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instances excepted, without a ruler that deserves the name, the Empire appears to sink deeper and deeper in the wickedness and feebleness it has inherited. Years pass, and centuries; and as they one by one depart from Rome, her fortitude and hope are not only extinguished, but forgotten. The despotism of the Emperor is the judgment upon the Empire. The hollowness of the Empire, like “an empty urn,” becomes fit for the “withered hands” of the Emperor by whom it is held. And the onslaught of the barbarians, at last, is the retribution to which the Emperor, the Empire, and the parent Commonwealth have been long foredoomed. The glimpses before or behind us, that we catch of Rome alone, are all alike mournful. In every country and amongst every nation of the ancient world, a marvellous progress from barbarism to comparative civilization or from servitude to comparative freedom had been allowed to precede the decline to each appointed in its turn. The extent of this advancement was generally commensurate with the degree of liberty existing amongst the various races engaged in its production; and the greatest development of knowledge and of cultivation occurred in Greece, together with the greatest development of liberty. A different phase appears to be observable in Rome, under whose laws liberty attained to a greater stature than in any other heathen state, without producing a corresponding increase in the sciences, the arts, or the comforts of mankind. The same religion that had interposed itself like a cloud between the freedom of other nations and the light from Heaven hung thinnest above the seven hills; and yet nowhere was the liberty it always obscured so fatal to human works and to human hopes as amongst the proud and finally the lawless conquerors who were trained at Rome. Here lies the moral of our history. In the great creation of which we form a part, the process of animation and increase is the result of mutual, though they be unconscious, services amongst its members. The plant subsists upon the breath of the animal, and the animal seeks from the plant those exhalations without which its own life would be intolerable. It is one of the thousand instances with which the world is filled to teach men how to conduct themselves and how to employ their principles; and it may serve, at this moment, as an illustration of the truth," that liberty is virtually servitude, unless it be so connected with human powers as to minister to them and be ministered unto by them in return. The institutions of ancient Rome secured to all the citizens whom they acknowledged the amplest freedom in that age possible; yet freedom failed amongst them for want of higher powers in its possessors than those of conquerors and rulers; while the institutions by which this liberty had been provided were bowed and broken by its courses of blood and despotism. The few, like the Gracchi and Cicero, whom it educated to greater aspirations were not allowed to
spread the learning they acquired amongst men, much less to exercise the benevolence they had received from their Creator. The wants of the Romans are as evident as their errors. They not only lacked the powers, but the first necessities, of humanity. To be free, they needed to be conscious of their weakness as individuals, and, mortally speaking, as a nation; a consciousness which never came to the nation, and only to its individual members in the day of their utter downfall. Even had they been sooner humbled, a law of right and wrong would still have failed them; though in order to be free, singly or collectively, they required liberation from the vice and fortification in the virtue of the world. This law, however, was never theirs; it neither rose with their early institutions nor arrived with their later philosophy.” except in part; and the part even which they did obtain was lost before the beginning of the Empire. Without this knowledge of right and wrong, there can be no true power; and without power, again, there can be no real exercise of liberty. There is a holiness of freedom yet to be attained in doing “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report”;” and so doing them, 2 “ The freedom of man and law he is to govern himself by.” liberty of acting according to his Civil Government, Sect. 63. But own will is grounded,” as the great “that law” itself is no work of
Locke says, “on his having reason, reason; it must be revealed. which is able to instruct him in that 8 Philippians, IV. 8.
that the glory of God, which religion commands, may be fulfilled by man through liberty. So far as humility amongst men was necessary for the preparation of a truer freedom than could ever be known under heathenism, the part of Rome, however dreadful, was yet sublime. It was not to unite, to discipline, or to fortify humanity, but to enervate, to loosen, and to scatter its forces, that the people whose history we have read were allowed to conquer the earth and were then themselves reduced to deep submission. Every good labor of theirs that failed was, by reason of what we esteem its failure, a step gained nearer to the end of the wellnigh universal evil that prevailed ; while every bad achievement that may seem to us to have succeeded, temporarily or lastingly, with them was equally, by reason of its success, a progress towards the good of which the coming would have been longed and prayed for, could it have been comprehended. Alike in the virtues and in the vices of antiquity, we may read the progress towards its humiliation." Yet, on the other hand, it must not seem, at the last, that the disposition of the Romans or of mankind to submission was secured solely through the errors and the apparently ineffectual toils which we have traced back to these times of old. Desires too true to have been wasted, and strivings too humane to have been unproductive, though all were overshadowed by passing wrongs, still gleam as if in anticipation or in preparation of the advancing day. At length, when it had been proved by ages of conflict and loss that no lasting joy and no abiding truth could be procured through the power, the freedom, or the faith of mankind, the angels sang their song, in which the glory of God and the good-will of men were together blended. The universe was wrapped in momentary tranquillity, and “peaceful was the night” above the manger at Bethlehem. We may believe, that, when the morning came, the ignorance, the confusion, and the servitude of humanity had left their darkest forms amongst the midnight clouds. It was still, indeed, beyond the power of man to lay hold securely of the charity and the regeneration that were henceforth to be his law; and the indefinable terrors of the future, whether seen from the West or from the East, were not at once to be dispelled. But before the death of the Emperor Augustus, in the midst of his fallen subjects, the Business of THE FATHER had already been begun in the Temple at Jerusalem; and, near by, THE SoN was increasing in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
* “The Christian revelation,” lished much sooner, and before
says Leland, in his truly admirable work on the subject (Vol. I. p. 488), “was made to the world at a time when it was most wanted ; when the darkness and corruption of mankind were arrived at the height. . . . . . If it had been pub
WOL. II. 66
there had been a full trial made of what was to be expected from human wisdom and philosophy, the great need men stood in of such an extraordinary Divine dispensation would not have been so apparent.”