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An essay by T. S. Arthur

Good In All

Title:     Good In All
Author: T. S. Arthur [More Titles by Arthur]

THERE IS GOOD IN ALL. Yes! we all believe it: not a man in the depth of his vanity but will yield assent. But do you not all, in practice, daily, hourly deny it? A beggar passes you in the street: dirty, ragged, importunate. "Ah! he has a bad look," and your pocket is safe. He starves--and he steals. "I thought he was bad." You educate him in the State Prison. He does not improve even in this excellent school. "He is," says the gaoler, "thoroughly bad." He continues his course of crime. All that is bad in him having by this time been made apparent to himself, his friends, and the world, he has only to confirm the decision, and at length we hear when he has reached his last step. "Ah! no wonder--there was never any Good in him. Hang him!"

Now much, if not all this, may be checked by a word.

If you believe in Good, always appeal to it. Be sure whatever there is of Good--is of God. There is never an utter want of resemblance to the common Father. "God made man in His own image." "What! yon reeling, blaspheming creature; yon heartless cynic; yon crafty trader; yon false statesman?" Yes! All. In every nature there is a germ of eternal happiness, of undying Good. In the drunkard's heart there is a memory of something better--slight, dim: but flickering still; why should you not by the warmth of your charity, give growth to the Good that is in him? The cynic, the miser, is not all self. There is a note in that sullen instrument to make all harmony yet; but it wants a patient and gentle master to touch the strings.

You point to the words "There is none good." The truths do not oppose each other. "There is none good--save one." And He breathes in all. In our earthliness, our fleshly will, our moral grasp, we are helpless, mean, vile. But there is a lamp ever burning in the heart: a guide to the source of Light, or an instrument of torture. We can make it either. If it burn in an atmosphere of purity, it will warm, guide, cheer us. If in the midst of selfishness, or under the pressure of pride, its flame will be unsteady, and we shall soon have good reason to trim our light, and find new oil for it.

There is Good in All--the impress of the Deity. He who believes not in the image of God in man, is an infidel to himself and his race. There is no difficulty about discovering it. You have only to appeal to it. Seek in every one the best features: mark, encourage, educate them. There is no man to whom some circumstance will not be an argument.

And how glorious in practice, this faith! How easy, henceforth, all the labours of our law-makers, and how delightful, how practical the theories of our philanthropists! To educate the Good--the good in All: to raise every man in his own opinion, and yet to stifle all arrogance, by showing that all possess this Good. In themselves, but not of themselves. Had we but faith in this truth, how soon should we all be digging through the darkness, for this Gold of Love--this universal Good. A Howard, and a Fry, cleansed and humanized our prisons, to find this Good; and in the chambers of all our hearts it is to be found, by labouring eyes and loving hands.

Why all our harsh enactments? Is it from experience of the strength of vice in ourselves that we cage, chain, torture, and hang men? Are none of us indebted to friendly hands, careful advisers; to the generous, trusting guidance, solace, of some gentler being, who has loved us, despite the evil that is in us--for our little Good, and has nurtured that Good with smiles and tears and prayers? O, we know not how like we are to those whom we despise! We know not how many memories of kith and kin the murderer carries to the gallows--how much honesty of heart the felon drags with him to the hulks.

There is Good in All. Dodd, the forger, was a better man than most of us: Eugene Aram, the homicide, would turn his foot from a worm. Do not mistake us. Society demands, requires that these madmen should be rendered harmless. There is no nature dead to all Good. Lady Macbeth would have slain the old king, Had he not resembled her father as he slept.

It is a frequent thought, but a careless and worthless one, because never acted on, that the same energies, the same will to great vices, had given force to great virtues. Do we provide the opportunity? Do we believe in Good? If we are ourselves deceived in any one, is not all, thenceforth, deceit? if treated with contempt, is not the whole world clouded with scorn? if visited with meanness, are not all selfish? And if from one of our frailer fellow-creatures we receive the blow, we cease to believe in women. Not the breast at which we have drank life--not the sisterly hands that have guided ours--not the one voice that has so often soothed us in our darker hours, will save the sex: All are massed in one common sentence: all bad. There may be Delilahs: there are many Ruths. We should not lightly give them up. Napoleon lost France when he lost Josephine. The one light in Rembrandt's gloomy life was his sister.

And all are to be approached at some point. The proudest bends to some feeling--Coriolanus conquered Rome: but the husband conquered the hero. The money-maker has influences beyond his gold--Reynolds made an exhibition of his carriage, but he was generous to Northcote, and had time to think of the poor Plympton schoolmistress. The cold are not all ice. Elizabeth slew Essex--the queen triumphed; the woman died.

There is Good in All. Let us show our faith in it. When the lazy whine of the mendicant jars on your ears, think of his unaided, unschooled childhood; think that his lean cheeks never knew the baby-roundness of content that ours have worn; that his eye knew no youth of fire--no manhood of expectancy. Pity, help, teach him. When you see the trader, without any pride of vocation, seeking how he can best cheat you, and degrade himself, glance into the room behind his shop and see there his pale wife and his thin children, and think how cheerfully he meets that circle in the only hour he has out of the twenty-four. Pity his narrowness of mind; his want of reliance upon the God of Good; but remember there have been Greshams, and Heriots, and Whittingtons; and remember, too, that in our happy land there are thousands of almshouses, built by the men of trade alone. And when you are discontented with the great, and murmur, repiningly, of Marvel in his garret, or Milton in his hiding-place, turn in justice to the Good among the great. Read how John of Lancaster loved Chaucer and sheltered Wicliff. There have been Burkes as well as Walpoles. Russell remembered Banim's widow, and Peel forgot not Haydn.

Once more: believe that in every class there is Good; in every man, Good. That in the highest and most tempted, as well as in the lowest, there is often a higher nobility than of rank. Pericles and Alexander had great, but different virtues, and although the refinement of the one may have resulted in effeminacy, and the hardihood of the other in brutality, we ought to pause ere we condemn where we should all have fallen.

Look only for the Good. It will make you welcome everywhere, and everywhere it will make you an instrument to good. The lantern of Diogenes is a poor guide when compared with the Light God hath set in the heavens; a Light which shines into the solitary cottage and the squalid alley, where the children of many vices are hourly exchanging deeds of kindness; a Light shining into the rooms of dingy warehousemen and thrifty clerks, whose hard labour and hoarded coins are for wife and child and friend; shining into prison and workhouse, where sin and sorrow glimmer with sad eyes through rusty bars into distant homes and mourning hearths; shining through heavy curtains, and round sumptuous tables, where the heart throbs audibly through velvet mantle and silken vest, and where eye meets eye with affection and sympathy; shining everywhere upon God's creatures, and with its broad beams lighting up a virtue wherever it falls, and telling the proud, the wronged, the merciless, or the despairing, that there is "Good in All."

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T. S. Arthur's essay: Good In All