Page images

denied that the crisis of the times passing over us is most grave, and the possible exodus of our counsellors from the present straits is yet but dimly seen.

We said, that amid all the wild and fierce controversy as to the proper form and course of it, the common sentiment might be Progress. A war, whose necessity and warrant we have no disposition here to discuss, has brought under our influence and ownership a vast range of territory, and the mines of a new-found Ophir invite the swift ships of each modern Tarshish. The migration that, in the days of our fathers, climbed feebly and slowly the lower sides of the Alleganies, is spilling itself rapidly westward, and in streams each day broader and stronger, through the defiles and over the taller crests of the Rocky Mountains. That generation in our churches, who sent out but a few years since their missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, as if those servants of Jesus were going to the antipodes devoted, beyond recall, to the eternal renouncement of their country and of its civilization, are many of them yet surviving amongst us, to see that country hurling itself, as it were, in giant energy and speed, after these its sacred exiles, and to behold their own government stretching the belt of its migration and sovereignty up to the Pacific shore, into immediate contiguity and closest neighborhood with these remote scenes of missionary toil. And as we have gone out towards Heathendom, so in its turn Heathendom is coming to meet us. The men of China, to whom but lately we sent our evangelists, in weary voyagings around the Cape of Good Hope, are now hasting in throngs to tenant our own American possessions in California, pitching their tents, and vending their wares, and chattering in their strange dialect upon our own soil: thus, meeting the Home Missionary in the streets of San Francisco, whilst but lately we had no hope of reaching them but by the Foreign Missionaries sent to seek them amid the thronged lanes and the myriad junks of their own Hongkong, and Shanghai, and Ningpo. “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” Empire and Traffic and Charity seem alike to preach Progress. But where is the rod, and in what prophet hand, that shall point the way, and part the raging seas of popular controversy, and indicate to the ark of our national destiny a safe path and peaceful, amid the raging of the North and the South, and when deep is calling unto deep, and whilst in either section of the Republic Pride and Conscience and Interest are stirred to their profoundest abysses, and seem hurling at each other their mutual and tempestuous VOL. XV.-NO. LX.


defiance? The rights of the Northern and Southern States, in the common heritage, are most variously interpreted ; and in what shape the common growth of the nation is to proceed, perplexes our truest patriots and our maturest statesmen. Surely, it is at such a time, if ever, that a people should remember, and remember it with prayer, that there is a God of counsel ; and if the gospel of our common salvation have its adaptation to all the emergencies of all the centuries, and all the institutions of all the nations, here is a season when its lessons should be invoked and its spirit cherished.

The Jews, when carried into captivity by a heathen and despotic conqueror, were bidden to seek the peace of the land where for the time God had fixed the place of their habitation. If, under an earlier dispensation, of less expansive benevolence than is the present, this was the duty of religious men, even towards the stranger and the oppressor; with much more of emphasis are we, under the gospel, taught, in our intercourse not only with the alien and the heathen, but much more in our relations to our fellow-citizens and our fellow-Christians, to bear in mind that " Blessed are the peace-makers." Far as our Union, in these States, ministers to the peace of our own borders, and to the repose of the nations, the Christian may not lightly disturb it. Short of a revolution, we suppose there could be no legal severance of that Union. It is not a mere league and confederacy of separate sovereignties, like that connecting the partners of a commercial firm, free to withdraw, after certain arrangements, and to pursue thenceforward their several paths and divergent interests. Some such weaker and laxer bond existed indeed before the adoption of the Constitution. But, in the formation of that instrument, the people acted above, as it were, their several governments in the States. Those local authorities still retained their existence, and their distinct fields of power, and their separate officers and legislation. But the general government overlaid them, and circumfused, so to speak, its own control and sovereignty through and among the State institutions, binding them into one indissoluble whole ; much, we suppose, as the worker in the rich stained glass of our own times prepares the brilliant weight, called the Millefleur, that confines the papers upon so many a library table. The ends of small vitreous tubes, highly colored and beautifully moulded, are shaped into flowers of varied hue and size : these having been first formed apart, and then arranged and bound together, the molten and colorless crystal is, at last, let in upon them, and in its pel


lucid bonds they remain distinct, yet inseparable ; variegated in outline and coloring, but hopelessly and indissolubly one. Fixed in bonds of transparent stone, the disruption of a flower from the inclosed garland is the ruin of the whole glassy hemisphere. Even so, in the union of our States, peaceful secession seems impossible. A revolution that should shatter and recast the entire government is the only form of disunion we find ourselves able to conceive. The familiar illustration, of which we have availed ourselves, fails indeed to present the power which our Union has of growth, in the enlargement of its territories, and in the gathering of new States into the bonds of the national unity. Of progress in that shape our annals have already several instances, whose authority as precedents it seems too late to question. It is in the process of such agglomeration, that the existing crisis has begun. The form, the amount, the terms and the bounds of such increase and progress are the themes of our wide-spread and impassioned discussions. All States have not the same domestic institutions, nor the same interests as producers and trailers; and difference has become contrast, and contrast has grown into rivalry, and rivalry threatens to harden itself into settled enmity.

If these difficulties be examined in the spirit of that blessed volume where the Christian finds his oracles, and the laws of his better and eternal country, they must be discussed not merely as naked abstractions, but in their practical connections and results. It has been a peculiarity, marked and inveterate, in the legislation and revolutions of the French people, that they have been wont to assume simply some great abstract truths, and thence to reason fearlessly down to a concrete and practical result. Their institutions, so framed, have more of philosophical symmetry, apparently, at the outset; but they have in consequence lacked on the other hand permanency and effective usefulness. The theory may have owed its seeming simplicity and harmony to the very fact of its omitting and ignoring many other principles, subordinate it may be to that first truth, on which the theory based itself, but although subordinate, yet indispensable to its successful working. They have thought that it would mar the symmetry of the chariot wheel to interpolate upon it the simple and trivial linch-pin, or to take any thought as to the brittleness of the axle upon which a wheel of such classical proportions was to revolve. The English race, on the contrary, have in their laws and constitutions been marked by the disposition rather to ascend from the complex facts of the practical or concrete,


of Mizraim, renouncing the treasures and forswearing the wis.dom of Egypt, withstanding the enchanters and the armies of Pharaoh, crossing the pathless sea, and traversing for forty weary years the barren wilderness; and it calls a Daniel to put away the claims of gratitude to an attached monarch, and the pleadings of interest, and the allurements of rank and favor and prospective usefulness, rather than to intermit or to conceal his daily orisons. So the Christian now is required by the great unsetting stars of Truth and Duty to shape all his doings, from the management of an empire to the rule of a nursery, from the choice of his creed to the tillage of his corn-field; and whether he eat or drink or whatever he do, to bring each act and word and thought ever into the obedience and captivity of the faith. He must eye, from the entire field of his daily tasks, that throne where sits the universal Sovereign, and where must, one day, be rendered the common account, and that cross also where the world's Maker and Judge became its Redeemer. For the existence of God is the great and central concrete fact of the universe; and the Divine will or law is the great absolute principle, to which, as fact and principle, all others relate and tend. But whilst holding these first principles with most tenacious and persistent grasp, the Bible applies them with the most wondrous reference to that practical wisdom, which, as we have said, lies at the basis of all availing and enduring advancement--that view, sober and calm, of things as they are, which has formed so prominent a feature of the Anglo-Saxon character, and which contains also so much of the secret of the Anglo-Saxon's proverbial and world-wide success. The Holy Scriptures, in form and spirit, are a book of actualities rather than of abstractions. As Christ was the Word of God incarnate, so the Bible is in another sense, much of it, doctrine incarnate in the form of biography and history. The human characters, in which truth was displayed in its lesser or greater consistency, were all, including Noah and Abraham, and David and Daniel, and Peter and John, though men beloved of God, yet also surrounded with mortal imperfection; and the Fall and the Redemption—the sad heritage of the first Adam, and the free, mighty grace of the second Adam—threw their mingled radiance and shadows over the entire sublunary career of the saint whether under the earlier or the later dispensation. Perfect duties were imperfectly discharged. Progress, in the churches, and in the individual disciple, was by slow stages ; and the abstract rays of Truth were seen perpetually deflected and refracted in the concrete medium, the imperfect human recipient, who embraced and confessed that truth.

« PreviousContinue »