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as an eally existing of Parliameeral Court of he der
the clergy in matters of law and legislation ; the constitution and powers of the county courts, and of the General Court, and the right of magistrates to seats therein, all show that the entire life of our fathers was Saxon.
The Witenagemote was a court of law and equity as well as an executive and legislative body, and the chancery powers nominally existing in the English House of Lords, and the unlimited power of Parliament, show the influence of the same idea. The great and General Court of Massachusetts also was a court of equity, and a court for the decision of civil causes. These same coincidences more or less clear may be traced in all colonies founded by the English race. We believe that these local governments formed by our fathers have realized more fully the Anglo-Saxon idea of the Commonwealth than the boasted limited monarchy of England.
It was by these local institutions that every freeman was from manhood to old age trained to the exercise of political power. The future legislator drew bills and discussed laws in the town meeting. Every voter was to some extent familiar with the statutes of the colony, and had general notions of the effect of various kinds of legislation. The whole theory of government was, on a small scale, put in practice in every town and parish. It is not that our people have reflected more on the theory of government than the French, that we have more political capacity, but because the entire body of our voters have always been educated to make laws and obey them, and have thus come to have a practical knowlege of government, better than all the theories ever dreamed of. The Abbé Sièyes was said by his admirers to have exhausted the science of constitution-making. He kept paper constitutions arranged in pigeon holes, adapted to every latitude. But we cannot learn that any of them were ever of any service to his own or any other country. We may reasonably suppose that one reason of the instability of French political constitutions may be found in the intense centralizing tendency which has prevailed in the later ages of her history. Whatever form of government prevails in France, she is ever under a despotism. Political Tife goes from the brain of the nation, Paris, to the extremities. All municipal authority goes from the central government. When this brain becomes diseased the functions of the whole body politic are suspended in a moment. Hence social order and the administration of justice are ever at the mercy of the fighting portion of the mob of Paris. In our own country, on the contrary, the means of preserving order and administering
VOL. XV.-NO. LIX.
justice are possessed by every township entirely independent of the central government of either State or nation. 1,5
It is this principle that forms the adaptation of the English race for colonization and indefinite extension. This local legislation has by centuries of trial, and by the thought of forty generations, been perfected and wrought into the body of the common law. Wherever a dozen families of the race take up their residence, they choose a magistrate, and the whole system of law is ready at their hands, and the legitimacy of their authority is recognized by the law itself. The law also, when administered in accordance with its own spirit, adapts itself to the varying circumstances and conditions of those who obey it.
This principle is illustrated by our early history as a nation.
The frank-pledge entered into on board the May Flower, was the model that was imitated in the case of every collection of families that settled a new town in the virgin wilderness. These organized units were in time united by federation, and formed a colony. Charters were sought, not so much to give legitimacy to authority as to recognize the rights of the colonists, and to protect them in their enjoyment. There was the formality of a royal govenor, but the system was complete without him. When at the Revolution these royal governors were expelled, there was no disorder or anarchy, for the system of local legislation and administration of justice was complete without them. The separation gave it no shock, for its life was drawn, not from a central head which sent life to the members, but each member was a living unit which by confederation gave a part of its own life to the central system, whose life was but an echo of its own. The slight bond of connection with the mother country was sundered, a few formalities were omitted, and executive national power was organized, and we entered at once into the family of nations.
This system has grown with our growth and extended with our territory, and we believe it to be the foundation of our liberty, the pledge of its endurance.
If the substantial elements of the English political life are retained throughout our country, we need not fear the results of the extension of our territory. For if the new States of the great West at any future period choose to leave the mother States of the East, the division cannot destroy the elements of political life in either, for these elements do not depend upon the Union for their existence. Local legislation having its type in the family, the school district and town meeting, is the secret of the political capacity of the English race. With this system the race has been the political teacher of the world, and its language has become the mother tongue of constitutional liberty, and all the nations of modern times have sat as learners at its feet. Such is a glance only at the origin and political life of our race.
What may we not hope from the fecundity and vigor of this political life? It has its springs in a race possessing physical and intellectual power equal to any enterprise of whatever difficulty—with tact, facility and executive talent, joined to steadiness and unflinching tenacity of purposeorganized into families where domestic purity reigns in its beauty. This race possesses a church either organized on the model of its local political governments, or from the nature of things approximating toward it, and containing enough of the spirit of religion to keep alive effective and flourishing Christian missions all over the world. Its peculiar political organization has gone with it in all its wanderings. The race has already made its lodgments and commenced its moral or physical attacks upon nearly all accessible points of the world. It has belted the earth with its colonies and factories for trade. It is destined to spread over the northern portion of the American continent. Whatever else may be the result of the mighty movement towards the Pacific coast, one thing is certain, that Anglo-American blood and institutions will be brought directly in contact with the Spaniard and Australian; and by the natural increase of railroad communication, our whole population will be thrown into a position many thousand miles nearer than it now is to the great centres of Asiatic life. The forty-three colonies of the British empire are so many centres of light shining on as many races. The germs of new English nations are already planted in New-Holland and Van Dieman's Land. English law and order are felt among the pirates of Borneo and the tatooed savages of New-Zealand. The cross of St. George and St. Andrew has been planted in the passes of the Himalaya mountains. This race has given the death-blow to the crystallized civilization of Hindostan, and is knocking for admission at the gates of the Celestial Empire.
How much of wickedness has marked its terrible march in the East it is not for us to describe; but we know that the teachers of true science and holy religion have followed with better motives and better principles the footsteps of the soldier and the merchant. Our noble mother tongue, charged with
the literature of social, political and moral progress, has also gone with the race; and no tongue bids more fair to become universal. Old Daniel, who died in 1616, thus sings of his language :
" And who in time knows whither we may vent
The treasures of our tongue? To what strange shores
Not the wildest dream of the poet could have anticipated the extent to which it is now spread. This race too has the commerce of the world. It has the enterprise of the world. It has more available wealth than any other people. London is the financial centre of the civilized world, and if in the revolutions of time it shall cease to be so, where can this centre pass but to our own shores? Have all these endowments from the hand of God been given without an ulterior design ? Surely He does nothing in vain. These capacities and endowments, of whatever kind, are held in trust for the world. One mission at least of this mighty race, is to be the teacher of all mankind in that political liberty whose enjoyment is restrained and protected by law.
Art. III.-ON THE HISTORY OF THE PULPIT,
AS IT IS TO BE DERIVED FROM THE CHOICE OF SUBJECTS FOR SERMONS.
The apostles made the distinguishing principles of Christianity their grand themes of discourse. Its doctrines they exhibited in simplicity, and its duties they enforced by the motives and sanctions which it reveals. A fundamental point that was to be established in their time, and one on which they often exerted all their powers, was, that Jesus Christ is, as he claimed to be, the true Messiah,—that he is the only Saviour of sinners. The atonement which he has made they represented as the only foundation on which man can build a single hope of pardon and acceptance with God. Assuming it as an undeniable fact that all have sinned, and are by nature “children of wrath,” they were led to insist much on the necessity of being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and exercising repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Their discourses, in matter as well as in manner, were calculated to awaken the slumbering consciences of the impenitent, to melt the heart, and to shed abroad in it the love of God. Casting aside all idle speculations, they presented what the ruined state of sinners required, the peculiar, saving, and purifying truths of the gospel. From these they selected as the occasion suggested. But whatever was the particular subject treated of, Christ crucified was the soul of their sermons.
Such were the topics on which the first preachers of Christianity felt constrained to dwell. The effect was such as the world had never witnessed. What all the sages of Greece and all the moralists of Rome could never do, was accomplished at once. Men were converted from sin to holiness; multitudes, “pricked in their heart,” were turned to God.
Happy for the church of Christ, and happy for the souls of men, had the example of the apostles always been followed !
In the latter part of the second century, Ammonius, at Alexandria, in Egypt, not content with the simplicity of the gospel, began to incorporate with it a species of Platonism.* In the third century, Origen, a disciple of his, pursued the same course. He not only introduced the Platonic philosophy into religion, but he encouraged a mode of interpreting the Scriptures by which every passage was made to contain a spiritual or allegorical meaning. His station and talents gave weight to his example. His mode of interpreting was generally adopted ; and in succeeding ages the preaching of the plain truths of the Bible degenerated, for the most part, into an idle entertaining of the fancy with allegorical interpretations. The subjects became, in a great measure, speculative.t Piety declined; and controversies rent the church.
Still, as the primitive custom was continued of deriving the discourses from portions of Scripture publicly read in the assemblies,|| many important truths were inculcated. Now
* Milner's Church Hist., vol. 1., p. 257.
Milner, vol. II., p. 56.
Bingham's Antiq., vol. VI., chap. 4; and Ferrarius, De Ritu Sacrarum Ecclesiæ Veteris Conscionum, Lib. I., cap. 24.