« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
wickedness and malice of their opposers, that they were in deaths oft, (2 Cor. xi. 23,) yet being supported and protected by Him who commanded them to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature, (Mark xvi. 15,) they still courageously went on, fighting the good fight of faith, (1 Tim. vi. 12,) and endured as seeing Him who is invisible, (Heb. xi. 27.)
On the Conduct and Motives of those who suffer according
to the Rites of the Hindoo Religion. It is more than probable, that the arguments advanced in the foregoing section may be objected to by some of the readers of this work, as being of little or no weight in support of the Christian cause, because other systems of religion which are undoubtedly false, if they have not precisely the same, have nevertheless a considerable de. gree of similar evidence for their support. Hindooism, it may be observed, can boast of its martyrs, in the multitudes of women who, according to its prescribed ceremonies, are perpetually sacrificing themselves on the funeral piles of their deceased husbands. In answer to this objection, I reply, that the painful and undeniable fact that Hindoo women frequently and voluntarily destroy themselves, in conformity to the rules laid down in the Shaster, neither advances the cause of that religion, nor yet detracts from the satisfactory nature of the evidence which arises from the sufferings of the Christian martyrs in the defence and support of the gospel. The voluntary sacrifice of life which these victims of delusion make, will bear no comparison with those noble and more generous sacrifices which the apostles and first converts to Christianity made, rather than deny the Lord Jesus Christ, or disobey the command which he gave them to preach the gospel to every creature.
The Hindoo women who immolate themselves, do not act from a conviction, arising either from personal observations or accredited testimony, that the act which they are about to perform is agreeable with the will of God. The deed is extolled and applauded; and being deluded by various statements of merit, represented to arise from this wicked sacrifice of life, they are thereby induced to submit to it. The probable truth, however, is, that the generality of them do it, in order to avoid the misery and disgrace to which they are conscious they shall be exposed in future life, from the cruel treatment of their relatives and friends. With the Christian martyrs, however, the case was quite the reverse; they were not encouraged and excited to throw away their lives; but were repeatedly tempted and allured to renounce Christianity. By complying with those temptations, they might have escaped the painful deaths I have described, saved their property and their possessions, and continued in the quiet enjoynient of their freedom, reputation, and friends.
The immolation of the Hindoo women is in general a sudden and hasty transaction, which is performed by them under the influence of either grief, or passion, or despair, or some other present feeling by which they are overcome, and for the time being deprived of the faculty of reason. But the Christian martyrs were not under the influence of any peculiar feelings of this kind, at the time they suffered. Their martyrdom was seldom a sudden or hasty occurrence: in most instances, a sufficient period was given them duly to consider the sufferings which they were about to undergo; and they had only to renounce Christianity, and return to the religious system which they had forsaken, to avoid the cruel and ignominious tortures which such multitudes of them patiently and triumphantly endured.
The Hindoo women receive no education, but are kept in total ignorance of spiritual things. In thus immolating themselves, therefore, they are only like a blind man, who, being unable to discover the destruction that awaits him, merely because he is bidden steps down a precipice, and
dashes himself to pieces. But this was not the case with the suffering Christians of whom I have previously spoken. Submission to martyrdom was no blind step, which they ignorantly or inadvertently took. Multitudes of them were men who possessed a sound mind, a correct judgment, and an extensive knowledge of the world. They
and knew, and understood what they were doing: they were capable of examining the evidences, and appreciating the claims of Christianity. And to this examination (to which all men are invited, to whom the gospel is proposed) they duly and diligently attended. By thus investigating the Scriptures for themselves, they were fully convinced of their divine authority; and it was on the ground of this conviction that they acted, when, in obedience to the Saviour's command, (Mark viii. 34,) they denied themselves, and took up their cross, and followed him. To forsake father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, and their own lives likewise, (Luke xiv. 26,) they undoubtedly felt to be a trial of no ordinary nature; but they knew, whilst making these sacrifices, and submitting to these trials, that their afflictions, which comparatively were light, and but for a moment, would work out for them a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of glory. (2 Cor. vi. 17.)
The Hindoo women, if they can with any degree of propriety be called martyrs, are only martyrs of sentiment or opinion: they are taught from their infancy to believe, that to sacrifice their lives according to this cruel rite of the shaster is a meritorious act, which will be pleasing to God, and by which their happiness in a future state will inevitably be secured. But they are utterly incapable of judging for themselves, as to the truth or falsehood of this statement; in consequence of which they are very liable, as all men are when guided by others, or only acting under the influence of mere sentiment or opinion, to be deceived. The Christian martyrs, however, instead of being martyrs of sentiment, were martyrs of facts: they died not to attest what they had been taught, or merely supposed
to be true; but they died to attest the truth of that which they had seen with their eyes, which they had looked upon, and which their hands had handled of the word of life. (1 John i. 1.) Whilst, therefore, deception and falsehood are in the former case easy to be practised, they are totally excluded from the latter. Men may easily be mistaken as to what they have been taught, or what they have heard; but they cannot be mistaken as to what they have repeatedly seen and done; and which, by coming under their immediate observation, has been the subject of their own personal experience. According to this principle, therefore, no evidence for the support of the Hindoo religion is derived from the conduct of the sufferers who throw away their lives as an act of obedience to the precepts which it inculcates :--but the conduct of those who have bled and died in defence of the gospel, arising as it did from principles and motives of a nature totally different from that which actuates the victims of Hindoo immolation, may ever be appealed to as a strong auxiliary evidence in support of its truth. The former religion, therefore, instead of gaining by an examination on this subject, remains just where it was; whilst the evidences of the truth of the latter rise in proportion to the diligence with which they are investigated. By examination, the truth of its claims will more conspicuously appear; and triumphing, as it ever does, over every objection, it will leave the enquiring mind without the least shadow of a doubt as to its divine original.
On the spread of the Gospel.
Of the Evidence which is derived from the rapid Spread of
the Gospel on its first Publication. At the period of the Redeemer's incarnation, every nation upon the face of the earth, the Jews excepted, was immersed in the grossest darkness, superstition, and idolatry. By the promulgation, however, of the religion which he came to establish, the majority of the systems of prevailing idolatry soon received a shock which they could not withstand, and which ultimately occasioned their downfall. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the short space of 50 years from the commencement of its publication, obtained a footing in almost every country in the eastern and western world. The ancient superstition was by its rapid spread speedily undermined, Idolatrous temples were deserted, and Christian churches supplied their places. In the reign of Constantine, which was about 450 years after the Saviour's birth, Christianity became the established religion of the Roman empire; and in the course of a few years after this period, idolatry was banished from all the civilized countries of Europe.
I do not here mean to assert, that this circumstance alone is a satisfactory evidence of the truth of the gospel, any more than the rise, growth, and fruitfulness of a tree, planted in a rich and luxuriant soil, is a thing to be wondered at. But if I see a dry sapless stock assume the appearance of verdure, blossom, and bud, and bring forth fruit, my astonishment is excited, because such a thing is contrary to the established order of nature, and I am convinced that a divine power has interposed, and exerted itself to produce such a wonderful effect. Though the universal and rapid spread of the Christian religion, if