28 DECEMBER 1861, Page 19


Tim two portions of this tract bring out very strikingly the great contrast between the relation of theology to politics in the ancient and modern world. Sir Edward Strachey discusses in a broad and reverential spirit, —which proves him to combine the characters of a historian, a theologian, and, above all, a politician,—the relations of the prophets to the actual administrations of the Jewish kings, and the analogous agencies in modern times. Mr. Maurice, taking advantage of the King of Prussia's recent claim of the right to rule "by the grace of God," discusses the various causes which have led to the abuse of the phrase, and to the eclipse of the truth which it ex- presses ; and by showing the complete exhaustion of all mere mechanical schemes of government, leads us back to the faith which the prophets of Israel were sent to proclaim. But the leading thought in both portions of this tract—that which so connects them together as to make them complements of each other—is the clear grasp of the truth that the source of all true progress in political in- stitutions is a faith in God reaching so far beyond the narrow limits of defined institutions—whether merely political or sacerdotal—as to supplement and modify them perpetually from generation to genera- tion, according as either the character of a nation changes, or its destiny brings it under totally new temptations and influences. Sir Edward Strachey casts no misleading light on the true office of the Jewish prophet, when he makes him the centre and the organ of that liberalizing, expansive, and adaptative force, which preserved the rigid sacerdotalism of Israel from a too early petrifaction. The Jewish prophet was no doubt, in the truest sense, the head of the liberals of Judiea, though assuredly in no sense in which Liberalism is inconsistent with true Conservatism. It was he who, from his closer ommunion with God—from the very inspiration of his free spirit—was enabled to distinguish between the mere outward form and the inward essence of political and sacerdotal institutions—to interpret the law with a faller insight than any other into its spiritual purpose—to face with a calmer mind than any other the terrible crises in the national destiny when the invasion of one idolatrous power seemed a danger only to he averted by an alliance with ano- ther—and to evolve from his insight into the national character the conviction that God's highest purposes for the nation could, after all, only be worked out through a period of desolation and exile. He was the leader of the Jewish Liberals then, in this sense, and in this only, that he always kept in view those divine purposes that lay be- neath the letter of the Jewish institutions, and was ready at any time to abolish the latter when and so far as they might obstruct the former. In the following passage Sir Edward Strachey truly illus- trates the prophetic office in Judrea as the guarantee of political progress, by the following just analogies : "If we look at the Hebrew Prophets in connexion with their own times, we find that they have certain characteristics in common with the teachers of other nations. No nation, ancient or modern, has won the name of a nation till it has been subdued to order and industry, and organized into a body politic, capable of common action, in peace and war, by the discipline of lawgivers and rulers, civil and religious. But history tells us that law and order are not all; that there must be a provision also for progress in the life of a nation, or it must deteriorate while it stands still. Egypt and China became retrograde when they ceased to go forward. The Athenian arator understood, or at least was truly possessed by, this distinction, when Tracts for Priests and People. No. X. l04AflCieNt and Modern. I. The Prophets of the Old Testament. By Sir Edward '""LcheY, Uart. II. Ds Rings Beiga by the Grace of God? By the Rev. F.D. Maurice. Macmillan. h. e attributed the political freedom, internal and external, of his nation to its organization into a commonwealth, in which the Law was their king, and SPEECH their teacher.' The law-1101110S —was much, but not less was the iogos, the free, rational, and instructive speech, which maintained, adapted, and expanded the law from year to year, and generation to gene- ration, and thus secured the progress, as the law did the permanence, of the

nation. And as this speech required speakers, there grew up in Greece an order of political, as well as of moral and philosophical, teachers and advisers.

And the greatest of thesepolltical advisers, Demosthenes, describes his own office and duty as being `To see events in their beginnings, to discern their purport and tendencies from the first, and to forewarn his countrymen ac- cordingly; to confine within the narrowest bounds those political vices of h. abitual procrastination, supineness, ignorance, and love of strife, which are inevitable in all states; and to -dispose men's minds instead to enlightened concord and unanimity, and to the zealous discharge of their social duties.' And how Demosthenes applied, and taught his countrymen to apply, these principles to the practical politics of their day, we all know. " The greatness of ancient Rome, too, stood not in her laws alone, but in her laws and her free speech together ; and the tribune had as large a share as the senator in building up the republic. And what was true of tho states of antiquity, is not less true of those of modern times, only that we have multiplied and ramified indefinitely the forms of reasoning, dis- cussing, and teaching, by writing and printing, no less than by word of mouth.

"Nor were the Hebrews wanting in this characteristic of every nation that deserves the name; they, too, had their !WINOS and logos—the LAW and the Pitoparrs : they, too, in virtue of this distinction and its effects, have obtained a place amongst the historical nations of the world. The latest, as he is one of the greatest, of our political philosophers, declares that it was due to the existence of 'an inestimably precious unorganized institution, the order (if it may be so termed) of prophets;' that the Jews, instead of being stationary like other Asiatics, were, next to the Greeks, the most progressive people of antiquity ; and, jointly with them, have been the starting-point and main propelling agency of modern cultiva- tion."

It is true, then, that the Jewish nation which was in all things taught personally and consciously by God what the other ancient nations had, so far as they learnt it at all, to gain from the use of impersonal and unconscious, though equally divine faculties, owed to its religious poets and prophets just the same kind of service against narrow and stifling conservatism which the Greeks owed to their dramatic poets, statesmen, and philosophers, and the Romans to their orators, legislators, and popular tribunes. In all these cases there was a danger of mere law, custom, and habit crushing out, or permanently arresting the progress of the people, as has happened in India and China. In all these cases the vital expansion was maintained for a time, though only for a time, by men who had in some sense freed themselves from the killing letter, and by God's aid penetrated to the living spirit. Only in the case of the Jews had this been due to the conscious communion with God. Not the less, however, must we admit that the marvellous development of Philo- sophy, Poetry, and Art in Greece, and of Law and Equity in Rome, was one to a true though blind participation in those divine attri- butes which can alone save the human race against decay and retro- gression. But what then must we regard as the relation of faith to politics in the modern world, through centuries in which the whole Christian world must be said to share many of the privileges of the Jewish prophet, though not any of the peculiarity and exclusiveness of that privilege ? This is the question which Mr. Maurice discusses in the dialogue which forms the second part of this interesting tract. He shows us that in the Christian world almost all the blunders from which the Christian revelation should have guarded us have been made over again ; that the so-called theocracy, which had failed under the Jews for the simple reason that some person, or sets of eraons, had claimed to be the sole organs of the divine purpose, has been tried and has failed in the Papal system, and that the attempt to secure human liberty by any human mechanism whatever must ne- cessirily fail, because human liberty lives by that free sympathy with and obedience to the purposes of God which no possible mechanism can bind or limit. It is for this reason that he claims the phrase gratid Dei as the true crown of every political system ; because so long as the system, whether republican, monarchical, aristocratical, or despotic, is supposed to live by its own inherent virtues, it must ossify and then crumble and decay ; whereas no political system whose administrators humbly and reverently acknowledge its complete ubor-

dination to God's living purpose for the nations, will be found to those modifying changes which the Jewish prophets engrafted

on the Oriental despotism of Judrea. We have recently had one greet proof of this in the Russian despotism which, in acknowledging its own imperfection, and bowing to the divine decree that as men grow in knowledge and culture they shall grow in the. power of self- government, has vindicated even for such a despotism as that of Russia a true place in the divine order of the world. And it is be- cause we see in America—especially in the South—the exact opposite of this spirit—a fierce idolatry of institutions which need new mch o- fying and new-modelling, instead of a disposition to admit the light of God into them, that we tremble for the future of America, and feel that Mr. Jefferson Davis at least does not rule "by the grace. of God." Christianity has now transferred that office of new-mould. mg political institutions which belonged in Judea to an order of specially religious men, to all free men who can receive and recognize the divine spirit. But in being thus generalized, men foolishly dream that it is altogether abolished, as they dream that inspiration no longer exists because all children of God may claim it. It may .be said that the following fine passage in this sense explodes the doctrine of the phrase " gratia Dei," but we think it will be said only by those who fancy that the light cents to exist when it has dispelled the

darkness ; that the truth is annihilated when falsehood is no more; that life vanishes when it has overcome death :

"B. If our princes rule by the Grace of God, they rule as witnesses that all kings, presidents, kaliphs, guocunque gaudent nondne, rule by the same grace.

"A. Presidents, too ! I thought that the D.G. only encircled the brows of the legitimate.

"B. All are legitimate whom God owns as legitimate. They lose their legitimacy by not confessing the law under which they live. Who have more need to be reminded of the law which can hold a people in unity, which asserts the manhood and citizenship of every man, than our brethren of the American States ?

"A. Perhaps you would not be quite confounded by the ordinary argu- ment that if kings exercise their functions by this grace, all doctors, soldiers, lawyers, cotton-spinners, journalists, handicraftsmen, exercise their func- tions by the same grace ?

"B. Confounded by it ! It is a logical conclusion from my premises. It is the very principle I am most anxious to maintain. When we thoroughly grasp it I believe we shall become a righteous and free people, able to be witnesses of righteousness and freedom to the ends of the earth. If we let go the half-faith we have in it, instead of seeking to deepen and to expand it,. I see no alternative for us but the acceptance of the most slavish doctrines into our hearts, and of the actual bodily slavery to which such doctrines always lead at last."