« PredošláPokračovať »
dwarfing the Divine Lawgiver to the measure of our fancy.
Indeed there is a solemnity involved in this view of facts which is seldom recognised. One thing, said the heathen proverb, the Deity cannot do: undo that which is done. And is it not true that all which once has happened, which has become a fact, in so happening passes, as it were, into an irrevocable order of things, and shares the immutability and eternity of the Almighty Maker? Thus it is even with the contingent acts of men, prescinding from the sin which may be involved in them. Once carried into effect, they form part of an universe which is God's creation; the system of which, in its infinitely numerous details, is one vast series of inductions as to what is His being and His will, for without these they could not have been. The meanest fact around us is one in an infinite series, and bears witness to an infinite power. It is a disclosure of the Eternal; “for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” Those, at least, who so look upon facts are not likely to disregard their importance.
But if the philosophic historian must look to the induction of facts as the scientific method by which alone he can attain to a clearer and fuller view of the laws governing the political and social world, yet there are facts very intimately and universally concerning the actions of men and the course of humanity, which come to him guaranteed by authority. Whether the mere observer would deduce them for himself, the experience of the ancient heathen is perhaps sufficient to decide in the negative. But that experience is likewise sufficient to show that, without fully admitting such facts, the course of human affairs was to the most sharp-sighted and reflecting among them dark, cheerless, and even unintelligible. No one can be a great and true historian if his history be not written with a full conviction that three great powers move through the whole course of human events. * There is a Divine Providence, which shapes things to its own ends, “rough-hew them how we will,” and never leaves the mastery of results to the blind or iron force of chance or fate. There is a free will of man, left sacred in every human breast by that Divine Providence, not the slave of outward circumstances nor of inward pleasure, but the very basis of our moral being, and its inviolable citadel. And there is, by the permission of that same Providence, an ever-active power of evil, universal in his operation, and tempting every human free will to a false pleasure and an unreal good. If the human mind could not discern and recognise these three powers
for itself from the mere contemplation of the outward facts of history, yet, at least, when they are dis
• Schlegel, Philosophy of History, Lect. xv.
closed by revelation, it sees infallible proof of their presence in those facts; nor has either of these ever been denied or ignored by the historian without manifest injury to the truth and the completeness of the view which he takes of human affairs.
Nay, I am prepared to maintain that it was the very discerning and reasoning on these three powers, and their joint operations in human affairs, which gave birth to that philosophy of history, of which we are now treating. And how can I better conclude these remarks than by some illustration from facts of the principles which have been here maintained ?
When, then, did history first appear divested of what is local, national, and temporary ? When did it come forth at length conterminous with the human race and grasping its whole destiny? Who first allied it with philosophy so as to produce a work which may be referred equally to both ? If what I have stated be true, if history be ever the portrait of an existing civilisation, if it cannot forestall the progress of that civilisation, if the mirror cannot reflect till the object be presented to it, if moreover darkness and uncertainty brooded over the mind of the ablest and most philosophical of the ancient historians, so that it may be doubted if he recognised either of those three powers which move through all the actions of men, then it is abundantly clear that no philosophy of history could be produced till Christianity had sunk into the minds of men and moulded their thoughts. Now, it is not a little singular that the same great Father, who is usually considered the parent of theology viewed as a science, has likewise given us the first specimen of the philosophy of history. That period of thirty years at the commencement of the fifth century, during which the fertile mind of St. Augustine poured forth so many works to be the seed-plots of thought for future times, was itself one of the most important and decisive in all history. It saw for the first time the capture of imperial Rome, which filled the old world with dismay. That world felt instinctively that it was disappearing. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and who could tell how much or what would remain standing after the deluge? On all sides the barbarians were bursting in, and the empire which had grown for a thousand years was upheaved from its foundations. He who gave a theory of history at such a time was subjecting it to a rude trial. And again, it is worthy of note that the very capture of the city by Alaric led to the work in question. Rome, said certain Pagan writers, obtained the dominion of the world by the aid of the gods. She is become Christian, and she falls. The objection seemed to St. Augustine to need an answer, and he blends all the treasures of history and philosophy together in giving it in the great treatise, De Civitate Dei. We are the children of those barbarians, adopted, tamed, regenerated by the Church. We live far on the other side of that gulf into which all that was beautiful, orderly, and peaceful of the old civilisation was about to be cast. We have eighteen centuries behind us,
and St. Augustine had four. What judgment should we pass on his work? I will take a summary of it, drawn up by a very able modern historian, that
you may see how far it reaches such an ideal of the philosophy of history as I have sketched above. "As to what concerns history,” says M. Amédée Thierry, " the following is the idea of St. Augustine. The events of this world are neither fortuitous nor isolated. Divine Providence directs them, forms them into a series, causes them all to concur towards the same end, the triumph of truth and justice, such as they were revealed in the first instance to the Hebrew people, and as Jesus Christ came to confirm and announce them to the nations. Whoever listens to the voice from on high, and follows it, belongs to the people of the elect, the city of God, nigh to which moves the city of the earth, devoted to worldly interests, the city of pride and dominion, the persecutor of the saints, but which not the less labours, by means of which she is ignorant, for the kingdom of God. Thus did Babylon in the east-thus does Rome in the west — both of them queens of nations, both of them announced by prophecies, both of them predestined to spread abroad, the former the revela