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Grand Divisions of the Religious World.
The grand Subdivisions among Christians are,
1. The Greek and Eastern Churches.
2. The Roman Catholics, who acknowledge the au
thority of the Pope ; and,
3. The Protestant, or Reformed Churches and Sects,
who reject it.
Their numbers may be thus,
The Greek and Eastern Churches,
30,000,000 80,000,000 65,500,000
Mr. Worcester in his Universal Gazetteer, has the following statement of Religious Denominations in the United States.
3298 Presbyterians 1414 Congregationalists 1200
1875 German Lutherans
650 Friends or Quakers
400 Dutch Reformed
150 Associate and other Presbyterians
210 German Calvioists
The Roman Catholics have one Archbishop and four Bishops. There are also Universalists, Shakers, Tunkers, Mennonites, Swedenborgians, Jews, &c.
Dr. Morse has the following statement of Religious Congregations in the United States :
*The congregations of some denominations, have far greater numbers attached to them, than those of other denominations, so that in estimating numbers, but little dependance can be placed on the number of Congregations or of nominal preachers. There are many persons in this country who, occasionally, preach, that do not profess to be devoted to the ministry of the Gospel.
Besides numerous Methodists, and considerable num bers of German Lutherans, Universalists, Sabbath Day Baptists, &c.
In England, Ireland and Wales, the number of Religionists of various sects and denominations, (says Mr. Nightingale,) may be estimated ncarly as follows:
1. Church of England*
5,000.000 2. Roman Catholicst
3,400,000 3. Presbyterians, who are in England) chiefly Unitaririans, Arians, and General Baptists
60,000 4. Quakers and Moravians
60,000 5. Wesleyan Methodists
500,000 6. Baptists of various kinds, exclusive of General Baptists 60,000 7. Independents, including the Whitfieldians, and other Cal. vinistic Methodists
110,000 8. Swedenborgians
20,000 9. Miscellaneous minor Sects
15,000 10. Resident Jews
15.000 11. Deists, Theophilanthropists, and other Free. Thinkers 25,000
*The number of Livings in England and Wales is above 10,500.
+ In England and Wales there are about 300,000, of whom 5,000 are in London. There are 900 Catholic churches and chapels in England.
RELIGION is the knowledge of the relation existing be. tween us and God, with the observance of the duties thence resulting. It is intellectual and practical. The mind must be informed of the nature of the relation which exists between man and bis God, that the duties arising from this relation may be duly performed. And the performance of these duties constitutes the great business of human life.
The relation existing between us and our God, cannot be understood, without some correct views both of the divine character and our own. God must be known, as a being infinite and eternal, possessed of every moral excellence, as our Creator, as the author of all our blessings, as our holy Redeemer and Judge. There must also, be a knowledge of ourselves, as moral and immortal beings, as capable of serving and pleasing God. These truths being understood, the obligations of obedience, of love, of trust in God, are easily perceived. Without a knowledge of the reasonableness of these duties, it is not to be expected they will ever be performed.
Much has been said on the subject of Natural Religion, including those truths which, it is supposed, inay be known concerning God and moral duty, without any revelation from heaven. Our reasonings upon this subject must be very uncertain. The experiment has never been made, and never can be. There has never been any portion of mankind wholly destitute of a knowledge of those divine truths which God has made known to man by his own immediate testimony. The true Light (the Lord Jesus, lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The knowledge of the divine character, and the fundamental principles of moral truth, early made known to the ancient patriarchs, can never be wholly obliterated from the minds of their posterity. God made known his will to mankind, in various ways, from age to age, previous to the times of the prophets of Israel. Many of these early revelations, we have reason to be. lieve, are not recorded in the volume of divine truth. Job and his friends, as well as many others, understood the first principles of the divine character and of moral truth, previous to the time of Moses. The Church of God, always the depository of revealed truth, has ever been so situated as to afford the greatest facilities of intercourse with the various nations and tribes of men.
Though we know but little from facts of what the human mind could discover in the researches of moral truth, without
the aid of divine revelation, it is not to be doubted that the works of creation and providence afford evidence, if justly perceived, of the essential perfections of God, and of the fundamental principles of moral obligation. Yet, through the defects of a darkened understanding, perverted by the corruptions of the heart, this evidence is but imperfectly discerned, and the truth poorly understood.
We thus perceive the necessity of a full revelation from God, to teach us his character and our own, to learn us our duties to him and our fellow men, and to make known our privileges, our hopes, and prospects. Such a revelation he has given, through the medium of prophets and apostles, and has not left the world without a witness, in addition to the benevolence of his works, that he is indeed goon.
Various and multiplied are the systems of religion that have prevailed and still exist among mankind. Sceptical minds have greatly exulted in this fact, and have attempted to deduce from it a favourite conclusion, that religion itself has no higher origin than the interests and fancies of men. The correct conclusion, however, from this fact, must be directly the reverse, From a just view of the human character, we have no right to believe man would have any religion at all, had it not been originally taught from heaven. The earliest records of nations clearly prove that the most ancient religion of mankind was the worship of one God. This preceded all idolatry. The most famous divinities of India, Egypt, and Greece, were deified men, heroes, founders of cities, and public benefactors, consecrated, after their death, by the affection and pride of their countrymen, to the privileges of celestial beings. Most people, however, constantly acknowledge a supreme invisible God, superior to their favorite deities, and not degraded, like them, by the vices and passions of men. The most ancient idolatry was far less absurd than that which received the improvement and refinement of later times.
In giving our readers a view of the various religions and religious ceremonies which prevail among mankind, it is necessary to consider the false as well as the true. Or, to speak in milder terms, those which are the least conformable to truth, as well as those which are the most consistent with the divine precepts. While it is probable there is no religious community wholly destitute of errors, still, as all religion had its origin in the revealed will of God, we may hope there is no religious system without some mixture of truth.
Our attention will naturally be directed, in the first place, te Christianity. Not only because it is the religion of the true God, and the only one established upon the basis of his revealed truth, but as it is professed by a greater portion of mankind than any other, including all the most enlightened nations of the world. Judaism may perhaps be thought to deserve a prior consideration, as this is more ancient than Christianity, and also of divine authority. But Judaism has now, in a great measure,
ceased to exist, and has become emerged in the religion of Christ, as it was designed to be, and cannot hold a very important place, though it will deserve a distinct consideration in the progress of this work. Christianity is built upon the foundation of prophets, (Jews) as well as apostles, Jesus Christ being, of the whole, the chief corner stone.
CHRISTIANITÝ is the religion of all who believe in Christ Jesus as the Saviour of men, and receive the holy scriptures as the word of God. This religion is professed by the people of all Christian countries, and recognized by their various usuages and laws. The professors of Christianity are divided into a great number of different classes and denominations. From this fact, which the mysterious providence of God has always suffered to exist, the enemies of this religion have contended that it cannot be ascertained what Christianity is : they say that different denominations describe it in a very different manner, each pronouncing others to be wrong. The difference of sentiment among the various classes of professing Christians is, indeed, much to be regretted ; yet this difference has always been magnified by the enemies of righteousness, and is, in reality, much less than has been commonly supposed. Good men, of all Christian churches, whenever they become acquainted, always find that they can truly call each other brethren. The difference which has existed in the separate portions of the Christian church has generally consisted in objects of, comparatively, minor importance, and not in the essential principles and practices of Christianity. No greater difference in sentiment, in practice, in feeling, has ever existed between any ex-' tensive portions of Christendom_than between Catholics and Protestants. And yet, when the Protestants separated from the Catholic church, with a commotion which convulsed the world, they called the change no more than a Reformation. They considered themselves as remaining on their former basis, though divers alterations and improvements were necessary to be made.
In looking over the numerous Creeds and Confessions of Faith formed in different ages and countries, it is very interesting to the friends of righteousness, to perceive a general coincidence of sentiment in all the fundamental principles of divine truth. Differences in minor things are indefinitely numerous, while the leading features of the Christian system are almost universally maintained.
The following things have been acknowledged as fundamental principles, by the professed friends of Christ, with few exceptions, in all ages of the Church. The divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, salvation by the righteousness of Christ, the perfection of the Saviour's character, the necessity of holy obedience to the divine commandments, the resurrection of the dead, the general judgment, the eternal happiness and misery of the righteous and the wicked, the Christian Sabbath, and the Christian Sacraments.