Indestructibility of Right
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INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF RIGHT.
BY J. K. INGALLS.
Am, Error and all Wrong are phenomenal and transitory. The terrible effects which an Alexander, or a Napoleon, may produce upon the world, are felt only for a day, and then swallowed up in some more mighty convulsion. The effects which Socrates, Fourier, Swedenborg, and all true men, produce, extend through ages of ages. Yet it would be extremely difficult to make the world comprehend this; for it can perceive only the agents of this invisible power—o:ly the passive shows with which it is invested. They apprehend, and believe in, and worship mere phenomena, which can do nothing, good or bad, without some living force to move them. These have no power to waken the mind to life ; they can but suppress its action—and even this only for a season. The mind only is immortal—is spiritual—and has force. While it can overcome all things, it can, iteelf, only be overcome by higher influences—by Truth, Right, and Love. The man who stands upon this may do all things. This is the only true measure of strength and might. The world does not so judge. It pays its deference to mock-power, and dead bodies ; but it can not resist the influence which one earnest soul exerts. It may bring its forces to bear upon him—it may sever the relations which he sustains to earthly forms and things ; but it can not sever his relation to Truth, or destroy the influence flowing out of the impetus which he gave it by faithful action. It is a most difficult thing to persuade people to see this—even those who are wielding very truthful forces. They get discouraged, because externally the results are not as satisfactory as anticipated. They do not remember that all permanent, or enduring things are slow of growth, and that the result of their labors may never come at all in the manner which they expect.
Suppose, for instance, that the Liberalists of this city do not, as they might, take hold together, and build up the cause in an external sense—that is, have a larger audience, a more commodious house to receive, and a more eloquent speaker to address them, than any of their neighbors. Misapprehending the nature and source of all true greatness, should they stand aloof and abandon it, because they have not made it, or because it is not, externally, what it might be ? Will the principles here advocated have no influence with this community ? Will the mind go back 1 Will the truth die ? I apprehend not. It has power, and will work. If it exists, its own inherent vitality will make scope for itself; and then it will produce corresponding action, and accomplish corresponding results. One man of us who will live our sentiments truly, will do more to promote them, without preaching, than a dozen preachers can do, without living. Truth, life, and force for good, do not reside in sound, in form, or manner, but in thought, and deed. Without the latter, external forms can be of but little value.
The history of Liberalism in this country shows no proportionate increase of numbers, or display of eloquence and learning, compared with the tremendous influence it has exerted, in modifying the forms of thought, and extending the reach of human sympathy, among the dark and benighted minds of the popular religions. Would it have been a greater triumph to liberalism, as an organization, to have attached such men as Bushnell and the younger Beecher, than to have reached them, environed as they were by superstition and bigotry, and beget its own life and action within them ? Organizations, as well as individuals, must be self-sacrificing. They must not labor exclusively for their own upbuilding, but for the spread of truth. If your neighbor takes advantage of the light you shed around, seeking to monopolize it solely for the improvement of his own internal condition, do not be vexed with him. If, in his expressions, he even appropriates the castoff garments in which you have clothed your thoughts, do not quarrel with him. He should not be so selfish and exclusive, it is true, especially when appearing in borrowed robes ; but even this is better than that he should make no change at all. By every means encourage, rather than embarrass his progress.
If in any particular place it may be observed that liberal sentiments have not exerted any beneficial influence on the sectarian institutions—if us yet they have only had time to excite hostility, remember that the instinct of self-preservation is strong ; and the sense of approaching danger, which is has made manifest, should be hailed as one of the most cheering omens of a healthier action. Wait a little while, till the acerbity of irritation shall have subsided, and time have been given for calm reflection. Wait, if need be, for the coming upon the stage of a new generation, and then you can judge, even externally, what force there is in what you now deem weakness.
I can scarcely conceive how a mind can accept, and go with that which it knows can have no reality, merely because the popular mind is turned that way. My very soul has said to Shame and Hypocrisy, Ye shall not rule me. I will no longer speak the lie, as though it were the truth, merely because the world can see no further. I will not utter unmeaning forms of words, without sense, however they may please the ear, as though they possessed thought and life. I may be in the Right, with two or three, or even alone to the world's view ; but I will be in the Right, just as far, and as fast, as it may be given me to know it. Yet in this resolution I by no means feel alone. A still small voice whispers to the soul guided by Conscience, " Fear not; they that be with us, are more than they that be with them."
Though to the external eye the battle-field of the world appears entirely covered with hostile and sanguinary forces, yet when the spiritual vision is opened, legions of light will be seen arrayed on the side of Truth; and along with these whatever is truthful and good, even in the bosom of those very foes, themselves, is on your side. Victory is certain. It only depends on you whether you will share in it, or whether, arrayed on the side of temporal and external power, you will share its present glory, and its coming shame. .
There are no real discouragements, ever, to the one who truly looks it things. The great idea of progress once received, there can be no such thing as fear. Only he who yet clings to material forms will ever experience disappointment in the result of truth, or the progress of events. He who identifies power with prescribed modes, will be doomed constantly to see them fail. Popery once swayed the temporal as well as the spiritual destinies of Europe. It can do neither now. Presbyterianism once did very much the same in this country. It can do it no longer : and yet Truth lives ; and Humanity advances toward the realization of its destined state of harmony. All mere forms may, and will die ; but no truth will die ; no vital force will ever be lost. In one sense there is no power but that of God, and the powers that be are ordained of God. But then these powers are spiritual, not carnal; and so far are they from being connected with the outward structure, that they are often mighty engines of destruction nursed in their own bosom, for the pulling down of the strongholds of established Form, and Semblance of Truth and Power.
It is doubtful whether the advanced minds are not destined ever to be in the minority, and to wield, comparatively, small external forces. The mind of great constructive power may choose its own field of operation. If the man be spiritual and true, he will choose the higher ; if gross and selfish, he will choose the lower. He can not wait the appointed time for the development of a force. He grasps that one already embodied, perhaps expended, and possesses the fruits of power for a moment, in preference to those which endure for all time. And yet the force one wields is finite ; that of the other infinite.
O that this appeal might reach every living soul—thou art a child of Immortality. Do not sell thy heavenly birthright for a mess of pottage. Do not barter thy soul for the enjoyment, or ease, or honor of a day. It may be pleasanter to go with the multitude, and seek honor for a time ; but if you could look up and see the cloud of witnesses that are around you, the innumerable spirits of just men ma^o perfect, that stand by, ready to aid you ; more than all, if you could rise to the sphere of causes, and feel what Truth and Right can do, and* that these are the only things that possess any enduring power, you would say, I will go with these wherever they may lead me ; for all the abiding life, all the abiding strength, must be with them.
If, then, the really spiritual man can not labor for the building up of a sectarian institution, much less can he follow in the wake of one already built up—already verging to decay. The thing is impossible. Power is not evolved by submission, but by struggle. The spirit was made to control the body, not the body the spirit. Only a desecration of the one, and rapid decay of the other, can follow an inversion of this law.
The power of Truth is inherent and invincible. She remains untouched by all the storms and earth-strife of materialism. What is done in her name, is done forever.
The eternal yearn of God are hers."
The claims of Right shall stand unharmed, amid all the clashing tumult of conflicting interests; and when these have destroyed them selves, and ceased, they shall vindicate the wisdom of that soul which in darkness confided in the true power.