Imágenes de páginas

is ever ad

never retro

for them than there is an immobility for an embryo in any one of the manifold forms passed through in its progress of development.

The life of a nation thus flows in a regular sequence, determined by invariable law, and hence, in estimating different nations, we must not be deceived by the casual l'heir course aspect they present. The philosophical com

parison is made by considering their entire vancing,

manner of career or cycle of progress, and not grade.

their momentary or transitory state. Though they may encounter disaster, their absolute course can never be retrograde; it is always onward, even if tending to dissolution. It is as with the individual, who is equally advancing in infancy, in maturity, in old age. Pascal was more than justified in his assertion that “the entire succession of men, through the whole course of ages, must be regarded as one man, always living and incessantly learning.” In both cases, the manner of advance, though it may sometimes be unexpected, can never be abrupt. At each stage events and ideas emerge which not only necessarily owe their origin to preceding events and ideas, but extend far into the future and influence it. As these are crowded together, or occur more widely

apart, national life, like individual, shows a pidity of

variable rapidity, depending upon the intensity national life. of thought and action. But, no matter how great that energy may be, or with what rapidity modifications may take place—since events are emerging as consequences of preceding events, and ideas from preceding ideas in the midst of the most violent intellectual oscillations, a discerning observer will never fail to detect that there exists a law of continuous variation of human opinions. In the examination of the progress of Europe on which

we now enter, it is, of course, to intellectual

phenomena that we must, for the most part, refer; material aggrandisement and political power offering us less important though still valuable indications, and serving our purpose rather in a corroborative way.

There are five intellectual manifestations to which we may resort-philosophy, science, literature, religion, govern

Variable ra

Plan of this work.



ment. Our obvious course is, first, to study the progress of that member of the European family, the eldest in point of advancement, and to endeavour among Euroto ascertain the characteristics of its mental pean conimuunfolding. We may reasonably expect that the younger members of the family, more or less distinctly, will offer us illustrations of the same mode of advancement that we shall thus find for Greece; and that the whole continent, which is the sum of these different parts, will, in its secular progress, comport itself in like manner.

Of the early condition of Europe, since we have to consider it in its prehistoric times, our information must necessarily be imperfect. Perhaps, however, we may be disposed to accept that imperfection as a sufficient token of its true nature. Since history can offer us no aid, our guiding lights must be comparative theology and comparative philology. Proceeding from those times, we shall, in detail, examine the intellectual or Ourinvestigaphilosophical movement first exhibited in Greece, to the intellecendeavouring to ascertain its character at suc- tual, and comcessive epochs, and thereby to judge of its Greece. complete nature. Fortunately for our purpose, the information is here sufficient, both in amount and distinctness. It then remains to show that the mental movement of the whole continent is essentially of the same kind, though, as must necessarily be

we pass to the the case, it is spread over far longer periods of examination time. Our conclusions will constantly be found to gather incidental support and distinctness from illustrations presented by the aged populations of Asia, and the aborigines of Africa and America.

The intellectual progress of Europe being of a nature answering to that observed in the case of Greece, and this, in its turn, being like that of an indi- of European vidual, we may conveniently separate it into arbitrary periods, sufficiently distinct from one another, though imperceptibly merging into each other. To these successive periods I shall give the titles of -1, the Age of Credulity ; 2, the Age of Inquiry; 3, the Age of Faith; 4, the Age of Reason ; 5, the Age of Decrepitude; and

From thence

The flve ages


shall use these designations in the division of my subject in its several chapters.

From the possibility of thus regarding the progress of a continent in definite and successive stages, answering respectively to the periods of individual life-infancy, childhood, youth, maturity, old age--we may gather an instructive lesson. It is the same that we have learned from inquiries respecting the origin, maintenance, distribution, and extinction of animals and plants, their balancing against each other; from the variations of aspect and form of an individual man as determined by climate; from his social state, whether in repose or motion; from the secuThe world is lar variations of his opinions, and the gradual ruled by law. dominion of reason over society: this lesson is, that the government of the world is accomplished by immutable law.

Such a conception commends itself to the intellect of man by its majestic grandeur. It makes him discern the eternal in the vanishing of present events and through the shadows of time. From the life, the pleasures, the sufferings of humanity, it points to the impassive; from our wishes, wants, and woes, to the inexorable. Leaving the individual beneath the eye of Providence, it shows society under the finger of law. And the laws of Nature never vary; in their application they never hesitate nor are wanting.

But in thus ascending to primordial laws, and asserting their immutability, universality, and paramount control in the government of this world, there is nothing inconsistent

with the free action of man. The appearance is free-will for of things depends altogether on the point of

view we occupy. He who is immersed in the turmoil of a crowded city sees nothing but the acts of men, and, if he formed his opinion from his experience alone, must conclude that the course of events altogether depends on the uncertainties of human volition. But he who ascends to a sufficient elevation loses sight of the passing conflicts, and no longer hears the contentions. He discovers that the importance of individual action is diminishing, as he panorama beneath him is extending.

And yet there


And if he could attain to the truly philosophical, the general point of view, disengaging himself from all terrestrial influences and entanglements, rising high enough to see the whole globe at a glance, his acutest vision would fail to discover the slightest indication of man, his freewill, or his works. In her resistless, onward sweep, in tho clock-like precision of her daily and nightly revolution, in the well-known pictured forms of her continents and seas, now no longer dark and and doubtful, but shedding forth a planetary light, well might he ask what had become of all the aspirations and anxieties, the pleasures and agony of life. As the voluntary vanished from his sight, and the irresistible remained, and each moment became more and more distinct, well might he incline to disbelieve his own experience, and to question whether the seat of so much undying glory could be the place of so much human uncertainty, whether beneath the vastness, energy, and immutable course of a moving world, there lay concealed the feebleness and imbecility of man. Yet it is none the less true that these contradictory conditions co-exist-Free-will and Fate, Uncertainty and Destiny. It is only the point of view that has changed, but on that how much has depended! A little nearer we gather the successive ascertainments of human inquiry, a little further off we realize the panoramic vision of the Deity. A Hindu philosopher has truly remarked, that he who stands by the banks of a flowing stream sees, in their order, the various parts as they successively glide by, but he who is placed on an exalted station views, at a glance, the whole as motionless silvery thread among the fields. To the one there is the accumulating experience and knowledge of man in time, to the other there is the instantaneous the unsuccessive knowledge of God.

Is there an object presented to us which does not bear the mark of ephemeral duration ? As

Changeability respects the tribes of life, they are scarcely of forms and worth a moment's thought, for the term of the unchange,

ability of law. great majority of them is so brief that we may say they are born and die before our eyes. If we examine them, not as individuals, but as races, the same conclusion holds good, only the scale is enlarged from a


few days to a few centuries. If from living we turn to lifeless nature, we encounter again the evidence of brief tontinuance. The sea is unceasingly remoulding its shores; hard as they are, the mountains are constantly yielding to frost and to rain; here an extensive tract of country is elevated, there depressed. We fail to find any thing that is not undergoing change.

Then forms are in their nature transitory, law is everlasting. If from visible forms we turn to directing law how vast is the difference. We pass from the finite, the momentary, the incidental, the conditioned-to the illimitable, the eternal, the necessary, the unshackled.

It is of law that I am to speak in this book. In a The object of world composed of vanishing forms I am to this book is to vindicate the imperishability, the majesty of trol of law in law, and to show how man proceeds, in his humanaffairs. social march, in obedience to it. I am to lead my reader, perhaps in a reluctant path, from the outward phantasmagorial illusions which surround us, and so ostentatiously obtrude themselves on our attention, to something that lies in silence and strength behind. I am to draw his thoughts from the tangible to the invisible, from the limited to the universal, from the changeable to the invariable, from the transitory to the eternal; from the expedients and volitions so largely amusing the life of man, to the predestined and resistless issuing from the fiat of God.

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