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atavis editus regibus. Here on the other hand, if it becomes really national, it will be not for a noble class, not for a reigning class, but for the one class, the people. When the American system of society shall have been perfected, and the whole population shall have been trained under its influences, the whole population will be a reading population -a population to be moved and charmed by poetry, to be enlightened and elevated by history, to be taught, argued with, persuaded, respecting their interests, their rights, and their duties. Then how many millions upon millions of readers will constitute that public to which American literature shall address itself. Perhaps, among the readers of this page, there is the poet-boy, “mute and inglorious" as yet, who, like Milton, “ long choosing and beginning late," shall by and by utter those words of living song which shall at once be echoed from the waters of the Oregon, and who in a green old age shall be crowned with the laurel offered in the acclamations of more than forty millions of his countrymen. What will that literature be which shall teach the hearts, and sway the minds of such a public? Will it have any thing in it, of the nature of intellectual dandyism? Will it have any affinity with that which seeks the exclusive patronage of an imaginary higher class, the courtly, the idle, the fashionable, the first circles? Would you see some intimation of what it is likely to be? Look not for those books which are printed only to be bound in satin covers, and to lie with undimmed gilt edges upon tables of marble and rose-wood, but for those which naturally make their way every where alike, and which are not only talked of in circles of literary pretension but are read without criticism at the farmer's kitchen fireside. Where will you not find that book about the “ Rich Poor Man” and “ Uncle Phil," and the meek sufferer Charlotte-thumbed, worn, blistered perhaps with natural tears ?
One glance at another view of our subject, and I have done. Can there be a truly American literature which shall not be eminently controlled and enlivened by the spirit of the Christian religion ? Some superficial observers have an idea that the tendencies of our system of society are all to irreligion, to unmingled worldliness, to blank infidelity. Elsewhere, the existing forms and institutions of religion are in close alliance with the existing forms of government; and consequently, just as fast and as far as the public mind moves towards political revolution, there is danger of its casting away, not only religious corruptions and abuses, but the very name of Christianity. The inference has been hastily made, that here, where a new organization of society is in full operation, religious faith must of course have ceased to be an element in society. English tories and English radicals, with opposite motives, are apt to concur in the hasty conclusion. And some unthinking, unobserving minds on this side of the Atlantic, themselves unconscious of the expansive and ennobling power of Christian truth, seem really to have taken it for granted that religion is no part of the American character ; that faith in God and in the retributions of the eternal state, faith in the Bible, and faith in Jesus Christ, are never to be spoken of, except as they occur in certain decent forms and observances, and never to be thought of, except perhaps at a funeral. Is it so ? Because we have no hierarchy allied with a mighty aristocracy, and both supporting the throne that supports them-because worship and religious instruction are not regulated by the government-have we therefore ceased to be a Christian people ? That philosophic traveller, whose work on “ the Democracy in America,” is the ablest exposition of the American civilization, ever produced by a foreigner-perhaps I ought to add, abler than any that has yet been produced from among ourselves-carried back to the old world no such report. His deliberate testimony is, “ There is no country in the whole world, in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America ; and," he adds like a true philosopher, “there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth." “ If any hold,” says he," that the religious spirit which I admire, is the very thing most amiss in America, and that the only element wanting to the freedom and happiness of the human race is to believe in some blind cosmogony, or to assert with Cabanis the secretion of thought by the brain, I can only reply that those who hold this language have never been in America, and that they have never seen a religious or a free nation. When they return from their expedition we shall hear what they have to say." “ How is it possible," he exclaims, “that society should escape destruction, if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed ? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity ?”
Is not this a true report? Is not religion, the religion of the Christian Scriptures, one of the grand elements in the character of the American people ?—nay is it not the first of the constituent forces of the American civilization? How can it be otherwise? Is not our whole history brightened with peculiar and glorious manifestations of the power of religious faith? Can the American people cast away their Christian faith, without tearing themselves from the past, and dishonoring all that endears and hallows the names of their own ancestry? Is religion with us a mere dying tradition-a merely lingering respect for ancient forms and prejudices? What! when of all the reading of the people three-fourths is purely religious !-when of all the issues from the press, three-fourths are theological, ethical, and devotional !--when the spontaneous offerings of the people are planting churches, and rearing temples, and training an educated clergy, and endowing and multiplying seats of Christian learning, and putting the Bible into every family, faster than could be done by the utmost exertion of imperial power!
- when the American people are at this moment pursuing the enterprise of spreading Christianity through the world, with a zeal less blazing indeed than that of the crusades, but more inflexibly determined, because more deliberate, more enlightened, and more conscientious !-when on every side it is conceded and reiterated that moral force, not physical, must guard us against ruin ; that sound moral influences, religious affections and sympathies, confidence in God, and the sense of Divine accountability, diffused through the nation, must be our only safety! No!
“ The pilgrim spirit is not dead,
It walks in the noon's broad light,
With the holy stars at night." Can there be, then, a literature truly and thoroughly American, which shall not be as thoroughly Christian? How can it be national, unless it shall proceed from the religious soul of the nation, and shall breathe the pure spirit of Christian faith? It must ever drink not of any fabled fountain of merely earthly inspiration, but of
" Siloa's brook that flows Fast by the oracle of God."
What then is the conclusion of the whole matter?
First, American literature will never be formed by the mere imitation of English models. Those who are ambitious to please and instruct their countrymen by writings which their countrymen shall honor, will never succeed by trying to catch the tone and ape the manner of English fugitive literature. If our countrymen want English literature, it is cheaper, easier, and in every respect a far better bargain, to get the original article than to get the imitation.
Next, a truly American literature will never be created, till literature ceases to be a merely elegant amusement, and addresses itself in earnest to the subjects that take strong hold of the interests and affections of the American people. I have heard of a parish somewhere, who were delighted with their minister, and thought him the most unexceptionable man in the world, because, as they said, he never introduced into his discourses either politics or religion. Literature framed upon such a principle, will always be despised by a free, a grave, and active nation.
My last word is, that American literature must be the product of free, enlightened, honest minds, kindling with the spontaneous fires of genius and of love. Affectation of sentiment is as powerless as the affectation of genius. Writers destitute of religious sentiment at the heart, but affecting to infuse into their works the sentiment of Christian faith out of deference to public opinion, will never strike that chord in the hearts of the people which vibrates to the touch of truth. So the affectation of Americanism-and above all the affectation of hyper-democracy-will ever overshoot its mark, exposing its own unworthiness. The affectation of whatever sentiment, religious or political, is a base and conscious slavery of the soul. Let the young scholar, then, whose mind is fired with the hope of by and by delighting and instructing his countrymen, beware of affectation. Remember, he who speaks to a free people must himself be free-free within--conscious himself, and making others conscious, that his emotions and his faculties are all
ON THE DEAD SEA, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND
By Rev. Edward Robinson, D. D., Prof. Orient. Lit., Theol. Sem., New-York.
To the Editor of the Biblical Repository.* Sir,
In travelling in May, 1838, along the shores of the Dead Sea, with my friend, the Rev. E. Smith, our attention was naturally directed, not only to the singular natural phenomena connected with that sea ; but also to the history and circumstances of the dread events, which Scripture has recorded as having taken place within the deep valley which it now occupies. We had become aware, that the former theory that the Jordan's having once flowed through this plain and the great southern valley to the Red Sea, was no longer tenable ; and the still earlier one of a subterranean lake covered with a stratum of asphaltum and earth, on which stood the cities of the plain, seemed the mere vagary of a mind not well informed. We spoke upon the subject and felt that all former theories respecting the destruction of those cities must be abandoned; although we did not feel ourselves able at the moment to propose a new one, we became aware, however, that the cities must probably have
* This communication, with the accompanying article was designed for the October No. of the Repository, but came to hand too late to be inserted at that date. The facts and suggestions which it contains are highly important to the cause of natural science as well as of Biblical learning. We hope to follow it, in subsequent Nos. of our work, with articles from the same author on topics of equal interest and value. An article is expected for our next, (if it should not arrive in season for insertion in the present No.,) on the Passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, with Notices of the land of Goshen, etc. These sketches by one who has visited the scenes of the Scripture miracles, and who is so well qualified to describe them, cannot fail to be read with interest.
To some of our readers it may not be known that Dr. Robinson is still in Europe, where he has been engaged since his