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etrated the souls of his audience, on a certain public occasion, so deeply, as an appeal to the indignation which their fathers would have felt, had they heard, that a Roman citizen had been scourged and crucified by a foreign power. So, also, from appeals to the past, the ministers of our holy religion draw often the most potent persuasives to Christian duty and engagedness. But it is evident, that if this sort of argument is to produce effect, such views of the past must be chosen, as shall appear bright and illustrious. As a necessary consequence, the contrast, for the time being, must be favorable to the past, tending to exalt our conceptions of antiquity, and inspire us with a noble emulation to imitate them in the scenes described.
What we condemn is, a querulous temper respecting the times in which we live; a disposition to see nothing creditable in the present, and nothing reprehensible in the past ; a proneness to enlarge the degeneracy of our own age, magnify existing evils, undervalue the blessings which we enjoy, and depreciate the divine goodness as it descends upon ourselves, our families, our church, our country ; while we are ready to believe, that such dark and trying times were scarcely ever suffered before, and that we are peculiarly unfortunate in living at an era so troublous and perplexing. Such we charge with folly, in their inquiry, what is the cause that the former days were better than these?
The only reason we shall adduce to substantiate this allegation is, that the inquiry is founded in error. It is NOT TRUE, that the latter days are worse than the former; and this is a sufficient reason to put a stop to the query. To support this assertion, we submit the following remarks.
That there are some exceptions to this general truth, is not questioned. There may be found certain times in the history of the world, or certain places on the face of the globe, where the usual progress of our race in the improvement of their social and moral condition is at a stand, and remains arrested for a less or greater period. Indeed, it may not only be arrested, but actually rolled backward, as was the case in Greece and Italy, occasioned by the irruption of the Goths and Vandals upon their fair fields and beautiful cities. In such extraordinary instances, so far from there being any moral or political progress, we might expect, as it happened, a general stagnation of improvement, and a rapid retrogression in the arts and sciences, in government and laws, in religion and manners, in commerce and civilization. But then this state of things did not long continue. The energies and resources implanted by God in the bosom of man, soon operated to check this decline, and turn the stream of improvement into its natural channel onward. And thus it always is. Though this stream may be occasionally stopped by some impediment or temporary dam cast up from its bed, yet it is sure to find some other passage, and work for itself a new channel, or else break down, by its superincumbent pressure, the resisting barrier. So powerful is the tendency of our race to move forward in improvement. And further: As there are times in wbich this
is checked, so there are places or regions on the globe, where little or no advancement is made, century after century. Of this, an example is afforded in the case of the Hottentots, and the deluded clans that people the heart of Asia. But such facts are exceptions to the general truth of the continued, uninterrupted advance that every age of the world makes upon the one preceding ; in other words, the perpetual improvement that is going forward among our race. To judge from these exceptions,—that mankind are not making the progress which is claimed for them,—would be no better logic than this, that inasmuch as, during the summer, a cold north-easter sometimes blows, which checks vegetation, or since a place may be found behind some shelving rock, so shaded from the sun, that not a spire of grass grows there, therefore, the season is not making any advance, nor preparing the fields for harvest, nor maturing the fruits of the earth.
But again : In every age, there is a mixture of good and of evil. God sets one thing over against another. There is never unmingled prosperity, nor unmingled adversity, in the case of an individual, or a family, or a nation. We find things mixed and tempered together. If something is taken from one scale, something is also taken from the other. So also, if something is added. The experience of each one attests the truth of this remark. But it is no less true with respect to public affairs, the state of society, or the fortunes of a nation. So that, if we are disposed, in casting our eye backward upon other ages, to select only what is of a joyous and prosperous nature, and in contemplating what is passing before our eyes, to reverse the rule, and select only what is sad and adverse,
the question will naturally be prompted, why the superiority of former days? But, in doing as we have described, we should not look at things as they really are, but at a picture of our own painting, in which there would be a fanciful assemblage of figures and images. A more accurate survey would convince us, that, in both cases, there was a mixture of good and evil, a balancing of prosperity against adversity. And what is more, we should see that, in this complex character of things, there has been a gradual but regular preponderance of the scale toward good, seen in a more diffused prosperity, an increased melioration of the social condition, the diminution of human misery, the abatement of public ills, a clearer insight into the rights of man, a better understanding of liberty, multiplied sources of moral improvement, and the widening influence of religion.
It is admitted, that there is mixed with this a good deal of evil; and were we disposed to point out what is reprehensible in the present age, it would not be a difficult matter. can be more sensible than ourselves of the rampant excesses of liberty, so frequent now-a-days; nor would any more readily join in their suppression, and urge upon Americans their great responsibilities in this respect; since the abuse of freedom by them would blight the hopes of other natious, and also render themselves unworthy of the proud distinction which they now hold, in the van of liberty's sons throughout the world. Equally apparent is the rank abuse of the right of free discussion, left to us by our fathers, after they had fought hard and bled freely to purchase it. It is a shame, to see how political presses deal out their slander and dirty abuse, soiling with their pollutions the purest characters, intruding upon the most private affairs, and vilifying the holiest institutions. Nor is it much less disgraceful, to see how societies, formed to accomplish moral and religious ends, can employ the press to disseminate the vilest calumnies, and deal forth unmeasured censure upon their opponents. Such outrages upon society, such a provoking abuse of that Magna Charta right of free discussion, ought to be frowned upon by every good citizen. In the train of ills that have come upon this age, might here be mentioned the lamentable pressure now felt by the mercantile community. Nor should we forget that religious decline in our churches, which has become so notorious as to force itself upon the bluntest perception. In view of this latter, the heart of every Christian ought to bleed; and if he feel right, he will, on beholding Zion's devastations, mourn in secret places, and wet his couch with his tears.
But after a frank admission of all these evils, we should err greatly in supposing, that the former days were better than these. For with all this abatement, there is a large preponderance of good in favor of the present age. Indeed, all the evils above mentioned arise from the abuse of a good too abundantly enjoyed. Thus, the corrupt state of the press grows out of unlimited freedom of discussion,-an inestimable boon, worth more than coronets. Thus, also, the mercantile pressure now endured is caused by an unrestrained spirit of enterprise,—the soul of commercial prosperity,—but which, if carried to excess, “presses on the natural boundaries of trade, and is seen, at length, to visit every country, where it operates, with the recoil of all those calamities, which, in the shape of beggared capitalists, and unemployed operatives, and dreary intervals of bankruptcy and alarm, are observed to follow a season of overdone speculation.”* Thus, also, the religious declension spoken of is produced by an unusual, extraordinary and unhealthy excitement upon that subject, got up by artificial means, and working some good results for the time being, but followed by a state of supineness and lethargy, as far below, as the other was above, that medium which can alone be sustained for any length of time. For no fountains are deep enough to supply long the impetuous mountain torrent of spring; and hence its bed is dry in summer. But such a rushing of waters produces not a tithe of the good to man, which is effected by the river that never overflows its banks, but is always sufficiently deep to float on its bosom the produce of its shores, and bear it to a profitable market. And thus it is, that in every case, the evils under which we groan arise from the abuse of a good too abundantly bestowed.
We shall close this essay, with a single word of encouragement with regard to the last mentioned evil. Though the pious heart, then, is called to mourn over the declension of religion among us, and lament that the trumpet of the gospel does not give a successful blast in arousing the stupid Christian and the sleeping sinner, yet we ought not to give way to gloom and despondency. For the Sun of righteousness, though
* Preface to Chalmers' Commercial Sermons. VOL. II.NO. V.
clouded, does not suffer a total eclipse. The gospel trump, though blown unsuccessfully, yet is not muffled, but continues to peal forth its notes from many parts of Zion's walls, loud enough to be heard by any ears not deaf as the sea. Though the people of God do weep, yet it is not sitting by the rivers of Babylon, nor exposed to the taunts of those empowered to oppress them. · Religion is still respected by many, and practised by some. Our Sabbaths have yet something of sanctity left them. The walls of our churches yet echo to the truth as it is in Jesus. The priests of our God, though not reverenced as when they wore the lordly_cassoc and mitre, yet are still venerated and esteemed. The sweet voice of prayer is yet uttered around many firesides. Religious education is not yet utterly neglected. Moral sanctions still influence the public conscience. All of which justly calls upon us to lift up our hands in the sanctuary and all other places, to bless the Lord; for they show, that Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the Lord of hosts ; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.
JONES' VISIT TO EGYPT AND JERUSALEM.
Excursions to Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus and Balbec, from
the United States ship Delaware, during her recent cruise; with an attempt to discriminate between truth and error in regard to the sacred places of the Holy City.—By GEORGE Jones, A. M., Chaplain U. S. Navy; author of Sketches of Naval Life. New-York. pp. 388. 1836.
MR. Jones is an intelligent and judicious traveller. He looks at things with a discriminating eye, and preserves, in the midst of dim traditions and absurd fables, a due medium between the credulity which assents to every thing and the skepticism which believes nothing. His descriptions have much vivacity and clearness. He is a little given to attempts at pleasantry, which are not always very successful. There