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tion will naturally suggest itself to the concentrated wisdom of the people, whose previous acquirements shall have impelled them to a serious and sincere consideration of the subject. We deprecate all violent, and consequently premature innovations: we are concerned only in laying down principles, not in building up systems. It will be remembered, that we require, as the indispensable forerunner of any salutary political change, a considerable reformation in the moral and religious practice of the people ; and that such a reformation would of itself oppose an impregnable barrier against the injustice and anarchy which, without it, inevitably tread in the footsteps of revolution. Is there, therefore, an individual who is sensible and impatient of the defects of the Government under which he happens to live? Let him, before he presumes to give any other form to his discontent than the innoxious language of remonstrance and complaint, impartially revise his own character and conduct, and labour to render them in all respects conformable to the Christian standard. When he has sedulously attended to and attained the primary object, he will find that he has effectually disqualified himself for the part of a flagitious and reckless agent of sedition and rebellion; but he will, nevertheless, have laid at least one strong stone to the foundation of that superior structure, invested with all the attributes of real magnificence, in the erection of which it is his virtuous and praiseworthy ambition to assist, and which can alone be completed by the general adoption of that unexceptionable rule of conduct to which he has wisely conformed.
But although we are still remote from the chief good, we have the cheering reflection that we are progressively advancing towards it. Some of the principal elements of the best Government are already enjoyed by more than one of the nations of the earth: liberty, at least, nearly commensurate with the amount of their moral attainments, is already possessed by more than one people. Those elements, that liberty, are in course of communication to less fortunate societies; and the best energies of the human heart are, under the direction of a benign Providence, in operation to separate them from those deleterious accompaniments which at present prevent the unalloyed enjoyment of their hallowed fruits.
Chapter V. Probable Improvements in the Arts and Sciences. A very few words are necessary to be said under this head. An essay on the progress of civilization would, however, be incomplete, without glancing at least at our future prospects, in respect to the increase of the most prominent points of human knowledge.
Great and important events depend upon the progress of mind in availing itself of its hidden resources. The discovery of a science is the result of an operation of mind, successfully investigating the laws of Nature : an art is the application by the same agent of the fruits of the discovery to the uses of life. The hand of Nature is felt by the whole creation ; but it is through reason only that a knowledge of its laws can be attained. Every increase of this knowledge is a step which raises us above the meaner animals, and helps us to a nearer approach to that Being whose comprehensive name is PERFECTION.
We have no notion of power independent of mind. To the improvement of mind, therefore--not the unconnected minds of select individuals only, but the collective minds of the great social mass, we must look for the exaltation of our species, for the increase of our dominion over material substances, for the attainment of the highest possible degree of terrestrial, perhaps eternal, happiness. Human power, as evinced in the progressive enlargement of mind, is best exemplified by its effects in the extension and improvement of the arts and sciences.
It is unnecessary to adduce evidence of the continued accumulation of the means subservient to the increase of science: history affords sufficient light to enable us to trace it from its infancy; and it would be the wildest proposition to assert that it has actually attained that point which destroys the hope of further improvement. There is, without doubt, a limit to human ingenuity and exertion ; but the infinitely-varied resources of the human understanding remove that limit, by infinite gradations, from our actual contact; we may advance towards it through innumerable ages, but it is not within the scope of thought to conceive the hour when we shall reach it.
Assuming the fact, as admitted, of the continued progression of knowledge, and leaving to time to develope more minutely the improvements yet to be made, we turn with pleasure to the contemplation of those which have been achieved by the knowledge already acquired. Religion, the knowledge acquired by extraordinary means, and the natural sciences, the result of the operations of reason, are equally interested in the retrospect. By their united agency, the ferocity of the human character has been subdued. Discord, the offspring of ignorance and idleness, has disappeared from many of those domestic circles where she would otherwise have reigned with unlimited power : wars among nations are conducted with less fury, are less destructive, and less frequent, than in the darker ages.
To these unquestionable benefits, as most relevant to our subject, we confine our declamation. But if we admit that the causes are in course of increase, shall we deny a corresponding growth to the effects? We trace the diminution of the evil passions,—the occasions of discord among families,-of wars among nations, to the improvement of mind; and we acknowledge the capacity for, and actual tendency of, the latter to further acquisition. We are then led by a chain of necessary, consequences to the probability of that eventual state of society which must infallibly fulfil the fondest hopes of the friends of universal and permanent peace.
The Seventh Stage of Civilizatiou. The progress of civilization, from the confines of barbarism to the state exhibited by the most cultivated of the existing communities, was divided, in the first part of this book, into six several eras or stages. Their rapid delineation engrossed our retrospective view of this interesting subject : all that we may reasonably permit ourselves to hope from the future, may be included in two additional divisions.
Our object in the four preceding chapters has been fulfilled, if we have succeeded in establishing the probability of future improvements in the great departments of religion, education, knowledge, and government. We have been anxious to press the conclusion, that our present acquisition of experience, or of accumulated facts, is such as infallibly to produce improvement, varying in degree, at different periods, in proportion as the prejudices engendered in the course of the accumulation decay. We do not hold that the sum of all useful experience is already in our possession ; we only assert, and we appeal for support of the assertion to the conviction of every enlightened mind, that the present stock is sufficient to arrest the progress, and to commence the great work of the final subversion of error; all the important results we have anticipated are legitimate inferences from this position. Christianity, perfect in itself, requires only to be freed from the numerous mistaken opinions and ill-judged regulations which embarrass its practice and limit its utility: the world has become sensible of the inconvenience and danger attendant upon an ignorant population ; and to derive the full benefit from this fruit of its past experience, it has only to be delivered from the prejudices which too commonly surround the subject of education. The relief afforded to either of these departments will effect the improvement of both, as well as of all others embraced in the general term civilization.
We may look for two marked eras in the future history of civilization : one, when a considerable improvement of our present situation shall have been produced in one or a few of the great communities of the earth; the
other, when that improvement shall have been at length communicated to the whole.
The first of those eras, or the period of the partial acquisition, is what we term the SEVENTH STAGE OF CIVILIZATION. Placing ourselves for a moment in the highest rank among existing nations, we may maintain with sufficient confidence, that we are actually near the borders of, if we have not already entered upon, this stage : but we are yet, it must be confessed, very distant from the goal to which it is to lead us. The sign of the attainment of the latter will not be the absolute impossibility of all further advance; but the existence in the highly-gifted community of a majority of minds, freed from prejudice, and cheerfully co-operating in promoting the interests of morality and religion. We shall see hereafter how such a state of things will affect the great question of the eventual disuse of war. Amidst all the violence, the folly, the incongruous systems, which still afflict society, who does not feel that we are yet but too remote from this bright epoch in the terrestrial career of mankind ? But who that observes, with an eye of intelligence, the progressive increase in the happiness, virtue, and mental accomplishments of the three principal classes of the great social family, will refuse to admit, not the probability only, but the irresistible certainty of its ultimate attainment?
The Last Stage of Civilization. The great characteristic of this splendid age of civilization is its universality.
The passage from the seventh to the eighth stage will be incomplete during the existence of one extensive community, whose acquisitions in civilization do not exceed those of the most enlightened nations of our own times. A people arrived at that limit which in the last chapter was designated as the mark of the commencement of the seventh stage, will be indebted for much of their subsequent progress to the corresponding efforts of their neighbours: as the surrounding communities succeed in their attempts to emulate their attainments, they will gradually advance towards the still brighter era before them ; but they will never actually reach it, until the whole family of man has passed within the boundaries of the penultimate stage.
This representation is certainly calculated to enhance the value and importance of the glorious era to which we are now desirous of attracting the attention of the reader. But high and magnificent as are the ideas by which it must necessarily be impressed upon our minds, its general features are abundantly simple and evident. As the mark of the seventh stage has been stated to be the existence in the community entered therein of a majority of virtuous and enlightened minds, that of the commencement of the eighth and last is held to be nothing more than the extension of such majority in relation to all the inhabitants of the earth.
Is such a state of things, which, under this single view, is offered to our contemplation, unattainable ? Consider the world as divided into separate nations, and these latter subdivided into lesser communities, and lastly into private families : study the history of past ages, not in respect only of the blood-stained transactions of tyrants, or the splendid follies of the restless, ambitious great, but of the conduct and manners of the chief social masses as they have from time to time passed over the transitory scene. Crime and disorder almost universally accompany the melancholy retrospect. Gentleness and peace, so far from characterizing, in any degree, the transactions of public life, have too seldom gained admittance among the humble circles around the family hearth. So much may safely be predicated in a general view of the past : of the present and the future, the prospect is infinitely more cheering. Adopting as our standard the most forward communities of the sixth stage, what is the actual state of the families of the most intelligent classes? Where discord, vice, brutality, were heretofore triumphant, we now observe the sedulous and successful culti
vation of all the amiable virtues. In those domestic recesses, at once the emblems and the component parts of the grander associations, virtue and intelligence are very frequently found to inspire the breasts, not only of the majority, but of the whole. Is it difficult to believe, that this favourable change will extend over the larger social scales ? and may not even instances be adduced of its actual introduction into some of those minor public communities of which the greatest empires are chiefly composed ? If we admit the fact of the progressive advance of improvement, it is impossible to deny the probability of the eventual triumph of the good over the evil principle, by the acquisition of a majority of virtuous minds in any particular nation; and the step from that point to the one indicated as the mark of the last stage of civilization, although necessarily a long one, is equally sure of ultimate attainment.
It is not for the Christian who stedfastly believes the doctrine, founded as it unquestionably is upon the highest class of moral evidence, of the primeval degradation of the human nature, to propagate the impious, and, in a philosophical sense, the irrational notion of the eventual perfectibility of man. To the end of time man will continue to be a weak, an erring, and a dependant creature-deriving every thing, even the virtue and happiness which it is competent to him to attain, from the bounty of his Almighty Creator. But with indelible marks of debility, he is still susceptible of all the blessings and enjoyments which must surround him in the last stage of civilized life. Weakness and dependence, such as necessarily attach to an imperfect nature, are not incompatible with a high range of virtue and improvement: crimes may be infinitely diminished in number and degree, and our mental powers undergo indefinite improvement, without encouraging us to hope for the premature attainment of that superior station which can belong only to a higher order of existence.
There is, in fact, nothing revolting, either to reason or religion, in our anticipations of that pre-eminent degree of civilization which is comprehended in our view of the eighth stage. If we select from any one of the numerous classes of life, high or low, an individual who, with the qualifications indispensable or proper for his particular station, unites nearly all the virtue and intelligence of which he may be capable, or with which his peculiar duties and pursuits may not be incompatible, we shall obtain a perfect specimen of the essential constituents of the era in question. Persons whose conduct and attainments fully. answer all the points of this description are at this day to be found in considerable numbers in every rank; and we only contend for the probability of their eventual increase, by the means we have already sufficiently explained, so as to form a de cided majority over the less laudable and accomplished parts of society.
The attainment of this point includes the prospect of the simultaneous acquisition of immense improvements in science and the art of government: what is more directly applicable to our present inquiry, it includes the certainty of the final establishment of permanent peace. If knowledge is an essential ingredient of power, virtue is no less indispensable to secure its duration ; and the union of those high properties in the better half of mankind must inevitably lead to that state of society in which the dominion of the evil passions will be excluded, and their general influence so far weakened as effectually to prevent the further intrusion of the borrors of war.
Beyond this point our peculiar subject does not require us to direct our view. It is, however, evident, that such is the force of virtue, that after it has once reached the triumphant station to which we have alluded, it can neither continue stationary, nor can its course be retrograde: it will infallibly increase in power, and at length guide the universal Christian world into such a blissful state of moral organization, as may, in its fruits, fully correspond with the cheering prophetic representations of the inspired writers.
Recapitulation. The foregoing outline of the progress of civilization will apply, in all its points, only to those nations whose course has been uniformly gradual, and uninterrupted by extraordinary circumstances. It has frequently happened, that settlements have been made on desolate and barbarous shores, by a people already advanced to one or other of the stages delineated : in comparing their case with the preceding observations, it is evident that we must consider their history, not from the date of their emigration, bu mencing with that of their progenitors in the parent country. Circumstances which draw together, in intimate bands, two separate societies, the one arrived only at an early, and the other at a later stage of civilization, must influence, in an extraordinary manner, the fortunes of the former: in consequence of such contact, some of the intermediate gradations will necessarily be rapidly passed, so as to render their distinctive character imperceptible to a superficial observer. But our general survey is, we trust, sufficiently accurate for the purpose to which it is intended to be subsera vient in the course of this treatise.
After stating these points in qualification, it may perhaps be scarcely necessary to add, that we would not be understood to insist upon the exclusive appropriation, in every instance, of the several marks indicated to the respective stages into which the grand march of civilization has been divided. Cases may undoubtedly be adduced, in which some of them, particularly those relating to the uses of a circulating medium, may appear to require a different distribution ; but it will be readily perceived, that we have principally had in view the simple and unbiassed progress of a people emerging out of a state of absolute barbarism, without reference to the various accessary circumstances which, in the history of every nation, have not failed, more or less, to disturb what we conceive to be the natural order.
There are two opposite theories respecting the order of civilization : one which deduces all the improvements of which the human nature is susceptible from the spontaneous operation of unassisted reason; another, which unites with this agent the more potent influence of religion. The respective advocates of these different systems are the friends of, and the enemies to, the doctrine of a celestial revelation.
· They who insist upon the sufficiency of reason, trace the barbarian from a state of absolute darkness, and lead him, by the native power of mind, to one of high cultivation. Christianity, as well as the various heresies which have sprung from it, and the false religion of the Pagan world, are considered, in the gross, under the general name of superstitions, as mere incidents in the affairs of nations: they are acknowledged to influence the tide of civilization ; but being supposed to be altogether factitious, and to rest solely on the basis of opinion, are held to be continually subject to a reaction, which may at some undefined period of human history throw society back to the same deplorable state in which religion or (to use the synonymous appellation of this school) superstition first found it.
A more cheering view of this interesting subject is taken by the other party. They consider Christianity as intimately connected with the concerns of life, and regulating, with an omnipotent hand, the temporal as well as the spiritual interests of society. Expanding itself, under various points of view, aecording to the mental capacity of the beings of whose existence it is the germ and preserver, over innumerable worlds, and through immeasurable space, it assumed with us part of its present distinctive character immediately after an extraordinary event had lowered or corrupted the nature of man. A gleain of the light it at that time afforded followed the wandering tribes, which, subsequently to the great deluge, spread themselves over the face of the earth : more or less assisted or deteriorated by adventitious circumstances, some of those tribes sunk into a state of darkness little less obscure than that attributed to them by the sceptical sect, but always retain