« VorigeDoorgaan »
allusions, and uncommon modes of expression. Hence it is hard to be understood, and more difficult to be truly translated : a too literal rendering certainly produces obscurity in the sense, and aukwardness in the expression. From these causes Daniel's prophecy of the coming of Messiah appears to have suffered under the hands of our English translators. The main point, the limitation of the time, is indeed obviously enough expressed ; but with regard to the immediately subsequent events, the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, it is not so well expressed, so clearly and certainly pointing to those transactions, as it is in Castellio. 'This wiń appcar from a comparison.
Dan. chap. 9. ver. 26, 27. And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even untit the consummation, and thar determined shall be poured upon the desolate....Bible.
** And after sixty and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and that being forsaken ; and a renowned people shall come, who shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and her end shall be to be sacked, and to suffer cruel calamities to the end of the war. And one week shall confirm the covenant with many ; and the middle of the week shall take away
the sacrifice and oblation ; and disastrous crimes shall be committed upon her battlements even unto utter depopulation and cruelty shall flow with destruction....Cast.
Almost in the very terms of Josephus, who has historically dese' cribed the destruction of Jerusalem, has the prophecy, thus worded, pointed out the event. Motives of prudence might perhaps in this case induce the prophet to express himself obscurely, lest by plainness of speech in foretelling the destruction of that city and temple which the Jews were just then going to rebuild, he might damp their ardor, and discourage their exertions. But the event having long since come to pass, it is obvious to what the prophecy relates; and more obvious from Castellio's rendering than frorn that of the Bible : Thongh both are intelligible, yet the former is the clearest, and therefore to be preferred.
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
ESSAY ON INFIDELITY....No. V. IT will not be denied that the writers who have seen fit, of late years, to exert their talents in the cause of infidelity, have very much laboured to shew that the doctrines and institutions, the faith and practices of christianity, tend to deprave and corrupt the human character, to produce animosity and contention in society, to enervate its strength, and thereby pave the way for the overthrow of states and nations. Of this tendency, in a particular manner, are
Paine's Age of Reason, Volney's Ruins, and many insinuations in the celebrated Gibbon. If what these writers have said be true, they are undoubtedly right in labouring to destroy the influence of a system so pernicious to the welfare of men, and thereby to pave the way for its final extirpation. Notwithstanding all the arguments that may be adduced from the fulfilment of prophecy, miracles, and every other consideration, if what it requires to be believed and practised appears to be mischievous in its consequences; it cannot have come from a God of wisdom, mercy and loving kindness, as it professes ; and therefore ought to be rejected by every rational being.
They who thus labour to represent our religion in a disadvantageous point of view, very commonly no doubt think they have truth and reason on their side. To say they designedly misrepresent, would be uncandid and untrue. But at the same time, have they taken a fair and unbiassed view of the whole subject in all its lights? Have they not ascribed effects to the wrong causes? May not the evils, the debasement and final ruin which the societies of men experience, be much more rationally attributed to the corruption inherent in man's nature; to cure which the gospel of Jesus Christ is intended, though with all its happy tendencies is not able to accomplish, since there are too many who will not listen to its precepts, nor be governed by its influence.
Because ambition and lust of worldly greatness is found united with the profession of Christianity, disturbing the peace of human society; because thirst of gain induces oppression ; because pride and party enmities alienate the affections of men one from another, weaken the bonds by which they should be united, and in some cases bring on complete dissolution ; because, in short, vice of every kind prevails in a greater or less degree, in conjunction with the light of the gospel, does it therefore follow that one is the cause of the other Every smatterer in reasoning knows that such a conclusion would be unfairly drawn. Coincidence of time and place is no certain proof of connexion as cause and effect. Nay, and what if wars, those dreadful scourges of mankind, have been undertaken, and thousands of lives sacrificed on pretence of propagating or defending the true faith, where is the blame to attach? There is no warrant to be found in the gospel for any such thing; it results not from the spirit and genius of Christianity, which constantly inculcates forbearance and condescension, so much so as to be charged by some infidels with rendering men weak and pusillanimous. We ought then to look for the cause of such wars in the corrupt passions of men, which, if religion were out of the way, would not fail to find some other reason for stirring up strife. If any conclusions can be drawn from experience, we have a right to say that this great evil would by no means cease if Christianity :were abolished; for the whole history of the world will attest, that ambition and lust of dominion never want pretexts for going to war. And as to the ordinary viccs of individuals, it will be time enough to charge them to the account of Christianity, when any age or country can be found where men have been more pure in their morals, more orderly, rational, and sober in their manners, and
civilized in their institutions, than what is to be found among Christians.
It is common for those who accuse Christians of religious wars, to do it as though they alone were ever guilty of the like. But let them look into history, and they will find no want of examples, to the dishonour of human nature indeed; but such are the passions of men. Even ancient Greece,* which in its great tolerance admitted the worship of several thousand divinities,
affords an instance of a war that raged for ten years with the utmost violence, involving all the States of that confederacy; the cause of which was nothing more than ploughing up a piece of ground that had been dedicated to one of their divinities, an act that was deemed sacrilegious. Hence the war was called the sacred, or religious war., Did Christians ever go to war on so frivolous a pretext? There is no instance of it on record. Why then must our religion be exclusively reproached with such an odium? This sacred war of the Greeks happened when that people had nearly reached their highest state of refinement, and cannot of course be set to the account of barbarism ; and perhaps as little ought it to be, to the nature of the religion on account of which it was pretendedly undertaken. Religion was the pretext, but pride and ambition the real moving cause, just as they still are in like cases.
Nor ought we here to pass in silence another example familiar to almost every one, that of Mahomet and his immediate followers, who carried fire and sword into the three quarters of the eastern continent, with the express purpose of propagating his religion, or rather we may say with the pretended purpose, while the real motive was love of power. True it is Mahomet pretended to have a written commission from Heaven for planting his religion by force : But was not bis ambition the author of that pretence? And what is the difference between a pretended written commission, and one derived immediately from the spirit of God, to which Christians have sometimes impiously pretended for purposes of self-aggrandizement? If then paganism and mahometanism have both excited religious wars, and ravaged nations and continents, let not Christianity be exclusively reproached for her crusading spirit, and the attempts that have sometimes been made to propagate religion by the sword. But let all such attempts, by whomsoever made, be set to their proper cause, and reprobated as the fruit of human pride, and impious ambition. No one has the least reason to be staggered in his faith, because vice prevails among those who profess better things ; because many men believe and do not.
The religion of the gospel, in its genuine spirit and power, is a still small voice that is not heard in the noise and bustle of the world, among the great and powerful. We are not therefore to look for its direct influence among statesmen, and those who manage the affairs of nations; we are not in general to expect they will be governed in their measures by motives of religion, but still they are not beyond the reach of its controul. For by retiring into the shades of private life, and making its way among the great mass of society, it sweetens and gives a placid turn to their manners; it inspires peace, tran
. For this see Rollin, vol. V.
quility and order ; it makes them kind and benficent to each other and all the world, more ready to endure affronts, and fòrbear to revenge injuries and wrongs, more ready to do good, to be charitable and kind : and wicked men in power, whatever may be their inclina. tions, dare not grossly offend against these manners; or long conuinue to trample on all regard to a generally prevalent sentiment. They are obliged from a regard to that power which they highly value, and often from motives of personal safety, to conforin, at least in ex. terior, to that general sentiment, and give it the sanction of their authority.
Ambitious statesmen and warriors in Christian countries have to be sure sometimes broken over all these restraints, and set at defiance the feelings of their fellow men. Hundreds of thousands may have been sacrificed, and millions made wretched to gratify their passions ; but still, what page of Christian history produces any thing to be compared with pagan or mahometan enormities of this kind ? Let any one take up the hi-tory of Alexander and his successors ; let him consider the towns and cities laid in utter ruins, and the regions depopulated by that ambitious madman; let him survey the treacheries, disregard of oaths and solemn engagements, the poisonings and assassinations which those successors practised upon each other; the mutual invasions and slaughters, which for ages kept their dominions in a constant state of alarm and misery ; let him reflect upon the horrible calamities thus brought upoo those, then finest regions of the earth, at which humanity shudders, and nature sickens ; and then say in what age or country of Christendom a parallel is to be found. And notwithstanding the moderation and dignified forbearance, of which the Romans were so ready to boast themselves, yet it should be remembered that they could not sufficiently glut their vengeance against their hated rival Carthage, without rasing to the very foundation that devoted city, and butchering or dispersing to the four winds all its inhabitants. Nor are there wanting many other examples of like Roman moderation towards their enemics. Could such savage revenge be perpetrated by a people professing to be Christians? It never has been ; and we trust in God never will be.
These Romans boasted of their refinement and civilization, and not without reason, for they had them to the extent then known in the world. What then has made the difference, but the mild spirit of the Christian religion, which has softened the ferocity of man and effectually curbed such beastial revenge?
Human nature, it must be admitted, is nearly the same in all ages and countries, except what arises from different degrees of culture. Lest then it should be alledged that the contrast between those ancient, and the modern Christian nations, arises entirely from a naturally progressive state of improvementin man, take a moderninstance, that of the Persian usurper Kouli Khan, within the memory of some now living ; who comes no whit behind those ancients in the ferocity with which he carried on his wars. Yet the Persians, whom he impelled to such deeds of horror, are by no means barbarians : They possess and enjoy all the common arts of civil life ; science prevails among them, and the only difference that wat n see is, they have not imbibed mildness and humanity from the pure fountain of the Christian religion.
Christian nations do indeed too often find or think they find causes of war ; but do those, who are so ready to make this a matter of accusation, consider that by the influence of this obnoxious religion, war has lost a great part of its horrors, and is converted almost into “a civil game,” in comparison with what it once was? By the code of war now universally received among Christians, an enemy, so soon as he lays down his arms and submits himself, is entitled to the treatment of a friend : He is so far from being in any danger to life or limb, that he enjoys all the comforts which his late enemy can furnish; his wounds, if any he has received, are humanely healed; he is entitled to a great share of personal freedom, and frequently he enjoys complete liberty, upon his word of honour; and in all cases he may depend upon soon being exchanged, and returning to his friends and his country; or again to resume his arms, and have an opportunity of exercising the same generosity in his turn.
These principles have undoubtedly lowered that spirit of despe. rate valour which can rush on inevitable death, in the contest of arms. And suppose this a sacrifice of advantages to any people, yet is it a sacrifice not unwisely made ; for while personal valour is lowered, the ferocity of man's nature is also curbed and softened ; war thus becomes a business of art and stratagem, a contrivance of the reason and understanding, rather than dependent on the strength of the arm and the hardihood of courage. From all this far less effusion of blood follows a state of war; immense numbers of lives are saved ; and that hardened insensibility, which results from familiarity with scenes of slaughter and destruction, is in a great measure removed. If victory, death, or perpetual slavery were the only alternatives, who would not exert himself to the most desperate extremity? And do those who so freely accuse Christians of a propensity to war, know that such was universally the case, before the gospel inspired more humane and wise sentiments ; and that such continues to be the case where that benevolent reformer of men bas not yet made its way? If they know it, it is but too manifest they have not duly considered its importance ; if they had, instead of reproaching, they would admire and reverence the gospel of Jesus ; which, though it may not have put an end to wars, it has so much mitigated their horrors. It cannot surely be the wish of any one to dry up this pure stream of beneficence to human society, to the race of man ; let them cease then to throw impediments in the way of its flowing: Let them cease to cast obloquy upon the fountain from whence it flows, lest haply they may be deprived of its benefits, and be obliged to drink of the biiter cup of inhumanity, violence and cruelty, from the fountain of unrestrained depravity inherent in fallen man.