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His publications during this period of his ministry were numerous. In addition to his own sermons and treatises, which were very wide in their range of subjects,* he translated a work in two large octavo volumes from the Spanish, t using for that purpose the quiet of one of his summer vacations, and prefixed to it a Preliminary Discourse of two hundred pages, which is generally regarded as one of his noblest productions. Amongst the interesting incidents of these years, were the annual gatherings of the students of Prophecy at the country seat of Henry Drummond, Esq., in the county of Surrey, of the first of which Mr. Irving has given a graphic description in the Preface to his Ben Ezra. In 1828 and 1829, he spent several weeks in almost daily preaching in Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland. In the metropolis great crowds came at six o'clock in the morning to listen to his expositions of the Apocalypse; and in the country places the people flocked together by thousands on the week days as well as the Sabbath. Probably since the days of Whitfield and Wesley, there has been no such out-door preaching. His own brief account of it to his wife, will give some idea of his prodigious labors and of the popular excitement:
“We arrived at Dumfries,” he writes, “ by six in the morning, when, having breakfasted with the Fergussons, I took some rest, and prepared myself for meeting a company of clergymen at Miss Goldie's, and preaching in the evening for Dr. Scott, to whom I had written for the old church, which he readily granted. This I took as a great gift from Providence, for it is like the metropolitan church of our county. I opened the Apocalypse as far as in one lecture could be done. Next day I preaehed in the Academy grounds, upon the banks of Nith, to above ten thousand people, in the morning, from the eighth Psalm and the second of Ilebrews. In the afternoon I preached at Holywood to about six or seven thousand, upon the song of the Church in heaven, Rev., v. The surveyor at Annan had the curiosity to measure the ground and estimate the people. He made it as many as thirteen thousand; and there were more at Duinfries. My voice easily reached over them all. At Holywood I was nearly four hours, and at Dumfries three hours in the pulpit; and yet I am no worse.” p. 319.
But we need not dwell longer on this period of his life, for almost all controversy regarding it has ceased. There is little in it which does not now command almost universal admiration. Mrs. Oliphant's book has effectually dissipated the clouds that had so long rested on his character as a man and a minister. No one now would charge him with the love of notoriety, and with resorting to tricks and extravagances to bring back the ebbing tide of his popularity. His deep sincerity and perfect truthfulness will never again be called in question. That he was a holy man, in no narrow and ascetic sense, but in the true freedom and nobleness of the Christian life; that he held the orthodox faith in every essential point; and that he did a great service to the church in making the person and work of the Lord the centre of his teachings, almost all are now ready to admit. Scotland, if we may judge from her journals, has reversed her judgment of her noble son. She would not depose him to-day, if he could stand at her bar, for what in her ignorance and rashness she then called heresy. “Irving,” says the North British Review, “was certainly condemned as holding opinions which, in fact, he anathematized.'' And another writer in one of the literary organs of her metropolis, declares with a burst of national pride, that " his great book on the Trinity was the finest contribution Scotland ever made to the profounder theology of the Christian Church.” The change in religious opinions since the commencement of his ministry, has been greater than in any period of the same length since the Reformation; and to no one man is it more to be ascribed than to Mr. Irving. The hope of the Lord's coming, to which he stood at first an almost solitary witness, is now held by tens of thousands in England, and Germany, and America. The truth of the Incarnation has been rescued from neglect, and is rapidly transforming the theology of Christendom in all those quarters where spiritual life is strongest. Out of this has grown a more just appreciation of the Church as a Divine organism, the Body of the Incarnate One; and new longings after unity as the fundamental law of the body, and after higher forms of worship for the right expression of its life, are showing themselves on every side. In no one division of the Church alone, but more or less in all, are these movements, like the deep ground-swell of the ocean, to be seen. To no mere human agency, but to the workings of the One Spirit proceeding from the one Head, are these new hopes and aspirations devoutly to be ascribed; but it is a simple fact of history, that Mr. Irving did much to inaugurate the new and better era in which multitudes in all lands are nobly struggling towards the Divine Ideal of the Church. By his reverence for antiquity, and his spirit of obedience to authority, he helped to check the downward progress of society towards lawlessness and anarchy; by his large-hearted charity towards all Christian men, he encouraged many to strive for “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ;” and by his profound and quickening teachings upon the Incarnation, and its kindred traths, he recalled thousands from the abstractions of dead systems to the living realities of Divine actings. His writings are not without their blemishes. His vehement spirit sometimes made him denunciatory, and his accusations are often too wholesale and undiscriminating. But these faults are redeemed by his honesty of purpose, and the unflinching courage with which he did battle for the truth against most fiery opposition, and, most of all, by the tenderness and love which are ever breaking forth in the midst of his sternest conflicts.
* Amongst them are “Sermons on the Incarnation,” “ Lectures on the Parable of the Sower," " Homilies on Baptism,” “Sermons on the Last Days,” and * Church and State.”
† “ The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty,” by Ben Ezra.
It is only in respect to the last four years of his life, that any controversy now remains; and these present so many new and extraordinary aspects, and involve so many points of the deepest interest, that we cannot enter upon them in an Article already protracted beyond our original design, but will devote to them another
ARTICLE II.—THE USES OF HISTORY TO THE
THERE is in facts this two-fold strength, that they both establish principles and incite men to use them. Rienzi, when he had matured a conspiracy among the Romans, summoned them for a last appeal to the church of St. John Lateran. In the choir of that church the curious traveler may still see affixed to the wall a copper tablet, in whose blurred inscription he may recognize a senatus-consultum of the days of the empire. It was a decree framed to enlarge the imperial prerogative of Vespasian ; and destined after the decline of fourteen centuries to furnish the last of the tribunes with a text. The golden age of the empire—the renown of the Cæsarsthe ontward march of the legions—the conquest of nationsthe revenue from province and colony-the homage of allies, the influx of visitors--the public works—the military roadsthe temples—the suburban villas—the harbors—the commerce—the opulence and luxury-of those elder days; these were the departed glories of the Rome Vespasian ruled, emblazoned by the fervid orator in bitter contrast with the degeneracy of the present. His watchword was the “ restoration of the good estate.” It caught like wild-fire from heart to heart and from tongue to tongue. There was soon raging one of those political conflagrations which Rome has so often endured herself, and has so often kindled elsewhere.
To what magic shall we ascribe this result? The presence of the ill-fated Rienzi threw a spell over the facile crowd; his rhetoric was bold, his enthusiasm contagious. Yet we are to look for the secret of his power rather in his appeal to history. He made facts his pleaders. He unsealed the mute lips of the past; and inflamed the nerveless sons with the deeds of their sires. It was not the force of argument that put the tribune at the head of the mob, and the mob at the head of the state; but his rehearsal of the splendid story of the national life. Without demonstrating what ought to be, he told what had been. He painted the fame of earlier days; and every stroke was a plea that the Rome of the future might rival the Rome of the past.
The last of the tribunes is but one example among many. The first of the Bonapartes may serve us for another. He, too, was accustomed to make history speak for him. Those troops that so often baffled the combinations of the Allies, had been inspirited beforehand by some bugle-note from the soldiers of old.
“The Persians,” cried Napoleon, dreaming of conquest in the East, “have blocked up the route of Tamerlane, but I will open another.”
“Hannibal forced the Alps—we have turned them,” were the words commemorating the first exploit of the Italian campaign.
On the advance into Austria, his general orders roused the flagging columns with the memory of Alexander, near whose native Macedon their line of march lay.
The expedition into Egypt was quickened by recounting the deeds of Roman legions on the plains before Carthage.
When the bloody action of Eylau was approaching, this allusion to the deeds and hardships of earlier heroes on the same ground, rung like a trumpet call through every corps ď armé: “The brave and unfortunate Pole, on seeing you, will dream that he beholds the legions of Sobieski returning from their memorable expedition.'
Even his generals caught the infection of their master's reverence for historic example: "Sire,” said Marshal Davoust, after the fields of Jena and Auerstadt, “the soldiers of the third corps will always be to you what the tenth legion was to Cæsar."
The impulse from earlier times thus transmitted through bulletins of war, has made itself felt also in the employments of peace. Literature, oratory, and art, have constructed their chief monuments with historic material. The best tragedies have been historical; not moving the heart with fictitious catastrophe, but with actual sorrows; with dire events, which