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nation, they taught their converts universally, as theirs. that will live godly,” says St. Paul, “ shall suffer persecution,”
In accordance with these declarations, both Christians and Christianity have been resisted by wicked men from the beginning: and the resistance has been dictated by the same hostility, with that, which was exhibited by the Sanhedrim at the time, when the text was uttered. Often has this spirit broken out into the most violent outrage. In the ten persecutions of the Church, carried on by the heathen emperors of Rome, and in those, which were subsequently inflicted upon the Waldenses, the Hussites, and the Protestants, by the papal empire, pride, malice, and cruelty, satiated their violence in all the modes of creating anguish and agony, which ingenuity could devise, or the arm of power execute: and the blood of the unhappy sufferers cried to heaven for vengeance in accents, which were heard, and answered. The heathen Roman empire was deluged with slaughter and misery; and the papal dominion has been overturned by judgments still more terrible, slaughter more extensive, and sufferings more multiplied, and more intense.
Under the influence of Protestantism, toleration has been better understood, and firmly established. The rack, the wheel, and the gibbet, have ceased to be instruments of conversion : and the spirits of good men no longer rise to heaven from the stake and the cross. Piety is neither immured in a dungeon, nor driven into exile. The christian may offer up the incense of his family, and the minister, that of his congregation, without trembling at the approach of a sheriff, or anticipating the horrors of a prison.
The hand has now delivered over this office to the tongue ; and slander, ridicule, and derision, have in the work of persecution succeeded the scourge, and the faggot. The person of the christian is ordinarily safe : his porperty is safe : and the warfare is chiefly carried on against his good name, and the feelings of his heart. The gain, I acknowledge, is real, and important. But let not those, by whom the war is carried on, imagine, that, because they have been obliged to change their weapons, and with them their modes of attack, they have therefore changed their spirit. The spirit is still the same: not usually wrought up, I acknowledge, to the same violence and phrenzy; but possessing the same
malignant character; hostile to truth, to religion, to Christ, and to God.
It is a remarkable fact, that, whenever religion revives in any given place, and a considerable bumber of persons appear to be seeking the way to heaven, this enmity to it regularly revives also. The reason evidently is, that religion is at such seasons presented in a clearer and more striking manner to the view of its enemies. They see more distinctly what is its nature : and their opposition is awakened, just as the hostility of the human mind is always awakened by the sight of a foe. A sober man would naturally say to persons of this cast,“ Why do you indulge this unkind, this malignant, disposition against these individuals ? They certainly do you no harm. They are merely seeking their own salvation. Why should they not seek it? If you will not go with them to heaven; you ought reasonably to permit them to go. Their perdition can be of no use to you: for yours certainly will not be lightened by their participation.”
To dissuade the members of the present assembly from the indulgence of this spirit is the design, with which I have chosen the text as the theme of the present discourse. It is my intention especially to apply it to the particular case, which I have last mentioned ; and to engage those, who hear me, to shun all opposition to the revival, and prevalence, of Religion.
For this purpose I observe, in the
1st place, That this spirit is exactly the same with that of the Sanhedrim.
This truth hardly needs to be illustrated. Hatred, exercised by persons of the same character, is the same emotion, too obviously to admit of a doubt. Could we be at a loss; the effects, produced in both cases, are, to a great extent, exactly the same. The obloquy, contempt, and ridicule, thrown upon Christ and his Apostles, were in no respect different from the same things, as they are now dealt out to Christians. The Jews, to whom Paul addressed himself at Rome, said concerning the Christians of that time : “ We know, that this Sect is every where spoken against.” Then, indeed, the enemies of Religion were able to add violence to obloquy, and to torture the persons, and destroy the lives, of those whom they hated, as well as to wound their
good name. Were the same power in the hands of the modern enemies of Christianity; there is little reason to doubt, that they would employ it in a similar manner.
But there is probably not an individual of this character, who, whenever he reads the story of the Jewish High priests and their coadjutors, does not severely condemn them in his own thoughts for their hostility, and injustice, to Christ and his Apostles. But " thou art inexcusable, o man! whosoever thou art that judgest ; for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself: for thou, that judgest, doest the same things :" the same in kind, though not in degree. He, who, from reading the history of crimes, particularly of injustice, and cruelty, does not learn to avoid them, but terminates his views merely in censuring others, while he practices the same iniquity, certainly reads in vain. Every such man, when he is opposing, and maligning, the religion of the Gospel, or those who profess it, or attempting to discourage others from prosessing it, ought to say within himself, “ am one of the progeny of Caiaphas and the Jewish Sanhedrim. I have the same spirit; and am engaged in the same work. All the censures, which I bestow upon them, ought, of course, to rebound upon myself."
2dly. Both the conduct, and character, of Gamaliel, as exhibited in the text, plainly merit the highest commendation.
Probably no person ever read the story without yielding the most entire approbation to this distinguished man. The transaction was that of a moment: and the speech, which he made, is contained in four sentences. But he has gained more credit with succeeding ages than his compeers would have acquired by acting, as they really acted, during the years of Methuselah. This every one, who reads the story, knows. If, then, he does not cherish the same disposition, and act substantially in the same manner; he refuses to do what his own conscience testifies to be right, what he knows to be worthy and honourable. Thus he follows an example, which he condemns with unqualified reprobation; and refuses to copy what in the same unqualified manner he approves. How could he more severely condemn himself?
3dly. This hostility, and all its malignant efforts, are unnecessaa ry, and useless.
“ If this counsel, or this work,” said Gamaliel, “ be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it."
It is unnecessary, and useless, in the first place, because Christianity, and Christians, will do no harm to men of this description.
That Christians will not be active in doing injuries to sucb men, they themselves perfectly know. Such conduct would be directly contradictory to all their professions ; to the precepts of the Scriptures; to the example of their Master, and his disciples; and to the behaviour of Christians at the present time. All this these men perfectly understand; and feel, that they are absolutely safe from every injury, on the part of Christians.
Nor are they exposed to any injury from Christianity. All the purposes of Christianity towards those, who are not Christians, are fairly summed up in the address of Moses to bis father in law. “ We are journeying unto the place, of which the Lord said, I will give it you.' Come thou with us, and we will do thee good : for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.” That such is the true spirit of Christianity can be denied by no person, who reads the Gospel: and that such is the spirit of those, who profess themselves Christians, in the churches of this country, can no more be denied by any person, who examines their lives with a moderate share of attention, and candour.' Here, certainly, there is no foundation laid for hostility, or hatred. Christians certainly believe, that Christianity is the first of all blessings, and the best of all characters. To wish, and to labour, that their fellow-men may possess this character, and obtain these blessings, is certainly benevolent, and amiable ; and claims the utmost good will from all men. Even if they are deceived in this belief; they are, still, not the less amiable. The design is equally kind; and the disposition equally commendable. They may be pitied for their error; but they cannot without the grossest injus. tice be regarded with hatred.
Still less is there any room for animosity in the case, especially under consideration : that, in which persons are merely seehing their own salvation. That I should become a Christian, or seck to become a Christian, cannot possibly do any harm to my neigh
bour's property, his reputation, his liberty, his life, his comfort, his family, or his future well-being. All these are absolutely unmolested by me; and are left just as they were before. neighbour bas, therefore, 10 cause to complain of me, or to regard me with ill will. His hatred, if he exercise it, is groundless, unprovoked, and incapable of justification.
Secondly. I! Christianity is a delusion ; a mere mistake, or a mere contrivance; this opposition is unnecessary and useless, because the delusion will come to nothing of itself. “ If this counsel, or this work," said Gamaliel, “ be of men, it will come to nought."
In this case nothing more can be necessary than a candid, fair exposure of the delusion, or the trick. Christians in this country are certainly as able to understand the force of arguments, as any other body of men; and in all other cases are as ready to yield to them. There is, therefore, no reason to believe, that they would not with equal readiness yield to them in this. To fair arguments there can never be a reasonable objection, let the doctrine argued against be what it may. Nor, if Christianity be a delusion, can there be a single reason to believe, that it is at all more incapable of being exposed, and disproved, than other delusions. A way is, therefore, perfectly open in this manner, in which religion may be etlectually resisted, if resistance to it can be effectual. To this there can be no objection.
But all other modes of opposition to Christianity will be in vain. Hostility, in all the forms of persecution, slander, and ridicule, has been tried long, laboriously, and often, enough to convince the most incredulous mind, that it can never accomplish this work. Occasionally, it has checked the progress of Religion : at times it has driven it out of one city, and country, to another : and at times it has forced Christians to conceal themselves from the agents of oppression and cruelty. Usually, it has produced the contrary effects. The blood of Martyrs has been proverbially styled the seed of the Church : and a great part of the rulers of Christendom have become so entirely satisfied of this truth, that they have ceased from persecuting their subjects on account of their religious opinions, or character.
Slander also, and ridicule, have been completely tried for the same purpose ; and have failed equally with the cross, and the