Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

and dispose them to look favourably on the cause of revelation, the object of the writer will be attained : From enemies, or at most wavering and undecided friends to revelation, they may be converted into sincere Christians. Without fear or affection, with no other distinctions in view than those of christian and anti-christian, revelationist and anti-revelationist, wherever and however they may exist, avowed or concealed, the same undeviating course will be pursued which has hitherto guided my progress.

In prosecution of this design, I last took notice of the influence which the gospel has had in softening the ferocity of war; and I now proceed to consider its effects on manners and customs in some other respects.

To those versed in the history of Rome, that nation among whom the gospel first spread, it is a well known fact, that practices prevailed under the name of amusement, from which humanity recoils, and it is with difficulty we are made to believe such things could be. Accustomed as we are to see and hear pity and humanity commended and rewarded, honoured and held in high repute among virtues, we can scarce think it possible that any government should tolerate, much less directly encourage, amusements, the whole tendency of which was to steel the heart against all the emotions of pity, to quench every sentiment of compassion and sympathy towards a fel. low-creature! Yet so it actually was. I allude here to the amusements of the Amphitheatre, so called ; the expense of which was ei. ther furnished from the public treasury, or by men in eminent stations, who thereby wished to ingratiate themselves with the people.

And that a proper estimate of these amusements may be formed, imagine twenty, thirty, or forty thousand people, according to the population of the place, or the expected magnificence of the shows, of all ages and conditions, and of both sexes, assembled in an immense building erected for the purpose, of a circular form ; in the middle of which there is a vacent space covered with sand. At a signal given, a furious wild beast rushes from a place of confinement, and springs upon a man, who stands armed with a weapon to receive him. If the beast prove victorious, another and another is thrust forward to be torn in pieces ; but when the victory declares on the other side, if humanity, or the caprice of the spectators so incline, the victor is spared and set at liberty. These combatants, it is true, were usually condemned criminals ; but frequently men were found to expose themselves thus wantonly for hire. Criminals, if spared by the spectators, were pardoned, and hirelings had their reward. To this dreadful alternative, it is justly supposed the Apostle Paul alludes when he says, If after the manner of men I have fought sith beasts ; being condemned thereto for his courageous defence of the gospel. When we consider what human nature is, we have every reason to think that persons were often unjustly condemned, for the very purpose of swelling the numbers to be exhibited. And if their lives were justly forfeited, yet what a perversion of justice ! They were used to corrupt others, and fit them for the same barbarous ex. hibition.

But the one half is not yet told ; a stranger and more horrible outrage on the human character yet remains. Behold then the grave senator, the plain citizen, and the rude vulgar, with the matron and delicate female, in whose bosoms pity and compassion should dwell, all seated in their appropriate departments. After surveying perhapsan hundred human carcasses, mangled, and strewing the ground with as many slain beasts, they call for a higher and more interesting kind of entertainment; when lo! issuing from opposite sides of the bloody space, two combatants called gladiators, armed according to the fashion of the age, meet, salute, embrace, and then prepare for desperate fight; which is pretty sure not to end till one is killed outright, and the other, it is likely enough, severely wounded. See the spectators exulting in their streaming blood, applauding him who undauntedly faces death, or hissing and expressing every mark of contempt for him who shrinks from the uplifted sword. See expectation on tiptoe; every eye strained and eagerly waiting the event. Contemplate this bloody work till fifty or an hundred pairs in succession have thus, for no cause but pure amusement, shed each others' blood, and heaped the ground with the slain ; call to mind that these combatants are either prisoners of war, compelled thus to take the lives of their friends under a hope of saving their own, or persons trained to the business, and serving for hire; thus making a trade of murder. What must have been a people that could encourage and delight in such exhibitions! How blunted must have been their feelings! And how prone to bloodshed and violence towards one another! Accustomed to witness human slaughter for their amusement, they can very hardly be supposed to have much abhorrence of it, to gratify any other passion. How ought we to hail, with the liveliest emotions of gratitude, the beneficent cause that has banished from the earth this blot upon the human character! This cause was the spirit of the gospel.

The early professors of Christianity saw the total opposition there was between such unnatural amusements, and the precepts by which they professed to govern their lives, and zealously set themselves to reform the monstrous abuse. They inveighed with spirit and high indignation against such wanton destruction of lives, and such a fatal sacrifice of all regard to humanity. They plead, they exhorted in the most moving and affectionate manner; they described the corruption of taste, and the hardened barbarity of heart produced by such spectacles. Hear one of them, who before his conversion had doubtless often witnessed these shocking scenes of blood and murder ; but being converted, he stood among the most undaunted champi. ons in opposition to them; and in the cause laid down his life.

“If you turn your eyes towards cities and places of resort, you will find there a more melancholy spectacle than what could arise out of the most solitary desart.

“Here you have prizes fought and men imbruing their hands in the blood of each other, for the entertainment of spectators as cruel and savage as themselves. Their bodies are dieted with strengthering food, their muscles filled up, and their limbs well hardened; they are, as it were, fattened for the sham

bles, and pampered for the encounter, that they may sell their lives the dearer. Men are killed for the mere pleasure and recreation of men like themselves; and as if there were not otherwise ways enough of dying, there is a trade set up for murder, and great art and skill are applied for learning it. It is not, it seems, sufficient to commit the wickedness, without teaching it too! How is it possible for any thing to be more savage and inhuman? To have es. tablished forms of killing, and to give public testimonies of honour to the flagitious practice! Then again, what a monstrous custom is it which prevails amongst us, of men exposing themselves to the fury of wild beasts, whom no judicial sentence hath compelled to it? In the flower of their age, likely persons, and well accoutred, deck themselves out to their own funeral, glory in their shame, and fight with wild beasts for their lives, as if they were male. factors; when nothing but their own mad choice leads them to the encounter. Fathers are content to look on, whilst their sons are thus engaged; the brother perhaps is engaged within the rail, whilst the sister is a looker on without it; and though when these entertainments are most pompous and magnificent, the price of the seats rises in proportion; yet, rather than not be spectators of what ought to be their grief and their abhorrence, even mothers themselves (the more is their shame and scandal) will purchase room in them at any rate. They do not consider, that in such unnatural sights as these, even the eyes which behold them are in some measure murderers."*

Thús earnestly remonstrated the early Christians against a prevailing amusement-Thus boldly did they venture to oppose a custom justly deemed monstrous, though supported by the authority and power of long usage, and a mighty empire. Nor were their remonstrances in vain; for after hundreds and thousands of them had suffered death, frequently, we have reason to think, for no other reason than because they offended against these customs, whatever might have been the pretence; after laying down their lives in the same cruel manner, against which they remonstrated, they prevail. ed: The empire became Christian-These barbarous usages were abolished by law, were swept from the earth, we hope no more to return. But suppose the cause that swept them away were to cease its operation, who can answer for the consequences ? Human depravity has once introduced, and for a long time supported these horrible practices ; who will venture to say it may not do it again? It is to be feared that many, whose faith has been shaken by infidel writers and declaimers, are not acquainted with facts of so much moment as those now stated; yet these certainly are facts, and facts which should make them at least hesitate and enquire, before they listen to the suggestions on the other side of the question : They are facts of high importance, and enough, we may say, even if taken alone, to outweigh all that infidels have alledged.

* St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage.

LETTERS ON EPISCOPACY.

The following is the first of a series of Letters, for which a place has been requested by their author, in continuation of a controversy which has for some time been carried on in the State of New York, on the subject of Episcopacy. As many of our readers may be altogether unacquainted with this controversy, a concise statement of its rise and progress becomes necessary.

In the summer of 1805 there appeared in the Albany Centinel a course of Es. says, under the title of Miscellanies ; into which the author, the Rev. Dr. Linn, introduced some strictures on Church Government, tending to invalidate the arguments in favour of Episcopal Regimen, as understood and practiced in the Church. This drew forth some animadversions, through the same channel, from a writer who signed himself A Layman; and who it appears was really so, a Mr. Thomas Yardley Howe, by profession a Lawyer. In this task he was soon aided by the Rev. Mr. Beasley, of Albany, the Rev. Mr. now Dr. Hobart, of New-York, and some others under various signatures. Dr. Linn defended himself, and continued his strictures, and thus the controversy went on till the subject was supposed to be pretty thoroughly canvassed, and the printers be. came reluctant to a further continuation; when all the pieces on both sides were collected into a volume by Dr. Hobart, with a preface, and explanatory remarks and notes. This was complained of in one of the New-York papers, by Dr. Linn, as unfair ; and the complaint was answered by Dr. Hobart. "But here the affair has not rested, for Dr. Lim has lately solicited the attention of the public by a Pamphlet, in the form of Letters addressed to Dr. Hobart; and our correspondent, so far as is known, being a new auxilliary on the side of Episcopacy, requests a place in the Magazine, in a course of Letters addressed to Dr. Linn.

When the primary object of our Miscellany is considered, which is to instruct Episcopalians, and confirm them in the doctrines and tenets which they profess and deem sacred, no apology can be needed for lending its pages in aid of a cause so important, of a tenet so fundamental in the Church as this is taken to be by every true Episcopalian. Religious, as well as every other kind of controversy, if conducted with good temper and moderation, will subserve the cause of truth. Whether our correspondent shall so conduct, must be left to the reader to judge; not being yet in possession of the whole, we can only say, we trust that candour will guide his pen in the prosecution of the subject........EDIT.

A SERIES OF LETTERS, Addressed to the Author of the " MISCELLANIES,published in the

year 1805, in the Albany Centinel.

BY EUSEBIUS.

" A thousand five hundred years and upwards, the Church of Christ

hath continued under the sacred regimen of Bishops. Neither for so long hath Christianity been ever planted in any kingdom throughout the world, but with this kind of government alone ; which, to be ordained of God, I am, for mine own part, even as resolutely persua. ded, as that any other kind of government in the world whatsoever, ie of God.

Hooker's Eccle. Polity, book 7th, p. 373.

LETTER I.

SIR,

SOME time since, I read the controversy occasioned by your Miscellanies, published last year in the Albany Centinel. I have weighed your observations with all the impartiality and candour of

RR

which I am capable. Notwithstanding this conviction, I should not choose positively to assert, that I am totally free from prejudice. I well know the imperious influence of long conceived opinions, and the extreme difficulty of removing from the human mind every degree of bias, which they unavoidably give it. Yet this must be done, in order to judge fairly, and to determine in this and every. other controversy, on which side the truth lies. I will make every effort in my power to attain this happy disposition, and will promise you to suppress, as much as I can, the feelings of indignation, which several provoking passages, and much gross misrepresentation in your numbers, are calculated to excite.

I have also read with strict attention, and I trust with impartiality, the answers to your papers by Cyprian and a Layman ; and I can say without the least qualification, that, if they have no advantage over you in any thing else, they have it in point of coolness, decency of expression, and politeness of manner. But, in my humble opin. ion, they have it also in point of argument and fact. They build nothing upon obscure passages of scripture, but speak to the common sense of mankind, in the cases of Timothy and Titus, and the angels of the seven churches in Asia. They also give you a for, out of a multitude of testimonies, from the ancient fathers ; and they assert, what neither you nor any other person can disprove, that tiil the time of Calvin, there was no Church upon earth, under any other form of government, but the Episcopal.

This being the case, it may be deemed unnecessary to say any thing more upon the subject. There certainly exists no necessity for it, even taking into the account your seven letters, and Mr. M Leod's catechisin ; but still it may have its use, to supply what your opponents have omitted, and to exhibit under a different arrangement, and in somewhat different points of light, their observations and arguments.

In reflecting upon this subject, I have always wondered how it could be, that the government of the Church, diffused through Europe, Asia and Africa, should ever have been a subject of dispute. The mode of government, both in church and state, is a matter of notoriety, exposed to the observation of every human creature, and its great outlines and essential parts are not to be mistaken. From the history of the different nations of the world, we are able to say what their government was in every thing material ; and we can trace in most of them even their variations and revolutions. But it seems the government of the Christian Church, notwithstanding the united testimony of the ancient historians and fathers, is still a subject of debate. They all assert, when they say any thing upon the subject, that it was, in the several periods in which they lived, epis. copal, and that it was so from its very foundation. * We read of no dispute upon this subject till the days of Calvin, and even he bears testimony to its apostolic origin. But his followers were determined

• The ingenious author of the Miscellanies has the hardihood to deny this. It has already been proved by his opponents, and it will be further proved in these letters. This is one of the points which I beg leave to invite the author particularly to discuss.

« ZurückWeiter »