For many centuries and by many millions of people, Christ has been worshiped as God. Millions and millions of eulogies on his character have been pronounced by priest and layman, in all of which his praises were measured only by the limitations of language – words were regarded as insufficient to paint his perfections.
In his praise it was impossible to be extravagant. Sculptor, poet and painter exhausted their genius in the portrayal of the peasant, who was in fact the creator of all worlds.
His wisdom excited the wonder, his sufferings the pity and his “resurrection” and “ascension” the astonishment of the world.
He was regarded as perfect man and infinite God. It was believed that in the Gospels was found the perfect history of his life, his words and works, his death, his triumph over the grave, and his return to heaven. For many centuries his perfection, his divinity – have been defended by sword and fire.
By the altar was the scaffold – in the cathedral, the dungeon – the chamber of torture.
The story of Christ was told by mothers to their babes. For the most part his story was the beginning and end of education. It was wicked to doubt – infamous to deny.
Heaven was the reward for belief and hell the destination of the denier.
All the forces of what we call society were directed against investigation. Every avenue to the mind was closed. On all the highways of thought, Christians placed posts and boards, and on the boards were the words ‘no thoroughfare,’ ‘no crossing.’ The windows of the soul were darkened – the doors were barred. Light was regarded as the enemy of mankind.
During these Christian years faith was rewarded with position, wealth and power. Faith was the path to fame and honor. The man who investigated was the enemy, the assassin of souls. The creed was barricaded on every side, above it were the glories of heaven – below were the agonies of hell. The soldiers of the cross were strangers to pity. Only traitors to God were shocked by the murder of an unbeliever. The true Christian was a savage. His virtues were ferocious, and compared with his vices were beneficent. The drunkard was a better citizen than the saint. The libertine and prostitute were far nearer human, nearer moral, than those who pleased God by persecuting their fellows.
The man who thought, and expressed his thoughts, died in a dungeon – on the scaffold or in flames.
The sincere Christian was insane. His one object was to save his soul. He despised all the pleasures of sense. He believed that his nature was depraved and that his desires were wicked.
He fasted and prayed – deserted his wife and children – inflicted tortures on himself and sought by pain endured to gain the crown.