Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

ward, since the age of the Reformation. Under such view, and within such range, the historical parallel between the two sys. tems, we say, may very easily be turned impressively in favor of Protestantism.

Who can well help feeling the force, for instance, of the following picture of the influence of the Church of Rome, from the eloquent pen of Macaulay : “During the last three centuries to stunt the growth of the human mind has been her chief object. Throughout Christendom, whatever advance has been made in knowledge, in freedom, in wealth, and in the arts of life, has been made in spite of her, and has every where been in the inverse proportion to her misguided power. The loveliest and most fertile provinces of Europe have, under her rule, been sunk in poverty, in political servitude and intellectual torpor; while Protestant countries, once proverbial for sterility and barbarism, have been turned by skill and industry into gardens, and can boast of a long list of heroes and statesmen, philosophers and poets. Whoever, knowing what Italy and Scotland natur. ally are, and what four hundred years ago they actually were, should now compare the country around Rome with the country around Edinburgh, will be able to form some judgment as to the tendency of Papal domination. The descent of Spain, once the first among monarchies, to the lowest depths of degradation; the elevation of Holland, in spite of many natural disadvantages, to a position such as no commonwealth so small has ever reached, teach the same lesson. Whoever passes in Germany, from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant principality; in Switzerland, from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant canton; in Ireland, from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant county, finds that he has passed from a lower to a higher grade of civilization. On the other side of the Atlantic the same law prevails. The Protestants of the United States have left far behind them the Roman Catholics of Mexico, Peru, and Brazil. The Roman Catholics of Lower Canada remain inert, while the whole .continent around them is in a ferment with Protestant activity and enterprise."

Compare with this a fine passage to the same effect, in Schaff's Princie ple of Protestantism, p. 96-98. “Traverse the lands in which Protestantism has fixed its seat,” says the author, “from the northern boundary of Sweden to the Sandwich Islands, from the southern declivities of the Himalayah to the banks of the Mississippi; almost everywhere you may find theologians vicioriously contending against infidelity and superstition; preachers, who like Paul are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ Crucified, but hold all the glory

[ocr errors]

to rail.

The force of this comparison would seem to be very plain; and we can only wonder iherefore, when we find such a man as Brownson treating it as a nullity, or worse still insisting that the social state of Protestant countries is less sound and promising than that of Spain for instance, or Austria, or France. “In all Protestant nations,” he tells us lately," saith is gone, morality is gone, and principle is gone. The least depraved among them may vie noi unsuccessfully, in immorality and unnatural crimes, with the more depraved nations of beathen antiquity” (Review for Jan. 1851, p. 106). To talk at this rate is not to argue but

Mere material prosperity, we grant, is no sure sign or proof of true social improvement; and it is plain enough that the forces which at present make up the reigning power of what may be called our Protestant civilization, in Europe and in this country, will never be able with such form and direction as they now have to bring society to its right end. The higher power of religion, the moulding and controuling agency of the Church, in a way not now known, must come in 10 save the whole process from confusion and defeat. Protestantism itself needs a mighty regeneration, a new creation we may say, 10 fulfil in the end its own most critical and perilous mission. But all this may not blind us to the clear fact, that a real onward impulse has been communicated by it notwithstanding to the life of ihe modern world. This in itself considered is a gain, however much may be wanting still to make it complete; and as far as it goes may be justly quo:ed always, as a fair and legitimate argument in favor of the Protestant cause.

J. W. N.

[ocr errors]

a

of the world in contempi for its sake; a strict moral order; a blooming do. mestic life; a familiarity with the Bible; an inward freedom and joy of faith ; such as you may seek in vain in the very centre itself of the Church of Rome. There is still suficient salt in the system, with all its diseases, to save it from corruption.-Only blindness iiself can deny, that Protesto antism still continues the great moving power of the time ; holding the helm of ihe world's political and spiritual history; whilst every other form of action comes to have deep significance only as standing with it in either hostile or friendly relation." If the cause of Protestantism is to be successfully maintained at all, it must be on the general ground taken in this tract; than which, we hesitate not to say, no more honest or able plea for it was ever yet appeared in our country.

THE

MERCERSBURG REVIEW.

MAY, 1851.

VOL. III.--NO. III.

THE VALUE OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS. In attempting to penetrate the spirit of American Institutions, to explain the phenomena, which they present, and to show the relative position of American civilization in the history of the world, it is improper to suppose that these things have taken place in some accidental manner,—that the outcasts of the old world, carried by sonie fortunate wind to the American shores, and favored by some undefined influence of our bills and vallies, our fountains and streams, commenced the superstructure of American culture, of American government, and American enterprize. So too it is equally as absurd to trace our American life to the noble spirits, that figured so extensively in our early history, as if it were owing to their originality, or powers of invention, that we have been made to occupy our present position in the history of the world. Our historic characters, or great men, and we have such as have made an impression on the world, were the embodiment of a spirit, that was not peculiar to them, but which was shared with them by others in distant lands; and how could they have been its originators? The time-spirit would disdain so recent an origin; it comes to us from afar, from the wreck of ancient, and venerated institutions; from the ruins of empires, from the tomb of former glory, and bears in its VOL. Ill.-10. Ill.

14.

bosom all that is precious, or valuable, --every germ of life, that lingered in the remains of effete forms of humanity. The forces of history, extending from country to country, from age to age, meeting with inflexible opposition every strange element, overthrowing, establishing, or modifying, until the aspect of human affairs have undergone an entire change, may well throw the noise and uproar of human passion into the back-ground. As America is now admitted to have come into the general whole of history, it must have been called into existence by laws as necessary and unchangeable, as those which control the planets above, or the hidden powers below. If such a connection between our life and the past, can be made to appear, it will serve to enhance the value of our existence in the eyes of all intelligent persons, to encourage an enlightened patriotism, and to discourage a narrow-minded national vanity, that is springing up among us.

In the four celebrated empires of antiquity, the centralization of power, operated with almost omnipotent force, as if this were the vanishing point of human life. In the Roman Empire it received its highest development, when the known world was held beneath the sway of a single hand. When this latter colossus of human power began to crumble into atoms, it was succeeded by the rise of another idea, pointing in the same direction, which was exhibited in the papacy. Previously the tendency of the times was an objective one, but this objectivity was to be gained by external power as in the case of civil government. The world sought to be united in an external organization, and in this way to find its consummation. At the rise of the papacy this objective tendency continued, but began to move in a more spiritual and inward way. The idea of the age was to unite men by the established religion, by creeds, by an ecclesiastical organization and laws, over which the priesthood should exercise dominion. The reigning idea of the middle ages, consequently, was the establishment of the Catholic Church. No event of importance took place, which had not some connection, directly or indirectly, with the propagation of spiritual power in the bishop of Rome. This was supposed to be an all absorbing interest of men. Nothing was considered valuable, which did not subserve the purposes of the hierarchy. The pope, and the priesthood were the adoration of the multitude, and the source of all temporal and spiritual blessings. Civil government became subject to the spiritual power. Literature and Science were alike enslaved to the ruling idea. Authority, and not investigation, was the order of the day. A more subjective ten.

[ocr errors]

dency, that was manifested in different directions, claiming the rights of freedom, was driven to the mountains, or burnt with faggots. Private judgment was dispensed with; the Pope was infallible, and Emperors bowed at his palace, and humbly supplicated his favor.

Now it cannot be said that such almost superhuman efforts after the unity of the race, did not carry within them some degree of relative justification. Had they not possessed some shadow of righteousness, they never could have been put forth. There remains in man, as a relic of his primitive condition, a feeling after unity with his fellow8,-a dim intuition, that his present distracted and divided condition, is not the will of the Creator, and that when the golden age returns to bless the world, the present divisions of men shall be healed, and he shall be one with himself. In the heathen world this was doubtless a vague feeling, that mingled with a host of selfish motives and passions. In the Catholic Church it came into a clearer consciousness. Christianity had taught men, what they dimly felt, that unity was a duty, and one aspect of the sanctified condition of the world; consequently, they believed they were doing God-service in the bitter persecution of the times,-in stifling the better tendencies that were beginning to appear, with the view of upholding the idea of unity. But their efforts, as in the case of the heathen, proved a failure.

The triumph of the Romish hierarchy was the beginning of its decay. The human mind had been carried to an extreme, and a reaction must ensue. This was witnessed in the Reformation of Luther. That energy, which had held the world in check, and by its all embracing grasp, subjected every opposing agency, seemed to stop of a sudden, and with a struggle, that shook every department of human activity, took an opposite direction. The love for the universal threatened to become an obsolete idea. Its corruptions, as it appeared in the hierarchy of Rome, became a stench in the nostrils of the world. The old passed away, and everything became new. As the church

previously had been the centre of attraction, so now the individual became an object of wide-spread interest. Individual improvement and rights swayed in the contentions of the times. The new current in human affairs, moved forward, bearing down all opposition, sparing nothing, though sanctified by antiquity, and covered over with the most deeply interesting associations. The deluge of northern barbarians in their sanguinary course over the fields of ancient civilization, plundering, and defacing with a barbaric indifference every remain of a former state of things,

« PredošláPokračovať »