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when there does exist need for a change, to have brought about some change, even though little or nothing of improvement, because we may look forward with cheering hope to a remedy of the remedy-a removal of the newly introduced evils,—as a change far more easily to be brought about than the first change. Alterations in any building are easily made while the mortar is wet. So it is in legislation and in all human affairs. While the most inconvenient and absurd laws are suffered to remain unchanged for successive generations, hardly an act is passed that any defects in it are not met by acts to amend' it, in the next and in succeeding sessions.
'Those who remember the University of Oxford at the commencement of this century, when, in fact, it hardly deserved the name of an university,—who remember with what difficulty, and after what long delay, the first statute for degree-examinations was introduced-how palpable were the defects of that statute, and how imperfectly it worked,—and, lastly, how easily, in comparison, these defects were, one by one, remedied, and successive improvements from time to time introduced,—such persons must have profited little by experience, if they deprecate the application of any remedy to any existing law or institution that is in itself evil, for fear the remedy should not be such, in the first essay, as to meet their wishes."
'A froward retention of custom is as turbulent as an innovation; and they that reverence old times too much are but a scorn to the new.'
To avoid the two opposite evils-the liability to sudden and violent changes, and the adherence to established usage, when inconvenient or mischievous,-to give the requisite stability to governments and other institutions, without shutting the door against improvement, this is a problem which both ancient and modern legislators have not well succeeded in solving. Some, like the ancient Medes and Persians, and like Lycurgus, have attempted to prohibit all change; but those who constantly appeal to the wisdom of their ancestors as a sufficient reason for perpetuating everything these have established, forget two
1 See Kingdom of Christ, Appendix to Essay ii. note O, page 355, 4th edition.
things: first, that they cannot hope for ever to persuade all successive generations of men that there was once one generation of such infallible wisdom as to be entitled to control all their descendants for ever; which is to make the earth, in fact, the possession not of the living, but of the dead; and, secondly, that even supposing our ancestors gifted with such infallibility, many cases must arise in which it may be reasonably doubted whether they themselves would not have advocated, if living, changes called for by altered circumstances. For instance, those who denoted the southern quarter from meridies (noon) would not have been so foolish as to retain that language had they gone to live in a hemisphere where the sun at noon is in the north. But, as Dr. Cooke Taylor remarks in The Bishop: 'An antiquated form, however perverted from its original purpose, gratifies the lazy in their love of ease; it saves them the trouble of exchanging their old mumpsimus for the new sumpsimus: and new the sumpsimus must appear, though it be a restoration; it averts the mortification of confessing error, which is always so abhorrent to the self-satisfied stupidity of those who grow old without gaining experience.'
'Vel quia nil rectum, nisi quod uit sibi, ducunt;
It is to be observed, however, that in almost every department of life, the evil that has very long existed will often be less clearly perceived, and less complained of, than in proportion to the actual extent of the evil.
'If you look to any department of government, or to any parish or diocese, that has long been left to the management of apathetic or inefficient persons, you will usually find that there are few or no complaints; because complaints having long since been found vain, will have long since ceased to be made. There will be no great arrears of business undone, and of applications unanswered; because business will not have been brought before those who it is known will not transact it; nor applications made, to which no answer can be hoped for. Abuses, and defects, and evils of various kinds, which ought to have been prevented or remedied, men will have learned to submit to as to visitations of Providence; having been left without redress till they have at length forgotten that any redress is due, or is possible: and
this stagnation will have come to be regarded as the natural state of things.
'Hence, it will often happen that in a parish for instance, where for a long time very little has been done, it will appear at first sight as if there were in fact very little to do: the spiritual wants of members of the Church not appearing to be unattended to, because many persons will have ceased to be members of the Church, and many others will be unconscious that they have any spiritual wants.
And in a Church, accordingly, that has been long without an efficient government, the want of such government will often be very inadequately perceived, from its not even occurring to men to consider whether the enormous increase of dissent, of internal discord, and of indifference to the Church, are evils which it comes within the province of a government in any degree to prevent or mitigate.'
With those who maintain that the present is not the best time,-on account of the violence of contending parties-for the restoration of a Church-government, I so far agree, that I am convinced it would have been much better to have taken the step several years ago; before the excitement caused by one of those parties had arisen; and yet better, some years earlier still, when the removal of religious disabilities first left the Church destitute of any legislature consisting exclusively of its own members and that, again, a still earlier period would have been preferable, when considerable attention was for a time attracted to a work on the subject, by a person, then, and now, holding the office of Archdeacon.
'But it is far from being sufficient, as seems to be the notion of some persons-to show that the present is not the fittest conceivable occasion for taking a certain step. Besides this, it is requisite to show,-not merely that a better occasion may be imagined, or that a better occasion is past;—that the Sibylline Books might have been purchased cheaper some time ago; but that a more suitable occasion is likely to arise hereafter and how soon; and also, that the mischief which may be going on during the interval will be more than compensated by
'This, and another passage in this note, are extracted from Thoughts on Church-government.
the superior suitableness of that future occasion; in short, that it will have been worth waiting for. And in addition to all this, it is requisite to show also the probability that when this golden opportunity shall arise, men will be more disposed to take advantage of it than they have heretofore appeared to be;—that they will not again fall into apathetic security and fondness for indefinite procrastination.
"This last point is as needful to be established as any; for it is remarkable that those who deprecate taking any step just now, in these times of extraordinary excitement, did not, on those former occasions, come forward to propose taking advantage of a comparatively calmer state of things. They neither made any call, nor responded to the call made by others.
'And indeed all experience seems to show-comparing the apathy on the subject which was so general at those periods, with the altered state of feeling now existing,-that a great and pressing emergency, and nothing else, will induce men to take any step in this matter; and that a period of dissension and perplexing difficulty, is, though not, in itself, the most suitable occasion for such a step, yet-constituted as human nature is— the best, because the only occasion on which one can hope that it will be taken. A season of famine may have been, in some respects, a bad occasion for altering the corn-laws; but experience showed that nothing less would suffice.
'When the valley of Martigny, in Switzerland, was threatened (a good many years ago) with a frightful deluge from the bursting of a lake formed by a glacier which had dammed up a river, the inhabitants were for some time not sufficiently alarmed to take steps for averting the danger, by cutting channels to let off the water. They cannot, therefore, be said to have chosen the best time for commencing their operations; for had they begun earlier, as soon as ever the dam was formed-the work would have been much easier, and probably all damage would have been prevented. As it was, they had to encounter much difficulty, and, after all, were but partially successful for the undrained portion of the lake did at length burst the barrier, and considerable damage ensued; perhaps a fourth part of what would have taken place had things been left to themselves. But they were wise in not deferring their operations yet longer, in the hope that matters would mend spontaneously, when they
saw that the evil was daily increasing. And after having mitigated in a great degree the calamity that did ensue, they took measures to provide against the like in future.
'Still, however, we must expect to be told by many, that, sooner or later, matters will come right spontaneously, if left untouched ;----that, in time, though we cannot tell how soon, a period of extraordinary excitement is sure to be succeeded by one of comparative calm. In the meantime it is forgotten at what cost such spontaneous restoration of tranquillity is usually purchased-how much the fire will have consumed before it shall have burnt out of itself. The case is very similar to what takes place in the natural body: the anguish of acute inflammation, when left to itself, is succeeded by the calm of a mortification: a limb is amputated, or drops off; and the body—but no longer the whole body-is restored to a temporary ease, at the expense of a mutilation. Who can say that a large proportion of those who are now irrecoverably alienated from the Church, might not have been at this moment sound members of it, had timely steps been taken, not by any departure from the principles of our Reformers, but by following more closely the track they marked out for us?'
It is true, that whatever is established and already existing has a presumption on its side; that is, the burden of proof lies on those who propose a change. No one is called on to bring reasons against any alteration, till some reasons have been offered for it. But the deference which is thus claimed for old laws and institutions is sometimes extended (through the ambiguity of language-the use of 'old' for 'ancient')' to what are called the good old times;' as if the world had formerly been older, instead of younger, than it is now. But it is manifest that the advantage possessed by old men-that of long experience must belong to the present age more than to any preceding.
Is there not, then, some reason for the ridicule which Bacon speaks of, as attaching to those who too much reverence old times? To say that no changes shall take place is to talk idly. We might as well pretend to control the motions of the earth. To resolve that none shall take place except what are undesigned and accidental, is to resolve that though a clock 1 See Elements of Logic, Appendix.