Imágenes de páginas

attitude of strength, throw themselves boldly into the ring of active life, and come front to front with their adversaries on their own ground-the political arena. Hitherto, or till lately we should rather perhaps say, they have courted insignificance; in the words of M. Gasparin's pamphlet, they have" made themselves little," (" se sont faits petits;") they have seemed to feel an extreme complacency in avowing their weakness and helplessness. But they have now, we hope, begun to awaken to a sense of the immense responsibilities of their social and national, as well as their more strictly religious position. They are gradually taking their place on the stage of public affairs. The proof of this is, that they have established a newspaper which treats directly of politics. At the present age, where there is a newspaper there is power; where there is no newspaper there is no power. We look therefore upon the establishment of the journal to which we refer, which is called "L'ESPERANCE," to be a more decided symptom of the progress of Protestantism in France than any of the facts we have above dilated on. So very momentous, indeed, do we regard the subject of religious journalism to be so great do we think its capabilities of good, if conducted on principles altogether different from any that have hitherto prevailed, that we shall beg leave to add a few observations on this point, which will be found applicable to England as well as to France.

We assert then, that, as in past times, subsequent to the promulgation of Christianity, political society moved on the axis of religion; that is, the religious movement gave its character to the social movement: so at present, religion in its external worldly operations moves on the axis of poli

ties; that is, the political movement is working out, as the instrument of major force, those spiritual results which ought to be religious. In other words, to give emphasis to our assertion by repetition, religion, at former periods, being the moving power of society, all the leading changes of the world carried their religious signification manifestly with them. But now this order of things is reversed. Politics have decidedly every where the predominance over religion. By politics, consequently

we must seek to carry out the agency of revelation on human affairs, or this agency will wax, or rather wane, fainter and fainter, till Paganism, under a new guise, that is, irreligion combined with a feeble contemned superstition, again rules mankind. To uphold Christianity, therefore, we must gain for it a hold over the dominant political passions, in which even philosophy is actually merged. But to do this, there is only one means; viz. frequent periodical publications, not addressed to the weaker portion of communities-to religious circles solely, but chiefly to the stronger portion, to the great active mass who care little or nothing at all about religion. The Gospel has, it is true, a "still small voice;" yet its echoes have resounded through the universe; and this reverberation of sound has only come from its hitting and startling the world. In Goshen, in the heart of the individual, its voice is still and small always; but, in proportion as its echoes die away, even this voice itself must subside into silence. To awaken the echoes afresh, to hit the world anew, should then, if this paramount reason alone could be urged, be the object of every Christian; and this can only be accomplished by bringing Christianity into close contact and collision with the ascendant spirit of the age; for which purpose there is no instrumentality equal to that of a newspaper.

And let no one imagine that we have taken a profane view of the work which all whole-hearted believers have, especially at this critical period, when new theories on all moral and social subjects are propounded, to perform. It might be shown that the Gospel, on its first publication, far from considering the spirit of the age as out of its sphere of action, stamped its impress upon that spirit; that it did the same at the Reformation; and that it has never made any progress, that it has achieved no conquests whenever it has been represented as too fine and Pharisaical, too delicate and transcendental, to measure itself with society at large-to enter as a champion for God into the lists of ungodly men, and, in the chosen arena of their prowess, to put its su periority to the test. Politics, however, occupy actually the same place in the popular heart that the disputes

of the Pagan schools did eighteen hundred years ago that sacerdotal learning and the gorgeous dominion of Rome did in the sixteenth century; and as the Gospel has triumphed over heathen philosophy and the delusions of Popery, so she may, with equal certainty, master and beat down the falsities of political speculation at the present day. But, in order to this, she must turn her face upon her enemies, as she did in past times; she must set her face fully upon them,

"For stronger truth does grow,

And falsehood feebler, gazing on herfoe." By a half-averted visage, by the Parthian arrows of flight, she can effect nothing except the victory of her antagonists, and her own down-trampling in the mire.

Now we are aware that the view we have taken of the mundane purposes of Christianity may displease a very devoted class of persons, for whom we entertain a very high respect. We will therefore explain ourselves more fully. These persons are accustomed to confine their attention to the choicest ultimate effects of religion to its spiritual operations within the unseen man. They are apt, in consequence, to discard from their consideration, or at least greatly to undervalue, its broad external activities, and to overlook the dependence which the two sorts of results have upon each other. We would remark, then, that we may put ourselves right with this zealous body of Christians, that the experience of history has proved that the attention of nations must be evoked to the doctrines of Christ, for the purpose of enlarging his Church scattered in the midst of the nations; that the world must be provoked to feel an interest in the subjects of revelation, with an express view to the growth of that Church; that it is only by recommending Christian truth to mankind at large, that its power can be brought fairly into action; that the increase of true believers depends upon the increase of professing believers, and that of both on the religious agitation of the outward community. Those churches, therefore, whether national or sectarian, must, in our opinion, ever languish and fall into merited contempt and impotency; or, what is worse, into sick, fantastic, feverish dreams-into nightmare horrors and

convulsions, from the close pent-up atmosphere in which they breathe till they enlarge their conceptionstill they let the air, which is blowing freely over the carth, in upon them— till they measure the virtue of their principles with all the wrestling elements of society. Exerting no influence over the popular mind, proclaiming their incapacity to exert this influence, they virtually abdicate. By acknowledging the existence of a spirit of the age," of a "march of intellect"-the new terms to express human wilfulness, with which they are unable to cope, they show that they totally misunderstand their mission, which is precisely to do that which they shrink even from attempting as out of the legitimate field of their exertion; viz. to grapple with and subdue this spirit, whatever may be its character, into subserviency if not obedience to Christianity.


It is only by seizing on and directing the master mental bias of the age that the Gospel can conquer. This bias may be emphatically called, the World the enemy; and as long as it is ascendant, rebuking away the Christian faith from its presence, so long will that faith be dwindling away with rapid decline into powerlessness. The task of Christianity is, we repeat, to overcome, not to shun her foes; and exactly in the same degree as she reduces them to infe riority, (history affords the most unequivocal proof of this assertion,) does her select and more precious work in the recesses of human bosoms thrive. Those, then, who would promote this work must not neglect the other; for God has made them dependent each on each. The world and the Church are correlatives. There is no way of ministering to the Church without confronting the world; and whilst there is any tendency in the intellect of any nation to tower above the religion of Christ, and that reli gion does not out-tower this tendency, plucking away its arms and beating it with its own weapons, the Gospel must be at a dead lock, unable to advance a single step.

It is necessary, therefore, for those who would promote the cause of the Saviour, to attack the world. To do this, one must enter into close quarters with it. One must discern the style of thinking which popularly, among the high and among the low, prevails.

One must, detecting, address himself to the thoughts and views of the multi. tude, and not content himself with a simple exposition, however just and luminous, of his own thoughts and views. He must convict the multitude of the fallaciousness of their principles, and convince them of the veracity of his own out of their own mouths, otherwise he will reason to the winds. He must understand the pre-occupations of the public mind, meet them and draw his reasonings out of them from that very source. To endeavour to demonstrate to the secularists of the actual epoch, either the corruption of Popery or the truth of Protestantism, or even of Revelation itself, by reasoning from the proper peculiar evidence by which these propositions may be respectively established, would be throwing zeal utterly away. They would not listen to an angel from heaven addressing them through this old, approved, excellent, but hackneyed mode of argument. The reason's mintage of the moment must be reimpressed whilst hot and glowing. The intellectual aspirations, which have the most decided tendency towards any divergent point, should be involved in the embrace of Christianity. These aspirations at present constitute the heart of every nation, on which the Gospel should plant her lever. Thence she may derive a power, or, to use a phrase of Burke's, what workmen call a purchase, which elsewhere must be sought for in vain. To address men now after the manner in which they were so effectually addressed at the time of the Reformation, and down to the date of the French Revolution, or later, would betray a total ignorance of the period in which we live. Evangelical effort should change its character according as the antagonist it has to encounter changes its form; and this can be done without the slightest deflection from consistency for it is a marvellous peculiarity of the religion of Christ, that it can follow humanity through all its transformations. When this religion, therefore, halts behind the age, the blame the dreadful blame-lies at the door of its teachers. It should ever be in advance, ever prompt to extract aliment, to derive a fresh juvenile activity from the mastery of the newfashioned errors which every generation brings forth. No opinions or

sentiments which have an extensive circulation, though upon the whole they may be pronounced false, are totally so. There is always some radical verity contained within them; and this is the property of the Gospel, to which every moral truth belongs. Christians, then, should appropriate to themselves whatever truth may be discoverable in current errors; by so doing they will pluck the soul out of those errors, and lead, in the name of their Master and his Church, the world in their train, as they have done heretofore up to a modern date.

In order to this result, however, on which the prosperity, we may almost say the existence of the Church depends, they must not regard the world, as they have lately got the habit of doing, as an alien orb, as it were, to which, indeed, the Gospel is to be proclaimed, but with whose spirit they should hold no communion; but, on the contrary, they should be thoroughly convinced that it is only by studying that spirit, and by attaining to a superlative knowledge of its most subtle workings, of all its specious deceptions, of its passions, of its aims, of its inward cogitative processes, as well as its outward development, that Christianity can compass and comprehend it in her grasp, and leaven it with that leaven which is to issue in the multiplication of the redeemed, and is, besides, the salt of the earth, to preserve it from utter corruption, from that exorbitant overgrowth of evil, which would soon overrun and strangle to death Christianity itself, if Christianity put forth no counter-vigour within its very core, to keep it under partial control.

These remarks apply not more directly to the French newspapers we have mentioned, than to journalism (under which name all periodical publications are included) in general, conducted by Protestant believing

[blocks in formation]

former should embrace the profane, faiths. The wild hopes of revolution and the latter the spiritual mind of despite their restless revolutionary society, interchangeably: so would habits-occupy no longer the place of the popular intellect, in all its new, a creed in their hearts; but indecision, experimental, transforming energies, or a vague intermingling of impresbe prolifically impregnated and straitly sions from all the past, and weak interlaced by Christianity. With re- feverous anticipations of the future, spect to religionists, we have endea- have left their character without any voured to show that they should look distinct stamp ; there is no image or out beyond their own narrow circles superscription upon it. Now, then, upon the world, and into the future; is the time to write the name of Christ and it is equally incumbent on men of there, and it must be, to all human apmore strictly mundane intellectual pearance, now or never: for it cannot pursuits to entertain constantly retro- be supposed that the state of mind we spective reflections-to gather up, as have slightly depicted-so auspicious, it were, the past, and carry it with one should think, from its troubled them as they advance; but, above all, voidness, to the reception of religious not to suppose, or to act through luke- convictions, (which infer reason, not warmness and indifference as if they credulity,)—can have any long endu supposed, that they can leave religion rance. Yet is the intellect of Frenchbehind them. Divine revelation is men so closed and hardened in a strong throughout prospective -- germinant armour of proof, against any direct through all ages. It has this pecu- appeals of the Gospel to the conliarity, too, that whilst ever essentially science, that it is only by pointing the same, it is ever apt to receive new one's darts so that they may arrive secular developments in accordance with precision within the joints and with the changes of the times. Those, crevices of this armour, that any effect therefore, who see not, or who obsti- can be produced; and the archery of nately refuse to see, that its immutable a newspaper seems to be more effectruths must, to be effective, assume at tive-more likely to penetrate within differing epochs differing modes of the scales of the panoply, than any less action, obstruct the Christian faith agile means. quite as much as others, who, partly owing to this retrograde tenacity of mistaken zealots, regard the religion of the Gospel as no longer capable of putting forth any master influence over the affairs and movements, political and mental, of public active life.

The journal we have alluded to was established with the intention of showing how fairly Christianity might be brought to parley with the thoughts of an unbelieving revolutionary nation ; and how with apt words, out of their own vocabulary of principles, she might obtain an audience and some degree of attention. The enterprise was a bold one; but many considerations seemed to justify it, especially two, which we will now specify.

First, The French are at present, nationally, in a state of mind perfectly nondescript. They are not generally, except by name, Papists. They are not, in the old positive sense of the word, infidels, neither are they believers; but they halt dubiously, neither affirming nor denying, between an inclination towards and disinclination from some unknown religious faith, or jumble of religious

Second, Throughout the whole continent of Europe there is no single popular organ of Protestantism, whilst, not to mention Switzerland, Holland has a purely, Prussia a predominant, and France a considerable Protestant population. The immense results that might ensue from the establishment of such an European organ, belonging to the daily press, may be anticipated at a glance. Certain it is that Protestantism affords a basis of infinitely more momentous interests, particularly at this crisis, on which to found a power of opinion, than more strictly political subjects can ever possess. the enterprise referred to, which already, having been begun on a small scale, has met with success beyond ex pectation, contains, it is evident, a germ of growth which may gradually expand it into an importance superior to that of any other species of journal whatever. Paris, too, is the most active centre-the heart, we may say, of the civilized world. In that capital, it follows, the great effort should be made to re-invigorate Christianity, ere the dissolvent principles which universally prevail, become so decidedly triumph


ant as to make all exertion for the purpose vain and useless. Other considerations, likewise, have strongly recommended the undertaking. Romanism is either openly or by subterranean proceedings, which are felt and not seen, advancing every where its influence. It has torn Belgium from Holland; it has made a bold attempt to set up a supremacy over the Protestant Government of Prussia. At the same time, infidelity or rather latitudinarianism, the present form of unbelief, has given the hand to the Romish Church. Affecting to despise her, it is kind to her and helps her. This alliance between Rome and a wide semblant indifference towards all creeds, is the most characteristic and portentous sign of the times. An unbelieving democracy is fully in earnestPopery is fully in earnest; and both are animated with mighty prospective hopes of a thoroughly antichristian tendency. In this state of things, then, is it fit that Protestantism should remain on the Continent quite passive? Out of Great Britain and Ireland she has no popular voice which is heard abroad; and even in these countries, she looks, like Lot's wife, behind her, and is engaged, almost exclusively, in fighting with the phantoms of defunct controversies, which seem to be raised up maliciously for the purpose of wasting her strength. But in Paris, the currents of thought, on all topics, are so many and so varied, that so briety of mind is not conceived to be synonymous with the backwardness and contraction of its prospects. Where specific positive convictions exist, (alas! in that city very rare,) they can there hardly fail to consist with broad views and new applications; and it is precisely this enlargement, with fresh springs of vitality, that Protestantism actually wants, in order to assume a new development correpondent to the new developments of society.

We will at present furnish a few examples of the successful exertions which have been made by religious associations to diffuse the doctrines of the Reformation in France. Of these the Evangelical Society of Paris undoubtedly holds the first place. Its metropolitan position, and its national character, give it the precedence; but in other respects the measure of its success may be regarded as a very fair

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The labours of this society extend

at present over a large portion of France. It has agents in thirty towns and cities, each of an average population of not less than 25,000 inhabitants. It has, furthermore, within the last year, opened nineteen new urban schools, which are attended at this time by 16,000 scholars. In addition also to the labourers above mentioned, it actually employs sixty-eight colporteurs, (itinerant venders of the Bible,) who, besides an immense number of other religious works, have not scattered, but placed in good hands, forty thousand copies of the Holy Scriptures. It has likewise established and supports, at its own expense, a preparatory school to form young men for the ministry, of whom eight have already been graduated in the Theological College of Geneva, and three are about shortly to take holy orders.

We are unable to notice any of the work of this society in villages and little obscure spots. We will furnish one or two instances, however, of its more ostensible success, and will take our first near home; it is one which must have come under the observation of multitudes of Englishmen.

Boulogne-sur-Mer, and the department in which it is situated, in fact nearly all of the north of France, have

« AnteriorContinuar »