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Protestantism. In general, we may observe that religions of ceremony prevail with the ignorant; those of faith with the intelligent : these combine with fixedness and slavery; those with change, liberty, and improvement. The philosophers, whose names raise Greece so high, had a religion of their own, of free speculation, which led them on to glorious truths and high excellence, while the mass of their countrymen seemed another raće. The prayers, five times in a day, and frequent ceremonies of the Turks, have had no inconsiderable effect in keeping down their national character, and throwing them so far behind that Europe, whose proudest states they might have rivalled. Could the natives of Hindostan be, by some miracle, transformed into Christians, and the distinction of castes and all their other debasing institutions obliterated, where would be their feebleness, their subjection to foreigners, and all that now makes them a property and not a people?
The religion of ceremony tends to reduce man to a mere machine; a puppet, bowing before altars, fingering beads, walking in procession, and kneeling to images. The fire of intellect, being unfed, wastes and expires. The character becomes devoid of that consistency and elevation which can only result from understanding and believing great moral principles. Establishment, repose, and antiquity, often make the ceremonial
part of a system preponderate over the intellec. tual. The military faith of predestination was most conspicuous in Mahometanism, while associated with energy; and its ritual became elevated, as the character of its votaries sunk into feebleness. The affinity of the Mosaic Institutions to that class of religions which has the least favourable operation on human improvement, ap- : pears at first inconsistent with their divine origin. The fact is explained by a reference to their design, which was not to bring the Jews to an advanced state of knowledge, but to make them the keepers of the records of revelation, and the worship of the One God, till the coming of Christ. The ritual was a thorny fence around the pure religion of the patriarchs. By rendering the Jewish character nearly stationary, two great advantages were gained for mankind. Revelation was securely preserved at a period when the world was so debased that extension would have led to its total loss : and afterwards, when it was proffered to the nations, the inferiority of its guardians was à pledge of its divinity.
There is another species of religion, which neither exercises the intellect upon important. truth, nor governs life by prescribed ceremonies, but appeals to the imagination. It peoples caves, woods, rivers, mountains, with tutelary deities, to whom it not only gives “ a local habitation and a name,” but paints their forms and tunes their
voices. This is not powerful in its influence upon character, and, except in rare circumstances, speedily assimilates itself to the other classes, either rising into faith by the aid of philosophy, or degenerating into the external worship of material images. The mythology of antiquity was “ a creed outworn," long before Christianity swept it from the earth. The speculating few, if they did not disregard the whole as mere fable, considered gods as personifications, and their histories as allegories; while the ignorant many adored, not the creations of the poet, with whom they had no fellowship of fancy, but of the sculptor, whose art furnished a visible and tangible deity to tenant their village temple. The researches of the wise, and the stupidity of the yulgar, alike dissolve the enchantments of poetic imagination. There is also, generally, a locality about such superstitions which forbids their permanence after much intercourse with other countries. They are equally transitory, when superinduced upon a rational faith. The living animals of Egypt, and the monstrous images of India, though at first mystic emblems of real or supposed truths, soon usurped supreme worship. The invocation of saints entailed that of their images on both the Greek and Latin churches, It would not long survive their disuse. : Religions which lay their foundation, where alone a solid foundation can be laid, in the understanding, are liable to be perverted into useless speculation. Thus while Christianity was burdened with rites, borrowed from Judaism or Paganism, till with the unthinking it became a mere round of unmeaning forms; its faith was frittered away by the schoolmen into a series of metaphysical subtleties. It would be vain to expect from the endless quibbles which have been occasioned by mysterious doctrines, the beneficial results upon the heart and life which
arise from just reasoning upon plain and certain La con letter den principles.
· Although relying principally upon the power of mind, Christianity at first employed that of habit with great success, not like other systems, for purposes of ceremony, but in aid of morality, by the discipline of its churches, whose members watched over, reproved, instructed, and strengthened each other. And when this discipline ceased, or was misdirected, its place was partially supplied by the influence gained over public opinion.
The philosophical historian cannot tell the tale of eighteen centuries without assigning a conspicuous place to Christianity among the operating causes upon the state, comforts, and liberties of man. Without enlarging upon results, which might fill volumes, let it suffice barely to mention, the general abolition of domestic slavery;
the elevation of the female character and condition, and the termination of polygamy; greater purity of manners ; comparative mildness in the conduct of warfare; the suppression of many cruel practices, and the introduction of benevolent institutions ; with the progress making towards the ultimate abolition of slavery :-these and many other social blessings, of high moment, have been the silent gift of Christianity to society, a temporal boon to confirm the promise of eternal life.
Another result of Christianity deserves 'more particular mention-its tendency to secure, advance, and perfect the intellectual and moral education of man. When not most grossly corrupted, it must produce reading and reflection, and extend them among the lower classes of society. Hence, especially since the Reformation, and still more rapidly since the recent age of controversy, and gradual recurrence to its genuine spirit, the number of readers, and the quantity of general information, has been prodigiously multiplied. Much of this is owing to the simple fact, that Christianity exists in a book, avowedly for individual interpretation, and not neutralized, as in eastern superstitions, or in Popery, by traditions of equal authority, or privileged classes of authoritative interpreters. To make any order of men the depositaries and peculiar dispensers of truth, is saying, Do not read, it is not necessary; do not think, it