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Open your ears, and what do you hear? Oaths, bitter cursings, groans, self-reproach. And can we do nothing to relieve all this agony, to drive out this evil spirit? Shall we leave the poor, the vicious, the falling, to public officers, and city missionaries, and societies for Reform? My friends, can we walk with folded arms by the stream in which thousands are sinking, and throw the work of saving them upon the "proper authorities?" I do not believe we can, if we are true to conscience. I believe the hour is coming, nay, is come, when every true heart should realize that we are all missionaries, and all bound to labor for the moral good of others. Some, yes, many are doing their duty in this respect; those of every profession and calling are beginning to be active. Go to our Sunday Schools, and there you will find the mechanic refreshing himself, after the toils of the week, in labors of Love; go to our public lectures, and there the Lawyer, or the Physician may be doing his share of the noble work.
And in this vast enterprise the Teacher may do, in proportion to his labors, more than any other man. All may be reached through their children; however depraved, the instinct of parental love remains, like the thin film of bark which holds the almost dissevered twig to the tree,-one living bond between the sinner and his Creator.
A child is a messenger from God. Go to the home of the vicious, and you will find the little Prophet, misused as he may be, still wielding the Prophet's rod of love. I have seen a boy of seven years old, draw, with irresistible strength, his father from the door of the grog-shop. I have known a daughter of ten years old, take the cup of spirit from her mother's hand. I have known the infidel of twenty years' standing converted by his child, not yet in its 'teens.
If I am right in my views, then, the Teacher has great duties, and a wide field of usefulness before him. He is to be a faithful educator of the young; a thorough student of the subject of Education; an instructor of Society respecting that subject; a laborer for the relief and reform of many with whom his scholars bring him in connection.
Let us next turn to the Physician. At first sight no man in the community seems to be engaged in more perfectly private duties than he. Ask most men what his calling, his Profession imposes upon him, and they would say, it obliges him to be out early and late, feeling pulses, examining tongues, giving pills and draughts, opening veins, or setting broken bones. If this be all, how is Medicine a Liberal Profession?
The lowest slave to avarice, sensuality, or selfishness in any form, can do these things. To my mind it would seem the Physician has much more to do. I deem him the teacher of Natural Science, to a knowledge of which his Profession constantly leads him. In this great University of the world, wherein we are all scholars, he should be the Professor of Natural Science. Nor would the benefits of his instruction be small or confined. We lack few things more than a true love for, and knowledge of Nature. We walk the earth blind. and deaf; for though we have eyes we will not see, and though we have ears we hear not. Through countless avenues, the voice of the Eternal One flows in upon us, and not one tone in a thousand reaches our spirits. Listen, for instance, to the conversation of educated men and women: is it not, usually, about matters of the most fleeting and local interest? The scandal of the drawing-room, or the market place; dress; prices; cooking; a neighbor's fault or folly; the political news; a religious controversy, are not these the current topics? And let some daring man venture upon any scientific path, more abstract than Mr. Espy's storm theory, how often will he find himself his sole listener. As for women, they if they know more than a few botanical names, are blue-stockings, and fall under the ban which applies to all colored people. A few weeks since, when the scientific principles of that most curious and beautiful instrument, the Daguerrotype, were explained in this Hall, by one of the first scientific men living, out of all our educated and enlightened women, scarce a dozen attended.
How much better would be the influence of common social intercourse, were we in the habit of seeing the wonders about us, and speaking of them. The world is full not only of beauty and wisdom, but of the deepest humor; and conversation, because science mingles in it, need not be in Latin, nor deal with Conic Sections, nor be stiff and solemn. It may be as light as the floating butterfly, and playful as the trout of the mountain brook, but it will be always true and wise, for it will partake of the truth and wisdom of Nature.
Through the Natural Sciences, also, the noblest recreation for the mechanic, the lawyer, the clergyman, and the man of business, may be had. After a day's hard work among men, law-suits, or the turmoil of trade, how pleasant to meet in silent and calm seclusion the guiding spirit of the Universe. The lover does not return to her he loves more joyfully, than the true student of Natural Science does to his mistress when the cares of the day are done.
Nor is it the mere recreation that he gains; his intellect is expanded and lifted up. Through the day he may have used many of his mental powers, but there are some which have lain asleep; and these are developed by his studies of the evening or the morning. For it is with the mind as with the body; if we use it in part only we disease the whole. Look at your mere lawyer, your mere clergyman, or mere man of business; he is a monster, out of all proportion and harmony, and like all monsters is diseased even in those faculties wherein he excels. Against this so prevalent disease of monstrous growth in one or two directions, the study of Nature, is, for many of us, the surest specific.
But in other ways our intellect grows as we study the world in which we live. The clown, who calculates the size of the moon by his cart-wheel, or his mother's big pewter dish, stands at one extreme of the scale, and Newton, who absolutely measures the Universe, and weighs its orbs in a balance, stands at the other; and what a distance from the one to the other, as regards comprehension of the world, and intellectual likeness to its Creator! But, my friends, we are all somewhere between the two; and most of us, even of those who are called educated men, far nearer the Clown than the Philosopher.
But while our intellect expands as we become acquainted with Nature, it expands only to learn how limited it is, and how small its grasp. The deepest student will be the humblest. He who has merely learned that these bright spangles overhead are suns vastly distant, feels, great as the opening idea of the universe is, as if he could still stand above, and look down upon the myriad solar systems that are visible; but the astronomer who has journeyed from star to star, till he has reached one so distant that the ray of light now in his telescope must have left it before Abraham was born, and to whose soul has come the conception of an infinite universe, he will cover his head in his mantle, and bow in awe-struck adoration.
Nor is it the intellect alone that is affected. As we become aware of the immensity of Creation we feel how poor and low are our quarrels for precedence and power. As I sat watching, an hour since, the clouds which floated in the western sky, and thought that all our angry outcries, and noisy assertions of rights and dignities, could not disturb their slightest film, was I not of necessity, lifted for the moment, out of the narrow circle, which I call "the world," into the presence of those purer spirits, whose glories had lent glory
to the dull vapors? It is no dream that the stars may soothe our passions, and heal our griefs. Astrology was based on truth; was the distortion of a truth; the truth that we are bound, every living soul of us, to the most distant orb that lends light to the milky-way.
But why need I number the advantages of a study of nature! Is not Nature God's word to man? Can we see it, even in ignorance, without benefit? and will not knowledge. increase the benefit? Let us have then a Professorship of Natural Science in our University,-the world of man; and let our Physicians be called on to do its duties.
But the Physician's duties are not all told yet. He, as well as the Teacher, is a Christian Missionary; and by many a bedside, by sympathy and kindness, and a word in season, may preach the gospel of love; may impress hearts softened by suffering; may awake spirits long drugged with sin. To the poor the physician may be of incalculable use; no one comes so near to them; no one comprehends so fully their wants, temptations, and habits. In the vast field of social and individual reform the Physician may be a leader.
Let us, in the next place, ask what the public duties of the Lawyer are. Has he, also, some great branch of knowledge to pursue, and instruct us in? I think he has. His early studies and his whole course of life seem to fit him peculiarly, for teaching to his fellows Political and Social Science. Society is not a piece of mechanism but a living body. It grows up we know not from what wonderful sources, and expands and alters under the guidance of higher laws than are to be found in human Constitutions and Statute Books. The wonders of the animal frame, and the mysteries of that great frame, whose molecules are worlds, cease to appear wonderful, when we look at this living body, Society. It is the anatomy of this which the Lawyer should make known to us.
As yet, I fear, we comprehend Society, even in its most external form, that of Policy, but very imperfectly. As an instance of this, we have the fact that the deepest thinkers of Europe and this country are still divided respecting the doctrines of Free trade. Indeed, I cannot but think the whole subject of Commerce, including the questions of currency and credit, is yet, scientifically speaking, in its infancy. And what views respecting government are we wholly agreed in? One of the young gentlemen who spoke last evening, referred to the condition of things at present in England, and I would ask you if the subject of society is comprehended there? Read the various Reviews through which the best
minds of all parties speak, and I think that you will soon feel that the first principles of social union and action are as little understood, as the physiology of man was, before it was known that the blood was in circulation. And in our own country, very few, I imagine, are in the habit of going behind Laws and Constitutions to the life which supports them. In conversation we hear much of expediency, policy, popular feeling, and the necessities of the times, but of the relations which men in this country bear to one another, the duties as well as the rights of all, the great, ultimate, social principles whereon we rest, we hear very little said. It is to many persons a very startling proposition that a majority in this country cannot do what it pleases: they have not considered that above the people here, as above the monarch elsewhere, is a divine law of Right; that as the king is in the wrong when unjust, so the majority is in the wrong when unjust.
But should we not soon be wiser in these matters if our lawyers deemed it part of their professional duty to inform themselves and teach us respecting them, instead of thinking their duty done when they have gained a cause for their client and a fee for themselves?
Again, did we study the anatomy of society, healthy and morbid, more deeply, we should feel less private social acrimony, and less political intolerance. On the one side you hear the cry of " Aristocrats," and on the other that of "blackguards and loafers," when if either party knew the other, the feeling which prompts these cries, would die away. But how very few, my friends, among the more fortunate and better educated, even strive to know how their opponents live, feel, and see. The yell of hatred which comes up now and then against Wealth and Luxury, is not wholly Satanic; it comes from human beings, having hearts and minds such as we have; and place us in like situations, and it is but too probable we should cry out as they do.
And in political parties there seems to be the very Demon of bigotry which has been exorcised from Religion; so that old and wise men do not hesitate to say that their opponents are, not only wrong in judgment, but rogues in purpose. Our party papers deal out epithets on bodies of men, which applied individually would be libellous; and this without appearing to know what they do. The scientific and theological disputes of the middle ages we look upon, as we do upon the antediluvian monsters, with a feeling of doubt whether such things ever were; but their worst features are retained in our political polemics.