« PoprzedniaDalej »
fighting for his country shall surely inherit. Gavazzi was everywhere-he was with and for all men. Under his auspices a hospital had been formed where noble Roman matrons played the part of nurses, esteeming an office which enabled them to tend those who bled in their country's cause, an honour and a privilege worthy of their noble station. Often might Gavazzi be seen to enter the wards, bearing on his stout shoulders some wounded comrade whom he had snatched from the thickest of the fight : he carried them, if living, where succour might be found, or, if past human aid, he paid the last honours to the dead. Nor were they his comrades and countrymen alone who received his pious care, but the Frenchman had often to bless him who, forgetting all distinction of persons in the exercise of his holy calling, administered the last consolations to a dying foe.”
The downfall of Rome, and the death of all his hopeful aspirations, though it stunned, subdued not the mighty spirit of this orator and patriot. Obtaining a passport through the American Minister, whose house was besieged by the people, until this favour was granted, he set sail for a land where freedom is something more than a dream. Here he could study those Holy Scriptures which he had been instrumental in giving to his own people, without any fears of that Inquisition, which, for a little while, they with whom he laboured had thrown open, bidding its captives go free. In this country, surrounded by Protestant Institutions, his mind seems to have been more and more directed to the doctrinal errors of that Papal apostacy, which in his own beloved Italy, he had opposed, chiefly as a system of ecclesiastical despotism, fitted only for destruction. And it is remarkable, as intimated by a Scottish newspaper, that while his acquaintance with our polemical writers has been necessarily very limited, a full body of Protestant divinity might be gathered from his orations, the result of the critical study of the writers of his own Church, and of an enlarged acquaintance with the Word of God. One important lesson, I must confess, it seems to me that Gavazzi is too slow to learn---the foily and danger of trusting to an arm of flesh. Deceived by one man, he has fixed his hopes upon another for the accomplishment of the regeneration of his country; and deceived by others, and impressed with the idea that his mission from God is “the destruction of the Papacy and its abuses,” that self-dependence which is a necessary concomitant of every great work, is not sufficiently tempered with dependence upon Him with whom are the issues of all things. If there is a
want in his orations, it is not the want of a full discrimination of truth, or a clear discernment of the errors and abuses of the modern Church of his fathers; but the want of a more frequent reference to prayer and dependence upon God. The true Christian duty in every emergency is to depend wholly upon God, and yet act as though all depended upon our own personal exertions. It is the failing of most Christian men to lose sight too much of the latter part of this duty. It appears to be that of Gavazzi to lose sight too much of the former part." His future," however, as has been remarked “is not yet developed ;” and perhaps there may even yet be more disappointments in store, for him, ere the object of his wishes is attained,—to teach him more entirely to depend upon the power and influence of the Highest.
GENTLEMEN,—I have much pleasure in complying with the request of the gentlemen who commence this Periodical, and I therefore send you one of my M.S.S., which has not before been published. It was written and delivered as a Lecture, which explains its form.
I hope the laudable endeavours of the originators of this Magazine, to exercise and train the rising intellect of the locality, may be crowned with the success it deserves ; and especially that those great questions in Ethics, which must be the prominent battle questions of life, in the time yet left of the world's history, may be treated in an enlightened and reverent spirit. Your new periodical will then become, in the highest sense, truly educational.
I remain, Gentlemen,
Your obedient Servant,
Dreptism contrary to Reason.
THERE are moments in the lives of all thoughtful men, whether believers in revelation or not, when questions arising out of the moral condition of the human race, excite intense, absorbing interest, What is Man? What, and whence, the troubled world within him, aud the great external world? What are the relations, and what is the destiny of man, in that vast universe wherein he stands ? Sublime unearthly thoughts of the past, and the future, wander through his mind like shadows of distant big realities unseen, till his heart glows with emotion too strong to be controlled, too vital to be quenched. To enquire, to judge, to reject, to believe, is a primary condition of the soul, and therefore a right, a necessity, and a duty. The great thinkers of all ages, men whose glorious intellects brighten the gloom of human history, sparkling through surrounding darkness, as gems in the sombre coronet of time, have pre-eminently fulfilled this law of their being, have questioned, and thought, and wept over the great problems of our nature. The names of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, among the ancients,-of Pascal, Bacon, Newton, and others, in modern times, are suggested as illustrious examples of this great truth; and thousands more, illustrious men of all times, with their deep sad searchings of heart, their gigantic gropings after truth, would have been revealed to our view, if the perished nations, and dynasties, and literatures, and systems of the past, could be placed upon the page of History. Nations as busy, intellects as vast, interests and passions as absorbing, as those of our own age, have passed away for ever from the world, bequeathing to us scarcely the bare record of their existence. They live now, as we shall live ere long, retaining nothing earthly but the moral sequences of the moral condition of their earthly life.
It is the rule of human nature, admitting of few exceptions, that deep thought should produce faith in the existence of a God, and in a future life with rewards and punishments for man. Not only have the sublime speculations of giant minds testified to these truths. What are the false religions and priestcrafts of the earth, but so many proofs of the universal religious instinct in the heart of man ; proofs, powerful and incontrovertible, in proportion to the bitter and costly sacrifices which they have entailed upon their victims? Men of all ages, and nearly all nations, have been ready to sacrifice all they held most dear for their religious belief.
To prove that man, though naturally depraved, is still naturally religious, that is, that he is the creature of a powerful natural religious instinct, it cannot be necessary, in an educated assembly like this, to trace at length the historic evidence, secular or sacred, which places this great fact beyond the possibility of doubt. The earliest ages of the world witnessed in man a worshipper, partially enlightened, at least, if not sincere. A few great primal truths,—the existence, and in part, the character of God, the institution by him of sacrificial worship, and the necessity of obedience, formed the whole theology of the infancy of humanity. The deification of men and of natural objects, idolatry and superstition in grossest forms, gradually, and in the course of many generations, obtained among men, until darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people. Humanity was shrouded as with one vast pall of superstition, till the glorious Sun of righteousness dawned upon the world. His rising was obscure. Man had no spiritual eye for His glory. Concurrently with all false religions, for eighteen centuries, has grown the religion of the Cross, and though it is destined, by virtue of the beauty and symmetry of its system, and the efficacy of its redeeming power, to absorb all mankind within its pale; it has as yet been only one religion among many, opposed by Hindooism, Paganism, Mahomedanism, Mormonism, and a thousand other shapeless and disgusting systems, and worse than all, by Popery, which claims all the crime of all other false religions, with which to blend, and in which to entomb, the doctrines whose name it assumes and blasphemes.
Man is naturally religious. From whatever point of view the human race is seen, we find man always in the attitude of worship: kindling the sacrificial fire, kneeling before the burning altar, seeking to propitiate, too often he knows not what, and consuming with devotion, towards he knows not whom. We behold him sometimes a civilized heathen, accepting the beautiful mythologies of Greece or Rome ; sometimes kneeling as a half naked Indian, before the unknown Great Spirit, whose temple is the infinite starspangled blue expanse above, whose altar the flower and forest-clad earth beneath. Whether giving the reins to un
bridled passion in Mormonism, or sunk in the profounder blasphemies and crimes of Popery, or bending the knee in acceptable spiritual soul-enobling communion with the true God,—under all circumstances, in all ages, we find him impelled by an intense, resistless, world-wide power, towards religion. Call the impelling power what you please, be it instinct, be it God's universal impulse on the soul, or be it the universal result and issue of the reasoning faculties in the human mind, its universality and its strength prove it to be a part of that wonderful constitution of things which we call nature.
The religious principle in man does not stop short in mere worship. He believes that the God whom he adores, has spoken, still speaks, to his soul. He accepts and maintains a Divine revelation. The idea of a revelation assumes different forms, according to the moral and intellectual condition of the believer ; but whatever that condition may be, still he is a believer. He may accept a revelation in the ferocious and humiliating vagaries of a wild and naked savage. He may profess to read it only in the forms of nature, the storm-stricken, cloud-wreathed mountain, the upheaved ocean, the tempest rending heavens, or in the soothing beauties of the secluded landscape, bathed in the summer sunlight, fann'd by the gentle breathings of the air, watered by purling sparkling rivulets, and gem'd with bright flowers, and grateful foliage. He may bow to the dogmas of a Papal Priesthood, who, for guilty purposes, tell him that crime is religion, and who blasphemously assert that man can dispense with all the laws of God. Or he may accept, in the Christian Scriptures, the true revelation of the true God, whose written utterance alone is safe, alone solves the moral problems of a fallen disjointed ruined world. However diversified the religious faith of man may be, he universally holds the great fact of a God, and a revelation. The exceptions are only sufficient, by striking contrast, to make the rule more clear.
Before quitting the subject of Natural Religion, let me remind you of those sublime sentiments from the Phædo of Plato, from the lips of heathen philosophers. Socrates, in the immediate anticipation of death, is represented as reasoning on the immortality of the soul, and he says: