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proclamation of Christianity, when first piercing the atmosphere circumjacent to any oracle; and, in fact, to their gross appreciations, Christian truth was like the scavenger bird in Eastern climates, or the stork in Holland, which signalizes its presence by devouring all the native brood of vermin, or nuisances, as fast as they reproduce themselves under local distemperatures of climate or soil.
It is interesting to pursue the same ignoble superstition, which, in fact, under Romish hands, soon crept like a parasitical plant over Christianity itself, until it had nearly strangled its natural vigor, back into times far preceding that of the fathers. Spite of all that could be wrought by Heaven, for the purpose of continually confounding the local vestiges of popular reverence which might have gathered round stocks and stones, so obstinate is the hankering after this mode of superstition in man that his heart returns to it with an elastic recoil as often as the openings are restored. Agreeably to this infatuation, the temple of the true God—even its awful adytum · the holy of holies or the places where the ark of the covenant had rested in its migrations - all were conceived to have an eternal and a self-vindicating sanctity. So thought man: but God himself, though to man's folly pledged to the vindication of his own sanctities, thought far otherwise; as we know by numerous profanations of all holy places in Judea, triumphantly carried through, and avenged by no plausible judgments. To speak only of the latter temple, three men are memorable as having polluted its holiest recesses: Antiochus Epiphanes, Pompey about a century later, and Titus pretty nearly by the
same exact interval later than Pompey. Upon which of these three did any judgment descend? Attempts have been made to impress that coloring of the sequel in two of these cases, indeed, but without effect upon any man's mind. Possibly in the case of Antiochus, who seems to have moved under a burning hatred, not so much of the insurgent Jews as of the true faith which prompted their resistance, there is some colorable argument for viewing him in his miserable death as a monument of divine wrath. But the two others had no such malignant spirit; they were tolerant, and even merciful; were authorized instruments for executing the purposes of Providence; and no calamity in the life of either can be reasonably traced to his dealings with Palestine. Yet, if Christianity could not brook for an instant the mere coëxistence of a Pagan oracle, how came it that the Author of Christianity had thus brooked (nay, by many signs of coöperation, had promoted) that ultimate desecration, which planted "the abomination of desolation" as a victorious crest of Paganism upon his own solitary altar? The institution of the Sabbath, again—what part of the Mosaic economy could it more plausibly have been expected that God should vindicate by some memorable interference, since of all the Jewish institutions it was that one which only and which frequently became the occasion of wholesale butchery to the pious (however erring) Jews? The scruple of the Jews to fight, or even to resist an assassin, on the Sabbath, was not the less pious in its motive because erroneous in principle; yet no miracle interfered to save them from the consequences of their infatuation. And
this seemed the more remarkable in the case of their war with Antiochus, because that (if any that history has recorded) was a holy war. But, after one tragical experience, which cost the lives of a thousand martyrs, the Maccabees - quite as much on a level with their scrupulous brethren in piety as they were superior in good sense ― began to reflect that they had no shadow of a warrant from Scripture for counting upon any miraculous aid; that the whole expectation, from first to last, had been human and presumptuous; and that the obligation of fighting valiantly against idolatrous compliances was, at all events, paramount to the obligation of the Sabbath. In one hour, after unyoking themselves from this monstrous millstone of their own forging, about their own necks, the cause rose buoyantly aloft as upon wings of victory; and, as their very earliest reward
as the first fruits from thus disabusing their minds of windy presumptions - they found the very case itself melting away which had furnished the scruple ; since their cowardly enemies, now finding that they would fight on all days alike, had no longer any motive for attacking them on the Sabbath; besides that their own astonishing victories henceforward secured to them often the choice of the day not less than of the ground.
But, without lingering on these outworks of the true religion, namely, 1st, the Temple of Jerusalem ; 2dly, the Sabbath, - both of which the divine wisdom often saw fit to lay prostrate before the presumption of idolatrous assaults, on principles utterly irreconcilable with the Oracle doctrine of the fathers, - there is a still more flagrant argument against the
fathers, which it is perfectly confounding to find both them and their confuter overlooking. It is this. Oracles, take them at the very worst, were no otherwise hostile to Christianity than as a branch of Paganism. If, for instance, the Delphic establishment were hateful (as doubtless it was) to the holy spirit of truth which burned in the mind of an apostle, why was it hateful? Not primarily in its character of Oracle, but in its universal character of Pagan temple; not as an authentic distributor of counsels adapted to the infinite situations of its clients - often very wise counsels; but as being ultimately engrafted on the stem of idolatrous religion as deriving, in the last resort, their sanctions from Pagan deities, and, therefore, as sharing constructively in all the pollutions of that tainted source. Now, therefore, if Christianity, according to the fancy of the fathers, could not tolerate the co-presence of so much evil as resided in the Oracle superstition, that is, in the derivative, in the secondary, in the not unfrequently neutralized or even redundantly compensated mode of error,-then, à fortiori, Christianity could not have tolerated for an hour the parent superstition, the larger evil, the fontal error, which diseased the very organ of vision - which not merely distorted a few objects on the road, but spread darkness over the road itself. Yet what is the fact? So far from any mysterious repulsion externally between idolatrous errors and Christianity, as though the two schemes of belief could no more coëxist in the same society than two queen-bees in a hive,- as though elementary nature herself recoiled from the abominable concursus, do but open a child's epitome of 22
history, and you find it to have required four entire centuries before the destroyer's hammer and crowbar began to ring loudly against the temples of idolatrous worship; and not before five, nay, locally six, or even seven centuries had elapsed, could the better angel of mankind have sung gratulations announcing that the great strife was over - that man was inoculated with the truth; or have adopted the impressive language of a Latin father, that "the owls were to be heard in every village hooting from the dismantled fanes of heathenism, or the gaunt wolf disturbing the sleep of peasants as he yelled in winter from the cold, dilapidated altars." Even this victorious consummation was true only for the southern world of civilization. The forests of Germany, though pierced already to the south in the third and fourth centuries by the torch of missionaries, though already at that time illuminated by the immortal Gothic version of the New Testament preceding Ulppilas, and still surviving, sheltered through ages in the north and east vast tribes of idolaters, some awaiting the baptism of Charlemagne in the eighth century and the ninth, others actually resuming a fierce countenance of heathenism for the martial zeal of crusading knights in the thirteenth and fourteenth. The history of Constantine has grossly misled the world. It was very early in the fourth century (313 A. D.) that Constantine found himself strong enough to take his earliest steps for raising Christianity to a privileged station; which station was not merely an effect and monument of its progress, but a further cause of progress. In this latter light, as a power advancing and moving, but politically still militant, Christianity