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able ceremonies, because they were extremely proper to keep up the spirit of true natural religion, by keeping up that of christianity; and to promote the observance of moral duties, by maintaining a respect for the revelation that confirmed them. I will not say, the belief that JESUS was the MESSIAH, is the only article of belief necessary to make men christians. There are other things, doubtless, contained in the revelation he made of himself, dependent on and relative to this article, without the belief of which christianity would be very defective. The system of religion that Christ published, and his evangelists recorded, is a complete system to all the purposes of religion, natural and revealed; that it contains all the duties of the former it enforces them by asserting the divine mission of the publisher, who proved his assertion, at the same time, by his miracles: it enforces the whole law of faith, by promising rewards and threatening punishments, which he declares he will distribute when he shall come to judge the world. The gospel is, in all cases, one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity. And the miracles wrought by him, in the mild and beneficent spirit of christianity, tended to the good of mankind.
The political views of Constantine in the establishment of christianity, were to attach the subjects of the empire more firmly to himself and his successors; and the several nations which composed it, to one another, by the bonds of a religion common to them all; to soften the ferocity of their armies; to reform the licentiousness of the provinces, and by infusing a spirit of moderation and submission to government, to extinguish those principles of avarice and ambition, of injustice and violence, by which so many factions were formed, and the peace of the empire so often and so fatally broken; no religion was so well calculated as christianity seemed to be, to effect all these purposes." In a word, he expresses his conviction, that "genuine christianity was taught of God-was revealed by God himself that it is absurd and impious to assert that the divine Logos revealed it incompletely or imperfectly—and that its simplicity and plainness shows
it was designed to be the religion of all mankind, and likewise manifests the divinity of its original."*
Rousseau, the learned and accomplished skeptical philosopher of the eighteenth century, who opposed the prophecies and miracles of the scriptures, with all the powers of his gigantic mind, offers the following tribute of respect for, and commendation of the scriptures, and of the character and doctrines of Jesus Christ, which are worthy of being transmitted to the latest posterity:
"I confess that the majesty of the scriptures strikes me with admiration, and that the purity of the Gospel hath its influence on my heart! Peruse the works of our philosophers, with all their pomp of diction; how mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the scriptures! Is it possible that a book, at once so simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage, whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast or an ambitious sectary?
What sweetness, what purity in his manners! What an affecting gracefulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind; what subtlety, what truth in his replies! How great the command over his passions! Where is the man, where is the philosopher, who could so live and so die, without weakness, and without ostentation ? When Plato described his imaginary good man with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he gave a description of the character of Jesus Christ; the resemblance was so striking, that all the christian Fathers perceived it.
What prepossession, what blindness must it be to compare Socrates, the son of Sophronicus, to Jesus, the son of Mary! What an infinite disproportion is there between them! Socrates, dying without pains or ignominy, easily supported his character to the last; but if his death, however easy, had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether Socrates, with all his wisdom, was any thing more than a vain sophist.
* See his Works, vol. iv. pp. 281, 282, 294, 301, 302, 304, 316, 349.
He invented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, however, had before put them in practice; he had only to say, therefore, what they had done, and to reduce their examples to precepts. But where could Jesus learn, among his competitors, that pure and sublime morality, of which he only, hath given us both precept and example?
The death of Socrates, peaceably philosophizing with his friends, appears the most agreeable that could be wished for; but that of Jesus, expiring in the midst of agonizing pains, abused, insulted, and accused by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be feared!
Socrates, in receiving the cup of poison, blessed the weeping executioner who administered it; but Jesus, in the midst of excruciating tortures, prayed for his merciless tormentors! Yes! if the life and death of Socrates were those of a Sage; the life and death of Jesus were those of a GOD!
Shall we suppose the evangelical history a mere fiction ? Indeed it bears not the marks of fiction; on the contrary, the history of Socrates, which no one presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ.
It is more inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such an history, than that one only should furnish the subject of it. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the gospel, the marks of the truth of which are so striking and inimitable, that the inventor would be a more astonishing character than the Hero."*
Gibbon, the learned and celebrated author of the "History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire," acknowledges that "the prevalence of the Christian Religion was owing to the convincing evidence, itself, of the doctrines, and the ruling providence of its great Author:" And he adds, "Every privilege that could raise the proselyte from earth to heaven; that could exalt his devotion; or secure his happiness, was still reserved for the members of the christian church."
*This quotation from Rousseau, is taken from a pamphlet entitled "The Age of Infidelity :" published in answer to Paine's "Age of Reason," by a Layman.
See Decline of the Roman Empire, Vol. i. pp. 536, 542.
The authors which I have here quoted, are selected from the most celebrated, able, philosophical, classical, and historical writers that have ever appeared in the ranks of infidelity. They have volunteered such testimonies of respect, such tributes of acknowledgment in favor of christianity and the whole system of revealed religion, as they could not in conscience withhold, and which they never ventured to bestow upon any er system of religion which has ever been published to the world. These concessions of the vast and salutary advantages which christianity bestows on man, in a moral, political and social point of view, seem to be extorted from its very enemies, by the irresistible force of its truth and moral excellence, which are so obvious to every attentive reader of the sacred pages.
Even one of the most gross and outrageous defamers of revealed religion, and of christianity in particular; who appeared to take delight in exhausting his ingenuity and strength to abuse and vilify the scriptures, and who has poured forth all the bitterness of his unprincipled satire and envenomed spleen against the purest institution that has ever cheered the abodes of human wretchedness; after all his coarse invective and abuse, admits the possibility of a divine revelation, declares his belief that Jesus Christ existed, preached most excellent morality, inculcated the equality of man, that he was crucified, and that the great trait in his character was philanthropy.*
In the productions of almost every author who has written against christianity, similar concessions and recommendations are to be found, in favor of the moral character and influence of revealed religion: And while we acknowledge the justness of their encomiums, we are equally astonished at their inconsistency, in opposing what they themselves pronounce to be the best of all possible systems for the elevation, refinement and happiness of mankind.
So plain and familiar is the fact, to all those who have taken the pains to examine the preceptive code of the New Testament, that it solemnly enjoins all the duties of justice, equity, patience, sobriety, industry, truth, com
* Age of Reason, pp. 13, 22, 50.
passion, gentleness, forgiveness, forbearance, meekness, peace, benevolence and universal philanthropy; that it would be totally unnecessary and useless to quote examples for its confirmation. Indeed, the fact is abundantly established by the united voice of all the enemies, as well as by the friends of divine revelation. And here I beg leave to ask the opposers of christianity, how they can soberly justify their conduct, in a social and political point of view, when they array themselves against the purest rules of practical virtue, which if reduced to experiment, would dignify and elevate the moral character of society, spread and extend the blessings of peace and good government, promote order and harmony through all the ranks of social and intelligent beings, and remove such an aggregate of crime and misery from the world? It will be no solution of our inquiry to be told, that those who profess to be its friends and supporters have injured its reputation, by abusing its authority and violating its commands; for they might as well, and with equal propriety, condemn the wholesome laws of our country, because there have been, and still are men, who, notwithstanding they acknowledge the rightful authority of government, are nevertheless, among the first to violate its wholesome institutions, and disregard its equitable requirements. They cannot but discover, if they will but give the subject a moment's serious reflection, that the fault does not attach itself to the institutions and laws of revealed religion; nor yet to the author and Founder of that religion; but to those who abuse its authority, violate its commands, disregard its wholesome instructions, and turn a deaf ear to all its warnings and salutary admonitions.
That christianity sternly prohibits all the vices which corrupt and enslave mankind; that it places the most solemn restraints upon human passions; that it forbids the indulgence of all and every evil thought and design in the heart; that it requires of all its subjects to avoid, not only evil itself, but to "shun every APPEARANCE of evil;" that it prescribes an universal and perfect rule of action, when it demands with the most rational and dignified authority, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should