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After all, the value of Chriftianity is not to be appreciated by its temporal effects. The object of revelation is to influence hu→ man conduct in this life; but what is gained to happiness by that influence, can only be estimated by taking in the whole of human existence. Then, as hath already been ob ferved, there may be also great confequences of Christianity, which do not belong to it as a revelation. The effects upon human falvation, of the miflion, of the death, of the prefent, of the future agency of Chrift, may be univerfal, though the religion be not univerfally known.
Secondly, I affert that Chriftianity is charged with many confequences for which it is not refponfible. I believe that religi ous motives have had no more to do in the formation of nine-tenths of the intolerant and perfecuting laws, which in different countries have been established upon the fubject of religion, than they have had to do in England with the making of the gamelaws. These measures, although they have the
the Chriftian religion for their subject, are refolvable into a principle which Chriftianity certainly did not plant (and which Christianity could not universally condemn, because it is not univerfally wrong), which principle is no other than this, that they who are in poffeffion of power do what they can to keep it. Chriftianity is answerable for no part of the mischief which has been brought upon the world by perfecution, except that which has arisen from confcientious perfecutors. Now these perhaps have never been, either numerous, or powerful. Nor is it to Chriftianity that even their mistake can fairly be imputed. They have been misled by an error, not properly Christian or religious, but by an error in their moral philofophy. They pursued the particular, without adverting to the general confequence. Believing certain articles of faith, or a certain mode of worship, to be highly conducive, or perhaps effential, to falvation, they thought themselves bound to bring all they could, by every means, into them. And this they thought, withVOL. II. Cc
out confidering what would be the effect of fuch a conclufion, when adopted amongst mankind as a general rule of conduct. Had there been in the New Teftament, what there are in the Koran, precepts authorizing coercion in the propagation of the religion, and the use of violence towards unbelievers, the cafe would have been different. This diftinction could not have been taken, or this defence made.
I apologize for no species nor degree of perfecution, but I think that even the fact has been exaggerated. The flave trade deftroys more in a year, than the inquifition does in a hundred, or perhaps hath done fince its foundation.
If it be objected, as I apprehend it will be, that Chriftianity is chargeable with every mischief, of which it has been the occafion, though not the motive; I anfwer, that, if the malevolent paffions be there, the world will never want occafions. The noxious element will always find a conductor. Any point
point will produce an explosion. Did the applauded intercommunity of the Pagan theology preferve the peace of the Roman world? Did it prevent oppreffions, profcriptions, maffacres, devaftations? Was it bigotry that carried Alexander into the Eaft, or brought Cæfar into Gaul? Are the nations of the world, into which Chriftianity hath not found its way, or from which it hath been banished, free from contentions? Are their contentions lefs ruinous and fanguinary ? Is it owing to Christianity, or to the want of it, that the finest regions of the Eaft, the countries inter quatuor maria, the peninsula of Greece, together with a great part of the Mediterranean coast, are at this day a defert? or that the banks of the Nile, whose conftantly renewed fertility is not to be impaired by neglect, or destroyed by the ravages of war, ferve only for the fcene of a ferocious anarchy, or the supply of unceasing hoftilities? Europe itself has known no religious wars for fome centuries, yet has hardly ever been without war. Are the calamities, which at this day afflict
it, to be imputed to Christianity? Hath Poland fallen by a Christian crusade? Hath the overthrow in France, of civil order and fecurity, been effected by the votaries of our religion, or by the foes? Amongst the awful leffons, which the crimes and the miferies of that country afford to mankind, this is one, that, in order to be a perfecutor, it is not neceffary to be a bigot: that in rage and cruelty, in mischief and deftruction, fanaticism itself can be outdone by infidelity.
Finally, If war, as it is now carried on between nations, produce less mifery and ruin than formerly, we are indebted perhaps to Christianity for the change, more than to any other caufe. Viewed therefore even in its relation to this fubject, it appears to have been of advantage to the world. It hath humanifed the conduct of wars; it hath ceased to excite them.
The differences of opinion, that have in all ages prevailed amongst Christians, fall