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REFERRED TO IN THE FOLLOWING ESSAY.
Aristotelis Opera.--Aurel. Allobr. 1605.
SECTION I. .
THERE are few arguments against the truth and divine origin of the Christian Revelation, on which the Adversaries of our Faith more frequently and more vehemently declaim, than that spirit of cruelty and intolerance, which they contend is its distinguishing feature, and the endless massacres, wars and persecutions, with which (they affirm) that spirit has desolated the Christian world.
That too many of the professors of our Religion, have, by their intemperate and inhuman conduct, brought reproach upon the Gospel, and extreme misery upon their fellow-creatures, is, it must be confessed, unquestionably true; but it is no less true that others ought to bear a large share of that odium, which is generally thrown exclusively on the disciples of Christ, and that it is not Christianity but human nature, that is chargeable with the guilt of persecution. It is be
yond a doubt, that a large part of those bitter dissensions and sanguinary contests which have been usually styled religious, and with the entire guilt of which Christianity has been very unjustly loaded, were altogether, or at least in a great measure, owing to political causes; and that difference of opinion in matters of faith has much oftener been the ostensible, than the real cause of those calamities which have been ascribed to it. But allowing it to have been in some cases the real cause, still the Gospel itself stands perfectly clear of all blame on that account. Whatever mischief persecution has done in the world, (and it has God knows done full enough,) it was not Christ, but some mistaken followers of Christ, that brought this sword upon earth; and it would be as injurious, to ascribe to Christianity the false opinions and wrong practices of its disciples, however pernicious, as to impute to the physician the fatal mistakes of those who administered his medicines. The very best laws are liable to be misinterpreted and perverted. It was the fate of the Evangelical law to be so. Its spirit was misunderstood, and its pre7
cepts misapplied by some of its avowed friends, and its authority made use of as a cloak for ambition, resentment, cruelty and oppression, by some of its secret enemies. But the Gospel all the while was guiltless of this blood. It disclaimed and abhorred such unnatural supports, which it was as far from wanting, as it was from prescribing. It authorized the use of no other means of conviction, but gentleness and persuasion; and if any of its disciples have, by a misguided zeal, been betrayed into violent and sanguinary measures, the blame is all their own; and it is they must answer for it, not Jesus or his Religion*.
But this is not all. The defence of our divine Religion against the charge of cruelty, must by no means rest here. We contend not only that it has never been the real source of any misery upon earth, but that, on the contrary, it has added most essentially to the sum of human happiness; that it is not only in its own nature calculated to promote the peace, the welfare and the comfort of man
* To impute crimes to Christianity, says the celebrated king of Prussia (in his Posthumous Works) is the act of a novice. His word may fairly be taken for such an assertion.