F. D. (Frederic Dan) Huntington.

Human society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y online

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Online LibraryF. D. (Frederic Dan) HuntingtonHuman society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y → online text (page 15 of 17)
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the growth of Society ; so it is with any particu-
lar local Society. The body must both receive
and impart ; it must eat and work ; there must
be respiration and perspiration. Pores and cells
and senses must be open to influence, — inflowings
from abroad ; and, equally, sinews, limbs, powers,
must be ready for action outward, from within.
" So build we up our being." So, inch by inch,
and bud by bud, the tree builds up its tower-
ing trunk, its pillared l)ranches, its dome of living
green. So Society builds up its more wonderful,
complex organism, beneficent and beautiful. And


in each and all of them, it is God that is the
real Builder, — the " wise master-builder," — working
ever, tlirough alternate regularity and variation, that
thing which is best, by his own divine and per-
fect law.

The preparations for this mutual process are laid,
fast and fruitful, in our social nature. Bv both
jDropensities man is ever pushed toward his fellow-
man, — by the desire to gain from him, by the
desire to impart to him. Hence intercourse, in-
struction, commerce, travel, colonization. Thereby
different communities, as villages, cities, tribes, na-
tions, extend and flourish. In proportion as the
social propensity has room to play itself out into
action, gets air and light, the people prospers.
Shut it up to itself, and it is starved and dwin-
dled. As to all the grand objects of a noble
commonwealth, insulate it and it pines away,
gasping for the breath of life.

Surveying social history, to see how its strongest
movements have sprung up, where its most raj^id
advancements have been achieved, where the seats
of its intensest energy have been planted, you
will see this law evervwhere fulfilled. Where social
communications have been freest, civilization has
ripened fastest. Interchange has been inspiration.
Mixtures of bloods have been parents of pro-


gress and power. Contact of humanity with
humanity has been like the touch of the prophet's
bones; it has made the dead start up alive.
It is the true Promethean fire, running from
country to country, leaping from heart to heart,
passed in lamps and torches from hand to hand
as they meet,* animating, brightening, gladdening
the world. It never poisons nor palsies those
that take it, nor binds them on a rock, nor
eats out their vitals. It emancipates them rather
from the bondage of their barbarism, and from
the vultures of ignorance, superstition and sloth.

It was when the eastern tribes began to stir
and intermix, that ideas began to take the place
of mere physical necessities, in controlling human
life. The shocks of nation against nation woke up
the intellect from its lethargy, and struck out
vastly more of discovery, of thought, of original
force, than would have come from a mere addition
of the several amounts. It was not a process of
addition but of multiplication. As, in certain chem-
ical combinations, you get not only the aggregate
of the substances you throw in, but new qualities,
finer forces, or fairer forms, b}' their chemical ac-
tion, so in the great crucible of a continent, when
you pour the currents of national life together, by

* AaiiTTuAia txovTEi; dcadiooovoiv dX'M'jXoig.


certain secret forces of assimilation and repulsion
higher institutions, better forms of civilized society,
appear. In his eloquent and very instructive work
on " The Earth and Man," Professor Guyot has
so ably handled and exhausted the whole subject
of the divine adaptation and relation between the
physical and the moral creation, that if I were to
transfer to my argument his ninth and twelfth
lectures entire, I should only strengthen and adorn
it. There we see how the shapings of the conti-
nents, the expanses of the ocean, the courses of
rivers and the configurations of hills are exactly
contrived to favor and to consummate just that
social result wdiich we have all along found indi-
cated as God's design in Society itself, viz., unity
in the midst of diversity, — a common s^iirit widened
and deepened by individual peculiarity and liberty.
There we see Asia, Europe, North America, as the
three grand stages in the march of civilization.
There we see the great silent, swinging globe itself,
moving, stirring, impelling, shaking together, and
compacting again, into an ultimate order of incon-
ceivable magnitude and glory, from the East and
from the West, from the North and from the
South, the children of God that walk, and w^ork,
and suffer, and think, and weep, and pray, on its
breast. Hence it was, — from this geographic prcp-


aration, — that the chief developments of human
enterprise and ingenuity so long took place about
the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean. There,
as Napoleon said, tlie human soul throbbed most
powerfully. There all the natural conditions of
prosperous life were best fulfilled and combined, —
a soft climate, various lands, spontaneous and nu-
tritious productions, so that, iqj to a certain j)oint, —
that point, viz., where a greater degree of hardi-
hood becomes necessary to complete manhood. So-
ciety was left free for its most favorable mani-
festations, while the rude navigation of those waters
was a constant stimulant to the communities around
it. Later, wdien this Mediterranean civilization had
done its best, and its several members, — Phoenicia,
Egypt, Tyre, Greece, Ital}^, Spain, Carthage, — had
done all for each other that they could do, — how
was the next great step forward to be taken ?
Providence answered, by bringing down a new ele-
ment from the North ; a rough bridegroom from
the forest for this southern bride. To be sure, it
was a wild wooing, and a fiercer wedlock ; but
nevertheless the marriage was pronounced ; the do-
mestic doors of Europe were opened ; the nations
mixed ; God's designs went forward. With their
quick, bold faculties, Goths, Vandals, Franks,
adopted whatever was best in the life of the


countries they conquered. Then the scene of hu-
man activity was shifted to another theatre, further
west. Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy,
by their action and interaction, strife and treaty,
stimulus and competition, took up and bore forward
the ameliorations of the world. Arts, sciences,
printing, and a wider commerce, were finally born.
And by commerce, later yet, just when a larger
scope was wanted, the veil was lifted before a
more magnificent theatre still. Not now a union
of the nations of a continent, but of continents
themselves ! Columbus came. America was found.
The new career began of that admixture, on a
scale of unprecedented grandeur, of which the ulti-
mate results, after three centuries and a half, lie
still unforeseen, unimagined, undreamed in the

From one point in the interior of Asia, little more
than a dot on the rind of the globe, the waves
of advancing civilization steadily spread. They
crept slowly to the Mediterranean. The Persian
power gave the human tide a new impulse and
sent it to the ^gean. The Greeks bore it for-
ward to the Adriatic. The Romans pressed it
on to the Atlantic. There it rested long, baf-
fled by the waste sea, till, in the fulness of time,
God put the freight of an old world's hope into


the fragile fleet of a Genoese sailor and floated it
to the new. Two formidable ramparts, of mount-
ains, and as many thousands of miles, are con-
quered in three centuries more. Th'eii California
launches for China. The Pacific, — name of lorophecy
and 251'omise, — ocean of the world's final peace, — ^is
crossed. The colonizing of the Pacific islands com-
pletes the chain. Difl'usion first, then assimilation.
First the genius of Progress peoples the earth.
Then she returns on her track, resets, in better sym-
metry, the growths she had planted, and makes the
expanded household one. Dispersion is a civilizer ;
and so is centralization ; each in turn ; each counter-
poised by the other. " Give me the map of a coun-
try," says Cousin, "its configuration, its climate, its
Avaters, its winds, its natural productions, its botany,
its zoology, and all its physical geography, and I
pledge myself to tell you what will be the man
of this country, and what place this country will
occupy in history."

If finer specimens of our kind, and loftier degrees
of civilization, are to be developed on this hemi-
sphere than ever before, it will be because here
the people of all the nations on the earth meet
each other on more liberal terms, and enter into
less obstructed alliances ; because no naiTow na-
tional policy bars any out, and no oppression of


government enslaves any after they are in ; be-
cause all bring their gifts, their traditions, their fac-
ulties, their blood, their hopes, their faiths, and fusing
them all together, doubtless through many a collision
uncomfortable to taste and awkward to prejudice, —
3'et under the benign and foreseeing Providence ot
the Father of them all, work out, and rear peace-
fully together such a Christian commonwealth of
mind and heart and conscience and will, of beauty
and strength, of law and love, as the sun never

Peacefully; you mark that word; and you say
it suggests a painful commentary. For, very often,
these mixtures of peoples have been effected only
through fire and sword, through campaigns, sieges,
slaughters. Can these be social agencies ? Are
they not anti-social rather, springing from hate, not
love ? Is war ever a civilizer ?

The answer to these questions cannot be put
into a single word. If men had been ready and
equal to the progressive plans of Providence, — if
those plans took no resistance nor contravention
from mortal passions, mortal sluggishness, or selfish-
ness, I suppose the social mixtures I have referred
to would be effected without hostile collisions. Our

* Hegel supposes the logical end of human history to be on the
continent of Europe, — probably in Prussia.


presumptions, in such a field of speculation, ought,
of course, to be modest. But it seems at least
reasonable to suppose that in that case, the steady
march of improA^ement would be no march of
armed hosts, with bloody hands ; the horrible arts
and machinery of destruction would be displaced
by industry and friendly traffic ; countries would
open their gates to each other, learn war no more,
and thrive, as they ultimately will, surely as God
lives, on one another's prosperity. And yet, not-
withstanding the obvious incongruity between blood-
shed and a spirit of social progress, by looking
further down, we shall discover a certain philosoph-
ical and real relation between them. Taking men
as they are, with all their deformities, and weak-
nesses, and ignorances, wars have come about, in
the accomplishment of the same ends which would
have been accomplished otherwise had men been
what they ought to be. The social instinct has
pushed men on, to meet each other, and occupy
the globe. Encountering opposition, they have
fought. With what was natural and providential in
these instincts, self-interest and violence have pro-
fusely mingled. Yet even then, how often has the
overruling hand of God come in to turn the war-
rior and destroyer into servants of his will, to
make the wrath and the policy and the powder of



man to praise him, to gather from the field of
havoc some harvest of human welfare afterwards, —
as the sweet, yellow grain waves every summer on
the acres of Waterloo. The military occupation of
the Scottish Highlands, after the battle of Cullu-
den, was an advantage to that rude region which
can he traced in all its subsequent condition. Fol-
lowing almost every great war, there has been a
new impulse to human progress. Old conventions
and abuses were broken up ; old prejudices, super-
stitions, dynasties were • sundered ; old chains were
snapped to pieces. Nations burst through their for-
mer boundaries ; they crossed their blood ; they
sharpened their brains ; they hberalized their judg-
ments ; they enlarged their experience. A fresh
start, though often a short and interrupted one,
was given to the general advance. The actors in
the struggle may have been rapacious, cruel, infa-
mous. They followed a horrid and accursed trade.
But if all the evil was man's, all the final good
was God's ; and the last and greatest victory is
always the victory of his love.

So, friends, the Almighty Providence, which never
sleeps, draws his children on. And where he
draws, it is no aimless movement. We see but the
surface, — or only margins and glimpses of the
mighty plan. All the revolutions of our latest


times are only the breaking crests of a wave of
light that has been rolling on, ever since God di-
vided the ocean from the land, the morning from
the night. The world is not a self-impelled caprice.
History is not a tangled skein. Civilization is not
scattered by chance, but grows by law. We call
single events, or lordly men, the causes of great
epochs. But the causes lie deeper and act further
than single events or the lordliest men. They are
bedded deep by the Creator in the bosom of Hu-
manity. They act through long reaches of social
succession. Moses, inspired prophet as he was, did
not rear the Hebrew commonwealth, nor emanci-
pate Israel ; but He who said to Moses, " The I
Am hath sent thee." " The Roman republic was
overthrown, not by C?esar and Pompe}^, but by
that condition of things which made Csesar and
Pompey possible." Luther, Calvin and Zuingie did
not reform Europe, and transform the Church, but
He, the Church's Head, their Lord and Master,
who said once, and says forever, " If the Truth
shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
Washington and the immortal signers of the Dec-
laration did not create American independence, nor
drive back the troops of the Crown, but that
Arm that overturns and delivers, that puUeth down
one, and setteth up another.


Down through all that mingled play of the evil
and the good that have made up the fortunes of
the world, there has run the adamantine chain of a
heavenly Design. Its first link is held by the
hand of a personal God ; and however dim our
eyes may be in tracing out its windings, yet,
when all shall be unfolded at last, faith tells us
that it will end where it began; that the last
link shall lie firmly, with the first, in the same
Father's hand, binding all in one, and all to Him.

As with construction, so with retribution. When
the crime and selfishness of empires stop the com-
ing of the Son of Man too long, and humanity
falls helpless among thieves and robbers, and op-
pression heaps its insults in the face of Heaven's
anointed, then the same law that went forth once
from Jerusalem comes in justice again. Again you
see the hand-writing of the fingers on the walls of
tyranny, and hear the footsteps of the Avenger.
Then the aw^ful Presence, from which nothing hides,
moves in among corrupted courts, or guilty senates,
or cabinets that sell man and truth for gold.
Then, by the direct and irresistible working of the
social laws, commercial robbery, the monopolies of
wealth, or Corinthian manners, prepare and inflict
for themselves Heaven's merciful revenge. Then
what conformity had disordered, reform, with a


face of terror, and hands of iron that break in
pieces, yet with a heart of compassion, comes to
purify and to heal. And though venerable and
beautiful forms arc shattered, it is to liberate a
spirit imprisoned in them, more venerable, more
beautiful, because more useful still.

" Young Romance raised his dreamy eyes,
O'erhung with dainty locks of gold ;
Why smite, he asked, in sad surprise.
The fair, the old ?

"Yet louder rang the strong one's stroke.
Yet nearer flashed his axe's gleam ;
Shuddering and sick at heart I woke,
As from a dream.

" I looked : aside the dust-cloud rolled ;
The waster seemed the builder too ; —
Upspringing from the ruined Old
I saw the New.

" 'T was but the ruin of the bad, —
The wasting of the wrong and ill ;
Whate'er of good the old time had
Was living still.

" Calm grew the brow of him I feared ;

The frown which awed me passed away,
And left behind a smile that cheered
Like breaking day.


"The grass grew green on battle-plains,

O'er swarded war-mounds grazed the cow ;
The slave stood forging, from his chains,
The spade and plough."

" Thus the gazers of the nations, and the watchers of the skies.
Looking through the coming ages, shall behold, with joyful eyes,
On the fiery track of Freedom fall the mild baptismal rain,
And the ashes of old evil feed the Future's golden grain."



The first annoimcement of Christianity to the
world contained in it a promise of a new order
of Society. When the Divine Person that embodied
and proclaimed this religion came forward, ont of
the retirements of Nazareth, to his pubhc minis-
try, he came not only as the Regenerator and Re-
deemer of the individual heart, but as a Recreator
of social institutions and the Saviour of states.
Earlier yet, the anticipations of prophecy had de-
scribed him as the Author of a commonwealth
complete in compass, power, harmony, every civic
glory. The imagery that pictured that foreseen
splendor was drawn from social reconciliations,
swords beaten into ploughshares, Ethiopia stretching
out her hands, the wolf lying down with the
lamb, tyranny and hatred vanished from the family
of nations. In these generous predictions we hear
the mighty forechant of that universal anthem
which is to rise from all the round world. Chris-
tianized and consecrated at last. The Messiah ex-


pected was to be a Prince of unbroken peace,
and of his brotherly kingdom tliere shonkt be no

At his actual coming, these animating and be-
nignant promises were more than confirmed. The
first voice that declared his nativity, — ringing
through the midnight sky over Bethlehem, — the
celestial chorus startling the shepherds, — was a song
of hope for social man, as well as a " Gloria in
Excelsis" to the Creator ; for, after its first sub-
lime ascription to Heaven, comes instantly the
'- Peace on earth, good will to men." Every su-
pernatural sign spoke of human reformation. The
Advent was a coming of the Son of God to
weary, oppressed, sorrowing humanity. The Epiph-
any Avas a manifestation of the Father to an
alienated, scattered household. The Passion was a
redemptive suffering for a bleeding social body, no
less than for lost solitary souls. Throughout all
his benign ministry, Christ planted virtues which
are the very binding and healing and building of
the social state. With the clearest emphasis he
affirmed that his mission was to rear a world-wide
home for the tribes of the earth, — under one Father
and one law, — " that they all might be one." To
this purified and Christian society he gave a social
name — the Church. Its organizing principle was to


be the spirit of bis own life and gospel, wrought
first into the convictions and thus into the whole
development and conformation of the race.

The reach of time it will require to work this
consummation out is never estimated. The uncer-
tain and variable element is the freewill of man ;
the element fixed and sure is the decree of God.
All we know of the period of the plan is that it
is His with whom one day is as a thousand
years. Whenever the result is accomplished, it will
doubtless be through the voluntary consent of men
themselves, who are to be the material as well as
the architects of the structure. In my last Lec-
ture I endeavored to show that though the rate
is not uniform, nor the progress equal as to place,
the causes that shall finally work that Christian
commonwealth into realization, act steadily and un-
ceasingly, from age to age, with the constancy and
the power of law.

Now the means by which this grand, ultimate
destiny of mankind is to be achieved, we know.
It is by the ideas and affections, /. c, by
the spiritual forces, — planted germinally by the
Creator in humanity, and manifested perfectly in
the one Divine Man. In histor}^ we know them
as Life ; in the gospel as Truth. What wo name
Christianity is the clear and complete affirmation


of them b}- that mediatorial Being, in his action,
in his speech, in his death, in his resurrection, in
the eternal intercessory and inspiring office of his
Lordship in the heavens. Thus the social constitu-
tion of man, and the revelation in Christ, are the
two correlated, complemental forces, which hear for-
ward the progress of the world. Together, they
prepare that renewed, just, free, merciful and holy
society which the New Testament repeatedly char-
acterizes as the kingdom of heaven on earth, and
which is the symbol, the archetype, and the be-
ginning of that final and everlasting kingdom
which shall he when there shall be new heavens
and a new earth. This, in as few terms as I am
able to present it, is the key to the Christian
philosophy of history.

It follows that when the great truths of Chris-
tianity shall have become embodied in the actual
forms of government, education, trade, art, letters,
mercy, manners and worship, and shall have con-
trolled Society by their living power, then the
kingdom of Christ will have come. Whether this
result is ever to be an historical fact on this
planet, i. e., whether the human race is literally
perfectible, — or whether, in a state meant to be
disciplinary and preparatory, it shall be realized
only in approximate and ever-ascending degrees, is


not important to the integrity of our reasoning. It
is enough if all the currents of history stream
that way, and if both the tendencies and aspira-
tions of men point and climb ever to the same
zenith of the future. It is the distinctively Chris-
tian element of this view which distinguishes it
from an atheistic theory like that of Auguste
Comte, who would make the three great eras of
perfected humanity to be the Metaphysical, the
Theological and the Scientific, and would subordi-
nate religion to " positive knowledge :" on the other
hand, it is its comprehensive character, as embrac-
ing all of Christendom, which distinguishes it from
the limited conceptions of Christian writers like
Bossuet and Schlegel, who would confine all possi-
ble progress to the Roman Catholic communion.

The position taken is this : It is through men's
social relations and affections, that Christ, the Head
of the race, proposes to construct his spiritual em-
pire, his church. What we name history is only
the unrolling of the scenes of that construction.
Old Thomas Fuller is justified in saying that of
the four proper aims of the historian, the first is
the glory of God. For what this reverent scholar
would place first in the writing of history, God
himself has plainly put first in the history to
be written. Even Montesquieu, who in an earlier



work''*- spoke lightly of Christianity, after experience
had matured his mind acknowledged that it was
not only the most perfect form of religion, but the
principal " suj^port of the social system."

Men may disj)ute whether there was a golden
age in the Past, but there shall be a true golden
age before us : prophecy foretells it ; hope reaches
toward it; experience opens her secret pledges of
it ; all the voices of heaven and earth promise
it ; and imagination has only to bring her pencil
of brilliant light to picture its scenery of majesty
and splendor : a period, in the slightly altered and
beautiful language of Coleridge, " when conscience
shall act in man with the ease and uniformity of
instinct ; when labor shall be a sweet name for
the activity of sane minds in healthful bodies, and
all enjoy in common the bounteous harvest pro-
duced by common effort : wdien there shall exist
in the sexes, and in the individuals of each sex,
just variety enough to call forth the gentle rest-
lessness and final union of chaste love and indi-
vidual attainment, each seeking and finding the be-
loved one by the natural affinity of their beings;
when the Sovereign of the universe shall be

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Online LibraryF. D. (Frederic Dan) HuntingtonHuman society; its providential structure, relations, and offices. Eight lectures delivered at the Brooklyn Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y → online text (page 15 of 17)