« VorigeDoorgaan »
bodies in his narrative the objections which he had to apprehend from others, and Jehovah himself must remove them. He consents, moreover, to undertake his mission only after a long resistance: the more importance would be consequently attached to the command which imposed this task upon him. In short, he exhibits in his story as distinctly and vividly as possible every thing which to the Israelites, as well as to ourselves, would be most difficult of belief; and he had, no doubt, good reasons for so doing.
Now, to recapitulate briefly the foregoing : What was the precise plan which Moses projected in the Arabian Desert ?
He desired to lead the Israelitish people out of Egypt, and to give them an independent political existence and constitution in a land of their own; but, since he perfectly well knew the difficulties which would impede him in this undertaking, since he knew that no reliance was to be placed upon the native energies of this people until they should be inspired with self-reliance, courage, hope-since he foresaw that his eloquence would be lost upon the depressed and enslaved minds of the Hebrews, he perceived that he must promise them a higher and super-earthly guardianship—that he must, as it were, marshal them under the banner of a divine commander.
He gives them, therefore, a God, in order first of all to free them from Egypt; but, since that is not to be all-since he must give them another country in place of that of which he deprives them, and since they must conquer this and keep it by force of arms, it is necessary that he collect their united powers into one body politic;—he 'must give them laws and a constitution.
But, as Priest and Statesman, he knows that the strongest and most essential support of all regular government is Religion. He must, therefore, in the work of legislation that lies before him, use the deity whom he gave them, in the first instance, as a mere commander to deliver them from Egypt; consequently he must proclaim him to them in that character in which he means afterwards to use him. Now, for legislation and constitution-making, he needs the true God; for he is a great and noble man, who will not build upon falsehood a work that is to endure. He desires to make the Hebrews happy, and permanently happy, by the constitution which he has designed for them; and this requires a legislation grounded upon truth. Yet, for this truth their minds are not prepared : he cannot, therefore, reason them into it. Since he cannot convince,-he must persuade, humour, astound them. He must ascribe to the true God whom he reveals to them, attributes which may render him interesting and intelligible to their feeble minds; he must veil him in a heathenish garb, and he must be contented even though they value his true God just for this heathenish garb, and receive the truth only in a heathenish fashion. And thus he gains a result of immense importance. He gains this—that the foundation of his legislation is true; consequently, that a future Reformer will not need to subvert that foundation in order to improve men's ideas, which is the inevitable fate of all false religions as soon as the light of reason is let in upon them.
All other polities of that time, and of later times also, were based upon deception and error, upon polytheism; although, as we have seen, there were in Egypt a small class of superior minds who cherished just conceptions of the Supreme Being. Moses, who was himself of this class, and owed to this class his more elevated ideas of Deity, was the first who ventured, not merely to publish this secret doctrine of the mysteries, but even to make it the foundation of a state-polity. He becomes then, for the sake of the world and of posterity, a betrayer of the mysteries, and allows a whole nation to participate in a truth which had, until then, been the monopoly of a few sages.
He certainly could not, along with this new religion, give his countrymen minds to comprehend it, and in that respect the Egyptian Epoptæ had a great advantage over them. The Epoptæ reached the truth through their reason :--the Hebrews could at the best but believe it blindly.
Art. VI.-LUCUBRATIONS IN TRAVEL
THE WALLS OF ROME.
The Belief that arises from Experience, is perhaps the most irresistible which man can entertain. It perpetually returns upon him, though other kinds of Belief may for a time have taken its place. What has been, in spite of all arguments to the contrary, is man's main ground of judging of what shall be. In this he sometimes forgets the only condition on which this law of Belief is binding, namely, that the circumstances shall be exactly analogous in the cases compared. The data for the Future being what the data for the Past were, it is, to a great extent, legitimate to reason that the conclusions and effects shall be the same too. But if this condition be not observed, the law binds
The Past is then of course no augury of the Future. Perhaps this Belief, independently even of any compliance with the conditions, never shows itself more inveterate than in the persevering tendency which men have evinced to believe in the universal operation of Change and Decay. It is to many minds a fully made out proposition, that Assyria, Greece, and Rome, being now no more, the time shall come when the same decay shall overtake all other Nations and all other Powers.
What can show this more plainly, than the descriptions we from time to time meet with of London in the year 3000 ? than the certain anticipatory reflection on England's Flag as no more waving, England's Tongue as no more spoken? Most people have encountered in the Literature of the Day, some passing and ingenious speculation on London in ruins—Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's, and the Tower, with the wind whistling through their ivy-grown arches and mouldering remains-Fleet Street a ditch, and Charing Cross a meadow.
It seems to be taken for granted, that it is almost as much a certainty of the Future that London shall be no more, as it is a certainty of the present that Babylon and Rome are no more. I remember well, the odd way in which an old Tutor in the Classics used to cheer his scholars through the difficulties of Aristophanes and Pindar. “ Only think," he would say, “ of the poor lads that have to make out Shakspeare when English is a dead language !” To the author of this delicate and ingenious consolation, no doubt the death of England was a fact that sprung necessarily, and without thought, from the actually registered deaths of Greece and Rome.
It was among the ruins of the latter, that a train of reflec
tions on the truth of this prevalent idea came into my mind, and now rises again in it, with that vividness which distinct association with time and place will so often cause.
I had come from the centre of Modern Rome, across the Quirinal, the Viminal, and Esquiline, to pay a third visit to the Chiesa di Santa Maria Maggiore. Continuing my way hence to the Church of St. John Lateran, I was attracted by the magnificent appearance of the ruined walls in that neighbourhood, and passed through the Porta di San Giovanni, to the outside. I was surprized at their massiveness and venerable remains of strength. I commenced my walk round them, surveying them with reverence deep, and feeling
And beckon me. And will there, thought I, as my meditations went into the current association pointed out to them, be as great a charm attached in future ages to the name of the Capitol of our own Land? Will strangers, when London shall be in ruins, walk round it as I now do round Rome, and feel towards it as I do towards Rome ? It is a question which the English about Rome often ask, and I always mentally replied to it with a negation. And yet why should they not? Will not the after posterity of stranger lands take as deep an interest in English Literature, English History, English Manners, as we do in those of Rome? Shall Shakspeare, and Milton, and Dryden, and Pope, and Gray, and Campbell, and Coleridge, and Shelley, and Byron, pour forth their treasures on the world, and not fill the minds of thousands, in future ages, with that deep, thrilling, reverential interest, with which it seems but natural to contemplate the place of those Spirits that have carried us up with them into their own lofty spheres, their own mysterious haunts ? Shall Fox, and Burke, and Chatham, and Sheridan, have made the English Curia echo to their eloquence, and no minds in future ages feel an interest in knowing where they stood in the times of their Inspiration? Shall not men, as they walk along Fleet Street, look up that alley that was once Bolt Court, and say—“ There of old dwelt Samuel Johnson, and held his noctes so truly and mightily Atticæ, so enviably and bewitchingly ambrosian ?” Why should they not pause, as I do now, thinking of the great Spirits that sang, or harangued, or acted, within these walls in the hey-day of Genius? Why should we remember Horace, and they forget Moore?* Why should I remember Virgil, and they forget Milton ? Why should I remember Terence, and they forget Sheridan? Why should I remember a mass of gathered excellence in them to make up a mind, which, when clothed in a name, and called Shakespeare, they shall forget ?
* Deformed Transformed.
If Literature is to hallow and endear any country, I must believe that England will be dear; and if, as I must maintain, every mental excellence of which Rome could boast can be equalled, and, generally, more than equalled, in the annals of our own land, what cause can operate to prevent wanderers on the ruins of England, in far-off distant days, indulging in the same retrospective visions of glory passed, cherishing the same personal and local recollections, living with the dead as though the dead were still living, in the same way that the ten thousand pilgrims to Rome now indulge in and cherish the memories of the Great Mother of Men?
And yet conviction would answer, “No! it shall not be.” It will not be. To suppose London in ruins, in the first place, because Rome is in ruins, and Babylon a desert, would seem of itself a sufficiently inconsequential conclusion. That Empires have fallen, is no reason in itself that Empires should fall; and because the power of Assyria, Macedonia, and Italy, became too heavy a weight for the crazy foundation (according to modern parlance) of aristocratic principles to support, it by no means follows that Governments of a more liberal complexion, into which the fresh and healthy blood of the people is continually streaming, should ever stagnate into a helpless lethargy, or suddenly perish in an apoplectic fit. The true cause of the Downfal of all past Governments has been the unchecked and unmingled working of the Aristocratic or Despotic Principle:—the true ground of stability for all future Governments—the gradual admission into a share of influence, of the gradually preparing
In the East it was, O king, live for ever!” or the Empire was at an end. In the West, “O Patricians, eat, drink, and plunder provinces for ever, and give corn to the people, with well-flattered liberality, in times of scarcity !" or else the State must fall. Now such principles-the imagined support-were the real destruction of these Powers. It often happens, that the change of names only serves to conceal the
* Who is however, it must be confessed, at most but half of Horace. Vol. I. No. 2.--New Series.