All this was true, as far as it went, although the omissions were very material. No one seemed to suspect the great chief, whose fidelity to his own principles was believed to be of a character amounting to enthusiasm. Little did any there know of the power of the unseen Spirit of God to alter the heart, producing what religionists term the new birth. We do not wish, however, to be understood that Peter had, as yet, fully experienced this vast change. It is not often the work of a moment, though well-authenticated modern instances do exist, in which we have every reason to believe that men have been made to see and feel the truth almost as miraculously as was St. Paul himself. As for this extraordinary savage, he had entered into the strait and narrow way, though he was not far advanced on its difficult path.
When men tell us of the great progress that the race is making toward perfection, and point to the acts which denote its wisdom, its power to control its own affairs, its tendencies toward good when most left to its own self-control, our minds are filled with scepticism. The every-day experience of a life now fast verging toward threescore, contradicts the theory and the facts. We believe not in the possibility of man’s becoming even a strictly rational being, unaided by a power from on high; and all that we have seen and read goes to convince us that he is most of a philosopher, the most accurate judge of his real state, the most truly learned, who most vividly sees the necessity of falling back on the precepts of revelation for all his higher principles and practice. We conceive that this mighty truth furnishes unanswerable proof of the unceasing agency of a Providence, and when we once admit this, we concede that our own powers are insufficient for our own wants.
That the world, as a whole, is advancing toward a better state of things, we as firmly believe as we do that it is by ways that have not been foreseen by man; and that, whenever the last has been made the agent of producing portions of this improvement, it has oftener been without design, or calculation, than with it. Who, for instance, supposes that the institutions of this country, of which we boast so much, could have stood as long as they have, without the conservative principles that are to be found in the Union; and who is there so vain as to ascribe the overshadowing influence of this last great power to any wisdom in man? We all know that perfectly fortuitous circumstances, or what appear to us to be such, produced the Federal Government, and that its strongest and least exceptionable features are precisely those which could not be withstood, much less invented, as parts of the theory of a polity.