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rance or the malice of infidelity, that the Christians allured into their party the most atrocious criminals, who, as soon as they were touched by a sense of remorse, were easily persuaded to wash away, in the water of baptism, the guilt of their past conduct, for which the temples of the gods refused to grant them any expiation. But this reproach, when it is cleared from misrepresentation, contributes as much to the honor as it did to the increase of the Church. The friends of Christianity may acknowledge without a blush that many of the most eminent saints had been before their baptism the most abandoned sinners. : . After the example of their Divine Master, the missionaries of the gospel disdained not the society of men, and especially of women, oppressed by the consciousness and very often by the effects of their vices. As they emerged from sin and superstition to the glorious hope of immortality, they resolved to devote themselves to a life, not only of virtue, but of penitence. The desire of perfection became the ruling passion of their souls ; and it is well known that while reason embraces a cold mediocrity, our passions hurry us with rapid violence over the space which lies between the most opposite extremes."
As to the effectiveness of the gospel, I will introduce but one other authority, that of one who is said to have inclined to skepticism in his earlier years :
“The heart of the question is not in any debate about the history of the books of the Bible. .. Nor is it in the literature of the Bible that the problem of faith rests. I know human history, and I know that in the first century something happened that destroyed the Old World and gave birth to the New. The resurrection of Jesus would account for that change, and IWdo not know of any other adequate solution that has ever been proposed.” (Cushman K. Davis.)
Christians of to-day, having become a more numerous fraternity and feeling less of hostile opposition, have, at least in places, become less alert; and though the salt of the earth is still in the Church, a greater number have doubtless united with the Church with other than purely Christian motives. But an important reason why the outward distinction between Christians and others is less marked than it was in the period of which Gibbon wrote, is to be found in the facts of Christian civilization. When James Freeman Clarke wrote of Dr. Bartol,—“Our writer inclines to that class of sons, who say that they will not go to work when their father tells them, for fear of compromising their independence, but afterward go to work harder than those who professed a louder obedience; he refuses to call Christ, Lord, but sits at his feet, hears his truth, and says, “Thou hast the words of eternal life,'”—he might have written the same of many others, for thousands of those who reject the authority of the gospel are preaching its morality. Through whatever channels this refining and elevating influence may reach society, justice will require us to remember its source. The Bible should have credit for the influence of those utterances upon morality which were made before the dawn of modern civilization, and which are still conspicuous on its pages.
Adaptation to the Practice of Religion and
IF, now, we turn from the Bible to consider human nature, I think we shall discover the counterpart to this twofold instruction, religious and moral.
If the philosopher who first announced that “Man is a religious animal,” had merely stated that "Man is a moral animal," there would have been little, if any, opposition to the statement. For, though men often fall below the requirements of morality, they understand the rights of their fellow-men, and are able to feel the force of a moral obligation.
There are very conspicuous facts which lead us to the opinion that man is also by nature a religious animal. The earliest history, the earliest tradition, and the earliest inscriptions found by the archæologists manifest religion; and of living races and families of men, only in a few dark spots are any considerable tribes of men, degraded and poorly developed, found without religion.
The taste of my atheistic friends also impresses me with the idea that religious sentiment is deeply seated and firmly fixed in human nature. An atheist of refinement will tell you that he does not like to hear swearing. “Swearing is coarse.” But why coarse? If there is no God to whom we can owe either allegiance or respect, then swearing is an amusement as innocent as fishing, and not more coarse than speaking lightly of the man in the inoon. But here is a feeling which appears to have been planted in us by the Creator, and it is hard to root it up. The invention and use of the word agnostic seems also to betray the feeling that there may, after all, be a God to whom we owe allegiance.
An atheist frequently admits this feeling, but attributes it to education and heredity. Many of his progenitors have been religious, and have trained their children to religious practices, as well as transmitted their own
tendencies. I have heard the opinion expressed that religion is altogether a matter of education.
To consider this opinion for a moment: Were the couple who first taught their chilren religion themselves religious or religious? If they were not religious, why would they teach their children something of which they had no knowledge and towards which they felt no impulse? Why would they, and how could they? But if the earliest couple we can suppose to have taught religion were themselves religious, then there appears to be no place in our search for a beginning at which we can stop till we arrive at the purpose of the Being who created us.
The man who says swearing is coarse is able to feel the force of the obligation to treat the name of his Creator with respect, as the moral animal feels the force of the obligation to regard the rights of his neighbors.
The animal we are studying appears to have been fitted for the development of a character which, when completed, shall have both a religious and a moral aspect. If this