« PreviousContinue »
to quote from the speeches of some of these islanders at an anniversary meeting held at one of the Hervey islands.
The peculiar rhetoric gives us ample warrant of the reporter's fidelity, even were he a less reliable man than the eminently learned, faithful, and philanthropic Williams, the leading spirit of the London Mission in the South Sea Islands.
Let us remember,' said the first speaker, “our former state, how many children were killed, and how few were kept alive ; but now none are destroyed. Parents now behold with pleasure their three, five, and even their ten children ; the majority of whom would have been murdered, had not God sent his word to us. Now hundreds of these are daily taught the word of God. We knew not that we possessed that invaluable property, - a living soul.'
· Then said Fenuapeho: • We were dwelling formerly in a dark house among centipedes, lizards, spiders, and rats ; nor did we know what evil and despicable things were around us. The lamp of life, the word of God, has been brought, and now we behold with dismay and disgust these abominable things. Some are killing each other this very day, while we are rejoicing; some are destroying their children, while we are saving ours; some are burning themselves in the fire, while we are bathing in the cool waters of the Gospel.'
" Then Mahamene continued the narrative : • The servants of our chiefs would enter our houses, and strip us of every thing. The master of the house would sit as poor captive, without dar. ing to speak, while they would seize his rolls of cloth, kill the fattest of his pigs, pluck the best of his bread-fruit, and take the very posts of his house for firewood with which to cook them. Is there not one here, who buried his new canoe in the sand, to hide it from them? But now all these customs are abolished ; we live in peace, without fear. We do not now hide our pigs underneath our beds, and use our rolls of cloth for pillows to secure them; our pigs may now run where they please, and our property may hang in our houses, no one touching it. Now we have cinet bedsteads; we have excellent sofas to sit on, neat plastered houses to dwell in, and our property we can call our
We have thus endeavoured to present what seems to us the chief point of contrast between ancient and modern, pagan and Christian civilization. The difference consists
* Williams's Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands, pp. 220 222.
not so much in what the few might, as in what all may, attain. The growth of refinement and luxury in the ancient states increased the burdens and multiplied the disabilities of the multitude, while every new element of Christian culture tends to elevate the masses. The social landscape of the Periclean and the Augustan age shows us mountains reaching to the clouds, separated by awfully deep, sunless ravines, both equally barren.
Christian ideas and institutions are constantly tending so to remodel society, that gently swelling hills shall alternate with fertile, well-watered valleys, and that there shall be verdure, bloom, and beauty alike on hill and plain. The work, indeed, is only begun ; but every antagonist principle with which it has to contend belongs to the old order of things, is of pagan origin, and is already yielding ground, as Christian ideas more and more pervade the great heart of society, are embodied in literature, adopted by governments, and made active by individual philanthropy.
ART. VIII. - 1. The Past, the Present, and the Future.
By H. C. CAREY, Author of “ Principles of Political
8vo. 2. The Religious Theory of Civil Government : a Dis
course delivered before the Governor and the Legislature of Massachusetts, at the Annual Election, Wednesday, January 5th, 1848. By ALEXANDER H. VINTON, Rector of St. Paul's Church. Boston : Dutton and Wentworth, Printers. 8vo. pp. 46. MANY excellent persons, if we may judge from their repeated declarations, have come to entertain very desponding views respecting the condition and prospects of the American people. They say that it is all over with the republic, that our country is too large for union, too sordid for patriotism, and too democratic for liberty ; and that our doom is sealed, and we are fast hurrying to ruin. We cannot wonder that such thoughts find frequent utterance, since, from the rapidity of communication from one extremity of the land to the other, and from the craving of the public mind for news and scan
dal, every crime against the laws, every offence against the higher rules of Christian courtesy and morality, and every weak or foolish action of those who occupy prominent positions in the state, are matters of immediate record in the newspapers, which convey the intelligence with incredible speed to every fireside in the country. Whoever turns over the files of the city or the village news-room finds so many instances of depravity and corruption chronicled there, that, in the spirit of the self-accusing Edgar in Lear, he may exclaim of our countrymen, — They love wine deeply, dice dearly, and are “false of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand.” Perhaps, too, when musing upon what is passing around him, or when looking at the
great image of authority,” he is reminded of the words of the mad old king himself : “A man may see how this world goes with no
eyes ” ; for
“The usurer hangs the cozener.
Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw doth pierce it.” We propose to discuss some of the questions suggested by these remarks, and to inquire whether the prediction of Proud, the loyalist historian of Pennsylvania, and of others of similar political views, that “the revolt of the Colonies would prove the certain cause and commencement of the decline of national virtue and prosperity,” has been, or is likely to be, fulfilled. More than this, we would inquire whether we have not in fact made some progress in morals since the duty of maintaining our institutions devolved upon ourselves, and whether many of the sins and evils, which now appear overwhelming and disheartening, were not bequeathed to us by our fathers. In performing this task we shall endeavour to remember the injunction of the excellent and gifted Ames, that “the earth we tread on holds the bones of the deceased patriots of the Revolution,” though, in comparing the past with the present, allusion to the faults and imperfections of the men whom we are taught, and most justly, to reverence, will be both unavoidable and continual. They, it is of importance to observe, were colonists, and were destitute of the means of moral and intellectual improvement which are possessed by us, and which we ob
tained by their exertions, their blood and treasure. If, then, we have made no progress, we are indeed highly criminal. Colonists, it is never to be forgotten, have no character of their own. Their habits and manners are formed on models from abroad. The official personages who reside among them are generally natives of the mother country, and they, with other persons of the same birthplace, who seek to repair their broken fortunes or to acquire wealth in colonial possessions, keep up the general feeling of dependence and of commercial and political connection with persons "at home,” and exercise a controlling influence. The public and private records which have been transmitted to us show distinctly, that in some essential particulars the inhabitants of the thirteen Colonies, as a body, are to be judged by the rules which apply to the present British American colonists in this hemisphere.
The first subject which presents itself for consideration is obviously the state of religious feeling. Many persons seem to apprehend that the religious affections are fast dying out, and that we shall become ere long a nation of skeptics.
We must confess that there are some indications which may well alarm the most hopeful minds ; but we are very far from believing that all the gloomy forebodings and imaginings which come to us from the pulpit and the press are likely to be verified. In unbelief in America there is nothing new. There were persons in the bosom of the church in the time of the gentle John Cotton, — the Melancthon of the New World, — who denied the immortality of the soul, and maintained, to the horror of the Puritan clergymen of that age, that the Sabbath was but as other days. These and other similar heresies were deemed then, as they are now, to be “growing evils,” and caused great alarm to the ministers and magistrates, who were required to rebuke them ; but they passed away, and none except the students of history now recall or allude to them.
At the Revolutionary period, the principles of unbelief were diffused to a considerable extent throughout the Colonies. It is certain that several of the most conspicuous personages in those days were either avowed disbelievers in Christianity, or cared so little about it that they were commonly regarded as disciples of the English or French schools of skeptical philosophy. In one class or the other may be included some
of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, several ambassadors to foreign courts, and other statesmen, some able political writers, and some generals and other military officers of rank. Particular mention of them is not necessary, though we may briefly refer to some of the most prominent deists of the time. One of them wrote the celebrated pamphlet called " Common Sense,” which did more, beyond all doubt, than any other production, to prepare the colonists for a separation from England. Another was the leading Whig of Vermont, and probably the first native of America who published a work intended to ridicule Moses and the Prophets. He believed with Pythagoras in the transmigration of the soul after death, and often said that he himself expected to live again, in the form of a large white horse. A third was the officer in the army next in rank to the illustrious Commander-inchief, – a man immoral in life and profane in conversation, who scoffed at every article of the Christian faith.
Still another, and the earliest professed teacher of deism in this country of whom we have any knowledge, graduated at Dartmouth College soon after the close of the Revolution, and fixing bis residence first in New York, and subsequently in Philadelphia, established the “Columbian Illuminati," with nearly one hundred members, and commenced the publication of the
Temple of Reason,” a paper devoted to the dissemination of deistical sentiments. He was a person of considerable talent, was eminently successful in winning proselytes, and fancied that he had founded a sect; and in his discourses to his followers, he labored fearlessly and zealously to overthrow every system of religious belief.
Yet his work perished ; a generation has elapsed since his death, and neither he nor his fulminations against Christianity are heeded or remembered. As it has been, so will it be. New speculations of the same general character have succeeded, but these, also, after misleading men for a time, will be laid aside and forgotten. The most abject of our race will rough-hew blocks of wood and fragments of stone, rather than worship nothing. Human nature, savage and civilized, craves and will find a Being to adore. The feeling, the desire to bend in confession, to look up for help, to petition for blessing and mercy, is inborn, and cannot be rooted out or repressed.
In concluding this branch of the topic, we shall not under-