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lofty virtue and of noble self-devotion which mark the establishment of new States and Empires,-the stern integrity of Regulus,—the high-souled magnanimity of Fabricius,-it regards only as the ineffectual struggles of exalted minds to check the downward tendency of our race, and as swept away by the resistless current of human corruption. This theory was transmitted even from remote antiquity,-interwoven with the superstitions of that early time, strengthened by the implicit confidence of each successive age, and destined to exist till that religion of which it was the offspring, should be crushed beneath the wider and the nobler system of Christianity. It was too a theory interesting and attractive,—well adapted to the age of its formation. It dealt much in the ideal. Its conceptions were those of poetry, mournful indeed, but beautiful and alluring. It spoke of an elevated state of being from which man had fallen, of a grandeur, every trace of which was then effaced,-of a beauty which had long since faded. It told of nobler aspirations that had fired the soul, -of loftier communings of the spirit with the world above,—of thoughts unbounded in their range, whose center was the universe. It breathed of a quiet and a happy era, -of a peace beyond all trouble,—of an innocence without a stain. It hurried its votaries away from the earth that met their vision, to the brighter one of its creation—a land beautiful beyond conception—the Elysium of gods and the residence of heroes. It was all that the genius of Paganism could do to linger around the visions of departed great
This theory is now surrendered,—or its advocates, if any such there be, are few in number. We, of the present age, regard it as a wild and brilliant error, poetically beautiful, but in practice incorrect, as a rich and elegant production of a distant age,-as a flower that sprung up, bloomed and faded in the spring-time of the world.
There is a second theory, which numbers among its supporters a large part of the philosophers of modern time. We would call it without reproach the Atheistic scheme, for it seems to shut out a governing Providence from the successive evolutions of our race. It attributes the same principles of stability to the natural and moral world, considering them as both liable to the same law of physical necessity, which causes them to “alternate, between fixed and narrow limits of progress and decay.” States and Empires it regards as rising only like the waves of the ocean, to give way to those that follow them—an endless succession of events, without one indication of plan or aim, to remind us of a governing Intelligence !
Laying aside these theories, as equally unworthy of man and of Him who made him,—with history for our guide, the monument at once of the rise and fall of nations,—what theory shall we form? What shall we affirm of history itself? Is it nothing but the chronicle of unconnected facts--the assemblage of by-gone events, that have passed without an object ? What too is the lesson that we
read in the revolutions of the world ? Are they mere isolated exhibitions of a vast and mighty energy expended for no purpose,monuments reared along the track of ages as mementos of unmeaning greatness,--meteors that burst from the midst of clouds and darkness to reveal the wreck of nations, and then go out for ever? In the eloquent language of another: “Is the change in its generations the only change in society? Are the actors alone renewed, and the same drama of life for ever repeated? Or rather does each succeeding generation, standing on the graves of their forefathers, rise to a higher vantage ground, as the oaks of the wilderness in succession strike deeper roots, and grow more flourishing over the dust of their predecessors ?"
The theory iinplied in these remarks, if properly stated and understood, is the true theory of the progress of society. It is a real progress. One after another of its empires may have risen, flourished for a time, and then crumbled into ruins. Some may have remained apparently unaltered, balanced by the action of opposing causes,—but the grand, the mighty WHOLE, has been progressive. The current that sustained and bore it onward, has increased in energy,—it has never lingered, its apparent rest or retrocession, was but the reflux of the wave that is rising higher along the shore.
Our great principle then is,—that in the revolutions of the world we can trace the working of a vast design,—that they were but established agents to secure a mighty end. They may be regarded as a series of EXPERIMENTS upon mankind,-each powerful in its influence,-occurring at its proper time,--and all tending toward an object which is yet to be attained. We find in these dark and gloomy spots of history nothing to alarm us! We consider them indeed as clouds, heavy and portentous, resting on the path of ages but as clouds surcharged with energy,-embosoming the elements of mighty action, destined to sweep away abuses, -to purify and disenthrall our race!
As an illustration of these remarks, let us turn to the last and greatest of those monarchies that were the glory of the ancient world. What now is the prospect that is opened to our vision ? How rich in its variety of features—how gorgeous in its colorings ! We are treading on the golden age of History. All that it has of beauty, power and grandeur, are at once before us.
On the confines of a dark and superstitious era we behold the fabric of a mighty Empire. It has sprung up like the Oase of the desert, reared by the workings of magic power, instantaneous, electric ! Yonder tower the columns of its capitol-the beautiful and arbitrary Mistress of the world-proud, imperial, ill-fated Rome! The city with its seven hills—its gorgeous palaces—its thousand fabrics, molded by the plastic hand of symmetry, burst at once upon our view.
Here then is the mighty theatre, where human nature is destined to stand forth, so near perfected to display so many virtues, and yet innumerable vices—to exhibit all that Paganism can accomplish for the advancement of our race. Here are assembled the monuments of Grecian genius, and of Roman valor—the pride of Philosophy, and the miracles of Art—all that Heathenism can do to adorn and dignify mankind. The experiment is made, and the Empress of the world sinks from the stern virtues of her early founders, to the bloody licentiousness of a Nero or Caligula. Rome is tottering to her fall!
Here opens the mightiest revolution in the history of our globethe introduction of Christianity. Forty centuries had been occupied in showing the impotency of unaided reason for the advancement of our race--and a new series of experiments now commences, to exhibit the evils of those human improvements which were soon engrafted on the simplicity of the Gospel. Christianity had a single object—to raise the spiritual nature of man above the sensual—to establish the dominion of reason, enlightened by Faith. It was the first system of religion which was favorable to the cause of freedom.
Trace now the progress of this glorious principle as it goes forth, forlorn and insulted from the hill of Calvary, to take possession of the falling empire of the world. Witness the thousand persecutions it endures—the obstacles it overcomes—its silent and gradual extension, till, in the age of Constantine, “it ascends the imperial throne and waves its banner over the palace of the Cæsars.” To the eye
of unassisted reason how glorious are the prospects of our race! Yet in the progress of three centuries, we see the wave of extermination sweep over that proud empire. It fell, for its existence was no longer needed. It had played the part assigned it in the grand, the mighty drama of the world—the energies of its youth, had wasted to the feebleness of age—its glory was departing the fire of its genius had grown dim, fickered and expired—it was “feeding not on hope but on remembrances.” It fell, to prepare the way for a more glorious exhibition of the Christian faith—to give place for the foundation of rational liberty on the ruins of despotism. Christianity, by her union with imperial power, had lost her former purity. She had put on the garb, and even revived the principles of Paganism, while liberty, the attendent and ally of all genuine improvement, lay bound and bleeding at the feet of the Mistress of the world. Why then, knowing as we do—the ultimate resultwhy should we regard the dark period of nearly a thousand years, which followed, as giving any support to the Atheistic scheme of alternate elevation and decay? The feudal system, with all its errors, was the REMEDY applied to save the world from the destructive influence of a corrupted christianity, in union with despotic power. That system too in the progress of events, governed not by miracles but moral causes, was of necessity to have its course—an energy great enough to demolish the empire of the world, could be expended only in the lapse of centuries. Monarchs had learned believe themselves supreme and their thrones immoveable. Litera
ture had fled for safety to the cloisters of the monks, and the enemies of human improvement had seized upon the church as the most powerful engine of political intrigue. There was something in the darkness and the superstition of the last ten centuries, that had augured of a mighty change. It had been the fearful stillness that precedes the storm—the awful silence that is heralding the bursting forth of the volcano. The way had been preparing for a protracted struggle between perverted and genuine Christianity—the dawn of the resormation was at hand.
The period at length arrived. In the gloom of the dark ages there had been one agent unceasing in its efforts, whose step, silent as the tread of death, was yet as certain in its progress. Unsuspected, and apparently chained down by its opposers, it had been collecting the materials of another great explosion. It had fitted and prepared them, till their energy was irresistible, and then buried them beneath the ponderous but rotten fabric of the Popish faith. The materials are ready and the time has come! It is now that there arises another and a human ayent-one, whose daring spirit and unconquerable firmness, proclaim him of no common order—who bears in his hand the torch that is destined to awaken these energies to fury, and as he hurls it to its purpose, stands forth the chosen one of heaven in this mighty undertaking. Need we say that it was Luther! His is indeed, a lofty elevation in the long line of the Reformers. His too is a name, imperishable, in the pages of Christianity! His the conceded title of a universal benefactor.
It was impossible, however, upon the ordinary principles of human nature, that the Reformation, glorious as was its influence, should be at once complete. The wave that had swept over the corruptions of the Romish church, had also borne forward and deposited the dregs of its pollution. By degrees, a spurious philosopby took possession of a large part of the intellect of continental Europe, and the deep degeneracy of the Papal system, which still claimed the exclusive honors of christianity, gave plausibility to an attack upon the whole of revealed religion. In the midst of this incipient regeneration of the world, there is one, a proud and mighty empire, that remains aloof! In the very heart of Christendom she has reared a temple, beautiful in its proportions and eloquent with grandeur !-whose worshipers are not of heaven. The dark banner of Infidelity is unfurled above it. On its entrance is written the inscription, that “there is no God,”—and the prayer that ascends within it is an insult and a mockery. And where now is that Christianity which the Reformation introduced ? Is its purity again to be perverted and its throne usurped? We answer that it has not słumbered. Already is it going forth to battle with the giant form of Heresy. Animated with the spirit of its author, it is purifying this temple of abominations—washing out this impious inscription in the blood of a polluted nation. It has reared again the altar of a purer faith.
It is not with feelings of vanity but with a sense of the most solemn responsibilities, that we look upon the era which is now opening on the world, as probably the last great stage in the progressive advancement of our race. Shall we hail it as the greatest of all eras ? Does it not, in the long line of ages, stand forth as a brilliant and attractive point, collecting by its brightness, every ray of knowledge and of science, to disseminate them wider through the nations of the earth? With all that we have to deplore of remaining ignorance and superstition on the one hand—and of restless and misapplied activity on the other--what age has ever witnessed such cheering prospects for the cause of Freedom and Christianity ? As we look back on the past we see each succeeding revolution, sweeping away abuses and reading a great moral lesson to mankind !--while all have been pointing to the era, which seems now to have arrived, THE UNION OF WELL-REGULATED FREEDOM, AND A PURER FAITH, and all are eloquent in proof of the position we have labored to establish. How delightful to trace in part, the mighty experiment of sixty centuries, and find in it one harmonious systein of events ! --to follow out a golden chain, down through the darkness of the past, binding the disjointed fragments of society into one vast phalanx, moving ever onward! How animating to behold the incipient disenthrallment of a world !--to see Christianity coming forth purified and strengthened from the conflict, and hand in hand with freedom, leading on our race towards the perfection of their nature.
Whether the future progress of society will again be broken by sudden and disastrous changes—or will go on to rise by a gradual succession of elevations, we cannot determine. The sky that now bends over it so bright and beautiful may yet be clouded—the thunder of another revolution may be heard, and the lightnings of a mighty power may shake it to its center. These changes if they come, will hurry it along a burning track to its destined elevation. The promised redemption of our race, we trust is near at band. It may be when the sun that now rides in light above us, shall look down on others who are soon to fill our places—while the temples of our worship are unshaken in their strength—when the stone that marks the place of our deposit, shall not yet have crumbled. But, sooner or later, that period will arrive. It will be an era, glorious beyond conception. The patriot and christian of that favored age, as he stands amidst its brightness and ministers at the altar of regulated freedom and uncorrupted faith, gifted with that prophetic vision which connects the future with the past—will trace the golden chaiu that binds our system to the throne of God, and while he mourns over the suffering and degradation which has marked our world, will yet adore that wisdom, which
From seeming evil, still educes good