Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 6.djvu/242
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
Christendom, partly because its demands are the most pretentious, and partly because it has commonly sought to enforce those demands by the civil power. None of the Protestant Churches has ever occupied a position so imperious — none has ever had such wide-spread political influence. For the most part they have been averse to constraint, and except in very few instances their opposition has not passed beyond the exciting of theological odium.
As to Science, she has never sought to ally herself to civil power. She has never attempted to throw odium or inflict social ruin on any human being. She has never subjected any one to mental torment, physical torture, least of all to death, for the purpose of upholding or promoting her ideas. She presents herself unstained by cruelties and crimes. But in the Vatican — we have only to recall the Inquisition — the hands that are now raised in appeals to the Most Merciful are crimsoned. They have been steeped in blood!
There are two modes of historical composition, the artistic and the scientific. The former implies that men give origin to events; it therefore selects some prominent individual, pictures him under a fanciful form, and makes him the hero of a romance. The latter, insisting that human affairs present an unbroken chain, in which each fact is the offspring of some preceding fact, and the parent of some subsequent fact, declares that men do not control events, but that events control men. The former gives origin to compositions, which, however much they may interest or delight us, are but a grade above novels; the latter is austere, perhaps even repulsive, for it sternly impresses us with a conviction of the irresistible dominion of law, and the insignificance of human exertions. In a subject so solemn as that to which this book is devoted, the romantic and the popular are altogether out of place. He who presumes to treat of it must fix his eye steadfastly on that chain of destiny which universal history displays; he must turn with disdain from the phantom impostures of pontiffs and statesmen and kings.
If any thing were needed to show us the untrustworthiness of artistic historical compositions, our personal experience would furnish it. How often do our most intimate friends fail to perceive the real motives of our every-day actions; how frequently they misinterpret our intentions! If this be the case in what is passing before our eyes, may we not be satisfied that it is impossible to comprehend justly the doings of persons who lived many years ago, and whom we have never seen?
In selecting and arranging the topics now to be presented, I have been guided in part by "the Confession" of the late Vatican Council, and in part by the order of events in history. Not without interest will the reader remark that the subjects offer themselves to us now as they did to the old philosophers of Greece. We still deal with the same questions about which they disputed. What is God? What