« PreviousContinue »
is admirable. He lays it down that, as the highest object of philosophy is the restoration of God's image in man, so the great object of the philosophy of history must be to trace historically the progress of this restoration ; '--that it is his object and intention, through that all-ruling Providence which regulates the whole course of human destiny, ultimately to accomplish it;--that Christianity, God's own heaven-sent religion, is the regenerating principle, whence whatever may already have been accomplished has proceeded, and whence alone man's final and perfect regeneration is to arise ; 3 — that the hindrances and obstructions in the way of its accomplishment have arisen from the fearfully powerful, though most mysterious, influence in the world of the Spirit of evil, alike God's enemy and man's, and man's * endowment with free-will, to choose, as he may please, the guidance of the one Spirit or the other ; 5—further, that it belongs to the province
1 Preface, ad init. ? Lect. xv; Vol. ii. pp. 196, 198. “Without the idea of a Godhead regulating the course of human destiny,”—such is his eloquent language, -"of an all-ruling Providence, and the saving and redeeming power of God, the history of the world would be a labyrinth without an outlet, a confused pile of ages buried upon ages, a mighty tragedy without a right beginning, or a proper ending :” adding that this is the melancholy impression produced on the mind by several of the great ancient historians, particularly the profoundest of them all, Tacitus.
3 Lect. x; Vol. ii, 9. Speaking of Christ's divine mission for the redemption of the world, he says; "If we once remove this divine keystone in the arch of universal history, the whole fabric of the world's history falls to ruin; for its only foundation is this new manifestation of God's power in the crisis of time.
... Without faith in the truth of Christianity, the world's history would be an insoluble enigma,” &c. And again, pp. 4, 5; “From its very origin, and still more in its progress, it entirely renovated the face of the world :”-“It has shone ever brighter with the progress of ages, and has changed and regenerated not only government and science, but the whole system of human life.”—This statement however is much modified afterwards as to the past. So p. 38, after saying that at the Constantinian revolution Christianity“ might have become a real generation of the Roman state,” he adds that "the old Roman state-policy,” &c, continuing prevalent prevented it ;-and again, p. 56, “ the Romans whose polity and public life Christianity was unable totally to regenerate.”
* Schlegel is very strong in his statements on this point. So Lect. xv. p. 199 ; "That man only who recognizes the whole magnitude of the power permitted to the wicked principle, according to the inscrutable decrees of God, from the curse of Cain, and the sign of the curse in its unimpeded transmission through all the false religions of heathenism-all the ages of extreme moral corruption and crime,—is alone capable of understanding the great phænomena of universal history, in their often strange and dark complexity.”
ó This is Schlegel's third principle, (the two others being God's all-ruling and redeeming providence, and the Evil Spirit's pouer of tempting to evil,) of which
of the Philosophy of History to mark God's wrathful judgments on the world, when thus led astray from Him ;' and to mark also the interpositions and proceedings of Divine Providence, (especially as illustrated from time to time in the rise and conduct of any remarkable particular nations or individuals, 2) with a view to the fulfilment of its designs, whether of judgment or of mercy.-Such, I say, is Schlegel's generally just idea of the Philosophy of History; and the reader has but to recal what has gone before in this Commentary, or to glance at the illustrative Chart prefixed to it, in order to be convinced how eminently, on such an idea of it, there attaches a high degree of the philosophic character to the historic prefigurations of the Apocalypse. It is in the application of the principle that the marked contrast appears between these and Schlegel's sketches : nor, I think, can I better place the moral lessons of this holy book in relief and distinctness before the reader, than by setting forth its philosophy somewhat fully in direct contrast with the other.
The German philosopher then, agreeably with his religious creed, 4 directs himself by the Romish standard in his judgment of things that concern religion and the Church. After the first four centuries, notable for the diffusion and final triumph of Christianity over Paganism in the Roman Empire, he traces the Church visible
the recognition is essential to the philosophy of history. So Lect. xv. p. 197 : “Without this freedom of choice in man, this faculty of determining between the divine impulse, and the suggestions of the Spirit of Evil, there would be no history; and without a faith in such principle no philosophy of history."
At p. 247, Vol. i, after noticing Condorcet's theory of the perfectibility of man, as the liberalism of historic philosophy, he well adds, “But man's corruptibility is as great as his perfectibility.”
1“This idea of divine justice and of God's judgments on the world, exemplified in history, belongs undoubtedly to the province of historical philosophy." Lect. x. Vol. i. p. 7.
3 Ibid. p. 5. 3 See too my observations on some of these points, in the General Introduction to this Work, Vol. i. pp. 106-109.
4 Schlegel was by birth a Protestant. But in his thirty-third year, A. D. 1805, he renounced Protestantism, and embraced the Romish faith. “It was in the venerable minster at Cologne," says his translator, “ that there was solemnized in the person of this illustrious man the alliance between the ancient faith and modern science of Germany."'-It is to be remembered that German Protestant. ism was then scarce anything but Neology.
and established (already at that time, in respect of its acknowledged head, a Romish Church) through those four long centuries which followed of the chaotic intermediate state between ancient and modern history,' as if still Christ's true Church, the upholder and preserver of the Christian religion, as well as civilizer of the barbarous invading Germanic nations; then the next three centuries, after that the tempests had subsided, and the wild waters of barbarian inundation begun to flow off, from Charlemagne to Gregory VII and the first half of the twelfth century inclusive, (a period constituting the earlier half of the middle age,) as “the happiest era and golden age
of Christendom :" when “ the influence of religion on public life was paramount;" when, in the project of a universal empire to embrace all civilized nations, the foundation-stone of the noble fabric of modern Christendom was laid, and all the elements of a truly Christian government and policy offered to mankind; “ when the principles which animated society were the best and noblest and soundest; "5 when the Church, “ like the all-embracing vault of heaven,” with its pure faith sheltered and shed kindly influence on all :6 and the Papal power, founded on and adapted for unity, after having grown up towards the end of this era to unprecedented greatness, used this great power only so as to preserve Christianity from being lost in a multitude of sects :-in all which he thinks to mark the presence and operation of God's animating Spirit, as well as
1 I use Schlegel's language, at the beginning of his Lecture xiii. ? Beginning of Lect. xiii. So Schlegel in one sentence adopts the two Apocalyptic images of a tempest, and an inundation, whereby to symbolize the great Germanic barbaric irruption. Compare Apoc. vii. 2, xii. 15 : also Vol. i. p. 300. and Vol. iii. Note!, p. 50, where the same images are further illustrated.
3 Lecture xiii, p. 127. He particularizes the reigns of " Charlemagne, Alfred, and the first Saxon kings and emperors of Germany, as exhibiting the paramount influence of religion on public life, and constituting the happiest era, the truly golden period of our annals :” and he exemplifies, among other things, in the earlier “spiritual chivalry of the Templars and Knights of St. John, consecrated to warfare in the cause of God," and the chivalry of the first crusades. At p. 176, he calls the early middle age “ thoroughly Christian." Gregory the Seventh is moreover the especial subject of his eulogy. 4 Ibid. 126, 127.
5 Lect. xiv. p. 153. 6 Lect. xii. pp. 115, 116.
7 Lect. xiv. p. 183.
kindly providence. On the other hand he traces the cotemporary operation of the Evil Spirit, (the “ Spirit of time,” as he calls it, from after the æra of the overthrow of the Pagan Empire that it had previously ruled in and animated,')—I say, he traces the Evil Spirit's operation through the same period in the beguiling sectarian spirit, and religious schisms of Christendom; including not alone the Arian schism, and the Mahomedan schism, (for he places Mahommedanism in the same category,?) but also in the iconoclastic proceedings of certain of the Greek emperors, 3 (proceedings which he lauds Gregory the Second for resisting,) and the consequent schism between the Eastern and Western Churches. In his sketch of the later half of the middle age, reaching from the twelfth century to the Reformation, he admits the general religious deterioration of Western Christendom; particularizing the essentially false scholastic philosophy then in vogue, and the internal feuds, and contests between Church and State :4 and traces the kindly operation of the Divine Spirit, (“the Paraclete promised to the Church by its divine Founder,'') whereby Christianity was preserved, in the rise and institution of the ecclesiastical mendicant orders, as men of the most perfect evangelical humility, poverty, and self-denial :5 at the same time reprobating the doctrines of the then popular opposers of the Church, viz. the Waldenses, Albigenses, and also Wickliffe and Huss after them, as fraught with the germs of heresy.! - So arrived at the Reformation, he speaks of it as manifested to be a human, not divine reformation ; by its claim of full freedom of faith, its rejection of the traditions of the past, its destruction of the dignity of the priesthood, and endangering of the very foundations of religion, through a denial of the holy sacramental mysteries," its adoption finally of a faith of mere negation, (so he designates it,) and severing of its Protestant constituents from the sacred centre of faith and religion, i.e. from Rome.5
1 “Christianity is the emancipation of the human race from the bondage of that inimical Spirit, who denies God, and, as far as in him lies, leads all created intelligences astray. Hence the Scripture styles him 'the Prince of this world;' and so he was in fact, but in ancient history only ; when among all the nations of the earth, in the pomp of martial glory, and splendour of Pagan life, he had established the throne of his domination. Since this divine era in the history of man, he can no longer be called the Prince of this world, but the Spirit of time, opposed to divine influence," &c. Lect. xviii. ad fin.
2 Ibid. p. 333. 3 “The rigid prohibition of the religious use of images was proper in those cases only where the use of them was not confined to a mere devotional respect, but was likely to degenerate into a real adoration and idolatry; and where a strict separation from Pagan nations and their rites was a matter of primary importance. But now that the Mahommedan proscription of all holy emblems and images of devotion arose from a decidedly antichristian spirit, this Byzantine fury against all images and symbols of piety can be regarded only as a mad contagion of the moral disease of the age.” Lect. xii. p. 106. 4 Lect. xiv, xviii ; pp. 173, 176, 333.
Lect. xiv. pp. 184, 186.
Such is Schlegel's philosophic view of the history of Christendom down to the Reformation : after which he notices the religious indifferentism of spirit, and false illuminism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, -ascribing them very much to the influence of the Protestant principle, 6—until the tremendous political outbreak of this infidel illuminism in the French Revolution.
i Ibid. 187.
2 Lect. xviii. p. 334. 3 “The total rejection of the traditions of the past, (here was the capital vice and error of this revolution) rendered this evil (the unhappy existing confusion of doctrines) incurable; and even for biblical learning, the true key of interpretation, which sacred tradition alone can furnish, was irretrievably lost.” Lect. xv. p. 215.-So also at p. 228, in a passage quoted below.
* “ The hostility of the German Reformers to the Church was of a spiritual nature. It was the religious dignity of the priesthood which was more particularly the object of their destructive efforts. The priesthood stands or falls with faith in the sacred mysteries; and (these having been by the Protestant body generally rejected) it was not difficult to foresee that together with faith in them, respect for the clergy must sooner or later be destroyed.” Moreover “that great mystery of religion on which the whole dignity of the Christian priesthood de. pends, forms the simple but deep internal keystone of all Christian doctrine ; and thus the rejection or even infringement of this dogma shakes the foundation of religion, and leads to its total overthrow.” Ibid. p. 218.
• “Had it been,” he says p. 228, a divine reformation, it would at no time, and under no condition, have severed itself from the sacred centre and venerable basis of Christian tradition ; in order, reckless of all legitimate decisions, preceding as well as actual, to perpetuate discord, and seek in negation itself a new and peculiar basis for the edifice of schismatic opinion.”
He speaks with high approval, p. 222, of the institutions of the Jesuits; as a religious order, wholly dependent on the Church, and from their opposition to Protestantism, as the great want of the age.
6 "Those negative and destructive principles,—those maxims of liberalism and irreligion, which were almost exclusively prevalent in European literature during the eighteenth century,—in a word, Protestantism, in the comprehensive signification of that term” Lect. xviii. p. 285.-So too p. 295; though he there allows that the English Protestantism of philosophy is to be distinguished from the French revolutionary Atheism ; for that “thongh by its opposition to all spiritual ideas it is of a negative character, yet most of its partizans contrive to make some sort of capitulation with divine faith, and to preserve a kind of belief in moral feeling."