Immagini della pagina

Yet it is not surprising that Christianity sh have been to such a degree slighted; for altho Clemens, Irenæus, Tertullian, and many other the early ecclesiastical writers, expressly lay it do for instance, that it was characteristically unlaw for a Christian to fight; and although the ea Christians literally and rigidly inculcated and a hered to the doctrines of their faith; yet soon aft Christianity became incorporated with statistics b Constantine, it was rather regarded as a bare watch word in politics, than received or sanctioned as th oracle of divine truths. Rulers and subjects, unde the papal influence, did little else than politically change the State religion from Paganism to the former; so that they could scarcely be expected fully to apprehend, much less to practise, its pure and spiritual commands. They professed Christianity; yet their actions, as to the great mass of the empire, were those of Pagans. Manso observes, that the three prominent features of that age were, "the extension of jurisprudence, improvement in rhetoric, and the blending of Christianity and heathenism." Subtle rulers could easily reconcile their conduct to the uninformed and superstitious vulgar; and the people, uninquiring, and trusting to the former, became in time habituated to annex wrong ideas to the Christian doctrines themselves; and war, as well as laxity of morals, continued as common under the new, as they had been under any former dispensation. The comparatively little bands of devoted Christians who were

so from

principle, and not, like the rest of the empire, polifrtically only, were alas! too glad of the protection ay which this change of affairs afforded them from their late persecutions, not to be acquiescently contented; and however their better judgments might militate against the doctrines of the times, they were too insignificant as a body, to be of any great avail in ets the community. Thus have received opinions and Si habits reduced Christianity to what it now is in bare Christian politics.

[ocr errors]





[ocr errors]

e, its

[ocr errors]

The natural prejudices of sectaries and parties, prevent the system of religious instruction being blended with the general education of youth at most public schools; but, if scruples cannot otherwise be overcome, why not each sect have its own schools and colleges as well as churches and chapels? If ed C parents did their duty at home, in superintending the religious instruction of their children, this pher branch of public education would be less important; but too commonly, they cannot, or will not. Unless the truth be made to take the earliest possession of a child's mind, other adverse sentiments will soon make it their stronghold; and like imps of darkness, will afterwards set at defiance all that is good. The almost fruitless labours of our missionaries amongst adults, proves how difficult it is to shake the prejudices and scepticism, and to bring down the pride of matured minds, grown old in iniquity or error. The schools are the vineyards where the tender shoots of the youthful mind are trained

[ocr errors]






naturally in the way they should


Our contre

in early life, are too exclusively initiated into Pagan mysteries of Greece and Rome, and little into the principles of the religion of t fathers. The lower orders of society, for the m part, learn neither. The same remedy is requi for both.


They who are charmed," says Sir W. Jon "with the Grecian orators and poets, will find t boasted δεινον of Demosthenes, the μεγαλοπρεπ of Thucydides, and all the σeuvov grace and pow of rhetoric, imagery, elegance of style, and grea ness of composition, in the best of the Gree writers, excelled by the prophets. It is impossibi to conceive any thing more lively, exact, or beauti ful, than are the allegories, the similitudes, th metaphors, the descriptions, the ornaments, (or, w may add, divine, than the sentiments, importan than the truths, cheering than the promises, o awful than the threatenings,) so profusely interspersed and scattered every where in the Scriptures of the Old (and of the New) Testament. So that nothing can be more astonishing than that this book (the sacred volume) should be neglected by men, whose ancestors thought it glorious to give their bodies to be burned to purchase for posterity the liberty to read it; or that it should by any man be treated with less regard than is due to writings that have stood the test of so many ages."

It is neither wealth, nor knowledge, that of themselves render a people permanently prosperous, or


tate happy; unless by cultivating a Christian spirit, as Rome, a governing principle, the people also possess an

[ocr errors]

internal and supremely powerful motive, influencfor the ing their conduct in all the public and private relations of society. When such is our When such is our "wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations,” Sir W then may they pronounce with truth," surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people."


[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

We have before seen, that there is a reciprocal influence between the character of the people and their rulers; that the misrule of the latter produces misconduct in the former; and that the vices of subjects frequently occasion tyranny on the part of their prince, and always misery amongst themselves. We have also attempted to explain how these results are brought to pass-how the indifference and stupidity of the people in barbarous countries suffer them to endure the contempt and despotism of their governors without murmur or question ; how, in civilized states, the reckless ignorance of some leads them to dissipate and pervert their best means of support and comfort; how the activity of their minds and the meddling of their information, without the discretion of religious principles to control them, lead them into turbulence, and draw down the vengeance of the laws; and how the infatuation of rulers, encourages party interests, improvident and partial legislation, and brings about popular ruin and distress; and how these same causes, meddling, selfish, and heedless, in

duce false and inconsistent conduct in both people and their legislators. And we have a noticed how these causes produce more active m chief in popular governments, than in governmen where popular influence is not allowed to clash immediately with the purposes and plans of th legislature; and yet how desirable it is for th popular interests, that popular opinion should exer its legitimate moral influence in every departmen of the State. And on the other hand, we have remarked how powerfully and beneficially popular intelligence, together with popular virtue, operate in bridling the inconsiderate and selfish passions of individuals and multitudes; how they may constrain the rulers to consult the public weal; and how they may control the improvident and discontented habits of the people. And seeing how greatly and certainly popular opinion extends its influence into every relation of life, from that of individuals, to that of the cabinet of state; we would now deduce how important and essential it must be, that such an influence, working so extensively and vigorously, should be of that description which shall conduce to individual and national prosperity and happiness; should be productive of good and not evil; should be virtuous and not vicious; that the principles of Christianity should be so diffused that they shall take the place of indeterminate and prejudicial motives; and, in short, that a wise and virtuous purpose, together

with a prudent and dispassionate spirit should be

« IndietroContinua »