« PreviousContinue »
AMONGST the many errors which are corrected by closer intercourse with the citizens of the United States, one of the most prominent is the general impression received in England of their tendency to boasting. Their high animal spirits which induce them to express the very same self-approving sentiments which we may entertain, although we prudently keep them secret — their lively emotions, whether of patriotism, friendship, or domestic affection, which are played on as the bosom of a lake is played on by the zephyr, while ours are deep and still, except when moved to strong and resolute expression — their sanguine temperament, so buoyant and hopeful ;—these give birth to utterances which may occasionally wear the air of boasting ; but examine them narrowly, and you will find it is not
The gasconading, which derives its name from Gascony, is the true bragging. It tells grand tales of what it has done, and, to magnify itself, paints, magnifies, or makes the self-glorifying story rather
than do without it. The American so-called boasting arises from a natural sensibility to successes. It is the joy of victory, the triumph of achieved independence. It has warmed the heart before it flowed out from the tongue.
When a sprightly, polite, benevolent young guide, to whose courtesies we owed much in exploring the city of Boston and its beautiful environs, rushed forth in a tide of exultation as he pointed out the fine monument to those patriots who perished in the battle of Bunker's Hill — when he related how the English army had made the song and air of “ Yankee Doodle,” and were used to cast it forth in scorn against the unregimentalled patriots who fought not for pay but for independence—when he cracked his whip in triumph, as he told that, when the invaders were routed, the American band took up the strain and marched to possess themselves of the enemy's forsaken posts, to the mocking tune of Yankee Doodle, and concluded with, “That is how the tune has been adopted as our national quick step ever since,”—could any one that had a heart see and hear him, and apply to his emotions such a term as boasting? Nay, it was impossible even to remind him that we belonged to the discomfited side, or to feel anything but sympathy with his gladness.
Yet it is not joy in the past—it is expectation for the future, to which the accusation of boasting is chiefly applied. Their position is progressive, their
circumstances are encouraging, and HOPE is the master passion of the whole nation. They seem incapable of entertaining a desponding or alarmed view of any circumstance. When the fate of the fine “ Atlantic” steamer was for so many anxious weeks veiled from the deeply interested multitude, it was amazing to hear people, in the face of all manner of probable misfortunes, express conviction that the good ship and her people, and even her cargo, were all safe. If some of those who profess faith in “ clairvoyance” consulted a modern Witch of Endor on the subject, and the oracle was favourable, it was handed about with great cheerfulness. If, however, she saw a wreck on the African coast, or a ship burned to the water's edge, and three forlorn men, one of them of huge proportions, and still undaunted bearing, preparing a slip of paper to be sealed up in a bottle, the consulters turned off in disdain, denying the witch's skill. They hoped then, hoped on, hope always. And thus, when they speak of their country, the mind rushes on to distant lakes and populations, and prairies, and future ages, and instead of being bounded by the great things already achieved, they tell of what they shall achieve. We say they prophesy—we ought to say, they hope. We say they boast !—we ought still to say, they hope. It seems easier to extingush in them the torch of life than that of hope.
To this great principle in the Christian community does the Church owe much of its vigorous effort at extension. Hope animates to energetic endeavour and vivid exertion. The faithful advance courageously, feeling that the deep and permanent wants of the human heart meet their efforts, and that the high objects which they present have power alike to arrest and influence the aged and the little ones.
The emblem of the Church of Scotland, endeared to us by years of oppression and persecution, during which its fitness has been verified, is the “bush burning, yet not consumed.” The motto of the Church in the United States might fitly be, “We are saved by hope.” Its whole existence is a history of the pulsations of hope, urging onward to more extended effort, and more strenuous exertion. It is not of its nature to say, “ This city is so crowded, that we must leave it alone, we can make no impression on it.” On the contrary, a church that is awake and alive will observe, “Here is a district beyond us, filling up with a population who have no religious ordinances; let us draft off two of our elders, and a few of our influential Christian families - let the people be visited and invited to a prayermeeting in a convenient place— let us offer them the means—let us set them the example— let us set about it now, with prayer for the influences of the Holy Spirit. Does the pastor quail under the separation from some of his steadfast people? Does he say, How can I do without you? How can I spare so many pillars and props from my spiritual
edifice? Nay, he says, “Go, my friends; it is a Christian enterprise, it is our Master's work. I will lend you help as time and strength may serve, and we all shall follow you with our prayers. So armed and encouraged they go.
The nucleus gathers around it a few of the sober-minded inhabitants of the new district. The success of the enterprise becomes interesting to them, as well as to those who came there and opened the scheme. In a year they have filled the district school-house, and have regular worship. In two years they have erected a becoming edifice, and got a pastor settled, and all the influences of a well-worked Christian system are brought to bear on the neighbourhood.
Here it is a city population that is spoken of, but, allowing for the difference of a fewer and more scattered people, the process in the country is nearly similar, reminding us of the manner in which a bulbous root propagates itself, swelling and pushing out fresh bulbs on either side. This method of church-extension is employed by the various bodies of Presbyterians. The Methodists and Baptists, whose communion-rolls are numerically stronger, use similar methods. They are not equal in influence and steadfastness to the Presbyterians, if we embrace under that name all the fragments which rest on the Presbyterian foundation. The coloured population are more generally united with the Baptist and Methodist bodies—and their status in American society, and degree of intellectual cul..