Imatges de pÓgina

mother. He was as free from the mercenary spirit as though he belonged to a world where the very idea of property was unknown. And this total abstinence from all ownership was not of necessity, but of choice; and I say there is nothing like it, nothing that approaches it in the history of universal man. It stands out perfectly and divinely original.

And, finally, Jesus was the founder of a new religion; and the desire and effort of all merely human minds would be to secure its acceptance by connecting discipleship with personal pleasure or temporal advantage. Milton makes the Devil say to Jesus, "If at great things thou wouldst arrive, get riches first; get wealth, and treasure heap." And this temptation no man under such circumstances ever did or could resist. But Christ, from the first, took this position above the human race, and to the end retained it without an effort. He divorces his Gospel from any alloy of earth. Money, property, and all they represent and control, have nothing to do with membership in his society, with citizenship in his kingdom. The very conception of the idea was divine. Not only is it not human, but it is every whit contrary to what is human. He could not have borrowed it, for he wa surrounded by those who were not able to comprehend the idea-no, not even the apostles, until after the day of Pentecost. As to the multitude, they sought Jesus, not because they saw the miracles and were convinced, but because they ate and were filled. And so it always has been, and is now in this same country. In this matter our missionary experience is most painful, and I hope somewhat peculiar. It would not be charitable-possibly not just— to say to every applicant, You seek us, not because you have examined our doctrines and believe them, but for the loaves and fishes of some worldly advantage which you hope to obtain; and yet it is difficult for me at this moment to recall a single instance in which this was not the first moving motive. Nor does this apply to converts to Protestantism merely, but to all sects, and to all religious changes among the people. Religion is, in fact, a species of property, valued, not for its truth, but for its available price in the mar



ket. And thus it was in the time of our Saviour, and he knew it. He knew that the multitude followed him for the loaves and fishes; that they sought to make him king, that they might revel in ease, luxury, and power; that they crowded about him to be healed as people now do around our physicians; that one called him master to obtain a decision in his favor against his brother in regard to the estate, as many join the missionaries, the better to press their claims in court. The determination to make religion, or the profession of it, a meritorious act, deserving temporal remuneration or personal favor, is almost universal. It was so in the time of Christ. According to the parable, some will even claim admittance into heaven because they had eaten and drunk in his presence, and, still more absurd, because he had taught in their streets. Now, however ridicu lous such pretensions may appear to men in the Western World, I have had applications for money in this country, urged earnestly, and even angrily, for precisely the same Our Lord founded the parable, even to its external drapery and costume, not on fancy, but on unexaggerated fact. How utterly loathsome must have been such a spirit to the unworldly heart of Jesus, and yet it was ever manifesting itself even in his chosen apostles. Here, again, Christ is our divine example. Hateful as was this earthly, groveling spirit, yet how patiently he bears with it! It is related of Dr. Chalmers that a certain man visited him several times as a religious inquirer, and when he imagined that he had awakened sufficient interest in his behalf, he cautiously let out the fact that he was in want of money; but no sooner was his object apparent than the wrath of the good doctor burst out in a furious tempest, and he almost kicked the mercenary wretch out of his house. Without stopping to inquire whether or not in this he imitated the gentleness and forbearance of his Master under similar provocation, I will only say, that if the doctor had been a missionary in this country, and had adopted the same summary mode with those who sought his presence from precisely the same motives, he might just as well have remained at home in his mother's


nursery for all the good he would have effected here. But Christ did not thus dispose of the matter. He treated it as one, and only one of the radical corruptions of religion which it was his mission to reform, and in attempting it he manifested the same divine wisdom and forbearance which characterize his whole course. He had to deal with it even to the day of his death, in his chosen friends. They were constantly thinking of the temporal kingdom, and of seats of honor and power in his royal divan. Nor need we start and stare in amazement, as at some rare and monstrous development of selfishness. There are not half a dozen men in Syria who do not believe, or at least feel, that the assumption of the evangelical costume, for example, does, ipso facto, entitle the person to share the temporalities of those by whom they have been discipled. This is neither slander nor exaggeration, and in numberless cases where this claim was denied even in the kindest possible manner, they have been offended, and forsook at once both the teacher and the Gospel.

I have sought earnestly and painfully for the cause of this odious element in the religious character of Orientals. Customs so deeply rooted, and so general, and yet so manifestly base, must have their origin in powerful influences, acting steadily and universally upon society. Close observation and long reflection lead me to the conclusion that there are, and have been from remote ages, several causes, all tending to connect religion indissolubly with man's selfish interests and his temporal affairs. They may all be traced, perhaps, to the constitution of civil society. There are two conditions in which men must seek and find some other security for property, liberty, and life, than what can be derived from government-under absolute despotism and in lawless anarchy. Where either of these prevails, man instinctively resorts to religion (or superstition) for an asylum, and not in vain. Rarely is a tyrant so daring as to trample under foot the sanctions and safeguards of firmly-rooted religious rights, and when any one has been mad enough to attempt such a violation, it has generally cost him his life. Even unbridled and ferocious anarchy is held in restraint, and ultimately


subdued by the sanctities and sanctions of religion. Now the East has very generally been cursed with one or other, or with both of these tyrannies, and is at this hour. Hence the people have resorted and do resort to religion for assistance and safety, and have designedly made her spread her protecting robes over the entire interests of society, temporal as well as spiritual. They have at length come to regard it mainly as a means to obtain and maintain the safety of person and property, and that religion which secures to its followers the greatest amount of relief and prosperity is the best. Hence they are ready to embrace a new faith for a few piastres, for relief from a trifling tax, or for any other earthly advantage, and, naturally enough, they change back again with equal facility if disappointed, or if better prospects and promises solicit them. In this they are merely making that use of religion which they understand and think most valuable, nor do they feel ashamed of thus dealing with it. It is a legitimate use of the precious commodity. To us, who have always lived under a form of government where our temporal rights and privileges have been guarded by law, this is a monstrous perversion, and we can not adequately appreciate the pressure which has crowded these people into such mercenary ways.

It is a fact that to this hour religion is made to throw her shelter around the separate existence and the temporal rights of the various classes and tribes that dwell in this country. They depend upon it, and employ it without scruple on all occasions. Even European influence in their behalf is mainly based upon it, and, to a certain extent, increases the evil. One nation protects the Maronites because they are papists; another the Greeks as such; a third the Greek Catholics; a fourth the Druses, etc., through the whole list. True it is that in thus dealing with those tribes they do but avail themselves of customs inwrought into the very constitution of society and from remote antiquity. I know not when to date their beginning. The divinely established economy of the Hebrews contained this element largely developed. The Hebrew commonwealth (or Church) was a religious corpora

tion which guaranteed to every faithful member of it extensive worldly advantages. The letter of its promises is almost wholly temporal; and if we glance back at the history of this land from Abraham to this day, we shall find that religion has been inseparably interwoven with the secular affairs of the people. This important fact accounts, in a great measure, for the present phenomena in regard to it. By a process short, natural, and certain to be adopted by corrupt human nature, religion has been made the servant of man's mercenary desires and evil passions.

This miserable and fatal perversion Jesus of Nazareth alone, of all religious teachers, earnestly and honestly attempted to thoroughly correct. He laid the axe to the root of this old and corrupt tree. He revealed a pure spiritual religion, and established a kingdom not of this world; but, alas! his followers either could not or would not maintain it. They slid quickly down from his high position into bondage to the beggarly elements of this world, and nothing, apparently, but a second revelation of the same divine power can lift the Gospel once more out of the mire of this pit into which it has fallen. He who is Truth-who came into the world to bear witness to the truth, divinely accomplished his mission. With the world and all its solici tations and comprehensive entanglements beneath his feet, he tolerated nothing in his kingdom but truth. This cut up by the roots the vast systems of clannish and state religions, founded on fables, and upheld by falsehood, force, and hypocrisy. He spurned with indignation the traditions of priests and the cunning adjustments of politicians. He would have nothing but truth for doctrine, nothing but honest faith in the disciple. To understand how vast the num ber of superstitions, lying vanities, idle fancies, vain ceremonies, abominable deceptions, and foul corruptions which had overgrown religion in his day, it is only necessary to examine that which claims to be religion in this same country at the present moment. And should this divine Truth again visit the land, with fan in hand, he would scatter to the four winds, from the great threshing-floor of his indignation, the

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