Christianity has now been in the world upwards of One Thousand Eight Hundred Years. For more than a thousand years the European nations have arrogated to themselves the title of Christian! some of their monarchs, those of most Sacred and most Christian Kings! We have long laid to our souls the flattering unction that we are a civilized and a Christian people. We talk of all other nations in all other quarters of the world, as savages, barbarians, uncivilized. We talk of the ravages of the Huns, the irruptions of the Goths; of the terrible desolations of Timour, or Zenghis Khan. We talk of Alaric and Attila, the sweeping carnage of Mahomet, or the cool cruelties of more modern Tippoos and Alies. We shudder at the war-cries of naked Indians, and the ghastly feasts of Cannibals; and bless our souls that we are redeemed from all these things, and made models of beneficence, and lights of God in the earth!
It is high time that we looked a little more rigidly into our pretences. It is high time that we examined, on the evidence of facts, whether we are quite so refined, quite so civilized, quite so Christian as we have assumed to be. It is high time that we look boldly into the real state of the question, and learn actually, whether the mighty distance between our goodness and the moral depravity of other people really exists. Whether, in fact, we are Christian at all!
Have bloodshed and cruelty then ceased in Europe? After a thousand years of acquaintance with the most merciful and the most heavenly of religions, do the national characters of the Europeans reflect the beauty and holiness of that religion? Are we distinguished by our peace, as the followers of the Prince of Peace? Are we renowned for our eagerness to seek and save, as the followers of the universal Saviour? Are our annals redolent of the delightful love and fellowship which one would naturally think must, after a thousand years, distinguish those who pride themselves on being the peculiar and adopted children of Him who said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another?” These are very natural, but nevertheless, very awkward questions. If ever there was a quarter of the globe distinguished by its quarrels, its jealousies, its everlasting wars and bloodshed, it is Europe. Since these soi-disant Christian nations have risen into any degree of strength, what single evidence of Christianity have they, as nations, exhibited? Eternal warfare!—is that Christianity? Yet that is the history of Christian Europe. The most subtle or absurd pretences to seize upon each other’s possessions,—the contempt of all faith in treaties,—the basest policy,—the most scandalous profligacy of public morals,—the most abominable international laws!—are they Christianity? And yet they are the history of Europe. Nations of men selling themselves to do murder, that ruthless kings might ravish each other’s crowns—nations of men, standing with jealous eyes on the perpetual watch against each other, with arms in their hands, oaths in their mouths, and curses in their hearts;—are those Christian? Yet there is not a man acquainted with the history of Europe that will even attempt to deny that that is the history of Europe. For what are all our international boundaries; our lines of demarcation; our frontier fortresses and sentinels; our martello towers, and guard-ships; our walled and gated cities; our bastions and batteries; and our jealous passports?