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Aristotle or Plato, to Nominalist or Realist, to Charlemagne and William, to Cromwell and Napoleon; or, taking the theological line, to Paul and Athanasius, Hildebrand and Calvin, Wesley and Channing, — the sum and shape and direction of human civilization, the present quality and flavor of public opinion in Church and State. Why does it not oftener occur to us to think that He who assigns and orders human nature necessarily prescribes human history and human destiny? It is not the character, but the nature, of men which decides the great outlines and fills in the large features of that map we call History. It is what is .originally in man, forcing itself out of him in a necessary order, that has slowly built up from the ground that lofty plant, so coarse in its roots, so fine in its topmost twigs, so mighty in its bole and branches, so magnificent in its proportions, yet evidently as yet so incomplete in its growth, which we contemplate under the name of Civilization. The sap of this tree is the Spirit of God.
Ultimately it is reason, conscience, will, imagination, affection, constitutional and universal passions and desires, which have their way, and constitute both the current and the banks of that human Nile whose fountain-head continues a sort of open secret. Nothing that the most extraordinary persons can do affects history as the least of the permanent qualities of humanity affect it. The meanest Sense controls the usages and customs of society, more and longer than the proudest Dynasty. It is not thinkers, but the laws underlying thought, that settle our intellectual problems; it is not statesmen, but the political necessities of human nature at different stages of its development, that create and determine forms of government. It is not Buddhas and Mahomets, Pauls and Luthers, that establish religious dispensations; but necessary tendencies of the religious possibilities in man, embodying themselves, according to stages of moral and spiritual development, in creeds or forms of worship, which crystallize round some individual, who is the providential exponent of the inevitable event. The volcano does not make the fire it belches forth; and, if the internal heat had
not broken out at Etna, it would have chosen some neighboring mountain for its chimney.
In the eye of faith there can be nothing in history accidental or unexpected. The fact of human freedom does not touch that other fact, the divine necessity, which has its own way through the very freedom it has established. Man's will is free only within the scope of his nature, which he cannot change; and God's will, in fixing the nature of man, has prescribed the boundaries of his freedom. Chaos, slowly coming to order in the planet on which man dwells, did not obey more fixed laws and follow a more inevitable succession of changes than history does; being the precise and necessary development of forces originally folded in human nature.
But there is a still more glorious meaning than this in the Christian doctrines of election and predestination. Human nature, in its higher and finally predominating qualities and features, is an embodiment, in carnal and personal conditions, of the mind and heart and conscience and will of God himself. God has not merely given man a mind, but he has given him Mind; not merely a conscience, but Conscience; not a faculty of reasoning only, but Reason. He has put himself, not his orders or wishes, in humanity. The changeless attributes of God are represented in the human soul. Nothing is in God more divine than the eternal Reason, the original Conscience, the holy Will, of which the universal revelation lies in human nature. God utters himself in terms of reason, conscience, love, in the human soul. Here all of God that can be manifest, when conditioned by flesh and blood and by human personality, is ever publishing itself, according to a necessary method, in what we call human history; or, more truly, natural revelation. Not only, therefore, is history in its large outlines divinely shaped, but it is the reflection of celestial truth, goodness, and righteousness. God's way is perfect. His plan is the necessity of his own wisdom, truth, and holiness. God lives and reigns in humanity and in history. He is the light of all our seeing; the reason of our reason; the conscience of our consciences; the great personality, of which our human personalities are offshoots and echoes. The world not only moves, but it moves by the impulses designed to move it, and towards the goal fore-ordained.
The late President once said to a committee who piously expressed a hope that the Lord was on his side, “ Gentlemen, I have not considered very carefully whether the Lord was on my side; but I have been exceedingly anxious to be on the Lord's side.” God is on no man's side, any more than the sun is in favor of any man's farm. God is on the side of humanity, truth, justice; or, rather, he is these, as all the beams come from and centre in the sun.
If, in view of these principles, we briefly consider the present condition of Church and State in America, we may find some guidance through the labyrinth which confounds so many seekers after the truth.
And first of the State.
This country of ours is elected and predestinated to democratic equality and universal freedom; not from any merits of its founders, or any skill of its statesmen, but simply because, for the first time in history, a suitable conjunction of circumstances exists, through which that which is always striving to exemplify itself in the political and social nature of humanity now has its chance to take actual form and substance. There is a force working out the political problem of America, which is neither the result of party combinations, nor of private patriotism; which is back of all our questions, mightier than our armies, and more peremptory than the most decisive congress, or the most positive president. It is the force of ideas and convictions which do not owe their power to any man's judgment or will or even consciousness, which are the native ideas of political justice in the very constitution of the human soul, coming to their birth at the providential moment. Men and eras may consent to aristocratic, monarchical, and even absolute forms of government, and to states of society corresponding to them; but human nature never so consents. Now, it is only what all men can agree in that is permanent. All forms of government, except the popular and democratic form, are provisional and temporary; stagings put up about a temple which is slowly building; long cuts round the place of a bridge which is to cross a mighty river, whose piers it takes generations to lay, but which generations grudge not the cost of building, to straighten the high road of Humanity. It is absurd to talk of the stability and permanency of political injustice. It gives way hourly, and is planning surrender when it talks most boastfully of its own security. Measured by one man's life, things may seem to move slowly; but Turkey, Russia, France, England, all forbid us from denying that two hundred years have worked miracles of political progress in the most stubborn strongholds of conventional wrong.
Democratic ideas are no more true and no more certain of final victory in America than in Europe. But circumstances, territorial and moral, favor them here, and oppose them there. Here the political ideal works in clay, and there in adamant. Here an unclaimed hemisphere lay open to the seed of political truth, and Europe sent her idealists over to plant it. They brought it from a crowded soil, stocked with prescriptive errors, to our broad, hospitable fields, where a warmer, a richer, and a virgin soil awaited it.
The special circumstances of America have proved so propitious to its unfolding, that it would be just as possible to put back the summer in June as to remand the advance of universal justice and universal equality in the United States. Ideas have got the upper hand of usages, conventions, and external fixtures. The democratic force in human nature has won the mastery of mere prescriptions and vested rights or wrongs. There is that at work in America which is greater than all the people in it. The nation has been held by divine Providence for five years so close to the fundamental law of political life, so tight against the very heart of political justice, that the common pulse has at length become timed to the universal beat of eternal right. Human nature has felt, in twenty million breasts, the level tide of one sublime principle, submerging all the local class and caste of the last generation. It is the protracted experience of so noble a sentiment as that of universal political equality, which makes our war-term the vernal equinox of political liberty. The
world will date back to it as the period when political day prevailed first, for all the race, over political night. Henceforth the progress of universal liberty is sure. Africa in the slave, Asia in the Chinaman, Europe in the frustration of all her plans of intervention and all her prophecies of our failure, partake the triumph of civil rights, secured to the universal people of this country by the patient, resolute, deliberate, difficult, but decisive action of our Congress.
The nation has melted into one in the fires of civil war, and changed from a Confederacy into a Union. The idea of nationality - oneness of interest, of purpose, and of soul — is religiously dear to the American people, both from a deep instinct of unity and from a profound feeling of necessity. The war has confronted liberty and human rights in America with absolutism in all the rest of the world. To this end, whatever weakens the central government, or diminishes the sense of unity, or threatens the integrity of our nationality, properly alarms the popular instinct, and grieves the sacred shades of the heroes who bled and died to cement a country threatened with disintegration.
But, meanwhile, we have a past. Our fathers framed a Constitution, the express purpose of which was to accomplish a double end: first (among many economical objects of little moral import), to strengthen ourselves in a federal union sufficiently to dignify our flag, and protect us against foreign foes; and, second, so to guard that union from consolidation, as jealously to save the rights and privileges of the several States from being over-ridden by the federal power. The provisions for protecting State rights were constantly ap pealed to before the war. They were enforced with all the faithfulness of a law-abiding people. But we have been discovering by degrees, that the original objects of the Union were more imperilled by the reserved rights of the States themselves than by the hostility of monarchical powers. Those rights were reserved chiefly to protect interests or institutions which the essential principles of the Government disapproved and forbade. Slavery, the chief of them, could not enjoy the protection which the Constitution provided,