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Now you must all be familiar with christianity had gained ascendency, the melancholy truth, that, from its and kingdoms professed themselves first publication, christianity has been evangelized. It might have been sup. the occasion of discord and blood- posed-at least until the principles of shed. We might, perhaps, have been christianity had been narrowly sistedprepared to expect, that, whilst chris- that, when the religion became protianity strove to make head against the fessedly that of all the members of a world's superstitions, and to dethrone community, the sword would be sheathheathenism, which had long held an ed, and peace be the instant produce undisputed sway, the passions and pow- of sameness of faith. But alas, the ers of interested millions would be ex- persecutions by which paganism strove cited against its preachers. It was quite to annihilate christianity, are more natural, that, when there was published than rivalled in fierceness by those of a religion at war with every other then which christians have been, at once, dominant and approved, fierce efforts the authors and objects. The darkest should be made to crush, by crushing page in the history of mankind is perits advocates, a system whose esta- haps that on which are registered the blishment must be the downfall of crimes that have sprung from the relithose which a long ancestry had be- gious differences of christendom. It queathed, and which every lust felt in- , were a sickening detail, to count up the terested in upholding. Seeing that the miseries which may be traced to these worst passions of humanity had so differences. Our very children are famuch at stake, it might fairly have miliar with the history of times when been calculated that so vast a revolu- Europe shook as though with an earthtion as that of the Roman empire ex- quake, and when a haughty and tyranchanging paganism for, at least, nomi- nical church devoted all to execration nal christianity, would not be effected and death who dared to think for themwithout great private dissatisfaction, if selves, or to take the Bible as their not political disturbance. Accordingly, standard of faith. Our own land beas we all know, persecutions of the came a battle-plain, on which was carmost fearful description assailed the ried on the struggle for religious free. infant religion, designing, and almost dom; heresy, as the bold confession of effecting, its extinction. And when Sa- truth was insolently termed, marked tan, battling for an empire which it out thousands of our forefathers for was the professed object of christianity the stake or the scaffold. In this did to wrench away, sent forth all his emis- christianity differ broadly from those saries, and stirred up all his agents, in false systems of theology which had order that, if possible, the very name of been set up in the long night of heathe crucified might be banished and thenism; these systems were tolerant lost, there was exhibited a spectacle of each other, because, whatever their which bore out to the letter the pre- minor differences, they had the same diction of our text. They who traced mighty errors in common : but popery the causes of massacres which devas opposed itself oto protestantism as ve. tated cities and provinces, and found hemently as paganism had done to that the christian religion had occa- christianity ; for, though both consess. sioned such outbreaks of violence, ed Christ as a Mediator, the agreement must have felt that Christ had spoken of the two systems was as nothing to words as true as they were awful, when their separation on grand and fundadeclaring that he had come, not to send mental tenets. peace, but a sword, on the earth.
It is, then, but too true, that christi. It was, however, as we have already anity has been a sword to christendom stated, fairly to have been expected, itself. The prophecy of our text has that, ere heathenism could be nation. registered its fulfilment in the blood of ally displaced, and christianity substi- I the multitudes who, at various times, tuted, there would be such public con-, have been immolated on the altars of vulsion as would bring distress and bigotry and ignorance. And if one of death on many of the professors of that angelic host which thronged the our faith. The prophecy becomes not firmament of Bethlehem, and chanted unlooked for in its fulfilment, until of"peace on earth, good will towards men,” had taken the survey of chris- above the disunion thus unhappily intendom, when persecution was at its troduced into households, it were idle height, and the Romish hierarchy, to deny that piety is still exposed to backed by the kings and great ones much of harassing opposition, so that, of the earth, hunted down the revivers although persecution no longer wears of apostolic doctrine and discipline, its more appalling forms, it is not poswe may doubt whether he would have sible to make bold confession of Christ, poured forth the same rich melody; without thereby incurring obloquy and whether, if left to frame his message wrong. The cooling of friendship, the from his observation, he would have withdrawing of patronage, the misreannounced that Christ had come to presentation of motives, the endeavor send peace, in the face of so tremen- to thwart, and turn into ridicule—for dous a demonstration, that, practically all these must the man be prepared, at least, he had come to send a sword. who, in our own day, acts out his
But you are not to suppose that the christianity; and he who should think prediction of our text is accomplished that he might turn from worldliness to in no days but those of intolerance and piety without losing caste, and alienapersecution. We learn, from the suc- ting many who have loved and assisted cceding verse, that Christ specially re- him, would show that he had neither ferred to the family disturbances which studied the character of our religion, his religion would occasion. "For I nor gathered the testimony of experiam come,” saith he, " to set a man at ence. And whilst it can thus be main. variance against his father, and the tained that the profession of that goddaughter against her mother, and the liness which the Gospel enjoins, serves daughter-in-law against her mother-in- to break the closest links of associa. law." Here we have a prophecy, whose tion, dividing into almost irreconcilafulfilment is not limited to a past gene ble parties those who have heretofore ration, but may be found every day in been as one in all the intercourses of our own domestic histories. We live life, it cannot be denied that christianin times—and we are bound to thank ity is still a sword, rather than a peace. God for the privilege-when the pro- maker upon earth; and that, whatever fession of that religion, which we be- it may effect in days yet to come, the lieve to be true, exposes to no public breaches which it now occasions in danger, when the sword sleeps in its all ranks of society, attest that Christ scabbard, and magistracy interferes spake as a true prophet when he utterwith men's worship only to protect. ed our text. But we cannot, nevertheless, be igno- There is no necessity that, in exhi. rant that there is a vast amount of pri- biting the present fulfilment of the prevate persecution, which, as laws do not diction, we pass from christendom to prescribe, neither can they prevent; the still broad domain of heathenism. and that the introduction of genuine It is undoubtedly a result of every mispiety into a household is too frequent- sionary enterprise which makes head ly the introduction of discord and un- against idolatry, that deep and fierce happiness. It may have fallen within passions are roused by its success. the power of many of us to observe, Those members of a tribe who embrace how the peace of a family has appa- christianity, become objects of the inrently been broken up by religion; veterate hostility of those who adhere how its members, amongst whom there to the superstitions of their fathers. may have heretofore circulated all the Thus is there acted over again, in the charms of a thorough unanimity, have circumscribed neighborhood of a misbecome divided and estranged, when sionary settlement, something of that certain of the number have grown care awful drama which once had the Ro. ful of the soul. The making a profes- man world for its théatre. Heathenism sion of religion is often considered still struggles to put down christianity, tantamount to actual rebellion; and and idol-worshippers still regard as a then the announced result is literally personal enemy every convert from brought round--the parents being set idolatry. Neither can we see reason against the children, and the children to question, that, before any wide tract against the parents. And over and of paganism could become nominally evangelized- we mean, of course, by tation in saying, that, in spite of its the machinery of the present dispen- having been as a sword on the earth, sation-so that the religion of Jesus christianity has done more to elevate should take the place of a degrading the character, diminish the wretchedmythology, the worst passions of man- ness, and augment the comforts of the kind would be banded in the withstand nations who have received it as their ing, and that too by perfidy and vio- faith, than was ever effected by the lence, the exchange of falsehood for best systems of heathenism, whilst left truth, of systems which patronize sen- free to attempt the improvement of husuality for one which enjoins the liv- man condition. We confess, of course, ing soberly and righteously. And when that much misery has been occasioned christianity had triumphed-triumph- by the christian religion; and that, had ed, be it observed, against an opposi- this religion gained no footing in a tion resembling, in its vehemence, that land, there are many forms of disquiewhich met our religion on its first pub- tude which its inhabitants would have lication--there would occur, we may altogether escaped. Whilst christianity beliere, all those private, but distress- acts as a sword, there will be wounds, ing persecutions, which we trace and which, had there been no such weadeplore amongst ourselves; so that, in pon, would never have been inflicted. prevailing on a heathen empire to throw But the fair way of meeting the quesaway its idols, and erect the cross as tion is, to endeavor to strike a balance its standard, you would have prevailed between the produced wretchedness on it to receive into its families the and the produced happiness, and to de. fruitful source of dissensions, and to termine on which side the prepondertake as its portion the being rent into ance lies. parties, whose variances must inter- And we could not wish a finer topic rupt, if not destroy, all the harmony of of christian advocacy than that of the society. Hence, it is still the melan- immense blessing which the religion choly truth, that, in sending christiani- of Jesus has proved to mankind, if ty, you send a sword into a land. Until viewed simply in their temporal capathere be ushered in a season when re- city. We are ready to keep futurity ligion shall take possession of every out of sight, with all its august and terheart in an extended population, there rible mysteries. We will not meet the will lie, to all appearance, an impossi- arraigner of christianity on ground from bility against the nominally evange- , which he must instantly be driven, that lizing that population, without, at the of the revelation of immortality, which same time, dividing and disturbing it; can be found only on the pages of for the cross, whilst introduced only Scripture. We will confine ourselves into the creed of a multitude, will ex- to the present narrow scene, and deal cite their enmity against the few who I with man as though death were to tergive their aflections to Hiin who died minate his being. And we do assert-on it as a sacrifice.
and proofs unnumbered are at hand to But now we think it a question wor- make good the assertion--that the great thy the closest examination, whether, civilizer of manners, the great heightsince christianity has all along provedener of morals, the soother of the afa sword, the human race has been be- flicted, the patron of the destitute, the nefited, in temporal respects, by its pro- friend of the oppressed-this, from its pagation. We are not about to take in- first establishment, hath christianity to account the unspeakable advantages been; and for this should it win the which this religion has conferred, when veneration of those who know not its man is viewed as the heir of immorta. worth, as the alone guide to man's final lity. But there would be something so inheritance. We have only to contrast unlooked for in the fact, if it were fact, the most famous and refined of ancient that the amount of present happiness nations with modern and christian, in had been diminished, or even not in order to assure ourselves, that, in all creased, by christianity, that we have which can give dignity to our nature, right to demand stricter than ordinary in all which can minister to public maproof, ere we receive it into our cata- jesty and private comfort, to indepenlogue of truths. And we have no hesi- dence of mind, security of property,
and whatsoever can either strengthen of selfishness; the founder and upholdor ornament the frame-work of society, er of noble institutions, because the heathenism-great as may have been teacher of the largest philanthropythe progress in arts and sciences-must christianity has lifted our fallen huyield at once and immeasurably to manity to a moral greatness which christianity.
seemed wholly out of reach, to a staIt is easy to upbraid our religion, be- tion, which, compared with that occucause it hath fulfilled its own prophe-pied under the tyranny of heathenism, cies, and proved itself a sword; but is like a new place amongst orders in what engine has been so efficient as creation. this sword in accomplishing results And nothing is needed, in proof that which every lover of virtue admires, we put forth no exaggerated statement, and every friend of humanity applauds ? but that Christendom
be contrasted with What hath banished gross vices from countries which have not yet received the open stage on which they once christianity. If you are in search of the walked unblushingly, and forced them, attributes which give dignity to a state, where it failed to exterminate, to hide of the virtues which shed lustre and themselves in the shades of a disgrace- loveliness over families, of what is ful privacy? We reply, the sword chris- magnificent in enterprise, refined in citianity. What hath covered lands with vilization, lofty in ethics, admirable in buildings unknown in earlier and much- jurisprudence, you never turn to any vaunted days, with hospitals, and infir- but an evangelized territory, in order maries, and asylums? We answer, the to obtain the most signal exhibition. sword christianity. What is gradually And just in proportion as christianity extirpating slavery from the earth, and now gains footing on a district of heabringing on a season, too long delayed thenism, there is a distinct improveindeed, but our approaches to which ment in whatever tends to exalt a nadistance incalculably those of the best tion, and bring comfort and respectaheathen times, when man shall own bility into its households. If we could universally a brother in man, and dash but plant the cross on every mountain, off every fetter which cruelty hath and in every valley, of this globe, preforged, and cupidity fastened? We an- vailing on a thousand tribes to cast swer unhesitatingly, the sword chris. away their idols, and hail Jesus Christ tianity: What hath softened the hor- as "King of kings and Lord of lords,” rors of war, rendering comparatively who doubts that we should have done unheard of the massacre of the unof- infinitely more towards covering our fending, and the oppression of captives? planet with all the dignities and decenWhat hath raised the female sex from cies of civilized life, than by centuries the degraded position which they still of endeavor to humanize barbarism occupy in the lands of a false faith? without molesting superstition? We What hath introduced laws, which are clear as upon a point which needs shield the weakest from injury, protect no argument, because ascertained by the widow in her loneliness, and secure experience, and which, if not proved his rights to the orphan? What hath by experience, might be established by given sacredness to every domestic re- irresistible argument, that, in teaching lation, to the ties which bind together a nation the religion of Christ, we teach the husband and the wife, the parent it the principles of government, which and the child, the master and the ser- will give it fixedness as an empire, vant; and thus brought those virtues the sciences which will multiply the to our firesides, the exile of which comforts, and the truths which will takes all music from that beautiful elevate the character, of its population. word home? To all such questions we Thoroughly to christianize would be have but one reply, the sword chris. thoroughly to regenerate a land. And tianity. The determined foe of injus- the poor missionary, who, in the simtice in its every form; the denouncer plicity of his faith, and the fervor of of malice, and revenge, and pride, pas- his zeal, throws himself into the waste sions which keep the surface of society of paganism, and there, with no appaever stormy and agitated; the nurse of rent mechanism at his disposal for algenuine patriotism, because the enemy tering the condition of a savage community, labors at making Christ known reared for the shelter of the suffering, to idolaters-why, we say of this in- and to their mighty advancings in equitrepid wrestler with ignorance, that, ty, and science, and good order, and in toiling to save the souls, he is toil. greatness. We show you the desert ing to develope the intellectual powers, blossoming as the rose, and all because reform the policy, and elevate in every ploughed by the sword christianity. respect the rank of the beings who en- We show you every chain of oppresgage his solicitudes. The day on which sion flying into shivers, and all because a province of Africa hearkened to his struck by the sword christianity. We summons, started from its moral de. show you the coffers of the wealthy basement, and acknowledged Jesus as bursting open for the succor of the desits Savior, would be also the day on titute, and all because touched by the which that province overstepped one sword christianity. We show you the half the interval by which
it had been human intellect springing into manseparated from civilized Europe, and hood, reason starting from dwarfishwent on, as with a giant's stride, to- ness, and assuming magnificence of wards its due place amongst nations. stature, and all because roused by the
So that however true it be, that, in glare of the sword christianity. Ay, if sending christianity, you send a sword, you can show us feuds, and jealousies, into a land, we will not for a moment and wars, and massacres, and charge harbor the opinion, that christianity is them home on christianity as a cause, no temporal blessing, if received by the we can show you whatsoever is coninhabitants as their guide to immortali- fessed to minister most to the welfare, ty. It is a sword; and divided fami- and glory, and strength, and happiness lies, and clashing parties, will attest of society, stamped with one broad imthe keenness and strength of the wea- press, and that impress the sword chrispon. But then it is also a sword, whose tianity: and, therefore, are we bold to bright flash scatters the darkness of declare that the amount of temporal ages, and from whose point shrink away misery has been immeasurably diminthe corruption, the cruelty, and the ished by the propagation of the relifraud, which flourished in that dark- gion of Jesus; and that this sword, in ness as their element. It is a sword: spite of produced slaughter and diviand it must pierce to the sundering sions, has been, and still is, as a goldmany close ties, dissect many interests, en sceptre, beneath which the tribes of and lacerate many hearts. But to wave our race have found a rest which heathis sword over a land is to break the thenism knew only in its poetry; a freespell fastened on it by centuries of ig- dom, and a security, and a greatness, norance; and to disperse, or, at least, which philosophy reached only in its to disturb, those brooding spirits which dreams. have oppressed its population, and kept But now, having examined our text down the energies which ennoble our as a prophecy, we are briefly to invesrace. And, therefore, are we nothing tigate the causes which have turned moved by the accusation, that chris- into a sword that which, in its own natianity has caused some portion of ture, is emphatically peace. We shall misery. We deny not the truth of the not go particularly into the cases of charge: to disprove that truth would heathenism persecuting christianity, be to disprove christianity itself. The and popery persecuting protestantism. Founder prophesied that his religion Neither shall we speak of the tumults would be a sword, and the accomplish- caused by the various heresies which, ment of the prophecy is one of our evi- at different times, have sprung up in dences that he came forth from God. the church. When men's passions, But when men would go farther, when prejudices, and interests are engaged they would arraign christianity as hav- on the side of error and corruption, it ing increased, on the whole, the sum is unavoidable that the advocates of of human misery, oh, then we have our truth and purity will array against appeal to the splendid institutions of themselves hatred and hostility. But civilized states, to the bulwarks of lib- we will take the more ordinary case, erty which they have bravely thrown in which there is no open conflict beup, to the structures which they have tween theological systems and sects;