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THE SLOW PROGRESS AND PARTIAL INFLUENCE OF CHRIS
TIANITY IN EUROPE EXPLAINED-ITS POWER AIDED BY A FREE PRESS ILLUSTRATED IN THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNITED STATES, AND A PLAN OF EUROPEAN AMELIORATION SUGGESTED.
CHRISTIANITY, a gift of God to man, contains within itself the elements of civilization and refinement. Its heavenly doctrines of peace, justice, and equity, are the only solid basis of national improvement and felicity. Proclaiming as it does, the equality of all human beings before God their maker, and their duty to love their heavenly Father with all their soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves; and prescribing to all men the celestial law of doing to others as they would have others do to them, the Gospel offers a perfect system for the civilization and improvement of the world. A sweet benevolence, a graceful hospitality, and a kind courtesy are enjoined by Christianity, as well as equity, peace, and good will among men. Its object, its natural effect is to free mankind from the control of their disturb. ing and destroying passions, and bring them under the perfect law of liberty, which harmonizing with their moral nature, insures happiness, individual and national. Such are the heaven descended doctrines preached eighteen centuries ago by the Prince of Peace.
In tracing the results of this heavenly mission, we inquire of the past in order to form an accurate judgment of the future as to its power and progress. The revelation of the Gospel was made in a Province of the Roman Empire, whose broad dominion covered one hundred and twenty millions of people, of whom only about four or five hundred thousand could read and write. To this ignorance was superadded the cruelty, the licentiousness, the superstition and depravity of paganism.
The Gospel was directly opposed to these practises of heathenism. The good seed was thus emphatically sown upon sterile soil. As a consequence many of the Roman emperors persecuted Christians, and used their whole power to suppress Christianity. In three centuries Christianity, protected by Jehovah, spread over and beyond the Roman Empire, and, animated by the inspiring spirit of God it bid defiance to many persecutions, and especially to the systematic attempt of the Emperors Diocletian and Galerius at the commencement of the fourth century to destroy it root
and branch by their imperial arms. The full power of imperial pagan Rome was exerted by their emperors in destroying the churches, burning Bibles, and in subjecting Christians to martyrdom, but all in vain. These atrocities called forth the moral power of Christianity, and spread far and wide its pervading influence.
In the fourth century, under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the religion of the State, and wealth and honors were showered upon the clergy. By the imperial edicts of Constantine paganism was suppressed and the power of the Christian Church established. The clergy were the chief recipients of the wealth and influence conferred by royalty. From this fatal union of Church and State arose by degrees the Roman hierarchy, with a power, wealth, and dominion far surpassing that of the ancient commonwealth. The Christian society, according to the learned French minister Guizot in his able work on civilization, at first a simple association, where the most talented became teacher and preacher, in the fourth century, by the union of Church and State, passed under the rule of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, organized into a regular aristocratic government with extensive revenues and authority. The precise period of this change, says Guizot, from the simplicity of the early Christians to this artificial and aspiring organization, cannot be ascertained. The union of Church and State made wealth and power leading objects of ambitious bishops and priests, and hence arose the Catholic and Arian persecutions, and these rival creeds became in succession the religion of the State under Constantine, and his successors. These unprincipled persecutions were destructive of the true spirit of Christianity.
In the fifth century came the overthrow of the Roman Empire by the Teutonic tribes, who poured like a tornado from the north, upon the corrupt and decaying Romans. Into this unenlightened mass Christianity was infused age after age. The natural result of this state of things was the superiority of the church over the ignorant and superstitious princes and people of Europe during the middle ages, as illustrated by the Crusades, by the papal interdict of kingdoms, and dethronment of kings. The Church bore the ark of the covenant, and by uniting the Christian nations of Europe, she brought civilization and the remains of ancient knowledge through the wilderness of the dark ages. The knowledge of the Byzantine Empire conveyed to Europe by the returning Crusaders in the 12th and 13th centuries, the amelioration of the feudal system of lawless violence by chivalry and the laborious studies of pious and learned Catholic