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candid mind can for a moment believe that they entered into a “compact” or “compromise” to favor slavery Would they have consented to adopt a constitution under which the slaves should, by A. D. 1845, increase in number to near three millions, and have upon the floor of Congress twenty five representatives; eight new slave states added to the old, and at length foreign territory be annexed to the country for the purpose of forming several large slave states ? Did they anticipate and desire such a result? What party was it which conceived the design ; and for what consideration did the other party allow the seeds of success to be planted in their national Constitution ? It was not a southern party. Her Jeffersons, Pinkneys, Randolphs and Henrys, were the ardent advocates of total emancipation, and looked forward to the day of universal freedom as the great political millennium. It was not a northern party composed of such men as Franklin and Jay, who formed societies designed to extend the blessings of freedom to men of every race. Who were the men They lived not in that age. They were not
found in this country. There were none to demand guaranties for slavery. None wished to have it guarantied. The “tacit” understanding was, that slavery would soon die out of the republic. In the mean time, while slavery should exist within the original states, our fathers were willing the master should recover his fugitive slave under that article of the Constitution which provides for the recovery of any absconding person who owes service in another state—and that representation and taxation should be regulated according to Art. I, Sec. 11, clause 3. This argument is designed merely to show how baseless is the prevalent opinion of southern men, that the framers of the Federal Constitution had in view the perpetuation of slavery, and threw up defenses against its abolition. But it is also a strong a priori argument against the notion that the Constitution contains any guaranty of slavery, or presents any obstacle in the way of its overthrow by the force of free discussion, an enlightened public sentiment, and by such action against the system as comes legitimately within the jurisdiction of Congress.
making all Germany tremble, the first cheering cry of succor and support arose from that little flock, which Zwingle and his faithful Myconius had gathered about them in Zurich. The same country could also boast, at that time, of the eloquent (Ecolampadius, the apostle John of the Reformation,-of the holy-minded Farel—and of Erasmus, the greatest prodigy of learning in his time. Switzerland was also the adopted home of John Calvin. From the spirit of enlightened zeal and learning, which distinguished the Genevan church in its palmy days, he sought and obtained sympathy and support; and there he penned his immortal works. In all the wars of persecution waged by the papacy, Switzerland has borne a large share of suffering. When the emissaries of Romish cruelty overran and laid waste the valleys, her devoted sons fled to the mountains ; and, while the bloodhounds were on their track, many a song of thanksgiving and praise went up from the caverns and the clefts of the rocks. Nor has this spirit been entirely extinguished during the long ages of formalism and skepticism which have succeeded. In the second great uprising of Europe, the signs of which are so rapidly increasing, Switzerland is preparing to take a place worthy of her ancient faith. For several years past, there has been a remarkable revival of evangelical religion in many of her churches, which had sunk the deepest into rationalism—which is the general term for that whole system of error in opinion and deadness in faith, which has held the land so long in a spiritual torpor. This revival has reached the theological institutions, and the number of pious pastors has greatly increased. In several cantons, where there was scarcely a single faithful preacher of righteousness to be found at the beginning of this century, there are
Wol. III. 76
now many who preach the doctrines of Farel and Calvin. Among the faithful and efficient teachers of the truth, with whom Providence has blessed that country, is one who has dealt heavier blows for the truth than any man in Switzerland since the days of John Calvin, and he is the author of the volume before us. Of this remarkable man, whom D'Aubignè has styled the ‘Chalmers of Switzerland, we are sorry that we know so little ; and for the little information we have gathered concerning him, we are chiefly indebted to his accomplished translator, Mr. Turnbull. Alexander Winet is a native of Lausanne, the capital of the canton Vaud, and was born the 17th of June, 1797. Lausanne has long been celebrated, not only for its outer beauties, but for its refined society, and high literary advantages. Here Beza lived—and here Gibbon wrote much of that history, which is destined to perish only with the language, of which it is so rich and massive an ornament. Vinet was educated at the ancient academy of his native town—and at the age of twenty was appointed professor of the French language in the University of Basle. In 1819, two years after the commencement of the evangelical movement in Switzerland, he was ordained to the gospel ministry, in which he soon took the first rank. This rank he has gained and kept solely by his power of thought and his earnest piety; for he owes nothing to outward attractions. His manner, unlike the most celebrated French preachers, is not impassioned. His physique is by no means prepossessing. Those who look for the first time on his tall and somewhat ungainly figure, and his, face, which is more indicative of dullness and stupidity than of high intellectuality, are slow to believe that he is the man who can task the powers and rivet the attention of the
most cultivated minds in GeneVa.
For many years Vinet resided at Basle as a professor of French literature, until in 1837 he was induced to take the professorship of theology in the College of Lausanne. Having taken ground in opposition to a connection of the church with the state, he resigned his title as one of the national clergy, but the people insisted on his retaining his professorship, which he has held since that time. In the effort now making in Switzerland to dissolve the adulterous connection of the church with the secular power, Vinet is the master spirit. He has published in the Semeur, at Paris, several essays on the voluntary principle, for one of which he received a prize from the Society of Christian Morals. It was after reading this labored and profound essay that D'Aubigné remarked, that he found it necessary to read many of the passages several times in order to compass their full meaning. The difficulty arose not from any defect of style—for Vinet writes a French of which Molieré might be proud—but from the profundity of thought which every sentence displays. While at Basle, he published two powerful discourses on the “Intolerance of the Gospel,” and on “The Tolerance of the Gospel.” About six years after he published the “Discourses on several Religious Subjects,” from which Mr. Turnbull has selected most of the contents of this volume, entitled “Vital Christianity.’ The volume contains twenty discourses, a part of which were never delivered, but simply read to his theological class. The subjects treated are various, and the style varies also from that of the practical and simple lecture to the studied oration, but as a whole they embody a defense of pure Christianity, which, for philosophical acuteness, ingenuity, eloquence, and lofty spirituality, have been seldom equalled.
We have already remarked thatWinet has been styled the Chalmers of Switzerland. There is indeed a certain resemblance, and yet a very wide difference. They are both gifted with minds of intense activity, with great originality, with strong imaginations, and with a remarkable command of varied diction. Chalmers possesses an intellect of giant energy, equal to the loftiest speculation, but lacking in the delicate accuracy which distinguishes the acute philosopher and logician. . Vinet, on the contrary, has the power of the most subtle analysis. Chalmers’ discourses abound in fervid eloquence and magnificent imagery; but his style is often turgid, and sometimes flagrantly deficient in rhetorical purity. Vinet is less eloquent, but more concise and more chaste. Chalmers’ mind has been well described as a “mind on hinges,” in which the same brilliant conception is constantly revolved into new shapes, and presented in an endless succession of beautiful phases; until the reader feels like one who has been led through the gorgeous saloons of Versailles, each resplendent with gilded columns and flashing mirrors, but each so nearly resembling the other that he grows weary of the splendid repetition. Vinet pursues his subject with close and careful analysis, presenting each successive truth with remarkable discrimination, and laying open the heart of every question without obscuring it with needless mysticism. Profound in his investigations of truth he has no need of that affectation, which belongs to certain writers of the fashionable “transcendental” school, who attempt to hide the native insignificance of their thoughts in vague and mystic phraseology. Dr. Vinet possesses a lively imagination, but is never led astray by its waywardness. It gives life and variety to his style, and furnishes illustrations to his arguments, throws an air of cheerful light over subjects otherwise sombre, and scatters flowers along a road otherwise rugged and forbidding. All his dis. courses abound with vivid and forcible passages, which contain truths concisely expressed and rendered portable to the reader. It is easy to make such a writer our own—and his phrases we store away as among our choicest mental treasures. As a specimen of our author's style, we quote the opening passages of his introductory discourse on “The Religions of Man and the Religion of God.” The reader must judge of it through the medium of Mr. Turnbull's translation, which is a highly successful one.
“Humanity hath separated itself from God. The storms of passion have broken the mysterious cable which retained the vessel in port. Shaken to its base, and feeling itself driven upon unknown seas, it seeks to rebind itself to the shore; it endeavors to renew its broken strands; it makes a desperate effort to re-establish those connections, without which it can not have either peace or security. In the midst of its greatest wanderings humanity never loses the idea of its origin and des. tiny; a dim recollection of its ancient harmony pursues and agitates it; and without renouncing its passions, without ceasing to love sin, it longs to re-attach its being, full of darkness and misery, to something luminous and peaceful, and its fleeting life to something immovable and eternal. In a word, God has never ceased to be the want of the human race. Alas ! their homage wanders from its proper object, their worship becomes depraved, their piety itself is impious; the religions which cover the earth, are an insult to the unknown God who is their object. But, in the midst of these monstrous aberrations, a sublime instinct is revealed; and each of these false religions is a pain. ful cry of the soul torn from its centre and separated from its object. It is a de. existence, which, in seeking to clothe itself, seizes upon the first rags it finds; it is a disordered spirit which, in the ardor of its thirst, plunges all panting into fetid and troubled waters; it is an exile, who, in seeking the road to his native land, buries himself in frightful deserts.
“From the brutal savage, who kisses the dust from the feet of some hideous idol, to the magi of the East, adoring in the sun the immortal soul of nature, and the principle of all existence to those unhappy nations, who think to render him
homage by the most shameful excesses, the religious principle every where makes itself known. Man can not renounce either his sins or God; his corruptions chain him to this world, a mysterious instinct impels him towards that which is invisible. Between these two opposing forces he makes no choice; he attempts to reconcile two incompatible elements; he confounds his morality with his devotion; he makes gods resembling himself, in order to offer them a worship analogous to his own evil thoughts; he erects even his vices into divinities; his religion becomes the faithful mirror of his natural corruption ; in a word, he degrades the idea of the Divinity, but he can not do without it; and he prefers infamous gods rather than adore nothing.”—p. 35.
Among the living champions of the truth in Switzerland, Dr. Vinet holds the first place. Of the two great systems of error, against which he feels called to wage battle, the first and most important is Rationalism. This lies within the bounds of nominal Protestantism, and is the devouring canker which has eaten out the soul of vital Christianity, until the preaching of the word throughout much of the continent has sunk into a hollow mockery.
In the following picture of the “Religion of the Intellect,” Dr. Vinet portrays the German rationalism to the life.
“Others, in smaller number, seek to bring themselves into union with the Divinity by intelligence. To analyze the divine attributes, to harmonize them, to explain the connection of the Creator with the creation ; in a word, to form, with reference to God and divine things, a body of systematic doctrine is the task they impose on themselves; and such labors, it must be confessed, are a noble exercise of thought. But a principal defect of this form of religion is, that it is less a religion than a study. Ordinarily, the man who stops here, seeks less to satisfy a want of his heart than a curiosity of his mind. Abstracted from himself, isolating himself from the things he contemplates, in order the better to contemplate them, application,practice; his personal relations to these high truths occupy his attention but feebly; he acquires some additional ideas,but these ideas produce in him neither emotion nor change. And, indeed, how can he be changed by the things which always remain uncertain to his mind? The field of religious
ideas, when it is trodden by the foot of natural reason, is only a field of problems and contradictions. The farther one advances the more his darkness increases; and he ends by losing even those primary notions and instinctive beliefs, which he possessed before he entered it. This is the experience of all the systems of all the schools in every age of the world. The history of philosophy teaches us that these investigations, whenever eagerly and incautiously pursued, lead to the most terrible doubts, to the very borders of the abyss. It is there, face to face with the Infinite, the philosopher sees realities dissolve, certainties the most universal vanish, his own personality become a problem. There he sees world and thought, observation and observer, man and God, swallowed up and lost before his terrified vision in the boundless immensity of a horrible chaos . It is there that, seized with a mysterious dread, he asks back with anxious emotion the world of finite beings and intelligible ideas, which he wishes he had never abandon. ed. Thus his religion, all thought, neither enlightens, converts, nor consoles him ; and he finds himself as far removed from his aim as before his laborious investigations.”—p. 39.
But while Vinet and his compeers are laboring assiduously to drive out the rationalistic spirit from the territories of nominal Protestantism, they are by no means inattentive to the movements of the antagonistic spirit of Ritualism, which assails them from without. This form of religion, of which Popery is the grand embodiment, was never more bold or aggressive than at present. Carlyle has well said—“The Popish religion flourishes extremely in these years; and is the most vivacious looking religion to be met with at present.” It is not, indeed, what it was when the imperial successor of Charlemagne lay with uncovered head at the threshold of the pontifical palace, to propitiate with painful sufferings the monster of arrogance and cruelty who reigned within. Neither is it what it was but forty years ago, when the “Wicar of the Most High” was dragged to Paris to place the iron crown on the head of the despoiler of papal dignities—-when atheism spread over Europe like a flood—and the head
of the great beast was “as it were wounded to death.” But its present estate is certainly more like the era of Hildebrand than the era of Napoleon. The old heresy of ten centuries is bestirring itself for the coming conflict with a lustiness and an energy almost incredible. In these days, it is certain that “Gi. ant Pope” is able to do something more than sit in the door of his cave and gnash at the passers-by, His emissaries are everywhere at work. That wonderful combination of craft and fanatical energy, which divides the honor of its origin be. tween Ignatius Loyola and the prince of darkness, was never more untiring in its labors. The coffers of the Propaganda were never bet. ter filled. Not content with what was left him in Europe at the close of the great movement of the sixteenth century, the Pope is making incursions into Protestant countries, and even now cherishes the proud hope that he will soon hear the hymns of the Virgin chanted under the oaken arches of the oldest University in England With anoth: er arm he holds South America, and clutches at the great valley of the West. As an offset to all this we see beginnings of a movement towards religious liberty in France, and the dawn of a like movement under the auspices of the Christian Alliance in Italy. In Spain the long revolution has weakened the bands of the papacy, and the liberal party are growing daily more restless under the Romish yoke. In Germany, one John Ronge, a man apparently 9 some sinew, is raising the standard of opposition to the confession. al, to the celibacy of the clergy, and to the domination of the papal see. A considerable number have already gathered around him; and the “New York Churchman" sig. nificantly remarks, that the moye. ment will probably end in nothing better than an increase to the ranks