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persecution of Christians in the early ages were cruel ;' but lays the blame chiefly on themselves :* and all through his history of England he palliates the conduct of the persecutors, and represents the persecuted in an unfavourable light. The same may be said of Gibbon, in his History of the decline of the Roman Empire; of Shaftesbury in his Characteristics ; and indeed of the generality of deistical writers. Voltaire, boasting of the wisdom and moderation of the ancient Romans, says, “ They never persecuted a single philosopher for his opinions, from the time of Romulus, till the Popes got possession of their powers " But did they not persecute Christians ? The millions of lives that fell a sacrifice in the first three centuries after the Christian era, are considered as nothing by Voltaire. The benevolence of this apostle of deism feels not for men if they happen to be believers in Christ. If an Aristotle, a Pythagoras, or a Galileo suffer for their opinions, they are “martyrs :" but if a million of French Protestants, “ from a desire to bring back things to the primitive institutes of the church,” endure the most cruel treatment, or quit their country to escape it, they, according to this writer, are " weak and obstinate men.” Say, reader, are these men friends to religous liberty ? To what does all their declamations against persecution amount but this--that such of them who reside in Christianized countries wish to enjoy their opinions without being exposed to it.

Till of late Deists have been in the minority in all the nations of Europe, and have therefore felt the necessity of a free enjoy. ment of opinion. It is not what they have pleaded under those circumstances, but their conduct when in power, that must prove them friends to religious liberty. Few men are known to be what they are till they are tried. They and Protestant Dissenters, have, in some respects been in a similar situation. Of late, each, in a different country, have become the majority, and the civil power

has been intrusted in their hands. The descendants of the Puritans, in the western world, by dispensing the blessings of liberty even to Episcopalians, by whose persecutions their

* Essay on Parties in general.

+ Ignorant Philosopher, pp. 82, 83.

ancestors were driven from their native shores, have shown them. selves worthy of the trust. But have the Deists acted thus in France and other countries which have fallen into their hands ? It is true, we believe them to have been the instruments in the hand of God, of destroying the papal Antichrist ; and in this view we rejoice : how beit they meant not so. If we judge of their proceedings towards the Catholics in the ordinary way of judging of human actions, which undoubtedly we ought, I fear it will be found not only persecuting, but perfidious and bloody in the extreme.

I am not without hope that liberty of conscience will be preserved in France ; and if it should, it will be seen whether the subversion of the national establishment will prove, what the advisers of that measure without doubt expected, and what others who abhorred it apprehended-the extinction of Christianity. It may prove the reverse, and issue in things which will more than balance all the ills attending the Revolution. These hopes, however, are not founded on an idea of the just or tolerant spirit of infidelity ; but, so far as human motives are concerned, on that regard to consistency which is known to influence all mankind. If the leading men in France, after having so liberally declaimed against persecution, should ever enact laws in favour of it, or in violation of the laws encourage it, they must appear in a most disgraceful light in the opinion of the whole civilized world.

Not only persecution, but unjust wars, intrigues, and other mischiefs, are placed to the acccount of Christianity. That such things have existed, and that men who are called Christians have been deeply concerned in them, is true. Wicked men will act wickedly, by whatever name they are called. Whether these things be fairly attributable to the Christian religion, may be determined by a few plain inquiries.

First : Did these evils commence with Christianity, or have they increased under its iufluence ? Has not the world, in every age with which history acquaints us, been a scene of corruption, intrigue tumult, and laughter? All that can plausibly be objected to Christianity is, that these things have continued in the world not

withstanding its influence; and that they have been practiced in as great a degree by men calling themselves Christians as by any other persons.

Secondly: Are those who ordinarily engage in these practices real Christians; and do our adversaries themselves account them so ? They can distinguish, when they please, between sincere and merely nominal Christians. They need not be told that great numbers, in every nation, are of that religion which happens to prevail at the time; or rather, that they are of no religion.

Thirdly: Have not the courts of princes, notwithstanding Christianity may have been the professed religion of the land, been generally attended by a far greater proportion of Deists than of serious Christians; and have not public measures been directed by the counsels of the former much more than by those of the latter? It is well known that great numbers among the nobility and gentry of every nation consider religion as suited only to vulgar minds; and therefore either wholly absent themselves from worship, or attend but seldom, and then only to save appearances towards a national establishment, by which provision is made for the younger branches of their families. In other words, they are unbelievers. This is the description of men by whom public affairs are commonly managed; and to whom the good or the evil pertaining to them, so far as human agency is concerned, is to be attributed.

Finally : Great as have been the evils abounding in nations professing Christianity, and great they have been, and ought greatly to be deplored,) can unbelievers pretend to have given us any hope, at present, of the state of things being meliorated ? It is true, they have talked and written much in this way; and many well-wishers to the human race bave been disposed to give them credit. But it is not words that will prove any thing. Have they done any thing that justifies a hope of reformation ? No, they themselves, must first be reformed ; or rather to use an appropriate term of their own, regenerated. Far be it from me, that, in such a cause as this, I should write under the influence of national prejudice, or side with the enemies of civil and religious freedom: but I must say, there never was a representation more necessary than that which was given in an Address from the Executive Directory of France to the Five Hundred, about the beginning of the year 1796. In this address, they “request the most earnest attention of the Council towards adopting some measure for the regeneration of the public morals.” This is the regeneration wanted, and which, having rejected Christianity, they may be ever seeking, but will never be able to obtain. They may continue to revolutionize as long as a party shall be found that wishes for an increase of power, and perceives an opportunity of gaining it; and every party in its turn may talk of “saving liberty :" but never will they be free indeed until they are emancipated in some good degree from the dominion of vice ; and never will this be effected but by a knowledge of evangelical truth.

The friends of legitimate liberty have deeply to regret, that under that revered name has been perpetrated almost every species of atrocity ; and that not only towards individuals, but nations, and nations the most peaceable and inoffensive, whose only crime was that of being unable to resist. Liberty has suffered more from the hands of Infidels, amidst all their successes and declamations, than from its professed enemies; and still it bleeds beneath their wounds. Without entering into political disputes, I may safely affirm that if ever the nations of the earth be blessed with equal liberty, it will be by the prevalence, not of the pretended illuminations of infidel philosophy, but of that doctrine which teaches us to do unto others as we would that others should do unto us.

Finally: Mr. Paine affirms, that men, by becoming Deists, would blive more consistently and morally than by any other system.” As to living more consistently, it is possible there may be some truth in it: for the best Christians, it must be allowed, bave many imperfections, which are but so many inconsistencies; whereas, by complying with this advice, they would be uniformly wicked. And as to their living more morally, if Mr. Paine could coin a new system of morals, from which the love of God should be excluded, and intemperance, incontinency, pride, profane swearing, cursing, lying, and hypocrisy, exalted, to the rank of virtues, he might very probably make good his assertion.

Mr. Paine professes to “detest the Bible on account of its obscene stories, voluptuous debauchries, cruel executions, and unrelenting vindictiveness."* That the Bible relates such things, is true; and every impartial history of mankind must do the same.

The question is, whether they be so related as to leave a favourable impression of them upon the mind of a serious reader. If so and if the Bible be that immoral book which Mr. Paine represents it to be, how is it that the reading of it should bave reclaimed millions from immorality? Whether he will acknowledge this, or not, it is a fact too notorious to be denied by impartial observers. Ev. ery man residing in a Christian country will acknowledge, unless he have an end to answer in saying otherwise, that those people who read the Bible, believe its doctrines and endeavour to form their lives by its precepts, are the most sober, upright, and useful members of the community ; and, on the other hand, that those who discredit the Bible, and renounce it as the rule of their lives, are generally speaking, addicted to the grossest vices; such as profane swearing, lying, drunkenness, and lewdness. It is very singular, I repeat it, that men, by regarding an immoral book, should learn to practice morality ; and that others, by disregarding it, should learn the contrary.

How is it that, in countries where Christianity has made progress, men have almost universally agreed in reckoning a true Christian, and an amiable, open, modest, chaste, conscientious, and benevolent character, as the same thing? How is it also, that to say of a man, He rejects the Bible, is nearly the same thing, in the account of people in general, as to say, He is a man of a dissolute life? If there were not a general connexion between these things, public opinion would not so generally associate them. Individuals, and even parties, may be governed by prejudice ; but public opinion of character is seldom far from truth. Besides, the prejudices of merely nominal Christians, so far as my observation extends, are equally strong, if not stronger, against those Christians who are distinguished by their devout and serious regard to the scriptures, than against professed Infidels. How is

* Age of Reason, Part I. p. 12.

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