« AnteriorContinuar »
religions. The incredulous, who by the way refer to the history of the church, find, that the glad tidings which they came on purpose to announce, have plunged the human race into tears and blood*.
It is obvious from his language, that Jesus charged people of property with the maintenance of his apos. tles. Their successors have taken sufficient advantage of this, and through it assumed an authority to exercise for many ages the most cruel extortions on impoverished nations. Would not the Almighty have rendered his apostles more respectable by rendering them incapable of suffering, and exempting them from the wants of nature? There is reason to believe, that this would have given more weight to their sublime sermons and those of their infallible successors.
Critics maintain also that it was false to say near eighteen hundred years ago the end of the world was near,
* If the Christian religion be as is pretended, a restraint to the crimes of men ;-if it produces salutary effects on some individuals--can these advantages so rare, so inefficient, and doubtful, be compared with the evident and immense evils which this religion has produced on the earth? Can the prevention of a few trifling crimes, some conversions useless to society, some sterile and tardy repentances, enter into the balance against the perpetual dissensions, bloody wars, horrid massacres, persecutions, and cruelties, of which the Christian religion has been a continual cause and pretext? For one secret sinful thought suppressed by it, there are even whole nations armed for reciprocal destruction ; the hearts of millions of fanatics are inflamed; families and states are plunged into confusion; and the earth is bedewed with tears and blood. After this, let common sense decide the magnitude of the advantages which mankind derive from the glad tidings which Christians pretend to have received from their God.--Christianity unveiled.
and more false still to affirm that the great Judge would arrive before the apostles could have time to make the tour of the cities of Israel. It is true, theo. logists understand that the end of the world shall happen when all the Jewish cities, that is, when all the Jews shall be converted. Time will demonstrate whether it be in that sense we ought to understand the words of Jesus: meanwhile the world still remains, and does not appear to threaten speedy ruin.
It is likewise very probable, that, besides these public instructions, Jesus gave more particular ones to his apostles. They departed in the hope of charities which they were to receive from Jews, of whom the greatest number were already in a state of reprobation, or damned in petto by Providence. Jesus altered his orders in part; he reserved for himself the cities, and left the villages only to his apostles. Accordingly they went here and there, calling out, Hearken to the glad tidings; the world is near its end. Repent there. fore, pray, fast, and give us money and provisions, for having acquainted you with this interesting secret.”. We are also assured, that they cured several diseases by the application of a certain oil. They had doubtless done more excellent things, but the paraclete (the comforter) was not yet come: maugre the iostructions of the Son of God, the understandings of the apostles were not yet sufficiently 'brightened*; for we do not find that the missionaries, with their balsam and fine speeches, made many converts., The incredulous are still much surprised to find, in the instructions of Christ to his apostles, an explicit order to labour only for the con
* St. Luke, ix. 6. $t. Matt. xi. St. Mark, vi. 12.
version of the Jews, and an express prohibition against preaching to the Gentiles. They maintain, that a righteous God could make no distinction of persons ; that the common father of mankind must show an equal love to all his children* ; that it cost no more to the Almighty to convert and save all nations; that a God, who is friendly to one country only, is a God purely local, and cannot be the God of the universe; and that a God partial, exclusive, and unjust, who follows caprice alone in his choice, can neither be perfect nor
* What should we say of the father of a numerous off. spring, who should waste all his fondness upon one child, and never admit the rest to his presence, and then punish them for having no knowledge of his person? Would not such a conduct denote caprice and cruelty? Would he not be guilty of an injustice that we have never heard of in the most depraved and unfeeling of our species? How could a father think of punishing a child for not doing his will, which he thought proper to conceal from him? We must, therefore, conclude that a particular revelation pre-supposes not a good and equitable God, but an unjust and whimsical tyrant, who, if he be lavish of his favours to a few, is at least cruel and unjust to the rest. Revelation, in this case, does not prove the goodness, but the caprice, of a being, whom religion declares to be the perfection of wisdom, benevolence, and justice, and the common father of all the human race. If self-interest should carry a few to admire the hidden ways of the Almighty, what ought the many to think who are made the victims of his injustice and partiality? Assuredly pride alone could ever have induced a particular people to fancy themselves the privileged of their race, and the only favoured of heaven. Blinded by vanity, they perceived not the wrong they offered their Creator, in presuming that all his creatures, being equally the work of his hands, were not equally the objects of his care and affection. It is, never. theless, upon particular revelations that all the religions in the world are founded. As every man has the vanity to
the model of perfection. In short, those who have not the happiness of being sacredly blinded by faith, not comprehend how the equitable and wise Lord of all the nations of the earth could cherish exclusively the Jewish people; his infinite prescience ought to have shown him that his love and favours would be completely lost on this untractable people.
Unbelievers remark, that it does not become the Son of God to exclaim, “ Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida ! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Would it not have been wiser to go and preach to cities so docile, where Christ was certain of success, than to persist in preaching to the Jews, as to whom he was certain of miscarrying ?
Jesus, now left alone, went about preaching through many cities of Galilee ; but deprived of the assistance of his dear confidents, he did not in these places work any wonders.
We have hitherto' seen the magistrates and the great paying little attention to the conduct of Jesus; they despised a man whom they regarded as a vagrant, or a fool little to be feared. 'Tis true, that some of Herod's officers are said to have been on the watch, along with the Pharisees, to destroy him ; but this
think himself of more importance than his fellow, so has every nation conceited that they were the exclusive favourites of the author of nature. If the Indians believe that Brama spoke for their instruction alone, the Jews and the Christians are persuaded that the world was created for them, and that God has manifested himself for them only.-Preservatite against Religious Prejudices.
combination had no success. After all, the new missionary could give umbrage solely to the Jewish priests and the doctors of the law, against whom he declaimed with the greatest indecorum. By this conduct he rendered himself very agreeable to the people, long weary of the extortions of these public bloodsuckers, who, without pity, drained the nation, treated the poorer sort with disdain, and, as the parable of the priest and the Samaritan evinces, were destitute of charity. The priests and doctors were very numerous in Jerusalem; on which account the people in the capital, as we have seen, were less disposed. than elsewhere to listen to our preacher, and there is reason to believe, that the priests were the true cause of the hatred and contempt entertained against him in this great city.
By av very singular contrariety, the most obscure interval in our hero's life was that wherein he acquired the greatest celebrity. Jesus was wholly unknown at the court of Herod; while at the head of his troop, and surrounded by multitudes, be chased away devils, gave sight to the blind and speech to the mute, expelled the sellers from the temple, and raised the dead. But while he led a private life in Galilee,--when, during the mission of his apostles, he found himself alone and without followers, and content with preaching repentance, - it was then that his fame, penetrating even to the throne, excited in the monarch a desire to see himn. According to St. Luke, a ray of light struck the heart of Herod ; doubt filled his mind; “ John," said he,“ have I caused to be beheaded, but he must have risen from the dead, and therefore it is that so many miracles are performed by him; but who should