S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
What can that man fear who takes care to please a Being that is so able to crush all his adversaries? A Being that can divert any misfortune from befalling him, or turn any such misfortune to his advantage?
The great received articles of the Christian religion have been so clearly proved, from the authority of that divine revelation in which they are delivered, that it is impossible for those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see, not to be convinced of them. But were it possible for anything in the Christian faith to be erroneous, I can find no ill consequences in adhering to it. The great points of the incarnation and sufferings of our Saviour produce naturally such habits of virtue in the mind of man, that, I say, supposing it were possible for us to be mistaken in them, the infidel himself must at least allow that no other system of religion could so effectually contribute to the heightening morality. They give us great ideas of the dignity of human nature, and of the love which the Supreme Being bears to his creatures, and consequently engage us in the highest acts of duty towards our Creator, our neighbour, and ourselves.
The pre-eminence of Christianity to any other religious scheme which preceded it, appears from this, that the most eminent among the pagan philosophers disclaimed many of those superstitious follies which are condemned by revealed religion.
When religion was woven into the civil government, and flourished under the protection of the emperors, mens thoughts and discourses were full of secular affairs; but in the three first centuries of Christianity men who embraced this religion had given up all their interests in this world, and lived in a perpetual preparation for the next.
It happened, very providentially, to the honour of the Christian religion, that it did not take its rise in the dark illiterate ages of the world, but at a time when arts and sciences were at their height.
No religion ever appeared in the world whose natural tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind. It makes right reason a law in every possible definition of the word. And therefore, even supposing it to have been purely a human invention, it had been the most amiable and the most useful invention that was ever imposed on mankind for their good.
But the introduction of Christianity, which, under whatever form, always confers such inestimable benefits on mankind, soon made a sensible change in these rude and fierce manners. It is by no means impossible, that, for an end so worthy, Providence on some occasions might directly have interposed.
That the Christian religion cannot exist in this country with such a fraternity will not, I think, be disputed with me. On that religion, according to our mode, all our laws and institutions stand, as upon their base. That scheme is supposed in every transaction of life; and if that were done away, everything else, as in France, must be changed along with it. Thus, religion perishing, and with it this Constitution, it is a matter of endless meditation what order of things would follow it.
What was it to the Pharaohs of Egypt of that old era, if Jethro the Midianite priest and grazier accepted the Hebrew outlaw as his herdsman? Yet the Pharaohs, with all their chariots of war, are buried deep in the wrecks of time; and that Moses still lives, not among his own tribe only, but in the hearts and daily business of all civilized nations. Or figure Mahomet in his youthful years travelling to the horse-fairs of Syria. Nay, to take an infinitely higher instance: who has ever forgotten those lines of Tacitus; inserted as a small transitory altogether trifling circumstance in the history of such a potentate as Nero? To us it is the most earnest and strongly significant passage that we know to exist in writing: Ergo abolendo rumori, Nero subdidit reos, et quæsitissimis pnis affecit, quos per flagitia invisos, vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis ejus CHRISTUS, qui, Tiberio imperitante, per Procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat. Repressaque in præsens exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat, non modo per Judæam originem ejus mali, sed per urbem etiam quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. So for the quieting of this rumour [of his having set fire to Rome], Nero judicially charged with the crime and punished with the most studied severities that class hated for their general wickedness whom the vulgar call Christians. The originator of that name was one CHRIST, who in the reign of Tiberius suffered death by the sentence of the Procurator Pontius Pilate. The baneful superstition, thereby suppressed for the time, again broke out not only over Judea, the native soil of that mischief, but in the City also, where from every side all atrocious and abominable things collect and flourish. Tacitus was the wisest, most penetrating man of his generation; and to such depth, and no deeper, has he seen into this transaction, the most important that has occurred or can occur in the annals of mankind.
Had it been published by a voice from heaven, that twelve poor men, taken out of boats and creeks, without any help of learning, should conquer the world to the cross, it might have been thought an illusion against all the reason of men; yet we know it was undertaken and accomplished by them. They published this doctrine in Jerusalem, and quickly spread it over the greatest part of the world, folly outwitted wisdom, and weakness overpowered strength. The conquest of the East by Alexander was not so admirable as the enterprise of these poor men.
I have known what the enjoyments and advantages of this life are, and what the more refined pleasures which learning and intellectual power can bestow; and with all the experience that more than threescore years can give, I, now on the eve of my departure, declare to you (and earnestly pray that you may hereafter live and act on the conviction) that health is a great blessing, competence obtained by honourable industry a great blessingand a great blessing it is to have kind, faithful, and loving friends and relatives; but that the greatest of all blessings, as it is the most ennobling of all privileges, is to be indeed a Christian.
The mysterious incarnation of our blessed Saviour Milton made the grand conclusion of Paradise Lost, the zest of his finished labours, and the ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world. Thus you find all that is great or wise or splendid or illustrious among created beings, all the minds gifted beyond ordinary nature, if not inspired by their universal Author for the advancement and dignity of the world, though divided by distant ages and by clashing opinions, yet joining as it were in one sublime chorus to celebrate the truths of Christianity, and laying upon its holy altars the never-fading offerings of their immortal wisdom.
Lord Chancellor Erskine: Speech on Paines Age of Reason.
The universal dispersion of the Jews throughout the world, their unexampled sufferings, and their wondrous preservation, would be sufficient to establish the truth of the Scriptures, if all other testimony were sunk to the bottom of the sea.
What other science can even make a pretension to dethrone oppression, to abolish slavery, to exclude war, to extirpate fraud, to banish violence, to revive the withered blossoms of paradise? Such are the pretensions and blessings of genuine Christianity; and wherever genuine Christianity prevails, they are experienced. Thus it accomplishes its promises on earth, where alone it has enemies: it will therefore accomplish them in heaven, where its friends reign.
Olinthus Gregory: Letters on the Christian Religion.
Now you say, alas! Christianity is hard: I grant it; but gainful and happy. I contemn the difficulty when I respect the advantage. The greatest labours that have answerable requitals are less than the least that have no reward. Believe me, when I look to the reward I would not have the work easier. It is a good Master whom we serve, who not only pays, but gives; not only after the proportion of our earnings, but of His own mercy.
Christianity, issuing perfect and entire from the hands of its Author, will admit of no mutilations nor improvements; it stands most secure on its own basis; and without being indebted to foreign aids, supports itself best by its own internal vigour. When, under the pretence of simplifying it, we attempt to force it into a closer alliance with the most approved systems of philosophy, we are sure to contract its bounds, and to diminish its force and authority over the consciences of men. It is dogmatic; not capable of being advanced with the progress of science, but fixed and immutable.
Robert Hall: Sentiments Proper to the Present Crisis.
Whoever will compare the late defences of Christianity by Locke, Butler, or Clarke with those of the ancient apologists, will discern in the former far more precision and an abler method of reasoning than in the latter; which must be attributed chiefly to the superior spirit of inquiry by which modern times are distinguished. Whatever alarm then may have been taken at the liberty of discussion, religion it is plain hath been a gainer by it; its abuses corrected, and its divine authority settled on a firmer basis than ever.
Her coming [Christianity] found the heathen world without a single house of mercy. Search the Byzantine Chronicles and the pages of Publius Victor; and though the one describes all the public edifices of ancient Constantinople, and the other of ancient Rome, not a word is to be found in either of a charitable institution. Search the ancient marbles in your museums; descend and ransack the graves of Herculaneum and Pompeii; and question the many travellers who have visited the ruined cities of Greece and Rome; and see, if amid all the splendid remains of statues and amphitheatres, baths and granaries, temples, aqueducts and palaces, mausoleums, columns and triumphal arches, a single fragment or inscription can be found telling us that it belonged to a refuge for human want or for the alleviation of human misery.
Christianity did not come from heaven to be the amusement of an idle hour, to be the food of mere imagination; to be as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and playeth well upon an instrument. No: it is intended to be the guide, the guardian, the companion of all hours; it is intended to be the food of our immortal spirits; it is intended to be the serious occupation of our whole existence.
The miracles which prove the Christian religion are attested by men who have no interest in deceiving us . When we take the prophecies which have been so exactly fulfilled, we have most satisfactory evidence.
As to the Christian religion, besides the strong evidence which we have for it, there is a balance in its favour from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth after a serious consideration of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a man of the world, who certainly had no bias on the side of religion. Sir Isaac Newton set out an infidel, and came to be a very firm believer.
The influence of Christianity has been very efficient toward the introduction of a better and more enlightened sense of right and justice among the several governments of Europe. It taught the duty of benevolence to strangers, of humanity to the vanquished, of the obligation of good faith,of the sin of murder, revenge, and rapacity. The history of Europe during the earlier periods of modern history abounds with interesting and strong cases to show the authority of the Church over turbulent princes and fierce warriors, and the effect of that authority in meliorating manners, checking violence, and introducing a system of morals which inculcated peace, moderation, and justice.
The greatest happiness principle of Mr. Bentham is included in the Christian morality, and, to our thinking, it is there exhibited in an infinitely more sound and philosophical form than in the Utilitarian speculations. For in the New Testament it is neither an identical proposition nor a contradiction in terms; and, as laid down by Mr. Bentham, it must be either the one or the other. Do as you would be done by: Love your neighbour as yourself: these are the precepts of Jesus Christ. Understood in an enlarged sense, these precepts are, in fact, a direction to every man to promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number. But this direction would be utterly unmeaning, as it actually is in Mr. Benthams philosophy, unless it were accompanied by a sanction. In the Christian scheme, accordingly, it is accompanied by a sanction of immense force. To a man whose greatest happiness in this world is inconsistent with the greatest happiness of the greatest number is held out the prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter, from which he excludes himself by wronging his fellow-creatures here.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Westminster Reviews Defence of Mill, June, 1829.
The real security of Christianity is to be found in its benevolent morality, in its exquisite adaptation to the human heart, in the facility with which its scheme accommodates itself to the capacity of every human intellect, in the consolation which it bears to the house of mourning, in the light with which it brightens the great mystery of the grave. To such a system it can bring no addition of dignity or of strength, that it is part and parcel of the common law. It is not now for the first time left to rely on the force of its own evidences and the attractions of its own beauty. Its sublime theology confounded the Grecian schools in the fair conflict of reason with reason. The bravest and wisest of the Cæsars found their arms and their policy unavailing, when opposed to the weapons that were not carnal, and the kingdom that was not of this world. The victory which Porphyry and Diocletian failed to gain is not, to all appearance, reserved for any of those who have, in this age, directed their attacks against the last restraint of the powerful, and the last hope of the wretched. The whole history of Christianity shows that she is in far greater danger of being corrupted by the alliance of power, than of being crushed by its opposition. Those who thrust temporal sovereignty upon her treat her as their prototypes treated her author. They bow the knee, and spit upon her; they cry Hail! and smite her on the cheek; they put a sceptre in her hand, but it is a fragile reed; they crown her, but it is with thorns; they cover with purple the wounds which their own hands have inflicted on her; and inscribe magnificent letters over the cross on which they have fixed her to perish in ignominy and pain.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Southeys Colloquies on Society, Jan. 1830.
One single expression which Mr. Sadler employs on this subject is sufficient to show how utterly incompetent he is to discuss it. On the Christian hypothesis, says he, no doubt exists as to the origin of evil. He does not, we think, understand what is meant by the origin of evil. The Christian Scriptures profess to give no solution of the mystery. They relate facts; but they leave the metaphysical question undetermined. They tell us that man fell; but why he was not so constituted as to be incapable of falling, or why the Supreme Being has not mitigated the consequences of the Fall more than they actually have been mitigated, the Scriptures did not tell us, and, it may without presumption be said, could not tell us, unless we had been creatures different from what we are. There is something, either in the nature of our faculties or in the nature of the machinery employed by us for the purpose of reasoning, which condemns us on this and similar subjects to hopeless ignorance. Man can understand these high matters only by ceasing to be man, just as a fly can understand a lemma of Newton only by ceasing to be a fly. To make it an objection to the Christian system that it gives us no solution of these difficulties is to make it an objection to the Christian system that it is a system formed for human beings. Of the puzzles of the Academy there is not one which does not apply as strongly to Deism as to Christianity, and to Atheism as to Deism. There are difficulties in everything. Yet we are sure that something must be true.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Sadlers Refutation Refuted, Jan. 1831.
Sir, in supporting the motion of my honourable friend, I am, I firmly believe, supporting the honour and the interests of the Christian religion. I should think that I insulted that religion if I said that it cannot stand unaided by intolerant laws. Without such laws it was established, and without such laws it may be maintained. It triumphed over the superstitions of the most refined and of the most savage nations, over the graceful mythology of Greece and the bloody idolatry of the Northern forests. It prevailed over the power and policy of the Roman empire. It tamed the barbarians by whom that empire was overthrown. But all these victories were gained not by the help of intolerance, but in spite of the opposition of intolerance. The whole history of Christianity proves that she has indeed little to fear from persecution as a foe, but much to fear from persecution as an ally. May she long continue to bless our country with her benignant influence, strong in her sublime philosophy, strong in her spotless morality, strong in those internal and external evidences to which the most powerful and comprehensive of human intellects have yielded assent, the last solace of those who have outlived every earthly hope, the last restraint of those who are raised above every earthly fear! But let us not, mistaking her character and her interests, fight the battle of truth with the weapons of error, and endeavour to support by oppression that religion which first taught the human race the great lesson of universal charity.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech in House of Commons, April 17, 1833, On Jewish Disabilities.
We led them [the people of India] to believe that we attached no importance to the difference between Christianity and heathenism. Yet how vast that difference is! I altogether abstain from alluding to topics which belong to divines. I speak merely as a politician anxious for the morality and the temporal well-being of society. And, so speaking, I say that to countenance the Brahminical idolatry, and to discountenance that religion which has done so much to promote justice, and mercy, and freedom, and arts, and sciences, and good government, and domestic happiness, which has struck off the chains of the slave, which has mitigated the horrors of war, which has raised women from servants and playthings into companions and friends, is to commit high treason against humanity and civilization.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Speech in House of Commons, March 9, 1843, On the Gates of Somnauth.
Rome must be imagined in the vastness and uniformity of its social condition, the mingling and confusion of races, languages, conditions, in order to conceive the slow, imperceptible, yet continuous progress of Christianity. Amid the affairs of the universal empire, the perpetual revolutions which were constantly calling up new dynasties, or new masters over the world, the pomp and state of the imperial palace, the commerce, the business flowing in from all parts of the world, the bustle of the Basilicas or courts of law, the ordinary religious ceremonies, or the more splendid rites on signal occasions, which still went on, if with diminishing concourse of worshippers, with their old sumptuousness, magnificence, and frequency, the public games, the theatres, the gladiatorial shows, the Lucullan or Apician banquets, Christianity was gradually withdrawing from the heterogeneous mass some of all orders, even slaves, out of the vices, the ignorance, the misery, of that corrupted social system. It was instilling humanity, yet unknown, or coldly commended by an impotent philosophy, among men and women whose infant ears had been habituated to the shrieks of dying gladiators; it was giving dignity to minds prostrated by years, almost centuries, of degrading despotism; it was nurturing purity and modesty of manners in an unspeakable state of deprivation; it was enshrining the marriage-bed in a sanctity long almost entirely lost, and rekindling to a steady warmth the domestic affections; it was substituting a simple, calm, and rational faith and worship for the worn-out superstitions of heathenism; gently establishing in the soul of man the sense of immortality till it became a natural and inextinguishable part of his moral being.
He that can apprehend and consider vice with all her baits and seeming pleasures, and yet abstain, and yet distinguish, and yet prefer that which is truly better, he is the true way-faring Christian. I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised, and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.
Christianity bears all the marks of a divine original: it came down from heaven, and its gracious purpose is to carry us up thither. Its author is God; it was foretold by the beginning from prophecies, which grew clearer and brighter as they approached the period of their accomplishment. It was confirmed by miracles, which continued till the religion they illustrated was established. It was ratified by the blood of its author; its doctrines are pure, sublime, consistent; its precepts just and holy; its worship is spiritual; its service reasonable, and rendered practicable by the offers of divine aid to human weakness. It is sanctioned by the promise of eternal happiness to the faithful, and the threat of everlasting misery to the disobedient. It had no collusion with power, for power sought to crush it; it could not be in any league with the world, for it set out by declaring itself the enemy of the world; it reprobated its maxims, it showed the vanity of its glories, the danger of its riches, the emptiness of its pleasures. This religion does not consist in external conformity to practices which, though right in themselves, may be adopted from human motives, and to answer secular purposes; it is not a religion of forms, and modes, and decencies; it is being transformed into the image of God; it is being like-minded with Christ; it is considering Him as our sanctification, as well as our redemption; it is endeavouring to live to Him here, that we may live with Him hereafter.
We live in the midst of blessings till we are utterly insensible of their greatness, and of the source from whence they flow. We speak of our civilization, our arts, our freedom, our laws, and forget entirely how large a share is due to Christianity. Blot Christianity out of the pages of mans history, and what would his laws have been?what his civilization? Christianity is mixed up with our very being and our daily life: there is not a familiar object around us which does not wear a different aspect because the light of Christian love is on it; not a law which does not owe its truth and gentleness to Christianity; not a custom which cannot be traced in all its holy, healthful parts to the Gospel.
Christianity forbids no necessary occupations, no reasonable indulgences, no innocent relaxations. It allows us to use the world, provided we do not abuse it. It does not spread before us a delicious banquet, and then come with a touch not, taste not, handle not. All it requires is, that our liberty degenerate not into licentiousness, our amusements into dissipation, our industry into incessant toil, our carefulness into extreme anxiety and endless solicitude. So far from forbidding us to engage in business, it expressly commands us not to be slothful in it, and to labour with our hands for the things that he needful; it enjoins every one to abide in the calling wherein he was called, and perform all the duties of it. It even stigmatizes those that provide not for their own, with telling them that they are worse than infidels. When it requires us to be temperate in all things, it plainly tells us that we may use all things temperately; when it directs us to make our moderation known unto all men, this evidently implies that, within the bounds of moderation, we may enjoy all the reasonable conveniences and comforts of the present life.
Our religion is a religion that dares to be understood; that offers itself to the search of the inquisitive, to the inspection of the severest and the most awakened reason; for, being secure of her substantial truth and purity, she knows that for her to be seen and looked into is to be embraced and admired; as there needs no greater argument for men to love the light than to see it.
Though it be not against strict justice for a man to do those things which he might otherwise lawfully do, albeit his neighbour doth take occasion from thence to conceive in his mind a false belief, yet Christian charity will, in many cases, restrain a man.
It is owing to the forbidding and unlovely constraint with which men of low conceptions act when they think they conform themselves to religion, as well as to the more odious conduct of hypocrites, that the word Christian does not carry with it at first view all that is great, worthy, friendly, generous, and heroic. The man who suspends his hopes of the reward of worthy actions till after death, who can bestow unseen, who can overlook hatred, do good to his slanderer, who can never be angry at his friend, never revengeful to his enemy, is certainly formed for the benefit of society. Yet these are so far from heroic virtues, that they are but the ordinary duties of a Christian.
If Christianity were once abolished, how could the free thinkers, the strong reasoners, and the men of profound learning, be able to find another subject so calculated, in all points, whereon to display their abilities? What wonderful productions of wit should we be deprived of from those whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly turned upon raillery and invectives against religion, and would therefore never be able to shine or distinguish themselves upon any other subject! We are daily complaining of the great decline of wit among us, and would take away the greatest, perhaps the only topic we have left . For had an hundred such pens as these been employed on the side of religion, they would have immediately sunk into silence and oblivion.
Jonathan Swift: Argument against Abolishing Christianity.
He is a good man who grieves rather for him that injures him than for his own suffering; who prays for him who wrongs him, forgiving all his faults; who sooner shows mercy than anger; who offers violence to his appetite in all things; endeavouring to subdue the flesh to the spirit. This is an excellent abbreviature of the whole duty of a Christian.
Christianity came into the world with the greatest simplicity of thought and language, as well as life and manners, holding forth nothing but piety, charity, and humility, with the belief of the Messiah and of his kingdom.
Christianity is lost among them in the trappings and accoutrements of it, with which, instead of adorning religion, they have strangely disguised it, and quite stifled it in the crowd of external rites and ceremonies.
It is the peculiar nature of the inestimable treasure of Christian truth and religious knowledge, that the more it is withheld from people, the less they wish for it; and the more is bestowed upon them, the more they hunger and thirst after it. If people are kept upon a short allowance of food, they are eager to obtain it; if you keep a man thirsty, he will become the more and more thirsty; if he is poor, he is exceedingly anxious to become rich; but if he is left in a state of spiritual destitution, he will, and still more his children, cease to feel it, and cease to care about it. It is the last want men can be trusted (in the first instance) to supply for themselves.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Plantations.
The main distinction between real Christianity and the system of the bulk of nominal Christians chiefly consists in the different place which is assigned in the two schemes to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. These, in the scheme of nominal Christians, if admitted at all, appear but like the stars of the firmament to the ordinary eye. Those splendid luminaries draw forth, perhaps, occasionally a transient expression of admiration when we behold their beauty, or hear of their distances, magnitudes, or properties; now and then, too, we are led, perhaps, to muse upon their possible uses; but, however curious as subjects of speculation, it must, after all, be confessed they twinkle to the common observer with a vain and idle lustre; and except in the dreams of the astrologer have no influence on human happiness, or any concern with the course and order of the world. But to the real Christian, on the contrary, these peculiar doctrines constitute the centre to which he gravitates! the very sun of his system! the origin of all that is excellent and lovely! the source of light, and life, and motion, and genial warmth, and plastic energy! Dim is the light of reason, and cold and comfortless our state while left to her unassisted guidance. Even the Old Testament itself, though a revelation from Heaven, shines but with feeble and scanty rays. But the blessed truths of the Gospel are now unveiled to our eyes, and we are called upon to behold and to enjoy the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, in the full radiance of its meridian splendour. The words of inspiration best express our highly-favoured state: We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Since the revelation of Christianity all moral thought has been sanctified by religion. Religion has given to it a purity, a solemnity, a sublimity which even amongst the noblest of the heathen we shall look for in vain. The knowledge that shone by fits and dimly on the eyes of Socrates and Plato, that rolled in vain to find the light, has descended over many lands into the huts where poor men lie; and thoughts are familiar there, beneath the low and smoking roofs, higher far than ever flowed from Grecian sage meditating among the magnificence of his pillared temples.
Professor John Wilson: Recreations of Christopher North.
There are two considerations upon which my faith in Christ is built as upon a rock: the fall of man, the redemption of man, and the resurrection of man, the three cardinal doctrines of our religion, are such as human ingenuity could never have invented; therefore they must be divine. The other argument is this: If the prophecies have been fulfilled (of which there is abundant demonstration), the Scripture must be the Word of God; and if the Scripture is the Word of God, Christianity must be true.
Dr. Edward Young, the Poet: Cowper to Lady Hesketh, July 12, 1765.