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Protestantism, as the tree by the water-side sends forth its shoots in due season. Protestantism, free as air, opens out into the various sects, each taking hold of some human need; Lutheranism, Calvinism, Methodism, Swedenborgianism, or Rationalism. Christianity blossoms out into modern science, literature, art, — children who indeed often forget their mother, and are ignorant of their source, but which are still fed from her breasts and partake of her life. Christianity, the spirit of faith, hope, and love, is the deep fountain of modern civilization. Its inventions are for the many, not for the few. Its science is not hoarded, but diffused. It elevates the masses, who everywhere else have been trampled down. The friend of the people, it tends to free schools, a free press, a free government, the abolition of slavery, war, vice, and the melioration of society. We cannot, indeed, here prove that Christianity is the cause of these features peculiar to modern life; but we find it everywhere associated with them, and so we can say that it only, of all the religions of mankind, has been capable of accompanying man in his progress from evil to good, from good to better.
We have merely suggested some of the results to which the study of Comparative Theology may lead us. They will appear more fully as we proceed in our examination of the religions, and subsequently in their comparison. This introductory chapter has been designed as a sketch of the course which the work will take. When we have completed our survey, the results to which we hope to arrive will be these, if we succeed in what we have undertaken:
1. All the great religions of the world, except Christianity and Mohammedanism, are ethnic religions, or religions limited to a single nation or race. Christianity alone (including Mohammedanism and Judaism, which are its temporary and local forms) is the religion of all races.
2. Every ethnic religion has its positive and negative side. Its positive side is that which holds some vital truth ; its negative side is the absence of some other essential truth. Every such religion is true and providential, but each limited and imperfect.
3. Christianity alone is a poua, or a fulness of truth, not coming to destroy but to fulfil the previous religions ; but being capable of replacing them by teaching all the truth they have taught, and supplying that which they have omitted.
4. Christianity, being not a system but a life, not a creed or a form, but a spirit; is able to meet all the changing wants of an advancing civilization by new developments and adaptations, constantly feeding the life of man at its roots by fresh supplies of faith in God and faith in
CONFUCIUS AND THE CHINESE, OR THE PROSE OF ASIA.
§ 1. Peculiarities of Chinese Civilization. § 2. Chinese Government based
on Education. Civil-Service Examinations. § 3. Life and Character of Confucius. § 4. Philosophy and subsequent Development of Confucianism. § 5. Lao-tse and Tao-ism. $ 6. Religious Character of the
Kings.” § 7. Confucius and Christianity. Character of the Chinese. § 8. The Tae-ping Insurrection. Note. The Nestorian Inscription in China of the Eighth Century.
§ 1. Peculiarities of Chinese Civilization. N qualifying the Chinese mind as prosaic, and in
calling the writings of Confucius and his successors prose, we intend no disrespect to either. Prose is as good as poetry. But we mean to indicate the point of view from which the study of the Chinese teachers should be approached. Accustomed to regard the East as the land of imagination; reading in our childhood the wild romances of Arabia ; passing, in the poetry of Persia, into an atmosphere of tender and entrancing song; then, as we go farther East into India, encountering the vast epics of the Maha-Bharata and the Rámáyana ; — we might naturally expect to find in far Cathay a still wilder flight of the Asiatic Muse. Not at all. We drop at once from unbridled romance into the most colorless prose. Another race comes to us, which seems to have no affinity with Asia, as we have been accustomed to think of Asia. No more aspiration, no flights of fancy, but the worship of order, decency, propriety, and peaceful commonplaces. As the people, so the priests. The works of Confucius and his commentators are as level as the valley of their great river, the Yang-tse-kiang, which the tide ascends for four hundred milés. All in these writings is calm, serious, and moral. They assume that all men desire to be made better, and will take the trouble to find out how they can be made so.
It is not thought necessary to entice them into goodness by the attractions of eloquence, the charm of imagery, or the fascinations of a brilliant wit. These philosophers have a Quaker style, a dress of plain drab, used only for clothing the thought, not at all for its ornament.
And surely we ought not to ask for any other attraction than the subject itself, in order to find interest in China and its teachers. The Chinese Empire, which contains more than five millions of square miles, or twice the area of the United States, has a population of five hundred millions, or half the number of the human beings inhabiting the globe. China proper, inhabited by the Chinese, is half as large as Europe, and contains about three hundred and sixty millions of inhabitants. There are eighteen provinces in China, many of which contain, singly, more inhabitants than some of the great states of Europe. But on many other accounts this nation is deeply interesting
China is the type of permanence in the world. To say that it is older than any other existing nation is saying very little. Herodotus, who has been called the Father of History, travelled in Egypt about 450 B. C. He studied its monuments, bearing the names of kings who were as distant from his time as he is from ours, monuments which even then belonged to a gray antiquity. But the kings who erected those monuments were possibly posterior to the founders of the Chinese Empire. Porcelain vessels, with Chinese mottoes on them, have been found in those ancient tombs, in shape, material, and appearance precisely like those which are made in China to-day; and Rosellini believes them to have been imported from China by kings contemporary with Moses, or before him. This nation and its institutions have outlasted everything. The ancient Bactrian and Assyrian kingdoms, the Persian monarchy, Greece and Rome, have all risen, flourished, and fallen, — and China continues still the same.
The dynasty has been occasionally changed; but the laws, customs, institutions, all that makes national life, have continued. The authentic history of China commences some two thousand years before Christ, and a thousand years in this history is like a century in that of any other people. The oral language of China has continued the same that it is now for thirty centuries. The great wall bounding the empire on the north, which is twelve hundred and forty miles long and twenty feet high, with towers every few hundred yards, — which crosses mountain ridges, descends into valleys, and is carried over rivers on arches, was built two hundred years before Christ, probably to repel those fierce tribes who, after ineffectual attempts to conquer China, travelled westward till they appeared on the borders of Europe five hundred years later, and, under the name of Huns, assisted in the downfall of the Roman Empire. All China was intersected with canals at a period when none existed in Europe. The great canal, like the great wall, is unrivalled by any similar existing work. It is twice the length of the Erie Canal, is from two hundred to a thousand feet wide, and has enormous banks built of solid granite along a great part of its course. One of the important mechanical inventions of modern Europe is the Artesian well
. That sunk at Grenelle, in France, was long supposed to be the deepest in the world, going down eighteen hundred feet. One at St. Louis, in the United States, has since been drilled to a depth, as has recently been stated, of about four thousand. * But in China these wells are found by tens of thousands, sunk at very remote periods to obtain salt water. The method used by the Chinese from immemorial time has recently been adopted instead of our own as being the most simple and economical. The
* The actual depth reached in the St. Louis well, before the enterprise was abandoned, was 3,843£ feet on August 9, 1869. This well was bored for the use of the St. Louis County Insane Asylum, at the public expense. It was commenced March 31, 1866, under the direction of Mr. Charles H. Atkeson. At the depth of 1,222 feet the water became saltish, then sulphury. The temperature of the water, at the bottom of the well, was 1050 F. Toward the end of the work it seemed as if the limit of the strength of wood and iron had been reached. The poles often broke at points two or three thousand feet down.
“ Annual Report (1870) of the Superintendent of the St. Louis County Insane Asylum."