Page images
PDF

injustice, have, by the laws of our being, and by an inevitable necessity, swept ancient nations with the besom of destruction. We come now to an investigation of modern history, and here we find the same causes producing the same effects. The Christian religion, aided by the Printing Press, has partially taught the duty of preserving peace, and unfolds to us the truth, that peace, justice, and benevolence are the only sure basis of national prosperity. So far as pure christian knowledge has extended, it has carried healing on its wings and heavenly hope. We shall very briefly illustrate the waste of life, wealth, and happiness, among modern nations by wars, and their destruction of the morality and security of nations. History informs us, that Europe during the dark ages, was given over to the iron rule of force, which Cicero declares an argument adapted to brutes and not to men. During this dark period, arbitrary power in church and state, bore down freedom of thought and action. The popes, kings, and barons, claimed to own the lives, liberties, properties, thoughts, and souls of men. Mental and corporeal vassalage seemed complete, as the successive popes assumed to be the grand almoners of heaven's bounty to fallen man, and as the kings and barons held feudal service due to them from the people, who in return received a precarious protection from their leige lords.

The feudal system was a rude principle of order in the midst of confusion—and the church hierarchy, though imperfectly imbued with the doctrines of Christ, and but partially influenced by them, presented the first example of a government reposing itself upon the mind and moral sense of man. The feudal system and the church were suited to ameliorate this rude condition, and their influence during the middle ages produced order in some degree, and partially moderated the violence of the times. The hierarchy soon became the superior power, the ruler of the Christian states of Europe—by its aristocratic organization—its possession of the municipal authority of the cities of the fallen Roman empire—its great wealth—its monopoly of ancient learning, and the moral influence of Christianity.

Forgetful of the peaceful doctrines of the gospel, the popes preached the crusades—threw aside the olive branch of the Prince of Peace, and poured the kings and armed hosts of Europe upon the East. What a demonstration of the moral power of the papacy 7

This great abuse of Christianity was visited by disaster and defeat—cost a million of lives— exhausted the wealth of Europe, and devastated the East.

[ocr errors]

The Crusades introducing eastern civilization, chivalry softening the feudal system, and the invention of the printing press diffusing a knowledge of science and Christianity, gave at the beginning of the sixteenth century, a vigorous movement to the European mind. The reformation appeared as a monument of mental movement. Mind rose in its might against force, and moved society onward. Wickliffe, Huss, Calvin, Luther, Jerome of Prague, Zuinglius, Melancthon, and other reformers are to be considered as part of the mental and moral history of man. They are the white crests of the onward rolling wave of freedom. They simply indicate the march of intellect, a d of ethical knowledge, as well as of the gospel doctrines of peace, equity, and mercy. The popes, by their moral influence over the ignorant and superstitious people of Europe, having become the head of Christian nations during the dark ages, saw that superior knowledge gives controlling power. Hence arose their policy of confining all learning to the priesthood of the church and of perpetuating the ignorance and credulity of the people. When the Reformation appeared, the hierarchy placed the scimetar of Mars once more upon the altar, and commanded a crusade against the freedom of the human mind. In this

new crusade, the Inquisition and the sword of Catholic princes were employed, to destroy the freedom of the press, liberty of thought, speech, and action. To this pagan principle of the papacy, we must ascribe the systematic slaughters of the Inquisition, the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which wasted probably a million of lives, and a thousand million dollars worth of property, the expulsion of two millions eight hundred thousand Moors and Jews from Spain, the murders of the Waldenses and other Protestants, the massacre of sixty thousand Protestants in France on St. Bartholomew's, the revocation of the edict of Nantz, the exile of seven hundred thousand French Protestants, and the steady persecution and butchery of all disbelievers in the infallibility of a fallible pope. This dominion, more potent than that of ancient

Rome, has tried the full effect of the sword. Its efforts for universal dominion have failed. But in the retributive dispensations of Providence, persecution and carnage have been visited upon papacy by the law of retaliation, inherent in our nature. Henry the VIII. of England, Napoleon, Robespierre, Danton, Marat, and other rulers and sovereigns, with the emperor Nicholas of Russia, have followed the cruel and detestable precedents of the hierarchy of Rome, and made her priests and people feel the atrocities they had practised upon

Protestants, Jews, and others. The Catholics of Ireland, are even now suffering oppression for ancient Catholic persecutions. The French revolution was a natural result of the Feudal System and Papacy, of a combined oppression of the French by the kings, mobility, and hierarchy. The ignorance of the commonality resulted from the policy of the papacy, the rapacity of the priests and nobles, the wars of ambition, and unequal taxation of the common people, laid upon France a weight of insupportable oppression. This ignorance, this rapacity, these wicked wars, this cruel injustice to the suffering French, produced the tornado of the French Revolution. This awful tragedy, like a volcanic eruption, astonishes, while it terrifies us; but it is consoling to perceive, that it teaches the great truth, that the moral laws of our nature are fixed by the Eternal, and that the retributions of Almighty justice are sure to overtake the violators of them. The French conquests of Prussia and Austria, and the heavy contributions levied on them by Napoleon, in men and money, resemble most strikingly the conduct of those States towards Poland and other nations. The same is true as to Russia. They reaped as they had sown. The history of France and Spain, show the instability of national conquests, and the folly of

« PreviousContinue »