« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
HE CARE AND INSTRUCTION OF THE POOR form the peculiar and beautiful characteristic of the Christian Religion. The giving of light to those who walked in darkness, and the rescuing of the great mass of mankind from the error of Pagan Idolatry, is the favourite subject of the great evangelical prophet; * who refers with joy to that intellectual period of the Christian Church, when “ all her « children should be taught of the Lord,”— when “ the light should break upon her as " the morning, -and " the Gentiles should “ come to her light, and Kings to the brightness of her rising."
THE same benevolent duty has been prescribed and exemplified by the divine FOUNDER of our religion, “ who was given " to be a light to the Gentiles.” His Apostles enforced, and the primitive Christians practised, what their blessed master had enjoined; until the predicted period of Papal and Mahommedan superstition and tyranny involved, at the same time, the eastern and western hemisphere, in ignorance, vice, and slavery. It was then the prevalent sentiment,--and ROME and Mecca held the same creed,—that the general dissemination of knowledge was a dangerous thing ; for the multitude never listened so credulously to imposture, or submitted * so willingly to
• DR. FERRIAR has referred to a curious instance of coincidence upon this subject.-BRANTOME observes, that the principles of the reformed religion are adverse to arbitrary power, and gives that as the reason, why “ FRANCIS The First, that wise prince, hated the “ Reformers, and was a little hard with them, ordering “ the hereticks of his day to be BURNT ALIVE." Brantome gravely adds, as to Francis's contemporary, Soliman the Magnificent, that'"'The GREAT SULTAN “ WAS OF THE SAME OPINION;" and gives the sapient Mussulman's speech upon thic occasion.
slavery, as when debased by vice, and blinded by ignorance.
THE difference between the most pure and the most corrupt state View of the chrisof christianity,isin nothing tian world. so distinguishable, as in this respect;—that while the exertions of the latter are directed to keep the great mass of the people in ignorance, the former is employed in freely and benevolently offering instruction to all.Happily, the dark period of slavery and superstition is now past. When the light of Reformation arose in Europe, the delusions of Popery vanished away; and the Christian privilege of “ being wise to salva~ tion” was restored to a considerable part of the civilized world. It is impossible, however, to take a view of Christianity, without lamenting that, even in Protestant countries, only a very small part of our brethren are as yet in the entire possession of Christian instruction. And if we look beyond the pale of our own reformed church,
it is most afflicting to humanity to notice the dark and forlorn state, in which millions of Christians, gifted with reason, and heirs of immortality, have been kept for a succession of centuries ; and to contemplate the savage cruelty and disgusting sensuality, which have resulted from the obscurity and blindness to which they have been devoted. . Omitting every invidious observation on any part of modern Europe, I refer to ABYSSINIA,* and to some other parts of the East, where the Christian name and profession exist, where theological controversies, zealous bigotry and superstitious observances are extremely prevalent, and at the same time the divine spirit of Christianity, and those moral virtues which are its genuine fruits, are utterly unknown.
I AM aware that there have been many,
In Mr. Bruce's account of the Customs and Religion of Abyssinia, lib. v. cap. 11 and 12, the reader will see an example of a nation, professing Christianity, de. testing heresy, strict in ceremonials, and punctiliously orthodox,-yet living in habits of gross sensuality, savage cruelty, and dark and hopeless ignorance.