September 17, 2013

P.S. Henson D.D. On Public Opinion

P.S. Henson D.D. - Public Opinion. Source: The Treasury: A Magazine of Religious and Current Thought for Pastor and People. Edited by Joseph Sanderson, D.D., LL.D. Volume 7. May 1889 - April 1890. Pg. 429.
"There should always be a proper deference shown to the opinion of our fellows. There is a general desire to be thought well of by those with whom we are associated. Every baby will coo and crow when its mother smiles upon it. There are people who are deaf to public opinion, but they are the baser man. There is not a man with a spark of generous manhood in his nature, be he preacher, sailor, soldier, or statesman, there is not a man with any nobility in him, that can be deaf to public opinion. To make the most of a child, praise it; with man it is also a good course to pursue. It is not a good sign when a man says he does not care what people say about him. He is in a bad way. He is apt to be in the river soon, in jail, or in Joliet. He is either a fool or a villain. He ought to care.

There are men who do not care how they dress, who deny they have a fashion of their own. They ought to care and know better. We might name some. There are also others, who are fools or barbarians, who care not what others say of their morals or their manners, if they have any. Man has no right to disregard society, God and man. Public opinion helps man to Heaven. Man is afraid to be dishonest. Public opinion keeps him from being utterly bad. There are people who abominate the reporters and liken them to a plague, because they can't get away from the men of the press. It is a good thing, for it obliges them to be careful and live with some sort of decency. If they don't, they wish they had not been born, for the reporters will proclaim their impurity to the world.

Public opinion is very healthy in keeping society decent. Mighty evils go down before its might. It bore down the Tweed ring when the latter asked the world: "What will you do about it?" Public opinion is like the silent snowflakes that form the mighty avalanche that downed slavery. Public opinion overwhelms accursed evils, and extinguishes them.

Other institutions in this free country, with its free press and free pulpit, ought to go the same way, and if I had the ear of the chief magistrate of this city I would say to him, with all sincerity and fearlessness, that there is a rising public sentiment against a mayor continuing in office who dares not do his duty.

Deafness to public opinion ought to be deprecated. But there are times when it is right for a man to stand up against the people as did Noah, Elijah, Luke, John the Baptist, Savonarola, and Wendell Phillips. God bless them for what they did, and their courageous action shown. Many men are caught up by public opinion like Aaron and his calf. How many there are who have not the courage of their convictions because public opinion stands against them."