Графични страници
PDF файл




THE question of Parliamentary Reform is still behind. But signs, of which it is impossible to misconceive the import, do most clearly indicate, that unless that question also be speedily settled, property and order, and all the institutions of this great monarchy, will be exposed to fearful peril. Is it possible that gentlemen, long versed in high political affairs, cannot read these signs? Is it possible that they can really believe that the representative system of England, such as it now is, will last till the year 1860 ? If not, for what would they have us wait ? Would they have us wait merely that we may show to all the world how little we have profited by our own recent experience! Would they have us wait that we may once again hit the exact point where we can neither refuse with authority, nor concede with grace? Would they have us wait that the numbers of the discontented party may become larger, its demands higher, its feeling more acrimonious, its organisation more complete! Would they have us wait till the whole tragi-comedy of 1827 has been acted over again,—till they have been brought into office by a cry of “ No Reform !” to be reformers, as they were once before brought into office by a cry of “No Popery !" to be emancipators ! Have they obliterated from their minds-gladly perhaps would some among them obliterate from their minds—the transactions of that year? And have they forgotten all the transactions of the succeeding year ? Have they forgotten how the spirit of liberty in Ireland, debarred from its natural outlet, found a vent by forbidden passages? Have they forgotten how we were forced to indulge them in all the license of rebels, merely because we chose to withhold from them the liberties of subjects? Do they wait for associations more formidable than that of the Corn Exchange for contributions larger than the rent-for agitators more violent than those who, three years ago, divided with the King and the Parliament the sovereignty of Ireland ; Do they wait for the last and most dreadful paroxysm of popular rage—for that last and most cruel test of military fidelity ?

Let them wait, if their past experience shall induce them to think that any high honour or any exquisite pleasure is to be obtained by a policy like this. Let them wait, if this strange and fearful infatuation be indeed upon them,--that they should not see with their eyes, or hear with their ears, or understand with their heart. But let us know our interest and our duty better ; turn where we may,—within, around,the voice of great events is proclaiming to us reform, that we may preserve. Now, therefore, while everything at home and abroad forebodes ruin to those who persist in a hopeless struggle against the spirit of the age,now while the crash of the proudest thrones of the continent is still resounding in our ears,-now, while the roof of a British palace affords an ignominious shelter to the exiled heir of forty kings,-now, while we see on every side ancient institutions subverted and great societies dissolved,-now, while the heart of England is still sound,-now, while the old feelings and the old associations retain a power and a charm which may too soon pass away,—now, in this, your accepted time,--now, in this, your day of salvation, take counsel, not of prejudice, not of party spirit, not of the ignominious pride of a fatal consistency, but of history, of reason, of the

ages which are past, of the signs of this most portentous time. Pronounce in a manner worthy of the expectation with which this great debate has been anticipated, and of the long remembrance which it will leave behind. Renew the youth of the state. Save property divided against itself. Save the multitude, endangered by their own ungovernable passions. Save the aristocracy, endangered by its own unpopular power. Save the greatest, the finest, and most highly civilised community that ever existed, from calamities which may in a few days sweep away all the rich heritage of so many ages of wisdom and glory. The danger is terrible. The time is short. If this bill should be rejected, I pray to God that none of those who concur in rejecting it may ever remember their votes with unavailing regret, amidst the wreck of laws, the confusion of ranks, the spoliation of property, and the dissolution of social order.



Ar Athens, the centre at once and capital of the Greek philosophic and heathen superstition, takes place the first public and direct conflict between Christianity and Paganism. Up to this time there is no account of any one of the apostles taking his station in the public street or market-place, and addressing the general multitude. Their place of teaching had invariably been the synagogue of their nation, or, as at Philippi, the neighbourhood of their customary place of worship. Here, however, Paul does not confine himself to the synagogue, or to the society of his countrymen and their proselytes. He takes his stand in the public market-place, which, in the reign of Augustus, had begun to be more frequented, and at the top of which was the famous portico from which the Stoics assumed their name. In Athens, the appearance of a new public teacher, instead of offending the popular feelings, was too familiar to excite astonishment, and was rather welcomed as promising some fresh intellectual excitement. In Athens, hospitable to all religions and all opinions, the foreign and Asiatic appearance, and possibly the less polished tone and dialect of Paul, would only awaken the stronger curiosity. Though they affect at first (probably the philosophic part of his hearers) to treat him as an idle “ babbler,” and others (the vulgar, alarmed for the honour of their deities) supposed that he was about to introduce some new religious worship which might endanger the supremacy of their own tutelar divinities, he is conveyed, not without respect, to a still more public and commodious place, from whence he may explain his doctrines to a numerous assembly without disturbance. On the Areopagus the Christian leader takes his stand, surrounded on every side with whatever was noble, beautiful, and intellectual in the older world -temples, of which the materials were only surpassed by the architectural grace and majesty ; statues, in which the ideal anthropomorphism of the Greeks had almost elevated the popular notions of the Deity, by embodying it in human forms of such exquisite perfection ; public edifices, where the civil interests of man had been discussed with the acuteness and versatility of the highest Grecian intellect, in all the purity of the inimitable Attic dialect, when oratory had obtained its highest triumphs by “wielding at will the fierce democracy;" the walks of the philosophers, who unquestionably, by elevating the human mind to an appetite for new and nobler knowledge, had prepared the way for a loftier and purer religion. It was in the midst of these elevating associations, to which the student of Grecian literature in Tarsus, the reader of Menander and of the Greek philosophical poets, could scarcely be entirely dead or ignorant, that Paul stands forth to proclaim the lowly yet authoritative religion of Jesus of Nazareth. His audience was chiefly formed from the two prevailing sects, the Stoics and Epicureans, with the populace, the worshippers of the established religion. In his discourse, the heads of which are related by Luke, Paul, with singular felicity, touches on the peculiar opinions of each class among his hearers; he expands the popular religion into a higher philosophy, he imbues philosophy with a profound sentiment of religion.

It is impossible not to examine with the utmost interest the whole course of this (if we consider its remote consequences, and suppose it the first full and public argument of Christianity against the heathen religion and philosophy), perhaps the most extensively and permanently effective oration ever uttered by

We may contemplate Paul as the representative of Christianity, in the presence, as it were, of the concentrated religion of Greece, and of the spirits, if we may so speak, of Socrates, and Plato, and Zeno. The opening of the apostle's speech is according to those most perfect rules of art which are but the expressions of the general sentiments of nature. It is calm, temperate, conciliatory. It is no fierce denunciation of idolatry, no contemptuous disdain of the prevalent philosophic opinions ; it has nothing of the sternness of the ancient Jewish prophet, nor the taunting defiance of the later Christian polemic. “Already the religious people of Athens had, unknowingly indeed, worshipped the universal deity, for they had an altar to the unknown God. The nature, the attributes of this sublimer being, hitherto adored in ignorant and unintelligent homage, he came to unfold. This God rose far above the popular notion ; he could not be confined in altar or temple, or represented by any visible image. He was the universal Father of mankind, even of the earth-born Athenians, who boasted that they were of an older race than the other families of man, and coeval with the world itself. He was the fountain of life, which pervaded and sustained the universe; he had assigned their separate dwellings to the separate families of man.” Up to a certain point in this higher view of the Supreme Being, the philosopher of the Garden as well as of the Porch might listen with wonder and and admiration. It soared, indeed, high above the vulgar religion ; but in the lofty and serene Deity who disdained to dwell in the earthly temple, and needed nothing from the hand of man, the Epicurean might almost suppose that he heard the language of his own teacher. But the next sentence, which asserted the providence of God as the active creative energy—as the conservative, the ruling, the ordaining principle annihilated at once the atomic theory and the government of blind chance, to which Epicurus ascribed the origin and preservation of the universe. “This high and impressive Deity, who dwelt aloof in serene and majestic superiority to all want, was perceptible in some mysterious manner by man ; his all-pervading providence comprehended the whole human race; man was in constant union with the Deity, as an offspring with its parent.” And still the Stoic might applaud with complacent satisfaction the ardent words of the apostle ; he might approve the lofty condemnation of idolatry. “ We thus of divine descent ought to think more nobly of our Universal Father, than to suppose that the godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art or man's device.” But this divine providence was far different from the stern and all-controlling necessity, the inexorable fatalism of the Stoic system. While the moral value of human action was recognised by the solemn retributive judgment to be passed on all mankind, the dignity of Stoic virtue was lowered by the general demand of repentance. The perfect man, the moral king, was deposed, as it were, and abased to the general level ; he had to learn new lessons in the school of Christ, lessons of humility and conscious deficiency, the most directly opposed to the principles and the sentiments of his philosophy.


The great Christian doctrine of the resurrection closed the speech of Paul; a doctrine received with mockery perhaps by his Epicurean hearers, with suspension of judgment probably by the Stoic, with whose theory of the final destruction of the world by fire, and his tenet of future retribution, it might appear in some degree to harmonise. Some, however, became declared converts ; among whom are particularly named Dionysius, a man of sufficient

« ПредишнаНапред »