« EdellinenJatka »
had been met; and as the deluded multitude believed that to be without these was to be exposed to every curse which could threaten the enemies of Heaven, no exertions were too great to prevent this overwhelming calamity. Indeed, those men, who possessed power to inflict the most fearful judgments during this life, and to leave the soul in unreprieved agonies through all the fiery ages of the next, could not fail to have their kind interposition secured at any expense.
Among their artifices to make their agency in changing the allotment of the dead a source of revenue, the following, transmitted by a traveler of unquestionable veracity, may be noticed :- A priest in 1817, having left a young man of his profession in his place during his absence on a journey, inquired immediately on his return who had died during his absence? Such a rich cacique, replied the young substitute. What did you receive for the funeral services, rejoined the priest ? So much was the answer. The amount being but a moderate sum, the priest was exceedingly exasperated; and after administering a severe reprimand to the newly initiated, he sent in great haste for the sons of the deceased. You," said he to the young men," have acted unworthy of your noble family. By withholding the requisite price, you compel the soul of your pious father to agonize longer in purgatorial torments. Why did you not generously accelerate his passage to paradise ?" Stung by these cutting rebukes, the sons expressed the deepest regret for their delinquency ; but added, “ Now there is no remedy.” “Yes, there is," says the priest, "I will compromise the matter. I will have the statue of your excellent and pious father formed of wax; and funeral services shall be performed over his effigy, and masses shall be said for the repose of his soul.” The sons affected an agreeable surprise at this newly.invented remedy, and were glad to pay five or six hundred dollars for this mock funeral, as it was the only means by which they could escape the terrible censure of this angry ecclesiastic. Thus these men, by chicanery, made a living worth six or eight hundred dollars, bring them as many thousands. The contributions they arbitrarily imposed on the Indians, and the enormous sums they charged for their agency in procuring the repose of departed friends, in some instances swelled their revenue to that of a princely fortune.
That they succeeded in making vast numbers of the natives Catholics, is a fact which involved as little difficulty as it does doubt. With regard to the millions which embraced the Catholic system in the densely populated empires of Peru and Mexico, little reason needs to be assigned for their doing so, excepting that which is found in the Spanish conquest. To induce an ignorant nation, reduced to abject slavery, to exchange its superstition for the religion of its conquerors, requires less evidence than that which convinces the understanding and sways the heart; especially when the new system, as in the case in question, allows the converts to incorporate many of their former ceremonies into that religion for which they exchange a portion of their own. None who are ac quainted with the history of Catholic missions among other rude nations can remain at a loss to account for the sudden conversion of these conquered empires.
The ready manner in which the more barbarous nations of the new world received Catholicism is referable, in part, to the same principles. The missionaries pretended that many of the doctrines and mysteries of Christianity resembled the crude and barbarous superstitions which had been originated in the depths of paganism. Others, guided by the influence and example of their chiefs, exchanged their religion for one of whose distinctive principles they were totally ignorant; and a still greater number, overawed by that power, at whose touch the glories of their ancestors had fled, em. braced, as a matter of policy, the religion of their conquerors. Indeed, it is impossible to take an enlightened survey of this apparent change, which occurred among these pagan tribes, without attributing it chiefly to the combined influence of force and fraud.
These spurious conversions left their subjects in nearly the same state of mental and moral degradation as that in which their ances. tors had groped in the starless night of their paganism. If we allow that their new religion taught them to abandon some of their most brutal and bloody rites—to cover themselves with garments instead of paints—to quit the practice of outting their chins, noses, and cheeks-to abstain from the worship of birds, reptiles, and quadrupeds—and to refrain from exposing their infirm offspring to that inevitable death to which they had long been in the habit of con. signing them ; if we grant that these changes are the fruit of its agency, we ascribe to it the full amount of its effects. Close attention to these Indians, who are said to be Christianized, will leave no doubt that their conversion consists in dispossessing their minds of old ideas, without supplying them with new ones; and in transferring their devotions from toads and reptiles to the Virgin Mary and the images of the saints. This change in the created objects of their worship was entirely consistent with the same moral state of the worshipper. Hence, while they renounced the most grossly superstitious parts of their paganism, they retained the highest vene. ration for its more refined usages. Had the missionaries dissipated mental darkness by communicating to them the knowledge of letters, and moral darkness by pouring around them the light of revealed truth; had they thus elicited the mental and moral powers, and waked the soul from its profound and protracted slumbers, the Indians would have abandoned, and not exchanged, the objects of their idolatrous worship.* But that the Indians were subjects of no such elevating process was deplorably evident, by that deep degradation in which the new religion allowed them to continue. În a state of so great imbecility were these native disciples long after their boasted conversion had been effected, that an ecclesiastical decree pronounced them incompetent to receive the eucharist; and their incapacity was the only reason why they were exonerated from the terrible jurisdiction of the inquisition-which, in 1570, by the pious zeal of Philip II., was established in South America.
It would be doing the greatest injustice to many individuals among the Catholic missionaries to involve them all in this censure. There are some bright instances of sacrifice, personal hazard, and even martyrdom, suffered by these men, in their noble attempts to convert the American Indians. Had this been the character of them in general, some of the blackest pages in the history of human depravity bad been wanting.
It was not till Paul III. issued a counter decree-which raised the Indians to the rank of rational beings—that they were admitted to the Lord's supper. Indeed, had the niissionaries enlightened them, they would have defeated the very object for which their missions were established. It would have unfitted them to subserve the purposes of political tyranny and hierarchical ambition. Seve. ral of the tribes, with no more light than that which nature shed upon them, perceiving the boundless ambition of these men, burst away from their restraints, and resumed the native liberty of their savage state.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
GOD'S METHOD OF WEIGHING THE ACTIONS OF MEN.
BY REV. M. SORIN, OF THE PHILADELPHIA CONFERENCE.
i Sam. ii, 3: “ The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him are actions
weighed.” To trace the relation of these words to the context, and to explain the history in which we find them, would require a course of reflec. tions not precisely suited to the pulpit, and would perhaps be a misappropriation of our time. To develop the strong moral principles they embrace, and to bring them home to our hearts and consciences, may be equally as interesting, and a decidedly more profitable employment.
The character of Almighty God, as intimated in the text, is in perfect contrast with what we know of human nature from every day's observation. “ The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed;" but man is an imperfect and a short-sighted creature, whose recollections of the past are defective and con. fused—whose knowledge of the future is mere matter of conjecture, or favor from God; and whose understanding of the numerous subjects around him is limited to their names, and some few of the purposes to which they may be applied.
On almost every topic that enlivens the conversation of the fireside--that occupies the attention of the public through the medium of the press-or that calls forth the energies and resources of the pulpit—it is a conceded point, that we know but in part. True as this is of every other question, it is still more strikingly true of many of the more interesting and important events in the moral history of each individual man; and yet, notwithstanding, it is deserving of remark, that on these very subjects our precipitancy in judgment is so perfectly conformed to the limited nature of our information, that the one might, in most instances, be regarded as the rule of the other—or these two might be supposed to sustain the relation of cause and effect.
Behold, then, in the character of Jehovah, a standing reproof of the arrogance and the ignorant presumption of man! for, although a God of knowledge, he weighs the actions of men. From him let us learn to judge, not from appearances, but to judge righteous judgment.
Instead of pursuing these reflections further, we shall,
II. Show that, in the light of this knowledge, he will weigh the actions of men.
I. Make some remarks on the knowledge of God.
When we speak of knowledge, as an attribute of human character, we refer to that state of mental enlargement and improvement of which the human mind is capable, or to which it has been elevated, through the power of education. But knowledge in man is always of necessity comparatively limited; the weakness of his faculties, the brevity of his life, and the numerous cares and afflictions attendant on his present state of being, all present barriers of fearful magnitude to the enlargement of his intellectual research, and to the accumulation of those facts and deductions, the possession of which constitute a man of knowledge.
But when we raise our minds to the great Father of spirits, the Lord of life and glory, we have attained an elevation where none of these difficulties attend the operation of mind, and where they cannot in any way impair the conception, or mislead the judgment of the understanding, for the simple reason that he is a God of knowledge.
The knowledge of God is that distinct and complete perception which he has of all beings and things that do or that can exist. It comprehends their essence, attributes, relations, and tendencies, andall that is mysterious in their origin, wonderful in the progressive development of their nature, or eventful in its consummation or overthrow. It marks the rise and influence of every cause and agency in the material, intellectual, and moral departments of his works, and traces the nature, number, and magnitude of their effects; in a word, the universal range of matter and mind, whatever may be the mode of its existence, or the place of its location.
This knowledge belongs essentially to God. He is a God of knowledge, as he is a God of truth, of holiness, and of power; it is not more essential to him to be uncaused in his being, than it is that he be independent in his knowledge. All other knowledge is de. rived, whether it be that of angels or of men. If not received by direct revelation from God, it is obtained by the careful exercise and cultivation of their intellectual powers. It is, therefore, progressive in its nature, and is gradually rising into clearer views of the various topics on which it is exercised.
But the knowledge of God is underived. It is independent; as there was none before him, so there is none equal to him. Of all created beings, it may be said that there was a time when they had but one idea, then two, &c. But the Lord is a God of knowledge ; what he now understands he always understood. Nothing is new to him, nor can any thing be old as the subject of his knowledge. The ideas he now has be always had, and will have for ever. He is the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose understanding is infinite, whose knowledge is unsearchable, and whose judgments are past finding out. Hence saith the prophet,“ Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord? or, being his counsellor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and Vol. X.-July, 1839.
taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understand. ing?"
But the knowledge of God is absolute. It not only extends to all things that can be known, but it fully comprehends all to which is extends. The past, the present, and the future are all equally present with him. There is no height, nor depth; no oblivious shades of the past, nor unexplored regions in the immensity of the future, on which his omniscient eye does not rest with fixed and searching gaze.
As he fills all space with his presence, so he comprehends all duration by his knowledge. As he is everywhere to uphold all things by the word of his power, so does he pervade all duration, inhabiting eternity, to know the end from the beginning :
“O wondrous knowledge, deep and high!
Where can a creature hide?" To us some things are secret, but to God there are no secrets. That which is done in the dark is as if it had transpired in the light; and that which was spoken in the ear in the closet, as if it had been proclaimed upon the house-top. To us some things are imperfectly known, because they are remote in their location, but God is everywhere; and the adoring seraph that burns at the foot of the throne is not more perfectly understood, in all the elements of his intellectual and moral worth, than those kindred spirits who explore the remotest regions in the immensity of space. To us some things are mysterious, but to God there are no mysteries—none in nature; none in providence; none in grace.
To him the whole economy of nature is perfectly simple in its construction, and regular and harmonious in its operations. To him there are no intricacies or perplexities in providence. He Brings light out of darkness, order out of confusion, and even causes the wrath of man to praise him. So also in redemption, which stretches out before us as an illimitable and fathomless ocean of light, of truth, and of loveliness. To us it is illimitable, but God " meteth it out with a span:" to us it is unfathomable, but God " holdeth these waters of life in the hollow of his hand." Its profoundest depths, its comprehensive range, its mysterious and hallowing power on the human mind; every thing, from the immaculate conception of the Lord Jesus to the regeneration of the human soul, is perfectly understood by him, for he is a God of knowledge.
When we contemplate this truth, either abstractly or as it is exemplified in the works of creation and providence, it is one of great and overwhelming power and sublimity. But, viewed in its obvious relation to the moral principles and habits of men, as the light in which they appear to the Almighty, and as the rule according to which he will try our actions, it is one of fearful and startling import. But this is the view given of the subject in the text; and to this aspect of the question we turn, in order,
II. To show that, in the light of this knowledge, he will weigh the actions of men.
The text manifestly intimates that the knowledge of God is the Kight in which things appear to him, and according to which he approves or disapproves of them. As this knowledge is infinite, he