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by [?]

“Through nature up to nature’s God.”

Perhaps some future age will do justice to the memory of the man to whose daring pen we are so largely indebted for those dearly-prized privileges of free government, to the ablest advocate of human liberty the world has known, and whose piety was deep and fervent as that of St. Paul himself. But that cannot be until the freedom for which he toiled and prayed extends to the mind as well as the body; until the shackles are stricken from the brain as well as the hand,–until the sun of Knowledge dispels the empoisoned mists of Ignorance and divine Charity dethrones unreasoning Hate. Then will the infidel freely concede that Servetus’ murder was rather the fault of his age than Calvin’s crime, and the Christian will find in Paine, if not a guide, at least a learned philosopher and a loyal friend.

Charity assumes as many shapes as Prospero’s busy sprite. I was once waiting for a train in a small Missouri town, where everybody turns out to “see the keers come in.” A big, blustering fellow, well filled with booze, was making himself generally obnoxious, and the village constable approached him kindly and tried to quiet him. Instead of subsiding, the boozer whipped out a big six- shooter and began blazing away at the representative of the peace and dignity of the state. The constable threw his hand to his hip, but instead of pulling his gun sprang forward, disarmed the hoodlum, cracked him over the head with his own battery and sent him about his business. The officer looked as shamed after the melee as though he had stolen a sheep or scratched the Democratic ticket. I remarked that he’d taken unnecessary chances.

“What would you have done, mister?” he inquired. I replied that I would have filled that fellow’s hide so full of holes that it couldn’t be stuffed with straw.

“Well,” said he slowly, “I kum purty nigh doin’ it. But I jes’ thought as how ‘twan’t Jim a shootin’, but his jag, an’ then I seemed ter see his kids a hangin’ on th’ gate a waitin’ fer him t, come home, an’ his wife a worritin’ about him, an’ I jis couldn,t do it. I took chances fer them.”

Involuntarily I removed my hat. I felt that I was in the presence of a God-created king. “You’re a philanthropist,” I said.

“I dunno what them ar’ maybe, mister,” said he; “but I’m glad Jim’s gone home alive,–d–d glad!”

That was charity of the broadest, deepest kind that ever held its godlike sway in the human soul,–a charity that will brave death itself rather than wring the heart of helpless woman or cloud the sunny face of childhood with the orphan’s tears.

“Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away.”

“Charity never faileth.” The real article will stand the most crucial test,–is never weighed and found wanting. It never persecutes because of honest difference of opinion. It never back-caps or boycotts. It turns a deaf ear to the tongue of scandal and heals the hurts made by the poisoned arrows of hate. “Charity suffereth long and is kind.” Its supreme example was given us from the cross: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” Prophecies fail; tongues are forgotten, and knowledge fades like the evening sunlight before the dusky wing of night; but Charity endureth forever. “And now abideth Faith, Hope and Charity, and the greatest of these is Charity.”

Faith is founded upon fallible human judgment. A man believes thus and so, not necessarily because it is so, but because his head is built on a particular pattern or has had a peculiar class of phenomena filtered through it. The average human head, like an egg, or a crock of clabber, absorbs the flavor of its surroundings. It is chiefly a question of environment whether we grow up Democrats or Republicans, Protestants or Catholics, Mormons or religious mugwumps. As a man’s faith is inherited, or formed for him by circumstances, he deserves little more credit or blame therefor than for the color of his hair or the size of his ears.

Hope is Fancy’s child; oft branded as an illegitimate, yet esteemed above and beyond all the royal progeny of the proudest intellect, enshrined in the sanctum sanctorum, the veritable holy-of-holies of the human heart. Hope is not a virtue; it is but a rainbow with which Fancy paints the black o’erhanging firmament, a golden shaft of sunlight with which she gilds Life’s rugged mountain peaks,–a melody most divinely sweet with which she cheers the fainting soul of man.

But greater than Faith, grander than Knowledge, brighter than the star of Hope which gilds the cradle and illumes the grave, is Charity, for ’tis the incarnation of heavenly Law, the bright essence increate of eternal Love.