Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

country. The effort was to secure redress for grievances, and deliverance from oppression; and could these have been secured, they doubtless would have been content to remain in dutiful allegiance. They asked not exemption from the restraint of law, but deliverance from the abuse of power. And it was not until all their remonstrances had failed, all their protestations of loyalty had been mocked, that they felt constrained to resort to the alternative. Submission to law, not as a matter of coercion, but of free choice, has ever characterized the American people, and this is the ground precisely of their fitness for independence.

Not so the revolutionists of Europe. The true spirit of liberty had no place among them. They quarreled not with the abuse of power, but with law itself, both human and divine. They embodied no religious element, without which, any movement must be unhistorical. They sought room, not for the exercise of free choice in their obedience to law, but rather the elevation of their own self-will to the dignity of a rule of action. Their spirit was altogether negative, destructional; and in their assault upon the existing powers, they aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of true authority, as well as of its abuse. They had, it is true, a vague dream of liberty, and were fired with its love, as they contemplated the happy and peaceful condition of these United States. But they made their observations from a distance, and from an unfavorable position, and wildly imagined that every one was at liberty to consult his pleasure as regards his own conduct.

This state of things found its practical workings in France. Like an avalanche did the popular will overpower the government; and in a very few days from the commencement of the revolution, was the way opened for the full realization of the dream of liberty. But we all know the history of the Republic. Scarcely was it established when the wild spirit of radicalism revealed itself with such formidable demonstrations of power for future evil, that it speedily became apparent to her calmer statesmen, that the alternative was not between a republic and a monarchy, but between a reign of terror, as once

before experienced by that unhappy people, and a well regulated empire. We, as a people, were loud in our denunciations against the conduct of the present Emperor, and the title of traitor was upon every lip; but history is now unequivocal in its assurance, that it was a master stroke of political wisdom, to save the nation from being deluged with fraternal blood. And certainly if France was not prepared for a popular form of government, much less were the other nations which put forth their simultaneous efforts.

Kossuth too, in his wild and ungrateful career in this country, gave the most palpable evidence of his fanatical spirit, in seeking to make his crude notions of international policy, the rule of universal action; and no doubt the want of power was the only barrier which restrained him from proposing terms of peace to the whole world.

But we are not without indications of the presence of this extreme tendency in our own country. The facility with which the most visionary schemes gain a hearing and enlist adFocates, is not a little significant in this direction. It would seem to require but a bold presumption and a boisterous tongue, to command influence, and measurably at least to further the wildest project. It cannot be said of us as a people, that we are altogether unthinking, but unfortunately we act before thinking; and not unfrequently, as recent experience has proven, are subjected to the mortification of retracing our headlong steps. Our citizens, it is to be regretted, have recently exhibited an unwonted spirit of fanaticism in this particular direction. Excitement seems to be the order of the day discontent with that which is old and established, and an insatiable craving after something new and strange. Ours is emphatically an age of progress, but progress under the conduct of individual will and aggrandizement. There is a thirst for adventure and speculation, and a disposition to wander away from old and fixed landmarks.

There is also a rapidly growing disposition to divest government of its prerogatives, and invest the popular will with accumulated power. To the extent precisely that these changes are effected, does our government lose its representative character, and approximate a pure democracy. And it were well for us to bear in mind, that an absolute democracy, is an absolute mob. The popular outbreaks of late so frequent; the increase of crime; the wild and unlawful expeditions for territorial aggrandizement, such as those directed against the island of Cuba; the recklessness which is manifested in large measure with reference to our pacific relations to foreign countries; and besides these, the unrighteous tampering with the Heaven ordained institution of capital punishment; the fanatical furor of ultra-abolitionism, warring alike against Church and State, and refusing fellowship with all who will not make the abolition of southern slavery, the first article in both their political and religious creed; then that shameful exhibition of human weakness, made to challenge the attention of the wide world, under the title of “ Woman's Rights," whose deluded votaries seem to forget not only that nice sense of delicacy which makes woman the object of our warmest affection, but equally their own tender sex, and the design of God in their creation ; as also that wonderful and mad infatuation—“spiritual rappings”-destroying the peace of homes, and crazing the brains of many of its pitiable subjects; and scores of indications besides which might be mentioned, all go conclusively to show the one-sided tendency of the agethe disposition to give the reins to private will and caprice over against the settled principles of past history, and the actual demands of the law of our nature.

In the department of the Church, the indications are no less portentous. Individual opinion seems to be regarded as the tribunal of ultimate appeal, and indeed the actual measure of all revealed truth. No matter what was the judgment of past ages touching the doctrines of Christianity, all must now square with the views and notions which seem to commend themselves to each man for himself. Herein precisely consists the cause of the increasing growth of heresy around us—the denial of the cardinal doctrines of our holy religion, and the reduction of this with all its glories and confounding mysteries to the measure of the finite understanding. It is not necessary to cite instances in proof of this growing defection from the truth, with all its concomitant results, as revealed in the terrible evil of the sect system. We need but be familiar with the religious prints of the day, to be certified by their admissions and lamentations, their enquiries and conjectures, that this tendency holds to a much more alarming extent than is perhaps generally supposed. Wide spread insubordination to everything like Church authority, gives additional evidence of the correctness of our allegation. So completely is this regarded as a proper subject for private judgment, that when, in many cases at least, this last is found to be in conflict with the fancies of .the individual, he never stops to enquire as to the correctness of his position, or even the probabilities against him, but in the spirit of the most lawless radicalism, sets it at defiance, and seeks out a congenial fraternity among the thousand and one conflicting sects with which Christendom is cursed.

But our remarks have already exceeded their intended limits, and it must now suffice to say, in conclusion, that the most unhappy feature in the radical tendency of the age, is, that it seems not yet to have reached its culminating point. Things seem to be growing worse, and if we may judge from the signs of the times, we have just reason to be apprehensive for the future, with reference to both Church and State. The tendency will necessarily run its course—it will strive its utmost against the truthful progress of history, until this last shall have accumulated sufficient force to assert its rights, when, it is to be feared, it will surmount this unnatural and sinful obstruction with the devastating power of a revolution. The ultimate issue, however, will be truthful-will and must be in accordance with the requirements of a Heaven directed history. But it is seriously to be feared, that the overcoming of this evil, may yet pour forth rivers of blood, and fill the world with sighs and tears. Chambersburg, Pa.

S. N. c.

ART. II.-THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY AND THE

FUNDAMENTAL LAW OF ITS ACTION.

WHATEVER may be thought of the so-called “Mercersburg Theory of Historical Development in its specific details, we do not see how the truth of the general idea, which forms its foundation, can be questioned. If it is, one of two positions must of necessity be assumed : First, that Christianity is not a new life brought into the world in the person of Jesus Christ; or secondly, that, though it be such a life, it is not governed in its action by the law of life.

If the first position be assumed, the question arises, what then is Christianity ? This question must not be evaded by statements of what Christianity does. For it is not enough to be acquainted with it phenomenally; we must also be able to declare what it is essentially.* Its consequences and effects are richly worthy of study in their proper relations, but even to a correct apprehension of their true character and of the manner in which they were produced, a knowledge of its essential nature is absolutely necessary. And besides, we must be able to define this with some certainty, in order to discover

*

* “ The theological position of the present may be considered especially favorable, for a proper appreciation of the truth in the case of the important inquiry here brought into view. It has been but too common heretofore, to proceed on some particular conception of Christianity, as Primitive, Catholic. Protestant, &c.; by which, as a matter of necessity, a single historical stadium, arbitrarily bounded according to the pleasure of the inquirer, has been made to stand for the idea of the whole ; thus causing certain phases of the system, its divinity for instance, or its humanity, its doctrinal, or its ethical, or it may be its æsthetic character only, to represent the general life of which each could be said to form but a single side. Now, however, as the result of our historical cultivation itself, we stand on higher ground. We are able to take a comprehensive survey of Christianity as an organic whole, under all the aspects in which it is presented to our view, in its origin, and throughout the whole stream of its development, down to the present time. In this way it is made much more easy than before, to reach the true life-centre of the whole, and to recognize the beating heart from which all has been formed, and that still continues to animate all perpetually in its several parts.”Prelim. Essay (translated from the German of Ullman,) to the Mystical Presence, pp. 14, 15.

« AnteriorContinuar »