Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

SECTION VII.

FANATICISM OF THE BANNER.

In escaping from the Consistory to the Camp, we seem to breathe again. Without staying to inquire whether the greater sum of positive evil has been inflicted upon mankind by the fanatical priest, or by the fanatical soldier, it is certain that the sentiments with which we contemplate the one course of action are vastly less oppressive than those excited by the other.

Let but the energies of men be spent upon a broad field and under the open sky; and let them but have to do with interests not of one kind only, but of many; and let but their motives of action embrace the principal impulses of our nature, and especially, let those who run such a course freely expose themselves to the perils and sufferings of the enterprise, and then it will always happen that admirable talents and fine qualities find play ;talents and qualities such as are neither seen nor thought of within the shades of sacred seclusions, or in ecclesiastical halls.

None but minds imbued with the darkest fanaticism can feel any complacent sympathy with the character and deeds of sacerdotal despots ; on the other hand there are few minds so frigid, or so pure, as not to kindle in following the story of exploits which (criminal as they may have been in their object and issue) yet sparkle with rare instances of valour, and are graced with the choicest examples of fortitude, mercy, and magnanimous contempt of selfish interests.

And besides, there is this capital disparity between the fanaticism of the Churchman and that of the Soldier--that while the oppressions and cruelties practised by the former are in all cases, and under every imaginable conditionan ATROCITY, destitute of palliation or excuse, the deeds of the other have often been instigated by motives which go far to soften our disapproval. In truth there are certain instances of this class of so mixed and ambiguous a kind, that we must shrink if called upon to say decisively whether the actors should be commended or condemned. It is easy and trite to affirm that aggressive and ambitious warfare is always immoral ;-and how flagrant is the guilt of aggressive war, waged under sacred banners, or at the alleged bidding of Religion ! But often the question of national existence has been inseparably connected with the question of faith ; and the alternative of a people has been

to crouch and to perish; or to defend by the sword at once their Homes and Altars. He must be a stern moralist indeed who, in such cases would without reluctance pronounce a verdict which must make the oppressor exult, and the oppressed despond.

Compared with either of the two forms of fanaticism described in the preceding sections, that now to be considered is remarkable on account of its diversified combinations with other sentiments. Patriotism and national pride, calculations of policy, the motives of trade, the desire of plunder, and the impulse of personal passions - the resentments or the ambition of Chiefs, have all come in to mingle themselves with that more profound excitement which gave the first impulse to wars on account of religion. On the ground we have hitherto traversed, every object almost has shewn the darkest colours, and has repelled the eye by a sombre and horrid uniformity—we have been making way through a valley of grim shadows-or a region illumined only by the fires which cruelty has lit up :

Spelunca alta fuit, vastoque immanis hiatu,
Scrupea, tuta lacu nigro nemorumque tenebris ;
Quam super haud ullæ poterant impune volantes
Tendere iter pennis.-
Vestibulum ante ipsum primisque in faucibus orci,
Luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae;
Pallentesque habitant Morbi, tristisque Senectus,
Et Metus, et malesuada Fames, et turpis Egestas,
Terribiles visu formæ; Letumque Labosque;
Tum consanguineus Leti Sopor, et mala mentis
Gaudia-

But from these regions of woe we are to emerge; and the prospect at once brightens with the pomp and movement of great enterprises. Empires are mustered on the ground, and the many nations of a continent, in the gaiety of their various attire, and with banners spread to the winds, are pouring on from side to side of the field. Or in other quarters, if clouds hang over the scene of action, yet there the constancy of human nature is shewing itself in deeds such as no other fields of war can boast.

If then hitherto the danger has been lest we should admit feelings of disgust or of resentment toward our fellows, such as the spirit of the Gospel does not allow ;—the danger now is, lest a complacency should be awakened which the inflexible maxims of its morality cannot but condemn.

The Romish Superstition has afforded the most signal instance which the page of history at all presents, of the fanaticism of cruelty. For an example, equally signal, of the fanaticism of martial zeal and religious ambition, we must turn to the first propagation of the doctrine of Mohammed.

To profess, or to feel a jealousy toward the Mohammedan faith, as if its rival merits might perhaps bring into question those of Christianity, would be a ridiculous affectation; or would

indicate an extreme imbecility of judgment. The time surely is gone by in which it might be proper anxiously to demonstrate that the Bible exhibits every quality fitting a revelation from God-the Koran none;-or none after deducting the materials that its author stole from the Prophets and the Apostles. The balance of Truth is in no jeopardy in this instance; and therefore without solicitude we may do full justice as well to the founder as to the first propagators of the religion of the eastern world.

In fairness, it should never be attempted to bring Mohammed into comparison with Him who came, “not to destroy men's lives, but to save." Nothing but a summary condemnation of the military zealot and his Caliphs could be the issue of such a contrast ; nor does it afford any needed advantage to Christianity. This contrast therefore being put out of view, many circumstances demand to be considered that should mitigate at least the feelings with which we are accustomed to regard the rise and spread of Islam.

Those tides of the northern nations which at length swept away the Roman greatness, might be spoken of as mere evolutions of the physical energies of the great social system; or as acts in the natural history of man, and acts too, the recurrence of which at intervals longer or shorter, may be looked for, unless prevented

« AnteriorContinuar »