« AnteriorContinuar »
than that of a sovereign, who, able and without effusion of blood to extend his power, should prefer to do it by the massacre of the most faithful of his subjects ? Is it not annihilating the divine wisdom and goodness to assert, that a God, to whom every thing is possible, among so many ways which he could have chosen to establish bis religion, wished to take only that of making its dearest friends fall a sacrifice to the fury of its cruellest enemies? Such are the notions which Christianity presents : and it is easy to perceive that they are the necessary consequences of a fundamental absurdity; on which that religion is established. It maintains, that a just God did not wish to chuse any other way to redeem guilty men, than that of making
tians in thus running headlong to death; and St. Cyprian laboured hard to comfort those who were so unhappy as to escape the crown of martyrdom. The enemies of Julian the apostate even admit that the Christians of his time did every thing they could to provoke that emperor to put them to death. Dr. Hickes, a celebrated protestant divine, goes so far as to say that the Christians “ were not illegally persecuted by Julian.” — See his Answer to Julian, c. ij. &c. After all, it will be found that every violent passion has its martyrs. Pride, vanity, prejudice, love, patriotism, and even vice itself, produces martyrs; or at least a contempt of every kind of danger. Is it then surprising that enthusiasm and fanaticism, the strongest passions of mankind, have so often enabled men, inspired with the hopes they give, to face and despise death ? Besides, if Christians can boast a cata. logue of martyrs, Jews can do the same. The unfortunate Jews, condemned to the flames by the inquisition, were martyrs to their religion; and their fortitude proves as much in their favour as that of the Christians can do in fa. vour of Christianity. If martyrs demonstrate the truth of a religion or sect, where are we to look for the true one ?Boulanger. Volncy's Ruins of Empires, &c.
his dear innocent son be put to death. According to such principles, it can excite no surprise that so unreasonable a God should wish to couvert the heathen, his enemies, by the murder of Christians, his children. Though these absurdities are believed, such as do not possess the holy blindness of faith cannot comprehend why the Son of God, having already shed his blood for the redemption of men, was not a sufficient sacrifice ? and why, to effect the conversion of the world, there was still a necessity for the blood of an immense number of martyrs, whosc merits must have been undoubtedly much less than those of Jesus ?' To resolve these difficulties, tucologians refer us to the eternal decrees, the wisdom of which we are not permitted to criticise. This is sending us far back indeed; yet notwithstanding the solidity of the answer, the incredulous persist in saying, that their limited understandings can neither find justice, nor wisdom, nor goodness, in eternal decrees which could in such a manner effect the salvation of the human race.
Persecutions were not the only means which served to propagate the religion of Christians. The preachers, zealous for the salvation of souls, or rather desirous to extend their own power over the minds of men, and strengthen their party, inherited from the Jews the passion of making proselytes *This passion suited
* The missions have for their particular object to extend the power of the clergy. The church sends enthusiasts or knares to the extremities of the earth to beat up for subjects, The missionaries there transact their business vastly well, and open to themsel, es new branches of commerce, while they act with prudence. The insolence and imprudence of the Jesuits have occasioned the proscriptiou of the Christian presumptuous fanatics, who were persuaded, that they alone possessed exclusively the divine favour: it was unknown to the heathens, who were accustomed to suffer every one peaceably to adore his gods, providing that his worship did not disturb the public tranquilJity.
Prompted by zeal, the Christian missionaries, notwithstanding persecutions and dangers, spread themselves, with an ardour unparalleled, wherever they could penetrate, in order to convert idolators, and bring back strayed sheep to the fold of Jesus. This activity naturally merited the recompense of very great success. Men, whom their idolatrous priests neglected, were flattered with seeing themselves courted, and becoming the object of the disinterested cares of personages, who, through pure tenderness for them, came from afar, and through the greatest perils, to bring them consolation. In consequence of these dispositions, they listened favourably to them; they shewed kindness to men so obliging, and were enchanted with their doctrine and relations. Many adopted their lessons, placed themselves under their guidance, and found
religion in Japan, China, &c. Our missionaries are every where well received in the beginning, and in general suffer martyrdom only when their real designs are discovered. Kambi, emperor of China, asked the Jesuit missionaries at Pekin what they would say if he would send missionaries to their nation? The revolts excited by the Jesuits in Japan and Ethiopia are well known. A holy missionary has been heard to say, that without muskets, missionaries could never make proselytes. It remains to be seen whether the proposed missions to Hindostan under the sanction of the British government will find it necessary to employ these carnal wcapons.
that their God and dogmas were superior to those which had preceded them.
Thus, by degrees, and without a miracle, Christianity planted colonies, more or less considerable, in every part of the Roman empire. They were directed, and governed by inspectors, overseers, or bishops *, who, in spite of the dangers with which they were menaced, laboured obstinately, and without intermission, in augmenting the number of their disciples, that is, of slaves devoted to their holy wills. Empire over opinions was always the 'most unbounded. As nothing has
greater power over the minds of the vulgar than religion, Christians every where displayed an unlimited submission to their spiritual sovereigns, on whose laws they persuaded themselves that their eternal happiness depended. Thus our missionaries, converted into bishops, exercised, with consent of their disciples, a spiritual magistracy and sacred jurisdiction, which in the end placed them not only above other priests, but also made them respected by, and neces
* Fleury informs us that in the early periods of Chris. tianity call the clergy, even to the bishops, lived after a poor, at least a plain and ordinary manner.” St. Jerome highly disapproved the distinctions of bishops and priests, or curates. He asserted that, according to St. Paul, they were the same thing " till by the instigation of the devil there were desti. nations in religion.” At this day bishops, who do nothing, enjoy great revenues, while innumerable curates who labour are dying for hunger; and while lazy priests, those blood suckers of society, thus wallow in an abundance shaineful to the states by whom they are tolerated, the man of talents, the man of science, and the brave soldier are suffered to languish in indigence, and scarcely exist on the mere necessaries of life.