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the miserable, ignorant ferocity of Paine and his associates."*
On the ground of such acknowledgments, and of the acquaintance which any who ever read the New Testament must have with its principles and tendency, let the following questions be answered: Is there any tendency in the principles of the gospel to the enkindling of strife, hatred, war, or bloodshed? Was the character of its founder- were the characters of the apostles and primitive Christians, among whom the native influence of Christianity was most unequivocally exhibited, in any manner indicative of such a tendency in its principles? Is not the whole history of the purest ages of the gospel, as well as every page in the New Testament, directly in proof of the very opposite effect? Did not all the evils of war and national dissension prevail much more universally before the establishment of Christianity, than they have done since? Is not the influence of this religion plainly visible in mitigating those horrors of war which she has not exterminated? And as to those which have continued to afflict mankind, are they in direct consequence, or in spite of her influence—the fruit of the tree, or the poisonous weeds at its root, which oppose its growth? Are the men who have been concerned in promoting these evils, and who are called Christians, believed to have been real Christians? Do not infidels discriminate sufficiently between genuine and nominal religion, to understand that in thus acting they were departing from the
principles of the gospel, and proving that they were Christians but in name? "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 public worship, or attend but seldom, and then only to save appearances towards a national establishment. In other words, they are unbelievers. This is the description of men by which public affairs are commonly managed, and to which the good or the evil pertaining to them, so far as human agency is concerned, is to be attributed."*
It is a favorite manœuvre with infidels to charge Christianity with all the persecutions on account of religion, and at the same time to speak in high terms of "the mild tolerance of the ancient heathens;" of "the universal toleration of polytheism;" of "the Roman princes beholding without concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway." Better information on this subject is greatly needed in the community. Heathen toleration was any thing but virtuous, and much less universal than its modern eulogists would represent. It allowed all nations to establish whatever description *Fuller's Gospel its own Witness. ↑ Gibbon.
of religion they pleased, provided each would acknowledge that all in their several spheres were equally good. But pagan nations required of every citizen conformity to the national idolatries. This yielded, he might believe and be whatever he pleased. This denied, immediately toleration ceased. Take a few examples. Stilpo was banished Athens for affirming
that the statue of Minerva in the citadel was no divinity, but only the work of the chisel of Phidias. Protagoras received a similar punishment for this single sentence: "Whether there be gods or not, I have nothing to offer." Prodicus and his pupil Socrates suffered death for opinions at variance with the established idolatry of Athens. Alcibiades and Eschylus narrowly escaped a like end for a similar cause. Plato dissembled his opinions, and Aristotle fled his country, under the lash of "the mild and universal toleration of the Grecian mythology." Cicero lays it down as a principle of legislation entirely conformable to the rights of the Roman state, that "no man shall have separate gods for himself; and no man shall worship by himself new or foreign gods, unless they have been publicly acknowledged by the laws of the state."* The speech in Dion Cassius, which Mæcenas is said to have made to Augustus, may be considered a fair index of the prevailing sentiment of that polished age. "Honor the gods," says Mæcenas, "by all means, according to the customs of your country, and force others so to honor them. But those who are for ever introducing
* De Legibus, vol. 2, p. 8.
something foreign in these matters, hate and punish, not only for the sake of the gods, but also because they who introduce new divinities mislead many others into receiving foreign laws also. Suffer no man either to deny the gods or to practise sorcery." Julius Paulus the Roman civilian gives the following as a leading feature of Roman law: "Those who introduce new religions, or such as were unknown in their tendency and nature, by which the minds of men might be agitated, were degraded if they belonged to the higher ranks, and if they were in a lower state were punished with death." Under this legislation many of the governors endeavored to compromise with Christians, by allowing them to believe and honor what they pleased in their hearts, provided they would observe outwardly the religious ceremonies ordained by the state.*
Examples to the same effect might be greatly multiplied. I have furnished enough to show in what sense the heathen princes "beheld without concern a thousand forms of religion subsisting in peace under their gentle sway;" and how far Voltaire was accurately informed or honestly disposed, when boasting that the ancient Romans "never persecuted a single philosopher for his opinions from the time of Romulus till the popes got possession of their power."
It is willingly conceded that persecutions on account of religion were enormously increased immediately after the promulgation of Christianity, See Neander's Church History.
inasmuch as nothing had ever before attacked the superstitions and vices of the heathen with her undaunted, uncompromising spirit. But did Christianity persecute, or was she the object of persecution ? Was Jesus the persecutor of Pilate? Did Paul persecute the worshippers of the Ephesian Diana, or the heathen of Iconium, or those who stoned him at Lystra? By whose intolerance was it, that for three hundred years the Christian church was continually overflowed with the blood of her martyrs ? Did the multitudes who perished for Christ's sake under the paw of the lion and the sword of the gladiator and the screws of the rack— did they persecute the heathen priests and people and magistrates, Nero and Trajan and Diocletian, with their proconsuls and governors and executioners? I grant that in the lapse of centuries the guilt of persecution did attach to the church. Christian powers and ministers and people have in various ages been justly liable to this lamentable charge. But who does not know that the church, before ever she began to persecute, had manifestly degenerated from the purity of the gospel and become deeply perverted by the spirit of the world, having her chief places occupied by such men as infidels know were not influenced by vital Christianity? Who is so blind as
*The emperor Julian acknowledged that persecutions were the inventions of the later Christians; that neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any other of the first preachers of the gospel, had taught men to kill others for being of a different religion, or for differing about lesser matters among themselves. Lardner, vol. 4, p. 337.