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The Chriftian religion alfo acts upon public ufages and inftitutions, by an operation which is only fecondary and indirect. Christianity is not a code of civil law. It can only reach public inftitutions through private character. Now its influence upon private character may be confiderable, yet many public ufages and inftitutions, repugnant to its principles, may remain. To get rid of these, the reigning part of the community must act, and act together. But it may be long before the persons who comRofe this body, be fufficiently touched with the Christian character, to join in the suppreffion of practices, to which they and the public have been reconciled, by causes which will reconcile the human mind to any thing, by habit and intereft. Nevertheless, the effects of Christianity, even in this view, have been important. It has mitigated the conduct of war, and the treatment of captives. It has foftened the administration of defpotic, or of nominally defpotic governments, It has abolished polygamy. It has restrained the licentiousness of divorces. It has put
an end to the expofure of children, and the immolation of flaves. It has suppressed the combats of gladiators*, and the impurities of religious rites. It has banished, if not unnatural vices, at least the toleration of them. It has greatly meliorated the condition of the laborious part, that is to fay, of the mass of every community, by procuring for them a day of weekly rest. In all countries, in which it is professed, it has produced numerous eftablishments for the relief of fickness and poverty; and, in some, a regular and general provifion by law. It has triumphed over the flavery established in the Roman empire: it is contending, and, I trust, will one day prevail, against the worse flavery of the West Indies,
A Chriftian writert, fo early as in the
* Lipfius affirms, (Sat. b. i. c. 12.) that the gladiatorial flows fometimes coft Europe twenty or thirty thoufand lives in a month; and that not only the men but even the women of all ranks were paffionately fond of thefe fhows. See Bishop Porteus's Sermon XIII.
+ Bardefanes ap. Eufeb. Præp. Evang. vi. 10.
fecond century, has teftified the refiftance which Christianity made to wicked and licentious practices, though established by law and by public usage. "Neither in Parthia, do the Chriftians, though Parthians, use polygamy; nor in Perfia, though Perfians, do they marry their own daughters; nor, among the Bactri or Galli, do they violate the fanctity of marriage; nor, wherever they are, do they fuffer themselves to be overcome by ill-conftituted laws and manners.'
Socrates did not deftroy the idolatry of Athens, or produce the flightest revolution in the manners of his country.
But the argument to which I recur is, that the benefit of religion being felt chiefly in the obscurity of private ftations, necessarily escapes the observation of history. From the first general notification of Christianity to the present day, there have been in every age many millions, whofe names were never heard of, made better by it, not only in their conduct, but in their difpofition; and hap
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pier, not so much in their external circum ftances, as in that which is inter præcordia; in that which alone deferves the name of happiness, the tranquillity and confolation of their thoughts. It has been, fince its commencement, the author of happiness and virtue to millions and millions of the human race. Who is there that would not with his fon to be a Chriftian?
Christianity also, in every country in which it is profeffed, hath obtained a fenfible, although not a complete influence, upon the public judgement of morals. And this is very important. For without the occafional correction which public opinion receives, by referring to fome fixed ftandard of morality, no man can foretell into what extravagancies it might wander. Affaffination might become as honourable as duclling; unnatural crimes be accounted as venial, as fornication is wont to be accounted. In this way it is poffible, that many may be kept in order by Chriftianity, who are not themfelves Chriftians. They may be
be guided by the rectitude which it communicates to public opinion. Their consciences may suggest their duty truly, and they may ascribe these suggestions to a moral fenfe, or to the native capacity of the human intellect, when in fact they are nothing more than the public opinion reflected from their own minds; an opinion, in a confiderable degree, modified by the lessons of Christianity. "Certain it is, and this is a great deal to say, that the generality, even of the meanest and most vulgar and ignorant people, have truer and worthier notions of God, more juft and right apprehenfions concerning his attributes and perfections, a deeper fenfe of the difference of good and evil, a greater regard to moral obligations and to the plain and most neceffary duties of life, and a more firm and univerfal expectation of a future ftate of rewards and punishments, than, in any heathen country, any confiderable number of men were found to have had."
* Clark, Ev. Nat. Rev. p. 208, ed. v.