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Sect. II. Refledions upon the preceding Account. IN viewing the progress of Christianity, our first attention is due to the number of converts at Jerufalem, immediately after its founder's death ; because this fuccess was a success at the time, and upon the spot, when and where the chief part
of the haittory had been transacted.
We are, in the next place, called upon to attend to the early establiihmeot of numerous Christian societies in Judea and Galslee, which countries had been the scene of Christ's miracles and ministry, and where the memory of what had passed, and the knowledge of what was alleged, mu!t have yet been fresh and certain.
We are, thirdly, invited to recollect the success of the apos. zles and of their companions, at the several places to which they came, both within and without Judea ; because it was the credit given to original witnesses, appealing for the truth of their accounts to whit themselves had seen and heard. The effect al. to of their preaching, strongly confirms the truth of what out hiilory potitively and circumstantially relates, that they were able to exhibit to their hearers fupernatural attestations of their million,
We are, lastly, to consider the subsequent growth and spread of the religion, of which we receive successive intimations, and satisfactory, thongh general and occasional accounts, until its full and final establishment.
In all these several (tages, the history is without a parallel ; for it must be observed, that we have not now been tracing the progress, and defcribing the prevalency of an opinion, founded upun philosophical or critical arguments, upon mese deductions of season, or the construction of ancient writings, (of which kind are the several theories which have, at different times, gained poffeffion of the peblic mind in various departments ot science and literature, and of one or other of which kind are the tenets also which divide the various sects of Christianity) but that we speak of a system, the very basis arid poltulatum of wöich, was a supernatural character ascribed to a particular perfon of a doctrine, the truth whereof depended entirely upon the truth of a narter of fact then recent. 66 To ctablith a new Beligion, even amongst a few people, or in one lingle nation, is it thing in iwili cxcccdingly difficult. To reform fome corrup
have fpread in a religion, or to make new regulations in it, is not perhaps so hard, when the main and principal parts of that religion are preferved entire and unshaken ; and
very often canoot be accomplished, without an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, and may be atsemipted a thoufand times without fuccess. But to introduce a new faith, a new way of thinking and acting, and to persuade many nations to quit the religion in which their ancettuis hard lived and died, which had been delivered down to them froin time immemorial, to make them forsake and despise the deities which they had been accustomed to reverence and worship ; this is a work of still greater difficulty. The resistance of edas cation, worldly policy, and fuperftition, is almost invincible."
If nien, in these days, be Christians in confequence of their education, in fubmillion to authority, or in compliance with fashion, let us recollect that it was not fo from the beginning. The first race of Christians, as well as millions who succeeded them, became such in formal oppofition to all these motives, to the whole power and ftrength of this influence.
influence. Every argument therefore, and every instance, which sets forth the prejudice of education, and the al molt irresistible effects of that preju. dice (and no persons are more fond of expatiating upon this fubject than deistical writers) in fact confânys the evidence of Christianity.
But, in order to judge of the argument which is drawn from the early propagation of Christianity, I know no fairer way of proceeding, than to compare what we have seen of the subject, with the fuccefs of Christian missions in modern ages. In the East-India million, supported by the society for promoting Christian knowledge, we hear fometimes of thirty, sometimes of forty, being baptized in the course of a year, and these pripcipally children. Of converts properly fo called, that is, of adults voluntarily embracing Christianity, the number is extremely small.
“ Notwithstanding the labour of millionaries for upwards of two hundred years, and the establishments of different Christian nations who support them, there are not twelve thousand Indias Chriftians, and those almost entirely outcasts."
a Jortin's Dil. on the Chrift, Rel. p. 107. ed. IV. o Sketches relating to the history, learning, and manners of the Hino doos, p. 48. quoted by Dr. Robertson, Hir. Dili concerning ancient India, P. 236.
I lament, as much as any man, the little progress which Christianity has made in thefe countries, and the inconsiderable effect that has, followed the labours of its missionaries ; but I fee in it a strong proof of the divine origin of the religion. What had the apostles to alift them in propagating Christianity, which the missionaries have not? If piety and zeal had been fufficient, I doubt not but tbat our missionaries possess these qualities in a high degree, for nothing, except piety and real, could engage them in the undertaking. If fanctity of life and manners was the allurement, the conduct of these men is un.. blameable. If the advantage of education and learning be looked to, there is not one of the modern missionaries, who is; not, in this respect, fuperior to all the apostles ;. and that not only absolutely, but, what is of more importance, relatively, in comparison, that is, with those amongit. whom they exercise their office. "If the intrinsic excellency of the religion, the periection of its morality, the purity of its precepts, the elo. quence or tenderness or fublimity of various parts of its writangs, were the reconimendations by which it made its way, cheie remain the fame. If the character and circumstances, under which the preachers were introduced to the countries in: which they taught, be accounted of importance, this advantage is all on the tide of the modern millionaries. They come from a country and a people, to which the Indian world look
up with sentiments of deference. The apostles came forth amongst the Gentiles under no other name than that of Jews, which was precisely the character they despised and derided. If it be disgraceful in India to become a Christian, it could not be much less so to be enrolled amongst those, “
quos per flagitia in visor, vulgus Christianos appellabat." If the religion which they had to encounter be conlidered, the difference, I appre. hend, will not be great. The theology, of both was nearly the fame, “what is supposed to be performed by the power of Jupiter, of Neptune, of Æolus, of Mars, of Venus, according to the mythology of the West, is afcribed, in the East, to the agency of Agrio, the god of fire, Varoon, the god of oceans, Vayoo, the god of wind, Cama, the god of love." The sacred rites of the western polytheism were gay, festive and licentious ; the rites of the public religion in the East partake of the fame character, with a more avowed indecency. every
2 Bagvat Geeta, p. 94. quoted by Dr. Robertson, Ind. Dis. p. 306.
son performed in the pagodas, as well as in every public procession, it is the office of these women (i. e. of women prepared by the Brahmins for the purpose) to dance before the idols, and to sing hynins in his praise ; and it is difficult to say, whether they trespass most against decency by the gestures they exhibit, or by the verses which they recite. The walls of the pagodas were covered with paintings in a style no less indelicate.'
On both sides of the comparison the popular religion had a strong establishment. In ancient Greece and Rome it was strictly incorporated with the state. The magiftrate was the priest. The highest offices of government bore the most dit tinguished part in the celebration of the public rites In India, a powerful and numerous caft poffefs exclusively the adminif tration of the established worship, and are, of consequence, de. voted to its service, and attached to its interest. In both, the prevailing mythology was deftitute of any proper' evidence, or rather, in both, the origin of the tradition is run up into
ages, long anterior to the existence of credible history, or of written language. The Indian chronology computes eras by millions of years, and the life of man by thoufands; and in these, or prior to these, is placed the history of their divinxies. In both, the established fuperftition held the fame place in the public opinion ;; that is to say, in both it. was credited by the bulk of the people,& but by the learned and philofophic part of the com-,
a' Others of the deities' of tñe East are of an austère and glooriiy character; to be propitiated'by victims, fometimes by human facrifices, and by voluntary, torments of the most excruciating kind.
B' Voyage de Gentil. vol. I. p. 244.-260. Preface to Code of Genu too Laws, p. 57:qnored lry Di. Robertfon, p. 320.
c “The Suffec Jogte, or age of purity, is said to have lasted three million tivo hundred thousand years; and they hold that the life n£ nian was extended in that age to one hundred thousand years ; but there is a difference attoitgiche Indian writers of lix-millions of years : in the computation of this era." Ib.
d« Howaksurd foever the articles of faith may be, which fuperntition bas adopted, or how uphallowed the rites wirch it prescribis, ille former att received, in every age and country with vahelitating afa fent; by the great body of the people, and the latter obferved with: strupulous exactness. In our reasonings' concerning opinions and piráctice sî which differ widely from our own, we are extremely apt to : ETT. Having been instructed ourselves in the principles of a religion, worthy, in every respect, of that divine wifdoin by which they were dietated, we frequently express wonder at the credulity of nations, , in-embracing systems of belief which appeas to us fu directly reprises
munity, either derided, or regarded by them as only fit to be upholden for the sake of its political ules.
Or if it fhould be allowed, that the ancient heathens believe ed in their religion less generally than the present Indians do, I am far from thinking that this circumstance would afford any facility to the work of the apostles, above that of modern misfionaries. To me it appears, and I think it material to be remarked, that a disbelief of the established religion of their country (I do not mean a rejection of some of its articles, but a radical disbelief of the whole) has no tendency to dispose men for the reception of another ; but that, on the contrary, it generates a fettled contempt of all religious pretensions whatever. General infidelity is the hardest foil which the propagators of a new religion can have to work upon. Could a Methodist or Moravian promise himself a better chance of success with a .. French esprit fort, who had been accustomed to laugh at the popery of his country, than with a believing Mahometan or Hin. doo ? Or are our modern unbelievers in Chriftianity for that. reason in danger of becoming Mahometans or Hiadoos? It does not appear that the Jews, who had a body of historical evidence to offer for their religion, and who at that time undoubtedly entertained and held forth the expectation of a fun ture state, derived any great advantage, as to the extension of their fyftem, from the difcredit into which the popular religion had fallen with many of their heathen neighbours.
We have particularly directed our observations to the state and progress of Christianity amongst the inhabitants of India,
nant to right reason ; and sometimes suspect, that tenets so wild and extravagant do not really gain credit with them. But experience may fatisfy us, that neither our wonder nor fufpicions are well founded. No article of the public religion was called in queftion by those people of ancient Europe, with whose history we are best acquainted ; and no practice, which it enjoined, appeared improper to them. On the other hand, every opinion that tended to dimninish the reverence of men for the gods of their country, or to alienate them from their worship, excited, among the Greeks and Romans, that indignant zeal, which is natural to every people attached to their religion by a firm persuasion of its truth.” Ind. Dif. p. 321.
a That the learned Brahmins of the East are rational theists, and fe. cretly reject the established theory, and contemn the rites that were founded upon them, or rather congder them as contrivances, to be fupported for their political uses, fee Dr. Robertson's Ind. Dis. p. 324334.