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'the One, Sole, and Only God,' whom to the end they acknowledged, and whom Pythagoras and Plato found buried under heaps of idolatrous rubbish.
This tendency is not only seen in the domain of doctrine and ritual, but also in social and private life. When selfishness is fostered, it chokes the good seed, and thus destroys the vital power needed for the fruits of righteousness, and the life, while nominally Christian, is really heathen. The authorized means of diffusing Christianity, by a real spiritual life, in all such cases is absent; and if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall the world be salted ?
Both these tendencies were seen in churches of apostolic times; hence the warnings and rebukes of the Apostles. But in after times they were more fully developed, until the love of God and man were exchanged for orthodox opinion, which generally meant the blind following of a popular leader; outward, formal worship was substituted for communion with God, and obedience to a self-constituted priest was put in the place of keeping the Divine law. If the Gospel, as we have it in the Scriptures, is the power of God unto salvation, then such a parody of that Gospel must be powerless except to ruin. But all through the time this process of corruption was going on, there were many here and there all through Christendom who enjoyed true fellowship with God, and who strove also to make others partakers of like precious faith. And then, by the good providence of the Supreme King, the records of His past fellowship with man were preserved, and as soon as they were given again to the world, the bonds of an enslaving priesthood were broken, men again drew nigh boldly to the throne of grace, and being quickened together with their risen Saviour, walked in newness of life.
Since the sixteenth century, it has been impossible to shut up the Bible from the general population; and from that time, national regeneration has progressed. The circulation of the Scriptures has been hindered by every device which human and diabolic cunning and malice could invent; but there has been a power in this simple record of the work of the incarnate God for and in man, which without the use of carnal weapons has compelled the most adverse governments, in spite of themselves, to admit it into their countries. Now, we have no nation of any
. consequence in which the Bible is not read; but it has taken three centuries to break down the formidable opposition which human governments presented to its use. It is a fact worthy of special consideration in the present argument, that when the Bible was translated into modern language, there was not a nation whose rulers did not most bitterly oppose its circulation. These men were nominally Christians, and under the dominion of the Papacy, which claims to be the Church, and which not only has forbidden its use to all her children, but has delivered to death many thousands of them for no other offence than the possession and use of the Bible.
We call attention to this, not simply to point out the injustice and cruelty which are involved, and the impious assumptions so contrary to the law of God and to the obligations which our relations to one another impose; but further and especially, to protest against any who do this being regarded as the servants of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus, or their failure to improve and save men being taken as a proof of the impotence of the Gospel. Their prohibition
of the Scriptures declares that they themselves are conscious that their religion is not founded on them, so that if they had succeeded in the work of human recovery it would have proved that this full Divine revelation was unnecessary. Their rock is not as our Rock, they themselves being judges. During the last ten centuries, not only has the deadly enmity of the Papacy to the Bible been shown, by preventing its use, but by substituting for all its most important and operative facts spurious human fancies, which have made void the Divine law. With the kiss of Judas it has betrayed the Son of God, deposed Him from His mediatorial throne, parodied His atonement, and smothered the life which is its fruit. Such a system has no relation to the Author of the universe and the Father of man but pure antagonism. It crushes the intellect, prohibits inquiry, destroys manliness, and binds man in abject slavery to a gigantic charlatanism which is fruitful only of degradation and ruin.
In this mock Gospel, which by sinuous and concealed progression gained dominion over the nations of Europe, which assumed the titles and used the names of the true, there was not only deception for the time being, which deluded and impoverished, but by its baneful effects it closed the hearts of men against the Saviour who had been so grossly misrepresented. Thus, when the real disciples of the Saviour offered His own revelation, they were met with refusals even to inquire into its validity, because it was from Him the oppressive and degrading priesthood had professed to exercise the rule which had impoverished and ruined their country, perverted or deposed their kings, stirred up wars of extermination, and generally had used nations simply as pawns in their game of usurpation and pillage. The opposition which many prominent men in France now show to religion, in most cases is not really to the Gospel, but to that terrible perversion of it which has striven to establish a supreme and irresponsible tyranny over every side of their national life; which has been a plague to their politics, a curse in their families, and a tax upon their industry; which began by insulting their understanding, and has ended in closing it against the only means of individual and national regeneration and strength, because its bitterest enemy had usurped its name. As