Imágenes de páginas

ever need reformation. His sayings are so loose and his instructions so imperfect, that no society or church could be governed and guided by his direction alone, consequently no church has ever trusted to them in practice, however sincere in their faith or strict in their discipline; neither the Roman Catholic, nor the Greek, neither the Episcopalian, nor the Presbyterian Churches, nor any of the numerous sects who worship his name and admire his doctrine, adhere to his directions in practice, or trust to his instructions to guide them. All these various sects (finding Christ's directions insufficient) apply to different parts of the Bible for support to their creed, although it was never meant for such a purpose, and contains abundant arguments against them all.

He gave no directions concerning erecting parishes or building churches, nor whether the preachers of his religion should wander like himself, or be settled in particular places. He gave no directions how to ordain the ministers of his religion, or how to support and maintain them when teaching, whether by voluntary contribution or particular agreement, paying the labourer accord ing to his work, or by levying a tenth of all that is produced in the country to support them in splendour, luxury, and wealth.*

He gave no information whether he meant to abolish the Jewish festivals or to continue them--whether he meant to abolish their circumcision and the passover, and substitute baptism and the supper in their place, or to continue the whole.

He has not informed his followers, whether there should be seven sacraments as the Roman Catholics maintain, or only two, according to the Protestant creed; nor did he give any instruction whatever concerning sacraments. He has left no directions concerniag the form of the baptism, whether it should be performed by dipping or sprinkling, whether it should be administered to infants or io 'adults Only, 'or whether it was necessary or not. The subsequent ceremony of confirmation he has entirely forgotten.

He has left no directions how the sacrament of the supper should be administered; whether it should be received in a reclining posture, as he would eat the last passover himself, kneeling, as the Roman Catholics, Greeks, and Episcopalians practise, or sitting, according to the Presbyterian fashion. He gave no directions whether they should use bread and flesh at it, as he would do himself, according to the law concerning the Jewish passover, Exod. xü. 8, nor directed them to use bread and wine, which is the modern custom. He said expressly, that the bread and cup were his body and blood, yet he has not made it apparent to our senses that it is changed into that substance, although a great majority of his worshippers (relying on his words) believe that it is so. He gave no instructions concerning marriage, although that contract is so necessary for mankind in society. He

* Although he did not institute tythes, yet we find, (in Matt. xxiii. 23) that either he or the author approved of them.

did not even recommend marriage; and his observations concerning divorce are so indefinite, that they are useless for direction on that point.

If he set no value upon these things which are now accounted of so much importance among his followers, he ought to have informed them plainly, to prevent disputes; but he has left many of these points unnoticed, and all of them unsettled, which has been the cause of much contention, persecution, and murder. Thousands of his worshippers have suffered martyrdom at the stake and on the gibbet, for conscientóus difference of opinion on matters which cannot be settled by any of his words. If he did not foresee the strife and persecutions that would arise from his impracticable directions and inconsistent expressions, he has little claim to the character of a prophet; but it appears by his own words, that he did foresee these shocking cruelties and horrid crimes; and he therefore ought certainly to have endeavoured to prevent them-by expressly forbidding his followers to persecute one another for difference of opinion în religion-byexhorting them to be charitable in their sentiments and merciful in their conduct towards each other, when differences arose--and by leaving instructions and explanations on the different subjects, so clear and explicit that they could not be misunderstood.

If he could not describe the form of that worship which he came to establish, and settle the doctrines of that religion more accurately than ordinary men, he was surely unfit for the work he had undertaken. Now we know, by experience, that he has completely failed. If he had settled these forms of worship and points of faith as clearly as they are defined in the Presbyterian confession of faith, or the thirty-nine articles of the English Church, he would have prevented much mischief and misery that has taken place. There are few of the articles in either of these standards that are much misunderstood. Any disputes that arise concerning them are generally caused by the contradictions and imperfections contained in the Bible, on which they are founded.

But it is not only in the total want of direction concerning the form of church government and religious worship, that his instructions are imperfect; his account of a state of future rewards and punishments (the end of his religion) is equally imperfect, and utterly improbable: and though he promised the kingdom of heaven, as a certain reward to his followers for their faith and sufferings, yet his information concerning it is quite incredible, and the comparisons to which he often likens it in parables, are very gross and inapplicable. He says, (Matt. xx. 1)" that the kingdom of heaven is like a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed to give them a penny a day, he sent them to work in the vineyard ; and he went out again about the third, the sixth, the ninth, and the eleventh hour, and hired others, telling them he would give

them whatsoever was right. So when the even was come,

he began to pay the labourers, commencing with the last hired, and gave every man a penny. But when those who were hired first came, they reasonably supposed that they should have received more than those who had wrought only one hour, but they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured, saying, * these last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us who have born the burden and heat of the day." But he answered one of them and said, " friend, I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is and go thy way, I will give unto this last even as unto thee.”

If this be a true picture of the kingdom of heaven, there is very little justice in the distribution of its enjoyments. It is mere ca.price and gross partiality to give those who work but one hour in the evening equal wages, with those who have wrought the whole day, and born the burden in the heat of it. It is great injustice to make the wicked sinner, who repents only at his death, equal to the man who has always been just, and laboured to promote the cause of virtue through his whole life.

He also says (Matt. xxii. 1-14, Luke xiv. 16–24) that the kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain King, who made a marriage for his son and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

Again he sent forth other servants, saying, “ tell then who are bidden, be-, hold I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage." they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandise. And the remnant took his servants and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the King heard thereof he was wrath, and sent forth his armies and destroyed the murderers, and burnt up their city. Then saith he to his servants, “ the wedding is ready; but they who were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find bid to the marriage.” (According to Luke, the servants were commanded to go out into the streets and lanes of the city, the highways and hedges, and compel the people to come in, that the house might be filled). So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all, as many as they found, both bad and good; and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the King came in to see the guests, he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him “friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment ?” and he was speechless. Then said the King to his servants “ bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into utter darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing eeth.”

In this description of the kingdom of heaven, the king appears


more like a tyrannical despot than an upright judge; and the people who preferred attending their business before a marriage revel, were wiser than he. Those who killed his servants and were killed in turn were much like himself. If it is like the kingdom of heaven to force both good and bad into it, from the hedges, streets, and lanes of the city at night, we may be sure, that the worst characters will be in it, and the best will be left out. The comparison of the man who was cast into utter darkness, because he had not on a wedding garment, is a representation of horrid cruelty. There cannot be either justice or mercy in keeping the bad, and in sending a man into eternal torments for not having on a wedding garment, when he was apparently forced in, and had not time to prepare. But is it the custom in heaven to turn those out who are once in, and to send them into perdition because they have not on a wedding garment? This is altogether a strange representation; but if we can believe the description of heaven in the book of Revelation, it is very different from this, though equally incredible. Jesus finishes the parable by saying, that “many are called, but few chosen;" but if his parable be correct, it rather appears, that many are forced in, and few furned out.

He again compares the kingdom of heaven (Matt. xxv.) to ten virgins with their lamps; and also to a man travelling into a far country, who delivered talents to his servants, that they might trade with them until his return. But if the government in heaven be really like unto these comparisons, it is both capricious and tyrannical. It was neither justice, nor mercy, to punish the foolish virgins so severely, because they had neglected to put oil in their lamps. It was cruelty and injustice to cast a servant into utter darkness because he had not returned an usurious interest to his lord, for the talent left with him. According to the parable, the servant thought his lord a greedy tyrant, reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not strawed; and he was afraid of losing his money, which would have subjected him to some severe punishment from such a master. The servant was, in this case, punished for the consequences of his own fears—for his masters tyranny, rather than for his want of industry. The whole of these comparisons reflect but little honour on the kingdom of heaven. There is no description of rational happiness, or refined pleasures: heaven above is always described as a feast or mere sensual enjoyment. If they are correct likenesses of it, there seems to be as much injustice and tyranny in it, as there is on earth. The admission into it seems as partial, and the rewards as capriciously bestowed. Those who have wrought but one hour are made equal to those who have toiled the whole day-the guilty sinner who repents at the lasi hour, is made equal to the just man who has acted in an upright manner all his life!

But though Jesus taught his disciples that those who be

lieved on him should enjoy supreme felicity in heaven, yet his actions (if true) seem to render his own belief in that state of happiness extremely doubtful. If he really believed in the joys of heaven after death, he ought not to have raised his friend Lazarus from the grave, and brought him back from that state of happiness to this world of sorrow. If Lazarus and others whom he is said to have raised from the grave had entered into that state of blessed enjoyment, he acted like their worst enemy, in tearing them from it. But it is much more rational to conclude that such events never took place. It is much easier to propagate such stories among an ignorant people, than to bring a dead body to life.

His description of the punishment of hell is equally visionary and improbable, with his account of the joys of heaven. He describes it as utter darkness and everlasting fire, where there is weeping and gnashing of teech. The parable of the rich man and the beggar, by which he attempts, to illustrate it, Luke chap. xvi. ver. 19, is as foolish and inapplicable as any of the comparisons to which he likens the kingdom of heaven. As the punishments of hell which he awards are without end-far too severe for any human offences--and not inflicted in proportion to the crimes committed, it shews, that he had very little sense of either justice or mercy; and the practical effects of these threatenings of hell fire, in stirring up religious fury, in stifling every feeling of humanity in the breast of devout Christians, and in making many of them savage fanatics, afford a melancholy proof of the pernicious tendency of some of his doctrines. If Jesus could not describe the enjoyments of heaven and the torments of hell, more acutely than his biographers represent, his genius and abilities must have been of a very inferior order indeed; many of his followers in after times have described both in more glowing colours, and have entered into many more particulars than himself. If his biographers have done justice to his character, his ignorance is every where apparent. He has been raised, by peculiar circumstances, to a name which he never would have acquired by his own merits or exertions, and which he cannot maintain without the most strenuous support from his followers.

We might have expected that the son of God, when he took our nature, and came to be the saviour of the world, would have been a man of an enlightened mind, and liberal sentimentfree from all national partialities, or narrow prejudices--anxious to promote the welfare of the whole human race-possessing deep knowledge of the human heart—and displaying clear and comprehensive views, in directing all mankind to improvement and happiness. These qualities, supported by almighty power, would have subdued opposition, commanded respect, and ensured obedience to his direction, in every age and country. But in the accounts of his life and character given by his friends and fol

« AnteriorContinuar »