Page:Ruskin - The Seven Lamps of Architecture.djvu/41

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15
THE LAMP OF SACRIFICE

is evident: there was a deep and awful danger in it; a danger that the God whom they so worshipped might be associated in the minds of the serfs of Egypt with the gods to whom they had seen similar gifts offered and similar honours paid. The probability, in our times, of fellowship with the feelings of the idolatrous Romanist is absolutely as nothing, compared with the danger to the Israelite of a sympathy with the idolatrous Egyptian<[1]; no speculative, no unproved danger; but proved fatally by their fall during a month's abandonment to their own will; a fall into the most servile idolatry; yet marked by such offerings to their idol as their leader was, in the close sequel, instructed to bid them offer to God. This danger was imminent, perpetual, and of the most awful kind: it was the one against which God made provision, not only by commandments, by threatenings, by promises, the most urgent, repeated, and impressive; but by temporary ordinances of a severity so terrible as almost to dim for a time, in the eyes of His people, His attribute of mercy. The principal object of every instituted law of that Theocracy, of every judgment sent forth in its vindication, was to mark to the people His hatred of idolatry; a hatred written under their advancing steps, in the blood of the Cananite, and more sternly still in the darkness of their own desolation, when the children and the sucklings swooned in the streets of Jerusalem, and the lion tracked his prey in the dust of Samaria[2]. Yet, against this mortal danger, provision was not made in one way, (to man's thoughts the simplest, the most natural, the most effective,) by withdrawing from the worship of the Divine Being whatever could delight the sense, or shape the imagination, or limit the idea of Deity to place. This one way God refused, demanding for Himself such honours, and accepting for himself such local dwelling, as had been paid and

  1. 1. page 15. 'With the idolatrous Egyptian': The probability is indeed slight in comparison, but it is a probability nevertheless, and one which is daily on the increase. I trust that I may not be thought to underrate the danger of such sympathy, though I speak lightly of the chance of it. I have confidence in the central religious body of the English and Scottish people, as being not only untainted with Romanism, but immoveably adverse to it; and, however strangely and swiftly the heresy of the Protestant and victory of the Papist may seem to be extending among us, I feel assured that there are barriers in the living faith of this nation which neither can overpass. Yet this confidence is only in the ultimate faithfulness of a few, not in the security of the nation from the sin and the punishment of partial apostasy. Both have, indeed, in some sort, been committed and suffered already; and, in expressing my belief of the close connection of the distress and burden which the mass of the people at present sustain, with the encouragement which, in various directions, has been given to the Papist, do not let me be called superstitious or irrational. No man was ever more inclined than I, both by natural disposition and by many ties of early association, to a sympathy with the principles and forms of the Romanist Church; and there is much in its discipline which conscientiously, as well as sympathetically, I could love and advocate. But, in confessing this strength of affectionate prejudice, surely I vindicate more respect for my firmly expressed belief, that the entire doctrine and system of that Church is in the fullest sense anti-Christian; that its lying and idolatrous Power is the darkest plague that ever held commission to hurt the Earth; that all those yearnings for unity and fellowship, and common obedience, which have been the root of our late heresies, are as false in their grounds as fatal in their termination; that we never can have the remotest fellowship with the utterers of that fearful Falsehood, and live; that we have nothing to look to from thembut treacherous hostility; and that, exactly in proportion to the sternness of our separation from them, will be not only the spiritual but the temporal blessings granted by God to this country. How close has been the correspondence hitherto between the degree of resistance to Romanism marked in our national acts, and the honour with which those acts have been crowned, has been sufficiently proved in a short essay by a writer whose investigations into the influence of Religion upon the fate of Nations have been singularly earnest and successful—a writer with whom I faithfully and firmly believe that England will never be prosperous again, that the honour of her arms will be tarnished, and her commerce blighted, and her national character degraded, until the Romanist is expelled from the place which has impiously been conceded to him among her legislators. 'Whatever be the lot of those to whom error is an inheritance, woe be to the man and to the people to whom it is an adoption. If England, free above all other nations, sustained amidst the trials which have covered Europe, before her eyes, with burning and slaughter, and enlightened by the fullest knowledge of divine truth, shall refuse fidelity to the compact by which those matchless privileges have been given, her condemnation will not linger. She has already made one step full of danger. She has committed the capital error of mistaking that for a purely political question which was a purely religious one. Her foot already hangs over the edge of the precipice. It must be retracted, or the empire is but a name. In the clouds and darkness which seem to be deepening on all human policy—in the gathering tumults of Europe, and the feverish discontents at home—it may be even difficult to discern where the power yet lives to erect the fallen majesty of the constitution once more. But there are mighty means in sincerity; and if no miracle was ever wrought for the faithless and despairing, the country that will help itself will never be left destitute of the help of Heaven.' (Historical Essays, by the Rev. Dr. Croly, 1842). The first of these essays, England the Fortress of Christianity, I most earnestly recommend to the meditation of those who doubt that a special punishment is inflicted by the Deity upon all national crime, and perhaps, of all such crime, most instantly upon the betrayal, on the part of England, of the truth and faith with which she has been entrusted.
  2. Lam., ii, 11. 2 Kings, xvii, 25.