Monday, October 25, 2010

125 years ago: James Russell Lowell on Christianity and Civilization

James Russell Lowell offers some comments that are still relevant today--as published in the Toronto Globe of October 24, 1885:

CHRISTIANITY AND CIVILIZATION.
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(Christian Union)
The most telling blows given to the enemies of orthodox Christianity are often dealt by laymen. We have seen nothing better in this line than a speech recently delivered at a public dinner by Mr. James Russell Lowell, ex-Minister of the United States to England. Some sneering allusions to orthodoxy had been made by previous speakers and Mr. Lowell took up the cudgel and struck the modern scoffers in this style:--
"The worst kind of religion is no religion at all; and these men, living in ease and luxury, indulging themselves in the amusement of going without religion, may be thankful that they live in lands where the Gospel they neglect has tamed the beastliness and ferocity of the men who, but for Christianity, might long ago have eaten their carcasses like the South Sea Islanders, or cut off their heads and tanned their hides like the monsters of the French Revolution."
No professor of Apologetics ever put the point any better than that. These men who try to destroy Christianity take good care they remain in a land in which the influence of Christianity has made their hides safe. Hear Mr. Lowell again:--
"When the microscopic search of scepticism, which has hunted the heavens and sounded the seas to disprove the existence of a Creator, has turned its attention to human society, and has found a place on this planet, ten miles square, where a decent man can live in decency, comfort, and security, supporting and educating his children unspoiled and unpolluted--a place where age is reverenced, infancy respected, manhood respected, womanhood honoured, and human life held in due regard--when sceptics can find such a place ten miles square on this globe, where the Gospel of Christ has not gone and cleared the way and laid the foundations and made decency and security possible, it will then be in order for the sceptical liberati to move thither and there ventilate their views."
These ten miles square have not been found and are not likely to be, and the sceptics will in the meantime remain in Christian countries and enjoy the blessings which Christianity confers upon society while they do all in their power to undermine the Christian system. Mr. Lowell added:--
"So long as those very men are dependent upon the religion which they discard for every privilege they enjoy, they may well hesitate a little before they seek to rob the Christian of his hope and humanity of its faith in that Saviour who alone has given to man that hope of life eternal which makes life tolerable and society possible, and robs death of its terrors and the grave of its gloom."
Our neighbours might do a much worse thing than give Mr. Lowell a chair in Apologetics in one of their many colleges.

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