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civilization. To that time we are to look as the true era of the birth of the arts, all the indirect attempts of the preceding age, towards their creation, consisting of little more ihan desustory and ineffectual efforts of immature reason, divested of knowledge, and working without design.
The earliest resort to a systematic division of labour is the principal indication of the arrival of the second stage. The other circumstances by which it may be discerned are the direct consequences of that practice. An increase in the number, and an improved formation of the instruments of art, naturally result from the exclusive application of thought to particular objects : besides an attention to value, on the score of utility, the design is conceived of recommending their use by the beauty of their construction; and thus taste and interest insensibly unite in facilitating the improvement of manufactures.
The custom of exchanging commodities is probably not altogether unknown to the people of the first stage ; but a regular system of barter can be introduced only at its termination. Trade is the inevitable result of the division of labour, and before that division has been effected, the reciprocal transfer of property, by consent of the parties, cannot, it is evident, take place to any important extent. Even in the second stage, nothing like a regular system of commerce is instituted. The practice of foreign commerce only commences with the fourth era ; and that lower scale of the trading principle, which, although confined to domestic transactions, is prevalent throughout the community, is known only, for the first time, to the third. Its limits in the second stage are easily discernible. During that period, no established circulating medium is recognised; but an improvement is gradually made upon the ordinary details of barter, by the occasional adoption of a temporary standard of value. Thus, instead of a direct valuation of two several articles by their supposed relation to each other, reference is had to a third commodity, as the common measure of both. This apparently slight deviation from the simplest of all the rules of exchange is sufficiently convenient for the wants of the time. Another of its marks is the formation of hamlets for the readier dispatch of business, and which, in the succeeding era, leads to the establishment of regular market towns.
Chapter III. THE THIRD STAGE.- Internal Commerce-Established Circulating Medium
- Invention, or use of Letters Science-Public Worship. By internal commerce, we would be understood to include, not only the direct personal transactions between man and man, but such as take place by the occasional intervention of agents between detached and distant quare ters of the same community. These more complicated transactions soon lead to the adoption of a circulating medium, of a more permanent character than that alluded to in the last chapter. Beasts of burden, or other of the tame animals, have frequently, in times of greater ignorance, been referred to as measures of value ; but in the more advanced period we are now contemplating, recourse is had to a metallic currency. By a natural train of ideas, the preference is given for this purpose to the useful, above what have since been designated as the precious metals. In this selection, the good sense of the rude may, on a superficial view, appear to exceed that of a more refined age ; but a just appreciation of real practical expediency will not fail to vindicate the superior choice of the latter.
The invention of letters by such of the nations who, in the earlier ages of the world, had no means of resorting to the short and easy process of imi. tation; and the use of letters by those which, in later times, could avail themselves of the prior acquisitions of their neighbours-each take their date from the third stage of civilization.
In the same era, man, not content with the mere practical improvement of the arts, enters into abstract inquiries respecting their principles ; the rue diments of science are formed; and Mind begins generally to aspire to her legitimate influence over the conduct of the society.
Religion, too, claims her share in the complicated interests of the times. The vague traditions derived from a barbarous age, and the irregular superstitions of the family-hearth, are fashioned into form and method, under the management of a cunning priesthood : temples are erected, and a system of national faith is established. It would be difficult to ascertain whether the march of improvement has been, on the whole, advanced or retarded by the religious institutions of the Gentile world. Man has ever shewn hiinself least capable in the management of this, his most important concern : conscious of the absolute necessity for some religion, he has unie formly, when left to his own choice, selected that which presented itself to him in the most odious and disgusting colours. How are we to account for this singular fact, if we do not acquiesce in the explanation given of it in the page of Scripture? And where shall we seek for a more striking illustration of the wonderful conformity of experience to those theoretical conclusions we are naturally led to draw from its perusal?
Chapter IV. THE FOURTH STAGE.–Foreign Commerce-Improved Circulating Medium
-General Improvements. That enlarged system of trade which includes the frequent interchange of the products of climes widely remote from each other, is necessarily conducted upon a plan of reciprocal enterprise. In its lowest character, a nation, in an advanced stage of civilization, carries its produce to one of inferior rank, without receiving a return of commercial visits. The people whose intercourse with foreigners is confined, as in the latter case, to a mere passive dependence upon the enterprise of others, do not yet enjoy a foreign commerce of the nature to which we would be understood to allude in this chapter, and have consequently not arrived at the fourth stage of civilization.
An extended foreign commerce produces extraordinary changes in the moral and political relations of the community by which it is practised. One of its earliest effects is, an important improvement in the circulating medium, to which, obvious as it is, we advert, in order to close at once the slight notice which this matter, as connected with our subject, appeared to require. The increase of knowledge, as well as of the number of commodi. ties in use, together with the increasing competition of merchants, lead to considerable nicety in the balance of values. The cost of production, or the value of the labour employed to render the article available for use, is found, under the more complicated system, to be frequently either above or below the market price, which is peculiarly affected by the greater fluctuation in the supply and demand. To meet these fluctuations, a measure of a finer texture, or possessed of a higher discriminatory power than that which belongs to an article of very common occurrence, is required ; and gold and silver (metals which, on account of their comparative rarity, would not otherwise have been of great practical use) seem to have been assigned by an all-sufficient Providence for the accomplishment of this valuable purpose. By the application of this general medium of exchange, the dissimilar products of distant countries are readily measured with each other. In later times, a refinement takes place, even upon this artificial system, by the introduction of a paper currency, which, under proper restrictions, is highly conducive to commercial aggrandisement.
To dwell on the well-known advantages of foreign commerce is unnecessary: its incipient practice, and subsequent enhancement, form the leading traits of the fourth era ; and it may be otherwise characterized as being mainly instrumental to the attainment of that high state of civilization, of which man, by the mere strength of reason, is susceptible. Its beneficial influence, in the advancement of the arts and sciences, are unquestionable ; and although, in an lage where folly and ignorance predominate, it more often seems to diffuse habits of depravity than to foster the interests of vir.
tue, its final effect upon public morals will be equally praiseworthy. If it sometimes appears to create prejudices, its true tendency is to eradicate them; and after the unreasonable jealousies and discord which, in its immature state, it foments, have given way to the just and liberal opinions of more enlightened times, its acknowledged operation will be to assist in the propagation of a spirit of peace and universal benevolence.
Chapter V. THE FIFTH STAGE.-Establishment of Christianity. At this point of our analysis, some striking views, connected with our theory of the progress of civilization, press upon our minds ; but we choose to defer, for the present, such general observations which might impede the rapid sketch upon which we are now engaged.
Independently of the peculiar classification of our subject already adopted, there still remain two other general heads under which it is material to consider it. That man has existed, from the first age of the world, in a state of deprivation of high endowments originally attached to his nature,—that, after the lapse of a destined term, he was to be favoured by the partial restoration, if not of the lost endowments themselves, at least of soine of the happy fruits they were calculated to secure,—are points of faith, the foundation for which we assume to be sufficiently established. Considering mankind, in their character, as labourers in the great field of improvement, it is evident that that portion who were to be born under the new dispensation would be, in an extraordinary degree, more efficient than their weak and ignorant predecessors. Hence, an obvious distinction to be held in view between Pagan and Christian civilization, both as respects the progress and the quality of the improvements achieved.
The fifth era is marked, not by the introduction only, but by the establishment of Christianity in the community, as the standard, or rather most favoured religion. Like the prior stages of civilization, it is experienced by different nations at different periods of time, and is still unknown, at least practically, to a large portion of the globe.
We have thus assigned to Christianity a definite amount of influence in the progress of civilization ; but we shall, hereafter, more fully develope our reasons for attributing to it the particular station here pointed out in its relation to social improvement. At present, it is only necessary to remark, in vindication of its supreme importance, as connected with the subject before us, that this holy dispensation is unquestionably, although it may appear to us mysteriously, interwoven with our nature as living as well as rational and responsible beings; that it is therefore not only instrumental in improving our present condition, but, in its institution, is the actual cause or ground of our very existence. Nothing is more clear, at least to the sincere inquirer after religious truth, that the human race, at this moment, survives only through the influence of Christianity; and, indeed, who that duly reflects upon the blindness and depravity of the early times can deny to it a power and operation of this high character ? Through a tortuous traditionary channel, we may trace to the same source even the feeble moral lights of the most barbarous people: to what a state of indescribable darkness and misery must the entire family of man have fallen, if left wholly, instead, as at this moment, partially, without an efficient celestial revelation, and the secret influences of the Divine Spirit ! Can we suppose, that beings so circumstanced would have been permitted, by the all-wise Creator, to propagate the pains of a burdensome existence among their descendants for innumerable ages ? After all the laborious, but praiseworthy, commentaries of theologians, with what a weight of proof does this single consideration bear upon the question of the divine origin of the Christian dispensation !
Had the peculiar circumstances which, altogether, serve to form our notion of that dispensation, been unnecessary, and consequently not existed, the whole economy of man would have been essentially different from what
it now actually appears to be. The comparative evils and blessings of bare barism and civilization would have been unknown. Societies would have been bound together by ties, of which, in our present state of blindness, we can form no adequate conception. There would probably have been room and occasion for improvement; but it would never have been the result of a selfish and criminal emulation. Strangers to the melancholy and humili. ating circumstances under which Christianity has been introduced to our notice, the human race would still have been Christian, in the true and perfect sense of the term. They would have known (more intimately than we can hope to know) the will of God, and have dwelt under the guidance of his Holy Spirit ; and this is the sum of Christianity. In this way, undoubtedly, Christianity is diffused over innumerable worlds : myriads of people, surpassing in numbers the calculation of a celestial capacity, live under the blessed dispensation, and differ only from us in the form in which it presents itself to their minds: it is the chief, if not the only source of their present pleasures, and it will be their happiness and glory to all eternity.
Christianity is, then, an essential element of social improvement. Distorted and perverted, it enters into the religious creed of the uncultivated savage: it shines, with more or less light, through the mists of the most diverse superstitions. Among the nations who have openly acknowledged its influence, it reigns with very dissimilar powers; and it would be the highest presumption to assert that it has already attained, even in the most enlightened countries, its just pre-eminence. To what extent it has occasionally improved the mind of the individual, the pure of heart, in the fervour of accepted devotion, in the hour of a happy dissolution, no correct estimate can be formed ; but it may be demonstrated, that no community has yet arrived, in its religious attainments, at the highest possible perfection. Assuming, however, as a proposition sufficiently plain, that mankind exist only in consequence of the saving influence of Christianity, notwith. standing its apparently limited application in the present age of the world, we feel justified in considering the period of its public recognition-i. e. its voluntary acceptation as the standard of religious faith by the majority of the particular community-as the commencement of a separate era in the order of civilization.
Upon the occurrence of that important event to the fortunate society, the passage of the latter into the fifth era will have been accomplished. The amount of social improvement, attained in the age to which this distinctive mark is affixed, must be necessarily varied by circumstances. It is admitted, that, with respect to the people by whom it was first experienced, it appears under an aspect somewhat discouraging. Besides the characters common to it, under every variety of time and place, many circumstances combined to distinguish, most unfavourably, that particular instance. In the prevailing habits and transactions at the time of the adoption of Christianity, by the Roman government, under Constantine the Great, there appears, undoubte edly, much more to deplore than to commend. The fourth era had, indeed, been surmounted; great progress had been made in the arts and sciences, and commerce had expanded itself over the greater part of the known world; but the times were loaded with their congenial errors and vices—a false system of religion still practically predominant, loose morals, and a ferocious passion for predatory warfare. The meek spirit of Christianity had to contend with the most unruly elements. It was accordingly, to our limited apprehension at least, slow in its operation, and its immediate introduction was succeeded by a period of uncommon gloom. That it finally triumphed over these difficulties is one of the great proofs of its genuineness and excellence.
It is not necessary to search for any other marks which distinguish this stage. We should, perhaps, in vain seek for any that would tend to enhance its value. It will be hereafter shown, that it is an age over whose fortunes prejudice exercises a very extensive influence, of which the fatal effects, upon the course of improvement, but too clearly appear in the instance already cited.
Chapter VI. THE SIXTH STAGE.- Improved Religious Practice and Civil Liberty. The general feature of the sixth era is the incipient attempt towards the universal practical application of the true principles of Christianity.
The highest degree of purity in morals, and in religious practice, is an indispensable ingredient of Christianity: before the existence of civil liberty, the public mind is vitiated, and is utterly incapable of attaining to that moral and religious purity which Christianity imperatively requires.
Hence, with a view to general utility, an indissoluble connection between political freedom and genuine Christianity.
Before the introduction of Christianity, a system of slavery pervaded all the relations of public and domestic life: the magistrate was the tyrant of the people,—the child the bondsman of the parent. Immediately after the reception of thạt religion, an ignorant age applied to its practice the same rigid principle. Its teachers either aimed at supplanting the lay despots, or, by conniving at their injustice, endeavoured to secure a share of their power; and in the prosecution of the unhallowed project, some of the worst superstitions of the dark ages became, by the joint operation of chance and design, insensibly mingled with the rites and institutions of the Christian church.
In this state must affairs be conceived to be at the close of the fifth era ; the first great act of the sixth is the attempt to affix a barrier to the growing eyil, and the second to commence the mighty and arduous work of its destruction.
It is well known, that, with respect to some of the principal European states, the commencement of the sixth era, as it is here defined, was coin.' cident with the revival of letters, and with important geographical discoveries in the southern and western quarters of the globe. While the former event mainly contributed to the work of reformation, the latter probably, by strengthening the hands of the ruling despots, and by diverting to the pursuit of gain the attention of numerous discontented spirits, tended for a time to check its
progress. However that may be, it is certain that the most refined of existing nations are still toiling in this the last of the known stages of civilization, --some yet insecure of the venturous ascent to the preliminary step ; others making their difficult way over the higher ground; a few, a very few, glowing with generous ardour and with renovated strength at the opening prospect to which they have at length attained of the bright but untried region before them.
Of the eventual happy result of their labours no well-regulated mind can entertain a doubt. But in the fervour of our hopes we are not to close our eyes to the difficulties of the pursuit. One of the most apparent of these difficulties consists in the wide spread of that political HYPOCRISY, which, founded upon the most flagitious and brutal selfishness, and availing itself of the still imperfect diffusion of public instruction, successfully wars against reformation, by attempting to separate the interests of the two grand social bulwarks-religion and liberty, which are its objects. The possessor of usurped power professes to extend his protection to the one, while he openly tramples upon the other; and as they are essentially inseparable, he is thus insiduously employed in the deterioration or overthrow of both.
If it be considered that the sole support of that unmeasured dominion of the few over the will and fortunes of the many, which, to the disgrace of the present age, continues to be but too generally exercised, is public opinion, it will be allowed that we have pointed to the chief impediment to reformation. But the true cause of the still imperfect state of practical Christianity, and of civil liberty, is popular ignorance, which, notwithstanding the many remarkable and gratifying proofs that can be adduced of its gradual decay, is still every where predominant: in that ignorance religion has the worst foe, tyranny its firmest proctector; and the probability of its eventual extirpation, as peculiarly affecting the subject before the reader, must therefore form a principal object for investigation in the second part of this book.