“Why not?” said the young Utopian, and put down his

[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p. 174.

“Why not?” said the young Utopian, and put down his

The Bible makes its moral appeal on the same basis. If a man is a child of God, then he is shut up to duties which cannot be avoided. Some one else may tell a man his duty in a true monarchy. In a democracy each man stands alone at the most solemn point of his duty. There is no safe democracry where men refuse to stand alone there. In Jefferson's great speech, replying to the forebodings of Patrick Henry, he insisted that if men were not competent to govern themselves they were not competent to govern other people. The first duty of any man is to take his independent place before God. Democracy is the social privilege that grows out of the meeting of these personal obligations.

“Why not?” said the young Utopian, and put down his

Several facts strengthen this persistent moral appeal. For one thing, the Book is absolutely fair to humanity. It leaves out no line or wrinkle; but it adds none. The men with whom it deals are typical men. The facts it presents are typical facts. There are books which flatter men, make them out all good, prattle on about the essential goodness of humanity, while men who know themselves (and these are the only ones who do things) know that the story is not true. On the other hand, there are books which are depressing. Their pigments are all black. They move from the dignity of Schopenhauer's pessimism to the bedlam of Nietzsche's contempt for life and goodness. But here, also, the sane common sense of humanity comes to the rescue. The picture is not true if it is all white or all black. The Bible is absolutely fair to humanity. It moves within the circle of man's experience; and, while it deals with men, it results in a treatment of man.

“Why not?” said the young Utopian, and put down his

That is how it comes about that the Bible inspires men, and puts them at their best. No moral appeal can be successful if it fails to reach the better part of a man, and lays hold on him there. Just that it did for the English people. "No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years that parted the middle of the reign of Elizabeth from the meeting of the Long Parliament. England became the people of a Book, and that Book was the Bible."[1]

[1] Green, Short History of the English People.

Add to that personal appeal and that absolute fairness to humanity the constant challenge of the Bible to the nobler elements of humanity. It never trifles. It is in deadly earnest. And it makes earnest men. Probably we cannot illustrate that earnestness more clearly than by a study of one element in Puritan history, which is confused in many minds. It is the matter of the three great antagonisms of Puritanism in England and America. They can never be understood by moral triflers. They may not be approved by all the morally serious, but they will be understood by them. What are those three marked antagonisms? The antagonism to the stage, to popular frivolity, and to the pleasure Sabbath.

1. The early English stage had the approval of virtually all the people. There were few voices raised against the dramas of Shakespeare. But the cleavage between the Puritans and the stage grew greater as the years went on. There were riotous excesses. The later comedy after Shakespeare was incredibly gross. The tragedies were shallow, they turned not on grave scenes of conscience, but on common and cheap intrigues of incest and murder. In the mean time, "the hatred of the Puritans for the stage was only the honest hatred of God-fearing men against the foulest depravity presented in poetic and dramatic forms." The Bible was laying hold on the imagination of the people, making them serious, thoughtful, preparing them for the struggle for liberty which was soon to come. The plays of the time seemed too trifling or else too foul. The Puritans and the English people of the day were willing to be amused, if the stage would amuse them. They were willing to be taught, if the stage would teach them. But they were not willing to be amused by vice and foulness, and they were not willing to be taught by lecherous actors who parroted beautiful sentiments of virtue on the stage and lived filthy lives of incest and shame off the stage. Life had to be whole to the Puritan, as indeed it has to be to other thoughtful men. And the Bible taught him that. His concern was for the higher elements of life; his appeal was to the worthier values in men. The concern of the stage of his day was for the more volatile elements in men. The test of a successful play was whether the crowds, any crowds, came to it. And as always happens when a man wants to catch the interest of a crowd, the stage catered to its lowest interests. You can hardly read the story of the times without feeling that the Puritan made no mistake in his day. He could not have been the thoughtful man who would stand strong in the struggle for liberty on that side of the sea and the struggle for life on this side of the sea without opposing trifling and vice.

2. The antagonism of the early Puritan to popular frivolity needs to have the times around it to be understood. No great movement carries everybody with it, and while it is still struggling the majority will be on the opposing side. While the real leadership of England was passing into the stronger and more serious hands the artificial excesses of life grew strong on the people. "Fortunes were being sunk and estates mortgaged in order that men should wear jewels and dress in colored silks."[1] In the pressure of grave national needs men persisted in frivolity. The two reigning vices were drunkenness and swearing. In their cups men were guilty of the grossest indecencies. Even their otherwise harmless sports were endangered. The popular notion of the May-pole dances misses the real point of the Puritan opposition to it in Old and New England. It was not an innocent, jovial out-door event. Once it may have been that. Very often it was only part of a day which brought immorality and vice in its train. It was part of a rural paganism. Some of the customs involved such grave perils, with their seclusion of young people from early dawn in the forests, as to make it impossible to approve it. Over against all these things the Puritans set themselves. Sometimes they carried this solemnity to an absurd length, justifying it by Scripture verses misapplied. Against the affected elegancies of speech they set the plain yea, yea and nay, nay of Scripture. In their clothing, their homes, their churches, they, and in even more marked degree, the Quakers, registered their solemn protest against the frivolity of the times. If they went too far, it is certain their protest was needed. Macaulay's epigram is familiar, that the Puritan "hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." In so far as that is true, it is to the credit of the Puritan; for the bear can stand the pain of being baited far better than human nature can stand the coarsening effects of baiting him, and it is nobler to oppose such sport on human grounds than on animal grounds. But, of course, the epigram is Macaulay's, and must be read with qualification. The fact is, and he says it often enough without epigrams, that the times had become trifling except as this grave, thoughtful group influenced them.

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