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restored others from the disease to health. The best among our brethren, some priests and deacons, and some who were celebrated among the laity, died in this manner; and such a death, the fruit of great piety and strong faith, is hardly inferior to martyrdom. Many who took the bodies of their Christian brethren into their hands and bosoms, closed their mouth and eyes, and buried them with every attention, soon followed them in death. But with the heathen, matters stood quite differently: at the first symptom of sickness, they drove a man from their society; they tore themselves away from their dearest connections; they threw the half dead into the streets, and left the dead unburied; endeavoring by all the means in their power to escape contagion-which, notwithstanding all their contrivances, it was very difficult for them to accomplish."
"In the same manner," writes Neander, from whose Church History the above is taken, "the Christians of Carthage let the light of their love and Christian conduct shine before the heathen in a pestilence which visited North Africa a little before, in the reign of Gallus. The heathen, out of cowardice, left the sick and the dying; the streets were full of corpses, which no man dared to bury; and avarice was the only passion which mastered the fear of death, for wicked men endeavored to make a gain out of the misfortunes of their neighbors; and the heathen accused the Christians of being the cause of this calamity as enemies of the gods, instead of being brought by it to the consciousness of their own guilt and cor
ruption. But Cyprian required of his church that they should behold, in this desolating pestilence, a trial of their dispositions. How necessary is it, my dearest brethren,' he says to them, that this pestilence, which appears to bring horror and destruction, should prove the consciences of men. It will determine whether the healthy will take care of the sick, whether relations bear tender love one to another, and whether masters care for their sick servants.' That the Christians should show a spirit of mutual love among themselves, was not sufficient to satisfy a bishop who formed his notions after the model of the great Shepherd. He therefore called his church together, and addressed them thus: 'If we do good only to our own people, we do no more than publicans and heathens. But if we are the children of God, who makes his sun shine and his rain to descend upon the just and the unjust; who sheds abroad his blessings not on his own alone, but even upon those whose thoughts are far from him, we must show this by our actions, endeavoring to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, and blessing those who curse, and doing good to those who persecute us.' Encouraged by this paternal admonition, the members of the church addressed themselves to the work, the rich contributing money and the poor their labor; so that in a short time the streets were cleared of the corpses who filled them, and the city saved from the dangers of a universal pestilence." That the spirit of primitive Christians is still *Rose's translation of Neander's Church History
the characteristic spirit of Christianity, in regard to all works of charity, may easily be seen. Go where the gospel has attained the greatest supremacy, and behold how every form of human misery is met by the self-denying diligence, and comforted by the munificence of the benevolent. What conceivable method of removing distress, of preventing vice, and disseminating happiness has not been put in operation? The whole Roman empire had not one benevolent institution. The single city of London counts her more than three hundred. And why is so little said or thought of them, except that the public mind has become so accustomed to the noblest efforts of benevolence, that they are now regarded almost as matters of course the natural consequence of prevailing principles of brotherly kindness and charity?
It is not my design to exhibit any thing like a full-length portrait of the contrast between the civilization of modern and that of ancient nations. It is seen in all the relations of life, in the whole fabric of society, from the government of the family to that of the state-from the tender cares of the cradle and the mother to the wide concerns of communities and rulers. Every thing has felt the change. Though not perfect, it is immense. Much remains to be done, but mighty improvements have been effected. Were the whole work undone-should the sun which now enlightens the moral world be commanded to go back, and suffer the classic paganism of Greece and Rome to resume its sway, every joint in the mechanism of society would groan with pain, every corner in the
household of civilized beings would be filled with darkness: the transition from the arts and literature of England to those of the Hottentots, would not be greater than such a change from the moral elevation. of the present age, to the highest refinements of the purest nations of antiquity.
Such is the fact. It remains to be accounted for. What produced this change? The religion of ancient heathens pleads "not guilty" to the charge. It had no reference to morals. The vilest crimes and the highest repute for piety were perfectly consistent with each other among heathens of the Augustan age. It was no part of the business of their priests to teach men virtue. No religion but that of the Bible ever possessed or aimed at the power of reformation. Equally clear are the literature and philosophy and arts of antiquity from the imputation of this mighty revolution. Never did they prevail so extensively among the heathen as in the first century of Christianity, and never were they accompanied with such moral degradation. Philosophy had as little disposition as ability to reform. Whatever light it may have possessed it monopolized, holding its truth in unrighteousness, and studiously conforming its practice to the worst abominations. "Cicero declares that the ancient philosophers never reformed either themselves or their disciples; and that he knew not a single instance in which either the teacher or the disciple was made virtuous by their principles."
* Dwight on Infidel Philosophy.
"In their writings and conversation, the philosophers of an
But it may be supposed, that without any other cause than its own natural fluctuation, the moral condition of ancient nations may have taken a change, like the tides of the ocean, and begun to rise from the mere fact of being reduced to so low an ebb. Answer this by the present state of those nations that have continued under the native influence of paganism. In which of them has such a thing ever been known as a reformation of public morals? Their unvaried history from the days of Moses to the present settles the matter, that heathenism has no power but of progressive corruption; and left to itself, can only reduce its votaries into deeper and deeper debasement. Then, if the vast improvement in question is neither the consequence of the religion, nor the philosophy, nor the arts, nor the literature, nor of any natural reaction in the moral state of the ancient heathen, to what other cause must it be assigned?
tiquity asserted the independent dignity of reason, but they resigned their actions to the commands of law and custom. Viewing with a smile of pity and indulgence the various errors of the vulgar, they diligently practised the ceremonies of their fathers, devoutly frequented the temples of the gods; and sometimes condescending to act a part on the theatre of superstition, they concealed the sentiments of an Atheist under the sacerdotal robes. It was indifferent to them what shape the folly of the multitude might choose to assume, and they approached with the same inward contempt and the same external reverence the altars of the Lybian, the Olympian, or the Capitoline Jupiter." Gibbon's History, vol. 1, p. 34.
A sorry tribute, by a philosopher, to the benevolence and honesty of his ancient brethren. Paul would have drawn their picture with a darker pencil still. Paul's Master would have named them "hypocrites," "whited sepulchres."