Page images
PDF
EPUB

tions to iniquity, with chains so strong, that we cannot be expected to resist him. So he seems to take much of the blame on himself, and lull to rest the drowsy conscience with his visionary scheme-"Ye shall not surely die." These are his insinuations to the unconverted; but when he can, he lavishes praises upon a person, till he sees him begin to swell with vanitý and conceit; he then by various means persuades him that he has experienced a supernatural change: that he is absolved from all crimes, past or to come, that Christ has suffered all the punishment that ever can be due to him, and that besides all this, Christ has been righteous for him as a substitute, for all the rest of his life; therefore he has now nothing to fear, and nothing to do but pursue his own pleasure, knowing for certainty, that he, a converted soul, cannot surely die, being fully punished and amply righteous, all by a faithful substitute!

8. But in addition to all these inventions to delude the world, by removing the restraints of the divine law far away, and converting faith to degrading superstition, piety to bigotry, the light of reason and nature to the darkness of fanaticism, moral virtue to total depravity, and infinite love to infinite cruelty; he has finished his plan of duplicity, and capped the climax of blasphemy and sacrilege, by the doctrine of election to endless life, and reprobation to endless death. Were I permitted to remove the veil that covers the human heart, I might present to your fancy a most horrible picture of darkness and depravity. I might direct the eye of thought to the victim of that dreary and cruel principle; there might be seen the fiend-like deceiver of man, in all his native guile, coiled like the serpent around the springs of action, thus whispering to the soul ;-Go on, ye children of men, there is no justice or punishment for sin in this world; if you are elected to heaven, you can never be lost or pun

ished, whatever crimes you may commit; and if you are not elected, to hell you must go in spite if all your goodness—therefore you can gain nothing by virtue, and for your own sins ye cannot surely die. And while many have been plunged into vice by this artifice, some have been plunged into despair, and looked forward with horrid apprehensions, to those tremendous tortures, to which they supposed themselves destined in the immutable purposes of Deity. Others have fancied themselves the very elect, and have sweetly anticipated the time, when they could see their neighbors, their relatives, their fathers and mothers, and some of their children, rolling in the red surges of hell, and quivering under the lightnings of almighty wrath; while they should joyfully know that all this was fixed and foreordained from eternity; and look up with exulting rapture, and thank their God that he had passed such holy and righteous decrees! With these artful devices the carnal mind has successfully opposed the light of reason, the dictates of justice, and the voice of Heaven. With these it has eclipsed the glory of God; veiled in thick clouds the gospel of his Son; profaned the temple of praise; and polluted the very altar of devotion. With these it has unbridled the ferocious passions; enveloped the world in darkness; enchained mankind to the spirit of hatred and violence; and filled the heavens with the smoke, and the earth' with the blood of the victims immolated upon the altar of its false and cruel divinity. But we boldly charge the author of these doctrines with falsehood-his insinuations are all as visionary as the dreams of sleep. There is no escape from the punishments we deserve. Jehovah has revealed this truth; his boundless providence reiterates the same through creation. Therefore, let every mind feel impressed with this divine, this solemn truth; "in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

A SUCCINCT HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST DOWN TO THE PRESENT TIME. DIVIDED INTO SIX PERIODS.

Period III.........From the fall of the Western Empire, A. D. 473, to the capture of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, A. D. 1099.

In our last we brought this history down to the fall of the Western Empire, about the year 375. It is at this date therefore, we shall begin the present number. From the fall of the Western Empire, to 620, a period of more than a hundred years, nothing of great importance took place. There are several things however, which require a brief notice. After the empire fell into the hands of the barbarous nations, the conquests and politi cal changes necessarily affected the state of the church, each prince or sovereign endeavoring to strengthen his own party. Excommunications were frequent, and some were persecuted even unto death only for a difference of opinion.

We have seen in the preceding part of this history that great virtue was attached to seclusion from society and the practice of austerities. This superstition, which was first borrowed from the heathen, was carried to a much greater height in this, than in the preceding period. The austerities and rigid discipline of monks, were in this age reduced to system. Monasteries had become very common; and to this fruitful age Nunneries owe their origin. We have in this period of history seve ral instances of the most unnatural austerity; some refraining almost entirely from food, and some exposing themselves to all the inclemencies of the weather. Several instances are mentioned of persons ascending pillars of stone raised a considerable distance above the ground, and remaining from twenty to forty years upon them, exposed to all the vicissitudes of the climate;-at one

time scorched with the burning heat of the meridian sun, and at another chilled with the wintry breezes of the north. By these examples we may easily learn the progress which superstition made in this age of the world.

This period is remarkable also for the increase of the power of the pope. Altho the bishops of the larger sees, such as Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, &c. have always had great influence in determining the affairs of the church, not until this period did they aspire at universal authority. The bishop of Constantinople styled himself the universal bishop. But this excited the jealousy of the bishop or pope of Rome, who contended that as the church of Rome was founded by St. Peter, who was the first of the apostles, so this church, and consequently its bishop, ought to have a preeminence over the other churches. He also cited the words of Christ to this disciple-"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." Thus was a foundation laid for that abuse of power which makes so prominent a feature in the subsequent part of this history.

In the year 622, when learning was fast giving place to ignorance, and Christianity to superstition and intolerance, a new religion arose in Asia on the borders of the Red Sea, which for a time threatened the extirpon of the Christian and every other religion. Ma

met, the founder of this religion, tho poor, soon married into a fortune, and at the age of 40, he began to propagate his new religion; but for the first five or six years he made but forty converts, and those principally from his own family and relatives. He pretended that he had frequent interviews with the angel Gabriel, and. Vol. 8.

10

pretended that he was a greater prophet than Jesus Christ. He said that God had sent Moses and Jesus to teach and work miracles, but that people would not receive them; and that at last God had sent him to propagate his religion by the sword. He allowed a plurality of wives, and offered the greatest rewards in Paradise to those who died fighting for his religion. His main object seems to have been to make his converts soldiers, and he soon succeeded in collecting together an army of desperate fellows, at the head of whom he successfully fought many battles, and extended his religion in every direction. The book containing his sentiments is called the Koran.

From the rise of Mahometanism to the establishment of the Western Empire under Charlemagne in 800, a period of about one hundred and seventy years, a warm controversy arose respecting the worship of images. Before this period, the relics and images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the apostles and martyrs were placed in the churches. With the increase of ignorance and superstition, the respect for these images increased, till at length they became objects of divine worship. Some of the eastern princes, thinking such worship, idolatry, took every measure to suppress it. They removed the images from the churches, and even put to death a num· ber who contended for such worship.

This controversy gave rise to a council after the death of the emperor, which condemned the former proceedings, and decreed that in future no church should be consecrated without relics and images. Thus was this idolatrous practice palmed upon the world as the pure gospel. From this time it became the practice to pray to the Virgin Mary, the apostles and martyrs.

In this period a considerable accession was made to the power of the popes. Until this time they had confi

« PreviousContinue »