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evident, were it not for the influence of certain restraints, which are seasonably brought into action. After a certain period, however, new principles operate. From amid this chaos order begins to arise; a gradual refinement takes place; arts, sciences and philosophy, rear their head; which, though in their imperfect and crescent state they may tend rather to increase the disorder, yet when improved and perfected, seem destined to raise the human race to a condition much superior to that rude simplicity from which they had emerged. This improvement springs up, as it were, in the bosom of the preceding corruption, and for a long time co-exists along with it. At first almost insensible, it prevails more and more, till there seems reason to hope that it may at last attain a very considerable ascendancy." (aa)
This process is analogous to what has happened, under the direction of Providence, with the mightiest cause of human improvement,revealed religion. It has been justly observed, that in every state of it, Patriarchal, Jewish and Christian, there has been, first of all, the institution, then the corruptions, and lastly the reformation; and that," in each thorough reformation of religion, there is something raised above the primitive standard in the minds of its recipients; that men are generally prepared to enter more fully into the plan and spirit of it
to arrive at a more clear and complete discovery of its several ends and uses, than at its original institution." Thus evil exists for the production of greater good; death precedes a resurrection to immortality; and worlds are reduced to chaos, that nobler systems may rise in splendour from their ruins.
There doubtless appears, at first sight, in the history of man, a series of vibrations. Times of light and darkness, of freedom and captivity, of glory and degradation, have succeeded each other in regular alternation from the periods of earliest records. But instead of opposing the notion of gradual improvement, this fact illustrates the mode in which it has hitherto proceeded. The Oscillations are not uniform. The pendulum swings each time through a lesser arch than before, till it stops. Not so, in its vibrations, is the human intellect. Far as it may have retrograded, each period of revival has seen it higher than before. On looking back, we see, therefore, a series of landmarks of the progress of man, confirming the proud hope of his indefinite advance, an advance now unclogged with many of the difficulties which have occasioned past interruptions, and aided by machines of more resistless power than have yet been put in action. To borrow a noble illustration: "The progress of improvement, intellectual and moral, individual and national, is like the flowing tide.
A wave advances beyond the rest, and it falls back again; you would suppose that the sea was retreating; but the next wave pushes further still; and still the succeeding one goes beyond that: so that by a gradual, and for some time imperceptible, but sure and irresistible progress, the mighty element bears down every obstruction, and, in due time, occupies its destined station. Even before the inadvertent spectator is aware, the soil and slime, and all unsightly and rugged objects, disappear, and the whole space is occupied by the beautiful and majestic main. Such, no doubt, will be the uncontroulable progress of amelioration, under the divine government, till that auspicious æra shall arrive, marked in resplendent characters in the decrees of heaven, and to which the golden index of prophecy continually points, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas,' and the reign of truth, freedom, virtue and happiness, shall be universal and everlasting."-(Belsham's Plea for the Catholic Claims.)
And what to us, it may be asked, are these anticipations of a futurity which we shall never see? As to our perceptions, it must be unreal or remote as the fabled age of innocence and love, in which poets havé entranced the imagination of young enthusiasts. What are these visions to us, bright though they be, in our
circumstances, with our prospects, duties and cares, with the anxieties and business of life about us, death before us, and eternity beyond? From such speculations of things, perhaps a thousand years to come, what solid good are we to reap of moral advantage, or social joy, or religious motive? What is it to us how the scenery may shift, when we have left the stage, or in what glory may close the world's eventful drama? And why, we answer, should not the future influence us, as well as the past? Do not ages and characters and events gone by, affect our hearts and lives and destiny, our principles and feelings, our hopes and joys? These things have to us only a mental existence; they belong to faith and not to sight, and the revealed future is certain as the past, prophecy as history, the end of the world as its creation. Indeed, history in general rests but on the testimony of man; while prophecy of the future is the testimony of God. The sacred volume began with history and closed with prophecy; they are the morning and evening light of the sun of revelation, which, in rising, shews us on the one hand the shadow of the past, and in setting, traces on the other the outline of futurity. We ought not to be unmoved by the one, till we disclaim connexion with the other; and, like the beast, live only for the passing hour, heedless alike of yesterday or to-morrow. The bare inquiry as to fact ought to
command some attention and excite some interest. The inquiry is at least not less momentous than discussions on the site of demolished towns, the reality of recorded wars, the extent of vanished empires; not less than speculations on the result of this or that conflict, the fall of one power or the rise of another. Were it morally useless, it would not have been announced in Scripture, which never gratifies man's curiosity, but to mend his heart or multiply his comforts. The human constitution has changed since Jesus wandered with his disciples by the lake of Galilee, or taught upon its mountain, if there be nothing in these bright anticipations to inspire holy delight, needful consolation, moral obedience, and vigorous exertion. It must be useful, for it was revealed from heaven, taught by Christ, and recorded in Scripture. What is prayer, when once we step beyond our own wants and wishes, but communion with God, in which we enter into his plans, and seek the accomplishment of his designs? What, then, is all we ask, but a repetition of what he has promised shall be given? And why were the disciples instructed to ask, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," but to intimate the will of God, that such should be the final result; that amid opposition and discouragement they might not despair, but byhope be roused to incessant labour, and inspired