« AnteriorContinuar »
dead were laid is broken up, and their graves are occupied to supply the wants of the living. But the dead have no graves in a much fuller sense. Go and look where the body may have been carefully laid a few short years ago—is it there ! no, it is gone—no trace remains; wherever it may be, it certainly is not in the grave—that has ceased to be its tenement; therefore, the grave has it not and cannot give it up ; neither can the body come forth, because it is not there. It is impossible, then, to give the passage a literal translation. They are frequently setting forth a great truth, namely, the immutability of the soul. It is a habit with many, and they doubtless think it a commendable one, to say, such and such things are beyond our comprehension—we must leave them in his hands who does all things well. Now, if this had been the real intention of the Almighty, he would never have created man with mind, and endowed him with that high intelligence which is ever seeking to make itself acquainted with not only the material world, but also that world which lies beyond—not only with the visible, but the invisible; a mind whose ardent seekings long to comprehend the universe of God. Now those who are content to remain in ignorance of any great truth, do not discharge the duties they owe to God, themselves, and their fellows. There is a limit to man's power, because he is finite; but then where that limit is who can tell ? Has not his genius discovered and become familiar with things which those who lived before him never dreamed of, or thought wholly impossible Has he not made the elements subserve his will, and matter subject to his pleasure ? Does not the experience of every year teach us, as plainly as if it were written with a fire-beam on the roof of heaven, that man is rapidly advancing to a higher and higher state of being, bringing home to us all the bright and glorious truths, that God has indeed made “man a little lower than the angels, and has crowned him with glory and honor " And do we not find that each discovery, each grand truth that is unfolded, increases our reverence, our love and adoration for the God who made us? Who feels the greatest admiration, and comprehends most his power the astronomer, who sees a world in every star—many surpassing his own by a thousand fold in extent, and all rolling in beauty and order through space, or the simple and uninformed mind, who sees nothing in the stars but small lights to give light by night? The question requires no answer; and the experience of the past tells us that we shall go forward—that our progress is onward and upward, and the revelation of every truth is a step higher in the order of our existence. The investigation of no subject, however solemn, if done in a proper spirit, but what must be attended with more or less advantage; and to ascertain the attributes of our Maker, and our relationship to him, is our first and highest duty.
Bishop Butler, in his Analogy, asserts, and successfully maintains and proves, that the body which we now occupy is in fact no part of ourselves. Says he,
“Our organized bodies are no more ourselves, or part of ourselves, than any other matter around us; and it is as easy to conceive how matter which is no part of ourselves may be appropriated to us in the manner which our present bodies are, as how we can receive impressions from, and have no power over, any matter. We have already, several times over, lost a great part or perhaps the whole of our body, according to certain common established laws of nature, yet we remain the same living agents. When we shall lose as great a part, or the whole, by another common established law of nature, death, why may we not also remain the same That the alienation has been gradual in one case, and in the other will be uore at once, does not prove anything to the contrary.”
Death may immediately, in the natural course of things, put us into a higher and more enlarged state of life, as our birth does; a state in which our capacities and sphere of perception and action may be much greater than at present, for as our relation to our external organs of sense renders us capable of existing in our present state of sensation, so it may be the only natural hindrance to our existing immediately, and of course in a much higher state of reflection.
“And thus when we go out of this world, we may pass into new scenes, and a new state of life and action, just as naturally as we came into the present.”
Now, if this be true, that our own bodies are in fact no part of ourselves, but merely matter appropriated to ourselves, it is self-evident that when once separated from it, we can have no more interest in it forever afterward than in any other matter which exists in the material world.
We find this body adapted in its wants and relationships to the present world in which we live—that the air sustains it alive, that water satisfies its thirst, that the fruits of the earth nourish it, and that food sustains it; that it is the direct medium of all sensations and enjoyments, and that by it mind alone is enabled to act upon matter.
But a different state of things, or a different world, would require an entirely different organization; and such a body as is suitable for us here would not be at all suitable for any other world. Hence the beauty of the thought, that when we lay aside this body, we are born as naturally into the world prepared for us, where a suitable body is given us, as we were born into this world, and are prepared at once to enter upon that state of existence which is calculated for our highest happiness and good; and there is nothing in the Scriptures that conflicts with this view of the subject, or can in any way tend to set it aside. When the Scriptures were written, it was necessary, in order to have them understood or believed, to adapt them in some measure to the understanding and views of those to whom they were immediately addressed. St. Paul, particularly, in all his Epistles, sought by every means in his power to make them as clear as possible, and availed himself of all familiar illustrations and allusions to familiar objects for this purpose; and in teaching the Gentile world, who believed that with death all was ended, it became necessary, in order to make them comprehend at all, to teach a physical resurrection, or what might appear to be a physical resurrection—for it is evident, from this passage, he did not entertain the belief in a resurrection of this identical
“That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die, and that which thou sowest thou sowest not that body which shall be but bare grain ; it may chance be of wheat or of some other grain. But God giveth it a body as it has pleased him, and to every seed his own body. So also is the resurrection of the dead; it is sown in corruption, is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”—1st Cor., xv. ch., 36, 37, 42, 43 verses.
Here Paul has sought a familiar illustration in the sowing of seed or grain, to account to the Corinthians, to whom his Epistle is addressed, in a natural and easy way for the resurrection, or, in other words, to prove to them that although the body perished, their spirits lived on. The sowing and springing forth of the grain is used as a figure, and the figure holds good so far as the grain born is not the identical grain sown, although resembling it; there it ceases, for the spiritual body does not bear that similitude to the natural body that the grain does to its parent grain. Our body is sown, or it may be more clearly expressed, returned, to its elements, and in its place is given us a new body. “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” The natural body has subserved all its purposes, and answered the end for which it was created;
the spiritual body is given, adapted to the new sphere of existence upon which we are to enter. Some writers have sought to prove by the miracles performed by our Saviour in raising the dead, that all should be raised in the same way; but instead of its being a parallel case, there is not the slightest resemblance. These miracles were performed for a specific object—to show Christ's power, and prove he was the true Messiah; the bodies had not gone out of existence, as ours do. Again, St. Paul says, “As Christ was raised from the dead, so shall ye be raised.” Now we know surely that he refers only to the spiritual, with no reference to the natural, body—for as far as it relates to the body, there is no similarity whatever, as Christ was raised in three days in his identical body, whereas ours decompose. It would be just as reasonable to take in the literal interpretation various other passages of Scripture, such as supposing Christ actually meaning that he was a vine when he says, “I am the vine,” or a dove, when he says, “I am the dove,” or that he meant that we should actually partake of his identical body and drink of his blood when he says, “Take, eat, this is my body, and drink, this is my blood”—as to take these passages literally which speak of the resurrection of the body as meaning anything more than the spiritual resurrection; or in other words, God revealing more fully to man that he had truly created him in his own image, and that, like the infinite, he was to exist through all ETERNITY.
Massachusetts is certainly entitled to honor for the lead she takes in collecting and promulgating practical information in relation to the various departments of social life. The statistics and reports furnished by order of the Legislature are often of high interest and great utility. On a recent occasion, the Legislature appointed commissioners to inquire into the condition of the idiots of the commonwealth, “and whether anything could be done for their relief.” The commission has elicited much valuable information on the subject, and none more so than the paper which we now present to our readers as the production of Mr. George Sumner, who has visited Europe during some years. This evidence of the manner in which that time has been employed reflects high honor on himself as well as credit on the country. Such results from European tours contrast strongly with the vapid vituperation with which English tourists treat their countrymen on their return from distant countries. The pure philanthropic spirit which runs through the interesting details will command the sympathies of our readers. In remarking upon the necessity of adopting such measures as may be employed to secure the physical as well as moral culture of a class hitherto shunned with loathing, and treated worse than the brute creation, he states—
* Report of the Commissioner to the Legislature of Massachusetts, relative to the Idiots in the Commonwealth.
“It is to be hoped that your observations will show that this is not their position with us, but treatment such as I describe I have myself seen inflicted in countries laying high claims to civilization; and, in turning from them to other lands, have been forced to recognize that the injunctions of Mahomet to treat with kindness those on whom Nature has forgot to smile, are better observed by his followers, than are the lessons of our Divine Master by those who profess and call themselves Christians. Attention and kindness to idiots are not, however, confined to Mahometan nations; and we must recognize, as a beautiful example of those compensations which Providence seems to bring for every evil, that, in those countries where the greatest number of idiots is found, the popular sympathy in their behalf is the most developed. In certain districts of France, the common appellation of an idiot is the innocent; and the etymology of the word which designates one of the largest classes of idiots, the crétins, is itself a key to the sentiment of sympathy and fraternity of which I speak. Crétin is a popular corruption of Chrétien (Christian), and, in the Alps and Pyrenees, the kindness of the poor peasants towards this unhappy class is a beautiful and touching commentary upon the name they bear. These cases of isolated kindness have, however, secured only the physical comfort of a few ; and it must be confessed that the intelligent action of philanthropic individuals or of enlightened governments has, until quite recently, done no more. One of the most judicious of living French physicians, Voisin, contrasts the efforts made in behalf of idiots with those which modern science and modern philanthropy have so successfully made in behalf of the insane, and he continues: “In every age idiots have been far more unfortunate than the insane. At Sparta, they shared the fate of sickly children, and were thrown into the Eurotas; and when, in our own time, efforts have been made to ameliorate the treatment of those who had lost their reason, nothing has been done for those who, from their infancy, gave evidence of an obtuse and incomplete intelligence, limited to a certain number of phenomena. Once smitten by the terrible appellation of idiot, the child inspires only disgust and horror; and, deprived of all assistance, sequestrated from all society, he remains eternally plunged in the darkness of his infirmity.” But the surprise which one naturally feels at the small progress heretofore made in the treatment of idiocy, is lessened on examining the narrow opinions relative to it emitted by those who, from their earnest habors for the insane, have acquired a just title to respect. Look, for instance, at the opinions of Pinel, and even of Esquirol. Look into almost any work which treats of idiots, and see the confidence with which they are described as “beings devoid of understanding and heart,” or as “human brutes.” The great Dictionnaire de Medicine, edited by Breschet, Orfila, Velpeau, and others, in its 16th volume, published in 1837, describes idiocy (p. 212) as “an absence of mental and effective faculties, and an almost complete nullity of the cerebral functions;”— and further on, in the same article, says: “It is useless to attempt to combat idiotism. In order that the intellectual exercise might be established, it would be necessary to change the conformation of organs which are beyond the reach of all modification " The confidence with which this is announced is only surpassed by that with which Gall condemned to perpetual imbecility all those whose volume of brain failed to fill his insatiable calipers. After describing, in his work upon the Functions of the Brain, several skulls which he has passed in review, he declares that one whose head presents certain dimensions must be necessarily an idiot. “Never has an exception to this rule been found, never will an exception be found.” Unfortunately for Gall's theory, but fortunately for those suspected of imbecility, many exceptions have been found;f fortunately, also, for the poor idiots, the error of those who denied them all intelligence, and who pronounced them incurable, has been proved, the interdict against them revoked, and the fact triumphantly established that, however degraded their condition, however devoid of all human faculties they may seem to be, they carry within them the holy spark which intelligent sympathy may inflame. During the past six months, I have watched, with eager interest, the progress which many young idiots have made, in Paris, under the direction of Mr. Seguin, and at Biçetre, under that of Messrs. Voisin and Vallée, and have seen, with no less gratification than astonishment, nearly one hundred fellow-beings who, but a short time since, were shut out from all communion with mankind,-who were objects of loathing and disgust,-many of whom rejected every article of clothing, others of whom, unable to stand erect, crouched themselves in corners, and gave signs of life only by piteous howls, others, in whom the faculty of speech had never been developed, and many whose voracious and indiscriminate gluttony satisfied itself with whatever they could lay hands upon, with the garbage thrown to swine, or with their own excrements; these unfortunate beings, the rejected of humanity, I have seen properly clad, standing erect, walking, speaking, eating in an orderly manner at a common table, working quietly as carpenters and farmers; gaining, by their own labor, the means of existence; storing their awakened intelligence by reading one to another; exercising towards their teachers and among themselves, the generous feelings of man's nature, and singing in
unison songs of thanksgiving !
The fact, I have, is now clearly established, that idiots may be educated,—that the o power exists within them, and may be awakened by a proper system of instruction ; that they may be raised from the filth in which they grovel to the attitude of men; that they may be taught different arts which will enable them to gain an honest livelihood; and that, although their intelligence may never, perhaps, be developed to such a point as to render them the authors of those generous ideas and great deeds which leave a stamp upon an age, yet, still, they may attain a respectable mediocrity, and surpass, in mental power, the common peasant of many European states.
Before entering into details of the method or system by which this is accomplished, it is proper to give some account of efforts that have been made for the teaching of idiots. The first methodical attempt which has come to my knowledge, was that commenced in 1800, by Itard, upon a boy found wild in a forest in the centre of France, and known as the Savage of the Aveyron. Itard was a friend and disciple of Condillac ; and during five years he endeavored, with an indefatigable perseverance, to develope, at the same time, the intelligence of his pupil and the theories of the sensualist school of philosophy. The results, part of which were exposed in the two reports of Itard, (Paris, 1800, and Imprimerie Impériale, 1807,) were not satisfactory, and the attempt was abandoned. In 1828 it was revived, at Biçetre, by Dr. Ferrus, then the principal physician of that establishment, who undertook the education of a few of the
* “Gall, sur les Fonctions du Cerveau,” t. ii. p. 330.
* For an interesting account of these exceptions, see “Perchape, Recherches sur l'Encé. phale,” p. 32.