ePub 版

tual improvement? What is it that breaks down the impassable barriers of caste, and places men on the common ground of their respective merits and exertions? My brethren, it is the religion of Christ that has done all this. This religion proposes its blessings especially to the lowly-raises, improves, illuminates, emancipates, restores the poor and outcast, and opens before them the career of useful diligence and honourable exertion. And yet, whilst it does all this, it teaches them the duties of humility and cheerful subjection to authority. No voice but that of the Christian apostle, ever addressed to the body of mankind such words as these, Be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates, be ready to every good work, speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness to all men.

3. And what, again, has instituted all the charitable designs for the relief of human wretchedness, which are multiplied around us, but the merciful religion of Christ? What has founded our hospitals, opened our dispensaries, formed our unnumbered societies for bettering the condition of the poor, and aiding them under the various calamities to which our nature is exposed ? What is it that framed the various wise and humane systems which provide for the sick and indigent, but Christianity? What is it that founded so many thousand institutions for the religious education of the poor? What has made the duties of humanity and benevolence the popular and habitual topic of anxiety and effort ? What planted in London the three hundred charitable institutions which are now walking through the haunts of vice and misery, as angels of peace, scattering blessings wherever they go ?

4. Again, what has encircled age with reverence in every rank and condition of society ? What has inspired for the hoary head and declining years that respect and gratitude, which heathenism knew so little of, as a pervading principle of social life? What has opened in human intercourse those copious sources of tenderness, the love and piety of children to their aged and infirm Christian relatives and parents ?

5. Further, what has given to man one day in seven, for repose from toil, for the cultivation of his intellectual and spiritual being, for repairing the decays which his exhausted powers, after six days of labour, require? For connecting man with his God, and preparing him for eternity?

6. Once more, what has infused into Christian legislators and princes, the temper of equity and mercy ? Christianity meddles not, indeed, with the particular form of human governments, nor does it interfere with any acknowledged and long-established authority; but it teaches governors of every class the unbending rules of justice and truth. Christian governments are, for the most part, moulded by the principles of our holy religion. A mild, paternal spirit of legislation has taken the place of brute force and capricious violence. Governments are now acting for the good of the governed, and not for the pleasure of a despot. The most arbitrary Christian states are controlled by religion. Under the heathen governments there was neither internal tranquillity nor external peace. They were continually agitated and distracted within by popular commotions and sanguinary convulsions, or exposed without to unnecessary and inexpiable wars. And in their declines they were torn to pieces by such dreadful massacres and proscriptions, as cannot be recited without horror. Christianity has made princes the fathers of their people. Even in the dispensation of punishment for crime, the severity of the law has been gradually mitigated. Capital punishment is not now inflicted, as under the heathen governments, for the slightest offences; nor is it inflicted in the most despotic Christian states, suddenly, upon the bare order of the sovereign, without a


[ocr errors]

formal trial, conviction, sentence, and warrant of execution.

7. Further, the Christian religion has conferred upon her subjects the blessing of equal distributive justice in the administration of courts of law. The civil and criminal jurisprudence of the state, that great bulwark of liberty, that most powerful protector of the rights and immunities, the persons and property of the subject—was among the heathen far removed from that degree of purity which prevails in Christian lands. In Rome, especially in the later periods of the republic, the courts of justice were one continued scene of the most open and undisguised iniquity, venality, partiality, and corruption; so that it was hardly possible for the poor man to obtain redress for the most cruel injuries, or for a rich man to be brought to punishment for the most atrocious crimes.

But now the spirit of Christianity has been so interwoven with the texture of governments, that all ranks are placed under the equal protection of the laws; and in our own country, and the other states where our religion obtains in its greatest purity, the evenhanded distribution of justice, the security of person and property, the enjoyment of a high degree of civil and religious liberty, the freedom from

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 COMMON in Ghazeepoor."-Bishop Heber, i. 270.

« 上一頁繼續 »