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present ephemeral existence? and especially when we remember that these powers are only fully developed after he has travelled a long way on the journey of life. Surely this were on the part of the Creator only to mock and tantalise him with the prospect of endless being, and just as he is ready to rise to the enjoyment of it, to quench the unfettered spirit in eternal night. Better far for man never to have been at all, than with his mighty powers only to have lived in the present narrow, contracted scene. The mortality of the body is sufficiently affecting, without having to mourn the everlasting extinction of the soul. As the gladness of the spring, the beauty of the summer, and the grandeur of the autumn continually pass away, so pass the succeeding generations of men: a few fleeting years of joy and sadness, the happy day, the merry laugh, the fleeting hour of jocund mirth and hilarity, intermingled with many sighs and bitter tears, then darkness closes o'er the scene, and all is hushed in unbroken, interminable silerce.
We ask, can this be all? Is this the climax of our unceasing care, and toil, and pain? It cannot be. Verily there must be somewhere in God's universe, a spot where man shall at least regain his former beauty and grandeur; else he had better been a prowling beast of prey, or a fading forest tree, yea, the most fragile flower that blooms would have the advantage of him.
It is a glorious thing to be, but to be a man bespeaks the soul immortal! These thrilling joys, these wasting sorrows, these exquisite pleasures, these piercing pains ; this soaring power of thought, this deep-welling fount of feeling, beyond the abi. lity of tongue to utter or pen to paint, are a certain pledge of a future, yea an eternal existence. And, better still—“life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel."
EFFECT OF PRINTING ON CIVILISATION.
REV, JAMES MALCOLMSON.
[The following essay on "The Effect of the Invention of
Printing on Civilisation,” will be read with the more interest when the necessary explanation is made, that it was written as a “Saturday morning exercise," whilst Mr. Mal. colmson was a student at St. Bees Theological College, near Whitehaven. The practice in writing such essays is, that the subjects are not known beforehand; the time allowed is two urs, and no book of reference is allowed. This essay was “commended," and we think deservedly. The writer is now Curate of St. Thomas's Church, Hyde, and Lecturer to the Society of Arts, London.]
The written and printed History of the World is for the most part a history of general progress. If we glance back at the various periods of English history, or take a more enlarged retrospect of the domains of the long past epochs of universal history, we shall find the essential elements of true civilisation kept in abeyance on account, to a very great extent, of the want of some extensive and comprebensive means of communicating information, and the intelligence which then prevailed amongst mankind. And even the so-called brightest periods of civilisation are darkened and mystified by very much of fable and superstition.
The great elements of true civilisation (i.e. of civilisation in its most extended and expansive meaning,-for be it observed, that it is peculiarly one of those words which has with the growth of ages so expanded), may be considered under three heads, viz
1. Physical or material;
3. Moral. The physical and material may be said to embrace the following particulars. The advantages of the position of nation to nation. The influence of climate on such nations. The fertility or non-fertility of the soil. The contour of the country forming the bounds of the nation. The extent of sea-board and means of maritime external communication which each nation possesses. The development of the internal means of communication and intercourse, by means of railways and public roads (witness the facilities which the great Roman roads gave to the Roman Empire in its pristine state), &c.
Under the mental elements affecting the civilisation of nations, may be classed—the state of education, and means employed in its advancement, as is shewn in or by the system of universities, colleges, grammar and other schools. The diffusion of books and literature, and the general character of the newspaper press.
And, thirdly, by the moral elements of civilisation, I mean those which are to be found in the Christianity of a nation, as embodied in its churches, missionary and other philanthropic institutions. If the church and Christianity of a nation is in a pure and healthy condition, that nation is generally found in advance in regard to civilisation; for so true is the saying of that greatest of all Hebrew sages, that—"Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people."
The subject before us comes more especially under the second division of the elements, though it is to a very great extent intertwined with the others. "Each element,” according to Guizot, "acts and reacts upon the other so as to produce a harmonious
and favourable result." Wm. Alexander Mackinnon, M.P., in his masterly and comprehensive work on civilisation, has judiciously shewn that where some of the great elements of civilisation have been wanting, the others have been kept in check, and very often the state has decayed in consequence, This too is the view taken by Baron Macaulay and others who have given attention to this interesting and important subject. If we glance for example at the history of Egypt, we find in the midst of the wreck and ruin of stupendous temples and monuments, and amid the debris of tombs and pyramids, evidence of vast resources—evidence of extensive learning-indisputable proofs of some of the leading elements of civilisation; and Holy Writ discloses to us the fact of the learning of the Egyptians. Why then has that learning and those resources of information never come down to us ? Simply, because of the non-development of the means of communicating in the press-means so fully developed in our day. The Copt, like the Scandinavian of old, put his information on immovable and ponderous material.
The former carved his hieroglyphics, which it has taken centuries to decipher; the latter furrowed his thoughts in mystic runes and channels, on pillars of stone or huge blocks of wood, almost as unwieldy as his god Thor's own ponderous hammer.
Though Egypt produced the papyrus, she seems to have lacked the scribe and the printer. And it has been beautifully remarked by Martin F. Tupper, in his “Proverbial Philosophy," with regard to that nation
Egypt, wondrous shores, Ye are buried in the sand-hills of forgetfulness ! Alas! for in your glorious youth Time himself was young, And done durst wrestle with that angel, iron-sinewed
bridegroom of Space : So he flew by, strong upon the wing, nor dropped
one failing feather Wherewith some hoary scribe might register your
honour and renown."
Time would fail me to glance at the brightest periods of Greece, Rome, Carthage, in old time, and the Venetian Republics, Spain, &c., in the middle ages. The literature of Greece and Rome has come down to us in a mutilated condition, on account of the want of the element I have alluded to, viz:-a facility for the diffusion of information. We know not how much the onward march of true civilisation has in the good Providence of God been retarded on account of this.
But it is time I should glance more especially at our own English history. Previous to the invention of the Art of Printing in the 15th century, we find learning chiefly confined to the monasteries and schools which then prevailed; and though we must ever regard with gratitude some of those monastic institutions, for the way in which they preserved and guarded many important truths which otherwise would not have come down to us, we cannot but feel that the sources of information which the monkish em. blazoners of the MSS. of the middle ages possessed, were very scanty and limited. And, indeed, it may be said that much of their knowledge was of a very questionable character. Though the mediæval period of English history produced a Chaucer and a Gower, their works have been almost entirely lost to us, on account of the crippled and limited means for diffusing information. Subsequently to the time in which they flourished, and previous to the important discoveries of Faust and Guttenberg, and the improvements of the renowned William Caxton, we are told that it took a labouring man the whole of a year's labour to purchase a copy of the volume which makes “ wise unto salvation;" and even in the reign of the worthy founder of Eton and other colleges, viz., Henry VI., we are informed that a few verses in the Epistle of St. James were sold for a load of hay.