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families whose names, become familiar to us, are signalized as exclusively historical; then also began all others, for then began the custom of giving family names, and every one feels as if his existence were prolonged when he discovers any links which may be added to the chain of his ancestors. Whatever may be the origin of the feeling, we should reproach ourselves if we neglected any of the threads which connect the past with the present time. All memorials even of separate families form, under more than one aspect, the identity, the individuality of a nation. The fear of having too much respect for ancient prejudices will not lead us to reject whatever they may have which is truly national ; and in tracing up the history of the provinces, as well as that of the capital and the court, we shall preserve great names with the respect which is attached to all monuments which have triumphed over time, whether they recall victory or defeat, crimes and misfortunes, or virtue and suc
Those who have written on the history of France before the press was free, must have proposed to themselves an end totally different from that at which we aim. They must have forbidden themselves that philosophical examination which would have revealed to them the true connexion of causes and effects : the history of their country has been for them an exercise in rhetoric; they have borrowed from romance and poetry, that life and interest of which it seemed divested. From the wish to give it this life and interest, they have, as it were, placed under a microscopic lens certain periods which appeared to them most brilliant, most chivalric, such as the wars with the English in the 14th and 15th centuries, or the campaigns in Italy in the 16th, whilst they have passed with extreme rapidity over times less picturesque and less poetical, less rich in family recollections, less flattering to the vanity of all, but probably not less full of instruction.
We shall endeavour to establish a more equal proportion among the periods which the history of France embraces, so far at least as the extreme want of materials at some periods, and the extreme abundance in others, will allow of. With regard to the first, we shall never permit ourselves to supply by conjecture what it is not possible to know; and we shall think we have done enough by showing faithfully to our readers that limit to our knowledge which we have not the means to pass over: but with regard to the second, we shall not think ourselves obliged to say every thing, or to exhaust that rich spring of original memoirs, to which most of our readers will be delighted to recur when they have read a general history. The Revolution, by
Vol. IV. No. 15. -New Series.
interrupting the transmission of rights and privileges, has placed all past ages at the same distance from us. They may all serve to instruct us, but we are no longer governed by any of their institutions. When Louis the Sixteenth ascended the throne, Roman dominion had ceased in Gaul, for thirteen centuries. These thirteen centuries have formed the French nation, and have given it the temper, the character, the prejudices, the recollections which its legislators ought to know, that profiting by this knowledge, they may secure its happiness for the future. France, a prey for thirteen centuries to constant fermentation, has been continually decomposed and reunited : every thing changed with each generation,
manners, laws, the rights of the throne, those of the nobles, those of religion, and the condition of the people. These revolutions are, it is true, confounded to our eyes, in that common obscurity which covers those ages we call ignorant and barbarous. But the distaste with which they inspire us, nourishes a prejudice which is favourable to them, for we suppose that there was in the institutions of those ages, with which we have so little desire to become acquainted, a stability which they never acquired.
Should life and health be granted me, to continue to the end the task which I have imposed upon myself, I shall ask from these thirteen centuries, that lesson on social science which they keep in store for us. I shall endeavour particularly to make known the successive progress of the condition of the people, that interior organization, that state of happiness or suffering, which ought to be regarded as the great result of public institutions, and which can alone teach us to distinguish with certainty, what in them merits admiration or deserves blame.
ART. VI.--WHAT AM I TO BELIEVE?
No. II. THERE is scarcely any subject that has been less inquired into, and discussed, than that which is termed the Providence of God. Nevertheless it is certain that the term is not universally understood in a single sense; and that the view of it given in the Confession of Faith is liable to the objections which we are now to state, still assuming the attributes of the Deity as the test of Truth. The injury to religion and morality inflicted by the unceasing differences among theologians is great: and until their discussions assume a less metaphysical character, and become less obscured by declamation, and until the Divine attributes shall be assumed as the foundation of all argument on theological subjects, the world will continue to be tossed about in a chaos of words, without even a distant prospect of a place of rest. The chapter of the Confession of Faith treating of the Providence of God thus begins :
“ God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy Providence; according to his infallible Foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise and glory of his Wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.'
This statement involves a contradiction in reference to the attributes of God, which may not all at once be apparent. If the meaning of the word Providence be, that the Creator is ever on the watch to direct all things in such a manner as to bring about specific ends previously arranged,—that every action and event of a man's life is under special guidance,-we have a definition to enable us to institute a comparison between the doctrine and the attributes. It is obvious that such a doctrine does not leave man as a free agent; but bound down to obey an uncontrolable force that impels him to good or to evil, whether he will or no.
That the Creator should direct man to actions worthy of his nature, and to the proper use of the faculties bestowed upon him, would be consistent with His attributes. But that He directs us to disobey his commands, and to abuse our faculties so as to render ourselves the ministers of evil, is utterly inconceivable. Man acts worthily, and unworthily; and, if the doctrine be true, he acts in both ways by direct and divine influence, and not from choice; and hence this doctrine, equivalent to that of an eternal Decree, takes responsibility entirely away. The Assembly of Divines took great pains to crush the notion that God is the author of evil; and yet have made the declaration quoted above, which includes all actions of whatever kind; and thus attribute to God directly what, in other parts of the Confession, they declare impossible.
“Although," they continue, "in relation to the Foreknowledge and Decree of God, the First cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; yet by the same Providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of Second Causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently."
Is God ashamed of being appealed to as the First cause, that He attempts to blind us, according to the divines, by means of Second Causes ? Surely we cannot so think of God, as to imagine Him a cruel being ; yet the doctrine involves the supposition that He is so. All things whatever, it is said, from the greatest to the least, are directed by God's providence; and we therefore state an example that may suffice to show how rashly such declarations have been made. Suppose that a worthy man is decreed to break his leg. Are we to imagine that to inflict this undeserved misfortune, God in his Providence placed a stone in the good man's path, called his attention to something in order to make him look some other way so that he may not observe it, and that he may stumble on it and fall? Would it be any inducement to the poor man to believe the doctrine, to be told that his leg was not broken because he was heedless of his steps; that his family is deprived of the support his labour afforded them, not because he should have looked before him and not about him; that he is to be confined during many weeks, and his family sent to beg, not because of his own carelessness, but because he, an innocent and industrious man, was decreed under Providence to suffer, while his less virtuous neighbour should be prosperous ?. A man may see something belonging to his neighbour which he desires to possess; and he steals it, and is detected. He pleads before the Judge that he is not guilty, because his act was compulsory under the direction of Providence; and he calls as witnesses in his favour several clergymen, who testify that such is the doctrine of the Church established by law. But, unhappily for the thief, it was also foreordained that he should be punished; and thus the doctrine makes Providence punish that which Providence directed to be done. It is impossible to see how cruelty, or the bringing about of immoral actions, can contribute to the praise and glory of God's wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.
“ God in his ordinary Providence maketh use of means; yet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure.”
The meaning of this, in reference to the doctrine, is not very clear; it may indeed imply that, although God has pronounced a decree to which his providence is subordinate, he nevertheless may give it effect without the intervention of means.—No one can deny the Power of God to decree or to act in whatever way may seem good unto Him. But whether He acts in the manner laid down in the doctrines of the Confession, is an open question to all men.
“ The Almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his Providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first Fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful Bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing them, in a manifold dispensation to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who being most holy and righteous, neither is, nor can be, the author or approver of Sin.'
Here it is distinctly admitted, that man fell by the intervention of the Providence of God, and that by the same intervention sins of every kind are committed. This is the same thing as admitting God to be the cause of every man's guilt. Since the doctrine allows of no option in the Creature to escape from the Providence of God, but compels him to obey, the doctrine admits that guilt must rest in the cause, and not in the effect. The act of alms-giving, and the act of stealing, are effects of the Providence of God, and not of the individual will, according to the doctrine; and therefore no merit can be imputed to the one, nor guilt to the other, and so the doctrine leaves no motive for good conduct.
“ The most wise, righteous and gracious God, doth often times leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption, and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled ; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependance for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and Holy ends."
The outset of this proposition is flatly contradicted by the quotation from Scripture brought in support of the previous one. It is from James i. 13, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted