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France may be regarded as a fair national type of the opposition to all religion which this horrible perversion of the Gospel has occasioned, we see that no proper estimate of the power it has exerted in the past can be made which does not take this opposition into consideration. More especially, as this feeling was called forth from the beginning of the apostacy, became more intense and spread more widely as the corruptions multiplied, and finally divided the feeling of the most intelligent between disgust and hypocrisy.
In addition to the obstacles already referred to, wrought by Popish corruption and perversion, the false system of joining the Christian Church with the national government must be considered. This was injurious not only because of the opposite principles on which the two communities are based, but also because it involved the Church in the ruin of national defeat; and tying the recovered Church to the State as a part of the political system retarded and obstructed its own proper work, while it forbade all passing of the national boundary. How great a hindrance this was, may be seen in the fruit of the free labours of the Church at the present day. No national
Church has accomplished its own proper work by Christianizing its own nation. And every one, in its efforts to extend the influence of the Gospel, has gone on principles which contradict its own nationality. The first commission was, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.' All modern progress has been achieved by following this commission, and by acknowledging no distinctions within humanity. Such freedom of action, however, was impossible under the order established by Constantine, and confirmed, enlarged, intensified, and perpetuated by the Papacy.
But with all these obstructions, most of which have continued far into the present century, we see results which present the fairest picture which the history of man contains. When the Bible was first given to modern Europe, its people had little besides existence. No education or liberty, scarcely any social life, no political power; they were a multitude of comparative barbarians, who were kept in order by the stern hand of their rulers, who drove them to battle, or slaughtered and ground them to dust at their own caprice, none daring to stop them.
But these oppressed people
were able to apprehend the unutterable love of God in their redemption, and found that they had Divine authority for coming to God on His throne in all their need; and in coming they obtained the victory over all meanness in themselves, and thus were able to walk worthy of their high vocation in all lowliness and meekness with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Thus they not only themselves realized the true dignity of man, but they presented such an example of human excellence to others as commended itself, while the ameliorating influence of their practice operated to the general softening of manners, the quickening of the intellect, and the awakening of desire for similar good. Such a condition as the Gospel produces, when its influence is wide enough to give tone and direction to manners and practice, is the only one in which full secular good can be obtained.
Where it prevails, it destroys injustice, and every vice which occasions discord and war, and unites all in labour for the common good; it compels legislation and government to recognise every right, and thus establishes a condition in which science
can flourish, literature expand and elevate, artistic beauty and grandeur refine, and philosophy knit and strengthen. These effects have followed, during the past three centuries, in the measure in which this Divine revelation has been received and followed. And we can now see, in various parts of the world, tribes of barbarians, who in one generation not only have attained to just views of the Divine nature and government, and are practising a worship in harmony with the most refined and intelligent peoples, but who have acquired a civilisation which puts them on a par with old European nations in dress, habitation, food, and pursuits.
The literary side of these facts is as truly unique as all the other operations of the Lifegiver. There is no ancient record of a barbarous people having suddenly developed literary tastes and practices. But at present this is the uniform result of receiving the Gospel. And this cannot be accounted for by change of time, or prevalence of literary culture in the world generally, because even now no tribe of heathen barbarians has either the ability or the inclination to read, while no Christian tribe is without either. The immediate consequence of receiving the Gospel by oral teaching is a desire to read for themselves, that they may be directly certified of the words and works of their Saviour. There is no book but the Bible which has this quickening power; but so invariable is its operation, that it is impossible to introduce it to any people but it creates readers. How can we account for this but by a quickening power exerted on the intellect, drawing it to other minds, just as the same power on the character breaks the bonds of selfishness and isolation, and sends the man forth in the attractive guise of brotherhood, to mingle with and to mould in a true charity all whom he touches. Whatever the explanation we may give of the laws by which it works, we have evidently a singular correlation between this record of Divine words and works and the human intellect when in harmony with the rest of the nature.
The history of religion in our own country presents a most important series of facts for our present consideration. More than hundred years before John Wickliffe began his translation of the Bible into English, the Council of Constance had decreed, 'We forbid the laity to possess any books of the Old