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Some proofs of this have already been adduced; but the importance of the subject requires that they should be enlarged.

Though the belief of one Supreme Being has been found in many parts of the world, yet the notion of subordinate deities, the immediate dispensers of good and evil to men, and the objects of their fear and worship, has almost equally obtained; and this of necessity destroyed or greatly counteracted the moral influence of that just opinion.

"The people generally among the Gentiles," says Dr. Tenison, " did rise little higher than the objects of sense. They worshipped them each as supreme in their kind, or no otherwise unequal than the sun, and the moon, or the other celestial bodies, by the adoration of which the ancient idolaters, as Job intimateth, denied (or excluded) the God that is above. Porphyry himself, one of the most plausible apologists for the religion of the Gentiles, doth own in some the most gross and blockish idolatry of mean objects. He tells us that it is not a matter of which we should be amazed, if most ignorant men esteemed wood and stones Divine statues; seeing they who are unlearned, look upon monuments which have inscriptions upon them as ordinary stones and regard books as so many bundles of paper." (Discourse on Idolatry, p. 50.)

The modern idolatry of Hindostan, which in principle differs nothing from that of the ancient world, affords a striking comment upon this point, and indeed is of great importance in enabling us to conceive justly of the true character and practical effects of idolatry in all ages. One Supreme Being is acknowledged by the Hindoos, but they never worship him, nor think that he concerns himself with human affairs at all.

"The Hindoos believe in one God, so completely abstracted in his own essence however, that in this state he is emphatically the unknown, and is consequently neither the object of hope, nor of fear; he is even destitute of intelligence, and remains in a state of profound repose." (Ward's Hindoo Mythology, vol. ii, p. 306.)

"This Being," says Moore, (Hindoo Pantheon, p. 132,) "is called Brahm, one eternal mind, the self-existing, incomprehensible Spirit. To him, however, the Hindoos erect no altars. The objects of their adora

small sparks of right reason, which we so quickly extinguish with corrupt opinions and evil practices, that the true light of nature nowhere appears." (Tusc. Quæst. 3.)

The same author, (Tusc. Quæst. 1,) having reckoned up the opinions of philosophers as to the soul's immortality, concludes thus, "Harum sententiarum quæ vera est Deus aliquis viderit, quæ verisimillima est, magna quæstio est. Which of these opinions is true, some god must tell us; which is most like truth, is a great question." Jamblicus, speaking of the principles of Divine worship, saith: "It is manifest that those things are to be done which are pleasing to God; but what they are, it is not easy to know, except a man were taught them by God himself, or by some person who had received them from God, or obtained the knowledge of them by some Divine means." (Jamb. in Vit. Pythag. c. 28.)

tion commence with the triad,-Brahma, Vishnu, and Seva, which represent the almighty powers of creation, preservation, and destruction." The learned among the classic heathen, it is true, occasionally speak nobly concerning God and his attributes; but at the same time they were led by their own imaginations and reasonings to conclusions, which neutralize the effect of their sublimer conceptions and often contradict them. The eternity of matter, for instance, was held by the Greek and Roman philosophers and by their preceptors in the oriental schools, who thought it absolutely impossible that any thing should be produced from nothing, thus destroying the notion of creation in its proper sense, and of a Supreme Creator. This opinion, as Bishop Stillingfleet shows, (Origines Sacræ, 1. iii, c. 2,) is contrary to the omnipotence and inde. pendence of God, and is a great abatement of those correct views which the words of the ancient philosophers would seem sometimes to express. (7)

It had another injurious effect; it destroyed the interesting doctrine of Divine government as to those natural evils to which men are subject. These they traced to the unchangeable and eternal nature of matter, which even the Supreme God could not control. Thus Seneca says, (De Provid. cap. 5,) "that evil things happen to good men, quia non potest Artifex mutare materiam, because God the Artificer could not change matter; and that a magno Artifice multa formantur prava, many things were made ill by the great Artificer; not that he wanted art, but through the stubbornness of matter," in which they generally agree. This opinion of theirs was brought from the oriental schools, where it

(7) When we meet with passages in the writings of heathens which recommend moral virtues, and speak in a fit and becoming manner of God, we are apt from our more elevated knowledge of these subjects to attach more correct and precise ideas to the terms used, than the original writers themselves, and to give them credit for better views than they entertained. It is one proof, that though some of them speak, for instance, of God seeing and knowing all things, they did not conceive of the omniscience of God in the manner in which that attribute is explained by those who have learned what God is from his own words; that some of the pagan philosophers who lived after the Christian era, complain that the Christians had introduced a very troublesome and busy God, who did "in omnium mores, actus, omnium verba denique, et occultas cogitationes diligenter inquirere, diligently inquire into the manners, actions, words, and secret thoughts of all men." Cicero, too, denies the foreknowledge of God, and for the same reason which has been urged against it in modern times by some who, for the time at least, have closed their eyes upon the testimony of the Scriptures on this point, and been willing in order to serve a favourite theory, to go back to the obscurity of paganism. The difficulty with him is, that prescience is inconsistent with contingency. Mihi ne in Deum cadere videatur ut sciat quid casu et fortuito futurum sit; si enim scit, certe illud eveniet; si certe eveniet, nulla fortuna est; est autem fortuna, rerum ergo fortuitarum nulla præsensio est. (De Fato. n. 12, 13.)

had been long received; nor was it confined to Egypt and Chaldea. It was one of the dogmas which Confucius taught in China in the fifth century before Christ, that out of nothing that which is cannot be produced, and that material bodies must have existed from all eternity. From this notion it follows, that there is no calamity to which we are not liable, and that God himself is unable to protect us from it. Prayer is useless, and trust in him is absurd. The noble doctrine of the inflic. tion of misery by a wise and gracious Being for our correction and improvement, so often dwelt upon in Scripture, could have no place in a system which admitted this tenet; God could neither be "a refuge in trouble," nor a Father "correcting us for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." What they knew of God was therefore, by such speculations, rendered entirely unprofitable.

But a worse consequence resulted from this opinion. By some of them the necessary obliquity and perverseness of matter was regarded not only as the source of natural, but also of moral evil; by which they either made sin necessary and irresistible, or found in this opinion much to palliate it.

Others refer moral evil to a natural principle of evil, an evil god, "emulous of the good God," which Plutarch says, (8) is a tradition of great antiquity, derived "from the divines ex Deoλoywv and lawgivers to the poets and philosophers, whose first author cannot be found." But whether natural and moral evil be traced to an eternal and uncontrollable matter, or to an eternal and independent anti-god, it is clear that the notion of a Supreme Deity, as contained in the Scriptures, and as conceived of by modern Theists, who have borrowed their light from them, could have no existence in such systems; and that by making moral evil necessary, men were taught to consider it as a misfortune rather than a crime, and were thus in fact encouraged to commit it by regarding it as unavoidable.


In like manner, though occasionally we find many excellent things said of the providence of God, all these were weakened or destroyed by other opinions. The Epicurean sect denied the doctrine, and laid it down as a maxim, "that what was blessed and immortal gave neither trouble to itself nor to others;" a notion which exactly agrees with the system of the modern Hindoos. "According to the doctrine of Aristotle, God resides in the celestial sphere, and observes nothing, and cares for nothing beyond himself. Residing in the first sphere, he possesses neither immensity nor omnipresence; far removed from the inferior parts of the universe, he is not even a spectator of what is passing among its inhabitants." (Enfield's History of Philosophy, lib. ii, cap. 9.) The

(8) De Isid. et Osir.-Dr. Cudworth thinks that Plutarch has indulged in an overstrained assertion: but the confidence with which the philosopher speaks is at least a proof of the great extent of this opinion.

Stoics contended for a providence, but in their creed it was counteracted by the doctrine of an absolute necessity, or fate, to which God and matter, or the universe, which consists, as they thought, of both, was immutably subject; and where they allow it, they confine the care of the gods to great affairs only.

The Platonists, and the followers of Pythagoras believed that all things happened κατα θειαν προνοιαν, according to Divine providence; but this they overthrew by joining fortune with God. "God, fortune, and opportunity," says Plato, "govern all the affairs of men." (De Leg. lib. 4.)

To them also there were " Lords many and gods many :" and wherever Polytheism is admitted, it is as destructive of the doctrine of providence as fate, though by a different process. The fatalist makes all things fixed and certain, and thus excludes government; the Polytheist gives up the government of the world to innumerable opposing and contrary. wills, and thus makes every thing uncertain. If the favour of one deity be propitiated, the wrath of another, equally or more powerful, may be provoked; or the gods may quarrel among themselves. Such is the only providence which can be discovered in the Iliad of Homer, and the Eneid of Virgil, poems which unquestionably embody the popular belief of the times in which they were written. The same confused and contradictory management of the affairs of men, we see in all modern idolatrous systems, only that with length of duration they appear to have become more oppressive and distracting. Where so many deities are essentially malignant and cruel to men; where demons are supposed to have power to afflict and to destroy at pleasure; and where aspects of the stars, and the screams of birds, and other ominous circumstances, are thought to have an irresistible influence upon the fortunes of life, and the occurrences of every day; and especially where, to crown the whole, there is an utter ignorance of one supreme controlling infinite mind, or his existence is denied; or he who is capable of exercising such a superintendence as might render him the object of hope, is supposed to be totally unconcerned with human affairs; there can be no ground of firm trust, no settled hope, no permanent consolation. Timidity and gloom tenant every bosom, and in many instances render life a burden. (9)

(9) The testimony of missionaries who see the actual effects of paganism in the different countries where they labour, is particularly valuable. On the point. mentioned in the text, the Wesleyan missionaries thus speak of the state of the Cingalese:-"We feel ourselves incapable of giving you a full view of the deplorable state of a people, who believe that all things are governed by chance; who find malignant gods, or devils, in every planet, whose influence over mankind they consider to be exceeding great, and the agents who inflict all the evil that men suffer in the world. A people so circumstanced need no addition to their miseries, but are objects toward which Christian pity will extend itself, as far as the voice of their case can reach. They are literally, through fear of death, or malignant demons, all their lifetime subject to bondage."


Another great principle of religion is the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments; and though in some form it is recognized in pagan systems, and the traditions of the primitive ages may be traced in their extravagant perversions and fables; its evidence was either greatly diminished, or it was mixed up with notions entirely subversive of the moral effect which it was originally intended to produce.

Of the ancient Chaldean philosophy, not much is known. In its best state it contained many of the principles of the patriarchal religion; but at length, as we find from Scripture, it degenerated into the doctrine. of judicial astrology, which is so nearly allied to fatalism, as to subvert the idea of the present life being a state of probation, and the future a state of just and gracious rewards and punishments.

Ancient writers differ as to the opinions of the learned of Egypt on the human soul. Diodorus Siculus says, they believed its immortality, and the future existence of the just among the gods. Herodotus ascribes to them the doctrine of transmigration. Both may be reconciled. The former doctrine was the most ancient, the latter was induced by that progress of error which we observe among all nations. Another subtle notion grew up with it, which infected the philosophy of Greece, and, spreading throughout Asia, has done more to destroy the moral effect of a belief in the future existence of man, than any other. This was, "that God is the soul of the world," from which all human spirits came, and to which they will return, some immediately, and others through long courses of transmigration. The doctrine of ancient revelation, of which this was a subtle and fatal perversion, is obvious. The Scripture account is, that the human soul was from God by creation; the refinement of pagan philosophy, that it is from him by emanation, or separation of essence, and still remains a separate portion of God, seeking its return to him. With respect to the future, revelation always taught, that the souls of the just return to God at death, not to lose their individuality, but to be united to him in holy and delightful communion : the philosophic perversion was, that the parts so separated from God, and connected for a time with matter, would be reunited to the great source by refusion, as a drop of water to the ocean. (1) Thus philosophy refined upon the doctrine of immortality until it converted it into annihilation itself, for so it is in the most absolute sense as to distinct consciousness and personality. The prevalence of this notion under different modifications is indeed very remarkable.

(1) "Interim tamen vix ulli fuere (quæ humanæ mentis caligo, atque imbecillitas est,) qui non inciderint in errorem illum de refusione in Animam mundi. Nimirum, sicut existimârunt singulorum animas particulas esse animæ mundanæ quarum quælibet suo corpore, ut aqua vase, effluere, ac animæ mundi, e qua deducta fuerit, iterum uniri." (GASSENDI Animadv. in Lib. 10, Diog. Laertii, p. 550.)

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