Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

med, in sandy Arabia, their subjugation by the Franks, and the extraordinary career of Charlemague. Time would fail to tell in detail half the great and frequent political changes of even this short period. Charlemagne becomes grand-master of Europe, and establishes a kingdom that seems destined to endure for ages; but “thus far and no farther," is the dictate of that power over all other powers, that lays Charlemagne upon a death-bead. Surely one event happeneth unto all.” His empire in the hands of weak suceessors, weakens and wastes, until its strength is gone, and the kingdom divided. At this point of timeGrecian history having long before blended with Roman history-Roman history itself is lost in general European history, or rather divides itself, the more clearly to narrate the fortunes of divided empires. Here too, with the widening of the historic field, we more clearly see a fiercer waging of the irrepressible conflict between Gog and Magog.

Here may fitly be mentioned, as pertinent to our theme, the feudal system of the middle ages, with all its attendant evils ; namely, the oppression of the weak by the strong; the consequent degradation of the masses; the continual hostilities between aspiring dukes and counts, who by gradual encroachments upon the prerogatives of a merely nominal throne, after the death of Charlemague, having acquired a degree of power, became haaghty and ambitious; and their unscrupulous tyranny over weak dependents, also chivalry, the outgrowth of feudality, instituted for the defence of the weak, but run out into all kinds of extreme folly and ludicrousness; and, lastly, the Crusades, those strangely fanatical movements of the masses striving to wrest the Holy Land from the Saracens, continged through two hundred years, with great loss of life, property and public peace, carried on, at intervals, amid inconceivable suffering and toil, under pressure of famine and disease-in short, attended by all the physical and social evils which mast pecessarily result from such undertakings in such circumstances.

We have now passed over two-thirds of the christian centuries : there remain to us yet six more. The history of these is interesting, but more tedious than previous history; Europe being divided into mapy distinct states, each a unit with its own individual history ; we must, therefore, leave much unsaid that would furtber show how great, uninterrupted and wonderful, is this strange power working in and through humanity, toward some great end. In passing over the ancient and middle periods of the world's diary, we barely mentioned the leading bistorical facts; necessarily omitting a thousand great but comparatively minor events, and hundreds of heroes ; many & Philip of Macedon, and mapy a Frederick Barbarossa ; many bitter rivalries and exchanges of power between the smaller divisions of the ancient world, as well as peasant wars in Germany. So it must be again—even more so. How could we mention half that is interesting about the wars of the Roses in old England, her mighty revolations in the times of the Jameses and Charleses, and the wonderful career of Cromwell? Or about Spain, her horrible inquisition, her victory over the unfortunate Moors, and her bloody wars of succession? Or of France, her wretched persecution of the defenceless Hugenots, her inexpressibly dire revolution of 1789, and the fearful “reign of terror"?

We have not mentioned the establishment of the Ottoman empire in the East, nor the Tartar power under Tamarlane ; nor yet the further division of Europe into states, with their several fortunes-Switzerland with its struggles for liberty, and Poland as the prey of greedy, stronger powers. We have left unsaid all about England under William the Oonquerer, the Plantagenet dynasty, her conquest of Ireland and Wales, her long, dreadful contests with Scotland, and her unfortunate difficul. ties with France. We must omit speaking of the popular disturbances in Naples, Greece, Hungary and other modern states, revolutions producing such evils as only revolutions can produce. Not only so, but we have not even hinted at the long period of bloody Indian wars, on the Western continent, nor at the struggle for American Independence, nor at the later, momentous, European up-risings of strong-minded nations writhing under oppression.

Considering all these things, who, for the credit of humanity, can help almost doubting the truth of that historian, who presents such an astounding array of oppression, cruelty, vice, injustice, death, bloodshed and general calamity, all apparently brought upon man by his fellow, thus verifying that couplet which ought to be a slander ou the race,

“ Man's Inhumanity to man,

Makes countless thousands inourn." What lesson may we now learn from this long catalogue of erents ? What mean these great changes, these clashings of mighty powers ? These risings and fallings of thrones, and even the metamorphoses of nations themselves ? What mean these continual upheavings of restless humanity ? Whence are they ? To what purpose were the weary marches and counter-marches, toils, perils, and untold endurances of Cyrus, Xerxes, Alexander, Hannibal, Casar, the Crusaders, and their brave armies? What mean all these civil wars, barbarian inroads, conquests and defeats, changes of empires by the rising and falling of great powers ? What is the power evidently behind the throne, orerseeing and over-ruling all? We shall answer these questions farther on. What preceds, consists principally of the main facts of general history, as if one had transcribed the index of some extensive work, a mere epi. tome of the world's political doings for a few thousand years.

We have thus far traced the irrepressible conflict only on the physical or political side; but how could we help taking account of its noblest side, the mental and moral ? Here also, there is much that humiliates, showing as it clearly does, the weakness and vanity of human nature. It is, however, less fraught with physical soffering, less abounding in popular misfortune, and certainly less destructive of life, property and public peace. All logomachies are less hurtful than sea-fights and landbattles; clashings of the pen and tongue are less bloody, and generally less deplorable, than clashings of swords.

Who can number the innumerable strifes, disputes and crossings in pablic and private opinion that necessarily have found place in the po i. tics, philosophy, theology, science and literature of hundreds of pations for sixty centuries? Who can enumerate the countless thousands of questions of government, interest and policy, public and private, of general and of local importance? Who can set forth all the intrigues and over-reachings in courts, camps, capitols and parlors ? All the public and private problems of right and wrong, of truth and error, running through six thousand years, every day of which had its own question ranning through hundreds of nations, Pagan, Jewish and Christian, in all the varied circumstances and modifications of country, religion, race and position ? Who can give account of half the theological contests, alone ? or the encounters between church and state, popes and kings ? Call to mind the multiplicity of schools and sects of philosophy, in ancient and modern times, in the different fields of mind, morals and nature ; think of their cross-firings and bitter opposition ; to all this add the innumerable private differences arising between individuals, families, congregations, classes, synods and denominations, on all imaginable subjects! What confusion worse confounded! What strange history these logomachics would make! Further : every science and art, every system of politics, government and public good, that has ever existed, has found strenuous advocates. Every ology and ism, every department of knowledge and subject of investigation--all topics, in short, of whatever nature, extent or depth, have been in their day discussel and fully considerod, the pulpit, on the rostram, in the street and in the horrecircle. Without entering into details in this part of the subject, we may simply cite the fuct and period of the Reformation in Europe as one of the great mental and moral condicts of which we are speaking. What an extent of country was soov fanned into fiames, and what burnings there were, in thousands of hearts and homes! Ilow the Puritan fathers afterwarıls contended for religious liberty, and even became voluntary exiles for the sake of truth and their posterity! Then, when once firmly settled in their western homes, how strangely they practiced upon their fellow-muen, of different creed, the same severities on account of which they themselves had forsaken their fatherland!

The irrepressible conflict is still going on. Surely no ago or nation has ever furnished a better example of it than our own. We includo ir our heterogeneous national constitution, all forms of political and religious creeds; all possible shades, grades and modifications, of every form ; all classes of men, cach holding an individual notion, not only of each general creed, but also of all its manifold modified forms; all possible ologies and isms, from the sublime to the ridiculous; we have coutinual contests from week to week on the pulpit, rostrum and platform; our daily and weekly press--political, religious and neutral-have their daily and weekly prize-fights, often in prize-ring style ; we have “ quarterly" contests between learned, dignified D. D's; and less formal weekly theological disputations between les formal editors ; we bate high-churchmen and low-churchmen; Universalists and Ultra-Calvinists; crecd-lovers and creed-haters; one man says the origin of sin is an inexplicable mystery; another says it is so simple that a child may fully comprehend it; one man considers slavery a social and moral blessing; another abominates it as the vilest curse of the age; one man calls the object of discussion white; another calls it black. What wondrous extremes! These parties worship the same God, often at the same altar ; they are both sincere, each sure that he is right and the other wrong, and each prays most lustily that the other may be brought to see the truth as he sees it, in all its beanty and simplicity.

What, now, means all this? What will be the result of all this one

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ceasing mental and moral activity ? Having continued through epery age and nation down to the present, it will undoubtedly continue so long as the world stands in its present form and conditions; and, in view of our immortality and infinite capacity for developinent, it is unreasonable to suppose that it will cease even with time itself; and still more unreasonable to sappose that there is in it no special design. It will undoubtedly cease in its present form ; but may it not be considered a part of our preparatory discipline !---and will not that discipline be con. tinued hereafter? Are not these investigations of truth, and these defences of what seems to be right, as occupying man here, designed to discipline him in ways without number, for higher investigations and more glorious flights in another sphere of being? What untold issues may not flow from this irrepressible conflict? What unexpected results may not follow such wonderful and inexplicable combinations of good and evil? To say that these things mean nothing, is virtually saying what the fool hath long ago said in his heart: " There is no God." Let us find the solution of this problem. Are not all these things the gradual fulfilment of the first prophecy ever entered on haman record ? Evidently, the seed of the woman has been braising the serpent's head; all history shows it. It is only a process of development, by which humanity is evolving trath, in different ways and in different forms. Much of this process seems bloody and sinful; yet even that has bear. ings and influences upon the whole, which we cannot now understand, but which, indeed, we shall sometime learn to understand. With this thought, the angels, Faith and Hope, rise comfortingly before as, and point to the other side where all the mysteries shall be made plain ; where, onder better teachers, with fewer bindrances, and standing on bigher planes whence we may look with clearer vision, we shall see things in their proper light, and solve problems which now are mysteries to os.

Astronomy tells of an infinitade of worlds, systems and firmaments, extending through illimitable space, each body having its own plane and orbit of revolution : it tells of satellites moving around their respective suns ; of these suns themselves, with mighty trains of lesser lights, moring around some still morc central sun, until all revolve in glorious sublimity around the son of sans. Is there not soch an order of events in history ? From observations and certain data we know that minor events are the effects of particular causes, and look forward or backward to some more leading event for their explanation ; in other words, they have their respective centers, toward which they tend and by which they are determined in all their essentials ; but what or where are the centers of these centers themselves ?--and what is the center around which they all revolve? We shall conclude by answering the query : JESUS CURIST IS THE CENTER OF ALL HISTORY. Humanity is a problem, of which history is the written solution; the histories of nations are but parts of the grand demonstration, and Jesus Christ is the key to the whole.

THE BLESSINGS OF A RURAL LIFE.

CULTIVATE a love for the country; the serene joys which a rural life can afford are far preferable to the noisy, and, alas, too often, vicious gratifications which we seek amid the whirl of a city life. The city as it were, ties the soul's affections to the earth-the works and ways of the world in it too often hide from our eyes the fair face of Nature, and lead us to forget the glorious God who made us, and to whom we are indebted for life, and health, and all things.

Vapid, empty and artificial are the joys of a city life when compared with the sacred delights which a rural residence can give to a mind rightly constituted. Solitary communion with Nature is one of the holiest delights wbich the world can bestow-a delight which is sure to benefit the world which enjoys it. Parity is enstamped on Nature's form; and communion with her is sure to fill the soul with all that is pure, and lovely, and of good report.

In every season of the year a residence in the country has a beneficial effect on the haman soal. In Spring, when the trees again put on their singing robes, and murmur forth the praises of Him who made them. Spring has a tendency to give buoyancy to the spirits--that heart is callous which not awake and sing when all things around are beaming with hope and promise.

In Sammer, the blushing flowers are seen amid rural retreats, and seem, methinks, like stolen glories from Paradise ; then the singing birds trill forth melodies, 'the purest and the sweetest ever heard on earth, and which may well raise the thoughts away from this vanishing world of ours to the glory-land beyond.

In Autumn, the country teaches us wisdom lessons; the whispers that are heard when the leaves are falling, seem, methinks, sweet echoes from the angel world, telling that we, too, must soon fade and vanish like the leares of the forest, and be found no more on earth at all.

In Winter, we are led to revere the wisdom and power of Him who does all things wellwho hath hid the flowers beneath a snowy mantle to enhance our joy on again beholding them; and who sends the storms to purify the atmosphere, and the rain to cause the earth to bring forth fruit in its season.

To the thoughtful mind, reflections such as these are suggested by a rural life, which should not be decribed as listless and unpleasant. Communion with Nature can give more real joy than man ever found in the pursuit of the pleasures of a city life.

The seeds of repentance are sown in youth by pleasure, but the barvest is reaped in age by pain.

« ZurückWeiter »