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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 thorough!y 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 unexception. able 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. Wri. ters 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 his own. ARTICLE II.
ON THE DEAD Sea, AND THE DESTRUCTION OF SODOM AND
To the Editor of the Biblical Repository.*
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 stood in the southern part of the plain or valley now occupied by, or adjacent to the sea. We supposed too, that their catastrophe must have had some connexion with the pits of asphaltum (slime-pits, Gen. 14: 10,) which before existed in the valley; and that the southern part of the sea, beyond the peninsula, might probably have been in some way occasioned by this conflagration. But the main body of the sea, further north, we thought must have been already in existence; since it exhibits no evidence of any later origin, than the Lake of Tiberias in the same great valley.
Our attention was soon engaged with other objects equally interesting; and we left this subject without arriving further at any very definite conclusions. During the course of the last winter, Mr. Smith being then in Leipzig, I had occasion again to take up the same inquiry ; and pursuing it further arrived at a theory which may perhaps, in some of its points, be the true one. Its main features were these: The sea anciently extended only so far South as to the peninsula ; south of this were the pits of asphaltum, around which extensive strata of the bituinen had spread themselves out over the surface of the valley ; upon this bitumen a stratum of soil had been formed, which was fertile and well-watered, and on this stood the cities. The Lord, by means of lightning or fire from heaven, caused the strata of bitumen to be set on fire, which then burnt with a fury sufficient to destroy the cities, consume the strata forming the fertile surface of the valley, and thus in parts sink its level ; so that a portion became covered by the waters of the sea rushing in, while
return from Palestine, in the diligent preparation of the researches of himself and Mr. Smith, in the Holy Land, for publication. The work has been principally written at Berlin, with the best advantages, and, as is expected, will be published in London, and in this country, under the superintendence of the author. In the mean time a Translation has been made into German, which will be simultaneously published in Halle, under the supervision of Prof. Roediger, a distinguished Oriental scholar. These publications will be accompanied with a new and improved map of Palestine prepared from the notes of Messrs. Robinson and Smith by a distinguished and scientific artist. Great interest is manifested in this work by men of the highest name and character for Biblical and Geographical learning in Germany and England. We trust its publication will not be long delayed. EDITOR.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. UI. NO. I.
the rest remained a salt and dreary desert, as it is at this day. Within the new portion thus occupied by the sea, the fountains of asphaltum may be supposed to be still at work beneath the water, producing the occasional phenomena of that substance for which the sea is famous.
My own impressions in respect to the above theory may be gathered from the following letter to M. De Buch. As I am no geologist, it seemed to me preferable, so far as I am concerned, to arrange the facts we had collected and lay them before scientific men, rather than build up theories in a department which is not my own. In this way, and out of these views, arose the correspondence which is here subjoined. It is hardly necessary for me to say, that M. de Buch, the distinguished geologist who was so good as to reply to my inquiries, holds the highest rank in this department on the continent of Europe ; and that he has paid more attention than any man living to the phenomena of volcanoes and volcanic action.
I wish it to be distinctly understood, that the question here, on my part, has reference solely to the means which the Almighty employed for the miraculous destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I propose no theory on the subject; nor does M. de Buch; but my object is to present facts and materials, of which others may make use, in order to carry out the discussion further. For this reason I have subjoined an extract respecting the volcanic dyke' found near the island of Banda in A. D. 1820; and another containing an account of the very remarkable Pitch Lake in the island of Trinidad. This last presents an analogy to what may have been the ancient character of the asphaltum around the pits in the valley, before the destruction of the cities of the plain.
I should be highly gratified if Prof. Silliman, or Prof. Hitchcock, or others of our American geologists, would look at the subject, and lay the result of their reflections before the public.
Yours in Christian bonds,
I. Prof. E. Robinson to M. Leopold von Buch.
Berlin, April 17th, 1839. SIR,
In accordance with your kind permission, I venture to throw together a few hints and notices respecting the region