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all the earth.-Go and preach to all nations. -Te shall bear witness of me to the farthest ends of the earth.
They obey the voice of their lord and master; they publish to all nations the doctrine of life; they attest the resurrection of the crucified man: the nations believe in his name, and are converted.
at mora Folutioned in
This is the great moral phenomenon which I have to explain ; a revolution more extraordinary than all those recorded in history, and of which I am desirous to aşsign the efficient cause.
I take a rapid view of the state of the world before this great revolution took place. Two predominant systems of religion prevailed in it, Theism and Polythe
I am not speaking of the Theism of the Pagan philosophers; that very limited number of sages, who, like Anaxagoras or Socrates, attributed the origin of all things to one eternal spirit. These sages did not form a body ; and they left the common people immersed in prejudices and the grossest idolatry. The philosophers themselves had attained the knowledge of some important truths; but they laid open their treasure only to the adepts.
I am speaking of the Theism of that nation, so extraordinary and so numerous, separated by its laws, its customs, even by its prejudices, from all other nations, and who supposed that their ancestors received their religion and laws from the hands of God. That nation is firmly convinced, that this. religion, and these laws, are established by signal and innumerable miracles ; it is strongly attached to its external worship, customs, and traditions; and, although much fallen from its former splendour, and subject to a foreign yoke, it still retains all the pride of its ancient liberty, and believes itself to be the sole object of the attention of the Creator. This people retains a sovereign contempt for every other people, and professes to wait for a deliverer who will subject the whole world to their na. tion.
Polytheism was in every other country the predominant and almost universal reli
gion, it varied under different forms, according to the climate, and Genius of the people; it was favourable to all, even the most monstrous passions ; giving a full career to the heart of man, though it sometimes checked his hand; flattering every sense, and associating the flesh with the spirit. It exhibited to the people the example of its gods; and these gods were monsters of cruelty and impurity, and of course must be worshipped with cruelties and debaucheries. The eyes of the multitude were fascinated by its inchantments, its prodigies, its auguries, divinations, and pompous ceremonies. Such a religion builds altars to vice, and digs the grave for
How will fishermen, assuming the character of missionaries, be able to persuade the Theists, that this external, majestic, ancient, and venerable worship is no longer what God requires of them, and that it is abolished for ever ; that all those august ceremonies, so mysterious, so well calculated to captivate the senses, are only the sbadow of those things, the substance of which is now presented to them? How will it be possible to force them to acknowledge, that those traditions, to which they are so united in their hearts and minds, are only the commandments of men, and that they de stroy that law which they believe to be divine ? But, above all, how shall fishermen 'convince these proud and disdainful Theists, that this despised and abject man, whom their magistrates have condemned, and who expired on a cross, is himself the great Deliverer, who had been foretold to them, and for whom they so impatiently waited ; that they are not the sole objects of the extraordinary favour of Providence, but that all the nations of the earth are called to partake of it?
How shall fishermen eradicate from the imagination of the sensual and coarse Poly. theist, that heard of gods, as numerous as the various objects of nature ? What me. thod shall they take to spiritualize his ideas. to disengage him from the dead matter within which he is immersed, and convert bim to the living god? How shall they wrest him from the seducing pleasures of the senses, and a life of voluptuousness ?* How shall they purify and ennoble all his affections ? How shall they make of him a sage, and more than a sage? How shall they restrain his heart as well as his hand ? And, above all, how shall they persuade him to pay homage to a man stigmatized by a most ignominious punishment ? And how shall they, in the eye of the Polytheist, convert the folly of the cross into wisdom?
How shall these heralds of the crucified man engage their new followers to forsake their temporal interest; to submit to a life of contempt, humiliation, and ignominy ; to defy all kinds of punishments and tortures; to resist all temptations ; and to persevere, even unto death, in a doctrine which , insures no recompence but in another life?
* When we consider the horrid description which the apos. tle of the Gentiles gives of the customs of the Pagans, Rom. chap. i. we are almost inclined to believe, that the account given of them is exaggerated ; until we consult the contemporary his. torians, Tacitus and Suetonius. The same accounts, and still more abominable, are to be found in the poets of these times. Vide Fleury, manners of the Christians, page 27, Brussels edition, 1753.