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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

Chapter V. — The Development

Chapter V.

The Development.

Act but an honest and a faithful part,
Compare what then thou wast with what thou art,
And God's disposing providence confessed,
Obduracy itself must yield the rest;
Then thou art bound to serve Him and to prove,
Hour after hour thy gratitude and love.
Has He not hid thee in thy favour'd land,
For ages safe beneath His sheltering hand;
Given thee His blessings on the clearest proof,
Bid nations leagued against thee stand aloof,
And charged hostility and hate to roar
Where else they would, but not upon thy shore?
His power secured thee when presumptuous Spain,
Baptized bis fleet invincible in rain;
Her gloomy monarch, doubtful and resigned
To every pang that racks the anxious mind,
Asked of the waves that broke upon his coast—
What tidings? And the surge replied—all lost!
Peculiar is the grace by Thee possessed,
Thy foes implacable, thy land at rest;
Thy thunders travel over earth and seas.
And all at home is pleasure, wealth, and ease.
'Tis thus extending His tempestuous arm,
Thy Maker fills the nations with alarm,
page 25 While His own Heav'n surveys the troubled scene,
And feels no change, unshaken and serene;
Freedom, on other lands scarce known to shine,
Pours out a flood of splendour upon thine.
. . . . . .
A world is up in arms, and thou, a spot
Not quickly found if negligently sought;
Thy soul as ample as thy bounds are small,
Endur'st the brunt and durst defy them all.
Now ask of history's authentic page—
Call up the evidence from every age,
Display with a busy and laborious hand
The blessings of the most indebted land:
What nation will you find whose annals prove
So rich an interest in Almighty love?—Cowper.

As the consumption of the kingdoms was a process of time, so the development of the Stone into a mountain that filled the whole earth was also an operation of time. The little stone did not suddenly become a great mountain, nor did the great mountain in one convulsion convert all the other mountains into its own gigantic mass. The whole affair was a gradual growth. Nothing surprising or mysterious; it was all a matter of natural expansion. The narrative does not read as if the dream appeared to be a passing picture, a mere flash across the imagination, but a panorama in which Nebuchadnezzar beheld the course of ages revolve and pass away—change succeeding change, and events following each other in a natural order. Daniel, in describing it to the king, used these suggestive words: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands." Surely those words convey the idea of a gradual disengagement of the Stone from the mountain in a sort of evolution process! It was not shot out from the mountain with force; it did not occur as a thing of a strange or terribly supernatural action. The dream revealed a process, a growth, a development from the embryo to the perfect creature. The thought is retained and exemplified in what follows while speaking of the effects of the Stone which smote the image upon his "feet of iron and clay, and break them in pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind carried them away, so that no place was found for them. And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth."

Thus, first of all the Stone is seen making its appearance in the mountain side, emerging, as it were, from a rocky face; the spectator gazes until it becomes free from its parent rock-bed; from that moment it commences its impetuous career, in the course of which it comes against that which gives a show of resisting its progress, and must be destroyed or removed, else the Stone must be stopped. The strongest proves the victor. The Stone has obtained an irresistible velocity, and in striking against the obstructing feet of the brilliant and majestic image at length brings the proud figure to the ground. Not obstructed, the Stone goes on, growing in volume as in power, and frequently coming page 26 in contact with the recumbent form of the beautifully polished and exquisitely worked metal Colossus, each time grinding the broken fragments into smaller particles, until at last there only remains a heap of fine powdered dust which, by a mighty wind, is scattered to the far corners of the sea and land. Yet still the increase of the Stone continues, and is seen equal in size to a great mountain not long after it has completed the work of demolition. Its course is still onward and expanding, until at last the whole earth is covered by its greatness. A long period must surely have appeared to elapse between the time it first commenced to evolve from the mountain face, and the time it was seen by the spectator to cover the whole habitable globe.

Now, If Britain is this Stone, how does her history and growth tally with this view of the dream? Behold what a little thing she was at the date of the Roman invasion. Britain was then reckoned as but a small and barbarous people. Such was the first view obtained of her by the dreamer. But though small and looked upon as most insignificant, she taught Cæsar that she was no despicable foe. The Stone was only appearing in the mountain side, but its course could not be obstructed. Although Rome, as if by a strange pre-monition of the greatness to which Britain was destined, made strenuous efforts to prevent her improvement, the oppressor's iron hand was powerless to defeat her destined purpose. Yet she grew slowly, though gradully coming into national prominence.

"For centuries ran their course and time grew grey;
The earth had gathered to her womb again
And yet again, the myriads that were born
Of her, uncounted unremembered tribes,"

While the Stone was in process of formation. But at last her population having been gathered together out of the mountain "Europe" in a most uncommon manner, and she having come to her maturity, and consolidated into a compact nation under a single acknowledged crown and a code of the most exquisite laws which it has been the honour of a nation to possess, she commenced her work of smiting the feet of the image. The origin of the people composing the British nation, be it observed, is one of a very singular nature. There is an old tradition o the Britons that the island was connected with the continent by an isthmus, and that the action of the sea upon the chalk cliffs caused the formation of the channel which now separates it from the mainland—many geologists maintain the same as a fact. If this were proved it would be a very striking evidence of her severance from the mountain "without hand," but I think the vision refers more to the people than the country. Just review the gathering of the people. How strange was their manner of growing into one. First we find some trading with the island, about 1000 years B.C., and then settling upon it, forming one of its earliest colonies. Later, it is visited by Danish seamen from Ireland, and other adjacent coasts. Subsequently, many arrive through Scotland from Ireland, and centuries roll on, during which the great Iron Empire endeavours to incorporate her in vain. Then, because of internal weakness and dissention, the Britons invite the Saxons to become their page 27 allies, and own a small island on the coast. They comply, but decline to withdraw, and instead take possession of a very large part of the country, in time almost completely deserting their possessions on the opposite coast of Europe. The Danes followed by stealth and cruelty to settle upon the land, after whom arrived the Normans, under the Conqueror, who all merged into the one race of ancient Britons and less ancient Saxons. This gathering together and coalescing of people who appeared to be quite distinct and even antagonistic races, went on for hundreds of years, until the British nation was evolved from the seemingly strange mixture which came out of the mountain "Europe" in such a peculiar and surprising manner. It was not the scheme of a diplomatist, or the plan of an ambitious conqueror. Those who contributed to the population of Britain entered it from the Continent gradually, and in comparatively small detachments. Yet, in the end, they have produced the purest, noblest, mightiest empire which the world has seen, of which the poet Young sings in the following lines:—

"The Atlantic surges round our shore,
German and Caledonian, roar;
Their mighty genii hold us in their lap.
Hear Egbert, Edgar, Ethelred;
'The Seas are ours' the monarchs said—
The floods their hands, their hands the nation's clap.
Whence is a rival, then, to rise?
Can he be found beneath the skies?
No! there they dwell that can give
Britain fear. The powers of earth by rival aim
Her grandeur but the more proclaim,
And prove their distance most as they draw near."

But it is only within the last three centuries that she has really given evidence of her grand destiny by the truly noticeable rapidity of her increase. It was in the year 1346 that she first made a blow at the feet of the image; this was followed in 1347 and 1356. This latter was when the Black Prince dealt such a blow upon France at the battle of Poictiers. There then succeeded a rest of 59 years, when Henry V. took the pride out of the French army with his little band of soldiers in the ever memorable battle of Agin court. But not again for nearly a hundred years was the work of demolition resumed. In the sixteenth century four blows were struck, and another four in the seventeenth, but the eighteenth century was one continued succession of blows, increasing in power and rapidity towards the close, so that in the decade 1790 to 1800 Britain gained no less than 60 victories over the two powers composing the feet of the image.

It is interesting to observe that while the first four empires grew by usurping the territory which their enemies had possessed, Britain's growth has not been so. She has increased while she was busy overthrowing her enemies, but not by spreading her power and rule over their lands. She owns not an acre of their ground. She does, it is true, occupy some of the most useful and important positions upon the coasts of her enemies, but not so much for the sake of extending her own page 28 dominions as for the peace and comfort of all. Britain does not hold Gibraltar as a means of swelling her own revenue, nor is that the reason for her occupation of Malta. It is not for the sake of securing large payments of tribute that she has laid her hands on the gates of her enemies. Her object is the free flow of trade and the augmentation of commerce. As much for the benefit of France or Russia as for herself. Her policy is so far out of the ancient groove that it is not more national than it is cosmopolitan. She serves, if she does not directly seek the good of all men. Her ports are closed to none. All may pass through her markets and trade in her fares. Most truly has one of the great blessings promised to Abraham been fulfilled in her. "In thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed," not only in a material or commercial aspect, but also in a spiritual sense. The British race is pre-eminently the missionary people. All other lands together do not send out so many missionaries to carry the light of the Love of Jesus to the benighted inhabitants of the earth. Britain's increase has not been by oppression, or tyranny, but by the liberation of the down-trodden and the overthrow of despotism. She has carried liberty and light wherever she has planted her standard, so that she has now come to be looked upon by the weaker nations as the pledge of safety against sterner powers.

The previous empires having destroyed their predecessors, assimilated their population to their own body. Britain has not done so. No portion of the image now forms a part of her dominions—although it shall. Already she has established her protectorate over a very large portion of that image country. But though protecting it she has not yet commenced incorporating it. As Mr. Shaw remarks, "There is no hurry." Yet, while avoiding that portion of the earth over which the mighty image stretched his power, Britain has grown in all other directions. All over the world we find her possessions. Her sun never sets. The benign rays of the sun are always fructifying some portion of the soil owned by this vast empire. And as the remaining atoms of the great four-fold empire are departing from sight, the British dominion, even against her will, and despite her desire to refrain from extension, is still becoming more universal; tribe after tribe, and people after people, are petitioning to be taken under her protecting wing. Oh, Britain, "What nation is like unto thee?" Thou art highly favoured, but remember that it is written, "To whom much has been given shall much be required." Thy power is great, and thy responsibility is commensurate therewith. The lines of Young, thy patriotic poet, wisely warns thee:—

"O Britain! often rescued, often crowned
Beyond thy merit and most sanguine hopes,
With all that's great in war, and sweet in peace!
Know from what source thy signal blessings flow,
Though blessed with spirits ardent in the field,
Though cover'd various oceans with thy fleets,
Though fenced with rocks, and moated by the main,
Thy trust repose in a far stronger guard;
In Him, who thee, though naked, could defend;
Though weak, could strengthen; ruin'd could restore."

page 29

Compare the rate of Britain's increase with other nations of the world, and see the amazing difference. Russia now numbers about 86 millions, and is found to increase at a rate which will double her population in 100 years. Germany has 42 millions, and is increasing at the same rate; Turkey, 47 millions, and will double in 550 years; France, 36 millions, will double in 140 years; Italy, 27 millions, will double in 125 years; Egypt, 17 millions, will double in 150 years; Spain, 16 millions, will double in 112 years. Now mark—Britain with 33 millions, actually, notwithstanding her crowded condition, and the great stream constantly pouring out into her colonies, is doubling her population every 55 years! And still more, her Colonies, and her great off-shoot America, are doubling every 25 years!

The Rev. Dr. Wild, basing a calculation upon these figures, shows that in a hundred years from now, if things go on as at the present time, the population of Russia, Germany, Turkey, France, Austria, Italy, Egypt, and Spain, will in the aggregate amount to 543 millions, while that of Britain and her offshoots will reach the amazing total of 937 millions! "Where then," he inquires "will be the balance of power?" And why should this certain law come into operation at this time, if it be not the blessing conferred by the Prophets?"

The little people, who in the days of Julius Cæsar were not able to maintain their own independence and absolute possession of the one little inland off the coast of Europe, so coveted by the ambitious Roman, now owns one fourth of the entire land surface of the whole earth! Britain, with America, owns an area of 13,000,000 out of the 51,340,800 square miles land surface of the world, and upon the sea she possesses a more enviable distinction. Even during the last ten years, a period which has been one of exceptionally bad trade, Britain's shipping has increased by 900,000 tons. This increase being mostly in the construction of steamships, the actual comparative carrying capacity is increased by five and a-half million tons. Britain, in fact, owns over half the mercantile fleet of the world. Then, what does this all mean? If the gospel of Jesus Christ is covering the face of the earth, more emphatically so is the British nation. If the little stone was to become a great mountain and fill the whole earth, the British nation is the only one of the age which answers to this development. For two centuries she has been growing in every department which adds greatness to an empire. Not merely a greatness like those of the past. Hers is a more solid, a more sublime greatness. Notwithstanding her many faults and blemishes, she inspires confidence and veneration in the weaker peoples who come under her protection and care: not suspicion and terror as did the conquering empires of old.

In the universality of her language also the growing greatness of Britain is evident. It is a language possessing capabilities belonging to no other tongue. Men who have studied this branch of knowledge inform us that the English language is "the one destined to become the language of mankind of every race." It is a strangely mixed method of speech, but so full, so copious, so expressive, so cosmopolitan, that it can page 30 and does assimilate into its own texture words from every other tongue with which it comes into contact. It has gathered of every kind; yet, while it has been enriching its store from so many sources it has at the same time been carrying on a work of terrible devastation. Into whatever land it goes, it expels from thence the language of the native inhabitants. Dr. Wild says, "It is the lion of languages. It will grow anywhere, by reason of its tenacity when once it gets a foothold it abides. It is peculiarly suited to the humanities of every race, clime, and condition; there is no limit to its expansive capability. It is in a special manner voracious in the destruction of other languages, wherever it goes it sounds the death knell of all the rest."

Like the nation to which it belongs, it is growing in importance in all directions. A good illustration of this is found in the fact that only a few years ago every person wishing to travel the continent of Europe with comfort required to know French, but to-day the master of the English speech is in the better case, Our tongue is now spoken in every large hotel, and French is falling into disuse. I believe that French ships are now the only vessels that have not their papers made out in English. That most learned philologist, Professor Grimm, although a German, says of the English—"It has a thorough power of expression such as no other language ever possessed. It may be truly called a world language, for no other can compare with it in richness, reasonableness, and solidity of texture." It is a conceded point with the most eminent philologists that the English language is destined to eclipse all others. Already it is spoken by 19 millions of people more than any other, and those who speak it bear rule over 255,000,000 who do not yet use it, but are sure to adopt it, and desert their own as crude and unsuitable. Compared with this, the seven other important European languages—Russian, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Scandinavian, are already far in the rear, for they collectively govern only 75 millions outside themselves. If we exclude Russia from the calculation, we shall see that the remaining six nations govern in the aggregate, territory to the extent of 2,215,060 square miles less than Britain, America being classed with the British speaking people, for in language and national origin we are one.

China, the most conservative nation on the face of the earth, is enriching her vocabulary by the introduction of a large number of English words. What will this seed be able to accomplish? It will go on forcing the incorporation of other lists of words until the original is only a remnant. Our letters will next be employed, and the fabric of their ancient tongue will be a matter of history. Japan is, to day, teaching our language to her children in 50,000 state schools. One writer has wisely remarked that the Anglo-Saxon speech would still live and flourish if the country of the Saxons were entirely to disappear. Even in Syria we find the way being made plain for the introduction of English as the language of the people. "The Board of Directors of the Syrian Protestant College at Beyrout have shown their appreciation of the new era of British influence in the guardianship of the country by page 31 England by a recent vote to the effect that from the 1st January, 1879, all instruction in the college should be given through the medium of the English language. Their previous Arabic being treated in the same category as dead languages."

No wonder that our poet, viewing the majestic beauties of the language which was at his command for the purpose of giving expression to the pictures of his imagination, should utter the following exquisite comparison:—

"Greek's a harp we love to hear;
Latin is a trumpet clear;
Spanish like an organ swells;
Italian rings its bridal bells;
France with many a frolic mien,
Tunes her sprightly violin;
Loud the German rolls his drum,
When Russia's clashing cymbals come;
But British sons may well rejoice,
For English is the human voice."

In every department we find our nation is taking the lead. Britain is the chief among the nations—and that in such a manner as no other nation ever has been chief. She stands alone in her magnificent stateliness! Most unquestionably the nation which is to fill the whole earth. Surely of no other people was it said—"The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to another people . . . and it shall stand forever." Glorious destiny! But not because of her own goodness; not as a reward for righteousness. Alas! she could never claim that, but simply because it is Jehovah's good pleasure to give her the kingdom, in fulfilment of his promise to her ancestor, whom he called "the friend of God."

"I saw this England break the shameful bands,
Forged for the souls of men by sacred hands;
I saw each groaning realm her aid implore;
Her sons the heroes of each warlike shore;
Her naval standard (the dire Spaniard's bane)
Obeyed through all the circuit of the main.
Then, too, great commerce for a late-found world,
Around your coast her eagar sails unfurled:
New hopes, new passions, thence the bosom fired,
New plans, new arts, the genius thence inspired—
Thence every scene which private fortune knows
In stronger life, with bolder spirit rose.
* * * *
Oh! blest at home with justly envied laws,
Oh! long the chief of Europe's general cause,
Whom heaven hath chosen at each dangerous hour
To check the inroads of barbaric power,
The rights of trampled nations to reclaim,
And guard the social world from bonds and shame."