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the most essential requisite to happiness both here and hereafter P 2dly, I must observe, that a very large part of those animosities, wars, and massacres, which have been usually styled religious, and with the entire guilt of which Christianity has been very unjustly loaded, have been altogether, or at least in a great measure, owing to causes of a very different nature; to the ambition, the resentment, the avarice, the rapacity of princes and of conquerors, who assumed the mask of religion to veil their real purposes, and who pretended to fight in the cause of God and his church, when they had in reality nothing else in view than to advance their power or extend their dominions. All history is full of instances of this kind. 3dly, It should be remembered, that the wildest excesses of religious persecution did not take place till the world was overrun with barbarity, ignorance, bigotry, and superstition; till military ideas predominated in every thing, in the form of T 2 government, government, in the temper of the laws, in the tenure of lands, in the administration of justice itself; and till the Scriptures were shut up in a foreign tongue, and were therefore unknown to the people. It was not therefore from the Gospel, but from a total ignorance of the Gospel, from a total perversion of its true temper, genius, and spirit, that these excesses and
enormities arose. 4thly, That this is the real truth of the case, appears demonstrably from this circumstance, that when after the Reformation the Scriptures were translated into the several vernacular languages of Europe, and the real nature of the Christian Revelation became of course more generally known, the violence of persecution began to abate; and as the sacred writings were more and more studied, and their true sense better understood, the baneful spirit of intolerance lost ground every day, and the divine principle of Christian charity and benevolence has been continually gaining fresh -S strength; strength; till at length, at the present moment, persecution by Christians on the score of religion only, has almost entirely vanished from the face of the earth; and we may venture to indulge the hope, that wars of religion, strictly so called, will be heard of no more. I now proceed to explain the verses immediately following that which we have been just considering.
“I am come, says our Lord, to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-lawagainst her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be those of his own household.”
This passage is a clear proof that the calamities and miseries predicted in the preceding verse relate primarily and principally to the apostles themselves, because these words are almost a repetition of what our Lord applied to them in the 27th verse, “ The brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the
father the child; and the children shall T 3 rise
rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death *.” Now as these cruelties were inflicted on the apostles, not by believers, but by unbelieving Jews and heathens, that is, by the enemies of the Gospel, it is evident, that when our Saviour says he came to set a man at variance against his father, and so on, he meant only to say, that the religion which he taught would meet with the most violent opposition from the world, and would expose his apostles and disciples to the most unjust and inhuman treatment, even sometimes from their nearest relations. Our Lord then goes on to say, “ He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of met.” This has an evident reference to the two preceding verses; in which our Lord had declared, that amidst the various miseries that would be occasioned by the wickedness and barbarity of those who rejected and resisted the Christian religion, dissensions would * Matt. x. 21. + Matt. x, 37.
would arise even among those most nearly connected with each other, and the true Christian would sometimes find his bitterest enemies even in the bosom of his own family. A father would perhaps persecute his own son, and a mother her daughter, on account of her religious opinions, and would by argument and by influence endeavour to persuade, or by authority and power to compel them to abjure their faith. In cases such as these our Lord here intimates, that when the choice is between renouncing our nearest relations and renouncing our religion, we must not hesitate a moment what part we are to take ; we must, to obey God rather than man, we must give up all, and follow Christ. “He that loveth father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son and daughter more than me, is not worthy of me*.” That is, evidently, when the nearest and dearest relations come in competition with our belief in Christ, and * Acts, v. 29. Mark, x. 28. T 4 obedience