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sudden and ungovernable. But the mind which contemplates things in their various aspects and relations, will be affected by the whole view. If that be calculated to make the impression strong, the feelings may be highly excited. The consequence is, that one is cool, deliberate, and unexcited, while the other is thrown into an ecstacy of passion. These remarks naturally connect with the proper rise of knowledge, and with the precise and most important point of mental discipline. It is the appropriate and judicious application of knowledge to regulate the feelings and acquire a habit of selfcontrol. It is more important to acquire the habit of governing the passions and regulating the feelings, by sound discretion, than to acquire any conceivable amount of knowledge. This is not always the result of cultivating the intellect; but in most cases, extensive intellectual attainments have an influence over the excitements of feeling. The feelings may be as strongly excited in well informed, as in ignorant minds, but they are not so gross and so foolishly absurd in their association with their objects. When, therefore, the minds which govern the concerns of society are cultivated and imbued with useful knowledge, the passions of the whole are more under control, excitements are connected with more valuable objects, directed with more skill and consistency, and are neither so tumultuous nor ungovernable. Hence, when the feelings are highly excited in favour of useful objects, guided by extensive knowledge and sound discretion, human efforts are employed in the best manner, and human character developed in its most amiable and interesting aspects.
We now return to the fact asserted, that this is an age of great excitement. We do not mean to assert, or suffer the inference, that no other age has ever been so characterized. Almost every age
of the world has had its exciting interests, and the public mind has been swayed by strong emotions. The character has varied with the objects which awakened the excitements, and the circumstances, in which they were produced. Of the earliest ages we have few authentic records of fact or character; but enough is preserved to show that men acted under the dominion of passions strongly excited, in so much that “the earth was filled with violence.” During four thousand years the record shows multitudinous excitements of martial, idolatrous, avaricious, licentious character, and sometimes of a more pure, religious kind. Perhaps it may not be too much to say, that the master passion as ned a warlike
aspect, and martial excitements were the most prominent, frequent, and general. Religious excitements, so called,
. among Jews and Gentiles, occasionally took place, which gave character to a part or the whole of an age. The evidence is full, that men in those ages possessed an excitability capable of being wrought up to a very high and even frenzied state. Any thing, and every thing, which was deemed of sufficient importance to enlist general exertion, became the subject of great enthusiastic attachment or aversion.
At the time of the Saviour's advent, and the age which succeeded it, although the world was at peace, and more intellectual improvement prevailed than at any former period, we discern evidence of great excitability; and popular commotions were both frequent and violent. Subsequently, for we cannot now trace the characters, as developed in each period, martial and religious excitements have been obviously prevalent with some variation in degree, and some short intermissions, until within a short period. The martial excitement seems always to have kindled most readily, and fired the passions most ardently; and when this spirit has combined with some superstitious feelings, and connected in the pursuit of one object, martial and superstitious excitement, frenzy has been the most complete, and fury the most ungovernable. The history of the crusades fully illustrates this remark, and shows how reckless of means and consequences are men under such excitements. That was an age, not perhaps of so much more, as of misdirected and reckless passions. Still the world has never had so large a portion of its population engaged in one object so madly and perversely. But more recently other subjects than martial or religious, awake all the enthusiasm of feeling, and have left almost no object of human pursuit free from high, unwonted, and protracted excitement. It is in view of this fact, that we have denominated this an age of excitement.
Europe is at this moment agitated from one end to the other; and no class or department of society quietly pursues any uniform course. All are in bustle and commotion. In the political sphere, excitements shake thrones and overturn kingdoms; revolution follows revolution in rapid succession. Nothing of a political character is settled or stable, except when it is held so firmly in the grasp of despotism that life is ready to expire. In most of those cases, the grasp is so convulsive, that it indicates a strong excitement of feeling ready to burst forth in ungovernable fury. The recent revolutions of France, Belgium, and Poland, furnish an illustration of the character not to be mistaken. The course of Prussia and Holland show conclusively that the despotism of Europe is shaken, that its advocates are alarmed, and are making violent efforts to prostrate the spirit of liberty and intelligence which has been directly efficient in the popular excitements. Force opposed to force always produces great political excitement; but power opposed to intelligence and the spirit of freedom, brings all the passions into unrestrained commotion. It is impossible to foresee the result of such high excitement in the political concerns of the old world. Almost the whole population of Europe seem wrought up to a state of intense feeling, just ready for some violent and tremendous catastrophe.
There is also much excitement arising from the atheism, infidelity, and superstition of the people in Europe. The papal superstition is assailed by the advocates of atheism and infidelity in France, and by the rationalists of other countries. The pure principles of Christianity are assailed by all the devotees of licentiousness, exciting all the feelings which can be brought under their influence. In truth, there is no interest of a general or public character, that can be long unconnected with the agitations of the times. Such a day of excitement on all subjects, Europe has never before seen.
There is scarcely any country, inhabited by civilized men, free from some general agitating excitement. Our own country feels deeply from its centre to its extremities, agitating and absorbing excitements, which nothing can allay until their causes be removed, the public mind becomes wearied, or what is more probable, because it more commonly occurs, some other subjects, involving deep and general interest, shall be substituted in the place of those which have kindled the excitement. It cannot be denied that the political state of our country is in great agitation. From what cause or causes, it is not our purpose now to inquire, but the fact is obvious to all. There is no question of public interest calmly discussed in Congress, or in State legislatures. No election takes place without high popular excitement; and an impartial discussion in the political journals of the times is unlooked for, and seldom, if ever found. On this topic, a word is sufficient for our purpose.
There is an impulsive influence felt in all the walks of life, and in all the enterprizes of our country. The very movements of travellers, their impatience of delay, and the constant efforts to increase their speed—the impetuous efforts of men in the occupations and in the ordinary business of life, illustrate the character. Arts and sciences are pursued under some strong impulse, and inventions are constantly multiplied, professing to discover some short method to gratify the impatient in their pursuit of knowledge. These are a few of the common and obvious manifestations of excitement pervading the country. But there are other illustrations of a more important estimation for good or evil. The public improvements in our country, in canals, railroads, labour saving machinery, and applications of steam power, are all moving forward with unexampled celerity. Indeed, there is nothing done which merits the name of improvement or enterprize, except under the influence of high excitement. Any man or set of men might as well sleep as undertake the accomplishment of any important object, without “getting up" an excitement of an impressive character. But under its influence, funds can be collected an hundred fold more for any given purpose, than could have been done a few years ago for precisely the same object. A road, a canal, steamboat, or some publication will furnish a topic of fruitful remark, anxious speculation, and liberal pecuniary contribution. It is evident from these objects and others of a more speculative character, what excitements are constantly agitating the country.
Atheism, infidelity, and religious errors are also exerting influences that produce turmoil and agitation. The spirit of excitement, for such it may be called, mingles with religious objects as well as with the policies and temporal interests of men. Indeed, it is the most important object of our design to connect a proper view and estimate of religious excitements in our own country. In these, the character of the age is as fully developed as in any other department, while its importance is much greater in such a sphere, and comes more directly within the objects of our periodical, than any other illustration.
A spirit of sectarian zeal and proselytism is now connected with great excitement, and no efforts are spared to promote a religious party. Without attempting to decide which, of all the denominations professing to be Christian, exhibits most sectarian zeal, it may be safely said, that there is an increasing influence of party excitement in the visible Church through
out this land. All the efforts to unite, of which there have been many, have not even approximated the object, but have served to divide the more. Not that we suppose there is any thing wrong, or adverse to the spirit of religion in union; but a difference in ecclesiastical order, and diversity in exposition of doctrine, at such a time as this, are quite sufficient to call forth strong pertinacious feelings. It is our deliberate opinion, that denominational lines are becoming more distinct, and sectarian divisions wider, notwithstanding all the cry of catholicism and union. Contrary to the intention, the great propensity to make our public, charitable institutions national in name and influence, has had, in most cases, a divisive effect. The Bible Society stands alone, an exception to their divisive influence, in a greater or less degree. It is true, that in times which are passed, the exciting efforts seemed to have an influence favourable to the union of all parties and sects; and it was often predicted with great confidence, that the spirit of the times would soon prostrate all sectarian interests, and bind men together in one great, harmonious brotherhood —that the day of millennial peace was at hand, when the watchmen of Zion should see eye to eye, and nothing be found to disturb in all the Church militant. All such predictions have failed, and high hopes been blighted, by an unexpected increase of sectarian zeal. It would not be right to ascribe this divisive result to efforts for union, nor to the fact of excitement obtaining; but all efforts to produce union, which fail, will ever become the occasion of wider division. And when once excitements are connected with party interests, schism and proselyting zeal become more conspicuous.
Denominations of the same name and ecclesiastical connexion are divided into parties, distinguished by some speculations of doctrine, or measures of expediency. No sect of considerable extent can be found in our land peacefully united. Local jealousies, struggles for pre-eminence, criminations, and recriminations are every where witnessed, developing the great excitability of men's feelings. No Christians belonging to parties can be indifferent to the shibboleth of their distinction; and, however good and moderate men may unite to resist the extremes of party influence, they soon catch the spirit of the age, and act like others under the pressure of high excitement. Nothing, except an icy indifference, is proof against the prevailing spirit of party excitement and proselyting zeal. It would seem, therefore, that every man must take his side on
VO... IV. No. 1.-Q