'Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?'--Naaman.
'Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?'--Nathanael.
' . . observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing by partiality.'--Paul.
Old Mr. Prejudice was well known in the wars of Mansoul as an angry, unhappy, and ill-conditioned old churl. Old Mr. Prejudice was placed by Diabolus, his master, as keeper of the ward at the post of Ear-gate, and for that fatal service he had sixty completely deaf men put under him as his company. Men eminently advantageous for that fatal service. Eminently advantageous,--inasmuch as it mattered not one atom to them what was spoken in their ear either by God or by man.
1. Now, to begin with, this churlish old man had already earned for himself a very evil name. For what name could well be more full of evil memories and of evil omens than just this name of Prejudice? Just consider what prejudice is. Prejudice, when we stop over it and take it to pieces and look well at it,--prejudice is so bad and so abominable that you would not believe it could be so bad till you had looked at it and at how it acts in your own case. For prejudice gives judgment on your case and gives orders for your execution before your defence has been heard, before your witnesses have been called, before your summons has been served, ay, and even before your indictment has been drawn out. What a scandal and what an uproar a malfeasance of justice like that would cause if it were to take place in any of our courts of law! Only, the thing is impossible; you cannot even imagine it. We shall have Magna Charta up before us in the course of these lectures. Well, ever since Magna Charta was extorted from King John, such a scandal as I have supposed has been impossible either in England or in Scotland. And that such cases should still be possible in Russia and in Turkey places those two old despotisms outside the pale of the civilised world. And yet, loudly as we all denounce the Czar and the Sultan, eloquently as we boast over Magna Charta, Habeas Corpus, and what not, every day you and I are doing what would cost an English king his crown, and an English judge his head. We all do it every day, and it never enters one mind out of a hundred that we are trampling down truth, and righteousness, and fair-play, and brotherly love. We do not know what a diabolical wickedness we are perpetrating every day. The best men among us are guilty of that iniquity every day, and they never confess it to themselves; no one ever accuses them of it; and they go down to death and judgment unsuspicious of the discovery that they will soon make there. You would not steal a stick or a straw that belonged to me; but you steal from me every day what all your gold and mine can never redeem; you murder me every day in my best and my noblest life. You me, and I you.
2. Old Mr. Prejudice. Now, there is a golden passage in Jonathan Edwards's Diary that all old men should lay well to heart and conscience. 'I observe,' Edwards enters, 'that old men seldom have any advantage of new discoveries, because these discoveries are beside a way of thinking they have been long used to. Resolved, therefore, that, if ever I live to years, I will be impartial to hear the reasons of all pretended discoveries, and receive them, if rational, how long soever I have been used to another way of thinking. I am too dogmatical; I have too much of egotism; my disposition is always to be telling of my dislike and my scorn.' What a fine, fresh, fruitful, progressive, and peaceful world we should soon have if all our old and all our fast-ageing men would enter that extract into their diary! How the young would then love and honour and lean upon the old; and how all the fathers would always abide young and full of youthful life like their children! Then the righteous should flourish like the palm-tree; he should grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing. What a free scope would then be given to all God's unfolding providences, and what a warm welcome to all His advancing truths! What sore and spreading wounds would then be salved, what health and what vigour would fill all the body political, as well as all the body mystical! May the Lord turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest the earth be smitten with a curse!
3. Mr. Prejudice was an old man; and this also has been handed down about him, that he was almost always angry. And if you keep your eyes open you will soon see how true to the life that feature of old Mr. Prejudice still is. In every conversation, discussion, debate, correspondence, the angry man is invariably the prejudiced man; and, according to the age and the depth, the rootedness and the intensity of his prejudices, so is the ferocity and the savagery of his anger. He has already settled this case that you are irritating and wronging him so much by your still insisting on bringing up. It is a reproach to his understanding for you to think that there is anything to be said in that matter that he has not long ago heard said and fully answered. Has he not denounced that bad man and that bad cause for years? You insult me, sir, by again opening up that matter in my presence. He will have none of you or of your arguments either. You are as bad yourself as that bad man is whose advocate you are. We all know men whose hearts are full of coals of juniper, burning coals of hate and rage, just by reason of their ferocious prejudices. Hate is too feeble a word for their gnashing rage against this man and that cause, this movement and that institution. There is an absolutely murderous light in their eye as they work themselves up against the men and the things they hate. Charity rejoices not in iniquity; but you will see otherwise Christian and charitable men so jockeyed by the devil that they actually rejoice in iniquity and do not know what they are doing, or who it is that is egging them on to do it. You will see otherwise and at other times good men so full of the rage and madness of prejudice and partiality that they will storm at every report of goodness and truth and prosperity in the man, or in the cause, or in the church, or in the party, they are so demented against. Jockey is not the word. There is the last triumph of pure devilry in the way that the prince of the devils turns old Prejudice's very best things--his love of his fathers, his love of the past, his love of order, his love of loyalty, his love of the old paths, and his very truest and best religion itself--into so much fat fuel for the fires of hate and rage that are consuming his proud heart to red-hot ashes. If the light that is in us be darkness, how great is that darkness; and if the life that is in us be death, how deadly is that death!
4. Old, angry, and ill-conditioned. Ill-conditioned is an old-fashioned word almost gone out of date. But, all the same, it is a very expressive, and to us to-night a quite indispensable word. An ill-conditioned man is a man of an in-bred, cherished, and confirmed ill-nature. His heart, which was a sufficiently bad heart to begin with, is now so exercised in evil and so accustomed to evil, that,--how can he be born again when he is so old and so ill-natured? All the qualities, all the passions, all the emotions of his heart are out of joint; their bent is bad; they run out naturally to mischief. Now, what could possibly be more ill-conditioned than to judge and sentence, denounce and execute a man before you have heard his case? What could be more ill-conditioned than positively to be afraid lest you should be led to forgive, and redress, and love, and act with another man? To be determined not to hear one word that you can help in his defence, in his favour, and in his praise? Could a human heart be in a worse state on this side hell itself than that? Nay, that is hell itself in your evil heart already. Let prejudice and partiality have their full scope among the wicked passions of your ill-conditioned heart, and lo! the kingdom of darkness is already within you. Not, lo, here! or, lo, there! but within you. Look to yourselves, says John to us all, full as we all are of our own ill-conditions. Look to yourselves. But we have no eyes left with which to see ourselves; we look so much at the faults and the blames of our neighbour. 'Publius goes to church sometimes, and reads the Scriptures; but he knows not what he reads or prays, his head is so full of politics. He is so angry at kings and ministers of state that he has no time nor disposition to call himself to account. He has the history of all parliaments, elections, prosecutions, and impeachments by heart, and he dies with little or no religion, through a constant fear of Popery.' Poor, old, ill-conditioned Publius!
5. And, then, his sixty deaf men under old, angry, ill-conditioned Prejudice. We read of engines of sixty-horse power. And here is a man with the power of resisting and shutting out the truth equal to that of sixty men like himself. We all know such men; we would as soon think of speaking to those iron pillars about a change of mind as we would to them. If you preach to their prejudices and their prepossessions and their partialities, they are all ears to hear you, and all tongues to trumpet your praise. But do not expect them to sit still with ordinary decency under what they are so prejudiced against; do not expect them to read a book or buy a passing paper on the other side. Sixty deaf men hold their ears; sixty ill-conditioned men hold their hearts. Habit with them is all the test of truth; it must be right, they've done it from their youth. And thus they go on to the end of their term of life, full of their own fixed ideas, with their eyes full of beams and jaundices and darkness and death. Some people think that we take up too much of our time with newspapers in our day, and that, if things go on as they are going, we shall soon have neither time nor taste for anything else but half a dozen papers a day. But all that depends on the conditions with which we read. If we would read as Jonathan Edwards read the weekly news-letters of his day; if we read all our papers to see if the kingdom of God was coming in reply to our prayer; if we read, observing all things, like Timothy, without prejudice or partiality, then I know no better reading for an ill-conditioned heart begun to look to itself than just a good, out-and-out party newspaper. And if it is a church paper all the better for your purpose. If you read with your fingers in your ears; if you read with a beam in your eye, you had better confine yourself in your reading; if you feel that your prejudices are inflamed and your partiality is intensified, then take care what paper you take in. But if you read all you read for the love of the truth, for justice, for fair-play, and for brotherly love, and all that in yourself; if you read all the time with your eyes on your own ill-conditioned heart, then, as James says, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations. Take up your political and ecclesiastical paper every morning, saying to yourself, Go to, O my heart, and get thy daily lesson. Go to, and enter thy cleansing and refining furnace. Go to, and come well out of thy daily temptation.--A nobler school you will not find anywhere for a prejudiced, partial, angry, and ill-conditioned heart than just the party journals of the day. For the abating of prejudice; for seeing the odiousness of partiality, and for putting on every day a fair, open, catholic, Christian mind, commend me to the public life and the public journals of our living day. And it is not that this man may be up and that man down; this cause victorious and that cause defeated; this truth vindicated and that untruth defeated, that public life rolls on and that its revolutions are reported to us. Our own minds and our own hearts are the final cause, the ultimate drift, and the far-off end and aim of it all. We are not made for party and for the partialities and prosperities of party; party and all its passions and all its successes and all its defeats are made, and are permitted to be made for us; for our opportunity of purging ourselves free of all our ill-conditions, of all our prejudices, of all our partialities, and of all the sin and misery that come to us of all these things.
6. 'It is the work of a philosopher,' says Addison in one of his best Spectators, 'to be every day subduing his passions and laying aside his prejudices.' We are not philosophers, but we shall be enrolled in the foremost ranks of philosophy if we imitate such philosophers in their daily work, as we must do and shall do. Well, are we begun to do it? Are we engaged in that work of theirs and ours every day? Is God our witness and our judge that we are? Are we so engaged upon that inward work, and so succeeding in it, that we can read our most prejudiced newspaper with the same mind and spirit, with the same profit and progress, with which we read our Bible? A good man, a humble man, a man acutely sensible of his ill-conditions, will look on every day as lost or won according as he has lost or won in this inward war. If his partialities are dropping off his mind; if his prejudices are melting; if he can read books and papers with pleasure and instruction that once filled him with dark passions and angry outbursts; if his Calvinism lets him read Thomas A Kempis and Jeremy Taylor and William Law; if his High-Churchism lets him delight to worship God in an Independent or a Presbyterian church; if his Free-Churchism permits him to see the Establishment reviving, and his State-Churchism admits that the Free Churches have more to say to him than he had at one time thought; if his Toryism lets him take in a Radical paper, and his Radicalism a Unionist paper--then let him thank God, for God is in all that though he knew it not. And when he counts up his incalculable benefits at each return of the Lord's table, let him count up as not the least of them an open mind and a well-conditioned heart, an unprejudiced mind, and an impartial heart.
7. And now, to conclude: Take old, angry, ill-conditioned Prejudice, his daily prayer: 'My Adorable God and Creator! Thy Holy Church is by the wickedness of men divided into various communions, all hating, condemning, and endeavouring to destroy one another. I made none of these divisions, nor am I any longer a defender of them. I wish everything removed out of every communion that hinders the Common Unity. The wranglings and disputings of whole churches and nations have so confounded all things that I have no ability to make a true and just judgment of the matters between them. If I knew that any one of these communions was alone acceptable to Thee, I would do or suffer anything to make myself a member of it. For, my Good God, I desire nothing so much as to know and to love Thee, and to worship Thee in the most acceptable manner. And as I humbly presume that Thou wouldst not suffer Thy Church to be thus universally divided, if no divided portion could offer any worship acceptable unto Thee; and as I have no knowledge of what is absolutely best in these divided parts, nor any ability to put an end to them; so I fully trust in Thy goodness, that Thou wilt not suffer these divisions to separate me from Thy mercy in Christ Jesus; and that, if there be any better ways of serving Thee than those I already enjoy, Thou wilt, according to Thine infinite mercy, lead me into them, O God of my peace and my love.' After this manner old, angry, ill-conditioned Prejudice prayed every day till he died, a little child, in charity with all men, and in acceptance with Almighty God.
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH