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Government, had not come, as yet, to have tianity, Imperial Rome held the world under any recognized existence. The People is a the eternest absolutism ever yet seen, and Christian production. Before the Christian the hope of a better day for human liberty era, popular rights and liberal principles had seemed never before so faint. But the su. frightened no despot even in his dreams.- premacy of that power was drawing to a The world was not yet ripe for these ideas, close. The consolidated and world-embracpor were the ideas themselves yet produced ing despotism of Rome precluded the possiAnd thus the world lay under the pressure of bility of progress so long as it should hold. a chronic Despotism of forty centuries And the downfall of this despotism was the growth. Thus it lay when the crisis of hu- first great political event affecting the world man history arrived, and the Shiloh came, after the coming of Christ. The Empire to whom, in more than one sense, “the still lingered for a space, and its universal gathering of the people should be."
sway over the nations served yet one great In estimating the changes through which purpose, in facilitating the spread of Christithe world has passed since that great event, anity along its grand highways into every let us fix in the mind one important distinc- part of the earth. This done, the mission of tion. The claim is not get up that the Chris- Imperial Rome was ended, her empire distian age differs from the ages preceding,sim- solved, and the sovereignties of the Modern ply in the fact that it has witnesserl many Europe were constituted from the wreck. revolutionary changes. All ages have had Another event of the profoundest signifitheir civil revulsions. Even in this respect it cance to the world, was that wonderful promight be found that the world has been more cess which then began for renovating and changeful since the introduction of Christian- reconstructing the civil world. The old Roity. But the distinction claimed is this :- man world was to be swept away, and a new that all through these civil changes of later world created in its stead-a new world in times, a new drift and purport have been which the fresh and vigorous races of the visible; that whereas, before the coming in North, pushing rudely down on the decayof the Christian system, the political drift of ing South, should take up the Roman culture, the world set steadily in the direction of and blend the extremes of civilization and despotism and popular degradation, and barbarism. Refinement should be wedded changes only resulted in the deeper depres to strength-Roman polish to Gothic solidision and enthrallment of mankind. Since ty, and thus a new and better material be that period another drift has appeared, civil at length presented for the working of Chrischange has gravitated toward a new centre, tianity. This was the work of the Fifth and human enlargement has been clearly the Century, to empty the north of Europe on tendency and the result. New principles the south, and before the close of that centuhave been working. Revolutions have ry the Ostro-Goths were masters of Italy, sprung from new causes, and yielded new the Visi-Goths and Burgundians held Gaul, results.
and the whole western empire had passed It will be very clear, too, at many points into the hands of the barbarians. that He who raiseth up and casteth down We have now to contemplate the thousand nations at His pleasure, has paved the way years denominated the Dark Ages, extendfor the operation of Christianity by changes ing from this point to the Lutheran Reforamong the nations, which cannot be ascrib- mation. Christianity entered this period di. ed to the Christian influence. The world vided against itself. It had these two oppohas not only been changed by the working site workings. of the new system, but providentially shaped First, As an influence flowing from its for its workings.
doctrines and spirit, and appealing to the inAt the period of the introduction of Chris- e'l-ct and the heart, Christianity went stea
dily forward with its secret work, molding we have spoken. It not only measures for the ideas of the world, and paving the way us the previous influence of Christianity on for that great emancipation of mind, which the world, but reveals more distinctly the ultimately ensued. Amid all the obstruc- new law now working in national changes, tions of that age of strife and ferment and and compelling them to serve the ends of darkness, Christianity, even though shorn of popular elevation, and the enfranchisement its brightness, and deformed in its institu- of mankind. Those ends were still distant tions, was, nevertheless, the omnipresent in- and long to be delayed before their full atAuence that guided the thoughts and formed complishment; but from that period they the sentiments of men. It was, by no have stood clearly forth as the great ends to means, lost or powerless in all that long pe- ward which political changes have been tenriod of the world's night; and when the ding. As Christianity has, since then, som morning came the world stood at a large ad- | ceeded better in penetrating and leavening vance, and prepared for higher demands and the masses with its truths and influences, it sterner struggles for emancipation. has more and more raised up the People as
But it was not only as an influence that a governmental element, and shaken all des Christianity wrought. It was also an Or- potic powers with popular wants and a pop ganization-a Church. As such, 'its opera- ular will. The new tendency is still in option during the Middle Ages was unquesti-eration, and with greater energy than ever. onably adverse to human liberty. The spir- Old Despotism finds itself drifted down init of Despotism that had dwelt in Imperial to new and troubled seas, like icebergs wat Rome, when it was dashed out of her, seems ted down from the poles into warmer to have entered into the Romish church, and latitudes, melting and still melting as they allied itself to the perverted institutions of go. Christianity is more and more accomthe Papal Hierarchy. The history of those plishing its secondary work of civil renova times has it recorded on every page, that tion and political reform among the nations the working of Christianity as an external It has never been sufficiently regarded in Organization went to neutralize its purer in- views of the Reformation, how far the very fluence in favor of the principles of freedom, structure and composite elements of Euroand to perpetuate the reign of absolute pow-pean Society had been changed during the e. Christianity, thus in its organized form, preceding thousand years. And yet such a ' as a Force, counter-wrought the freo spirit change deserves great consideration in ow and liberal principles which, as an Influence estimate of that movement. During that -as an ethical and spiritual system, it was millenium of darkness and unnoted change, instilling into the minds of men.
there had been going on a re-composition of In this way the free tendencies of the Society, so radical and wide-working, that system were checked; and between these now at last, the world presented a new and two antagonist workings a struggle was go- better material on which Reforthed Christian ing forward through the whole period of anity might exert its power In this Simthe Dark Ages. The Reformation broke on teenth century it was almost another world the world, declaring the victory on the side from that, which in the Fifth century, had of essential Christianity. Its spirit and been lulled to its lon sleep. The North teachings among men had been stronger than men had come down with their valor and its own perverted institutions, and the rising strength and spirit of rude independence, and senturnent of Freedom now flowed over in as the world Vad been given into their handa, that great insurrection of the human mind they had penetrated and filled the nation, against absolute power.
| with new types of character and lifa AL The Reformation brought out more clearly through the Middle Ages these fresh and is to view that new drift of civil events of which orous elements had been coalesceing with the
old Roman refinement and cultivation, and (gy than ever. It stood forth among men' the result was now manifest throughout mid- first and foremost, indeed, as a Gospel of dle and southern Europe, in a more availa- Justification by Faith, but it was a Gospel of ble style of humanity, more active and free, Freedom also, and it was hailed as such with more hopeful and progressive. Much, in- welcome by the People. A whole tribe of deed, had been lost that had its beauty and civil revolutions, that have since been workworth. Much that was gentle and fair in ing themselves out slowly, and with many inthe garniture of life had passed away in the terruptions in modern European history, date rough process of combination. We may la- back, in reality, to the time of the Reformament that so much of art and elegance had tion. Everywhere the Lutheran movement been trodden down under barbarian feet. was the dread of potentates and the hope of But after all this, it remains one of the most the People. The Bible was read in all wonderful and beneficent events in the his- tongues. The human mind was aroused. tory of the world—this broad act of re-crea- A consciousness of their rights, and a yearntion, by which the civilized earth was emp- ing for their attainment took possession of tied of an old and degenerate stock, and fill- the people, and the world became restless ed anew from the heartier races of the North beyond precedent. It was a movement that may justly be re-l Blindly and vainly the nations then strug. garded as more significant when taken in gled for a freedom which they were not yet the whole range of its results, than almost able to receive. And from that period to any other in the records of our age.
the present, the nations of Christendom When Cæsar went up with his legions to have been at work on the difficult problem the banks of the Rhine, to fight easy battles of civil and religious Liberty. And they and write easy commentaries, his pictures have been approaching its solution, though of those savage tribes that pressed down a- by a troubled and tortuous course, through gainst him out of their forests, grim, fero- darkness and peril and doubt, through error cious, vainly brave, must have furnished a land crime, through many a relapse and many topic of great curiosity in Roman circles.--a misguided and frustrate revolution. Yet But Rome was destined to form a closer ac- the influences of Christianity have been quaintance with these wild men. Pushing steadfastly operating for man's enlargement. her relentless career of conquest up into their and not in vain. Far beyond what men domain, she startled a whole nest of nations, have dreamed. Christianity, by the pervaand fired them with resentment, curiosity ding presence and power of its ideas in the and ambition; that for centuries after, pour-common mind, has been the moving force in ed down devouring swarm after swarm, un-| the political changes of the last three centil every Roman thing was engulfed in a sea turies. History makes no account of this of barbarizm. Then commenced the recon- element, and can therefore make little more structive pruress, and a new world was build- of the world's proceedings than a chaos of ed together. And at the period of the Re-l fluctuation and change without form and formation this new world had so far master- void, withoutaim, or tendency, or result. It ed the rudimental ideas of freedom, that it will not stoop to know that God's wisdom was ripe and waiting for some great move- and power for man's deliverance have taken ment in advance. The stage was thus pre- orm in Christianity, and gone forth among pared, and Luther, or Luter's work, could the people, enlightening and elevating them, not have been long delayed.
and whispering everywhere in their hearts And when the Reformation came, it not ts words of hope and liberty—and that only revived Christianity as a spiritual sys- therefore oppression cannot be at ease tem, but revealed it as an element of politi- and prosper as of old time, and therefore cal influence with more directness and ener- hese strifes for freedoin are everywhere be
gun, baffled for the present, but holding over was most reformed, and England is the freest and biding their time.
1 of European nations. On the continent, so That such an influence has been wielded far as each nation succeeded in quenching by Christianity in the changes of modern or frustrating the Reformation, it has been European affairs, will be more readily ad- able to retain the old regime in the State, mitted if we bear in mind that even a small and delay the progress of liberal principles. inerease of popular intelligence, a little light But the seeds of change and progress were let in upon the darkness, is sufficient to dis- then quickened over all Europe, and have qualify a people for the quiet endurance of never been entirely arrested. Even in Italy, oppression, and open the career of revolution under the very shadow of the Papal throne This small measure of light is indeed all they have taken root, and are springing up that Christianity has yet been able, in many and promising fruit. instances, to throw in on the darkness of the In a word, then, if we rightly explore the masses. In most nations it has accomplish- causes of events, these revolutionary tendered only an indirect and very partial work. cies of modern Europe, these commotions But even so, it has sufficed to originate new of kingdoms and overturnings of oppressive hopes and aims, and put an end forever to dynasties which are witnessed of late, are peaceable oppression.
attributable, back of all present occasional And it is still more important to a correct causes, to the indirect working of Christian estimate of this question, that we consider ideas among the people-to the conceptions more truly what force Ideas are capable of of liberty which these have generated in Exciting: how a Thought, a single clear and men's minds, and the aspirations which precious Truth, dropped from heaven to have thus been awakened. The necks of earth, will go down into the common mind the people have everywhere grown stiff and of the race, and have power by its silent resentful under the heel of arbitrary power, process of conviction and incitement to A force of free sentiment has grown up in work out in the end the most stupendous the bosom of every land in Christendom, not changes in the world. Christianity was full yet sufficiently strong, or sufficiently wise of these great quickening thoughts; and this in its strength, to accomplish its end in the one, the Thought of Freedom, has taken hold present achievement of liberty, but still of the earth too deeply to be eradicated.— everywhere reaching forth and pressing But to become restless under tyranny is not toward that end. And quiet will visit the of course to be qualified for the enjoyment nations no more, till the same influence that of freedom. Christian ideas have penetra- has moved the struggle shall in some good tal European Society so far that it every. measure complete its work, and lift up the where resents oppression, and pants for the people to that point of virtue and intelliliberty it has yet lacked the power to win gence at which freedom becomes a possibilior the wisdom to retain. The hope, the ty and a blessing to men. Far less of the eleonly bope of rational and sober liberty for vating influence of Christianity than is needthose yearning nations, lies in larger meas-ed to fit men for the enjoyment of liberal ures of Christian light and cultivation. It institutions and popular freedom, will sufis only a deeper draught can sober them fice to set in motion these revolutionary curagain.
rents which no power can arrest, and which, As another proof in point, from the days sweeping kingdoms and kings, people and of the Reformation religious and civil reform potentates onward through the terrible vorhave gone hand in hand and almost at equal tices of Revolution, shall never rest till pece. The measure of practical Protestantism freedom has won its place in the earth. . in each countıy is very nearly the measure To one who has looked on with a heart of its advance toward freedom. England of sympathy and hope, the result of the
recent revolutionary movements in Europe will be found to be fruitless in the end.is sad enough. So much energy and deci- Each shall test a principle, resolve a theory sive vigor and tact in execution—80 much teach a lesson. Thus beacons shall bo immediate success and pronzise of prosper-lighted up one after another, and left burn. ous procedure—all baffled, neutralized, ap- ing along the perilous shore. Men will not parently defeated! It needs some patience forever be infatuated. to endure this, and some reflection to under- Fallen Hungary shall yet rise again. stand it. Its solution must be found in Her banished heroes will not have suffered this, that the contest is in that stage at in vain. In Italy the breaking night will which the sentiment of freedom has gained yet give place to day. And France-duped, strength but lacks practical wisdom, infatuate, recreant France—she that sprang strength enough to prostrate the old fort- first to the race, and should have been now rasses of Despotism, but not the insight and at the goal—she too shall return, and walk constructive wisdom to rear on the ruins the once more with dear-bought wisdom and structures of Liberty. The restless and success over the course she has once lost by struggling nations are yet in the experimen- freuzy, and once by fraud. tal stage of reform. They see the abuse But it may be asked why, if this be the more clearly than the remedy. They suc- tendency of the Christian system, why after coed very well in smiting down the palpa- these Eighteen Centuries, has it accomplishble tyrannies that torment them, but then' ed no more? comes a far different and higher work, which! In reply, consider how inveterate despotas yet the nations know not how to manage, ic maxims and practises had become, into calm down the rushing and eager spirit wrought as they had been for Forty Centuof Revolution, and teach it to walk soberly ries with all the notions and experiences of and discreetly in the paths of Constitntion- the race! The strong hold which absolute Liberty in the harness of Law.
principles had thus gained on the world, bas And this is a problem which each people enabled them to make long and strenuous must work out for themselves, with such resistance to the new system. wisdom or folly as is in them. Alas! for Reflect, too, that changes which must the work that is made of it! That violence spring, like these which we are considering and blood should attend the struggle would from the convictions and will of the people, not be strange. But that the fair work of must of necessity be slow, experimental and accomplished revolt and victory should lead progressive. These changes must come on to infatuation and issue in futility, is a forth in History as growths of the common pain deeper still. Freedom is often made mind. The race must go on with its culture, to blush for its champions, and the shadow till it shall work out for itself, people by is again and again turned back on the dial. people, under the promptings of ChristianiBut while there is no help for all this, there ty, the new order that it needs. is hope in it. This period of transition Again, this civil renovation is not the priand experiment, with its many failures, is' mary and direct object of Christianity, but anavoidable. Free Institutions cannot be springs as a secondary and incidental result imported from abroad. Each people must from its moral influence on men. It can work out a Freedom of their own, with make men free only as it first lifts them up ways and means of its own, the growth of out of the dust, and breathes into them that people's history, condition, and charac- higher aspirations and capacities, and thus ter. Many a vain trial may be witnessed, fits them for freedom. Less than this will therefore, before a people learn how to work suffice to agitate; but Christian light and their freedom. And we will hope and trust virtue must first create a people worthy and that not one of these as yet fruitless attempts able to be free, before the boon of freedom