The Claims of Total Abstinence on the Educated Classes.
ought to be, and it is, with some trepidation that I rise to address a highly distinguished, and, I think, impatient audience on a greatly disparaged cause. The secular press tells us that the advocates of total abstinence are impracticable fanatics, and wrong-headed pharisees; the religious press tells us that abstinence is a much poorer stage of virtue than moderation, and that by declining wine and beer we fall far below the attainment of those moral athletes, who, to their hearts' content, indulge themselves in both; even clergymen in their sermons, and at the Church Congress, argued that we are despising a good creature of God, setting ourselves against a precept of St. Paul, and cherishing a heresy which is dangerously akin to that of the ancient Manichees. Well, if a cause had no opponents, I, for one, should think it a grievous waste of time to be among its advocates; and the only thing that would reconcile me to the uncongenial task of speaking on the subject, is the knowledge that it is unpopular and decried. And as for these arguments, we have had them addressed to us again and again, and you must pardon me if the utter intellectual disdain with which I regard them prevents me from doing more than allude to them to-day. They remind me of nothing so much as the victims of Mr. Punch, in the now rare street show, which used to delight our childish days. It is perfectly useless for that hero to knock them on the head and bang them on the floor; they show a wooden vitality which is perfectly inexhaustible. No matter how violently used—they have been dashed down and finished off by a final rap—they are sure to start up a moment afterwards, wagging their futile heads and shaking
their minatory arms; and, long after they have been finally disposed of, their ghosts reappear, with an exasperating pertinacity. Now as to these objections, if anybody likes to call me Manichæan because I have become an abstainer, I can only assure him, with a smile, that I should like him, to the same extent, to adopt the same beneficent heresy. If, in spite of arguments which daily gain in overwhelming cogency, he tells us that alcohol in moderation is harmless, it is still no more a special duty of mine to drink it than it is a special duty of mine to feed, for instance, on Revalenta Arabica. If I prove to him that to millions of human beings it is not only deleterious, but deadly, I gay that to them, and to those who wish to help and save them, it is no more a good creature of God than laudanum or strychnine. And as to the so-called Scriptural arguments in favour of drunkenness—I beg pardon, I mean in favour of moderate drinking, which is, however, ultimately, the fons et origo
of drunkenness—I shall say this only, that wine means primarily the juice, and often, as I believe, the unfermented juice of the grape; and that the drugged beers, and stupefying porters, and fortified ports, and plastered sherries, and abominable draughts of liquid fire that are called spirits in England, are no more the pure fruit of the vine than the mariners compass is intended when we are told that St. Paul fetched a compass and came to Rhegium. Into that Scriptural matter I have no time at present to enter, and, indeed, to do so would be perfectly superfluous to an audience intelligent enough and educated enough to distinguish between the dead letter and the living spirit; and to observe that those who defend dram-drinking out of Timothy are the sworn brothers of those who defend slavery out of Philemon. But those who oppose us on false deductions from Scripture do not stand alone in resuscitating their slain objections. There is your senator, entrenched in his impregnable aphorism "that you cannot make people sober by Act of Parliament," who is best met by the direct denial that to a very great extent you can make people sober by Act of Parliament; and by the entreaty that senates, if they cannot make people sober, should at least not continue the very effective means to prove that you can by Act of Parliament make them drunken. There is your man of the world, who asks you what all the noise is about, and why you don't leave him alone, and who is indeed best
left alone, since our arguments are only intelligible to the unselfish and the earnest. There is your defender of the British Constitution, who asks how you can interfere with the liberty of the subject? to which I answer, with J. S. Mill, that the liberty of one man ends where, however profitable to himself, it becomes fatal and ruinous to another; and with Archbishop Whately "that I will gladly curtail any liberty if thereby I can restrain another's licence." And then, lastly, there is a very important person indeed, your political economist. You tell him that we are squandering £150,000,000 a year directly (and how awful a sum indirectly is known to God alone) in that which he may regard as a harmless luxury, but which we see to be a frightful curse to millions, and which we believe to be in a greater or less degree injurious to all, and what does he do? First, he nibbles at the figures, talks about exaggeration; and, without saying one word about the indirect cost to this nation of alcohol, says that its direct cost is after all "only" £131,000,000, and that of this the working classes spend "only" £38,000,000, and that this is "only" equivalent to what they spend in rent; and that £87,000,000 of the whole sum spent are not lost, because they go in duty to the Exchequer and in profits to the liquor trade. Well, I am not a professor, and perhaps it may be only my ignorance, but I confess that this is a political economy which fairly astounds me. It reminds me of nothing so much as the answer given, it is said—but let us hope by an Oxford undergraduate—to the question, "What are the chief sources of revenue to the Shetland Isles?" and who answered that "the inhabitants earned an honest but somewhat precarious subsistence by washing one another's clothes." But, seriously, supposing that this £131,000,000 — for in this amazing bill we will not quarrel about a million or two more or less—were spent, not in alcohol, but in fireworks? Would it be an argument to any one who complained that this was a fearful waste to say that the working classes "only" spent £38,000,000 of it; that fireworks amused them; and that £87,000,000 of it was not lost, because it went in duty to the revenue, and in profits to the pyrotechnist? It is surely an amazing conception of national advantage which makes it consist in the mere circulation of money spent on unproductive labour; and anyone who knows anything whatever about the temperance question, knows that the grounds
on which we brand as waste this vast consumption of our resources, are grounds for which we at least offer a daily increasing mass of proof, viz., that alcohol is not a food; that it is not a source of warmth; that it is not a source of strength; that it cannot even conceivably be a necessity, seeing that our thousands of prisoners gain in health and strength, instead of losing, by its total withdrawal; that there are whole races of men who never touch it; and that the total abstainers of England, who now number four millions, are among the healthiest of men; and that while it is thus absolutely needless, the abuse of it is confessedly and demonstrably the curse and shame of England, both at home and abroad, the most fertile and the most potent of all existing causes of degradation and ruin. Well, if these things be so—and whether they are so, you cannot judge at all till you have at least faced the evidence—then, I say, deliberately and distinctly, that England would be a richer country, a better country, a happier country, a country in all respects more blessed, if alcoholic drinks were non-existent, and if £150,000,000 were spent annually on fireworks instead; for this, among other reasons, because the puffing away of that magnificent revenue in smoke and flame would not only do us less direct harm, but would also save us from the vast loss caused indirectly to the nation by the occupation, for hops, of 09,000 acres of our soil; by the destruction, for beer and spirits, of 12,000,000 bushels of grain; and by the crushing expense of all the pauperism, the lunacy, the crimes, the accidents, the burnt houses, the wrecked ships, the exploded collieries, the shattered railway trains, which can be traced directly to drink alone. Now I will tell you why I speak of total abstinence. I am bidden to-day to point out the claims of the temperance movement on the public schools and Universities, and if by the temperance movement be merely meant the discountenancing of drunkenness, surety to speak about it would be needless. I suppose that no one here will be likely to act, as I once saw a gentleman act, who sat at a meeting and did not blush to applaud the disgraceful facts and alarming statistics of intemperance. To such a one we could only say—
"Well spoken advocate of sin and shame
Known by thy bleating, Ignorance thy name."
But I need hardly say that no man would have any shadow of a right to the titles of a Christian and a gentleman—nay, he would brand himself as an enemy to his race—if he did not join heart and soul in the wish to check intemperance. If that were all, it would be an insult to your understandings to argue with you that the temperance movement has claims upon you. Of course it has claims upon every living man in whose breast beats a human heart. But I shall take the unpopular, quixotic side, and ask you to consider whether total abstinence has no claims upon you.
I shall not say—I have never said—that it is your duty, or any man's duty, to take so far upon yourself the vow of the Nazarite, but I shall humbly ask for your unprejudiced consideration, and I shall leave to yourselves the manly decision, while I beg you for a few moments to glance at the question with me—first, in its personal, and then in one only of its social aspects. Let me begin with the very lowest ground of all. I look around me, and I am every day more deeply impressed with the increasing severity of the struggle for life and the immense difficulty of gaining a livelihood experienced by thousands of boys and youths of the upper and professional classes, and I ask whether under such circumstances it is not worth a young man's time to make his condition of life as simple as possible, and to save himself, by a very trivial self-denial, from a very needless and burdensome expense? I tell my poor people that one single pint of beer a day means at least £3 a year; that three pints a day, which is in most of these families a very moderate allowance, means £9 a year out of their wages, and that would in twenty years, with interest, become no less than £257, which would buy them a freehold house and garden. I surely may say to many of you, who will hereafter not find it so easy to keep the wolf from the door, taking this very lowest, yet not unimportant ground, that even four glasses of sherry a day in a household means some ten dozen bottles a year, and that even in a small and struggling clergyman's family of a few people some £20 can very ill indeed be spared. The day may come when you will not think this a trivial sum. But, trivial or not, it is undesirable if it be a waste, and it is foolish if people are better without it. Now this as least is certain—that to a young and a healthy man alcohol in any form is needless, even if it be not injurious. Dr. Brunton and Dr. Burdon Sanderson, and Sir W. Gull are none of them total abstainers, and the first two are distinctly unfavourable to total abstinence, yet Dr. Brunton says before the Lords' Committee, "If a man eats well and sleeps well, he does not want it, and is better without it." Dr. Burdon Sanderson says, "It is not at all required in health"; and Sir William Gull says "that the constant use of alcohol, even in moderation, injures the nervous tissues, and is deleterious to health." I could quote to you on the same side the distinctest evidence of Sir H. Thompson, of Dr. Norman Kerr, of Dr. B. W. Richardson, of more than 2,000 physicians in 1846, and of an ever-increasing number of eminent medical men; but I greatly prefer, and I am quite content to rest it on the spontaneous, the unbiassed, often the most unwilling testimony, of those who are in no way pledged to total abstinence, and are even in some cases distinctly hostile to it. So much for the score of health; and what about strength? You desire to be athletes. Well, I venture to say to you that you will be all the better and stronger athletes if you are total abstainers. When Captain
Webb swam the Channel, and Weston walked his thousand miles, and Adam Ayles, the Arctic explorer, got nearest the North Pole, they did it without a drop of stimulants; and I dare say that you have already found out for yourselves that, as Dr. Burdon Sanderson says, "Alcohol is specially injurious in continuous muscular exertion." And then as to mental work. Many of you desire to be students and scholars. Will alcohol help you? Sir Henry Thompson says, "That of all people I know who cannot stand alcohol, the brain-worker can do so least." Sir William Gull tells us that alcohol degenerates the tissue and spoils the intellect. Many a man has ruined a fine intellect, as Macaulay tells us that Lord Byron did, by ardent spirits and Rhenish wine; many a man has polluted with the strange fires of alcohol the vertical flame on the altar of genius, but in spite of all devils' proverbs to the contrary, no man has ever yet improved it, and the "vino forma perit, vino consumitur œtas
," is as true now as it was in the days of Propertius nearly 2,000 years ago. I could go on heaping proof on proof that even if alcohol be not positively harmful, even if it do not tend to weaken and degrade the physical organisation, it is at the very best a needless and questionable luxury, and, therefore, one which a young man might, I think, very reasonably despise. But I have something more serious to say. In speaking of the purely personal aspect of the question, I have only glanced at its physical, and have not so much as touched on its moral and spiritual aspects. Now, as regards these, my own belief is that alcohol does tend (if taken very moderately, it may be only in an infinitesimal degree, but still does tend) to excite the lower, and to neutralise the spiritual elements of our nature, and that in myriads who stop far short of being drunkards it blunts the moral sensibilities and enslaves the enervated will. And although millions never succumb to their influences, yet millions also do. Do you suppose that there was ever a drunkard since the world began who dreamt when he first began to "quaff the foaming vintage of Champagne in silver goblets, tossed," or to do any of the other fine things which our Bacchanalian songs so fatally belaud, that he too would fall into the shame and misery of the drunkard? From the day when Noah planted a vineyard and ate of the fruit thereof—nay, it may be even from the days of Eden, if, as the Rabbis say, the vine was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—from the days when the two sons of Aaron perished at the altar in their intoxication—numberless of the miserable have experienced the fatal physical fact that as long as a drop of alcohol remains in the system it creates a desire for more, and the fatal moral fact that evil habit first allures, then masters and finally maddens and enslaves. At the entrance of one of our college chapels lies a nameless grave—that grave covers the mortal remains of one of its most promising fellows ruined through drink. I received not long ago a letter from an old
schoolfellow, a clergyman, who after long labours was in want of clothes and almost of food. I inquired the cause: it was drink. A few weeks ago a wretched clergyman came to me in deplorable misery, who had dragged down his family with him into ruin. What had ruined him? Drink! While I was at Cambridge, one of the most promising scholars when a youth, years ago, died in a London hospital of delirium tremens, through drink. When I was at King's College I used to sit next to a handsome youth who grew up to be a brilliant writer. He died in the prime of life, a victim of drink. I once knew an eloquent philanthropist who was a very miserable man. The world never knew the curse which was on him, but his friends knew it was drink. And why is it that these tragedies are daily happening I It is through the fatal fascination, the seductive sorcery, of drink, against which Scripture so often warns. It is because drink is one of the surest of "the devil's ways to man, and of man's way to the devil." It is because the old Greek imagination hit upon a frightful truth when it surrounded the car of Bacchus with half-human satyrs and raving maenads. "I must take care," wrote a great and good man the other day, "for I find myself getting an ugly craving for alcohol," and what is such a remark but an unconscious comment on Milton's noble lines:—
"Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape
Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine,
After the Tuscan mariners transformed
Skirting the Tyrrhene shore as the wind listed
On Circe's island fell. Who knows not Circe,
The daughter of the sun, whose charmed cup
Whoever tasted lost his upright shape,
And downward fell into a grovelling swine?"
Which things are simply this allegory, that he who loves wine is driven, as the wind lists, into a realm of sorcery, and that this sorcery culminates in utter degradation. But you, it may be, are quite sure that you will never fall on Circe's island, or unmould reason's mintage. But why are you so sure? Is your nature so much stronger and nobler than that of Burns, or than that of Hartley Coleridge, or than that of Charles Lamb, with his sad cry, "The waters have gone over me. But out of the depths, could I be heard, I would cry out to all those who have but set a loot in the perilous flood"? Or why are you safer than all those 600,000 drunkards in these unhappy islands—many of them men of keen intellect, many of them men of noble instincts; many of them men of most amiable character? How did these men become drunkards? Do you think that they were born drunkards? Do you think that they became drunkards the moment they tasted alcohol? Why, you know that there is only one way by which any man ever became a drunkard, and that is by growing fond of alcohol, at first in moderate drinking—either by the glass or by
the dram—day by day a little increased—year by year a little multiplied, by the solitary becoming the frequent, and the frequent the habitual, and the habitual the all but inevitable transgression, till at last some fine morning as they awake, perhaps in the shame of some intolerable fall—it came upon them with a flash that they are drunkards: or else they have been moderate for years, and then at last, when they thought themselves perfectly secure, the temptation has come upon them "terrible and with a tiger's leap"—in the delight of some boon companionship, in the exhilaration of some good fortune, in the agony of some unexpected bereavement. Gentlemen, if every one of you think yourselves so absolutely and so permanently safe from a temptation to which so many millions have succumbed, or if you think that, being absolutely safe yourself, no single person towards whom you have duties and whom you love, nor wife, or child, or friend, or servant, or parishioner, can by any possibility be ever tempted by your example, all that I can say is that, while I cannot share your confidence, I must earnestly trust that no bitter irremediable experience may ever give you cause to repent of it in dust and ashes. But now I will pass from the personal to the social aspect of the question. It has been said that if you are fond of wine you ought to abstain for your own sake; and if you are not fond of wine, you ought to abstain for the sake of others. That may be only an epigram; but yet I do say that if you would disprove all that I have as yet said to you, I should say still be a total abstainer for the sake of others. For even the veriest idiot must admit that one evil at least comes from drink—one evil colossal and ruinous —one evil immediately and directly, and therefore in some cases necessarily—and that is drunkenness, the national drunkenness of this country. It makes my cheeks blush for shame, it makes my heart beat fast with indignation, when I think that this precious, this immortal England of ours is itself one of the most drunken nations and perhaps the greatest cause of drunkenness in other nations, of all under God's sun. Drunkenness, I grieve to say—for it is a masterstroke of the power of evil—is too often treated as laughable. Continually it is made a subject of jest in our comic newspapers, and no one can live in London without noticing that it is the favourite jocosity of those wretched comic songs, those deplorably abysmal degradations of all verse and all music, which flow like a stream of vitriol from detestable music-halls over the morals of the boys and girls, which in our schools and classes we have striven to win to God. Well, I cannot laugh at these jests. I can look with disgust and abhorrence on these songs. Have you ever seen—if not, may you never see—a young man suffering from delirium tremens? from attempting to describe its horrors I shrink appalled; but you are probably all aware that one of the features of delirium tremens is all kinds of illusions and phantoms. A friend of mine told me the other day that, finding himself in
London, he turned into a tavern for some lunch. As he sat there a dog suddenly ran across the room, and my friend started. "Oh, don't be afraid, sir." said the waiter, coming up to him, "It was a dog; it was a real dog, I assure you." At first he could not understand what the man meant; but then it flashed on him with a thrill of horror, that this man, in his own person, and in the person of his customers, was familiar with the ghastly illusion of that most terrible of all diseases which is God's Nemesis upon excess. This being but one of the horrors of that drunkenness which has its direct and sole origin in drink—are you a Christian, are you a man, can you have a heart in your breast which selfishness has not quite eaten away, if you can hear without shame and sorrow that, to say nothing of the grocers' licenses, there are 98,955 public-houses in England, and that there is scarcely one of these which is not to some a direct inevitable source of terrible temptation; that there are 38,845 beer-shops in England, of which there is scarcely one which is not a direct source of demoralisation in the neighbourhood; that in the year 1875 there were in England alone 203,989 arrests for drunkenness, and 122,913 arrests for assaults, many of these of the loathliest and diabolically brutal character, connected with drunkenness; making the ghastly total of 826,902 offences on the score of this sin alone, which yet does not represent one-tenth part of the shame, the ruin, the misery, the loss, the burden, which are directly due to this awful sin. The drunkard, as I have said, is often in his sober moments a high-minded and honourable man, and no amount of physical torture can equal the anguish of moral degradation, in which he knows what he is, and loathes what he is, and yet is what he is by a deadly spell which he cannot break. Drunkards have been known to describe the horror and intensity of this spell, by saying that if a glass of brandy were before them, and between them and it yawned the very abyss of hell, they still must stretch forth their hands and take it. And the worst of all is the knowledge that these unhappy victims transmit to their children an hereditary craving of which, though unacquainted with it, they cannot conceive the terrible intensity. Imagine the case—alas! in the lower classes the very common case!—of the poor unhappy-youth, born with this awful tendency, conscious of it, afraid of it, yet not sufficiently braced in moral self-discipline to prevent it from becoming first an allurement, then a master, then the tyranny of a remorseless demon. Imagine a man—and such cases are—a man so unhappily constituted by the sin of his father, that, for long, long years, from boyhood to the very verge of old age, the soul within him has "to stand and watch like an unsleeping sentinel," lest at any moment the burning congenital appetite for strong drink should clutch him with hands of fire, and drag him down into the unspeakable horror of the drunkard's grave. Well, it is on behalf of those drunkards that I appeal to
you; and not for their sakes only, but for the sake of their little sons and their little daughters, and for the sake of the myriads of those white young souls which are being at this moment trained in our national schools, and of which nearly all will have to wrestle with this as one of their sorest temptations, and of which many a thousand, if not saved and shielded, will most inevitably fall. Remember, I entreat you, that the drunkards of to-day are not the drunkards to-morrow; that this ignoble and inglorious array of drunkards, as its ranks are thinned by death, is being daily recruited by those who as yet are not drunkards, but who only drink. For myself, supposing that considerations like these had not already induced me to take the pledge, I venture to say that if I were in this hall hearing these facts, and if I knew that in this hall there were but one youth or man who would hereafter fall into this horrible abyss, then I should feel it would be well worth the sacrifice of every one of us in taking the pledge, if by so doing we could but save that one; it might be a personal blessing to everyone of us; but even, if not, yet how small would be our loss, how great his gain, and I should think that we were but acting in the spirit of that great apostle who said that he would neither eat meat nor drink wine, nor anything whereby his brother was made to offend. I have not said, I never shall say, a word against the publicans. I have not said, and never shall say, that it is the duty of any man, not being a drunkard, to take the pledge. But I do say that this is a plain fact—namely, that drunkenness comes of moderate drinking, and that if, as a nation, we could make the vow of abstinence all but universal amongst us, then drunkenness, at any rate, with all its fearful consequences, would be erased from its horrible prominence in the list of our national sins. To me it seems that there is only one remedy which can indefinitely prolong the national glory of England; there is but one resource which can counteract the dangers which threaten us from the pressure of life, the depression of trade, the growth of a deeply-seated discontent; there is but one way to diminish the ghastly total of crime, to close two-thirds of our asylums, two-thirds of our workhouses; and that remedy, that resource, that way, is that instead of continuing to be a drunken, we should become a sober and temperate nation, and in the present distress, amid the present perils, with the present repeated refusals of the Legislature to interfere with the scandalous multiplication of temptations, there is but one way by which we can ever become a sober and temperate nation, and that is by the immense, the voluntary, the all but universal spread of total abstinence. And, meanwhile, do not be deceived by easy self-satisfaction, by a mere talking about rosewater remedies which become practically an excuse for simply doing nothing. People solemnly tell us that we must not fight drunkenness, but must give the poor higher amusements, better houses, more education, and so
make them sober. I have seen something of the poor, and I tell you emphatically that in our present state of things these remedies will not diminish drunkenness. No one can desire more ardently than I do that all this should be done; no one feels more indignantly than I do the selfish apathy of rich men, who draw rents for filthy houses where the poor are huddled together like swine; no one can believe more entirely than I do that in general more education means less vice. But, I say, first diminish drunkenness and then try these remedies, or you will be utterly defeated:—
"What, have ye let the fond enchanter 'scape?
Oh ye mistook! ye should have seized his wand
And held him fast. Without his rod, reversed
And backward, mutters of dissevering power,
Ye cannot free the lady who sits here
In stony fetters fixed and motionless!"
And this total abstinence, this is the seized wand, the rod reversed, the backward mutters of dissevering power. Without this all the boons you give to the poorer classes will be gradually turned into banes; with it the boons will come and come far more effectually of themselves. And this is emphatically the work, emphatically the reform, which this age has to achieve; and for those at any rate who work among the poor, total abstinence is the only way to do it. If the clergyman takes his glass of sherry, on the plea of fatigue and exhaustion, you may depend upon it that the working man will go, on the same pretext, to the publican for his glass of gin; and if he reads his Shakespeare, he will say to the clergyman who wants to wean him from drunkenness—
"But good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Point mo the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whilst, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede."
Gentlemen, our fathers had to go to the stake for freedom of conscience, and to shed their blood for civil liberty, and to bear opposition and obloquy in founding missions and reforming prisons and futhering education and purging England from the infamies of the slave-trade. What we have to do, what this age has to do, what every brave and true and good man in this generation has to do, is to save England from the stain and shame, from the curse and ruin of drunkenness; a curse far deadlier than that of neglected prisons—far deadlier than that of injured slaves. Will you do it? or will you make the great refusal? If you had to bear a little blatant ridicule in doing it, so much the better. If the people who extol the cheap and easy virtues of imbibing beer and wine pity you from the heights of their serene superiority,
tell them that this sort of virtue, which consists of doing what we like because we like it, is one which can never mount to the height of your disdain. Gentlemen, no reform worth having was ever carried except in the teeth of clenched antagonists; and most reformers, though we build statues to them now, have had to
"Stand pilloried on infamy's high stage,
And hear the pelting scorn of half an age."
And those who carry, or who help to carry this reform, they, too, will live in the grateful recollection of posterity. The name of Sir Wilfrid Lawson will be honoured when those of half our little politicians sleep in the dust of Hansard. The names of Canon Ellison and Canon Hopkins will be remembered when half the fuglemen of our petty schisms are consigned to fortunate oblivion. The name of Dr. Richardson will be honoured when the place of a hundred fashionable physicians knows them no more. Not for one moment do I, a late convert, whose attention was warily aroused to this question by a short experience of work among the London poor, presume to pluck the most withered leaf of that civic garland which, ob cives servatos
, these gentlemen have so richly deserved; but will not some of you who are young array yourselves in this great cause—continue this battle—take the place of us who already "think with a diminished fire, and speak with a diminished force"?
"Exoriare aliquis uostris ex ossibus ultor?"
It may be the fate of some of you to die before you have ever really, or in any high sense, lived. Some of you may become cynics in thought and pessimists in morals, and spend pernicious lives in trying—though you might as well try to throw dust at heaven and stain it—in trying to ridicule the faith and the aims of the saints of God; some of you may sell your souls for vulgar successes, and pitch your tents on the dead levels of selfish respectability or the sluggish flats of base content; but, oh, will none of you, sweeping aside the wretched sophisms which infest this question, see that sacrifice, borne not for self but for others, is always sacred; and will you not, for the sake of the solidarity of man, give yourselves to that high task of social amelioration, of which this is the most pressing and the most important element? "Illi" says the Imitatio Christi, "illi sunt vere fideles tuiiqui totas vitas suas ad emendationem disponunt;" and surely the emendatio
of God's noblest nation is a work ever more sacred than the emendatio
of ourselves. And at present there is no other way so brief, so essential, so emphatic as to show what you think by example as well as by precept, and by giving up what is at the very best an infinitesimal advantage to take your part against an infinite calamity. It may cost you a laugh in hall; it may bring on you a sneer at a dinner-party; but if you still be young,
it may save you, personally from a degrading peril; and it will pledge you personally to a glorious cause. Many will tell you that the plan is Quixotic, Utopian, hopeless. These, gentlemen, are missiles of commonplace launched from the catapults of selfishness. I have generally observed that the cause at which they are levelled is generally a good cause, and almost always a cause which at last has won. But at any rate, this I do say, from the very deepest conviction, that if this be a hopeless cause, then the case of England is hopeless; and if this be a losing battle, then the battle of England too is lost. But I prophesy that, on the contrary, it is a cause which will triumph, and a battle which shall be won. Give us the impetuosity of your youth, give us the glow of your enthusiasm, give us the freshness of your lives. Remember that the heroes and the demigods were they who rid the earth of monsters; think of the monsters against which you have to fight; the miseries from which you have to deliver; the multitudes which you have to convince; the banded interests which you must help to overthrow. There, in your light, lies the dark tower of vice and prejudice which you have to storm; "The round squat turret blind as the fool's heart.', God give some of you grace to help in the storming of it, were it ten times as impregnable as it is! Many have died in the apparently forlorn hope of its assault; but I will trust that there may even now be sitting listening among you one who will yet live to do it, and will, in a far less dangerous cause, make his vow in the spirit of the young knight in the great poem, surrounded by the phantoms of the lost adventurers, his peers:—
"There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides—set,
To see the last of me, a living flame
For one more picture. In a sheet of flame
I saw them, and I knew them all, and yet
Dauntless the slughorn to my lips I set,
And blew. Childe Roland to the dark tower came."