Page images
PDF
EPUB

reign of Peter, on the condition of Russian Christianity, was his annihilation of the power of the priesthood by the abolition of the patriarchate, and substituting in place of it a synod of prelates, presided over by the emperor himself. The Church was thus placed-in full accordance with the ideas then prevalent in the most civilised countries of Europe-under the complete control of the State.

But it is not the past of this new field of historical inquiry which interests us, so much as the future into which it seems to be significantly opening. The volume before us takes us back to the origin of Christianity, plunges us ever and anon into many of the unsolved questions of the present, and through the portals of the Russian Church, still fresh from the hands of the imperial architect, discloses to us a boundless vista of coming possibilities. And what a future lies there! An immense serfdom, with the elements of a deep and earnest faith working in it, to be raised into citizenship and civilisation! A territory to be christianised, vast and of varied boundary beyond every other European sovereignty, connected westward by the closest ties with the culture of Germany and France, spreading to the east over an enormous area, still partially heathen, till it meets the boundary-line of America, sweeping along the wavy frontiers of China and Thibet, and terminating ominously at the very point where Greek and Turkish interests are struggling for ascendancy! For the responsibilities created by this huge empire and its heterogeneous constituents, the Russians are not ill adapted, by the mixture of Asiatic and European elements in their blood, and by the power which is said to distinguish the members of their orthodox Church, of assimilating other men's views with a firm retention of the essential articles of their own belief.* The traditional theology of the Greek Church is liberal and benignant, still animated by the spirit of Chrysostom. Its contact with various religions has taught it toleration. Along the porticoes of the churches the figures of heathen poets and philosophers may be seen portrayed, as providential pioneers for the labours of Christian saints. When the missionary Henry Martyn died in Armenia, his funeral received all the honours of a Greek archbishop. In Russia, while proselytism is forbidden, Latin and Protestant Christianity are protected as sacred. “In the fair of Nijni-Novgorod,” says Dr. Stanley, “on the confluence of the Volga and the Oka, the Mahometan mosque and the Armenian church stand side by side with the orthodox cathedral.”+ There is no papacy, no ecclesiastical domination in the Russian Church. Its ministers are chiefly dependent for their support on the voluntary principle, and a Eastern Church, p. 491.

+ Ibid. p. 41.

large measure of weight and responsibility is thrown by it into the hands of laymen. This so far has hindered the culture and refinement of the great mass of the clergy; but it has also prevented their exercising any mischievous influence in society. “God be praised,” said a devout Russian layman to Dr. Stanley, in reference to the ignorance of the Russian priesthood, “the Eastern Church has never ruled, that religious light and instruction are confined to the clergy. It is still in our own power to redeem the future."* A striking feature in the Russian empire is the great number of dissenters from the established or orthodox Church, that are wisely tolerated by the government. They go by the name of Rascolniks, or “ Separatists;" and their strength lies in the trading or mercantile class, gradually emerging out of serfdom. In this class Erman, who travelled through Russia some thirty or forty years ago, already discerned the vigorous germ of a future citizenship and nationality. He says, they are the only class which, “unaffected by the State-principle, care to discuss the affairs of their own and of foreign nations.”+ With all their ignorance and prejudice, the strength of their religious convictions gives them a force and independence of character, in which lies the vital root of a great people. Of these Separatists, the pith and marrow are to be found in the “ Starovers,” or “ Old Believers," who consider themselves the true representatives of the old orthodox Russian Church, from which they regard the present Establishment as a base degeneracy. They were thrown off from it by the reforming innovations of Nicon, which they looked on as great impieties, and were confirmed in their alienation by the still greater changes of Peter the Great. Their present numbers are said to amount to eight millions of souls. They are an industrious and thriving community, and possess much wealth. They are the counterpart of our own Puritans and Covenanters; the points wherein they outwardly differ from them, and seem to have a closer affinity with the Nonjurors of the Revolution, being more apparent than real, and traceable to the same fundamental principle. Though the Starovers cling to old usages, which the Puritans repudiated, and abhor innovations, which the Puritans made it a point of conscience to enforce, yet the animating motive in both cases has been identical,-a religious hatred of secular corruption, and a fervent desire to restore or keep the Church to its ancient purity. In external manifestation, there is a strong resemblance between the Nonconformists of Great Britain and Russia. Both are distinguished by the same rigid

• Eastern Church, p. 46.

| Travels in Siberia, &c., by Adolph Erman; translated from the German by Cooley, vol. i. p. 53.

and uncompromising adherence to what is reverenced as a principle; by a similar plainness and simplicity in their habits of life, and by the general purity and sobriety of their morals; by an equal indifference, or even contempt, for the refinements of art and elegant literature ; and, not least, by the exaggerated stress which they have been accustomed to lay on the most insignificant trifles of form. With the scruples of our Puritan ancestors about the surplice, the cross in baptism, and the ring in marriage, may be compared the still more extravagant sensitiveness of the Russian dissenters about the impiety of the established clergy in giving the benediction with three fingers instead of with two, and the sinfulness of a compliance with the world in adopting the modern abominations of eating potatoes, smoking tobacco,* and shaving the beard. In another respect the parallel still holds. Some of the Starovers, like the Quakers and Primitive Methodists among ourselves, have no regular ministry. We may deride these notions and usages as fantastic and absurd; but they indicate a stubborn tenacity of religious conviction in that portion of the Sclavonic race from which its future civilisation must chiefly proceed. The Rascolniks may do for Russia what the Puritans have done for England, and what the Huguenots might have done for France, had they not been exterminated by the explosion of a noxious mixture of intolerance with infidelity.

There is another section of the Eastern Church which has a deep significance for the future: that which has its seat in Greece itself, and stands in more direct antagonism with Mahometanism. A friend of ours, who spent some time in the Morea several years ago, where he enjoyed great opportunities of intercourse with its inhabitants, spoke to us in high terms of their moral qualifications for a higher form of Christianity, which he believed to be already in preparation among them. From such a revival of the religious life in Greece, we might reasonably look for the gradual restitution of a spiritual Christianity in those fair provinces of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, where its earliest triumphs were won, and which are now languishing under the double weight of superstition and despotism. Europe is beginning at length to repay her ancient debt to the East, and in all directions is exerting a restorative and quickening influence on the outlying tracts of quiescent degradation and

• Like the Puritans, too, the Starovers have a Scriptural authority for their strangest fancies. When asked by Peter the Great, whether they thought smoking tobacco was more wicked than drinking brandy, they answered, “ Yes; because it has been written, .Not that which goeth into a man, but that which cometh out of a man, defileth him.'” The new unheard-of food of the potato was supposed to be the very accursed “apple of the earth" by which the devil tempted Eve. Eastern Church, p. 474.

the mirested human andre someday will copean inte pro

stagnant barbarism. The slow results of former civilisation furnish no adequate measure of the possibilities of future progress. Civilising agencies are now wielded by European nations, the mere idea of which would have seemed a wild chimera to the most far-seeing in the ages that are gone. The press itself, long the great instrument of human advancement, is transcended in its effects, and invested with a wider and more immediate influence, by the railway, the telegraphic wire, and the photographic process. These marvellous powers are spreading themselves gradually over the whole earth, and marking out the lines of future conquest. There are yet vast spaces to be reclaimed to civilisation and Christianity in every quarter of the globe. But though the material progress of the world must occasionally be checked by such internal convulsions as are now rending asunder the great Republic of the West, to teach men humility and self-control, and to prove that there can be no safe progress without religion and moral principle; yet there are nations evidently marked out by Providence for the future work of civilisation, with spheres of determinate action distinctly assigned to each; and they will doubtless fulfil their appointed mission. When some present obstructions are removed out of the way, as in time they must be,—with the immense power over nature now possessed by man and daily on the increase, and with the wonderful means of locomotion and intercourse, of more ready and complete expression for all the operations of thought, of colonisation, culture, and social progress placed at his disposal, -it seems no rash or unreasonable conjecture that, in less than half the time which has elapsed from the introduction of Christianity, every continent and island, every habitable spot of earth, will be peopled and civilised, with no outlet for its redundant population, no outlying wilderness to reclaim, no still subsisting barbarism to bring over to a Christian life. At this point our little planet will seem to have fulfilled the destiny of its existing constitution, and to have reached the threshold of some new development. What may then be in reserve for the actual occupants of earth, it would be presumptuous to speculate. Imagination pauses with reverent awe before the solemn possibility, and language drops into the expressive silence of a devout trust.

ART. III.—THE INTERIOR OF BRITISH NORTH AMERICA. Narrative of the Canadian Red-River Exploring Expedition of 1857,

and of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan Exploring Expedition of 1858. By Henry Youle Hind, M.A., F.R.G.S. London: Long

man and Co., 1860. Papers relative to the Exploration by Captain Palliser of that por

tion of British North America which lies between the Northern Branch of the River Saskatchewan and the Frontier of the United States, and between the Red River and the Rocky Mountains.

Presented to both Houses of Parliament, 1859. Further Papers relative to the Exploration by the Expedition under

Captain Palliser of that portion of British North America which lies between the Northern Branch of the River Saskatchewan and the Frontier of the United States, and between the Red River and

the Rocky Mountains, and thence to the Pacific Ocean. 1860. We have hitherto known but little of the interior of our NorthAmerican possessions. Such information as we have had upon the subject has been derived either from the occasional notices of Arctic explorers, who have rested at the Hudson's Bay Company's posts in the course of a hurried journey to more northerly regions, or from the statements of the Company's servants. From neither of these sources could we look to obtain any very reliable data. The first kind of evidence was that of mere passing travellers; the second, that of men who, though they had passed their lives in the country, had yet been accustomed to keep their attention fixed on the fur-trade, and who had naturally cared little to spend either time or thought in experiments unconnected with, if not absolutely hostile to, that all-absorbing object. Mr. Hind's narrative, and Captain Palliser's letters to the Colonial Office, are therefore the first contributions of importance which the subject has received. The latter gentleman's journey was undertaken by the direction of the British Government, and at the instance of the Royal Geographical Society.

The details of his explorations, however, are still unpublished, and his report is as yet, with the exception of the part which relates to the passes of the Rocky Mountains, little more than a hasty and somewhat barren itinerary. Those chapters of Mr. Hind's work which treat of the Red-River settlement have already appeared in substance in a blue-book printed in 1859; but the details of the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan expedition are now published for the first time. It has long been suspected that the impression, studiously propagated, and we believe

« PreviousContinue »