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just and equal. We set out, therefore, with this question: What are the fruits of Christianity? In the examination of this subject we will consider,
1. The effects of Christianity on society in gen
2. Its effects on the character and happiness of genuine disciples.
Reserving the latter of these divisions for another lecture, we devote our attention at present exclusively to the former.
I. In proceeding to illustrate THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF CHRISTIANITY ON SOCIETY IN GENERAL, I know of no way so direct as to consider in what condition the countries now blessed with its influence would have remained, had they been left to the several forms of religion under which they had previously subsisted. Let us take a brief survey of the moral state of the ancient world in the age when the preaching of the cross effected its wonderful revolution in the whole fabric of society. And that we may not be accused of unfairness, let us take into view, not the more distant and uncivilized provinces, but those chief central states where all the light and moral vigor of the heathen world were concentrated. Let our survey be confined to the society of Italy and Greece, where philosophy held her court, and literature and the arts were cultivated with the utmost devotion and success. Unfortunately for the interests of truth, the history of Greece and Rome has fallen for the most part into the hands of writers much more concerned with their intellectual and martial prowess, than their
moral attainments and social virtues; so that while the reader is occupied in admiring the acuteness of their schoolmen, the taste of their poets, the perfection of their arts, and the warlike character of their soldiery, he is seldom called to look within the inclosures of society, and inquire how they lived, what manner of men they were in their families, in their social relations, in their moral principles, and their private habits.
A certain eminent writer who lived in the age to which we refer, addressing the people of Rome, describes the heathen population of the civilized world as given up to the vilest, most unnatural, and beastly affections; filled with all unrighteousness and degrading wickedness; full of envy, murder, deceit, malignity; disobedient to parents; covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; not only committing such things as were worthy of death, but having pleasure in them that did them. Such, according to St. Paul, were the polished Grecians and the sterner Romans.*
1. Consider their religion. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and fourfooted beasts and creeping things."+ Deities were multiplied till there was a god for every thing, and any thing answered for a god. Athens was full of statues dedicated to different deities; those of various countries being so crowded together, that it was said *Rom. 1: 29-32. ↑ Rom. 1:22, 23.
to be "easier to find a god than a man.”
There was the god Caius Cæsar, and the god Augustus Cæsar, and the god Lucius Cæsar, and the goddess Julia, the profligate daughter of Augustus, to whom the rulers of Athens ascribed the title of Providence. The senate of the Areopagus, and that of the six hundred, erected her statue and enacted her divinity. An altar had there been consecrated many years before, to "the Unknown God." Rome exceeded Athens in the number of her gods, only by having, as the mistress of the world, all nations to collect from and all forms of paganism to countenance. "The deities of a thousand groves and a thousand streams possessed in peace their local and respective influence; nor could the Roman who deprecated the wrath of the Tiber, deride the Egyptian who presented his offering to the beneficent genius of the Nile. Every virtue and even vice acquired its divine representative, every art and profession its patron, whose attributes, in the most distant ages and countries, were uniformly derived from the character of their peculiar votaries. It was the custom of the Romans to tempt the protectors of besieged cities by the promise of more distinguished honors than they possessed in their native country. Rome gradually became the common temple of her subjects, and the freedom of the city was bestowed on all the gods of mankind."* "In this mania for foreign gods, the nobles and the emperors themselves set the most corrupting examples. Germanicus and Agrippina devoted * Gibbon's Decline and Fall, vol. 1, pp. 32, 35, 36.
themselves especially to Egyptian gods. So also Vespasian. Nero served all gods with the exception of the Dea Syra. Marcus Aurelius caused the priests of all foreign gods and nations to be assembled, in order to implore aid for the Roman empire against the incursions of the Marcomanni. Commodus caused himself to be initiated into the mysteries of the Egyptian Isis and the Persian Mithras. Severus worshipped especially the Egyptian Seraphis; Caracalla chiefly the Egyptian Isis; and Heliogabalus the Syrian deities, though he was desirous of becoming a priest of the Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian religions.'
The traditions of the principal divinities of the ancient heathen are a true guide to the vices of their worship. What the gods were said to have been in their lives, their worshippers actually were in their service. "It is a shame," said one who knew them well, even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." The chief oracles of the heathens appointed human sacrifices, so that not only the barbarians, but even the Athenians, Lacedæmonians, and Romans, were accustomed to worship idols with the blood of their fellow-creatures. What must have been the state of public morals when gods were patrons of vice, and their rites encouraged both cruelty and obsceneness, it is easier to imagine than describe. "Eusebius is compelled to use language when describing the height of wickedness and impurity which the worship of the heathens attained, Biblical Repository.
* Prof. Tholuck on Heathenism.
such as no virtuous man can read without shuddering." The gods were entreated, by costly offerings on splendid altars, to favor the indulgence of unnatural lusts, the perpetration of murders, the robbery of the orphan and the widow. Seneca exclaims, "How great is now the madness of men. They lisp the most abominable prayers in the ears of the gods. And if a man is found listening, they are silent. What a man ought not to hear, they do not blush to rehearse to God."* Well might St. Paul describe them as "given up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts."t
2. Consider the spirit of cruelty that reigned among those people. It was not solely owing to the madness and depravity of a Tiberius, a Caligula, a Nero, or a Caracalla, that a cruel and sanguinary spirit in their day was so universal. Had not the whole mass, the peasant, the soldier, the citizen, and the senator, as well as the prince, been foully tainted, the monstrous enormities of those vicious tyrants could never have been perpetrated. Such was the cruelty of Romans to their slaves, that it was not unusual to put the aged and useless to perish on an island in the Tiber; and some masters would even drown them, as food for the inhabitants of their fishponds. Scenes of blood and slaughter were the
* Epist. 10. ↑ See Potter's Antiquities, vol. 2, p. 301. "The custom of exposing old, useless, or sick slaves on an island of the Tiber, there to starve, seems to have been pretty common in Rome; and whoever recovered after having been so exposed, had his liberty given him by an edict of the emperor Claudius." "The ergastula, or dungeons, where