Preparing the way for us

Because, sometimes, others say it better than I ever could.

I am reading a book, written in 1868, giving the history of Lexington from it’s very beginnings.  Just prior to this passage, Hudson was describing the way the Puritans handled strangers that came to town with no means of support.  This, I thought, was both poetic and so very relevant, even now.

"We may smile at the follies of the past, and think our fathers inhuman and illiterate, but we should remember the spirit of the age; and, when we compare them with the mass of the people at that time on the Eastern continent, we shall find them in advance of the age in which they lived; and I fear that if they were compared with the present generation, and all things taken into the account, we should find no great cause for self-exaltation. 

If we should point to our public charities, as evidence of our moral advance, I fear they might safely confront us with their patient industry, their prudent economy, and strict integrity.  If we should change them with being too strict in the observance of religious rites, they might with equal justice charge us with being too lax; if they believed too much, we believe too little; if they were to rigid, we are too pliant; if they were inclined to ascribe ordinary events to the imeediate hand of God, many at the present day are inclined to ascribe all events to the laws of brute matter, and thereby exclude god from the universe.  If they had their ghosts and hobgoblins, we have our spiritual rappings; and if they had those among them who held intercourse with familiar spirits who would lie and deceive, we have mediums who hold communication with spirits in the "lower circles," who play "tricks upon travelers," and sport with the credulity of the people.

Our faults and infirmities may assume different forms from those of our forefathers, but for downright folly and extravagance, for the neglect of privileges and opportunities, I fear that in the eye of Infinite Wisdom we shall appear nearly on a level with them.  They were imperfect, and we lack perfection.  Appetites and passions, lusts for wealth and dominion, exist in every age.  Our forefathers were not free from them. . .

But comparisons being generally odious and unprofitable, true wisdom requires us to improve the present, rather than censure the past; and if we have arisen above the follies of our fathers, it is because they, as pioneers, prepared the way for us, and so enabled us to stand on vantage ground."

 

HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF LEXINGTON, MIDDLESEX COUNTY, FROM ITS FIRST SETTLEMENT TO 1868.  by Charles Hudson