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Elizabeth Fry
by [?]

If jeered, hooted and finally oppressed, these protesters will form a clan or sect and adopt a distinctive garb and speech. If persecuted, they will hold together, as cattle on the prairies huddle against the storm. But if left alone the Law of Reversion to Type catches the second generation, and the young men and maidens secrete millinery, just as birds do a brilliant plumage, and the strange sect merges into and is lost in the mass. The Jews did not say, Go to, we will be peculiar, but, as Mr. Zangwill has stated, they have remained a peculiar people simply because they have been proscribed.

The successful monk, grown rich and feeling secure, turns voluptuary and becomes the very thing that he renounced in his monastic vows. Over-anxious bicyclists run into the object they wish to avoid. We are attracted to the thing we despise; and we despise it because it attracts. A recognition of this principle will make plain why so many temperance fanatics are really drunkards trying hard to keep sober. In us all is the germ of the thing we hate; we become like the thing we hate; we are the thing we hate. Ex-Quakers in Philadelphia, I am told, are very dressy people. But before a woman becomes a genuine admitted non-Quaker, the rough, gray woolen dress shades off by almost imperceptible degrees into a dainty silken lilac, whose generous folds have a most peculiar and seductive rustle; the bonnet becomes smaller, and pertly assumes a becoming ruche, from under which steal forth daring, winsome ringlets; while at the neck, purest of cream-white kerchiefs jealously conceal the charms that a mere worldly woman might reveal. Then the demi-monde, finding themselves neglected, bribe the dressmakers and adopt the costume.

Thus does civilization, like the cyclone, move in spirals.

* * * * *

In a sermon preached at the City Temple, June Eighteenth, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-six, Doctor Joseph Parker said: “There it was–there! at Smithfield Market, a stone’s throw from here, that Ridley and Latimer were burned. Over this spot the smoke of martyr fires hovered. And I pray for a time when they will hover again. Aye, that is what we need! the rack, the gallows, chains, dungeons, fagots!”

Yes, those are his words, and it was two days before it came to me that Doctor Parker knew just what he was talking about. Persecution can not stamp out virtue, any more than man’s effort can obliterate matter. Man changes the form of things, but he does not cancel their essence. And this is as true of the unseen attributes of spirit as it is of the elements of matter. Did the truths taught by Latimer and Ridley go out with the flames that crackled about their limbs? Were their names written for the last time in smoke? ‘T were vain to ask. The bishop who instigated their persecution gave them certificates for immortality. But the bishop did not know it–bishops who persecute know not what they do.

Let us guess the result if Jesus had been eminently successful, gathering about him, with the years, the strong and influential men of Jerusalem! Suppose he had fallen asleep at last of old age, and, full of honors, been carried to his own tomb, patterned after that of Joseph of Arimathea, but richer far–what then? And if Socrates had apologized and had not drunk of the hemlock, how about his philosophy, and would Plato have written the “Phaedo”?

No religion is pure except in its state of poverty and persecution; the good things of earth are our corrupters. All life is from the sun, but fruit too well loved of the sun falls first and rots. The religion that is fostered by the State and upheld by a standing army may be a pretty good religion, but it is not the Christ religion, call you it “Christianity” never so loudly.