« הקודםהמשך »
eternal perdition. And a Christian who ought to love his enemies, is he not guilty of the greatest of crimes, when he inflicts death upon a hostile soldier of whose disposition he knows nothing: and whom he may at a single stroke precipitate into hell ? A Christian soldier is a monster! a non-descript! and Lactantius affirms, that 6a Christian cannot be either a soldier, or an accuser in a criminal cause." And at this day, the Quakers, and Mennonites refuse to carry arms, and in so doing they are consistent Christians.
Christianity declares war against the sciences ; they are regarded as an obstacle to salvation. “ Science puffeth up," says Paul. And the Fathers of the church St. Gregory, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine denounce vehemently astronomy, and geometry. And Jerom declares, that he was whipped by an angel only for reading that Pagan Cicero!
It has been often remarked, that the most enlightened men are commonly bad Christians. For independent of its effects on faith, whicli science is exceedingly apt to subvert, it diverts the Christian from the work of his salvation, which is the only thing needful. In a word, the peculiar principles of Christianity literally obeyed; would entirely subvert from its foundations every political society pow existing. If this assertion is doubted, let the doubter read the works of the early Fathers, and he will see that their morality is totally incompatible with the preservation and prosperity of a state. He will see according to Lactantius, and others, that “ no Christian can lawfully be a soldier.” That according to Justin, « no Christian can be a magistrate." That according to Chrysostom, 6 no Christian ought to be a merchant.” And that according to several, “ no Christian ought to study.” In fine, joining these maxims together with those of the New Testament, it will follow, that a Christian, who, as he is commanded, aims at perfection, is a useless member of the community, useless to his family, and to all around him. He is an idlo dreamer, who thinks of nothing but futurity; who has nothing in common with the interests of the world, and according to Tertullian “ has no other business but to get out of it as quick as possible.”
Let us hearken to Eusebius of Cæsarea, and we shall abundantly discover the truth of what has been said.
66 The manner of life, (says he,) of the Christian. church surpasses our present nature, and the common life of men. It seeks neither marriage, nor children, nor riches. In fine, it is entirely a stranger to human modes of living. It is entirely absorbed in an insatiable love of heavenly things. Those who follow this course of life, have only their bodies upon earth, their whole souls are in heaven, and they already dwell among pure, and celestial intelligences, and they despise the manner of life of other men.” Demonstrat. Evang. vol. ii. p. 29.
Indeed a man firmly persuaded of the truth of Christianity cannot attach himself to any thing here below. Every thing here is 6 an occasion of stumbling, a rock of offence.” Every thing here diverts him from think. ing of his salvation. If Christians in general, happily, for society, were not inconsistent, and did not neglect the peculiar prccepts of their religion, no large society of them could exist ; and the nations enlightened by the gospel would turn hermits, and nuns. All business, but fasting and prayer, would be at an end. There would be nothing but groaning in this vale of tears ;" and they would make themselves, and others, as miserable as possible, from the best of motives, viz : the desire to fulfill what they mistakenly conceived to be the will of God.
Is this a picture taken from the life, or is it a fanciful representation of something different from the peculiar morality of the New Testament. This serious Question demands a serious answer. If it be such as it is represented above, and such it really appears to me, and such I have unfortunately experienced its operation to be on my own mind—I would respectfully askCan such a Religion, whose peculiar principles tend to render men hateful, and hating one another: which has often rendered sovereigns persecutors, and subjects, either rebels, or slaves : a Religion, whose peculiar moral principles, and maxims teach the mind to grovel, and humble, and break down the energies of man; and which divert him from thinking of his true interests,
and the true happiness of himself, and his fellow men : Can such a Religion, I would respectfully ask, be from God ? since where fully obeyed, it would prove utterly destructive to society.
From the preceding chapters you may judge, Reader, of the justice and truth of the opinion, that “ the yoke of Christian morality is easy, and its burthen light :" and alse of the veracity and fairness of that constant assertion of Divines, “ that Jesus came to remove the heavy yoke of the Mosaic Law, and to substitute in its room one of easier observance.” Whether this their assertion be not rash, and ill founded, I will cheerfully leave to be decided by any cool, and thinking man, who knows human natnre, and is acquainted with the hunan heart. I say I would cheerfully leave it to such a man, whether the Mosaic Law, with all its numerous rites, and ceremonial observances, nay, with all the (ridiculous) traditions of the Elders,” superadded, would not be much more bearable to human nature, and much easier to be observed and obeyed, than such precepts as these, 66 Sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor.” “ If a man ask thy cloak give him thy coat also.” 66 Resist not the injurious person, but if a man smite thee on one cheek turn to him the other also.” “ Extirpate and destroy all carnal affection, and love nothing, but religion." “ Take no thought for to-morrow;"_1 am confident that the decision would be given in my favour; and have no doubt, that with thinkingmen the contrary opinion would be instantly rejected with the contempt it merits.
Whether the Mosaic Code be the best possible, or really divine is of no consequence in this inquiry, and is with me another question from that of its inferiority to that of the New Testament. I do hy no means assert the former ; but have no hesitation to give my opinion, after a pretty thorough examination of the subject, that the reflections of Paul, and those usually thrown out against the Mosaic Code by Theologians, when comparing
it with that of the New Testament, in order to deprecate the former, appear to me extremely partial, and unjust ; and so far from true, that I think, that the Ancient Law has the advantage over the precepts of the New Testament, in being, at least, practicable and consistent.*
Another unfounded reproach which Theologians, in order to magnify the importance of the New Testament, cast upon the Old, is this : they say, that the Old Tes. tament represents God only as the tutelary Deity of the Israelites, and as not so much concerned for the rest of mankind. To show that this is a very mistaken notion, and to manifest that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is represented therein, not as the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, I refer to these words : “ The Lord thy God is God of Gods, and Lord of Lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward. He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless, and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food, and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger. Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him, for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Hear the causes between you brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. One law shall be to him that is home born, and to the stranger that sojourneth among you. The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself. I am the Lord your God.”
Indeed, so little truth is there in the notion, that the law, and religion of the Old Testament were established with the intention of confining them to one people, exclusive of all others, that the Old Testament certainly represents thein in such a manner, as shows, that they were intended to be as uncoyfined as the Christian, or Mahometan ; its religion, in fact, admitted every one who would receive it. And what is more, it can be
* The author had prepared, in order to subjoin in this place, an examination of the Mosaic Code, and a developeinent of its principles, which he thinks would have satisfied the reader of the truth of what he has said in the last paragraph. But as it would have too much increased the bulk of the yolume, it has been omitted. It is an institution however curious enough to be the subject of an interesting discussion, which he should be happy to see from the hands of one able to do it justice.
Proved that the Old Testament dispensation claims, as appears from itself, to have been given for the common advantage of all mankind. And it is asserted in it (whether truly, or not, is not the question ; it is suf. ficient for my purpose, that it asserts it that the religion contained in it will one day be the religion of all mankind. For it declares, that Jerusalem will be the centre of worship for all nations, and the temple there be 66 the house of prayer for all nations ;" that Jehovah will be the only God worshipped; and his laws the only laws obeyed. It represents Abraham and his posterity as merely the instruments of Jehovah to bring about these ends ; it is repeatedly declared therein, that the reason of God's dispensations towards them was, " that all the earth might know that Jehovah is God, and that there is no other but Him." According to its history, when God threatened to destroy the Israelites for their perverseness in the wilderness, and offers Moses, interceding for them, to raise up his seed to fulfil the purposes for which he designed the posterity of - Abraham, he tells Moses, that his purpose should not be frustrated through the perverseness of the chosen instruments; 6 but (saith he) as surely as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord,” Num. xiv. 21. Many passages of similar import are contained in the Psalms, and the Prophets. In fact, there is no truth at all in the statement of the Catechisms, that the Old Testament was merely preparatory, and intended merely to prepare the way for 56 a better covenant," as Paul says ; even for another religion, (the Christian) which was to convert all nations ; for, (if the Old Testament be suffered to tell its own story,) we shall find, that it claims, and challenges the honour of beginning, and coinpleting this magnificent design solely to itself. I was going to overwhelin the patience of the reader with quotations from it to this purpose ; but being willing to spare him and myself, I will only produce one, which, as it is direct and peremptory to this effect, is as good as a hundred, to demonstrate that the Old Testament at least claimis what I have said. Zech. viii. 20, 66 Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts : It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants