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HISTORY OF AMERICA.
the measure of responsibility he should hold over his own condition, possessions, and happiness. The spectacle was grand and new, and may well be cited as the most glowing page in the annals of progressive man.
6. The instructive lesson of history, teaching by example, can nowhere be studied with more profit or with better promise, than in this revolutionary period of America ; and especially by us, who sit under the tree our fathers have planted, enjoy its shade, and are nourished by its fruits. But little is our merit or gain, that we applaud their deeds, unless we emulate their virtues.
7. Love of country was in them an absorbing principle, an undivided feeling; not of a fragment, a section, but of the whole country. Union: was the arch on which they raised the strong tower of a nation's independence. Let the arm be palsied, that would loosen one stone in the basis of this fair structure, or mar its beauty; the tongue mute, that would dishonor their names, by calculating the value of that which they deemed without price.
8. They have left us an example already inscribed in the world's memory; an example, portentous to the aims of tyranny in every land; an example, that will console, in all ages, the drooping aspirations of oppressed humanity. They have left us a written charter as a legacy, and as a guide to our course. But every day convinces us, that a written charter may become powerless. Ignorance may misinterpret it; ambition may assail, and faction destroy its vital parts; and aspiring knavery may at last sing its requiem on the tomb of departed liberty.
9. It is the spirit which lives; in this are our safety and our hope; the spirit of our fathers; and while this dwells deeply in our remembrance, and its flame is cherished, ever burning, ever pure, on the altar of our hearts; while it incites us to think as they have thought, and do as they have done, the honor and the praise will be ours, to have preserved, unimpaired, the rich inheritance, which they so nobly achieved.
LESSON CLIII. Moral and Intellectual Efficacy of the
1. As to the powerful, I had almost said miraculous, effect of the Sacred Scriptures, there can no longer be a doubt in the mind of any one on whom fact can make an impression. That the truths of the Bible have the power of awakening an intense moral feeling in man under every variety of character, learned or ignorant, civilized or savage; that they teach men to love right, to hate wrong, and to seek each other's welfare, as the children of one common parent; that they control the baleful passions of the human heart, and thus make men proficients in the science of selfgovernment; and, finally, that they teach him to aspire after a conformity to a Being of infinite holiness, and fill him with hopes infinitely more purifying, more exalting, more suited to his nature, than any other which this world has ever known, — are facts as incontrovertible as the laws of philosophy, or the demonstrations of mathematics.
2. That the distinctive and peculiar effect is produced upon every man to whom the Gospel is announced, we pretend not to affirm. But we do affirm, that, besides producing this special renovation, to which we have alluded, upon a part, it, in a most remarkable degree, elevates the tone of moral feeling throughout the whole cominunity. Wherever the Bible is freely circulated, and its doctrines carried home to the understandings of men, the aspect of society is altered; the frequency of crime is diminished; men begin to love justice, and to administer it by law; and a virtuous public opinion, that strongest safeguard of right, spreads over a nation the shield of its invisible protection. Whenever it has faithfully been brought to bear upon the human heart, even under the most unpromising circumstances, it has, within a single generation, revolutionized the whole structure of society, and thus, within a few years, done more for man than all other means have for ages accomplished without it. 3. But before we leave this part of the subject, it may
be well to pause for a moment, and inquire whether, in addition to its moral efficacy, the Bible may not exert a powerful influence upon the intellectual character of man.
THE SACRED SCRIPTURES.
4. And here it is scarcely necessary that I should remark, that, of all the books with which, since the invention of writing, this world has been deluged, the number of those is very small which have produced any perceptible effect on the inass of human character. After the ceaseless toil of six thousand years, how few have been the works, the adamantine basis of whose reputation has stood unhurt amid the fluctuations of time, and whose impression can be traced, through successive centuries, on the history of our species.
5. When, however, such a work appears, its effects are absolutely incalculable; and such a work, you are aware, is the Iliad of Homer. Who can estimate the results produced by the incomparable efforts of a single mind; who can tell what Greece owes to the first-born of song? Her breathing marbles, her solemn temples, her unrivalled eloquence, and her matchless verse, all point us to that transcendent genius, who, by the very splendor of his own effulgence, woke the human intellect from the slumber of ages. It was Homer who gave laws to the artist; it was Homer who inspired the poet ; it was Homer who thundered in the senate; and, more than all, it was Homer who was sung by the people ; and hence a nation was cast in the mould of one mighty mind, and the land of the Iliad became the region of taste, the birth-place of the arts.
6. Nor was this influence confined within the limits of Greece. Long after the sceptre of empire had pased westward, genius still held her court on the banks of the Ilyssus, and from the country of Homer gave laws to the world. The light, which the blind old man of Scio had kindled in Greece, shed its radiance over Italy, and thus did he awaken a second nation into intellectual existence. And we may form some idea of the power which this one work has to the present day exerted over the mind of man, by remarking, that “nation after nation, and century after century, has been able to do little more than transpose his incidents, new name his characters, and paraphrase his sentiments."
7. But, considered simply as an intellectual production, who will compare the poems of Homer with the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament? Where in the Iliad shall we find simplicity and pathos which shall vie with the narrative of Moses, or maxims of conduct to equal in wis
dom the Proverbs of Solomon, or sublimity which does not fade away before the conceptions of Job or David, of Isaiah or St. John ? Bat I cannot pursue this comparison. I feel, that it is doing wrong to the mind which dictated the Iliad, and to those other mighty intellects on whom the light of the holy oracles never shined. Who that has read his poem has not observed how he strove in vain to give dignity to the mythology of his time ?: Who has not seen how the religion of his country, unable to support the flight of his imagination, sunk powerless beneath him?
8. It is in the unseen world, where the master-spirits of our race breathe freely, and are at home ; and it is mournful to behold the intellect of Homer striving to free itself from the conceptions of materialism, and then sinking down in hopeless despair, to weave idle tales about Jupiter and Juno, Apollo and Diana. But the difficulties under which he labored are abundantly illustrated by the fact, that the light, which he poured upon the human intellect, taught other ages. how unworthy was the religion of his day, of the man who was compelled to use it. " It seems to me," says Longinus, “that Homer, when he ascribes dissensions, jealousies, tears, imprisonments, and other afflictions to his deities, hath, as much as was in his power, made the men of the Iliad gods and the gods men. To man, when afflicted, death is the termination of evils; but he hath made not only the nature, but the miseries, of the gods eternal."
9. If, then, so great results have flowed from this one effort of a single mind, what may we not expect from the combined efforts of several, at least his equals in power over the human heart? If that one genius, though groping in the thick darkness of absurd idolatry, wrought so glorious a transformation in the character of his countrymen, what may we not look for from the universal dissemination of those writings, on whose authors was poured the full splendor of eternal truth? If unassisted human nature, spellbound by a childish mythology, have done so much, what may we not hope for from the supernatural efforts of preeminent genius, which spake as it was moved by the Holy Ghost ?