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been the source of no small uneasiness and dismay to some of its warmest friends. The passage I mean is this ; “ Think not (says our Lord) I am come to send peace on earth, I came not to send peace but a sword; for I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her motherin-law, and a man's foes shall be those of his own household *.”.
What shall we say now (exclaims the infidel) to this extraordinary declaration ? Here we have the Author of the Christian religion himself openly and explicitely avowing that he came to send a sword upon earth, to dissolve. all the tender endearing ties of domestic affection, to set the nearest relations at variance, and to arm them with inextinguishable rage and rancour against each other.
But can this be really the sense of our Saviour's words ? Can He mean to denounce war and destruction to the human species ? HE whose whole religion breathes nothing but peace, gentleness, kindness, and compassion to every human being; who made charity or the love of man the great characteristic mark of . , * Matth. x. 34, 35, 36.
his religion : who expressly forbade his disciples “ to call down fire from heaven” on those who had insulted them; who in this very chapter commanded them “ to be harmless as doves; and declared that he came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them * ?" It is evidently impossible that the author of such precepts and such professions could mean literally to spread ruin and desolation over the earth. What then was his meaning ? It was to obviate an error into which the apostles would be very apt to fall, and which probably our Saviour 'saw rising in their minds. You tell us (they perhaps said within themselves), you tell us that we shall be persecuted, tormented, and put to death, and that even by those who are most nearly connected with us. But how is this possible ? How can all this happen under your protection, under the reign of the Messiah, THE PRINCE OF PEACE, under whom we have always been given to expect tranquillity, repose, and happiness? To this supposed reasoning our Saviour answers; You are mistaken in your idea of that peace, which I, your Messiah, am to give you. It is not immediate temporal peace, but peace in * Mattir: Xi 16. · Luke ix. 56.
a spiritual sense, peace in your own minds, and peace with God. Ultimately indeed I shall establish peace in every sense of the word, and “ shall make wars to cease in all the world *;" but at present, and indeed for many years to come, I shall not bring peace but a sword upon earth. The promulgation of my religion will be productive of much dissension, cruelty, and persecution, not only to you, but to all those who for many ages afterwards shall preach the Gospel in purity and truth. The true cause of this will be the wickedness and the ferocious passions of men; but the occasion and the pretence for it will be the holy religion which you are to promulgate. In this sense, and in this only, it is that I may be said to bring a sword upon earth ; but they who really bring it, are the open enemies or pretended friends of the Gospel.
Still it is said by the adversaries of our faith, that however these words may be interpreted, the fact is, that Christians themselves have brought a sword, and a most destructive sword upon earth; that they have persecuted one another with inconceivable rancour and ' , ; .' • * Ps. xlvi. 9.
fury; and that their dissensions have produced more bloodshed, misery, and desolation among mankind, than all the other wars of contending nations put together.
To this I answer in the first place, that the charge as here stated is not true. It is not true that wars of religion have been more frequent and more sanguinary than any others. On the contrary, it may be proved in the clearest manner, from the most authentic facts, that by far the greatest number of wars, as well as the longest, most extensive, and most destructive, have been owing to causes purely political, and those too sometimes of the most trivial nature. And if we can allow men to harass and destroy one another for a mere point of honour, or a few acres of land, why should we think it strange to see them defending, with the same heat and bitterness, what they conceive to be the most essential requisite to happiness both here and hereafter ?
2dly. I must observe, that a very large part of those animosities, wars, and massacres, which have been usually stiled religious, and with the entire guilt of which Christianity has been very unjustly loaded, have been altogether, or
at least in a great measure, owing to causes of a very different nature; to the ambition, the resentment, the avarice, the rapacity of princes and of conquerors, who assumed the mask of religion to veil their real purposes, and who pretended to fight in the cause of God and his church, when they had in reality nothing else in view than to advance their power or extend their dominions. All history is full of instances of this kind. . 3dly. It should be remembered, that the wildest excesses of religious persecution did not take place till the world was overrun with barbarity, ignorance, bigotry, and superstition; till military ideas predominated in every thing, in the form of government, in the temper of the laws, in the tenure of lands, in the administration of justice itself; and till the Scriptures were shut up in a foreign tongue, and were therefore unknown to the people. It was not therefore from the Gospel, but from a total ignorance of the Gospel, from a total perversion of its true temper, genius, and spirit, that these excesses and enormities arose.
Athly. That this is the real truth of the case VOL. I.