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and the

conscience.

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JHE religion of Christ is eminently a religion of BOOK I.

conviction. It addressed itself at first, not to Christianity the men by whom multitudes are governed, individual

but to the individuals of whom multitudes are composed. It isolated the conscience of each man, and said to the man thus placed apart, “Receive our 'message, and thou shalt live; to reject it will be to 'perish. It ever pointed toward things to be done from conviction ; to nothing as to be done by proxy or by constraint. If it affected multitudes or communities, it was by reaching them through the consciences of persons, not through the laws of princes. Its starting point was from the base upwards, not from the summit downwards. Nations are great only as they are intelligent and virtuous. So churches were to be great only as they should be made to consist of instructed, convinced, and regenerated men.

B

BOOK I.

The old

came from

public

From this circumstance the religious life of the early pagan faiths church became a life of its own order. The nations

had seen nothing like it before. All religions, indeed, authority.

were supposed to be grounded in faith, and the people were all supposed to act from conviction. But priests and magistrates had not been wont to wait, after the Christian manner, until faith should be voluntarily embraced, and conviction should come as the natural outgrowth of instruction. Over the great domain of heathendom, princes accounted it a most important part of their function to suppress all religions supposed to be false, and to uphold the religion supposed to be true. In the discharge of this supposed duty, their great instrument was the sword. Every religious act, accordingly, was an act of obedience, not only to a divinity, but to a priest and to a magistrate. The inward conviction might be present or absent, but the outward

obedience was imperative. Speciality of Hebrew kings, also, were to uphold the true religion,

and to suppress the false. But their mission was special. We find no credentials like theirs either in the past or

When modern princes can trace their office to a special revelation, attested by miracles, men may safely bow to their authority after the old Hebrew manner. It is clear that the first preachers of the Gospel regarded their message as a message which they were bound to promulgate, without waiting for the authority of law from the prince, or for synodical action in their favour from the priest. And they called them, and

" commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the 'name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said

unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God 'to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

the Hebrew government.

the present.

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CHAP. I.

of the

tion.

'For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.'*

So clear was it that the kingdom of Christ was not a Spirituality kingdom of this world. It was a kingdom founded Christian wholly on moral forces. It claimed no alliance with dispensasecular law. It simply prayed to be let alone. Its empire was in the mind. It meddled not with body or goods. It left care on such matters to Cæsar, to whom it rightly pertains.

But that one expression, “empire in the mind,” Church and reveals the secret of much that was to follow. Religion was the great influence by which sovereigns brought mind, as well as body, into subjection to their sway. The magistrate might destroy the body, but after that there was no more that he could do.

But by means of religion and of the priest he might destroy both body and soul in hell. The sword gave him rule over the material and the present; but superstition was made to extend his dominion over the spiritual and the future. It was no small matter to be able to move this world by the terrors of the next. Hence the man who was the great ruler of the Roman Empire in that day was its great priest—its Pontifex Maximus. Hence, also, to affirm that the authority of Cæsar might be good in such matters as buying and selling, but that it could not be good as extended to religion, was construed as an attempt to deprive that potentate of half his empire, and of much the most important half. To make light of his laws in secular matters was declared to be sedition, or it may be treason. To make light of his laws in religious matters was declared to be both treason and impiety. It was natural that a proscribed religion

Acts iv. 18-20.

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