網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

mitted upon 'private property, and the individual is screened as much as possible from the evil of the public quarrel. To spare the effusion of blood, has come to be accounted the highest exercise of military skill. The greatest captain of our age is as much famed for humanity to the vanquished, and compassion to his wounded men, as for conduct and valour in the field. 9

2. Again, the spirit of faction and of party animosities in states, are far less bitter and permanent, and break out into much less violent excesses, than in the times of the Greeks and Romans. They are now mollified by the intercourse of private society, and overborne by a regard to the interests of the nation; and do not lead to outrage, treachery, assassination, and private war.

3. All the vices which most fatally sap the foundations of public tranquillity are mitigated. Venality and corruption in ministers of state, and judges, and high political functionaries are

9 The treatment of persons imprisoned for civil offences is also so softened, as to be a totally different thing from what it was in heathen governments. The philanthropy of such individuals as Howard and Fry—the latter a female of the most retired of the Christian sects-casts a strong light on the character of the beneficent religion by which they have been and are actuated.

ces

almost unknown throughout Christendom. Acts of oppression against the voice of law are now generally reprobated. Gross breaches of public trust are infrequent. Vice has less of a malignant and destructive character than it had before the mild doctrine of Christianity appeared.

4. Again, as to offences against temperance and chastity, Christianity has brought us to a far purer state than the heathen world. The worst excesses of modern voluptuaries would seem sanctity and continence compared with those unnatural debaucheries of the Pagans, which were so habitual in their manners, that they stained the lives of their gravest philosophers, and made a part even of the religious rites of the politest nations. 10

5. In short, Christianity raises the standard of public opinion as to morals and religion, protests boldly against every vice, and erects certain common barriers, as it were, of order

10 “ All that is bad about the Hindoos, appears to arise either from the defective motives which their religion supplies, or the wicked actions which it records of their gods, or encourages in their own practice. Yet it is strange to see, though this is pretty generally allowed, how slow men are to admit the advantage or necessity of propagating Christianity among them. CRIMES UNCONNECTED WITH RELIGION ARE NOT COM Mon in Ghazeepoor."-Bishop Heber, i. 270.

and decency, over which few dare to'press. The grosser vices are shamed and covered with confusion; as rape, adultery, incest, offences against pature; and, in a degree, drunkenness, theft, fraud and profane swearing. No man can be in reputation who commits these crimes. The highest stations in the community cannot shield men from the infamy of them. Public confidence can be fully acquired only by private virtue. w. Thus Christianity benefits mankind, not only by banishing an immense mass of evil altogether, but by restraining, curbing, mitigating what it has not yet cured. It makes men better in spite of themselves, it works upon them by a regard to reputation and the fear of shame, where it has no footing in their hearts to gain a direct influence. What, we may ask, would individuals and nations be without the Christian religion, inadequately as too many of them may be influenced by the true spirit of her laws? Thousands are kept in order by Christianity, who are not Christians. They are insensibly guided by the rectitude which the New Testament communicates to public opinion. 11

1, 11 Bolingbroke acknowledges the advantages of Christianity to the first Christian state. He says, " that Constantine acted the part of a sound politician in protecting VOL. I.

FF

But this is not all.

IV. Christianity has ACTUALLY CONFERRED, AND IS CONFERRING, NUMEROUS, MOST SUBSTANTIAL, AND POSITIVE BENEFITS ON INDIVIDUALS AND NATIONS.

1. It has elevated and blessed the female sex in the most striking manner. It has not only raised women from the degradation into which they were sunk in the heathen times, as we have just mentioned, but has restored them to all their just rights, has clothed them with all those tender attributes for which the goodness of God designed them; has made woman the

Christianity, as it tended to give firmness and solidity to his empire, softened the ferocity of the army, and reformed the licentiousness of the provinces, and, by infusing a spirit of moderation and submission to government, tended to extinguish those principles of avarice and ambition, injustice and violence, by wbich so many factions were formed.” He confesses also, that “no religion ever appeared in the world whose natural tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind.”

And yet Bolingbroke and Gibbon, with unaccountable inconsistency, lived and died infidels. Pride and vice are the keys to such a mystery.

The whole Christian argument might be maintained on the admissions of one or other of the leading infidel writers; and no contest remain, unless, if it could then be called one, with the miserable, ignorant ferocity of Paine and his associates.

.

companion, the friend, the solace of man; the sharer of his joys and sorrows, the instructress of their mutual offspring; the equal partaker of his social comforts and advantages; with only that gentle subordination which exempts them from the perpetual uneasiness which an absolute equality would generate. Christian piety has repaid them the arrears of ages of cruelty and neglect. We hear more of women in the New Testament, than in all the writings of philosophers. They now, generally speaking, take the precedence in piety, of the stronger sex.

2. Christianity, again, has blessed the lower orders of society, and raised them to a degree of comfort, respectability, and information, unknown before the promulgation of the gospel. Christianity has taught us that all men are brethren, that all were made of one blood, that all are redeemed by one Saviour, that all are equal as immortal and accountable beings, that all are capable of the same lessons of heavenly wisdom, that all are to read the same scriptures, to worship in the same temple, and approach the same altar. What is it that has opened before all classes of men the field of competition and improvement? What is it that imparts to them a share of general knowledge, the discoveries of science, and the pleasures of intellec

« 上一頁繼續 »