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beauty, it was not an improvement, but a new creation. When the sun, after having attained his utmost southern declination, retraces his course towards the northern tropic-and the chilly atmosphere begins to feel his power-and the frozen boreal wastes are loosened from their icy bands and the vegetable tribes awaken from their death-like torpor-and life is imparted to myriads of beings and the earth puts forth her countless progeny, it is not an improvement, but a new creation. These are the resistless proofs of the power of God, and the eternal monuments of his greatness, wisdom, and love. Not less so were the changes produced by the Christian religion. The previous state of the moral world was like, as, it were, the chaotic elements of things, before God issued the creating mandate and all things were reduced to their beautiful order. Jesus was that powerful word and that glorious light in the new and spiritual creation. The people walked in darkness, and sat in the region of the shadow of death, until the Sun of Righteousness' arose with life and glory in his rays. His influence dissolved the icy bands in which the moral world was imprisoned, and called forth the torpid powers of the spiritual life, and fostered and matured virtues which had been hitherto repressed and hidden. No sooner did his beams begin to appear in the moral horizon, than the noxious vapours of the night were dispersed, and the owls, and the bats, and the beasts of prey, retired together. Idolatry with its withering influence shrunk from his presence, and superstition and magic fled before his
light. A new and spiritual religion was established, purer morals were the natural fruits thereof; and, brighter prospects being opened into faturity, men had new motives to persevere in well-doing.
The rapid progress of Christianity, and the consequent total subversion of idolatry, wheresoever it was introduced, do indeed afford a strong presumption of the truth of this religion. The great changes which took place in the moral world, were as surely indicative of the interference of the Deity, as those were, which originally took place in the material creation, or as those are which annually demonstrate his power and pre
But when we speak of the overthrow of idolatry, in the chief countries of the Gentile world, as an evidence of the divinity of Christianity, it may be proper to consider, briefly, the nature of that hold which it had upon man. What were the ties, charms, and influences of idolatry? First, it was supported by the arm of worldly power. Idolatry was interwoven with the political systems of the times. It was connected with every public office, it acted upon every spring of government. It gave a character to every civil ordinance, influenced every domestic habit, and was recognised in every social tie. Emperors and kings were 'defenders of the faith.' 'Shrine-makers' of all ranks and degrees were zealously attached to its forms; in fact, every thing powerful in command and honourable in station was pledged to its support. When therefore the popular system was con
demned in the doctrines of a teacher who said, "My kingdom is not of this world,' every existing policy tottered, every vulgar prejudice was alarmed, every fruitful source of power and wealth was threatened with exhaustion. The creatures of the system cared not for the defence of truth, but for the defence of the very sinews of their power and profit and influence. They saw in the disciples of Christ, only sappers of a fortress, by which the crafty and the designing, of all times, had awed their fellow-men into a slavish obedience. They. saw in the advocates of Christianity, only inno-. vators, dissipators of an unnatural influence, scatterers of the loaves and fishes,' distributors of ill-gotten spoils. Truth had been banished from religion as an intruder and a leveller; and she was regarded, now that she was restored to it, with the same jealousy and aversion with which certain men, in our day, regard the principles of nature and the progress of knowledge.
Connected therefore as the ancient systems of religion were with the governments and powers of the world, and necessary as these systems were to the supporting of existing profitable abuses, it is not surprising that every nerve should have been strained and every means resorted to, in order to crush, what was denominated, a 'pernicious superstition. Nevertheless, the word of God mightily grew and prevailed.'
Secondly, idolatry was upheld by a power, silent and unassuming, indeed, in its pretensions, but sure in its operation. The prejudices of education had riveted mens' minds to the ancient
religion. They had received the doctrines and mysteries of their faith from persons whom they revered. It was their fathers' religion, the religion of their kindred, the religion of their country. It was a religion which the poet had rendered captivating and the sculptor graceful. According to their belief, the gods had appeared in human shape. The celestials mingled with them in celebrating. their festivals, haunted their woods, resided in their temples, assisted them in their enterprises, prevented them in their wanderings. These pleasing delusions and popular prejudices were to be laid aside on embracing Christianity. These day-dreams of the imagination were now to be dissipated-these prepossessions, so poetical, so flattering, which had grown with their growth, and strengthened with their strength, were now to be subdued: yea, the theme of their infancy, the delight of their youth, the boast of their manhood -systems interwoven with their country's history and pride, and with their nation's glory and fame, were now to be resigned. And what did Christianity offer, in a worldly point of view for all these sacrifices? Titles, and wealth, and enjoyment and honour? No! but execration, and torture, and imprisonment, and death. We, who have been educated in the Christian faith, can have but a faint idea of the power of that influence arising from the education and the customs of the idolater, which the convert to Christianity had to overcome. We, who live in a country where interested bigots are curbed by the force of law, and shamed into toleration' by the force of public
opinion, can have but a faint idea of what the converted idolater had to undergo on avowing himself a Christian. Nevertheless, in spite of all these obstacles, Christianity grew and flourished, yea, spread and became irresistible, in the midst of circumstances which, humanly speaking, seemed to ensure its destruction. So convinced, indeed, were the more considerate and humane opponents of Christianity, in the days of the Apostles, of the mighty force of the obstacles with which the new religion had to contend, that they thought this alone sufficient to cause its ruin, unless it were divine: Refrain from these men, and let them alone,' says the learned Gamaliel for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.'
Thirdly, the influence of idolatry was powerful, inasmuch as its ceremonies were captivating to the imagination, and its rites and its indulgences were flattering to the senses. The license permitted by it was extreme. All kinds of sensual excesses were allowed, how much soever they might indirectly or remotely interfere with the general interest of society. Jupiter, and Apollo, and Bacchus, and Venus, were but questionable specimens of character, and yet these were the examples for the idolater's imitation, these were the more popular deities of antiquity, and, under different names, extended their sway over the nations of the heathen world. Like deities, like worshipers; a hopeless race, it might previously have been