Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

either case? Claudius Lysias says, " With a great sum obtained I this freedom ;” and Paul answered, “But I was free born;” both, you see, valued their franchise, both were proud of it. But, nowadays, there are persons who hold it cheap; who affect to despise civic rights; who would even sell their trust for money: who shirk their responsibilities, “ voting it a bore” as they say, to record a vote at all.

Perhaps it is natural. When a thing is obtained only with difficulty, or as a high privilege from which the rest of the world is excluded, its rarity makes it valuable : when, like our English liberty, it is, so to speak, free as air; then, like the air, we take it as a thing of course, little heeding it. But, be it remarked, these cynical on-lookers from afar upon our municipal work and our civic dignities, only enjoy their leisure and freedom to carp, because some amongst us are unselfishly devoting their time and talents to work out the common problems and do the joint work, which, while it benefits the town or the nation, benefits these men arts of it.

A citizen, not a ratepayer! In old days, the great mark of a citizen was to resist tyranny and oppression, to bear arms, to be ready to suffer, to die for his city or his country. The vulgar unpatriotism of the nineteenth century would have us believe the true mark of a citizen now is to pay rates. Why, my friends, you can pay rates, and be all the time a very slave; you can pay rates, and yet be a selfish, narrow-viewed man, who has not a thought, or an interest, or an instinct beyond his own dear self-indeed, to pay rates is all the use he is

as

to his country! But the burgess, the true citizen, takes a wider, a more serious, a more responsible view of his position. He believes in the brotherhood of man ; he will put his sovereign into the plate to benefit the cancer-stricken, the paralysed, the consumptive; but he will not content himself with a mere money payment, with one isolated act of brotherhood; he draws within his circle the whole inhabitants of his town, he holds them his neighbours, not only in point of locality and the numbering of the streets, but as the good Samaritan, who was neighbour to him that fell among thieves, as a greater than that Samaritan, as Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven, cast in His lot with us, became our neighbour, and truly loved His neighbour as Himself. The burgess looks upon the courts and alleys and dens of our large towns, and commiserates those who have to try and live decently under such forbidding condition's. But his sympathy is not that of the lackadaisical girl, just finishing, perhaps, her third sensational novel this fortnight. The genuine burgess lays these things to heart, but he has a head as well, and a hand ; he goes home, he considers what scheme can be devised, not merely to plaister over these social sores for to-day, and tomorrow,—to break out festering again the third day; but he plans what may be done towards the physical regeneration of his town; how pure water, fresh and unpolluted air, better dwellings, efficient sewering, real cleansing of the streets, honest recreation, sober amusements, efficient schooling, pure literature, may be provided for himself and fellow citizens, so that the causes of ill health and low physique, and to

extent of

some

pauperism and of immorality, and of crime, may be cut off at their very root, and an improvement be effected, which shall give hopes of permanence.

At the same time the true citizen knows how hard it is for the striving bread-winner of a family to pay his share of the joint expense, without which these benefits cannot be conferred upon a community; and, therefore, he studies how all this may be effected at least cost, and with least burden to his town. And if he be not in office to do these things himself, at least, he will study to place in office, by his vote, those who he thinks can.

Let us thank God that there is, throughout our country, many and many a man of whom this is no unfaithful portrait ; and let me ask those here to-day, if there be any who have not yet thought out this matter, to try and realize to themselves the duty of looking not only on their own things, but on the things of others also, and seeking to raise and elevate the condition of their countrymen at large.

St. Paul was a citizen. It is true he bent his energies to a different, to a higher duty. But had he been a man of one town, instead of a moving traveller ; and had he witnessed the physical drawbacks of our modern large cities, I am sure he would have joined our modern movements to remedy them. He was not the man to dwell with emphasis on his privileges, and at the same time to shirk the duties of citizenship. He who with the holy hyperbole of charity could say, "I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites," would not, I feel convinced, have been lacking in civic virtue had he taken

our

up his residence amongst us eighteen centuries later. Nay, the man who could trace with such comprehensiveness the roots and fruits of faith, as a living and actuating principle of religion; and could commend with almost a poet's touch the exceeding loveliness of an all-embracing charity, would, had he lived amongst us, have been most certainly able to track 'out and expose that baneful selfishness which makes a man let off to another for money a tenement not fit to house cattle, or used to make a parent detain his child from school during the few only years in which his education was possible. St. Paul, who laid before us so well the rights of God and His claim upon allegiance and our love, could, I am sure, had he cared, have laid down equally the rights of man and his corresponding duties. As it is, he has given us the principles, and leaves us to work out their application.

II. But in these words, a citizen of no mean city," I notice a pleasing trait in the apostle's character. He was not ashamed of being connected with a provincial town. Paul was a traveller ; he had no special abode, but moved from place to place as his work of preaching the Gospel and confirming the churches called him. A man under these circumstances sometimes becomes too cosmopolitan, ignoring and perhaps despising the provincial Tarsus of his birth ; not caring to keep in mind or tell others of the home that reared and nurtured him. It is a poor spirit. . If your town confers no special name on those born there, be it yours to immortalize your town by the lustre of the noble deeds you its citizen will do !

Paul might have contented himself with naming his Roman citizenship, without specifying provincial . Tarsus

[ocr errors]

a

us.

at all; he might have ignored the obscurer schools there, and dwelt only upon the education he had received in Jerusalem, the Holy City, at the feet of Gamaliel, its great doctor of the law : but no; he had that local patriotism which is the backbone of national patriotism, he was not ashamed of the spot that gave him birth. There first he saw the light, the green fields, the foaming river ; there first he noticed the piles of merchandise upon the quays, and heard the busy hum of men, and saw the galleys bearing away or bringing the products of a hundred countries. There he took in his earliest ideas, there he first put those ideas into words; it was his home, his native town; and he would not, he could not forget it. Surely this is a lesson we need constantly to keep before

If I look in the Guest-book in a Continental Hotel, I see the name of one of my friends ; in the column for his address I find “ England.” He thinks he is citizen of a somewhat mean city” perchance, and is ashamed to write himself down as such. A harmless foible, perhaps, in this instance; but it comes out in poorer exhibitions than this. My same friend makes a fortune by trading in that same town; he retires from business; he quits the place and buys a property a hundred miles away ;

and among the country squires, who frequent his table, he will turn the conversation if ever the town that made him what he is, comes before the guests. Hence it is that the natural leaders of a town cease to lead; and let the lead be taken by inferior men. Hence it is that the poor are left without a sympathizing friend to help them beyond the ill-paid parson and his wife ; and the honest artisan, who feels his share of work has gone to swell that merchant's fortune,

66

a

« PoprzedniaDalej »