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may form a proper judgment of any particular history, or doctrine, is it absolutely necessary for him to possess all the powers and all the knowledge of those authors who have collected the proofs of this history and this doctrine ? To enable a jury to bring in a verdict, is it necessary that they should be possessed of the deep knowledge, the accu. rate information, and the great talents, of those who are appointed to preside on the bench.
Is it not necessary, on many occasions, to have recourse to those who are adepts in particular arts or sciences, and to depend in some degree upon their integrity and adroitness ? should not the people have re. course to the learned, to direct and assist them in forming a judgment of the various proofs laid before them, to establish the truth and certainty of the Christian revelation ? Besides, amidst these proofs, are there not some that may be easily comprehended by the most limited capacities? How admirably calculated is the moral excellence of Christ, to make deep impressions on virtuous and feeling minds! How much
the character of the institutor himself excite the admiration and veneration of every sincere friend to truth and virtue! Much of the same sublimity of character appears in the conduct of the first disciples. What a life! What morals! What excellent models! What benevolence! What charity! Are such things beyond the reach of the multitude ? And are these things destitute of power to influence their minds! They will not believe, perhaps, on the authority of so many proofs as a divine; but they will believe on those proofs which are most within their comprehension, nor will their belief on that account be the less rational, the less practical, or the less comfortable.
CHA P. IX.
CONTINUATION OF GENERAL DIFFICULTIES THAT THE DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL DOES NOT SEEM FAVOURABLE TO PATRIOTISM: THAT IT HAS BEEN PRODUCTIVE OF GREAT EVILS ON EARTH.- ANSWERS.
F it be further objected, that the doc
trine of Christ is unfavourable to patriotism, and calculated only to enslave the mind, will not the faithful history of its establishment and progress prove immediately the falsehood of such an assertion ? Could there possibly exist subjects more submissive, citizens more virtuous, souls more generous, and soldiers more intrepid, than the first disciples, dispersed over the em. pire ; ever persecuted, ever humane, ever benevolent, and faithful to the prince and his ministers? If the purest source of true magnanimity results from a deep and lively sense of the dignity of our nature, what
must be the magnanimity and the elevation of a being whose views are not confined within the limits of time?
Shall I repeat what has been asserted, that the real and genuine disciples of Christ would not form a state that could subsist? But wherefore not ? replies a true philosopher, * who well knew how to appreciate things, and who cannot be suspected ei ther of credulity or partiality :
Why not? “ Citizens of this profession being infinitely "* enlightened with respect to the various “ duties of life, and having the warmest “ zeal to fulfil them, must be perfectly sen, " sible of the rights of natural defence. " The more they believe themselves indebte
ed to religion, the more they would think “ due to their country. The principles of
Christianity, deeply engraven on the “ heart, would be infinitely more powerful
than the false honour of monarchies, thana " the human virtues of republics, or the “servile fear of despotic states."
Montesquieu, Spirit of Laws, lib. xxix. chap. vi
Shall I exaggerate the evils which this doctrine has occasioned in the world; the cruel wars of which it has been productive; the blood it has spilt; the atrocious inju. ries it has committed; the calamities of every kind which attended this doctrine in the first centuries, and which broke out afresh in much later times, &c. ? But, shall I forever confound the ill use, or the accidental, nay perhaps the necessary consequences of an excellent thing, with the thing itself? Were these horrors authorised by a doctrine which breathes nothing but charity, meekness, and mercy? Were these crimes directed by a doctrine so pure, so holy? Was it the word of the Prince of Peace, which armed brothers against brothers, and taught them the infernal art of refining on every species of torture? Were the daggers sharpened, the tortures prepared, the scaffolds raised, the faggots lighted, by toleration ?-No;- light must not be confounded with darkness, nor mad. fanaticism with all-bearing charity. I know that charity suffereth long, and is kind i cbarity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seaketh not her own, is not