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Consideration of the Abbé's disbelief of the intimation contained in the Sacred Scriptures, that the Gospel will ultimately prevail throughout the earth.
THE author of the Letters in question, makes no secret of his disbelief of the consoling doctrine, that the day will come when ignorance, idolatry, superstition and wickedness, shall everywhere be overthrown, and the holy and happy reign of the Prince of Peace extend throughout the earth.
His words are as follows:-" The Christian religion has been announced to the natives of India, without intermission during the last three or four centuries, at the beginning with some faint hopes of success, but at present with no effect. In the mean time, the oracle of the Gospel has been fulfilled with respect to the Hindoos. The Divine Founder of our religion has, it is true, announced that his gospel should
be preached all over the world, but, to the best of my knowledge, he has never affirmed that it should be heard, believed, and embraced by all nations." (p. 42.)
Again: "Now, who has told us that Christianity shall not remain stationary in like manner, and continue to the end of the world to be the religion of only the minority of mankind. Christ (as I mentioned in another letter) has, it is true, promised that the Gospel of the kingdom shall be published in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.' His sacred pledge, in this respect, has been fulfilled, or is still fulfilling; but at the same time, has he told any one that all nations, or even the majority of them, should be brought under the yoke of the Gospel?
“It is true, that in several of the books of the Old Testament, and chiefly in the Psalms of David, in which frequent allusions to the coming of the Messiah are made, he is represented as extending his spiritual dominion over all the earth, from one end of the world to the other; but most of the expressions used by the inspired writers in those passages of Holy Writ, either have a mystical meaning, or are mere metaphors, which cannot be taken in their literal import, and whose true meaning cannot be perfectly understood by us." (pp. 108-9.)
Yet further." But the article which has stricken me most in that little work," says the Abbé, (referring to Evans's Sketch of the Christian Sects,)" is that of the millennium, which is nothing but an almost literal copy of the tenth Avattera of Vishnoo, called Kalkyavattera, or incarnation into a horse. This Avattera, of which I give a description in my new edition, is to put an end to the corruption, fraud, and injustice introduced among men by the last Bouhda-avattera, and cause virtue, lasting peace, and complete happiness to reign on earth among the human race. Such is exactly to be the effect produced at the very same period, during the age of the millennarians, and when the latter contrived their millennium, I cannot refrain from believing that they had a knowledge of the kalkyavattara. Both systems coincide so perfectly in their origin, motives, and effects, that the one must have been copied out from the other.
"If it were justifiable to jest upon a subject which has at all times filled me with awe, or to slight a religion which I most sincerely and most firmly believe to be the only true one upon earth, I could carry on this disgusting parallel to a much fuller extent; but I will conclude it, as the subject is too serious to become a matter of raillery." (pp. 220--222.)
Let us first consider the author's supposition, that if the Hindoos believe that the period will arrive when virtue, peace, and happiness shall prevail among the human race, then the expectation entertained by Christians of such an era
must be erroneous.
I apprehend that, if the fact be as our author represents, then, on the contrary, the probability of such a desirable consummation actually taking place, gains strength.
I found this conclusion upon the well-known fact, that the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ was preceded by a very remarkable expectation, entertained by many among the heathen nations, that some illustrious and divinely commissioned teacher was about to appear on earth.
"Even the Gentiles, involved as they were in ignorance and darkness, had considerable expectations that some extraordinary and illustrious personage would make his appearance about this time. The learned of many nations would entertain such notions in consequence of their intercourse with the Jews; who, for the sake of commerce, had mingled with them, and who could not fail to have given some intimations of their prevailing hopes; beside which, the Septuagint translation was accessible to many of the Greek philosophers at Alexandria.
"The Sibyls, who were esteemed prophetesses by the Greeks and Romans, and had probably derived their information from the sources just referred to, had also expressly declared that some great personage was at hand. Virgil, in his fourth Eclogue, complimenting the Consul Pollio on the birth of his son, makes use of language justly applicable only to the Son of God, who was to restore the golden age.
"The jarring nations, He in peace shall bind,
Had our author lived before the Advent, he might, with as much propriety, have deemed the hope of the Messiah's appearance a matter calculated to excite a spirit of raillery, because many of the Gentiles joined in the expectation, as he now does the belief of the universal triumph of truth and happiness, because he has found several of the heathen in the present day also believing the same thing.
With respect to his insinuation that the doctrine of the millennium has been borrowed from
* Evangelical Magazine, for January, 1824; in which see various additional proofs to the same effect.