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And understood too well the weighty terms
A CONCISE ACCOUNT OF THE
PROGRESS OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE Christian religion, or the religion taught by Jesus Christ, comprebends all those doctrines of faith, and rules of
practice, contained in the Scriptures; and which are designed to recover mankind from ignorance and vice, from ruilt and death, to knowledge and virtue, to the divine faVuor, and everlasting life.
ine New Testament furnishes information of the success of Christianity during the days of Jesus and his disciples, as it relates to the eastern part of the world; but before the death of St. Paul, we bave reason to believe that the ancient Britons received from him the words of eternal life.
During the three first centuries of the Christian era history affords a very obscure account of the progress of this divine religion, and is confined alınost entirely to the cruel persecutions the first Christians endured; but in about the year 313, the Emperor Constantine embraced the faith, and by an edict put an end to persecution. Soon after this, however, ceremonies and creeds were introduced into the Christian church, and paved the way for those ages of weakness, superstition, and cruelty, which marked the long black period of the papal reign.
About the middle of the 13th century John Wickliffe, an Englishman, began to call in question the doctrines of the church of Rome, and was successful in inspiring a spirit of freedom and religious enquiry; but his exertions, with those of Waldus who preceded, and Huss who followed him, proved abortive.
The insolence, however, of the popes, the various corruptions in religion, and oppressions and usurpations of the clergy, at length called forth the undaunted and successful zeal of the celebrated Luther. - The Reformation now began to spread, and in a few years after, in the reign of Henry VIII. gained ground in England, France, and Germany: and John Knox completed it in Scotland, about the year 1560.
But unhappily so good a cause was not carried on without rancour; which produced the horrors of civil war. Councils after councils were held, to determine the articles of the Christian faith, and the most deplorable scenes of discord, desolation and bloodshed ensued. Not to mention the great massacre at Paris, in 1572, and at various times in other places, it is computed that not less than 40,000 Protestants were put to death in Ireland during the year 1640.
But the light of the Reformation, in spite of all opposition and cruelty, spread itself far and wide; and alınost all the European states welcomed its salutary beams, and exulted in the prospect of a complete deliverance from the yoke of superstition and spiritual oppression.
Still the Protestants were not taught by all the sufferings of their brethren, till the reign of William and Mary, about the year 1689, to grant their more scrupulous fellow-christians those privileges which they themselves bad demanded and secured. There were many who thought the Reformation incomplete, and although they disclaimed all interference with the established reformed religion, they were denied, till the toleration act, the right of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own consciences. At that happy period catholics, churchmen and dissenters began to enjoy repose and security; and feeling the benign influences of that divine religion they all in common believed, they were concerned for the salvation of those of their fellow-men, who had never heard the joyful sound, the glad tidings of eternal life through a crucified Redeemer, and established, in 1701, a society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts. Since that time other similar societies have been instituted in aid of the important work, and have been crowned, by the divine blessing, with great success, in the conversion of many to the Christian faith. To these may be added the exertions of the Bible societies, recently established; and we may look forward with pleasing expectation, to that period when, to adopt the language of an inspired writer, “ The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the channels of the sea."
SKETCH OF THE PRINCIPAL RELIGIOUS
JUDAISM is the religion taught by God to the descendants of Abraham. A complete system of which is contained in the five books of Moses, their great lawgiver by divine appointment.
The principal sects among the Jews, in the time of Jesus Christ, were the Pharisees, who placed religion in external ceremony; the Sadducees, who were remarkable for their incredulity; and the Essenes, who were distinguished for their austere piety. It is scarcely necessary to add, that before the time of our Saviour the Jews believed in a future Messiah, but that now he is almost universally rejected by them.
MAHOMETANS. MAHOMETANISM is the religion of Mahomet, who was born, in 541, at Mecca, a city of Arabia, and whose system is a compound of Paganism, Judaism, and Christianity; the Koran, the Mahometan's Bible, is held by them in great veneration. The principal doctrine of Mahometanism is the Unity of God, but the whole of its tenets form a compound of absurdity; yet so adapted to the varying opinions and habits of Jews, Christians, and Pagans, that it soon spread over the greater part of the eastern world ; and indeed the converts that could not be gained by persuasive arguments or promised indulgences, were compelled by the sword to become proselytes to this military apostle.
CHRISTIANS. CHRISTIANITY, in the general sense or common acceptation of the word, signifies a true belief in Christ and his doctrine, in opposition to idolatry and paganism. But, it more strictly implies, not only a bare belief in Christ, but a constant perseverance in all good works; and an abhorrence of, and abstaining from, every thing that is evil, according to the doctrine and examples which both he and his apostles taught and practised, and which are so evidently set forth to us in the holy Scriptures. He who does this is a Christian indeed, without paying any regard to the doctrines and ceremonies of any particular national church, sect, or people; the manner of worship being only the mode of religion, but not religion itself: for all Christians, of all persuasions whatever, acknowledge that there is but one way of worshipping God—that is, in spirit and in truth. See St. John, chap. iv. ver. 24.
CHURCH OF ROME. The following are the principal tenets of the church of Rome :—They say or believe, 1. That Jesus Christ is one of the persons of the most holy Trinity; that he came from heaven, took our nature upon him, and suffered death upon the cross. 2. That before he ascended to heaven, he invested the apostle Peter with the power of infallibility, and gave him the keys of heaven and hell, with a full power of remitting or retaining the sins of men. 3. That in the year of Christ 42, the apostle Peter went to Rome, and governed the church there as supreme bishop above 24 years, and was at last crucified with his head downwards. 4. The Roman Catholics believe, that the same power and authority which was vested in the apostle Peter, descended to every succeeding bishop or pope of Rome, by an uninterrupted succession; who, they say, is God's vicegerent, and supreme head of all nations, and of every nominal church on earth; and has a power to create or set up kings, and to depose them, and to ordain bishops and priests, and excommunicate them at pleasure. 5. They believe that the pope has a power to grant indulgences. 6. They believe in a purgatory, or place of fire, to purify the souls of the departed; and that ihe priests, by offering up or saying mass, can deliver their souls from this state of prison and misery, and transfer them into joy and bliss. 7. 'They believe that Jesus Christ, after he was crucified, descended personally into hell, and released from thence all the souls of the former saints. 8. They assert that the blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of God, and that she atones for the souls of them that adore and worship her on earth; therefore her picture, with the pictures of other saints, ought to be held in great respect and veneration. 9. They profess to do works of supererogation. 10. Some of their mendicant priests go in a mean dress, to make the laity believe what poverty they suffer for the name of Jesus, though at the same time they are very rich : and by this they excite pity and compassion, and get a great deal of money. 11. They believe there are seven sacraments, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Marriage. 12. They forbid the eating of flesh in the time of Lent, and on certain fast days; but notwithstanding their strict orders of abstinence and fasting, some will eat fish and other things. 13. They believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation ; that is, after the priest has blessed or consecrated the bread and wine in the sacrament, the symbols or elements are no more bread and wine, but really the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ: and are very jealous and zealous in the cause of their religion, making it a heinous sin in all such as will not adhere most strictly to their dictates. 14. They are exceedingly assiduous to gain converts, by a particular method, and a long unwearied patience and diligence, in every country but their own, to bring over souls by fair promises : but it is pot so where they have power, for there they insist upon a belief and compliance with every thing; otherwise their love is turned into cruelty, their zeal into inhumanity, and their persuasions into punishments. Lastly, these, and many other ridiculous; impositions, were continually imposed upon the consciences and persons of men in all nations; which occasioned a large body of people to dissent, separate from, and protest against, popery, or the Romish church, who are therefore called Protestants, be they of what sect or denomination they may; and the church of Rome, without distinction, calls all such Protestants heretics, and they all partake of her anathemas.
The church of Rome has lost ground, and has been sinking in its power, ever since the glorious Reformation under Martin Luther, in the reign of Henry VIII. in the year 1517. Read Henry and Whiston, as also the margin of Queen Elizabeth's Bibles, on the xiii. xiv. xvi. xvii. xviii. and xixth chapters of the Revelation.-But in the present age it more particularly seems to have received its deathblow.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND. This is the religion and worship of the people of England, as by law established: it is governed by iwo archbishops, besides bishops and inferior clergy, of whom the king is supreme.
You may see the principles of this church very particu