« FöregåendeFortsätt »
the earth, of man, and of several races,
and still more in the delicacy of its organization. Especially will this be true, if we confine our remarks to those who are the children of Christian eivilisation. This is evinced again in the more generous and humane sentiments and delicate sensibility which the Christian world possess over the ancient Pagan world, demanding in Art the life and movement of Painting, rather than the silence and repose of Sculpture.
The constant amelioration of physical nature, effected by the continuous realization by the Creator in it of more and more of his infinite Ideal, and by the re-action of man in cultivating and embellishing, through industry and art, the world in which he is placed, is among the causes, under Providence, of human amelioration and progress. The historian, as we said, on a former occasion, of the philosopher, must take into view the history of the globe itself, trace its changes and ameliorations, and their connection with the phenomena of human life. This is a branch of History that has as yet been but slightly cultivated; but it opens to a field of vast extent, rich in facts, prolific in instruction, and affording no little food for speculation.
Man, in consequence of his being made to live in a body, lives in intimate union with nature. He feels and responds to every change in the atmosphere that surrounds him. As nature advances in her own organization, so does he advance in his; which advance in his bodily organization is reproduced in his moral and intellectual phenomena. It is sometimes contended that the physical man has degenerated. That this is true in some localities, in consequence of the artificial life to which individuals are driven by the extremes of luxury and poverty, we need not question; that in some favored tribes or families among the ancients, as the Eupatrids among the Greeks, and the Perses proper from whom were taken the Persian kings, the human body was, through physical education, brought to a greater degree of perfection than is the case at present with the general average, we do not deny; but if we take the great mass of the population of the globe, we shall find that the human body has improved in its beauty, strength, and symmetry,
2. HUMANITY. While we reject the notion that all in the life of humanity is developed from itself, and is nothing but its own creation in answer to its own inherent wants, we must still recognize humanity in every fact of hu man history, and there too as a free, active, productive cause, though a limited cause, working in conjunction with other causes, never alone. To a great extent, human history depends on human volition. If Miltiades had not defeated the Persians at Marathon, or if Themistocles had not destroyed the Persian fleet at Salamis, the whole course of ancient History would have run differently; and yet this depended, to no inconsiderable extent, on the skill and bravery of a few Greek leaders and a mere handful of followers. Shall we, under pretence of exalting the race taken as a mass, or even in our humility before Providence, rob those brave Greeks of their glory, who stood in the gap and repelled the armed millions which Asia would pour in to crush young European Liberty? No; we who live to-day are their debtors; and
Review of Schmucker's Psychology, Democratic Review for October, 1842.
it is not too much to say that Marathon, Platea, and Salamis, prepared Bunker Hill, Saratoga, and Yorktown. These Greeks might have proved cowards and traitors, been false to themselves and to humanity; and had they been so, we should all have fared the worse. If Alexander had not invaded Asia and Africa, and by so doing founded the Egypto-Grecian and the Syro-Grecian empires, who will say that the course of human history would have flowed on all the same? Or if Cæsar had not conquered Gaul and Britain, and with his Celtic legions crossed the Rubicon? And did the failure of Porsena to dismantle Rome, or of Hannibal, after the battle of Cannæ, to march upon the city, change nothing in human history? A little more concert, skill, and bravery on the part of the Anglo-Saxons, prior to and at the battle of Hastings; or on the part of the Burghers at Rosebeck; or more prompt obedience on the part of some of Napoleon's officers at Waterloo; or less firmness in sustaining a murderous fire on the part of the English, and how different would have been the history of the world! Or if General La Fayette placed at the head of the French Revolution of 1789, at the head of the Legislative Assembly in 1815, or at the head of the nation in 1830, had been at all equal to his position at either of those epochs, who sees not that the course of events would have been very different from what it has since been? The wisdom and virtue of individual statesmen and leaders, of nations, and of private citi zens or subjects, must count for much in human history; and it is permitted to hold in execration the traitor who, like Dermot M'Morogh, sells his country to the foreigner, or like Burke turns renegade to liberty, and prostitutes his powerful intellect and gorgeous eloquence to the cause of the tyrants and oppressors of the people, as this great man did in his attack on the French Revolution.
3. PROVIDENCE. Providence undoubtedly intervenes so as to secure in the details of history, the execution of the Divine purposes; but it does not follow from this that nothing is to be found in human history not there by the express will and appointment of God. For were it so there would be small space left for human agency, and there would and could be no crimes. Human ac
tion on the large scale on which history contemplates it, as well as on the narrow scale on which it is contemplated by practical ethics, is alike the action of individuals. In a former number of this Review, when discussing the Community System, and going back to the origin and ground of society itself, we showed that humanity, though itself transcending all individuals, yet lives and actualizes itself only in individuals. All human action then is individual action, and is subjected to the laws of individual action, and each individual is accountable, in his individual capacity, for his share of that action, whether it be good or whether it be evil. A nation can be rewarded or punished only by rewarding or punishing the individuals that compose it; therefore we protest against any ethical rule that would declare the action of a given nation good, moral, right in relation to the national will, but morally wrong in relation to the individual volitions of which it is the aggregate. No people can be separated from its government. The individuals which compose the nation, just in proportion to their co-operation or acquiescence in the action of the government, share its merit or its blame. If then we acquit, with M. Cousin, the History of Humanity of all blame, so must we acquit all individuals of all blame in their private as well as their public capacity, which would be to assert contrary to the universal convictions of the race, that there is never in human action any sin, iniquity, or transgression of the laws of God.
In recognizing the intervention of Providence, then, we must not so recognize it, as to imply that all goes on in obedience to the laws of God, as if man and men were at every moment doing what God wills or commands them to do. The purpose of God, it is admitted, is not frustrated; but this purpose is to leave man free within given limits, and to reward him if he exercise his freedom properly, and to chastise him if he abuse it. Providence is unquestionably to be found in all the facts of human history, but not there to contravene human freedom, and by a sovereign agency to compel men to do this or to do that. He is there to make the very wrath of man to praise him, and to restrain indeed the effects of that wrath so far as it cannot
be made subservient to the Divine Economy for the government of humanity. The general course of humanity is onward, towards the realization in individual and social life of the perfect law of liberty. When the Jews refuse to perform a certain work in this progress, God rejects them and calls the Gentiles. He has given us Americans a certain work, for humanity; he is with us ready to grant us all the assistance we need in executing it; but if we refuse to do it, he will cast us off, and raise up another people to inherit the glory that might have been ours. Whether we execute this work or not, will depend on ourselves, on our own intelligence and virtue.
The true view of providential intervention in human affairs is that taken by Lessing in his tract on the Education of the Human Race, which represents our heavenly Father intervening as an educator, giving us now one lesson, and now another, according to our wants and proficiency. But the educator does not do all. The pupil must work; and if he exert not his own faculties, the lessons and offers of assistance of the educator will prove unavailing.
The fact of providential intervention is established by all history, in the fact that in all ages, among all nations and tribes however rude and barbarous, we find some form or forms of religious worship. The universal existence of religious institutions is taken, we own, by our modern philosophers, to be only a proof of the universality and innate ness of the religious sentiment. This is to some extent the doctrine of Benjamin Constant in his work-a great work too-De la Religion Considérée dans sa Source, ses Formes et ses Développements, and which is set forth with much eloquence and a good deal of learning, but without any sound philosophy or true reverential feeling, by Mr. Theodore Parker, among ourselves, in his huge volume entitled A Discourse on Matters Pertaining to Religion. But the religious sentiment is a fact of human life, not an element of man's nature, and, therefore, cannot be innate, that is to say, born with us. Man is not naturally religious, in the sense the lion is carnivorous, and the sheep gregarious, that is, by virtue of an indestructible and essential law of his nature. But inasmuch as religion, in some form, is a fact of the universal
life of humanity, since no fact of life is the product of a single factor, it follows that everywhere the object of the religious sentiment, to wit, the Divinity, must be universally, to a greater or less extent, immediately or mediately present with humanity, and cognizable, or rather perceptible, by the human intelligence. The universal belief in God becomes therefore a proof of the fact that God is; as the universal belief in his providential intervention becomes a proof of that intervention.
They who question Providence, and undertake to explain all on the theory of DEVELOPMENT, the theory in vogue with our American Transcendentalists, and which is reproduced in nearly all our works on education, proceed on the hypothesis that man natural aspires. This natural aspiration, the theatre being given, suffices for all. If this were so, a doubt might indeed be cast on the reality of providential intervention. Man, we admit, aspires, and is progressive because he aspires. But man is not naturally progressive, saving progress only as he is carried along with the onward course of the universe itself, which, as leaving him in the same relative position in the universe, is not recognizable by us as progress. Savage tribes are not progressive. Hence we infer that they do not aspire. If they did naturally aspire, we should sometimes see them by their own unassisted efforts coming out of the savage state, and indigenous civilisation springing up. But this is never the case. We have no record of a savage tribe emerging, by its own spontaneous efforts, from the savage state and coming into the civilized state. This is admitted by Constant, and asserted by Niebuhr, either of whom on this point is a competent authority.
Moreover, the traditions of every civilized people-and we own that we are disposed to regard all traditions as of great historical value-uniformly ascribe the civilisation to foreign influence, never to indigenous and spontane ous effort. It is always a sacerdotal, military, or industrial colony from a people already civilized; some provi dential man; some divine interposition, a Vishnou, a Boudha, a Thoth, a Bacchus, or a Ceres; a Minos, a Moses, a Pythagoras, or a Zoroaster, that quickens their faculties, commences their education, leads them out of the savage
state, and sets them forward in the path of civilisation. The facts in the case, so far as we can come at them, prove that if man has the natural capacity to aspire, he does not naturally aspire; that is, not by the simple force of his nature. And this follows necessarily from the fact we have so often insisted upon, that man cannot perform a single act save in conjunction with an active force which is distinct from that active force which he calls himself. And that this other force is not external nature, is established by the fact already stated, that the savage, left to his own nature and the external universe, is not progressive, does not come out of his savage state. In order to make the savage aspire, a foreign influence is necessary; for he is, so far as we know him, naturally indolent, careless, improvident, averse to all exertion, shrinking from all continued effort. His chief luxury is to eat and to sleep. If the sense of hunger, or some outward circumstances, arouse him to a sudden effort, the immediate demand complied with, he relapses without delay into his former torpid state.*
Taking this view, rejecting the theory of Development, as worthy only of the genius of the author of the Doctrine and Discipline of Human Culture, and the Orphic Sayings, and recognizing, as an unquestionable historical fact, that man and nature combined, are not sufficient to bring men out of the savage into the civilized state, civilisation itself becomes a proof, as religious people have always considered it, of the intervention of Providence in human affairs. History becomes then a proof of Providence, and à fortiori of the existence of God. Here is a fact which we commend to our Natural Theologians. They seek in the order, harmony, and beauty of nature the evidences of Design from which they pass by induction to an Original Designer; without finding fault with them for this, though some question the value of their argumentation, we may tell them that in the course of history, in the passage of man from
the savage to the civilized state, in the numerous facts everywhere recorded and everywhere attested, transcending the combined powers of man and nature, they may find evidence much more to their purpose, altogether more striking and more conclusive. The works of Providence are a far better demonstration of the existence of God than the works of Creation.
But we must bring our remarks to a close. If we find in human history three agencies at work, namely, Nature, Humanity, Providence, we must bear in mind that these all three intervene and work after one and the same Original Law, Type or Model, eternal and essential in the Infinite Mind or Logos. This follows from the doctrine of CORRESPONDENCE which Swedenborg after Leibnitz, Leibnitz after Plato, and Plato after Pythagoras and Moses, insists upon, and which is reproduced by Schelling in his doctrine of the Identity of the Real and the Ideal. In the Article in our Number for May already alluded to, and especially in the Essay on the Community System, in our Number for February last, to which we refer the reader for further developments, we believe ourselves to have demonstrated that the Original Idea, or Type, of all creation is eternal, essential in God the Creator, and that it is represented by each order of creatures, and each individual creature, each in its own degree, and from its own special point of view. Creation is God himself revealing and realizing out of himself, his own Eternal, Consubstantial WORD. Each creature speaking out from its own centre echoes it, and thus it continues to be echoed, though fainter and fainter, through all actual exist. ence till we approach the infinite Void. Could we but hear the voice of the veriest grain of sand, we should hear the same WORD that in the beginning said, "Let there be light and there was light," or that, clothed with flesh, over the wild tempestuous sea of Galilee, said to the winds and waves, "Peace, be still," or at the grave of Lazarus to the sleeping dead, "Come forth."
Boston Quarterly Review, Vol. v., pp. 153, 155, and 446-453. The last reference is to a complete theory of inspiration, which perhaps is not altogether unworthy the consideration of our divines and philosophers.
† A. Bronson Alcott, whom a shrewd Englishman, lately come among us, is trying to persuade us to receive not only as the great man of America, but of the age, and who himself boasts of being to the nineteenth century what Jesus was to the first.
In consequence of this great fundamental fact, the three Agencies, Providence, Man, and Nature, harmonize in their operations, as three different voices in unison singing the same divine melody, and uniting to swell the same sublime chorus of praise to Him, who is all and in all. Nature operates upon us without contravening the laws of our being, and Providence in harmony with our natural constitution. Here is a refutation of the fallacy of Hume's Argument against Miracles. Miraculous interposition is not a contravention of the laws of nature or of humanity, and is therefore in itself as provable and as credible as any other actual or possible fact of human life. Miracles,-which are nothing but a providential interven tion in human affairs,-do not contravene nature and humanity, but simply transcend them. They come from an agency or active force far above Man and Nature, and are therefore supernatural, and superhuman, but they blend in with the natural laws, and operate in accordance with and even by virtue of them. All then that we need in order to prove a miracle, is to establish historically a fact of human life, at a given epoch, transcending the natural ability of man acting merely in conjunction with nature at that epoch to produce. The moment you have proved that the Life of Jesus transcended the natural life of humanity in his epoch, you have proved its superhuman and miraculous character.
Now, inasmuch as the action of the three Forces we have enumerated, do all follow one and the same Original Law, history, which is the product of their union, becomes, so far as its law is concerned, capable of scientific exposition. We shall also obtain the same general result, whether we undertake to explain it from the point of view of Humanity alone, Nature alone, or Providence alone. This is wherefore M. Cousin, in dividing history into three epochs, and characterizing each epoch, in the manner we have seen, is substantially correct. Wherefore, too, Bossuet seizing solely upon the providential point of view, yet gives us the true law of history. But, this general exposition of history must not be taken for more than it is worth. It gives us after all only abstractions, the mere skeleton, not the living body, the warm flesh and blood of history. We
cannot in this way arrive at the facts of history, but merely at the law which governs the facts; which facts, owing to the element of freedom, we recognize in both Man and Providence, can be learned only empirically. The freedom of man gives to the course of history in a certain epoch or country a certain direction, which while it alters not the law of Providence, will yet determine in some sense the character of its application. The same Providence that interposes to assist and further, may now interpose to obstruct, and to chastise; and the actual facts of history must be different in the one case from what they would be in the other.
In conclusion, if we have made intelligible the thought with which we have written, we may say that the course of human history depends in no slight degree on the voluntary activity of individuals. Nature and Providence are in it, but men may by their wickedness pervert its course, though not with impunity; and by their wisdom, and virtue, and energy, they may aid it onward in obedience to the will of God, and the good of their race. Here we find, what theorists have denied us, the room, the motive, and the sanetion needed for human virtue. The room is, in the space we allow in history to human freedom; the motive is obedience to God, and the welfare of humanity, which last must always receive damage from individual ignorance, vice or crime; and the sanction is in the ever present Providence to aid and reward us in welldoing, and to chastise us, or to cut us off, as a people, or as individuals, in evil-doing. Here we are free to counsel, to warn, to rebuke. Humanity lives only in the life of individuals. Then let statesmen, kings, emperors, priests, philosophers, and scholars, nay all individuals, whatever their degree, position, or ability, lose no time in making all possible efforts to enable and to induce all men, in public or in private, to live in strict obedience to the Perfect Law of Liberty; and in making these efforts, let them know that God and Nature work with them, and they may do all things. And let them know also that if they will not make them, not only shall all humanity fare the worse, but the Judge of all the earth will do right, and will one day demand of them wherefore they have been unprofitable servants.