« ElőzőTovább »
ble, is that of the burning bush. The bush was all in a glow and flame, and yet it was not consumed. So the Church of God in general, and the Church of England in particular, has been ever in the fire,—the flame burning more fiercely at some times than others,--and why does it survive at all ? Why is it not consumed! These questions admit of but one answer. The Lord is with it, and in it; and while he is in it, by his sustaining power, how can it die? It must live, and grow, and triumph forever.
3. There is yet another lesson to be learned from the history over which we have passed, and one on which it is proper to dwell, viz., our personal indebtedness to the cause of missions, and our obligations, on this account, to love that cause, and to sustain it. Our remote British ancestors, let it never be forgotten, were a race of fierce and cruel pagans. Their priests, the Druids, were among the most exacting and cruel that ever inhabited the dark places of the earth. They dwelt in impenetrable forests, kept themselves and their religious rites in profound secrecy and mystery, and were thus enabled to hold all around them in a state of the most devasing terror and bondage. They are said to have been worshippers of the
. oak; and when their sacred tree was felled, would deify its shapeless stump. The mistletoe, a small shrub attaching to the boughs of the oak, was an object of high veneration. Their sacrifices were offered in thick groves, and on some occasions in inclosures formed of massy stones. One of them, denominated Stonehenge, is partly standing in England at the present time, and the sites of several others have been discovered
It will give us a sufficiently dreadful idea of the rites of the Druids, and the religious customs of our pagan ancestors, to know that they were in the frequent if not constant practice of offering human sacrifices. Their victims were, in general, selected from among criminals; but when these were wanting, they did not scruple to sacrifice innocent persons. Lucan, in his description of a grove in which the Druids performed their rites, after stating that the trees were so thick and interwoven that the sun could not penetrate through their branches, adds: “There was nothing to be seen there but a [JULY, multitude of altars, upon which the Druids sacrificed human victims, whose blood turned the very trees of a horrid crimson color.” In time of war, great numbers of prisoners were often sacrificed together. They were inclosed in large wicker cages made of rods, in form resembling a monster man, to which being surrounded by combustible materials, fire was applied, and they were consumed to ashes. It is evidence of the horrible nature of the superstition here described, that the Romans, who were proverbially tolerant toward the different species of idolatry practised in their provinces, were excited to vengeance by the cruelties of the Druids, and attempted to put an end to them by force.
Such, then, were our British ancestors—the fathers and mothers from whom, in all probability some of us are lineally descended. And we refer to them here, that we may the more deeply feel our obligations to those heroic men who first went among them, at the peril of their lives, to preach to them the Gospel of Christ. Not by tortures, punishment, and war, but by the saving, humanizing influence of the Gospel, they quenched the fires, and overturned the altars, and destroyed the groves of the murderous Druids, and rescued those from whom we derive our being from the horrors of heathenism, here and hereafter. At two different periods was England enlightened and evangelized by the toils and sufferings of Christian missionaries. Let us then never forget our indebtedness to the cause of missions, and our obligations to sustain and extend it. Every consideration which could have induced Christians, more than a thousand years ago, to send the Gospel to our heathen fathers, and thus snatch them and us from the horrors of a bloody and idolatrous superstition, are now urging us to send the same Gospel to those who dwell in darkness and in the region and shadow of death. Our personal indebtedness to missions is certainly a powerful reason-one suited to come home to every bosom, why we should awake to our duty in this respect, and engage in the work of spreading the Gospel with new devotedness and zeal.
ART. V.-The Trial Period in History.
Man was made in the image of his Maker,-a conscious, rational, and immortal being. This constitutes the vast difference between him and all the lower ranks of creation. With an upright will, he was yet capable of deflection, else he could not have fallen. He possessed affections that twined around the true and good, which, nevertheless, might turn and clasp the evil and the false; otherwise how could he be capable of trial. In this freedom lies the superiority of mind and conscience over matter and animal instinct.
This difference explains, too, the mastery of man over nature, and the progress of the race in science, civilization, and moral refinement. It also accounts for its mastery over him, when, falling into moral debasement, he is governed by appetite and passion, instead of reason.
“ Two things overwhelm me,” said Kant,—“the star-sown deep of space, and right and wrong." Of the two, the latter is far more sublime and appalling. The stars have no power of deflection from their normal course. The high capability of this in man is just that moral endowment in which the likeness to his Maker consists, and without which, improvement or deterioration would be impossible. In this primal fact of the divine likeness in man, lies the key
lies the key to human history and a clew to human destiny.
This fearful possibility of wrong comes first into actual history, in what may be called The Trial Period.
But there meets us here the preliminary question of man's physical and intellectnal status at the starting point. Three theories have found more or less acceptance.
First, a literal infancy, capable, by time and growth, of bodily and mental development and maturity.
Second, a physical maturity, but intellectual and moral savageism.
Third, a mental and moral, as well as physical completeness, in a fulness of faculties which nature and the divine tui
VOL. XLII.--NO. III. 27
tion brought into immediate use in the acquisition of knowledge, and the felicities of obedience and love.
Which, now, is the true theory? Not that of infantile weakness. For Eve, who could not have grown from infancy
. in the brief slumber of the man during which she was made, appeared in blooming womanhood, when, on waking, he welcomed her as his wife. So Adam, it would seem, was not created a babe, that by years and growth obtained maturity, but in the capability of acquiring knowledge, and with a full responsibility for rightly using it. All other parents being born, were once babes. But these first parents were not born and were never babes. Things that grow, reach perfection gradually. Those which are created, start normally
, in it, and may advance or retrograde. This seems to be a creative law. According to the testimony of geology, every species, however low, comes into being at the point of its own ideal as a species.
The theory of barbarism as the historic starting point, elaborated by Condorcet and espoused by Bunsen and others, is not supported either by facts or analogies. For although a cannibal savageism is the lowest stage of society, this is certainly no more an intimation that the human race commenced at •that point, than the inebriation of a few adults is, that all men are born intoxicated. Cannibalism shows how low humanity has fallen, not its state at the coinmencement.
All barbarisms perpetuate and intensify themselves by a law as fixed as that of gravitation. They all are traceable, historically, as a degeneracy from something higher and better. No savageism, by its own force, ever emerges to civilization. Niebuhr affirms that there is not in all history a single instance of such emergence. Hence no essential advances are indigenous, but all come to it from without. These general facts perfectly harmonize with the sacred record, and help to settle this question of status at the commencement of history.
Swedenborg adopts a theory from the old Hindoo philosophy which combines the two-infancy and barbarism. He represents man as making his entrance into the world from an egg, incubated by the Supreme, on the branch of a tree. In due time the parturient branch rested its burden on a leafy couch.
When the term of gestation was completed, the infant broke through its bars into the waiting world. From this vegetable maternity he passed slowly through childhood and youth to a mute manhood. For several generations he and his descendants had only a vegetable respiration. Their only language was the inaudible movements of the lips with the gesticulations of the face and fingers, and their only hearing through the mouth and by the Eustachian tube.
But the vegetable kingdom, according to the best lights of science, holds no maternal relation to the animal, nor filial to the mineral. God, as Creator, is, indeed, man's Father; but nature is not his mother. And the birth of one kingdom or species from another is contradicted equally by the sacred record and the natural sciences.
From all the diverse theories of spontaneous generation, of transmutation, natural selection and developinent, the historical and scientific thought turns away more and more unsatisfied and dissatisfied, to the simple announcements of the divine Word: “So God created man in his own image.” He starts thence, not as a philosopher, but with natural intuitions far better than inventions or mere tuitions. He possesses a rich mental and moral furniture, adequate both to the acquisition and the use of knowledge.
It is an extravagance to say with South, that “an Aristotle was but the rubbish of an Adam,” thongh in some respects the Adam was better than the Aristotle. For it is not mere conjecture that the first type of humanity, the starting-point of history, was neither barbarism nor infancy, but the beginning of a high moral and religious civilization.
What is civilization if its elements are not found in this period! Here, at the very first, by admission of the philologists, is language sufficient in its social and zoologic use, for both science and society. Here is the marriage relation, in the purest and most sacred monogamy-a relation which barbarism always corrupts and which modern civilization does not entirely restore, or even preserve in its primitive purity. Here, in the care of the garden, is horticulture, with its hygienic and refining influence; and here is monotheism in iis simple grandeur,—the central educating power of all that