Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

or embroil himself in the contentions of a nation, however he may be occasionally drawn into them. His soul is much more in its element when breathing after the present and future happiness of a world. In undertakings, both public and private, which tend to alleviate the miseries, and enlarge the comforts of human life, Christians have ever been fore·most: and when they have conceived themselves lawfully called even into the field of battle, they have not been wanting in valour. But the heroism to which they principally aspire is of another kind: it is that of subduing their own spirit, doing good against evil, seeking the present and eternal wellbeing of those who hate them, and laying down their lives if required for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Such is the “ narrow fpirit” of Christians; and such have been their « felfish pursuits.” But these are things which do not emblazon their names in the account of unbelievers. The murderers of mankind will be applauded before them. But they have enough : their blood is precious in the fight of the Lord, and their names are embalmed in the memQu. ry of the upright.

[blocks in formation]

The lives of those who reject the Gospel will not bear

a comparison with theirs who embrace it.

[ocr errors]

No books are to plain as the lives of men ;

no characters are so legible as their moral conduct. If the principles of a body of men will not bear this.

criterion, we may expect to hear them exclaim against it as unfair, and uncertain ; but when they have said all, they will endeavour to avail thenfelves of it if possible. It is thus that the virtues of idolaters are the constant theme of deistical panegyric; and all the corruptions, intrigues, persecutions, wars, and mischiefs, which of late ages have afflicted the earth, are charged to the account of Christians. It is thus that Christian ministers, under the name of priests, are described as mercenary, designing, and hypocritical; and the lives of hectoring profligates praised in comparison to them.* In short, it is thus that Christians are accused of fanaticism, affectation, ingratitude, presumption, and almost every thing else that is mean and base; and men are persuaded to become deists, with an assurance that by so doing they will “live more confiftently, and morally, than by any other system.”+

But let us examine whether these representations accord with fact. Is it fact that the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome were virtuous characters? It is true that, like the deists, they talked and wrote much about virtue, and if the latter may be believed, they were very virtuous. “They opposed each other,” says Voltaire, “ in their dogmas ; but in morality they were all agreed.” After loading each of them with encomiums, he sums it up by affirming, “There has been no philosopher in all antiquity, who has not been desirous of making men better."$ This is a very favourable report ; and if well founded, the writer of the first chapter

* Humes Essay's Moral and Political, Essay XXIV.

Age of Reafon, Part I. p. 21.
+ Ignorant Philofopber, p. 60.

of the epistle to the Romans must not only have dealt largely in calumny, but have pofleffed the most consummate effrontery, to address such an epistle to the citizens of Rome, who from their own knowledge must have been able to contradict him. There are other reports, however, of a very different complexion.

It is no part of my design to enter minutely into this subject ; nor is it neceffary. Many able writers have proved, from the most authentic sources of information, that the account given of the heathens by the apostle is not exaggerated. An extract or two from their writings will be sufficient for my purpose.

Epictetus bids you temporize, and worship the gods after the fashion of your country. Pythagoras forbids you to pray to God, because you know not what is convenient.t Plutarch commends Cato Uticensis for killing himself amidst philofophic thoughts, with resolution, and deliberation, after reading Plato on the immortality of the soul. I Cicero pleads for self-murder. Herein he was feconded by Brutus, Caffus, and others, who practised it. Many of their learned men applauded their opinion and practice. Seneca thus pleads for it: “ If thy mind “ be melancholy and in inisery, thou mayest put a

period to this wretched condition: wherever thou ! lookeft, there is an end to it. See that precipice; “ there thou mayest have liberty. Seeft thou that “ fea, that river, that well ? Liberty is at the bot

tom of it : that little tree ? freedom hangs upon

[ocr errors]

* Enchiridion Cap. 38. pag. m. 56.
+ Diog. Laertius.
# Plutarch's Life of Cato, near the end.

** it: thy own neck, thy own throat may be a re« fuge to thee from such fervitude ; yea, every u vein of thy body."*

We may find in the heathen philosophers cuftomary swearing commended, if not by their precepts, yet by the examples of their best moralists, Plato, Socrates, Seneca, and Julian the Emperor, in whose works numerous oaths by Jupiter, Hercules, the Sun, Serapis, and the like, do occur. In the same manner we see the unnatural love of boys recommended.t Ariffippus maintained that it was lawful for a wise. man to steal, commit adultery, and fecrilege, when opportunity offered; for that none of these actions were naturally evil, setting aside the vula gar opinion, which was introduced into the world by filly and illiterate people-that a wise man night pube licly, without bame or scandal, keep company with coinmon harlots, if his inclinations led him to it. “May

not a beautiful woman be made use of, he asks, “ because she is fair ; or a youth because he is love

ly? Certainly they may.”+

If, as Voltaire afferts, it was the desire of these philofophers to make men better, afsuredly they employed very extraordinary means to accomplish their defire.

What are the lives recorded by Plutarch? Many of them no doubt entertained a high sense of honour, and poffeffed a large portion of patriotism. But were either of these morality? If by this term be meant such difpofitions of the mind as are right,

* De ira, Lib. 3. Cap. 15. pag. m, 319.

† Juvenal Satyr 11. Ver. 1o.' † Diog. Laertus, Vol. I. pag. n. 165, 166. See in Millar's Itin tory of the Propagation of Christianity, Vol. I. p. 63-655

fit, and amiable, it was not. Their sense of honour was not of that kind which inade them fcorn to do evil ; but like the falfe honour of modern duellifts, consisted merely in a dread of disgrace. It induced

many of them to carry about them the fatal means of self-destruction ; and rather than fall into the hands of an adversary, to make use of them. And as to their patriotism, generally speaking, it operated not merely in the preservation of their country, but in endeavours to extend and aggrandize it at the expence of other nations. It was a patriotism inconsistent with justice, and good will to men. Add to this, that fornication, adultery, and unnatural crimes were common amongst them.

As to the moral state of society among heathens, both ancient and modern, we may have occasion to consider this a little more particularly hereafter. At present I would inquire, Is it fact that the persecutions, intrigues, wars, and mischiefs of late ages are to be charged to the account of Christianity?

With regard to persecution, nothing is more common with our adversaries than to lay it wholly at our door. They are continually alledging that the heathens all agreed to tolerate each other till Christianity arose. Thus writes Shaftesbury,* Hume,t Voltaire,+ Gibbon, and Paine.ll That the heathens tolerated each other before the introduction of Christianity, is allowed ; and they did the same after it. It was not against each other that their enmity was directed. In the diversity of their idols,

* Characteristics, Vol. 1. p. 18. + Ejjay on Parties. # Ignor. Pbilos. p. 83. $ Hift, of Dech Ch. II. p. 29. || Age of Reason, Part II. Pref.


« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »