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CENT. XVIII. written in golden letters; they are allowed to light
candles before these tablets, to make offerings to them of rich perfumes, victuals, fruits, and other delicacies, and even to prostrate the body before them until the head touches the ground. The same ceremony of prostration is performed by the Chinese Christians at the tombs of their ancestors.
The former edict, which was designed to prevent the motley mixture of Chinese superstition with the institutions of Christianity, was conveyed into China, in 1705, by cardinal Tournon, the pope's legate; and the second, which was of a more indulgent nature, was sent, in 1721, with Mezzabarba, who went to China with the same character. Neither the emperor nor the Jesuits were satisfied with these edicts. Tournon, who executed the orders of his spiritual employer with more zeal than prudence, was, by the express command of the emperor, thrown into prison, where he died in 1710. Mezzabarba, though more cautious and prudent, yet returned home without having succeeded in his negotiation ; nor could the emperor be engaged, either by arguments or entreaties, to make any alteration in the institutions and customs of his ancestors b. At present the state of Christianity in China being extremely precarious and uncertain, this famous controversy is entirely suspended ; and many reasons induce us to think, that both the pontiffs and the enemies of the Jesuits will unite in permitting the latter to depart from the rigor of the papal edicts, and to follow their own artful and insinuating methods of conversion; for they will both esteem it expedient and lawful to
• Tournon had been made, by the pope, patriarch of Antioch; and Mezzabarba, to add a certain degree of weight to his mission, was created patriarch of Alexandria. After his return, the latter was promoted to the bishopric of Lodi, a preferment which, though inferior in point of station to his imaginary patriarchate, was far more valuable in point of ease and profit. See a more ample account of this mission in Dr. Mosheim's Memoirs of the Christian Church in China,
submit to many inconveniences and abuses, rather cENT. xvIII. than to risque the entire suppression of popery in China.
IV. The attempts made since the commencement Protestant of the present century, by the English and Dutch, and more especially by the former, to diffuse the light of Christianity through the benighted regions of Asia and America, have been carried on with more assiduity and zeal than in the preceding age. That the Lutherans have borne their part in this salutary work appears abundantly from the Danish mission, planned with such piety in 1706 by Frederic IV. for the conversion of the Indians who inhabit the coast of Malabar, and attended with such remarkable
This noble establishment, which surpasses all that have been yet erected for the propagation of the Gospel, not only subsists still in a flourishing state, but progressively acquires new degrees of per. fection under the auspicious and munificent patronage of that excellent monarch Christian VI. We will, indeed, readily grant, that the converts to Christianity, made by the Danish missionaries, are less numerous than those which we find in the lists of the popish legates; but it may be affirmed, that they are much better Christians, and far excel the latter in sincerity and zeal. There is a great difference between Christians in reality, and Christians in appearance ; and it is very certain, that the popish missionaries are much more ready than the protestant doctors, to admit into their communion proselytes, who have nothing of Christianity but the name.
We have very imperfect accounts of the labors of the Russian clergy, the greatest part of whom are still involved in that gross ignorance which covered the most unenlightened ages of the church: but we learn, from the modern records of that nation, that some of their doctors have employed, with a certain degree of success, their zeal and industry in spreading the light of the Gospel in those provinces which border upon Siberia.
V. While the missionaries now mentioned exposed in themselves to the greatest dangers and sufferings, in mies of the order to diffuse the light of divine truth among these Gospel.
remote and darkened nations, there arose in Europe, where the Gospel had obtained a firm footing, a multitude of adversaries, who shut their eyes upon its excellence, and endeavoured to eclipse its immortal lustre. There is no country in Europe where infidelity has not exhaled its poison; and scarcely any denomination of Christians among whom we may not find several persons, who either aim at the extinction of all religion, or at least endeavour to invalidate the authority of the Christian system. Some carry on these unhappy attempts in an open manner, others under the mask of a Christian profession; but no where have these enemies of the purest religion, and consequently of mankind, whom it was designed to render wise and happy, appeared with more effrontery and insolence, than under the free governments of Great Britain and the United Provinces. In England, more especially, it is not uncommon to meet with books, in which, not only the doctrines of the Gospel, but also the perfections of the Deity, and the solemn obligations of piety and virtue, are impudently called in question, and turned into deri. sion. Such impious productions have cast a deserved
6 . This observation, and the examples by which it is supported in the following sentence, stand in need of some correction. Many books have, indeed, been published in England against the divinity both of the Jewish and Christian dispensations; and it is justly to be lamented, that the inestimable blessing of religious liberty, which the wise and good have improved to the glory of Christianity, by setting its doctrines and precepts in a rational light, and bringing them back to their primitive simplicity, has been so far abused by the pride of some, and the ignorance and licentiousness of others, as to excite an opposition to the Christian system, which is both designed and adapted to lead men, through the paths of wisdom and virtue, to happiness and perfection. It is, nevertheless, carefully to be observed, that the most eminent of the English unbelievers were far from renouncing, at least in their writings and profession, the truths of what they call natural religion, or denying the
reproach on the names and memories of Toland, cent. XVIITA Collins, Tindal, and Woolston, a man of an inauspicious genius, who made the most audacious though senseless attempts to invalidate the miracles of Christ. Add to these Morgan, Chubb, Mandeville, and others. And writers of the same class will be soon found in all the countries of Europe, particularly in those where the Reformation has introduced a spirit of liberty, if mercenary booksellers are still allowed to publish, without distinction or reserve, every wretched production that is addressed to the passions of men, and designed to obliterate in their minds a sense of religion and virtue.
VI. The sect of Atheists, by which, in strictness Atheists of speech, those only are to be meant who deny the existence and moral government of an infinitely wise and powerful Being, by whom all things subsist, is reduced to a very small number, and may be considered as almost totally extinct. Any who yet remain under the influence of this unaccountable delusion, adopt the system of Spinosa, and suppose the universe to be one vast substance, which excites and produces a great variety of motions, all uncontrollably necessary, by a sort of internal force, which they carefully avoid defining with perspicuity and precision.
The Deists, under which general denomination those are comprehended who deny the divine origin of the Gospel in particular, and are enemies to all revealed religion, form a motley tribe, which, on account of their jarring opinions, may be divided into different classes. The most decent, or to use a more proper expression, the least extravagant and insipid form of Deism, is that which aims at an association between Christianity and natural religion, and repre
unchangeable excellence and obligations of virtue and morality. Dr. Mosheim is more especially in an error, when he places Collins, Tindal, Morgan, and Chubb, in the list of those who called in question the perfections of the Deity and the obligations of virtue : it was sufficient to put Mandeville, Woolston, and Toland, in this infamous class.
FINT. XVIII. sents the Gospel as no more than a republication of
the original laws of nature and reason, that were more or less obliterated in the minds of men.
This is the hypothesis of Tindal, Chubb, Mandeville, Morgan, and several others, if we are to give credit to their own declarations, which, indeed, ought not always to be done without caution. This also appears to have been the sentiment of an ingenious writer, whose eloquence has been ill employed in a book, entitled, Essential Religion distinguished from that which is only Accessory d; for the whole religious system of this author consists in the three following points:—That there is a God, that the world is governed by his wise providence, and that the soul is immortal; and he maintains, that it was to establish these three points by his ministry, that Jesus Christ came into the world.
VII. The church of Rome has been governed, and its pon- since the commencement ofthis century, by Clement XI. tiffs. Innocent XIII. Benedict XIII. Clement XII. and
Benedict XIV. who may be all considered as men of eminent wisdom, virtue, and learning, if we compare them with the pontiffs of the preceding ages. Clement XI. and Prosper Lambertini, who at present fills the papal chair under the title of Benedict XIV., stand much higher in the list of literary fame than the other pontiffs now mentioned; and Benedict XIII. surpassed them all in piety, or at least in its appearance, which, in the whole of his conduct, was extraordinary and striking. It was he that conceived the laudable design of reforming many disorders in the
The Romish church
The original title of this book (which is supposed to have been written by one Muralt, a Swiss, author of the Lettres sur les Anglois et sur les François,) is as follows: • Lettres sur la Religion essentielle
à l'Homme, distinguée de ce qui n'en est que l'accessoire.' There have been several excellent refutations of this book published on the continent; among which the Lettres sur les vrais Principes de la Religion, composed by the late learned and ingenious M. Bouiller, deserve particular notice.
Ke This history was published before the death of Benedict XIV.