[ocr errors]

gone the

with sour wine which was put to the Re. champion of the slave, Granville Sharp, deemer's lips as he hung upon the cross. went to Pitt, Bible in hand, to show him

We have kept till the last the wide- Bonaparte in the “little horn" of Daniel, spread misuse of Scripture, which comes and provoked the astonished statesman to under the head of what we venture to exclaim, “Good God, sir, you don't mean designate “modern apocalyptics.” From to call Bonaparte a little horn!” the rotime to time, especially since the close of mance has preserved its vitality through the twelfth century, when some of the all the vicissitudes of the Corsican family. mystic periods of prophecy were supposed We well recollect with what exultation to be running to the end, an epidemic of Prince Louis Napoleon's election to the prediction broke out in Christendom, and presidency of the French Republic in generation after generation shook with 1848 was hailed by one of the ablest the terror of some imminent catastrophe advocates of this strange identification, of the world, whether by fire or water, whose faith had been sorely tried, but not which disturbed imaginations read in the overthrown, by the untoward death of the dates and symbols of the most mysterious first Napoleon at St. Helena nearly thirty parts of the Bible. Notwithstanding the years before. “Here,” said the aged falsification which has hitherto invariably prophet to us," here is the solution of the dogged the steps of all such vaticinations, mystery. Wounded to death? Yes, but this method of using Scripture is as rife the deadly wound is healed. Napoleon as ever, and the crop of fanciful specula- lives again in his nephew and legal heir, tions yielded by it during the present, whom you will presently see make himself century far surpasses all previous expe- Emperor of Rome, and gather the armies rience. How many times the year has of the earth to the battle of Armageddon." been fixed for the final convulsion, and Well, that Napoleon has


of has passed unmarked by any unusual oc- all flesh, and his poor son too; but the currence, it would not be easy to reckon. myth lives on, and in its latest form points, But nothing discourages our prophets. we believe, either to Jerome, with GamThey revise their dates, and prophesy betta for his forerunner, or to some yet again. It is no warning to them that the unborn member of the family, whom the course of this kind of prophetical inter- soul of Nero will come back from the pretation is strewn with failures, as the abyss to animate ! sliore is strewn with wrecks after a storm. Another of the extraordinary prophetic Scarcely a war or a revolution breaks out myths of the age, also based on misunderon the theatre of Christendom, or a novel standings of Scripture, circles round the tenet arises in philosophy or science, or a ten tribes of ancient Israel which were new phase comes over ecclesiastical af- carried into captivity by the Assyrian fairs, without these lynx-eyed observers monarch Shalmaneser, and thenceforth spying out something in the prophetical vanished from the sacred history. A roimagery that corresponds to it, and sound- mance, preserved among the eccentric ing a fresh note of warning of the near- visions of the second apocryphal book of ness of the end. Their manipulating skill Esdras, describes them as having miracu. never fails them; bricks they will manu- lously crossed the Euphrates, as Israel facture, straw or no straw. If the histori- crossed the Jordan under Joshua, and cal facts are stubborn, so much the worse journeyed eastward for a year and a half for the facts; if the inspired text is reluc- to a mysterious land named Arsareth, tant to confess, there are exegetical racks where they are to remain hidden till — at to extort from it a semblance of assent. the time of the end — the river shall be And so, though wiser men shake their again dried up for their return; and this heads, and the world is taught to scoff, romance has become, in one shape or the stream of wild vaticination rolls gaily other, an article of faith to thousands of along.

modern Christians. It is difficult enough Men may come, and men may go,

to understand how any one of even mod. But I go on forever.

erate education can believe, in the face of

history and of geographical and ethical One of the inost singular and persistent science, that these lost tribes, as they are of modern prophetic myths is the one that called, are still bodily concealed in some identifies with a Napoleon the Antichrist unexplored Eastern land, waiting for the who is expected, in the expiring days of divine summons to reappear in the last the age, to head the final revolt of the crisis of the world's apocalyptic agony. world against Christ. Since the time But surely there is a still more outrageous when the well-known philanthropist and defiance of common sense in the other form of the myth, wbich represents these | blazon of the royal arms of France, when old Semitic tribes as having long ago he likened to frogs the three unclean emerged from their hiding - place, and spirits from the mouths of the dragon, grown up into the Anglo-Saxon race! the beast, and the false prophet? Or ihat Yet this monstrous belief has won to itself he should have meant the withholding of so many dupes, through a pretended ap- the Old and New Testaments from the peal to Scripture, that it has generated alaity in the modern Church of Rome, sect and a literature of its own. It has when he foretold the martyrdom of the been well said that one might, with less two wonder-working witnesses in the violence to probability, trace back the street of the apostate Jerusalem ? Or roses in the Temple gardens to slips of that he should have predicted the emanthe olive brought home by the Crusaders cipation of the seven Dutch provinces from Gethsemane.

from the Papal rule of Spain, under the Indeed, the whole story of prophetic form of the slaughter of seven thousand exegesis lends a sad plausibility to the men by the earthquake of the second old saying, that the study of the Apo-woe; and the missionary and Bible socicalypse drives mad those whom it does eties of the nineteenth century, by the not find so already. The moment we rec. angel bearing in mid-heaven the everlastognize tbe fact that the function of the ing Gospel; and the cross keys of the inspired prophets was not to utter predic- Vatican by the mark of the beast? Yet tions of a distant future to people who of such interpretations as these many of had no concern with it, but to speak on our modern apocalyptic commentaries and behalf of God and his righteousness to treatises are full. the men of their own generation who But while we ask these questions, and needed practical guidance and warning, make our protest against the wresting of the use of their words to divine before. Scripture to the purpose of vaticination, hand the long course of history for thou- we would not be understood to suggest sands of years, and to fix our own position the slightest doubt of the value even to now in the onsweeping current of time, our days of the prophetic books of the cannot appear otherwise than a baseless Bible. It is our firm conviction that their and perilous superstition. What in the inspired teaching is for all time; that they world, we shall be inclined to ask, could nobly illustrate, for those who can use them the sad captives in Babylon, or the gallant rightly, important principles of the divine Maccabean heroes in their struggle with government and eternal laws of the spiritAntiochus Epiphanes, have had to do ual world, and may therefore be turned to with the wars of Napoleon, or the advance good account, so long as the Church is of Russia in central Asia, or the Crimean militant, to guide her in comprehending war, or British railroads and school and dealing with each crisis that arises in boards? How could the primitive Chris. her long conflict with error and sin. What tians, as they entered the shadow of the we do most earnestly reprobate is the tremendous convulsions which heralded practice of employing the sacred records the fall of Jerusalem, and gave occasion as manuals of divination, and subjecting for the visions and messages of the Apoc. them to cruel perversions and dislocations aylpse, have been concerned with the rise in the hope of forcing their language into of the Saracens and Turks, the growth of soine fantastic semblance of agreement the mediæval Papacy, or the catastrophe with events and expectations that lie utof the French Revolution ? Is it credible terly beyond their scope. that the seer of Patmos, on whose prophetic soul lay the burden of the thicken- Let the reader now honestly try to estiing gloom, and whose burning desire was mate the magnitude of the harm caused to sustain his brethren through the con- by that chronic and widespread misuse of flict and terror by visions of the divine Scripture, of which the evidence has been kingdom that should rise in ideal beauty laid before him, remembering at the same out of the wreck of the opposing world time that our presentation of the subject powers, - is it credible that he should is necessarily so incomplete as to be little have trified with the Church of his day, better than a faintly traced outline. The by setting before it a series of riddles more he considers the matter, the less, we which must wait long ages for a solution ? think, will he be able to escape from the Is it within the limits of even the most conclusion, that of the internal evils with strained probability, for instance, that he which Christendom has been afflicted, should have had in mind the heraldic there is scarcely one that has not been froys that preceded the fleur-de-lys in the grievously aggravated by the disastrous


perversion of the divine oracles. It is neither gaping chasms nor startling surthis, more than anything else, that has prises are to be found. As he advances doomed religion to be always fighting a from book to book, following the chronolosing battle against advancing science, logical succession as nearly as it can be has alienated from her the leaders of ascertained, he will recognize how the inthought, and given occasion for the most spired teachers, as they were raised up plausible of the flouts and gibes fiung by one after another, built on the truths al. ins lent sceptics at the truths of Revela- ready possessed, and cast their instruction. It has been of misinterpreted texts tion into the existing moulds of thought, that the extravagant doctrines have been adding of new truth just so much as the engendered, which have shocked the conteinporary generation was able to remoral sense of mankind, and produced a ceive, but always keeping within the limfatal harvest of faction, heresy, and its of its comprehension and its practical schism. It was by means of perverted needs. He will thus be brought to contexts that the Papal usurpation was conceive of divine revelation as a leaven, solidated, and the worst corruptions of working slowly and by degrees within the the primitive faith enforced as divine ver. human mass; or as a stream growing ities on the outraged conscience of the fuller and purer as it flows onward through Church. It was the foul wresting of Holy its devious channel; or as the light in. Writ to devilish ends that steeled the creasing little by little from the faint heart of the persecutor, sanctified treach- gleam of earliest dawn to the radiance of ery, lying, and outrage, worked the racks perfect day; or as a course of education and kindled the fires of the Inquisition, beginning with the parables and meta. and reddened the story of Christendom phors suited to infancy, and ascending with intestine war and bloodshed.

through primers and schoolbooks towards

the final stage of mature knowledge and In religion

unadulterated truth. With this idea conWhat damned error, but some sober brow Will bless it and approve it with a text,

stantly before him of the order and Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

method of the Bible, the expositor will

never be tempted to wrench away any part We promised, before concluding, to of- of it from its historical basis, as if it could fer some brief hints for the abatement of be interpreted in the abstract without the evil; and bold as the undertaking may reference to the time and circumstances seem, we will not shrink from the attempt of its origin; nor will lie be in danger of to fulfil it. For in spite of the amazing reading back the more advanced teaching vitality of bad customs, we by no means into the elementary forms, and thus in. look despairingly to the future of Biblical curring the catastrophe which, as the parexegesis. Even here the schoolmaster is able warns us, is wont to follow the putalready abroad; light is penetrating the ting of new wine into old wine-skins. dark quarters; a noble band of pioneers What will chiefly engage his attention is is hewing a way through the rubbish of the line of spiritual and eternal truth, ever centuries, and laying open for the multi. broadening as it came down the ages, tude an easy access to a just understand and stage by stage disembarrassing itself ing and use of the Bible. With the help of such transient accretions and imperof the immense critical apparatus recently fect moulds as the divine wisdom may prepared for us by the masters of scholar- I have been pleased to employ, for the purship, candor, honesty, and common sense pose of accommodating it to the capacimay be trusted to do all that is essential. ties of the ignorant and rude; but the What strikes us as the chief want at pres. riddles and forced uses, whether of the ent is a fuller appreciation of the progres. mystic interpreters or gross literalists, will sive character of the revelation of truth have no charm in his eyes. To disentan. recorded in Holy Writ. The expositor gle the spirit from the letter must ever bear in mind that the Bible is the divine amidst the human to ascer no single treatise, all of one time and on tain what each inspired message really one level, but a library of treatises, cover- meant to the men of its own iime, and ing a millennium and a half, and standing how that same meaning bears on our cir. on very different levels of knowledge and cumstances and duties now, under very teaching: He will then be in a position different conditions of life, - such will be to perceive that the revelacion recorded in the aim of the expositor in whom the critit never proceeded by leaps and bounds, ical temper of mind is united with the but was always gradual and continuous, faith and reverence of the devout be. like an orderly development, in which I liever; and just in proportion as this aim

to trace


is pursued with an open eye and a sincere man who admits and justifies a gross heart, he will be preserved, we are con- breach of public duty in taking money to fident, from turning the divine order of “put through” a contract, whose power the Bible into chaos by random inter- is based upon intrigue, who has done pretations, and drawing the poisonous nothing for the country either as a legis. draughts of error out of the wells of sal. lator or an administrator. This man is vațion.

at the bead of his party, a candidate for its nomination to the presidency of the United States, and not unlikely to be chosen. The other personages are wor.

thy companions of such a chief. Some From The Fortnightly Review. are weak, most are ignorant and narrowSOME ASPECTS OF AMERICAN PUBLIC

minded, all are vulgar. There is no pub

lic spirit, no statesmanlike insight among AMERICAN politics of_late have been them. Their chief virtue is devotion to much brought before English readers. a party which seems to have no princiA novel called “ Democracy,” published ples. in New York some years ago, and now “What a shocking state of things !” reprinted in England, has had a great cries the English Pharisee, not without a success among us. As it paints in strong comfortable reflection that he is not as colors and with great literary force the these Republicans. “This, then, is what corruption and selfishness of American democracy comes to. This is the result public men, it has produced some effect of putting power in the hands of the upon English opinion. Much has also masses. Men of rank and wealth are been said by our own public writers and driven out of public life; the ignoble mob speakers about an American institution choose people like themselves to be their called the caucus, described as a poison- representatives; corruption reigns; na. ous weed which, when once brought tional interests are sacrificed, national across the Atlantic, will strike root every- honor forgotten; the morality of the counwhere among the pure wheat of English try sinks while its revenues are wasted. politics, just as the Canadian pondweed And this is what you want to bring En. propagated itself twenty years ayo through gland to, with a lowered county franchise, our rivers and canals, till half of them attacks on the House of Lords, and the were choked up. The time is, therefore, Birmingham Caucus.” opportune for saying a few words upon One need not be a Tory to be alarmed some aspects of politics in America, in at such a prospect. If the progress of the hope of giving English readers a fair democracy is to make Silas P. Ratcliffe a impression of their true state, and of fair type of our public men, we had better showing how far any warnings drawn pause. The present state of things, whatfrom them are applicable to England. I ever its faults, is not so bad. But is the do so, of course, with the diffidence which picture a true one? That is to say, are every one must feel in attempting to speak Silas P. Ratcliffe and his associates fair of a country that he knows only as a types of leading politicians in America ? traveller. But a citizen of the United and if so, does the dominant position States would, in addressing Englishmen, which he holds in United States politics be exposed to other difficulties hardly mean the same thing as the premiership less serious than those an Englishman of a Silas P. Ratcliffe would mean in En. has to face in speaking of America. gland ? I am not going to discuss the

What is the picture which not only this matter as a political question. Reasonnovel sets before us? It is the picture ings from the politics of one country to of a vast continent, a prosperous, rapidly those of another are interesting and, when increasing, and highly civilized nation of wisely used, instructive. But they are fifty-one millions of people, whose gov.also dangerous, for there is always someernment lies in the hands of a knot of thing which makes so great a difference selfish and unprincipled men, some of between the two countries as to vitiate them accessible to bribes, the rest ready any inference except under limitations to wink at corruption and to sacrifice and qualifications which the ordinary honor for the sake of their personal ad- reader does not heed, or soon forgeis. vantage or that of their party. The cen. And sensible people have, at bottom, a tral figure in the novel is a man of great just perception of this, and do not suffer force of character, but thoroughly vulgar themselves to be much influenced by ar. in his ideas, as well as in his oratory; alguments of the kind. The chief practical

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

use of history is to prevent one from be- | determine the extent to which black sheep ing taken in by historical analogies. My are to be found among members of Con. object in these pages is to do what little 1 gress (taking them as a sample of the can to prevent Englishmen from misjudg. more successful politicians), and how far ing America, not to frame any arguments such persons have found their way into in favor of democratic progress in En. the front rank, would be hard even for an gland. Things in England will proceed American, and is much harder for an Enon their own path whatever we may read glishman. No doubt there are more who about republicanism elsewhere, for the can be “got at," whose vote can be influforces which move them are large and enced by lobbying, than would be found potent. Apart from this altogether it is in the English Parliament. So the Amerto be wished that Englishmen should have icans say themselves, and a stranger may just views about the country which is therefore say it without offence. But inost like their own, and with which their there are very few indeed who would take relations are most intimate.

a bribe in a naked form, and there are not That there are such persons as Silas P. more who have given bribes to their conRatcliffe among the public men at Wash-stituents, or been privy to giving, than ington must be admitted. There are such were to be found in the English Parliapersons in England also, and in every coun- ment twenty years ago. " Lobbying," try, monarchical or republican. Any one that is to say, the working of a bill through writing a novel about English public life the legislature, usually becomes personal might fill it with people equally unscrupu solicitation, backed up by offers of some lous and, in their way, equally successful, personal advantage. It is certainly far and yet might justify every character by more rife than in England, and has thrown pointing to some well-known politician as discredit on the profession of the lobby. the original of the portrait. There are ist. The protective tariff, with the alterpersons in the English Parliament, and ations which are sometimes made and not merely needy adventurers, but persons constantly threatened in it, alterations of wealth or position, some of whom en- affecting enormous commercial interests, joy titles, conferred or inherited, who are is a fertile source of this evil. In genno better, and whom we think no better, eral, however, it affects only what we than these Washington politicians. should calls private bill legislation. There

“ But,” it will be said, " these men are is also great laxity in the matter of giv. very few in England; they are not fair ing pledges and making promises to types; they are exceptions, rare excep- catch the votes of particular sections. tions; and in England they never rise to Members of Congress who in private will high places. Their schemes are mainly speak in harsh terms of Ireland and her commercial, and do not injure the political people, and tell you that England is too interests of the country. This is per- lenient in her dealings with Irish conspirfectly true. The people in question are acy or obstruction, allow themselves to fortunately few in England, nor have they make speeches and give votes in support ever climbed to the highest posts. But of Irish agitators and against England as they do exist among us an American which excite the disgust of all sensible may say that the picture in the novel is Americans. unfair in the same way as an English It must further be admitted that the novel would be unfair which presented men who do or have done these things, only such persons as figuring in English and who maintain their position by jobpolitical life. Although, therefore, the bing appointments in a way to be exAmerican picture may be less misleading plained presently, are sometimes conspicthan a similar English picture would be, uous men, influential in the councils of still it is misleading: The author of the their party, talked of for the highest novel is not to be blamed for this, for he offices, and occasionally rewarded by a wrote for his own countrymen, who would judgeship, or a lucrative post, or a foreign understand and allow for those exaggera. inission. They are often powerful stump tions which we permit to a writer of fic. orators, draw crowds when they make an tion. It is only the English reader who electioneering tour, and slow great skill is in danger of being misled. He may in manipulating those assemblies of the forget what the American reader knows, party that are called nominating conventhat there are plenty of public men at tions. Any one who should take his idea Washington who are just as upright, fair- of American politics exclusively from the minded, and high-minded as most of our newspapers in which the doings of these leading politicians are in England. To politicians are chronicled and their char

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »