Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

tion of impalpable nebulous rings; my conscience gets no cover from the clouds; it wins no hope from the stars. Be it that man is only the latest development from some primitive monad of existence; still he has that which no antecedent link in the series of being has known-the consciousness of personal guilt. Be it that man had his age of iron, his age of bronze, his age of stone, in a far antiquity; he lives now in an age of sin, and traces that damning mark over all the history of his race. And that fact no physical science, nor metaphysical speculation, nor social philosophy can alter, remove, or even palliate. Christianity alone provides for this one baleful yet characteristic fact of human nature a philosophical and a sufficient remedy. Science, which vainly attempts to evolve from its own facts the mysteries that lie behind them, is utterly helpless and speechless when summoned to the work of restoration in the human soul, where sin has wrecked peace, happiness, hope. Not progress, nor education, nor development is the key to that mystery. Redemption, Redemption is the mystic word that alone can reach it; and that is not a word or fact of human origin, but is born into the language and the history of the race from above. This makes Christianity as permanent as the race itself.

It stands, then, as true to-day as when Paul uttered it amid Greek philosophy and art, and Roman prowess, letters, and luxury, that a true civilization is to be attained, a true humanity developed, a golden age of light and love to be restored, through the preaching of Jesus Christ to all nations "for the obedience of faith." They who are called to preach the Gospel should have the utmost confidence in its efficaciousness for overcoming all evil, and ensuring all good, while the world shall stand. They should learn not to fear philosophy, but to frame it to their use; not to shrink from the criticism of the Bible, but to employ this for the exposition and the defense of the Christian faith; not to stand aghast at science as a foe to revelation, but to wring from science new proofs of a personal God, to whom

VOL. XXII. No. 86.

32

that which for us is supernatural in the government of the world, is but the natural outgoing of his power and love. And being thus trained to an intelligent freedom under the laws of systematic truth, instead of running behind the breastworks at every alarm, the preacher of the gospel will rightly measure the strength and resources of the enemy, and will meet and rout him upon every field.

It is time that we had done with the apologetics of Christianity and had better proved its dynamics. Believing in the gospel as the divine religion for all time, the Christian church should go forth to the conquest of the world, and "fight it out on this line." Abandoning the defensive for the aggressive, holding ever to the right and the duty of a world-conquest for Christ, she should turn the very fortresses of error into pivots for the truth to swing round upon, while "by the left flank forward," she marches to the final victory. In the confidence of this gospel, and in the living faith and love of it, she should preach it in centres of culture and of criticism, of a sceptical sensualism, and a scientific pantheism. In the confidence of this gospel the church should seek to re-create society in the disorganized wastes of the Sonth, to establish a Christian order and beauty in the growing empire of the West. In the confi dence of this gospel she should go to humanize the barbarian tribes of Africa; and to purify and ennoble the traditional civilization of the East; go to elevate and save mankind by subduing them to the cross of Christ, and cease not from labor or from hope till God shall bring all nations unto the obedience of faith. And "to Him that is of power to establish us according to his gospel, to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."

ARTICLE IV.

HISTORICAL STUDIES IN COLLEGE,

THEIR DEGREE OF IMPORTANCE, AND THE BEST WAY OF CONDUCTING THEM.1

BY REV. B. SEARS, D.D., PRESIDENT OF BROWN UNIVERSITY.

By history we understand a faithful record of the progress of society, or of the course of events affecting society, viewed in their relation to each other as causes and effects. Facts taken out of their relation to each other, and represented as so many units, are untrue to nature, and consequently are untrue to history. Chronicles merely furnish the materials of history. Descriptive history, though destitute of the philosophical element pertaining to this study, if it be a faithful narrative of events in their natural order, may give lessons of political wisdom, and be justly entitled to the dignity it claims; but it is not the most instructive form of history. Its object is entertainment rather than instruction; and it may be very useful to the young, by attracting them to the study, and preparing them for more solid productions when their minds shall become mature, or to the uneducated in general, by giving for their leisure hours a healthier recreation than is furnished by popular writers of fiction.

As has been already intimated, a nation that makes no progress has no history. When a barbarous people, like the ancient Germans. emerge from obscurity, and step into the rank of civilized nations, there is a history that can be recorded. They have permanent abodes. They begin the arts of life. Society is organized. There is a division of labor. The different orders of society enter into complex relations with each other, in which their interests are har

1 The outlines of this Article were read before the Association of College Officers at their meeting held in New Haven, Nov. 1 and 2, 1864.

monized. In short, there is a state, and a national career of progress is begun. The ethnographer and the antiquary would fain pry into their primeval history, and learn their origin, their migrations, their customs, and their religion. But the statesman, the man of progress, would be little the wiser, if he had before him a complete account of their previous savage mode of life.

History is to society what experience is to the individual. The more advanced a nation is in civilization, the more valuable is the instruction to be derived from its history. Grecian history teaches us more than oriental history; English, more than Grecian; the history of the period of George III., more than that of the period of Richard III. Political science is the offspring of history. Without such a parentage it becomes an "Utopia," "a republic," like Plato's, or "a commuity," like Fourier's. Speculative philosophy alone cannot be trusted to form a social organization. Government is too practical a thing to be founded upon anything short of practice. Reflection may suggest im provements. Philosophy may reduce the facts to a theory. But the basis of the political system of any nation must be national improvements, extended and improved by the experience of other nations whose condition is analogous. The reason of this is, that, in the working of any new theory of government, there will be innumerable disturbing influences, which no mere theorist could foresee, and which nothing but experience or observation can teach.

In no nation is the need of historical information greater than in our own. Our government is professedly founded on the idea of progress. We took for our guidance the last results of British experiments for establishing liberty. In doing this, we took our lessons of political wisdom from British history. From that time forth we found no existing nation whose constitution and government are like our own. By necessity we have been limited in recent times to our own experience. And now, at last, we have entered upon a new and unexpected era. We may be forced to try

some new and bold experiments. If it should be possible to
try it first on a small scale, and to take the necessary time
to observe all its results, we might be secure against any
great danger; but we may be called upon to decide without
time to experiment in this manner, and to choose without
delay one of the alternatives before us.
In such a case,
we shall need all the analogies which the history of the
world can furnish us. And who can tell what great political
questions may be opening continually before us, requiring
the maturest wisdom, and the broadest historical induction
for their proper solution.

Besides, ours is not a government administered and controlled by a few. Our frequent elections, our successive legislatures, bring fundamental questions almost continually before the people. We are a nation of polititians. The more the nation can be kept on the track of experience, both its own and that of other civilized and free states, the less danger will there be of its plunging unprepared, like France, again and again, into a new social condition. For this reason the historical elements in our system of education should be improved, so far as the condition of our schools and colleges shall allow.

But this brings us to the inquiry: What studies ought to gain admission into the collegiate course, already over crowded? Not every useful study can claim this honor. Only those studies which conduce to the end contemplated in a plan of liberal education can be admitted. And what is that end? It is the development of the mind by the training of its faculties; the acquisition of that knowledge which is necessary for this purpose, and also of that which will place all other knowledge within the student's reach. In general, those studies which require a knowledge of the past, and those which do not, or, in other words, literature and its kindred branches on the one hand, and mathematics and their kindred branches on the other, are pretty equally balanced in our courses of study. To the former division belong history, criticism, art, political and mental philos

c

« FöregåendeFortsätt »