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CHAPTER VII.

The Necessity of Revelation :-State of Morals among the Heathen.

If the necessity of a revelation may be argued from the confused, contradictory and false notions of heathen nations as to the principal doctrines of religion; no less forcibly may the argument be pursued from the state of their morals both in knowledge and in practice.

This argument is simple and obvious. If the nature, extent, and obligation of moral rules had become involved in great misapprehension and obscurity; if what they knew of right and wrong wanted an enforcement and an authority which it could not receive from their respective systems; and if, for want of efficient counteracting religious principles, the general practice had become irretrievably vicious;-a direct interposition of the Divine Being was required for the republication of moral rules, and for their stronger enforcement.

common source.

The notions of all civilized heathens on moral subjects, like their knowledge of the first principles of religion, mingled as they were with their superstitions, prove that both were derived from a There was a substantial agreement among them in many questions of right and wrong; but the boundaries which they themselves acknowledged, were not kept up, and the rule was gradually lowered to the practice, though not in all cases so as entirely to efface the original communication.

This is an important consideration, inasmuch as it indicates the transmission of both religion and morals from the patriarchal system, and that both the primitive doctrines and their corresponding morals received early sanctions, the force of which was felt through succeeding ages. It shews too, that even the heathen have always been under a moral government. The laws of God have never been quite obliterated, though their practice has ever been below their knowledge, and though the law itself was greatly and wilfully corrupted through the influence of their vicious inclinations.

This subject may perhaps be best illustrated by adverting to some of the precepts of the Second Table, which embodied the

morals of the patriarchal ages, under a new sanction. Of the obligation of these, all heathen nations have been sensible; and yet, in all, the rule was perverted in theory, and violated in practice.

MURDER has, in all ages and among all civilized and most savage heathen nations also, been regarded as an atrocious crime; and yet the rule was so far accommodated to the violent and ferocious habits of men, as to fill every heathen land with bloodguiltiness. The slight regard paid to the life of man in all heathen countries, cannot have escaped the notice of reflecting minds. They knew the rule; but the act, under its grosser and more deliberate forms only, was thought to violate it. Among the Romans, men were murdered in their very pastimes, by being made to fight with wild beasts and with each other; and though this was sometimes condemned as a "spectaculum crudele et inhumanum," yet the passion for blood increased, and no war ever caused so great a slaughter as did the gladiatorial combats. They were at first confined to the funerals of great persons. The first show of this kind exhibited in Rome by the Bruti on the death of their father, consisted of three couples, but afterwards the number greatly increased. Julius Cæsar presented 300 pairs of gladiators; and the Emperor Trajan, 10,000 of them for the entertainment of the people. Sometimes these horrid exhibitions, in which, as Seneca says, "Homo, sacra res, homo jam per lusum et jocum occiditur," when the practice had attained its height, deprived Europe of 20,000 lives in one month. (2)

This is further illustrated by the treatment of slaves, which composed so large a portion of the population of ancient states. (3) They knew and acknowledged the evil of murder, and had laws for its punishment; but to this despised class of human beings they did not extend the rule; nor was killing them accounted murder, any more than the killing of a beast. The master had absolute power of life, or death, or torture; and their lives were therefore sacrificed in the most wanton manner. (4)

(2) Though Cicero, Seneca, and others, condemned these barbarities, it was in so incidental and indifferent a manner, as to produce no effect. They were abolished soon after the establishment of Christianity, and this affords an illustration of the admission of Rousseau himself. "La Philosophie ne peut faire aucun bien, que la Religion ne le fasse encore mieux et la Religion en fait beaucoup que la philosophie ne sauroit faire."

(3) In the 110th Olympiad, there were at Athens only 21,000 citizens and 40,000 slaves. It was common for a private citizen of Rome to have 10 or 20,000. Taylor's Civil Law.

(4) The youth of Sparta made it their pastime frequently to lie in ambush by night for the slaves, and sally out with daggers upon every Helot who came

By various sophistries suggested by their vices, their selfishness and their cruelty, the destruction of children also, under certain circumstances, ceased to be regarded as a crime. In many heathen nations it was allowed to destroy the foetus in the womb; to strangle, or drown, or expose infants, especially if sickly or deformed; and that which in Christian states is considered as the most atrocious of crimes, was, by the most celebrated of ancient pagan nations, esteemed a wise and political expedient to rid the state of useless or troublesome members, and was even enjoined by some of their most celebrated sages and legislators. The same practice continues to this day in a most affecting extent, not only among uncivilized pagans, but among the Hindoos and the Chinese,

This practice of perverting and narrowing the extent of the holy law of God which had been transmitted to them, was exemplified also in the allowing or rather commending the practice of suicide.

Doubtless, the primitive law against murder condemned also HATRED and REVENGE. Our Lord restored it to its true meaning among the Jews; and that it was so understood even among the ancient heathens, is clear from a placable and forgiving spirit being sometimes praised and the contrary censured by their sages, moralists and poets. Yet not only was the rule violated almost universally in practice; but it was also disputed and denied in many of its applications by the authority of their wise and learned men; so that, as far as the authority of moral teachers went, a full scope was given for the indulgence of hatred, malice and insatiate revenge. One of the qualities of the good man described by Cicero is, that he hurts no one, except he be injured himself. Qui nemini nocet, nisi lacessitus injuria ;" and he declares as to himself, "sic ulciscar facinora singula quemadmodum a quibusque sum provocatus; I will revenge all injuries, according as I am provoked by any:" and Aristotle speaks of meekness as a defect, because the meek man will not avenge himself, and of revenge, as "avtpшπixотероv μаλλov, a more manly ανθρωπικοτερον μαλλον, thing." (5)

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near them, and murder him in cold blood. The EPHORI, as soon as they entered upon their office, declared war against them in form, that there might be an appearance of destroying them legally. It was the custom for Vedius Pollio, when his slaves had committed a fault, sometimes a very trifling one, to order them to be thrown into his fish-ponds, to feed his lampreys. It was the constant custom, as we learn from Tacitus, Annal. xiv. 43, when a master was murdered in his own house, to put all the slaves to death indiscriminately. For a just and affecting account of the condition of slaves in ancient states, see Porteus' Beneficial Effects of Christianity.

(5) Moral. 1. 4, c. 11.

"Thou shalt not commit ADULTERY," was another great branch of the patriarchal law, existing before the Decalogue, as appears from the sacred history. It forbids uncleanness of every kind in thought and deed, and specially guards the sanctity of marriage: nor is there any precept more essential to public morals and to the whole train of personal, social, domestic and national virtues.

It is not necessary to bring detailed proof of the almost universal gross and habitual violation of this sacred law in all pagan nations, both ancient and modern, from its first stages down to crimes wapa quow. This is sufficiently notorious to all acquainted with the history of the ancient and modern pagan world; and will not be denied by any. It is only requisite to shew, that they had the law, and that it was weakened and corrupted, so as to render a republication necessary.

The public laws against adultery in almost all heathen states, and the censures of moralists and satyrists, are sufficiently in proof, that such a law was known; and the higher the antiquity of the times, the more respect we see paid to chastity, and the better was the practice. Nor was the act only considered by some of their moralists as sinful; but the thought and desire, as may be observed in passages both in Greek and Roman writers. But as to this vice too, as well as others, the practice lowered the rule; and the authority of one lawgiver and moralist being neutralized by another, licence was given to unbounded offence.

Divorce, formerly permitted only in cases of adultery, became at length a mere matter of caprice, and that both with Jews and Gentiles; and among the latter, adultery was chiefly interpreted as the violation of the marriage covenant by the wife only, or by the man with a married woman, thus leaving the husband a large licence of vicious indulgence. To whoredom and similar vices, lawgivers, statesmen, philosophers, and moralists gave the sanction of their opinions and their practice; which foul blot of ancient heathenism continues to this day, to mark the morals of pagan countries. (6)

(6) Terence says of simple fornication, "Non est scelus, adolescentulum scortari flagitium est." The Spartans, through a principle in the institutions of Lycurgus, which controlled their ancient opinions on this subject, in certain prescribed cases, allowed adultery in the wife; and Plutarch, in his Life of Lycurgus, mentioning these laws, commends them as being made " φυσικώς και πολιτικώς, according to nature and polity." Callicratides, the Pythagorean, tells the wife, that she must bear with her husbaud's irregularities, since the law allows this to the man and not to the woman. Plutarch speaks to the same purpose in several places of his writings. On the other hand, some of the philosophers condemned adultery; and, in many places, it was punished in the woman with

In most civilized states, the very existence of society and the natural selfishness of man led to the preservation of the ancient laws against THEFT and RAPINE, and to the due execution. of the statutes made against them; but, in this also, we see the same disposition to corrupt the original prohibition. It was not extended to strangers, or to foreign countries; nor was it generally interpreted to reach to any thing more than flagrant acts of violence. Usury, extortion, and fraud were rather regarded as laudatory acts than as injurious to character; and so they continue to be esteemed wherever Christianity has not issued her authoritative laws against injustice in all its degrees. Throughout India, there is said to be scarcely such a thing as common honesty.

Another great branch of morality is TRUTH; but on the obvious obligation to speak it, we find the same laxity both of opinion and practice; and, in this, heathenism presents a striking contrast to Christianity, which commands us "to speak the truth one to another," and denounces damnation against him that "loves or makes a lie."

They knew, that "tollendum est ex rebus contrahendis omne mendacium, (7) no lie was to be used in contracts;" and that an honest man should do and speak nothing in falsehood and with hypocrisy; but they more frequently departed from this rule than enjoined it. The rule of Menander was, "a lie is better than a hurtful truth." Plato says," he may lie who knows how to do it in a fit season ;" and Maximus Tyrius, "that there is nothing decorous in truth, but when it is profitable;" and both Plato and the Stoics frame a Jesuitical distinction between lying with the lips and in the mind. Deceit and falsehood have been therefore the character of all pagan nations, and continue so to be to this day. This is the character of the Chinese, as given by the best authorities; and of the Hindoos it is stated, by the most respectable Europeans, not merely Missionaries, but by those who have long held official civil and judicial situations among them, that their disregard of truth is uniform and systematic. When discovered, it causes no surprize in the one party, or humiliation in the other. Even when they have

death, in the man with infamy. Still, however, the same vacillation of judgment, and the same limitations, of what they sometimes confess to be the ancient rule and custom, may be observed throughout; but as far as the authority of philosophers went, it was chiefly on the side of vicious practice.

(7) Cic. de Off. 1. iii, n. 81.

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