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that the natural dispositions of heathens, as well as other men, are various. The scriptures themselves record instances of their amiable deportment towards their fellow-creatures.* Neither is it denied that there are characters in christianized nations, and that in great numbers, whose wickedness cannot be exceeded, nor equalled, by any who are destitute of their advantages. There is no doubt but that the general moral character of heathens is far less atrocious than that of Deists who reject the light of revelation, and of multitudes of nominal Christians who abuse it. The state of both these descriptions of men, with respect to unenlightened pagans, is as that of Chorazin and Bethsaida with respect to Sodom and Gomorrha. But that for which I contend is, the effect of Christianity upon the general state of society. It is an indisputable fact, that it has banished gross idolatry from every nation in Europe. It is granted, that where whole nations were concerned, this effect might be at first accomplished, not by persuasion, but by force of arms. In this manner many legislators thought they did God service. But, whatever were the means by which the worship of the one living and true God were at first introduced, it is a fact that the principle is now so fully established in the minds and consciences of men, that there needs no force to prevent the return of the old system of polytheism. There needs no greater proof of this than has been afforded by unbelievers of a neighboring nation. Such evidently has been their predilection for pagan manners, that, if the light that is gone abroad among mankind permitted it, they would at once have plunged into gross idolatry, as into their native element. But this is rendered morally impossible. They must be Theists or Atheists; Polytheists they cannot be.
By accounts, which from time to time have been received, it appears that the prevailing party in France have not only labored to eradicate every principle of Christianity, but, in one instance, actually made the experiment for restoring something like the old idolatry. A respectable magistrate of the United States,† in his Address to the Grand Jury in Luzerne County, has stated a few
* Gen. xxiii,
of these facts to the public. "Infidelity," says he, "having got possession of the power of the State, every nerve was exerted to efface from the mind all ideas of religion and morality. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul, or a future state of rewards and punishments, so essential to the preservation of order in society, and to the prevention of crimes, was publicly ridiculed, and the people taught to believe that death was an everlasting sleep."
They ordered the words Temple of Reason' to be inscribed on the churches, in contempt of the doctrine of revelation. Atheistical and licentious Homilies have been published in the churches, instead of the old service; and a ludicrous imitation of the Greek mythology exhibited, under the title of the Religion of Reason.' Nay, they have gone so far as to dress up a common strumpet with the most fantastic decorations, whom they blasphemously styled, The Goddess of Reason,' and who was carried to church on the shoulders of some Jacobins selected for the purpose, escorted by the National Guards and the constituted authorities. When they got to the church, the strumpet was placed on the altar erected for the purpose, and harangued the people, who, in return, professed the deepest adoration to her, and sung the Carmagnole, and other songs, by way of worshipping her. This horrid scene-almost too horrid to relate—was concluded by burning the prayer-book, confessional, and every thing appropriated to the use of public worship; numbers, in the mean time, danced round the flames, with every appearance of frantic and infernal mirth."
These things sufficiently express the inclinations of the parties concerned, and what kind of blessings the world is to expect from atheistical philosophy. But all attempts of this kind are vain: the minds of men throughout Europe, if I may for once use a cant term of their own, are too enlightened to stoop to the practice of such fooleries. We have a gentlemen in our own country, who appears to be a sincere devotee to the pagan worship, and who, it seems, would wish to introduce it; but, as far as I can learn, all the success which he has met with, is to have obtained from the public the honorable appellation of the Gentile Priest.
Whatever we are, and whatever we may be, gross idolatry, I presume, may be considered as banished from Europe; and,
thanks be to God, a number of its attendant abominations, with various other immoral customs of the heathen, are, in a good measure, banished with it. We have no human sacrifices; no gladiatory combats; no public indecencies between the sexes; no law that requires prostitution; no plurality or community of wives; no dissolving of marriages on trifling occasions; nor any legal murdering of children, or of the aged and infirm. If unnatural crimes be committed among us, they are not common; much less are they tolerated by the laws, or countenanced by public opinion. On the contrary, the odium which follows such practices is sufficient to stamp with perpetual infamy the first character in the land. Rapes, incests and adulteries, are not only punishable by law, but odious in the estimation of the public. It is with us, at least in a considerable degree, as it was in Judea, where he that was guilty of such vices, was considered as a fool in Israel. The same, in less degrees, may be said of fornication, drunkenness, lying, theft, fraud, and cruelty; no one can live in the known practice of these vices, and retain his character. It cannot be pleaded in excuse with us, as it is in China, Hindostan, and Otaheite, that SUCH THINGS
ARE THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY.
We freely acknowledge, that if we turn our eyes upon the great evils which still exist, even in those nations where Christianity has had the greatest influence, we find abundant reason for lamentation: but, while we lament the evil, there is no reason that we should overlook the good. Comparing our state with that of former times, we cannot but with thankfulness acknowledge, What hath God wrought!
I can conceive of but one question that can have any tendency to weaken the argument arising from the foregoing facts: viz. Are they the effects of Christianity? If they be not, and can be fairly accounted for on other principles, the argument falls to the ground: but if they be, though Shaftesbury satirize, Hume doubt, Voltaire laugh, Gibbon insinuate, and Paine pour forth scurrility like a torrent, yet honest men will say, An evil tree bringeth not forth good fruit: If this religion were not of God, it could do nothing.
If there be an adequate cause, distinct from Christianity, to which these effects may be ascribed, it becomes our adversaries
to state it. Meanwhile, I may observe, they are not ascribable to any thing besides Christianity that has borne the name of religion. As to that of the ancient heathens, it had no manner of relation to morality. The priests, as Dr. Leland has proved, "made it not their business to teach men virtue."* It is the same with modern heathens: their religion has nothing of morality pertaining to it. They perform a round of superstitious observances, which produce no good effect whatever upon their lives. What they were yesterday, they are to-day; no man repenteth himself of his wickedness, saying, What have I done! Nor is it materially different with Mahometans. Their religion, though it includes the acknowledgment of one living and true God, yet, rejecting the Messiah as the Son of God, and attaching them to a bloody and lascivious impostor, produces no good effect upon their morals, but leaves them under the dominion of barbarity and voluptuousness. In short, there is no religion but that of Jesus Christ that so much as professes to bless men by turning them from their iniquities.
Neither can these effects be attributed to philosophy. A few great minds despised the idolatries of their countrymen; but they did not reform them: and no wonder; for they practised what they themselves despised. Nor did all their harangues in favor of virtue produce any substantial effect, either on themselves or others. The heathen nations were never more enlightened as to philosophy, than at the time of our Saviour's appearance; yet as to morality, they never were more depraved.
It is Christianity then, and nothing else, which has destroyed the odious idolatry of many nations, and greatly contracted its attendant immoralities. It was in this way that the gospel operated in the primitive ages, wherever it was received; and it is in the same way that it continues to operate to the present time. Real Christians must needs be averse to these things; and they are the only men living who cordially set themselves against them.
This truth will receive additional evidence from an observation of the different degrees of morality produced in different places, according to the degree of purity with which the Christian religion
Advantage and Necessity of Revelation, Vol. II. p. 38.
has been taught, and liberty given it to operate. In several nations of Europe, popery has long been established, and supported by sanguinary laws. By these means the Bible has been kept from the common people, Christian doctrine and worship corrupted, and the consciences of men subdued to a usurper of Christ's authority. Christianity is there in prison; and anti-christianism exalted in its place. In other nations this yoke is broken. Every true Christian has a Bible in his family, and measures his religion by it. The rights of conscience also being respected, men are allowed, in religious matters, to judge and act for themselves; and Christian churches are formed according to the primitive model. Christianity is here at liberty: here, therefore, it may be expected to produce its greatest effects. Whether this does not correspond with fact, let those who are accustomed to observe men and things with an impartial eye determine.
In Italy, France, and various other countries, where the Christian religion has been so far corrupted as to lose nearly all its influence, illicit connexions may be formed, adulterous intrigues pursued, and even crimes against nature committed, with but little dishonor. Rousseau could here send his illegitimate offspring to the Foundling Hospital, and lay his accounts with being applauded for it, as being the custom of the country. It is not so in Britain, and various other nations, where the gospel has had a freer course; for though the same dispositions are discovered in great numbers of persoas, yet the fear of the public frown holds them in awe. If we except a few abandoned characters, who have nearly lost all sense of shame, and who, by means either of their titles or fortunes on the one hand, or their well-known baseness on the other, have almost bid defiance to the opinion of mankind, this observation will hold good, I believe, as to the bulk of the inhabitants of protestant countries.
And it is worthy of notice, that in those circles or connexions where Christianity has had the greatest influence, a sobriety of character is carried to a much higher degree than in any other. Where there is one divorce from among protestant dissenters, and other serious professors of Christianity, there are, I believe, a hundred from among those whose practice it is to neglect the