One their Master, He who ascended up on high and led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, the gifts of healing, the gifts of science, the gifts of civilisation, the gifts of law, the gifts of order, the gifts of liberty, the gifts of the spirit of love and brotherhood, of fellow-feeling and self-sacrifice, of justice and humility, a spirit fit for a world of redeemed and pardoned men, in which mercy is but justice, and self-sacrifice the truest self-interest; a world, the King and Master of which is One who poured out his own life-blood for the sake of those who hated him, that men should henceforth live not for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again, and ascended up on high and received gifts for men, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
And because all general truths can only be verified in particular instances, verify your general faith in that Christianity which you profess in this particular instance, by doing the duty which lies nearest to you, and GIVING, AS IT IS CALLED, to this hospital for which I now plead.
Thanks to the spirit and the attainments of the average of English medical men and chaplains, to praise the management of any hospital which is under their care, is a needless impertinence. Do you find funds, there will be no fear as to their being well employed; and no fear, alas! either of their services being in full demand, while the sanitary state of vast streets of South London, lying close to this hospital, are in a state in which they are, and in which private cupidity and neglect seem willing to compel them to remain. It is on account of its contiguity to these neglected, destitute, and poisonous localities, that this hospital seems to me especially valuable. But though situated in a part of London where its presence is especially needed, it has not, from various causes which have arisen from no fault of its own, attracted as much public notice as some other more magnificent foundations; while it possesses one feature, peculiar I believe to it, among our London hospitals, which seems to me to render it especially deserving of support: I speak of the ward for incurable patients, in which, instead of ending their days in the melancholy wards of a workhouse, or amid those pestilential and crowded dwellings which have perhaps produced their maladies, and which certainly will aggravate them, they may have their heavy years of hopeless suffering softened by a continued supply of constant comforts, and constant medical solicitude, such as the best-conducted workhouse, or the most laborious staff of parish surgeons, and district visitors, ay, not even the benevolence and self-sacrifice of friends and relations, can possibly provide. I beseech you, picture to yourselves the amount of mere physical comfort, not to mention the higher blessings of spiritual teaching and consolation, accruing to some poor tortured cripple, in the wards of this hospital; compare it with the very brightest lot possible for him in the dwellings of the lower, or even of the middle classes of the metropolis; then recollect that these hospital luxuries, which would be unattainable by him elsewhere, are but a tithe of those which you, in his situation, would consider absolute necessaries, without which a life of suffering, ay, even of health, were intolerable--and do unto others this day, as you would that others should do unto you!
I might have taken some other and more popular method of drawing your attention to this institution.
I might have tried to excite your feelings and sympathies by attempts at pathetic or picturesque descriptions of suffering. But the minister of a just God is bound to proclaim that God demands not SENTIMENT, but JUSTICE. The Bible knows nothing of the "religious sentiments and emotions," whereof we hear so much talk nowadays. It speaks of DUTY. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we OUGHT to love one another."
I might also have attempted to flatter you into giving, by representing this as a "GOOD WORK," a work of charity and piety, well pleasing to God; a sort of work of Protestant supererogation, fruits of faith which we may show, if we like, up to a certain not very clearly defined point of benevolence, but the absence of which probably will not seriously affect our eternal salvation, still less our right to call ourselves orthodox, Protestants, churchmen, worthy, kind-hearted, respectable, blameless. The Bible knows nothing of such a religion; it neither coaxes nor flatters, it COMMANDS. It demands mercy, because mercy is justice; and declares with what measure we mete to others, it shall be surely measured to us again. If therefore my words shall seem to some here, to be not so much a humble request as a peremptory demand, I cannot help it. I have pleaded the cause of this hospital on the only solid ground of which I am aware, for doing anything but evil to everyone around us who is not a private friend, or a member of one's own family. I ask you to help the poor to their share in the gifts which Christ received for men, because they are His gifts, and neither ours nor any man's. Among these venerable buildings, the signs and witnesses of the Kingdom of God, and the blessings of that Kingdom which for a thousand years have been spreading and growing among us--I ask it of you as citizens of that Kingdom. Prove your brotherhood to the poor by restoring to them a portion of that wealth which, without their labour, you could never have possessed. Prove your brotherhood to them in a thousand ways--in every way--in this way, because at this moment it happens to be the nearest and the most immediate, and because the necessity for it is nearer, more immediate, to judge by the signs of the times, and most of all by their self-satisfied unconsciousness of danger, their loud and shallow self-glorification, than ever it was before. Work while it is called to-day, lest the night come wherein no man can work, but only take his wages.
Again I say, I may seem to some here to have pleaded the cause of this hospital in too harsh and peremptory a tone. . . . And yet I have a ground of hope, in the English love of simple justice, in the noble instances of benevolence and self-sacrifice among the wealthy and educated, which are, thank God! increasing in number daily, as the need of them increases--in these, I say, I have a ground of hope that there are many here to-day who would sooner hear the language of truth than of flattery; who will be more strongly moved toward a righteous deed by being told that it is their duty toward God, their country, and their fellow-citizens, than by any sentimental baits for personal sympathy, or for the love of Pharisaic ostentation.
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