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point of honour, tract of territory, or, privilege of trade. And after a few millions of treasure, and a few hundred thousands of lives have been sacrificed, the contending parties, wearied out and exhausted, open a treaty of peace, make mutual concessions, - and sit down nearly in the same place, from whence they arose. But in this war the object is different. France is contending for her republican government: Kings are contending for their crowns. France ex. pects, that, if she is overpowered, she must see her territory dismembered, her exploded monarchy restored, her citizens enslaved, and her liberties tram. pled in the dirt. The confederated kings expect; that if France supports her revolution, they shall
feel convulsions in their own dominions, and see one revolution following another, till the crowns of monarchs are tossed from their heads, and the sceptres wrested from their hands.
These apprehensions fire the zeal, and urge the exertions of the parties in support of their respective objects. They view the controversy, as embracing every thing great and important; and as not to end, like former wars, in mutual restitution, and a friendly accommodation ; but either in the total subversion, or in the general establishment of absolute monarchy.
The war is prosecuted with uncommon severity:
many years past the manners of mankind have, by the increase of knowledge, been gradual. ly softening. Even war had begun to divest it. self of its horrors, and to assume a milder form But now we see the barbarity of uncivilized ages, which had been retiring, called back again on the stage.
But what most signally marks the coincidence of the prophecy with the aspects of the times, is the prevailing impiety.
Look through Europe ; What symptoms of a reformation can you see? Is there any increase of piety ?-Any amendment of morals—any special attention to the interests of religion ? Even in France, which has experienced a variety of interesting events, Have there been any national acknowledgments of a governing Providence ? On the contrary, Are not the forms of religion derided, the principles of piety exploded, atheism avowed, and the entrance of their churchyards marked with this awful sentiment, that “Death is an eternal sleep ?”
It may be useful to inquire, What can be the cause of this apparent growth of irreligion among a people, who have long enjoyed the gospel, and are now under such severe calamities?
This is, in some degree, the usual effect of war; especially of intestine and civil convulsions. These, when they rise high, and operate with violence, engross the thoughts and conversation, awaken malignant passions and bitter criminations, dissipate serious sentiments, and vitiate the manners.
In France, the established religion, for ages, has been popery, with its grossest absurdities. The revolution has suddenly torn off the mask of igno. rance, and broken the fetters of bigotry. People are now at liberty to see with their own eyes, to speak what they think, and act what they please,
In a zeal against the newly discovered absurdities of · ancient superstitions, many have rushed to the op
posite extreme, and discarded even rational christianity. :
Infidels, of whom there have long been numbers among the men of learning and influence, taking advantage of the times, have industriously, and too successfully, disseminated their licentious opinions.
It may farther be observed, that the civil and ecelesiastical establishments were intimately incorporated ; and the forms of religion made the tools of state policy. The church and the nobility possesse ed a great part of the most valuable lands, and engrossed a large share of the publick revenues. As religion, in the hands of tyrants, has been made an instrument of oppression, the people, on a sudden discovery of the sacrilegious fraud, have, in their surprise, conceived an indiscriminate prejudice against the very name of religion ; and, without waiting to distinguish the precious from the vile, and to separate the rational from the absurd, they have almost exploded the substance of Christianity. We must believe, however, that the seeds of truth are latent in the soil, and when this inclement sea. son is past, they will be cultivated with wiser attention, and spring up under a more smiling sky.
From what has taken place in France, we have cause to fear, what may be the general state of religion, for a time, before the introduction of the happy period which the scriptures foretel.
In most of the nations of Europe the government is similar to the late government of France ; especially in respect of the union of the civil and religious establishments; and in respect of the despotism exercised over the body of the people. Before that happy period commences, there will be revolụtions in favour of liberty. For civil liberty is a necessary preparative to the progress of truth, and a discriminating circumstance of that time. Human nature is the same in other nations, as in France; and we may expect, that political revolutions will have the same effect on the state of reli. gion elsewhere, as they have had there.
The reasons why the American revolution did not, with the ancient forms of government, subvert the forms of religion, were, because religion
and police were not in the same manner blended, and the people were more enlightened, and less oppressed.
Religion, in its natural tendency, is subservient to the peace and happiness of society, and therefore ought to be protected and supported by the civil government ; but it ought never to be so incorporated with it, as to become a tool of temporal domination.
From a view of the state of Europe, from a recollection of what has taken place in France, and from the prophetic intimations of scripture, there is much cause to fear, that deism and atheism, and, with them, every species of immorality, will, for a time, increase in the world, and religion sink into obscurity, or be confined to a narrow circle.
Persecution probably will no more kindle her faggots, or draw her sword. But a general indifference to, and contempt of the gospel, may as sadly depress the interest and glory of the church, as ever persecution has done.
Infidelity is the last expedient, which the grand adversary will employ, to banish truth from the earth.
In this he may probably succeed for a while ; but he will finally be defeated. When the rage of contention shall subside, and Liberty shall extend her benign influence among the nations, their passions will settle into a calm ; free enquiry will take place ; the evidences of truth will rise to view, and come home, with force, to the mind; a more plentiful effusion of the divine spirit will be granted, than men's minds, amidst the rage of war, and the tumult of revolutions, are capable of receiving ; the gospel will be preached with purity and zeal, and heard with candour and attention; its happy influence will be felt in society and its divine power experienced in the heart; and the church will
grow VOL. II.
And we may
under the patronage of government, when pious rulers shall be its nursing fathers.
While we lament the declining state of religion in Europe, we may, with just concern, bring our reflections nearer home.
Since our late war with Britain, literature and arts have been improving in the country ; but our moral state appears not to be mended. To our. selves we may apply God's reproof of Israel, “ As they increased, so they sinned.” fear the threatening which follows-“Therefore, will I turn their glory into shame.”
We have, too fondly for an infant people, imi. tated the luxuries of European nations. The pomp and show of foreign courts seem to have charms too captivating to be resisted. Many of our private citizens affect a style of living, which their means will not fully justify. Infidelity, in the sev. eral forms of deism, universalism, and fatalism, has made threatening progress. Many are industriously labouring to throw off the salutary re. straints, which the gospel lays on men's passions and lusts. The publick worship of God, that kind and friendly institution, is growing into awful neglect, not merely among the higher ranks, but among people of every class. The Sabbath, which was revered by our fathers, and observed with a conscientious exactness, is treated with indifference, A religious profession, and an attendance on the special ordinances of Christ, are, by many, utter. ly disregarded. Family devotion seems to be growe ing into disuse, and family government is declining with it.
Though we have lately experienced an important revolution, yet the day of danger may not be past : Besure our moral state does not promise us secu. rity. Our connexions with the nations of Europe are so strong, and our resemblance of them in im