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the experiment of the Puritans in New England, have neither of them any weight with Mr. Alison. In truth, he denies the success of the latter experiment. With him, religion is a nonentity, unless it be Government religion. He is not at all particular as to its form. Let Government support the Establishment, and force one or more creeds on the people, and all is well. Government may support Heathenism in one part of the Empire, Episcopacy in another, and Presbyterianism in a third; or, like the Prussian Government, may cause to be taught under one roof both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the latter according to a creed altered and amended at the pleasure of the King.
Our author declares that “the popular and democratic party” “in general evince the most deadly hostility to the tenets of Christianity," while “ its principles form the corner-stone of the opposite body, who endeavor to maintain the ascendancy of property and education.” Suppose he had instanced the Puritans of England on one side, and the Court of Charles II. on the other; what would have become of his assertion? Where has property ever been more safe than in New England; and in what country has the education of the whole people been so long and so thoroughly provided for? Where are the common schools of Old England ? What has she done even for the liberal education of those who are able to pay for it? Why, shut them out from her Universities, unless they subscribe the “ thirty-nine Articles.” Does Mr. Alison mean that aristocratic religionists “maintain the ascendancy of education,” by placing it on heights inaccessible to all but those who have full purses, and consciences cut according to the Government pattern ? We presume he is a Protestant, but had he lived in the sixteenth century, where would his present principles have placed him ? In his own country, he would, of course, have been on the side of Government, that is, Catholic and Protestant alternately; and when finally settled as a Protestant, it would have depended upon his precise locality whether he had been a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian. Had he lived in Germany, Charles V. would have moulded his conscience according to the last Papal bull; and in Constantinople he would have been an excellent Mahommedan. This, too, from
choice, and political principle, not as a matter of birth, education and conscience.
No, religion does not depend on Government patronage for her existence and progress; and, in proof, Mr. Alison to the contrary notwithstanding, we adduce the example of the United States of America, on one side; and, on the other, the Spanish and Portuguese States of this continent. And furthermore, we quote Mr. Alison's own admission and lamentation of the fact that, even in Great Britain, “the National Church [has fallen) behind the wants of the inhabitants, and a mass of civilized Heathenism [arisen) in the very heart of a Christian land.”
Instances without number might be cited to prove that religion has only been polluted by the embraces of the State. A sovereign may do vast good in the cause of religion, but he must act as a munificent private individual, and his efforts must differ from those of such an individual only in degree, not in kind. Compulsion destroys the vitality of religion. Religion has lived in spite of governments, not by their help; and every step made in advance, has been made outside of, and in opposition to State-establishments. Were it not for this, the Christian religion never could have made any progress at all.
Mr. Alison praises the Emperor Alexander for his Christian virtues; and lauds, ad nauseam, the religious proclamations of the pious Emperor to his pious soldiers. Russia was sound at heart: religion reigned in the hearts of the Czar and his army. An excellent thing - a Statereligion! Through it the Emperor can so easily command the whole resources of the nation, moral and material! No matter, if he is, (as Mr. Alison coolly informs us Alexander was,) an habitual adulterer, and a “profound dissimulator ; no matter, if he does spend his life in adding to his territory “ more by the arts of diplomacy than war,” that is, more by lying and cheating, than by robbing; no matter, if he does share with an enemy the spoils of a defeated ally ; no matter, if he is a perfidious enemy, a false neutral, and a faithless friend; - he is none the less an excellent Christian. Who can doubt that the interests of the Church are safe in such hands ? Not Mr. Alison. And the religious soldiers, too, to whom such excellent addresses were made, it does seem to us that they might have been
considered better Christians if they had perpetrated a little less of the robbery, rape and murder for which they rendered themselves notorious in France. A loss of such religion would have improved their Christianity. In truth, in a description con amore of the wars which followed the French Revolution, the less there is said of Christianity, the better.
In conclusion, it seems to us that, as a military and political writer, Mr. Alison deserves credit for general ability, though frequently incorrect; but, as a moralist and Christian philosopher, he is utterly unsound — looking at his work as a whole ; for what is unexceptionable in this department of his work, is more than neutralized by that which is of decidedly evil tendency. As a historian and geographer, he has been severely criticised, and it appears to us, justly; and, unless his last edition is truly a “revised and corrected” one, “ Alison's History of Europe” is far from being sufficiently near perfection to insure it an immortality of fifty years. Its bodily form may cumber the shelves of libraries for centuries, but the early editions, at least, will be looked upon, by all future historians, as untrustworthy, dead for all the purposes of history. Nevertheless, we desire distinctly to admit that much of this work — perhaps the greater part of it, counting by pages is worthy, taken separately, of admiration and praise ; and, had it not been that with this there was so much contradictory and erroneous matter mingled, we should have been engaged in the pleasant task of quoting from, and commending the former, instead of the less agreeable one of noticing a very small portion of the latter.
ART. II. ~ ON THE RELUCTANCE TO PRAY.
The remark has been frequently made by thoughtful observers, that there is in our modern world a decline from the ritual devotion of former days. There was far more of visible devotion among the Greeks and Romans than is to be seen in our Christian communities. The same comparison may be made between the Catholics and the Protest
ants, and between the Puritans and their successors. There is a reaction from the old formalism. The very disappearance of the altar from our Protestant forms, not to say of sacrifices altogether from our Christian usages, is symbolical of the change.
But we must go deeper, if we would describe the entire defect or the whole difficulty. There is a reluctance to pray; not Pagan nor Mahommedan, nor Catholic nor Protestant; it is human. That is, it appertains, in a certain condition of mind, to all men. And so common is this condition, that it may be said of most men, they do not love to pray or to offer praise to God. It is not agreeable to them, in the morning or at evening, to kneel down, or in any attitude, no matter what, to gather up their thoughts into a reverential and solemn mood, and to offer up humble and grateful homage to their Maker.
Now, into the causes and remedies for this state of mind, we propose to inquire. And first, into the causes of it.
That human nature is imperfect, erring and depraved, that the spiritual faculties in most men are not duly cultivated, that most men are worldly and are drawn with the strongest attraction to worldly objects; all this is evident. And yet this is not true to such an extent, that nothing is left in them of reverence or enthusiasm for what is venerable and lovely. We cannot admit that humanity is so completely severed from Divinity, that there is between them no bond whatever. It is not in consistency with such a presumption, that Heaven speaks to men. It appeals to a conscience, a sense of right, a feeling capable of rendering homage to infinite excellence. Its rebuke of impiety, its condemnation of sin, could have no meaning, if there were not such a feeling.
Nor is this estrangement from God, or this specific indisposition to pray, grateful or welcome to many who feel it. We have seen the most bitter tears shed over the confession of this reluctance. We have seldom witnessed greater mental distress than this confession has cost many persons with whom we have conversed. “I am not altogether bad,” such an one has said to us; “I do not hate my Maker, horrible thought! I am not altogether insensible to his goodness; I am sometimes overcome with it; I wish to cherish the sense of it; but I do not love to pray or to offer
praise, at a certain hour, in a certain manner; I almost despair of it; I fear that I shall never love to pray.”
Now why is all this? What is this difficulty ? Let us consider it calmly and kindly. We have no desire to cast reproaches upon any one. Our purpose is not to lay down rigid tests of piety. We would persuade to prayer, rather than exact it. Rationally and patiently let us consider what are the difficulties.
Let us observe, then, in the first place, that prayer is a great, a stupendous act of the mind. To address our thoughts to God, is the most overawing, the most overwhelming exercise to which our faculties can be put. It is not strange that our weakness sometimes shrinks from it. Dr. Johnson once said, in a weak and low state of mind, concerning a companion* with whom he was accustomed to have a keen encounter of wits, “If I were to meet him now, it would kill me.”
How well then might one of old “ Lo! I have taken upon me to speak unto God, who am but dust; oh! let not the Lord be angry and I will speak!” How justly says the divine Milton, “May I express thee unblamed !" Prayer is easier to children; because they less feel what it is. Prayer, for this reason, is easier to the infancy of the world. The more form, and the less feeling there was in it, the less did it awe and overcome the mind. Prayer, for a similar reason, is easier in a company and crowd of worshippers. It seems, as it were, to divide the burthen. The individual approach to God more distinctly summons the faculties of a man to their loftiest employment. Not always, nor easily, is the mind ready for that action; and therefore meditation should accompany and precede it. We would not fail of that sublimity of thought, of aspiration ; we would not fail of that great resort; but sometimes we shrink in awe from its grandeur.
Let us admit, in the next place, that there is a certain irksomeness in formality. Feeling does not love form ; unless it be occasionally, unless it be in a certain mood, unless it be very strong. The patriot, burning with zeal, in some emergency might feel impelled to swear fidelity on his country's altar. His whole soul might leap into that
* Mr. Burke.