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invaded by a tyrannical enemy; and that so far from sinking, as Gibbon insinuates, under their misfortunes from timidity and weakness, they nobly braved the greatest dangers, and triumphantly submitted to tortures and to death, in the firm hope of immortality, rather than yield the slightest compliance inconsistent with their character and principles. Josephus was himself in the number of those who fought and suffered, though eventually rescued from death by the providence of God. Multitudes among the Jews, of every rank, no doubt, followed his example; and it cannot be supposed that a man, who was known to be attached to the cause, and to have finished his education in the school of Jesus, should have been placed at the head of an army, had not a great proportion of that army been of the same views and profession with their general. The reader will recollect, that I am speaking of the army of Galilee, the province where our Lord chiefly exhibited the evidences of his divine mission; where the people followed him in greater numbers, and whence from their attachment to him as a christian sect, they received the name of Galileans.
It appears from Philo and Josephus, that the primitive believers, instead of inculcating "the maxims of passive obedience," were equally distinguished by their love of freedom, and their
hatred of tyranny. The Esseans, indeed, acknowledged the authority of the civil magistrate as of divine appointment, and cheerfully obeyed him, when the sword of justice, placed in his hands by the disposer of all events, was employed in protecting innocence, in punishing guilt, and in maintaining peace and order. But when this sword was perverted to different ends, the magistrate in their apprehension forfeited his sanction; and they thought themselves free, not only to prevent the abuse of it, but to wrest it from his hands, where they could do it with
The most unequivocal proof of the sentiments of the early christians, respecting the duty of resistance and the extent of civil obedience, is to be sought, not from their conduct towards the Roman government, which constantly suspected them, and often crushed them with a rod of iron, but from their conduct towards one another; from the love of liberty and hatred of tyranny which they breathed, and inculcated in their own societies; from the anxious care they took to exercise among themselves the spirit of independence and equality in regard to natural rights; and to remove from their community every vestige of despotism and oppression. "As to slaves," says Philo," they have none, all are free, and all equally labour for the common good.
The supporters of slavery they condemn as unjust, and base despots, by whom are violated the sacred laws of nature, who, like a common parent, hath begotten all mankind without distinction, and educated them in the genuine bonds of fraternity, consisting, not in name, but in reality." Such are the lovely sentiments which the benevolent Jesus and his faithful followers, in ancient times, entertained, and which the gospel inculcates almost in every page,
No blessing, indeed, conferred upon us by the bounty of heaven is so valuable as the christian religion for its subserviency, were it permitted to operate in its native energy, to the equality, to the rights, and to the improvement of mankind. By the magnificent views which faith discloses, beyond the reach of unaided reason, it inspires boldness and sublimity of sentiment. Affording the most animating motives to virtue, it supports dignity and stability of character. It exhibits our relation to the common parent in the mildest light, and by that means points out to aspiring pride the common level of all his offspring, and thus teaches us principally to seek those distinctions, which flow from superior rectitude of conduct, or a greater comprehension of intellect. While reason leads us to reflect on the order that pervades, the constancy that preserves, the harmony that unites, the moral
world; revelation draws us by cords of love to imitate the goodness that presides over the universe, and raises us to a higher element, where with reviving freshness we may draw the breath of benevolence, peace, and magnanimity.*
*The following are the words of a highly distinguished ornament of literature and of the established church. "In veneration for the gospel, in submission to the laws, and fidelity to the throne, the scholars of Locke and Hoadley have little to fear from comparison with the admirers of Filmer and Atterbury. For my part I hold myself as a christian bound to obey the laws of my country, and dutifully to serve, honour and submit to the powers by which those laws are enacted and administered. But I also hold that, as a Christian, I am authorized to venerate and to maintain the civil rights of my countrymen. I therefore shall always lament the indiscretion of ecclesiastics, when they contend for opinions, which, in their legitimate and practical consequences, lead to the extravagances of Rousseau, where he tells us, that Le christianisme ne preche que servitude et dependance. Son esprit est trop favorable a la tyrannie pour qu' elle n'en profite pas toujour. Les vrais chretiens sont faits pour etre esclaves. Anxious for the honour of my religion, for the comfort and instruction of my fellow subjects, I shall always declare in the words of an eloquent prelate, "that grandeur and elevation of mind, that sublimity of sentiment, that conscious dignity of our nature redeemed at so high a price, which true religion keeps alive, which holy scripture dictates, and which the spirit of the Lord inspires, will be ever pushing us on to the attainment and preservation
The gospel, which under the direction of reason is subservient to these noble ends, has indeed become, in the hands of ignorance and cunning, the instruments of quite opposite effects. Veiled with pretended mystery, ambition has perverted it into means of slavery and oppression ; and priestcraft, instead of holding it up, agreeably to the solemn injunction of its founder, as the light of the world, has employed it as a torch to kindle the flames of persecution, and to darken the understanding of men with the smoke of fanaticism. We have, however, the testimony of competent judges that christianity, on its first appearance, produced on those who embraced it, an influence congenial to its native tendency. It inspired them with sentiments of manly, but rational freedom; it emancipated them from the worst of all slavery, the slavery of vice, and raised them, however depressed in the scale of society, to the dignity of being subjects to the divine government, and heirs of eternal life.
Though Josephus expressly declares, that the Esseans believed in the immortality of the soul and in a future state of retribution, he has omitted
of those civil rights which we have been taught by reason to know as our's, and which we have been made to feel by experience, are, of all our's, the most indispensable to human happiness." (Warburton's Alliance, 258.) Philop. Varvicensis.