Page images

the story of riations in

It was the tendency of the Christian mind to prove from the order of the universe and the beauty of nature the greatness and goodness of the Creator. This tendency to glorify the Deity in his works gave rise to a taste for natural description.” 13 Again, speaking of the unity of the race, and of the equal rights of all men, which he describes as “ based upon the internal promptings of the spirit and on the force of religious convictions,” he asserts that “ Christianity has materially contributed to call forth this idea of the unity of the human race, and has thus tended to exercise a favorable influence on the humanization of nations in their morals, manners, and institutions. . . . . In delineating the great epoch of the history of the universe, which includes the dominion of the Romans and the laws which they promulgate, together with the beginning of Christianity, it would have been impossible not to direct special attention to the manner in which the religion of Christ enlarged these views of mankind, and to the mild and long-enduring, although slowly-operating influence which it exercised on general, intellectual, moral, and social development." }4 This surely does not sound like the language of either atheist or materialist; while it forever silences the silly assertion that in all his great work, the name of God is not found.

But whatever may have been his opinions of the supernatural claim, and the divine authority of Christianity, it is certain that in its essential moral principles few men have had more implicit confidence, as few have more strikingly manifested its spirit, than did Humboldt. If he did not believe all that is alleged to belong to Christianity to be true, he did devoutly believe in Truth. He believed in its unity, divinity, and eternity; and sought ever to grow up into a larger understanding and a better appreciation of it. He believed in Justice-equal justice to all, whether races, states, individuals ; and he practiced what he believed. He believed in Love>that it is the light, and joy, and life of the soul; and he sought to make it the central element and dominant law of his nature. He recognized in these divine realities the foundation and essence of all true greatness and permanent power. Any thing not based upon them—any

13 Cosmos. Vol. ii. pp. 38, 39.

4 Ibid. Vol. ii. p. 199.

mere shams and pretences—his quick eye at once detected, and his honest heart intensely despised. And believing in these he earnestly protested against their violation, and as earnestly sought their development, wherever his voice could reach, or his opinions were respected. At home he sought the amelioration of law, the diminution of classprivileges, the curtailment of irresponsible power, the general education and gradual enfranchisement of the whole people.

He was not ashamed to make one of the imposing procession which honored the funeral obsequies of the revolutionary victims of 1848; nor was he afraid, at the same momentous epoch, to cast his vote in the most open manner, against the projects of the court, and in favor of constitutional government. Abroad his influence was always in the same direction. Taking a lively interest in our own country, both on account of its immense physical resources, and as enjoying a government theoretically based on the glorious trinity of liberty, equality, fraternityregarding it as, in no slight degree, the hope of the struggling peoples, and declaring himself, but a short time previous to his death, “more than half an American," it was with unspeakable sorrow, deepening at times into honest indignation that he observed its wide and shameless departures from its avowed principles. For many years, accordingly,—now by letter, and anon by the living word to such of our countrymen as sought his presence,—did he seek to create and intensify a conviction of the true nature, and the destructive influence of that atrocious evil which has so long been the grief of European, and the reproach of American democracy. The very last communication we remember to have seen from him was a sad and emphatic protest against—what until recently none were so fanatical as to think possible, but what now seems so imminent—the legal revival, with all its untold woes and horrors, of the African slave-trade. Thus believing, thus rooted, in eternal verities, lived ; and thus, with an earnest remonstrance on his lips against the foulest abomination the sun ever saw, went down to his grave, amidst the tears of the nations, this wise, noble, brave, old patriot, scholar, philanthropist, man. Went down to his grave! No, sprung forward, all fleshly encumbrances fallen off, and all spiritual faculties rejuvenated, in the ever-ascending and never-ending career.

acte droppinga ms. Thely into his Carth to bsopher's

treams: "Thorn ana, and peacoch, a life an

His departure was such as became such a life and character. It was dignified, calm, and peaceful. It was like the dropping of a worn and weary one to slumber and pleasant dreams. The last words upon his lips, as a vernal evening shone brilliantly into his room, were, “ How grand these rays; they seem to beckon earth to heaven !” May we not believe that what seemed to the philosopher's outward sense, was soon found to be blissfully real ; that earth and heaven did really meet, the one to surrender, and the other to receive, one of the noblest spirits that ever crossed the dividing line betwixt them.

And when he had gone, appropriate was it that his character should be honored by both visible symbols of grief, and by eloquent eulogiums of his worth. Appropriate was it that his body should be followed to its resting-placebeside the mother and brother he had loved so long and well--by the entire city of Berlin, and that the nation should gather to strew Howers upon his grave. But Humboldt belonged not to Germany; the world was his country, and all mankind his countrymen. Cosmopolitan in spirit, equally extended will be his fame. In all lands where nature is observed, where learning is appreciated; where manliness of character is respected, will his achievements be rehearsed and his praises celebrated; while brighter and clearer, with the revolutions of ages, will his glory shine. If what is here written shall impart a better knowledge of him to any, or animate a single soul to engage in the same noble pursuits to which he consecrated four score years, his gentle spirit, if enabled to take cognizance of it, will not disdain this unworthy tribute to his attainments, character, and aims.

M, vol. XVII. 4


The World at the Advent.

We propose, in this paper, considering the condition of the world, religiously, morally, politically, and in regard to education, at about the time of the advent of Christ. We may state, in the outset, that we intended the present article as introductory to a series of articles on certain historical features in the onward march of Christianity, as far down, at least, as the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

When the system promulgated by Christ was dawning upon the world, the Roman empire exercised authority not only over all the then civilized nations, but also over all, or nearly all, the then known earth. The world at that time, however, was not conceived of as existing beyond the Germanic tribes of the North, and the Parthians of the East..

The government of the Roman Empire was arbitrary, although in the main most just and equitable. Tyranny there was within its borders, undoubtedly, and even highhanded despotism and vice on the part of its rulers; but this condition was incidental to individual abuses of power, rather than to the influence of the laws of the empire. Those laws were certainly founded on principles of exact justice, so much so, that the Roman law is to this day the basis of the laws of nearly all civilized nations. At the time of which we are speaking, the remoter nations of the empire were governed either by their own princes and laws, under the general supervision of, and in subordination to, the emperor of Rome, or by Roman governors invested with temporary authority. The emperor himself always remained the power, and united in himself nearly all the titles of government then known. And it must be confessed, that a government, so wide spread, under the control of one man, had its advantages in a time, and under conditions of darkness, such as then obtained. It assuredly was favorable to the spread of Christianity; for it brought the nations of the empire closely together in common bonds ; it opened free passages between them; the more barbarous and sav

age became more or less civilized by the laws, customs, and commerce of Rome; and thus the travellers of the world had more of security and freedom than could have been enjoyed, but for the one government.

The religion of Rome was, as is well known, polytheistic. It was an idolatrous nation. In its earlier history, though always idolatrous, its worship was comparatively simple and pure. Indeed of all the ancient nations, the Roman people were the most thoroughly grave and austere in their religious customs. This had its due effect upon their morals, and they were renowned at once for their political integrity, for domestic virtue, and for a general chastity then almost unknown among other nations. But this did not long continue. With the introduction of Grecian art, was also introduced the Grecian mythology, with all its poisoning influences ; and this becoming incorporated with the religious system of Rome, caused both the religion and the morals of the nation to sink rapidly and fearfully. This condition was also further developed by the riches which flowed into Rome, by acquaintance with Asiatic luxuries, and by the study of Grecian literature, which was licentious in the extreme.

That the mythology of Greece should have become incorporated with the religious system of Rome, may appear strange. Heathen nations were generally not at all disposed to allow the ingress of other gods or religions. But Rome was tolerant. It could afford to be so, so long as other deities did not interfere with the prerogatives of its own national divinities. Its wisest men, also, thought that the gods had arranged the worship of the different parts of the world, and that thus all forms of adoration were but different forms of the same worship. It was deemed right and proper, therefore, that all should be allowed to worship their own gods, in their own way, and at such times as best suited themselves. But while Rome was thus tolerant, it was not altogether willing that strange gods should be introduced without the authority of the state, though this was from prudential motives—lest such introduction should prove detrimental to the interests of the community. Nevertheless, such introduction did take place, and more and more so as the empire spread, and the intercourse of Rome with other nations increased. To obviate this, and to stop

« PreviousContinue »