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surely the superiority of the former is as little to be disputed! unless any one shall undertake to prove, that humility, patience, forgiveness, and benevolence, are less amiable, and less beneficial qualities, than pride, turbulence, revenge, and malignity; that the contempt of riches is less noble than the acquisition by fraud and villany; or the distribution of them to the poor, less commendable than avarice, or profusion; or that a real immortality in the kingdom of heaven, is an object less exalted, and less worthy of pursuit, than an imaginary immortality in the applause of men; that worthless tribute, which the folly of one part of mankind pays to the wickedness of another; a tribute which a wise man ought always to despise, because a good man can scarcely ever obtain."
When the progress of the Christian religion gained over princes, potentates, and conquerors, to its interests, and when they engaged it in their policies and schemes of aggrandizement, how did they invert the whole order and design of its institution! How the followers of Him who was meek, and lowly in heart, obtaining favour with princes, indulged themselves in worldly ease, pomp, and splendour, until the spirit of genuine Christianity, was in a great measure extinguished! When, in process of time, they erected for
themselves such a stupendous fabric of wealth and power as the world had not before scen ; and despising all restraint, attempted to propagate Christianity by the means with which it had been persecuted, and employed fire and sword for the conversion of hations; what a woeful darkness, for ages, eclipsed the brightness of the gospel day!
How, afterwards, was the work of reformation commenced, and carried on by faithful witnesses, who were raised up in succession to testify against the abominations and corruptions of the times, many of whom sealed their testimonies with the loss of liberty, property, and even life itself! On these subjects our readers may be referred for information to Ecclesiastical History; and for an accurate summary of the progress of the Christian religion, to Paley's View of the Evidences of Christianity, and Beattie's Evidences of the Christian religion. Our plan extending only to the introduction of Christianity, we must content ourselves with a few observations upon its visible effects, and the probable consequences of them.
Of its effects, the elegant author we have quoted in this chapter, gives the following account : "Christianity has triumphed over many practices and institutions of antiquity, which were a
disgrace to the character of man. War was carried on formerly with a ferocity and cruelty unknown at the present day. Whole cities and towns were extirpated by fire and sword, and thousands of the vanquished were crucified and empaled, for having only endeavoured to defend themselves, and their country. The lives of new-born infants were then entirely at the disposal of their parents, who were at liberty to bring them up, or expose them to perish by cold and hunger, or to be devoured by birds and beasts; and this was frequently practised without punishment, and even without censure.
"On many occasions human sacrifices were ordained; and at the funerals of rich and eminent persons, great numbers of their slaves were murdered, as victims pleasing to their departed spirits.
"The most infamous obscenities were made part of their religious worship; and the most unnatural lusts publicly avowed, and celebrated by their most admired poets. Gladiators were employed by hundreds to cut one another to pieces, in public theatres, for the diversion of the most polite assemblies. Yet at the approach of Christianity, all these horrid abominations vanished, and among those who embraced it, scarcely a single vice was to be found."
To this account we may add, that on the first discovery of America, it was found that the southern hemisphere was even more deeply contaminated with the crime of sacrificing human beings, than the northern.-In the midst of wealth, luxury, magnificence, and many of the polished arts of life, Montezuma offered twenty thousand human victims every year to the sun.
In the kingdom of Dahomi, one of the most powerful in Africa, the same savage superstition still exists, and our own navigators found it established in every new discovered island throughout the whole extent of the Pacific Ocean. Beilby Porteus, the late pious Bishop of London, says: "What a picture does this present to us of human nature, unsubdued by grace, and of human reason unassisted by revelation !"
What a deep and grateful sense ought it to impress upon our minds of the great obligations we owe to the gospel, which has rescued us from this as well as many other enormities, abominations, and cruelties of Paganism!
But for proofs of what Christianity hath effected, it is sufficient to refer to the history of our own island.
In the fortieth year of the Christian era, its inhabitants do not appear to have been more civilized than those of other nations. Pomponius
Mela, the geographer, who wrote just before that period, says: "Britain has its inhabitants, and its kings, but all in it are barbarians."
"Among the Britons," saith Tacitus, "you will find in use the religion of the Gauls; and the people possessed with the same superstition." "The Gauls," saith Solinus, "after a detestable manner, to the injury, rather than the honour of religion, offered human sacrifices." That the Britons did the same, Dio Cassius assures us in his NERO. And Tacitus says: "It is common among the Britons to consult the gods, by surveying the entrails of beasts."
To judge of the salutary effects which have flowed from the mild and benign spirit of the gospel, we need only to compare the present internal condition of our country, with that which it has presented within the short period of seven hundred years. At the commencement of the reign of Henry the second, A. D. 1133, there were more than a thousand fortified castles in the country. The haughty lords who inhabited them, assumed the character of sovereigns, and disdaining the authority of the laws, referred all to the decision of the sword. They were either continually at war with one another, or in rebellion against their sovereign.
Bigland, describing the Feudal system, says: