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THE

ORIGINAL SECESSION MAGAZINE.

SEPTEMBER, 1849.

THE PRESENT EUROPEAN CONFLICT:

ITS PROBABLE RESULTS IN REGARD TO CIVIL LIBERTY AND THE PROGRESS

OF TRUTH.

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An anecdote, probably known to many of our readers, is related of the late venerable Mr Aitken of Kirriemuir, illustrative of the deep interest which he took in the political transactions of his time, and of the use to which he was accustomed to turn his acquaintance with public affairs. On one occasion he had shown so much anxiety to see the newspapers on a Saturday evening, as to draw from a domestic the remark — Surely Mr Aitken cannot preach without the papers.' I could preach, he said, when the remark was reported to him, but “I could not well pray without them.'

The playful sallies of a good man sometimes contain an amount of solid, practical wisdom, not to be found in the elaborate dissertations of men of another spirit, but of great pretensions. Under its garb of quiet humour the reverend father's reply embodies a truth which it is important always to remember, and inculcates a duty which, there is ground to fear, many otherwise estimable members of the church habitually neglect. It implies the undeniable truth, that the only decisive influence which either pastors or people can for the most part exert over passing events, either in the home or foreign world, is that which they can exert through the power of prayer: and the duty which it inculcates by implication is, that in order to know how and for what to pray, every fearer of God and friend of man is under an obligation to look out beyond the narrow domain of his own personal and family, and even beyond his own ecclesiastical and national circle, and to acquaint himself, through the ordinary channels of intelligence, with those passing events on which the freedom and prosperity of neighbouring nations may depend-events which may affect deeply, widely, and through an indefinite duration, the spiritual and, therefore, the eternal interests of men.

The past sixty years have abounded in such events; and the last two must long stand out conspicuous and memorable as years of great and manifold changes among those continental nations in whose affairs our fathers, as well as ourselves, have felt the deepest interest,

No. XVII. VOL. 11.

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Among these states principles and passions are now in full operation, which must end in the probable dismemberment of some of them, the consolidation of others, the entire reconstruction of the civil constitution of not a few of them, and in a great, though it may be a slower revolution in the religious views and institutions of them all. The conflict over almost the whole extent of Europe, and among all its nations, except, perhaps, Russia and Turkey, has already assumed that twofold aspect which it must continue to wear till the issues of each are attained. The more open and palpable contest now going for. ward has for its object the attainment or enlargement of civil liberty. The more covert, though not less real and vehement struggle is the old warfare of truth against error—the seed of the woman against the seed of the serpent; and our present purpose is to exhibit such imperfect fragments of information and evidence within our reach, as may serve for a ground on which to build a probable conjecture as to the immediate or earliest result of that shock of opposing forces which is now unsettling many ancient thrones, and dissolving so many aged, though not venerable institutions. What is now in progress was foreseen by a few.

More than twenty years ago an eminent statesman, Mr Canning, predicted that the next war among the nations of Europe would be a war of principle. The event has demonstrated his sagacity. That war is now in progress. The abettors of absolute and irresponsible power are in the field on the one side; on the other are ranged, or are ranging, the several peoples hitherto trodden in the dust. What the immediate issue of the struggle will be does not yet appear. “Freedom's battle,' it has been said, 'once begun, though baffled oft, is ever won.' The expression, it must be allowed, is felicitous—the sentiment encouraging—for it embodies a substantial truth ; but the circumstances of alarm and discouragement impending at the present moment over • freedom's battle' among the Continental nations are numerous; the perils which surround the cause are serious and great ; but did they consist only of monarchs who had been accustomed to sway an absolute sceptre, or of armies distinguished for numbers and discipline, there would be no cause of despair; but the dangers lie elsewhere, and are of a very different description—they are sown thick and broadcast among the oppressed and enslaved people themselves. Of all the enemies of liberty, the most potent and invincible are ignorance, superstition, irreligion, and their inevitable progeny and associate vice -and these exist among the continental population to a degree immensely disproportioned to their opposites--knowledge, truth, faith, and virtue. As an evidence of the entire divorce which has been effected between religion and the struggle for civil privileges now going on in Germany, Tholuck, a professor in one of the universities and a popular preacher, mentions, that so soon as the agitation became intense, the churches on the Lord's-day were almost wholly deserted. Nor is it possible to form a much more favourable opinion of the religious state of that brave and heroic people—the people of Hungary. Their cause is unquestionably just; they merit, and they are receiving the fervent and all but unanimous sympathy

of the free people of Britain. They need more than even sympathy - they need the truth out of which alone enduring and genuine liberty can spring. We have followed their hitherto triumphant campaigns with increasing confidence; as a human instrumentality, the fate of Europe may be said to be in their hands; but on reading the following, assuming it to be gendine, it is impossible to resist a feeling of sadness akin to despondency. It is entitled the prayer of Kossuth, at present the civil head of the Hungarian State, pronounced over the graves of his slaughtered countrymen. Leaving out of view the extravagance of the language, what must be the state of religious knowledge and feeling among a professedly christian people whose chief magistrate could find himself at liberty thus to address the throne of heaven?

Lord God of the warriors of Arpad! Look down upon thy servant from thy throne of stars; look down upon thy servant, for the prayer of millions ascends to heaven from his lips, magnifying the mysterious power of thy omnipotence. My God! thy sun is radiant above me, and beneath me are the bones of my heroic brethren, who have fallen in battle; the heavens are blue above me, and the earth beneath my feet is red with the holy blood of the sons of our ancestors. Send, O God! the genial rays of the sun, that flowers may spring from their holy blood, that the bodies of my brethren may not perish in lifeless corruption! God of my ancestors ! God of the nations! open thy car to the voice of our warriors, for in it thunders the arm and the spirit of a brave people, bent upon crushing the iron arm of tyranny. As a free man, I kneel on the fresh graves of my brethren. Sacrifices like these sanctify the earth ; they purge it from sin! My God! a people of slaves must not live upon this sacred soil, nor step on these graves! My Father! Great Father of my father! Mightiest of the mighty! Almighty, thou the God of heaven, of earth, and of the sea! Lo! a nimbus of light rising from those bodies irradiates the front of my people! God, in thy mercy, bless their dust! Let the ashes of our heroes rest in sanctity! Do not abandon us, great God of battles; but magnify thy power over us ! Amen.

Among this mass of profane verbiage there does not occur a single confession of sin, nor a tribute of gratitude for past success, nor an allusion to a future existence, nor a reference, the most remote, to Him whom the Father heareth always. The prayer of an ancient Greek or Roman would have included more divine truth and breathed a far more devotional spirit.

From Hungary, we return for a moment to Germany, to record another indication of the infidel spirit which prevails there, viz., the deeply significant fact that the first parliament of the protestant kingdom of Prussia, elected last year by universal suffrage, among its earliest acts resolved to remove from the royal designation the terms King, by the grace of God.' Their intention doubtless was, and also their plea, that they intended to replace them with words which should imply that the chief magistrate was king by the grace of the people ; but the irreligious and even atheistic spirit, from which this piece of petty and childish legislation flowed, cannot be mistaken ; the king resisted dissolved the legislature--and remained to use his own sententious formula-still • King, by the grace of God.'

This absence of the religious spirit among the Germans—or rather this spirit of bitter hostility to the religion of the bible, bas led to a most anomalous and unhappy arrangement of parties. So diffused and decided is the distrust of popular authority in the state, that almost the whole of the friends of evangelical religion on the continent are disposed to range themselves on the side of the sovereigns and against the popular claims; they feel that their religious liberty would be safer behind the shield of despotism than in the open field of popular supremacy; and it is hardly needful to refer to the well-known case of the Canton De Vaud to reveal the grounds on which these apprehensions rest.

It is impossible to dwell on this disheartening picture without reverting for a moment to the similar conflict in which our fathers were involved two centuries ago. They also were then in the field against absolute and irresponsible power in the sovereign; but with them the battle of freedom was also the battle of faith. Under the banner of civil liberty, almost all the genuine religion of the three kingdoms was arrayed. The league which welded into one compact and resistless phalanx the armies of freedom, pledged them not only to preserve the rights and privileges of the Parliament and the liberties of the kingdom, but also to reform religion according to the word of God, and to defend the king's authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion. A conflict, impelled by a spirit, and sustained by principles like these, however protracted, must at length terminate in victory; but where these are wanting, success may only issue in a democratic tyranny worse than the former bondage.

Since the substance of the above was written, the aspects of the continental battle-field have undergone considerable change. The hope that one interesting people then assailed, would be able to keep the long lost liberty which, in an unexpected moment, they had recovered, has been for the present extinguished. We had so long been accustomed to associate everything that was superstitious, treacherous, profligate, and servile with the very name of Rome, that no inconsiderable mental effort was required to re-arrange our habits of thought when called on, as we have been for six months past, to give the population of that city credit for the courage and constancy, the fidelity to one another in the prosecution of a common cause, and the patriotism and intelligence they have lately displayed. Among the agitated masses on the Continent, the citizens of Rome alone have exhibited a capacity for self-government, while in the present conflict they have been the first to be stript of the privilege; but their conduct and fate have called forth a sympathy and admiration which will yet be prolific in results, and these feelings are accompanied with an intense and irrepressible sense of the infamy which does now, and must for ever cover the people and government of France, for the perfidy and injustice of the course which they have pursued. In the name of liberty, they have, within the past sixty years, subverted three powerful monarchies ;--they have filled Europe with the of fraternity and equality ;-to demonstrate their sini quenched Roman freedom in blood! Such is the at

lican France plants her trees of liberty; such is the protection which freedom may expect from nations possessed by infidelity, or impelled by superstition; and between these diverse, but yet kindred powers, France is all but divided.

We cannot now pursue the second train of inquiry proposed—that which regards the progress of truth, amidst the wiles and warfares of subtle, manifold, and exasperated error. We shall resume it in our next number ; but before concluding, we transcribe a passage from a former number—May, 1848, page 431-in which the future policy of Fracce is foreshadowed with an accuracy which the result has too fully justified: "The governments of Europe have declared that they will not interfere with the internal affairs of France; but it remains to be seen whether France has so much sobriety, and wisdom, and justice, so much of the fear of God, and of regard for the peace of the world, that she will not interfere with the internal concerns of other nations. This, in our apprehension, is by far the greatest and the most solemn question, which is now before the world for practical solution; and the complexion of the futurity will very much depend on its decision. If it shall be found that the French people have been elevated above the vulgar and barbarous, though chivalrous, desire of national glory, and above the wicked ambition of foreign conquest—if it shall now be found that they are civilised in their morals, as well as in their manners—that they are not merely a polite people, but that they are capable of relishing the blessings of peace—that they have a nice sense of justice-a delicate sense of what is honourable and bonest—and that they have acquired something of that enlarged philanthropy which thinks of the world, and not merely of France -then whatever wars of a lesser kind may arise, we should regard this as a good guarantee for the peace of Europe. But if the reverse of this be the case ; if it shall be found that France is animated by a spirit of aggression, then, unquestionably, dreadful conflicts are before the world. And when we look calmly at the matter; when we reflect on the levity, excitability, and inconstancy of the French people; when we reflect on the national vanity, almost approaching to self-idolatry; when we think of their selfishness, at once concentrated and diffused, diffused so as to embrace France, and yet concentrated so as to embrace France alone, and to hold it up as an object of admiration and imitation to all the nations of the earth ; when we think of their want of all practical and common sense views of what liberty is, from the fact of their never having had experience of it in its reality, and that all they as yet know of freedom, either their own or that of other people, is purely ideal and imaginary, and that their talk about liberty, fraternity, and equality, is purely visionary, and fit only to be entertained by insane persons, and preached only to children; when, in fine, and above all, we reflect on the want of religious restraints that exists among the French people, to an extent that is unparalleled among other nations, whether christian or heathen, savage or civilised; when we think that neither superstition nor true religion, neither Christ nor Antichrist, possesses any controlling power over them; when we take all those things into consideration,

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