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presents a very just picture of the growth of the human mind, considered as one ; and of human institutions, regarded as its outer integuments.
The Cross embraces the whole of revealed religion, because that is its moral centre. “ I say nothing,” he remarks, “ of the doctrines of Christianity. It is not my province. But the divinity of Christ, his life and death, and the purport of both, are not mere dogmas; they are facts or they are fables. If it be true that the Divine Word has descended from heaven, clothed himself in human nature, became the second representative of the human family, and quenched in his own blood the flaming sword of inexorable law; if he has gone before us as our elder brother through shame, and poverty, and sorrow, and death, to be crowned the conqueror of our last enemy, and ascend on high, leading captivity captive, it is plain that here are facts, in comparison with which all other facts are insignificant. In comparison with this glorious embodiment of the poetry of religion, what are all the speculations of philosophy, what are all the cold calculations of prudential morality! On these facts, as an eloquent writer has observed, the world may be said to have had its foundation for nearly two thousand years, and in them we must look for the chief source of the peculiar glories and advantages of the Christian civilization. Surely it is worth while for every man to give these facts an earnest and impartial examination. If the gospel history be even substantially true, it is infinitely the most important part of history; properly the central, and loftiest point, from which all history should be looked at.”
Night and Morning exhibits the wonderful phases of the Christian era, in which he finds gradually developed several grand elements. The first is liberty. “ The Roman empire had done
“ its allotted work, in laying a deep and broad foundation for the Christian civilization ; and now the deadening unity of an absolute despotism was to give place to tumultuous life, to spontaneity, to liberty.” This of course, he traces to the German tribes. Religion then conquers the barbarians, after they have conquered Christian Rome. Monachism has its place and its part to act. The Cities and their Bishops come next in order. Then the Arabs, Feudalism ; Chivalry, which he calls “ the martial enthusiasm of the terrible warriors of Germany, refined by the poetry of the Arabs, and exalted by the great moral ideas derived from
Christianity ;” Woman, as emancipated and elevated by Christianity, the Crusades; Commerce; Poetry; Language; the Universities; Scholasticism ; these are the great powers and instruments, by which Providence prepared the world for the next era. We coincide totally with Mr. Nourse in his judgment, contrary to the opinion of M. Guizot that woman owes her present elevation to feudalism. The power which wrought this great social change, he well observes, “ was the unobtrusive agency of the Christian religion."
In the next department of his work, entitled Spiritual Despotism and the Reformation, Mr. Nourse makes the most candid concessions to the papacy of the early and middle ages. To qualify his concessions, as we might desire to do, would carry us too far at this time. He has said the best things for the best of the pontiffs that the case admits. “ The spirit of the papal policy was originally great and magnanimous. That intentionally or unintentionally it did much in those early ages for the cause of civilization, will not be denied." No, we would add, it cannot
, be denied. And all protestant as we are, it gladdens us when we can light upon a verdant spot in the desert of that wilderness, the history of the popes.
“But,” he adds, “ the possessors of absolute power are apt to forget the purposes for which it was acquired.” Aye! and sure, as well as apt. He regards the Reformation as ceasing to be a moral power as soon as it becomes political in its spirit and measures. The Roman church, he admits, once countenanced freedom of inquiry ; but now dreads it as her most formidable foe. And " whether Protestantism admits of a conservative form, which can unite moral power with freedom of opinion,” he regards as “one of the great problems of the age.”
The fourth article, entitled ; the Anglo-Normans, or Law and Liberty, is altogether the most original and compact portion of the work. It exhibits the great result of English history for the last three centuries to be, the establishing of popular rights. “It was in England that the two great antagonists of modern society first fairly confronted each other, and the first effective blows were struck in that battle between power and liberty, not yet ended, of which the English, the American and the French revolutions have been the most terrible and bloody encounters.” The author appears not to see with M. Guizot's optics, in regard to the superiority of French civilization. The contest between France and England has been during a long period, not only for political supremacy, but also “ for the foremost place in the civilization of mankind." Our author awards the palm to the Anglo-Normans; of whom he says, they are everywhere “the torch-bearers of religion, science, liberty. Each Christian nation has had a share in the providential education of mankind.” “ The English," he adds, “have excelled in everything that requires good sense and practical sagacity; but, if I mistake not, the great mission of the Anglo-Saxons is, to solve this highest problem of political philosophy; the reconciliation of order and liberty.”
The conclusion of the discussion is thus reached : “ American society, then, may be regarded as the net product of the whole past, eliminated from those terms, which, though useful in working out the problem, must be cancelled to obtain the result.” -“Our constitution was a compromise, not only between slave-holding and non-slave-holding societies, between centralization and state-rights, but also between progress and conservatism. The American statesmen did not, like the French Jacobins, aspire to build a political edifice out of flimsy abstractions. They did not attempt to create, but merely to construct, with material ready to their hands. With principles as old as Magna Charta, institutions to which the people had long been accustomed, and the new quality growing out of the peculiar circumstances of American society, they went to work in a spirit of compromise, and constituted a glorious temple of constitutional liberty.
We take our leave of a very intelligent and entertaining companion, when we have heard his closing words of exhortation to his countrymen; “ Here
“ Here civilization may attain its most glorious triumphs, if we give to genius, wisdom and learning their due regard, if we place virtue and intelligence above wealth and office ; if we preserve that only true liberty which is consistent with a lofty morality, with wholesome laws, with justice to all and each ; if we look back upon the mighty past, not with self-complacent contempt, but with that discriminating veneration which may take warning from its errors, and emulate its greatness ; if last, though not least, we cling to that most precious of all its legacies, of which the cross is the seal, and the Bible is the record, duly attested by the providence of God." VOL. III.
OBSERVATIONS ON MEN, BOOKS, AND THINGS.
PRAYER-MEETINGS. All intense emotions burn to impart themselves. To be in sympathy with such as are like-minded, is necessary to human happiness. No man can keep all to himself that which occupies his whole soul. Be it a secret of love or murder, it must come out. And this is true especially of the religious sentiment, the most powerful of all the passions man can feel. There is a craving for communion with God, and with men who are like God, bearing his image and breathing his spirit. Necessity is laid upon them ;they must assemble themselves together, that they may feel themselves in a congenial atmosphere. And not only must they give vent to their pent-up emotions in the prayers, and praises, and privileges of the great congregation ; but they must impart their sentiments still more freely in the less formal and restrained meeting for Christian conference. This is the origin of prayer-meetings. This view is sustained by facts. Take that oldest and best of all ecclesiastical histories, the Acts of the Apostles ; and see how, from the beginning, the disciples were wont to meet in upper chambers, coming together
all with one accord in one place,” to call unitedly upon the name of the Lord. And ever since that time, in all places where there has been any spiritual life and activity, there social meetings for prayer have been frequent. Perhaps no scenes can be more tedious and tasteless to the man of the world; but the sincere disciple finds in th the sweetest and purest happiness, and there drinks with joy from the river of God's pleasures. Thus it was in the earliest days of New England. Mather tells us, in his Magnalia, published in 1702, that " in the beginning of the country, devout Christians had their private meetings, wherein they would seek the face, and sing the praise of God, and confer upon some questions of practical religion for their mutual edification ; and the country is still full of these little meetings.” At this day, the country is more full of these “ conference " seasons than ever. And though they are far from being so fully attended as were to be wished, yet we do not hesitate to say that we do not believe that there is an orthodox church anywhere in New England, however small or scattered, but feels that at least one such stated meeting from week to week, and from year to year, is indispensable to its religious comfort, and even to its existence.
If now there are large denominations among us, which have no such general system of prayer and conference-meetings, kept up by the constant sense of spiritual necessities; or which, when a measure of the kind is adopted, sees it thronged as a curious novelty, while all the country around is laid under contribution for the more devout ministers and laymen to sustain the interest of the occasion, and even the secular prints give regular reports of the exercises ; if there be such denominations, ought not either fact to suggest to them the most solemn reflections? In all kindness, we would ask, What ought they to think of their own spiritual state, and of the scheme of doctrines by which that state is produced ?
Margaret Smith's JOURNAL. Here is a volume, purporting to be a portion of the diary of a young lady, who visited several places in the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1678 – 9. Though liable to many minor criticisms, this little fiction is written with abundance of talent, and contains many pleasing passages. But it is from the pen of one in whom the antiquated Quaker grudge rankles in all its acridness, under a doublet of the smoothest and neatest drab, a beaver of the broadest brim, and a visage expressive only of the blandest benevolence. Coleridge has well compared the “ Friends to a volcano in a mountain of ice. No other men ever had such a godly way of doing an ungodly thing! The writer before us paints most of the old Puritans in this land as a set of persecuting demons, while the cunning followers of old Fox are delineated as angels of mercy and goodness. It is very unfortunate for the memory of our fathers, that they despised the Quaker invectives of their day, too much to answer their railing pamphlets. These pamphlets teem with atrocious slanders against our ancient ministers and magistrates, which those worthies regarded as too absurd for belief, and too contemptible to call for refutation. Hence, for the most part, but one side of the story has reached us. The slanders remain, written as they were under the promptings of exasperated prejudice and bitter disappointment. The Puritan version of the story, with slight exceptions, has not fully come down to us. And now the frantic effusions of the Quakers, which in their time were deemed unworthy of notice, are exhumed from lumber-lofts and antiquarian dust-heaps, and quoted by Bancroft, and some who pretend to write history, as documents of unquestionable authority. No doubt but the Quakers, in the excitement they produced by their senseless and outrageous proceedings, suffered, in some instances, unjustly; but, usually, they were punished for such breaches of the public peace and order, as are at this day chastised by the laws of our commonwealth, and which the present generation of Quakers would condemn as decidedly as our fathers did. When George Fox accused our fathers of persecution in punishing those who disturbed public worship, insulted courts of justice while in session, and even perambulated the streets in a state of nudity, our ancestors did not feel themselves called to repel such an accusation. Roger Williams, indeed, in his book called “ George Fox digged out of his Burrows," volunteers to vindicate “ the people of the Bay" from that accusation ; and surely he is an unexceptionable witness in their favor, on a point like this, where he could have no extreme partiality for their side.
Dr. DE WETTE. This divine was banished from Prussia, many years since, on account of his radicalism in politics and his neologism in polemics. He has since resided in Switzerland, as a professor in the University of Basle. He is regarded as one of the most distinguished of living scholars, in the departments of sacred antiquities, and of the philology of either Testament. The readers of that invaluable work, the Bibliotheca Sacra, must have noticed with interest a translation from De Wette's Commentary on a part of the fifth chapter of Romans, made by Professor Stuart, and published in