페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

89

ART. VIII.-The Age of Great Cities; or Modern Society viewed in relation to Intelligence, Morals, and Religion. By ROBERT VAUGHAN, D.D. Jackson and Walford.

Dr. Vaughan is an originalist, and in the best sense of the word. In this work we not only meet with what is new in regard to design, but with what is excellent in point of doctrine and sentiment. All this too is illustrated with his accustomed skill; although, perhaps, there is more appearance of effort on certain occasions than we discovered in one or two of his former works. This feeling on our part, just as the actual existence of the feature, may be accounted for by the fact that "The Age of Great Cities" carries out the author's object and views as contemplated also in the "Modern Pulpit," as well as in his "Congregationalism;" being a continuation of what he considers to be the progress and tendency of human advancement, especially as developed in modern British society. One fancies that he experiences a slight degree of over-elaborated sameness, not of idea certainly, nor owing to any poverty of expression; but because, perhaps, our author's previous speculations and reasonings were so luminous as to shed light over kindred fields, and cause us to feel that we could in some measure of ourselves explore their recesses and perceive whereto they conducted.

But if there be a degree of effort displayed in these pages, or even of repetition, it is effort and it is repetition of which the intelligent and inquiring reader will not soon get tired. Dr. Vaughan's liberality is built upon such a firm basis, his views are so broad and maintained with such a philosophic calmness and dignity, while his eloquence is so fitting and masterly, that it will be long before we seriously complain of him on the score of one-sidedness, or of an advocacy where zeal bewilders the judgment. In a word, our author embraces a large sweep of subject in the present pages, and cultures to a high degree of susceptibility, that upon which he plants his foot; so that the result is richer in suggestion and more teeming in regard of genial fruit, than any less prolific and disciplined capacity would conceive to belong to the theme, as indicated by the title of the book.

It is probable indeed that the reader will not very readily or clearly perceive what is meant by that title; and also, that after he has been conducted by the author a considerable way into the work, he will begin to fancy that the subject takes a much wider scope than can very appropriately be brought within the domain, as indicated by the name. However, objections of this sort may be deemed hypocritical, especially when learning and research, together with a sustained philosophy and beautiful illustration, characterize the current and the wide compass of the deductions.

Dr. Vaughan is an advocate of great cities in their intellectual and also in their moral results. He holds that, until men congregate in large numbers together, and upon a principle of settled residence, they cannot advance beyond a very inferior stage of civilization. This doctrine, he maintains, not only as that which is agreeable to the reason of the thing and the constitution of human nature, but as taught by the history of large towns in ancient, and still more fully, in modern times. His review extends to the middle ages as well as to the classical and the patriarchal. Nay, he argues that not alone do letters and the fine arts flourish most healthily in great cities, and also whatever belongs to refined life and social comforts, but that agriculture itself is indebted for its best discoveries and triumphs to these seats of enlightenment.

Our author renders it quite clear, that feudalism and the military spirit, as manifested in the middle ages, are inimical to the best interests of society; whereas the tendencies of large cities greatly preponderate the other way. He exposes in his most successful manner the perverseness of the opposite creed, which has many advocates even at the present day. Let us here quote from his pages:

Hence the time has come, in which some men do not scruple to speak of great cities as the great evil of the age. It is not deemed too much to say, that the accident, or revolution, which should diminish everything commercial and civic, so as to place the military and the feudal in the old undisturbed ascendancy, would be a change fraught with good, more than with evil. Avowals of this nature have been made deliberately, openly, and in journals of the highest authority. According to some discoveries in social philosophy, which have been recently made, every great city should be regarded as an unsightly "wen," and not a healthy, a natural portion of the body politic. Its speedy disappearance, either by dispersion, or by almost any other means, so far from being a matter to be deplored, should be an object of solicitude. It may be, that our being a people whose land has become in an eminent degree the home of great cities, is the fact which has raised us to our place as the great commercial power of the globe, and which has secured to us our greatness in nearly all other respects; but with persons of the class adverted to, considerations of this nature are no matter for congratulation. The statesman who should signalize his ascendancy by reducing us from this elevation to-morrow, would deserve a place among our greatest benefactors. In the esteem of such persons, the main and the natural effect of the social relations, as they obtain in any greatly-crowded population, is to generate ignorance, vice, and irreligion. Hence, the political change, which should serve to restore much of the military arbitrariness which characterized the secular power in the old feudal times, and which should restore the power of the Christian priesthood in much of the form and measure which distinguished it during the middle age, would be regarded by such persons as a change which should be hailed with gratitude by every friend of order, virtue, and religion. Principles of this tendency

may of course be adopted in various degrees, but in the case of multitudes they are embraced to the extent now stated.

Even religious men, who mean well to their country and to humanity, contribute unconsciously to swell this tone of accusation against our civic population, and against the whole character of the civilzation exhibited in our large towns and cities. Such persons are deeply affected by the scenes of depravity and wickedness which they explore in such places; and, they express themselves in strong terms, natural to men who know little with regard to the condition of the masses of the people in the great cities of other lands and other times; and in terms, we may add, which are no less natural to men who consider little what the condition of these people would have been, had they been wholly separated from the good influences which go along with such forms of civilization, as well as from those of an opposite description. It must be obvious, also, that there is much need of caution, if persons of this class are to guard strictly against a manner of representation and colouring, which is not so well adapted to convey the whole truth, as to produce a certain kind of effect. We naturally-expect that our case will be pleaded with success, in proportion as it can be made to appear one of deep urgency.

We have referred to Dr. Vaughan's review of the social and moral condition of the inhabitants of the large cities of antiquity; not only of those of Athens and Rome, but of Asia; and the manner in which he touches upon many matters indirectly, as well as others pointedly and at length, in this survey, is truly informing. Let us hear what he has to say of the condition of woman in the East and the classical cities of ancient times:

It is to a defective estimate of female character that we must trace the practice of polygamy, so common in the East. In that pernicious usage alone, we see a cause sufficiently potent to prevent any nation adopting it from becoming either free or great. Polygamy converts the family circle into a caldron of passion most repugnant to concord and happiness; and nations are made up of collections of families. In such families, every new wife must become a new element of rivalry, and the children of the same father become acquainted with the relationship which is common to them only to become enemies on account of the relationship in which they differ. Even the conjugal relation, in such cases, has commonly a stronger tendency to cherish the malevolent than the milder affections; and the same may be said of the relations of brother and sister. The proper fruit of polygamy, throughout the domestic circle, is distrust in the place of confidence, and a disposition to cherish an ever-rankling animosity in place of the tenderest attachments. Nor is this all: it is an institute which, in its general effect, first degrades women, and then allows them to become the educators and rulers of the class of men who should be as educators and rulers to all beside! Where this usage prevails, princes receive their education in the seraglio; and, in general, the effect of their early training is sufficiently observable to the end of their days.

In Greece and Rome, a man was the husband of one wife, but that wife was in scarcely any sense his equal. His servants were slaves; his wife was

the guardian of his children; and his home embraced little that could serve to abate the roughness of temper and manner likely to be induced by long familiarity with the cares of private occupation, or with the storms of public life. Athens, indeed, at one period, possessed accomplished women; but they were women who, in breaking through the restraints of usage, lost in virtue more than they had gained in social position. In Rome the same course was pursued, and the same consequence followed; or if something more of importance was ceded to the weaker sex, it was that their finer and characteristic qualities might be in a greater measure effaced, and that they might be assimilated to the harder and coarser features of men, too much after the manner of the women of Sparta.

Thus, in antiquity, the milder sentiments natural to woman, were rarely suffered to make their just impression on man. Domestic habits in the case of the chief man of a household, became, in consequence, too much chracterized by reserve, hardness, selfishness, and absence from home. At home there were none with whom he could unbend, as there were none whom custom had allowed to become properly familiar with his thoughts and solicitudes; nor was relief always attainable when sought from abroad. In that quarter, rival interests were much too common to admit of frequent expressions of confidence. Amidst the jostlings and anxieties of ordinary life, and amidst the discharge of the sterner acts of public duty, men needed much more of a softening infiuence than was thus afforded them. The moral feeling must always lose in freedom, tenderness, and power, when concealed and pent up after this manner by artificial circumstances.

But his exposition and deductions go back to the patriarchal ages, and the degree of civilization as indicated in the Hebrew Scriptures. The picture is not one of an attractive nature :

The most ancient and the most unsuspicious account we possess concerning the early stages of human society, and the vices or virtues natural to them, is supplied by Moses; and this account is far from being of a kind to sanction the notion that the life of wandering herdsmen, or of any comparatively rude people, is indeed favourable to morals.

The book of Genesis is very instructive on this point. The narrative which speaks of Tamar as taking her place by the way-side, in the manner understood as that of a harlot, is sufficient to show that vice in that form had become a matter of regular avocation even in those times. Judah, one of the worthiest of the sons of Jacob, fell readily into the snare which was thus laid for him; and when it became known to him that his guilt in that matter was the guilt of incest, the woman being his own daughter-in-law, we see no signs of the remorse and penitence which such a discovery might have been expected to produce. Abraham lived in constant apprehension on account of the beauty of Sarah, fearing lest some man should murder him in order to possess her person: and she was made to pass in consequence as his sister. We have read the story of the wife of Potiphar. We remember the violence suffered by Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, at Sechem, and the treachery and cruelty practised on the people of Sechem by the brothers of Dinah, to avenge her dishonour, notwithstanding the manifest repentance of the individual who had done the wrong. And if the conduct of these

brothers towards their younger brother Joseph, and toward their father, the aged Jacob, may be taken as indicating the kind of moral feeling natural to a pastoral and partially civilized state of society, there is certainly little in such a retrospect that could prompt any moral man to desire a return to it. Nor is the picture much improved if we look to the history of the relationship previously subsisting between Jacob and Esau, and between Isaac and Ishmael. In that connexion we can see little to admire in the conduct either of Sarah or Rebekah. And who can have read the account of the deceitful and cruel dealing practised by Laban on his young kinsman Jacob-practised too, with so much hardened effrontery—and not feel indignant that this man of the herds should have become so much an adept in the science of a cunning and pitiless selfishness, as to have left little to be acquired in that shape by any of the race of knaves that should come after him? If we meet with facts like these in connexion with the line of families to whom Divine revelation was committed, and to whom the Divine promises especially pertained, what might we not expect elsewhere?

How different is this method of speculation, and how contrary the doctrines here taught, to the narrow and misleading dogmas which have been so long current, and among the classes of religionists to which Dr. Vaughan may be supposed to cherish the most friendly sentiments! And having thus noticed the superiority of his manner, and some of the novel views which are entertained in this standard volume, let us recommend certain hints contained in it, and which read a smart lesson to the priesthood of the Kirk, relative to their general attainments in learning, and their inferiority to the ministers who serve at altars which our author regards as shrines of error. For example, he pays a warm compliment to the erudition of a Wiseman, while he discovers lamentable defects as respects the learning of the Scotch Presbyterians. Not, however, that he would exchange the service of the disciples of Calvin and Knox for the creed of Rome, which he in a great measure identifies with the forbidding condition which Portugal, Spain, and Italy present amid the nations of Europe. He thus expresses himself:—

Portugal, Spain, and Italy, have continued their adhesion to the old faith; and to this day they are the victims of the old decrepitude. Nations upon the threshold of those countries have been making every sort of progress, with unprecedented rapidity, during the last three centuries; and during that period those kingdoms have not been merely stationary, but in most respects retrograding. The proud power of Spain has passed away, and the dreams of regenerating Portugal and Italy, in what have they ended? It is true, Germany and France have become great without becoming strictly Protestant. But the Catholicism of Germany has always been greatly modified by the presence and ascendancy of the antagonist faith; and the spirit and institutions of France derive much of their character from an indifference with respect both to the old faith of Europe and to the new. We have already seen that Dr. Vaughan is the hearty advocate of great cities. He is decidedly of the mind that if the history of such,

« 이전계속 »