Page images

house, and compels him frequently to dwell in an unhealthy neighborhood. It presses a man to the earth under its iron heel, and crushes, too often, the manliness out of him: it fetters the soul, stultifies the intellect, makes men mean, and keeps them so.

Will belief in Jesus cure men of poverty? Where could we find a poor believer if this was true? Jesus himself was poor, and very poor. He says, "The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.". He was dependent, indeed, during the latter part of his life, upon the charity of his friends. When a tax was demanded of him, a miracle was wrought, so the story goes, to obtain the paltry amount, which the scanty purses of Jesus and Peter were unable to furnish. Indeed, the early followers of Jesus were poor almost to a man, and consoled themselves by saying that God had chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom. If the present believers in Jesus were to believe in him implicitly, and obey him fully, they would be equally poor. If they were to cease to labor, lay up nothing, imitate the birds, and take no thought for to-morrow, how long would it be before poverty would have every one of them in its grip? Jesus exclaims, "Wo unto you that are richi!" and one of his poor followers, James, echoes his cry; while Paul says, Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content." What a poverty-stricken people we should be if these statements were generally believed, and the commands of Jesus and his apostles obeyed! If we took no thought for food and raiment, we should soon be hungry and naked; if we did not lay up for our


selves when young and healthy, we should become paupers when old and infirm; and, if we were satisfied. with food and raiment, where would be our railroads and locomotives, our steamships and telegraphs? Who would own a microscope or telescope? and in what condition would be the arts and sciences? It has only been by disbelieving Jesus, disobeying these commands of his, and practising the very opposite, that Christian nations have obtained the magnificent results of modern civilization. Believing in Jesus, then, does not save men from poverty.

Disease is a great and widespread evil. It shrouds man's life with gloom; it turns the blessings of nature into deadly curses; its venom rankles in the heart, dims the eye, palsies the hand, and binds the tongue. The diseased, it is said on good authority, actually outnumber the healthy; and, in consequence of this, misery, like a dark cloud, comes between millions and the sun of happiness that should shine upon all.

Will faith in Jesus bear away our infirmities, and make us whole, as the faith of the woman is said to have done, who but touched the hem of his garment? What a boon to the afflicted! We will indeed cast medicine to the dogs; and quacks, apothecaries, and doctors, who tinker the human system, may mourn for the days that are gone: Jesus shall be our great Physician, and a world of his healthy believers shall swell to the heavens their song of praise. But the flying pestilence heeds not even the blood of Jesus on the door-post: it enters and destroys the chosen people no less readily than it does the Egyptians. Sickness lays his hand on the Jesus-believing saint as heavily as

[ocr errors]

on the Jesus-rejecting sinner; and, if there is any difference, the odds seem to be on the wrong side; for, as Solomon said of the conys, Christians are "feeble folk." They read in their oracles, "Bodily exercise profiteth little;" "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; and, if true to their faith, they bow, and kiss the rod that smites them, and neglect their bodies in this world that they may save their souls in the next. Christians are, no doubt, more healthy than special classes that might be mentioned, but nowhere near as healthy as those who, having outgrown Christianity, regard it as a duty they owe to themselves to learn the laws of health, and to live lives in obedience to them. Fevers burn Christians, and agues chill them; colds visit them, and consumption feeds upon them; and their salvation, instead of placing a barrier between them and the enemy, like a spy in the camp, invites his approach. The preachers of the Christian gospel are especially a weak, puny, sickly set of men: a robust man among them is an exception. After laboring " in their Master's service" for a few years, they are generally broken down, and require trips to Europe or the Holy Land to recruit their health. The more sickly of them rely upon doctors to heal their bodies, as their church-members rely upon Jesus for the cure of their souls, and generally with as little success.

Some of the ancient Christians, it is true, believed that Christianity included a remedy of disease: hence James says, "Is any sick among you? let him send for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;

and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the

Lord shall raise him up." What an easy, cheap, and expeditious way is this! But where is the Christian that believes in it, and practises accordingly? He sends for the elders only when they happen to be physicians, and then has more faith in their pills than their prayers, and in internal oleaginous applications rather than external; for the experience of long ago has demonstrated the uselessness of the practice that James recommends.

Death is spoken of by Christians as the "king of terrors," at whose approach the strongest fear and tremble. When men become subjects of King Jesus, does he deliver them from this potentate? Does he, at least, relieve them from all fear of what is inevitable? Then Christianity is still a boon, and its system of salvation worthy of acceptation; for life has little charm for that man who has continually before his eyes the fear of death. Jesus, the object of the Christian's faith, died young: he could neither deliver himself from death, nor from the terror that it inspired. Hear his prayer in prospect of approaching death: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." It was not possible; and in the anguish of his soul he exclaims, "My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" Unable to deliver himself, how can he deliver his believers? So overcome by terror at the prospect of his own death as to "sweat, as it were, great drops of blood," it is not surprising that the believers in him tremble at the skeleton grim. Some Christians, it is true, die without fear, and some with courage, hope, and even joy; but we have no evidence

that this is owing to their belief in Jesus, since it is true of believers in all religions, and in none. There is, indeed, good reason to think, even from the admissions of Christian ministers themselves, that unbelievers, as a rule, have much less fear of death than the majority of Christians. "In all my experiences," says the Rev. Theodore Clapp of New Orleans, "I never saw an unbeliever die in fear. I have seen them expire, of course, without any hopes or expectations, but never in agitation from dread or misgivings as to what might befall them hereafter. It is probable that I have seen a greater number of those called irreligious persons breathe their last than any other clergyman in the United States. . . When I first entered the clerical profession, I was struck with the utter inefficiency of most forms of Christianity to afford consolation in a dying-hour." And this is what we might reasonably expect. Most Christians believe in a God who is angry with the wicked every day, one who will damn a soul for one sin unrepented of: they believe in a devil of almost infinite power, and a hell of torment unutterable, to which the best of them are apt to feel that they are liable; while the worst that the unbeliever can fear is an eternal sleep, in which he will know no more than the violet which blooms on his grave. Your salvation, then, Christian, saves neither from death nor the fear of it.

Fire, when it obtains the mastery, is an evil to be dreaded, and any salvation from its ravages would be gladly received; but the Christian's belief does not save him from them. The fire licks up the very churches with its flaming tongue, and consumes alike

« PreviousContinue »