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serting the people, and wandering through the provinces of others, frequented fairs in quest of lucrative traffic. They relieved not their hungry Christian brethren; they desired to have abundance of money; they insidiously seized on lands; they increased their gains by multiplied usury. What did we, being of such characters, not deserve to suffer for our sins? since divine reproof had before admonished us by saying, "If they forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. These things were announced and foretold us ; but we, , unmindful of the law and observances delivered to us, have, by our sins, produced this effect, that, despising the commands of God, we should, by more severe remedies, be brought to amendment, and the trial of our faith."
a Studebant augendo patrimonio singuli; et obliti quid credentes aut sub apostolis ante fecissent aut semper facere deberent, insatiabili cupiditatis ardore ampliandis facultatibus incubabant. ... Ad decipienda corda simplicium callidæ fraudes, circumveniendis fratribus subdolæ voluntates. . .. Non jurare tantùm temere, sed adhuc etiam pejerare. ... Episcopi plurimi, quos et hortamento esse oportet cæteris et exemplo, divina procuratione contempta, procuratores rerum secularium fieri, derelicta cathedra, plebe deserta, per alienas provincias aberrantes, negotiationis quæstuosæ nundinas aucupari. Esurientibus in ecclesia fratribus non subvenire, habere argentum largiter velle, fundos insidiosis fraudibus rapere, usuris multiplicantibus fænus augere. Quid non perpeti tales pro peccatis ejusmodi mereremur? cum jam pri
What a dismal picture of Christian morals, at this early period, does this passage exhibit, and how striking is this proof of the deeply rooted corruption of human nature, which, under the profession of Christianity, could assume such a flagrant character! But at that time heathen converts were still coming into the church, and it is probable that they brought along with them many of their former vicious habits. Heathenism was still the predominant religion of the Roman empire, and the abominations of heathen practice might induce unstable Christians to suppose that their own was, after all, comparatively better. Our Saviour has foretold that tares will always grow up along with the wheat until the harvest," when they will be finally separated, and consigned to their respective destinations.
Even in the most gloomy periods of the church, many shining and exemplary exceptions to the general corruption have proved to be that salt which has prevented the putrefaction of the whole mass.
General revivals also have taken
dem præmonuerit ac dixerit censura divina: “Si dereliquerint legem meam, et in judiciis meis non ambulaverint; si justificationes meas profanaverint, et præcepta mea non observaverint, visitabo in virga facinora eorum, et in flagellis delicta eorum.”c Prænunciata sunt ista nobis, et antè prædicta; sed nos datæ legis et observationis immemores id egimus per nostra peccata, ut, dum Domini mandata contempsimus, ad correctionem delicti et probationem fidei remediis severioribus veniremus.--Cyprianus de Lapsis. à A. D. 252.
b Matt. xiii. 24-30. c Psalm lxxxix. 30-32.
place at different times, of which the glorious Reformation exhibits a memorable instance. Entire Christian societies have all along been distinguished by their comparative purity of morals, as was the case with the Waldenses, notwithstanding the horrible calumnies with which they were loaded. This faithful sect, deducing its origin from times nearly apostolical, furnished the focus from which the rays of primitive light diverged over a considerable part of Christendom.
It is a most erroneous supposition, that the gospel has entirely lost its moral efficacy on the hearts of its professors, or that, even in the present state of things, it is productive of no consequences eminently salutary. Such an opinion would be grossly calumnious. In every Christian country, not even excepting those where the most corrupt forms of our religion are professed, there are thousands whose lives are formed by the rules of their faith, as far as is compatible with human infirmity, and the knowledge which they possess. That the number of those whose conduct is conformable to its profession is by no means proportioned to the number of professed Christians, cannot be called in question, and must ever be a subject of deep regret to all who sincerely believe and honestly practise.
But, taking the Christian world as it is, we shall find that its moral condition is, in many respects, superior to that which ever existed before the introduction of Christianity. Such is the spirit of the gospel, such its powerful tendency to humanize and improve mankind, that it never wholly yielded to the malign power of depravity, never ceased to oppose some resistance to superstition and vice. Overwhelmed beneath the load of those corruptions which were gradually introduced into the church, and had attained their deepest aggravation during the ages of the grossest ignorance, it checked, in some degree, the barbarity of those who, without the profession of Christianity, would have known no restraint to all that was vile and horrible in human nature, It softened and mollified that ferocity of manners which prevailed in Europe during the period that immediately preceded and followed the subversion of the Roman empire, made human life more tolerable, and prevented the bands of society from being burst asunder. This is acknowledged by Voltaire in his Essay on General History
If we look to our own times, and those which preceded them, since the revival of letters, and especially since the Reformation, every impartial person must confess that Christianity has diffused an improving influence over human life. Slavery is abolished almost over all Europe, and Great Britain has the glory of having prohibited, within her own territories, the detestable traffic in human beings, and of having exerted her influence for its suppression by every other European state. Wars are carried on with less cruelty than they were before the introduction of this benign scheme of belief and practice. Among heathen nations, prisoners of war were, with their wives and children, sold for slaves. But this barbarity ceased among those who acknowledged Christ as their common Lord and Master. Would God that this circumstance had produced the full extent of its legitimate effect, that, namely, of putting an end to war and all its horrors among Christian nations, and to those unchristian passions in which it originates ! Several crimes which were common among pagans, even the most civilized, and were tolerated by their laws, are either unknown or rare among Christians, and, when they are committed and discovered, never fail to excite horror, and to consign the perpetrators of them to just punishment and in
delible ignominy. Of this kind are, the exposii tion of infants, the cruel spectacles of gladiators
at Roman festivals and funerals, and other enormities which the professors of the gospel ought not even to name. The apostle Paul gives, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, such a shocking account of pagan abominations, as, if it were not attested by pagan writers themselves, would, in order to be credited, require no small exertion of confidence. He sums up the