Sivut kuvina

among the young and active portion of the citizens, that our republican institutions can be preserved in their pristine vigour and purity. They constitute that public virtue which has been justly described as the vital principle of popular governments,

the conservative power which alone can secure them from the abuses to which they are peculiarly subject,-abuses even more

frightful and disgusting than those of any other form of po

lity.'* · One consequence of the unlimited extension of the right of suffrage and the perpetual recurrence of the ballot in America, is, that the privilege has come to be regarded with contemptuous indifference by those who are the best qualified to turn it to good account. 'Persons of education, talent, leisure, and good in

tentions' are heard to remark with a sort of satisfaction, that

they do not go to the polls once in three years. Such errors, the Reviewer represents as so dangerous, that, if they became general, they would be fatal to the prosperity of the country.'

Those who, from indolence or selfishness, withdraw from the • perpetual struggle between the adherents of good and evil, are ' every where the most dangerous allies of the latter party; and as they share their guilt, so they always sooner or later partake of their reward. Their darling wealth, to the augmentation of which they sacrifice every higher consideration, is torn from them ' in the indiscriminate rage of civil commotion. Conscriptions, proscriptions, forced loans, political and personal persecution under the forms of law, visit them in the retirements of the 6 compting-room and the dwelling-house; and they are crushed, • at last, under the load of miseries incident to the last stages of misgovernment; all of which might, and in most cases would, have been averted, had this class of men regularly gone to the 6 polls, while they had it in their power. Hence it was, that the • Athenian lawgiver wisely ordained, that, on all political divi6 sions, every citizen should take either one side or the other; and it may be said with perfect truth, that, without a pretty

general observation of this principle, the forms of popular ' government are impracticable.'t.

Such are the dangers which beset the simplest, most democratic, cheapest, most philosophical, most popular of all governments ! Such the tendencies of universal suffrage and the bal. lot! It would seem, then, that other governments than the English monarchy run some risk of finding their euthanasia in

* North American Review, No. lxxiii. p. 352. Art. Life of Henry Clay.

ť Ibid. pp. 352, 3.

despotism*. Of all despotisms, that of an autocratic mob is assuredly the worst. And of this, we on this side of the great water are, happily, in no immediate danger.

We may appear to have slid out of political economy into politics ; but the distinction between them is arbitrary, and consists less in any difference of the subjects proper to each, than in the different mode and spirit of treating the same topic. The true aim of the philosopher and of the politician, of the professor and of the legislator ought to be the same. One purpose which the preceding citations are adapted to answer, is to undeceive such persons in our own country, as may be inclined to look across the Atlantic for a happier model of government than our own, and to regard the unlimited extension of the elective franchise, in combination with the ballot, as the best means of giving efficiency to the democratic part of our mixed constitution.

Another end which they may serve, is that of shewing how very far from any approximation to the American system is the constitutional plan of parliamentary reform brought forward under the auspices of the present Administration. The basis of the American system is, the representation of numbers, or what has been termed geographical representation. That of the English Constitution, (as of the proposed reform,) is the representation of property. The basis of the borough-proprietory system is the representation of individual interest. The principle of the American system is sectional delegation; that of the British system, election to a public trust; that of the Anti-reform faction, private nomination and secret bargain. In this country, the popular branch of the legislature is itself, from its very constitution, an aristocracy; and such members of it as Hunt are only the ludicrous accidents of the system. Our merchants choose, it may be, a nobleman as the fit guardian of their interests; and our manufacturers look out for some substantial landed proprietor as their representative. In America, were there an aristocracy to choose from, Congress would still be what it is ; an intractable mob of lawyers and adventurers, each wrangling for the narrow interests of his party or his political clients—the very sort of representatives which our rotten boroughs have let into Parliament. The representation of the United States is geographical: that of the British Constitution is, so to speak, topographical and historical. The Americans decide every thing by the map and the quadrant: We are accustomed to tolerate anomalies of all kinds. Our counties are of every figure and dimension; we have villages larger than cities, -one city without a representative, and

* The paradoxical or sinister prediction of Hume, cited by the Writer of the article on the Prospect of Reform, in the North American Review.

copresentation Loes not ends the

other cities which are counties of themselves ; with an infinite diversity of local jurisdiction, traditional usage and privilege, rights corporate and feudal ; yet all compatible and perfectly according with an equality of right, as regards the protection of the law. One anomaly, however, does not exist in England, which stains the pure representation of the United States. We have no slave-holding counties, although we have unfortunately individual slave-proprietors in the legislature ; and if our system of representation is confessedly arbitrary, it does not at once affect to be universal, and pass over a sixth part of the population as divested of the common rights of humanity. The anomalies in the English Constitution resemble those which exist in the physical world: they are not of a moral nature, and therefore indicate nothing 'rotten in the State. The object of the Reformbill is not to remove all that is anomalous,-not to level inequalities,—not to square our institutions by any theory, or to adjust our representation by arithmetic; but simply to remove palpable abuses and sources of corruption,—to put a stop to the traffic in public trusts,—to check at least the chicane and tyranny of cor

ruption',--and to substitute the legitimate influence of property, and the constitutional weight of the aristocracy, for the dangerous ascendancy of a venal, grasping, pampered, selfish oligarchy. Nor is the object mistaken by the opponents of the Reform bill, whether radical or ultra. Mr. Hunt and Mr. Croker understand the matter perfectly; and the country at large, we believe, begin pretty well to understand their political union. Next to the interested and sordid opposition of the borough-holders themselves, it forms the highest panegyric upon this great measure of equity, conciliation, and enlightened policy, which may the gracious Providence of God speedily consummate in mercy to the country !

Art. II. 1. The Offices of the Holy Spirit : Four Sermons, preached

before the University of Cambridge in the month of November, 1831. By the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A., Senior Fellow of

King's College. 8vo. pp. 102. Price 2s. 6d. London. 1831. 2. A Sermon preached at Hull, on the 13th of November, MDCCCXXXI,

on the Unknown Tongues. By R. M. Beverley, Esq. 8vo. pp. 38.

London. 1831. 3. Balaam. By the Author of “ Modern Fanaticism Unveiled."

· 12mo. pp. 272. Price 5s. London. 1831. THE venerable Author of the “Four Sermons preached before

the University of Cambridge ”, has here borne a faithful and energetic testimony against the opposite errors of fanatical delusion and philosophic incredulity, by which, in every age, the Christian Church has been more or less infested, and which, in the present day, beset with peculiar danger the narrow path of religious inquiry. It has been thought, that the stream of religious knowledge was attaining a higher level; but alas ! it is too apparent, that the waters have owed their elevation, in part, to the hidden growth of weeds, now rank and flowering above the surface. The stream wants mowing,—an operation which the servants of Christ will ever find periodical occasion to perform ; after which the waters may seem to be diminished in volume and force, but they will be purer and clearer.

Many thoughtful and pious persons are anticipating a season of fiery trial to the Christian Church, in the shape of physical calamity or political judgements ; forgetting that the word (TE1garuos) has a double meaning, and overlooking, perhaps, in their uncertain calculations of the future, the specific character of the present times, as a season of trial and moral discipline. “There

seems no possible reason to be given', remarks Bishop Butler, ' why we may not be in a state of moral probation with regard to

the exercise of our understanding upon the subject of religion, as we are with regard to our behaviour in common affairs. The • former is as much a thing within our power and choice as the latter .... That religion is not intuitively true, but a matter

of deduction and inference; that a conviction of its truth is not 'forced upon every one, but left to be, by some, collected with ' needful attention to premises ; this as much constitutes religious

probation, as much affords sphere, scope, opportunity for right ‘or wrong behaviour, as any thing whatever does. . ... Specu

lative difficulties are, in this respect, of the very same nature ' with external temptations.' .,... 'Nor does there appear any • absurdity in supposing, that the speculative difficulties in which • the evidence of religion is involved, may make even the prin

cipal part of some person's trial.' May not then this species of moral probation form the principal trial of a Christian community at some particular season? May it not be the design for which errors, and heresies, and schisms are permitted to trouble the Church, to put those who enjoy the full light of Revelation to the trial, with regard to this moral exercise of their understanding? Have we not, in the New Testament, many distinct references to this species of trial ? The Church of Ephesus, for instance, is especially commended, for having “ tried them which “ say they are apostles, and are not, and found them liars.” St. Peter predicts, that false teachers would arise, and lead away many, “ by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken “ of." St. John's exhortation, not to believe every spirit, points to the same moral trial of the understanding. And St. Paul predicts, that the coming of the Man of Sin would be attended with “ false signs and miracles, and iniquitous deceits," the semblance of real evidence, and forming " a strong delusion”, leading many to believe in the fraud. This prediction is customarily restricted to the feigned visions and fraudulent miracles of the Church of Rome, which are, no doubt, primarily referred to. But Protestantism has also had, at various periods, its signs and lying wonders, its prophets and workers of miracles ;-teachers of the character so distinctly portrayed by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, as “ causing divisions and offences” by their novel doctrine,-men“ who serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetite, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

It will not be denied, that there is much of this element of division, delusion, and offence at present afloat, if we may be allowed the expression, in the atmosphere of the religious world. It is a period of universal excitement, and religion shares in the effect of that excitement. Religious knowledge has proved to be far less generally diffused than might have been supposed; but ignorance is no longer quiescent and stagnant. Implicit faith has been well nigh destroyed; and that belief alone is adapted to withstand the stir and strife of opinions, which rests upon evidence. Under these circumstances, Christianity makes a peculiar appeal to the understandings of men. To profess a belief in it, costs nothing; nor does the avowal of infidelity subject to any pains or penalties. There is no fiery trial of civil persecution to be dreaded, either by the true Christian or by the heretic. The principal trial of obedience is an intellectual one. One class of speculative difficulties, however, by which the evidence of Christianity might formerly be obscured, has been in great measure cleared away by the labours of learned apologists, the cultivation of Biblical criticism, the clearer light thrown upon the inspired document, and the proofs by which its genuineness and authority are attested. The means of arriving at satisfaction in religious inquiries, have been at once multiplied and simplified, so as to leave the sceptic without excuse. The authority of Christianity is therefore generally acknowledged, even by those who reject its distinguishing doctrines. Another class of speculative difficulties has now come to be the chief occasion of putting the understandings of men to this moral trial ; difficulties greatly increased, if not altogether originated, by the controversial aspect given to the truths of Revelation, the enthusiastic perversions of Scripture doctrine, the party divisions, the ' vain jangling', the fanatical extravagance, if not imposture, blended with high and arrogant and intolerant pretensions. The offence and hinderance thus cast up in the way of the uninformed and sceptical, have, there can be no doubt, turned aside or thrown down many; and “ blessed are they who are not", in the intended sense, “offended ” at these things. As they do not diminish, in the slightest degree,

« EdellinenJatka »