CHAPTER I. THE CONQUESTS OF THE ROMANS.
There is something very singular and mysterious in the results of wars which are caused and carried on by unprincipled and unscrupulous men. They are made to end in substantial benefits to the human race. The wrath of man, in other words, is made to praise God, showing that He is the Sovereign ruler on this earth, and uses what instruments He pleases to carry out his great and benevolent designs. However atrocious the causes of wars, and execrable the spirit in which they are carried out, they are ever made to subserve the benefit of future ages, and the great cause of civilization in its vast connections. Men may be guilty, and may be punished for their wickedness, and execrated through all time by enlightened nations; still they are but tools of the higher power. I do not say that God is the author of wars any more than He is of sin; but wars are yet sent as a punishment to those whom they directly and immediately affect, while they unbind the cords of slavery, and relax the hold of tyrants. They are like storms in the natural world: they create a healthier moral life, after the disasters are past. Those ambitious men, who seek to add province to province and kingdom to kingdom, and for whom no maledictions are too severe, since they shed innocent blood, rarely succeed unless they quarrel with doomed nations incapable of renovation. Thus Babylon fell before Cyrus when her day had come, and she could do no more for civilization. Thus Persia, in her turn, yielded to the Grecian heroes when she became enervated with the luxuries of the conquered kingdoms. Thus Greece again succumbed to Rome when she had degenerated into a land where every vice was rampant. The passions which inflamed Cyrus, and Alexander, and Pompey were alike imperious, and their policy was alike unscrupulous. They simply were bent on conquest, and on establishing powerful empires, which conquests doubtless resulted in the improvement of the condition of mankind. There is also something hard and forbidding in the policy of successful statesmen. We are shocked at their injustice, cruelty, and rapaciousness; but they are often used by Providence to raise nations to preeminence, when their ascendency is, on the whole, a benefit to the world. There is nothing amiable or benign in the characters of such men as Oxenstiern, Richelieu, or Bismarck, but who can doubt the wisdom of their administration? It is seldom that any nation is allowed to have a great ascendency over other nations unless the general influence of the dominant State is favorable to civilization; and when this influence is perverted the ascendency passes away. This is remarkably seen in the history of the Persian, the Greek, and the Roman Empires, and still more forcibly in the empire of the popes in the Middle Ages, and of the vast influence of France and England during the last hundred years. This is both a mystery and a fact. It is mysterious that bad men should be allowed to succeed so often, but it is one of the sternest facts of life, only to be explained on the principle that they are instruments in the hands of the Great Moral Governor whose designs we are not able to fathom, yet the wisdom of which is subsequently, though imperfectly, made known. It was wicked in the sons of Jacob to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites; their craft and lies were successful: they deceived their father and accomplished their purposes; yet his bondage was the means of their preservation from the evils of famine. The rise and fall of empires are to be explained on the same principles as the rise and fall of families. A coarse, unscrupulous but enterprising man gets rich, but his wealth is made to subserve interests far greater than that of his children. Hospitals, colleges, and libraries are endowed as monasteries were in the Middle Ages. If vice, selfishness, and pride were not overruled, what would become of our world? The whole history of civilization is the good which is made to spring out of evil. Men are nothing in comparison with Omnipotence. What are human plans? Yet enterprise and virtue and talent are rewarded. In the affairs of life we see that goodness does not lose its recompense, and that vice is punished; but beyond, what more impressively do we behold than this, that the instruments of punishment are often the wicked themselves.
[The results of the crusades.]
[Their immediate consequences are disastrous; their ultimate, beneficial.]