« AnteriorContinuar »
to ask explanations, to arraign his doctrine or positions, etc., and that the questions and answers were also reported.
It was somewhat a marvel in Paris, especially with the members of this society, when a lecturer volunteered to discuss before them the rationale of Christianity, involving its merits and claims. They were astonished at his presumption; but as his respectability and talents were satisfactory to the committee, and other topics pertinent to their object had become well nigh exhausted, it was resolved to hear what this · babbler' might have to say — at least to let him try, and see if he could command an audience. Curiosity was enough to secure him an audience for the first lecture, and an unusually full one. Feeling the importance of the first impression, and fired with Christian zeal, he made an effort, and it was successful. At first he was listened to with attention; next he was cheered, and cheered repeatedly; and in the end was saluted with plaudits. The wags, however, attempted to embarrass him with questions. For these he was prepared with unhesitating replies, which greatly enhanced the applause and credit he had earned by the lecture. The announcement of the second lecture was received with cheers, and the audience retired
• Come,' said those who were present at the first hearing, addressing their friends, here is a fellow who says there is philosophy in Christianity; and really, if we may judge by his first lecture, he seems to have some tact in the proof. Come, go and hear him. The second lecture was crowded, and they were crowded through the course - I do not remember the number. Studied and vigorous efforts were made to embarrass the lecturer by questions at the close, but he was always triumphant, as he understood his ground, and his adversaries were ig. norant. They brought out the usual cant of infidelity, though in that they were not very well skilled ; but of the argument for Christianity they knew nothing, till they were surprised by the brilliancy and force of these lectures. They were sustained throughout with unequivocal marks of approbation, and what is most gratifying of all, a repetition of the same course was called for, to be entered upon without delay, and was even better attended than the first, and equally well sustained. Of the history of this institution, since, I know nothing.
I think it fair to take these facts — which I received from a credible witness, who gave me several numbers of the journal which reported these lectures — as proof in point, and conclusive proof, as it seems to me, of the position I feel warranted to assume in regard to the general state of the French mind toward Christianity, viz., that it lies in abeyance to the claims of Christianity, and requires only a proper and adequate instrumentality, to call forth and enlist the intellectual and moral energies of that interesting and influential nation, in the cause of evangelizing the world.
How, when, and where that instrumentality shall be raised up and brought into action in that field, I cannot pretend to be wise enough to determine; I only speak of what I conceive to be the present and actual state of the French mind on this momentous subject. That Christianity has been wrecked there, is certain ; that the temper of the French people toward Christianity has been undergoing gradual and constant modifications, from that time to the present, till it has arrived at the state of a philosophical indifference, and consequently a most encouraging and hopeful state, I think is equally certain.
As to the question where this instrumentality is to be raised up, I might say a word. It must, for the most part, be found on French territory. It is, I believe, a settled principle of modern Christian missions among heathen, that the heathen themselves, after a sufficient number of them shall have been converted, must be educated for the ministry of Christianity; and that little progress can be made in the great work of converting the world, till the more advantageous and indispensable influence of natives can be brought into action. The same principle is applicable to the case before us, and to all cases of the kind. France must regenerate herself. The kind and fraternal relations of France with Great Britain and the United States may doubtless be made available for the interchange of sympathy, and for mutual counsel among Christians of these three several nations. The farahead position, in this particular, of our own country and of England, having never been thrown back by such a sad catastrophe, and having been all the while advancing, gives us and Christians of our father land a preeminence in the wisdom of experience; and while English literature is replete and triumphant in its furniture, adapted to this end, the literature of France is almost as sterile as the desert, beside being thoroughly pervaded and highly charged with a leaven of an oppon site tendency. In mutual counsel and sympathy, much may be accomplished — beyond that, little ; for the pride of a people, especially of a civilized and highly cultivated, and nominally Christian nation, may easily be touched by the gratuitous offer of foreign aid for their moral or religious benefit.' Advances of this kind toward France, from among ourselves, should be made with great reserve, caution, and modesty; else our influence would soon be at an end. Imprudent men, on such an errand, would do great harm. It is known that some modes of moral and religious reformation among ourselves have been put forward with pretensions of superiority over those employed in Great Britain; and I have noticed with what scrutiny they have been examined, and with what jealousy they have been looked upon in that quarter, when they have come as if recommended by our superior wisdom. This is natural; and such facts are instructive.
But still one community may be beneficial to another in the use of discreet and well advised measures; and so may Great Britain and the United States assist France in recovering her moral position in the society of Christian nations. Of course it cannot be understood that I am speaking of government transactions; but of that intercourse and of those offices between Christian and benevolent individuals and associations, concerted and maintained for the advancement of the best interests of society, which so eminently characterize the age.
This subject rises to a momentous importance, and presents itself with thrilling interest, when the moral position of France, in relation to continental Europe, is taken into view. A single glance, in this light, will show, first, that in the history of the past, France, in less than half a cen: tury, has revolutionized Europe in its social condition; and next, that, in all human probability, she is destined to maintain a leading influence in future. Clearly, then, if her morality cannot be re-constructed and formed
on the principles of genuine Christianity, her social sway can be no other than disastrous.
I confess I have a high respect for the French character, in many of its features. I like the quick and lively susceptibility of their temperament; but could wish to see it chastened and controlled by sound principle. I am pleased with their candor and general frankness; but an increased infusion of the ingredient of hearty benevolence would be an obvious improvement. Their vivacity is certainly charming; but if it were attempered with a little spice of sobriety, it would be more wholesome. Their manners are captivating, but lack the power of winning entire confidence, because they have the appearance of wanting a perfect sincerity. Their social feelings play around the heart, and insinuate into favor; but then, like the humming bird, their sudden departure and rapid flight toward other objects, leave the impression of fickleness. The love and pursuit of philosophy, in minds of a higher order, ought to make them the first and greatest of men ; but the many vices to which they are tempted and addicted, in their corrupt state of society, too often rob them of respect. They are eloquent in conversation, in the forum, and in the senate; but it is more in imagination and intellect, than in the sway of moral virtue. They are, in short, a people of high cultivation and captivating accomplishments; they have moral courage, and a quick and active determination ; they have all the elements of the highest order of character, and of the best state of society, but one — and wanting that, they can never be happy, and can never exercise a good influence on the world. They want the subduing, the chastening, the controlling agency of Christian principle.
It is sufficiently evident, that the same spirit which overthrew Catholic Christianity in France, is undermining the same religion throughout the Catholic countries of Europe. There is no escaping this doom. Extremes beget each other. A corrupt Christianity is the parent and the cradle of deism — of atheism. In the bosom of the Church that has forsaken God, lies coiled a serpent that was born of her, and is nour. ished by feeding upon her vitals — that will come forth to spread consternation round the world, and chase its unnatural parent out of being. This spectacle is already beginning to be developed in the western peninsula. Ætna and Vesuvius are not more pregnant with fires that must have an issue, than is the moral world that lies at their base, and extends beyond the Alps. But the work will be as much more rapid than in France, as the movements of society in these days are quicker than they were fifty years ago.
Northern Europe, on this side of Russia, is full of thought, and thoughts of freedom. There is no quenching the aspirations of high and noble purpose that have been kindled there ; which are nourished by its literature, and chanted in its ballads; which the infant imbibes from its mother's breast, and the youth catches from the whispers of his father's secret lessons. It is now three centuries since Christianity broke its fetters there..
The religion of Russia is more heathenish than that of Rome, and for that reason, perhaps, more easily purged. But Russia, notwithstanding all she has developed, is still, to a great extent, a terra incog. nita. She has long presented the aspect of an enormous polar bear,
tenanting an iceberg of the northern regions, growling on the nations of Europe, and threatening a descent. She is a colossal power, with such a strange mixture of civilization and barbarism, that one can hardly tell which are the predominant elements, or what her hordes might do, if let forth upon the world.
Our hope for Europe is in that high Providence, who makes the wrath of man to praise him, and causeth the remainder thereof to be restrained.'
High mountains are a feeling.' – BYRON.
The hills !- the everlasting hills!'
How peerlessly they rise,
Discoursing in the skies.
By Freedom's children trod;
The masonry of God!
When the dismantled pyramids
Shall blend with desert dust,
Is faithless to its trust,
Magnificent as now!
In thunder bids you bow !
I love ye in your quietude,
When o'er a silent world,
Like banners lightly furled :
That round ye roll and veer,
And hurls his lightning spear!
I love the torrents strong and fierce
That to the plain ye fling,
And eagles at their spring.
By winter's wand of frost,
In which their waves are togsed.
I love, upon the breezeless lake,
To see your shadows sleep,
Above each mirror'd steep :
Bare, desolate, and grand,