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It was from Ireland that an important, and, we trust, most influen. tial reform, was to arise. The insula sanctorum was once again to take its place as a luminary of the west; and a race of christian teachers was to arise and restore her spiritual character to the Church of England. Of this the results are now acknowledged on every side-a new generation have grown up in the fear and love of God, and the light which has diffused itself through every corner of the land, is at length spreading with a rapid progress through England. Its history, however, in this stage, belongs to the present time; and we shall hereafter trace it, with minute detail, in future memoirs of some of those illustrious men who were, under God's blessing, the worthy instruments of a holy cause, and have gone to rest from their labours. We shall also have to trace the steps by which toleration, little consistent with fanaticism, on the one hand-or with rigid formalism, the parent of prejudices, on the other, has at last grown out of the spirit of genuine christianity, which, while it is least of all indifferent about the truth, is also least desirous to be sustained by any species of human tyranny.
Literature, Arts, &c.- Were we engaged in a treatise of an elementary or purely scientific nature, on civilization and the development of those causes by which society has advanced from the earliest times to the present, we should have commenced with those considerations with which, following the common order of historical writings, we are now to conclude. Though in the early origin of social order, it is easy to perceive that the first element is to be sought in the history of religion and law-which must have been identical in their source and primary development and though commerce offers the next efficient agency in the advancement of social institutions, yet, when we take a starting-point within the scope of modern history, and endeavour to trace the action of ulterior causes, in expanding and giving diffusiveness and effect to the more finished structure of modern civilization, there can be little doubt that the moral and intellectual forces acting on society, must precede the agency of merely political or merely commercial considerations, imbodying in themselves all that still continues to be efficient of prior agencies and social causes.
In the earlier states of civilized society, literature cannot be considered as operating to any considerable extent. It is mainly confined to a narrow, and that not effective, class of persons. The first teachers among the heathen nations--the grammarians and philosopherswere as scattered and separated lights, which shed their pale and ineffective rays in feeble circles—the porch, the academy, or the grove
and glimmered through the surrounding darkness on a few chosen heads. That their teaching produced some influence on their own times, we do not mean to question: it was not that precisely of which we speak; their speculations, so far as they reached, refined and polished the educated, but they were not knowledge; they had little foundation in reality, and led to nothing. It is also to be admitted, that the philosophy of the ancients had an enormous effect on the early rent that the mere antipathy to so influential an element of civil power and moral influence as a national religion, should have the effect of exciting a powerful sentiment of antipathy to a state of things involving such a power.
ages of modern Europe; but it was still not what we contend for, but the opposite-a retarding power. The religion and the philosophy of the ancients, constituting, as they did, the learning of barbarous ages, corrupted religion, and retarded the advance of reason,—the two great primary elements of improvement.
On the continental nations of modern Europe, these adverse influences operated to their full extent, and in their least mitigated form, until the Reformation first began to break the bonds of spiritual despotism. In England it was otherwise. The sturdy national spirit and fortunate isolation of the land-queen, had never, in the darkest period, wholly submitted to the moral and intellectual prostration of Europe. Whatever instituted forms of despotism could effect, there were tendencies generated, and a spirit fostered, which, under the influence of events, and the operation of external causes, placed England foremost in the moral and intellectual, as well as in the political progress of Europe, the real field on which the great battle of civil and religious, as well as religious and philosophical liberty, was contested and carried to its conclusion. The elements to which these great blessings are to be traced can be found in every chapter of English history alone, in some pure and native form. Of this, so far as we are here concerned, the best evidences are to be found in the vigorous and healthful tone which, from an early period, will be easily traced in our literature, compared with that of France and Germany, our main competitors in progress.
The wonderful genius of Italy, shooting in every direction in bright and palmy grace and fertility, was forcibly suppressed and kept down by the despotism of an irresistible power; and minds which might have changed the face of Europe, were quenched in dungeons, and fettered by edicts. Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, awakened lights which were to burn in the hands of Newton. Ariosto and Tasso, the bards of ancient Italy, left their spirit to Milton. Shakspeare was the native spirit of the land, not less manifested in his art, or in the force of his genius, than in his very materials—the rough and racy variety of humours and characters, nowhere to be found but in the people from which his moral colouring and features are drawn; so much so, indeed, that to those who love to speculate upon the national history of change and revolution, we would recommend the study of this immortal poet and his contemporaries, compared with those of other civilized nations in the same period. From the time of Shakspeare, (to go no further back,) it is easy to trace in the British poets and moral writers of each succeeding generation, a regular and steady march of mind, fully adequate to explain the leading character of our political progress, and without which the explanations of writers on the subject are incomplete. The clash of sects and factions, of orders and civil powers-so well described, and traced by some modern political writers to their ultimate results—are but secondary to the great moving regulations and gradually stabilitating power to be discerned in the successive course of our literature. Those poems, and those moral essays, and that general tone of thought, which has been criticised mainly with exclusive reference to literature, is the striking, visible, and, indeed, only indication that is to be seen of the great moving element of all our
progressive changes. In England alone can be seen the gradual development of an orderly and genuine humanity. We have used the word in the sense in which it has been used by M. Guizot, in his eloquent and truly philosophical lectures on civilization. The reader of that excellent work will perceive, that in this we have presumed to controvert his preference, in this respect, in favour of his own country. While he makes admissions in favour of the legal and constitutional pre-eminence of England, he assigns to France a pre-eminence which, we must say, is not quite consistent with the rest of his theory: we must, however, state, that our objection is not so much to his facts, as to the estimate which he seems to have formed of them. His language is the following:-“ A different development from that of social life has been brilliantly manifested by them (the French)—the development of the individual and mental existence—the development of man himselfof his faculties, sentiments, and ideas,".&c. We do not continue M. Guizot's splendid description, because we do not mean to controvert its direct purport. The brilliant development of the individual tendencies towards letters, sciences, and arts—which M. Guizot, we think, erroneously considers as the “progress of humanity”—we are inclined to suspect, that on a rigid and scientific analysis, for which we have neither space nor time, it would be discovered to be a serious error, which thus divorces “progress of society” from the “progress of humanity.” We can here, in opposition, only offer the statement by which we have introduced this stricture. We consider the progress of humanity far more evidenced in the moral elements of minds like those of Johnson, Edmund Burke, Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth, Scott, and his immediate circle, than in the visionary brilliancy and the keen-edged pleasantry of the philosopher and wit of the anti-revolutionary schools in France. The difference is just that between the perfection of the higher and the vivacity of certain inferior faculties. The development of the British mind was pre-eminently moral, in the better or colloquial sense of the word: the cultivation of truth, justice, and the domestic affections, on the one true and (almost) exclusively British foundation—that of a pure and unadulterated christianity. The main distinction in favour of France is one highly calculated to mislead a Frenchman, even though a philosopher of a very high order. The progress of manners is the eminent distinction of France-apparent humanity. It would not, indeed-but that we are reluctant to digress so far-be very difficult to prove that a high-wrought system of manners is more nearly connected with the defects, than with the perfections of humanity. It could be proved from obvious moral considerations, and it could be exemplified in the whole social history of civilized nations. For the first of these considerations, we should find it easy to trace out the immediate connexion between the moral defects of social intercourse, and those etiquettes, forms, and small conventions, which are essential for their counteraction. For the second we should have, in confirmation, to show, that as we recede from the present day, the manners of our ancestors will be found more complex, elaborate, and highly wrought, and also to hold a more important place in the preservation and government of social intercourse. The celebrated anecdote of king Louis and the earl of Stair will occur to many of our readers, and is no bad
illustration of the difference which exists between the manners which arise out of high moral cultivation, and those which supply the want. There have been states of society in which every law of social order would have been wholly disregarded, but for the safety-valves of etiquette—the humanity which lay within the province of the dancingmasters and masters of ceremonies, and all the little barriers of punctilio. For such examples we should, of course, travel back some generations; but our immediate application requires us only to add, that a lively people, superfluously endowed with animal vivacity, must, even by nature, and therefore at all times, stand to a greater extent in need of a conventional system of the minor moralities—the refinements of flattery—the small niceties of sentiment which supply the place of the feelings they seem to express.
There is, it is true, another set of facts, from which M. Guizot's representation is more professedly derived; we mean the singular diffusion of literature among the French people. In France, every man is un artiste, “ wit, poet, statesman, fiddler and buffoon.” Of this multifarious mediocrity, much talent must needs be brought forth; there must be also a vast incentive to individual efforts, where every one feels that the eyes and ears of all France are upon him. But we most directly and uncompromisingly deny the truth of the implied comparison in M. Guizot's language, which assigns any superiority to any department of French literature over that of England; to which, in every department, and with the most even and uninterrupted uniformity, a vast superiority must be assigned in every intellectual attribute of the higher order, and in every successive period. The glory of French literature is the consummation of style, -a distinction to be traced to the same causes as that which has rendered them the most agreeable and graceful people on earth. M. Guizot could not fail to be complimentary to France: but the candour which distinguishes his understanding will not be deliberately unjust to the nation to which France must look for the first and brightest pages of every branch of her literature-her distinguished mathematics—her moral and metaphysical science-her poetry and fiction, now only in their infancy. But this point will derive farther illustration from the observations which we shall presently have to offer upon the progress of literature; we must therefore break off from a digression into which we have been tempted. It is not in these things that the true development of humanity consists; but in the unencumbered and clear enlargement of the inseparable elements of the reason and affections. It is in the rectification of these that the higher attributes of humanity are to be sought. A sound-minded and intelligent British curate has more true wisdom, and a clearer insight into the nature and destinies of man, the objects and happiness of life, and the ends and prospects of society, than Voltaire, Jean Jacques, and the whole concentrated intellect of the Encyclopédie. The mind of Burke would well outweigh the philosophy of the French revolution. It is in England that the history of the mind and destinies of man must be traced, from the Reformation to the present moment. There is a necessary and inseparable connexion between religion and virtue- between virtue and sound reason—and between both of these and all social progress. They are
elements which cannot be disjoined, and in no place can these be so reasonably sought as in the bosom of that nation which has been so long the refuge of the vital and purifying element of the gospel.
Among the most evident and universally intelligible evidences of the unwarped, undistempered, and true growth of the mind of the English nation, (and in this we include the whole aristocracy, gentry, and educated classes in the three kingdoms,) may be adduced both the positive indications of the pure, sound, and christian system of morals which pervade all our writers of every class—moralists, poets, metaphysical writers; so that, even among our infidel writers, some of their power is derived from the adoption of the gospel ethics, and the negative indication consisting in the absence of the unprincipled and vague system of philosophy and morals, which has so abounded in the continental schools. The secret of our constitutional stability, and of our comparatively unimpeded progress, may be found in the striking truth, that the ethics of the New Testament have been so diffused into the British mind, as unconsciously to govern and characterize the entire tissue of life and reason. In all places, and under the most corrupted forms, something of divine truth will be found in those who profess to teach the christian religion. A sublime moral, at least, may be found in Massillon, Bourdaloue, &c.; but it is not to our preachers and churchmen that we refer, but to the entire tone and spirit of our profane literature, taken altogether as a body of opinion and thought. Throughout the tissue, truth, justice, and rectified affections, appear in the simplest form, unencumbered by theories and the uncertainty of speculation-rather deriving influence from, than pretending to discover that body of sentiment and opinion which has long been the common sentiment of the British islands. And thus it is that the literature of England the result of its religion-has been a main element in the development of the most advanced state of humanity yet developed. To trace the operation of the spiritual principle in the actual condition of society, is perhaps impossible-certainly not within our present compass. On the mass it is always a latent, and not immediate operation. The “broad way and the green” can, in no state of human society, present more than its reflected light; but in this lies the agency in which we are here concerned. It is not the gospel, as the hope of the follower of Christ that we speak of, but its secondary influences. It supplies the standard of virtue; it affords high examples and unerring criterions, not otherwise known or to be kpown; it largely governs habits through the medium of early discipline; it keeps alive (however vaguely) hopes, fears, and conscientious motives and scruples, almost universally; and it scatters in every quarter bright and influential patterns of christian life. But all this is not enough for the purpose of our statement; as such, and looking to no further end, the corruption of humanity is too overpowering to the observation, to admit of the satisfactory application of such a view as test or comparison. Sweeping evasions are too easy. Human conduct is everywhere characterized by similar infirmities, beset by similar temptations, and concealed by the same disguises. The human heart, “ deceitful above all things,” moves everywhere in its cloud of pretences, and there is no human aim that cannot be accommodated with