Genius -- By: William S. Tyler

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 012:46 (Apr 1855)
Article: Genius
Author: William S. Tyler


William S. Tyler

Ideas, not men, govern the world. Or, if men rule, whether in the church or in the State, they rule only in and by the ideas which are entertained and cherished by those subject to their control. Men have been kings, but ideas are the throne and the sceptre, in and by which they reigned. Men have been priests and popes, but ideas have invested them with all their sacredness in the eyes of the people. An idea clothes a president, chosen by the popular voice, with a sovereignty more real and more absolute, than that of the legitimate monarch or the irresponsible despot And an idea, deep-seated in the public mind, enthroned in the heart of the nation, however degraded or oppressed that nation may be, though it be Turkey or Muscovy itself, still a political or religious idea which they reverence as having come down to them from a patriarch or a prophet, even there, sets bounds to the power of the Autocrat, saying to the Czar or the Sultan: “thus far shalt thou come, and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”

Men have been conquerors, but ideas have been the engines or forces by which they conquered. Alexander and Napoleon won and triumphed, because they knew how to seize upon these forces, and direct them to the accomplishment of their own chosen ends. An idea precipitated Asia upon Europe in the Mohammedan conquests, and Europe upon Asia again in the Crusades. Luther and Washington were each the embodiment of a grand idea, which was already working silently in multitudes of inferior minds; and the Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution were the magnificent results.

Ideas make men; form their character, control their conduct, determine their history. The age, the nation, the city, the community, the family and the individual, all have their several ideas, more or less cherished, and more or less controlling, which characterize them; which make them what they are; and which, so long as they are entertained, determine what they shall be.

The idea of Jehovah, the one living and true God, as their God and King, was the idea which distinguished and controlled the better part, at least, of the Jewish nation in its best ages; and it has given to that obscure, that despised and hated people, that “teterrima gens” et “despectissima pars servientium,” as they were esteemed by those conquering nations who could not understand the idea, a history of more true grandeur, and a literature of more enduring power, than those of any other nation on the face of the earth. The ideal of Sparta, as it was set before her by Lycurgus, was that of a military aristocracy, isolated and conservative, without commerce and ...

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