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In a word, it is time thrown away to expatiate on the happiness of eternal life before hearers who do not believe in immortality, but who regard death as the term of man's existence.
The class of men of whom I am writing, will bluntly say to us: We are longing for light, but we hesitate to become Christians, not so much because your religion claims to be supernatural, as because we suspect it to be irrational. We reject your authority as teachers; we reject Christian revelation; we take nothing for granted; we appeal to the court of reason and historical evidence. Let us try to meet them on their own ground, and accept the appeal.
I have, therefore, endeavored in these pages to show that these fundamental truths underlying Christianity, such as the existence, the providence, and the omniscience of God, the immortality of the soul, the existence of free-will, and the essential distinction between moral good and evil, are all susceptible of being demonstrated by our unaided reason, while they are made still more luminous by the light of Christian Revelation.
This little book may be a serviceable manual not only in the hands of those outside the fold of Christianity, but of Christian believers as well; as it will furnish them with a reason for the hope that is in them, and supply them with arguments to meet the sophistries of professed free-thinkers, and to enlighten the sincere inquirer after truth.
There are some writers in our country over whom the arts and literature and the material splendor of Pagan Greece and Rome exercise a special fascination, and who seem to long for the return of the old civilization of those countries. They are full of admiration for the marble palaces of the "City of the Cæsars," but they close their eyes to the midnight orgies, the scenes of crime, debauchery, and revelry that were enacted within them. The colossal power of Rome is suggested to their mind by the contemplation of the Coliseum and the Arch of Titus; but they overlook the fact, that the Coliseum was erected by the sweat and blood of Jewish captives, and that the triumphal arch commemorates not only the glory of Rome, but the exile and degradation of a conquered nation as well. They are fond of holding up to public view the domestic and civic virtues of a Lucretia, a Cornelia, and a Marcus Aurelius, and the military prowess of the Scipios and the Fabii; but they keep in the background the unnatural crimes and abominations of the Neros, the Caligulas, the Domitians, and other Pagan rulers who were a disgrace to humanity.
There are even others, few thank God in number, who thinking that Christianity has outlived its day and is unsuited to our times, would fain supplant it by Buddhism, which they regard as less exacting in its tenets and as appealing to the highest aspirations of man's nature.
Our Buddhist brethren in Japan, encouraged by their admirers in America, have actually established in Kioto a periodical advocating the religion of Buddha, which they propose to circulate among us with the view of converting us to their faith.1
I may dismiss this subject with the simple observation that there is no good feature in Buddhism which is not eminently found in the Christian religion. There is no want of the soul which Christianity does not satisfy; there is no civilization that it does not enlighten and purify. It is broad and elastic enough to embrace all nations, and minute enough to occupy itself with every individual soul. It is a perennial tree, which flourishes all the world over, while Buddhism is an exotic that has never thrived outside of its native soil of Asia.
While these pages are passing through the press, we are informed by the daily papers that an antiChristian Sunday-school has been opened in a public hall in Baltimore, and that weekly sessions are regularly held there. We learn from the same source that some Protestant clergymen of our city have urged the Mayor to suppress this infidel school. Waiving the question of right which the civil authorities may have to interfere in matters of this kind, I do not believe that any radical cure of this religious distemper can be effected by repressive measures. It is not by coercion, but by the voluntary surrender of the citadel of the heart, that man
1See New York Sun, September 16, 1888.
is converted. Coercion only drives the poison into the social body, where it secretly ferments. Our divine Saviour never invoked the sword to vindicate His doctrines. He rebuked His disciple, when he once drew the sword in defence of His Master, and commanded him to put it back into its scabbard. "The weapons of our warfare," says the Apostle, "are not carnal," but spiritual; they are the weapons of argument, of persuasion and charity. The only sword I would draw against the children of unbelief, is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;" and the only fire I would light against them, is the fire of divine love which our Lord came to enkindle in the hearts of men. In a word, I would convince them that Christianity "is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is," as well as "of that which is to come. 992
With the aim to show what blessings Christianity has conferred on the human race, even in a temporal point of view, the latter part of this volume contains a series of chapters exhibiting the superiority of Christian over Pagan civilization.
If we institute a comparison between the relative influence of Paganism and Christianity in promoting the welfare of the individual, the family, and society, we have no doubt that the investigation will result overwhelmingly in favor of the latter.
It is only by placing the two systems in juxtaposition that we adequately realize the degradation
1 II. Cor. X.
I. Tim. IV.
from which we have been rescued and the privileges we enjoy.
The Pagan had only a vague and indistinct conception of the Supreme Being. His worship was, for the most part, idolatry. Not only every striking creation in nature, but even every crime and passion had its tutelary divinity; so that the object of his worship was, at the same time, an incentive to the gratification of his desires.
He knew not whence he came nor whither he was going. His vision of the future was bounded by the horizon of the tomb. His philosophers and teachers were unable to shed any clear and unerring light on this subject. Their discussions invariably ended in speculation and doubt.
To solid peace and contentment, he was therefore a stranger; for how can an intelligent being yearning for immortality, be truly happy who has received no clear revelation of a life to come?
His wife was the toy of his caprice, the slave of his passions. He regarded marriage as a temporary compact to be easily dissolved at will.
He had the power of life and death over his children. He had a very convenient expedient for limiting the number of his offspring, by strangling them in their infancy or casting them into the streets. There was no law to restrain him, or it was so feebly enforced as to be practically inoperative.
If the Roman could murder his child without dread of the law, he could with equal impunity starve his slave. He had commonly less considera