Imágenes de páginas

only power which has wielded a despotic sway over the bodies and souls of men, it must appear that his exposition is not broad enough. Yet if we could take from the pages of history the record of Roman political and ecclesiastical despotism, especially the latter, we should take away the greater part of history for fifteen hundred years. These two powers are so nearly allied that they have usually gone in company. Ecclesiastical despotism could never have done much hurt in the world, if she had not been supported by political despotism-if she had not been able to catch and ride that beast into power. Hence, what affects one must directly or indirectly affect the other. We have concluded that the whole seven vials symbolize those influences of one kind and another which are crippling, and finally destined to destroy, these forms of despotism which we find shadowed forth under the symbols of the dragon, the first and second beasts, the abandoned woman, the false prophet, the Great River Euphrates, and the three unclean spirits which proceeded out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. All these disclose forms of evil at war with human advancement, spiritual and temporal, and hence, despotism, in its various forms and modes, seeking to destroy both political and religious freedom. Hence, whatever goes to cripple despotism, of any form, and especially ecclesiastical, may be fitly symbolized by a vial of wrath poured out upon the supporters of oppression by a God who "created all men free and equal, and endowed them with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' So any thing which may be called a plague or sore upon the supporters of despotism, may be fittingly symbolized by the effects of this vial of wrath. It was poured out upon the earth, and it produced "a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image." This describes two classes of adherents to these forms of despotism. Those who bore the mark of the beast are, undoubtedly, those who gave him their external support for mere personal ends, without any particular regard for him, only as he could promote their own selfish purposes. Among this class must be ranked

[ocr errors]

many of the Roman Catholic sovereigns of the past century. Those who worship his image are those who, body and soul, believe in, and worship the monster. But it should be observed that both classes are involved in consequences which follow the outpouring of the vial.

At the risk of being considered, perhaps, a fanciful innovator, I shall make the suggestion that modern Republicanism may be fittingly symbolized by the contents of this vial. Poured out upon the earth, it operates as a healthful medicine often does upon a patient whose blood has long been corrupted, by bringing the corruption to the surface in the form of grievous sores. The rude shocks which political despotism experienced from the American Revolution -whose successful issue was followed, in less than seven years, by that of France-showed its insecure tenure of existence in modern civilization. The scenes that followed are the sores which broke out upon its upholders. France* thought to improve the medicine by mingling that with it. which proved to be a fatal poison, and that was French atheism. But the compound acted with special potency upon ecclesiastical despotism. This was the offspring of long years of tyranny and abuse. God and heavenly things were so wretchedly represented by their accredited earthly exponents, that a natural, though most disastrous result, was, that many, in throwing off the abuses, repudiated all religion. And however terrible French atheism proved to be, however impious its upholders, though they cannot be held at all excusable, yet political and ecclesiastical despotism are mainly responsible for it. It is little wonder, then, that so unseemly an offspring should turn and rend its equally unseemly parents. The French Revolution was a tremendous upheaval of human society, resulting largely from the republican leaven which had long been working there. While it did incalculable service to the cause of human progress, like the whirlwind and thunder-gust-which are often necessary to purify the stagnant air, shaking from it its poisonous malarias-it did a great deal of harm. While it struck most staggering blows upon kingly and priestly prerogative, it

[blocks in formation]

swept away much of the beneficent fruits of a pure Christianity not yet entirely dead in France, which, if preserved and nurtured, might have rendered their republican institutions enduring.

The nation has not yet recovered from that storm of good and evil, so strangely blended. All authorities admit that she had been the victim of shameful abuses, under monarchical rule. The people had groaned, for a long time, under them. They had loudly and justly clamored for redress. The imbecile Louis obstinately persisted in refusing it, until he drove them into open revolt. Then, when they had taken redress into their own hands, he offered to make concessions, but it was too late. In 1789 the Revolution triumphed, and he was virtually stripped of power, though he nominally held the reins until some time after. But he was

finally deposed, amid great indignities, and ultimately guillotined, with several of his family, including his Queen. A French Republic was thus established. It was sustained for a number of years. Napoleon the First subverted it, while uttering the most enthusiastic protestations of attachment to liberty. Yea, in the name of civil liberty, his usurpations were accomplished, liberty strangled, and an unlimited despotism enthroned. But while the Republic lasted, it was the plague the sore of despotism. It proclaimed universal war on kings of every degree, and too generously offered the right hand, to help all who would hoist the flag of rebellion against kingcraft and priestcraft. French emissaries were in all parts of Europe, secretly, if not openly, stirring up the people to rebellion. They had numerous sympathizers everywhere, and kings, feeling the heavings of the earthquake, trembled for their crowns, sceptres and royal prerogatives. French influence established republics in Belgium, Holland and Italy. Republican armies hung like thunderclouds in the passes of the Pyrenees, and even rolled the tide of invasion into Spain. Republican cannon thundered across the Rhine, at the gates of Germany; and their echoes were heard across the Straits of Dover. Republican armies defied the world, and, for a time, faced the combined powers of Europe. Had the Republic been less inclined to proselyte other nations, by intrigue and by arms, and, content

with achieving the liberties of France, acted purely on the defensive, she might have remained unto this day, in spite of the opposition of kings. It is conceded that republicanism gave to the nation that tremendous military prowess which, under Napoleon, carried the eagles of France to Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Madrid, and the Eternal City. Could it have been directed by such pure and patriotic men as our own dear Washington, the history of France, and of Europe, would have been different. But her leaders were either wrong-headed or corrupt men, and they led her to destruction.


The Roman Catholic Church, the instinctive enemy of republican institutions, so recognized and so treated by the French Republic, felt the heaviest blows. All church property was confiscated, priests were banished under the severest penalties, and the Roman Catholic religion publicly abjured. But the terrible misfortune and fatal mistake was, that, with this, she abjured all religion. Her chamber of deputies published the awful blasphemy: "Resolved, that there is no God, and death is an eternal sleep." The Republic then became a more bitter persecutor than Rome had been in France for centuries. The Reign of Terror, the most terrible outbreak of human passion on the records of civilized nations, began soon after this. The Girondists first held the power, and ruled the nation with high-handed tyranny; but they were soon hurled by violence from their seats in the national assembly by the Jacobins, and hurried away to the guillotine, under the leadership of Marat, Danton, Robespierre and others. The rule of the Girondists was mildness and mercy, compared with that of the Jacobins. Political murders became the order of the day. Tens of thousands, on the merest suspicion of being inimical to the Republic, as was claimed, but really to the reigning faction, became the victims of midnight arrest by gens d'armes, and, with scarcely a form of trial, were sentenced to death, and, without a decent delay, were hurried away to the guillotine. The streets of Paris swam with the blood of her citizens. Whole hecatombs of victims, men, women, and

*Note 4, Canto I, stanza 38. + Note 5, stanza 39. § Note

7, ibid.

Note 6, stanza 40.

even children, were slaughtered by the executioner, under the very shadow of the statue of Liberty, which Frenchmen boasted to worship. The most high-handed and bloody deeds of tyranny were enacted in the name of Liberty. Excesses of the most horrid kind were perpetrated. An unchaste woman, of rare beauty and symmetry of form, was brought naked before the assembly, and proclaimed the Goddess of Reason, and thence carried on the shoulders of some Jacobins to the Church of Notre Dame, she was placed in the same condition upon the altar, where she was worshiped by the crowd which filled the cathedral. The corruption of morals was general and deplorable. It spread over the whole nation. All the cities and large towns were scenes of civil murder, enacted in ways which fill the mind with horror to think of them. No man was safe, especially if he had any wealth which could be confiscated for the use of the fiends that ruled France. Thus events continued to grow worse, until Marat fell by the dagger of Charlotte Corday, for which she was sent to the guillotine. The jealousy of Robespierre sent Danton the same way, a few months after. The former recreant fell soon after, before a counter revolution, and the Reign of Terror ended. All these terrible calamities, and especially the infatuation which seemed to fill the whole nation, are justly symbolized by a noisome and grievous sore falling upon the men who had upheld political and religious despotism, and no one can for a moment doubt the effect they had upon these powers. Under the supposition that the contents of this vial were meant to symbolize republicanism, the plague of despotism, poured out upon the earth, it will be admitted that these events meet the conditions. The symbols of the text are strikingly satisfied, if not actually fulfilled.

I do not claim to be supported by authority in this exposition, precisely as I have given it. More generally, the noisome and grievous sore is supposed to symbolize French atheism, with no endeavor to find a meaning for the contents of the vial. Mr. Barnes adopts the latter exposition. My own view differs from this only that it makes the contents of the vial symbolize republicanism, while French atheism is only one among the plagues which fell upon the nations, as

« AnteriorContinuar »