« EdellinenJatka »
Indian, in point of prospects of futurity. The poor untutored, despised Indian,
“Thinks, admitted to that equal *. “His faithful dog shall bear him company.” While many of those who pity the stupidity of the Indian, and sneer at the credulity of the Christian, live and die under the embasing conviction that at death themselves and their dogs will be alike extinct, alike free from responsibility, alike unconscious of all around them, alike excluded from pleasure, alike liberated from pain (3) I am, &c.
(2) It was a common assertion of Diderot, that between him and his dog “il n'y avoit de difference que habit.”
Evidence drawn from the rapid Diffusion of Christianity, and its Triumph over Persecution; also from the Purity and Eacellency of the Scripture Morality and Theology.
THE two topics I have selected for discussion in this letter might each furnish matter for a volume; and the argument, if judiciously handled, would rather gain strength, than become weakened, by such dilation. I mean, however, in either case to present you with a mere outline of the argument, and leave you to give colour and force to the former, by your acquaintance with the history of the first four centuries of the Church, and to the latter by a careful perusal of the Holy Scriptures.
Our reasoning is simple, and rests upon the principles of Natural Religion. God will aid that which is good, and check that which is bad, in so far that each shall be rendered subservient to a higher good: hence it is agreeable to Divine Providence to give the most rapid and extensive diffusion, independently of secular concurrence, to that which is, in itself and its tendencies, best: and hence it will follow, since God has regard to human affairs, and since the Christian Religion cannot be good if it be not true, or could not gain ground as it did in opposition to earthly power and unassisted by heavenly power, that it is what it professes to be, and is therefore divine. It is, I believe, an undeniable fact, that before the end of the second century Christianity had been more widely disseminated over the face of the earth, than any one religion, true or false. Heathenism, in all its varieties of dismal shades, had been thickening for thousands of years, until “darkness covered the lands, “ and gross darkness the people.” But as the natural sun chases away darkness from whole regions, with analogous rapidity did the “Sun of Righteousness” dispel the moral gloom which every where prevailed. Thus IRENEUs affirms that, in his time, not only those who dwelt near Palestine, but the Egyptians, the Libyans, the Celts, the Germans, &c. had one belief: may, says he, “the preaching of the truth “shines every where, and enlightens all men who are “willing to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (8) CLEMENs ALEXANDRINUs again affirms that, in his time, “ Christ was known in all nations.” (a) And, that I may not needlessly multiply quotations, let me, once for all, cite TERTULLIAN. (b) “In whom else “ have all nations believed, but in Christ who lately (2) Iren. lib. i. c. 3. (a) Strom. v. (b) Cont. Jud. lib. 1. The following is the reluctant testimony of Gibbon, Hist. Rom. Empire, ix. 244. “The progress of Christianity “was 120 at the Ascension, (Acts, i. 15.) soon after 3,000, (c. ii. 41.) “then 5,000, and in little less than two years after the Ascension to “great multitudes at Jerusalem only.—Mahomet was three years silently “occupied in making 14 converts, and they of his own family; and pro“ceeded so slow at Mecca, that in the seventh year only 83 men and 18
“ came 2 In whom have all these nations believed? “ i. e. Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and the dwellers “in Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia; “ the inhabitants of Pontus, and Asia, and Pam“ phylia; they that dwell in Egypt, and they who live “in Africa, beyond Cyrene ; Romans, and strangers; “Jews, and other nations in Jerusalem; the various “sorts of people in Getulea ; the many countries of “ the Moors; all the borders of Spain; the different “nations of Gaul; and those parts of Britain which the “Romans could not reach, even they are subject to “Christ; ” the Sarmatae also, and Daci, the Germans “and Scythians; and many other obscure nations, “with many provinces and islands scarcely known to “us: in all these the name of Christ, lately as he “came, reigns.” Presently after, this distinguished apologist shows how much larger the kingdom of Christ was, even in his time (the end of the second century), than any of the Great Monarchies, as they are usually called, and then proceeds thus: “ The kingdom of “Christ is every where extended, every where re“ ceived; in all the above-mentioned nations is es“teemed. He reigns every where, is adored in all “ places, is divided equally amongst all known coun“ tries.” From this wonderful success attending the promulgation of Christianity in all nations, it soon obtained the name of h opargao. 810ax”, or the prevailing doctrine; as Porphyry and Julian both acknowledge. Now what religion was there that could compare with this for the extent of its possession P. The only
- - *
plausible answer is—Heathenism. But Heathenism, it should be recollected, though it be one name, is not one religion. Heathens do not all worship the same thing, as I have abundantly shown in a former letter; nor are they governed by the same law, or bow to one common master in religious matters. The only reli
gions which even now can bear any comparison in point
of number of votaries with the Christian, are the