Page images

tion for his aged and infirm servant than we have for our beast of burden. The disabled or veteran steed no longer able to work, we compassionately turn out to pasture; the superannuated slave was sent to perish on the banks of the Tiber.

As for asylums and hospitals, he knew nothing about them. They had no existence whatever, and the rich vocabularies of Greece and Rome had not even a word to express such terms. It was reserved for Christianity not only to create such institutions, but even to coin the words that convey their meaning.

Throughout all heathendom, slavery was universal. In the Roman Empire there were usually three slaves for every freeman. And as manual labor was restricted to the slaves, it was branded with the stamp of degradation, and deemed a pursuit unworthy of a freeman.

It must be conceded that war is always an expensive luxury and generally a great calamity. Now, prior to the advent of Christianity, war was the rule, peace the exception among the nations of the earth. During the six hundred and fifty years intervening between the first successor of Romulus and Augustus Cæsar, Rome was engaged in continuous war at home or abroad, with the exception of a six years' interval of peace.

The evils flowing from habitual warfare were aggravated by its fearful atrocities. Vengeance without mercy was meted out to the vanquished, who were either put to the sword, or became the slaves of the conqueror.

This is the moral bondage from which we have been delivered; this is the darkness from which we have been rescued by the admirable light of the Gospel.

What are the blessings that Christian civilization confers on the individual, the family, and society?

It has delivered us from idolatry and led us to the worship of the one, true, and living God. Our Saviour came down from heaven to shed light on that illimitable world which lies beyond the tomb, and to reveal to us a new life which begins with death. He has made known to us our origin and destiny and the means of attaining it.

He has brought not only light to our intellects, but also peace to our hearts, that peace which springs from the knowledge of the truth and the hope of eternal life.

He has given benediction to the home by proclaiming the unity, the sanctity, and the indissolubility of marriage. The wife is no longer the slave, but the partner of her husband; she is no longer a tenant at will, but the mistress of her household; she is no longer confronted by a usurping rival, but she is the undisputed queen of the domestic kingdom.

The father has no longer the power of life and death over his child. So sacred and inviolable is human life that the killing of even the unborn babe, is regarded as murder by the ethics of the Gospel.

The aged poor are no longer at the mercy of heartless masters. They are not cast aside like a worn-out machine. Their life is sacred like that of infants,

and they are comfortably provided for in institutions now spread throughout Christendom.

The tender and compassionate spirit of Christ has caused orphan asylums and hospitals to spring up and bloom in every land. There is no phase of human misery and suffering that does not find solace and relief in these establishments.

Human slavery has, at last, melted away before the effulgent rays of the Gospel. To borrow with a slight paraphrase the words of a distinguished writer, we can say with truth that a slave stands redeemed, regenerated, and disenthralled, as soon as he plants his foot on the sacred soil of Christendom.

The Gospel proclaims the dignity of labor. Judged by its standard, every honest employment is honorable, how menial soever it may be.

Christianity has been a peacemaker to the nations. By her beneficent influence she has made wars far less frequent than they used to be under Pagan régime. During the empire of ancient Rome, there was a century of warfare for every year of peace. The history of our Republic records but one decade of military conflict in the hundred years of its existence.

Christianity has not only diminished the number, but has also mitigated the horrors of military campaigns. Society would stand aghast to-day if death or slavery were meted out to the vanquished. Our own country furnishes one of the most beautiful examples on record to illustrate this truth.

How rapidly have the sectional hate and fierce

animosities engendered by our late Civil War been allayed! In both Houses of Congress and several of our State Legislatures are found to-day representatives who fought against each other, but are now framing laws for the welfare of our common country.

"Now, look here, upon this picture, and look on this." In passing from Pagan to Christian civilization, we have emerged from darkness to light, from a state of puny childhood to full-grown, sturdy manhood, from Egyptian bondage to the liberty of the children of God!

Let us not grow weary of the salutary restraints of Christian life. Let us not cast wistful glances towards Egypt from whose bonds we have been rescued, nor long for its flesh-pots. Let us glory in our Christian heritage; and, above all, let us not be guilty of the mockery of leading Pagan lives while making profession of Christianity, recalling to mind what the Apostle said to our gentile forefathers! "Ye were once darkness; but now light in the Lord. Walk as the children of light."1

1 Eph. V.




"The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of His hands."1

Represent to yourself a gorgeous palace of the most symmetrical proportions. Magnificent chandeliers are suspended from the ceilings, lighting up every apartment of the spacious edifice. The walls are decorated with the most exquisite paintings, and the floors are adorned with luxurious carpets of the most varied and attractive design. You see, moreover, set before you a sumptuous table laden with a rich variety of meats and vegetables and delicious fruits and choice wines. And the whole scene is enlivened by the sound of charming music.

If such a structure were presented to your view, after being cast on a desert island, where no visible trace of man was to be found, would you not at once conclude that it was the work of an experienced architect, and that a wise and provident master

1 Ps. XVIII., 1.

« EelmineJätka »